Melody at the county jail, in front of a mural painted by a lobsterman when he was an inmate there
Melody at the county jail, in front of a mural painted by a lobsterman when he was an inmate there
“It would be jail or death” is what I’ve heard from many local recovering drug addicts about their decision to get clean. Well, it was jail for Melody, who talked with me at the Knox County Jail while awaiting transfer to a state prison to serve a two-year sentence for drug trafficking.

Lt. Cynthia Gardner, head of programs at the county jail, says “at least 90 percent” of the inmates are there on drug-related charges, and “just about everybody who comes through the door has substance abuse issues.”

“When I started 29 years ago, they never came in for being on drugs. It was more the drunk who came in for the night, and then he left. Gradually over the years I have been able to watch it change.

“Prescription pills like OxyContin are a big part of it. A lot of people are prescribed it at a hospital, get hooked, can’t get it legally anymore, and start committing crimes to support their habit.”

It is hard to keep drugs out of the jail, she says. “We had one girl smuggle in a coloring book that had the pictures laced with Suboxone and she was eating the pages.”

The local prison does not currently offer Narcotics Anonymous meetings, something Melody says she wishes she could partake in, because they haven’t been able to find someone to offer this service.

Mike Lokuta teaches adult education at the Knox County Jail and says that writing is one of the skills required for a high school diploma. In Melody’s case, “I can see she’s processing a lot of what she’s been through in her head, so I said, ‘Well, write about it.’ ”

Here is an essay written by Melody in Mike’s class, which she is extending into a book about her life:

“People who are not addicts cannot understand what heroin addiction is like. Heroin addiction is pure hell, the zombie zone: careless, thoughtless, and cold. Heroin is the vampire of addictions, destroying everyone that has a soul. A gothic horror Bram Stoker could not have imagined.

“My name is Melody, I am a 36-year-old Native American with dual citizenship, originally from Nova Scotia. I have lived in Maine for almost twenty years.

“In 2013, I completed a women’s program in Bangor/Brewer area and remained clean and sober for three and a half years. I thought I was safe from relapses. I became unhappy in the 15-year relationship I was in and left it.

“I soon started dating somebody that I met in a Narcotics Anonymous meeting who was a recovering heroin addict.

“We moved in together and I started to become more and more distant with the people that were supportive in my recovery. He had to have surgery for knee trouble. Opiates were prescribed for the pain. Soon we were both taking the opiates together. Recovery became a distant memory.

“I found out later that my partner was shooting heroin behind my back. For some reason one day I said, ‘Alright if I can’t beat it, I’ll join it.’ I used heroin for the first time and became instantly hooked. Work, also, became a distant memory, I was too busy being sick or looking for my heroin dealer.

“I started isolating myself, becoming manipulative, and totally switching up all the good people in my life with junkies. They didn’t work, their life basically revolved around, ‘How will I get my next fix?’ That became my life also.

“I started pawning all my valuables, borrowing money, anything to avoid the rumored nightmare withdrawals. This went on with us for about eight months. In April 2017 we both got arrested on a drug charge. I thought I had hit rock bottoms before. I was wrong, heroin is the sub-basement of hell.

“The ‘Nightmare Withdrawal’ wasn’t as bad as what people said. Today I’m grateful to wake up clean and sober and I am starting to remember how awesome life can be without drugs. Yes, I’m here locked up in the county jail. But I’m detoxed from that beast of addiction and everything that comes with it.”