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Baltimore woman shares heroin addiction story in TV special

Darlene Pope grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and became addicted to heroin at age 20. Now at 55, she's drug-free and shares her story during a special, statewide TV event. (Courtesy Darlene Pope)

WASHINGTON — She grew up in a part of Baltimore where the sunlight shone on drug deals taking place out in the open. When Darlene Pope turned 13, she began using marijuana. By age 20, she was hooked on heroin.

“I was so out of control with my heroin use that I was homicidal and suicidal,” said Pope.

It would take her years to break her dependency. Now 55 years old, Pope is one of three people who will be featured Saturday night in a Maryland Public Television special called “Breaking Heroin’s Grip: Road to Recovery.

Heroin’s tightening grip on Pope had her losing grip on her own life.

“At first, it was like, this was the ‘ultimate,’ not realizing that the ‘ultimate’ was going to take me down a path of hell,” she said.

As she focused on feeding her addiction in the 1980s, she eventually lost her job and her apartment, ending up in homeless shelters.

In 1991, after her family took her to an area hospital, Pope decided to work on ending her addiction. After leaving the hospital, she spent several months in recovery programs in Baltimore and Delaware.

Once she returned to Baltimore, she said her strength to stay away from heroin was tested on several occasions: Over the next four years, she had two miscarriages, one child was stillborn and her mother had died.

Pope says even during those dark moments, her former addiction did not pull her back. “I knew that if I did that, I would be dead,” she said.

Now she says she has no desire to go back to her old ways and focuses her life on counseling others who are in the same place she was more than two decades ago.

“So that I can reach down and help pull someone up, because someone reached down to pull me up,” Pope said.

The one-hour TV event will also feature a survivor from Calvert County, Maryland, and a survivor from Hagerstown, Maryland.

“Even if we just saved one person in this state from going down this road or ending up in a cemetery, it was all worth it,” said Ken Day, producer of the show.

During the show, the Maryland Behavioral Health Administration crisis hotline, 1-800-422-0009, will be taking calls from viewers in need of help.

“We know that a lot of people are going to be listening who are worried about their daughter, their son, their cousin, their wife,” Day said.

Pope’s story airs 11:35 p.m. Saturday on WUSA-TV in D.C and will be broadcast online. Here’s the full  list of other local stations that will be airing the program.

Below is a full-length video of the program.

Editor’s Note: This post has been edited since it was originally published in order to update the time the Maryland Public Television special “Breaking Heroin’s Grip: Road to Recovery” will air on WUSA-TV. The program is scheduled to broadcast 11:35 p.m. Saturday.


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