High life

Addicts find it in meth, advocate delivers it with hope, faith

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The telephone call came out of nowhere. She was driving on a warm summer's night and the muddled, cryptic words of the Iowa state patrolman didn't make sense.

He said something about her brother. She has four of them. He said something about her brother being dead.

The details stopped cold there.

She didn't know it at the time, but that telephone call on July 4, 2000, would forever change the course of Mary F. Holley's life. Through that initial call, she would learn that her brother, a 24-year-old recovering methamphetamine addict and schizophrenic, had taken his own life while attending a family function.

"It was a pretty harrowing experience," Holley said.

In the aftermath, Holley -- a practicing obstetrician -- began investigating methamphetamine. What she found disturbed her.

The drug, she said, makes the user bounce with energy. Work harder, better, stay up all night and day. Makes them feel smarter, and as Holley said, "bullet proof, invincible ... like God."

However, it also assaults the brain, methodically destroying brain cells. And therein lies the rub. The highly addictive drug is poison, toxic, Holley said. The more someone uses, the closer they step to insanity, to oblivion, to the point of no return, like her brother, Jim.

Its long arm of addiction snagged her brother and fought like hell to let go. It ate his brain, his ability to think rationally. It stole his hope.

He tried to kill himself before. Family members intervened.

They couldn't help him. They wanted to, but just couldn't.

He was already gone.

She had to do something. She felt compelled.

"I thought, 'Why isn't someone doing anything about it?'" Holley said. "It appalled me."

So, she did what many trained professionals would do when facing a problem they didn't understand. She educated herself. Then she took her findings to the dens where users ended up -- prisons, rehab centers, juvenile facilities. She told her listeners -- they ranged from the aged, hardened criminal to the confused youth with plenty of life left to live -- about the dangers, the pitfalls of this street venom once believed to be no more treacherous than caffeine.

"It just grew from there," said Holley, the founder of Alabama-based Mothers Against Meth-

amphetamine and a speaker scheduled to appear next week in Craig. "Now, we're a national organization."

The devastating phone call six years ago spawned MAM, a national organization that includes between 7,000 and 8,000 members and 170 chapters across the country.

Holley, the author of "Crystal Meth: They Call it Ice," will present the program, Crystal Meth: The High is the Lie, Saturday and Sunday inside the auditorium at Moffat County High School, 900 Finley Lane. The program begins at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The local Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse group is sponsoring the free, one-hour presentation.

Holley said the presentation includes a general description of methamphetamine, stages of addiction and an outline of the basic physiology of the drug's impact on the brain cell. The doctor also describes the collateral damage of meth use -- the impact it has on relationships, families and children.

But, Holley's underlying message of the program -- the scientific, physiological and psychological effects are merely the road map used to get there -- is one many users need to hear.

"There is hope," she said. "Even in the face of all this, of the severe brain damage, of the pain, the anger, and the hurt, (the user) can find forgiveness for what they've done."

Addicts can find that healing, that rebirth, in one place, Holley said.

"We bring them to the cross," she said, explaining the faith-based aspect of her presentation. Getting clean and sober, she said, is difficult "without telling them about the hope and healing of Jesus Christ."

She's spread that message across the country. Law enforcement, social workers, teachers, medical professionals, defense attorneys and prosecutors nationwide have attended her presentation.

She's found the work to be her true calling in life.

Where once she was an obstetrician charged with bringing a single life at a time into the world, Holley is now an advocate, healer and hope-giver pledged with repairing hundreds of lives in an afternoon.

"I went from bringing life into the world one life at a time to bringing 300 people back to life at a time," she said, of speaking to prisoners and addicts. "It is extremely rewarding to see the look on their faces when they realize they don't have to die."

She's now devoted to this cause. She shut down her obstetrics practice two years ago. She became the chairman of the education committee for the Alabama task force on methamphetamine, a board put in place by the state attorney general.

All educational efforts add up in fighting this so-called war on meth.

It's a war the doctor doubts will ever be won on a full-scale, but one her and others can win in increments -- one restored life at a time.

"We're never going to win this war," she said. "We don't pretend that's our mission. But, we have won individual lives out of the destruction of meth. That's the reward, and the success has been remarkable."

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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