HOPKINSVILLE — Kori Tabers’ plunge into the dead-end road known as substance abuse began when she was in her younger years.
She said the usual things teenagers face made life difficult. Then, one way or another, looking for a way to deal with those pressures, she found herself being introduced to drugs and alcohol, by people she thought she could trust and who she thought cared for her.
For the next 15 years, the struggle continued and the price she paid was high. She fell into bad relationships and eventually began getting into trouble with the law. She went to some treatment facilities but none of those stays resulted in much progress. And she thinks she knows why.
“I’ve heard that a lot of people in this situation have to reach their own bottom before they start looking around and thinking things need to change. I think that’s right,” said Tabers Monday during a break from her job at a pet grooming business in Hopkinsville. This job was made possible by her being a patient at the Grace and Mercy rehabilitation center, where she has resided for nearly year. It is also a place she said has given her a chance at a better life.
“I was at a place in my life where I thought (God) didn’t love me,” she said. “I went to church when I was younger, but it was about fire and brimstone and the message I got was that if you mess up, you’re out. Grace and Mercy helped me with that, plus I had other issues in my life that helped make that belief (of not being loved) stronger. I’d had a lot of rejection, plus I’d had two abortions (one of which was while she was on drugs) and didn’t have a real way of dealing with that.
“So I was trying to fill this hole in my life with something. When I got arrested (in Trigg County) and ended up (in the Christian County Jail), I was put in for six months, but because they have a really strong jail ministry, I started going to church and that was how I began learning about Grace and Mercy.”
In late February, Tabers became one of 10 women to graduate from the Grace and Mercy program, but she is still with the center as its leaders continue to help her in finding a new home set in a neighborhood that would provide a healthy environment. She also said working with the group is giving her added time to perhaps pay forward her experiences from her early days after arriving at the center.
“When I first got there, I’d look at some of the older girls, or the ones that had been there a long time, and I’d see where they were in their lives. I started thinking, ‘I want to be one of them,’ and they were so good to me,” she said. “So now, for as long as I’ll still be here, I’m handling that role some with the new ones that come here. And you know what? It feels good to be able to do that.”
Kori’s mother, Jan, who still lives in Murray, said she has trouble recognizing her daughter these days.
“The difference is really amazing,” she said, referring to her daughter’s improved physical appearance. “She’s not smoking anymore and she’s taking much better care of herself. But it’s been a fight.”
Jan said one of the defining moments of Kori’s recovery was the celebration banquet for the graduates at the James E. Bruce Convention Center in Hopkinsville. Along with the family members and friends of the 10 graduates, she said she was very impressed with the number of people who really had no connection to the center or the patients who also attended.
“There must have been 700 or 800 people there, and this included a lot of the civic leaders of the community, including the mayor. That’s when you know people think something is important,” she said, remembering how the 2017 charge for endangering the welfare of a minor for which Kori went to jail was covered by local media. “That night, the Kentucky New Era (Hopkinsville’s newspaper) was there covering the banquet and I had to tell Kori, ‘For once, you made the paper for the right reason this time,’ and it caused her to laugh a bit.
“That time in her life when she was arrested was no laughing matter.”
Jan also recalled her own moment of tribulation. Five years ago, she was arrested in Murray after being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs as she was driving home after spending an evening with friends.
She said she was mortified.
“I actually blacked out, and I could not believe I had allowed this to happen to me because I had tried to be so careful (as an example to Kori and younger daughter Karli). I was so embarrassed, and I had to be in jail,” Jan remembered of how this easily could have been a turning point for Kori. “As I talked with her about what was happening to me, it was like staring at a blank wall. Meanwhile, I’m telling her that I don’t see anything about jail that is appealing to me at all. I wasn’t reaching her.”
Kori said it was not until the Grace and Mercy volunteers began coming to the Christian County jail that something began to happen.
“This may sound weird, but I’ve heard it said many times; going to jail probably saved my life,” Kori said. “When that happened to Mom, I wasn’t going to listen, because, when you’re like I was, you don’t pay attention to things like that, even if it’s happening right in front of you.
“When you first are drawn into it, you’re thinking it looks all glamorous and fun. You don’t realize you’re caught up until it’s too late. Then the problems start, and with me, I didn’t realize how deep those roots could go that they could keep you tied to that kind of life.”
Kori’s struggle is also a big reason she is supportive of a movement being led by Calloway Circuit Judge James T. Jameson to establish in-patient rehab centers within the 42nd Judicial Circuit that covers Marshall and Calloway counties.
“Absolutely I am! There are lots of people who need help around here, and that could be something that could help them get better before they get into the kind of trouble I did. Maybe they wouldn’t be stuck for 15 years like me,” she said.