Recovering Addict Thanks Policeman For Drug Arrest That Saved Her Life

By Dorri Olds 08/15/16

After being arrested for heroin possession, Brianna Byrnes entered rehab and has now been sober for almost a year.

Recovering Addict Thanks Policeman For Drug Arrest That Saved Her Life
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Amidst the current tensions, it’s uplifting to hear a story about a policeman who helped an addict turn her life around. And he even got a thank you!

Last Wednesday, in Florida’s Martin County, Deputy Justin Albauer received a wonderful surprise. Brianna Byrnes, 32, of Jensen Beach, who he had arrested around this time last year, came to the sheriff’s office to give him a big hug and a thank you letter.

The two hadn’t seen each other since August 28, 2015, when Albauer pulled Byrnes over during a traffic stop. She had just come off the highway and was two miles from her home when Albauer saw her driving erratically.

After trying to wriggle out of the spot she was in, she came clean and told him she had heroin in the car. Byrnes was already at the end of her rope, tired of struggling with addiction for nearly two decades. Earlier that day, Byrnes and her mother had called nearly 50 rehab clinics. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find one that could take her.

“I told [Officer Albauer] I was trying to get into detox and needed to get a bed,” said Byrnes.

After spending a few hours in jail for the drug arrest, Byrnes went on to spend 46 days in rehab and has been able to stay off drugs since then. Now she is clean and raising her son while working two jobs.

At their reunion last Wednesday, she told Albauer, “There are so many words that I want to say. First off, thank you so much. You truly saved my life. You were so respectful that night, you didn’t judge me for what I was going through and you listened to me. You actually believed in me that I could do it and I am forever grateful to you. I appreciate everything you do and you wear that uniform proud.”

Albauer said he is proud of her, too, but that the credit belonged to her for doing all of the hard work. Byrnes acknowledged, “I hit my rock bottom and I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I needed to get the help that I needed.” 

In America’s opiate epidemic, not every heroin user’s arrest goes so well. On July 4, Stephen Campo, 27, was arrested in Washington Township, New Jersey, during a traffic stop. He had a syringe on him and admitted he had used it to shoot heroin. A court date was set and Campo was released without bail. However, it took all of six hours until he was arrested again. And the second time wasn’t the charm. A police officer found heroin and a syringe on him and more drugs in the car. He was ordered to pay $10,000 bail, which he managed to post. Hopefully, Campo will land in treatment before he overdoses.

Byrnes fully understands how lucky she was. If Albauer hadn’t stopped her that night, she said, “I probably would have died. This addiction would have killed me. This disease.”

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Dorri Olds is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day and several book anthologies. Find Dorri on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.