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Friday, February 27, 2015

Former addict climbs out of the basement of despair
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Kathy Plonka - The Spokesman-Review
Lisa King was arrested in Coeur d'Alene for possession of meth at 4 a.m. on Dec. 30, 1998. After more than 20 years of drug abuse it took that arrest to open her eyes. ``You don't get well until you hit your bottom,'' she says.

Angie Gaddy - Staff writer

Lisa King hit bottom in a Rathdrum basement two years ago. The water and electricity had been shut off. She had no money, no job, a baby and a raging meth habit.

King was 37. Her life had been spiraling toward that basement since she began using drugs at age 11. She drank, smoked pot, did cocaine and eventually chose methamphetamine.

"I couldn't feel pain anymore. (Drugs) help you operate on numb," says King, who is now sober and 39.

She married at 24 and had two children. She initially lived a middle-class life in Northern California, taking care of the kids while her husband worked.

They struggled with drugs for the first five years of their marriage. They used pot and cocaine. For a while, she only drank.

"You substitute one drug for the other," King says.

She left the kids with her husband and moved to North Idaho in 1994 to take a job managing a retail store.

What she discovered in Coeur d'Alene was worse than anything she'd seen in California.

King began using meth. She stayed high longer. She kept her house clean and felt more focused. She needed this drug more than any other.

Eventually she divorced. The store closed, and she lost her job. Instead of finding other work, she sank further into drugs.

King dated abusive men and became pregnant with a son. When she gave birth to another child, a girl, she was living off food stamps in the basement of a Rathdrum home.

She shoved her daughter into the arms of the father and told him she couldn't care for her any longer.

Social workers took her toddler son away after discovering him living with her in the basement with no running water or power.

Still, King couldn't kick her meth habit. And in December 1998, she got caught.

A Coeur d'Alene police officer pulled over the 1976 Chevy Capri she was riding in around 4 a.m. after a drug-filled night. The officer discovered baggies of meth, a hollowed-out light bulb with burnt residue, a hollowed-out writing pen and three pieces of aluminum foil.

``I had always prided myself on being careful,'' King says.

In her small Kootenai County jail cell, King realized it was time to get help.

After she got out of jail, a friend's acquaintance told her he would take her anywhere she wanted to go, or she could go to the Port of Hope, a Coeur d'Alene treatment center.

King chose Port of Hope.

``If your kids aren't a good enough reason to get it together, then there's not a good enough reason,'' King says. ``You don't get well until you hit your bottom.''

For almost a month, King went through intensive in-patient treatment. Then she entered Kootenai County drug court, which requires first-time drug offenders to go through treatment and check in monthly with probation officers, prosecutors and judges.

King got an apartment, got her son back and shares custody of her daughter with the father. She writes to her children in California, though her ex-husband wants her to have nothing to do with them.

She had her meth-damaged teeth repaired at a cost of $5,000, partially covered by insurance. She found work doing promotions at local supermarkets and now holds a clerical job at a Post Falls tool company.

She attends weekly AA meetings, and calls counselors, social workers and family members to chat when she's feeling down. And she prays.

Many others in the program have gone back to using. They claim the cops are out to get them and social workers want to take their children.

King says that's not the case at all.

``There's a lot of support out there if you get a grip,'' she says. ``I've gotten a grip.''

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