Todd, who grew up in Putnam County, describes how his relationship with heroin began to a gathering of students at Continental High School last Friday - Putnam Sentinel
Todd, who grew up in Putnam County, describes how his relationship with heroin began to a gathering of students at Continental High School last Friday. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)

PUTNAM COUNTY — “Then reality hit,” said the third speaker during a presentation on opiates that has taken place in each area high school over the course of the last two months. “[My grandaughter Grace] went on to tell us that she saw her mom’s friends with needles in their arms.” The speaker is a mother who lives here in Putnam County, and whose daughter is addicted to heroin.

This upcoming Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. at the Putnam County ESC, 124 Putnam Parkway in Ottawa, opiate presentation organizers welcome all parents, and the community-at-large, to take part in a follow-up presentation. It will focus on what was presented at the high schools, why the opiate issue continues to be a problem, and how to address questions within your own homes and families. You will hear from a panel of presenters including recovering addicts, families of recovering addicts, law enforcement, medical treatment providers and court officials.

“In 2005/2006, I was a junior in high school,” said Todd, a heroin addict from Putnam County. “While playing football Friday night, I tried to block an extra point and I snapped my tibula and fibula in half. That following Monday morning, I went to see a specialist and he prescribed me three of, probably, the most powerful painkillers that a kid at that time should absolutely not have at all. And, I liked them a lot.”

“My dad had back surgery my sophomore year of high school,” said Seth, an addict who grew up in the Maumee area. “He had to go through a pretty severe back surgery. He was prescribed opiates, which were percocet and oxycontin. I didn’t know anything about oxycontin at the time. I really didn’t know anything about percocet. I just knew they made you feel good.”

“Then, in 2009 I had a daughter,” Todd said, already years into his addiction. “I thought, ‘Hey, she’s going to help me get myself together. I can beat this. It’s not big deal. I’ll quit. I can just quit whenever.’ ”

“That’s not the case.”

“You can’t just quit whenever, because it consumes every aspect of your life. You go to bed thinking of how you’re going to get money, and how you’re going to get high the next day. Before you even fall asleep, that’s on your mind.”

“And then, as soon as you wake up the next morning. That’s the first thing that crosses your mind. Not, ‘Should I shower?’ Not, ‘Should I brush my teeth?’ Not, ‘Is my daughter okay?’ No. It’s, ‘How am I going to get high today?’ ”

“The day before Thanksgiving, three years ago, the judge granted us temporary legal guardianship of our grandchildren,” the Putnam County mother said. “My daughter was living in another town at that time, and on Thanksgiving day she was served the papers that said she wasn’t allowed to see her kids. She wasn’t allowed to be with them at all unless she was supervised by us.”

“It progressed from doing a little to doing a lot, very, very quickly,” Seth said. “I had multiple overdoses. I tried to kill myself before in a Speedway bathroom because my life, it just went down the toilet really, really quick.”

“I can’t tell you the number of nights I sat at that dining room table and watched outside,” the mother said, “[I] watched all that traffic go by, over and over, waiting for one of those cars to come down my street. And, when one car would, I would go through a hundred emotions. I would first think, ‘Thank God, she’s home. Thank God, she’s safe. Thank God, she’s not dead.’ ”

“Then, another thing would come into my head. ‘What if it’s a police officer telling me that my daughter is dead, and I never get to see her again?’ ”

“I would consider us a normal family,” the mother began at the start of her story. “We have dinner together. We went to church together. We were involved in a lot of community activities. My husband is a fireman. My kids were involved in school sports and a lot of school things. So, we were just normal.”