The clock struck zero and Timmy Brooks and his teammates exploded onto the field to celebrate after defeating Amhurst to win the team’s first national lacrosse title in their own backyard.
It’s a memory he’ll never forget, as it symbolized much more than a national title for Brooks.
Beneath the celebratory glow and feeling of success was another source of pride for Brooks, who years earlier sat behind bars. In his journey, he struggled with addiction and committed crimes to feed that addiction.
Brooks grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Villanova, where he considered himself an average lacrosse player.
Brooks went from just a normal lacrosse player from the suburbs of Philadelphia to being escorted from a courtroom in handcuffs by a bailiff. Waiting for Brooks was not a charter bus to take him to his next game, but instead a short gray bus with mesh on the windows waiting to take him to his new life.
Brooks’ story started out normal growing up outside the city living a comfortable life with parents who loved him and every opportunity to succeed. Under the surface, there was an addiction growing that would eventually show its ugly face.
“In high school, I got involved in smoking weed and drinking with my buddies. With most things I do in my life, I go all-in,” Brooks said. “At that time in my life, I was all-in on playing lacrosse, trying to convince the world I was a man of good character and learning how much fun it was to drink with my buddies and smoke weed.”
Quickly though his attempts and showing his good character would fail along with this “fun time” with friends. A bigger problem was emerging with his habits, ending life plans that Brooks had worked hard to achieve, including college and playing lacrosse. The sport had been a major part of his life, but at that moment his addiction took full hold over his life and the choices he would make.
“That quickly grew to me dropping out of college ditching a lacrosse scholarship, coming home which quickly grew into me getting arrested for selling some weed,” he said.
“I wasn’t selling weed for any other reason than I didn’t have money to afford my habits.”
At the time of his arrest, Brooks was 18-years-old being charged with criminal conspiracy, possession with the intent to deliver controlled substances and a host of other charges. He recalls the day he was handcuffed, loaded onto a bus and driven to prison. Brooks had never imagined that going to prison was even a possibility for him when he started down this path. In the end though, the consequences of his actions caught up with him.
Brooks spent seven and a half months in the Montgomery County Correctional Facility.
“Life in that period was really all about feeding a beast that wanted to be fed and trying to convince the world I was a person that people could respect and getting high,” Brooks said. “What comes with active addiction is depression, anxiety, a lot of stress and struggle in other areas of my life and additionally when we’re in those chapters we lack the ability to realize oh this is active addiction.”
After his release from prison, Brooks was intent on getting back on the right track in life and correcting the wrongs that he had done that landed him in prison. Brooks would eventually find himself at Cabrini with a second chance to get his education and a second chance to get on the field for the game he loves. Brooks was able to score a tryout for the men’s lacrosse team at Cabrini.
“I was in jail on release to go to work,” he said. “I was on a work-release program and I saw an ad for Cabrini on a SEPTA bus and I put in an application. Cabrini was willing to give me a second chance. I had always thought of school as a prerequisite to play sports and hang out with my friends but at that time being a person committed to recovery I was just trying to give school a shot.”
Brooks would find success at Cabrini not only on the lacrosse field but in the classroom as well. He graduated from Cabrini, an achievement that did not look possible to him just a few years ago.
“Most of my learning at Cabrini was about me figuring out how to be a person, how to not get what I want and still be a decent person. Most days I look back and just feel lucky that I was amongst a class of guys who shared a lot of the same values that I try to live by and really cared for each other.”
Brooks was a part of the magical run that Cabrini’s men’s lacrosse team went on going 22-2 on the season and bringing the school its first and only national championship. Brooks would not even have imagined that this type of success was possible just a few years ago while he was being escorted from a courtroom. For Brooks, he was given a second chance and was able to build friendships that will last a lifetime.
The friendships Brooks made along the way in recovery and during his time at Cabrini would help to keep him on the track to building the life that he wanted post addiction.
After his time at Cabrini, Brooks would go on to found his own recovery house called Synergy House aimed at helping those who struggle with the same vices Brooks himself overcame. Brooks saw this as an opportunity to give back to and help a community that he used to be a part of and that helped him.
“Addiction is an illness and our society doesn’t really see it that way. When a child is diagnosed with leukemia that child gets empathy to the end of the earth,” Brooks said. “Families that have members who are struggling with addiction we need to show up the same way and we don’t; there are a lot of prejudice against someone struggling with addiction.”
Synergy House’s mission is to provide a path to sober living to young males located in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The facility is a long-term recovery house with around 50 beds; 25 of them for their flagship program. This program focuses on helping young men build a life in recovery.
“The way we help young men build a life in recovery is by making this thing look attractive and positioning a lot of really good people who have sound recovery in front of our community members and providing a lot of structure and accountability.”
“Through our program, guys get healthy.”