The next time Kjrsten Letourneaux will be able to see Caroline will be the year of 2025.
Caroline is the daughter she gave birth to while behind bars on drug charges.
“They tell me the people who got her are going to wait until she’s 13 to tell her she’s adopted,” the 37-year-old Columbus woman said. “I’ve been told when she’s 18 I’ll get help to find her.”
Abuse of alcohol and drugs has caused Letourneaux much anguish through the years. She was beaten and sold her body at times for drug money. Nothing caused more pain than losing her child.
“There just wasn’t anybody else who could take her,” she said.
The father, now in prison, was a crack dealer.
When she was imprisoned, she knew she had hit bottom. Getting on her knees, she prayed for help.
She found it not in Atlanta, where she’d been living, but in Columbus at the House of T.I.M.E.
After her release in 2007, Letourneaux came to the drug recovery residence, a partner agency of the United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley, after hearing about it from a fellow inmate. T.I.M.E. stands for “This I Must Earn.”
“At the House of T.I.M.E., I got back my self-esteem,” she said. “I learned to like myself again. Before going there, I had no self-worth, no values. I was lost.”
Today, she has her own car and an apartment near Lakebottom. She is a service manager at Steak ’n Shake where she began as a waitress.
“There are good people where I work,” she said. “They gave me a chance and I’m grateful. I won’t let them down.”
She said there’s no chance she’d go back to where she was.
“That,” she said, “would be like spitting in the face of God.”
“Krjsten is an awesome person of whom we are very proud,” said House of T.I.M.E. director Sandy Watson.
There are currently close to 30 women living at the House of T.I.M.E. Thirty is the limit. “Many begin an addiction because it runs in the family or because of some kind of abuse,” Watson said. “That wasn’t the case with Kjrsten.”
Her mother and stepfather were both in the medical field. Letourneaux never expected to reach the depths she did and her parents never saw it coming.
The high school springboard diver began drinking at age 17. “We lived in San Diego then,” she said. “My friends and I would go to Tijuana, Mexico, every Friday and Saturday night. I started struggling in school.”
By the time she was 21, she was consuming alcohol every day.
“I was still living at home,” she said. “I’d drink at night and sleep until 3 in the afternoon. I never considered myself an alcoholic. I was just having fun.”
Eventually, her drinking led to a search for a “greater high” and she began using marijuana.
“When I was drinking or using drugs, I was prettier. I was a better dancer. You know, the life of the party. I thought so, anyway.”
It wasn’t pretty when in 1999 she blacked out at the wheel of her car.
“The police said for a woman they were surprised I wasn’t dead from alcohol poisoning,” she said.
By 25, she was using methamphetamine.
“I’d always been a big girl but I lost a lot of weight,” she said.
She also lost jobs.
She worked as a payroll administrator for a while. She served drinks at a biker bar.
Actually she was able to hold on to some jobs longer than she should have. “I was a ‘closet tweeter,’” she said. “I was pretty good at hiding it but I was doing a line of drugs in the morning and another at lunch.”
For a time, she had a boyfriend who was clean. He tried to help her but fell into her lifestyle.
Letourneaux calls her addiction a “disease.”
She recently told an audience just that at the United Way Campaign Kickoff Luncheon.
“I didn’t wake up one day and say, “Hey, I think I’ll waste 17 years of my life. There’s always going to be temptation. It’s something you have to fight every day,” she said.
She’s sure she’ll win. “I know just how terrible a life on drugs can be.”