BUTTE — A mural in Butte dramatically captures the horrors of drug addiction, but the artist’s actual struggle with meth and fentanyl addiction is far more horrific than any mural could show.
“I was addicted to fentanyl. I died a couple times, was brought back to life and it was really scary for me so I’m choosing to do better for myself now,” said Butte artist Shannon Marengo, who goes by Nico Six Marengo.
His girlfriend remembers the day he took that one hit that nearly ended his life.
“He just went (gasps) and then he turned purple and then he turned black and then he went down and he started seizing, and then I gave him Narcan. Narcan wasn’t working and the only way I was able to help him was actually punching him right in the heart,” said Jennifer Tew.
Though he survived, Jennifer said her addiction was so intense that the near-death experience didn’t stop her.
“How stupid was I because I decided to get up and I went into the bathroom, grabbed it out of the trash and I started smoking on it. And then I passed out in the kitchen, I didn’t care,” said Tew.
Both are now in recovery and have been sober for several months. Shannon painted a mural as part of the Montana Meth Project’s "Paint the State" cotest in which artists create murals depicting the nightmare of addiction.
“This is supposed to be the beautiful side of life, you know, sobriety, and this is the ugly part of the drug world you can get involved in,” said Marengo.
Jennifer has seen her boyfriend’s life turn around.
“He’s completely different, like literally night and day. He wants to change so much, he’s driven so much, he’s doing so many things,” said Tew.
He believes anyone can recover from addiction.
Marengo, pointing at one face of the mural to the other, said, “You know, if you’re living like this, you can choose to go back to this life.”
People can vote for their favorite murals at the Paint the State website until the contest ends on Aug. 17.