SALINA, Okla. - Oklahoma’s growing methamphetamine problem is costing much more than money. Addiction to the drug is wrecking relationships, breaking up families and killing users, too.
For years, Megan Tracewell fell victim to the lure of this illegal drug until she made a devastating choice that, in retrospect, turned her life around.
For years, this single mother of two hid her secret.
"I used meth and I drank alcohol on a daily basis," Megan Tracewell of Salina told 2 Works for You anchor Karen Larsen. Now 38, she started using the drug in high school when she needed to stay up late to study for a test. "I tried meth for the first time and I was hooked ever since. I was lost. I just wanted to cover up my feelings and get away from reality."
Captivated by the instant euphoria of the illicit drug, Megan began leading a double life. She held down two jobs to fund her habit and support her young children while constantly staying on guard to hide it.
"I was really good, really good at hiding," she added. “Back then, I didn't care. All I thought about was that next drink or that next drug."
The single mother hid it from her employers and from her parents who never realized their daughter was addicted to meth. It took a trip to drug court to reveal the dangerous choices she was making.
“So good at what they do to hide it from you that you don't have a clue,” said Jeanne Tracewell, Megan’s mother. “And then you're just overwhelmed you don't realize what has happened."
While Megan concealed it well from her parents, that was not the case with her daughter, Zoey, who was only 9 at the time.
"Your mom told me when she was using that she could fake everybody out but could you tell?" asked Karen Larsen, 2 Works for You news anchor. Zoey replied, "I could. I really could. She acted really different. And it was really easy to tell by looking into her eyes and I could tell it was fake."
Her mother faked her life for years until she finally hit absolute rock bottom two and a half years ago. Agonized by sorrow, loneliness and the feeling of being lost, Megan set her home on fire along with everything she owned. Her daughter, Zoey, was staying at her grandparents a short distance away and watched it burn. "I cried for hours," she said.
"I was just thinking I want to start over, new,” Megan explained. “I had the clothes on my back - but it was a cry for help. It really was."
A cry for help landed her behind bars on a charge of second-degree arson that carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
"We only got to see her through a glass window and I think that hurt her a lot," Jeanne Tracewell said. She brought her two grandchildren to visit their mother behind bars – meetings that devastated them all. By then, Jeanne had been granted custody of her daughter, Megan’s ex was raising their son, and Megan realized she had to do something to change.
"From that moment on, I yielded my life to Christ. That was all I had left."
Her faith, sheer determination and the good fortune of landing in an 18-month community sentencing program were instrumental in turning her life around. She did so well in the diversion program and was so grateful to avoid years in prison, she was released several months early.
"She's a better daughter, she's a better mom,” Megan’s mother said, “And it's just - she's an inspiration to other people because you can do it! You can rise above."
Today, Megan could easily teach a class on success in life. As a professional hair stylist at Studio A Salon in Pryor, she manages her clientele while teaching master classes at the local cosmetology school. She is present for her daughter’s dance recitals and band concerts now. Her mistakes are helping her daughter map out her own future after high school.
"If I study hard and I don't get into that stuff, I can get into a really good college and have an amazing job that I really, really want," Zoey said.
Faith plays an enormous role in Megan’s recovery. On Sunday mornings, you will find her sitting in a pew with her family at church in their hometown of Salina. She has worked hard to rebuild her reputation there and relies on the support and praise she now receives from her family and faith community.
"You never know who is praying for you, who are rooting for you. Sometimes that is what it takes. When someone tells you, ‘Good job.’ Or, ‘Atta girl!’ It means a lot," Megan said. “God's grace and mercy and love are how I've come so far, today along with my family and support of the community.”
Despite years of turning to the drug that took over her life and turning away from her family, Megan now has no regrets.
"I really don't. I really don't,” she insisted. “Because I might be able to help somebody who's been through the same thing."
For Megan Tracewell, she is convinced the only way to go is onward and upward. Free from drugs and alcohol abuse for two and a half years, she prays she can stay on the right path and continue living a life that is inspiring to others here in Green Country.