The day of my interview, we packed up my few belongings, said my good-byes and headed to Bridgeport, where I learned was previously the “murder capital” of the country! The neighborhood we entered made me feel if the city had that reputation, most of those murders probably occurred on this street! The building which housed the ministry was a tall, three-story brick structure, which could pass as a storefront church with apartments and it pretty much was exactly this. I looked around and got a sick feeling in my stomach not accepting this is where I would spend anytime in getting well. In fact, the area reminded me of Newburgh where my best “Crack” days were spent. I said under my breath, in my father’s hearing, “Are you kidding me?”
Inside was a bit more pleasant and after speaking with Bro. LaNair, the Resident Manager, my father left a check and me behind—sadly, I picked up my belongings and headed to my room to make the best of a different and depressing situation. I fell into step with the program feeling I could offer something, having had experience in ministry, perhaps more than the leaders at that time and received the respect of the “students” and began offering lessons, which went contrary to their teachings, but who could refute me? I knew too much.
Pivot Ministries was the name of the organization. The first phase of the ministry was called “Crisis” where you would stay just coming off the street. You had to successfully stay there without falling back into addiction, then move to the second phase after thirty days, “Induction”, where you earned the right to move to the second house located in a much better neighborhood. You could go outside and permitted to the store, as long as you went in groups of at least two, unlike the first house where you were only permitted in the rear yard, never in the front, otherwise considered termination grounds, and on Friday and Saturday nights, you learned to roll from your bed onto the floor when you heard gunshots, and I did, where bullet holes are the prized artwork in the ministry’s glass and walls.
At the first phase, there was a set time when we’d meet in the chapel and kneel down for prayer. I was against the forcing of a man to pray in this position. Certainly, I can understand teaching someone who’d never been taught how to pray the position of kneeling, but it is something which should be done out of respect and a willingness to do so. So, perhaps being somewhat rebellious to some but knowing where my relationship with God was going, I chose to sit, with my back against a wall and pray. When I was a local elder and during Intercessory Prayer, I especially suffered, through those who were exceptionally long-winded, and found it more comfortable to sit or stand. I have problems with my back and knees for many years and unless I am really moved to do so, I will normally just sit and bow my head respectfully.
During one prayer session I was invited, let’s say, impressed to open my eyes and to look as I was praying with the group. My attention was focused upwards to the top of the doors just a foot before the ceiling would begin. There were windows built into the walls which could be opened to allow the circulation of air. There I saw angels flying into the room! There was more than one evil angel fighting with one good angel in what appeared to be a war over the person praying. I could see sparks fly as if swords hitting against the other. The good angel would wound the evil one and he’d fly off and another would appear in his place. However, the good angel would stay his ground, never getting hurt or wounded in the exchange. I looked at the windows and saw faces peering in looking at us praying. I was now to understand, by this vision, there was a serious war going on about us and we’re not even conscious of this. Our angel stands and fights valiantly for us, every moment of our existence, and doesn’t fail to protect us and keep us from those forces that want to destroy us. It is because we were in that house praying we found ourselves especially protected. It would be very interesting to see how it appeared when those of us kneeling or sitting having been in some of the worse places in existence, how the battle must have been even fiercer as we were on the battleground of the evil’s field.
I had another vision, this time while sleeping. Bro. LaNair and I spent hours talking together, my sharing with him my experiences and he asking questions regarding the Scriptures. Although head of the group and obviously the more experienced, yet listened to me as I opened the Scriptures to him. He, a Cuban-American, struggled with addiction to Crack as we all did. He finished the program and offered the opportunity to come back and direct the ministry in this home. He ran a firm program and I learned to appreciate him. One night after having a good talk I dreamt I saw a big spoon emptying its contents into the hold of the smaller spoons. Yet there was nowhere for the larger spoon to refill itself to continue providing substance for the smaller. I believe God was telling me, then, to be careful. It was good to share and give myself to those who wanted to learn BUT I was there to get my own help and filling. I was not there to teach, preach or receive any position. I was there to overcome my addiction to Crack cocaine.
I especially disliked attending church with the group on Sunday. I hated to be carted into New York City and made to sit together, as if we were children and had to hold hands in public. I didn’t want to appear as if I was someone different than anyone else. Yet, I’ve come now to realize, I was very different than the other members who were attending the church. I was special. I was chosen, just as these other men. Chosen out of the middle of the war of death, an eternal death, but I couldn’t see it then. My pride, still, was in the way and I couldn’t see I was truly a trophy, not of this ministry, but of the Lord. The major church which sponsored this organization was not too far from the main church of the Northeastern Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. It was called Soul Saving Station, of Pentecostal faith. Oh, I cringed when asked to stand and was commented upon how many of us came into the ministry with nothing of our own and look at us now, such a fine group of men, even being provided suits from the ministry which these people contributed. Oh, I wanted to die. This was my own suit I was wearing, thank you, and about $450, too! The real embarrassment came when I saw people I knew from my days at Greenhaven prison and often assisted them when they had trouble with the staff, getting additional people in not previously called in advance or was mistakenly left off the list. When I recognized them, I tried to stand slightly away from the group to appear as if I was one of the counselors of the ministry and not a student.
When I arrived at the second phase, I learned more about a final phase called “The Farm” somewhere in Pennsylvania, which was the ultimate downer for me. There was no way I was going to be with a bunch of animals—literally, on some farm, in the middle of nowhere. No way. NO WAY! As it got closer to my turn, I felt the pressure to just give up. So, after 45 days in the ministry, I felt strong enough, and clean enough, to make the decision to quit.
I had a few dollars, it being a Friday night and having heard where not to go, made the decision to find this location and I did. That night I was back smoking Crack, even selling my portable radio with CD player Louisa provided me to listen to gospel music and tapes made of my gospel show. Saturday afternoon, I walked back and forth in the city, seeing the ministry’s vans leave the area, carrying the men to some outing, and I would have been one of them, somewhere warm and having food, but now sleeping in a small park on a bench, trying to keep warm, near the Long Island Sound.
In the morning after a fitful sleep and brushing the morning frost off me, I went to a small store to at least get some hot coffee in me and make change to call Louisa to come get me. I did not think calling my father would have been a good idea. Louisa had trouble with her car and would come as soon as she secured transportation. And she did, late Sunday night. I just couldn’t imagine another night sleeping on the park bench, now with no food, hungry and no money. When I saw her, she passed right by me and fearing she would head back without me, I ran down the middle of the street, blocking cars. I didn’t care! This was my way back to reality. Enough of this insanity. I never ate so good as I’d eaten with her and Aeisha at a McDonald’s on our way home. That night, I borrowed her friend’s rental car and found myself in a legal problem, later being arrested. Those plates were recorded and traced back to me. It didn’t amount to much since I had had a similar arrest in 1979. It wasn’t for drugs but a re-occurring problem I had with exposure, something which begun in 1962, when I was six years old. Don’t ask me why, only that it was, and at that time I could not explain the compulsion—not until years later, in 2002, a year before I would begin to write my story for the second time when the first copy was destroyed accidentally.
My father moved into another home during my absence and it was he who explained to me Louisa did not want me back home. My father shared with me one of the reasons why, since I obviously hadn’t been told even after spending the night in one of the bedrooms of my former house, and not downstairs in my old sleeping quarters in the family-room. Louisa had taken all my electronic equipment and consigned it to be sold from the very shop I contracted to get most of it! I couldn’t believe it! I was angry. Immediately the next day I intended to reclaim my equipment.
I drove to the shop the following morning and when I entered, the wife looked at me and ran into the back, followed by the heavy running steps of her husband back into the showroom. The look on their face led me to think they had seen a ghost. It was no joke because they thought they did! I learned Louisa came to them when I called and told her I was going to kill myself, had reportedly told them I died and she needed the money to take care of the expenses of the home. Hearing her reason for doing so and their offering to take it all and put it into my car since I was the rightful, legal and living owner, I shook my head no. Louisa was doing what she could to survive based upon my actions. I couldn’t deprive her of good intentions. So, I took one last look at my favored things especially that cassette deck, you know, the one where you could load five cassettes, turned and walked away. If the equipment remained in my hands, I would have pawned it and used the money for drugs so in this way at least it was going to a better use.
I found work shortly after with an agency who sent me to IBM! The branch office supporting their marketing department, basically doing similar work when I first started with their Poughkeepsie location, not more than a mile and a half way. It was there I stole my first laptop, because I wanted one, and I could learn various software to become proficient. My drug addiction prevented me from ever having enough money to purchase my own and eventually it would become associated with my sexual compulsion.
Louisa and I divorced in the fall of 1991 and I would meet Karen in the spring of 1992, fall in love, if you could call it that and married August 23, 1992 in California. Again, since this is my story, we won’t share much detail about friends, family or wives but only as it relate to the story.
I received a phone call from my agency one morning as Karen and I are enjoying marital bliss, asking me not to report to IBM. My drug addiction began to affect my performance, so once again I was being terminated. This was after the manager offered me a position, if I wanted, which I did, but had to play it down due to the fact if she checked with Personnel would learn the truth of my leaving the year before. At that time, I told everyone I had taken an early retirement because my whole building was in fact surplus and every employee in that building, a year later was laid off. So, here I was again, no job, but Karen was a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, on the staff, and involved in a practice earning more an hour than I’d ever see earned in one day—well, except for a little later in my life, but her income could provide nicely for the both of us. In fact, we had discussions where we’d talked about the possibility of my becoming Mr. Mom should we have a child and if so, I would have stayed home. I thought about my experience with Aeisha and was comfortable with the thought.
My drug addiction would continue escalating to where Karen cut herself while doing dishes and I had been drugging stayed out overnight, coming home, seeing blood on the counter along with her note. I was a mess and even stealing more than $500 from her checking account after she graciously add me to the account after we were married.
Karen would have enough after finding a burnt shard of glass, from a Crack pipe, and left another note requesting me to leave the premises before she returned home that evening. I was depressed. My father relocated to Georgia. My mother and I still no contact. Louisa was firm about our being “distant” friends, so what could I do? I didn’t even have enough money available to hit the streets to get a good high binge going and having to deal with giving someone some of it to use a room. After sitting in the comfortable living room, I made the only decision I had known to make when all else failed and hope was not an option.
I drove to the local pharmacy and purchased sleeping tablets, this time in excess of what I had previously bought and what I thought a stronger brand. I took capsules this time, opened them and poured them into a glass, then took a fifth of Tequila, with the worm, and mixed it with the medication and drank it straight down. This was February 9, 1993. While I could, I managed to make it upstairs, undress down to my underwear and crawled into bed, waiting for that high I’d known before to hit me, this time not even offering a prayer. Why would God hear me this time? I was finished, and I fell asleep.
The next thing I remembered was being lifted from the bed, and placed on the floor, by stronger arms than Karen’s. I remember seeing blurry images of people around me trying to communicate with me. I was lifted in a strange position onto the back of a person and being carried downstairs around the windy, narrow staircase and placed on a stretcher, and moved outside where I could see it was dark except for street lights and the rolling red and white beacons of the emergency vehicles. I remember feeling movement and thinking if they don’t turn off that siren I will be dead because the noise was too great. At some point, they pulled over and stopped and I could see Karen’s face outside the door, through a window, heard a woman’s voice, “we stopped because we don’t think he’s going to make it. We want to start an IV.” Even now as I think about that night, years ago, I get emotional thinking what I put Karen through. I’m sorry.
We proceeded to the hospital and they rushed me into a room filled with bright lights, examined me and overhearing them discussing a course of treatment. Something about pumping stomach contents. Oh great! Now they’re going to want me to throw up. That’s one reason I don’t drink because I hated the feeling of retching my stomach and those dry heaves. Those are the worse. It’s what kept me from ever experimenting with heroin because I heard the first time everybody throws up. When I was more lucid a doctor discussed with me what was going to happen and I became resistant. No way was I going to sit there and let someone put a hose up my nose and down my throat into my stomach. I tried to get him to just give me a pill to make me throw up and I’d give all he wanted, but he wouldn’t hear it. I told him I had rights and he informed me I didn’t base on the action which brought me in front of him this evening. I told him and the big burly security guard I was leaving, although dressed only in underwear at the time. I could imagine myself walking from wherever I was and I still don’t know today, walking in my briefs, in February, with no shoes. Not a problem, I’ve done it with less and certainly I’d do it with the threat of this type of treatment. The security guard looking at me, looking at him, came over and with the nicest smile said,
“I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you might be able to take me, huh?” I nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, I thought so. That’s why I called for a few of my friends to help.” Three other guys who’d make this guy appear as if his nickname could have been justifiably “Tiny”, came through the doors. He continued explaining they’d take a hold of me to hold me down so I couldn’t move to prevent the hose reaching its goal. A nurse explained how they would put this hose, holding it up for examination, in my nostril and once it is past my nasal area how I’d feel a little pressure—those medical types always use the wrong “p” word. Not “pressure”, “PAIN” is what we normal types feel, then she’d give me some water, just enough to open my throat and she’d push the hose into my opened throat. It would cause me to gag but once past the opening, will move smoothly down where they wanted to pump.
The guys surrounded me taking a firm grip and they were right. I couldn’t move. Someone held my head down and she proceeded to insert the hose into my nose. After struggling herself, she told the guys to relax, it wouldn’t fit! Boy, wasn’t I relieved to hear that; however, she assured me, one nostril was always smaller than the other. Who’d know that? But it’s true. One foot is always longer than the other, a breast larger than the other, etc., so the same would apply for nostrils. She was right, it did move further. I sort’ve wished the second one was the smallest but it did prove to be the one she wanted. I could feel the plastic slowly entering my nasal passage and just when I started to gag, she pulled it ever so slightly back towards her and told me to take a big swallow, which, of course, the first is always modest, right? No, bigger she demanded, and I wanting to cooperate now to get over this situation, did so. When she saw my throat expand she shot the hose past the opening and weren’t they ever correct about the gagging reflex which started and all of a sudden stopped. It was already past where it needed to be. From there she just pushed and pushed until they determined it was where they wanted, attached it to a machine and started pumping.
The one lesson I learned sitting there was if suicide became an option again, unless you are certain your method is going to work, don’t use the method I chose. It took what seemed like hours for them to get everything out. When finished, they told me they now needed to pump charcoal, yep, the stuff of barbeques only liquefied into my stomach to clear and minimize any toxic chemicals of the residue of the pills. Then they’d reverse the procedure and pump that out. That was a strange feeling of getting full but without using my mouth and tasting anything. It was cold, too, which only made it more amazing to shake from the shiver inside instead of outside. Once completed, some six hours later, they didn’t need the huge quartet to hold me, the nurse pulled the hose and me filling every inch of its removal, again gagging as it reached the throat opening, this time my spitting black liquid residue onto the bed. But, it was over. Time to go home. Wrong!
I thought if I could not go home, then fine, a stay over for the remainder of the night here for observation. Wrong again! I was greeted by a policeman who had his handcuffs out explained to me I would now be transported to the county hospital for mental patients and this was not an option either. Oh why, why, couldn’t I have just stolen more money and gotten high?
I spent the next 72 hours, required by law, trying to convince the staff and my assigned psychologist why I did not need to be here, why I didn’t need their “zombie” making medication, and wanted to go home. Those people there were nuts—not like me. They’d sit for hours rocking back and forth, some of them seemed to be disfigured and because the sleeping arrangements were typical of an open dormitory, I couldn’t sleep for fear one of them might kill me! When the three days were up, I was told because of a snowstorm, there would be no way my wife could get me because the State was closing down roadways.
I was not released until February 15th, the day after Valentine’s Day, and three days after I could have left on my own had I been able to get a ride. I went to a mall and convinced a clerk to get me a card I knew they must have in the back because no way would they have sold all of them, and she did, and I gave it to Karen, not wanting to miss our first Valentine’s Day together. It was too late. Karen accepted the card and the candy but informed me I’d still have to look for another place to live and she’d help me.
Within a week I moved into a location which served as a resort area at one time now being rented as apartments, very reasonable, and very close to my new job selling cookware, silver and stemware. In fact, I was pretty good at it, making sales manager in less time than my own manager, who until then held the record. Six weeks! I took up this new challenge, believed in the product and was making money, with the definite promise of more, but the demon of addiction was still very much with me. Soon, he would have the tide in his favor and again I’d be without food, money and other necessities. More than once, Karen would bail me out, but this one time she couldn’t. I turned to the pastor of our church, Pastor O’Reggio for help. He stopped by with can goods, groceries and money for my rent, but the most important commodity he dropped off was a word from God I would spend years considering, not quite understanding its importance until September 2002, ten years later. He said,
“Roy, what you need to do is surrender.”
“Pastor, how do you ‘surrender’? I know how to spell the word, use it in a sentence, even preached it myself; but, how do you do it?”
“I can’t tell you how,” he’d say, “but, I will tell you this. Surrender is a word taken from the act of war. You have a gun and your enemy has a gun and you’ve been trying to kill each other until you run out of bullets. He’s still shooting or capable to do so, but you can’t. At some point, you recognize in order to save your life, you have to trust the person who was just trying to kill you, to save your life! It means putting down your weapon and raising your hands, above your head and making yourself available and vulnerable—for what? Not to be shot, but to be saved. That’s what you need to do.”