Neil has been coming to The Ridge since 2012 and serves in the Greeting Group and helps in the elementary Kid’s Classes. His life has changed a lot in the last year. Those of us who know him are grateful for him and all the ways he encourages others. He shared part of his story in the Sunday services, you can see it here. For “the rest of the story” he writes…
It was a cool crisp morning in November when I was born. Isn’t that how every story is supposed to start? Ok don’t let me start lying to you. I don’t know what it was like the day I was born, but I can tell you that my father was in the military which gave me the awesome point of being able to say I was born in Heidelberg, Germany. It was first grade when I moved back state side for the rest of my life to this point. Things where not all that bad, I had what seemed like the normal family, up until everything in my world changed. I remember sitting on the stairs of my house as a kid listening to my parents scream at each other. It was shortly after all that started that they split up. So my 4th grade year we moved with my mom down to the St. Paul area. We moved a few times while we where down there. It was during this time that my mom met my stepdad, but we will talk about him later.
I hated my father for everything that happened. I blamed him for the divorce. I blamed him for everything that happened to me. He was suppose to be this man of strength. The “Man” that was suppose to hold everything together no matter what happened in life. I don’t ever remember meeting my Step-mom before my Dad came down and told us he was getting married. I remember sitting in my dads 1978 Camaro as he told us what was going on. Even though I blamed him for a lot of things I was still happy for him that he was finally happy. She seemed like a good woman.
My mother on the other hand we struggled so much. We moved almost every year it seemed. It could have been more then that. She met my step-dad and he seemed to be a good guy also. My thoughts on him would change, because this one time when we where getting kicked out of an apartment my mom and step-dad stayed up all night playing games. My sister was sick and running a fever and my mom and step-dad got into a physical fight where he slammed my mom into the doorknob on the front door. I got between them to break it up. We ended up having to pull all our stuff out into the hallway. My sister was so sick but she helped pack up and pull it all out there into one big pile in the middle of the entry for the apartment complex. I did not have high opinions about him after this happened.
My life was so turned upside down at this point I stated acting out. Fights at school and started smoking cigarettes somewhere between 4th and 6th grade. Use to steal them from the ashtray, and then from my mom, grandma, or anywhere I could grab one or two. My Mother caught me doing this because I left them sitting in my windowsill and she found them. She brought them to me and asked me about it and I said I did it. She informed me that she could not tell me not to do it because she did it herself, but she would not support my habit. This started my now never ending fight trying to quit these things that I really don’t ever remember not having in my life.
Moving forward into my life in 7th grade I ended up moving back up with my dad because my mom and step-dad lost their job. They could not afford to have us there anymore and did not know what else to do, but for me I did not see it this way. I felt that she did not want me there anymore. With these feelings and the ones I felt for my dad I was lost. Now I was moving back into a house with a man that I blamed for things that have happened. Being there brought some good things, and some of the worst things. In school I was on the A and B honor-role, but I also got into a lot of trouble. Sense I was getting into so much trouble my father and I did not seem to get along.
I had one time that I was hanging out with my friend and his friend pulled up and asked us if we wanted to go for a ride and have some fun. So we took off and headed out looking for some weed. We drove all over the northern part of MN and hit every place he knew to find something. We only ended up finding a small joint to smoke between 4 people. It was really late and we where about an hour away and heading home when my friends friend asked if we could just take the SUV back up with us and he would pick it up tomorrow because he was too tired to drive all the way up there and back tonight. So we agreed and took off. Next thing I know we where getting pulled over by the cops and being arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle. My dad was called at about 1:00 in the morning to come and get me.
I had another time where I physically moved a kid out of my chair by sliding him across the room and grabbing another chair and sitting down. I ended up in the principles office really quickly after that. At this point they sent me home and my dad had to go to the school because they told him they where not sure if they where going to let me back into school. A few days prior to this I was already grounded to my room for touching my dad’s answering machine. The way my dad worded it was it is my stuff not yours, so you need to keep your hands off of it. Even though I heard that it was my friend, and knew it was for me I was not allowed to touch it. This on top of me moving the kid made me over the top mad so I removed the phone cords from the phones and threw them under the desk. We ended up going to a benefit dinner that night and when we got home I was sent to my room, because I was grounded. When my father found out that I had touched his stuff and pulled the cords he came up and in a very mad mood. I remember him grabbing me by my shirt and asking if what I did with them. I told them they where under his desk. I remember him picking me up and slamming me down on the floor. I stood up and can’t tell you what word where exchanged up until he slapped me the first time. I then told him “Don’t you ever f-ing hit me again”. He slapped me again and I again returned the same thing to him. This happened once or twice more till he balled up his fist and hit me. I returned the punch to him. He then pushed me back on my bed and pulled me to the floor, and started kicking me. It took everything I could to grab the bottom side of my bed and push him into the wall and hold him there. When I felt like we where done I let him loose. During or after this point I told him I don’t want to live here anymore, and he told me to pack my stuff and I could get out. So I started packing and as I was doing this he was taking the boxes down stairs. I did not realize at this point that he was throwing my stuff into the front yard. During this entire thing just like every other time my step mother stayed out of things. He had called my grandfather to come get me, and after packing everything up that I could I sat in my front yard waiting on grandpa. This once again made me feel unwanted.
I lived with my grandparents for a few weeks while my mother worked on coming up to get me. I remember it was Halloween for one of the days we where on the train. I made it down to Round Rock and this place was a whole new world from what I was use to. My mom treated me more like a friend that she did a parent. I came and went as I pleased and never really got in trouble. I finally had the freedom that I wanted, but still wanted someone to care enough to help me. Living in such a big town was so much better then living in a small town. There was more to do. I partied with friends a lot. I went from being on the honor roll to getting C’s and D’s, but I was having fun now so who cares.
Shortly after I moved to Round Rock I met my High School Sweetheart. We dated for a little over 2 years. I was so in love with her. For the first time I had someone that loved me the way I love them. Or so I thought. Things where perfect, we where making plans for our future; the house, the farm, turning the barn into a dance studio, getting horses. There was nothing I would not have done for her. This was all the way up until her mother found out that we where messing around. My whole life changed once again. I remember during Christmas her sending me a message telling me that her mom found out. I remember her telling me that things had to end. I remember her just disappearing from my life as her mother moved her to her dads house hours away and me never getting to say goodbye. Never getting to say I am sorry or that I love you. Once again I was lost.
I started smoking pot shortly after I moved to Texas also. I know like I said before I tried it before, but I do not consider that my starting point. It was such a small joint that it did not even get me high the first time. It was not till I made it down here that I really started smoking, but I would also like to say that I do not believe that it is a gateway drug into anything. We all make our choices. It was not until I lost my high school sweet heart that I started going to Raves. Then I lost myself somewhere in the middle of Acid, XTC, Mescaline, Speed, Triple C’s, Shrooms, heroin based XTC pills, Jack Daniel’s was my love. Then I met my best friend “Cocaine”. I started selling coke to make money to party. I remember partying to much one night and waking up late to school then calling my mother to pick me up, and to drop me off at school. I also remember doing a few rails before she showed up and took me to school. Just to show you how much I did not care. I had one time I was cutting the coke out in my bedroom. I had a Chest that was turned sideways to block my computer. My mother opened my door as I was cutting up some coke and talked to me. I leaned back and talked to her as if the stuff was not even there.
I met my first wife during this partying stage of my life. She was this awesome woman. She was bald all except a set of white devil horns and a set of long pink bangs in the front. She was a Cali Rocker Chick. I could not believe that this girl that I have been talking to on the internet was actually this close to me now. I had to meet her. After a short time of partying and being together we sobered up. Hers’ was a little easier then mine. We moved back to my home in MN to help me get out of the life I was in. While I was up there I cheated on her. Once she found out her mother came and got her, and I was once again alone. I could not handle this so I grabbed my last check, and headed back to Texas. I lived in my car for about 2 months when I got back down here. It was not that I could not have found a place to stay, but my pride was too much. I could not go home. I could not admit defeat. I was to strong for that. I found out the girl that I cheated on my first wife with was pregnant and going around telling my family that it was my kid. I told my family to tell her if it was my kid I was coming after it, but we will get back to that. My first wife and I got back together after about 2 months of me being down here. We ended up pregnant 4 times. Every time that she made it to about 3 to 4 months she would loose the child. The first few times we told everyone only having to make the phone calls back to tell them that she lost it. The last few times we only told the people that where close to use. After loosing 5 kids total during the 4 pregnancies we where devastated. She had something that was like a mole in her uterus that caused her body to think that every time she got pregnant the baby was cancer and killed it. They removed this during her last DNC, but we never tried again. The strain from all of that caused us to separate once again for a few months. After we got back together I figured I would make things right. We decided to get married. I mean if we could make it through all of that what could we not make it threw. We got married on June 25th of 2005.
It only took us 6 months to get separated again after we got married it was December 24th, 2005 we where at her mom’s and step-dad’s place and something just did not feel right. We where all standing around the pit and had the fire going, and I would stand next to her and she would move over. I noticed that every time her step-dad’s brother would move over. She would move over. Then I moved over and so on and so forth. This happened a few times till I was mad and just went in the house to lay down. The whole thing did not feel right. She woke me up off of the couch and asked me to come to bed. So, I made my way that way and was cuddling up to her and she started crying. I asked her what was wrong. This was the time that she informed me that she was/had been sleeping with her step dad’s brother. I was so mad, but told her we would deal with this in the morning. When we got up it was on. The yelling and the screaming until I told her to take me home to my mothers. In the car the yelling continued. I even took my ring off and threw it on the floor only to pick it up again. We finally made it to my mom’s house and I made it to my room, and she left. That day I destroyed everything in my room. Punching boxes and throwing anything I could get my hands on. I locked myself away for about a month.
My mother came knocking on my door one day and told me that I needed to get out. That I could not keep myself locked away forever. She told me that I needed to go hang out with friends, and as much as I did not feel like it I called up one of my friends and headed over there. It was on this day that this beautiful woman walked through the door at my friend’s house. I could not say two words to her, and by the time I could we where both so high that it did not matter. I went back home that night not knowing how I felt about any of it. I found her on MySpace and decided to add her as a friend. She denied me so I sent her a message. She did not even remember me let alone know who I was. So I told her who I was and where we met and we kept talking. I asked her what she was doing and she said that she was making a cheese cake. It was that cheese cake that changed my world. I went over there and never went home.
It only took 6 months of things being so perfect we decided to start having kids. We where in love so why would this not be our next step. She got pregnant with my first kid. After she got pregnant I got lost. I did not know how to handle any of it. I was so scared that she was going to loose it. Then out of no where my high school sweetheart got hold of me. One thing led to another and before I knew it we where sending emails back and forth that should have never been sent. It only took a little while for her to find out about all of this and we separated for a week because of it. Things seemed to get better, until she was up most of the night with what she thought where false contractions. When I got up I asked her why she did not wake me, and I was on the way to the hospital when we got hold of the doctor and he told us just to wait a little bit before we headed in because his office was opening up soon. We went to Wendy’s and ate breakfast. By the time we got to the doctors office and she got checked out she was already dilated to 7 cm. There was no turning back. My son was coming, and he was only 24 weeks into the pregnancy. He was born at 1 Lbs 10 oz. He spent 126 days in the hospital, and this only put further stress on her and me. We made it through this and had 2 more kids. My daughter seemed to be the perfect pregnancy. My second son though made it to about 34-36 weeks, but she almost bled out giving birth to him. The depression, and anxiety, and everything was getting to her. Then having the 3 kids on top of that she was loosing it. I on the other hand dove into work. I worked 3 jobs justifying it with the fact that I needed to take care of the kids. When I got home I did the whole my job is done thing and sat there. Most of the time I was so tired and my body was no longer working that I could not get up. I look back now and wish I would have gotten up and helped clean, helped take care of the kids, helped her and been the man that I should have been, but we where just both lost.
March 31, 2013 that day will ring in my head until the day I die. It was the day that she and I separated. The day that we got into an argument and she told me that she was not my slave. I told her “If you want to live in my house you will be.” If you could ever take back one thing in your life this would be mine. I went to church that day on Easter and worked all four services. I drove home and never thought in a million years that she would be moving out. I showed up only to have her friend pull me to the side and her get in the car and back out of my driveway. No words that came out of her friend’s mouth could change anything. I could not even hear them. The silence echoed in my head. It was this moment that I feel God spoke to me. He told me that I could not do this alone. I had fought so hard to do everything myself, but I could not do it. I heard God but didn’t listen yet.
Within 2 hours of her leaving I was at the first bar. I drank. I drank so much that I just wanted everything to go away. Between the 4 bars and the strip club nothing could change the way I felt. Every Texas tea only blurred the life that I was living. Every shot of whiskey only made me think harder of how much of a mess up I was, and the bottle at the club only made me want everything back that much more. As I stand there at the end of the night outside of the strip club so drunk I could not drive I thought that this was it I lost my life.
Shortly after she told me we could work on things. Take it slow we starting seeing a counselor, but things where never the same. About the time she gave up completely on us she started dating my neighbor. I turned back and was now back to seeing my ex high school sweetheart. Whom only started sleeping with my roommate. There was nothing I could do for love that would ever seem to matter. So I drank. I found my own little world. I would get up and go swimming at the creek, then go to work, then drink till I was drunk and pass out. This was every day that I did not have my kids. When my kids where around I was sober. They where my world, without them I did not want to be there. I did never want to be that weekend dad, but that is who I was going to be. I watched my ex move my kids over and over. Then she finally got kicked out of the house she was living in and had no place to go.
I allowed her to move back into my house in the spare room. It was not long until she moved her girlfriend in. It was during this time that I watched them. These would be the people that would be raising my kids. I watched her girlfriend screaming at the kids. Telling the older kids it was their job to help take care of the little ones. Throwing bananas onto the table and saying this was your breakfast. My son came to me and told me he wanted to live with me. I asked him why, and he told me all they do is keep yelling at me. It was this point in my life that I decided that I needed to be there. My feelings and my hurt could not matter. I put everything I could into getting my kids. It did not matter what I had to do. They where not going to grow up in that way. I wanted them to have a better life than I did. God was changing me since that day in the driveway. He was the drive behind me that made me a strong enough man to push through everything to give them a better life.
The one thing before all this happened that I remember my Ex saying was “why could you not become this man 2 to 3 years ago” I remember telling her that I needed her to leave for me to wake up. I needed that moment in my life to hit rock bottom before I figured out that I could not do this on my own. It was through God that I could become a better person and do the things that I needed to do. Even if I was to change into the person that I am not and the person that I am trying to become I do not believe that it would have made a difference.
It was during all of this change that I was finally to able to figure everything out. I finally after 12 years was able to get hold of the girl that I cheated on with my ex wife and find out that the kid really was not mine. I was able to get my feelings put behind me of my high school sweetheart. I finally got to apologize to my first wife and my second wife for everything that I have done. I got the chance to take and ask for forgiveness from everyone that I have hurt so far. I do believe that God is the reason why I have had all these chances.
I got custody of my kids, and I have them in my life every day that I have them. They are my world. It took me a long time of asking God, “Where is mine?” It is the little things in life that we do not notice. Weather it is a kid coming up that I have been teaching at church and giving me a hug. All the way to my own kids coming up and giving me a kiss and telling me that they love me. “I have mine.” My life with never be the same and I owe that all to God, for taking the time with me and helping me in everything that I have done.
I would like to say thank you for you diving a little more into my life. If there is anything that you would like to ask or if there is anything I can talk to you more over that might help you in your walk please get hold of me. If there is a story that you want more detail on I am here. We can not do this alone. We must lean on one another, and help each other out.
Thanks Neil. You can also read an author’s version of Neil’s story and other stories of members of The Ridge in our brand new book, Dark Side of the Soul, pick one up at The Ridge Leander