There was nothing he could do but watch when Wayne County Child Protective Services arrived that autumn day in October and took his 5-month-old daughter away to live in foster care.

It was the worst day of Jason’s life. It was also the start to a new life without drugs and alcohol.

There was nothing he could do but watch when Wayne County Child Protective Services arrived that autumn day in October and took his 5-month-old daughter away to live in foster care.

It was the worst day of Jason’s life. It was also the start to a new life without drugs and alcohol.

Growing up in Newark, Jason, whose last name is being witheld by the newspaper by his request, started drinking and smoking marijuana when he was just 10 years old. He had a good childhood and parents who loved him, he recalls. An only child, he was granted a great deal of freedom, and looking back he said perhaps it was too much freedom.

“My parents were young, just 17 when they had me,” he said. “They were children raising a child.”

Alcohol abuse ran in his family, and for Jason, alcohol and drugs were a part of what being an adult was all about. Every day was a day to have fun, Jason said.

“This is what adults do, so to be an adult I’m gonna do what they do,” he said. “I think I was an alcoholic from the first drink.”

Early start
Wanting desperately to fit in, 10-year-old Jason started stealing wine coolers, and when his circle of friends learned he could steal liquor from his grandparents liquor cabinet, he started to fit in just fine.
Marijuana was easy to get back then too, always available, even for a 10-year-old.

When Jason was in sixth grade, he got caught drinking on school grounds and he was forced into his first foray into rehab, but it didn’t work. As a teenager, Jason graduated to the harder drugs and was soon hooked on cocaine. At 17, a highly intoxicated Jason stole a truck and spent two years in state prison where rehab was part of daily life, but it still didn’t work.

By 21, Jason had gotten married and had a daughter. He lost both due to his heavy drinking and erratic behavior. Then in 2004, he was arrested for DWI and sent back to rehab, only to fail again.

“I always wanted to be altered,” Jason said. “Because my life wasn’t what I thought it should be.”

His spiral down into addiction wasn’t over yet. When he was 28, he was introduced to the euphoric pleasures of heroin. Generally used in combination with cocaine, which brings a speedy high, heroin brought a sense of rightness to the world no matter how bad things were, Jason said.

“I was numb for years,” he said. “Everything I touched I ruined. That’s how I felt.”

In trouble with law
In 2008, Jason was arrested on a drug possession charge and received five years’ probation, but he continued using and drinking.

Living with a new girlfriend, a new baby and limited visitation with his first daughter, Jason was providing the basics of life, food and shelter, but any extra money was gone — used for drugs and alcohol. The more he used heroin, the higher his tolerance and the more he then needed to reach that euphoria. But money wasn’t always readily available. The withdrawal from heroin is like the flu, Jason said, only 10 times worse. But his stints in rehab had allowed Jason to collect a supply of a drug called suboxone, which is prescribed to recovering addicts to eliminate the pains of withdrawal from opiate drugs. The drug also blocks the receptors in the brain, making it impossible to get high when using it. But Jason wasn’t trying to get off heroin; instead, he abused suboxone to ward off withdrawal until he could get his next hit.

“In those two years (on heroin), I lost more than I had in all the time I’d been drinking,” Jason recalled.

Still on probation, Child Protective Services was now involved, and its concern for the child prompted them to take the infant out of the house. The fun was over.

“That was the biggest wake-up call,” Jason said.

The next day, Jason walked into the Van Dyke Addiction Treatment Center in Ovid and committed himself for inpatient services. He was finally ready to help himself. At the clinic, the dedicated staff offered gentle encouragement and reminded him daily of the potential they saw in him.

Even as a child, Jason describes himself as a person who jumps into everything with both feet, even addiction. The same was true for his recovery. He completed the program in two months and then entered a halfway house.

“I needed my kid back,” Jason said. “I did what I had to do. The real me, the person I am on the inside, was starting to come out.”

Halfway to recovery
The halfway house was a stepping stone, he said, in his journey to re-enter society. There he had the freedom to come and go as he pleased, and the support from counselors and AA meetings to help him get through the rough spots.

Jason was diligent about his recovery, and his hard work paid off in February 2011 when the Family Court judge gave him temporary physical residence of his now 9-month-old little girl.

“I cried,” Jason said. “I cried a lot for the first two months I had her back. Emotionally I was wreck.”

For Jason, he wasn’t just a single parent taking care of an infant, he was also in a recovery program and fighting daily to stay clean — he was starting over. By now he was living in support housing and having regular visits from CPS. He had to disassociate himself from his old friends who were all a part of his old life and they were all still drinking.

From the start there were no boundaries, Jason said. He would take as much as he could get. At the height of his addiction, he was drinking a 30-pack of beer as well as liquor each day. And when he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he was unpredictable — one moment laughing and talking, the next he was yelling and angry.

“I know that if I have one drink, that one is going to make me want to have 30,” he said. “It’s hard work. Every day I have to remind myself, ‘Jason, you can’t do that.’”

Then in December, fighting every step of the way and showing proof of that fight, Jason was awarded permanent physical residence of his daughter. This past Christmas was one of his best ever, he said.
Now 18 months sober, Jason said he feels like he’s doing quite well. Then reality strikes — for all the hurdles he has cleared, he realizes he is simply doing what an adult is suppose to do, what he was always suppose to be doing.

“That’s not long at all,” he said of his sobriety. “I’m still a baby at being clean. When you’ve had 20 years in, it takes 20 years to come out.”

Lost time
Through recovery he has come to realize his addiction robbed him of more than he ever would have thought. Most of his memories are gone, lost to blackouts from heavy drinking. Oftentimes, he recalled, he was afraid to approach friends because he didn’t know if he had done something bad the night before that he now needed to apologize for.

“Now I remember everything,” he said. “The best part is I don’t have to say sorry anymore.”

Jason says he’s come a long way, but he still has a long way to go. He continues to receive counseling at FLACRA, goes to AA meetings and he is attending classes to jumpstart a new career. He has a new girlfriend who is very supportive, and he loves being a father to both his girls.

“When my 9-year-old daughter says, ‘Daddy, I like you this way.’ It makes me want to cry,” Jason said. “She never used to talk to me. Now we talk all the time, and I don’t ever want her to stop.”

With recovery also comes acceptance of responsibility.

“Nothing I’ve done I blame on my parents,” Jason said. “I can’t blame anyone. I’m the one who said yes. I’m the one who stole the alcohol when I was 10.”

Now 32, Jason will always be a recovering alcoholic and recovering addict. The support he has received during his 18 months of sobriety is a gift — one he hopes to pass on by telling his story.

“Maybe I can help somebody. Let them know there’s hope to fight, that they don’t have to keep using just because they always have,” he said. “It’s a message that could save a life.”