Timmy Brooks became a Main Line legend for all of the wrong reasons. In 2014, he was arrested for criminal conspiracy, possession with the intent to deliver controlled substances, and a host of other charges. Then 18 years old and a recent graduate of the Haverford School, Brooks was named as the co-mastermind of the “Main Line Takeover Project,” which orchestrated illegal drug sales in local high schools and colleges.
The four-month investigation made national headlines, and Brooks emerged as the “preppy pot peddler,” a square-jawed lacrosse star from a well-to-do Villanova family living a double life as a dealer. “All true,” he says now. “Lying and manipulating was my way of life.”
Brooks recites the details of his downfall: “On Feb. 28, 2014, the police showed up at my house; 42 days later, I was arraigned. I was out on bail for 11 months, then sentenced to nine to 23 months in jail and spent seven and a half months in Montgomery County Correctional Facility.”
Feb. 28, 2014, was the last time Brooks used drugs or alcohol. The next day, March 1, he began his difficult march to sobriety. He’d been drinking and taking drugs since he was 14, and he doesn’t make any excuses. “I became dependent on drugs and alcohol not because of clinical anxiety or depression, but because of the way they made me feel,” he says.
He’s also honest about why he got sober. “I was in so much trouble that lying wasn’t going to get me out of it,” says Brooks. “I was out of options, so I had to take other people’s direction. That direction was to get sober.”
A 12-step program (up to three meetings a day for 11 months) plus 30 days at Caron Treatment Center helped forge a path to sobriety before his sentencing—one that was almost upended by his prison term. “I was charged with 13 felonies that I absolutely deserved,” Brooks says. “But the judge opted to put me in a situation where recovery was very hard. I saw more drugs in jail than when I was dealing drugs.”
Brooks stayed sober by building a routine—working, exercising, writing letters, etc.—and maintaining contact with his extensive support system outside. Upon his release, he was accepted at Cabrini College and made the lacrosse team. He also stayed sober.
“I was in so much trouble that lying wasn’t going to get me out of it. I was out of options, so I had to take other people’s direction. That direction was to get sober.”
After graduation, Brooks began looking for ways to help those in recovery. He honed in on what many see as a broken part of the system: transitional housing. With the backing of several partners also in recovery, Brooks founded Synergy Houses, two sober living homes for men. By the summer of 2019, he was Synergy’s executive director and owner, overseeing 42 beds in three houses—two in West Chester and one in Pottstown.
A 12-step program is the backbone of Synergy, and daily accountability is also strictly enforced. “You don’t get anything for free,” says Brooks. “Our guys earn progression as a result of positive actions in their life.”
Garth Reid is the co-founder and chief growth officer for Ethos Treatment, which provides intensive outpatient care to Synergy and other recovery programs from its offices in West Chester, Plymouth Meeting and Philadelphia. Brooks’ unwavering commitment convinced Reid and his partners to get involved with Synergy. “Timmy brings a level of strict accountability to guys staying in his houses, but he does it with compassion,” says Reid. “He was held accountable for his actions. Now he’s doing that for others.”
That in mind, Reid is clear that Brooks isn’t in charge of anyone’s sobriety. “Timmy is responsible for providing opportunities for people to stay sober,” Reid says.
The rest is up to them. “He’s walked in their shoes. They can walk in his and follow his path to sobriety and recreating his life,” says Reid. “That may sound corny, but I’m in the business of miracles and second chances. I believe in Timmy because, now, I think he believes in himself.”
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