Some of this I’ve told before,
But it’s what has been on my mind since opening Joy’s House;
I’ll try to tie it together; though I do go off on tangents.
Apologies in advance.
Is it wrong to want to be a hero?
I now own a house again.
I sold my last one in May 2006;
To pay for rehab.
Which shows you just how much of a bottom I’d hit.
I LOVED that little house.
It was a 900 sq ft., 2 bedroom/1 bathroom dollhouse (well, a dollhouse might have had a little more room). It was on 1/3 acre & we had 6 dogs, so they loved it, too.
It was also my first.
I wouldn’t have sold my old one eyed Hyundai to go into treatment,
Let alone my house,
But I was done.
It was either that,
Or dying.
But any time I thought of killing myself; and there were quite a few of those near the end;
With scenarios constantly playing out in my head.  But,
Whenever I started to muster up the courage to do it –
Actually step past the fantasy & introduce it to reality –
A thought,
A ….feeling?
No, a certainty,
That was physical,
Washed over me.
Whenever I think about it, the only description that comes close is;
It was like a winning coach getting the cooler full of Gatorade poured over him.
That physical/felt.
But even more so, it was also an understanding:
I know it was my soul pleading with me.
How do you describe that?
After rehab, I got a sponsor, worked the steps,
And with the help of all three I finally walked through what I’d tried with every drug or drink I could get my hands on to avoid:
That I was the reason my 3 year old daughter Joy was dead.
If you’ve read my story, ’Do you know me? Really?’ You know that Joy spent nine months in a chronic vegetative state after accidently strangling in the footrest mechanism of her grandfather’s recliner chair,
Until one night when a nurse, who had to turn her every two hours to prevent bedsores, turned her too hard and broke her shoulder;
But nobody knew because she couldn’t cry out that it hurt.
She was turned on and off that broken shoulder throughout the night until a physical therapist noticed something was wrong & x-rays confirmed the broken shoulder.
When they called me to tell me, I thanked the doctor, hung up, sat at my kitchen table and thought about my little girl;
About what she had been;
The brightest – she was ½ Cuban and spoke Spanish & English at the age of 2.
The most beautiful – Seriously, if Gerber saw this little girl, she would have been the Gerber baby.
That beautiful.
The most loving little girl – who always had a smile on her face, a laugh in her voice and used to wake me up by putting her face about 2 inches from mine and whispering, “Gooood morning, Daddy.”
The loveliest child who ever graced this earth.
And I thought of what she was now,
And would be for decades on end;
A blind, deaf, paralyzed, little girl being fed through a tube in her stomach, breathing through a tube in her throat, and always so stiff from her body fighting the erratic signals from her brain stem.
We all spend our lives on a ledge, and sometimes life, without a second look, knocks you off of it.
I was the first parent convicted of a ‘mercy killing’ of their child.
I was convicted of 1st degree murder, aggravated assault (for the nurse I held at gunpoint), possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
I did 10 ½ years in a maximum security prison before a deal was worked out with the Governor, State Attorney & my attorney,
And I was set free.
Spending the next 10 ½ years as a full blown addict & alcoholic while running a strip club in Miami Beach;
Shooting up coke in the bathroom, smoking crack in my office, and swallowing handfuls of pain pills with enough alcohol that I was hospitalized 3 times for complications from it.
Until I lost my little brother to alcohol.
Sean was in Las Vegas partying with friends, he got drunk, passed out, got sick,
And suffocated on his own vomit.
That was the catalyst that caused me to sell my house and go into rehab.
The reason I am telling you all of this is because I never,
Considered myself a “hero.”
Wouldn’t be in the top 100 if you asked me to describe myself,
Or in the top 10,000 if you asked me how other people described me.
I look at myself and I see a convicted murderer, ex con, strip club manager, addict & alcoholic who was twice divorced.
And a lousy father even before Joy’s accident, if we’re going to continue with the rigorous honesty;
Because the reason Joy was at her grandparent’s when she was hurt is that her mother had grown up after Joy’s birth – she stopped smoking pot & playing pool at our neighborhood bar in Miami Beach.
I didn’t.
Even the way It’s all in the JOURNEY came to be is nothing I can be proud of. I didn’t sit down and decide that I was going to start a recovery magazine that would inspire some people, and everyone seems to like
It started when I left treatment and got a job as a night tech at the same detox center I’d gone through 6 times in 8 years. Another night tech had a lap top he wanted to sell and I bought it so I could play poker at night while the clients were sleeping.
But God had other plans.
I stumbled across blogging while surfing the net;
Yahoo 360 to be exact.
I’d never heard of it & after reading some of the stories, I got an urge to start writing.
Maybe it was an anonymous way of continuing to let the stuff inside of me, out.
Like I did in group at rehab; but was discouraged from doing in my 12 step meeting.
People started reading it and leaving comments.
That was the first time anyone, had said anything,
Positive about me.
Maybe it was ego (I’m sure it was ego),
But it was also a basic human need;
To be told that you are worthy.
To be made to feel good about yourself.
It was a new & strange feeling,
And honestly?
I liked it.
Is it wrong to want to be a hero?
Then one day I was asked to be the editor of JOURNEY by a reader of my blog.
I don’t know why my writing touches people.
Because I came back up, from so far down?
Because I can see, and seemingly articulate seeing, God’s hand in my life?
I don’t know.
I do know that God has a plan for me,
And seems to enjoy showing me parts of it.
The latest?
The house I bought last week (Or actually my dad took a loan against his house for me – which is a miracle in itself),
Is now Joy’s House; a sober house for women,
Something I have wanted to do since I got sober.
It was also, it turns out, my old boss’s old house!
Ronnie, who sat in the kitchen with me through so many nights at the detox center I worked at.
And he owned.
Now that could be just a cool coincidence,
Though there are no coincidences,
It’s happened to me before.
And it involved my first idea of a Joy’s House.
I told you about my house that I had to sell to get into treatment,
Below is the story I wrote about that.
As my time was finishing, I started to look for a place to stay.
Marian put me in touch with Judi, an alumnus of Transitions (my treatment center)with five years clean, who was now a real estate agent.
As we drove around looking for a place to rent (With my credit, and criminal background I couldn't buy anymore), we talked.
Judi told me about 'Harmony House', a recovery house she had opened for women. Where women just out of treatment and trying to turn their lives around, went to work but lived together for sober support and company.
I told her I wanted to open one for women and their children, so worrying about their kids staying with family members, instead of with them, wouldn't be an added stress. I wanted to call it Joy's House. Judi told me she had thought of doing one, too.
"That's great." I said, "Why don't we do one together?"
"Charles, easy does it." She laughed. "You’re not even out of treatment yet. You have to build your foundation."
I looked at her, "Don't you think having a recovery house for moms and their kids in Joy's name would help build my foundation?"
"Let God talk to you." She answered.
That night Jessica called me. She has remarried and had a child since our divorce, but she still calls once a month to check on me. She had called me when I'd gone into Transitions to tell me she hoped I'd make it this time. Now she called to tell me of an idea she'd had.
"Why don't you check with Tony? He owns that first house we rented when we got married and had the dancers from Czech staying with us. He knows you, so your credit or your record won't matter. And he'll let you keep your dogs."
It was a perfect idea. I called Judi and told her about Jessica's call. "It's perfect. A two story, three bedroom, three bathroom triplex with a swimming pool. It's right across the street from Holistic Center (another treatment center) and down the street from Back On Track (a clubhouse where AA and NA meetings were held), and Tony, the owner, knows me, so there's no problem with my record or credit. It's perfect!"
"Across from Holistic? What was that address Charles?" She asked me.
When I told her, I got my 1st God Shot since prison; when God told me I'd see Joy again.
"That's not for rent", Judi said. "I bought that house from Tony! It's my Harmony House for women!"
Think about that.
There are hundreds of thousands of houses in Miami and thousands of realtors. And the realtor I get? The one I'm telling I want to open a recovery house for women and their children in Joy's name?
The one who told me to let God speak to me?
This realtor has bought my first home and made it a recovery home for women!
This house that went from a place where women drank and got high just to go to work, is now a house where women work to just not drink or get high.
How cool is that?
Something else?
Judi had stumbled across my blog and became a regular reader. In fact, she was the reader of my blog who asked me to be the editor of It’s all in the JOURNEY magazine!
My partner and I bought her out before the first issue came out partly because she and her partner wanted to make the magazine a recovery poetry magazine and also because she realized that it was going to take a LOT more than we thought, to get a magazine produced;
But the magazine was her idea.
As was the name;
Which was another peek God gave me behind the curtain.
Judi’s sober house for girls was called Harmony House,
And its motto was…It’s all in the Journey.
“How about ‘It’s all in the JOURNEY?” She asked me one day as we were tossing names back & forth.
I thought/felt “Yes!” inside of me as soon as she said it.
It wasn’t until the first cover was laid out that Julieta (my first graphics designer – that’s a story in itself), said,
“Charlie, look. The first two letters and the last letter spell out JOY! And they’re the first two and last letter of her name!”
And so it did.
And while I couldn’t open a sober house for women & children with my record (Honestly? I’m kinda glad. Because if a mom was to relapse; I don’t think I could put her out on the street with a child),
2 ½ years later I am opening a sober house for women.
It was something else I knew/felt inside of me,
That I was going to do since it came out of my mouth while riding around with Judi looking for a place to live after treatment.
One of the reasons I agreed to be the editor of JOURNEY;
And have fought so hard to keep it going,
Is so Joy will never be forgotten.
I write about her, and have her on the cover,
So people will know her,
Think about her,
Talk about her,
Care about her.
One phone call I received was from a lady who wanted to start a subscription from the very first issue. She told me that she & her husband had tries to have a child for years,
And just found out they were never going to have one.
“I didn’t know how I was going to not drink,” She told me. “Then I came across a copy of JOURNEY magazine.”
“I feel like I have a child when I read about you and Joy.”
“You’ve helped keep me sober.”
What can you say to that?”
It is because of the e mails that tell me Joy is looking down on me, smiling and proud of me.
E mails that tell me how my stories have made them re-think what they are going through, and that if I can make it through all I’ve been through, they could, too. And were really going to try it this time.
A person coming up to me and telling me they love the magazine;
It makes them feel they are a part of something.
And a letter I received last week, from a guy who told me he has been trying to ‘get it’, but the least little frustration and he’s on another run.
He told me that he admires how I rely on God and trust in Him no matter what:
“I’m going to try to live my life like that, Charlie.” You’re a good example for me.”
What do you say to that?
So, honestly, it does feed my ego,
But is it wrong to enjoy hearing,
That you are helping others?
Is it wrong to want to be a hero?
Joy’s House though, is to honor Joy.
This is something from me,
To her;
For her.
I received an e-mail from someone when I first wrote about Joy’s House becoming a reality,
“Joy must be so proud of you. She is looking down on you and telling everyone, ‘That’s my Daddy and I am proud of him.’”
I cried.
And thought,
Is it wrong to want to be a hero,
In Heaven?

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