I have so many memories of D.C. as a kid. I’m really grateful for my family. They hung in there during my addiction. I went kind of crazy. During my addiction they said, “It’s the drugs; it’s not you as a person.” For that I’m real grateful and real sentimental too.
I graduated from Bell Vocational High School in 1969. After graduation, I went into the Marine Corps, and then I went to Vietnam. Then I came home and drove for Metro for two and a half years. I found it to be the most boring job in the whole world. At that time I read a lot and did a book club to keep from the boredom. Then I decided to go to school. I was smart enough to do some things and do them right. I had been thinking I’d go into electrical work but ended up learning mechanical drawing. I got a two-year degree in architecture. I used the GI Bill.
One of my teachers had bought a bunch of houses in Mt. Pleasant. He sent me to go up there and check on the guys who were working there. Well they were up there doing the stuff I liked to do. They had on shorts and tool belts; they were smoking Weed. And they used to tell me I would never make as much money as they were making being carpenters. So once I graduated I decided I was not going to sit in the office and that I’d rather be a carpenter, so that’s what I did for a little over 20 years.
It was around 1988 or 1989, during the Miami Vice time, when my addictions went crazy. I’ve always used. I’m a Vietnam veteran. I used Heroin in ‘Nam, smoked Weed, did it all. But it didn’t go crazy until I got introduced to Crack, and that’s when my life spiraled out of control. From 1988 until my I got clean in 1993, it wasn’t pretty.
Around 1989 I sold my mother’s house while she was in it. My father had died in 1983. He died a month before my son was born, and they put the house in my name cause I was always business-oriented. I learned how to make money at a young age. So they put the house in my name, and around 1989 or 1990 when my addictions spiraled out of control, I thought, “Are you going to pay the rent or are you going to do what you do?” So doing what I did naturally won out. And we had to sell the house. And Momma had to go find someplace to live. And I had nowhere to live.
So what I did was I worked for rent. I’d come in and remodel a kitchen to stay in the house two or three weeks for a little money. There were lots of jobs I’ve done like that.
So since I was basically homeless, when Hurricane Andrew hit, I decided to run to Florida with a tent and a footlocker full of tools. Since everybody else was homeless I figured I’d fit right in. What was down there were a bunch of Vietnam veterans. I did fit right in. I stayed down there a year and a half just working. The first night I was there I found my old life. Three weeks after I got a check, I was right back doing the same thing I was doing in D.C. I found that geographical cures don’t help. I came back here after a year and a half and began doing the very same things I had been doing before.
During that time I used the VA Hospitals a lot for treatment. I would never stay. I just stayed long enough to figure out how I’m going to make my next move or where I would live or work.
1993 was the year I got clean. My mother was living with a girlfriend of hers. While in the hospital I called and apologized and asked her if I could move in with her. Oh my God… Momma said “No.” Momma said “No.” Momma hadn’t ever told me “No!” I’m her baby boy. She never told me “No.” That was it. That was it. Yep; that made me take a good look at myself. I had nowhere else to go, nowhere to go. So I stayed in the hospital from October 15, 1993 to January or February of 1994 at the VA on Irving Street in D.C. I didn’t want to go… but if you have nowhere to go, you’re forced to be clean, and you’re forced to go to meetings.
But you get a moment of clarity there. That’s what happens. There was a guy who was instrumental, and he didn’t even know it. He’s actually dead now. His name was Sam. He was a singer for a group called “The Chosen Few.” Sam used to come in there and tell me about myself like nobody would. I thought I was a brute and a bully because of the things that I used to do. I thought I was an intimidating factor and nobody would dare to talk to me, and Sam didn’t care. Sam told me about my shit, and said, “You need to stop this shit and get your ass together.” I appreciated it; I really did. And with that and with people coming to meetings, I could just listen and take a good look, and there was no place else to go. I thought, “Oh shit; what am I going to do?”
And the first place they came up with was Samaritan Inns. I had an interview with Brother Francis; that was a turning point. I basically kind of went back to two things I did: I was a football player and in the Marine Corps. And I learned this in those two places, “Don’t think on your own. Do what we tell you to do. If you do what we tell you to do, everything will be okay.” That’s what I did. I stayed there and whatever they asked me to do, I did it. I did it well.
Doing the right thing really is not that hard. You know it really isn’t. I found it to be refreshing in a way. I had a really good sponsor, a guy by the name of Larry. He kept saying, “Give yourself a chance, man. Stay around these people for a while.”
I stayed at Lazarus House almost two years. Then I moved to Takoma Park to a little apartment over there. I fixed up a house for my best friend’s grandmother on Monroe Street. I wound up buying that house for $85,000, and I think I was just three years clean then. I bought it in 1996. I’m three years clean and now a homeowner in a prime neighborhood! I totally renovated that house and made it a jewel, and my problem was I let stuff spiral out of control, like refinancing, and with all of that I had to sell the house. I’m happy now though; I didn’t use during that. I didn’t let that mess me up.
Did you see the movie “Seven Pounds?” At the end the brother says, “Somebody planted the seed.” Samaritan Inns planted the seed for me. They invested time and love in me. There were a couple of things that keep me clean and have kept me here. One thing, when they put you on the spot, you gotta live up to it. They did a little movie with me in it. They took five people and showed basically how Samaritan Inns helped them. It’s sort of an inspirational thing for new people. I’d say it was done in 1995. I still have people come up to me and say they saw me in the movie. When they meet me, then they know I’m still working it. You hear people who stop going to meetings. Those are the people not listening. I am still working. There is always work to do. If I get to the point where I can say, “I’ve graduated and I’ve got this thing,” I’m in serious trouble.
I kind of stay grounded, and I’m around a bunch of people that are. That helps too. If you go to the good meetings where people practice “principles over personality,” then you got a better shot, you know, cause if everybody’s looking at what you’re wearing or what sort of car you got, and all that… it doesn’t matter cause I’ve had all that and that’s gone, you know, but I’m not mad. That’s just another part of my story. I’m not mad at all.
Life has been good to me. Life has been real good to me. You know, my son is the joy of my life. When he was young, my addictions fazed him because he used to sit in the window and wait on me to come, and I wouldn’t come because I was too busy. Now he amazes me daily; we have a good relationship.
Since one of the last things my father said to me was to take care of my mother, I felt like I let her down when I did what I did. But she got to come to my first two years’ anniversary celebration… so she saw me clean.
I do a lot of things for people. I’m a Secret Santa of sorts. I think you should do things with no strings attached. It meant a lot to me. That’s what I do. Little things. A lot of little things. It’s great to do the right thing with my money vs. the wrong thing. Things really have turned around.