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  • The First Response

Savannah Eley

Hi, I am Savannah Eley, The Opioid Prevention Specialist at the Southeast Utah Health Department. Sometimes when I hear that I am overwhelmed with gratitude. My life hasn’t always been speaking about Opioids and how to prevent Opioid Overdose or helping someone who is struggling find their pathway to recovery. I learned how to speak to people about opioids because for 10 years of my life I battled with an opioid use disorder. I know about the pain, shame, guilt and suffering that come with substance use. I was 19 when I tried my first opioid, and 28 when I left the opioids behind and did my first line of meth. For so many years I suffered, when I say I suffered I mean suffering as just hating yourself so bad that you don’t even believe you deserve to live any other way. Suffering as in letting that guilt take over so much that you think the best thing for everyone around you and yourself would be to just die.

I remember the first time killing myself came into my head because for once in 10 years I was at peace, a peace that I was searching for. My first suicide attempt left me angry, and to be honest, even more disappointed in myself because I couldn’t even end my life right. My second attempt looking back now was beautiful, I say beautiful because instead of finding angry, I found fear and this feeling of being uncomfortable, the fear would push me to find recovery, being uncomfortable would make me want it so bad. The more I wanted recovery and thought about it, the bigger my fear would grow and the more my life would become uncomfortable. So uncomfortable I went to someone who I tried to avoid at all costs, my brother who is a law enforcement officer. I remember going to his house and knocking on his door, one thing I’ll never forget is when he answered he looked at me like he didn’t know who I was. I told him I needed his help, I started crying and telling him everything that I had been doing, begging him to save me. What he said next was so powerful, “I can’t save you Savannah or help you, you have to be willing to save yourself and help yourself.” He told me to go to my parents and tell them everything and that he would come over in a few days. When those days had passed and he showed up, I was in a bad place and thought I just need to get high, I had wished I wouldn’t have told him or my family, I remember that peaceful feeling I had felt with my 1st suicide attempt, I battled with should I end my life or should I stay. The guilt was even more heavy, I had so many emotions going through me. When my brother walked through the door, he told me to get into his police car that he was taking me to the Sheriff’s office. I freaked out, I was so scared, driving up there I cried I thought I’m never leaving this place now, I was in the unknown and fear was all I felt. I was scared. I was going to have to be truthful about who I was and what I was doing. I sat in a room with two detectives completely out of my comfort zone as they looked at me, I remember Garett Conover saying, “What’s going on with you?” I broke down and told them, I’m sure they had heard everything I was saying all before, because one thing I remember at this point is I still wasn’t taking responsibility for any of my actions, and it was everyone else’s fault. In a way I think that was my defense mechanism, blame everyone else. I remember John Barnett saying to me, “Your daughter is going to end up in a foster home, and it is going to be YOUR fault.” Those words cut through me, that was my worst fear. I knew I had been hurting my kids, but hearing someone else say it was different. I remember John Barnett also telling me, “You’re lost but what’s lost can always be found. You can overcome this.” I remember Captain Ekker walking in and telling me, “Savannah, we will know if you continue to use, and I can promise you, if you choose that I will be the one who walks you to your cell.”

All four of these Law Enforcement officers said some powerful things that cut through me. But the most powerful thing to me was that they cared enough to talk to me. That they cared enough to give me a reality check, yet wrapped it in compassion at the same time. I am also sure that when I left, they thought I would be back, I don’t honestly know if they actually thought I would run to recovery. Now I am writing a letter at three and almost half year sober. I’ve been trying to write this letter for over a week thinking, “How do you thank someone who played such a valuable part in helping you get out of something that you didn’t think you would survive?” I find myself more emotional on that question than I have this whole letter.

I will never be able to thank these four for what they did for me and my family. Because of them my children finally got to meet their mom, the sober mom who loves them so much and is simply present in their lives and shows them that they can overcome anything they face in life and they can be successful after facing great challenges in life. My parents got their daughter back, the daughter that loves to laugh and joke with them. A daughter they can be proud of and watch grow against every odd she has ever been faced with. But most of all I found me, I found me, which was somewhat painful and beautiful all combined into one. Recovery was my choice, and it was a hard one at first. It was about taking reasonability for my choices and actions and being accountable for them. But most of all it is finding comfort in the unknown and never letting fear stop me. I have worked very hard to become who I am today and fought through some very hard times to become her. Recovery has given me a second chance at so many things and I never would have received this chance without the push that these officers gave me. I know I will never be able to repay them for what they have done, but I will let what they did for me have a ripple effect as I help other people who are struggling. From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU for helping me find my second chance at life.

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