I-Team Report: Hope Not Handcuffs - WNEM TV 5

I-Team Report: Hope Not Handcuffs

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Amanda Amanda
Amanda, Lori Amanda, Lori
MID-MICHIGAN (WNEM) -

A visit home isn’t quite complete without some comfort food.

While whipping up a green bean casserole might not be that big of a deal for most families, for Lori and Amanda Ziolkowski, it signifies just how far they’ve come.

“Every time she comes home, I see that it’s more her and, you know, that’s just a really great feeling, that her personality is back. Her sassiness is back. It’s back. It’s back, well, that never left,” Lori laughed.

With that bubbly personality on full display, it’s hard to see the scars left by the 23-year-old’s battle with addiction.

A battle that began in high school.

“I would get really bad anxiety to the point of hyperventilating before volleyball tournaments. I’d get really depressed," she told TV5. "For me, it was self-medicating, even though I didn’t see it as that. I just saw it as that’s what you do when you’re a teenager and I enjoyed it,” Amanda told the I-Team.

But soon, what she saw as innocent teenage rebellion, quickly spiraled out of control in an endless chase for the next high.

Eventually, that chase led her to heroin.

“I believed that I needed drugs in order to live, until I couldn’t take it anymore. And that’s when I reached out for help.”

Even though her relationship with her parents had been battered and bruised, they got her the help she needed.

“It took me probably two years when she was in this to just stop being mad at her because I just kept saying, ‘Just stop it, just quit it. You’re ruining our lives, what are you doing? Just knock it off.’ And it took so much education on my part and my husband’s part for us to understand, she can’t just knock it off.” Lori said.

Amanda entered treatment for a third time and that time it clicked.

She’s been clean now for two years.

Finding the right treatment program can be a struggle, and without that help, the results can be devastating.

From 1999 to 2016, the number of deaths in Michigan related to heroin and other opioids increased from 99 to 1,699.

“I think we’re all in agreement that you can’t arrest your way out of this problem, it needs to be treated, and aggressively,” said Randi Novak, a volunteer for a program created by Families Against Narcotics.

It’s called Hope Not Handcuffs, and it helps addicts find the right treatment, regardless of whether they have insurance.

Like so many volunteers, Randi’s involvement began with her own deeply personal story, after learning her son Caleb was addicted to heroin.

“When I found out, I couldn’t breathe. You can’t breathe when you hear that word.”

The night of her training for Hope Not Handcuffs, she almost lost Caleb to an overdose. She helped him get into treatment the very next day.

But she said not every addict has that support.

That’s why making it easier for them to find treatment is so important.

Five counties in Michigan have rolled out Hope Not Handcuffs, allowing addicts to go into a participating police agency, or on the Hope Not Handcuffs website and ask for help.

Volunteers called “angels” then connect addicts to a treatment facility with immediate availability, something that can be difficult to find.

Since the program began last February, it’s already helped more than 900 people.

“As long as that person is alive and reaching out, there's hope. Hence our name,” Randi explained.

“If there is breath, there is hope, and so we will never give up hope,” Lori said.

In November, Lori launched her own chapter of Families Against Narcotics in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Now she has her sights set on adding Hope Not Handcuffs to the area.

“We’re putting ourselves out there in the hopes that we can help other families, one, not have to go through this. And two, if you’re going through it, let people know that there is help available,” Lori said.

The kind of help that brought her daughter back home.

“Cause you just lose them for a while, just lose who they are. And when they’re back, it’s great to see.”

For more on Hope Not Handcuffs, click here.

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