Addiction is a terrible state that can seem impossible to escape. Once a person is hooked, it can feel like there is no way out. Cathlene Price’s story is different. She has gone from meth addict to counselor and gives credit to God and her family.
Price, of Clinton, shared her story of struggle and hope recently at the Cabot Public Library as a part of the library’s new living-history series.
“Cathlene has taken 20 years of addiction and all that goes with it and turned it into a way to give back to her community,” said Deborah Moore, director of the Lonoke County Library System.
After those 20 years of addiction, Price has been sober for six years and is registered as a counselor in training with the state of Arkansas and has been facilitating a relapse-prevention program for the past three years. She also runs her own mail ministry, in which she writes and sends inspirational messages to inmates and has a jail ministry that does Bible study with the female inmates at the Van Buren County Detention Center.
Price categorizes her life into four seasons — the beginning of her life, her addiction, her prison time and the present. She framed these periods around the biblical passage in Ecclesiastes 3 that states, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” including “a time to be born and a time to die,” “a time to kill and a time to heal,” “a time for war and a time for peace.”
The beginning of Price’s life may not be what someone would expect from a person who would end up spending 20 years of her life addicted to methamphetamine.
Price said she grew up in a great home with a supportive family. Growing up, she spent time in church and played basketball with excellence. She graduated from Nemo Vista High School with honors and went on to Arkansas Tech University in Russellville to earn a bachelor’s, then a master’s degree, in education. She was an elementary school teacher from 1996-2008 and married in 2004 at the age of 33.
“We think back — loving family? Check. Great childhood? Check. Athletic teenager? Check. High school graduate? Check. Bachelor’s degree? Check. Master’s degree? Check,” she said, then continued to reference Ecclesiastes 3. “As a brief summary of the beginning of my lifetime, you can see it was a time to be born, a time to plant, a time to laugh, a time to keep, a time to gain, and it was definitely a time of love.”
Despite her solid upbringing and accomplishments, Price was gripped by addiction to meth. She said she first began using meth in her early 20s.
“It wasn’t because I was uneducated or unpopular or because I was homeless,” she said. “The reason I used was because I was strictly curious. That curiosity almost killed me.”
Price said her curiosity led to an attraction to the energy and weight loss she believed the meth gave her. Later, she learned how those perceptions were wrong. Her energy was actually an increased heart rate that can lead to serious complications. The weight loss was a result of the meth causing her body to essentially eat itself. Everything breaks down — not just fat — and Price said she had people concerned that she had cancer because of how she looked. She also lost most of her teeth as a result of meth use.
“For the next several years, I convinced myself that I was going to be a functional user,” Price said. “I wasn’t going to give it up. I was going to use this drug and maintain. No matter how you look at it, I was a drug addict.”
Price said she introduced her husband to drugs but ended up leaving him because of his addiction. She was working for a doctor when she stole her boss’s checkbook and prescription pad, then used them to write herself checks and prescriptions for pain medication.
“The amount of meth and pain pills I consumed daily was deadly,” she said. “That all caught up with me, and I was convicted of two [Class C felony] forgery charges in 2010.”
Instead of taking part in an outpatient program, where she would have gotten the help she needed and gotten the charges expunged, Price said she agreed to 10 years of probation, thinking she would be able to trick her probation officer and continue using.
“I looked like death, but I thought I was so smart,” she said. “In the meantime, while I’m trying to trick my probation officer, I was stealing from my family — my sister had a few surgeries, and I stole pain pills from her — and I was constantly selling meth. I was in a drug circle that begged, borrowed and stole anything to get more drugs. … My addiction time had become a time to die, a time to weep, a time to lose, a time to throw away, a time to tear, a time to keep silent, a time to hate, and definitely, it was a time of war.”
Of course, Price was not able to trick her probation officer for her entire probation period. Price was picked up and arrested
Aug. 17, 2012, and later sentenced to three years in prison.
Price’s parents would not bail her out, and she was hurt and confused by this. She later found out they were relieved to know where she was and to know she wasn’t dead in an unknown location.
“I thank God for landing on the bottom because it was right there where he picked me up,” Price said.
In prison, Price said, she started reading the Bible and recover from her addiction.
“Even though I didn’t like where I was at, I needed to be in prison for a while and use that delay from the world to get better,” she said. “That storm — the real world where I was headed back — can be really messy, and I needed to know how to handle it. I used that time wisely. I used it as a time to be born again. A time to heal, a time when I was definitely broken down, but also built back up. A time to mourn and a time to love again.”
Price was released from prison in 2013 after 13 months of incarceration and has made it her mission to share her hope with other addicts. She said she could crawl into a hole and surrender to the labels of felon and ex-convict, but instead, she uses her story to encourage and teach others how to cope with life without drugs.
“I’m doing it sober,” she said, “and ‘it’ is everything — life, family, education, helping others.”
Price now runs a prison letter ministry, in which she writes to inmates, and participates a jail ministry team that goes into the Van Buren County Jail weekly for about three hours. She bonds with the women there and runs a Bible study with them. Then when they get out, she follows up and tries to help them stay on course to beat their addictions.
“I don’t only have a message, but I feel I have a mission — a mission to help other addicts recover and to let them know that with God, all things are possible,” Price said. “It’s possible to live a sober, productive, law-abiding, Christian life. … At this time in my life, it’s definitely a time to dance, a time to laugh, a time to embrace, a time to sow, a time to speak, and it’s most definitely a time of peace.”
Price offers support for addicts at (501) 215-3912.