Rising from rock bottom
“People need to know there’s hope,” James Kasper ’91
By Corey Dobbs ’16
James Kasper ’91 knows how fast life can change. He also knows firsthand the hard work that goes into rebuilding a life once it falls apart. Kasper, now 53, learned this lesson when he was sentenced to jail and subsequently spent years living at Oxford House, a sober living community. Kasper credits those who put him in jail for changing his life for the better—and counts them among his friends.
Kasper had been racking up DUIs when Clark County District Court Judge and fellow Clark alumnus Kenneth Eiesland ’56 realized he was out of options as to how he could help Kasper. Kasper had been in and out of drug court, posting bail each time—only to end up back in front of Judge Eiesland.
That all changed in January 2003 when Kasper plead guilty to his seventh, eighth and ninth DUI charges. Eiesland decided he had no choice but to sentence Kasper to 4 years and 45 days in Clark County Jail.
Kasper’s sentence seemed to be the key to finally help him break his habit. On the recommendation of a probation officer, Judge Eiesland let Kasper out of jail early. He was closely supervised through an ankle monitor, sobriety tests, weekly court meetings and as a resident of Oxford House. Kasper was on his way to a sober life; all he had to do was follow through.
Eighteen years later, not only has Kasper maintained his sobriety, but he has also made it his mission to help others on their recovery journey. It is Kasper’s vision to turn places he used to haunt into areas of hope and recovery. Kasper has already turned the former Value Motel off Highway 99 in Hazel Dell, Wash., into recovery housing.
In a series of interviews published in The Columbian, Kasper explained that he was “…able to give back and has invested a lot into the motel, striving to make it safe and functional for those who are in a similar position to the one he was in two decades ago. People need to know there’s hope.”
His plan for the 60-room recovery house is to shelter women and children on one side and men on the other. In Orchards, Wash., a former Mexican restaurant is now home to the Iron Horse Recovery Hall and his business, Kasper Sandblasting. Iron Horse hosts 29 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings each week. It is Kasper’s wish to go from leasing both locations to owning them.