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The Life

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He offered me the first weapon I ever had. He said, "Man you don't have to take that. Here's a 38. Let's find the guy now."

I'll never forget it. I pointed the gun at the guy who shot me. He was on his knees, begging for his life. I'd never experienced that kind of power. It was a feeling like, I'm not invisible, I'm not a victim.

The dealer took me under his wing. He would package up rocks, a mix of cocaine and crack, to sell. I was working part time in security, but here I could make $600 in one day. And the ladies were like, "OK this guy is clocking, he's got the juice."

Eventually I started going in and out of jail. San Quentin.

But I felt... Alive. Like being in the jungle. Knowing that any moment, someone could pull a robbery, or the police would come up.


Things started to turn when I lost my parents, within a month of each other. Both had graduated from high school, and so had I. They had asked me to make sure my sister did the same. I moved to Stockton and went to barber school, but I still sold drugs at night to make ends meet. Then I got busted again.

In jail, I saw a pastor I'd seen 10 years earlier. I'd told him that I'd change. Seeing him again, so much older now, I wept. In front of the other men. I'd never done that before. I got into a program for the first time. With other men trying to make progress.

I facilitate these groups now. I love it when guys have the "aha" moment. But I feel like a defanged tiger sometimes. In The Life, I built up all these skills, and now I can't use them.

But I'm an honor roll student at USF. I work full time. I live with my grandmother in the room I grew up in as a kid. Back to humble beginnings. There's no drinking, no drugs. I'm in the house by 9:00pm.

It's not thrilling like the drug life. But I'm alive. And I've got things I don't want to lose.

With a Perspective, I'm Reggie Daniels.

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