John Jackson: The Spirit filled the void inside
As the knock sounded at the bathroom door, the man, smoking his cocaine, fidgeted nervously. It was his daughter, 16. “Why is she doing this?” he wondered.
“Daddy, I need the bathroom!”
His voice thick with regret, John Jackson, 45, reflects on the incident from 1994. “She knew what we were doing. Her mother and I were taking turns going in and out of the bathroom, smoking cocaine.
“Then she set me down on the couch, looked me in the eye, and said, ‘You know something, Daddy? When you were in The Salvation Army program, you were doing so good! You’re back smoking that stuff again, aren’t you?’
“I couldn’t lie to her. I said, ‘Yeah, baby.’
“She said, ‘Mama doesn’t seem like she’ll ever get her life together. You’re a strong, black man. Why don’t you go back to The Salvation Army?’ ”
John’s powerful story of recovery is interwoven inextricably with the bond of love that exists between him and his daughter. It was upon her urging that he reentered the Riverside County ARC in Perris, Calif.
There, he says, “I wrote her a letter, and she answered, letting me know how she had suffered. She said she felt she had a sister named cocaine, and cocaine got all the attention. She said: ‘I wanted to die–I felt so alone!’ ”
John’s story begins in south-central Los Angeles where, although they were raised “the right way,” he and all but one of his five siblings became involved in drugs and alcohol.
At age 16, John remembers, “I ventured out, wanting to impress my peers. My ‘gateway drugs’ were alcohol and marijuana.”
After high school, he got “an excellent job,” but it wasn’t to last. “I married an addict and, when I was 22, began smoking crack cocaine.”
By 1989 the drug use was affecting his work performance. Meanwhile “My daughter was suffering greatly. She was 10 or 11 then, a beautiful child, but, because of my disease, I didn’t realize she was hurting.”
Then one day in 1990 John received a desperate phone call at work. “My parents watched their daughter take her last breath as a result of the crack cocaine. My mother wanted me to come home. She was hurting.”
But John found that he had “crossed the line” so that he no longer had control whenever the obsession to use cocaine came over him. Consequently, “my arrival at home was delayed while I stopped at a motel to smoke crack cocaine.”
Later that year, more devastating news reached him. “My brother, under the influence of a controlled substance, picked up a gun and blew his life away. I received all these warnings, but they weren’t enough to stop me.”
Finally John lost his job. In 1993, broke and desperate to “get (his) life together,” he entered the ARC. On his first overnight pass, however, he was arrested on a warrant related to his drug use, and, upon release from jail, relapsed. Then, boldly confronted by his daughter, John checked back into the ARC.
“While in the program I heard a sermon which pointed out a way to intimacy with God–to get quiet before him upon first arising each morning. I began practicing that daily and felt myself getting stronger and stronger until finally the Spirit filled the void inside me that had troubled me all of my life.
“On September 21, 2002, I will be celebrating seven years of sobriety.” Coincidentally, John adds, “That same day is my daughter’s birthday!” He beams proudly: “Today I have a great relationship with my daughter. She highly respects me!”