Former addict helping others in Snohomish County no matter the cost
Snohomish County hopes to shake its community awake with a series of forums to get something — anything — done about the heroin epidemic.
Though the county has 10 percent of the state’s population, the 750,000 residents account for 20 percent of overdose deaths in the state. According to the Snohomish Health District, there have been 900 deaths in the last decade from opioid overdose. That’s more than deaths from car accidents, homicide, and falls combined.
The question is: how do you get a community to care enough to do something about that?
One former addict lives the answer to that question.
“I started cutting when I was 12 and I started using Vicodin as regularly as I could by about 13. I’d go through people’s medicine cabinets. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I thought ‘I’m hurting so I need medicine,'” Lindsey Greinke recalls.
What she didn’t know at the young age of 13 is that the Vicodin she was originally prescribed by a doctor is highly addictive.
“I went from casually taking Vicodin to buying it; to Oxycontin and then to heroin,” Greinke said.
Heroin, believe it or not, sounds like an easy trade in the throws of addiction. One pill of high-dose Oxycontin on the streets of Everett can be as much as $250, according to Greinke. A hit of heroin is just $10.
“The first high that you get from heroin is indescribable. It’s like everything is suddenly OK. But the thing about it is once you do it one time anytime you do it after that it is never the same as that first high. And that’s why people keep doing heroin because they have this obsession with trying to get the same high that they got the first time they ever got it and they never can,” Greinke explained.
Over time Greinke lost her home, job, family and almost lost her son. What made her seek treatment went beyond that.
“I was contemplating suicide. When I reached that point some strange, supernatural things started to happen. I felt like God was talking to me through the TV,” Greinke said.
That’s what saved her life. The only channel Greinke could get on her TV was faith-based and that’s how God spoke to her. Her story is definitely unique, but from that point on she vowed to get clean and started the long, difficult road to recovery in Snohomish County.
“We have 16 detox beds in Snohomish County. Sixteen. Detox is only four-to-six days. That doesn’t even allow for treatment,” Greinke said.
Detox facilities are where addicts go to flush their bodies of the drug. It’s a gruesome process that Greinke explains is like an amplified flu with a prickling sensation all over your body. It gives you the feeling like you’re going to come out of your skin.
Once an addict completes detox it’s ideal to go to inpatient treatment right away, which is a 30-day process where you eat, sleep, and live a sober life in a facility monitored by medical and behavioral professionals. Snohomish County has two treatment centers that support people without private insurance — only for pregnant women and youth. Many addicts must travel outside of the county for inpatient treatment.
Greinke was able to push herself to move through the difficulties of finding help with limited resources. She’s been sober for five years now and in that time she’s also set out to help other addicts ready for recovery but unable to climb the bureaucratic mountain alone.
“I had talked to so many people and not one person knew how to get into treatment without insurance,” Greinke said.
She founded Hope Soldiers to bring awareness, restore hope and “love people back to life.” Equally as important, through her organization, Greinke helps people get into detox and treatment no matter the cost.
Sarah Mueller of Monroe doesn’t think she’d be alive today if it weren’t for Greinke.
“I have overdosed and woken up getting CPR, I’ve almost lost a finger, I still can’t get a good blood draw because I screwed up my veins so bad but that’s OK because I’m alive,” Mueller said.
Mueller’s path to addiction is innocent enough, too. Friends had painkillers so she started popping pills when she liked the way it felt. She never stopped and eventually needed the much cheaper heroin to get high.
The first three stints in treatment didn’t stick for Mueller, but she’ll admit that she wasn’t there for the right reasons. But when it came time to text Greinke at Hope Soldiers, Mueller was finally ready to get sober for herself.
“When I got into contact with Lindsey there were some roadblocks as far as how insurance works. You have to get an assessment done. So, I had to wait for the assessment. It costs money. [Greinke] paid for it,” Mueller said.
After the assessment, she had to detox, but due to the limited quantity of beds in Snohomish County, there was a wait list. She decided to detox on her own and had to beg a drug dealer for Suboxone to do it. Suboxone is the prescription given to withdrawing addicts to keep sickness at bay. Doctors are very limited in who they can give it to.
According to the Snohomish Health District, doctors can only prescribe Suboxone to 30 patients the first year they are certified. The second year used to be capped at 100 patients, but that was recently increased to 275 in light of the opioid epidemic. Interestingly, there are no such regulations for the prescribing of painkillers.
Mueller shut herself in a room. As she detoxed, Greinke got busy setting up treatment accommodations.
“What I couldn’t do for myself [Greinke] did in a week. She got me an assessment within a week. She helped get me into inpatient about a week later. It’s hard to do what she does and she just keeps prying and prying until somebody says, ‘yes,'” Mueller said.
“Treatment can cost between $20, 000 and $50,000. I have raised money to help people get to treatment. I have raised money for peoples’ sober living after treatment. I have been so blessed every single time I have tried to get somebody into treatment I have [always] been able to do it,” Greinke said.
It makes you wonder that if this one woman behind Hope Soldiers can do all that what could Snohomish County accomplish if more people understood.
“I think that people are starting to finally drop the stigmas but there are still so many that exist. The thing about addiction, in general, no matter what the substance is specifically — it’s a disease. it literally can happen to anybody,” Greinke said.
Snohomish County holds its first of four community forums Thursday night in Lake Stevens. The following four will be based in other communities in the county.