Mary” is a 20 year old client living at House of Mercy. The first time she ever felt that she had friends and a “sense of belonging in the world” was when she started using marijuana at the age of fourteen. A year later her use moved from smoking pot to the use of prescription pills (Xanax). At the young age of fifteen, she began dealing in her upper middle class community. She obtained a great deal of her “supply” from adults who encouraged her to use and deal for them.
All was not well in Mary’s typical, suburban home. She received minimal attention from her parents. When their fighting and alcoholism escalated, Mary moved to a trailer to live with a friend. She continued to deal marijuana and benzodiazepines and soon began experimenting with pain pills. By the age of 16, Mary was actively using morphine, OxyContin and a variety of other pain medications. She would often travel to Colorado with a 35 year-old local drug dealer to buy supplies. After returning home, she would deal marijuana to her “clientele” who ranged anywhere from 13 to 70 years of age.
Mary continued to actively deal in her late teens and tried again to live at home. But she was eventually kicked out. At seventeen she lived in her van with her boyfriend for three long months. During this time her use of pain medications continued to escalate. When Mary was eventually allowed to return home, she moved into the basement. Her pain pill addiction made Mary feel “beyond powerful.” She believed that she could take higher and higher doses and “nothing will ever happen” and nothing could hurt her. Those around her continued to maintain a position of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Mary explains that her drug use and the power obtained from dealing created an internal belief that there was “no other option” to this way of life. She was having more and more blackouts. At age 18 she was found unresponsive in the middle of the street outside her home. Others helped her to the front lawn and then to her home. Once in bed, Mary slept for 14 straight hours. She awakened to a very concerned family. Mary still didn’t believe her addiction had become that bad, but she agreed to enter treatment and thought it would be “quick and easy.”
Mary began outpatient substance abuse treatment at House of Mercy. She readily admits that she had no plans of getting sober. She sought a quick intervention so that she could get back out on the streets to deal. But while Mary was in outpatient treatment, she admitted to struggling with continued use. Mary agreed to House of Mercy’s residential housing services. Again, she thought that “treatment would be easy.” After six months and two “dirty UA’s,” Mary agreed that she was not ready for treatment and moved out. Within 15 minutes of discharge, she met up with friends and acquired $300 worth of morphine. After three days, these “friends” went to work, school, etc. and Mary found herself high, lost, and alone. Feeling like “nothing beyond a loser and a drug dealer,” Mary continued to use. Five days later, she had no money, no drugs, and no one for support.
Then Mary received a call from a healthy peer at House of Mercy, and they agreed to meet at a 12-Step meeting. This peer supported Mary and helped her find a temporary safe place to stay. Mary found the courage to ask for another chance at House of Mercy. While waiting for a bed, Mary attended 12-Step meetings every day and for the first time used friends for healthy support rather than a means of getting high. When Mary finally met with the team at House of Mercy, she asked for help and admitted she was ready to change.
Today, Mary is nine-months sober and describes her life as “awesome.” She has come to realize that feelings are not her “enemy” but instead of part of the 20 year-old woman that she has become. Mary is currently working a job she “loves” and has started making strides toward an AA degree. Even with great grades old “thoughts” creep in. She says, “It’s hard to believe I’m really that smart!” Mary is now working with the House of Mercy team to continue to grow in her recovery and develop a career where she can provide services to children.