Mary has faced challenges many of us can’t imagine. And yet, the most noticeable thing about her is an incredible warmth and kind spirit. Laughter, what she calls her “medicine”, precedes her wherever she goes; you hear Mary before you actually see her. Her jovial nature played a key role in her survival and success.
Mary’s story is profound in many ways, but unfortunately not exceptional. When she was young, Mary was sexually abused by a family member and his friends. At 13 she began using amphetamines and alcohol. The alienation she felt at this time would develop into a life long, deeply rooted sense of “feeling like an outsider.”
When Mary graduated high school she entered the work force as a provider for people with mental disabilities, a field in which she worked for 11 years. More than just a job, Mary loved working as a caregiver as it highlighted many of her natural talents and skills. Caring for others was a natural fit. Mary advanced quickly and within a few years she became a supervisor. She enjoyed her work but says, “The physical and emotional stress caught up to me.”
About this time in her life Mary describes herself as a “functional alcoholic and drug user.” She binged on the weekends and sobered up before she went back to work on Monday. The pressure of Mary’s occupation did finally catch up to her when a long time client, with whom she was very close, transferred to a different agency. She felt crushed by the loss and overwhelmed with years of accumulated stress and anxiety.
At this time, Mary’s drug and alcohol use quickly became dysfunctional as her weekend indulgences turned weeklong and then transpired into months of endless bingeing. She lost her job and spiraled deeply into addiction. During a family planned intervention, Mary choked, lost consciousness, and literally died. She was resuscitated, rushed to the hospital, then transferred to a treatment center where she underwent detoxification for substance abuse. Shortly thereafter, Mary entered Crossroads for Women.
Once at Crossroads, Mary was surprised by the issues that began to surface while in recovery. Working one-on-one with her case manager and her counselor, she processed the traumatic stress of the sexual abuse she experienced as a child. She says, “I learned to grieve while at Crossroads.” She also discovered a new sense of belonging as family and friends expressed pride in her success. Mary is proud of the fact that other women at Crossroads, especially those who are new in their recovery, often come to her for advice and nurturing when they need it. She says, “I feel reborn again. I’m not going to let anybody take this from me.”
–Written by Amanda Douglas