25 year old Michael VanAalst was like every other kid growing up in Honeoye Falls, "had usual friends, skateboarded, just kind of got into paintball you know, the regular teenage boy stuff," said VanAalst.
Everything changed when he made news in December of 2012 for robbing a bank, "I was partying for like a week straight, not really sleeping, I was just on a lot of drugs," said VanAalst, "the next thing I remember is I was like enough is enough, and I just remember marching down to the bank, walked in, demanded cash."
VanAalst needed cash to buy prescription drugs. Painkillers were everywhere in the late '90's and early 200's. The were cheap, but that changed, "In the past several years almost all states, including New York state, have introduced real restrictions on control of prescriptions, and accountability for prescriptions, and surveilence systems for prescriptions," explained Dr. John Klofas, Director of the Rochester Institute of Technology Center for Public Safety Initiatives, "so the amount of Oxy on the street has been reduced dramatically."
Like in any case, when the supply goes down, the price goes up, News 8's Vanessa Herring asked John Doe, and Inmate at the Monroe County Correctional Facility how much he was spending on prescription drugs, "however much money I had, if I had a thousand dollars that day it was gone," said John.
Prescription drug addicts started looking for a cheaper high, heroin, "you can kind of feel the change kind of pushing you towards something darker, and something that's pulling you into yourself, in your soul kind of you can just feel it," said John, "and I knew I was going that way, and it was like a downward spiral. "
Inmate Jane Doe also became addicted, "I just needed heroin to get out of bed in the morning, get through the day, I didn't care about anything else."
That downward spiral leads many heroin addicts to Craig Johnson. He's a counselor at the Monroe County Correctional Facility where the number of heroin addicts in the Chemical Dependency Program has skyrocketed, "we're seeing more and more individuals from the suburbs, we're seeing more people that are middle class, more people from working or middle class families, professionals," said Johnson.
John owned his own business, "before I knew it I was on Clinton Ave shooting heroin and cocaine with a needle in my arm," said John.
Everyone in the program wants to succeed when they're released. The cold reality is half of them will make it. The other half will be re-arrested within a year of their release, "I just want to be able to help myself and help other people," said Joe Doe, "and be a brother to my sister be a son to my father you know what I mean I want to be around for my family and for my friends."
VanAalst hasn't used pain killers or alcohol since December, "I hope people can learn that no matter how bad it is it can always get better."
He's proof a sober life is possible, "I'm going to school full time, I'm planning on being an addictions counselor, I want to help people that were in my position or something similar," said VanAalst, "life every day is a blessing, I wake up clear headed, and I have something to do positive. "