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Finding Stacia: A story of addiction and survival: A breath of new life

Teri Vance
Nevada Momentum
Stacia Nepper plays with her daughter Emma, 6, recently near their Gardnerville home. Nepper hopes sharing her story of overcoming addiction will inspire others to seek help.
Cathleen Allison | Nevada Momentum

Relapse is common among people recovering from drug addiction. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse findings, 40-60% of those in addiction recovery experience a relapse after completing rehabilitation. Visit the pcccarson.org community resource guide for treatment centers near you.

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series about Stacia Nepper, the new deputy director for Partnership Carson City. She hopes her story of overcoming addiction will inspire others to seek help. Reach her or find additional resources at pcccarson.org.

In the chaos of jolting awake to the crunch of metal, Stacia Nepper was sure she saw her 2-year-old baby fly past her. She froze in panic.

The resentment she’d harbored against her child for coming into the world unwanted and forever chaining Stacia to a man she never wanted to see again, vanished in that moment.

It all became so clear. Emma was her life. Emma was the only thing that mattered.

It was more than a relief — it was a breath of new life — that washed over Stacia when she heard Emma cry from the backseat.

She reached back just to make sure, and felt the warm skin of her daughter. Without a second thought, she scooped Emma up and cuddled her baby into her lap.

Then she started driving again.

She dozed in and out for the next 60 miles. Just as she arrived in Fallon, a cop pulled her over. Reports had come in of a driver swerving all over the road.

Somehow, before the police officer walked up to her window, Stacia was able to get 2-year-old Emma in her car seat.

When questioned about the dents in her car, Stacia lied and said they were from a wreck a week ago. She convinced the officer she was just tired from a long night.

The cop agreed to forego a ticket if Stacia would pull over and take a nap. She quickly agreed.

She called a friend to meet her and take Emma home. Instead of sleeping, Stacia spent the remainder of the night picking her face in the rearview mirror — and freaking out.

With the clarity of the morning light, she drove straight to her mom’s house.

“I need to go to rehab,” she told her mom.

Her mother had been waiting to hear those words, and right away went to work finding a drug rehabilitation center for her girl.

She found the perfect fit, but it had a one-month waiting list.

Stacia left her daughter with her parents and spent the next month on a bender, her final dance with her demons.

She only saw her daughter once that month. Stacia’s parents threw Emma a birthday party in the park for her third birthday.

There were streamers, balloons, gifts and lots of guests — the seemingly perfect celebration.

But no one from Emma’s dad’s family attended, and Stacia herself was just a guest, a reluctant one at that. She endured the party out of obligation, but spent the afternoon just biding her time.

Still, when it came time to enter rehab, Stacia was ready. She knew she had this one chance.

She hasn’t touched meth since that day — Oct. 1, 2016.

Now, she shares her story of loss and redemption with students and addicts as a peer-support specialist in her new job as deputy director of Partnership Carson City.

“Some people say relapse is a part of recovery,” she said, “but that’s not an option for me. I wouldn’t come back. I’d be dead, I know that.”

Mostly, she wants addicts to know they are not alone.

“I’m just someone who has been in their shoes and can relate to them,” she said. “I offer them a helping hand, a sign of hope.”

It’s not that she never thinks about drugs, the smoke from electronic cigarettes particularly elicits memories of the meth cloud.

And memories of her cousin Anthony still haunt her.

“I think about him every day, at least for a minute then I can’t anymore. Otherwise, I’ll cry and I’ll cry and I’ll cry,” she said. “The difference is, I feel it this time.”

She doesn’t have time to dwell too deeply. Between her job and taking care of Emma, she stays busy.

Plus, she has a sixth birthday party to plan.

“She wants a hover board or a tablet, but is she too young?” Stacia wonders.

Other decisions have already been made. The party will be at Stacia’s dad’s house in Hawthorne, where a giant pool will be set up in the backyard.

All of Stacia’s family will be there, as will Emma’s dad, who is also clean. He will bring his girlfriend and both of their families.

“I am so lucky that Emma has such a great dad and such a great family,” Stacia said. “I’m lucky she doesn’t remember any of the bad times. But I still have a lot of making up to do.”