Three years ago, Erika Hurt pulled into a dollar store parking lot in Hope, Ind., around lunchtime to shoot up heroin before visiting her mother.

Eager for a fix, it didn’t matter that her 10-month-old son, Parker, was watching from his car seat, she said.

“I’d taken him with me before on drug deals,” said Hurt, who was then 25. “It was an extremely low point in my life.”

She overdosed that day and was found by police slumped behind her wheel with a needle in her hand as Parker cried in the back seat. An image of her was captured by the body camera of an officer from the Hope Police Department and then released to the public. It quickly went viral as a startling reminder of the nation’s opioid epidemic.

After medics gave Hurt two doses of Narcan to reverse her overdose and revive her, she said, her mother was called to the scene to retrieve Parker as she was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.

“When I found out later that the photo the police posted had gone viral … I felt incredibly ashamed and humiliated,” said Hurt, now 28. “I was worried about losing my son and wondered how I would ever get sober.”

Three years later, Hurt is now going viral for another photo — this one showing her sobriety. She posted on The Addict’s Diary Facebook page a few days after the third anniversary of her Oct. 22, 2016, overdose and sobriety date.

Millions saw me overdose after a photo taken of me by a police officer went viral. None of those people have seemed to...

Posted by The Addict's Diary on Saturday, October 26, 2019

“Millions saw me overdose after a photo taken of me by a police officer went viral,” wrote Hurt above an image of her in her car juxtaposed with a new happy photo of her and Parker, now 3, holding signs that read, “Narcan saved my life,” and “Now I get to have my mommy.”

“None of those people have seemed to have time to reach out and check on me, so here is an update,” Hurt continued in her post. “Today I celebrated three years clean and my son gets to have his mommy back. How about you make THAT go viral!"

That is exactly what happened.

“It feels good — I wanted to let everyone know that I’m doing well now and that Narcan saved my life,” said Hurt, a single mom who now works as a quality control analyst in a factory that makes car battery covers. “I know without a doubt I could have died that day.”

She also posted other pictures from the photo shoot, by Ali Elizabeth Photography, taken by her friend Ali Kiel, on her own Facebook page.

You guysssss!! 😭😭😭 Today marks THREE ENTIRE YEARS of sobriety for me! Y'all already know, but allow me to recap. 3...

Posted by Erika Hurt on Tuesday, October 22, 2019

She’s since been inundated with messages of support and congratulations from both friends and strangers.

“For those of you who are coming to my profile to send me encouraging messages; I would like you all to know that I am so grateful for each and everyone of you and you guys are a very large part of what keeps me sober,” she wrote. “I have been receiving THOUSANDS of messages; almost too many to keep up.”

Hurt said she was 15 when she became addicted to pain pills after she was treated for a staph infection. When her prescription ran out, she began buying pain medication from a friend, she said.

“Then when I was 18, I went to her house to buy pain pills and she introduced me to heroin,” Hurt said. “It helped to calm me and I forgot about my pain. For the next four years, I was hooked.”

To support her burgeoning habit, Hurt stole television sets and electronics from a local Walmart, she said, and traded them for drugs.

“My mom was on to me, and when she stopped enabling me, I moved in with friends off and on,” she said. “I knew the chances of overdosing were high, but it got to the point where I didn't care. Because then I would be free of my addiction."

Hurt had done a few stints in jail for theft and drug possession, she said, and for almost two years, after kicking heroin while behind bars and taking rehab classes, she managed to stay clean.

“But then, when I became pregnant, two months after Parker was born, I relapsed and started using again,” she said. “On the day I overdosed, I'd pulled over to inject because I didn't want to do it at my mom's house. Obviously, I felt shame."

After her overdose, Hurt spent two more months in the Bartholomew County Jail, followed by six months in a court-ordered rehab program.

When her mother, Jami Smith, brought Parker to visit twice a week, she always ended up crying because her son didn’t know who she was, she said.

“He was only 1 and he was very unsure about me because I’d been out of his life for so many months,” Hurt said. “I’d missed all of his milestones: His first words, his first steps, his first birthday, Halloween. I’d missed it all because I was locked up. It was out of this sadness that my desire to be sober blossomed and grew.”

When she was released from drug rehab in June 2017, Hurt moved back home with her mother to start over again. She continued to attend self-help meetings taught through a 12-step Celebrate Recovery program in nearby Columbus, Ind., and now leads three meetings herself every week.

“My heart is full of pride — she’s done a complete turnaround, but I have to say, I’m really not surprised,” said Smith, 53, who helps look after Parker while her daughter is away at work.

“I knew my daughter before the drugs, and even when she was using, I knew she was still there,” Smith said.

Hurt said she wants to become a licensed recovery coach and give other addicts the thing she lacked during her darkest time: hope.

“It's possible to change, but nobody should have to go through it alone,” she said. “Having support and people who believe in you makes a huge difference."

Someday, Hurt said, she plans to show her son the viral “before” and “after” photos and tell him about the most “painful and shameful” time of her life.

“I’m hoping that he’ll learn compassion from this,” she said. “I’m hoping that it helps him to become really understanding about the stories in people’s lives.”

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