By Meredith Maran
Wendy Macker was worried about her 15-year-old son Graham. An A student and star athlete, he'd always been an outgoing, happy kid, even after the death of his father from a heart attack 10 years earlier. But Graham had been avoiding Wendy and his two older siblings and had taken to hanging out with a rough, older crowd in Kalispell, Montana. When she did see him, he was pale and agitated, euphoric one minute and in despair the next. One day, Wendy, the owner of a small carpet company, was at work when someone broke into her home and stole all her jewelry. She suspected Graham, who denied everything. Then she confronted one of his so-called friends. He admitted to the theft and gave her the loot -- along with the shock of her life. "You should check on your own kid," he said. "Graham's been shooting meth."
Graham denied the accusation, but the guilty look on his face told Wendy he was lying. "Everything spiraled downhill after that," says Wendy, 45, recalling that terrible night in 2004. "He disappeared for days at a time, and I'd drive around town hunting him down. I'd bring him home and try to feed him -- he looked like death warmed over -- but he wouldn't eat." Graham's weight dropped from 160 to 115 pounds, and he was nearly killed in a drug deal gone bad. "They call meth 'the devil,'" says Graham, "and it brought out the devil in me. I stole from family and friends. I robbed houses. All I cared about was my next fix."
Graham and his pals preferred to shoot up in their arms, necks, and legs. A dealer once said Graham was the type who would never be able to turn back and that he expected him to die from the drug. Wendy feared the same, but didn't know how to save her son. "Once, after he'd vanished for more than a month, I found him at a friend's house with a bunch of other users," she says. "I got down on my hands and knees, begging him to come home. He did, but the next morning he was gone. I don't know what made me do it, but I drove 20 miles to the nearest train station. Graham was headed for Seattle, his pockets full of drugs. If I hadn't gotten there in time, I never would have seen him alive again."
The turning point came in 2007, after Graham was arrested yet again for possession. Wendy got a call from the Montana Meth Project, which works with local law enforcement to keep track of juvenile meth-related crimes so it can help families in trouble. Following a counselor's advice, Wendy hired two escorts to come to her home in the middle of the night, handcuff Graham and take him to a treatment program in Thompson Falls, Montana. "I was high when they came and really pissed at my mom," he says. "But if she hadn't done that, meth would've killed me." After six months of treatment, Graham, now 19, came back to Kalispell, where he's grown close to Wendy and siblings Julius, 24, and Kaitlin, 21, once again. "I still have cravings every day and attend support meetings every night," he says. "But life's worth living again. My mom thinks that's a miracle. I guess she's right."