When I left Cleveland in August 1974, I was a 17 year old, wide-eyed but clear, teenager. When I returned in May 1996, I was a 39 year old, wide-eyed crack addict, albeit slightly red, and almost middle-aged. I visited on some weekends, the last being in the mid-eighties, but Cleveland was not the same as I left it. There were tall buildings now downtown. What struck me even more peculiarly was my home church, Glenville, changed. It was not the old conservative church I’d grown and loved. They were singing real gospel with a little swaying and the pastor wore a roman-collar! This was too much for me. There were few people I knew but the church was not the church I left. So I decided to attend Southeast SDA Church. More friends and my grandmother attended and a young pastor who I got along well.
Brian invited me but I didn’t know where he lived, so I drove to Kevin’s house, our grandparent’s former home. My grandfather passed away in 1980 and my grandmother lived in a high-rise apartment not too far away. Kevin invited me to stay with him since just separated from his family. It felt strange living in the home of my grandparents and when a child going to their home was a treat. While there, I was treated to a special gift. I experienced all of us together. Let me explain. My father had another son, Sean, by his second wife. Sean knew of us, me first, because as a baby I would play with him when I moved to New York the year following his birth. I was seventeen years older and truly his “big” brother, and although he could use the threat at school to bullies, fortunately I never had to do it, and he would get to meet his other brothers whenever they might have visited New York. One day Sean drove to Cleveland while Kevin and I were standing outside, quite surprised to see him, followed by Brian moments after. It would be the first and last time I was able to see the four of us, at one time. Sean died in an automobile accident August 1997. I will always remember it because Princess Diana died in a car accident three weeks later. And yes, I was doing drugs on both occasions.
I found work rather easy circulating my resume to several employment agencies. When I found work, I sent a letter to the detective in Pennsylvania along with one to the Judge and probation department informing them where I was, why I left and included money with the promise I would send regular amounts to completely reimburse the monies I was not able to pay prior to leaving. I received a letter from the detective requesting me to appear on another date and I responded I could not and I did not think I could handle it emotionally because of suicidal tendencies and included additional money. I was faithful in sending money until my drug addiction flared up with my earning money again and learning Cleveland’s drug spots.
Kevin, a police detective, although aware I was now a fugitive and having first-knowledge of drugs could tell things were changing with me. One night he came home, woke me up, me glancing at my watch seeing it was a little after one in the morning, told me I had to leave. He never offered any reason and I didn’t ask for any. I packed a few things leaving clothes and other boxes, one which held the first writing of this book in his attic and left. I went to my grandmother’s home explaining I needed a place to stay. You can always depend on your grandmother to take you in when no one else will. However, I was finished with Kevin. I knew he was working one night and I still had a key, security code and knew where he stashed his money and helped myself to $300 and partied one night in his honor. I knew I was taking a big chance and could have gotten serious criminal charges, but I’m an addict and he knew this when he took me in. Just because he was a cop, and my brother, were of no consequence to me. It’s what I did. It’s who I was. Over time and at the insistence of family members I reimbursed him. At the writing of this chapter, still $125 is owed. (Note: The full amount of $125 was paid when I visited Cleveland, September 2006.) When you’re on drugs, you may have every good intention, but seldom are you able to follow-through. I’m sorry, Kevin. This would be the first opportunity to meet his children, my nephew Kevin and niece, Aja. Some uncle I turned out to be, depleting their father’s ability to pay for them!
On my mother’s side of the family a big celebration is usually held when you reached forty years old, at least so I thought because a cousin had turned forty and told me of the big surprise party for him, so I thought I would have the same. I received an invitation from an old girlfriend, Rochelle, I hadn’t seen since our early teens because she left for California, just disappearing. She was attending New Life Health Institute near Ashtabula, a ministry started by a friend of ours, Beverly, who held a degree in nursing and her husband David, a psychologist, opened and provided counseling services and healthful eating education. If you could pay, it was appreciated. If your insurance covered services, even better; however, most persons would come because of desperation of either drugs or other emotional problems which prevented a normal lifestyle. So, I had her invitation to join her for the weekend beginning Friday, October 4th. I shared with her my family’s tradition and my expectation. I worked as a temporary for an international real estate company considering me for two permanent positions, to either replace the person who was training me, or possible management position one of the managers suggested I interview for. It seemed within a week or two, I could really be working again, full-time with an excellent salary, benefits and hope. When I left the office that Friday and there were no surprise party for me, I was very disappointed, got into my car and headed for New Life!
You don’t realize how time might have affected you until you look at someone who is your contemporary. When I last saw Rochelle, she was a starlet, a very beautiful woman. I heard of her difficulties in rumors but some of them must have been true. Rochelle was not the Rochelle I remembered and I probably not the Roy she remembered either. With my hard life of five years, actually seven if you consider the two years of addiction before my termination at IBM, I’m sure she thought the same as I did her about me. We enjoyed catching up on the past and hearing how life treated us. We were even honest about our hopefulness regarding each other and thankful our friendship could survive the shock. I might have gone to New Life expecting such with Rochelle, but there was one woman I met, Angela, and I expected much with her, in fact, I was smitten.
Angela was tall, about 5’7”, shapely medium build, dark-skinned woman who caught my eye immediately. She had been there five years and now providing services as the facility’s cook. Prior to these five years, Angela came from a life of serious drug addiction and from what I heard, might have even been wanted by law enforcement. If not her, definitely a brother who had been featured on America’s Most Wanted, twice! I observed her during the weekend, impressed with her taking to my own faith, quite knowledgeable about Spirit of Prophecy writings. She was just the kind of woman who could turn this ol’ boy around. I hoped if we could get together, we’d be a positive influence on each other.
When the weekend ended I gave Rochelle a ride back to Cleveland and I had every intention of going to work the following day. I had a few dollars left and bought a rock of Crack and did not enjoy it. I was depressed that after such a nice weekend, I was back to my old habits. How long was this kind of life going to last? Didn’t anything matter—to make a difference? Why could I not put this thing down?
I had to use the bathroom and found an abandoned or so I thought, former gas station boarded up. I found an opening and as I was relieving myself, once my eyes adjusted to the darkness, saw I was using what others considered their living-room for my bathroom! There were several people mulling around, others trying to keep warm in the brisk October night air. I looked around and had an epiphany of seeing myself joining them if I didn’t get immediate help.
I got into my car, checked the gas gauge and knew I did not have enough gas to drive the more than 90 miles I needed to get back to New Life. I bowed my head in prayer asking God if I belonged to New Life and not here, no matter what my work options appeared to be, get me to New Life safely. Less than two hours, I was sitting in Beverly and David’s home, explaining to them why I returned. I later learned it was their prayer for me to return. When Angela learned I returned she gave me a hug, a tender hug. I just knew I made the best decision I could have ever made. I was going to have that “New Life” after all.
New Life is in the city of Pierpont, Ohio. David and Beverly lived in a modular home and built another structure to serve as the residence for their charges. It consisted of two bathrooms, four bedrooms, three of them able to sleep two, a large sitting room for socializing and holding sessions that everyone attended. A small kitchen used mostly for storage with its refrigerator and sink, no stove. All the cooking was prepared, strictly vegan meals, by Angela in the main house. Angela lived in a small trailer parked between the two main buildings. The grounds were quite nice with plenty of area for growing vegetables with a large man-made lake providing their own source of water, filtered and pumped into the homes.
Our days consisted of early morning devotion long before the sun rose, about 5:30. Breakfast was served at 6:30 usually consisting of some mixture of grains and fruit. We would hold group about 8:00 where each resident had an opportunity to open and examine their lives and experiences, with the help of the other students, facilitated by David or Beverly, sometimes both. The sessions were definitely spiritually-led resulting in profound insights into various aspects of one’s life and resultant problems, focusing mostly on what could have happened during one’s childhood and/or pre-childhood. Yes! Prior to actual birth!
One incident which stands out foremost in my mind was a young man in his twenties who could never drink hot beverages. After several weeks of discussion, prayer and fellowship, it was determined he was sexually abused as a baby, by his stepfather who used his mouth as a receptacle of this abuse. When it was time for him to move on, it was evidenced by his ability to drink tea for the first time!
People might be leery to discuss openly about demonic possession, but it is for certain it is still quite real even today, perhaps not the degree or extreme during Christ’s time. Perhaps it could be explained, maybe, this was so pronounced then because He was here to effect healing. However, He has left ministers who have been given the gift of effecting such expulsions no mater how it is carried out today. There were evidences of such taking place at New Life. For me, I was there to understand why I exposed myself and drug addiction. I would not make the understanding they were both connected until years later but being at New Life gave me the foundation for clearer understanding and insight into my particular problems.
I was growing quite fond of Angela and hoped it was the same with her toward me, although her attention was directed at someone she met at a N.A. meeting in town we were encouraged to attend once a week, particularly those who suffered from drug abuse. I learned I could become obsessive about a woman, then possessive, jealousy overcoming any rational behavior.
This would be the only one time I would enjoy attending a N.A. meeting, because for the most, part none of the other students wanted to attend and would give time for Angela and I to be alone and away from the therapeutic table. At these meetings, she and I presented a different way considering their sobriety. We just couldn’t interject completely our beliefs because we’d find ourselves asked not to attend or ignored. Whenever possible, we just drop a small tidbit of information hoping it would spark some interest and generate discussion perhaps not in an open forum, what we would not have wanted but more one-on-one or get them interested in coming out to the facility for more information.
I still had some monies from having worked which was not spent totally on drugs—yet. There was a time when I disappeared because of some jealous behavior on my part of Angela seeing this guy and watching her get all pretty for a date. I drove to Erie, Pennsylvania only because someone mentioned this is where they were from and how they used to do drugs and it was close by. I drove there and sure enough was able to make a connection. Returning to the group I found an empathetic support group who knew what was happening and surrounded me with love and glad I came back.
One night while taking a walk I observed Angela in a state of undress. Another time, when she was out and would not return until very late, I purposefully made certain I was awake, left my room to watch her. She never closed her curtains, as I was able to determine by their staying in the same position day after day. In group I confessed to watching her after I mentioned to her I saw glimpses of her the first time, but she did not act to resolve it. During one session I learned as much as I now had the compulsion to watch, it was shared by one of Angela’s compulsions, which brought her there years before, was her need to be watched. This was a relationship made in hell. Her response would be, “If I choose not to close my curtains, can you choose not to watch?” My answer was “No.” On the property was a home-made steam-bath we all enjoyed. I would often steam and enjoyed the freeness of still practicing nudity, although being somewhat concealed. I developed a way of exposing myself to her by coming out only in a bathrobe, untied and go through the motions of adding wood to the fire, having the robe to fall open. Her door and windows faced this area and I was certain she’d be there to see me. I wondered if Angela did the same. She did. I watched her once come out of the hot steam-room into the winter cold. Then during another session, I confessed to watching her again, explaining I was walking when she appeared but I did not move or say anything not wanting to frighten her. This would upset her causing a rift between us. We had another young lady skilled in the art of massage, and she’d provide her services. Totally therapeutic, of course. Once when she was providing such a service for Angela, I went into the adjoining bathroom, climb a chair quietly lifting the ceiling tile to observe her topless. Having been warned not to make any overt attempts to see her again and with the discovery of the tile not quite in its proper place, I confessed to my act, was arrested and later jailed for ten days and fined for voyeurism.
It would be the first time I ever spent any time in jail. In Ashtabula County jail, military barrack setting with twenty men, I spent my days reading books, playing cards or watching television. About the eighth day, I had had enough. I hated being confined, standing in line for food, the loud noise and lack of maturity exhibited in most of the guys. I did not make any friends keeping mostly to myself. I was glad when my time was finished, received my court papers reminding me of my fine and method of payment and handed my car keys! I was barred from stepping on New Life’s property. My car was already loaded with my personal effects, by the residents of New Life and left in the jail’s parking lot. I brushed the car from the recent snow and headed for Cleveland to my grandmother’s.
No one had to know nor did I mention I was not leaving New Life, but jail, to resume life. I found work again—easily, working for such well-known companies as TRW, DeLoitte & Touché, and Arthur Anderssen. I enjoyed the attention I received from the different employment agencies vying for my services. I was the “temporary’s dream” for my ability to work a keyboard, my record being 141 words per minute with a two percent error ratio, and skill level considered an expert of Microsoft software. There was no job I couldn’t qualify for and very little I did not know and what I didn’t I would learn within a half-hour of my showing up. I had an aptitude for software and enjoyed it. My temporary pay ranged in the mid to upper teens per hour, quite unlike the normal eight to ten dollars per hour most earned. I could ask, and did, for raises and received them when I determined I needed more money because the job gave me more duties than previously agreed upon because of my discovered skills. Often I was contracted to report to a job because their first placement was not able to handle the work or lied saying they could, giving the company a bad reputation. My instruction was to “fix it”. And I did. Once I received a call from one agency offering me four dollars an hour more than my current salary from another agency, not knowing what I was making, if I would leave my assignment and take theirs. I did.
When I began working at the headquarters of TRW, I decided it was time to leave my grandmother’s home and get a place of my own. I wanted the freedom to come and go as I pleased which I could do at her home, but not respectfully. I moved over a bar in perhaps the worse drug section of town, Central Avenue in Cleveland. Ideally for two reasons: if I ever ran into car trouble, a bus left from the opposite end of my street and would take me close to work. Secondly, I was close to my drugs.
Living over a bar wasn’t too bad except the room was small and the door didn’t fit perfectly within the frame. I had to use a common bathroom, the tub never draining quickly enough while showering which meant either stepping into someone else’s dirty water or confine myself to bathing out of the sink. There were no facilities to store food but a small deli/grill was next door. But all that was just fine because the drugs were close by!
After two months there, making excellent money, purchasing greater quantities of drugs, I stole a laptop. Why? I could never figure the answer. I already had one which suited my purposes just fine, thanks to another company. Although I pawned it, I still had ownership. I never felt comfortable with it in this apartment because of the poor doors, poor security and even poorer tenants. Because of my excellent job performance, TRW requested I attend a meeting with members of their staff to Chicago. A first for my agency. They were quite excited about this venture as well as the likelihood of them offering me a full-time permanent position and the agency standing to make twenty-five percent of my first year’s salary as a finder’s fee. I took the laptop on Friday, and by Sunday night, was completely out of my mind because of drugs. I suffered the worse case of paranoia—ever. I was beginning to see things! I had the impression everyone was watching me, but it didn’t keep me from my drugs. I did more and more. By Monday morning, I knew there was no way I could go to work, with the trip scheduled the following day. In fact, I did not know what was really happening to me. I went to a busy intersection and called my office, telling them my car broke down. My other real fear was the computer would be found missing this morning and my current state of paranoia prevented me from even wanting to be there for fear of an arrest. My agency contact was begging me to get there, to take the bus if needed be. We were, together, too close to the brink of something good if I could just only hold it together. I wondered now what her percentage of the fee would amount too? This was her motivation, not mine. I said good-bye knowing the job was over, the trip was over and everything over, again, because of drugs.
I went across the street to Burger King and I got the impression everyone was looking and talking about me. The radio station was announcing about me. The kids who were ordering before heading to school were laughing at me. Everything was about me! I managed to stay and get my order and imagined people driving by pointing and laughing at me. What was so noticeable that I couldn’t see? I went back to my room to settle my nerves and took my last twenty dollars and went to find drugs. I went to my spot and thought I saw my detective brother, who was looking for me, or so I thought, move to hide near another building. I went after him. If someone was looking for me, then I was going to face it. I could not find him. I saw some drug dealers, but at the same time a patrol car slowly drove down the street. In an attempt to finally get some sort of satisfaction I stood in their path blocking them then approached the driver’s side saying,
“Sir, I have twenty dollars in my pocket and if you do not stop me, I am going to buy drugs!”
“Are you serious?” He couldn’t believe what he had just heard looking over to his partner, “Why are you telling us that?”
“I need help. Will you please help me?” Now I’m practically in tears. Inside me there was a feeling of desperation. I was tired of what I was experiencing. If they could take me somewhere, I’d be willing to go. While they provided a ride to a facility closer to the main center of town, I shared with them I had a brother in the Fourth District, who they paged. However, Kevin never returned the page.
When we arrived they escorted me to a desk and told the receptionist why they brought me. They wished me well and even commented my tactic was unusual but they wished more would take the initiative and courage and do the same. I thanked them and sat waiting to be interviewed. As I sat there, detoxing, the paranoia leaving, I could tell because no one was looking at me, pointing or laughing anymore, and I was certain I was not wanted for theft of a computer, so, I left. You see, I could handle a theft charge, but not if someone were looking for me and found me doing drugs, too! Not during a paranoia session. I was afraid of a felony take-down and did not want to be hurt. I walked all the way back from where they picked me up, made a purchase and headed back to my room to enjoy the freedom of knowing no one really was looking or even cared about me.
I eventually had to move back with my grandmother because of her insisting I leave that area coupled with my need to leave because I did not have a job anymore and needed a place with a phone to receive job offers. And they came again when the agencies learned I was available. Although starting fresh again, I would still be living my old, stale drug life.
One Thursday I took enough money and an overnight bag and went to a motel in the same area I drugged near Central Avenue. I made a decision, before I started, I was not going and pick up my check on Friday. I had my mind made up. On Friday morning with five dollars left, I thought to buy just a small rock, do it, then sign-out of the motel, pick up my check and go home to my grandmother. When I was walking to make a buy, I saw a young lady I met several times before who knew of good sources and I could trust not to steal. Tammy was her name. She was disappointed when she learned I had been at the motel yesterday and the whole night and she hadn’t seen me. I apologized letting her know I did drive around and tried to find her, which was the truth, but I had five dollars left, not enough for two, although I really wished I’d seen her then because she and I enjoyed the same habit of exposure while smoking. Not wanting to be a complete disappointment and I did have more money available, I assured her if she’d help me find a quick buy, I would finish it and return with more cash and we’d party. She knew I would keep my word but still asked if I would share the five with her. I didn’t.
When I was okay enough to drive, I headed to the opposite part of town, picked up my check and went back to find Tammy and more drugs. In the time it took me to leave and return, there was an unusual amount of cars, a traffic jam of emergency vehicles and police cars in front of the motel. When I parked off a side-street and walked back to get a closer look, I saw news trucks with satellite dishes and television news crews in separate spots, one interviewing a city dignitary, while the police were breaking down doors in the background, some exiting with occupants handcuffed, with shotguns! My door was already opened. I thought about my overnight bag with my name attached and for the slightest of moments thought to claim it, but deciding to let it go. I hid my stem but I’m sure they would have found it and I didn’t need to draw any undue attention to myself. I escaped by mere moments it seem. I located Tammy weeks later and we were glad I didn’t have more money at the time because we’d both would have been probably undressed, too high to make any sense of being discovered and pictured in the newspaper and perhaps even on the five o’clock news, being shown escorted with our hands handcuffed behind our backs, names in the paper and jailed.
In March 1997 I accepted a position as the Assistant to the Vice President of Operations for Finast, a local grocery retailer, now Tops in the northeast section of Ohio with stores in New York, a company owned by corporate giant Royal Ahold. It was a prestigious position, working for the man whose daily responsibility was managing five district directors, who managed forty-three stores with hundreds of department managers and employees. The second of only two blacks at the corporate level, I enjoyed the visibility and recognition. I enjoyed clipping my pictured-identification badge to my shirt, reminiscent of my IBM days, this time having more clout.
One of the perks of the job was a private box at the local stadiums, Gund Arena, where the Cleveland Cavaliers played. I was given tickets for a Mary J. Blige concert with Bones, Thugs and Harmony among other artists. I had no interest in rap or hip-hop but took the tickets anyway. I invited a woman who worked in the cafeteria I was sort of sweet on and thought this would be a nice way to make an impression. Our box, although quite a ways from the main stage, but it was not a problem because we could see close up via the many monitors in the private area. A stocked bar, private bathroom and whatever we wanted off the menu we could place an order and not worry, it was already paid for! I felt like a millionaire thinking how good a life I was living. If it hadn’t been for the other corporate partner’s people sharing the box with us, I would have made my move on the lady and tried my own little rap session with her and done a little hop on her hip!
My responsibilities were to assist him and the Director of Store Operations, a position held by a man who had been there for years, probably as I was old, nearing retirement and a job I learned later I was being groomed to replace. There was no secret I could have been approaching the $75-80,000 a year salary level. I generated daily reports to all the district managers, handle customer complaints whenever they asked to speak to an executive level person and from time to time visited stores, ensuring their pristine appearance and service to our customers. I especially enjoyed when I went shopping and received extra treatment. It was also where I took my grandmother for her weekly outing of exercise and shopping, letting her push a cart up and down the aisles to give her purpose for living. I was not one to just let her sit and do nothing wasting away. One of us was doing that only too well!
I lived so close to headquarters, I could walk to work within thirty minutes. The times I did drive were due to bad weather, at least it was this way in the beginning. Later, walking became my only mode because I couldn’t afford to get the brakes fixed due to my drug addiction. Once my boss asked me to drive him to where his car was being repaired and I tried to push him off but this was my boss and I just could not refuse him when he persisted. It was pure mayhem watching him hold on tightly as I went through intersections because I couldn’t bring the car to a full stop! It would have been hilarious except it was really sad to see myself in such a condition.
Even when money was too tight and I spent it all on drugs, the cafeteria would extend me credit and I would take care of my bill at the end of the week when I was paid. It would be the one time I would be guaranteed to have some money.
One night before going home my boss had been in conference with the budget people and left a laptop on the conference room table. I noticed it and looking around, stashed it in the kitchen area under a load of donuts and bagels. One of the other employees went to retrieve it and reported it missing with my acknowledging I knew nothing. Later, when I determined no one was around, I moved it to my boss’s office, determining it was too hot to get it outside. I planned coming early in the morning to take it. When I left the kitchen carrying the box containing the computer covered by the donuts, I noticed a security guard observing me! I locked the box in my boss’s credenza, then left. Walking home, I called my boss on my cell phone informed him there was a report of a computer missing but I noticed it and locked it in his office. He told me they called him and it would be resolved in the morning. I had a sickening feeling about the whole matter but felt somewhat relieved I could explain why I moved the equipment.
The following morning, a bit earlier than I normally would arrive, I was stopped by security just after entering the grounds. The head of security took me into their offices, questioned me and informed me they did not believe my story and brought up the fact of my recent arrest in Ashtabula. I didn’t realize it then, nor was notified, Ashtabula had an arrest warrant for me because I had not paid the fine. When a police car drove up, I knew I was not headed to work or home, at least for awhile. It hurt me to hand over my identification badge for a second time, all because of drugs. It never occurred to me with the money I was making I could have bought whatever computer system I wanted. My addiction was too great. I could not keep money. For all the good jobs I held, I had nothing to show for it, even being here, this job, for no more than six months, no matter where I worked. I suffered such embarrassment of being searched, handcuffed and led out to be carted away.
After being arrested and sentenced to ten days in jail, I was comfortable because I had done it before. I had my own cell which stayed unlock, a nice color television, in possession of a remote control because there was no one else in the six person jail. One exceptional benefit which happened three times a day was delivered meals from a local restaurant. The meals were plentiful and good. So good I hated to leave! But, I had to go, but I did not go home.
The second day my arresting detective informed me I was being charged with attempted theft but there were further developments. One of the temporary workers at my job informed them I sold her a computer, out of a pawnshop, weeks earlier. Perhaps it was stolen, too? It was. I was now facing a felony, third degree, grand theft and to answer that charge was sent to the county jail on October 3, 1997, a day before my 41st birthday. The detectives and I had a nice friendly relationship and when learned of my birthday, with two days remaining to my sentence, decided to take me to the County Jail, and my sentence considered served.