I have spent over half my life in prison.
All totaled, I have been to prison four times. The sad part is that none of that prison time helped me; to be honest, I truly think it made me worse. I had gotten to the point where I didn’t care to break the law, as long as I didn’t get caught. And for the most part I didn’t even care if I did get caught!
I truly believe that God led me to Addiction Recovery Care (ARC). I’ll never be able to put into words what God and ARC have done for me. While going through the program, I have learned a lot about myself and have come to understand the core beliefs I developed over the years were wrong.
My parents did not care much about me. I didn’t realize how much this would affect me growing up, and I tried to act like I didn’t care, but deep down I was dying inside. They lost custody of me when I was nine years old, and they never looked back.
My aunt and uncle stepped in and did their best to raise me, my brother and my sister. My uncle, who to me is my father, worked all day every day to try to make a living for us. He worked himself to death to take care of us — no matter what. He always tried to instill in us a good work ethic. He taught us to always be honest and do the right things no matter what.
My aunt and uncle were raising us, along with their four kids. They loved us when no one else loved us, and to me that’s what matters most. They were young and doing the best they could with seven kids. Honestly, they did a great job, cause no matter what we went through or what we did, they always taught us right from wrong and always made sure we were safe.
My aunt and uncle decided to get all three of us involved in sports and, we all were really good at something. I played football, basketball and baseball every year. I started in all three. When I was 12, my all-star team went to state in baseball, and I helped pitch for us at the state tournament. So, to say I excelled in sports would definitely be accurate. In high school I continued to do the same.
I think I remember my junior year the clearest. Maybe because it would be the last full year I would get to play. That year in baseball I batted 108 times. The first game of the year we played Allen Central and I struck out swinging twice in that game. The next 106 at-bats I would only strike out one time and end up with a batting average of 608. I had 69 base hits out of 108 at-bats, with six home runs and a slugging percentage of over 1000. That year I made the all-district team and became the only player on my team to make all-region. In football that year, we went 11-2, losing the regional championship game to Paintsville.
In my senior year, our first game was against the Hazard Bulldogs, thought to be the best team in our region. I pitched that game. I remember it well because Alice Lloyd College scouts were there. We only played six innings because our lights were torn up. In six innings you can only get 18 outs. I ended up striking out 15 batters and pitching a shutout against the top team in the region. We beat them 2-0. That game would be the last of my high school career.
My life changed forever on April 17, 2003. I was charged with two counts of first degree assault, two counts of first degree burglary, and two counts of first degree robbery. From that point, my life spiraled completely out of control due to drugs. After several months of being locked up for crimes that I didn’t commit, I started to lose hope in anything and everything. I honestly couldn’t see how this had happened to me. All the doubts and all the fears started to set in, and I began to believe the jailhouse talk. How the justice system isn’t fair and how it didn’t matter if I had done the crimes I was charged with or not — I would be going to prison.
I was hurt and angry, lonely and sad, you name it. I was a kid in a man’s world. I heard talk of a couple other inmates making plans to escape. I didn’t want to be there anymore, so when they brought it back up, all I knew is that I was broken and ready to go. That night, I joined them in trying to escape. A guard ended up getting stabbed, two others ended up getting assaulted, and my situation just got a whole lot worse.
After doing a lot of time in the hole [solitary confinement], I finally got to take my original charges to court. I was facing 120 years, but I didn’t care. I was just ready to have this all over with. To say I had lost hope in everything would be an understatement. By that time, I was almost completely broken.
It took me a couple of years to do so, but I ended up getting acquitted for all those charges I’d originally been locked up for. I remember falling to my knees and crying like the kid that I was. I thought I could finally shut the door on that part of my life. But I had to face the new charges, the escape and assault of the guard. I clearly remember how I felt as I watched my so-called codefendant walk out of the doors that day, and me having to stay behind.
The rest of me broke.
In my eyes it mattered that I shouldn’t have been in jail for something I didn’t do. However, all that mattered to the prosecutor was that I wouldn’t testify against the one who stabbed the guard, so they sent me to prison. I ended up making parole the first time up but the damage to me was done. I had no trust in the justice system and wasn’t ever going to listen to another judge or cop in my life.
Over the next nearly 20 years, I was in and out of prison, descending deeper and deeper into addiction. Each time I was released, I turned to drugs, since that’s how I dealt with everything. My lifestyle had become just like the quote you’ve heard that is often attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
I ended up catching more felonies and going back to prison two more times before serving out a 13-year sentence walking out of the doors of the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in 2014.
I was “dope sick” from heroin and/or suboxone. The first time I ever touched any of those was in prison, so I truly believe prison only hurt me and never helped me in any way.
I was strung out and hating life. On Nov. 14, 2014, while I was taking a part off of a vehicle, the car fell on me. It pinned me to the ground, broke my pelvic bone and my back, and nearly shut down my kidneys and other organs. When I look back, I know in my heart I was supposed to die that night, but God spared me and, at the time, I had no idea why.
I was a pitiful excuse of a man who had let life dictate every decision he had ever made. I was paralyzed from the waist down for several months and didn’t know if I’d ever walk again. Depression became a part of my life. I turned to the only thing that would numb my pain, the only thing that would help me forget all my past failures, hurts and hangups — drugs.
I burned every bridge I had ever crossed, and I hurt almost everyone I had come into contact with. I wasn’t the father I wanted to be, the son or brother I wanted to be. I was hopelessly lost and didn’t know what to do or which way to turn so, as always, I turned to drugs.
In 2016 I got in trouble again. I ended up serving five years in a prison in Virginia. When I finally got out, I was so tired, I didn’t have much strength left in me. Over the next couple years, I went on a meth binge. Boy, I thought I was bad then. Meth was a whole new and different kind of animal. I had done it before, but this was different. It’s all I thought about. But, like I said, I was breaking the law, running from the law, always angry. I was exhausted and coming to the point where I didn’t even want to live anymore. I had already overdosed twice and thought the only way I was going to stop was to end it all.
One night before coming to treatment at ARC, I decided to go and trade the car I had just bought for a gun, so I could end it all. That night I went to the drug dealer’s house to talk to him about trading. I was done. I couldn’t stop hurting the people I cared about, so one way or another, I was going to stop it. While in the house, little did I know that God was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. My car was towed away. As I look back, I realize that if that had not happened, chances are I wouldn’t be here today.
A few days after my car got towed, I ended up getting a DUI and, in doing so, I received a court order to complete Phase 1 at Lincoln Oaks drug rehab center in Annville, Kentucky. All I was worried about was completing Phase 1 and then going back to my miserable excuse of a life. Along the way things started to change; my mind started to clear. At first I saw treatment as a hindrance, but then I started to see it as an opportunity to change my life.
The people in the ARC program were different. There were no degrees that made them different, it was their life experiences, they had been where I was. They knew me and what I had gone through because they also had lived my experiences in their own way. They suffered heartache, pain and loss, and they had come out on the other side. They were living the kind of life that I had been dreaming of. I was so tired and hopeless, but these people who had previously been incarcerated, who had lived lives of addiction similar to mine, they were sober and productive members of their society.
For once in more than two decades, I began to see hope. I started to believe that it was possible for me. I truly believe God used ARC and the people there to show me the way.
“This is your way out if you want it; then here it is.”
They saw something in me that I thought had died; and they believed in me. Every rehab center that I went to, I saw people who were just like me. People who had been beat down by life like I had, people who suffered great pain but were taking the necessary steps to have a better life. From the directors to the residential staff, none was any different than I was. They kept talking about how if I did certain things and applied the tools I had learned, I could live the life I was meant to live. This gave me hope, ’cause no one saw the silent tears. The heartache. The constant pain I was truly in.
People only see what we allow them to see. And I never let anyone close enough to see anything about me. The botched suicide attempts. The overdoses. For once in my life I had true hope, and there is no price tag on that. Jesus hung on the cross for that hope. He died to give broken, misguided, helpless people like me a chance at life.
So, here I am, more than two years sober, and people from my community reach out to me and look to me for help in getting into treatment — me of all people.
I am married for the first time in my life. I have a beautiful, Christian wife with a gentle soul and a huge heart. I am a father to my kids, I’m actually a big part of their life now, I am no longer the family disappointment. I no longer have to worry about spending the rest of my life in prison or dying with a needle in my arm. God and Addiction Recovery Care are helping me live a life free from the chains of addiction, something I never thought possible.
All the bridges I once burned are no longer burnt.
Someone once asked me, “After all the time you wasted in prison and addiction, what’s one year (in the program) compared to the rest of your life?” That is one of the many things that has stuck with me. So, I gave myself a year to complete the entire program, internship and all. And here I am living the rest of my life free, truly free. I am a husband and father and blessed to have a job helping others — just like me — at the place that saved my life, ARC. Today I have purpose in my life and I wake up every day and thank God for that.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. — Isaiah 30:21