This is a story about transformation…

Marie grew up in Roswell.  She never knew her father.  At age 3, her mother committed suicide.  “She left me.”  So she grew up with her grandmother, who was wonderful to her.  She taught her to respect everyone, especially her elders; taught her how to sew, crochet and embroidering.  “She taught me everything.”  Marie says they were extremely poor, living on her Social Security survivor benefit from her mother.  She doesn’t know how her grandmother made ends meet, but somehow she did.  Then at age 13, Marie’s grandmother, whom she called “Mom,” died of cancer.  “She died in my arms.”

Soon after that, Marie’s uncle kicked her out to the streets.  With only a 6th grade education, from that day forward she says, “I had to fend for myself.”  She ran around with other teens and met an interloper, a 25-year-old man who started hanging out with her group and moved in on her life.  This man was abusive and injected Marie with heroin.  She was 13.  Thus began her long addiction to heroin.

When she was 21, Marie moved to Phoenix after her only biological sibling, her sister, was murdered there.  Eventually, she moved to Albuquerque and off and on lived on the streets, in and out of jail and prison, occasionally renting apartments, all the time addicted to heroin.

Three years ago, Marie’s transformation began.  On Thanksgiving Day she adopted a tiny long-haired Chihuahua puppy she named “Kandi,” and whom she now calls “my baby.”  Kandi was so small, Marie recalls, “she fit in my hand.”  Marie lived on the streets with Kandi.  She frequently came to St. Martin’s shelter to eat breakfast, get clothes and get her mail.  The Client Advocate assisted her with obtaining her NM ID.  But she did not use long-term storage.  Her own clothes and belongings came and went (lost or stolen), she says, but always she carried with her Kandi’s belongings:  toys, blankets, “No More Tangles” shampoo for dogs.

A few months ago, Marie got to know a kind man named Michael.  She calls him “my Christian.”  He allowed her to stay with Kandi in her own separate section of his home:  her own bedroom, shower and living room.  But on Feb. 17, tragedy again struck:  Kandi was attacked by a vicious dog.  Marie gathered her up and ran aimlessly seeking help.  She ended up at a groomer’s shop and the groomer drove her and Kandi to a vet hospital, where they were told, “It will cost you $75 to have your dog examined.”  Marie had no money.  The groomer said, “No problem.”  The vet hospital said, “It will cost you another $150 for pain medicine.”  The groomer again said, “No problem.”  Marie took Kandi to a friend’s house and left her there for 3 days.  She returned to find that Kandi had miraculously healed and barked a greeting to her as she walked in.  This experience was Marie’s “epiphany.”

Marie recalls that April 14, 2014 is her “birthday.”  It is the day she got clean from heroin.  After the kindnesses shown her by Michael and the Good Samaritan groomer, what ultimately jumpstarted her life of sobriety was twofold:  Michael scraping together the money to pay for her to take Methadone starting on that day, and her unfailing devotion to Kandi.  Since that day, Marie has gone to Duke City Toolbox for her daily dose of Methadone.

The Client Advocate in the shelter and the Heading Home team helped Marie navigate her messy legal problems, including 2 hearings to cancel warrant (for failure to appear) and a bond forfeiture hearing in which the bond company only agreed to not drop her bond when he was able to reach Michael on the phone to verify she had a stable place to stay.  The Client Advocate accompanied her to these hearings and was able to get the last cancel warrant hearing set the morning she was due to check in with her Probation Officer.  Had she gone to her PO with any warrants, she would have ended up back in jail.  Marie did her community service at Grace Thrift Store (Sandia Nazarene), and enjoyed the experience.  Her only remaining case will be dismissed in January, pending no more new charges.

On July 18, Marie moved into her Heading Home apartment and began case management with her St. Martin’s Heading Home CSW, Leia, who says that she keeps her home very neat and clean and takes excellent care of Kandi.  Marie furnished her own apartment without any need of assistance, sanding and repainting furniture she found.  Recently, Marie hauled a humongous TV home that she found along the side of the road, enlisting the help of a teen to help her drag/carry it.  Leia says the TV is easily 5 times her weight!  Marie also bought a doggie water fountain for Kandi, and is animated when describing it.


Both Lance and Leia report that the dramatic transformation Marie has achieved is evident when you look at her NM ID she obtained right before she got clean.  In contrast, now she looks healthy, alert and engaged in what’s going on around her.  She is taking her medications and attends bi-monthly counseling sessions and two-a-week classes at the Toolbox:  “Stinkin’ Thinkin’” and “Relapse Prevention.”


Now Marie is looking for a church to attend that nourishes her soul.  She would like to attend one with other recovering addicts who “get it” what she has been through and also what she has achieved in her life, a church where there is no judgment.


Marie has transcended unimaginable trauma and tragedy.  She now has a home that she is proud of, a precious dog she calls her “soul mate,” a dedicated case manager offering support and direction, and a new lease on life.  Most of all, she has the strength of character and passion for life that has been hard won and will embolden her on her journey!