My journey to sobriety has been a very hard one. In the 6 years since I cleaned up, I’ve lost my faith, my marriage, many friendships and suffered many hardships I wasn’t ready for. I got sober as an act of survival after years of drugs and alcohol poisoned me to a point of complete and utter anguish. I spent of life as a chameleon, changing shapes as well as locations all the while trying to kill myself with substances. From the time I took my first drink at 10 years old to my first joint at 13, I knew I had a magnetism to mind altering things.
My childhood was hard, but I had good parents, who did their best to reside me right. We were poor, growing up on the southeast side of Cleveland, but we had everything we needed and were taught to give back to those around us, paying it forward. I was taught to accept help when I needed it and I was raised in the church to serve a loving god, who loved everyone.
My problem was that from the time I started school I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I was weird, I rocked in my chair, I was awkward and I was picked on mercilessly by bullies. I acted out, used humor to defend myself and eventually just turned inward. By junior high I was labeled a troubled kid, having had multiple suspensions for behavioral issues. I was angry, fearful and confused about who I was. I also was finding that alcohol and drugs were easy to find if you made the right friends.
I never felt that I had friends beyond maybe a couple people. I really wasn’t an open person with anyone, especially about my issues. I hated being alive, I sought out dangerous people and insane situations. I hung out with people I knew didn’t care for me but it was easier to fade into the background. In high school my weirdness and humor got me some friends but I often felt like a clown to them, but I played along for a chance to partake in some drinking or getting high. I established a couple deeper relationships, fell in love a few times but nothing stuck. I was a floater, just jumping between social groups and partying until it was uncomfortable, and I leave again.
I had secrets, many I still won’t talk about, but they took me into darker places than I’d ever wish on anyone. I had secret friends, secret opportunities to do art, music and make money. I even had secret relationships with women that I never disclosed, and this was all before I was 22. The thing was people liked me, they enjoyed my mind and my spirit of creativity, but they also saw chances to use me for things. I played along because, frankly, I didn’t want to live very long anyway.
So I fell into a secret place of addictions and suicidal living. All the while I was playing a role of a less than normal kid at home who was struggling on school but was okay. My parents didn’t know my struggles, no one did, not even my best friend who I grew further away from in high school. I was insane, I was completely sold out to running off the cliff and being on fire when I do go. I hated life, I hated school, I hated most of my classmates and I just wanted to vanish.
I got clean for a bit when I was 18 until I was 20. I’d slowed down to almost nothing and eventually got sober for a year. I had some close calls with my drug of choice and lost a couple people to it. So I found god so to speak and ride the magic mountain of salvation for a few years into my freshman year of college as a 20 year old. I even stayed sober through my 21st birthday, never taking a drink, by the end of my first year though, I was back on the path of self-sabotage! I tried to find a Christian group of friends, which I sort of did, but we were all outcasted by the community in which we met. So the bad taste of legalistic religion was freshly put back into my mouth for the first time since high school. I still tried to believe, though never fully, it just wasn’t computing. I just started serving people because that made sense, ya know, loving.
I had broken up with a girl I loved, began a very intense and self destructive one with another girl who was beautifully a mess. We burned for only a few months and I fled the state entirely, transferring to a small liberal Christian school in the burbs of Philadelphia. I thought being in a Christian environment might help me get my shit together, I was very wrong! I would fail out of that school after a year and a half, falling back into darkness and addiction. I drank everyday, many times alone and really wished to die.i found beautiful people who wanted to change the world and I believed I could help, so I did, but my suffering heart pulled me away.
I moved back home, stayed relatively clean but soon found myself in Philly and I began to hide in the shade. I partied, I had rad roommates, but I also found the city was cruel, and unforgiving. It took awhile to find work, it took less time to find booze and then I found my demons again. I was drunk or high everyday, at work, at home, and at church. It didn’t matter, I couldn’t let my pain surface and I didn’t want to feel a lot. I was living the dream, I had friends, I had art, poetry, music, and girls. I had it all and I was a full blown addict and alcoholic. I knew it but I didn’t care. I wanted to die by 25.
I ruined my living situations with my behavior, though no one knew the extent I was using. I had bad kinships within the punk rock community as well as unhealthy street relationships that are easy to keep on the down low. I befriended dealers, thieves, and just bad folks who I knew weren’t gonna help me as a man but could help me get things. I also had great friends who cared and I kept them at arms length much of the time. When I didn’t we had amazing conversations and created some great things together. My poetry was becoming my life but I was also seeing the pull towards outreach work or as I understood it ministry.
I would keep burning like rocket fuel for the next few years, just doing everything to stay numb while trying to help everyone. I was dedicated to serving others, volunteering with various missions and charities. Spending time with homeless people, just listening, and fellowshipping but I was not fulfilled, I was a numbed out machine.. I just had two worlds, my church fed, ministry minded, activist, service world and my get fucked up and kill yourself world. I was also pursing music promotions and writing, so I was juggling everything.
I moved around a lot, crashing in dorm rooms, living out of my car, eventually moving to New Jersey for a girl and ruining that with my inability to stop killing myself. I would move back to Philly and continue my downward spiral. By my 25Th birthday I was a complete addict and alcoholic. Having silently relapsed multiple times and just staying drunk every night I started to feel the wheels coming off. I was getting pills from people, getting high with others and fading into oblivion. My business partner and I were doing good things in music but we were fucking everything up with our lifestyle. I was a helper, I wanted to fix people because I couldn’t fix myself, so I tried to fix my friend who was no different than me. I just was hiding it better I guess?
I finally got myself clean, again but still remained an alcoholic and still sneaking pills and smoking weed. I also was working with troubled kids, so I forced myself to dry up, only drinking or whatever when I wasn’t working. I met my wife, we got engaged and we went full on ministry. I gave up activism and music to be a pastoral figure to these youth who were much like myself. Though I still loved to get drunk when no one was around that could be poorly influenced. I booked concerts, successfully, and we did a great thing, then it ended. We married, moved to Atlanta where my promoting took off, and my alcoholism grew deeper. My drug issues flared up at times too. It was a secret war.
From 2002-2012, so from 27-37 we would move 9 tines and to three different states. I would fail at several ventures, including record labels, management companies, video production, several ministries, tattoo shop, writing gigs and eventually my own church. My wife and I were growing apart from the first year on. She was supportive and my best friend but the romance was crushed by financial instability, my growing mental illness, and my disease of alcoholism. I eventually quit abusing pills and other substances but I never stopped drinking. I would just drink every night, sometimes into the next day. It became just our life, we both drank a lot but I was out of control. It was our lifestyle, the bar was our social group, our family and our church. It was everything.
On June 6th 2012 I was out like normal on a Friday night. My buddy Andrew drove me home after I drank my usual 8-10 mixed drinks. I walked in my house, looked in the mirror and said “Fuck, I’m gonna die. I’m not ready!” so I called some people, and gave it up. I took a bottle of Jameson 12 year out from under my sink, poured on me last drink and that was that. I thought, I got this from here.
The first year was hard but I had a ton of support. I lost weight, I was about 300lbs at my worst and dropped to around 240. I had given up on the church, walked away completely and felt a new life as my head cleared up for the first time in 20 years. I went to a few meetings but never got into the program, just made some sober friends and still hung out at bars every night, cuz I didn’t know where else to go. My mental illness began to increase during this time. I was depressed more than ever, I was suicidal and now I was sober and felt every fucking thing! It was horrible.
I wanted to drink, but I didn’t, I smoked weed a few times but that freaked me out. I just was dying in my soul. In 2015 my wife asks me for a divorce. I accepted her request out of love and out of understanding. We were roommates, best friends but we weren’t lovers, and hadn’t been in years. She was my rock and I guess I was hers but it was over. So I left my friends, my home, my job, and my everything and moved home. I was devastated, broken, and resentful. I was still sober but I also wasn’t getting better.
I set out on a journey through the American south, hoping to make it to California. It was a very noble quest but after Nashville, Atlanta and Memphis I hit a wall. In 2016 I returned to Harrisburg PA, where my entire life was, my marriage was and my old social world was. It wasn’t the same. People moved on, I was broke and living with friends unable to pay rent. I struggled o find work, endured horrible rumors, old friends talking hateful things about me and just misery. I met new people, good people and some fucked up ones that at one time would have been great but not anymore. So I ended up facing a very scary road of being potentially homeless long term or letting my parents rescue me. They did and I moved to Cleveland, where I grew up, for the first time since 1996.
I found work with my step-father, then with the Cleveland Browns and eventually with the Cleveland Museum of Art. The past three years have been very hard, but I’m still sober. Last year I met a woman who I fell in love with, she is 13 years into sobriety and very active in Alcoholics Anonymous. She has gotten me to trust in the program and regularly attend meetings.
I’m doing the best I can and that, after all I’ve been through, is honestly pretty damn good, I think? I’m 42 years old, 6 years sober, I don’t know what my higher power is anymore but I’m okay with uncertainty after years in a religion that loves to be certain of everything. My life is hard today, I’m struggling with mental illness, poverty, and lacking benefits that I need, but I’m figuring it out. My job is terrible but it pays the bills and it gave me some friends, even was the catalyst to my relationship with my girlfriend. So all in all things are okay but a little unstable, but I guess that’s to be expected? One day at a time, they say.