A rough family life and experiences in the Gulf War led Chris to drug abuse.
Well, I’m the youngest of six. I had both parents. One parent—I did have a parent that was an alcoholic, and he was an abuser. And there was a lot of abuse going on in the house. I am the youngest, so it was kinda like, you know, father abused the mother, the mother abused the oldest, and it went down to me, and I had nobody. You know, we weren’t poor—well, we were poor—but we had money, you know, we went to school, they took care of us, no starvations or no kinda crap like that going on. Just a lot of violence. You know, I went to school. I did pretty good in school and stuff. I was the only one in my family that did pretty good in school, too. I don’t know if it was because I was the youngest or because I like school better than the rest of em.
I graduated in 1986, and that’s the same year I started my drug use, too. I started December—I could give you the date I started—December 19th, 1986. And I started right off with marijuana, beer, and cocaine. I was working at the May Company—I don’t know if anybody knows about the May Company. It was an old store that closed down years ago. And on my last paycheck, my mother let me keep it, and so I just took it and just went with my friends. I had a lot of friends that were doing the stuff at that time and stuff. I was even smoking cigarettes. But I got it, you know. I was one of the type of people, man, you know, as much as I like my family, man, I’m just say it, because I want this to be known. I love em, but I didn’t like to be around them a lot. I ran to the streets.
I started using—when I started using, I didn’t like it as first, at least I thought I didn’t like it at first, cause I used all three at once. I never started off small. I used all three: cocaine, weed, and beer in one day. But I don’t know, six months later I got into—six months later, I just said, “Let me try this stuff again.”
Imma tell you something about—I’ll tell you something about a lot of things about me and stuff man, is—I don’t know where it went, but I’ve never really appreciated myself. I never did. I’ve always thought I was less than. And I don’t know where that came from, maybe came from the family environment. I don’t even care anymore. I just know, that’s how I always—I still struggle with that to this day. And I’ve always felt when I was getting high was—you know, I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t like to feel. I didn’t like to feel scared, alone, ugly, cause, I did feel those things when I wasn’t high. I already told ya I think I’m fat. But anyway. And, you know, I got into the streets, I got into the drug activities. I never sold, but I got into drug abuse. Around 1989, I realized I was getting out of control. By then, I had just elevated to just smoking crack. In just three years.
So I tried to go—I said I wanna stop, but I really didn’t know how to stop, cause I didn’t know nothing about treatment centers. I didn’t really even think I had a problem. I mean, I just knew I was doing too much of it. So I joined the service. And I went into the service to stop. And I was there for a little while, didn’t get high, didn’t do anything like that, didn’t even drink. And I thought it was a way to get away from the drugs, get away from the family, get away from Cleveland. Now, I was in the Navy. You ever heard the term “drunk as a sailor”? And so I started—you know, I was in the Persian Gulf Wars, they had me on the ship, they had me overseas, and there’s a lot of drugs and opiates. I was in Saudia Arabia. There’s a lot of drugs and opiates and alcohol in Saudi Arabia, a whole lot of it. And I got into getting high over there. I was drinking, blackouts, everything, and a lot of times, I did—I made a lot of mistakes, too, in the service, but they tend to cover their asses, so they—when I was over there and stuff, I got into fights, and very disrespectful. I was a very angry dude, I really was. I was over there and here I was in the Gulf Wars, fighting for my life, high as a kite, cause I carried that stuff with me everywhere. Everybody did, even the commanders and Cos [commanding officers]. Everybody got high, you know, so it wasn’t a big deal, even though it was against the rules. And I got injured over there. I got injured over there, and because of my injury—I was in the service for almost three years. I got injured. I had to get discharged, I got medically discharged for my leg. I was very upset. I had no intentions of ever coming back here to Cleveland. So you know. But I got injured and I came home, and they sent me back here. So I’m back here, back with that crazy family of mine, and all that stuff.
Now my leg pretty much has healed, but they wouldn’t allow me back in the service, because it’s been damaged. Now it still bothers me to this day. So what did I do? Right back to the streets. Old streets, same people I was getting high with as kids, same ones that were there then. 105 and Superior. Now we’re all adults getting high. Same, same stuff, man. I moved out of my mother’s house in 1984, and I just stayed in the streets, I lived in the streets, from house to house. I got a bunch of jobs, got fired from a bunch of jobs. And even then, like I said, I was thin then, I was pretty in shape. Didn’t like myself then neither. I just—I couldn’t tell you why I didn’t like myself. I just knew I didn’t like myself. I don’t know where it came from, was I taught it, I don’t know. I don’t even care anymore about where it came from. Well anyway, I was—I lived on the streets from—for almost 20 years. I’ve lived in tents in 2100. And there was a time, man, when I thought I was getting high, not paying my bills, I thought I was getting over on somebody. I thought I was slick. I thought I was smart. I was like, well I ain’t gotta pay that shit, let me take my money—excuse my language, I’m sorry. I do get a little passionate about this stuff.
Now I’m gonna take you to the end when I got into recovery, started getting into recovery. I was on Fleet and Broadway, and there was this guy—and I’m not gonna tell you his name—this seventeen-year-old guy. I’m 36 years old at this time, man, I’m 36 years old. My parents are gone. My mother’s dead. Father’s dead. Nobody left. I didn’t get along with my brothers and sisters at all. We don’t get along to this day. My sister and I kinda get along again, but the rest of em I’m still at odds with. I won’t say I’m at odds with em, I’ve just moved on from em. They’re crap. And I was running—this guy I owed some drug money to. I owed him just 10 lousy dollars, that’s all I owed him, 10 lousy dollars. A seventeen-year-old dude. And he pulled a gun on me. And I started running, cause I didn’t have the money to pay him. And I fell. And he stood right over me, with the gun pointed to my head and pulled the trigger and it jammed. That’s the only reason I’m still alive today.
Now of course I jumped up, fought him, and ran off, and ran. And I just realized, at that time, man—it was 2007, March 15, 2007—I realized I need something. I don’t know what it was. I’m 36 years old, I fought in the military, I graduated out of high school. I did all this stuff, and I’m about to get killed by a seventeen-year-old kid for 10 dollars, you know? 10 lousy dollars. I almost died. And I really—and I just—I just sunk. I was either going to do something about it or kill myself, and I wasn’t ready to kill myself, least not yet. So I took myself to treatment. And I was a very bitter man in treatment. I had this one counselor—I’ll give you her first name—her name as Carol. She was an awesome lady. I did not like her one minute, but for some reason, she saw something in me that I didn’t. And I used to be defensive, cuss her out, everything. And she always said, “I’m the one that’s gonna help you, Chris.” And she got me to start looking at myself. She started—my father, before he passed away, he was—he got worn once, on a drunken night. Now I’m as tall as I am now. He tried to jump on me and stuff, and I beat the living crap out of him, I really did. Now I always hated—I thought I was awful. I’m his son, I beat him up. She helped me realize that well, your father was beating on you your whole life. You were angry, you defended yourself. What you did wasn’t wrong. What he did to you was. She started teaching me. Start looking at you. Your life matters, too. Your life is worthwhile, too. And I really loved this lady’s perspective.
And I started realizing that—like I said, I got here just like everybody else got here. I am a grown man. If I’m gonna make some changes in my life, I have to be the one to do it. Thing is, I didn’t know how. And that’s when I got into the 12 Step program, because I had a whole bunch of people teach me how. People taught me how to do stuff. I kinda already knew, I just didn’t believe I was a capable of doing it yet. You know, I didn’t think I was smart, I didn’t think I could do anything, you know, except get high and fight. And that’s the last thing I wanted to do. Truth be told, I hate violence, man. I’m not a violent man. I was young. I was in school. My father would beat up my mother. I’d go tell my teacher. They didn’t have child protective services stuff back then. Teachers go back and tell my parents. They said I made the whole thing up, and I look like a fool. So let me keep my mouth shut.
So I got into the program, you know. And I started making friends, I started working on myself. Recovery is all about discovering who you are and that you matter. If you don’t think you matter, other people will never think you matter, even if they pretend to. And I started looking at—and of course I put the drugs down and stuff like that. Putting the drugs down is easy, that’s easy. You stop. It’s over. It’s learning how not to pick them back up. And I just—what I can say about being in this 12 Step program: it taught me to love myself again. When you learn how to love yourself—and a lot of addicts don’t want to admit that, but that’s why they get high. They get away from themselves. That’s the one person in the universe that you should always learn how to get along with, cause that’s the one person that’s gonna be with you, to take care of you, until you die. It’s you. You become your own best friend. And I developed good friends. My sponsor, he’s like—you know, I developed a new family. You can get a new family! You ain’t gotta be stuck with the blood relatives. Just because it’s blood doesn’t make it love, I always say that. With some people it is, some people it’s not. You know, my sponsor’s like my father. His wife is like my mother. They care about me. They look out for me. They love me as I am. I got my best friend Luther, he’s like my brother, and his wife Erma, she’s like my sister. We take care of each other. We’ve been taking care of each other for—I got 12 years now. And he’s got 11 years. We take care of each other. People—when you become something of quality, people of quality will be drawn to you. When you become something of a mess, other messy people are drawn to you. So the changes come from within. That’s what I learned about myself. And I guarantee you, the Almighty, or whoever, whatever you believe in, whatever your beliefs are—I’ll put anything that helps you become a better person—has given us everything we need to become healthy, productive, happy people. As long as we keep looking for it from others, we will keep getting disappointed.