Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a three-part series. The second installment will run in Wednesday’s edition of The Commercial Dispatch, and the final installment will print in Thursday’s newspaper.
Brad Haines spent three long nights in his upstairs cell, horrible questions filling his mind.
How long would it be until he was free? Would his ex-wife ever let him see his daughter again? At the end of this nightmare, would anyone even be waiting in the parking lot to pick him up?
Arrested for possession of a controlled substance and booked into Lowndes County Adult Detention Center on March 15, 2013, Haines thought his life was over. Really, it was just beginning.
That fateful date has served as a de facto dividing line in Haines’ life. Before it, there was addiction, loss and pain; after it, redemption, love and promise.
Now more than eight years sober, the Heritage Academy assistant is right where he’s supposed to be: standing in the first-base coaches’ box wearing a blue windbreaker, a baseball cap and a smile.
“Looking back, I never thought I’d be here where I am,” Haines said. “It’s not like I’m a celebrity who’s got millions and millions of dollars, but I’m as happy as I could possibly be here today.”
No more pain
Haines was back in his old outfield when the pain returned.
A 1995 New Hope High School graduate, Haines served as an assistant for the Trojans from 2000 to 2005. He and current Heritage Academy head coach Chris Ball both volunteered on Stacy Hester’s staff, working for Hester’s landscaping business during the day to earn money.
During one fateful outfield drill in 2004, Haines was demonstrating to the young Trojans how to play balls at the fence and avoid collisions with the wall. He leapt in the air, and when he came down, his back seized up. Spasms shot down his leg.
Haines knew immediately he’d re-aggravated an injury he suffered while flipping a four-wheeler tooling around with friends in fall 2003. In immense pain, he left practice right away and drove to an urgent care clinic, where he was given a few muscle relaxants and pain pills to ease the discomfort.
Haines took the pills. The pain persisted.
After two or three months, Haines’ doctor Jerry Turner told him that taking pills for the rest of his life wouldn’t be an option. The doctor referred him to a specialist: Dr. Michael White, who operated a pain clinic on Bluecutt Road.
Hoping for a permanent solution to the unrelenting pain, Haines walked into White’s treatment room to a surprise: There was no bed with a soft tan surface and crinkly white paper laid across the top. In its place was a table with two chairs. He took one.
Less than 15 minutes later, White walked in. The doctor got right to the point, asking the only three questions he needed to. Haines answered them: His pain was a 5 out of 10 on a normal day, an 8 at worst. Yes, he had trouble sleeping. Yes, he had anxiety or depression — he couldn’t work and couldn’t pay the bills.
Less than two minutes after White entered the room, Haines walked out. In his hands were three prescriptions. He had them filled at a local pharmacy on his way home.
When he returned to his house in New Hope, Haines looked at the small white paper bag he’d just been handed. Inside it was a 30-day respite from pain, all the drugs Haines seemingly could ever need: 180 Lortab, 90 Percocet and 30 Xanax in little orange bottles.
“Immediately, it was like, ‘Jackpot,’” Haines said. “‘I’m not going to hurt no more.’”
Finding a fix
Within a week of his visit to White’s clinic, Haines was on the way to becoming a “full-fledged addict.”
It started small. For the first couple months, he took the recommended dosage: one pill every four hours or whatever he was told. Soon, that was no longer enough.
Haines went through his prescription refills faster and faster. He’d call the doctor’s office with an inventive lie: He’d stayed in a hotel the prior night but had lost his suitcase containing his medication. That story was good for two or three refills before the receptionist began to catch on.
“I burned so many relationships just being dishonest and disloyal,” Haines said. “I just wasn’t a good dude.”
He and a few friends and fellow addicts even kept a schedule of when each of their refills would come each month so they could buy pills from one another. Through that wretched calendar, they began to hear about bona-fide dealers, buying entire bottles for $5 a tablet. Haines bought pills roughly every 10 days, and he never got fewer than 100 — a considerable expense. One friend got in with someone who worked inventory for a pharmacy, pilfering whole bottles of pills and selling them to Haines and other addicts for $100 a bottle.
“It’s crazy how bad you can be as a drug addict,” Haines said. “You’re the most creative person ever trying to figure out how you can get that fix.”
As his addiction deepened, one pill every four hours became, at worst, 40 or 50 in a day. The pills numbed the pain, but they had other effects.
In spring 2012, Haines was slumped in his favorite chair in his downstairs man cave one day after work when his daughter Marlee came up to him. The 6-year-old, a member of a local wee-ball team coached by a couple family friends, asked her dad to play “bat-and-ball” — her word for baseball — with him.
Haines, two Lortab and two Xanax in, refused. Marlee asked a second time, but again, Haines pushed her away. Drained by the pills, he fell asleep in the chair.
When he woke up more than three hours later, Marlee was in bed. Haines came in to check on her and wished her goodnight, but she wasn’t happy.
“‘I’m mad at you,’” she informed him. “‘You wouldn’t play bat and ball with me.’”
Haines, flabbergasted, had no idea what she meant. Their earlier conversation was gone completely from his mind.
His wife, Shelley, spelled things out in the clearest of terms.
“She wanted you to go play baseball,” she told him. “The guy that loves baseball, his daughter wants you to play baseball, and you’re so high on pills you can’t go out there and play baseball with her.”
That was enough of a wake-up call.
“I said, ‘I’ve got to change,’” Haines said. “‘I’ve got to stop.’”