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Honoring a legacy: Jenkie’s Journey offers recovery opportunities

Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

 The new Jenkie’s Journey residential treatment facility is aptly named, according to the mother of the man it was named for. Josh Jenkins – Jenkie to his friends – saw himself as a protector and a caretaker for those friends, Cheryl Oney explained. He was also their biggest advocate and cheerleader. 

“Josh was happy go lucky, always had a smile on his face… and was always everybody’s champion,” Oney said. “He was always sticking up for everybody.” 

He was fierce in that defense too. 

“Growing up, if he had a point of view, he would argue it,” she laughed, explaining that she used to tease him about going into law, because the only job she knew where he could get paid to argue as well as he did was as an attorney. 

“That was the way Josh was. If he believed in something, he was 100 percent for it,” she added. 

For instance, when he struck up a friendship with Jenkie’s Journey founder Kieara Judd-Irick, his mother argued with him that she was too young to be hanging out with his crowd of friends. Josh, though, saw an opportunity to keep her safe in what he knew could be a dangerous environment. 

“Kieara was really young, and he more or less took over as her mentor,” Oney said. “He would look out for her. Even though they were both doing drugs, he would take her home, make sure she was alright. I’d quarrel at him, you know, like, ‘She’s just a baby!’ He’d say, ‘Well, mom, she’s doing it anyway. If she ain’t around me, she’s going to get hurt at someone’s else.’ So that was their thing. He was her guardian. That was just the way he looked at himself. He was always everybody’s guardian. It was his job to take care of everybody. He was an odd child, as far as that. It was his responsibility, that’s the way he felt.” 

Oney said her son would be very proud to see what Kieara has done with her life, and to have his name associated with an institution that helps others on their own journeys toward recovery. 

“He would absolutely love this,” she said with a small laugh. “He’d be out there preening like a rooster. He would be proud of it.”

He was as enthusiastic about recovery as he was about helping his friends – passions that were complimentary in his final days. 

“He was clean six months, and he was going through all the steps – I was working with him, going through the steps – and he relapsed.” 

Before that, though, she said, he was trying to do right, including bringing as many of his friends into recovery as possible. 

“After he got clean, he was trying to help all his other friends get clean,” she said. “He’d call them up, ‘Hey man! Come hang out with me. I want to show you something.’ Then, he just made a bad decision.” 

Oney’s voice softened as she discussed his relapse and death. 

Josh’s mistake was one that isn’t uncommon to those in recovery. Once he was in recovery, and his tolerance for the drugs he used had returned to normal, he wouldn’t have needed as much to achieve the same effect. But, making calculations based on his tolerance levels while in active addiction, he used too much and overdosed. 

It’s something she said she wants other families to be aware of and to talk about with their loved ones in recovery. No one wants to anticipate a relapse, but being realistic about the possibility could save a life. 

Of course, recovery centers like Jenkie’s Journey can help prevent those relapses as people work toward a healthy future. 

Judd-Irick and her mother, Tonya Bond-Judd, have been offering counseling services in the community – including recovery services – since last year through their Center 4 A Change locations in Grayson and Olive Hill. Jenkie’s Journey, though, is different. It’s a residential treatment center, meaning that the folks in treatment will stay on site throughout their recovery. While there they will participate in group and individual therapy sessions, personal projects, and group activities under the direction and care of doctors, therapists, supervisory staff, and therapy dog Beacon – a great Dane puppy. 

Bond-Judd explained that addiction isn’t always the only issue the residents at Jenkie’s Journey will be facing. Some of the residents at the center, which can house up to seven men at a time, will have other underlying issues such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, or others. Because of this it’s important that they have both the group and individualized sessions. These will take place in the clinical building, next door to the residential space, which has five offices for individual therapists and two large group rooms. Here the residents will focus on “recovery dynamics” and a “moral recognition” approach to recovery, Bond-Judd said. 

Residents will live next door during their recovery, in a large farm home that was completely refurbished inside and out after the property was purchased in May of last year. In addition to the seven bedrooms and a half bath upstairs, the home features a large porch and deck area on the ground floor along with a kitchen and dining area, large camp style shower and toilet area, a theater room that will feature a large screen television and theater style bench seating, meeting space, and sleeping quarters for the live in staff. In addition to the live in staff member the center will employ individuals from the community to help monitor residents – including regular nightly bed checks. 

It may seem intrusive, but while the Judds exude hope, they’re also realistic. Experience shows them that relapse is a possibility. But with Jenkie’s Journey, they’re doing what they can to anticipate and address those stressors and temptations that lead to relapse – so another mother doesn’t have to experience what Oney has. So another friend doesn’t lose their champion. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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