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Fighting the Tweak: How Meth Kills

Mary Annette Pember
6/13/16

It was a beautiful May day for a community run and gathering in Rosebud, South Dakota. Kids chased after hundreds of colorful balloons. More than 300 children and community members lolled on the grass, ate barbecue and danced a round dance during this community’s first outdoor festival of the year. The event looked like a typical small town celebration but took on an ominous tone when it was time for the speeches. The presenters had come to discuss a deadly subject: meth addiction.

This gathering was the Four Directions Meth Awareness Run and Rally coordinated by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Meth Initiative program.

Some of the presenters were nervous, and their anxiety was clearly more than stage-fright. Some of them, still tweaking from long-term meth use, approached the microphone gingerly, and shifted nervously from foot to foot as they spoke. The most anxious speakers, who sweated and fumbled, were those who’d been court-ordered to publicly announce their meth addiction as part of their plea agreements in tribal court. The tribe has to deal with so many meth-related arrests that it employs a part-time prosecutor who deals only with these cases.

Others, who’d been sober for a long time, were clear-eyed and calm as they talked about the havoc meth had wrought in their lives. They spoke of the blessings of sobriety and the gratitude they felt about having their lives and loved ones back.

All of the presenters, however, shared the same message: meth, no matter how it is used, will eventually kill you.

Unfortunately, there is no magic cure. Despite the Rosebud Sioux tribe’s’ best efforts to offer meth specific treatment programs both inside jail and out, addicts have a high relapse rate.

Nationally, long-term cure rates for methamphetamine use may be less than 10 percent, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Despite the low success rate, the tribe is committed to offering recovery options to its members. They are determined to fight the meth epidemic plaguing this small community in every way possible. Ed Purcell, director of the tribe’s Alcohol and Drug Treatment Meth Unit, said, “The treatment we offer is currently the best evidence based intervention available.”

RELATED: Meth Tsunami Overwhelms Rosebud Rez

The Run and Rally was the latest in the tribe’s ongoing battle to save their community. Several speakers later met with ICTMN and shared their stories, providing a deeper look at the harrowing struggle to recover from meth.

Two Strike

Eldon, 32, and his wife Chassity, 30, did not volunteer to announce their meth addiction before that crowd at the Run and Rally; they did so as part of their plea agreements. Their two youngest children, ages 3 and 8 tugged at them as they spoke.

Later, back at their home in Two Strike, Chassity said, “I’ve never done this before but I wanted to tell my story because I don’t want to live that life no more,” her voice breaking as she cried. “I’m sorry, but I want to cry all the time.”

Chassity sat tensely on a rough bench in the kitchen before a wall covered with an enormous, dream-like, handpainted mural of an eagle, its wings outspread.

Eldon perched nervously nearby on the kitchen windowsill. The bright sun streamed in behind him, outlining his thin frame.

Chassity and Eldon met over 15 years ago, when they were both in junior high. They spoke fondly of those days and the years following when they married, had three children. They had a house of their own and Eldon had a job, until meth took it all.

“We gave up our home, everything because of meth. We were homeless,” Eldon said.

They are now staying with Chassity’s sister.

Both of them said they have been sober since January, and were recently released from the Rosebud Adult Correctional Facility, where they underwent treatment for meth addiction. Chassity spoke of the daily struggle of staying sober, her anxiety and her bouts of inexplicable anger. Holding her arms tightly around herself, she apologized for the disjointed nature of her story. “I’m sorry, I’m all over the place; I’m so anxious and nervous, I don’t feel good,” she said.

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