HUNTINGTON - If you would have asked Jennifer Wilson just more than a year ago if she was doing OK, she would have replied with a resounding "yes."
But then, Child Protective Services intervened and her three children were placed in foster care.
"That's something I'm going to always have to live with," the 34-year-old Huntington mother said. "They are always going to have that memory of finding me overdosed."
Wilson grew up in Cleveland. When she was 17, she had back surgery. She was prescribed Vicodin for the pain.
At first, everything was fine. She was taking her medication as prescribed. In fact, she started taking less because she didn't like how it made her feel.
But then the pain got too strong.
"Then I started taking more, and more," Wilson said. "Then I started to like the way they made me feel. I was on Vicodin for two years, but it wasn't out of control. It was prescribed by a doctor, so I felt like everything was OK."
Wilson then moved to Huntington in 2010 with a now ex-boyfriend. Together, they started experimenting with other prescription pain pills.
Eventually, they couldn't find any more prescription pills, and they moved to heroin.
"I was on heroin for two-plus years," she said. "At first I was just using it just because. But then I needed it. It went from a want to a need. Then when you don't have it, you withdraw, and it makes you dope sick."
Wilson's boyfriend eventually ended up in jail.
"We were shooting up, and he was shooting me up because I didn't know how," she said. "When he went to jail, I was screwed. I had to figure out for myself how to do this. I probably missed more than I got of the drug, but I got the hang of it. I know, something to brag about, right? Learning how to shoot yourself up."
Wilson being alone also meant she did not have to share anymore, and that's when she said her life really started to spiral.
"I was still taking my kids to school, still going to football games, still thinking in my head I'm doing everything a mom is supposed to do," she said. "And I think I'm doing it well, because hey, I'm doing drugs but my son is at football practice. My daughter is at dance. I'm doing great, when really I wasn't at all."
Wilson said she thought nobody knew her secret drug habit.
"Truth is, everybody knew," she said.
Her disease progressed, and she started using more.
"You get to a point where you have a bill, but you think, 'I can pay that within the next two weeks, I'm going to go ahead and get some more,' " she said. "Then you end up with your lights shut off, and you are sitting up there shooting dope with a flashlight, and you are thinking everything is OK while your kids are sitting downstairs in the dark."
She overdosed only twice, but it was in the same life-changing week.
"The first one wasn't so bad because I woke up from it after a few minutes," Wilson said. "The second one was in the next few days. That's the one that did it."
Wilson's 8-year-old daughter found her.
"She ran to go get help, but she said she found a needle there," Wilson said, tears in her eyes at the thought. "They were hesitating to go get help because there was a needle laying there. If the police come, what's going to happen? They ended up getting rid of the needle themselves. And, um, they called the ambulance. I was dead."
The police came, followed by CPS.
"They said, 'We are going to have to take your kids,' " Wilson said. "I said, 'No you're not.' They said, 'We are going to have to place your kids. We don't find you fit to take care of your kids.' And in my head, I'm still thinking how are you not finding me fit? I'm still thinking everything is great, and my kid had just found me on the floor."
As soon as CPS, along with her children, pulled out of the parking lot, Wilson was at her drug dealer's front door.
"I was lost," Wilson said. "It's hard to explain. You know you are alive, but it's like you can't breathe. I still got high, and I used way more because I was just like, eff everything. My kids are gone."
Wilson was also facing criminal charges. She had been arrested, while her kids were in school, a few weeks before her overdoses.
"It was over," Wilson said.
For three weeks, Wilson used more heavily than she ever had. But then, her hopelessness changed to anger.
"I'm going to show them," she said. "They aren't just going to take my kids and think here are three more kids awarded to the state and just another deadbeat junkie mom that's not going to get her kids back."
Though she was still in an addict state-of-mind, another part of her knew something had to change or she would lose her kids forever.
So, Wilson showed up to Her Place, a women's resource center now run by Recovery Point of Huntington.
Her Place helped her get into six-day detox at Prestera Center.
"I get out, and I have to go back to my house and that's where I used at," Wilson said. "You are only six days clean, and you have to go back to the same environment, same neighborhood, same dope man down the street, you can throw a rock and hit him. Your will has to be so strong, and I thank God that mine was."
Wilson continued to visit Her Place every day, and she was granted time by the court to get treatment for addiction before she was sentenced in her criminal case.
She entered a 28-day program at Prestera's Pinecrest center, and she was determined to absorb as many lessons as she could in that time.
After completing the program, she continued with classes at Her Place, started actively searching for a job and continued visitations with her children. She was also sentenced to a year of home confinement, which she will finish in May.
Wilson was also reunited with her children, just six months after they drove away from her home with CPS.
"On my last court date with CPS, the judge looked at me and said 'Miss Wilson, I am so proud of you.' He said, 'I am so proud, I am going to return your kids back to you today. All the years I have been doing this, I have never seen anybody get their kids back in six months,' " Wilson said. "He said, 'You truly are an inspiration.' Then my CPS worker said the same. She said it's unrealistic that you got your kids back in six months. And I said, because I wanted them back. You have to want it. Recovery, people may need it. You can go to rehab for grandma and grandpa. You can go for mom and dad. You can go for your kids. But if you don't go for yourself, you will be back. You will be back in that treatment facility. You will be back in the jails and institutions. That's what I've learned. You have to do it for yourself before anything else. Anything you put in front of your recovery, you will lose."
Next month, Wilson will celebrate one year being sober. She has a job, and has gotten a promotion and a raise since starting it.
The detectives from her criminal case visit her at work often, and tell her how proud they are.
"I hated them," she said. "I hated CPS. I hated the officers in my house when they arrested me. I tried to fight everybody. Because it wasn't my fault. But now I know it is my fault. That hate turned into a blessing. My kids being taken was the biggest blessing ever. If they hadn't been taken, I probably would be dead."
Wilson said she would not trade her life today for the world. She said it's the little things, like being able to get her kids ice cream from the ice cream truck or being able to purchase her daughter's track clothes.
She has a bachelor's degree in herself, and she's hoping to get a Ph.D.
If you or someone you love needs help with addiction recovery, call West Virginia's free hotline 24/7 at 1-800-HELP4WV.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.