Johnnie had always been there for me. My family and I first hired him to represent me in my lawsuit against the LAPD. This was after their years of discrimination came to a head when they tried to arrest me for supposedly stealing my own car. He had represented me in my attempted-murder trial in '89. And when my own father didn't visit me, even once, while I was in jail for nine months leading up to that trial, Johnnie had been like a father to me. The thought of not having him there to help me anymore filled me with panic.

"You know, Johnnie," I said, "I'm ready to stop. I just need to know how."

"Well, you need to figure out how to do it," he said.

That was the problem. I didn't even know how to start.

I was bailed out of jail a few hours later. I went home, and even though I had the desire to turn my life around, I couldn't. I started getting high again right away, and not only on marijuana either. I was back on meth and crack. Like I had told Johnnie: I didn't know how to stop. I stayed high for the next few months, until I had to go back to court. I probably would have felt bad about letting Johnnie down, and about letting myself down, and about letting my mother and everyone else in my life down. But when I was high, I didn't feel anything. That was the whole point.

Finally, I went to court in Pasadena. My mom was there, sitting next to this old guy I had never seen before. I looked at the judge's bench, and I saw this circle with a triangle in it. I knew it was from AA, and I knew that it meant unity, strength, and hope. I was looking at it as the judge was talking to me and thinking about how I'd never been able to stay sober for longer than a few months at a time.

"I'll tell you what I'm going to do, Mr. Bridges," he said. "Two things can happen. I'll either send you to jail tonight, or you can go to rehab tonight. What do you want to do?"

Excerpted from Killing Willis: From Diff'rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted by Todd Bridges with Sarah Tomlinson. Copyright ?? 2010 by Touchstone. Reprinted by permission of Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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