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Drug court grad: 'I thank God every day that I went to jail'

System works to break the cycle of addiction

DIXON – On Dec. 13, 2012, Mary Jenner's life changed forever. That was the day she stopped using heroin.

Jenner has back problems – the result of a lifetime of factory work and other physically demanding jobs.

The work took its toll, so the 34-year-old Amboy woman went to doctors for anything to make the pain go away. Eventually, the pills stopped working; she developed a tolerance and needed to increase her dosage. At first, doctors complied. When that stopped, Jenner wasn't ready for it.

"I started getting it myself," she said. "Then I switched to heroin."

She was introduced to heroin by her ex, a man she met during a stint in rehab for a probation violation (marijuna, she said). For a while, she blamed the probation department for her addiction, rationalizing that if she hadn't been sent to rehab, she wouldn't have met her ex, and he wouldn't have introduced her to the addiction that would consume more than 3 years of her life.

Strangely, it was also because of her ex that Jenner finally got clean. The two were out scrapping one day, trying to get enough money together for their next fix, when they were arrested on theft charges. He's on probation; she decided to accept Lee County's offer to attend its drug court program instead.

"I really did; I tried quitting on my own, but it just didn’t work," Jenner said. "When I got arrested, it was a blessing, because there was no other way to get off of it. It’s a very addicting drug. I’ve lost family, I’ve lost close friends because of it, and it still didn’t stop me.

"I thank God every day that I went to jail, because I don’t know where I'd be today or if I'd even still be here."

As of Friday, she had been clean 596 days – an achievement she credits to her close support system: parents, daughter, fiancé, and her Grace Fellowship church family.

"They all stuck by me through everything," Jenner said. "I couldn't have done it without them."

Success stories

Lee County (since 2005):

- 82 participants
- 32 successful graduates
- Three gradues re-arrested: one misdemeanors, two felonies

Ogle County (since 2009):

- 30 participants
- 15 successful graduates
- Four graduates re-arrested: two misdemeanors, two felonies

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