On Aug. 8, 2012, Lisa Hobson took every drug she could get her hands on, then lay down to die.
Her marriage had fallen apart. She’d started drinking, once a day during the week, then more on the weekends while her three children were with their father.
For two years, she was homeless, sleeping outside alone or in drug houses, where she’d wake up and find her shoes or backpack had been stolen. She’d gone through a series of abusive relationships, spurring nightmares she didn’t want to see when she closed her eyes, so she didn’t. She smoked or shot up instead.
Yet, lying there, she felt nothing, not even high.
Before she fell asleep sobbing, she prayed: “Lord, take me. I can’t do this anymore. Just take me. I can’t handle it.”
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She awoke to police entering the house she shared with her boyfriend down the road from a Baptist church, where stolen vehicles in various stages of disassembly littered the yard.
“I remember in the cop car going, ‘Lord, this is not where I had planned,’” she said. “‘I did not mean jail.’”
Her boyfriend, Paul S. Napier, had fled the house where the two had been making meth. It would be two years before he would plead guilty to possession of precursors with intent to manufacture, a Class D felony.
Lisa, 32, was arrested at the scene for failure to appear in court on a probation violation.
In August 2010, she had been arrested on a misdemeanor charge of conversion for stealing a bottle of perfume from the Columbus Walmart, high and out of her mind.
Six years earlier, Lisa (Haines) Hobson had been a stay-at-home mother, married to her high school sweetheart. “I never even drank a beer,” she said.
“Life was perfect, and I judged so much. And then it happened to me.”
She and her husband divorced when she was 28. She went to work at Toyota. They figured out a way for the kids, ages 3, 8 and 9, to see both their parents every day.
But on the weekends, for one night, Lisa would be alone.
She’d never really been alone.
Up to the night before she was married, she had slept next to her grandmother, the person she called her best friend. Olive Austin, a longtime janitor at Helmsburg Elementary School, had raised her as well as a couple of Lisa’s cousins.
Lisa’s biological mother had moved in with her own mother while she was getting divorced and was pregnant with Lisa. When she left, she left Lisa with grandma, and took Ann, her 4-year-old, to raise by herself.
Looking back now, Lisa is grateful her mother made that choice.
After divorcing her father, who was addicted to alcohol, her biological mother later had another son, then took in a grandson, trying to find work wherever she could as a housekeeper and living paycheck to paycheck. She died in 2011 at age 57.
“They were exposed to things there that they shouldn’t have been,” Lisa said about her siblings and nephew. “And for a long time, I hated my mother because I would watch her not buy groceries and buy pot. She didn’t do anything else (other drugs), but she was so addicted to marijuana that it affected her feeding her children.”
“I actually had a really good life,” Lisa said.
Yet, loneliness and a sense of rejection crept in. “Even though my grandparents were there, they were there because they wanted to be, and I should have felt blessed for that, but I felt like a burden because my parents didn’t want me.”
In school, Lisa didn’t develop a network of friends. Her husband-to-be, whom she met when she was 15, kept her away from people who could have gotten her into trouble. But that also deepened her naivety.
She attended Faith Full Gospel Church. She worked part-time jobs. She got married right out of high school, then became a mother, the only thing she’d ever wanted to be.
After her divorce was when Lisa tried meth for the first time. It was the first time she’d smoked anything.
She was at a bar, drinking with a boyfriend and another person she trusted, when she found them smoking in the car.
“Two people that I knew, and one that I really looked up to, was having it, in my face, and I was like, ‘What can it hurt?’ I didn’t know what it was. I had no idea what meth was.”
She did know how it made her feel: happy, euphoric, accepted.
“After that, it was one bad decision after another.”
Meth changed the way Lisa’s brain functioned. She only learned that years later while in jail and attending Moms Against Meth.
“It reacts with those chemicals that your brain naturally releases for good decision-making and rational thinking and everything,” Lisa said. Eventually, the drug replaces those natural chemicals, making the user dependent.
“I was doing things that I didn’t understand,” she said.
The Haines sisters, whose lives had taken different paths, would eventually meet in the same cellblock of the Brown County jail.
Ann Haines, their younger brother, Doug Haines, and Terry Jo Shipley were arrested in March 2012 at a suspected drug lab on Brand Hollow Road. Two months later, Ann Haines was still in jail and seeking help making bond.
She called her sister and asked her to sell the prescription pills that Shipley had in the house.
Lisa, despite using at the time, said no. A friend, Keith Stephenson Jr., got on the phone and said yes.
On May 6, 2012, with $2,260 in cash, Stephenson went to the jail to bail out Haines. He was met by then-Detective Scott Southerland, armed with evidence of those conversations.
After serving six months in the Bartholomew County jail for possession of precursors with intent to manufacture, Lisa was sent to the Brown County jail for seven-and-a-half months for dealing in a Schedule II controlled substance, a Class B felony. Even though she had turned down her sister’s offer, she had let another person use her phone and make the deal.
Because she and her sister couldn’t be in the same cellblock, Lisa spent her time in solitary confinement.
She was alone again, save for the gospel music floating from the third-shift jailer’s computer.
It reminded her of home. It reminded her of the words a fellow inmate at the Bartholomew County jail had left her with while she was going through the hell of detox: “For he will not leave you or forsake you.”
The Brown County jail staff helped prop her up in so many ways. “I’d wake up with an anxiety attack in the middle of the night and hit my button on my box, and they’d come down and talk to me,” she said.
“There was one Christmas … and I just woke up full of joy, and I was in the holding cell, and I’d been there for, like, six-and-a-half months at this point. And they’re like, ‘What is your problem? Why are you so happy? You’re in here by yourself.’
“And I was like, ‘I’m not in here by myself. The Lord’s in here with me, and he gave me the thing I needed most this year, which was forgiveness.’”
Lisa’s sentence was transferred to the Department of Correction in May 2013. She spent two months in the Rockville Correctional Facility, then the next six months at the Madison Correctional Facility.
Drugs were plentiful in prison, but Lisa stayed busy in other ways, attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings, going to church and reading when she wasn’t working.
After one of the many 10-hour days she spent weed-eating with a work crew, Lisa learned her brother had died.
A passing driver had found Doug Haines, 29, along Indian Hill Road in Brown County, lying shirtless next to the railroad ties in the blazing July sun. The coroner listed his cause of death as heatstroke, as well as malnutrition, dehydration and methamphetamine abuse.
She went back to her dorm and told the other girls, “I think I’m ready to use now.”
“And they all came around me and said, ‘We’re not going to let you.’”
Lisa’s final two months in prison were spent at Liberty Hall in Indianapolis. She made use of the law library and started the process of filing for custody of her children. She wanted to come home, but she had no place to go, and she was terrified of falling in with “the wrong crew” again.
Silver Linings women’s shelter in Nashville was where she landed. She was the second resident to live there. Without founder Carrie Foley and that resource, Lisa believes she would be dead. She would’ve started using again, and that first time back from being clean would have been fatal.
She got a full-time job at McDonald’s and started paying child support to her ex-husband. Even after working up to manager, she was left with about $100 a week, which wasn’t enough to get a place of her own after her nine months at the shelter were up. She didn’t have a license or a car, or any other means to get a higher-paying job.
Shelter board member Mary Ann Soll rented her a room in her home for whatever she could afford, plus help around the house.
Other women reached out, including former Community Corrections officer Lucy Harden, who gave her clothing from her own closet.
Lisa was constructing a new network, built on lessons she had learned at the shelter. “They taught me how to, first of all, rely on other women. I didn’t need a man. … How to stand on my own two feet as a woman, and how to ask other women for help if I needed it, to have a support system.”
She had been too proud to ask for help before, and too ashamed to be honest with her church — people she’d grown up with and considered family.
She was afraid that they wouldn’t believe in her, that they’d think she was a lost cause.
She and other members of Faith Full Gospel are working now to make sure no one feels that way.
On a chilly Sunday in January, Lisa Hobson — now Lisa Palmer, remarried and six years sober — stood in front of her congregation and thanked God for the women and the youth in her church. She snuggled fussy toddlers passed across the aisles and nuzzled noses with an elementary-aged cousin, repeating an affirmation to her which Pastor Randy LaVere had passed from the pulpit: “You have a purpose.”
She and her husband, Jimmy, a church drummer, now have shared custody of her children, 18-year-old Cody, 17-year-old Heather and 13-year-old Dylan.
Lisa is now the shipping supervisor For Bare Feet Originals, working for Mandy Zellmer, her former second-grade teacher. In 2017, Lisa was named employee of the year.
She and other members of Faith Full Gospel who are clean have been volunteering at the jail. They’re working with members of other area churches to create a network of support for people struggling with addiction.
Lisa and Jimmy are also guardians to Lisa’s 9-year-old cousin, whose parents have been in jail on drug charges.
The first few months she was living in their house, the girl was stealing. She was lying. She was acting out at school. With stability and a different form of discipline, she’s improved so much, Lisa said. Soon, she’ll be reunited with her dad, whom she’s never really known. And that’s caused some anxiety.
Sometimes, at night, when she hears a noise in the house, it reminds her of the times she would hear a noise and run to the door, hoping her mom would come home that night.
Lisa’s own nightmares have subsided to about once or twice a year now. But even last Christmas Eve, when all the children were home and everything was picture-perfect, she dreamed that she really wanted to get high, and all she had to do was reach out and take it.
She woke up in a panic. She almost woke her husband to pray with her. Though she’s talked to him about everything, he never lived in that world, so he’ll never truly understand.
Lisa holds her cousin. She tells her she’s not alone. She talks to her about post-traumatic stress disorder. In time, it will fade, she says.
This, right here, is what’s real, not the nightmares, no matter how striking.
None of that’s going to happen anymore. Never again.
The United States is in the midst of the worst drug epidemic in its history.
With alarming frequency, opioids, including prescription drugs, heroin and fentanyl, are killing Americans, including people in Brown County.
The Brown County Democrat is taking a yearlong look into a public health crisis that touches nearly every segment of our community and crosses all socioeconomic lines.
We will tell the harrowing stories of people who have been addicted and families who have lost loved ones.
We will talk to doctors, addiction specialists, law enforcement officers and others on the front lines of a problem that is ruining lives and putting mounting pressure on social service agencies, hospitals, the judicial system and the economy.
And beyond that, Addicted & Dying will explore solutions and a path forward — what treatments and approaches work, what communities can do and how to help people in need.
Got an idea for our project? Contact us at email@example.com.
Coming in April: Eleven percent of children in Brown County are in the care of a grandparent — one of the highest rates of any county in the state. Statewide, 52 percent of children have been removed from a home because of a parent’s drug or alcohol abuse. Learn how local families, schools and the courts are being affected.