I believe the beginning of my story to be very typical. Except that I am not like many people who have grown up in poverty-stricken West Virginia. I came from an above-average home. My parents were divorced when I was 14. I was given way too much freedom at a young age. Despite the extra freedom, I wanted to be living on my own, so I excelled in school. I ended up graduating from Oak Hill High School at the age of 16. I had started taking night classes and summer classes at the College of WV, so I was also a sophomore in college at the age of 16.
I transferred to Marshall University after graduating from high school. I was not prepared for the females who live in Huntington, WV. They were nothing like the girls that I was familiar with in Beckley. I ended up spending my college years partying and chasing women, instead of taking advantage of the academic head start that I had.
I did manage to land a career in the mortgage industry, with dropping out of college my senior year. I had no responsibilities. I was 18 years old, I could crash on my mom's couch or over at dad's house. I had no reason to get my own place. I had the use of two. Basically, I would work for two months to earn some big commission checks, then I would party for a month straight until I was broke. Then I would repeat this cycle all over again.
I did eventually settle down some. I was married and had a kid. My wife was already a mother when I married her, therefore I became an instant father of a two-year-old. I stepped up and started taking care of them, but I did not stop using drugs. I tried to manage to keep everything afloat during my cocaine usage. Cocaine and crack were the first drugs that led me to dumb decisions that would have major consequences.
I lost my driver's license due to a DUI, but I was not going to stop driving. After all, how would I get to places? I continued driving and therefore continued getting more charges for driving on revoked for DUI. I ended up getting 6 months of Home Confinement. I was still smoking crack and using coke at a vicious rate. So.....they put me into jail for two weeks, because of a violation. When I was released, I had to go to counseling and Day Report, in addition to my Home Confinement. The two-week vacation helped me pull my head away from the drugs, at least temporarily.
This was the first time in over a decade that I racked up any decent clean time. I put five months of sobriety time together. By the end of the five months, I was already planning on using as soon as I was released from Home Confinement. On the way to turn in my home confinement box at 7:30 a.m., I stopped and purchased a case of beer from the gas station. I went to a friend's house and bought some Xanax bars. Then, I went and turned in my home confinement box and my bracelet. It was house party time.
The next significant life event was the crash of the mortgage industry. This led to me losing my career. I emptied what was left in my 401K, and I let my home go back into foreclosure, but not before selling it on a land contract. I took the money that I received from the buyer and moved to Huntington, WV. The unfortunate home buyer was about to have the lender knocking on the door to foreclose.
My addiction shifted to pain pills. Then after a few connections being made, I started applying my strong math skills to selling Oxys. I was pretty good at it. At this point, my story becomes pretty typical. I sold a lot of pills. I made a lot of money. I committed many crimes. I was arrested. I was released pending indictment and then I was indicted. The Feds took the pills off of the market so I switched to heroin.
After beginning to shoot heroin, there really was nothing that I was too proud to do. I spent years saying that I would never shoot up, but when the choice was shoot up or be sick it was HIT ME! I would rob my family and I would steal from my friends. It was no longer me. The disease was in full control of my entire body. This went on for three years before I was finally sent to a Federal prison. I did my time at a Federal prison camp. If you have to go to prison, this is where to go. I was still separated from my family and my wife had left me. When my wife lost custody of the kids, my custody was taken too. I was stripped down to absolutely nothing.
I can remember this as a time when I was at my worst mentally. I had been in prison for about 45 days and the withdrawals were finally starting to stop. I had received the court papers that showed where the judge ruled on taking my children away from my wife and me. The reason for this was because my wife, at the time, had continued doing the only thing she knew to keep feeding her addiction. I went away to prison, and I left her with a habit and I was no longer there to feed. I remember walking down to medical to get one of the last doses of Ativan that I was going to get for withdrawals. The nurse's name was Mr. Rose. I'll never forget this. He asked me to hang around for a few while he finished handing out medications. He waited until the other inmates had left the area. He looked at me and said...God told me to tell you that He Loves You!
This moment was my official change. I was still a mess, but I was no longer headed toward death. I began running toward LIFE! I was still mad at God. I had in my head that He was going to keep me out of prison and when I went, I was mad at Him. I felt let down. I felt like He went back on his word. The bottom line is that prison was exactly what I needed. Prison saved my life. If I had not gone to prison, then there is no doubt that I would be dead.
I started reading the Bible. I read the entire Bible. I started doing some writings too. When I was studying, I felt compelled to put some words onto paper. I felt something building up inside of me and the only way to get it out was to write it down. So I did. I wrote a few sermons that I mailed out of prison to my dad. I completed the RDAP program. This program used some behavior modification and rational emotive behavior therapy to give me the tools that I needed to get started in the right direction.
Upon release, I went to a half way house in Kanawha County, WV. I noticed something while I was there. It was that all of the guys coming out of prison, had legitimate plans for business that did not included illegal activity. Then I noticed two weeks later, that these same guys who had previous plans of doing right and prospering, were now picking up packages by the bus stop and hitting the corners, selling dope. I was asking myself, what the heck? What happened? I figured it out. They did not have any family coming to pick them up to take them to get hygiene, to job hunt, to see other family, etc. So at that moment Anchor Project birthed in my spirit. I knew that I had to do something.
In 2015, I was working at two restaurants, and working for our Church trying to find a grant, and write a proposal that would help me get the Anchor up and running. I would open at Applebee's and close at Outback and work the Church in between. The long hours showed me what I could do with God's help. I started regaining my confidence that was lost in prison. After being denied on my first attempt at grant writing, I decided to reach out to KISRA. KISRA was the organization that I remember coming into the prison and teaching classes. I remember hearing that they help convicted people get their lives restarted . I thought if I told my story that maybe they would either give me the money or loan me the money. I edited the previous proposal I had done and sent a version to KISRA. They denied giving me any money but they said that they had some buildings that they could let me use. After a few board meetings to square away the deal, we had the keys.
I then started the process of determining how to get the Anchor up and running. From referrals to bed sheets, I was checking things off and readying everything for opening day. Everything else has been one amazing opportunity after another that God has put up for us. I have finished my Bachelor's degree. I am currently working on my Master's Degree to become a Mental Health Therapist. He has been directing, and I have simply remained humble and tried to be available to be used. God is Good.