DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — For some families, they never reach the road to a full recovery when it comes to addiction.

Tanis Spragg’s story is one of pain and grief, yet still offers a glint of hope and awareness for others to get help.

“Tanis knew we were there and we loved her. One thing that helps me deal with it is we never gave up on her,” said Paul Bertke, who is Tanis’ step-father.

From the start, Tanis was more like one of his own.

“She was a great little girl,” Paul smiled

Paul says in her early teens, she started to drift.

“She’d start sneaking out the window, just kind of disappearing during the evening,” Paul said. “At that time, we did not know it but she was dabbling in cocaine, weed, and stuff like that.”

That opened the gates for what was to come.

“Once is way too many times,” warned Paul.

At 18, she moved out and in with a boyfriend. The couple had two children together and things were seemingly normal; but they were far from it. Paul said cocaine was her go-to. At 20, she turned to harder drugs like heroin and meth.

“She turned into a young lady who wasn’t Tanis anymore, and that’s what these drugs can do,” Paul explained.

Stealing to feed her habit, she and her boyfriend ended up behind bars. After they served their time and got out, her boyfriend, the father of her first two children, overdosed and died in 2015.

“Once you dabble in heroin, the addictiveness of that, it just takes over,” Paul said.

After Tanis was released from prison, she was clean for close to a year. She found love again, and he was in recovery as well. They had a child together.

Neither stayed on the road to recovery and fed off of each other’s weaknesses. They both entered a vicious never-ending cycle, off and on heroin, in and out of rehab. In January 2020, he overdosed and died.

“And she took it hard,” Paul said.

His death sent her into a spiral. By the end of 2020, Paul said she was out of control, overdosing ten times in a two week span.

Paul was now giving up and to cope he joined Families of Addicts.

“I just have never seen anybody step up as a step-dad and be so passionate about finding help for a step-child,” said Anita Kitchen, Executive Director of FOA.

Giving Tanis another chance, Anita helped send her to Banyan Treatment Center in Florida for 30 days of treatment at the end of 2020.

“I was the one that made the call to get her into Florida at Christmas time,” Anita explained. “You always pray that when somebody goes into treatment this is going to be the time it works. And I had so much hope.”

When Tanis came back in the new year, she reverted to her old crowd, overdosing, and ending up in jail again.

“What is it going to take for her to get on the road to recovery? And they say you have to hit rock bottom. And the thing that really scared us… was rock bottom was death and we kind of all agreed that might be it. I mean, in the end it was,” tears up Paul.

In July 2021, at 33, Tanis overdosed for the last time.

Paul and his wife were notified by a knock on the door from law enforcement.

“They always say you hate to get that phone call in the middle of the night; this was a knock on the door probably a little bit before 6 o’clock at night,” recalled Paul.

Paul is now caring for three of Tanis’ children. His niece is caring for Tanis’ youngest child.

“The thing is, his ended in a sad way, that’s not every family. There is hope that people can recover, that people do recover,” says Anita.

As Paul still bears the heartache of Tanis’ death, he is working to break the stigma and help other families struggling before it is too late.

“I don’t have anybody in addiction anymore, but I want to help,” Paul pleads. “And I want to save at least one family from going through the same pain that our family had to go through. And if I can do that–one family–I’ll feel like I have won.”