Former addicts share chilling tale of the destructive effects of meth

Left to right, Makenzie and Cory have been best friends for years, doing everything together, which unfortunately included several months of smoking meth.

Jessica Smith

Staff Writer

Best friends Cory and Makenzie were average high school girls, doing the things that normal high school girls did — until one day their world came screeching to a halt with one small decision.

They tried methamphetamine.

The two young women traveled to Eastern Oregon from the western side of the state to share their story with adults and youth alike. Their story was accompanied by the film, "Crystal Misery," which shared the stories of individuals in Washington County whose lives were impacted through methamphetamine, either through the consequences of their own addictions or by becoming a victim of those caught up in it.

"I first started (using meth) in the first of November in 2003," said Makenzie. "I was living a normal life, in a normal neighborhood, a normal junior in high school."

Makenzie said she had already tried drinking, smoking, and marijuana but hadn't really liked any of them. She told the audience that she had never even heard of meth at the time — it hadn't been discussed in school.

"I figured I could just try it once and if I didn't like it I could just quit, like I had with the others," Makenzie said wryly.

So she tried meth, thinking it was a just a one time thing.

Wrong.

"I tried it one time, and after the first hit," Makenzie said, "I was addicted." The next day, she was back with her friends getting more meth

Her second time using meth landed her in the hospital. Despite that, she continued to use meth.

Eventually, Makenzie had a falling out with those friends, and said she kept thinking how great it would be if she could get high with her best friend, Cory.

"I had never thought I would be peer pressuring my best friend into something I knew I shouldn't be doing," Makenzie told the audience.

Said Cory, "And I never thought my best friend would pressure me to try something that had hooked her on the first hit, and knew it.

"After one hit," said Cory, "I was instantly addicted. First time I used it, I felt like I was on top of the world."

After that first time, she began using meth every day.

Thus began four months of smoking meth before school, during school, and after school. The two now estimate they spent anywhere from $40 to $100 dollars a day, money they got from odd jobs like baby sitting, or from lying to their parents about why they needed money.

And where were they buying their drug? The dealer lived right across the street from the high school said both Cory and Makenzie.

One of the messages the two want to tell others is that meth can victimize anyone.

"We came from good families and here we are doing meth," Cory said.

At first, said Makenzie, meth caused her to have more energy so she would talk more to her parents, stay up all night coloring and working on homework, which had the added bonus of raising her grades. She also lost weight she had been wanting to lose.

But the destructive nature of the drug soon began to become apparent. Eventually, the two said they began skipping class to use meth, and the grades started slipping.

"After a while," said Makenzie, "I did not have fun doing (meth)."

But it was too late. She couldn't stop. She once hallucinated that thousands of spiders were coming out of an electrical socket and climbing all over the walls.

Both girls became paranoid and thought that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was after them when they saw random people walking outside.

Friends began worrying. Police Officer Craig Coleman, their school resource officer, noticed that something was wrong, but didn't know what it was until someone slipped him an anonymous note warning him of what they were doing.

"A lot of people had begun to notice something," said Makenzie. "But a lot of people think we're not the typical meth user."

Coleman eventually placed detectives in their supplier's place, and later confronted them.

At first they lied, but when Cory's car was searched by a drug dog and paraphernalia was located, the story began to come out.

"At that point it was like nothing else in our lives mattered but getting high one more time," said Cory. "We just didn't care about anything but meth. Spending our whole life on this thing was something we had to do."

In the film, "Crystal Misery," Coleman said it was a revelation that these two middle-class kids from good families could be hooked on something like meth.

"It shocked everybody," says Coleman in the video. "It shocked their family. It shocked their friends. These aren't kids you'd expect to be doing drugs."

"My parents were devastated," said Makenzie. "They were shocked. No one knew what meth even was."

The two were both suspended for 10 days, kicked off the varsity softball team, and had to go to rehab.

Cory and Makenzie said they both went to the same rehab, and found that the people in treatment were using drugs between sessions, allowing the two girls to continue their habit.

"We became very good liars," said Makenzie.

Once home, their respective families used drug tests to attempt to determine if the two were using again or not. Cory and Makenzie used a friend's clean urine to bypass that test, until that friend began using marijuana.

"It got to a point," said Makenzie wryly, "that it was easier to find meth than clean pee."

They knew they were going to get caught since they had no more clean urine, but really didn't care.

Cory said watching her mother's face when she learned the truth that her daughter was still using, was one of the hardest things of her life.

She said her mom began blaming herself and wondered what she had done wrong as a mother.

Then and there for the first time, said Cory, she made the decision to stop using, and continued going to rehab for a total of eight months.

"People can tell you to change, or try to help you to change," said Cory, "but you have to want to or it won't ever work."

Cory told Makenzie that they had to stop, but Makenzie wasn't ready to hear her yet.

Eventually she told Makenzie that "if you want to use, then we're not friends,"— one of the hardest things she had ever done.

But that couldn't stop Makenzie.

"Everyone says that to become clean you have to hit rock bottom," said Makenzie, and she wasn't quite there yet.

Not too long after the two had their falling out, Makenzie said she came home one night and when her mom told her to clean her room, she snapped. She began screaming at her mom, and ran away, "because I wasn't about to clean my room."

Makenzie said she ran to the house of a guy she and Cory knew, because he had said that if they ever needed a place to stay and get drugs, they could come to him.

Soon the police showed up looking for her, Makenzie said, glancing at Cory with a smile, who also smiled and joked, "I don't know who could have told the cops where you were."

So Makenzie said she ran from house to house using meth. One night after a full day of using meth, she found herself hiding in bushes from the police and random people like she had seen in the movies, and that eventually she ran into a grocery store to attempt hide from the police.

Two policemen followed her into the grocery store, so she decided to hide in the women's bathroom.

"I was brilliant," she said rolling her eyes, "I thought since they were male they couldn't come into the girl's bathroom."

Then she began wondering what would happen if a woman let them into the bathroom.

"So I went to Plan B — to lay down on the floor and blend in with it," said Makenzie. That way, she reasoned, the officers wouldn't be able to find her.

She was arrested and found herself in rehab again, but this time in an inpatient facility.

"I stayed in rehab for 29 days." said Makenzie. "It felt like 29 years. I was in there with people who'd lost their teeth at 16."

Makenzie said she began looking around and realizing what she had been doing, and made the decision to stop using.

She said the 29 days gave her time to realize she wanted to be clean.

Cory and Makenzie's story was one of several highlighted in "Crystal Misery," which was shown in Hermiston Wednesday and Thursday, and later in both Pendleton and Milton-Freewater. It was created by the Washington County Sheriff's Office as a prevention tool to educate and equip people to resist the lure of methamphetamine.

"Methamphetamine is one of the problems here that bothered me the most," said Hermiston Police Officer Doug Smith regarding the 18 years he has been a police officer in Hermiston. "It is still a major problem. Interdiction alone is not going to stop the problem. To make a difference, we need more public education. The problem that we are seeing here is the same as the one (referring to the video) in Washington County, Oregon."

Viewers had the opportunity to hear during the video from those who smoked it, cooked it, sold it, and the chance to see how it changed their lives.

"It all happened in Oregon," explained Smith. "This is real."

Approximately 80 people attended the showing in Hermiston Wednesday. Some audience members stated they had lost family members to meth. Others said they simply came "to see what is going on out there."

At the showing Thursday morning to Armand Larive Students, an auditorium full of middle school-aged students sat mostly silent, not only for the video, to which some tears were shed and sniffling heard, but quietly riveted as Cory and Makenzie told their story.

Cory told them how she was received when she went back to high school, the fingers that were pointed at her, and the whispering and stares she had to endure.

"It was hard," said Cory. "It felt like everyone was out to get me."

She had just fought her way out of the grip of a horrible drug and no one wanted their children even talking to her anymore. She said "it made me want to use again."

"No one wanted to be around you," said Makenzie. "And people didn't want their kids around around someone who had done meth"

"No one believed us that we were clean," added Cory. "That's very frustrating when you are not using ? I don't want to ever use again."

The two have managed to remain clean, Cory for 30 months, and Makenzie for 29 months. The young women now spend part of their free time traveling to speak to communities and youth.

They each said they hope their message will reach others before they take that first hit, and change the course of their lives.

The young women took the time to warn the students of the importance of choosing one's friends wisely, to choose friends that don't do drugs.

"I never want to be associated with (using meth) again," said Makenzie. "I love my life sober. I know I never want to use again. Everyone needs to know that this can happen to anyone."

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