MARION – Her smiling, brown-haired, apple-cheeked son raced up to her for the occasional reassuring hug. Then he was down on the floor again driving his toy truck over the carpeted floor in the courtroom office.
Unaware as he was, 3 1/2-year-old Mason Thacker was the motivation his mother, Crystal Bonsel, said she needed to commit to stop using heroin.
Bonsel said she slid into opiate addiction shortly after she suffered a broken tailbone while giving birth to her son in the summer of 2010 and was prescribed Vicodin.
“Then the Vicodins weren’t strong enough, and I went to a doctor to get Percocets,” the 33-year-old Marion resident said. “I was on Percocets for quite a few months. Those stopped working so I got Perc 30s and methadone. Eventually, I couldn’t get the Perc 30s (30-milligram Percocet pills)…,” and she turned to heroin in May 2012.
“It started out something small and turned out something nasty and big,” she said.
Shortly after the birth of a daughter, whom she gave up for adoption soon after, in August 2012, she tested positive for having opiates in her system. The test was no surprise to Bonsel, who said her addiction had progressed from pain pills to heroin during the last months of the pregnancy.
As a result of the test and, she suspects the quick adoption, Marion County Children Services opened an investigation, and Mason was removed from her custody, first to an aunt, eventually to a foster home, and she continued to use heroin.
Initially, she used money she made with her job to buy heroin, then spent money she made from giving her daughter up for adoption.
“It got to a point I started committing thefts at stores, then I tried manipulating my family, saying I needed money for insurance,” she said. “Manipulation was a big game for me.”
From July 2012 to June 2013, she was charged six times with theft in Marion Municipal Court and once with complicity to theft in Delaware Municipal Court.
“I kept getting charged with theft after theft after theft,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is getting a little out of hand.'”
Despite a stay at Talbot Hall in Columbus for addiction recovery services, which she said she agreed to at her family’s urging, she continued using heroin, until after being convicted in Delaware County and serving time in its jail.
“I wasn’t ready, I guess,” she said. “I wasn’t done.”
She said she didn’t want to go back to the Delaware County Jail and called Marion County Family Court for help. “I went to my son’s visitation because I was allowed visitation. That’s what really snapped me. I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ I was homeless. I had my truck that I lived in, and that was it.”
During her visit with her son, she said she was clean and had energy she didn’t have when she was using heroin. “We played and jumped around …, and he said, ‘Mommy, when am I going to go home with you? Why are you still sick?’ It hit me. I went out and cried in my truck. I was praying to God … ‘Just get me some help.’ That’s when I had an emotional breakdown. I had an emotional breakdown, but a spiritual awakening.”
She contacted Marion County Family Dependency Treatment Court and with the help of Julie McGinnis, the court’s specialized docket coordinator, she entered Marion Area Counseling Center’s Foundations Recovery Center, a residential treatment facility for people trying to recover from drug and/or alcohol addiction.
While there, she got clean but, in part she suspects because she missed her son’s July 4 birthday, had a relapse “not on a drug of my choice,” she said, referring to cocaine. “Luckily, I was not kicked out of Foundations for that.”
Counselors worked with her on the relapse, and she became sober again.
“I really applied myself at Foundations,” she said. “The program’s a good program for me. It gets you back on a routine.” She said she left Foundations early because of “drama, … but what I had learned I took with me out on the streets.”
Her father helped her find a place to live and she secured a temp job at a factory and continued in the Family Dependency Treatment Court program, having regular visits with court personnel and undergoing random drug tests, receiving custody of her son again in December.
She said Family Court Judge Robert Fragale has been a valuable resource.
“He’s one you can’t manipulate,” she said. “When you come into that room, he expects honesty. And when you’re honest, he’s there for you 100 percent.”
Recently, her job was eliminated at the manufacturing plant, but she said through her addiction treatment and sobriety she can deal with the setback.
“There’s got to be a reason,” she said. “There’s got to be something in store for me. It’s definitely not a reason to go back to using. I try to manage my emotions rather than let them take control of me. I lost everything because I was using. That’s not a price that I wanted to pay. I’m not going to get anything taken away again.”
She said she’s glad to know the number of programs and people trying to help individuals recover from drug addiction is growing, but cautions others trying to recover that it’s a difficult task.
“You’re going to have roadblocks in life,” she said. “It’s not supposed to be easy. A lot of people don’t believe in themselves, or they don’t have support or they think they don’t have support.”
She said addicts can tend to be defensive when they feel judged by others, but have to gain self-assurance if they want to recover.
Referring to those she feels judged by, she said she holds fast to her commitment to her son and herself: “I was a junkie, yes, you’re right. I’m not now.”
By: John Jarvis – Marion Star