ST. GEORGE —Being pronounced dead and spending almost two years in prison is just the tip of the iceberg in this woman’s addiction story. But what’s even more shocking? Where she is now.
“This is the first time I’ve made it this far,” Bree Dutton said about her sobriety. “I never thought I’d be able to make it to this — three years. I get to show up for the people we’ve lost and I get to show up for myself and for my kids and everybody else who’s struggling. And that’s amazing.”
While many things led to her addiction, Dutton said the root comes from an abusive childhood that led to severe trauma. Despite those experiences, she went on to be a straight-A student in school and a proud member of the drill team.
As an outgoing and bubbly teen, she said her life was headed in the right direction. But after an injury to her knee forced her to take a break from dancing, everything changed. With time on her hands, she began smoking marijuana and drinking with friends.
“I smoked weed one night, drank the next night and in a 10-month timeframe, I had dropped out of high school and picked up nine charges,” she said.
Criminal charges ranged from minor consumption to public intoxication and underage smoking. She began stacking up additional charges until one day, she overdosed. The overdose occurred after taking 32 Coricidin pills – a cough medicine that can create alcohol-like intoxication if taken incorrectly.
“I died and was brought back,” Dutton said about her overdose.
She was placed in a drug program her senior year, allowing her to graduate with her class. She remained sober after high school and became pregnant. But marrying a man who was actively using drugs enabled her to dabble back into her old patterns.
“He ended up killing somebody in a home invasion,” Dutton said about her then-husband. I was 20 years old with a brand new baby and he killed a gang member. So the gang came after me and my son.”
Separated at the time of the incident, Dutton said she initially thought her husband was the one who died. That led to a hospital stay for a nervous breakdown where she was prescribed Xanax.
“That was my cure-all,” she said about Xanax. “I went six years hard on Xanaz and Oxy 80s, and anything else I could find.”
When her husband went to federal prison, she dived even deeper into addiction. A six-year bender included dealing drugs for the same gang her husband had killed a member of, and ultimately led to a six-month jail sentence.
After jail, she did a small stint in rehab and was able to stay sober for a little over two years while on court-ordered probation.
“My ex-husband actually held a gun to a PO’s (Probation Officer) head and that PO became my PO, so that was kind of a rough road when I entered the legal system,” she said.
After her second son was born she was put on ADHD medication, and when that ran out, she began using meth and ended up with kidney failure.
Being in two car crashes resulted in a broken clavicle and an injured back, and after 18 months of being in Drug Court, she underwent corrective back surgery. She began taking Kratom for pain, an herbal substance that can produce opioid and stimulant-like effects. While it is a non-narcotic, Dutton said it isn’t allowed for those in Drug Court. When the court found out, she was sent to prison for her original charges.
She spent almost two years in prison and remained sober for two and a half years. As she focused on her children and being a front house manager for a restaurant, her life seemed to be on the right track.
“I get really complacent in my second year of sobriety,” Dutton said. “I always end up going back out. This time I went back out and for the first time in my life, I escalated to shooting up.”
Dutton began shooting up meth and heroin. She found herself caught up in bad relationships and suicidal. In a drug-induced psychosis, she called her old tracker from drug court and told him she had a problem and needed help.
“And he showed up to my house the next morning and said, ‘Why did you call me?’ I expected him to take me to jail. But I knew if I didn’t, I was going to kill myself,” she said.
Instead of taking her to jail, she was taken to Hope Rising Detox and Rehab. After detoxing, she accepted treatment at Steps Recovery. After 45 days in residential treatment, she continued one-on-one counseling with Premier Counseling.
Right as she sought help, Dutton’s best friend died. Walking through death without drugs to mask the pain was difficult, but she decided she would do everything in her power to help as many people as she could. At one year sober, she began working as a tech for Steps Recovery.
But with a pending DUI case from 2020 and 20 months of sobriety under her belt, she was sent back to jail for 63 days. Upon release, she focused on being active in the sober community and was promoted to office manager and sober living coordinator.
“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “I get star-struck by the people I work with because these are the people that I admire, the people that walked me through my recovery. And now I’m a part of that team. I get to walk other people through that and be what they were for me.”
Dutton just celebrated three years of sobriety on Aug. 25 — the longest she has remained sober to date. Working at Steps Recovery has allowed her to share her experience, her strength and her hope with others. Not only is she helping those struggling with addiction, but sharing her story helps in her own recovery while giving her purpose.
“I’m so tired of seeing everyone die,” she said. “And now I’m a hope dealer. I just really enjoy showing up for people the way they showed up for me.”
While sobriety can be challenging, she said feeling connected and present has been the best part of her new life.
“I’m able to show up and be present for my kids,” she said. “I get to help them through the pain that I caused. I can’t even put it into words. It’s just a whole different life, and it’s so much better.”
After-effects of pill and meth use included becoming constantly sick from rotting teeth, which led to all of her teeth being removed. But none of her past is stopping her from creating the future she’s always wanted. She just finished her first year of college with a 4.0 GPA, she’s on the path to becoming a Substance Abuse Disorder Counselor and is a certified Reiki practitioner.
“I just keep digging in,” she said. “Life is so much different on this side. There’s so much more reason to live.”
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