Caroline Schulkers received her first felony charge in 2008 for possession of heroin and crack cocaine.
Only 21 years old at the time, Schulkers was processed in the Clermont County Jail and released on probation. She immediately received a six-month license suspension.
“I didn’t drive for a long time after that,” Schulkers said. “I was basically trying to cheat the system.”
When Schulkers drove, she did so under suspension. She didn’t want to pay the $350 license reinstatement fee. This process continued for years. She tried rehab, Suboxone, and cycled in and out jail. She couldn’t stay clean.
Schulkers went to prison in 2013, serving a 1-year sentence.
At the time, Schulkers thought the idea of a 12-step program was ridiculous. She didn’t see how writing things down or talking about her situation would help.
“Going to meetings was enough work,” she said. “I didn’t think I was really going to have to change my life and get honest about the kind of things I do when I’m using.”
After being released from prison and staying at a halfway house, Schulkers paid the $350 to reinstate her license and got an SR-22 bond, a mandatory insurance for “high-risk” holders.
Six months later, the cycle returned.
Another felony charge for possession, another license suspension, and more time in correctional facilities — and another $350 reinstatement fee. A few relapses later, Schulkers found her way to the recovery pod in the Hamilton County Justice Center. There, she got a sponsor and began completing a 12-step program.
Schulkers got a job and began staying at her dad’s house, where she paid her rent and phone bill.
During the winter months, Schulkers walked to work and took public transportation. But after some time, her dad provided a car to drive because her previous two were taken.
After one final relapse in 2017, Schulkers’ father took away her keys.
“Thank God he took my keys because I didn’t lose that car,” she said. “I lost my job, my dignity. I lost a lot of things. My place to live. My clean time. But I didn’t lose that car.”
About a month ago, after a long period of sobriety, Schulkers’ father returned the car to her. She now works multiple jobs, singing and performing on the side. However, performing or working at venues means she’s frequently around drugs or alcohol, so she takes extra precautions to make sure she stays clean.
“If I’m not feeling right that day, I have to talk a little extra to my sponsor,” she said. “I read the big book a little extra. I go to an extra meeting. It helps.”
Schulkers has now been clean for five months. She has her dad’s former car and a valid license.
“It’s because of AA, asking for help and getting honest,” Schulkers said. “That allows me to have what I have today.”