McCrabb: Recovering addict helping others

When his Middletown house flooded 10 years ago, the insurance adjuster couldn’t have seen all the damage.

In the months and years since, Ron Ward filed for bankruptcy, and eventually feel into a state of depression and isolation. For a 47-year-old man with a college degree in social work from Miami University and a bright future, Ward was drowning and not from the water in his basement.

As he said: “I checked out.”

And never looked back, until recently.

Let’s just say, if it was illegal, Ward tried it, and when he was afraid to stick a needle in his arm, a friend injected him.

“I was looking for a way to escape,” Ward said, fighting back tears.

Instead, his addiction left him trapped. He started smoking marijuana, and that led to snorting crack cocaine, and methamphetamine. On top of that, he got addicted to pornography.

Meth, he said, was his “drug of choice” because he “couldn’t feel a thing. It was an instant high.”

Like most addicts, there’s that one day so terrible it either kills you or leads you to recover. For Ward, that happened one night in February 2010 when he was driving home from a party, heroin flowing in his blood stream, his family on his mind. He thought that was the day he was going to die. So he called his wife, Nicole, told her goodbye and asked her to care for their two children.

Then he woke up in a gas station parking lot.

That’s when the 1987 Edgewood High School graduate sought help and guidance, and still unable to break the chains of addiction, checked him into the psychology unit at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton for 24-hour observation. He then was diagnosed with HIV and AIDS.

He has been sober since July 31, 2012, he said.

On April 24, 2013, Ward was told his HIV medication was ineffective and he overdosed on anti-depression medications. He was in a drug-induced coma for 13 days at Atrium Medical Center.

Now, he’s a different man, more like Ron Ward Before Addictions.

Living in Middletown, in 2013, he formed Celebrating Restoration, a grassroots campaign to free those from addictions. The groups meets at 7 p.m. every Thursday at the Triple Moon Cafe, 1100 Central Ave.

Ward, who’s on disability, said it’s a voluntary position and he collects donations, then uses the money to transport addicts and and pay for their treatment at centers. In the first 16 months , he has entered 14 people into recovery programs in five states. He said more than 30 other addicts — those with insurance — have been placed in treatment centers.

“You got to fight to survive,” said Ward, who added all addicts, regardless of what drugs they abuse, “make bad choices.”

Ward, of courses, could write a book on choices. But he’s starting to see how those closest to him are reacting to his positive decisions. He said his son, Chris, 17, recently introduced him to one of his friends for the first time. Ward called that “the greatest thing.”

Ward is starting to build a team of recovering addicts around him. He met Matt Fazzio, 23, of New Jersey, on a Facebook support group for addicts, and convinced him to move to Middletown.

Matt’s older brother, Mark, 24, also an addict, followed him to Middletown just last week. Waiting for a ride to Middletown, Mark was approached by a homeless man on the Dayton streets who asked for some change. Then the man saw the watch Mark was wearing, and asked if he wanted to trade it for drugs.

He said no.

That was another step in his recovery.

“I surrendered,” Mark Fazzio said.

While these are two success stories, Ward admits most addicts relapse at least once. He was asked why he started the support group instead of, say, sitting on his couch and waiting for the disability check every month.

“I walked the road,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be lonely, deserted. When you’re near death’s door you don’t judge. We love and embrace them.”

Ward remembers one day when he looked in the mirror and saw a man who appeared to be fit with a 26-inch waist and ripped chest. But that was a body of lies. He looked again and saw the damage done by the years of drug abuse.

“I recognized death,” he said.

Now he hopes to spot others before their eulogies are written.

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