Updated: Aug 15
The shop was buzzing, and so was I. The influx of money and attention at this emotional and spiritual low point was like trying to put out a fire with lighter fluid.
I wasn’t alone, I had people who wanted to hang out after hours and a girlfriend that left me a few months after the move, only to be replaced with a couple of failed relationships until it was unbearable to think of being with another person. In none of these relationships were there conversations about sleeping together in a makeshift apartment in the back of a barbershop. The only thing that really mattered were the drugs and alcohol at the end of my working day. They might disagree if they read this, but in reality, it was the only thing we really had in common. I had a couple of friends in the building next door that would let me crash at their place when things got a little hairy, but the drugs and partying were there as well, there was no real escape.
I was renting chairs to several different people, and they sometimes would pay their rent to me in drugs, which I gladly accepted. I continued to make my rent, but it was getting tougher and tougher as addiction started to tighten its grip. Most of my associates at that time had some ties to the illicit drug trade, and I never thought of the danger, so I partnered with a dealer I knew on a custom baseball hat business, and it all fell to shambles when he thought I was stealing from him, which ruined our partnership. Another dealer I knew planned some after-hour parties in the shop's basement, which was a huge 1400 square feet. People paid to get in, and we had a DJ and a bar. It was a success. I don’t remember if I got paid, but I probably got paid in drugs. We planned a second party, which was also successful. So successful that it was raided by the police. Luckily, it was the back entrance to my business, and I had placed a large piece of sheet rock over the side door of the shop’s entrance and my little bedroom, so no one knew it was my place, not even the police.
I vowed never to do an after party again, as I got out of the situation unscathed due to the authorities mistaking me for a patron of the party, not an organizer, so they told me to go home. I went to my friends' house next door until everyone left. When I returned, I went into the basement and rummaged through all of the paraphernalia that was hidden by people who were scrambling to escape the police.
Things got worse from there. I may have lasted a year in business, I can’t remember, but what I do remember is losing everything, getting evicted, receiving physical attacks from employees, harassment from dealers, and fleeing to my old neighborhood in Boston, where I would get jobs and lose them, becoming unemployable.
I ran in between Boston and Worcester, bringing suffering and grief to the friends and family that were trying to support me through the self-destructive life I was living. There was continuous despair and broken promises.
There was so much to be ashamed of, but shame only shows up with sobriety, which makes sobriety undesirable.
I thought I was hopeless, lost to the life of the streets, in drunkenness, isolation, and despair. After bouncing in and out of treatment centers, I finally hit bottom when a drug dealer dropped me off at the detox facility.
I started to listen to the people at the treatment center who guided me to a sober life. After 92 days in a treatment facility it was recommended that I go to program of intense recovery called
The Pathway House is in a small town called Gardner. I had never heard of this town, but I was willing to go if it meant I was going to get free of addiction.
Gardner, Massachusetts, was a salvation for me. I met people there who helped and nurtured me to a place of healing while giving me the honesty I needed to be on the solid ground of sobriety. I turned away from doing hair and took a job working for a welding company, as suggested by my counsellors. I learned how to weld and run heavy 50-100 ton press machinery.
When my newfound friends found out I was a hairstylist/barber I found myself right where it all started, in the kitchens and living rooms of people close to me, giving haircuts and colors.
That was my life for almost two years. Working in a welding shop, cutting hair on the side, attending meetings for my sobriety, and working on the issues that almost destroyed me. Now sober, I realised that sometimes deep anger would creep into my emotions. There was some subtle racism that I was experiencing at work, and I was working hard not to react negatively towards the perpetrators. I was consulted to go to HR, which I did, and then came weeks of apologies. I just wanted my shop manager to stop randomly using racial slurs, not to make everyone at work walk on eggshells, but that was the result of trying to shine a light on that negativity. Around that same time, some of the machines I was operating in the shop were malfunctioning. My manager, who now was trying to avoid me due to my reporting him to HR, kept saying he would get to fixing them, because he was "really busy running the shop."
One day a 50 ton press machine I was operating was doubling its press for each cycle. My job on this press was to place a cup, hit the button and it would press 4 holes in, and then take the cup out. I told my manager that it was doubling, and he said "I’ll take care of it after lunch". I kept working for about 20 minutes, and in slow motion I watched as the 50 ton press collapsed onto my left index and middle finger.
I was rushed to the hospital and had to have surgery on my hand. Stitches in my fingers and a brace, bones hadn’t been broken
I was lucky in the fact that the machine didn't stay on my hand, that it kept going through it’s cycle.
I was out of work for months on disability and I decided that I didn’t want to return to the welding company. I was assigned an occupational therapist and started working on what was going to be next for me. I was very inspired by the people who had helped me change my life and started contemplating going into counseling and a therapeutic career. I was very confused about where my life was going and spent hours talking to my occupational therapist, counselors and sponsor about what I was going to do.
One day, in my occupational therapy session, my counselor was looking at me with a grin on his face as he listen to me woe about the direction I wanted to go, he smiled and hesitated as he tried to find the words.
" Corey, it seems to me that you are very good at doing hair, maybe you should consider going back to it "
I reluctantly agreed as I explained how I believed that the lifestyle of the barber and hairstylist encouraged my demise into drugs and alcohol. I was counseled on how I can bring my experience of sobriety into whatever I was doing, including the world of professional beauty and I hadn't considered that possibility.
First resistance, followed by acknowledgement and surrender, brings freedom.