CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Human trafficking, child prostitution, opioid addiction - these were realities of life for one Charlotte woman.
Why did she want to share her story? She says most of the friends and other kids she knew caught up in these drugs aren’t here anymore - because they have died of overdose.
She wants to open up to help people in our area understand how real and active the problems of human trafficking and deadly addiction are.
“I had been exploited so much I needed something to make me numb," said Ivy Joines, a human trafficking survivor.
That exploitation started early for Ivy Joines.
At 14 years old she had just had a baby and did not know what to do. She felt ashamed and did not want to disappoint her family, so at 15 she ran away from her Charlotte home.
“When I ran off I got caught up into human trafficking," said Joines. “I wasn’t sure what I was running to, I didn’t know I was running straight into prostitution.”
Ivy spent her teens years being shipped around the southeast U.S., Caribbean islands, then to the Middle East, where she was raped.
“My nail beds were bent back from dragging my fingernails across the wood when I was being dragged out of my hotel," said Joines.
Left broken and abused, she needed to feel that numbness.
“I asked the other girls in this ring with me, how do you do this, how do you do this and it not bother you?” said Joines.
A short, simple answer. A solution to make it through her work day: Drugs.
“We’re speaking of child prostitution and I realized how easy it was for me to get through that. So I kept doing it," said Joines.
For years. The addiction set in unlike anything she expected.
“This is like a monster riding your back that says ‘if you don’t choose me today, I’ll choose you, which means I’ll eat you alive,’” said Joines.
“It becomes a sort of chemical dependency very quickly," said Erik Wright, general manager for Eleanor Health North Carolina.
Wright works with addiction recovery at Eleanor Health, a healthcare facility that recently opened in Mooresville to help people struggling with addiction by first helping them with their mental health.
“We want to find the root cause and take it from there,” said Bree Thompson, a community recovery partner with Eleanor Health.
Joines says mental health was the issue for her.
“It started with mental health. I had never dealt with it and chose a substance to get through it,” said Joines.
After watching friends die all around her and expecting the same for herself, she was nearing rock-bottom.
“I had already made my mind up that I was going to die from this,” said Joines.
Then something clicked for Joines - her young daughters needed her. She did not want them to grow up without their mother, being teased about her or anything else.
She decided it was time to fight the monster. She started talking to counselors and got back in school.
Now, going on a decade later, Joines works as a chef around uptown Charlotte.
“I shock myself every morning I wake up... eight years clean. Never touched it, never thought about it,” said Joines. "I traded my old life for a new life, and I want you to know I struggle every day moving forward... I’d do anything to prove that the help is out there.”
If you or someone you love is dealing with any sort of addiction to alcohol or drugs, the Eleanor Health Clinic in Mooresville offers a holistic approach to treatment. Their office number is 704-799-0202 for appointment inquiries.