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It Occurs to Me

Smears and Whispers
By Michelle Anderson
Aug 1, 2005 - 8:46:00 AM

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A couple of weeks ago, I found out that someone here in town was planning to "out" me for what I am: an ex-heroin addict and recovering alcoholic who has been clean and sober for more than 16 years now. (Though I expect she would conveniently have left out the last part of that sentence...) I found out, in fact, that she had spoken to several people about it -- some of whom one would think are "pillars of the community."

I found it difficult to believe anyone would stoop so low, but sure enough, on Saturday, a television news reporter showed up at our petition table asking, "What does someone's criminal record have to do with this petition?"

What, indeed. This says so much about the pro-MAGIC's willingness to do or say anything, no matter how low or how truth-twisted, in order to continue to continue their reign here, despite the fact that they were selected, not elected.

That is a story for another time. Right now, I wish to address the "whisper campaign" which has been mounted.

Yes, it is true that I was a heroin addict. From 1969 -- when at 14, I ran away from home to San Francisco -- until 1988 -- when, at the age of 33, I entered a long-term treatment facility for addicts -- I did whatever I had to do in order to keep heroin in my system.

During that 19-year span, I broke many laws, and was caught numerous times. Yes, I have done jail time. Indeed, I have done time in prison. I have hurt numerous people, mostly emotionally or financially, but I'm afraid I must admit to physically hurting a few people as well.

But in 1988, through the grace of God, I stopped using drugs and alcohol. That, however, was a minor feat. In 1988, I began a journey that changed my life 180 degrees.

The facility I entered was not one which is run by doctors and has fuzzy therapy sessions for 28 days. It is one of those which uses signs and shaves heads; one in which all 200 of the other residents are brutally honest when pointing out one another's faults. It was itself one which was run by former addicts, and although it was a 2-year program, I stayed 5 years to help run the place.

That program, Delancey Street allowed me to get my GED and go to college. It was there that I developed the work ethic -- I started out typing orders for our marketing department, and my last job there was secretary to the President. I had a hand in helping out literally hundreds of addicts who entered the facility after I did. I learned the concepts of rigorous honesty, caring, and uncompromisingly doing what I believe to be the "right thing."

While I am most certainly not perfect, I strive to grow along spiritual lines.

In the moments before I answered that reporter, I thought with horror about my husband, who has never had a substance abuse problem, and what this news would do to his reputation. I thought about the people in my church and how they would react. I thought about my friends with whom I am involved in our effort to take back OUR town. And then I remembered that this is simply another tactic of those who would go to any length to keep their power over a dying town.

I took a deep breath and told the television reporter about my past life and the transformation I underwent 16 years ago, and I realized that I need to take another deep breath and tell those who will soon hear about it in the coming whisper campaign the same thing.

I must admit that I have been quite proud of what I have done with my life for the last 16 years. Having found hope in a formerly hopeless world, I have spoken at women's shelters, rehab facilities, juvenile halls, and jails, and have proudly shared my experience, strength and hope with those who have no hope. I have mentored scores of women and girls who were attempting to climb out of a desperately dark and deep hole, and dozens of them are themselves turning around and extending a helping hand to others who need it.

For about 24 hours, after the reporter told me about the email, I have to admit, I was embarrassed about my life and was in a low-level panic about "what people will think about me?"

But a certain serenity comes from losing everything. When there is nothing left to lose other than your integrity and principles, you realize that no one -- no matter how desperate, how vicious, or how corrupt -- can take those things from you, and you simply treasure them more.

So, to the person who emailed no less than THREE Bangor television stations to "alert" them to my past, I say, I have been forgiven by Jesus Christ Himself, and those who disagree with Him are really not so relevant to me.



Related Article: Desperate Tactics

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