Recovering heroin addict: ‘I fight it every day’
By Denise Crosby firstname.lastname@example.org April 17, 2012 5:56PM
Recovering heroin user Carrie Brummel of Batavia talks about her experiences Monday during an informational meeting about heroin and drug use at Christ Community Church in St. Charles. She began using drugs as a teen, and became addicted to heroin after being given it at a party. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 19, 2012 8:19AM
Back in December, there was a small news article about a 26-year-old Boulder Hill woman — wife and mother of two small children, including a newborn — who was found dead in her home by Kendall County sheriff’s deputies.
There was no follow-up story, however, to reveal an autopsy confirmed that the victim (whom I’ll call Trudy) died with heroin in her system. And now police are investigating whether one of her friends, who had traveled to Park Forest with her when she purchased $40 worth of the drug, had anything to do with Trudy’s death.
Just as the number of drug overdoses has risen dramatically in our communities, so also are the criminal cases police are pursuing against those who were in some way involved. In other words, authorities are treating overdose situations like crime scenes. In this case, a search warrant was issued in Kendall County to determine from cellphone records whether the male friend was with this young mom at the time she died.
Now let me introduce you to Carrie Brummel, the real name of a 31-year-old Batavia mother of three who, unlike Trudy, managed to survive heroin. “I was blessed. I am alive,” she told an audience of about 70 who gathered Monday night at Christ Community Church near St. Charles for a drug awareness presentation by the Kane County Sheriff’s Office.
Brummel was one of four women, some of them speaking out for the first time, who described how heroin sucker-punched their once-happy middle-class families. But she was the only addict on stage who could take the crowd on that raw and personal journey through addiction.
A decade into recovery, Brummel has a police record and plenty of scars, both physical and emotional, to remind her of that descent. And she tried, with every horrid detail, to let the audience know just how potent and how forever — even if you survive it — heroin can be.
The youngest of three girls raised in a loving household with a stay-at-home mom, Brummel was an honor student and cheerleader who began experimenting with marijuana in junior high and ended up prostituting on the streets of Chicago to support her habit. She was beaten repeatedly by her drug dealer boyfriend and suffered through other abusive relationships that, along with needle tracks, left her with permanent injuries.
Eventually, she ended up in the Kane County jail, getting released only to see her dying father. Her promise to him was to get her life straight. And eventually she did.
Today, Brummel is a single mom with an ugly and criminal history working mighty hard to support her three children. But she is haunted by this past, which has affected her present and her future.
“I may look OK,” she told the audience, “... but I fight it every day. I can’t just walk away from it.”
I didn’t use Trudy’s real name for this story because of the innocent children she left behind. Brummel told me she, too, thinks of the consequences to her own young kids as she puts her name out there so publicly in this ongoing fight of her life. The office of Brian Williams, anchor of “NBC Nighty News,” had contacted her earlier that day — and the thought of taking her story national is almost too much for her to contemplate. Yet, she will do what she has to do.
“I am scared every time I speak at one of these things,” she said, the pain very much obvious in her face. “But I’m more scared not to speak.”
Brummel’s message of hope was as direct as her story of survival. Back when she was using drugs, there were no programs to help educate parents. People didn’t talk about the problem, and there were few resources for help. That’s all changed now, and it is up to parents to arm themselves with as much information as possible.
“Ask questions, be aware,” she insisted. “You have a chance to win the fight.”