HELENA – Methamphetamine has the ability to grab a hold of users both physically and emotionally. The cycle of addiction and use can tear families apart and possibly, lead to a life of crime.

Shane Park, Department of Corrections Inmate

“I wanted to be a dad and I’m not a dad,” said emotionally Shane Park, an inmate at the Montana State Prison. “I chose to use over the joy of having a son or a daughter.”

Shane Park, Montana State Prison Inmate

Life behind walls of concrete and barbed wire where guards watch his every move; the reality Shane faces every day after three decades of using methamphetamine.

“From 1986 to 2017 there’s never been a time where I haven’t been on probation or parole or I haven’t been incarcerated,” he explained.

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Park’s criminal history started with petty theft in the late 1980’s and escalated to felony charges.

“Life started to get crazy, the methamphetamine use started to just completely takeover,” Shane said.

It did not take long before he was entrenched in the world of meth.

Shane said he, “Skipped the snorting stage of crank and meth use and went right to IV meth use.”

From there, it was a slippery slope to a new way of life. “It just became overwhelming, it became THE lifestyle.”

He eventually turned to selling the drug to keep up with his addiction, “Pretty soon you get to a point where there’s just no financial means left.”

Then, Shane trafficked meth from California to Montana to support his own habit, landing him in prison once again.

Outside the Montana State Prison

“I ended up with a 20 year prison sentence for the sale of methamphetamine,” he admitted.

Tina* & Sharon* – The stories behind two moms addiction to meth  

Shane may not have experienced a family but two women did but put meth first.

“My needs and my high came before my kids,” said Tina*. “I lost my rights to three of my children.”

Tina*’s first taste of meth came at age 14 which led down a path of addiction, which was a daily battle for 14 years.

“You’re constantly chasing that feeling that you’re never going to have again,” she explained. “There were days where I don’t even know how much I used because it was continuous use all throughout the day.”

The heavy drug use resulted in lost possessions, her three children and her parents.

“The reality of it was with my addiction, my family stopped talking to me,” Tina* explained.

Eventually Tina* found herself in the Elkhorn Treatment Center through the Department of Corrections, where she met Sharon* who was another recovering meth addict.

Sharon described using meth for the first time as irreplaceable.

“You will only feel that feeling one time in your life,” she explained.

Using meth was something Sharon’s* family was very familiar with, holding a grip so tight not many could escape.

“Every single one of my brothers and sisters, and there are 13 of us, have a meth problem,” Sharon* said. “I have never met a sober member of my entire family.”

Sharon* started using meth at 11 years old after finding a baggie of it in a coat pocket. What started as snorting, quickly turned to shooting the drug intravenously by 12, eventually becoming the center of her life for 25 years.

“I would shoot up probably 20 times a day,” described Sharon*.

Meth was so ingrained in Sharon’s* survival, even getting pregnant at 14 didn’t stop the habit.

“I didn’t really care about what other people needed from me, not even my little infant baby,” she said frankly.

Living life clean and moving forward

After years of addiction, both Sharon* and Tina* decided to put their families first.

“I realized my children’s life meant everything to me,” said Sharon*.

Both women completed drug treatment court and have a combined seven years of sobriety.

“I’m sick over it when I even think about how low I was in my life; I can’t even look at myself in the mirror,” Sharon* said adamantly.

Tina* added, “I will fight for my life and I don’t ever want to be as low as I was.”

For Shane, he fights to get his life on track and accept responsibility for a life mostly spend incarcerated.

“It’s not anybody else’s fault but my own,” he said.

Reflecting on 32 years of drug use is difficult for Shane, but despite emotions running high, he said, “I can look back over my life and it’s been a waste of time. From 16 to 48 has been nothing but a self-centered mess really.

Meth evidence; courtesy Missouri River Drug Task Force

Physical and emotional scars, like Hepatitis C, make it hard for Shane to really forget the damage done.

“It was a syringe full of someone’s blood that I decided I didn’t want to waste the methamphetamine and I used it anyway,” Shane recalled.

As Shane waits for a parole hearing and approaches the one year sobriety mark, one question remains left unasked.

Was it worth it?

“No. There have just been too many victims over the years, not intentionally, but you create a mess of people that care.”

To read the history of the meth resurgence in Montana and what different agencies are doing to prevent more people from spiraling into addiction, click here.

Click here to return to the Meth in Montana home page, where you can find the history of methamphetamine in Montana and how the drug has had an impact on Montana’s foster care system.

*Tina & Sharon are fictitious names to the protect identity and privacy of the women interviewed.

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