Saturday, December 31, 2011

Be Safe, 2012 is Gonna Be an Amazing Year

As 2011 passes, we have seen a year that has been rife with toil and strain. In Nigeria there were at least 39 Christians killed and another 50 wounded in bombings at Churches over Christmas. There were massive floods, tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis that killed tens of thousands. There was  a nuclear plant melt down in Japan and wars/protests waged worldwide that were responsible for even more death. Kind of glad that 2011 is over.

For me, it was an amazing year. I made it through an entire year of substance abuse counseling without any of my clients dying. The team at my place of employment actually care about what they are doing! I found out that my wife was pregnant. She is amazing, as is my son. My sister and niece are great! I also have been blessed with an superb church family, that is supportive and compassionate.

I have just sent the first couple of chapters of the book I started writing this year, Spiritual Spackle, to an editor. I also began this blog that has been viewed in 50 countries and had over 6,500 hits in the 7 months it has existed. Finally, the project Better Life in Recovery is up and running. We have filmed multiple people for the documentary and the 501(c)3 is taking shape. Still have a lot of needs, if you want to contribute in any way please let me know!

The point I want to get to in this short blog is to be safe tonight. There will be multiple drunks out on the roads, and that makes travel very scary. If you are thinking of drinking and driving, please think again. There are only a couple of options that are open to you if you do:

  1. Jail
  2. Hospital 
  3. Morgue
  4. Home
Those are not the choices I want to choose between. I like number 4 and the rest suck. In the United States in 2010 there were over 1 million DWI arrests made. There were over 40,000 people who died in traffic accidents that were attributed to alcohol in 2010. This all adds up to one clear cut choice - DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE!!! It is not safe to do so, for you and everyone on the road!

We have a lot of events that are planned for the year 2012. I am going to want you to see my newborn in August. That, and I am going to need all of the help everyone can possibly give to get Better Life in Recovery funded so that we can begin bringing it to school and college aged youth and their parents as well as training for youth, parents, pastors, teachers and counselors so that they are better equipped to cope with the issues they will face. 

Remember, have a safe and happy New Years and may 2012 be your best year yet!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


There are some roles in this world that we are given that we do not take nearly as importantly as we should. I know that Dad is one of those roles. The statistics for boys and girls that grow up without their father or a strong father figure in their lives in plain scary. The statistics for children that have their dads in their lives is reassuring.

Yet with all of the research out there )showing girls without fathers in their lives are 10 times more likely to get raped and 12 times more likely to be addicted to drugs as well as boys being 12 times more likely to drop out of high school and 20 times more likely to go to prison) we still have children that have no active dad in their lives. This has got to change. It is not only morally right, it is also Biblically correct:

  1. Malachi 4:6, "And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." 
  2. Ephesians 6:4, "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord."
  3. Proverbs 22:6, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."
As you can see from these scriptures, a father is vitally important in the lives of their children. I also think of my clients and the number of them who either did not have their father in their lives at all or had a dad who was in and out of prison. Those children have themselves grown up to be alcoholics and addicts after living through countless horrors: physical abuse as a child, being molested, raped, selling their bodies, going to prison and going from one violent relationship to the next all the while searching for that father figure they never had. 

In order for this to not happen, we need to become more active in the lives of our children. I want my son to hear about my past from me, not from the people around him. I want him to know my face because he sees it, not because he has been shown pictures. I want my son to learn right and wrong from me, not from somebody else. I want my son to learn how to treat a lady from me, not from his classmates. I want him to be educated on the dangers of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes at home by me and not during lunch behind one of the school buildings from his friends. 

But there is a catch! In order to teach him, I must be present in his life. That means that I must take time from my busy schedule and make him the center of my attention sometimes. It means that some years he may get vacations that he wants and I will not get the one that I want. It means that I may miss a game here and there on television. I have to spend quality time with him or all is for naught. But this should not be a problem, and this weekend my son reminded me why it is not a chore to be around him. 

This Christmas my son amazed me, as he often does. He saw the drum set he got for Christmas and squealed. He then proceeded to play for the next half hour. All I had to do was look at him and give him a thumbs up and the smile on his face set my heart on fire. How could anyone look at one of their children and not want to be in their lives. 

His smile made me realize that it is not only him that learns from me, but I have learned from him as well. He has taught me how to fully love unconditionally, a lesson that my father had taught me but I had somehow forgotten. Through prison, physical abuse, depression and addiction I had hardened my heart. I would let no one in. 

My son reminded me why I had to let people in. If I do not open myself up, then all that I have been through is for nothing. The devil has won. He has tortured me and tormented me and I will keep that to myself and not use it to help others who are hurting now. Thanks to him I remember that I need to love others even when they fail me. You see, for the first year of my sons life I failed him, and yet I am still his world. 

I love that little guy! Every day I thank God for the gift of my son to remind me what unconditional love looks like. Thanks to my son, I get to live a live worth living. Thanks to my son, I am a dad!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why I am GRATEFUL for my addiction

GRATITUDE! It is really easy to be grateful for the good times. The bad times we have trouble being grateful for. We often see quarterbacks thank God after a touchdown and boxers after a victory. We do not see them showing gratitude after the interception they throw or the knockout they suffer. I hope they give thanks and express gratitude in private. If they do not, they should be! I dare each and every one of you to "Tebow" when you have setbacks and thank God!

How idiotic does that sound to you? I know that this is a hard concept for a lot of us to grasp, being grateful for our shortcomings, traumas and miscues. Why should we grateful? Thanking God for our loses and hurts sounds insane to us, but it should not be.

Most athletes interviewed years after huge losses share that it was the loss that led them to work that much harder to become better and insure that it would not happen again. Strategists learn just as much from their defeats as their victories, probably more. We learn from the valleys, not the peaks!

 Ultimately there are multiple reasons to be grateful for the pain and mistakes of and from our past. Hopefully you remember the saying, "Those who do not know their past are doomed to repeat it." It means that we should learn from our mistakes and prepare ourselves so that they do not reoccur. I have been through multiple experiences in the past where I was hurt by others, I hurt others, or I hurt myself. The beautiful thing is that I can use those experiences to teach me how not to hurt or be hurt in the future.

Being hurt by myself /others and hurting myself/others has taught me how to deal with the hurt. I know what it feels like to hurt and therefore I can cope with it better than most. Mike Tyson had a saying that I really like, "Everybody has a plan until they're getting punched in the face." That is why in sparring people get hit hundreds of times in the face and body, because that teaches them how to take the hits and still think coherently and continue performing. Due to the trauma in my past, I can go through hell and keep functioning well.

I also have the ability to help others going through extreme situations that most do not have. I can help others and be more genuine and empathetic with them because I too have been through similar situations. Not saying that you have to go through hard times to help others through them, but it doesn't hurt. In fact it only helps. Having that first-hand knowledge helps me be more effective in helping others.

Finally, I think that all of the situations I have been through make me much more appreciative of my relationship with Christ and of my recovery. As an Agnostic and an addict I knew what it was like to live through hell. I knew how it felt to be rudderless and hopeless when crisis occurred. Life had me beat!

In Christ and recovery I know what it is to live through hell, because bad things still happen. The difference is that now I have direction and hope. I am eternally optimistic! I have an attitude of gratitude because I always know that it could be worse, I have already been there. Bottom line, even when I lose I win.

So when you hear someone say that they are grateful for their addiction, or their depression, or the abuse they suffered as a child hopefully you will not think them crazy. Instead you will know that they are not saying they are HAPPY that it happened, but instead they are saying that they are STRONGER and WISER because of it. They are saying they would not be the person they are today without it..........and they love who they are today!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Art of Intelligently Speaking or Why We Fight so Often

I feel that far too often the discussions people have with each other suffer because they are done poorly. The more strongly we feel or passionate we are about the subject, the more the discussion is affected by two problems. I know that I am at fault when it comes to this, too. I am not as bad as I used to be, because I have become aware of the problem and I am trying to stop doing them. Wonder what they are? We do not listen and respond well! What do I mean by this? Let us look at this in the realm of what we believe in.

Let's assume we are talking to someone that has a completely different belief than we do. We will be more than willing to share our view point, but when it comes to the other person sharing we will check out. We will ignore what they are saying. Our eyes glaze over, and it becomes apparent that we are unwilling to listen to them but demand that they hear us. That is simply rude and highly condescending behavior. "My view is important, yours.......not so much," we are seen as saying.

What I am learning is that in order to have an informed discussion and not sound like an idiot, I need to know both sides. How can I defend my position if I do not know theirs? How can I expect you to respect me when I do not show you the same accord. Like my Big Book says, we reap what we sow. I should hear you out if I expect you to hear me out. I should hear you out even if I expect you not to listen to me. Furthermore, I should never stoop to the level of someone who is treating me rudely.

Another way that we show we are not listening is by interrupting the other speaker. I will get angry if they attempted to interrupt me while I am speaking. Yet let them speak, and before 5 words are out of their mouth I am already talking over them. This is disrespectful and shows a lack regard for other people. Some times it appears that we are playing a form of verbal double-dutch, just waiting for the first open spot to jump in to. That is not conducive to a discussion.

In the book "Chicken Soup for the Soul" they talk about breathing. I have found that to be a good practice. When someone finishes speaking, I take a deep breath before I talk. This does a couple of things. One, it allows the person speaking to continue speaking if they were not done i.e. they were taking a breath or collecting their own thoughts. Two, it allows me to fully process all of what they just said and then speak a coherent thought instead of jumping right in and showing our disrespect. Third, it gives them the impression that I was listening to what they were saying, which makes them more likely to listen to me.

Next we have those who get angry, cuss or call the other person an idiot. This may not be the case, but it makes it appear that you are either fearful or uninformed about your own belief system. We will have someone call our belief into question and instantly we react poorly. I have seen people professing Christianity cussing at an Atheist. That proves the Atheist's point. We tend to get angry when we either are unsure of our own belief system, we cannot defend it well enough to the person we are discussing it with or we lack compassion. I often have conversations with people who do not understand what I am saying or how I am explaining things. That is not something to belittle someone over. Those who do are cruel and pretentious.

In order to not get angry I have had to do several things. First, I have had to learn more about my belief system. Then I had to learn more about others belief systems and their theories on creation, how we are here and why we are here. I also had to remember that I could not expect someone to listen to me or respect me if I was yelling at them or belittling them. I was disrespecting myself, them and Christ by the way I was talking to them. 

I had a philosophy professor who defined intelligence as the ability to know both sides equally. The more I know about other beliefs, the more firmly I believe in my own belief. That is where apologetics comes into play. It allows me to know not only my side but also the other side. How can I possibly hope to not only explain myself well, but possibly convert someone else if I have no clue about their beliefs. So in closing I remind you to do a couple of things. 

  1. Become an Apologist and study Christianity as well as the belief systems of others
  2. Hear others out (Listen when they speak)
  3. Don't forget to breathe 
  4. Don't take it personally
  5. Maintain proper decorum (don't yell, cuss, name call or belittle the others beliefs)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Theory of Mean Mugging by some prominent scientist you've never heard of (David Stoecker)

Hi, I am David! I tend to be in a great mood most of the time, and the rest of the time I fake it. Some of you may feel that this is wrong, but to you I say (insert the sound for a raspberry here). That wasn't to be mean, but let's be honest. I had to do that just to set you straight. You were not even going to listen to why I fake it. Now maybe you will. Here it is - I found out a long time ago that it is better to fake being happy then stomp around mad or hang my head sad.

I discovered that if I let myself get mad or depressed, I would tend to stay there. Not only that, I would begin to be surrounded by negative and unhappy people or belligerent and angry ones. They would guarantee that I stayed in the mood I was in, too. After all, misery loves company.

Misery does not only like to hang around with others in misery, it also attracts them. You get what you give out. Here is a test to prove it. I even bet the results would be statistically significant. What that means is this. Complete the following experiment and you can now call yourself a scientist (of sorts).

Here goes. Walk down a street and mean mug every body that you see and count how many of them smile at you. Then turn around and walk down the same street and smile at everyone that you pass by. Now count how many smile at you. You have a much larger portion that smiles back. I prove my point, and you are now a scientist. Aren't you glad that you heard me out!

Since I have now created a theory, which some would call the law of attraction but I call the theory of mean mugging, I have discovered something else. If I faked being happy, I would attract happy people. Due to being surrounded by happy people smiling and nodding at me, I would eventually become happy myself......for real!

So, what have you learned?

  1. I am a scientist because I have formulated a theory that is testable and statistically significant
  2. You are a scientist because you tested my theory (and because I said so)
  3. My theory is significant so I must be too (which gives me calling you a scientist credibility)
  5. I am smart (no, not you. You don't read that as saying I as in you, but I as in Me! Me am smart!! may be able to piggyback on my intellect. You quote me so others will think that you are smart. Or maybe some of my brain cells will jump off of me [I have so many I would never miss them] and land on you so you could become smarter simply by being around me)
  6. But seriously, look at 4 again. It is kind of a big deal (just like me)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Shooting the Documentary: Round 1

We have officially got our first group on video. I am hoping that we will do 2 more shoots over the next month and a couple of weeks. I would like us to be finished shooting by the beginning of February. It is always interesting to me when I get the opportunity to be a part of something that is amazing. There are also always complications that get in the way.

A long time ago we were trying to find a place to film that had the ambiance and character that Julie was looking for. We talked to a place that we really wanted to use. We were quoted the price of $175 an hour to shoot there. Since we are currently funding this ourselves, that was out of our price range. We looked around a little bit more, and we found the Springfield Creamery Art Center. We paid $25 to join the join the Springfield Art Council and now shoot at the Creamery for and they worked out a much better deal with them. Let me just say that they offered us an amazing opportunity. It was too good to pass up, so..............we took them up on it!

We made plans several weeks ago to shoot there from 9-2 Saturday. I was going to go at 9, followed by an engaged couple Josh and Sabrina at 10 and 11 that are both 26, Randall who is in his 40's at 12 and a 21 year old named Clayton at 1. We had our lineup of talent (those we are interviewing for the documentary are considered talent, and calling them "the talent" is just fun to say) to film and we had our location. I thought we were good to go. I was wrong! Saturday we hit many snags. Yet we prevailed.

For starters, I did not realize we were down to one High Definition tape to film with. I discovered this at 8, and we were to be at the location by 9. We looked for the tape at Wal-Mart since they were already open. Of course they did not have any. They had tape, but not Hi Def. We then went to a camera and video place here in Springfield, but they did not open until 9. We tried to call Best Buy, but they did not open until 9 either. We had no choice but to wait until they opened.

While we were sitting in the parking lot waiting for the camera store to open, I remembered that I had forgotten the lap top with the questions to ask the talent. We had to return home to get the lap top, and then drive back to the store. By the time we got back there they were open. Murphy's Law kicked in, which is my way of saying they did not have High Def film either.

We now had to go to Best Buy, which I was avoiding like it was contagious due to it being a week before Christmas. We called them, and were immediately told that our call was important by the automation. We were then given some wonderful music to listen to and placed on hold. We went, found parking in the parking lot eventually and then entered inside. I hung up the phone as I walked inside, still on hold after driving across town, searching for parking then hiking to the store from the back 40 were parking was available.

Amazingly, they had 6 two packs of High Def film, so we grabbed them all (My apologies to anyone who goes there and cannot find any film). Then we got the pleasure of waiting in the uber-long Christmas line. Julie and I joked the whole way, and decided that we did not really need to film me anyway. We would still be there 15 minutes early so that we could set up and prepare to shoot the couple who was coming at 10.

Wouldn't you know, at 9:40 we get the call from the talent we have scheduled to shoot at 10 letting us know that they are there waiting for us. We tell them that we will be there in 5 minutes. True to our word, we show up at 9:45 and unload. The parking lot is bare, but we are not thinking about that. We grab gear, walk to the door and it is locked. As we explore the entire building, we discover that the entire building is locked up tighter than Fort Knox.

At this time, I begin to laugh! Then all four of us there begin to make phone calls to look for other people. We are all searching through our phones frantically, but to no avail. Then we begin to brain storm about prospective places. We scrambled around and finally talked to people at the Discovery Center, who agreed to let us shoot there for free. As soon as they said we could film there we headed that way. We were filling out paperwork at the Discovery Center when Julie's phone rang. It was a call from the Creamery. Someone was on there way to unlock it for us.

We thanked the lady at the desk and then we left, headed back to the Creamery. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, the talent for the slot at 1 called. There was an emergency with his father and he was going to have to bow out. I told him that was completely understandable, and that we would have him give his testimony and answer questions for the documentary in our next filming session in January. I told Julie this was perfect. We could now still film me today.

Then we arrived at the Creamery. We were met by a very gracious lady who explained the miscommunication to us. The building was supposed to be open due to ballet practice being held there. It always is on Saturdays. That said, this week was different. Due to Springfield Ballet presenting "The Nutcracker" over the weekend ballet practice was moved to the Vandivort Theater and the Creamery was locked up.

We got set-up to shoot and it was now almost 11. We began with Josh. He gave his testimony then answered the 20 plus questions for the documentary. We had successfully gotten our day started. While he is giving his testimony Randall calls. He will be running late and will not be there on time. I told him that he could have the slot to film at 1 since Once again, this works out perfect. I am now able to shoot Sabrina and Josh back to back so that they can get leave, as they needed to pick their children up.

Sabrina finishes and I actually have some time for me to go. I do not get to give my testimony, but I do have an opportunity to answer the questions for the documentary. We are supposed to use short and concise sentences for some of the questions and single words in response to some of the other questions. Needless to say, I have some issues in this department. I tend to be verbose, that is to say I am challenged when it comes to short and concise.

As I am going through my questions, Randall shows up. I finish the questions for the documentary. Then Randall has an opportunity to give his testimony and  answer the documentary questions. We ended up going 35 minutes over and completed shooting at 2:35. By the time we packed, picked up some fast food at Burger King and got to worship practice we were 10 minutes late. One of the musicians was 20 minutes late and another was running 30 minutes late.

Due to this we were actually on time......ish! We ended up getting 2 people shot for the documentary that we are going to use, but I may have to go again when I give my testimony for the wall of recovery (wall of hope? unsure of a name for it). We also had 3 people give their testimonies for the wall of blank. I can see my first contest forming right now: What is the most popular name for the wall?

So in the end our first round of shooting a full group was successful, and we will be filming two more groups next month. I am excited to see this project coming to fruition and look forward to getting the message of recovery to the youth in our community and someday around the state, the country and eventually the world!!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Why Apologetics is Important pt 1

This is the message I got the other day from one of my friends from high school:

    "we've been friends for years...and I know you already posted a blog about going from educated atheist to converted christian..but I can't seem to make sense of the transition. I would love an opportunity to sit down and talk to you about it, as I feel I might be searching, as we all are. I'm super proud of you and ecstatic for your new found happiness. Let me know if we can meet within your busy schedule. Thanks"

I want to let you know why I feel that apologetics is of vital importance in every Christians life. For starters, believing in something without looking into it is irrational at best, and closer to lunacy. To all of those who tell you, "All you need is faith" I take issue with. They don't truly understand what faith is. Faith is defined as something that you have complete confidence in. I cannot blindly have complete confidence in anything. Therefore we research things and then we think on them. Only then can we begin to intelligently share with others what we know to be true.

We need to be able to intelligently articulate why we believe what we believe. There are three major reasons for this. One of those reasons it to make our own faith stronger. Another reason it is of importance is that we can strengthen the faith of fellow believers by giving them answers to their questions. We can reassure someone who is having doubts about their faith by giving them the answers they are searching for. How awesome to be able to help those who are having doubts or are just coming to believe in Christ.

Last but not least, the final reason is so that we can have intelligent discussions with nonbelievers. This is the reason that I will talk about today for it is very important. It can be the difference between someone converting to Christianity and someone continuing to be an atheist or agnostic. That is a big deal, for we are to bring people to Christ. We are to witness to the world around us. We need to do this out of compassion and kindness, or we will not be heard. That can only come from having a firm foundation and understanding of what we believe and why we believe it.

Have you ever seen the person, whether Christian or atheist, who gets angry when someone does not believe in what they believe in. They resort to name calling, shouting, even cursing at the person to get their point across. "How can you be such an idiot. You are wrong," and then they storm off. That is what happens when we do not have knowledge and a firm foundation to speak from, we get mad. That foundation allows us to be informed and relevant.

It is the difference between sharing your personal knowledge and research with someone instead of simply hitting them over the head with the Bible. I should know, that method was tried on me a time or two to no avail. "But it says so right here in the Bible," my roommate would yell at me. If they do not believe in God, they will definitely not believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. If they do not believe that the Bible is an inspired work, they will believe that the Bible is a work of fiction. For some reason, using a book that people believe is a work of fiction to prove your point is insufficient to intelligent people.

Also apologetics can simply be the difference between telling someone that this is what your pastor says, so it is true. Man is fallible, so he can and will be wrong. Even your pastor can and will be wrong on occasion. That means we should not take everything he says at face value. We need to research so that we ourselves know. That is for us, for discussion with others this is even more of an issue. Using a man who teaches something that the person you are talking to does not even believe in will never make your point valid.

So, where do we go from here? I am going to use what brought me to Christianity as the speaking points when I meet with my friend. I will discuss those points briefly in my next post.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Beast in the Back of My Head pt 2

Over the years that beast has changed. He has been in the back of my head transforming himself over the years: doing research, reading, lifting weights and running on the treadmilll. He continues to grow stronger each and every day. He gets wiser and more cunning every day. He looks for ways to creep into my life both consciously and subconsciously.

When I am asleep he will come and visit me in my dreams. I have woke up before certain that I had relapsed because of a using dream. He will bring up memories of "the good ol' days" when I hear a song, see a picture or run into someone from my runnin' and gunnin' days. That is the power he has, to remind me of all of the good times and never the bad ones.

When I am hurting and life does not go my way, the beast is whispering in my ear. When my father committed suicide, that beast was the first voice I heard. "Do a shot of dope and you will feel so much better" he purred. When I have bills that I do not know how I am going to pay, he always is quick to remind me how much I can make off of doing a burn (cooking methampetamine) "one last time."

I actually relapsed in 2000 after I bought that lie.  And that relapse is where I learned the truth about my addiction. In the several months that I had stopped using, it had grown stronger and stronger. I had never overdosed before, I had overamped a few times but never overdosed. In the next year, I overdosed three times. That beast did not pick up where I had left off, but instead had grown stronger and more insidious.

When I think of that beast, I always remember the Verbal Kint quote in the movie "Usual Suspects." He says, "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." The beast has tried this one several times. "Now that you have been sober for a year, you could just have one drink" or "you don't need to go to meetings anymore" it says. "You know the steps, you don't really have to work them anymore, do you?" That beast will try any way to get into my head. "Why pray when you never get what you want?" he asks me.

The problem he runs into is that I have seen the worst he has to offer, and could not escape him on my own. I even tried everything man made to overcome him, to no avail. At best I had temporary fixes. Then I finally came upon the cure. I needed things consistently to keep that beast at bay. I needed to insure that as strong as he was getting, my recovery stayed stronger. That has been accomplished, but it is not easy. There are multiple needs that I have to fill, and will have to fulfill, for the rest of my life.

Here is the quick recipe. I need regular meetings (or small groups), I need a sponsor (or mentor), I need accountability partners in my daily life, I need to work the 12 steps (read this live life as directed to in the book of James). That is all that we truly need to do in order to keep the beast at bay. As he grows stronger daily, we too must also daily do things that promote recovery and Christ in our lives.

To do otherwise is to guarantee that beast in the back of our head will one day resurface. He WILL come back stronger then he was. Trust that. If you want a better life, then focus daily on the prize. Put Christ first in all you do and walk where the Holy Spirit leads you while fulfilling the four musts I identified. Do that and you will live a life that keeps the beast mired in the back of your mind, trying his best to come back and not in the front of it, leading your every move!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Beast in the Back of My Head, pt 1

I have a beast in the back of my head. Sometimes I call it sin, usually I call it my addiction but I always refer to it as Satan when I put a person to it. You see, the beast in the back of my head came into my life with barely a whimper. For my first sin it was stealing a toy I really liked from my neighbor when I was 4. Actually it was probably lying to my parents when I was 3. At the time not that big of a deal as I cannot even remember it. For my addiction it was taking that first hit off of a joint when I was in 7th grade. Honestly when it comes to my addiction it was probably taking that first drag off of a cigarette when I was in 5th grade. I can remember that one.

Little did I know the sins that would follow and where they would lead me. If I only could have been shown the depths my addiction would take me to and actually believed it would happen, I might never have smoked that first cigarette. Strike that, I probably would have. After all, I was warned about where it would lead in some cheesy way or another several times in school. The problem was that I never heard it from someone who had been through it that I could relate to. And I never dreamed how big that beast would grow to.

That beast started out as a pup in the back of my head. It was something that made me feel a little better, and when I would pet it or pay it some attention it would purr at me. There was a little chemical release in my head that would occur, and I enjoyed the way that felt. I went from being abused at a young age feeling like I fit in no where to having friends. I went from being shy and introverted to being a brash, outspoken extrovert. I went from being depressed and hating life to being happy and loving life.

If it would have stopped there, it would have been great. I would use or "liberate" things I liked that were of no real value on rare occasions and I would feel better. But, the pup that I was feeding continued to grow. As he grew, things in my life got worse. My addiction grew too. I no longer used for the chemical release, but now I was compelled to use because my body had became dependent on nicotine. That pup grew into a beast without me realizing it had changed. I still saw it as it once was, cute and harmless. The people in my life who cared about me saw it as it truly had become, dangerous and spiraling more and more out of control.

Nicotine was no longer enough, so I tried marijuana and would occasionally do a line of cocaine. I could rationalize my use. Marijuana was from the ground, all natural. So was the beer that I would drink at keg parties, and it was legal. I may have been doing a line of cocaine on occasion, but I was not smoking it and was not shooting it up.

I tell you what, that beast in the back of my head was cunning. It would always tell me what I wanted to hear and make me feel how I wanted to feel. Soon, I was introduced to methamphetamine. From the moment I tried meth, my life was over. I would only do it on occasion, but I was compelled to do it more and more frequently. Soon, my body was dependent on methamphetamine. I was no longer compelled to do it. Meth was now demanded by my brain. Keep me numb and keep the chemicals coming if you want to be happy, and who doesn't want to be happy.

I was hooked, and suddenly just doing lines or smoking it in a bubble was not enough. I was shooting up. Once I shot up, I realized how much better that was. Suddenly, if I could put it in a needle I was putting it in my blood stream. That pup that was once so cute was now the beast that is currently in my head. And that beast will never go away, that beast is in the back of my head forever.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lasting Impact of Suicide (I Miss You Dad)

My father was amazing, and that is the first thing that I would want everybody to know. He was human, he made mistakes and he had a huge heart. He loved me unconditionally and always had faith in me no matter where I was in my addiction that I could overcome it and be a better me. He also knew that the only way that would happen was through God, so he constantly told me that he was worried for my everlasting soul and that I needed to turn my life around and turn my life over to God.

There are often times that my father is remembered fondly by me. Every time that I get down on the floor and wrestle with my son, I am reminded of my father. When ever my son and I go outside and play catch, I am reminded of my dad. When my son and I goof around and sing with each other, I am reminded of my father. When I look at my son and know in the deepest part of my heart that I love him and would never do anything to hurt him, I am reminded of my father.

I am often overcome with nostalgia at the weirdest times. It could be a random thing I do with my son, and I remember my father doing it with me. There are also many songs that still make me cry several years later. I cannot hear our favorite song to sing together, "You've Got a Friend" without remembering my father's love. His heart was huge. (Here he is with my sister)

I cannot hear "Dance with my Father" by Luther Vandross without remembering my goofy dad scooping me up and dancing with me and the knowledge that it will never happen again. Every time I hear "Leader of the Band" by Dan Fogelberg I think of my father's love for music. Finally, I cannot hear Elvis Presley's "Don't Cry Daddy" without imaging how he must have felt at the very end.

There are times that I remember my father with tears and questions that will not be answered in this life. I know he had to feel miserable, but I also know that he was a devout believer in God and the Bible. Since that is how he felt, I can not even imagine how depressed and alone he must have felt to take his own life. He knew the impact that suicide might have him spiritually and eternally, yet he felt compelled to do it anyway.

There is also the impact that suicide has on the survivors. Instead of a monetary inheritance, you inherit guilt. It is hard not to wonder if you could have done more, or been there more often and spent more time with them. Your emotions are hard hitting and fast changing. My emotions were as BiPolar as my father once was. I bounced from one to the next with no rhyme or reason, but I felt them deeply. You will feel all of the stages of grief and loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.

But, and this is a huge but, that acceptance will fade at times and the wound will resurface. For me it is knowing that my son will never get to meet the most influential man in my life. He will never get to meet him and for that I am forever heartbroken. I remember taking my son to Florida 4 months after my father took his life and the anger and hurt I felt suddenly reappeared. The wound was reopened. It felt like someone ripped the scab off, poured salt into it and ground it in with their hand. But I got better

And that brings me to today. Today I heard "The Leader of the Band" and thought of the news I have gotten this week. I am to be a father again in roughly 8 months. My wife is 5 weeks along. As I sat in my SUV driving back from the gym I heard "Leader of the the Band."  It made me think of how wonderful it is to have another child to raise. A child to teach morals and values and to watch grow up. But then I thought of having another child who will never meet my dad.

I guess that is the lasting impact of suicide. A wonderful father and incredible grandfather taken from those who loved him much too early. I will have yet another child born who will only get to know my father through pictures and fond stories. That breaks my heart, knowing they will never get to meet him. Yet I have some hope. Like the song says, "My life is just a poor attempt to imitate the man." In a way they will get to meet my father, by watching me and how I love them. That is what helps me deal with his passing.

I heard Dan sing his song and all I could focus on was the end of the chorus. "I am a living legacy to the leader of the band." I am the father that I am today because of you dad, and for that I am forever grateful!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Have an Enquiring Mind, I Want to Know

I recently had a conversation that was very short with an atheist. He asked why I was a theist, and I told him that after several decades of being agnostic I had realized that it would take me too much faith to be an atheist. I only had enough faith to be a Christian.

He said, "Nobody knows enough to be a theist. Atheism is default. It makes no claim to knowledge, only disbelief."

I could concede that point. If it makes no claim, that is one thing. But that was simply not enough for me. I had a thirst that had to be quenched. I had a lifestyle that I wanted to find a way out of and could not. What was the answer?

I told him that as an agnostic (and here is why the National Enquirer slogan kicked into my head) I wanted to know. I actually felt compelled to know, and that was where we were different. He said that he did not need to know how we got here to be happy. Fair enough, but I did. I needed to know how we got here. Due to that, I had to have an answer to that question, "How are we here!"

When I looked at science, there were multiple leaps of faith. For one, we had to have a Big Bang. We had to have an explosion that created structure and order? That has never been done. I have never seen an explosion build a perfectly functioning house. Therefore I could not believe in an explosion that created a much more complex universe.

Now we have to believe that something caused the Big Bang. What created the mechanism that created the Big Bang?  I think they call it the uncaused cause? Even that name was just confusing, uncaused cause. Here we have another unknown. It too calls for a lot of faith in something never observed.

The Big Bang also goes against the first law of thermodynamics, which states that you cannot create or destroy matter. Yet to have occurred, the Big Bang created something (the universe) from nothing.
Then I had to believe that non-living matter created living matter. That has never been recreated in controlled environments, let alone on it's own. So now we also have to add the spontaneous generation of living matter from nonliving matter. To believe this takes faith.

Next we have macroevolution. That is the changing of one species to another. Think two cats mate and produce a dog. That has also never been done. We have microevolution which happens all of the time. That is adaptation, and it is seen. Micro I could believe, macro took faith.

I will end this with irreducible complexity. We have discovered "micromachines" in the human body that are irreducibly complex. This means that they need all of their parts to function, and if even one part is taken from them then they no longer work. We have to believe either that they spontaneously generated or that they where kept by a species when it had no function. Once again, I need faith in order to believe this.

I could go on and on about the things I need to have faith in, but I will not. There is the complexity of a cell, the coding of DNA much more complex than the best man made computer, the law of entrophy, etc. I will suffice in saying that I did not have enough faith to believe in evolution and the Big Bang.

For me to have faith in Christianity all that I had to believe in was an eternal God. That is all! I only need have faith in one thing and all other things are possible based on my belief in Him. If He is eternal, all powerful and all knowing than that answers every question. How are we here, why are we are, what happens after we die? Those are all answered through belief in Him.

Combine that with what I do know. I know that I spent 23 years in addiction, trying everything: rehabs, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, 12 step programs, medication, probation, house arrest, prison, overdosing and being brought back to life and even suicide to try to quit. Nothing worked. I tried prayer one night and I have not used since. It has been almost 3 years now, and I have not had a relapse. That is all of the proof that I need!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thank You......The Journey Has Only Just Begun

This summer I was in the middle of a bike ride with my wife Julie when I had an epiphany. I was listening to Chris Tomlin on my ipod when I suddenly was told what to do. There was a voice that spoke in my head, and it said that I needed to make a documentary and help children/teens learn about the dangers of addiction and the power of recovery. That will give me the opportunity to get into schools and colleges with a message of hope.
That was why we competed for a Pepsi Refresh grant last month. We reached as high as 21st in the voting, but we never reached the top 15 like we needed to in order to win. 31st out of 224 is not bad considering we did not do a lot of preparation ahead of time. There were two ways that people could vote, online and through text. We had many people who were taking time out of their busy lives to vote for us daily.

I want to say thanks to all of the people who voted for the Better Life in Recovery project on line. I know that it was an investment of your time that you made, and I want you to know how much it is appreciated. We learned a lot from the experience, and will be better equipped next year if we again decide to compete for a Pepsi Refresh grant (which I know we will).

My thanks go out to all of the people who voted, and the people who helped me come up with ways to reach more people. The Rotary Club and David Parnell were nice enough to let me talk to a group that they were hosting at Drury University. Thanks to the Randy Bacon Studio for letting us set up a table there. Steve Donaldson, who is dealing with a lot currently with his son having a stroke (please pray for his son Bryant and the Donaldson family for healing, strength and understanding) helped me brainstorm. Dan Prater at Drury was also a big help.

In the media I would like to thank KLFC radio for the on air interview, in particular Keith O'Neal for his help there. KOLR 10 news team, in particular Joy Robertson who got the ball rolling. At KY 3 new I would like to thank Maria Neider and Dustin Hodges. I would also like to thank Linda Leicht for the amazing article that she wrote in the Newleader for the project.

When it come to churches there were several that were very helpful. I would like to thank my church, New Life, for all of their help. They allowed me to talk to the congregation several times as well as set up in the auditorium. I would like to thank Ridgecrest Baptist Church for all of their help. They also made their congregation aware and also helped us get a table at Randy Bacon Studio during the artwalk and at Ozark Technical Community College. Finally, I want to send a huge thank you to Life Fellowship, who heard about our need for a place to have the Pepsi Refresh Grant Kickoff and offered us their church as a place to have it if we could not find a place. I also want to thank the OTC and MSU Baptist Student Association for letting me talk to all of their students and encouraging them to vote.

I know that I am missing people, but thanks to everyone so much. It was nice to feel that there was support for what we did. I would talk to people just to find out that they had already heard from an email from a professor at MSU who sent out a mass email or at the OTC Student Government Association meeting. That was also very encouraging. This all leads me to the next part of my blog.

I will be starting a nonprofit organization before the end of the year. We will have many more needs as this progresses. The immediate need is volunteers. I need a couple of people who feel passionately as I do about children and young adults abusing drugs and alcohol. I need to find several people who are willing to be board members within the next two weeks. They will be unpaid positions that will will meet once a year unless there are major concerns as well as attend several fundraisers yearly and help with fundraising and spreading the word to all about what we are doing. It will be a three year committment that will be both highly rewarding and extremely appreciated.

We will also need people who have various trainings. We will need some help from an attorney at times as well as an accountant. If you are a grant writer, we will definitely need that help. We will also need talented graphic designers to create logos as well as advertisements, promotional posters and DVD covers. If you have a superb knowledge of online technology, we could use your help making the website more visually appealing and user friendly. With Facebook and other social mediums we need the visually appeal that will bring people to it also. If that is your area of expertise please donate some of your time to us.

We will also need people who have various abilities and positions. If you are a business owner we could use gift certificates for door prizes as well as catering at some of our fundraisers. If you own a resort or hotel a couple of rooms and/or boat rentals to auction off would be amazing. If you do massage therapy, paintings, sculptures, horseback riding lessons, etc that would be amazing to let us have some of your time or work to auction off. If you have a band it would be awesome if you would volunteer a set or two so that we could have you play at fundraisers and silent auctions.  If you are a writer please feel free to share essays and blogs that would go well within the arena of substance abuse you can contribute them also. Gift baskets would also be a huge help.

Politicians, pastors, youth ministers, teachers, principals, school counselors, substance abuse counselors, administrators, parents and professors we need you too!! We are here to help you and you can help us by fundraising to bring us to your community and by word of mouth. We need you to speak up to your congregations, student bodies, parents and constituents.

Authors, actors and musicians if you would donate signed books, DVDs and CDs that we could auction off that would be a huge help. Give us a night and play a fundraiser concert for us or let us auction off people having dinner with you while you are in town. Let us speak at one of your concerts or give us a shout out in an interview or acknowledgements. You will especially have the networks that we need to reach many. Please tweet, blog, Facebook and share what we are doing and how people can get in contact with us!!  

We will also need people with large networks of people and/or general knowledge. I will need others to be volunteers and help us with fundraising and gathering donations. If you know of any grants that might help, please let me know. If you are in recovery or know someone who is and would be interested in sharing your testimony, please let us know.

Finally, tell all of your friends about what we are doing. Like the Facebook page, follow me on twitter (davidstoeckersr) and Google+ and read my regular blogs. Share about our project on your blogs and Facebook pages, tweet about it, Google+ it, etc. We will need that word of mouth to help us in all of our endeavors. There will be contribution levels that will be listed on our site after we become a nonprofit. Feel free to make tax deductible donations as soon as the first of the year begins. Mostly, please lift us up in prayer so that we might be the hands and feet of Christ and be able to do his will through this nonprofit.

We will also allow you to suggest churches, junior highs, high schools, colleges, seminars, recovery & rehabilitation centers, youth groups, community events, trainings, etc for us to come and talk at. We will list the expenses that are needed to get to each place and will give people the ability to contribute to bringing either me or the entire documentary and several of the youth in it to speak.

Again, I just want to send out a huge thanks of appreciation to all who have helped so far and everyone that is going to help in the future. The website is and my email is I truly look forward to answering any questions and seeing all of the blessings that you can bring to the project so that we can reach our youth and give them a better shot at living incredible lives. I also look forward to getting the opportunity to work with all of you and bring the incredible message of recovery to all that I can. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mixed Emotions - What Are You Passionate About?

Sometimes, I get a little frustrated. I think that part of it is because not every one's passion is for the same thing as mine. Many of us probably feel that way. We cannot understand why people are not as concerned as we are about whatever it is we are concerned about. Some of you feel strongly about finding veterans jobs. Others of you feel strongly about starving children in foreign countries, while still others make it their life's mission to save dogs from being put to sleep. Those are your passions.

Today, I am going to talk about my passion. I hate Satan vehemently. I know that drugs are from Satan. Therefore, I hate drugs vehemently. Even more than that, I hate that we have children who are addicted to them. I spent 23 years of my life abusing drugs and alcohol. I do not want children to have to do the same thing I did. Children deserve to have a childhood. Children should never have to go to prison. Children doing drugs breaks my heart. When you combine those two, drugs and children, you have arrived at what I am most passionate about. 

Due to my passion, I feel that others should be as passionate about the issues as I am. I think that it is our duty to protect our youth. Yet, I see people get more wound up about abused animals than abused children. I see people more upset about Skepticon coming to Springfield than I do about a 12 year old overdosing. Put up a political caption on Facebook and you will get 100 comments. You put up a picture of a 13 year old girl missing for a week and there might be 5 comments.

I just don' t get it? When did we begin to put more value and importance on our pets than our children? Why is a gathering of Atheists and Agnostics causing more of an uproar locally than a 14 year old that has been missing for the last 72 hours? Why is it that drugs are becoming less and less of a big deal. We have not really made a dent in the statistics of those who use illegal drugs. It has shifted from one drug to another being the most popular, but the rates are not improving much.

I have mixed emotions. Part of me knows that politics are a big deal. That is where funding should come from for the education of our youth. That is where money should be coming from when it comes to prevention strategies for substance abuse. But we keep cutting the funding to our programs for children, then wonder what is wrong with them. I guess that I don't have mixed emotions, I am feeling a righteous anger. Why are our children not of the utmost importance? What could be more important than our youth, who are the future of our world?

I had churches that I went to and asked if I could set up a table in their church lobby to let people know about the program that we are starting. Some of those churches said that they had too much going on to do that. I had other churches that approached me and asked what they could do to help. Some of the churches that said they did not have time in service or for us to set up in their lobby told us we could post on their Facebook walls. That would have been better than nothing. Of course, when we posted on their walls the posts were immediately taken down. Gee thanks............but no thanks!

In the next several weeks I am going to be starting  a 501(c)3, and my hope is that some of the churches in the area who are saying that they are helping the community will do just that. If they claim they want to make an impact on the community, we will have a great opportunity for them to help us do just that. I really hope that I do not feel as let down as I have by some of them. The other churches that have already offered help, we will be in touch and thank you so much for all that you do.

It seems like the smaller churches are more ready to help projects that do not promote their church. Some of the biggest churches acted like if it did not promote them, they were too busy. Don't get me wrong, we have had a couple of bigger churches that we are not members of offer us some great help. To those bigger churches that did not have the time, I hope that my first impressions of you are wrong. It is not about business or attendance, it is about making a difference in people's lives. I truly hope we can work together and help each other make an impact in the lives of our youth!!