MILL CREEK — Lindsey Greinke has found her calling.
After an unyielding battle against her own drug addiction, the 24-year-old Everett native wants to fight the disease in her community.
Since her days of popping pills and smoking heroin, Greinke said, she has had three friends from Mill Creek’s Henry M. Jackson High School die from drug overdoses.
She’s now helping her fellow addicts achieve sobriety through her new nonprofit organization, Hope Soldiers.
“My heart is on fire to help people with addiction because I struggled,” Greinke said. “I want to infect people with knowledge before it gets them.”
Greinke’s road to recovery wasn’t smooth. At age 16, she was using every day.
“I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere,” she said.
Despite her fairly affluent, middle-class upbringing, her drug use soon led to her couch surfing and bouncing between homeless youth facilities and juvenile detention centers.
At a drug den in Bothell, she was turned on to smoking OxyContin, a potent painkiller. Unable to support her $300 a week habit, she turned to heroin, a cheaper and more readily available opiate alternative.
“It’ll take anyone,” Greinke said. “The first time I tried it, I was addicted immediately. As soon as the high wore off, I started to get sick.”
Greinke’s story is not uncommon.
Tara Barnard, regional manager for Catholic Community Services Recovery Centers, said users of OxyContin, also called oxycodone, often turn to heroin.
“It’s very prevalent in the younger populations,” she said. “We need to address that emptiness youth feel.”
Each week, Barnard said, she sees nearly 100 people under 18 in need of treatment in the Everett and Marysville centers.
The Snohomish County Human Services Department pulled statistics on publicly funded chemical dependency clients from a statewide database. In December 2012, 61 percent of adult drug users in Snohomish County reported some kind of opiate addiction, compared to 53 percent statewide. Those numbers increased in December 2013 to 62 percent and 56 percent respectively. More than half said they started using before age 18.
When Greinke sought help, she had no health insurance or money. Without resources, she almost gave up in the month it took her to find treatment.
Now, after almost 3 years of sobriety, she wants to ease the process for others.
“I’m living proof that you can recover from drug addiction,” Greinke said.
Today, Greinke works for Microsoft as a business administrator and is taking college courses. She is able to be a mother to her 4-year-old son.
Through Hope Soldiers, Greinke steers addicts toward treatment. She sees to it they find jobs and sober living situations. The nonprofit helps find health insurance. It also helps cover the cost of medications for co-occurring disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Greinke also supports parents who are struggling with their children.
“I don’t think kids should have to be afraid to ask for help,” Greinke said. “That’s why they’re dying.”
Hope Soldiers has scheduled a forum from 6 to 8 tonight in the commons at Jackson High School.
Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force Commander Pat Slack also will be there to answer questions.
“Everybody needs to be involved with the solution,” Slack said. “We can’t arrest our way out of it.”
He wishes more people would seek treatment instead of finding themselves in court.
Slack said the task force is seeing heroin use affect an increasing number younger people, regardless of their neighborhood.
“The disease of addiction isn’t picky,” Greinke said. “ Nobody is exempt. It could happen to anybody.”
Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org.