I was a typical American kid, until I wasn’t. In high school, life revolved around sports and popularity. Then, after high school, I took a scholarship to play baseball at Virginia Commonwealth University. By the end of college, most people were ready to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Not me.

My life got further out of control with each passing year. The weekend parties of my freshman year became weeklong parties by my senior year, as casual drinking metastasized into alcoholism.

With no direction and no aspirations, I took to the streets. And over the next five years, my life spiraled out of control. A college friend with whom I regularly smoked weed connected me with his dealer, and I began selling drugs. To supplement my income, I started working in the restaurant business as a waiter and bartender. This enabled me to keep partying all week, besides supplying an instant client base.

It also introduced me to cocaine. And cocaine stole my soul. As soon as I was introduced, I was hooked. I partied so much that I got fired from multiple bartending jobs. Then I started selling cocaine. I became a monster—a liar and a thief. I used everyone and everything to serve myself. I didn’t care who I hurt.

It almost came to an end one summer night in 2005. I had just returned to my row home after making a few sales. Pulling into my parking space, I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw a black Crown Victoria screech to a halt. I figured I was about to be robbed, killed, or arrested.

As I made a beeline toward my back door, I heard someone yell for me to stop. I pretended to be on the phone. He yelled again. I turned around to see a man clad in a black leather coat and jeans. I told him I didn’t know who ...

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