Overdose survivor becomes recovery coach

Tarah Dorsey

Addiction hit Tarah Dorsey hard and fast from the time she began drinking and using drugs when she was 11 years old.

"Nobody wants to grow up and says, 'I want to be a junkie when I grow up. I want to be a loser when I grow up,'" Dorsey said Monday.

After her identical twin sister, Tiffany, was murdered in 2002, Dorsey turned to drugs to cope. She landed in prison for committing violent crimes.

"I lived like I didn't care anymore, and the disease progressed. I was to where, hopefully, I would die," Dorsey said.

Dorsey told NBC 10 that she overdosed on heroin while in prison but survived and decided to seek help. She ultimately became a recovery coach and now hopes others will face their addictions and get treatment.

Hearing about a recent spike in accidental overdose deaths in Rhode Island, though, worries her.

"It grieves my heart. Sometimes it makes me want to take somebody and just say, 'Listen, I know what's here for you.' But I remember when I was in that, people felt the same way about me," Dorsey said.

According to a release from the Rhode Island Department of Health, there have been nearly 100 confirmed accidental drug overdose deaths statewide so far in 2014. Many of them are tied to opioids such as heroin or fentanyl.

"Overdose is a terrible epidemic and this recent spike in July numbers, it's even more disheartening," Frank Spicola, director at SSTAR of Rhode Island, said. "However, it's preventable."

SSTAR of Rhode Island, based in North Kingstown, is a nonprofit organization that helps people "in the throes" of drug addiction, Spicola said.

At SSTAR, Spicola said, staff members are trained to administer Narcan or Naloxone, an emergency antidote for people who are overdosing.

Rhode Island EMS has administered more than 900 doses of Naloxone since the beginning of 2014. The Department of Health notes that while Naloxone can save a life, getting a person into treatment can prevent death.

Dorsey said she has had many friends die from drug overdoses and wants the cycle to end.

"I can't go back and save them and, you know, resurrect them," Dorsey said. "But what I do today, the loss inspires me to do the next right thing, (which) is to help the addict who's still suffering."