Tough love leads to tough choices

By Nikki Blankenship -

Michael Kline faced more than 11 years of narcotic addiction. This is him during active use.

Michael Kline faced more than 11 years of narcotic addiction. This is him during active use.

Battling his addiction came after tough love from family and ultimately a choice to choose those he loves over the drug the will never love him back.

Michael Kline, 33, started life an Army brat and the middle child of three.

“Probably, the earliest childhood memory I have is when my brother passed away,” he began his story.

Kline had an older sister and a younger brother.

“She was five, I was four and my brother was three when he passed away,” Kline remembered.

Kline was born in Illinois. Afterwards, the family moved to Texas, where his brother was born. But, he doesn’t remember much of his life until the family moved to Ohio in the late 80’s.

Kline’s grandfather was ill, and his father felt it important to come home and take care him. The family relocated to Sciotoville.

There Kline lived a fairly normal life, but he remembers very little of the places he lived during the first few years of his life.

“When I think of my childhood, it was rough, which is probably why I went down the path I did,” Kline commented.

As a senior in high school, Kline started experimenting with drugs as a way to deal with his emotions. What started as just a way to have fun provided him with an escape. He remembers doing some smaller pain pills with friends on his kitchen table while his father was in Columbus having back surgery. Kline explained that he did not even enjoy it the first time. It was just what seniors did. His father was out of town, so the teens were partying.

The young man continued to use pharmaceutical pain medications and other pills such as benzodiazepines for several years.

“I remember one year for Halloween after I graduated, a few of us went out. There were 10 of us in the vehicle,” Kline remembered. “We were doing Percocets — Perc 10s. Before we even left the house, we had done five a piece. When we got to Ashland, the first thing I did was lay on the curb. I layed on the curb and thought, ‘God, make this be over. But, as soon as the sweats were over, I was ready to go.’”

That night all but four of the crew were arrested. This is one of many times that Kline got lucky, even though he says he was so high he can’t even remember that Halloween.

“From there, it just went to experimenting with other things,” he said.

Somehow, his family never realized the dangerous path Kline was going down. Like many addicts, Kline found out that after the closing of the pill mills, it was difficult or impossible to find prescription pain pills. Already addicted, he needed a substitute to avoid facing dope sickness. The substitute was street opiate heroin.

“It lit my nose on fire, but as soon as that burning sensation went away, it was like doing an Oxy (OxyContin — a strong prescription pain medication). I thought, ‘Yeah, I can do this,” Kline remembers about his first time. “By that point, I was literally keeping myself well.”

Kline continued to snort heroin for a year and though the high was great in the beginning, now he had developed a tolerance to heroin and was no longer getting high off the drug.

“Then, one year for my birthday, I went to my dealer’s house, and I asked her to hit me,” he said. “That changed my life,” Kline stated.

This was the first time Kline shot up. Soon, he became addicted to the needle and the process that was involved in shooting the drug intravenously. He explained that he would get high simply from setting up the spoon, putting water in it, adding the water soluble drug and heating it until he could suck in up in the syringe and shoot it. Rock bottom was approaching.

Kline was bartending to support his habit. He explained that he always kept jobs that allowed him to keep cash on hand. Every aspect of his life was centered around supporting his addiction. In just a few short months of needle use, Kline nearly died twice.

The first time Kline overdosed, he was at his dealer’s house.

“I remember thinking I was going to die that night because no one there was in their right mind to help me,” he stated.

Luckily, he was revived.

“November of 2013, I almost lost my life for the second while using heroin intravenously, and this time I started to fall out I was “speed balling” heroin plus crack,” Kline stated. “I banged the crack first like always and right away I felt like something was off, so I immediately started to get the heroin(black tar) ready. I barely remember full details for the next few moments which seemed like forever. I couldn’t breathe and everything started feeling heavy. My heartbeat was racing, I was so scared I still could not catch my breath and I wasn’t getting any relief from the things I was trying to do. My sister and her husband walked past my room and into the bathroom I was previously using somewhere between me using my nebulizer, panicking that I was having an asthma attack( which I wasn’t having) and trying to give myself a sternum rub which I heard could help if someone was falling out. But my sister and her husband found all my tools. Dirty syringe. My heroin. Everything. When they seen this they did the best thing for me and notified my mom.”

When his mom came home, she confronted him. Kline tried to lie and say he was just having an asthma attack.

“She told me if this is the life I wanted to live then I needed to leave,” he remembers. “I tried to lie some more and she was finally to the point of things that she told me I needed to leave because I put the whole family at risk. I stayed home for 3 days. I stayed at my dealer house Friday night, Saturday night. I begged my my mom to let me come home on Sunday. My mom and my stepdad, who has been a huge influence in me turning my life than others, sat me down for what seemed to be the longest and hardest conversations of my life in which I let everything be known. In the end I was given the best offer that I could be given. Quit my job. Give my car to my mom. And to stay home until they thought I was well enough through my recovery. This tough love, cold turkey rehabilitation program my parents drummed up together was honestly what saved my life and why I’m still alive today.”

At this point, Kline had already tried Suboxone. He said that it had failed. After 30 days of use, he knew that program would not work for him. He was prescribed two strips a day, which he says was way too much. Instead, he would use a quarter of a strip and would still occasionally feel high from it. He even shot it up by letting the strip dissolve in water. He certainly was not sober. Cold turkey was the only way for him.

When he quit he says it was because, “I finally had enough of chasing the high for something that wasn’t even giving me the euphoria that we spoke about. I was chasing it to just be able to get out of bed each day there was no enjoyment especially what I putting my family through. I knew I could not go into my 30’s still struggling addiction.”

Since that time, Kline has continued to battle more than a decade of narcotic and opiate abuse.

“I never imagined that I would have chose to live the life I was living for 11 years of my life,” he explained. “I know saying sorry doesn’t not make up the all the lies I told, hurt I caused and never ending worry and sleepless nights that I caused and created for my family. There is nothing I can to take any of those choices and decisions back. There are key words I keep using…’chose’ and ‘choices,’ and they were the worst ones that I made for myself. I love my family. I know I don’t express and share it as much as I should, there was never a moment during my addiction that I felt good about the lifestyle I chose to live. I chose now to give my family a sober and recovered son, brother, uncle, grandson, and brother-in-law. What I regret most of all, and it still hurts looking back on it today, is the feeling of having a drug come before them.”

Kline now always keeps two things with him, his journal to keep lyrics and thoughts and a book that was passed on from a friend who shared a similar struggle with addiction. Hearing the stories of others helps to keep his strong.

Editor’s note: This is the sixth installment of a 16-week series on the heroin epidemic.

Michael Kline faced more than 11 years of narcotic addiction. This is him during active use. Kline faced more than 11 years of narcotic addiction. This is him during active use.

Battling his addiction came after tough love from family and ultimately a choice to choose those he loves over the drug the will never love him back. his addiction came after tough love from family and ultimately a choice to choose those he loves over the drug the will never love him back.

By Nikki Blankenship

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.