Former addict speaks from experience

By By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
June 14, 2001
Gene Coleman turned 44 in April. He says he has been drug-free for seven years after "feeding the monster" for more than half his life.
Coleman became director of Weems Lifecare June 1. He earned his bachelor's degree in social work from Mississippi State University in May. He worked at Weems for five years as an alcohol and drug counselor after briefly serving as a house manager beginning in 1995. Before that, Coleman was a Weems patient.
Feeding the monster
Coleman was born and raised in Jackson. He began abusing alcohol when he was 12 or 13. His substance abuse progressed to Valium, marijuana, and eventually crack.
Coleman said his substance abuse began out of accessibility, but he believes he had the symptoms of addiction long before he started using anything, evidenced by his manipulation, dishonesty and feelings of inadequacy.
He said he has committed crimes because he needed money to get high.
Being addicted is like being a prisoner or a slave, he said. The drug is all that matters, though people lie to themselves about it.
Coleman regrets the hurt he caused his family, especially his mother, and the time wasted in jail. But he said the biggest price was losing himself. He said he was basically a street person from the time he began using.
A new home
Coleman wanted out of Jackson. A friend who was in treatment directed him to Meridian. Coleman was tired of the way he was living. He had been in treatment three times before coming to Weems, but he kept going back to drugs.
Coleman's friend paid for his treatment. He said that when he began to pay her back, he began to grow up. Now Coleman helps others the same way.
The first job he was offered at Weems, Coleman turned down. But when the opportunity for employment came up again, he felt "something" wanted him there.
Coleman appreciates the opportunity Weems gave him.
Today Coleman calls Meridian home, though he still visits Jackson to see his mother, Gertrude. "She's so proud of me," he said. "That's one of the benefits of being clean and living different. She doesn't have to worry about me anymore."
Doing the work
Coleman believes there is no cure for the disease of addiction, but he said it can be arrested, which makes recovery possible. That's what the staff at Weems Lifecare tries to do.
A treatment facility is usually a last resort for people suffering from substance abuse. Sometimes people are ordered by a court to get treatment, but even then, treatment is voluntary. Coleman has seen people choose jail over help.
As was in Coleman's case, many people have to lose everything before they attempt to get treatment.
The help Weems Lifecare offers includes an outpatient program, an extended treatment program and after-care, a two-year program for people who complete treatment either through Weems or another facility and weekly support group meetings.
Coleman's plans to return to school in the fall to pursue his master's degree in social work. On a professional level, he has continued to hold several group sessions since he moved into the director's position. He said he will continue to sit in with groups. At times he uses his past as a resource for others who are without hope. He wants people to know they are not a lost cause.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.

News

Miss RHS pageant takes place Friday

Franklin County

Political announcement: David Hester speaks about run for reelection as county commissioner

Franklin County

BTCPA auditions for final production of season take place March 3-4 

Franklin County

RCS holds annual Black History Month program 

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: American Legion Posts 64 and 120 – ‘Veterans Strengthening America’

Franklin County

RHS graduate crowned Miss Northwest Shoals

Franklin County

RHS graduate crowned Miss UNA

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: In memoriam – Monuments honor the fallen of Franklin

High School Sports

RHS senior chosen as Bryant-Jordan Region 8 Scholar winner

High School Sports

Russellville High School ladies soccer team members participate in annual Night to Shine

News

Russellville High School Scholars Bowl team qualifies for state tournament

News

Vina kindergarteners connect with lots of other classes

News

PCHS JAG student places in district conference

Features

Wedding Spotlight: Layne and Frank Edwards

Franklin County

RHS senior competes at state DYW competition

News

Extension, 4-H present free resume workshop

Franklin County

Franklin County has lots to love

High School Sports

Russellville High School honors alum Luther Tiggs with special night of basketball

News

BTCPA announces second production of season

News

RMS holds annual state assessment celebration

Franklin County

Red Bay welcomes new city attorney

Franklin County

Attempted traffic stop leads to high-speed vehicle pursuit, wreck 

Franklin County

Vehicle pursuit ends in wreck, arrest 

News

RFD, RHS collab promotes job readiness, community safety

x