by: Al Vinyard, Drug Free Ozarks
NOTE: The following is the story of Tammy McLaughlin, who celebrated seven years clean from Drug Addiction by opening up the new Stone County Recovery Center in Reeds Spring. The story details McLaughlin’s Journey from a Terminal Cancer Diagnosis to developing a Methamphetamine Addiction once she moved to the Lakes Region then the road to recovery from both her Cancer and Meth Addiction.
In the hangout room of the Stone County Recovery Center (SCRC), the sunlight is peaking through the partially opened blinds and dancing on her silver hair. Tammy McLaughlin’s smile and soft laughter brightens the room more than the sunlight. Her adorable and loyal dingo, Two Toes, sits beside her. In this moment, it’s hard to believe where she was only 7 years ago.
In 2006, Tammy was diagnosed with colon cancer. At the young age of 43, she was told she only had a year to live.
Feeling lost and hopeless, with her daughter already grown, she signed her son over to a friend. She moved away from her home in South Haven, Mississippi to Branson, MO.
She met a man who did methamphetamine. Prior to her diagnosis, Tammy dabbled in cocaine on the occasional weekend, but knowing death was at her door, she became fully engulfed in Branson’s meth scene.
She asked the man to put the needle in her arm. Before he did, he told her she that she would lose everything to this drug. She didn’t care. She felt hopeless.
Over the next years, Tammy had multiple major surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation. Her cancer went into remission. Three years later it returned and went into remission, again. However, by this time her addiction was in full force.
She caught felonies in two counties. Her life was upside down, imprisoned between the walls of the tiny syringe that she held in her hand.
In late 2013, Tammy’s home was raided. Officer Jenkins, who today she credits for saving her life, arrested her during the raid. In total, she was incarcerated for almost two months in two different county jails. She was blessed with an acceptance into Stone County Drug Court.
Tammy thrived in drug court. She began outreach to her peers there, and her outreach and love for her peers grew. After graduation in 2015, she went to work with her mentor, Patricia Pennington-Sams, at PEEPs in Recovery. Since then, she has dedicated her life to education, drug awareness, prevention, and outreach. Tammy is a Certified Peer Specialist, Certified Reciprocal Peer Recovery specialist, Missouri Prevention Specialist, Medication Awareness Recovery Specialist, and is Mental Health First Aid certified. Her heart is in Stone County and she felt called to bring a recovery center there.
On October 8, 2020, Tammy’s 7-year clean date, she opened the doors to Stone County Recovery Center (SCRC) completely packed. It is the second fully peer-run recovery center in southwest Missouri. Currently, SCRC is 100% operating off of donations. The peer staff have mental health training and are Narcan and CPR certified. SCRC is also a Narcan community distribution center.
The recovery support offered at SCRC is a compilation of many programs that address different areas of recovery. They target education, action plans, recovery after treatment, self-management, relapse prevention, support groups, and the peer-run drop-in center.
The center is open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. everyday. During those hours clients can come fellowship, hang out, enjoy a game of pool or ping pong, or just kick back in the hang out room and watch a movie.
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is available on Tuesday evening. Soon, there will be classes available on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, followed by brunch. There are plans for more classes and groups in the near future. There are computers and printers available to clients who want to polish their resume. There is even a free thrift store for clients recently released from incarceration.
SCRC fed more than 60 people for Thanksgiving. They expect to feed more at the Christmas dinner on December 25, 2020 at 2 p.m.
SCRC is a safe place to go, relax, learn, and grow in life and recovery with people who love and understand. In every word she speaks, Tammy communicates her passion for SCRC. When asked why she is so passionate, she answered “Because people are dying. They need help, compassion, not a handout but a hand up. They need to know they’re not alone, and we will never judge them”.
Tammy was told that she wouldn’t live another year. She felt hopeless and got lost in addiction. Today, she has been given a clean bill of health. She has a relationship with her kids. She survived cancer. She survived addiction. She is passionate about SCRC and dedicated to turning the hopeless in the hopeful!