MAQUOKETA, Iowa — Mike Haugen knows he doesn’t fit the standard mold of a drug addict.
Working as a trooper with Iowa State Patrol, no one could have guessed that a series of medical complications had led to a severe addiction to opioids. But today, Haugen tells his story openly, hoping to eradicate the idea of what an addict is supposed to be and to remind everyone of the truth.
Drug addiction can happen to anyone.
“It doesn’t matter where you came from or how successful you are,” Haugen said. “Prince died of an opioid overdose while I was in treatment.”
On Tuesday, he shared his story with an audience of about 15 at the Timber Center in Maquoketa. He was invited to speak by the Jackson County Prevention Coalition as part of a larger initiative to reduce and prevent opioid addiction in the county.
Julie Furne, coordinator for the coalition, said opioids present a particular danger due to their exposure to a large portion of the population.
“You can legally follow directions from your doctor and still end up with an addiction,” Furne said. “Our audience for this event is anybody because anybody can become addicted.”
Haugen recalled a happy childhood growing up in Forest City, Iowa. In high school, he began pursuing a career in law enforcement.
After college, he was hired onto the Iowa State Patrol. For nearly 10 years, he worked proudly as a patrolman, making several drug-related arrests.
Everything appeared to be going perfectly for Haugen and his wife, Amanda, until 2007, when Mike was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease that causes inflammation in the bowel tract.
In 2013, Haugen’s pain was compounded by the diagnosis of a bacterial disease that causes inflammation of the colon.
He said the two diseases caused him continuous pain. After seeking treatment for years, Haugen was put on hydrocodone, which provided him the relief that he needed.
However, as time passed, Haugen began relying more and more on the opioid to put himself at ease.
“Life was great for a while,” he said. “Then I realized I needed one more tablet a day, two more tablets a day and so on.”
It wasn’t long before Mike turned to desperate acts to sustain his addiction, including asking friends to help him acquire more opioids. At his lowest point, Haugen stole pills out of the state patrol’s evidence room.
“The urge is so strong that it makes you do irrational things,” he said. “That is so true to any addict that you see.”
In 2016, Haugen’s addiction finally caught up with him. After losing his job as a patrolman, he was admitted to a rehab center for recovery.
Amanda Haugen described the five weeks Mike spent going through withdrawals as horrifying.
“I had never seen him shake like that before,” she said. “It’s a really nasty disease. It takes everything of your character and turns it upside down.”
While the road was hard, Mike eventually broke free of his addiction and has not taken opioids since 2016.
Mike said he chose to start speaking publicly so he could show others that opioid addiction can happen to anyone, and that it took the love and support of his family to bring him out of the worst chapter in his life.
“At the time, I felt like I couldn’t come to anybody,” Mike said. “Without hope, without care, without love, who knows where I would be?”