Face It TOGETHER’s mission is to help drug and alcohol sufferers get well.

One way they foster hope, strength, and wellness is by using the peer support method in which individuals in recovery help those who are still facing addiction. Face It TOGETHER is a judgment-free space where people can share their stories of struggle.

Stories of setback, and long-awaited hope, peace, and joy shed light on why Face It TOGETHER is so important in the community.

The following story may be difficult for some individuals to read due to the graphic content. However, through sharing stories, we as a community can come to understand the reality that faces individuals in recovery. We can also better equip ourselves to provide help for those who need it.

At Dakota Medical Foundation, shining a light on community members who support others and make our region the best it can be is our job. 

In doing so, we’ve taken the time to listen, learn, and share stories of lives Giving Hearts Day has impacted.

One of those stories is Jamie’s story. As we arrived at a quiet coffee shop, unsure of what to expect, we found Jamie patiently waiting.

We ordered coffees and introduced ourselves to Jamie. We shared a little about ourselves, and he shared his excitement about recently reconnecting with his daughter Shyanne. He also showed us pictures of her and his other two children.

As we got settled, Jamie exhaled and took a moment to gather his thoughts.

Jamie was born on June 27th in Eden, NC and grew up in Mayodan, NC.

“From the time I was born I was cursed with alcoholism,” Jamie said.

He lived with his dad for the first seven years of his life and had little interaction with his mom. His dad was an alcoholic, and his mom had her own drug and alcohol addictions.

On July 4th, 1987, Jamie’s dad spent the day drinking. When it was time to go home, his dad was too intoxicated, so eight-year-old Jamie had to drive.

By the time they made it home, Jamie’s dad was passed out in the back seat. Unsure of what to do, Jamie placed fans by his dad to keep him cool and went inside to cook dinner.

When he went to wake up his dad, he was struck by tragedy. His dad had fallen out of the car and was lying in vomit. He was gone. The 4th of July is still a difficult day for Jamie.

After his dad died, Jamie went to live with his mom.

At the time, Jamie didn’t realize his life would change again.

His mom was open about her drug and alcohol use. Jamie even recalled waking up and seeing his mom pumping drugs into her arm. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” Jamie said.

His mom also had a violent boyfriend. Jamie would hear her crying from the abuse she endured. One day, as his mom was being abused, Jamie came to her defense. As a result, he spent a few months in reform school but eventually returned home.

Over time his mom’s addiction worsened, leading to the unthinkable. Jamie’s mom forced him into prostitution to support her drug habits. For about five months Jamie suffered through this until his grandparents found out.

He still lives with the trauma from those events although he’s able to talk about it more easily now.

Jamie moved in with his grandparents where his life consisted of daily farm chores and tough love.

At the time, Jamie didn’t like it, but looking back he is grateful for the lessons he learned from his grandpa.

On the farm, Jamie’s uncle thought he could toughen Jamie up by picking on him and beating him. When Jamie was tired of the abuse, he told his grandpa what was happening. Sadly, his uncle took revenge by holding Jamie down and burning his arms with a lighter and cigarettes, leaving permanent reminders of that day on Jamie’s skin.

At the age of ten, Jamie was given his first drink of alcohol and was introduced to marijuana by another uncle.

Soon Jamie was getting high all the time. Then came Jamie’s grandparent’s divorce, which was difficult for young Jamie.

Around the age of 12, Jamie tried crack cocaine.

“That is when the real spiral started,” Jamie said. He began stealing from his grandpa for drug money even though he was ashamed for what he was doing.

At the age of 14, Jamie’s mom came to visit him. Six hours after seeing Jamie, she died due to health issues.

From his mom’s death, Jamie received $5,000 from her insurance policy, and when he turned 18, he spent it all on drugs. Then, he moved to Maryland.

Jamie’s aunt Rachel had asked him to live with her in Maryland after her husband passed away.

Jamie knew his aunt was a “dry alcoholic,” meaning she stayed sober because of her husband, Charlie. Once he passed away, she began drinking again.

Jamie and his aunt would get drunk together every day. His aunt would keep a bottle of Johnny Walker by her bed. Employees at the liquor store grew so used to seeing Jamie that he could buy alcohol as they assumed it was for his aunt.

When Jamie’s habit of using marijuana and cocaine returned he would sit by himself and get high and drunk. “It was a regular thing,” Jamie said.

When he needed money, he would steal it from his aunt – he knew all her hiding spots. But, after a while, she caught on and kicked Jamie out of the house.

Even when he wasn’t living there, he would steal from his aunt. One day, he stole some of her CDs and used the money to get high. When that money ran out, he stole the rest.

He lived in a homeless shelter for some time, but he always found ways to satisfy his addiction.

“I sold a $250 coat for a $7 bottle of vodka,” he said.

When he couldn’t stay at the homeless shelter any longer, he called his cousin Anne who he said is more like a sister. At that point, he moved back to North Carolina.

From there, Jamie’s life began a cycle – he would get a job, fall into drug and alcohol habits, and get into trouble.

He got his first job and was sober for a few months but eventually resumed drinking. Before long, his cousin’s husband wanted him gone.

He moved in with a woman he had met, but this didn’t last either. Then, he found himself in jail after his CD stealing in Maryland caught up with him.

When his probation started, he moved home and got a job which lasted for three years. During that time he turned 21 and spent all his money at bars. He told us he tried to quit drinking many times but would somehow find himself back at the bars.

“It was just the normal routine for an alcoholic,” Jamie said.

In 2001, while working in the Wahpeton/Breckenridge area, he began dating someone, and they had a son together.

Unfortunately, their son, Zaine, lived for only three weeks after birth before passing away from health complications. Jamie recalled the nurses giving him a mold of Zaine’s hand. At this point, Jamie began heavily drinking.

In 2002, Jamie got his first DUI.

He and some others started drinking and driving at eight in the morning, and by ten, Jamie said he was blackout drunk. The cops found him four hours after he crashed into a culvert, four miles from where the accident happened – he was walking for help. Jamie said the sheriff estimated his blood alcohol level was a .58 or .6 when he got in the accident.

“I don’t know how you aren’t dead,” the sheriff said to Jamie.

In October of the same year, Jamie’s girlfriend became pregnant again. Jamie didn’t drink for about a month, but soon after resumed his routine.

He told us he became a functioning alcoholic. Jamie’s stress levels began to rise as he worked to provide for his girlfriend and the baby that would soon be arriving. His defense mechanism was to leave. Jamie moved to a new house, and his girlfriend moved home where she had the baby. She named her Shyanne.

In 2009, Jamie went to prison for breaking into a house in Valley City to get alcohol. While in prison he got his GED and went to treatment.

During this time, he found out Shyanne was placed in foster care and asked his aunt to take care of her.

In 2010, when he was released from prison in Bismarck and reconnected with Shyanne.

To get back on his feet, he started working at a car dealership doing details and was soon promoted to selling cars after his boss noticed his personable personality.

On Jamie’s birthday in 2012, he agreed to be a designated driver for one of his friends, but his addiction caught up with him.

He got his second DUI and lost his job.

A scram bracelet was placed on him for about four months which kept him sober. He got another job and moved into the Budget Inn. It didn’t take long for bad influences to find him, and he once again started drinking and using drugs.

“It was like my tolerance didn’t even leave,” Jamie said.

He recalled that it seemed like his addiction progressed faster than before. While at the Inn, he started smoking spice, a form of synthetic marijuana.

In September of 2013, he went to prison for stealing a vehicle.

After he was released from prison, he began smoking spice again which landed him back in prison in December of 2014. He started parole in May of 2015 and eventually moved in with a co-worker. However, the tenant in the basement was using drugs, and Jamie began using again after one week.

“My addictive personality was taking over. I didn’t have any free will at that time,” Jamie said.

In time, he started hanging out with a drug dealer, and he recalled this was the moment when his meth addiction became full-blown.

Then Jamie’s stealing habits resurfaced. He stole a TV from Jamestown, and in 2016, was arrested for stealing a car in Fargo.

Jamie went back to treatment, but this time both counselors were in recovery themselves.

He told us that this was a pivotal moment in his step towards recovery. He was finally able to talk to someone who understood what he was going through.

In August of 2017, Jamie started parole. He got a job and began going to Lighthouse Church on Sunday’s.

“I found where I belong right away,” Jamie says.

In December, he had a minor setback, but that led him to Face It TOGETHER.

Jamie described a lot of anger and frustration with himself when he got in trouble in December, but now he truly believes that God was directing him in that path to push him towards recovery.

Jamie blew off his counseling meetings at first but eventually started going.

There he met Jake who is in recovery and is now an addiction management coach and a peer support specialist. Jamie remembered feeling like his meetings with Face It TOGETHER were going to be a waste of time – just educated people talking at him.

But then he heard Jake’s personal recovery story. “Jake has been like a big brother to me,” Jamie says.

In time, Jamie wanted to take another step towards his own recovery. That’s when Kristi Ulrich, Executive Director of Face It TOGETHER, asked Jamie if he would like to volunteer as one of the Directors of First Impressions. In this role, Jamie would be the first person to greet those who walk into Face It TOGETHER.

He recalled feeling nervous about the position, but he accepted.

Today, Jamie is contemplating becoming a peer support specialist.

He told us he even thought about going to college to learn more about addiction and recovery.

“I’ve gathered all the wisdom I needed to gather to be of assistance to someone else. I thank God for Jessica (his girlfriend), Face It TOGETHER, for the Lighthouse Church, and for Celebrate Recovery. If it wasn’t for them, I can honestly say I don’t think I would be sitting here talking to you guys,” he said during the interview.

Jamie is already taking his first steps in giving back as he works with people who are on their own paths towards recovery.

“I’m not looking to change the world. I would like to help someone,” Jamie says.

As we left the coffee shop we began to process Jamie’s story. We couldn’t help but be hopeful for Jamie’s future.

Unexpectedly, we heard Jamie call out to us. He said he was feeling a little anxious because this was the first time he told his entire story to strangers. He thanked us for the opportunity to further his healing by sharing his story.

We were shocked. We weren’t expecting a thank you from him. Only then did we realize the power behind simply listening.

Then we thanked Jamie for having the courage, strength, and enough trust in us to tell us his whole story.

We parted ways, and Jamie went to church, a community that embraces him.

Jamie is very proud of where he is today and is excited about his future of recovery.

Purpose to impact

Face It TOGETHER paired with FF Fisher this year for Giving Hearts Day. The partnership, which consisted of $10 donations from FF Fisher for all vehicle test drives on Giving Hearts Day, made sense because FF Fisher believes that helping those who are suffering creates a better community.

All proceeds donated to Face It TOGETHER on Giving Hearts Day were used to underwrite their program in order to provide peer to peer support at no cost to the client. A $500 contribution provides 12 weeks of individual addiction management coaching to an individual in the community. This helps them continue to serve community members like Jamie who are working towards recovery.

Stay tuned for another nonprofit story next week, and remember to live with purpose!

Together, we can become the most generous region on the planet.

 

 

 

 

Derek Hatzenbuhler

Author Derek Hatzenbuhler

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