So, it was a VERY turbulent couple years to say the least. I went from 2014; losing my mother, relapsing super hard and catching new charges, to going to treatment and detox and then going on the run. Then came Lake County jail, termination from Drug Court, and sitting in jail for 53 weeks- all the while breaking and hitting the darkest of bottoms where suicide seemed like the only real option- to working on the jail renovation crew and the miracle and blessing that came along with that. And on January 11, 2016 I sat on this very couch I sit on now. In utter disbelief and humbled reflection over my life. What just happened? More importantly, what was about to happen? Why me? How in the world did all this REALLY just happen? Why was I spared? while thousands of others die off and go to prison every day?.
I didnt leave the couch for almost two weeks. I mean, yes i got up and down, but only to try and eat, and use the bathroom. I slept in my room, for a couple hours at a time each night. My nerves were too shot to really have any type of interaction with people. I was tethered to this couch by absolute stunned shock, disbelief, and fear. What do I do now? What’s gonna happen next? I had absolutely no clue as to where God was going to lead me next. It’s absolutely insane when i think about it. When i think about the last 10 years of my life. The ups and downs of it all, leading me to right here and right now. The scope of it all is something special. I think that I’ve done a pretty good job of telling some of this story, and many more details will come out in the book- but damn. If i could just graft into your mind, reader, some of the moments, and how they felt through all of this- just to be sitting where i am today, and feeling how I’m feeling right now.Addiction and recovery isn’t necessarily how we relate to each other’s “actions” or “war stories” so much as it is that we relate to the insanity of the disease itself. One of my favorite sayings around “the rooms” is, I may not have done what you’ve done, or been where you have been, but at one point or another, i have felt what you have felt. That’s what I wish i could convey to someone who hasn’t experienced the disease of addiction first hand. The raw overwhelming emotional turbulence that comes along with this thing. Every day seemed like a horror movie. Over and over and over again. There never seemed to be any hope in sight. Everything was always so bleak. Mindless self indulgence coupled with the grimmest of outlooks on life. And the only thing that kept me going, was the thought of one more… Its insane…Did that even make sense? Well, on we go….
Once i got used to being around “earth people” again, I needed to get busy livin’. I was far over being busy dyin’. My focus was on the priorities me and my sponsor set out in his truck one night. 1)Recovery 2)My son 3)employment. He told me that as long as I focused on Recovery, a relationship with God, being a dad, and finding a job- then everything else would take care of itself. Boy was he right.
So, about recovery: I think i went to like 10 meetings a week for the first 5 months I was here at this halfway house. I was hungry to get better. I had just experienced the deepest and darkest of bottoms, and then on the other side of that, a real slice of hope. A true to life miracle. There was no way i was going to waste that. I finally had some serious leverage in my life. I had experienced God first hand, and i was hungry for more. Meetings, meetings, meetings. Step work, step work, step work. Without putting any focus on any one fellowship of recovering people, I’m just going to say that I attended “12 step” meetings. you can draw your own conclusions. But, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. I was working a program, and it was working. For the first time in my life i was actually putting some honest and sincere effort into my own recovery. I think i met with my sponsor like twice a week every week, for at least an hour at a time for the first five or six months. Things were really clicking for me. I really don’t think i would still be here if it weren’t for this good friend of mine, my sponsor. He willingly gave a lot of his free time to go through the steps with me, week after week after week. And you know what? Even after going through the steps honestly and sincerely, I still cannot tell you how they work, or what the magic is to them. But they do. There is definitely something to the 12 step fellowships that is proving itself time and time again. Since AA was founded back in the 1930’s, Millions of people have gotten Clean or Sober or both. But I digress, the point is, that it was working for me. And things started to seem bright again. I started to make some friends, and gain an interest in life. I’ve heard it said that the rude awakenings lead to spiritual awakenings. I don’t think there is a more true saying from recovery than this. And i think that its because this disease of addiction is so insidious and so persistent, that it just has to sort of run its course, for lack of a better term. Yeah, run its course- at least it did for me. It had to take me to the deepest of bottoms and darkest of valleys before i was even willing to admit that this shit was going to kill me. I had to be broken to become willing to accept help. I had to admit, not verbally, but to myself, that i cannot handle drugs. And once I became willing to accept some help, and to start focusing on solutions instead of problems, well that is when the healing began.
So what’s the point, Herb? Where are you going with this?
Honestly, I don’t know. I’m kind of just letting things flow at this point.
As i went through the steps, went to meetings, and prayed to God- I could start to feel little nudges in my life. I could feel my “moral compass” coming back to life.
One thing i couldn’t really get with in recovery- is that someone would struggle with the whole God concept. Why? Why can you not get with this whole God idea? You have a problem expressing an open mindedness toward God, but you have no problem driving up into Chicago, jumping out of your car and running into the projects to meet “pookie” or “ray-ray” and trusting that whatever mysterious white powder in this little black bag that he just pulled out from in between his ass cheeks is going to do what you want it to do. How do you know that this isn’t anthrax? How can you TRUST it? Because you can see it? I don’t know, maybe i’m just blessed in this area of my life. But i had no problem grasping the concept that there was a God out there, especially after living the life that I just lived. As i sit here tonight, its strange, but i feel like i’ve lived two totally different lives. One, and then the other. I talk to people today, and they say things like, “Herb, I cant even imagine you like that, like how you describe living before.” And i believe that is only through God’s grace that that is so. I have not been able to pull anything off like what has happened in my life. Everything I tried, failed. Self sufficiency was a fairy tale for Ol’ Herb. But there I go again, another tangent. Remember, i’m just letting this one flow. But, yeah, my moral compass was turning back on. I was interested in life again, and i was making friends. I was told that I was not responsible for my disease, but I was responsible for my recovery. Get busy livin, or get busy dyin. And i was ready to live. The bottom sucks. And i was sick of settling for less than mediocrity. So on i charged. Prayer, meetings, step work, repeat. The more i did these things, the more in tune i felt like i became. I started to become more God conscious than self conscious. As i was forced to take an honest look at my life in retrospect, and how i treated people.Life is to be lived forwards, but only understood backwards. I was hit with a serious dose of humility; which i believe is a key element in this formula of recovery-HUMILITY. Brokenness lead to open mindedness, which lead to willingness, which lead to humility.And humility lead to the need and readiness to set matters straight, with people I had harmed. And i experienced the need for true forgiveness. Forgiveness from family and friends. The very people I had hurt over and over and over again- year after year after year. The people i stole from. the people i lied to. the people who’s hearts i broke time after time after time. The people who were up late, night after night praying to God that “tonight NOT be the night that they get the call from the coroner”. The people that watched me grow from happy 5,8,10,and 12 year old to broken, lost and strung out 22,25,and 30 year old. God, i can only imagine how they felt. TRUE POWERLESSNESS on their parts. UGH. But nonetheless, I had arrived at the time for making amends to them. Grama, Dad, Mom, My brothers, My son, society at large. And i experienced unconditional love as it’s finest. Tear filled love, forgiveness, and celebration. That their “Prodigal Son” had finally gotten well. And more humility hit me like a 20 foot breaker standing on the shores of lake Michigan. I was overwhelmed with Gratitude for this opportunity. Another key element in this formula-GRATITUDE. And on i moved through this journey. Its almost like one platform, step, or phase complemented the previous and the next. The more i did, the more i wanted. And i had now developed a dependence upon this program, and upon God. I finally started to find something that I now value so so much: Peace of Mind. For over a decade I was so caught up in this sickened, poisoned and toxic thinking. So much self pity, self hatred, and obsession. I used to spit at mirrors, because I hated my reflection so much. I hated the monster I had become. And now, hugging my grama’s neck in this half way house living room, i felt like i was finally moving in the right direction. I got another nudge from God, which told me that the best was still yet to come. And believe you me, It was….