OPINION COLUMNS

Healing: Former meth addict keeps sobriety through giving

By Austin Jackson | Published Saturday, January 5, 2019
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Patricia Woods

Patricia Woods. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

We often hear about the doom of meth: The destruction, the depravity, the consequences.

The drug is nasty. It claims lives, across the world and here in Wise County.

You will see its effect in the crime reports. You will see its effect on people’s faces, and festering through the fabric of towns across America. It’s a powerful drug.

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin has made it a mission to crack down on meth abuse. He held a forum on meth in August. The sheriff explained that 85 percent of the Wise County Jail population landed there for reasons directly or indirectly associated with the drug.

At the forum, he shared his personal accounts of how meth has impacted him. The faces he’s seen and the horrors of its abuse.

Something we might not hear enough about is the power of humanity. When Akin passed along the information on Patricia Woods and her battle with meth addiction, I felt it was important to shine a light on her story.

It was powerful story of survival and of an indomitable spirit, but also one that was human – flawed and courageous.

In 2014, Woods’ boyfriend at the time, Johnny Leon Moore III, poured kerosene over her body and lit her on fire in a meth-fueled rage.

She survived the attack that left burns on 28 percent of her body.

But the months after nearly claimed her life.

Woods had been addicted to meth since 2005. The burns and the pain served as a stark reminder of her past, which forced her down a darker road of drug abuse leading her to homelessness and rock bottom.

The drug and years of abuse left emotional and physical scars. It claimed years of her life. It ruined relationships and left scars on her body and soul.

In 2017, she found healing.

She had been arrested for possession, and had been using ahead of her meeting with her probation officer. She knew she would fail the drug test.

Woods had a grandbaby on the way and was “sick and tired of being sick.” So she asked for help and went to rehab. This time, it stuck.

When I spoke with her in August, Woods was about to receive her 18-month chip of sobriety.

It started with grace. It started with people helping, lending a hand and an ear. Through therapy and rehab, she had to learn to live a new life, a sober life.

Baby steps that took her farther than ever before.

I spoke with Patricia Friday. She said she is still sober. It’s been 22 months.

After the story was published, people continued to reach out to Woods. She now has a job and instead of a living in a motel, she lives in a house as a nanny, babysitting the owner’s children. She has a new vehicle now, too.

“Life is good,” Woods said.

On Jan. 8, she’ll begin working on her GED. With the degree, she hopes to give back.

That’s been her plan and mission. To be like the counselors that helped her find sobriety.

“I never thought I would go back to school at this age,” Woods said. “I look forward to it. I want to help.”

With her GED, Woods plans on becoming a peer counselor to help other addicts with the goal of eventually becoming a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor.

She wants to use her experiences to help others. She’s worn those shoes. She’s experienced trauma and her story resonates.

Helping addicts is part of her sobriety plan as she approaches uncharted territory in the coming months. In March, she will be sober for two years.

It’s a daunting idea for Woods. But she has a plan.

“It’s kind of scary, I have never made it this far without help with other groups,” Woods said. “But you can’t keep what you have unless you give it away.”

No day is taken for granted for recovering meth addicts. Each hour sober is a triumph. Woods hopes she can keep giving, one hour, one day at a time.

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