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'I've come this far': Clay County drug court graduate regains life, son

Jodi Klonowski plays with her sons, Solomon, 14 months, and Christian, 8, at her Moorhead apartment. Klonowski graduated from the Clay County drug court after facing medical hardships during her recovery. David Samson / The Forum

Jodi Klonowski got high on crack cocaine 30 minutes before her first court appearance months ago.

The idea of drug court was a joke to her.

She wasn't an addict.

She didn't want to get clean.

But she also had just lost custody of her son because of her drug use.

And she was about to find out she was 5½ months pregnant.

"Things finally began to sink in that I had no control anymore," Klonowski told a crowded Clay County District courtroom Wednesday as she celebrated her graduation from the drug court program she says saved her life.

Clay County's program began about 20 months ago. It focuses on treatment rather than incarceration.

Klonowski told fellow participants and graduates, including her husband, Jeff, - who graduated himself last month - that drug court gave her the chance to save her baby and her family.

"If it wasn't for this program, I would be dead," said the 34-year-old Moorhead woman who has now been clean for 17 months and has regained custody of her 8-year-old son, Christian.

Complications arose along the way because of her high-risk pregnancy and congenital heart problems. Two weeks into treatment, Klonowski found out she needed open-heart surgery, which she underwent along with a Caesarean section to give birth to another son, Solomon.

"It's a lot to go through and then still try to stay clean," she said.

Solomon, now 14 months, weighed 3 pounds, 4 ounces when he was born.

Seeing him only reinforced Klonowski's desire to kick the drug habit. Somewhere along the way she realized she was happy being clean, she added.

"I think what you've learned is you're stronger than the drug that controls you," Clay County District Judge Lisa Borgen told Klonowski.

Klonowski still struggles with her health, sometimes needing help with housework and other activities.

But now, while she is a bit nervous about graduating from the program and no longer being under "someone's thumb," she says she plans to focus on her children for inspiration.

"I've come this far," she said with a smile.