Drug recovery possible, former addict shares story

Published: Feb. 28, 2016 at 9:00 PM CST
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It's been 18 months since Hastings resident Tonya Hernandez has gotten high off meth, an accomplishment she's now sharing with the community to help others fight their addictions to one of the state's most prevalent drugs.

As Hernandez sat at home last week watching news of the state's largest drug bust unfolding, she thought back to her days, hoping more people would turn away from the drug.

In recent years, methamphetamine has become one of the most popular drugs in the state, which led to the indictment of 60 people alone in the western and central part of Nebraska as well as northeastern Colorado.

"When they do get clean, it's still a problem for them living in society because people still see them as an addict," senior tech at the Bridge in Hastings Tina Winchell said.

For thousands fighting addiction like Tonya Hernandez, assimilating back into society isn't easy since meth has taken so much from them when they were using.

"It's the devil. It takes peoples' lives. It ruins peoples' lives," Hernandez said.

Hernandez didn't have an easy life. Not only does she tell NBC Nebraska she was raped, but the death of grandmother at age 13 hit her hard, causing her to turn to meth to get rid of the pain she was feeling.

"I didn't have to feel the trauma, the loss of my grandmother," Hernandez said. "And then I was raped, so I went through a lot of things through my life. Drugs seemed like the number one drug to cover up all the things I was feeling."

Her addiction then grew, largely due to meth's accessibility. According to White House officials, it's one of the most abused drugs in the state. Winchell added about 50 percent of the women that come into the Bridge in Hastings have been or are addicted to meth upon arrival into the rehabilitation center.

"There's a lot more of it going on in the communities than people think," Winchell said. "Honestly, I could probably walk out this door right now and within 15 minutes score meth. I mean it's just that prevalent."

IN 2004, Hernandez went to a women's prison in York after getting caught with meth, which resulted in her losing custody of her son and daughter.

"I went into labor early because of the drugs, so the hospital had contacted social services, of course. I was at home smoking some dope, and they came along and arrested me and took my son and my daughter. And I was in prison for 18 months," Hernandez said.

However, it wasn't until Hernandez was serving a five-year sentence in a federal penitentiary in 2006 that she decided she needed to turn her life around.

"It took me to think, 'I don't want to go back to prison. I don't want to lose my family or kids or my relationship that I have. I want to be there. I want to be a part of their lives. I want to be not on drugs. This has got to stop somewhere,' and it did. It just clicked, and that was it," Hernandez said.

As Hernandez stood in front of the judge, she tells NBC Nebraska she asked to go into treatment. Once she started treatment at a facility in Columbus, she knew she was serious about no longer being on drugs.

Three jail sentences and more than 20 years later, Hernandez has custody of her now 17-year-old son and is celebrating 18 months of sobriety.

"I'm the proudest son on this earth. I'm proud she's come this far. She's stopped using. She's clean. She's doing good for herself," Tonya's son Nicholas Wright said. "All those years she hasn't been around, I want to get all those years back with her."

Hernandez has a total of five children, four of which are with their biological father. However, Wright was in the custody of Hernandez's parents, making it easy for her to be able to keep in touch with Wright in some way. Unfortunately, she has not had contact with her other four children.

It has been a difficult journey for Hernandez, but it's one she doesn't regret. To her, her meth addiction is what makes her who she is now, but she wants others to know of the drug's dangers as the D.E.A. said meth affects every Nebraskan community.

"Do you want to end up dead? Do you want to end up in prison for the rest of your life? Do you want to lose your children? Do you lose your relationships with your family, your loved ones? Because I know I wouldn't," Hernandez said.

Next month, Wright will celebrate his 18th birthday, but he plans on staying with his mother. He aims to build the relationship he never had with her.

Hernandez said she will continue her path to success, looking to help whoever she can to overcome their addictions to drugs.

However, Hernandez and those at the Bridge said recovery isn't possible without the help of the support of many.

The Bridge is a women's rehabilitation center in Hastings, offering a six to 18 month program to help women with substance abuse.

For more information on the Bridge, visit their website attached to the side of this article.