RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - We hear a lot about Meth and the staggering numbers of users.
But addicts are not numbers, they're people.
It's easy to judge Meth addicts before we know a single thing about their lives.
This is the story of a local mother who shares who's been to Meth hell and back.
Heather Tarango of Rapid City is now 42 years old. She's been clean and sober for 15 years. She's now a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a homeowner, a business manager, and now there's a new baby in the house.
But life has not always been this good. She was born in Wyoming when her mother was just 15 years old. She was not raised by her parents and grew up in Rapid City
"A lot of sexual abuse from the time I can remember at the age of 4 and 5 years old until I got married and moved out of the house at 16," says Heather Tarango.
Heather had her first child, Faith, at age 17, and her second child Jessica, at age 18. But her beautiful daughter Jessica, who's picture still hangs on the wall of Heather's family home, passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome at the age of just 3 months and 3 days old.
The marriage failed. She got married a second time, there was a second divorce, and a baby boy. She was a single mother trying to be a good Mom.
"I was working full time, I was going to school full time, ya know being a Mom full time with little to no help. There just didn't seem to be enough time in the day," Heather says.
Tired, and run down, she says emotionally she was a wreck. Little did she know, her trip to Meth Hell was about to begin.
"I had a boyfriend who had been into it before and he's like oh here, this'll help and you know being a young woman, I'm like 'Oh, OK' and so I tried it," Tarango says.
"And the first time I used it I was hooked, because I could be super mom. I could be ya know this great college student and could work and take care of my family," she says.
But that, would change: completely. By the end, she says she was using a needle, shooting up 6, 7 times a day.
"At the very end, it was just, nothing made sense. Days ran together, ya know, sleeping for 5 or 10 minutes, then being up, so you can imagine being sleep deprived and there were you know hallucinations," Heather recalls.
The wheels were coming off the wagon.
"I got back from that last drug run and I seen myself in the mirror and I hit my knees and I prayed and I asked him, 'God what is it gonna take to stop?', she remembers.
The answer, was only hours away.
"The Feds were at my door that very next morning ya know. I knew God was real in that moment. I knew that God was real and that He loved me and there was a purpose for my life," Heather says.
Her daughter Faith, now age 24 and a mother herself, was still in grade school.
"I was around when the Feds were going through the apartment. We just got out of school. I tried to get into the house. They wouldn't let us. All I saw was them tearing our apartment apart, not knowing what was going on and being rushed over to our neighbors house. Don't know where my Mom is," says Heather's daughter Faith VanderPloeg.
Faith says she was 10. Her little brother was 7. Heather would be sentenced to 18 months in the Federal System of which she would serve 15 months.
Heather says after that bust, she never used Meth again. She would stay clean and sober for her kids.
Still, the memories and the lessons remain.
"It will stay with you through the years," Faith says, and then wipes away her tears.
"It showed me the sides of drugs and what it can do to a family. I didn't like that feeling," Faith says.
After prison, Heather got married to her husband David. But that is not where this story ends. We mentioned a new baby in the house. Heather and her husband have taken in that baby, born to a woman in prison, struggling with Meth addiction.
"As long as you need us, we're here. We will love your son. We will treat him like he is our own child until you can come back and be a Mom," Heather says.
And there's 1 more ironic twist.
"He was born the 7th of October and I spent two days in the hospital with him and his mom and the day that she signed the release papers to my husband and I was my little girl's birthday that passed away," Heather says.
Her little girl's picture on the wall, a little baby boy in the house, and a chance to help another mother, in the midst of a battle she once fought herself.
Heather says their ultimate goal is to reunite the mother with her son, so that once she's out of prison, she can be in that baby's life in whatever way she wants to be.
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