Star high school athlete. College baseball player. Expected to do big things. This is Ed Early.
Twenty-three felonies. Went from an athletic 190 pounds to 130 pounds. People shut their garage doors when they saw him walking down the street. This is also Ed Early.
Ed’s addictive tendencies started in high school, where he tried to keep up with the older crowd. He drank a lot of beer, then smoked a lot of pot. He went off to college and played baseball. The party atmosphere grew, and soon Ed was doing cocaine.
He reconnected with his high school sweetheart, Joanna, got married and stopped doing cocaine. But Ed continued drinking beer and smoking marijuana. He had a good job – traveling around the country and making close to six figures. They had a house, cars, three children.
Ed’s ongoing addiction snowballed when he was introduced to pain pills in 1999.
Then Ed was in a bad car accident. Two other big things happened: Joanna was diagnosed with lupus, and the region became the epicenter of the pain epidemic.
Both were taking pills, which eventually led to OxyContin. Over the next four years, the job was gone. The house was gone. They were living in the housing projects and had no electricity. They went through $11,000 in just eight days – all to feed their addiction.
Then they began shooting up because it was “cheaper.” Soon Ed had 23 felonies on his record – all related to theft.
“I became the biggest liar and thief. People would see me walking down the street and close their garage door.”
He was in and out of jail multiple times and spent three years in prison. He separated from Joanna.
After being released from prison, Ed stayed sober for six months and worked in a coal mine. Soon the money was burning a hole in his pocket, and he went back to using. Several more trips to jail ensued.
But a UNITE Treatment Voucher saved his life.
“God took care of me. Isaiah House helped me. If it hadn’t been for the UNITE Voucher, no way could I have gone to rehab. There were no funds available. If I hadn’t gotten help, I wouldn’t have made it another 12 months. I would have been in a box.”
Ed went to Isaiah House on May 20, 2011. He quickly became an intern. Ed was glad to be far from home, but he still thought about Joanna and her struggle with addiction. He prayed every night: “Give me six months. I want Joanna to see the change in me and want it for herself.”
He went home just before Thanksgiving to see his family and ran into Joanna’s dad. Later that night, her dad called Ed and told him that Joanna was asking for help. There weren’t many facilities for women at that time, but he was able to get the last bed for her at Andrea’s Mission. She checked in on Nov. 20, 2011 – exactly six months to the day that Ed started praying for her.
They graduated from their respective programs at the same time, got jobs at Isaiah House, and reunited with their children – who had witnessed their parents in addiction for 14 years.
Ed had a relapse after using fake pot, which he justified using because it was legal and sold at convenience stores.
“It got me worse than Oxy. I was walking around like a zombie.”
Joanna had him put back in jail, but miraculously, the judge allowed him to go to treatment again.
Ed celebrated nine years of sobriety on Valentine’s Day.
Today, they both are working for Isaiah House. Ed is director of work force development, where he leads an ARC grant for expanding second chance employment. Joanna is office manager for Isaiah House’s Reliance Works, which provides sustainable employment for those in recovery.
He and Joanna now have six grandchildren with a seventh on the way.