It was the first thing I had wanted in a long time, other than to be dead, or to have all of the drugs and sex I needed to keep myself from feeling how unhappy and ashamed I was inside. It was the first time I had talked to God in even longer. My faith and my recovery were linked from then on, and I really credit God with helping me to find my way back. After that, I focused on trying to feel the same kind of happiness I had heard out my window while I was restrained. It's what got me through those first days I was in rehab. CPC Westwood had great services, too. I went to see my psychiatrist, Dwayne, every day. He was a black guy in his late thirties who had a small Afro and a goatee and always wore suits. I talked to him about what I was feeling. I wanted to get released from the psych ward, and go back down to the ground floor, so I could go outside and be near those happy people. Then, I thought, I could have a chance at being a normal, happy person myself. But I had to get off the psych ward first.
"I want to get down there" I kept saying, over and over again.
"Nobody wants you down there," Dwayne replied every time. "None of the counselors wants to deal with you. They think you're out of control and violent."
I could see why they would think that, based on my past record, and even how I had acted on my first day in rehab. I had been out of control and violent. But I didn't feel that way anymore. I felt like maybe I was ready to change. I wanted to try.
"Please, just let me down there, even on a temporary basis," I said. "Let me prove to them that I can do this."
Dwayne was working on getting me to where I could leave the psych ward. He had figured out that my impulse-control mechanism was damaged, and so he put me on Depakote, which calms the brain when a person gets angry. It helped me be able to do what I call "add and subtract in my head," so I stopped going all nuts on people, and I could think about the consequences of something before I did it.
But even with the Depakote, I had a lot to live down, and they weren't convinced I was ready yet. So I stayed where I was.
And then, one day, I was sitting on my bed upstairs in the psych ward, and all of a sudden, a light hit me. I felt the power of something bigger than me—I don't know what this life force is for other people, but for me, it was God—and He spoke right to me.
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.