Lemantine Brown, or “Lem” as he’s known to his friends, has been around drugs and alcohol almost his entire life.
“As a child, my father struggled with drug addiction. I used to watch him doing drugs all the time, and I’d tell myself, ‘I would never do that.’’
Eventually, his father was able to stop using drugs and began his recovery journey. But Lem remembers that as a difficult time for him, even though he was grateful for his father’s sobriety.
“When he became sober, it was like he started his life all over again. He started a new relationship, started a new family, and the kids he’d had when he was actively in addiction kind of went to the wayside,” Lem recalled. Those kids included him.
Lem was named after his father, and he says he was the child most like his father. As his dad began to draw away from him, Lem craved his attention.
“I looked for relationships with men who reminded me of my father,” said Lem. “And it always turned out horribly.”
Soon, he turned to drugs to escape from the sadness and turmoil of his life. At 15 years old, he started drinking, using marijuana, and then cocaine. As he grew older and the party lifestyle lost its appeal, Lem realized he was addicted. Using became something he had to do every day to cope.
“It was like an everyday habit,” said Lem of his addiction. “I needed it to function. I didn’t function without [drugs or alcohol] for about 18 or 19 years.”
When the thrill of cocaine wore off, someone introduced Lem to methamphetamines. That was when things went from bad to worse for him.
“Crystal meth is definitely not an ‘out-in-public’ kind of drug,” said Lem. “It kept me shut in. I was doing meth for three or four years before I ended up at Healing Transitions.”
Lem moved from California to Charlotte to be closer to his family. For a while, he was able to hide his addiction from them. He had a job and his own car; he didn’t need to ask for money to live or to maintain his addiction. But when he was arrested for a minor crime, it caught the attention of his mom who noticed that he was spiraling out of control and reached out to a cousin who had completed the long-term recovery program at Healing Transitions.
“I came here and stayed for about 11 months the first time,” remembers Lem. “But when the pandemic hit, I lost my job. And I thought it was a good idea to sell drugs, but I wasn’t actually going to do drugs. That only worked for a few weeks before I was getting high again.”
Because of the pandemic, Healing Transitions had to temporarily close its campuses to new participants. Once they were on lockdown, Lem realized he couldn’t return to the program, and he continued using drugs and alcohol for another year.
“When I started getting high again, everyone I knew in recovery immediately went on the ‘do not answer list’ on my phone,” he said. “At that point, I knew what to do. And I knew where to go.” The issue wasn’t his knowledge, it was his willingness.
“The only reason I stopped [using] was because I got arrested on a drug charge. It was April 2021. I overdosed on April 1 and was arrested on April 5. I bailed myself out of jail and didn’t go to court. I knew if I stayed in the same place long enough, someone would come find me. I think I realized that going to jail was the only thing that was going to stop me at that point,” he said.
He continued, “Throughout my life, I had a pattern of leaving when things were about to get real, but this time, I chose to stay.”
Lem went to court, and the judge said he could either release Lem and give him two years’ probation, or he could send him to jail for a 90-day sentence.
“I looked at my mom and decided to stay in jail,” remembered Lem. “I was in shock. At that point, I just felt like I needed a break. I needed to stop. So I sat in jail. I would love to tell you that I left jail and came straight to Healing Transitions, but I didn’t.”
One of the staff members, Courtney, picked up Lem from jail. For the next week and a half, Lem went back to old friends and old habits. The hotel room he’d been staying in still hid the drugs he’d hidden before jail stashed away behind the ironing board and under the cabinets.
“For nine days, I was hiding and running away from myself. No one was chasing me. I was just running away from myself,” said Lem.
One day, Lem’s friend saw him walking down the street, and he picked Lem up and said, “You look terrible. Let’s go get something to eat.”
“I got in the car, and we were driving down the street, and I told him to pull over, turn here [at Healing Transitions]. He said, ‘For real?’ And I said, ‘Drop me off right here.’ He dropped me off, and asked if he should come pick me up in three days. I said no. I ended up [at Healing Transitions again], and this time, when I got here, I was broken, and I had no other options.”
Lem started the program weighing barely 125 pounds. He cried almost every time he talked. He was angry and discontent.
“I realized I didn’t want to be self-destructive anymore,” he said. “Hurt people hurt people. I didn’t want to do that anymore.”
When he checked into detox that day, another overnight guest sat down right next to him.
“That guy had been admitted into detox over 100 times. 42 intakes into the program. And he sat next to me and told me, ‘If you stay, I’ll stay.’ And we came all the way through the program together to the very end. We both picked up our silver chips together, and today, he’s a staff member at Healing Transitions with me.”
So what would Lem say to someone thinking about coming to Healing Transitions?
“What is there to lose by trying? Most of us come here, and this is the only house on the block with an open door. You might as well come in and see what’s inside.”
Lem now gives back to Healing Transitions and helps show other people the light of recovery by working as the chef in our kitchen at the men’s campus!