Meagan Jasper, a recovering crystal meth addict, doesn’t believe she would be clean and sober today if it weren’t for the Drug Treatment Court program.
Jasper, who now resides in Moose Jaw, has not used drugs since Sept. 7, 2017, the same year she entered drug court.
“Three and a half years ago, sitting in jail, I never thought my life would be like it is today,” she said.
The Drug Treatment Court is an alternative to jail for those with drug addiction that contributed to one or more criminal charges.
The offender must plead guilty to the offenses to be eligible and typically lasts between 13 to 18 months where offenders can be taken to sober-living houses and receive counseling. The drug treatment court usually involves crown prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, a program coordinator, addictions counselors, probation officers, and income assistance workers.
Jasper grew up in Yorkton and she described herself as your typical kid in high school. She grew up in a loving middle-class family with no history of addictions, had a part-time job, good grades, and played sports.
She started drinking alcohol and using marijuana at the age of 14 because of peer pressure and when that wasn’t strong enough, she starting using crystal meth at the age of 16.
According to Jasper, it started with weekends and progressed to using every day. By the age of 18, she said many of her friends were quitting drugs, stopped partying, and were heading off to university, but she couldn’t stop.
Jasper would eventually move out of her parent’s house and got into an abusive relationship. While in the relationship she said she wasn’t allowed to leave the house, so she couldn’t use the drug. When the relationship ended, the trauma put her right back on crystal meth.
She also started taking the attitude of “I’m not going to let anyone control me” and was now starting to victimize others.
She said she would sell drugs to support her habit that would land her in and out of jail. She would get arrested, her parents would bail her out, and it became a vicious cycle.
While in jail, she said she had great intentions to turn her life around, but the system wasn’t set up to help her and all she knew was how to lie, manipulate and steal.
Then in 2015, Jasper was arrested in possession of a significant amount of illegal drugs and she was facing several years in jail.
“Going to jail means that you can’t use,” Jasper said.
“I called my mom and dad and I called my auntie and said ‘I need your help. I can’t go to jail for five years. This is crazy and I didn’t kill anyone so why are they throwing the book at me?’”
Her parents paid about $5,000 in bail and $10,000 in lawyer fees with the stipulation that she lived with her aunt.
“It was a great place. As I said, my family didn’t have addictions and they really care,” Jasper explained.
“The problem was that I hadn’t followed other people’s rules. I had this thing that no one would control me again.”
Jasper lasted two weeks at her aunt’s as they were constantly arguing because she couldn’t take direction or criticism.
“When people pay bail and you take off and blow court, they lose that money,” she said. “I really screwed my family over when I did that. They lost a lot of money.”
From her aunt’s house, Jasper fled to Alberta to try and avoid the police where she started to get involved with gang members.
After realizing the gang was only using her to make money she took off with no identification, no access to SGI, and her SaskTel cell phone was broken. Social services couldn’t help her because she had no ID and shelters would only take in people for 30 days as long as they don’t fill up.
“In Saskatchewan, I could always call my family, get a hotel room or stay at one of their houses,” Jasper said.
“I really didn’t have it that bad out here. When I went to Alberta, I had nobody. I had burned every bridge with every family member. I didn’t know anyone out there so I was living on the streets.”
She added that her addiction continued as she used crystal meth as a way of feeling better about the situation.
The gang members caught up to her and she was kidnapped for three days where she was raped and beaten.
“I was left for dead.”
Jasper ended up in an Edmonton hospital, which turned out to be a bit of a wake-up call. She was put in a closet area on an IV with no buzzer to call for a nurse and very little attention was paid to her.
“Today when I think maybe I should go use again, maybe I can have just one, I think about where drugs take me and that’s where they take me,” she said.
She made her way back to Saskatchewan on the promise to her family that she would turn herself in.
After a couple of days back in Yorkton, Jasper remembered arguments continuing with her family because she wouldn’t accept help. It became clear to her family that she wasn’t taking the steps to turn herself in and she ended up on the streets again.
Jasper ended up in Saskatoon. At this point, she described herself as a “walking, ticking bomb” who didn’t like what she had become and was ready to end her life.
One day she saw a police officer and told them to look her up because she had given up. She was arrested and taken to jail and this time her family wasn’t going to bail her out.
“This last go-around they cut me right off and that saved my life.”
She began to accept the fact she was going to be in jail for a long time and even her spiritual relationship with God was breaking down, blaming Him for ruining her life.
Thinking of switching religions, she talked to an elder and was told “stop focusing on who you are praying to and start focusing on what you are praying for.” In other words, the elder told her to pray for the tools to change instead of getting out of jail.
Jasper described it as a spiritual awakening, so she went back to her cell and prayed for the tools to change.
Her prayers were answered when she was accepted into the Drug Treatment Court in Regina the next day.
“I had heard of the program, but I didn’t think I would qualify for it,” she said.
On Oct. 31, 2017, Jasper was sent to drug treatment court and released. However, she went back into old habits as she immediately phoned a drug dealer and asked them to meet her in front of the courthouse.
What Jasper didn’t know was that drug treatment court has someone to pick you up and take you to a sober-living residence, so she never met up with the dealer.
As part of the program, Jasper started attending narcotics anonymous meetings and working with a drug counselor that she immediately made a connection with as they had very similar stories, and seeing her counselor genuinely happy gave Jasper the motivation to change.
“It was the first time I felt compassion for someone else in a very long time because I spent so much time thinking I was the victim and that the world owes me something,” Jasper said.
She also credited Moral Recognition Therapy (MRT) for her recovery. She entered the program with her thoughts towards criminal behaviour, but says MRT helped reverse that thinking to more of a "think before you act" approach.
After spending 13 months in the drug treatment court program, she graduated from the program and moved to Moose Jaw where there were no connections to her past life, but also no support system.
“I had to look around and see what we were missing here and it is my mission, what helped me, I want to be able to do that for other people,” she said.
She has started meetings in Moose Jaw and last summer founded Speak Out for women who have been traumatized by sexual and domestic violence.
Speak Out meets once a week and for more information you can email email@example.com.
She’s also a big advocate for better programming for addictions and homelessness.
“I think the biggest thing is that I have so many support systems, so many people, so even when there are those days where I don’t want to stay clean for myself, I can stay clean for other people because I have these people checking in on me.”
She also shares her story to break the stigma that addictions can happen to anyone, not just those that come from a bad upbringing or have suffered trauma. Her trauma happened after she started using, but it was peer pressure that started her using drugs.
Jasper says her life has now taken a complete 180-degree turn. She has gone from someone who only knows how to lie, manipulate and steal, to someone who owns a home, pays bills, and can be trustworthy.
For more information about the drug treatment court or resources to get help for addictions, you can visit the Moose Jaw Crystal Meth Strategy Committee’s Facebook page.
Below you can hear the entire interview as Jasper shares her story: