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May 1, 2018

Recovering alcoholic helps addicts on road to sobriety

Photos/Don Del Rosso
County jail inmates Janice Merryman, Stacy Dixon and Doty Anna talk with McShin Foundation counselor Anna Hudson (right).
I wanted everybody to have what I have in my life. I’m happy, joyous and free.”
— Addiction recovery counselor Anna Hudson
Anna Hudson
• Age: 50

• Home: Culpeper.

• Work: Addiction recovery counselor, The McShin Foundation’s Warrenton office, August-present; self-employed plumbing service technician, 1988-present.

• Education: Fauquier High School, 1987.

• Family: Mother, Phyllis Long; three brothers, two sisters; numerous nieces and nephews.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The recovering alcoholic hopes to give back to folks struggling to overcome addictions.

“I wanted everybody to have what I have in my life,” explains Anna Hudson, a self-employed plumbing service technician. “I’m happy, joyous and free.”

Ms. Hudson, 50, has had a chance to do that for the last eight months.

In August, The McShin Foundation of Warrenton hired her to provide peer-to-peer addiction recovery counseling to female inmates in Fauquier’s jail at 50 W. Lee St. in Warrenton.

Jailed three times on nine drunken driving convictions, Ms. Hudson also used drugs and failed to complete three rehab programs.

Nearly 33 years of addiction allow her to relate to female inmates who voluntarily join the recovery group, which meets 9:30 a.m. to noon weekdays in their cellblock and the jail’s library.

“When I go into the jail, I’m sharing my experience, strength and hope with them,” says Ms. Hudson.

> Video at bottom of story

Based in Richmond, The McShin Foundation employs three part-time counselors — two women and a man — at its downtown Warrenton office at 50 John Marshall St.

The counselors work 15 hours per week, receiving $150 apiece.

About 15 inmates, including seven females, participate in the program. It can handle 10 female and 10 male inmates.

“We have a lot of” inmates “asking about recovery, to get some tools,” says Chris Connell, who manages the foundation’s Warrenton office.

Ms. Hudson — a Fauquier native who moved to Culpeper three years ago — visits the jail three days a week.

The program provides plenty of structure and opportunity for discussion, she says.

Daily worksheets focus on a range of topics, including “gratitude” and “triggers.”

The exercises can be challenging, Ms. Hudson says.

The gratitude worksheet, for example, requires the women to come up with 26 words — each beginning with a letter of the alphabet — that express their appreciation for people, relationships, acts of kindness and the like.

“It’s hard when you define something about gratitude for every single letter of the alphabet, even if you’re not in jail,” Ms. Hudson says.

The “triggers” worksheet helps the women identify “people, places, things” that might tempt them to relapse and thus should be avoided, she says.

The inmates, each of whom receives a Bible, also keep journals.

The faith-based program emphasizes a three-step approach to recovery, Ms. Hudson says. Under the system, inmates:

• “Admit that our lives are unmanageable.”

• “Come to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

• “Will our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.”

“We incorporate (those steps) in our lives every day,” Ms. Hudson says.

At the start of each recovery meeting, the women introduce themselves by name and acknowledge they “suffer from long-term substance use disorder” and “haven’t found it necessary to use any mind- or mood- altering drugs since” incarceration.

Ms. Hudson’s group gathers around a conference table in the jail’s library.

The sessions also include a reality check, with the recovery counselor asking woman about the night before, their “feelings” and whether they wish to discuss anything.

“I like to find out how they’re doing each and every day,” Ms. Hudson says.

Janice Merryman, 23, of Bealeton, joined the program in November — about three months after her conviction for violating probation on a previous drug possession infraction.

Ms. Merryman started using heroin at about the age of 10, she says.

A family member and friend first gave her the drug, she says.

“I sniffed it. And, eventually, when I was about 14, 15, it led to the needle.”

The McShin program, the recovery group’s other members and Ms. Hudson have helped turn her life around, Ms. Merryman says.

“My chances are high, I believe,” of remaining sober after her release from jail. “I’ve got hope in my life and myself. I haven’t been grateful for anything in a long time.”

Facing up to three years in jail for violating probation, Ms. Merryman could be sentenced July 13 in Fauquier County Circuit Court.

After her release, the Bealeton woman plans to seek additional help through McShin’s 28-day residential program in Richmond and then get a counseling certificate to help other addicts.

“These girls are thirsting for recovery,” Ms. Hudson says of Ms. Merryman and the other group members. “They honest to God want it in their heart of hearts, and they’ve worked really hard in this program to overcome a lot of obstacles . . . . They’ve worked their butts off.”

Ms. Hudson estimates she has counseled 20 female inmates since August.

To her knowledge, five have been released from jail and remain sober, she says. The remaining inmates mostly have been transferred to other jails.

“Anna’s great with the ladies,” says Ms. Connell, McShin’s Warrenton office manager. “They’ve attached to her. Who better to teach someone about recovery than someone going through recovery?”

In some ways, Ms. Hudson tells a familiar story.

“I started drinkin’ and druggin’ at 12 years old — pot and gettin’ beer and hangin’ out with older people.

“I was a full-fledged alcoholic, black-out drunk at the age of 18.”

Divine intervention may account for her quitting alcohol and drugs.

Ms. Hudson’s last DUI conviction in March 2013 landed her in the Fauquier jail for eight days.

“And something happened to me,” she recalls. “I don’t know if it’s a spiritual awakening or what in (the Fauquier) jail. I was such a mess, I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown.

“I think God was saying: ‘This is it. This is your last chance’.”

Ms. Hudson credits Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step recovery program and the people who oversee and attend the meetings with helping to save her life.

“That’s just plain and simple. And they do it on a daily basis.”

For the drunken driving convictions, she has served six months in jail and six months under house arrest, Ms. Hudson says.

For 27 years, she drank and drove without causing an accident.

“The thing I’m grateful for every day is I didn’t kill somebody’s mother, grandmother, child, brother, sister,” Ms. Hudson says. “God saved me from that and he saved me from that for a reason” — to help others through addiction and learn from her mistakes.

McShin provides addiction recovery counseling to inmates at no cost.

Its counselors receive two days of in-house training before they can lead recovery groups, according to Ms. Connell.

Their training also involves completion of a two-week “peer recovery specialist” course through the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health, she says.

McShin and other groups also provide free counseling services at the foundation’s Warrenton office.

The foundation had planned to open 14-bed addiction recovery center at the John Marshall Street office. But nearby business owners and citizens objected, arguing that use would be inappropriate for the area.

In January, the town council unanimously denied its special permit application to establish a 28-day addiction recovery program there.

But the council, county board of supervisors and other groups have pledged to seek a suitable location for a recovery center.

On May 15, Warrenton’s planning commission will conduct a public hearing on county government’s rezoning and special permit applications to allow a residential addiction recovery center at 340 Hospital Drive.

The town council, which has final authority, probably will conduct a June 12 public hearing on the applications.

The Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services Board’s mental health clinic occupies the two-story, 7,800-square-foot building.

Under one scenario, the clinic would relocate to 540 Hospital Drive, which houses Dr. Norman Mauroner’s primary care practice, and a residential addiction recovery center would open in the existing RRCSB building.

That plan would require Fauquier to purchase the 9,500-square-foot structure and 1.4-acre site from Dr. Mauroner, who would move to smaller quarters.

For tax purposes, the county values Dr. Mauroner’s property at $1.3 million.

> Click below to watch Anna Hudson discuss her work:

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