ST. GEORGE — While writing the introduction to her forthcoming book, “The Way in 90 Days,” recovering addict Malory Ruesch had a full-circle moment.
The 27-year-old mother of two children sat down with St. George News recently. Sipping an iced, salted caramel mocha, Ruesch said she was called a “lost cause” by court-assigned psychologists eight years earlier. She was just 19 years old, then, as she stood before a judge in the Fifth District Courthouse.
Not three full years earlier, she’d dreamed of becoming a journalist. Instead, St. George News’ journalists were writing about crimes she’d allegedly committed.
“I’d tried everything,” Ruesch said. “Program after program. In-patient and out-patient rehabs. It didn’t matter. I tried and failed again and again.”
She was on the verge of being handed down a lengthy prison sentence for a string of crimes she’d committed in the throes of addiction. Then a man she didn’t know walked into the court, and asked the judge if he’d be willing to give Ruesch one more chance.
“I was facing years in prison,” she said. “Then this man, who I later found out was Chuck Marshall Sr., asked the judge to give me a second chance.”
That second chance came in the form of three years on what Ruesch called “zero-tolerance, private probation.” Which is significant, because the threat of being locked up for violation sends high numbers of people to prison every year. Abusing drugs is one of the most common violations out there, and especially hard for addicts to avoid. Ruesch had her work cut out for her. And she promised herself, and Marshall, that she would kick.
“I got high again within 24 hours,” she said, shaking her head. “Chuck told me he’d drug test me in two weeks. Instead, he called me the next day and asked me to come and take the drug test.”
Ruesch tried to hold him to his word, about testing her two weeks later. He countered by trying to hold her accountable to her promise to remain sober. She submitted and failed the drug test, she said. Then, as Marshall filled out violation paperwork, Ruesch sat across the desk. Listening to his pen scratch across the page, she wept.
“He suddenly banged his fist on the desk,” she said. “Then he asked me: ‘What do I have to do to get you to choose life?‘”
That was the beginning of her recovery, she said.
“I told him that I want to be loved, not punished,” she said. “The programs in St. George, everywhere, really, are so punitive. They’re all about punishing you, making you feel bad about what you’ve done. I wanted to be loved.”
For the next six months, Ruesch said, she called Marshall every night to tell him about her day.
“It came clear to me at some point,” she said, “that he wasn’t punishing me. He was fulfilling my needs. And because of that, I found that I wanted to prove him right. I wanted to succeed.”
That put her back in touch with the girl she once was. Before she started attending college courses as a 16-year-old. Before she accompanied the wrong boy to the right party. Before she tried beer, weed or heroin for the first time. Before she spent all of her time chasing a high, in order to avoid the withdrawals.
“Before all of that, I had goals,” she said. “I had all of the traits of a successful person. I worked hard. I got ahead in school. And I had dreams.”
She dreamed of becoming a journalist, she said. Then she paused.
“I gave all that up to become a heroin addict,” she said, tearing up. “And throughout that time, I wasn’t afraid of death… I was afraid that I wouldn’t live up to my expectations of myself.”
Marshall’s presence in her life had such a positive impact on her life, she said, that she didn’t want to forego their check-ins. But Marshall, knowing what Ruesch needed, said that was effectively over.
“He wanted me to live,” she said. And she did. She earned a degree in health care administration. She took a job at Bishop’s Café, in Washington City. She got married. She reached out to Marshall repeatedly to invite him to walk her down the aisle, but had received no response.
“I thought there was some kind of ethics issue,” she said. “But I got a call the day before the wedding, saying that Chuck had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and that he wanted to see me.”
Ruesch rushed to Marshall’s home, where she discovered that pancreatic cancer had left Marshall bed-ridden.
“It was devastating,” she said. “Here was a man who spent his whole life fighting against the thing that was comforting him as he lay dying.”
Marshall gave Ruesch and Wes, her husband-to-be, his blessing.
“And he said that I was not a lost cause,” she said, weeping openly now. “He said that I should continue my work, to be there for the lost causes in the world. I promised him that I would, gave him a hug, and left. He died shortly after that.”
She hadn’t decided to write the book, yet, she said. She had the idea that she should somehow share her experience, and the lessons she learned from Marshall. Since then, she’s been giving presentations at area schools, and she began writing.
“I just started writing one day,” she said. “I wrote about my memories of Chuck, his lessons, and my life. I’ve fulfilled my promise to him, and now I’m trying to get this book into the hands of every person it can help.”
And, Ruesch said, that demographic is nearly limitless.
“People of all walks of life have been affected by addiction,” she said. “This book is for them.”
But it wasn’t the book’s end that was cathartic for Ruesch. Rather, it was the dedication she wrote to Marshall, which marked the fulfillment of her promise to him.
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