Editor’s Note: Vivitrol is a drug that blocks opioids from interacting with the receptors in the brain involved in the experience of feeling high. After 22 months of using it, the first patient in McKinley Hall’s Vivitrol program finished her course of treatment two months ago. This is her story.
For 15 years, Jody Arnold’s most constant relationship was with opioids.
She’d smoked weed and done other drugs since high school, finishing up her senior year with countless acid trips as she followed the Grateful Dead.
All that led to her becoming a daily crack smoker and then IV heroin user, at least when she wasn’t in jail, which was often.
Seventeen misdemeanor thefts and a couple of felonies qualified her to be categorized as a career criminal for the things she did to support her habit.
“If I wasn’t in jail, I had a warrant.”
About 10 years ago, when she was 28, there came a point when Arnold “started losing things … a house, a car.”
She watched them disappear, as if over the horizon.
“Once they were gone, I never tried to get them back.”
There followed a series of losses she couldn’t get back.
“I lost two children to adoption, and then their father passed away.”
Not long after, both of her parents died.
“Everything disappeared real quick in a couple of years,” she said, isolating her in a way that made jail her version of the fictional TV bar “Cheers.”
“I was always happy in jail. I smiled a lot. I laughed in jail. I got fat in jail. And the officers knew my name. It’s crazy, in jail you don’t feel so lonely.”
She had been prostituting herself for some time when one day, about two years ago, “something changed.”
“I walked in (to McKinley Hall) and asked for Sarah (Collinsworth),” a therapist. “I gave her total control of my life. I told her I was done.”
Arnold then turned herself in to jail.
“I knew I was going to die,” she said, and her vision of herself was one in which she was an old, toothless woman trying to sell herself to get money for heroin.
Sentenced to six months in jail, she got on a waiting list for the Women’s Recovery Center in Xenia.
“That was not my first time there. And, at that point, I wasn’t sure it was my last.”
Having been three times — and having been “in and out of 10 centers in 15 years — I had a hard time picturing it changing.”
“My intentions every time were always that I didn’t want to use any more.”
But somehow, walking out into the real world, her feet ended up on the same path.
“I made it a whole year,” she said, then relapsed for the usual reason: she was in a relationship with a man who also was in recovery and they both used.
Living at the Wehler House, a transitional housing facility associated with McKinley Hall, she was pregnant again when she failed a random drug test.
“Then I was put on short-term Subutext (an opioid withdrawal aid) and came off it before I gave birth. I’d had two babies born addicted, and I didn’t want to watch her suffer like that.”
With her daughter born healthy and having gone through withdrawal to give birth, she volunteered to be the first McKinley Hall client to try Vivitrol, a drug that blocks the receptors in the portion of the brain involved in the experience of being high.
Under the supervision of Dr. Narinder Saini, medical director of the Medication Assisted Treatment program, “I just ran with it,” she said. “And, then, eventually, he asked if I had any cravings.”
That’s when it struck her.
“I never even thought about it. I stopped thinking about how getting high felt or getting high at all. It just stopped.”
On Vivitrol for 22 months, during which time she’s continued counseling and therapy, she finished her course two months ago.
Now she has a plan for the future that’s far better than the vision she had of it two years ago.
In addition to looking after her daughter, who is 2, she has contact with two aunts, one on either side of her family.
She’s in her second year at Clark State Community College working on a degree in social work, and she’s sent in an application to become a chemical dependency counselor’s assistant.
She’d like to conceive a child again and build a new life.
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