Tony Hoffman was always looking for the shortcuts.
What he found was a series of dead ends that eventually cost him two years in prison.
“I had to walk all the way back and start all over again,” he said of his life after prison. Hoffman was the featured speaker for the Culver Military Academy cadets as they wrapped up the Culver Annual Review with the unit awards program on Feb. 28.
He was a natural athlete, Hoffman said, and that was his problem. He was the starting point guard for his Clovis (California) High School basketball team but he was benched when he wouldn’t put in the work to make himself or the team better. “I wanted to be Michael Jordan, but I had an Allen Iverson attitude about practice,” he said. “I was only thinking of myself. I didn’t think about the team.”
Despite his potential, he quit the basketball team. His brother talked him into riding in BMX races. He won his first race. It wasn’t long before he had endorsement deals with Airwalk and Fox Racing. But he wasn’t happy. “It wasn’t me.”
Even though he was successful, he started smoking pot and drinking. Soon after, he quit racing.
He was interested in computers and technology and was CISCO-certified by his senior year in high school. But instead of continuing his education, he chased the quick money by joining a so-called entrepreneur in San Diego. His new boss had the fancy house, a fancy car, Hoffman said, and he wanted that, too. Soon, the authorities came knocking on the door and his boss was arrested for running a Ponzi scheme. Hoffman was left with no job and no money.
You just made the biggest mistake in your life.
Already having problems with depression and anxiety, Hoffman withdrew even more as he added prescription opioids, heroin, and crystal meth to feed his growing addiction. When he was 21, he and another man broke into a friend’s mother’s house. Tony said he knew she had a large amount of oxycontin in the house. They forced her at gunpoint to unlock the closet door where she kept the supply and took them.
At the time they did it, he could hear a voice inside say “You just made the biggest mistake in your life.”
It wasn’t long before his friend was caught on another charge. He gave up Hoffman. He eventually ended up serving two years in prison. It was during that time, he said, he found out that one of his best friends from high school had died from a drug overdose. That made eight friends who died doing less than he had done. That is when he decided to “give my life over to a higher power” and asked God for help. He also started paying attention to those small details that he disregarded as a teenager.
He called his routine the “micro-process.” He started by brushing his teeth every day. Then he made his bed. Then he went to bed early. Then he began exercising.
After his release from prison, he started racing on the BMX circuit again. But a knee injury ended his comeback. So he adapted, and changed his focus to coaching other BMX racers. Instead of making it to the Olympics as an athlete, he made it as a coach.
That he is alive today is a miracle, he said. “I know more people who have died from drugs than have gotten sober.”