MPW.69 / 2017 Grappling with Addiction: Circle of Support by Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Sait Serkan Gurbuz Falls Church, Va.
Team Chapnick

Story Summary

Johnathon Sparks, 33, arrives home in Eldon, Mo., exhausted from an 11-hour day of concrete labor near Lake of the Ozarks. His dirty t-shirt is like a battle flag for his war against addiction to methamphetamines. It is a war he had been losing until recently. The addiction cost him his job and time with his two biological daughters. “The only reason I did [meth was] because I got bored,” he says.

Being employed is critical to John’s ability to stay clean. His “dysfunctional family” is his circle of support. Even though there is prominent Confederate symbolism at home, John has a half-black stepson in his family. They stand and stick together.

Johnathon met his fiancée, Amanda Howk, 35, five years ago on a dating website. Amanda, a licensed practical nurse, works nights, comes home to Johnathon and her three biological children, Davin Burris, 17, Treyvin Burris, 15, and Jade Howk, 10. Caregiving is her full-time job at work and at home.

Due to the long and odd hours she works, Amanda’s time with her family is limited. Her time with her youngest is even more so. Due to the current custody ruling Jade can only visit her mom and her half-brothers four days within a two-week period.

Ron Burris, Amanda’s brother has had his won drug issues in the past and understands and supports his brother-in-law.

Ron lives with his parents in Eldon. His father, Kenneth Burris, 63, often drives Amanda’s son Treyvin to football practice and picks him up. Treyvin, 6’4” and 250 pounds, plays center for the Eldon Mustangs. He is a gentle giant. He prefers doing his homework at his grandparents because it is more peaceful. Treyvin said, “[Grandpa] is the one that makes sure I keep my grades high.” When asked about having a half-black member in the family and the prominence of Confederate symbolism, Kenneth Burris said that “He’s my grandson. I’m gonna love him no matter what. … I don’t like slavery, I never liked it. You just can’t wipe out history. You have to learn from mistakes.”