EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a five-part series about one woman’s journey through addiction to drugs and alcohol.


She had it all. A good job, a nice home, a husband and two beautiful children.

And then she lost it all to drug abuse. Stephanie Smith, 36, Tiffin, is a recovering drug addict who is turning her life around and she credits a lot of hard work, determination and Seneca

County’s PIVOT program.PIVOT (Progress In Victory Of Transition) is a 5-year pilot program that consolidates certain drug court proceedings for the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court and the Seneca County Court of Common Pleas involving Judges Steve Shuff, Mark Repp and Michael Kelbley.

While Smith is building a substance- free life and a promising future for herself now, she went through a whole lot of bad first. Smith said addiction runs on both sides of her family.

Although she grew up around it, Smith said her addiction began when she met her husband.“We were really young and so we would go out drinking or drink at the house, and then we would fight. Every time it happened it would go to the absolute extreme,” she said, adding she usually would black out at some point. “So this was really the first signs of addiction for me, because every time I drank I had to drink a bathtub full.” Mircea Handru, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky & Wyandot Counties, said when it comes to alcohol, he often hears addicts state others in their family were alcoholics and now they are as well.

“Sometimes you see a little bit of a correlation especially when it comes to alcohol,” he said.

In February 2006, Smith’s oldest brother died of a drug overdose. “It was hard for me to think about the fact that he died alone in his car in a parking lot in the middle of the night. It’s still hard for me,” she said.

A few weeks after her brother died, Smith discovered she was pregnant. Growing a life inside of herself and the prospect of being a mother pulled Smith out of a deep depression.

“This is one of the times in my life I really feel like God showed up for me,  she said. As a new mother, Smith said she was meticulous about caring for her daughter.

“I was so determined to be a good mom. It was the most important thing in the world to me,” she said. Prior to the birth of her child, Smith’s husband came home from work one day and said he quit his job and he would find work elsewhere. “He never really worked again,” she said. As the family’s sole breadwinner, Smith went back to work shortly after giving birth and she said over the next few years her husband began having mental health issues. She said this became his excuse for everything.

“He didn’t help clean or cook or take care of (our daughter) very much. I worked, sometimes two jobs and still had to go on food stamps to survive, but it didn’t really seem to phase him. He went from this hard-working guy,to this, like, bum… really. I don’t know how else to describe it,” she said.

In 2009, Smith said three things happened: She changed jobs, her husband began smoking pot all day, every day and she got pregnant. “He was blowing through so much money on just marijuana,” she said, adding she put her daughter in day care because she was no longer comfortable leaving her under his care. With her husband’s pot use and now paying for daycare, already strained finances tightened further.

Smith’s son was born and she and her husband drifted further apart. “I felt really alone. I was trying to work and take care of two kids, and on top of that I felt like I just had this other person in my house that had a whole different life than me. He was partying at this point and I was just so stressed out and tired all the time,” she recalled. Smith, who had a C-section, was prescribed pain medication. “It was the first time I really felt like no worry, no stress. I liked it. It took the pain away for me,” she said.

Soon after her prescription ran out, Smith said she began getting pain pills from others. “I didn’t really think I was doing anything wrong,” she said. “I didn’t really think of it as drugs at the time. I just felt better. And I wasn’t partying. I was literally taking them to feel better everyday.”

And that can be the trap of prescription pain medication.

“You have to take it as prescribed,” Handru said. “I think every time you don’t take it as prescribed you run into the risk of becoming addicted.

“With prescription medication, if you take the same quantity of the same drug for a long period of time, your body is just going to build up tolerance. Eventually you’ll want more and more. I don’t think that is healthy for any  individual,” he said.

Handru cautions that even if taken as prescribed, one could develop an addiction to pain medication.

“I think long term people should look at other methods for managing pain,” he said, suggesting yoga, acupuncture and other alternative options. Smith said as peculiar as it sounds she and her husband, who was also taking pain medication procured from others, now had something in common and got along best when they were both taking the pills.

She said she was concerned about the amount of money being spent on the pills and felt like she was starting to lose control over them, but she was still holding everything together for the most part so there was no problem.

Until she tried to quit. EDITOR’S NOTE: Part two in this series looks at the losses addiction cost one woman on her journey to living a substance-free life. Those seeking recovery from addiction can call Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky & Wyandot Counties’ 24/7 crisis hotline at 1-800-826-1306.