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Sitting in his cell at the Montgomery County Jail, Josh Sanchez started making a list.
When he had finished writing down the names of people he knew that died from substance abuse, there were 53 names. The list went up on his cell door.
“I looked at that every day and it helped me realize, you know, that I have a choice and I can be there. These people don’t,” Sanchez said. “And I promised some people that… I will do better. I’ll speak and speak for them.”
Now out of jail, Sanchez is working to inspire other former drug users on the road to recovery. Sanchez talked about his recovery Tuesday during the Montgomery County Drug Free Coalition’s Red Ribbon Breakfast.
“I was 33 years old and miserable, lonely. I was broken, and I just didn’t want to feel like that anymore,” Sanchez said about the beginning of his jail time.
After taking life skills classes, Sanchez was accepted into the Jail Chemical Addiction Program, a 90-day course for male inmates struggling with substance use. Carrying his list of names, Sanchez moved to the section known as the JCAP pod, where participants receive counseling and lessons on parenting, anger management and other skills.
In that “therapeutic community,” Sanchez said he formed a close bond with the other inmates, some of them he’d known from his days on the streets. He graduated from the program in July, has his own home and holds a full-time job.
“I knew… deep down in my heart that I wanted to change and for me, not for nobody else,” Sanchez said, speaking to a group of addiction counselors, police officers, attorneys and recovering drug users.
Shortly after his release, Montgomery County Sheriff Ryan Needham invited Sanchez to speak about JCAP at a drug free coalition meeting. The program will begin serving women next year.
“We’re not going to save the world. I get that,” Needham said in a recent interview. “But if we can do an inmate at a time, then we all benefit from it.”
Sanchez continues reporting to a judge through the Montgomery County Drug Court program, which incentivizes substance-free behavior, and credits a support system of friends and family for keeping him on track.
“I’ll never try to let them down. I won’t let them down. I won’t let myself down,” Sanchez said. “I weighed my pros and cons today, and I don’t want to life that [pre-recovery] life anymore.”