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Addition by Subtraction

Hopefully, I sleep tonight. I’ve got Melatonin and Benadryl. I feel like I haven’t slept in a very long time. I don’t know anymore. I suppose growing up, getting older, and learning what we learn; it’s all just tragedy. All I know, is that I was born, and that’s when the suffering began. I don’t really know anything above that.

I’ve pretty much given up on God, I have definitely given up on people, and I have given up on medicine. I’m just pretty much along for the ride anymore. I am done trying to fix, manage, and control. I’m exhausted. Most nights I fall asleep hoping I don’t wake up. I don’t even know why I write anymore. Me writing the first book is one of the things that I’m proudest of, but concurrently regret the most. I never asked for any of this. The recognition, the notoriety. I just thought that it would be valuable to others, to hear the struggles and things that I went through, and perhaps it would help them in some way. But humans are vicious and ugly creatures, especially where I come from and live. As long as you’re doing well, and making people look good, and doing what they want you to do, you’re golden. But the second you start to show signs of struggle, or fall- like vultures they come to pick you apart. They gossip, they slander, they defame, they judge, they message your wife in secret, hoping to gather what they believe you have spilled. Even some of the men you have helped in the past, are doing their best to collect your spoils, to bed your wife, and to slander your name. Life is such a beautiful and sad thing. Not the concept of life itself, but the people. The people are what make and ruin this thing called life. Me being one of them. I hate myself at times for the wrongs I have done. I hare myself for the people I have hurt. And I am so truly saddened, and sorry for the wrongs and acts committed compulsively while I was again waging war on myself. When I meet my maker, that will be my deepest regret and my heaviest remorse.

But how can that even be? How can the helper of so many, the provider, the keeper and the peace maker be in such a position? Betwixt wanting to live, push through, and overcome yet again; and wanting to just vanish into obscurity? It is such a shitty feeling too, being an addict, because I know exactly what would shut all of this off, albeit temporarily. But I also know how that would end. So that is no longer an option. So now I’m just stuck. Drained. Numb. Tired. Sleepless. Hated. Targeted. Resented. Broken. A burden on the world is what it feels like most days. I do and did so very much for the people of this world, and for this region, and when shit hits the fan, the only phone that rings isnt mine and its someone I once trusted and believed in, And he’s trying to fuck my life up even more. Or it’s dudes who I have helped get clean, and get back on their feet, trying to violate my home, and steal my family. Or it’s the never-did-nothings on social media, the Haters blasting me with, “See, I told you that dude was a fucking loser.” I never wanted any of this. I just wanted to not smoke crack and shoot heroin anymore. All of this, really truly started because all my life I have suffered, all my life all I ever wanted to do was help people. And do my best to make some kind of positive difference. Because I know and experience on a daily basis, and have for years the feeling of mental unwellness, residual effects of trauma, depression, anxiety, lonelieness, sadness, fear. And if I could do something for someone else, to help them lessen their own pains, to help them find some hope and spritely life, I would do it. When Kurt Cobain said, ” I wish I could eat your cancer.” I felt that. And I would. I suppose that is why I have always had the affinity for the under dog. For those forgotten ones, the throw aways, the misfits, the misunderstood. Because I understand them. I am them.

And I suppose that is and always has been one of my most fatal of flaws. People pleasing. Pouring from an eternally empty cup.

Growing up, It seemed like I was always being shuffled around from pillar to post. I never felt wanted or loved, so in response to that, I always felt as if Love, friendship, and the like was something to be earned. Like it was something that I had to win. And because there was little demonstration of what true love, boundary setting, self discipline, friendship etc was, I ended up gravitating towards those who also had the same flawed senses of these principals as I did. I was shown fake, I was shown chaos, so I was attracted to fake, and to people who only used me and treated me like shit- like it was some kind of task or mission to try and win people over so they would love me, knowing deep down inside that they never would. And as soon as they got what they wanted or what they needed, I was tossed out. Discarded, and I was left wondering why I wasn’t good enough. Yeah. I had no idea about who to trust, who to love, or who was worthy of those things from me, because I myself couldn’t measure my own self worth, because I always used how people treated me as my measuring stick.

And that leads me to my following thought. Through all of the suffering and pain, through all the turbulence that Life has thrown at me, I still somehow managed to come out of it with a big heart. My head and mind may be utterly fucked, but my heart remained in tact. It actually may have grown in size as a result, seeing and feeling how humans are, and what this world can do to people provided me with such great empathy, sympathy, and understanding of what I call the Human Condition. But there is also a double edge to this. Big heart equals big emotions. And couple that with a traumatized and fractured mind, and emotional dis regulation and distress intolerance and you get the entire spectrum of emotions, sometimes in one single day. Sometimes I wish I could just be cold hearted, selfish, and greedy like so many people that I have come to know, and turned loose. But I just cannot do it. I think about it, and sometimes threaten it, but when it came down to it, I could never really turn my back on someone. Even the people I absolutely despise the most, if they were to reach out and ask for help, I would still do all that I could to try and make their lives better. And that will always be something that ends up fucking me over again and again.

I know. It’s embarrassing. Herb’s a big softie. A total pushover. But it also leads to another double edge. Resentment and anger. Because I have and seems like will always sacrifice myself for others happiness, it causes me to stuff down my own needs and wants to make sure others are cared for and provided for. And that is scary sometimes. Big heart, empty cup, Big emotions, big reactions, big problems. People close to me tell me that I am one of the most authentic people they have ever known, and most people, when they hear this automatically assume this is always a good thing. Believe me, it is not. Because you get all of me, 100% of the time- good, bad, ugly, and indifferent. I just haven’t learned how to truly compartmentalize things in real time, change masks from moment to moment and blend into the riggamaroll like the rest of the world seemingly does. I wish I could sometimes.

People say that Hell exists. That Hell is some scary place full of fire and brimstone, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. But all of those things exist right here, and right now. So maybe Earth is Hell, but we humans just haven’t identified where were really are. And that’s why they say “The Pursuit of Happiness”, because we have to consciously strive to find beauty and the goodness in this place. And its like sifting through sand dunes looking for one little break through of goodness to hang on to, and to keep going. And even when you think you have found something beautiful and special that’s yours and yours alone, or that you can share with someone, you still have to fight to protect it, cuz the wolves are coming. And they want what’s yours. Sometimes, before you even know it, it’s taken away, or walking away.

I don’t know, my Spirit is so tired anymore. I just feel so foolish half the time. And the other time I feel nothing at all. I have overcome so much, created so much good, accomplish some pretty amazing things, experienced some beautiful and powerful stuff with a wife that’s crazy about me. And here I sit. Broken and alone. Again and again. I wish I wasn’t born this way, or made into this thing, however it happened. I just wish that I was “Normal”. But the truth is, I wake up most days, about 90% of the time, pretty damn optimistic about where the day, and life are going to go. But usually by lunch time I have already thought about suicide. It fucking sucks. And it is not environmental or anything like that, it’s just these automatic thoughts that keep planting themselves in my mind. I hear them in my own voice, I feel them, and deny them, and I flush them away. See, I know that this world is and can be beautiful, I know that I love my family and they me, and we need each other, but my mind just wont leave me the fuck alone. And perhaps its all a response to the decisions, relationships, and all of the etcs. that have actually manifested these things. Like they have grown and festered out of the little dark places in my mind. “Oh, this person who you thought was your best friend fucked you over?” Shocking. Oh this person stabbed you in the back? This person left? This thing happened? Well, if all of these things took place, and the one common denominator is me, then I must be the reason that these things keep happening. Maybe I am the piece of shit that my mind tells me I am. Maybe I am better of gone. Maybe this world would be better off with out me…Every single person that I have ever loved or gotten close to has fucked me over in seriously major ways. Why? Because I have always people pleased, tried to win over, tried to overcome, people who were not deserving of such effort. Water seeks its own level, And the people that I had aligned myself with for so long, were a direct reflection of the self worth that I possessed. And the scary part about it, is that deep down inside I could feel that I was entering into the Lions’ den, that I had absolutely no business going into places and spaces like this. But there was something pulling me to do it, that if I was just a good enough person, that they wouldn’t do “That” to ME. But Tigers can’t change their stripes, and I was always left devoured, hurt, chewed up and spit out, and then would be left worse off than when I entered. Perpetual self emotional harm. And that is not hyperbole.

And as a result, but also from the beginning, which is mind boggling- I have fallen into this horrible self sacrificing pattern of people pleasing and putting my own truest desires, needs, and wants dead last. Giving of my time, my friendship, my money, my heart, my resources, and my energy to so many of the wrong people. Just to get used, stomped, and fucked over. Completely discarded.And I wound up a 20,25,30,35 year old traumatized, naive, and broken little boy trapped inside a grown mans body. Just trying to figure shit out on my own, as I went. And the only thing that has saved me thus far, is that deep down inside I am a good person.

I don’t know man, the mind is the most elaborate and interesting place in the known universe. Because this is a very bleak and sad entry, but tomorrow it could be the brightest and most uplifting thing ever. And at the same time, it could all be over and gone tomorrow. No one knows what the next 5 minutes can bring, and that is so exciting and scary at the same time. When George Jung’s father, Played by Ray Liotta in the movie Blow said something like “Sometimes your flush, and sometimes your bust. It will work out, it always does. This is the way it goes, and when you’re up it’s never as good as it seems, and when you’re down, you feel like you’ll never be up again.” That really stuck with me. Because its true. All we can do is all we can do. Sometimes the only thing getting us through this crazy worm hole called life, is our moral compass, good intentions, and our grandmother’s prayers.

I do know this though, no matter how bad I am feeling, I am truly grateful that I know that smoking crack and shooting heroin will definitely not make things better. And for every season, for every valley, there is a reason, and a peak to come. My God do I hate the swings though.

And as I go to wrap this thing up, I think about how God, the universe, Karma, whatever it is out there that’s driving this whole thing really works. And one continuing thought in my mind is “Addition by Subtraction”.

In order to find our increase, in order to upgrade, in order to over come; often times we must: decrease, downgrade, and succumb to the things and people that were only there to take and hold us back. that way we can truly understand, process, and turn loose those things, to make room for better things and people in the future.

“If we don’t get rid of the wrong things and people, We will never find the right things and people.” Sometimes it is incredibly difficult to do these things on our own, so God intervenes on our behalf and painfully shows us the true color spectrum of the world, and then things just fall away naturally.

Addition by subtraction. We may think that we lost this thing or this person, but the fact of the matter is, they lost us.

Know your worth, then add tax.

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The Silversmith

Have you ever endured a substantial trial in your life? Of course you have. Have you ever endured an incredibly difficult season? Of course you have. Perhaps the substantial trial or season in your life was something or many things that seemed to be unrelentingly happening to you; or perhaps they were an era in your life where you/I/we just couldn’t seem to get out of the rut that we ourselves created, or brought upon ourselves. Either way or both, I’m sure we can all relate to this. Some of us may be here right now. Nothing seems to go right, or go our way. Even with the purest of intentions, it just seems to constantly be one step forward and 2,5,8,or 10 steps backwards, and we find ourselves stuck in the “what’s the use” mind set, or worse- “I give up” or “fuck it” Mind sets. All three of those mind sets are incredibly dangerous places to dwell, addict or not. And can lead us to some pretty dark places and serious bottoms. But what I have come to believe is that every season, and every trial has it’s purpose. I didn’t always feel this way or believe this, but I most certainly do now. We grow through what we go through. And it all leads us to exactly where we are, right now.

My Grandmother is the sweetest lady to ever walk the planet. Am I biased in this statement? Absolutely. Am I also right? Absolutely. She was, is, and always will be my biggest fan, supporter, prayer warrior and guardian angel. I gave this woman absolute hell in return for her efforts of trying to raise me and guide me while my dad was in prison and I was strung out on just about everything. Even though I was so busy “not listening to her”, much of the tutelage and inspiration did in fact stick. Case in point, this whole damn entry here.

Grama was always there for me. No matter what. She enabled in some ways, and in others she did not. I think she only bonded me out of jail one time, and that was a result of the pressures from my dad to get me out of Cook County jail. But she was always there to help mold, mentor, lecture, and guide me; even though it seemed to go in one ear and out the other a lot of the times. It didn’t. It just seemed that way I’m sure. But she was always very patient with me, and dedicated, and kind. She was always the very first name I would put on my visitation cards when I was spending time away in the local county jails, or in prison. And sure as shit, she was always the very first one to come and visit me, without fail no matter what. And I understand that that may kind of sound like enabling, and to some degree it might be. But she never came to baby me, or anything like that. I truly believe that she understood all along how very sick I was, and could sympathize with how bad I was struggling. And so she would come and see me, twice a week, every week, to pray with me, and yes, to lecture me. And I would just listen, and “uh-huh” and nod my head yes. But what I really know now, is through all of this, through all the years and relapse and using and jail and sleepless nights for her I’m sure she was ministering to me. Something that is very near and dear to her heart- sharing her incredibly devout faith with others who will listen. And Grama can spit game too. She is not a novice by any stretch of the imagination. She’s as a spiritual of a gangster as anyone in any fellowship. She’s just never been an addict, but she understands suffering like no one I’ve ever known. And isn’t that really the whole juice to it? Empathy and suffering? Aren’t those two of the most powerful things that could ever bind us flawed humans together? Not suffering in a trauma bond type scenario, but don’t we just have this innate drive to want to feel, understand, and help others who are less fortunate or hurting? I think so. But anyways, Grama got it, She is locked in, man. And one of “Grama’s greatest hits”, or “Grama’s On-Repeat” for us Spotify users, was the parable of the Silversmith.

I would be in jail. Again. And grama was my only visitor. Again. And she would come with such grace, understanding, compassion, and kindness, but she would also come with a very subtle “listen here, motherfucker” (Although my grama didn’t even come close to swearing) type of delivery that it just demanded to be digested at times. And she would talk to me about how when we “face these fires” she is reminded of the Silversmith. Now, as I understand it, the Silversmith back in the day would start with what I can only imagine as a giant lump, or ball of very rough and contaminated silver. I’m not a Geologist, but I would imagine its a very crude process at first, especially in the Biblical time frame in which my grama was referring to. And the Smith would take the lump of crude silver, and stick into the flames of the forging fires, until it was glowing hot, and molten. Once it was glowing a liquid, they would remove it from the fires, allow it to cool just a bit, and use a special tool to remove the “slag” or obvious contaminants in the precious metal, and then return the silver back into the fires. They would repeat this process over and over and over again, until the metal worker was satisfied with his or her work. Each time, refining the precious silver more and more. More diligence, more precise tools, and each and every time the metal was cool and cleaned, less and less slag or debris was removed, as the metal would become cleaner and cleaner. And the most experienced Silver Smiths, who had been in practice at this craft for many many years, could tell that the silver was truly pure when they could see their reflections looking back at them in cooled and polished bars and coins.

I don’t know why I felt so led to share this with all of you today, but it was put on my heart last night and I woke up and it was still there- so that’s usually a pretty good sign that I should share it. But what’s the point? I suppose the point, is that we all face fires, we all face trials and tribulations. We all have “slag”, we all have “debris” that needs to be removed, and we all need refining. Regardless of specific Religion or Dogma, we all have a “smith”, we all have someone or many people who we reflect. As I have always said, we are the average of the 5 people we associate with or depend on most. And as the fires of our lives hit us, and the slag is removed, and we are polished, we will begin to reflect the smiths who are pushing and pulling us in and out of the fires. And the whole double edge to this idea here, is 1: Fire burns. The fires of life are never comfortable, they’re painful and difficult, and scary. Sometimes they’re humiliating and embarrassing. Sometimes we think we will never get out of them alive. And 2: Be mindful of your “smiths”, we can go from the fire to the frying pan, real quick. We must be careful and discerning about who we are trusting to refine us, to help us remove our slag, and to help us polish. Otherwise, all of our firings can in fact, be for naught.

Who are your smiths? Who are you depending on? Who is helping you shine and polish? And are they shining you up, for your own brightness, or to trade you off in barter, for something for themselves? My grama would tell me and you, That God is the Silversmith, and he makes all things work together for our good. So that we can have our slag removed, so that we can then help forge, and shine others who need it. And I believe her 100% with all my heart.

A wise man has many councils.

It is in the fires of life that we are refined and polished, but we must learn to reflect the smiths who got us here. And then in turn, use our skills to help others shine. that’s the mission. That’s why God allows suffering. 1: So we can realize our dependence upon him, and 2: So that we can be refined, we can have our “Slag”(fears, doubts, insecurities, addictions, shortcomings, etc) removed, and then help the next one in line to do the same.

Reflect who made ya.

The Porcupine

Following a gestation of about 203 days, a Porcupette, weighing just under a pound, is born with soft quills that protect the mom during the birthing process. After a few days, the quills harden with keratin, which gives them their sharpness. 

Recently the image of the Porcupine has been stuck in my mind, following a session. The Porcupine is not to be fucked with, it is fierce and damaging to anyone who threatens it. With an artillery of sharp points, one swipe of its tail, sends it’s adversary running and howling in pain. Ending up like a bloody pin cushion. No body fucks with a Porcupine. Just think about it; If you even saw one, would you want to approach it? Take zoomed-in pictures of it from afar maybe, but get close enough to it to wind up on the receiving end of those brutal quills? Absolutely not. Porcupines are Sketchy looking little buggers, and deal damage to anyone who threatens them, large or small; whether we mean well or intend to do harm. They don’t give a fuck.

The reasoning that this animals image has stuck with me recently, is that I found myself pondering, “Are Porcupines born with those sharp quills?” Wouldn’t those sharp spear-like weapons be damaging to the mother at birth? Porcupines are not born with sharp quills. They are born with soft quills that harden over time, as they mature and venture out into the world. How metaphorical.

Likewise, we humans are not born with “Hard Quills” either. We are born into this world, for the most part perfect and innocent, shameless and soft hearted; as we experience life and venture out into the world, our hardened quills either develop or they don’t. And even if they do develop, and we become this prickly ball of angry defense, at the end of the day, the quills only serve as one thing: A Defense Mechanism.

I feel like this Analogy of the Porcupine is relevant in my life, for I, too have slung my Quills at people as a form of defense whether they deserved it or not. I believe we all have. But I wasn’t born with the ability to sling quills, it was learned and adaptive. I know that now.

The more I talk about and ponder on my life in reverse, and the traumas and experiences that I have had, the more I understand “The Sharp Points”, or at least try to. You see, I used to always share my story, in a very condensed version for Key Note Speeches, or Breakout Sessions at various conferences, and I used to talk about traumas and negative experiences from my using days, as a way to spread awareness about what Addiction REALLY looks like. But it came up recently that most, if not all of my negative experiences from using were essentially “self inflicted” or at least somewhat within my control. I got to pick and choose the risks I would take in pursuit of my drug seeking lifestyle, so that was an interesting point. Self Inflicted Trauma. Is that an actual thing? I certainly understand the thinking behind it, but wouldn’t that be more of a “Play stupid games win stupid prizes” type thing? Anyways, I digress there. But looking back on a couple talks I gave in particular, I remember being “double minded” while delivering them. One in Fort Wayne, one in French Lick; I was talking about the lifestyle of using, and the Traumas that occurred as a result, and deep inside of me and simultaneously reflecting back on the experiences and traumas that led me TO those impossible situations. The Space shuttle launch that took me outside of myself and allowed me to hide in the world of drugs, that in turn conjured up all of the experiences I was sharing about. And what I should have been talking about to begin with, was the space shuttle launch. Interesting.

I am not a victim. And you can save your sympathy for the infomercials on TV. I made choices and some of those choices led me to some really ugly and life threatening places. But how much responsibility can we really put on an eight year old little boy? A ten year old? We are all born into this world dependent. Dependent upon the humans who created us, or the humans who adopt us, or the system if no one does. And many of us end up experiencing the world relatively defenseless and naive. Sitting here this morning, I feel like I have much better understanding of why and how things turned out the way they did. And we are getting to a point in life, at the age of almost Forty, where it’s just about time to close “The Old Story” and only focus on the New. As much as I absolutely love what I do, and who I am today, I don’t “Just” want to be this “Former Heroin Addict” “Drug Addict” Guy anymore. I mean, that will always be a part of my story, and a big one, but it’s time to fully explore and release. Explore the past, investigate it, know it, learn from it, and let it all go. And it’s really important for me, and anyone reading this to know that we can. It doesn’t matter where we come from, or who our parents are, or where we live, what color we are, our traumas, pains, and old story can end and a new one begin, we can and it is our responsibility to investigate and reflect back on our harmful patterns and how we became who we are today- both good and bad. So that we can in turn use our discoveries and new found wisdom to enrich our relationships and break harmful cycles in our lineage and legacy. We don’t have to sling quills. Even when we feel threatened or harmed in some way. We must learn to restrain, and let be what is.

I suppose I started developing my Quills around the age of 10 maybe. Maybe a little sooner. Up until this time, I suppose I still had the luxury of my childhood innocence. I had the God Sent ability to still see the world with wonder and joy. Although terrible things had already long since been happening to me, I think maybe I was able to “Chalk it up” to whatever the fuck my little mind was able to. I mean, hey, it is totally normal to be forced to do horrible and disgusting things or get the shit beat out of you right? All kids experience that, that’s just part of life right? By the way that’s sarcasm. It’s not normal. It’s horrible and evil and damaging and leads to a lifetime of trauma. People who commit sex offenses against children should be given life in prison without the possibility of Parole, in my Opinion. But it wasn’t just that. The beatings, the moving, the uncertainties, the instability, Being counseled on how to talk to CPS when they come and ask about a number of things, having to borrow money from my teachers in elementary school for lunch, My teachers bringing me lunch to school because they were sick of paying for my lunch, being dumped off from relative to relative, not seeing Mom or Dad or either for up to a year at a time, getting my head split open with a golf club, getting beaten bloody with a broom stick, repeatedly molested, run over, being wedged in the middle of an ongoing “Family War” between Maternal and Paternal sides of the family, witnessing a suicide attempt, finding a dead body, I mean fuck man, none of these things are even in the universe of normal. And all of these things happened before my 18th birthday. All while riding this invisible wave of life, trying to navigate and find myself, and be a little boy. All while just wanting to go to the same damn school system for consecutive years. I just remember somewhere along the lines, just checking out. Getting into my space shuttle and detaching from it all. I became a Real Life Harry Houdini, by the age of 12. But the thing about it is, I don’t think I ever actually detached. I mean is that even possible? No matter what, no matter how hard we try, don’t we still witness it to some degree? Everytime something would happen, or a crisis would occur, or my “Stability” was threatened, what little stability I had created for myself that is- I would detach in my space shuttle, to protect myself and a new Quill would develop. This became My M.O. ‘Detach and grow a Quill’. Where once was a soft and delicate little fuzz patch- resembling the dwindling innocence I still had remaining- a hardened and dangerous Quill would form. Just waiting on someone to threaten that vulnerable place of mine, so I could hurl my manifested defense mechanisms right at their face, keeping everything that threatened me at a safe distance. I was sick of getting hurt man. I was sick of having to constantly adapt to this version of Life that I was getting. I know that we all play the hand we’re dealt to the best of our ability. But someone has to teach us how to play the game, whether its texas holdem or Go-Fish, Someone has to teach us about healing and processing and understanding where our Quills come from, otherwise we are stuck in the balloon factory, and everything that gets close to us is in danger. It is important for us to truly understand where each of our “Sharp points” come from, and then Lean in to them, study them, investigate them and know that we didn’t just decide to develop them. They are a result of our past hurts and pains. We are products of our environments for the most part. I mean, shit, I’ll be Forty years old in Three and a half years, and I am just now truly understanding this shit and at a point where I am ready to lose the quills. And that’s important work, losing our quills. Shedding that old self that no longer serves us.

It dawned on me recently, how important this is, losing the quills- those sharp points of Maladaptive behavior from my past because I was actively burning my life to the ground. Slowly over the course of about 2 years. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t shot dope or smoked Crack in a long time. I was still relying on my space shuttle, Time Capsule and Sharp Quills as a was of defending my still wounded heart and spirit. I was still acting, reacting, and behaving in many ways, like I always had. “Oh you hurt me Five years ago, Well let me continue to sling these quills at you, to keep you far enough away from me to never do it again.” “Oh you fucked me over”, You fired me, You made fun of me in High School, You Broke up with me, You Didn’t invite me, You _______________, Well Let me just make sure you get a face full of Quills- resentment, Bitterness, anger, Gossip, etc. to keep you from ever getting close enough to harm me again. It’s what I learned to do a very long time ago to protect myself. I was just a child when I started developing My Sharp Points. But I was alone alot in this world early on with no protectors.Almost to the point of Hyperbole- Like My Karma was so bad in a previous life, that I was reborn into this one to know only suffering for a very long time. Then came the world of Drug Addiction; Crack and Heroin addicts and Dope Dealers, and More and more quills formed. By the time I actually got clean, the dust settled from the Giant Bomb that just finished exploding after 29 years of Nuclear Fallout- My head was spinning, My heart was destroyed, and I was this ugly, angry, ball of Prickly defense mechanisms that served no one, and harmed everyone.

It has taken some really dark places and horrible-yet-again-self-inflicted-traumas to get to this place of understanding this though. There really is something to that whole “I’ll show you, I’ll Kill me” Cliche that we hear so often in the various fellowships, because that’s literally where I was not so long ago, “Oh you fucked me over?-I’ll stick this needled in my arm then. I’ll slowly slip into a horrible depression, consider suicide, write suicide letters, burn them and then just climb into a bottle of booze and flip out on everyone I know, because I just can’t shake this pain and fear that I’m living with everyday. Covered in sharp points on the inside and out, beaten and broken, pissed off at the world, expecting so very much of myself; so many others expecting so much from me; And all I really longed for was to just be able to fucking breathe and feel some actual peace and joy in my life for the very first time. So much has happened so fast. It seems like I was just 16 years old hitting my first home run in the All-Stars Tourney, and now I’m almost 40. I’d been in the space shuttle for a long time. But I finally feel like we have reached our stopping point, a point of inflection. A Rude awakening. A point in my life where I realized that the Past ain’t changin’, and there is nothing I can do about it except Heal. And there is so much power in healing. Shit, there’s power in TRYING to heal. Learning and unlearning all of the things that formed the quills. I do NOT have to be who the world made me into be. I have the power to unlearn, un-do, and un-be. And in my God Given form, just as I am right this moment, I am okay.

And I believe that is how we break these generational curses that plague us as a society. By learning ourselves, by understanding our quills and how they got there, by leaning into our sharp points, unlearning our maladaptive behaviors, and “un-being” who we once thought we needed to be.

Like the baby Porcupine, the Porcupette as it is known- we humans are not born with “Sharp” or “Hardened” anything. I think about my Grandmother when I write this; She used to talk about how innocent and perfect new born babies are when they first enter the world.

“The world out there took a Naive Kid, scarred his heart and beat him down, and this song is me, coming back around, from out of town.”

Learn. Unlearn. Undo. Un be. understand. let be. let go.

No one wants to hug a Porcupine.

Turd Polish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herb and the Giant Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no external remedy to an internal conflict.

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

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

This is Psychobabble.

Rumination

Sound of alarm breaks through my sleep.

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

“Fuck.”

Turn alarm off.

Feet hit the floor. Deep breath in and out.

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

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

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

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

Check bank accounts. Not broke, yet.

Check emails. Back to social media.

Nothing to provide immediate dopamine.

Smoke cig.

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

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

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

Scroll on phone.

Scroll on phone.

scroll on phone.

Nothing to provide immediate dopamine.

Check Crypto. Still not millionaires.

“Not that it would make me happy anyways.”

Smoke a cig. Worry about work.

Worry about Money.

Stress about the hours that lie ahead.

Get the kids off to school.

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

Refill coffee. Stare at phone. no dopamine.

Negative thoughts invade.

Judge people on T.V.

Scroll on phone.

“I should go do something today.”

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

“Nah there’s nothing to do.”

“My kids don’t love me.”

“My Wife doesn’t Love me.”

“Works gonna dry up.”

“This life isn’t sustainable.”

“These dogs are annoying.”

“Fuck those neighbors.”

Numb. No thought. Then more thought.

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

Fuck this place.

“We’re so lucky and blessed.”

Try to pray. Try to find gratitude.

Take the dogs out.

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

What do they think about us?

They probably hate me, I should go inside.

Shut the drapes.

Stare out the windows.

Pace the floors.

Switch the laundry.

Dryer finishes. Fuck folding it. Restart the Dryer.

Stare at phone.

play a game on my phone.

Think about sending an email.

But no one wants to hear from me anyways.

“Why doesn’t anyone call me anymore?”

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

“I should call them. Nah, fuck that.”

“I will tomorrow.”

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

The things comes up.

“How can I get out of this?”

God I just wish there was something I could do.

(Finds something to do)

Instantly dreads doing anything.

We need groceries.

Bills need paid.

Car needs gas.

Reba needs her medicine.

Kids need lunch money.

Sports. School clothes. Homework. Football. Vacations.

All things I want.

All things I dread and can’t handle.

Smoke a cig in the garage.

Thousand mile stare off into the woods across the street.

Smoke another Cig.

Stare at phone.

Recline on couch.

“I’m Coffeed out.”

Switch to water or Peach Tea.

Take Vitamins. Maybe this legal self medication will help.

Check emails.

Look at phone.

Watch TV.

Intrusive negative thoughts.

Everything is falling apart.

No one wants me anymore.

I’m just a gimmick.

“Why do I feel and think like this.”

“God, please remove these thoughts from me.”

The thoughts remain.

I take out the trash.

“These kids are fucking lazy.”

Take the dogs out. Stare at the grass.

It’s getting cold.

This winter is gonna suck.

I hate living here in the cold months.

If only there was somewhere I could go.

Intrusive thoughts.

“Maybe I should kill myself”

Dude. Don’t be crazy. This will pass.

“They’re better off without me.”

“No one needs me”

“Fuck this life shit.”

“it’s a trap.”

Check bank account. ‘

“I just know I’m failing.”

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

It will all fall apart soon.

I bet our neighbors have better lives.

This is all too much.

I feel invisible.

People only want FROM me.

People are fucked up.

I hate a lot of people.

I have no where to go.

I don’t want to go anywhere anyways.

I should probably take something for this.

I don’t wanna take any meds.

They wouldn’t help anyways.

I should probably delete all this.

No one will read it anyways.

It’s all just stupid psychobabble anyways.

I’m not even a real author.

No one cares what I have to say.

It doesn’t help anyone.

Yes it does.

Of course it does.

Take a break. Smoke a Cig.

No one is home in my neighborhood.

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

And I’m stuck here in my head again.

For the 17th month in a row.

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

(Goes for drive) Head does not clear.

I knew it was pointless anyways.

Nothings ever gonna change.

What’s the point anyways.

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

I have no energy.

I feel so blah.

I should get back into the gym.

I should go for a walk.

I should go play golf.

Why can’t I laugh?

Why can’t I feel anything?

Why can’t I stop thinking?

Tomorrow will be a better day.

I can’t wait to go to sleep tonight.

Smoke a cig.

Eat some food.

Smoke a cig.

Scroll on my phone.

Compare my life to everything I see on my screen.

Judge my insides but what I see on TV.

Judge the world.

Feel nothing.

Check my bank accounts.

I know Ill be broke and homeless soon.

Do the dishes, listen to music.

Ahhhhh, the music. The music shuts it off.

Dishes are done. Time to turn the music off.

Take a shower.

Pray in the shower.

Try to cry.

Can’t.

Just feel the heat on my skin.

Stare at the white walls of the shower.

Transcend to years ago. Years from now.

Why can’t I just be here, now?

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

Dry off.

Dress.

Smoke a Cig.

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

Stare at my phone.

No dopamine.

Just. Stop. Thinking. Please.

I can’t.

Stare off into space.

Pet my dogs.

Smoke a cig.

Walk around my house.

judging everyone by what I see in their absence.

All I hear is the TV.

There is no one here.

Think.

Smoke.

Think.

Pace the floor.

Look outside.

Fuck this neighborhood.

Smoke a cig.

Judge the world.

judge myself.

Think

think

think

Kids are home.

fuck

More stress.

snacks.

snacks.

snacks.

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

The same Hulu Commercial drones over and over.

This shits crazy.

Like a Requiem for a Dream loop or Montage.

It’s always the same.

Something stimulate me please.

Coffee?

didn’t work.

Smoke a Cig.

I hate Cigs.

I’m gonna quit.

This is my last one.

Smoke another one.

“When’s Dinner?”

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

Kids don’t appreciate shit.

They don’t appreciate me.

They don’t love me.

My wife doesn’t actually love me.

She doesnt want me.

I feel invisible.

I just exist.

My phone rings.

Thank God, works picking up

Simultaneously

Fuck this.

I don’t have the energy for this.

Works up the energy to answer

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

Ugh.

Hangs up.

“Works never gonna pick up.”

Fuck this.

I’m Bored.

Nothing interests me.

If I just vanished, would anyone notice?

Of course they would. Idiot.

Quit thinking like this.

Continues thinking like this.

I know it’s all gonna fall apart soon.

They don’t really love me.

They just need me.

smoke a cig.

Fuck this homework shit.

“Do you have home work, buddy?”

“NO”

Thank God.

Stares at phone.

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

(Chance comes)

I don’t wanna do that.

Stare at TV.

Watch a game.

Stare at phones.

Eat dinner.

Smoke a cig.

Smoke a cig.

Smoke a cig.

Stare at phone.

I can’t wait for bed.

I’m so tired.

I feel like I’m fighting off a cold.

Take dogs out.

Crate the dogs for the night.

Undress.

Lay in bed

Stare at TV.

Roll over.

Tomorrow will be better.

“Maybe”

Lay there thinking.

Fall asleep.

*Repeat*

Depression

Time Capsule

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

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

…Buried for discovery in the future….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can not change what we refuse to confront.

Space Shuttle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Size Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay small my friends, stay the right size.

Vision

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

And then 2020 happened.

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

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

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

How’s your vision now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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