BLANCHESTER — It wasn’t until Wilmington police kicked in Jaya Stewart’s door that she realized she had a problem.
Police executed a search warrant on her home and eventually charged her with trafficking in heroin, a charge which was dismissed.
“I literally felt like I was a real-life, true kingpin drug dealer,” she said.
Like many others, Stewart’s use of heroin has some history.
She came from a broken family that dealt in drugs and had an abusive relationship that she says ruined her self-esteem and self-worth by the time she was 17 years old. She said she had “an empty void” from an incarcerated parent and an abusive boyfriend.
After doctors prescribed her Vicodin after the birth of her son, she tried to fill that void with painkillers.
Pretty soon, the habit started to get expensive, until it cost her $70 a day. Then, when she only had $20 in her pocket and wanted to get high, a friend offered her something much cheaper – heroin.
On Dec. 27, 2011, for the first time, Stewart snorted heroin in her mother’s bedroom.
“I was so sick in my head and in my body that I didn’t care. I just wanted to feel better,” Stewart said. “Immediately, it was like for that chaotic moment in my life, everything stood still, I became numb all over, and I instantly fell in love. And it was the most intense, amazing feeling I had ever felt in my life because everything went away.
“Heroin just filled everything up,” Stewart continued. “It was amazing. And it was just a downward spiral ever since that day.”
Stewart would use heroin for a little more than three years before switching to meth in February 2015. She continued to use meth until early July.
She’s been to the Clinton County Jail multiple times, and she lost custody of her son.
She was slowly losing everything.
Then, her probation officer recommended a women’s recovery home in Blanchester.
“I remember very faintly breaking down in her office, just crying,” Stewart said. “It’s when I finally accepted how powerless I was. It made me happy. It was like a bird lifted off of me.”
Now, she lives in that home, attends intense outpatient treatment at Talbert House, says she has been clean for more than a month and says she accepts and embraces her past instead of making excuses for it.
Stewart said it’s the only time she’s been clean from drugs since 2011, except for time spent in jail, and while she’s still recovering, she doesn’t have cravings now.
“My biggest thing was that empty void,” Stewart said. “And honestly with every positive thing that I’m doing in my life – my meetings, my sober living, even my IOP classes and checking into probation – it’s filled that empty void so much that I can honestly say today I don’t have the cravings of going out and using.”
Stewart praises the recovery home, which is a part of New Housing Ohio, and the women she lives with for much of her success.
“When I moved (here), it was like a brand new way of life,” she said. “Here, you’re held accountable for the things that you do because we all depend on each other so much, and we all want success out of everything. … I know these girls are counting on me. We’re like a family.”
After her time in the recovery home is over, Stewart plans to move to a big city, maybe go back to school and help people.
“I want to be in a position where I can help people,” Stewart said of her future goals. “I want to give my testimony and my story because I want to save lives. And I don’t want to save lives like a doctor, or people like that, I just want somebody that’s broken to come to me, and my story give them inspiration to be like ‘Hey, I can do this too.’”
More than telling her story though, Stewart wants her six-year-old son, who lives with a grandparent.
“He deserves me at my best,” Stewart said. “I feel accountable to my recovery because I know he’s out there waiting on me.”
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.