“Herb, let me tell you something young man. I want you to listen to me when I tell you this; everything that your recovery blesses you with, your addiction will try and use against you.” – An older gentleman to me, on our way home from a meeting many years ago. He was right.
Ya know, it’s funny, you write one book, and everyone thinks you know what you’re talking about. And I do. It’s just, I don’t know, being a published author, especially when it pertains to the subject matter of addiction and mental health, it puts one in a precarious position. It’s like, all of a sudden that, and the field I work in some how gave many people this idea that I was somehow cured or some shit. Like I had some kind of answers. All I ever did was share my experiences, and do my best to be a good person and a helper.
Life absolutely took off for me, once the book dropped and I began my work in intervention. It all happened so fast. It was like a blur. Offers were coming in from all over the place. Come speak in Idaho, Come to Southern Indiana, be on this radio show, this podcast, Etc. I was contacted by celebrities, newspapers, politicians, families in need of help, churches, radio stations, T.V. You name it. It was like a dream come true. And it has been. With some exceptions, of course, I wouldn’t change it. But let me tell something right now, every gift has a cost.
Tiffany and I moved in together once I left the halfway house, I was working at the first intervention company, and we were just riding the wave. You wanna talk about “Started from the bottom, now we’re here”? That was us. We took over a home on Kinsey Street in Valpo. We had no furniture, no beds, no dressers, very few of our own clothes; and the house was absolutely trashed. The last 5 or 6 weekends while I was at the halfway house, we spent getting the house ready and livable. The yards were horribly overgrown, the inside of the house looked like a trap house. We worked tirelessly getting the place ready, and when we moved in, all we had was a few bags of clothes, some blankets and pillows, and a couple donated wicker chairs and a wicker table. We made a pallet on the floor and slept there the first several weeks. Over time, we accumulated the stuff we needed. A donated T.V., small sectional, kitchen table, dishes, etc. I worked at the intervention company, and she worked for a nurses’ agency. We were grinding. Things were an absolute blur. Kids, School, an hour commute to and from work for me every day, book signings, birthdays, speaking engagements, TEDx, travel. We were cookin. Meetings, sponsorship, probation meetings, family trips, new piece of furniture, we got a dog. Reba, she is the sweetest. She’s an all white with blue spots and one floppy ear Pitbull and she’s my second best friend. My wife is my first.
Life simply could not have been going any better. We were two determined love birds. We were ascending. Tiffany had been an underdog story herself in her own right. A single mother of three, doing the best she could working, cooking, being a mom, all that comes with that. I was just a fucking disaster when we met. But, we have somehow continued to make it work, through thick and thin. When we first got together, I didn’t even have a bank account. I opened my first checking account at Centier with fifty bucks, when I was working at the insurance agency. From there it was baby steps, in the right direction. Little by little we climbed. Sometimes we had to over draft an account to pay a bill, sometimes we didn’t. We were determined to succeed. And we loved each other very much.
I had so much going on, I didn’t know if I was coming or going half the time. I had all of my, what I now know to be “Professional Life”- Intervention, Book signings and speaking engagements, writing, appearances, meetings, etc. I had all of the personal life stuff, Wife, kids/step kids (We weren’t married yet, but we all lived together and it was pretty obvious that this is where it was headed, I hoped so at least), Baby Momma Drama, and all the bullshit that came along with that. Court hearings, etc. And I did my best to squeeze in some “Me Life”- Meetings, sponsorship, journaling, etc. It all seemed so surreal. Days passed by sometimes quickly sometimes slowly, but where oh where did the months and years go?
We were laser focused. One day I decided to get myself a secured credit card, the type you have to pay 250$ for and Discover gives you a card with a 250$ limit. A beginners credit card, to start building credit. That was my very first piece of the american dream right there. We were determined. Our conversations were ambitious, and driven, they were very goal oriented. Our first year at the kinsey house was amazing. We hung out in the back yard when we could, we went for drives, we took the kids to do fun stuff. We traveled all over. Tiffany and I flew to Arizona, then Washington, and drove into Idaho; I had been paid to come and give a key note speech for the Idaho Juvenile Justice Association. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. Driving down through Eastern Washington, all the hills, mountains, and geography were just breath taking. Massive combines glided through rolling hay fields, kicking up giant clouds of dust that were cut through by setting sun rays, and back dropped in bright pinks and purples. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. We adventured out into the local towns exploring. I remember this lake, it was as smooth as glass and as clear as a diamond. The only thing that came cutting through it was the Washington State Row Team, practicing out on the water. This was all just too good to be true.
We got our first Christmas Tree as a family, We financed our first car, We celebrated birthdays and we continued to climb. I thanked God every single night for delivering me from such a horrible previous life, to such an amazing one. I was so proud.
It was really easy to keep busy during these times, because there was always so much going on. There was always a task to handle, there was always somethings to be done. And we did them well. A secured card credit card turned into multiple credit card offers, which turned into multiple credit cards, which turned into a rising credit score. I utilized the marketing skills I learned at the insurance company with the intervention company. I was learning as much as I could as fast as I could, after all, I was at a disadvantage already and had a lot of time to make up for. I had to pin my ears back, put my head down, and go. And that is exactly what I did. I was a workaholic. I was locked in. I was Dad, Step Dad, Interventionist, Author, Boyfriend/Fiance’, Dog Dad, Speaker, Brother, Friend, I was living the dream. We were living the dream.
I was always working. It was annoying to some I am sure. But, how was I to waste such a beautiful and wonderful opportunity? The position I had found myself in allowed me to do what I had always wanted to do, help others. It was a double blessing that I got to support my family while doing so. We were on top of the world. Phone calls, emails, conference calls, hikes, cook outs, bills, life was chugging along. I continued to say yes to everything. Key Note speech- yes. Interview for news paper- yes. Give a talk at a church- yes. Book signing at Barnes and Noble-yes. It seemed like the more I said yes to, the more the opportunities came. We couldn’t miss.
We went from a pallet on the floor with no other furniture, to a fully furnished house, and a new to us car in the drive way. We were making it. Task, task, task, goal, goal, goal. Work ,work, work. God was really smiling on us. I had attended the Indiana Dunes Great Banquet, and so had Tiffany. We were really growing at a rapid pace. Before we knew it, we were in our second year at the Kinsey house. What a blur. We were knocking off the old collections accounts on our credits from the previous years, when we both struggled independently. Together we thrived. We had her three children, and we had Luke as often as possible. We would enjoy home cooked meals together and family game nights. We did smores in the back yard, and we went to Indiana Beach. We were all so happy.
One Friday evening, I had to make a run over to the local gas station for some smokes and fuel in the Envoy. Tiffany asked me to grab her a few scratch off tickets, which I always thought were a waste of money. But, begrudgingly, I said I would. I had my feet up on the ottoman while watching the news and she scratched at the tickets with a coin. I sipped my coffee and dazed off at the talking heads on the screen, when she interjected the silence with a loud “BABE!” “What, 30 dollars down the drain, babe?” “Bullshit, I just won 5,000$!!!” She screamed. I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen anyone win anything on those damn things. But there it was, right in front of my eyes. She sure as shit did. Like I said, we just couldn’t miss. It was a winning streak of life like nothing I had ever experienced. We used most of it to pay bills, and to pay credit cards off, and we used a piece of it, to purchase Chicago Bears’ playoff tickets. It was both of our very first time seeing the bears play. It was one of the best days of my life. We didn’t get the win, as I am sure you know, this was the infamous “Double Doink” game. But it was an experience unlike any other. We even met Travis Kelce. He was there watching his brother play, who is on the Eagles.
It’s crazy how everything was happening. I mean, I had never experienced anything like this in my life. What a plot twist. I had gone from lost soul, heroin addict to all this. It didn’t seem real. Oh, but it was. Life had become such a wonderful adventure of tasks to be handled and goals to accomplish. I had sent a copy of my book to the White House, and Donald Trump sent me back a hand signed thank you card that I still have to this day. This was right around the time He had donated his quarterly salary to combat the opioid epidemic, and I had sent him a book as a thank you. It was awesome to get a had written thank you back from the President. I mean, how many people can say that in their life time? I was offered a new and better position at another Intervention firm, and then another. Progress after progress, success after success, step up after step up. One beautiful evening on a Pier in Hilton Head, South Carolina I found myself down on one knee proposing to Tiffany in front of her whole family and a bunch of strangers. It was amazing and she said yes. We were both so happy and on top of the world. It was the best day of my life to that point. I hope it was to her as well.
We were killing the game. It seemed as though everything we touched turned to gold. I also had the amazing and incredibly stressful privilege of giving a TEDx Talk at Valparaiso University. “The Myth of Rock Bottom” is what it was called. And the overall Idea of it is how we can always bottom out again, even after what we think is our rock bottom. We can always dig another one. A’int that the truth? My oh my, how foreshadowing that was indeed.