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“The most important thing to me is being there on the other end of the line, to get people the help they need,” said Mary Smith, who’s on call 24/7 as director of admissions for Oxford Treatment Center.
A recovering alcoholic with nearly 15 years sober, Mary has worked in the recovery field for more than a decade. Her experience includes working as a clinical assistant, family program counselor and admissions officer. She has also volunteered with 23rd Judicial District Drug Court in Dickson County, Tenn., and managed sober-living homes for women.
Back in college, Mary was a basketball star until the death of two close friends triggered a cycle of deep depression and drinking. She shrugged off a full scholarship and left college as a junior, dropping off the radar and sinking further into alcoholism.
Her family sent her to treatment four times before she finally quit drinking at age 30.
“I had a great childhood and great opportunities, and I threw them all away,” she recalled. “That in itself was an excuse for many years: ‘I’ve already thrown everything away.’
“I felt like a horrible person, like I was either going to kill myself or get drunk, because I felt so worthless.
Today, Mary helps connect others in active addiction with the help they need to begin recovery. She nearly always shares her own story with new patients or their family members.
“When someone calls seeking help for their child, I let them know I have a mom that made the same call years ago,” she said. “It’s important for them to know I’ve been there, too. I know what it is to feel like there’s no hope.”
At Oxford Treatment Center, one of Mary’s key duties is working to swiftly determine how much of a patient’s stay will be covered by their insurance policy, so that families know on the front end exactly what their financial obligations will be.
“Many people who need to come to treatment are also afraid to leave their jobs or their families for 30 days or more,” she said. “I let them know their job is protected when they go to treatment — and it’s their best chance of keeping their job in the long term. And for parents leaving their children, they should know:
hile Mary is on-duty round-the-clock, there are rare occasions when another member of Oxford Treatment Center staff fills in to answer calls when she can’t. On a recent day, Business Development Representative Chad Clardy substituted for Mary while she personally drove some 500 miles to pick up a patient who didn’t have another way to get to treatment.
“If I’m driving through areas that don’t have good cellular coverage, I ask someone else to help so I don’t risk dropping a call when I’m talking to someone who needs help,” she said.
For Mary, those rare opportunities to deliver a patient in person remind her of the impact Oxford Treatment Center’s campus has on those who see it for the first time.
“As we topped the hill and could see the campus laid out in front of us, the man I was bringing said, ‘Oh, my gosh,’” she said. “I said, ‘I told you.’
“People have the idea that in treatment you’re going to be locked up in some room. They’ll tell me, ‘You get paid to say it’s nice.’ But I’ve seen what an amazing place this is. I know the quality of our psychiatrists and our counselors.
“Before I joined Oxford Treatment Center, I never knew treatment could work like this. This is where you’ll get the tools to maintain sobriety for the rest of your life.”