Former Addict Shares Story
At the age of 24 Cori Schmidt was walking, but only with the assistance of a walker. That, she says, was a real reality check.
The 2002 graduate of Tyler Consolidated High School got in that condition thanks to her battle against MRSA, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics.
MRSA occurs most frequently among persons in hospitals and healthcare facilities. Schmidt worked at Sistersville Center, but the real reason she got the infection was not purely from her vocation. They believe the bacteria was laying dormant on her skin from her time in the facility, but it became a problem when it entered her skin while shooting up heroin.
Schmidt is a former, or perhaps best described as recovering, drug addict. At such a young age she has gone through three stints in rehabilitation and says this time will be the last or “if I mess up this time I die, basically,” admits Schmidt. In December she will be clean for one year.
Given the amount of drug activity and related overdoses in the area recently, Schmidt wants to tell her story in hopes that she can save someone else from the same fate, or worse.
“If I can save one kid’s life that they don’t have to go through what I went through, it would be worth that to me,” said Schmidt at the recent meeting of Citizens Against Prescription Drug Abuse (CAPDA) held at the New Martinsville City Building.
“I have the calling for helping people I think,” said Schmidt, but admits she hasn’t found her exact niche just yet. She said God obviously has a plan for her or she wouldn’t have survived her journey.
The journey began when she was in high school. An athlete, playing both basketball and softball, Schmidt started taking pills for her shin splints. “It just gave me that warm feeling inside,” she explained. That feeling is what she wanted to sustain and it led to more, and more dangerous, drugs.
The habit escalated at college, Salem-Teikyo International University. “The whole basketball team was on drugs. We stayed high the whole time,” explained Schmidt. By her second year of secondary education she was using marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy.
Her mother came and got her from Salem and took her to Morgantown for rehabilitation. She was clean for six months, but then, “I just started inching back into it.”
Searching for some help, her parents sent Schmidt to rehabilitation again, this time to South Beach, Florida. “Mom saw it on Dr. Phil,” she laughs now.
Ironically she said, “I never tried heroin until I went to Florida.”
This time the intensive rehabilitation lasted two months, but the results only lasted a couple weeks.
“Just because we go to rehab, the problem isn’t gone,” said Schmidt. “They don’t just fix us.”
When she got a job offer in Youngstown and moved to that locale she really fell into the drug scene once again. When she returned home in July 2008, very ill, her parents thought she was just detoxing and essentially told her to “suck it up”, but it turns out she was infected with MRSA.
The bacteria caused so much infection that her knee had to be essentially taken apart and put back together, to allow for the drainage of the infection. She also had to have chest tubes to enable the lungs to be drained of infection. And finally they had to replace one of her heart valves.
“Who would have thought it would happen to you? You know?” said Schmidt, saying the drugs make you feel like Superman, but obviously she wasn’t invincible.
She was hospitalized for close to two months and only a couple months ago did she feel her health was back to almost 100 percent.
Now she must take Coumadin, a blood thinner, for the rest of her life. Schmidt must have her blood tested every two weeks to be sure it is regulated correctly. Also, she cannot go to any doctor without having blood work done first.
There is another drug Schmidt is currently taking, but this one is just for a short period to help her overcome her drug addiction and cravings. She is on Suboxone, an opiate blocker. It is prescribed by a doctor in Bellaire only after taking informational classes. While some people, says Schmidt, might not consider her clean yet because she is on this highly-controlled prescription drug, she says it is necessary to make sure this time she kicks the habit completely.
Unfortunately she says, “There’s nothing you can do until the person wants to change.”
She is now taking martial arts classes. “You just gotta change your friends and your places and the things you do,” advises Schmidt.
Schmidt thinks it is important to note she has never been in any legal trouble because of drugs. “I could have been and should have been caught, but I never was,” she shares.
So just because there isn’t any documented trouble doesn’t mean there isn’t any. She suggests parents look for mood swings and changes in behavior or social patterns. Schmidt said before drugs she spent a lot of time with her family, but once she started using, more of her time was spent away from family.
She added, “Look at their eyes, you can tell if they’re messed up.”
No one should ever believe it couldn’t happen to their family, because it can. Schmidt says her mom doesn’t judge anybody now. “Every family has some sort of battle,” she said. “It’s worse here in New Martinsville than what people think.”
Through the struggle she has found that while her parents, Mike and Brenda Schmidt, don’t have any substance problems, it does run in the family. “That has a lot to do with it,” said Cori of the biological propensity for addiction.
“Addiction just grabs you,” she said. Part of the high was the search for the pills or other drugs. “I didn’t call anybody unless I was on the hunt.”
“That warm feeling inside of you is a lie. It’s not the real you. It totally changes your life,” she advises others who might be dabbling in drug usage.
Cori is willing to speak to any group that would like to hear her story first-hand. To schedule an engagement call her at 304-758-2225.