My name is Joseph. Some call me Joe and some call me Joseph.
I started using drugs when I was 13 years old. My parents had so many children that I didn't get the love that I was looking for. They weren't living the life that I needed to make me a successful young man growing up in the world. I didn't have my parents to sit down and talk to me about drugs. They weren't there like they should have been.
I also didn't feel that I was accepted in school. So, I pretty much turned to drugs and gangs. I found myself searching for something that existed, but I couldn't find it in people. There was a void in my life. I found a substitute in drugs and gangs. They showed me love, but not the love that was designed for me to have.
My friends were doing drugs and I wanted to be a part of the crowd. I wanted to be the person that made the most money and I started selling. I wanted to be popular because popularity was important when I was growing up.
In the process of trying to find myself, I found gangs and gangs led to committing crimes. I started robbing people, shooting at people and doing things that no other person would. It wasn't normal and I knew it wasn't me.
I started off with marijuana, which led to cocaine and drinking and all sorts of other drugs. I'd get up in the morning, open my drawer and there'd be two, three, four, maybe five marijuana joints. I'd start smoking early in the morning. Then my buddy would come over and he'd have some alcohol and we'd start drinking. After that was all gone, we'd go inside a store and steal a couple of things to support our habit. We'd then go and buy more drugs.
I did cocaine, marijuana and PCP. If you didn't smoke PCP when I was growing up, something was wrong with you. I started smoking more PCP and I began to steal more to support my habit. It took over my life. I was almost killed twice and was in two car accidents because of it.
Marijuana is the key. It's a passageway drug for many others because you don't think that it can be addictive. That very first time you smoke marijuana and you get that feeling, you're always chasing after it. You want that terrific high you had the very first time, but you won't be able to get it. Marijuana led to crack cocaine and PCP.
With marijuana you can kind of control it, but you cannot control PCP. It'd have you doin' things that you never thought you would do. I woke up one day and found myself in an alley wrapped in carpet and I didn't know where I was. I found myself in jail because of it. I sobered up and realized where I was and thought, "Wow, how did I get here?"
I thought I could manage drugs. At first, I was a functional drug addict, but somewhere down the line I knew I had a problem. I kept lying to myself; I'd say, "It's not going to get worse." It started getting out of control and I couldn't hold a job. I couldn't succeed in the things I was trying to do. I wanted to open up a business, but I didn't have the "know how" to do it. The money I was trying to put aside for the business, I kept using for drugs.
The power of drug addiction is very strong. If you don't have self-control, which people don't, it will take over your life. Drugs are very deceptive. You think that you are capable of doing things on your own, but you're lying to yourself. It makes you turn the truth into a lie because you don't see the outside. A person that's sees the outside tries to let you know that this is not the way that you're supposed to live. We believe that our own intellect and thinking is right, but we're deceiving ourselves.
I had to come to a place where I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I knew I was dying. I saw death when I looked at myself in the mirror. The drugs were actually eating up my flesh. I knew I was heading down the road of destruction.
I didn't want to come to a program like Teen Challenge because I didn't want to give up a year of my life. In the midst of trying to do it on my own, I had a job that I ended up quitting. I lost two marriages, my family and almost my life. At the time, I wanted to commit suicide. I wanted to jump off a building and end my life. I thought to myself, "God doesn't love me, so why am I here?"
I ended up homeless. There was a woman who was looking for a place for me and she came up with Teen Challenge. I asked myself, "How am I to get there?" I went to a place that pays for your bus ticket and came here to Teen Challenge. When I got on the Greyhound bus, I felt hope. It was like, "You can do this." This is your life and you don't want to die or give up.
Teen Challenge is a wonderful program. It changed my life. It taught me to be a good steward over my job and education. I had no discipline when I was out there, so it taught me to be more disciplined and obedient. It taught me about being more appreciative of life. Teen Challenge is a wonderful opportunity to become drug free, to become free in your mind and to know that you can do all things. Teen Challenge is hope.
I want to teach people how they can be free from drugs and that there is life and hope.