I moved to AVL in July of 1998, following a 2 month stint in rehab to battle an addiction to heroin and cocaine, a habit poorly learned to cope with the harsh winters in Colorado. I had never been to AVL, but was told the town had good recovery, like-minded people, and difficult access to heroin. I moved here with my girlfriend, our dogs, and an impressive collection of cannabis growing equipment. My plan was to stay sober and grow enough cannabis to put myself back through college, complete my business degree, and live and normal, fulfilling life.
Soon, we met our new neighbors. Big D (RIP), Aunt Rosie (RIP), and his incarcerated sister’s 2 children.During small talk of where we came from and what future plans we had, Big D mentioned that he was broker of high quality crack cocaine.I had lived a very entitled lifestyle, and had never lived in a town with an open air drug market.I was intrigued, yet scared at the same time. I asked Aunt Rosie why she let Big D sell crack off her front porch 24/7. She replied, “He ain’t gonna get those Air Jordan sneakers and Tommy Hilfiger jeans working at Wendy’s!”So we let them continue their drug market, as it would cover our backs for the cannabis grow operation. Big D used to slip away from the police on a trail next to our home. One day he knocks on the door, and asks about the smell coming from my basement. He mentioned he loved weed and would trade for crack. What the what?
So it had been 6 months since I got out of re-hab. I began drinking alcohol daily, and trading our organic medicine for a 15 minute high that had brothers killing brothers. That is around the time I first met Keith R.(RIP) He was a well-known male prostitute who was a valued client of Big D. He was a daily customer. The crack was purchased from his client’s cars. He would come back almost a dozen times a day. I always said what a horrendous situation and I would never let a drug get a hold of me like that. Never say never. The booze and cocaine consumed me and my girlfriend left.
I was working on my Business Degree at UNC-A. I was living off of the alcohol and cocaine. I openly sold pot to my teachers and classmates at the college. I needed ~$500 a day to buy enough drugs and booze to feel able to complete my assignments. I did not financially require one, but I always had a roommate. They could save me if I overdosed, got robbed, or raided. I now feel that God dragged me through those last few semesters that I cannot recall.
I graduated in December of 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Business. I even somehow pulled off a 3.25 GPA. I thought that upon graduation, I could put down the drugs and booze, and get a job. My resume was impressive, and I sounded professional on the telephone. But when it came time for interviews, I either blew them off, went drunk, or hungover wearing disheveled clothing. I could not get my professional career off the ground.
I was so disillusioned, I felt that I did not need to contribute to corporate America. I knew how to grow really good cannabis and expanded my operation. This decision only dug me deeper into my drug and alcohol abuse. I would still see Keith around town at all the new crack houses. Around this time, he told me he was HIV Positive. He had a strong and likeable personality and was one of the most intelligent people I knew.
I had a roommate who was confused about her sexuality. We would go to the gay bars so I could support her decision. We would see Keith doing his thing, but I was not as bad off as he was, right? Every night was the same, and I had multiple hospital visits over the years.
By 2008, my addiction was so bad, I became ostracized. No one wanted to move in as my babysitter anymore. I sat alone in my home, with the blues on my back, and a bottle on the floor. All my original cocaine connections were either dead or in prison. I could not even think or remember anything. I was a useless drain on society, incapable of helping humanity.
I was driving my smoke up to Philadelphia, where my “friends?” would give me heroin in exchange. 2009, I was hungover, driving a U-Haul van, to be used locally only, to deliver weed, and a setup for a new grow operation in Philly. I was driving 5 miles over the speed limit merging onto I-81 in Kingsport, TN. That was the end of the line for me. After a refusal to search the vehicle, the State Trooper called U-Haul and obtained consent. I was facing 5 felonies and 30 years in prison. I was an obvious flight risk and remained detained for 3 months.
Upon my attorney’s advice, I entered Julian A. Keith Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center, in Black Mountain, NC. This is where men and women from all over North Carolina go for treatment, whether on their own accord, or a judge’s orders. There were 30 men that time in my rehab program. There was an obvious lack of intelligence, as most glorified their using and hustling. Then, my good timing, crack smoking buddy, James R.(RIP), checked into ADATC. We had never talked to each other sober. I am not sure if he even remembered me, as he was becoming quite emaciated from the then full blown AIDS illness.
Sober, James was probably the most intelligent and kind-hearted man there. I was not really into hearing the war stories of the Redneck Gangsters sent up here by the prison system. James and I would hang out and play the games Scattegories or Scrabble. James had a sharp mind and extensive vocabulary. He was quick-witted, funny, and cared for those with no money for snacks or tobacco. For the next month, the other 28 men in there would call me homophobic slurs, turn their back on me, or just plain be rude. But I felt gravitated to James, as he had a story to tell. I learned a little about living and a lot about life from James.
August 28, 2018 will be 9 years continuous sobriety for me. I wish I could say the same for my friend James (RIP). Known around town by the American Red Cross blanket he wore like a shawl, James fell deeper into his addiction and was crippled by the AIDS. I do not know why God chose me to be sober. It is not anything I could have ever done myself and I give Him all the Glory.
Today, my best friends do not have much of anything, and can only offer me their experience, strength, and hope. I praise God for the people like James who have come into my life. Friends like that are the best kind because I feel the Spirit moves in all things.
Gone but not forgotten…
~ Anonymous Haywood Street Member