My story, like everyone’s story, could go lots of ways. Given where I started, it might be surprising where I ended up, but in some ways, it’s the only way it could have gone.
I was born December 9, 1985, at a healthy — maybe a little too healthy — 10 pounds, 11 ounces (to this day I have cousins who still call me “chubbs”). My parents, Stevan and Mary, have loved me every minute of my life. My hometown of Roseau, Minnesota — home to Polaris snowmobiles and the royalty of the National Hockey League — is a safe, small-town where I was surrounded by friends and family.
American small-town life might sound ideal but it can be the setting for any kind of story.
Roseau was the town of back road drinking and hunting, getting a solid job, marrying your high school sweetheart, and having some babies. I, however, had something entirely different in mind. I saw myself as a rock star, destined for greatness so I left the small town for the big city.
My freshman year at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities was in the fall of 2004. My parents paid for everything: room and board, tuition, and extra spending money. My only requirement was to stay in school and get passing grades. I did just that. In the fall of 2008, I graduated with a marketing degree.
In my junior and senior year, I ran a painting franchise for the biggest painting company in North America. I was educated and privileged. And yet that is precisely when it all fell apart.
What was my downfall? The short answer was substance abuse. I started with alcohol and marijuana and I moved on to cocaine, ecstasy, hallucinogens, and prescriptions. My addiction progressed to the point where there wasn’t anything left to try. I’d done crack, heroin, and methamphetamines but I still wasn’t fixed. Whatever I was looking for, I hadn’t found it.
If the short answer is substance abuse, the longer answer is insecurities, sadness, and loss. Two of my best high school friends died in two separate car accidents just months apart. A third best friend was left with permanent brain damage from one of those crashes. Four years later, my dad, who I hadn’t talked to for months and although he reached out to me all the time, died at age 53. After that, I didn’t try at my first job. When I was fired, I didn’t look for another one, and I started selling drugs.
After years of self-reflection, treatment, and therapy, I know now that my drug use was a symptom of feelings and beliefs that had been gathering for years. The symptoms led to self-destructive choices and those choices led to prison for trafficking cocaine across state lines.
I started doing time on September 3, 2013, in Milan, Michigan at a Federal Correction Institution — “behind the fence” as many call it. I was there for almost 18 months. Then I was transferred to Yankton Federal Prison Camp in South Dakota on February 26, 2015, where I have been ever since.
My release date of September 10th, 2020, isn’t confirmed but if I get out then, I will do just over 7 years of my 10-year sentence.
By the time I am released, I will be almost 35 years old. Thirty-five and I just figured out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I want to be a writer. I want to show how to turn a story around ~ both on the page and in life.
Even though I was born into love and support and privilege, that doesn’t guarantee anything. No matter how good your start is, everybody can be touched by mental illness, depression, or addiction. But no matter how late you are to the game, it’s never too late to turn it around. Never.
In 2017, I began sharing about my past on construction2style. I wrote about all of it: sad, funny, and absurd.
On resilience2reform, I will continue to share my story but it won’t be just me. Other stories of choices made, consequences suffered, self-discovery, and self-healing can be found here, too. We’re all different but we are all resilient and committed to reform. Each one of us is committed to turning our stories around.
The initial contributors to resilience2reform are four guys from four different worlds who all ended up in the same place. I am starting to believe it wasn’t by accident. We all want to reform our lives and help as many people as possible along the way.
Something is happening here. A movement. Something more powerful than me. I don’t know where the story goes next, exactly. But I’m here to share it.