CONNERSVILLE, Ind. — Like so many states, Indiana is still reeling from the opioid crisis. Earlier in November, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to criminal charges and admitted it played a role in the opioid epidemic.
The victims are everywhere, from all walks of life in cities and towns large and small, as people have had their lives shattered by opioid abuse.
"My opioid addiction was in full swing and I had a doctor that didn't ask any questions and just wrote," Charmin Gabbard told 13News.
It added another chapter to her troubled life, but where there’s hope there’s healing.
"The opportunities I've had are just amazing," Gabbard explained while sorting through her collection of pictures and mementos, including her first college degree.
The journey to her success is a very long time coming.
"I have 13 felony convictions. My addiction was so bad that I could take 20 pain pills at a time and still not be high," she recalled.
It all started at a young age. Gabbard said alcohol and drugs became a way to feel love and to hide her pain from child abuse and witnessing her mother be a victim of abuse.
"Before I was 6 years old, I was molested by family members," Gabbard said. "What people saw was a worthless junky, and what they didn’t see was going back into my early childhood and the trauma."
Gabbard overdosed twice by the time she was just 16 years old, but she said that's not her darkest chapter. That came just seven years ago.
"This is the sickest part of my story," Gabbard said while fighting back tears. "I had gone back to my prison, and I was released. And when I came home, there became a point when I started getting high with my 19-year-old son."
Her trip to get them drugs led to her latest arrest.
"I was arrested for driving while suspended, and after they put me in that little holding cell, I had planned to hang myself. I didn't want to live anymore," Gabbard said. "I was so tired. I couldn’t stop doing drugs and I couldn't stop hurting the people that loved me."
That 2013 arrest was different, she said, because it finally came with the help and therapy she so desperately needed, thanks to a visiting jail counselor.
"She said 'God wants me to tell you he loves you.' And for whatever reason, it was a little glimmer of hope to me," Gabbard said.
After that came a moment of clarity while running on a jail treadmill.
"The song 'Amazing Grace' came on, and as I was running, I had this overwhelming sense of warmth come over me and tears just started flowing out of my eyes. I was running and I was crying," Gabbard said.
She continued her spiritual journey by attending church services and getting involved in programs, which has continued since she got out of jail six years ago.
Even the trials of 2020 can't stop the momentum for the Connersville resident. In the spring, she celebrated six years of sobriety, then earned a degree in psychology in the summer.
Gabbard does outreach in jails and shares her story with others, including speaking in front of lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
"One thing I have learned is that I have to be just as willing to do whatever it takes to get to where I want to be as I was willing to get the drug," Gabbard said. "My only goal in life is to help others who struggle, just like me."
Her recovery also helped to repair her family. The son she said she used to get high with has also completed rehab.
"Through my changes, my parents have made changes too, and I couldn't ask for a better relationship with my parents than I have today," Gabbard said.