Published: Monday, November 5, 2012 12:57 PM
La PORTE — On the morning of March 30, 2002, Mann Spittler III came home after a jog to find a note from his daughter asking him to trust her. Fifteen hours later he found her dead, drowned in the bathtub after an overdose of heroin. This was only four days after she went in for her first treatment session and only 20 days after admitting her heroin addiction to her family.
"The doors fly open, the gates give way, in barges the beast, he comes to play," she said in a poem written years before her death, a poem portraying her addiction as a hungry beast, a beast that still haunts her father today. "One person uses, everyone suffers," Spittler said. "Addiction is a family condition."
He spoke during the 4th Annual Dinner of the Worthy Women Recovery Home, an event to raise money for the home and to draw attention to its purpose: To give recently incarcerated women in La Porte a chance to recover from their addictions and re-enter society as productive members. Spittler's presentation was designed to warn people about the dangers of addiction in their family, and to give them tools to prevent it before it arises.
"The beast has been prowling the earth for thousands of years and will be prowling it a thousand more," Spittler said. "It presents itself as something angelic, ready to heal any emotional wound there is."
Like many addicts, he said his daughter actually had a happy life growing up. She loved animals and stopped him from trapping and killing chipmunks in their yard, was a Girl Scout and wrote poetry in school. But when she turned 13 she reached a turning point in her life and started smoking. She drew and wrote increasingly negative subjects and became distant. She graduated high school in 1999 and went to college.
But Spittler said she also got a boyfriend who introduced her to heroin and started injecting her with the drug. Her boyfriend convinced her to drop out of college and give him money to buy more opiates. When she finally confessed her addiction and returned to her parents, Spittler was glad, but he had no idea she would soon be gone. "I had no idea how much danger she was in," he said. "While I thought I was protecting her, that was all an illusion."
He warned parents to watch out for their kids and not worry about invading their personal space. He said his daughter would lie right to his face and cover up her addiction. But all he needed to do was open her sketch book to see the increasingly disturbing drawings she made to know she was in trouble. He never did until she died.
He also told them to make clear rules and enforce them with appropriate consequences to avoid these issues altogether. Be a positive role model, which means avoid getting buzzed or high yourself. Teach your children to choose their friends wisely, and remove any friends who are negative influences. And he also recommended drug testing your children at age 10. "That's the world we live in," he said. But he also said parents needed to have quality time with their children every day, time when their children can tell them about their problems. And they needed to keep the lines of communication open. And they needed to become involved in their children's lives and their interests.
"If they love ballet or theater," he said, "then you need to become the biggest fan of that in the world." He also told them to visit their friends house and meet their friends and the families of their friends and see what kind of environment they live in. If a mother greets you at the door with a joint in one hand and a martini in the other, he said that is a bad sign.
But the dinner was also dedicated to the new Worthy Women Recovery Home, which is projected to open next year. Sonshine Troche, the board of directors president for the home, said she is a recovered addict herself, having suffered her first overdose at age 13.
She said the purpose of the home is to help women coming out of jail recover from their addictions and become better parents and community members.
Women who live at the home will be required to work, get their GED, go to college, take care of the home, take classes on job skills and parenting, and undergo regular drug testing. And with 14 women at the home, paying only about $6,000 each a year, they will save the county about $300,000. This is the cost of incarcerating them for a year. The women will all be non-violent offenders.
In an update given on the home, it was revealed that demolition work was nearly complete and all five layers of the roof removed. A working bathroom and electricity have also been installed. But there was framing, roofing, electricity, plumbing, and heating and air conditioning work that needed to be completed before opening day. Right now the organization is trying to raise $260,000 in donations, materials and volunteer help. It is looking general contractors for carpentry, framing, electricity, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, security and other home-related trades.
For more information about the Worthy Women Recovery Home, or to help out, call Troche at (219) 405-7006, or visit the home online at www.worthyrecovery.org or Donations can also be sent to WWRH P.O. Box 116, La Porte.