Rat in a Cage

Going to High School in the ’90s, I loved the Smashing Pumpkins song “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.” In those days, one of my go-to saying back was “White Girl Wasted” at parties. Once that song came on, I was full-on mosh pit mode SCREAMING the lyrics, “DESPITE ALL MY RAGE I’M STILL JUST A RAT IN A CAGE.” Ironically most of the parties back then were typically in a garage. I was notorious for being the drunkest or craziest person at any party. I was also a natural athlete that succeeded in all three sports.

All-state in Football, All-League in Basketball, and a State Champion in Track. I lived what many would say: a perfect life, homecoming king, popularity, everything a teenager desired. But those who knew me best knew there was a darker side to me that no one could figure out.

This dark side entailed irritability, temper, and flat-out meanness. I was the rat in the cage, not allowing anyone to know my true self; hell, I didn’t know precisely why I acted this way. On my sixteenth birthday, I got drunk and broke up with my first girlfriend for no real reason except I knew she was getting too close to me. Reflecting on this time, she was the first girl I loved, possibly the only girl I loved.

Peeing your pants is cool

I love every Adam Sandler movie he has put out. The worst part of his movies for me was the constant joke about one of the characters peeing their pants. Watching his movies at someone’s house or on a bus I had it memorized when his movies had the pee joke scene coming up. I would leave the room, pretend I was sleeping, any excuse to try and avoid the embarrassment of someone saying, “GRIFF!!!” Like anyone wants to be known as the guy that pees their pants.

Once my Senior year of Football was over, partying became a ritual on the weekends and a necessity. During those times, it was a lot of alcohol and some weed now and again. Once College hit, I developed a full-on drinking problem. Drinking myself to unconscious was very common. To make matters worse, I had no control over what I did once I “Blacked Out,” What I said, what I did, where I went piss; yes, I was known as a pisser. I would pee on floors, couches, and beds.

Hell, one time, I pissed in my buddy’s car. Anyone that has been that wasted knows the feeling of absolute guilt and unworthiness. Those days after drinking like that, I had strong thoughts of suicide. At one point in time, I told a roommate, “I gotta quit drinking” his response was, “Well, that’s never going to happen.” But what else would you expect from a 21-year-old kid in College?

My message is simple to anyone that has fallen under peer pressure or living up to some standard that does not make you happy. You have the choice, remove yourself from the situation, remove yourself from the people that expect you to be a certain way, if it’s an addiction, go get help. I still struggle with the fact I spent over 20 years drinking alcohol when I knew it made me miserable.

As the drinking progressed, weed turned into harder drugs, precisely any type of speed, blow, meth, whatever I could get. My thought was that if I could stay awake, I won’t piss myself. WOW, what a revelation. It was not as effective as I thought. I never really had a girlfriend in College. Lots of one-night stands, and the girls that I liked, I ended up running them off because they wanted me to change, whatever that meant.

I started for the football team in College all four years and participated in track and all-conference in both but never had any consistency; I wonder why. Going to school was awful. I had to lie about why I was missing so many classes constantly. I never knew what it was like to be consistently great in my life and consistently honest until I got the proper help I needed.

New Jersey Shore

Finally, in my senior year, I got my shit together. For the most part, I graduated from College and decided to move to the Tri-State area, specifically New Jersey Shore, to pursue a career in broadcast. The first interview with a television station said I would have an easier time getting a job if I were female or not white.

I used this as a reason to quit pursuing that career and played the role of the victim. Instead, I took a job with an entertainment company and made more money than I have ever made up to this point in my life, which meant more money to spend on partying. I did enjoy my share of successes in the entertainment world. I was a featured emcee, did voice-over work, and was named entertainer of the year in 2003. New drugs came into the picture, specifically prescription pills and crack, which led to significant amounts of alcohol.

After three and half years I spent in New Jersey, after my second DUI and trying to kill myself, I knew it was time to return to the midwest. I got back into coaching football. At this point, I quit drinking and still smoked pot, but at the time, I called it “sober.” In the world of coaching, it is hard not to drink. I was back to my old self, drinking to blackness. I did have some moments of clarity that drew me closer to spirit. I would quit drinking during the Lent season, the 40 days and 40 nights leading up to Easter. I found those times I was always the happiest and most productive.

The Secret

I read “The Secret,” and things began to align. Practicing mantras to get a College Football job at a four-year school was the main mantra at this time. The Law of attraction does work. I landed a College Football Job at a four-year school. Life was opening up. I was not drinking during Lent, but I was always smoking weed. I met a girl down there, seeing her for the first time.

I felt an immediate attraction. At the time, I thought it was love at first sight. Now that I have more awareness and have done so much research on both of our personalities I have my theories but don’t find it necessary to share. The bottom line, she helped me through many dark times and I took advantage of her one too many times. As painful as it is to say, I do not blame her for anything. That is the most powerful thing we can do in life. Take one hundred percent accountability for everything that has happened in your life. Blaming someone for your circumstances will never give you the power to take control of your own life.

She loved it when I was drinking, she always had pot, and she liked to do blow from time to time; it was excellent. After our staff got fired, I tried to break up with her, but she gave me some story about never settling down, never having a family, blah blah blah. I was not hearing much of it, but she always had weed; her Dad was loaded, so I thought how bad could it be. I think we all make decisions that are comfortable in life. It’s almost as though we make decisions to make it safely to death, so we moved in together, married at the courthouse, and began living our life.

Not long after being married, my wife asked me, after a heated conversation, “Why did you marry me?” The first time I was genuinely speechless; I did not know what to say. I have always been able to BS my way through anything, and now I felt like she finally called my bluff. Finally, I managed to create a generic response that satisfied her. Then and there, I knew I did not marry her for the right reasons, and this marriage was a farce. But how could I leave, divorce was never an option in my mind. I have no regrets about staying, we had our share of trials but we also had some really good times.

Moving to the Northwest, I worked from home as the primary caretaker, and she was the primary earner. Life was pretty good, we both were drinking, and there was always pot. Depression started to sink in during those days, and I forgot to mention that I had gotten a prescription for Adderall several years before and tried quitting it before our firstborn. Visiting with my doctor about my symptoms, and he said I don’t need 20 mg. I need a 30 mg script. Thanks, Doc! Once our son was born, things were pretty good, but my drinking was out of control. The months that I would quit for lent weren’t a choice anymore. I was really depressed in the Northwest, if you ever want to move to this part of the country, ask yourself if you can live without seeing the sun for five months.

After two years in the Northwest, she decided to take a job closer to home in the midwest. I was so co-dependent at this time. I would do anything she would say and be scared ever to disagree. Moving back was great. I tried a different medication other than Adderall and had a terrible blackout one day that almost led to her leaving. She had a business dinner set up with a guy who was known to be very aggressive with women, so I had decided to drink a bunch of tequila and nighttime tea before putting our son down for a nap.

The next thing I know, I wake up to her screaming at me as I’m naked in our bed, covered in piss. She storms off, grabs our son, and says she is leaving. I gathered myself as best as I could to call her on the phone, pleading with her to come home or I was going to hang myself. What the hell was I thinking? All that did was get the cops to come over and make a great impression on the new neighbors in suburbia America.

We made mends the following day. At that moment, driving down the interstate, I told her I was through with drinking alcohol. She asked me if I was sure. I thought, of course, that was insane. When our second son came around, I worked full time, got back involved in coaching, and mentoring, and felt I was on purpose.

Taking Pills

The one thing I have not mentioned in this story is from New Jersey until now, I was always open to taking any pills, Xanax, pain pills, anything. I would not actively search for them, but I did steal a bottle of pain pills from her mom once and was always on the lookout for prescription bottles when I was at anyone’s house. I know pretty sick to think that was how I lived but pills seemed so much easier than alcohol or weed. I mention this now because I was getting more involved with pain pills, and from July to April, I started taking fentanyl.

In an era of information, ignorance is a choice, and I chose ignorance to this poison. My wife always knew I was getting pills, but once I started getting them regularly, she clarified that it better not be fentanyl. Putting our oldest son to bed one night, he asked me, “Daddy will you be alive when I have kids?” I knew as soon as I said I would be alive for his kids, I would never touch fentanyl again. Three days later, I went through the most horrific pain and suffering I have ever known.

The withdrawals from this garbage are something I wish upon no one. Watching my wife why I was shaking like I was getting electrocuted for hours made me realize she was going to leave me. But I was in the frame of thought if I kept working hard, everything would work out. I looked into getting rehab, but by that time, she was furious at anything I had to say. I don’t blame her. Our marriage had faults; the foundation of our relationship was partying and compliance. I was not observant enough to ever realize this fact; I thought we were in love.

Get help. Don’t Die

My wife called me on a Saturday in August, as I was returning from work. She was leaving, taking the kids, getting help, don’t die. I was in denial for the longest time; I was suicidal more than ever but never acted on it; I started drinking again because I could not sleep.

For Sixty-nine days, I did not see my family. Thirty of those days I spent at the Sanctuary in Cornville, AZ, where I received the best care I have ever known. My time at the Sanctuary was the hardest I have ever worked, the most pain I have ever endured, but the rewards I am reaping today far exceed the pain I went through. The consistent happiness, peace, and joy I have daily are why this podcast is here and now.

I have always been a leader, coach, teacher, and motivator, and now I have the tools and ability to help anyone that has gone through addiction, depression, separation, anxiety, or all emotions that cause any damage in their life. Developing patience and dealing with my anger has always been a struggle. I know we can all exchange higher levels of consciousness and awareness if we are willing to do the work. It takes work to change. Some of us say that we want to change but do we want to change.

Making any change will make us uncomfortable, and we must find a way to be comfortable getting uncomfortable. The work I did down at the Sanctuary opened my entire being to the darkest events I had suppressed since I was five. Unveiling physical and sexual abuse has caused me anxiety and depression every since. Being able to address those core wounds and replace my evil coping skills with healing ones has transformed my life. I intend to share and talk about these coping skills to help us all live a life out of our cages.