It started young. At age 5, Lisa Burton was taken away from her mother, who was an addict and in trouble.

Lisa felt different than everyone else.


She kicked into survival mode.

At 15, Lisa starting smoking pot and drinking. She felt like a victim and thought the world was against her. And the substance use progressed.

This was her pattern of behavior for 22 years — that’s more than two decades and two-thirds of her life getting high.

In 2013, she was arrested on a drug-trafficking charge. Prior to that, she’d only been charged with misdemeanors for crimes such as shoplifting.

The court didn’t let her slip through the cracks. She failed a drug test and was sent to a Department of Corrections program through Recovery Kentucky in Harlan County as part of pre-trial diversion.

It was the first time Lisa had even heard of treatment – even though she’d been using for years and had children. No one mentioned treatment to her. It wasn’t talked about. But she wishes she had known because it transformed her life.

“I tried to isolate people out of my life. I was really miserable,” Lisa said. “This was the first time I felt things change. It was the first time being clean.”

Lisa felt great, but didn’t realize the work it took to stay sober. She didn’t take the steps needed for long-term recovery. She got high while on parole and was sent back to jail. But this time it was different.

“I was completely beaten down. Now, everything they said the first time made sense. I really stayed focused,” Lisa noted. “When you’ve been getting high for 20 years, it takes time. The first time planted the seed in me.”

Since that second treatment three years ago, Lisa has been part of opening two recovery programs – Recovery Kentucky in her hometown of Somerset and Freedom House, which is a Volunteers of America’s program for pregnant women in Clay County. She works as a therapist technician and supervisor. The program takes women with children up to 18 years old. That hits home for Lisa, who has an 18-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter.

“God has put in my path to help open these facilities. I’m able to pass along what’s been given to me,” Lisa proclaims. “I really believe in accountability from the court system, which has really stepped it up to get people the help they need.”