Finding Stacia: A story of addiction and survival | NevadaAppeal.com

Finding Stacia: A story of addiction and survival

Teri Vance
Nevada Momentum
Stacia Nepper holds a photo of her cousin Anthony, whose suicide triggered her spiral into drug addiction. This is the first in a three-part series about Nepper’s story of overcoming addiction and her new role at Partnership Carson City, inspiring others to seek help.
Cathleen Allison | Nevada Momentum

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In Nevada, in 2017, 627 people died by suicide — tying for 10th in the country, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please reach out for help at 1-800-273-8255.

Editor’s Note: This is the first 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.

“Anthony’s gone.”

The words floated through the dark, night air, but Stacia couldn’t make sense of them.

Asleep on the couch, she had barely made out her aunt Cindy talking on the phone in the other room. But now Cindy was shaking her arm.

“Anthony’s gone,” Cindy sobbed. “Anthony’s gone.”

“Gone where?” Stacia asked, fighting through the fog of sleep.

“He’s dead,” Cindy said.

And everything went black.

Stacia, 20, and her cousin Anthony, who was a year older, had grown up together in a tight-knit group of cousins who were more like siblings.

In the small town of Hawthorne, the cousins went to school together, played together, spent the night at each other’s houses. They rode bikes and hunted horny toads in the desert.

One night, when she was about 16, Stacia stayed over at Anthony’s. After he drifted down to his bedroom in the basement to go to sleep, Stacia turned on the scary movie, “Hide and Seek.”

Her body tensed in fear, her senses on full alert.

All of a sudden, she felt a hand grab her foot. She screamed and jumped up in one fluid movement.

And there was Anthony, feigning a defensive posture and laughing. Laughing that beautiful, genuine laugh.

She wished this was just one of his pranks, that he’d come around the corner with his characteristic mischievous grin.

But this was no joke, and no one was laughing.

The next day, the family gathered at Anthony’s mom’s house in Hawthorne. As soon as Stacia saw Aunty Kayla, she remembered hearing her crying screams through the phone the night before.

When she grabbed her aunt in a hug, she felt her own knees start to buckle.

If she was swallowed in her own grief, she felt buried beneath the weight of the collective sadness around her. A family accustomed to lively reunions and lighthearted ribbing, now grappled with the devastating loss of one of their own.

And it didn’t make sense. He’d done this to himself. Why did he take his own life? The answer mattered less than the void he’d left behind.

With Anthony gone, all that was left was pain. Unbearable pain.

She couldn’t see a way through it. But she knew someone who might be able to help ease the pain. So she called a friend — they had been arch enemies in high school, but time and perspective had mended old wounds — and asked for a favor.

Stacia considered herself somewhat of a party girl, but it had been limited to drinking with friends.

Tonight, she was looking for something stronger. And her friend knew exactly what she needed.

Stacia walked in to see lines of white powder laid out on a table. She had never seen it before, but she recognized it from her classes in grade school that this was methamphetamine.

Without hesitation, she grabbed the rolled-up dollar bill offered to her and snorted the line.

The burning was so intense, she hopped up and down in the kitchen holding her nose. The chemical taste sliding down the back of her throat made her gag. She snorted a handful of water, hoping it would dilute the bitterness.

But then the euphoria washed over her, a high she’d never experienced before. It felt like she was floating on a cloud, and somewhere out there was the knowledge her cousin was dead, but it didn’t hurt like it did before.

With the energy boost, she wrote the five-page eulogy her grandma read at the funeral.

As nighttime settled in, Stacia found herself the only one still awake.

From the lone light glowing in the kitchen, she saw Anthony start to emerge.

She scrunched her eyes closed and opened them, hoping the image would be gone. But he was still there, wearing a white T-shirt, light-colored jeans and his go-to baseball cap on backward.

“You’re gone,” she said aloud. “What the f?”

Later, she would learn these hallucinations were called meth monsters.

But on this night, all she could do was sob in the darkness, gripped with fear and grief.