Rain Sneak Peak!

IT IS ANOTHER DAY AT THE MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY WHERE CURRENTLY I am a drug screener. Every week I drug screen almost one hundred patients with substance abuse issues as well as a variety of mental health issues. Many of these people have completely destroyed their lives, or at least have come awfully close. They are here for various reasons. Some are here because they’ve simply had enough. Others are here because the court system is involved. Some are fighting to get their kids back from Social Services. The fact is, I love the people I see every day. I am pulling for them to regain their lives. I treat every person I screen the same as I would anyone else. I show them as much respect as I can. They deserve that much.

Yes, many of them have made horrific choices and some continue to do so. I am not their judge, nor am I their counselor or physician. I love to hear their stories and encourage them by sharing a little of mine. I have those who encourage me. I know how they feel. Many walk into my office sick from withdrawal. Many walk into my office scared, lonely, and very uncertain about what lies ahead. I’ve experienced every one of those same feelings.  I have those who quickly remind me that I never want to revisit my darkest days.  One thing is for certain though, I get it. I understand. For all practical matters, I am no different than they are. I am one of them.

In 2005 I released the first edition of the pages you are holding in your hand. The original version of I Wish It Would Rain was the story of my battle with depression, a disease I still battle today. The book was honest and true.  It chronicled my life as a teenager from a small town in North Carolina through part of my college years and on to my career as a touring musician for 14 years. I shared how much I struggled with depression in my life. It was easy to read and only around 130 pages long. It was not a “self-help” book but rather a story of one man’s journey and struggle with this debilitating disease. However, it was only a fourth of the story. It wasn’t a lie; it just wasn’t everything.

The last few years I had tossed around the idea of re-releasing the book with some new and updated chapters. What I didn’t tell the reader, mostly out of fear, was that for six years I was heavily addicted to opiate pain medication. Often the two go hand in hand. The primary reason I became addicted to opiates in the first place was because of depression. However, that’s not an excuse.

Prescription pain pills will quickly take feelings of depression away in many people, which was exactly the case in my life. They made me happy, energetic, and ready to tackle anything in my way, at least in the beginning. Instead of figuring out what chapters to add and delete, I just decided to re-write the book completely. So if you have read the original, this is the rest of the story. Honestly, it’s the main part.  Depression came first. Addiction came second. However, addiction led to deeper depression, which led to deeper addiction. It’s a vicious, ugly cycle. 

I should not be alive. I’ve taken enough pills to supply a small army. I became a man those closest to me wouldn’t recognize. I could tell so many stories, but I really don’t want to seem as if I’m glorifying the years I went through this. There is nothing glorifying about it. I have chosen to tell some that are quite remarkable. As you read about my journey, understand that in between these stories there are hundreds I’ll keep to myself. There are many that I am just too ashamed to tell. The stories are told in order for you to understand the madness that goes along with addiction. They must be told in order to get a glimpse into a world of absolute chaos and confusion. I wanted to share my story so that others would know that someone understands their pain. I also wanted to share my journey so others would know there is a way out and there is hope.

 I want you to realize that many addicts’ stories make mine look like a walk in the park. Yes, my addiction was terrible, strong, and life-altering, but there are folks whose addiction is beyond words. Many people face terrible legal battles because of addiction, resulting in felonies and often jail time. Fortunately for me, I never had to face those consequences. Eventually, I likely would have, but by the grace of God I didn’t. Regardless, my consequences were bad enough. I was in rehab with a girl who was addicted to pain meds, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and Xanax, all at the same time. I know of a young husband and father, who on Christmas Eve, after everyone had gone to bed, traded all of his kids’ Christmas presents for drugs. When the little boy and girl woke up early the next morning there was nothing under the tree, and their dad was not at home either. He had decided that chasing the dragon was the best Christmas present he could buy. The selfishness of his habit and the need to feel better far outweighed the happiness of his wife and children.

I know another man who left his family and spent nearly three months living with a drug-addicted prostitute twenty years younger than he was. She promised him a trip around the world with all the benefits. That world, however, was in a dilapidated crack house with no running water, heat, or windows.  This now wafer-thin walking carcass was a medical doctor.

Even though I never got to that point, it doesn’t matter. Eventually it would have gotten worse and worse. This is just my horrific story. Mine was terrifying for those around me and for myself. The success rate for those beating addiction is not good, but the relapse rate is even higher. There are no winners in active addiction, regardless of the severity. The only winners are the ones who eventually overcome and get into recovery.

You will laugh some as you read parts of this book.  You will also be amazed at some of my stupidity. Through it all, though, I knew exactly what I was doing, and I hated it. Although I hated it I just couldn’t get a grip to stop, at least not by myself. Even though this story focuses on a subject mired in pain and darkness, it is actually a book of hope. It ends with redemption and mercy. It ends in victory. So many people have lost loved ones because of addiction. I consider myself one of the very few lucky ones.

You will probably notice I do not talk much about our home life, although it was at times chaotic. That chaos was because of me.  I left this out on purpose. When deciding to re-write this book, one of the things my wife Angie and I discussed was keeping our kids’ lives as private as possible.  Therefore, you will not read about the day-in and day-out happenings of our kids’ lives, even though my addiction indirectly and sometimes directly affected them. There are sections in which they are mentioned as it relates to the setting.

The early years leading up to the subject of this book were relatively normal. I was on the road playing music most of the time, but things at home maintained a typical sense of ordinary.  The kids had school, sports, and friends. Angie taught school and coached cheerleading. We were involved with our church. We were a close family, and the home was happy. My kids loved us and we loved them. Of course, through the years of my active addiction, those blessings were severely put to the test. Hopefully, you will be able to decipher through that.

The book is broken into a particular time frame. A few chapters deal directly with my entry into the music world and playing in my band, Age of Faith, for many years. It chronicles the music business and the effect it had on my life. I write about my life after coming off the road and how depression played a major role in my addiction. The chapters dealing directly with my active addiction are often graphic, sad, and also at times unbelievable.

I have waited for almost eight years to tell my story, mostly out of protection for my family. Many see addiction as a weakness, a moral issue, or a major flaw in a person. I live in a small town where folks talk. The decision to now open up and tell what happened in my life will make me extremely vulnerable. Doors may open for criticism, gossip, and ridicule. Those that choose to react in that matter are most likely acting out of ignorance, immaturity, or lack of education.

The opposite will also take place. There will be many who will applaud my honesty. My hope is that there will be those who will get the help they may need. Others will be able to better understand what their loved one or friend is going through. If I didn’t feel that the release of this book would be beneficial to others, I would have never taken the risk. This decision is also a means of freedom. The truth will set you free, and this book of ugly truth has broken the chains of secrecy and shamefulness for me. Without telling the story, there is no way of helping anyone else.

Addiction is ravishing the United States. According to an article in Rolling Stone magazine from April 2014, the state of Pennsylvania reported 22 overdose deaths in one week as a result of heroin mixed with Fentanyl, a powerful narcotic pain reliever.  Thirty-seven deaths similar to those in Pennsylvania were also reported in Maryland a few months later.

Most just think like Nancy Reagan did. “Just Say No” was her big campaign in the 80’s. Sorry Nancy, that just doesn’t work. Until one has walked in the shoes of addiction, there is absolutely no way it can fully be understood. There is no room for judgment or finger pointing. Once a person walks in those shoes they will never be the same. There is compassion for the addicted that takes place within, which is unmistakable. That compassion is why, in this period of my life, I have felt the call and desire to help those who stand where I once stood.  It is also where many of the songs I have written through the years will take on new meaning. New songs will be written for the sole purpose of providing comfort to people desperately in search of a new beginning.

This book is written from a perspective, which centers on my faith. However, this book is for everyone, regardless of his or her belief system. It does not preach, nor does it have an agenda for my faith. On the other hand, if I didn’t speak boldly and truthfully of my faith, I would be downplaying that aspect of my recovery and my life.

After the book was completely written, a friend suggested that my wife, Angie, write a chapter or as many as she wanted, detailing what addiction does to the innocent. Describing what the madness looked like from her perspective can influence so many people. She was reluctant to do so at first but then understood the impact it could have on other women (or men for that matter) whose spouse is an addict. I firmly believe it will be the most powerful chapter in the book. Everyone seems to always read what the addict went through, but the ones hiding in the shadows are often overlooked. After all, addiction is a family disease. Her words open the door for her story.

I tell my story actually a bit reserved. I honestly cannot put into words how I really felt during this time. You can’t feel what I felt, and honestly I’m glad. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. What I went through is a glimpse into what every addict goes through. The only thing different is the time frame, the names, and obvious consequences. I’ve talked with hundreds of other addicts or former active addicts, and every story is similar. They all end the same. The thread of destruction, lies, theft, loss of dignity and self, weave through the life of everyone crippled with this disease. There is one common element among every person that chooses this lifestyle.  It is found in these words: “I’m tired of this. I can’t live like this any longer.” No one ever says, “I like living this way.” Every person I see is tired of the chase. They are sick of being sick. Here is what I believe:  If you are an addict, have a family member who’s an addict; a friend, a co-worker, etc. understand that they don’t have to live this way. There is light at the end of the dark, deep tunnel. There are millions just like I was. Some make it, but many do not. Addiction is a killer disease that has the potential to become one of the leading causes of death in the world.  So, finally, after all this time of waiting, this is the long and winding rocky road I traveled, and I’m glad you now get to read my story.