An East Passyunk Crossing resident will again honor her brother’s memory through a recovery walk.
Eighteen months after losing brother Ricky Ferrer to a heroin overdose, Jackie Ferrer still experiences “denial days.”
“I know he is not coming back and that hurts, but I must somehow try to prevent others from dealing with similar pain and celebrate triumphs over their problems,” she said last week from her home on the 1000 block of Watkins Street.
To help her interior to heal, the 25-year-old will use her exterior, namely, her feet, for Saturday’s PRO-ACT Recovery Walks! 2012 at Penn’s Landing. She will dedicate her 1.75-mile mission to address the agony of addiction to her sibling, whose March 6, 2011 death robbed her of love yet endowed her with resolve.
“My involvement is extremely therapeutic,” the ’05 alumnus of Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., and recent graduate of Community College of Philadelphia said of preparing for her second jaunt. “I truly enjoy bonding with family and friends to honor Ricky and to enable more people to see that what he had is a disease that can strike anyone from any background.”
Jackie Ferrer, unfortunately, has become well-versed in drugs’ consequences. She and her brother endured chunks of their childhood without their father, who fell prey to substance abuse. Ricky Ferrer succumbed to peer pressure and began his descent during early adolescence, with his patriarch’s Feb. 2, ’02 passing from a heart attack intensifying his plunge.
“There was just something missing from his heart,” his sister said, adding he excelled in his academic and athletic pursuits at the former St. John Neumann High School, 2600 Moore St., and tackled his affliction through writing poems and stories.
She and his core supporters, including mentor Rev. John Stabeno, whom he met in ’03, also assisted him in facing his emptiness, faithfully feeling he would overcome its sway. He enjoyed periods of clarity yet often regressed, with his vacillation leading Jackie Ferrer to acquire schooling for addiction counseling, a move that would prove prosperous and saddening.
“We had our difficulties,” she said of their relationship, which included numerous trust issues, “but I was always going to be there for him.”
With much to forgive, she gained strength June 9, ’10 when he asked if she would help him to enroll at Media’s Mirmont Treatment Center, where she worked as a clinical aide.
“That he approached me was touching, and I really thought he would recover and realize his worth to us,” Jackie Ferrer said.
The nine-month tenure there gave her more compassion for her relative and his fellow sufferers. She noted it also increased his respect for her commitment to preaching mind over matter.
“I admired him for his personality, sense of humor and depth,” Stabeno, a 1982 Neumann product who began his counseling career at his alma mater following his ’86 graduation from Cabrini College, said. “He was so analytical and imaginative.”
The religious figure, who founded the Washington Township, N.J.-based Prodigal House Foundation in 2006 to address the needs of strife-filled families, attempted to absolve Ricky Ferrer of his anguish and saw his bond with the 26-year-old and his family evolve as the young man shook off his shame. Ricky Ferrer seemed so resolute he decided at a March 5, ’11 meeting in Kensington to laud his sister’s role in guiding him. The next day, however, rendered everyone heartbroken.
“I received a call saying Ricky was gone,” Jackie Ferrer said. “The news had me shaking because of the realization that he [was] just someone with so much potential and goodness to him. Saying goodbye dug a hole in my heart.”
The breach of her emotional identity caused the forlorn advocate to part temporarily with her compassion.
“I just wanted addicts to pull themselves together and figure their lives out,” Jackie Ferrer said.
With her understandable frustration teeming, she left her counseling position in August ’11 yet sought means to return her concern for discouraged parties to a high level. Three months before her resignation, she learned of the Recovery Walks! through the Internet and eventually formed Team Ricky Ferrer. Its 70 members raised $3,000, the highest total among all entrants, and made her initial involvement in National Recovery Month a solid success and the impetus to gain even more solace.
“I know the pain will never fully dissipate, but every bit of outreach I supply or receive does wonders,” Jackie Ferrer, who also is writing a book on coping with such situations, said.
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