A Growing Epidemic
According to the U.S. Attorney General, meth is now the most dangerous drug in America. Some law enforcement officials say it is the biggest drug problem they face, with home meth labs either showing up or blowing up in all 50 states.
It has seduced soccer moms, robbed children of their parents and parents of their children and destroyed families.
After an on-air intervention conducted by Chantel's mother, Penni, sister Kortnie and addiction specialist Debra Jay, Chantel left our stage and headed to rehab. On her ride to the airport to transport her to rehab at the Caron Foundation, Chantel pleaded to be able to not go.
Chantel did go, however, and weeks later spoke from rehab about her struggles with cravings. "I had a really bad one the other night. I really tasted it, and I just thought about all the bad things that the drug has done to me, and it made the craving go away."
"What was harder than I thought it would be was caring about people," Chantel says. "I've always had the drugs to cover up my feelings. You have to deal with it here: If you fight with your parents, you don't have drugs; if you have a fight with one of the girls, you don't have drugs.
After a total of 122 days in treatment, Chantel left for home. After six weeks, Chantel and her family were starting to feel the pressures of her habit. "Being in rehab, I thought I'd come home and everything would be good. Nothing bad would happen to me anymore."
It certainly has been far from easy. Penni, Chantel's mother, describes the days after Chantel's return as being "very much like a roller coaster."
Chantel felt torn between doing what she needs to do to stay clean and drifting back to her old crowd—all of whom "are into meth or have done meth," she says.
At one point, Chantel did meet up with old friends, prompting her stepfather to kick her out of the house. Chantel then sent messages to Penni, saying that if she suffered a relapse, she would blame her for pushing her to it.
Part of that lifestyle included a posture of blaming her mother. "I was mad and angry, and I got my addict behaviors back. I was blaming her for kicking me out, blaming her for everything that's ever happened to me."
This posture does not fully explain things, Chantel says. "Our relationship has been rocky, but it's getting better."
"I thought you put your car in the shop and it comes out repaired, and I thought that's what would happen with Chantel," Penni says. "Obviously it's not what happens."
After a period of re-entry marked by heated confrontations, Penni says she sees positive growth. "I'm learning also how to take care of me and what I'm doing wrong," she says.
She has advice for Penni and Chantel. "I think what's happening right now is that you both are doing some good things. You've got that program of recovery started."
Debra is worried about Chantel's tendency to take her addiction lightly, increasing the possibility of relapse. "You have to take it day by day."
One way for Chantel and Penni to refocus their energy, Debra says, is by focusing less on everything that's wrong. She encourages Penni to think about what Chantel is doing: both wrong and right. Debra tells Chantel to ask one question: "'Am I being trustworthy today?' You see how different that is than 'Will you trust me, Mom?'"
On the day of Megan's prom, her frayed relationship with her family finally broke. Megan's mother, Robyn, kicked her out of the house, and for seven days, Megan went on a binge that made her previous drug use pale in comparison.
Megan's whereabouts unknown, the family happened to see The Oprah Winfrey Show the day Chantel spoke of her addiction to meth. Robyn did the math and realized that Megan was hooked on meth. "It could have been Megan sitting on the stage at that point. I thought, 'That's her. That's what she's doing. She's doing meth.'"
Robyn began a seven-day search for Megan, praying she was still alive. When Megan returned home, Robyn asked Megan to watch copy of the show featuring Chantel.
"I was like, 'What are you talking about? I just want to go to sleep.' And she said, 'No, I really want you to watch this.' I did and my eyes were wide open. It was really inspiring."
Megan finally admitted she had a drug problem and agreed to go to rehab.
"I saw her and I said, 'I'm here because I watched the show. You inspired me. Just being there and making me understand that if you can do it, then those millions of people who are watching the show in my position can do it too."
Chantel and Megan bonded and became close friends. They haven't seen each other again until today!
Michelle says that, after 14 years of marriage, her relationship with her husband began to change. The couple lacked intimacy, and Michelle says she began having an affair. Her new boyfriend introduced her to crystal meth. "I had no idea what meth was," Michelle says. "I'd never seen it. Never used it. I thought, 'Oh, I'll just do this recreationally whenever someone has it...but I was instantly hooked."
Soon, Michelle says, she felt the need to use the drug every day, and it quickly began consuming her life. Michelle kept her addiction a secret, but not her affair. Still, she rejected her husband's plea to work things out and, she says, even stopped caring about her son. Eventually, her marriage was over, and she lost her job as the gnawing addiction worsened.
"All I cared about was my drug," Michelle says. "I had no sense of being. I had no sense of caring. I had no sense of emotions. I had nothing."
Michelle reached out to friends who helped her pack her bags and check into rehab. Even though they're no longer married, Michelle credits the love and support of her ex-husband, Mike, for helping her recover. "He is my backbone," she says. "And I called him every day. I checked in with him every day and said, 'Mike, I'm two days clean...I'm 10 days clean!'"
When Michelle shared her story, she announced she's been clean for 42 days. But before entering rehab, she made a shocking discovery.
Michelle and Mike confronted their son and took him to rehab. On the ride home, all Michelle could think about was her next fix. "I felt guilty," she says. "How can I say, 'Chandler, this is what you need to do,' when I've gotten high?"
Chandler learned of his mother's addiction a few weeks before appearing with her on the show, which left him feeling upset. But he's happy to share that he's been drug-free for five months.
Friends and family can be helpful, but Debra Jay says they can't give Michelle the support she needs. "They don't have it to give," she explains. "You need other recovering women in your life. I would love you to make a commitment. ... Because the way people stay sober in a 12-step group is by helping other people. And that's what you can do. And that's how you'll stay sober."
"I will make that commitment today," Michelle says.
Experts say crystal meth erases inhibitions, increases sexual appetites and gives addicts the energy to have sex for days. To satisfy his meth-induced sexual cravings, Jay would frequent all-male bathhouses. "These bathhouses are dark, cavernous, multi-level facilities," Jay says. "They have larger dark rooms with just platforms and benches and chairs where you can't really see who you're having sex with. You're groping and grabbing and fondling one another in the dark."
Whether in bathhouses or hotel rooms, Jay says his only concern was finding drugs and sex. "The whole idea behind sex parties is extended periods of time in someone's home, a hotel room, and you're walking around naked. ... I would be so high it would be nothing for me to be with 15, 20, 25 men in a night."
Experts claim that crystal meth can dramatically increase reckless sexual behavior and has led to rising rates of HIV in gay and bisexual men. Jay, who became HIV positive while addicted to meth, agrees. "It was never part of my agenda to practice safe sex. Wearing condoms is the rare thing when you're high on crystal meth."
As the drug ravaged Jay's body and spirit, he decided to end it all and jumped headfirst 32 feet into a construction pit...
"I think that it's a combination of going to [12-step] meetings every day," Jay says. "Working with a sponsor...telling the therapist and myself the truth...doing the work that is required to face the ugliness of myself. I mean, I was the most self-absorbed, bitchy, materialistic little queen that you could possibly want to meet."
Today, Jay is working to bring education and awareness to the gay community—a mission he says helps keep him sober. And for those battling addiction, Jay offers a hopeful message. "Find somebody who has been sober for two years, and get them to start a 12-step meeting," he says. "Take care of ourselves and start loving one another."