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DL woman fights her way back from addiction

Susie Stewart found her calling as a cook at The Refuge Christian Outreach Center in Detroit Lakes. Riham Feshir/DL Newspapers

At the age of 16, Lorraine "Susie" Stewart began experimenting with drugs and alcohol not knowing that it would take over her life, send her to jail and turn her into an addict.

Now the 46-year-old Detroit Lakes woman reflects back on her life as a meth user, alcoholic and a mother who went down the wrong path to get rid of agonizing feelings caused by life's unexpected events.

She began using methamphetamine at 38, when her then boyfriend of 16 years took their children away from her and filed an order for protection.

"I was addicted to it for about seven years," Stewart said. "It just kind of covered up the feelings that I had."

She figured after the two-year court ordered period ended and she could get her kids back, she would stop.

But that wasn't the case.

"By that time I was an addict, I didn't realize how unmanageable my life was," Stewart said.

She admits that she didn't try quitting. Meth took over her life even though she thought she hid it fairly well from friends and family. She skipped family functions. She felt alone and out of place.

"My brother said he couldn't wait to get his sister back."

What finally made Stewart turn her life around was getting caught by law enforcement for possession of meth and marijuana in April of 2009.

She didn't try to fight it or deny she was guilty. Stewart was sentenced to six months at the Becker County Jail and 25 years of supervised probation on a felony controlled substance crime charge.

"I just wasn't scared, I wasn't worried, I was glad it was over," Stewart said.

So now she credits the task force for finally pushing her into inpatient and outpatient treatment. With good behavior, she ended up serving three and a half months instead of the full sentence and she's no longer on probation. She was required to find a job in order to graduate drug court and she's now a cook at The Refuge Christian Outreach Center. Stewart has been clean for 18 months.

"When I went to treatment, I knew it was over," Stewart said with confidence. "That's why I call the task force my intervention.

"Even though they were just doing their job ... they saved my life."

After a long and painful drug problem, suffering the consequences and searching hard for a job that would welcome a felon, Stewart is now happy to gain back the trust of her family and friends.

"I'm now able to have my grandchildren spend the night," she said. "I call and talk to my brother and sister often. We're doing more family activities."

Just this month, she celebrated her son's 14th birthday for the first time in six years -- he came all the way from Canada, where he lives, for the party.

Every Thursday, she gets to cook for about 60 people, and the number goes up to 110 on special occasions like the Thanksgiving feast The Refuge served a week and a half ago.

"I'm thankful because I was looking at 48 months in prison," she said.

"They (the drug court) gave me this opportunity to turn my life around and I took it."