“I came to Oberlin to get drugs,” said Jaime Holtz, 27, of Westlake. “I’ve been to Elyria to get them, Westlake, Lorain, and many other cities too. They’re everywhere.”
A snowboarding accident in 2005 left Holtz with moderate back injuries. Over the coarse of the next seven years, her ailments worsened to the point she was prescribed the opiate tramadol in 2012.
“It got to the point where I enjoyed the feeling of not being in pain, so I started abusing the pills,” she said. “My boyfriend at the time was a recovering addict. He had actually relapsed. When I ran out of my prescription, I started feeling really crappy, and that’s when he introduced me to heroin.”
“I initially declined it but after a couple of arguments I finally gave in,” she said. “I was hooked the very first time, in that moment. It took away the pain. It took away the crappy feelings. It made me feel good. It was just more intense. It was immediate. The tramadol was good for the pain but the heroin was immediate relief. Once I snorted it, it started working within minutes as opposed to an hour or so with the pills.”
In the following two years, addiction led Holtz, a Kent State graduate, to many difficult and near fatal situations, including a close call outside of a dealer’s house in Oberlin.
“I overdosed in the car,” she said. “My fiance and I had pulled over to shoot up and I just passed out. It felt like a long nap. He woke me up eventually by pouring cold water on my face.”
A car crash in Fremont almost took Holtz’s life in 2013. After she ran a stop sign, her Volkswagen Jetta struck the front end of a GMC pickup truck. The driver of the truck walked away but Holtz was flown to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo with a severe concussion.
“When the EMTs got there, they couldn’t find my heartbeat,” she said. “They had to resuscitate me. They were actually about to stop trying to do that and my heart started beating on its own.”
She recalled the feeling of regaining consciousness as family surrounded her hospital bed.
“When I came to, it was a wake-up moment in many ways,” she said. “I thought about what I was doing with my life. I don’t remember much after the accident. It exacerbated my back injuries and made them a lot worse, but in retrospect I was really lucky it happened. I remember getting to the hospital and just lying there. Then I felt a hand on my arm and it was my dad. I immediately broke into tears.”
The first thing she said to him was, “Dad, I’m a heroin addict.”
Holtz attended rehabilitation centers on two occasions, the first for inpatient therapy and then as an outpatient.
The first rehab stint ended with a relapse. The second trip’s outcome, though, was even worse.
“I suffered a miscarriage and got put on bed rest. I felt like I never really got a chance to mourn, so I dove right back into the drugs,” she said. “I thought it’d help me deal with the fact I lost my child.”
While heroin didn’t play a direct role in the miscarriage, Holtz said she doesn’t think it would’ve happened without the stress that addiction and rehabilitation put on her body.
“My doctor said that things just happen,” she said. “We don’t have a true answer for it, but I think it was because of heroin. My body was detoxing at the time, and I don’t think I could handle a pregnancy. I blame myself for it. At the time, that was my thought process and I still blame myself. I didn’t want to deal with it. I just wanted to act like it never happened. Being high helped me forget.”
A third and final trip to rehab in 2014 followed an 80-day stay for Holtz in the Seneca County Jail. She was arrested in February of that year for heroin trafficking as part of an area drug sweep.
“After I got out of jail, I went to rehab willingly,” she said. “I finally wanted to be clean. That’s the only way an addict is going to make it through the process — if they want to be clean. Everyone else can tell me to get clean until they’re blue in the face but if I don’t want it, it’s not going to happen.”
The danger of losing custody of her daughter, eight-year-old Hailey, also played a large part in making the third trip to rehab her last.
“She was around the whole time,” said Holtz. “My family and Hailey’s dad all knew about my addiction. Once her dad threatened to take full custody of her, I realized it wasn’t worth losing my child over drugs.”
By going without drugs such as Suboxone — a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone used to treat opiate addiction — during that rehab stint, Holtz said she suffered through intense withdrawal.
“It’s like the worst flu you’ve ever had in your life multiplied by 50,” she said. “Your entire body feels like it got hit by a train. You have no energy and can’t eat or drink because you’ll just throw it up or have diarrhea. You have restless legs and can’t stay still, but at the same time, you don’t want to move because it feels like your body is just crumbling beneath you. You’re exhausted but you can’t sleep. It’s the worst thing someone can go through and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The withdrawal I went through this last time was the worst of my life and I thank God everyday I don’t still wake up like that. I never, ever want to go through that again.”
Holtz will be three years sober on Feb. 25 but said addiction’s imprint is still with her at times.
“When I first got sober, it was very hard because I felt like I was starting over and had lost everything,” she said. “It felt like I had a clean slate but at the same time the slate was angled over a cliff.”
“Our brains are built to react to something horrific happening in life. Something bad happens and people don’t get the help they need for it,” she said. “Without getting that help they want to escape and heroin is the escape ladder. It’s the quick way out. That escape ladder is rotten and rusted out, though. You’re not going to make it to the bottom of the building on it. Its rust will cut you or a rung will break and let you fall.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Courtesy Photo Jamie Holtz, 27, of Westlake, seen here with her eight-year-old daughter, Hailey, said she got heroin in Oberlin while addicted to the drug from 2012 to 2014. After a near fatal car crash, a trafficking conviction, and three stints in rehab, she will mark three years sober on Feb. 25.
After relapsing twice, Jaime Holtz decided she loved her daughter more than heroin