Rehab offers free treatment to Florida woman who wanted to go to jail to get off drugs

Michelle Hildebrandt Photos

A rehab center has offered free heroin addiction treatment to a Tampa, Florida woman who tried an extremely desperate measure to get clean.

Tampa police say Michelle Hildebrandt is a 32-year-old heroin addict who was arrested on May 5 after she entered a CVS Pharmacy and allegedly stole a box of Lucky Charms cereal, some soda, and plastic utensils, then opened the items and dumped them on the ground, to force employees to call police.

She told officers she wanted to be arrested so she would be locked in jail while she endured heroin withdrawal symptoms, allowing her to overcome her drug addiction.

That stolen box of Lucky Charms was enough to turn Hildebrandt’s luck around. Rockland Recovery Center saw her story and offered to enroll Hildebrandt in its inpatient substance abuse program, free of charge. 

Hildebrandt checked into Rockland Thursday afternoon, after bonding out of the Pinellas County jail earlier that day. 

Hildebrandt explained that CVS shoplifting incident was her third attempt that day to get caught, and she did whatever she could to get the store to call the cops. 

Like so many other addicts, Hildebrandt says she didn’t have the money or the insurance for drug rehab. Her previous attempts to get clean on her own failed the heroin withdrawals became unbearable for her.

“Gosh, it’s crazy, makes me sound crazy, but I had to do what I had to do to go get clean,” Hildebrandt said. “So, I locked myself in jail to make it through the detox.” 

Rockland’s Brian Zitt saw the story of Hildebrandt’s arrest and reached out to see what he could do to help. Someone once gave him a second shot at life, and he’s dedicated his life now to doing the same for others. 

“I was an addict for 18 years,” he explained. “So, I know we can go to some pretty crazy extremes to get help.” 

Zitt went to see Hildebrandt in jail and after a conversation, offered her a full scholarship for rehab. 

“We’ve seen a lot of success stories come out of here, and we intend to keep it that way,” Zitt said. 

Having gone from desperate to driven, Hildebrandt is excited to start her 30 day program and close this chapter of her life. She’s doing it not just for her sake, but also for her 5-year-old daughter. 

“She’s worth it,” she said. “I’m worth it, too.” 


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