Real Life Stories: Faces of Addiction

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We’ve heard a lot of talk lately about the opioid epidemic from medical experts to the governor of Pennsylvania.

Newswatch 16 takes a look at the real story of real people suffering after prescription drug use led to heroin overdoses.

The Stoker family from Selinsgrove is one family spotlighted in our "Faces of Addiction" segment this month.

Newswatch 16 went inside a home in Selinsgrove to meet this all-American-looking family -- a letter carrier, a physician assistant, and a registered nurse. But there's someone missing from the Stoker family picture.

Teresa Stoker lost her son last year. She and her two surviving children Desiree and Matt agreed to let us inside their nightmare that far too many families also face: a loved one dealing with opioid addiction.

It's the story of how Mark became an addict began before he worked as a helicopter lineman in 2014, before he graduated from Mifflinburg Area High School in 2008.

"When mark was 14 years old, he had his wisdom teeth pulled and that's probably what woke up his addiction demon up inside of him at that time."

And that addiction demon grew. In 2012 mark underwent surgery for kidney stones as an adult. Medical privacy laws prevented Teresa from knowing how many pill prescriptions Mark had or just how dependent he became on the drugs. Red flags started surfacing some time later at home when Teresa noticed that some old, unused pain pills in the kitchen started to disappear.

In the five trips to rehab and relapses, Teresa decided to take matters into her own hands, bringing Mark back home, even making him sleep in her bed at night so he wouldn't sneak out to get high.

During one of Mark's relapses, he stole from his own sister. After losing her brother's trust and seeing him fail at the rehab facilities she helped pay for, Desiree had to step away.

It became a cycle. Mark would use heroin again, the family would receive a call from the hospital that he overdosed but somehow he managed to come back to life time after time.

At age 27, on February 4, 2016, Mark Stoker died from a heroin overdose. His funeral was held on the 25th anniversary of his father's death.

Out of all of this, a mom finds a mission hoping that the growing opioid epidemic has lawmakers looking more closely at our health care system and at how painkillers are prescribed.

"You can always go to Walmart and get a drug test to test them. Don't ever second guess if you think your child may be, don't ever hesitate to find out," Teresa said.

For Teresa, she found out too late. Her son's ashes are in a small urn around her neck -- a constant reminder of how the opioid epidemic can strike anywhere in any home, even in what seems like a picture-perfect, all-American neighborhood.

If you or someone you know is suffering from opioid addiction, click here to head to the state's resource website.

To be connected to the website which puts a face to addiction, the page Ryan mentioned that "Celebrates Lost Loved Ones," head here!

10 comments

  • Kyle B

    I read a small article awhile back (mind you I deal with addicts in my day to day) and it helped clarify a lot of the ‘murk’ people are still raving about.. Both sides of the argument are partially right in that yes addicts do it to themselves yet it is still an illness, one that forms after the initial and subsequent poor choice of use. The logic behind it being that originally its a poor choice and self inflicted but once taken it alters the chemical balances in their body forming said disease/illness and currently we have no proper way to correct the damage done. Yes the best treatment for this is not to try it, but the best treatment for HIV/HEP-C is not to ‘try sex’ with people but that mistake happens all the time. You can easily compare it to any disease out there and it make logical sense,, I lost a step brother to addiction and I hated him for his selfish choices to become an addict but 5 years later I took the time to read more about it and look at it as the disease it becomes.

  • Fred

    You learn in elementary school not to try or use any type of drug. So if you CHOOSE to “try” then become addicted to a drug it’s not a illness it’s lack of common sense. I am tired of seeing all these people that say it’s a disease and the money we tax payers waste for them to get new teeth, vactions to rehab facility, free housing with welfare. Then some courts now are more lenient on drug user cause they say it’s disease. I go to work everyday I guess that is a disease also give me free stuff and vacations.

    • Nicole

      When the Dr prescribes you a medication for your chronic pain due to an automobile accident or work injury you don’t expect it to turn into anything else because, well, the Dr said I should take it so I should be ok. That is where a majority of addicts are created. They start off taking medicine that’s given to them to help and in reality all it does is start a long road of more pain and suffering. Before you know it the if you don’t have your pain medicine at 4pm you’re starting to get sick and then the pain medicine stops actually helping the pain or maybe the Dr decided to not give you anymore….in the addict mind you’re going to try to get something that is going to help you ease that pain or sickness. I never wanted to become and addict. But at age 17 I was prescribed pain medication for chronic migraines and at age 23 I was in a horrific car accident. And all they did was feed me more pills to kill my pain. It’s a horrible thing to look back and see how my life fell apart all over the MEDICINE MY FAMILY DOCTOR said was best for me.

      • E

        Fuc*ing bulls*it! Stop trying to spread lies. You claim that the majority of heroin addicts are caused by work injuries or automobile accidents! That is the most untrue statement I have ever heard in my life. The majority of heroin addicts are low life trash that wants to be the center of attention and to be popular so they try heroin to be “cool” or to get attention while at a social gathering. I have witnessed many Scranton coke addicts move to heroin because, as they put it, “I can handle it”. Ha ha! Next thing all you hear is “I was abused”, “nobody loves me”, “I come from a broken home”. More BS. There was no mention of past hardships until they needed an excuse for being a piece of junkie trash. Ha ha pathetic.

  • beyondthetunnelvision

    @notmyprez your comment completely illustrates your lack of intelligence. People experiment with drugs and alcohol at a young age when they may NOT be aware of the dangers. Young people feel invincible and the effects of that first use are different for everyone. Do you really thing people try drugs or alcohol for the first time fully aware that it will kill them? Maybe you should just stay in your ivory tower where people are perfect.

    • beyondthetunnelvision

      Good for her. You sound really intelligent. MOST people do know the dangers of heroin.. That won’t stop SOME people… AND like the video eluded to; many heroin users started using heroin after they started using pain killers and eventually could not get them any more. And MANY people start using pain killers for legitimate reasons.. But I know you are superior to the rest of society. Good for you. Please enjoy your life and by all means continue to stigmatize those afflicted with addiction because it obviously makes you feel better about yourself.

    • i chose to choose

      Ok, ok, tunnelvision, calm down. If it’ll make you happy I’ll try some heroin right now. Gimme a minute to go score some and I’ll be right with you. If this goes bad, I’m blaming YOU!

  • beyondthetunnelvision

    The only choice it the first one to use… After that it is different for everyone. Some may never use again and some will. and with each use the ability to “choose” is less likely. If anyone says a person that is addicted can just simply choose not to use they are ignorant to the science of addiction.

  • i chose to choose

    Story should read, “faces of choices.” Doing heroin and other opiates are choices, not addiction. I woke up yesterday and CHOSE not to do heroin. Now, 24 hours later I’m still heroin free. See how that works? Pretty neato huh?!

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