Clarence Jones: The heroin changed me completely
The fog clearing in his mind, the man glanced up from the hospital bed where he lay dying and recognized his son leaning over him. Searching for a last meaningful comment to leave his son, he asserted ever so clearly: “Clarence, you really need to seek Christ.”
Jarred by his father’s parting words, Clarence Jones, 28, later thoughtfully digested them. Still active in his drug addiction, he wasn’t yet ready to comply with the instruction. His father’s statement, however, left a powerful impression.
Clarence recalls: “Those words are what I remember most about my father as he lay dying in 1974. Though I hardly darkened a church door, I knew I had to get right with God.”
Clarence describes himself as a young man struggling with an “identity crisis.” Born and raised in Santa Ana, Calif., he explains: “My father was black and my mother Latino. There was a time when being of mixed origins really got under my skin. I felt I was being tugged from both sides.”
He began using marijuana and cocaine in his early twenties while attending college. The cocaine “made me feel like I was someone–that I was running in the right circles. It got out of hand, however, and cost me a marriage.” Around that time he also became involved, in turn, with the Black Muslims and the Black Panthers. “I was trying to prove, if you will, how black I was!”
By 1980, he was using heroin and had begun to steal to support the habit. “The heroin changed me completely–the way I looked and appeared–everything! I always said I would never steal from my parents, but, even though it hurt me, I stole from my mother.
“I broke into my cousin’s house and stole all of their appliances in order to feed my addiction. When my mother passed in 1984, I lost the home my parents had worked so hard for and left to me. I used the mortgage for nothing but to serve Clarence’s pleasures.”
In time, Clarence found himself homeless in his own neighborhood. Arrested repeatedly, he was eventually imprisoned for drug use and sales. “I did not see the light of day from 1984 to 1987.” When released, “I went right back to what I had been doing–anything to get money.” Now on parole, “I was in and out of jail–always running.”
On the streets one rainy night in 1991, he describes how some evangelizing church elders who reminded him of God’s love approached him. They returned on succeeding nights, and, on one such visit, Clarence got into a van with one of the men, spent the night at his home, and the next day applied for admittance into the Anaheim ARC. He was 45 years old.
“As I checked into the program,” he recalls, “I remembered my father’s dying words to me, and I now looked in one direction. I had a real drive and desire for Christ in my life. I felt I owed God something, and I said, ‘I’m going through with this.’ ”
Two months into the six-month program, he stood up to give a testimony during a Sunday morning chapel service and “broke down,” made a decision for Christ, and “abandoned” himself to the program and to God.
After graduation in January 1992, Clarence became heavily involved in a ministry to the men which continues to this day. With other alumni, he began an Overcomer’s Outreach meeting at the facility. He eventually worked as a counselor. Today, Clarence remains very busy as a Narcotics Anonymous sponsor and, as a volunteer, participates in daily morning devotions. “I keep giving back because it was so freely given to me. I owe everything to God, but The Salvation Army was the vessel. “I gained so much from the program,” he adds, emotionally wiping his eyes. “I gained so much! I got my life back. I gained my self-respect.”