On Feb. 10, 2010, I was arrested for the countless number of times.

Little did I know that day would forever change my life. Like so many times before, I woke up in Rowan County Detention center the following day. However, this day seemed different. I had a sense of peace that it was finally over. No more running or looking over my shoulder.

Even though I gave away my physical freedom, in my heart I knew I had a chance to break free from the mental and emotional chains brought about by years of active addiction.

I knew others who had found a way out of addiction and were in recovery. I knew my only chances were long-term, in-patient treatment. However, like so many others, my greatest obstacle was funding. Here is where the second miracle took place: Operation UNITE offered me a voucher to pay for an in-patient treatment at WestCare in Ashcamp, Ky.

After completing treatment in November 2010, I spent some time in WestCare’s homeless shelter. That’s where I met Laura, who is now my fiancée. I told her about my experience with UNITE, and she, too, was able to obtain a voucher. She entered treatment on July 24, 2012 at Hope in the Mountains. To this day, she, too, is still clean. She will have 7 years clean on July 25.

Laura and I are very involved in recovery. We attend just as many meetings today as we did when we first got clean. Laura is in her second year of college and continues to stay on the Dean’s list with a 4.0.

Recovery has been so good to us. If you would have asked us where we see ourselves in 6 to 9 years when we first got clean, we would have sold ourselves short.

Most importantly, our son, Jimmy Mack Sparks, turned 4 in December. His life was made possible because UNITE’s programs gave his parents a second chance. Prior to treatment, neither one of us were allowed around our other children. Today, we have custody of them.

We could write many books on the blessing and gifts that recovery has given to us and still never do it justice. Not all moments and memories in recovery have been pleasant. Laura and I have both faced many hardships during our journey — many deaths, losses and career changes. Many, many things have changed over the years, but one thing hasn’t: Our clean dates!!!

The greatest gift we have today is freedom — not a physical freedom that most think of but mental, emotional and spiritual freedom. I’ve been asked several times during my recovery to try and put it into words: “ Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we’re free at last.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Thank you, Operation UNITE, for everything you do to help addicts recover and find a way out from a way of life we don’t want to live.