Jimmy McClain’s story is like so many struggling with addiction…dysfunctional home as a kid, poor choices, bouncing around from home to home and being homeless, all leading to a tough existence. “Growing up in a house of alcoholics, by the time I was 10 years old, I had to raise myself.” He explained to me that this caused him to “take the easy way out, using drugs at an early age, not knowing the choices I was making was setting me up for misery later on.”
But his determination, along with help and guidance from the Accountability Court program, is creating a new story for him.
Earlier this summer I was able to interview Jimmy, and his boss, about the new path he’s forging for himself and how he pulled himself out of what he called “under rock bottom.”
In 2020 Jimmy found himself in legal trouble and was interviewed for drug court. While he knew the program would help him, he went a bit “AWOL” at the beginning and found himself in legal trouble again when he was pulled over. He did receive a reprimand from the program, but was also given a second chance, which led to a true dedication to his recovery. He reflected on that moment with me, saying that when he looked at himself in the mirror, the look on his face, one of disgust with himself, caused him “to fall on his knees, never having felt closer to God, that moment changed [his] life forever.”
Now in Phase 5 of Accountability Court, he feels that his life has purpose now, something he never had before. That it’s taught him to trust the process, but even more so, learning what trust is.
Being one of the first recipients in Drug Court of the Rapid Rehousing program, Jimmy is also in in a safe home now. It’s the first time he’s had a lease in his own name after having “spent the majority of [his] life on the other side of the tracks.” He talked to me about how important it’s been to now have a home where he can “lay down at night and feel safe…to be independent for the first time, a dream he had as a kid.” The day Ms. Reeves, one of our program managers, approached Jimmy about Rapid Rehousing, he “broke down in tears” at the possibility. He shared pictures of his new place with me, doing a walkthrough on his phone, chatting me with me about how he planned to furnish it.
He’s also realized that part of his purpose is to help other addicts get on the other side of those tracks as he has. Besides being dedicated to the Accountability Court program and working a regular job, he’s a Peer Ambassador and received his CARES certification, he's also enrolled in a Certified Peer Counselor program. He really wants to work with the younger population, explaining that part of the reason is that “youth are not aware of the road they may be heading down…the things I had to do in my addiction, the dark places I had to go…I don’t want to see them do the same.” He feels if he can tell his story, it might make a difference.
I was excited to speak with Jimmy’s boss, who took time out of his busy day to talk with me about the changes he’d seen in him. Kevin owns a local business that has some previous experience with hiring someone trying but needing a leg up. He had been employing a woman who was homeless and in addiction recovery, which is how he came to meet Jimmy. Kevin said that the “first time I spoke to him, I saw something in him”, and when Jimmy was accepted into the program, he called Kevin about finding a better job and work environment than the one he had at the time. He readily told me that “Jimmy exceeded all my expectations; he’s received a raise and moved to a manager position. To see the transformation he’s gone through, I don’t know if I could have done what Jimmy has done in the last year and a half.”
Calling Jimmy’s perseverance “grit”, explaining to me later that he believes that grit, “you either have it or you don’t.” At one point, before Jimmy received Rapid Rehousing, Kevin even let Jimmy lease an apartment he had at the back of his house, after talking it over with his family. Kevin told me he doesn’t think Drug Court is easy for participants, and it’s not easy for their employers, but he’s wants to see Jimmy succeed. He’s obviously committed to being a part of making that happen.
As I look over the end of my notes from this interview, I notice my own personal notes jotted down at the bottom. See, as I was finishing up this interview, I received a phone call that my own brother was being transported to the hospital from the facility he’s incarcerated in for a suspected overdose. I reflected on the ways our lives intersect with others in ways we don’t always expect and realize that none of us are immune from the impact addiction plays in so many lives.
And so, Jimmy’s story reflects the story that so many have, and he shows us that each day, we are given the opportunity to make better decisions, and while resources do exist to help, it comes down to the individual choices someone makes so that they can participate in their own rescue.
We wish Mr. McClain, and all the participants past and present in our Accountability Court programs, the very best as they map out a more fulfilling, healthy, and better future for themselves.