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Mary Beth O'Connor

LifeRing Secular Recovery

Board Member





From Junkie to Judge: One Woman's Triumph Over Trauma and Addiction

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I will review the child abuse and other traumas that led me to begin using drugs at age 12 and to shoot methamphetamine at age 17. I will describe the misery of my 15-year meth use disorder and what led me to enter rehab at 32 years old. There, on my first day, I was informed that the only recovery option was Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step approach, even after I provided multiple reasons why this would not work for me, including that I am an atheist. I will explain that I decided to look for the ideas that would help me, as to which I will describe several examples. Once I returned home, I found several other peer support options. I combined ideas from all these programs, including 12 steps, and what I’d learned at rehab, into a personal program that has worked for me for the past 29 years. I also will explain how I addressed the trauma and how I became a federal judge at 20 years sober. I also will review my current work today, in which I focus on writing and advocacy related to increasing awareness about multiple pathways to SUD recovery. My story proves any addict can recover, but also that anyone can build a productive and happy life, no matter deep their pain or how much they’ve lost.


Mary Beth has been sober from methamphetamine and other substances since 1994. She also is in recovery from abuse and trauma. The details of her story can be found in her memoir, From Junkie to Judge: One Woman’s Triumph Over Trauma and Addiction.

Mary Beth is a Director for LifeRing Secular Recovery. She also is a Director and Secretary for She Recovers Foundation. She develops relationships with organizations supportive of the multiple pathways approach, such as working on joint projects with Women for Sobriety.

Mary Beth regularly speaks about her personal story, on behalf of LifeRing and She Recovers, about multiple paths to recovery, and shares her expertise on other substance use and recovery topics. She's appeared on podcasts, radio, and television. She has presented keynotes and workshops at a variety of conferences and events.

Mary Beth writes opinion pieces and has been published in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Recovery Today, among others. She's also had numerous memoir writings published.

Professionally, 6 years into her recovery, Mary Beth attended Berkeley Law. She worked at a large firm in Silicon Valley, then litigated class actions for the federal government. In 2014 Mary Beth was appointed an Administrative Law Judge. She retired early in 2020 and now devotes her time to her writing and recovery advocacy.

Mary Beth can be reached at and her website is Her memoir is available on Amazon and all the usual sites.

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