“Drug Users Need Help, Not Prison”
With Surpaul Cottrell
We need to bring events or conferences to our communities that address the dangers of opioids. We need to get celebrities that have a strong influence over the individuals using to come on a panel every other month and let them share how this opioid epidemic has affected them and their love ones. The music artists that talk about doing these drugs and selling these drugs need to talk about the consequences about abusing these prescription pills and all this other shit that they are mixing to drink.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Surpaul Cottrell.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit of your backstory?
Growing up in Cambridge, I had the support of both of my parents in my household. My father was a superintendent for Harvard University and my mother was a headstart teacher.
I was blinded by the finer things in life at a young age. I started selling slabs of crack cocaine at the age of 12. My parents gave me everything I wanted growing up. They raised five kids and they made sure they never went without. I was the youngest and the most disobedient one.
At 17, I caught my first drug case in the summer. One month later I enrolled as a freshman at the University of Hartford. That next summer I went to trial for the drug case and I was defeated. I served 2 years for marijuana. My original charge was distribution and possession of crack cocaine in a school zone, and distribution and possession of marijuana in a school zone. They ended up dropping the crack cocaine. I served 2 years mandatory. I was 20 when I was released. One month later, 2 weeks after 9/11, I moved to Brooklyn New York. I enrolled in The Institute of Audio Research in New York City to be a certified recording engineer.
After I graduated I got an internship in a major studio in Manhattan. 2 weeks after I started school, every weekend I spent my time selling every thing illegal that you can think of in the streets of Boston. I did that until 2003, when I caught a drug trafficking case in Cambridge. An illegal search procedure lead me to take off running from the law for 10 months. I picked up three cases in three different states before I got caught. South Carolina, Atlanta and New York. I sat in a Cambridge jail for 60 days and then I bailed out. A month later, I was introduce to pimping, selling oxy cotin’s, crack, and cocaine.
I started a record label, and I had a few artist that I also managed.
I spent thousands in lawyer fees to stay out of prison. I caught a few more drug cases trying to get my record label to take off and keep up with my ostentatious lifestyle. Then I slowly started getting those cases thrown out.
In 2006, my daughter Nylah was born. In 2007, I went to prison for drug trafficking.
Now I’ve transformed my life and assisted many others with transformation by using my method. “The Cottrell Method”.
Before I came to prison, I was interviewing successful individuals in the entertainment industry, fashion industry, and the business world. I would ask the questions that I would like to be educated on. Then I would share that information with the world. I would like the opportunity to continue my journey in journalism, interviewing women that went from the struggle to success.
Is there a particular story or incident that inspired you to get involved in your work with opioid addiction?
I lost many friends due to this opioid epidemic. If they didn’t die from it, they destroyed other people’s lives, or their own. I built relationships with many individuals in prison. Within weeks of them reintegrating back into society, they fell victim to the opioid epidemic. They overdosed. I met many people that picked up their habit behind these prison walls.
It has taken me many years and many programs to recognize that I had a duty. A duty to take responsibility for my actions, get educated in many different areas, and use what I learned and experienced to assist others with becoming better versions of themselves.
Can you explain what brought us to this place? Where did this epidemic come from?
What brought us to this opioid epidemic? I would have to say the lack of education. The lack of individuals knowing or caring about what we are doing to our communities, our loved ones, and our bodies.
Every individual has their own reasons for doing what they do. We need to understand that there is nothing wrong with getting help. Mental health is very important. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and ptsd. It took me a little while to come up with different ways to cope with it. A lot of individuals with mental illnesses are turning to opioids. Others are abusing their prescription. Others are distributing their medication. Some are letting music indoctrinate their mind. They hear these artist speaking about popping pills like it’s cool. Some individuals are easily influenced.
On the other hand, you have the individuals that get into accidents or go through surgery and then they become dependent to the pain killers.
Can you describe how your work is making an impact battling this epidemic?
I spoke earlier about using my method to help me cope with my anxiety. That method also helped me with getting through these years in prison. I lost 80lbs on my own and then I became passionate about wellness. I decided to become an elite fitness trainer through ISSA. Before I got certified, I was working out on the prison tiers with sometimes 1 to 10 individuals. Most of these individuals were either over weight or battling an opioid addiction. Some of them would throw up in the middle of the workouts due to them being sick from not having any drugs, or from using the night before. After they would throw up, I would have them drink some water, take a breather, then get back to work. As I worked out with them, I would also try to dig deep into the root of their drug abuse. I would try to give them solutions for a way out of their lifestyle and then I would try to assist them with finding new healthy addictions. Like educating themselves and finding out who they really are and who they really want to be.
When I seen how my fitness routines and the diets that I created made an impact on their lives, that’s when I realized that I need to put all of these secrets together and introduce it to the world.
That’s when I got an opportunity to have somebody record me on video doing a bunch of exercises. I took those exercises and then I sent them to someone to create 48 videos. There are four volumes. I labeled it The Cottrell Method. This is a 28 day fitness challenge where you can lose up to 10–12 pounds in just 14 days. It also comes with a 28 day meal plan.
Can you share something about your work makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?
The most uplifting thing for me was a woman living in India wrote an article for the mag. I was intrigued by her journey and her background. She explained to me that she was chronically ill. I was heart broken when she told me what was going on. I felt helpless. She told me that the hospitals in her city couldn’t treat her illness properly. She said her dream was to help with providing better medical care in her country. I knew right then in there that I had a duty. My duty is to help her and her husband get healthy and then help her come up with a plan and some funding to get better health care in the hospitals in her city. When I told her that my goal is to help her, I almost cried when I heard her reaction.
Can you share three things that the community and society can do help you address the root of this problem? Can you give some examples?
1. Build a safer and healthier communities. We need to bring events or conferences to our communities that address the dangers of opioids. We need to get celebrities that have a strong influence over the individuals using to come on a panel every other month and let them share how this opioid epidemic has affected them and their love ones. The music artists that talk about doing these drugs and selling these drugs need to talk about the consequences about abusing these prescription pills and all this other shit that they are mixing to drink.
2. These same celebrities that came from these communities should help build centers that are strictly for individuals battling this addiction to help them recognize what they are doing themselves. These centers shouldn’t be prisons. These centers should be boot camp style facilities with wellness programs, coding, arts, and a chance to get an internship, develop a business plan, and leave with a few thousand in their pockets and employment. They may not be able to leave the premises for the first 45 days. They may not have any connection to social media or the outside world. But this may be a therapeutic community that will assist them with finding a better way.
3. Lastly, the more we share our experiences with this opioid epidemic, then the more people we can touch or help them fight through this storm.
If you had the power to influence legislation, which three laws would you like to see introduced that might help you in your work?
If I had the power to influence legislation, the three laws that I would like to see introduced that could help me in my line of work would be:
1. When you are incarcerated, it should be mandatory that you complete the restorative justice program and the Transformational Thinking and Leadership program. Also upon your release you should also have to train to be a facilitator for both of those programs on the streets.
These two programs can easily help someone stay focused and clean.
2. I don’t believe people should be punished in prison that have a drug addiction. When they get caught up for it, they should be able to get the help they need.
3. Any person that gets incarcerated should have the chance to work. It should be a law that no matter what, when you have 18 months remaining in your sentence, no matter what, you should be enrolled in a work release program. It should be mandatory that everyone leaves with at least $5000 dollars in their savings, a new trade, and a job.
Do you have hope that one day this leading cause of death can be defeated?
I do hope that this leading cause of death ends one day. I just feel that it is my mission to do what I can to slow down this opioid epidemic, one community at a time.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership to me is when you step into a position to influence, to build community, to dig down deep into the root of a problem, and then you strategically put a team together to create solutions to fix that problem.
Leadership is being a team player and making sure everyone on your team is on the same page and everybody has the same objectives to ball hard and win the championship.
Leadership to me is all about integrity and having an open mind. Also about always educating yourself on becoming a better leader.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
5 Things that I wish somebody told me when I first started destroying my community, my life, and others:
1. Your are affecting the children of the community by continuously being their parent’s enabler.
It took me many years in prison and gaining wisdom to realize what my actions were causing.
2. You should stop doing what you are doing. All you are doing is breaking your parent’s heart.
I was selfish. I would put my parents through hell having them wondering if I was going to make it home or not every night since I was 12.
3. I know a better way to make ends meet. Let me teach you how to code or show you how to be a venture capitalist.
I didn’t have anyone approach me with any interesting legal entrepreneurial opportunities.
4. Once you start selling drugs you are not going to know how to stop until it’s too late.
I never did opioids, I just knew how to get them and flood the town with them and other drugs. I never knew how to stop.
5. The risk to reward doesn’t add up. Here take this book called Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. The older hustlers in my neighborhood never told me that it is wasn’t worth it. None of them have ever put a book in my hand.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people it would be collaborating with Anjula Acharia and Priyanka Chopra and assisting them with extending their company called Holberton School to my community in Cambridge. I am passionate about the tech world. I would love to learn how to code. And I would like to help give more younger women the opportunity to be software developers in my community and other areas. Especially in India where my editor lives. By getting the two of them to collaborate with From Handcuffs To Cufflinks, I know that I will have a greater chance creating more jobs for women around the world. I could use two great respected women mentors in the tech world to help me make a difference. I’m all about women empowerment and also providing opportunities for women coming out of prison whether they are battling an opioid addiction or not.
Another movement that I could inspire is by collaborating with Kim Kardashian in her prison reform movement. I just did 12 years in prison. I helped transform many lives. I was and still am a mentor to many other prisoners. I know what programs that need to be in the prison to help an individual with altering their lifestyle and reintegration back into society. I consider myself a prisoner influencer. I network, facilitate programs, and I also help programs get started. I plan on coming home in a few months to continue this fight for prison reform and criminal justice reform.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes that stood out to me was “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle”. By Abraham Lincoln. To me this means, don’t just sit there and wait for the ball to fall in your hands. You need to go do what you got to do to get that ball in order to keep winning. In my life I believed that I always lived by that quote. I just applied it to the life of an illegal entrepreneur.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
If I could have breakfast or lunch with someone, it would have to be with two people. Those two people would be Oprah and Tyler Perry. They are do people that have showcased #blackexellence in a major way. Being a black man understanding the struggle, I believe I could add on and impact other people black and brown individuals lives in a major way. I would love to pick their brain, interview them, and learn from them. They would be the perfect mentors for me. I believe that they could help get my messages out there through my books and my movie scripts. I have seen them change many lives. I would love the opportunity to change many more by joining forces with them.
The two of them went from handcuffs to cufflinks too. They can help me share my journey with the world on my transformation. #fromhandcuffstocufflinks.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
The readers can follow me on these social media platforms: