So, before we get going here this afternoon, if you’re willing, I would like you to indulge me for a second here. I would like you to take a moment if you have one, and quiet your mind. Reflect. Just you and You. no one else. No outside noise. No judgement. Just you and your inner most self. Probe and search. Seek and find. Be Still. Think about who you really are. Without the masks of survival that we all wear and switch from interaction to interaction. Without the constant changing colors of the Cuddlefish and Chameleons. What is your True Name? Who are you really, when your day ends, and the late night time hours begin and it is just you, in your home, with your thoughts. Are you Paladin, seeker and warrior for Justice? Or are you- You just as you are right here, and right now- only maybe the 9 year old version of you, longing to be loved, and still so innocent and full of wonder? Or are you You, just as you are right here and right now- but angry, and bitter from a shitty hand that you feel life has dealt you? Or are you someone else entirely, finally pulling off your real world costume and wishing you could climb out of your skin altogether? Are you happy? Do you have peace? What is your True name? You may not be able to put your finger on this “True name”, but you can feel it. You can see it. You know that there is something there, that there is something much deeper than you have previously noticed. Focus on this person, focus on the 9,10,12,14 year old version of you, but as the Current you. The morals, the goodness that He possessed. The traits, values, and the uncanny ability to always maintain Eternal Optimism, no matter what life through his way. And stay here. And let me ask you a couple questions:
How do you spend your time? How do you spend your money? And what do you think about? If you were to look back at your last 30 transactions from your bank ledger, what priorities would it reflect to you? What do you do with your free time? What does that say about you as a human? And what are your thoughts? If you were to write your thoughts down in a daily journal for 30 days, would you be proud if a stranger read them out loud downtown on a megaphone? What do your thoughts say about you?
And lastly, take a moment to think about what is really important to you. Take a moment to think about your TOP 5 Priorities in life. And no, not surface/superficial stuff like “I want a new sound system in my truck”. Real Priorities. For instance, Mine are: 1: A relationship with God, 2: Recovery, 3: My Marriage/Wife/Family, 4: My career/Helping others, and 5: Relationships with people. Take the rest of the day, meditate on this if you must, but no one is going to know about this but you, and then write your top priorities down and put them in your wallet, or purse, or under the visor of your truck to look at once in a while…..
I bring this up today, because this is still to this day, the simplest and most practical advice that was ever given to me. And I do my best to instill these types of values into my family as often as I can. Recently I made My Daughter write a paper on the importance of Priorities, because I felt like she may have been slacking a bit in her studies at school. But as is congruent with Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is usually the right one, and such as in life, the simple sweet advice is often times the best advice to get. And this is the case here, with me, right now. And I believe this is one of the many reasons they tell us to “Keep it Simple” When we first get clean. But anyways.
Today was a very Big and powerful day for me. I woke up, had some coffee, watched the news, and saw tiffany and the kids off to school and work. I took the Dogs out, watched ESPN for a few minutes, prayed, showered and got dressed. Only today, I wasn’t putting on Jeans and a T-shirt. I was suiting up so to speak. Nice grey slacks, an off grey matching shirt, that I actually got married in, and a Pink striped grey tie. Today, I was off to see the Judge. I played worship music all the way to the courthouse and prayed for “The words to speak, and That His Will be done.” Today I was going into Porter Superior Court 1. Third Floor. To see my original sentencing Judge, 5 and One Half years after he sentenced me to the Half way house in Valparaiso. I was pretty nervy/shaky and antsy all morning. I wasn’t sure what was about to happen, but I knew that the Will of God would never take me to where the Grace of God wouldn’t deliver me from. Although, this morning wasn’t really anything to be scared about. I had done all that I could do, behaved, done well, and performed as well as I could on probation, and in life all together.
This morning, I stood before the judge on my “FC’ Cause number, the second consecutive case of the two, and the longest of the combined cases all together- for a Hearing to Modify Probation, and for Expungement of my Criminal record all together in the state of Indiana.
It is very surreal when I look back on things, and play the tape through from start to finish. 17 & 1/2 years of shear self inflicted hell- all to escape the previous 18 years of grief, trauma, sadness, and brokenness. It has been such a ride, So scary and deflating and hopeless at times. Clean or using. It’s like watching a movie that you just know is not going to end well… And then it does. Then God intercedes and intervenes. And I am standing before the judge this morning with my hands in my pockets because my nerves are so bad I am trembling. And the Judge says, “Congratulations, Mr. Stepherson. You have accomplished so very much in spite of so much, and under the worst circumstances, I am delighted to accept this modification and wish you Only the best of luck.” And that was that. 17 1/2 years in the system. Jails, Prisons, Homelessness. Near death experiences, Overdoses, Eating out of garbage cans. Boom. Done, expunged, gone. No more felonies, No more misdemeanors, no more record. The past completely cleaned up, My present, Free, My hope and future endeavors, restored. Not a single violation, not a single missed appointment, no dirty drops, no issues, and no bullshit from me. Done. Paid in full. Amends made, atonement reached, Restitution in full. Name, Cleared. The State of Indiana just wiped my slate completely clean. 8 felonies, and 30+ Misdemeanors over almost 18 years. Gone. Shit doesn’t even seem real. I am actually still processing this in prayers of gratitude as I write this. I feel so full, proud, and humbled to have reached such a rare and significant milestone in my life. No longer will that long black shadow follow me around, no longer will that Monkey be on my back, No longer will I wear that Badge, that Millstone of past Felonious lifestyles around my neck. Today, its just me, as I am, right here and right now.
And, it is all because, simply put, that I took the suggestions I was given early on- to Heart. And I will never ever forget that advice and guidance that my Sponsor gave me sitting in his truck that day. “What are your priorities, Herb?” “Don’t tell me now, take the night, and write them down, and we will talk about them when we meet again.” And My priorities are still the exact same today as they were back then. And I have always done my best, day in and day out, to Protect my Priorities. It is Kind of like what Jesus said back in the day, and I am paraphrasing, but I believe it was something like, “If you obey my commands, if you obey my Laws, then you need not worry about the Laws of the Land.” This is very similar to that Idea. If we truly have the correct priorities, which are wholesome and good, and we work hard and stop at nothing to protect those Priorities, only amazing things will take place in our lives. Does that mean that no bad will come our way? Absolutely not! But what it does mean, is that we can survive and overcome all of the adversities that are thrown at us, by maintaining our priorities throughout the storms of life. I have experienced a tremendous amount of grief and pain, hard times and fear throughout the last almost 6 years, but because I wrote my Priorities on the tablet of my heart, I was able to survive some truly devastating times. It is so heart breaking that my Big Brother Josh is not here with me today to share such a happy occasion, but I know where he is, and I know he is beaming down on me with love and pride. And He and his Pride in me, further solidifies my priorities, and the drive to never give up. No Matter what it is going to be okay, as long as we are true to ourselves.
So, to circle, back, Let’s think about those Priorities. Lets think about our innermost self. Who Am I? What are my True Priorities? Who Do I want to be? What Legacy do I want to leave behind?
And here’s what we do. Step #1: Fuck what everyone else thinks.
There is no step 2. We know who we are. We know what’s important to us. If we take the next 5 years, to focus on our top 5 Priorities, and sacrifice everything for our dreams, and to truly explore and discover the possibilities that this world has to offer those who are willing to work and chase their dreams, we will be truly amazed within the first year. And if we are not, then after that first year, maybe it is time to audit, or revisit our priorities. There may be something off. Perhaps one, or more are not in the appropriate order. But this is literally all that I did to get here, And I have been amazed time and time again, and I am not even half way through. Right now, I sit in our very own home, on the couch, with 2 of my boys, they’re cooking a pizza, Luna our Boston Terrier just returned from the kitchen disappointed that Connor didn’t drop any food on the floor, and snuggled up next to Luke. We’re about to share a nice frozen pizza, then they will clean their rooms and go outside and enjoy some fresh 70+ degree November air. And we will watch Monday Night Football, have a nice dinner, and wake up to do this crazy thing called life all over again. It is truly beautiful, bittersweet, and magical; this life thing. But I have learned that with God all things are possible, and Life truly is what we make it. But it takes time, it takes work, it takes sacrifice, and it takes having our priorities in order. And every now and again, that “sweet spot” comes, like it did today. Where God smiles down on us, we feel that little nudge and pat on the back, and we get to just exhale and feel that Proud accomplishment and peace come into our hearts, knowing that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. And that is a very good feeling.
Romans 12:2 “Be not conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’
God bless and God speed.