WATERTOWN, S.D. (KELO) — Anyone’s life can be turned upside down by addiction.
A Watertown eye doctor’s battle with painkillers is proof of that.
Melanie Weiss underwent three surgeries in three years’ time. At first, she took her medication as prescribed. But with the third surgery, she started using a few more pills than she was supposed to.
Soon, the medication got the upper hand.
She started taking medications from her family members and later writing out prescriptions for others and asking them to fill them for her.
And that’s not all.
It’s now unimaginable, how Weiss would feed her addiction at times.
“It started leading into where I started actually going into other people’s homes. And that is still really hard for me to say today even though it was two and a half years ago. It’s just so crazy what drugs get your brain to think is okay,” Weiss said.
That’s how this Watertown optometrist ended up in the back of a police car.
“I had fifteen minutes in between my two patients. I walked out the back door of my clinic; walked down the street; went into somebody’s home; took their pain pills; walked out; and when I walked out the Watertown detectives were standing out there waiting for me,” Weiss said.
Getting caught turned out to be the best thing that could’ve happened to her.
“I remember sitting back there just, ‘This is finally over,'” Weiss said.
That’s the day Weiss’ husband, Paul, got a clear understanding of what was happening.
“There was some things that weren’t right towards the end before she was arrested that we couldn’t quite put our finger on, didn’t know what was going on. When I talked to the detective it was like getting hit in the head with a shovel. It all made sense,” Paul Weiss said.
Weiss fears she wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for her arrest in 2016.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It doesn’t matter what kind of household you grew up in. I grew up in a very loving, normal two-parent middle class home. It doesn’t matter how educated you are. None of those things matter. When those drugs grab ahold of you, pretty much say goodbye to your soul,” Weiss said.
Weiss has since gone through treatment and served time in jail.
The suspension on her license ended in January, and she’s seeing patients again.
Today, Weiss not only spends her time working at her clinic, but also helping others.
She started Vision of Hope.
“Now to wake up in the morning and think, ‘Who can I help today?’ That’s a really good feeling. Really good,” Weiss said.
“If we can help one person, one person, it will be worth it. No one should have to go through this,” Paul Weiss said.
Weiss uses her new platform to educate people, talk about the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction, and offer encouragement to those struggling with the disease.
Her advice: don’t suffer alone.
“I was shameful. If anybody found out that their local eye doctor had a prescription drug problem, nobody would come and see me again. That’s what I thought at the time, so I kept that to myself,” Weiss said.
Instead, she wants anyone dealing with addiction to reach out for help.
“I see so many people out there that are struggling that don’t think life can ever be normal for them again…that this is just how they’re going to live the rest of their life. If they can just take that one step of asking for help, their life can be good again,” Weiss said.
She’s hoping her own personal journey can be the vision of hope someone needs to take that step.
If you’re interested in having Weiss speak at a school, a conference, or other event or if you just want to know more about her story, click here.
If you or someone you needs help battling an opioid addiction, you can find resources on our Opioid Crisis page.