Pubdate: Mon, 18 Apr 2005
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Copyright: 2005 Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: Martha Irvine,  Associated Press


CHICAGO - She gets her latest grade from her theology professor -- it's a 
"check-plus," the highest mark she could've received.

The tall, fair-haired student, older than most of her classmates, smiles 
slightly and shrugs it off, as if it's not such a big deal. But she knows 
better, especially given her circumstance a year ago, even little more than 
two months ago.

Her name is Robin, and she's a 35-year-old mother of three and college 
student earning an undergraduate degree on scholarship.

She's also a recovering addict who spent much of last year strung out on 
methamphetamine, a drug more often associated with Western states and rural 
areas that's spreading to other pockets of the country, including a growing 
number of urban areas.

Robin, who'd never tried the drug until last year, found her meth dealer in 
downtown Chicago through a posting on a popular online bulletin board. She 
had used cocaine in the past -- but was immediately drawn in by meth's 
cheaper, longer high.

"I'd stay up for three or four days and drive around with my children in 
the car. I was a zombie," says Robin, who shared her story on the condition 
that her last name not be used. "After a while, I needed meth just to get 
out of bed."

Now her father is caring for her children, ages 8, 12 and 15, and she is 
attempting to get her life back together. Her focus is staying sober and 
finishing school, while she attends support groups and lives in a halfway 
house, a short train ride from the university she attends on Chicago's 
North Side.

She remains, in many ways, a woman on the edge. A relapse in February, for 
instance, sent her to the halfway house's detox unit, only a few weeks 
after she moved in.

"For me, it's the month later and the six months later that are the 
hardest," she says, noting that making the initial decision to stay clean 
was easier than ignoring the cravings that can still hit out of nowhere.

Drugs have long been her coping mechanism, a way to run from her problems 
and ease her pain. But after years of struggling with addiction, she is 
determined to make it -- without methamphetamine or any other drug.

When she first moved into the halfway house, she says it was hard for her 
to even call her children on the phone.

"At first, I cried so much. But now the more I talk to them, the better I 
feel," says Robin, who often spends time with them on the weekends, taking 
them to video arcades or bowling.

During one of her classes, she doodles on a notebook cover, filling in a 
heart that she's drawn next to the names of her children and her boyfriend.

"My kids are awesome," she says, smiling. "People say, 'Your kids are so 
good.' So I must've done something right."

On bad days -- when she's having cravings or a hard time coping with even 
the smallest of annoyances -- she thinks of them and it helps get her through.
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