A high school cheerleader. The voice of reason. Responsible.
That was how many people would have described Erica Gentry.
She didn’t really know much about drugs until she was 18. Then some people that Erica looked up to pulled out meth when they were hanging out. She used the drug and instantly fell in love.
Combined with the anger inside her from a rape that happened when she turned 13, it was a bad combination – one that she battled for years … and lost.
Then she lost everything.
For a while, she was able to hide her drug use. She even quit cold turkey after her first daughter was almost removed from her care. She worked a case plan and did well for about 5 years.
Erica had a second child and, when the kids were in school, the drug use became her secret – something that was truly her own.
By 2016, things got really bad. She now had three children and was married to a good man. But rather than give up drugs, she got him hooked. They fought all the time, so Erica decided that she had to let go of the people she loved before hurting them any further.
She walked away from her husband. Walked away from her kids. Walked away from her home. For a year, Erica went from place to place while her two oldest children stayed with their father, and her youngest stayed with her sister.
Erica started intravenous drug use and prayed to God every night to let her die.
“I woke up every morning sentenced to life. But I was burning every bridge while I was standing on it.”
Her long-time meth use induced psychosis. She was arrested with drugs on her and spent four and a half months in jail. Voices were talking to her – six different personalities with their own names.
Erica was offered pretrial diversion, but turned it down. She had no support, no one to help her She begged them to send her to treatment.
Ultimately, she went to the Cumberland Hope Center in Harlan. But, the voices also came with her. Erica was scared and didn’t know what was happening to her. She was afraid that she would end up in a psychiatric hospital and never get out.
Erica worked hard because she knew she wouldn’t have a second chance. If she got out and started using again, she knew sobriety wouldn’t last.
“Secrets keep you sick. I didn’t recognize God’s voice because I heard so many other voices. But God started helping me address my behaviors. God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself. The judge did for me what I couldn’t do for myself.”
Erica paid restitution, got her driver’s license back, and bought a car. After 22 months at Cumberland Hope, including several months as a peer mentor, she was reunited with her husband, who had just been released from jail. They had been married five years but hadn’t talked for four of those years.
She applied to work at Isaiah House and became a peer support specialist. After successfully completing diversion to remove the felony from her record, Erica has worked her way up to handling logistics for Isaiah House.
“I’ve turned pain into power. I never feel closer to God than when I share my story with a client and the light bulb comes on for them. I am lucky to be alive. January 6, 2019, is my sobriety date – the day before my son’s birthday. Sobriety has taught me how to heal the bullet hole in my life.”