It’s still fresh in Shila Stiefel’s mind when she sits at the front desk of Heartview.
“I remember being that person and it’s scary… I’ve been so close to giving up so many times. Whether it be killing myself or the drugs killing me. I thought that was it. This was my life,” says Stiefel.
Stiefel grew up in a family surrounded by drugs.
She says prescription pain medications were her way out of the circumstances life threw at her.
The drugs landed her in prison three times.
“I had some pretty traumatic experiences… I just wanted to be numb and pain pills made me numb…I said my doctor is out of town, I need a prescription, I lost my script, I really need a refill. They didn’t check any of that. They wrote me a prescription and I was in and out in five minutes or less,” says Stiefel.
Stiefel says she even got surgeries she never needed to get the medications she wanted to get high. Local doctors say fixing the pain killer epidemic is about getting patients connected to people over the pills.
“In the state, in the country, there is a big problem with opiate medications, with medications like percocet, oxycodone. There are patients that are perhaps not as safe as what they should be,” says Stephen Markewich, Interventional Pain Management, CHI St.Alexius Health.
Markewich says Chi St. Alexius Health is expanding the clinic to be multi-disciplinary providers that can break down what they need more effectively.
He says they will have to learn more about the medications to not over step the fine line between opiates helping and hurting patients.
“Even just a few years ago we thought those medications maybe a little more benefit than they do risk and they were very widely used,” says Markewich,
Stiefel says she went to treatment seven times.
It took her learning how to handle her emotions to finally beat her addiction.
She works with residents at Heartview now and moves to the front desk next week where she will continue to take things one day at a time.
“I learned how to feel again… I never thought it would feel good to feel,” says Stiefel.
Stiefel just recently celebrated two years of sobriety.
We will continue our coverage on North Dakota’s opioid epidemic as the week continues.