I had no plans to write a blog post tonight. Today was supposed to be a research day. And research I did. Until I stumbled upon images of myself that seem like they’re from a lifetime ago. You see, I’m returning to West Virginia State Penitentiary. A place I haven’t been in nine years. So I’ve been digging up photos online from our past investigations there. Fans are excited about it. So am I. Although at first I was hesitant to the idea. That place is intense and I had to ask myself if I’m ready for that again. But I’ll get to that later. To quote Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige, “it’s all connected.”
Between 2010 and 2017, I was a shivering denizen under King Vicodin, then King Heroin. I also bent the knee to King Meth and Queen GHB. My “rise” to “fame” is quite documented. So is the “fall.” And I stumbled quite spectacularly. I was depressed long before I discovered the temporary relief that any drug would lend . After all, what healthy and happy person stumbles into addictions mad realm?
I was arrested twice. It led me to my rock bottom. Those arrests (particularly the second one) helped save my life. I was so far gone that I was starting to forget myself. About a week before it all ended, I remember a key turning point in my life. I was sitting in a tiny apartment alone and in the dark. I cried like I did most days. I looked like death. I hadn’t slept in days. I wondered, “how did my life turn in to this?” I was broke. Surrounded only by people who were using drugs up in State College. My boyfriend at the time was also an addict. We were both codependent and I think we gravitated towards one another early on because we needed someone to lean on. There were a lot of things I loved about him, but as our addiction got worse, things got darker. Towards the end, we spent most of our time fighting. His spells of paranoia were terrifying. He’d accuse me of stealing his keys, his drugs or putting rat poison in his shampoo. This would be followed by violence. We had just gotten into another fight and he stormed off. I had bruises all over my face. I tried to remember what life was like before addiction. I tried to pull up memories from my childhood, or starting PRS in college. But those memories felt like they were from 100 years ago. They were faint and I worried that I wasn’t going to last much longer. I had overdosed a couple of times the year prior. The violence was really starting to worry me. I was about to give up. God knows I wanted to. And for the first time in a long time, I prayed to God. I didn’t get on my hands and knees or even fold my hands. I just stared and said “I don’t want to live this way anymore.” How to escape it? I had no idea. I felt trapped.
If any of you reading this think that I’m trying to come across solely as a victim, let me stop you there. Did anyone force drugs down my throat? No. Did I have bad influences in my life? Sure. But I went down this path by my own hand. None of the extremes that I mentioned above happened overnight. Even with my aforementioned ex (who I truly wish well and hope finds recovery as I have) wasn’t all bad. After all, who is? That’s what addiction does to people. It brings out the absolute worst. And I have learned so many lessons from all of these experiences. Do I wish I could have learned these lessons without feeling like I was run over by a semi-truck? Hell yes. But, as they say in Twelve Step groups, our pain is our source of strength. Or something like that. I’m still figuring that one out.
Yes, I’ve had quite a lot of success in my life. And my stumbles are very public. I’m quite aware of how I acted and behaved while I was on drugs. The lies, manipulation, the arrests, the cringe-worthy live chats and Twitch sessions I’d do while barely keeping my eyes open. My one friend, Robb Demarest, helped get me a chance to appear at a fan convention in NYC back in March 2017. He put himself out on a limb a bit and what did I do? I showed up an hour before the event ended. Wearing sunglasses inside because I said I had an eye infection or some other BS. Trust me, it is humiliating to recall the numerous incidents where I completely embarrassed myself, my family, PRS, “Paranormal State” etc etc. I became the exact opposite of everything I stood for.
In May 2017 my mother visited me in jail. She drove 650 miles to see me. But this trip wasn’t like previous ones where she came to see my book signing at the Penn State Barnes and Noble, or to see my show premiere at Schwab Auditorium. No, this was to visit her son in jail. She’s a tough woman and she had to do what many other parents have had to do… cut me out to save her and the family from the toxicity that I carried. Addiction, after all, preys on those who love the addict the most. Seeing her behind glass, fighting back tears as she said “you’re so much better than this. You don’t belong in this place” is a memory I wish I didn’t have in my brain. But it is one I will always remember. Because that was my true rock bottom moment.
I agreed to go to rehab. The people who’d come into my life (as well as those who’d come back in to my life) helped keep me on my path. I went to rehab, where I met Robby (who’s now loved by many of our supporters). I learned the Twelve Steps. Met many other men who were all trying to heal from years of self-inflicted abuse. Their souls were tired. But there was still a spark in them. They helped me learn to let go. Something that is incredibly hard for me.
It was tough, at first, getting through those early months of recovery. The first year is difficult. I won’t lie or sugar coat it for anyone struggling with addiction who may be reading this. I never experienced what they call “the pink cloud,” where at first you feel like everything is awesome and that you’ve got addiction beat. No, I felt tired. My self-run riot was long and I partied until the wheels came off. I was trying to numb the pain that I had and carried with me for years. I was lonely. For a while, drugs helped me forget about that pain so long as I agreed to stay high 24/7. But eventually, the bill comes due and you’re faced with one long and agonizing list of things you haven’t dealt with. I was also angry, too, while I was using. Lorraine Warren once told me, “you’re angry at the world.” I remember that comment stung me. I didn’t disagree with her, but I wasn’t ready to accept that all my complex problems could be summed up in a short sentence. In other words, there wasn’t anything special about my pain. Everyone has pain. Not everyone turns to drugs, however. I wish I could explain how someone “like me” fell in to this trap, but I can’t. Maybe one day.
I’m over one year and nine months drug-free. A lot has changed. I’m “me” again, but yes I’m also different. I’m making peace with my pain. For years, I dealt with everyone else’s pain. Doing case after case for PRS and “Paranormal State.” I never took time to deal with my own problems. Hell, I wasn’t even aware that I had problems until it was too late. I don’t expect everyone to understand. I know some people still jeer me. But that’s life. I did a lot of wrong the past few years. I don’t expect everyone to forgive me or accept my apology. There are some wrongs that I am unable to right, so the best thing I can do is live better and do better the next time around. We refer to that as “Living Amends.”
For so long, I felt that I had to be this perfect human being. And maybe I thought that I was the only one who could solve people’s problems. As fun as having a TV show was, I realize that love, family and friends are more important. And that I need relationships in my life. Healthy ones. I can’t help anyone if I’m not healthy.
So, tonight while looking up pictures and articles on West Virginia State, I found some old photos of myself. And dared to click on a few links that chronicle my dark life. I cringed. I laughed. I teared up. And I remembered why I don’t google myself right now.
And, I’m thankful for every experience that I’ve mentioned above. Even the bad ones. It sounds weird, but I’m starting to appreciate why they were necessary. I am thankful for the second chances people have offered. I did sign with a production company this past summer (run by one of my former executive producers of “Paranormal State”) and we will see what happens. I’m slowly marching through grad school. I’m finding joy in doing smaller events with fans and supporters. It’s allowed me to get to know them. Before, when we did events with hundreds of attendees, it was impossible to get to know someone. I’m thankful for all the messages and e-mails you all have sent me. Some of you have shared your addiction stories. Early on, that helped me get by.
I’m also aware that some people wish I’d get back to talking about the paranormal. And I will. I promise. I’m not leaving my work to become a professional Recovery Speaker. But this is what’s on my mind. And in my soul. Right now, I’m still healing. My days keep getting busier and I love that. I have traveled all over this country (and even to a few other countries) in this short period.
It’s amazing how something like looking up articles on West Virginia State can lead to me writing a blog. After all, it’s been over a year. Every time I thought about writing one, I’d say, “I…just…can’t yet. I’m not ready.” Same as West Virginia State. I’ve been wanting to go back. But I kept telling myself “not yet, not yet.” The universe has a funny way of pushing us.
So that’s my rant. I’m alive and well. Things are getting better with every passing month. Sure, there are up’s and down’s. But through it all I’m living life. We have a lot of goals set for 2019 and 2020. I plan to take on cases again starting in the fall. We are aiming to re-open a PRS office in 2020. I thank you all for cheering me on and reading my random posts. I promise I’ll try harder to throw more out there.