Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Life as a Bad Guy Part 3: Meth in Missouri

I decided that I was headed towards jail or expulsion so I moved to Missouri from Illinois. Once there, I tried methamphetamine. I liked it, a lot. Soon school was no longer important to me. It got in the way of my partying and I dropped out  the last semester of my senior year. I headed towards rock bottom. I went to jail multiple times. My probation officer sent me to Scared Straight at the prison in Jefferson City. I spent 120 days on house arrest and several years on probation, stacking up violations.

I had some things happen that should have changed me. I had a couple friends die in drinking and driving accidents. I was the first one on the scene and found one of my friends dead. I saw a friend get beat to death and another beat into a coma. I had alcohol poisoning and stopped breathing. They pumped my stomach and I was drinking again the next night. I saw someone I knew get shot during a drug deal.

I went on the run for a while. I was gone for almost a year. It is exhausting, being on the run. You always look over your shoulder in the party world, and it is three times as bad when you have warrants out for your arrest and all of the city and county police know what you look like. Finally, I needed some rest. I showed up at the probation office, and when my probation officer walked out I told him I was ready to go to prison. He said okay. I turned 21 in Booneville Correctional Center. I was drunk an hour after I was released and used intravenously later that night for the very first time.

I had found methamphetamine and learned that it could help with my pain. I was able to numb myself for periods of time with meth. When I started using intravenously, that was the end of me as a person. It gave me a feeling I had never experienced before. I became dead inside and only felt alive when I was high. After years of being an Agnostic, I had found my Higher Power. Meth became my God. Then it turned into Satan.

I hoped for death. I had alcohol poisoning and lived. Drunk, I flew a car 97 feet down a hill, clipping trees 32 feet in the air and lived. I attempted suicide and my sister found me unconscious in a pool of blood. The ambulance got there in time to save me. I lived. Are you noticing a pattern? That was the 5th time I had flatlined, and I kept coming back. I promised my sister I would never try to kill myself again after the attempted suicide. The truth is, I wanted to die. I no longer wanted to live and I was tired of feeling.

Meth gave me all I thought I needed. I had money, power, friends, women, excitement and so much more. I was the life of the party. But I was still dead inside. I could be at a party with 100 people and feel completely alone. I did not feel alive unless I was high. Meth was all I cared about. I would sit at home in a funk if I wasn't high, so I discovered a new lifestyle. I would stay up from Sunday when I woke up until Sunday morning when I would go to bed. I joked that if God got a Sabbath day, so should I.

I would wake up to a shot of dope on Sunday evening, then stay high through the week until early Sunday morning when I would take a handful of benzodiazepines to help me sleep. I found that I never hurt if I stayed high. No one ever got close enough to me to really hurt me as long as I was high. It got to the point that if I was awake, I was high.

I became heartless and used everyone I came in contact with. I knew if I didn't use them they would use me. Why not be first. Everyone in my life was there to serve me. I let people be my friend because they would allow me to be around a better class of people, they had money, they had dope, they cooked dope, they had friends who bought my dope, they were pretty and would sleep with me or I was trying to sleep with them, they would get high with me, they had things to loan me that I needed, they had a car I could use when I thought mine was hot or they had a house for me to party at so I didn't have to use mine.

Everyone and everything had a purpose. Some times I did nice things, but I even had ulterior motives for that. I remember one of my friends having a baby and being broke. I helped his family pay the bills for several months so that they could not work and  bond. I helped pay rent, utilities and even bought them food. I then would frequently bring up doing that any time people would talk trash about  me being a dope dealer. "Well, look at the good things I do with my money."

I would give people $100's just to remind them about it when I  needed to borrow their car or have a party at their house. I would justify my selling meth with this logic, "I use Super B to cut it. Other people use stuff that is really bad to cut theirs. My people get vitamins so I am doing them a favor by dealing." Life was a hustle, and I was good at being a hustler.

Somewhere along the way I became more suicidal. Some might call it an addiction to the rush of adrenaline. I would show up to a meth cooks house not knowing them to buy methamphetamine. I would hang out with the most sketched out people I knew. I would buy  meth at the  hottest houses I knew just to see if when I got pulled over they would find the dope. I was insane and no longer cared. I always had my sister to fall back on, and for the most part I could always argue that I was only hurting myself.

That is another thing I always did in my addiction. I downplayed the impact of everything that I did. I would justify my dealing with the law of supply and demand and my dope was better for them. I would never look at the money that I took from people. Maybe when they came down they beat their wife or kids. Not my problem. Maybe they gave me their families grocery money.  Not my fault. I would have tons of food stamps, at 30 cents on the dollar if I didn't like you and 50 cents if I did. Maybe they were robbing people for money to buy it. If it wasn't me getting robbed, I was fine with it. Maybe they would get high and rape people. As long as it wasn't my sister getting hurt, who cares? I know that I didn't!

The truth is that I saw and did things that give me nightmares 15 years later. I was insane, doing insane things and I associated with insane people. I have held people at gun point and made them strip because I thought they were wearing a wire. I have beat someone unconscious, waited for him to regain consciousness so that I could beat them some more. That was over $25, to set an example. I have done and seen much worse, sometimes for money, sometimes because they crossed lines and sometimes just because I was bored and angry.

I have ravaged people emotionally and psychologically, leaving them a shell of their former selves. I have built a shot for someone that they overdosed on. Quite a few people have overdosed on my drugs, I am quite sure. I have given many people their first shot of dope, because I knew that if I did that I would have control over them for life. I was evil, and I was okay with that. It was what I was good at, so I did it.

On the flip side of that, I have been robbed several times. I have been held at gun point. I have often been in situations I didn't know if I would live through. I have been beaten unconscious. I have been jumped by multiple people on several occasions. I have overdosed and been left for dead where I was. I have holes in me I was not born with put there by other people. I have been face down on the floor during a raid with a gun to the back of my head. I am certain that I deserved all of that and a whole lot more.

I was a bad guy. I look back on my life and I don't know how I am still alive. Scratch that, after dying more times than I can count on one hand and overamping multiple times, I am alive because there was some good EMTs and paramedics. I would tell you because of luck, as there were probably a dozen times I played Russian Roulette with a 38 revolver and a lone bullet. At the time I thought that nothing could kill me, and nothing or no one would ever get me to stop using drugs. I would have told you that only the good die young, and I was anything but good so I would probably live forever.

Monday, September 23, 2013

My Life as a Bad Guy Part 2: Drugs and Fitting In

I left Missouri and moved to Highland, IL. I stopped being a bully and picking on kids at this stage. It was the summer before my 7th grade  year when my dad got custody of me and I came back to Illinois. I no longer had to be a bully, but I never fit in. My dad worked overnights, and the first weekend I was left to my own devices I went for a walk. I walked to the movie theater and watched a movie. When it was over, I started walking some more.

I came to the square, and there was a group of kids hanging out. A kid called out to  me, and I walked over to him. He told me he had never seen me and I told him I was new in town. We talked a little more and he walked me over to the group. The age old question was asked, "Is he cool?" He in turn asked me, "Are you cool?" "Yes," was my reply. They asked me if I smoked weed as a joint came around the circle. "Sure," was all I said. As I hit the joint and got stoned for the first time, I found I instantly had friends.

The next night one of them had some alcohol and I got drunk for the first time. I would smoke with that group of kids over the next couple of weeks. On occasion we would go to one of their houses and drink. Once we went to the home of some older kids, ones that were old enough to drive. That was the first time that I snorted cocaine. As soon as I did, I instantly had older friends. I learned that all I had to do was be like the people I was around at the time and they would like me.

Looking back, I became a great actor early. I learned to act however I needed to fit in. I became a social chameleon. If you could spot the coolest person at the party or in the classroom I occupied, that was the person I tried to become. I would act like the stoners when I was in the smoking area at school and the preps when I hung out with the kids with money. I didn't know who I was. I only knew who I wanted to be, and that was anybody but who I was.

I played pick-up basketball and football with the jocks, then sold them weed and pills. I was in student council while I was smoking weed and getting drunk in the smoking area. I volunteered to work the special olympics and was jacked up every weekend. I would date the popular girls and sleep with everyone else. I tried to become all things to all people, and because of that I never got to know who I was. Which was probably a good thing, since I couldn't stand me. I was a fake, a phoney.

I was uncomfortable in my own skin, and I was my own worst critic. I was okay at a lot of things, but I was never great at anything but judging myself. That judgment always was the same, unworthy! I was unworthy of good friends, and I would hurt people that cared about me before they could hurt me. I was only as good as my last fight or the last person I slept with. Once the conquest was over, I was unsatisfied and looking for my next one. I was happy on the outside and dying on the inside.

I  hated life. I would get into a bad mood and go looking for fights. It got to where I was drunk every night, more often stoned than not, frequently on mini-thins/white crosses and occasionally tripping, popping pills, doing rush or snorting cocaine. This started the summer before 7th grade and continued on until my junior year in high school. I got into a lot of trouble and finally moved out of state the summer before my senior year.

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Life as a Bad Guy Part 1: Why I Became a Bully

I can tell you that there is a reason for all that happens. I know that at times it seems there could not possibly be any reason for your past. Maybe you have had some horrible things happen to you. Maybe you have made some horrible choices. As one who has had a lot of bad things happen to me, I searched in vain for a good reason. As a person who has made a lot of bad decisions, I could never find any positive reasons for them. Then it all just clicked.

To start off, let's talk about the bad that has happened. In the 5th grade, my mother left my father and we lived with her mom and dad. My grandpa was an abusive man. Over the course of the next year and a half there were multiple times he would beat me then not let me go to school for a week because they would see the bruises. To compound the abuse, I was the only 5th grader I knew who was living with their grandparents and at the time I was not seeing my dad. All of this I blamed on myself.

When I was really young I had been molested by a babysitter. I did not tell my parents for fear of what they would think of me. I had heard them talk before about a child being touched by an adult and how disgusting that was and how horrible they were. I did not want them to think that I was disgusting so I didn't tell them. When my grandpa started beating me I figured it was because he somehow knew. After all, that is what you do to disgusting people. In 5th grade I became an Agnostic. I knew if there was a God He would not let me suffer like I was.

To cope with everything I became violent, depressed and detached. I felt like I was all alone and I discovered that if I picked on one of the other unpopular kids in my class, the other kids would laugh and I felt more accepted. I soon became a bully. It was nice to pick on kids and beat up someone, not just for the feeling of acceptance but to release some of the anger. I told myself I didn't care what people thought of me, but my actions told the truth. I so wanted people to like me I would hurt others to feel accepted.

I was so mad at the world and everyone in it. I was a hurt and confused kid who felt that he had no one to turn to. I felt unliked, unloved and alienated. To cope with that I did what was natural. It was natural to want to feel accepted and strong. When I hit someone or picked on them and hurt them, I was no longer the victim. It made people laugh and others look up to me. I became a bully. From there it just got worse.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I'm Not Okay...............and I'm Okay with That!

When I first got sober, I could not stand myself. Every time that I looked into the mirror, all I could say about the guy staring back was that he was an addict, junkie, convict and a horrible person. I knew that there were so many people out there that were better than he would ever be. Because of that, my self-esteem, self-confidence and self-image were horrible.

I knew that I was not okay, and I hated that. I was not just riddled with guilt about my past, I was drowning in shame about my present. I could not see any reason that anyone would like me. I knew that I did not want to go back to prison, so I stopped doing drugs and started drinking. I stopped drugs but became an alcoholic with rage issues that measured my current happiness based on the person I was currently sleeping with.

I could still numb and escape from myself and my past, while doing something that was far more socially acceptable and main stream than the methamphetamines and opiates I had once abused. The problem was that I was trapped in my addiction still. It had just changed names. I have shifted addictions several times, from drugs/sex/money/power to alcohol and sex. From there I shifted to sobriety and food. I am still working on the comfort eating that I once relied on and have been making progress.

The real problem was accepting me not only for who I am today but for who I once was. They never told me that sobriety was not a magical cure. I would get sober, and suddenly I would be happy and content. That worked at first, but after 6 months of listening to people relive their “glory days” and tell war stories or talk about how miserable their lives were now that they were clean and sober “but still better than it used to be” I went back out. If there was no real hope for relief from my misery why would I want to clean up at all?

I had done horrible things that I could not forgive myself for. Making amends from people in my past and present was the easy part. With other people things were easy. You can lie to other people. The problem was that the man in the mirror knew the truth about me, and I could not convince that man in the mirror that I was a good person like other people I now knew.

I thought that recovery was all about building a new life, putting the past behind you and living the amazing fulfilling life that “normal” people live. It took me a while to discover that all of that was not true. Here are some things that led to me having a better outlook on my life.

  1. I should never compare myself to anyone else. If I know one thing, it is that I would make a horrible anyone else. I can make the best me possible, so that is my goal. 
  2. I am an addict and will always be an addict. That is not a bad thing, it just means that I cannot use drugs or alcohol responsibly and they will therefore not be used by me…..ever 
  3. Life is not all rainbows and cotton candy. Life is lollipops and lemon drops. It is sweet and sour, happy and sad, positive and negative not just for you but for everyone. Whether it is the best or worst day you have ever had, it will soon pass. 
  4. No one is truly okay. Everyone has problems, there is no one perfect not one. You can, however, have a perfectly normal life once you realize that life is not perfectly normal. 
  5. Every one of my past mistakes or traumas has given me both wisdom and strength. I would not be who I am today if not for every single event that I have ever lived through. 
  6. I embrace the positives AND the negatives. They all have led me to where I am today, and I like where I am at. It may not be where I want to be but it is many steps in the right direction from where I once was. 
  7. The world is imperfect, and it leads to follow that the people in it have imperfections. I am one of those imperfect people. 
There is perfection in me. I was made to be the best possible me I can be. I have come to realize that I am shattered………………….perfectly shattered. These realizations led me to one conclusion, no one is truly okay.

Over the course of my life I have been friends with some talented people: inventors, doctors, counselors, pastors, scientists, etc. I have also been friends with some people who were well off financially: politicians, lawyers, trust fund kids, business owners, etc. I have also been friends with drug addicts, convicts, homeless people and those working for minimum wage.

 They all had some things in common. Every single one of them had days they were happy and days they were depressed. They all at times felt self-worthy and at other times lacked self-esteem. One day they might feel successful just to wake up the next day feeling like they had not lived up to their potential. In the end, no one I have ever met was perfect.

In fact, in all my life I have only read about one perfect person and it was not you. I realized that no one is okay, 24/7. I am just as imperfect as everyone else on this planet. It took me a long time to be able to say this, but here goes. I AM NOT OKAY, and I am okay with that!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What Is Recovery?

What is recovery?
That is a question that is open to interpretation and circumstance. Medically it mean being on the mend from surgery or an accident. A computer repairman would say it is getting back lost files on a computer. In this case, we are looking at addictive lifestyles. What is recovery from an addictive lifestyle look like?
To answer this, I decided to ask people who had lived addictive lifestyles to tell me what they considered to be part of their addictions. Here is the list they came up with: the use of drugs/alcohol/food/cutting to numb and escape past and present issues, Theft/stealing/shoplifting, Anger/Violence, Dishonesty, Casual Sex, Pornography, the inability to speak without using vulgarity, Greed/Love of Money, Egotism, Being inconsiderate to others due to focusing only on self/Selfishness, Lack of accountability, Only having Friends and hangouts that encouraged addictions, Focusing on the negative and Lack of Hope.
Today we will define recovery as the opposite of addiction. So in order to be in recovery, we need to get rid of the things in our lives that enabled and encouraged our addiction. Here is how we do those things:
1.       Face our current problems and work through our past issues either through counseling, step work and/or processing it out so we no longer have them as a reason to use.
2.       Stop taking things that are not yours. First we need to get and keep employment, then we can create a budget that we follow and save for the things we need.
3.       Realize that anger solves nothing and violence will only end up with us right back into trouble. An old saying says, “Never get into an argument with an idiot. It makes it hard for people to tell the difference between you.” That means that when we resort to anger we make ourselves look bad to those around us. Finally, violence only leads to more violence and violence never works out well. Ghandi said it best, “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.”
4.       I lied so much that I began to believe my own lies. Lying was second nature in my addiction. In recovery, we have to be honest or we will never escape our addiction. Honesty allows me to hold myself accountable. We will look at the importance of that in #10 below.
5.       Research shows that promiscuity is an indicator of relapse. We really need to stay out of relationships for a while. We tend to focus on the other person when we get into new relationships, and we need to be focusing on ourselves. We also tend to find people who treat us as we feel about ourselves. Until we like ourselves we have no business in a relationship. Finally, a lot of the time we find our self-esteem based on our conquests. We need to find positive accomplishments to build our self-esteem and self-confidence.
6.       Pornography can lead to dehumanization, victimization and intense emotional reactions that can lead us to places we should not go.
7.       If using vulgarity was a major part of our addictive and criminal lifestyle, losing the negative language will help us separate further from our past lifestyles. It also makes us look like we have a larger vocabulary when we don’t have to resort to cuss words.
8.       Greed and money are a huge motivator for many a criminal. We need to remind ourselves of the difference between needs and wants and realize that we do not have to have wants in order to be happy. The happiest people are not those who have the most, but those who make the most of what they have.
9.       Egotism and selfishness go together. The world in not just about us, for we are merely 1 out of over 7 billion people. If the beginning of our step-work/sobriety is very selfish in nature, that is just to set us up for the 12th step/rest of our lives. After all, recovery is very altruistic.
10.   In our addiction very little was our fault. We could justify everything we did by shifting blame. In our recovery we realize that the only way we can make changes is by realizing that we are responsible for our feelings, thoughts and actions. If it is someone else’s fault I can do nothing about that. I can only change that which I control. If I am not accountable for my actions they will never change!
11.   Change your playmates and play grounds. This is so important. If I live in the mud it is hard to stay clean. AA says “if you hang around the barbershop long enough you are going to get a hair cut” while my Big Book (the Bible) says, “You cannot put new wine in an old wine skin.” Our using and criminal friends may not mean us harm, but they make it difficult if not impossible to change.
12.   We need to shift focus, looking at the positives today can bring instead of the negatives in our past. One of my clients the other day said, “I like my new friends. They always talk about the present and the future. All of my old friends used to only talk about the past.” You cannot change yesterday, but you can sure change today. Focus on the present and you will build a successful future.
13.   I was stuck in my addiction because I had no hope for anything better. I began to find hope in speaker meetings and testimonies, hearing other people who had similar struggles share how they had found sobriety. That hope was increased 10 fold when I got saved and realized that this life is nothing but a short introduction to a book of happiness that will stretch forever.
So in closing, recovery is reversing all of the things that enabled and/or encouraged our past lifestyle. If we are to make positive changes in our lives that are permanent, we need to make holistic changes in our lives. There are 5 Pillars to doing this:
1.       Higher Power (God) – If our best thinking got us in trouble and we have not been able to change on our own; we need to find something greater than us that gives us hope, compassion, acceptance and love.
2.       Sponsor (Mentor) – Find someone whose life you want in 5 years, ask them how they got it and then work with them using a plan (see #3 below) to obtain it
3.       12 Steps (The Bible I recommend James) -  Find a plan that will get you where you want to be and put it into motion in your life
4.       Meetings (Small Groups) – Find a sense of community where people with similar goals that genuinely care about you(see #5 below) discuss how they are improving their lives and apply what you learn while sharing with them
5.       Accountability Partners – Find people that you are in contact with often who are living their lives well that can encourage and help you live your life well