One Young Woman's Descent Into Prescription Drug Addiction

4:59 PM, Sep 23, 2011   |    comments
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Destinee Henderson

BUFFALO, NY - It has become what law enforcement officials are calling an epidemic in Western New York: young people getting addicted to prescription pain medication.

One of those young people- Destinee Henderson, one time straight A student and varsity soccer player at Newfane High School agreed to share the story of her addiction, whose eventually led her to selling her body and which nearly cost her her life, with 2 On Your Side.

"Let me tell you, if the drugs don't kill you, the lifestyle will," she said.

Until she was about 16, Destinee was the All-American girl, she was raised by her grandparents.

"I was the kind of girl who would go to the mall shopping, " said Henderson.

During her junior year in high school, Destinee had to have surgery for a female health disorder- endometriosis.

She was prescribed powerful narcotic pills - Hydrocodone for her pain.

Scott Brown: "What kind of feeling did they give you?"

Destinee Henderson: "It was a euphoric feeling that I will never forget to be honest with you. I felt tired but they made me very happy, everything could go on around me and it didn't matter. "

Destinee started taking the pills everyday.

Scott Brown: "At this point do you realize there's any sort of problem?"

Destinee Henderson: "Not at all, not at all, I didn't know about addiction or dependency."

Following a second surgery, Destinee was prescribed another powerful narcotic, Percocets.

By the time she graduated from high school, Destinee had also graduated to a pill as powerful as heroin - Oxycontin.

Destinee Henderson: "I will never forget the time I had done my first Oxycontin, I had snorted it and I had never felt anything like that in my entire life. In terms of the euphoric feeling with drugs. It was love at first sight."

That was September, 2006.

Destinee Henderson: "Later through my addiction, I found myself spending close to $160 on Oxys alone for that one given day."

Scott Brown: "At what point do you think I may have a problem here?"

Destinee Henderson: "I started using Oxys in September and by December I came into the house and told my grandparents I think I may have a drug problem. September, October, November, December - four months."

She tried going to detox, but after two weeks she was out and back using.

By this time, she had moved on to heroin, which was cheaper than Oxycontin, as well as crack cocaine. Destinee was desperate for money to support her habit.

Destinee Henderson: "I tried to hide it, but my grandparents caught on very quickly to my schemes."

To be closer to her dealer, Destinee moved to Niagara Falls, but she wasn't working, and with an expensive habit to support, the one time straight A student and All-American girl turned to prostitution.

Destinee Henderson: "Eventually on the path I was on you lose all hope. You lose yourself and your dreams."

Scott Brown: "People who have been addicted tell me it's like the devil has a hold of you, would you say that's true?"

Destinee Henderson: "Absolutely.You are not you when you are using drugs. I literally view that person as completely separate person, that person even had a different name on the street- my name was  Sara, it wasn't Destinee. To me I was dead and gone."

Destinee's entire world revolved around 18th and Niagara Street in the Falls - it's where she lived, got high, and worked to support her habit.

She lived in a drug house.

Destinee Henderson: "There was a dresser just all full of needles and caps and cotton and broken crack pipes and really horrible things everywhere.

"I remember people pulling up outside of the house honking their horn, I knew what they wanted but I didn't want to come out of my place."

Scott Brown: "But if you wanted to get high?"

Destinee Henderson: "I had to do what I had to do. It would be freezing, four o'clock in the morning- and I'd be on these exact streets walking up and down and up and down."

If a car would stop, she would get in.

Scott Brown: "Do you feel lucky you made it out of some of those cars okay?"

Destinee Henderson: "Absolutely, and some of them I still don't understand to this day how I did. I really don't, I remember vaguely sitting in one person's car saying I'm going to die, I'm not going to make it out.

At the same time that Destinee was on these streets, so too was another pretty young woman from Niagara County, Amanda Wiencowski.

One day in late 2008, Amanda was going to take a trip into Buffalo.

Destinee Henderson: "She had called me the morning that she was leaving and said we have an opportunity to go make money, I need a girl to go with me and I had been too sick and withdrawing to go and I said I'm not going to go, and that was the last time I heard from her."

About a month later, Amanda would be found dead, her nude body frozen in a garbage tote on the city's East Side.

Destinee Henderson: "Every time after that I talked to my grandma, she would say do you want to be another Amanda? It was a very scary reality, but the depths that drugs take you to it doesn't matter the consequences."

Scott Brown: "At any point during this period are you suicidal?"

Destinee Henderson: "Oh,yes. Toward the last year of me using I wanted my life to end and there were times I prayed I didn't want to wake up in the morning because I didn't want to have to go through the pain and the struggle anymore. I never purposely set out to kill myself, but I said hey maybe I could do one or two extra bags of heroin and end it all and I'd be OK that way. To me I was dying the way I was supposed to, I was dying doing something I loved."

Back on 18th street, Destinee said she'd had enough - of going back to that time in her life, and to the person she once was.

Destinee Henderson: "I talk to people about my addiction a lot and I'm very open and honest about it and I hardly ever genuinely get upset about it anymore, but sometimes I don't think people can grasp what active addiction can do to you and the scars that it can leave.

"You can look at me now in nice clothes and with a nice family but I wasn't that person at one time. I was a million miles away from where I am."

The moment Destinee's life began to change for the better was when she got arrested for trying to cash a check that she had stolen from her grandparents.

Scott Brown: "Do you think getting arrested saved your life?

Destinee Henderson: "Yes. Heroin was getting scarce, so was money for me and I was literally ready to go to any lengths that were needed and that surely would have gotten me killed."

Rather than go to prison, Destinee was offered the option to go into a drug diversion program.

Her first step was getting clean and she spent a year and a half in residential treatment programs.

Under the strict guidelines of the program, Destinee has an 11:00 p.m. curfew, must have a job or be in school and is subject to random drug tests.

And she has taken it on herself to speak to teenagers about her experience.

Drug Court Judge William Watson: "I'm very impressed and proud of all you've accomplished up to this point, just remember to keep your focus."

Destinee has been clean and sober for two and a half years, and now she has even more incentive to stay clean.

Baby Liam was born to Destinee and her husband Matt four months ago.

Scott Brown: "What's it feel like to be a mom?"

Destinee Henderson: "I love it, I do. I wouldn't change it for anything."

Scott Brown: 'How much incentive does he give you to keep you going on the path you've been going?"

Destinee Henderson: "Everything and then some, he pushes me honestly every single day to be a better person."

Scott Brown: "Is it too much to say he's your new high?"

Destinee Henderson: "No, not at all since day one, it's been that way for me."

In addition to Liam, Destinee now again has her grandparents in her life now too.

Scott Brown: "Would you say it's a miracle that you have this relationship with your grandparents again?"

Destinee Henderson: "Absolutely, they are very, very close to my heart. I am more than blessed to have my grandparents back in my life today, back in my corner."

Scott Brown: "When you were on the streets did you think that would ever again be possible?"

Destinee Henderson: "Never again. I didn't think my grandmother would trust me enough to walk in her house anymore."

Scott Brown: "You've been so brutally frank here, why have you agreed to lay your life open?"

Destinee Henderson: "Because other people have done the same thing for me. The more I talk about it, the more I can help somebody by carrying the message to them, that keeps me clean and sober every single day."

Scott Brown: "Given everything you went through are you lucky to be alive today?"

Destinee Henderson: "Oh yeah, there's no doubt about it. Somebody was watching over me. It's a miracle that I'm sitting here, it's a miracle that somebody saw fit to give me a second chance at life and I couldn't be more grateful for that."

Next month on October 29th, a prescription drug drop-off day will take place at locations across Western New York.  You can drop off your old prescription medications, no questions asked, so they can be disposed of properly, free of charge.

Resources for those battling addiction:

Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse
•1625 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo. (716) 831-2298

ECMC Division of Chemical Dependency
•Downtown: 1280 Main St. Buffalo. (716)883-4517
•Northern Erie Clinical Services: 2282 Elmwood Ave. Kenmore. (716) 874-5536

Mid Erie Counseling and Treatment Services
•1526 Walden Ave. Cheektowaga. (716)895-6700

Kids Escaping Drugs

B.I.L.Y. (Because I Love You) Meetings
•Amherst: Montgomery Park Senior Living Complex.
6363 Transit Rd. East Amherst. (716) 688-2568.
•Lancaster: Faith United Methodist Church. 5505 Broadway. (716) 685-4328
•Tonawanda: (716) 879-6631
•Buffalo: (716) 695-7586 and (716) 990-2452

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