Lured by boredom and curiosity, Nichole Josza fell into a trap at 14 years old and did not escape until she was 19.
“People were giving me pills at school,” she said. “I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. At first, they would give it to me for free.”
Then she met a boy who introduced her to Oxycodone.
“That’s when I really got addicted,” she said. “I just turned 16.”
The two began to date, and after six months, she decided she wanted to stop using. She stayed sober for two weeks, which was a struggle.
The night of Oct. 11, 2011, she was speeding down Plum Creek Road in her first car. She drove it into a tree at 50 miles per hour.
Her ribs were broken, her spleen was punctured, and her face went into the windshield.
In the hospital, she received morphine and Dilaudid through an IV — strong narcotics used to help pain.
“Basically, from then on, it was just a complete downward spiral.”
Ages 16 to 17 were a drug-fueled blur, Josza said.
“I can’t tell you really what happened. I did things that I regret. I don’t want to remember.”
Right before she turned 18, she was introduced to heroin by the same boy who had introduced her to Oxycodone.
“Most of the time I would get myself so high that I didn’t feel anything. It’s almost like you’re asleep. … It’s almost like you don’t even exist.”
Within three years, she went through at least 10 jobs. She wasn’t able to keep one for more than three weeks.
“I would go into work too high and not be able to do my job, or I would have a day where I don’t have any drugs; I don’t have anything to take to make me feel OK. I would be sick in bed and not want to get out of bed. I’d call in to work, so I’d get fired.”
During this time there were few drugs she would turn down.
“I did any pills. I did meth. I didn’t experiment with crack, but I did do basically anything else.”
She said she tried just enough methamphetamine to know that she liked it.
On meth, she did not sleep.
“Once you start coming down, you don’t want to come down. You want to keep using. Eventually, that leads to being up for three days and hallucinating.
“It’s not a good experience.”
Josza had hit rock bottom.
She went online to search for a Suboxone clinic. Suboxone is a drug used to help people who are using heroin or other opiates to control withdrawal symptoms like nausea and body pains and to reduce cravings.
“It was kind of like I was just so depressed and so unhappy with my life that I needed to find something else,” she said.
She had lied to and stolen from family members; lied to friends; was unemployed; failed in high school; totaled two cars because she was high; and was emotionally and mentally unstable, “in every way possible.”
“I even got close to the point of suicide once. This drug leads you into a hole so dark that you can’t even imagine.
“I was lucky to have been so smart, so soon. … A lot of addicts don’t realize when to get help until it’s too late.”
She called a toll-free number in an advertisement. The man on the phone told her it was not a Suboxone clinic but a treatment center, Discovery House near Los Angeles.
Discovery House offered “a whole bunch of perks” including five-star dinners, permission to smoke cigarettes on campus and TVs in the bedrooms. The center offered to pay for her flight to California and pay for the majority of her treatment for 33 days. She was required to only make a small down-payment and her medical insurance covered the rest.
She thought it over for two days.
“I almost didn’t believe it. … In those two days, I’m thinking about, ‘Oh my God, I’ll never be able to use again. I’m never going to be able to get high again. What am I going to do?’ I didn’t know if I was ready.
“I decided I might as well do it.”
The last drug she used was Oxycodone.
She landed in California, second-guessing her decision, angry and experiencing withdrawals.
“You’re going to start feeling again,” Josza said. “Once any addict starts feeling, you don’t want to feel anymore.”
She received Suboxone from the treatment center to help deal with the anger and other withdrawal symptoms. She took the medicine for two weeks before the doctors weaned her off it.
Josza participated in yoga and music therapy along with classes that explored what drug use does the brain. Each morning she attended a group session in which everyone talked about something related to using drugs.
After 33 days, she was able to come home clean and happy; but that did not mean she was free of challenges.
Josza is now 20. As of April 10, she was 439 days sober.
One of the first things she did when she returned to Indiana was delete 20 phone numbers out of her cellphone.
“I can think of 10 people off the top of my head who I don’t speak to anymore because they still use,” she said.
Now that she is sober, she can recognize when a person is using, and that hurts her. Sometimes, those people are her family and friends.
“That’s one of the worst feelings ever to see friends and family feel the way that I felt a little over a year ago,” she said.
Images from her past still live with her to this day.
A friend of hers overdosed in front of her. She was able to save his life. That scene is one she will not forget.
With all of her experiences, would she go back in time and tell herself not to use?
“I learned so much from that experience that I wouldn’t tell myself that. I would tell myself that I’m in for a hell of a ride for the next couple years. … But I wouldn’t suggest for anybody else to use.”
Josza said her strength comes from the one person who made her decide to get treatment: herself.
“Knowing that if I do that one thing ever again, that I’ll feel that way again, that’s what stops me, because I don’t ever want to feel that way again.”
Josza is holding down a job. She manages her money, attends college classes and is in a serious relationship.
Her soul is alive.
“I remember when I first got clean, laughing was almost like a ‘high’ or a new experience because I never laughed like I do now,” she said.
It has not been easy to get to where she is today. She has nightmares that she is using drugs. She wakes up in a cold sweat, afraid she will begin withdrawal.
But now she has a new dream.
She hopes to open a treatment facility here in Brown County. She plans to go to school to become a drug counselor.
“I want to help people in this county,” she said. “I think a lot of people need it.”