A life after drugs: Baltimore man shares his story to save lives

This story has been copied from WMAR2News.com

By: Kara Burnett

BALTIMORE — “Hey Teddy! What’s up man, how you doing this morning,” said Antonio Brown, a safety and cleaning guide for Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore.

It’s the park where everyone knows his name. Antonio Brown is a familiar face in Federal hill.

“I’m a people person. I love animals and they took me in like family. They keep asking me if I’m coming back. I’m not going anywhere,” said Brown.

Brown is described by many park-goers as a dog whisperer.

“You alright scratchy? I know I haven’t seen you in a couple days,” said Brown.

He’s committed to pouring into the neighborhood, after years of taking from the community.

“It was fast money. I started smoking when I was 11, started drinking when I was 9. Sooner or later I was wondering, there has to be a better life than this,” said Brown.

From an early age Brown was surrounded by a life of drugs.

“What I saw in the street, it was normal because it was in my household. My mother showed me how to cook crack, my grandfather taught me how to cut heroin. It was just a lifestyle I was brought into,” said Brown.

It wasn’t long before he became addicted to what he was selling.

“It isn’t just getting the drugs out your system. It’s getting it out your mind. When they say you have to change the people, place and things, it’s the truth. But I never thought of it, going back and forth from prison,” said Brown.

After decades of dealing, Brown checked himself into a rehabilitation center. But it wasn’t easy shaking the only life he knew.

“I found myself for the first 4 months actually dealing in there.  Just one, if I could have one person listen to me, that could spread like currents in the water,” said Brown.

After months of working through different treatment programs, he wasn’t prepared for the “what’s next.”

“They were like your time is up Mr. Brown. I’ve been in the streets for more than 40 years. I need more than the program. My dreams for my kids are for them to live a righteous life, focus on their family and not get caught up in this world of drugs. This thing is real,” said Brown.

Brown is taking classes to become a peer recovery coach, hoping to be a mentor to others.

“What I might say, might save somebody’s life. I had some people say to me why do you talk about it? Why don’t you just forget about that life? I can’t forget about that life, it’s pain,” said Brown.

For the past 4 years, he’s been finding ways in this new chapter to spread joy and focus on the future.

“I didn’t see any of this. I couldn’t see as far as that next pole. I wouldn’t say it’s a shame that it took me this long to figure out what I wanted to do. But I did. Now that the door is open, I can see way past that pole,” said Brown.