The people dying from drug overdoses continue to get younger and younger in our area, according to the former Marathon County Medical Examiner John Larson.
September is National Recovery Month, and NewsChannel 7 will dig into the problem that keeps affecting more and more families in our community: drug addiction.
"Addiction is like the love of your life," Sarah, a former drug addict said. "If they love something with all their heart , like their child, they love their child with all their heart ... just every thing to them .. that's what drugs are to addicts."
A powerful love that started when Sarah was just 12 years old after her sister offered her drugs at a party, which began a trip down a very dangerous path of addiction.
"I was trying to die fast," Sarah said. "I was shooting up booze, pills. I was shooting up heroin, cocaine all mixed together in the same needle."
She said she feels bad the most about getting other people hooked when dealt.
"I started turning certain people onto the drugs that I was selling selfishly," Sarah said. "I knew they'd be good customers."
She has six felonies on her record at 23 years old, and is still doing time in jail.
"She (my mom) tried grabbing a phone from my lap, and I just stabbed her," Sarah said. "I was really strung out and I wasn't thinking."
By the time she was 20, her dad died in an motorcycle accident, which she said sparked her love for feeding her veins.
She said when she used drugs it was easy to get them in Wausau. It would only take a couple calls or a walk down the block.
She said she was in a dark place, and didn't want to feel the pain of withdrawal, or the pain from anything going on in life.
Sarah isn't alone. In 2011, 20.6 million people aged 12 or older were classified with substance dependence or abuse in the past year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
"The fatalities are young people," former Marathon County Medical Examiner John Larson said. "The age of our fatalities is getting younger."
Half of all lifetime cases of mental and substance use disorders begin by age 14 and three fourths by age 24, according to the Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidy Survey Replication.
"Addiction is a disease," Larson said.
Families are affected by an addict when they are using, too, he said.
"There is a lot of self blame," Larson said. "They ask things like, 'why didn't they help them themselves?', 'why didn't we see this?', 'why couldn't we help?'."
Sarah said her mom used to call the police on her almost every day when she was 14 years old because she was worried about Sarah taking her own life or running away.
She also said when she used later in life, she wouldn't give her mother her phone number because she said she wanted to protect her business.
"My mom would sit outside there (the house Sarah was living in)," Sarah said. "Just to see that i was still alive."
Now Sarah is on the road to recovery as she does the rest of her time in jail.
While the love for drugs may be dead to her now, there's a new love that's growing stronger by the day.
It's the love for herself and family, which she said makes sobriety look that much sweeter.
"My nieces and nephews because i don't have any children," Sarah said, "it's almost their love that makes me hopeful for the future."
NewsChannel 7 will continue to bring you the other parts of this "Understanding Addiction" series in the coming weeks of September.
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