Former Addict Shares Life Experiences!

Former Addict Shares Life Experiences!
Posted by FoM on January 25, 1999 at 12:05:08 PT

CANTON: Ricky Jenkins used to spend his whole paycheck on crack cocaine. Now he earns his living counseling others who are trying to stay off the drug.
Jenkins, 33, of Canton, has not used crack for nearly three years. He got married last year and is in the process of buying a home for his wife, teen-age son and two younger stepsons.He works as a chemical dependency counselor at Stark Regional Community Correction Center, a position that allows him to share his life experiences with the people who he said need to hear it most -- recovering drug addicts.``It feels good to give back,'' Jenkins said. ``My whole focus is to give back.''He disagrees with national reports that say crack cocaine use is decreasing. He said the drug is powerful, and that's why one day he hopes to start a couple of long-term recovery homes like the one he went to in Anaheim, Calif.He currently is taking classes at the University of Akron, working toward a degree in chemical dependency so he can start on his dream.``I want to give other addicts an opportunity to structure their lives and give them a chance to believe in themselves,'' Jenkins said. ``Because that's what it's all about -- taking a chance to believe in yourself again.''For a while, it didn't seem like Jenkins would ever have faith in himself.``On the drug, I really didn't have much of a life,'' he said. ``I channeled all my energy into getting high in the end.''He tried crack for the first time, he said, when he was about 24 years old. He was a drug dealer at the time.Jenkins had smoked marijuana and used cocaine before, but he said the high from crack was unlike any he had felt. ``It gave me a serious rush; it gave me energy,'' he said.Crack was so powerful, and after a while he said he ``lived for the drug.'' He said there were periods when he would use crack every day, spending $100 to $200 a day on the drug.``When I was getting high, I really wanted to stop,'' Jenkins said. ``But it's like I couldn't stop. I didn't see a way out.''He ended up losing a couple of jobs because of his addiction, and his relationship with family members dissolved.``My mother and father were truly hurt,'' Jenkins said.After a few initial attempts to stop using the drug, Jenkins said he got serious about getting treatment and called a drug help line, which referred him to the recovery home in California.``I started realizing my health was getting bad,'' Jenkins said. ``I was losing a lot of weight. I was really depressed. I realized I was an addict.''He went to California and returned to Canton after a little more than a month. But after only six days back home, he said he realized that he hadn't fully recovered. He still was tempted by the crack and alcohol around him. He caught a ride back to California and finished the program.He said the process of getting off crack was very difficult. Although he was not using the drug during recovery, he said his body and mind were still functioning as they were when he was on crack.``It's like I was having these dreams of using,'' Jenkins said. ``I would wake up sweating with my heart beating fast. It was like I just took a hit (of the drug). It's crazy, but it's just that the chemical has such a hold of you.''Jenkins said he is happy that his father, who died in 1997, got to see him get off drugs. ``The day before he passed away, he told me that he was so proud of me,'' he said.Jenkins said he would never be where he is today if he had stayed on crack. ``I feel great,'' he said. ``I can do the things that I always wanted to do.''Then he reflected for a moment on what his life would be like had he remained an addict.``If I wasn't off crack today, then I would be dead or in prison. There's no doubt. The way I got high, I'd be dead.''BY ANDALE GROSS 
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