Recovering addict uses paint to tell story - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Recovering addict uses paint to tell story

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WARREN, Ohio - A recovering drug addict, who is now a licensed counselor in a wheelchair, is painting the town red, white and blue. 

In 1994 during a drug detoxification, Jeff Sanders jumped out of a hospital window to escape his treatment. He fell two stories and broke his neck in two places, along with both arms.

The accident led to his paralysis.

Sanders, who is now 20 years drug-free, is working and living at the Warren Family Mission, coaching and teaching people who are currently going through addiction.

Sanders is creating a painting behind the Mission to represent "starving artists," incorporating red, white and blue for the Fourth of July holiday.

When the painting is complete, it will be auctioned off and the money made will be donated to the Mission. 

Sanders described himself as a "troubled teen," saying in seventh grade he started smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.

By the age of 15, Sanders was addicted to crack-cocaine.

Sanders was eventually arrested in three different states for drug and alcohol-related charges, went AWOL from the Army and flunked out of college.

"I was trying to get my stuff together but I just kept slipping," he says.

When he was 20, Sanders says he made a decision during spring break in Florida that he was going to turn his life around.

He didn't know, however, that when he entered the hospital for drug detoxification that his life would be changed forever in the most unexpected way.

"I thought, 'my life is over,'" Sanders says. "I didn't realize, though, that sometimes when you're in a horrible place like that you're being put in place for something better."

Throughout several years of recovery, Sanders has earned his Bachelor's degree in psychology and Master's degree in counseling.

He spent 40 days and 40 nights traveling across the country, volunteering at soup kitchens, and wrote a book about his journey. 

His book entitled, "20/20 Vision," outlines his trials as a drug addict and the struggles he faced to overcome them.

Sanders worked on a similar project in the summer of 2000 entitled, "The Act of Being Free." The painting is now on display at Valley Care Trumbull Memorial Hospital Urgent Care on Elm Road.

"I was a person of recovery for years, so I thought, 'this is my opportunity to give back.' That's what living is really about, rather than trying to get," says Sanders.

Michelle Beauchene, Director of Development and Public Relations at the Warren Family Mission, has worked alongside Sanders during his time at the Mission, and says his testimony is unmatchable.

"He couldn't even feed himself, and now he lives independently. The transformation in that is just amazing. His testimony is the most extraordinary I've ever heard," Beauchene says.

Beauchene says Sanders explained his color choices as more than just a representation of the holiday; when the red and blue colors mix together to make purple, she says it signifies his strength, recovery and Christianity.

"When people come to us, and they're broken and hurt and addicted, they have no hope whatsoever," Beauchene says. "When they look at him and they see someone who has overcome that, and who is a success story, it's definitely a message of hope and encouragement."

However, Sanders says he sees these people as his inspiration.

"They inspire me too," he says. "They remind me where I was at and what God is capable of doing when we accept help. It's been a great experience."

Beauchene says that being able to give back to the community at any level is momentous.  

"Some people can look at someone in his situation and think, 'Oh, I feel so sorry for him.' But it just shows that everybody has something they can give back, no matter their circumstances," she says.

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