Shannon is one of the first members of the Mission Cookie Team. In fact, she created our holiday marketing pamphlet.  Here she shares her story in the Prescott Daily Newspaper.

By SANDY BALAZIC, Cronkite News

Shannon was drinking with her alcoholic mother at the age of 12. By the time she was 17, she had moved in with her father in what she called “a more stable environment.” By 22, she had a job at an aerospace company and was living in her own apartment.

Then her mother moved in, offering to share her pain medications. Higgins scrambled from doctor to doctor getting more and more prescriptions to feed their addictions. When friends told her heroin was cheaper — she started shooting up until she lost everything she owned. Both she and her mother were living behind abandoned houses.

She started stealing and shoplifting, along with her 25-year-old drug-addicted boyfriend.

At a Target store near the Deer Valley Towne Center in northern Phoenix, they picked off various beauty items and a Wii controller. They also cut the tags off of clothes before walking out. After, they hit a nearby convenience store, where police caught them.

As part of Shannon’s plea agreement, she was ordered to enter a rehab facility. Thus, the Maricopa County Drug Court assigned her to the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center in central Phoenix to complete rehabilitation.

A spokesperson for PRM shared, “For someone like Shannon who presents as a substance abuser—such as someone who has been arrested for drug possession—our first priority is to get them substance abuse treatment. Ultimately, we want to provide them with opportunities to demonstrate that they’re going to overcome their addiction, follow through with treatment, and avoid any additional criminal prosecution or adjudication.”

Nicole Peña, Director of Public Relations, says the Mission and the Center are part of the court program. Instead of going directly to jail or prison, a person will have their sentence deferred if they can successfully complete rehabilitation.

“What we want to do is to bring the person back to court and show the progress that they’ve made in two months and three months,” she said.

Higgins was sent to the women’s facility. The first time, she was in rehab for four months.

She shot up the same day she left.

“We still have some education to do with the courts because often times a person will be sentenced to our program for 100 days and we would rather they commit to the entire 12 months,” Peña said. “When you only have to stay for four months. … they’re like, ‘OK, I’m done, I can leave.’”

“And we see a lot of them come back,” Peña said. “We find that people are really committed if they can get past those first 100 days.”

Higgins eventually came back. It was addiction or prison. This time she stayed.

The Changing Lives Center recommends being at the facility for at least a year.

“Our idea is that we really feel there is a big difference between clean or detoxing—which is usually a 30-day process to get the drugs out of your system—and actually returning to society as a productive person” Peña said, adding that the Center has “several different modules.”

For younger drug abusers, the Center’s programs are altered to fit their unique needs.

“When you have a 20-year-old coming to you for drug recovery, who has dropped out of school and possesses no job, it’s not good enough to say ‘Goodbye’ after 30 or 90-days” Peña says. “We really strive to pour our resources into them and provide them with skills they can translate into the job market, so they can actually go and be successful.”

Now 28, Shannon has started working with Mission Cookies, the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s cookie-baking business, in the residential dining hall’s industrial kitchen.


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