So I had taken my sponsor’s suggestions. God, recovery, and employment have become realities in my life today. I am connected with God, I have a strong network of believers who have my back and help keep me accountable. I pray. I meditate. I listen to spiritual music to keep me grounded. My recovery program is going quite well, I suppose. I am rapidly approaching two years clean. I go to meetings, I stay connected to the men and women who are active in recovery and recovery minded. I have a sponsor. I do my best to stay involved with anything recovery related:speaking for various agencies, going to different events and fundraisers, and staying useful to other addicts who may be struggling. I left my position at the insurance agency, because an amazing opportunity presented itself. Something that I had been hoping all along would come back around- come the last week of December, I will be an Intervention Coordinator. Imagine that?! The same guy who used to eat old donuts out of the dumpster in Logan Square, the same guy who overdosed twice, the same guy who almost lost his right foot to Staph., the same guy who was going to kill himself in prison- is going to have the unbelievable honor of helping other struggling addicts get well! What a tremendous gift and humbling experience.

And so that brings me to the last remaining priority on our list that evening in my friend’s truck, being a Dad. My son.

For those of you who have been following this blog since it’s inception, you may be familiar with “Birth and Death” that I wrote a few months back. In this article I wrote about the unfortunate circumstances that my son was born into. It is without a doubt the hardest thing that I have ever had to live with. It is also something that I left inside that Chapel in “God Shaped Hole”. I no longer have to live with it. My past is no longer my identity. I have been set free from all my wreckage and pain. But the fact remains, my son was born addicted to Heroin. And I am responsible for this…

I remember exactly where we were when we found out that She was pregnant. I also remember how we found out. We were sitting in the local gas station parking lot as She read the results off of the stolen pregnancy test. Stolen pregnancy test…We were so consumed by this disease it breaks my heart to even write this. We were both so lost. “Fuck”. Was all she said. And I just put my head down and broke. I broke a lot, but this was a break that I don’t think I can accurately describe. It was a break in my heart and soul that made my ears ring. We were now going to be bearing a child…

This was something that we were not prepared for, obviously. Yet we did nothing to prevent it.How could we? We had no forward thinking at the time.We were incapable of considering  the consequences of our actions.  And we were about to be in for a horribly dark and nightmarish road. We were not prepared. This was not planned. We made no preparations during her pregnancy. All we did was what we always did, use. More and more. Everyday. September 16th, 2011 came like a flash of lightning- and “Birth and Death” unfolded. He was born, and I died. I died a death that I only experienced one other time in my life: when I was laying on my jail bunk in 2015 and decided to take my own life. It was a spiritual death. Brokenness and woe. I was completely separated from God in these moments, I was broken and alone.

Immediately after He was born, my son was taken into state custody and stayed with foster parents for a few days until Her parents could take custody. To them I am and always will be grateful;to the fosters, and the grandparents. They saved my son, while I was too busy destroying myself. I was committing suicide on the installment plan. One shot, one blast, one line at a time. And this young infant was wailing all hours of the night, crying out for milk, love, and affection- I was a ghost. A drifter. A junkie. My eyes well with tears as I think about this. My son. My boy. Half of me.  We were involved in a State children’s case for the first fifteen months of his life. Court dates, drug screens, team meetings. We held it together pretty well for a while too, until we didn’t. Ultimately, we got custody of him back, and things were “fine”. But all we were really doing is playing house and trying to manage a new baby and a heroin habit. Ultimately, like it always does, the Heroin got the best of us again, and we were taken over.

This cycle repeated itself for years. Throughout many of these stories, My son is in the “background” of it all. Back and forth from grandparents house. Me and Her, in and out of active addiction. It has been absolutely gut wrenching to live, and to reflect on. In the past years, my son hasn’t been a priority. I told you all that I would not hold back, and be honest. Even though this is potentially damaging, I am gushing my heart and guts right now- when I am clean, I love my son more than anything. When I am using, He and everyone else are just….In the way….Addiction ALWAYS wins. I have no control once I awaken the sleeping monster. That’s just the way it is…

So, shortly after I broke again, laying on my jail bunk and made the decision to take my own life; as I’ve told you, God started working on me. He started working on my heart. Everything unfolded as I have explained already. But one thing that I haven’t talked about quite yet is just how much I thought about my son while I was away this past 53 weeks.

(Growing up, my dad was my hero. No matter what he did, no matter how he and my mother “failed” or “messed up”, if you were to ask me , I would have told you that my dad walked on water. He was my best friend. We did everything together. He was my dad, my best friend, my baseball coach, he was my whole world. He was my whole world, because I was his whole world. There is a very special bond between father and son, and our lives were no different- even through all the using and bullshit. My dad is still my dad and I love him dearly. I think about him and miss him all the time.)

While I was away, I would receive letters from family and from Her. They would send pictures of my son. He was smiling. He was happy. He was having fun. He was fishing, and riding his bike, He was growing up without me.How could I do this to him? What kind of monster lives like this and does these things? Does he remember me? Does he think about me? What kind of man will he grow up to be? I wonder if he hates me for all of this…

A huge part of my decision to not give up, not be a statistic, not to take my own life in prison was him. No matter how long I was away, I was going to come out better than I went in. I was going to see my son again. No matter what….

As we sat in my sponsor’s truck on the cold January evening, outlining my priorities, it hadn’t quite been etched on my heart the way it has been now: I am in love with my son. He is perfect. Yes, it hurts to think about the first few years of his life, and everything that he has been through. But the past isn’t changing. I left my past in that chapel on the hill, and it is staying there. For good.

This past eleven months that I’ve been home have been amazing. 2016 has been BY FAR the best year of my life. Aside from all of the “things” I’ve been doing. It’s not the things that really matter. Yes, it’s nice to have a good job, and a home, and a truck. It’s amazing  to be clean today, yes, but being clean in and of itself isn’t the blessing: It’s what recovery brings along with it. I cannot even describe what it feels like to look into the eyes of my little boy and tell him that I love him, and mean it. And to hear him tell me too. He is growing up. He has personality. He loves sports, he asks questions, He prays with me. Something that just melts my heart to the core. Last friday, we went to his Christmas program for his daycare- He did great! He rocked the mic! They sang “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and I cried. Santa Claus IS COMING TO TOWN this year! I have a Christmas tree in our home with presents under the tree and cannot wait to see his bright blues light up when he comes down the stairs to see what the Jolly Ol’ Elf brought him!

He is incredible. He is perfect. He is truly a blessing from God. He is advanced in every way. He is athletically inclined and He loves his daddy. His little voice just makes my heart smile when he comes up to me in the morning and asks me, “Daddy, can I have some breakfast?” And then stretches and snuggles up next to me to watch Curious George 9 times. He, like me, was spared. God smiled down with loving Grace and said, “Not this one.” I thank to Lord above every single day that my son is healthy and developmentally on track. I have never in my life loved anything or anyone like I love my boy. And my love grows and grows for him every day. He is my counter part. I know now that I and he have a real chance at an amazing life. I don’t strive to give him “all the things I never had”, because “things” break, money burns, and the actual best things in life are in fact, not things. I strive today to teach him, to love him, and to mold him in ways I never was. And so I can now answer one of my own questions from back in jail: “What kind of man will he be?” Well, He will be the best possible version of himself that he can be. Because my son is THE priority for me today. I promise myself everyday to always be his encouragement, his biggest fan, his guide, his provider, his protector, and his daddy. I vowed to myself back when that IF I get another chance at this thing called life and recovery, that I was never going to settle, I was never going to give up, that I was always going to give everyday my all, no matter what- Because I have such a beautiful, amazing, loving, perfect reason to never settle or give up, and he calls me Dad.

Driving in my truck one day: “Hey, Luke, you love Daddy?” He replies, “Yes.” (ME):”How much do you think?”  (Luke):”72.” (Me): {LAUGHS}: “72, huh? I’ll take it! He is my everything, and I am never going to give up, for him.

7 thoughts on “Priorities

  1. Absolutely awesome!!
    I can only hope you know how proud of you I am, because unlike you I can’t come up with the words all the time.
    To see how you have turned your life around is astounding and truly admirable. The life you and Luke have Today is awesome, but guess what it only gets better. There are people that walk around every day not realizing or not following their GOD given talents and simply get through life. You have not only realized how GOD wants to utilize you but are taking the steps that will make it possible to follow through and truly help others. You have a gift Stevie and I know that this is only the beginning of greater things to come. Always remember that sometimes life is hard, but as long as you put one foot in front of the other and keep pushing forward there’s nothing that can hold you back.
    We are so proud of you buddy.
    Love ya,
    You’re “big” brother

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so proud of you! I love seeing the two of you together, he loves his Daddy! When he walks in the room, I see that look , Everytime, it’s beautiful! Keep shining! Love you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Herb, just finished your book in a single afternoon, couldn’t put it down or stop reading. Although I’ve never struggled with addiction, I don’t think it could have been any better described or made more real, raw, visceral or understandable than you’ve written it. My lifelong friend, Todd, gave me your book – 2 actually – to hand out and to keep in our church library here in TX during his visit over Easter last weekend. I thank him for that gift and I thank you for writing it! God bless and keep you as you continue to seek His perfect will in every aspect of your life!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s