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Turd Polish

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted- in one moment; would you capture it, or let it slip? (Eminem 8 Mile Soundtrack)

And what if you do capture it? What if you do take that moment and jump in with complete abandon, and rock it out of the park? What if you finally let go of everything that’s ever held you back, take a massive leap of faith, and it works out better than you ever imagined?

All I can say, is be prepared. Everything that has ever held you back, whether its addiction or other mental health issues, traumas, family shit, etc. is going to be lying patiently in wait- for its perfect opportunity to strike, and trigger a downfall. Success can do a couple things to us. It can motivate us to bigger and better things, or it can lull us into complacency. Sometimes, it can do both concurrently- at least the way I’m thinking about it right now that makes sense. You see, ever since this whole thing started it has all seemed like this magical feel good fairy tale type story. But I am here to tell you today, that that couldn’t be any further from the truth. You just read “Rumination” recently before this one, and that entry has been many days of my life over the last year plus. I’m not exactly sure when it started but things definitely got more than a little bit dark for me, and for my family. Maybe it was right around the time my brother died? No, it was for sure before that, and perhaps Josh’s death was the pulling of the final Kerplunk sticks on the way to a very ugly bottoming out. I don’t know. But what I have come to find out, again and again, is that I don’t know shit. We don’t know shit. Even the people who I consider my mentors will be the first to admit this very basic Idea. But I am once again back on a journey of digging and discovering. Old story versus New Story. And it has been a very interesting process.

You see, all I wanted to do was stop smoking crack, and stop shooting heroin. I had some really powerful stories to tell to shed some light on this whole addiction thing, as I feel it still to this day gets swept under the rug far too much. And I know what some of my gifts are. One of those gifts and passions being helping people. I still to this day absolutely love what I do in the field of intervention and volunteerism here in my community. And I don’t see myself stopping any time soon, but I have had to slow down quite a bit recently, because, per the Status Quo that we can slip back into so easily and effortlessly- I fuck shit up.

Ya know, it’s really interesting, this whole life thing. It can only be lived forward, and only truly understood backwards. Looking back on the last 6 years of my life, and more poignantly, my successes and good fortune – as an outsider and follower of my work, one might think it has just been so beautiful. And there have been many beautiful moments and wonderful times. But one thing I have been learning lately is not to use “absolutes” as much as I once did. Everything is circumstantial. Not everything is good, bad, great, or horrible. Sometimes they just are what they are- and I’m reminded of Pong the Farmer as I write this. But going back to the larger scope of thought here, understanding things backwards. It’s actually a bit funny now that I laugh about this, but I used to always say, “You write one book and people think you know what you’re talking about.” And it’s true, because, as I mentioned earlier I don’t know shit. I have never claimed to be some Holier than thou, Wizard, Mystic, or overnight Know it all in the field of addiction and mental health. I share my experiences, I share my heart for helping others and I do my best to be a good listener to those who share themselves with me. I have never claimed to be perfect, in fact, I believe that my claims of how “un perfect” I really am have provided quite a bit of allure to so many of my readers who too, are in my shoes and like to hear from those of us who can share openly about our imperfections while all those normies and society types are going about their days like their shit don’t stink. We are all fucked up in some way. We are all hurt, and wounded and trying our best to overcome something, right now. And knowing that, and even more so, being able to practice that simple art form of compassion and empathy is such a powerful tool in this world, and yet it has become almost a “Lost Art” while we are all so consumed with self and comparing ourselves to others. But when we really listen, when we really take the time to get to know someone else, and the struggles and secret places that we all face- that’s the juice. That is the one thing that truly binds us together. Our struggles. Internal and external. Some of our internal conflicts manifest themselves and spill out into the world for others to judge from their “ivory towers”, and others stay buried deep inside, and no one really ever knows about them as we suffer in silence; isolating ourselves in a room full of people with a brave face on hiding our shame and fear. I’m not exactly sure which is worse. And sometimes the latter turns into the former; when we can no longer hold it in, when we can longer pretend that we are okay, when we can no longer withstand the mounting pressures behind the damn with no means of releasing the impending explosion….and….Kaboom.

I just wanted to stop smoking crack. I just wanted to not shoot heroin. I just wanted to help people. I just wanted to have a “regular”/”normal” life and do my best to be a good person. I had absolutely no idea where this whole thing was gonna take me. I had absolutely no idea what God was up to, or what He would have in store for me. I had no idea what I would have to endure in return for all of this; after all, every gift has it’s price. And as the old adage goes, “No good deed goes unpunished.” ( I know my therapist is gonna read all this shit and wanna do a whole session on it, but this is the way I’m thinking about things right now). I didn’t know that writing some fucking book was gonna turn into all this. I didn’t know that I would end up owning a successful business. I didn’t know that I would be a million things or a million places when I got out of jail. I was just-and still am- trying to figure shit out.

Everything was so sudden. It was like a whirl wind for me. I had always thought about “Vigilance” as we hear it in the rooms to typically mean looking out for danger in times of trouble, or when things are obviously getting bleak. I never in a million years thought that I had to be vigilant when things were continuously going so well. But what I’m thinking about here now, is that I wasn’t truly equipped or prepared for things to go so well. Literally, I went from: Traumatized and passed around child who learned to detach at a very young age to not continuously feel the shame and pain, to Homeless and overdosing strung out heroin addict street person, to incarcerated inmate facing 20 plus years, to living in a halfway house, to author, to father & step father, and husband, homeowner and company owner- seemingly in the blink of an eye. Just writing that last few sentences put me back in the space shuttle or transcendence in my mind. It doesn’t seem real. But what’s all the more critical, is though I was very much involved in Church, and Recovery fellowships for quite some time, While all of this was manifesting and I was succeeding at seemingly everything I touched; I was horribly neglecting myself in an area that I still didn’t know existed. It’s really hard to explain and write this out, but I suppose paraphrasing a meme I saw recently would best suit it: “We set out to treat addiction, and we end up treating PTSD, Trauma, Depression, etc.” And that is me, in a nut shell. At the time, early in my walk, I thought that I had a drug problem. But what I know now, is that I thought that I had found a drug solution. And for me, and for me only, it didn’t matter how many times I read the bible, it didn’t matter how many 4th & 5th steps I worked, or how many amends I made; I needed to achieve atonement with myself and with my past. You see, I was the proverbial “turd polish” for a while. And what I mean by that, is, I guess it is similar to the old adage of “casting our pearls to swine”. No I am not the swine, I am not beating up on myself- but I was still so raw and needed to heal so badly, and so deeply. Yet all of these amazing things and amazing people kept coming my way, I thought that I was really doing the damn thing, and I was, but my deep internal wounds were still festering, and the new and present world was still coming at me in full force. I lost sight of what I was supposed to be doing. Healing as hard as I could. I was healing, but I took on so many what seemed to be blessings concurrently that those very things my recovery and new life were blessing me with, ended up eating me alive. I didn’t even know how to open or manage a bank account 6 years ago, and now all of a sudden I’m supposed to give a key note speech in fucking Idaho? I’m supposed to know how to truly raise a child? Four Children? I am supposed to know how to be in a healthy relationship? I am supposed to know about opening a business? Holy crap! Everything was so much. And it has been so much. Relationships. Kids. Dogs. Stress. Depression. Death. Life. Work. Writing. Dogs. Mortgage. Moving. Marriage. Vacations. In laws. Friends. Volunteering. Somewhere along the line somewhere, All of these serendipitous and wonderful things became not so wonderful. In my mind. Somewhere along the line, everything that I had worked so hard at for so long to obtain became such tremendous stress and struggle inside my already hurt and needing to be healed mind. I wasn’t mentally healthy enough to OBtain these things, let alone MAINtain them. And to my family, I am so sorry that I wasn’t able or ready to love you the way you needed me to when we first met. But I am now, and always will be a work in progress. And only through the intense therapy that I’m doing now, can I fully grasp the absolute sickening hells and traumas that my mind endured, and then built a space ship to escape in- first with playing with friends, then baseball, then acceptance, then drugs. Now I am slowly, day by day learning to really sit with myself and my broken mind. As it heals. Practicing these simple but effective little tricks, to snap out of my crazed bullshit upstairs like rumination and thoughts of suicide. What a bunch of irrational chaos. I know, it may be hard to grasp or understand, like how can this dude be for real right now? Like his life is so shitty (and scoff at the wind). It’s not, that’s the thing about healing from trauma, about healing from such wreckage and destruction and addiction and woe. We addicts, we survivors of trauma have endured some of the ugliest and most depraved of situations and the only thing that has kept us going on at times, at least for me, is this inherent/built in thing called resiliency. But that sad part about it all is, while we are still in the process of healing our wounds, we are gonna bleed on those who didn’t cut us.

Herb and the Giant Joy

It has been said that Comparison is the ultimate thief of joy. If you want something special and beautiful to lose its shine, the best thing you can do is compare it to something else.

Recently in a session it came up about how a local sports legend from here in Chicago Land was once a rather high stakes gambler of sorts. He would frequent the casinos and make enormous wagers on craps and black jack. As I recall and “Old Lore” story from one of his casino visits, Someone once asked him “Why do you place such huge bets?” referring to a 25,000$ per hand visit to the black jack table. To which he replied, “I have been on the biggest stages, in the most clutch moments, I have hit game winning shots in the finals, and taken home tons of hardware. I place this size of wagers, because 1: I can afford to, and 2: because the high stakes are what it takes to give me that rush, the higher the stakes, the higher the rush. Its what gets my heart racing.”

The chase. The rush. The pursuit. The comparison. Always looking for something bigger and better, always comparing the size of our potential rake, against the size and shape of our current bank roll. The higher the stakes, the bigger the potential rake, or loss. If we’re sitting on Billions of Dollars, then perhaps it does take such massive bets at a craps table to get the same rush as us commoners receive when we place a 10$ chip down on the circle, hoping to net a 9-to-1 take on that “Plus three”.

But anyways, the above is just a bit of an illustration that I think we can all relate to. We humans tend to become enamored in a multitude of ways, with the newest pickup trucks, or getting our new set of acrylics done, new tattoos, new IPhones, new things, new experiences, or perhaps upgrades or remodels of existing things that we love- a new back splash in our kitchen. Or a new stove, or a new washer and dryer. Sure, ours works just fine, and it fills the need that we have, but that new one, oh boy, that one would be so much better, wouldn’t it? We tend to compare. We compare our lives with the hand picked and often filtered photos of someone else’s life on social media, either for the better or for the worse. We compare out neighborhoods with those getting shot up on the news. We compare our kids, our jobs, we compare moments we have experienced against each other, like “oh this vacation was really fun, but that other one…Man that one was the best.” Sometimes it seems like information is coming at us so fast, that we cant help but process, compare, and digest it at such a basic and primitive level. Compare, judge, keep scrolling. Style over Substance. And that’s the opposite, I think, of the way things should be.

For me, I have personally experienced this, and it has become a bit of an obstacle. I often times feel bored, because were not constantly engaging in something stimulating FOR ME. I find myself comparing a Monday to a Thursday, because this day was “great” and this day was “bad”. Or I have found myself from time to time, doing something which has proven to be particularly damaging to myself and my family and life: Comparing my own Joys against each other.

I suppose, that even though I have stopped shooting dope, and smoking crack; and moved on to become a Family Man, and a successful writer, business owner, husband and father, I have still very much so been exhibiting addict traits and behaviors. I suppose that maybe, I become enthralled with: Volunteering, being successful, being needed, work, church, image, money, coaching, owning a home, writing, speaking, and all of the stuff that has come my way at a blinding pace over the last several years, that I lost myself. First of all, I was very much ill equipped for all of this success, and family, and emotions, and coping, and stress, and etc that came my way- on just the basic mature human levels. I was not mentally or emotionally prepared for being a step dad, or a dad to my Bio Son, Luke. I was not mentally or emotionally mature enough to handle a marriage, buying a home, starting a company, doing a fucking TEDX talk, or any of the 1,000’s of things that have come along. I have very much just been flying by the seat of my pants for a long time, and relying on my moral compass to get me through. “Just be a good person, and do the best you can. Say yes to new challenges, and help people along the way.” Was pretty much my motto up until recently. And it ate me alive. The stresses that came along with it have probably take about ten years off of my life, and have damaged some pretty damn important relationships. Not broken, but damaged. But the equally damaging flip side to it all, is the more I did, the more I said yes to, the more I put on my plate, and the more plates I stacked on to the sticks- Like the Unicycle Guy in the Circus- balancing all the spinning plates up in the air. The more families I helped, the more volunteering I did, the more the Adulation and Praise would come, the more I felt needed, the more the Dopamine flowed, the more cherished and value I felt- in the “wrong places”. Couple that with all the other stresses and shit that were coming and it was like a massive avalanche just waiting to Fall. To smother me. To come crashing down.

Psychobabble, I know. But there’s a point here, and it’s coming.

You see, The “basic” and “status quo”, the seemingly mundane joys, that are hidden in plain sight- a meal with our children and wives. A car ride to the car wash and ice cream parlor, Haircuts, dog walks. Playing catch with the boys, or taking the daughter driving for her license- these are the big joys. The moments and the milestones that matter the most. These are the cups that deserve to be the fullest. Not our jobs, not our status, not our labels, or our bank accounts.

Perhaps I’m an “emotional addict” too, if that makes sense. Or maybe all the crack smoke and injected Heroin has just done irreversible damage to my brain chemistry and I’m left always chasing that massive flood of dopamine, that can only be obtained by bigger and deeper emotional booms. Maybe I’m just an emotional person, who’s always thought that if it wasn’t that “Bottom of the 9th, 2 out bases loaded, down by three, game seven of the World Series, and I’m up at bat to Save the day- and Bust one deep over the right field fence to walk it off and win the series” Type of joy, then it wasn’t “real” at all. And that’s all stinking thinking. The fact of the matter is, that it doesn’t have to be “Giant” to be a joy. In fact, its the simple, its the moments where we can just breathe and take it all in, when we can notice the fall colors change, when we can just sit and enjoy a very uneventful meal with our families that are the “big” joys. The “Ho-Hums” the everyday, the moment to moment stuff, that’s important. If “Giant” joys come along, that’s cool, those are good too. But it doesn’t have to be monumental to be real. It doesn’t have to be compared to be special. It doesn’t have to have some deep and special and mystic meaning to have any meaning at all. Sometimes, its just a drive down the road, listening to your kids talk about whatever the fuck is important to them. Sometimes, its not hearing or saying anything at all, and just breathing, and having the privilege of being alive.

There is no external remedy to an internal conflict.

Not stuff. Not other people. Not chemicals. Not Money. Not status.

Sometimes, we just have to take a moment for ourselves, and breathe, and enjoy being present.

This is Psychobabble.

Rumination

Sound of alarm breaks through my sleep.

Instantly, and concurrently to my becoming conscious, negative thoughts begin to swirl.

“Fuck.”

Turn alarm off.

Feet hit the floor. Deep breath in and out.

“Ugh. Okay let’s go. Let’s see what this day has in store for us.”

Walk downstairs. Take a piss. Start the coffee. Smoke a Cig.

Finish first Cig. Grab a cup of coffee. Return to garage. Smoke another one.

Fear hits. Money worries. Work stress. Check Facebook. Nothing good.

Check bank accounts. Not broke, yet.

Check emails. Back to social media.

Nothing to provide immediate dopamine.

Smoke cig.

Walk inside. Sit down. Turn on the T.V. Watch the news.

It’s all bad news. Murder. Rape. Carjackings. Bullshit Politics.

We’re all gonna die. We’re all fucked. This world is fucked.

Scroll on phone.

Scroll on phone.

scroll on phone.

Nothing to provide immediate dopamine.

Check Crypto. Still not millionaires.

“Not that it would make me happy anyways.”

Smoke a cig. Worry about work.

Worry about Money.

Stress about the hours that lie ahead.

Get the kids off to school.

“Phew. Thank God the kids are off to school.”

Refill coffee. Stare at phone. no dopamine.

Negative thoughts invade.

Judge people on T.V.

Scroll on phone.

“I should go do something today.”

“Shouldn’t I be doing something productive today?”

“Nah there’s nothing to do.”

“My kids don’t love me.”

“My Wife doesn’t Love me.”

“Works gonna dry up.”

“This life isn’t sustainable.”

“These dogs are annoying.”

“Fuck those neighbors.”

Numb. No thought. Then more thought.

Fuck this. I might as well clean the kitchen or she’ll be bitching that I didn’t.

Fuck this place.

“We’re so lucky and blessed.”

Try to pray. Try to find gratitude.

Take the dogs out.

Judge what I think I know about my neighbor’s lives.

What do they think about us?

They probably hate me, I should go inside.

Shut the drapes.

Stare out the windows.

Pace the floors.

Switch the laundry.

Dryer finishes. Fuck folding it. Restart the Dryer.

Stare at phone.

play a game on my phone.

Think about sending an email.

But no one wants to hear from me anyways.

“Why doesn’t anyone call me anymore?”

“They must not want to hear from me. They probably don’t love me.”

“I should call them. Nah, fuck that.”

“I will tomorrow.”

“I’m really excited about (This thing coming up)”

The things comes up.

“How can I get out of this?”

God I just wish there was something I could do.

(Finds something to do)

Instantly dreads doing anything.

We need groceries.

Bills need paid.

Car needs gas.

Reba needs her medicine.

Kids need lunch money.

Sports. School clothes. Homework. Football. Vacations.

All things I want.

All things I dread and can’t handle.

Smoke a cig in the garage.

Thousand mile stare off into the woods across the street.

Smoke another Cig.

Stare at phone.

Recline on couch.

“I’m Coffeed out.”

Switch to water or Peach Tea.

Take Vitamins. Maybe this legal self medication will help.

Check emails.

Look at phone.

Watch TV.

Intrusive negative thoughts.

Everything is falling apart.

No one wants me anymore.

I’m just a gimmick.

“Why do I feel and think like this.”

“God, please remove these thoughts from me.”

The thoughts remain.

I take out the trash.

“These kids are fucking lazy.”

Take the dogs out. Stare at the grass.

It’s getting cold.

This winter is gonna suck.

I hate living here in the cold months.

If only there was somewhere I could go.

Intrusive thoughts.

“Maybe I should kill myself”

Dude. Don’t be crazy. This will pass.

“They’re better off without me.”

“No one needs me”

“Fuck this life shit.”

“it’s a trap.”

Check bank account. ‘

“I just know I’m failing.”

“My wife doesn’t want me. My Kids don’t love me.”

It will all fall apart soon.

I bet our neighbors have better lives.

This is all too much.

I feel invisible.

People only want FROM me.

People are fucked up.

I hate a lot of people.

I have no where to go.

I don’t want to go anywhere anyways.

I should probably take something for this.

I don’t wanna take any meds.

They wouldn’t help anyways.

I should probably delete all this.

No one will read it anyways.

It’s all just stupid psychobabble anyways.

I’m not even a real author.

No one cares what I have to say.

It doesn’t help anyone.

Yes it does.

Of course it does.

Take a break. Smoke a Cig.

No one is home in my neighborhood.

They’re all out living their exciting and productive lives.

And I’m stuck here in my head again.

For the 17th month in a row.

I’m gonna go for a drive, to clear my head.

(Goes for drive) Head does not clear.

I knew it was pointless anyways.

Nothings ever gonna change.

What’s the point anyways.

I feel like shit. Not physically, but mentally, which makes it physical.

I have no energy.

I feel so blah.

I should get back into the gym.

I should go for a walk.

I should go play golf.

Why can’t I laugh?

Why can’t I feel anything?

Why can’t I stop thinking?

Tomorrow will be a better day.

I can’t wait to go to sleep tonight.

Smoke a cig.

Eat some food.

Smoke a cig.

Scroll on my phone.

Compare my life to everything I see on my screen.

Judge my insides but what I see on TV.

Judge the world.

Feel nothing.

Check my bank accounts.

I know Ill be broke and homeless soon.

Do the dishes, listen to music.

Ahhhhh, the music. The music shuts it off.

Dishes are done. Time to turn the music off.

Take a shower.

Pray in the shower.

Try to cry.

Can’t.

Just feel the heat on my skin.

Stare at the white walls of the shower.

Transcend to years ago. Years from now.

Why can’t I just be here, now?

Because I’m a fuck up. Because I worry.

Dry off.

Dress.

Smoke a Cig.

No one really loves me. They just wanna use me.

Stare at my phone.

No dopamine.

Just. Stop. Thinking. Please.

I can’t.

Stare off into space.

Pet my dogs.

Smoke a cig.

Walk around my house.

judging everyone by what I see in their absence.

All I hear is the TV.

There is no one here.

Think.

Smoke.

Think.

Pace the floor.

Look outside.

Fuck this neighborhood.

Smoke a cig.

Judge the world.

judge myself.

Think

think

think

Kids are home.

fuck

More stress.

snacks.

snacks.

snacks.

Is that all these kids do is eat and cost money?

The same Hulu Commercial drones over and over.

This shits crazy.

Like a Requiem for a Dream loop or Montage.

It’s always the same.

Something stimulate me please.

Coffee?

didn’t work.

Smoke a Cig.

I hate Cigs.

I’m gonna quit.

This is my last one.

Smoke another one.

“When’s Dinner?”

Is that all these kids do is eat and cost money?

Kids don’t appreciate shit.

They don’t appreciate me.

They don’t love me.

My wife doesn’t actually love me.

She doesnt want me.

I feel invisible.

I just exist.

My phone rings.

Thank God, works picking up

Simultaneously

Fuck this.

I don’t have the energy for this.

Works up the energy to answer

“We’ve been calling about your cars warranty.”

Ugh.

Hangs up.

“Works never gonna pick up.”

Fuck this.

I’m Bored.

Nothing interests me.

If I just vanished, would anyone notice?

Of course they would. Idiot.

Quit thinking like this.

Continues thinking like this.

I know it’s all gonna fall apart soon.

They don’t really love me.

They just need me.

smoke a cig.

Fuck this homework shit.

“Do you have home work, buddy?”

“NO”

Thank God.

Stares at phone.

I wish I had chances to bond with my kids more.

(Chance comes)

I don’t wanna do that.

Stare at TV.

Watch a game.

Stare at phones.

Eat dinner.

Smoke a cig.

Smoke a cig.

Smoke a cig.

Stare at phone.

I can’t wait for bed.

I’m so tired.

I feel like I’m fighting off a cold.

Take dogs out.

Crate the dogs for the night.

Undress.

Lay in bed

Stare at TV.

Roll over.

Tomorrow will be better.

“Maybe”

Lay there thinking.

Fall asleep.

*Repeat*

Depression

Time Capsule

“I try not to think of hard times, I try hard to let the past go. I thank God that I’m a changed man, but some days I’m that same asshole.” (Jelly Roll~ “Same Asshole)

Time Capsule, Noun: A container storing a selection of objects chosen as being typical of the present time, buried for discovery in the future.

…Buried for discovery in the future….

Ain’t that the truth. That is exactly what I have recently been learning, That I myself have been a time capsule; only not for objects, but for memories and for hurts and feelings. I have been a time capsule of my childhood traumas, things buried deeply inside of me, only to be dug up in the year 36, dusted off, examined, filed, processed and let go of.

As I stated in my entry before this one, I have been back in therapy. And I don’t know what the particular reasoning is, but this time around it has really been effective, and I have finally been able and willing to honestly look at my past, and to openly admit to another human being the things that I have been through and have witnessed. But what’s equally, if not more important, is the way that I have been able to connect some dots in my mind, and in my heart as to who I am, and why I am the way I am.

You see, this entry is called time capsule, because I believe if you are anything like me, then that it was we can become at a very early age, as a result of protecting ourselves from harm. Someone once told me that “Not everyone who experiences Trauma goes on to become addicted, but everyone who has addiction, has experienced Trauma.” And I believe that 100%! You see, from the time I was young, as I outlined right before this, I had a really hard life. I had been through, witnessed, and experienced things that no child, hell, no adult ever should. And I suppose, that is when I entered my own “Space Shuttle” as a way to just disconnect, and avoid certain feelings, and experiences. But that set the precedent for the rest of my life, which is in fact the core of addiction. Using drugs is all about escape, and I suppose I was the Harry Houdini of drug addiction, I was a real life escape artist. I didn’t even really know at the time of my first cigarette, or my first beer that that’s what I was even doing. It was just instinct. It was something I guess I had learned at what, nine years old? Seven? Who knows, but enduring what I had at such an early age, robbed me of my innocence and forced me into “The wolves’ den” of survival and self preservation at an age when most kids like playing with toys, and side walk chalk. But I had no survival skills, other than close my eyes, think of something different, disassociate, and wait for it all to be over. But as I got older, I would find new or different things to lose myself into: Baseball, T.V, Acceptance from others, attention from a girl, being a class clown. Anything to keep my surface self visible, while concurrently hiding my internal self. And what also came along with that, which I find interesting is that I would compare other people’s “outsides” to my very own damaged and hurting “insides”. I couldn’t or wouldn’t express or expose the things that were hurting so badly inside of me, and just put on a brave and happy face to try and fit into this fucked up world, and then at the same time judge other “happy and enthusiastic” people up against the very things that I was hiding from myself. I have been quoted a few times, saying, “You just don’t get it, deep down inside I’m just a lost and broken hearted little boy.” And that was my self image and identity for a very long time, up until recently.

What’s also interesting to me, is that while all of this is going on, while I’m growing into adolescence, and adult hood, I’m still disassociating, and detaching; but the things that I have buried down deep are still there. Never fully processed, never fully acknowledged, never exposed. Hidden from myself. Yes, that is possible, believe me it is. The dusty old time capsule, buried deep in the secret places of my mind, like a physical malignant tumor, actually wedged inside my brain. And like any invasive material lodged inside our body, if it isn’t treated, if it isn’t removed, if it isn’t exposed and handled with care; infection looms. And the infections that come along with this particular ailment are Anger, Sadness, Self Pity, Resentment, Damaged Future Relationships, Drug Addiction, Depression, Poor Interpersonal Relationships, Fear, Inabilities to Cope, and all of the Et Ceteras. By shutting down to protect myself, by compartmentalizing everything, by stuffing it down deep inside of me in the time capsule, I might as well have wrapped a bundle of dynamite around it with a 36 year long wick. But how was I to know? I was just a child when all of this shit started forming my young and vulnerable mind. I still had so much awe and wonder, I still rooted for the good guys in the movies, I still played with and used my imagination. I was adapting to and surviving life as best as I could. How in the world could I have known that this was unhealthy? How could I know that this was not normal? I had never done life before, as far as I know, How was I supposed to know that certain things were okay, and others were not? I was literally just kind of drifting along, with very little protection, zero modeling, and zero refuge. I thought all kids were forced to watch two adults engage in oral sex at the age of nine. I thought all kids were forced into a room to beat the fuck out of each other. I thought all kids went to six schools in six years, and were dumped off from relative to relative while their dads chased their moms all over the country, not to return for months, or even years. I thought all of this shit was “normal” in my twenties, hell, even into my thirties. I was just a kid, I “knew” right from wrong, but I didn’t quite grasp Normal from abnormal. After all, “Normal” is just the sum total of what we are exposed to most, right? I had no “Control” to compare it to. This is what I knew. I knew it didn’t FEEL okay, and my internal Moral Compass told me that this was not okay, but I had no where to go with it- I had no refuge. I had no safe place. Everything and everyone around me was a complete fucking shit show. I don’t think I ever actually felt any kind of inner peace until I got fucked up for the first time. Every experience and every person I had ever encountered before that first numbing from substances was accompanied by this “Long Black Shadow”. Everything was tainted and blurry. Getting fucked up, I suppose, was a way to just numb it all away. And what’s interesting to me about that last thought, is that I remember the first time I got fucked up, I remember my first Cigarette buzz. I didn’t take it thinking, “Oh this will make all of my pain and traumas go away.” It was an “after the fact” realization. During the onset of the Cigarette buzz, and during my first drunk, I had noticed that I had no internal pain, I had no horrible memories. I could no longer feel the pressing of the tumor on my mind. It had temporarily numbed it. But, as I know now, it was like putting a band aid on a broken leg. But how was I supposed to know? I had been flying solo and flying blind for 16 years, hell, for 36 years. Learning and trying to unlearn as I went. Survival Mode since the 1980’s.

But one of things that I have learned recently, as we unearthed the dirty old capsule from it’s deep and dark hiding place inside my mind, is that everything I experienced, everything I witnessed, everything that was modeled to me went into this thing; to the point to where it was busting at the seams, and spilling into my present and active mind. Everything that I thought was “normal”, everything that I thought we all went through, all of it, became “who I am” and molded me into the adult human that I am today. Trauma Repetition. I come from harm, I come from trauma, I come from broken and damaged fucked up relationships, I come from loneliness, I come from uncertainty, and though I suppose it was an instinctual defense mechanism- shutting down and stuffing it all away, it never actually went away. It was silently and insidiously dictating everything I did, and everyone I went around.

I had such an incredible fear of abandonment, and as a result, when people would bully me, or try to exit my life, when a woman would cheat on me, when I felt like a relationship might end- I would run TO that person, instead of realizing that I actually deserved better. I did my best to do and be the opposite of everything I went through, but instead became an exact replica. I suppose that stuffing things down, and hiding from them, actually kept them even more so present and active in my mind and spirit. Allowing them to fester, grow, and adapt to my present circumstances, events, and relationships. Like the Tail was Wagging the dog, or like a Ventriliquist dummy. And I suppose that is why in my addiction and downward spiral, it was like watching myself do things, in third person. Because it was in fact, not my present and current self running the show, it was all of my past survival mechanisms kicking the can down the street in an effort to continue the numbing that I started at around elementary school. interesting.

Initially, the Time Capsule was inside of me, as I was in the Space Shuttle, but eventually, I entered the Time capsule myself. It consumed me. They say that when we get clean, we are the age at which we started using- Arrested Development. As the Prefrontal Cortex is not fully developed, and that makes a lot of embarrassing sense to me. Which I suppose makes me about 22 years old for all intents and purposes, right now. And it is our present and current relationships that bare the brunt of that. Unless we do something about it. And as I have re engaged into therapy, I have slowly been connecting the dots of my entire life. Things happened TO ME, not BECAUSE OF ME. And that provides me a great deal of refuge. So long as I am recognizing that harmful patterns from my past will and do crop up from time to time, and I can take the pause to change that thought to something positive and beneficial, I can avoid staying in that rut of perpetual shitty thinking and behaviors. It is on us to fully examine our whole life- from the “helicopter view” like watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, not just one float at a time, but with some help take an objective and outside look, at how we became who. Connect our dots, open the time capsule, examine the moments and events, process them, and then toss them into the sea.

We are not responsible for our addiction, we are not responsible for what happened to us, we are not responsible for our traumas, but we are responsible for processing them, addressing them, healing from them, and making the necessary changes to avoid the perpetual lineage of passing them down over and over.

We can not change what we refuse to confront.

Space Shuttle

Recently, there was an event. An event that led me to some monumental upheaval in my life, and in my mind. Or was it an event? Was it not still, as always, a culmination of both recent and not so recent and unhealed parts of myself coming to the surface? I find myself sitting in front of another therapist, finally willing to look at parts of my life, difficult ugly, and fragile portions of me that I had tried so hard not to acknowledge in many many years. I don’t even know if I possess the ability to try and explain all of these swirling thoughts in my heart and in my mind. But I owe it to myself, and to my readers, to try.

I was instructed to download/order a book by my therapist. A book which would help me better understand why I am the way that I am. Why my mind fires the way that it does. The premise is to “Recognize Patterns, Heal from the past, Create yourself”. Heal from my past? But I thought that I had already done that? Is that not what step work, confession, meetings, sponsorship, fellowship, etc. is all about? It is, but what I have realized in the last month + is that there are parts of me, parts of my past that I hid, even from myself if that even sounds possible.

What is Trauma? Have you ever experienced Trauma? How do you know that it was indeed Trauma, by definition? I personally never really fully understood the meaning of trauma until recently. I was just so used to saying things like “I’ve been through a lot”, or “I’ve had it rough for a long time”. I hadn’t ever really put 2 & 2 together until I was finally able and willing to speak some really ugly, and shameful truths about my life overall.

I suppose that I was so accustomed to chaos, and to surviving trauma, that in my recent years kind of developed a crack pot theory that went something like “I believe that, for some, the simple and basic process of merely growing up and living life, is traumatic.” And that is true, I believe, to an extent. My therapist said something like “Just think about it, the even of simply being born is trauma for some. Going from ‘sleep’ inside your mother’s womb, in the dark, comfortable and warm, then seemingly out of no where, BOOM we’re thrust into these blinding lights and our life here on earth has begun.” I can certainly get with that, but what do we as new born babies really process? Or is it mostly shock and awe that we first experience?

It’s very interesting to me, how these ideas and memories have seemingly been unlocked in my brain recently. I suppose that I have adapted to so much over my young 36.5 years here on earth that I have figured out how to protect myself through disassociation and compartmentalization. What’s equally interesting to me, is the way that I have adapted certain “responses” in my repertoire without even designing them, they just sort of happened.

They say that we are products of our environment, which I agree with to some extent, but we also must find a way to not be. We also must find a way to heal, and to overcome the things that we were born into. But for some, that is much easier said than done, and for me, I didn’t even realize until recently, that some of the things that I needed to overcome and heal from even effected me. I guess, I was just continuing on with my life as if I had healed from them, like some type of arrogant survivor of great battles; but the truth is, I never even acknowledged them. I was doing the exact same thing, as I was conditioned to do, that I had always done my entire life. I was stuffing things deep down inside, hoping that nothing would ever “prick” those memories, self medicating, and hiding from it all. But those of us who do not learn or heal from the past, are doomed to fucking repeat it.

The last time I was in therapy was some years ago, and the wonderful lady that I was seeing for my sessions kept using the term “Trauma Repetition”. At the time, and during the sessions when this buzz word would come up I would nod my head in agreement as if I actually had any sort of deep understanding of what this meant. I didn’t, but I think that I am starting to understand it now. Those of us who are familiar with Recovering Addicts/Alcoholics, or have been around anyone who struggles with Mental Health or Substance Abuse have probably heard them say something along the lines of “Oh, I’m really good at bouncing back, I can ‘come up’ with the best of ’em”. But what is that really saying? Is it saying “All I know is the constant cycle of chaos/destruction/trauma, and how to burn things to the ground as a result, then compartmentalize it, dust myself off, and only bounce back as far as my repetition cycle will allow me to, only to go and do it all over again” ? I hope that that makes sense, because I can see it in my mind. And that’s what I’ve known, and done for pretty much all of my life. Trauma Repetition. The idea that I am only truly “Comfortable” in the turmoil, in the chaos, and in the “rebuilding” from said turmoil in some self preserving facade to “prove” (Delude) myself that i have actually made progress, when in fact, nothing deep down inside has actually ever been addressed- because I have never been spurred to actually go deep, go back, and open up those old dusty boxes buried inside my mind.

And what I am starting to realize lately, is that if I/we do not confront those unhealed parts of our childhood, or those painful parts of our adolescence then our current relationships and our current life are the ones who are going to pay the price for that. I think this is what they mean when they say “If we don’t heal from our past wounds, then we will bleed on people who never cut us.” Interesting.

I suppose, looking back on things, without getting into graphic or specific details with you, as I am still discussing much of this in real time with my therapist, my first recollection of something traumatic was when my little brother was born. I was so excited to have a little brother, and to be a big brother. I would feel little Luke’s kicks and movements, and remember feeling so excited and proud that I was gonna have a little brother to show the world to. But when the day finally came, everything was a blur. I suppose the fact that I was only 4 or 5 at the time played a part in this, but I don’t actually remember the day he was born, the very difficult part came just a few short days afterward. I don’t remember a conversation beforehand, and I don’t remember much after, but what I do remember was that I adamantly refused to leave the hospital; I stayed by my baby brother’s bed side for almost four weeks, with my mom, as my brother was clinging to life inside some kind of tent, an incubation tent maybe as he was immediately battling Pneumonia. I figure this was my real and lasting trauma event, because of the not remembering much else on either side of said event, and because of how I remember feeling at the time. I was maybe 5 years old at the time, and this was already my first brush with death, my first brush with catastrophic loss. Seeing his tiny little body inside this clear plastic tent, under bright warming lights, with tubes and monitors coming and going from his body, that I can still see now when I close my eyes.

Moving on from here, intermittent trauma was pretty much part of my life. And no, I am not blaming, and I am not excusing anything, I am just trying to share with you all what I have been learning about myself recently in hopes that perhaps this will reach someone who needs to hear it, and in turn, address their own past and heal.

When I was about kindergarten age, we lived in a very diverse apartment complex in Peach Tree City, Georgia. I was just like any other kindergarten kid, I just wanted to play with friends, ride my bike, and be a little boy. I had made a friend about 2 buildings down, a black boy about my age, who’s name escapes me, but I want to say that it was Monty. Me and Monty played together every single day after school. We were best buddies. We would ride bikes together and swing on the swings, and just run around the complex catching bugs and exploring life. Well, one day I rode my bike down to Monty’s door and knocked as I always did, and was prepared to ask my routine question, “Can Monty come out and play?” And when the door pulled open, I saw a couple “big kids” standing there. So I asked, but I immediately remember feeling fear, and started to kind of tread backwards, in retreat. The two big kids, who I still don’t know who they are to this day, came outside on to the stoop, and started pushing me around, picking on me and saying really mean things to me. Things like “Oh this that little honky boy Monty always talkin bout, yeah we heard about you- Stevie. Nah we done heard that Monty been runnin around with you and you need to get ya little pink ass up outta here.” They pushed me to the ground and kicked me in the face, they slapped me, they spit on me, and every time I tried getting up, they would push me down again. I remember being scared, like really scared for the first time. One of the big kids went inside and grabbed a broom, and then proceeded to beat me repeatedly with it while the other boy absolutely destroyed my little bike and threw it down into a culvert. Finally Monty came running out trying to help me, but was carried back inside crying about what was being done to his buddy. Eventually, a neighbor heard the ruckus, and came out to break it all up and help me back home. I was bloodied, scraped, crying, and my feelings were so hurt. When the neighbor finally got me back home and inside to explain what had just happened, it got even worse. My mother threw on her shoes, and walked down the sidewalk and knocked on the very door where all of this just happened. Now I couldn’t hear what was being said, but I could see that mom was very angry. I think my Dad was holding me back, as I didn’t want to see any more violence or anyone to get hurt. The mother of the big kids who just did this to me emerged from the apartment and a confrontation ensued. Out of no where the lady goes to grab or push my mom, and then got dealt a brutal right cross that sent blood, spit, and teeth flying out into the grass. I believe this lady was asleep before she even hit the ground. And as soon as she did hit the ground my mom proceeded to stomp her guts out, kicking her in the face and downward heal stomping her head. Once she was satisfied with the revenge that was just dealt she came back to the apartment, helped my dad wash all of the blood and snot and tears off my face, sat down and smoked a Marlboro Red 100. I was in Kindergarten.

This was the type of shit that I was exposed to on the regular. And I used to excuse it as, “It was Georgia in the 90’s, it was a really crazy time”, but the fact of the matter is no child should have to experience shit like this. And it didn’t stop. Shortly after this, my parents, and Monty’s parents made us fight each other, and neither one us wanted it to happen. “Beat his ass or ill beat your ass boy” type shit, they pushed us at each other, and I refused, but Monty did not. It was very horrible and scary to not throw a single punch and to get the shit kicked out of me by my best friend. All because a little white boy wanted to be friends with a little black boy. It’s disgusting. And shortly after that, Monty and I found a way to sneak down to the park and play. His older cousin Travis caught us swinging on the swings. He tried to play nice like he wasn’t bothered at all, and had asked us if we wanted to see the new golf club he had just found in the dumpster of the apartment complex. So, being kindergarten naive kids, we said something like “oh yeah, AWESOME!!!” Well, Travis used that Iron to split my head open from the top of my eyebrow-backwards, and then had the soul less audacity to drag me up from the park and knock on a neighbors door asking for help, and he fucking got away with it too, after I was taken by ambulance and the cops had left, because he convinced them all that it was an accident, and that we were just playing around. It breaks my heart that someone could do something like this to a little boy.

I never spoke to Monty again. We would see each other on the bus, or at recess, but we never spoke another word to one another again. I hope he didn’t turn out like his predecessors.

From there, it never really got any easier to understand either. Most of you know that We moved a lot. I went to a different school every single year until I was in 7th grade. But what was concurrent with that, and what was concurrent with the constant battle between my father and my mother’s family, what was concurrent with the power or water being shut off, what was concurrent with the fights between my mom and dad, and with the constant turmoil and unknowns, was that I was repeatedly molested by various people in my life from the time I was about 7 to the time I was in about 4th grade. Not by my parents, not anything like that, but by the older kids in the trailer park. Now, I’m gonna spare the details here, but just believe me on this one. It was not a good feeling to go out and ride bikes, not knowing what was going to happen to me that day. Was I gonna be forced to do things I didn’t want to do? Was I going to get beat up? Both? And one of the major reasons (I think) that I never told anyone until now, was that I don’t know if I ever really felt safe enough to tell anyone. Would I be called a Faggot, or a pussy by my own family? I was a little boy, and the things that were happening were happening at the hands of high school kids, and young adults. I was defenseless. And I believe that when all of these things were happening to me, during this critical time of mental development in my youth, was when I started to “Learn” how to detach, or disassociate as a form of self protection. If I can just escape into my little “space ship” inside my mind, this will be over sooner, and I wont feel a thing. And it worked. And it was a practice, or defense mechanism that I would be utilizing for a very long time.

Size Matters

Recently, My Wife and I took the boys up to a lake cottage in Michigan for some fishing. We loaded up the tackle, swim trunks, snacks, and everything we might need while away for a weekend to unplug and reconnect with one another. At first it was a little frustration on my part, as being a father of 2 teenagers and a nine year old would mean much time spent fixing tangled lines, taking fish off the hook, tying on hooks and etc. And it first it was just that. I offered many “breath prayers’ Silent prayers along the way to help keep me on an even keel and focused. Luke caught a bass on his first cast too which was awesome! The boys, myself and my wife all had a great time! We even took the pups, who had no experienced the water yet, so we weren’t sure how they would take to it. But they absolutely loved playing in the water! They even swam out to retrieve the ball we would throw out there and we could tell they were really enjoying themselves!

The first day was friday and we pretty much just spent the day fishing, and getting settled in and getting to know the lay of the land. We had some snacks, caught some fish, and as we sort of got fished out, we decided to pull the kayaks out for a nice little change of pace and to get out on the water. As much as I love the water, and being out on it, it tends to add a little tension when there are kids involved, life jacket or no life jacket. So, at first I was a bit antsy, but that dissolved away almost immediately as I saw how easily they took to them.

I know, some of my writings now, as I have been told, are “Boring now” and I understand that. The old War Stories and etc. have long since passed and now here I am writing about life lessons and other “ho hum” stuff. But that’s what happens when things change. I don’t have any more accumulating war stories anymore. Now I write about my experiences in life, and some still are very painful, and some are really good- since I stopped shooting questionable chemicals into my arm.

But anyways, back to the idea that’s been bouncing around in my head since last weekend, and hopefully how I can encapsulate it all into one entry here.

Throughout the weekend, and, really any given day or week, we all tend to have an ongoing chemical reaction in our brains as a result of various stimuli. Something good happens with work: we feel a little reward, we will call that “+1”. Something bad happens at home: “-2”. We receive some good new: +2. etc. and on we go throughout our days constantly feeling a little bump in the positive direction, or a little bump in a negative one. An ever existing chain of experiences throughout our days that ultimately end up becoming our lives in total. Some stretches it can seem like everything is on the positive trajectory, and some negative. And either of these directions can and will ultimately end up with some type of culmination, and are often decorated with a brilliant life lesson, or memory attached to them, and then we spin off into a whole nother direction. And this weekend was not an exemption. It was truly beautiful how this whole series of moments built into one another, but it was interesting in how all the +1, +2, +5’s built into something that made me feel so very small. But small, in a very beautiful way.

As a human, I/We can tend to ride the waves of these chemical reactions and rewards in a number of ways. Especially in this day of Instant information, Social Media, and etc. And it can leave us feeling incredibly over inflated, or horribly empty, sometimes even just numb and alone. We thrive on reactions, likes, posts, recognition, appreciation, and etc. And all of our “+2′, +3’s” etc can lead us to feeling incredibly “big”, full of ego and sometimes arrogance because we have been on such a winning streak lately that we can often feel like we are invincible and giants of our little section of life here. Usually, If I am locked in enough to see the red flags of Ego returning I am able to scale myself back enough before I end up owing some amends somewhere, which usually go hand in hand, My Ego, and then owing amends that is.

But interestingly enough, During this trip to Michigan, I got to experience one of those little winning streaks, that left me feeling so incredibly small, which is actually kind of paradoxical, but in the moment it made so much sense to me.

When was the last time you felt incredibly Big? When was the last time you felt incredibly small? As humans, I feel like we tend to see things as, for the most part, bigger is better, and smaller is not so good. (insert whatever inappropriate joke you like here. lol ) But this time, it was the other way around. It was small, and it was peace, and it was just this moment. Which ended up being what I refer to as a Top 5 Moment.

Friday evening, about one hour before darkness completely swallows the Lake, trees, and settles in on us, Logan and I decide to take another spin around the lake on the kayaks, and do some fishing around the lilly pads docks and try to grab some of the bass that come into feed on the smaller ones and top water prey. It has been a very fun filled and exciting day. Lots of pictures, lots of fishing, lots of sun. We fill up a couple plastic worm bags with hooks, and soft plastic lures to push off and go after the big ones. Knowing that we are going to be out on the water, I leave my phone on the picnic table safely on shore, buckle my life jacket up, load my pole and oar, and push off onto the black looking lake and coast on out. Logan is right behind, the water is like glass, and the only sounds are the swooping birds just over head. Everything is still, and the gentle curls on the water is the only thing letting anyone know that we are out here. Random fires burn on shore throughout the lake. The sky to one side is burning orange as the sun dunks down behind the trees, and a few stars and the moon begin to take center stage. We didn’t catch one damn fish. cast after cast after cast. Nothing. It’s just a father and son, out here silently enjoying this moment. No phones, no distractions, no sound even really. Just two laser focused guys out here enjoying a quiet getaway, on a getaway out on the lake.

Seemingly out of no where, a very low rumble of thunder begins to quake and roll throughout our area. It was weird, because it felt like it was actually coming up from underneath the kayaks. But the skies were still clear, with the exception of one little peak of a high top storm cloud slowly inching its way into the horizon. Closer and Closer it got. emerging into our view of the world. At the moment, I thought absolutely nothing of it. It was just a cloud. “Hey Herb, since we’re not catching anything, you wanna go all the way out to the middle of the lake and see what we can see?” My fishing buddy asked me. And of course, I said “Let’s do it!” We bungeed our poles, and took to paddling our asses off, clear out into the middle of the massive lake. And the more we rowed, the further out we got, the more the silence grew. The shore continued to disappear, and the view of the cloud began to grow. It is now about 15 minutes before it becomes completely black outside, and the remaining sun has now illuminated this giant storm cloud like a light show. Brilliant orange, pink, and even grays light up this enormous thunder maker like a giant light bulb. We both notice it literally at the same time, and slow our kayaks to turn to face this miracle of mother nature.

Our kayaks gently bump against each other, to a complete stop and there is not a single sound to be heard anywhere. KABOOM! And a Giant bolt of lightning shoots out of the top of this cloud, as if on cue for only us to see. And again, and again. This cloud was the only one that we could see anywhere. Everything else was a deep blue or purple as night was falling. But the cloud was showing off, for just us! Bright Pink, Orange, and Grays lit up like the Fourth of July. Bolt after Bolt after Bolt. Erupting with a chorus of Raucous thunder. Strikes down, Strikes, up, three, four, five bolts at a time. It looked like one of those Plasma Ball lightning things that you put your fingers on and the little lightnings are attracted to your touch. It just rolled and rolled. Bolts from up and out the top of the cloud, even completely sideways. I have never seen anything like it, it was like a little fired up ball of static was erupting right in front of our eyes, Logan was noticeably in awe. Mouth wide open, laser focused on what he was seeing. With the exception of a few “wows” and “holy shit’s did you see that one?!” There was no sound, outside of this little rock concert we were now witnessing. Boom after Boom, and it seemed like it went on for hours, but we all know it was only just a few short minutes. But that’s the point; it DID seem like we sat out there for at least an hour. And it was very strange to me, how for that moment, I could literally see and feel these two tiny little almost insignificant little specks (us out on the lake) sitting out in the middle of what seemed to us to be a giant lake, but the lake paled in comparison to the cloud, the cloud to the sky, and the sky to the moment. And what is even cooler, is that the moment was technically the smallest of all. Just a series of chemical reactions in our brains that transmitted what we were seeing, but yet it seemed to be the biggest of all. it was very surreal. Two Tiny specks, on a “great big tiny lake”, on a tiny little section of michigan, on a tiny little rock floating in space, in a little galaxy called the milky way, which is drifting around through the vastness of space. And in this little tiny section of time, the moment seemed bigger than it all, but was the smallest of it still. I felt so fragile, vulnerable, tiny. Like the smallest of dust particles being kicked up by the hooves of horses in the battle of all time existence. It was very strange. And it was very beautiful. The way that Time, and Size seemed to intertwine so perfectly well in this little slice, for just me and Logan to enjoy.

Sometimes, we think that being important, means that we need to feel big. Sometimes, we think that being noticed means to always be seen, or felt, or celebrated. But I learned in this little bit of time and space, that sometimes, it is the moments that no one else sees, that can be the most influential, and the little tiny slices of life, with no words, and no sound, and no distractions, that can bear the most fruit. No one else on this planet got to see what we saw, or feel what we felt, from our perspective at that exact moment, and that makes it the most valuble type of moment there is. Incredibly rare and hard to come by. Small and mighty. We own that. It was absolutely awesome to see and feel and be a part of.

So no, Bigger is not always better. Seen is not always the way. Reactions and views, and certificates, and attention aren’t always the way to ones heart, or to the “good stuff”. Sometimes its the opposite. There was such Humility in this moment. To know that there is so much more that we don’t know than we do know, to know that there is such power in being small. To know that to be the right size throughout our days is a super power, and to know that time can stand still when the moment is right, was a very humble moment for me. To witness such power in nature, and power in a bonding moment with me and my son was absolutely breath taking.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the world.

Stay small my friends, stay the right size.

Vision

As the sun set on 2019, and we were all gathered-or not; but watching on TV- as the last year of our most recent decade passed. I, like so many, as always was quietly stirred inside and filled with much anticipation and excitement, for the beginning of a new year. A new decade. The ball begins it’s decent and the hosts of our chosen coverage began to pump up the watching masses as the countdown commenced. 10…9…8….7…6….5…4….3…2….1….Happy New Year!!!! As the confetti flew and the fireworks erupted, we hugged, we kissed, we high fived and the celebrations began, those watching quietly a home clicked off their sets and headed off to bed. But no matter how you chose to enjoy the closing of 2019, and the opening of 2020, I would speculate that even the least celebratory of us still had a bit of a jolt of eagerness inside of them. How could you not? New Year’s Eve and Day are always a special time. It is almost like the door to new opportunities and challenges is once again opening and for one 24 hour period we get to sort of “Start over” again. En Masse, we have forgotten at least temporarily the past struggles, and look ahead to a much brighter day and with much hope. In one 24 hour period, the world, at large is united in Hope, Jubilation, and friendship as we embark on the journey ahead, of tacking another year and doing the best that we can to make this world a better place.

And then 2020 happened.

I have always been the “Eternal Optimist”. I have always held on to the motto “No matter what, its gonna be okay”. That has at many times, been the one slogan that has kept me going. And coming into this year and even now I still keep it. Because I still believe it. But this year has been hands down the most challenging of my life personally. And not just because of covid either. Just. Fucking life man. 2020 has brought many blessings into our lives collectively. For us, We have purchased our first home, a new vehicle, we were granted custody of luke, I started a company of my own, I have been asked to Join the Lake County Drug Court Team, I have authored several Bill Proposals that have been accepted into Legislature and are gaining some love down in Indy. We celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary, and we have had some really special and fun times this year, mostly in the warmer months when we could be outside. So, no, 2020 has not been a total wash out, but I, like so many I am sure cannot seem to not feel like it has been.

Even if you personally have been mostly unaffected during this year, directly speaking that is, I would venture a guess that even you have felt the weight of the world on your shoulders at one point or another. Just the added stress, the unknown, or maybe just the annoying people on the news or social media has been enough to ruffle your feathers more so than a normal year. It’s been weird. To say the least. We have seen some crazy, sad, stressful and ugly shit this year. I mean, Kobe Bryant died. doesn’t that seem so long ago? It does for me. My Wife and I were just talking about that the other day. Seems like Five Years ago. But it was only like 11 months. Time has really done a weird twist this year. Time has really proven itself irrelevant to me. Sometimes it feels like this year has been a blink, and other times it feels like a decade. With all of the added chaos, uncertainty, politico, Covid, Unrest, it has really just compounded so much into a very large, hard to swallow pill. And I have seen so many folks out there, who continue to carry on as if completely unbothered by all that this year has presented us with, but yet clearly carry with them a new found hatred for “The Other Side” and that, makes you just as, if not more affected than most. I have seen so many hardened hearts, so much judgement, condemnation, ridicule, and ugliness come out; merely as a biproduct of this crazy year. It is very sad to me. Especially when I see who it is that is showing these types of colors. Not going to point them out, but I see it.

And what is to me, poetic about all of this, is that going into this year the trending slogan of hope and excitement on all the Hashtags and Social Media Accounts was this: “20 20 Vision”.

How’s your vision now?

I often use the word turbulent when I write, and I believe that is just simply put, one of the best words to describe this human experience that we all find ourselves in. Full of ups and downs. Hopes and fears. Ebbs and flows. Nothing is certain, and no matter how similar each day seems, they’re never actually the same. And of all of the years that I have been alive, no year for me has ever embodied that thought, that word- Turbulent, than 2020.

Many of us have remained home as best we can. We avoid the simple pleasures that we once enjoyed freely, going to the movies, or a favorite restaurant. We shop from home. Many of us have even been forced out of work and find ourselves over drafting accounts to pay a bill, or deciding which bill is priority over the rest. We’re e-learning now, we Zoom thanksgiving, we are missing time with our friends and loved ones. And some of us, like my family and I, have lost someone very dear to us to Covid. And the sick Irony to that last sentence there, is that I was once someone who discarded Covid as some bullshit over blown propaganda. I do not feel that way about things today. So yes, “2020 Vision” does in fact seem to be the appropriate Hashtag. At least for me. 2020 has corrected my vision in so many ways. It has softened my heart, it has enlarged my empathy to so many causes, ideas, and to other human being’s lives that I was once so unexposed to and ignorant of. Not ignorant in an unsophisticated way, as so many people choose to use that word. But ignorant in an uneducated about way, an uninformed way. Lacking knowledge on a particular topic way. I have seen so much good, and so much bad all in the same year it makes my head spin when I think about it.

Just to put on the scales of balance for illustration purposes: We bought our dream home in March, and in August my brother and protector, my best friend Died all alone in a hospital with no one by his side. From the Corona Virus. I would burn this house to the ground and roast marshmallows on the flames if I could have him back. He is and always will be one of the finest human beings to ever walk this earth.

But as 2020 begins to come to a close, with nothing but Christmas in between now and 2021, I believe that I have gained some valuable perspective on a number of things. And it was hard won too. I damn near completely lost my mind this year. I was in one of the craziest and darkest places that I have ever been. Stress, anxiety, Marriage, a new home, money, kids, covid, expectations, reality, acceptance, family, isolation. Talk about one of the most fucked up mindsets I have had in a very long time. And I almost pissed everything away as a result. All of this ended up in one of the most painful mental growth spurts that I have ever had. But also came to culmination into some of the sweetest realizations I have had the joy of experiencing… I am in fact a very blessed man, and my family loves me very much. Family is everything, Health is wealth, and no matter what it is going to be okay. Yeah, so maybe it did take the help of some more therapy and Zoloft, so what? What kind of man would I be if I constantly talked about “reaching out for help”, If I too didn’t do so? I have never nor will I ever speak about how I have it all together and am some how just miraculously cured from 30 years of trauma and poor mental health. I seek help when I need it. And this year has really humbled me and at times really kicked my ass. Which, to be honest was kind of needed. Sometimes I can get a little “too big for my britches” as my grama used to say. And though the struggles will continue, the good and bad times will come and go as they always have, this I know.

But my thoughts and Prayers this morning are that I truly hope we all, every one of us have obtained something good, special, and wholesome from this year. Whether it is appreciation for what we do have, empathy for others, understanding, kindness, or maybe the desire to advocate and champion some much needed reforms in our own communities. I can personally admit that I am recovering, not just from heroin addiction, but from my old ways of thinking, old judgement, prejudices, bitterness, resentment, grudges, and so many old mindsets. Even though the holiday rush is squeezing in on us, and this year has been a whirlwind, and we are not out of the woods yet- I feel like I have finally grown up. I feel like I have finally matured enough to not be a fucking crazy person and I have emotionally and mentally healed enough to keep those old skeletons at bay. It’s crazy how time and pressure makes diamonds, and likewise can make us grow and shine. No matter how painful the process is. I feel like I have some peace in my heart as this year comes to a close. Yes, I will always miss my brother, and I will always look back on my past mistakes and fuck ups with conviction and remorse, but I no longer have to be held hostage by either, and I know that if there is anything I can do to Honor my brother, it is to continue to stay clean and do my best to personify all of the traits that I respected so much in him.

My prayer this morning is that all of you stay well, and take care of yourselves and each other. That your next year be filled with increase and joy. That 2021 be equally, but oppositely amazing to the stress and chaos that 2020 has been thus far. I pray that We have all found some poetic and hard won life lessons, and garnered a new mindset and appreciation for this special thing called life. 2020 has not been the year of getting what we want, but for appreciating all and who we do have.

All life is precious. Feelings are not facts. There is no big me, little you. or little me, big you. No mercy for me and justice for you. Everyone struggles, and others who struggle are not your enemy. May we all be kind and empathetic towards one another in the coming months and years. No one is competition, I hope we all make it.

D o p a m i n e

 "Drug of Choice"
Not exactly the correct way to put it. Least not for me.
It's not even about drugs. I mean maybe to an extent.
But the Chemical itself wasn't as much of a factor as some may believe.
This idea is really just kind of like a preferred flavor.
I preferred Opiates. I preferred Heroin. But Did I really?
No.
I preferred Oblivion. Blotto.
Just shut it off.
My Drug of choice evolved. And I made My way to the deepest of bottoms.
One Compromise at a time.
Small compromises at first, Increasing in size over time.
Sacrificing my future for the moments.
Sacrificing more and more along the way.
But all of this, in and of itself was a compromise to my truest self.
I preferred a bond.
I preferred belonging.
I preferred to feel loved.
I preferred to feel.
My first drug of choice?
Not the traditional chemical.
But a Chemical reaction that occurred in my brain.
A Dopamine hit.
The Chemical reaction that occurred in my brain when I felt this:
ACCEPTANCE.
The feeling that I was okay, that I was loved, in spite of all my flaws and insecurities, just as I was day in and day out. That I was good. That I was loved. That I mattered.
To someone.

I loved my family.
They did their best. I loved all of them.
But I only really felt bonded with few of them. And that was ripped away.
Then I was shuffled around like a kid in the system.
So I looked for something to bond with.
I looked for someone to bond with.
I am not sure why I never bonded deeply with them like I should have.
Maybe it was me?

I searched for outside validation.
I searched for a place that I fit in.
I sought for ways to fill this void.
The more I fed the void, the deeper it became.

At first it was baseball.
Video games.
Acting out.
Being a class clown.
A Girl's attention.
The wrong friends.
The right friends.
Anything for that Dopamine hit.
Instant Gratification.
I had to Chase it.

My first Cigarette wasn't enough.
My first drink wasn't enough.
Weed. No.
Sex. No.
Video games. no.
I had to chase it.
The more I fed it, the larger it grew.
Maybe just one more will satisfy.
Nope.
If I hit a home run on the ball field, I needed another one.
I just wanted to feel special.
I just wanted to feel celebrated.
I still do.
I just wanted to feel relevant.
I just wanted to feel noble.
I just wanted to feel.
Something.
but also, nothing at all.
I had to chase. I had to be on the move.

Looking back on things, I wasn't chasing towards anything.
I was running from everything.

Pot became Pills.
Pills became powder.

My friends became my adversaries.

I became someone else.
Just chase it.
Just get another one.
shut it off.
Shut it down.
Get high
Stay high
Nothing matters.
When I cant feel.

Oblivion. Blotto. Blackness.
Out of sight and out of mind.
anything for a dopamine hit.
anything to make me feel something other than what I am.
Why work hard?
Why sacrifice?
Why study? Why practice?
Why go home?
Why tell the truth?
Why be me?
When this one 10$ bag makes it so much easier.
To do nothing.
to be nothing.
to lie.
to be someone else.
to just fucking escape.

Increase pleasure. Decrease pain.
Both please.
Just stay numb.
and chase towards and run away from
the exact same things.
The generational loop in perpetuity
Run from my broken home.
Run from my lack of bonds
run from my childhood.
run from the beatings
the embarrassment
The trailer parks
run from watching dad hitch hike on highway 74 and out of your life
run from the welts
run from the heart ache.
run from the domestics
run from the insecurities
run from the pain
chase towards the numbing of pain
chase towards the insecurities
chase towards domestics
chase towards the heartache
chase the welts
chase towards that highway
chase the trailer parks
the embarrassments
chase the beatings
chase the childhoods
chase the fractured relationships. Run to what broke you.
create a broken home....

Ill be damned. I ended up becoming everything that I was running from.
**********************************
This is the result of a phone call that I took from a gentleman yesterday.
He is an Atheist. I am a Believer.
But we share something in common.
He didn't push his, and I didn't push mine.
This is the beauty of recovery.
It's the clear cut difference between religion and spirituality.
Religion is for those afraid of hell.
Spirituality is for us who have been there.
We share that common pain.
That survivors bond.
Recovery is where Priest learns from Plumber.
Zero Judgement.
Wounded Warriors.
Two Lost Souls.
Swimming in a fish bowl
Pink floyd.

*******************************
This is the beauty of it all. There is no drug of choice. It is all the same.
We're all just wanting to feel optimal, or nothing at all. We addicts.
We get clean and get super into working out. Or shoes, or clothes, or the opposite sex.
Or work. Or God. Or art. Or Music. Or dogs. Or reading. Or writing. Or helping others. Or meetings.
Or church. Or food. Or family. Or Netflix. Or Cars. Or Money. Or Purpose.
Or Nothing.
Or we fall back into it.
To once again shut it off.
Everyone is addicted to something.
Everyone just wants to feel loved
to feel special
to feel respected
to feel celebrated
to feel a purpose.
Addiction is emotional

We are driven by chemical reactions in our brains.
Some of us more than others.

Increase pleasure.
Decrease Pain.
Dopamine.

Gift Horse

Yesterday I took a phone call from one of my Banquet brothers. He calls me periodically just to shoot the shit. He is one of my predecessors and someone I admire greatly. He has been in recovery for a long time, in fact, I believe the last wine he drank was actually at the last Supper. LOL! But he’s a good man, and I always look forward to our talks, and to working with him, helping our struggling brothers find recovery. During our most recent phone call, our conversation turned to the topic of Gratitude, which was fitting because it was just a couple days after thanksgiving and Gratitude has been the main theme of the month for most of us. We took turns going back and forth about what gratitude means to each of us, and how we “stay grateful”. I use the quotes there, because I don’t know if it is even possible to stay grateful all of the time. At least not for me.

I truly believe and have long said that one of the most “Dangerous” people in the world, in my opinion, is an addict who has lost their gratitude. But as I think about that now, I believe the one critique I can make to that statement is not ‘gratitude’, but appreciation. And there is a fine line in my brain. I can wake up every single day grateful that I am no longer homeless, strung out, and committing crimes; but do I appreciate that? And if the answer to that question there, is no, then I am once again that Ticking Time Bomb from book #1. And I have been. Several times over as a matter of fact. The last 6 years have been turbulent in a million ways, lots of good, lots of bad, lots of in betweens. But the Mental growth spurt that really led me to where I am this morning, was the loss of appreciation, coupled with unmet expectations, and unlimited comparisons. Which ultimately led me into a pretty damn dark spiral of depression, bitterness, and anger.

You know, we addicts are an interesting bunch. I always say, “I got clean because I wanted a better life, and I stay clean because I got one.” But it’s not just that simple or effortless. Life has kicked my ass over and over again, to the point of white knuckled, pick up the God Damn Phone moments. And what’s more, is that, with the exception of the loss of my brother, nothing was ever really “That Bad”. Any situation, that I think I have found myself in, is usually of my own making, and the sum total of the same equation listed above. Which ultimately had me pretty fucking delusional for a while. I do, in fact, have an absolutely amazing life, and a perfect marriage with Tiffany. But it actually took me some time, yep, to truly realize that. And I think that’s why our first “nickle” is so important.

I spent 29 years not knowing shit. I spent 29 years not knowing healthy relationships, healthy love, healthy home, life, etc. I spent 29 years in the “upside down”, counter culture of society, and all of the bad that it had to offer. So how in the fuck can I possibly rebuild myself, love others, and truly come to grips with life, self esteem, worth, love for others and etc in just 5 years? I cant. And this is why it is so important for us to ALLOW ourselves to get vulnerable, and allow others to love us until we can love ourselves. So many who have followed me for many years, see the results. The smoke and Mirrors of it all. They don’t see me driving around the county roads bawling my eyes out because I feel like a failure of a father and husband, only to return with my best big boy face on and try and hold it together. They don’t see all of the hard work and gritted teeth and tears that went into this entry this morning. It has been very difficult and quite frankly humiliating at times. I knew that I wanted to get clean and stay clean and have a better life, but what’s interesting is that I never learned how to truly appreciate it all. Until, honestly, recently. And I am not sure why either, it’s interesting to me.

But maybe it is because I have never really known Pride, or a sense of accomplishment. Maybe it’s because I felt undeserving, or like I was always waiting on the other shoe to drop? Or maybe its a product of my past life and the ways I was living, and my victim mentality. A Self fulfilling, self defeating prophesy, maybe? I got clean because I wanted a better life, and I stayed clean because I got one, So why then did I allow myself to be so invaded by negative thoughts and become so consumed by lack of appreciation and gratitude? It was almost like I was just kind of walking the walk, talking the talk, but not allowing myself to feel the feels. It hadn’t really sunk in for a while just how far I/We have come, and all that we have accomplished. And I believe that I have finally come to the point where I can appreciate who I am, who I have and just accept people and things, no matter what our differences are, exactly the way that they are. And that feels really good. But it almost cost me all of my most cherished relationships. Thank God for those people who will love us until we can love ourselves, and that truly adds to my gratitude this morning.

Growing sucks. Growing up sucks. Mental growth spurts suck. Comparison sucks. Expectations suck. Being vulnerable sucks. Allowing others to see us for exactly who we are sucks. But all of these things are what Life is all about. Learning as we go, letting go, cutting the bad fruits off of the trees, letting others in, admitting that we don’t know everything and that we are not “King Dingaling”. Humility is a great remedy to this, but for me, I have long sense battled internally with myself between Ego and Humility, which has led to humiliation, which is the act of being humbled against our will. Thank God that I feel the right size this morning.

And as I think about it this morning, it is a little deeper than just “An attitude of Gratitude”, It is about appreciation and truly valuing and cherishing the people, places, things, and mindsets that we have right here and right now. I have long sense looked that Gift Horse in the mouth, and that has nearly cost me everyone and everything.

Humility, gratitude, and appreciation.

That’s what it’s all about for me today.

Don’t tell me you’re grateful, show me you appreciate.

Humility keeps us the right size, Gratitude keeps us in service to others, and appreciation nurtures our relationships.

Atonement

“We Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” (Step #9)

Over the last few days, I have been waking up each morning with a very new and very comforting feeling inside of me. I have been struggling to process it, and to fully take it in and analyze it. It’s kind of just shown up, seemingly out of no where. Today is November 19th, 2020. I am sitting on my couch, my two dogs are snuggled up about five feet away from me, the news is on the TV, but the sound is off, and the only thing that I can hear is the quiet mechanics and hum of our fireplace in the dining room. Every now and then I hear some foot steps and stirring up stairs from my middle son, who is home because we pulled our two youngest from school to do E-Learning. My youngest boy is spending the night with his mother. It’s a very tranquil, very peaceful, quiet morning. My wife is at work. Cars and trucks carrying their owners to their respective destinations pass by once in a while. It is about 50 degrees outside, very mild for this time of year in Northwest Indiana. It’s very strange to me, the things that I am noticing today, and the fact that I am writing about such trivial things. But what is even more interesting, is that in a way, I am noticing them, seeing them, feeling them, and experiencing them in a brand new way; seemingly for the very first time.

It is very interesting to me, the human mind, and more specifically, the heart- the real heart, not the physical heart that does all the pumping of blood, but the heart of hearts, the one that is cosmically connected to our mind and soul. Our “gut”, that place where the butterflies live, and give us a little tickle when we’re nervous, excited, anxious, or sharply afraid. I feel like I am writing this very entry here, with that particular part of my being. I don’t know why, but I do. It is almost as if I was writing although with much emotion before, with my head. I feel a quiet stir inside of me, as though something has, or is in the process of awakening.

“But Herb, You’ve been doing this for a while man, shouldn’t you have done been awakened?” “Shouldn’t you have long since experienced ‘step 12’/ had multiple spiritual experiences and had your spiritual awakening?” as it is outlined in the platform of the 12 step fellowships? And to that I say yes. But I also believe that growing up; spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically is a life long process. As is recovering.

I have always said that we get to our bottoms one compromise at a time. And I used drugs for more than half my life. So let’s briefly think about how many compromises I was capable of making in an 18 year span. Tens of Thousands I am sure. And not knocking any particular Idea, or philosophy, but as I sit here this morning, I believe that it is going to take quite the sacrifice, in a positive sense; and dedication for the long haul, if I am ever to fully “right” the ship. This morning, I think maybe that is what I am experiencing. A glimpse into a peaceful place inside of me. One that is nearly six years in the making…

When I first and honestly started making an attempt to get my life back in order and once and for all recover from a life of trauma, crime, lies, manipulation, distrust, and drug abuse I had absolutely no idea what that even meant, what it would look like, or what it would feel like. I just knew that if I kept on living like I was before, I would surely die or spend the rest of my life in prison. And I didn’t want that. I just wanted what “They” we’re selling. A new life. A renewed sense of hope. And maybe to be able to play some golf once in a while. So I did my best to put my all into everything I did. Every interaction with other humans, I did my best to be genuine and honest, humble and animated. Which felt weird for quite some time, but as time marched on became more and more normal. Every side job, full time job, favor for a friend, I did it the best I could. Every meeting, church service, every bible study, or sponsorship time, I did my best to be open and vulnerable. All of these things were so strange to me. But they were compromises, but, only this time, they were compromises in the exact opposite direction of the way I was headed before.

Interesting.

An old buddy of mine used to always say, “we cannot think our way into better acting, but we must act our way into better thinking.” And that makes a lot of sense to me now. Because it’s true. Do something different, get something different. And everything I was trying to do, everything I was striving to be, was so contradictory to what I had been doing before. But I had never wanted anything more. I have always wanted to just be a good person. As a boy I always fantasized/day dreamed about saving someone. Being a hero. I have always had that affinity for the underdog. I love a comeback story. I love watching people who were once considered “no bodies” come back in triumphant fashion and make it. And what makes that thought all the more interesting, is that alone the way; along this journey of life- I became that no body. I became the very underdog that I have always rooted for. And It became evident to me, that I was the one who needed saving. And so all of these past day dreams, and current circumstances culminated into the me, then. Raw and dying. Desperate to find myself, and be somebody once and for all. So I started to take those steps. No matter how uncomfortable it was. It had to be done. Get busy livin or get busy dyin, kid. Those were my only two choices. So I chose the former. And most of you know, how that has worked out so far. Myself and my wife, my family. We are blessed beyond measure. But the interesting piece to all of this, is what makes this entry here new. Is what makes it current, and relevant…

As I quoted before, at the beginning here, is step 9. Making direct amends. which I have done many times over, during my many attempts at staying clean. But before, I never fully took it in at the depths that this profound heart changing step provides. I believe this morning, that it is much more than merely making amends. It is about atonement. Righting things in such a manner that we are once again able to live in harmony and peace with the very community that we once worked so hard to destroy. But how do we do that? Is it even possible? Well, the answer to that second question here, is absolutely yes. And I think what I have been feeling lately is my spirit telling me just that.

This is not easy. And it does not happen quickly. I am pushing 6 years clean, and am just now starting to experience this phenomenon. But I committed to myself at the beginning and am committed to this day.

At first, it was more about saving face, than saving my spirit. It was more about “paying back” what was owed, than actually repairing anything broken. It was more about apologies, than corrected behavior. But I was still so green and new to it all, that I had no idea the depths of damage that I had done to others, and even more so, to myself. To my own self image, to my own heart, to my own image of humanity. There was such a long stretch when I couldn’t even look myself in the mirror. I couldn’t even look other humans in the eye, because of the shame, guilt, and humiliation that I felt because of the way I had built myself. Because of all of the compromises that I had made along the way to my many bottoms. Everything that I was, everything that I had done along the way to incomprehensible demoralization, went against my deepest core values. They went against my true self, and my true moral compass. And it turned me inside out and into everything that I hated about this world. And it took a long time to get there. And I knew that this process of getting better was going to take a very long time. And as time chugged along, it became more and more clear to me, that this was becoming about making amends with myself as much as it was with others. And once I realized that, it was like my moral compass was starting to point back in the right direction. And That was a very welcomed feeling. And this is when that adage “To thine own self be true” became so important to me.

I think that so many of us give up because there is just so much wreckage for us to clean up when we finally stop using. And so we are faced with such a seemingly insurmountable mountain of shit that it is “easier” for us to just keep getting high than it is to take it one small stone at a time and dedicate ourselves to the end, not the beginning. And, to be honest, they would be right. Getting high, as a way to escape our problems is the core of addiction; and in all honesty is that “easier softer way” that people talk about. Recovering from decades of scumbaggery takes guts. It takes sacrifice, and it takes humility, and it takes dedication. But if we are willing to move those mountains, one small stone at a time, we will actually come to a point where we will stop to let our backs rest, take a long swig of cold water, look around, in honest assessment and realize that we are making genuine progress. That the worst is finally behind us. The worst, is behind us, on a surface and superficial level that is.

The greatest obstacle, the greatest task for me thus far, and up until recently has been the rebuilding of myself. the recreating of my own heart. The atonement within my own spirit. And I believe that we cannot have this without the former listed ideas. We cannot have one without the other. For with the former comes humility and vulnerability. If we were to try to recreate and love ourselves without this key pieces, we would once again be thriving on Ego and Arrogance. And, well, for people like me this is very dangerous.

So, basically what I am getting at here, is that we must be willing to commit to the long haul and begin with the end in mind. There are going to be failures, rejections, hardships and tears along the way. But these ebbs and flows are what shape us, to allow us to enjoy the successes that living clean have to offer. it took me 17.5 years. seventeen and a half years. to get to a point to where I didn’t want to live like that anymore. and I haven’t even been clean half of that yet. But this morning, I am really starting to FEEL, not SEE, the fruit of staying clean. I know what respect feels like. I know what Love feels like. This morning I know what Peace feels like. I am safe and comfortable in my own skin. And I know it may sound absurd to many out there, but you must not be a drug addict; because we really do destroy so much when were using, and it takes a very long time to fully right our wrongs, love ourselves, and live in harmony with the world. BUT, the promises always come true- We will be amazed before we are halfway through.

9: We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

We are NEVER the “others” in this step, we need to put our egos aside, and allow ourselves to feel that sting of amends gone wrong. After all, we earned that and it is quite poetic to know this. AND we also LIVED indirect amends every day to the best of our abilities to follow our moral compass, especially when no one was looking. We strive to be true to ourselves and the deepest wholesome parts of us, to set matters straight inside of our hearts so that we could one day know what true peace feels like.

We strive for atonement. we strive for harmony. We strive to be better human beings, and to leave this world and it’s people better than we found it.