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Unconventional Hero

by Debra Rose (Age: 30)
copyright 07-11-2005

Age Rating: 13 +

Fingers trail across the cover of People magazine, lightly munching on fries as I spend a small amount of break absorbing the "shocking scandal!" of all the current celebrities. Normally, I try to stay as far away from this magazine as possible, but it being the only thing within reach at the moment (and being too lazy to find something else) I resigned myself with it as entertainment for the moment. I felt as if I were journeying through the track home, cut and paste stories as the pages turned. "Brad Pitt did what?!" "Is Johnny Depp too close to Male Friends?" "Angelina Jolie: EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS!" "Anorexic Stars Claims 80lbs is Healthy Weight." "Tom Cruise: More Shocking Claims of Scientology."

Didn't people have better things to do than this garbage?!

About to give up, I began to turning quicker, till I spotted something in the back. The picture caught my eye, not because of the glamorous photo, or a half naked body...not even the shocking headline. Instead, it was the realness of it. A middle aged woman with red hair stood amongst a group of convicts with their backs turned to the camera. She was the only one facing it, with a soft, loving smile on her face and her left hand on the shoulder of what seemed to be a Hispanic male. In the corner of the photo, there was a strangers face that I recognized immediately as being a meth addict. Sunken in eyes, huge, dialated pupils, and a smile with teeth slightly yellowed and out of place. Rather normal...but the expression only one who had been there could know.

And next to this were the simple, small print words of the headline "Crystal Meth Killed her Brother, Now small-town doctor Mary Holley fights addiction wherever she finds it."

Pausing in both eating and the obsessive thumbing, I took a moment to read the story. A female doctor lived in a small town in Alabama, where 173 or so meth labs were busted each year. Having a brother who was an addict, she previously accused him having just low self control, until he finally got so tired of the problem, that he shot himself.

Horrified by this, and devestated by her baby brothers suicide, she began doing research. The results were astounding.

And giving a cat scan of an addicts brain, they saw that the drug drilled holes in the areas that are most related with self control. This means that it shut off all ability to transmit or receive commands, therefor rendering addicts nearly completely out of control of even themselves. This was ground breaking, as perviously, most people thought it was little self control. Now it is known that there is no self control, which is not the addicts fault.

Using this information, she began to go see inmates who were jailed for addictions. Talking to them, she explained that this area of the brain could grow back, but it would take years of fragile recovery. She explained to them that what they did while on the drug wasn't their fault, but instead the fault of the drug. In all reality, meth addicts have little to no control over their impulses.

This is now scientifically proven.

Not only does this help them forgive themselves, but explains the harsh cravings and the impulsive violence that occurs when going through withdrawls. But then she did something more. Something that brought tears to my eyes and made my heart ache.

She asked them, "Would it help to know that someone loved you unconditionally, and believed in you? Every one of you?"

They nodded. She then replied with, "Well...I love you, and I believe in you."

She explained she knows they'll be able to get sober... eighty men, who are complete strangers. She told them she wants to see them in Wal-Mart in a year or so, and have them come up and hug her, and tell her how long they were sober. And that's where the article ended.

Wiping tears from my eyes, I closed the magazine. To me, she wasn't just a hero to those men. She was a hero to me. She was patient enough to work with those like me...and to give me hope. Not only did she help them forgive themselves, but she helped me as well. Having been addicted to methamphetamine/speed for a year, and being clean for only four (soon to be five) months, I still held all the things I had done against myself, thinking "I could have stopped that." But now I see...sometimes, there really isn't a way.

I looked at the article, reminded myself of the years ahead of me of fragile recovery, and assured myself that there were people out there--people like her--fighting, dedicating their lives to helping people like me.

And I knew, that if I ever were in Alabama, and happened to see her in a Wal-Mart, I would give her a hug, and tell her how long I had been sober, and thank her. Because even though she didn't say that directly to me, she gave me hope to keep fighting.

Dedicated to Dr. Mary Holley. Thank you.

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        08-15-2005     Shannon Walter        

this was such a great story. i love your work! it so intense! (in a good way)

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