TEEN CHALLENGE2

Lauren Whitzke, 30, of Delaware, sits on the deck outside of the women’s center at Teen Challenge in Basye. Whitzke is in her 10th month of recovery.

BAYSE – Lauren Whitzke had an ideal life that steadily slipped away as she became engulfed in the throes of drug addiction.

She was a two-sport scholarship athlete at Goldey-Beacom College in Delaware and obtained employment at a pharmaceutical company upon graduation.

Growing up, Whitzke, 30, said she never gravitated to mind-altering substances and did not get drunk until her freshman year of college.

Not long after graduating, however, she said she began using antidepressants, which eventually morphed into a pain medication habit. Those pills became so expensive that at around age 25, she sought the much cheaper option of heroin.

She described heroin as having a much more addictive effect than the pills and the ability to quickly grasp the fascination of users, who can fall into addiction after just one taste.

Whitzke also became addicted to methamphetamine and said her drug habits, which spanned “on and off” about eight years, “kept draining and draining me until I had nothing left,” Eventually, she said the addictions “cost me everything,” including employment.

“I had lost my home; I had lost my car; I had lost my phone. I had nothing left,” she said. “It literally left me with nothing; it stripped me of everything.”

About four years ago, Whitzke said she checked into a Tennessee rehab facility and stayed sober for a year. But when she stopped attending narcotics anonymous meetings, she said “I fell down the slippery slope again and found myself completely addicted to drugs again. Lost everything again.”

She said the relapse commenced while employed as a waitress. She began smoking marijuana with a co-worker who was affiliated with the Mexican drug cartel.

“And then we started talking business stuff. She knew I had a history of addiction, but I don’t think she knew how bad it was. So when the opportunity presented itself to start affiliating with harder drugs, at first I was able to keep it together and just sell the drugs, but then I started using the drugs myself,” she said.

Whitzke said she worked “lower level people” in the cartel and also started running drugs for the Detroit-based Disciples gang. She added that she worked in a “pill press” that incorporated Chinese-bought fentanyl into pills.

“Fentanyl is so much cheaper...it was really dangerous what we were doing; it was really bad,” she said. “We’d sell them for more because we could get more money for the pills, but it was made with a cheaper synthetic drug, which was way more dangerous.”

Whitzke said that while re-entry into the drug world began as a way to make money, she was eventually using all day long “just to function” and selling drugs “to pay for my habit.”

“I lived for drugs. That’s the only reason I woke up in the morning,” she said. “It came to the point that I just found myself completely strung out.”

During one visit home, when Whitzke was under 100 pounds and her hair was falling out, she was challenged by family to give rehab another chance. She checked into Teen Challenge in Bayse.

Still, she said her plan was to not put forth an honest effort and to run off.

Whitzke said that although she grew up in a religious household, she was a “lukewarm” Christian and checked into the faith-based rehabilitation facility to satisfy her parents.

“I didn’t really want to come; I didn’t think it was going to work because if the other place didn’t work, this place definitely wasn’t going to work,” she said. “I kept telling myself I’ll leave tomorrow, I’ll leave tomorrow and then it just never happened.”

The facility won her over, and she said “God got a hold of me” and “here I am, a completely different person.”

She said Teen Challenge proved more effective than her first rehab attempt because the “secular” 12-step program in Tennessee “didn’t have the anointing that this place has.”

“This place has a faith-based principle. God is the center of everything, but it’s really only God that can actually make the heart change because the other place, it didn’t change my heart and what I wanted,” she said.

Whitzke said she knows God has a good future planned, and she has been placed in her situation “for something greater than myself.”

She said Teen Challenge “completely changed my heart” and God has given her a new vision during the stay.

Contact Josh Gully at jgully@nvdaily.com