Shannon, 22, has been in and out of jail and spent five months in a boot-camp program at the Tidewater Detention Center for Women for her heroin addiction. 

Erin Shannon's story

I have the most supportive parents in the world and they've tried everything," says Erin Shannon. "But when I get around heroin I just push them away." "I really don't have any chances left," she says. After she completes her time in residential treatment, she'll begin the intensive and highly supervised program required by the Richmond Adult Drug Treatment Court. "This is what I need," she says. Heroin defines Shannon's life. It has ever since she first used it five years ago when she was 16. Her habit, she says, cost her $200 a day. She admits she committed crimes to pay for it. Shannon, 22, has been in and out of jail and spent five months in a boot-camp program at the Tidewater Detention Center for Women. When she was released in April 1999, she says, "the first thing I did was find some dope." A week later she was back in jail. In July 1999, Shannon entered drug treatment at Rubicon, a residential treatment program. After her 90 days were up she stayed in Richmond, got a job and moved into a house run by recovering addicts. "I was working and living in recovery and going to NA," Narcotics Anonymous, she says. "I kind of felt like I could do it on my own and I didn't need any help." She was wrong. In two months Shannon relapsed and was caught using heroin again. Shannon spent nearly nine months in Richmond City Jail. Her lawyer and the drug court team fought to make sure she didn't go home — they wanted to get her into the drug-court program. If she had gone home, she says, she'd have starting using again. "This last time in jail broke me down," she says. A good friend overdosed on heroin and died while Shannon was locked up. "That's something I really think about." Shannon had been in rehab for less than a week when she was allowed to observe the drug-court graduation. "It takes a long time before your mind starts to clear," she says. "The longer you stay clean the more the real you comes out." She says she's starting to get her conscience back. Shannon doesn't know what the future holds. But one thing is certain: If she goes back to drugs she'll never be free. Still, she says, sometimes it's hard to imagine life without heroin. "My addiction has made me who I am. It's given me a view of all walks of life," Shannon says. But she says she's ready to do whatever it takes to give it it up. "They say when you start using drugs you stop maturing," Shannon says. "That's one of the things people have a hard time with when they get clean. They get out and everybody else has matured in their lives." Shannon says she's scared to death of the five years she could be forced to spend in jail if she quits the drug-court program. But she says she's even more afraid of her addiction. "When you're on drugs you're dying," she says. "That's all you're doing is dying. To me, if you can save one life, it's worth

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