My name is JD Powers; I am a person in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder. That means I haven’t taken a drug or a drink or gambled in over four years. I began drinking at the age of 14 and used meth for the first time at age 17. From that time forward, I continued on that dangerous and destructive path throughout my life. I became a liar, a cheat, and a thief. My first arrest was when I was 19. My last arrest was at 47. The 28 years in between were filled with jails, prisons, and institutions. I’ve completed 12 inpatient programs, two mental health courts, two drug courts, many days in jail, and three prison sentences.
From 1990 -2018 I was either drunk and loaded or in jail or treatment trying to get it together. There were many times I almost died from my addiction. The worst happened in 2014. I developed a heart infection that summer. There was an abscess in my heart valve that burst, causing sepsis. This was a direct result of I.V. drug use. I was on life support and in a coma for two and a half weeks under the assumed name I gave them because I was on the run from probation. After I woke up from this coma, I was in the hospital for another month and had to go to a nursing home and learn how to walk for another month and a half.
During this ordeal, I had many people who just loved me back to health: my husband, my kids, my family, and the very few friends I had left. I didn’t know this then, but I’ve come to understand that even though I had all the love and support in the world, if I didn’t feel worthy or valuable, I would never think I deserved recovery or anything good. After the sepsis, I hated myself more than ever. So, by the spring of 2015, I was drinking and using again. I had left my husband and young son to begin a relationship with a man that I could use with freely. He turned into an abusive, violent man who had no problem physically, emotionally, and mentally beating me down. He was the physical embodiment of my self-loathing. He treated me exactly the way I felt about myself: ugly, worthless, hopeless, demeaned, and degraded. I existed under the threat of physical or verbal assaults for the next three years. I walked around this town with both eyes black and blue more times than I could count. I was at my lowest.
In 2018 we committed a crime together and got arrested. I wanted so badly to prove my worth to him; maybe he would finally be good to me, so I took all the blame and pleaded guilty to a burglary charge. While awaiting my fate, we continued to use, and he continued to beat me up and emotionally torment me. Finally, in August 2018, I went to sentencing, the Judge looked at me, and I believe he saw how bad it was for me and sent me to prison. He honestly saved my life. I was given a 16–72-month prison sentence. While there, I did a lot of praying and completed an 18-month drug and alcohol program that changed my entire life. About halfway through the drug and alcohol program in prison, I decided I had way more value than I ever gave myself credit for and finally cut all ties with my abuser and left behind any remnants of that life.
I was released on parole on Dec. 6, 2019, and reunited with my first husband, who never gave up on me. We both decided to start over from that day forward. I don’t know where I’d be without him. I’m sure I’d be dead (by my hand or someone else’s). We quickly moved into a home of our own, then COVID hit, and I was unemployed and still on parole. I found a job at Food Maxx for 3 or 4 months. Then a friend told me about a job opening as a receptionist at FISH. Much to my surprise, I got the job. I was initially nervous, but my FISH family was so supportive and helpful. I absolutely loved, loved working there. It was super rewarding and kept helping me move forward on my recovery path.
As the Receptionist, I realized I needed to learn more about Microsoft, typing, and general office skills. So, FISH paid for me to attend the Microsoft Office Assistant course at The Dream Center. They let me come in late to work to get this training and paid me my regular hourly wage. FISH paid me to learn. I got all Microsoft savvy, and it’s fantastic because I can use those skills in many different places.
Working at FISH was the start of my career path in Human Services. I always knew I wanted to help people, but I didn’t know where or how to get into that field before going to school. FISH gave me my chance. They helped me grow personally and professionally. My job there was a springboard for where I am now as a Certified Peer Support Specialist and full-time Program Coach for Capital City C.I.R.C.L.E.S. Initiative. FISH has helped me move from minimum wage to a meaningful career. Thank you with all my heart