Editor’s note: The following story is based on family accounts and information documented in Troy Haines’ medical records. His personal accounts offer an inside look into life with a substance use disorder. This is his story.
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — “Hospital, jail or death. What do we hope for?”
That was the question Beth Haines asked herself every few days for the past two months whenever her brother Troy Haines slipped back into old patterns of substance use and temporarily vanished. When he finally got back in touch, Beth Haines knew that his troubles weren’t over but at least for now, she could be sure that he was alive.
But she feared the worst for her brother.
On Oct. 19, Troy Haines walked out of the psychiatric unit of Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent and hopped in a cab headed for his father’s house in Mapleton. He was in good spirits that day, his father Joe Haines remembered.
Troy Haines planned to move in with his sister in Casco on Monday and find a new job. He had just started dating again after separating from his wife.
This was going to be his fresh start.
But by 6 p.m., the elder Haines had found his son dead in a rundown house with no electricity, heat or running water. Beth Haines said that her brother thought he was using heroin. What he didn’t know was that it was laced with fentanyl.
In many ways, Troy Haines’ story is the classic tale of a once prominent community leader who fell victim to a deadly disorder. What happened to him could happen to anyone.
Treatment for substance use disorder is more accessible than ever before, but stigma poses a challenge to people who want to recover. Health care providers have a better understanding of how the disorder and recovery cycle works than even a few short years ago, including what some of the triggers are, and how societal views about people with substance use disorder affects treatment outcomes. They stress that education is key to steering people away from substances in the first place, and that support is crucial to providing help to those affected.
Even with all of this knowledge, it’s not a perfect system and people fall through the cracks. Haines’ story offers an inside look into life with a chronic but treatable disorder and shows why the drug crisis in Maine is a community problem.
So how did Haines end up here?
A different life
A native of Aroostook County, Haines built his life around the love he had for his community. With an innate desire to help others, he got involved in state and local politics and operated his own company to serve local people.
“Troy was just a special, special kid … he was a caretaker even at the end when he called me from Mercy, when he was refusing to leave Mercy until they got him some help … he called me and said, ‘Mom, they’re telling me there’s no beds, they’re telling me I have to leave and I understand … there’s so many people here who need so much more help than me,’” his mother, Debra, said after he passed.
“He was just a good boy, a good kid, [a] good man,” she said.
In high school, Haines was appointed as the senior class president, which sparked his interest in Maine politics. He ran for the state House of Representatives three times — twice in District 7 and once in District 146 — between 2012 and 2014.
Although Haines never won an election, he came close. In the 2012 race for District 7, he fell 184 votes short to his Republican opponent, Alexander Willette.