States of Addiction: The journey of a former heroin user from tragedy to triumph

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — “So often we bring you stories about the opioid crisis filled with statistics -numbers of over doses, damaged families, and deaths. Yet behind these numbers are people – our neighbors, our friends, our family,” said 13 News Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis.

Meet Julia Wickline. The fact that she’s alive and walking down her street in Saint Albans, is nothing short of a miracle.

“It was pretty bad. I was a two-gram a day IV heroin user, I was working as an escort. My life revolved around either getting money to get drugs, or getting drugs. The people I surrounded myself with were all users. I was a mess, I looked horrible. I was selling my body to get money for drugs,” said Julia Wickline, who is in substance use recovery.

One of the people she revolved around, was her fiance, 33 year old Will Butler. She even made a Tik Tok video of their relationship. But on October 23, 2019, Will vanished. The next day police found him in an alley near their home, dead of a drug overdose.

“It was the worse thing I’ve probably ever been through. You know, I felt helpless, I felt guilty. You know, because any heroin he would have had, would have been some I got for us,” said Wickline.

A few weeks later, still distraught, and grief stricken, Wickline tried to commit suicide by shooting up a full gram of heroin all at once. But, the next day, she woke up.

“You know I was cursing God, basically saying, ‘what do you want me to do?’ And you know I just kept thinking that I needed to go to Recovery Point,” Wickline said.

Recovery Point is a highly-regarded drug treatment program on Charleston’s West Side. Julia had been there once before, but dropped out. This time she thrived. Through her faith and many sobriety meetings with others, she has been clean for a year and a half. On this day there were 25 people in the room all working on their sobriety. Julia helped lead the group.

“To let things just flow the way they’re going to flow. I can’t change other people, I can only change me. And that’s all I got.” said Wickline. The group members said, “Thanks, Julia! Thanks, Julia!”

“At the age of 38, Julia Wickline says she is not done writing her story just yet. She may go back to college and finish a degree in psychology or social work, in continuing to help others,” said Mark Curtis.

Wickline is also the resident adviser at a Shirley Temple sober house in Saint Albans, living with four other women in recovery. She even went back to school to become a Certified Recovery Coach. Amanda McDaniel went through recovery with Julia, and now works for the Shirley Temple organization. She says recovery coaches like Julia, are critical.

“That they have been at their very lowest of lows, and then they have come up so high. It gives the people that are in the program, a sense of encouragement,” said Amanda McDaniel, of the Shirley Temple Sober House.

Julia is thrilled to be a recovery coach.

“It’s great to be in recovery. I can sit and watch the light come back in people’s eyes. You know that’s just the best part about it, watching people get better,” Wickline said.

“Julia’s is hoping her sobriety and continued success, will allow her to regain her visitation rights to her 10 year old son,” said 13 News Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis.

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