FARMINGTON, Minn. — On the day Kari Rutman graduated from high school, she found her 19-year-old brother Josh dead from an overdose. Six years later, her mom died of an overdose. The trauma tipped her into a downward spiral of drinking and drugs that nearly killed her, too.
“I didn’t want to face that stuff,” she said. “I was doing anything to avoid facing Fit. The numbing that came from those things was what I was seeking. I wanted to die.”
Through faith and her church community, Rutman, a mother of two, found her way back to hope, and now she wants to pay it forward.
Four months ago, she founded Risen Recovery, a halfway house for moms transitioning back into life after undergoing substance abuse treatment or spending time in jail. Recently, with donations, she purchased a ranch-style house in Farmington’s north end that will be able to temporarily house up to eight women when it opens July 1.
“I want to show these women that there’s hope, that life can be beautiful,” she said. “No matter what we’ve gone through, the future is undetermined. We can choose what our future looks like.”
Rutman said she feels uniquely equipped to help women transition from treatment back into the real world because she’s been through that process herself. She knows how easy it is to cheat at recovery using prescription drugs that are, in many ways, just as destructive as illegal drugs.
When her mom died, Rutman took her prescription for Percocet, which contains Oxycodone, an opioid pain medication. She took much more than the prescribed amount and was able to still pass drug tests, because she had the prescription.
“My opioid addiction came with a legal prescription,” she said. “I would spend hundreds of dollars a day. I was able to keep it a secret for a really long time.”
She knows treatment centers are often just a temporary break from the stresses of life, and when women are back in the real world, they often relapse to deal with the stress.
Her friend Kay Beckman of Rosemount, who is helping get the home ready, calls herself the “treatment queen” because she’s been in and out seven times.
“When you’re in treatment, everything’s being done for you,” she explained. “When you get out, it’s like, oh my gosh, this is reality. I have to work to pay the bills, I have to take care of my kids.”
That’s where Rutman says community is important.
“They get out and they go pick up their kids. They’re wearing the rose-colored glasses because sobriety is beautiful,” she said. “We want to step in at that point. We want these women to come from treatment or jail or prison and we will be the stepping stone between them and the community.”
Rutman registered Risen Recovery with the state as a nonprofit and is working through the paperwork to get a charitable donation status. The program has a board of directors, and once the house opens, they will register with the Minnesota Association of Sober Homes.
Her clients will pay rent, and once she is approved by the IRS, which she said could take several weeks, Risen Recovery will qualify for grants, which would be offered as scholarships for clients needing a financial boost.
There are requirements to get a room in the home, such as being a mom and attending church regularly, but Rutman believes the women will thrive if they have a safe place to start again.
“We will fight for them as long as they’re fighting for themselves,” she said. “We want to be their community. Without my community and Jesus, I wouldn’t be sober.”