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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Kobe

I feel like a little piece of my childhood died right along with Kobe…

 

“Something happened America and I didn’t want you to miss it.
In the last 24 hours I quietly watched people of every race, religion, economic background, college grads and people who barely got out of high school. Scientists and bricklayers, Wall Street types and the guy who changes your oil. The family in the most expensive mansion in town and the folks living in public house… all of them, sharing a moment of grief for the handsome and talented man in this photo.
All of them stopping what they were doing when they heard the news and sharing a gut punch moment of dread, a feeling that this couldn’t have just happen. Not him. Not Kobe.
I know we are a divided nation right now, I get it, but please don’t feel the divide is so great we can’t bridge it. We can. We do. We will.
And all the panels of talking heads on the alphabet soup of cable news can’t turn us against each other. Don’t let them.
We really do have more in common than we think and we all love and lose and hurt no matter our zip code or who we voted for.
This loss should remind us how much we do share and in this moment I see a nation sharing grief for nine innocent people.
There is no sense to why this happened but we can find purpose in the loss.
Something happened in America and I didn’t want you to miss it.
We love each other. Kobe proved it.”

-John Gray Writer~ A Post I saw, Loved, and shared on Facebook

 

I have never mourned and grieved the loss of someone I have never met before, until Kobe Bryant died. I grew up idolizing sports figures, and, truth be told, I still do. I could not imagine, until recently, life without the Sports figures that I hold dear. Kobe, Jordan, Shaq, Lebron, Tiger, Primetime, The Manning Brothers, Chipper Jones, Khalil Mack, Drew Brees, Pat Mahommes, And yes, as much as I despise the Pats- Tom Brady. I mean these, and so many more, are in a very cheesey and non creepy way- Parts of my life. They’re so much more than just Athletes for me. They’re Heroes. So many of them have over come adversity, and fought tooth and nail to become who they are today, only to put their bodies on the line- game in and game out while america sits on a couch, or in a restaurant and screams at a light up little box, known as a television. And always have been heroes for me.  And in light of recent events I have felt led to share a little bit about my take aways from this horrible and untimely tragedy.

We all know, or should know, by now that Kobe Bryant is a Hall of Fame basketball player. In fact, the NBA is going to by pass the voting process and streamline his induction in light of his untimely death. He has two retired numbers for the Lakers. He is a top 4 scoring champion and number 1 in almost every single Lakers category. Over the last several days, ESPN and countless other news outlets around the world have been interviewing his colleagues, friends, fans, and just about anyone who has been impacted by his life and death. I remember vividly Doc Rivers’ courageous interview, voice cracking, tears running down his face. Inconsolable. Trying his best to articulate his emotions and grief when asked about what number 8/24 meant to him. And although we all may think that Kobe “The basketball player” is who they’re mourning. Basketball pales in comparison to what they were really grieving. They lost a friend. They lost a brother. They lost a Hero. But what Really made him a Hero to so many? Was it because he was fluent in multiple languages? No, but that is pretty cool. I took Spanish for like two and half years and I only know a few choice phrases, like ?Donde Esta La Biblioteca? I think that means where is the library. I have never met Kobe, and to be honest with you, I am thinking about deleting this whole post because I don’t want to offend anyone, or piss anyone off- due to my ignorance of his life and true legacy and relationships. But I wont. What I am trying to get at, is- Like the post I shared above from Facebook- for a Moment in time, the whole world stopped. It will in the future be one of those “Where were you moments”. I was at home, and I learned about his passing from my Daughter Jamie. My heart sank and I jumped on Google and turned on the news for confirmation, hoping to God it wasn’t true. But indeed it is true. And I am still very saddened by it. He was a kid from Philly. He fell in love with a game. Drafted right out of high school. Living his dream. Utilizing his platform and influence to make other people’s lives better. Not just his wife and children’s. And from what I can tell he was very humble and Gracious. I mean, he flew to Philly to watch his final basketball game, Where Lebron broke his record in his home town. In front of his home town people. And he smiled the whole time, and cheered him on, and congratulated LBJ. Pretty damn selfless. Pretty damn cool if you ask me. And though I don’t know enough personally about him to write some type of Biography on him, which this is not meant to be anything close to- What I do know about is people. And touching other Human Being’s lives. I hope I do anyways. For I know that there are thousands of people on some scale or another- good or bad, that have impacted me. Impacted my life, my heart, my spirit, my self esteem.

I know I’m a bleeding heart, leave me alone, I’m trying to make a point here. But I mean, look at the news. It’s been days, and they’re still talking about it. They’re still outside the Staples center with posters and flowers, and candles and all coming together. Not over some basketball player. But over the impact that one of their heroes had on their lives. The inspiration that He instilled, that anything is possible if you work hard. That you can achieve anything. That you can make a difference. That you can be a good dad and husband and pass on that work ethic, love, and inspiration to your own children. That being selfless is truly the most fulfilling thing to be. And I know there’s gonna be those that bring up his case from back in the day- So I’ll just go ahead and handle that now: We have all done things that we’re not proud of, you’re not perfect, and don’t judge someone just because they sin DIFFERENTLY than you do. End of story.

But the moral of the story here, is take a step back. Look at what just happened, like the post that I shared above. We all grieved together. We all had one pulse for a brief moment in time. We all had that lump in our throats at the same time. Black, White, American, Australian. European, Gay, Straight, Believer, and Atheists. We all acknowledged this young man, and the other’s in the helicopter’s lives. Collectively. In this recent week- it has made me personally reflect on what is truly important. It has made me feel convicted at times, about the things I could have done better, the times I could have loved harder, or better. When I have failed, Forgiveness, Fatherhood, Compassion, Memories. And it has reminded me not to take things for granted. That no one is promised tomorrow. No matter how rich or poor you are, our timelines are all different. Our “Dashes” are not the same. No matter who you are. No matter what you do for a living. No matter what your “position” in life. The only thing that people are TRULY going to remember you by- is the way you made them feel. The way that you touched their lives. The impact that you had on them. The leadership you showed. The example you set. Yes, The world is mourning the life of Kobe Bryant “the basket ball player”, But I promise you, that the Giant of a man- one of my all time favorite athletes- Shaquile O’Neal was not bawling his eyes out thinking about the time Kobe scored 81 points. He was crying and grieving all the memories, the impact, and the influence that that young man had on his heart.

Think about your life. Think about who you really are. Think about who you could be. Think about all the good you could do in this world, in your communities. If we just put the blinders on, focused, and followed that little voice in our hearts that perpetually propel us toward doing good. Toward blessing other people’s Lives. Toward making someone smile, making them FEEL special. *Spoiler alert* just to pull you off your little pink cloud for a moment- You’re gonna fuck up. you’re gonna fail from time to time. you’re gonna actually hurt people’s feelings some times. And that is very human of you. But learn, Grow, and get better. Did Kobe fail? Of course he did. But his greatness and impacts of goodness Far out weighed his shortcomings. And that is the idea here.

True, when 99.9% of us die, they will not erect a statue of us. They will not raise up our old high school jerseys and immortalize us. But what will they do? What will they say? What will YOUR legacy be? What do you want to be remembered by? As? Like Kobe, do we want to be remembered as the amazing, loving, kind, gracious, philanthropic, talented, giving person who made everyone’s Lives better? Who inspired others, who left a real life mark on this world? Or do we want to be remembered as the “Hall of Famer”- The “best damn carpenter/Dishwasher/Lawyer/Salesman/Golfer/Writer/Waiter/Uber Driver(Fill in your profession here___________)?”

We have the ability, every day when we wake up, and even as each moment passes through out each day- to actively choose. If we really focus on it. If we really make it a priority, we can Actually recreate ourselves in the blink of an eye. We, in each interaction and thought that we have throughout our lives, have this thing called conscience- and we can tune in to it- and in that moment be self aware- and focus our energies and compass in the direction that we wish. I have come to know that thing as the “Still Small Voice”. What will you choose? Who will you become in the next five minutes, days, weeks, months, or years? How will you spend your Dash? How will you make others Feel? Will you leave a lasting mark on someone’s heart so profoundly that they cannot help but do the same for the next generation? Will you live this life out to make your presence noticed, or your absence felt? Meditate on these things. Mentally chew on them. Pray about them. Who do you really want to be? Are you just conforming to the world around you, while that still small voice is screaming at you, to break out and LIVE? Who do you want to be? Who are you now? Where do you want to be? How do you want to be remembered? As the Hall of Famer who Showed up and Balled outrageous, or as the comforter, the teacher, the leader, the example, that helped change the heart of someone who needed it – and left a lasting mark on this world as we know it?

If you want to change the world for someone you have 2 choices: Hurt them Deeply, or Love them Profoundly.

Choose wisely.

 

THE DASH

the poem by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

 

© 1996-2019 Southwestern Inspire Kindness, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 

 

Rest in Peace, Kobe.

You spent your Dash well. Be proud Kid. You inspired many.

Gnats and Mosquitoes

Someone once told me that it isn’t the “lions and Tigers and Bears that get us, it’s the flies and gnats.”

I just wanted to get clean. I just wanted to not smoke crack or shoot dope anymore. I thought that’s what “getting better” was all about. It turns out, that that is just the tip of the iceberg. That is just the very beginning. Detox, in my opinion, is the only part of the entire recovery process that focuses on the drugs. Everything else in the marathon of recovery deals with this shit show in my head. My thoughts. My emotions. My traumas. My past.

I thought I knew what my life was going to look like when I got clean. Boy was I wrong. And that’s the thing about getting to know God, and allowing his Will to work in your life; You better be prepared for it. I just wanted a job somewhere, and an apartment, and a beater with a heater. I didn’t know what was in store for me. I didn’t know about all this “Feelings shit”. I certainly didn’t want to get vulnerable or honest from my gut with someone. That shits weird. I didn’t know or suspect that I would be married soon, with four kids. Or that I would be doing what I’m doing today. But just like finding a bottom is done one compromise at a time in a negative way- finding myself is the same, equal, but opposite process. I started making positive compromises. I started taking positive risks. I started following my nudges. And they have all led me to right where I am today.

Again, I will never write, video, or speak about how I’m perfect or “fixed” in any way. I am a result of hard work, lots of prayer, and the people that I have in my life to help keep me somewhere sane. But as I’m thinking about these things today, I think Vulnerability is a key component in recovering. And in life itself. It was always something that I ran from in the past because it was uncomfortable and we all know that addiction is about avoiding the uncomfortable. So instead of sharing my self, my inner most thoughts and risking getting hurt, I would just run away and use and hide. That is Addiction’s M.O.

it’s funny the way I see and recall things sometimes. I’m thinking back to a time when I was at Porter County Jail speaking with the Therapeutic Community for men there. I remember saying something about “Get in your feelin’s Dog” Or some type of jail house spin I was attempting to put on it. But the idea here is- That there is some slang people use, “Get outta your feelins”. Which essentially is saying- “Be an addict”, “Run”, “escape”, “Hide”, from your truth. But getting better and staying clean is all about the opposite school of thought. Inventory, Ammends, Honesty, and yes, Vulnerability. “Getting into our feelings” and sharing our inner most truths and thoughts and beliefs with at least one other person. And God. And the work is never done. It is an ongoing process. It takes, like any other skill or craft, years to learn and hone. And we need people around us who can call us out on the carpet when they see us behaving badly, coping in unhealthy ways, bottling things up, or shutting down. We need to have safe environments, and safe arenas where we can openly and honestly verbalize the shit that we all go through.

I do not always succeed with this, but thank God the people I have in my life can help me see my shortcomings even when I don’t. Some times, I just internalize and bottle up until I turn into this fucking old grouchy man on the couch that no one wants to be around. Thank God for my wife Tiffany who can see it coming a mile away when my demeanor starts to change- most of the time because I am not getting my way. We call this “King Baby Syndrome” I am textbook king baby. I think we all are in recovery, at least the first several years, because were still not quite accustomed to having to sit in the “ick”. Not being able to just self medicate it all away and increase pleasure and decrease pain instantly to feel optimal. It takes time to adjust to new coping mechanisms. And I think that’s why they say “SOBER stands for Son Ofa Bitch Everythings Real”. The Growth is in the uncomfortable and learning to first identify what were feeling, process it, vocalize it, resolve it, and then let it go. I still fail at this often, but I’m willing to keep trudging along and hopefully one day it becomes, just like addiction, a learned behavior. Another reason why it is so key to stick with the winners- people who are capable of mentoring and guiding us along on our journeys.

I just took a call from my little brother. Literally just got off the phone with him. He was calling to tell me someone who he has grown close to in recovery has passed away.  From an Overdose. And though this is very heartbreaking news to hear, and I’m sure for him to have to deliver to me. I applaud him for picking up the phone to try and express his feelings in the matter, process it, and listen. That is exactly what were supposed to do. And I believe that this is why they say to “Call on a good day, so it’s easier to call on a bad day.” It makes sense to me now. And it is funny to me that he called me and we talked through it all and then we both got on the topic of the tigers, bears, and mosquitos and gnats. He knew to pick up the phone during a time of extreme trial and distress. We know and can see a mile away when a Large Scale, scary, overwhelming time is testing our wits and strength. But are we capable of seeing how were being tested in the most subtle ways? If something tragic happens, it’s easy to see that I need some help to process this. But what about if my shoe lace breaks? What about a flat tire? What about losing a job? Isn’t every thing that happens in our lives either a “Lesson or a Blessin”” I think so. Although the smaller instances may seem like a non issue to most, aren’t each and every time something small or menial happens just smaller scale opportunities to be patient with the world and with ourselves? Indeed.

Apparently it’s God’s will for me to be writing this today, and to be a husband, and father of four. You want to talk about being tested daily. Jeez louise. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to pull what little hair I have left out. And some times I feel like what am I doing? Why am I here? WHAT. THE. FUCK is going on? But then I talk it out with my wife, or a friend, or with God, and come back to center and realize that I have everything and everyone that I ever prayed for. Not everything is a crisis. Not everything is cause for alarm. I cannot change the things that happen “to me” in a given day, but I can surely change the way I react to them. That’s a fact. We just do our best to stay grateful, keep things as simple as we can, stay humble, and remember that somewhere, somebody is praying for our “Problems”.

Sometimes, it’s not the Lions and Tigers and Bears that get us. It’s the Flies and the Gnats.

Are you really having a “bad day”, or was it really just an uncomfortable or unpleasant few minutes that you’ve been mentally chewing on all day?

God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change. The courage to change the things that we can, AND THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.

Son. Ofa. Bitch. Everythings. Real.

You got this.

Intervention thoughts

Some thoughts on intervention today, For the families out there:

The Families of an addicted person play a much larger role in the recovery process than many have originally thought or believed. In fact, most of the time, it is the Family that reaches out to us asking for help with their special person. There are times, however, when the addict themselves reach out with a willing heart, but it is a bit more rare than the initial contact being from a concerned family member. And there is a very simple explanation for that- The family is witnessing it, and the addict is stuck in it and often times, stuck in denial and feels powerless to do anything about their addiction, so they just continue to use to numb the wreckage that their using is causing. And on the vicious cycle continues. But when the family has the where with all to take action- and brings someone in to disrupt the patterns unfolding and provides the family, and the addict with a safe place to land- that’s when things start to change.

In my experiences, the addicted person is much more ready for change than you may think. But they’re stuck in the family’s status quo. You didn’t get to “this point” over night- it is the result of a long series of compromises, manipulations, bargaining, unfulfilled promises, and unprotected boundaries. So because of the love in the family, the love and long history with the addict- we get stuck in this often times years long “dance”. We get so used to what is, that we lose sight of what could be. And families tend to get the “whats the use?” Mindset. Families have often times intervened hundreds of times on their person. You have pled, threatened, prayed, promised, etc… everything you could to no avail. I believe that this is often times a barrier to families helping their loved one. But when you utilize someone who is an outsider and who knows the language of addiction and who can fellowship with the addict from a place of empathy and experience- that’s when we can truly break through! I hear it all the time, “They just don’t understand, man.” “But I do brother”. It just has a different effect when it is someone who is outside your realm of normal. It just has a different impact.

And people will argue that the addict has to want to get better. Agreed. But what if you could MAKE him or her WANT IT? That’s the idea of an intervention: Educate the family, unify the family, expose the issue and crush the denial, and generate willingness to get better- from both the family and the addict. In my experiences, the families wont truly see genuine willingness until its a phone call from a jail cell, a terrible accident, loss of a job, and overdose, etc… Intervention allows us to control the situation, and hold that proverbial mirror in front of your person and show them their life through our lenses. It provides that gentle nudge, with dignity and respect to the person who is stuck in the denial and the addiction itself. We’re here because we love you. And you are far too precious to watch you die. We’re behind you 100% to help you get better and we recognize now, what we can do to ensure that that will happen. And as soon as your person hears our messages, and surrenders to try a new way of life. They’re going right then and there. We create willingness and then we capitalize on it.

But none of this happens, if you don’t reach out. We don’t know to help you if you don’t let us know you need help.

I always compare addiction to Cancer. If your special person had cancer, would you wait? Would you pray or bargain your way out of it? No. you would take immediate action and expose it to the best doctors the best clinics, and the best medicine you could and you would stand behind them every step of the way. With addiction it is no different. But on the contrary- How many people with cancer that don’t ever find out they have cancer die of cancer? 100% because their recovery demands exposure. If they are to get better they have to tackle and confront it head on with your support. And this is the exact same idea here. So do not be afraid, and do not be ashamed. Let’s come together and put a plan in place to help your person. To help you.

You can do it! We are always here to help!

GIGO

“A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke.” (Page 64~The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Over the last recent years I have teamed up with our Sheriff to visit our schools here in Porter County. We show the video we put together about our horrible Heroin Epidemic and then I share with them the harsh realities of drug addiction. From what I understand from the feedback – other than I cuss too much, is that it has been a welcomed frank approach. That I speak the truth and let them in on what to expect if and when they decide to start experimenting with chemicals. And then we open things up for a Question & Answer time for the kids/young adults to openly and freely ask myself or the Sheriff some questions about drugs, addiction, or life itself.  But over the last several presentations we have done, the Sheriff has himself asked me a question for the audience to hear. One that is the inspiration of this blog entry.

“Herb, how important would you say it is, for these young people to watch/ pay attention to who their friends are?”

My response, “That may be one of the most important things/decisions that you do in your life.”

I do not know why I haven’t really dove into this topic before. Maybe because It just seems so common sense to me? Maybe it just wasn’t time. But here we are. Right here and right now.

We take inventory on all sorts of things. We, my Wife and I, personally look in our fridge and cabinets before we go grocery shopping so that we know what we need for the week. We check our mileage on our vehicle so we know when to expect an oil change. We do our checks and balances on our finances. We do inventory on all sorts of things in our day to day lives. Why shouldn’t we, and this entry is especially geared toward two audiences: 1- young people, in high school and middle school, maybe some college who have never done drugs, are thinking about doing drugs, or might just feel a little directionless. And 2- People in early recovery. Why shouldn’t we do inventory on our relationships, our friends, our peers, the places we work, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, the things we eat? I know that we SHOULD take inventory on these things, but how often do we? And why don’t we more? And I think the answer to that second question is because we get used to where we are. IF we were to take an honest look at our environment, then that might threaten our comfort. It might challenge us to make some changes and get vulnerable, which is difficult, but vulnerability I believe is a strength and needed for improvement. They say that we are the average of the 5 people we associate with most. So what does that make you where you are at right here and right now? What does that make me? Would you be happy with the Mathematics of that one? You+Your closest people divided by 6= you. ? I know that none of these ideas that I write about are original and super dooper cutting edge. I don’t know if I have ever had an original thought in my life. Have you? I mean, I know that’s an exaggeration, we all have original thoughts from time to time, we all have ideas- that’s how the world progresses over time- one great idea followed by action after another. But you get the point. But maybe that is the point, maybe we sometimes feel like we don’t have any good ideas, or the right drive and passion, because we’re not surrounding ourselves with people who challenge us. Maybe we haven’t “Audited our Circle” in a while and so were stuck in the same ol’ status quo…

 

I am often asked why recidivism rates, why relapse rates are still so horribly high. And the obvious answer is, Addiction is a disease for which there is no known cure and people will always continue to relapse and go back to jail as long as addiction exists. But as I think about that more and more, I think the answer can be found in the cycle of the process itself: We’re addicted>We get arrested>We got to jail and sit there long enough to get clean and finish our court dates>We get released right back to the streets and the only places we have to go are the exact places we just came from>We get addicted>we get arrested>….. You see the idea here. Our circle doesn’t change. Our environment doesn’t change. When a rose bush, or a beautiful flowering tree doesn’t perform well in your yard you don’t treat the flowers, you treat the soil. Or you dig it up and move it to where it would get more nourishment. Same idea right?

*This is why every single county in every state that is capable needs to make addiction treatment and mental health services a priority by building more and more half way houses/Sober Living Facilities like Respite house, Morraine house, Alice’s house, and the Caring Place – All four which are located right here in Valparaiso, In. So that people who are in need of an environment change and who want to give recovery an honest effort have a safe, structured, monitored, and healthy place to grow without being subject to temptations the like of which they were just subject to in their former lives.*

When I finally got clean, *and I actually had to delete what I had originally typed(“when I first got clean…” because when I first got clean, I relapsed, and the second time, and the third time, etc… because My circle never changed. I didn’t audit my life. I fell back into that cycle.)- When I FINALLY got clean, it was because, as many of you know, I was arrested and facing a very long time in prison. But it takes what it takes right? But I remember having some serious reflections on my life. I remember “auditing my life” I knew that IF I were to some how some way actually get a real shot at turning my life around, then EVERYTHING about my former life had to change. And it was a bitter and hard pill to swallow, pardon the pun. but it was. And it was scary. But I had to get honest and vulnerable with myself once and for all. Who was I? Why was I put on this earth? Did I even know what Joy was? Did I know how to be happy? Did I want to be successful? And what was it going to take to make that happen? It is very hard to explain all of this as I write, but I am doing my best to make some points here, and I hope you can all follow along as I do so. They say that the only thing we drug addicts need to change is everything. I, as I sat in that jail, was a product of the way I had been living. I was the sum total of all of my life decisions. The people I hang out with, the places I went, the things we did, the drugs, the booze, all the way down to the music I listened to. everything I did, thought, spoke, and ingested worked hand in hand with the lifestyle that brought me to this jail cell. It brought me to my knees. I became my environment in every way. I couldn’t stop thinking about using drugs, so I hung around drug addicts, and I ultimately became a drug addict. Garbage in, Garbage out- GIGO. So I started changing everything right inside that jail. I wasn’t going back to the world, to the lifestyle that I came from, that was for sure. But what version of ME would I go back to? So I changed everything from the music that I listened to, to the things I read in my down time, to the way I talked, and even the people I “hung out with” In jail. instead of spending all of my time sharing war stories and listening to rap about drugs and guns and bullshit, I spent my time in prayer, listening to the local christian radio, and reading recovery literature and my Bible. And little by little things started to change. And I have continued those very things to this day. I am very careful about what I put into my body- and yes, my ears, and my eyes, and my brain are part of my body. I fill my eyes with motivational things, pure things, good things, I’m sorry but if you’re on Facebook and are constantly sharing negativity and things that don’t line up with what speaks to me, then you have already been deleted and I apologize. I listen to spiritual music, not constantly, but very often, I pray, And I am always very careful to avoid high risk, negative situations and people. I have audited my life in major ways and continue to do so. This is what they mean when they say that “We must always remain Vigilant.” – On the look out for potential danger and to always proceed with caution. Does this mean that I am always “mousing around” and afraid of my own shadow, absolutely not! Because I have audited my circle in such a way, that I now have Life Speakers, Encouragers, Motivators, Family, Strong People who keep me Accountable, whether I fucking like it or not. Iron sharpens iron, and stupid sharpens stupid. Period. I choose the former today. Does it mean that I’m perfect and without flaw, HAHAHAHA- No. but it does mean that I have chosen to always strive to be better. Day in and day out. Sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly. Progress, not perfection.

But these ideas here, don’t JUST apply to the recovering. They apply to those “Normies” out there, too. In your work, in your families, in your schooling, in your churches, in your neighborhoods. Who do you run with? Who are your people? Who is your “Plus 5”? Are you with people who are strong minded, success driven, goal oriented, accountable, reliable people? Or are you with “Blessing Blockers”? It is totally okay to close your eyes at night, or pray, or meditate on your life and answer these questions honestly with yourself. Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years? Is what you’re doing right now going to help you get there? Is who you’re with going to help you “bloom and grow”? What about how you eat, how you think, what you listen to, who you depend on? Is it speaking life to you? Is it helping you grow? You are not a bad person if the answer to these questions is “No”, and then you make a change, just try not to hurt anyone in the process. You are not selfish, you are not a bad person, for taking care of YOU, first. It is okay. You don’t have to be anyone other than your truest self. That’s who you were meant to be anyways. Audit your life, audit your circle, audit your friends, even your family, audit what you listen to, and what you put into your body & Mind. So many people out there, think that a diet is just what we put into our bellies. But it’s so much more than that. It’s what we put into our minds, and our hearts- our eyes and our ears. If we want to be successful, then we have to witness our own behaviors, we MUST be selfish in that aspect, because only we know what we truly want, and only we know what our inventory is. we must, be able to take a stance and say, “this is not going to help me grow, this is not serving my purpose, this is not who I was intended to be” Whether your 15 or 65 years old, its never too late to realize these things and step out toward our true purpose.  So I challenge you all today, tonight, whenever you choose to take this on: To audit your life, Take some inventory, pray about it, think about it, write it down, paint it, whatever it is that you do- what do you have, what don’t you have, what do you need, and what needs to go? Or who? We should always be doing our own parts- accountable to ourselves- to be growing and doing our best to walk in the Mission which we are given. And if the people who you’re surrounding yourselves with are not helping you do that, then I am sorry to tell you this, but they are not your friends. Sometimes it takes a great deal of vulnerability to break into these types of circles, but I did it. I put my hand up in Bible study and said “I need some help here, Men.” I shook hands after NA/AA meetings and invited myself along for coffee after the meetings had ended. We have got to be willing to test our limits as we audit ourselves too, that’s how our limits, our circles, our challenges will continue to grow. So much of our mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health depends on what we “Feed” ourselves. GARBAGE IN. GARBAGE OUT. And I will once again share this with you:

 

Change is one of the most difficult things that we face. But change is inevitable

One reason we don’t like change is we get comfortable where we are. We get used to our friends, our job, the place we live. And even if it’s not perfect we accept it, because it’s familiar. And what happens is, because we’re not willing to change, we get stuck in what God used to do, instead of moving forward into what God is about to do

Just because God’s blessed you where you are doesn’t mean you can just sit back and settle there. You have to stay open to what God is doing now. What worked five years ago may not work today. If you’re going to be successful, you have to be willing to change

Every blessing is not supposed to be permanent, every provision is not supposed to last forever. We should constantly evaluate our friendships. Who’s speaking into your life? Who are you depending on? Make sure they’re not dragging you down, limiting you from blossoming. Everybody is not supposed to be in our life forever

If you don’t get rid of the wrong friends, you will never meet the right friends

^Spoken Outro: “Ill Mind of Hopsin 8- Joel Osteen