James Fye took his first drink of alcohol around age 13.
He took his last drink on December 24, 2010, at age 38.
Fye, the director of nursing for CommQuest Services, now uses his experience during all those hazy years of alcoholism to help others with their recovery and to change misconceptions of what it means to be an alcoholic.
“I’m not a bum with a trench coat drinking from a bottle in a brown bag,” Fye said. “I’m the guy you would see sitting at a kid’s football game.”
Fye found his roots in Canton after graduating from Carrollton High School in 1991. He worked as a disc jockey for more than 20 years, while also holding a variety of other jobs.
He became a volunteer for the Perry Township Fire Department around 1996 and then went to work as a fireman and EMT for the Timken Co.’s fire department in 2001, a job he kept for 13 years.
“Over that time, I learned the firefighting business was a young man’s game,” Fye said.
He decided to pursue a job in the medical field and enrolled at Aultman College in January 2015.
“For years, I picked them up on the street and took them to the ER; why couldn’t I just finish the job with this next part of my career?” Fye said.
He began working as a registered nurse in Mercy Medical Center’s emergency room a year later but quickly knew it wasn’t the type of nursing he wanted to do.
He realized that his addiction recovery had to be a part of his work. In 2017, he became a nurse for
CommQuest’s ReCOR, which provides medication-assisted recovery, addiction and mental health counseling, driver intervention services and drug screenings. He soon was promoted to nursing supervisor of the agency’s detox unit and became the agency’s director of nursing services on September 1.
“I get to come to work every day and talk to people and share in their struggles and their life journeys and even share with them mine,” he said.
Fye said he openly talks about his recovery because he hopes he can be the person someone contacts when they are ready to seek help.
“When I went to AA, I didn’t know anybody in my life who had been through it,” Fye recalled. “I had nobody to talk to, to find out what it was like to go to that first meeting.”
He said talking to others also keeps himself in check.
“By talking to somebody whose life is in shambles and is falling apart, that helps me remember where I was,” Fye said.
Even as he nears his 10th sobriety anniversary, Fye still attends at least one Alcoholics Anonymous meeting a week. One of his regular stops is at OSI Tobacco where a group talks weekly over cigars.
“I realized very early on that drinking for me was always a sign of fun,” Fye said. “… If life sucked sober, I’m going to be a lot more tempted to go back to drinking. My sobriety doesn’t hinder me. I’ve gone on brewery tours and to distilleries. It doesn’t hinder me. I just don’t drink.”
Besides helping those seeking recovery, Fye also helps to empower and encourage youth as vice president of the Be A Better Me Foundation. Fye met the foundation’s co-founders, Canton City Police Officer LaMar Sharpe and wife Deidra Sharpe, through his wife, Jeannie, who worked with them at CSE Federal Credit Union.
“When you have that opportunity and you see it, it makes you realize how lucky we are with the life we have and how much of a difference you can make with a little bit of time,” Fye said.
James Fye’s local favorites:
Most unique or unusual product you’ve found made in Stark County:
Mid’s True Sicilian Pasta Sauce. Fye’s favorite is mushroom and meat.
“It’s just the best flavor, best consistency and it’s just the best. No comparison.”
Favorite local restaurant:
Sparta Steak House & Lounge. “It’s just classic Canton. When you walk in there, they know your name. It’s old-school nostalgia, family-owned and the food is amazing. I’ve never had a bad meal there.”
Fye’s favorite is the pork chops.
Most admired local CEO or business owner:
Keith Hochadel, chief executive officer of CommQuest, and business owner Patrick Wyatt.
“Both of these men spend their time trying to find ways to make Stark County better.”
Favorite lunch spot:
“Woody’s, because when they open, that means summer is coming! Napoli’s for a slice is never a bad decision, though.”
Most memorable spot:
A house near the corner of Faircrest Street and Shepler Church Avenue SW in Perry Township.
“That was the first fire I responded to and fought as a Perry Township fireman. … It was the first time as a new fireman that I put the gear on, got off the truck, grabbed the hose and went running in. There’s not a time that I drive by that house that I don’t think of that moment.”
Favorite place to shop locally:
OSI Tobacco for cigars.
“It has the best selection in Northeast Ohio, and if you find a day where Isam is making coffee, it’s even better.”
Favorite local event:
Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival.
“I have volunteered for the HOF Enshrinement for six years, and the people I meet, the happiness that I see when people come to Canton—I love it.”
Favorite place to shop local for gifts:
“If I am looking for that perfect-no-where-but-here kind of gift, my go-to is Cantonology.”
Favorite local coffee shop:
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop where he meets friends involved with area nonprofit groups at 8 a.m. every Friday. “Come and join one of the best groups around.”
Favorite local theater:
Canton Palace Theatre.
“The building is beautiful, and the ghosts are friendly. For real, Alex (Fye’s youngest son) and I did a ghost hunt there!”
Favorite local volunteer opportunity:
“There are so many amazing nonprofits in this area, and I have worked with many of them, but my favorite is the one I get to do every day, the Be A Better Me Foundation.”
Favorite local spot to grab a drink:
“I don’t drink, but if you’re going to Royal Docks, I’ll come for the deep-fried deviled eggs.”