BUFFALO, NY- The heroin and opioid epidemic has a death grip on Western New York, and much of the country. A young Lancaster woman, now in recovery, shared her story of addiction with 2 On Your Side's Melissa Holmes with the hopes of inspiring others to get clean.
Douglas Winsor remembers the simpler times his daughter Shannon.
"She was joyous and funny and full of energy," he said.
But that was life before addiction.
"It made me feel like apart of something," Shannon recalled.
Watch Shannon's full interview: http://on.wgrz.com/2kGvxJS
Shannon admits she was the product of a broken home. Her parents were divorced when she was young and she lived with her mother in Lancaster. Shannon says she was a loner and outcast in school, so her sophomore year at Lancaster High School, she turned to alcohol and then marijuana.
"I just wanted to fit in because I never really had friends when I was in school. I was always the kid that got made fun of. So I just wanted to fit in with the right group of people," she said.
That 'right group of people' couldn't have been more wrong for her.
"I started experimenting with prescription pills, then it was cocaine, Molly, and acid," said Shannon.
She graduated in June 2014, and in January 2015 her drug use peaked.
"My friends asked me if I wanted to try heroin with them. I never thought my friends would try and give me something that would hurt me potentially, that would destroy my life. But I tried it with them because I wanted to fit in," said Shannon. "It felt like I didn't have to feel anything anymore. It felt like an escape, like what I was searching for."
Doug said he never knew his daughter was into heavy drugs. He said Shannon's mother would call to tell him their daughter was doing drugs with friends, but Doug said he never thought it was more than marijuana and drinking.
Doug finally learned the truth the day he got a phone call that Shannon had overdosed on heroin.
"My daughter's doing drugs and they're killing her. She's going to wind up dead," Doug thought.
Watch our interview with Shannon's Dad: http://on.wgrz.com/2kGE1ka
In all, Shannon has overdosed four times.
"The last one was definitely the scariest because it did take four of the Narcans and a sternum rub to restart my heart," she said.
So why didn't each overdose scare Shannon enough to get clean?
"I knew from day one when I started doing heroin that it could kill me. It was playing Russian Roulette with my life. But that drug becomes the only thing you care about," she said, admitting she cared more about the drug than her own life.
Shannon says she called an addiction hotline in December 2015 and they helped her find in-patient treatment in South Carolina. She stayed there for 30 days. Two days after returning home, she met up with old friends and relapsed. She says she just wasn't ready at that point to stay sober.
Shannon knew seven people who died from heroin overdoses, but it didn't scare her. She would still do anything to get that high, and that included selling her body and stealing.
In April 2016, she was arrested for possession of stolen property in the 5th degree.
Even in Lancaster drug court, Shannon kept using drugs. Town Justice Anthony Cervi laid down the law.
"He said, 'I'm not going to be responsible for you taking your life. I'm not going to be responsible if you die,'" Shannon recalled. "He saved my life and his decision to send me to jail was in the best interest for me."
She was sent to jail for eight days where she detoxed without the help of any medication. Then she went straight to the Kids Escaping Drugs Renaissance Campus for treatment.
That sentence was a relief for Shannon's family who struggled for a long time to save her.
"You try one thing it doesn't work. You try another. You don't see any results. It just beats you up. It tears you down," said Doug.
Doug has been sober for 23 years after struggling with alcoholism. He thought he could reach his daughter and help to change her using his own experience, but even that didn't work.
So what changed for Shannon and inspired her to get clean? She said she finally realized she hit rock bottom.
"I just didn't want to be that person anymore," Shannon said.
Shannon has been home since September 2016 after spending more than four months at the Renaissance Campus. She's still in outpatient therapy and continues to fight cravings and admits it's all a challenge, but she's been clean since May 9, 2016.
She knows it is important that she does not surround herself with her old friends and temptations.
"It's not easy but it's either my life or my friends," she said, adding she finally knows that she should put herself first.
Shannon's working to rebuild her relationships with the people who really do love her.
"We're able to laugh. She picks on me. I pick on her," said Doug. "What a joy is every day with her around me."
After years of addiction, Shannon says she finally has her family back and her life back.
"It's refreshing. It's amazing. I never would've expected it. I thought I was going to die getting high and now I don't have to," Shannon said while wiping away tears.
Shannon wanted to share her story to give hope to other addicts. Doug hopes to help wake other parents up and let them know it can happen to anyone. It's a problem everywhere- even in the suburbs. He says parents or loved ones should trust their gut and do whatever it takes to get the addict the help they need. Shannon's goal now is to go to college, possibly to be a substance abuse counselor.
If you or someone you know is struggling, there is a 24/7 addiction hotline to call for help in Buffalo and Erie County. That hotline number is 716-831-7007. The website is crisisservices.org.
Click here for a link to Kids Escaping Drugs.
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