Vanessa Keeton recently celebrated 10 years in recovery. She now owns her own business and is telling her story of her struggle with substance use disorder to help others.
Beginning in middle school, Keeton began to feel many adolescent pressures which resulted in an eating disorder at a young age that became an addiction.
“That’s when probably like the whole mental obsession thing started before drugs ever did because I basically starved myself all summer between 8th and 9th grade,” Keeton said.
From there, she started a job at a gas station to help her family out with money and like many others, ended up becoming friends with the wrong people, which started the experimentation with drugs. Keeton said it started with alcohol and marijuana and then by the age of 17, she had her own prescription for pain pills following a car accident.
Despite being in the throes of addiction, Keeton was able to attend college and work as a dental assistant for around seven years before things got out of control.
“For the longest time, I considered myself a ‘functioning addict.’ You know, I did go to work every day, and I felt like I was okay as long as I could go through a traffic stop. Unless I was intoxicated, they could not pull me over. I was able to pay for tags on my car, I was able to pay for insurance, so those things kept me in the realm of what I felt was normal, because a lot of the people I was interacting with were unable to do those things. So, I really fooled myself for a long time,” Keeton said.
After multiple arrests and moving from state to state, in 2008 Vanessa became an IV drug user. From there, she said she began stealing and just doing what she could to get by as she could not hold down a job.
And finally, in 2010, Keeton was arrested twice with one resulting in DUI and possession charges and the other with possession and paraphernalia. She went to court two days in a row where she was arrested at the court house for theft.
She was presented with a life-changing choice by the county judge at the time: serve 365 days in prison or go get help.
Keeton then walked through the doors of Karen’s Place, a women’s treatment facility run by what is now Addiction Recovery Care, where she was the first patient. And that is where her recovery journey began.
Now 10 years later, Keeton says it is important for communities to rally around those struggling with substance use disorder and other issues. As for her advice to employers, she said it is critical for those in recovery to be employed so they can have the accountability and help as they face hurdles along the way.
“People can change; you know it’s just silly why ppl still don’t want to hire people in recovery. I understand the risk that you’re running, but you’re running that risk with anyone. Anyone can end up addicted. No one would’ve ever imagined I would’ve ended up a drug addict,” Keeton said.
As for other ways Kentucky can successfully battle substance use disorder, Keeton applauded work being done in the General Assembly with a bill to achieve “Recovery Ready Communities” and also shared some advice on what schools in the state could be doing to help with early intervention.
Watch the full interview with Vanessa Keeton to hear more about her journey with addiction and recovery and ways the state can improve in these areas here: