McAlister Institute Founder Still Helping Addicts at 81

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An 81-year-old woman who's been sober for more than a half century is now dedicating her life to helping San Diegans who struggle with drugs and alcohol. NBC 7's Matt Rascon has the story. (Published Friday, Feb 14, 2014)

    In the last 30 days, about one third of San Diego teens have had alcohol and another quarter have used marijuana.

    That's according to the McAlister Institute, a recovery center fighting against alcohol and drug abuse.

    Jeanne McAlister, CEO & Founder of McAlister Institute, is herself a recovering addict. It's been more than 57 years since she touched alcohol or drugs, but she still remembers what it was like.

    "A terrible life," said McAlister, 81, of her 10 years of addiction. "I was done, I was desperate."

    She was desperate to give it up. Now, more than a half century later, she's happy she did and so are many others.

    "She's really the last of the die hards," said Patrick Foley, a program manager at McAlister Teen Recovery Center.

    McAlister Institute serves more than 2,500 adults and teens each month.

    The Institute is partnered with law enforcement on a meth strike force. So they were on scene of San Diego's recent drug busts, wasting no time to help the abusers get on the path to recovery.

    "I guarantee you, you send me somebody for two or three weeks, I have messed up their drinking or using forever," McAlister said.

    Despite all her success, she says the key to helping others isn't going through it yourself.

    "You don't have to be in recovery to work with recovering people, but you do have to be able to love them."

    That's what McAlister has been committed to since she started the institute 37 years ago.

    The Institute has 25 programs in several different locations throughout the county. She says they have plans to expand even more, with a treatment campus where all of the programs can be in the same place.

    How much longer will she be doing this? "Until they carry me out."

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