Karla_new_work_pic_BWSome would say my “fall from grace” was embarrassing, disappointing, public and quite scandalous for our community. I would say, my “fall from grace” was and continues to be the day my life started over, a new beginning so to speak.

My story is no different than any other addict in that my addiction led me to make some horrible, irrational and selfish decisions. Unfortunately decisions that exposed my family and me to a cast of social judgment. Over the past few years, I have learned that regret is a powerful catalyst to addiction. It waits patiently to strike at any given moment and the only way to defeat it, is to own it. Yes, I have many regrets in this life and yes, if given the chance I would change a majority of the decision s I have made in my life BUT I know that my life is not and never will be about making all the RIGHT decisions but more importantly, about making all the decisions I have made, RIGHT.
And so my story begins…..
I was born and raised here in Blount County by two wonderful and loving parents who afforded me many opportunities. I graduated from high school here and attended college here. I married a man who had been my best friend since I was a teenager. By the time he and I married, our careers were at their peak, he owned the Verizon dealership here in Maryville and I was a successful Realtor marketing myself on several billboards throughout our community. We built a house on the lake and for all intent and purposes, had everything going for us.
Several years after marriage, I became pregnant with our first son. We were excited
because we thought we had made all the right decisions- we were older, had stamped out our careers and were secure in our lives. We had enjoyed being married and were ready for the next step. My child was and continues to be the absolute light of my life, along with his little brother! The old saying that there is no manual on becoming a parent is an understatement. Once you become a parent you see your own parents differently and appreciate the fact that they did the best they could for you. For my husband and I what should have been the most joyous time in our lives, came to an abrupt halt when we were told that our son had a condition called craniosynostosis, a condition that is random and affects less than 5% of boys. A condition in which one or more of the skull sutures fuse prematurely thus causing the brain to grow lopsided or in some cases causes the brain to stop growing completely. A condition in which for our son required radical surgery- skull and brain surgery. Our son was 3 months old when he was diagnosed but due to the severity of the surgery, we had to wait until he was 10 months old before his surgery could be performed. Seven long months of waiting seemed like an eternity to me. Each night carried its own set of emotions. I was hurt, scared, lonely, discouraged but most of all I was angry. Why did my child have to endure this? What had I done so badly in this life that warranted him having to go thru this? I was angry at myself, angry at others who had healthy children and took it for granted and angry at God. I couldn’t fix my son, I couldn’t make him better. I have never known heartache like that. I had given up, lost the battle and I just wanted the hurt to go away. The moment I reached for my left over pain medication from having my son, my life changed. For the first time in countless nights, I was able to sleep. Then I was taking a pill every night to help me sleep. Then I started to notice that these pills also made my heart ache a little less. And before long, I was so dependent on these pills that I honestly believed I couldn’t cope without them. I convinced myself that since I was taking prescription medication, that it wasn’t really “drugs”. Addiction has a funny way of convincing you of things you know to be different.
I would like to be able to say that the love for my child was so powerful that I was able to overcome my addiction, able to stop immediately, but at that point, all logic and rationale had left me.
As a matter of fact, I had left me. I was a shell of the person I once was. I was simply a functioning addict. I began calling a friend of mine who was an ER doctor at the time and asking for prescriptions. He accommodated me on numerous occasions and before long, I was altering prescriptions. All logic and rationale was gone and on May 30th, 2008 it caught up to me at a local pharmacy trying to fill an altered prescription.

One year later, after numerous legal delays, I agreed to enter the Drug Court program. With this agreement came the requirement I serve 67 days in jail for intensive therapy which was part of the Drug Court module. The day after I entered the Blount County jail, my plea agreement and details of my charges were on the front page of our local newspaper. I was honestly at lowest point in my life. People were coming into my husband’s store asking questions, people were calling my office asking if I was the Realtor on the billboards who was arrested for prescription fraud and people were driving by my house stopping at the end of the driveway and taking pictures. BUT for all the gossip also came kindness in humanity. While I was in jail, my husband received hundreds of calls from people in our community, all offering encouragement to our family and some who just wanted to share their stories. For someone who had never even seen the inside of a jail, 67 days is a long time… a very long time. Time to reflect and yet time to build strength. People ask me all the time how did I do it and I tell them two things- 1. I didn’t have a choice and 2. I wouldn’t trade those 67 days in jail for all the money and security in the world. Those 67 days in jail allowed me the opportunity some may never have- to truly realize what is important in this life. I was essentially stripped of everything I had yet I grew so much.

When most hear the words “Drug Court” the natural response is something bad….. but drug court is so much more than just a consequence of breaking the law. I have always believed you can’t punish someone into getting better. There is no amount of jail time or any other punishment that is going to ultimately change someone for the better. The desire to change is an internal motivator and I truly believe that anyone can change. Drug court intervened at the lowest point in my life and as strange as it may sound, gave me direction and focus. This program held me accountable for my actions and forced me to
claim responsibility for those actions. But more than that, this program gave me my
confidence back. This program helped me to navigate my way through the ugliness of my
decisions and all the aftermath I had to deal with as a result of those decisions. But most importantly this program has instilled in me one fundamental truth: Nobody will believe in you unless you believe in yourself

It is our responsibility as parents and members of this community to not only educate
our children on drugs and the consequences of drugs but to actually show them thru programs like Drug court, that thru all mistakes and regrets, great opportunity can be achieved. That what most people would consider being great failures can actually be turned into great successes. That contrary to what our society tells them, people can change.
I plan to share my story with my two sons when the time is right. I want to share this with them because I want them to understand that this disease is immune to no one. It does not discriminate against individuals who are educated, wealthy or even the most moral of persons. I want my children to be scared of this disease and the power it holds. And most importantly, I want my children to know that their Mom did the best she could to make something positive out of something negative.

My hope in sharing my testimony is to send the message that as a society we need to encourage others to seek help and place far less emphasis on judging anyone who does. At the end of every day, we all have problems and life should be more about helping others during those times of need and far less about measuring our own problems with those of another.

Today I wouldn’t trade my life for anything and I wouldn’t trade everything I went thru. I am such a stronger person and better mother and wife. I refuse to let addiction define me. I am so much more than that and my story will not stop there.
God has blessed me beyond measure and continues to bless me daily. Now I plan to pay it forward.