'Drug Court' graduate grateful for second chance

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Karen McGinnis is on top of the world today, but she will be the first to say she had to hit rock bottom first. 

"I was at the end of my journey,” she explained. “It was either you’re going to do something different or you're going to die.”

The single mother had a drug problem and her life was spiraling out of control. She lost her job, custody of her son Owen, and her parents had given up on her.

“I can remember my mom calling me: 'Karen, do you want to be cremated or buried? And if you want to be buried, what color coffin do you want?'” recalled Karen.

But in 2013, with the help of her parents, Karen entered Hillsborough County's Drug Court program. 

Under the Marchman Act, which allows family or friends to petition the court for mandatory drug treatment for a loved one, Karen's parents did just that.

"Don't give up on anybody,” offered Hillsborough Circuit Judge Jack Espinosa Jr., who has been overseeing cases like Karen’s for over 21 years. “Substance abuse can victimize anyone in our society and everybody deserves a chance, a real chance, at treatment.”

The drug program is tailored for each individual case.

"The judge tells you, 'Hey, you gotta go into treatment.' And if you don't follow those rules, there’s consequences," Karen continued. “I've seen people go to jail for five months and 29 days because they are not ready to go into treatment.”

But Karen was ready. Now, years later, she's clean, is a full-time mom again and is she is graduating from drug court. She says there was one thing that kept her going this whole time.

"My little Owen was always my north star. I am not going to let the disease of addiction take that from me, too,” she said.

Karen also works full-time at a treatment facility, helping others who faced the same challenges as she did.