Part I: ‘I’m totally scared straight’
Appeal Staff Writer
In August 2005, Mary Reasoner called the Nevada Appeal. The mother of two said she’d been “scared straight” after a near-death experience brought on by years of methamphetamine abuse.
She was home recovering from gall bladder surgery, but wanted to find a way to reach the community to tell people of the horrors of meth, swearing she’d never use again.
She agreed, instead, to allow a reporter and a photographer to follow her through her recovery process.
They kept in touch with her over the next 20 months.
Without looking at it, Mary turns the photograph face down.
She doesn’t want to see the brown-haired girl of her past – with the rosy, rounded cheeks and soft eyes.
When her mom says, “This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out,” Mary lowers her head onto the bar and cries.
“I’m totally scared straight,” she says, raising her head while sitting cross-legged on a barstool in her family’s east Carson City home. “This drug is evil. It’s the devil.”
And she looks scared. Her eyes are hollow, almost vacant, peering from beneath a mop of sandy blond hair.
At 29, Mary Reasoner has battled drug addiction for most of her life and methamphetamine for more than a decade. Several arrests, two felonies and 11 court-ordered trips to rehabilitation haven’t cured her.
Two pregnancies didn’t either – smoking it nauseated her, so she wrapped it in tissue paper and ate it.
“I didn’t like the taste,” she explains.
This time, she’s sure she’s hit rock bottom.
It started about a month ago when she went to the hospital with severe abdominal pains. It was a ruptured cyst on her gall bladder, likely a result of prolonged meth use.
After the surgery to remove her gall bladder, she checked herself out of the hospital, against doctors’ orders, to find some speed.
Her grandmother found her spun out at a friend’s house and brought her back to Carson-Tahoe Hospital, where she spent five days detoxifying her system and battling pneumonia.
Lying in the intensive-care unit, she says, her dead grandfather appeared to her.
She remembers him saying he was disappointed in her and that it wasn’t her time to go.
Maybe he was disappointed that years of drug abuse had brought her to this place. Maybe it was because she’d neglected her two children. Or maybe he knew that while he was dying, Mary had stolen about $10,000 from his wife.
Whatever the reason, his message was clear: She needed to live. She needed to clean up her life.
It wasn’t the first time Mary had heard that message.
When she got arrested for credit card fraud trying to support her habit in 2000, she knew, again, she should give it up.
After that arrest, she went to rehab and managed to stay clean for 17 months – her personal record. But her weight climbed to more than 200 pounds, and being clean was boring.
She got arrested for burglary less than five years later, trying to feed the same demon.
“I like the chaos. I like the drama,” she says.
When she shoots the drug into her vein, the party starts. Her friends will say, “Here’s Mare!” seeming to imply her identity is intrinsically intertwined with the high.
So she stuck a needle in her arm and started a six-month runner, getting high every day, several times a day. She didn’t see her kids, she didn’t care to see them. She didn’t check in with her mom, who has custody of the kids. She just chased the high, even when it meant stealing from her grandmother.
That’s what brought her here – just home from the hospital, and weighing 121 pounds.
“This is disgusting to me,” she says. Her skinny legs and arms protrude from her denim shorts and tank top. “I’m just skin and bones. If I don’t have to look in a mirror, I won’t.”
And that’s not like her. Everyone who knows Mary knows she always stops in front of a mirror.
“It was always like this,” her cousin Michael Pierson says, feigning primping his hair.
Not anymore. She doesn’t like the way she looks.
“Because of the way I look, the way I feel and what it took to get to this point, to feel this way.”
At 16, she started drinking and using marijuana. Just shy of turning 18, she went to her dealer to get pot. He was out. He offered her speed instead.
She didn’t think about it, she just snorted it – and it was an instantaneous love affair.
“I didn’t sleep for three days and I lost 10 pounds.”
For the girl who’d always felt fat, it was like a miracle. It became her obsession.
For the first time she felt sexy. She got attention from men.
And she craved attention.
Because of her mother’s heroin addiction, she was raised in foster care in California, away from the rest of her family in Carson City.
When she’d come home to visit, she was the outsider. She didn’t share the same addictions.
She saw her family torn apart from generations of alcohol and drug abuse.
“I swore up and down I’d never do it. I hate myself for not breaking the cycle.”
Three weeks before graduation, she dropped out of high school to move back home to Carson City.
This time, she was no longer an outsider. She was an addict.
“I looked at her and I saw me and it made me sick,” her mom says.
And Mary had never been so fun.
“She took it to the hilt,” Pierson says, smiling. “She showed us all how to do it.”
But now, it’s no longer fun. It hurts to sit for too long, she’s too weak to stand much. There’s a pain in her back that doesn’t stop. It could be from a rear-end car accident a few days ago, or it could be something else. It just hurts.
She knows quitting is not going to be easy. She’s tried before.
“All I know are dopers in this town. I know a couple of people who are clean. That’s it.”
Right now, her 11-year-old son won’t talk to her. The youngest son, age 8, is less angry, but still reserved.
“I don’t know how to be a mama right now,” she says. “I need to learn how to like doing things with my kids.”
She has the support of her family, and she remembers how good it felt to be involved with her two boys during that year she was clean.
“It was the first time I was a mama to them,” she says.
All of those failures, all of the disappointments, and all of the hurts she’s caused the people who love her, that’s what it took to get here. To finally be ready.
“It will happen,” she resolves. “This is the last time. It’s different.”
• Contact reporter Teri Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1272.