"The week before my arrest I had been in a high-speed car chase. The drugs put a cloud over my morals. I didn't think of the consequences, but about what I could get out of it. I never thought about hurting people," Merten said.
At the time of her arrest she said she told the truth for the first time in a long time.
"As bad as the truth was, I felt relieved. Jail was mortifying. I was an emotional wreck once the drugs were out of my system. The tidal wave of all the illegal, immoral things I had done hit home. I used my education to scam various stores. I did a lot of things I am not proud of. When I had a clear head the tears were never ending."
Raised in a "good family," she attended a small country school and later was active in high school activities. While in Future Farmers of America she received the national farmers degree. It was during that time she found acceptance with the drug crowd.
After graduation she attended the Barbizon School of Modeling and graduated at the top of her class. When she entered modeling school the statuesque young woman was told she would have to lose 35 pounds. She used methamphetamine to lose weight.
"I kept this hidden from my boyfriend and family. I was a functional addict," Merten conceded. "Using drugs for weight loss is a common thing for a lot of women. I didn't consider myself pretty. I was a tomboy and people made fun of me. I wanted to be skinny."
The personable young woman never had a problem getting good jobs. She would soon lose interest, however, and wouldn't follow through with her commitments.
Along the way she had two children and got married. Her parents, Gerry and Janet Merten, have had custody of her children since last year.
"There are a lot of milestones I've missed. Now I am learning to be a better person and a better mother… .God is not only restoring me back to my family, He is restoring a hope that I had lost for a long time to become a good mother and better member of my community.
"I feel like God chose to pull me out of the miry pit I was living in. I feel privileged to be at Teen Challenge. I now have a happy life without drugs, and I have a wonderful relationship with my parents. It will take years to correct the damage I did and build trust and get back into peoples' good graces. I felt at times people looked at me like I was trash."
At the Teen Challenge Home of Hope she works in a thrift store six days a week.
Home of Hope supervisor Janie Cookes said, "Marianne is a joy to be around. She really wants to change her life. She wants to do well and get her children back and live for the Lord. She is so thankful for her family. When she finishes the program I want her to come back here as an intern."
Merten said being at Home of Hope challenge has been the best six months of her life.
"I am learning I am a new creation in Christ, the old is gone and the new has come. I don't want to dwell on the past."
She clings to this Bible verse from Matthew 19:29:
"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake, will receive a hundred times more and will be given eternal life."
Her goal is to one day return to Imperial Valley and open a home for women with life-controlling problems.
>> If anyone is interested in learning more about Home of Hope they are asked to contact Janie Cookes at (323) 357-6993.
You rescued me from my troubles.
All my worries will now be gone.
The trust I gave to you …
Your sword I rest my hand upon.
I truly found a comfort here.
Being drug out of the world of pain …
Not having any hope in my life,
I am not just a woman tall and plain.
The Lord is all power and might,
Who has made me a woman of God.
I know now all things are possible …
Now everyone I love can applaud.
The final word that I must share …
May all my brothers and sisters be aware,
He will come again of this I am sure,
My Lord and Savior is the only cure.
>> marianne merten