Where you born and raised? I was born at The Medical Center and raised in Columbus. My father passed away on Christmas Day 1987. He was John Warren Sr. I was working at Shaw High School, in food services. My mother is Helen Warren. She’s still living. I’m one of six brothers, and I have two sisters.
You just got out of prison. Yes, for robbery. I got out in May. I was in 49 months. I signed up for construction, so they moved me from prison to prison. Before I got out, I said I didn’t want to go back home. The economy was bad and I didn’t want to go to the halfway house. I was scared of people and all the temptations. I got back here in June 2009.
Where did you live at first? I heard about the Columbus Transition Center affiliated with Jack Rutledge Prison. At first, you wear a jumpsuit for the first 30-35 days and you work on your goals and purposes and you look for a job. I was determined. They take out $90 a month for room and board and they teach you how to have a responsible life again. If you escape, that’s five more years. I finished the program with success and finished the drug program.
Where did you work? With a company called Erosion, based in Auburn. We did a lot of work at Fort Benning. I’ve still got this leg brace. When I got out (in May), I was up under a lot of pressure and stress. I crashed. I went on the bends and went missing for two days. I ended back up with my addiction and this girl. She set me up with some LSD in my drink. I called out to God for help. The parole officer was looking for me. The parole board was a blessing; they gave me four chances.
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You’re in a counseling program? Yes, I go to New Horizons on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for NA and AA. I thank God for them. Today makes 14 days. It’s a miracle. I’ve got great potential. I’m learning how to be responsible again.
What was your upbringing like? My father was an alcoholic. I never knew him. I was molested from age 8-11 by this man in the apartment. He ruined my childhood. I had so much hurt and bitterness. I started making amends. I wrote to my mother and I thought she wouldn’t write me back. I can’t get free from holding on to unforgiveness and bitterness and old issues. I have bi-polar. I’m trying to stay humble and strong. From May to July has been no bed of roses for me. I’ve relapsed seven times. I’m scared to relapse again.
Do you have a sponsor? I have a good sponsor and I read the Bible. I want to go back and minister in the jails. I have been on the verge of giving up. I lost all focus. A little voice said: “John, I love you, don’t give up.” It’s a different ball game when you’re out (of prison). You have to surrender and admit you’re tired. That’s when God can come to you. … I had a problem with judgmentalism. I have burned some bridges, but I’m making amends.
Who are others who help? Mary and Benjamin Smith, and Mayor Jim Wethington. I first met him when he worked for the Department of Corrections. He’s a very compassionate man, and his wife makes some of the best homemade chili.
Where did you go to school? Spencer. I graduated in 1982. I was a full-blown alcoholic by 1980. I played football and drank heavily. I’ve had three DUIs. The last one was in 1995 — a head-on collision.
Is it hard to be around your old crowd? Yes. I always see the drug dealers, and the women I had sex with. It’s hard to say no to a pretty woman. So I ask the Holy Spirit to help me. I’m my own worst enemy. Your mind has to be renewed every day. I am stepping out in faith — I am going to work for God. I think my ministry is in the streets, and places like Valley Rescue Mission and the House of Mercy.
What advice would you give parents who want their kids to stay off the streets? Know where they are all the time. The law can’t raise them. And I’d tell the kids to wear their pants right. I have played the blame game, but I’m trying to take responsibility for myself. These have been the best 14 days of my life.
How long have you been at your church? Since the 1980s. They could have kicked me out, but they stuck with me.
Where are you working now? At the new swimming pool at Double Churches. It’s through Staff Zone, a temp service.