Nfld. & Labrador

'I realize I'm the fool,' man says of addiction after girlfriend's death

A Newfoundland man is sharing the story about his girlfriend's drug use and death hoping it will help other addicts get help — before it's too late.

Steve Miller hopes other drug abusers will heed warning, get help

Addict warning of drug abuse

7 years ago
Duration 2:22
Steve Miller is warning other addicts to get help after his girlfriend's death two weeks ago

A Burin Peninsula man is hoping by telling the story of his girlfriend's death other drug addicts will realize it's time to get help.

Steve Miller is a drug addict and has been taking percocet and oxycodone pills for about a decade. He and his girlfriend crushed and injected pills to get through their days.

I was playing with fire all this time and I imagined that I would be the one that got burned. I wish it had been me.- Steve Miller

Miller said his girlfriend, whom CBC has agreed not to identify, took what he considered to be a small amount of drugs two weeks ago with fatal consequences.

"She had three quarters of a pill left of an oxy 80, so 60 milligrams I guess it would be, and her tolerance would normally have made something like that completely negligible," he said.

"For some reason as soon as she did the drug she came to me and she told me that something didn't feel right, and within seconds of that her breathing became difficult."

Miller said he called an ambulance to get his girlfriend help, but while they were waiting she lost consciousness. When they arrived at the hospital, Miller said medical staff worked on his girlfriend for an hour, but her heart had stopped.

"People are playing with fire — I was playing with fire all this time and I imagined that I would be the one that got burned. I wish it had been me," he said.

Wake-up call with a steep cost

According to Miller, he and his girlfriend hadn't been getting high just for the sake of it. Rather, they were just trying to maintain status quo.

"The brain of an addict is severely different from a normal functioning person because it makes you believe that you need that just to be yourself. Me and my girlfriend, we weren't doing drugs so we could get out of it," he said.

"We were just doing it so that we wouldn't be sick, so that we could carry on with the day-to-day functions. Such a low dose, that's all it was intended to do. It was meant to make it so that we weren't sick and now she's gone because of that."

Meanwhile, Miller said he's overwhelmed with guilt that he didn't try harder to give up his drug habit, but he hopes the story of his girlfriend's death will give others a wake-up call.

"It blows my mind that it took something like this for me to realize it. I'm not a stupid person, but when people would tell me the risks it was always people who weren't in the scene, so I always thought they didn't know what they were talking about," he said.

"Now I realize I'm the fool. And at what cost?"

Miller said his girlfriend's family has given him a keepsake to remember her by, and he plans to enrol in a rehab program soon.

He hopes by sharing this story he could help save someone's life.

Spiralling through community

The news of the woman's death has shocked people on the Burin Peninsula. RCMP Sgt. Dale Foote said when it comes to addicts, it's not just the person and immediate family that deal with drug abuse.
RCMP Sgt. Dale Foote says drug addiction doesn't just impact the addict and their family, but spirals out into the community. (CBC)

"It tears apart families, tears apart relationships and marriages and then of course moves outside where the need to feed the addiction damages the extended family and the grandparents with regards to the thefts, the stealing and trying to supply and feed their habits," said Foote.

"We see an increase in armed robberies. So all those things, it's not to blame it on the addictions, but those are the type of things that you see spiralling from basic addictions."

While drug users tend to start abusing at a young age, Foote said there's a noticeable shift in the kinds of drugs being used by young people.

"Twenty years ago, young people started using hashish, marijuana. It's not uncommon today to have young people using prescription medications in their early teens," said Sgt. Dale Foote.

"It's different types of drugs. They are still starting at young ages, but it seems to be a focus on harder drugs or more addictive drugs."

Meanwhile, some people in the community have organized public meetings to talk about addressing the growing drug problem in the Burin Peninsula region.