Sentenced to 65 years in a Texas prison, Damon West once had it all. He came from a great family, in a home full of God, love, support, and opportunities to reach any dream. A natural born leader, with good looks and charm, and a three-year starting quarterback, he appeared to be the all-American kid living out his dreams.
Underneath this facade, however, was an addict in the early stages of his disease. After suffering childhood sexual abuse by a babysitter at the age of nine, he began putting chemicals into his body to alter the way he felt, starting with drinking and smoking. By the age of 12, he would escalate to marijuana use. In his mind, he was not hurting anyone by smoking pot; in reality, he was feeding the monster that is addiction.
After receiving a scholarship to play football for the University of North Texas, Damon left for college on a wave of euphoria at his prospects of playing Division I football in Texas. College presented Damon with many new opportunities in life. He began college as a student-athlete and got involved in campus life, joining the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. When his football career came to a premature end, due to an injury, in 1996, against Texas A&M, Damon lost all direction.
Football had become so much of his identity that he no longer knew who he was; his purpose and reason for existence were lost to him. Feeling the pressure of the existential vacuum, Damon chose a dark path on the road of addiction, abusing harder drugs like cocaine, ecstasy and prescription pills to go along with the alcohol and marijuana.
After graduating in 1999, Damon’s life would take him to the United States Congress, political fundraising for a presidential candidate and then into the world of Wall Street, with a position to train as a stockbroker for one of the biggest banks in the world, U.B.S. It was at this last stop that Damon was introduced to methamphetamine for the first time; he was instantly hooked. The lives of so many innocent people would forever be changed by the choices he made in order to feed his insatiable meth habit.
After three years of committing property crimes (burglaries of homes, buildings, vehicles, as well as auto theft) and other drug-related crimes, with a dozen other meth addicts, a Dallas SWAT team finally caught up with Damon and arrested him on July 30, 2008. Or, as Damon refers to when speaking, he was not “arrested” so much as he was “rescued.”
After reconnecting with his family and his faith in Dallas County Jail, he began the long process of paying for his crimes. The consequences of his behavior earned him a life-sentence of 65 years for Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity. With a promise to his parents to come home as “someone they will recognize,” Damon left for prison.
Prison life began with a violent baptism-by-fire. Armed with the knowledge that “you don’t have to win all your fights, but you do have to fight all your fights,” he battled for his right to exist independent of a gang. Clinging close to God, his family’s unwavering support, a 12-step recovery program and all the tools available to him, Damon emerged from prison a better man spiritually, emotionally and physically. On November 16, he walked out of prison on 58 years of parole.
Today, Damon works for the Provost Umphrey Law Firm in Beaumont, TX. When not out speaking to students and athletes about the dangers of drugs and the consequences of bad decisions, he spends his free time volunteering, doing service work, attending 12 Step Recovery groups, exercising and enjoying his new life with his family and faith community at St. Elizabeth’s Church. His message is both a cautionary tale and one of hope and perseverance in the face of the most extreme odds.