Woman tells of hitting bottom | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Woman tells of hitting bottom

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Katherine Suter, 45, has been drug-free for the past 4 years.

Thinking back to the Christmas of 1997 reduces Katherine Suter to a vulnerable state as she recalls her experience using, “cooking” and dealing methamphetamine over seven years.

After limited contact with her three children, that Christmas she took $6,000 from an insurance settlement and bought them Christmas presents. She had planned to spend the holiday with them, but before long, the 45-year-old South Shore woman instead spent the money on drugs. Finally, she returned the gifts to support her $50-a-day habit.

After a drug-induced binge, she called to say she was too sick to show up.

“That one still chokes me up,” she said, as tears welled up in her eyes. “It was a priority over work, over morals. I sold my life to it. I lost everything but the clothes on my back.”

Today, Suter has logged over four years drug free and two years in a healthy marriage to her husband, Roger – who’s also sober. While she still carries painful memories, she’s grounded in the notion she’s capable of maintaining a new life with friends and a renewed partnership with her children.

The story of meth use in the United States takes on many forms and reasons. Although the federal Drug Enforcement Administration reports that 80 percent of the arrests were male in 2003, youth, women and Hispanics are demographic groups health educators and law enforcement are beginning to watch. El Dorado County will host an educational workshop at Lake Tahoe Community College tonight at 6:30 and another one Wednesday at the Al Tahoe Elementary School cafeteria in Spanish.

“For people in the Hispanic community it’s a growing problem. They don’t want to talk about it. It’s like a huge elephant in the room,” county health educator Jorge Orozco said.

Betsy Fedor, executive director of South Shore’s Sierra Recovery Center, said “more women are using to be high achievers.” The drug provides a false sense of accomplishment because users become hyperactive and therefore feel productive.

“But they’re so scattered, they don’t get anything done,” she said.

Women are also known to use the drug to keep their weight down.

“It’s like what Valium was in the ’60s,” Fedor said.

For Suter, she used the fast-paced drug in Reno at age 32.

“I worked as a bartender. I did it to stay awake. That started my addiction,” she said.

The motel office manager smoked, snorted and took it intravenously. When she was arrested the last time before becoming sober, she thanked the police officer who placed the handcuffs on her in 2002. After being in and out of the judicial system, she faced 25 years in prison.

“A light went off in me, and I realized there was only me (who could do something about it),” she said.

Dropped off at a dusty bus-stop step, she checked herself into a rehabilitation center in Elko, Nev., four years ago.

She’s used that time to rekindle old relationships. When her angry son was injured in a vehicle accident in Southern California, he visited his estranged mother. He released his emotions, and now they’re closer than ever.

“I inspire him after all the crap I put him through. God works in mysterious ways,” she said.

Suter meth use: Lost relationships, her dignity dancing topless at a strip club, all her teeth, her house, car, $50 a day on the habit and 40 pounds going into recovery four years ago.

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