Back in the early 2000s, Khalil Rafati, 46, was living on Skid Row in Los Angeles, homeless, addicted to heroin, dealing drugs and weighed just 106 pounds.
In 2001 he intentionally overdosed on IV heroin. In 2002, he almost died again, when someone fired shots at him through the door of a bathroom where he was doing drugs.
Shortly thereafter he was living on Skid Row covered in abscesses before being arrested and incarcerated in Los Angeles County Jail.
Now he is the author of a book, I Forgot to Die, which chronicles his rise from the darkest depths to becoming the millionaire owner of the juice bar chain SunLife Organics.
His story begins in 1992 when decided to move out west.
Reports New York Times…
Mr. Rafati’s first year out west was a Horatio Alger story of humble hard work and social ascendance. He started a business detailing sports cars, and soon found himself employed on the estate of none other than Elizabeth Taylor. Other celebrity clients followed, including Slash, the guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, and Jeff Bridges, the actor. Unfortunately, Mr. Rafati wasn’t content doing odd jobs for the stars; he invested his earnings in bulk purchases of marijuana, which he sold off in small amounts for lavish profits. By the late 1990s, he was peddling ecstasy at raves and smuggling ketamine, a surgical anesthetic, across the border from Mexico. Then one night at a party, he tried heroin. It gave him, he writes, what he had always wanted: “A childhood.”
After countless failed attempts at sobriety, Mr. Rafati cleaned himself up for the last time on June 18, 2003. “I’d finally reached the bottom of all bottoms,” he said. “There was no more digging left to do; all of my shovels were broken. I was done.” Before long, he’d grown as serious about his recovery as he had been about narcotics.
In 2007 he founded a a sober living house in Malibu called Riviera Recovery. It was there that Rafati began making smoothies and selling them to his clients.
“It was meant to rejuvenate and strengthen the patients,” he says, “and give them some much-needed strength. Lethargy in early sobriety is pretty brutal, especially if you’re coming off a long run with hard-core drugs.”
“So many outsiders came to Riviera Recovery just to enjoy one of my smoothies,” says Rafati. “It even became a bit embarrassing since many of these people were not part of the Riviera Recovery program.”
Now he owns six juice bars spread out around L.A. and at each one he hires people like him who just need a little help to turn their lives around.
“Right from the start, he was trying to better my life,” Mr. [Cache] Coelho says of his boss. “He got me to run my first Tough Mudder,” an ordeal-like race and obstacle course. “He gets very personal with us, especially the ones he believes in. This shirt I’m wearing? It’s one of like 20 James Perse shirts he’s given me. He pushes us very hard, in a father-like sense.”
Rafati says that his stores are there to “love, heal and inspire.” Mission accomplished.