Former East Tennessee opioid addict says lifesaving drug changed her life

ROCKY TOP (WATE) – Angie Gilliam keeps a timer in her phone telling her how long she’s been sober.

“I’ve been clean for three years, three months, and on week.” said Angie Gilliam.

Gilliam says she started abusing opioids at the age of 15 when she was prescribed pain medication post-surgery.

“I was getting just, all kinds of Percocet written for me. I had to have more surgery. In between this, I was sexually assaulted. The depression and the self hatred, and the shame all became overwhelming,” said Gilliam.

It took 27 years for Gilliam to realize, she says, there was something more than her addiction. She spent time in jail, got a misdemeanor, and lost all contact with her daughter.

Related story: Opioid epidemic: 24 hours with the Knoxville Fire Department

“I pushed away and destroyed everything. I made that decision that I was going to take an overdose. That came to fruition on January 21.” she said.

January 2014 is when she overdosed and Knoxville Fire Department first responders gave her a shot of Narcan, also known as naloxone. She said when she woke up, she knew this was a second chance at life.

“Thank God I made the choice to quit.” said Gilliam.

In the three years since she’s been sober, Gilliam has made amends with her daughter, who is now working as a nurse. Gilliam says she is grateful to the first responders and her daughter for believing in her.

She said, “They’re committed to doing their job. It’s more than just a job. They gave me my life back.”

“We actually made a difference in someone’s life. That’s what we do. That’s why we’re here. We want to make a difference in people’s lives. We’re about saving lives, that’s what’s most important to us.” said Knoxville Fire Department Asst. Chief Mark Wilbanks.

Wilbanks was not one of the first responders that helped 3 years ago, but says, public service is why first responders do their jobs.

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