Forward by Tony Hawk
Skateboarder and Jackass star Brandon Novak comes clean about his crazy rise to fame, tailspin into addiction, and other death-defying stunts on the road to recovery...
At seven, Brandon was a skateboard prodigy. By the time he was fourteen, he was living the dream. Discovered by skate legends Bucky Lasek and Tony Hawk. Touring the U.S. with the elite Powell-Peralta team. Signing autographs and appearing in films and magazines. Brandon had it all. Then he got hooked on heroin.
Soon the up-and-coming star was living a down-and-out life in a garage, begging for change, and hustling to score his next fix. He stole from his family and friends. He pushed the fantasy that everything was okay, that he was going to rehab, getting help, and getting better. But it was all a lie.
This is the story of an addict—a dreamseller who stopped believing the lies he was selling and started believing in himself. With the help of his celebrity buddy Bam Margera of Jackass fame, Brandon joined the cast of MTV’s Viva La Bam and made an honest reach for sobriety. The road was hard, and he had some falls. But like any great skateboarder, Brandon Novak was always determined to get up again . . .
“Entertaining, shocking, crazy, unimaginable.”—Bam Margera
With 24 pages of photos
Updated with a New Epilogue
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About the Author
Joseph Frantz is a film producer, cinematographer, and media personality. He lives in Philadelphia.
Read an Excerpt
By Brandon Novak, Joseph Frantz
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2008 Brandon Novak and Joseph Frantz
All rights reserved.
The Last Day of Using
I am a twenty-five-year-old junkie, sleeping in an abandoned garage in one of the worst parts of Baltimore City. My eyes open.
It is August 11, 2003. I can't tell you the time because I don't own a watch, but judging by the angle of the sun's rays shining through the cracks of the abandoned garage door, it is about eight-thirty a.m.
As soon as I am conscious enough to think, panic consumes my body. My mind searches desperately for the answer to the question, "Did I leave a gate shot for myself last night?" A "gate shot" is what we junkies refer to as the first fix of the day, which draws the user "out of the gate" until they can pull a hustle that will lead to the next fix. I suppose this is a term borrowed from horse or dog racing, which conjures an insightful visualization of a junkie's lifestyle: a fixated animal running a desperate, circular sprint.
My hands strike out, searching, reaching, grasping. Not in my shoes, not in my pockets, not on the floor ... I arrive at the terrible conclusion: no gate shot, not today.
I am dreading the chain of events that are rapidly approaching, and I want so bad to reject the responsibility of having to scrounge up ten dollars for a pill of Dope, but Heroin is calling. I know I have to make it happen somehow, some way.
I take a deep breath, and stagnant air fills my lungs. My eyes, adjusting to the sunlight, fix on the cracks on the ceiling, the peeling paint, the broken light fixture, the cement beams, all the exterior details which express my inner condition.
My body shivers from the chill of the cold cement floor beneath my "bed," which consists of three moldy dingy-yellow cushions. A few days prior, I had taken them from a sofa that was sitting in the rain next to some trash cans I happened to be picking through. I thought they might bring comfort after a long day of stealing, lying, and hustling, so I took them to the abandoned garage I call my "home." I had arranged them in a symmetrical line, spacing them three inches apart so they might almost accommodate the length of a five-foot-six body. That night, as I drifted off to sleep with my feet resting on the cold cement, I found pride in my accomplishment — the acquisition of these three dank cushions, stinking of mold and mildew, which I now I refer to as my "bed."
I unwrinkle my makeshift pillow, my hooded sweatshirt. I wear this sweatshirt for one good reason: the hood conceals my white skin. You see, I buy my drugs in an all-black neighborhood, and there are stick-up boys everywhere who look to prey upon white-boy junkies like me. Also, being the only white person in the area makes me a prime target for cops, who know that any white person they see here is a drug addict.
I slip my shoes over the socks I have worn in my sleep. I wear my socks to bed because I have not showered properly in a few months, and the barrier of crust imbedded in the fabric helps contain the stench of my feet.
I have slept in many depressing, deathly places, but this one is the unrivaled worst. The floor, covered in muck and grime, is littered with used needles, bloody ties, candle nubs, burned match packs, empty lighters, crushed water bottles, and blackened cookers of all forms — spoons, cans, bottle caps, tins, and other dish-shaped metal scraps. In the center of the floor a refrigerator on its side functions as a "coffee table" for the junkies who reside here. There have been days when I wondered whether it might actually work when plugged into a live outlet, and others when I contemplated somehow transporting it to the junkyard in exchange for cash. But it's heavy, which means I would have to divide the work, as well as the proceeds, with another junkie, and that wasn't a possibility. Sharing is a concept foreign to addicts.
Piles of broken drywall, which once divided a corner of the garage into a bathroom, surround a toilet that hasn't worked in years. But junkies who sleep here use it anyway, and it is overflowing with urine and feces. Standing within a two-foot proximity will cause me to vomit from the sight and stench.
It is sick that the content of this garage represents the person I have become, and what is worse is that I have become accustomed to it.
As I stagger toward the door, each step intensifies the sinking feeling that today is going to be my day to die. But this idea does not deter my attention from the task at hand, the hustle for ten dollars, the price of a pill of Heroin, a small gel capsule full of Heroin powder that can either be snorted, or cooked then injected.
Where? How? I race through a mental catalog of scams. How can I get ten bucks through a minimum amount of effort? It comes to me: Mom.
Mom is a resource I tap only when all others have run dry, because I am ashamed for her to see me in this condition. But this morning I am desperate. I'll offer her one of my stock alibis such as, "I need to borrow lunch money until my next paycheck clears," or "I just got a job as a busboy, but I need to buy a new shirt for my first day of work." These fabrications never fail to extract money from her purse. This is not because she will believe them. Instead, Mom will hand over the cash just to rid herself of this twisted vision of the filthy junkie who is her beloved son.
The garage door. My opponent. When unlocked, tension from two industrial-strength springs allows it to glide open almost effortlessly. But with the handle in its present "locked" position, the springs act as a fulcrum securing the door to the ground. Yet, the door can be heaved open with a great amount of effort from a desperate junkie.
I grab the handle and begin to lift, straining. I am frail — weight: one hundred fifteen pounds, eat: two or three times a week. I can only call upon as little energy as one would imagine a person of this description might possess.
My legs begin to tremble, and I manage to raise the door almost three inches before it slips from my grasp and slams shut: Bang! As the sound resonates, I wince, fearful that the people who live above this garage might call the police if they discover that every night a junkie sneaks in and sleeps like an abandoned dog.
I step back, take another breath, and analyze the situation: I'm sick, I need ten dollars now, and goddamn it, this door is going to open! Again, I grab the door handle and pull. My knees are buckling, my arms shaking, my back is about to give out, but I am motivated by the thought of my next fix: inspiration! Finally I manage to create a three-foot slot, underneath which I cram my shoulder and apply it as a brace to hold the door up.
I look outside, to the far end of the two-story valley of red-brick row homes, where the mouth of the alley touches the street. There, the sunlight almost washes away the images of pedestrians, cars, stores. To most people, this is scenery. But to me, in these things I see opportunities to steal, lie, hustle, scam, and create victims. I swiftly slip out from under the door, letting it strike the concrete with a slam!
I hit the streets, motivated by my plan to scam my mom. Suddenly behind me, a familiar voice rings out. "Yo, Brandon! What's up?"
I turn toward my old friend Scott, who glances over my condition. "Yo, Scott," I say in a shaky voice.
Scott is four years clean. As teenagers, we rode skateboards together. As we grew up, we became addicts together. The difference is, he went clean, I got worse, and he became my NA sponsor. It is an indisputable fact that we could always depend on one another; however, in this case, an unspoken code of ethics dictates that I cannot ask for money. This is for my own good — we both know it, and we both know why: obviously, any funds extended to me would be spent on Dope.
Scott looks me up and down, scrutinizing my condition. "You don't look so hot, friend."
"Yeah ..." What else is there to say?
Scott looks at me with pain in his eyes. "Look, Brandon, I have to get going to work. But here. Take this." As he speaks, he jots down his phone number on a scrap of paper. "I know I always give you my number when I see you, but I want you to know, the offer still stands. Anytime, anywhere, if you ever feel the desire to clean up, call me, and I promise I'll stop whatever I'm doing, come get you, and take you to rehab, okay?"
"Okay. Thanks, Scott."
"Promise you'll call me if you need a ride?"
"I promise. Thanks, Scott."
"No problem, Brandon. Good luck."
Scott's current occupation is real estate, and he is apparently doing very well at it. He steps into his white Mercedes and pulls away. I pocket the phone number, not because I intend to ever need a ride to rehab, but perhaps I can use Scott for something at a later time: a place to sleep, a change of clothes, a shower, whatever. A junkie always has to consider his resources. Okay. Mom's house. Here I go.
As I walk the six blocks to Mom's house, my pace quickens, faster and faster. Her house is now in sight. I see her car and I know she's there. Excitement shoots through me. I am trembling, as I can almost feel the sweet Heroin surging through my veins.
Then I see it. I stop dead in my tracks, as my hope of obtaining ten dollars vanishes. The front door of Mom's house opens, revealing my half brother David, a thirty-two-year-old lawyer who works for the State. He is the proverbial "brain" of our family. Behind David follows our older sister Lisa, who, at a young age, voluntarily assumed many of the parenting responsibilities necessary to raise me while Mom worked her way through medical school in order to provide a better life for us. With my sister are her children, my seven-year-old niece Cindy and eight-year- old nephew Nicholas. Cute little kids, innocent, not yet aware of the world's evil. The last to exit the house is my mom. In raising us, she had done her best, especially under the circumstances of being separated from our father.
As they gather in front of the house, I hide behind a tree, struck with jealousy, envy, and remorse as I watch them standing in a circle of laughter and joy.
I grit my teeth at a memory of my childhood, when I was seven and won my first skateboard sponsorship. I remember the pride I felt in watching my mother cry with joy, and in the celebration that followed, when brother, sister, and mother surprised me with a cake on which was written in icing, CONGRATULATIONS, BRANDON! and a little skateboard, sculpted in pieces of chocolate candy....
Hidden behind the tree, I ask myself if I am willing to suffer the humiliation and looks of disgust from my family. I contemplate turning back, but my subservience to Heroin makes my decision to proceed, slowly and cautiously, reciting the lies that I will use to deceive those I love most.
David notices my approach and calls out, "Hey! Brandon!" At first, happiness is his instinctive response, but in recognizing the familiar signs of my condition, he then recollects the emotional pain I have caused him and my family: deceit, lies, and betrayal. At once, bitterness washes the pleasantness from his face.
Lisa takes notice of me, hides her pain for the sake of her children, and calls out, "Hey, Brandon!" I give her my biggest smile possible and rush to her in hopes that I might win sympathy from my brother and, ultimately, the money from my mother.
Lisa embraces me, and her nose retracts, wrinkling her face with disgust as she inhales my terrible stench. Breaking the hug from Lisa, from the corner of my eye I glance sideways to see if Lisa's kindness is evoking any positive sentiments from David. One look tells me it is not.
As I close in on my mother, I notice a sad disappointment in her eyes, which she quickly hides in order to make this occasion the least painful possible.
My mother asks, "So, Brandon, what are you doing here?"
I reply, "Oh, I had off work today so I figured I'd stop by to say hi." Lies: I haven't worked in years, unless you can refer to hustling for Dope as "work," and I certainly did not come here to say hi.
Mom hugs and kisses me, tolerating my stink because, although I am a junkie, the fact remains I am her son.
Mom says, "We're going to look at your sister's new house; do you want to come?"
In my head, I cry, "No! I just want to get my Dope money and get the fuck out of here!" I do not want to spoil this day for my family, to force them to look at me or smell my putrid stink. But, as sick as it sounds, enduring this discomfort is preferable to walking downtown, stealing, and risking arrest, so, I go against all better judgment and answer, "Lisa, that's awesome; you got a new house? I'd love to see it."
My brother glares at me as if to silently scream, Get the fuck away from us! but he keeps his composure for the sake of my mother, and because, ultimately, he does love me.
I turn to my niece and nephew. "Cindy! Nicholas! Come here, let me look at you!" I give them kisses on the head, telling them, "Mommy has been telling me how good you two are!"
A vivid memory fogs my perception as I recall that not so long ago these beautiful children once came with Lisa to visit me in a rehab center.
"What is this place? Why are you here?" they had asked.
I remember how naturally my answer, a lie, was issued forth. "This is where I work."
We load into my brother's van. I want to take a seat in the back, to spare them from my stench, but Mom insists I sit up front with David. He clearly does not want this, and I do not want it, but we do it anyway.
I know that before long, Mom will begin to carry on a casual conversation, a social skill I haven't practiced in years. At this point the only thing I am used to conversing about is where good Dope can be found and what makes of undercover cars the police drive. My mind races as if I had just snorted half a gram of coke, as the barrage of questions, and the subsequent lies, ensue:
MOM: So where are you living?
ME: Well, I'm living in Fell's Point; I have an apartment with a friend. It's pretty small, but it's okay.
MOM: Oh, that's nice. And where are you working?
ME: I'm bartending part-time at a couple places, filling in different shifts. Soon one of the places will hire me full-time, once someone quits ...
MOM: Well that's good. ...
Before the next question is asked, my brother, who has the opposite personality of my mother, interrupts. "So, Brandon, where did you sleep last night?"
A setup. This is a question that, if answered truthfully, will confirm that I have lied, and if answered untruthfully, will be met with a challenge. Whichever answer I give will be the wrong one. I answer anyway. "At a friend's house."
Here we go. "That's a fucking lie!" He points out the window, at a park bench. "You look like you slept on that bench last night! And you smell like a goddamn bum!" Correct on all three counts.
My mother screams, "David, don't!"
His voice raises a decibel. "Mom, stop protecting him! Let's get real! He smells like a fucking bum from the streets! If we have to spend the day with him, we're gonna have to stop at a hotel or somewhere to get him a shower! This is disgusting!"
My sister remains silent. My mother pleads, "Please, David, stop it!"
David insists. "I will not stop it! Enough is enough! I want him out of this van!"
"Fine!" I snap back. "You want me gone? No problem! You'll never see me again! I guarantee you that!" The van is traveling ten miles per hour as I fling open the door, stumble and fall on the asphalt, scramble to my feet, and run away in tears and disgrace.
Behind me I hear the sound of grinding gears as the vehicle is thrown into reverse before it comes to a full halt. David, now driving backward, is beside me, pleading, his anger for my addiction now overcome by his love. "Wait! Brandon, wait!"
"Fuck you!" the only response I could muster.
"Brandon! Look, I'm sorry! Get back in the van! Please?"
For a moment I consider this, only for the purposes of pitting my family's affections against their judgment in order to procure the money for my fix, but what little pride I have will not allow me to do so.
As they drive away, I turn and examine this mess I've caused. My mother is apologizing for my brother. My sister is crying, hiding her face in her hands. And a heartbreaking vision engraves itself into my memory: my little niece and nephew, turned around in their seats like puppy dogs, with tears running down their faces, waving good-bye. And somehow, through their sobs, I could hear one of them call out, "Grandmom, please, just give him the money ..."
Hearing this, I realize I have not even asked my mother for the money yet, and I arrive at a conclusion horrible to consider: that, in my niece's and nephew's limited experiences on this earth, although they could not yet comprehend my addiction, their knowledge of what follows my visits includes an inevitable consequence: I ask my mother for money.
As I walk toward the city in search of the Heroin money, I consider the lesson that had been inflicted on my niece and nephew: In trust, they will find lies. In relationships, they will experience manipulation. In love, they will encounter pain. And this is what they would forever remember, that I, their mother's half brother, Uncle Brandon, had taught them about life.
Excerpted from Dreamseller by Brandon Novak, Joseph Frantz. Copyright © 2008 Brandon Novak and Joseph Frantz. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by Tony Hawk,
Introduction by Bam Margera,
Chapter One The Last Day of Using,
Chapter Two A Prayer Answered,
Chapter Three The Last Night of Using,
Chapter Four The Phone Call,
Chapter Five The Story of Alexia,
Chapter Six Deceit and Betrayal,
Chapter Seven Dying Love, Decaying Life,
Chapter Eight The Road to Rehab,
Chapter Nine Tuerk House,
Chapter Ten Mrs. Evans,
Chapter Eleven Kindness from Strangers,
Chapter Twelve Physically Sick,
Chapter Thirteen Dane,
Chapter Fourteen Sean Williams,
Chapter Fifteen Mentally Sick,
Chapter Sixteen The First Step of a Long Journey,
Chapter Seventeen A Ghost from the Past,
Chapter Eighteen From the Beginning,
Chapter Nineteen Bucky Lasek,
Chapter Twenty A Conflict of Interests,
Chapter Twenty-one The Initiation,
Chapter Twenty-two A Change of Priorities,
Chapter Twenty-three The Calm Before the Storm,
Chapter Twenty-four The Cage,
Chapter Twenty-five Downward Spiral,
Chapter Twenty-six Bam Margera,
Chapter Twenty-seven Haggard,
Chapter Twenty-eight Paradise Lost,
Chapter Twenty-nine Dealing with Reality,
Chapter Thirty Death and Resurrection,
Chapter Thirty-one Changes,
Chapter Thirty-two It's All Over — or Is It?,
Epilogue My Friend Scott,
Update, 2017 by Joseph Frantz,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is fantastic! I am already on chapter 23 and I got the book two days ago!!! I got sucked in so fast! I dont want the book to end!
I'm a 15 year old skateboarder who has witnessed the fall of other skaters due to drugs. Before I read this book I just thought Novak was just another dumb person on Viva La Bam. Once i read this my mind changed, this guy had it all at one point and threw it all away just for some drugs. This book has definately inspired me to make sure that this doesnt happen to anyone i know that may get caught up in something like this and overall help myself avoid the situations that could come along. I recommend this book to anyone no matter what, its an amazing book and shows how life really is.
The book was pretty honest, much more than I expected. I was so captivated by the book that I read it in one evening, not able to put the book down, even when parts of the story really horrified me.
Very mind blowing that someone can be this sick. Thank you for your honesty!
I'm nosry and this goes to great lengths to satisfy all of my curiosities!
Brandon Novak was at one point in his youth a great skate boarding prospect for the Powell-Peralta skating team, Brandon has also been in a few t.v. shows and movies I have seen, i.e. Jackass3, Viva LaBam. However Brandon Novak is seen in a completely different light in his book Dream Seller. Dreamseller is an addiction memoir that follows Brandon's life through addiction. As the stories told in this book drag me through fits of laughter, and an emotional rollercoaster, I find that while the book is about addiction, I ironically couldn't put it down. This man's life story served as both my anti-drug yet also my addiction for 252 pages. Anxious to turn each page, I ponder where Brandon Novak would be if he had made different choices.The book only raises mre questions than it answers. This is due in part of the author's honesty. Withhelp of friends such as Bam Margera and Tony Hawk. Tony Hawk's quote may summarize the book with a tone that is different to deny, "You can't make this stuff up." With that said no summary nor review can do this book justice. My advice to you would be to simply read it. Where most books have failed, this one had me hooked.
This book is so amazing it really helped me through alot of things
If your thinking about buying this book please do. Beautifully written with an honest voice that not many books have. The contents of this book are shocking but well worth the money.
The book was so good that i want more! The book was great at describing how he felt in all the situations he was in...i ciuld picture it all in my head. Overall.....a must read!
this book provides a detailed look into the life of an addict who once hadit all snd threw it all away for lifetime of heroin addiction. -Jrohl