Long Live the Kings
Champion outside the Ring
We all love a good comeback story, the one where we see our hero or heroine spiral downwards and then (with the theme song from Rocky in the background) brush off his knees, get up, stands strong, and takes on the world. We love these stories for many reasons, but perhaps none more true than the fact they are fundamentally stories of hope. Sure, we all know that life is hard, and we all have had our ups and downs but gosh…at the end of the day these folks show us somehow, some way, we can overcome and succeed.
Lately, however, our life stories haven’t been so merry. The world around us is filled with dissension and tragedy, and there have been too many fallen friends or family members who have not come back. Those who have lost their battle to drug abuse or alcoholism, proving that despite all of our strengths, we are indeed just human.
But I have for you a story. A good one to tell. It is one of inspiration and of victory. It is a story of a woman, Deborah King who is the daughter of the legendary boxing promoter, Don King. Like daughter, like father, Don King too has experienced both the highs and lows of life. At the pinnacle of his career, Mr. King promoted some of the greatest figures in boxing history including Mohammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield. And then his world came crashing down when in 1966, King was convicted and served almost four years in the penitentiary; eventually, he was later pardoned.
The world watched as Mr. King, like a phoenix, rose again while for the next few decades, working hard and strong becoming as famous as the men he trained.
For a while, it seemed that Deborah, his daughter, was struggling as did her father. Though it is hard to believe, twelve years ago, Deborah was in a jail cell. She was a drug addict and her life was a mess. Just like her father, she rose and not only did she make a comeback, she inspires and helps a lot of people along the way.
Deborah has led an impressive life and has had her place in the sun as her father did. She founded Deb-b King Management, managed pro boxers and has helped organize tours such as the Ice Breaker Tour and Bad Boy Entertainment tour. She eventually went to get her Masters in mental health, while becoming a certified intervention and recovery coach. Her biggest goal today is working towards the Henrietta King Treatment Center in honor of her late mother.
When I spoke to Deborah King, I knew the minute I heard her voice that this was not an ordinary person, some wall flower who was afraid of her own shadow; instead, she was a force, a woman who has lived life and learned from it. For almost an hour, Ms. King graciously gave me her time. We spoke about a variety of topics: her life with her parents, her extraordinary childhood behind “the glitz and glory,” her recovery and her rise from the depths of despair.
Today, if we turn on the TV, we see all too many images of gloom, but I promise you, the Deborah King story is like no other. Though she may have been down, like the boxers with whom her father once trained, but she stands as a champion in life—an inspiration to others, a fighter who got up and kept getting up until she could stand on her own, victorious.
Internationally Known: Welcome to Internationally Known. Tell us a little about yourself.
Deborah King: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. I grew up in a little town 30 miles east of Cleveland called Winston, Ohio.
Was it a small town?
DK: It was very small; we had one blinking light. My next-door neighbors were Amish and rode in a horse and buggy…I’m a farm girl.
How was it living next to the Amish?
DK: They are kind, gentle people. They were there when I had children. They were carpenters who built my house. They were the babysitters. When my mom got ill, they baked the bread, made the soup. It was a wonderful experience.
And your family?
DK: I have two older brothers, I am the baby. I am mother of two, a grandmother of two with a new grandson on the way. One brother is local here in Florida, my other brother in Ohio….My father just turned 85. I’m blessed to keep them as long as I have.
Your father is the great Don King, the legendary boxing promoter. We know him as a public persona. Can you tell me about that father and daughter relationship and were you aware of his fame? Did you welcome his being so well known.
DK: The world knows him as Don King the public persona. To me he is just Dad….If you misbehaved, you got reprimanded… You did not get all the glitz and the glory; my mother kept us grounded. He was a great provider, a great Dad, he strived for perfection. He pushed us to be the best we could be and he applauded education: he was 100 percent behind that….he would give me 50 cents for every book I read a week. He would read the same book to make sure I read it, and got an education while I just wanted to play….He would not tolerate you being a slack. No sitting on the couch. He instilled that work ethnic.
IK: It sounds like you had a very blessed relationship. Your dad sounds like he was tough but very loving.
DK: Absolutely. He sacrificed a lot because he was not there a lot as he was creating Don King Productions, but we knew that he did it for us….I was a Daddy’s girl….I travelled the world and seen things that no other twelve years have seen. I met kings and queens. He would be home every week. He adored my mom and that was the most precious thing for me. My parents were married fifty years until my mom passed.
IK: I’m so sorry about your mother, Mrs. Henrietta King. I can’t imagine. It must have been a difficult time for your family.
DK: My mother suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s.
IK: I’m so sorry. It must have been terrible for you to see. I have read the Alzheimer’s disease affects everything: from eating to taking care of oneself.
DK: Correct. She also beat cancer. She was a phenomenal woman. Alzheimer’s is a disease I want to advocate for as much as I can. It is a terrible disease. You watch the people you love disintegrate before your eyes. It is worse on the family than the actual person.
IK: Despite having an extraordinary lifestyle, your childhood seemed well “normal.”
DK: Correct. My mother kept us grounded. Then I went to boarding school in Pennsylvania where I met my closest friends. My best friend I met in 1976….I cherishes that sisterhood. I went to college and became a part of a sorority so that I can keep that sisterhood type of relationship.
IK: That’s wonderful especially since you had brothers. I know you have written about that…..So there you were as an adult. You had your own business, Deb-b King Management.
DK: I’ve done all kind of things…I have been the manager of some of the greatest boxers in the world. It has been an amazing journey.
IK: Here you are at the top…then something unraveled and you went through a dark period. What happened?
DK: Men! In substance addiction, men are the culprits for women, and women are the culprits for men. I got involved with someone who hid substance addiction for year’s….I will not negate my responsibilities. A lot of my problems were caused by guilt by association but I allowed it.
I had to open my eyes. He loved me but he loved the drugs more, and what I was able to provide-which was money. Now, that I have gone through recovery, you can recognize it. I was an active participant in my own self-destruction. When I told him, I’m going to get some treatment, he said “you rather be sober than be with me.” And then the light bulb came on….the blinders came off…I gotta go. I survived all that way. Through the course of this, I learned more about myself….
As I talked to doctors, therapists…it was uncovered that I suffered from the bipolar disorder of a depressive nature. The drugs made me feel normal…. If I started feeling depressed, I’d take drugs for a few days and then I’d be good for thirty. Once they found out, they put me on medication.
IK: Before you were self-medicating yourself?
DK: I didn’t get into addiction until I was forty years old. I was married, had children…I understand the life of the rich and famous, jet set, I understand being two people. It’s overwhelming. When it is all said and done, you have to be your own best friend…Without you, there will not be an us or them. I will always be Don King’s daughter, but back then, you never heard of Debbie. But Debbie rose from the ashes like a phoenix. When you learn to love yourself, you can love others…..I am that advocate.
IK: Is the real struggle when you come out into the world after being in rehab?
DK: Correct. What are you going to do when you get that call from that dope man. You gotta learn to say No….You have to make yourself be the cool. Life is so precious. I see overdoses everyday. I have to go out there to preach to them that I am a living example. And I never ask from them what I can’t do for myself.
Don’t tell me what I can’t do. Ask me what I can do to do for my recovery. It can even hour by hour, minute by minute…before you know it, those days add up to weeks, those weeks add up to months, those months to years. And then it becomes second nature. I wear my recovery as a badge of honor, not of shame.
Twelve years ago, I was in a jail cell…but I survived. I’m a survivor. I will be that voice for those who do not voice.
My depression did not surface until my adult life. My drug of choice was stimulants. Cocaine, crack…..Today, I do not do anything. I never want to put myself in a situation of “what if?” It doesn’t matter what the addict says to everyone else, it matters what he says to himself. What they say in fellowship: ‘One is too many and a thousand is too much.’
No one wakes up and says ‘I want to be a drug addict.’ But it takes control and you isolate, then it stops being social. You start to attract those who make that lifestyle ok. When it stops being fun, then it becomes a problem.
IK: I know your mother was instrumental in your recovery. How important is family for a person going through recovery?
DK: Addiction does not affect just the person but the entire family…You have to earn that trust back. The family who keeps helping—you are hurting them. You have to learn to cut them off. Families are a privilege. Addiction….is not who we are as people. You steal from your family, you manipulate them. We always encourage families to work the steps and get the support.
You will be surprised how many addicts are in the world. A minimum of 350 people die a day from heroine overdose….I see the one that who manipulates the doctor to get a pain pill. Your (family) has to heal as an unit…My mother was my biggest fan. My mother was going through surgery and dementia, but she knew that she loved me. I will walk in her honor everyday of my life….My dad was tough but now he is proud. He sees that I am a king….I did the work that I needed to, and now can save the next person and give them that person a hand up.
IK: Is there any situation that is beyond hope?
As long as there is life there is hope…When you can identify the choice that you made, you are on the road to saving your life. I had to put my big girl’s boots on and said enough is enough. [Drug use] is a beast, it takes no prisoners; it is undefeated and you will lose every time. Its goal is take your life. You have to fight, and I fight every day. And I’m offended and threatened by anyone who threatens my recovery. This is not a game.
Twelve years of sobriety. I don’t put myself in those kinds of situation. I cannot be around any who is threatening to me.
IK: You are strong lady. You have seen a lot, you’ve been through a lot.
DK: We come from good stock. My mother beat cancer, my father came from the penitentiary…to being Don King.
It can be done. Give yourself the right to live. Quit existing, and start living.
All social media for Debbie can be found at www.LimitlessLifeRecovery.com or @LimitlessLifeFL
For media inquiries please contact Guernica D. Williams at after6mediallc.com or @after6mediallc