Tim Weber still remembers the first time he picked up a lacrosse stick.
"We had just moved from Mississippi to Columbia," Weber said. "One of my friends had a stick, and I said, 'What the heck is that?' "
Weber still remembers his last fight as a boxer.
"I got in the ring," he said. "The crowd was screaming. The very first round, I got my bell rung good, and he had me from the first punch."
He also still remembers the first time he shot crystal meth into his arm.
"I stumble back into this bedroom, and there's five of them shooting up this stuff," Weber said. "I said of course I wanted to try it."
Weber remembers the night in Fairfax, Va., when he shot a speedball -- a mixture of heroin and cocaine -- into his arm and stopped breathing.
"My friend at work called me," Weber said, "and I remember her saying: 'Dude, did you see God? 'Cause you were dead, Tim.' "
The night when Weber was living in an abandoned row house on Washington Boulevard -- smoking crack, stealing disposable cameras and selling them in bars to feed his habit -- also weighs heavy on his mind.
"I was a street rat," Weber said. "I woke up every day and wanted to die -- every day."
Weber has better memories of the night he met his future wife, and said she had helped him save his life.
"She was tall with brown hair, brown eyes and the most incredible smile," Weber said. "Her name was Kathy, and she was definitely my guardian angel."
The day Weber stopped taking drugs for good was Nov. 8, 2003.
"I walked into Howard County General Hospital and said I was going to kill myself," Weber said. "I entered the hospital, and from that day forward, my life has changed 100 percent."
Weber opened his first sober house for recovering alcoholics and addicts in Westminster in January 2009.
"I'm either the most hated man in Westminster or one of the most respected," Weber said. "If someone does something wrong, I have to kick them out, and that means they're going to prison."
He is now a businessman and an advocate for clean and sober living.
"Every day I wake up," Weber said, "I have the coolest Jack Russell terrier curled up next to me. My wife, Kathy, is laying there next to me. I have a business that I own, a daughter and son who love and care about me, and I am truly grateful. Just waking up is one thing. Waking up without a guilty conscience is another. Peace of mind [is] the best feeling in the world."
Weber and his wife, Kathy, own and operate Cattails Country Florist in Woodbine. He serves on the Behavioral Health and Addictions Planning Committee for Carroll County, and is the founder of the Weber Addiction Group and Weber Sober Homes -- two houses in Westminster for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.
He is the father to Megan and Michael and grandfather of Michael's 3-year-old daughter, Michele, and Megan's 7-year-old son, Nichols.
Weber is also the author of a book called Gutters and Roses, a story he wrote four years ago documenting his nightmare of addiction.
The book was reprinted this year, with notes and stories from many of the men who have lived in his sober houses and benefited from Weber's 25-year battle with drugs and alcohol.
"I was lost in the world of drugs and alcohol for years," he wrote. "I have been down and out. Homeless. In and out of jail, mental institutions, and countless rehabilitation centers and near death due to my addictions. My family was lost along the way as well."
Now 48, Weber began his journey in Houston, and went all over the country before settling in the Columbia section of Howard County.
His mother, Miriam, was a school teacher, and his father, Jim, an engineer at NASA in Houston.
Growing up in Texas, Weber played little league baseball for two years with his brothers, Pat and Mike, before the family moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., where his father finished his master's degree at the University of Michigan.
"We lived right down the street from the college," Weber said. "Bo Schembechler coached the football team, and we used to sell apples and park cars before the games."
From there, it was on to Picayune, Miss., where Weber lost his mom to a heart attack in December 1976. His father then packed up the three boys in their Volkswagen Beetle and pulled their U-Haul to Maryland.
We lived in a Holiday Inn on Route 75 and Route 1," Weber said, "because we didn't have a place to live."
They later settled in the Partridge Court Apartments in Columbia. Tim enrolled at Wilde Lake High School. He got kicked out his freshman year for fighting and using drugs, he said.
"I took some Quaaludes for the first time," Weber said, "and then I dropped some purple micro dots, which was acid. I was just a dumb kid, but I got caught and I got expelled. I'll never forget this. It was 1980. I was in my room listening to 98 Rock. John Lennon had just been shot, and they were talking about that. And then they started talking about three students in Howard County who got expelled from school for taking LSD. I was one of those kids."
That came a few weeks after he got drunk for the first time, first picked up a lacrosse stick and laced up his first pair of boxing gloves.
Weber began boxing in the Golden Gloves Boxing program in New Orleans. When he moved to Columbia, he began fighting out of gyms in Catonsville and Laurel.
"From the time I saw the movie 'Rocky,' I wanted to box," Weber said, "and I thought I was going to the Olympics. Sugar Ray Leonard was my idol. He used to tape a picture of his mother on his shoes. I did the same thing in tribute to my mom.
"Then, my senior year, I had this title fight in D.C. and got knocked around pretty good. I didn't get knocked out, but got TKO'd. I knew then my boxing career was over."
But his lacrosse career was alive and well.
After getting kicked out of Wilde Lake, Weber enrolled at Centennial High and played junior varsity football and lacrosse, first for Carl Perkins on the JV and then Mike Siegert on varsity. Weber graduated in 1983 as one of the team's leading scorers and headed back to Texas, where he enrolled in Henderson County Junior College in Athens, Texas. He went from a recreational drug and alcohol user to a full-blown addict, he said.
"We'd drink on weekends," Weber said, "smoke weed -- nothing no one else wasn't doing. But when we got to Texas, the drug addiction was really taking off. I went down there with a friend of mine from Centennial. We showed up with some weed, and the party was on. And then somebody pulled out the crystal meth, and that was it.
"I'm at a party with a bunch of clean-cut kids. Once I tried it, I was hooked. In high school, it was still fun. I wasn't getting into a whole lot of trouble. In Texas, everything changed for the worse."
His daughter, Megan, was born in September 1985, and his son, Michael, was born in February 1987. Tim was 19 when Megan was born, and like everyone else in his life, his children later became caught up in the nightmare of his addiction.
"I was coaching Michael in baseball when he was a kid," Weber said. "And during the season, I would stay clean. But it wasn't long before I'd be back shooting up. My addiction was brewing up like a hurricane.
"For a long time, Megan would not call me her dad. Michael would always say, 'Hey, that's my dad.' But Megan would always call me Tim. That really hurt. It took me a long time to win back her respect. But the addiction was out of control. It went from a category one storm to a five real quick."
In 1986, when Weber was 21, he entered his first drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. Four years later, he shot heroin into his arm for the first time. Six years later, he was arrested for the first time.
"Heroin addiction is brutal," Weber said. "Your bones ache to the core. Your nose runs nonstop. You have uncontrollable diarrhea, and your stomach aches with cramps. You are cold one minute, hot the next, and the depression makes you want to die. But you have to do anything to feed the habit."
Weber said he had stolen from friends and family, from stores and businesses. He passed bad checks and continued to use heroin. Later, he dabbled in crack cocaine -- anything to feed a habit that was literally destroying his life.
He lived in drug motels in Dallas, in a run-down row house near the Astrodome in Houston, with an old girlfriend in Kentucky and under the Interstate 95 overpass on Washington Boulevard in west Baltimore, he said.
That's when he returned to Maryland for good, during the late 1990s, and tried to somehow save his life, though it was almost too late.
"I was working as a telemarketer for a dating service in Columbia," he said. "I was working that day in Fairfax, Va. I was shooting heroin and cocaine (speedballs). I had done one before I got to work and another when I got there. I kept a syringe in the office. I had just completed a big sale and took the syringe into the bathroom. I stuck the needle in my arm, shot the dope, stuck the syringe back in my sock and walked down to the gift shop in the office building.
"I remember putting some Starburst on the counter when I started shaking. That's all I remember until waking up in an ambulance. They had shot me full of Narcon, a drug to reverse the effects of heroin. I found out the next day I was blue, foaming at the mouth and not breathing."
That near-death experience, and two more later, led Weber to Howard County General Hospital on Nov. 8, 2003. When he walked in, he declared he was going to kill himself. They admitted him, treated him and sent him to a halfway house on Lindwood Avenue in east Baltimore, a few blocks from where he had once bought heroin.
Through it all, Kathy, whom he had met six months earlier, stuck by his side. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, she was an accountant for a large firm in Alexandria, Va. They were married on Aug. 21, 2005, a little more than a year after they purchased the flower shop they own now in Woodbine.
"I had worked in a flower shop in Texas, and I knew quite a bit about flowers," Weber said. "I had always wanted to own one, and finally we were able to make it happen."
Cattails Florist is thriving in Carroll County. In fact, throughout the entire month of November, the Webers gave away free bouquets to anyone who is an organ donor in honor of their daughter, Megan, who also now works at the shop. The reason for the giveaways dates back to February 2007.
"Super Bowl XLI -- the Super Bowl I will never forget, even though I never saw a down," Weber said. "My daughter had a serious car accident and needed a liver transplant. We had so many people test to be donors, even the doctors at Johns Hopkins said it was unbelievable."
Weber also continues to work with addicts at his sober homes in Westminster. One is called the Joey V House, named after his best friend growing up, Joey Vennari. The other is The Stone Wall House, named after his cousin, Stoney Sellers. Both died because of the disease of addiction.
"There's usually seven guys in each house," said Weber, who also puts on the Joey V Golf Tournament every year to raise money for his addiction group and coaches his grandson's little league baseball team. "The average stay is 3-5 months. Some stay as long as 18 months. I'm over there every day. I go to meetings with the guys and am very involved with them personally. We also just started a group for young heroin addicts."
Nov. 8 marked Weber's 10-year anniversary of being sober, which he celebrated at his weekly Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous meeting Nov. 12.
"I have a motorcycle," Weber said, "and inscribed on the bike is my anniversary date for getting sober. Kathy and I went for a ride and she asked me, 'When will our anniversary date make it to the motorcycle?' I told her, 'Real soon.'
"In 2003, I was shooting heroin, walking the streets of heroin. Now, my wife and I are witnessing the many blessings of sobriety. My life is a gift, and I intend to not take it for granted, and do whatever God allows me to do to pass this gift on to others."