A life saved after a 20-year battle against addiction, Part II

This is a special two-part story surrounding our #GivingTuesday initiative to raise awareness, funds, in support of the opioid epidemic.

This is Part II of Jody Robinson’s story. Jody is in prison and begins to find himself…

A life saved after a 20-year battle against addiction

This is a special two-part story surrounding our #GivingTuesday initiative to raise awareness, funds, in support of the opioid epidemic.

This is Part II of Jody Robinson’s story. Jody is in prison and begins to find himself…

Read Part I Read Part II Watch Video Help us raise funds

A moment of clarity

The culmination of Robinson’s collective life experiences peaked when he was 40-years-old with his personal moment of clarity. This moment, often said to change the course of an addict’s life for the better, is “when they see clearly how their addiction violates their most basic values,” according to a Psychology Today article.

He was an inmate when he met an older man, who was doing life for murder, who had similar life experiences. The man told Robinson about all the money he had, the things he had done and how he ended up still murdering someone over money. This man made it clear that this lifestyle would only lead to terrible outcomes. That moment transformed the way he would approach life moving forward.

He noted that “even after you get that moment of clarity, it is a long road to changing, because it’s not easy to change your defense mechanisms, like being aggressive… being loud…”

He would find himself relapsing several more times during the next decade until he was admitted to Lake Erie Correctional Institute, where he spent four years. He received drug and mental-health counseling and attended a wide array of programs needed to allow for his re-entry back into society during that time.

“I’ve found that if you address these issues [drug access/use] honestly and openly by attending programs that are provided in some of the institutions, such as IOP [intensive outpatient programs], AOD [alcohol and Other Drugs] programs and get a spiritual foundation… it relieves some of the anxiety that you would normally have.”

A structured, supportive release

Robinson was released from Lake Erie Correctional Institute in February 2017 after serving his four-year prison term. He left prison sober and clean. He was dropped off at a Greyhound bus station in Ashtabula County in his wheelchair, with $100 cash from the prison and nowhere to go.

Fortunately, Raheem Bryant, a peer support specialist from FrontLine Services, had already met Robinson at the prison while explaining the Community Transition Program (CTP) to several of the inmates a few months earlier. CTP is a new housing program, through CareSource which has contracted with the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) to manage the housing benefit. The program is meant to assist people who were incarcerated and have gone through a treatment program while in prison.

Bryant was assigned to Robinson and had plans to drive to the bus station and pick him up. Without having met Bryant at that meeting, Robinson wouldn’t have been placed with FrontLine. Bryant brought him back to Cleveland since he had no family or friends in the area.

“I too was like Jody… years in prison… 29 years on drugs,” Bryant stated as his head leaned forward, asserting his conviction and passion for what he does now after being clean for 19 years. “I’ve had a chance to turn my life around and give back. For me, this is not work. My heart is in it… we have a team… our hearts are in it and we love helping people.”

FrontLine Services connected Robinson with EDEN, a nonprofit dedicated to providing housing to some of the most vulnerable people in our community, so he could find housing and receive tenant assistance funds to provide household items and furniture. Both FrontLine Services and EDEN receive funding through United Way of Greater Cleveland.

While awaiting formal contact with EDEN, Robinson stayed in temporary housing at City Mission for 30 days. He also needed to utilize the 2100 Lakeside Emergency Men’s Shelter to supplement the time needed before EDEN could help with housing assistance.

“The re-entry into society is such an important part of success and failure. It’s like the missing key, the missing step to people’s lives, who have messed up their lives and are tryin’ to figure out a way back,” Robinson uttered as he wiped tears from his eyes. “They [agencies] were there and they haven’t stopped being there.”

The future looks bright

After a few weeks in shelters, struggling through the initial stages of re-entry back into society, Robinson was connected with Khaz Ra’el, supervisor of housing stability specialists at EDEN, to assist him with housing assistance through CTP (in collaboration with FrontLine). Ra’el worked with Robinson to introduce him to the program, explain program details, determine where he wanted to live and what properties he could afford.

Jen Griffin, director of housing programs at EDEN, said “For many people, especially people who are incarcerated, who are moving into an apartment, it can be very difficult to find a place. With so many barriers, we want to assist people in finding a good, safe, habitable place to live.”

After a short time looking at apartments, Ra’el identified a property in East Cleveland that would fit Robinson’s needs. He was in his new apartment in just three short weeks; another vast step forward in his renewed life journey and to become a productive individual in society.

“EDEN has taken the financial debt of my rent, and my electricity, those obligations that would normally pressure an individual. They have taken that on themselves until I could get established and complete my education and get employed and be able to stand on my own two feet. They literally helped me furnish my apartment.”

Robinson, now 56, has successfully finished a 40-hour chemical dependency clinical assistant training course and is currently attending classes at Tri-C. He dreams of the day when he will be a chemical dependency counselor; a day when he can be a role model and influencer in preventing others from slipping into the prison of addiction and being the voice and support for those in recovery.

He is driven by his past, his addiction, his pains; all with a renewed sense of hope, faith and purpose for life that he’d never truly felt before. This new sense of purpose is a far cry from the many relapses he experienced throughout his decades of addiction. He now understands that he has the courage and power to oppose any temptation, like that moment in 1995 when he found himself fighting his personal demons at “the Rock.”

“I’m so grateful that you [United Way] took a risk on me,” Robinson shared as he nodded his head in confidence and compassion. After a brief pause of consideration, he added “I’m a firm believer that, as a [future] drug counselor, if I can save, like, just one person, then maybe… I can be forgiven for all the crimes and sins that I’ve committed throughout my life.”

Read Part I of the Jody Robinson story


Help us raise funds to combat addiction


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