Excerpted from Street Sense, June 9, 2021, by Sloane Airey:
Jacqueline “Jackie” Pearson joined the Women’s Transitional Treatment Program in February, after struggling with addiction to heroin for 45 years.
“I had four fentanyl overdoses in November,” Pearson said. “Three of them I was taken to the hospital to come back. The fourth one was the one that did it: My son had to breathe in my mouth.” Pearson was watching her 2-year-old grandson when she overdosed the last time, and said the realization of what could have happened to him while she was unconscious was a wake-up call. Previously she said she would lie to her son — asking for extra money she would use to buy opiates — but after he resuscitated her and realized the extent of her addiction, her son called her selfish and self-centered.
“I didn’t care anything about manipulating him, I just cared about getting high,” said Pearson. “But I hurt my baby, I really hurt him. When I talk about him, I can see how he looked at me — his eyes had so much pain in them. I was so selfish, I never thought about how much pain I had inflicted on my kids.”
Pearson said she completed several stints in 28-day recovery programs but always relapsed because she wasn’t ready to be sober. One of the things she’s doing differently now in the Samaritan Inns six-month program is addressing the trauma underlying her drug use.
“My addiction started as a kid because I was raped at six years old. I was being raped just constantly, constantly, constantly,” she said. “I never, ever told my mother because I always looked at my mother as a big strong person because she was a single parent. And I figured if I told her something like that she knew she couldn’t protect me and it would affect her. And that’s the kind of attitude I had with people: I always take care of other people and don’t think nobody’s supposed to take care of me.”
Pearson started smoking marijuana and taking psychedelics with friends at concerts, then progressed to snorting PCP and then heroin.
“What started as a recreation became a problem for me,” she said. “And I started going back and forth to jail.”
Chrissy Buswell, the Clinical Director of the program, is working to include trauma-informed therapy techniques like trauma recovery groups to the women’s program to help clients like Jackie who have experienced sexual violence.
“These people keep on encouraging me, something that I need, that I was scared to ask for,” said Pearson of the staff at the program. “I don’t have to ask them, that’s what they do, that’s their job. And they let you know that’s their job: they’re here for you. And that’s why I’m still here in this program.”
Pearson says Buswell is teaching her how to pause and think before acting impulsively on her feelings — something Pearson said she never learned in drug treatment settings before.
“The addiction is still there. And it might creep up at any time regardless of what she taught me,” Pearson said. “But she gave me something to hang on to.”