Tuesday, April 9, 2013

'Scary Mary' interview outtakes

Journalists’ stories are like movies. Some of the work ends up on the editing room floor, leaving outtakes.
That was the case from my recent interview with Judge Mary Chrzanowski of Macomb Circuit Court in Mount Clemens.
I talked her about her upcoming appearance on “Dateline” and her judicial style and personal story. A lot of the recorded interview got cut.

·         She said she always wanted to be a judge, and her older cousin, Robert Chrzanwoski, now a retired jurist, served as her inspiration. As a young adult she used to come to court and observe her cousin in action. She didn’t want to become a lawyer but rather a judge because she wanted to help people.
“I don’t like to argue. I don’t like to fight. I like to make people happy and get them on their way.”

·         She said she has become more approachable over her 20 years on the bench.
 “I don’t think I’m special at all. I’ve never felt special. I always feel like anyone else walking around streets.”

But her brother told her one time that I have an impact on people

“After my brother said that, I realized it is part of my job. To let people know that I’m human and yet by the same token it gives them the opportunity to say, ‘Oh, I met a circuit court judge.'"

·         Regarding her decision to stop drinking 10 years ago after a 15-year alcohol addiction:

“The guilt after you have that drink after 18 months. Why did I do it? You drink more. And you try to stop again. It’s just a continuing process. I wish there was a defining point when you say to someone, ‘This is going to happen and you’re going to be committed.’ But it’s just got to be an internal decision that you make. … It first starts with a decision in your mind that you want to do it. And you have to be stronger than that voice telling you to get the drink or the drugs.”
Her mother died that year at 56 and brother got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Her dad died at 46.

“It was a lot of things that came together at the moment.”
“I realized that life was so short. I didn’t want to die early. I want to live a long life. I want to enjoy life. I want to enjoy every moment of life.”

·         On her continuing recovery:
“I never had any urges to drink again. I was very strong in my commitment and I still am. I don’t even think of alcohol that’s something as an urge. It’s like when you know, when you’re a kid, you don’t like eating liver. I didn’t like eating liver. I don’t like eating liver and I don’t like drinking alcohol.”

·         Chrzanowski serves as a Drug Court judge.
“I can’t really correlate alcohol with drugs because they say there’s a difference, and I don’t know what the difference is, other than the physical need to continue the addiction. It’s a terrible thing you look at alcohol as becoming your best friend. It’s a terrible thought and not something that I’m proud of that I ever did.”

·         She has noticed that a lot of drug and alcohol addicts relapse after a loved one dies.
“They’ll have lost someone. So you point out to them, ‘What did your drinking and drug use after their death do?
“It didn’t bring them back. It didn’t bring my mother back. I try to point that out to them, so now what have we accomplished. It didn’t accomplish anything. It just got you in more trouble.’”

·         On her decision to go on Dateline and admit she’s a recovering alcoholic:
“It’s a major decision to have to tell the nation that. Would you like to tell the whole nation you’re an alcoholic? I look at it as, if I can help one more person out there What I want this to be with Dateline hopefully is to bring that awareness out. Look at your brothers, Look at your cousins. Look at your wife. Is your wife at home doing prescription drugs, taking too many. You can hide the addiction for a long time. All the money in the world can’t cure an addiction. It’s an awareness that’s going to cure the addiction. It’s an awareness that has to come from the families. Families have to be attentive, have to be attentive. They have to be active. Sometimes they have to be tough. Sometimes they have to have tough love. They have to kick them to the curb.”

·         But she probably won’t watch the episode, like she hasn’t watched the part of the Michael George comic book trial that included her.
“I will never watch myself. I don’t like to hear myself and I don’t like to watch myself.  … I didn’t watch comic book murder.”
“I don’t need to see myself. I live this. I do it every day. I’m not that arrogant I need to see myself every day.”

·         She revealed she may not run for another term after her current one expires in 2016.
“I may quit at this term or maybe one more (term). I’m tired.”
She quipped she may move to her favorite place, Hawaii, and sell t shirts to tourists.

·         She copes by riding her bicycle 26 miles per day, 13 miles lunch, 13 miles after work, in at least 55 degrees weather. She also lifts weights and does cardio at the YMCA in Mount Clemens.

“It gets rid of the frustrations and the aggravations. You get into a zone where you forget about what’s going on every day because you have the watch the squirrels and the cars, your minds is on the road, even on the trail. People walking their dogs and their dogs walk in front of you. I slammed on my brakes once and went flying over the handlebars.”

·         But she gets her therapy serving on the bench.

“What’s therapeutic for me and my substance abuse problems with alcohol is being in court every day, is lecturing people, is sharing my perspective with them. As I’m lecturing them I’m also lecturing myself. So there’s therapeutic to me every morning.”

·         Although she acknowledges she's a “recovering” alcoholic she doesn’t like the word.

·         She went through a two to three month period when five or six of her heroin addicts on probation died from overdoses.

“Heroin is just unbelievable. You don’t know what your’re buying. You putting into your system and you don’t know what it is.”

“It’s just disappointing. It makes  you want to put them  all in jail and put them all into rehab immediately and you can’t do that with everyone because we don’t have the room

·         She admitted she didn’t like serving as a family court judge presiding over divorce and child custody disputes because the litigants blame the judge. She called it “a challenge.” She now hears an all-criminal docket. She had one litigant stalk her.
“Some people … blamed the judge when they don’t get their way.”


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home