For Travis and Mandy, steps away from addiction

After year of work to be free of meth, heroin, more work ahead

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter



Travis and Mandy: a journey through addiction

In August, The Columbian published a three-part series about two drug addicts on a monthslong journey of using drugs and trying to stay clean.

The stories and photos documented the lives of Travis Trenda and Mandy Cooper from January until July:

WINTER: Drugs have a stranglehold on Travis and Mandy.

SPRING: Stuck in the cycle of recovery and relapse.

SUMMER: Ups, downs and a turning point.

When the last story left off, Travis had reunited with his family and was on the cusp of starting a new job with the city of Vancouver.

Mandy, meanwhile, was hiding from the police, who she believed wanted her in connection to an outstanding warrant.

The Columbian is catching up with Mandy and Travis’ families one year after the story began.

As Mandy Cooper sat near the large picture window in the house she shares in Camas, backlit by the low winter sun waning in the distance, she reflected on a topsy-turvy year that began with a monthlong drug binge with her then-boyfriend.

"It feels like I'm watching someone else's movie," she said. "I can think back and remember all the things we did, and all the things we went through, and it doesn't feel like it happened to me. It's weird, because I didn't see this for my life."

Exactly a year ago, she and her then-boyfriend Travis Trenda were strung out on heroin and methamphetamine. They were on the run from their families, the authorities and, they'd later say, themselves. The two spent 2013 battling personal demons tied to their addictions. Now, a year after the binge that set them on the road to recovery, they're still fighting — with varying results.

New bonds

Mandy, 22, lives with her new boyfriend, Jordan Anderson, and his grandmother. She attends outpatient drug recovery classes three times a week through Lifeline Connections.

Like many recovering addicts, Mandy is haunted daily by reminders of her association with drugs. She can't look at a Q-Tip without thinking about how she could unravel the cotton and use it as a filter to smoke meth. Occasionally, she'll catch herself in the kitchen staring at a grinder filled with sea salt, thinking of how similar it looks to crystal methamphetamine.

The urges, she said, come and go.

She's stayed sober since summer by relying on a new support system of friends and family, while distancing herself from the negative influences of her life. She and Travis, her ex-boyfriend and the person with whom she used drugs, haven't talked since November, she said. Their relationship had grown too co-dependent.

She's learned to open up to new people and confront her problems head-on, she said. After avoiding the police for months, she finally mustered up the courage to call the Clark County Sheriff's Office to check on a warrant she believed was in her name. To her surprise, she was told the warrant no longer existed.

The day-to-day struggle to stay clean hasn't been easy, she said, but her family and friends have given her more confidence to continue.

"My support system is what keeps me going," she said. "Without it, I'd just go crazy."

The support system includes other recovering addicts she's met through her classes at Lifeline.

Matthias Gast, 19, has grown close to Mandy since meeting her in treatment. Outside the classroom, they talk about their pasts using drugs and their hopes for the future. He calls Mandy the "brightest person," and someone who's unafraid to ask for help.

"There are times when I've gotten a message at 2 or 3 in the morning from her, and it says, 'Hey, I'm going through a tough time,'" he said.

He can relate. "There have been times when I've been really down and wanted to use again," he said, "so having someone who knows exactly what you're going through — it means the world."

Gast checked himself into Lifeline because he was addicted to marijuana, which led him to forge checks in his mother's name. In Mandy, he's found someone he can trust.

Their closeness nearly got Gast into trouble with his girlfriend, who wondered who this girl was he was texting. When she finally met Mandy, they became close friends.

Mandy has also reconnected with her immediate family, whom she'd cut out of her life when she was using. While on methamphetamine, she would disassociate herself from her mom and stepfather instead of asking for help.

The family is closer than ever now, Mandy said. Sometimes, she'll call her stepfather at odd hours, so she can talk out her problems.

It's comforting to Mandy to know she has support. She thought she didn't when she was using.

The bonds she's built — new ones with Gast and his girlfriend, and old ones with her family — are keeping her on the right path, she said. She's turned her back on the negative influences.

"I just want to be done with it," she said. "I don't want to be associated with those people."

The struggle continues

Travis also continues the battle, though his demons are closer.

After being reunited with his son, Parker, and getting a seasonal job with the city of Vancouver in the fall, Travis relapsed and used heroin after meeting up with past acquaintances.

He's doing odd jobs for family and friends and lives with his mom, Taryn, and father, Allen. The last month has been one of the most difficult of his life, Taryn said, because Travis feels like he's let himself and others down.

He continues to receive treatment through Lifeline but, because of his relapse, he continues to go in and out of the court system.

Taryn said she believes it's a normal part of his recovery.

"Travis is not giving up," she said. "He's not putting his tail between his legs."

There's hope he'll be able to save up enough money to move into an Oxford House for men in recovery. The catch, though, is that he'll have to stay sober or risk being kicked out.

Travis' relapse has tested the family's resolve, but those close to him are committed to helping him stay clean, Taryn said.

Hopefully, in four to six months, she said, things will be better. But, for now, the family is worried.

"We live with this every day," Taryn said. "When he leaves out the door, you just pray you hear from him again."

Interview excerpt: Mandy Cooper