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RANGELY — The first time Heidi Kendall — her last name was Reeves then — smoked methamphetamine, she was hooked.
“My first memory of it, it was like someone teaching me how to ride a bike. They were teaching me how to do it, how to smoke it,” Kendall said. “Once you did it, for me, I was there.”
Kendall, 27, has been clean for four years. She’s rebuilt her life. She’s married, and she has three daughters and a stepson.
But she knows how tough it can be to overcome addiction.
“It’s hard to explain,” she said. “The power or the control of the drug over you.”
Kendall, who grew up in Rangely, was 15 the first time she tried methamphetamine.
“I was hanging out with people who were doing it,” she said. “It was kind of one of those things I swore I would never do it, but they were doing it. I was with my boyfriend at the time. He was older than me. He was almost 18, and he was doing it. I did it because I wanted to feel cool.”
So Kendall started smoking meth on a regular basis. That is, until her situation changed.
“I did it for probably a week straight, maybe two weeks, the first time I did it,” she said. “But I found out I was pregnant, then I stopped doing it.
“I wasn’t very far into my addiction, so it wasn’t that hard to quit then,” she said. “It wasn’t that big of a problem then.”
But life had become more complicated for Kendall.
“I dropped out of school,” she said. “I got pregnant, and I didn’t really know how to deal with school and being pregnant.”
Kendall dropped out during the first quarter of her sophomore year. She was drinking alcohol and smoking pot, mostly, but also doing meth.
“I didn’t do (meth) again until (her daughter) was about 6 or 7 months old,” Kendall said. “Then, after that, I didn’t stop doing it.”
Kendall moved to Grand Junction. That’s when she got hooked on methamphetamine.
“I moved to Grand Junction when I was probably 17 or 18, and I got really bad on it there,” said said. “It was 24/7. It just kind of found me. I started, when I was 18, slamming it, using needles. The rush … it’s more intense, very much so. I would do it all ways, but I was mostly slamming it.”
Kendall tried hiding her drug use from her family.
“That first year, I was covering up the needle marks,” she said. “For a long time, my family didn’t know. I’m not sure how (they found out). They started to confront me. I don’t think they really knew how to deal with it. It took awhile for me to want help.”
Kendall’s mother, Vicky Reeves, said she and her husband, Jerry, didn’t know at first how to deal with their daughter’s drug habit.
“I think we were pretty blind to the fact,” Vicky said. “No, my kid wouldn’t do that. You may suspect it, but you say, ‘No, it’s not happening.’ But when you find out, it’s pretty devastating. It was a nightmare. It was tough.”
Kendall hit a low point when she was arrested in Utah and charged with possession and driving under the influence of drugs. She spent 14 days in jail.
Her parents were determined to get her help. And she ended up in Haven, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility in Salt Lake City.
“We got her into rehab,” Vicky Reeves said. “It was $1,600 a month, which was money we couldn’t afford, but we found it. I thank God every day she got caught in Utah. If not, who knows where she’d be.”
Kendall did better, for a time.
“I got clean for a little while,” she said. “Then I relapsed again.”
And she got in trouble with the law again, this time for a probation violation.
“I was on intense supervised probation,” Kendall said. “I did UAs (urine analysis tests to check for evidence of drugs in her system) twice a week, and I failed a UA.”
Kendall’s parents had been warned about how hard it is to recover from addiction to methamphetamine.
“I was told then the recovery rate was one out of 100,” Vicky Reeves said. “As they say, relapse is part of recovery. They told me not to hold my breath, but she did it.”
But recovery was difficult. There were setbacks.
“I did good for about a while,” Kendall said of the time following her trip to rehab. “Then I started hanging out with friends, and I was pregnant with my middle daughter. I relapsed when I was five months pregnant. I did it (use meth) for about three weeks. I tried to cover it up, but it didn’t work. My probation officer and everybody knew I was using again. They put me in jail for three months, the last three months of my pregnancy. I was released a couple of weeks before I was supposed to deliver.”
Kendall knew she had hit rock bottom when she used meth when she was pregnant with her second child.
“I never imagined using while I was pregnant,” she said. “That’s not something I pictured myself doing. I had told myself I would never do that. I didn’t realize … how helpless I felt. Being pregnant with my second child, and using, that was probably the most helpless feeling. I was pregnant, and I realized I needed help.”
Vicky understands how parents of children with drug addictions feel inadequate to deal with the problem, or they live in denial.
“I’ve seen parents kind of push ’em away,” Vicky said. “You give ’em chance after chance, but you can’t give up on ’em. For a long time, Jerry and I denied the fact. We suspected, but we didn’t act on it.
“Heidi and I had a terribly open relationship, and she never mentioned meth. But I could tell the difference, just the way it affected her. We were growing further and further apart. I would confront her. I would confront other people. Eventually, she knew we knew. Then the fight was on. Don’t give up on your kids. That’s one of the worst things you can do.”
After the first time their daughter was arrested, the Reeves gave her an ultimatum.
“When we finally figured it out, we went and got her,” Vicky said. “The probation officer told her you either go to rehab, or you go to jail. It got to the point, we said you either go to rehab, or you get out of here. To me, jail wasn’t the answer. So we got her into rehab. She had to be clean for seven days before she went there. She had to be willing to go. I think she really wanted out of it.”
Not that’s it’s been easy.
“It’s a hard thing to come off,” Kendall said of methamphetamine. “If I didn’t have people to talk to about it, I probably would’ve relapsed a long time ago. I went through counseling with Michelle Huber at Colorado West (in Rangely). I still see her to this day.”
Besides counseling and her family, Kendall’s husband, Jim, has been part of her support system.
“We met when I started using again, and then I went to jail,” Heidi said. “The day I got out of jail, he showed up at my mom and dad’s house. We’ve been together ever since. He’s helped me out a lot. He used to use, too. But he didn’t know me when I was really into my addiction. Thank God, because we probably wouldn’t be together.”
She’s been a different person ever since.
“She’s walked the straight and narrow ever since,” her mom said. “She realized what she needed to do. They have to want to do it. No matter what you do, they have to stay clean. The biggest part (for Heidi) was staying away from friends who used.”
Now, as a parent herself, Heidi hopes her children don’t make the same mistakes she made.
“I have an 11-year-old daughter, it concerns me a lot,” she said. “A lot of people in Rangely don’t think it’s a problem, or they just don’t realize how big of a problem it really is. Everybody knows what’s going on, but it kind of seems like nobody does anything about it.”
For her part, Heidi can’t imagine going back to the drug lifestyle. She has responsibilities. She has a good life. And she’s been clean since Feb. 4, 2005.
“It’s better than my birthday,” she said of the date when she stopped using drugs. “I’ve got three kids and a stepson and I’ve been married for three years. I can’t picture myself using again, I can’t.”