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Ethics & Religion
Column #2,012
March 4, 2020
How To Stop Drug Addiction
By Mike McManus

Rebecca Hale was only six when her mother was imprisoned on drug charges; so her father cared for her. But he was an alcoholic who also used drugs. Result: Rebecca and her dad became homeless after she completed the first grade. He went to prison for burglary.

Rebecca was a virtual orphan who was placed in a children's home. She was so unhappy that she ran away to live with friends. However, she wanted an education. When the 9th grade began, she got enrollment papers, and took them to prison for her mom to sign them.

But when she signed up for classes, the school asked, "Where's your mom?"

"She's at work and can't come today," she lied. The school clerk asked probing questions, prompting Rebecca to confess, "Look, I'm homeless. My parents are in prison. Please let me enroll."

"Oh, honey, we can't do that;" the woman replied.

Rebecca said she needed to go the bathroom, but she left and moved in with friends. She ran into one of her mother's drug runners. That's how she began using and selling drugs.

In addition, when she as only six years old, a man in his 60s offered her candy if she would come to his apartment. He started kissing her and touching her inappropriately, and made her touch him.

"I knew it didn't feel right. But I'll tell you, the sick, twisted part is that he gave me a lot of attention that I was really needing. He told me that's what dads did with their daughters. So when her dad came out of prison, Rebecca tried to give him a long, deep kiss.

"You don't have to do that. I'm a grown up and you're little girl. And I'm your daddy and that's not OK."

"Rebecca later found a job that enabled her to buy a car in which she could sleep, and while still homeless, she graduated from high school," reports Nicholas Kristoff and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, authors of an important new book, Tightrope: America Reaching for Hope.

After graduation, Rebecca landed a job as a cashier and cook at Arby's, which enabled her to get her first apartment. However, Rebecca continued to use and sell drugs and she had a child, Chloe, at the age of twenty, and then another, Nate, a year later, with a different father.

"I don't think there's anything anybody ever could have said to make me stop," she told the authors. She was haunted by the shame and sexual abuse and had no feeling of self-worth. Rebecca was sinking deeper into drugs and was repeatedly thrown in jail.

Then Nate's dad left Rebecca and took custody of Nate, their son, while Chloe went to Joyce, her mother. Rebecca said, "When the kids got taken from me, I really went wild." She embarked on a crime wave that sent her to federal prison for three years for money laundering, bank fraud and identity theft.

However, when released, Rebecca told her probation officer she wanted to go into drug treatment, but lacked money to do so. They said they couldn't help unless she was arrested on drug charges. "What you're telling me is that I have to get in more trouble in order to get help?" Rebecca asked incredulously.

"Pretty much."

Soon she succumbed again to drugs and crime and landed back in jail - with 28 felony charges! Her story is sadly typical of girls experiencing sexual violence. In Oregon, 93% of girls in juvenile justice had experienced sexual or physical violence.

When her daughter, Chloe, was 13 and refused to speak to her, Rebecca decided to make a decisive change in her life. She learned of a program, Women in Recovery in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which gave her a new life.

"I think it's God," she said. "My mom was praying. I was praying. Even my daughter was getting down in front of the church every Sunday."

She attended all classes and bared her soul in therapy sessions. "She took a deep and emotional look at her past - the trauma, abuse, neglect and drugs," the authors write. She learned how to set goals and then how to meet them. She and her classmates received coaching on decision-making, taking responsibility, budgeting and conflict resolution, nutrition, relapse prevention, resume writing, plus help in getting GEDs housing and jobs.

Weeks later, Rebecca was one of 17 women, who graduated from Women in Recovery. They had 15 years of drug addiction each, plus long experience in crime, poverty and homelessness. Yet on that night in Tulsa they were all in beautiful dresses celebrating their new lives. Each had a new future.

Every city needs Women in Recovery.


Copyright (c) 2019 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to www.ethicsandreligion.comm. Hit Search for any topic.


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