ROGERSVILLE — After more than two decades of drug and alcohol abuse, 40 arrests, and 10 years in jails and institutions, Jerame Narren will be celebrating six years of sobriety this coming September.
For all but two of those six years, Nerran has been working as a Tennessee Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist.
He thanked several people for his sobriety while speaking at a Feb. 18 Hawkins County Recovery Court event in Rogersville called “Faces of Addiction” — but none more that Recovery Court founder Judge Todd Ross and director Amy Cinnamon.
The unusual part of this story is that Nerran was rejected by Recovery Court.
“I said, why was I rejected from Drug Court, and she (Cinnamon) said, Drug Court doesn't allow people with victims,” Nerran said. “I said, That's my friends and family.”
The end of Nerran’s 20-plus years of drug and alcohol abuse began with an arrest in September 2014 for which he “received some media attention”.
“It was kind of alarming, disgusting behavior,” Nerran said. It was the turning point for him.
“Quite an impact on my mother”
The turning point that helped lead him to that addicted state occurred during his childhood, when his 4-year-old sister, who had been born with severe illness, passed away. Prior to that, no one in his household had ever done drugs.
“My mom had started going to college to be a prenatal nurse to take care of babies. When my sister died this had quite an impact on my mother, so she started using drugs. By the time she started using drugs she was a registered nurse. She had a lot of money. She had a new house. A new car. Everything was seemingly going OK.
Nerran describes what happened to his mother as a “delayed reaction.”
“They happen to me like this sometimes too. A delayed reaction. It was four years after my sister died that my mother started using drugs. The first time I ever seen anybody high was my mom. My mom was my best friend, so I automatically knew something was different. It progressed pretty fast, and then she got really addicted. She got fired from her job. She was only a nurse for two years before she lost everything. It took her six years to get her license and two years to lose it.”
“I broke into a few houses”
As his mom’s life was in a tailspin, Nerran began to get into trouble himself.
“It started out little. My mother was told she needed to go to rehab to try to keep her nursing license, and left me alone with a lot of time in a brand-new house. So, I started smoking pot, doing drugs, drinking a lot. And this is at 13 years old. This was the first time I got arrested, when I was 13. I broke into a few houses. I thought it wasn't a big deal, but apparently the people who own stuff thought it was a pretty big deal.”
He was placed on probation for 10 counts of burglary, but continued to use drugs. From ages 13 to 15 he “did as many drugs as I could get a hold of.”
“I've got three brothers and we were all using at the time. So I ended up using drugs and getting put in jail a lot more. Institutions. Facilities. Throughout my life I've probably spent about a decade in jails or institutions. I was released when I was 18 years old, and I thought maybe if I start a family, that would take care of it. Have some kids, and then I would be forced to take some responsibility. That's what I needed — a family.”
“There's something wrong with me”
But, starting his own family didn't take care of the problem, and he started getting back into drugs and alcohol again.
“There's something wrong with me. I couldn't drink or do drugs on occasion. Some people think they can, but when I did it, it never stopped. It was excessive and never ending.”
He was arrested for the first time as an adult at the age of 20 for driving on a revoked license, which he described as disheartening because he had been in and out of the system as a youth and he thought that part of his life was over.
“This is the beginning of my million, million numerous plans to quit drinking and using drugs. It didn't work, and I was kind of defeated. This is me at like 21. So, I kind of gave up. I kind of just gave in. I started doing all of the heavier stuff I could get a hold of. I said, ‘I gave it a shot. I tried. I'm gonna go where I've been’.”
“I spent a lot of my life in the county jail”
Over the course of the next 20 years he was arrested approximately 40 times.
“That sucked. I spent a lot of my life in the county jail right down here (in Rogersville).”
That last arrest in 2014 involved domestic assault against his wife.
“So I'm going to court one more time. … and then Judge Ross offers me Recovery Court. I'm like, 'Is that going to get me out of jail? Because I've got to get out of here real fast. I need some stuff that they're not allowed to give me.' I thought he was going to let me out that day. He didn't. This is not the first time I've met Judge Ross. He's definitely not letting me out that day. I'm glad he didn't.”
After he was rejected from Recovery Court, Narren began attending “Anonymous” programs.
“It was the hardest thing I ever did”
“That is the route I chose. I have gone to multiple churches, and they've been very helpful in the community every step along the way. I worked on the 12-step program of recovery. I've been to well over 1,000 meetings. I've got a recovery network measuring a 300-mile radius. Hundreds and hundreds of people. A lot of good people right here in this town. And I'm grateful.”
Two years after getting sober, Nerran was certified by the State of Tennessee as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist. He took that opportunity during the Feb. 18 event to thank Judge Ross and Cinnamon for everything they did for him.
“These people have been there for me, and I've seen where they've put in good work for people. A lot of times I have not always been grateful. It is very hard. It was hard for me to stay clean. It was the hardest thing I ever did. ... It changed my life dramatically, and it's given me the opportunity to meet some good people. I remember it every day. I know I've been a pest and continue to be at times. But I'm learning.”
This is the third in a series of four stories of recovery that were told during the Hawkins County Recovery Court’s Feb. 18 “Faces of Addiction” event.