The two of us sat together inside a local Jensen Beach coffeehouse, where Penny Cooke told me her story—how her son got off drugs. It’s not an easy tale to tell, but necessary. “It can help others,” Penny says. Penny and her husband, Harry Cooke, raised three children. But their middle son, Jared, began using marijuana, in 9th grade. His personality began to change. His friends changed. His music changed. Penny’s son became distant, falling asleep at the table. Harry even bolted his bedroom window shut so he couldn’t sneak out at night.
Looking back, Penny relates, “The first time Jared called crying from jail, we should have left him there.” But the Cookes bailed their son out of Martin County Jail. Promises were made, and broken. Penny states, “This situation went back and forth for years. Each time Jared got clean, we helped him. We helped him get a truck and paid an overdue bill. But it only paved the way to more drug use.”
Jared’s drug use escalated until he stole checks from his father’s business. That day was the culmination.
Harry and Penny gave Jared an ultimatum; he could enter a faith-based rehab facility or they would file charges against him. Jared ran. Harry has said that prosecuting his own son, Jared, was the hardest thing he ever did, but he knew he had to follow through.
Two years later, Jared sat out on Jacksonville Beach. He had nothing. Tired, he cried out to God, “God, if You’re real, help me!” A few days later Jared was arrested on an unrelated charge. The warrant against him popped up and he was moved back to Martin County. While in Martin County Jail, Jared entered Dunklin Memorial Camp’s jail program. This led to him being sentenced to Dunklin’s regeneration program in Okeechobee.
It’s a 10-month long faith-based rehab program to free addicts who want to be free. After 13 years of addiction, Jared Cooke became free with the help of God and remains free today, serving as Campus Pastor with his wife at Hillsong Church’s Darwin, Australia location.
Penny says this about her 13-year ordeal with her son’s addiction: “Loving your child doesn’t mean doing everything they think they want or giving them everything they think they need. When a child’s on drugs, doing those things is enabling him. It gets to be a vicious cycle. One of the things that I've always remembered was being at a Nancy Leigh DeMoss conference and something she said was a clincher for me. She said, ‘When you rescue your kids, you rescue them from the cross.’ Wow, how true. We as parents need to stop delaying or preventing our kids' rescue. We get in God's way when we ‘help’ (enable) them. Enabling actually disables.
Jared always knew we loved him. So many kids don’t know that. He felt loved even when we would do nothing for him.”
She adds, “Having a child on drugs—it can happen to any of us. No child is exempt and it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. Society pulls real hard in the opposite direction from what we taught at home.”
Jared explains that at age 15 he saw the friend group he wanted to be a part of and did what he needed to do to be a part of it. Drugs. Jared began with pot and progressed to Ecstasy, acid, mushrooms, Special K, cocaine, and OxyContin. At the end, he took anything he could get his hands on to stay in his made-up fantasy world which allowed him to escape from his mess ups.
How did Penny get through those 13 years? She prayed. She prayed until she ran out of words and then she prayed the Scriptures. “There’s nothing more powerful than this,” she adds. “Later I looked back and saw how God had specifically answered my prayers according to what I had prayed in the Scriptures. Jared would even tell you today that the reason he’s alive now is because of his mom’s prayers and he can see how they’ve come alive in his own life.”
God hears the cry of the mother.
You can find Penny and Harry Cooke Sunday mornings at First Baptist Jensen Beach.
“All things are possible with God”
Contact Kelly Jadon: firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2018 "Hometown Heroes" Kelly Jadon