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How Does a Junkie Get Clean & Become a Judge?


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Mary Beth O'Connor overcame a long meth addiction to become a federal administrative law judge and counsellor to other recovering addicts. How did she do it? Video.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 20 million Americans suffer from substance abuse at some point in their lives. Mary Beth O’Conno was one of those, but since 1994 has been sober from methamphetamine use disorder.


She wrote about her journey in an award-winning memoir, “From Junkie to Judge: One Woman’s Triumph Over Trauma and Addiction.” Mary Beth shares her story with us in this episode of the Lean to the Left podcast and answers the question: how does a junkie get clean & become a judge?


Within a week of being born, Mary Beth was dropped off at a convent. Eventually, she moved in with her mom, but she -- her mom -- was more focused on her own needs and desires than her young child. At age nine, her stepfather kicked her in the stomach for spilling milk, beat her when she displeased him, and molested her at age twelve.


A few months later, she took a sip of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine, which made her feel euphoric and relaxed. So, she drank as much as possible, added pot, then pills, then acid. At sixteen, she found methamphetamine and experienced joy, but when this high was no longer sufficient, she turned to the needle and shot up.


That began 16 years of severe addiction, resulting in destroyed relationships, problems at work, and damage to her physical and emotional health.


But, today, Mary Beth O’Connor is a retired federal administrative law judge. She is director, secretary, and founding investor for the She Recovers Foundation, a director for Life-Ring Secular Recovery, and a member of the advisory council for the Hyer Calling Foundation. Her opinion pieces have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Recovery Today, and other publications.


Six years into her recovery, Mary Beth attended Berkeley Law. She worked at a large firm, then litigated class actions for the federal government leading to her appointment as a federal administrative law judge in 2014, a position from which she retired in 2020.


Here are some questions we discussed with Mary Beth as she answers the question: How does a junkie get clean & become a judge?


Q. Tell us more about your background and what made you to turn to meth.


Q. What happened that prompted you to seek help?


Q. The Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program didn’t work for you. Why not? What did you do?


Q. What peer support options are available to those seeking recovery, and why is that important for the recovering addict?


Q. How can your book, “From Junkie to Judge,” help those individuals win their battle against addiction?


Q. Tell us about the She Recovers Foundation. Why was it started and what does it do?


Q. How about LifeRing Secular Recovery?


Q. Back when you were struggling as a drug addict, did you ever think you would be in this position today – a published author, counselor, and retired federal judge?


Q. How can your story inspire others?


Q. I just interviewed a guest who spent five years in prison for a white collar crime. After his experience in prison where most inmates were incarcerated because of illegal drugs, he now believes all such drugs should be legalized; that this would drastically reduce crime and save billions by ending an unwinnable war against illegal drugs. How do you feel about that?


Q. Where can people learn more about your work and obtain your book?\


Listen to the podcast:





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