"Your life is going to change," He said. "But you have to stop listening to yourself and start listening to others. I will put the right people in your life to lead you away from the drugs and the pain and to make you happy again."

That's all I wanted. It had taken those kids outside to make me realize it, but I wanted what everybody else in the world had, even when they were going through a bad day. I wanted to be happy to be alive. I wanted to be happy about me. I wanted to be happy about my life. I wanted to be happy about my surroundings. Because, for so many years, I wasn't happy, even though I had everything that was supposed to make me happy—money, fame, women, and the chance to live out my dream as a successful actor on a hit TV show. Since I was a kid, I'd been sad about who I was. The world had taught me that the color of my skin meant I could expect to be called names and threatened and hated. For years I was sad about what had been done to me when I was young. I kept blaming myself for that and for everything else, too.

But then it hit me. The only thing I really had to take responsibility for was using drugs. None of that other stuff was my fault. After that moment, they told me I could go downstairs. This real sweet redheaded woman named Judy said she would be my counselor in rehab, this meant she believed in me, and she thought I had a chance at staying sober. I was scared that I would let her down. I had tried this so many times before. I knew that without the drugs to keep me numb, I was going to start feeling all of the things I'd been trying to outrun for so many years. I knew that no matter how much I wanted to change, my first instinct was going to be a return to the drugs to dull the pain. I didn't know if I was capable of anything else.

But slowly I was starting to think that maybe I was. Because, for the first time in a long time, I did something different than I had done before. When I got downstairs, and I started working with Judy, I finally knew enough to just shut up and listen. I took in everything she and everyone else had to say. It started to make sense. I wasn't happy yet, but at least I wasn't dead. I wasn't even as unhappy as I had been before. I started thinking about what had happened to knock me so far down in life, because I sure didn't want to go back to those depths ever again. What I wanted was to be the good person I knew I could be. What I wanted was to stop feeling guilty about getting people strung out on drugs, and making my family worry, and letting myself down. No matter how painful it ended up being, I made up my mind to remember. I vowed to face everything that had driven me to become a drug addict, finally let it go, forgive myself, and move on with my life. I could tell it wasn't going to be easy. But for the first time in a long time, I was determined to try.

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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