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Local mother shares story of heroin addiction and recovery: ‘I stay clean for my children’

Kellie Mendola of Lewiston was only 17 years old and a senior in high school when she became addicted to drugs. What started out as taking a few pills to get high with friends, quickly turned into her worst nightmare.

Kellie Mendola of Lewiston was only 17 years old and a senior in high school when she became addicted to drugs. What started out as taking a few pills to get high with friends, quickly turned into her worst nightmare.

“I thought I was too cool for school and I began taking pills every day. I was clueless to withdrawal until one day I felt very sick. I had the shakes and I was aching. I was already hooked.”

Mendola began stealing from her parents to pay for her high. Since the pills no longer gave her the high she needed, she began using heroin. She stole her parent’s money, their credit cards, and wrote bad checks – something she would have never done to her family before she became addicted.

“It really put a strain on my mom and dad’s relationship. My mom showed me tough love and kicked me out of the house and my dad kept letting me back in. They fought about me a lot,” she said.

Until one day Mendola’s mother had enough. She pressed charges on her daughter and sent her to jail so that she could get the help she so desperately needed. She went through detox and went to First Step, a chemical dependency crisis center in Niagara Falls. After 28 days of treatment, she then went to a halfway house.

“That was the first time I was away from drugs and the bad people and bad influences. I had a support system and I went to meetings, and I did everything I was supposed to.”

But in July 2012, Mendola relapsed. She went into a Tim Hortons bathroom and shot up heroin.

“I wanted to get high so bad that I had to do it the bathroom. I made it to the car just in time and as soon as I shut the door, my head hit the dashboard. The person I was with called 911 and left.”

When Mendola woke up, she was in ICU. She had no idea how she got there. She didn’t know her name or her parent’s names, and doctors said it was a miracle she was even alive.

“They said I went into cardiac arrest three times and I don’t know how I was brought back. If the person I was with didn’t call the police, I wouldn’t be here today and my parents would have found me dead the next morning.”

As soon as Mendola was discharged, she was sent back to jail and then to First Step to attend another 28 day program. This time the judge wanted her to stay in a program long term, but Weir soon found out something that would change her life forever.

“At First Step they give you a pregnancy test and I found out I was 9 weeks pregnant. I was in tears. I said ‘What do you mean? I just overdosed. I just got out of jail.’ They said I had to go to the hospital as soon as possible and the OBGYN confirmed it was true. I was in shock. I was only two weeks pregnant when I overdosed.”

That was the moment Mendola decided it was time to make a change. Not only for herself, but for her baby. She was mandated by drug court to stay at the Madonna House in Lockport, an intensive residential rehabilitation facility for women who were unable to achieve long term recovery from substance use in previous attempts.

“I have to give a lot of credit to them because I didn’t know what to do. They really helped me get through this difficult time and prepared me for having my baby,” said Mendola.

Mendola’s daughter was born on April 25, 2013, a day she remembers as the best day of her life.

“I didn’t know why God didn’t take my life that day I overdosed, but I do know now. My daughter saved my life.”

Mendola moved in with her boyfriend and landed a job. She also had a sponsor and was doing very well. But as addiction is something that can be difficult to overcome, Weir relapsed after two years. Something she regrets with her whole heart.

“I was going through a difficult time and I took pills. I thought I could still use successfully, but I was wrong.”

Mendola started doing heroin again and dodged drug court. She had a warrant out for her arrest and it was her boyfriend who brought her to jail to get her the help she needed.

“I wasn’t doing everything I was supposed to and I fell off the wagon. I wasn’t going to meetings – stopped talking to my sponsor. I became complacent. I relapsed after being two years clean. It was the biggest mistake I ever made.”

But this time was different. Instead of relying on others to help her with her addiction, Mendola knew this time she had to do it for herself and her baby.

“I didn’t want my daughter to grow up with a junkie mother. I couldn’t be selfish and do that to my daughter. Thankfully she won’t remember this and I’ll have a chance to make it up to her. I’m also thankful for my husband who stood by my side and took care of my daughter while I got well. I haven’t touched drugs since.”

Mendola is now married to her boyfriend (now husband). They have two children and recently purchased a home.

“We look at each other and talk about it at least once a week. How did we get these two beautiful children? Life keeps getting better for us as long as we do the right thing. We’re not who we were five years ago. We’re stronger than addiction.”

Mendola would like to stress that it was her own doing that she became addicted to drugs. She was never prescribed pills and she was never injured. She was a young teenager who got hooked by herself. She would like to warn other teenagers to listen to their parents. Drugs just aren’t worth it and they will change your life for the worst. 

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