Jameil White started drinking alcohol when she was 13 years old. By 17, her substance use – a way to cope with her mental health issues and childhood trauma – had transitioned to methamphetamine and other drugs.
“Once you become addicted to (meth), that’s all you think about,” White recalls. “When you’re coming down from something like that and you’re starting to crash, it’s either, ‘I want to get some sleep and get high again,’ or, ‘I want to get high again.’ You quit thinking properly, you quit bathing, you quit eating, you quit doing your normal daily things that we as humans need to function.”
About three years ago, after using drugs for so long and knowing “so much pain,” White decided to get serious about her recovery. Now 40, she lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband and two stepchildren, and says she’s remained in recovery in large part due to her family and a handful of online support groups that she helps moderate and manage, where topics range from drug addiction and mental health to suicide prevention.
“My online support network is huge. I know many people from all over the U.S. and also in other countries,” White says. “Some of them are members of (Alcoholics Anonymous), (Narcotics Anonymous). You also have members like myself who no longer go to meetings, but they still need that community and that network, and they reach out through online groups.”
Forums on Reddit and Facebook, like those used and managed by White, provide safe spaces for current and former users, as well as their family members. They offer opportunities to seek help, share stories and celebrate each other’s successes in recovery while facing a socially stigmatized drug addiction for which there is no counteracting medication that can aid in treatment.
White runs multiple support groups connected to her “Warrior Queens and Warrior Kings” public Facebook page, which has more than 4,400 followers, and helps edit and manage other groups related to recovery from substance misuse, addiction, mental health and suicide prevention. Nearly 8,700 Facebook users are members of the closed “Sobriety 101” group that she helps administer.
Julie Richards, 46, founded the Mothers Against Meth Alliance about six years ago after seeking help for her daughter’s meth addiction and realizing there wasn’t a system for support, intervention, prevention and education for the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Today, Richards says her daughter is behind bars in connection with her meth use. Richards continues to run what she calls a “one-woman rescue team” to help community members – especially teens – who are under the influence of the “meth spirit” realize there is a future once they overcome their addiction. She offers herself as an emergency resource through her Facebook group and website for families and teens struggling with addiction.
“I tell these kids, ‘There’s only two roads that this meth is going to take you to: one is prison, and the other one is death. It’s up to you. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up in prison,'” Richards says.
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