Tattoos highlight dark spots

Theresa Edwards

KSU student’s body covered with reminders of a drug-addicted past

There’s an angel on Jim Kuchta’s right shoulder for a reason.

An overdose at the age of 19 from a multiple drug addiction gave him reason to get “inked.”

The angel, accompanied by the scripture “Job 9:4,” is one of seven tattoos Kuchta has on his body.

“(The tattoos are) like a roadmap on life’s journey, I guess,” said Kuchta, now a 23-year-old secondary education major at Kent State. “Some spots are darker than others, but it reminds me of where I’ve been and where I wanna go.”

One particularly “dark spot” for Kuchta was the time he overdosed.

He started the night drinking and smoking marijuana. He took two big rails of crystal methamphetamine and swallowed an Ecstasy pill.

Then, he crushed two more Ecstasy pills. One, he snorted; the other, he smoked. Two rails of cocaine after that, and his body didn’t know what to do.

“I was at the party; it was near midnight and I walked in the house. I had no shirt on. I was sweating bullets and you could see the vein in my neck pulsing because I was so thin (from not eating),” Kuchta recalled from the night he overdosed. “You could see my heart beating in my chest.

“From about 12:30 to 6 a.m., I really just prayed. The only thing I could mutter was I was asking God to not let me die. For a long while that’s what I thought I wanted.”

But Kuchta, who goes by “Cookie,” didn’t go to the hospital. The next morning at about 7:30, one of his friends took him home.

His dad came into his room and tried talking to him, but with the absence of a response, he thought his son was sleeping.

Kuchta felt like he was tossing and turning for four hours and got no rest. When he woke up and went to talk to his dad, he discovered even though he remembered the conversation with his dad, his body wasn’t responding with what his mind was telling it to do.

He said there were a lot of times he didn’t eat or sleep because of the effects of the drugs. He got to the point where he would smoke marijuana about seven times a day. When that wasn’t enough, he became involved with other drugs.

A history of drug use

Kuchta was 17 when he started being more serious about the drugs, but he first experimented with marijuana when he was about 10 years old.

Crystal Meth was his preferred drug for a while, then moved to Ecstasy and cocaine. He was also addicted to synthetic heroin, prescription drugs, pain killers, muscle relaxants, anti-depressants, anxiety pills and nerve pills.

Kuchta started using drugs during his freshman year of college to “cut loose,” but his continued usage turned into depression. Then he took more drugs to treat the depression. He acquired the various drugs from friends he met at work and other people he met at parties.

“(I would take) whatever was floating around the party; (it was) whatever I could get or steal,” he said.

Guilty obsession

His friends would no longer take him downtown because he kept picking fights in bars.

“That didn’t work out too well,” he said.

Then, he overdosed and began to pray.

“I had a nice realization the night that I OD’d,” he said. After that night, he began to wean himself off drugs.

But that did not last long. He started back on the drugs and would go to a family friend’s house to snort cocaine.

They would go into the bathroom and his friend would snort half while he would snort the other. Kuchta felt guilty when he did this.

“I thought that was pretty disrespectful and wrong,” he said.

One of his friends, 24-year-old Streetsboro resident Matt Miller, has known Kuchta since they were about 12 years old.

“He struggled for a long time to deal with his addiction,” he said. “When he first started doing drugs, it wasn’t that big of a deal to a lot of people.”

A lot of their friends at the time grew up doing drugs and experimenting with them, Miller added.

Divine intervention

On Sunday, Oct. 14, 2001, Kuchta went to church. He knew things needed to change and thought that might be a good place to start.

The day’s sermon really spoke to Kuchta.

“This guy just started spitting out right in front of the church, looking right at me, (saying things) that started hitting pretty close to home,” he said. “I went in there with a big chip on my shoulder and then I cried like a 5-year-old girl with a skinned knee.”

On that day he quit: No rehabilitation. Cold turkey.

Quitting cold turkey was difficult for Kuchta. He said he couldn’t go to a lot of places he had before because it was too hard to be around certain things. Miller also helped him with this process by letting Kuchta call him at 3 a.m. if he needed to just hang out and get a coffee or watch a movie instead of getting wasted and high.

Now, he goes to Aurora Mennonite Church every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning. If there is any volunteer work that needs to be done for his church, he tries to help out.

“I like to consider myself a Christian,” he said. “From what I understand of the Bible, I try to live by biblical principles to the best of my ability.”

Meaningful reminders

Kuchta has tattoos as reminders of the hard times he went through.

He got his first tattoo when he was 18 years old and hid it from his parents. Some were done post-drug addiction. When his parents found out, Kuchta said they weren’t thrilled.

Now, Kuchta has seven tattoos to mark his life’s journey.

He designed all of his tattoos except for the angel on his right shoulder. One tattoo features a tribal piece with Hebrew lettering that means “Child of God.”

The angel on his right shoulder reminds Kuchta that if he tries to fight God, it’s not going to work out. If he goes his way without him, it’s not going to be as beneficial as life would be if he went with Him.

He also has three nails wrapped inside a crown of thorns with the Bible verse Matthew 27:46.

“(It’s a) reminder to me to make Jesus a real person and not just a one-dimensional deity. He felt real feelings too. He felt scared, and it’s OK to feel like that sometimes,” he said.

His final tattoo, which reads “Corinthians 10:13,” reminds Kuchta to have faith in the most dire situations.

“When I get down and I feel like things are coming crashing around me, or I can’t handle something, (it helps) to know that God won’t give me more than I can handle,” he said.

Although his dad didn’t like the idea of tattoos at first, he now has two tattoos himself and shares one with his son. One is a design Jim drew, and the other matches the one on his son’s right shoulder, which is placed on his left shoulder.

The matching tattoos help maintain their father-son bond.

“My dad was an addict just like I was,” he said. “There were a lot of rough times at home.”

Kuchta said this time of his life was really hard for his dad and did not want him reached for comment.

“It goes beyond body ink for us. It’s kind of like a pact between us or something.”

Contact features correspondent Theresa Edwards at [email protected].