From incarcerated teen to accomplished therapist, Brandon Stogsdill credits education, God, and Dr. Drew for his turnaround.
Conceived by rape, Brandon Stogsdill was raised by his mother who struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness. “My dad was obviously never around and a lot of my childhood memories of my mom are her drunk, passed out and me wondering if she was dead,” says Stogsdill.
As if that weren’t enough to bear, Stogsdill became the victim of molestation at the age of four. “I pretty much thought it was my fault, was ashamed of it, and kept it a secret,” he says.
Given the trauma Stogsdill endured, school was a challenge. “I was never really good at school. I was always a step behind and very anxious,” he says. “But my life was just my life. I didn’t know things were bad and that we were poor, even though we were on welfare, went to food banks, and stayed in shelters. I just thought it was the way things were.”
Stogsdill’s older sister looked out for him until she became pregnant at 16 and moved out. He continued to live with his mother and her various boyfriends until his mother went into a mental institution when Stogsdill was a sophomore in high school.
“Before this, I was just kind of moving along in life. Things started to change in 10th grade though. My mom left and my girlfriend broke my heart. I became suicidal and started picking fights with anybody, began robbing houses, driving around in stolen cars, selling drugs, and not caring about anything,” he says. “Then I messed with the wrong people who threatened to kill me so I got a .357 Magnum gun.”
This decision set the course for the rest of Stogsdill’s life. “I was quickly introduced to a power I never anticipated. From that point, anytime someone looked at me wrong or hit me up with a gang sign (even though I wasn’t in a gang), I’d just fire and shoot at them. I thought I was a vigilante taking care of the bad people and that no one would get hurt,” he says.
When Stogsdill was 17, his friends got into a fight with a group of teens and turned to him for help. “I’d do anything for my friends. I had the mentality that anyone messing with them was a bad guy. I didn’t think I was going to get in trouble since I was just a kid, so I went after the kids that were messing with my friends and fired my gun twice at their car just to scare them, but one of the bullets penetrated into the trunk and lodged into a speaker just inches away from someone’s neck. Thankfully, no one was hurt,” he says.
Still, the police tracked down Stogsdill. After several months of pleading innocent, he eventually confessed and was sentenced to four years in prison. “I just got tired of all the bad things I was doing and being afraid of the police or other people coming after me, so I finally confessed. They didn’t arrest me at first, but then I got messed up in some other things and they eventually charged me as an adult,” he says.
Prison Time Proved Worthy
Stogsdill went to prison a couple weeks after his 18th birthday and served about three and a half years. “At first I thought it was ridiculous that I was serving time and believed they were just trying to make an example out of me, but what I realized was that everybody in prison thought that what they did was someone else’s fault or the police’s fault or that their attorney screwed them,” he says.
Stogsdill says three things brought him to realize what he did was wrong: “God got ahold of my heart, gave me a purpose and allowed me to feel forgiven so I could move forward. I know it doesn’t make sense and I can’t explain or prove this, but with faith I started to feel convicted and began to understand that what I did was wrong and that I could’ve really hurt somebody,” he says.
Next to God, Dr. Drew also played a part in Stogsdill’s turnaround. “An inmate came to my door laughing hysterically. He told me I had to turn on Loveline, so I did and found it really funny. I listened to it at first to kind of laugh at how stupid some people sounded who called in, but then after months of listening, I started realizing that many of the callers had similar backgrounds to me and other inmates—no dads, abused, neglected—and I started really listening to Dr. Drew talk about how all of this affects people,” he says. Read more “the fix”…