LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – Beating opioid addiction is no easy task but one Little Rock woman is using her love of running to help others who are addicted.
Running is not an activity everybody can say they enjoy. But for Mary Ann Hansen, running is what keeps her going.
"It's my newest addiction is what I tell people,” Hansen said. "It's much healthier than what I was doing."
But this time, Hansen is okay with this addiction.
"I was addicted to opiates. I began on opiates in 1996 as a result of a chronic pain condition,” Hansen said.
For the next 15 years, Hansen went on a vicious cycle with opiate addiction.
She suffered a severe brain injury in 2007 as a result of her addiction. She fell down on concrete when she mixed the drugs with alcohol.
"My behavior was so out of control I didn't even realize it. My son stopped coming around with my beautiful granddaughter,” Hansen said.
Hansen’s struggle with opioids continued, when she had a hip replacement in 2010. Doctors again prescribed her opioids to help with the pain.
“I thought ‘I can stop! I’m not addicted’ and I tried and I couldn’t. And it scared the heck out of me,” she said.
In 2012, she decided she had enough. She checked herself into rehab at Baptist Health in Little Rock to get off the opioids.
“I was there for seven days, and it was the worst seven days of my life. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone,” Hansen said.
But treatment worked. Hansen has been sober since March 10, 2012.
“A year later I thought ‘I need to do something else. I mean I’m sober now! And I feel better!’ So I decided to run,” she said.
Hansen has gone on to run five marathons, 12 half marathons and dozens of other races.
Six years sober, she decided to share her love of running with the women of Hope Rises.
'I knew that the women that were there, many of them had been incarcerated because of a drug or alcohol problem and I thought if I can instill the sense of satisfaction that running gives me, if I can help them see that, I wanted to do that with them,” Hansen said.
Hansen runs with Hope Rises every Monday through Thursday. She also comes by on Sundays.
“She’s just given people that have never ran before, she’s given them that passion to run,” Hope Rises Director Kim Roxburgh said.
Roxburgh says Hansen has helped these women in their own recovery.
"When you're in your addiction, you say you're going to do things and you don't ever do them. So when you set a goal and you meet that goal, it's just another thing that gives them confidence,” she said.
Hanson was previously a teacher in the Little Rock School District for 20 years. Since beating her addiction, she has gone back to graduate school, is maintaining a 4.0 GPA and was recently inducted into the honor’s society.
"If you're out there and you're struggling in addiction. You can get help. And there is hope,” she said. "I cannot believe how good my life is. I love my life.”
Hansen’s doctors at UAMS are currently working to develop safer opioids that work better for pan than existing drugs, so people like Hansen are less likely to get addicted.