"I always felt empty. There was a huge black hole that I couldn't fill—no matter what I did, I could never fill the hole,” said Mary McFadden, when talking about her drug addiction.Mary feels that not feeling a spiritual connection was at the root of her problems. “God was not in my life at all," she told me, while sitting in her new apartment in San Rafael, California. Mary started drinking as a teenager (in the 1980s), to mask the pain of an extremely abusive childhood.
She was a “high functioning addict.”
By the time Mary was in her late 20's, she had moved from drinking alcohol to free-basing methamphetamine (otherwise known as “speed”). She was a “high functioning addict,” meaning that on the surface she appeared quite normal—she had a job, a car and her own apartment. She managed a popular clothing store in Marin County, California, and held it together for years. But, eventually things fell apart.In 1994, her family intervened by admitting her into a 12-step inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center. She stayed for 60 days, and stayed clean for four months.
“I used drugs and alcohol to mask my feelings."
"But, I wasn't ready to give up my drugs,” Mary said. “I thought that everything that was going on with me was all a result of my childhood trauma. To me, drugs and alcohol weren't the issue, it was all the other stuff. What I didn't understand was that I used drugs and alcohol to mask my feelings."In 1997 things got worse and Mary lost her job, her apartment, her car and distanced herself from her family. In order to survive, she began stealing mail. She used other people's credit cards to stay in local hotels and altered social security checks and cashed them to buy what she needed.
"I got cocky and confident that I could keep living this way.”
"I got cocky and confident that I could keep living this way for the rest of my life, but I wasn't in my right mind. When you're not in your right mind, eventually you slip up," she said.The slip-up occurred when the police stopped her because of a burned-out taillight. She became angry and rude, which caused the officer to run a check on her social security number. He discovered there was an outstanding warrant for her arrest for fraud, larceny and grand theft.The officer handcuffed Mary and took her to jail. She was detained 17 hours before a friend bailed her out. The experience of jail was so traumatic that Mary began using drugs again.
She went to her preliminary hearing, but continued living as she had before the arrest.Two weeks later, she was arrested again. But this time, one of the arresting officers was willing to listen to her, rather than take her straight to jail.“I told him my life story for four-and-a-half hours,” she said. “That, to me, was divine intervention: a police officer who sat down with me and listened to my story. He said, 'You need to get into recovery. If you don't, I'm going to come back and take you to jail. I don't want to see you again.’”She promised. He drove her to her friend's and that night she slept in the only room available—the garage.
"I pretty much just laid awake, praying.”
"I pretty much just laid awake, praying, just asking for some sort of guidance,” she said. “And, I know I was guided because the next morning, I had this burst of energy. I had energy I never had before, with no drugs. I spent eight hours on the phone calling every recovery facility in the Bay Area."Mary was admitted into the Women's Recovery Association in San Mateo, CA and stayed for five months."We spent many hours talking about the difference between spirituality and religion,” she said. “And how God is in your life and what that looks like to you, and what that means. It's different for everybody. It doesn't mean it has to be a denominational thing, like religion. It comes to us in all different forms."
She learned that God is a loving God.
Before, Mary had viewed God as a temperamental, distant authority figure she couldn’t relate to. But at the recovery center, she learned that God is a loving parent greater than herself.Mary could track her progress not just by how she felt, but also by what was taking place in her life. First, the public defender assigned to her case was able to get 12 out of 14 felonies against her dropped. Next, none of the 13 people she took money from pressed charges. The remaining felonies were cleared by paying restitution and by serving 300 hours of community service, as well as continuing to adhere to a recovery program. She completed those obligations over the next 18 months.Remember the officer who said he didn't want to see her again? “I saw him a year later,” Mary said, “almost to the day. At first he didn't recognize me, but as I explained my story, he remembered. I told him I was clean and sober and he smiled, gave me a big hug and said, ‘Thank you. You made my day.’”
“I had a spiritual awakening.”
“Throughout the process of recovery,” Mary explains, “I had a spiritual awakening. I don't know how to describe what that is, but you're put into a different place. I felt a shift. It's the only way I can explain feeling as peaceful as I did, as confident as I did, as serene. And, I felt abundant with willingness, to do whatever it took to make my life better.”Mary did make her life better. She is now a certified addiction specialist and is qualified to work in any social model, drug and alcohol recovery facility. Her dream is to go to college to work in the field of recovery.
She knows now that she is a child of God.
Mary prays on bended knee twice a day. There are some common themes in her prayers. She asks God for "Thy will, not mine" to be done. She asks God for guidance and protection for her and her loved ones. She talks to God throughout the day and in various circumstances, often finds herself asking, what lesson do I need to learn from this? She says she knows now that she is a child of God and that He needs her to do His work by living honestly and unselfishly, by giving back.When asked what she feels was the biggest change in her since all this began, she replied, "I had a feeling that I wasn't alone anymore. That's when I knew God was in my life. And that feeling, I can't describe it. It's a presence. I'd never felt that before. It's like God took hold of my hand, and He's never let it go."
Science and Health: 4:3-5 9:32 288:31-1 322:17-22 327:29
King James Bible: Matt 6:10
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