The great Nelson Mandela once said, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” This quote strongly applies to how Billy made his way through constant terror from bullies growing up. Having started weed at age eleven, he progressed to booze and drugs thereafter. In this episode, Billy shares his life story from childhood to present day, going to Genesis House, finding work as a bouncer, succumbing to alcohol, doing stand-up comedy, and eventually being an addict again. His timeline may look bad, but being in jail due to drugs made Billy take a 360-degree turn for the better. Know more about Billy’s incredible commitment towards remaining sober forever in this episode.
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Jail And Prison Caused Life Change
Time In Jail And Prison Caused Billy To Turn Away From Drugs And Alcohol
In this episode, I’ll be talking to Bill about his addiction and his recovery from addiction. Bill is a client in The Gault House, a sober living environment in Santa Cruz, California. He’s from Salinas, California. He is 55 years old and he has been addicted to crack and meth, as well as alcohol, weed and a little bit of everything else. Bill, how are you doing?
I’m blessed to be here. I came a long way. Where did I begin? I’m going to take it from the very beginning. I grew up in Salinas, like was told. I grew up during the Cesar Chavez times. It was like a racial thing. Mexican people were mad at that time. They were picketing and my little family was walking through their neighborhood to go to school in the morning time, which was a big issue. I would get chased a lot and beat up a lot. I didn’t blame the people because they were so angry at the time about things and their madness weren’t for us. We were coming through at the wrong time. It changed my life because it forced me to be involved with gangs. I felt like it was my only protection. In my childhood, that’s where I go back. I think that it attributed to my addiction too. I remember going to school, on the way to school, I would get beat up to go to school. When I get to school, I’d be in such bad shape that the teachers wouldn’t want to let me go to school. Sometimes they would catch you and give you a choice, “Either we pee on you or we beat you up.”
My dad was a military man. That was the worst thing in the world as far as his son to come through, coming to school smelling like pee. It’s such a big dishonorable thing. I began to run all the time. I’d run back, but then my brothers are coming up. I remember the turning point of me wanting to be affiliated was they caught my little brother, who I loved so much. They told him, “Billy, I’d rather for them to pee on me than to beat me up.” That grabbed me bad. I was like, “You can stop this if you’re a part of this.” The gang at that time to me was so intimidating. I was still a part of the gang. I’ll wear blue and that’ll keep me safe. It was the greatest two weeks in the world that I wore blue. I was wondering, “These Mexican dudes, they don’t ever bother dudes that wear blue.” The gang caught up with me. Basically, they’d beat the snot out of me and then they said, “You took it good. If you want to be a part of us, we’ll be there after school. You should be there.” I was like, “I went this far.” I’ve been lying to my mom and dad. If they asked what happened to me, I’ll say, “I fell down the stairs.”
I went to school and I didn’t know there was so many of them. They said, “Do you want to be a part of us? Go ahead and choose one of us to beat up.” I was looking around, I’m looking for the smallest sucker over there. I did choose him. The minute I swung on him, the whole chapter jumped on me. They basically jumped on me. They said, “You got jumped in. Do you want to be a part of this?” He said, “You’ve got to remember that if someone messed with one of us, they mess with all of us.” I’m going through things in my childhood and I’m watching my dad. My dad, he’s good about it. He has a drinking problem, but he’s keeping it in the closet. Every once in a while we catch him messed up at parties. I’m taking with that in a point where I’m stealing his liquor and drinking it. I’m hanging out with my friends and I’m getting something for them out of my dad’s stash. We’re getting drunk.
How old were you at this point?
I was thirteen when I was noticing that it was a problem. It carried on until I was about fifteen or sixteen. I would do it because everyone else was doing it, but I really wasn’t into it. I didn’t like the taste. Some people can drink and eat. I couldn’t do that. It was nasty to me. I didn’t want to do that. I started smoking weed at that time, which I didn’t look at it that bad. I had to hide it. To me, it wasn’t that bad. We’d experiment with mushroom and PCP when we get to get all rah-rah. That went on and then crack came out and I was selling crack. Crack to me was the forbidden thing. You could sell it but don’t smoke it.Time in jail and prison can make you turn away from drugs and alcohol. Click To Tweet
Everybody that I was around at that time who started me off selling it was like, “We don’t even want you to touch it with your hands.” All the people that held me down, it was like a handful of like seeds or dandelions and everybody was holding you down and making you follow the rules and do things. They either got locked up, shot, killed, left or they testified against somebody. Therefore they left me with crack. Me and crack got married. I couldn’t enjoy a woman with crack. I was like, “You’re not putting your mouth on crack and me.” It’s another mouth to feed. Crack doesn’t want this and I don’t want this. Me and crack, we need to be together.
It’s like a third wheel thing.
Crack made me break up with my family. Crack made me sell my cars, all my belongings. It was like a cold-blooded, tough spouse. It was really hard. I would go days and I would take, steal, lie and cheat so much that I forget to remember or remember to forget. I would steal things and mail them back to myself. That’s how out of it I was. I would take the envelope with me because I know for a fact, I’m going to jack shit. When I run out of crack, I’m jacking something. I would go through so much. I know I’d have so much that I would end up mailing it back to myself. I did that a lot of times and I’d be shocked like, “$500? That was cool. I don’t even remember how it got here, but it looks like my signature on this.” It was bad. I felt like I got made of example because I got caught with $10 worth of crack. Crack at that time was like, “You don’t want to get caught with crack residue.” I got caught with $10 worth of crack on me. They gave me altogether three years. I was like, “$10? Black with crack could do it.” You go see the penitentiary at that time.
What year was that?
This is like ‘83. It was quite an experience. It got me deeper and deeper in being affiliated because that’s the only way you’re going to survive at that time. I got out of that. I ended up doing time there. The minute I got out, I was making up for lost times with my lady and start having kids. I wasn’t over with it. I was still putting my family through hell, my wife through hell. She was waiting for me when I got out and it was terrible. I actually ended up going to a program in Genesis House which helped me. I remember that was a turning point in my life. I went to Genesis House and then it was like an attack program to the point where you would act out different scenarios.
I’m fresh out of prison and I go to this program. I’m in there with thirteen women and this other guy is in there. I think his last name was John Barryhill to be exact. We find out that these women are all prostitutes. It was hard. My first day in the program, I came in there with braids. I’m buff. The coordinator, the manager of the place, she’s talking to me and finding out where I am, talking to my parole officer and everything and she sums me up and says, “You’ve got a real macho problem. That’s what’s wrong with you. You think you’re a He-Man or Hercules.” That’s what she said. I was like, “I don’t like her off the top. She’s putting me in a category like this.”
She comes back, she goes, “What I want you to do is pick out colors in this box and then you’re going to draw a sign.” I’m like, “All right.” I actually picked out blue and black and she goes, “You picked them out?” I was like, “Yes.” She goes, “Those are the affiliation gang colors. That’s not going to work.” She goes and gives me a pink pen to draw a sign out, which bent me over. I don’t even like the color of pink to draw stuff with and she’s like, “You’re going to make a sign that says, ‘I’m not as macho as I think.’” I said, “I’m not going to do that.” She goes, “I can call your parole officer because you’re not going along with this program.” I was like, “I’m not as macho as I think.” After that, she made a hole punch and made me wear it.” She was hard. They would do car washes. I was doing this in Seaside, which is that far from where I grew up. A lot of people in Seaside I had rivals with. They would see me with the pink sign that says, “I’m not as much macho as I think.” We had to do car washes. It was a pretty cool thing. I had to get used to it.
How long did you have to wear the sign for?
It was a contract. It was from 9 to 5. That was a tough thing. I couldn’t wait to take it off at the end of the day and then the next day it would start again. After a while, it really didn’t bother me. I got over that and they could see I got over that. I was counseling other people when they come into the program. You’re able to see a lot of people that come in that have the same problem that you might have. It’s like this right here, that you’re able to help other people. To me, part of my sobriety, part of getting better was being able to help someone else. One of the things that I like to do is to give back. I didn’t graduate that program.
I can’t make excuses, but it was hard coming from prison and then to living with thirteen prostitutes. It was a tough thing because interviewing them, some of the stories that they would tell me and John Barryhill, we’re the only dudes. We’re interviewing them. Some of the stories that they would tell about what happened to them, I think they would make it erotic on purpose. It was hard to focus on your program or try to help somebody when you’re like, “This woman is something. I’m sorry about what happened, but what happened in the shower?” It was a tough thing and it helped me get off of crack. After a while I got done with that and I got back with my ex-wife, and she stuck with me a lot. She went beyond the call. Some of the things I would put her through, I thought that I would have left me. I would have actually left me.
Did she have a drug problem at all?
I would not let her. She didn’t even ask that many times, but it seemed like she asked me a lot. She wanted to be on the same level as me if she’s going through everything that I did. She was pregnant with my first son. I was like the dirt on the bottom of your shoe, but I cannot let that happen. Maybe that’s being stingy or selfish, but I couldn’t let her do it.When you're on crack fast, everything is thrown out of the window. Click To Tweet
It’s the opposite of being stingy or selfish. I recognize some of it might be you want it for yourself. Also, you care about her. I think it can be both. You don’t want to see her get to where you’re at.
Yeah, but when you’re on crack fast, all that is thrown out of the window.
You’re focused on that rock.
It is. I remember when I used to sell it, I’d be seeing so many terrible things. People were giving up their food stamps. Kids were waiting outside the dope house waiting for their mom to come out. “When you go in there, could you see my mom? She has food stamps.” The worst thing about it is you’re the one that got the food stamps from her, which is her baby’s food. It’s like you have no morals. You don’t care. It’s only about you. It’s a cold-blooded piece. I would not let her do crack. After that portion, I didn’t complete the program, but I got a lot out of it. From there, I started doing construction work and doing positive things. From there, I started doing bounce work, working as a bouncer, and that was another thing that caused me to be around alcohol a lot. At first it was no big deal. I guess you could, but I didn’t believe in like being drunk and trying to force somebody at a bar because they were acting like a fool, because they were drunk.
I would feel like I was righteous because I would wait until the bar is closed and everybody’s gone. We’re there and that’s when I would get drunk. For the most part, drinking to me is like snoring. It was like, “I don’t think it’s that bad of a problem,” but to the people sleeping next to you in the same house, that’s a problem. You need to fix that. I’m thinking, “They could be lying on me. My throat’s a little dry. Maybe I could snort a little bit.” I would get drunk so bad that I would actually go and look for my car in the morning. The first thing I do is ask, “Where did I leave my car?”
I remember one time I was thinking ahead and I hid the car from me. I’m almost scared to call the police because there’s probably open liquor inside that car. It’s a tough thing. I got to the point where when I go out and drink, I’m not going to drive. If I wasn’t working, I get hammered. I got to the point where I didn’t want to get that drunk and I found cocaine would take you out of the drunkenness. It almost erases you being drunk and like, “Let’s giddy-up. Let’s ride doors.” I started doing stand-up comedy, which is a thing that I’ve found where I almost think that I would be forgiven if I could make people laugh. There’s a sickness of that. I almost feel like I’d be forgiven about a lot of things if I can make people laugh for the wrongs that I did to them. Laughter is a very powerful thing.
I’m going to fast forward to where I got injured really bad. I got bit by a brown recluse. I’d take a shower and the skin would literally fall off. The doctors start giving me OxyContin. I was like, “I can’t feel pain when he gave me the Oxies. I don’t feel anything.” I was like, “This is a good feeling.” It’s a good feeling until they don’t give it to you anymore. I remember, it was almost like he was saying in slow motion, “I can’t refill this for you anymore.” I intimidated him so badly when he said I couldn’t have it that they call the security on me. I was upset. You know how you have it in your mind like, “I’ll talk to you later. Let me get my OxyContin and I’ll be right back with you.” There’s nothing. I was like, “You’re going to need help for this right here. You’re going to need some help.” It’s like saying, “We’re going to stop you from drinking water. You’re not going to get more water.”
Especially when you already expect it. I know what you mean. It’s already right there in front of you and then all of a sudden, it’s not whether it’s the doctor cutting you off or your dealer showing up and then not having it or something.
You hate him. It was a tough piece. They called security on me and I came back again. I was more or less stalk hunting him and saying, “Give me one more and we’ll call it even right there. I’m not going to bother you anymore. I don’t even like doctors.” That didn’t work out. The only thing I can find is that I’m going to have to be my own pharmacy, my own prescription thing because this pain is too much. This pain is going to put me in jail and they aren’t going to give me any good pain medication in jail. I’m going to have to go out there and get my own medication. Meth took away the pain. I was shocked at meth. I’m like, “I don’t feel anything. I should go put my track shoes on. This is stupendous.”
I wasn’t shooting it. I was smoking and I would make a meth chewing gum. I was putting it in everything, putting it in a cigarette. “Let’s smoke meth in a joint.” A lot of people would smoke weed with me thinking, “This is some good-ass weed.” I was like, “You just smoked meth and you didn’t even know it.” It’s the same way with my weed pipe. “Let me smoke,” and then they’d be following that. It was terrible and I didn’t care. It’s like with crack. I didn’t care who I got. I was terrible. He wants crack. I remember telling this woman it was a blonde hash. “Don’t even worry about it. It’s good.” That’s wrong. They start following you. It’s like, “Where did you get this hash at?” “I might know a guy.”
I’m getting high on meth but I wasn’t high until I could feel like ghosts and spirits are following me. That’s when I was like, “This is where I want to be at, trying to dodge some devils.” It would keep me up for three or four days. It was making me worse. When I come down, I would like feel everything. The hole was getting bigger. I don’t know if meth was getting on it and making it bigger. I would get so high and drunk. I would start scratching a big open wound. I remember going to the hospital and they were like, “What are you doing?” I was like, “There was something in there. I had to get it out.” It was bad. I’ll sleep with my girlfriend and I end up bleeding in the bed really bad, which is a turn-off. It was hard to get your back with your whole leg hemorrhaging, plus you bled in the bed. That’s going to be the no-no. Our relationship went on the rocks right then.
I began to get homeless. I was like, “Things have gotten worse. Do you know what’s wrong with you? You need some more meth. That’s what’s wrong with you,” all this thinking. I got to the point where I’m sleeping on the beach and I’m sleeping in the woods. I was able to handle that. I got that big Grizzly Adams type nature thing. I’m cool with that until I got poison oak in my wound. I got a big a wound on my leg and when I’m not high, I could barely walk. I’m getting high all the time because I’d do anything not to feel that pain. It’s bad. When I get so high, I start scratching the wound. I’m like, “These are cheap socks. I’ve got to get some better size. It can’t even hold a little blood. I saw a lot of blood coming out of your leg there, Mr. Sir.”Part of sobriety and getting better is being able to help someone else. Click To Tweet
I ended up going to the hospital again. I had so many days where I go to the hospital that it was accumulating. Each one of them says, “This is not good. You need to get off your leg and rest it.” I’m like, “Like I’m going to do that. Where am I going to rest it? On a park bench?” My options were few. It got to the point where my ex-girlfriend felt bad for me and she’s like, “I know you’re going through hell right now. You can come and stay here.” She let me stay over there and make sure I was going to the hospital and whatnot. I have to still do comedy. That’s the only thing I got that’s making me not feel so depressed. It’s going out doing shows. When I do comedy, it’s like I have a different persona. When I get up on the stage, I’m like this cocky black dude that isn’t scared of nothing. After I get down, I’m so drunk because I need to do that before I get up on stage.
All the people that I bounced out of the club, I was like this tough guy, but now I’m doing stand-up comedy. It’s like a weird metaphor. I can’t understand it. I ended up catching a case because this guy would not leave me alone and I assaulted him bad. They gave me two years in prison for that. It was nothing more than a bar fight outside, but it’s all the racks against me before. I was ex-affiliated. I was an ex-gang member and I sold crack back in the days. They made me do two years altogether in prison for that, which was like a waker-upper to be wounded badly in the lion’s den. That’s the best I could explain it.
Did they give you treatment at least when you were locked up?
They really didn’t believe at first that I was hurt that bad until they’ve seen it. They said, “We’re not going to give you anything but some Tylenol in here.” I was like, “Okay.” The pain would get so bad that I’m kicking OxyContin and I’m kicking meth. They ended up putting me in a special little wing in there all by myself. No roommate is getting to rest with me. We’re going to war. I’m kicking plus I’m wounded. I’m in pain and everything’s bothering me. They put me in solitary. Jesus and I started doing time together. That’s basically it. God and I started doing time together. Everything around me needed a break from me. That’s probably what it was.
Everything around me needed a break from Bill. Even my mom needed a break. My family needed a break. I could totally understand that now, it was a crusher. I was like, “Nobody is coming to see me. No one? I didn’t think I was that bad.” There again, it was like I was snoring. I didn’t think it was that bad but people thought it was terribly bad. I ended up going to San Quentin. I’m not giving the prison system all these props and stuff, but I ended up doing time over it. I got out and I went to New Life here in Santa Cruz. New Life was good to me. It took me a while to get used to things, but I thank God for them. I think that when it gets down to it, you being sober, you have to make up your mind to do it. I’ve been sober for years, but I can’t attribute it to, “I’ve made up my mind and I decided I’m not going to do it.” That’s BS.
The law said, “Snoring man, we’re going to lock you up.” Sometimes life and things come into play where you could never think you’re that bad. You can never feel like it’s time for me to put the pipe away and back away from it. I’m one of the people that I have to get pointed right in the direction. I’m not getting it. I’m totally wrong. I do snore. I’m one of those people. I’m working on that and I even go to a lot of meetings and I don’t try to get chips. I want to have a year on my own sober, not to be force-fed it because it’s a good thing. I think it’s a good thing, but I want that on my own. I want to own it.
I totally understand where you’re coming from, but I would almost counter. When you were at New Life, perhaps even in prison, but certainly at New Life, like you could have walked away and bought a bottle or a bag or whatever. You didn’t do it. There’s nothing while you’ve been here. You have still done this. You mentioned Jesus or God. Perhaps it’s with your higher powers help, but you’re still doing it. You’re still making that decision. I would encourage you to at least own and recognize that for whatever and however you’re doing it. You have made the decision to stay sober and that’s huge, especially compared to how it sounds like it was before.
I was terrible and then not being able to see it. Knowing how to call it quits is the thing. “Call it quits. What’s wrong with you, Bill? You need to get some more drugs in you. That’s what’s wrong with you. That’s why you have this second fight. You’ve got to quit rehab. Mr. Sir, you need to go ahead and get some good shot and get you a good toke, and then see if you want to quit.” I never did get it until right now. I can see things don’t affect me and get at me as they used to you. Maybe it’s because I’m older. I am a bit older, but I can see where I’m going and I like what I’m doing.
I like feeling like I don’t need to go and do that. I don’t need to go pay for that. I don’t need to find him so he can get me some of this right here. I like waking up in the morning time knowing where my vehicle is at. I like waking up in the morning time and going to my job and meaning something. It’s a good feeling. I’m not rich or anything, but I can see how far I’ve come from and that’s a good feeling. Knowing that your family and your people want you around, they can’t wait for you to come around compared to where they couldn’t wait for you to leave. It’s a big difference. I’m blessed in that.
I don’t want to be a sore winner, but I’m feeling good about this. As far as my sobriety, I know I’m running towards it and trying to do this. A lot of times I go back and I think about how long I was on drugs compared to before that I wasn’t doing them and the two don’t compare. I’ve always done either weed, alcohol or some type of drug. It’s hard to sum up. It’s hard to admit that you wasted a lot of time, you wasted a lot of tears. You’ve made a lot of people unhappy. You’ve done so many bad things. If I can sum it up, it’s because I want to do better. That might sound weak or not the answer, but I want to do a lot better.
I wouldn’t say that sounds weak. I think that’s the opposite. That sounds strong, especially if that’s what motivates you. I’m the same way. I gave a lot of years to my addiction, but now we get to give a lot of years to our recovery. I admit, it’s hard not to look at those mistakes as failures or a waste of time, but it’s a learning experience. If that can inform who we are now and then the choices we make from here on out, I think it’s valuable. I like that analogy you use of the snoring and not being able to see it. Like our addiction, we can’t see how bad it is. What are your hopes for the future from here on out?
My hopes are to be able to make a path so someone else can walk in and see which way to go. Maybe even counsel, even be able to give back and do a program and help somebody. There’s one thing about being a dope fiend or ex-dope fiend. You can tell a lot of times when people and the problems that they go through, you can understand it. You see where they might need some nurturing here or being able to draw back and see, “Am I just pouring water on a dead flower? Do they want this too?” I think a lot of times is if you put the energy out, it’s like when you went to go get your dope, you didn’t even care. It’s like, “I’m going to do this. It’s going to go down. If I have to go to a different county or a bad neighborhood, I’m going to go ahead and make this happen.” That’s what I’ve got to do and people have to do with their sobriety. You have to take no days off and go get it.
I want to thank you, Bill, for joining us on the show. To all our readers, we wish you to stay sober and to be happy.
Billy is a big man who grew up in Salinas, California. Billy is funny and easy to like. He does stand up comedy and until recently, he had to be loaded before he went on stage.
Drug use started with weed at the tender age of eleven. Now Billy is 55 and working hard on his recovery, himself and life.
To learn more about recovery from addiction and to get started in the Recovery Lifestyle, join our mailing list here at http://www.ResponsibleRecovery.net and join the conversation taking place on our FaceBook group and follow us on Twitter.