ROGERSVILLE — In her darkest time, Karalyne Thompson lived a life so filled with tragedy, danger, and bad choices that a Hollywood producer would probably consider the story too far-fetched for the movies.
She was constantly on the run from both the the law and criminals out to harm her. She suffered rape, a brutal beating, a miscarriage, had her daughter taken from her, became an intravenous drug user and a drug dealer.
Toward the end, she didn’t care about her own life, but 14 months ago when she learned that her mother was suffering from a life-threatening illness, Thompson — still only 26 at the time — was finally able to turn the page. She said, “I’m done.”
She entered Hawkins County Recovery Court, stayed sober, got a job, and was beginning to get her life turned around. Then after nearly five months sober, her past life came back to haunt her in the form of a federal meth trafficking indictment last May.
“I’m still facing prison time”
Thompson has already pleaded guilty in Greeneville federal court and goes for sentencing on March 3.
“It was scary,” Thompson told a room full of fellow recovering addicts Tuesday. “It’s still scary because I’m still facing prison time. My court date is in 2-3 weeks. But I didn’t choose Drug Court to get out of jail, and I didn’t choose recovery because it was my last choice. I chose recovery because it was what I wanted to do.”
On Tuesday evening, Thompson was the featured speaker at a Hawkins County Recovery Court event called “Faces of Addiction.” She and four other recovering addicts addressed a capacity crowd of Recovery Court clients and their families and shared their stories in the Holston Electric Community Room in Rogersville.
Thompson, 27, of Rogersville, is one of nine children, and she has one daughter.
She told the audience she grew up with loving parents, and went to church, but she had self-esteem issues. Being homeschooled, she said she was sheltered.
She looked to her older siblings for acceptance, some of whom she admitted were “not so great” at that time, and it was around age 13 when she was introduced to prescription painkillers.
“I wanted to be accepted, and I quickly became an addict. By the age of 16, I had a full-time job and life was great, but I was a full-blown addict. I had to have it every day, and my family was completely oblivious to my addiction.”
She said she was clean at the age of 19 when her daughter was born.
“Quickly spiraled out of control”
However, Thompson broke up with the child’s father in 2014 and she started seeing other people. In 2015, she started a “bad relationship.”
“That led me down a really dark path. I traded my painkiller addiction to a meth addiction and quickly spiraled out of control. I lost custody of my daughter in 2015, and I just derailed after that. My whole life was over. I didn’t care. I got out of that relationship, and because of my lifestyle choices and the type of life I was living, I was brutally assaulted. That took a toll on me pretty bad. I was not able to see my daughter for a while because of that, in case the chaos in my life was going to spill over onto her.”
A 2017 miscarriage also took a heavy toll on Thompson, and shortly after that she escalated to intravenous drug use.
That same year she went to jail for the first time for possession of drug paraphernalia. She served 11 days.
“I tried to do right, but it didn’t happen,” she said. “Shortly after getting out of jail that time, I was brutally raped, and that put me in a really bad place. I still have issues with it to this day.”
She went back to jail and was offered rehab. Hawkins County Sessions Court Judge Todd Ross, who founded Recovery Court seven years ago, sent Thompson to a rehab center in Alabama.
She stayed a few months before being transferred to a rehab center in Tennessee, but she walked away and went on the run. During that time her best friend’s mother died, and she couldn’t attend the funeral because she was afraid of getting caught.
“I was such a bad person”
While on the run, her emotional baggage continued to pile up when a brother and a sister died, and a boyfriend was murdered.
After another stint in rehab and being released from jail on probation, one day in 2018 she decided not to show up for a mandatory meeting with her probation officer and went on the run again.
“In 2018, my whole life just split upside down and completely out of control. I left home and I decided that I’m going to be a drug dealer. I was such a different person. I was such a bad person. I was in such a bad place. I carried a gun with me, was running from people all the time, I was in bad situations all the time.”
That December Thompson visited her mom. They sat on the bed in her bedroom and cried and held each other.
“It wasn’t a matter of if I was going to die. It was a matter of when I was going to die. My family would have dreams about my funeral, what they were going to dress me in. When I used drugs, I used absolutely ridiculous amounts — lethal amounts — trying to kill myself because I was so miserable. When me and my mom sat on her bed she was like, ‘Honey, I need to know that you’re going to heaven because you’re not going to be here much longer.’ That was the day I decided that I was done.”
She was arrested on a probation violation in January 2019, and was offered Recovery Court by Ross. Her plan was to run when she got out of jail, but then she found out her mother had cancer.
“All I could think about was losing my mom and losing my dad, and me out here acting stupid and crazy. I have a limited number of years that I’ll have with them. When I got out of Drug Court, I tried. I’ve not had any hiccups or missteps. I thought everything was fine.”
But it wasn’t. In May of last year, Thompson was named with dozens of people in a federal meth trafficking indictment that was part of a three-year investigation.
“She’s always owned up to what she has done”
On Jan. 2, 2020, Thompson celebrated one year clean and sober.
She works as a waitress and is an active member of East Rogersville Baptist Church.
She will soon graduate from Recovery Court, and she hopes to graduate from college eventually.
Ross created Hawkins County Recovery Court shortly after he was elected in 2014 to offer addicts an opportunity to beat their addiction and a way out of the revolving door of arrest, jail, and probation.
Mugshots of Recovery Court clients were projected on a screen throughout Tuesday’s event, and Ross told the crowd Tuesday that’s what he sees when they come to him in court.
“It’s hard to look at them when they come in that way, but I try my best to see these (recovered) people,” Ross said. “I know they’re there. We’ve just got to find them.”
Recovery Court Coordinator Amy Cinnamon asked the crowd to pray for Thompson and her family between now and March 3, for the federal judge to have mercy on her.
“She’s always owned up to what she has done, but she has done exceptional since joining Drug Court. She’s never failed a drug screen. She’s attended all her meetings. She definitely is now, and going to be in the future, an asset to our community,” Cinnamon said.