Faces of Addiction, Part II: Through the eyes of the incarcerated

Richard and Shannon Howard, now incarcerated on similar charges, share their in-depth perceptions on addiction and chronicle how the roads of addiction eventually led them into prison. Photo credit: free internet image

by Tina Cole-Mullins

“Stuck in my little hole just thinking of you, pounding on these prison walls screaming I am abused. I read the morning papers in disbelief. Opioids! Our choice of the aggrieved.”

— From “Methylene Blue” by Pull the Trigger, a southern Michigan band

Richard, who served multiple drug sentences, or Shannon Howard, now incarcerated on similar charges, can easily relate to these powerful lyrics. Both recently shared their in-depth perceptions on addiction in interviews and conversations. They chronicled how the roads of addiction eventually led them into prison.

Richard’s story 

Richard’s addiction was not gradual, although he admits to having an addictive behavior. He dabbled in recreational drugs without an issue, he said. Then in 2001, a new girlfriend and friends introduced him to methamphetamine.

“From my first hit I was gone. I wanted to feel that feeling again, but I never have,” Richard revealed. “It didn’t take long for me to realize it was cheaper for me to make it, so I could always have it.”

Along his road of addiction, Richard lost his relationships with his children and other long-term friends. Photo credit: free internet image

“It was only a matter of time before I was cooking anyplace I could, my mom’s, grandma’s, friend’s, woods. I even had my mom buying my supplies without her knowing,” he went on to add.

While showing the scars on his arms from chemical burns, he also revealed a near-death experience after the fumes from cooking meth left him unconscious.

Within two years of his first use, Richard was incarcerated on a seven-year sentence. During that time, he gained sobriety and clarity. But the closer he came to his release date, the greater his cravings grew, Richard said.

Only a matter of months after his release, Richard was using again. He returned to prison in 2013 on a new drug/methamphetamine charge. Currently, he is no longer incarcerated. But along his road of addiction, he lost his relationships with his children and other long-term friends.

“I will always be an addict,” he said. “The only difference is if I’m using or not.”

“I was getting high on coke and smoking crack before the wreck, but once the doctor showed me opioids, I fell in love,” Shannon says. “When the doctors took them away, I found heroin, the real love of my life. I found meth on my own. It’s everywhere.” Photo credit: free internet image

Shannon Howard’s story

Shannon Howard’s struggles as addict include several drug choices in combination. Shannon is serving a six- to 10-year sentence for operating/maintaining a lab involving methamphetamine and two to five years as a felon in possession of weapons/firearms.

“The first time I used hard drugs to the best of my knowledge is around 2000, give or take a year or so,” Shannon said. “My drug of choice is heroin and meth.”

Shannon said he’s been sentenced to two prison terms, spent seven or eight overnights in jail and received 30-day and 9-month jail terms.

“All my charges are linked to drugs because if not for pills, meth and heroin, I would have stayed on the right path, I believe,” he said.

While on drugs, she robbed a lifelong friend, and others were involved.

“I do not remember too much from those days. I was on a very large amount of Xanax and whiskey, blacking out for around four days,” he said. “When I finally came to, I had some guns in my possession. Although I believe another did it while I was passed out in a truck, I can’t honestly remember, and that is the truth.”

In 2005, following a serious car accident, Shannon spent 21 days on life support at U-M Medical Center.

“I was getting high on coke and smoking crack before the wreck, but once the doctor showed me opioids, I fell in love,” he said. “When the doctors took them away, I found heroin, the real love of my life. I found meth on my own. It’s everywhere.”

Shannon knows well the dangers of drug addiction, as it has claimed several family members and friends.

“I have lost my cousin, Luke, to his alcohol addiction, drunk driving, and my nephews, Eric and Jesse, to overdoses and so many others to drugs and alcohol. And I am still losing them to this day at an alarming rate,” he said.

While Shannon wishes he had never tried any drugs, he understands why people want to use them to take all the pain of life away, at least for a while.

“I hate them. They have ruined my life and took so many good people away too soon,” he said. “Then there’s days that I love them. What a constant struggle I will have the rest of my life.”

While incarcerated, Shannon said withdrawals are not treated, and he went without.

“Yes, there are drugs here, but I chose to go without because I want to get out,” he said.

“My addiction will somewhat be treated in some classes while I’m in here. What good it will do, we will see.”

Shannon said addiction is a disease, but it’s also a choice.

“Drugs never have left me,” he said. “Anytime I needed them, they’re there.”

Illicit drugs exported to the west. They’re used to exploit and control and oppress. It’s tearing up families and destroying lives. It’s killing our children, husbands and wives.

— From “Methylene Blue” by Pull the Trigger, a southern Michigan band

Where to find help

If you would like to begin recovery, there are options available. It’s up to you to reach out. Contact one of the following:

  • Angel Program. Walk-in at the Stockbridge Police Department, 210 Wood St., Stockbridge, or at any Michigan State Police post.

 

 

 

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