After decades of being an addict, lying, stealing and drinking, Ralph Carey of Joliet has sobered up and straightened out his priorities. Carey also published a book about finding his feet and learning to stand on them. Carey self-published his book, Life’s Wisdom: Overcoming Addiction, through Amazon’s Createspace to help addicts find the hope that can only come from God. After everything Carey has experienced, Carey says it’s a miracle he can even form a thought.
I’d been robbed, I’d been pistol-whipped, I’d been stabbed at, and I lost everything I had five times. God pulled me from all that, Carey said. And now, through the grace of God, I bridged the gap with my children.
During Carey’s upbringing he and his family lived on Joliet’s East Side in a crime-infested neighborhood. His father was mostly absent and his mother often worked two or three jobs to help raise their family. Her work schedule often left Carey and his three younger siblings taking care of themselves.
Growing up, Carey said he was the mischievous punk always on the wrong side of the law. It was nothing to him to break into an old brewery on Collins Street through its coal chute and steal cases of sloe gin.
Carey’s father came back into the picture in the 1960′s. He often took his children to a racetrack where he was head of security. There he taught Carey how to disconnect the rubber mats that cars drove over to enter the racetrack. Each car that entered had to pay $1, but since the mat only registered a few entering, only that amount was counted at the end of the day. The extra cash was divided between Carey and the other lot attendants. Also, three card Monte players would sting newcomers and make away with a king’s ransom. Carey said everyone who stole at the race track paid his father at the end of the day. Carey’s cut often was $100. I never thought I was breaking the law. I was proud of it, Carey said, It gave me an identity.
After Carey graduated from high school in 1968, Carey entered the iron-workers union. There he earned good wages. At the age of 25, Carey was still drinking and began snorting cocaine on the weekends. Carey then got married and started a family. He lost everything, his job, family and his home, when he turned to crack cocaine. He stole and used the money for his habit.
With crack, you’re stuck in a basement in a crack house, Carey said. You’re not out being social or raising your family. Crack is a dungeon drug. Now your life is different. Everything you see becomes crack money.
Eventually, Carey was arrested for selling drugs. Carey served a few years in state prison and then spent time in federal prison. Carey did fine in prison. He knew how to operate inside and got along with everyone. He became clean of drugs and alcohol and even got into shape. It was later that they found a solid mass on Carey’s kidney. He had cancer. My thoughts were racing so fast I couldn’t grab onto them, Carey said.
Carey said he went to his cell and cried out to God and Jesus. By the time he went to surgery, the cancer had shrunk. Only a small piece of his kidney was removed. That’s when I knew god was real, Carey said.
Once Carey was out of prison he became a member of Harmony Holiness Church in Joliet. Pastor Willie Sills said Carey had backed away from the church long before he went to prison. But when Carey returned, Sills said he immediately knew Carey was a changed man.
Today, Carey resides in a condo on Joliet’s West Side, lives on his pension and goes where God leads. He has reconciled with his children and even babysits his grandchildren. God has blessed me, blessed me time after time, Carey said, and now I show his mercy to everyone I meet.