Pizza Pizza!

I have met a lot of interesting humans throughout my life. I have met a lot of interesting characters throughout my using days, and while incarcerated in particular. I have told you about many of them thus far. I’m not exactly sure what always prompts my writing, though I choose to believe that it is somewhat “inspired” writing. I never want to just jump on here and start writing just to fill the air, not that my “inspired” stuff is particularly much better. I just want it to actually have some meat, and substance to it. See? Don’t you feel inspired right now? LOL.

Anyways. So, Imagine this. Imagine living a life and being subject to a life; for years on end- going all the way back to childhood- where going to jail- beginning at the ripe old age of 18 and on through your late 20’s- was actually an improvement in your life circumstances. Yes, you read that correctly. Imagine going to jail, and actually feeling safe and provided for. isn’t that sick? And no, jail/Prison is not a nice place. I have witnessed some of the most disgusting and horrific things I could ever imagine inside the walls of incarceration- but that just supports my previous point. Imagine that your life is so fucked up, and you’re so desperate, lonely, strung out, and lost, that once the initial shock of being cuffed, going to jail, getting booked in, and getting over the dope sickness wheres off- you actually feel a great deal of relief. It is such a sad and awful truth for so many of us out there who are struggling and still sick. I don’t know, maybe I’m the only one who has ever experienced this? But I doubt it. Every single time I got arrested, yes I was scared because I didn’t know what was in store for me, and I was about to be dope sick for about a month, but I also concurrently felt relief. Relief- knowing that I wouldn’t have to sleep outside anymore, or eat out of garbage cans, or shoot dope again, for a while. It is really a sick sad world for so many of us out there.

And once I got over the dope sickness, and acclimated to whatever Pod/Dorm that I was assigned to, I actually felt somewhat comfortable. Yes, I missed my family, I missed my Son, but this is the duality of being an addict. We’re survivors. We Can adjust and adapt instinctually to almost any environment. I guess it comes from the years of trauma, grief, loss, PTSD, and undiagnosed mental health issues that go into making a low bottom addict such as myself, but I speculate. And though the sadness would come, and I would get in my feelings and miss my people on the outside, I was so accustomed to this carousel of jail, drugs, homelessness, jail, drugs, etc… I could actually compartmentalize most of it. And I think this is why they say “You really only do two days when you’re locked up: The day you come in, and the day you get out.” The rest is just kind of like being in some type of pergatory, or a dream world of sorts. But it is very much real. And though we do tend to get acclimated and comfortable with the humans we’re locked up with and our surroundings, we have to remember to stay alert and proceed with caution and respect because there are some very dangerous people inside those walls.

During the “day time hours”, as many of you who have been to jail know, we’re allowed to come out into the day room, watch a T.V with no sound, play cards, make phone calls etc… And this is when most of the dumb shit goes down. Dudes talkin shit. Constantly. It’s annoying. Everybody’s somebody special when they’re in jail. It’s weird, and there should be some psychology studies done on this topic inparticular, but I think as a lay person, maybe it’s Ego? A defense mechanism to shield them from the fact that they’re just another broken hearted, lost, forgotten about lonely person inside a jail with people just like them? I don’t know. But they never shut up. And pretty much everything they say is bullshit. That’s why I jokingly say that JAIL stands for: Just Another Inmate Lyin’. And the day time hours, usually until about 10:00 PM is when we play cards and go to programs, and mail comes and etc. And when we tend to kind of find our little cliques of friends in there. The day time is, for the most part, pretty easy going I suppose, but it’s also when the most chaos happens. Fights, arguments, etc… My God it can be so annoying. Fighting over dominoes, fighting over spades, fighting over 85 cent Ramen Fuckin Noodles. And my all time “Favorite” Argument/Fight: Fighting over which Rapper makes the most money. My God, I have actually seen dudes come to blows over which Rapper has more money, Drake or Eminem. Holy shit the ignorance inside these places. But it’s also incredibly sad. The fact that two, three, or seven grown men would actually beat each other up over such a petty disagreement shows me the level of maturity and lack of nurturing that these once little boys with dreams had. I mean, think about it, as we speak, there are thousands of grown men sitting in prison or jail with a known or unknown amount of time staring at the floor watching they’re shitty life unfold over and over in their heads. Wondering why their fathers didn’t want them, or why their mothers sold their bodies for crack, or _________- Fill in the blanks; and why they got turned onto drugs in the first place, but only to escape from the trauma in their lives so that they could feel better, even for just one second. Then they got so strung out that they only choice they had was to rob a liquor store and now they’re stuck in prison for twenty years. I mean really, think about that. Think about what a shitty hand that is to be dealt. Especially when we only have one life to live. And that’s the one you get. It breaks my heart. And so now, you’re forced to again compartmentalize and create a persona to be inside the walls so that you can “get your respect” and feel visible, probably for the first time in your entire life. And the only outlet you have is to finally explode on someone and smash their head with a food tray, and thus earn yourself a month in the hole and a year added on to your sentence. So much for the “C”(Correction) in Dept. of Corrections, huh? Yeah it’s a twisted world man. And tens of thousands of good human capital are just thrown away into the system of Privatized prisons and jails. Talk about “Heads in beds” Jesus, it’s sick. So much potential just flushed down the tubes because, they’re “drug addict losers”. UGH. But anyways.

As you can probably tell, I’m a bit of an empath. And I can pick up on, and feel energies and I tend to have a bleeding heart for the lost ones. I always have actually. I have always had an affinity for the underdog. I love watching people “Come Back”. It is literally my favorite thing in the whole world- Hence my career path. “For the Lord does not despise humble beginnings, but rejoices to see the work commence.” And the Big Book says that watching “The Light come on” Is the bright spot of our lives. And it’s true. I love seeing the lost souls turn their lives around. It makes my heart skip a beat when I get the texts from those that We have worked with thanking us, and celebrating 60,90,120 days; 1,2,3 years etc. Its truly awesome – the potential that we addicts have, and when we realize it. But anyways, that was a rabbit hole.

So yeah, we have established what the day time hours are like; and the night time hours, at least from my experience, were very much different. But again, I’m an empath, so I think I just naturally feel and interpret things differently. To me, the night times, considering the circumstances that I was presently in, and the ones I was recently in- were strangely very peaceful. There was almost like this weird, eerie serenity to it. It’s hard to explain. But I could actually FEEL safe. Locked inside this little box. Nothing could get me. No monsters, no dealers, no drugs, and no needles could find me here. And I could just pray and dream. And I swear I could pick up on all of the others througout the jail feeling the same things. Slowly drifting off to sleep to the the sound of humming and dimmed luminescent lights, and sometimes flushing toilets and maybe the sound of someone sharpening a shank, but the doors were locked and no one could get us. I could let my guard down and just fall asleep. Lamenting. Dreaming. Reflecting. Not having to act or lie anymore for the day. Almost like, “Phew, we survived another day, praise God.” And then we would drift off thinking about what possibilities the future may or may not have…Only to wake up to more of the same old bullshit tomorrow. UGH. It’s like Groundhog’s Day in there.

So, lets kind of compound all of those previous ramblings above into one moving forward, I think most of you get the picture, and those who have been to jail get it. So this is nothing new. But anyways. So we get to know people and all of their bullshit lies. And we clique up. And we play spades. And we tell jokes. And we bullshit. And we compartmentalize.

But not every single person that we meet in there actually fits all of this. At least not in full. Sometimes we meet people in there who are brutally honest, to a flaw. And one gentleman, who I will not name because I do not name names, is the one I want to tell you about. Remember when I said that yes, we do get comfortable, and jail is actually an improvement upon our shitty drugged out life, but we must also proceed with caution because there are some truly dangerous people in there and we never really know what guys are in for because they all fucking lie? Well this young man is exactly why I say that. And you wouldn’t know it if you saw him on the street walking past you. He looked totally normal. Literally normal. And he didn’t use drugs. And he didn’t get angry. And he shared his Commissary. And He was a genuinely- SEEMINGLY- regular dude. We actually had to ask him to have his newspaper article mailed in because we didn’t, we couldn’t believe what he was in for.

MURDER.

He sure as shit murdered someone. I had been sharing coffee, and playing cards with, and making slams with a Stoned Cold Killer. And I mean Stone cold. This dude would laugh and joke with us, and play Monopoly with us like he wasn’t facing 75 years and like he didn’t take someone’s life in cold blood. And He would tell you all about it too. No fucking remorse whatsoever. It was one of the strangest interactions I have ever had to this day. If you asked him, He would straight up tell you: “I fucking hate drugs, and don’t understand why someone would do drugs, and my Step Dad got my mom addicted to Heroin so I fucking smoked his Ass. Put like 8 rounds right in his back, then walked to 7/11 and got a burrito and a mountain dew and waited for the cops.”

Whoa. I’m guessing that this young man had some type of Psychopathy or some type of mental derangement. But he seemed super fucking normal. I can’t even explain it. He is definitely still sitting in prison right now listening to punk rock music and drinking hella coffee. This dude loved coffee. He would order like 5 bags a week. And just walk laps and tell jokes. Very scary to think that there are so many people like this walking the free world and we would never know it. I guess this is why they say we walk past a murderer 50+ times in our life time and never even know it. Gives me chills. But I’m also thankful that I know how to handle myself and I do my best to treat everyone with respect. But this young man also had a dark side. As if you needed me to tell you that after what I just told you.

Now, I’ve seen a lot. I have lived some crazy things. I have seen some fucked up shit in my day. But this absolutely takes the cake, I think. I’m not sure, but it’s up there for sure. So, the title of this blog post is “Pizza Pizza”, and here’s why.

In jail, guys get really creative with their commissary. We can make just about anything out of seemingly nothing. We can make 20 pound burritos out of Ramen Noodles, Crackers, Cheetos, Salami, Pickles, etc. We can also make home made/ Microwave Pizza out of Commissary items. You break up the crackers, noodles, and cheetos, and get them damp/moist with water from the sink and mold them into a crust on the microwave plate then nuke it until it hardens into a crust and then use the sauce, meat, and cheese items from the commissary as toppings and VOILA! Jail Pizza.

One night, maybe about an hour and half, before lock down, were all just kind of unwinding, watching a show and chilling and talking and my punk rock friend sits down across from me. Normal night. No red flags. No chaos. Pretty chill day and night. I think it was a Tuesday. That’s when Commissary came and we all ate like fat rats that day. So my friend sits down across from me. He has a clean rag in his hand and some bleach and cleaner. He has his commissary items out. Looks like he is about to eat again. Not sure where he put it all, as he was a little guy. But he loved to eat. Whatever, do your thing man. He grabs the microwave plate to disinfect it before he starts cooking his night time meal. No big deal. Very methodically. Very Causally. Cleaning the Microwave plate. Preparing his crackers and noodles. Chillin like Bob Dylan.

“Damn man, eatin again huh bub?” I casually say.

“Yeah, Herb. Makin a Pizza.” He says.

“Man, you really can eat dude. Think you wanna let me get a piece of that?” I say.

“Yeah I’ll share it with you, but I don’t think you’re gonna wanna eat this one dude.” He replies.

“Why, what are you making it out of man?” I ask.

And then He looks me dead ass in the eyes, and says, “FLESH!”

And runs up to the front of the Pod, smashes the glass microwave plate against the one way, bulletproof glass; in shatters into jagged shards, and he starts cutting. DIGGING into his arm. And DEEP. Instantly the whole pod freezes and is stunned at what were seeing. Thick Dark purple spurts of blood geyser out of his arm and soak his jump suit. Myself and another man run and tackle him to get the glass out of his hands. “Grab some towels, Grab some shirts!!!” We Scream and we have him pinned and we’re covered in blood and smell like metal. It’s loud and chaotic. “Hit the Button! Hit the Button!!!” We all scream and Guys are jumping up and down trying to flag the guards down. It Must have taken almost five whole minutes for the guards to see us, react, and get inside the Pod. By now, the three of us are soaked in thick red and purple blood. And our Punk Rock friend is as white as a ghost. We are ordered to lock down. But my friend who helped, and myself are ordered to strip down and shower immediately and brought fresh clothes. We Shower as the medics arrive and take our friend out on a stretcher. Never to be seen again….

None of us slept or felt at ease that night. Not even close. There was no lamenting or peace or quiet that night. Just the smell of old stale blood, and the sounds of racing and processing minds as to what in the fuck just happened.

Another Trauma piece of wreckage from the lifestyle that I had been living. So when they crack an Egg and say “This is your brain on drugs” What they really mean is, “This is your life because of drugs.”

I still think about that guy once in a while. He really was a decent enough guy, but he had a demon. I hope he gets the help that he needs.

The Wooden Nickel

once upon a time I thought that simply getting clean and staying clean would be some kind of answer. that it would just some how make life easier. That all I had to do was “play the country song backwards”(get the girl, the dog, the truck, etc…) and life would just be hunky dory. Boy was I mistaken…

When I was working at my first intervention company, when we were slow we would all wheel our chairs by each other to talk and goof off. We were all in our own respects- recovering addicts. So we referred to our down times as “the meetings in between meetings” and this is when we all really bonded and got to know each other. One gentleman that I used to work with and still hold dear to this day, used to talk about life “in nickels”, increments of five years at a time. And he used to always seem to spin it in a negative way, “beware of the nickels”. He would say, or, “I’m approaching my 5,10,15 year Mark’s- so I need to be vigilant because things happen in nickels.” And boy do I understand that now.

I got clean in jail. Most people know that. And I stayed clean in jail, people know that too. And I spent my first clean year in the free world at The Respite House in Valpo. People know that as well. And during my first couple years, in spite of the countless exposure to people in recovery that I had- I really had no idea what living a new life would entail.

My first five years in the free world- my first “Nickel”, for the most part was like a dream come true- to the outsiders looking in that is. And it was, I’m not gonna lie. Although there were hundreds and thousands of hours of hard work involved, it was worth everyone of them. To so many, people watching on Facebook, or Various Social Medias; it may have seemed like I have been on some kind of Rocket Ship headed for the fourth dimension and with very few obstacles along the way. And that is a HUGE problem in today’s society, and especially in the recovery, professional, and social cultures across the globe. We hand pick the happy moments for all to see and we end up viewing the results, and very seldom get to see the pain, suffering, hard work, etc… That goes into creating those happy moments. And this is very dangerous to those who may be struggling in any way- because we as humans have this almost default setting of “judging our insides by others’ outsides”. Ya know, the whole “keeping up with the Joneses type setting”.

But let me be the first one to tell you, in all honesty- There have been times, more so than I care to recall- where I have just wanted to stop. I just wanted to give up. Throw the towel in, and go back out and get high and say fuck it.

Life is fucking hard man. And getting clean and staying clean, is just the beginning. Especially, and from my experience, during the first five years. “Yeah right dude, how fucking hard can it be?” This is coming from the guy who wrote a book, and (Seemingly) turned his life around in no time flat. Must be nice…(I’ve heard it all before, all the way down to Herb must not really be an addict then if he ______) whatever dude. I don’t care.

Yes, God has been very good to me. I have been incredibly blessed and still am today. But I have sacrificed so much in return to make these things happen. Friends, Family, Social Life, Hobbies. You name it. I didn’t do shit for a long time because I was bound, set, and determined to put my head down and get shit done. And I did. * This is some side bar shit now, and Ill get back to the point of the blog here, but I saw a video the other day by a- what appeared to be old (possibly) indian/middle eastern Man, ya know, the old “Shaman/dali llama” type old man- and He was talking about the difference between time and energy. You know, how two equally gifted and talented men or women can have the same amount of time, but one will excel and get more done in a fraction of the time it took the other to- because one put more energy and determination into the same amount of time. Something like that. Well, that’s what I believe I did. In five, almost six years I have experienced some truly amazing things, feelings, accomplishments, and triumphs. But in those same five years, I have experienced some truly awful parts of myself, of others, and been through the most difficult times I could imagine.

They say that you can judge a tree by its fruit. Obviously we know a peach tree, and apple tree, and a coconut tree when we see them, because of the fruit that they bear. So, looking at our lives, it may seem like shits pretty sweet. And it can be. But life sucks sometimes man. I just wanted to not get high any more, and I have accomplished that so far- God Willing. But how fucked up is it, that I can get to this point in my life, And just wanna put a fucking gun in my mouth? Wait What? Yeah, bet people didn’t know that did they?

I always wanted a nice life, Ya know, with all of those “Symbols” that I wrote about earlier? The white picket fence, the beautiful wife, the back yard, the kids, the dogs, the cars, the status. And I have all of those things now. But it’s not about OBTAINING, its about MAINTAINING. And I fucking suck at that most of the time, thank God for my wife and the couple friends that I do have today. I lost 99% of my friends in this process of making something of myself, and that’s okay. The way I see things today, its all about Family more so than friends. But having a couple friends to play golf with is cool too. But anyways. The Symbols, the life, the climb, is wonderful so long as we are taking care of ourselves enough to enjoy them. And not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

They say that we are the age that we started using at- when we get clean. I believe this is called “arrested development”. Meaning that we actually stunt our growth mentally when we start using chemicals and then we don’t resume developing until our brains have a chance to heal and get back to firing the way that their supposed to. And this makes sense, Just ask my wife- She Always says that I’m Immature, and gets mad because She is light years developmentally ahead of me. That I can’t handle an adult conversation. Ugh. Guilty! Well, what do you expect from a guy who used to smoke crack, shoot dope with puddle water and eat out of garbage cans? But I have made some tremendous progress. And that’s what it’s all about right? Progress over perfection. And I have NEVER and will never claim to be perfect. I will never claim to be anything other than what I am. A grown ex/former/recovering addict with a horrible past, trying to grow up, take care of my family, do the best I can and not fuck anyone over in the process. I Just do my best daily to be a good person. Some days I succeed some days I fail. But I stay clean long enough to have another shot at it tomorrow. But I just never could wrap my head around this whole life on lifes terms thing. I was never really exposed to “healthy” Family systems as a kid, adolescent, or young adult. And I had absolutely zero template or example on how to lead a normal healthy life now. I have been kind of learning as I go here, which is what I think they mean when they say “fake it till you make it”. I don’t know if I’m making it or faking it most of the time, but I show the fuck up, and that’s half the battle. But anyways: So I had no clue was I was in for. Just that I wanted to work and be a normal adult. I wanted kids, and still do. And I love my life. But life on life’s terms- especially during this first nickel is tough man. And if I’m comparing my own outsides with my own insides; translated into the idea of a Nickel- the idea of a monetary item- then that fucking nickel aint worth the paper its printed on. And what I mean by that, is that the internal- the life lessons. The growth. The tears. the pain. The sleepless nights. Having to overdraft a bank account to pay a bill. A custody battle. Crying in the shower so no one sees me- only to come down stairs with a big smile and help clean the house or take the kids somewhere fun. Bills, mortgage, court, kids. Its fucking awful most of the time, but that is whats worth the most. That is how we grow and learn. The good times, the happy moments on Facebook, are hand selected and few and far between. Yes, overall my life is awesome and I praise God every day for it. But there were times, on my way to this very moment, where I actually just wanted to Divorce my wife, take my Dog, leave the house, and run away from it all. I told you I would be honest in the beginning and I am now. But I ended up in a very dark place for a while man, All of these incredible blessings coming down upon us, from out tireless hard work, and all I could do was think about hanging myself. Kids are difficult man. No one will test your will to go on, or your patience or your moral compass like kids. Especially in a mixed house hold. They don’t appreciate shit, and they want everything. They have no concept of money, time, work, sacrifice, etc. But that’s their innocence showing and I would never rob them of that. But Fuck it itsnt a pain in the ass sometimes. And I always vow to give them, show them, and teach them all of the things and Ideas that I never was. And life itself man. Is hard. I realized a long time that no one was going to make it for me. So I was on my own. And that itself is a gift and a curse. Yes, the older I get the freer I feel, but at the same time man, fuck. These bills dont stop, and the kids keep growing up. And the wife…well I’m Just gonna say that I am the most blessed man on earth when it comes to her. She has carried me through some shit. You have no idea and she has put up with some shit from me that she definitely didnt have to. I have broken down in ways I didn’t think were possible and it is humiliating to me to think about. But I am human and the past isnt changing, so all we can do is learn and keep going.

Back in 2014, I was right at 9 months clean when my mother died. And I INSTANTLY got high. It was fucking awful and I didnt stop using until I got arrested.

Well, with almost 6 years this time, I lost the most important person of my entire life. My older brother Josh. He is, was, and always will be- the Male figure in my life. He is my role model. He is my biggest supporter, cheerleader, and my life long best friend. He died from COVID at the age of 41. This has been the most tragic and devastating event of my entire life. And I didnt use. And I didnt want to. But I did have the thought that maybe, just maybe, ONE would help take the edge off, help ease the pain a little bit. And to be honest, it would have. But why would I honestly consider poisoning myself, when Me being clean was one the things that my brother was proudest about? That’s insanity. So I didn’t. But God does my heart ache and break constantly that he is gone….

Kids. Bills. Dogs. Dog food. Gas. Picture day. Spirit day. The kids always want something and never appreciate anything. Cleaning. Weekends. Grocery shopping. Cutting the Grass. Cooking dinner. Painting fucking everything with chalk paint. Not having friends. Not having a life. Being diagnosed with depression- Having all of these wonderful humans in my life and all of these wonderful things, but not being able to enjoy shit. Just kind of going through the motions. Being put on an SSRI, which was a game changer for me and now I feel so much better and in love with life again, just in time for my brother to die unexpectedly. *FUCK* This is life.

This is REAL LIFE. This is not what I got clean for. But its what we get. We get the Real. The whole thing. The ups and downs. The ebs and flows. The good and the bad. The laughter and the tears. This is my first nickel. And it is not the happy times, it is not the Good that has made me into to the man that I am this morning. Its the fires. It’s the tears. It’s the pain.

My grama used to tell me the parable of the silver smith. How God would refine us in the fires, pull us out and remove the slag, then put us back in. And he would repeat this process- knowing that silver was pure ONLY- when the silver smith could see his reflection in it.

And I think thats it. I think thats life. Thats recovery.

I used to think that Life and recovery would be this magic carpet ride of happiness and bliss. But it has been that, plus shit. And that’s what its all about man. Surviving the lows, and celebrating the highs. Putting as much energy into the time that were given, to enrich the lives of others and ourselves, to leave a lasting legacy for others to exemplify and carry on in our memory and break negative cycles and turn them into beautiful ones. Just like my older brother did.

My first five years in the free world clean?: If I’m comparing the internal growth and conflict to the external success? hasn’t been worth the metal it was stamped on. It is because of the relationships that I have with God, my wife, and my family that I have been able to survive myself, life, and its circumstances to THEN achieve the things that we have. We are forged in the fires, and we shine when the slag is removed and we reflect the one who made us. Everyhing else is just symbols and bullshit.

The first five years has been truly bittersweet.

jokingly, like a wooden nickel.

Symbols

I went to see an old friend of mine recently. He was in the Porter County Jail. Again. He had been on Methadone for a while now and just could not seem to get off of it, or stay on just methadone. Which is something that I have come to find out. Most, who end up on methadone stay on it for the rest of their lives, or for a very long time. It is very difficult to come off of methadone, because the providers tend to move you up so fast and to such a high dose that people become horribly dependent upon it. Add that to it being so addictive- most would agree that the withdrawls are worse than Heroin itself, I wouldn’t know. I was never afraid of Heroin, but Methadone scared the shit out of me. The detox from Methadone is from what I’ve witnessed absolute Hell. And this young man was in the full throes of it. He wasn’t shaking, in the typical sense of the word. The only way I can describe the way he was moving is, that he was Quaking. Like there was an epicenter of pain sending seismic vibrations from deep inside his core. His skin was an ashy grey and splotchy. His pupils like that of a Giant Squid; huge saucers with zero colored bands around them. I could see the way his hair matted to his skull from countless hours of non stop sticky detox sweats. He couldn’t stop sniffling. He was so sick. God I don’t miss that.

I could tell that he was not so pleasantly surprised to see me. Surprised? Probably. But not in a happy way. Usually when they see me, they know what’s coming. I am rarely in front of drug addicts with happy news. But this was truly different. He was an old friend of mine. And I wasn’t there to intervene or scare him or give him some kind of Come to Jesus Moment. I was just there to talk to my buddy. A person who I have always been quite fond of. And at first he was quite resistant. Which is so interesting to me by the way. Here is a man, almost 40 years old, sitting in jail, strung out on dope, no job, no car, no apartment- not two nickels to rub together, and yet still so full of Bravado, and Ego. Why is that? Why are we addicts ALWAYS the last to know that we’re licked? It’s like that Meme where the house is on fire and the little character is in the middle of the picture, “This is fine.” No big deal. I got this….

We do not got this.

It took about 30 minutes to really get him to let his guard down and start openly talking with me. At which I asked him a very simple question, but to the addict who still suffers is a very hard one to answer. And I ask it all the time: “What do you want?” One of my favorite quotes that I use all the time, is “If you don’t know what you want, you’ll damn sure never get it.” And That was the case for me, and my friend here. He didn’t have a clue. As with many addicts that I talk with. The only thing that we have ever known is the getting and using and finding ways and means to get more drugs, so what’s the fucking use? Dreams? Goals? HA! Not a fucking chance, I just wanna get high and fuck shit up. That’s what I am and that’s what I do right? *Because that is the IDENTITY that we CREATED for ourselves. It is what and who we associate with. I never, until I got clean, had anyone challenge me about priorities, or goals, and success. I just had a bunch of using buddies that I got high with. I had no fucking clue what I wanted, or who I was, or who I wanted to be. This is common for us addicts, especially during our first 5 years, which I lovingly refer to as the “wooden Nickel”.

And My friend here didn’t even fully understand the question. He repeated it back into the air, not really back to me, multiple times. At first He repeated it back at me, with kind of an agitation. Kind of like he was pissed off that I would even dare to ask him such a thing. Like he knew that I knew that He didn’t know. Because I did. I didn’t either for a long time. And he was kind of insulted at first, but I maintained the flow, and kept emotions to a minimum. Kept control. Stayed calm. Led with love and respect. “It’s just a question, buddy. It’s just us here.”

“I don’t fucking know, Herb. What do I want?”

“Only you can answer that man.”

And He kind of zoned out. That dissociative “1,000 Mile stare” of a truly broken man. I could see him traveling his rabbit hole of secret places, the way only a truly lost soul can. We can time warp and introspectively transcend all of our past, our present, our desires, our longings, and our fears concurrently, while thinking about a present question or situation-OR merely trying to avoid it. It’s like watching a movie in our hearts and heads, behind open dead eyes. While asking ourselves a thousand questions that we simply cannot answer. Only to snap back to reality, typically with an “I’m fine”, or, “I don’t know” dismissive response. God I hate that I know that. Ugh. It’s such an empty and awful feeling.

I was able to kinda nudge my head down, and into his field of vision and regain his focus. I asked the question again, after his journey of introspection. And this time, he locked in and me and spoke some truth. “I still don’t know….A house or apartment? A Girlfriend? A Job? What do I want, Herb?”

And then he found some confidence in his answers. “Yeah. An apartment, a girlfriend, and a job. That’s what I want.”

Now we are scratching the surface. You see, I thought those were the types of things that I wanted when I first got clean, too. But just like anger is a surface/secondary emotion- those THINGS/IDEAS were secondary things too. I thought that once I got back on my feet and stopped shooting dope, that all I had to do was play the country song backwards- the dog would come back, the girl would return, or I would find another one, I’d get the truck and the house and etc. – that that’s what recovery, life, and success would look like. But those are all SECONDARY, or surface Ideas. Those are all Symbols, that I connect with what I REALLY WANT.

You see; and I said this to him, but, when I hear him say that He wants a job; I hear “I want to feel like I matter. Like I can depend on myself. I want stability, and to be able to provide for, and be proud of myself.” “A Job” is just a status, that my mind equates to being self sufficient, and trusting myself to be secure enough in my place in life that I can lean on my self and be what I see as a real man. I wanna feel like I am enough, to myself, and to others, and I want to prove that to my family. That I can make it on my own, and a JOB would be a great way of showing them that.

And when I hear him say that He wants an apartment, or a house, I heard: I want a HOME. A safe place of my own. A sanctuary where I can truly be myself, and make it my own. Free from judgement, a place where I can feel secure, and stable, and protected, and still. I want my own refuge where I can return home to, from my job, and feel PROUD of myself, that I was able to provide this safe place for myself, and I myself am going to enjoy it and take comfort that I no longer have to borrow or beg for a warm place to sleep. I want a place, a location, a spot, where I feel like to truly belong. A place to call my own. Where I deserve and long to be. My very own safe place. Just for me, and maybe a family one day.

And when I heard him say, “I want a Girlfriend”- I heard, “I want a Wife, I want to feel truly LOVED”. True love. Someone who doesn’t judge me, someone who loves me for who I am, not in spite of who I am. A real friend. A Partner and a team mate. Someone who I can TRULY depend on. Someone who isn’t going to leave me, like so many others have throughout my life- whether I pushed them away from my using or not. Someone who I can do life with, and share life with. I want to feel seen, and visible, and appreciated and celebrated. I want someone to CHOOSE ME. Not just be obligated to take care of me because we share the same blood. I want someone who loves me with a fire, and who can’t live without me, or me without them, and I want a dog, and pictures on the wall, and Christmases and a life we can enjoy, in our home, and come home from our Jobs to. That’s what I heard. Everything else was just symbols….

And that’s exactly what he meant too, because when I told him this, the flood gates opened. We had touched a part of him that had been surpressed for so long. HE was still that scared, lonely, broken hearted little boy. We both were. And we connected, and he knew it. He cried, and I listened. And we continued on talking for about an hour. Eventually we laughed, and we reminisced on some of the old times. His light was slowly starting to come on, and for a moment, I could see that he wasn’t in Jail. He was starting to envision his life with a purpose. He was starting to taste that His future and his life could be better than he has ever imagined, and it felt so reassuring to see.

And I think that that’s a pretty common theme for most of us addicts out there. That’s what we want. We just cannot grasp the actual fruit of the idea below the surface. We long for deep meaningful relationships, and purpose, but we have seldom truly experienced them, due to our using. Sometimes all we need is someone to talk to, a fresh perspective. Someone who can help us wade through the murky waters of our secret places. Someone who can reiterate what we just said, right back to us. Someone who can translate things into a language we didn’t know that we understood. Someone who can show us what our symbols and Ideas may actually mean, below the surface.

Money. Cars. Clothes. Status. House. Fences. Pool. Power. Jewelry. Toys. Vacations. etc…

These are all just things. Symbols. What do the symbols of your life say about your true self, below the surface? What Priorities of yours do they reveal?

The Hordes

 I have always had very vivid dreams. A lot of times my dreams have been reoccurring,  for instance; ever since I was a little boy I always had a dream of myself flying over a wheat field- in first person over hills and valleys until I came to the top of a very large hill and it revealed a giant oak tree and giant male lion, and then I woke up. I’ve always felt like I have had premonition dreams, and what I mean by that Is, I will have a dream tonight and though I can’t remember it all in great detail- something will happen the following day to trigger my memory of that dream. I’m sure although not how so- but dreams are in someway connected to déjà vu, our subconscious, and our visions of the future in some mystic way. A dream that I am going to tell you about I have only shared with a handful of people.

I was living with my parents in Senoia, Georgia and had just gotten out of Fayette County Jail and Coweta County Jail. I had been drinking quite a bit but was off of heroin, cocaine, and pills for quite some time. I slept in a spare bedroom in the house on Tracy court that my older brother owned and rented it out to us. I slept on the south side of the house on a mattress on the floor.

This dream was the most powerful and vividly real dream that I’ve ever had to this day. It was as if I had drifted from one consciousness to another and never actually fallen asleep at all. As I drifted off to sleep and faded into the blackness I went from falling asleep to slowly awakening in blackness. The blackest black and darkest dark I could ever imagine and I found myself coming back to consciousness staring at my feet which were wearing brown sandals similar to what I imagine people wore in the times of Jesus. I was standing in sand but like desert sand not beach sand. It was hot And I was confused at how I had gotten here. I took a moment to take in my surroundings and scan the horizon in all directions. As I turned myself around in a full 360° circle I realized that I was naked except for my sandals and there was nothing around me but sand and heat. It was dead silent for what seemed like several minutes. And then I started to feel a very deep earth vibration. It was similar to a freight train passing close by in the way that it shakes the earth but, not like an earthquake and it was very persistent and loud. Clamoring noises came with it like multiple Football crowds screaming at the tops of their lungs. As the rumblings continued I noticed that it wasn’t one, but two great vibrations coming in different and opposite directions- one from each horizon. I remember straining my eyes and squinting in both directions trying to locate the source of the sounds, the vibrations; and suddenly clouds of dust started to emerge from the places where the land disappeared in the sky began. Loud thunderings of screaming and snarling battle cries from both directions headed toward each other with me sandwiched in the middle.

As the line of objects on both sides Drew nearer and nearer to me I began to make out what they were.  On one side horizon were the nastiest, nightmarish, filthiest, scariest looking horde of monsters that I had ever seen.  Dark green, dark gray, black, slimy, scaly, scary looking demon things some with multiple heads, some with tusks, some with thousands of eyeballs, and the closer they got I could tell that they fucking stank. I could smell them and they smelled like rotting flesh. Some of them were riding crazy looking creatures that resembled elephants but had multiple sets of tusks and mouths like dragons. They had leather covered shields and giant crude mid evil looking weapons. I could clearly tell that these were the bad guys and they were getting closer and closer.

To the other side of me which I believe was my right side was another horde but this large military headed in my direction made me feel like I was looking at the good guys. Headed in my direction, were not like any human beings that I had ever seen. They had orange skin and blue skin and purple skin, and they were incredibly large- much larger than the average human being.  And this group had armor made of gold and shields made of silver and jeweled crowns on their heads in golden and gemstone swords and staffs. And they rode on giant elephants and giant horses and they blasted trumpets in from their direction. The closer each army got to me the harder the earth shook and they continued on in my direction from both sides until I could see their eyeballs and just as each opposing hoard closed in on me as they were catapulting towards each other I felt more afraid than I ever felt in my entire life- asleep or awake.  There was no escaping this I was naked and terrified and about to be crushed in the middle of a bloody battle.  So I crushed my eyes shut and put my head down and squatted down into a little ball and prayed.

When I opened my eyes I had been moved and I was safely standing up on a hill that was not there before; and something was forcing me to watch as the battle waged on. A lot of the good guys and more of the bad guys died and very bloody and horrific ways. I saw heads crushed,  entrails dumped out onto the ground, arms severed, blood splattered heads decapitated. The walls of warriors collided and just as quickly as they collided each row of soldiers fell one by one. But their stocks were always replenished as each side’s soldiers seemed to be constantly renewed by more from each respective horizon line.  This terrible battle waged on for what seemed like hours, although it was probably only a couple of minutes, and suddenly a loud thundering trumpet blasted from the sky…

As this loud horn blasted down upon us, both sides just stopped fighting. They both looked as confused as I felt and they looked to the sky in awe. 

 I was then instantly transported into space, and saw that famous picture: “earth from the moon” as if I were standing on the Moon and looking at earth in HD vision. Our planet then turned a bright neon blue as if it were all covered in water and I was transported back to my desert hill.  And just as soon as I stood back on the hill, a giant flying blue horse lighted down to the ground and reared back on his two back feet and neighed incredibly loudly and then shot what appeared to be blue fire out of his nostrils and onto both sides of the battlefield. But it wasn’t blue flames it was ice and it froze all of the, what I could only guess to be millions of battling soldiers in their places- frozen solid.  And then the horse flew back and disappeared into the sky, and just as soon as the blue horse faded, an even larger red horse appeared on the ground. In the same fashion as his predecessor, he leapt up onto his back legs and neighed even louder than the first horse. It was deafening, and then he exterminated all of the frozen soldiers in white hot flames that he shot from his nostrils.

I remember the flames and the heat rushing toward me. I closed my eyes in fear and I prayed. But I was not burned and I was not harmed in anyway. I remember the fires meeting the ice and hearing the sound of rushing water as the amazing heat melted the frozen soldiers into nothing but char. I open my eyes. I had left the desert and was now floating on my back on a makeshift raft in the ocean. The waves carried my homemade log raft, which carried me; right up to the shores of a beautiful island oasis. I had absolutely no idea what had just happened, but as I made my way up onto the island sand someone whispered to me in my ear from behind my back, “I told you not to be afraid.”

And as I turned to see who whispered that from behind me I woke up on my mattress, on my back and I was not afraid.

I believe that this dream has stuck with me for so long now, because it was indeed powerful; but also because it is such great symbolism for the battles in life and in recovery. 

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) 

The war is worth it. It may be scary at times. We may feel naked and afraid. And we may feel like were losing, but if we keep our faith and keep battling, we can and do overcome. 

Trigger Warning

It was like 9:00 P.M I think. I was standing all alone on Chicago’s South Side. Halstead and something. There was a Walgreens there, that’s about all I know for sure. I had just come out of a black hole of street level heroin and crack. I can’t really recall what I did to come up with the money I had, but I had some and stayed super fucking high with it as a result. But now I was coming to, which meant it was time to go back into one. I didn’t even have a cell phone. I had been out wandering the streets of the “wild hundreds” (a section of the city which refers to high crime, drug, and murder rates in streets which are numbered 100+) for many days now. I was dazed and confused. My jeans which now sagged off of me were covered in black soot marks from setting my hot spoons on them after I cooked, and before I injected. My feet hurt. My Soul hurt. But I just couldn’t stop the chase. I was incapable of thinking about anything other than the next bag. I looked around assessed my surroundings. It was night time and I was white. Clearly I was up to no good, but I only had one needle and maybe two bags of heroin on me, so I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t get arrested if I got bothered by the cops. My bag was in between my ass cheeks, and the cops never looked in there. And they weren’t taking me in for a needle. They would just destroy it and send me on my way back to the nearest drug store to buy another 10 pack over the counter for 3 dollars. Crazy system we have huh? But anyways, it was time to make a move, I had to find some cover for the night or at the very least get loaded enough to pass out on a bench somewhere. It wasn’t cold out, I remember that much. And I had several hundred dollars, so I would be able to get a hotel room if I absolutely had to, but that would be dope money lost.

A pay phone! okay, So what am I gonna do with it? Im gonna call my guys, duh. I enter the walgreens and break a few singles for change. I hit the pay phone. And scribbled on the inside wall of pay phone says something like “Got money? Call the crack express” or something like that. I thought it was a joke- pointing fun at dope fiends like me. But I figured “ah what the hell?!” So I called the number… “Good evening, __________’s Livery Service, this is _______.” And I hung up. And I checked the yellow pages of the hanging phone book for the name they just told me. And it matched, so I picked up the phone, inserted two quarters and dialed the same number again. Same greeting. Same person.

“Um, yeah, my name is steve. I’m calling the, uh, express number.”

“Where you at, Steve?” I looked at the streets and told them what I was near by. The walgreens right here on Halstead and (something). “Ok, steve, go sit on the bench in front of the store, what’chu wearing?” I told them. I sat down. I waited. Not exactly sure what in the actual fuck I was thinking here. But when you’re this far gone, this far in the grip, I didn’t really care if I lived or died. I mean, honestly, what’s the worst that could happen? LOL. My God I was sick.

About 15 minutes later, a newer dark colored almost like cop car looking tinted out Ford or Mercury something pulls up and there’s an old Black man driving it with one of those really nice looking Kangol hats on, but facing forward, not flipped around. This man actually looked like an actual chauffeur. “You Steve?” “Yeah.” “Hop in the back man, let’s go.” Ok… maybe this isn’t such a good idea. But I got in the car anyways…

“My name’s Edward, Steve. Nice to meet you young man. What kind of music you like to listen to man?”

“Oh I listen to everything sir. You can put it on whatever you want.”

So, where you from, Steve?”

“Uh, Valpo…”

He was clearly watching me more than he was the road. He was very familiar with the streets and this process. He was clearly a local and had to be almost 70. He was making small talk to feel me out and see if I was cool or not. (OOF this is making me sickly feeling just thinking about this memory).

We exchanged small talk for about 5 minutes. There was no meter and he never asked me where I was going. Ever. Finally he interjected, “So how much you try’na spend?”

“Um, I don’t know, like 100$” 60 for rock and 40 for some Boy(Heroin)”

“Iight man, Ill let them know.”

He makes a phone call from his cell in a low muffled voice. About 3 minutes later we pull into a drive way and he asks for my money. I ain’t falling for this shit. But he insisted that since this was the first time, he had to go in, and he had to watch me get high and check out how I carried myself while doing it. This was clearly a sophisticated ring I had stumbled into. So I gave him my 100$ and he was back in the car in less than 2 minutes.

We drove around for literally fucking hours while I smoked and shot dope. He would even offer the back dome lights to assist me. I had just found a new friend and this dude was super cool. Not weird at all. We would talk and he would laugh when I got all stuck and weirded out. I have no idea where I ended up that night, but I made sure to get his number before he dropped me off. He even took appointments to pick me back up the next day, or even “When you get your check”. All his card said was “Taxi Cab Edward” and I use the name here, because he actually once told me that that is NOT his real name. “It’s just what everyone calls me.” I’ll be damned. A real life crack and heroin chauffeur. And he was ALWAYS prompt. I never had to wait around. And it was always him. Which looking back is weird. You would think that this type of service would be in High Demand. It was very low key and the dope was always always good. Never once did I get ripped off or shorted. Hmmm…

So Taxi Cab Edward and I became friends. We would talk about all kinds of things. It was kinda like a fucked up modern day cracked out version of “Curtis Lowe” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. That old man would pick me up all over the city and drive me to the best spots and let me do all kinds of drugs in the back of his car.

And one time I got some crack that absolutely Rang my Bell and almost cost me a finger.

I have never had shit like this before and I used to smoke crack by the fucking wheel barrel: One blast. That’s all it took. I mean I smoked it all, but it took me like 3 days to do so. It was night time, and we were driving around somewhere, Edward and I. He handed it to me and warned me, to “be careful with this shit. They all after this batch right here. Tell me what you think.” And I would have, if I could talk. Sparks of sizzling debris, The taste of nail polish remover, a dash of egg, and the loudest high pitch sound I have ever heard in my life- running through my ears and brain. And I was stuck like chuck. Completely locked up. Damn near riggamortis in the back of this car while Edward laughed his ass off. “You aint gonna throw up is ya steve?” and I started to slump over at the same time being absolutely spun out of my Gourd. As the numb wore off and the Locomotive left my brain I started to notice a pain in my left ring finger. I had slumped over and locked up super hard and fucking melted the tip of my left finger on the hot end of my pyrex crack pipe. The nail had burned down in a crescent shape and was fucking throbbing. UGH. So I quickly shot some dope to numb it away and put this crack up. There was no way I was driving around smoking this shit. I was way too good. I would freak out if I had to look out windows on this shit. And once the Heroin did it’s job and I was coherent again and talking, I had to ask Edward for a big favor. I had to ask him to give me a ride all the way back to Portage Indiana, from the south side of Chicago.

“oof man, Edward. I’m fucking burned out man. I been going hard in the paint for weeks with ya man, that one put me in the dirt dude. I need to go home to finish this and rest for a couple days man.’ “I hear ya Steve, Tell me how to get there.”

No questions asked. He drove me back to portage, dropped me off. Shook my hand. And I never saw Edward again. Only because I was back in town and would have access to rides and stuff now. And would end up going another direction and using with “friends” from now on. But to be honest, I know it’s sick, but I wonder what ever happened to that old man.

The next morning I awoke in my parents’ hotel room where they had been living. A massive horrible hot white pain in my finger. It had swollen to about 3-5 times it’s normal size and width, and I could see my heartbeat in the finger nail. With every lub-dub of my heart; my finger nail would concurrently beat “black-white” More of an ill lookg grey than black, and my whole finger was dark blood red. I had to go in to the hospital. But first, let shoot some dope. The heroin coursing through my blood was still not enough to stave off the pain in my finger. I knew this bad, and It was about to get fucking gnarly.

I checked in and waited. And waited. And waited. finally they called me back to a room. And I waited some more. The on call Doctor appears sits down next to me, picks up my left had as I wince in pain. “Ohhhh, yeahhhh” He says in a very shrill and pity filled voice. “Ill be right back sir.” Moments later he returns with a pre filled syringe of numbing agents, shoots my hand and finger up and disappears again. About five minutes later he comes back and pokes my finger with a prick-tool thingy to check if I’m numb enough for him to do whatever the fuck he’s about to do. Ugh, this shit makes me cringe.

He pulls out some weird looking hand tool- from his coat pocket. This thing had some kind of like “snail antenna”/wish bone looking prongs on the end of it, and he was going to use it to burn my fucking nail open to release all the pressure from it. oof. And that’s exactly what happened. The little tool thing came to life and sparked as it met my nail and instantly a giant gush of hot red blood shot out all over the doctor, myself, and some even ended up on the ceiling tiles above our heads. You could tell that we both weren’t expecting such an explosion, as we both let out our breaths at the same time in a “Phew” type fashion. “How in the hell did you say this happened, Mr. Stepherson?”

“I burned the shit out of it on the end of a hot crack pipe in the back of a taxi cab on the south side of Chicago sir.” (Like it wasnt no thang.)

“Oh. Well that’s pretty hard core and I appreciate the honesty, sir. Now, you wanna see something really cool?”

“I mean, yeah. Sure Doc.”

And then he pulled some weird looking pliers out of his coat pocket and very casually place one pincher end underneath the tip of the deformed and melted nail. And I heard a very noticeable CLICK sound and the nail bed disconnected from the nail and the cuticle gave way. ugh. Then the doctor held it up in the light to inspect the nail and picked up my hand to inspect the bed. He rinsed both with some type of cleaner and then got out a little dentist air tool. And he blew my nail bed back open with the little tool, and eased the nail back into the bed and washed them both in cleaner.

“You’re lucky you came in when you did, I don’t know how you pulled that off, but if you had waited much longer you probably would have lost at least half of that finger dude. Maybe you should stop smoking crack sir.”

And then he wrapped my finger up in some gauze and taped it up.

“Yeah, maybe it is time to stop smoking crack.” I thought to myself.

Hard maybe.

I knew deep down inside It was way beyond time to stop. I was so sick and stuck in the grip man. I couldn’t even truly think about getting some help.

And anyways, I still had some of that shit left back at the house and a coupe bags of heroin. So I was gonna go back and get all weird yet again…

So yeah, that’s my “How smoking crack in the back of a taxi cab almost cost me my finger” Story.

Yeah I don’t miss that shit.

 

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.