Hero: (Noun): a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
Throughout recent years, with the book, my works in Intervention and Treatment, Speaking Engagements, and working with people I have received a lot of amazing feedback from people all over the globe. They reach out to me on Facebook, Linkedin, via Email, and send me thank you cards in the mail. People I have either never met, or people I have only interacted with briefly here and there. Families I have worked with, addicts I have gotten into treatment, teachers, administrators, judges, etc.. They reach out expressing thanks, gratitude, and use words like “inspiration”, “Amazing”, and “Hero”. And though each and every time I receive a reach out, email, message, or card it does mean a lot, and provides me with validation and confirmation that I am in fact doing what God wants me to do, I must tell you all right now that I am not the hero you seek.
You see, I am not extraordinary, special, or some kind of exception to an unwritten rule. I am just me. I am just Herb. And to be honest with you, yes, it is pretty amazing and I thank God every morning that I awake that I have been spared, and blessed into the life or recovery, God willing, so far. But again, to be honest, what is so heroic about a person who was once addicted to crack and heroin, that used to eat out of garbage cans, and panhandle from unsuspecting strangers every day to support his habit? I am not putting myself down here, trust me, I love my recovery, and my life today. I am truly a blessed man. But what is so special about the fact that I haven’t committed a crime in what, 5 years now? When there are every day, good, normal people out there right now who have never committed a crime in their lives. People who, day in and day out wake up, make their coffee, get dressed, and head out the door to their jobs, or the gym. People who struggle just like anyone else, to make ends meet. To raise their kids. People who hate their jobs, but show up every single day with a smile on their face because they know that they have to keep the lights on. That their kids need school supplies. And money for a field trip. They know that no one is going to “Make it for them” and they’re okay with that, because the fire, desire, Love for their families, and dedication to giving them the best possible life means so much more than the daily frustrations that we all face. What about all those people out there, the single moms and dads raising multiple children on minimum wage, working two and three jobs. what about the children who’s parents abandoned them-yet they still kick ass in school, living in a foster home hoping to make the grades necessary to get into college, what about the lonely broken hearted widows, what about those fighting cancer? Every single day there are millions of people out there, who have never made the choice to do drugs, like I did. And they struggle, and they work their asses off, and they show up every day, and they pray, and they take a break to go in cry in the bathroom because they’re over worked, underpaid, and feel so alone and unappreciated. All they want is a little recognition, they want to feel valued, they want to know that the’re loved, cherished, and noticed. These are the real heroes.
And this one is for you. This one is for all the people That I see as the real heroes in my life. Today, and everyday. I see you.
You see, I go to many places to speak, and to listen. I speak at schools, and Colleges, Churches, and Jails. People see me doing these things, and it feels good to be able to give back. But what everyone is actually seeing is merely a bi-product of all of the heroes that have been working in my life. Over the years. Selflessly. Like My brother and Sister-in-Law, Josh and Carol. These two here have absolutely no idea how much they truly held me together while I was locked up, and all I wanted to do was fucking swan dive off the top tier in the Porter County Jail. And end it all. They faithfully, not only kept money on my books, so I had money to make phone calls, And took EVERY SINGLE CALL I made from that jail, which was every day. They sent me pictures, and inspiring quotes, and cried with me. And they drove all the way from Atlanta Georgia to Valparaiso, Indiana (check it on a map, its not a short drive) Just to see me appear in court, for what, 8 minutes? These two amazing people will never in a million life times know how much they have truly touched my heart and inspired my life.
And my Attorney, the Sheriff, and The Court. They didn’t owe me anything. They could have just as well, and probably a whole lot easier, just sent me to prison. Just another dope fiend off the streets, right? But they didn’t. I still to this day don’t know the lengths that any of these people went to give me one more last chance. And to be honest with you, I don’t need to know. I am just so truly grateful that they did. The fact of the matter is, I would not have written a book, gotten into this field, helped many people find recovery, been a dad again, or met the love of my life, Tiffany, had these three people here not done what they did. I owe them my life. Literally. The Executive Director of the Halfway house I was court ordered to, again, Lita Peters, who is currently in the midst of grieving yet another tremendous loss to our community, as we all are. Thank you. I have absolutely no idea the courage, strength, and dedication it takes to continue to do what you do, day in and day out. Fighting for grant money, running a halfway house full of knuckle heads like me, praying like crazy, answering desperate jail house and prison letters for one more chance, wondering how were going to get a new roof, new beds, and new water heater. You keep showing up, and doing your best to plant those little seeds of hope, in spite of a constantly growing pile of funeral notices. Hoping to save just one more.
And that Leads me to My Personal Hero, My everyday Hero. My very special Person, The love of my life, Tiffany. This woman here is the person you really see when I’m posting about the things that I’m doing. She is the rock of our family, she is the glue that holds it all together. She is the hero here, not me. I was just a broke, unemployed, lost kid at the halfway house when Tiffany and I met. I had no idea what lied ahead for me, and I definitely was not looking for any kind of love at this time in my life. I guess the secret to finding is to stop searching huh? And although we have experienced some very turbulent times in our relationship, we have always seemed to be there for one another. Most of the time she is the 80 and I’m the 20. In the words of our very dear friends Ernest and Jackie, “no one fights for you like me, and no one fights for me like you.” I still don’t know what I have done in this life to deserve such a special person like her. See, you all see “Male, 35 years old, Indiana, Just said YES to recovery” when I post it on Facebook. You all see Herb Stepherson Checking in to Kokomo, Indiana to give another Riveting talk about my battles with addiction. You see the facebook stuff. You all see the Social Media world. I see her. What none of you see, what none of us see in each other’s lives, because social media is all about the happy stuff, the good stuff, the hand picked memories that we all choose to let others in on- are the countless times that this woman has been there for me like no one else has. When no one else has. Me on the verge of tears, gritting my teeth when all I want to do is give up, what’s the fucking use? She was there. My sweet Grama breaking the news to me that she doesn’t have much time left. She was there. Sitting in a Psychologist’s office in valparaiso, because I’m absolutely sure that I’m losing my mind. She was there, Literally, holding my hand. Sitting beside me keeping me strong as I walk through all of the Internal struggles that I face on a daily basis, only to discover that I’m Bi Polar. She was there. 5:00 AM, alarm goes off, coffee gets made, kids up, showered, brushed teeth, homework, Dinners, Hikes, Cleaning, counseling, helping us all keep focused, and motivated. Arts and crafts, All the great ideas, all the family fun stuff. Its all her. You all see me, I see her. I have never in my life met someone who truly makes me want to be better. I have never met someone who can inspire me, just by being who she is. She doesn’t wear a cape, she doesn’t have some kind of super power. But she has the selfless Love, dedication, grace, work ethic, Grit, compassion, and aura that only a mother can have. that only that special person can have. I have absolutely no idea where I would be today if it weren’t for this woman. I don’t even want to know. I had no idea where this thing called life would take me. Everything scared the shit out of me. I was scared as hell of being a dad to one child, my biological son, Luke. Because of our chance meeting, I now have the amazing, exhausting, scary, am I doing it all wrong-opportunity and blessing to be a dad to four children. There is nothing scarier or more rewarding than being a dad to my son, or to being a step dad to these three. I fail. I fuck up. I struggle with boundaries, I feel like sometimes being a parent is hands down the most thankless job in the world, and I can’t help but think about my own mother right now, Poor mom, all the hell I put her through. But this family of ours, and Rosie too, these are my heros. They think I’m teaching them, oh no, They’re teaching me. And Tiffanys family, they have no idea how much they mean to me. I remember it like it was yesterday, several things actually. The first time I met her family, one by one. Her mom, a meeting we all still laugh about to this day. The first time I met her dad, “only after we have been together for a year”, His request, not mine, which I honored. Walking into their house on thanksgiving, taking my hat off to shake his hand, scared shitless, not knowing what may happen, or where this will go. This former Felon, Drug addict kid from the halfway house who’s now dating his daughter. oh boy. I had no idea that this man would one day become one of my best friends. Little did I know that these people who were being placed into my life would some day become my closest family, my best friends in the world. My heroes. Like my favorite Fantasy Sports Guru, who shall remain nameless at the time, but he knows who this is about. He’s part of my golf foursome. And he is one of the most courageous and brave, humble, positive, and encouraging people I know. In the face of taking on something I cannot even imagine, fighting for his life, Trips back and forth from Mayo Clinic, to Vanderbilt, to Chicago hospitals, he has been so incredibly strong, and often times, he is the one who is holding others together, as were all breaking for him. I see you kid. You’re my hero. And to the whole family, or clan, as we often call them, Thank you. Thank you for loving me for who I am, not in spite of who I am. You all mean more to me than you will ever know.
You see, were all products of our environments, were only as strong as the people we choose to stick with. I am not a hero, I am surrounded by heroes.
And to all the:
Moms, Dads, widows, Pastors, Police, firefighters, Judges, CASAs, Case workers, Probation officers, Soldiers, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, social workers, EMTs. To everyone coming back from a relapse, picking up that 1,000 pound white key tag, to all the sponsors out there, to all the sponsees out there. To all the counselors, to all the People out there who are working and trying so incredibly hard to make a difference, but it always seems to be an uphill battle. I see you. you’re the real heroes. Not me. I wouldn’t be any where if it weren’t for the people who have spoken life and love into my heart.
You’re all the real heroes in my book. The real Heroes are the seed planters. Keep planting seeds, even if you never see the harvest.