GREENSBURG — For many years, local service agencies offering relief and assistance for substance abuse and addiction were few and far between.

Cornerstone, Alcoholics Anonymous and the criminal justice system were among the few options available for people caught in the grip of substance abuse and addiction. And those options were sometimes difficult to utilize simply because of the large number of individuals dealing with the issue.

But that has changed.

Janelle Coomer was born in 1980 to very young parents. At 15 and 17 years of age, they were not quite strong enough to be on their own yet, so for the first six years of Janelle’s life she lived with her parents and her grandparents.

Living in Hope, Indiana, Janelle remembers being taken to church every Sunday by her grandmother.

“I came from a very angry household. I spent most of my childhood angry,” she said. “And there was always something around, usually alcohol, but there were pills, too.”

At 12, Janelle remembers three stays at the Columbus Behavioral Center where she began dealing with a past of hidden sexual abuse. Experimenting with smoking pot at 14, Janelle was riding in the car with her boyfriend when they were in a serious automobile accident.

“My back was broken and they prescribed morphine. ... I spent three months in bed in a back brace, heavily medicated. That’s when I first found a way to be numb,” she said. “I remember thinking I was going to live a very different life than the one I had. I was going to be a free spirit and I was going to travel.”

Pregnant at 19 and then again at 21 after meeting her first husband, she recalls being sober during both pregnancies.

“But that never lasted long, and then I was right back into it — looking for ways to stay numb,” she said.

Janelle said her husband tried to “love her” into happiness.

“The more he tried to fix me, the angrier I became, and I was a hair stylist, standing all day, so I took lots of pills and nerve medication, too. I was a walking zombie,” she said. “My whole life I had this hole inside me, like I was missing something important. And I was always so angry at something. Well, drugs made me numb, they filled that hole for me for a little while. And I was never one of those people who didn’t have a job. I was never one of those people who couldn’t handle life — until I turned to heroin.”

The Way Out

Her husband left her when she was 30.

“He just gave up on me. He says her remembers me eating a cheeseburger and just passing out while I was eating, and that’s when I started shooting up heroin,” she said.

Her mother took a snapshot of her when she overdosed.

“I hated that picture, but now it’s an important part of my testimony,” she said.

To obtain her much needed “fix,” she remembers having to do things that she’d never done, talk to people she’d never thought possible.

Trying several treatment facilities in Indiana and also in Florida, she admits she was never seeking sobriety.

She also recalls being in a full-blown meth induced hysteria when the police came to investigate.

“I remember being at home and high on meth, and one of the police women came to me and said, ‘You’re scaring your children. Whatever you’re on, you need to stop!’ It was terrifying for my kids. Some of the things they saw will follow them the rest of their lives.”

Finally, addiction took complete hold and Coomer found herself homeless.

“I remember carrying a bag and hiding in people’s sheds. I hid under a trailer for three days at one time,” she said.

Ending up living in Versailles State Park, she was arrested and taken to the Decatur County Jail.

“There were briers in my hair and blisters on my feet that I don’t remember. It was really the bottom for me,” she said. “I was finally one of those crazy, drugged out homeless people we talk about it.”

Feeling Loved

When shw was incarcerated in the Decatur County Jail she was given a Life Recovery Bible.

“That’s when I first felt loved,” she said.

The Gideons started visiting her in jail. She told them she had no clothing other than what she wore. Her children were all living with grandparents.

“I was not in a position where I could take care of anyone, least of all myself, and those Gideon ladies tried to get me a room at TLC but I didn’t take advantage it,” she said.

Eventually released from jail, she again went to live with her husband and children.

“He said that’s when he noticed a change. Something was different in me. I was going to AA, but there weren’t very many people there and always more men than women, but I always felt a little out of place,” she said.

Celebrate Recovery seemed to be a place she could fit in.

“I could say openly that I was a Christian, but I was also an addict. I was sitting in the back of the church looking at Teresa Ruble and I said to myself, ‘I want to be that one day,’” she said.

Coomer got a job, got her driver’s license back, and joined Celebrate Recovery. She remembers participating in a discussion panel and hearing someone in the crowd say Greensburg would never be accepting of addiction recovery groups.”

“But look at Greensburg now,” she said.

Coomer is now the director of Celebrate Recovery in Greensburg.

“I’m not healed from addiction, because I still feel like I have a thorn in my side, my thorn being my cravings, but that thorn helps me remember what others are going through,” she said. “And I think God lets me keep this thorn in my side to remember that I’m always just one decision away from addiction. Just one bad choice, and that’s all.”

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-3111, ext 217011 or email bill.rethlake@greensburgdailynews.com