Heroin and other drugs took Lindsey Greinke to that proverbial place known as rock bottom.
“I lost my place to live. I lost my job. My family wouldn’t speak to me. I wasn’t allowed to see my son,” said Greinke, 26, who lives in Everett. “I was pretty alone. Either I could kill myself or get clean. I wasn’t going to keep using.”
She was 21 when she turned to heroin. Before that, her drug of choice had been the narcotic painkiller OxyContin, which became too costly and hard to find. Hooked on the street drug, she got into treatment in 2011.
As a recovering addict, Greinke founded Hope Soldiers, a nonprofit organization that presents programs to help people struggling with addiction and their families find treatment and support.
“I plan on doing this the rest of my life. It is my purpose,” she said.
Greinke will be among those sharing their stories Wednesday night at an anti-drug event at Mariner High School. The program, “Silent Battles: Exposing Addiction, Self Harm and Depression, Restoring Hope and Inspiring Change,” is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. at the south Everett school, part of the Mukilteo School District.
Heroin use among kids has recently been in local news. According to Sharon Salyer’s April 9 Herald article, 5.7 percent of Snohomish County 12th-graders responding to a Healthy Youth Survey last October reported having tried heroin — a higher number than the survey’s statewide average of 3.2 percent. About 2.8 percent of the county’s eighth-graders who took the survey and 3.6 percent of 10th-graders reported that they had also tried heroin.
Behind those numbers are real teens, and real families grieving for young loved ones lost to drug use.
Hope Soldiers’ board of directors is “made up of women, six other gals besides me,” Greinke said. The board’s vice president is Tracy Pegg, whose 18-year-old son, Evan Block, died of a heroin overdose in his Everett home Nov. 8, 2013. Evan had been a drug court participant at Denney Juvenile Justice Center, and hadn’t used for more than four months before he relapsed and died.
Greinke said she lost “my best friend and the love of my life” to a heroin overdose earlier this year. Nick Mirante, 19, of Mill Creek, died Feb. 16. “He was the reason I kept doing Hope Soldiers,” said Greinke, who aims to hold two or more anti-drug programs at schools each year.
It’s a need Stephen Londino sees every day. A youth substance abuse counselor with Therapeutic Health Services, he works with teens at Granite Falls and Lake Stevens schools. He was formerly a drug and alcohol counselor in the Snohomish School District.
Londino began seeing a rise in heroin and opiate use among teens while working at Glacier Peak and Snohomish high school in 2010. “What I’m seeing now, I’m kind of amazed at the number of overdose deaths recently,” he said Tuesday.
Teens are mostly smoking heroin rather than injecting it, he said. “Heroin is so cheap, they don’t see it as a big thing,” said Londino, who noted the lack of treatment facilities for teens in Snohomish County.
Norman Johnson, CEO of Seattle-based Therapeutic Health Services, said the organization plans to open an opioid treatment facility later this year in Snohomish. While he said most teen clients in King County are in treatment for marijuana use, in Snohomish County “teens are leaning toward opioids.”
Slack noted the spike in heroin overdose deaths locally.
At Mariner, Slack said he will emphasize the “good Samaritan” law that allows a person to get help for someone in danger of a drug overdose without fear of arrest. Law enforcement is also being trained to use naloxone kits that can save lives in cases of opiate overdoses. “We can’t arrest our way out of this situation,” Slack said.
Geinke, who has a full-time job and shared custody of her 6-year-old son, hopes anyone with a need will attend the program at Mariner, which will also address the issues of depression and suicide.
“Everybody wants to keep it a secret. They feel they can’t talk about it,” she said. “Whether you are personally struggling or have a loved one who is, you are not alone.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anti-drug events at Mariner, Arlington
Mariner High School: A free anti-drug program, “Silent Battles: Exposing Addiction, Self Harm and Depression, Restoring Hope and Inspiring Change,” will be held 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at Mariner High School, 200 120th St. SW, Everett. Presenters include motivational speaker Trent Shelton, a former NFL player and founder of RehabTime; Snohomish Regional Drug &Gang Task Force Cmdr. Pat Slack; and Lindsey Greinke of Hope Soldiers. Information: www.facebook.com/hopesoldiersofwa
Arlington: The Arlington Drug Awareness Coalition will present “Out of the Shadows,” a free community drug and alcohol awareness event, at 6 p.m. April 28 in the Byrnes Performing Arts Center, 18821 Crown Ridge Blvd. There will be personal stories about youth who have struggled with addiction, information on drugs being abused, and how to support those who are struggling. Information: www.facebook.com/arlingtonaware or 360-618-6217.