A second chance at life

BACK ON TRACK. Teresa Teter, left, and Rhonda Day, attribute their community service at the Pocahontas County Animal Shelter as part of their success in turning their lives around and becoming drug free. Both women continue to work at the shelter and enjoy spending time with the animals. S. Stewart photo
BACK ON TRACK. Teresa Teter, left, and Rhonda Day, attribute their community service at the Pocahontas County Animal Shelter as part of their success in turning their lives around and becoming drug free. Both women continue to work at the shelter and enjoy spending time with the animals. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Every decision an individual makes causes a ripple in their lives. Sometimes that ripple leads to negative consequences, while other times, it leads to positive outcomes.

The decision to use drugs or to sell drugs creates a ripple which leads to a life of crime, isolation from family, incarceration and possible death.

Once an individual who uses or sells drugs decides to stop what they are doing, a new ripple is created – one that leads to a life of forgiveness, recovery and renewal.

For two Pocahontas County women, making the change from user and seller to recovering addict wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.

Teresa Teter began selling drugs nearly 20 years ago simply as a way to make ends meet as a single mother. When she realized how easy it was to make money, she got deeper and deeper into the drug trade.

“I started selling marijuana just to help out with their school clothes because I didn’t qualify for vouchers at the time,” Teter said. “I thought, ‘well this is easy,’ so I decided not to quit and it went on for sixteen years.”

It started with marijuana, but soon, Teter found herself selling harder drugs, including cocaine and meth.

By the time she was arrested in 2012, Teter was even selling heroin, one drug she initially refused to deal with at all.
“Heroin was never something that I ever got into selling because I was always afraid of heroin – I should have been afraid of everything – but the heroin I never fooled with. When I got my charges in 2012, I had sold some heroin that time, too. I sold a little bit of everything – from A to Z.”

While Teter never used what she sold, she did become an addict after she suffered a spinal injury.

“When I had my youngest son, they put the epidural in and I had spinal spasms and a dislocated vertebrae,” she said. “[The doctors] started out giving me Lorcet and it just progressed from there. I don’t blame any of the doctors for me being an addict by no means, but it certainly didn’t help.”

Teter was arrested several times on drug charges, but it wasn’t until 2012 that she finally decided it was time to make a lifestyle change. Sixteen years after she started selling drugs to make ends meet, Teter was ready to be clean, sober and a reformed seller.

“It was a year before my arrest when I said, ‘I’m done with this. I’ve had it. I’m tired of the whole up and down all night, never having family time,’” Teter recalled. “You don’t have family time when you do that. It’s just all about the drugs and I just kept thinking, ‘I’m tired of it.’”

Teter was placed on home confinement and sentenced to five years probation and ordered to do community service. She was assigned to the Pocahontas County Animal Shelter, where she now works part-time.

“[I got clean] on my own and at the shelter,” Teter said. “Josh [Vaughn] and Robin [Robertson] have been a big help, and the sheriff – they have been a big inspiration, a big help with everything. My grandkids and my family come first and foremost, of course, but I think being here and feeling secure here has kind of got me out of all of that. This shelter has had a lot to do with it.”

Teter has been sober for three-and-a-half years and now she helps others who are going through the system. Rhonda Day recently celebrated 15 months of sobriety and is also working at the animal shelter as part of her case through Drug Court.

While Day was arrested on a charge of delivery of a schedule IV controlled substance, she was not a dealer like Teter, although she did sell from time to time. Day was an addict.

“I had a car accident in 2006 and ended up with a couple different injuries from it,” Day said. “It took time for me to recover from it. I was put on pain medicine. They wrote me something and just different events that happened after that got me to the point where I noticed I was taking more and more and more.”

Like most addicts who use prescription drugs, it was easy for Day to feed her habit. Doctors continued to fill prescriptions for her.

“You look at it this way, at some point my doctor should have been able to look at me – I’m not blaming him entirely because it’s not his fault – but he should have been able to look at me and say, ‘this is how far you’re into this. You shouldn’t need this kind of medication now. Let me back you down.’

“The more I asked, the more he gave me,” Day continued.

Unlike Teter, when Day was arrested in October 2014, she was given the option of going through Drug Court. She chose the option and said she is grateful she did.

“They help you,” she said. “They have classes that help you learn how to deal with your addition. They teach you how. It’s kind of like an outpatient rehab. You have a counselor you talk to. You have people that teach you the things you need to know as to why addiction is so bad. You have support from so many people.”

Day was also fortunate to have Teter, who took her into her home when she needed a drug-free place to stay. Between Teter and the animal shelter, Day said she got what she needed to help her succeed.

“I was in a bad situation where I was living at when I started,” Day said. “People using around me all over the place. If I wouldn’t have gotten out, I probably wouldn’t have made it to where I am now. If it wasn’t for Teresa and Josh and Robin doing that for me, I would have never had a chance.”

Day’s positive outlook wasn’t always there, especially when she first started Drug Court. She admits that initially, she thought it would be a breeze and that she could “cheat” her way through it.

“I went ahead and took the Drug Court option because, in the beginning, I’m not going to lie to you, I thought, ‘this is going to be a breeze.’ I thought ‘I can still get high and fly right on through this.’ No, by no means. I thought I was going to get high the whole time I was on the program and they’ll tell you, I started out that way. It was a fight to get me off the medicine that I was taking.”

Fortunately, Day came around and completed the program successfully and has a new outlook on life.

“I’ve since gotten my own apartment, living by myself,” she said. “I have a full-time job. I’m here every day. That’s a huge change. I’ve gotten my CNA license back that I let go because I was so convinced I wasn’t able to work. I’ve made all these changes in little over a year and it’s wonderful. I never imagined being able to live life because before, I wasn’t living.”

Both ladies have found the pot of gold at the end of their rainbow and are happy with there lives as they are now.
“The community service I did down here is what really helped me see that there was so much more I was capable of doing that I had convinced myself I couldn’t do,” Day said.

“I like the way my life is now,” Teter said. “I’m glad that I’m away from all that. I’d like to see more people get away from it. Whenever I got in trouble, I was in crime victim awareness classes and one thing is, when I started this, I wasn’t hurting anybody, I wasn’t bothering nobody, in my mind. I learned a lot because I hurt a lot of people, including my family and friends. I really realized what I was doing to the whole community. I worked hard to prove to everybody that that isn’t me.”

Teter and Day both say they are glad they were arrested because it acted both as a wake up call and as an opportunity to turn their lives around.

“I wouldn’t have stopped if I wasn’t caught,” Day said. “I’m actually grateful that I got caught.”

“I don’t think I would have quit either,” Teter said. “I’m grateful I got caught, too. Without that, I don’t know where I’d be or if I would be here.”

The hardest part of making such big changes in their lives is convincing the community that they have changed for the better.

“I still have people that say I’m still selling drugs,” Teter said. “It’s been a struggle for me to prove to people – like the Sheriff’s Department – the higher up people, that I’m not a bad person. I do worry about what people think in a way, but then again, I don’t, because I know I’m a better person. People realize, like the Sheriff, he’ll tell you, there was nobody he wanted arrested more. He hated me, but that’s completely turned around. He and I are friends. You can do it. It takes awhile. It’s a struggle, but you can do it.”

Teter and Day are both candid discussing their past with drugs because they want people to learn from their mistakes. It may be hard to share the darker parts of yourself, but to them, if it helps one person, it’s worth it.

“I want people to realize that anybody can do it,” Teter said. “You have to want to do it and your family should be important. Yourself first and foremost, but your family should be important enough to change for, if you’re into drugs and stuff. The next generation is the one that’s going to suffer from what we do and when you sit down to think about it, when you’re using drugs or you’re selling drugs, do you want your grandkids doing that? I think about that now and it’s the last thing I want. It’s definitely the last thing I want.”

First in a three-part series covering the issue of drug abuse and drug related issues in Pocahontas County.

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