Behind the headlines about addiction are human beings with a story to tell. Nicole Powers started using alcohol and pills as a teenager struggling with self-worth, and things got way out of hand. In this episode of the podcast, Nicole talks about her journey of struggle, loss, consequences, healing and support, and how she’s now using her voice for good.
Nicole Powers: I’m Nicole Powers, and I’m very proud to be celebrating 10 years clean.
Kate Jetmore: From Civic Spark Media, and the Western Wayne News in Wayne County, Indiana. I’m Kate Jetmore, as a native of Richmond, Indiana and longtime host of The Listen Podcast. I’m excited to be sitting down with some of our neighbors and listening to the stories that define our community. My guest today is Nicole Powers, who like many members of our community has struggled with addiction. Here today to share her story with us. She’s now been clean and sober for 10 years. Welcome, Nicole. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Nicole Powers: Thank you for having me, Kate.
Kate Jetmore: So, behind every addict or recovering addict is of course a human being with a story to tell. Would you be so kind as to share your story with us?
Nicole Powers: I sure would. I would love to share my story with you. Well, I think as a teenager, like most people do. You struggle with a sense of self-worth and things like that, and I think I felt like when I got to the age where I could, I really started feeling those things that I found that if I would drink alcohol or take a pill or something it would make me feel better. It would alter my state of mind, so I wasn’t thinking about the things that made me feel bad about myself or my depression. And I think it undiagnosed depression at the time, played a big role. No, it didn’t really play a big role. I guess what I mean is when you’re feeling things like that as an addict, it’s easy to take something to help mask up your feelings so you don’t have to deal with it and I think I became emotionally addicted to what I was taking at that time. Not physically addicted, but because it helped me when I thought I needed help.
And then I think too, when you’re feeling bad about yourself and you can do something that tricks your mind into feeling happy and feel happy around other people, or feel accepted, maybe you have social anxiety or you just simply just don’t feel good about yourself. And that’s what happened to me. And then it was just through the years off and on, I wasn’t really every day until I hit my ’30s. And then I started doing pills more regularly, and I had a child, and I had some shoulder surgery about a year after she was born from an old sports injury, I couldn’t lift her.
So, after that, my doctor prescribed me with a lot of Percocets at the time in it was 2007. They were very generous at the time with their prescriptions. And then when I was taking those and I started feeling better, then they were giving me that energy that as a depressed, somebody with depression is always searching for that energy to make it through the day. And then that’s what they were doing for me. And when that quick, fast-forward two or three years, and it just becomes… that’s when the physical addiction becomes an issue. I mean, your body is just so addicted, and it was awful. I hated living like that. I didn’t want to live like that.
Kate Jetmore: Was there a point, Nicole, where the prescription for Percocet ran out that you were unable to get refills for the Percocet?
Nicole Powers: Yes. I can remember having the surgery, and my husband was angry that I even came home with 60 Percocets for a minor surgery with three refills. And then once those… By the time I had reached the third refill, then they were saying, “We’re going to have to cut you off.” You know what I mean?
Kate Jetmore: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Nicole Powers: And I’m not blaming it on the doctors, but I just feel like at the time that they didn’t really understand about the epidemic. That was to be… I mean, you know.
Kate Jetmore: Mm-hmm. And what happened then, Nicole? I mean, you mentioned that these pills were giving you energy in a certain way. So, I can imagine that when you suddenly didn’t have them, you felt like you didn’t have any energy. What happened?
Nicole Powers: That’s when I started looking for them, and I found people that were able to… I would buy them from people. Get paycheck and it’s already gone because you’ve spent it on these pills. It just got way out of hand. And then I guess, I was introduced to heroin one time from a friend. Well, a friend, I guess, I can’t blame her. It’s not her fault. She’s in recovery now too. I’m not going to… But anyway, and it just became so much easier to get than the pain pills. But then that’s like once you take heroin, it does not take long to get addicted to it. It just gets a grip on you. And I was working for my best friends from high school at the time, and I had access to the checking account and everything like that because I was a trusted employee.
So, I started forging checks, so I could feed my addiction. I was stealing from my best friends and every day wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing this, Nicole? You know if you get caught, you’re going to go to prison. What are you doing?” And then, you get your dope, and you feel better, and you don’t think about that until the next time you come down. And it was awful. I mean, I wanted to die.
Kate Jetmore: Oh, my goodness.
Nicole Powers: If it hadn’t been for my kids, I might not have been strong enough to face the consequences.
Kate Jetmore: Well, in fact, you did get caught and you did go to jail.
Nicole Powers: Yes.
Kate Jetmore: And you spent how long? Two years? Three years in jail?
Nicole Powers: Almost 20 months.
Kate Jetmore: Okay.
Nicole Powers: Yes.
Kate Jetmore: Okay.
Nicole Powers: Yeah. But yeah, that saved me basically, my husband and my best friends. They were the people that at the midst of my addiction, in the depths of my despair, even though I had stole from them and did them wrong. They loved me, but they pressed charges against me. And I mean, they saved my life. Literally, saved my life.
Kate Jetmore: Wow.
Nicole Powers: Had they not pressed charges against me… it’s like I said, it is very, very hard to get off of heroin. And I just-
Kate Jetmore: Well, this is not a struggle that I have had, but I believe I also understand that getting off heroin is… I mean, impossible even to think about. So, it is amazing that you have been able to take on that challenge and take it on successfully. So, when you were in the thick of that struggle, I mean, I know that recovery from addiction is a daily challenge, and I’m sure you still deal with that. But when you were in the thick of it, what were some of the local resources or programs or people that made it possible for you to stay on that path?
Nicole Powers: Well, like I said, the people, my husband, and my best friends, they helped me by just by making me face the consequences to my actions. And that was scary. I didn’t want to turn myself in, and especially didn’t want to go to jail being sick from having to come off of the heroine. So, my extended family at that point reached out to me and they paid for me to go to Indianapolis, to the Salvation Army. I spent a week there and detox. So that was… I mean, not great but I mean, it was wonderful that I didn’t have to go to jail sick because the eight months that I was in the county jail, I couldn’t even tell you how many girls I saw and come in there sick from heroin, dope sick from coming off of it. And they don’t care there that what you’re coming off of. And they really… I mean, should they? I don’t know.
Kate Jetmore: Well, I like hearing you ask those questions because it’s not a black and white issue. There are really difficult issues that need to be struggled with as we look at what’s happening to… In your case, what was happening to yourself. And in the case of members of the community, Americans who are watching this epidemic play out. I mean, how do we deal with this? How do we help people? How do we best support people? I mean, one of the things you just said was, I had to come clean about stealing money from my friends who were also my bosses, and they pressed charges, and that was a good thing.
Nicole Powers: Absolutely.
Kate Jetmore: I mean, that’s a really complicated sentence.
Nicole Powers: It is very, very complicated, but the best thing to the ending of this sentence is in 2018, they asked me to come back to work for them. And so, I’ve been there since then and-
Kate Jetmore: Wow.
Nicole Powers: … So that is like… I mean, I dreamt of them asking me to come back when I got out of prison and was clean a few years. And so it’s like… it’s just-
Kate Jetmore: Oh, that’s amazing.
Nicole Powers: I know. It really is. It really is. But as far as when you asked about the resources, when you’re in the midst of your addiction, that’s kind of a difficult question to answer because are you really looking for a resource? Are you looking for help? I mean, I know maybe some people aren’t. Like I said, I hated that feeling every day, but I just didn’t know how to come out of it. I knew that there were… Honestly, I knew about the methadone clinic and that was it. I had no idea about other resources. The groups recovered together, I think is the one in Richmond that… if I had known about that, and there’s actually one of those in Connersville and in New Castle, which is surrounding the western way. I had no idea.
But that would’ve been a good resource because that was one thing my husband said is, “You’re not doing the methadone route.” And I agree with that, and I feel like Suboxone is different. I know they both attach to the opioid receptor in your brain, but the Suboxone is at a much lower level, and I just feel like my eyes have been open to some resources that people might have. For me, that wasn’t the way, but I feel like if somebody needed that, then absolutely. It’s-
Kate Jetmore: Yeah. I mean, one thing I hear you saying, and you and I have talked about this many times as friends, we’re friends from high school, we went to RHS together.
Nicole Powers: Yay.
Kate Jetmore: Is that when you were in the depths of your addiction, all you wanted was to feel better. You just wanted to feel better. And so, when it comes to resources, when it comes to what resources could you find, what resources were you looking for? I mean, I can imagine that if your goal is just to feel better or just to not feel sick, right?
Nicole Powers: Right.
Kate Jetmore: Which is how you felt when you weren’t taking the drugs.
Nicole Powers: Yes.
Kate Jetmore: That you’re just looking for the easiest and fastest way to just not feel awful.
Nicole Powers: Yeah. It’s true. I mean, you are. At the expense of everybody around you. I mean, you just…
Kate Jetmore: Yeah. I mean, when you look back, Nicole, are there any services or programs that you wish had existed or any examples that you’ve seen in other parts of the country or even other parts of the world that could be implemented here in Wayne County that you think would be helpful for people in a similar position?
Nicole Powers: Well, I feel like it’s like we have a recovery center here in Cambridge City. I think it’s called Recovery Works. I’m not sure. I can’t speak on it because I don’t know. But I feel like when they first came to town, they reached out in the Western Wayne News, I believe. Maybe asking for people if they wanted to share their story, or… And I had reached out and nobody responded. But I feel like things like that are sporadic around here. Number one is that in a smaller community, the stigma is still there. I mean, it’s still as a recovering addict, as a still struggling addict, as a parent of an addict or a child of an addict, there’s still so many people that it’s, no, we don’t talk about that. We don’t want to hear about it. We don’t discuss it.
And number one, that it needs to become more normalized to discuss it and to help people. I think programs for the school going in. I mean, I’d be interested in going to the elementary or the high school I’m talking, and maybe not the elementary, but the high school. You know what I mean? And just even if it’s not to just… They have counselors that come in there from Centerstone or wherever, and they have the counselors at school, but they don’t ever have anybody that comes in there to talk to them that has actually lived life and that might actually be facing or have faced what they’re facing, whether it be a parent or themselves or if they’re struggling. You know what I mean?
Kate Jetmore: Yeah. Nicole, where do you get your courage? I mean, do you even see it as courage when you speak out in a public way like this and share your story on a public platform? Or does it just for some reason feel so natural to you? I mean, you yourself used the word stigma, and yet you’re so generous and open about sharing your story.
Nicole Powers: Absolutely. I love to share my story. I don’t really see it. I think initially, like I am not clearly… I get tongue-tied when I talk. I’m not a very confident person speaking to people, but when I speak about my recovery to people that I meet, people that I don’t even know, I’m very confident, and that’s what I feel confident because first what I’m going to be 52 for you know what? 40 years I’ve been searching for that confidence and that I feel great about myself finally. You know what I mean? I had to go through hell to get here. But I feel like when I share my story and I walk away and the people that I’ve talked to are better because of it, and I don’t feel like, “Oh, that’s because I’m great.” But I am great. I feel 10 years ago, I would’ve never said that about myself. So, you know what?
Kate Jetmore: Yeah. And my hope with this conversation and this podcast is that your voice will reach people who either are personally struggling with addiction, or they have a loved one, someone in their family or a close friend who’s struggling with addiction. And that listening to your story and hearing that you are 10 years clean will speak to them and inspire them. I’m wondering, as we wrap up, is there any advice that you would like to share with any of those people who are out there listening today?
Nicole Powers: Well, my advice would be to just… If you’re struggling today, number one, I love you and I want you to get well. If you’re a family member, don’t lose hope just continue to extend your arms out to your loved one that may not know that they need it or may not have reached rock bottom yet. And it’s hard to watch that and sit back and watch it and not be able to do anything about it. I don’t know that. Just try to find something in yourself to wanted… you want to be better for if you’re struggling. The rewards are great. It’s going to be a lot of work, but whether you have 10 years clean or you have one hour clean, if you have one hour clean to me, you’re kicking ass and you’re stronger than I am because that one hour was hard. I’m living it easy these days. Not easy, but you know what I mean? I am not… You’d make it through a day, and I’m telling you what, I’ll give you a medal because that’s great.
Kate Jetmore: You know 10 years. 10 years is just a long string of days and hours-
Nicole Powers: Absolutely.
Kate Jetmore: … it’s like building a building with bricks. You just have to put one on top of the next one, don’t you?
Nicole Powers: Yes. If anybody wants to reach out. If anybody has questions or struggling or wants to talk, to reach out. Send me a message on Messenger. I’ll be more than happy to talk to you and help you find resources if you need them.
Kate Jetmore: Oh, Nicole, that is really beautiful, and to offer that lifeline is just extremely generous. And I have to say, I’m not at all surprised knowing you as I do. I want to thank you so much for joining me today. I’m so glad that you’re alive. And I’m so glad that you’re using your voice for good.