Recovering Hope: A woman’s journey through heroin addiction


It was early January in 2014 when WAFB’s Elizabeth Vowell met Arielle Butler and her mother, Donna. Both were exhausted and constantly fighting.

Arielle was 26 at the time and in the grips of a heroin addiction. She was measuring her sobriety in minutes and sharing her story then on the condition of anonymity. The interview was Donna’s idea. She wanted to show the human toll of addiction and how it had trapped her family in a dark tug of war for Arielle’s life.

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Before the interview ended, we asked Arielle what she wanted while she worked to get sober.

“My goal is to not become powerless over heroin anymore and to make my family and everyone around me trust me more and to live life to the fullest again,” she said. “At one time, I could do that. I want to go back to that.”

“Do you believe you can,” Vowell asked.

“I do believe I can,” she said. 

Unfortunately, the path out of addiction rarely runs smooth. For Arielle, it was rougher than most. Without insurance at the time, she was going at it with only her mother and family as guides. Donna is a former drug user herself, and was fighting tooth and nail to save her daughter. The task consumed the Butler family in a tense schedule that revolved around avoiding triggers. Later, Donna said she worried the next interview she did would be about Arielle’s funeral. It almost was.

“After I interviewed with you guys it really opened up that I wasn’t ready. I regretted it a great deal after,” said Arielle. “I left. I wasn’t ready.”

Arielle left home not long after our 2014 interview and said she lived on the streets for nearly a year, shooting up and bouncing from house to house. Though she doesn’t remember much, she knows she overdosed several times and was arrested at least twice.

She then got involved in an abusive relationship with a man she said was also a drug user, and gave birth to their son. At one point, Donna ended up with custody…

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