Time and again we hear about the tight grip drugs can have on a person.
A woman working as an optometrist in Watertown found that out when prescriptions turned her life upside down.
Melanie Weiss describes herself as driven; she always knew she wanted to be an optometrist.
She ended up opening her own clinic in Watertown.
But what she didn't see in her future: prescription drug addiction.
Melanie Weiss' addiction to painkillers dates back to around 2010 following several surgeries.
A habit she once thought she could overcome, spiraled out of control.
"First, it started me taking prescription pain medication from my family members, friends. Then I started going into friends' homes and taking their prescription pain medications," Weiss said.
In 2016 she was charged with burglary for taking medication from someone's home.
When Watertown Police arrested her she felt thankful.
"I actually sat in the back of the cop car and had this overwhelming sense of, 'This is finally done,'" Wiess said.
Volk: When your addiction peaked how many pills were you taking a day? Weiss: At its worst, I was probably taking 40 pills a day. Volk: Of strong pain medications. Weiss: Yes.
Weiss says she's clean now.
She uses that dark time in her life to help others see the light.
On Friday, she shared her story with students at a state Students Against Destructive Decisions Conference.
She wants kids and everyone else to know that when challenges arise, you can fight back.
"Life is not so bad that you can't pull yourself back up," Weiss said.
In fact, that's exactly what she's doing.
Weiss pleaded guilty to burglary and two counts of entering or remaining in a building.
She also had to spend time in jail.
She says her optometry license is suspended until January 2019.
Right now other doctors fill in for her at her clinic.
Watertown PO Article
A Watertown woman whose struggles with opioid addiction led to her optometry license being suspended will share her story with students at Roncalli High School and the public today (Thursday).
Weiss, 46, is owner of Weiss Eye Care Clinic in Watertown and is waiting for her optometrist license to be reinstated.
She was arrested in 2016 after she was caught stealing medications from another person. But Weiss said her addiction took her down a road that included writing prescriptions to herself and having members of her family fill them.
Ultimately, she was sentenced to 180 days in jail and given credit for 70 days spent in rehab.
Weiss said she got hooked when she was put on pain pills after three surgeries, the first of which was in 2010. By her third surgery, she said, the medication didn’t have the same effect, and she started taking more than the prescribed dose. By the time she was arrested, she said, she was taking 15 Vicodin a day.
“I know with how much I was taking, it wouldn’t have been much longer before I died of an opioid overdose,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday.
“The main thing I want people to know is, at least for me, the opiate part of it grabbed ahold of my entire thought process and actions so quickly, and I always kept thinking I could fight this on my own,” she said. “I truly didn’t realize I had an addiction until I went to treatment.”
As her addiction took hold and she started looking everywhere for the medication that would provide a fix, Weiss said she justified her actions but never thought about the consequences.
“My brain never let me think through what would happen,” she said.
No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get free from the pain pills on her own.
The consequences of her addiction have meant an 18-month suspension of her license to practice, and permanent loss of her Drug Enforcement Administration license, which gave her the ability to prescribe narcotics. The suspension of her optometry license should be lifted in January, according to records from the South Dakota Board of Examiners in Optometry.
Optometrists from Madison and Sioux Falls have seen Weiss’ customers in the interim as she continued with the day-to-day operation of her business.
Weiss said her story was supposed to be that of a successful businesswoman. Now it’s become a story of addiction and recovery.
“I never thought this was going to be my story,” she said.
Weiss was invited to speak by the Roncalli SADD chapter. SADD stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions.