As the fair-skinned son of a single African-American mother, I struggled to feel accepted throughout my childhood. Eventually we moved from our tight-knit, inner-city neighborhood to the affluent white suburbs. The kids in my new school were cruel, and the few black students rejected me because of my light skin and middle-class upbringing. I was caught in between two worlds and didn’t belong with anyone.
I emerged as an outstanding athlete in high school. With my athletic success, I suddenly acquired new friends. It was at their parties that I first encountered drugs and alcohol. In spite of my drug use during high school, I made decent grades and scored well on college entrance exams. I accepted a scholarship from ROTC and went on to play college football, but continued to get into trouble off the field. I transferred to the University of Memphis during my junior year.
The entertainment industry calls Memphis “Hollywood on the Mississippi River.” It was here that I fell in love with writing, producing and directing film and television. I worked on films like “The Firm,” “The Client” and “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” but the excitement of working in entertainment was nothing compared to the sense of power I got from drugs.
After college I worked on films like “The Green Mile” and “Shawshank Redemption,” but by that time I was using crack almost every day. My addiction had grown out of control and I lost everything. My wife was threatening to leave me and I spent time living on the streets, in and out of rehab programs, only to discharge and immediately start using again.
I finally ended up living in a tent on skid row in Los Angeles. I had been smoking crack cocaine for seven years when my wife and parents did an intervention and sent me to long-term care at La Paloma.
The first month I was at La Paloma I just wanted to go home, but I didn’t have a home to return to. After sixty days I chose to surrender and focus on my recovery. I started wanting it for me, not for my parents, wife, or career. I found I wasn’t alone, and I met other people struggling with many of the same problems I had. I remained in treatment for six months.
My therapist suggested there must be something deeper leading me to use drugs, and once I started writing in my journal, I realized that she was on to something. It was definitely a different kind of treatment, and by dealing with my core issues I was able to address my addiction more successfully.
Recovery wasn’t an easy road. After I left treatment, I ran into an old using buddy and relapsed. While going to buy some crack that same day, three men forced me into a car at gunpoint. I prayed to Jesus to spare my life. I began to fight over the gun, and the weapon fired several times—hitting one man in the arm and another in the leg. As I fell out of the moving vehicle, the police caught up with the robbers and rescued me.
That was almost two years ago, and I am still sober today. I wouldn’t exchange my worst day of sobriety for the best day of getting high. My life has changed in so many positive ways: I’m teaching a Sunday school class and I sing in the choir at Salem-Gilfield Missionary Baptist Church. My wife and I have been married for twelve years and are planning to start a family. I used to think that being sober was boring, but I’ve discovered that being clean is actually a lot of fun. There are so many exciting activities to enjoy now that I’m sober.