First-time author describes his journey from addiction and jail to finally freedom

Hector La Fosse at the 2019 21st Annual International Latino Book Awards on September 21, 2019 at the Los Angeles City College. (Courtesy Hector La Fosse)

Hector La Fosse has had a life more reckless than most. 

It all started in New York City, in the 1960’s. La Fosse was born – the youngest of seven siblings to Puerto Rican parents. His father was unemployed, and an alcoholic who used to beat his mother. At only 7, La Fosse was raped by a teenage girl in his neighborhood. Since then, he decided to escape to the streets, looking for a release in drugs, women and gang life. Eventually, that life led to many years in and out of jail. 

It took almost four decades, but after much healing – physically and emotionally – he was finally able to get married, and leave drugs and his criminal life for good. For the past two decades, La Fosse has worked as a mentor, counselor, and bounty hunter. 

As a teenager, sitting in a jail cell, La Fosse says he was first inspired by a book called, “Down These Mean Streets,” written by Piri Thomas. He says reading this book served as a pivotal moment in his life that planted the dream of becoming a writer someday. It wasn’t until 45 years later that this dream would finally come to fruition. 

Today, at 61, La Fosse lives in central Florida with his wife, and two dogs. This is where he wrote his first book, “No Regrets: The Journey” – an award-winning memoir about his troubled life that finally was rerouted on a path towards healing and redemption. On October 13, La Fosse will be returning to his native NYC to read from his book at Festival of Books 2019.

What made you finally ready to write this book?

I wrote this book to release myself. To release my secrets. That was my sole purpose – to share my secrets with the world. At the beginning, it was very painful and frustrating to relive these moments in my life. I just wanted to quit many times. Reliving the pain was more painful than the actual experience. Now as an adult, looking back, I realize I never let go of that little boy and the pain that he experienced. The teenager took the adult hostage dictating to him how to feel. I was an angry little kid. 

Why do you think you gravitated towards bad influences when you were little?

I felt hopeless. I was homeless, and the easy was more attractive… I just wanted to run. The corners I ran to were negative places – people out of similar experiences. It became comfortable to me, because I was becoming accepted in another world, and these people accepted me. It became a way of life. I became conditioned to living this lifestyle, because I was running. I was hiding. The using of the drugs was another escape for me not to feel. Throughout this whole process, I was suffering. I became frightened and built this fantasy world. I lived in this illusion that this was the best way. 

You mention praying a few times in your book. How has that been instrumental in your life?

I grew up Pentecostal. We went to church at night. I was already rebelling. It’s not what I wanted to be, but I always had some faith. I always believed in God. Many times I was angry with God, because I felt he abandoned me and He let me suffer. But a lot of times, I called on Him because of the fear that I was experiencing at a given moment…I kept telling God, “Help me,” or “I’m hungry.” I always had the belief that there was a God, but I was angry at Him. But He was always there. I always had that feeling that He was watching over me. Mostly because of all of the things that I escaped. I tried understanding the lessons He was trying to tell me. I couldn’t decipher it, I couldn’t make sense of it, but it came very subtly to me. And I didn’t follow my conscious, because I didn’t know how to tap into it, but the message was coming to me. Later in life, it actually hit me. 

I had eventually formed a habit of praying, because I saw miracles happen in my life. The biggest thing that happened to me was when I finished building my house [after moving to Florida 16 year ago]…but I was still obsessed with building more. I was a little kid from the ghetto, from poverty, and I promised myself I would never to be poor again. Now I am for the very first time in my very own house. It became a fortress. I put so much time and money into it. Thirteen years later, I look at my house and thank God. I said while crying, “Wow, look at what you have done for this little boy.” I start to meditate, and in my conscious, I felt something big and clear speak to me, “Now it’s time for you to leave everything. There’s something more for you to do.” I get emotional, and I get frightened. It was clear to me. I go back to make sense of it. I go into prayer again, and ask Him again. I caught a vision of that teeneager in the prison cell that read that book for the very first time – “Down Those Mean Streets” – that was the first book I ever read that made sense to me. And I realized, “Wow, one day I’m going to tell my story.” That was the very first moment I had a goal. It was clear what my purpose was.

Shortly after that, we moved to a one-bedroom apartment… We closed down the house – following the instructions. I had been making a lot of money as a self-employed bounty hunter, but I closed my business and I started writing for 12 to 13 hours a day. I would sleep two to three hours a night, because I kept being woken up by thoughts and experiences…After I published my book, I moved back to my house, but I still let everything go. My mission was no longer money…I had been writing for three years. I had to leave the house, because it was a distraction. I was also a community leader, so I had to go somewhere where I knew no one. 

Do you remember the exact turning point for you when you truly turned your life around? Where were you, and what made you finally do it? 

The main turning point was when I realized I kept reliving the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I didn’t have any money…but one day, I saw an infomercial at 2 or 3 in the morning, and it kept saying detox in 24 hours with a new treatment for only $3,000. That stuck in my head. I asked God to help me. A couple of days later, I get a credit card that I never applied for in the mail with a max limit of $3,000. Right away, I knew what this money would be for. I called, and they accepted me. They put me to sleep and they flushed me with a treatment…but I started to get a seizure, and I went into a coma and almost died…I was so weak that I could not leave the house for months. That’s where the transformation occurred. I detoxed while I was comatose.I said I could never, ever go through that again, and I turned more to God. I started going to NA meetings, and that saved my life. 

What do you think made you go from woman to woman throughout your life? 

I got sexually abused. That experience never left me. I thought that sex was a weapon. I thought it was normal to not show feelings, or emotions, and just do this kind of stuff. I think that was the beginning of that behavior where I just used women for instant gratification. I disregarded other people’s feelings. It was about me and the pleasure. The goal was always self-seeking. With women, I was always seeking my mother’s love… I was seeking the love that my mom started giving me as a baby, but it stopped [since the abuse], because I wasn’t present anymore. So I was looking for women to pick up that gap. I was always seeking that love and attention, but no one could be that equal, so it never felt right. So I kept running and seeking. No woman was able to fill that gap. When I learned that, it shattered me. I began to work on it. Things started to transform. I began to notice the patterns in my behavior and changing those things. My wife was the first woman I met when I started doing the things to heal in that area. Now, I can catch myself. It’s an ongoing process. I’ve addressed it, and can see it most times. This is the longest relationship I’ve been in – 20 years. I still want to run sometimes…It’s a struggle that hasn’t ended. I’m still that little kid. I have to be diligent recognizing these thoughts to leave. It becomes an internal fight – [like a part of me] always looking for an easier way. But it becomes just a thought and I have to decide not act out on it.

What do you wish you could tell your deceased parents now with all the knowledge you’ve gained now? 

I’m looking at their picture on my desk, and they are both looking at me in the eye when I look at them. I’m so hurt by the pain I caused them. I failed to recognize that they truly loved me. Everytime I go to NY, I visit the cemetery – they were buried together. I never know how I am going to react. The pain still lives inside me. I still have those regrets…I’ve been on rainy days crying in the mud asking for forgiveness. I’m always asking for their forgiveness. It’s as if it was yesterday. What I tell them is, “I’m so sorry. I know what you gave me is the only thing you knew. This is what you knew to show me. You knew no better. You gave me what you had. What you learned from your parents.”

My mom is the biggest pain for me, because I saw it in her eyes – her pain and feeling powerless. She didn’t know what to do [about my father beating her and me, running away]. Everytime I went to see her, I saw she was suffering so much for me. I changed the softness in her. That’s the pain I live with…She never knew I was molested. So no one knew why I was changing. She was the one that loved me the most. 

What do you wish you could tell your sons?

I’m sorry I didn’t meet up to their expectations of me. I’m sorry that my experiences in life blinded me to their needs. I’m really sorry and will have to live with that. A lot of their behaviors stemmed from that. With my oldest son, I was present, but I didn’t know how to be a parent. I thought buying things was a way to please him. I made a mistake. I became more his friend than his dad. 

What is the most important piece of life advice that you would tell your younger self now at 61 years old?

Hector La Fosse in Kindergarten (Courtesy Hector La Fosse)

What I would tell that little boy inside that suffered so much is that you don’t have to suffer anymore. I, the adult, will take care of you even when you keep reliving those memories. I will be there to comfort and protect you from here on end, and that I love you. I love that little boy. I have his Kindergarten picture on my wall. It’s the only picture I have as a child. That’s the picture that has inspired me. That little boy is my lifelong mission – to bring him love and bring healing to his spirit. My mother didn’t have money to pay for that picture, and the teacher helped her…I found the picture as an adult, long after my parents died, and had it restored. He looks at me all the time. 

What are your goals for the future?

I am now obsessed with sharing my message and sharing my hope. I just want to share my story with the world. I’m going to keep writing. I have ideas for my second book. It’s about some of the things I left out about illusions and fantasies, and where I go in my mind. The illusion [our mind creates as a defense mechanism to deal with pain] feels real, and how does one decipher that from reality? Like a self-help guide. I’m currently speaking at different venues, and book signing. This is what I’m meant to do. [This week] I’m going to speak to clinical social workers about behavioral changes of troubled teens.

I realize now that God was preparing me all along. He was always carrying me. He was preparing me for this moment. I went to school got licensed as an addiction counselor, because I was hungry to know more – to understand and figure myself out. I became an HIV and health counselor…and helped people approaching death to prepare them for end of life. While counseling, I grew attachments to the patients, mothers, wives, husbands – that burned me out and that’s when I moved to Florida. 

You have to believe that there is a purpose in the good, and bad – in everything. Now I know my purpose. You have to be still to hear it. I meditate to do this. I only wish I could’ve got my purpose earlier, but that wasn’t the plan. I gotta do what I can with the time I have left to make a difference.