September is coming to end, a month to recognize Awareness & Recovery. My friend "Stretch" is here today to discuss the unlikeliness of life putting him on the cover of this closing months "Happenings Magazine".
James “Stretch” Johnson has been in recovery for over 26 years. He began his road to recovery on January 27, 1997. He was incarcerated at many points in his life totaling nearly 25 years behind bars. He speaks about his life’s journey to provide hope and inspiration to others.
On Aug 26, 2022 Happenings Magazine - Christine Fanning
Stretch stops by to discuss the cover story and the turning point in his sobriety becoming Recovery.
Check Out his story at Happenings Magazine below,
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We combine proven recovery principles with new, innovative techniques to provide one of the most effective programs for young men in the country.
Discussions on addiction and recovery. We interview clinicians/researchers, legislators, and individuals that include a variety of means to recovery. Joe Van Wie is a father, husband, filmmaker, and reformed media consultant in recovery.Support the show
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Joe Van Wie 0:04
Hello, and thanks for listening to another episode of ball better. I'm your host, Joe man Week.
at a meeting and this guy Jeff was there. And Jeff went to high school with Paul and a publisher. And she had asked him that he wants to be an amazing and he said no, he goes Brando, somebody that's really good. And then she called me up. And the first time she called me up. When she got off the phone. I thought she was the reporter when she got off the phone. I didn't hear from her for about a week and I thought well, maybe I got too honest with her. Yeah. And that's how it started. But we were only
Joe Van Wie 0:12
Today, we're going to start by reading a letter. The publisher, happenings magazine happenings magazine has a guide to life in northeastern PA is from September 2022, which is suicide awareness month, and recovery. And the publisher, who is Paula Makary opens up this issue with dear readers. sharp contrast to last month's light cover about sandwiches, or September cover article gives insight into the heavy topic of addiction and recovery. And I am looking at that cover. And it's a beautiful man at the age of 71. And his name's James, stretch Johnson. We all call them stretch in this area recovery community. The story in the magazine opens James stretch Johnson been in recovery for over 26 years. He began his road to recovery on January 27 1997. He was incarcerated many points in his life, totally nearly 25 years behind bars. He speaks about his life's journey and to provide hope and inspiration to others. We're gonna talk about stretch being on the cover of happenings magazine. And if you're not familiar with the please pick up a copy anywhere in northeastern PA. But it's traditionally a magazine about lifestyle and weddings, landscaping and culture of our area. And it's it's beautiful to see, James is on the cover of it to represent our community, I could think of no better person because it's been my friend. And I've known him a long time. James is here today. And we're going to catch up and talk a little bit about this article. His life and our shared mentor. And friend Bruce helps a both of us. So let's meet James.
So we're here with stretch, my friend, James Johnson. Thanks for coming in stretch,
you're more than welcome to enjoy your company.
Joe Van Wie 2:27
Yeah, I enjoy yours for a long time. It's September, and we're sitting here and I'm sitting in front of stretch, and we're holding the happenings magazine, which is a regional magazine. Very popular, but you know, traditionally was associated with, you know, the events of our areas, some beautiful weddings, and you know, landscaping, some really like, you know, sometimes it could be feel like high culture. Right? And who's on the cover this month for recovery awareness and suicide awareness month is James Johnson. How stretch. How has this happened?
Well, actually I was at
Texan, I can't stand I don't spell it but I hate what we were texting. She was telling me she comes from a functional family and she's a little naive about this and really good lady. I give her credit and a reporter. I never talked to reporters. She got it from Paula she did an excellent job. I thought wow. Yeah.
Joe Van Wie 4:08
Paula did Yeah. Yeah. You know, I know Paula from advertising for the years and she's a class act really classy, professional, runs a really tight nice ship with it happening. And I sent her a letter after I saw it and we were talking about it just thanking her for what this means because everyone has seen him read this and I'm friends with I thought that was really thoughtful for her to do so I just kind of chuckle a little is you know I've we've known each other a long time. Sitting and getting interviewed with Paula how was that experience was it
for me? I thought it was great. I you know I want I think I first checked She was a little nervous, you know? Yeah. But, you know, like she said, she never did this before. And exactly. And I really liked her, you know. And then when we always did the video, and a guy said, well, let's get a picture. It was me, him and her and I noticed she hesitated a little bit. But she's a good lady, man. Yeah. And I met her husband when I went over to pick somebody up. And I go, Well, how many want me? How many boxes? It was take them ethanol.
Unknown Speaker 5:29
but they make you feel comfortable,
Joe Van Wie 5:33
I'm sure. And, you know, as a community, and we're tight community, there's, I'm feeling a debt of gratitude that everyone that she she did this and it's meaningful. And she's thoughtful, I really look at it as I don't know if I'm being poetic here. But the last three years have been tough on everybody strange uncertainty, kind of our great depression prior, you know, the 30s. Really measuring what's real in people's lives. And especially for the recovery community, we our lifeline is to meet each other go to meetings. And when the shutdown happened, I think it challenged everyone and I look at this, this cover from happenings and what they traditionally are, as Paul is just sincere, she's tapping into what is real. And I think she did a real service for all of us in the fact that you were picked. I mean, you've been in this community 30 years, and I don't think people outside of it understand how related we all are. Right from years in and out and watching each other's backs. I just think there's a turn. I don't know if you're feeling it and in regular culture towards what's real. What's sincere.
Oh, true. True. Without a doubt, say one thing when, when it COVID came around everything. My mean, then stop. Yeah. Sometimes there was only three people, sometimes five, but one every day, seven days a week. And one thing that I say about prison, it builds you for this. Yeah. Now the isolation didn't bother me at all. I still went to the gym. I went to my meetings, I still talk to people. And on my son who my oldest son's who lives in Watertown, New York. He's 53. And he's been in prison, a heroin addict. And now he's trying to you know, works for the county up there is becoming trying to become a minister. But he didn't believe in the shot. Yeah, and he got COVID It was in the hospital 47 days, and he almost died. You know, now when I got to lung capacity as 60 per se back, he's doing what he loves to do, which is preach. And so it's just, it's just amazing. God has blessed me joy. That's, that's what I constantly I'm blessed. You know, to do one thing to magazine then put, and I guess I didn't say it door. Was that an AD AD tool? New York tried to give me life. Yeah, they actually had a heron where they were gonna give me life because, you know, three felonies and I didn't realize just three felonies. You have the same type. So yeah. And then when they had to hear and they had attended the county, so they couldn't do it. And you think that would have been enough for me to say, Okay, I had enough when I come down here and again, I ended up getting a one to fit in. I thought it was like, I'm gonna Yeah, I'd beat the system. They put me in for life. I was an asshole. Yeah. And I said, Yeah, you could you can curse it was and I saw and I just didn't realize it. I thought it was it was normal thinking for me. Yeah, you didn't give me this is
Joe Van Wie 8:54
a podcast too. If anyone didn't hear stretchy, sit ass. We'll stretch it. 1982 You're looking at the most serious? Yeah, no triple offense. How old are you?
Well, I'm 71 now jogging.
Unknown Speaker 9:11
to the mat. I got a calculator right here. So
Joe Van Wie 9:15
that's that's pretty much the pinnacle of the end of your use is you're looking at a like maybe to summarize, let's let's rewind from there. What brings a person to that point? What is the life you've merged into? And you know, the article talks about it, but maybe in a summary. Tell me about growing up prior to 1982 that would fortify you. Is that tough? And
it was in my household? Yeah, I had five sisters, two brothers and a mother father. And a lot of people maybe they can't we were all criminals in my household. It was okay to do bad as long as you didn't get caught. I and I I grew up with that mentality. You know. And so at nine years old, I was going around shoplifting and stuff. Then I got a friend whose his father was a janitor for City Hall, so he couldn't bring on Hi, he would still give me the stuff. And nuts. I was hanging out with another guy. We would steal cars and joy, right. And this is at nine and 10. And in my house, it was so chaotic, that draw would just take off and take a box of blanket and unpack them and the six that wasn't scared in a frying pan on fishing pole and hitchhike and go fishing. And my tent was the blanket. And one night, smarter guys that I knew came over with the fire and drinking and everything else and they wanted to rob this store. But no, they were too big to get through a window. So they put me through the window. And that was the start of my career. You know? Yeah. Then I got caught for that. And the kiddo was worried he snitched me out. I was so proud that I didn't tell i Nobody else. Sure. So and then I seen on 64 Chevy Impala, automatic tan I wanted. And they had it behind a fence and was on a Sunday and I had been got a soldier to buy me some tangle. I was only kind of stuff I could taste. And this is at 12. Yeah. So I go, I'm getting that. So I go in and start it and go to the gate. It was actually enclosed and then come back. And then finally in the third time, I took the gate down and gate come down on me. And I thought I was hitting the brakes, but I was hitting the gas pedal. And it went up over an embankment. And I was with two other two other kids. While there was a civilian walk in, and he grabbed the one kid what a kid told on us. Yeah, so in June nah. June the 13th 1964. They sent me away to industrial place side by Rochester. Great 18 months. And to me it was like gladiator school was around black Spanish dip from Rochester. All that a different world. What exciting one? Yeah. And I had a lot of anger. And I just started fighting. And I got pretty good at it. I was just starting. And my parents actually, I took off twice. And they actually they gave me another year extension like I did 18 months in three weeks. They gave me another year on the case. And my parents got back together, moved to Illinois. And that's how I was able to get out of there started during the whole year on it three weeks into the year. And then when I was out there and up stolen card credit come back to New York state got busted in Ohio. And it's that age like fifth gain.
Joe Van Wie 12:56
This is when you would you know, adolescence. Yeah, for me. So prior to 12 before that Chevy Impala kind of incident. Did you have any friends in that area that were kind of squares? No, not one
I feel when I went to. I was in a Catholic school. And I don't know why my father, they made me feel poor and a wife sent me there. Because they'd say, stretch. Do you have money for the poor box Hagan babies? And I go, No, I don't have none. And they would ridicule me. And that was in the 50s. So this kid upstairs it was 12 He wants my father was managing a gas station. It should stretch one a dropper you fit through to when I was a small dude. So I fit through the window and we got it. Enjoy go to Catholic school the next day and had a sister a roll of quarters and said here this is my father set for all the times I didn't pay. They called my father that I get to ask beaten as when I'm Catholic, that's when I learned to hate Catholics. Yeah, I didn't. And I actually was told to leave the school and I went to a public school. And that's, you know, that's when it really was my friends. Were all like poor. Yeah, I can remember I was hanging out with a doctor son. He actually took me to his house in a big mansion and where I was at the table and the father and the mother came and they said something a says My father says you gotta leave. And the next day tells me I can't be around you know more. And I you know, that's where I got my inferior complex metal. You know, I really felt poor. Yeah.
Joe Van Wie 14:42
Yeah, it doesn't feel like a financial situation. At that point. It feels like an identity. It feels like something that doesn't leave you. You get to steal and use the none. I'd see to me I see intelligence industrial like industry. Aren't you ashamed me not to give money in this milk box? I'm going to drop a beaner on you know? And then get in trouble for that. So like where? What is the answer to feel validation from nuns, other people's parents? How does it? How does a kid figure that out?
I did it I was when I was actually going to a public school. Right across the street, there was a Catholic school, and we got off before them. While I would wait to the Catholic school, I wouldn't beat him up. So I got in trouble. Well,
Joe Van Wie 15:35
you know, if they're true Christians, persecute your blessing them stretch, they will be persecuted for their beliefs. You help to give them a blessing.
But I carried that with me. Yeah, I get early age at seven. I said, I don't, I don't need God. And I don't want God Yeah. And I lost my soul, I set that off, and I paid the price. And when
Joe Van Wie 15:56
you say you don't need God, like kind of to look at that, again, God's kind of an extension of the boss authority of everything you would meet from a nun to the Father who asked you to leave a house. So I mean, God's would he have you in your house from the way you consider go what God was. That's what the world is kind of just dropping on you. That's strange stuff. I think we can all relate. I think people who have addiction, it's kind of a blessing. Once we figure out that there's something we could call it. The bonds and fellowships you make to get out of this, this the situation sells what's
amazing in the program, no matter where you come from, we are we're gonna get that alcoholism or whatever they call it issues where we can relate that surprises me.
Joe Van Wie 16:46
It does, because I think alcohol is solving a problem for us that we all have. And you're just I have the problem. You just describe what I crawl into the window. Did alcohol relieve give give some relief to the fat? Like what we both would suffer from low self esteem or feeling like we have to prove ourselves and whatever group we're in?
Oh, for me for alcohol? Yeah. There was no, there wasn't nothing. I couldn't do no law effective mechanism. Like you were talking to Matt. And like what you were saying I could punch in the face. It didn't bother me. Yeah. And then it got to the point during the later years where I had to be high enough where I didn't even think, yeah, I just didn't like the person. I was. But yet I did it all along as I was drunk, and I liked that person. But when I get a moment of clarity, I say what happened to you, then I would, like you know, whatever I did, get where I got, you know,
Joe Van Wie 17:45
it's just, I think there's a threshold once it stops work. You can't be conscious, like presently conscious. It's intolerable. And so the level of inebriation you need from heroin, or drinking just has to shut the mind off. It's a nightmare box.
When I would go to Pro board, and they would tell me, Mr. Johnson with your violence, we'd be afraid to let you out. And I would think we talking to me, I really didn't think I was violent. And I figured like I learned a lot I get trade tell him might be off. I'm gonna point you before you punch me. And he goes strike out. I didn't even realize they're gonna punch you. I know. Yeah. And it was something I carry with me for and I paid the price.
Joe Van Wie 18:36
Yeah. But that's driven, would you stretch would it be I don't want to characterize it. But, you know, most of my grosser behavior when I was younger, or, you know, if I'd been fight, is it just comes from this view that the world is not safe. And you know, if that's true, the case if this is true, the world's not safe. I was always thinking our way to avoid being hurt.
So, yeah, now I know when I was on Illinois, I get I get sent away and 67 and 68. To a place that they were actually selves, and I was 15. And 60 was a rough motherfucking place. And if you were white, trust me. They sent me in a buildin net words, maybe free white people on the whole tear. And two of them had been there like three, four years, and they didn't want me to watch TV. Yeah. And for four fucking days, we rumbled. And then I end up hitting a guard. Because he was a black dude, he put his arm around me like this, and I didn't know it was him. Yeah, and they locked us all out and then when I came out it but he said all you're cool, I got why I'm cool. Because you know, I'm not gonna let you beat me. And it was really,
Joe Van Wie 19:54
so it's already a condition. You know, you have to do this to have any validation and in any institution stretch out of curiosity, like Illinois before add to all these other circumstances when you're in a cell is there anywhere to retreat to in your mind? Was there a place? music music?
Wait, yes. Yeah. Even then you thought you Yeah, you constantly the end read and I did a lot of reading Yeah. And I loved it. You know, but, and I would think about when I went get out how different that was gonna be and it never was. I mean, my my part, I never thought that drinking and drugging was the problem. Number 10 this time? I never did I thought it was your problem, or the cops are no money, or not enough money. Good. You know, it never worked.
Joe Van Wie 20:49
Did you ever think if there was enough money, you I could experience what other people are calling morality and ethics.
Yeah, until I got it. Like, when I married my third wife, etc. Her family was walled off. I got a nice house and ground swimming pool. Mother a lot of came down and said what kind of business you want to start and I go, wow, this is my PO would come over and ask my wife. Would you have to marry him? Yeah, and he was made. Yeah. And it was unbelievable. But guess what? It didn't a it wasn't enough. I couldn't fill that void inside me. Yeah, yeah. Everything I thought like money was my whole life. And all of a sudden, you know, I had enough. It didn't fill that void. And it wasn't until for me it wasn't I got got,
Joe Van Wie 21:35
you know, this before. Bruce and Bruce, I want to talk about Bruce but real quick. I want to know, stretch. I've known you probably since I'm 1617. Yeah. And you know, my dad, I grew up with my dad and he had a lot of gangster friends. And I always knew that about you, but I always felt you're hiding an inner hippie. Oh, yeah. Well, so I want to talk about music. What was what music really grabbed? Was there ever a secret life in here that you you got to see the 60s and 70s were you paying attention from in and out of jail is going on here.
I went out. I went on to Illinois, I got a buddy out there at each in Arkansas. And when I worked guarrantee he'd be dealing pretty bad. Yeah. And he turned me on to and I ended up living with him. And and I you know, like 68 You know, I went out there and I'm big on my brother's fat. I went to a lot of concert, buco concerts and I'd love that sex drugs and rock and roll. You know, and it was that error. Yeah. And I was accepted. But but but I wouldn't end up I went to a party. Yeah, I'd end up beating somebody up if you had if you had something I wanted. Yeah. Especially if they were what was records then? Yeah, I would take Yeah. And but yet at the same time, I enjoyed being called a hippie I like I like Yeah, and I you know, I love Janis Joplin, big fan. You know, Jimi Hendrix. I never considered Jimi Hendrix black or white. He was colorless to me. Like I did a lot acid to him. Yeah. And I shot acid up one time shot. Yeah, had the cold shake and why he'd figured Henry's did it. I can do it too. You're just at your peak level. Instead of waiting like a half an hour, it goes right into the automatic you're at your at your pick, nothing.
Joe Van Wie 23:46
Would you call the experience. So when you you use psychedelics? At that time? It's prolific. But how did you relate to it? Was it just another drug? Or is that a drug that you was the experience of of a trip? was something happening that maybe that you could just scratch? That was their spirituality?
I was actually how can I say would usually be like if I was smoking and doing acid, I was a pretty mellow individual. And if I would start drank and specifies drinking Jack Daniels spirits, I began to become a violent person. And people would say strict withdrawal, you know, and people that I know. And that was one of the things when I first started doing heroin. Everybody said, Oh, you come right down. You know, they liked it. Yeah. When I was becoming treacherous, like I would take you off and stuff. And people got the other side of that.
Joe Van Wie 24:47
That's real. i When you read Terence McKenna, he has the hierarchy of drugs. I agree with alcohol, nicotine or adult essence, like this rage, this unresolved trauma, it's treating it but it's like, you know, as you get older, it causes you know more, you know, you know, acting out rage in blackout drinking. Then he said, you know, heroin says comfort to infancy almost back into the womb, this is how much you have to treat the pain that's going on in your head. He said acid, you know, it's it's more of an enlightenment, you can't achieve it by just doing it. But it gives you this access to something else. But I always remembered that triangle. And it's hard to argue with this is the effect that's happening to me consciously because when I drank, you know, I could keep it together for a couple hours. But once I started really putting the drink back, you know, my mind immediately became an, you know, a 10 year old I'd start saying nastier things. And could you relate to that?
Oh, when I was wanting to try it one time, I was on bail. For the whole I was on a bail 810 months. And for the whole 18 months, I was drunk. And I thought it was normal. And then I made them I want to go to trial now and nearly Sega found guilty. But I gotta tell you what, right now, one of the things I wasn't prepared for and it's because like I get it all over now not just but then at the time a was when I came out, I went to AAA and na especially when I went back home because all my relations go to NA, but I got the love. I wasn't prepared for an AE. Like, you know, you can do anything tell me but don't Don't. Don't show me love I was a little uncomfortable with, especially in the beginning. You know, and people like to amaze me people that weren't drug addicts and alcoholics or my type. But we both had alcoholism, they've reached their hand. They talk to me, and they finally brought me out of my like buddy would say, keep coming back. Yeah. And I did and Bruce would tell me, and I used to tell first would say stretch your hair to play the role that God assigned you. And I go Bruce, I don't want to be a good guy. I want to be a gangster.
Joe Van Wie 27:10
I want to drink and
are just so many people that you know and Leo and now but so many people that come through the love they showed me and I said some scary shit at me.
Joe Van Wie 27:20
Yeah, I remember when I was young. I remember used to pop over the Nativity group was my home group of 17 stretch. So you come to scram, and what you just described as kind of, you're now entering an A you kind of make a decision that you want sobriety. But you don't fully understand the sobriety you tick. It's just not drinking
13 years on parole. So I had to I had to go to meetings, ya know, get my paper sign or what you know. And then it began and I really didn't think AAA would work. Yeah, I didn't want to do this. I didn't want to do not i was like i said i love i i didn't but I didn't want to do no work. I would be I'd be okay at the minute but I would leave the meetings and get that up on my face by you know, getting arguments and shit like but I would come back.
Joe Van Wie 28:11
Did you use a black trench coat? Yeah, yeah, man. Yeah, that's my memory.
Unknown Speaker 28:18
Like him all. My clothes were from
and I was wearing them and smoothie was what
Unknown Speaker 28:26
it was like Carlitos. Wait, hey, you're out a date. Oh, I got what you got a problem.
Joe Van Wie 28:33
Smoothie, so smoothie and stretch. But like I always think of that. See, because it reminds me because I've known him for years when Carlito gets out of jail for gun day. He's Al Pacino is walking down the street. He's he's he fly 10 years
Unknown Speaker 28:47
off. Exactly. Right.
Joe Van Wie 28:50
That's great. So you get overwhelmed. And this This is a testament to our area, like and this is probably the early 90s No,
I came home I got a person who slash time
Joe Van Wie 29:03
9999 That's the last time so you just get overwhelmed. That's the first thing that breaks through something's fucking up in Scranton, people are connected, like trying to connect with Yeah, and be your friend
and amaze me.
Joe Van Wie 29:19
So, to put a caveat, you keep saying Bruce, just to let people know, Bruce stretch and I have. We've learned the steps from the same man. And his name was Bruce Bicknell. And he passed away about six years ago, but Bruce came to our area around the early 90s got a lot of flack caught a lot of flack because, you know, a back then was World War Two vets, Korean vets. It was it was it wasn't as fundamental as you think it was a little tougher because there was two kinds of drawing culture wars going on young people and old people old people may have strangled knots. He's in French farms and you're sitting next to that guy who's not drinking. If someone mentioned an inner child the meeting
Unknown Speaker 30:06
completely sideways. What are you
Joe Van Wie 30:10
talking back? Realize that no, it was a culture war gonna do you mentioned drugs in the even in the mid 90s at an AAA meeting they'd be you'd be asked to leave without. And I people tend to forget that came from a real deep stigma and fear of traditional AAA that, you know, a drugs were illegal alcohol wasn't so though they were afraid if you could talk about drugs, this was in the 50s You'd have the FBI of meetings. And that scared a lot of old timers.
And one of the things I was grateful for John, when I first came into programs, I made a lot of mistake how I taught, but nobody told me not if they did, I would have said F fuck you. And I was like buddy would say, I was talking about shanking somebody in adequate in the yard. Yeah. And buddy would go keep coming back to you. Yeah, give me
Joe Van Wie 31:02
a smile. Well, I think they had good sense. And that there was there was love, you know? Yeah. When we mentioned there's some some classic characters from when I grew up in, you know, Philly, George and, Paul, you want to describe them as cuddly. But they had kind of a stage character at a meeting. Yeah, like, Georgia yell and scream. But if you went anywhere else cry, he go to the diner with them. Yeah. It's a sweet old man. Like he's long
and I couldn't believe he was dying.
Joe Van Wie 31:33
He was dying for.
Unknown Speaker 31:36
Like, keep sharing.
Joe Van Wie 31:38
But, you know, I got to know George. And you know, it's hard to you got to separate sometimes that older crowd who they were in an hour meeting to protect eight one
he asked me to sponsor me. Really? Yeah, I got the non pre thought I was Johnny said in the beginning. My brother. Yeah, and I don't. I'm not gonna strike you brother have a tear. Was there? Yeah. But at choice I got not so and then he goes, where are you going to meet a girl I go to his world quote by that Bible thumping. I go. That's why I go there. Yeah, you know, I didn't like him at the moment. But then I got the like, and we would talk. Yeah, sometimes I couldn't understand that time to talk up side of his mouth.
Joe Van Wie 32:23
Yeah. George. He did time. I've you know, he was doing gigs for the Scarfo family. George George was a gangster. And he was dangerous and got sober. And, you know, had had his spiritual way. Yeah, but I'll always remember, if you had some soft like little problem at a meeting George would share. Next he goes, What do you mean, you got problems? You high class society drinking problems. I drink pink ladies, for any of you idiots out there that don't know what a pink lady is. It's sterno.
Unknown Speaker 32:59
And everybody knew. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Joe Van Wie 33:04
So you see that, and you kind of make more of a connection with the guys that are really kind of true. Like in the sense of like, buddy, you saw something you want it?
What I shut it off. And that's what I want. I didn't want it like, like, I had a couple guys talk to me. Like they thought they want to talk about flight. And I don't do it. I don't want to talk. I'd rather talk about the big book the steps. I wanted that. And I didn't have it. Yeah. So I got like, I gotta run Leo, to bring the knowledge. You know, for now, I gotta run Bruce, for spiritual for everything to spirituality to steps, the boot book. You know, it just amazed me our I don't know if I can say our Jays. Name. But they're, you know, Ronnie, so many people that weren't like, my type, what they had what I wanted. And I knew that enough. And I was willing to go there
Joe Van Wie 33:58
is is can you mirror this as the same relationships of how you grow up and learn to be in the institution of prison? It's, it's a fellowship, education, of friendship. Exactly. Right. So now, you know, instead of coming to a, you know, talking the credibility of what time is in prison. What pain is you you kind of tapped out of the ego game and wanted to lift you up? Yeah. And I could see I remember seeing that because I was getting well, I was that period of sobriety. When I was younger. We went to a lot of meetings together. Yeah. And I saw he started hanging out with Bruce and Bruce is he was a really special job.
Very special. I thought he'd be here forever.
Joe Van Wie 34:46
Yeah, it's it's weird. I want to I there's times I feel like I want to talk to him. You know, I'm a dad. Now. I didn't know what I was doing pandemic. And I'm like, Man, I miss Bruce. Yeah. Yeah. You don't want to hold on to made that we both had a relationship with Bruce of what he meant to us that that hole is being like filled in a way I didn't imagine getting sober again.
You know, it's amazing in how many people say that a process like this and it's unbelievable
Joe Van Wie 35:17
right? You're talking about 10 15,000 people easy yeah your reckon your helps help them get through the steps and get through and he didn't
change it from one person to the other. You know, he was was brooch man
Joe Van Wie 35:30
as he was. Yeah, he loved you. Yeah. So we talked about steps and 12 Step life, but you know, what jumped off the page for me and happenings? You know, just dive in a little bit. You know, most people understand this kind of spiritual concept when they're in a that they're playing with the first three steps. And I saw something really interesting in that article that I've never seen written that way before. I'm like, holy shit. Yeah, that's what it is. The fourth step is about forgiving others. You don't hear that often. And it really is. And what the what prompted you to say that was Bruce like
that. And so many people, you know what I meant. But the point was, they forgave me. And I was a piece of shit. I mean, my family, my kids and everything else. And the reason I ran with that hate towards my father, for so long. And then when I did the fourth, I come to the conclusion, he did the best. He knew how, and with the fifth, and I was able to forgive him, and wasn't really and then it just started like, like, when I, like I said, the guy that set me up. I used to dream, Sunday of taping them up and beating him to death with a baseball bat. And then when I came home, and after a while, if it wasn't him water, and somebody else
Joe Van Wie 36:55
would now would you play the Allman Brothers while you were?
Great. But that's what it means. Like now, when I think about it, like I'd come home and I catch up and get mad at somebody or not forgive them. And I'm trying to distract these people forget even society forgave me. Yeah. Like who are you and not to forget, and I got that. From our, our Jay. Bruce, buddy, just the people that
Joe Van Wie 37:23
it works. Yeah, it's worked. So work
Joe Van Wie 37:26
Just to kind of wrangle the ideas. What we're talking about is the fourth step is this kind of situation, and 12 Step life any cocaine anonymous, Al Anon. Alateen, a na, where you get to write, you kind of have taken this measurement of your life. And you stop calling addiction addiction, you start calling it for ideas of a personality that has a lot of pain, resentment, selfishness, dishonesty, and fear. And you start writing your relationships down into resentment. And when you know, I'm sure stretch could relate Bruce taught me that had nothing really to do with anger, you can refeel Jeff Brown was just on here. So you get to write this down. Some people think it's just the inventory stretch, you've mentioned that it's about forgiveness, and that article, and, you know, you tend to forget that. At the end of the fourth step, it says, maybe these people that have maybe hurt me, or just as sick as me and this cycle. It's not about blame. It's about, oh, maybe we're all a little broken. When you shared about your dad before we started, you know, here's two alcoholics, two different ages, trying to work a life the same principles and part of that freedom with both of us forgiving our fathers. What? What universe that's, this is a universal
back then that's how they were? Yeah. I told my son at an early age. I go I love it. We were in a we're in a pharmacy. And my son goes, Dad, I love you. Lady goes Oh, that's so cute. I never heard that. Yeah, back then. They didn't do that. They you know, they slap you upside the head. Shut up. Kids out. Oh, and today it's different. You know, and I and when you're talking about resemblance, I sponsored this guy, good guy. I had him on my house and we're doing the fourth step. And I go, dude, his mother had got him I started him getting nine he did heroin one. I go you gotta put through the fourth step. You got to put that down but not about your mother about your because I can I can. I can't. And he refuse. Yeah. And he allowed even when he didn't have any spine or didn't died or doing daily chores, and he had a daughter and a wife. Just a claim.
Joe Van Wie 39:50
That's the pain so I mean, what would seem counterintuitive to a person may be watching addiction. You know in our in our way we relate to each other. We know heroin didn't kill them, it may have put someone out of their misery, the resentment killed. The resemblance. And that, that that was fundamental for me to understand in the fourth step, alcohol is not killing me. Yeah, that looks like that's an easy marker. But these ideas if I don't get rid of selfishness and resentment in the way that I relate to it from my own pain and trauma, and it justifies me not liking people, this will fucking kill me.
Why did they say came back to my dragon dragon and stayed for my thank you. Yeah. Oh, without a doubt.
Joe Van Wie 40:39
What drives you today? Because it's been years,
decades now. I got to and I say this often, I'm selfish and self centered. I'm retired. I like doing what I got to do when I want to do it. But it's like specially like, and I have to give them a little shout out to recovery bank is so great job. It's amazing. And there's a lot of people just I liked their gratitude. Like they're really enthused that they're, you know, 30 days, 90 days, that they're enthused about not drinking and drugging. And then you know, how you stay sober life comes on life's terms, and you start talking about, like me, I didn't have a car, I had a bicycle, I get a car. I'm complaining about the payments, their insurance, you know, that are really approved. And it's just, I truly believe you got to give it away to keep it. Yeah. Just last night, I was at the gym. Seven o'clock. And this kid comes up to me young man 31. And he goes, Are you Big John, I went on strike. It was I go wait to see one of my magazines. And he goes, I want to go to the meeting. Now this morning because I was coming here. I wasn't going to go to the meat. Yeah. So I go over his house. And I'm selfish. Should I go over his house? I go look up pick up a quarter after six. And I get up at three. And while we're his house, I had to find a Quincy that good in the dark. The whole nine yards. And then I see there's no lights on. And I called him twice. He didn't answer the phone. I go okay, man, I'm gone. It used to be I'd say, you know, you're talking. But then I read something about a week ago. Bad work and throw me there. And I go, let me try that. So it didn't it wasn't like he did anything to me. No, it just he didn't go so I went to the meeting and this girl was celebrating nine months. And her husband had just gotten married asked me to give her a coin and to have a baby there. We've We've watched them grow up to that maybe my day.
Joe Van Wie 42:45
So service. Yeah, you work with guys one on one. Stretch. You also started a men's group on Saturday. It's
added on to you right now. Yeah,
Joe Van Wie 42:55
hosting. Yeah. And it's
like six people that come up from the Sally. And it's really it's great. You know, really gratitude Leo came last week Saturday 11 o'clock and recovery Yeah, recovered banking. Like I tell people especially know if you got a problem. They got like, five CRS is down or certified recovery specialist. Go down there and at the desk and tell them what's wrong. They'll help you. Yep, people don't
Joe Van Wie 43:23
I can't have anyone from there on here. Enough. Frank was on Ah, yeah, Jeff just went out today. And then Danelle, the nose beautiful, excellent. And to just reiterate, CRS is our certified recovery specialist. If you stopped at the recovery bank down on Wyoming Avenue and Scranton, you're in early sobriety, you have, you know, a tooth infection, you have no insurance, you're short on your rent, half go down, they will sit with you will make a plan non judgmental, they're not evaluating where you're at. If you're on ma TS or you're starting harm reduction, or if you're just curious if you need support in the things that you can't solve it in our meeting. That's what the recovery makes about and then the programming there is about growth. It's budgeting. Cooking a show you love. Yeah, it's real. That place Yeah, we got to protect it.
Unknown Speaker 44:19
Yeah, it's beautiful. Yeah,
Joe Van Wie 44:23
well, stretch. I want everyone to reach out soon in for September and check out happenings. It's a it's a sincere, truthful story of how a life is saved. And how love love love beats the ego game any day, man.
If happened and saved one kid going to prison much better out here.
Joe Van Wie 44:48
Yeah. are reading it. Yeah, prison. Yeah. I never thought change.
Yeah, anybody can change but you don't want it. Okay,
Joe Van Wie 44:56
now, the great thing is if you want to just set mode Ovation if it's awake long enough that the roll the dice is. I'm proud of our area because if you have that motivation you go to one of our meetings, it's very likely you can find someone
better than most.
Joe Van Wie 45:14
I had a crawl back and man I was, I asked, I remember running into you a couple of times. You're like, how are you doing? No. Stretch. I always enjoy your company. We'll have to chat again soon.
Thanks, Joffrey. Get it. Thanks. Good day.
Joe Van Wie 45:38
I'd like to thank you for listening to another episode of all better. You can find us on all better.fm or listen to us on Apple podcasts. Spotify, Google podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and Alexa. Special thanks to our producer John Edwards, an engineering company 570. Drone. Please like or subscribe to us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. And if you're not on social media, you're awesome. Looking forward to seeing you again. And remember, just because you're sober, doesn't mean you're right.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai