Crank, Gangs And Prison
Everybody has a chance at a better life, even when that chance means reforming your life in prison. In this episode, Paul Noddings interviews Tommy who is a 43-year-old male from the Hayward area of San Francisco Bay. Tommy started using crystal meth at age 13 and was soon living a within-the-gang lifestyle. This led to a long period in prison which led to a desire to experience a different lifestyle. Tommy’s road to healing and recovery is inspirational. He offers some great advice to anyone wanting to go down that path. He shares his journey to the dark side of the street and back onto the sunny side of life.
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Crank, Gangs And Prison
Teenage Crank Use Led To Gang Life And Then Prison Led To A Desire For Recovery
In this episode, I’ll be talking to Tommy about his addiction and his recovery from addiction. Tommy is a client at the Gault House Sober Living Environment in Santa Cruz, California. He is 43 years old and his drug of choice was methamphetamine. Tommy, how are you doing?
I’m good. Thank you for having me.
Why don’t you tell us how your addiction got started?
I would say it started back when I was thirteen years old. My sister used to be bouncing off the walls. One morning, she came in and asked me if I had ever done any crank and if I want to do any crank. That was our meth back then. I said, “Sure.” She goes, “It will keep you up and all this other good stuff. Hurry up, go into the room. Let’s go do a line.” She gave me instructions of what to do and what not to do with it, “Don’t spit it out because you’re going to get this nasty drain type stuff.” Sure enough, I did that line and I was on fire there. She came in about a quarter of dope and off I went to school. It’s been a crazy ride because from that point, I gave away a lot of stuff, gave away my childhood and baseball. I was a soccer player. I gave those up and got into the gang life.
Did you know your sister did at least drugs or specifically weed? Was that your first introduction to what she was doing at that point?
I used to smoke weed with her and her boyfriends, but I didn’t know she was doing that until I would hear my dad and my stepmom always saying something. I was clueless to this stuff because I was into my baseball and all the good stuff until that one morning when she introduced me to good old crank.
How quickly, once you got into it, did you turn towards the gang life and turn away from baseball and the life before you got deeply into the drugs?Teenage crank use led to gang life and then prison led to a desire for recovery. Click To Tweet
It happened fast, rapidly. I went right into the neighborhood, started hanging out with all my neighborhood friends. We all played ball and balled together too, but life is a little bit different in some neighborhoods than others. As we started getting into that gang bang and stuff, doing harder drugs and the dope was available. It was easier to get once you get into that lifestyle and sure enough, I got into it and started hitting juvenile hall and crazy crap.
First, stuff around drugs. What else were you doing?
At that time, it was crank and weed. Maybe a little bit of LSD if we can get our hands on that. Alcohol, the basic, I don’t want to call it basic but it was basic to us anyways. We were young and dropped out of high school. I wish I would have listened to my stepdad because he said high school was probably the best time in your life and I never got to experience that but here we are.
What happened next once you dropped out?
I got into some trouble and lived back east. I got to do some pretty cool stuff over there. I got into boxing. I did dirt biking and all that other good stuff out back east. When I came home after I was eighteen years old, I went right back into using because back east is totally different there. They got the hardcore drugs, but it wasn’t available like it is over here. I came back home and got in trouble. I went to prison for a long time. I was loaded. We were robbing connections. Heroin with connections, get loaded off of heroin, doing crank too and doing all that crazy crap. It was crazy. Some eighteen–year–old kids shouldn’t be doing and there I was in the mix of all that BS and I spent a lot of time in prison.
How was that?
It was a roller coaster ride emotionally, physically and mentally. Prison, they say it preserves you. It may preserve but not in the right way. I went in when I was a kid and had to grow up to be a certain man fast. It was rough. It was a dog eat dog world. We were still in our addictions during that time and the only ones who are there for you are your own family. All your friends and girlfriends are gone. Everybody’s gone and you’re left with your family, your thoughts and the people in that community. It was crazy because everyone waited for the dope to hit the yard every weekend and you knew when the dope was coming on the yard and everyone was waiting for that stuff too. There are plenty of it in there too.
Would it be on the weekend because that’s where visitors would come and bring it in?
Exactly. If it wasn’t visitors, it is also the police. They bought their fair share in there too. They had gambling debts that they had to pay off, house payments too as well. It was a trip. Don’t go to prison. The kids who went to school who got it right and got a career are the ones who got this right. Not us out there in neighborhoods where we‘re fighting over some BS. Some stuff we’ll never own whether you’re from Northern California, Southern California or in the middle, we’ll never own the state. Why even fight over it? That’s real.
What happened to some of the people you grew up with and maybe they were in that lifestyle with you? Did they follow the same path as you?
A lot of them are dead. Some are still doping-type people. They’re still running amok out down the street. Some went away and became family men, career men or whatever. Some are doing life in prison and that’s the cold facts. A lot of them are pushing up daisies. Some went there faster than the others. I commend the people who got away when they were young because at least they thought right. They had seen some before the rest of us couldn’t see, but it’s been a roller coaster ride and then I paroled. Parole was great. I did great. I wasn’t using.
I got married twice though. The first marriage was a learning experience for me. I got to enjoy it. I was sober at that time. After that divorce, I met my second wife and that’s when I started using. I started picking up again. I can’t use her as an excuse. I’m going to say I wanted to do it. I had a great job, still have a great job but I picked up again and then I started running with the logging and running around people that I shouldn’t have been running around with. I ignored my career for drugs, money and women. They suck until I gave everything up again. Not going back to prison, but I gave everything else also and it sucks. I’m going to take a step back a little bit and thinking about it. I had an opportunity as I was an apprentice on a good project over here in San Francisco. My foreman and superintendent were awesome guys.
What kind of work was that?
Pile driving and we were putting in the subway system over there. They gave me break after break and I blew that opportunity with them. I believe more doors were opened up but I shut a lot of doors whether it was consciously or subconsciously, but we shut those doors when we‘re in our addiction. We push away a lot of great people that we don’t tend to push away, but that monster is in us because it’s a monster, whether you’re on meth, pills, heroin, whatever it is that they’re doing that we do as addicts. We let the devil out in this and we push a lot of people away and shut a lot of doors that probably shouldn’t have been shut. It’s amazing how those doors can get shut so fast and how long it takes to open those doors again in a positive way.We shut doors of opportunities when we're in our addiction. Click To Tweet
You don’t even see as the door is closing because you’re so caught up in the addiction.
That’s the crazy part is you don’t, it’s like a blur. You’re oblivious to people, places and things at times. You’re oblivious to your mother’s cries and your dad’s turn to looks and how your family reacts to you every time you come around. You’re oblivious to it at times and you live it in F–it Land for the most part. Here I am running around. In my addiction, my second wife and I split up. I end up messing around with a bunch of women. Bless their hearts. I ended up having a kid out of all this madness and that was a blessing. You would think by having this child you would want to sober up, clean up for her or him, but that monster, that devil was aggressive. Within the last few years, I was running ruddy and I think I got it. I was in denial with everybody, with myself, even with my peers at work. They knew the clean guy compared to this guy and they knew something was up.
Was your kid around at this point?
No. I had her a year–and–a–half ago. Me and the mother, she’s a great chick and she’s awesome. She’s been through a lot and I added on to all her stuff that she had been through in her life. I’ve got to say, it wasn’t fair on my part but that being said, she blessed me with this beautiful child. You would think you would stop, but that meth monster, demon, devil, whatever you want to call it with whoever wants to call it. Our addiction duty is freaking strong.
To be fair, I know better and I think that’s something important for you, important for a lot of people who have kids to recognize that your addiction doesn’t speak to the love for your child or children. That’s the nature of chemical dependency. It’s super unfortunate that sometimes people will end up sacrificing some of their relationship with their children but it’s not their fault. It’s the nature of the disease.
It’s the nature of the beast. She didn’t get asked to be brought up into this muck, but right before my wife and I split up for good, I did try to put myself in a residential rehab because she and my family were on me constantly. I said, “I’ll go check myself in,” but I did it for all the wrong reasons. I wasn’t ready yet. A person will get cleaned up when they’re ready. You’ve got to hit your low or your low has to come up and hit you. One of the two or you both meet them. I went to residential rehab and had nothing to do or put myself in and bounced after a few days. She triggered me when I talked to her on the phone and I hit the gates running and I ran even harder. They say every time you relapse you hit harder. You go to the same place but you go even deeper into your stuff. I didn’t believe that crap. After that, I hit that and ended up meeting the kid’s mother and we got pregnant. She got pregnant and before the baby was born, I was doing some stuff to her. I wasn’t the greatest guy neither. I wasn’t even myself. Sweetheart, I apologize but I think it was an eye–opener. I ended up getting in trouble. I had to go spend some time in the county jail for 90 days.
One of my conditions is to do a whole–year outpatient program through the courts and I was pissed. It had nothing to do with drugs even though I was on drugs but they didn’t find any drugs in the house or anything like that. For all you out there, if you believe in God or higher power, whatever it is that you believe in, there is a purpose for this and our higher power tries to wake us up and knock on our doors and said, “Wake up.” You may not get cracked for drugs. You may never be caught for drugs, but one day we’re going to have to pay the piper. Here I am, after I get out of the county jail I’m pissed off because I got to go to outpatient program and I fought every tooth and nail with this thing. I went to it to appease the courts and it sucks. Who wants to go to an outpatient program? Who wants to give up drugs in a sense? We mask our feelings in this crap. We become a different person. We’re not that person that we’re meant to be.
I went in. I remember the first day and one of the counselors asked me my name and I told her my name. She goes, “What are you here for?” I said, “The courts put me here.” She goes, “Why was it?” I said, “It’s not your business. I’m here for your program.” She goes, “I might have to be a dentist and pull some teeth.” I said, “Pull? You’re not going to get much from me.” As time went on and as I went to the groups, I learned a little bit. I still wasn’t ready and even though I was learning, I was still doing dope. I figured out how I can beat the system because that’s the dope fiend in us. We learned how to work a system and we learn how to beat the test some times. I was looking for avenues and I thought I was clever but I’m not clever. People have been doing this way before me and they were hit to the game. They would look at me every time. I thought I was slick, but I wasn’t slick. I was dumb. It’s funny because every time I went to go do a drug test, the guy who would drug test me, he’s known what I’m doing. Ultimately, it’s on us. It falls back on me. He’s clean. He’s looking at me like, “That’s how you want to do it. Did you want to do it that way?” A person is still not ready. I wasn’t ready, so I ended up going to jail again on a violation.
I came home still using and looking at my child. The crazy part is here I am in this addiction looking at this kid. I’m still like, “Why?” I want better. I say a lot but my actions weren’t right. My actions were saying other words. My mom would always tell me, “Your fruits are showing. You’ve got bad fruits. Your fruits are no good.” The company I kept wasn’t great either and I was like, “How do you know about those people? You don’t even know those people.” You can see us coming a mile away. You could see what kind of fruits you are carrying. We’re in denial still and carrying a gun around, doing all that stupid crazy crap. I like to brag about what I do for a living, but I wasn’t even working right. I bragged about it but there was nothing to show for it because I was still caught up in my addiction. I thought I was cool but I wasn’t cool. The cool people are the ones who are sober, living that clean life, making real money to take care of their families, enjoying that good stuff. Not being lost in some alleyway somewhere or in a trap house or in a car somewhere or in the gutter lane. Some people are caught up and I hope they can find something in themselves to pull them out of that. I do.
What it took for me was getting in trouble. This is how our higher power is a trip. My mom is always talking and telling me, “God’s always knocking on your door. You shun him away.” She’s right, but I allowed the devil in this world to consume me in that poison. I didn’t let the light of our higher power come in and work what he’s supposed to do for us or whatever they believe in, whoever believes in whatever it is. I get pulled over and the CHP pulls me over. My tag is back on my car and I got in this car. My real father said, “Don’t drive that car around with his.” “I drove it around being an addict. Don’t tell me what to do. I’m going to drive this, whatever.” I got my kid’s mom in the car and we were cruising. They get pulled over a felony warrant. I’m like, “Felony warrant? We have been doing nothing to get no felony warrants. What am I being charged with?” He says, “You just got a felony warrant.” Going into the county jail, I see one judge. The judge goes, “I don’t know what to do with you.” I’m like, “This is different. What am I being charged with?” They don’t know. I’m being charged with nothing. I go see another judge and the same thing. They don’t know what to do with me so they passed me on to another one.
While the whole time I’m in there, I get to thinking and I’m in my thoughts and I’m tired. I’m tired of running. I’m tired of lying. I’m tired of cheating. I’m just tired. It’s a bad taste in my mouth and I’m tired of seeing the same people in the county jail, hearing the same thing, “I’m going to do better. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.” You hear it all the time and then you see some brothers that are never going to go home that I am not ever going to have that opportunity again because ultimately, it’s from the addictions that put us there. We do some crime whether we’re selling the dope or we’re using the dope, but it’s behind that. Ultimately, it boils down to the devil’s brew, one way or another. Some people are going to go home, but some people were locked in their own prison, in their mind, which I was at this time. I was mentally distraught and mentally lost.
I had talked to my kid’s mom and I told her, “I’m done,” and she says, “Are you really done?” I talked a lot. My mom said I talk a lot. There was no action behind my words. I wasn’t impeccable with my word. I don’t think none of us are when we’re in our addiction. We are not impeccable with our words. For our audience, look up the word, impeccable, and read The Four Agreements. It’s a good book. You’ll see the light in yourself. This book, you don’t want to put it down because that book is that good. The first agreement is being impeccable with your word. I wasn’t impeccable with my word at all. I’m probably still not. I’m still going through the ups and downs, but it’s a better job to go through it up and down sobered and not being on drugs. You can think, make the right actions and make the right choices when you’re sober, even if it is looking bad but you can still make better choices for yourself.
I was in the county jail so she put me in this program. She called up these people she knew over in the county and got me in a house or rehab home or whatever. The home that I went in, that’s the thing is you’ve got to find a program that you’re going to like and fit. It’s going to fit you and it’s going to fit your needs at that time, but this place wasn’t suited to my needs. I felt I maybe didn’t give them enough time. I was only there for a day–and–a–half. Whether I gave it enough time or not enough time, I felt it wasn’t for me and I bounced from there. I upset a few people because they thought I wasn’t being impeccable with my word or living up to my word or what I was saying I was going to do, but I was tired. When you hit that point when you’re tired and you’re ready to give it all up and surrender. That’s a big thing, it’s surrendering. The hardest part is getting to your residential rehab or to whatever place you need to be at. As long as you get there and you’re safe within the walls, you’re going to find out it’s good. It gets better. It gets a little bit easier every day.Healing allows you to open up and let some baggage out. Click To Tweet
I called up my insurance and they were able to put me up in the camp over here. It’s a pretty good camp. You’re allowed to heal. You’re allowed to be yourself. My sobriety day was July 13th, 2019 and healing was awesome. I’m not done healing, that’s why I’m here where I’m at now. I’m still healing. I’m healing internally, physically, mentally and spiritually. I’m being accountable, being vulnerable, and being transparent with everybody in my house here that I’m living at with my family and friends. It’s fulfilling to be that way and it’s awesome to be welcomed, feel some respect, love back and being with like–minded people. When I went to this camp, I started learning about myself and about this addiction and learning scientifically and spiritually what it does to a person. We weren’t designed to put those chemicals in our body. It’s bad enough we drink some soda, eat the candy and stuff like that, and it does some damage to itself. Breathe some of the air that does and messes up our brains. We lost our connection with life when we put these chemicals in our body.
As you go into this healing process in rehab, the fog lifts a little bit and you start to think a little bit different. You walk a little bit different. You talk a little bit differently. You socialize with people that you think you would never socialize with. It’s a trip because this disease has no problem taking anybody down from any walks of life. You can be the richest up in the hills somewhere living in a mansion, that monster will come to get you. You can be living down here in the flatlands, that’s the same monster that got that person up over there, whether you be white, black, Mexican, Asian or other, he doesn’t care. He wants you. You can be from across the world in Africa or Europe somewhere, that’s the same monster getting them.
You heard somebody say equal opportunity destroyers or something like that.
Equal opportunities are for real. He wants everyone to suffer. Suffer as they suffer, suffer as he suffers. It’s time to heal and overcome this disease that we have. I believe some of us inherited this disease. That’s what science says. Some picked it up, people, places and things. No matter what, our higher power can get us through this stuff. My higher power is God, so I know he can walk with me through this. Healing, you start to learn how to open up, let some of that baggage out. Let some of that chemical start flushing through your system. You start drinking that good water, start eating that good food, start eating those greens and stuff and the transformation starts to happen. There’s a transformation that happens to all of us no matter male, female, transgender, it doesn’t matter. It happens to all of us and you started looking, having this little glow about you and you start working the system in the right way and allowing the system to work with you. I think that’s a big thing is you’ve got to surrender to this thing, to our sobriety and go to these groups and meetings.
At the camp, they talk about going to rehab, going to SLE, getting a sponsor, working twelve steps and staying proactive, being of service. When I graduated from the camp, I was scared. Don’t mind me because that was like Disneyland. Here we are protected in this small little community and we got our facilitators there, our techs there and all this other stuff. We’re protected. We’re amongst our family right there in that community. We’re sheltered from the real world. We say all the right things and make all the right moves in there. It looks good, but when you come home, it’s a different story. What are you going to do? Are you going to follow your treatment plan or are you going to venture off on your own into unchartered waters? Are we ready for that? I wasn’t ready for that.
I went home for about a week and that monster was starting to come on me. I started fighting with everybody. I didn’t pick up or anything like that, but I was fighting. I was fighting with the kid’s mother. I was fighting with my mother and it got ugly. My mom, bless her soul, she came up to the camp and went to the family program thing that they had up there for the family. She got to see what it’s like in here from the professionals about this addiction, about these demons that are attacking us every day. She got some clarity on this stuff and she saw that it just didn’t attack people like me, but it attacked everybody. It’s equal opportunities. In turn, it helped me out and made my sobriety a little bit easier. The day she went up here for her first day, we had gone to a bad argument. I called the counselors and that’s when you know that you’ve got to have a network of people that you need to call and trust. I’m glad that I had those people up there that I can rely on and call because they made some calls and got me over here, got me away from where I’m from and from areas that I know.
It feels good to be right here where I’m at sitting now talking about this story, even though I probably don’t have enough time to say what I really want to say all the way through. If I can do this, a person like me can do this with my background, everybody can do it. I’m no different from you to be honest with you. I’m no different from the few males that are out there or the other dudes down the block. We got that same monster on our back. I want to tell you people who are out there suffering or more, it’s not worth it. I’ve had so much fun within a month–and–a–half that I’ve been clean. For 44 days, whatever days it is, I’m clean and doing some clean things and having some clean fun.
It’s been a ride. I don’t know where my God is going to take me but so far, I’m letting him be the captain on my boat and I’m doing what I need to do, putting in my work. I got me a sponsor so that felt great. I’ve been going to my meetings. I’ve been doing my IOP and it’s worth it. Don’t get me wrong, there are times where I’m exhausted because everybody is exhausted. I’m exhausted at times. That’s the thing I learned from the IOP meetings is we’ve got to give out three feelings in a spike for that day but we can’t use tired because everyone’s tired. We’ve got to come up with another word. We can be exhausted and that’s okay. We can be mad and that’s okay. You can be frustrated and that’s okay. I’m learning these things as I go but it’s great to learn. No matter how old or young we are, there’s always room for improvement. Always a room to learn, to love, and live. My real dad will tell me, “You’ve got to live on life terms.” That’s a true saying all the time. You start reflecting back on some of this stuff and hearing the people share their stories. You can relate in some way, shape, form or fashion, we all can relate to each other and that’s the beauty of this stuff.
When we go to these meetings and living in our SLEs and stuff, even after we graduate from that, we’re still a community. You want to keep those contacts because the devil is hard. He’s at work and that is going to continue. He’s going tocome after us even harder. I think as we’re going through this journey, we need to put enough tools in our tool belt and keep them sharp. We sharpen one another. A phone call does a miracle. That’s a miracle right there. When you call somebody up, ask them how they’re doing or they call you up because you can be doing badly. We’ve gone through our emotions or thoughts or whatever it is and be like, “I want to go do something,” but then your brother calls you up or your sister calls you up and says, “What’s up? How are you doing? Come on, let’s have a talk. Let’s go meet up somewhere and talk.”
Do you know how beautiful that is? It turns right around rolling. It can be a square from Delaware. You would never think and that’s the beauty of our community. That’s the beauty of those rooms is it got all walks of life. I’m learning that and I love it. I’m telling you I love it and anyone who has my background, give it a shot. It doesn’t hurt. It’s better than being in jails, institutions and death. That’s what they say and that’s what’s for us. It’s a true saying. We don’t get to enjoy our family. Now I get to enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not even out of the woods yet. The fog is not even lifted clearly. I’ll wave fully one day at a time.
It’s progress, not perfection. That’s another one.
You have to surround yourself with strong people too out there that have been in recovery a little bit longer than you have. When you read in the Bible, it says we’re babes still sucking our milk before we were able to eat the whole food. It’s the same thing in our sobriety. I’m still a baby in this. I think even at a few years, we’re still babies in this. We’ve become toddlers. It’s all these baby steps. Baby steps are better than big steps because the babies do tumble and fall and we stumble, fall, tumble and all that other stuff but the key is to pick up. It may hurt for a second, but I’d rather have that pain instead of masking it with some dope and at least I know I’m still alive with that pain. I’m still breathing right and still eating right because tomorrow may not be promised, but tomorrow will be better if we allow ourselves to stay sober. We’ve got to find a place in ourselves of peace and we’ve got to find a place physically where you think it’s peaceful. For me, Santa Cruz is it. I get that ocean air. I get to breathe that fresh air coming off that water. I’ve got the big redwoods right behind me. It gives off so much energy, so much love, so much everything.
Every community has its issues. We have our poverty, we have our homeless and we have our addictions out here too. They’ve got a lot of programs for rehab too. It all depends on where you’re at and how you want to go about it. I highly suggest it’s better to be sober today, tomorrow and yesterday. I don’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing if I was in my addiction. I’d still be running around with a pistol, hurting people, hurting myself mainly. That’s another thing is you can’t do this for anybody else but yourself. My mom, she tells me to be selfish but selfless. I’m selfish now, but being selfless. When you’re going through the rehab and recovery, you’ve got to be selfish because it is about you and nobody else.
You have to put yourself first.If freedom is too beautiful then sobriety's even more beautiful. Click To Tweet
If you don’t do that, you aren’t going to be different from anybody else. Your relationships will be crap. Your friendships will be crap. Your job will be crap. I don’t want to have crap stacked this high. I want to start digging out that mess I got myself in, being accountable for a lot of stuff, and making amends. Living amends, I think that’s a step. I went to a meeting and they had talked about that stuff. It got me thinking because I owe not only to institutions but to people too and to living amends and that’s part of our recovery is to pay back to those institutions that we owe. Whether it be the franchise tax board, the IRS or something. I heard this guy share one time and he said, “That’s part of the step is paying back your debts. Get on the phone and you work out payment arrangements or whatever it is but in the long run, you’ll feel good about yourself. Being responsible when we are in our addiction too, you didn’t give a thing about paying no rent, no telephone bill, no nothing.
It goes back to what you said about being impeccable with your word. Part of that impeccability is integrity and that includes things like paying our debts and being responsible for things that we owe. I think all of that is tied in with honesty and stuff like that too.
Transparency is a trip. I used to think things like that are weak. It’s opposite. You’re weak for being transparent or being open like that to your old lady or to your friends or something, that’s some coward stuff. As a real man and a real woman make and we’re not normies and that’s okay. I’m glad I’m not a normie. I’m a person who is fighting a disease like people who fight cancer, they’re not normies either. Where there’s a struggle and the struggle is real. That’s one thing my kid’s mom always says, “The struggle is real.” Bless her heart too. She put up with a lot of my BS, but now I can enjoy my kid. I’m learning how to speak softer. I’m learning how to be different in a lot of good ways. I want to be a great role model for my daughter. I want her to have a good role model lookup for her when she gets older to pick a man. Maybe she might want a female, who knows? I want her mom to give her that good role model too as what a woman should be too. As we fight this demon that we have, we become better people. We want to show our children a better way. That’s another thing that I love about my sobriety is you can think clearer. It may be hard but not that hard to make the right decision.
It’s a lot easier than how it was when we were stuck in the thick of it.
That’s the truth. Wake up and smell the coffee. Your internal alarm clock starts going off. You start waking up. The mornings are great. Some people may not be morning persons, some are but still, you get to breathe right and get up and let’s tackle another day sober. For instance, being on this journey of sobriety, I met some pretty cool people in these halls, in these rooms. I met this one brother from all the way up north. We’re going to go hook up and go start going fishing. That’s the type of thing I’m talking about. Before my addiction, I would have never thought I would. I like fishing too but I was full of crap or I like doing this, but you never got to do it. We’re stuck in a corner somewhere and isolating ourselves from the world and there’s so much out there to see, do and be around.
No drug is worth that. If you seriously think about it and if you guys are thinking about picking up, the women are fine. For you, ladies too, the men are handsome. It is not worth it. Go and have a normal conversation with people and you are not all jacked up or nod somewhere and looking stupid, scratching your ass all over the place or having to live paranoid all the time or drunk. You can have a decent conversation with some cool people and do some pretty cool things. Over here, they had a surf camp not too long ago through NA. Who thinks about stuff? Who does stuff like that? When you were loading things, you wouldn’t give a thing about something like that. That sounds attractive. It sounds fun. I want to go skydiving. Don’t get things twisted because you can leave one addiction and turn into another.
Food is another big addiction. Gambling is another big addiction. It’s because we leave one, watch out what you do because that monster is still trying to get you on some other shape, form or fashion. You’ve always got to keep your head on a nice level and use that phone to pick up when you feel like picking up. It can be detrimental to our health and we can be dead that quick or that instant, finding yourself in a 6×9 cell somewhere else. If freedom is too beautiful, then sobriety is even more beautiful. You could see the roses in the morning and see the dew on those petals. You can’t see that when you’re dead. You can’t see that when you’re in prison. You hear a bunch of grown men or women crying all day.
I’m looking at it one day at a time. I had a struggle. I had that feeling when I crossed over the mountain. I had to go home really quick and came back before curfew. I went home. When I went down there on my weekend pass, it gives me that feeling and I am not feeling it anymore. I am not feeling anything over there. The only thing that’s over there is my immediate family and my daughter. Everything’s here for me. If people got to get away from where they’re from, I highly suggest it. It’s just a suggestion. I’m not a fixer because we’re not fixers. We can’t give out doctor’s advice, but we can suggest a lot.
I think sometimes relocating and being on a transplant somewhere is good because people in recovery are still going to love you. They’re going to accept you because we pretty much go through the same thing. Whether you were a thug, whether you are a doctor, a lawyer, even policemen, it’s a trip. When you go to these residential rehabs, you see all these different people and it is going to be all right and it is. Everything’s going to be okay. Give yourself a chance and it will work. At the end of the meetings, you say your serenity prayer and say keep on coming back. Keep coming back and it is good. I didn’t figure it would be that good. I fight every fiber of my body to come to do this stuff and I’m still doing the commitment with the courts, but I’m doing it for me now. This one counselor said, “All that stuff will be a whisper. Continue doing your program, it’s going to be a whisper.” That’s what it seems like now even though I’m a fresh addict. Everything’s like a whisper now.
It seems like the waves will come crashing down on our lives again, but I think we’ll be able to handle them a little bit better than what we used to handle them. You have that support. I thought I lost and burnt all those bridges. The happiness I see in my family’s faces, the happiness I see around these people around here, even though they don’t know me. You guys are cool. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel wanted. It makes me feel welcomed. It makes me feel like you have to hear my word when I show you guys stuff like that or get to go talk to you. I like having conversations with you outside of this and asking certain things. Sometimes they may seem stupid or whatever. I’m earning a lot of different things now and I want to learn. That’s the cool part about being in sobriety and being sober.
I hope that you should want to start learning. You don’t want to be stagnant. I think everyone should learn something new every day and meet someone new all the time whether it’s male or female, whatever it is. I like talking and so far, everything is good. I’ve had my little waves. There are little ripples. A lot of those waves were caused by me and having these doubts and putting doubts out there with other people. It’s getting better. I’m learning how to answer them back correctly instead of being in denial, narcissistic way. I’m owning my own stuff and accepting it too. That’s a beautiful part of recovery. Eventually, I want to own a home. I want a safe environment for my daughter and for the mother too. I want to have something nice to give them but I also want to give back what was freely given to me. Constantly being in the service whether you’re opening up a door greeting people or doing some coffee or just saying hello.
I want to volunteer. I want to do some good stuff and start thinking to go back to school and trying to pick up some nous. Education doesn’t hurt. I think we are designed to continue to learn and we stumble somewhere down the line. I look at all these people and everyone seems to be learning something. We want to help our fellow comrades but sometimes we can only reach out to them and give them the good news. It’s up to them whether they want to take it. To all the people who are suffering, seriously give it a try one time. I used to be in the biggest denial like, “What’s wrong with those people? You guys got it down.” We just once were out there suffering in our addiction and didn’t have a down. You look at how clean they look and how you would look. I wish we had pictures of then and now to see the difference in your eyes, your skin color, everything. The whole aura about you is so much different.
A lot of us got those mugshots.
I remember seeing a picture of me of the mugshot that they put at me on these billboards. They were at all the bulletin when I went to jail for 90 days. I looked sad. It was a sad shot. One of the guys at the camp said, “Your eyes are gray. It’s like the light got sucked right out of you.” You learn how to relive again. Everything is relearning again and having those connectors connect to your brain again that was on your body. You want those back. Let me ask you the question, how do you feel? Do you feel better now than you did in your addiction?
Undoubtedly. It’s like a night and day difference to look at how far I’ve come. I think that it’s apparent to anybody. It certainly was apparent in your story. It gets hard out there. For most of us, we can’t see how hard it is because we’ve been blinded by the illusion of our disease. When we get a moment of clarity like they say in the program, a little breath of fresh air and with that some sanity, it grounds us. We’re finally able to be like, “What am I doing with my life?” Look at the direction that I’m headed in and we’re finally able in that state to grasp the life preserver that’s hopefully been thrown to us. Somebody is pulling on that, they’re into that and helping us. We are working along with that extra help and ultimately, we are the ones doing it with the help of our higher power or whatever that looks like for you. People should feel proud and you should feel proud of completing this program would sound like for the first time and staying sober, doing a great job. That’s a powerful story.
Thank you for allowing me to speak in some way.
Volunteering too for the podcast is itself a form of service. I want to thank you, Tommy to everyone for joining us on the show. To all our audience, we wish you to stay sober and to be happy.
Tommy is a 43-year-old male from the Hayward area of San Francisco Bay. He started using crystal meth at age 13 and soon was living a within the gang lifestyle. This led to a long period in prison and a desire to experience a different lifestyle. Listen to Tommy as he shares his journey to the dark side of the street and back onto the sunny side of life.
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