Drug expo sparks conversation about addiction, finding help
CATAWISSA - After her daughter died from a heroin overdose, Louise Grove was racked with guilt and she struggled with finding direction.
Two years after losing her 23-year-old daughter, Trichelle Grove, the Catawissa woman shared her experience with a crowd of approximately 200 people Wednesday at the Take Our Community Back Drug and Alcohol Awareness Expo in the Southern Columbia Area High School auditorium.
"The problem is gone, but you don't know how to live. You have lived this roller coaster and you have been a part of her life for so long that you've lost your life," she said.
Friends and social lives were gone and the ability to function in her own house disappeared.
"What do you do? Now you don't take them to meeting, you don't have to try to control their life, it was very difficult," she said.
Trichelle, a popular, friendly and kind individual, started smoking marijuana in seventh grade, eventually got hooked on prescription medication and was addicted to heroin until she died two years ago.
She turned emotional and irritable, and she was constantly sick with headaches and stomachaches, said Grove.
Educators at Southern suspected Trichelle was on drugs in 2006, but Louise didn't believe it could happen to her daughter until doctors discovered Trichelle had Hepatitis C from sharing needles.
From there, "Her life spiraled out of control," Louise Grove said.
Trichelle teetered back and forth between staying clean and using drugs. She was in and out of jail and addiction treatment centers. She was charged with domestic assault and for stealing money from Louise and her businesses.
Louise described constant fights, screaming and insults at home.
"It was horrible. Where was I going to go? It was my home. I needed to go there, but I wanted her gone. I just wanted this problem gone. I didn't know where to turn, I didn't know who to talk to," she said.
After 162 days of being clean, Trichelle relapsed, overdosed on heroin and died.
"It's been almost two years, and I don't think it will ever be normal," she said.
She urged the crowd to not be afraid to confront loved ones about their addiction.
"If you don't and they die, there is guilt and it will kill you," she said.
'It's not cool'
State Rep. Kurt Masser (R-107), who helped sponsor the event with state Rep. David Millard (R-109) and Columbia County commissioners, also spoke of his 34-year-old niece, Erika Smith, of Elysburg, who overdosed on heroin in November.
"If someone had come to me a year ago and said, 'Name someone in your family who would never get involved in drugs.' I wouldn't have stopped to think and I would have said my niece Erika," he said. "We buried Erika the day after Thanksgiving."
Masser was emotional while he discussed the "beautiful, caring and giving person" who made a "horrible decision."
"I knew our area had a drug problem. I just didn't know to what extent. Erika's death changed that," the state legislator said.
Smith's death sparked conversations with his constituents who also faced drug addiction and death in their own families.
"Addiction is a disease brought on by bad choices," he said. "If your child suffered from diabetes or cancer, you wouldn't try to hide it. You would go to the end of the earth to get them the help they need. Don't try to hide it. The days you waste are days you could save their lives."
The problem won't be solved Wednesday at the expo, Masser said.
"But if we reach one student, or one adult, or spark one conversation between a parent and a child, this night will have been a success. Erika's death won't just be a statistic. Something good will have come from such a senseless death," he said.
Masser urged the students and adults to not accept the status quo of having drug problem in the community.
"It's not cool. Make a difference. Stand up for your hometown and say it's not okay," he said.
Speakers from Columbia County included Commissioner David Kovach, President Judge Thomas A. James Jr., District Attorney Thomas Leipold and Coroner Dr. Lori Masteller. Other speakers included Berwick Police Chief Ken Strish, Berwick Drug Alliance representative Max Furek and Locust Township Police Chief Allen Breach.
Masser is working on similar events for Danville and Shamokin later this year.