Newspapers are filled with stories about people who made bad choices. Crime reports in particular show men and women at their worst, breaking the law when they ought to know better. Their failings make them easy targets for scorn. Especially when the wrongdoers have appeared in earlier stories condemning the very behavior that led to their arrests.
You could say Michelle Marie Sullivan squandered her credibility, as well as her best chance to make a fresh start in life, when she decided to sell methamphetamine last August at the former Douglas Inn in Roseburg. As motel manager, Sullivan had announced with owner Amrik Rai some time before that the Douglas Inn was working hard to improve its image after a series of incidents there, most of them drug-related, prompted police to describe the establishment as one they knew well. Sullivan later said her intent was “to make this place shine.”
Instead, she lost her job, her home and wound up sentenced to 18 days on a work crew and two years on probation, the result of her June 25 no-contest plea to delivering methamphetamine.
Law-abiding citizens naturally like to see criminals held accountable for their actions. If we admit it, it’s satisfying to look down on those convicted and think, ah, justice is served.
Certainly there should be consequences for crime and yes, we do want justice. Yet there can be regret at the same time.
Sullivan paid a high price for, as she said, “screwing up.” She had to know at the time of her arrest how her statements about cleaning up the motel would be used to ridicule her as well as the business. Instead of blaming someone or something else, though, she stood before Douglas County Circuit Judge Roland Poole and said, “I know I did wrong, and I take accountability for my actions.”
Poole has seen his share of crocodile tears through the years. He asked Sullivan how old she was the first time she used methamphetamine. On hearing she was 18, he observed meth has been in and out of her life, “kind of like a bad relationship” for years. He also said her two days in jail could serve as a reminder of the importance of keeping clean.
Sullivan’s attorney said her client had avoided drugs for a number of years and was embarrassed that she’d given in to temptation.
Had Sullivan found her way to Narcotics Anonymous meetings, she might have been able to resist the behavior she’d publicly stated she sought to ban from the motel. That she did not go to NA is no cause for pleasure that she got her comeuppance. It’s instead a sign of how hard it is to beat an addiction, any addiction. It’s also an opportunity for the rest of us to think how we might be able to help people we know make better choices to keep their lives on course.
Poole could have rolled his eyes at hearing what might have been another admission of wrongdoing in hopes of leniency. Instead, he wished Sullivan well in staying away from meth.
So do we.