Scarring the blacktop


By charlieg


All of us have scars.


Both physical & emotional.


They leave marks on us.


Physically; they can be visually stunning.


Emotionally; you can't see them,


But they are usually the most stunning of all.


Both are like road maps to our selves.


In AA/NA you follow that map.




From where you are now,


Back to what brought you that pivotal point.


The point where 'THAT' happened.


'THAT' could be something you did,


Or was something that was done to you.


Something that was your fault;


Or happened through no fault of yours.


You can have one 'THAT',


Or a series of 'THAT'S.’


'THAT', though, changes us.


Sends us onto a different lane for our ride through life.


And to get back on the road you are suppose to be on,


You have to revisit 'THAT'.


There are many roadblocks,


Self imposed detours around specific points of interest.


You cannot go around these, you must travel through them.


Because otherwise you will get lost and never find the starting point.


And only from the original starting point can you fix your 'compass',


And then, start anew on your journey.


In the direction you were meant to travel in the first place.


In treatment I learned how to follow my map, backwards to the beginning,


 To fix my compass.

And now I've started from the beginning,


1 year ago.

That's when I went back out on this road trip,

This time with new directions.

And since!

Stopping to rest here a moment, I gaze at my life,

In Awe. And really?


Only 1 year.

The original road trip started 22 years ago.

Maybe a little more, but those weren't really road trips,

Just driving in circles,

With my life.

BUT, the real trip started in October 1984,

When my 2 year old daughter, Joy, was strangled in the footrest of her grandfather's recliner,

9 months in a vegetative state, until I decided it would be more merciful if she were dead,

Than to exist like that for 30-40 years.

The following series of 'THAT''s sent me zigzagging from lane to lane like a drunken driver.

Come to think of it, I usually was a drunken driver on my road trip.

Joy's accident sent me onto a new road.

Her death, and my part in it, onto another.


Turned onto an exit ramp to purgatory there.

Upon release, I drove down alcohol & pain killers Blvd.

Never got so lost as to not be able to find that road again,

And again.

Eased into traffic with cocaine,

Zigged and zagged between lanes,

Between snorting it and shooting it.

Swerved into oncoming traffic when I smoked crack for the first time.

An accident waiting to happen.

It happened.

Finally broke down.

When did my ride came to an end?

And I finally started home? 

It was the perfect storm. 


A flat tire

The ride was no longer rolling smoothly along.

The pain had grown bigger than the pleasure.

Let’s face it; the pleasure had long since faded away,

Now wrapped in the pain,

That it used to cover.

Though we chase it for eternity.


The engine quit.

At the end, when I finally said, 'I give.' I was taking 30-40 pain pills a day, snorting, smoking, & shooting coke,

Drinking till I puked, or passed out, and finishing with a few xanax to 'relax',

3 hospitalizations for drinking complications.

9 attempts at detoxing.

1 rehab.

They say we don't drink to feel good, but to not feel.

That’s what I wanted to feel…..nothing.


The weather

Clear skies were a memory.

It was a constant thunderstorm.

An eternal/internal tug-of-war.

My soul kept nudging me with the memory of God telling me I would see Joy again one day.

I knew that there was a God. I knew that He forgave me.

But forgiving myself. That was on a whole different level. 


These three came together.

Just waiting for the final catalyst. 


A lot of people don't consider alcohol to be a drug.

Or, at least not a dangerous one.

That I found out, isn’t true.

And it was that, 'THAT', that sent me home.

From driving lost for so many years, through such a miserable landscape.

The final ingredient that set off the perfect storm; 

My brother dying.

Sean lived in Las Vegas. He had been at a party, drinking with friends.

He got drunk. He passed out.

He vomited.

He suffocated. 

'THAT' was it for me. I gave up.


There is a saying in the rooms,

If you want to get clean, you have to

"Do the twelve steps".

If you want to stay clean, you have to,

"Get God, clean house, & help another alcoholic or addict".

This is how I live my life now. 


Get God

I pray to God every morning;

'God, let me know, and do, Thy will, not my will."

''Guide my thoughts and words'.

'Help me to help someone today'.

'Let them see Thee, in me, and let me see Thee, in them'.  

Clean house

Clean house is to get rid of, continuously, any resentment,






Or, anything, that bothers us.

We go to a meeting and talk about what is bothering us.

We do not retain it.

And when we were wrong in any situation.

We promptly admit it.

We keep our house, (ourselves), clean of any dirt.

It is living a life on spiritual principles, and of rigorous honesty. 


 Help another alcoholic or addict

We can't keep what we have unless we give it away.

We can't.

By helping a person who is sick, or suffering,

We help ourselves.

Reaching out to someone else,

Looking to give whatever you can,

Instead of taking whatever you can,

Is a high itself.

It really is. 

1 year ago I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror,

Lips blistered from not letting the crack pipe cool down.

Blood trickling down my arm, where I didn't wipe it after shooting up.

Eyes nodding, because even the cocaine couldn't stop the effects of 30-40 pain killers a day.

My stomach still upset from throwing up all the alcohol.

I looked at myself in the mirror,

And I saw myself.

I saw myself for the first time,

In a long, long time.

Behind the mask.

Behind the self denial.

And it scared the shit out of me.

So much, that I sold my home & went into treatment.  

It took driving miles & miles, for over a decade, lost in hell,

To get  to 'THAT' point.

It took twelve steps to find my way home. 

The twelfth step begins with;

Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps.

You do.

And it is Amazing.

When you have that, 'THAT',

When you realize that God  is.

And you give Him the wheel.

You let Him drive.

On the journey you were meant to be on.

What a road trip 'THAT' is!

A vacation trip.

To God's amusement park.

And those rides?


Since giving up the wheel & just sitting back and enjoying the ride; 


I hired a realtor while looking for a place to live after leaving rehab,

Who had 5yrs.clean and owned a recovery house for women.

I told Judy I wanted to open one & call it, Joy's House.

Turns out her recovery house was my first house!

When I ran a strip club & had dancers living with me.

So, out of more than 1/2 million homes in Miami,

This house went from a place where women drank & got high,

Just to go to work.

To a house where women worked,

Just to not drink or get high. 


The day before I was to visit Joy's grave,

For the first time in 21 years clean & sober,

The same realtor wanted me to look at a duplex.

I didn't want to.

I was so scared of going to see my daughter's grave,

To make amends,

Without a drink or drug.

But I had to find a place to live.

My time was up in treatment,  my dogs had been boarded for 45 days.

I had to go.

While waiting out front for the realtor,

Ready to say, "Fuck this"

And go get a six pack and 20-30 pain killers (Had that number on speed dial!),

The lady who lived in the other side of the duplex came out,

With her daughter.

Two or three years old. The same age as Joy before the accident.

And absolutely beautiful.

I asked her name. "Her name is Faith." The mother said.

"Really? My daughter's name was Joy." I told her.

"Really? My name is Joy!" She said.

I felt God.

I met Faith & Joy the day before visiting Joy,

At the moment I needed them most. 

The next day I made peace with my daughter.

I told Joy I was going to live a life to make her proud.

I buried my 'white chip' with her, The chip you are given when you decide to stop drinking.

I've since buried my 30 day, my 90 day, my 6 month, my 9 month, and my 1 year chip with her. 

I was asked to start bringing an AA meeting into a treatment center, every other Monday.

The same one I had walked out of.

The next day I was asked if I wanted to start working at a detox center,

The same one I went through 6 times.

That Monday I went from being a patient at,

To working for,


Two different places,

Full circle,

Same day.  


I work the night shift at the detox center.

For the most part,

Except for vitals every 4 hours,

And a head count every 2 hours,

After 12 am, the patients are asleep.

A co worker happened to have 2 computers for sale.

I bought one, figuring I could play poker during the night.

Somehow, I came across a blog site.

I decided to try to do one on my fight to reclaim a normal life.

Turned out, I wasn't too bad as a writer.

Or, it was the story I was telling.

But, one lady liked my writing.

She called me to tell me she was starting a recovery magazine.

Not a newsletter, like most,

But a real, glossy page, you have to look twice to be sure it's not a People magazine,


I told her I thought it was a great idea.

She was glad I liked it, because,

She has been reading my blog, and wanted me to be the editor.

Of the magazine.


Of a magazine with an initial issue of 10,000 copies.

Aimed directly at people in, and trying to get in, recovery.


1 year… 

But the greatest ride of all?

The one that when it was finished, I said, 

"Wait, I can't get up yet, my legs are still shaking",

"My heart is beating funny."

"Oh my God!"

"Oh God."

And cried?

The greatest "E" ticket ride I will ever go on in my life? 


It was about 6 months into sobriety.

I was asked to speak at a treatment center.

I told my story,

When I was finished, I told them how recliners were changed after Joy's accident.

How a padded booster came up to fill,

Or a cloth stretched across to cover,

The space between the footrest and the body of recliner chairs.

Because of Joy.

I told them there was no telling how many hundreds of children were saved,

Because of Joy.

When I finished a young, black girl,

No more than 20, 22 years old, spoke.

She told me she had a little sister named Joy.

Joy Rochelle.

She said that  she used to take care of her when they were children because their parents were never home.

She told me that Joy had gotten caught in the footrest of the family's recliner chair.

And that her little sister had been "jammed in there good",

She had trouble getting her out.

I waited.

Frozen in headlights.

Unable to move.

As the car click clacked slowly up the tracks, to the pinnacle of the biggest hill,

On the rollercoaster, in God's amusement park.

Unable to see what's below.

What's coming.

Then, as the car crests the apex of the hill,

And you go from seeing only the sky as you rose,

To looking down,

Seeing everything.

She said, "Finally, I got her out…and she was ok."

"Because this 'thing' came up and stopped the footrest from closing on her completely"

"So I want you to know, that I know, that your Joy saved my Joy." 

How cool is that?  

Find God, Clean house, Help another human being.

If only the world lived by these principles. 

1 year..

Trying to live a life to make Joy proud..

I hope she is.



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