Amy Blon hopes to wake us up, and she prays she can save lives.
Amy, now 27 years old, is a recovering heroin addict and will have been clean for two years in early December. She’s claimed victory in her war against her addiction and is proud of the fact she’s opened a savings account at a local bank and now owns a car. Most may believe those financial accomplishments are easy to achieve but that’s only because it’s a small minority who stray the way it takes to choosing to chase the dragon.
But who hasn’t been touched by it one way or another?
Amy Blon was a good kid who earned great grades and enjoyed hanging at home. Her best friend was her sister, Kelly, and she and her mother were as tight as stitches woven in a baseball.
“She was a great daughter who got good grades and loved her family,” said Amy’s mother, Sherry Blon. “Somehow it got to the point where I didn’t want to even see her, let alone spend time with her. I was always willing to help, to do whatever I could do to, but she lost my trust. The love never goes away, but it makes you angry and sad.”
That’s because Amy Blon morphed into the worst person she could imagine.
She swiped her sister’s jewelry on her wedding day; she stole her daughter’s piggy bank; she forged her mother’s signatures on her personal checks, overdrawing her account.
And she did not care.
She shed her clothes for money, and her boyfriend would beg her to strip for g-string donations when the severe angst from withdrawal crept in.
And Amy never knew if and when she would die.
What most do not realize about heroin addiction is that the euphoric high happens only once or twice. After that, heroin addicts continue their abuse simply to feel their new “normal” instead of feeling as if death is swarming around. That’s what Blon refers to as “dope sick,” and to avoid “dope sick,” she’s thieved money out of everyone’s wallets, and her friends’ belongings weren’t safe either.
She hocked her daughter’s Christmas presents on Dec. 26 a couple of times; she had web-cam sex with strangers; and she walked away from a Youngstown rehabilitation center only to buy more drugs her first night out.
And Amy lost the love and trust of her single-digit daughter, but again, she did not care.
Amy Blon does care now, and that is why she believes sharing her story might benefit others. She figures if she has the chance to explain how a stumble and a crash guided her to a plunge into addiction, she might be able to toss up a detour sign so others might follow the better path.
“I was in hell, and I wasn’t in control,” Amy said. “I’m thankful to be alive, and I’m now a productive member of society. My life is mine now, and I want to help if I can.”
Amy’s path to heroin is, by all standards, common.
A car accident; pain; prescriptions; addiction; and then the doctor put the script pad away.
But Blon still felt pain — some kind of pain, but not the aches or stiffness from the accident. It was the pain of addiction.
That’s what “dope-sick” is.
“It’s 20 times worse than any flu I’ve ever had,” she said. “Your skin crawls. I took a ton of showers every day. Really hot showers because that was the only thing that would stop my skin from crawling. It felt like it was never going to end.”
Blon graduated from Bellaire High School in 2006 with honors and was researching careers that would allow her to stay close to her family. Amy gave birth to her daughter in October 2006, and, after working for a couple of years at fast food establishments, she gained full-time employment at TeleTech in Moundsville and was sending out college applications to several local institutions.
She wanted to be a hospital lab technician, and yes, she was dabbling into pain killers with her former boyfriend and his friends in Marshall County. Blon insisted that at the time she was merely popping the pills to “fit in,” and could “take ’em or leave ’em.”
But then Blon was struck by a car driven by a Michigan man who was fleeing from police in Bridgeport one afternoon at the end of August 2009. She survived, but the male driver and one of two passengers in the other car were killed.
Amy suffered injuries to her back and neck, and she began taking Vicodin, an opioid narcotic doled out by doctors to relieve severe pain. She admits to enjoying the buzz, and she admits to sharing the pills with her boyfriend at the time. He, too, became addicted.
The couple continued taking the Vicodin liberally, but after a two-year period her pain doctor decided enough was enough. No more scripts, no more legal pills, and so that is when her illegal activities officially began. The price for a black-market pill was based on how many milligrams it contained, so Blon and her boyfriend found themselves needing between $120 and $160 each and every day.
“It got to the point where I had to start selling my stuff so I’d have enough pills for each day. Video games, jewelry, movies — I was taking whatever I had to a pawnshop in Martins Ferry. From there, I went to find my dealer in Moundsville or Powhattan Point,” she recalled. “And I would steal from my mom because I really didn’t think she would notice.
“It got really expensive because I was doing more and more of those damn pills,” Blon continued. “At that point my only friends were using. I didn’t hang out with anyone who was sober, only people who were doing the same thing I was doing. To this day I remember when one of them told us about heroin and how cheap it was. He told us that it was a better buzz.
“So that’s what we did. We found heroin, and I was pumped because of how much more we got for so much less money. I thought we figured it out and that everything was going to be fine after that. And I was wrong.”
Amy’s mother, Sherry Blon, was unaware of how serious her daughter’s drug problem was, but not because she was a parent who didn’t pay attention.
“She wasn’t around much, but I thought it was because she had a boyfriend,” said Sherry. “And I did notice the money that was missing, but it wasn’t that much, and I just thought she was using it for food or whatever.
“When she was home, she slept a lot,” she said. “When she was awake she either took care of her daughter or was getting ready to go somewhere with him. They were together a lot, and now I know why.”
The needles were easy to purchase, and Amy knew how to find her veins.
Securing a baggie of heroin wasn’t too difficult either – not here and not anywhere in the United States. A recent federal heroin threat assessment summary reported that more than 8,000 heroin overdose deaths occurred in 2013, and the country was on pace in November to surpass that statistic this year. Jim Lee, a retired state probation officer working out of Follansbee who assisted with founding West Virginia’s county-based drug court system, said more than 350 people in the Northern Panhandle have died from heroin overdose since 2013.
“And still no one seems to want to talk about it,” Lee said. “But we have to talk about it. This is a drug that knows no face and no boundaries. It doesn’t care what color you are, if you’re a man or a woman, or if you have money or not. Heroin doesn’t care.
“Heroin is not new by any means,” he said. “But it’s back, and it’s the worst evil there is. It kills the most. All it takes is one bad batch, and you’ve got dead people all over the place.”
What Lee refers to as a “bad batch” is a shipment of heroin that is unusually more pure than the normal street product.
“When someone who is used to using heroin that is 20 percent pure and all of a sudden they get a bag that’s 80 percent pure, that shot will probably kill them because it’s not what their systems are used to,” he said. “You don’t know what you are getting when you are a heroin addict. You’re putting your life in jeopardy every single time.”
That kind of news, though, didn’t saturate Blon’s brain because she purposely ignored it, and that way she could make a mistake that increased to a point where she lost her life even though she was still alive. Amy made the mistake.
“I was at my friend Cody’s house. We all had gotten a bunch of 40s, and he said he was going to shoot,” Blon said. “His other two friends wanted to try it, too, so they did.
“I was scared of it but he got it all up and ready for me and showed me how and shot it for me,” Blon continued. “After that I kept the needle and didn’t use it for a while, but then I tried it myself and enjoyed it a lot. It then got to the point where I began doing it behind my boyfriend’s back. But, eventually, I talked him into trying it, and dragged him down with me.”
That way she had a partner when searching for the next dose, and the couple would cruise certain areas in Martins Ferry and Wheeling’s downtown.
“That’s when I would do horrible things,” she said while shaking her head. “I know it now, but I didn’t care then. I quit the pills because they were getting way too expensive, and then someone showed me heroin. It was cheaper, I could get a lot of it compared to the pills I could buy, and the first time I did it was the most awesome feeling I have ever felt in my life. You love everything and everyone.
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“But then I realized the ‘dope sick’ was so much worse on heroin when I ran out of money,” she said. “It became a mission to stay away from ‘dope sick’ by any means necessary, and I mean by any means.”
“I watched her bang her head against the wall, over and over again, because she was sick without the heroin,” said Sherry Blon. “She was always the daughter who stood up for herself. She’d speak up because she wanted to be heard. That’s why I always thought she’d be the one to say no to this stuff. I thought she would know that it wouldn’t be a good thing for her.
“It got to the point where I didn’t want to even talk to her let alone see her. The trust was gone. I couldn’t leave my purse near her, and every time she came over to the house, I would find something else missing,” she continued. “I couldn’t believe it. She graduated high school with honors (Bellaire High, 2006), and I thought she would go to college. And then the drugs.”
Instead of college, Amy Blon opted to chase the dragon.
“I did it the second time because of how awesome it was the first time, but the second time wasn’t the same. Neither was the third time. And then I needed it, so I didn’t feel ‘dope-sick.’ Just to feel normal,” Amy recalled. “After that I did what I did to keep getting more. I stripped, stole, lied. I did all those things.
“Worst of all I lost my daughter and my family, and it was all my fault. I did everything wrong, and I didn’t care. I actually can remember not caring. I just wanted a shot,” she testified. “When I stole my mother’s checks and overdrafted her bank account, she used that as leverage into forcing me into rehab. It was rehab or jail. I chose rehab. But because I was forced into it, I wasn’t ready on my own to kick it like I should have, so I guilted my dad into coming to get me. I told him I would just go out and walk the streets of Youngstown if he didn’t.”
Her father retrieved her, and soon after returning to the Bellaire area, she bought the only drug she could find – Vicodin – but the next day it was back to cooking that spoon and finding that vein.
“She pawned almost all of my Wii games along with some Xbox games I had. At that point I was completely done with her,” said sister Kelly Suriano. “I never wanted to hang out anymore, and I never even wanted to talk to her on the phone. It got to the point where my phone would ring, and I would just decline the call because I knew she wasn’t calling to talk to me. She was calling to see if I would give her money every time she called.”
Not even a “hot-shot” incident, one that felled her unconscious to her kitchen floor, scared her enough to stop.
“It looked different when we got it, but we did it anyway because we were both feeling sick. After shooting up the same amount I usually did, the only thing I remember is waking up on the floor wondering what in the hell happened,” Amy explained. “But once I got my balance, I realized I wasn’t sick anymore, so the next time I did less so it didn’t have the same knock-down effect.
“I found veins in my arms, my feet, my legs, my chest. It got to the point to where I was running out of veins because I had so many tracks,” she admitted. “Long sleeves all the time, even on the hottest days in the summer. It took me over completely.”
Ashlyn Wanted to Know
The motherly instinct was still in her, though, and Amy found herself wanting to spend time with her daughter despite the addiction. But to do so she had to shoot up.
“If she was coming over or I was trying to spend time with her, I would have to get normal to get her,” she explained. “There was no way of getting her if I was going through withdrawal, so I would usually do it before she came. But one time Ashlyn came before I had time to. Sad truth was without it I felt like I couldn’t spend time with her. I was a nothing with no desire to do anything most of the time.
“Doing a small shot instantly would give me an energy boost, and I would want to play and do the stuff she wanted,” Blon continued. “The time when I didn’t shoot before she arrived, she was playing in the living room, so I told her to stay there while I was doing something in the kitchen. I didn’t want her to see, so I told her I was getting a hidden surprise for her, but yeah, I was shooting heroin with my daughter in the next room.”
Until Ashlyn was in the same room.
“I was almost done and had just got it into my arm when I heard feet behind me followed by a stunned, ‘Mom, what are you doing?’ She saw me,” Amy said. “I had even gone so far as to tell my mom I had gotten a new intravenous medication for my Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis because she knew I had contemplated getting that kind of medication for my flare ups. Just to cover my tracks, so to speak.
“That way, in case Ashlyn told on me, I told her it was my new medicine, and I didn’t want her watching because she was scared of shots.”
But that was it. That hit hard.
“My daughter walking in on me played a big part on my own decision to do it, but I did not have the courage to make it through the withdrawal process,” she admitted. “I had tried 100 times before. Stripping for money and doing sex shows on my web cam got me to the point to where I was so low I did not want to live anymore. I wanted to get clean so bad, but I just could not make it through the withdrawal process.
“But I didn’t want to live that way anymore either. I had lost myself and all that I was. So eventually I decided to use the trick they used in rehab,” Blon revealed. “I tapered myself down with Subutex at home. That got me through the withdrawal process without being in agonizing death.
“Once I got off heroin, I knew I’d never put myself through that feeling again.”
There is no end to Amy’s story. She’ll always be an addict, and she’ll always know the dragon’s euphoria. She’s accepted that, but she’s still claiming victory.
In a Facebook update this week, in fact, Blon posted:
“What a world of difference. So thankful I got out alive. I’m so happy. I’m a mom, daughter, sister, girlfriend, and friend again. I’m a productive member of society. I work my ass off, and I pay my own bills! I can’t tell you how good it feels to pay my own bills. You just don’t understand if you haven’t been there! I have a car again; I’ve made leaps and bounds! I will only keep moving up! Never looking back. I beat you, heroin! You will NEVER see me again or ever get your deadly hooks into me again. My life is MINE now! I beat you! I win!”
“I do have my daughter again, and I’m thankful that the strength I always knew was inside of her won the battle,” mother Sherry said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know, anytime the phone rang, if it was going to be that call. Nothing I did to try to help seemed to matter.
“It had to come from inside her; from her heart; and I think that’s something everyone should realize. We’ve all heard it – ‘They have to want to quit’ – but it’s tough to care about that when you have a daughter or someone in your life shooting up that crap. But it’s true. Amy proved that to me.”
Her sister, Kelly, has no idea how much money went missing while Amy was addicted to the pills and the heroin, and today she has no plans to even try to calculate the figure even though physical fights took place between the two.
While Amy was never arrested for heroin possession, she does own a criminal record for shoplifting to support her addiction, and for attacking Kelly.
“It killed me knowing that I pretty much didn’t have a sister anymore. I honestly kept waiting by the phone to get that call from the police saying she was dead or that something had happened to her,” Kelly recalled. “I’m so thankful nothing like that happened. I am so glad that now she is clean, I have my sister back.
“We hang out like we did in the old days. We can talk on the phone for hours and laugh like we used to, and it is so good knowing my son, Gunnar, can have a relationship with his aunt like her daughter and I do. Words cannot express how happy I am to truly have my sister back.”
And now Amy Blon has decided to go public with her story with hopes she can become a part of the solution instead of an extension of the deadly problem that causes addicts to steal, strip, forge, hock, and lie all with one goal – to avoid dope-sick.
She pays attention, too. She recognizes what’s happening in all corners of the country and here, too, and Amy sees the same mistakes she made committed over and over again.
“I see it destroying the lives of so many people, and what is sad is that it takes everybody down with it. Family, friends, acquaintances,” she said. “It destroys lives, and it’s becoming more and more prevalent. People are dying every day because it’s more and more potent, or mixed with fentanyl. I hate to see lives snuffed out before they’re able to get help.
“If my story can save just one person, help one person quit, or stop one person from picking it up, then it was all worth it,” Amy Blon added. “It’s progressed to epidemic proportions in this valley, and every day another life is taken too soon. I’ve seen all walks of life using heroin. Young and old. Rich and poor. It doesn’t discriminate.”
And here is her warning to make it official.
“I hate to see people with the, ‘It won’t happen to me,’ attitude because it can, and it will. It will change you. You will do horrid, despicable things. You will destroy everything and everyone around you. Don’t let it get the chance. Say no. Get help. Take your life back. It can and does get better.”