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Say/Do

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

Now, Moving on to the point of this entry…

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

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

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

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

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

No it does not.

That’s a fact.

It does not.

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

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

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

SAY. DO.

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

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

Say Do.

Hot Coal Formula

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you happy?

What do you want?

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

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

Chicken/Egg

It has been said that not everyone who experiences trauma goes on to experience addiction, but everyone who has experienced addiction has experienced trauma. And that makes a lot of sense to me. I know that there are many out there who have and will say that when I speak about trauma or mental health issues that I am attempting to play some kind of victim card, like the guy on my Amazon reviews that claims I am attempting to cultivate sympathy or some bullshit by the way that I write and speak and that couldn’t be any further from the truth. You wanna know how I feel about my truth and story? I made a CHOICE to pick up drugs and alcohol. But at the same time I was a vulnerable weak minded immature 15 year old. No body wants to be nailed to the cross over and over again about the decisions they made when they were 15. We all make mistakes and we all fail and sin differently. But anyways. I have said all that before.

It has also been said that a very high percentage of us who suffer from SUD (Substance Use Disorder)/ Addiction also have underlying and undiagnosed mental health issues. This also makes sense to me. But which comes first here? Certainly using drugs can and does alter my brain chemistry and my brains pathways to operate a certain way and stunts my mental and emotional growth.

It is very interesting to me this morning, this train of thought. I have always said that I believe I was an addict long before I ever picked up drugs to begin with, but now, I am not so sure. Perhaps when I picked up chemicals, it was just self medication and I had no comprehension of that Idea. Maybe it was kind of like the old adage, “In a storm, any port will do.” Maybe, I was experiencing a storm of chemical misfires in my brain for so long that finally I just caved in to it, and picked up a cigarette, a bottle, a pill, or even acted out for attention to get some sort of validation for a dopamine hit to make my brain chemically reward me and make my system feel good. As I think about it this morning, I believe that is the case. After all, they say that Drugs and alcohol are but a symptom of the disease model of addiction. But there are many symptoms that come along with it, or maybe Addiction itself is the symptom…

One of my earliest memories looking back was when I was still just a little guy and mom was pregnant with my little brother. I was so excited to have a little brother, and really, if not more so- to be a big brother. I had and always will have in my heart the best big brother, My Late Brother Josh. But becoming a big was so special to me. I would feel mom’s belly and feel him kick and couldn’t wait for him to come. But when he did, he was very sick. He spent his first month I think it was in some kind of incubation tent in the hospital with Pneumonia I think it was, and I never left the hospital. My parents and I stayed the whole time until we were able to bring him home and I was in awe. But, could that have been trauma for me? Can Life itself be trauma? Can the event of being born and getting all wild eyed in wonder as we become conscious to other human life begin wiring our brains and molding us for the next 80 years to come? Can we be born with chemical imbalances? Can we be actually born with underlying mental health issues, and then become accustomed somewhat to living life, just kinda, feeling like shit? I think so.

Another one of my early memories was myself and my next door friend and his mother in Peach Tree City, I think I was in like fourth grade. We were sitting in his mother’s car, the three of us, in front of what I believe is now a Kroger. And I remember sitting there just feeling unloved, and unwanted, and like a failure; just for being born. And I remember randomly speaking out to my friend and his mom, “I have no reason to live.” Think about that. A Fourth grade little boy, who is supposed to be so full of dreams, hope, love, and wonder. Feeling like he has no place in the world, and that He has no reason to even be alive. It’s really heart breaking to me and I wish I could go back and just hug my little self and tell him that He is Loved and he is worthy of love and that he is a GOOD boy. I wonder what in the world could have ever triggered such negative self image and self worth in such a tiny little heart….

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One of the world views as it pertains to addiction, recovery, and the long thought idea of a rock bottom, is that a person must reach a bottom, or some type of harsh negative consequence before they will be willing to stop. And that may be true in some aspects, but we also must remember that I/We use to AVOID consequences, uncomfortable situations, and to escape reality. And So we must remember that it is cyclical. Feeling, Use, Avoid, consequence, avoid, use, feeling. And so on. So yes, a harsh consequence may open the window of willingness briefly, but we as by standers and participants in someone’s life must be ready, willing, able and equipped to capitalize on the open window of willingness, or we will let it slide by and keep “pandora’s box” open for yet another unknown amount of time. I believe and have said this numerous times, that we don’t actually hit a firm/rock bottom, or true stopping point until we have been clean for a while. And I say this because, we must be able to get clear minded long enough; for me it was about six months with ZERO chemicals, to fully recall and reflect on the damage and pain that we have inflicted to ourselves, our loved ones, and society. We must be able to “Think long and hard about what you’ve done young person!”(And I say that in my most stern-good-ol-talkin-to-dad-voice). And I just simply will not do that with the access to chemicals. As soon as I start thinking about what a Dirtball I’ve been, it’s gonna make me feel like shit, and then I’m gonna go out and do some dirtball shit. I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s what we do. But anyways.

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So. I was in fourth grade, and didn’t feel like a had a reason to live. I had no self love. I experienced trauma in some form or another, as we all do. Life is difficult, and it kicks our asses in various ways from time to time. I craved acceptance and tried to fill a void with chemicals for a dopamine/chemical hit to feel better. And I didn’t hit an actual firm physical/rock bottom until I was six months clean sitting in jail, because I was forced abstinent and couldn’t access drugs to escape. And although I went on to do well with my recovery journey and life itself thus far, and God willing, some thing still didn’t feel exactly right. I would have good days and bad. As we all do. But they were VERY much contrasting, my days. I would be so up or so down that it was almost like I was a different person every single day. Some days, I would be so down that I could barely even function normally but you wouldn’t have known it unless I told you, which I am doing so now. And some days I would be so up that you would think that I just hit the lottery, even though my bank account was over drawn and I had 3$ of gas in my car. My days were very inconsistent. And I would have these explosions of emotion toward people, in either direction. Almost a Love Bombing or a Hate/Negative/Doom-and-Gloom Bombing of sorts. I was very much all over the place. And maybe not to the extremes that you think. It was a constant see saw of emotion, thought, belief, worry, doubt, hope, expectation, anticipation, and etc in my head at all times. And I would lose myself by getting out of my self for a long time. Helping and working with others, working out, going for a drive, etc. And all of this was going on while I was supposed to be recovering and getting better. So why wasn’t I FEELING better? Why was it such a constant whirlwind? Why could my entire day change on a dime, because I had one negative intrusive and unwanted thought, which would then trigger emotional responses and lead to a belief? First thought wrong, I know this. That’s day one recovery stuff. *And I’m not trying to sensationalize things here, but it was quite intense sometimes, and I’m trying to tie some ideas together here, so bear with me please* Things were chugging along and life was going so well, so why was I either on cloud 9, or down in a hole like Alice in Chains? I just could not for the life of me figure it out. I would use the phone, I would make 10th step calls, I would talk to other recovered addicts, I would talk to my brother and cousins, my mother in law, my wife, my therapist friend. And that would help for a moment, but something was seriously up here. It was like some of these thoughts and ideas actually had a physical presence in my brain. I could feel my brain swelling when they would come and no one could talk them out for me. The only thing that actually helped was when I would go to sleep at night. I was literally stewing in them. Like a Hot beef sandwich roast, just soaking in that shit all day, until I slept it off and woke up the next day. But come the fuck on man, this shits gotta change. So I made some appointments and followed up and got some outside help. The first time I was mis diagnosed and mis medicated. So I tried again, and found the right therapist, and the right Doctor and got on the appropriate medication and things, and life actually feel like they should. And now I’m thinking back on things, like, well shit. I bet you that’s what was going on ALL ALONG. That fourth grade little boy, back in the Kroger parking lot was showing signs of clinical depression, and NO ONE saw it. And it “Chameleons” It’s way through our adolescence, and early adulthood, and some of us end up turning to chemicals, and we never see the wreckage or consequences until were stopped and “Clean slated” enough to actually reflect and get some outside perspective and holy shit my brain is spinning. I can see it all through my minds eye right now. We were all just self medicating. We were all just looking for some relief from something we didn’t even know was there. We were all just looking to feel better, because we had some type of something going on. Maybe not depression, maybe not anxiety, maybe not bi-polar, but something. Maybe trauma, maybe painful memories, maybe a combination of things. After all, we only use drugs for one of two reasons: To increase pleasure, or to decrease pain. There is no third reason.

And for this very thought, the idea at the end of this psychobabble, I truly believe that 1: every child should be screened for possible depression and underlying mental health issues by the time the’re in 5th grade. And 2: every person who has ever been suspected of SUD/Addiction/Alcoholism should be screened for the same. I truly believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and if we can get Emotional, Mental Health, therapists, and the appropriate clinicians in front of our children early enough, were going to once and for all turn the tides of addiction in this country, and no, not all children will need to be put on a medication like an SSRI, like I am. But we can offer coping, REAL coping skills and and outlet for our children to communicate and process what they’re going through so they wont have to turn to the things that I did later on in life.

We can deal with the chicken now, or we can deal with the Egg later. Or vice versa. What the hell came first anyways?

We need mental health reform in the United States of America.

Dr. Pimple Popper

Being an Addict in the grip of active addiction is something else. I have spoken about this numerous times, how, when we were kids we would see Scruff McGruff on T.V and the guy who fries an egg and says “This is your brain on drugs, any questions?” Not to discount those efforts to thwart drug use in the then current generation, but that never did shit to make me think twice about using. In fact, when I was in High School, and they did the Red Ribbon Campaign for Valpo High; we were all asked to sign the “Red Ribbon Pledge” or some shit- that we would “Just say no!” Well, my wild ass made about 300 copies of my signed pledge, because when we turned them in to the local McDonald’s they would give us a free Cheeseburger for signing the pledge, and doing our civic duties. Welp, I would go out and get super High, Drunk, and all sorts of Loaded, and then take my Gigantic stack of Signed pledges to multiple McDonald’s and get straight stupid on free cheeseburgers. I was crafty like that.

And though, I do try to incorporate some humor into my entries there is absolutely NOTHING funny, fun, or good about drug addiction. It is the absolute most Godless, Loveless, friendless, joyless, and most disgusting and miserable life that I could ever imagine. I had to figure that out on my own I suppose, I guess I’m a hands on learner…

I already told you about my nasty MRSA/Staph. infection that I had in my foot and leg that almost cost me my Foot from the ankle down, my hearing as my fever got up to 104.9 degrees, and my life. But I don’t think that I have ever mentioned the other nasty shit that I brought about on myself as a result of being a Junkbox, nasty, unwashed street person. And this was something that went on for years, off and on.

I see a lot of shared photos, and memes, and etc of people who are using meth. And I see how their faces become sunken in, and covered in sores, from picking at the imaginary bugs or critters or some shit. I don’t know, I never really got into meth, I have tried it a few times but all it did was make me super geeked up and I ended up driving around on my buddies Golf Cart in Peach Tree city and drank and entire 30 pack of Milwaukee’s best light trying to come down from the shit. It didn’t help, and I ended up driving the golf cart for so long that it died and I had to leave it on the side of the cart path and walk like 5 miles home all weirded out. Yeah, sounds like a great time doesn’t it? Sike. I never really got into the whole speed thing. I did smoke a lot of crack though, but only when I had Heroin with me to immediately come down with. I don’t know, different strokes for different folks I guess.

But anyways, I always had the misconception that the “sores thing” was Meth exclusive. I always thought that the picking at myself and getting all scabby and nasty was only for those who used meth because it made them tweek and Picky. Turns out I was wrong, and I never really put the two and two together until after I got clean. I can say that about a lot of things.

I’m not sure when it started happening, but I can imagine that it was sometime well into my 8+ year (Second) run with Heroin as this is when things really started to get sketchy, nasty, and almost took my life on many occasions. But I noticed that every once in a while, I would get just the tiniest pimple looking thing on my arm, or on my shoulder, or neck. And I would do what most of us would do- pop it and go about my day. No big deal.

And then I would notice another, and another. Pop. Move on. No big deal. And on the occasion that I would take a shower, at a 2$ flea bag motel, I would feel a little better and some what relieved that I got a chance to clean myself and would continue on about my journey to the bottom. Another little pimple. Another Pop, on we go. No big deal.

One day I was going about my daily rituals of most likely, either pan handling, ripping someone off somehow, conning people, etc… Whatever the hell I was up to at this particular phase of my life, God only knows. I had so many stupid ass little scams to make 3$ at a time, as I was always afraid to commit any major crimes- I would always rather turn in cans, or beg for change than commit any serious crimes, although my dumb ass did end up hitting the big time later, as you all know, and I thank my Lucky stars that God intervened in my life inside Porter County Jail, or I would still be in prison today. Thank God for Grace. But anyways, I was going about my day and was either driving, or sitting, or something that required my back to have pressure against something and I noticed that there was a very large spot of discomfort on my back. And it was really hot feeling. Meh, no big deal, a nice amber colored thick ass shot-a-dope will take the pain away. And it did, for a couple days.

Eventually this spot on my back became so damn unbearable that I had no choice but to walk into a local emergency room and have it looked at. So embarrassing, having to walk my unwashed, stinking, strung out, junkie looking ass into the E.R to have something on my body that was CLEARLY a result of my chosen lifestyle looked at. I swear that I looked and felt…GREEN. Just completely nasty and utterly filthy. I felt so unhealthy and sick. But the physical pain in my back out weighed the emotional pain and the sting to my pride. I knew that this had to be addressed. And it was. And it did not feel good.

In seemingly a matter of a couple days, I had developed a giant ass boil looking and feeling thing right on the center of my spine on my back. The doctors already knew what was going on and what I was. They offered ZERO pain medication to alleviate what was about to happen. You know what I got? A bag of fucking ice. They laid a bag of ice on my spine for about ten minutes to “numb” what was about to happen.

It didn’t work.

The doctor moved the bag of ice and “on the count of three” Lanced this giant, hot, smelly ass boil on my spine wide open and I could feel the metal tearing the flesh on my back, and then the relief of the pressure releasing, and then the smell. It literally smelled like rotting corpse was leaking out of my back. And then they stuffed it full with some kind of absorbent gauze, sent me home with some more gauze and told me to have a nice day. If only hospitals had people on stand by to catch those struggling at their bottoms when they come into a hospital? Trust me I’m working on that as we speak, I have authored three Bill Proposals that have been accepted into legislature in Indy for the 2021 year. Things are gonna change on our protocols in this state if it’s the last thing I do. Well, anyways, I did not have a nice day. All of my days fucking sucked.

Imagine this: Imagine being so mentally, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically drained, tired, and exhausted with life. Imagine being so traumatized, at your own hand. Imagine hating who you saw in the mirror so you spit at your own reflection every time you saw it. Imagine feeling like God and the World actually hated you. Then couple that with feeling so God awfully and horribly Dope sick and in constant physical pain and trying to go about your day so horribly sick with withdrawl, fear, anxiety, panic, and paranoia. All of these feelings compounded by the very thing that you crave more than anything, because its the only thing that will take the pain that it causes away; that, or finally jumping off an overpass above the Dan Ryan hoping the fall itself would kill you, and if not, maybe you could time it well enough to land in front of a Brink’s Truck but you’re too Chicken Shit to ever actually kill yourself, so again you feel like a failure because you’re too much of a wimp to take your own life and – welcome to Heroin addiction. And Now, Imagine all of this unfolding CONSTANTLY between your ears, inside your poisoned mind while you grime your way through life and have to steal and pan handle and beg and eek your way just to get a bag of the thing that’s killing you. And its causing your body to have physical reactions and symptoms. And now I have crossed a point where these little “Pimples” are happening more and more.

More trips to the E.R.

More Ice bags.

More Lancing of the boils. On my arms. On my legs. On my back and neck.

Once, I had one hit me just under my eye brow. And at the time, I was somewhat thankful, because it was just the tiniest little one. Smaller than the average pimple. Just a teeny tiny looking little dot. And I squeezed it, and it popped, and everything was fine. Until I woke up the next day and my eye was completely swollen shut. And it stayed swollen shut for almost 2 weeks.

These were not Pimples. This was Cellulitis from living like such a fucking dirtball that my skin and body was actually starting to rot and break down. And all of this, no doubt is what finally gave way to my MRSA/Staph infection that had me in Saint Mary’s in Hobart for 11 days.

I didn’t care anymore. I was on a suicide run. I just wanted more dope, more crack. And I was determined to get as much as I could and hopefully one of these shots would be enough to finally do the trick and do me in. And I could finally nod off into the big sleep and Overdose and my pain would finally end for good. I was done living this miserable fucking life. And I was done going into the hospitals to get these boils lanced and removed. They were just reappearing elsewhere anyways so what’s the point? And all of these visits damn near put me in bankruptcy once I got clean, which I knew if I ever did get clean I was gonna be on the hook for, so fuck it. I’m Just not going in there anymore. (Which by the way, I am STILL paying off old medical bills from my using days, almost 6 years later. To the tune of almost 20,000$. And these are the unspoken, unknown prices that we pay to play the game.) Addiction took me further than I wanted to go, Kept me longer than I wanted to stay, and cost me a helluva lot more than I wanted to Pay.

But I was done going in and out of these hospitals to be looked at, judged, and be humiliated. So I said fuck it. And the pimples, abscesses, and boils kept coming. And they kept coming on more and more severely. To the point where I started noticing that they were actually developing little green, grey, and yellow phlegmy looking cores in them. And they wouldn’t pop. I would squeeze and squeeze and they would ooze and bleed. Gushing, foul smelling ooze, puss, and phlegms of infection would run out of my arms, my legs, my shoulders, and eventually, right in the middle of my forehead. A Giant nob had formed smack dab in the middle of my forehead and face. And this one scared me to death, because of its proximity to my brain and eyes. So I didn’t mess with it too much. I would shoot some heroin to numb the throb of the infection, mash down on it, and try to catch the ooze before it got into my eyes. I would wipe the blood and puss away from my face put a bandanna on to somewhat disguise the giant sore and go about my day.

But finally it got to the point where It was just to much to bear.

No shot of dope would kill the pain.

No bandanna would hide the giant sore.

And I didn’t want to go back to the hospital.

So I did what I had to do.

I shot a massive amount of brown liquid into my left arm, I found myself some needled nose pliers. And I walked into the Speedway Gas Station on Swanson and Highway 6 in Portage Indiana. I locked the door behind me, took a big blast of crack, shot some more dope, smashed all of the liquid out of the wound as I possibly could, dug the pliers down into my stinking infected flesh on my forehead, and dug that dime sized, green, black, and yellow mucous plug out of my face.

I thought I was going to bleed to death right there in the bathroom, but thank God I was able to get the Crimson Gush under control. I’m sure the entire bathroom smelled like a corpse. But I actually did it. I actually got it out. And there was so much morbid and disgusting relief that came along with this little victory of mine. I instantly felt physically better. I stuffed some paper towels in behind my bandanna to absorb any blood leaking, cleaned up the operating room, stuck the pliers in my pocket, and went about my day.

And as luck would have it, I found a fifty dollar bill on the floor of the gas station on my way out. Talk about impeccable timing. Not a bad pay, for an excruciating time spent operating on my own face in a gas station bathroom. I’m kind of a jack of all trades.

(Egg cracks, and hits hot skillet) This is your brain, this is your life, this is your FACE. On drugs. Any questions?

Pizza Pizza!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MURDER.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, Herb. Makin a Pizza.” He says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wooden Nickel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first five years has been truly bittersweet.

jokingly, like a wooden nickel.

Symbols

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

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

We do not got this.

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

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

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

“Only you can answer that man.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hordes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trigger Warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, where you from, Steve?”

“Uh, Valpo…”

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

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

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

“Iight man, Ill let them know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I mean, yeah. Sure Doc.”

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

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

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

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

Hard maybe.

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

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

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

Yeah I don’t miss that shit.

 

The Starfish

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean for exercise. 

One day, the old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. 

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the boy replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

 

I am pretty out spoken. That is not much of a shocker to those who know me. Those of you who follow me on Social Media might think that I may not have much of a life because I post so often. But I do. A pretty awesome new life, thank God. And those of you who follow my author page, and sometimes my personal page may tend to see things like; “Local Intervention this morning, Female/Male in their 30’s Alcohol/drugs, Just accepted the gift of recovery and is willing to give it a shot!” As I tout the successes of the miracle that has just unfolded before our eyes during an intervention. I know that often times, this may garner mixed reviews and equal parts criticism because “Herb is self promoting and blah blah blah.” “Fuck that Herb dude.” Anyways, I don’t care. Talk all you want, I know my truth and I know my walk. But perhaps, maybe, it is not self promotion at all. Perhaps, it is because I am constantly, and I mean daily- reminded of this ugly, nasty, life or death underbelly of this world that I have found myself in- and up against. And it is not self promotion so much as it is HOPE Promotion. You know, it is very easy and typical for us addicts to forget where we came from. There is something about it, I don’t know- the returning to life maybe? Ego? Pride? That somehow just automatically takes place once we get clean. I am guilty of it, although I do my best most days to remind myself, and my family that I am nothing more than one bad decision, one mental breakdown- away from pissing everything away, smoking crack, shooting dope and living on the streets again. Maybe not in such gory detail with the family, but you get what I am saying. I know what I am. And I am no longer confused by any stretch of the imagination. Drugs can and will destroy my life again, if I make one terrible choice to pick up. But anyways. The underbelly.

You might see all the posts celebrating people accepting help, successful interventions, and all the “Bright Places” that I have selected for you to see. And, again, it is because of HOPE Promotion. But there is a lot about what I do that you do not see. And I don’t even know if I should be telling you this, but I have always vowed to share openly, so here we go.

Yes, It is a Fact, that we have come to know, over the course of the years that we have been doing this- INTERVENTION WORKS. It is a statistical fact that it is the most effective and successful way to get someone into treatment. There is no arguing it, its fact. that’s irrelevant- but I did include that little note there just in case there is someone reading this who needed to see that, and now we move on.

But what so many of y’all may not recognize, and that’s on me, because I don’t share it very often, is the absolute heart break of active addiction and death that I hear, on a weekly basis. I hear grown men’s teeth grit as their voices crack and they cry to some guy they’ve never met before- because He answered the phone at 11:00 at night. I hear grandmother’s so desperate just to find their sweet grandchild who is being pimped out on the streets of Detroit. I once took a call from an ELEVEN YEAR OLD LITTLE BOY, who was calling because his mommy “Was on drugs, I think” (And yes, I am a mandated reporter so please, don’t ever in one second think that I would not, or did not immediately get that case into the local authorities hands). I take calls from broken hearted and lost parents, brothers, sisters, friends, and even co workers, who are just watching as someone slowly kills themselves at their own hand. 18,19,20 year old girls- KIDS!! Who are selling their bodies on the streets for 10 and 20 dollars worth of crack at a time. They are desperate and dying for help- and over the years I have kind of fashioned a saying that I remind myself of daily: The one’s who want it(Recovery) can’t get it, and the one’s who can get it(those with means), Don’t want it. Our system is so upside down right now it makes me sick- but that’s another topic all together and I am working on that behind the scenes as we speak, but Covid kind of put a halt on that for a few months, but trust me, I am doing all that I can, but I digress.

Alot of people may have the misconception that what I do is some kind of “Paid 12th step work” or some bullshit that I have heard from the peanut gallery over the past. But it isn’t. I take my position and role in this world very seriously. I spent pretty much my entire Father’s Day helping a few families, because my phone rang- I am not bragging and I do not need a pat on the back, that’s not what this is about. This is about the Dark side of it. This is about what you wont see in some celebratory post on FB. The reason I took those calls, and I very could have easily just have been selfish and thought, “It’s father’s day, I am spending it with my family.” And I did, we had a very nice father’s day. I enjoy the silence when it comes. But the reason that I always answer my phone when it rings, is because, Most of the time, I know who is calling: A Potential Starfish. A Soul in pain. Someone who is literally praying a prayer I know all too well: “Please, someone, pick up…Please God I need someone to help us…” I have made that call more times than I care to recall. But I have, as one of my former colleagues once put it, “The Most Unique Job in the World.” Not meaning that it is some God selected ivory tower position, it’s just, unique. It is unique in the regards that, people can call out for help, praying as the phone rings hoping someone answers, because they’re so desperate for answers that they’ve found themselves calling an intervention crisis line- only to be met with an understanding, and (I think) helpful guiding person who is offering solutions- and then I STILL have to talk them into doing an intervention. It is one of the most paradoxical things that I have experienced. *And if you’re wondering why that may be, please refer to my previous post “How it Works”* I am not going to go over the ins and outs of it again right now. But to be honest, those are the calls that I absolutely dread the most. I can feel the connection between myself and the callers, I can feel that they’re nodding yes in agreement with me. I can sense that they KNOW in their heart of hearts that this is the necessary step to take to save and salvage at fragile life. And we get rrrriiiigggghhhttttt thereeee….right to the point to where it’s time to move forward; and then something clicks off for them. And my blood literally runs cold. And I am NOT exaggerating- listen, if you’re at the point where you’re talking to me on the phone, then odds are you have run out of tactics and options and this is one of your last gasps and available attempts to help someone. And I mean that. No one ever randomly calls me to tell me how great someone is doing. We are interventionists. We are the “Seattle grunge rock swat team gritty MFs” We enter the trenches along side you. We educate, we empower, and then we fucking extract. This is not a game. Sorry, I got a little emotional there. But this is life or death. You mean to tell me that: “Sally, 23 year old female from JohnDoe, Indiana” is living on the streets, covered in sores, prostituting herself for heroin and eating out of garbage cans, and I STILL have to convince you to do this?! I cannot tell you how many times I have had this conversation- It breaks my heart. But anyways. I hate these calls, because They are the only ones that ever preface the absolute worst call that I get….

“Hey Herb, it’s (John Doe). I just wanted to thank you for all of your help and effort last week. I just wanted to let you know we won’t be needing an intervention anymore. I am so sorry to have to tell you this, but her/his body was found ________ from an apparent overdose and her/his funeral is ______.

fuck.

Or the young lady who’s body was found on her front porch in the morning by her two elementary school kids. Their dad had called the day before. She hadn’t been home for several days. Someone just dumped her there like a piece of trash. She’s gone too.

Or the Dad. Or the Mom. Or the Sisters. I could go on and on.

I am they. ANYONE who has gotten their life back is THEY.

It is still happening out there. Every day.

Right here in Indiana, last year, it once took me an entire week and over 300 phone calls to find a bed for a young lady. Wheel chair bound who needed help with her daily routines like showering and etc. She only had medicaid and no one would give her the time of day. I know what it’s like to be rejected from centers and hospitals because I’m a “have not” So I absolutely cherish those calls. “No one gets it, Herb, I want help so bad, and I just cant get it.” I do. Let’s get it done.

Active addiction destroys so much more than “Just” our health and “Life”, it destroys our families, it destroys our identity, it destroys mental health, our community, our worth, our children, morale, self image, etc. it literally destroys everything and everyone around us, and then we die. A lot of us seem to forget that.

I have attended more funerals then I ever thought I would. And I received countless funeral notices. Sending flowers to a father who lost his child to addiction is probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I honestly see more death and destruction from addiction now that I am clean and doing what I do- than I ever did while I was using. Because I was in this little “protected/numb using bubble” I was cut off from the world. I had no real outlets or exposure, and If I heard that someone had OD’d and died, at first I would feel briefly saddened, and then I would try to locate the dealer they bought it from. Yeah, I was very sick. But that is a big reason why I just cannot muster it anymore, to attend any more funerals of those lost to addiction. I just can’t bear it. It’s like I can feel their death inside me. It’s like a flash of My own life, and their life- in one giant wave of Woe, like a movie, and then they’re gone. The grief and hurt, the unspoken questions, unvoiced broken hearted prayers, the unbearbale weight. The weight… And not to mention what comes along with the loss, in my experience- divorce, separation, PTSD, depression, anxiety, subsequent suicides, loss of children. TRAUMA. This is the magnitude of addiction. This is it’s depth and penetration on our family, friends, ourselves, our legacies, and our communities. It’s kind of like a pain eater. It feasts on our pains when we’re alive, and once it claims us, it feasts off the pain our death created in the lives of out loved ones. Its vicious and unrelenting.

I see it. I hear it. I feel it everyday.

The wreckage is unbelievable. The stories that I could share, If I could. but anyone who knows me knows that I take my role very seriously, and these are but vague, generalized, and anonymous accounts of just one fraction of the hell that I share with those who reach out, and a very real, raw, and painful reminder of where I myself came from. But for the Grace of God there go I. And it’s easy for those of us, who have recovered and gone on to work at the Mills, or whatever career path they have found themselves in- to forget. And honestly, it is probably very healthy for them to forget and just move on in their new lives. I do not judge, I am proud of each and everyone of you for doing so and I pray for each and every addict, using or clean every day. But for me, This is my place. This is where God wants me. It’s fucking grim sometimes, but it is a battle worth fighting, and these people are worth fighting for. “We will be a light to all who live in the shadows.” Yes I will.

So then, Herb, if it is so Dark, Ugly, and Painful, do you persist? Why do you keep drudging the trenches, why do you stay so immersed in it if you deal with so much hurt and pain and woe and misery?

Because I have been there. I have lived it. I have felt it. I have at many times prayed through my own gritted teeth, for death. To just let this shot of Heroin just finally do me in. I am so sick of suffering like this. Please, God, Just take me now. I am so tired. And I will never forget where I came from. I will never forget where I’ve been. The saddest part about much of my story is that it is someone’s reality today.

And, because of the Starfish.

I know for a fact that I cannot help, serve, assist, “save”, help, all of them. But I’ll be damned if I don’t try. And the success stories… oh the success stories. If I only had one, I would still continue doing what I’m doing. but there are so many. So many families and addicts alike are stored in my phone now. Friends now. People that call just to tell me about the fish that “Timmy’s” Son caught while they were out on the river celebrating his 2 year clean mark. Or the Scholarship offer that “Sally” Got from a school. Or how “Tim” Is 1 year clean and back in school, or the trades. They’re my starfish. And They mean more to me than I can ever mean to them.

It’s like I tell every single family that I speak with, whether we work together or not. Maybe it’s just a one time phone call, and it is brief and we never really speak again, I tell them that they’re helping me stay clean for one more day. They’re keeping my own bottom close. They’re reminding me what’s out there and waiting for me. Sometimes I’m the Starfish and they’re the child rescuing me by tossing me back into the waves offering me a renewed chance at life.

I may not be able to save them all, or even help them at all. But I made a difference to this one. And they made a difference to me.

And that is why I continue to post in celebration when someone accepts the gift of new life. That is why I keep sharing the successes that we witness. It is such a powerful path, timeline, and journey to walk with the still suffering. From their lowest low, to their highest high. I GET to witness, partake, and feel their entire process of coming back to life, and life more abundantly. It is such a beautiful and soul touching process to see and embrace. To know the darkest and emptiest secret places that some of my people come from and then watch their walk is such a joy to me. It is like watching my own journey from the pit all over again. There is so much Joy and Love that comes back into their lives.

Sometimes we’re the Child. Sometimes we’re the Starfish. We’re all connected. We can all make a difference.

Be not a perpetrator.

Be not a Victim.

But above all else, be not a by stander.