“My name is Chris, and I joined a gang when I was 16. I joined because I wanted to be respected. As a gang member, I started dealing drugs. You name it, I had it. From there, I graduated to selling weapons: firearms, automatics, whatever you wanted, I could get it. I even sold it to kids. I was involved with drive-bys, stolen cars and involved in stabbings. I’ve been cut on my leg. I’ve been shot at on five different occasions, but I’ve never been hit. I’ve robbed people. I’ve done home invasions. I went to jail twice. By the time I was 21, I’d been to 18 funerals: all of my friends who had been involved in the gang. It wasn’t worth it, but that’s how it was.”
Chris tells Dr. Phil that he was always picked on as a kid and thought joining a gang would stop the taunts. The gang gave him protection, and it gave him money, power and respect. “I wanted to rise to the top, so anything they wanted, I did,” he says. As far as how much money he’s handled, he says he knows what $500,000 feels like.
Chris says he was involved with the gang for three years before his parents found out. He explains that he was still in school, graduated with a 3.9 GPA and still attended church. It was the weekends when he would participate in gang activity.
“So, you’d go to church in the morning and then go rob somebody at gunpoint in the afternoon,” Dr. Phil says.
“Pretty much,” he says. Chris explains that it was while in jail that he started reading the Bible and wanting to change his life. “The other thing that really got to me was seeing my mom and not being able to touch her on the other side of the glass, and that really gets me emotional, when I see my mom cry,” he says.
[AD]Chris says he was known as “Alcoholic” in the gang, and that was also his vice. “For me, it was like numbing the pain. I started having remorse for the things that I’ve done. I’ve destroyed families, pretty much,” he says.
Chris left the gang behind but not without risk. Although he’s had his gang tattoos removed and doesn’t affiliate himself with that group of people anymore, he says just being on the show puts his life in danger.
Chris now speaks out to at-risk youth about gang prevention. “If I just help one person, that’s what keeps me doing it,” he says. Chris tried helping a friend get out of the gang, but he was shot and killed. “That really got to me,” he says.
Dr. Zimbardo created the Heroic Imagination Project with a goal to teach people that anyone can become an everyday hero.
Are you on the path to becoming an everyday hero? Take this quiz!
[AD]”This is a great conversation starter with your kids,” Dr. Phil tells his viewers. “Sit down with your kids and talk about this, about how they answer these questions. It’s a great way to get a dialogue started.”
For more information, check out HeroicImagination.org!