VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) — Knox County's Life After Meth program is helping incarcerated addicts like Hyla "Angel" Richter, a former user, recover and re-enter the community.
Richter was 13 when she tried methamphetamine for the first time. At age 16 she started cooking it, and by 18, she said, she was sitting in prison.
"I've been in and out of prison all my life," Richter told the Vincennes Sun-Commercial (http://bit.ly/XN4q8I ). "It was a path I never meant to take, but I did."
Growing up, Richter's life was far from the ideal, she explained. Her father died when she was eight, and her mother remarried, a couple of times.
"I was 12 when I got moved out of my house," she said. "And when I was 13, my grandparents legally adopted me.
"I had night terrors really bad when I was moved out, for some pretty obvious reasons, so when I was 13, I went to try and buy my first joint," she said. "They said, 'There's no weed left, but here, try this,' and I was hooked. I was a 13-year-old who was afraid to go to sleep, and I found an option that meant I never had to sleep again."
Meth was an easy, though temporary, escape from the past, she said, and it wasn't until she found LAM that she realized she was destined for more.
Now Richter is a full-time student at Vincennes University working to become a juvenile drug counselor at a correctional facility, all while also working full-time.
Sleep is rare, she added, but unlike in the past, she actually misses it.
"I look at it like this, I didn't sleep for 17 years for nothing, what's four more for something," she said. "If it weren't for the LAM program, I wouldn't be in school. They helped me line up financial aid, and fill out my (application), they walked with me through all of the steps."
That's what the LAM program does, Richter said. It's not a program that ends when the jail sentence does, but instead it's a constant, lifelong support, which Richter said is vital in the journey of staying sober.
"This program can be so successful, this can make you clean," she said. "It gives you all of the tools you need to become a productive member of society, and they take steps to ensure our success.
"They show us how to live of life's terms."
Sobriety didn't come overnight for Richter, but it did come.
"A couple of years before I got clean I knew I didn't want to get high any more, but I didn't know how to stop," she said. "I was sick of the life and I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
"They say when you hit rock bottom you'll bounce, but I lived on rock bottom for a long time," Richter said. "I was wanted, I was an addict, and I was depressed.
"I tried to kill myself five times in that last year," she said. "Eventually, I knew I was going to get it right, but I realized if life has gotten so bad that you don't want to live anymore, something has to change.
"And I knew it had to be me, because it's me who's interfering with my life."
Going to jail the last time, she said, was the best thing that could have happened to her.
"I think a lot of times, addicts come to a realization that this isn't the life they want to lead anymore, but they don't know how to stop," she said. "And that's where LAM came in for me."
LAM hopes to raise funds to support the creation of two transitional facilities in Knox County.
"Our main focus is to give them the sense that there is a community out here supporting them to have a good life," said Rev. Peter Haskins, director of the program. "It's a tribute to our community that we have this kind of support for recovering drug addicts.
"We're not out to save everybody but we are trying to save the people who are sick and tired of being sick and tired," he explained. "We aim to help the people who are ready to make a change."
Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, http://www.vincennes.com