It’s easier to fall down than to get up. You get sick and go to the hospital, or you go to jail and lose your job, and everything can go downhill fast. Boom, boom, boom. It falls right down the line like dominoes. That’s the way it is.
When you start losing stuff, man, it’s hard as hell. You might not have much at all in the first place. And there you are: homeless. Now you’re stuck in a bracket that you have no business in. And now, people look at you and say, “Get out of here. You’re nobody.”
I can see how a lot of people lose hope, because it seems like the harder you try, the more doors get slammed in your face. Then you fall into that slump, where you just want to drink beer and be high to try to get out of that feeling. You want to find comfort.
Drinking used to numb everything. It was like, “There’s nothing I can do right now,” and the beer took away that down and depressed feeling. But it got to the point where I always wanted to feel that way. I wanted to feel like everything was OK when everything was not OK.
I remember those days when my hands were shaking so bad I couldn’t even drink a cup of water. Back then, beer was my water. I remember waking up in jail, with blood on my hands and a busted lip, not remembering how I got there. I faced two assault charges and disturbing the peace.
I made myself a promise to God. I said, “If you get me out of this one, I will put this beer down, and I’ll never pick up another one in my life.” I went to court, and the judge said, “Mr. Morehead, your case has been dismissed.”
But when I got released, the first thing that came to my mind was, “I’m going to have a nice, cold beer.” But then I thought, “Oh no, I’m not. I promised God! I was going to work on this, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
I lasted about six days, and then I got me a beer, drank maybe four sips, and it just didn’t taste right. I poured the rest of it out. My drinking buddies said, “Don’t pour it out, man. Let me have it!” I gave it away. I said I’m done with that.
I wasn’t feeling good, and went home to my camper. It was November. I got real sick. Found out I had pneumonia. I coughed so bad I cracked two ribs. I couldn’t breathe. That was a warning to me. God said, “You told me you was going to stop. And you didn’t stop, so, OK — I’m going to take you out.”
That’s when I had to take a step outside my body, look myself up and down and have no mercy. That’s what you have to do. Just give it to yourself raw. When you do that, it feels like enough is enough. It feels like you’ve had all you can take.
If you don’t get to that point in your life, you’re wasting your time. You’re going to keep telling yourself lies. You’re going to try to smooth over what you really did, instead of stepping up outside of yourself. No lies. No covering up.
And once you get to that feeling, then you’re ready to climb the ladder out.
I said, “I’m going to take it one day at a time.” One day turned into two days. That turned into a week and became two weeks. When you get past the two-week mark, your mind starts getting clear, and the stronger it gets.
But I had to figure out why I kept doing it. I’d stopped drinking before. I stopped for six months. I stopped for a year. But I always went back to drinking again. I had to figure out what was causing me to do that. So I went into treatment.
I learned things about my triggers. I learned that the sound of opening a beer — that k’chunk — had power over me, so I switched from a beer can to root beer. It makes the same noise, but it’s not beer.
Now, that noise just makes me feel graceful. Because I know it’s not beer. I can sit back and watch you drink a ton and sit right here and it won’t even bother me. I can’t even stand the smell of it no more.
If you want to change something that’s hard, the first step is to take a step back and go in a room by yourself. If you’re homeless, go into your tent. Put something in your ears till there’s nothing but quietness, so the street noise and everything is just blanked out.
Let your inner-self know that you’re tired. That you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, and that no matter what, you’re going to make a change in your life. That’s your first step: being truthful to yourself and making a promise to yourself. The rest will come.
I’ve been there and done that. I worked hard at change. I have a roof over my head. I have a car. I have two dogs. I’m not doing so bad. But I have to reflect back sometimes. I keep in my head where I came from.
Donald Morehead has been a Real Change vendor since 2007.
Read the full October 9 - 15 issue.
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