MONROE, Wash. — For Alexa Elsenhout it wasn't an experience you might see in the movies.
There was no back alley exchange and no dramatic drug deal. Friends were using heroin at a party. She tried it too. That moment, at age 13, her life changed forever.
"It seemed like the right thing to do," said Elsenhout of Monroe. "The part that I didn't like did not last very long. And everything just felt good."
Her mom and dad eventually found out what was happening. And at 17, she had her first stint in treatment.
Then again at age 22.
Then again at 26.
"I was given a choice. Either get help, or get out," Elsenhout said. "I chose to get out."
The cravings were too intense. Days and months passed with no concept of time.
Then came stealing, and the couch surfing. Eventually, there were two overdoses and time in the hospital. Then there was that cold night alone sleeping on the banks of the Snohomish River.
"That's a good point when you realize you should try something different," said Elsenhout.
At the time, her parents had her two daughters taken from her.
"I didn't want to be that person anymore," she said.
The urge to be a mom finally outlasted the urge for drugs. At 27, Elsenhout completed her fourth round of treatment and this time it feels permanent. Now 31, she has her children back in her custody and a third on the way.
"Now I can see there's an epidemic. I see kids walking around clearly using more than ever," she said. "I want them to know that it does ruin lives. Your friends do die."
Today, she can't be near some of those old friends. The cravings come back. She knows how the drug can hold you hostage.
Elsenhout is sharing her story with the hope one young person will listen and not make the same mistakes.
Luckily, the percentage of high school teens who reported using heroin in their lifetime is down. Results of the latest Healthy Youth Survey among high school students in Washington state suggest 3% of seniors admitted to trying heroin at least once in their lives. These percentages mean that in 2018, about 2,500 Washington state 12th graders had tried heroin at least once in their lifetime and even more (about 3,500) used pain killers to get high in any given month.
If you or anyone you know needs help call the Washington Recovery Helpline at 866-789-1511.
Watch part 1 of KING 5's "Hope Against Heroin" series below: