Editor’s Note: Amanda Chafin’s story will be told in two parts. Look for the conclusion in an upcoming edition of the Sunday Times-Sentinel.
GALLIA COUNTY — Amanda Chafin was a drug dealer and she was good at it. From her time as a well-known drug dealer to the addiction that nearly cost Chafin her freedom and her life, the Gallia County, Ohio, woman spoke candidly about her history with drugs, her determination to beat her addiction and her hope she can help others do the same in the future.
Chafin had grown up around drugs her entire life and began using recreationally at 16-years-old, when she was introduced to cocaine by an older boyfriend. She didn’t view herself as an addict, though. It would be years before drugs would completely take over her life. But, it was in 2001, when she injured her back and was prescribed an abundance of pain pills that her life as a dealer began.
For Chafin, dealing was normal. It didn’t cross her mind she shouldn’t use those pills to make extra money. It was as ordinary to her as any other job. The underworld of narcotics and marijuana dealing had always been a part of her life. She already had a baseline clientele and she took pride in how she handled her business.
“I had always known business and how the art of supply and demand works,” said Chafin. “I never felt uncomfortable. I never felt out of place. Beyond that, it gave me a sense of worth. It gave me a sense of belonging as a girl that had struggled with her worth and belonging. I found my worth in being a drug dealer, which I don’t even know looking back now what I was thinking.”
She liked the money, the power and she was a natural. It was that simple. And because using your own product was frowned upon in that world “if you’re about your money,” she only used occasionally during that time.
For seven years, Chafin dealt her extra narcotics, until she married and moved away from the area to West Virginia, where her husband worked in the coal mines. While she has no proof, she admitted she thought law enforcement might have caught onto her by then and, had she not moved, she would have eventually been arrested.
In West Virginia, away from the local drug scene, Chafin’s life began to change. She got involved in church and stepped away from dealing. She even went through a recovery program and completely stopped using by 2008 and started helping others going through recovery. Money was good. They wanted for nothing. She had a nice home, nice cars. Her kids were flourishing. Then the coal industry fell apart, her husband was injured and prescription narcotics found their way back into her life. Eventually, Chafin said, she and her husband separated. He stayed in West Virginia with their son and she returned to Gallia County with their daughter. The split, according to Chafin, was amicable and still is.
Back in Gallia, Chafin set her sights on the Field of Hope project and helping with recovery efforts locally. She’d known Kevin Dennis and his daughter, Amber Richards, in high school and she’d heard about Field of Hope’s efforts, as well as Richards’ story of addiction and recovery.
“I knew I wanted to work with addicts even then. It had been my passion for so long after being a drug dealer,” said Chafin.
Little did she know, her future at Field of Hope would not start with counseling recovering addicts. Instead, she would be among the first group of addicts to go through Field of Hope’s Hope House, an inpatient treatment facility for women, where she would be fighting the battle herself.
According to Chafin, not long after returning to Gallia County, she met a man and they connected over similar childhood histories. Eventually, she said she fell in love with him, and things were good for a while. Then she started noticing warning signs of drug abuse. The relationship took an ugly turn and they began to fight. During one of those fights, things turned physical and she suffered a cracked skull. When she went to the hospital, she told them it was the result of a four-wheeler accident and was prescribed pain medicine.
According to Chafin, her boyfriend at the time filled her prescription and then subsequently sold those pills.
“I woke up the next day. I was in so much pain. My face was so swollen,” said Chafin. “He comes home and his idea to fix my pain was shooting me up with heroin and methamphetamines together.”
“I felt so trapped. I felt like I had given up on everything I had worked so hard for. My dreams of working at Hope House were over,” said Chafin about that first dose of heroin and amphetamines. Her heroin use skyrocketed from once or twice a week to five to six times a day; her savings dwindled quickly; her boyfriend gained more control over her life. While she had experimented with drugs throughout her life, Chafin said heroin was a whole new world for her.
“I was horrible,” she said. “Using drugs multiple times a day. Shooting up constantly. Things I saw were just obscene.”
She eventually lost custody of her daughter to her ex-husband, which was a new low for her. Through everything in her life to that point, she said she had always taken care of her kids. She saw no hope for the future. Then her boyfriend was arrested and would later be sentenced to prison. It was then when she felt she needed to provide him with money, she reentered the dealing game. Only this time she was dealing heroin.
Michelle Leigh Miller is an independent author and freelance writer living in Gallipolis, Ohio. You can follow her author journey at michelleleighmiller.com.