Family holds vigil for son lost to heroin addiction

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staff, Gazette
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

— Andy Hartman had a fighting chance.

The social workers at the halfway house had helped him make a plan. He was qualified for disability payments. He had a line on a new apartment and wanted to get a part-time job.

Best of all, he'd been sober 86 days.

He didn't make it to 90.

Hartman's first Social Security check arrived on Sept 1, 2011. It was payable to him and his girlfriend—both recovering heroin addicts.

The girlfriend bailed him out of jail, where he'd been two days after being arrested on a warrant accusing him of not paying a ticket. That was a Thursday night.

Friday night they drove to Rockford and bought $10 worth of heroin, according to Rock County Coroner's Office reports.

Saturday night, Hartman's girlfriend woke up from a heroin-induced high and found Hartman dead next to her in a bedroom in a downtown Janesville apartment. He was pronounced dead on Sept. 4.

He died of acute toxicity from the combined effects of heroin and two medications used to treat anxiety disorder, according to coroner's office records.

His death was the end of an addiction that started sometime prior to 2003 when Hartman was prescribed opiate-based painkillers for a back injury, his family said.

It was the end of one nightmare for his family and the start of a new one, said his mother, Patti Hartman.

"I thought it was going to be the end of me," she said about her son's death.

Patti and her 23-year-old daughter, Abigail Hartman, invited The Gazette to a candlelight vigil Tuesday night at their home on Janesville's south side. They talked about the torture of having an addicted family member. They remembered how he would beg for cash. Patti remembered finding hypodermic needles taped to the bottom of the carpet.

She has been suffering from severe depression and has lost her job. She spends days on end in her bedroom, she said.

Andy had been a loving son and talented brother even when he was using drugs. He played guitar beautifully and could play any instrument by ear, Patti said.

"When she (Patti) was having a bad day, he would come over and make her feel better," Abigail said. "It didn't matter if he was using. He would say, ‘Mom shouldn't feel bad like that.' He always made it better."

Andy's first brush with the law was in 2003 when he tried to change the number of pills on a prescription for painkillers. He was arrested and charged with a felony. He was sentenced to probation with drug and alcohol assessment, according to online court records.

Over the next few years, Hartman was in and out of court—and probation—for bail jumping or narcotics possession charges. Finally, in August 2007, probation was revoked, and he was sentenced to a year in prison with more treatment.

It was in the halfway house after prison where Andy started to make some progress. His family thought he would be able to break the addiction.

Abigail wants Janesville families to know that heroin use is very real in the city. Inpatient treatment is nonexistent locally, Abigail said. Help is available, but it takes time, money and patience, she said.

She knows other families in the city are suffering.

"They don't know what to do just like we didn't know what to do," Abigail said.

Patti and Abigail want people to know that addiction doesn't abide by social norms or family income. Their family's story is typical. Andy's father worked at the General Motors plan in Janesville. Patti, like her son, worked as a certified nurses aide.

Andy himself never robbed or stole for drug money, she said.

"Addicts aren't just the lowlifes," Patti said. "It's everybody. This can happen to anyone."

Last updated: 4:42 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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