By EILEEN MCCLORY
Jerry Dover was 24 in 2010 when he got out of the U.S. Navy and started doing hard drugs.
Dover, who goes by J.D., said he fell in love with a girl, Sierra, in Indianapolis, with whom he did marijuana and drank alcohol.
He said he became addicted mainly to opiates, but was also doing methamphetamine and cocaine.
Dover said he lied and manipulated his family while addicted, which he thought drove them away.
“I felt like I didn’t have a family,” Dover said. “It got to a point I would rather… where I thought about committing suicide because I felt so alone.”
His stepfather, Gary Easter, said he knew Dover was struggling.
“He never lost us. I think in his eyes he did, but he never did,” Easter said.
But Easter said he didn’t realize how bad it was until he went to Indianapolis for a Christmas visit in 2015.
Dover was homeless and his parents couldn’t get ahold of him on Christmas Day. Finally, his mom, Charie Easter, got through to her son. The Easters met up with him and took him out for dinner.
“It was devastating to see how low he’d gotten, how bad he looked,” Gary Easter said. “It was just extremely emotional and a real low point for us.”
The Easters drove back to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they lived at the time, in silence.
The low point for Dover came later. He lost Sierra, whom he calls “the love of my life,” to a drug overdose in 2016.
“So that opened up my eyes,” Dover said.
He was also facing a prison sentence of between 15 and 20 years for a high-level drug possession charge.
He decided to make a change in his life.
He was able to plead guilty to a lesser charge and spent 16 months in jail.
The Easters had moved to Findlay in 2016, after Gary Easter got a new job. Knowing that Dover wanted to leave Indianapolis, the Easters helped him move to Findlay in August 2017, after he got out of jail.
But rather than offer their home for him to stay in, the Easters told Dover he would have to live at the Findlay City Mission.
His parents had offered him a place to stay before, they said, and it hadn’t worked out. Dover was supposed to save money by living with them, but any money he made would go to drugs.
“It felt like we were enabling him,” Charie Easter said.
Dover said living at the City Mission helped. The agency worked with him to find recovery resources and a job, he said.
Now, Dover lives at the Focus on Friends men’s recovery home, a group home for those in recovery. He has a job and is 21 months sober.
He’s starting to repair the relationship he had with his parents and is regaining their trust.
“Without the support from my friends and family and the resources that are there, I don’t think I would have been able to do it,” Dover said about recovery in Findlay. “It pretty much saved my life.”
He and his parents attended the Findlay Recovery March on Saturday morning at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church.
“He was really able to do this on his own,” Gary Easter said. “There’s got to be a great sense of pride in Jerry that he’s achieved this.”
The Easters said they thought Findlay was a huge reason why their son was able to recover. The recovery resources weren’t as good in Indianapolis, they said, and if there were resources in Chattanooga, they weren’t aware of them.
“We certainly cannot thank the city of Findlay enough for their support and the things they’ve done to help,” Gary Easter said.
As for Dover, he’s gone from feeling like he lost his family to regaining them.
“It’s so good to hear my brother, my mom, my sister, and my dad tell me how proud they are of me,” Dover said.
Where to find help
Local crisis hotline: 1-888-936-7116
Focus on Friends: 419-423-5071, 509 W. Trenton Ave., Findlay, focusrwc.org.
NAMI of Hancock County: 567-525-3435, 306 N. Blanchard St., Findlay, www.namihancockcounty.org.
ADAMHS Board of Hancock County: 419-424-1985, 438 Carnahan Ave., Findlay, www.yourpathtohealth.org/adamhs
Century Health: 419-425-5050 and 419-422-3711, firstname.lastname@example.org, 1918 N. Main St., Findlay, www.centuryhealth.net.
Hancock County Veteran’s Services: 419-424-7036, 1100 E. Main Cross St., Suite 123, hancockveterans.com.