On the Record

'It Takes a Village'

On the Record with Mary Anderson

Mary Anderson of Sycamore holds the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book in which her short story, "It Takes a Village," appears.
Mary Anderson of Sycamore holds the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book in which her short story, "It Takes a Village," appears.

SYCAMORE – When Mary Anderson of Sycamore’s teenage daughter was having problems with her drug-abusing boyfriend, Anderson knew she had to step in and change the situation.

After exhausting her resources, including guidance counselors, therapists and Nar-Anon, Anderson turned to the people her daughter interacted with every day: her teachers.

After talking with Anderson, the teachers held an intervention, with one teacher pulling the daughter aside between classes to talk. Anderson believes that it was that intervention that changed her daughter’s life. Her daughter has since broken up with the boyfriend, graduated high school and graduated college with a degree in psychology.

Anderson wrote a short story, “It Takes a Village,” about what happened five years ago when the family lived in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio. The short story, written under the pen name Mara Somerset, is one of the 101 stories included in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers.”

The book will be released April 18 and can be purchased at Barnes and Noble, Target, Walmart and online through Amazon and other book-selling websites.

In mid-April, Anderson will meet with Sycamore High School Principal Tim Carlson to talk about drug abuse and relationships in high school and how teachers’ intervention can help.

Anderson met with MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton to discuss her short story and how teachers’ intervention saved her daughter.

Milton: Why did you decide to write the story?

Anderson: I have two daughters, and the story is centered around my older daughter. All names have been changed and I’ve used a pen name, Mara Somerset, to respect everyone’s privacy. … I have written short stories for years. I enjoy writing. I think it’s a great way to give insight to my kids after I’m gone, so they know the story from my perspective.

Milton: When did you write the story?

Anderson: I wrote a version of the story around 2013, a year after it happened. The story was longer then. I shared it with both of my daughters, and we all had a therapeutic cry. It showed them how proud I was of them. … I saw that “Chicken Soup for the Soul” had an upcoming issue about teachers. My daughter would be addicted to drugs or dead without teachers, so I thought my story would be fitting.

Milton: How does the story begin?

Anderson: My daughter was starting high school, and she met the high school soccer star that was two years older. He was a nice young man, but he had a troubled background. They started dating, and we started noticing a few questionable behaviors, controlling behaviors.

Milton: What type of controlling behaviors?

Anderson: He was always checking up on her, calling her, wanting to drive her places. Some of those gestures are fine, they usually are well-meaning. She didn’t have any time with her friends. Soon after he graduated, things fell apart. He fell into the wrong crowd. When she was at school, he was supposed to be going to community college. Instead, he was hanging out with questionable individuals. All the warning signs of drug abuse were going up.

Milton: When did the situation change?

Anderson: I had a conversation with my husband, and I said some harsh words. It was an honest, tough conversation, in the morning when we thought the girls were asleep. My daughter overheard, and it was like World War III. We all started yelling and fighting. It was that point where my daughter decided that she was determined to change him and prove me wrong. That continued through her senior year.

Milton: What was happening with the boyfriend?

Anderson: He was doing heroin and had a few overdoses. It got worse and worse. I was reaching out to every resource I could think of for advice: individual therapy, Nar-Anon, her high school guidance counselors and teachers. Even the teachers knew something was happening because she was acting weird and funny, distracted and not as concentrated as before.

Milton: What were you worried would happen?

Anderson: I don’t know what would have happened, but I have always believed in my daughter. While this was challenging situation was taking place, I knew she had a solid foundation. I also remember all too well, how hypnotizing your first love can be. The reality is I don’t know what would have happened, and I’m glad I don’t. While that year was heartbreaking for several reasons, the situation gave us the opportunity to see just how amazing others can be. That’s something we’ll always treasure. That’s what did happen and that’s what we hold on to.

Milton: How did you fix the situation?

Anderson: I formed a partnership with the teachers. They knew what to do and were very knowledgeable. They reassured me. This happened over the course of several months. The four teachers decided amongst themselves to have an intervention with a teacher my daughter didn’t know well. The teacher pulled her aside and told her, “I need to talk to you.”

Milton: How did the teachers’ intervention help?

Anderson: From the day the teacher talked with her, from that day forward, things changed. It wasn’t overnight, though. She ended up breaking up with him. She was able to get a good night’s sleep because she wasn’t on the phone with him. She started hanging out with her friends again. She started having dinner with us again.

Milton: What happened to the boyfriend?

Anderson: He ended up robbing houses to support his habit. He reached out to her from jail, but she wanted no part of it. She eventually stopped seeing him. He went to rehab, but is back hanging out with the same individuals. It is heartbreaking to see as a mom. We want every young adult to be happy and enjoy life. I want this young man to be happy, too, but my priority is my daughter.

Milton: What was your daughter thinking at the time?

Anderson: She thought that he was going to die if she did nothing. She was carrying the burden on her shoulders by herself. She tried a few resources to try to get him help, but nothing worked. He said that he didn’t have a problem, but he had already overdosed two times.

Milton: How do you know that the intervention worked?

Anderson: After my daughter graduated high school, one day that summer, I was sitting, reading, doing something at home. Out of the blue, my daughter came over and gave me a hug like never before. It was her way of saying “Thank you, mom.” It could have been a very different narrative if it wasn’t for those teachers.

Milton: Do you still keep in touch with the teachers?

Anderson: Even though the story happened about five years ago, I keep in contact with the teachers, especially one teacher in particular. I feel in my heart that without the teachers, she would have followed in her boyfriend’s footsteps eventually. He definitely had some controlling behaviors. I worry that she would have succumbed to that lifestyle.

Milton: Do you have advice for parents and teachers?

Anderson: Some parents don’t talk to their teachers, but we trust them to educate our children every day. Now, more than ever, especially with the explosion of opiate abuse, we need to start teaming up with the teachers. That partnership, strengthening that relationship, is very important. After all, we’re all in it together.

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