I Do Whatever It Takes to Stay Free [VIDEO]

by Emilio Parker, facingaddiction.org

I was born addicted to heroin. My mom had me at a very young age; she did the best she could considering her own circumstances with drugs.

We didn’t see each other for 15 years while I was incarcerated. I’ve been out almost six years and we have a complicated relationship but it’s still a relationship. She still uses drugs and being around her is a trigger for me. But I go see her and I do things for her.

Now she’s dying and because of my recovery, I don’t judge her and I meet her where she’s at. I just want to help her as long as I can. My big thing is I don’t want to have any regrets.

What comforts me is knowing she’s proud of me. She’s very happy about how I’ve changed and how I’ve turned my life around. I’ve been through hell and back in my life but this thing—my mom dying—is a whole different kind of fear.

But recovery has given me an amazing wife and kids and a recovery support program that gives me armor so that when I do get the call about my mom I’ll be okay.

I don’t even believe how good my life is today. In recovery — since I got out of prison, I’ve been in two major car accidents. I’ve been shot. I don’t know how I got here, but I believe God has a plan for me.

The first three times I was incarcerated, I had fun. It was like my home away from home. I could eat, sleep, make money—anything I could do on the outside—but with no responsibilities.

The last time I was incarcerated, I was charged with organized crime and was put in solitary confinement for five years. It really changed me. It was the worst experience I’ve ever had in my life to be without human contact except with the guards.

I watched so many people go crazy right before my eyes. I also watched those who didn’t because I needed to know what kept them sane and alive so I could do the same thing.

Those guys would provoke somebody and get beaten senseless just so they could go to the hospital and have human contact. So I did too. I walked a fine line between life and death.

After my release in August 2011, I had a lot of trouble being around people. The adjustment was rough. Thankfully, I had good recovery supports — medication, counseling and a mental peer specialist who had been in solitary confinement too.

I got connected with Service Employment Redevelopment (SER) in south Houston and was given the opportunity to go to school. I took everything they offered and kept asking for more. I became a certified recovery coach.

Now I work at SER and my work keeps me alive and free. If I go back to prison it will be a sentence of 15-99 years. I’d have to beg a judge for 15 years and a bathroom, so every day, I do whatever it takes to stay free.

Last year, I was featured in the new film, Generation Found, on youth recovery and have been blessed to travel everywhere from Capitol Hill to New Hampshire and all over Texas to carry the message of hope and recovery.

I have many motivational factors that I use daily, like my little daughter who is attached to my hip. I was there when she was born and she’s going to school next year!

At SER, I’m a reintegration specialist, a recovery coach and a mental health peer specialist. That means I’m a rover—I do whatever the participants coming out of the prison system need.

Sometimes that means teaching them how to use a cell phone or how to dress for a job interview. I help them learn how to get their medications and build relationships. Or I might be an advocate during their court appearances. Whatever they need, whatever it takes to help them stay free and clean.

I want to do more. I want to build a team of people like me and eventually travel the world helping people put their lives back together.

I truly believe everything happens for a reason and I believe everyone has hope for a better future than their past.


For more than 60 years, LICADD has successfully delivered evidence-based programs designed to prevent and treat substance abuse and addiction. LICADD offers crisis intervention, screenings, brief interventions, referrals to treatment and several family and parent education workshops to help Long Islanders struggling with the effects of addiction. Through our Open Arms, EAP Program, LICADD has provided targeted solution-focused support to companies all along the East Coast, serving over 60,000 employees and their families.

LICADD is Long Island’s premier non-profit agency providing life-saving alcohol and drug prevention and intervention services to at-risk children, individuals, and families across the region. With offices in Mineola, Holbrook and Riverhead, LICADD conducts evidence-based prevention programs, community outreach initiatives, and a mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents and public policy advocacy.

For more information please call (516) 747-2606 or visit us on the web at www.licadd.org and Facebook and Instagram.

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CONTACT: Angela Brooks, LICADD
516-747-2606 abrooks@licadd.org