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Reaching for H. O. P. E. from rock bottom

June 10th, 2014 8:53 am by Nick Shepherd

Reaching for H. O. P. E. from rock bottom

Former addict Jane Benfield doesn't want to forget those going through what she went through. She started a program to provide free food to people. (Contributed photo)

A former drug addict who has turned her life around is now helping current addicts by providing them with hot meals once a month.

Jane Benfield, from Jonesville, started the program called H.O.P.E. back in September. H.O.P.E. stands for Helping Others Prepare Eternally. The idea came to her after she heard an evangelist who spoke during her church's revival. He talked to the congregation about feeding the sinner.

"He was talking about how they started this mission, making a hot dog and giving out food," she said. "You give out food, you get people drawn in. I wanted to do it, I wanted to do it so bad."

So she started talking about the idea to her church and her women's group. She was able to get hot dogs, chili, buns and drinks. A group of them went over to nearby Pennington Gap and asked if they could set up in front of the IGA. She was given the green light.

Benfield spread the message the old-fashioned way, she went to apartments and knocked on every door, telling them to come get a free hot dog.

She said she doesn't judge the people who come seeking food. She knows exactly what they are going through.

In 1995, she had the picture-perfect life. She was married with two kids, had a new car, new home and had just graduated from nursing school.

But an unhappy marriage started Benfield on a path a lot of Americans take — addiction.

It started innocently enough. She would party with friends and maybe do a pill here or there. By 1998, the innocent partying had turned into a full-blown OxyContin addiction.

"I began by taking them, then I was snorting them and then I was shooting (injecting) them," she said. "I turned out to be an IV drug user."

She was fired from her job as a nurse early on because her partying caused her to show up late or not show up at all. The drive to obtain pills caused her to walk away from her children. She told herself walking away from her kids was good for them.

"I was in such a fog, in an unrealistic fog, I convinced myself I was doing it for them," she said. "I convinced myself it was the right thing to do. I walked away from my home and I didn't have anywhere stable to take them. ... It's not true. I left them because the drug was more important."

She also emptied her bank accounts, lost her car and got in trouble. After a while, Benfield began to sell pills. She got in serious trouble in 2005, receiving federal charges for being a member of an OxyContin distribution ring.

That same year, she tried to kill herself. She took 10 OxyContin 80s and woke up in an intensive care unit. She was angry when she woke up because she couldn't even get killing herself right.

Eventually, she was sentenced to serve five years in prison for her crimes. Going to prison would change her life forever.

When she first went in, the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness engulfed her. Then one day, a friend introduced her to a bible verse.

"The bible verse was, 'For I know the plans for you, plans for hope in the future,' " she said. "I was like 'Dang, is he talking to me? I'm going to have a future?' "

From that day forward, she strived to always focus on the future and keep the faith. She got clean while in jail and has remained clean for the past eight and a half years.

When she was released in 2010, she moved into her parents home to help take care of her ailing father , who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

She was also searching for a job and had been putting in applications for two weeks with no success.

One day, she got a call from Ronnie Montgomery, an attorney with Montgomery Kinser Law Offices PLC. Montgomery asked if Benfield was still looking for a job and she said yes. He then invited her to come and work at his office for a couple of days. Three and a half years later, she is still there.

She earned her legal assistant certification during that time and has rekindled her relationship with her children. She took care of her father until he passed away and still lives with her mother.

She is an active member in her church and goes back into jails and prisons to share her story.

Even though she has turned her life around, she doesn't want to forget people going through the same thing she went through. She wants to show them there is a way out.

"No matter where you're at, where you've been or where you're going, don't ever lose hope," Benfield said.

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