Rico Brown is Bernice and Marlena’s younger brother in “Tomorrow Never Comes.”
My name is Rico Brown. I got good looks that could’ve taken Hollywood by storm. It didn’t happen though for one reason: I’m a drug addict.
Yeah, Hollywood is loaded with drug addicted actors, but they made it big first. I couldn’t do that. I would be too high to go to auditions – not a good thing when you’re trying to break into the business.
It’s my fault that I missed my shot at stardom. I own that, but I can’t own the reason I got on drugs in the first place. I just can’t.
See, I started doing drugs before moving to Hollywood. I started when I was a teen living in Alabama. I smoked my first joint when I was 14 years old.
I could say I smoked it to be cool or to impress a girl. Either explanation would be a lie. The truth is I smoked it because I felt a void within me. It existed because of my parents’ absences.
I know cancer took my mama, and dad just walked away. My sister, Bernice, told me all about it. Regardless of the reasons behind their absences, it still hurt me to the point that I felt empty.
I was just six years old when all this happen. How can I feel mama’s love when I have so few memories of her? How can I believe that my dad cared about me when he never once tried to find me after leaving?
With all that going on, I couldn’t help but feel empty. My sister was a superb guardian, but I still couldn’t help being starved for parental love.
So, that’s why I turned to drugs: to kill the emptiness within my soul.
When I moved to Los Angeles three months after high school graduation, I was determined to be an actor. It was a career I felt destined to be in. I loved acting since joining the drama club in the 10th grade. Playing a character provided a way for me to live another life. I was able to momentarily put aside my soul’s emptiness – although I still relied on reefer too.
And when reefer was no longer enough, I moved on to cocaine. I made this move at a party in Hollywood. This was a bad move, too. It was like a chain reaction of bad luck.
For starters, I stayed so high that I missed practically every audition I was offered. After my agent dropped me, word spread around town that I was unreliable. That was the death of my acting career.
With my career busted, I had no income. And with no income, I lost my apartment. So, I ended up sleeping on my friend’s lumpy couch, who was also an addict.
Yeah, drugs were my downfall, but I was so hooked by this time, that I just couldn’t give it up. Drugs were my only escape from reality. It was the only way I could block out my parents’ absence and my fall from rising stardom. I needed it as much as your body needs water. The only difference is water is good for you; drugs are not.
I knew this but did not care. I only cared about getting the money to get the drugs. And this wasn’t a problem – considering I have a rich sister.
I just asked Bernice for money. I always lied in order to get it: I was short on rent, I needed a new outfit for an audition, etc. I said whatever I needed to say in order to get the money … except the truth. I didn’t tell Bernice the truth because I didn’t want to disappoint her anymore than I had already disappointed myself.
But as life goes, the truth always comes out.
I nearly overdosed one time, and that’s when she found out. The hospital contacted her and she was on the first plane out to California. My troubled lifestyle was no longer a secret. She knew everything.
That’s why she put me in rehab – three times.
I tried to pull my life together after each rehab stint. I really did. I even got another job … at McDonald’s. I had no choice since I was bad news in Hollywood. A minimum wage job was all I could find in a city that acts like it’s a magical place where dreams come true.
And I hated that damn job too: low wages, rude customers, and an ass for a boss.
Worst of all, I always felt lower than a worm in the dirt whenever someone recognized me from my TV commercials. Their ugly comments and snickers always reminded me how low I had fallen – from a rising Hollywood star to a fast food cashier.
I swear; the humiliation from that damn job drove me back to doing drugs. Yeah, I started getting high again. I got so high that I missed work a lot. They eventually fired me after three months.
Big deal … my sister was supporting me financially, so I didn’t have anything to worry about. That is until I landed in jail.
I was getting high with my friend when the police busted the apartment. One of the damn neighbors called the police on us to complain about loud music. The idiot even told them they suspected we were drug dealers.
Instead, they didn’t find us dealing drugs … they found us doing drugs. We were high as kites when they hauled us off the jail.
That was a low point in my life, especially since I was beat up in jail. Once again, Bernice was there. And again, she put me in rehab without passing judgment. This was the third and final time.
Rehab was also where I met Stacy Slaw, my girlfriend.
I loved Stacy and would’ve easily married her, but we both were struggling addicts, clinging on to life by a thin piece of thread. That’s not a good situation for marriage. We did shack up though. And it was good for a while. We both got clean and even got jobs.
Then the demons returned and with the demons came the urge to get high. We were just too weak to kill the urges. So, we started getting high again. And with the highs came bad times: fighting, job losses, near overdoses, and whole lot of other mess.
Then one day, after learning my friend had overdosed, something within me went off like a bell. I knew I was heading in the same direction if I didn’t change. I was on my way to the grave, and I wasn’t ready to go there. After all, I’m just 26 years old.
So, I called Bernice and asked for help. I’m so lucky to have my sister because she never once judged me or turned her back on me. And this time was no different.
She bought me a first class, one-way ticket to Birmingham and made arrangements for me to enter an outpatient rehab. I knew without doubt I had her and Alicia’s love and support.
I felt a sense of hope, yet at the same time, I felt a great deal of shame. I was leaving California as a failure. I left Alabama as a dope head and now returned as … a dope head.
That shame made me do drugs one last time before leaving California and Stacy, whom I still loved yet had to leave for my own life’s sake.
It was the biggest mistake I made in my life.
Read about Rico in “Tomorrow Never Comes,” available at Amazon. To download it, click here.
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