For months, KX News has been bringing you stories over overcoming addiction, an illness that pits your mind and body against you, as you fight tirelessly for your life.
Not only is it a long battle, but in rural North Dakota, many have to literally hit the road for hours to even begin their road to recovery.
Wendy Zimprich came to Bismarck from Center to find recovery.
As tears fell down, she shared, “Nobody ever like…no mom looks at her children and promises them that she’s not going to drink again, and then walks out of their lives…It’s wanting so desperately to stop, and not being able to.”
Zimprich has been on the move since she took her first drink at 14. Prescriptions and hard drugs followed quickly.
“I was a very angry, bitter 14-year-old. I was upset at the world. I thought that life had treated me unfairly…and the more relief I found, the more I wanted,” she explained.
Years later, she landed in Center for a while, where her mom took care of her kids, while she made multiple attempts at sobriety. Ultimately, it took a move to the capital city to find real change.
“I was homeless, jobless, with three kids, desperately wanting a solution to the problem,” she added.
When you’re out here and there is no one around for miles, no one who can help you: just imagine how hard it would be to pick up your things, get in your car and travel for hours. And along that journey, just praying that you don’t lose that conviction; that you don’t think twice about your decision to get sober.
“If you even have transportation. Would you even be able to find someone to take you?” shared Chelsea Luger, who is also in recovery.
Luger has lived most of her life in Fort Yates, on the Standing Rock Reservation, where she says, drinking and doing drugs was the norm.
“It’s just what we did when we were young. The towns are very small and there’s a bar in almost every one of them,” she explained.
For Luger and her friends, there were little consequences for their actions.
“There wasn’t a lot of law enforcement, it was just kind of…I mean we could just sit in parking lots and drink. They would come and break us up and then we’d just move to another spot,” Luger added.
And if you wanted to get help on the reservation, AA meetings were available just once a week.
“If you live in Cannonball, which is 20 minutes north of Fort Yates, and there’s a meeting in Little Eagle, which is 40 minutes south of Fort Yates, that’s an hour drive to get from one place to another. Up here I have meetings I can go to all day long, all day long,” Luger emphasized.
She moved to Bismarck because she had to. She was thrown in jail for the third time. The judge took a chance on her, sent her to treatment, and she’s officially been on the road to recovery for five proud months.
“If I had been able to go back to Fort Yates after treatment, you know, I’m sure I would’ve fallen off already. I’m almost positive,” Luger shared.
Zimprich added, “I drive through a small town and I’m like, ‘Oh it’s so beautiful here. I just want to move back to a small town again.’ But I know that I would not be able to.”
Luger and Zimprich say awareness about how serious addiction is, is a big part of the problem in rural North Dakota.
Zimprich says where she comes from, most people don’t even know they have an illness. And Luger says, with awareness will come more funding to help those she grew up with, find the same peace she has.