One year after an Indiana woman became “the face of drug addiction” when a shocking photo showing her overdosed went viral, she is speaking out about having hit rock bottom and her inspiring recovery. Last October police in the town of Hope posted a photo showing Erika Hurt, then 25, unconscious behind the wheel of her car, which was parked in the lot of a Dollar General store. Resting between her left fingers was an empty syringe. The photo spread on the internet like wildfire. What people online sharing it couldn’t see was that her 10-month-old son was in the back seat, strapped into his car seat.
Hurt first saw the photo when she was in jail and it came on the evening news. Medics had been able to revive her from the nearly fatal heroin overdose. When she saw the image on TV, her initial reaction was one of anger. “They exposed me and my addiction to the whole world,” told NBC News, adding that she’d just been released from rehab two weeks before that photo was taken. “I thought it was terrible. I was angry and I wanted to blame the police for putting my business out there and showing the world my private addiction and everything like that.”
But a year later, she’s gone through a major change of heart about the photo — and through a remarkable recovery. “I’m thankful now that the cop did take the picture,” she said. “The fact that I’m able to look back on that picture and see where the addiction had taken me, and I’m able to use that picture now to show others that addicts can recover.”
She recently commemorated the one-year anniversary of that grim photo and marked a full year of sobriety by posting it on Facebook along with pics of what her life looks like now. “I’ve decided to repost the picture simply because it displays exactly what heroin addiction is,” Hurt wrote on Facebook. “Also because I do not want to ever forget where the road of addiction has taken me.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Hurt said the photo was a sobering wakeup call and has been instrumental in keeping her on the straight and narrow since. “I was never able to see myself in active addiction,” she said, adding that going to rehab and being separated from her baby boy for months, including throughout the holidays, was extremely difficult. “That was very painful,” she said. “After that, I told myself I wasn’t going to miss any more of his life.” Below, watch the NBC News profile of Hurt’s life after heroin addiction.