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I’ve always believed that the value of family is fundamental. That’s what love is. Family. A fundamental unity or connection. That is the most important thing to me. FAMILY IS EVERYTHING! That’s why love is God. I am struggling to write this letter explaining my passion and dedication to community activism because it literally means EVERYTHING to me. It is my core purpose in life– seeking solutions for the challenges we face and implementing change to lessen the pain and challenge involved in growing up and becoming independent. I’ve felt very ashamed, worthless, and alone throughout most of my life. It began in my early childhood when my family would argue and I began feeling different. I remember when I was about 11 or 12 years old telling my mom that I felt like an alien trapped in a humans body. That was the only way I knew to express my sense of disconnection. I realize now that it was a result of language and judgement.
Early on, I had trouble feeling like I could truly express myself using words. A hug was more satisfying and I loved sitting next to my mom for hours and hanging out or talking or watching tv. I felt most comfortable sleeping in her bed with her on nights while my fther was out of town working. He is an accounting professor with university and while we lived in Austin, he took a position at the University of Illinois. He commuted back and forth from Sunday through Thursday. I missed him during that time because I loved working on projects with my dad. I loved it when he’d teach me things and we’d play games together. It was hard when he was away more than half the time.
I like to question things and learn how they work and I don’t mind taking risks– I feel they are critical for a person to actually live. I am curious by nature and I believe curiosity and creativity go hand in hand. I want to understand how things work and why. I am a compassionate person and my empathy is all-consuming. The work that I do often brings me to tears as I want to be successful and use my experience to prevent anyone else from having to go through what my family and I have. It’s unnecessary suffering
My greatest desire is to feel united with all else. Starting with my mom, I’ve felt a deeply profound sense of connection or entanglement with others. A union which has become separated and yearns to become whole again. A lot of it has to do with the words we say and judgements we make. As an adolescent, I really began questioning what is consciousness. How does it interface with physical reality, or the body, and is it consistent for everyone? I became intrigued by things like quantum mechanics and relativity, philosophy, cognitive science and anthropology. The list goes on and I felt like every topic had a set of clues to learn from and give a better understanding of myself and the universe– or God if you choose to call it that. I love looking at the beauty in nature and the stars…
When I was 13, I started smoking pot and I was intrigued with its ability to change my consciousness. I had lost interest in Christianity, and sought truth through nature and science, Not long after that I tried LSD and I liked that it allowed me just to laugh at myself rather than being so critical all the time like I had learned from my teachers and my parents. Authority figures always seemed so judgemental of the weird eccentric style I felt comfortable expressing myself with. I love bright colors and weird music and I’ve always felt more connection to others by appreciating our differences. I see beauty in flaws. My uniqueness made me feel valuable. While my family had always wanted me to be and act normal, I always knew I was different and it seemed wrong to not acknowledge that. Conflict seemed to grow and grow all based around judgements and beliefs and I always associated my struggle with being myself and the approval of my parents. Much of it was based on my drug use– My mom and dad didn’t want me to use drugs because they’re illegal. It seemed so silly and arbitrary to discriminate this one plant because it altered perception. Teachers alter perception. Plus, it didn’t make me feel lazy like some people said. I felt different, but in a good way– more creative, fresh ideas and novelty.
I liked to goof around, and test things out, investigate the source of things and explore, and be creative… so at 13, I was trying to understand “who am I” when I was introduced to marijuana.
Here is a PLANT that is ILLEGAL but WHY? I’m curious! 🙂 It made me feel different and allowed me to think outside of the beliefs, or limits, my parents had instilled in me. That had value to me, meanwhile my dad told me money doesn’t grow on trees and I need to get a job. I needed money to buy pot and so I did what Teddy Roosevelt said to do- “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” -TDR
Before long, I was printing fake money and trading it for pot. It seemed so simple and harmless; $20,000 later and the secret service came knocking. They confiscated my father’s computer and I never again felt like I belonged to this society. I withdrew more and more over the next several years; finding myself in increasing trouble and powerless, I sought other ways of life and became interested in studying the diverse cultures of the world.
I dislike conflict and I began feeling like I was in a battle with the world. My perception of humans became very dualistic and it seemed to me(based on my relationship with my parents) that conflict was the fundamental aspect of every relationship. I found it easier to isolate and before long, heroin became my source of relief.
By 19, I had found opiates and heroin. I had lost all respect and concern for myself and was stealing to support my habit. That increased my level of shame and guilt and this became a vicious cycle. Before I was 20 years old, I had lost my sense of connection to the people I needed most and had increasing trouble with the law. I didn’t care about anything because I didn’t care about myself. I accepted that I would never be ‘normal’ and this allowed me to justify they things I was doing. I was caught entering people’s homes in the night looking for small things to steal to support my habit. I was terrified of withdrawal and avoided it at all costs. I wanted comfort and could find that nowhere else than the pain killing effects of opiates.
I spent those 2.5 years in prison reading and studying algebra and calculus. I found a job working for the college coordinator and began tutoring students preparing for the GED and teaching a small math class. I felt appreciated for the first tome and that was amazing. I knew I had a mission to accomplish by sharing my pain and challenges with the world. My strongest desire is to help people and I felt like none of my experiences were for waste. My own pain and struggle seemed the best experiences I could get. If only change were as easy as I had hoped.
I struggled with heroin for about 10 years before I finally found the strength to quit. I tried everything, rehab, AA, NA, counseling, anti-depressants– I just could find no relief and my life was a constant battle. I learned to hate myself and through my process of growth that has occurred since I hit my bottom, I finally was able to begin accepting myself and my past choices. I learned to forgive myself, and to love myself. My parents had always said they loved me, yet I felt constant judgement and disappointment from them. I believe love is unconditional and when I was finally able to forgive myself and accept myself, I knew it was my duty to use all of my pain and experience to help others struggling with those same issues. I wanted to prevent anyone from having to feel so alone and worthless and empty. I felt by writing a memoir, I could share my story. I had been inspired and encouraged by reading memoirs of others who had gotten through addiction. I had spent my life feeling hopeless so this came as a major relief.
I still had many years of pain and sometimes overwhelming challenges. Those old feelings can sometimes resurface and drag me down but I have grown so much, I don’t give up when something is important to me. I accepted that I was here to change how our culture deals with and drug use/abuse and crime. My parents think I’m crazy and I wish I could feel like we are on the same team, but I sometimes wonder if that is possible. I used to feel I was on a team by myself. Finding other people with the same level of dedication to seeking solutions for the challenges we undergo. I realized challenge as a path to growth and found value in it. As I learned to love and accept myself, I felt that love and acceptance for everything. I had truly found my purpose and joined an organization of people much like me who have found the greatest satisfaction in life is helping others and offering my experience so that hopefully no other child has to experience that level of pain and isolation.
I began writing a memoir and journaling. This helped me make sense of much of my thoughts and experiences and as I began sharing my writings with others, I was surprised how many people identified with those same thoughts and feelings that has so severely crippled me. My insights seemed to assist others in their process and I had my first sense of achievement. I’ve met some of the most amazing snd inspiring people through this process and I’ve found so much hope.
I used to lie about so much because I was ashamed or felt hopeless. I decided those lies were only hurting myself. I had to find the strength to let go of my guilt and shame so that I can freely express my past without judgement. I have no greater purpose in life and I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity.