With a new attitude, determination, Jerry Mosley goes from needing help to wanting to help

Published 5:02 pm Thursday, December 20, 2007

“I was just experimenting, but that was the biggest mistake I ever made.” Those are the words of Jerry Mosley as he looked back over his life. At age 13, Mosley began experimenting with alcohol and drugs. The childhood experimentation eventually led to Mosley becoming a crack cocaine addict. As if that were not enough, Mosley was also diagnosed with a mental illness.

“I had lost all hope; I was sick, I was suicidal, and I was depressed,” Mosley said. “Basically, I was homeless, living in crack houses.”

Now, the 47-year-old has turned his life around and found hope through Mississippi State Hospital’s (MSH) Community Services Program.

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“If it had not been for the program, I’d probably be locked up, covered up or still using drugs and alcohol,” Mosley said.

Instead, he has been clean and sober for more than three years, has his own apartment, and is working in housekeeping at Community Services’ Capers Avenue facility in Jackson.

“They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I found out you can,” Mosley said with a smile on his face. “I had been in and out of treatment about 30 times before. With a lot of programs, after you’ve completed 30 days, you’re just back out there on your own. But here, they have a lot of programs like supervised apartments, the group homes and more. This is the longest I’ve ever been sober.”

Mosley said although he is proud of his accomplishments, he does have one regret.

“My mother basically took care of me all my life, and she wondered what would happen to me if something happened to her,” he said. “Now she has Alzheimer’s and she never got the chance to see me as I am today. She’s now in hospice and I regret that she doesn’t know just how much I have changed.”

Mosley said his sister recently brought his mother to his apartment, “but I don’t think she realized what was going on,” he said. “My mother would be so proud of me; she always wondered what would happen to me.”

Mosley said before going into recovery, he would have never been able to keep an apartment or a job, and he often ended up in jail.

“I would never pay bills, and would mess up all my money,” he said. “I would have people looking for me all the time, threatening to kill me because I owed them money.

“I even went to jail quite a bit,” he said. “But they would let me out and I would go back to doing the same thing.

“I used to smoke up thousands of dollars worth of drugs,” Mosley said. “I would get money from family, friends, and even ran up ATM cards until the bank would cancel them. I probably would have a ‘baby mansion’ – not a big one, but a ‘baby mansion’ if I had not spent all that money on drugs.”

Mosley said he is proud to announce that those days are behind him now.

“I learned that there is a much better way,” he said. “I used to think people who didn’t drink or do drugs never had any fun; but now I know that you can have fun without drugs or alcohol. That’s just human nature. We can have fun just being ourselves. Before, I didn’t know that or understand how that could be.”

Mosley said he is now paying his rent and other bills, and is even paying off past debts accumulated during his time of drug and alcohol abuse. He said although he has been drug and alcohol free for more than three years, he knows that he has to make a conscious effort to remain that way.

“Once you’re an addict, you’re always an addict; you’re never cured,” he said. “You can go for 20 years and still pick up those old habits; and when you do, it’s usually worse than before.

“If I started again now, I would have sold everything in my apartment by tomorrow morning,” he said. “I wouldn’t even want to come to work.”

Mosley said he discovered that one way to stay clean and sober is to avoid old acquaintances.

“Something clicked in my mind, telling me not to go back to my hometown which is Yazoo City,” he said. “That’s when I began to have success. There is danger in going back because of the temptation from old friends. There are certain people and places that you come in contact with that will make you start having cravings all over again.

“I found that I can’t hang with my old buddies anymore,” he said. “I can’t fool with those people.”

Mosley is so proud of the accomplishments he has made, he is now taking steps to help others who are chemically addicted. He recently graduated from the Mississippi Addiction Counselor Training (MACT) class sponsored by the Mississippi Association of Addiction Professionals (MAAP). MACT is a year-long course that meets on Friday and Saturday one weekend per month. The course is the first step in achieving certification as a drug and alcohol counselor.

“Jerry has done really, really well,” said Cathy Wells, office assistant for MAAP. “He didn’t miss any classes and he’s very punctual. We’re looking forward to him completing everything he needs in order to become certified.”

Wells said she is not surprised Mosley wants to help others.

“Often people who have been through drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs are so impressed with their counselor or the program, that they want to get involved,” she said. “They go through the process and it’s a life changing experience for them and they want to be able to help other people like they have been helped.”

That is exactly the reason Mosley said he entered the class.

“Since I’m in recovery myself, I wanted to help someone else,” he said. “I feel I can be a great counselor because I can better understand where they are coming from. I now have hope and I want to give others that same hope. I’ve come a mighty long way and I want people to know if I can do it, anyone can.”

Franklin Moore, who supervises the housekeeping, maintenance and transportation staff at Community Services, said he is proud to have a worker like Mosley.

“He’s very studious, a very good listener, and he comprehends well,” Moore said. “He takes the initiative – when he sees something that needs to be done, he goes ahead and does it.

“If he doesn’t know something, or he’s not sure about something, he’s willing to learn,” Moore said. “He’s a very good worker and we’re glad to have him.”

Dr. Cynthia Johnson, director of Community Services, said she is proud of Mosley’s accomplishments.

“From when I first started working with Mr. Mosley until now, he has made a remarkable turnaround in his life,” she said. “He is a reliable and conscientious employee who can be counted on to go the extra mile in his job. It’s great to see him having such success.”

Since 1986, MSH’s Community Services program has provided group-home living, job training, counseling, psychiatric and other medical care, and a variety of other services designed to help discharged patients transition smoothly and successfully back into the community. Programs include:

Case Management, where individuals live independently in the community but utilize the program’s services;

Opportunity House, a psychosocial clubhouse that helps strengthen members’ skills and confidence through involvement in productive activities, and provides pre-vocational and vocational training;

A Residential Program, which includes group homes that provide 24-hour psychiatric care as well as treatment for the mentally ill who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol; and

The Stubbs Homeless Program — named after the late former MSH Director James C. “Jimmy” Stubbs — which offers daytime outreach and case management services to homeless or potentially homeless individuals living with serious mental illness. The unique program helps many people who have never been MSH patients.

Other services include psychological services, nursing services, education services, art education, money management, medication management and monitoring, and alcohol and drug counseling.

MSH, a facility of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, was founded in 1855 and facilitates improvement in the quality of life for Mississippians who are in need of mental health, chemical dependency or nursing home services, by rehabilitating to the least restrictive environment, utilizing a range of psychiatric and medical services, which reflect the accepted standard of care and are in compliance with statutory and regulatory guidelines. Accredited by the Joint Commission, MSH is the largest hospital in Mississippi and the largest public psychiatric facility in the United States.