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Lessons From a Crack Addict Who Broke Free

Anchor 2


Click Here if you missed the Introduction

In 2001, thirteen years after my first hit of crack cocaine, I finished treatment at the Pathway House. Within months, I was pounding down Bacardi Cokes and hunting for dope in dark alleys again. I wandered through downtown Rochester, Minnesota, into a SuperAmerica gas station one cold night, craving cigarettes. 

An eighteen-year-old, who looked stoned, was working the counter. “Hey, man…”


Seeing an opportunity, I leaned in close, locked eyes with the guy, and pitched him an offer. “Dude, hey. Give me the dough from the till. Come on, man, let’s make a deal. I’ll put half of it in your hubcap. That sweet ride out there is yours, right? Just take off and whatever, man.” 


With a mix of fear and doubt, he shook his head. “No, man, I can’t. I’m already in trouble. My buddies come here all the time, stealing shit. The owner’s got his eyes on me.” 


As he opened the cash register to count out my change for the smokes, my eyes froze on the stacks of cash just sitting there. Fuck. I wanted that. I followed a pair of bright headlights through the window as a car pulled up to a gas pump. The guy got out, took a drag of his cigarette, and left. 


In the next second, I had my hand under my hoodie in the shape of a gun. “Alright, I’m not fucking around. Give me the fucking money, dude. I’m not playing.”


“Okay, okay, dude. Chill out, man. Relax. Here.” He nervously grabbed the money from the register and tossed it in front of me. Then he turned around and opened a secret drawer with a second till I didn’t even know about! I gathered the cash, snatched a couple of extra cigarette cartons, and stuffed it all into a plastic bag. An easy four hundred bucks, just like that.


As addicted as I was, I stopped to pick up a 20 rock—$20 worth of crack—and a bottle of Bacardi before checking into a second-floor room at a cheap motel. I filled the ice bucket, then let the door slam shut, got high, and poured myself a cold, smooth drink. When I turned on the TV and flipped through the channels, I froze. There, on the screen, was my face. I turned up the volume and caught some of the description: “Rory Londer, Olmsted County’s Most Wanted Man. Born in St. Louis Park. He’s wearing a…” SuperAmerica had six cameras; six different angles caught the whole story on tape. 


I’d spent so much of my life high on crack, paranoid that “they” were coming for me. Now, for the first time, they really were. It was yet another moment of crisis where I thought: I don’t know what I want, but I know it isn’t this.



Nowadays, when people hear my name, they think of Rory's Home Improvement, my volunteer work in the community, and my beautiful wife, Lilly. When they learn about my crackhead past, they sometimes try to solve my life like a logic puzzle, but my answers only puzzle them more:


No. I grew up with loving parents.


No. I was always good at school. In Hebrew school, too. In fact, I was an Honors student. 


No. I had dreams. I was an up-and-coming chef at a high-end restaurant.


They pause before asking, “So how does that even happen?”


And I tell them.


Falling in Love


Stuck like Chuck


Life on Repeat


Fork in the Road 


The person who needs it most, we have to love the hardest. 


If you weren’t thinking about yourself so much, maybe things wouldn’t be so bad.


What’s your heart saying you should do? 


Pull back your hood and be a part of. Say yes


Trust we’re all doing the best we can with what we got and what we know. 


Got a dream? Go! I’ll hold the door for you.


You can. I’ll show you. 


You bopping your head up and down again? Why don’t you look at people? 


Got a choice to make? Just play the story out. 


Keep your side of the street clean. 


How will you spend the time you’ve got left?


Let the good things you do define you. 


Rory’s Letter to the Person Struggling with Addiction





  • The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

  • Book Club Discussion Questions

  • Chapter-by-Chapter Reflection Questions

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