THE HACKLEY REPORT by Eric Donald Hackley
I would like to introduce to you a very brave, strong and courageous Fort Wayne lady who has a sincere message of enlightenment for everyone struggling with an addiction. At this time, I would like to introduce her.
Nanette Thomas: Thank you, Mr. Hackley. My name is Nanette Thomas and I am a recovering addict. I have over 15 years of sobriety under my belt. It has been an ongoing battle. I’ve been through quite a few things in my life that took me down that road. I’m glad to say I’m sober now. One of the things I’ve been through in life that led me down the road of drugs happened when I turned 21. I thought I would have some fun though, so I took my first drink and I smoked my first joint.
Then I moved to Fort Wayne and I was going through some hard times. I still smoked “bud,” but a friend and I started smoking primo. Primo took me down the road to smoke crack cocaine. But like I said, I’ve been sober for 15 years and it has been an ongoing battle. I‘ve recovered a couple of times and relapsed a couple of times.
The one thing that made me really take my sobriety seriously was that I wanted my life back and that I had changed. I had not been the mother that I had always used to be. My son used to be able to trust me when I told him something. Then things just totally changed, meaning that he could no longer trust me. He’d sometimes have to come find me. I was a working woman, but on my weekends I would sometimes disappear and he wouldn’t see me again for two or three days later. But, the thing that really turned my life around was one day I came home after being on one of my binges and I had on white clothes when I had gone to work. When I came home, my clothes were totally a dingy gray, close to being black. I was so ashamed that I had my mom take my son to my neighbor’s house so I could go home and change clothes. Then I remember that I asked her for 75 cents for bus fare so I could go turn myself in to a rehab center in order to get my life back. My mom didn’t realize I was on drugs.
I have accomplished so much since I turned my life around. Since then, my mom has gone through heart surgery and I had to be strong for her and be there for her. I know that without my sobriety I could not have these things. I have helped my son by being a good influence for him. He has graduated from college and now he’s a productive citizen in Indianapolis and now I have grandchildren that I can be proud of.
The things I do now, I can say that my higher power and my sobriety are what took me to the level of where I am now. I know there is nothing that I cannot accomplish if I really want to. I say no to drugs every day and I hope that one day everyone who is addicted to drugs will have their lives turn out the way mine has, and maybe I’ll be the one who helped you. I guess that’s all I have to say for now. I’m kind of nervous right now and I’m sorry.
Eric Hackley: I’m sure this is a very difficult subject for you to talk about. What point is not being communicated to people who still want to smoke crack for the first time?
Nanette Thomas: That it can take you nowhere but down. You have two places where you can end up, in prison or dead. And, it’s your choice. You just have to want a better life and it’s always someone who can help you. I am willing to be anyone’s sponsor if they needed help. When I help someone, it helps me in my sobriety to be strong.
EH: Can you be a crack recreational smoker or are you addicted and in denial?
Nanette Thomas: You cannot be a recreational smoker with crack cocaine because I was under the same impression. When I first turned myself in to rehab, I thought that since I didn’t smoke crack 24/7 and that I didn’t get real looking rugged and all that, that I wasn’t an addict. But, it took me going to rehab to find out that just like there’s a weekend alcoholic, there’s a weekend addict. When it’s crack cocaine, it’s not how many times a day you do it, or how often you do it, it’s when you do it you lose control. You are not going to quit smoking until your money is gone and you have no other way to get high.
EH: Why can’t you be as persuasive when on crack cocaine as when you’re sober?
Nanette Thomas: With crack cocaine addiction, if someone presents or sells themselves in a way when they’re high, when they’re sober they can do the same thing, but they don’t have the gumption to do so. Being honest for me is important because with my sobriety comes honesty. I had lost that when I became an addict. Like I said, I wasn’t honest with my son. I would disappoint him and I had disappointed my mom. But, when I got my sobriety back, that’s why it’s so important for me to be a truthful and honest person.
When I was a drug addict, all the truthfulness and honesty was gone, no matter how much you love someone like I love my mom and son with all my heart. But, I couldn’t become sober because I love them. I had to become sober because I love myself. I remember the woman who saved my life, she’s dead now. She happened to relapse. She was a heroine addict. She and my higher power saved my live. That’s why I would love to give back what she gave to me. With her help and my wanting to help myself and have a better life and be the kind of person that I had always been, I had to let them know I needed help because I had lost control of my life and I wanted my life back.
I remember when I first went to detoxification. At the detox, they let you out in three days. They told me there were no openings in their program, but I begged them. I told them I can’t leave here because if you let me leave here now, it will be like I haven’t done anything to get better. I’ll be right back in the situation that I was in when I came here. They let me stay and be part of their program and get my life back. I asked the lady to take me home to get my clothes, because I didn’t even want to go home by myself. And they gave me my life back.
Thank you for listening.
Eric Hackley is a veteran independent journalist, television show host and producer focusing largely on history, particularly family history in the black community. His award-winning public access television shows have featured a host of local and national icons. Hackley can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the July 24 print edition.