Mom Celebrates One Year Clean After Heroin Overdose Photo Went Viral

Erika Hurt was recovering in jail when she first learned that her heroin overdose had been captured on film and shared with the world.

Erika Hurt was recovering in jail when she first learned that her heroin overdose had been captured on film and shared with the world.

The young mother had suffered a nearly fatal OD with her infant son in the backseat of the car parked in a Dollar General store parking lot in Hope, Ind., on Oct. 22, 2016.

“I don’t remember much,” Hurt, 26, told of the day.

Hurt had made it two weeks at home after a 42-day stint in rehab when she decided to use heroin again.

“I was miserable, I had nowhere to turn to... I was just feeling real helpless,” she said. “I just gave myself permission to use and that was the day I overdosed.”

Hurt had to be revived with narcan, but before the life-saving opioid antidote was administered, first responders snapped a photo.

The image is jarring. In it, Hurt can be seen passed out with a syringe in her hand. Her son Parker, then only 10 months old, sat crying in the back seat.

Police in Hope released the photo to the public.

Hurt was jailed for violating probation in connection to a 2014 arrest when the picture made national news.

“I was shocked, I was humiliated, I was angry at the police," she said. "I wanted to blame them for exposing me. I still couldn’t take responsibility for what I had done.”

But more than a year since the photo was taken, Hurt now calls it a blessing.

“I’m able to look at that picture and I’m able to remind myself — that’s where my addiction is always going to leave me,” she said. “I have proof now.”

Hurt was first exposed to painkillers when she contracted a staph infection at 15 years old.

“The doctor prescribed pain pills — and when the prescription ran out... I bought them off the street,” she said.

Less than four years passed before she was addicted to heroin.

“I started stealing to support my habit; I was going to any measure to support my next fix,” Hurt said. “I finally realized I had an addiction and had a problem that needed medical attention at 21 years old.”

Hurt got clean in 2014 during an eight-month stay in jail and stayed clean throughout her pregnancy with Parker.

But two months after her baby was born, Hurt found herself turning to opioids.

Though she returned to rehab, Hurt again began using. The first time she overdosed was her last, she said.

“I was shocked; I had no words,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that had happened to me.”

She said the photo that captured her at her lowest — and most importantly, the threat of losing her son — helped her get clean for good.

Hurt pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent and was given a two-year suspended jail sentence that required her to go to an inpatient drug rehab program.

“I spent about two months in jail, waiting for my court date, and then was sentenced to a six-month-long inpatient program,” Hurt said. “What caused me to have the true want and desire to stay sober was my son. Me being away from him really hurt our bond. I missed his first birthday, I missed his first Thanksgiving, I missed his first steps, his first words – each time he hit a new milestone, I had to live that painful moment of not being there for him.”

After completing the inpatient program, Hurt moved in with her mother and was able to reconnect with her son.

She attends numerous court-mandated rehab and self-help meetings each week and works up to 64 hours per week at a plastic injection factory.

And on Oct. 22, 2017, Hurt celebrated one year sober.

“During my [first] sobriety period... I had forgotten where my addiction had taken me," she said. "I started telling myself my addiction wasn’t that bad. That picture is a reminder.”