I grew up in Brooklyn, where both of my parents were heavily involved with drugs. By the age of twelve, I began experimenting with marijuana and alcohol. My father, who was a dealer at the time, supported my addiction, introducing me to crack cocaine on my sixteenth birthday.
Feeling trapped and alone, I ran away from home at fifteen. At the age of sixteen, I was using crack every day and by nineteen, I was homeless, spending most nights sleeping on park benches. Desperate for help, I entered Phoenix House in March 1989, when I was twenty-one. I immediately found the counselors and staff understanding and open-minded. They taught me that I had to become a better person to myself first, before I could become a better person to others. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of dignity; I could hold my head high without feeling beneath everyone.
My time at Phoenix House’s Long Island City program gave me true friends, a newfound purpose, and a fresh start. I now have my own title insurance business in Florida, named after the phoenix bird, whose mythology resembles my own rise above addiction. Today, twenty years sober, I still use the tools I learned.