FORMER ADDICT SAYS IT’S A “GODSEND”
After over a decade of heroin addiction and horror, Jerry Ortega gets clean and finds purpose with the Truth About Drugs.
Jerry Ortega’s father left when he was 15, and he dove into gang life, drowning his sorrow in drugs. Pretty soon, he was selling meth. And a move to Utah led to a heroin habit and to consuming three grams a day.
“I turned into someone who has little regard for anyone or anything,” says Ortega, who spent more than a decade hooked on the hardest drugs known to man.
“It consumes you. Before it was over, I had allowed my ex-wife to begin selling herself as a prostitute,” he says. “We did whatever we had to, to get heroin.”
Ortega tells of pushing away his mother, once his best friend, because he was ashamed of what he had become—a man who stole until he ran out of places to rob, a man who was arrested, jailed and overdosed twice within three days of his release. A man who, Ortega realized, was either going to die using or end up in prison the rest of his life.
So when his child was taken away at birth by protective services, that was the end of it. He and his wife checked themselves into a rehab center. Today, seven months later, they have their baby back.
“Our son has never had to see us high,” Ortega says. “I don’t have to worry if we will have to sleep in an alley, or if we will have money for diapers that I take for heroin.”
“Heroin use is drastically rising in Kern County, and so many kids die from overdose. If they know as much as they can before they make the decision to use, at least they have a fair chance.”
“I got into drug prevention early in my recovery because I wanted to learn everything I could about my own addiction,” he says. “In the process, I decided that I wanted to share what I learned with others because nobody wants to be a junkie or an addict.
“The materials are very up to date and keep the interest of all the people I share them with,” he says. “They don’t hold anything back.”
That’s why, Ortega says, even seasoned addicts learn something new from one time through a Truth About Drugs booklet.
But, knowing firsthand the havoc drugs wreak, Ortega is working to get the word out to those who have yet to make the fateful choice that could make or break their lives.
I take the booklets everywhere I go,” he says. “Heroin use is drastically rising in Kern County, and so many kids die from overdose. If they know as much as they can before they make the decision to use, at least they have a fair chance.”
Today, Ortega and his mother are best buds once again. He takes a public speaking class at Bakersfield College, is training to become a minister and calls Drug-Free World “a godsend.” Not just because it can save lives, but because he considers, on a daily basis, it is actually saving his.
“It gives me reason to get up in the morning and continue on in my recovery,” he says, “because I know that I’m helping other people.”
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