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From dope dealer to hope dealer: one recovering addict’s story

Amanda Chafin was a drug dealer and she was good at it. The Gallia County, Ohio woman talked candidly about her history with drugs from her years as a well-known dealer, a second chance and seven years sobriety, her work in recovery during that time and the relapse that nearly cost Amanda her life. Now, with the help of Field of Hope and its inpatient residential treatment center Hope House, Amanda is closing in on the one-year sobriety mark and hopes by telling her story she can show others currently fighting the addiction battle that there is hope for recovery, no matter your history.

While Amanda had used drugs recreationally throughout her late teens after being introduced to cocaine when she was 16 years old by her much older boyfriend at the time, she didn’t really view herself as an addict. Even when she severely injured her back in 2001, which resulted in Amanda being prescribed an abundance of narcotics, she said she was not yet deep in addiction. Instead, that is when she started on the path of becoming a well-known dealer. It never crossed her mind that she shouldn’t go down that path. She had grown up in that world and dealing drugs was as ordinary as any other job to her.

“Growing up, dealing was normal,” said Amanda. “I already had a baseline clientele.”

There has always been an underworld of narcotics and marijuana dealing in Gallia County, said Amanda, so she never worried about being watched. As a matter of fact, she viewed her dealing as a business and she took pride in her role.

“I had always known business and how the art of supply and demand works,” said Amanda. “I never felt uncomfortable. I never felt out of place. Beyond that, it gave me a sense of worth. It gave me a sense of belonging as a girl that had struggled with her worth and belonging. I found my worth in being a drug dealer, which I don’t even know looking back now what I was thinking.”

She liked the money, the power and she was a natural. It was that simple. And because using your own product was frowned upon in that world “if you’re about your money”, she only used occasionally. For seven years, Amanda dealt her extra narcotics, until she married and moved away from the area to West Virginia, where her husband worked in the coal mines. While she has no proof, she admitted she thought law enforcement might have caught onto her then and, had she not moved, she would have eventually been arrested.

“The cool thing is, I got down there and I got involved in church. I didn’t know nobody in the drug game. I began to serve God. My kids were flourishing,” said Amanda. She had a nice home. They had nice cars. They wanted for nothing. While she didn’t feel she was in heavy addiction at that time, she went through the Celebrate Recovery program and by 2008 had completely stopped using drugs. She started working in recovery while there and found her calling there. Life was good. Then the coal industry fell apart, her husband was injured and prescription narcotics found their way back into her life. Eventually, she and her husband separated, and she returned home to Gallia County with her daughter, while her son stayed with his father. The two remained close and still are, said Amanda.

She had heard about the efforts of Field of Hope and knew Kevin Dennis and his daughter, Amber Richards, and her addiction and recovery story. She set her sights on one day working at Field of Hope in recovery.

“I knew I wanted to work with addicts even then. It had been my passion for so long after being a drug dealer,” said Amanda.

Until that point, she didn’t see herself as an addict. She was working toward certification. Things were still on a good path. She met a man and fell in love and things were going well. They connected through their childhood history and trauma and found an understanding neither had known. Then she started seeing warning signs of drug abuse; the relationship took an ugly turn and they began to fight. During one of their fights, things turned physical and she suffered a cracked skull. When she went to the hospital, she told them it was the result of a four-wheeler accident and was prescribed pain medicine.

According to Amanda, her boyfriend at the time filled her prescription and then subsequently sold those pills.

“I woke up the next day. I was in so much pain. My face was so swollen,” said Amanda. “He comes home and his idea to fix my pain was shooting me up with heroin and methamphetamines together.”

And with that, Amanda started her down spiral into the addiction that would result in not one, but three overdoses, two of which required the administration of Narcan, and eventually her mugshot in the local and regional media, along with major felony charges.

Amanda while deep in addiction.

“I felt so trapped. I felt like I had given up on everything I had worked so hard for. My dreams of working at Hope House were over,” said Amanda. “Then I had to face Kevin and Amber. That was horrible. Absolutely crushing to me. There’s no possible way that I’m going to work for the Field of Hope at this point. And everything that everybody had told me about this guy that I fell in love with was true and I was sitting right there in the exact spot that they told me I was going to be in and I called them a liar.”

She quickly went downhill. Her heroin use skyrocketed from once or twice a week to five and six times a day, and her savings began to dwindle quickly. Her boyfriend gained more and more control over her life. While Amanda had been around drugs and dealing her entire life, it was limited to mainly marijuana and narcotics. Heroin was a whole new world for her.

Her life and addiction spiraled out of control. “I was horrible,” she said. “Using drugs multiple times a day. Shooting up constantly. Things I saw were just obscene.” She eventually lost custody of her daughter to her ex-husband, which was a new low for her. Through everything in her life to that point, she said she had always taken care of her kids. For her, there was no hope in her future.

That all started to change when her boyfriend was arrested. He would later be sentenced to prison and she held onto that as a second chance. It didn’t last long though. She still felt responsible for him and when he needed money, she turned to the one thing she knew she could do well and that was deal drugs. This time, she hooked up with a major dealer.

“I was making a lot of money in a quick manner but I was doing a lot of damage in Gallia County,” said Amanda. “A lot of damage. I pray to God every day that, to my knowledge, I didn’t supply any lethal doses.”

Whether or not she dealt a lethal dose to anyone still weighs on her, a side-effect she said of her recovery and having a conscious now.

Back in the dealing game, she tried to get clean on her own by replacing heroin with marijuana and had managed to reduce her heroin usage significantly. By July 2, 2017, she had used heroin so little that when she took a dose because a customer asked her how it was and she didn’t know, it turned out to be too much. She overdosed in a vehicle and was taken to the emergency room, where Amanda said she actually died before being brought back. It was the first time she was administered Narcan. After that incident, she managed to steer clear of heroin for 10 days, until the next batch came into town. She took a small amount, not realizing it was the new mixture often called “Gray Death” which is heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil. This time she woke up after being administered Narcan in the middle of Vinton Avenue.

“When I woke up from that I was like, God you’ve got to do whatever you’re going to do. I remember going in the house that night and I’m looking at these needles and I’m thinking my life is a mess. I’ve got bruises all over my arms from IVs I’ve had to have, from being Narcanned, from all this stuff going on. My kids are gone. My daughter had just went to prom, wouldn’t have nothing to do with me. My life was a mess. The guy I thought loved me, he’s going to prison. I’m a known thief at this point. Everything I had worked so hard for was gone. My family wants nothing to do with me. I had absolutely nobody,” said Amanda. “I was miserable. I hated who I was.”

It would ultimately be a trip out of town and a subsequent drug run that would change her life, albeit not in the way she had thought. On July 14, 2017 she was arrested in West Virginia and faced major felony drug charges as a result of that arrest. Her mugshot appeared in both the regional media and local media and, for the first time, her drug dealing and addiction were on display for the whole world to see.

“It was what I needed at that time,” she said. “I embraced it.”

She was eventually indicted and had a lot of people “go to bat for her” to receive the opportunity to pursue treatment in lieu of conviction. “I just shut up and let God fight my battle for me. That’s all I can say is that I let my faith take over,” said Amanda.

She landed in Hope House for recovery, the very place she had hoped to work when she originally returned home and, as long as she completes recovery and her probation, she will get a fresh start. Day one in recovery she came face to face with the effects of her dealing in the stories of the women who entered Hope House with her – many of whom were her former clients.

“I was just sitting there thinking whether or not I can do this,” she said. “All of the girls were telling stories of me dealing drugs.”

She did do it though and graduated Hope House, then moved into sober living. “I have faith,” she said about the future of her recovery. “Things are looking really, really good.” She also knows she has hurt people and is working to make amends directly to individuals, as well as to the community through volunteer work.

“Was I a drug dealer? Yeah. Did I hurt people? Yeah. Do I want to be that person for the rest of my life? No,” she said. “I realize there are still consequences and not everybody is going to be okay with me anymore. I upset a lot of people. There’s still people really deep in the game that aren’t happy I’m not there anymore and that I found freedom. They’re still stuck because they’re afraid to get out. And it’s hard to sit here with nothing. I had a home and a car. I have nothing. I have nothing now.”

For Amanda though, as part of her recovery, she is doing a lot of what she refers to as “heartwork”. She is focusing on her family, herself and she has faith that she will have what she needs when the time is right.

A recent profile picture from Facebook.

“I have joy in my heart and that pays for it. I have peace in my mind that covers it. That’s enough. I’ve never been able to say that before. At the cost of having conviction, at the cost of being humble, at the cost of showing humanity, nothing outweighs the peace that I have now. I’ve trusted my convictions this far. I’ll have everything I need when the time’s right. I’ll have my own place. I’d rather build it all the right way. I’m okay with that. It’ll all come at the right time this time around,” said Amanda.

Finding employment hasn’t been easy either, given the publicity of her arrest and the fact that she chose to remain in her hometown where people know her. She understands their reluctance to trust her. And she won’t lie and say it isn’t difficult, coming from something that allowed her to easily turn $500 into $5,000 in just a few days, but she doesn’t even think that is an option for her anymore, even if she did want to go back.

“At this point, I don’t know if I’m a good drug dealer anymore. Really, I don’t think I am. Number one, you have to believe in your product and I don’t believe in my product anymore. At one point, I did. I don’t today and that’s the difference now. I don’t believe in the product. I don’t believe in the dealer. I just don’t believe it anymore,” she said. “Honestly, I believe, where I stand at now, my ultimate calling was going from dope dealer to hope dealer.”

As far as whether she would be better off completing her recovery somewhere away from her hometown, Amanda said it is her goal to stay in Gallia County and prove to people that not only can she successfully stay sober and become a productive member of society but also serve as an example to others that they can do the same.

She has been homeless. She’s lived in a tent. She has been a thief. She has struggled to eat. She’s gone without showering.

“I’ve experienced the worst of the worst. I’ve experienced every aspect of addiction you could possibly imagine,” she said. “My faith is so much bigger than myself and I work a program. I work the program every single day and I have an amazing support system. Every day, I wake up with faith.”

She credits Field of Hope with that support, continuing on to say she believes facilities like Field of Hope and Hope House will be major contenders in the recovery process. “When you add faith to recovery, that breaks chains. That breaks strongholds. I have a feeling in the years to come you’re going to see better recovery success rates.”

In the future, she hopes to be a positive force in the recovery effort and an advocate, both at the local level, as well as the state and federal levels. One of the issues she currently recognizes is the lack of beds available to those seeking treatment. In addition, she wants to work toward prison reform in the hopes of getting more treatment options inside the prisons, as well as outside. She also hopes to work in prevention efforts with youth.

“I want to be part of the resistance. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. That is my goal,” said Amanda. “Let’s work together as a society. Let’s work together as a town. I’m an addict. Who knows better than an addict?”

While she does have plans for the future, right now she is focusing on recovery and getting her life back on track. Telling her story gives her the opportunity to apologize publicly to both her community and anyone she may have let down. Through Field of Hope, she is facing traumas from her past and working to rebuild relationships. She now has a relationship with her children again and recently found employment. It’s been a slow and painful process, but despite how her recovery happened, she is thankful for it in some ways. Had she not been arrested, she fully believes she would have eventually died.

“It was the best way for it to happen. It could have all been so much worse. I’m thankful for grace. I’m thankful for mercy. And I’m thankful for this opportunity to work with my community and to show other addicts, no matter what you’ve done, if you really, really want to prove you can do it, you can do it,” said Amanda. “I hope with everything in me that I remain humble and I always look to the addict and I always see a broken individual just like I am. This time I don’t look for power. I never want to get to a point where I want power in any of it. I just want to be a simple, humble human being. I want to live comfortably here in Gallia County and I just want to serve my people. I don’t look for power anymore. I hope power is the last thing I have. I want to work a normal job and I just want to serve people. Beyond that I want nothing. A normal job, a car and my family and just to be happy. I want to serve in a happy church. I just want to help.”

For more about Field of Hope and Hope House, visit their website at http://www.fieldofhope.life/.

Solid Rock Studios also helped both Amanda and Amber tell their stories in a short video. You can view that video below.

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