Karen’s Story: Hope in the Face of a Drug Epidemic
Our country is experiencing a drug epidemic. 100 people die a day from drug overdoses. Heroin is taking out entire cities. People are becoming hopelessly addicted to painkillers. Meth labs are everywhere.
But all is not lost. There is hope. There is healing. Today we are sharing with you a story of one of our friends, Karen Morgan.
Karen’s story is one of pain and devastation, but also hope and inspiration. This may mirror your life. This may mirror the life of your loved one. We want you to know that addiction can be treated and a fulfilling life can be had. Karen is proof. Read on.
How many years sober are you?
I’ve had two rounds of extensive sobriety. I was sober for 13 years and relapsed. This January will be 13 years again.
The first time around, when did you start using? What was your drug of choice?
The first time I started using I was an adolescent. My drugs of choice were alcohol and cocaine, but I also used marijuana and pretty much anything else that I could get a hold of.
When I was 19 years old I got into a car accident and broke my left hip and pelvis. I was in traction for 2 months. After I got out of the hospital, I got help with 12 step meetings and eventually became a counselor in the field. That was around the time I met my husband.
When did you relapse? What happened?
My husband and I were going through a hard time with finances. He had some health problems and we were living paycheck to paycheck. I stopped attending the 12 step meetings.
All of the stress had been building up and I chose to pick up a drink. I didn’t spiral downward immediately, but a few weeks later – I knew my life was out of control. Knowing that I was out of control made me feel even worse. I had so much guilt and shame in knowing what I was doing. I just couldn’t forgive myself.
What was your pattern?
I was carrying around so much guilt and shame. If someone paid me a compliment, I’d find a way to self-sabotage.
The holidays were the worst. I felt like I didn’t have enough. We were living paycheck to paycheck and there was so much frustration. I always had such high expectations at the holidays and I felt the need to recapture what Christmas was when I was young. Christmas was always such a reminder of the people and traditions that I had lost over the years.
How did you pay for your drugs?
I was the one who handled the finances. I lied to my husband about what I was paying – I was robbing Peter to pay Paul. I used the money from our joint bank account and pawned some items.
In the end, when I went to treatment – I owed a lot of money. It hit my husband really hard.
How else did your addiction affect your family?
I was like Jekyll and Hyde. I neglected my children: I drove with my kids in the car while I was under the influence.
I always taught my children that lying was a horrible thing. I told them to never lie – regardless of the consequences. Always tell the truth.
But, once when I was driving with my 11-year-old son while under the influence, I was in a wreck. I went off the road and hit a mailbox. I told my son to lie about it. When everyone was coming to check on me, I told them a dog had run out on the road and I swerved to avoid it.
What was your turning point? How did you get into treatment?
It took about two years to get sober again – I just couldn’t forgive myself. Finally, my marriage was hanging on by a thread. I went to treatment thinking I would go to save my marriage, but I really didn’t think that I could get sober again. But I went.
What did you discover while in treatment? What was different from the first time?
When I went to treatment, what the women said really resonated with me. To hear someone tell their story and it’s your story – it’s spiritual.
This time around is so different than it was before. The first time I got help, I knew recovery was important, but it wasn’t the most important thing for me. The second time, I realized that recovery needed to be primary in my life. My life now revolves around recovery and helping others. I now sponsor other women and embrace them with love and service.
My family was also able to get help. My husband and I are now celebrating 28 years together.
What was the most important thing that you learned in treatment?
I was so inspired when I went to treatment. It’s the only time in your life that you really get to focus on yourself and find out who you really are. That’s what really stood out to me.
I found out who I am and that I am lovable. I found out that I’m not a bad person trying to “get good” – I’m a sick person trying to get well. I finally know now that it’s a disease.
What keeps you sober now?
I take every day one day at a time. I focus on today. I know I will stay sober today if I use the same tools I used to stay sober yesterday.
Every day I get up in the morning and I use prayer, self-examination and meditation. I may stop and pray throughout the day.
What would you tell someone to encourage them to get help for their addiction?
You can get sober. Life does get better. When you get sober, there is a deep abiding joy that comes with helping others. It is the best high – and it’s lasting.