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Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Karen Clayton.  I am a recovering drug addict.  I would like you to take the time to read my story.  Everyone needs to know that drug addicts come in all shapes and sizes.  You may be living next to, working with or possibly related to an active or recovering addict.

Let me start at the beginning.  I was born and raised in a great home, being the youngest of five daughters, by parents who were both loving and hardworking.  My mom was a nurse and my dad, a teacher.   Honestly speaking, there was nothing terrible or traumatic with my childhood, at times I wish I could say that there was some devastating event in my early years that would explain or justify why I became the addict that I am.  But as the years go by, I realize that it is just me.

I am not going to go into the war stories of my drinking and drugging or try to glamorize my addiction.  The fact is that it was no different than most of you.  Starting off with occasionally using, then having it completely and utterly control my life.

I was happily married, had three children and had an amazing job.  For all intense purposes, I had a good life.  Like most people, we had our problems but nothing that could not be worked out.  I do need to say this though.  My drugging almost cost my daughter her life.  I did not find out that I was pregnant with her until five months and used cocaine excessively during that time.  So to say the least, I was scared when I found out about the pregnancy.  My daughter was born a happy and healthy 8 pounds three ounce baby (or so we thought).  But, when she was 8 months old she was hospitalized with a 107.4 fever, yes I said 107.4.  During her hospital stay, they found out that she had a problem with her bladder, causing constant infections to travel through her body.  Fortunately, when she was  two, she underwent surgery to correct this problem and has been fine ever since.  What devastated me was that I read an article about the problem that she had and learned that the cause of the condition she had was because of my cocaine use.  That was very hard to live with.

Jumping much further ahead, in March of 1995, I was prescribed pain medication for surgery that I had on my arm.  At first, the medication was taken as prescribed.  But one Friday night I saw them and decided I was going to take it when I wasn’t even in pain.  Big mistake, which started my love affair with drugs.  I was continually prescribed the medication because the surgery did not work and I had continued pain.  But honestly, I don’t know where the pain stopped and the addiction started.  I could not tell you if I was truly in pain because I was taking the medication to get high, not to relieve pain.

In or around June of 1996, I was diagnosed with a tumor in my throat.  I can’t even begin to describe to you the emotional anguish that I went through continually thinking that I was not going to be there to see my children grow up.  Thankfully, it was benign, but not without devastating effects.  I think this was when I lost control of my life and lost focus on who and what I was.  I was being prescribed 120 Lortab for the ongoing pain in my arm, to be refilled in two weeks, which I was refilling in 10 days.  The drugs became my life.

In the summer of 1997, I was introduced to the prescription cough medicine “Tussionex.”  Wow, I thought I was in love before, now I knew what true love really was.  This was the answer to my prayers.  From the onset, I was willing to anything to get it.  That would ultimately lead to calling in my own prescriptions.  My first attempt to do that was sometime around the summer of 1998.  That day the pharmacist knew that I was not from the doctor’s office, since it was on a Sunday, and called the police.  I got away with it because I told the police officer that I was desperately trying to get medicine for my ailing son and did not want to take him to the emergency room.  You would have thought that would have scared me to death.  I did not call any more prescriptions in at this point, but again I did all I could to get the prescription.    What I did do was pretend to be other people and call their doctors to get the prescription called in for me. 

In April of 2001, while at my future sister-in-law’s bridal shower, I called my nephew’s doctor and tried to get a prescription of tussionex called in for him.  The doctor never called me back.  The next day the doctor called my sister-in-law to inquire about the phone call.  My nephew’s father received the call and proceeded to contact the police.  He wanted to have the police go to my house and have me arrested.  As my sister-in-law the one that I impersonated, she would have to be the one to press charges.  She did not.  I must add that this was Easter Sunday.  I remember sitting in my living room with my parents, my husband and my children not knowing what to say.  I agreed to go to counseling.  Sadly, while doing my weekly counseling, I remember having in the back of my mind that there was a prescription called in for one of my nieces that had a refill on it.  I could not wait to be able to get.

As I continued to use other people to feed my habit while in counseling, in October of 2001 I decided to come clean with a co-worker of mine with whom I had been using her children’s names to obtain prescriptions for the tussionex.  At first, she was proud of me for being honest with her and choosing to get help.  The next day it was different though.  She would not talk to me, as well as she told others that I had worked with.  Also, at the end of the day I was contacted by our local police department to come for an interview.  They told me that if I did not come in voluntarily that day, they would come to my work in the morning and arrest me in front of my co-workers.  I went there right after work, after lying to my family telling them I had to work late.

The ultimate result of this was that I was charges with 47 counts of obtaining prescriptions by fraud.  I was able to apply and be accepted in a Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program.  I was put on probation for a year, and completed it, and went to Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).  I was able to stay clean for about five years.

Moving ahead to December 30, 2006, I was sexually assaulted by a family member.  This man was someone that I trusted with my life.  I was, and still am, completely devastated by this.  I could not handle it.  I did not tell my family right away, and when I did it was received with a cold reception.  They, sadly, sided with him.  They did not deny that it happened, they just did not help me through it.  They helped him, as he was having medical problems from a previous stroke.  As I have no one I could go to for support, and being an addict, I went to the first thing that I knew…drugs.

I went into such a path of destruction that I did more drugs then I had done in my previous using.  I like to call it the Hurricane Katrina of Karen’s life.  I harassed doctors, faked injuries, went to emergency rooms and returned to calling in my own prescriptions.  I was using some type of pharmaceutical substance everyday for seven months.

My bottom came in September of 2007 (or so I thought).  I was arrested, my daughter found out that I forged a check in her name and I was confronted at work by a co-worker that I used to call in prescriptions.  I choose to go into treatment in West Palm Beach, Florida.

I completed treatment, staying at the rehab for 35 days.  When I arrived home I was so excited to start my life over again.  I attended meetings every day and started with another IOP program.  I also wanted to make amends to my family and start all over again.  You see, during this time my husband was an active alcoholic.  But, after only one week, I left my husband.  You see I needed sobriety and he was not willing to do it. 

I stayed away for around three months, but returned as I thought it was best for the children.  Wrong decision.  It was good at first, but our lives had gone in such different directions that there was no way to salvage our marriage.  I left for good in July of 2008.

At this point, you are probably saying that she finally is going to start her life all over again and things will work out.  Well, not exactly.  In February of 2008, I was incarcerated for a warrant that was issued during my stay in rehab, in November of 2008; my home that I lived with my husband and children was raided and was put in jail again with a bail of $30,000.  I was released when my mom and dad posted the bail for me.  I was charge with Obtaining Prescriptions by Fraud, Insurance Fraud, Conduct Unbecoming of a State Employee and Falsifying a Public Document.  At this point, I was facing up to twenty years in jail.  In addition to that, my arrest was on page 3 of our local newspaper giving me the title of “syrup girl.”   

 I was accepted into the Drug Court program in my area.  For those of you that do not know what that is, it is an intensive probation program.  You are drug tested at least twice a week (sometimes more); you are under a curfew and have residency restrictions.  After three weeks in the program, I tested positive for alcohol and was put in jail (you can’t drink in this program).  I was released after two weeks.  I was doing well for over a year.  Then I decided that I was going to try to play Russian roulette with my freedom and drink.  Unfortunately I got shot, three times.  This sent me back to jail.  This time I was in there for two and a half months.  Then they sent me to a treatment center for thirty days and am now living in a sober living house, which is an hour and a half away from my family.  Remember earlier when I said that I had hit my bottom in 2007, well I wasn’t even close.  I lost my family, my boyfriend,  my home and my job.

Obviously, with the exception of the people that I used to get my drugs, the real victims of my drug use were my children.   Having their mother have such a significant drug problem and then having my name and address plastered in the newspaper must have been devastating to them.   I will never know how much pain and humiliation this caused them.  Also, my oldest daughter was there when they raided my house.  To this day, she will not forgive me.  We always have had a close relationship but because of this, she does not talk to me like she used to.   One day, I believe, they will find it in their hearts to forgive me, as they are my world and I love them with every breath that I take.

I feel the need to tell you about my boyfriend, at least he was at the time.  He needs to be mentioned because if it were not for him, I would not have the strength that I have today.  Before we went out on our first date, I decided to tell him the truth about me.  I did not want to mislead him into thinking that I was something I was not.  Amazingly, his only comment was “I don’t care what you did in your past, it is who you are today that really matters.” 

I will never forget another comment he made to me.  We were together one night and I asked him how someone like me could be with someone like you.  He responded by saying “I wish you could only see what I see.”  I think that was the day I fell in love with him.

I wish I could say that this was a happy ending, but it is not.  Unfortunately, I lost him.  You see I was not completely honest with him.  The drugs may have been gone, but I still acted like I was using.  I lied, stole and manipulated to hide my fears.  My fear of disappointment, my fear of inadequacy and my fear of being alone (amongst many).  Instead of telling him, I put on a happy face and let him believe that everything was alright. 

Until the day I die, I will never know all the pain, disappointment and hurt that I have caused everyone in my life.  That is something that I will have to live with everyday.  My only hope is that one day that they will see the changes I am making.  That they will be able to be as proud of me as I am in myself for becoming the person I am today and hopefully the differences I will be able to make.  As a very special person once said to me, maybe god made me an addict for a reason.

I am the co-owner of a company called Northstar Resources, LLC.  It is our goal to lend a helping hand to anyone in need with their addiction, whether it be through simple conversations on the telephone when they are having a bad day or for placement in treatment facilities which will enable them to get the proper treatment they need.  We want everyone to know that there is always someone out there who cares, no matter what their circumstance may be.

In today’s society, the faces of addition do not necessarily reflect the image of an individual that is living in a dark alley or in a box on a street corner.  The world needs to see that addition does not discriminate by race, creed, religion, sexual orientation or ethnic origin.  It doesn’t care about your status in life, where you came from or where you may today.  

If I am able to help one person with the telling of my story, then my life has truly been worth it.

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