I see the desperate eyes of a hustler out of hustles, an addict at the end of two decades of bad decisions with nothing left to do but smile and perform for a guy who rolls down his window and says those famous nine words: “I’m going to make you work for your dollar.”
I’m embarrassed. I really am. Because that video is no lie. That was my life. Back in the day, I used to be somebody-a husband, a father, a successful radio personality. Then, on August 20, 1988, I smoked crack cocaine, and over a period of two months it took hold of me until I was smoking cat litter off my filthy floors because I thought it might be crack, and selling my son’s baby clothes for drugs. I lost everything: my job, my home, my children, my morals, my self-respect; and for almost twenty years, right up until the morning I appeared on the Today show in January 2011, I was a homeless addict.
This is not a pretty book, because homelessness and addiction are not a pretty life. The things I’ve done and the places I’ve been might send shivers down your spine. I laid up in grimy crack houses. I robbed my prostitute girlfriend’s clients in seedy motels. I carried my clothes in a plastic bag and went weeks without a shower. I conned my poor momma.
I stole from my only friends. I slept for three days in a nest of spiders at the bottom of a concrete staircase, comatose on crack, and walked around with holes in my shoes so bad the snow came in and peeled the flesh off the bottom of my feet. I kept a mental list of every store I’d stolen from and which clerk was working at the time, because over a period of decades, in an endless desperate hustle for drug money, I burned the retail sector of Columbus, Ohio, to the ground. And I smoked crack cocaine with every last cent.