Jim Cherrier: Cave-dwelling Drug Addict Sees the Light
By Zsa Zsa Palagyi
The 700 Club
CBN.com -Jim Cherrier knows every nook and cranny of the foothills surrounding Phoenix, Arizona, because for 14 years, these hills were his home.
“All through these mountains, I’ve camped in many places,” Jim says, as he looks up to the hills. “Behind these mountains here, it’s like a whole big circle of mountains over a square 15 miles or so and in the middle is a large basin and in that basin is where I spend a lot of time because there’s no access to vehicles in there and you rarely see anybody.”
That was perfect for Jim, who was a hard-core drug addict. He abused heroine so much that his veins collapsed and he had his arm amputated. But it was crack cocaine that kept him constantly paranoid.
Walking away from the Phoenix skyline, Jim remembers, “Even if people were not around, I would imagine people were listening to me and at times, I’d even hear voices.”
There was only one place Jim felt safe, in his dark, musty mine shaft. There, he could go months without bathing or changing his clothes. And his only friend was a wild donkey that ate out of his hand.
Upon return to one of the mine shafts Jim lived in, he remembers, “It was an extreme drastic contrast between the life I had lived at certain times -- with my own home, my own car, my wife, my children, a job, a steady job as a federal government working for the Department of Navy.”
Jim’s parents had raised him to succeed. He grew up with five brothers and sisters. The family traveled the world and even lived overseas in Singapore. But at 15, Jim was introduced to drugs. After high school, he hitchhiked around America for 6 years, experimenting with hallucinogens and acid.
“I was far from a pillar of society, but I paid my bills and I went to work. Although I stopped hard drug usage, I drank a lot of beer and I smoked a lot of marijuana.”
Jim learned that this was no way to hold a family together. His wife left. He met another woman and resolved to try harder. But she left too.
He says it didn’t make sense to him. “I knew I had failed them in ways they needed me, but I couldn’t understand why they would actually leave me because I didn’t think I had failed them that bad.”
Jim fell in love one more time -- and this lady didn’t leave him. She died in a fire.
Jim says this was the loss that put him over the edge.
“That’s where I just didn’t care about anything and I didn’t care about myself. The problem is heartbreak. Serious heartbreak in my life to where I purposely decided to smash my life and if I had been braver I would have just shot myself.”
Instead, Jim took an early retirement from his job.
“I put all my money together and headed off to be a – the best crack addict I could be.”
Three days a week he was a dealer in a dope house. The rest of the time, he hid out in the hills and got high.
“I realized I was stuck in a a rock and a hard place,” Jim says as he looks towards the back of one of his mine shafts. “You know here I am stuck in a cave. The condition of my mind- you know I was crazy. Who would live like this that isn’t crazy? And I knew people thought that about me."
"My goal was to take a hit one time every three minutes, 24/7. I started thinking of my family, my kids, grandkids, my past life and the condition of my life as it was at the time and how far I’d fallen and depression crept in on me more and more."
Around this time, Jim met a man in his travels between the dope house and his mine shaft. And this man gave Jim a bible.
“When I worked in the dope house I couldn’t wait to get out of the dope house and get back to the mine shaft so I could just read the bible. And I didn’t’ know how to pray at this time, but I felt that God could hear what was on my heart and he knew me. I started calling out to God saying I am broken hearted Lord, I am crushed in spirit, I’m sorry for what I’ve done to my life. And Help me, God."
Then one morning around 2am, Jim says he got an answer to his prayer.
“I could see all the stars in the sky and I saw one star in particular that looked odd and it looked like it was getting bigger and bigger, and the next thing I knew it got so big and bright, the entire front of the mine shaft here, all the way back, was lit up.”
Jim soon found out what that light was.
“I realized it was a police helicopter spotlight. All of a sudden all of these police started coming in here and they dragged me out by my ankles and they said you’re going to prison buddy. We’ve been doing an investigation on you for two years, and you’re going to prison! And I felt a sense of relief. I was so sick of my life that prison couldn’t be any worse. And I thought my life is going to change.”
The change came in jail.
“I completely gave my heart to Jesus. I realized that I had been living my life completely for myself and I realized that everything about my life was wrong.”
After a year in prison, Jim was released to a halfway house where his dependence on Jesus increased and his drug addiction completely disappeared.
“The problems are gone,” Jim says. “My past life is over and I’ve died to it, I know in my heart that’s happened. I always thought peace of mind was something impossible to achieve, that it was some ideal but I do have peace of mind because I trust in the Lord.”
Today Jim is an outreach coordinator for the dream center in phoenix, where he helps people break free of their addictions. He’s back in contact with his grown children and is on good terms with his ex-wife.
“Everything of the past has changed,” Jim concludes. “And I truly have been renewed in the attitude of my mind. I truly am a new creation in Christ.”
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