When Marilyn arrived at Union Station, she was clutching two shopping bags that held all her worldly possessions. For an entire decade, Marilyn had been a drug addict, working on and off in the film industry, trying and failing to break her habit again and again, falling deeper into despair and devastation.
It had not always been that way for Marilyn. She had grown up in a loving, religious middle-class family surrounded by success. She was bright, articulate, attractive and headed for success herself. Marilyn quickly found work in Hollywood as a production assistant. She developed her talent on the job and worked on many high-profile projects, in an industry where cocaine abuse was not uncommon. “I did cocaine at work, after work, all the time,” she said. “Everyone was into it. Drug use was just an acceptable part of that life.”
Marilyn tried to escape. She moved out of state to be with her father, but she found herself using drugs and alcohol again. She came back to Pasadena to live near her mother. After a period of sobriety, she relapsed into addiction. “My rent went unpaid, my furniture was repossessed, I was a total mess.” After ten years of bouncing around, Marilyn was brought by a friend to Union Station.
“It was a humbling experience for me to be at Union Station,” she said. “For years, I had driven by the shelter in my car and said, ‘Look at those homeless people,’ and now I was one of them. And, here I was, a very private person, living in a group situation.” Initially, Marilyn kept up a rigid wall of reserve, not wanting to join in programs with her fellow residents. “I knew I needed to be here, but I didn’t want to participate.” But through her relationship with her case manager, Sarah, Marilyn came to realize that change was possible if she would only begin the process. “Sarah convinced me that if I did the work, I wouldn’t have to relapse.”
After several months, Sarah was able to refer Marilyn to a Los Angeles County drug rehabilitation program. There, Marilyn cemented her commitment to sobriety and was given responsible assignments: dorm monitor, volunteer security detail, secretary of 12-Step meetings. When she completed the program, Marilyn returned to the area to live with her mother and continued to attend 12-Step meetings at Union Station. Before long, she found a new job in the film industry.
Marilyn had found a productive workplace that did not tolerate drug use. Many of her co-workers were also in recovery. Sobriety slogans were hanging on the walls. Colleagues wore jewelry with AA logos. “I felt like I’d come home,” she said.
Not long ago, Marilyn purchased her own home. “From homeless to homeowner in less than four years,” says Marilyn proudly. “That’s the motto that Sarah, my case manager, gave me.” Her recent work has brought new public recognition. When she’s not at work, Marilyn is active in community work and goes backpacking with friends. “I’ve come full circle,” she says.