- Associated Press - Saturday, July 2, 2016

CLINTON, Ill. (AP) - Life was pretty good for Stephanie Pollock and her family in 2008. Not perfect, of course, but pretty good.

She had a 3-year-old son and a boyfriend in Jason Taylor who treated her son from a previous relationship like his own. Taylor worked construction, liked to fish, was a good son and brother, Pollock said - and they’d learned she was going to have a second child.

“He worked every day and was a very good person,” Pollock said. “He was always there for me. He was always there for his friends. Everybody loved him.”

But there was an ice storm in 2005. And Jason’s uncle had some tree branches on his roof. Jason offered to remove them, but slipped on the ice and landed on his face and elbows.

“Jason was a weightlifter,” Stephanie said. “He was a very tough guy. He could bench press more than anybody in town. But he broke his elbows and had to get pins and a cast and he needed someone to take care of him for a while.”

He also needed medicines such as morphine and Vicodin and when the doctors tried to ween him off of the drugs, his body didn’t cooperate.

“I don’t know when he started using heroin for sure,” Pollock said. “I know he was always complaining about his arms hurting. He started by snorting it, but pretty soon, that stopped working. I didn’t know just how much he was using. But, then, I was clueless as to what addiction was. And heroin? Heroin didn’t come around Clinton. That was something found in Chicago.”

Taylor was showing signs of falling into the addiction that would eventually kill him.

He would fall asleep on the couch. There were brushes with shady characters and eventually, a full confession in a police interrogation room after an incident with federal marshals, said Pollock.

He got help and the couple moved to Texas. For six months, he was clean and sober, but the couple missed Central Illinois and they moved back. Before long, Taylor was back to his former habits.

And, the couple was fighting. Taylor was staying out late and using, and Pollock insisted he go to rehab or she would go it alone. She still loved him, but they still fought.

One of those arguments - the final one as it turned out- was on April 26, 2008.

According to Pollock, Taylor drove to Decatur and two blocks away from Decatur Memorial Hospital, injected heroin in a Walgreens parking lot. His friends panicked, and sensing that he was overdosing, drove 10 miles to Maroa.

There, according to Pollock, they attempted to unload his body into a bathroom at the Freedom gas station in downtown Maroa. A clerk called 911, and while Taylor was transported to the hospital, someone got in touch with Pollock, who was by then was six months pregnant.

“I knew it was bad, but I was mad because he overdosed,” she said. “I went to the hospital and they took me back into the room and told me he had passed. I just fell to my knees and screamed. They took me into where he was and I pounded on his chest and laid my head on his chest just like I used to do when we would cuddle and I would listen to his heartbeat. But it wasn’t there. His eyes were wide open. I closed them.”

Taylor was 30 years old.

In the days, weeks and months following, Pollock hated anybody that had anything to do with drugs, particularly opiates.

“I didn’t care about other addicts. I hated them all,” she said. “I wanted them to die, too.”

But since then, Pollock has had a change of heart. Instead of wishing the worst on addicts, she now serves as an advocate for them, trying to get whoever is in need, help to fight their addiction.

About three years ago, she found several Facebook and social media sites dedicated to fighting addiction and through that, she read similar stories and often shared her story with those struggling, or who have loved ones fighting addiction.

She reaches out to others through many of those same Facebook groups and has played a major role in a DeWitt County coalition devoted to bringing awareness to the county about a number of recent deaths due to heroin and opiate overdoses.

“We have all been moved by her story and are more determined than ever to continue this fight,” said DeWitt County Sheriff Jared Shofner.

In the last two years, at least five people in DeWitt County have died because of an accidental opioid overdoses.

“When I saw the pain that others were going through, I realized it wasn’t about the addict being a horrible person,” said Pollock. “I called Jason a junkie. I called him bad names. I was so angry for him leaving us and choosing drugs over us, but really, those drugs took over his mind. There were times he came to me for help, begging to get him the help so he could stop. I tried to get him in rehab and the problem with that is that there are waiting lists. Most addicts die waiting to get into rehab.”

Now, Pollock’s life has new meaning. She is in a relationship and is expecting a baby this fall.

“I don’t want any other kids ever having to grow up without a parent because of drugs,” she said. “When a child loses a parent, you aren’t only dealing with your own grief, but you have to deal with the child’s grief as well,” she said.

“The most helpless feeling in the world is to not be able to protect your kids against that type of pain, and so I am going to fight and tell my story, hoping if nothing else, at least one life will be saved, somewhere.”

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Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, http://bit.ly/1tpFY4J

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Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com

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