When I was 14, I picked up a fast food job working with older kids. One night, they thought it would be funny to get me, the weird nerdy kid, high. Soon I went from occasionally to enthusiastically smoking, then to selling. By my sophomore year in college, I had more than $20,000 in savings and a shared brick of cocaine in the dorm room.
There are a million incidental stories in between that I can only kind of remember now. I ran from police. I was held at gunpoint. I helped a juvenile who’d sold on my behalf leave the state to flee an arrest warrant. Someone I knew died after taking drugs that came from me. I OD’d a few times and came back, and I never had to worry about the medical bills. I was questioned by a DEA representative in the hospital after one, and then I was promptly forgotten about as the investigation moved on.
I’ve had so many lucky breaks, you know?
Like, I’ll never forget this one time. I brought in Adderall and Xanax into the projects—a pretty gritty neighborhood—and left with half a pound of weed, six grams of coke, some acid, some ecstasy, and some mushrooms. Several felony amounts.
It was 2:30 in the morning and I was two blocks out of this guy’s apartment when this cop pulls me over. He looks in and takes one look at me and—I will remember this to the day I die—goes What are you doing in this part of town?
If I had been black, I know he never would have asked me that question.
I was like, I don’t know. I turned off the interstate to get some gas. I just got out of a concert? I think I got lost. I don’t think I’m supposed to be here—this looks like a bad neighborhood. He gave me the fastest route to the interstate, didn’t even ask for my driver’s license or registration.
I guess I thought this would all be fun and exciting. It was just depressing and terrifying. And I hurt a lot of people in a lot of ways. I watched a people get hurt and hurt themselves, and I never did anything to stop it. That still bugs me.
You wonder why I’m motivated to do the work I do today? I kinda feel like I owe it to someone at this point. I didn’t earn this second chance, but I can put it to good use.