AC: January 11, 2011


People in Long-Term Recovery, Recovering Addicts and Alcoholics

“I got up to go outside to go to the store to get more vodka, and by the time the key was in the ignition there was a Smith and Wesson forty caliber U.S. Marshall’s pistol aimed at my head.”

My name is Adam Christopher White. I go by AC. While I was in prison, I made that change. My grandpa was the only person who ever called me AC. When I was born, he looked at my mom and he said, “Adam Christopher’s way too long. I’m not going to say all that shit. I’m going to call him AC.” It was a term of endearment. Once I had become what I thought would be the man that he would want me to be while in prison, I started going by AC as an homage to him.

I was born lower middle class, never wanted for anything. I had my needs met, but I was born with a digestive disorder that made me different than everyone. I have a condition called congenital glucose-galactose malabsorption. That means that I can’t have starch, sugar, or carbohydrates. At all. Ever. With that, people tend to underestimate the importance of food culturally. To share a meal with someone, to bond with someone. When you think of a nice romantic evening, you think Italian food. If you want to go out for anything, it’s generally a cultural identity with the food. Let’s go get Tex-Mex. Let’s go get Indian. I’m just naming a few of the foods that I cannot eat.

“When snack time would come around, I was always taken to the side. I was taken behind the counter. I was taken behind the scenes, into the world of the adults because my snacks had to be prepared specially.”

Indian is all vegetarian, for the most part, which is all high starch with rice. I can’t touch Chinese food because, again, the rice, the noodles. If you think in the terms of a child, all those snack times where they’re handing crackers and when they’re handing out gummy bears or fruit snacks or whatever. The vast majority of child’s snacks are sugars and carbohydrates. You don’t really get handed out beef sticks as a five year old to snack on. Cost prohibitive, to say the least.

From a very early age, when snack time would come around, I was always taken to the side. I was taken behind the counter. I was taken behind the scenes, into the world of the adults because my snacks had to be prepared specially. I was given this instinct that I am special and that I am different and that I have some kind of privilege that other children didn’t have. The average five-year-old does not think in terms of privilege, they just see different. I was never included with other groups of children or incorporated naturally. There was no organic friendships, organic groupings with me as a child. I was always injected and, “Play with this kid or play with that kid. Go with those kids.” I didn’t want to go with those kids because, again, it wasn’t just the food.

Once that precedent had started, beyond that, I didn’t understand other children. Spending time with adults and being around adults gave me an advanced thought process of thinking like an adult at an early age. It goes on and on. I remember also wanting desperately to eat like normal people. Wanting to just be normal, be one of them. Whether it was a social aspect where I wanted to be around other children, or if I just wanted sweets because sweets are good. I don’t know. I haven’t gotten that far but I can remember my mom bought M&Ms once. She bought M&Ms more than once, but on this occasion I had very carefully torn the corner of the packet. I had slipped out all but three M&Ms and ate all of them.

My mom looks at me and she says, “Did you eat the M&Ms?” I’m like, “No.” Meanwhile my stomach is going crazy. Clearly, I had eaten the damned M&Ms, but I think I was five and I’m lying about this shit because I wanted those M&Ms. I didn’t care what the consequences were. It went on. Another interesting characteristic of me as a child is that I loved fantasy world. Any kind of a fantasy I could inject myself in. I loved action figures. I loved having a cast of characters that I could control and manipulate with vast interwoven stories of drama, intrigue, and action. I would come up with these things. This is the mind that would later come up with stories for Hollywood or anyone else, only for me it wasn’t about creating a story, it was about escaping where I was.

I loved that. I didn’t necessarily like to read as much as I liked to play with the action figures and create those fantasy worlds. I would build vast cardboard box sets for my toys to play in. The more action figures I had, it wasn’t about collecting them as much as expanding the cast, because the larger the cast was the more extravagant the story could be, the more submerged in this world that I could become.

“I was at a crossroads between the one thing that brought me so much joy, which was the fantasy world and the action figures, and the world of teenage boys that, you know, well, it’s kind of like Lord of the Flies on a suburban scale.”

That sets the stage for up until I became a teenager. Of course, as a teenager I had absolutely no problems and I was socially adept and perfect in all ways. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The truth being, I was at a crossroads between the one thing that brought me so much joy, which was the fantasy world and the action figures, and the world of teenage boys that, you know, well, it’s kind of like Lord of the Flies on a suburban scale. 

I had gone to a private school until sixth grade. I had social issues because the Christian school that I went to saw my action figures as evil. Those were of the devil. How could anything that brought me so much joy, the only thing that brought me so much joy, be so evil? Again, I was ostracized. It wasn’t just the diet now, it was also the thing that brought me joy. I got a real resentment against their God, because if they were holy and what they were doing was good, even though it made me feel so bad, then I don’t want anything to do with that.

I was moved to a public school. Now once I did that, everybody there got something that I didn’t get. Everybody there understood cool and I understood none of it. They had had seven years of preparation to understand etiquette, middle school etiquette. My grandmother’s homemade jams and my unpopular jeans and so on, and so forth, didn’t make the cut. Now, fashion wasn’t nearly as important as the Christian school, but here it was everything. I came into school wearing absolutely the wrong things. I just thought everybody else was so much cooler than me and they definitely understood something that I didn’t. A lot of people in recovery will say that that was something wrong, but no, it’s a fact.

They did understand something I didn’t. They had seven years to prepare for it by the time I got there. They really did. I mean, it’s not a good or a bad thing, it’s just a thing. I didn’t adjust well. I found the losers, the burnouts, the slackers. They didn’t care. I could at least stand there. My existence was okay with them. They were rather apathetic to my presence. My dad had a gas station that I worked at and right next door, well it’s still there, and they’ve tried to make it look nice, it’s a chiropractor’s office now, but back in the early 90s it was my first drug dealer’s house. He sold pot. Lots of pots. Amongst the burnouts and whatnot, I had just found my calling. Everybody wanted to be my friend, because I was the only person who had access to pounds of pot. I’m fourteen years old.

I was the poor kid in a rich school. To be able to get that much weed and sometimes some other substances, all mild at that point, at such a young age, in such a prominent upper middle class community, put me right up there with the coolest kids in the school. Although all they really wanted was to buy my pot and I was still never invited to the parties, unless I brought my own to share. I knew my place. I quickly realized that for me to really get what I wanted, I needed to manipulate the situation and take control of it. I would manipulate the situation in any way possible. That’s all fine and good.

“I was the poor kid in a rich school. To be able to get that much weed and sometimes some other substances…put me right up there with the coolest kids in the school.”

Skip the late 90s raves and all the other experimentation. I qualify. I’ve had a love affair with every substance known to man. Some of the newer ones, there’s always going to be newer ways to escape life. I don’t really have a need for those any more. I’m not trying to run away from life any more. But in 2004 I was sitting in a coffee shop. I had been up for many days and there were no houses that I could go to, a lot of people call them trap houses or whatever. The substance that I was favoring at that time was meth and this just happened to be one of those increments of time where I had nowhere to go. The vast majority of society will call someone that has nowhere to go homeless, but I didn’t even realize that at that time. I just thought that I was floating from place to place, it didn’t matter. I still had my shit together.

The world was coming alive and that was my first moment of clarity. I ended up finally becoming willing to want to completely get clean. I remember calling my mom and I said, “Look, this time is different. I’ve got to quit. I want to quit everything.” I felt that I was telling her things that she had never heard, but apparently I had made the same “I don’t want to do this anymore” type of message before, and so she had her doubts, but the one thing that was different was that she said, “Do you think you need to go to meetings?” And I said, “I don’t know. I don’t care. I’ll do anything.” That was what was different.

What started getting clean and sober then was, I wanted a life. I wanted everything that came with a life, but inherently there was a fatal flaw in that it was still all about the outward appearance of a life. I didn’t discover that until later. I was clean and sober for almost four years at that time.  Shortly after getting clean I got a job at a flower shop. I love those women. My dad is a womanizer of all womanizers and he raised me to be the exact same way, and I fight against that all the time, so taking orders from women was never easy for me. Taking orders from attractive women was even harder, and so working at this flower shop was these two twin models that own the place, and for eighteen months I learned how to eat their shit, and it was a wonderful experience. I’m still friends with them to this day. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

They asked me, “Do you know how to take care of plants?”, and I said, “Well, I used to grow a lot of pot.” And they said, “Seriously?” I said, “Why would I lie about that?” They said, “Do you still grow pot?”, and I said, “No.” I told them that I was clean and probably far too much, but they said, “Okay. All right. You’re hired.” I took care of the plants. I learned a lot about flowers. I’m really grateful for the education I got there. That lasted eighteen months.

“I remember calling my mom and I said, ‘Look, this time is different. I’ve got to quit. I want to quit everything.'”

I also went to school, but then someone in the rooms found me and realized that I had the ability to be a salesman. I had scruples and wanted a change from the flower shop at that time, and so I started working at a home improvement company. I went from making minimum wage to making $60,000 a year in a matter of weeks.

Someone said… I can’t remember who or where… in reference to a lot of the people in the Middle East is that when oil was discovered there you have this Bedouin culture that is straight off the desert and ran into billions and billions of dollars, the uber-rich. What comes with that is all of the culture and ideas that they previously had. Well, I had the same thing and I was not prepared to start making that much money. I had not earned the respect required for the money that I was making, and I lacked some of the fundamental attributes of adult money management. I started working there more and more because I was enjoying the praise and I was enjoying what the money was buying me.

I had always had an issue with the higher power aspect. It was said that if that’s a problem, just make the people in the rooms your higher power, and so I did. The only meetings that I was going to were meetings that I could fit into my schedule with this home improvement sales job, which were noon meetings or earlier meetings before my sales calls in the evenings.

Generally, those are meetings that are filled with the unemployed. Those are meetings filled with, well, people that can go to a meeting at noon because they don’t have anything else going on in their life. If that’s my higher power and I’m going to meetings that people are chronically relapsing, people don’t have money to go out for lunch afterwards, people that are not living to their fullest in any way, but they’re just white-knuckling it and making it, then effectively I’ve just become God because I’m better than those people. How can I not be? Given that specific set of circumstances, that logic is sound. I didn’t have a higher power to look at. Later I came to understand a different kind of higher power, and my definition to this day is very different.

One day I had a backache, and I can’t even remember where they came from, but I think it was a girl that I had been seeing at the time. I took a couple of Vicodin and, wow, felt great. My backache went away. I was told that if I ever used again that [meant] jails, institutions and death. Well, I took these here pills and I didn’t go to jail and I didn’t die. Fuckers lied to me. It worked so well I did it again the next day. Then eventually I thought, “You know what? I never did have a problem with alcohol. That was just kind of bullshit. I think I deserve a glass of wine with my lunch.” So I drank a massive glass of wine, just one, even though it was a like a whole carafe. I didn’t go to jail and I didn’t die. Fuckers lied to me again.

“One day I had a backache, and I can’t even remember where they came from, but I think it was a girl that I had been seeing at the time. I took a couple of Vicodin and, wow, felt great. My backache went away.”

It didn’t take long for me to have a symbiotic relationship with the ability to sell and being inebriated. Those two were intertwined because I was a hell of a salesman. I was closing two out of every three. If I sat down and I was there for longer than fifteen minutes you were going to hand me a check. What it had done is taken away the stress or caring of whether I got the deal or not and so I could be ambivalent. I could come across as more honest in my deceit because the desperate need for my own personal paycheck, my commission attached to that sale, was dismissed. It worked till it didn’t later.

I left that company and started my own and started making a lot of money out in the western side of the state of Ohio for insurance claims, hail insurance claims. Insurance claims in the home improvement industry, there’s a legitimate need when there’s a legitimate storm. However, you get hooked on that easy money, and when you get hooked on that easy money, you’re not challenged personally or professionally, and you will do anything to continue getting that easy money, and you just keep hitting that feeder bar again and again and again.

You see it today in this industry here locally. The insurance money is all dried up and you see all these people that are just desperate for a roof job, that they’ve got no clue as to how to sell somebody a roof without that crutch of an insurance company paying for it. It’s a lot harder to separate someone from their own cash than it is the insurance company’s cash.

The money dried up but my addiction didn’t. Alcohol, cocaine and methadone, because I was getting clean. Then I lost my doctor to a sting operation, so I couldn’t get methadone anymore, and so I went back to just pills and then again back to the heroin because I couldn’t afford [it]. I remember one time I got 100 Perc 30s. I hear today, these days, that they’re charging… I don’t know how any of these kids can take that shit, not with the tolerance I had, but I was paying fourteen dollars a pill, and so I paid $1,400, and those hundred pills lasted me two and a half days. That was a wake-up call. I did the math, and I’m like, “I don’t care how much money you’re making. Nobody can afford that kind of an addiction. That’s just ridiculous. That can’t be done.”

That’s when I decided to go on Suboxone, which worked really, really well. There was a lot of depression that came with it, and I fixed that depression with more cocaine and alcohol. It kept me locked in my basement is what that did. This was the darkest time in my life not just figuratively but literally because I kept the lights off in my basement. I couldn’t bear to see. I had taken money to do roofs that never got done. I owed everybody. Every time the phone rang it was someone wanting to know when we were going to do their roof. It was one of my roofers wondering where their paycheck was. It was anyone that would remind me how much of a disaster I had created.

I panicked. I’d break out in a sweat and goose bumps any time the doorbell rang. Any time the phone rang I was terrified, and I could not face any part of life. Any time my mom or my dad would call, I’d answer their calls because I needed to keep a good contact with them, because they were the only ones bailing me out financially at that point, so I had to put a good face on for them. I’d answer their call, and my first response was always, “Can I call you right back?”

“I’d break out in a sweat and goose bumps any time the doorbell rang. Any time the phone rang I was terrified, and I could not face any part of life.”

I never just took the call and then went into a conversation. The reason was is because I had to go upstairs and pour myself a four-finger glass of vodka, down that, and then call them back because I couldn’t lie to them sober anymore. Even if I was already piss drunk, even if I was already completely wasted, it didn’t matter. I needed the additional boost of inebriation to lie to them accurately and effectively, because there was no way I could open my mouth and say anything without breaking down. I couldn’t do it, and so the alcohol kept me from telling the truth.

Of course then there was also the physical problems too, where every morning I’d wake up and I would throw up just for a good half hour, forty-five minutes, the green stuff and then the brown stuff and then eventually just straight red stuff. I had developed a fat sac on my liver and I had to keep that full.

I remember after a binge, a cocaine binge, I had passed out for three days, which means all the alcohol had been depleted from my body. I woke up of course drenched in sweat. I started to drink, and I poured what would have normally gotten me going for the day and it did nothing, and so I had to pour another one and it did nothing. This was a fresh fifth, and I drank the whole bottle and felt nothing. I had to open an additional bottle and pour a glass, and that one finally gave me the effect I needed and I didn’t know what had happened. What had happened is that the fat sac that was usually full of liquor that had been feeding my bloodstream was completely empty and I had to refill it before it would actually get released into my bloodstream.

I was almost completely off opiates at that point, but I was starting to get hallucinations from alcohol; voices, animals, all sorts of things that were not there. I was always terrified but now I was really terrified. I was also really into guns at this point too, and I actually became one hell of a marksman. I kept a loaded .45 with the hammer cocked back just to let me know it was there if I wanted it at all times. I’ve put it in my mouth several times and I never pulled the trigger, obviously.

That’s when the idea to rob a bank first crossed my mind, because there was only three possible outcomes from robbing a bank. The first outcome would be… what my addictive voice told me is, “Well, you’d be able to pay your mortgage and you’d be able to buy enough alcohol until you can figure something else out.” The second voice was, “Well, you’ll get into a police shootout. They’ll kill you and you’ll solve your problem.” The third voice, which is what I actually really, really wanted, was that I would get caught and that I would get the help I need.

“That’s when the idea to rob a bank first crossed my mind, because there was only three possible outcomes from robbing a bank.”

I’ve got to back up a second. What actually had started me thinking about robbing a bank is because I went to get help. I went to get treatment. I went to several of the local treatment facilities, and I was honest with them, which was the biggest problem. Never be honest to a treatment facility. You’ll never get in. I had made too much money. I didn’t have children. I was white, and I wasn’t a criminal. For those reasons I was turned down at every single facility.

I couldn’t do anything about being white. I couldn’t do anything about the money that I had made in the past even though I was destitute at that point. I couldn’t do anything about… except for the criminal part. I’m not a criminal inherently. I have committed crimes, but I had never really been involved with the law and I didn’t know what it took. I just knew that they said that I wasn’t court-ordered, you know, so I’ll get a fucking court order. That’s where the bank idea came from.

I thought about it long and hard. Again, I just wanted a reset button, but more than that is that even if I went away to a rehab, nowhere is going to keep me long-term without insurance. I didn’t see it. I didn’t see being able to stay clean and sober just doing a detox. I didn’t see any force on earth where I was still allowed a modicum of freedom to be able to keep me away at that point. I had gone too far down the scale.

The idea first occurred to me in August of 2010, and I toyed with it like a cat batting a mouse back and forth. By December, by Christmastime, things were really, really getting bad. I had made the decision that I was going to do it. I had made the decision I was going to do it a long time before. I just didn’t know how or when I was going to be able to bring myself to do this, because it’s not an easy thing. Looking back, actually it was real easy, but all of the cultural buildup of bank robbery really scared me. So how did I do the un-doable? Just like I did anything else, piss drunk.

I’m pretty sure it was the 4th, and I got in my truck and I drove around and I stopped at several banks. I didn’t do what a movie [shows] and scout out and “This is the exits and these are the streets and we’re going to put the M16s here.” No. Actually, you go online and it will tell you how to rob a bank. You just go to the National Bank Tellers Association website, and it has the policy for what happens when a bank is robbed, and you just do role-playing based off of what the website says. They might want to change that, maybe they have… I don’t know.

All you need to do is hand them a note and they have to do exactly what the note says. Also, if you want to get caught, get greedy. But if you want to get away with it just ask for what’s in the drawer and walk away. They can’t put dye packs in it if you tell them no dye packs. If you don’t tell them no dye packs, you’re going to get a dye pack in the bag. So I said, “No dye packs.”

I drank a lot. I drank a full bottle, a full 750-milliliter bottle of vodka. I drank another two lightweight travelers for that classic alcoholic, and I stopped at another bar for another couple of shots before I could do this thing. I just randomly stopped at a bank I thought I could get away with. I handed them a note. They handed me money. I shoved the money in my pocket and I left.

“I just randomly stopped at a bank I thought I could get away with. I handed them a note. They handed me money. I shoved the money in my pocket and I left.”

I came out of a blackout later on the freeway headed to Cleveland, and I went to Cleveland because I knew they had a train station. I didn’t know what to expect afterwards and so I was afraid of airports, but I figured I could get away on a train, so I got on a train. I met an art student. Being the good womanizer I am, I convinced her to go back to my hotel. The next morning I had the signs that she had been there and that we had had sex. I was out of money. In fact, I needed my mom to wire me money, wire me stolen money to be able to get home, because I didn’t even have a way home.

Little did I know, she called in for a reward. On January 11th of 2011 I was sitting in my basement with about an inch worth of vodka in my vodka bottle and I needed more vodka. So I got up to go outside to go to the store to get more vodka, and by the time the key was in the ignition there was a Smith and Wesson forty caliber U.S. Marshall’s pistol aimed at my head. I was reaching for my pistol behind the seat. Something told me, “No, just leave it,” and I did. That’s my last day with tobacco, my last day with any alcohol. My last day with any substance whatsoever was 1/11/11.

What happened later was the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and I wouldn’t take it back for the world. I intentionally robbed a bank because I knew that whatever happened afterwards was going to stop me drinking and using. I didn’t care what it was, but I knew that the finality of that act would be enough to stop me, and so, yes, I intentionally put myself in prison. I was shooting for rehab or the six-month program they have here, so I overshot my mark, but I’m glad I did, because there’s things that I got in prison that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

I was able to shed being a coward. I was physically beaten into submission, but that submission was a submission unto myself where if I didn’t want this violence to go against me, I had to stand up for myself. In physical confrontations that I had, I was learning the skills necessary to answer the phone when I owed someone money, to answer the door when I owed someone money, to not be afraid of life on life’s terms, because I was subjected to the cruelest of life’s terms, and that’s what I needed to break the coward.

“I was shooting for rehab or the six-month program they have here, so I overshot my mark, but I’m glad I did, because there’s things that I got in prison that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”

The rest I made about my recovery. I had to figure out what went wrong and I had to educate myself on myself. I needed to understand my role in society and I had to understand my relationship with God, the universe, et cetera, and I had to understand the socio-political climate that we live in and my relationship with it, because there is no social without a whole bunch of “I’s.” That being said, I had to understand my role within it.

That started my philosophy for life, which is the big three. Every person, no matter who you are or how happy you think you are, you need to answer three questions for yourself and that is, “What is your role with your fellow man, your role with God, the universe, the infinite, et cetera and your role with your government and country?” Those are your premises for living, and all logic stems from those three premises, and whatever answers you have for those, don’t sacrifice and don’t compromise, because once you start compromising, you’ve lost yourself, you’ve lost everything, and for this addict, I want to escape again. It’s funny how they talk about the Titanic in that it was said the integrity of the hull was compromised and so it sank, and that’s what happens when you compromise your integrity at any time.

I had to understand that for me spirituality is not a form of mysticism. I learned a term called “introjection,” which is very rare. If you try to Google it, they’ll actually tell you you’ve misspelled a word, but the term was created by a psychiatrist that had witnessed time and time again someone trying to put an incompatible ideology on themselves and only finding personal turmoil and personal devastation, and that was me. That little boy that was in a Christian school and told that his best friends, these action figures, were from Satan, but yet I wanted to be with the in-crowd and the in-crowd was Christian, so I wanted to love Jesus just as much as you love Jesus so that hopefully you’d love me. That was introjection.

When I was trying to adopt ideas of stealing from stores because it was cool, smoking cigarettes and all the other rebellious things that I knew in my soul were wrong as a teenager, that was introjection. When I tried to get clean and sober and put my faith and belief in a big question mark called a higher power, that was introjection. I have consistently tried to put other people’s ideologies and philosophies in my life that are incompatible with my inherent nature, and I have continually and consistently gotten bad results.

If I want to have the integrity to accept the term, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity,” well, that was me. That’s what I was doing. Every time I tried to adopt someone else’s philosophy and put it onto myself, I got the same thing. I got fucked up. If that’s a fact, and I believe it’s a fact, then I need to come up with my own philosophy. I need to come up with something that does work for me and I have to come up with something… I have to answer some pretty tough questions about myself that I’d never answered before.

“If I want to have the integrity to accept the term, ‘Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity,’ well, that was me. That’s what I was doing.”

“Do you believe in God?” Period. There’s three different options for this. There’s a personal creator God that created you, listens to your prayers as well as every other person and being’s prayers in the universe. Do you believe in an underlying ethereal spirit, some mystical force that you can tap into, or do you just flat-out deny the existence? I have to say that agnosticism is the best answer, because I can’t be so arrogant as to definitely say anything. Religionists that say they definitely know things are exactly this way is arrogant, but then so is the inverse, which is, there is definitely nothing anywhere ever. That’s pretty damn arrogant too. I’m not arrogant. I’m confident. There’s a difference. I’m confident that I don’t know yet. I may know later. I may not, but I don’t need to know now. Mainly my concern is that I know for a fact that putting my faith in something that I cannot tangibly feel or relate to reality has never worked, so I’m going to stop doing that.

When I look at a traditional twelve-step program, it mandates a pretty stern dependence on a higher power, but I had to then define what that higher power was. A higher power ultimately is an ideology. It’s a really good example. If you want to use Jesus as an example, be Christ-like. Chances are you’ll stay clean. If you want to use the Buddha as an example, go for it. Chances are you’ll probably stay clean. 

My point is that it’s an ideology you’re adopting, and that’s what’s important, and that’s at your base, but understanding the ethical standard, the morality and the value system, as three separate entities. Values are what you cherish. Morality is the implication of those values, and the ethical standard is how you apply the other two, and knowing that what those are and how to incorporate them in your life.

Is it okay to kill people? Under certain circumstances, it damn well be required. The solider that must seek out the enemy. A personal attack where you’ve got personal defense, self-defense, may result in the death of someone. You can’t just say that death is wrong. It’s not black and white or any other ethical question or moral dilemma. When you have values and what you value, again, the values are directly connected to those three questions. When you can tie those together, you can come up with an ideology that you can follow. You can have a higher power that you can adhere to.

When I release myself, that is, the self that doesn’t have morals, ethics and values, and I release myself to a higher power, a higher power that is an ideology, that is an identity, that follows the new ethical standard that I have now created for myself, then, yes, I can still translate twelve-step into my life but not necessarily in the mystical way that got me drunk before.

I created a faith library in prison because I was on my own spiritual quest. I didn’t know for myself what it meant. In Ohio, in the prison, they recognize forty-six major religions, and so I assembled a collection of base works of every single one of the forty-six religions for myself to read. Of course, I then helped other people on their spiritual journey. I’ve since become an ordained minister, and I did it so that I had a piece of paper that said I actually knew my theological stuff, but I would consider myself an ordained minister in agnosticism. I don’t know if that’s a thing. It is because I’m here, so there’s that. I wanted to know what I was talking about when I was talking about things. I didn’t want to just be a talking head. I wanted to have the personal firsthand experience of doing the legwork and the research on anything.

“I created a faith library in prison because I was on my own spiritual quest. I didn’t know for myself what it meant.”

I got myself in prison, and I told my mom early on, I said, “I’ll get myself out when I’m ready.” That’s a pretty bold statement that she didn’t believe. I said, “No, I will.” I didn’t realize that I actually had pending charges in the other county and if I really wanted to go to prison all I had to do was turn myself into that county and I would have gotten a year. I didn’t know that there was a warrant out for my arrest at the time, so I ended up getting an additional prison sentence beyond robbing a bank.

In Ohio they have this thing called “judicial release.” In other words, it’s up to the judge as to whether or not to let you out. I am the fourth case in Ohio where a convicted felon has been able to orchestrate two separate judicial releases from two separate sentences from two separate judges in two separate counties. I am the only one that has ever done it himself. The other three cases have all had outside attorneys and paid vast sums of money.

When it was time to leave and I had learned everything I had learned, I said, “Okay, I’m ready. I’m going to go ahead and get a judicial release.” No one believed me, and I made it happen. I made it happen because I knew I could. I had belief in what I was doing was right. I had belief in knowing that my logic was sound and my premise was not flawed. I’ve lived by the philosophy that I’ve created in prison ever since. It’s been eighteen months. I was released on March 5th of 2014, so it’s been… yeah, it’s been eighteen months. It’s almost 2016.

In that year and a half or so or whatever, I started a company and I applied every new innovation that I could possibly think of in the business model itself. It has gotten national attention from Angie’s List. It’s gotten national attention from Home Advisor and not just ratings and reviews, but they’re very interested in the business model I created. It is different for this industry. It is the home improvement industry. I will not do insurance claims of any kind, because I feel that that goes against my ethical standard. It’s a lot harder making a buck when you’re not taking free insurance money, but the rewards are ever more great.

“My entire life rests on my shoulders. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the most freeing feeling knowing that by doing the right thing every day you will thrive.”

I am active in recovery. I sponsor several guys. I went from intensive probation to non-reporting probation within the first six months. I have stayed clean and sober this entire time. I’m going to school this fall to pursue a legal career, a legal degree. My business is fluid. I employ six people. I bought a condominium on a land contract, but beyond all the stuff there’s a lot of wholeness. Everything I have is mine. I’m not beholden or dependent on anyone for anything, not for my sustenance, not for my vocation, nothing.

My entire life rests on my shoulders. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the most freeing feeling knowing that by doing the right thing every day you will thrive. The real secret to recovery that I’ve discovered is fulfillment of potential. When you haven’t fulfilled your potential, there’s that gnawing feeling in your soul of uncomfortability. You might call it the God-shaped hole. You can call it whatever you want, but that feeling is the feeling telling you that you’re being lazy, that you’re not doing what you need to be doing and that you need to be doing more.

I did whatever I could to shut that voice up for years. That was the voice I wanted to get rid of, the voice of potential, the voice of not applying oneself in life, and that can translate to depression. That can translate to any myriad mental disorders that can be cured, flat-out cured, if you get off your ass and do things you don’t want to do. But we’ve been given this free pass in our society where you don’t have to do things, and if you get depression, if you become an addict, then just take these pills, but that’s not the cure. The cure is to finally start fulfilling your own personal innovation.

That’s what made this country great. Again, man’s relationship with his country. My relationship with my country is I accept the duty as a citizen to innovate, to be benevolent to other people, and to show kindness and charity and to grow and to create opportunity through others, through the work and efforts that I put forward, but that is not my goal. My goal will always be to see how much I can create and do by fulfilling my potential. That’s the greatest gift that I’ve ever been given. The thing about that is, that as time goes on, you can do even more and more and more. You’re not limited. I have yet to find my true limits, and I hope that I don’t, but it’s a great day to be clean and sober.

Photographs taken at AC’s home in Columbus, Ohio. 

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