The Starfish

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean for exercise. 

One day, the old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. 

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the boy replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

 

I am pretty out spoken. That is not much of a shocker to those who know me. Those of you who follow me on Social Media might think that I may not have much of a life because I post so often. But I do. A pretty awesome new life, thank God. And those of you who follow my author page, and sometimes my personal page may tend to see things like; “Local Intervention this morning, Female/Male in their 30’s Alcohol/drugs, Just accepted the gift of recovery and is willing to give it a shot!” As I tout the successes of the miracle that has just unfolded before our eyes during an intervention. I know that often times, this may garner mixed reviews and equal parts criticism because “Herb is self promoting and blah blah blah.” “Fuck that Herb dude.” Anyways, I don’t care. Talk all you want, I know my truth and I know my walk. But perhaps, maybe, it is not self promotion at all. Perhaps, it is because I am constantly, and I mean daily- reminded of this ugly, nasty, life or death underbelly of this world that I have found myself in- and up against. And it is not self promotion so much as it is HOPE Promotion. You know, it is very easy and typical for us addicts to forget where we came from. There is something about it, I don’t know- the returning to life maybe? Ego? Pride? That somehow just automatically takes place once we get clean. I am guilty of it, although I do my best most days to remind myself, and my family that I am nothing more than one bad decision, one mental breakdown- away from pissing everything away, smoking crack, shooting dope and living on the streets again. Maybe not in such gory detail with the family, but you get what I am saying. I know what I am. And I am no longer confused by any stretch of the imagination. Drugs can and will destroy my life again, if I make one terrible choice to pick up. But anyways. The underbelly.

You might see all the posts celebrating people accepting help, successful interventions, and all the “Bright Places” that I have selected for you to see. And, again, it is because of HOPE Promotion. But there is a lot about what I do that you do not see. And I don’t even know if I should be telling you this, but I have always vowed to share openly, so here we go.

Yes, It is a Fact, that we have come to know, over the course of the years that we have been doing this- INTERVENTION WORKS. It is a statistical fact that it is the most effective and successful way to get someone into treatment. There is no arguing it, its fact. that’s irrelevant- but I did include that little note there just in case there is someone reading this who needed to see that, and now we move on.

But what so many of y’all may not recognize, and that’s on me, because I don’t share it very often, is the absolute heart break of active addiction and death that I hear, on a weekly basis. I hear grown men’s teeth grit as their voices crack and they cry to some guy they’ve never met before- because He answered the phone at 11:00 at night. I hear grandmother’s so desperate just to find their sweet grandchild who is being pimped out on the streets of Detroit. I once took a call from an ELEVEN YEAR OLD LITTLE BOY, who was calling because his mommy “Was on drugs, I think” (And yes, I am a mandated reporter so please, don’t ever in one second think that I would not, or did not immediately get that case into the local authorities hands). I take calls from broken hearted and lost parents, brothers, sisters, friends, and even co workers, who are just watching as someone slowly kills themselves at their own hand. 18,19,20 year old girls- KIDS!! Who are selling their bodies on the streets for 10 and 20 dollars worth of crack at a time. They are desperate and dying for help- and over the years I have kind of fashioned a saying that I remind myself of daily: The one’s who want it(Recovery) can’t get it, and the one’s who can get it(those with means), Don’t want it. Our system is so upside down right now it makes me sick- but that’s another topic all together and I am working on that behind the scenes as we speak, but Covid kind of put a halt on that for a few months, but trust me, I am doing all that I can, but I digress.

Alot of people may have the misconception that what I do is some kind of “Paid 12th step work” or some bullshit that I have heard from the peanut gallery over the past. But it isn’t. I take my position and role in this world very seriously. I spent pretty much my entire Father’s Day helping a few families, because my phone rang- I am not bragging and I do not need a pat on the back, that’s not what this is about. This is about the Dark side of it. This is about what you wont see in some celebratory post on FB. The reason I took those calls, and I very could have easily just have been selfish and thought, “It’s father’s day, I am spending it with my family.” And I did, we had a very nice father’s day. I enjoy the silence when it comes. But the reason that I always answer my phone when it rings, is because, Most of the time, I know who is calling: A Potential Starfish. A Soul in pain. Someone who is literally praying a prayer I know all too well: “Please, someone, pick up…Please God I need someone to help us…” I have made that call more times than I care to recall. But I have, as one of my former colleagues once put it, “The Most Unique Job in the World.” Not meaning that it is some God selected ivory tower position, it’s just, unique. It is unique in the regards that, people can call out for help, praying as the phone rings hoping someone answers, because they’re so desperate for answers that they’ve found themselves calling an intervention crisis line- only to be met with an understanding, and (I think) helpful guiding person who is offering solutions- and then I STILL have to talk them into doing an intervention. It is one of the most paradoxical things that I have experienced. *And if you’re wondering why that may be, please refer to my previous post “How it Works”* I am not going to go over the ins and outs of it again right now. But to be honest, those are the calls that I absolutely dread the most. I can feel the connection between myself and the callers, I can feel that they’re nodding yes in agreement with me. I can sense that they KNOW in their heart of hearts that this is the necessary step to take to save and salvage at fragile life. And we get rrrriiiigggghhhttttt thereeee….right to the point to where it’s time to move forward; and then something clicks off for them. And my blood literally runs cold. And I am NOT exaggerating- listen, if you’re at the point where you’re talking to me on the phone, then odds are you have run out of tactics and options and this is one of your last gasps and available attempts to help someone. And I mean that. No one ever randomly calls me to tell me how great someone is doing. We are interventionists. We are the “Seattle grunge rock swat team gritty MFs” We enter the trenches along side you. We educate, we empower, and then we fucking extract. This is not a game. Sorry, I got a little emotional there. But this is life or death. You mean to tell me that: “Sally, 23 year old female from JohnDoe, Indiana” is living on the streets, covered in sores, prostituting herself for heroin and eating out of garbage cans, and I STILL have to convince you to do this?! I cannot tell you how many times I have had this conversation- It breaks my heart. But anyways. I hate these calls, because They are the only ones that ever preface the absolute worst call that I get….

“Hey Herb, it’s (John Doe). I just wanted to thank you for all of your help and effort last week. I just wanted to let you know we won’t be needing an intervention anymore. I am so sorry to have to tell you this, but her/his body was found ________ from an apparent overdose and her/his funeral is ______.

fuck.

Or the young lady who’s body was found on her front porch in the morning by her two elementary school kids. Their dad had called the day before. She hadn’t been home for several days. Someone just dumped her there like a piece of trash. She’s gone too.

Or the Dad. Or the Mom. Or the Sisters. I could go on and on.

I am they. ANYONE who has gotten their life back is THEY.

It is still happening out there. Every day.

Right here in Indiana, last year, it once took me an entire week and over 300 phone calls to find a bed for a young lady. Wheel chair bound who needed help with her daily routines like showering and etc. She only had medicaid and no one would give her the time of day. I know what it’s like to be rejected from centers and hospitals because I’m a “have not” So I absolutely cherish those calls. “No one gets it, Herb, I want help so bad, and I just cant get it.” I do. Let’s get it done.

Active addiction destroys so much more than “Just” our health and “Life”, it destroys our families, it destroys our identity, it destroys mental health, our community, our worth, our children, morale, self image, etc. it literally destroys everything and everyone around us, and then we die. A lot of us seem to forget that.

I have attended more funerals then I ever thought I would. And I received countless funeral notices. Sending flowers to a father who lost his child to addiction is probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I honestly see more death and destruction from addiction now that I am clean and doing what I do- than I ever did while I was using. Because I was in this little “protected/numb using bubble” I was cut off from the world. I had no real outlets or exposure, and If I heard that someone had OD’d and died, at first I would feel briefly saddened, and then I would try to locate the dealer they bought it from. Yeah, I was very sick. But that is a big reason why I just cannot muster it anymore, to attend any more funerals of those lost to addiction. I just can’t bear it. It’s like I can feel their death inside me. It’s like a flash of My own life, and their life- in one giant wave of Woe, like a movie, and then they’re gone. The grief and hurt, the unspoken questions, unvoiced broken hearted prayers, the unbearbale weight. The weight… And not to mention what comes along with the loss, in my experience- divorce, separation, PTSD, depression, anxiety, subsequent suicides, loss of children. TRAUMA. This is the magnitude of addiction. This is it’s depth and penetration on our family, friends, ourselves, our legacies, and our communities. It’s kind of like a pain eater. It feasts on our pains when we’re alive, and once it claims us, it feasts off the pain our death created in the lives of out loved ones. Its vicious and unrelenting.

I see it. I hear it. I feel it everyday.

The wreckage is unbelievable. The stories that I could share, If I could. but anyone who knows me knows that I take my role very seriously, and these are but vague, generalized, and anonymous accounts of just one fraction of the hell that I share with those who reach out, and a very real, raw, and painful reminder of where I myself came from. But for the Grace of God there go I. And it’s easy for those of us, who have recovered and gone on to work at the Mills, or whatever career path they have found themselves in- to forget. And honestly, it is probably very healthy for them to forget and just move on in their new lives. I do not judge, I am proud of each and everyone of you for doing so and I pray for each and every addict, using or clean every day. But for me, This is my place. This is where God wants me. It’s fucking grim sometimes, but it is a battle worth fighting, and these people are worth fighting for. “We will be a light to all who live in the shadows.” Yes I will.

So then, Herb, if it is so Dark, Ugly, and Painful, do you persist? Why do you keep drudging the trenches, why do you stay so immersed in it if you deal with so much hurt and pain and woe and misery?

Because I have been there. I have lived it. I have felt it. I have at many times prayed through my own gritted teeth, for death. To just let this shot of Heroin just finally do me in. I am so sick of suffering like this. Please, God, Just take me now. I am so tired. And I will never forget where I came from. I will never forget where I’ve been. The saddest part about much of my story is that it is someone’s reality today.

And, because of the Starfish.

I know for a fact that I cannot help, serve, assist, “save”, help, all of them. But I’ll be damned if I don’t try. And the success stories… oh the success stories. If I only had one, I would still continue doing what I’m doing. but there are so many. So many families and addicts alike are stored in my phone now. Friends now. People that call just to tell me about the fish that “Timmy’s” Son caught while they were out on the river celebrating his 2 year clean mark. Or the Scholarship offer that “Sally” Got from a school. Or how “Tim” Is 1 year clean and back in school, or the trades. They’re my starfish. And They mean more to me than I can ever mean to them.

It’s like I tell every single family that I speak with, whether we work together or not. Maybe it’s just a one time phone call, and it is brief and we never really speak again, I tell them that they’re helping me stay clean for one more day. They’re keeping my own bottom close. They’re reminding me what’s out there and waiting for me. Sometimes I’m the Starfish and they’re the child rescuing me by tossing me back into the waves offering me a renewed chance at life.

I may not be able to save them all, or even help them at all. But I made a difference to this one. And they made a difference to me.

And that is why I continue to post in celebration when someone accepts the gift of new life. That is why I keep sharing the successes that we witness. It is such a powerful path, timeline, and journey to walk with the still suffering. From their lowest low, to their highest high. I GET to witness, partake, and feel their entire process of coming back to life, and life more abundantly. It is such a beautiful and soul touching process to see and embrace. To know the darkest and emptiest secret places that some of my people come from and then watch their walk is such a joy to me. It is like watching my own journey from the pit all over again. There is so much Joy and Love that comes back into their lives.

Sometimes we’re the Child. Sometimes we’re the Starfish. We’re all connected. We can all make a difference.

Be not a perpetrator.

Be not a Victim.

But above all else, be not a by stander.

How It Works

 

in·ter·ven·tion
noun: intervention; plural noun: interventions
an occasion on which a person with an addiction or other behavioral problem is confronted by a group of friends or family members in an attempt to persuade them to address the issue.
“as her health worsened, her daughters considered staging an intervention
I get a lot of calls from all over the country from families of addicted loved ones and often times the addicted ones themselves, inquiring about the intervention process.
And trust me, although the definition above kinda sorta sums it up, if I just used this definition above to describe it I would no longer have a job. It is so much bigger and dynamic than just some Meriam Webster’s Definition.
First of all, there typically needs to be an event- some kind of catalyst which triggers a family to reach out in the first place. We call these events “bottoms”. And the reason for this to be needed is usually because the concerned loved ones are conditioned to their special persons life style. They have been exposed and normalized to it for quite some time now. So a blotto fall down night, or checking their loved one’s breathing, or them not coming home for days has actually become part of their routines. And this is why I always say that the families usually feel the bottom long before the addict does. because the families usually don’t turn to chemicals to escape the wreckage and so they see it long before the bottoms occur, and the addict will use the very chemical causing the wreckage to numb the wreckage away. And so they just kind of stay stuck there for a while. And round and round they go. Until something bad happens which shocks them enough to seek outside help. These events include, but are not limited to: A DUI/ Arrest of some kind, Overdose, Domestic Violence incident, Health Scare, Children being taken away, Auto Accident, etc… For some reason, families will hold on and hold on until something tragic happens, and then they’ll turn to drastic measures. But addiction is a matter of life and death, so why not take the drastic measures right away?
I believe the answer to that last question can be answered a couple different ways- 1, family instincts, which usually actually get in the way; “No one can help my person like I can, I know them the best, I’m Mom/Dad/Brother”. But Families tend to be more reactive than proactive, and are prone to responding to a crisis or incident after the fact. Then they scramble for a band aid to a broken leg, the crisis smooths out after a few days, and then we fall right back into the same system with no long lasting effects. And it doesn’t help that when families jump into action in a reactive way, they just jump on Google and bang out the first few numbers- which are paid for click campaigns and usually lead you to an overwhelmed treatment center which is full, with a wait list; manned by someone who doesn’t really give a fuck about you- all they wanna know is what kind of insurance you have etc. so the Mom/Dad/Caller isn’t offered any type of connection or hope to find a solution. Then they get hit with the “Well I gave it a shot” feeling and are once again back slid right back to where they came from. Another reason families don’t jump to drastic measures right away is #2, terminal uniqueness. “Not my boy/daughter/mom/dad” They’re not that bad, it’s just a phase, He’s too strong willed and special for this. He will come around. Simple as that. #3 on the list is a big one: SHAME. From the parents especially. It is often expressed to me “How hard it is to make this call, Herb.” “I am so ashamed…” I can’t imagine how hard it is, and I don’t want to ever make that call. But that’s one of the first things I try to do when I connect with Families- encourage them and break that shame right away- this is not your fault and you have not failed. You’re not guilty of anything but loving them the best you could. Addiction is not a moral or parental failing. it’s something that happens and affects more people than we will ever know. We have tons of stats out there that say things like 1/8 families, blah blah blah, but I think it’s way more than that and you know why? Because people lie because they’re ASHAMED to tell the truth about what’s going on behind closed doors so they lie on surveys and medical questions which skews the numbers.They’re afraid to open up their special secret places, especially to a stranger that states he just wants to help and has been there himself before. #4 and rounding out the list, I think, at least for now is this one: Family Dynamics. The interpersonal “Isms” of each family individually. They say that we become the average of the five people we hang around most. And what they mean by this, is the more we surround ourselves with the same regulars the more we talk like them, think like them, act like them, and the more we get to know each other. We learn how to push each others buttons, appease, please, anger, hurt, suck up to, pander,etc. We teach other people how to treat us, and vice versa. So yet again, it kinda falls under that whole “normal” umbrella. But this one is a little deeper than just the typical status quo of a day to day life. This is where the addiction really thrives I believe. Where it really dominates. This is where I see the most “One step forward and ten steps back” part of the addiction and it’s cycles. Because inside these dynamics and systems is where the manipulation lies. And manipulation is the beast of it all. And by the way, Manipulation I believe is a term which describes using someone’s love against them to achieve a desired outcome. We addicts, we humans are very evolutionary animals. We learn on the fly how to survive, how to thrive, and how to flip just about anything to accommodate our livelihoods. The more we chase it, the longer it lasts, the better we become at it, and the harder it is to overcome. We addicts/alcoholics get so used to our patterns and deception as a way to continue our life styles, that the very manipulation and tactics we use actually cross a line from Intentional to Instinct. I never once had it in my mind while flipping a manipulation back at someone that “haha, I bet this one will work- insert diabolical laugh”. No. because it was as natural to me as breathing air. I was conditioned to doing it for so long that it became my way of life and living. And it also became my family’s ways too. Everything became so convoluted that no one knew what to believe any more. It was all just word and emotional vomit. It was exhausting. To everyone. And this is why I tell families that if they’re up against an active addict one on one, sadly they don’t stand a chance. And I think that they believe they know it when I tell them, that’s why they called. See, Families of addicted loved ones have “Intervened” in some form or fashion hundreds, if not thousands of times. You have begged, threatened, bargained with, screamed at, cried to, punished, and prayed with your special person on numerous occasions, sometimes concurrently- to thwart your loved one’s drinking or using. But typically those attempts were mostly fruitless and short lived. Most of the time, in my experience, When an addict is confronted by family or concerned loved ones the concerned party is hit with one of, or any combination of the 4 key Manipulations: HOPE, FEAR, GUILT, and SYMPATHY. 
HOPE: “You know what? You’re right, I’ve been thinking about this too. And I’ll only drink on the weekends/holidays. I have been talking to my sponsor again and I’m gonna start going back to meetings. I have a job interview this week and I think that’s really gonna help! I met this knew boyfriend/Girlfriend and They’re really helping me with this. I’m actually going back to church now and I think that’s what I really needed. I’m gonna do better, I promise!
FEAR: You, know what!? Fine! Fuck you! you’re so perfect and special, I’m outta here, I’m just gonna leave and go OD or drink myself to death. I’ll get out of your life forever.
GUILT: I know, Mom, it’s just, ever since the divorce with you and dad- It’s been real hard for me. I’m trying okay? I hate you! This is your fault, if you guys didn’t work so much maybe I wouldn’t have turned out like this! All I wanted was some attention. What do you mean I have a problem? You told me yourself how you used to smoke Pot in the 70’s God you’re a hypocrite!
SYMPATHY: Damn! Get off my back will ya? You think it’s easy being this piece of shit drug addict? I’m trying okay? I know no one loves me, you don’t have to make me feel like shit, I thought I could always count on you. I’m a bum okay? I already hate myself enough as it is, leave me alone okay?
And these are just a few instances of the flips that we will use against you when you attempt to intervene on your own, and these are the ones we tend to use the most because the work the best. Because they hit your heart. You believe me when I throw these at you because you want to or have to. I’m a special person to you, You love me, and where love lies, so does the ability to be manipulated. And so we often times stay in this “Dance” For years to come. And nothing ever changes long term.
I use. A bottom occurs. Reactions. Obstacles. Manipulations. One step forward. Ten steps back. But the thing that’s particularly scary is the trajectory of all this, it’s kind of like a failing stock market ticker. Slowly over time, down, down, down. The bottoms get deeper, the consequences get more and more severe. We all lose our minds and peace, and then something truly tragic happens. Liver Failure. DUI/DEATH, Over dose, Prison, trauma to children, children removed. Divorce, etc… And then we feel the need to audit our life in retrospect and think to ourselves, ” I see it now, I wish I would have done something here_________.” But by then it’s too late.
So, Herb, I get it now. You have outlined the problems and obstacles, what’s the solution and how does this whole thing actually work?
Well, in a nutshell, it works because we’re not you. It works because we have been there and can speak the language. Even the wordless language of Empathy speaks volumes. See, we addicts have this Air about us. Ego maybe? But I used to eat my counselors alive when I would have to go to “classes” ordered by a judge. They would sit there with their stats and College Education and I would immediately identify that this dude doesn’t know shit about addiction. What can this dude or lady tell me about smoking crack behind a dumpster or shooting dope with toilet water if they’ve never even smoked a joint. But there’s a mutual respect when the message comes from a fellow survivor. At least in my experience. Then, Couple that with the aforementioned tactics and dynamics that you’ve all been used to, and when Mom and Dad confront Me about using, it just kind of sounds like Charlie Brown’s Teachers, it’s just another convoluted word soup. I could write down some of my go to “word Daggers” That I used when I’m talking to addicts and families about getting help- and give them to you to read to your struggling person, but because it’s coming FROM MOM/DAD it is not going to have the same effect, and the opposite is true. You could GIVE ME a script to read to your person, and because it’s coming from a fellow addict/recovered addict/interventionist, it is just going to have a much more profound impact. It’s a fact that cannot be ignored.
Okay, Ladies, think about this one: You’re married. You’re getting ready for work and your husband says, “Dang babe you look really pretty today.” What’s your reaction going to be? Most likely a very every day, casual, “Thanks babe.” And on you go. But if you’re walking into work, and some guy you don’t know walks by and says something like, “Damn Girl, You look so Hot!” It’s naturally going to have a different effect, because you’re not used to hearing it that way, from that person. It’s just human connection 101.
A trained and experienced interventionist is a families Mediator, spokesperson, and referee when it comes to the actual process. And by the way, you have all been reading just a small portion of the even larger component of an Intervention: The Family Education Component which takes place for about 8 hours the day prior to the actual intervention itself. This is when we really dive deep into family systems, forms of denial, manipulation, etc. This paper here is but a small taste of the educational component. But it’s deep. I truly believe that education is the best crime fighter and an educated, empowered and informed family is the Addict’s/Alcoholic’s best chances of long term recovery. IF THE FAMILY DOESN’T CHANGE, THE ADDICT NEVER WILL. Why would we? We’ve got it made right here in our little bubble using and drinking our asses off while you pick up the pieces and endure my bottoms and make everything okay.
But the Intervention Day itself is a beautiful day. This is when we get to bring everything to the surface and have an honest, candid open dialogue with the struggling person. This is when we “Bring their bottom up” To meet them where they’re at, as opposed to waiting for another crisis to unfold and then react yet again. This is when we lay out in the open our plan of action on your behalf. What our expectations are moving forward. What we will put up with and help with, and what we will not. We also will be reading these to you in the form of a firm and boundary filled “love letter”. And the Letters are a tactic often used by interventionists because it eliminates back talk, it is a one way “conversation” that forces the struggling person to sit down, shut up, and feel what we’ve been experiencing for many years now. This is also our chance To unify a divided family in solidarity and eliminate any Cracks in the Dam. Addicts are master manipulators in words and deeds, and one of the Word and Deed manipulations we will employ is the Divide and Conquer ritual, in which we use mom against Dad, Dad against mom, and hope that my lies don’t get too close to each other for fear of being exposed.
Which is exactly what one of the remedies to a life long battle with addiction really is: EXPOSURE. Secrets die in the light of exposure and the healing begins when we address the problem. If all of my enablers, all of my cracks in the dam so to speak are sitting her in the same room with an interventionist who is hell bent on saving me, and all of my options are gone, all of my enabling is done, all of my resources are tapped, my family is finally at a breaking point, I am totally exposed. The mirror is being held in front of me showing my life through their eyes, and all of their pains are being shown to me, This triggers Vulnerability- Feelings. Which is what I have been running from all along. Feeling anything other than optimal. Increasing pleasure and decreasing pain. Whatever I have to do to not feel this ‘Ick”.
And when we trigger that vulnerability, the squirm starts, the exposure is there. And it’s all driven with love, dignity, respect, and concern. And Boom. We connect. I may not have done what you’ve done or been where you’ve been, but at one point or another I have felt what you’ve felt. God, I get goosebumps just writing this. I wish that I could “Download” My experiences to you, and let you witness it first hand. You wanna see God? Do a heartfelt and desperate intervention on someone who hates themself as a result of their life choices, has terrible self esteem and just wants to OD and die and doesn’t know why, And WATCH THE LOVE, HOPE, and SURRENDER wash over their face and return to their eyes when they hear the most heartfelt and amazing words that they’ve been longing to hear. Watch them FEEL LOVE for the first time in a long time. Hear a Grown man cry to his baby boy about getting help and all the mistakes he FEELS he has made. Watch a family do a huddle style group hug and love each other more than have in years, after a decade plus of resentment and guilt. Have a mother send a picture of her son to you, 3 years clean, after he was on life support from his most recent OD. That’s God. That’s Standing in the Gap for someone else. That’s connecting. That’s what intervention is and how it works. I don’t think I’ll ever do anything else as long as I live. I truly believe that this is God’s calling for my life and Why I went through my addiction and made it out- So I can reach my hand back/down and help the next one who is struggling like I once did.
You’re not alone. Do not be ashamed. Do not be afraid. You’re not the first. You wont be the last. Take action, get vulnerable. Put yourself out there.
The Ultimate weapon against the disease of addiction is the #RECOVERED Addict.

Bliss indeed

Ignorant:

adjective

  1. lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated.

Recently, I have noticed a much more gaping divide in the United States of America. I mean, you would have had to have been living under a rock to not see it. We have been front page news all over the globe in the wake of the senseless and hate driven murder of Mr. George Floyd. May he Rest In Peace and his memory live on and his legacy spearhead change for generations to come. But the division that I have really been shocked by is not the Media Driven and Insinuated “Black Vs. White Vs. Cops”, or even the “Everybody Vs. Racist”. It is the “My Input and opinion is right and if you DONT agree with me you’re a racist, you’re ignorant and wrong” bullshit that I keep seeing and hearing about. Racism is wrong. Period. That’s not what this is about. But what if I told you that racism is the secondary emotion or feeling? Hate is the primary. Disgust and Ill will towards people who are different than us. Hate is the problem here, and it manifest itself in many ways.

I have personally witnessed politics and opinions on the stuff that’s happening in our country tear families apart. Because they disagree. Because we have all been exposed to different life circumstances and events that led us to exactly where we are today. So we have different views. Different inputs, and different feelings towards particular subjects. That’s what makes us unique and that’s what makes us special and beautiful. We have all struggled differently. We have all hurt differently. We have all grown up differently.

One of the things that is particularly troubling to me is the constant clamoring of those who come from a very seemingly well to do, and book knowledge educated back ground and they’re use of the word “Ignorant”. Boy do they like to throw that word around. I believe that it instills in the user of that word some morbid sense of superiority. Now, the way that I have witnessed it used- and upon first glance, one would think that they’re referring to the first portion of the definition- lacking knowledge or awareness in general of a particular subject. But after continuous studying of the word thrower, I believe that they’re actually using it improperly. What they’re actually meaning when they speak their venom, is the second portion: unsophisticated. Less than me. Not as good as I am. And doesn’t that make it hate speech? I mean if we really boil things down and split hairs; are the racial slurs that we have been constantly talked to about really any worse than calling someone with a disability a cripple? Or a Retard? Or someone who is a slower learner Stupid? Or Fat? I mean, if the problem is hate, and we’re summarizing a person’s existence and value into one derogatory word or another- what’s the difference? I will leave you to ponder on that for a moment as we chug along.

Now, let’s couple that idea with this one: is there more than one way to be educated? I believe so. And again, it typically (in my experience) tends to be the “higher More esteemed college and professional types” that like to throw this word around. But is a journeyman iron worker of 40 years not educated? Is a carpenter not educated? Also, is one with very little actual schooling or skill- found on a click box job description check list but who was born into poverty, exposed to drugs, and overcome the addiction to create a life for themselves and others based off of the experiences that life dealt them- isn’t that education? Aren’t: life itself, trauma, consequences, circumstances, and real life experiences in all actuality the worlds best teachers? Asking for a friend…

So why then, does it seem to be those in their Ivory Towers, standing on the sidelines, the talking heads on CNN, FOX News, and etc… the CLEARLY most protected and privileged of us all, why then are they the ones throwing the word ignorant around the most? Because we didn’t go to Yale? Or Princeton? No, it’s because they truly don’t grasp the meaning of the word and how they use it toward people that they view as less than! The very ones throwing it around, are the very ones (in my opinion and experience) with the LEAST AMOUNT of life experience and exposure to life’s actual hard fought elements. So in turn, they just eat up everything that the media and word vomit sources throw at them, because they’re written by liked minded people. End rant there.

But the bottom line here, I think, is that it is very easy to say that one word, or idea is bad, but completely miss out on the way that you’re equally segregating others as you deem fit. If words matter than all words matter, and not just the ones that line up with your Dogma, or political views. You have absolutely no idea what someone has been through. Just because they dropped out of high school, or never even went, does not mean that they’re “Uneducated” or unsophisticated, by any stretch of the imagination. Not all blacks are criminals, not all whites are racist, not all cops are bad! End of fucking story. And just because someone states an opinion that differs from yours, based off of their own exposure and life experiences- it does not make them ignorant. In fact, In my opinion, it is those very ones who like to throw that word around- that are the most ignorant of all. They spent their last unpteen years with their noses buried in books, and only had “one teacher” (school) without ever even getting out into the world and experiencing it with out the rose colored glasses that CNN, FOX, huff post, or snopes has to offer. The media lies because it’s owned, and the people who own it have an agenda. Divide and Conquer. The old white men AND WOMEN in big government who have had their lush all expenses paid lifestyle at the expense of John Q. Taxpayer- the fear us. They fear unity and reform. They want us to disagree and misinterpret each other- black white brown male female, it’s doesn’t matter as long as we’re in conflict with ourselves. Because when we’re fighting amongst ourselves we cannot truly take in the bigger picture of what’s going on behind the curtain. It’s all about the masters that we serve(Killer Mike when he spoke in Atlanta) the master you serve is the master you’ll feed and the master you feed is the master that will consume you. If words matter, all words matter. Don’t judge someone because they’re “uneducated” and call them ignorant just because it stirs up fear or misunderstanding inside of you. If you judge a person based on the education as you say, then you’re discounting the potentially unfortunate circumstances that led him to be this way. Maybe his parents died in a car accident, and he was left to the foster system, molested by a caregiver and took off on his 18th birthday to sell drugs to support himself- but because he sees the world differently than you, is he ignorant? What if that same person is the hardest working money making hustler you’ve ever met. He paints houses now. And details cars. Maybe he’s a rich musician. Is he ignorant? Fuck no. But you’re ignorant for thinking that.

If word matter. All words matter. The problem in and of itself is not “racism” ( that’s what the wizards behind the curtain want you to think) my best friend as a child was black. My best friend I. Georgia when I was 20 was black. We all know people who have a different skin tone than us. Duh. That’s not the problem. The problem is hate, and it is personified through isolated, and sometimes not so isolated instances like George Floyd, but what about when a white guy is killed by a black guy, like my high school friend was? There was no out cry. There was no march. The problem is hatred and the media platforms put these sick sad events right in front of our faces to further divide a country that has so much beautiful potential. Because they’re afraid of you. They’re afraid of us coming together to see their sick bullshit.

If words matter. All words matter. And if you have ever called me ignorant, I just want you to know that you hurt my feelings, but I forgive you. Fact of the matter here, is that I have (I say this humbly) ten times the life experiences that most of these educated folks have. The difference between me and you, is that I just learned from mine.

Ignorance is bliss indeed. Especially when you don’t even know that you’re the ignorant one.

Words matter. All words matter.

If you want to truly help someone, the most important think you can do is listen to them.

I love you all.

We are better than this.

Stalactite

Stalactite: (Noun) a tapering structure hanging like an icicle from the roof of a cave, formed of calcium salts deposited by dripping water.

Recently there have been alot of headlines being made in the wake of COVID-19. I saw an article here locally about a parade of people rallying and driving around Westville Prison; because they were concerned about the well being of the inmates inside and the quality of care they would receive. Westville prison had a pretty bad outbreak of COVID-19 which left a lot of people pretty ill. And though many were concerned about the virus and it’s potential impact on those who may be exposed, that’s only the beginning of the absolute horrific things that these men and women are exposed to everyday. This idea just gave me the inspiration to bring it to light.

And I know, believe me, I know~ there’s gonna be a lot of people clamoring “do the crime do the time!” and “Put them under the jail!” and all that bullshit. And to those people I say, “Judge someone else when you’re perfect” and “Don’t judge others because they Sin differently than you do.” Also, yes, crime should be punished, but the time away from the free world, and their families and society IS the punishment. This goes far and beyond that. But I digress.

July 12, 2007. I believe it was a Thursday. Yes. Siri just confirmed it for me. It was also my birthday. Go figure. I stood in an orange jumpsuit shackled around my waist and wrists and with leg shackles on. The now retired judge who ironically would be the one to marry my Wife and I really laid into me. My grandmother crying in the onlooking crowd. My head down in shame. Fuck. “Mr. Stepherson, you are incredibly fortunate that you were able to receive ANY kind of pleas deal with the state and that I am feeling gracious this afternoon. I am going to accept the terms of this deal and sentence you to the Department of Corrections (Corrections~ what a joke). And if I ever see you again sir, I am going to Max you out. (She wasn’t lying, the next time I saw her, she did in fact sentence me to Life- of marriage with my beautiful wife Tiffany. LOL)

Once I was sentenced, all I could do was wait. “For the Bus” as they say in jail. I had absolutely no idea when it would come either. They keep it very quiet when it comes to that, for security reasons of course. But I didn’t have to wait long. It was about two weeks. My door popped at around 4:00 A.M and the guard chipperly told me “You get to go today!” Oh, goodie. It was about a 3 hour Drive to RDC in Plainfield, In. Where I would spending the next two weeks getting my blood drawn, my head shaved, my balls felt up, teeth examined, and qiestioned by all kinds of strangers for “placement” into the prison system. And it was hot as fuck in this place. It was Central Indiana, in late July. On the fourth floor of “The Range” with no A.C. The windows seemed to face the blazing hot summer sun all day every day and the place smelled like sweaty ball sacks, onions, and shit. And believe it or not, this wasn’t even why I’m writing this entry. God it makes me sick to think about what I saw next.

GSC 9 Dorm. General Service Complex, Dorm #9. I think that’s what GSC stands for. Westville Prison. Westville, Indiana. August. Hot as shit. This place was under neath 10 dorm I believe and had two great big long wings that extended in opposite directions. In the middle of the long hallways, which housed about 60 guys total I think, was the “Cage” where the Guard would stay inside and hand mail out and answer phones and etc. Also in between the long corridors were the bathrooms~ roughly 8 toilets; 4 facing one way and 4 facing- you guessed it- right fucking back at the other four. This had to be by some sick ass design. Waking up and having to shit, no dividers what so ever, damn near elbow to elbow with 3 other guys, while 4 other guys stared back at was uncomfortable to say the least. God the smell. Then, there was the shower, which was supposed to be set up like you see in the movies, or in a Gym Locker Room- shower heads all the way around to accommodate multiple men at the same time, and there were about ten shower heads, but only one worked and the water was ICE FUCKING COLD. One would be lucky to get a shower once a day, but most of the time it was every other day. And sometimes I was too grossed out to shower, so I would “Bird Bath it” in the sink and just hope I didn’t smell. I was grossed out because there was just way too much of men fucking each other in there. (Not that I believe being gay is wrong) but there was just something about Loud Gay Prison Sex late at night while I was trying to sleep that made me sick. And though I never actually Saw it (thank God) it was not a well hidden secret. Now I know why all the other men slept with head phones on. Ugh. And even still, I don’t think that was the worst of it all. In between the two long hallways, next to the cage, and next to the showers and bathroom area- was the Day Room. The Day room is where the guys spent most of our time. There were two T.V’s one of which was exclusively for sports. The other TV was for movies and regular programs, although for some reason They really seemed to like to watch fucking Soap Operas on this one. General Hospital and that kind of bullshit. So one might be lucky to catch a glimpse of something that actually interested them maybe twice a week. Maybe. This was also where we would play cards- spades and poker mostly. And where Guys would study their Bibles and for their G.E.D and the artists would draw and water color. So hopefully you can kind of see this wonderful world that is GSC 9 dorm- and yes that was sarcasm, it just came out so try to keep up.

And I remember vividly sitting in the day room chairs, still somewhat new to my new world, and just kind of scoping the scene out and getting my bearings about me. One day I was sitting there watching the Soap Operas kinda, I didn’t have headphones so I couldn’t hear the sound, but I was really just kind of staring off into the wild blue and day dreaming. When all of a sudden I heard a very loud crunch and a bunch of people yelling “OOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!” My head snappped toward the sound of the chaos when I saw a young guy absolutely stomping another guys guts out against the roll bars, after he had just knocked all of his front teeth out with a lock. That was the crunch I heard, his teeth breaking and coming out of his mouth. The guard didn’t even move with any sense of urgency, this was clearly a run of the mill normal for him. “Back to your rooms guys”, as he casually called for medics to come to our section of the world and get this battered young man into to the infirmary.

Whoa. That was fucking intense. I will just continue on throughout my stay with my head down, and will not borrow anything from anyone. Which was a very good Idea from what I’m told.

“If you see it, you’re a part of it.” So I did my best to see as little as possible. But I did in fact see something, that still makes my stomach turn and my heart hurt to this day.

One morning, I was sitting in my same “please don’t bother me or talk to me seat” that I always did. I was sitting a couple seats away from an older man who had clearly been locked up a while, He had very long hair. They shave your head at RDC and this guy’s hair was to the middle of his back at least. I was scanning around quietly and I noticed that the ceiling was crudely cut open. About 25 feet long, and about 10 feet wide in a jagged long rectangle. Pipes and all the innards of the building were exposed and the pipes had wrags and towels crudely wrapped around them. I asked the man with the long hair why they had towels and wrags wrapped around them. And he leaned over and told me its to stop the drips. He told me that maintenance wound come in “once in a while” and replace the towels and clean the area. But that must mean like once or twice a year. Over the next month or so, I watched that place in the ceiling like a time lapse photographer. The fluid behind the towels began to saturate. And the drips began. I made sure to stay away, but would watch as the drips fell down and would hit one man in the head, another on the shoulder. And another. And then men seemed to be so accustomed and used to this that they would casually just swat the area and wipe the drip away, like a gnat at a barbecue or something. a couple days later, more drips. and then more. And after about a week I started to notice a little tip starting to form where the heaviest of the saturation was forming. And then a little cone. The more it dripped, the heavier it got, and the larger the formation grew and sagged down. Eventually it became a cluster of about 1 foot long grayish/Brown/Amber colored nasty looking rods hanging down, and again, I asked the man with the long hair what in the world that was. And he casually leaned over and said, “Piss, Shit, cum, and Hair from upstairs in 10 dorm.” I think I turned green when I learned this. And all of this formations, conveniently dripped right over the tables where we would eat our commissary, and sit and write letters to our families. OMG. And every once in a while they would yell something that I cannot remember, but it would summon the “Dorm Bitch” and he would come with a mop on a long stick, everyone would clear the area and he would reach the stick up into the gaping hole in the ceiling and knock the formations down to the ground, then collect them in a bucket, and mop the area where they fell. And then life would return to “normal”.

So if you think that Covid-19 is something to be alarmed about in our prison system, maybe you need to think about what life before COVID was like on the inside.

We need prison reform.

Quarantine & Relapse

Covid/Quarantine/addiction/relapse

“Yeah, I don’t know, Herb. This quarantine shit is crazy. Can’t do shit and can’t go anywhere. Been stuck in the house for 2 months straight, and all my bills are paid plus some. Shit, might as well get high.”

  • Anonymous Person who called me recently

Addicts/Alcoholics those in recovery and prone to relapse and with mental health problems seem to be getting hit especially hard during the Pandemic.

Here’s what I’ve noticed, somewhat in a nutshell:

I, personally benefit from structure and a schedule.
Wake up, coffee, work, home, walk, dinner, shower, Netflix, bed. Maybe the gym if I felt comfortable enough to go. I’m sure that most of you can relate to this.

Quarantine flipped all of our plans, structure, and schedules upside down.

Now we just have all this time.
Time to think. Time to over think. Time to waste. Time to sit. Time to get bored.

Now, a lot of us, have indeed found the time useful, and our day to day lives haven’t been that upset. But there are a great many who in just 75 short days, have lost their lives, their sanity, their recovery.

It’s a pretty rough formula that quiet frankly lined up “perfectly” to facilitate relapse.

No work. No activities. No meetings. No gatherings of any kind. No church. Hell, even parks were closed.

Idle time. Idle thoughts. Just. Stuck. Inside four walls for a lot of people. And the isolation and boredom is a breeding ground for chemical use.

And then factor this in: money.

Free money.

Lots of it.

More, than some were even making before.

“So, all of our bills are paid, in some cases $990 a week times 4, plus my significant others, or a room mate I got an apartment with when we both left the half way house with 1 year clean.” Etc…

And it makes for a very dangerous combination.

Stress+ Boredom + fear + quarantine + loneliness+ time + more money than I’m used to = big time problems in the addiction world…

(*Now I am not condemning PUA insurance or unemployment, I myself have benefited from it here and there and am grateful. This is just to illustrate from what I see- partly why the numbers are so alarming right now)

NOT TO MENTION, just the uncertainty and stress of the times, the media, Facebook, etc… this virus has everyone truly shaken and scared.

Then, for a time, and even now- treatment centers, half way houses, even county jails, are not taking people. Detoxes are turning people away, treatment centers are shut down or taking extreme precautions (get a covid test, wait 24-72 hours for a negative result) and by then we’re gone.

The resources for help have been scarce and the demand has been through the roof.

It’s truly heart breaking. I have seen so many pass away during this time, and it had “nothing” to do with covid-19. It was alcoholism, addiction, suicide, etc. I am so saddened by this.

I hope we can get back to the old normal fast. This new normal is killing people while we’re trying to save people…

Hold
On
Pain
Ends

Herb.

Dad Bod

Inspiration, move me brightly…

It’s funny, trying to be a writer sometimes. I have always said that I never wanted to force anything. That I didn’t want to write just to hear myself talk. That I never wanted to just put any old thing out into the world of the internet just because I could. I always do my best to put something real, authentic, and meaningful out on when I write. Because I believe that some where some one is reading it and it might just make a difference to them. So I always wait for a moment of inspiration to strike me and nudge me into writing about it. And I never know when that is going to happen, hence the Grateful Dead song lyric quote above, “Inspiration, move me brightly.” Because it just happened. I had to stop and write about this because it matters to me. And I am sure, to many Men and women out there.

I love being a dad. I love being a step dad. I love being a husband. I love having two dogs. when I first met my wife, Tiffany, and we were just in the preliminary stages of our dating and getting to know each other- she had mentioned that she had three children. Three children who were not so little anymore. I, having my own son, Lucas knew that if this were to really move into the more serious stages of a relationship and ultimately, marriage knew that there could some day be four children, that we could some day become a mixed family. We could become the Brady Bunch. And that scared me. For those of you who have been following me since the beginning, or who know me in real life- know the circumstances surrounding my son’s coming to this earth. I wasn’t prepared to be a dad then, how in the world can I expect to someday be prepared to be a step dad? Man, This is some heavy shit. But its nothing new, right? I mean, this kind of situation unfolds every day all over the world…

I remember when we all really spent the day together for the first time. We went to the Potowatami Zoo in South Bend, we got a hotel and we had pizza. It was a good time. Man, they were still so little compared to today. I can do this. This is awesome! We hung out more and more. All of us often, almost every weekend. And as our relationships bloomed and we all grew to know each other it was very apparent to me that this is getting serious, and that this is for real. And it was and sometimes still is very scary for me.

These are children. These are Her children, and my son. These are little lives here. With dreams, and with innocent hearts and wild imaginations. And they can talk, and think, and watch and learn. What in the world is going on here? What if I fail? What if I hurt them in some way? I can never replace the man that helped create them, is that even what I am supposed to do- or trying to do? What do I say when ______ ? How do I react if____? This is all so much. I was terrified. They don’t really know me. I am just this guy that Mom introduced them to. How do they know that they can trust me? How do they know that I am or am not going to stick around? The pressure, although I was never pressured by anyone but myself- was immense. I was stepping into a world that I have never experienced before. Literally I was just a couple years back eating days old food out of dumpsters and strung out on crack and heroin. And now that I just wrote that, I am wondering who was crazier at the time, her or me(sorry babe). But its true. What in the realm of fuck was going on here. All of this was so much and so fast. But I knew that I trusted God and he would never put something on me that I couldn’t handle. Apparently He believes in me more than I believe in myself sometimes. Sheesh. Welp, here we go…

And as the days turned to months, and we spent more and more time together and ultimately moved into to our first home, our “starter house” as we call it. Which by the way is a great idea for those out there in recovery, and the normies alike- get a starter house that you rent, and stay there until you find out if you two are gonna kill each other or not. Lol. Don’t Kill each other. That would be bad. But we did. We moved in together. Tiffany, Her three, and me, with luke on the weekends and one over night a week. What chaos. Oh the feels. The sleepless nights. The turbulent mornings. The birthday pressure. The holidays. The school shopping. Groceries. Homework times 4 now. And then to top things off, we got a damn dog. A crazy ass pit bull that we named Reba. I love my dog. Shes a good dog and her feet smell like Fritos. But it was and still is at times, very scary and high pressure. Am I doing this right? What are my boundaries? When do I “move in”? When do I hold back? How can I possibly walk that fine line between “you’re not my dad”, “Step dad”, Friend, Parent, Leader, “I need you”, etc… It is by far the most turbulent position I have ever been in in my life. Top that off with having my own biological son. Walking that fine line- Don’t favor luke, don’t favor these three. Don’t be over critical here, while being overly gracious here. It is quite the magical balancing act and I have no idea how we have all survived up to this point. And it doesn’t matter if the children have a relationship with their “real dad/mom” or not. If you’re a step parent you understand, its a very trying relationship to have. Do I need to feel like I am competing? Am I competing? Am I filling someone else’s shoes? Am I taking their place? Do I need to feel this way? Do THEY feel this way? What are my limits here? What is my role, exactly? Who do they need me to be? Who am I to them? Being in a mixed household is difficult a lot of the times. There are days when I feel like we bounce from child to child, meeting their needs and listening to them, talking to them, helping them, driving them around and I feel like my mind set, perception, and outlook literally shifts as I move from person to person. How do we attend to each one fairly, respectfully, lovingly, and equally address each moment, stay objective and not favor any one over the other? Am I doing this right? Who am I to them? How do I discipline them without being an asshole? How do I praise without being a kiss ass like I’m trying to win them over? I just don’t know.

But the days pass, birthdays come and go. Holidays, vacations, new bikes, fortnite, hikes, redamaks trips in new buffalo. Cutting down of christmas trees. Stress. Sleepless nights and rough ass mornings. Spilled cereal. Young Connor’s first “Heart break”. Jamie’s BFFs, Logans dirt bike stories. Which is another thing, how do I react or stay interested in a conversation with Logan on those car rides when all he does is talk about how awesome his real dad is? Am I bad person for being a little discouraged and honestly disinterested when he just goes on and on about this? I don’t mean to. I love him with my whole heart, but what about how awesome herb is? Wait, does he not tell me because I am failing? Am I failing? Oh my God, did I blow this whole thing? Were 4 years in, and married now. What did I do wrong? Fuck. Luke’s Baseball, and football, and always bouncing around, and 14 bazillion questions about everything under the sun. which may in the moment be a bit annoying, or trivial, but it’s also pretty cool- not ever has an adult asked me who I think would win a fight, a shark or a dinosaur. Or what my favorite dinosaur is. And they always have to have this or have that. I cant even go fill up the gas tank without being asked for a fucking sweet tea, or a slurpee, or some kind of junk food. It’s crazy man, and it reminds me alot of me when I was a kid. I may not have come from the best place in the world. My parents were not millionaires. They were not perfect, and they didn’t have their shit all the way together. Far from it. But it didn’t matter to me. They were there. They were present. They were my idols for a very long time, and though they struggled in their own ways, ways that I never even saw. They tried their best. They failed a lot, but they succeeded too. I don’t know what Life was like in the 90’s as parents, and I can’t imagine. Were they too trying to compete with someone? Were they too trying to keep up with the Joneses down the street? I have no idea what their mind sets were or how it affected them. But I know they did their bests. And that’s all that we can do. I remember talking at a banquet sponsor night with Mitch and we got on this topic and He jokingly said- about Luke ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS wanting a damn Happy Meal. And he said, “Just get the kid a fucking Happy Meal. Which I don’t 100% of the time agree with as we try our best to maintain healthy diets and eating habits, but once in a while it is nice to see them light over what kind of two-cent toy is inside their little red and yellow box of rubbish. But it makes them happy. And I don’t want to always hear about your dirt bike stories, but it makes Logan proud to tell me. And I don’t really care about what kind of fortnite skin you got, but I can see that it interests you- and so it interests me. And that’s the case with all of them, and even their friends. Being a dad, being a step dad, being a mom, being a parent is hard sometimes man. I mean its hard all the time, and easy sometimes. Its scary. There’s often little balance and harmony between the hectic and hussle and bussle of it all. But there are times when things just kind of stand out ya know?

Case in point. And this is funny, so I hope I can share it accurately. But, One of my pet peeves is the kids eating in their bedrooms, which are upstairs. And it’s not because I don’t want them to be relaxed and comfortable and enjoy themselves while watching YouTube videos, of. other kids. playing. the same. games that they have….weirdest shit ever. You’re gonna play video games and when you’re done, you’re gonna watch videos of other kids playing video games? Damnit man go outside. Sheesh. this is 2020 i guess. But it’s not because of that, its becuase THEY NEVER BRING THEIR DAMN DISHES DOWN. Like ever. And they always try to bargain, and plea that THIS TIME they will, And they don’t. Ugh. And I, or Tiffany will end up going upstairs, and hunting dishes to bring down- but I have adopted an alternative strategy. I’ll go upstairs and find them all and then place the dishes in a pile or group right in the entry way of their bedrooms, so they see them as soon as they come home from school. It makes me chuckle when they get up there and I can hear all the dishes Clink together. YEP! They got em. But the jokes on me I guess because they just bring them down and plop them in the sink and then I gotta wash them. But I relish the small victories against these little love able human adversaries of mine… And I have always, until recently really wondered if I was even really loved by these kids. If I was even really respected. If they paid attention to my “life talks” as Jamie calls them. If they know that they can trust me, if they know that I am not going anywhere, respectable, and trust worthy. And it’s funny how the littlest events can stand out to us and show us that were going in the right direction….

The other morning, Tiffany had fixed the boys cereal before the day began, and Connor and Logan were just sitting down to eat. I was just starting to stir upstairs and was getting ready to come down for my coffee, now apparently when Connor sat down he asked Tiffany if he could take his bowl of cereal upstairs to eat because he was a bit chilly. Tiffany said that was fine as long as he brought his bowl right back downstairs. And as the timing of this whole interaction played out to perfection, He had just been granted  permission to go eat upstairs as I made the turn at the top of the stairs, and they heard me coming down. (Im laughing as I write this) “I’m gonna go put a hoodie on” Connor says, unbeknownst to me at the time. I just came down and got some coffee. And I know that that may sound very insignificant to you, but to me it speaks volumes.

These children had no Idea who I was, What I wanted, how I would treat them, or how long I would stay. And it has literally taken years, I think, maybe just for me?- to truly become solidified with one another. And over these years I have constantly wondered if they were listening, if they cared, If they loved me, if they respected me, if they wanted me and if they needed me. And I cannot even imagine how hard it has been for these little hearts here. They still have so much wonder, and innocence inside of them. But we have all come together little by little as each moment passed. And I know the answers to a lot of those questions now, I think. Yes they need me, yes they love me, yes they see me, yes they want me, yes they appreciate me. Us. Their parents. It’s so easy sometimes, to only see things through my eyes, because theyre attached to my brain, but often I have to make the extra effort to really look back at my own childhood, and remember how hard it is to be a kid. I cannot even imagine being me as a child with permanently split up parents, that would be so hard for me. I can’t imagine. They’re little humans and they hurt easily and they love hard. They don’t need me to compete with anyone except myself. They need me to be the best version of me that I can possibly be. They just need me to be HERE. All four of them, equally. And in different ways at different times. It is not about me anymore, When it was about me I almost died and destroyed countless lives in the process. It is about being a Dad. Being a parent, and doing my best to break the chains that enslaved myself for so long. Hurts, Habits, and Hangups- they all die with me now. I refuse to let these little ones fail, or let them down- although I will, and I will check myself, dust off, and keep going. Because being a parent has no off days. Giving up is not an option, and What we do today as parents will be shown to the world in the years to come. They may not always offer feed back, or tell you how they feel or like it is, they may not even tell you that they love you back all the time, but they are always watching, and listening and learning. They are being molded not only by our words, but by our examples and what we do, how we speak, how we treat animals, and other humans, the life talks we give them, the interest we show, the words we use, and the stories we tell. They’re little sponges so make sure they soak up the right stuff. will you be prefect? will I? Will we? Absolutely not, but it is okay to take ownership and share the lessons that we as adults learn in our short comings with our children. They’re wise beyond their years and they understand more than we may give them credit for. They do love us, and they do need us. We may not give ourselves the credit all the time, but looking back on things- my parents walked on water- even when they struggled. But I must always do my best to make sure that my feet match my talk. Because they can see when it doesn’t. You don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent. Just be there, and love them, and talk about dinosaurs with them! These moments are fleeting and before we know it, we will wish they were young again. Sometimes we don’t recognize the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.

Train up a child in the way they should go. (Proverbs)

I don’t Like to call it a Dad Bod, I prefer Father Figure.

Be one. You Matter.

The Birdhouse

“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Life is a mother fucker sometimes. I have no idea what I’m doing. And I think that’s one of the points. We learn and we grow. We fuck up, we fail. We succeed. We repeat. I saw a meme some where recently, that said something like, “When we’re kids we don’t realize that as our parents are watching us grow up- we’re watching them grow up too.” Something like that. Makes a lot of sense to me. I am 34 years old, going on 65 and concurrently going on 19. Weird concept. Most days I haven’t the foggiest idea what I’m doing, or where the day will take me. I just know that going backwards is not an option anymore and using drugs will not help anything one bit. A lot of random thoughts going in to this one, and it’s weird because when I sat down to write this one, I had a target. Delete? No, keep going. It will flow out eventually. Thanks for hanging in there with me. This is Catharsis.

When I first got clean, I had all these ideas. Nothing tremendously profound. Just ideas. Of what my life would or should look like. What certain milestones, holidays, or moments would feel like. I would day dream and imagine these places that I would go, and the feels that I would feel. I guess we call these types of thoughts, Designs. Truth be told, I don’t think I could reasonably design a birdhouse and it come out right. But the difference today, is that I am willing to put in the work to do it. To build the bird house that is. I am not perfectly good or perfectly bad. Neither are you. We just are what we are. And though I have never built a birdhouse before, if it came down to it, I would Google, YouTube, ask for help, put it together, take it apart, as many times as I had to in order to come out with the end result of having a little home for out feathered friends to enjoy, and for my family to enjoy having in the yard some where.

This dudes really blogging about how he can’t build a birdhouse. WTF? Next!

I write exactly how I think. In real time. This shit is not rehearsed. I am trying to make a point here, and Ill get there. But the Idea here, is the birdhouse is a metaphor I guess. For the end result. The life. The goal. The happiness from the quote above.

Why do you think that it is one of the most famous quotes ever written and it says the PURSUIT of happiness? Not happiness it self? I have been thinking about this recently. And to be honest, I have been thinking about this because I have really been struggling with some serious depression like symptoms. And I bring it up to people and they almost 100% of the time say, But Herb, what the hell do you have to be depressed ABOUT? That makes me snicker. I don’t think that anyone out there is ever depressed about something. And, yes, I am doing much better now thank you. I talked with my wife, who is without a doubt my number 1. My super hero, my confidant. God I wish I could be more like her. I envy her strength and mental toughness, rationale, and internal fortitude. I am the weak one. And I have Prayed a LOT. I have spent my last days, as I work from home and do my best to assist in the homely duties, really blasting praise music and in prayer and meditation which are big parts of my life and recovery. And I have talked with others and really leaned on my relationships. And writing helps. But anyways, back from that thought, I have absolutely NOTHING to be depressed about. I have much to stress about, but as my daily motivation app reminded me of today- “Do not stress about things that are out of your control.” Funny that I needed an app to remind me of that huh? Isn’t that day one stuff? The serenity prayer and all. But anyways. Building a birdhouse…

When I first got clean, and as life continued to chug along, I always had these milestones, these goals, and these aspirations for myself, my wife, my children, my family, and our lives together. Goals are good. Milestones are good. Hopes and aspirations are good things. And being vulnerably honest here, going all the way back to the beginning, and even recently, as I tend to lose focus from time to time of what’s really important; I have foolishly thought that, “If I/we can just get Here________ then things will be good. And then If we get here_________ then we will be great. But, God willing, if we can really do this thing__________ then all will really be awesome.” Dude, that’s addiction talking man. That is fucking drug addict thinking. I mean, in a way it is. Is that not one of the ways that our addiction manifests itself? Exterior solutions to internal conflicts? I think so. A great job, a beautiful wife, wonderful family, our very first home purchase on the horizon, and I fall into a big time emotional and mental slump because it doesn’t give me some hit the lottery/cocaine type rush. TF is wrong with me? But I’m really starting to learn some things as I grow older and older. The pursuit of the happiness is the happiness. The building of the birdhouse is the birdhouse. It’s the time invested in yourself and in your families and relationships, and in ourselves that matters. The journey is the destination. Everything else is just fucking stuff. Wow. And I know that some people may read this and have a lot of mixed feelings about it, but its true. Milestones in recovery, Milestones in careers, and in life are fantastic things. But its the miles that make the person. We are not ever defined by these things that we achieve. Were defined by the work it took to do so. Were defined by the relationships we formed and nurtured along the way. Were defined by how we persevere in the face of adversity and the turbulence of life. Holy shit. It’s true.

And what this last several weeks, maybe even months I don’t know, Has brought to my attention, placed on my heart and put on my fucked up brain is something that I have been quoted saying myself before: There is no Chemical, there is no Material, there is no exterior solution to a/an Spiritual, Internal, Mental, Emotional problem or conflict. It is really crazy to me how much we can learn, unlearn, and relearn the same shit over and over for the rest of our lives.

Yes. Today I am a VERY proud, happy, loved, driven, husband, father, writer, career driven, Christian, recovering person. But sometimes, in the midst of all the drive, and chaos, and life, growth, and work, and media, and people, and places, and gas stations, and TV, and laundry, bills, emotions, arguments, and everything that happens throughout our day to day lives- all of which is specific to us individually, I can forget-

I prayed for this.

This journey. This Pursuit. This riggamaroll. This marathon that I am on. IS THE DESTINATION.

Sometimes I think as humans, at least for me, that we compete with ourselves too much. And that creates pressure, and pressure brings stress, and for me personally, stress brings depression. And I white knuckle all these things that life brings, even the good stress, so much that when the storm passes, I have exhausted my emotional battery and am not able to enjoy the sunny skies and the rainbow afterwards. Anyone else experience this? Just me? Word.

Son of’a bitch, Everything is real. The good is real. The bad is real. The blah is real. the bills are real. The emotions are real. The kids are real. the house is real. the wife is real. the responsibility is real. The dogs, the oil changes, the snow, and fucking mortgage process… all of it is real. And it is the journey. It is the destination. It is the pursuit of happiness.

And once in a while, we get those, what my wife and I call “Lochloosa” Moments…

(Please, Listen to the Live version, of Lochloosa by JJ Grey and Mofro and youll understand)

In my line of work, my phone rings a lot. Like a whole damn lot. And though it is a beautiful thing to be able to assist those who are in need of help and relief from the disease of addiction, sometimes it can take a toll on me. Emotionally and mentally. There are days, when My Wife will return from her job and I wont want to talk at all. I mean at all, because my face and jaw, and my mind and emotional battery are just so tired. And thank God she understands, She has even helped me set time boundaries for myself to help me find rest in between all the craziness. And I am not exaggerating about the craziness- ask her, I swear on multiple occasions I have sat up in a dead ass sleep and answered my phone in a dream. It’s crazy. I used to have server dreams too, when I was waiting tables alot, and they were never fucking good- I was always in the weeds in them. But I digress.

What I’m getting at here, is that so often, I, and I am sure you too, will be so caught up in all of the work stuff, and then the family stuff and all of the ‘Real’ shit that I went over before, and it can be so overwhelming. I have never felt the pressure and stress that I have been feeling over this damn house ever before. And though it is “Good” stress, stress is stress, and I am a drug addict and the problem with that formula is that I am an addict and addiction is not about drugs, its about escape and if I am not careful I can and will return to the behaviours that brought me to my knees and I can very easily blow the whole fucking thing over something so fucking trivial as stress. Man, I wish you could have seen how fast I just typed that. Literally at the speed of thought. PHEW.

BREATHE, HERB.

We get so caught up in the world. The world. The physical. Yes, people are nice. Things are nice. Family is nice. Dogs are super nice. Progress is good. Working is good. Homes are beautiful. Nature is wonderful. All of the things that we see and experience throughout our days make up who we are in some aspect. But If I am not continuously working on my own personal growth and development, And learning to enjoy the journey as the destination- Then I can miss the climb.

But what’s nice about it all. Is that once in a while, something comes through. In my job, we have a saying, “Enjoy the silence when it comes.” And I believe that that also applies to life. Maybe the silence is a nice meal with our families, or a long walk with the dogs, maybe the silence is watching a documentary with the wife. Or going for a drive listening to music and getting dunkin. Whatever your silence is, that’s your Lochloosa. Your happy place, your mediation spot. A healthy and peaceful head space where you can find your rest. And that is part of the journey too. it’s not always about The rickedy and shakey climb up to the top of the roller coaster, waiting for the arms in the air screaming exhilaration of the drop and all the wild fun, sometimes its the fucking lazy river. That sweet spot. Just enjoying the journey and the marathon, finding a safe and brief plateau to just recharge the old bones.

I could write on this all damn day long, but I have some actual work to do today.

I guess what I am getting at, is that, Money burns, Houses will eventually crumble, Stuff is just stuff, Cars break down, and shoes really are a dime a dozen. We cant take any of that stuff with us when we go, so why do we put so much importance on it now? All of that “Stuff” Is just fucking turd polish anyways, If I am not working on myself on the inside and doing my best to help my family and friends thrive and feel loved. None of it matters. What matters is the pursuit. The journey, and the memories we make along the way. I have absolutely no Idea how to build a birdhouse, but if the kids and the wife wanna build one, we will find a way. because the construction of the bird house, the time we spend together, THE MEMORY OF BUILDING the birdhouse is what we will remember when we look outside and see a family of Robins making nest inside. Not the house itself, but the memories that went into it…..

 

Enjoy the ride.

Brother’s Keeper

“We asked God to help us show the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend.  When a person offended we said to ourselves, ‘This is a sick man/woman.  How can I help him/’her? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.”

Page 67- The Big Book of AA

1:48 A.M Friday morning February 7th, 2020. The name on the call log in red because I had missed the call while I was sleeping.

I hate getting those calls. Not because they sometimes disturb my sleep- I rarely sleep through the night anyways. But because they are NEVER good calls. No one has ever called me at that time with good news or to tell me how well they’re doing. I awoke at roughly 6:30 and saw the missed call. Instant concern and worry. I returned the call and heard the voice of an old friend. Someone who I love and respect immensely. Someone who I still as I write this, admire very much. *And this is all still very fresh in my mind and I am still processing, so please bare with me. But I figured this was as good a way as any to flesh this out*

“I need help Herb.”

“Oh, buddy. I know.”

I could hear the grief, the brokenness in his voice. He was lost. He was hurting badly. I could hear the shake. I could feel his tremors. His voice cracking. The utter humiliation. His pity for himself. He proceeded to walk me back through his now 2 years long relapse. we chatted. I asked questions and he answered. He would take breaks to “Take that breath” That- deep, from the soul desperate and ugly breath, and then return to his story. We talked for about 45 minutes and really re kindled our old friendship. He needed help and I wanted to help him. I needed to. We came together with a plan of action, and made all of the necessary arrangements. Work was notified and family/friends made aware. He was in bad shape, but he had a willing heart. He was ready to finally pick up that 1,000 pound phone and ask for help. He was ready to let someone else in. When the pain of change is less than the pain of being the same, we take action. We make adjustments. We ask for help. And we follow through. But he, my friend, is what you would refer to as the “Low Bottom Addict”. Like me. I could tell by the way he sounded, and the things that he told me- like the way he had been using, that he was going to need some assistance getting moving and getting to a hospital for some help. That did not go well. I had sent over and escort to pick him up. A man sober 14 years. A man ready to help him. But my old friend was so fucked up and out of his mind that this was clearly not the time to try and get him to make a move. Eventually, after several hours of hanging out with him and working on him, and his inability to stop using and come down- we had to reconvene- my escort and I, and make a decision to take a step back for a while and allow him to come down a bit. He was not at the time a danger to himself or anyone else. In fact, he had some company there with him, who seemed lucid, rational, and sober. And this person had agreed to keep an eye on him for the next several hours, and to stay in communication with us. So he was safe and would be taken care of. We agreed to let him come down and sleep it off and we would re visit things in the morning. Today. February 8th, 2020.

This morning, 9:18 A.M. I, having had the history with him, we decided that I would take a shot at him. I would go over to his home and see if I could get him moving. After all, were long time friends. So this should be easy enough right? No problems at all…

I knocked on his apartment door. Nothing. Waited. Nothing. Again, and again, and again. I know he’s here, his car is in the parking lot and no foot prints in the snow near the entrance to his place. I call his phone. I can hear it ring on the other side of the door. He is definitely here. Knock harder and harder still. I walk around the the side of his apartment and wrap on his window. Again, and again. Nothing. No motion, no stirring. Now I am consulting with my team on the phone. Roughly twenty minutes of knocking on his door and window, and about 17 calls to his phone. I am now fearing for his life. Had he passed away inside? Was I only a matter of minutes too late? Should I call for help? One more knock on the door, and if I don’t hear anything I will have to call emergency services….

Finally! A noise from inside. Some shuffling of feet. Hands meet door on the other side. The dead bolt disengages. And the door pulls inward toward the guts of the house enough to reveal my friend. And a very large hand gun….

Instantly. And I mean fucking instantly. My blood ran ice cold. And I instinctively showed him my hands. I am not 100% sure how the next moments went, as I was on extreme alert, and fearing for my life. I believe I blacked out from fear and was running on 100% survival here. “Whoa, buddy. It’s me. It’s Herb…” “Herb, you’re not Herb, who are you!?” “Buddy, it’s me. It’s Herb. It is Herb man. Please. I can leave if you need me to, but if you let me in, you gotta put the gun down.” I remember having this ‘Run like hell’ thought. And I could not take my eyes off of the pistol. At first I thought to myself, that maybe it’s a B.B Gun and this is just a scare tactic. But the more I fixed my eyes on the weapon and looked it over. The more and more I feared that I may die right here. I had to get my eyes off of the gun and make eye contact with him- It’s crazy how it takes so long to explain something that happened in a matter of maybe 10 seconds. But it seemed like an hour. I was finally able to peel my eyes away from the pistol, my guess is that it was a 9 or a 45- I don’t know guns, but it was absolutely large enough to bore a massive hole through what ever it was pointed at. And right now it was fixed dead center in my chest. Sternum shot. I’m gone if he pulls that trigger. And I worked my eyes up to his. And the moment we made eye contact I knew that I was safe. “It’s me man, remember____________? (removed to protect his identity.) It’s so funny, strange, interesting to me- maybe I myself am more fucked up than most. Delusional at times. But as he was holding that gun and He identified me in his mind. I could see all of his hurts. I could see his pain. And maybe that’s what he was actually pointing the gun at all along. I just happened to be standing in the bullet’s path. As soon as this little interaction finally caught up in his brain and he processed it he immediately removed the gun lifted it away, pulled the clip out, and took the bullet out of the chamber. He then set all three parts of the weapon on the counter and threw his arms around my neck. And sobbed. I mean, sobbed. That “Gnashing of teeth” from the gut and soul brokenness sob that only the most desperate of men or women can make. The sound of a soul in pain.

We hugged it out for several moments. Then to the double shoulder pat and squeeze as we looked at our old friends. This man was once a mighty mighty man. Very much in shape, a seasoned veteran of life. A hard working father. And a mighty man of God. Today, as I looked him over and evaluated his condition, I would venture to say that he was MAYBE 120 lbs. Soaking wet. Zero muscles in his legs. Little Frail Flamingo legs. Gaunt. Cheek bones blaring through his face. He appeared to be about 85 years old. Frail and decrepit. So sad and so heart breaking to see. I felt as if I could actually hug him, and squeeze him to death. His clothes barely stayed on. I threw his shoulder over mine and walked him to his couch like trainers do an injured football player to the sidelines. He sat back in the reclining portion of his couch, and I one knee kneeled next to him with a hand on his shoulder. He lit a smoke. I took in the scene. Burn marks littered his arm of the couch. “His Spot”, no doubt. Today was one of the most powerful days in recent memories for me. Today was fucking brutal, and personal. And sad. I stood and made my way to the foot of the reclining portion which held his feet up and stared down into the eyes of my friend. He nodded out for just one quick second. He took a drag of his cig. This man was in total spiral. Physical withering, and spiritually dead. A shell of his former self. He was once a life speaker, a service do-er. A leader and a mentor. Today he was at a bottom, from a relapse. A 2 year run. Couch covered in burn marks, house shuttered in. No blinds allowing so much as a thin line of sun shine in. Complete and utter despair. Delusion. Paranoia. All of the tell tale side effects that we drug addicts know all too well. But my friend was not using: Cocaine, Crack, Meth, Heroin, Pills, Powder of any kind. He was not using any of those “Typical Druggie/Junkie Substances”  My friend was using the legal shit. The stuff they tax. The stuff they sell over the counter. They push it down our throats on T.V. They glamorize it with celebrities. My friend was using Alcohol…

“Sorry, buddy. I just woke up. I’m ready to go Herb. I’m beat.”

“I, Know brother. Can I make you a pot of coffee? You gotta a coffee pot?”

“No, but do you mind if I take a shot?”

I could smell the burning Amber liquid as he painfully gulped one down. Then another. And a third. He Grimaced as he choked the last down, and finished his smoke.

We chatted for a while, He mostly listened. But when he did speak, it was “I’m sorry, herb.” “I’m Scared.” and “Fuck”. A lot of “Fuck.” And just that. nothing more. There was nothing more to say.

It took some time, and constant nudging and moving him along. But I was actually able to get him to firmly commit to going. And I gave him a deadline of about an hour- to be dressed and ready to go. During that hour I witnessed someone’s bottom. I had to help him shower, not like that- but I had to get his clothes for him. His towel. I had to turn the water on for him, while the poor, frail, suffering, and naked man stood on the other side of the shower curtain. I packed his clothes. I got his hygiene. I helped him with his socks. I tied his shoes for him. I put his shirts on for him and gathered his pocket stuffs- wallet, phone, smokes, and etcs… Once again I was going to have to basically carry this man. This time to my car. But I promised my friend that I was going to help him, and that I was not going to leave without him. And I meant it. Today was one of the most powerful days in recent memory. Today I saw someone in their most vulnerable and desperate place. Today I saw someone’s secret place. I saw their pain. And I latched my strength to his lack of strength. And I carried my former mentor out of his apartment. And to my awaiting car. I loaded his things, and we pulled away. He silently cried in the back seat while I tried to keep things light and positive. I played music and offered him something to drink. He declined. He cried silently. He grimaced in spiritual pain. But even still, through all of that, I saw something in him. I saw relief. I saw hope. And I saw that He Wanted to do this. I have chills as I write this. God bumps. Today was one of those days where something just comes through, ya know? Today was one of those days where you can just feel something special. Something cosmic. God was with us today. On the door step, in his apartment, and in that car.

Tomorrow, my friend will wake up with one day sober.

Dope F(r)iends

“Our common welfare should come first, personal recovery depends on AA/NA unity.”

-The First Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

When I first started using chemicals, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Hell I smoked cigarettes “The wrong way” for like two weeks before my buddies had finally had enough of heckling me and showed me the proper way to use one. I hadn’t been inhaling them, I didn’t know how. I just wanted to fit in and be one of the guys. The same when I first started drinking, smoking pot, and so on. I didn’t even know what drug was what. I just knew that I liked the feelings of acceptance, escape, and to be honest with you- being fucked up. So I just kind of developed this insatiable desire for blotto, no matter what the chemical was. And I believe this is why we addicts refer to our drug of choice as “More”. Did not matter. What’d’ya got? I just wanna get high like you. And this is one of the many reasons why I referred to myself in my using days as a “Junk box”. I didn’t care about what I was putting into my body, as long as it got me loaded and took me away from reality. So as I began to progress into the netherworld of drug addiction, it was kind of like I was in the classroom of the counter culture. I remember asking some of the older cats that I was running with what they were into. What to look for in my house, in my parents medicine cabinet, under the sink and in the freezer. It was all learned behaviors. I didn’t know what I was doing and I certainly had no idea what I was getting myself into. I moved on from chemical to chemical like fucking Pac Man. Just gobbling up any thing I possibly could to constantly stay as loaded as I could. From cigs, to booze, to weed, to pills, to powder. More. Gimme. More. Let’s go. All the while learning and re learning the lifestyle, sharpening my manipulations, honing my craft. How to lie. What my parents would believe. How to sneak out. When to flip on the tears and how to twist the truth on my feet when caught up in my bullshit. The hope shot- The promise that I’ll get my shit together, go to school, get back into baseball, and later on in life- get a job. I Promise you I am going to do better. I’ve actually got a couple job interviews next week. The Sympathy ploy: I’m sorry, okay? I don’t know what I’m doing. Do you think I wanna be like this? I know I’m a loser do you think you could make me feel any worse about it, I’m trying my best! Sorry I’m not as good as you. damn. The guilt trip: Well if you were actually here for me or gave a fuck about what was going on in my life maybe you would have actually been able to stop me. This isn’t all my fault, it’s your fault too. Damn, Take some ownership yourself. I mean, shit, I took the pills FROM YOU. Don’t be such a fucking hypocrite. And the fear Monger: Fine, Fuck you too then. You’re gonna ground me? I’ll just sneak out anyways, but this time I am never coming back. When I turn 18, I’m outta here. I’m gonna go out and intentionally over dose just to get away from you. you’re never gonna see me again. I hate you. And the list goes on and on. But I never acted like this until I got around others who did. AND I AM NOT SAYING THAT IT’S THEIR FAULT, I MADE CHOICES. I take full ownership of that. But what I am saying is that I had to learn: who was doing what, what drugs would do the trick, where the parties were, how to obtain the drugs, the people I needed around me to get what I needed’s lingo and find an “In”, how to infiltrate the circles that had the strongest drugs, Where to get them, how to use them, and all the dope fiend tricks to keep the life style going.

And this is why they say that you are the average of the 5 people you associate with most. I became my environment. I became the people that I ran with. To a fucking T. But what’s weird about it all, is it was almost a subconscious thing all at the same time. I didn’t wake up each day, put my feet on the floor, stretch, grab a cup of coffee and say to myself, “welp, time to go be a drug addict today.” I didn’t even know what the fuck a drug addict was. I thought I was just having fun and being one of the guys. I thought this is what Life was. I had no idea what battle ground I was walking out into. Honestly, looking back on things I did not do these things intentionally, I did them instinctively. It was all almost as natural to me as breathing air, or eating food. It’s as if, when I took my first puff off of a cig, my first swig of booze- that I activated some vestigial “on/off” or “stop/go” mechanism. And it just took over. I never once, throughout all of my using woke up and had the thought that “today, I want to make my Grandmother cry”, “Today, I am going to lie to my brother.” It never happened. But it was as if, the chemicals were actually re wiring my brain to be constantly puppeteered by them. I always say it was like the tail was wagging the dog. I know that that may be hard to believe or understand, especially by those who don’t understand addiction, but I swear to you that’s exactly how it is. And it just gradually progressed over the years. And this is why they say that “Bad company corrupts good character.” It didn’t matter that deep down inside I “knew right from wrong”. I was in the grip. And my moral compass was gradually moving in the wrong direction.

On the flip side, however, when I first started trying to get clean, it was the same, equal, but opposite process. It is very strange to envision and think about as I write this. I wish that I could just “download you” with my life’s experiences. I think that maybe that would be more effective to convey to you how intricate this shit is. It’s like watching some fucked up movie. But when I first started attending meetings and such, I was very apprehensive. I was very cautious and closed off. Which in and of itself is super fucking ironic and offers a glimpse into the addict’s mind alone. I have absolutely no problem driving into the worst neighborhoods and projects in the city of Chicago, waiting for fucking hours for some dude named “Lysol” – who is ALWAYS “Finna pull up” to bring me some mystery powder that was probably tucked in his ass cheeks on the way over- and trusting that this mystery substance is what he says it is and that it is going to do the trick. I have no problem trusting THAT process. So why in the hell are we addicts so apprehensive about trusting the recovery process??? And the answer is why we started using to begin with: ITS FUCKING UNCOMFORTABLE. It’s weird. It’s different. And it involves me looking at myself and being honest for the first time in a very long time.

But anyways, I was closed off. I didn’t know how to articulate what I was feeling. And even if I did, I wasn’t gonna share it with you. I don’t even know you. This shits weird. But I did know without a doubt, that I did not want to use anymore. So I was kinda caught between a rock and a hard place. This was double uncomfortable. I didn’t wanna use, but I definitely didn’t wanna do all this work. Addicts are so funny some times. “I’ll do ANYTHING to get clean…..Exxcccceeeppttt that. Nope. Not that.” But I did possess some degree of open mindedness. Enough to keep showing up anyways. I knew I was fucked if I went back to using. And just like when I was younger, and when I was constantly looking around for “who’s who”, and “who’s got what” “Where to go, and how to find it”, I started noticing that these guys were speaking my language. They were sharing my story! I didn’t even have to say a word. They talked about using like I used. Crack hotels. The same shitty city streets that I once ran. I started to hear My truths. From them. And I just kept sticking around, and finally got myself a sponsor and working the programs. It takes some time, and some serious work, honesty, and willingness to try- but as the months and years continued to pass, I was once again becoming my environment. But this time in a good way. Good Company was “corrupting” my Bad Character. Stuff was starting to wear off on me in positive ways. I was learning to trust people again. I was learning to trust myself. I was praying and I was doing the next RIGHT thing. I could wake up every day with peace in my heart, and though life can and will kick our asses from time to time- addict or not- that’s life- I knew that as long as I kept trying to be the best version of myself that I could be, even if I made mistakes- they were honest ones and I would be forgiven, so long as I could survive a little bump to my pride. And I started to notice a subtle change to my identity over time. I was moving on from “The drug addict Street person jail bird” to the guy who got clean and turned his life around. And it feels pretty damn good.  I hope this is all making sense. To me it is effortless writing, because I literally just write as fast as I think. Which is nice. I don’t have to try and force anything. But the moral of the story here is actually quite interesting. Almost contradictory of the old school ways of thinking as I understand them. Quite paradoxical. I had to learn how to be a drug addict, I had to learn how to get dirty- from drug addicts. Then when the time came- I had to learn how to be clean and recover- From fellow drug addicts. Pretty damn interesting to me. See, I had been through all of the “classes”- all of the groups led by people who went to college to help people like me- AND PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THIS THE WRONG WAY- I know that you have big love in your heart if you’re one of these people and I have NO DOUBT that you have helped hundreds, if not thousands of people along your way- but FOR ME, For Herb personally- I just couldn’t connect. I needed something Raw, something Visceral, something “no bullshit” from someone who had walked my walk and someone who could talk my talk. someone who had felt what I had felt and been where I had been. So the classes never really stuck with me, But they did plant many of seeds, for which I am truly grateful. But they didn’t really start to sprout until I got around others who came from where I came from, and were going to where I was going. When we ask for directions, I guess it’s best, for me at least- to ask someone who has been to the destination I seek, and who can lead me there at times.

I had to learn how to use from a drug addict, and I had to learn how to be clean from a clean addict. Iron sharpens Iron. But bad company corrupts good character.

I used to know Dope Fiends.

Now I have Dope Friends.

Thank you for loving me.

Never give up on yourself. You are capable of amazing things.

Transformation

“Be not conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

-Romans 12.

 

On the left:
One of my many booking photos from Porter County Jail. Strung out, homeless, sick, dying, and broken.

On the right: the happiest day of my life! Posing with my beautiful wife Tiffany the day of our wedding. 4+ years clean and absolutely in love with her, our children and family, and our life together!

All glory, thanks and honor go to God. I did not do this. And thank you to all of my recovery peeps who have loved and supported me along the way. With a willing heart and a change of environment amazing things can and will happen! I am so truly blessed, humbled, grateful, and in awe of the amazing life and people that we share today!

I struggled with posting the picture on the left because it just stirs up so many painful and dark memories for me. But I will always do my best to push through my comfort zones in hopes of reaching just one more person, one more family.

To the families out there: NO ONE is beyond saving. NO ONE is beyond help or hope! With the right assistance and guidance- someone who can help you take charge- someone who knows what works and what doesn’t, miracles can and will unfold right before your very eyes.

To the still struggling addicts: You are loved. You can get your life back and live it to the fullest! You matter! If this poor and sick soul on the left here can get clean, you can do it too! I used to sleep in abandoned buildings and eat out of dumpsters and garbage cans. I know what desperation and hopelessness feels and looks like! You are not alone! I will do anything I can to help you get your life back! Never give up hope!

Herb Stepherson
Author: Junkbox Diaries
219-916-7236
Hstepherson85@gmail.com

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