Waiting to Inhale

Luis Sharpe led a double life. In public, he was an admired NFL star. In private, he was a crackhead hell-bent on self-destruction.

One of Sharpe's biggest problems is that he's uncertain of what to do with himself. Without the safety nets of pro football, rehab clinics, or even jail, he knows he's a prime candidate for another fall.

"I just can't trust that it won't happen," he says. "I'm a drug addict and I could go off any day."

Sharpe's brief experience on the set of Waiting to Exhale intoxicated him, and he expresses a desire to become a professional actor.


Read Related Story, "Shape Up or Sharpe Out"

He also speaks vaguely of wanting to help others with problems. He adds, chuckling bitterly, that he seems to be one of those people more capable of helping others than himself.

"My divorce is going to be over soon, and I'll be left with about a million-and-a-half bucks," he says. "I need some kind of guardianship arrangement with my sister [to oversee his financial affairs]. If I fall off the Earth again, I could go through that million and some in a few years. Then I'll really be a street person."

Luis Sharpe's sentencing shared time on television newscasts with that of Richard Djerf, who slaughtered four members of a west Phoenix family. Both men were sentenced by Judge Ryan, first Sharpe and then Djerf.

Djerf got death. Sharpe got his life.
As always, Sharpe said all the right things when the time came for him to talk. He sprinkled words such as "chance," "sorry," "addiction," "problems," "family" and "recovery" throughout his minutelong statement.

The judge said he appreciated Sharpe's comments, but that any noteworthy probation violation would mean incarceration of up to four years at the state prison.

After his sentencing, Sharpe checked out of jail. He said goodbye to his friends at the jail, shedding some tears. He also transferred the balance in his commissary account to his cell mate, the 23-year-old indigent gangbanger.

Sharpe says he considered taking his pink socks as a memento of his jail stay. But he was dissuaded by another inmate who said detention officers would stick a petty theft charge on him.

He and his sister Indira drove to Circle K and made a purchase. Sharpe joyfully lit up for the first time in more than six weeks--tobacco, not crack.

The two then stopped by the schools attended by Sharpe's 8- and 12-year-old daughters. Officials allowed him short visits with the children, though he hadn't called ahead.

"It was very sweet," he said last week, in a phone call from Hazelden, a rehab clinic near Minneapolis. "They were happy to see me, which made me feel very good. I told them I was going to get treatment for my illness, and that I really wanted to be part of their lives again."

The clinic is housed on 500 acres, with forested walking paths, a weight room, swimming pool and other amenities with special meaning to a man whose most recent residence was jail.

Sharpe is scheduled to stay at Hazelden for at least three more weeks. Then, he says he plans to go to Detroit and continue outpatient treatment and live with his sister as he tries to map his next step.

"I've got a family who loves me and kids who need me, I hope," he says. "I'd like to think I got a life ahead of me.

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