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'I've been a meth addict since I was 13': Minnesota siblings discuss their struggle with addiction on Overdose Awareness Day - KSTP

"I've been a meth addict since I was 13 years old," he said. "I've been addicted on and off. But outside of treatment centers and jail, I really haven't had very long sobriety since I've been an addict."

Now 35, the father of two has used methamphetamine and, at times, heroin, for decades.

"Meth, I was injecting it, smoking it, snorting it. Pretty much every way you can do it," Beckman recalled.

But he's not the only one in his family struggling with substance abuse. 

Dillon's sister, Jaime, who's two years older and a mother of two girls, ages 8 and 9, has had her own fight.

"I started using meth when I was 15 and it's been — I mean, ever since, it's been nonstop," she said. "So it's been over 20 years, and I've paid the price. I've definitely paid the price, and our family has paid the price. It's been a long journey."

It's been a long and difficult journey for the Beckman siblings.

After growing up in North Branch, they say their father, Van, died in 2010 after years of heroin abuse.

The siblings say Trina, the mother of Dillon's two boys, ages 7 and 9, died in 2016 after a heroin overdose.

"Our family's been kind of cursed with drug addiction. I never really knew my dad until I was an adult," Dillon said. "My mom kind of kept him away from us, but even keeping him away from us, I still grew up to be a lot like him."

Sadly, their story isn't unique.

Experts say in a year dominated by news of the pandemic, there's another growing threat.

"We do know there have been a lot of opioid overdoses, opioid use has increased in the community," said Taylor Hohmann, the community and engagement manager for Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, a faith-based recovery program. "With fentanyl being on the streets, too, it's obviously very dangerous. A lot of people are overdosing and are scared, and are ready for help."

All of this happening as International Overdose Awareness Day fell on Tuesday.

The campaign comes as the Minnesota Department of Health says fatal overdoses have skyrocketed in the past 18 months and that the pandemic was a big factor.

MDH says in 2020, over 1,000 Minnesotans lost their lives after fatally overdosing.

The health department says that's a 27% increase from the year before.

At the same time, Hohmann says Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge has had 2,800 people in treatment so far this year, versus 2,400 people in all of last year.

"COVID definitely, I think, played a part in people turning to substances to fill up their empty time, to try to cope with the pandemic, and all it entailed," she noted. "I think it's a big cumulative thing."

Adult and Teen Challenge, along with the Steve Rummler HOPE Network, set up a booth at the Minnesota State Fair, inside the education building.

The organizations are sharing information about overdoses across Minnesota, and are demonstrating the use of lifesaving naloxone — a medication that can block the effects of opioids.

Alicia House, the executive director of the HOPE Network — a group that advocates for overdose awareness — says pandemic isolation has been a huge problem for those with substance abuse issues.

"I think COVID was definitely was a factor in that," she said. "Shutting them off from people, no longer being able to go to groups, narcotics anonymous meetings or reaching out for help or seeing loved ones. I think seclusion was probably a huge factor in potential overdose rates heightening."

House says the network has distributed 10,000 naloxone kits this year.

She says nearly 4,000 people have been admitted to the hospital for overdoses, a large increase.

Those lives saved, House says, are because someone administered naloxone or called 9-1-1.

Dillon says this was his third try for recovery at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. He says a judge essentially gave him an ultimatum.

"It's either finish this program or go to prison," Dillon said. "I'm glad I'm in the situation because it's going to keep me here through the program, and long enough for the program to actually start, you know, like taking form in my life."

Jaime is in her 10th month in recovery at Adult and Teen Challenge; Dillon is in his sixth.

The 12- to 13-month program includes individual and group counseling, and medication-assisted therapy.

The brother and sister hope to help others in the future by becoming recovery counselors and help their families, and themselves.

"I think young women or teenagers," Jaime said. "Young women with children that are trying to get their kids back from child protection. I think I that especially, just anything I can do to help people in recovery is what I would like to do."

"I would like to use my testimony or my experience with drugs to reach others and try to build hope in somebody else's life," Dillon added. "I've been so reckless and really getting a chance to value life and I realize how much my kids need me, but most of all, I want to do this for myself, you know, just trying to restore hope for my life."