For Mary Uri, giving birth didn’t just provide life to her three daughters, it secured her own.
“Being a mother saved my life,” said the San Juan islander.
Surviving for her daughters helped Uri overcome an off-and-on battle with addiction, and now she’s ready to help others help themselves.
“I would love other moms to be inspired,” said Uri, about her story. “If they are struggling, there is help.”
Uri traded a rocky childhood in California for the serene pastures of San Juan when she followed a friend to the island at 19. Her parents were often out drinking, leaving Uri alone to experiment with alcohol and drugs, like speed, when she was as young as 12.
Island life was different for Uri, however. She wasn’t around the temptation of drugs, people were friendly and it was easy for her to find work. She was employed by the San Juan Inn for eight years.
Two daughters later and a divorce brought Uri to leave the island for about four years in the early 2000s, where addiction re-entered her life. She returned to the island nine-months clean, with a new daughter in tow.
It was island “superheroes,” as Uri calls them, who helped the mother of three get back on her feet.
“I would not have made it without the help of this community and the resources given to me,” she said.
San Juan Island Family Resource Center staff, for instance, helped Uri enroll in a program that provided the single mom with two years of rental assistance, while she worked with resource center staff to budget, and set and meet other goals.
When Uri found a house for rent from Ed and Barbara Rouleau, the couple happily dropped the rent $70 to meet Uri’s stipend. She still rents from them today.
“They have been awesome,” Uri said.
Ashley Strutz, case manager and program coordinator at the resource center, said that meeting the expectations of this rigorous rental assistance program is rare.
“Not everyone that enters the program is as dedicated and worked as hard as Mary did,” said Strutz. “She was great to work with; she worked hard, was engaged and made it through.”
During the program Uri even started her own housekeeping business, where she cleans businesses, homes and vacation rentals.
She said other locals who supported her include Melanie Rollins, Kathy Hagn, and Steve and BJ Brandli, as well as staff at Compass Health and the county health department.
Today, she continues to go to recovery meetings in town. Uri is also a deacon at the Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church, where she participates in community service projects. She plans to volunteer with 10- to 14-year-olds through the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition, as well.
Most importantly, however, Uri is now able to spend time with her daughters Daisy, 22; Celia, 20; Olive, 6; and her baby grand-daughter Nadine. Her favorite family activity: Sunday morning movie-watching in bed.
“I feel like I just started living and being present in the life,” she said.
This Mother’s Day, Uri has roughly six years of sobriety to celebrate and a lifetime of memories left with her family to look forward to. She wants other moms to know that her reality can be theirs as well.
“It’s a struggle to be a single mom, you know, making all the money, paying all the bills,” she said. “It’s a struggle, but it can be done.”