I watched Daniel Baldwin on Prime Time's Family Secrets. It covered his stay in a rehab.
For the 9th time.
He checked into Renaissance Malibu treatment center.
It's one of 25 in a 10 mile stretch.
Dr. Daniel Gatlin, executive director of the therapeutic program, spoke of talk therapy - where people talk for years & years about their story and soon, instead of changing their life;
They become their story.
It defines them.
"It's a really good way of not having to change." He said.
I thought about that.
My story has basically defined my life.
Joy's accident in her Grandfather's recliner chair.
Her nine months blind, deaf and paralyzed, in a vegetative state.
My decision that she shouldn't have to live like that.
Being the first father to be convicted of the mercy killing of their child.
The judge sentencing me to life in prison with no parole for 25 years mandatory.
The media circus that followed me into prison;
From Time magazine to The National Enquirer.
Spending the next decade in a maximum security prison,
Not believing in God and hating Him if He was real.
Until the police officer who took Joy out of the recliner and gave her CPR on the dining room table until the ambulance arrived; Visited me in prison.
To apologize for not just letting her go
Having a spiritual experience in my cell after that visit;
God told me I would see Joy again one day.
Not believing God was real,
Now knowing it.
But now believing there was no way He could ever forgive me.
Getting released after 10 years, after a deal was worked out with the Gov. & State Atty.
And the media circus that followed that.
Being finally free, but still imprisoned,
Smoking, drinking, swallowing, shooting and snorting anything,
To try to fill the loneliness, the,
Trying, if not to stay clean, than to just get clean;
To keep my wife/ family/ job,
But never for myself.
Until my brother died,
After partying with friends in Las Vegas, getting drunk, passing out,
And suffocating on his own vomit.
Then giving up.
Selling my home. Going into treatment.
For me this time.
Having an epiphany.
Realizing that my pain was not the worse.
Just a different kind.
Everybody's pain is the worse; to them.
Getting a sponsor. Working the steps.
And finding out that God does forgive me.
When I told my sponsor my story, and that there was no way that God could forgive me,
He asked me if there was anything that Joy could do, that I would not be able to forgive her for,
Or that would make me stop loving her?
I answered, "Nothing."
"Then how much more," He asked, "Do you think God loves and forgives you, His child?"
And I knew it was true.
And the void inside me was gone.
And the God shots started.
Things that made me know that He had a plan for me.
The day before going to visit my daughter's grave for the first time clean & sober in 21 years?
So scared to go, sober, not knowing what to say to her?
I met a daughter and mother named Faith and Joy.
I made peace with my daughter the next day.
When I first got out of prison I married a dancer from the club I managed.
I made her a manager with me and we rented a house so her friends could live with us and dance at the club.
Ten years later;
My counselor recommended a realtor when I started to look for a place to live at the end of treatment.
We talked as we drove around.
Turned out she had bought my old house and made it a recovery house for women.
So my old house, bought by my new realtor, went from a house where women used to drink & get high just to go to work;
To a house where women work just to not drink or get high.
And lately? My lease is up on the house that realtor did find me, so I started asking around for a new place to live.
I found one.
A friend's father goes to New York every summer and was looking for someone to stay at his house and watch the property; it's almost two acres.
Perfect for Flop, Teddy Bear and Lady; my three dogs.
The only hitch?
He told me there was a girl he was letting stay in a trailer on the back of the property who had been homeless and was trying to get clean.
Take three guesses what her name is.
The first two don't count.
I have a Joy living with me, coming over and talking a mile a minute, and generally driving me nuts.
I love it.
I gave Joy her AA book.
"Bartender!" Another shot of God, please!"
I spoke at a meeting and afterwards a girl shared.
She said that she had lost a child and wasn't real sure about God. But, that after hearing my story she felt better and believed there must be some reason, even if she couldn't see it yet.
When the meeting was over she came up to me and told me she hadn't planned on staying until she saw it was me, then she wanted to see "What the hell you had to say."
Turns out my dog Flop had attacked her dog at a picnic, and because of that she stayed to hear 'what the hell I had to say,'
And came closer to God.
But the greatest one?
The one that tops all of those?
The one I am eternally grateful to God for?
I was asked to tell my story,
At the end I said, "I believed hundreds of children have been saved because of Joy."
Recliners were redesigned so there is no space between the footrest & chair after Joy's accident.
"My counselor at my final treatment center told me that last one." I told them as I was finishing. "That may have been God's plan for Joy."
Then a girl, no more than twenty or so, raised her hand.
I pointed to her and she said, "My little sister's name is Joy.
I used to take care of her growing up because our parents were never home.
She got caught in our recliner one day. She was wedged in there good, too. It took work for me to get her out."
I waited, so scared of what I was about to hear. Then I got the God shot.
"But she was OK, because there was a thing that came up and kept the footrest from closing on her completely."
She looked at me and said, "So I just wanted you to know, that I know, that your little Joy saved my little Joy. I just wanted you to know that."
I started crying in front of all of them.
I thanked her.
I told her I always assumed Joy had saved children because of what she had gone through.
But to actually know.
If the feeling of that realization could be described…
To know a little girl was saved from serious injury, suffering, even death, because of Joy.
And her name was JOY!
It was the greatest thing God has given me, next to telling me I will see Joy again one day.
I went to speak at this treatment center hoping my story would help someone there.
Someone's story there helped me. Beyond.....Like the realization I felt - I can't think of a word big enough to describe it.
Bartender, I'll take a double.
Now? I am the editor of a new recovery magazine.
I got a job at the detox center I'd gone through 6 times in 8 years and was working as a night shift tech.
I had an opportunity to buy a lap top & did.
So I could play poker at night while the patients slept.
Somehow I stumbled across blogging and started to write;
About my daughter, death, prison, addiction, feelings, and
Finally giving up and beginning my fight back to sobriety.
One day a lady called me, saying she was starting a recovery magazine – not a newsletter.
I said that was a great idea, there were none. She replied;
"I'm glad you like it because I have been reading your blog and want you to be the editor of it."
I have told my story for the last 18 months.
To my sponsor.
To AA meetings.
To NA meetings.
To people detoxing at the center I worked at.
To the readers of this blog.
And now in a magazine.
I also told my nephew.
An employee of my Dad's club let someone into the club after hours. That person robbed the safe.
It was caught on camera.
The employee, who has been with my Dad a long time and considered family, was arrested.
My sister and my nephew went on line to see if there was anything in the paper about the arrest.
My story about the magazine popped up.
My sister and one of my nephews started to read it.
He started crying, my sister told me when she called.
He admitted to her that he had a problem.
But wouldn't say with what.
Then he asked if she thought I would talk to him.
My sister called me and I said of course.
We agreed to meet at her work. It is closer to Miami than her home is.
But still a ways. She is a restaurant manager in Delray Beach.
I rented a car; wasn't sure if the Hyundai would want to go that far.
When I got there we talked.
I told him my story.
He knew about it, of course, but I told him everything.
Including the God Shots.
Especially the God Shots.
He told me what was bothering him. And that he wanted to be clean.
The main part was he was scared that he didn't know what to do, straight.
He knew that he wanted to be clean. He'd had moments of clarity that made him realize God had a plan for him.
So I asked him if he wanted to go to a meeting.
So we did.
And he picked up his white chip.
Because I told my story to the newspaper,
Somehow he found it.
I started telling my story because it was killing me trying to bury it inside of me.
I was killing me.
Whenever I tell my story; always,
Someone hearing it says, 'If you can make it…after all that…and even be happy? I can do this! I'm going to really try.'
And I am always,
And so grateful.
That I, somehow,
Help someone else.
After what I've done.
The feeling I get from that...
How can there be so few words for so many feelings?
I have told my story so many times.
And I will continue to tell it.
Because one person who didn't believe in God; thought, "Maybe."
Because one person who thought they could never get clean, thought, "Maybe."
Because of my story.
I've heard that people who tell their story so many times,
Become their story.
And that it's a good way not to change.
I'm trying to change,
And I hope my story is still becoming.