Drug Court race coordinator knows about hitting 'the wall'

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By JOHN A. WINTERS
john@newnan.com
At some point in every race, runners hit what is known as “the wall.”

It’s that point where they slam against it and fall back, or delve deep inside and somehow break through — the latter giving the so-called second wind.

Brea Duke has hit the wall several times in her life. Sometimes it knocks her back. Sometimes she presses through.

She’s not a runner, but she’s been instrumental in getting the Coweta County Drug Court’s 5K race up and going. Last year was the first, and the second annual “A 5K Run/Walk For A Drug Free Community” will be April 14, starting 8 a.m. at the Court Square in downtown Newnan.

She got involved with the drug court not as a volunteer, but as a user. As she succinctly put it in an interview last year with The Newnan Times-Herald, “soccer moms can be addicts, too.”

She’s faced that wall several times. Throughout her life she’s been clean, back on drugs, clean, back on drugs, clean — a never-ending cycle.

But she credits the drug court’s voluntary program as helping her get her life back on track. The program can last anywhere from 18 to 24 months. To graduate you need to complete your GED and get a job. You must take on a volunteer project to pay back the community; thus the 5K race. You have to stay off drugs. To ensure that latter point, drug tests are routinely given every 48 hours.

“Drug addicts aren’t always homeless,” she said. “They drive nice cars, live in beautiful homes, have great kids.”

Back to that wall.

She spent Christmas 2010 in jail. She fell back. But she started the program with the drug court.

In May 2011, she aced her state board exam to become a certified nursing assistant. She pushed through.

In June 2011, the first Coweta Drug Court race was held. There were about 100 participants and the fundraising event cleared about $2,500, Duke said. She pushed through.

In December 2011, she tested positive for drugs. She was sentenced in 30 days in jail. She fell back.

“I’ve fallen once,” she says about that arrest. “But it’s not how many times you fall, it’s how many times you get back up.”

On April 14, the drug court race will be held again. She pushed through.

On Tuesday, she drifted into the lane of an oncoming tractor-trailer. The semi caught fire and burned to a shell. She was airlifted to an Atlanta hospital. She’s back home with plenty of bruises, cuts and a few small fractures.

“She was clean yesterday morning when she was tested and clean on the full tox at the hospital,” said Pam Shepherd, the coordinator for the drug court. “This has been the first question everyone asks. She will be OK.”

Duke knows this latest wreck won’t be easy. She got addicted to pain killers after knee surgery a while back.

“I had everything,” she recalled. “I was on top of the world, and I slipped. When things are going well, that’s when you need to watch out.”

The race will, as they say, go on. It’s sanctioned and for professionals counts toward their stats. Registration is online for those at www.active.com.

“I feel like I got hit by an 18-wheeler,” Duke joked Friday after getting home. “I will definitely be at the race. I wouldn’t miss it for the world, even if Pam (Shepherd) has to push me in a wheelchair.”

In an interview hours before her crippling car wreck, Duke said she hopes to see 400 runners this time — quadruple last year.

And she wants the money to go help others in her situation.

“Most people don’t realize the damage drugs, especially meth, do to a user’s teeth,” she said. “I want the money I help raise go to help people get their teeth fixed so they can get into the workforce. They have no chance getting a job when their teeth are destroyed.”

Organizers are still in need of help, especially with donations of water, bananas, promotional gift ideas or cash donations for sponsorships.



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