Tuesday, June 25, 2019


1,826 days ago my life began again. Five years ago I walked into a courtroom knowing I would be locked away for fifty months, and I stood and faced the judge and calmly walked away—in handcuffs, escorted by a bailiff—to sit quietly for a few years.

I’ve decided to break my writing silence for this post, because today is significant in that for five years, I have abstained from all mind-altering chemicals that I used to need to live. Not one drop, breath, chug, glug or snort. That’s not to say I haven’t failed in other ways, but I’ve remained true to myself, my family, and my friends in this most important way.

This has without question been the toughest portion of my life. I’m in debt—I still owe thousands from starting over when I got out. I owe a car payment, a mortgage, utilities, credit cards, and more. But with my fiancé, my job, and a lot of effort, I’m not behind on any of them. These mountains really are molehills, and I am so grateful to have these financial obstacles because they motivate me to keep trying.

A lot of people motivate me: My love, the girls, my momdad, my readers, my neighbors, my family, my coworkers. They all push me to keep improving in all of my goals and accomplishments. I’ve never been able to do any of this on my own, I’ve had help from so many sources, and I love you all so much. I am alive and thriving today because nobody ever gave up on me. Nobody told me to go away. Nobody turned their back.

On the contrary—aside from certain potential employers—I have been welcomed back into society and given opportunities that normal people take for granted. They let me have a house, a car, and bills. They know what I’ve done, and they wave at me, call me, and call me friend and neighbor. They let me in their homes to eat, cook, and talk. They support me by listening, reading, and loaning me tools I’ve never heard of. They tell me they love me, and I can feel what that means. I can feel.

Prison gave me the chance to start over, albeit with a swift kick to the ass. I will never forget that I do not want to go back there, and many decisions I’ve made since my release have been made solely on that thought. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve owned them, and I’ve moved on. I will make more mistakes, but as I’ve said before, when I screw up now, it isn’t society that feels the burden, it’s just me, and so it’s easier to repair. When I fail now, I adjust and try again, or I try something different, and I still might flop, but I won’t be dead or in prison.

Today I celebrate five years of continued sobriety. I don’t believe I’ve been able to claim this amount of time since I was about twelve years old. (I didn’t hyphenate the age because it came after the noun (me) which I never would have known five years ago.) I am not the same person that walked into that courtroom. I was broken, battered, and angry at the world. I was high, for the last time, and I hated the feeling. The first ten days in jail were fraught with cold-sweats, vivid nightmares, and erratic muscle movement. I had dreams where I escaped through the walls of my dream, and everything on the outside was the same as how I left it, so I went back into jail. When I woke up I was so sure I had been outside, I frantically checked my pockets for cigarettes and a lighter. Nothing. My pockets were empty just like they always were on the outside. I went back to sleep and escaped again, this time into a world of foggy green where my druggie “friends” were all telling me to come back to them when I got out. These were my recurring nightmares.

I didn’t go back. Instead I chose my life.

I did just under fifteen months of my fifty-month sentence, and survived boot camp, I.S.R., and parole. My rights have been restored, and I’m at peace with what I’ve done and where I’ve been.

I am so incredibly grateful for all of you who have—in one way or another—included me in your lives.

Today I am giving myself a little high-five, because I’ve earned it. But really, it’s just another 24-hours.
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This is me the last time I was high: five years ago.

Never forget,

Monday, May 20, 2019

Until Next Time

When my mother and I started writing the original blog nearly five years ago, we had no idea what it would become. I’m sure we still don’t, but we have high expectations that it will be discovered by a descendant of Oprah, long after we are dead and made into a holographic movie—because it’s the future. Our separate blogs often overlap on subject, but have their own theme and passion. She writes about travel, life, and on occasion, prison, recovery, and family. I try to stick with recovery but often life is too brilliant to let it be unwritten.

My life now is as I’ve always hoped it would be: full of love and laughter. It’s not perfect. I still make mistakes; I still fail. But I always keep trying to be better. I persist on this life that I want to keep. I have everything I need, a lot of what I want, and I’m learning. I received a scholarship in fatherhood education, although I might hint that it has cost a lot. I’m still very new at trying to be a role-model for the girls for whom I have purchased a minivan and a home, and I feel as if I didn’t receive the owner’s manual to which I could refer when I am alone. But, again, I keep trying. I keep building relationships with these little people that look up to me for guidance, patience, and apple juice. We are all learning together, and we have ups and downs, but overall, we have a good thing going. I am a Girl Scout dad.

My last post reflected on my engagement to the mother of the two girls we guide through life. We’ve also had our ups and downs, but I stayed with her because I knew from the moment I saw her that it was her that would change my life again. If she hadn’t been sitting in that exact chair, in that precise moment, my life could be different now. But this is where we are, and this is what we are building together. We don’t just own a house together, we are evolving a home. I love all of them, and I want to make this last. So…

I’m taking some time away from writing publicly to spend more time creating this love that I crave now. I’ve taken breaks before, but never for the right reasons, this time I’m not doing it for myself. I will continue to write. I plan on spending my writing time developing a unique, funny, and realistic spin on my wedding vows. I want to create something she will never forget, and something I can actually adhere to, because I can’t have and hold her when I’m at work, and definitely when I’m driving. For better, for worse, in sickness and in health seems so vague. What about herpes? What if I get a superpower from a leech, and I become a new hero called Man-Leech? I would have to commit to that probably as crime dictates.

I want to write something sincere and heartfelt, and I need to take some time with this or I’ll just write stupid jokes like I did in the previous paragraphs. I don’t want it to be cheesy.


So, off I go. I’ll be back, and I’ll update you on my life as it evolves, and I’ll probably change the theme and purpose of the blog at some point before I go live again.

Enjoy the summer if it ever arrives.

So long.

Saturday, May 11, 2019


I fumbled around in my closet and found a pair of black dress pants I had hoped were where I had left them and took them to my dungeon-like basement to take a shower and get ready. When I was done cleaning myself, I put on my white undershirt, underpants, and then became wedged in what turned out to be a pair of Amanda’s work trousers which resembled mine in my haste. Shit. I scrambled to find mine which ended up being in the dryer, and I continued the process of dressing up, doing my hair up, and triple-checking my list which contained only two things: the ring, and the camera.

I had been planning this moment for two years. You see, exactly two years ago I walked into the Lafayette Club for the first time, and that was when I first saw her. I knew nothing of her at the time but something whispered into my conscience, “There she is.” Since then, I’ve sacrificed a lot and gained everything. I’ve actually been planning this proposal for about a month, and it involved a lot of people and a lot of secrets, and it was completely flawed, yet somehow unbelievably flawless.

Wearing my own pants, I checked my pockets for the ring, my wallet, and the ring. I had the ring. I put the camera around my neck and packed an overnight bag for the youngest child for whom I had arranged to be picked up from daycare by a neighbor. She was going to have a sleepover at her friend’s house, and the oldest was going to be picked up by her friend’s father, and she would be sleeping there. Kids: check. This took a lot of arranging, but it had all fallen into place.

I took one more look at the proposal I had written two weeks ago and flew out the door. Oh, I stopped by the flower shop on the way home from work and picked up an arrangement I had ordered on Tuesday. She said, “It’s very important that this stays upright so the water doesn’t fall out of the cups because you have a lot of driving to do.”

“Got it!” I replied.

About two hundred feet into my drive home I heard the flowers tip over in the back of the minivan and I had to pull over, get them out, and wedge them in front of the passenger seat. They stayed put for the duration.

I stopped at my neighbor’s house with the overnight bag and he gave me some words of encouragement and a hug and I was ready. I just had a 45-minute drive to think of all that could go wrong. What if she says no? What if I crash and die? What if this is when the aliens finally come take over and use our anuses for science? What if the flowers die?

I drove and drove, and I rehearsed dozens of times and it sounded perfect. I called Amanda’s coworker and friend who would be responsible for taking pictures and coercing her into coming out into the dining area and told her I was close by, and she met me at my van when I pulled in. We spoke briefly and she took the camera and I put the flowers into a vase with water I had set up. I took a breath. Well, I suppose I always take a breath. But this was a deep one, and I turned and walked in. I received a lot of stares and smiles because the bouquet I ordered was rather extravagant. I smiled politely and continued to breathe.

I made it inside. I passed the front desk and made it to the host stand. This is it. This is the moment. This is what you have wanted for two years. She wants this. You’ve got this.

Eyes closed, deep in meditation. Or possibly I blinked.
But Amanda was busy, and I slowly accumulated a gathering of her coworkers and her boss, who said he would bring her into the “livingroom” which is pretty much a gorgeous lobby with lavish woodwork and charming décor. I waited, and the camerawoman waited on the other side. In a minute, I could hear their voices drawing closer… And closer. And finally, she rounded the corner.

Finally, the woman I want to love forever saw me. “What are you doing here!?” She exclaimed.

You'll notice a theme: Amanda covers her face with the flowers in nearly every picture. there's no intent, it just happened.
And this is where I fell apart. I handed her the oversized bouquet of flowers and cited the first line of my rehearsed proposal. I touched her awkwardly a few times on the shoulder as I stumbled through the words that came so easily in the van, and I told her that I loved her, and that I wanted to lover her forever. I got down on one knee, and I said, “Will you marry me?”

“Yes!” She cried.

And then the aliens came.

Nothing was perfect, and yet it all was, much like life itself. I had also planned with her boss to taker her out afterwards and we went to Acme Comedy Company to see Louis C.K. and laughed for a couple hours. It was a fitting end to a wonderful day.

To show how funny life is, I will include some pictures of the actual proposal, then the one we had to do afterwards because the damn flowers got in the way of everything. Remember, if you want to make God laugh, make plans. I think I could hear him chuckling a few times yesterday.



Thank you to Vanna, Toni and Jake, Emily and Craig, Sandy, Greg, Mom, and everybody who helped me keep this a secret for so long. I couldn't have done this without you all. I almost didn't do it with you all, but in the end, all that matters is that we are officially engaged.
Another landmark move, another step toward the life I have worked to hard to achieve. None of this would have been possible five years ago. I wasn't a person worthy of her hand. Today I am proud, today I am happy. Now I can hold her hand forever.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

I'm Not Funny

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I am just over a month into my new position of Sous Chef at my place of employment. There have been a number of challenges, and a number of obstacles. Those may seem like synonyms, but they are different and each have unique ways of being solved. This is the highest I’ve ever climbed in the ranks of anything, and I think I am doing well for how far in I am, and how much time I’ve actually been able to commit to my new responsibilities. For this post, I will focus on one challenge: me.

It’s been two weeks since my replacement started on the line, and after a week of training, I have been able to spend a majority of my time away from the line, developing new menu items, fabricating meats, preparing ingredients, and learning how to manage people “these days.”

Kitchens have evolved incredibly since my first job 25 years ago. I vividly recall being scolded in front of coworkers (I specifically remember being chastised in presence of the attractive wait staff) for making simple mistakes like putting a pickle on the wrong side of the plate or accidentally missing a bright-blue bandage on a plate and sending it out. The latter is a true story, and it made it past the window, past the eyes of the server, and all the way to the customer who saw the bloody wrap and immediately left the premises after telling the owner. I was probably deserving of the reprimand and more for that one, but I’ve been yelled at for very minor occurrences which were all part of the learning curve at my young age. As I progressed with my skills over the years, I received fewer lectures, and as even more time passed, yelling became sit-downs with owners and management where problems were addressed and solutions were created, all with my input.

These days, people still show anger, confusion, and frustration in kitchens, but in my professional business, we find ways to work it out, or vent behind the scenes. I have been at my current job for nearly two years, and I have had to be called up to one office or another several times. I normally start off the conversation by stating that I’ve been getting called to the office for about 35 years, and usually my mother is present, and we all have a laugh because I am quite funny. But then my supervisor points out some defect of character that I haven’t addressed yet—or something I will probably get in trouble for, for the rest of my life—and I address the problem and move on. This is how we resolve minor issues in 2019. Nobody yells, nobody cries, everybody keeps calm. We speak respectfully and concisely.

As far as me as a manager, I’m learning to communicate professionally and—this is the tough one—without constant sarcasm. It was pointed out to me recently that not everybody perceives my comments as funny and ironic, but instead could be received as literal and haranguing. I don’t break character when I’m trying to be funny, and sometimes I suppose it’s possible that my lack of a smirk when addressing an actual problem with a joke, could actually be hurtful, and could cause people to not like working with me.

It takes everything I have not to write sardonically in this post, and be funny because it is in my nature, but  I have to assume that people I work with may read this, and I have to be selective with my battles and change my banter to each situation or person, and maybe be more selective with whom I choose to share my exceptional set of interpretations on daily life and foodservice.

I want to be funny, but not at the expense of others. I am funny, but not to everybody. And if I want to keep this great—potentially career—job I have, I can make some sacrifices, (Insert funny animal sacrifice joke), and act in a manner according to my job description. I can make plenty of jokes when I get home, because the woman and girls I live with adore me and my hipster-dad funny-guy character. (Insert blank stare picture of Amanda.)

My life has changed over and over, but one thing has remained consistent: my sense of humor as deflection. Maybe it’s time for me to grow up.
 (Insert long pause.)
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But, also maybe.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Time and Time

Time and time again, I find that the age-old adage you can only keep what you have by freely giving it away applies to my life in recovery. Any of my long-time readers know that one of my favorite ways to stay sober, is by bringing meetings to places where people are fresh in from the cold, dark world of alcoholism and addiction. On even rarer occasions, I am asked to share my story. It had been a while since the last time I spoke to a group of people for more than a few minutes, and I wasn’t really sure how long I could go, but the God of my understanding spoke volumes through me to reach those in need of the message of hope.

Amanda had never seen me in my element. But last week (two weeks ago by the time this goes live) she and the girls came with me to an intensive outpatient treatment facility with sober living in Paynesville, MN where there was a crowd waiting for us. There is child care available for patients and families who come visit their loved ones during this process at the Recovery Center. The girls were just a couple rooms away playing with Barbie dolls and watching movies while I began to tell it like it was before I found the solution. I started at the beginning with my first drink at 13, and walked them through my life as a criminal and addict until my release from prison. Then I shared my hope with them. I told them that everybody has the same opportunity to achieve what I have, to gain the basic rights of life that I have attained, and to find love and be loved; a concept unfamiliar to many in suffering.

We were there on family night, and Amanda sat by my side as I shared mine, and even some of her story with the patients, and some of their loved ones. They asked questions, and engaged in conversation which is something I found unique for treatment. There is a happy vibe there that I cannot recall ever feeling in any of my stints in treatment. The director, with whom I have had many conversations in person and on the phone makes clear that compassion is key to finding the root of the problem which actually isn’t drugs or alcohol: those are just a mask.

What I can never get over is how I feel after I leave a meeting like this. I floated away and smiled the entire hour-long drive back home. I reflected on the smiles and the laughter, and remembered that I spoke about how important it is to have fun in recovery. It is possible! Life begins at day one of sobriety, and I know that the first laugh can bring out a flood of other emotions like I wrote about in the first few pages of the original posts., which we, of course, turned into an insert shameless link here. But, emotions are good. They are vital to finding contentment, and without sadness, devastation, and pain, we in recovery cannot truly know what it feels like to be happy.

Time and time again I find that the more of myself I give to others like me, the more I feel like myself, and the more useful I am to those around me in my everyday life. Recovery is not about sitting in smoky rooms with grumpy old people anymore. These days people are going out on adventures, attending conventions with tens of thousands of sober people, going to sporting events, and literally anything we used to do while we were using, just without chemicals. And we have a blast doing it because our laughter is real. It’s not motivated by fear or anxiety (well maybe sometimes awkward anxiety) or anger. Smiles are brighter. Amusement is louder. Agony is a memory.

I want to find a way to make this opportunity more frequent. I enjoy the work I do with food, and I make good money and have great benefits. But I don’t beam and feel elated when I leave work. And I know that I’m not being the most useful to society in my current role. Maybe one day I can share my hope every day. Maybe I can make a bigger difference.

I can.

Sunday, April 14, 2019


After precisely a month of waiting, the judge in Amanda’s dissolution of marriage (divorce) case has issued her decree, judgement, and order. We received it in the mail yesterday, and I have read it several times.

The document is 15 pages in length, and details with precision the accounts of the day of the trial, and states the results of all of Amanda’s dedication and hard work in preparation for said trial. I wrote in a previous post the events of the trial at which I appeared as a witness, and Amanda bravely faced her now ex-husband and asked for full custody of the girls, and some money owed for a large daycare bill left in her name. The trial lasted four hours, and afterward, Amanda was exhausted yet relieved. She made it. Now, we had to wait up to ninety days for the judge to decide what was in the best interest of the girls.

Like I said, it only took her 31 days, and we are absolutely thrilled with the ruling.

First and notable, Amanda’s marriage is officially dissolved; I am finally dating a single woman. Second and foremost, she was granted sole-legal and physical custody of the girls. This is huge, and it represents the best interest of the girls. In fact, it is written in great length why the decision was made and includes all of the reasons many of us out there already know and understand. Their father is still in the throes of alcoholism, and until he comes to terms with that fact, he will not get to spend any time with them. According to some posts seen on Facebook, he may think he was going to get to have partial custody of them almost immediately, but this will not be the case.

It will take time, dedication to recovery, and proof. He will need to enter a treatment program, graduate it, and follow all aftercare recommendations and show her proof of all of these, before he can start a lengthy reintroduction plan set forth by the court. If—and I mean if—he gets to that point, it will take about four months before he is able to have any unsupervised visits outside of public places with them, and only as he is able to provide proof of effort in continued sobriety. After about a year with no relapses, and assuming he is contributing to their welfare through child support, he will be able to have joint custody, and the world will be a better place.

I’m writing vaguely about the step-up process because I want the respondent to have a chance to be honest with other people about this whole course, but this is all public information, and the people that matter, including members of his family, will all have access to this ruling, just to make sure there isn’t any confusion.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again; my hope is that this time he “gets it.” This time he will understand the error of his ways, and find a program of recovery that works for him, and sticks with it. I know hundreds of people that were just like him, and have found hope. Many of them have rekindled their relationships with family, former lovers, and of course, their children. All is possible with honesty, hard work, and self-sacrifice. The moment he decides to be dishonest with himself, and eventually to the girls, is the moment it all reverts back to supervised visits—this time scheduled and held at his expense at the local MN Visitation Exchange Center until further order of the court.

For right now and the foreseeable future, the girls are where they need to be: in a loving, safe home where all of their needs are met.

Me, I’m happy and grateful to be a father to these girls and doing all of the things he could be doing someday brings me great joy. I love signing school documents, helping the oldest with homework, wiping the boogers off the nose of the youngest, and going on family road trips to the children’s museum, and family events. Summer is coming, and that means more time outside playing in our huge yard, swimming in our local pool, and finding new things in our community.

I know what it’s like to think that I am more important than everything. I used to post pictures of myself at the gym, and tell people everything in my life was great. I used to lie about trivial things, and say whatever I could to get people to praise me. But none of that matters. I realized that the most important thing after my sobriety is the happiness of people around me. When I focus on doing things for others that makes me feel good. When everybody around me is laughing and content on a consistent basis, I thrive. When I am thriving, I have the best shot at helping others like me find the solution to the problem I had when I started killing myself so many years ago.

There is always a deeper bottom. There is always death.

But there is also always hope. Anybody can stop digging. Anybody can thrive.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


Every day is a little easier than the last. This is true for many sides of my life, but truer in parenting and sobriety. Each has their complications, and each have unique rewards, and for either I would go to any length to keep what I have.

Right now it is April 10th, 2019. It’s springtime, and we are in the midst of a blizzard of immense proportions. The girls are in their rooms; one is pouting because she was scolded for making a mess in the other’s room. The other is squalling song of incomprehensible meaning, although I find myself humming it and realize that she’s actually singing I'm On My Way by Phil Collins, which I’ve also had on my mind as of late because Brother Bear has been the movie of choice for the last week in the van, and there are some good songs to sing along to.

The last movie in the van was Lion King 2, and it played for about a month. I should clarify that it only plays when the girls are with me/us, but when the movies play, we all sing along to the title tracks and montage segues. My favorite from the Lion King 2 was He Lives in You, by.. Who knows who? Not me. Anyway, it’s pretty awful, so it’s great.

Here’s something; I didn’t catch on that I was listening to a cartoon about jungle cats for about a week, because I can’t watch the movie while I’m driving, the van won’t let me. So, I had developed some fairly intricate characters in my head that were all human and was categorically shattered when I saw that my new friends were, in fact, animals. Where am I going with this? I have no idea.

It’s been a challenge coming up with recovery-based posts because my sobriety life has been rather uneventful for a while. I still attend my weekly meeting here in my hometown, and I still see my sponsor and whenever possible, we read out of the 12X12 which is what we call the book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. It’s a look back at the step work laid out in the original big book. It goes into depth about the process of the steps, what works and doesn’t, and I like the perspective of somebody with more sobriety commenting on his earlier work. I like it, it would probably bore you.

So, here’s a story that won’t bore you.

I was travelling down highway 52 going north through Rochester. It was just before midnight, and like always, I was concealing a large quantity of methamphetamine. Out of nowhere, the blue and red lights of a highway patrol car indicated that I should pull to the side of the road. I slowly turned into the shoulder, and gradually eased up on the acceleration and started to brake. At the same time, without moving my shoulders, I guided my meth pipe in between the cushion and backrest to my side, and tucked my other small bag of crystals right under my butt. The truck came to a stop, and I switched on my hazards.

The night was quiet and I could hear the officer’s footsteps as he approached my borrowed vehicle. I wondered if he could smell my fear, or hear my elevated heartbeat. I had a thought that I knew I had no insurance, but troopers rarely ask if they have something else to distract them. He paused by the back bumper and shone his light all around and into the bed of the truck through the glass of the topper. I put my hands on the wheel, and waited for him to shine the condemning light into my intoxicated eyes.

When he finally came to the window he asked for my license. I told him I would have to reach into my back pocket like I always do, and he nodded. He then asked why I thought he pulled me over and I stated that I may have been going too fast. He said I was going the speed limit and thanked me. Then, my biggest fear occurred: he asked me to step out of the truck.

When you are confronted by an officer, you always comply. I’ve learned that when you are obedient, honest, and submissive, they tend to like you more. I said I would gladly step out, and he looked to his right to observe traffic, stepped back, and shone his light at the ground. It was during this precious moment that I used my fingers to grab the meth from under my butt and throw it on the floor on the passenger side. I then opened the door, stepped out, and looked for traffic. As I shut the door, his light found the crack and cascaded onto my driver’s seat, finding nothing incriminating.

He asked me to step to the back of the truck, where he showed me that all of my running lights were not working, and a wire harness that had been dragged for about 30 miles before he stopped me. Somebody had detached a trailer and forgotten to hook something back up, and this was how I found out.

I couldn’t figure out how to hook it up, but as I bent over, I felt the large bag of drugs in my inside pocket shift, and I swear he could have heard it in the quiet of the night. I could feel a lump in my throat, and I knew I started to sweat. I told him I was getting off at the next exit, and he said I could go as long as I agreed to park the car there until it was fixed, and I said I would. And he walked me back to the truck where I got in, and grabbed the key and began to turn.

And then he said he had one more question. Had I been drinking or using any mind-altering drugs? “Yes sir. For about 20 years.” Would have been the honest answer. But I lied, and said I had been sober since April 15th, 2001, which was my first significant sobriety date. He didn’t believe me and asked if I would perform a simple test called a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. I shit in my pants a little then said that I would, having no idea what that meant at the time. He took a small penlight from his shirt pocket and asked me to look at his finger. I wanted him to look at mine, but I would save that gesture for when he threw me in the jail cell.  He moved the finger back and forth, and I moved on it like a bitch. Although I thought I felt my eyes shuttering and twitching, he didn’t see anything worth reporting and he told me he believed me, and congratulated me on my sobriety.

And then it was over. My heart was racing. My palms were sweating, and my ears were ringing. I was out on bail for a 1st-degree narcotics charge, and I foolishly tried to catch another. It was one of four times I was pulled over in the six months I was out on bail. Somehow, even though I was carrying numerous felonies, I always managed to leave the scene of a crime without the officer knowing a thing.

Every day in that life of criminality was the worst. I think of those events often and wonder why I was so lucky. I wonder how I escaped to continue my run into the ground. I look back and I realize that I’m no longer that man in that truck and I no longer fear everyday life. I don’t have to hide things from officers, and I don’t have to worry about getting pulled over. I’m legit.

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is a test that helps an officer tell if you are intoxicated. He picked the wrong test and that was my lucky break that night. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about these things anymore.



1,826 days ago my life began again. Five years ago I walked into a courtroom knowing I would be locked away for fifty months, and I stood...