For 730 days straight -- two full years -- Lindsey Cooksey used meth.

“It’s so disgusting when you think about it,” she said, looking down at her hands. “I never wanted to keep using. I didn’t. But then you had that come down and you just honestly felt like death.”

It took only about six months for Cooksey to realize she was addicted.

"I noticed my bank accounts were draining; I was overdrafting,” she said, adding that she had thousands of dollars of debt at one point. “I just was like 'oh my God,' and then I’d say 'OK, I’m going to quit next week.' Next week never came."

That was about 10 years ago. Cooksey's debts are now paid off, her skin and blonde hair are healthy again, she started a family and opened her own salon, Liv N Dye. Someone meeting the 32-year-old today wouldn't know that she struggled with a meth addiction.

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But that’s only because that "next week" finally did come for Cooksey.

Two different lives

"It seemed like it was OK, and then you’d go to work during the week and you’d be like ‘Oh my god, that wasn’t OK.'" Cooksey said. “And then you’d come to the weekend and it was like, OK, you get drunk and end up doing it again.

“All of a sudden it becomes a lifestyle without you even knowing. The next thing you know ... you’re living two different lives.”

Cooksey moved to Detroit Lakes from Hillsboro, N.D., in 2010. She had a new job as a hairstylist at Regis in Washington Square Mall.

About a year after moving to the lakes area, Cooksey started using meth. Her friends introduced her to the drug. Through meth and those friends, Cooksey met her now-husband, Brian, who was also using.

“We were doing it together. I was so head over heels for my husband, we were best friends, and it just got to be an everyday thing,” she said. “I always went to work, I always did my job, our numbers were always up higher.”

But when she started doing drugs at work or leaving to go get high, and her bank accounts were continually overdrafting, she knew she couldn’t keep up the pace.

“I was absolutely ashamed of who I was,” she said.

Growing problem in greater Minnesota

Jacob Orin, a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with Lakeland Mental Health in Detroit Lakes, said that couples using drugs together is very common. It also makes it more difficult to quit, as most couples aren’t usually on the same page with their addiction.

“It’s always a much bigger problem in the rural areas than it is in a city,” Orin said.

In greater Minnesota, 7,664 people sought treatment for meth addiction in 2016. This was a 25% increase from 2015, ruralmn.org said. Surprisingly, the Twin Cities had almost half that number of people seek treatment in 2016.

More people receive treatment for meth in greater Minnesota than in the Twin Cities area, as shown in the bottom left corner of this graphic from ruralmn.org. (Courtesy photo)
More people receive treatment for meth in greater Minnesota than in the Twin Cities area, as shown in the bottom left corner of this graphic from ruralmn.org. (Courtesy photo)

Meth, taken most commonly by smoking, snorting or injecting, “floods your brain with a ton of dopamine,” more than the body is meant to handle, Orin said.

This creates a happy high that can give users more energy and make them lose weight. But, with time, users also stop getting the same high and start developing other side effects.

“Your body adjusts and (the high is) never going to be as good,” Orin said.

Addicts start to use more and more, trying to find that high. As they do that, they start to lose their daily functions, become paranoid, pick at their face, and more.

Cooksey had all of these side effects. It started with the more energy and weight loss, but changed the longer she used.

“The next year goes by and I’m picking my face to the point where it’s so noticeable,” she said.

Looking back, she knows that there were mental and emotional changes too.

“Everything is stressful, everything is so chaotic. I have so much drama in my life, but it’s never mine. I couldn’t smile. I was starting to be very awkward.

“I remember at one point, I looked at my dog and if I grabbed that pipe, my dog would start crying,” Cooksey said, tearing up as she remembered. "If I came down, I would scream at the top of my lungs to my dog."

She wanted her life back, and she knew she was the only one that could give that back to her. With plans to quit and start a new job at Artistry Hair Salon, Cooksey left Regis.

Learning the word 'no'

“You have to lose what you have in order to realize it’s a problem," Cooksey said, explaining how she came to the decision that it was time to quit.

She and Brian spent two weeks with a friend to come down from the high, then shared with their family what was going on. Cooksey said her dad was shocked, her stepmom had suspected something and her mom was just disappointed.

“It took me about one month to get my brain normal,” Cooksey said, adding that trying to describe how it feels coming down is difficult. "You just honestly felt like death."

"My goal is to have the biggest and best salon in this town," said Lindsey Cooksey, owner of Liv N Dye, the new salon in Washington Square Mall. "I want it to be that very fun environment, I want everyone to feel welcome." (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)
"My goal is to have the biggest and best salon in this town," said Lindsey Cooksey, owner of Liv N Dye, the new salon in Washington Square Mall. "I want it to be that very fun environment, I want everyone to feel welcome." (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)

She and Brian didn’t go to treatment as they didn’t think they could afford it. Instead, they cut every meth addict or dealer out of their lives, as they knew they would have to eventually.

"I was going to have to learn the word 'no,'" Cooksey said.

“The distance between you and the drug, if you’re not going to be in a treatment program, is important,” Orin said. He added that people choosing treatment or quitting on their own really depends on each individual and their addiction.

The longer Cooksey didn’t smoke meth, the more she started to notice things and enjoy life more.

“Nothing was stressful. When you’re on that ... everything is so dramatic,” Cooksey said. “I loved the little things.”

Relapses, part of getting clean

When her mom unexpectedly ended up in the ICU for a month, Cooksey relapsed, shortly after quitting the first time.

“I was like I f------ hate myself. Holy s--- do I hate myself,” Cooksey said. “I wouldn’t smile, wouldn’t laugh, just put on a front. It was like living in hell.”

Relapses are very common in recovering addicts, Orin said. Most of the time, recovering addicts need a “whole life change” to officially quit and stay clean.

Jacob Orin, a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with Lakeland Mental Health in Detroit Lakes
Jacob Orin, a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with Lakeland Mental Health in Detroit Lakes

After about four months, when Cooksey's mom was safely out of the ICU, she and Brian moved in with her mom. They stayed with her and saved money, eventually coming back to the lakes area. Cooksey started at Artistry Hair Salon about seven months after leaving Regis.

“She was worth waiting for and holding a spot,” said Gail McDougall, the owner of Artistry Hair Salon. At the time, McDougall knew that Cooksey had something going on and assumed it was an addiction, but wasn’t sure what it was.

Shortly after starting at Artistry, Cooksey relapsed again. She kept herself together and referred back to her motto, "tomorrow is a new day."

“Keep coming back, I encouraged her,” McDougall said about Cooksey's relapses when she worked with her. “You know what your goals are.”

It didn’t take long before Lindsey and Brian made some changes to make sure they didn’t relapse again.

"Here’s the deal," she recalls telling Brian. "I’ve already lost my life. I’ve lost all my money ... The material stuff in the apartment? I don’t need it. I need my life back. I need hair back in my life."

Although she didn’t know it at the time, Brian went downstairs and broke every pipe and meth-related item they had.

Lindsey Cooksey, left, opened Liv N Dye Hair Salon in January 2020 with Natalie Pirtle joining her. "My clients made this happen," Cooksey said. "If I didn’t have these wonderful clients, my dreams wouldn’t have come true." (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)
Lindsey Cooksey, left, opened Liv N Dye Hair Salon in January 2020 with Natalie Pirtle joining her. "My clients made this happen," Cooksey said. "If I didn’t have these wonderful clients, my dreams wouldn’t have come true." (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)

Remembering how far she's come

After returning to doing hair, Cooksey had to rebuild her whole clientele list. None of her Regis clients knew where she went or what had happened.

Cooksey remembers her clients asking her "what was wrong with you?" She said she'd be honest, telling them about the two years of meth use. As her clients came to know what had been going on, she earned most of them back, plus new ones.

“She was so determined and I was so proud of her,” McDougall said about Cooksey's hard work after returning to the hair industry.

Part of Cooksey's determination was to save enough money to open up her own salon.

“I’ve been wanting to open a salon since I was 5,” she said. “There were always setbacks.”

In fall 2019, at 32 years old and toward the end of her pregnancy with her son, Knox, Cooksey said Dawn Olson, the Washington Square Mall manager, asked her to open a salon in the mall.

"I said 'give me an offer I can’t refuse,'" Cooksey said. “I’m spiritual and I go with my intuition ... and everything felt right, even though it was scary.”

Just five days after her son was born, Cooksey signed the lease for the salon in the mall, calling it Liv N Dye. The name choice was easy, as “hair is my life, I live and die for hair” she said. It was a huge part of her life throughout her battle with her meth addiction.

Lindsey worked full-time at Artistry and she and Brian worked on Liv N Dye on the weekends, getting it ready to open in January 2020.

“I almost kind of forgot about (my past),” Cooksey said. “I was so driven on building my business.”

Natalie Pirtle, the other hairstylist at Liv N Dye, played a big hand in helping the salon open.

“If I didn’t have Natalie here, half of this place would not look the way it does,” Cooksey said.

Cooksey asked her to join her at her salon because she “wanted only the best” and she and Pirtle always got along.

“We were renting at the same place (Artistry Hair Salon) and then she asked if I would come with her,” Pirtle said.

Pirtle was quick to say yes and brought her Bombshell Studio to Liv N Dye salon. Pirtle has been in the business for 15 years, specializing in extensions.

“I’ve always loved doing hair and I love the creative aspect of it,” she said.

On Jan. 2, Lindsey opened the doors to Liv N Dye with Pirtle at her side. It wasn’t until she wrote about opening the salon that she realized how far she has come in the last few years.

“I was like 'God, I am really proud of myself,’” she said. “So appreciative of so many that believed in me, that told me I could do it, and the friends and family that stood by my side. I’m so happy with life.”

Looking at her now compared to when McDougall first met her, Cooksey is like a new person “but with the same personality,” McDougall said. “Clean is what it is … She’s going to go far.”

Sharing her story

“My past does not define me,” Cooksey said about her history with addiction and why she’s so open about it today. “But, it is a part of my story.”

Part of the reason she freely shares her past is because she’s always been open about everything, but also because she knew many people already knew about her addiction, and she hates lying.

“I lied for so many years when I was on meth and after that, if you have to lie, then you’re hiding something,” she said.

Since her clients all know, many of them often talk to Cooksey about their children and their struggles with addiction, eating disorders or suicidal thoughts, as she has experience with all of them.

“All I can say is just, you know, you got to do it (quit) when you’re ready, You have to be ready to be done,” she said. “You cannot rely on others to do it for you.”

She suggests treatment for addiction and making sure that you have good people around you, cutting out any kind of bad influence or negative person.

“Commonly, people might need to move out of a community that’s small, like DL, and they know where they might get meth,” Orin said, backing up Cooksey’s suggestion.

Having Brian’s positive light by Lindsey’s side, even though they were both recovering addicts, helped her through everything.

“Without him, it couldn’t have even happened. He is emotionally, physically, everything, been there by my side,” she said. “I can’t thank him enough for being by my side and believing in me, because he has always believed in me.”

Together, Lindsey and Brian worked their way up from rock bottom. It took time, but Lindsey’s been clean for the last five years, and Brian three. The pair are still head over heels for each other, recently celebrating their four-year wedding anniversary. Because they chose to quit using meth, they live a completely different life than they did just five years ago.

Lindsey and Brian Cooksey with son, Knox. (Courtesy photo)
Lindsey and Brian Cooksey with son, Knox. (Courtesy photo)

Addiction help

If you are someone you know is struggling with addiction, the following contacts may be able to help:

  • Lakes Counseling Center, 1000 Eighth St. SE, 218-847-0696
  • Compassion House, 811 Eighth St. SE, 218-844-5782
  • Drake Counseling Services, 28579 US Highway 10 E., 218-847-1329
  • Lakeland Mental Health Center, 928 Eighth St. SE, 218-736-6987

Liv N Dye Salon

Lindsey Cooksey's salon is in Washington Square Mall and is open by appointment only, walk-ins are not available. Due to COVID-19, Cooksey can only have 25% of capacity in the salon and both she and clients must wear face masks. For more information, call 701-541-4155 or go to Facebook @LivNDyeLCHairInc.