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D o p a m i n e

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pot became Pills.
Pills became powder.

My friends became my adversaries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Increase pleasure.
Decrease Pain.
Dopamine.

Gift Horse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humility, gratitude, and appreciation.

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

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

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

Atonement

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Priorities 2

So, before we get going here this afternoon, if you’re willing, I would like you to indulge me for a second here. I would like you to take a moment if you have one, and quiet your mind. Reflect. Just you and You. no one else. No outside noise. No judgement. Just you and your inner most self. Probe and search. Seek and find. Be Still. Think about who you really are. Without the masks of survival that we all wear and switch from interaction to interaction. Without the constant changing colors of the Cuddlefish and Chameleons. What is your True Name? Who are you really, when your day ends, and the late night time hours begin and it is just you, in your home, with your thoughts. Are you Paladin, seeker and warrior for Justice? Or are you- You just as you are right here, and right now- only maybe the 9 year old version of you, longing to be loved, and still so innocent and full of wonder? Or are you You, just as you are right here and right now- but angry, and bitter from a shitty hand that you feel life has dealt you? Or are you someone else entirely, finally pulling off your real world costume and wishing you could climb out of your skin altogether? Are you happy? Do you have peace? What is your True name? You may not be able to put your finger on this “True name”, but you can feel it. You can see it. You know that there is something there, that there is something much deeper than you have previously noticed. Focus on this person, focus on the 9,10,12,14 year old version of you, but as the Current you. The morals, the goodness that He possessed. The traits, values, and the uncanny ability to always maintain Eternal Optimism, no matter what life through his way. And stay here. And let me ask you a couple questions:

How do you spend your time? How do you spend your money? And what do you think about? If you were to look back at your last 30 transactions from your bank ledger, what priorities would it reflect to you? What do you do with your free time? What does that say about you as a human? And what are your thoughts? If you were to write your thoughts down in a daily journal for 30 days, would you be proud if a stranger read them out loud downtown on a megaphone? What do your thoughts say about you?

And lastly, take a moment to think about what is really important to you. Take a moment to think about your TOP 5 Priorities in life. And no, not surface/superficial stuff like “I want a new sound system in my truck”. Real Priorities. For instance, Mine are: 1: A relationship with God, 2: Recovery, 3: My Marriage/Wife/Family, 4: My career/Helping others, and 5: Relationships with people. Take the rest of the day, meditate on this if you must, but no one is going to know about this but you, and then write your top priorities down and put them in your wallet, or purse, or under the visor of your truck to look at once in a while…..

**********************************************************************

I bring this up today, because this is still to this day, the simplest and most practical advice that was ever given to me. And I do my best to instill these types of values into my family as often as I can. Recently I made My Daughter write a paper on the importance of Priorities, because I felt like she may have been slacking a bit in her studies at school. But as is congruent with Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is usually the right one, and such as in life, the simple sweet advice is often times the best advice to get. And this is the case here, with me, right now. And I believe this is one of the many reasons they tell us to “Keep it Simple” When we first get clean. But anyways.

Today was a very Big and powerful day for me. I woke up, had some coffee, watched the news, and saw tiffany and the kids off to school and work. I took the Dogs out, watched ESPN for a few minutes, prayed, showered and got dressed. Only today, I wasn’t putting on Jeans and a T-shirt. I was suiting up so to speak. Nice grey slacks, an off grey matching shirt, that I actually got married in, and a Pink striped grey tie. Today, I was off to see the Judge. I played worship music all the way to the courthouse and prayed for “The words to speak, and That His Will be done.” Today I was going into Porter Superior Court 1. Third Floor. To see my original sentencing Judge, 5 and One Half years after he sentenced me to the Half way house in Valparaiso. I was pretty nervy/shaky and antsy all morning. I wasn’t sure what was about to happen, but I knew that the Will of God would never take me to where the Grace of God wouldn’t deliver me from. Although, this morning wasn’t really anything to be scared about. I had done all that I could do, behaved, done well, and performed as well as I could on probation, and in life all together.

This morning, I stood before the judge on my “FC’ Cause number, the second consecutive case of the two, and the longest of the combined cases all together- for a Hearing to Modify Probation, and for Expungement of my Criminal record all together in the state of Indiana.

It is very surreal when I look back on things, and play the tape through from start to finish. 17 & 1/2 years of shear self inflicted hell- all to escape the previous 18 years of grief, trauma, sadness, and brokenness. It has been such a ride, So scary and deflating and hopeless at times. Clean or using. It’s like watching a movie that you just know is not going to end well… And then it does. Then God intercedes and intervenes. And I am standing before the judge this morning with my hands in my pockets because my nerves are so bad I am trembling. And the Judge says, “Congratulations, Mr. Stepherson. You have accomplished so very much in spite of so much, and under the worst circumstances, I am delighted to accept this modification and wish you Only the best of luck.” And that was that. 17 1/2 years in the system. Jails, Prisons, Homelessness. Near death experiences, Overdoses, Eating out of garbage cans. Boom. Done, expunged, gone. No more felonies, No more misdemeanors, no more record. The past completely cleaned up, My present, Free, My hope and future endeavors, restored. Not a single violation, not a single missed appointment, no dirty drops, no issues, and no bullshit from me. Done. Paid in full. Amends made, atonement reached, Restitution in full. Name, Cleared. The State of Indiana just wiped my slate completely clean. 8 felonies, and 30+ Misdemeanors over almost 18 years. Gone. Shit doesn’t even seem real. I am actually still processing this in prayers of gratitude as I write this. I feel so full, proud, and humbled to have reached such a rare and significant milestone in my life. No longer will that long black shadow follow me around, no longer will that Monkey be on my back, No longer will I wear that Badge, that Millstone of past Felonious lifestyles around my neck. Today, its just me, as I am, right here and right now.

And, it is all because, simply put, that I took the suggestions I was given early on- to Heart. And I will never ever forget that advice and guidance that my Sponsor gave me sitting in his truck that day. “What are your priorities, Herb?” “Don’t tell me now, take the night, and write them down, and we will talk about them when we meet again.” And My priorities are still the exact same today as they were back then. And I have always done my best, day in and day out, to Protect my Priorities. It is Kind of like what Jesus said back in the day, and I am paraphrasing, but I believe it was something like, “If you obey my commands, if you obey my Laws, then you need not worry about the Laws of the Land.” This is very similar to that Idea. If we truly have the correct priorities, which are wholesome and good, and we work hard and stop at nothing to protect those Priorities, only amazing things will take place in our lives. Does that mean that no bad will come our way? Absolutely not! But what it does mean, is that we can survive and overcome all of the adversities that are thrown at us, by maintaining our priorities throughout the storms of life. I have experienced a tremendous amount of grief and pain, hard times and fear throughout the last almost 6 years, but because I wrote my Priorities on the tablet of my heart, I was able to survive some truly devastating times. It is so heart breaking that my Big Brother Josh is not here with me today to share such a happy occasion, but I know where he is, and I know he is beaming down on me with love and pride. And He and his Pride in me, further solidifies my priorities, and the drive to never give up. No Matter what it is going to be okay, as long as we are true to ourselves.

So, to circle, back, Let’s think about those Priorities. Lets think about our innermost self. Who Am I? What are my True Priorities? Who Do I want to be? What Legacy do I want to leave behind?

And here’s what we do. Step #1: Fuck what everyone else thinks.

There is no step 2. We know who we are. We know what’s important to us. If we take the next 5 years, to focus on our top 5 Priorities, and sacrifice everything for our dreams, and to truly explore and discover the possibilities that this world has to offer those who are willing to work and chase their dreams, we will be truly amazed within the first year. And if we are not, then after that first year, maybe it is time to audit, or revisit our priorities. There may be something off. Perhaps one, or more are not in the appropriate order. But this is literally all that I did to get here, And I have been amazed time and time again, and I am not even half way through. Right now, I sit in our very own home, on the couch, with 2 of my boys, they’re cooking a pizza, Luna our Boston Terrier just returned from the kitchen disappointed that Connor didn’t drop any food on the floor, and snuggled up next to Luke. We’re about to share a nice frozen pizza, then they will clean their rooms and go outside and enjoy some fresh 70+ degree November air. And we will watch Monday Night Football, have a nice dinner, and wake up to do this crazy thing called life all over again. It is truly beautiful, bittersweet, and magical; this life thing. But I have learned that with God all things are possible, and Life truly is what we make it. But it takes time, it takes work, it takes sacrifice, and it takes having our priorities in order. And every now and again, that “sweet spot” comes, like it did today. Where God smiles down on us, we feel that little nudge and pat on the back, and we get to just exhale and feel that Proud accomplishment and peace come into our hearts, knowing that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. And that is a very good feeling.

Romans 12:2 “Be not conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’

God bless and God speed.

E over I

I truly believe that we addicts are unstoppable creatures. That once we get a fire under our ass about something, nothing can stand in our way. I also believe that when we first get clean, if we set certain goals for ourselves, we are really selling ourselves short.

When I first got clean, I just wanted the country song to play in reverse: get the truck back, the dog, a girl, a decent recovery job, and an apartment. I had absolutely no idea what God had in store for me.

I didn’t even know what I wanted. Let alone how the hell I was gonna get it. I just didn’t wanna smoke crack or shoot dope anymore. That much I knew. But what had taken place in my life recently, was that someone had shown me some goodness, and planted a see that had started to sprout. I had come to the conclusion that I was NOT a drug addict piece of shit loser, not anymore. And I wasn’t going to live like that, not today. So I Just did my best every single day to stay humble, be kind, see the good in the world, and help others every chance I got. And that, along with listening to that “Still small voice” or “follow my nudges” as I say. Has led me to some pretty amazing experiences, memories, and places in my life. My wife and I got to stand looking over the absolutely most beautiful pond I have ever seen, which was nestled into the golden wheat covered rolling hills in Washington State- something that I never even fathomed would happen. My daughter, her best friend, and myself took a ride on the sketchiest fucking ride ever at Indiana Beach called the skycoaster, where my old ass and two teenage girls, because I am so “Super cool” Were raised up by a fucking bungee cord like 150 feet above a lake and then pulled some damn rip cord and went flying like a pendulum headed for certain death back and forth a bunch of times while I pretended not to turn grey and almost puke my guts out. We drove 16 hours though Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Carolinas to Hilton Head Island, where I got down on one knee and proposed to my now wife over looking the beautiful atlantic ocean at sunset and I was shaking so badly I thought I would drop the ring down through the crack of the pier. We have all cut down our very first Christmas trees together as a family. We have purchased a house, yes, got a fucking mortgage on our dream home, and our very first New Car. I didn’t see any of this coming. I just wanted to feel better and not shoot dope. And I can tell you about all of these amazing things that have happened in our lives, but I would be misleading if I didn’t share with you the difficult times too. I have almost left, I have almost given up numerous times. She has done the same. All of these bills, four kids, who seem to get more and more expensive as time goes by. They want everything and appreciate nothing. All they do is complain and ask whats for dinner, and some how this generation has become addicted to Dunkin Donuts, which isnt’t really a huge deal, unless theres 8 of us mobbin deep and they all wants fucking signature something bullshit, and then the total is like 40$ a rip. And instead of wanting coloring books and shit for christmas, they want IPADS, and AIRPODS and shit. Like what the fuck. And grocery shopping sucks absolute balls now. There was a time when I was like, “shit Ill just grab two boxes of ramen, and 14 frozen pizzas and I’m good to go” Not today. Nope. Not even close. And marriage… Marriage is something I never thought I would ever experience. And it is also something that I must learn and grow into each and every day. I’m pretty sure my Wife and I have experienced about 47 different versions of ourselves over the last several years. And it’s funny, because I always had this weird EXPECTATION that Marriage would somehow like make everything “better”, or cure something? I don’t know, but what I have found out is that here is what marriage fixes: NOTHING. And I have also found a lot out about myself from her, and from this life that I hadn’t quite been able to put my finger on before. I’m insecure as fuck, I’m the emotional baby of the pair, I think too damn much, I’m not as good or as bad as I think I am, and I tend to carry both sides of that equation to either extreme, I don’t know how to be a dad, although I try my best every day, I’m a worry wart, I’m scared shitless of all of this falling apart, And I don’t really have the foggiest fucking idea as to what I am doing. But I try. I fail, I try again, and we all just continue to grow in the beautiful up and down, bad times and good times, merry go round of life together. Ya know it’s funny, cuz when we’re kids, we don’t really consider that we are watching our parents grow up too. “Life’s a dance, we learn as we go, sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow. Don’t worry about what you don’t know, life’s a dance we learn as we go.” Ain’t that the truth.

But there are also a couple other lessons that I have learned. It has taken me almost 5 years to learn them, and I will probably unlearn them and re learn them again, but I have learned that, for me, the two greatest errors I can make internally are EXPECTATION, and COMPARISON. If I have expectations, in my life, my home, my job, my marriage, etc. It not only leads to disappointment, resentment, and bitterness, but that single one idea has had my ass sleeping on the couch, and driving around on country roads blaring music and talking to God more times that I care to recall. I truly am the “Kingest” of King Babies. And I need to continue to learn not to have such expectations as: Planning a perfect special night with my wife and expecting it to go 100% as planned, or a weekend with the kids, or whatever. Yes, losing expectations will help me lose the negative consequences, but it was also lead to some very pleasant surprised. so its basically a win win.

And Comparison, oh the age of social media. We have such a turbulent era upon us, where if we are not careful and able to discern, we can think ourselves into an early grave. Or at least I can. Again, I am a worry wart. But what really fucking sucks for me, or has in the past, and probably will again in the future, is having one of those, just shitty weeks, or months. Nothing seems to go right at home, in the bedroom, with the kids, at work, the elections, whatever- And I begin to internalize all of these things as some kind of failure on my part, or project them as a failing on my wife’s part, or the kids, or whatever. And Then we start to scroll, or watch TV, or shit, even read a book. And we begin to compare our insides, our inside conflicts, or even our home/environmental conflicts with others’ hand picked happy moments on FB, or IG, or on TV. I know a lot of people may not admit to this but I bet you have found yourself drifting off into the ‘what if” world, Or the “maybe just”, “it’d be nice if” worlds that we can find ourselves in real quick. And the combination of Expectations AND Comparison….? Shit! That can be super dangerous for us addicts and alcoholics, because that can trigger a lack of Gratitude and lead to the “fuck its”. And then we’re off the races once again. And no, I don’t find myself wanting to use over some bad days, expectations, reality, comparison, and resentments. But what has crossed my mind more times than I care to admit? Running away, putting a gun in my mouth, giving up, being a weakling and just walking away from it all. But I haven’t and I wont, because at the end of the day, this is the life that I prayed for, and I got clean for a better life and I stay clean because I got one. But I know that there are a lot of men out there who can relate to this. It’s tough being a dad man. It’s tough being a husband. A wife. A Kid. Life is fucking hard sometimes and we need to learn to let go of our expectations, live in each moment as it comes, and enjoy the silence and peace when it arrives.

And these are all things that I never even knew I suffered from, or that existed when I prayed for all of this and just wanted a normal life. I am what I call “E over I” Emotion over Intellect. My Wife is the opposite “I over E” And that alone is one of the reasons why I am still alive and she hasn’t smothered me in my sleep yet. LOL. But I am learning as I go, Some days better than others, that I don’t have to allow every word, thought, ad on FB, song, asshole in the grocery store to take up so much space in my head.

Don’t. Overthink it. Herb.

The greatest way to make something so precious lose it’s sparkle, is to compare it to something else. And If I no longer have expectations, I am no longer disappointed, but I am surprised a lot. Keep it simple. And Stay out of your head.

E/I or I/E

Bottoms Up

There is no such thing as rock bottom. In my opinion. In my experience. It can and will certainly get worse next time, if I use again. It always does. The runs get shorter and the consequences get worse. I can’t remember how many times I swore off booze, only to drink again, many times the same day. How many nights I sat up, face in my hands praying to God to help me stop. How many times I’ve sat in a jail or prison cell, knowing that I was done. That I’d finally had enough. I mean, I’m just being real. I’ve lost friends. I’ve overdosed twice. I’ve been homeless. I’ve been to prison. So where the hell is the bottom then? Death? One would think that any one or number of these experiences would be enough to provide an addict with some clean time. And for me, they usually did. But for whatever reason, I always seemed to go right back at it again- like a dog returning to his own vomit for a late night snack. I guess we addicts are slow learners and quick forgetters. For some reason or another, when we addicts tend to think back on our using days; until we know that we are truly licked that is, we tend to only think back on all the fun times. The festivals, the days we had seemingly unlimitted money, etc. but we somehow seem to forget all of the desperation, humiliation, and absolutely horrible times, like being robbed at gun point. But what stands out to me, is why do these types of bottoms not affect us like they would a regular joe? And I think the answer to this is compromise. 

We addicts find our bottoms one compromise at a time. Just like recovery is a process, and relapse is a process, the act of finding a bottom is a process of its own. A long, drawn out process, by making one compromise that conflicts with our inner most self and our moral compasses at a time. And what’s interesting about all of this, is, as we are over years and decades- making said compromises, we are slowly conditioning ourselves and becoming more and more used to the incomprehensible demoralization. Our Identities slow change, our personalities slowly change, we become actual biproducts of our environments. Environments that we ourselves put us in, as a result of an attempt to escape reality, feel optimal, or just fit in- because we don’t feel bonded at home, or with our family. And round and round we go. And what comes along with this, is our ability to just accept things for what they are. Consequences and all. “I’m a drug addict, and this is what I pay to play the game.” “I’m an alcoholic, and this is all part of my chosen lifestyle.” Bottom after bottom after bottom. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes I guess. At least that’s what they say anyways. I have probably bottomed out about 500 times throughout my life, and I mean Bottom son. I am what I refer to as a Deep Bottom Addict. I will go and go until the whole shit house is up in flames, and then use those flames to cook my dope in a spoon one more time. I don’t fucking stop. And this is my own doing. As a result of the Choices I made at the ripe old age of 15 years old. And those choices, I surmise, were a direct result of extensive trauma and neglect. But I digress on the latter. As most of you know, I started using at 15 and I have a million reasons to suspect why. But my main thought that comes to mind now, is that I just wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere. And you know what’s weird? Is I still feel that way. And I am not afraid to share my feelings and get vulnerable, but literally, all I want is to feel loved, appreciated, and Like I have a purpose. I think that’s what we all want deep down inside, but were all supposed to “stay out of our feelins dawg. But anyways. 

So I began using to fit in, to feel good, and to feel like belonged somewhere. And as my love affair with chemicals progressed and the bottoms began to occur, it was weird, it was like “this is all part of it”- similar to an NFL player who misses a couple weeks with a sore hamstring. These are the breaks, this is who I am, and this is the shit that happens. But whats interesting about the drug culture, is the very thing that causes the bottom, is the same thing that I use to Mask or “cure” the bottom. To stay numb from the wreckage that the drug is causing. And this is the insanity of drug abuse. 

I would find myself sitting in a jail cell, dope sicker than hell, puking on myself, covered in goosebumps, sneezing like a fucking banshee and hating myself, and I remember standing in the nasty ass jail showers where the water is either ice cold, or scalding hot, and as the water made my skin turn pink from the intense heat and I stood there full of self loathing All I could think was “I deserve this” “This is my life, I earned this”. But I was never really able to honestly look at my life and design a way out. It was what I was used to. And I think this is the pattern of recidivism. We bottom out, we go to jail, were used to it, it sucks, we start to feel better, we get out, and we go right back to the environment from which we came. Yep, thats it. And so nothing ever changes, at least not in this cycle. We addicts are in insane, tough as nails bunch, on the outside. But on the inside, we just want to feel complete. we want to feel seen, like we matter and that someone believes in us. And That I believe is how we actually spur about change and create a bottom. Which is funny. Ya know how they say life can only be lived forward, and understood backwards? Well, I only know this because it happened to me, years ago. When the sheriff, and my attorney went to absolute battle for me, and the sheriff stood in the hallway thanking me for my hard work and promising to put in a good word for me- that was my bottom, with 11 months clean. That was my intervention. Undeserved love, grace, mercy, and favor. It cut through my years-long-conditioned-false-identity like a hot knife through butter. 

“Wait, someone sees some good in me? I am worth going to bat for? You appreciate me?” “I am so much more than just an in and out, jail bird, drug addict, piece of shit?” “I’ll be damned”. And that, brought my bottom up to meet me where I was at, in that moment and in that place. 

You see, at least for me, the negative, harsh, scary events, bottoms, and consequences never really struck me. They never really pricked my heart. I was so conditioned to them, that it was like a walk in the park most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, it was not fun, but it was what I was used to. I was NOT used to, however, someone going out of their way, who had absolutely zero reason to do so, to show me some human kindness. Some actual love and grace, and that, I believe is how we break through. Like my Guy Johann in his Ted talk says, “The opposite of addiction is NOT sobriety, the opposite of addiction, is RELATIONSHIP.” Connection. Love. Kindness. And on the flip side, I believe that this idea here, is what differentiates counselors, therapists, clinicians, etc… Some are “interested” in drug addiction, and want to help people, and others are passionate about it, because they have been impacted by it in some way. And it shows. If you truly have a heart and a true passion for helping people, and are patient enough to work with drug addicts, it is the most rewarding thing in the world that I could ever imagine doing. 

I have said this for years now, we cannot arrest our way out of the addiction epidemic. Addiction is not punitive. We cannot punish drug addicts for doing what drug addicts do. That would be like arresting a diabetic for eating too much sugar and letting their levels get out of whack. It doesn’t make sense. If you want to truly help someone, the most important thing you could ever do, is simply just listen to them. Understand them. And love them as fiercely as you can. 

Leap Frog

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” -Albert Einstein

I have heard it said a thousand times if I have heard it once; “If we put 10% of our efforts into our recovery, and into our lives; that we put into our using, our lives can be truly amazing.” And I have been thinking about the two ideas above in conjunction with one another lately, and again I hope this all makes sense, because I can see it in my brain. Let’s see if I can get this out accurately.

What is time? Is time Linear? Is time the same for all of us equally? Obviously none of us will be granted the exact same amount of time on this earth, but what I mean is; ya know how nothing tastes, smells, or appears EXACTLY the same to anyone else as it does to us?- our brains and interpretations are all just slightly skewed and unique to each and everyone of us? Like, does a rose smell EXACTLY the same to all of us? Does an Ice Cream Sundae taste exactly the same to all of us? I don’t believe so. Yes, we can try to explain what each experience is like for us individually, and even though our thoughts in word form may seem so incredibly alike, aren’t all of our own tastes, and other senses, so incredibly unique? I believe so. And I also believe that this might just be the same with time.

Depending on our own particular energies, that is to say, the amount of exertion we give each moment, and each particular day; time can seem much longer, or much shorter for each of us individually. I know for myself, my days seem to be much longer when I am lazy and not doing much. But when I am busy and running around, my days can seem to be but just a few hours. This is nothing new, I’m fairly sure that we all experience this; and this is where the expression “Busy’s good, makes the day go by quicker” comes from. So that’s not ground breaking by any stretch of the imagination. But what if we go deeper here? What If time itself isn’t even really much of a factor when it comes to goals, family, success, recovery, and just flat out getting shit done? What if, what it really boils down to, is the amount of energy that we put into the same amounts of time respectively? Also not something profound, Herb. I know, but I don’t necessarily write so much for those of you who have figured this out, as I do for those who may need to read this. I said it in the beginning, if I can help Just one, then I have left a legacy. But now my aim is to help Just One More. But anyways moving on.

As I think about my using days, which were plentiful, I lost 14 years- seemingly in the blink of an eye. And I know that the older we get, the faster time seems to pass- but is that because the older we get, the busier we become? Are the two Ideas connected? I believe so. And I also believe that I lost those 14 using years at such an accelerated rate because I was putting so much exertion into a “passion”, “purpose”, and “obsession”- ‘The getting and using and finding ways and means to get more drugs’. And I also believe, looking back, that my disease/addiction/life progressed or regressed into such a train wreck so quickly because of the same exertion that I was putting into it. I mean, I have spoken with thousands of addicts all over the country, and as I share my story with them in hopes to inspire change in their lives, not to sound like I am proud of this, but a lot of them say things like, “Well, I never got THAT bad.” or, “I am not there YET.” things of the comparison nature. But why did I get there so much quicker than others? Why did I find a jail cell the week after I turned 18? Why did I bottom out so much quicker time and time again than so many of my fellows with the same exact affliction? Bad luck? Happen Stance? Who knows, but for the sake of this thought train that I am on, I think it was because of the time, energy, exertion, and effort that I was putting into my drug use. I went 0-100 so super quick and stayed there for so super long that I found myself in the most impossible situations time after time after time. And I never could seem to figure out why. I think maybe this is where the obsession run amuck idea comes from. I was literally consumed, obsessed and completely driven by getting and using drugs. My Stop/Go mechanism was completely in the danger zone and the handle was snapped off. I was full blown from the minute I first started using drugs. The second My eyes opened, for 14 years, all I could think about was how I was gonna get fucked up that day, and how I was gonna get fucked up tomorrow. And because of this, I found my bottoms very quickly.

So how is this useful? It sounds to me like your talking about the problems a lot and not enough about the solutions, Herb. Why should I even keep reading this? Well, I think because, what we are scratching the surface on here, is why addicts can be and are such special creatures….

So what would happen, if an addict/alcoholic individual would discover that not only do drugs fucking suck, but that I have some how and some way discovered an internal drive within myself- along the way to the bottom- where I have this really strange ability to get shit done? To make things happen? To provide for myself, and to accomplish alot along the way in a very short amount of time? I was able to completely destroy my life, and sadly, hurt so many people in my pursuit of blotto, what if I were to use that same driving force, but this time, for good and for the betterment of people? Now, I am not suggesting that We wont still hurt people, hurt people’s feelings, fail, and all of the ects. Trust me, we do and we will. But when we can hone in on this “Thing” this, driving force that once was a force of destruction, and we can get clean and get our moral compasses redirected, addicts are fucking unstoppable. I mean, just look at all of the tear jerking success stories out there: Robert Downey Jr, Macklemore, Eminem, Danny Trejo, I could go on and on. But what we see is the RESULT. We do not have the ability to see the whole story, unless we sat down with them and listened to their story start to finish. But what we do possess is that wordless language of Empathy. We can know their stories, as addicts/alcoholics, before they even speak a word. The good ol adage of “What we were like, what happened, and what were like now”.

But what sets those big time glitzy success stories apart from so many of us regular joes? Why can one addict get clean, and in 3-7 years seemingly do some kind of wizard like turn around and go on to do amazing things, while another addict has been clean for 10 years and still works at a car wash, or living with their parents? *And I am not knocking anyone, an addict with one day clean is a miracle, trust me, I totally get that* But what I am trying to point out here, is why do some progress faster than others, and why do some regress faster than others? And I think that the answer, is: Self Worth + Energy. It may just be as simple as that. First of all, Do we BELIEVE that we are worthy of living out our wildest dreams? And secondly, Do we have what it takes, no matter what, to put in the time, sacrifice, energy, and grit to make those dreams a reality? Do we even know what our dreams are?- and this is a very interesting question, because I do not believe that MOST of the humans walking this planet, addict or not, have a fucking clue what they want, but what they DO KNOW is that they deserve the best that they can achieve and sometimes, That Self Worth and love, can make up for a lack of specific vision, and, when you really think about it- Even IF you set particular goals for yourself, odds are, you’re STILL settling for less. I have come to learn that I am very grateful that I didn’t achieve the goals I had originally set for myself when I first got clean. I didn’t even come close to them, because if I had, I would have settled for Mediocrity way back when, and you wouldn’t even be reading this right now. Funny how life works like that some times. Thank God I didn’t get the things I once prayed for.

And I know that when I write, it may seem like some weird Rabbit Hole psychobabble, and it is, but I also think there is some fruit here. And it may be low hanging as well, easy to grasp for even the smallest or youngest. And I believe the take away here is this:

Are you happy? What do you want? Do you love yourself? Do you believe in yourself? And are you willing to to do whatever it takes to make all of your wildest dreams come true, even if you don’t know what those dreams are yet?

If we truly are willing to sacrifice, and I mean honestly make some sacrifices in this world, to block everything else out, and hone all of our energies into our tunnel vision goals, like a horse with blinders on- not only does the time seem to accelerate, but the distractions fade, our skills sharpen, and we absolutely Crush our goals- so much to the point that when we finally come up for air, we can look back at our once-were-goals and breathe a sigh of relief, that we didn’t just sit back and settle for what we one thought we wanted. Our minds are truly powerful. Once we have that internal awakening, and we can utilize our brains, and our skills, that were once so sharpened by our using and running days- we addicts are powerful powerful creatures. We can catapult, or Leap Frog ourselves over so many normies, and so many of our fellows in this world, if we can encapsulate all of our once negative skills, and negative drive, turn our moral compass in the right direction, pin our ears back and just fucking run.

Self Worth + Energy

But it requires Sacrifice.

And I promise you, as they say, “We will be amazed before we are half way through” That the juice is well worth the squeeze.

If you don’t know what you want, you will damn sure never get it, or sometimes you will, if you believe in yourself, believe you are worthy, and put more energy into your time than the next person.

Time is irrelevant, but your energies are not.

Bittersweet

Life can only be lived forwards, and only understood backwards…

Once upon a time, in the Ancient Farmlands of rural China, Lived an old cattle farmer named Pong. Pong was a fifth Generation farmer and tilling land, and growing crops to earn a living and provide for his small family was all that he knew. I say small family because Pong and His wife, Wi only had one child, and young man in his late teens named Pong II. They didn’t have much land, but it was all that they needed. One strong horse to till and plow their land each year which would provide enough harvest to sustain their family and pay their bills. It wasn’t much, but it was an honest living.

One day, Pong and his Son were getting ready for the days work of plowing and preparing the land. They had their morning tea, and headed to the barn to get the horse ready for the days work. Upon their arrival at the Barn Stable, the pair could tell that the horse was acting a little out of sorts, but couldn’t figure out why. Against their better judgement, they proceed to lead the horse out of the barn and towards the fields for work. As soon as the three made clearance into the fields the horse bucked and jumped, and got loose from its lead rope and ran away. leaving Pong and his Son devastated. How could they work now? They certainly couldn’t afford a new horse on their modest living. What were they to do?

Once news of the run away horse made it’s way around town, neighbors would come to Pong voicing their concerns, and concern for themselves, as Pong’s Harvest always Yielded to the local markets and helped feed the community. “Pong, Pong, what will you do now!? How will we all eat?! Isn’t this such a terrible thing?!” They would ask.

Pong, being a man of great wisdom, and insight replied, “Well, I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing, but what I do know is that I don’t have a Horse now.” And the town’s people were shocked that a man, a farmer, and a town staple was not as crazed over the loss of his prized work horse as they were. Although, internally he was incredibly stressed out, he continued in his faith and his Mission. The fields were not waiting. They had to be plowed. So Pong strapped on his shoulder plow and spent his days dragging the fields himself, and the evenings looking for his horse. To no avail on the latter. Days went by. Long grueling days went by. Loads of extra work, long tiring days. Still no Horse.

About two weeks later, just before sunrise, Pong was awoken to the sound of what appeared to be playful neighing and hoof stomps out in the barn yard. Was he dreaming? He rushed outside into the morning chill and noticed that not only had his beloved Horse returned, but it had run off and found a mate! His prized horse had returned with a Female Wild Mustang, and they would later find out that they had mated, and Pong and his Family would soon have THREE HORSES!

When the town’s people found out, they were so excited for Pong and his family and were so happy for themselves, for this meant that Pong would soon be able to get three times the harvest in the same amount of time!

“Pong, Pong, isn’t this such a great thing?! You will soon have three horses and be able to feed the town three times as much!?” They Cried. And Pong, being a man of great wisdom, replied, “Well, friends, I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but what I do know, is that very soon I will have three horses.”

But first came the challenge of breaking the wild mustang, and teaching her to farm. Which would not be an easy task, horses are fickle creatures, and a pregnant female horse is particularly difficult to break. But the fields were not waiting and this needed to be done. So Pong and his son, would spend hours with their trusted stud horse plowing and tilling the fields, and the evening hours working with the new addition to their team. And She certainly seemed to be doing so well for a while. About 3 weeks into their training, Pong was riding the Stud out into the fields, leading the female who was being ridden by his son which was standard practice; when suddenly a snake slithered out into the path of the female horse, and she bucked back in fright, throwing Pong’s son of the back. She then bucked back and forth, and stomped down on Pong’s son’s leg, Shattering it in 2 places.

Pong Sr. was able to corral the female and get her stabled, and it was decided that they would wait until after the female gave birth to try and break her again. But now, Pong and his family were faced with a new dilemma. Pong Jr’s Leg was horribly mangled.

When the town’s People learned of this, they were heart broken, as Pong Jr was Pong’s right hand man, and now their harvest and provisions were again in jeopardy. “Pong Pong, what are we gonna do!? Your son is now lame, and now you will only be able to produce half of your yearly crop?! What are we going to do?! Isn’t this such a bad thing?!” They cried. And Pong, being a man of great faith and insight, replied, “Well, I do not know if this is a good thing, or a bad thing, but what I do know, is that my son has a broken leg, and cannot work the fields now.”

And being that this was Ancient China, and Medical care was not what it is today, the care and rehabilitation for Pong Jr’s leg was primitive. Sure, they would be able to get him walking again, but they would not be able to get him any where near his former shape, and Pong Jr was a very strong and durable farm hand. And he would be bed ridden for months on the mend.

Pong Sr was a very old man, but he too, was a very experienced and durable farm hand, and he knew that the fields were not waiting and that winter was coming, so he would arise early, and work late. Working for two so to speak, while his son got better. And he was finally able to get his fields tilled, planted, maintained, and he would yield a very fruitful harvest! He was feeling very blessed and fortunate that he was able to overcome such adversities, and still pull together a harvest. He would finally be able to rest and enjoy some down time.

During the beginning of the cold winter months, a terrible and vengeful civil war broke out with the dynasty to the west. The town and territory, or dynasty that Pong and his family lived in, and it’s leaders and Generals went Door to Door; not requesting, but ordering that all men ages 10 years and older, all the way up to age 50 were required to show up for battles. The only exception, would be those who were not fit for battle. And being that Pong Jr was still casted and on the mend from the Horse accident, and Pong sr was 62 years old, His family was spared.

The rest of the town was not so lucky.

As luck, or God, or Fate would have it, Not one home in Pong’s town had a boy younger than ten years old. Every single male in the town was sent off to war, and they were all lost in battle. Ultimately Pong’s community had to surrender to the dominant forces of the opposition, and not one single male from his town returned home from war. It was truly devastating For everyone.

As the dust settled, and the smoke cleared. Over time, Pong Jr’s leg healed enough for him to work, and life went back to normal. As normal as it could be in a post war era. Pong and his son were finally able to get the female mustang under control, break her, and train her to farm the land. They were even able to get the young one saddled, as time had passed and the female gave birth, and this young male pony was assisting with the farm work too! And for Pong and his family, although they were very saddened for the rest of the community, they were very happy to have survived and still have each other.

Eventually, The town was withering with low population, as all of the males were killed in battle, and the older males who were not called to war were dying off. And though this was very sad for so many, This made Pong Jr. a very important young man. Not only were they the main providers in the community, but Now he was the only healthy Male left to help the community continue to repopulate and multiply. And though, selfishly, this made Pong Jr glow with Male Bravado as he knew he would be a VERY busy man, it also carried with it a very large amount of responsibility. And Pong and Pong Jr knew this.

The women in town would cry out to Pong Jr, “Pong Pong, you still have your son, you still have your land, and if you will allow your son to marry my wife, we will divide our land with you, and crown you and your son as royalty. We will donate half of our earnings to you and your family, and you will be a very important person, for years to come. Isn’t this such a great thing?!?”

And Pong, being a man of great wisdom, took a deep breath, and said, “Well, after all these years, I suppose it was a good thing after all, that my horse ran away.”

************************************************************************

It has been said that Justice is getting what we deserve, Mercy is not getting what we deserve, and Grace is getting what we do not deserve.

Looking back on your life, what ways have you received justice, mercy, and grace? looking back on your life, what events took place that you just didn’t or couldn’t understand? What horrible pain have you experienced? what loss? Grief? Trauma? And in what way can you look back at it now? And what Grace can you pull from it? Are you able to reflect back on events in your life that were once terrible and uncertain times, and pull something precious from them? In what ways has God, the universe, Fate, or whatever you believe used your suffering for good? In what ways has the justice you have experienced, actually been mercy and Grace? Is there a grey area between these three ideas?

How can you relate to Pong the Farmer in this story, and apply it to your own life? Is everything good, or bad; or is it just what it is, for now? Until some time has passed and we’re able to look back on the current circumstances we’re faced with and discern the lesson from all of the today’s, as they compile and form a life catalogue on our hearts. How can God use your current circumstances today, for good? For the good of you, and for the good of the world? How can you utilize this pain, or this triumph, or this lesson, or this blessing, or this loss, or this victory, to benefit the good of your community? Is that even possible? Do you even know? How can you use the justice you have been served, to then serve mercy? Can that even happen? I believe that it can.

Pong was a very wise and insightful man, and it was because he had learned to grow through what he went through, and he knew that even though a situation may seem utterly awful right here and right now, eventually time would pass and He will then have an opportunity to look back on the past circumstances and pull some goodness from what seemed dire before.

Often times, we see rejection. But it is really, redirection.

Sometimes we see loss. But it is really opportunity.

We may feel pain, but it is really growth.

And though all we have is the right here and right now, there will be tomorrow for some of us, and for some of us not. But for those of us who are fortunate enough to continue on in time, opportunities will continue to present themselves, to utilize our past and reflect, to make a more important choice with our future tomorrows to make the world a better place, for others.

Life itself, is bittersweet. Sometimes life just sucks. And sometimes it seems like we’re on a winning streak like no other. And then it sucks again. And sometimes life doesn’t illicit anything at all, it kind of just is. And I believe that’s where the notion of the Pursuit of Happiness comes from. Those fleeting moments of bliss, and joy that tickle our stomachs with butterflies and amusement. Those pure sweet happy times. And I also think that this is the way it is suppose to happen. We cannot enjoy the bliss and the joy without the sorrow and pain. Just like we cannot enjoy spring time as much without the dead cold snaps of winter.

This is more of Herb’s psychobabble. But I think it makes sense.

I have said it for years, asked the question really, is more like it: “Why does God allow suffering?” And I believe it is, 1: so that we can draw nearer to him and power up our relationship and dependence upon him. and 2: so that we can overcome our sorrows, and then inturn use our experiences to help the next one in line who is suffering in a season that we just overcame.

The most powerful thing that we can share with each other is not facts, or sciences, or opinions, or beliefs; The most important thing that we can share with each other, is our own experiences.

For everyone and everything: is either and lesson, or a blessin’; and Life itself, is bittersweet.

Say/Do

Recently I found myself in a bit of a heated exchange on a Face Book thread when some one categorized my wife as “People like her” and it royally pissed me off. It pissed me off, not just because of the generalization and words used towards my beautiful wife, but because it simply isn’t true. The gentleman who used this language lives thousands of miles away, and as best as I can gather, has never even met her. And though I am sorry for popping off on him, and the words I used towards him; I am NOT sorry for defending her name and her honor. And his rebuttal to me was, “Ooh, this can’t be good for book sales.” Like I would take some kind of exception to that. I receive like three dollars a book, which I am grateful for. But selling books is not why I do what I do. I said it when I started my journey and my walk, that I do this just as much for me, as I do for you. I share what I believe is the capitol T truth, which is something that I have come to find out is subjective now a days. The truth is subjective to each of our own experiences and realities. My how far we have fallen. And the capitol T truth, is that the world needs more PEOPLE LIKE HER. My wife is gracious, understanding, a great mother and has a heart for serving others. If only this gentleman took the time to see that or know that, instead of categorizing her into some kind of group just because their political views differ. It actually hurts my heart, that we can allow something like politics destroy our fellowship with one another. Dude it’s not that complicated: Register, vote, and shut the fuck up. If your person wins, they win, if they lose, they lose. Grow up. But that’s not the point of this entry here, although it did need to be said. I am so sick of these armchair, apathetic do nothing no bodies who think they know so much better than the people who are actually in the trenches trying to drive change in this world. Yes, to my banquet friend, according to what they believe is right. But at least they’re doing something. If you knew better you would do better. Its as simple as that. When you wanna SHOW us what you’re doing to drive change for the betterment of human kind go right ahead, but until then just keep your opinions to yourself on your lazy boy at home while watching the news and complaining while doing nothing at all. So there’s that. And before you want to jump back at me, and say, “well what are you doing, Herb?” I’ll go ahead and tell you. I have recently authored not one, but four bill proposals that are in draft with State Reps now, heading to Indianapolis on some reform that is much needed here in the state of Indiana and I work tirelessly in the trenches to help people who suffer the way that I once did, from addiction and substance abuse. And I don’t normally talk about what I am up to, because I talk about it when it’s done. But I am just so sad and sick of how polarized we are as a nation right now. “No body’s right, if everybody’s wrong” – Buffalo Springfield. It breaks my heart that we’re all so concerned with being right, with being Dem/Rep that we forget about being kind, being humble, and being servants to one another. If you SAY you’re something, then DO something. I am a believer, and I do my absolute best in my human ability to live my life accordingly. Do I fuck up, yes. But I always do my best with my actions to live a fruitful and productive life. In word and in deed. Is this about book sales? No, but it is about LEGACY. I want to leave this world a better place than I found it, and I hope to inspire others to do the same. I want this world to know that I was here, and that I loved it and it’s people very much. And that’s what this is about. Think Globally, ACT locally. And I try my best to do that every day.

Now, Moving on to the point of this entry…

Recently, I put up a meme and my Two-Cents about how President Trump was “Showing us how easy it is to beat covid, all you need is a private chopper, and the best doctors in the world.” Which, I understand, yes, he is the president and he does REQUIRE the best care because he is the highest elected official in the Nation. I am not arguing that. But what I am stating is 1: ALL life is precious. and 2: He seriously lacks humility. Parading around and exposing his own protectors in a motorcade for pictures is low down and about as pompous as one can be. He showed zero regard for his own people that would dive in front of a bullet for him. It’s sad.

But anyways, Health care reform, or as I put it: QUALITY healthcare access. And for some reason, it got all Biblical and shit. Which makes zero sense, considering United Health Care didn’t exist when The Bible was being written, or the Constitution for that matter. Which, by the way, was written by (For the most part) Tax evading, slave owning, bootlegging old men who actually burned women alive “At the Stake” because they thought they were “Witches” Please, tell me why we should continue to follow in such out dated, Dark Ages, Pilgrim shit, just because it was written on a piece of hemp paper almost 300 years ago? I get it, Founding fathers and all that. But Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, is about the only thing that we should keep from all that. Things need revised and our practices and approaches need to be able to adapt and evolve with the times. Covid didn’t exist in 1776, so the constitutional right bullshit dies right there. All life is precious. If we can invest in a fucking space force, to fight off aliens or some shit, then we can invest in community health centers for the less fortunate and disenfranchised. And if you think that I wouldn’t know what I’m talking about here, you’re wrong. I am the disenfranchised. I am in that “Sweet Spot” like so many of us, that I make too much to be on medicaid, but not enough to afford private health care. So we had to make a choice. We made sure that our children have adequate health care, and we just hope and pray that we can stay healthy long enough to see them succeed.

When I was all strung out before, I walked into a hospital here in northwest indiana, which I will not name, because I don’t mud sling, but it is the truth and I will swear to it until I die. But they told me they would take me in for detox, and help me get better. Only to give me the run around because I didn’t have health insurance. And once I finally had enough I told the lady that If they didn’t help me, I was going to kill myself, and you know what she did? She called the cops on me and had me escorted off the grounds and then gave this poor, homeless, strung out kid a ticket- like I would ever be able to pay it. What a cruel joke.

And what’s especially interesting to me, is that I have had dueling and opposite experiences with the same exact health care provider here locally, but not the same hospital as I just mentioned. I will never go back to that shit hole ever again.

When I was working for my first intervention firm they provided us with UHC insurance, and I actually had to use it once, as I was not feeling well. So I called a community health care center here in valpo, and explained to them what was going and told them my insurance info- and VOILA! Not only did I get an appointment, but I had one the next day. And when I got there, I was fast tracked in, and they all but gave me the purple robe and red carpet treatment! They knew they were getting paid, so they treated me SO WELL! This was the first time that I ever had insurance and it felt good to be seen, and to feel like they were actually caring for me. I was in and out, and on with my life. But oh contrare, when I had to go back to the SAME community health center about 18 months later, and let them know that I was no longer with that employer, and had no insurance, and would be paying cash. They made me an appointment almost two weeks later, I had to wait for at least an hour, miss work, that didn’t provide me with insurance, and get this, when I went back, the doctor touched my ankle, touched my throat and then wrote down her notes on a fucking paper towel that she pulled out of the dispenser and sent me on my was like she was treating some type of farm animal. The same place. Like I wouldn’t remember being there before. What in the actual hell? I thought that all life is precious? I thought that no matter how they were getting paid, they were getting paid. I had cash, I could afford it, but because I wasn’t toting a blinging ass health insurance card, I was treated like some type of second class citizen, by the same place that treated me so well before. I don’t understand? I thought Doctors were doctors because they wanted to help people? And I thought that community health centers and hospitals were there to serve the community? And I thought that it didn’t matter what our situation was, That its our right to pursue happiness,which we need to be healthy to do? Doesn’t that include getting help when we need it?

No it does not.

That’s a fact.

It does not.

And that was the point of my meme and post the other day, before all the know it alls with their rose colored glasses sitting in their ivory towers chimed in, who “like the country and health care system just the way it is”

Yeah, because you’re personally unaffected by the gaps that it presents. But don’t worry, I am not unaffected by the gaps in our systems. I have fallen through the gaps time and time again, but I was able to climb out and report my findings to my fellow Americans and human beings. So that we can bring about change, stand in those gaps, and hopefully keep others from falling through that same gaps.

I now know why God allows suffering. So that we can survive it, talk about it, document it, help others, and leave a lasting legacy to help the next and current generation avoid the same suffering we once went through.

SAY. DO.

it’s as simple as that. If you SAY you’re something, or that you believe in something. Then DO something about it. Act. Lead. Drive Change. Write Policies. Stand in the Gaps. Lift others up. And Speak up to those in power about the pains that the human beings less fortunate than you are experiencing. Its awesome if you haven’t been through those gaps, but turning a blind eye to them doesn’t make them not exists. We need health care reform. Not free health care, but reform. Everyone’s care should be quality, no matter what. Nepotism doesn’t make you a better person than anyone else. And being born to a less fortunate socioeconomic background should not be punishable by inadequate healthcare. End of fucking story.

People are sick, suffering, and dying while praying for the privileges that so many of us take for granted every single day, and that some of us constantly flaunt in the face of others. Check your humility. Check your egos. We must be a light to those who live in the shadows, we MUST remember those who are less fortunate. We must be willing to stand in the gaps for those who have nothing to offer us in return. Someone did it for me, and it changed my life. And I will never forget it. If we experience Grace, Mercy, favor, and privilege, and we don’t in turn extend it back to others, then guess what? We’re all fucking thieves. If serving others is below us, leading others is beyond us. If we knew better we would do better.

Say Do.

Hot Coal Formula

Are drug addicts born or are we created? Nature or nurture?

I have met people who were born addicted to drugs and never developed an addiction to anything, and I have met people who come from the most successful, normal, and seemingly perfect families with little to no family history of Substance Abuse- who go on to become hard core drug addicts. This is one of the many great riddles.

There are no cookie cutter approaches when it comes to helping someone overcome addiction and alcoholism. There just isn’t. Every person is unique and brings with them their own unique and special story. Each and every person walking this earth has a very rich and comprehensive history that goes into making them exactly who they are, right here and right now. So each and every person’s journey into many tomorrows will be just as special as the journeys that got them here, to today. And I believe personally, because I witness it all the time, that people can and do in fact change.

I have attended many seminars, conferences, round table discussions etc. And so many people tend to use the phrase, evidence based & what works and what doesn’t. Now, when it comes to the scientifics of it all, and the various modalities of treatment, resources, and medication, I will leave all of that to the people who know much more and better than I. But I have over the years developed my own bleeding heart philosophy that worked for myself, and as I get to know more and more recovered people around the country, I have noticed something very similar has worked for them.

Now, I am not going to split hairs and say which fellowship, scientific method, or modality is “the best” or “works best”, because there is no such thing as a cookie cutter approach, and what works for me could kill someone else. AA,NA, SMART, MAT(to an extent and to be utilized under the HIGHEST of supervision and regulations), Celebrate recovery, CBT, Motivational Interviewing, etc… They all work, again, different strokes for different folks. I am not talking about those types of ideas, but more so an Idea that is much more basic and visceral than groups, or therapies. A formula of events, and changes over time if you will. And this is what I think, this is what I try to express time and time again:

  • There must be a stopping point. How this occurs varies from person to person. But In my opinion, a person must be “clean slated” first and foremost, before a program of lasting change can be implemented. There are people who disagree with this, but I just don’t understand how one can expect a drug addict to turn their life around, if they’re still using drugs. Again, my opinion, and I am not a scientist, but I have managed to stay clean for awhile now, and this is what has worked for me. And, just to take it one step further, 100% of the people who I have met that a truly successful, and have turned their lives around, are all clean, and not still using. It is very hard to find a successful drug addict who is still using, in fact, I don’t think I have ever met one. But anyways, there needs to be a stopping point. This can be an intervention, which I truly believe in, a heart to heart talk, an arrest, a court order, etc. But there needs to be a stopping point. The Basic Text of NA says “It(addiction) can be arrested and some point and recovery is THEN possible”. An addict who is still in the grip of addiction, or who still has the appetite for drugs, will continue to go on using, that’s just a fact. There must be some type of nudge, push, or redirection occur in an alcoholic/addict’s life in order to bring about change. If there are no boundaries, or consequences, why would they change? Make sense? ok.
  • There needs to be an introduction into a new culture. We as humans, are habitual. We are products, within reason, of our environments. We become what we frequent the most, and this is especially true with addicts. We are almost like a morbid species of Chameleon. We adapt and we evolve in the situations that we are exposed to the most. We become habituated to our friends, our drug buddies, our drugs themselves, etc. We literally become products of our environment and our environment itself. Throughout our active addiction we end up so consumed by the “counter culture” of drugs and alcohol, that it is literally what drives us and motivates our moves instincually. Our favorite restaurant on a Friday night, why? Because they make our Gin and Tonic the way we like it. Our favorite Golf Course? they have the best beer selection. Our favorite casino? Bar? you get the idea. We are perpetuated to continue on in this pattern that has long sense developed over months and years. It is very difficult to stay clean, when we are frequenting the same types of social circles and behavioral patterns. This becomes who we are. It becomes our Identity. And how Can I reestablish myself If I am still seeing the same old buddies, in the same old places, doing the same old things. People, places, and things. That’s day one stuff. But what If I just cant seem to break away? What if the temptation is just too strong? I just keep bumping into (My Favorite Drinking buddy/Using Buddy) Everywhere. They keep asking about why the never see me anymore. This is why support is so key. And for those who don’t have a lot of family or friends support who are attempting to get clean and stay clean, it is important to create some or find some. For this and several other reasons, this is why I often recommend that people get as far away as they can for treatment. To get out of those “trigger zones” for as long as possible, and get back to feeling good clean and sober, before coming back into the environment where you got sick. Just as we learned to get high from an addict and drunk from a drinker, we have got to learn to stay clean from those who are walking the same walk as us. It is very difficult to just will power it and get clean right in the same area that we got dirty in. Trust me I know, it took a year in jail, and a year in a halfway house for me to finally stay clean. It was difficult. So what does a new culture look like? It could be church, it could be support groups like AA, it could be going away for treatment. It could be a cross fit club, or a Men’s Bible study. There are a multitude of opportunities to make some new supportive friends who can speak life into us and help reshape our identities.
  • We need to establish a new identity. No we don’t need to change our names, or have some type of Alias. Not that Identity, but a core belief of who we really are. Are we the Drunk on a bar stool on a Friday night? No. So we need to stop believing that is who we are. And this doesn’t just happen over night, or because we decide to do so. It is a product of changing our culture. Just as we became a product of our environment before, we need to do the same again. But this time enmeshed in growth, positivity, and support. I believe this is why they refer to major milestones in recovery as Spiritual “Awakenings”. Think about when your alarm goes off in the morning. Do you just snap up and head off to work? No. you Awaken. It’s gradual and it takes some time. But it is habitual, intentional, and with purpose. Recovering from drugs and alcohol must be the same. We must begin with the end in mind. So the more we stick with a culture of people who are supportive and who are doing some good for the world, the more the way we look at ourselves will change.
  • We need human connection. There are very few, if any, lone wolves who have over come and stayed clean. Think about a bonfire, Think about how all of those glowing hot coals down in the hot bed that keeps the logs warm and glowing stay so bright orange for so long. Because they have each other to feed off of. If you get yourself a nice hot bon fire and keep it stoked with logs for a couple hours and then leave it unattended, those coals will still be hot enough tomorrow to burn you. But if you pluck just one single glowing lump out and set it over in the grass, it will burn out in a matter of minutes. People need people the same exact way. And I’m not merely repeating what I just said above. Sticking with the winners and having a new culture which leads to an identity change is not the same idea as this one. This is about human connection. I need to feel connected to SOMEONE. A Sponsor, a therapist, a mentor, a pastor or elder in my church, maybe just an old successful friend that I look up to. Maybe my grama. But with Connectedness comes accountabilty, and it’s important that we have that too.
  • We need to find a passion, or a purpose. When my brother died, My friend the lawyer who will soon be judge called me to check on me. He knew how close My brother and I were, and My friend knew that I would be hurting pretty bad at this time. But he said something That I will never forget. He said, “You’re gonna be okay, because you have purpose now” And he was right. I do have a passion and a purpose and I feel like I finally have a place in the world where I am needed. And it is so very important that addicts and alcoholics find theirs as soon as possible. I have long since been quoted saying that “Every single successful person, who has overcome addiction, they all have one thing in common. They have ALL found something they’re passionate about.” Maybe it’s music, art, being a parent, animals, working on cars, helping others, being a counselor, whatever speaks to your heart. We Must be unapologetically passionate about something GOOD in our lives, which can keep us anchored to the reality that we’re trying to create; So that the storms of life cannot and will not blow us down. And this is why when I am talking to people about getting clean I always ask them a few of the same questions: 1) are you happy? 2)What do you want? and 3) how can you get what you want and be happy? And Though theyre very simple questions, the answers can lead to some profound dialogue. Its quite beautiful the way people will talk to you when they believe you’re actually listening. And it is for this last thought here that I tend to call this approach “Purpose Driven Recovery”. We want to feel loved, we want to feel connected, we want to feel valuable, and we want to feel like we matter- like we get the chance to leave a lasting mark on this world, if only someone would believe in us. And we do, and we will. And it is a beautiful thing to see the work begin.

If you want to truly help someone, the most important thing you can do is listen to them. – Fred Rogers.

Are you happy?

What do you want?

How are you going to be happy and get what you want?

If you don’t know what you want, you’ll damn sure never get it.