(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth in a series of stories concerning the opioid crisis that our communities are facing, presented as a cooperative effort of The Ledger Independent, WFTM Radio and Comprehend, Inc. Today’s story deals with someone who has been down the path of addiction and is headed back to sobriety.)
One local mother is celebrating life with her children after years of drug use and an overdose that almost took her life.
Kayla Arthur was a typical child, but often struggled with strep throat and issues with her knee. Because of the level of pain she endured, she was often prescribed medication to help her make it through.
“I was about 8 to 14 then,” she said. “I was young and I wasn’t addicted to anything then. I just eventually stopped going to the doctor over my knee.”
As Arthur grew older, in addition to her knee pain, she began to suffer from low self-esteem and began trying to make herself more likeable and noticeable to people.
“I would stress myself out trying to have people see me as fun or nice,” she said. “I wanted people to like me.”
Eventually, Arthur’s daughter was born. The child was colicky, had thresh and was diagnosed with multiple urinary tract infections, causing more stress for Arthur.
“I was having to stay up with her, so I started using cocaine in order to help me stay awake for long periods of time,” she said. “I just always put the stress on myself to do everything everyone else wanted me to do or expected of me.”
According to Arthur, she never believed she could be one of those people who would continue to use and become addicted.
“It was supposed to be one and done,” she said. “But, once turned into one more time and one more time after that.”
Arthur said she began using pain pills often and eventually she began to sell them.
“I got caught selling the pills,” she said. “I was on probation and I had already lost my two kids, but I’d been able to get them back. I was stressed because I had court and I couldn’t afford the pain pills anymore, so someone asked me to try heroin. I never thought I would be one of those people who used it.”
Arthur said she considered using heroin after she went through a rough patch in her life. Several family members and her best friend had died within six months and she was still on probation.
“I tried it and I just started using it more and more,” she said.
Finally, on her daughter’s ninth birthday, Arthur realized how bad her problem had been.
On May 28, 2016, Arthur left work and went home to prepare to take her daughter to a concert the next day. Her daughter was at her father’s house at the time, so she decided to use some heroin before going to sleep.
“I woke up the next day and I was in the hospital,” she said.
Arthur’s grandfather had found her unconscious in her home and had called 911.
“I’d overdosed,” she said. “That was when I knew I had hit rock bottom. I’d never felt like a bigger failure.”
Arthur’s sister called the probation officer after the overdose.
“She called my probation officer and told him what happened,” Arthur said. “The sheriff came to the hospital and drove me to the detention center.”
While she was in jail, she requested being sent to a rehabilitation program.
“On July 6, I was told I was going to rehab,” she said.
On July 7, her father drove her to Harlan, where she entered a facility. She was there until Dec. 27.
Arthur said being in the rehab program helped her.
“I loved my rehab,” she said. “It saved my life.”
However, Arthur left without completing the program and went to her son’s birthday. On Jan. 17, 2017, she returned to jail and was released on March 4, 2017.
Once she was released from jail, Arthur immediately began looking for work. On April 3, 2017, she began a job, at her current place of employment.
“It took two weeks for the hiring process,” she said. “But I got the job and I’m still there. That job probably saved my life. My son is currently living me and my daughter is with her father, but I get to see her.”
Arthur said her journey has led her to a better place and she would not have been able to make it through without her family.
“I had the support of my family the whole time,” she said. “They were always there for me. I don’t like depending on people, but they never stopped helping. When I was looking for a job, I was staying with different family members and now I’m in a better place.”
Her children are a big part of what keeps her going each day.
“It means everything for me to see them,” she said. “I still feel like I have a lot of work to do, but now I don’t try to please others.”
Arthur said she has several pieces of advice for anyone who is going down the same path she traveled.
“It’s easy to look at someone and tell them not to do something,” she said. “But it’s not as easily done. Though I would still tell someone to say ‘no.’ If you’re already doing drugs, then be ready. Everyone’s rock bottom is different — if you want to stop, there are people who are willing to help. I realized how important I was to my family and my friends when I hit rock bottom. It may feel good in the beginning and it may be a stress reliever, but in the end, it doesn’t feel that way. So, seek help and remember that you are important to someone.”
(A forum to discuss the rise in opioid use and how to seek help will be held on May 31 at the Mason County Middle School from 6:30-8 p.m. For more information, please refer to the forum story inside.)