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Clean Mountain Air

I'm a recovering addict. I was a junkie. My drug of choice was cocaine, crack... Whatever I could shoot up, basically.
Κείμενο Sherry Cook

Photo by Patrick O’Dell

’m a recovering addict. I was a junkie. My drug of choice was cocaine, crack… Whatever I could shoot up, basically. My dad bailed me out of jail, the workhouse in Columbus. He brought me back up here and after about a week he had me thrown in jail in Floyd County to sober me up. I was there for 22 days until he finally bailed me out again. While I was there, I got the realization of, “God, I don’t want to do this again.” So he brought me home and I looked up a friend of mine who I’d gone to school with up here. She had moved away, but then she went through a divorce and moved back home too. I called her mom up to try and get ahold of her and her mom was like, “Well, she’s here. She’s living here now.” She works at the health department, as it turns out, and she told me, “Get ready. I’m taking you to an NA meeting.” I’ve been sober over six months now. I spend all my extra time at the Catholic community center here, helping the sisters and doing whatever I can to stay busy and stay sober. They just put me in drug court last week. It’s set up by the court system pretty much all over Kentucky. There are three phases to it, and they just put me in the first phase. I have to call in seven days a week and enter a code in, and then they tell me if I’m getting drug-tested that day or not. This morning, I entered my code at 7 o’clock in the morning and they told me I had to be there between 8:30 and 9:45 to get drug-tested. They give me no warning in advance. I went Monday, Tuesday, and then another time today, Thursday.


Photos by Jerry Hsu

Every Wednesday we have to meet at the courthouse. If you’re doing well, they move you up to the second phase, where you can get drug-tested up to three times a week. Then, in phase three, you get tested one time a week. Then, after the program, you get tested randomly throughout the month. The program lasts a year and a half. They require you to go to different counseling and meetings, and you have to bring proof back to them that you went. That way, they’re keeping you sober not just through the drug testing—because if you miss the drug testing, you go to jail. Last week, a guy tested dirty and they required him to go to the SAFE meeting. That’s this organization out here in Lawrence County. It’s very faith-based and spiritual. They made him go to that meeting and speak in front of everybody. It was the first time he had tested dirty.

They try to work with you, but if you’re testing dirty, missing your tests, or missing counseling, the sheriff will come up wherever you are, put you in handcuffs, and take you off to jail. They just done that last week to somebody. People just give up trying. It was an example, even though the sheriff told her, “Look, I’m not trying to make an example out of you. This is just what happens.” Either way, she’s gonna spend the next 12 months in jail.

I need to surround myself with positive people now because drugs are everywhere around here. You can drive down the street and it’s like, you know this house, this house, and this house have drug dealers in there. People here sell drugs just to make money since it’s so poor. I know people that go to the doctor in three different towns to get scripts, and then they sell the drugs here. So I can’t associate with anybody I knew in my past. An addict knows where it’s at. It’s like a sixth sense, and it’s weird—I can go down the street and know who’s using, who’s not. We just have a knack for it, I guess. Through drug court, I’ve met a couple of girls that I used to party with back in high school. They’re like, “Don’t you remember us?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I do, and apparently you’re no better off than I am.” So I don’t associate with them. We don’t need to stay in contact.

The drug problem is huge here because there’s nothing else for people to do. There’s virtually nothing. I mean, there’s a skating rink, but there’s really nowhere for kids to go. They have to go to Paintsville or Ashland for the movies, which are like 45 minutes away. I have a friend in drug court who is trying so hard to stay sober. He’ll go to the courthouse and stay there all day long just to stay clean. He don’t wanna be home at all. I guess there’s someone using there. He told us about it in a meeting. Just yesterday, I saw him setting on the guardrail out on the road. That’s what he was doing to avoid going home. Sitting on the side of the road and trying to pass the time is a real option here.