- Common themes imprinted in the early years set people up for addictions.
- Knowing how to counter these themes is critical for recovery and prevention of relapse.
- Those who have lacked a mature, responsible, loving parent figure in their lives may need to learn how to validate themselves.
Part I tells how Malory Ruesch went from honor student to heroin addict, turning to drugs to cover the pain of her father’s abandoning her and living with an alcoholic mother. As she was about to be sentenced to years in prison, a man named Chuck, who had been following her case, burst into the courtroom and persuaded the judge to give him a chance to rescue her from prison and the life she was leading.
Turning Point: The Father Figure
Chuck, an accomplished private probation officer, sternly warned Malory, “I’ll see you in two weeks for a zero-tolerance drug test: If you fail, you’ll go straight to jail.”
Within 48 hours, she stole her mother’s car, went to Vegas, robbed a hooker, and stole from drug dealers.
Failing the drug test, she heard Chuck say, “What do we have to do to get you to choose to live? Clearly, you don’t want to. Maybe the judge was right. Maybe I was an idiot to think you could do this.”
Malory cried, “I just want to be loved, to know if I went away, someone would care.”
Chuck said, “I would care. And if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have come into the courtroom.”
Malory replied, “I want to be inspired into recovery, not punished into recovery. I did it once.”
Chuck told her, “For the next six months, call me every night, so I will know if you’re alive or high.”
That six months changed everything because she was building a relationship with the father figure she’d longed for all her life, one who cared and loved her. They’d laugh, talk, and joke. Chuck also held her accountable for her actions and encouraged her to go to college to keep her mind busy
Malory was living in a homeless shelter when another amazing relationship began. Wes was an introvert that Malory had met during the early party years. He came to the homeless shelter and said that he had a room for her.
Chuck inspected the room and told Wes, “She’s unavailable. Don’t even think about being any more than a friend. She’s co-dependent and needs to learn to love herself and live on her own.”
Wes came to support groups and heard all of her story. They built an unbreakable friendship, staying up at night talking, building a foundation for a most magical relationship.
Eventually, Chuck told Malory that the six-month check-in period had ended. She was sad, though. She had looked forward to having someone to celebrate with and to hear, “I’m proud of you.” Chuck said, “Now you have to learn to love and validate yourself.”
Malory enrolled in school and got a job, which she still has, working with addicts. She had finally made the decision to live.
Life was great. Chuck arranged for all her charges to be expunged upon her graduation so that she could graduate free and clear of all her bad choices.
Wes ended up going to Chuck to ask if he could propose. Wes was everything Malory ever wanted in life. She asked Wes one day, “Who do I have to walk me down the aisle?” and Wes said, “Why wouldn’t you ask Chuck?” “You are right,” she said.
Malory called Chuck but got no answer. Three months later, the day before the wedding, Chuck's friend called and said, “Mal, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this. Chuck was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer three months ago; he’s under hospice care. He asked me to call you. He wants to see you.” So she rushed off to his house. His entire family was there in silence.
Chuck’s wife took her hand and led her to his bedroom. As the door opened, he was lying there, ironically with painkillers. He said, “Mal, I’m so sorry I haven’t been able to return your calls.”
She quipped, “I wanted you to walk me down the aisle, dummy.”
Chuck said, “I want you to know I’ll be there [in spirit]. I needed to tell you something: If this is the last time, I need you to know how much I love and care about you. You were never a lost cause. I need you to do something. Tell Wes that I will come after him [if he mistreats you], and have the best day of your life tomorrow. Promise me you’ll tell your story. Continue saving people that everyone else thinks is a lost cause.”
Malory promised, gave him a big hug, and walked out. The sun was setting. Chuck had said that one of the best therapies is to watch the sunset—which allows you to say goodbye to the scars of that day. But she knew her scars would continue long after the sunset.
Her grandpa walked Malory down the aisle. As the ship was leaving the dock on her honeymoon cruise, she received a phone call saying Chuck had passed. On the cruise, Malory got pregnant with her precious daughter. Wes said that was Chuck’s gift, for Chuck knew how much she wanted to be a mother.
She graduated with honors six days after delivering her child. She went straight to Chuck’s gravesite, holding her baby and her degree, and sat there with overwhelming gratitude, knowing she wouldn’t be where she was if not for him.
Two years went by, and she didn’t know how to fill her promise to Chuck. One day she just started writing every lesson he’d ever given her, every quote and statistic, every inspiration when she thought of him. All of a sudden, she realized that her promise was taking shape in the form of a book. She knew she could love others—just as Chuck had loved her. Wes said, “What better way [to fulfill your promise] than to put all you‘ve learned into a book.” She’s calling her book The Way in 90 Days because she feels the first 90 days of recovery are the most critical.
In the book’s dedication to Chuck, she said, in essence: “You taught me the will to live, to have dreams, to be independent, to set boundaries and not be ashamed of my past. Thanks for being the father I never had, for filling my void. Without you, my life would have been very different—death or prison. You showed me a different way. You rooted for the underdog with compassionate support. I hope to grow up to be like my hero and have a portion of the impact you did.”
Today Malory is courageously striving to be the transition person in her family. She’s learned that a pain that is not faced and healed will continue to build and hurt more. She passes on Chuck’s lessons to her two daughters—that they’re worthwhile, strong, and loved—with the help of a wonderful partner. She describes Wes as “an amazing father, who cherishes every moment with our babies. He’s there 100 percent for our children, who know he loves them.”
She has put her whole heart and soul into her book, which she hopes will save lives. She also joys in speaking to high schools, sharing the lessons she’s learned..
For Malory, like each of us, the healing process continues. Life presents us with challenges that reveal vulnerabilities and trigger unhealed hurts. But acknowledged hurts can be healed with many strategies that are more effective than numbing.
Malory’s painful experiences have given her many useful insights. But ultimately, it is love that heals the hidden wounds of childhood. Malory was fortunate to find a mature, responsible, loving parent figure in Chuck, who “loved me until I was strong enough to love myself.” But those who lack such a person must learn how to become loving parents to themselves Fortunately, there are many new ways to heal the pains of the past in an atmosphere of love, calm, and safety—topics to be addressed in future blogs.
· This blog is based, with permission, on an interview with Al Richards. Find it on YouTube, “Other Side of Addiction with Special Guest Malory Ruesch,” Episode #10, June 21, 2021.
· Malory’s soon-to-be-published book, The Way in 90 Days, describes recovery for addicts and family members who don’t know how to help. To reserve a copy, go to her website, Rueschrecovery.com. Preview the cover above.
· Also look on Amazon for Malory’s My Journey Journal. Your recovery story begins when you start to write it down. This is a journal for your journey, an asset for completing The Way in 90 Days.