Saturday, September 22, 2018

Have you ever just been?

April 10, 2017 will always be a special day in the history and memories of my life.  At 10:30 AM, Mike Jacob from the Grant County Sheriffs Department arrived to transport me back to the Grant County Jail – but, not before a stop at McDonald’s for my first real meal in as long as my sentence (Thank you Mike, you will never fully appreciate what that simple act of kindness has meant to me and to my recovery).  I left Plainfield Correctional Facility a week shy of 17 months incarcerated.
This blog is about the week of April 10th – April 18th - - my last week behind bars, my last experiences as a prisoner, and my last thoughts of being not a man but a number.  I arrived at the Grant County Hilton shortly after 12:30 PM and had my first real cup of coffee since December of 2015.  I wrote in my journal that I met Kyle for cOFFEE - - LOL - - actually, he brought cOFFEE to me in Jail and to this day it was better than anything Starbucks has to offer.  Funny thing life is, until prison I didn’t appreciate McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Ruth’s Chris for that matter.  A change in perspective can change a man and my prison sentence certainly helped me realize that I was on a dead-end road of addiction, sin, and a lack of appreciation let alone gratefulness.
My good friend and attorney, David Glickfield came to see me that night and and we prepared for my sentence modification hearing that next morning.  I was so ready to come home, and David assured me that I was going to be successful in my petition for early release.  But, honestly, who really trusts lawyers? 😊 The best part of that first night was dinner (sorry David) – spaghetti with real beef, green beans, actual garlic bread, and, get this - - pineapple, my first real fruit besides an apple in 16 months.  You only get apples and only two a week in prison.  I journaled that it was a restless night but a night of prayer, of reflection, and of trusting God.
The next morning, I was shackled and led across the street to the Courthouse.  The same Courthouse where I represented people just like me in their bids to come home early - - surreal.  When I arrived at Court, I was struck with some serious emotions when I saw the amount of people who had come to support me.  If you remember anything about my story, you will recall that when I was sentenced, the only people there were my parents, Aaron Vermilion and Kyle Beal.  I had literally burned every other bridge in my life and not just burned but stomped on, trampled over, and didn’t look back for the ashes.
Why were all these people there? See, God changed me in prison and in doing so, He changed the hearts of the people in the Courtroom that day (including the heart of Judge Young).  Some came to testify, some came to pray, and honestly some came to see if what they had heard was true.  I am not sure if there was an empty seat or a dry eye during the hearing.  God is good. . . all the time.
I am not sure if I have ever publicly thanked all those who came to support me, so I will today.  Thank you to Tade Powell, David Anderson, Aaron Vermilion, Ann Vermilion, Elle Vermilion, Beck Vermilion, Samuel Vermilion, John and Judy Pennington, Steve and Garie Beal, N.L. and Linda Pennington, Tony Pennington, Chris Pennington, Amy Beal, Seth Beal, Avery Beal, Jim Botkin, Jennifer Moore, Greg Kitts, Evan Hammond, Tom Myers, David Glickfield, Kyle Beal, Blake Beal, Mike Sample, Bruce Elliott, Marty Harker, and Leslie Hendricks (if I missed any forgive me as I was emotional by the time I was able to get back to my cell and write names down).   After a long hearing, Judge Young decided to release me, and I was so excited - - briefly.   I was to be release after I signed rules of probation, which in my experience took about 30 minutes more time and I would be on my way.  Not so in my case as I was not able to sign them until a week later, on April 18th.  Thus, the final week of incarceration and the theme for this blog.
The theme for that last week incarcerated and this blog is that God keeps His promises and answers all prayers. How He answers them is not for me to understand or try to figure out or try to control.  I prayed to go home, and He delivered.  Sure, a week later than Shane and all those people wanted but home nonetheless.  Looking back now I think God wanted a week alone with me.  A week to prepare me, mold me, and guide me.
That week I was reminded that God never left me and was always with me – especially in prison.  How else could I have become things that I was not while suffering in my addiction and prior to prison?  I have become forgiven, tranquil, content, loved, saved, loving, compassionate, happy and kind.
I used that week to reflect and plan.  I prayed.  I meditated.  I read.  I talked to myself (a lot). I talked to God.  I sang.  I drew.  I ate some good jail food (so much better than prison, but that is for a blog all its own). Mostly, I just was.  Have you ever just been?  Just sat?  Just listened?  Just nothing?  Trust me, that’s when God gets you.  I am not suggesting anyone do a week in jail, but I am suggesting trying to get that close God in any way you can – if only for a week.
I am grateful for my prison sentence and especially for that last week because it prepared me for a life of acceptance and trusting God to know way better than me what I need.  A week alone with God is a darn good week, even if where you are is the worse place on Earth.
Because of that last week, I remember these three things:
1)     Hope means the most to those who have lived without it;
2)     Every part of the recovery process requires time and patience;
3)     We must all learn to wait on God.
If you are struggling, it’s okay. . . help is only a prayer away. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Alone . . .

I wanted to stop.  I tried to quit.  I begged God or whoever was up there to save me from myself.  I screamed and cussed at myself, at that same God, and at me again for not being able to end my struggle and quench my pain.
          The fight in addiction is knowing that it is killing me as I set flame to the only thing that is keeping me alive - - the crack pipe.  That pipe is my worst enemy and my best friend.  It holds all the answers and asks no questions.  When I am with it, I am all Alone yet don’t feel the loneliness.  Alone is not a predicament or a state of mind.  Alone is a place.  Alone is sitting on a couch with a gun in hand ready to cure my addiction, ease my pain, and end life for good. Alone is next a prison cell, cold and abandoned, where the forgotten go to remember how life was supposed to be.  Alone is addiction and addiction is Alone. Alone is my mind, my soul, and my being.  Alone is me.
          I do not enjoy sharing some of the things that I have - - I mean who wants to share the pain of past sexual abuse or the struggle with living in the prisons of my life or the pain that I have caused everyone in my path?  Those are things best left to private journals, one to one conversation, and prayers to God.  However, while I was Alone with God in prison, I asked him to take my addiction, ease my pain, and forgive my past. After years of addiction and being Alone, He did just that.  So, I talk about it.  I write about it.  I live it. Not to say look at me but rather to say look at Him.  When you are Alone, you do not have to be.  When you are Alone, you are not. When you are Alone, look up.
          I am sharing this today because a great friend and mentor shared something with me recently about the struggle in being and feeling Alone.  What you will find interesting is that you never read the word Alone in this journal entry.  It’s written in between the lines of pain, of struggle, of confusion.  Alone does that.  Alone tells you that you are not enough.  Alone tells you that you are nothing. What does Alone tell you?
          Alone to me was that cold feel of steel in my hands and how it felt like the only friend I had in the world.  Why didn’t I pull the trigger of my friend that day?  Why did I have to go to prison shortly thereafter to be more Alone?  I will never know.  I do know that after God saved me, I was not Alone.  I do know that reading this journal entry again today, I am never Alone.  There are many people who are feeling Alone today, and I just wanted you to know that you are never Alone.  Trust me, so you don’t have to learn the hard way or worse, not at all.
          I pause to share the journal entry that was shared with me and then I will come back to wrap this up and tell you about the liar who goes by the name, Alone.
Alone will tell you that no one cares, especially God.  That is a lie.  Your mother, father, brother, friend, neighbor, son, daughter, friend, and co-worker all care immensely and God cares more than you could ever imagine.  Gregory Boyle says, "divine love is incessantly restless until it turns ALL woundedness into health, all deformity into beauty, and all embarrassment to laughter."  Simply put, God does not intend for you to be Alone.  Realize that God is too busy loving you to have any time left for anything else.  Boyle goes on to say, "behold the One who cannot take His eyes off you."  That is love.  That is God.  That is how God sees you.  

When your addiction, your situation, or your prison tell you that you are Alone, remember that is a lie.  You are loved.  You are enough.  You are never Alone. 

Put down the needle.
Put down the crack pipe.
Put down the bottle.
Put down the shame.
Put down the past.
Put down the poison.
Put down the prison.
Put down the regret.
Put down the wrongs.

Put down the Alone in your life and trust God to pick you up, brush you off, and say, "Welcome home, I have been loving you, watching you, and waiting for you."

If you are struggling, it's okay. . . Help is only a prayer away. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Trust for sale. . .

Love is a lifestyle in which my thoughts and actions are guided by my concern for others.  I needed recovery not just from crack, meth, or the bottle but from a life lived solely for my own gratification. As I sought to escape my inner pain through the fleeting pleasures of my drugs, I became blind to the needs of the people around me.  At the end of the day, drugs took everything, including every ounce of trust from my loved ones and friends.  The drug lifestyle left my past littered with broken promises, hurt people, and fractured relationships.  By the time I was sent to prison, I’m not sure if I had one positive relationship left. Sure, people still loved me, but they loved me from afar, in the backseat, and out of sight.  Honestly, looking back now, I don’t blame them for not being around me, not buying my stories, or believing my lies.  (Note to families: if someone struggling with addiction is talking they are lying).
          At my sentencing hearing, the only people still willing to say anything good about me were my parents, my brother, and my best friend, Aaron.  Looking back, I think that even the good things they tried to muster up about me had long since passed. The hope, love and good deeds they mentioned about me had long since been killed by the crackpipe, the whiskey, and the trail of a life lived wrong. On that day, I was a shell of a man and I didn’t even trust myself…
          Trust is the first thing we lose to addiction and the first thing we all want back in recovery.  I say WE here because EVERYONE in recovery says, “restoring trust, healing broken relationships, and mending connections is the number one thing we all want - - and quickly.”  Unfortunately, quickly and trust are words that are never spoken in the same breath.  Trust is easily lost and hard to gain.  Why is that?  Because trust once earned is ripped away by my addiction – here’s just a few of things that I did in active addiction to lose the trust of everyone in this community:
·     I missed soccer games, plays, visits, family dinners, Holidays, and anything you could imagine.
·     I pawned my Dad’s guns, Amy’s diamond ear rings that I gave to her when Elijah was born, her wedding rings, and rings that my grandmother gave to my mom.
·     I lied to clients about work being done and didn’t do work I said was already done.
·     I wrote checks to friends knowing that they were bad.
·     I borrowed money that is still being paid back today.
·     I stole money from my kids (lowest of low)
·     I did things I said I would never do and told lies I said I would never tell
A good friend of mine in recovery sums up broken trust like this, “I was the guy who would steal from you and then help you look for the real thieve.”  That’s a person that cannot and should not be trusted… and his name was Shane Eric Beal. Based on the list and this statement alone, you can see how easily my trust was lost and how hard it has been to get back.
So, now that I am without trust, how do I get it back???
A life governed by selfless love is the ONLY path to rebuilding my broken past.  Knowing that God loves me no matter what my past, is the place to start in my recovery.  Being able to forgive myself is the key element in starting over.  I must trust myself, believe in myself, and have the hope that things will get better.  If I can get here, the real work of recovery begins.  Rebuilding trust is the key to healing old relationships and building trust is paramount in making new ones. 
Trust takes time.
End of Story.
One of my favorite authors, Greg Boyle, says this, “Trust in the slow work of God.  Ours is a God who waits.  Who are we not to?  It takes what it takes for the great turnaround. Wait for it.”  I love that…
So, we know trust is precious, it is the one desire for all in recovery, and it takes time – so what do we do?  As a Ball State Alum, I am going to give some credit to Dave Letterman here and just supply you with my Top-Ten List of rebuilding trust.
10)          Trust God
9)            Forgive yourself
8)            Trust yourself
7)            Love yourself
6)            Accept and live in the slow pace of doing the right thing today
5)            Do what you say you are going to do
4)            Be open and talk about you wins, your losses, and your struggles
3)            Create a new healthy, noticeable, and predictable routine
2)            Do the next right thing – it’s been said that courage is what you do when no one is watching.  Live your life like everyone is watching
1)            Be HONEST especially when it hurts

Recovery and building trust happen one day at a time.  Don’t make it harder than that.  One of my favorite quotes about today is from Ernest Hemingway in For Whom the Bell Tolls, “Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be.  But what will happen in all other days that will ever come can depend on what you do today.” 
TODAY, JUST DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU ARE GOING TO DO and the all the rest will take care of itself - - in time.

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