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Former Addicts Get Married at Center Where They Get Clean

EAST GARFIELD PARK — Drug addiction nearly destroyed the lives of James and Coretta Thompson. Fighting that addiction not only kept them alive, but it also brought them together.

Last month, the couple married at Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center (http://www.anb.today/)at 2942 W. Lake St. The West Side treatment center helps people fight their addictions through counseling and therapy. While the center typically doesn’t condone finding relationships during recovery, a staff member officiated at the couple’s wedding ceremony and said the two have been an inspiration to others James and Coretta Thompson fell in love with each other while fighting their addictions.

The two tied the knot in the annex of the treatment center on Dec. 5 in front of friends and family members, along with other clients and staff of the treatment center. “I’m happy for them because are they are two people who had been homeless and two people who’ve struggled. I don’t think this was something they were looking for, but they met,” said the center’s lead counselor, Brenda Dixon. “We also have reservations on people who’ve gotten married while in recovery …. [but] we want to support them.”

James Thompson, 57, said they help each other fight their demons. “Sometimes people says that you shouldn’t fall in love during recovery, but this is the best thing to ever happen to me,” Thompson said recently as he fought back tears. “It hurts like hell to know what I’ve done to myself. I took a lot of years from myself for messing with drugs. Now I’ve been blessed.”

The Mississippi native said he started using drugs years ago. At the time, he spent time in both Chicago and Detroit, since his parents lived in different states. “My first marriage wasn’t going well. I was using drugs and it became a habit,” Thompson said. “It led to a problem I didn’t want. Next thing I know, cocaine led to heroin. It go so bad that I was sleeping on the train. I ended up homeless.” Thompson says being on drugs derailed his childhood dream of becoming a preacher. But he got clean 10 years ago. He credits the center — where he still goes for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings — for helping him stay sober. He is able to walk to the center from his home in Little Village, often passing several places where drugs are sold.

“I’m ashamed myself, but with the help of the program, I’ve been able to get myself back together and I’ve met a beautiful young lady,” Thompson said. “I could never use again, and I could never allow my wife to use again.” Coretta Thompson, a 48 year old South Side native, says she started using drugs to forget the pain of being molested by relatives. “I just wanted to escape the feeling I had. That feeling when you feel like you’re tied down to something,” she said. She has been clean for five months, she said.

The two originally met in July at The Boulevard, 3456 W. Franklin Blvd., a temporary shelter for disabled homeless persons. They were not allowed to fraternize due to house rules. At the time, James promised Coretta that they would meet again — and they did, a month later, at the Above and Beyond. “He asked me to trust him. He said I wouldn’t have to be on the street no more,” said Corretta Thompson. “He said he would be there for me. I decided to give him a chance.” He later proposed to her in the vestibule of the treatment center. She said she wasn’t seeking a relationship when they met. “I wasn’t looking, but it happened. We’ve stuck together about being clean,” Thompson said. “I fell in love with him. He’s treated me better than any man ever has.”

His wife has helped him, too, James Thompson said. “She said to me, ‘Do I have the urge to use?’ I said ‘No.’ When I look at the money I spent, I have no desire to go back. She said I still have the desire and craving but I’m in the program,” Thompson said. “But with the love I have for her, she doesn’t use because I’m there to put my arm around her and tell her everything is going to be all right.”

Dixon, an ordained minister who performed the wedding ceremony, says the couple have been an inspiration to the other clients at the treatment center. “I’m happy for them because are they are two people who had been homeless and two people who’ve struggled. I don’t think this was something they were looking for, but they met,” Dixon said. “We also have reservations on people who’ve gotten married while in recovery. We want to support them.” The Thompsons currently live with family members. Thompson said despite his path, he is in a better place. “The trouble led me into the happiness,” he said.