She didn’t feel good. He wouldn’t talk to her, and she didn’t understand why. Weed wasn’t going to cut it this time, but something stronger might. She knew he sold Percocet. Maybe it would change the way she felt.

“Instead of taking it, I saw on TV that they snort it,” said Mallory Meeker. “Let’s go from 0 to 100 right now. So that’s what I did. And I remember the first time I did that: I’ve been waiting to feel this my whole life.”

She kept with it. She didn’t feel like herself, which was perfect because she didn’t like being with herself. Mind-altering substances were a perfect short-term solution for her problem, but part of a deadly and dangerous trend in Licking County. 

In 2022, 50 people died from drug overdoses in Licking County, Ohio: one in every 3,600 people in the county. The ages of those deceased range from as young as 19 to as old as 64. 

“Wherever I went, I took me with me and I was miserable,” said Meeker. “It was because I hated myself.” 

This led Meeker towards opiates like heroin and fentanyl for their numbing effects, as well as crack and crystal meth for their strength. At the time, she was still working as a personal banker.

“I wanted to be the most annihilated I possibly could,” said Meeker. “I wanted to not feel as much as I possibly could.” 

With this desire came crime, as Meeker needed money to support her substance use. Her crimes and arrests ranged from trespassing and theft to possession of drug abuse instruments and DUI/OVI charges. Meeker was arrested in Franklin, Fairfield and Licking counties, and eventually lost her job at the bank after overdosing in the parking lot while on a break.

Meeker also spent quite a bit of time unhoused and on the streets in Licking County. 

“There were nights where we would just walk around because if you stop the police are going to ask you what you’re doing. I always had drugs on me or or needles and and usually warrants,” Meeker said. 

The street could be an incredibly hostile environment, and often felt even more so for people like Meeker due to the constant threat of arrest. And escaping homelessness was a significant challenge: without a job or an income, she couldn’t find shelter, warm clothes or food. 

“I stole from stores every single day for food, [and] I would steal clothing to support my drug habit,” Meeker said. “It’s crazy to go from being a personal banker at a bank here in town to a year or two later and walking through the bank parking lot with a book bag. And that’s all I have to my name.” 

She began attending rehabilitation meetings to try and help her get off of substances but relapsed quickly despite still attending. She tried to hide the fact that she had begun to use again. 

“Those people I met in the meetings, they were praying for me. I had built a life there,” Meeker said. “Well, they kept praying for me, and I got so mad that they pray for me because that meant that, like, this facade was up.”

Eventually, after being arrested for credit card theft, she was allowed to attend Day Reporting, a school-like program that provides people with helpful strategies and education, in place of jail.

“I always call it ‘don’t do drugs college,’” she said. “It gives us a place to be. That’s what we need when we first get out of jail because they say idle hands are the devil’s workshop and [stuff] like that.”

A 12-step program also helped Meeker to find her own identity without using substances, which was very difficult when she began her recovery. Drugs were her normal, and sobriety put an uncertain haze over every action. Getting groceries, doing laundry and cooking while sober was inconceivable at the start of her journey. 

“I imagine what it’s like when a child gets those cochlear implants,” said Meeker “It’s almost like seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, touching life for the first time without a filter over it.” 

For 30 days before Day Reporting, Mallory found herself in a sober living house, where she learned how to take back the initiative in her life. Once she completed Day Reporting and had not been using substances for a while, she began to work for the same organization, Whole Living Recovery. 

“When I go over there to work, they let me leave when I’m ready to go home,” Meeker said with a laugh. “They never used to let me leave.” 

Meeker still keeps her mugshot on the fridge at the recovery house she works in, as a reminder of how far she has come.

“Those pictures on the fridge, those two people and who we are today- that’s still the same person but a completely different life that we’re living today,” Meeker said. 

This transformation was not easy, and Meeker is eternally grateful to the systems in place in her community for giving her support when she needed it the most. 

“We owe that [who they are today] to this community, the nonprofits, this organization, Newark, our county. There’s so many people that have donated their time, money, food, clothing to help save our lives.”

Meeker also recognizes the benefit this has had on everyone else in her life.

“It’s not just us whose lives are changed. It’s our children’s lives, our parents. I imagine when my mom tucks her grandchildren in at night she probably sleeps a lot better knowing I’m not dead or in a ditch or being raped.”

Going through these brutal hardships has shown Meeker the value of empathy, and brought her to her purpose. Meeker is not one to mince words, she is a person of brutal but necessary honesty. She knows no one will understand what it’s like abusing substances and being on the street unless they are told, and it can’t be sugarcoated. 

“God has been so good to me. He’s used so many different elements or ingredients in this community to have this huge recipe for recovery,” Meeker said. “I think it’s because he knew people like me are not going to be quiet about it.”

Meeker has not been quiet. From using her voice to speak at rallies and on behalf of incarcerated individuals to helping people who use drugs stay safe and raising awareness, Meeker is doing everything she can to give back to her community. 

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at To learn how to get support for mental health, drug or alcohol issues, visit If you are ready to locate a treatment facility or provider, you can go directly to or call 800-662-HELP (4357).

Naloxone is available through Harm Reduction Ohio, Newark Homeless Outreach, and Licking County Health Department.