From Ivy League to the penitentiary, one man’s story of redemption and hope.
I will never forget the moment in 2004 when Judge Hardesty told me that I was sentenced to 6 years in the Nevada State Prison for the crime of drug sales. How had I reached a point in my journey that I was returning to prison for the 3rd time, how could I have reached a time in my life that I was so low and ashamed that my life consisted of abandoned houses, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and cheap motels?
My early life showed much promise when I moved to Anchorage in September 1975 from upstate New York. I was 12 years old and in 8th grade at Central Jr. High near downtown Anchorage. I went to Bartlett High School where I was fortunate to take advanced classes and continue the academic bent that I had displayed as a young child. Even though I had some trauma connected to violence in my home due to my father’s alcoholism, I was a pretty well rounded student and young man that showed great promise.
In 1980 at age 17 I was accepted to a prestigious and exclusive Ivy League college named Dartmouth College. As a new freshman I was introduced to drugs and alcohol at a level I had never experienced in my simple Anchorage high school life. I fell into fraternity life like a duck to water and began my early descent into incomprehensible demoralization and depression.
After barely graduating from Dartmouth College in 1984 I returned to Anchorage and was sent to my first outpatient drug addiction and alcoholism treatment center called Northpoint. I was 21 years old and I did not know that it was to be the first of over 14 treatment centers that I was to be a client of during the next 20 years.
I remained sober for a short period of time but by 1989 I found myself homeless and living in the streets in Seattle WA. My life consisted of drinking on the streets, smoking crack in the alleys and committing small crimes and “hustles” to feed my addictions. I was convicted of 2 DUIs in a period of 4 days (a story in itself!) in 1990 and also picked up a theft charge around that time. In 1991 I received my first Class A felony of house burglary; while intoxicated I burglarized a home next to my work site in the University District area of Seattle. I was sentenced to 5 years in prison suspended with intensive probation.
I stayed clean and sober for 2 years (same period I was on probation!) and built a life of work and self-respect. In 1994 I relapsed and entered a period of degradation, shame and self-hatred for the next 10 years with short periods of clean time while in treatment, jail or prison. It seemed that every time I would say to myself “There is nothing I could do worse then what I just did…” I found myself in a situation where I would just go down to another level of shame and degradation.
Finally, in 2004 on September 22 I reached the end after selling crack (for money to travel to another treatment center!) to an undercover officer and was sentenced to 6 years in prison. I have been completely clean and sober since 9/23/2004.
While in prison I made the choice to follow the tenets of the Anonymous programs and get a sponsor and work the steps. I met a man there who became my sponsor when I was released from prison in 2007 and he helped me to seek a means outside of “self” to modify by actions and behavior in relation to drugs, alcohol and all of the selfish things that removed me from a conscious connection with a God.
I returned to Anchorage in 2009 to marry my high school sweetheart and have truly become a participating and productive member of my community and society. I belong and volunteer with numerous organizations and contribute to the Anonymous programs by remaining clean and sober and by sponsoring other men. Most importantly I have regained my self-respect, acquired a God that provides me direction and courage to make good decisions for me and my loved ones. Also I have been blessed with the ability to love again and trust others and myself. Today my life is beautiful and fulfilling and I feel that the redemptive possibilities of recovery await all that want recovery and will work for it.