My childhood was as normal as it could be for a bi-racial child growing up in the inner city during the early 80s crack epidemic. My father was a college educated black man who worked in social work with troubled youth boys. My mother a white Irish-Catholic woman who worked for the public–school system and never smoked a cigarette or probably even jay-walked in her life.
I played sports, was boy scout, liked fishing and camping; very much a “normal kid”, or so I thought. I was an only child and had identity crises in early childhood. Things really started to get crazy when my father was placed on disability and started smoking crack cocaine in 1986 (when I was 7 years old). I saw a lot of chaos in my household and verbal abuse to my mom. In 1988 she finally left him. We moved in with my aunt and cousins in the suburbs. Between ages 10 and 13, while I still played sports and got decent grades, the rapid spiral of drinking, drugs and a life of crime began.
By age 14, I was drinking, smoking marijuana, and hanging out with gang members. I was kicked out of catholic school and got my first criminal charge for carrying a loaded firearm and possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell (crack cocaine the same substance that was destroying my father, my hero). By the time I entered high school, I was using drugs daily, as well as selling them.
I graduated; despite being expelled that year after I was caught with a large amount of weed in my locker. My mother still wanted to believe the best and attempted to send me to college but by this time I was addicted to prescription pills and hanging out with convicted felons and drug dealers. I had no interest in a career or school or anything else “normal.” My highest aspirations were to be a major level drug dealer who could stay high and obtain street credibility.
My Metamorphosis Began
Fast forward to age 33. My aspirations and street dreams were over. I was a three-time convicted felon addicted to crack and heroin. I still lived with my mother (in between jail stints) and was useless, hopeless and the definition of insane. I overdosed many times, lived in abandoned houses and never held a job. I couldn’t stay out of institutions for more than four or five months.
I had a son who was born addicted to heroin and cocaine. His mother and I had signed over custody so we could continue using. My last day of using any drug or mood-altering substance was January 16, 2014. I was arrested for a string of thefts across Ohio and was charged with multiple felonies, one of which was being the leader of an organized theft ring. I faced a total of 13 years in prison if I was convicted of all my charges.
As I sat in a jail cell again, going through withdrawal again, hopeless and confused again, I dropped to my knees and said the most desperate and honest prayer of my life.
“Please, God, help me!”
From that day forward my metamorphosis began. Instead of playing cards, working out, and telling “street stories” with street guys I started reading spiritual and 12 step literature. I started going to church and any group involving self-improvement. I was introduced to 12 step meetings at age 16, when I went through treatment for the first time, but never fully “bought into it” or even attempted to apply it to my life.
I ended up serving only 8 months. At sentencing the judge said he saw something different in my eyes than before. That I was genuine. He gave me a break. Upon release I re-connected with my sponsor, attended meetings (sometimes 3 a day), built many new relationships and most importantly, I didn’t get high.
I ended up with a low paying factory job, then a car, then better job, then a place of my own, then my son came back in my life, then a marriage. Blessings kept occurring in my life, but I kept the basics first: meetings, support, reaching out, the steps, and being of service to others.
My Life Today
A glimpse of my life today. I have been clean for more than 5 years. I have shared custody of my son, a beautiful wife and 3 stepdaughters, a home, and I am out of the criminal justice system. I have a host of sponsees who look to me for guidance, I have an amazing job as a CDCA behavioral health technician at Midwest Recovery Center, and I know and love myself today, which is something that eluded me for my entire life.
A man who once lived like an animal and would rob his own mother, who dragged an overdosing addict in an alley and emptied his pockets, who ran out of stores with TVs, is now sitting in on roundtable discussions with the D.E.A, Ohio Senator Rob Portman and treatment professionals talking about the addiction epidemic and the solution. I have been across the country to share a message of hope and change. In active addiction, I could barely leave a six-block radius. My family and others can depend on me today. I am productive and responsible today. I am one of the “good guys” today, and each day I am excited to wake up and continue another small part of this amazing journey.