ZANESVILLE – Dana Pritchett extends both his arms, displaying sleeves of tattoos.
He indicates that his right arm, which features faces and images, depicts the seven deadly sins. He then turns to his left arm, which is covered in more hopeful images that he says represent his growth and sobriety.
“This is my wicked arm,” he says of the right. “And this,” he says while extending the left, “is my righteous arm.”
The 48-year-old is sitting in his office in the Muskingum Behavioral Health building on Underwood Street. He’s dressed in camouflage pants, a black T-shirt and an Atlanta Braves baseball hat (the Bronx, New York, native isn’t a fan — he said it’s just to match his outfit.) Mounted on the walls are two state certifications and his associate degree in social work, which he earned in May from Zane State College.
It’s a far cry from where he was more than 10 years ago: detoxing in prison after about 30 years of using heroin.
But now Pritchett’s new-found passion in life is helping others who are struggling to overcome addiction.
He’s one of two recovery coaches at Muskingum Behavioral Health. His experiences with addiction make him able to relate and empathize with those going through recovery at the treatment facility, said Kris Headley, supervisor at MBH.
And now, as overdose and drug abuse continue to worsen, that perspective is even more vital.
“My struggle is to advocate for other advocates who suffer,” Pritchett said. “What keeps me sober is helping other addicts try to recover.”
Pritchett was born in a housing project in the Bronx. He grew up around gangs, prostitutes, and drug dealers.
“It was pretty much survival of the fittest,” he said.
He began smoking weed at age 7. Two years later, he began snorting cocaine and heroin.
His addiction worsened in the coming years as he turned to gangs and crime to feed it.
He has more than 30 aliases and 30 felonies on his record.
He’s been shot four times, including in the head. He’s been in and out of prison and moved about the country until he came to Zanesville in 1996, where his dad was living.
During that time, he said, his entire day was consumed with coming up with ways and money to get high.
“That’s miserable; that life is miserable, but the insane part of it is, you don’t see that,” Pritchett said. “I got tired of living in insanity.
“Nothing really changed until I changed what I was.”
It required him to surrender, he said, and bring about a change in his life. It required him to realize that, after three decades of heroin use, he had nothing to show for it except a long criminal record.
That record made it nearly impossible to get hired at MBH. It took multiple meetings for him to convince them of his genuine passion.
And it took time for them to jump through the necessary hoops to hire a convicted felon.
“That’s who he was, and this is who he is,” Headley said. “That was his addiction, but this is Dana.”
After doing a few internships, he was hired last summer. As a recovery coach, he works with those in intensive care as well as those going through the specialty court dockets in the county and common pleas courtrooms.
To promote camaraderie, he hosts group meetings and takes them for outside activities such as fishing.
“This disease stops your emotional growth,” he said. “What we do is we try to have everyone heal together.”
He’s been clean since 2004, or 11 years and four months, but who’s counting? He lives with his fiancee in Stockport, who he’s been with for more than five years.
And he plans to continue his education.
Pritchett is applying to attend Ohio University-Zanesville in August, where he wants to get a bachelor’s in social work so he can continue to help recovering addicts. Article Link…