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A local addict turned author shares story to inspire inmates

KNOX, Ind. -

A local addict turned author shared his story to inspire inmates to turn their lives around. He sat down exclusively with ABC 57’s Jess Arnold at the Starke County Justice Center.

Nine months ago, Starke County received a state grant to start an ‘Addictions Education Program’ for inmates being held at the justice center.

As of May, they’ve graduated 33 people and are currently working with 24 others.

Their latest initiative is inviting recovering addict and author Herb Stepherson’s to speak Monday.

“What am I really struggling with when I’m in the deepest parts of my addiction? Um, the desire to use and the desire to get clean. I mean, it’s miserable. No one actually wants to stay struggling, but we don’t know how to get help,” said Stepherson.

Starke County officials are trying to help by bringing in people like Herb Stepherson to speak with the inmates in their new addiction counseling program.

“The days of us arresting people and putting them in jail and allowing them to wait till their court date, we’ve got to change that, and I think that by us addressing the addiction problem we have, I think that will address the situation,” said Starke County Sheriff Bill Dulin.

Herb shatters any mystery about the addiction problem in his book, Junkbox Diaries: a day in the life of a heroin addict.

“The fact of the matter is when we’re strung out on heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, prescription pain medication, we don’t feel anything. They actually become our coping mechanism, and we’re incapable of doing anything about the consequences,” said Stepherson.

He says not even jail time phases many addicts.

“I started my addiction two years ago and came up here and started hanging out with some wrong people and found myself in jail now,” said recovering addict and Starke County inmate, Jacob Richie.

Stepherson’s faced worse consequences.

“I almost lost my foot to a staph infection that I caused myself from using heroin, and the doctors are standing at the foot of my bed using words like amputation, and all I could think about was my next bag,” he said.

26-year-old Jacob Richie says he’s done just thinking about his next bag.

“I definitely want to get this part of my life and get done with and become a productive member of society and just live a normal life,” he said.

He wants a normal life with his fiancé and four kids.

He said hearing Herb helped renew his resolve.

“I try to just let them know that hey, we’re the same. I’m no better. I’m no worse. We’re equal. I’m just on this side today,” said Herb.

“I’ve talked to a few of the guys already, and it’s really hit home with a few of us,” said Richie.

Herb hopes this final message hits home with everyone.

“Any addict can turn things around and have a pretty awesome life, but until the taboo and the stigma and the judgment and the shame and the guilt fall away, we’re losing, and we’ve got to change the way that we look at this thing. It is a mental health issue, and it’s got to be treated as such,” said Stepherson.

Since Herb released his book in January, he’s been touring northwest Indiana sharing his story and spreading his message.

This Friday, he’s headed to La Porte High School. He’s hoping to stop them from falling into the same trap he did when he was their very same age.

You can find out more information on his website.

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