MONADNOCK PROFILES: Reality Check founder has a passion for helping

  • Mary Drew, founder of Reality Check in Jaffrey, has spent much of her adult life helping those facing the long road to recovery from addiction. But having been in recovery for more than a decade, Drew has a compassion for those battling the disease. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mary Drew, founder of Reality Check in Jaffrey, has spent much of her adult life helping those facing the long road to recovery from addiction. But having been in recovery for more than a decade, Drew has compassion for those battling the disease. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Mary Drew. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/5/2019 9:41:42 PM

By TIM GOODWIN

When someone walks through the front door of Reality Check in Jaffrey, Mary Drew knows first hand how hard it is to ask for help.

It was 11 years ago when Drew was the one seeking help for her addiction to alcohol. It’s not easy being in recovery and working in recovery, especially since “we’re in a national epidemic,” but Drew thinks she was meant to do this line of work.

“I feel I was blessed to be given the education, so I kind of have an obligation to do it,” Drew said. “You help them because that’s how it works.”

She took a long path to her life’s calling, one that she looks back on with great pride.

When Drew was a student at Conant, she was once told “I wouldn’t go to college. I wasn’t college material,” she said. And she didn’t take the most traditional route, going to Plymouth State College and Keene State for a short time each before taking more than a decade off before deciding to go back.

“I got a job making money,” she said.

When she did set out to finish her degree, Drew went to Springfield College in Massachusetts before then registering at Notre Dame College in Manchester, only to find out it was closing before attending a single class. Drew went on to get her bachelor’s degree in human services from Springfield and received her master’s in community and counseling psychology from Rivier University in Manchester.

“It took about 16 years to finish my degrees,” Drew said.

After graduating, she came across a fellowship to help implement a drug free community grant with Monadnock Alcohol & Drug Abuse Coalition. She spent six years involved with Monadnock Alcohol & Drug Abuse Coalition, and it was during that time she came up with the idea for Reality Check.

She had children at home and as Drew put it, “It was on the back burner because it was a nonprofit and I needed to pay my mortgage.”

So for seven years beginning in 2009, she met with like minded people in her kitchen – those who found a real need for what Drew was trying to establish. Then in 2015, someone bluntly asked why she didn’t just try and get some money to get Reality Check off the ground.

So she applied for a five-year grant and is now in year three, which provides $125,000 a year in funding for alcohol and drug prevention work in the Jaffrey-Rindge and Mascenic school districts. She opened the doors to Reality Check in downtown Jaffrey late last year and has been trying to do her part to combat the addiction crisis that has a stronghold not only in New Hampshire, but across the country.

“At the end, we can reapply for a second five-year cycle,” she said.

Drew believes there is a stigma that comes along with addiction. As someone who has dealt with it herself, she knows that people don’t set out one day to become an addict.

“Everybody who struggles with addiction are good people who are struggling with a disease,” Drew said. “It’s definitely a deep connection having been there done that. There’s a built in level of compassion having gone through it.”

Drew still goes to AA meetings and works on her recovery every day, which can be hard since her work centers around aiding those in the very early stages of their battle to overcome addition. But it’s what Drew feels like she – and everyone for that fact – were meant to do.

“I mostly think people are here to help each other and not enough people know that,” Drew said.

At Reality Check, Drew will never turn anyone away. The first order of business is to figure out the best course of action.

Most of the work is post treatment, where they help with cleaning up records, getting finances in order, finding housing and working to get their family situation back. As a certified recovery coach, who also hosts trainings for others interested in that line of work, they offer support through education and support groups for both those in recovery and families. She also conducts trainings for businesses on how to deal with employees struggling with addiction.

“There’s a sense of life and death with this field,” Drew said.

And one thing that Drew feels is of the utmost importance is connecting with high school students in the area. She has worked with students who want to go to college, but don’t think they can, by helping them find scholarships they might be eligible for.

When Drew isn’t trying to save one life at a time, she also serves as the welfare officer for both Jaffrey and Rindge. Despite two hip and back surgeries, Drew is a black belt in karate and enjoys biking.

“My son was doing (karate) and he got his black belt when he was 10,” Drew said.

She’s a bit of a homebody, choosing to watch documentaries and work in her yard. One day she’d like to build a tiny home on her property to help aid in her quest to live a lifestyle that doesn’t include a materialistic mindset.

“I’m working toward it. I’m trying to get rid of stuff,” Drew said.

Drew is one of nine siblings with all but one living within a couple hours, and she said she has Viking and Blackfoot Indian in her ancestry. When she was a lifeguard growing up in Jaffrey, she saved a child from drowning, so it’s safe to say she’s been helping people all her life. She once worked as the homeless shelter manager in Peterborough, did in-home crisis therapy and helped with international adoptions.

“We really need to start helping each other and I believe we’re not fully successful until we help others,” she said.

For Drew, it’s always about doing the “next right thing” – and making sure this world is better off than when she entered it.

“I need to leave it a better place,” Drew said. “Hopefully I’ll help someone who will grow up and make a difference.”


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