Chris Casey and Jeremy Cross are no strangers to misfortune, and at this point in their lives, the 30-somethings are willing to admit it was mostly their own doing.
Both men are on probation through Washington County Criminal Court, but they were selected for a new program that consists of classes four days a week, five hours a day and individual counseling as needed Fridays. Without this program, called the Day Reporting Center, both said it’s likely they’d end up on drugs again, blaming someone else for their problems. Even worse, they both said they might be dead.
“With our past, there’s no in between. There’s zero or 200 miles an hour. This may be the time you hit a brick wall and it may be the end,” Casey said.
“You’re not promised tomorrow. I could probably count several times I don’t know how I physically made it because of the amount of narcotics I put in my system. You can keep testing your luck, faith or whatever you want to call it, but sooner or later you’re gonna lose,” he said.
Participation in the Day Reporting Center program is a challenge for Casey. He’s in class five hours a day, then works the closing shift at a local fast food restaurant. But he’s committed to this being his way out of a life of drugs and knows he must change his environment.
“If you don’t want to make the most of it, there’s someone ... who needs it,” he said. “When you come out of jail on house arrest, a lot of times you’ve been in jail six months to a year or even more. You’ve lost everything you own, you’ve got child support backed up, everything comes at you at once. Most of the time you’re been left out to the wolves.
"But this program, if you’re lucky enough to get in it, gives you an opportunity to learn to handle those things.
“Unfortunately with the lives we’ve lived, that life, you can’t have nothing to do with (it). You’ve gotta protect your sobriety like a mama bear and her cub,” Casey said.
“You’ve gotta be very cautious about who you let in your life, who has your phone number.”
Cross echoed his friend’s comments. Changing his environment is “what I had to do. I’m not on Facebook. I cut off all ties to any negativity in my life. I didn’t go out and buy me a cell phone when I got out (of jail). I use my girlfriend’s to contact who I need to,” he said.
“I live in a home where there’s no drug or alcohol use at all. I’ve surrounded myself with positive people, and I think that’s the main thing in staying sober — especially in the beginning.”
Cross has several visible tattoos and said his appearance sometimes give people a perception he’s fresh from prison.
“When I go places I’m sure people look at me and think I look like I just got out of prison. I’ve had people tell me that as soon as they speak to me and see how kind-hearted I am, my true colors show.”
Cross said a lot of people have no faith at all in him or his ability to stay clean. But like Casey, he is determined to have a better life.
“Every morning when I wake up and my feet hit the floor, I can say, ‘Here’s another day that I’m gonna stay sober to show these people wrong,’ ” he said.
Cross said he committed crimes like identity theft to support his drug habit and received an eight-year sentence.
“I was given the opportunity to do this program. I’ve never had any kind of help, so I took it. I knew that if I got out of jail and used again that it’d be worse than the times before and I could possibly die.”
Cross said he’s never been in a drug treatment program before, but he’s taken to the Day Reporting Center well.
“I love it. i don’t wake up and say, ‘Oh, man I gotta ago to class today.’ I wake up and say ‘Man, I’m gonna get to learn something else today. I’m gonna get to interact with these guys,’ ” he said. “I’m thankful for it.”
Casey and Cross knew each other before entering the treatment program. They went to school and played football together, but lost touch after school.
This program brought them back together, and they have each other’s back.
“I feel like he’s a safe person,” Casey said about his friend. “He’s trying to do the same things I’m doing, and the fact that we’re going through the same things, it gives us one more person who can understand. If I call him up, I can say one sentence and he knows exactly what I’m going through,” he said.
“A desire to stay clean has bonded us.”
Casey said similar services are available in the private sector, but the Day Reporting Center setup is ideal for the program.
“We’ve been doing this for years. We’ve made a mess of things and we need all the help we can get. If you go to an outside agency, there’s a lot of red tape,” he said.
“Most of us, we’re not gonna stick it out to try to get in there, provide all the paperwork. This gives us the opportunity to get the help we need and cut through all that stuff.
“We have the one-on-one counseling available to us, we have a variety of different class so it doesn’t become monotonous. We have process groups, victim impact, education. It’s not boring,” Casey said.
“It gives us an opportunity before we get cut loose. When we get done with house arrest and get transferred to state probation — which is once a month — it allows us to get headed in the right direction.”