Former addict hopes she can help others
Crystal Miller was raised in a loving, nurturing home and remembers her childhood as perfect. Then, she became addicted to pain pills and heroin and wound up in prison, where she finally kicked her drug addiction.
Miller, now 30, is sharing her story with others in hopes of preventing them from heading down the same path.
She is a Berkeley Springs High School graduate who, as a girl, was an “A” student. She belonged to 4-H and raised animals and showed them in youth fairs.
Miller rebelled when she hit junior high school. She started smoking, drinking, skipping school and having sex, she said. She was introduced to marijuana and by 10th grade all she wanted to do was party.
Miller discovered she was pregnant in her sophomore year and dropped out of school, then later got her G.E.D. and moved out on her own. She worked in a warehouse, took care of her daughter and calmed down for a few years. Eventually she started drinking every weekend while her daughter was left with her parents.
She was prescribed pain pills for a back problem and had no idea they were addictive. When she went to get a pain pill one night, a boyfriend said he’d taken them all for a toothache. He gave her an oxycontin pill in its place.
Miller started taking them more and more. One day she thought she had the worst flu ever, but learned she was going through withdrawal. She was afraid of ever feeling that way again.
For the next five years, Miller made sure she always had pain pills. Both she and her boyfriend had good-paying jobs, but she got up to an $800-a-day pill habit.
When she learned she was pregnant with her fourth child and needed to quit the drugs, she couldn’t. Her suppliers learned she was pregnant and cut her off.
Miller said she laid in bed sick for three days from withdrawal. She was offered heroin, initially refused it, but then tried it to feel better. Within two weeks, she was shooting up.
Miller said she stopped going to work because she didn’t care about anything but getting drugs. She was charged with forgery and uttering when she passed stolen checks to support her habit.
When her daughter was born in 2007, the girl tested positive for heroin. Her four children were taken from her and a family member adopted them.
Miller said she lost her job, her car, her home, her kids, even her will to live. Everything.
Placed on probation, Miller was told she had to go to rehabilitation. She couldn’t handle the withdrawal and
didn’t want to go to prison so she went on the run. “I didn’t want to be without my drugs,” she said.
Miller once spent Christmas in a truck in a parking garage. She said she started stealing to support her habit, going against everything she’d ever learned.
By then, she was spending $200 to $300 a day on heroin. It took that much not to get high, but just get out of bed each day.
“I just wanted to die,” she said.
In May 2009, she was arrested in Baltimore for buying drugs. She spent two months in jail and then was sent to a women’s correctional facility in West Virginia for two years.
She now believes prison saved her life. She completed a rehabilitation program and took college classes. She found God again and started a Narcotics Anonymous program at the prison. She was chosen from among the inmates to speak to kids about her experiences while in handcuffs, shackles and chains.
“I realized I had a story to tell,” Miller said.
It’s been a year and a half since she was released from prison. She said she’s been clean from drugs for over 41 months.
After prison, Miller started over again. She found a job that she loves and takes pride in. And she continues to tell her story.
She contacted the Morgan County Partnership and has spoken to students at two county schools, at a church in Pennsylvania, on a radio show, at the spring candlelight vigil for drug abuse victims and also for “Heroes and Recovery.”
“If I can save one person from going through what I went through, it’s worth it,” she said.
Miller wants to tell kids what no one told her — how dangerous pain pills can be. “They grab you by the throat and ruin your life,” she said.
Miller doesn’t think she would have ever touched them if she had only known what they did to you.
A second chance
She’s now building a house with her fiancé and would like to go back to school to be an addictions counselor.
To those stuck in an addiction, Miller says, “If I can make it out, anyone can. It’s scary. I love my life now. I believe in second chances. I’m living proof that they exist.”