On the Nickel

Doc Watson

Non-Fiction - Autobiography
196 Pages
Reviewed on 05/03/2011
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Author Biography

About the Author
Conrad Watson prayed for recovery and found it. He now lives with his wife in Los Angeles. Doc Watson attended Santa Monica College and UCLA to become a drug counselor. He then attended Antioch University, receiving his teaching credential, and was a member of the faculty at Los Angeles City College for four years. In 2006, Watson retired and was encouraged to write his story.


On the Nickel: Doc Watson is the powerful memoir of Conrad Watson. It is also proof that recovery is possible, no matter how far down the line one finds himself.

When he was living on skid row on 5th Street in Los Angeles – called the Nickel – Watson turned to the Salvation Army for help. Three years later, the Salvation Army hired Watson, and for the next 22 years he helped others. He began as a counselor for the Harbor Light Center, when he completed its program for his own addiction problem. After moving up through the ranks, “Doc” Watson served at the Harbor Light Center as its Executive Director and Administrator.

The Harbor Light Center has provided licensed and certified residential and outpatient alcohol and drug recovery services to substance abusers for over 50 years. On the Nickel is a truly inspiring must-read.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite

Doc Watson is proof God gives second, third, fourth, an infinite number of chances. He and his brother Dennis were passed from one foster home to another while their mother searched for a better life for them. The foster parents were either abusive or neglectful. Life with his mother wasn’t any better. The belt was her favorite form of punishment.

When Watson joined the service he experience true discrimination. When he went to town he saw segregated bathrooms. He wasn’t allowed to eat at certain restaurants. He studied to be an airplane electrician. His instructor was encouraging but his drill sergeant was crude and cruel. It wasn’t long and he went AWOL. After his discharge from the Airforce, things went downhill. Doc turned to drugs. He was given the nickname Doc because he was good at finding veins. The other addicts turned to him for their fix. He knew he was dying when he went to his knees and prayed. He poured his heart out to God begging for his help. God sent him to a safe place, the Salvation Army. Watson had a 300 dollar a day habit. He was homeless and more than once he’d overdosed. He knew he was an addict but was insulted when asked if he was also an alcoholic. Harbor Light encouraged him in the 12 Step Program. More than once he dried out and returned to his addiction. The drugs called to him.

After getting his life together Doc began to work with other addicts. He knew what they went through. He fought for them. He knew how important second and third chances were. When one of the addicts was denied entrance in the program because they had too many chances, Doc went to bat for them. He implements changes. He knew what it was like to be in their situation.

This is an amazing tale. Doc Watson is an amazing man. I found his story heartwarming. He didn’t gloss over the past. He took responsibility for his actions. It is a blessing from the Lord that Doc/Conrad survived his years of addiction. Conrad explained to Christians that the 12 Step Program goes hand in hand with Christianity. It takes 12 Biblical Principles and simplifies them. He served with the Salvation over 22 years. Helping others find their way off of the Nickel.

On The Nickel is well written. The story is one that needs to be told; it is one of encouragement. I believe that is why Conrad wanted to tell his story. He is not seeking gratification. He wants to show others that if he can make it they can too. The story is well organized; it skillfully shifted back and forth in time. This book is well edited. I would have liked to see a more eye catching cover, something that jumps off the shelf and begs to be read. I read a lot of autobiographies. This is one of the best. Conrad Watson would quickly tell you he is a man of God. I will tell you he is a man to look up to and to be admired.

Conrad Watson

Anne B. in her review truly understood where I was coming from in her comments. I appreciate her review.