Final piece for a Profiles class at New York University
It took Tom “Redneck” Clark 46 years to utter the nine words that would change his life forever. “Hi, my name is Red and I’m an addict.”
The first time he said it, he was in a meeting room at Hampton House, an inpatient rehab center in southern New Jersey. That was more than four years ago, when the days of hiding his heroin addiction caught up to him and he was faced with two options: get clean or die.
It was hard to admit at first. Tears streamed down his face as he murmured the words. He was a shell of a man—ashamed, embarrassed, lost. After all, announcing your biggest secret, confessing your failures and acknowledging your fatal flaw to a room full of strangers isn’t exactly easy, but Clark got used to it. Now he says it up to 10 times a week when he leads Narcotics Anonymous meetings at a community center in Yardville, N.J. The words come much easier now and he says them proudly, as if admitting his wrongs serves as a badge of honor signifying what he’s overcome.
With those nine words, Clark, now 50, went from a drug-addicted member of The Pagans motorcycle gang to a respected interventionist and trained addiction counselor who helps hundreds of young people get the support they need.
Those nine words changed everything.
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