A Change to Cherish

“I cherished the program. Cedar House to me is sacred ground because it’s where I first learned the 12 Steps and the Serenity Prayer.”

father and son smiling together with son's arm around father's shoulder

Jerry struggled through years of challenges with addiction, crime, homelessness, relapses and custody battles. Once he came to Cedar House directly from prison for the first time in 2011, the initial foundation was laid for a lifetime in recovery.

At the age of 15, Jerry began hanging around of group of guys who used him to buy their beer. He was a quiet kid who happened to look older than he was, so they invited him to party with them. They convinced him to drink beer and try smoking weed. Although it made him sick, he still recalled the “overwhelming feeling” of being high for the first time and starting to get hooked. He said, “It was a classic, textbook case. It had a snowball effect. Marijuana really is a gateway drug. After that, I got into cocaine, which led to the criminal system.”

Every time Jerry got into trouble with the law, it was directly related to his drive to pay for more drugs and alcohol. He said, “To sum it up, I was a tore-up drug addict.”

By the time he turned 40, he had been in and out of the prison system for most of his life. The court system allowed him to move into a program called His House where he got accustomed to rising at 5:30 a.m. and having his morning coffee over prayers and self-help books with fellow clients. He was technically still in custody but starting to desire a real change in his life.

The Department of Corrections moved him to Cedar House for residential treatment. After 25 years, he was finally sober. He and four of his new friends kept up their early morning routine there. They learned more and more about recovery and started to understand how they could change their lives. The more he learned, the more he wanted to know more. He had so many questions! He would catch staff in the hallway and ask for their guidance to deepen his understanding of the recovery process.

After five and a half months of sobriety, Jerry relapsed. His mom had a stroke and became hospitalized. His case manager took him to the hospital to see her and reviewed the 12 steps on the way there. A few days later, he went with his cousin instead and stayed overnight. Since he was still in court custody during that time, he wasn’t allowed to return to Cedar House. He stayed by her side for another week, but the stress led to drinking, and the snowball effect began again.

Jerry moved from smoking crack to meth and even both at the same time on occasion, which caused dangerous behaviors and hallucinations. When he was arrested four years later in 2015, he asked to return to Cedar House. He said:

“They really impressed me. They got me sober. I knew the information they gave me was real. It was life changing.”

During his experience with mental health court in sober living, he had some time to think.  He was 49 years old and knew he would lose everything if he didn’t commit to his recovery. He visited his counselors at court and perked up when they said his first 90 days would be at Cedar House.

In the Cedar House lobby as he awaited his turn for intake, Jerry noticed another client looking at him. This man ended up being his roommate. At night, Jerry would try to leave the door ajar to read the Big Book by that sliver of light, but his roommate would yell at him to shut the door so they could all sleep. Jerry said:

“The Big Book became my bible. I went to groups, worked out, read the Big Book, and asked questions.”

He didn’t want to fight with his roommate, so Jerry would bring his book into the bathroom to read at night. This routine of reading and focusing on the program laid a solid foundation for Jerry. That roommate became his sponsor, and they have stayed close every since. After 90 days, Jerry moved into sober living. He attended Sunday night meetings and panels until 2018.

That’s when Jerry’s mother passed away, and he relapsed again. He had regained custody of his children, but after relapsing, they were taken back into the system. He said, “I was crumbling. By the grace of God, I realized I was going to lose everything. I realized if I keep drinking and using, my kids will stay in the system.” He said:

“I had to take a deep breath and deal with the disappointment of relapse.”

On Dec. 29, 2019, Jerry committed himself once again to his recovery. He reflected back on the staff at Cedar House and said, “I remember everything they said. I would call and talk to Mike (his case manager). Every time he told me something, it rang true or eventually it would come true.”

Jerry is proud of everything he learned at Cedar House and the fact that he’s been able to mend his relationships with his family. With the help up Step Up, Jerry and his son are in stable housing. Now, he has four years of sobriety and earned his certified peer support license to help others on their path to recovery.