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News / Clark County News

Jacks: ‘I felt like I was falling off a cliff’

The former Vancouver legislator speaks about his decision to resign last month

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor
Published: April 25, 2011, 12:00am
2 Photos
Former state Rep.
Former state Rep. Jim Jacks Photo Gallery

Some of us old-timers might have used the word epiphany.

Originally — during biblical times — it was the manifestation of Christ to us common folk.

A huge deal.

Later it came to be known as an intuitive insight into a reality that was taking place.

Often it came from something simple or commonplace.

In other words, the light bulb went off in our heads.

Today, the phrase used is a moment of clarity.

That’s what former Vancouver State Rep. Jim Jacks said he had about a month ago when it came to his drinking. His heavy drinking.

So on March 25, a typically cool, showery, dreary day, Jacks resigned from his Democratic House seat. He then got into the passenger seat of his car and had his wife Brenda drive him to rehab.

I spoke with Jim a few days ago by phone in an exclusive Columbian interview. After almost one month of total silence, he opened up. A little.

Part of that silence came from Jacks’ spending most of the month in a treatment center. There, you concentrate on yourself. You concentrate on getting better. You try to remove yourself from the outside world.

But part of it also had to do with his simply being made uncomfortable by the circumstances he found himself in.

“It’s hugely embarrassing for me. Very emotional,” he said in the 20-minute phone conversation. Jacks said he felt it was the right thing to do, to talk about his situation. But, he added, virtually everyone he spoke to advised him against it.

I’m no doctor, no counselor, no expert on coming clean, but that kind of advice simply made no sense to me. Maybe it does if you’re a private individual.

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But as a public official, I told Jacks, he had an obligation to his constituents, to the community, to tell them why he suddenly resigned with no explanation other than “personal reasons.”

So Jacks did agree to speak to The Columbian for a few minutes.

“I had a moment of clarity. Drinking became more important than my job and my family,” he said.

Jacks said he thought — like many alcoholics — he had been controlling it. But, he said, he finally realized his drinking had simply gotten out of control.

I asked him if he had thought about waiting until the end of the legislative session, which would have created a lot less drama. But he said he felt he was running out of time.

“I felt like I was falling off a cliff. I had to do something.”

Being an alcoholic is a difficult thing in and of itself. But oftentimes, having one too many also results in bad behavior.

So I asked Jacks if his drinking resulted in his doing anything inappropriate. At first he wasn’t exactly sure what I meant.

“I have no criminal record. I’ve gotten no DUIs. I’m sure I’ve driven when I should not have been driving. But I resigned because I had to fix my problem. I resigned because I’m an alcoholic.”

Still, I pressed him further. Notwithstanding the drinking while driving, is it possible that someone might show up later and say you did something inappropriate to them while you were drinking?

He said no.

The interview moved forward.

What about politics? Any chance you might consider getting back in?

“No,” Jacks said. “Politics is not in my future.” He simply wants to become a productive member of the community again.

“I like helping people,” he said.

Today, Jacks said, he is out of rehab and going to meetings every day to help him.

“I enjoy being sober each day. It’s been wonderful.”

Jacks is still anxious about how the community will react to this knowledge. I told Jacks there will always be those who will want to tear someone down. Use information against them.

But my sense is, most in the community — no matter if they’re a Democrat or a Republican — think better of someone who admits their mistakes and is working to better themselves after that admission.

The community can have a moment of clarity as well.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or lou.brancaccio@columbian.com.

Columbian Editor