Teaching on Speed
My use of Meth preceded my teaching for over a decade. As a 17-year-old child, I married a man who turned out to be a meth manufacturer back in the “old” days when a DEA number was needed for the chemicals. There were long periods of non-use, usually to “lay low from the law”. It was during one of these prolonged periods that I was able to complete my Bachelor of Science in English Education degree.
The local school needed an English teacher and was happy to hire me as the entire Junior and Senior High English Dept.! I not only taught six English classes, but also sponsored the cheerleaders and a class from their 10th grade year through graduation. I taught at a small, rural, Ozarks Mountains school in Northwest Arkansas. The enrollment from Head Start through 12th grade was approximately 300. This poverty-stricken area offered little in economic opportunities. Drugs, especially pot, and bootlegging were prevalent.
I was a functioning meth addict during my three years of teaching there. I focused on writing skills, so spent many late nights reading and grading papers. I remain Facebook friends with many of my former students as well as the other teachers. I questioned a few of them about when and how they knew I was using. All their answers were strikingly similar, as well as surprising to me! The students said they didn’t know until after the fact. Another teacher said she knew I was hyper and had bad skin, but she didn’t know until she was later told. She continued to say that I’d always been a nice person. As far as other teachers using, I only knew of one who regularly smoked pot, and a few who drank outside of school. The majority were true Southern Christians. I had so much on my plate, I’m not sure I could’ve managed it all without “help”, although I would like to know! Graduates who had to take remedial English their first year of college, seriously declined during my three years there.
I moved to Mountain Home, Arkansas, the fourth year of teaching. This was a larger school and I was able to teach my favorite grade – tenth. I immediately became using buddies with the other town meth addicts. Once again, I was too concerned with covering my use, to notice if any others were using, although I highly doubt it.
During my third year there, meth and I endured a horrible tragedy! On February 5, 1996, I went to the ER for a shot of Demerol to help a migraine. I can truthfully say the migraines I had back then were a direct result of snorting so much meth. I now understand that my series of marriages and other dysfunctional relationships were also an addiction. That evening, I barrel-rolled my Toyota Celica and was in a 10-day coma. The paper actually reported me as having died! I cussed the God who gave me the free will to do as I did for not “allowing” me to die. I’ve lived 20 years now with a rare closed-head injury that has many side effects. After seeing my wrecked car, there was no humanly possible way I could’ve survived. These injuries were disabling, and kept me from ever teaching again.
The next two years were spent in hospitals and rehab facilities. Two brain surgeries and numerous surgeries to repair my broken-in-half left forearm, as well as five different, brutal therapies to “retrain” the use of my left side. Oh, and that didn’t work anyway! After two years under watchful family eyes, I escaped and found a guy with a line of meth. Insanity at its finest! For the next 15 years I learned how to be a prescription drug abuser. As it turned out, I was a fairly adept one, too.
On November 22, 2011, I changed my drug activity to drug recovery. In retrospect, I can see the hardships I endure as a result of that fateful wreck as a blessing in disguise. I’m at the point in my recovery where I’m able to give back by helping other addicts. If my story spares one soul from my choice of journeys, every minute was well worth it.
-Pauletta “Wheeler” Martin
July 24, 2015
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