Saturday, April 27, 2013

Holy Spirit

 Today I was thinking about the Holy Spirit. I have noticed the huge impact the Holy Spirit has had in my life, and I cannot help but think on it all the time. But today, I was thinking of how blessed we are in this day and age. When Jesus was here, He walked with the disciples. Can you believe actually getting to walk next to Jesus?
Some friends of mine visited the places Jesus walked when the disciples were with Him, and they always talk about how life-changing that experience was.
That sounds amazing—walking beside Jesus. Yet I would argue we now have something even more powerful than Christ walking beside us. Something that is more life-changing than walking the same paths Christ walked, and we do not have to go anywhere to experience it. I am talking about the Holy Spirit and the amazing power we are blessed with. It came when Christ left the earth and has been here ever since.
Jesus told the disciples He had to leave so the Holy Spirit could come:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16–17, emphasis mine)
This means the Holy Spirit does not just walk beside us in our lives, as Jesus did with the disciples, but lives inside us. The Holy Spirit permeates our body and will guide us in all we do, and He can give us the power to do all God has planned for us in our lives.
Would you be a better basketball player if Michael Jordan coached you, or if he took over your body and played through you? The latter, of course. The same is true with the Holy Spirit. Jesus walked beside and coached, but the Holy Spirit lives inside us and guides!
Jesus speaks highly of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:7–8, He says,
“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” (emphasis mine)
 I would say we can make absolutely no excuses when it comes to sin for one reason: Jesus took our ability to make excuses away from us. In John 14:26, He says,
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything that I have said to you.” (emphasis mine)
 We are not only taught by the words of Christ and His disciples, but we also have the Holy Spirit inside us to remind us of what is right. The Holy Spirit is like a moral compass. We will know right from wrong, and we will know our sin is sin before we do it. Christ does not give us a way out. Will we all sin? Of course we will; sadly it is in our nature. But the Holy Spirit will guide us away from doing wrong and toward doing right!

published by Global University on their blog at:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Not Afraid to Die

I was never afraid of death. In my addiction I died multiple times and was brought back to life. I had my stomach pumped, slashed my wrists, flew a car 97 feet clipping trees 32 feet in the air and had a couple of overdoses. I continued to use drugs and drive under the influence, so needless to say I wasn't afraid of death. I kept doing the things that had caused me to die previously. I was not afraid and took pride in it.

I was hopeless. The best I could hope for in a day was to get high multiple times, make money and that was about it. In my addiction I would sleep once a week, and I did this for years. I always made sure I had drugs to take as soon as I woke up, because that was where I  placed my hope. My higher power was drugs and money and everything that came with that. When I was an alcoholic I  knew that if I slept through the night without having the shakes wake me up, not urinating in the bed overnight and didn't have a hangover  that was the best I could hope for. That was the best my life was going to get. Not much hope there.

I was ashamed. I had already lost most of my values and morals. I put up so many walls that I was like the heart of the onion; completely covered so no one could know who I really was. I lied to everyone about my past so much that I began to believe the lies myself. It became my persona, the gang banger who moved to southwest Missouri. I was so ashamed of who I was I would lie to people when telling them the truth would not even matter.

I felt all alone. I could be in a house with 10 other people or a bar with 100's and would feel alone. I would spend hours shuffling cards or playing video games, making no contact with the outside world. I would have sex with people for the conquest. I would not know their name and  half the time they did not know mine because I wanted no one to truly get close to me. That way I could stay alone.

I hated myself. I would let no one get too close to me. I dated a lot of people. We used each other. I used them for the conquest, arm candy or to try to fix them up as a project. They used me for money, protection or drugs. If a girl I was dating told me she loved me I would break up with her if I thought she was telling the truth. "If you are sick enough to love someone like me, I can't be with you," I would say.

I felt numb. I think that is why I took the drugs to begin with. Maybe not in the very beginning, but in the end. The first time I smoked marijuana I did it to fit in, and I did. I soon learned that drugs numbed my pain, helped me forget about the abuse I  had suffered through as a kid. The hurt I felt from not fitting in disappeared. I learned that no one could hurt me if I was high, so I stayed that way all the time.

I felt dead. I no longer felt alive without putting chemicals in my body. In fact, the only time I felt alive was when I was sticking a needle into my arm or putting myself in a situation where I might die. I would feel alive when my car got searched and they didn't find the drugs. I would feel alive when I got into a fight or was running from the police. I felt dead and empty unless I was doing things that released massive amounts of adrenaline and/or dopamine.

I was evil. I consider meth a drug straight from the Devil. In my addiction, I was a soldier for Satan. I did his bidding and I brought more people into  his fold. I helped manufacture a drug that enabled society to continue its rapid decay. I dealt a drug that is associated with murder, rape, burglary and assault. I would take food stamps for 40 cents on the dollar from friends and 25 cents on the dollar from everybody else then throw the food stamps away because I felt they were beneath me and its not like I ate anyway. I took money out of kids mouths that needed it. I hurt friends physically over $25 to make an example of  them.

I wanted to die. I had no hope of getting of drugs, changing my lifestyle or not going back to prison other than death. Death would have been a reprieve at the time. Supporting an addiction to drugs, power and money is a very stressful job. Once a month, I would put one round in a .38, spin the cylinder and pull the trigger. I did that for the last year of my addiction.

But here is the truth...................................

I was scared to death. I was afraid that if I let someone in my life they would  hurt me. I had been hurt by people that were supposed to nurture and love me because they were related to me. I had been devastated by people claiming to be my friends and if I kept my walls up they could never hurt me again. Would I have really been so paranoid I played curtain patrol and had motion detectors and recording devices set everywhere if I wasn't scared?

I was afraid to live. I was afraid of truly trying because if I didn't try I couldn't fail. No one would expect much from me. I had tried and failed enough times in the beginning of my drug use that I was afraid to try again. I dropped out of high school and had never had a long term relationship. I broke off any relationships I had with people who truly cared about me so that I could simply exist. If I never tried anything, I could never fail again. If I kept people in my life who expected nothing of me I could do nothing.

I wanted to not hurt anymore. To accomplish that I tried drugs, alcohol, sex and power. I was still scared, angry and hurt. I tried suicide. I wasn't very good at it. I tried jail, house arrest and prison without any success. I was using half an hour after I got out of prison. I tried rehab, counseling and prescribed medication. The result was temporary at best and I would relapse within weeks at most. I could not escape who I was and what I had done.

What was the reason..............................

All of the trauma I had been through (whether it had been done to me or I had done it myself) had created a hole in me that I kept trying to fill with sex, money, power and drugs. Unfortunately, there was only one thing that could fill it. It was a hope sized hole that nothing man made could touch. There was not enough money, sex, drugs or counseling to fill it. And trust me, I tried. I still felt empty and broken, unworthy and worthless.

What is the answer.........................

Spiritual Spackle is based solely on one concept. Life creates holes in our souls, and the things we have available to us in this physical world only cover the holes. Notice I didn't say they fill the holes. They only cover them. The holes are still there. The Holy Spirit is like spackle for our soul. It is what is meant to fill the holes in and restore our hope. You can read more about the Spiritual Spackle Theory here

God is the bringer of true hope and purpose. In order to accept Him into our lives and live differently we have to:
  1. Accept -  Admit that you have sinned.
  2. Repent - Not just feel sorry for what you have done, but be ready to live your life differently.
  3. Belief - Believe that Jesus is the son of God and that He died to forgive your sins
  4. Action - Live your life differently. My life revolved around drugs from waking to sleep. Now it revolves around God and living a life I hope He finds pleasing
  5. Prepare - (for Success) Use the 5 Pillars or try the Locker Room approach
If anyone has any questions or requests, please let me know. Remember, the journey has just begun!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pride: Getting Over Myself

I have weekly supervision with my supervisor. Every Thursday, from 7:30-8:30 we meet and discuss how my clients are doing as well as how I am doing. Last week when I met with her I let my feelings get hurt. She gave me some feedback last Thursday, and I did not care for it. There were two things that I could have done from that point. Maybe more, but at least two. One is less common, the other is the reaction most people have.

Instead of taking the less beaten path, I took the one most traveled. I took it personally. I let my pride kick in. She was a horrible person. How dare her confront what I had been doing for years. Who did she think she was? How dare her tell me how to do my job! I know that I am good at what I do. I have had so many clients come back and thank me later when I see them. My clients exit interviews were almost always great and why shouldn't they have been.

I take pride in my work. I am good at what I do. I have lived the life of addiction and now I live a life of recovery. I have a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Sociology. One of those is the study of  the human brain and human behavior. The other is studying how people interact together and why they do it. Then I have a Master's degree in Social Work. I am an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker). Finally, I have compassion for those who have struggles because I once had struggles too!

I have a heart for it, the education for it and I have lived it. That is a trifecta, the triple crown of substance abuse/recovery treatment. That is what was going through my brain as I walked out of her office. I bit my tongue, nodded when I was supposed to and finished the hour with her. I left her office mad. Thankfully, I have acquired  many skills over the years. One of those is thinking rationally. Here is how it works.
  1. I replayed what she had said
  2. I really thought about what she had said.
  3. I assessed what she said, looking at both ends of the spectrum. One end, my irrational thought and the other end the best possible reason she could have said what she did to me.
  4. I then looked at my reaction to it and if my reaction was rational or irrational
  5. I realized my thought process was irrational and so was my initial reaction
  6. I realized that what she said was meant to help me become better at what I do.
What I realized is that I am employed and I do not feel at any risk of losing my job. So how could it be possible that I suck at my job and she was pointing that out to me? Furthermore, I work with very adept counselors yet she also meets with them for an hour of supervision every week. Does she only have positive things to say to them, or does she also give them feedback on their job performance?

Rationally, I realized that what she said was not meant to be taken personally. In fact, I know that she has good things to say about me to other staff and partners in our community. Based on that, she obviously feels that I am proficient at my job. That said, she also realizes that I could be doing better. There are a couple of areas that I need to improve and she wants to see the clients get the most out of their time in our services.

What also helps this process is realizing who I am, who I was and how I think. I automatically take things personally at first. Part of that is because I was an addict, physically/sexually abused and struggled with depression/self-esteem issues most of my life. I thought I was a piece of junk and deserved everything that I got. It took a while to get over that, and I would argue I never fully will.

When someone gives criticism I take it to heart. It does not even have to be directed at me. It can be non-directed but I will take it as being a slam at me because I  hear it or read it and feel it applies. Thankfully, I have realized that due to my past I often don't think rationally. I have learned to play things through in my head before I take them to heart.

I am not perfect and there are a lot of different approaches to deal hope and empower people to live better lives. I can take feedback, both directly and indirectly, sift through what I can use and discard the rest. In the end, I am thankful for her feedback. It was not meant to be taken personally. It was only meant to help me grow. Hopefully having an open mind only allows me to become better at what I do. That is why I had to get over myself and remember that I am not perfect.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Anonymity and Recovery

Anonymous is defined as, "not identified by name; of unknown name. It also means having no outstanding, individual, or unusual features; unremarkable or impersonal."

The first definition for anonymous, "not identified by name," does not fit because in going to any "anonymous" program we give ourselves names and roles. I am an alcoholic (AA), I do narcotics (NA), I am an overeater (OA) and even I am codependent (CoDA). We are good at giving ourselves names.

Anonymous is also defined as, "having no outstanding, individual, or unusual features; unremarkable or impersonal." I know that in the rooms of the anonymous programs this means that no one person is any better or more important than anyone else. It also means that what is said in the meetings stays in the meetings. What about the people outside of the anonymous programs? What do they think about the word anonymous and the people that go to “those” meetings?

Many think that we are ashamed of who we are. That is why we go to these anonymous meetings and hide. We are guilt and shame ridden because of our past so we hide in anonymity. Others see them as a place for addicts and alcoholics to get together, drink coffee and share war stories. That is what people who used to have struggles do. They sit in rooms and commiserate, never truly rejoining the community itself.

Some of you are probably thinking, “I don’t care what people think.” That is the true problem with the sober community. We don’t care what people think. That is how an abstinent person thinks. If people judge us on our past, that is one thing. When we give them reason to judge us now, that is on us. What are we doing to change people’s opinions about the recovery community?

We are perpetuating a stigma both in the outside community and the recovery community. “I do not fit in with those outside of recovery, and that is why I have to come to a meeting every day so I can be around people I relate to. There is nothing remarkable about me because of who I used to be and the “normies” will not accept me if they find out.”

 I will argue that is wrong to my grave. People are blessed by knowing me. I have many outstanding and remarkable features. I was not born with them, but through overcoming my struggles and addictions I have become wiser and stronger. I have a lot to offer to others. I have found recovery. I went from dealing dope to dealing hope and I have yet to meet anyone who could not use more hope!

Recovery is defined as, "A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. The action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost."

I will skip over the first definition of recovery, a return to a "normal state" because I don’t like it. What is normal? Normal for me may not be normal for you. Normal in America is probably not normal in China. I heard that normal means most, but if that is accurate than normal would mean China or India because they have the highest population. Therefore, very few of us in America are normal. Even in our country, normal in Branson, Missouri is probably not the same as normal in Chicago, Illinois.

So we will use the second definition of recovery, “regaining possession of something that was stolen or lost.” It makes sense, after all my life was stolen from me. I lost my potential, my hope, my pride, my self-esteem, my happiness and my optimism. I lost friends, family, jobs, cars, houses and so much more.  

In getting sober and abstaining from drugs and alcohol I began to see improvements in my life. I began to see some of my potential return. I could get and keep a job, because I was abstinent. Not using drugs caused me to be more dependable and to take more pride in my job.

I also attended anonymous recovery meetings; I mean a lot of them. I got to hang out with people who were former addicts and alcoholics. After the meetings we would go out and drink coffee. Sometimes we would go bowling. Occasionally we would have BBQs and weekend camp outs together.

I was doing a lot of fun things, but I was not pushing myself. I was in a comfort zone, focused on me and other addicts who were just like me. They were the people I belonged around because they could understand me. They could relate to me and I could relate to them. It was a good start. There was a problem with that. I didn't want good, I wanted great.

I found that I did not have the social ties to the community I needed. I did not feel good enough to make them. I still looked in the mirror and saw an addict and a convict. I was filled with guilt, shame and even some anger. I figured if I ever told everyone who I was they would feel the same way. I never really stepped into true recovery because I never regained what I had lost. I did not have my true identity.

There were things I had lost I still didn't have. I was not born cynical and pessimistic. I was not born depressed and angry. I wasn’t born cursing all the time. I was not born to be ashamed of who I was and the road I had taken to get to here. But I was. I didn't want to be, though. The truth was that abstinence had given me a glimmer of hope and a taste of pride. I craved more..

I was scared or “normal” people at first for a lot of reasons: What will everyone think when they know about my past? How disappointed will people be if I relapse? Then I stopped thinking only of me and expanded my view: What if I give recovery a bad name because of my behavior? How will my speech reflect upon the recovery community?

That is when I truly began to realize what recovery meant. I started thinking outside of myself and began taking into account the things I represented and how everything I did and said reflected upon them. I saw that the opportunity recovery presented me was so much larger than I was.

Here is what I needed to do for myself to regain what I had lost. I had to begin sharing who I was, what had happened to me, what I had done, where I had been and where I was now. I would go anywhere and everywhere to do that. I have gone into schools, colleges, churches, conferences, community events, and done interviews on the radio and television.

There is a huge stigma in the community when it comes to addiction and recovery for a reason. I hear people who are very vocal about being in recovery dropping F-Bombs left and right and yelling at anyone they disagree with. People still get into fights due to anger/shame issues that have not been addressed and sleep around due to impulse control issues or a lack of self-esteem.

Recovery is realizing that my choice of words and my behavior reflect not just on me, but on my family and all the people who are in recovery as well. It is realizing that cursing and fighting and yelling are signs of the addiction, not recovery.

It is realizing that community service is not just chairing meetings and sponsoring people in the program. Recovery is knowing community service is not just something a judge or probation officer gives you. Community service is doing things to help your community become better. It is giving back to the community because at one time you took from it.

Community service should also be done under the guise of our recovery. We should shelf our anonymity. The stigma the community has is that they seldom if ever see the recovery community giving back. When was the last recovery booth you saw at a cancer fundraiser? When was the last time you sponsored a recovery day at Habitat for Humanity? How about the last 5K you saw where a group of drug court graduates decked out in T-Shirts letting the world know who they were ran?

The recovery community needs to overcome the stigma of addiction. That starts with you and me. We should be proud of who we are and how we have gotten there. The problem is that the loudest people representing recovery are generally not the ones in recovery. We need to change that.

We should remember that we represent recovery in all of our activities. We represent recovery when we go out to eat, drive a vehicle, work, go to church/synagogue/coven, play softball/basketball/football and attend school. Everywhere we go, we should present ourselves well.

We gain hope, pride, self-respect and self-esteem through seeing that people who know our past now see us for who we are. They realize that although addiction sucks recovery is amazing. This can only happen when we become true ambassadors for recovery in all aspects of our lives.

If that is something you are interested in, let me know. There is nothing more powerful than someone in recovery not only helping those who are currently struggling, but also sharing their tragedies and successes with the entire world. Only then will the stigma diminish as the “normal community sees that WE DO GREAT THINGS IN RECOVERY!!!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Speaking at the MADCP Convention

I got an opportunity to be the closing speaker at the Missouri Association of Drug Court Professionals (MADCP) annual conference that was this past week. I was not supposed to speak. The closing speaker's mother had a heart attack on Thursday and was in intensive care. He could not make it, so on Thursday morning I was asked if I could speak Friday afternoon to close out the conference.

I said yes, and then began to work on what I would say. The conference was attended by a lot of probation officers, prosecuting attorneys, counselors, drug court judges and drug court administrators. Even the chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court was in attendance. I knew that I needed to share about me, but also about how they are the catalysts behind the changes we make.

The conference was entitled "A Generation of Transformation" because it has been 20 years since the first drug court began in the state of Missouri. I looked back 20 years and realized that I was incarcerated in Booneville Correctional Center 20 years ago. That is where I would begin what I had to say.

The more I pieced together what I was going to say, the more a theme came to me. I do not mean to call out programs, but I am going to do that in this blog and I did it in my speech. Not because they are bad programs, but because there is a huge disservice they are doing to people who are in them. I also called out counselors because one had impacted me at one time. I am sure if that happened to me, it happens to others as well.

I started by discussing who I am today and what I am identified by. I am David Stoecker and sometimes that is followed by LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) or RASAC II (Registered Associate Substance Abuse Counselor). Twenty years prior I was identified as David Stoecker 190415. Those were the numbers the state used to identify me once I got into the prison system.

Then I discussed the first generation of my life. I talked about physical and sexual abuse from various people in my life. I discussed having an alcoholic father and divorced parents and how all of that turned to violence. I got into marijuana use at 12 followed by alcohol and other drugs. I also talked about dying in a car wreck, overdosing, attempting suicide, prison and shooting up methamphetamine.

Then I had a probation officer that saw something in me I did not see in myself. Because she saw something, she offered me residential treatment instead of revoking my probation and sending me back to prison. Than I relapsed, but eventually I began doing outpatient and getting into college.

I don’t know if you know this, but as addicts we are great criminal thinkers. I was working in a restaurant and saw my counselor come in and sit at the bar. After running up a $50 tab he left inebriated. This is the same guy who told me a drug is a drug, and that alcohol was a drug period. My criminal thinking kicked in, and I reasoned that if he could drink so could I. That started my 8 year stint with alcoholism.

In  college I found recovery by giving God a try. After using jail, house arrest, scared straight, prison, suicide, medication for a myriad of diagnosis over the years as well as counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation and anonymous meetings and not finding success I turned it over to God once and for all. It worked. I stopped using, drinking, smoking cigarettes, getting into fights and having premarital sex while beginning to attend church full time.

Several things enabled that change:
·         Converting from an Agnostic to a Christian.
·         Changing playgrounds and playmates.
·         No longer being ashamed of my past and hiding it from everyone.
·         Sharing my recovery with everyone who will listen and anywhere that will have me.
·         Realizing that community service was not something the judge ordered.
·         Knowing all that I represent and wanting to represent them well.

I realized I needed hope and was not finding it through Agnosticism or Atheism. If I was to have a positive life, I needed to be around positive people who had goals and dreams they were chasing. In sharing my past struggles and the positive choices I make now with everybody I have been able to chase my own dreams and begin to see them come to fruition.

I could work through my s hame about the past, build self-esteem and self-respect by beginning to see that I was a part of the community. I did not have to hide who I used to be, because I am not that person today.If not for what I went through and the choices I made in the past, I would not be able to make the same impact on the people around me. Thankfully, I do make an impact and I credit my past for allowing that.

The final piece of recovery was stepping out of anonymity while owning and sharing my past. I have found that I can speak more freely and be a bigger part of the community by representing recovery and doing it well (we will talk about that more next Saturday in my next blog). We need to take our recovery into the community and display it with pride.

We need to build up alumni groups that go out into the community and help benefit local, national and worldwide causes. This is how we educate the public and remove the stigma associated with addiction and recovery. We put ourselves out there as people in recovery and show the world what we can do. That helps remove the stigma and destroy people's preconceived notions of addiction.

The amazing thing is that this is beginning to happen. It is happening because the drug courts are giving people better tools and holding them accountable when they don’t use them. It is occurring because the drug courts are giving people chances to become part of society that they never would have had in the past. It just needs to happen more and be talked about more so the message of positive things the recovery community is doing spreads.

I am blessed to be a part of the drug court/recovery community. I have seen how far the legal and recovery systems have come in the past 20 years, and I can’t wait to see how much further developed they will be 20 more.