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The Badge

Recently I had the great pleasure of being the closing Plenary/Keynote Speaker for the Annual Indiana State CASA/GAL Conference down in French Lick, Indiana. This was my second year in a row with this conference, and my second year as the closing speaker. CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers who advocate for children who are in need of assistance from an outside source, because the children’s parents are involved in some kind of legal trouble- drugs and alcohol, domestic abuse, neglect, etc… CASA’s have and will always hold a special place in my heart, because my son was one of those children who needed someone to advocate for him while I was stuck in the grip of active addiction. Here in Indiana we call it a CHINS case- Child In Need of Services. I was a CHINS Dad twice actually, and had the same CASA for both cases. To this woman I am forever grateful. I cannot even imagine the horror, pain, loss, and difficult decisions that these brave volunteers face on a daily basis. Children are the silent victims of drug addiction, and I am so thankful that there was someone to stand in the gap for my son when he needed it most. Thank God I was able to, so far, God willing overcome my demons and get my son back into my life and me into His. He needs his dad. But there are so many parents out there that will be forever separated from their kids, I cannot even begin to know or understand what those poor children grow up thinking or feeling-knowing that their parents either couldn’t over come and get them back, or quite frankly, gave a fuck enough to try.  I have actually heard on more occasions than I care to recall- of parents who simply chose drugs over their kids, and signed their rights to their kids away to continue their pursuit of self destruction and blotto. It breaks my heart.

But anyways, I was asked to come down and speak to these amazing difference makers. On Saturday afternoon from 3:00-4:15 P.M. Months before the conference, I was asked to think about my topic, and what kind of talk I was to deliver, and I did, I wanted it to be different than last year. I wanted it to be personal to me, and relevant to the overall theme of the conference. Now I normally don’t script my talks, as I don’t typically do too well with memorizing things, and I didn’t want to force some topic that I couldn’t deliver on. So, I just allowed God to speak into my life and nudge me toward something he wanted me to talk about. And He did. I’m going somewhere with this, I promise, but those of you who have been following for years know that I write like I talk, I write like I think. So I tend to ramble and back track without warning. See? Told you. But anyways, So about 45 days before the French Lick conference, I did a panel at the Valparaiso Police Dept. with some friends of mine from the field of mental health, addiction, treatment, and law. A gentleman that was on the panel with me, who I admire and appreciate very much went just before me, and he said something that took me WAY BACK. Now, I’m not one for statistics, or charts, numbers, or graphs- but when he said this it pricked my heart big time. Because he was talking about me. And he said, “Children who experience trauma are 5000% more likely to become addicted to drugs.” Five Thousand Percent. Holy Shit. That Makes a lot of sense to me. And I didn’t know it it that exact moment, but that was the seed that I needed planted, that’s exactly what I was to talk about at the CASA conference. MY TRAUMAS.

One thing that I know for sure, is that it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from. It doesn’t matter who your parents are, or what your upbringing was. It doesn’t matter if you have never done a drug in your life- Everyone is in recovery from something. Another thing that I have learned throughout my life, is that all of our wounds and pains, all of our “secret places” are all very much the same, but so very different. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I may not have done what you’ve done or been where you’ve been, but I have felt what you’ve felt. The circumstances, situations, and people I’m sure were much different, but I know what hopelessness feels like. I know what insecurity is. I know what it feels like to be lost. Everyone’s pains are different, and we as human beings are NOT allowed to say that someone’s trauma or pains are insufficient just because we have survived “worse”. Another thing that I think I know, is that for the most part, people become, even for a brief time, products of their environments. We become used to our environments. We adapt, we take on our life experiences. To some extent or another. I believe this is why they say, “you are the average of the five people you hang out with most.” I was no exception.

I remember, very clearly as I was talking to this crowd of 800 people down in French Lick, this very soothing calm come over me. It was kind of scary at first, but one thing that I have come to practice when delivering talks, is to know my audience. And this bunch here, boy have they seen it all. They’re the hands and feet respectively in their particular niche, dealing with hurt children. And that’s exactly what I am. Deep down inside, I’m a hurt little boy. God it scares the fuck out of me to get so vulnerable on the internet for all the world to see, but I swore I wouldn’t hold back, so pardon me while I collect myself and push through this. UGH. Before I really got flowing, hell before I even got up there, I felt like I was gonna throw up. Airing out my secret places to a bunch of strangers. What will I even say? Can I even get through a full 75 minutes just free style sharing? Oh boy, this could go really badly. But it didn’t. I believe that I am still walking in my purpose, and the growth and the experience, the service is in the uncomfortable. It still is scary though. Sharing these things. When I first got clean, I had a hard time sharing just every day feelings with people, and now here I am up here talking to the masses about stuff that I thought I had almost forgotten about. I guess that compartmentalizing is a defense mechanism or coping skill that I developed from an early age.

And one thing that I noticed, and I think that this is where I was going all along with this post, is that I got up there and I was telling these people “About ME”. It’s funny, because I actually had this revelation while speaking, they may have thought that I was kinda playing them a little, but I wasn’t. I am NOT my story. I am NOT my trauma. I am NOT my scars. I am not defined by the things I experienced in my life. Although as a child I was defenseless, and helpless to the things that happened, I am not now. It’s funny, this whole life thing. And how it can affect us. How it can shape us and mold us into who we are.

They say the past doesn’t change. But maybe the way we look at it can. It has for me. When I first got thrust into this whole speaking thing, I would talk to schools and churches, and various agencies, and the beginning was always very similar: “My childhood was a lot like yours, I love baseball and fishing and riding bikes.” Which is true to this day. But none of our lives are really a lot alike. We all face different challenges and feelings, we all face different traumas and pains. The things that I faced as a boy led to a lot of insecurity, which, ask Tiffany, I still struggle with to this day. It took like 20 years to form me, its not going away over night. Food and housing insecurities led to insecurities of self worth and love. Parental insecurities and family insecurities led to abandonment issues. Moving constantly and running from our problems led to personal insecurities, Who am I? Am I good enough? Am I lovable? Why does everyone I love always leave me? Is it me? Am I the problem? And so I carried these things with me for a long time, and sometimes I pick them back up because I am human and we all do that. But, what I’m thinking about now, is that all of these pains, these insecurities, these wounds and these scars, were my identity. The Badge that I wore to identify myself. This broken, wounded, lost, lonely little boy from Georgia. And then I found myself using drugs to fill that unfillable hole. That Void. It was as if I was on some journey of self discovery. Just kinda wandering alone in the dark bumping into everything I could, trying to find myself with Zero Fucking Direction. Just cut em loose and see where he lands type of deal. I was layer upon layer of false selves. On top of the broken kid from Georgia, the hopeless drug addict, on top of that, a person dying to quit using, and on top of that, a person dying to not feel so alone, and just be valued. And it all rooted in my secret places as a kid. So fucking interesting. Freud would have a fucking field day with my crazy ass mind. What a rabbit hole we just went down. But that’s the idea. Is that I never really had an identity. I always identified as what I had been through, not who I really was. And I think that’s why a lot of us addicts struggle with this whole stigma thing. And its because I have a serious coping defect. I use to change the way that I feel, to escape the wreckage in my mind, to avoid discomfort, to find relief, and now that becomes part of who I am. And onward we go, running from one horrible fucking reality to the next, Changing like a chameleon every step of the way. From the frying pan and into the fire. Running away from the broken little boy, to the deranged drugged out adult, and never finding anything. Clinging to memories that I swore to suppress, hoping this next pill or powder makes it go away, and encountering more and more horrible things, people, feelings and situations as I go. All the while collecting them like a nightmarish snowball headed down hill. Until all of a sudden I’m 25 years old: bottoming out clean, because I don’t have access to drugs to numb it away and I’m sitting in a jail cell actually having to relive and refeel everything that I have been running away from for so long, and holy shit- I’m a dope fiend, unlovable, no good, loser, junkie little boy from Georgia and I should just off myself because the only thing I have ever known to work, drugs, stopped working long ago and i just want the pain to go away.

I identify as what I have experienced. I identify as my wounds. My scars. My pains. My Trauma. But that’s not who we are. That’s not who you are. That’s not who I am. I think that in some twisted way, we put the stigma on ourselves, because we never really deal with the ugliness of active addiction until we get clean and start taking a look at ourselves. There is so much shame and pain inside of us that we have stuffed down deep, that when we actually try to get out and be a productive member of society, that we expect there to be some giant neon sign above our head every where we go, Like, “watch out here comes this piece of shit that was molested as a child, watched his mother beaten on a nightly basis, turned over to foster care, and then turned to drugs to deal with pain of it all, committing felonies and robbing people because the pain of not having the drugs was less than the pain of feeling what a low life, unlovable peace of shit we are.!!!! watch out for this one, and definitely DO NOT GIVE THEM A JOB, because they’re just too ugly of a person and no one wants them around.”

That’s what shame feels like.

And it all happens in the blink of an eye. The human mind and heart are truly remarkable and fragile places.

And I share these things with others openly because I have to. I feel led to. I truly believe that one of the most powerful things we can share with one another is our pain, our secret places. People want to know that you understand. They want to hear that wordless language of empathy. They want to feel understood and valued. They want to know that they too can overcome and that they don’t have to identify as what they’ve been through. That they can rewrite their story, or help someone else rewrite theirs. If you want to truly help someone the most important thing you can do is listen to them.

I always felt ashamed of who I was. I felt ashamed of what I’ve been through. And I wore that shame like a badge. The very shame, hurt, guilt, insecurity, and fear that I thought I was avoiding, and hiding, shone like a dark mask on my inward self. And it’s who I saw when I looked in the mirror. And it still comes back once in a while. But it is not who I am today. And it doesn’t have to be who you are any longer. One of the greatest quotes I have heard to this day is: Recovery Demands Exposure. Now this doesn’t suggest you go screaming from the mountain tops all of your trauma and secret places to anyone who will listen, but it does suggest this: You gotta tell someone. A burden shared is a burden lessened. Expose that shit, name it, own it, burn it, blow it up, and get back to rewriting the story that god intended you to. Everyone loves a good comeback story. Everyone loves an underdog. Go fucking be one.

 

Hey Bud!

I spent a lot of time homeless while in my active addiction. That’s no secret. Everyone who has been following me already knows this. It was miserable. It was very lonely. I cried silently to myself often. I prayed. I hoped in my core that things would some day get better. In between the twacked out crack highs and the oblivion heroin lows, when I had the mental capacity to do so, I would reflect back on my life. I would kind of just blank, and watch my life story in the fore front of my mind while looking out the window of the CTA bus line, or the red line train, or the blue line. It was strange. I was present and alert, sometimes, but I could actually watch my life story in a very morbid reflection. How did I get here? How did I actually end up in this place and in this time, this very moment? Sitting on a bench in Garfield Park, or at a bus stop in Lawndale, while the busy hustle and bustle of local gang, crime, drug, and police activity just passed me by. And during my comings and goings I met a lot of sad, lonely and broken people. I encountered some of the forgotten ones. I saw what the bottom rung of our broken society looks like, and for a brief moment in time, we shared each other’s pain. You know what’s interesting? Is that today, there is absolutely no way that I would ever go back to those spots in the city. I would never in a million years go back to those benches, bus stops, or gang ways. No way. It was far too dangerous, for me. Today. But, back in the day, when I was in it, it was weird- I was a regular in some of the most depraved and deadly parts of the most dangerous city in the United States, and very few times did I ever actually feel in danger, save for being robbed at gun point, or afraid of the cops. I hope this makes sense, yes I was scared, but I was scared FOR MYSELF. I was more afraid of facing another day than I was of walking into an unknown alley way, to buy an unknown powder, from an unknown gang member who was visibly brandishing a very large hand gun. I don’t know, it’s strange. It’s almost like this survivor’s bond that we all shared. All of our lives were shit. I can’t even begin to understand what would drive a 9 year old boy to sell heroin on a bicycle. But I bought it from him every day. I wonder if he’s even alive today? Anyways, that was a rabbit hole of thought, and not where I intended this entry to be going. I aimed at the beginning to share with you some of the sadder souls I have met, and one of the more insane and depraved. So here we go.

While living my life on the bottom, I would frequent the area just off of Ohio & Homan on the city’s West Side. Incredibly high crime area, God I can see it right now with my mind’s eye. Open air drug market, addicts every where, dealers every where, screams, gun shots. Blue lights flashing on local CPD cameras, which seemed to be on damn near every corner, but did nothing to stop anything. And then there was me: stinking, unbathed, strung out, 125 pounds soaking wet, right in the thick of it all. And I was hollow, I was alone, I was scared. But it didn’t matter because “I” was not even steering the ship, it was like watching myself walk through life. Like an outer body experience, just kinda drifting. Watching this nightmare unfold day after day. And sometimes, maybe for a few minutes, maybe for an hour, I would encounter a fellow dope fiend. Just as lost as I was. Just as hopeless, just as broken. And for those brief moments in time, I would have a friend. And sometimes it was just a fucked up chance encounter. Like “Bud”. “Bud” was clearly not his real name, so I’ll use it here. Bud lived in an abandoned building on Homan. Between Ohio and Chicago Ave, I think. Now I had always seen this guy coming and going. Scurrying around like a crack head, making dope fiend moves, ripping off white kids from the suburbs in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin who came to the West Side for the promise of the best shit around and a few extra bags that they could then skim from their friends back home for making the trip and taking the risks, but were too scared to actually go to the source, so they entrusted guys like Bud to make the run for them and then bring it back to them. But, I obviously wasn’t one of those kids. And one day, while waiting on the plug to get to the spot, Bud and I struck up a conversation. The topic of which I have no fucking clue. But here we were, among a throng of other awaiting dope fiends, two of which was a pregnant couple. And I think things took a turn for the scary when I had mentioned that I was a lone wolf and only got to smoke my rock and shoot my dope comfortably when I found an entry to an abandoned building, or a tucked away corner some where. And Bud invited me to come and get high with him, in his “house”. I didn’t think anything of it, I wouldn’t be there long anyways. Being a panhandler, and a petty thief without a car and on foot never really netted me much, maybe one rock and one blow per trip, so I’d be there, what?- maybe twenty minutes? So I took him up on his offer. The plug got there, served us, and we were on our way. Bags in our cheeks and pipes and needles in our pockets. We scampered over Homan Ave, through the gang way, around the back, and into Bud’s dwelling. I’m getting nauseous and sickly feeling recalling this memory, but I promised to never hold back, so I’m not. We entered the “house” which was basically a one room apartment located inside a completely abandoned building. And, to be honest, I was actually kind of impressed. He had somehow acquired power. He had lights, and even an antenna T.V. rigged up inside this little crack shack. He had a bed, a couch and even posters on the wall. I guess necessity is the mother of all invention, huh? So we sat down and started smoking. Neither one of us spoke for about 20 minutes. Those of you in recovery who have smoked crack before know why. It is not a very social drug or high. And as we started to come down and stop shaking, We both prepared our Heroin to “get right”. And now we were able to actually speak to one another. I don’t recall about what. But we spoke, and it was casual. And sometime later, Bud said that he was about to make another run. He told me that I was welcome to stay but not to steal anything and he would be right back. Well, shit, that sounds good. Go right ahead, its cold outside, I’ll be right here man, thanks for letting me chill for a bit. And in no time flat he was out the door. But after quite some time, he still hadn’t returned and I could feel inside me that something wasn’t right. So I got up to walk out to the gang way to smoke a cig. But when I got to the only door to the outside I noticed something very strange, and I had to do a double take. I looked at the big heavy and fortified door, and noticed that there was a massive chain on it. At first my strung out brain couldn’t quite compute what I was seeing. I grabbed the knob and pulled the door inward to open it. But it would barely budge. What. The. Fuck?!?….Holy shit. This dude left the apartment, and had this whole chain set up long before I arrived and has it fashioned and locked from the outside in. He has actually fucking chained me inside. Oh no, this is not good. I ran back up the landing and into the room where we were chillin. I stuffed all of my paraphernalia and checked the windows. Barred and locked. Fucking of course they were. Back down the landing to the door. Yanked it as hard as I possibly could. Nothing. It was becoming very clear to me that he had done a very good job at keeping me contained inside this little room with no way out. PANIC. SHAKING. FEAR. What was about to happen to me? I have got to get out of here, and fast. My survival instincts kicked in. Search the apartment. Find something to break out of this place as quickly as possible. Drawers. Under the bed. Behind the couch. Nothing. Holy shit. Will I be beaten? My God, will I be raped? Or worse, murdered? I gotta get out of here, my hands are shaking as I type this. I felt like I was gonna vomit, and I absolutely TOSSED this apartment searching high and low for anything I could find to get outta here. And I can’t even recall where it was, but I found something I thought I could use. A claw hammer. And I got to work. There was about 15 nails pounded into the back of this VERY HEAVY, probably oak door, holding the massive chain in place and they were pounded flat. Nowhere to grab the heads of the nails and simply pull them out. Fucking of course there wasn’t. So I violently pounded against the piece of the nails where they bent over and made contact with the chain. Violently pounded. Loud as hell. If Bud was within ear shot certainly he would hear it, but if he came rushing in to stop me, I remember having the image of bashing his brains in with the now tool as well as weapon that I clutched in my right hand. I did not give a fuck, this was life or death. One nail broke, then two, then five. I was slowly breaking these nails free, and pulling each chain link free as I went. It was working. Holy shit. But I’m not quite there yet. More nails broke, more links freed. And finally got to the last one and was able to pry the door completely open. I stuffed the hammer into my waist line and bolted out the door and around the corner toward Chicago Ave., where I would wait and jump on a bus and in plain view of public just in case something happened. And as I turned the corner from the gang way and out onto the side walk of Homan Ave., here came Bud, with about 6 very sketchy looking men with him. I have never ran so fast in my life…”Motha fucka” I heard Bud kinda say to himself and the others. “Steve!!! What the fuck white boy!!?” And I heard the stampede of foot steps racing behind me. But The closer I got to Chicago Ave. The safer I felt. And I got there. Right next to the Family Dollar, and turned the corner. As I did I looked behind me to check the distance, and it was clear to me that Bud was obviously frustrated. He kind of did the “Ah Damn/Oh Shucks” Shoulder lift and downward fist punch in annoyance as he realized I had gotten away, and the group of men gave up their pursuit. They turned around and headed into the gang way. My heart rate finally slowed as I got onto the CTA bus, headed for God knows where. But far, far away from here. Holy Shit. What could have just happened to me? Phew. I survived another day. Thank God I’m outta there. Relief…..

But then dread. Because I knew. That if I wanted to get my fix again. I would have to go right back into that Lion’s Den again. In just a few short hours…..

Why?

I didn’t always wanna keep using. In fact, most of the time I was using against my will. It had stopped being fun a long time ago. It was more like a job now. Wake up in instant pain and agony the second my eyes open and I became conscience. Covered in sweat and goosebumps. Bones hurting. Skin crawling. I remember vividly that when I was dope sick, everything smelled funny. I don’t know why, but when I was sick, no matter where I was I always smelled this old mattress smell, like some rank ass old rubbery smell. And the panic, my God the panic that came along with being dope sick. Imagine waking up and your first thought upon awakening is sheer and utter dread. Every damn day. Chills then heat. Sweats then freezing. The only thing that was going to take the pain and misery away was the very thing that continued to cause it. Perpetual insanity…I truly believe, in my off the cuff opinion here that 90% of all heroin addicts are truly miserable. The only reason we keep going is because we get so horribly dependent on the drug physically that we wake up every day and literally have no choice in the matter but to keep doing more. If I wake up in horrible fucking agony every day, and knowing in my mind that this drug is destroying me and I only have 2 choices: go through the pain, delusion, insomnia, and psychosis of withdrawl for God only knows how long- the last time I detoxed was cold turkey in a jail cell and I was sick as a dog for 2 weeks and didn’t sleep at all for 28 days. -OR- do whatever it takes, steal, lie, beg, manipulate, rob, or con someone to get the very drug thats killing me just to stave off the hell for one more day. Why, to me it’s a no brainer. I am going to do whatever it takes to get that bag, and MAYBE I’ll try and get clean TOMORROW… this is why crime is so common with heroin addicts. The crime is a symptom of a MUCH deeper issue here. I have never committed a crime clean and sober. Ever. But anyways, tomorrow had come for me a few times during my career as a dope fiend. Those moments of clarity, and desperation that we hear about and see in movies. But they’re always few and far between for addicts like me. I used for what, almost 14 years, and actually reached out for help, honestly, without jail or prison hanging over my head, what? 8 times? I think….

I couldn’t take it anymore. I wasn’t dope sick, but I knew that I was going to be very soon. My day of crime had netted me about 6 or 7 bags, which were definitely already gone, and about 100$ in currency. I wasn’t sick, but my cycle was about 12 hours and I had just injected my last 3 bags. The time was now. I had to make a move or God only knows how long it was going to be until I had this window of willingness again. So I picked up the phone. I am not going to mention any names, or institutions here, as I never do and never will, because this is my story and no one else’s. I called a local hospital here in the region which has a long running reputation for helping addicts and alcoholics get clean and sober. This would be my second try contacting said hospital. The first time they flat out told me that they couldn’t take me. Which was cool, I guess. At least they didn’t give me the run around that time and I appreciated that in some sick fucked up way. I think the run around, and being passed from help line to help line is as insulting, discouraging and makes an addict feel just as hopeless as the needle it self. But anyways. On we go. So I called this place this time, and explained my situation in almost embarrassing detail. Embarrassing because I did this to myself. I take ownership of that. And because I was so pitiful, and scared, and vulnerable, and poor. I just didn’t want to hurt anymore. I told the voice on the other end of the line that I needed and wanted help and I would come there and walk in willingly into the world of recovery if they could just show me some love, and tolerance, and give me a bed and help me not wake up so sick tomorrow. “I just can’t go on like this anymore. Please help me.” The other voice on the line was very kind. Very patient with me and sounded like he or she really wanted to be that beacon of light for me. So they instructed me to pack a bag with clothes and hygiene for 7 days and that they did in fact have a bed for me and would hold it until about 10 pm that night. I told the person that yes I had a ride and would be there immediately. But I also wasn’t stupid. I mean, I may have lived in abandoned buildings, Eaten out of garbage cans, Shot Heroin IV with toilet water from the nastiest places known to man, and smoked crack out of a plastic big pen tube, which tastes amazing and I’m sure the thick black smoke coming off of the melting plastic is super good for you and all, BUT I AM NOT STUPID- So I took my cash with me. Just in case something happened and they turned me away. Because I know that hospitals, treatment centers, detoxes, etc may not always be able to take me. But believe me, my dope dealer always will…That’s a sad fact of life right there. So anyways, I walk into the hospital lobby, with my little roller suitcase stuffed to the gills with anything I thought I might need. The second I walked in, this wave of relief and a glimmer of hope washed over me. I was finally going to get free of this. On my own. And I know it’s going to work this time because I really want it. I had finally reached a point where I know that this doesn’t work, and I’m desperate enough to try anything that might work. This is it. I’m so close I can taste it. I got butterflies, and shook with anticipation. It was finally happening. And I walked my 125 pound ass up to the desk and explained to the lady behind the Check in/registration counter who I was and why I was there. The time was about 6:00 PM. She had me fill out some basic paper work and I complied. I handed her the paper work and sat down with my suitcase and waited. And waited. And waited… They’re probably just moving someone or getting my bed ready. I’m just thankful they finally said they would take me this time. I shouldn’t be getting sick for several hours now. I got some time. I’d go outside to smoke and grab a pop from the machine to pass the time. I’d stare at my phone. I’d stare at people. Finally after about 2 hours I went back up to the counter just to check in and see what was going on, and the lady informed me that she was waiting on some type of “superior” to let her know what to do. Ok. Another hour, another check in. Nothing. More waiting. As time hammered on like a locomotive at a snails pace, powerful, noisy, determined, and slow as fuck, I began to grow increasingly anxious and inpatient. I’m actually writing this without effort, I’m just banging away on this keyboard as I watch this next episode of, “My life Fucking Sucks” playing out in my head. More time. more check ins, no news. The time is now well after 10:00 PM and now I am being informed that I MUST wait until the morning, when this so called superior, or department head, or whoever the hell this person is, actually comes to the hospital physically. Well that’s not what I wanted to hear. But oh well, what choice do I have? I can make another 10 hours or so, I have some cash so I wont be hungry or without smokes, I should be good. 8:00 am comes quickly, Ill Just close my eyes here and hope to sleep through the night and when I wake up, It will be time to get better. And I did. I did sleep through most of the night, up here and there to go out and smoke, but for the most part I did sleep. But the problem with sleeping on opiates, at least for me, is that I tend to sleep it off. I always wake up dope sick, and this time was no different. I was now once again, a sweaty, anxious, goosebumpy, anxious, mess. But hey, it was 8:00 am and time to check in so thats good. I walked up to the counter and talked to a different lady this time and explained my situation and what I had be directed to do. Wait. She took my name and grabbed my form and walked back into the back. She came back about ten minutes later and it was very clear that either she had no idea why I was there or that they had zero intentions of admitting me for detox. Holy shit. This is not good. So I asked for her supervisor, because my name is Karen and I want to talk to the manager. And this gentleman came out and explained to me very matter of factly that he did not care what anyone told me to do, it is looking like you will not be admitted for detox here and then very casually walked back to the back to attend to all the important people…I was shocked. I was crushed. I was on the brink of tears, I felt like this was some kind of very cruel joke. I fought back the tears and choked back, I very calmly looked at the lady and told her what I had been instructed to do. Then I proceeded to look her dead ass in the eyes and told her, “Listen, lady, I need help, I was told to come here almost 12 hours ago, I’m dying. I’m desperate. And if you guys don’t take me like you said you would, I’m going to walk outta here, and I’m going to fucking kill my self.” That got her attention. She said she would be right back, “just wait right here, Mr. Stepherson”. Someone will be here for you. And she was right. She went into the back and called the fucking cops on me. Two uniformed officers came walking into the lobby, told me to grab my things, and then walked escorted me off the hospital grounds. They walked me to a nearby pavilion, and issued me a no trespass warning. They told me if I ever came back to that hospital that I would be arrested. I had never felt so defeated in my entire life.

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After I had finally gotten clean, and had been at the Respite House for a while, I joined a baseball team with some of my recovery buddies. We always joked and said it was an “old man” league. But it sure was fun. It felt good to be back out there on the ball field again. I felt young, I felt alive, I was having fun. It was So nice to get out there and chatter and mess around with the guys on a sunday afternoon, even though I quickly realized that my best baseball days were long behind me. but it was still fun and that’s what mattered. We played every sunday all summer long. We traveled all over to play too, Chesterton, Portage, Valpo, Hobart, and others. I played all over the field as well, I was the “utility guy” I was not afraid to play any position, except second base, I don’t know why but playing the two bag was always weird for me. Maybe it was the positioning on the field? I have no idea. Other than that, It didnt matter where I played, as long as I was in the game. One game I was assigned to play short stop, which I love playing because it gets a lot of action, and it gives me a chance to show off my arm, shooting guys out at first base across the diamond and hearing that loud POP of the leather, seeing the dust fly out of the squeezed mit, and seeing the “bang bang” of the close play has always excited me. And then there’s turning double plays, which I have only done a few times, but man is it fun. Just the whole culture of being out there, and the chatter and the shit talking is so fun to me. I miss my old playing days. But on this day, I got a lot of action, I was dusty and dirty by like the 4th inning. And on particular play I had to dive out toward the short left field grass and behind the third base bag to try and keep the ball on the infield. I did infact make the grab, but I was too deep in the infield and the guy was too fast, so I just had to “eat it”. No play. And I noticed that I may have tweaked something in my lower back, but no big deal at the time. But it was kinda sore. Maybe just a stinger, just a light tweak, no big deal. I finished the game and as the day progressed I noticed that my back pain too was progressing and that I was going to be super sore in the morning. And boy was I. The second day after was even worse. Thank God for Tiffany. Bless her heart. She would be having to help me with my socks and shoes for the next couple days. Getting old is fun. Ibuprofen, Ben Gay, Icyhot, ice packs, heat packs. Nothing seemed to ease the pain. Finally, around night four or five, I finally made a decision that the next morning I was going to go into a local urgent care and see what they had to say. And I was not being dramatic either. This was bad. I couldn’t bend, I couldn’t tie my own shoes, I couldn’t drive. Maybe I had torn or broken something. I needed an X-ray at least. The place I had selected to go, was here in valpo, and they opened at 9:00 AM. Tiffany helped me with my socks and shoes, and I hobbled my old man ass out to the Explorer. I was at the urgent care place at like 9:01. I wobbled in like quazi moto and explained to the lady behind the desk why I was there and she asked me for my info and had me fill out some forms. I love filling out forms, Said no one ever. But I did as they asked, and once it was time, they asked me to come on back. A lady came back to visit with me and asked me some basic questions. What brings you in, etc… I told her what happened on the ball field and explained to her how it hurt and what not. I then proceeded to “Red Flag” myself, like I always do. To red flag myself means to “out” myself as a recovering drug addict. I told the lady right off the bat that I cannot have narcotics and will not be accepting any opiates for pain. Motrin 800’s and MAYBE a muscle relaxer if needed would be fine. She acknowledged my request and took me for some Xrays. She then accompanied me back to the room where I waited for the Doctor to come and explain everything to me. It took a little while for them to read the films, but eventually the doctor came back in. He was cordial and he was kind for the most part. He explained to me that I had a Lower Lumbar strain, and although not really all that serious it could be quite painful and uncomfortable for a while. I once again Red Flagged myself to him and explained to him that I cannot have any narcotics, no opiates, nothing that gets me high.  He nodded in acknowledgement and left the room for a few minutes. A short time later he came back in with some basic information on what my injury was, some home remedies for easing the pain, and some prescriptions to help me along in feeling better. “Ok, Herb, I’m sending you home with two scripts today. Motrin 800’s and flexiril, to help ease the muscles and the strain.” He handed me all of the information and thanked me for coming in. He instructed me to stop at the desk and sign out and to take it easy for a couple days and I should be fine in no time. I complied. I stuck the information packet in my back pocket and headed out the door. I hobbled out to the explorer and gingerly eased my self into the driver’s seat. I leaned up on my right butt cheek and pulled the info out of my back pocket. It was as he said, I was skimming over the info he had provided and then returned back to the front page to examine to scripts he had written me. Hmmmm…. WTF? He told me that he had written me two prescriptions. I thumbed through them and there it was. Little blue piece of paper number three, stapled so nice and neatly to the former and two, and sandwiched between them and the information on my injury. Hydrocodone 10’s. I stared down into the scribbly writing of the doctor and simply could not believe my eyes. I had very clearly told not one, but two different trusted people in the medical field that I DO NOT and CANNOT have any narcotics. I don’t even know how to articulate all of my thoughts on this, but there is very little chance that this was some kind of honest mistake. This man had clearly slipped this prescription for opioids into this packet, and then failed to tell me about. Unbelievable.

So, I can’t get the help getting clean when I do want it, and I CAN get the pills when I don’t want them….?

 

My question for you, reader, is WHY?

Testify

I grew up the middle of three boys in a little town no one has ever heard called Peachtree City Georgia. My childhood, in many ways, was very similar to yours. I grew up loving baseball, and playing with friends, we loved to fish, almost everyday we would be down at the creek or over at huddleston pond hoping to land the big one. We rode bikes, and we were always on the go. From the outside looking in it seemed like a great life, and at the time, in the moments as they passed, it wasnt all that bad. I mean, we were just kids, im sure its normal to go to 5 different schools in 6 years. Right? I love my family. We all stuck together to the best of our abilities. We always had christmas, and birthdays, and thanksgivings together, All families struggle, we were no exception. But what I didnt know as a child, in my innocence, was that drug addiction was absolutely rampant throughout my family. Whether it was alcoholism, or hard street drugs, this was the reason for my parents, my aunts and uncles’ constant struggles in life. And us kids suffered dearly as a result.  I love my parents, and extended family very much, i know they did the best they all could. Theyre not bad, they were sick at the time.so I always struggled to feel a real bond with them, with the exception of my brothers and cousins, as we were all the same ages, or close to. I knew that I “had Love” I knew that I “was loved” but because of all of the insecurities that we all faced, whether it was: food insecurities, or heat, water, school, or validation securities- I always felt different, Like i didnt belong. Like i didnt have any real purpose in life, Like i was an accident. And then we moved up to valpo, splitting us three brothers up, on another one of our “fresh starts” but nothing changed, i sure didnt. Same old same ol, more struggle, more insecurities with myself and home….And then I followed suit, I found something that would make it all better. I finally found what I thought i had been searching for my whole life. Something to take the pain away. Drugs. Chemicals. Alcohol. Anything that would change my mind or mood and help me forget about everything. And that time in my life which started at the ripe old age of 15 didnt end until i was 29, and led me to the darkest days I could ever imagine. 

 

September 16th, 2011. I sat in a hospital room not far from here, in Hobart, at Saint Mary’s. I sat in a recliner in the corner of our hospital room and stared down into the eyes of my newborn son, Lucas David. My Dad was there and my son’s mother laid on the hospital bed recovering from giving birth to our boy. They had him wrapped up in the tiniest little clothes and hat, He looked like one of those little “glow worm toys” from the 90’s where, you would squeeze its belly and its face would light up. He was so tiny. I remember just holding him and gazing down into his bright yet dark blue eyes, the same exact eyes that were staring down at him. He was beautiful. He was so innocent. He was my only born child, and still is to this day. I remember feeling like time had actually stopped for us, to hold this moment forever. And believe me I will. You see, this was supposed to be a very happy and joyous day. Filled with pictures and family, and little baby clothes. It was supposed to be a day of great celebration. But it was anything but. Time had indeed stopped for us to hold on to this day, And as I stared down into the eyes of my son, and he shreiked and cried, and vibrated in agony, I was faced with the emptiest, darkest, most brokenness I had ever felt in my entire life, because My son was born without a name, we named him later, he was born homeless, and he was born into this world in horrible pain because he was born addicted to Heroin. 

 

My name is Herb Stepherson, and this is (the third talk of banquet) 

 

The banquet’s opening Talk Challenged you all to discover or rediscover your priorities. The second talk- Presented to you the possiblility of a Grace-based relationship with God. This third talk, I hope, Will challenge you to go farther still, To deepen your relationship with God, By participating in the fellowship and ministry of the Church. 

 

This talk is anchored in 3 basic truths: 

1)The world is not living in the fullness of Gods Grace

2)Jesus alone is the answer to the worlds Problems

3)The Church is the Primary means by which God brings Jesus to the world, Introducing People to Christ is the church’s Most important ministry. 

 

As I was writing this talk, I was flooded with so many thoughts, inspirations, and examples of how this talk has applied to my life. It is unreal how these three basic truths I just listed – I relate so much to. Another Thought that I was having as I was writing this was” Why does God allow suffering”?I truly hope that I am able to to adequately express these things in the moments to come. 

 

What is a church? Is it a shiny steeple with mezmorizing bells that charm every hour on the hour? Is it a well renovated building with an awesome band and a coffee shop out front? Is it the dusty old baptist building in stars mill Georgia, Like the one i went to with the smelly old hymnals? Is it even a building? I will leave you to ponder on that as we go from here, but what I believe today, is that youre the church, were the church. As outlined in this talk, “The church exists whenever and wherever christians meet in Christ’s name.” This is church. 

 

As I pointed out in Truth number 1, the world is not living in the fullness of Gods Grace. I wasnt living any where close to that. I always “Knew” “who” “Jesus was”- ya know, I prayed that “simple prayer” and I was “saved” in second grade. But i, along with so many others, Thought that that was it. That Being saved was all about this like magical parachute that I had in my book bag and I would just pull this magic jesus out and pray when  I was in trouble and no matter what I would be forgiven. We call those types of prayers in recovery “Fox hole Prayers”- The ones that I only said when I was sitting in a jail cell, or a cop car, or when I was going through the horrible pain of heroin withdrawl in the garage of an abandoned building. You get the idea. But my point is, So many of us, we just take Gods amazing grace for granted. We think that its all about “knowledge of God” When its really about experiencing the beauty of his grace, mercy, love, and a relationship with him. When we taste and see that the Lord is good, and Our hearts are changed. There is nothing like it. It STILL DOES NOT SEEM REAL. I shouldn,t be standing up here today men. I was one of those Lost Cause drug addicts. 

 

Now I want to point out truth #3: The church being the primary means by which God brings jesus to the world- Introducing people to God is our most important ministry.

I dont even know where to begin on this one. There are some men in this Banquet community who STILL MAY not have any idea the impact that they had on me when I attended IDGB#87 Table of luke. Or even before that. You see, I used to resent “church people” I used to think things like “Those perfect people with their perfect lives, and their perfect God” “Must be so nice”… I was very spiteful and hurt – as a result of my upbringing, my obsession with drugs, which i used to deal with my childhood traumas, and the horrible choices that I made. I was angry with God, That He allowed me to become a Drug addict, That he allowed me to suffer for all of those years. And I would judge so harshly all the while just wanting to experience some Grace and relief of my own. I thought that these Happy Church folks were so chipper and positive because nothing terrible ever happened to them, they never felt what I felt. And I couldnt have been more wrong. For when I found Myself Contemplating suicide in porter county Jail, ready in my heart to take my own life, facing almost 4 decades in prison, it was those very “church folks” who stood in the gap for me. I was in my darkest hour of my life, ready to just end it, i was in my own eyes: a worhtless, unlovable, forgotten, Junkie. And the world would be better off with out me. 

 

Thank God that saved people save people.Thank God that he sent his son Jesus who is alone the answer to the world’s Problems( TRUTH #2) God uses broken people like you and me, to save- to Bridge the gap between broken people like you and me.  We are called to be the hands and feet and just when I needed him to show up. He was there. HE sent People- to stand in the Gap between God and the world. He sent others who have been saved, to show me some light, and to show me some love. HE sent humans to reach their hands down, and touch my heart, and call me back home. 

 

And in my Darkest hour, in his own time, and with his own Methods, and people; GOD called the Church. He called on his own people to reach out, To be the hands and feet. To show me that “flimsy Reed” and save me from myself. He sent an attorney, a sheriff, a judge, and a prosecutor. Imagine that. He used Humans, he used, the church. To show me some true to life grace. He worked a mircale in my life, through the lives of other human beings, who had experienced in their own ways- Grace, Mercy, and someone standing in the Gap for them-SEE how we all make ripples:Someone stood in the gap for me, and someone for them, and so on and so forth, but it all leads back to Jesus, who stood in the gap between God and the world for all of us, and just like now, it is my humble honor to share myself with you, it will soon be your challenge to do the same for so many. It is the church’s most important ministry, introducing people to christ. 

 

 And I went from facing decades in prison, to court ordered to a half way house. Here in valparaiso. Those “church people” That I had once judged so harshly, were now the very ones sticking their necks out for me. And that was just the first “nudge” in my life. I was beginning to see that I was loved. That I mattered to someone, and That i had some good in me, despite what my negative self image was at the time. Someone cared. The church cared. I was blown away. The next and most notable time that the Church stood in the Gap for me was when I attended my Banquet. I was still a little apprehensive, still a little cautious about opening up, and sharing myself with strangers. Especially a town marshall, or one of my previous lawyers. Forget that. Aint happening. (* I was so tough LOL) but what i noticed as I sat through my banquet, is that we all have hurts. We all have done things were not proud of. We all have wounds, we all have pain, and we have all cried. I may not have done what youve done or been where youve been, but at one point or another, I have felt what you have felt. I was now relating to “those church people” “those cops and lawyers”, who at one point i hated. And as our weekend here progressed, I started to see that were all the same. Were all sinners saved by Grace, We all just want to be loved, forgiven, Cherished, celebrated. We all just want to find our place. And the answer all came flooding too me all at once. It was like someone was throwing their hands around me loving me and crying with me and telling me that its okay, youre home now. It was jesus, he was loving me through you. Through Dan, through Mitch, through Kyle,throught the team and the music, and the service and the testimonies. Through all of you. I was home-God used you to bridge the Gap, to bring me home. It was like for the first time in my whole life, everything made since. Every mistake, every tear every night in jail. It all came together in one big mosaic of Grace. A mosaic of Jesus himself. And I knew then why God allowed suffering. So that We can realize our dependence upon him, and so that through his grace we can overcome and reach back and help the next one who is stuck. The next one in line. So that then, We having experienced Gods Grace and love, will be so blown away that we cherish the time when its our turn to give it away. And make christ known to others.  And THATS what it means to stand in the Gap for someone. 

 

Ever since I attended my banquet things have not been the same for me. Today, I am a published author, An interventionist- I get to stand in the gap for others on a daily basis-helping other struggling addicts overcome their addiction, A father to four amazing children, and i’m getting married on October 25th.I speak at schools, I work with lawyers, councils, and various agencies to do my part to battle this terrible drug epidemic that faces our great region. And most importantly, I have a Deep, meaningful relationship with My personal Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As does my fiance. And this is not “good on me”, This is good on you, Church, and Praise honor and Glory to God. I was once a broken lost worhtless dope fiend, and because saved people save people through christ, I got a second chance on life and an opportunity at eternity. I made my decision to not ever waste that amazing grace once i experienced it. And its because my predecessors didnt waste theirs. They were called to be the hands and feet, and the made a difference in my life, and now so many others, it is TRULY UNCANNY. WHAT GOD CAN DO. but you gotta let him. 

 

So, Herb, What Can one person Do? What can i do? 

And where do I begin?

 

Well Ill answer the second question first: because its simple. You start in your own environment. Your home, your job, your family, and friends. Thats where you begin, and just watch the ripple from there. (Im actually getting goosebumps right now.)-writing this** 

 

As far as what can one person do? PLENTY. You can do ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHICH STRENGHTENS YOU. KNOW THAT!

1: be active. We are both called and equipped by the Holy Spirit to bring others to Christ (John:15-17)

2: Accept the role of a servant. 

Just as Jesus washed the feet of his diciples, and the servant was the one issued the invitation to the banquet, so we are called by jesus to invite others into a relationship with him

 

3: Be committed to loving and helping others. 

 

4: Identify and put into practice your spiritual gifts. – NO ONE ELSE ON THIS EARTH HAS PRECISELY THE SAME MISSION AS GOD HAS ASSIGNED YOU. 

 

I want you all to really think about your lives. Think about the Legacy that you can leave behind for others. You really can bridge the gap, you really can make a difference for so many. YOU MAY BE THE ONLY BIBLE THAT PEOPLE EVER READ. Reflect the grace that youve been shown, reflect the love that you have experienced, Reflect the Fellowship that you see here. Take on the heart of a servant. It is in serving that we lead, and it is in loving that we experience Love. 

 

I challenge you All today Men, to truly reflect on your lives. To think about jesus, and how many times you have been spared. How many times others have stood in the gap for you. Think about how others have so freely reflected Christs love for you. And think about how much and how often you experience Gods grace. And once you have truly tasted, and experienced the fullness of Gods Love, to go out and give away what was so freely given to you. 

 

You may be the flimsy reed someone is looking for. You may be the one who was called to change the life for so many others who are desperate and dying and alone. You may be the only bible that people ever read. 

 

 

Bridging the Gap

 

Intervention: (Noun)-

(1) Action taken to improve a situation, especially a medical disorder.

(2) An occasion on which a person with an addiction or other behavioral problem is confronted by a group of friends or family members in an attempt to persuade them to address the issue.

“We will be a Light to all who live in the shadows.”

I remember my days in active addiction. Very well. Who in recovery doesn’t? They will forever be a part of me. One of the things that really still haunts me, that I know so many are facing even as I write this, was the absolute and horrible loneliness that came along with my active addiction. All I wanted to do was just experience some human connection, some love and friendship. But in the counter culture of Heroin addiction those things simply do not exist. It’s really quite fascinating actually, how the whole drug addiction rabbit hole unfolds. When I was in my teens, I felt like i didn’t fit in anywhere, like I didn’t belong. I felt unwanted, inferior, insecure, and unlovable. So I turned to a chemical to change that. To change the way that I felt. Increase pleasure, or decrease pain. Those are the only two reasons that someone would put a mind altering or mood changing chemical into their bodies. Plus I went through a lot of shit as a child that I guess I compartmentalized for a long time and put into this “deal with later” folder. We call that shit Trauma, which I truly believe is one of the actual “Gateways”. And at first, it worked. The drugs did what I wanted them to do. They numbed my pain, my worry, and my fears. But the thing about us human beings, is we do not possess the ability to select which feelings or pains or “parts” of us that the chemicals numb. Numb is numb. Take this Vicodin to ease the pain of that broken leg, and your joy is also suppressed. Take this xanax to ease your anxiety, and your spirit is also numbed. We cannot select the broken pieces of us supernaturally with chemicals and continue to go on as if everything is just rainbows and fucking unicorns. Eventually we become wasted away shells of who we once were. But at first, yeah, it was fun. I’ll be the first to admit that. I fucking loved drugs, for a while. They promised me everything, but never delivered. Now, I dont know if its just me, or “us” across the board, but hurt feelings, rejection, self doubt, etc.. all of those negative things that go on inside this fucked up head of mine- “The Committee” as we call it, can really drive me into some crazy places, like picking up a chemical that I know causes lung cancer for 25 seconds of relief, just to be left feeling emptier than before i picked it up. Sorry, I ramble, probably the biggest critique of my writings thus far, but I write Like I talk, and I write like I think. Besides, never once have I ever Claimed to be Stephen King. After all, I’m a former heroin addict, High school drop out with a GED and a 9th grade education. I do this just as much for me as I do anyone else, Its cathartic for me. See, told you I ramble. But anyways, the loneliness, its scary. Its dark in this world for people with Mental Health issues and Substance Abuse. Feeling so Trapped inside your own skull constantly. I would invent problems, or feelings, or Ideas, seemingly out of thin air, and then I would believe them. Crazy huh? “I love you stevie”, someone would say, and I would immediately think, “why?”- What are you trying to get from me? I was so broken and had such a distorted self image. Drugs made that go away. For a while. Whats so interesting about all of it as i think about this, is that all i wanted to was to FEEL connected to something, to someone, I wanted to feel some kind of a bond, but i guess i was just wired differently than most. So i turned to something alright, I BONDED with chemical use. (I’m trying to go somewhere I promise, so stick with me here) But what I didn’t know at the time was that that was probably the absolute worst thing I could have bonded with, but I was just a fucking kid. I had very little direction from the parentals, very little accountability. I was free to roam. But bonding to a chemical, like tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, etc.. i Might has well have fallen in love with a serial killer.I trained my brain and pathways to always rely on the very thing that was destroying me. And I didn’t even realize it until it was too late.

When We love something or someone, we make time for them. We make time to enjoy it, to nurture that relationship. We will always find away to work it into our life, because it is a priority to us.  Think about it, ever find yourself in that brand new “butterfly” stage of a new relationship? And your friends are all like “Damn! how come we never see you anymore?” Well its because you have now found yourself a new priority, a new friend, a new bond. Its actually quite the same with drug addiction, except for the fact that fucking NO ONE ever sees you, except using buddies and drug dealers. The former typically fade away into an early grave or the prison system before too long and then its just you. Still hitting that next one, hoping that this blast, or this syringe full will do the trick you’ve been chasing for years. And this is what we call complete alienation and isolation. Chasing after something that cannot be caught. The Race to utter oblivion. And because we have Failed ourselves for so long, we have isolated for so long, we have chased, and ran, and hid, trying to shut this voice off in my head that tells me I’m a no good rotten dope fiend, because we have only managed to bond to the very thing that is killing us- causing us to rob you blind, and live on lies, and steal, and manipulate and con to support this habit- we actually “become” the lies in our head. I really hope this is all making sense to you because its actually pretty painful to recall. Staring at the mirror in the nastiest bathrooms known to man, in Gary Indiana. floors covered in needle caps, shit, used condoms, blood, and God only knows what. Shit talking myself and holding back tears spitting at my own reflection because I was absolutely fucking disgusted with the waste of human life I had become all because all i wanted to do was feel some fucking relief as a kid and i found relief in the wrong place, and now here I am 10 years later just wishing it would all end SOMEHOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DAMNIT MAN. I sure don’t miss that and I thank the Lord EVERY SINGLE DAY that I’m finally clean.

And so many times I would hear, “well, you just need to hit bottom and you’ll get clean.”

Please, tell me what bottom is when I lived in the absolute most deplorable state that this human could ever imagine. Most of the time, from what I see, the only actual bottom is when someone dies. its so heartbreaking to me. People, the non addict families, friends, and society just feel so powerless against this thing called addition, and at the same time, they’re the ones who actually feel a bottom long before I will, because no matter what, I have this magical “remedy” that keeps me numb.

I used to change the way that I feel.

Bad shit happens, or Negative consequences as we call them.

And because of the pattern that I set FOR MYSELF at such an early age, escapism, avoidance, running… The only means that I possess to deal with the wreckage that the drugs are causing is to turn right back to the chemical itself.

This is why we recite over and over Einstein’s definition of insanity:

Doing the same things over and over expecting different results.

I was Chemically Insane.

All the while, my sweet grama, brother, my family just praying to God that they dont get “that phone call”…. The greatest Lie I ever told was that I was only hurting myself. That drugs are a victimless crime. what a bunch of bullshit. I would disappear for weeks and months at a time chasing this thing and no one would hear a word, but they would stay up in shear panic and fear for me. hoping that I was alive, Hoping that I was in jail again. Drug addiction is easily the most selfish disease in all of man kind.

So then, whats the point? More psychobabble war stories, and endless rants about the past, which we have all heard before? NO. The point can be found in the first part of the first definition that I provided at the top of this entry.

ACTION TAKEN.

You see, God forbid, If I had come down with Cancer when I was 15, instead of drug addiction, my family would have immediately sprung into ACTION. They would have been looking for the best doctors and the best hospitals with the most cutting edge medicine available and fighting the insurance companies for coverage and never leaving my bedside. They would have been at all of my Chemo appointments, and bringing me ice cream, and starting Go Fund Me campaigns. They Would have been in prayer with me. The would have done what they could do to BRIDGE THE GAP for me. So why is it then that so many families “accept” drug addiction and feel so powerless when it is in fact a disease, like so many other diseases? Shame? Fear? Stigma? I don’t know the answers to this. But it does in fact happen. but I’m not here to stir the pot or piss anyone off. I’m just writing what I’m feeling led to write right now.

You see, I have been doing what I’m doing for several years now- Interventions. Which, by the way, I TRULY believe is my purpose. I believe with my whole heart that God allowed me to suffer in addiction for as long as I did so that I could be someone to help someone. He turned my pain into purpose. But anyways, in my works in intervention, its very strange to me, but almost 100% of the families and friends that call me looking to help their struggling loved ones all say the same thing: YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND HERB.- (Trust me, I do.) And: THERE’S NO WAY THAT HE or SHE IS GOING TO GO TO RECOVERY IF WE DO THIS. (So why did you call?) And I know why they say those things. They say those things because their situation is so special, and so unique to them, its so personal, and often times, so untalked about that they haven’t had the chance to have someone say to them, i know, I’m going through it too, or I have been there and this is what I did. We hide it. Were ashamed. Not my child. No way. We feel like failures because Our precious boy went through some shit in his childhood and couldn’t deal with it, so he turned to drugs, and we blame ourselves. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Read that again. But another reason why They say those things is because they’re exhausted. and they have exhausted all of their tools to bring about change. they have punished, threatened, pleaded, prayed, Fought, cussed, and cried, but nothing was able to bring about change in their loved ones using patterns. And simply put- the reason why you haven’t been able to jar them into a place of vulnerability and surrender, is because you’re mom. or dad, or wife, etc… you’re just too close to this person, and over the years, you have all  taught one another how to treat each other. You all know each others buttons to push, you have all been in this “dance” so to speak, this emotionally hijacked, codependent, drug induced, stressed out Mambo. Divide and conquer, Fear, Sympathy, Hope, Anger, enabling, Manipulation. I, the addict use your love to get what I want, and you the parent, in turn try to use love to get what you want. Or fear, or threats, and punishment. And its all because were all scared to death. I’m scared to not get more of the poison that “fixes me” and you’re scared to death that I’m going to die, or hate you if you make me stop. and round and round we go.

Sound familiar? It breaks my heart that I know these things and I think of my own mother as i write. God I wish I could just have 5 more minutes with her and tell her how much i loved her, and that I was sorry. I was just so so sick. ugh.

But to stand in the gap, to take action against the disease when its inside someone you love, you need someone who knows the disease. someone who has been there. Without judgement, with dignity and respect. Someone who can be a spokesperson for the family without some sort of jerry springer epsisode unfolding. A recovering addict or alcoholic, and yes I said OR. ( sorry language police 🙂 But someone who can look them in the eyes FOR you, and just let them know that they are just FAR TO PRECIOUS to watch them kill themselves for another day, and that were not mad, we love you. we want to help you break the chains of addiction, TODAY. That’s the bottom, at least it was for me, when the sheriff went way out of his way, and didn’t have to, to be KIND to me. To show me some love when i felt totally unlovable. It impacted me in a way that I cannot even describe. when you have someone who has been there, and has truly had their heart Pricked by God, to serve others, you can just feel the light and oxygen return to the room, when we look your person in the face and say “ME TOO”. We can speak that wordless language of empathy. Just by seeing the brokenness inside. We recognize each other like some sort of survivor’s bond has been instilled in each of us. We can be that Flimsy reed. The hands and feet of God. And although, most of the time, the person that were intervening on typically is a little bit pissed off because we’re disrupting their using. They’re mad because we have just interrupted the using cycle, and taken away their best friend. A lot of times what I end up seeing is that their very first actual bond forms. What once was a frothy, ugly, angry back-and-forth dance of a relationship between interventionist and struggling addict. Almost immediately becomes a lifelong, thank you for saving my life type of bond. It truly is the most beautiful thing I have ever witnessed in this world.

You know how they say that addiction is a family disease, that the addict may use, but the whole family feels it? Well, I whole heartedly believe that recovery is a family journey, and more so responsibility. When the addict recovers, the family can begin recovering right along with them. It takes a village. It takes outside help. But when we all get to experience recovery, it is truly the most “Peaceful, easy feeling” that I can ever describe to you. Cue up the Eagles.

The Ultimate Weapon against the Disease of Addiction is the Recovering Addict.

Psychobabble

So, over the last few years I have really taken on a love for public speaking. I have spoken to a very wide variety of people from all over the state. I have spoken to groups of Lawyers, Judges, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Social Workers, and Students of nearly every age group and for many different occasions. This is something that previously terrified me. And it all started when I was at the Halfway House and I got a call from someone at the Sheriff’s office telling me that I needed to be at Ivy Tech in Valpo at a certain time. Not asking me. Telling me. And It scared the ever living shit out of me. But I showed up because, well, I knew that I needed to keep saying yes to new challenges and opportunities, plus I owed my life and freedom to the Sheriff so I better not blow them off. They just saved my neck. So I showed up and the rest is rock’n’roll history. But over the years, as I have met and interacted with thousands of people, I have come to realize that my absolute favorite groups to speak to are the kids. Fifth grade through eighth grade to be exact. For a number of reasons really. They’re not used to hearing someone come in and speak to them in such a raw and candid truth as it pertains to the nature of addiction and the importance of good decision making. There are so many rules, guidelines, and political correctness in our schools today, as there should be. I do not disagree with that one bit. I believe that our schools should be a fair, correct, all inclusive and  a safe place for our young people to truly get acclimated as should our society but that’s a whole nother subject for a later time. The point is, is that when I was in school, it was all about “Just Say No”, and “This is your brain on drugs”, and “Scruff-McGruff, Chicago, Illinois, 60652” (I actually Just heard Ol’ Scruff’s Voice in my head as I typed that last part). But no one really ever got eye ball to eye ball with me and spoke with us as students to inform us, from experience, what may happen if we said YES to drugs. And when the students are all packed into the little auditoriums, or Gyms or class rooms, and they hear the harsh realities of what it’s actually like to struggle with addiction, they listen. And I must add this, I am NOT writing this for it to be taken as some “good on me thing” because it isn’t. I hurt a lot of people throughout my addiction and there is absolutely nothing glamorous or fantastic about being a drug addict. I am just grateful and blessed enough to be, as I consider it, Living in the solution today, and to be able to give back, even just a little bit.  But the kids listen, it’s almost like they welcome it, they take it in like a breath of fresh air. These kids now a days are so much more advanced than we were when we were kids. Thanks to the internet, and snap chat, and instagram, and so on. But they are. And I truly believe that the way to connect with these kids, is to speak to them like the young adults that they are. See, I always thought that a young adult was someone who was maybe 17 or 18 years old. But if we wait until they’re that age to try and reach them, the’re already set in their ways. Plus there’s the fact that kids today for the most part are like 13 going on 30, but I already mentioned how fast they’re growing, up. So I wont repeat myself here too much. But anyways, its a new generation out there. The Quantum leap has occurred and we need to constantly be adjusting out methods and strategies as it pertains to saving some precious lives out there. And I think that that is one of the many reasons why the kids listen when I speak to them. I don’t hold back. I don’t Lie to them, and I definitely don’t sugar coat anything, because life, and especially addiction is not going to sugar coat a damn thing.

And as I have continued to speak with these kids, one of the things that has remained the same, other than my story, because the past isn’t changing, is that I try to get them engaged early. Right off the bat when I start my presentations. (I’m going somewhere with this, I promise, just hang out for a minute). And one of the ways that I have been able to get their attention and keep it early is to ask them a serious of questions. And it usually sounds something like this:

“How many of you young adults in the room have a dream?- You wanna be a Doctor, or a Lawyer, maybe you wanna be a ball player? You have Goals, and high hopes for yourself” “How may of you know what you want to be when you grow up?” And EVERY SINGLE hand in the room goes sky high. One of the reasons why I enjoy asking them this, is that it gets their bright and budding minds working right away. Not only do their hands go skyward, but I just know that they’re all also instantly getting a picture in their minds about what they want their lives to look like in 20 years. Even though these young people are much more advanced than we were when we were young, they’re still at the beautiful age where there is some innocence left. There is still some of that childlike wonder in there somewhere. And I can just see it on their faces. God, to have that innocence back again.

And then I ask them something like this(And in this question it pays to know your audience, I don’t ask the same exact questions to 5th graders that I would 8th graders or freshman. I don’t want to hurt their ideas of life or frighten them out of pursuing their dreams, but you get it.): “How many of you in this room, that just raised your hand- in the pursuit of your dreams, or instead of your dreams, would like to be robbed at gun point by a drug dealer? How many of you in this room would like to pawn your grandmother’s wedding ring twice in the same day to buy Heroin? How many of you would like to sleep in abandoned buildings and eat your only meals out of a garbage can? How many of you would like to watch your only biological child be born into this world in horrible agonizing pain because he was born addicted to Heroin?” And not only does every single hand go instantly down, but by now, you can hear a pin drop in the room- regardless of it’s size. They’re listening. They know that What I’m Sharing with them, is my wound. I’m sharing myself with them. All of me, good and bad. I’m not here with Pie Charts, or statistics. I’m not a teacher, or administrator. I’m just Herb. And the only thing (And in my opinion, the most powerful thing) That I have to share, is my own personal experience.

And then I do my best, to truly explain to them how I got to those places. I very seldom write anything, I just share my thoughts at the time, as the Spirit leads me. I honestly explain to them That I was once their ages, and that I had a dream too. I love fishing, and animals, and my dream was to grow up and be a baseball player. I didn’t Just wake up one day and decide to ditch all of my highest hopes and dreams for myself and jump head first into a lifestyle of drug addiction and crime. That’s not how it happens, which is EXACTLY why I’m here speaking to you all particularly today. At this age. Right now. Looking back on my life, as I was growing up, I have a lot of mixed feelings, memories, and beliefs as to what my childhood was actually like. But no matter what those are, at the time of my childhood, everything seemed normal. It seemed normal to have to walk across the street to borrow a gallon of water from the neighbors because our water had been shut off. It seemed normal to move every year, and to change schools all the time. It seemed normal to be shuttled back and forth from grama and grampas house, aunts house in tennessee, and gramas house in indiana because my parents couldn’t keep their shit together. Everything seemed normal. I just thought that this is how things happen in the world, and I’m not placing blame anywhere, I’m just explaining some things. I had that Childlike innocence, Like these young people do now. The ones that I’m speaking to. And even though we struggled, even though we moved a lot, even though we were all just lower low class common folks from central Georgia, my family had love. We always stuck together. My brothers and I were always very close, my cousins were like siblings. We always did everything together. Holidays, birthdays, campouts. We always did it all together. But one thing that I know now, from looking back, is that no matter how much love I was shown, from anyone, no matter who my friends were, no matter how cool I thought I was- I always felt different. I struggled with Self acceptance, I struggled with self esteem, and I struggled figuring out who I was and what I was here for. At your Age. This awkward adolescent phase that you’re in, I was once in. It sucks. Its uncomfortable. Do people like me? Am I good enough? What the fuck is going on? I get it.

One of the reasons why I love speaking to young people your age, is that you are right on the cusp of the most important years of your life. They may not be the most fun, or feel all that important, but believe me, they are. Right now is when there are some very important changes going on inside of you, and in your life- and I’m not here to deliver the Birds and the Bees lecture, I’ll save that for your teachers here. But what I am saying is that there are some very big changes happening inside your mind. You’re growing up. Soon, if not now, you’ll be learning to cope. You’ll be learning to deal. You’re maturing even as we sit here, and the problems that you are going to be facing in the years to come are nothing like the ones you used to face. You see, I’m standing up here speaking to you as a recovering heroin addict. But remember, I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to stick a needle in my arm. Again, that’s not how it happens. Addiction, and the downward spiral of drugs is a series of compromises. One after the other, over time. Some times quicker than with others. But its all a long process of selling out my dreams, of compromising my values for the sake of instant gratification. How many of you want to be liked? How many of you will delete an IG post within an hour if doesn’t get enough likes? How many of you want to be loved? Feel valued? We all do. And that’s why I’m here to tell that my first drug of choice was ACCEPTANCE. See, going back to when I was that awkward middle schooler, when I felt like I didn’t belong, I had a hard time fitting in with myself. All I wanted to do was feel validated. I wanted to fit in and feel all the feels. I wanted and craved instant gratification. I don’t know why, but I did. Maybe I had a hard time bonding with home. I don’t know. So I would constantly act out in various ways, I would strive for positive attention and reinforcement, to remedy what ever internal conflict I had going on at the time. Baseball star, Rebel, class clown, “Ladies man” (yeah right), whatever I had to do to feel like I finally belonged somewhere. And my friends would change as I continued on in pursuit to find myself. To find my place. People would laugh when I joked, and it felt good. People would validate me when I jumped the biggest jump on my bike, or when I struck out a batter. I craved it. It was the only thing that I could do to stay out of my head and keep the focus off of the fact that deep down inside, I’m a scared, directionless, Insecure little boy. And my friends continued to change, as I continued to try and find my place. Until I found myself hanging out with friends who smoked cigarettes. And tobacco, Nicotiene, EXACTLY like the JUULs and Vapes that a lot of you are either smoking now, or will be pressured to smoke soon, was the very first chemical that went into my blood stream. And I was a drug addict right then and there.

And what I mean by this, is first of all, Addiction is NOT about drugs. Drugs are a SYMPTOM of addiction. Addiction is about escape. Its about avoiding, and coping in unhealthy ways. I hated cigarettes, I hated the smell, I hated the way my parents chain smoked Marlboro Reds all the God Damn time, and the way it made their voices sound. It actually embarrassed me when my friends would see me with my dad and he was smoking a cig. But when I found myself with friends who were smoking, why, it had a whole new allure to it. Now it was cool, now it is something that I was interested in. People like me now. I fit in. I’m one of them. Now when I’m smoking, it made me sick as shit, but it gave me a head change and I don’t have to go on trying to fit in, I have found my place. I have now bonded with this chemical and it is going to give me all the relief that I need. I no longer have to worry about if we’re going to move again, or if I’m changing schools. I don’t have to worry about how good looking I am, or if I’m good enough. All I have to do is take a drag and let this chemical do it’s work.  But what I didn’t know at the time, is that, when I turn to chemicals to escape, when I turn to chemicals for relief- When I Depend on a chemical, Ill always be chemical dependent. And that what I was doing to my still developing brain- when I’m supposed to be learning to cope, and to deal like you all are now, is that I was Stunting my emotional development. I was stunting my natural maturation process. Because I crossed that line, into the chemical world, not only was I constantly obsessed with the next cigarette, or the next buzz, as I would progress on from there to alcohol, weed, pills, and ultimately heroin- But I had stopped my emotional growth right then and there. I believe this is something called “arrested development”.  And I remember vividly, when I actually took on that first cigarette, it was almost like the Angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other- it was one of those pivotal moments in my life, where I made a very terrible decision. I made my first real compromise. I sold myself out. I went against my values, and my beliefs, for the sake of some instant gratification. And Although, when I took my first pull off of that smoke, yes, it did give me a head change, but it also gave me a very negative heart change. Like I had just done something horribly wrong. And that was my first domino that fall so to speak. And on from there, I lived my life constantly in search of some kind of chemical solution to every single problem that I ever faced. One was never enough. Tobacco wasn’t enough. Alcohol, nope. Pills, nope. I always had to have more, because I was chasing something that wasn’t ever really there to begin with. A solution. An answer. And it wasn’t long after that that I was a convicted felon, a crack head, and ultimately a homeless strung out Heroin addict. All because I had to “Fit in” I had to be accepted. I had to have that Instant Gratification and feel validated. So I want you all to really think about your lives. I want you to remember why you raised your hand. Your heart was pricked when I asked you if you had a dream, and I could see the light in your faces as you imagined what a Beautiful Life that lies ahead for you could look like. And I know that I may not know exactly what types of pressures you may be facing, or what your home life looks like. But I do know this for sure. You can give up everything for one thing, or you can give up one thing and have everything your heart desires. To thine ownself be true. Focus on your dream, remember why you raised your hand. That is something that means more to you than any Acceptance ever will. Its your dream. Protect it. You are far too precious to watch you die, in the pursuit of something that isn’t even real. We believe in you, I believe in you. Make good choices, and never sacrifice your heart, your dreams, or your goals, for something that seems “so important right now” because I promise you, Its probably not gonna matter a year from now.

And I truly believe that they feel that shit.

Heroes

Hero: (Noun): a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

 

Throughout recent years, with the book, my works in Intervention and Treatment, Speaking Engagements, and working with people I have received a lot of amazing feedback from people all over the globe. They reach out to me on Facebook, Linkedin, via Email, and send me thank you cards in the mail. People I have either never met, or people I have only interacted with briefly here and there. Families I have worked with, addicts I have gotten into treatment, teachers, administrators, judges, etc.. They reach out expressing thanks, gratitude, and use words like “inspiration”, “Amazing”, and “Hero”. And though each and every time I receive a reach out, email, message, or card it does mean a lot, and provides me with validation and confirmation that I am in fact doing what God wants me to do, I must tell you all right now that I am not the hero you seek.

You see, I am not extraordinary, special, or some kind of exception to an unwritten rule. I am just me. I am just Herb. And to be honest with you, yes, it is pretty amazing and I thank God every morning that I awake that I have been spared, and blessed into the life or recovery, God willing, so far. But again, to be honest, what is so heroic about a person who was once addicted to crack and heroin, that used to eat out of garbage cans, and panhandle from unsuspecting strangers every day to support his habit? I am not putting myself down here, trust me, I love my recovery, and my life today. I am truly a blessed man. But what is so special about the fact that I haven’t committed a crime in what, 5 years now? When there are every day, good, normal people out there right now who have never committed a crime in their lives. People who, day in and day out wake up, make their coffee, get dressed, and head out the door to their jobs, or the gym. People who struggle just like anyone else, to make ends meet. To raise their kids. People who hate their jobs, but show up every single day with a smile on their face because they know that they have to keep the lights on. That their kids need school supplies. And money for a field trip. They know that no one is going to “Make it for them” and they’re okay with that, because the fire, desire, Love for their families, and dedication to giving them the best possible life means so much more than the daily frustrations that we all face. What about all those people out there, the single moms and dads raising multiple children on minimum wage, working two and three jobs. what about the children who’s parents abandoned them-yet they still kick ass in school, living in a foster home hoping to make the grades necessary to get into college, what about the lonely broken hearted widows, what about those fighting cancer? Every single day there are millions of people out there, who have never made the choice to do drugs, like I did. And they struggle, and they work their asses off, and they show up every day, and they pray, and they take a break to go in cry in the bathroom because they’re over worked, underpaid, and feel so alone and unappreciated. All they want is a little recognition, they want to feel valued, they want to know that the’re loved, cherished, and noticed. These are the real heroes.

And this one is for you. This one is for all the people That I see as the real heroes in my life. Today, and everyday. I see you.

You see, I go to many places to speak, and to listen. I speak at schools, and Colleges, Churches, and Jails. People see me doing these things, and it feels good to be able to give back. But what everyone is actually seeing is merely a bi-product of all of the heroes that have been working in my life. Over the years. Selflessly. Like My brother and Sister-in-Law, Josh and Carol. These two here have absolutely no idea how much they truly held me together while I was locked up, and all I wanted to do was fucking swan dive off the top tier in the Porter County Jail. And end it all. They faithfully, not only kept money on my books, so I had money to make phone calls, And took EVERY SINGLE CALL I made from that jail, which was every day. They sent me pictures, and inspiring quotes, and cried with me. And they drove all the way from Atlanta Georgia to Valparaiso, Indiana     (check it on a map, its not a short drive) Just to see me appear in court, for what, 8 minutes? These two amazing people will never in a million life times know how much they have truly touched my heart and inspired my life.

And my Attorney, the Sheriff, and The Court. They didn’t owe me anything. They could have just as well, and probably a whole lot easier, just sent me to prison. Just another dope fiend off the streets, right? But they didn’t. I still to this day don’t know the lengths that any of these people went to give me one more last chance. And to be honest with you, I don’t need to know. I am just so truly grateful that they did. The fact of the matter is, I would not have written a book, gotten into this field, helped many people find recovery, been a dad again, or met the love of my life, Tiffany, had these three people here not done what they did. I owe them my life. Literally. The Executive Director of the Halfway house I was court ordered to, again, Lita Peters, who is currently in the midst of grieving yet another tremendous loss to our community, as we all are. Thank you. I have absolutely no idea the courage, strength, and dedication it takes to continue to do what you do, day in and day out. Fighting for grant money, running a halfway house full of knuckle heads like me, praying like crazy, answering desperate jail house and prison letters for one more chance, wondering how were going to get a new roof, new beds, and new water heater. You keep showing up, and doing your best to plant those little seeds of hope, in spite of a constantly growing pile of funeral notices. Hoping to save just one more.

And that Leads me to My Personal Hero, My everyday Hero. My very special Person, The love of my life, Tiffany. This woman here is the person you really see when I’m posting about the things that I’m doing. She is the rock of our family, she is the glue that holds it all together. She is the hero here, not me. I was just a broke, unemployed, lost kid at the halfway house when Tiffany and I met. I had no idea what lied ahead for me, and I definitely was not looking for any kind of love at this time in my life. I guess the secret to finding is to stop searching huh? And although we have experienced some very turbulent times in our relationship, we have always seemed to be there for one another. Most of the time she is the 80 and I’m the 20. In the words of our very dear friends Ernest and Jackie, “no one fights for you like me, and no one fights for me like you.” I still don’t know what I have done in this life to deserve such a special person like her. See, you all see “Male, 35 years old, Indiana, Just said YES to recovery” when I post it on Facebook. You all see Herb Stepherson Checking in to Kokomo, Indiana to give another Riveting talk about my battles with addiction. You see the facebook stuff. You all see the Social Media world. I see her. What none of you see, what none of us see in each other’s lives, because social media is all about the happy stuff, the good stuff, the hand picked memories that we all choose to let others in on- are the countless times that this woman has been there for me like no one else has. When no one else has. Me on the verge of tears, gritting my teeth when all I want to do is give up, what’s the fucking use? She was there. My sweet Grama breaking the news to me that she doesn’t have much time left. She was there. Sitting in a Psychologist’s office in valparaiso, because I’m absolutely sure that I’m losing my mind. She was there, Literally, holding my hand. Sitting beside me keeping me strong as I walk through all of the Internal struggles that I face on a daily basis, only to discover that I’m Bi Polar. She was there. 5:00 AM, alarm goes off, coffee gets made, kids up, showered, brushed teeth, homework, Dinners, Hikes, Cleaning, counseling, helping us all keep focused, and motivated. Arts and crafts, All the great ideas, all the family fun stuff. Its all her. You all see me, I see her. I have never in my life met someone who truly makes me want to be better. I have never met someone who can inspire me, just by being who she is. She doesn’t wear a cape, she doesn’t have some kind of super power. But she has the selfless Love, dedication, grace, work ethic, Grit, compassion, and aura that only a mother can have. that only that special person can have. I have absolutely no idea where I would be today if it weren’t for this woman. I don’t even want to know. I had no idea where this thing called life would take me. Everything scared the shit out of me. I was scared as hell of being a dad to one child, my biological son, Luke. Because of our chance meeting, I now have the amazing, exhausting, scary, am I doing it all wrong-opportunity and blessing to be a dad to four children. There is nothing scarier or more rewarding than being a dad to my son, or to being a step dad to these three. I fail. I fuck up. I struggle with boundaries, I feel like sometimes being a parent is hands down the most thankless job in the world, and I can’t help but think about my own mother right now, Poor mom, all the hell I put her through. But this family of ours, and Rosie too, these are my heros. They think I’m teaching them, oh no, They’re teaching me. And Tiffanys family, they have no idea how much they mean to me. I remember it like it was yesterday, several things actually. The first time I met her family, one by one. Her mom, a meeting we all still laugh about to this day. The first time I met her dad, “only after we have been together for a year”, His request, not mine, which I honored. Walking into their house on thanksgiving, taking my hat off to shake his hand, scared shitless, not knowing what may happen, or where this will go. This former Felon, Drug addict kid from the halfway house who’s now dating his daughter. oh boy. I had no idea that this man would one day become one of my best friends. Little did I know that these people who were being placed into my life would some day become my closest family, my best friends in the world. My heroes. Like my favorite Fantasy Sports Guru, who shall remain nameless at the time, but he knows who this is about. He’s part of my golf foursome. And he is one of the most courageous and brave, humble, positive, and encouraging people I know. In the face of taking on something I cannot even imagine, fighting for his life, Trips back and forth from Mayo Clinic, to Vanderbilt, to Chicago hospitals, he has been so incredibly strong, and often times, he is the one who is holding others together, as were all breaking for him. I see you kid. You’re my hero. And to the whole family, or clan, as we often call them, Thank you. Thank you for loving me for who I am, not in spite of who I am. You all mean more to me than you will ever know.

You see, were all products of our environments, were only as strong as the people we choose to stick with. I am not a hero, I am surrounded by heroes.

And to all the:

Moms, Dads, widows, Pastors, Police, firefighters, Judges, CASAs, Case workers, Probation officers, Soldiers, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, social workers, EMTs. To everyone coming back from a relapse, picking up that 1,000 pound white key tag, to all the sponsors out there, to all the sponsees out there. To all the counselors, to all the People out there who are working and trying so incredibly hard to make a difference, but it always seems to be an uphill battle. I see you. you’re the real heroes. Not me. I wouldn’t be any where if it weren’t for the people who have spoken life and love into my heart.

You’re all the real heroes in my book. The real Heroes are the seed planters. Keep planting seeds, even if you never see the harvest.