“If I had to pinpoint when my life changed, I’d say it was when I was 13 and picked up my first drink. Richards Wild Irish Rose. I drank it up until about eight years go. I tried vodka.
“When I was living on Belmont Avenue, this girl just asked me: did I want to get high? ‘Okay, yeah, sure.’ And I did. We started smoking crack cocaine. The drug does people differently. It’s like alcohol. When they say a person drinks and turns violent, that’s something that’s already in that
person. I was never a thief and never tried to hurt people, but the thing was: I didn’t care about nothing. I didn’t care about your mother dying today. ‘I’m sorry your mother died, but did she give you any money? Can we get high?’ That was my attitude for about a good year and a half, two years. I lived like that, and I didn’t like myself. I’d smoked. I’d drank. I did all that stuff, but crack seemed to be the only drug that took my entire spirit away from me.
“One day, I tore up my apartment looking for a rock of crack that I knew did not exist. I knew it didn’t exist, but I thought: ‘I could be wrong.’ It could be in the closet. I could have stuffed it in a book. I tore up the apartment and everything was everywhere, and that’s when I heard the devil say, ‘I got you now.’ I got a duffle bag, put some clothes in and wound up in a recovery home. I stayed there a month. I woke up one day and they had to rush me to the hospital. I’d gone unconscious and I came to when the ambulance arrived at the hospital. The doctor told me it was due to the drugs – I’d been clean for 30 days. I wasn’t getting enough oxygen to my brain. If I’d waited around another hour or two, I’d have been dead.
“After that, the only place that was free that I could get into was this religious place, House of Daniels, where they teach you about God. I’m like, ‘Okay, this is what I’ve got to go through. I’ll deal with it.’ I ended up forming their first choir. My best friend there – I was leery of him at first because he was always nice. I wasn’t used to that. I asked him one day, ‘Why are you so nice to me all the time?’ He said, ‘I don’t know nothing about this recovery thing and I’m a little scared. I saw how people treat you and how you treat them. You’re always giving cigarettes and stuff. I felt bad and didn’t want to do this by myself, so I asked God to send me somebody,
and it was you.’ So, he wound up being one of my best friends in recovery. Come to find out, he was an actual ‘stick up’ man – he was a man for hire to kill people. He don’t do it no more, but he wound up being one of my best friends.
“After that, for 19 years I stayed in a studio apartment half the size of my home. I filled out an application for housing for Cook County and they told me I was approved. I put everything in boxes, signed my lease and moved in.”