What Does It Mean To “Erase the Shame?”

“Erase the shame” is not just a slogan. It’s a way of life. For those struggling with drug addiction, the will and desire to seek help is often stifled by the judgement of others. To break free of that judgement, addicts truly need to erase the shame and move forward without doubt or fear. Many addicts stress about persecution against themselves and their families, and not just from peers, but the law too. By erasing the shame surrounding their addiction, they can begin to clear the path to their recovery and take those critical first steps towards a healthy and happy life.

With the support of advocates like Crystal Oertle, we can start to reverse the stigma surrounding drug abuse and addiction in order to help—not incriminate—those affected by this rising epidemic.

Crystal’s Story: In Her Own Words

I’m a single mother of two, from a small town in Ohio. My son is seventeen and my daughter is ten. I grew up in a good family. We were a middle-class, average, and happy family. I lived on a farm until I was fourteen so my days were spent riding horses, playing with the cats in the barn and preparing for the county fair every year. I loved showing horses, pigs, rabbits and one year I presented my dog in a dog obedience show.

The Path to My Drug Addiction

Crystal Oertle Erase The Shame Drug Addiction Recovery AdvocateWhen I was twelve years old I smoked marijuana for the first time and really enjoyed it. After that, I was always seeking that “buzz.” Something that would make me feel different. For the next few years I continued to smoke pot and drink alcohol, and then I began using cocaine during high school. I was snorting coke before school my senior year. During that same year I found out I was pregnant with my son, Gaven, and immediately decided to stop using drugs. It was easier for me to stop using then, because I wasn’t physically addicted to anything by that point. Unfortunately, soon after my son was born, I developed an on-again-off-again relationship with my significant other that lasted for many years which led me down a path to start using drugs again.

That’s when I was introduced to opiate pills. I was in my early twenties and right away I liked—no, loved—the feeling I got from taking them. It was then that the path to my addiction started to take hold. Over the next several years I was using pills, cocaine, meth, hallucinogenics and I began getting addicted to the opiates. Then I discovered I was pregnant with my daughter, Marlee. That time, it was more difficult to stop using. I was three months into the pregnancy when I found out and I continued to use meth and oxycontin for another month thereafter. After my daughter was born, my partner and I had an extremely heated argument, so I took the kids and went to my parent’s house. I detoxed there for about four days. The withdrawal I had experienced wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t nearly as terrible as what would come later in life… once I was addicted to heroin.

The Struggles of My Heroin Addiction

The relationship with my significant other was destructive and continued to run hot and cold. We would love each other and then hate each other. He was the first person I did a lot of drugs with. Using drugs together was really the bond between us and the drug use continued. After my daughter was born, there was a period where I remember being unable to get any pills. I panicked knowing the withdrawal symptoms would be coming soon. In an attempt to avoid going through the painful detox, someone suggested that they could get heroin for me to keep me from going into withdrawal—and they did. It didn’t take long before I was addicted to heroin. I started out snorting it, but eventually began injecting it. And during that time, for an entire decade, I was obsessed—daily—with getting heroin and getting money for heroin.

When an addict goes through recovery, their loved ones also begin their own kind of recovery. I don’t believe that’s talked about enough; the impact of addiction on those you care about.

The need to satisfy my addiction caused me to steal from department stores and sell those stolen items to get money for heroin. I even stole from my family, pawning their personal belongings, which I still regret to this day. I have been involved in drug busts, but thankfully I was never charged with any drug-related crimes, just theft. Though, the criminal consequences aren’t what upset me. It was the damage and pain I caused my family. That’s what I have to live with and heal from… and they have to heal too. When an addict goes through recovery, their loved ones also begin their own kind of recovery. I don’t believe that’s talked about enough; the impact of addiction on those you care about. The more damage that’s caused can mean it takes that much longer before people start to trust you again. It can take time before your loved ones really start to believe that their family member is back, which is part of their recovery.

The Road to Recovery… Without Shame

Crystal Oertle and President Obama
Crystal Oertle and President Obama
My son, Gaven, has witnessed a lot in his young life because of me. He has seen me at my absolute worst: nodding out, going along with me on drug deals whether he knew it or not, and watching me go through terrible withdrawals where I couldn’t even get off the couch. It’s an understatement to say that addiction is a very heavy burden to place on a child’s mind, so naturally there are many, many things I regret having put my family through.

The best thing I can do—that any addict can do—is try and make up for the wreckage that had been created by getting into recovery and staying in recovery! Things don’t get better overnight, but they do get better. I’ve said it many times that addicts are some of the strongest people on the planet. If we can just get into recovery and stay there, I don’t believe there is a limit as to how far we can go. I am an example of that. If someone would have told me a year ago that I would be speaking in public about addiction, advocating for addicts and meeting the President, I would have told them they were absolutely nuts! But it happened and who knows what else is going to happen?

All I know is by staying in recovery and staying clean, taking it one day at a time, the sky is the limit! I believe all addicts are capable of this too and I hope that my story will help them achieve it.

Review our resources page if you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction. If you would like to reach out to Crystal Oertle about sharing her story at your company’s or organization’s event, please contact us.