Lately things in my life are incredibly beautiful. Today May 16th I am celebrating 3 years of continuous sobriety. Some would even say its my birthday today. 3 years ago I made a decision to talk about what I was going through to someone who I thought could help. It’s really that simple, Just speak up. Use your voice as a platform to show that you aren’t okay. Ive decided to use mine to encourage others to speak out about their struggle with mental illness and hopefully encourage others to do the same. I am not embarrassed about my story anymore. Although it is vulnerable, i’m sure there are others who can relate to what i’ve been through. I have started an organization with my friend called “Finding a lost voice”. Our goal at Finding a lost voice is to reach out to anyone who may be feeling lost, suffering from addiction, struggling with mental illness, experiencing suicidal idealizations, or simply facing extreme adversity with an emphasis on, but not limited to, the younger generations. It’s hard to know where to find help, and we know first hand how easy it is to feel alone in this world. We believe that everyone deserves to have a voice, and to have that voice heard. We want to be the safe place you’re looking for, “the port in your storm”. We care what you’re going through, we hear what you’re saying. We promise to take on your troubles as if they were our own and to help you resolve them. You’re worth it. You’re life has purpose.

Our website with referral sources for professional help will be up shortly, but in the meantime we have places for you to seek professional help so don’t hesitate to reach out. Please be on the lookout for us to share the website when it’s done. In the meantime if you wish to share you’re story we would love to hear it and share it with others as well. We are going to be raising money to scholarship those in need into substance abuse treatment and detox, as well as family and one on one therapy with professionals.

Here is my story:

“My earliest memory of feeling different is from the third grade. My teacher, Mr. Mo, called my mother and told her that I was the smelly kid in class. He said that I needed to start wearing deodorant as soon as possible, and that the other teachers were discussing my stench. From that point on I felt like a target. Mr. Mo would bully me, he would always pick me to erase the chalk board, clean up after class, etc. Whatever the case was, I was always singled out. Eventually, he convinced my mother to take me to a psychiatrist, insisting that I must have A.D.D. Of course my brain was scattered. I, like most kids watched commercial television where you would get 5 minutes of show and 15 minutes of randomized commercials. Now, I’m not saying A.D.D doesn’t exist, but I feel like every kid was labeled as having this disorder because their parents or teachers just didn’t want to deal with a kid being a kid. Instead, let’s put them on a medication that will completely take away their personality, or worse… get them addicted.

I was put on a mix of medications for A.D.D and depression. It was such a horrible combination that I started pulling out my hair and twitching. I quickly developed bald spots. I got a haircut one day and the barber didn’t listen to a word I said; he buzzed my head. “Looks good kid, forget about it” he said, in the most cliché NY mobster voice. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t want to go to school. My mom convinced the principal to let me wear a hat, but it was a lose/lose situation. I was either the only kid in school allowed to wear a hat, or I was the weirdo with bald spots. My neighborhood buddies used to steal my hat when we would get together, and I would usually just go home crying. Just kids being kids, right?

Looking back, I was always the “bigger” kid. I was never fat, I just wasn’t a twig like everyone else. That kind of bullying never leaves you. It is something I still struggle with today, but the difference is that now I am truly overweight. My grandparents tell me to lose weight every time I see them, and it quite honestly has the opposite effect. It makes me feel ashamed and unwanted, but instead of drugs or alcohol my biggest comforts are 7-11 taquitos and ice cream.

I’ve always had a large group of friends, but I’ve always felt alone. I used to think no one could possibly understand me. I’ve always just felt different than everyone else. I lived my life every day as if I was at a party full of people, just watching everyone party but not feeling a part of. I like to believe I’m a pretty likable person, but it’s also very easy to put on this facade.

When I was 12 I discovered a way to not feel like myself. I would go an hour up north with my step dad to see my step aunt, and when we got there I would fill half a water bottle with Hennessy and replace the liquor with water. There was a kid a little younger than me who lived next door. I would go to his house and we would both drink it, making faces at each other like it was so gross but also thinking we were so cool. By freshman year of high school, my neighborhood friends and I used to sit at the nearby gas station with some of our allowance money and wait for someone that would buy us a few six packs of mike’s hard lemonade.

At 14 or 15 I started working at McDonalds. One of my coworkers asked me if I had ever smoked pot, and I said, “hell yeah man” even though I never had. After work one day he invited me to go smoke in the park with his boys. I’ll never forget that day for the rest of my life. I felt completely tranquil and inspired and it was the coolest thing in the world. I wanted more, and I wanted it every single day. I would often see my neighbor using and selling various drugs to his friends. Sometimes I’d buy from him, sometimes I would just steal it from the front seat of his truck because he was stoned and forgot to lock it. (If you’re reading this, I’m sorry, but those free rides to your so called “job” needed to pay for themselves somehow)

I had a best friend. We became friends the summer before junior year of high school, and we remained best friends until a few years back. He’s the best guitar player I’ve ever met and one of the funniest people in the world. Around this time, I had been playing drums for about a year and was good thanks to a great man named Danyl Dubsky, who is no longer with us. My best friend and I started a band. He drove a gold Kia Mini Van with subwoofers and bean bag chairs for seats. On the weekends, we would go to the trailer park and pick up this 40-year-old woman and she would buy us a fifth of vodka. We would go to my house and just pound shots until we got sick. It was my favorite thing to do because it made me feel worthy of having this friendship. For the first time, I felt like I had someone to relate to. I got him to smoke weed and that made us even tighter as friends. We made some really cool music, too. Unfortunately my depression and anxiety led me to isolate and lash out on those who really did care. I was real good at pushing people away.

Smoking pot and drinking continued. It ended up getting to a point of not knowing who I was anymore. I felt trapped and afraid of what everyone thought of me. I just did whatever I thought was “cool” at the time to make someone laugh or to make someone like me. I got very lost. The only thing to get outside of myself at this point was to take a larger dose of my A.D.D meds than prescribed, drink, and smoke.

There was a girl that put butterflies in my stomach. I hated myself so much that I didn’t think anyone could possibly like me. I was too embarrassed to be real with her about how I felt. I finally got the courage to ask her out and she said yes, but it wasn’t long before she was kissing someone else at the bar. I was at school in Tallahassee when I heard the news. I texted someone I knew as sober, but instead of asking for help, I told him I was going to drink a whole bottle of Jack Daniels and drive into a tree. Next, I turned off my phone, swallowed a handful of my A.D.D meds, snorted a few more, and then drank half a bottle of rumple minze. I left my phone at home, went to a park by myself, and then to a bar to see one of my favorite bands play. By the time I got home my roommates had assumed the worst. That guy I texted had called the cops, who put out an APB on me for suicide watch across the entire state of Florida. I had 128 missed calls from my entire family, friends, and even that girl. I told everyone I was completely fine now, that it was a mistake, and to move forward. I stayed awake for 3 days straight because of the amphetamines in my system and that became my new thing.

When winter came, I was hanging out with this band from Naples who asked me to come on tour with them. From that point on I started touring the world, working for bands and playing music. I couldn’t fall asleep without being drunk and some nights I couldn’t fall asleep at all because I was taking so many amphetamines. I mentioned my sleep issue to somebody and he replied, “if you’re having trouble sleeping, take one of these”. That’s when I discovered opiates.

Cocaine/amphetamines and painkillers were my new best friends. They allowed me to function normally all day without feeling like myself. I couldn’t function without them. It took over my life. I was a miserable piece of shit when I didn’t have any. I hated myself, but mostly because I didn’t even know who I was. Touring gets lonely. Sure, you hang out with people every day, you socialize at shows, but you still feel lonely, homesick. I felt like my friends from back home forgot who I was. I used to wonder if they even cared about me at all. I have a lot more side stories to tell about my battle with drugs and life, but that’s not the point of sharing this.

I came to a fork in the road. My mind was telling me that everyone in the world would be better off without me. I just wanted it to end. I tried to pretend like it was all okay, but it wasn’t.

Eventually, I spoke to someone who I could trust about how I was feeling and he brought me to some places where the people felt the same way. I got off the drugs and alcohol and started learning who I am. I have 3 years sober today. I continue to go to those places where people feel the same way. My life today is just as wild as it was, but I am present for it now. I can be there for my friends and family. Today, I look in the mirror and love all 300+ pounds that I see. I embrace my flaws. I know who I am, and I love that person, because without that love I am unable to love others.

I have a beautiful life today and it’s because I found that meek little voice and said something to someone about how I was feeling. I believe that you need to have a voice in everything you do, whether it’s your relationships, your friendships, or simply just speaking up about your own mental illness and flaws.

Hopefully if you’ve read this far you are encouraged now to find yours and share your story.

“It’s okay to NOT be okay. Tell someone.”

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