DOB: 3/1/49; Bronx, New York City.
My whole life, once I found cocaine, was about sex and drugs and rushing and taking care of just me and isolating myself.
It was an addiction that started off to be fun. I went from being altruistic to being the isolated cocaine dealer in the Hollywood Hills and hanging out at concerts with Rock Stars or up and coming Rock Stars and I was just your basic tooter.
And women were with me basically because I had cocaine and who I knew.
My name is Stephen and I am a recovering addict. I was born in New York City, in the Bronx, and it’s been a long thirty-nine years ago.
Today I am alive through a miracle of recovery from drug addiction and I am very grateful to be here.
I was first brought to recovery a little over six years ago and until that time I had no conception that I would ever get off of drugs.
If I had a desire to stop, it was a suppressed desire, because I didn’t know of any other way to go on living but the way I had been living all my life.
I was thirty-three years old and recovery from drug addiction was not a known fact. At least I had never heard of it.
And I was not interested in getting a crewcut and a bow tie and joining some cult or born-again group or whatever. And so I was just prepared to go on living my life uncomfortably, miserably, living one day at a time in a negative state until I was no longer alive. It wasn’t always that way. I have to admit that I used to love drugs.
My childhood. I was born in the Bronx. When I was about a year old my father took off to the Korean War and I didn’t meet him until I was four-and-a-half years old. And he was a prisoner of war. So we didn’t know if he was dead or alive or why he was a P.O.W.
When he came back he came straight into civilian life, or not civilian life, he came straight to me and my mother. So instead of going into a re-entry program — and he and I just never got along, there was never any communication. And one of the miracles of my recovery is that today my father is my best friend. But that disharmony in our house . . . he used to say “Jump” and expect me to be going in the air saying, “How high, sir?” And he would say, “Jump” and I would look at him and say, “Why?” This would continue to occur while I was in the house.
So when I was seventeen, in 1966, I was reading this article in Life magazine on Timothy Leary, and up until that time I was your typical juvenile delinquent, I drank on Friday nights,
I sniffed glue when I was thirteen, my drug addiction including alcohol was pretty much under control because I had been involved in sports and various other enterprises.
I just slipped from home and ended up on the streets of the West Village, Greenwich Village, in December of `66, and life was one big fantasy. I enjoyed my life. I was running from who I had been, where I had come from, and I was off on an adventure that hopefully ended me up here in Los Angeles California, December 1968, I mean 1967. I was on mescaline ¬I had been living up in Millbrook, New York, for half the summer, for about four months, in a tepee with Leary and them. And I was in a commune. I had long hair and that was December.
We were back in the East Village. I was cold. All I had was these moccasins, jeans, and a tee-shirt, and a little Army jacket, and a thin scarf. And I said, “Fuck this. I want to go where it’s warmer.” I had mentioned that to my family, and I was living in a little one-room apartment with about fifteen other psychedelic teenagers. We had lived in tepees up at Millbrook. We were called “the Tepee Town Tribe.” And on mescaline.
Somebody said, “Well, if you feel that way, maybe you ought to just go to California.” And I said, “You’re right.” And I took a walk, and I walked into this restaurant and talked somebody, some straight guy with a crewcut and bow tie, into driving to California. And a week later I am sitting in Los Angeles, and more or less have been here ever since. I have never lived in New York City since that day.
I got together in Los Angeles with a couple of other hippies. My family in New York got it together to meet me in Arizona and we lived in Arizona. We had this red school bus and drove around the Southwest of Arizona, December of ’68. And in September of `68 the bus was going to New Mexico. I said, “Let me off the bus.” And I hitchhiked back to Tucson, where I continued to live for three years.
At this point my drug addiction just consisted of psychedelics, marijuana, you know, the daily acid trip, the weekly acid trip, peyote mescaline. I didn’t drink, I didn’t do hard drugs. I believed in love and peace and happiness and the whole hippie movement.
And that accelerated to a point where I got involved with opening up a vegetarian health food store and restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, where I stayed until 1971. I was also involved in illicit activities involving marijuana to support that place, to expand that place at a ranch in the desert.
And, well, to make a long story short, I usually don’t talk about all of this, but I ended up giving the restaurant away one day to somebody who I was into this harmony with, who was my partner. I just said, “Look, you can have it all.”
And I moved to Tangier, where I stayed for a year. When I left Tangier I moved to Los Angeles, California. Because in Tangier I started drinking, I started smoking cigarettes, because I had friends that mixed tobacco with their kief. I would choke on it, so I started smoking cigarettes so I could be a part of my friends. And along with smoking cigarettes to mix up the kief I caught a cigarette habit.
And through the Sixties and the early Seventies I believed in what I was doing. I was involved in smuggling marijuana. I was in North Africa because we were smuggling hashish. I was under the illusion that we were doing good. And a lot of the money went to supporting enterprises like the restaurant and communes and a Jaguar and a pick-up truck and a ranch in the desert.
But I was stuck in North Africa for a year because of a bust that happened in Mexico. From my hippie brotherhood friends I got a letter saying, “You’re wanted in Mexico. Interpol is probably looking for you. You ought to hang out where you are. Good luck.” And it was a hundred dollars.
I had run out of money. It was time for me to come back to the States. So I started going to work and what I found, it was like I felt abandoned, I had that feeling of abandonment, and that feeling of abandonment never left me until I got off drugs. Basically my feeling of trust in my fellow brother was weakened.
When I finally did come back to the States after a year of living in North Africa and Tangier and in the mountains, straightening out my legal problems, but I survived. I am a survivor. I survived North Africa without any money. I no longer had . . . the dream was over. I no longer had that hippie dream of brotherhood and my — I was drinking heavily.
And upon arriving back to the States I was introduced to something that really helped me with the way that I was feeling. And that was cocaine. Because I had this imprint about heroin. I’ve never sold heroin. And I just didn’t feel comfortable with it. But with cocaine I could totally get into being self sustained into the way I liked to live.
My whole life, once I found cocaine, was about sex and drugs and rushing and taking care of just me and isolating myself. It was an addiction that started off to be fun. I went from being altruistic to being the isolated cocaine dealer in the Hollywood Hills and hanging out at concerts with rock stars or up and coming rock stars and I was just your basic tooter. And women were with me basically because I had cocaine and who I knew.
And after a few years of that, paranoia started striking, and I was no longer on the scene. I didn’t like being around musicians or actors. I had been burnt out with it again one more time or withdrawn from people because I just sold to other dealers and I only went out if I had to go out. And I dis¬covered a new way of using and that was shooting cocaine. It kept me more isolated, gave me a greater rush than I had ever imagined possible and I couldn’t get enough of it.
And my life became a roller coaster, where one year I would be broke, walking the streets, and then that would bother me because I always remembered when I first got to L.A. in December ’68 and that guy who drove me over in December ’67 drove me here from New York and let me out of the car, I only had ‘a dime left in my pockets. So every time I hit bottom in L.A. it was no fucking deal, no big deal, because I got here with a dime.
And I stopped shooting up and would go off to the desert somewhere and clean up. Getting clean to me meant I just tooted and I just drank and that was being clean to me. I no longer took psychedelics because I didn’t like looking at the insides and they were uncomfortable. I no longer smoked marijuana and hashish because it didn’t mix with alcohol and made me sick. It didn’t make me do — it wasn’t part of my daily routine of cocaine and cognac, coke and cognac.
So, one year I would be up, I’d get it together, because I never burnt out on my business connections. And then I would start feeling that loneliness I always felt, started eating at me. Since now that I had money to spend, I would end up spending it on cocaine, and I would end up spending it on the way that I liked to do it. I’d be shooting up again, and then I’d be down again. And then another abscess would be on my arm and you know, it was like a roller coaster, a trap.
And in the meantime people died, people went to prison, and in 1977 a girlfriend who turned me on to shooting up cocaine O.D.‘d, and the way I reacted to it was getting fucked up. I didn’t go to the funeral, called her mother and asked if she needed a limousine there to take her to the funeral, and she said “no, no, thank you.”
And six months later a girlfriend of mine for several years was a victim of the “Hillside Strangler,” and I used to always carry that guilt because she was waiting at a bus stop because I was too fucked up to come pick her up from wherever she was. I dealt with that the same way, drank a bottle of cognac, and went off on a week run. It was how to deal with anything that got to me. I didn’t go to that funeral either.
About a few months later the police finally figured out who I was, because her mother had always known me from some alias — I had all these aliases — and called me in for questioning, and wanted to know about our relationship, and I told them, and that was the end of that story, at least physically.
1980 I hit one of my rock bottoms. I went to Florida, where my parents had lived, and I met a woman who was not an addict, and she told me she was pregnant after going out with her a month. So I eloped with her. We went to a courthouse and I eloped. Basically, I thought being with her would keep me from ever shooting up cocaine or free-basing.
I started free-basing in `77. I had a South American partner and we had a bunch of pasta from South America and we made it into free-base — before we had made it into cocaine crystals, so, you know, you could toot it. And that started another habit. It was like I would free-base so I wouldn’t shoot up, and I would get tired of free-basing, and I would shoot up. It was like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. It was like I was lucky to survive that scene.
And so I got married, thinking that it would remove me from abusing myself. And that lasted for about three months. All I did was toot and drink. I went to South America — Peru — on our honeymoon. Came back to L.A. I felt good about myself for a short while. So I went from having no money to . . . we had a couple of cars, a stereo, a video, closets full of clothes.
And as soon as she stopped doing things my way I started arguing and fighting, and I found myself free-basing, which found me quickly shooting up, which ultimately ended up nine months later, I left her and I left her because she found me shooting’ up and tried to stop me and I started hating’ her because she tried to tell me I couldn’t — to stop using drugs, and that I was nothing but a God damn drug dealer.
And I didn’t like hearing the truth, so I left her, and two years later I am jumping around but that was nineteen — well, we were married in 1980. I left her in ’81, January of ’81, and March 1st of ’81 it was my birthday. And I was sitting over at somebody’s house getting drunk. I was afraid to be around any cocaine because I had gotten to a point that every time I had, I put a needle in my arm, I would O.D.
I’d just survived an experience where I was in Tucson, looking and walking around places, over where I had my restaurant, and the street where my restaurant used to he was now a bar. I didn’t know anybody in town. And I was in Tucson selling a kilo of cocaine, and this dyke was dealing it for me, and was hooked up in this hotel, and I put enough cocaine in a needle to kill a horse, and I couldn’t get the needle out of the arm when I went into convulsions. And I remember asking God to ask some other God to save me. For the first time in my life for a long time I did not want to die.
To make a long story short I ended up somehow miraculously out of the bathroom and came to. I was like in convulsions on a bed. And I wish I could tell you I got clean after that incident, but three hours later when I felt okay again, I could walk and everything, I saw some cocaine was still left, so there were still some works that weren’t fucked up. I ended up shooting up until it was time to catch the plane back to L.A.
I am an addict and the obsession and that compulsion is maddening. But between that and March I didn’t have any cocaine. I didn’t have any business either. One connection of mine got busted, and this other South American connection of mine was in South America.
I was over at somebody’s house getting drunk — this lady’s friend. It was my birthday and I was alone. She was a fifty ¬five year old woman with no sexual trip between us. We were just sitting there getting drunk. And I was feeling sorry for myself and I saw on the TV — flashed — my girlfriend who died in 1977 as a victim of the “Hillside Strangler.”
And they were just bringing that murder trial to an end. Finally, in 1981, four years later, they were starting the trial in L.A. and they were talking about Candy on the news and it flipped me out, because I was just thinking about her, like if she was alive I wouldn’t be alone, and fuck my wife who was now bartending in Dome Rock and Roll Club.
And I ended up jumping in the car and going to see my wife and we got into this argument. And I totally decked her. I am not usually that violent with women, but something happened and I got in my car and totalled it, had a hit and run accident on Sunset Boulevard, and drove into a wall, called somebody up who owed me two thousand dollars and said, “Look, would you come and get my car. It’s on this side street.” The car was not in my name anyway, and that was the end of it.
In the end I never saw that car again. And a few days later the police got in touch with my answering service, that I thought was about the accident, and it was homicide, and they wanted me to come down and testify at the trial. Be a character witness. When I met her, who she was in my life, and when I had met her. Just before I had met her I had gotten busted for four ounces of cocaine.
And this friend of mine whose father was an old ’50’s rhythm and blues musician — ¬Johnny Otis — got me a job working for Johnny Otis. And then went on the road for a year with him, as his personal valet and road manager, and stayed off of drugs pretty much that year. And I thought about him, because it was during that time when I met this girl, you know, Candy, who got killed.
And I called up somebody who used to sing in the show, one of the “Three Tons of Joy,” and she told me, “Johnny’s got a church now in South Central L.A. You should come visit him. So I went to go visit him on a Sunday, because I was going to trial, I was going, I had to testify on Monday. I went to see him and he took one look at me, when he saw me, because I looked like walking death. I was not a vision of hope that day. He moved me right into the church. I was like Quasimodo, living in this old Victorian house, in the attic, near this church, a non-denominational church downstairs.
But I am an addict, and I still got my drugs while I was living there, and I still had my bottle of Christian Brothers stashed in the back, which I used to get the money for that from, you know — he made me a deacon, which was here . . . never read the Bible, but here I was a deacon. I had to be if I was going to live in the church. But I got my money. That lasted about six months.
Going back again, just before I met Johnny Otis, right after I had O.D.‘d that time, I did come back to L.A. and I still had coke. At the end of a three-day run I walked into this restaurant and I met this woman who I had known since I first got to L.A. in December ’67. She had married this rock musician who was a friend of mine, this English singer who I had met in his first tour of the States, in ’73 I think it was.
She told me, “You know, Michael’s clean. He no longer drinks. He no longer does drugs. You ought to get in touch with him.” I said, “Yeah, that’s great. I am glad he did something about his problem. And she gave me their phone number. I didn’t believe it anyway because for years I would see him and he would ask me where the coke was, and we would party and held say if I saw his Pamela — “Don’t mention that we were together.”
But I just wanted to bring that up because what I am going to talk about now — one night, one Saturday night, at the church I went out with this old rhythm and blues singer who was coming around Johnny’s church, and the last thing I remember I was standing around in this bar in Watts.
I was the only white boy there. He was singing on stage, and the next thing I know I am laying on the floor in my bedroom of the church and there is this three hundred pound woman in my bed, and Johnny’s knocking on the door saying, “Stephen, how come the church isn’t ready for services?” You know, it was starting in like half an hour, and I knew at that time that I had a problem. I had that moment of clarity.
And that night I got through it, snuck her out the back door, and threw on a suit and washed my face and put on some sunglasses, and I got through that night, because I had been sitting there watching all these poor poverty-stricken people coming in every Sunday and being happy and grateful, praising the Lord, and it moved me. And that night I walked into a sanctuary, got on my knees — see, I am Jewish — and said, “Jesus.” You know, I said, brother to brother, is there any¬thing you can do for me?” Because I looked at Him as another Jew.
In that madness, and that sick state that is about a humble as I could get. I didn’t cry, but I felt like crying, but I still was not capable of crying. And I went back to my room and it was a little unclear. I think it was then I put on this jacket that I hadn’t worn in a long time, and put my hand in the jacket, and crumbled up in the corner of this pocket was this little wad of paper, and I unraveled it, and it was Michael’s and Pamela’s phone number.
And I called them up and the next day he took me to a meeting for recovering addicts, an afternoon support group, and for people who were recovering from the disease of addic¬tion. And it just fucking blew my mind. I walked into this room, some people I recognized, some people I had never seen before, but they looked like people I knew.
And somebody got up there and took a cake for being totally abstinent from all mood or mind-altering drugs and chemicals for a year, and I just thought it was fucking incredible, you know, and nobody had a crewcut and nobody had a bow tie, some of them were musicians, and some of them were actors, some were lawyers, some were doctors, I mean they were just people, truck drivers, everything in that room, and even some people who were just out of work like me. And I was so happy.
He was driving me back to the church. I said, “No, no, stop here.” He let me off. A friend of mine had a play, and it was his closing night, and I went to the play, and after the play they were having a party, and somebody handed me a joint, and I said, “Fuck, maybe I can’t do no more cocaine, but a joint? They’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Of course I can have a joint.”
And I smoked this joint, and somebody handed me a glass of wine, and I said, “Well, maybe them people have got problems. They can’t have just one glass of wine. They’re fucked.” A strange thing happened. I ended up getting drunk and totally fucked up, and the next day he picked me up and took me to another one of these recovery meetings, and again I was impressed, holding up the back wall, being cool.
He was driving me home and we were going by this restaurant where this old partner of mine owned it. It was a pretty successful restaurant. This guy had that restaurant. I went back with this person, back to my Arizona days. And I walked in there and told him, “Hey, I am changing my life.
I am no longer going to be fucked up. You guys are going to be glad to know me.” And he said, “Great. Glad to hear that. Why you have a taste of this new wine that just came down from Northern California.” And then I went ahead and said, “Well, I can’t shoot up no cocaine, I can’t toot it I can’t smoke the marijuana, but taste the wine? Fuck.”
Make a long story short, that night I ended up in the kitchen with the chef, who was a friend of mine, drinking cognac and doing cocaine, and got myself to a morning meeting and said, “You know what? I surrender. Can’t even have one.” The pain was great enough to where I no longer wanted it.
And I was told that if I no longer wanted to feel the loneliness that I was feeling I had to give up the drinking and the drugging and so I surrendered. That was just the beginning. I didn’t really think I was quite aware of what I was doing that day.
Today I know I haven’t stopped nothing. What I have done is given my whole life over to the care of God as I understand him. That is something I do today on a daily basis. And I am glad we got through my war story because it bores the shit out of me. For me my life began that morning, when I got to this meeting early, and there was some guy who was playing handball against the wall, waiting for the meeting to start. And he said to me, so you realize you can’t even have just one of anything, huh?” And I said, “Yeah, you can’t even smoke a joint.” I said, “Yeah.”
And you know? Thank God I haven’t had to use drugs since then, I was introduced to a way of life that’s a spiritual way of life, that are a guide to living. I can’t use. I have admitted that I am an addict and my addiction is basic, I have admitted that I am powerless over my addiction and it made my life unmanageable. I have accepted that I am an addict. For me to use is total fucking insanity. It’s never solved any problem.
Any disunity in my life has never never never been healed through using drugs. I didn’t get into it, but when I first took LSD I was in the search of God. Ultimately all that stuff ever did was take me further and further away from any God of any under-standing that could ever possibly be out there.
And I came to believe — that was hard for me to accept, because like I said, I always believed that there was a God and didn’t know that God got me through that O.D. just nine months earlier. But I just couldn’t comprehend that there would be a God in my life on a daily basis because you know, that’s the only way I could think that could make me stop using drugs. I couldn’t imagine not using. I remember I told somebody that, “Well, if I can’t use, then it’s got to be a miracle.” And they said, “Well, that’s what we’re trying to tell you. Ask God and He will do it.” I said, “Nah.”
Everywhere I turned I kept on hearing the same message. I had a few days or few nights or somebody had given their phone number and it said, “Call anytime.” Called them up about one o’clock in the morning, because I was about to use. I had such a burning desire, obsession to use, closed my eyes and I just fantasized on sick sex and shooting galleries, free-basing, and more death.
And so I called them up and said, “Hey.” He knew. I didn’t have to tell him what was going on. He knew what I was going through. He said, “You got a pencil?” Because I had a pencil, because people told me at meetings to get numbers, and I was going with a pencil and paper, but I wasn’t really getting numbers, but I had a desire to look good in case anybody hit me on it.
This was the first call I ever made. He said, “I want you to write this.” I wrote, “God, please remove the obsession to use all mood and mind-altering drugs, chemicals, drink.” And after I wrote all that down, he said, “Did you get it? Now I want you to write “Thank you. Thank you.” I just asked him, “What do you mean, thank you?” He said, “Just thank God for removing it.” So I wrote that down too. And he said, “Sign it.” And I said, “Sign it.”
And I hung up the phone, and I was asleep in about twenty minutes. I woke up the next day and I said, “Woah. Huh?” The dream went away, the obsession, and I looked at that, and I folded up that piece of paper and kept it in my wallet, otherwise I would lose it. And then I have been getting that message ever since.
I did my first ninety days clean in Hollywood. I had to leave that church because it just didn’t fit. I couldn’t go to meetings every day and be around the church. And I knew that church wasn’t going to get me clean.
Just living like Quasimodo and the addict, you know, that I needed to be around my peers, that loneliness, it wasn’t the drug addiction that was eating me up, because while living in that church I did stop shooting up, but I free-based a little bit, and I tooted a little bit, and I drank a lot, but that loneliness, degradation inside, hadn’t left me.
And I wanted to be around my own peers. So I started going to morning meetings, afternoon meetings, night meetings. And I had this dog that was with me, and I was just holding up the back wall, looking cool, looking good. I was just too terrified to talk.
I was afraid if they really knew who was in this room with them, they would tell me to leave. “Get the fuck out of here!” Those people would be talking about that they were in the supermarket and they saw their connection and they got sick to their stomach as soon as they saw them. They said, “Ah, fuck. They saw me.”
So I had ninety one days clean, and I had been sleeping on couches a couple of times, me and the dog slept in the park. This was before. I didn’t want to go where I knew I could get taken care of because I knew there would be drugs there.
My biggest fear was to walk down the street and sometimes a car with some crazy woman would pull up and say, “Where are you going? How you doing? Why are you walking?” And thank God that never happened. It probably never could of happened. It was my illusion that that was about to happen at every stop sign and street corner.
And everywhere I looked, it would be like a place where I knew people were getting loaded, or there was a dealer I knew, or a snow customer or some memory of somebody I knew used to live or die or something, because I had been in this since 1968 and now it was 1982, in and out of this town, even when I lived in Tucson I was always making runs to L.A.
But that didn’t happen and I had ninety one days and it was raining and I called my mother, who has always been real tight with me. She was nineteen when I was born. She not only has been my mother but has been my friend all my life. And I called her up and she said, “Well, why don’t you come to Florida for a little bit?”
And that day it sounded like a good fucking idea, because I was starting to get really pissed off because people told me I had to get a job, and I didn’t like that idea at all, because basically I didn’t have enough confidence to get a job. I never had worked in my life. And I didn’t know what I was going to do at thirty-three years old, didn’t know how to run a cash register. What the fuck am I going to do?
I was getting by by doing odd jobs here, and to go to a meeting and see somebody needs a yard cleaned or some painting done or something. I was getting by. Somebody owed me a few hundred dollars and they gave it to me. It was crazy. There was an old partner of mine who lives in Europe and I ran into him when I had about fifty days abstinent from drugs, or forty days, something like that, and he remembered that he owed me a few hundred dollars from ten years ago, and he gave it to me.
I didn’t have a dime in my pocket that day so I was real grateful to see him. I told him what I was about and he was real supportive of it. He told me, while I am at it why don’t I give up the fucking cigarettes? They are killing me too. I said, “Sure.” And he took off back to Europe and I lit up a cigarette and walked to a meeting, took one addiction at a time.
I had a turning point at seventy one days, or seventy three days, a real enlightening time. A South American connection who I hadn’t seen in a year showed up, called my answering service, which I still have, and offered me the best deal of my life. He wanted me to move seven to ten keys a week.
It was right when the prices were crashing down and came back. It was that they were no longer going to go through Florida. It was straight to California and blah blah blah. They had known me a long time. My disease told me, “Terrific!” I could make my business calls from meetings. Who the fuck would suspect a thing? I am clean now, I can handle it.
And he told me that he would be back in town in a week. And between then and a week later, going to meetings, it hit me that my life-style was part of my disease too. That thing of feeling good enough to have a job and being better than other people gives you the illusion of being better than other people, by being a manipulator and a hustler, getting money, and it was sick.
And that had to go too, and my ego wouldn’t admit the truth that if I had ten kilos of coke in my possession that I would sell nine of them and do the tenth one. I mean today I know that’s not going to happen. And who knows what, I would have fucked it up. But my ego then just didn’t see it that way.
But something happened. I know what happened. It was this beautiful woman starting talking to me that never talked to me before and told me that she used to have a cocaine prob¬lem, and she got turned on to it by her boyfriend who turned out to be a dealer.
And somewhere in that conversation I realized that if I really wanted to respect myself, looked in the mirror and liked what I saw, and looked at people who I respected and have them respect me, I could no longer be a drug dealer. It just was not going to happen. So I did something which at that point seemed harder or more risky to me than not using drugs for seventy days. And that was disconnecting my answering service. And I threw my phone book away.
So when I called my mother up and she said why don’t you come to Florida for a winter, it sounded like a really good idea. So I went to Florida, Ft. Lauderdale, got there with ninety two days. Everybody was in t-shirts and I had on my long leather coat down to my ankles, and boots and my dog, and asked them for a ninety day clean chip in a meeting, and they wanted to give a newcomer’s chip because I was still stuttering and still didn’t look too good.
And I had my half-coyote, half-German Shepherd at my feet with me. I had to stop hanging out at the back of the room. I had to get involved in my recovery. Because the meetings at that time in Florida were small and they weren’t big. There was no room for being cool. Everybody knew I was from L.A. I started taking those phone numbers that I never took, and I started calling them, I started sharing, because now I was dealing with my fucking father, who had this resentment for . . . I had to get along with him. I met him when I was four and a half years old.
And I got a good friend who was clean longer than I was to help me with my recovery. I learned to trust him. He told me to go to meetings, get phone numbers, call them up, get a commitment to serve in a group, get there early and help set up, stay late and help clean up. I had come from twenty years of one step at a time, becoming more and more isolated, and survived, and I never owned a gun. Somebody once gave me a gun and I buried it.
My protection was who I knew and what you didn’t know about me, and nobody really knew where I lived or who I really was. If you got loaded with me you’d know all I did was get loaded and was a playboy. If I did business with you, you didn’t know I slimed or went fucking crazy. Over here it was like all a big fantasy, one big phoney story, and I joked about it.
And in recovery they asked me to get real with people. I was like, when I got to Florida I started getting real. An amazing thing happened. One day I am sitting on the beach and I realized hey, it hit me. I was listening to a Jimi Hendrix tape on the headphones and I was feeling good and all of a sudden I thought, I hadn’t thought about getting loaded now in about a few months, and it just kind of like was the first feeling of realization that I hadn’t thought about getting high. Maybe this thing will work for me too.
And at that point I had made a commitment to take a meeting of recovery into a jail. Against my own planning some¬body asked me to speak in this meeting, and I went with them, and I spoke, and at the end of the meeting he informed all the inmates that he wouldn’t be coming any more, that I would be coming every week. I couldn’t say no to a bunch of people that I looked just like. I looked like I was sitting in jail and said, “Yeah, I’ll be back next week.”
And it was great. For the next year every Sunday night I would get to bring somebody and hear them share their experience and their hope and their strength and their faith. I would pick winners, because I would pick on people who I respected, people who would give me love, people who really liked getting honest and being real, and I would bring them into my little jail meeting, and I would get the opportunity to hear what they had to say.
And I would leave every Sunday night and I would actually feel grateful because I could walk out. It started to hit me. I had a lot to be grateful for. I had found recovery and I was still free. I wasn’t like these guys who a lot of them did less crime than I ever did.
Going, waiting for trial, and waiting for sentence, one by one for years and years. And I would say I am a lucky mother fucker. And I got grateful. No matter what would happen that Sunday I would get grateful. No matter how shitty the week would be and I had a lot of shitty days, but I got through them. I patched up the problem I had with my father.
Our meetings were like social gatherings because he couldn’t accept that I was a drug addict. I don’t know what he thought I did for twenty years. But retired from the Army and working for the Post Office, he still couldn’t comprehend the depths that I had gone down to.
Although my mother knew. My mother is into — she is a psychic, and she does astrology and she meditates and she knew. She knew when I was out there what was happening. She since then told me of all them candles and prayers that she did while I was out there.
So he looked at me and he said, “You know, you remind me of my fucking father, who was nothing but a drunk and a bum.” You know, my father said this to me and I told him to go fuck himself, that I don’t want to live in your God damn house anyway. And I walked out, because I was living in his garage. But something happened as I was getting into the car.
I kept hearing those words, his voice saying I reminded him of his father, who was a drunk and a bum. I realized for the first time in my life that he was a human being with problems. Up until then he was this controlling thing of my life, trying to tell me what to do, that I was always revolting against. And I got into the car and I said, “Fuck this.”
I had all the intention of going to Miami, where an old connection, South American connection of mine, lived and I knew where he lived, and I had the phone number, and I was going to go see him, because that was my only ticket out of Florida. And on the way there I remember I met this newcomer to recovery and I had told him I would see him in the morning, and it was the morning and I stopped at his house on the way to Miami, and I never made it to Miami.
After coffee he wanted to go to a meeting. I ended up at a friend’s house in Ft. Lauderdale, and they got me to another friend’s house. The next day I was back at my parents’ house and told my father that I loved him. And today he is my best friend. He is totally supportive of . . . he knows, he has even sent people to me to take them to meetings of recovery for help. He is one hundred per cent supportive. Worked my way through school. If he had money, he’d put me through school, but he is retired now.
And that happened through just going to meetings of recovery. It teaches me how to live life. I’ve never known how to live life. It’s not just live life without drugs, it’s live life. And today I live life. It teaches me how to live life with a conscious contact with God as I understand Him.
And today my God is a God of love, and I love myself today, and I feel God in my heart, and I try to give what I feel in my heart to other human beings, and I look for that God in them, and I look for their love, I try and communicate that love to my fellow human beings, not just to another addict who suffers but in all my affairs.
And my first experience with that was with my father. All of a sudden I realized that I loved this man. He’s got problems. Of all the amends that I have made through the years, I have made amends and we are friends today. Yesterday, twenty four hours now, maybe thirty hours ago, I went to a hot springs with a buddy of mine, and we came here today and just had a day of peace, a day of rest, and I can give that to myself today.
And I finished last week a sixth semester of a college I’m going to. When I had about close to a year, I still didn’t know how to work. Another addict gave me a job and had to let me go, because I couldn’t handle little menial shit. And some¬body, I heard some people say, if you put your recovery first and if you have the right reasons, and you ask God for help, you can learn, you can become anything you want to become, you can do anything you want to do.
And I didn’t mention it, but during that little time period where I was married, my wife had said she wanted to be a model and an actress. So she was my possession. I always wanted to take pictures, and I had never taken a picture in my life. The next thing I knew she put a camera in my hand and said, “Take it.” And from the first roll it became interesting, it was like love at first touch. And while we were together I took about three hundred exotic or erotic or nude type pictures. I didn’t know anything about what I was doing technically.
We broke up, our cameras were stolen, and everything. I didn’t take pictures during that whole story. I was sitting in Florida, and this little pile of pictures I had taken, my mother was showing them to a friend of hers. They were telling me how good they were, and I looked at them and said, “Yeah, that’s what I’d like to do with my life. I’d like to learn how to really do that.” I shared that with my friend in recovery and he touched my head to see if I had a fever. “Are you feeling okay?”
We prayed on it and prayed on it and he told me to sit on it and I still wanted to do it. So I took a class at a local community college, a night class, and found out if I tried really hard I could retain things.
So over the years in Florida I put together a portfolio and got myself accepted at a . . . well, many people think it’s the best school in the world for the commercial arts, not the fine arts, but the commercial arts. And if it’s not the best it’s the second best — that’s the argument, it’s the best or next to best and that’s good enough for me.
And I have been going there for close to three years now. I have eight more months to go. And it’s a miracle. And not only that but I support myself through doing photography today. I could leave school right now and make a living, but I want to finish. I have never finished anything in my life. I’ve run out of money, and the next four months I am just going to work and save some money, and go back to school in January. And I know it’s going to happen, because I always get what I need.
I have a life today that’s worth living. I am still learning about recovery, I am still learning about the meaning of life, and living life, and today the reasons that I turned to drugs in the first place, and my addiction.
When I had four months I surrendered to the smoking habit. I am so grateful I did that then. It hit me that I gave up all these things that I love that were killing me. Why am I still doing this thing that I hate that’s killing me? Just recently the Surgeon General came out with how tobacco is an addictive drug, as bad as heroin or cocaine.
I am free from my drug addiction but I am not free from some of my sick thinking that I have been addicted to all my, life, some of my insecurities. And I am just discovering little things that I have to give up every now and then.
But it’s okay, because as long as I don’t use drugs I am a winner today, as long as I don’t use, more will be revealed to me of how I can make my life better. It’s more than just not using. As long as I ask God to be in my life and do actions that testify that I do want Him in my life. I have to give to others what I want given to me.
I feel — just recently somebody asked me, “Why, do you still go to those meetings? You don’t have the obsession to use drugs, do you? You’re not afraid you’re going to use if you stop going?” Well, I’ve noticed in my six years that ninety five per cent of the people who I’ve seen stop going to meetings use. To them the ones that don’t use seem constipated and up tight and so full of shit that they say, “I might as well use if I am going to be like that.” Because that’s how I was when I was using.
And every once in a while you’ll bump into somebody who just stopped going to recovery meetings and found another way, another thing, another spiritual way. But I can’t risk that. I couldn’t be like that. It’s not worth the gamble to me. And I do have other spiritual programs that I go to, but they are all an extension of what I have been doing since day one. Because truth is truth, and I have never found any true spiritual program to be in conflict with recovery.
So everything that I came in contact with is just an extension to what I have been doing. And I still go to my meetings. I go to my meetings when I feel bad and I go to my meetings when I feel good. I love my meetings.
If I don’t participate in my recovery . . . There was somebody at the door that told me to write that little letter that I wrote that got me through that night. It’s a good feeling to be able to give that to somebody who is going through the same thing. And I just feel as long as I am of service I will be kept around to be of service by a Power greater than myself.
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