Keith Jackson

Keith Jackson Portrait

I am a father to two stepchildren. I’m a husband. I’m a friend. I am an Assistant Social Worker for Shasta County Health & Human Services.

The person that I am today is completely different than the person that I was five years ago.

I grew up in an abusive household. One of my core memories as a child was my mom putting my hands in a fireplace. I remembered the color of the carpet and couches. How many washcloths were put over my hands. It was a traumatizing experience.

When I was 13, my mom gave me my first line of cocaine. She was also smoking weed with my brother and me. It went from being something fun, like a family-type thing, to, ‘You’re going to sell drugs at school or you’re going to live on the street.’ So, I sold drugs through my senior year.

When I turned 18, I moved out of my mom’s house. I stopped drinking as much. I met my first wife. She was six months pregnant with someone else’s kid. Her grandparents had kicked her out during the winter. So, I did what I thought was the right thing and let her move in. I ended up raising her child as my own. Then we got pregnant.

During that time, I was also taking care of my sick mother. Regardless of our past, she was still my mother and I cared about her. She passed away and it was a pretty violent death. About a month later, things were going better. My son was born. I wasn’t drinking or using. I was working and saving up to buy a house. Then, two months later, my son unexpectedly passed away.

I went back to work, trying to be the strong one for the family. A few months later my wife said, ‘Here, try some meth. It’ll make you feel better,’ and it went downhill from there. We split up. After all the loss, I locked myself in a room and didn’t come out for a month and a half.

After that, I spent some time in Oregon, trying to pick up the pieces. I did odd jobs and slipped back into selling drugs. Eventually, I wanted to get away again and came down to Redding.

Portrait of Keith Jackson in front of the Lorenz Hotel in downtown Redding.

A week after I got here, my car was stolen. Everything was gone. After about a week of being on the streets, I stole something to eat. When I got away with it, I thought, ‘Well, if I can get away with it, I can survive. I can just keep doing this and only steal when I need it.’ At first it was stealing to get myself clothes and food, but then it became stealing to get drugs. Then it became stealing to escape my feelings. The adrenaline rush I got from stealing was more addicting than drugs.

In 2018, I was stabbed. The hospital treated me as just another homeless addict. They sewed me up and sent me back out the door. I went back down to the parking garage, where I knew that I would be around people, because I didn’t feel right. A cop came down and checked on me. I tried to stand up and lost consciousness. He took me back in the hospital. They said I lost so much blood I died on the operating table. I ended up with 160 internal stitches and three cauterized veins.

When I was in the recovery room, they kept offering me painkillers. At that point, I was done. I didn’t want to be that person anymore. 

A couple of days later I was picked up on an arrest warrant and booked into the jail. This time I wasn’t just getting booked and released. I had 17 “Failure to Appears” on one charge. I was looking at a long time in prison. I had heard about the Addicted Offender Program, and I asked my attorney about it. At first, they laughed. “No. You’re not getting in that program.”

Keith Jackson standing in front of the iconic You Belong mural in downtown Redding.

Still, I wanted recovery, so I started to go to AA meetings inside the jail, and it clicked with me. I ended up getting in the Addicted Offender Program, which helped me start residential treatment at Visions of the Cross. I got into the Shasta College Step Up program for auto mechanics. After a while, I realized that that job wasn’t for me, and I completely changed direction to pursue social work.

I’m going for my general education and a dual degree in human services and social science, as well as a certificate in case management. I’m also getting my Drug and Alcohol Counselor certification. 

Keith Jackson with his wife and stepson.

One of the things that was imposed on me in my childhood was that if I showed emotion, I got beat for it. If I cried, I got beat for it. If I cried while I was getting beat, I got beat more. Through therapy and the trusting relationship I have with my wife, I’ve learned to be comfortable with vulnerability and expressing emotion.

Because both my wife and I had traumatic upbringings, we are transparent with our kids and teach them how to express their emotions in a healthy manner. It’s important for them to understand that they’re able to be heard. 

Shasta County Resources Mentioned

Share Keith Jackson’s Story