“I enjoy my life for the first time in years; just a normal life of being clean and sober.”Karen Wilson
“I was a disaster case,” Karen Wilson says of her former life as a drug addict. “If you saw me then and see me now, total and complete change.” Becoming a disaster case was, however, a dramatic change itself for the Louisiana woman who describes her teenage years in a “very good, upper-middle-class family” where the father was a supervisor in construction.
At 15, Karen found herself facing peer pressure at school that tumbled out of control when public humiliation loomed over her. The teen earned a coveted spot as a majorette only to be told her grades were too bad to allow her to take on the role. Tormented by embarrassment, Karen moved to Texas to live with her mother. It was a decision that set her life into a near-death spiral.
“She treated me more like a sister,” Karen explains. “She got me to drink with her and would take me to the bars. I was working in a bar by the time I was 17.” She soon married and had four children, bringing them into a marriage that was falling apart. It was then that her mother precipitated another crisis—she claimed to be taking Karen’s oldest daughter camping but, in fact, left for another state.
“Mother never brought her back,” Karen says. It was on a visit to her daughter that Karen was first introduced to crack cocaine. Back in Texas, a neighbor “turned me onto crack again. I wanted it all the time. I started prostituting myself to get drugs.” Her mother then came to get Karen’s newborn son—and to arrange Karen’s arrest on fraud charges. This led to Karen’s first of many stents in prison, always followed by a return to the addiction lifestyle and trauma after trauma. Her Family turned their backs on her. Her second daughter landed in prison for murder while her third daughter was herself murdered with Karen not told until after the funeral—no chance to say goodbye. A drug-dealing second husband abused her physically and mentally. And finally, Karen chose to rob a bank—twice, spending six months on the run.
When caught, Karen landed in the Dallas County Jail and, eventually, federal prison. In jail, Karen was introduced to Volunteers of America and its Resolana Program, run by Leslie Mohney. The program helps women work through issues of trauma and addiction. Karen’s 14 months in the program “put some things in my brain and made me wake up,” she says. She became a leader, helping others entering the program. It succeeded, she said because of the combination of what was offered and encouragement from Ms. Mohney. “She made me feel good about myself. I woke up.” And she took Ms. Mohney’s advice on everything.
After her release from prison, Karen returned to Dallas and was connected to yet more assistance. She is currently training to be a 311 operator for Dallas. “I’m in compliance with everything,” Karen says. “I bought a car, I’m living a happy, sober life.” She has reconnected with her family as well, including a brother, Buddy, who now supports her unconditionally. “I enjoy my life for the first time in years; just a normal life of being clean and sober.”