Pubdate: Sun, 24 Dec 2006
Source: News-Gazette, The (Champaign, IL)
Copyright: 2006 The News-Gazette
Author: Pam G. Dempsey
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Lynsi Donnelly sat on a couch between her mother and  her mother's
boyfriend playing with a cell phone.

A Christmas tree, trimmed neatly with lights and  baubles, stood next
to the living room's front window  in the Hegeler home. Carefully
wrapped presents lined  the walls along the side, some stacked underneath.

For 15-year-old Lynsi, this Christmas is the first  she'll celebrate
with a sober mom in her new house and  in her new life. Her mother,
Becki Donnelly, graduated  from the Vermilion County drug court
program in  December – drug-free for 15 months.

"I didn't really like her doing drugs because she was  mean, she was
never there," Lynsi said.

Lynsi and a 6-year-old brother are now living with  their mom, but
their four brothers and sisters are not.  Lynsi Donnelly's 18-year-old
sister and 16-year-old  brother live with aunts. Her younger sisters,
ages 7  and 4, live with her father.

While Lynsi and Becki Donnelly, 35, sometimes think of  each other
more as sisters than mother and daughter,  they each play another
role. As a recovering addict in  a 12-step program, Becki Donnelly has
a list of people  who support her. Lynsi is one of them.

Her list also includes a sponsor; her boyfriend, Kevin  Doggett; and
her sister-in-law, Judy Donnelly.

"For me, my support system has to be the people who  stood by with me
in all of this," Becki Donnelly said.

"All of this" started with a drink when she was 11.

"I've used everything out there, but meth was the one  that spiraled
out of control and I hit rock bottom,"  she said.

Methamphetamine is sometimes known as the poor man's  cocaine because
it offers a similar high. Unlike  cocaine, highs from the concoction
of pseudoephedrine  or ephedrine and anhydrous ammonia can last hours.
It  can be made at home in the bathtub or portable coolers.  It's also
highly addictive.

Though Becki Donnelly smoked marijuana on a daily  basis, used cocaine
and "so on," it wasn't until she  was 31 that she tried meth.

"I'd done it a couple of times, but I just never found  the right way
to do it. One night, someone fed me two  grams in a capsule, and I was
higher than I'd ever been  in my life," she said. "I remember
thinking, 'This is  what I've been waiting for all my life.'"

Soon she found herself cooking the stuff to get high,  selling what
she needed to buy ingredients for another  batch. She and her husband
separated in 2002. Often  left alone, Lynsi and her younger siblings
eventually  moved in with their father.

Donnelly went after them, dropping by one night to take  them home.
None of her children wanted to go, but  Donnelly took her youngest
daughter, then 1.

"She wasn't old enough to say no," Donnelly said.

For three months, Donnelly took her baby from place to  place to get

In 2004, she went to the bank to cash an income tax  refund check,
leaving her baby with a friend. When she  returned, her baby had been
taken by police.

A month later, she was arrested on charges of cooking  meth. More than
a year later, in April 2005, Donnelly  entered drug court.

The Vermilion County drug court program helps convicted  substance
abusers clean up and stay out of jail through  intense supervision and
treatment. There are  punishments such as jail time and awards based
on  behavior.

Drug court is an effective criminal justice  rehabilitation program,
said Susan Perkins, clinical  director for Prairie Center Health
Systems Inc., a drug  treatment and counseling center.

"The majority of (the graduates) stay off drugs and out  of the
criminal justice system," Perkins said.

About 75 percent of those who serve jail time become  repeat
offenders, Perkins said.

"The recidivism rate (of drug court graduates) is 5 to  25 percent,"
Perkins said.

Enrolling in drug court didn't automatically sober  Donnelly

Four months into the program, she used meth again.

This time, though, Donnelly knew that if she "dropped  dirty" - if her
drug test came back positive  - she'd face jail time.

She made plans to run, plotting with a friend for  supplies, but
Doggett interfered. He took her to drug  court himself.

Donnelly spent one month in jail. In August 2005, she  was sent to a
residential treatment center in  Springfield. She resisted at first.

"I thought, 'If these people let me out and let me get  high, I'd be
all right,' " she said.

It was Doggett who encouraged her to give it a chance.

"In my opinion, an addict is nothing but a two-bit  loser," he said.
"I've been there."

He also forced Donnelly to think of her family.

"The kids need you to do this; you need to do this," he  told her

It was a turning point in Donnelly's recovery.

"I put everything I had into it," she said.

Meth addictions are just like any other addiction, said  Betty Seidel,
director of Prairie Center.

"The outcome for addiction treatments for people who  abuse (meth) are
just as good for someone who was  addicted to alcohol," Seidel said.
"The problem is  getting them into treatment."

It took Donnelly five months to accept treatment.  Though she was in
drug court, she initially doctored  drug tests and persuaded the court
to let her sober up  on her own.

"I'd rather be in (the department of corrections) than  in
residential," she said. "I wanted to get high."

Perkins estimates that 30 to 40 percent of drug court  newcomers
initially continue using drugs.

"People are used to a nondrug system; their head's in a  drug fog,"
Perkins said. "Our biggest thing is trying  to get them engaged in

For Donnelly, the addict, meth was the top of the  pyramid of drugs
she took. Marijuana was the base.

"I'd use weed to get up in the morning, weed on a break  at work, weed
when I was sad and weed when I was  happy," she said.

But now, "I'm more worried about what's going on in  this family. I've
eliminated everybody in my life; all  the old people are gone."

She's still working on mending her relationships with  her

"I don't think a thousand 'I'm sorrys' can ever repair  the damage
I've done," she said.

This Christmas, though, is a milestone. It will be the  first year
that Donnelly will have her four younger  children at her house, the
house she just moved into  and the one she plans to buy.

Raking leaves one morning a few months ago, Donnelly  realized she had
more than she ever had before.

"This is life," she said. "I finally have a life."

Lynsi sat on the couch next to her mom and debated when  to open
Christmas presents.

"Struggles bring out the best of us," Donnelly said.  "We show them
there is life other than (drugs). We're  not closed up trying to hit a

Lynsi agreed.

"She's changed a lot. It's better," she said. 
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