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Agency helps Hillsborough woman fight addiction

It wasn't when she sat in a car with a loaded .357 magnum, wanting to take her life but too high to pull the trigger.

It wasn't when her then 5-year-old son asked if she was going into the bathroom to take pills — again.

It wasn't when she began emptying out the bank account she shared with her fiance, jeopardizing their Wimauma farm home.

No, none of those moments prompted Andrea Price to seek the help of DACCO (Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office) for her prescription drugs addiction.

Only a friend's sobering assessment made her realize she couldn't defeat her demons on her own.

"She said, 'My husband was an addict. He was in rehab 12 times, and I found him dead from an overdose,' " Price explained.

That inspired her to seek help, but finding it proved difficult. Private facilities didn't offer solutions because Price had no money. Other facilities said they could only add her name to an already long list.

"When you reach out for help as an addict, the last thing you want somebody to do is tell you, you gotta wait," Price said. "That's like a slap in the face. DACCO was the only one to call back. They … got me in the door.

"They saved my life."

Four months later, Price tells her remarkable story at DACCO's new behavioral center with amazing clarity, inspiring honesty and just a hint of her native Texas drawl. She makes no excuses and seeks no sympathy, but wants people to understand that drug addiction is a disease.

With brown hair framing her attractive 30-year-old face, she defies all the stereotypes. Her childhood, however, does not belie her struggles.

Price says molestation, rape and a reoccurring battle with cervical cancer dotted her upbringing. Painkillers, specifically Dilaudid, proved to be her greatest solace.

When her mother died in 2005, her use of the pills spiraled out of control.

She says after her son confronted her, she detoxed herself from Dilaudid and began to bounce back, moving into the farmhouse and getting a job.

However, she eventually began taking prescription Ambien to deal with persistent nightmares. The addiction to that drug became so great it produced a numbing effect that blanked her recall, much like an alcoholic who loses all memory after a binge.

"I would get the dishes done, the laundry done, pick up Tyler from school and have dinner on table," Price said. "I would fall asleep on the couch, wake up three hours later and have no memory of it whatsoever."

DACCO's residential treatment help provide a wakeup call with the help of a "therapeutic community" — clients helping each other through group discussions.

Price even endured the threat of losing custody of her son to his biological father, driving to Texas on four days' notice this month to make a court appearance.

"He almost tackled me when I saw him," Price said of her son. "He said, 'I know you loved me every day and you still showed me that, even when you were sick. I know you can't help it, but you're getting better. I can't wait to come home.' "

Today, DACCO officially dedicates its new center on Columbus Drive. Price will sing its praises while she continues to aim towards a June 24 release date.

Somewhere in Texas, a wise 9-year-old also will celebrate.

That's all I'm saying.

Agency helps Hillsborough woman fight addiction 03/23/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 12:25am]
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