Kelsey Muñoz: Walking in Newness of Life

Kelsey Muñoz: Walking in Newness of Life

Meet Kelsey Muñoz!  Over the past year, Kelsey has been busy as a honey bee, with awesome results!

This month, Kelsey commences CORE’s one-year recovery program.  Additionally, she: (1) is starting as house manager at our 6th Street facility, (2) has been accepted into our Second Mile group, and (3) has begun working for CORE.  On top of this, Kelsey’s successfully making her way through Stone County’s drug court program, too.  Whew – we’re worn out just thinking about it!

We recently sat down with Kelsey to talk about her addiction and recovery.  At the outset of our interview, Kelsey made plain that she credits God for her return to health.  She pointedly told us, “‘But God’ – that means so much to me.  I was a struggling addict with no ambition who didn’t know what she was doing with her life.  ‘But God.’”   

Indeed!  In so many Bible stories, those two words signal God’s intervention to make everything right again.  When all seems lost and we read “but God,” we just know He’s coming to the rescue.  God redeems and makes all things new if we seek His will.

Kelsey said several things, in fact, that indicated how diligently she’s been studying the Bible.  Our interview, moreover, lasted almost two hours!  We’ll do our best to abbreviate her testimony below.

She grew up in nearby Cassville and married shortly after high school.  The marriage was not a happy one, however, and about three years ago, Kelsey and her husband separated.  She found herself alone, with children, and working full-time at a factory job.  Coming home, once the children had been put to bed, Kelsey began self-medicating with alcohol – drinking to wind down and help her sleep.  We who are recovered can see her situation as a disaster waiting to happen.  And happen it did.    

Her mother arrived to take charge of the children, and it was agreed that Kelsey would get herself clean and sober.  By this time, however, she was powerless.  She had no idea what to do and spiraled downward.  She discovered methamphetamines, then fentanyl, in quick succession.  Kelsey remembers, “I had friends saying, all you do is do drugs, nod out, and throw up.  That’s all you do.  You’re not a person.”  She also remarked how quickly she went from depression into full-blown addiction, saying, “I was not prepared.  But it goes to show, I think, if there’s no self-care or mental awareness of what is going on around you, you can plummet.  It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from.”

Then she got into criminal trouble, which made the local paper.  The good people of her hometown were scandalized.  They knew her parents as reputable folk.  They were dependable people, with good careers, who went to bed every night at 9:00 p.m., like clockwork.  Now, she’d alienated her family.  Nobody was coming to her support.

At Kelsey’s court hearing, things looked bleak.  She might have gone to jail, but the professionals working her case spotted Kelsey’s problem and acted.  Significantly, it was a prominent judge who decided that what Kelsey needed, more than anything, was help.

If there is a dean of drug courts in America, Judge Alan Blankenship is that guy.  When Congress recently sought testimony about federal funding for drug court programs nationwide, they asked for Judge Blankenship.   He knows his stuff.  He also approved drug court as part of Kelsey’s sentencing.  She recalls, “Judge Blankenship told me it was a tough program, but it was all about getting help and being honest.  He said it was a big opportunity for me.”

Kelsey arrived to Branson in the autumn of 2021 – her first time ever living away from home.  Initially, she bounced from one sober living place to another and was subjected to all sorts of influences.  In fact, Kelsey divulged that she had tried working the 12 Steps using “mother earth” as her Higher Power.  I was trying to figure it out, but I really had no clue, to be honest.  I was into this hippie stuff, praying to mother earth, spreading positivity.  I would ground, walk barefoot, and meditate every day.”  Not surprisingly, that wasn’t working for Kelsey, but things turned around when she got to CORE:

I had to figure out my Higher Power and not be influenced by anyone who was going to gain anything from it.  I just had to buckle down, and that’s what I did at CORE.  I gave it my absolute all.  I started studying the Bible, educating myself.  I really hit the ground running.  And from not having a conception of who my Higher Power is to now having a personal relationship with God, that’s huge.  All that time I was trying to run the show, He was there, just waiting for me.”

Today, Kelsey walks in newness of life.  She expressed her gratitude for the many people who helped her along the path to recovery.  She mentioned her counselor, attorney, and people at drug court, all of whom took an interest in her recovery and, in her own words, “saved my life”.  Of Judge Blankenship she says, “He saw me when I was lost, like a puppy.  Now he sees me, once a month, and he’s proud.  That means so much to me.”  She also mentioned CORE’s Jen Brinkman (Women’s Coordinator) and Kevin Hunt (Program Manager), who have accompanied her to every appearance at drug court.

Kelsey also spoke favorably about CORE’s recovery program, saying:

CORE is different.  I’d been to other programs here in Branson, but something is different about CORE. It gave me the support I needed not only to find recovery, but also to manage it.  Every day is a little different, you know?  CORE teaches me that recovery is possible through all of them.  There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.  Because in other programs, or in life altogether, it doesn’t always seem that way.  There was a time I couldn’t even wrap my head around the fact that sobriety and happiness were possible.  I found those here at CORE.”

Kelsey is still relatively young in her recovery, but she’s actively working the 12 Steps to reclaim her life.  This includes making proper amends to her children, and to their grandparents.  Over the holidays, she met personally with her parents.  She’s also been in daily communication with her oldest children.  She understands, moreover, that apologies are mere words unless her actions are aligned with just principles.  So, Kelsey is making amends by showing her new way of life in recovery.  My goal,” she said, “is to have all of my children once I’ve accomplished everything I need to do here.”

She doesn’t have a specific deadline in which to complete the drug court program, although she’s phasing up according to expectations.  Until her work there is done, Kelsey is busily discovering the many blessings that recovery has in store.  As an example, she jumped at the chance to come work for CORE, telling us, “There’s no amount of money in the world that compares to doing God’s work.  And I do believe that that’s what this whole CORE program is doing, every single day, by just helping people.”

We at CORE well understand that what Kelsey wants more than anything is to return home and be with her family.  We’ll continue to support her efforts to accomplish this as we are able, even though she will be missed.  When the happy day arrives, we’ll celebrate with her, giving all glory to God!