Tue | Jan 22, 2019

A fresh start - Chamberlain gets second chance after 40 years fighting drug addiction

Published:Tuesday | February 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Clayon Chamberlain speaks with The Gleaner yesterday at 2nd Chance's offices in St Andrew. - Photos by Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator

After more than 40 years struggling with crack cocaine addiction, Clayon Chamberlain is giving God thanks for a second chance.

No more do his neighbours refer to him as a crackhead. He is now 'Mr Chamberlain'. And that brings tears to his eyes.

"There is now a purpose to my life and people are showing me respect," he told The Gleaner yesterday.

This is all thanks to 2nd Chance Reintegration and Rehabilitation Services, which, for the past six years, has been making a difference in the lives of deportees, drug addicts and displaced youth.

Chief executive officer and operations director, Captain Reuben Phillips, not only gave Chamberlain a second chance, but he has also given him the opportunity to help others as an outreach coordinator.

"It has given me self-worth. It is helping my self-esteem. It is helping my self-confidence and making me feel that I am now a part of something. Instead of breaking down, which I usually do for my drug addiction, now I am able to rebuild. It has rejuvenated me, and makes me feel worthwhile, not worthless," he declared, overcome with emotion.

New meaning

"I can get up in the daytime now and walk on the streets and participate in things that are meaningful and gainful. Before, at this time of the day, I would be hibernating somewhere. For drug addicts, our best time is in the night, under the cloak of darkness."

An accountant by profession, Chamberlain once held good jobs with several renowned companies.

In 1969, he started smoking marijuana, later moving to cocaine.

In 1985, after migrating to the United States, he graduated to the hard stuff of crack cocaine.

In the blink of an eye, the once-robust, handsome man working at a top United States-based company was reduced to a skinny, foul-smelling vagabond with no thought of hygiene, skin black and dehydrated from excessive cocaine use.

"I abandoned my own child at school," he recalled.

Chamberlain was driven only by his overwhelming desire for crack cocaine, and soon he found himself jobless and homeless, sleeping in parks, on bridges or in the occasional shelter.

Mother intervened

Overcome with the pain he was putting his mother through, coupled with family intervention, he became clean. He returned to a good job and became a minister of religion. Everyone thought the worst was behind them - until he returned to the streets of New York 10 years later.

This time, his return to the drug world led to a prison sentence, followed by deportation in 2008.

Returning to his family home in St Andrew, Jamaica, after 28 years, he didn't stay clean for long. Soon he was selling off everything in the house to support his habit.

Chamberlain was checked into rehab on three separate occasions, but that never lasted long either.

His family was eventually left with no choice but to lock him out of the house. So in the wee hours of the morning, the junkie would jump the fence and break into an outside bathroom, where he slept and hid from everyone.

This was a wake-up call for him.

"That's the kind of lifestyle I was living at 60 years old. Sleeping in the bathroom of my own family's home, a home that I helped to build," he recounted.

Five months ago, in a last desperate bid, his brother Keith, took him to 2nd Chance.

Roller-coaster ride over

Chamberlain is now determined more than ever and certain that the roller-coaster ride is finally over.

What makes this programme different from the others?

"They were all in-house rehab programmes. This one, however, you come and leave. The responsibility is put totally on you. For some people, the in-house rehabilitation works because it is also abstention, where you are placed in a protective environment. But not for some of us. We have to lick it in the very environment where we are, which is what is working for me," he stated.

Chamberlain is now looking quite healthy, clean and driven.

"I thank God to see today. When I come out of my yard, people are like, 'Good morning, Mr Chamberlain. How are you doing?' 'Pray for me when you go to church.' To see all these things coming at me ... me ... me," he beat his chest, voice breaking with emotion.

His mother, children and sibling are now overjoyed not only to see the change in his life, but that he is now helping others to overcome their demons.