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Meth turns woman's life upside down until recovery gives her a new chance

Donna Doebelin and Rick Keller, former meth addicts, now work at the Campus for Hope. Both have new lives thanks to drug treatment and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Photo by Charlie Wieser

The Catholic Voice

Weighing 89 pounds, hair falling out, sunken black eyes and a mouth full of rotten teeth, Donna Doebelin was arrested by Omaha police officers while driving 'to get some more dope."

A 36-year-old drug addict at the time, she was looking at jail time for possession of methamphetamine.

'I had a $100 a day habit," she said. 'I had gotten to the point where I wanted the meth to kill me because of all the guilt and hopelessness."

Doebelin, now 42 and an admissions specialist at Catholic Charities' Omaha Campus for Hope, describes her last arrest as 'God helping me."

While in jail, she said, 'I asked God to help me quit using drugs. I didn't know where to start, so I asked about drug rehab in court. I ended up here at the Campus for Hope (June 13, 2000)."


During her formative years in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Doebelin was 'raised a Jehovah Witness, so I had a strict upbringing."

Never did she expect to end up on the streets of Omaha as a homeless drug addict.

A pregnancy in high school led to her dropping out of Thomas Jefferson High School after her sophomore year. She later gave birth to her daughter, Charity, and went to work as a waitress.

'I was hanging around friends who were (drug) users, so I started smoking marijuana and using some speed (amphetamines) on weekends," she said. 'I ended up in a bad relationship that lasted 10 years. He was using meth, and that's how I got started."

By the time Doebelin was 26, she was using methamphetamine every day.

'One of the attractions was the energy it gave me. I could get a lot of things done because I stayed up for days at a time," she said. 'To support my habit, I worked as a waitress and dealt some drugs."


In 1990, Doebelin said she married who she believed to be her 'knight in shining armor" after ending a 'very abusive" relationship. 'I had a busted lip and black eye. He took me in, but he was abusing alcohol and cocaine, so the marriage ended a year later," she said.

'I was still working and I had my own place, but later when hard times hit I lived with friends, stayed in motels and in my van. I couldn't take care of my daughter, so my parents took her," she said. 'I was doing a lot of meth and dealing it. I'd just keeping doing meth. I'd be up nine days, but acting crazy. You're not a normal person after staying up that long."

After long spells on meth and staying up for days, 'I'd crash for days and sleep. When there wasn't any dope around, I'd just sleep because I didn't feel like I could do anything without it. That's when the emotions start cracking in "¦ the anger, depression and crying. I'd just be sitting there in my self pity."

When Doebelin was sitting in jail after her last arrest, she said, 'I was thinking how I had nothing because I always put dope first before anything else "¦ my daughter, family, friends."


Living in recovery the past six years, Doebelin earned her GED, finalized her divorce, repaired her relationship with her daughter and parents, and now works full-time at the Campus for Hope.

'I now have a good relationship with my daughter, who is 26, and my three grandchildren," she said. 'My parents had almost given up on me, but now I talk with them every day."

Doebelin continues to work the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and attends AA meetings "“ two of the tools she learned for recovery.

In her job at the Campus for Hope, Doebelin works with drug addicts and alcoholics as they struggle toward recovery.

'They're beat down by their addiction, so it's heartwarming to see them recovering," she said. 'They look healthy again and they have a positive attitude. There's a sparkle in their eyes where once there was no life."

And these people see Doebelin, who once was a homeless meth addict, now working to help others rebuild their lives.

'If I was still out there using dope," she said, 'I would be dead."

The Catholic Voice

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