Welcome to Troy’s free monthly electronic newsletter, developed for people interested in overcoming adversity, adapting to change and pushing oneself to realize their full potential.
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IN THIS ISSUE
- Feature Article…From Cub Scout to Con
- Read a letter from a recent client
- My Partnership with DrugTALK…. Finally, an answer to Drug Abuse for our Young People!
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- Download the Pref^ce Chapter of my Book!
- See Troy Speak for FREE!
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- Subscriber opinions and impressions of this electronic newsletter as well as reader profiles
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“It is not important How we come to the events in our lives, but how we Deal with those events”- Troy
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From Cub Scout to Con
We all made choices to get where we are today. If we stand at the gate of change and look back, some of us can pinpoint an exact moment when things started to go wrong. For others, that moment may be blurred, and all we know is that we have spun out of control since. For me it was a little of both.
How did I come to the point of robbing banks? How did I come to a time in my life where I was willing to point a gun in someone’s face and demand his or her money? I can assure you that I did not aspire to become a bank robber growing up. I did not walk into kindergarten career day and say, “When I grow up I want to spend a large chunk of my life in prison and cause my family a great deal of pain.” That was, however, the path that I chose.
Believe it or not, I was once an honor role student. I played baseball and football so well that even when I was very young my coaches and parents thought I might go pro one day. I was surrounded by my teammates and friends and coaches encouraging me to do as well as I could. That was my ambition. I wanted to be a professional ball player.
Then, when I was 14 years old, we moved to an entirely different city in an entirely different state and everything changed. If you’ve ever moved, you may already be familiar with some of the dynamics of making new friends. For the most part, there is an initiation process. To get in with the cool kids, you have to show them that you’re cool. To get in with the jocks, you have to be a good athlete. But, to get in with the “bad kids,” all you have to do is be bad. Had I been able to join up with a baseball or football team as soon as I moved, I might never have had to make a choice about who I was going to be. But without that path, my choices were to wait until the school year and sports seasons began or make friends immediately with the kids who were most readily available to me – the “bad kids.” I made a choice – the easy one.
When my family arrived in Colorado Springs in the summer of 1978, I was used to having the whole world laid out for me. I had been born with the gifts of intelligence, coordination and athleticism. These were the things that defined who I was. I was the “smart kid,” the “star of the team.” At the age of 14, I was too young to understand that these things – the things that had been mine for as long as I could remember – could be taken, or as you’ll see, given away.
I wasn’t old enough to drive yet, so my entertainment was limited to the friends and activities that I could find within walking or biking distance from my home. As it turns out, I didn’t have to go far.
Right there, within a few blocks from my house, was the perfect group for the new kid in town. There were no requirements for being their friend. I didn’t have to prove myself at tryouts as I would have had to with the jocks. I didn’t have to show that I was cuter, funnier, or better at bullying nerds, like I would have had to with the cool kids. These were the “bad” kids. All I had to do to hang with them was be bad. Sure I had moments of conscience that told me that I wasn’t supposed to be smoking a joint or stealing money from my mom’s purse, but they were quickly overcome by the feelings of excitement over not getting caught and of relief over having made friends in a new town already. I was not going to be an outcast as I had feared. I had found a group.
To make things even better, at the center of that group, shining like a beacon to my newly relocated soul was the girl of my dreams. I was drawn to her with all of the force that could be mustered by the raging hormones of a 14 year old boy. If she smoked pot, I sure as heck was going to too. Even better, she helped me let go of some of my reservations because she was an athlete too. If she could live in both worlds, so could I.
In my mind, I had it made. I would be able to enter school without too much harassment for being the “new kid,” and I was enjoying the thrill of being the “bad kid.” I had a girlfriend and the discovery of marijuana to make my life more exotic. And, I wouldn’t have to give up the “good kid/star of the team” persona that I had held to that date. There was no down side!
Let me pause in the story to say that there is nothing more dangerous than the 14 year old mind. Based on the minutiae of information I had accumulated in my short life, I was fantastic. My parents, teachers and coaches had always told me so. I was also bulletproof. Gifts and talents were not things that could be lost. My parents’ adoration and faith in me was an absolute. I was entitled to these things. I didn’t have to worry about drugs. My friends, and more importantly, my wonderful, beautiful girlfriend told me so.
That’s why it was so hard to understand when it began to unravel.
I started sneaking out at night to hang with the group, screw around with my girlfriend and smoke some weed. I needed to finance the weed and subsequent munchies so I started taking money from my mom’s wallet or absconding with various objects around the house. I was absolutely sure that they would never notice; after all, parents are dumb right?
To my fourteen year old amazement, they weren’t so dumb after all. It didn’t take long before my parents stopped looking at me like I was the golden child and started questioning my every move.
My dad was out of town a lot at the time and my mother tried to keep me home, but at that point I was bigger than she was. What was she going to do? She did the only thing she could. She said, “You wait until your father gets home,” and then gave him a call.
By the time the old man did get home, he was often so mad from the stories that he had heard during the week that he was ready to nail me the instant he stepped foot through the door. While I did have a healthy fear of my father’s ability to drive the point home, I also had the cunning of an addict able to manipulate his fathers’s love at will.
My mother, like many mothers who find themselves in similar situations, was still unable to let go of the image of the sweet boy that I had been. After all, it was just months ago that I had been that child. She could only hold out hope that this was a temporary phase. That coupled that with her fear that too harsh a punishment would drive me away for good was all I needed.
I fed that delusion like I fed my own habit. Why shouldn’t I? It’s not like I was really in trouble, right? They were dumb rules anyway. I wasn’t a baby. I didn’t need a curfew. And, what’s a few bucks borrowed here or there. They could afford it.
Inevitably, my father would come home and my mother would begin intervening on my behalf almost instantly. It’s amazing that their marriage stood up to it. He would try to ground me and she would let it slide during the week when he was out of town. He would try to lock me out at night and she would make him let me back in. Life at home was no holiday, but of course, that just gave me the justification that I was looking for to stay away more often and do some more drugs.
Not so coincidentally, I was also catching flack at school. My teachers were giving me C’s and D’s and the principal was constantly riding me about absences. What they didn’t understand, or maybe did, but couldn’t combat, is that my friends actually encouraged me to perform this way. I was getting all of the positive reinforcement I needed from my wonderful support group, and I didn’t mind the failing. I thought, “I could get A’s if I tried. I don’t need to jump through hoops for these people.”
Unfortunately, “these people” also included my coaches. At any given time, I was in danger of becoming ineligible to play because of my grades. Not that I was playing much anymore anyway. Suddenly, the things that had come so easy to me before – pitching, fielding, hitting – were getting hard to do. In junior high, I had scouts from junior colleges looking at me. The expectation was that high school would bring the college and university scouts. But, that wasn’t the case. Thanks to the drugs, I no longer had the coordination or the stamina. What I had in its place, were my coaches saying, “we were told great things about you, that you were going to go pro someday, and we’re wondering why.” I was getting benched and baseball wasn’t fun any more.
I had all of the empirical evidence that drugs were doing me harm, but my fourteen year old brain just couldn’t make sense of it. Drugs weren’t supposed to do this to me. My girlfriend was able to straddle both worlds why couldn’t I?
When I couldn’t make sense of it, I let the paranoia flow in. The beautiful thing about the paranoid thought is that it absolves you of blame. It’s always someone else who’s out to get you. Once it’s out of your hands, there’s no use trying to fight the tides. You might as well become complacent and accept it.
Paranoid justification in action:
My grades are dropping because these teachers have it in for me. Who cares? It was never cool to be the “smart kid” anyway.
Hold on. I should have been able to make that catch. It’s because the coaches aren’t giving me enough play time. If they’re not going to realize how great I am then I don’t want to play for them anyway.
The baseball, of course, was the toughest thing to let go of. I really had wanted to be a professional athlete. Not long into the season, however, the choice was made for me. I was cut from the team. It took me two weeks to admit it to my family.
Amazingly, when I finally did admit it, it was like sweet surrender. I was actually relieved. I had been balancing two lives for so long that I didn’t want the pressure anymore. It would have been nearly impossible to put my life back the way it was before I started using drugs. My parents didn’t trust me and I didn’t think they would any time soon even if I turned it around. It was too late for school and sports. Why bother hanging on to that side of it anymore. It was just easier to let it go and put all of my efforts into my new identity – Troy Evans, drug user.
My addiction started out as casual marijuana use, just occasionally on the weekends, but grew quickly to more frequent use and to harder drugs. Before I knew it, and I’m here to tell you it seemed like overnight, drugs became the most important thing in my life. Within the span of two years every event, intention, and action within my existence surrounded acquiring and using drugs. There was not a single aspect of my life that was not affected by drug use.
I eked my way out of high school with C’s and D’s and immediately turned to the only profession that could feed my habit, and at the same time pay the bills. I dealt drugs. It was obvious that this was the only occupation that would allow me to feed a habit that had now grown to the point of daily use, and to the ingestion of nearly every hard drug available on the streets.
Two years out of high school I met a girl who was foolish enough to marry me, and we had a son. Bringing a child into this world is supposed to be a beautiful thing. At that time, bringing Eric into this world was not. I would look into his crib knowing that I had just helped create a new life, a new person whom I would hurt, whom I would later abandon, a person whom I would add to the long list of those who were devastated by my drug addiction. Bringing my son into this world should have been the most beautiful event in my life. With my addiction tucked firmly at the top of my priority list, I saw that it wasn’t. I made a choice. I could have chosen my family…my son…sobriety. I chose drugs. It was easier.
After four years of putting up with my lying, cheating and drug addicted ways, my wife filed for divorce and won primary custody of my son. I didn’t think that there was more downhill still available in my life, but I quickly discovered that the gutter has amazing depth.
I chose to leave the small town where my son and ex-wife resided, but found I had nowhere to turn and nowhere to go. My addiction had now reached the point where I literally could not hold any type of job. Not only did a position not exist which could support my daily intake, but I had also reached the point where I stayed so high throughout the day that I could not perform even the simplest of tasks.
For me, robbing banks was a no-brainer. It was a win-win situation. Either I came out of that bank with enough money to feed my addiction for another 30 days or the police showed up, in which case I would force a confrontation and make them take my life. These days they have a catchy term for what I was doing – “suicide by cop.” At the time, however, all I knew was that I wanted the police to do something I did not have the courage to do myself.
I’m not going to tell you that my decision to rob banks came without any difficulty. There remained a small part within me that realized that what I was doing was very wrong, that what I was doing was outside of my inner character. There were at least a dozen banks that I entered, gun in waistband, intent on completing the job, only to hand the teller a $10 bill while requesting a roll of quarters. But, confronting my life and going through withdrawals would have been new…unknown…hard.
There was no going back. I had made so many bad decisions, finding a path to a better life had grown into a monumental feat in my mind. It was just too hard. So, I took the easy path instead – drugs or death – either way I figured it would soon be over. It was far easier to take a hit and live my life within the sweet release of apathy…
Then the unexpected happened. Rather than overdosing or getting myself killed, I was caught, convicted and sentenced to thirteen years in federal prison.
* * *
Some say forget about your past and concentrate on your future, but for those who are looking to make a change, that is tantamount to sticking your head in the sand. As they say, those who forget about history are bound to repeat it.
I am often asked about my childhood entry into the world of drugs. I can’t give a speech without parents coming up to me at the end, with the look that I’ve come to know too well, asking me how I started using drugs and what they should do to prevent their children from becoming addicts. I look at the pain in their faces and I can remember glimpses of the same look that, on the rarest of occasions, managed to make it through my own drug haze years ago – the look of a parent desperately trying to hang on to the child that they love.
I last saw it the final time I was invited to a family Christmas. It was rare that I made it to a family event after high school, and the majority of the relatives were relieved when I didn’t show up. My mother was the last to hold on to hope.
I repaid her hope by showing up to Christmas too stoned to function. I spent the entire holiday party passed out on my parents’ bed. When I finally came to and reappeared, it was to see that my mother no longer had the look of pain or hope that had always told me that I was still her little boy. She had a quiet resignation that told me that I was never going to ruin a family get together again. I was no longer welcome.
I think that in order to move forward, we must first recognize where we come from. That means confronting your wrongs and accepting responsibility. To become the man that I am today, I first had to acknowledge and take responsibility for that memory, and the numerous other wrongs that I had perpetrated against my family, friends and perfect strangers alike. Even in a drug-induced haze, I knew that the process would be painful. That pain, more than anything else, was keeping me from making the changes that I needed to make. It made me fool myself, point fingers, contrive excuses, and it had me locked inside a prison long before I was behind bars. But, I needed to acknowledge my past and accept responsibility before I could ever move forward. I had to forego the easy path and truly face what I had become and the things I had done.
Have you ever wondered why they make addicts introduce themselves at meetings as addicts? “Hi, my name is Jim and I’m a drug addict.” It’s because if we say our secrets out loud, it’s not a secret. If it’s not a secret, we have to deal with it.
Drug addicts are great con artists. It’s an important part of the addiction because in addition to fooling our friends and family, we have to fool ourselves. We tell ourselves we’re fine, we don’t need any help, it’s not affecting our work, it’s not affecting our families, and we do it because the truth is too terrible.
My first wife brought my family together for an intervention once. I came home to a room full of family, friends, co-workers, and my boss. For every excuse that I gave they had a reply.
“I can’t go to rehab now, I have to work.”
“That’s OK Troy, you can have the time off,” replied my boss.
“I have to be here to tend to the livestock.”
“That’s OK,” said my neighbors. “We’ll pitch in and help.”
“I don’t have anything packed.”
“I’ve packed a bag for you,” said my wife and, after several more attempts at excuses that they had already thought of, off we went.
They prepare families of drug addicts to cover all of the bases like that, because addicts always have excuses. We have them because it’s easier to say, “I have to work.” It sounds rational and responsible. The alternative, the truth that is screaming through our heads is just too awful. I mean, how could anyone, drug addict included, look their families in the eyes, look at themselves in the mirror and say the truth, “I can’t go to rehab until I’ve had one more hit. I choose drugs over you, me, everyone and everything. I am willing to steal from you, jeopardize your safety, and leave you without your son, husband, father in exchange for my next hit.”
Someone recently asked me why, when I was making all of those pivotal decisions in my life, couldn’t I take the mask of the bank robber off or stop using drugs. Back then, while I was living in the world of drugs and crime, I had dozens of excuses. Looking back now from my life as a clean, law-abiding citizen, however, I realize that the question shouldn’t be “Why couldn’t I,” but rather “Why didn’t I?” It was never a question of can or can’t. I’m proof today that I could have all along. The simple answer is that I chose not to.
To quit, I would have had to admit I was addicted. To admit I was addicted would mean that I had to look at my actions as an addict. To look at my actions, would have been too horrible for me to bear. To become the man I wanted to be, I had to let my secret out. I had to acknowledge the person I had been and I had to claim the pain that I had caused everyone. This is what I mean by confronting your past and claiming responsibility.
Maybe you’re battling an addiction like I was. Maybe the thing you want to change most about yourself is your weight, job or education. Whatever it is, to claim your past, you have to take away all of the reasons that you give yourself and others for being in the situation you are in and tell yourself that it is not good enough going forward.
If I throw my hands up and say that I was a drug addict and bank robber because I was a victim of a move when I was a teenager and lost my support network, there will always be people there to pat me on the back and say, “Poor Troy,” but it will never help me get better because you can’t improve yourself by giving your power away. I have to own my decisions. If I claim them, no matter how bad they are, I claim the power that I have always had to control my destiny and to make the changes that I want to make in my life.
Try it out. “It was not my mother making me finish all of the food on my plate that makes me overeat; I do it.” “Stress does not make me drink; I do.” “My boss is not holding me back in my career; I am.” “I am not a victim of my past or present who cannot control my future, I choose to take back that power.” Say it over and over again, say it to another person, but say it until you can feel the weight of the secret being lifted from your shoulders. Sometimes the hardest part is putting aside the excuses and honestly claiming it for yourself, but it can also be the most freeing.
Read a letter from a recent client – Click hear to read!
I am approached hundreds of times a year either immediately following one of my keynote speeches or through my website by p^rents, aunts, uncles, brother and sisters who are concerned about a young person in their lives who is either using drugs or is about to enter that age where drugs will become accessible.
I often had a hopeless feeling knowing that all I could offer were words of encouragement and support and the sharing of my own downfall….that was until I became partners with a company called DrugTALK.
DrugTALK is a v1rtual life coach dedicated to helping families, parents and young people overcome the threat and dangers of drugs through the privacy of their home. They do this by delivering the insight, tools and activities needed for parents to protect their children by putting vital protection principles into practice, often without parents even realizing it.
Their programs and tools are based on decades of research and supported by a dynamic team of communication experts, family intervention specialists, treatment professionals, narcotics intelligence officers, life coaches, parents and—most importantly—teens who have faced the world of drugs first-hand.
The CEO of DrugTALK happened to attend one of my speaking engagements and after talking I skeptically took one of his Drug Reference Guides and a DVD. Having lived through the hell of drug abuse I had my whole adult life been conv1nced that nothing short of expensive in-patient treatment centers could break the hold that drugs have on our young people. After thoroughly studying what DrugTalk has to offer I was blown away- I can honestly say that h^d these tools been available to me during my teenage years that I most likely would have avoided the hell I put myself and family through.
I have agreed to partner with DrugTalk and encourage anyone who knows of an individual that is either us1ng drugs or is reaching that critical age where drugs c^n be a lure to visit their site at www.drugtalk.orgPlease also pass this on to anyone who may benefit from this unique program.
One of the stipulations I made in agreeing to partner with DrugTALK was that they needed to make what they offer afford^ble to anyone- drug use does not discriminate by class and it is important to me that these tools are available to anyone … therefore if you enter the promotional code TEG123 when ordering you will receive a 10% discount. This d1scount is only offered to those who I refer to DrugTALK.
Thanks as always for your time and let us as a community and nation finally make a dent in this plague that effects us all.
” From Desper^tion to Dedication: Lessons You Can Bank On”…Click here to order
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About the Author- Troy Evans is a professional speaker and author who resides in Phoenix, AZ with his wife Pam and his dog Archibald. Troy travels the country delivering keynote presentations, and since his release from prison has taken the corporate and association pl^tforms by storm. Overcoming adversity, adapting to change and pushing yourself to realize your full potential- other speaker’s talk about these issues, Troy has walked them.
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