Jim: Breaking Free From the Prison of Addiction
“I don’t like the term alcoholic. No, I am a person in recovery from the disease of alcoholism. My thinking is no longer that of an alcoholic.”
Profound words. It took Jim nearly 50 years to say them, but this former resident of Cephas House in Waukesha had a rough road to travel before he came to a place where he could overcome the scourge of his addiction.
His childhood was marked by sexual abuse and the suicide of his dad, with whom he was close. Yet, he will staunchly tell anyone who listens that these traumatic events did not cause him to drink.
“I did that. I knew alcoholism ran in my family, but I chose to take that first drink anyway.”
History of Alcoholism Leads to Jail Time... and a Choice
A good student and athlete, he quit the basketball team after his father’s death, started drinking, and never stopped, with intermittent periods of sobriety linked together by years and years of alcohol haze. After serving time in prison for 12 years for setting fire to an abandoned apartment accidentally while drunk and high; a diagnosis of bipolar disorder that threw him for a loop; and a six-month string of run-ins with the law in 2013 that included fleeing police and two DUIs; he was on his way back to prison. His parole officer, however, challenged him to give up his comfort zone of jail and get comfortable living in society instead.
Jim took her challenge and the bed offered to him at Cephas House, which offers treatment exclusively to former inmates who are on parole or probation.
“I had a psychic change. People in jail knew me. The smells were familiar. I just knew I had enough. This time was different.”
He worked hard from the minute he got to Cephas House, but says it was challenging because other residents were not there by choice and weren’t as motivated as he was. Jim proudly notes that he was named a house leader and was one of the only guys who never received a single infraction while in the 90-day program. “I was not there to make friends; I was there to straighten out my life.”
Program supervisor Connie Schrank was the first person that Jim met. Connie explains that the Cephas House uses evidence-based therapy models to help residents recognize and challenge errors in their thinking that led them to where they are.
“Many are impulse driven and seek immediate gratification. We teach them how their belief system relates to their thoughts, feelings and ultimately to behavior,” said Connie.
That, combined with daily group therapy, support groups, required chores and other accountability tools and involvement of family and/or recovery friends and AA sponsors, is the cornerstone of Cephas House.
Jim Shares His Story and Encourages Others
Today, Jim is about to celebrate two years of sobriety, holds a full-time job and has an active schedule that includes being a member of the advisory board of Genesis House, another one of our drug and alcohol treatment programs in Waukesha, and Wisconsin Voices for Recovery, an organization trying to minimize the stigma of addiction. He is also a frequent speaker at community events where he shares his story with other addicts and their family members.
“I believe God allowed the things that happened in my life to make me a well-rounded person who can relate to people who have been through sexual abuse, suicide, mental illness, jail and addiction. You see their faces light up when they realize I really understand.”
He hopes to take his life experiences and his passion for recovery into a job as a drug and alcohol abuse counselor, and he has a special interest in helping those, like him, who have been incarcerated.
“I still have my name and number on the board at the Cephas House, and guys can call me for help and references. I’m so grateful to the Cephas House for giving me, and other ex-cons, a chance.”