Tuesday, December 28, 2010

From playmate to inmate…how I got here - Part 9

The question and the COUNSELOR.

This is the shell of me shortly before the events below.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you are forced to look into the mirror of life and catch a glimpse of what you’ve become.  My love affair with pain pills had taken me places I never thought I’d go, enticed me to do things I never thought I’d do and make choices that even today are still sometimes unbelievably hard for me to understand.  I never set out to fail the way I had, and I certainly never desired to become the puppet of the addiction to pain pills puppeteer.  But that’s exactly what I had become.  The rebellion of my youth had culminated into despicable acts of self-centered sin and left me holding the bag of moral bankruptcy.

The words of a great friend of mine had never been more true:

“you’ll never find in sin what you are looking for.”

(What’s up Ritchie!)

My chemically aided fumbled search for love and acceptance had literally taken me into a desert wasteland of lostness.  I needed rescued.

It’s funny…but God’s search and rescue tactics don’t always take on the appearance we imagine they should.  Some 12 years ago, the onset of my “journey out” came in the form of a drug detox unit and a simple – but not so simple – question.  Although this was my first go at a detox, the question presented to me by one of the counselors was one that I had secretly pondered over and over in my mind.  In fact, it was one that had haunted me for several years.

As I walked down the hallway of the lock-down unit, I strategically kept to myself by avoiding eye contact with everyone I passed.  I was ashamed, embarrassed and downright beat up from the disastrous choices I had made to keep my pill addiction secret and afloat.  As if he’d been laying in wait for me to shuffle by, the counselor stepped from amongst the shadows into my path and asked how I was doing.  His unexpected presence startled me.

To me, this was a stupid question.  If it were not apparent to him that I was a complete mess, then obviously this man had chosen the wrong profession.  I gave him the typical brush off response – “I’m ok” – in hopes that he would retreat back to whatever office he crawled out of…but noooo…he wanted to talk…whether I wanted to or not.

I appeased him through his small talk questions but as the conversation proceeded I slowly began to sense that there was something different about this counselor compared to the others I’d encountered.  He didn’t care to dwell on the drugs or how much I had used of what or when I first started my drug escapade.  He seemed more interested in something completely different – ME – and where I was spiritually – specifically, where I was with God.

We muddled through the basic religious questions of what denomination I was, if and where I went to church, and if so how often, but the conversation took on another form when he asked “the question.”  With sincerity in his eyes, he looked at me and bluntly asked, 

“If you died today, do you know where you’d spend eternity?”

Caught completely off guard by his candidly delivered question, I now stood face to face with the very question that had haunted me for many years.  I felt as if I’d been exposed.  As long as the question was merely in my mind, I thought I could ignore it, file it away for another day (another year), but now that it had been vocalized by someone else and aimed directly at me - 

I could ignore it no longer.

Not willing to entirely concede my lostness, I quickly retreated to several of the topics we had already discussed.  I fumbled over my words, stammering and stuttering as I regurgitated religious sounding jargon such as –  I believe in Jesus; I never did any of these things with the intentions of hurting anyone; deep down I’m a good person; my parents are good Christians; they always took me to church; in fact, I even go myself, once in awhile.

When I had finished my unsuccessful rant, the counselor said in a very diplomatic but firm way –

“I didn’t ask you about your parents,

if you went to church,

or if you were a good person.

I asked you if you died today, did you know where you’d spend eternity?”


In all honesty, I had always considered myself a Christian – at the age of seven I had walked the aisle, said the prayer and was baptized shortly thereafter.  Although, truth be known, if you would’ve asked the people I went to school with, worked with and hung out with during my early adulthood, their response probably would have been something like this – 

Christian?!?! I didn’t even think he went to church!

Deep down I too knew something was amiss in my life.  None of my life resembled anything godly.  In fact, it was the complete opposite – I was the epitome of worldly.  My choices revolved around ME – what was good for ME – what felt good to ME – how this or that would benefit ME.  Additionally, aiding and abetting all of my catering to ME were the deceptive behaviors I had drug along with me from my childhood as well as all the doors of pleasure I had kicked open along my way.  The truth of the matter was -

I was as far away from God as one could be.

The conversation with the counselor lasted several more minutes but to be honest with you the only other thing I remember from our encounter was that he gave me a Bible and encouraged me to read it.  I was dazed and confused as I walked back to my room; my simple stroll down the hall had left my head spinning.  As I entered my room, I threw the Bible on the desk vowing not to read it.  

I was still gripped by my rebellion and pride, 

but war had erupted in my soul.

I remember rationalizing in my mind that I had gotten myself in to this mess and by gosh I’d get myself out of it.  I would not use God or religion as a crutch.  Oh how wrong my thinking was.

The war raged on throughout the night and into the early hours of the next morning.  I was tired and restless.  I felt like I could explode into a babbling ball of emotions at any point, but I would not relent.  Like a movie playing over and over in my head, I recalled failures and mistakes that I had made along my journey.  They were painful, and I did not like what I saw.  Occasionally, I would look over at the desk where I’d thrown the Bible earlier that day. 

It was like something inside of me was leading me to pick it up – just read it.  

Finally, I did!

It had been quite some time since I’d read the Bible…but for some strange reason it felt right.  It was like the words on the pages began to leap off at me.  As I read, all I kept thinking to myself was, “That’s me! That’s me! That’s me!”  Without realizing it I began to do something I hadn’t done for a long time – nor do I do that often – I began to cry.  Like ice disappearing in the sun - my cold, hard, calloused heart began to melt.  I knew that I’d been running from God.  No matter where I was or what I did, I’d felt His presence gently guiding and counseling me to give up for quite some time.  So it was there in a hospital bed, deep within the depths of the lock-down detox unit that I responded to THE COUNSELOR with three simple words – 

I give up!

I knew what I meant –

and so did God.

No amount of humanistic reasoning or rationalizing in my mind could trump the truth that I’d been living separated from God due to the sin in my life.  I needed the gift of God’s grace provided by Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection in order to obtain peace with God.  By faith that’s what I accepted.

I can – but I can’t – explain what happened to me that night – it was spiritually supernatural.  Unless you’ve personally experienced the regeneration that comes from accepting God’s gift of grace, any description of what happened internally to me will sound like mere foolishness.  Therefore, all I’ll venture to say at this point is that I felt different.  A strange soothing peace had enveloped me.  Although I had many self-inflicted wounds, a corrupt moral nature, as well as a host of problems to sort out, somehow I knew I was now on the right path.  My journey out had begun.

…from the inside…ray-ray

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!

The above image was drawn by one of Scott's friends on the "inside."  Thought you might find it interesting - such amazing talent with such limited resources (he used a simple bic pen to draw this image and got creative with adding the color).

As we are apart this year, we realize how precious time together with family is - especially during the holidays.  We hope you enjoy each moment you spend with your loved ones, and we are anxiously awaiting being able to spend next Christmas together as a complete family!

Thank you all for your love, prayers and support!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!!

...from the inside...ray-ray
...on the outside...lump

Monday, December 13, 2010

From Playmate to Inmate…how I got here - Part 8

After six years with Uncle Sammy, two TMJ surgeries and hundreds of prescriptions for pain pills, my Air Force career wound down.  There were many factors that weighed into why I chose to trade my Air Force dress blue uniform in for a suit and tie of the civilian world, but ultimately it came down to one pretty simple reason – a tremendous job offer from a national/international company that would allow my family to move back home.  Thus we did.

It wasn’t long after moving back that my personal life and relationships began to completely unravel.  Many of the old friends that I’d left behind some six years before were literally still sitting on the same bar stools I’d left them on.  

I reclaimed my old stool.

I started playing golf with the “old gang” again – especially the 19th green (ask a golfer) – although, golf was never fully about golf for us.  Oh sure, we were competitive and all, but a large part of our rounds of golf were more about the rounds of drinks we consumed while playing, as well as the “extracurricular” items we used to enhance the experience.  Though I would take part in the “extras,” I always had my own little “something-something” stashed away in my golf bag that even the gang didn’t know about –

my pills -

my own little secret.

Sound familiar?

The guys I ran with were partiers and all…but I began to notice something above and beyond in my life.  Unlike most of them, that when the party was over it was over, my use of “extras” and pills was becoming consistent and persistent.  They had become “the norm” – part of my life.

My move back home would last only two and a half years.  This time when I moved away it was without my family, but with a lot more baggage.  My life became the epitome of the working definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  I became like a nomad wondering and searching aimlessly from job to job, city to city, and relationship to relationship – on a quest to find something or someone that would calm the raging storm within my soul and fill the dark empty void.

I was not successful.

With each failure, I heaped abundant amounts of self-inflicted pain upon my heart.  It came to the point that no amount of pain pills or “extras” would extinguish the pain that I had ignited.

There was a time that I blamed my demise on my decision of getting out of the Air Force and moving back home.  But after many years of introspective evaluation, in all honesty, I had to admit that it had nothing to do with the choice.  My self-centeredness and addiction had me on a collision course with destruction long before I packed the truck to move back home.  It wouldn’t have mattered where I was or who I was with – location and others weren’t the problem – I was the problem and…

I wanted out.

I wanted to die.

Thank God He doesn’t always give us what we want.

Instead of leaving me to my own destructive thinking and ways, God began to use His loving discipline and abundant GRACE to get my attention.  Although there are several definitions for GRACE, in this incident I mean God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Looking back through life’s rearview mirror, I smile when I think about the gift of GRACE God placed in my life so many years before this hellish time –

my daughter – Pooh.  

In all honesty, if it were not for her presence in my life back in those dark, dismal, confused days, I probably would have “checked out.”  I literally get goose bumps sometimes when I think about God’s sovereignty and how He knew that I would need her existence, love and character in my life in order to muster up the strength to press on.

So press on I did.  I slowly began to realize that I really didn’t want to die; and if I didn’t want to die, that meant I really wanted to live; and if I were going to live, change had to take place.

I had no idea how hard and painful that change would be.

…from the inside…ray-ray

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

From Playmate to Inmate…how I got here - Part 7

East bound – gone south.

It’s funny what we remember.

Like it was yesterday, I remember playing outside with my daughter (big love Pooh) as we watched the movers wrap, box, tag and tote all our earthly possessions to the large moving truck parked out front.  It was pointed east – the direction we were bound the very next morning.

Although it was late December, the temperature had fixed itself pleasantly in the mid 80’s with clear skies and light dry air – not entirely unusual for this time of year in the south-central region of the United States.  The reason I remember the weather so well that day is because of the drastic change that loomed.  As the movers completed their task and the day drifted to evening, the temperature, sky and air did a complete 180 – by morning we would awake to a bona fide winter ice storm.

The weather changed so drastically, it was like living in an episode of Bewitched where Samantha twitched her nose and instantly you were mystically transported to the arctic.  We quickly exchanged the shorts and t-shirts of the previous day for coats, gloves and boots.  In hindsight, I probably should have waited for the weather to clear before starting out on the trek back east, but my youth and vigor said differently…

No, we were out of there!

So with the car packed to the gills – including cat and dog – we were off…east bound… into the storm.  Two storms, actually…

one visible…

the other invisible.

One was obviously tangible and treacherous to drive in, and the other was one developing deep within my soul.  Unbeknownst to me, I had a stowaway traveling with me – the initial stages of dependency and addiction to prescription pain pills.  In the not too distant future, it would slowly begin to unpack itself.

My Air Force recruiting assignment was in a nice quaint town conveniently tucked amidst the cotton and tobacco fields of the South.  As a child I had passed through my new home numerous times with my parents on our annual pilgrimage to Myrtle Beach for fun and sun.  The folks were friendly and hospitable, and the weather had a moderate balance of the four seasons.  The town had a Wal-Mart – which, back in those days, was a symbol to the surrounding communities that this little town had arrived.  

My office was in the mall – a good location because, like the rest of small town America at that time, the mall was the place to hang.  

My new home also held a treasure.

Hidden obscurely within its community, this gift from God, that would play a huge role in assisting me to sort out life and relationships, would actually not be made known to me for several years to come.

I was a natural at recruiting and soon established myself as one of the best for that region.  Although my professional life was excelling, it was no mirror for my personal life.  On the outside everything looked well put together – I had a family, a career that was on track and the hallmark of “things” that the world uses to gauge success.


Internally, I was a wreck.  My closest personal relationships were unraveling, and I felt completely helpless.

It was then, for the first time that I began to realize that I wasn’t merely taking Percocets for the pain in my jaw – I was also taking them to shroud the pain in my heart and fill the void in my soul.  I knew my pill-popping was getting out of control, but I didn’t care – they worked.  I was numb to the pain and emptiness.  The soothing, warm and fuzzy sense of well being the Percocets delivered was magically powerful.  With the pop of a pill, I could instantly escape and change any feelings of insecurity, rejection or frustration.  Interestingly as well, pain pills gave me energy, endurance and confidence.  I liked who I was on Percocets, and I liked how I performed on them too.

The love affair was growing deeper and deeper.

But the truth was, this was nothing but a new shield – a mask that gave me an unbelievable positive sense of self worth – counterfeit as it was.  It was becoming my “way of life.”  Slowly and methodically my addiction was unpacking itself.  My move back east had quickly gone south.

…from the inside…ray-ray