Mick Betancourt (voted #5 ep of 2014)

Mick Betancourt (voted #5 ep of 2014)

The comedian/ podcaster/ writer opens up about his incredibly chaotic childhood, alcoholism and fighting the feelings of worthlessness, especially that he often feels like a fraud in his role as a father and husband.  He also shares about the tools he discovered to cope with these feelings.

Mick hosts the podcast The Mick Betancourt Show.  Visit his website www.mickbetancourt.com

PillPack sponsors this show.  To check it out (and to help the podcast) go to Pillpack.com/happyhour.  Care.com sponsors this episode.  To get 25 percent off a premium membership go to Care.com/happyhour

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Episode notes:

Mick hosts the podcast The Mick Betancourt Show.  Visit his website www.mickbetancourt.com

PillPack sponsors this show.  For your first month free or to just help the podcast go to Pillpack.com/happyhour.

 Care.com sponsors this episode.  To get 25 percent off a premium membership go to Care.com/happyhour

To take our short survey to help prospective advertisers decide whether or not to sponsor the show  (your email will not be used for any marketing purposes or made public) go here.   www.podsurvey.com/mentalpod

Episode Transcript:

Welcome to Episode 175 with my guest Mick Betancourt. This episode is sponsored by Pillpak, the online pharmacy that delivers convenient, pre-sorted meds right to your door. No more stressin’ out about having to go to a pharmacy and wait in line. You can support our podcast just by checking out their website --pillpak.com/happyhour. The first month is free when you visit pillpak.com/happyhour and sign up.

 

I am Paul Gilmartin. Hello. How are you? And this is the Mental Illness Happy Hour.

Two hours of honesty about all of the battles in our heads from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas and sexual dysfunction to every day compulsive negative thinking. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. Sweet Jesus, I'm not a doctor. But I am a hypochondriac. This is not a doctor's office; I’m not a therapist, it's more like a waiting room that doesn't suck. The website for this show is mentalpod.com. Go there, take some surveys, join the forum, support the show, donate, buy a coffee mug or a T-shirt. There’s something else, oh take a survey, fill out a survey, or see how other people have filled out surveys and shared their deepest, darkest secrets.

 

I want to read you a couple of…before I get to the…no. Let me read these first. Nope, let me tell you this first. Actually, let me, let me get a grant, let me get a Pell grant first and go research which would be better: to preface this interview or to read the surveys.

 

This interview coming up with Mick Betancourt… one of the things that he asked me to edit out of it was… when we originally recorded it, he shared some sexually abusive situations he had endured when he was five years old, and afterwards, because the people who perpetrated it were themselves under 18 years old, and would have been able to… people would have been able to identify who they were, he asked that I edit that out, and I asked, well, could I let people know that something had happened to you at five because I think it kind of… might of influenced things that happened to you later and/or ways that you reacted to the world, and he said yes. So we agreed that I would share it as such, so there you have it.

 

Oh, look and my grant money just came in. Little late. Little late.

 

This is from Struggle in a Sentence survey filled out by Lulu, she is 16, or between 16 and 19. About her anxiety, she says, “What do I worry about first?” About her OCD: “Count and count and count until the numbers all line up.” I’m assuming this one is about cutting, doesn’t specify, but she says, “I’m suffocating so I make slits in my skin to breathe.”

 

This is from Misha, who… she’s in her 20s, and about her borderline personality disorder, she writes, “I can never get a grasp on reality, I don’t know what the truth is.” Snapshot from her life, “I tried to hang myself three times. I was in a relationship with the best man I have ever met. He wasn’t perfect, but the best. Because of my BPD traits, I was going through the cycle of engulfed in love; fear of it, pushing him away, then feeling abandoned and then trying to get him back. I was stewing in self-hatred that I had since a young age. Cutting and depression. I was amazed that someone loved me and it was hard to believe him and I was convincing myself more and more that I didn’t deserve it. Continuing to increase my depression and self-hatred. I figured becoming a burden to him and self-sabotaged—feared becoming a burden to him and self-sabotaged everything. When it seemed that he finally accepted my suggestion we should break-up, I lost it. I couldn’t go through this anymore. I couldn’t deal with the turmoil of guilt, shame, hatred, anger, disappointment. I wanted it to end.” Thank you for that, Misha. My heart goes out to anyone that struggles with borderline personality disorder, it just, it is a big, big emotional plate to, to have to deal with, and I’m sending you a hug. And I think there’s a lot of prejudice, too.

 

And then I wanted to read this e-mail which I got from a listener who, let me see what she wants to be… she wants to be called Elizabeth, and she writes-- she’s a university student in law school, and I’m just going to read an excerpt from it. She says, “I wanna just stop existing and to die. So I don’t really have to deal with all the pain of my failures and my disorders. I don’t think anyone would really miss me if I killed myself. They’d just think, ‘well that was pathetic and selfish, just like everything else about her.’ I know that even if I survive the next two weeks until finals, I’ll have to drop out and will have achieved precisely nothing over the last three years. And I’m almost 22 with barely any experience of life. Even if I transfer somewhere else, I’ll graduate really late and fuck up my job prospects even more than I already have. I don’t know what the point of me continuing to live is. Academic achievement was the only thing I had going for me and now I don’t even have that. I want to stop being a drain and disappointment to my friends. I want to die. I don’t know what to do from here. Sorry this e-mail was such a fucking pity party.” And I wrote her back and said, “You’re beating yourself up, kudos. Very well done. You put me to shame and your beating yourself up might actually qualify as cardio. And forget about the future for now. You know, one of the hooks that mental illness uses to control us is it extrapolates how we’re feeling today into the far future. It’s one of the most insidious, insidious parts about it and, sometimes I just have to deal with things one minute at a time, one hour at a time. You know, I had a great fucking day today, ‘cause, as I was editing this episode with Mick last night, he said something about, ‘I just try to have a good day today.’ And I took that advice, and I had a great day. I did nice things for myself, and that’s what I want to impart to you. You know, the future has a way of working itself out if we can just try to live it in the moment, and I know that sounds like some new-agey horseshit, but it’s really not. And I want to recommend two books for you and any listeners. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, and Healing the Shame that Binds You by John Bradshaw. I think you will definitely find yourself in those books and realize that what you are dealing with is not a personal weakness or failure but wounds on your soul that you did not inflict but can be healed if you’re committed to getting better and reaching out for help. I recommend seeing a therapist or social worker and a psychiatrist. Are there any addictions you’re dealing with, maybe a support group, a 12-step group, you know, and the toughest thing about depression is when we’re in it, we don’t feel like getting better. And that’s the biggest hump if you can get through that, and make getting help a priority. All the schooling, all the future shit will work itself out. I would’ve never been able to predict that I would be where I am right now when I was thinking about suicide a hundred times a day in 1999. Not influenced at all by the Prince song, in fact, that was not what dragged me down. But would it have made sense for me back then to listen to the darkness? No. Then why should you be any different. You are clearly someone who wants to connect to people, who will feel compassion for you, as am I, that’s hugely important. So put your worries about the future on the back burner. You’re young, you’re bright, and, if things get to be too much, call a crisis hotline. They’re much more equipped than I am to deal with stuff like this. But all I can tell you is you’re not alone. And resist the urge to feel like you have to figure it all out right now. And as far as having a pity party, serve finger foods.”

 

Paul Gilmartin: I’m here with Mick Betancourt who is a fellow podcaster / comedian and he’s originally from Chicago, my hometown and we’ve never met.

 

Mick Betancourt: We have not.

 

P:         We just talked for a few minutes ago before we started rolling and I like him already, so it’s up to him to disappoint me over the next hour or so. And I’m looking forward…I haven’t figured out how you’re going to disappoint met yet. You’re either gonna be boring; you’re gonna be withholding key pieces of information or you’re just gonna be off-putting. Or all three.

 

M:       That’s what I was shooting for, as soon as you started setting the bar, I figured, how can I disappoint myself while disappointing Paul, and get a twofer outta this.

 

P:         So you’re a multitasker.

 

M:       I have to exceed your negative expectations.

 

P:         Yeah. Well you came recommended from listeners of The CrabFeast which is hosted by another guest of this show, Ryan Sickler, who had a great episode, I enjoyed going on his podcast. People rarely, rarely…actually I don’t think people have ever steered me wrong with recommending a guest. So, I’m glad you’re here.

 

M:       Yeah, man, very happy to be here, and I just caught up on your—first off, anybody that’s from Chicago or the outlying suburbs if for me like whatever they’re doing I want to be a part of. I just love the city so much, you know. And like you said, when listeners kind of chime in, it’s so cool to be a part of anything where there’s no barrier between you and your audience, and also what the audience wants. Often times because they’re participating you think it’s a very one-direction relationship. No, like their feedback, and you should have this guy and that woman and its- my experience has been the exact same.

 

P:         They’re as important as the guests.

 

M:       Absolutely.

 

P:         Yeah, it’s a community that I always wanted but I could never really feel from stand-up.

 

M:       Yes.

 

P:         You know what I mean? And I could never get vulnerable enough in a comedy club to connect on that deep level with an audience. I’ve always admired the comedians that could get vulnerable, and you know, I think to myself, how do they handle the midnight show on Friday when people have been drinking since they got off of work and they’re dead tired and they’re inner- immature child is coming out and they’re yelling, “talk about your dick.” How do you talk about that? Are you somebody that on stage gets vulnerable and talks about your pain in a way that isn’t glib?

 

M:       Well, that’s the key. I think, you know, we saw, or at least I did, a couple versions of that type of performer in a stand-up club as opposed to say a UCB or a theater where you kind of get a little more leeway because it’s a theater as opposed to—

 

P:         You can go longer without laughs.

 

M:       --longer without laughs, there’s not fruity drinks with umbrellas and nachos, it’s just a little different expectation on the audience’s part. But the people that kind of had the one-person shows that were very glib, as you said; I always thought that was a little self-indulgent. Also coming from Chicago where, you don’t fuckin’ talk about that. You just do the jokes. So there was this really like split personality for me as a performer of like—wanting the laughs but also having this thing inside of me that wanted to be real and authentic and entertaining in a way say like Pryor would. Who is my hero, like a Pryor, or even Lenny Bruce, but really Pryor, that was like-- would act out the characters, and there was a story, but there were punch lines within the story, it was like the “Blue Cosby,” you know? I’ve been doing stand-up for 17 years, and just this last year, I said, you know what? I can’t do it anymore. We all have those…that quiver full of an hour of material if you’ve been doing it for long enough that is so vanilla and so steakless…but it kills! So, that’s your narcotic. I know this works, and there’s a fear and there’s a price to pay to be yourself. In general, walking down the street, let alone hit the stage and do an hour. I did an hour the other night, of mostly stories, acting out the characters and everything, and for the first time in 17 years when I walked off, I felt like, alright. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do.

 

P:         Wow, how did you prepare to do that?

 

M:       Well, it happened, I’ve had two of these sets. One was completely prepared where I just put bullet points where I wanted and I was just gonna jump in and tell the stories and knew where the funny parts were, and then rely on 17 years of doing stand-up to understand, well, a punch line should go here, kind of allowing myself the sweat equity that I just put in for the last decade and a half to figure out the little added value moments in there. And so that was one way. Another way was: It was Saturday, I’d just got back from traveling, my phone rang at 10:45 at night, and I looked at the number, I was in bed, pajamas, snoozing off the to the part in Forrest Gump where he’s running with the hat on...and I was supposed to headline a show at 11:00.

 

P:         And you had forgotten.

 

M:       I had totally forgotten.

 

P:         Oh my God. Now, when the diarrhea shot out, in bed…

 

M:       I…I…I, I was…that’s happened twice in my entire career, that I just—and you know, even earlier in the day, I was, oh I have this thing tonight, and, just done. Jump in the c--, pull my clothes—scree- thank God I was in Burbank, I live in Studio City. And I got there, and I…right as he saw me in the room, he just wrapped up, and I had no choice. My instinct was, ‘do the shitty,’ not shitty, you know we’re hard on ourselves, but do the material that I know is gonna work, entertain these people, I’m running late…I totally almost slept through this. Or, do I use this as an opportunity to give ‘em what I want and perform it well? And that’s what I did, so I thought, well here’s two unique experiences: one that I really prepared for, and one that I didn’t, and I got the same result, so I must be going down the right path.

 

P:         That’s great.

 

M:       You know, that’s pretty cool, yeah.

 

P:         That’s, that’s…my hat is off to you because that takes balls. Did you feel like you were seen when you came off, like you were heard? Like—your soul, like you had laid yourself bare a little bit more, like a Richard Pryor? Or was it just nice that you weren’t having to do your old act?

 

M:       Both. And I also feel like…still haven’t had a drink or drug in 12 years, you and I were talking about briefly before we started rolling here, one of the luxuries of that or way of living that I couldn’t have comprehended prior to that experience was being the same guy all day. So, waking up without shame or remorse, not having to cover that up, no lies to remember, nobody to ask, ‘hey, what happened?’ no damage. I’d be work mode guy, then I’d be after-work mode guy, then I’d be the cocaine friend’s guy, then the comedy club guy, then the writer’s guy, then the actor guy, and then the maybe-I’ll-direct guy, and then the lower companion’s guy from midnight ‘til 3:00 AM, and then you totally forget who that guy is. So, you know, the way that I went to get sober, there were things that I had to do to look my part, all this stuff to where I started to pull all the fake guys out, ‘cause you said that I feel like, you know it was me, and was I myself on-stage and got vulnerable. The real joy that I felt from this experience was pulling up in my car, not putting on a show-bizzy face walking into the room, going on up-stage as the same guy that was in the car, performing, but as me, the guy that was in the car, and then coming off-stage and not needing anything from the audience or shaking their hands like a politician. Like, hey, this weird guy that I would be, ‘cause I didn’t know how to have somebody be nice to me. If you’d say thank you to me, or ‘what you did…’ I almost had to turn it back on you. ‘Oh, well, you were a good audience, I could done better,’ all that weird, negative thinking, it’s so difficult—

 

P:         ‘cause you feel like a fraud, because they don’t know the dark part of you, the part of you where you compromise your morals, just to, you know, have people look at you in a way that has a little bit of admiration or acceptance.

 

M:       Yeah. How contrary that is to… I listen to the Christina Paczynski (sp?)…I think, was that the last episode? I don’t know where this is gonna end, but that’s the last one I listened to, and you had said something during that episode, that weird thing that you need of like a ‘less than and a greater than,’ like there’s no—

 

P:         The ego can’t comprehend being—

 

M:       Any middle ground. Exactly, exactly, yeah. And it’s funny because when I got sober, it was about being a worker among workers, a friend among friends, so it totally contradicted everything that I was trying to do career wise, and then I had to figure out, ok, how do I merge these two. Because I thought, I didn’t know anything about sobriety, I didn’t know anything about what that meant, I knew about chaos, and I knew about pouring whiskey and cocaine over the chaos. You can do both. It takes a lot of work; I don’t know what it’s like to be—

 

P:         And a lot of trust.

 

M:       And a lot of trust. I don’t know what it’s like to be normal. That’s a very subjective term, I don’t even know if that really exists, if it is a figment of everyone’s imagination, to think that the grass is always perpetually greener on the other side. That somehow, someway, I can’t, but hey, I’ve got what I’ve got, I earned it…the hard way. You know, not the career stuff, but all of the neuroses, all of the addictions, you know.

 

P:         Well, let’s get into that stuff. Let’s back up. What was childhood like?

 

M:       It was uh…there’s a great line in, I think it’s Escape from Alcatraz, where someone asks Clint Eastwood, you know, “what was your childhood like?” And he said “short.”

 

P:         (laughing) that is fantastic. When was your innocence, uh, when was that bubble popped?

 

M:       You know, my parents were 16 and 17 when I was born—

 

P:         What?

 

M:       --and uh, my father got custody of me, in Chicago. So that oughtta tell you everything you need to know about my mom. Like in the 70s, the dad got custody, AND he was 16. So, I grew up in a house full of broken people. And no one worked except for my dad, he dropped out of high school, and got just a series of horrible jobs. In factories…I have two pictures of my father. Both of him are covered head-to-toe in grease on this factory wheel with two men at his side that are clearly just broken. Like him, but he has a glimmer of light left in him. ‘Cause he’s a little younger than these guys, you know. And the wheel is covered in gre--, there’s not a clean spot in the whole fuckin’ place and people will often ask when they see the picture, “what does that factory make?” and I always say poverty.

They produce poverty, that’s what they do. And it runs 24/7.

So he would bounce around all these jobs, and he drank, and they did drugs, and his girlfriend was a hero—one of the many, was a heroine addict, the last one he had before he died. And so, that place, when you say, where does is start, I remember being a kid, I remember being beaten, and so it started with that, the beatings, and the drug abuse, and the alcoholism fueled the obtuse views on religion, you know, my aunt overdosed one time and…3:00 in the morning, right around the middle of the night, and…I slept on the floor, under… my dad slept on the loveseat and I slept on the floor, like a dog, under him…I heard her fall into the tub, I didn’t know what it was, but it turned out to be what it was. We went in there, she was naked, she tied off on the toilet, got a hotshot, fell in the bathtub, and so my grandma comes in, and is like “the devil’s in the house right now, we’re all gonna wake up with black eyes.” And so---

 

P:         What?

 

M:       Yeah.

 

P:         What does that mean?

 

M:       Yeah. Tell that to a five-year old and then be like, “go to sleep!” …the devil. Is this the time for sleep? Shouldn’t this be the time for evacuation? The devil is in the house. I think we should go. But, you know, that’s what she said. My dad got my aunt to come back to…and…we woke up the next day, I went into the bathroom, leaned into the mirror, and sure enough—I had a black eye, my dad had a black eye, my Aunt Annette had a black eye, my grandma had a black eye. And you know, I don’t know what the fuck happened, I don’t know if someone was punching us in the middle… that—I know that I had a black eye. I’m an adult. I just turned 40 on the 14th. Do I think the devil was in the house, fuckin’ punchin’ kids and old ladies in the face? No, but I have no idea how that happened. Now, I have perspective on it now, because I’m a little older, and I can even be ok with the mystery of everything, because, how it happened really is none of my business. But that really fucked me up for a long time, because on the weekends, I’d go with my Irish grandma, and it would be all about church and God. And I got into the habit of checking for black eyes. I would look in the mirror because that had such a profound impact on me---

 

P:         The devil had visited you.

 

M:       He was following me around! And she said, “if you keep staring at yourself in the mirror, God will scar your face, he doesn’t like vanity.” And I really felt like at that moment…caught between two very fuckin’ odd deities, you know, that were punishing and cruel and out, available to hurt, you know, that somehow I was on the radar, or I could get on the radar, and I had to avoid that—

 

P:         Like two omnipotent things were out to get you.

 

M:       Yeah. So, you know, it was weird, and I felt like the combinations of those experiences on my dad’s side, and then he died as a direct result of his alcoholism at 22. His—

 

P:         How did he die? At 22?

 

M:       He got electrocuted on the “L” in Chicago.

 

P:         What?

 

M:       So there were very conflicting reports on how it happened.

 

P:         The “L” is the elevated train that runs around the…it’s also called…the center of Chicago…it’s called the Loop and the L runs a loop around Chicago. And there’s this thing called the third—uh, I’m talking to the listeners—this thing called the third rail which electricity runs through and people sometimes either intentionally kill themselves or accidentally fall onto the tracks and touch the third rail.

 

M:       Yeah.

 

P:         Um, but go ahead.

 

M:       Well, I didn’t, you know, and to be honest with you, I’ve had in my lifetime; too many friends ultimately take their life. Whenever the information came out, the idea was always to protect them and make up some fucking insane story as to what really happened.

 

P:         He was practicing Boy Scout knots, and his head fell into the loop.

 

M:       Yeah.

 

P:         And then somehow wrapped around the beam. And he lost his balance.

 

M:       Physics took his life.

 

(Both laugh)

 

M:       It was a geometry issue that he couldn’t solve. So, I don’t know. Would it, looking back now, what I know of just about living life a day at a time…Would I put it past a what was then 22-year old with a six-year old son with a house full of drug addicts who spent twice what he made at whatever shit job that he had to do that? Why not? You know, I don’t judge the guy for it, but…another story was that some guys were trying to get him and he pulled the red ball, which is the emergency red ball hanging above the door that you can pull that ball and the doors open in case of emergency and that he had jumped out to avoid that, but either way, to give you an idea of the type of house that I grew up in, you know, Day 1 when there’s booze and drugs around, you call the using partners when you haven’t seen someone in 24 hours. Day 2, you call the police stations. And Day 3, you call the hospital and the morgue. And it was John Doe, in the morgue, no license, no ID, matching his description. His dad, my grandfather, who was Puerto Rico, had to go down and get him. We had welfare, store-front funeral, and I didn’t really know, I’ll tell you this. I had seen once in the alley, a dead German Shepherd with it’s, it had been hit by a car. And its side was torn open and it was filled with millions of these white, squirming things that I found out, when I showed somebody, were maggots, you know, eating the dog from the inside out. And I said—

 

P:         Hold on, let me get my dick out. How did you know that that’s the thing I come to hardest? And only German Shepherds.

 

M:       No kidding. I don’t---and listen, I don’t want to take your inventory, but, I think it’s only fucked up if it’s a Doberman.

 

P:         I can’t disagree.

 

M:       You know. Then you really—

 

P:         I judge people.

 

M:       Yeah, of course. ‘cause that’s the invisible line.

 

P:         And yet, they’re both German dogs. Aren’t they?

 

M:       It’s the difference between the north side of Chicago and the south side of Chicago. I think it depends on what area of Germany you’re talking about.

 

(nearly literal giggling from both)

P:         Go ahead.

 

M:       I can’t now, your dick’s out.

 

(more laughter)

 

M:       Alright, fine, I’ll just look you in the eyes.

 

P:         Somewhere, there is a listener who is…thinking---

 

M:       Yeah, you just judged ‘em and now you’re gonna get an e-mail!

 

P:         “Maybe. Maybe his dick is out. They’re both comedians, you know what those liberal artists are like.”

 

M:       His dick was out, as he was saying, “Finally, I’m not alone.” And then you started making fun. And then the dick went back in the pants and the shame spiral started.

 

P:         Which is the second thing that makes me come the hardest. This is so…so, we got a German Shepherd having a party. Hosting a party of maggots.

 

M:       Is that—in the punch bowl, what I think it is? We’re simpatico, man, as far as sense of humor. (more laughter) man…

 

P:         So, go ahead, so you see this… or was that just a snapshot of—your life--

 

M:       No, I mean, I saw this thing and I went and I got a teenager, this kid, Tyrone, that lived in our house. And I said, “what the f—what is this?” I didn’t swear, I was a little kid. And he goes, “that dog is dead.” You know, and I said, “oh, ok.” So when, someone sat me down, when they realized my dad was in the morgue—

 

P:         Oh. My God.

 

M:       And they go, your dad is dead, I saw him sawed in half with maggots all over him, you know. I didn’t, there was nothing to compare this to man, you know, and I was fucking hysterical, and when we went to the wake, he was in a casket, you know and he seemed alright, so maybe I… There was no one I could talk to, you know what I mean. I potty trained myself, this all seems dumb now, you know, but like, when you aren’t really—

 

P:         What do you mean, dumb now?

 

M:       Well, imagine going through a significant part of your life wondering if you’re wiping your ass right. Down to the most core fundamental level of your being of understanding how to live. And you’re second-guessing that…upward. Do you know what I mean? Now it seems a little stupid, but—a quarter of my life man, to not be able to ask anybody, “Am I doing this right?”

 

P:         I think heartbreaking is a better word than dumb.

 

M:       Well, yeah, dumb might have been a little harsh, but that ought to tell you where I’m coming from.

 

P:         Good God.

 

M:       But that’s, so when I got to this thing, you know, the wake, I pulled his eye open. And I just pulled the stitches off from the mortician’s thing, you know and the fucking people grabbed me and pulled me away and I’m like, wait, I don’t know what the fuck’s happening here, you know. So, it was crazy, man.

 

P:         What, did you want him to wake up, you wanted to see his eyes?

 

M:       Yeah, I wanted my fucking dad back, you know what I mean. Like hey, thank God he doesn’t have those fucking white things all over him, or cracked in half. He’s asleep. I must’ve thought… I was wrong. This is gonna be alright, you know. And you know, obviously it wasn’t, and then in pure ghetto fashion, my dad’s then junkie since gotten clean, and since passed away, found out she was pregnant with his kid and we share the same name, but I never met him, and recently found him on line and he’s locked up. I won’t say where, because I don’t wanna, you know fuck—

 

P:         Wait, I just got confused, because it sounded liked you said pregnant with his kid, but called and said a “he”

 

M:       My dad’s girlfriend at the time, found out at his funeral, that she was pregnant with my dad’s kid.

 

P:         Right.

 

M:       She wound up having a son, she had the baby, and we share the same name.

 

P:         I see.

 

M:       Almost, his middle name’s different than mine. And I finally found him through ancestry.com. And he’s locked up, and I’m like, fuck man. Now I’m the only guy that got out. Literally. I think my one aunt got, made it through nursing school and married, is normal, but everyone else, my mom, wound up—

 

P:         Is that the aunt that O.D.’ed in the tub?

 

M:       No. The aunt, well, she lived. So, she fell apart, my other aunt, I think, well, here’s why I don’t really know that much about it. So, at the funeral, my mom’s brother said, “listen, don’t go to bed tonight. You gotta stay up all night, whatever you do, do not go to sleep. I’m gonna knock on the door, and when I knock on the door, I need you to answer the door. You’ll be coming with me. So whatever you do, don’t conk out.” So, I stayed up—

 

P:         He wanted you out of that house.

 

M:       Yeah, he…but I didn’t know that, so I’m like, “what are you doing?” He’s like, “you’re gonna go live with your mom.” It was right before sunrise, and Nancy, my dad’s other sister who is not a drug addict, was focused, the most focused one in the house, came out and she’s like, “we’re never gonna see him again, are we?” And my uncle’s like, “No.” So. This is Goodbye.

 

P:         This was your mom’s brother.

 

M:       My mom’s brother, yeah. Who I had seen a couple, you know, who I’d spent time with. On the weekends when I would go to my grandmother’s, my mom’s mother, you know.

 

P:         Why do you think your mom didn’t come to get you?

 

M:       Um. I don’t know, to be honest with you. I don’t…Well, I’ll tell you, I was hysterical in the car going to see my mom.

 

P:         When was the last time you had seen her?

 

M:       I don’t remember. I don’t really remember her. My uncle kind of had to describe her to me and what was gonna happen and there’s gonna be a YMCA, and there’s gonna be kids and it’s a good neighborhood, and if you woulda stayed in that, he’s, literally, there’s no one to look…you’d be dead in two weeks. It’s all drug addicts and fucking lunatics, so. I’m doing you a solid, here. So I go over to my mom’s, and I finally calm down when we pull up. He did a good job of withstanding this kid, you know, screaming hysterically, and also I should say that I acted like a black kid. Because I’m Irish and Puerto Rican, it was a Puerto Rican neighborhood, but we shared a house with a black family, and I didn’t speak Puerto Rican, so I “talked like dis here, and you know,” I was just like Steve Martin in The Jerk, I thought I was fucking black. That was it. My mom did not like that. She was not a fan of my afro centric behavior. But you know, I walked in, this 4’nothing pugnacious fucking Irish woman with madness in her fucking eyes and shocking red hair and I got nervous, and I’ve told this story before, like I opened her fridge and I popped open a little quart of milk and I drank it and it was sour, so I just instinctively, I spit it out, by the time I lifted my head up, she had cocked back and just fucking punched me and just dropped me and I looked up at my uncle, and he’s like “Good luck.” And just left. Because, I don’t think he was…it was out of his hands now. He had just spent an hour with a screaming kid and now he had to fucking go. But now I was with this woman who did not want me. Didn’t want me to begin with which is why my dad got me.

 

P:         So, do you think it was your uncle’s idea to—

 

M:       Maybe—

 

P:         Hoping he was gonna repair something.

 

M:       You know, I think it’s that weird Chicago…some things there just aren’t options with. I don’t know how your neighborhood was when there’s this weird blue-collar honor thing, a lot of time, you know, if you get someone pregnant, like, “Alright, we’re getting married, we’re having kids. That’s what we do.”

 

P:         No matter how shitty your parents treat you, they’re your parents, so you stick by ‘em.

 

M:       That’s it. There’s these weird, knuckle headed rules. You think, well these are the rules that I live my life by, these are the principles, and I think, that was…Mickey’s-- which was my dad’s name, Big Mickey’s Dad, I was Little Mickey. “I gotta raise this kid now.” You know, and so I moved in with my mom, my grandfather, her father, was upstairs. He would call me “the kid” because he didn’t like the fact that I was cut with Puerto Rican and plus his son was just murdered, two years prior to that.

 

P:         Where in Chicago was this?

 

M:       Berwyn was the neighborhood, so I moved from---

 

P:         Oh my God. Berwyn is like one of the most racist areas of a racist city. At Berwyn, it was like the, Berwyn would be like where they would have a pro-Nazi rally, from what I remember about Chicago.

 

M:       The weird thing about Berwyn, well, Berwyn is weird across the board. It’s Slovakian, so you have a really hardcore racist side to it, like certainly it was, I would say probably 95% white when I lived there, but it was eastern European Slovakian, but you also had this Bohemian Jewish community because it was all Eastern European. And like lower, mostly lower class. The middle class was like you were, fucking, like a couple Cadillacs in the neighborhood, you were the man.

 

P:         If you were able to buy a new car, you were—

 

M:       It was unbelievable. Yeah, I mean, yeah. If you had a Cadillac, that was the King rolling through town.

 

P:         When I was doing stand-up in Chicago, the city that was used for a punch line was Berwyn.

 

M:       Yeah. There’s a show called (???) that you can see on YouTube if you want, but it’s basically like a Elvira type of show--

 

P:         I remember.

 

M:       It would show B movies at midnight.

 

P:         I loved it.

 

M:       Yeah. He was a ghoul and he lived in a graveyard. And through the whole show, the running joke, like you just said, was “Ber-wyn!” I remember being a kid and thinking, “fucking zombies don’t even want to live here.” You know what I mean? The fucking guy lives in a graveyard—shitting on my neighborhood? What the fuck? There was a Houby Day parade where these Polish women would go down Cermak Avenue with mushrooms on their head; I mean it was like the fucking Twilight Zone. But that’s the neighborhood that I moved to. And, my mom was drinking. You know, I was happy to be somewhere, but there was a lot of fucking abuse man, a lot of physical abuse. Horrific beatings, sometimes she would—

 

P:         By your mom, or other people?

 

M:       By, no, by my mom. Cigarettes. Using things around the house.

 

P:         Would she work the body before she’d hit you in the jaw? I mean was she—

 

M:       No, it all came toward the face, and then when you’d go to cover up, then you’d get your back, and your sides, so--

 

P:         You ever think about rope-a-doping her?

 

M:       Just luring her in? You know it’s funny—

 

P:         And then wear her out, and then just, right cross--

 

M:       Ali in the eighth

 

P:         Yeah. Knock the cigarette out of her mouth.

 

M:       Who was that, that was against Frasier, wasn’t it?

 

P:         I think it was.

 

M:       Yeah, just fucking put my hands up and get her with my left.

 

P:         Our younger listeners are going, “what the fuck is he talking about?”

 

M:       “Who’s Frasier? Kelsey Grammar? Muhammad Ali?”

 

P:         “That guy doesn’t seem like a boxer.”

 

M:       “Muhammad Ali fought Kelsey Grammar?”

 

P:         I would pay to see that.

 

M:       David Hyde Pierce in the corner.

 

P:         He’s cut man.

 

M:       “Don’t go out again. You shouldn’t even be boxing, I don’t know how you talked me into this”

 

P:         He gets his ass kicked and he loses, but he cries for Daphne at the end.

 

M:       Why do you have a British accent, you’re from Seattle?

 

P:         I like how I made him hook up with Daphne, even though David Hyde Pierce was the guy that loved Daphne. Anyway.

 

M:       We just went Inside Frasier for a moment.

 

P:         Oh my God. So, the beatings were consistent…

 

M:       Yeah, and it was that thing that I think, you know, that I was her friend, that I was her boyfriend, then I was her mentor, and she would take me out drinking with her until 3:00 in the morning, I would drive home, I’d be banging fucking women at the bar that were like, “You’re gonna remember this for the rest of your life.”

 

P:         She said that to you? Your mom did, or the women?

 

M:       The women. You know, so—

 

P:         What did they mean by that, you’re gonna remember—

 

M:       “Me!”

 

P:         --the sex that you were experiencing?

 

M:       Yeah, yeah, like at the bar, it was so, it was go great, like they were doing me a solid.

 

P:         How old were you?

 

M:       Nine and Ten.

 

P:         No.

 

M:       Yeah. So--

 

P:         No. Mick, No.

 

M:       Yeah. And then I had to drive home and then go to school—

 

P:         There were adult women, having sex with a nine and a ten year old.

 

M:       Yeah. You know, that’s been my relationship with, and I think because my life had been so sexualized from the very beginning that umm… and I know we’re jumping around here, but like…it’s always been…and I’m married now, so I don’t say it’s like this now, but--and I look like a plumber from the ‘20s. I preface this for people that obviously are listening to the audio of this, like, it’s always either been off a woman’s radar or we have to fuck. Right now. You know, and I don’t know if that’s part of this dysfunction, and that’s what I attract, or attracted, you know what I mean, because that’s my story right now, but it was all insane.

 

P:         You know, predators can smell. They can spot prey across a room. And I would bet my bank account that they could sense that you had been fucked with, sexually, and I don’t know. The emails that I get from listeners, and the surveys that I read—people that were sexually abused as children so often times wind up getting into abusive relationships or being raped and I’m not saying any of this to say that they brought it on themselves-- not at all. But it’s almost like when you get fucked with as a kid; your ability to advocate for yourself evaporates. You don’t know how. And I don’t know if it’s because you think that you aren’t worth it, or that this is the way the world works, or you enjoy the attention, or what it is, or maybe a combination of all of them, but it’s staggering to me how predators can sense prey. And I’m—

 

M:       Well, what kind of bar would let me in? What kind of bar would serve me drinks? I’m in a Catholic schoolboy uniform, I’m in corduroy pants and a mustard yellow—I’m in a fucking uniform, you know what I mean, like, it’s not like I’m a little person, or I’m a dwarf. Clearly, I’m a fucking kid, you know what I mean? And it’s weird coming in here, ‘cause I didn’t wanna—and I’m not saying like delete it from the podcast, but I respect and admire the honesty that the other guests had as I caught up on your podcast and that you have. And I’m like, you know, I want the same honesty from my guests, so I’ll talk about the sex abuse that we talked about in the beginning, or even that we may even talk about later on. Because of what you just said, there are easier days for me now, but I didn’t really know what the fuck what going—I knew it was fucked up, I knew it, I had some kind of perspective—

 

P:         How many times did this happen with adult women, when you were at that age?

 

M:       Three.

 

P:         Three different women?

 

M:       Three different women.

 

P:         Wow. Mick, I hear a lot of shit on this podcast…let’s talk about…let’s get away from the events and talk about—if you’re comfortable—how it’s affected your ability to be intimate and what turns you on. I don’t want you to get specific with fantasies, but one of the things that’s really common with people who had their innocence taken by somebody who was significantly older is they then have a fantasy about much older women or much older men or it is the most horrifying thing in the world to them. There seems to be a binary reaction to—

 

M:       Well, I’ll tell ya, I like to use the word intimacy, um…I’ll tell you a couple of things I think feed into just my general ability to walk the earth, which I think is an important thing. When you say relationships, now I think we’re talking about advanced living. How do I wake up, take a breath, and not—I’m so overwhelmed that I’m just paralyzed, you know. And I don’t want to demonize my mom, who clearly has, uh, she’s no longer with us, but, clearly has mental illness issues, violence issues, whatever, and I think was severely abused when she was a kid and she told me a little bit about that, but this is a woman who would set the bills out and say, “this is how much you are costing me.” This is a woman who would—

 

P:         Why wouldn’t she?

 

M:       --who would drive me into a neighborhood and say, “You were adopted. I’m pretty sure that’s the house that I got you from. Go ask if they’ll take you back, I’m fucking done with you.” And kick me out of the car. And then drive off.

 

P:         How are you a functioning human being? You are a fucking miracle.

 

M:       Yeah. Well, that I get now.

 

P:         You are like a comet. I mean, you are—

 

M:       But, I say, I wanted to share those things because…like I’ve heard other guests say, “Look, if it helps…” and again I say I don’t want to demonize, nor is there this perverse thing where I get to victimize myself. So, I’m trying to waft that—

 

P:         I think that is clear—

 

M:       --thin line

 

P:         That is clear.

 

M:       Ok, cool. I just want to be very aware of that, you know? So then I move, uh, my grandfather—

 

P:         Was your mom aware that this was happening? With these women?

 

M:       Yes, yes. My mom had a…I don’t want to get too graphic, but like, there would be times where, how can I say this, as being as, not gratuitous, but…I would be driving home, I’d be twelve and she was engaged in activities in the back seat. While I’m driving, with another guy. And then I would hear, the next morning, like I was her girlfriend, the exploits of everything that happened. And later on, maybe bipolar, maybe schizophrenic…sat me down til 4:00 in the morning reading psychology books that she got from the college, saying “this is how they’re gonna come after you.”

 

P:         How—and I mean this in all sincerity, how you are not a serial killer is amazing. Do you realize that?

 

M:       Yeah, I think what happened, here’s the saving grace. I think. It was a couple things. Going to my grandmother’s on the weekends, even though she had her own set of problems. Think about this woman, who is married to an alcoholic, who was my grandfather, but I only knew him when he was sober. Son murdered. Another son, pathological liar, stricken with multiple sclerosis; my mother—teen mom, serious mental issues, obv—we knew, but, again, it was that “Chicago tough fucking through it, Mary,” you know, “get your shit together, go to college or something, get a fucking job,” you know, like this really, grin and bear it mentality instead of someone is coming apart. But also, there was a tremendous rebellion against – I went to see a social worker—this sounds like I’m trying to make my mother sound like fucking Satan, she was a sick woman, but I have some perspective because of some work I obviously did later on, but. I finally got a hold of the social worker that did—

 

P:         What age?

 

M:       Right around…nine, ten, eleven, twelvish, somewhere in that—

 

P:         I was just going to ask you, what was the life preserver for you, because clearly—

 

M:       Well, I found the social worker, and I said this is—and like his eyes rolled in the back of his head—it must have been too farfetched, I don’t know what ethic he violated, but he went and basically reached out to my mom to see if what I was saying was true and my mom fucked him.

 

P:         Figuratively or literally?

 

M:       Literally. Like hooked him. And then turned him inside out. You know, much like Christina Talk. My mom, if you met her, was fucking disarming and her personality was larger than life and when you see the emotional fall out behind closed doors to put that face on of that fantasy and who she wished she was, the depletion of that was horrific. And it couldn’t maintain that character and then it would come off the rails for weeks and nice, pleasant, amazing, I’m-gonna-go-to-college, I’m-gonna-start-a-business, this-is-all-gonna-end, that manic depressive, you know—she also had some kind of thing where her menstrual cycle was such a twist that she had a reason for homicide. It was such a violent, insane, physical, hormonal thing for her that she would have to go in for like a week and not see anybody, I mean it was totally fucking bonkers, but anyway. So, I had these moments where I thought I was going to get out, or someone could listen, and then they would get pulled out, so my grandfather—who had wreckage from being an old-school drunk, like not necessarily homeless, but violent, Irish, big, angry, rage, you know, bottles upon bottles—just like a hurricane through the lives of those kids. And you could see the damage. But to me, he was my grandfather. And at first, he didn’t even want to talk to me, you know. And then one night I went up there because mom was passed out and we wound up watching The Black Stallion together. And, you know, Mickey Rooney, this little kid, the whole – and at the end, we were both crying, and he said, “why don’t you stay up here tonight.”

 

P:         What did that feel like?

 

M:       It was amazing, you know. It was great, and he was big, guy, stocky, you know. The hugs were great, and the kindness was wonderful, you know, and there was a wisdom there that I think was subliminal. That there was a life lived, and that somehow he was on the other side of this thing. And you know, I would hear stories about how destructive, and how many hearts he had broken, and all this stuff, but to me—

 

P:         Was he still drinking like he had been?

 

M:       No, no, he was sober. I saw him go out twice. But only for like two or three – one was one night, and another was a week.

 

P:         Was he white-knuckling it?

 

M:       No.

 

P:         He was getting help.

 

M:       He was getting help. He would go to a place he called the club. And which I later found out what that was. And I’m now a member of that club. But, anyway, so I lived up there. We would go on walks at night, he would buy ice cream and donuts, he was just nice to me. On a consistent basis. Which, to me, changed. Because my uncle was very nice to me, then all of a sudden, his demons kicked in and he started becoming like my mom. And so, the one consistently nice person in my life was my grandfather and now, tough fucking, talk about stormy weather there, man, one day I was 13 and I go into his room to wake him up, and he grabs my arm, and I thought we were wrestling, and he just fucking dies. Heart attack. Right there. In my arms. I jumped down, bang on my mom’s door, she opens the door, she’s naked, there’s a guy passed out literally on the table, with a—

 

P:         Why wouldn’t there be?

 

M:       With a fifth, you know?

 

P:         Why wouldn’t there be?

 

M:       Of course. And I’m like “Gramp’s dead. Gramp’s dead” You know, and the guy fucking (makes a moaning nose) and he fucking wobbles out and the ambulance comes and you know, it all, it all…I think I was 13, no, 14. And uh, on the…so it was a two-flat. In that apartment, where the living room would be, my grandfather had walled off a room and that’s where my other uncle lived, who is now since passed away, the pathological liar. He used to tell me he used to deliver air conditioning units; he was a helicopter pilot that used to deliver air conditioning units to the Taj Mahal. Fucking lunatic, you know what I mean? So, we go to hospital, Gramp’s dead, we come back, and in one of the—this is a tiny apartment—in one of the rooms is a safe that my grandfather kept like $2 grand in and his will. Tommy, who walked with a cane, fucking climbed up the shelves. My grandfather put the key like four shelves up but I could be the only one to get it, to climb up, robbed his own father before his body was cold. Stole the money, stole the will. And so now I’m in this apartment and I don’t really want to go downstairs, and I said to my mom that night, I said, “You know, Gramp died in his room, and I keep replaying it over and over, can I stay down here?” and she’s like “Fuck no. Frank’s over,” this guy she used to drink with. And I’m like, “I can’t—like, I see ghosts up there, and I” and she’s, “Nope. Fucking deal with it.” So I went upstairs. I was in that apartment. She started dating the shithead that used to beat her and I was wrestling at the time. After a while, I snapped. And I just fucking, you know, I could hear them hooking up down—her bedroom was right beneath mine—I’d hear the screaming, him hitting her, the glass breaking, and then them hooking up. And then—after-- I’d call the cops for the beatings and then after a while, let the cops—they didn’t give a shit, you know. And the police station was right around the corner from our apartment. So finally, I go down there and I just clip the guy and I drag him out into the backyard and the cops come and my mom left. And I just lived in that place.

 

P:         How did the rent get paid?

 

M:       What happened was—and the lights stayed on and everything, I mean the place wound up being fully infested with rodents. It was fucking horrible for a while, but there was a trust—my grandfather worked for Sears, so he had some stock, so there was trust that was created that paid for the utilities and the real estate taxes while the building was for sale. I think it had PVC piping and it needed to go to copper, or the other way around , so there were like things that needed to happen, and it was totally fucking infested, I mean—infested—like you’d walk into a room and mice would just scatter, you know. So—

 

P:         And who was living in that, after you mom left, with you? Just you?

 

M:       Me and my Uncle Tommy, but he didn’t give a fuck about me. And it’s funny, ‘cause he—I ate all the food that was in there, you know, down to the point where I was making mayonnaise and Wheaties stale bread sandwiches. And Tommy had, on my side, an industrial sized freezer with fucking steaks in it. And one time he came out and he accused me of stealing one of the steaks—and I wouldn’t. I mean, I wound up stealing later on, but I wasn’t stealing from my own family. You know what I mean? So I wound up having to go fucking pan handle.

 

P:         At 13-14?

 

M:       Yeah, I had to beg for money. So. Easily one of the most humiliating things, you know, being on the corner, fucking, how did this happen-- “Can you spare some change?” fucking hobo guy, you know, in eighth grade. So, I thought, I can’t—I did it for like two weeks and then, I’m like, I gotta steal food, you know. So, I thought, there must be an easier hustle here, so I stole a painting kit, and I started painting these little watercolor things. And the old ladies used to go to the ice cream shop down at the corner and I’d say, “Hey, I’m an artist and I’m selling my art for a dollar. Would you like to buy these paintings?” And they’d be like, “Oh, how amazing!” and I was like, “Fuck. Thank God.” I don’t have to fucking beg for money on the street. It was gnarly, that was a really gnarly—that was really intense part of my life and I enrolled myself in high school, and for the first half year of high school, I was working at a restaurant so I could eat, and walking down the hall, stinking, clothes dirty, totally unable to manage my life, and I said—I couldn’t go to another class—wrestling in the morning, working at the school, wrestling after school, then going to the restaurant and working til like 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning and then I just hit the wall, you know.

 

P:         What—before we get to that, hold that thought. Two questions I want to ask you. How much time of those nice moments did you have with your grandfather? Was it like two years of it? A year?

 

M:       Um, probably three? I mean, it was a good stretch, I mean, it was, I’ll tell you, when he died—that was for me…consciously or unconsciously, it was a terrible resentment and disdain towards God. Completely, I went into Ascension Church on East Avenue and I fucking went up on the altar and I spit on the cross and I said “Fuck you, Motherfucker. This is how you want to do it? I’m in. Let’s go. I’m fucking in. What more are you going to do to me? Go ahead. I don’t give a fuck. I just don’t.” You know? And I ran it hard. And at the same time, even though I had that anger, desperately wanting, at the same time for that not to be the case. And having both of those, just as active and just as powerful and intense inside of me at exactly the same time. Like please don’t, like—this can’t be it. So at the same time, “Fuck you. Fuck it,” and “God, I hope this isn’t fucking it.” You know?

 

P:         The other question I wanted to ask was: what was it like when you wrestled? I pity—I don’t know if you were a good wrestler or not, but I am imagining that fury coming out in a channeled, healthy way and—

 

M:       When it did come out, and here’s the weird thing, and of all the podcasts I could say this on, the majority…if anybody’s gonna get it, it’ll be…I needed…the real fight had been beaten out of me. It had been beaten out of me. So when it did rear its head, it was like a fucking avalanche. That only happened a couple times, because I was raised like – “You’re happy. What the fuck are you so happy about?” And, “Oh, you’re sad? How about I give you something to really be fucking sad about.” And so, you get nothing now. You get nothing. You don’t get the truth from me. You don’t get lies from me. You don’t get my opinion. You don’t get my love. You get fucking nothing. Well, what you do, is you get the clown. I’ll soft chew for ya, I’ll fucking make you laugh, I got to figure out how to get away from you. And if it’s to make you laugh, to diffuse the situation, then here come the giggles. If I gotta make-up some crazy fucking story about the lady at work who your conspiratorial thinking has said she’s out to get you and she’s gonna ruin your fucking job for the one you worked for four weeks, get a job, work for four weeks, figure out the person was out to fuck her, and then blows the whole thing up, you know. And then back to square one. So I learned to shut down fairly quickly but I did have a lot of this energy like you’re talking about…and here’s something that broke my fucking heart, man. I found wrestling, and I loved playing the other sports, but I would always wrestle with my uncle, not knowing what that was, we’d just goof around like idiots and roll around. But finding out that it was a sport, you know, and going and being good at it right away, I got some really good validation and my coach, who was amazing…and of course, this is right as my grandfather died… I had a fundraiser for the team to sell 60 bags of M&Ms. Well I ate them. For food. It’s all I had, so then I had to go…I stopped going to practice, ‘cause I’m like…this guy trusted me and I ate the fucking fund…I ate the candy, you know? And so I had to go to my uncle and he’s doesn’t have $60, we were fucking poor, man. We didn’t have $60, it wasn’t like I could just go to the guy and get $-- you look now, like, sixty bucks? –should be accessible. No, it was a thing and moves had to be made to put the sixty together. And, so what happened…and I wrestled in gym shoes, which was humiliating, because there were, there are wrestling shoes—I made it to sectionals and I was gonna go to state, my first year. And I lost. I almost…very close. And this kid that I lost to spit on me and was making fun of me for the shoes and broke my heart. But here’s what broke my heart and my coach didn’t even mean to do this and I’m not saying this to shit talk him at all, but. He wrote me a card that said how great the season was. And how I was the first person that became captain of the wrestling team the first year there and if only he had had more time with me. And I thought, here’s…what the fuck? I wanna hear, “do ten more push-ups and your dreams will come true. Do A, B, and C. But don’t,” and I know he didn’t mean it, it was something totally out of kindness, but it really summed up for me where I was. It was like, “if things had only been different.” And it’s like, man, I can’t…I got nothing for ya. I can’t control any of that, you know. So…

 

P:         The world is against me.

 

M:       Yeah, I mean, fuck, I wish I had more time. You know, fuck yes, please! How does…how do we fix that problem in your card? How do we change that? And so, you know, I’m walking down the hallway of this high school, and I just fucking come undone and I go into the counselor’s office, and I say, “Hey. I gotta talk to somebody.” And they’re like, “shouldn’t you be in class?” I’m like, “You gotta…just let me talk to somebody, just, I’ll be five minutes,” and they…there’s a guy named Brother John who’s a Franciscan Monk with a potato sack thing with the rope belt, you know. And I said, “Listen man, I work here in the office, in the business office, and I know there’s an old rectory and if it’s cool, because I’m having a hard time traveling, I’d like to sleep in the old rectory.” And he’s like, “why don’t you sleep at your house?”

 

P:         What do you mean, “I’m having a hard time traveling?” To…from home to school?

 

M:       Yeah, I’d be working ‘til 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, and I thought, man if I could just go from…and my job was in between my apartment and school. So I thought well, if I could just go…it’s the same travel time, but then I’d wake up at school. Problem solved. And so, he’s like, what’s going on? “What are your parents…we can’t let you stay at the school…what else is going on?” And so I lost it and he said, “I want to go to your apartment right now to just validate what you’re saying,” and he went and, you know, there was an outline of my body on the mattress because the sheets had been long…you know it was nasty, and…he’s like, “worst case of child abuse I’ve seen. Your mother’s going to jail,” and I’m like, “Listen, man. I’m not saying shit to anybody. I just want a place to stay. That’s all I want, you know. I wanna eat when I’m hungry” and he goes, “is there anywhere you can stay tonight?” I said, “I’ll call my uncle, man.” So that was the beginning of…you know, when I moved in with my uncle in Riverside…you know where Riverside is.

 

P:         Mmmhmm. That’s where my wife’s from.

 

M:       Nice little town by the river, we lived on Long Common (sp?) and two buildings from (?) river. We get kicked out of there ‘cause we can’t pay the rent and move back into my place. So fuck. And my mom had since moved back in.

 

P:         Did the landlord say, “if I’d just had more time to spend with you?”

 

M:       …if you had just had more time. And a pair of wrestling shoes. “Son, your problems happen when you eat all the chocolate.” So, yeah, we bounced around, and finally we landed in Forest Park, I finished up high school. I was gonna…

 

P:         Why do you think you weren’t taken from your mom? Not that that would have necessarily been a good thing, ‘cause I know the foster system can sometimes be…

 

M:       I would have hopped on a freight train, man, there’s no…When I was 18, my aunt, who became, like my grandfather, a very loving, kind, centered person in my life as my uncle came unglued—like we all did! I came unglued in my late teens and early 20s; it caught up with me. She unfortunately had to be put through…she was from a nice suburb of Chicago, two parents, brother and sisters, and got dropped into the insane Irish dunk tank and, she’s out of it now, but…with a few scars of her own. We settled down…my response to your question is everyone was carrying their own cross. You know, my grandmother, check to check. My uncle, flying around the…you know, not literally, but just his own head eating itself from the inside out trying to find his own place in the world, and there just wasn’t…you know, ultimately he took me in, but he had two kids of his own and he was trying not to suffocate, you know. So, it wasn’t like it was an easy option. Now, I look…now, what would I do? And again, without…I don’t want to take anybody else’s inventory. I would do whatever it takes to get that kid in. But that’s me. So…

 

P:         What would you…if you could go in a time machine and go back and talk to 14-year old Mick as the adult you are now, what would you have said to him?

 

M:       Well, listen man, I went to therapy and I had to write that letter, and of course, you know what most people say is it’s gonna be ok. That’s the first thing you want to say, but—

 

P:         Would you have told him you’re gonna have a string of 17 years of horrible, Friday night midnight shows? It’s not gonna get better. They’re gonna be drunk and you’re going to use the material that makes you hate yourself the most. So buckle up.

 

M:       If you’re job there, Paul, was to have me make a mini gratitude list, for from whence I came, to what I think are problems now, mission accomplished, Sir.

 

(both laugh)

 

M:       You know, I…here’s the weird thing. I don’t wanna fucking feel like I gotta preface all this bullshit, but, my uncle told me one time, and I wish that…maybe you know the name of this writer, but he said, there’s a famous writer, right. I mean a guy that was a real writer. Writing, going in, doing the heavy lifting, going in, way in, to write beautiful prose which I respect. Out of all of the things I do, I probably consider myself a writer the most, you know. But he was insane. And he knew it. And so, when he was going to meet…get his first break, his agent had set this thing up, he had written something—like the proposal. And it was very well received. And they go to this place in New York. Now, all these things, you know, the beat generation for me, and New York City and writing, and sharing, and having a relationship with somebody that’s reading and liking what I do, that’s pushing all my buttons, this story, you know what I mean? And the guy is sitting there, and he’s in unchartered territory, the agent probably shouldn’t have happened, and he’s got mental illness, but he doesn’t know…he knows about it, right, but he doesn’t know how this is going to affect his dream, right? And so, he’s in this nice restaurant and here’s the publisher, I think he was meeting with, and his life’s about to change, right? They order pasta and they set down a bowl of pasta. And, it starts moving. All this guy sees is that it’s worms. And so, these two guys are eating and they can’t talk more highly about this guy who’s sitting in front of a bowl of fucking worms. And, he had to keep saying to himself, as he’s eating the worms, “these aren’t worms. It’s just a figment of my imagination.” And so, for twenty years of my life, I had to keep telling myself, “man, you ain’t eating worms. You’re not eating worms. This…it’s not what it is.” You know, I got hung up, I got diagnosed with PTSD, which really shed a light on some things that were happening in my life and some things I was seeing, and feeling and that was amazing, you know what I mean? But sometimes, for me, I gotta just remind myself, it ain’t worms. You’re seeing them; these are not worms. Even if it’s a sliver of perspective, I gotta hold on to that.

 

P:         Now, are you talking about psychotic breaks, or just you’re attitude about things are never gonna work out.

 

M:       No, I’m not saying I have hallucinations, and my heart goes out to those people that do. I’m saying…feelings and thoughts that are presented to me as facts.

 

P:         I see.

 

M:       And there’s a slight glimmer of hope. I’ll hold on to the hope. I try to hold on to the good. So when I’m seeing the worms, I use that—for whatever reason, that had a very profound impact on me when I heard that story as an adolescent, I think I was 18 when I heard that story. That that guy could do that, that he could sit there, and go through that experience and still make his dreams happen, despite of that, accepting it and doing that, to me…I had no idea the profound impact it would have when I heard the story until, and I’m not talking about auditory hallucinations, or anything like that, but just when I’m like, “you’re a fucking piece of shit. You deserve nothing. All of the shit I was trained for. Trained for. And then also, you know, I wasn’t a fucking nice guy for a while. You know, I hurt some people. Now, do I say, well that was a direct result of my upbringing and I had to lash out, probably, but at the end of the day, it was me. So then there’s that shame. So, what do I do with that?

 

P:         Are you comfortable talking about that?

 

M:       Well, I think it would be selfish to victimize, or talk shit about other people and not talk shit about myself. You know, look man, I was very selfish in relationship—

 

P:         And, I don’t want to hear this to, for that reason, I want to hear it because I want a realistic portrayal of how hurt people hurt people. Yeah, that’s for you, that water.

 

M:       Thank you. Well—

 

P:         ‘Cause I think there’s also some…I think people hearing this story right now are A) their jaws are open at what you’ve survived, but there’s also people, because we tend to filter things through our own experiences, there are people who are saying, “I’m such a piece of shit because I’ve hurt people, I’ve done things I’m ashamed of, and I haven’t experienced one one-millionth of what Mick has. I am a terrible person.” And I want those people to understand that this isn’t a comparison thing, but I do want them to feel some comfort from knowing that you haven’t handled this, um—

 

M:       Well, listen, I—

 

P:         --like a gentleman. Actually, you have handled it like a gentleman, I want them to know that this isn’t…that no human being can take that kind of abuse and not have it come out in ways that aren’t healthy. I’ve never met somebody that could handle that kind of abuse and not have it come out in ways that aren’t healthy. I hope that makes sense.

 

M:       Yeah, no, I get it, man. I um—

 

P:         And I’d like to be more of a people pleaser for everybody concerned. God, I want to hang myself. Go ahead.

 

M:       There was a call back to the Boy Scout joke thing, but I couldn’t remember.

 

P:         And I almost ruined that nice moment you had about eating the worms by making…asking if it was served in a German Shepherd—

 

M:       --a German Shepherd, I know, yeah. I saw you taking your dick out, I go, where’s he going with this? You know, I think um, my capacity to be in a real relationship with anybody was ruined. So I was a pathological liar for a long time, or so I’ve been told. Which is true, you know like, really good friends of mine would say to me, “man, we love fucking hanging out with you,” this was in high school, “we love hanging out with you man, but you lie. All the time, man. And we just, we can’t fucking deal with it anymore,” you know, and, that was, of course, a necessity early on, but then become, you know, what’s that thing, watch your thoughts because they become your actions, watch your actions because that becomes your habit, watch your habit because it becomes your character, you know. Well, that’s what happened.

 

P:         Would you ever get a high or a rush from lying and getting away from it, or was it just more a survival thing?

 

M:       I’ll tell you what I loved about lying, well…I’m writing this book, right, now, right—and—I’m not here to fucking promote that nor is it anywhere near being promotable, but the thing that I’m juggling with this book is what I wanna do is write the way things were, how I literally felt while they were happening, then write, kind of the wisdom on the other side. If there is any, because I think…you’re talking about two different things. You’re talking about why and how did I feel when I actually did them as opposed to looking back, what did lying do? You know, and what I learned about lying when I realized I was doing at the time was that if I can’t control my immediate surroundings I will lie so that there is some form of control. That I can control something, my reality, which was controlled through lies.

 

P:         So, some of the worms are spaghetti.

 

M:       Exactly, yes. So I lied to control who I was, and who I wanted other people to think I was. But I also lied, to be honest with you, because of the tremendous potential in it. And I know that that might sound—

 

P:         That makes sense to me.

 

M:       I’m gonna be fucking president. I wouldn’t say that, but I lied about a lot of the very things that have happened to me in my career. I would lie because I wanted to believe the fantasy. And, some of it worked. At the cost of some friends, because I would lie across the board. I would steal. I wasn’t a big fire guy. I had some friends that were like that, that would start fires and stuff. You know, I wasn’t a bully but I remember a couple times that I did bully some people. When you talked about sensing weakness, and, what shame, man I had over that, still do. It was a horrible fucking thing to do, and uh—

 

P:         Was it a compulsion?

 

M:       No, it was…

 

P:         Would it be in front of other people? Was that part of it?

 

M:       No, not really man, it was—

 

P:         Did you hate their weakness? Or did you want to feel bigger? Because you knew—

 

M:       Probably, man. You know, I’ll tell you what it was…that’s not important. It was…it was doing something…and this became, which might be the most important thing I’m trying to say, or think I’m trying to say, is that there were things that I did, this whole time, I knew right and wrong, you know, like, I wouldn’t consider myself pathological, it was just this total chaos in my brain and I’m just running around and people are like, “You’re crazy!” That wasn’t the case. I was going to school, I’d go home, I’d babysit for my aunt and uncle. I’d go out on the weekends, once things kinda got normal in Forest Park, so it wasn’t totally crazy, you know what I mean. Running around, trying to get laid, like every high school adolescent boy. But there were moments where, and it’s like this for everybody, but there were moments where, and I think it was this instilled fear of fucking God, and right and wrong, and Hell and the devil, getting scarred, and all the shit, you know, from when I was a kid, like, anything that I did wrong, anything. I replayed over and over and over again in my head, “yeah, you are a fucking piece of shit, man.” And this is all bull shit. All this other stuff is a lie. It’s all a lie, because you’re incapable of moment to moment grace. You’re incapable of it. You’re just a fucking piece of shit.

 

P:         The other, even if you have a good moment, the other shoe is gonna drop, because—

 

M:       There is no other shoe.

 

P:         --it always has.

 

M:       --there is no other shoe. And I got to a place, and sometimes, now…the good moments are punishment. Because it is just a fucking taste of the food you will never have. You know, I’m married, I have two kids. It’s all a dream, it’s a fucking lie. This is the—

 

P:         You still feel that way.

 

M:       --the worms, man, I’m telling you.

 

P:         You still feel that way sometimes.

 

M:       Yes! It’s a fucking scam. All to be taken away to prove the big point; that you were never intended to have any of this anyway. And rather than just having you be on the corner, grinding it out, like an animal, like you always should have been, and could have gotten comfort there, I wanna get you to a place where you really could have seen magic and wholesome goodness. And take it away, ‘cause fuck you. But those are the worms. And if I’m gonna be totally honest, I’ve been thinking that for the last two days. And this is, I’m 40, twelve years sober, therapy. But I gotta go to myself, hey, man. It’s spaghetti. I’m eating spaghetti. It looks like worms, it tastes like worms; it’s fucking spaghetti. And I gotta ride it out. I gotta ride it out, man. I have things, of all the podcasts in the world, I have PT…these are the things, I had to go in and do some pretty high level fucking business, an hour and a half ago. The whole time in the car that I’m going there: “Kids are gonna die. You’re fucking wife’s gonna leave you. You’re a fucking horrible human being.” I go in the room “do-do-do” – “Hey how are you guys! Dude, I’m thinking about this for a show! It’s gonna be great, oh, you’re gonna love it! The guy does this, and—it’s amazing!” I get back in the car. “You fucking horrible human being.” (Both laughing) Those aren’t worms.

 

P:         Wow.

 

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M:       …the main thing that changed my whole entire life was the club that I belonged to to no longer drink or use. That shifted everything for me in such a beautiful, amazing way, and part of that doctrine is we cease fighting with all people and all things. But to me, sometimes, you gotta fight. You gotta fight. You gotta fi—I can’t just sit there with it, ‘cause it’s too much. I’ll get shellacked with it.

 

P:         I’ve never met anybody whose fight ended cleanly and definitively. It’s more so, moments, or stretches of a reprieve from that war between the brain or the soul and the goodness in the universe that’s beckoning us to come and say, “this is here, yes there’s shit and there’s pain in the world, but there’s also this other energy of love and grace—

 

M:       That’s the deal.

 

P:         --and trust. And it’s kinda like, I think we just—

 

M:       Love and kindness is the way out. That’s it. And I say this wholeheartedly. To this day it’s a theory for me. Because, I don’t know if I’ll turn a corner through the work that I’m doing. I don’t know. I hope so. But I’m no longer looking for that for validation or, “Oh--

 

P:         The professionalism.

 

M:       --the corner has been turned and now I’m plugged into the world and I can experience—

 

P:         You mean personal work or professional work?

 

M:       Personal, yeah, yeah. I say “the work that we’re doing,” because, the whole point of the podcast, you know? I must act “as if” in every one of my relationships. I put out what I think love is; love and kindness and acceptance. I don’t judge, no anger, very aware of any excessive codependency. I try to be right in the middle of what I think is the middle. And so, I act “as if.” And again, I know this might sound insane, but for me, it is. I don’t know, I’m a writer, I’ve acted and shit. I can recall, think, done improve…I feel like I can recall or imagine clearly what it’s like to be…Paul Gilmartin. What it’s like to be that other person; to be a bus driver, to be a teacher, and I’ll act, you know. I don’t know what it’s like to have a dad. Or a mom. Or what it’s like to have that type of love, so when I’m with my kids, I’m acting as if this is what a dad does, I guess. This is how a man loves his wife, I guess. Because I don’t have and may, never will, that sense of total ease and comfort of just being right here, right now. I’ve had moments of it, you know, but my alcoholism, that’s the crux of that, has taken me out of the moment, but the other things that I talk to you about, you know, coming up that way, have stolen that from me. I may never get that back. So, there’s a fraudulence that I feel that are the worms in my relationships, ‘cause…can you get intimate with someone, what is that like? I hope that I’m a good partner to my wife and I hope that I’m a good father to my children and I write about it a lot. Am I doing the right thing, am I working hard enough for them? Am I a good provider, am I listening to my wife, am I being caring towards her, you know, am I not wanting too much? I’m literally writing the book as I go. ‘Cause I have no idea.

 

P:         The one thing that blew my mind when I read this article about co-narcissism, written by Dr. Alan Rappaport, and, not necessarily parents who fit the qualities of narcissistic personality disorder, but parents who place their needs ahead of their child’s, which clearly you experienced. One of the things that is left in the wake for that child when they become an adult is they question their integrity. They question the reality of moments. They don’t know where the truth is. They didn’t listen to their body, they didn’t even identify what their own needs were, you know, other than being hungry. And so, as an adult, you feel like a fraud. You feel like…is this what a husband should feel when having dinner with his wife? Or, am I a terrible husband who is pretending to be a husband and I’m denying my wife the experience that she deserves to feel.

 

M:       Absolutely, yeah. 100%, man. I’ve gone to therapy, I’m probably gonna go back. I had work that I needed to tend to, and I felt like, you know, I’ve paid a price from losing a bit of that center of the work…I was getting great work done. But also, a part of me is like…still rebels against that. You know what I mean, it’s still that old idea of just get through it. Will you just…there’s no time. There’s no time to hit the pause button to figure shit out, you got to go. You have to work, you gotta eat, you gotta shower, you gotta figure out how to get clean clothes. You gotta do these things, there’s no…don’t stand still. I remember the first therapist—good guy that I worked with, this is recently. I was just a little cocky, you know what I mean, coming in, and he felt I was pumping the brakes a little bit, and he goes, “your problem is you think you’re smarter than me. You may be. But I know my business more than you know.” And that really cut through to me. He’s like, “I know what I do. You may be smarter than I am, just on an intelligence level, but you have to trust that I understand the mind and the spirit better than you do, maybe at this time in your life.” And that was a real turning point for me, where I’m like, oh, this guy, alright, I get that, I’ll give you that.

 

P:         Huge difference between worldly smartness and emotional intelligence.

 

M:       Yeah.

 

P:         And, it’s the perspective of somebody outside yourself, much like, support groups. It’s just a different perspective on your problem. It’s not even necessarily that that person’s smarter, it’s just a fresh viewpoint.

 

M:       Yeah. And it was my ego and a full defense mechanism not to…it was my problem protecting itself. You know, and my son’s ten now; he’ll be eleven in June. When he was six, I was singing him happy birthday; dining room full of people, and the number “6” lit on the top of his cake. So, I’m looking over this number at him, right, at the end of the table, and I said to myself, “I couldn’t have been that size when all that shit was going…there’s no way. He was so little, you know, and literally my brain like locked up. So this was four years ago and then I couldn’t shake that idea of me. Because in my memories now, I’m this guy in those situations, you know, I’m 5’8”, 200. Let’s do this. You wanna fuck around, I’m gonna rewrite the ending of this story, you know. And, I spun out, man. Uncontrolled, like, I would be in a meeting, a business meeting, and I’d be functioning and talking and then, “sir, if you could just excuse me for ten minutes, I’ll be right back,” and I’d shake and fucking sob and then I’d fucking wipe the snot, dry the eyes out, couple jumping jacks—right back in. “Alright, what were we talking about?” And I tried to plough through it and I couldn’t do it anymore. This fight, this survival, now this was sober time, you know what I mean? It was probably six years sober, six or seven years sober so it wasn’t like I was a newcomer and I was raw, you know, I mean, I had some type of spiritual foundation and had looked at my part, you know, I had done some work. And this thing came up and just grabbed me by the throat and was like, “No, you got some other work to do.” And it really, really helped. It shed…it answered a lot of questions.

 

P:         You know, my thought on support groups for drugs and alcohol is they’re great at helping us understand how we’ve treated the world, but also for those of us that experienced abuse and abandonment is we need a support group, and this is just my opinion, to deal with and understand the pain that we feel from how the world has treated us and to begin to try to break that idea that we somehow deserved it on a certain level, that that was what’s meant to be for us for the rest of our lives ‘cause we’re inherently bad.

 

M:       Well, it’s tricky too, because at least, unintentional or not, the path that I took to sobriety was really looking at my part. Which is like what you just said, so the victimization side of me, which I had no idea how powerful that was, really was cunning, powerful, and baffling and being like... “well, you are, yeah, fucking, of course you’re a piece of shit—“

 

P:         “Look at how you lied, look at how you manipulated…” But, that’s not to be conflated with meaning that you deserved it or you’re the type of person that brought that on yourself, what I think is important, at least was for me, is, once I understood my part in how I had mistreated people, it helped me have compassion for how they had mistreated me, but I still needed to process the feelings from them having mistreated me, mostly caregivers. Um, and that, I never addressed in my first support group. I had to start going to a second support group and that was like lava that had been suppressed my entire life. And it was like a second phase of it and I don’t know why I felt the need to bring that up. I guess I wanted to highlight the difference between going back in time to see your part in it and going back in time to feel the feelings you’ve been running from.

 

M:       Yeah, I mean, listen, when I…thought I was going into the Marines, when I was 18, ‘cause there was no, that was it, I mean, I couldn’t stay where I was living, and I got a last minute scholarship to college. I thought, “Wow, fucking college. What’s that? (laughing) what is that?” you know. I went to a great prep school, where everyone talked about college and everyone was going to college. I just assumed, I’m not…what would I do there? You know? And uh…

 

P:         How’d you get into a prep school? With no money?

 

M:       I wrestled. And filled out all the financial aid thing.

 

P:         Where’d you go?

 

M:       Fenwick.

 

P:         Oh, I hated you guys. We played you in hockey, and you were the dirtiest motherfuckers I ever played against. The first time I played against you, I was standing in front of the net and one of you guys came up and took your stick and just jammed it in my balls.

 

M:       No way.

 

P:         I had no concept that people could be that ruthless and I was—

 

M:       Was there a word on the street about your balls, though? Were they rumored? I mean (both laugh)

 

P:         But that was the Catholic League.

 

M:       Oh, the Catholic League...

 

P:         There was a meanness to Catholic high schools’ that is—

 

M:       Well of course, man. There’s a repressed fucking ideology of—

 

  1. Yeah. But go ahead, we were talking about—

 

M:       Yeah, so, I got…and when I visited these schools I got the scholarship to which was based on some writing, but the premise was I would teach in the summers before…that summer before college I actually taught creative writing and English to eighth graders at Torrell Grade School which was in the parking lot for the Robert Taylor Homes and then Du(sp?) High School. The idea was—

 

P:         Robert Taylor Homes, for non-Chicagoans, was—

 

M:       --the worst housing project in the—

 

P:         --worst housing project, if not in the country, in Chicago. Thirteen story building after building after building—

 

M:       …and shit, it was nasty. So I taught there, it was a nice paying job, as a student teacher. Taking classes with other claim teachers, going to school, they would take out full loans for the school then for every year I taught in a lower income neighborhood when I graduated, they would pay back a year of my student loans. So it was a cool scholarship, you know. I remember hitting campus, backpack on my shoulder, looking around at these other kids with haircuts. They were just walking with purpose. They knew, like, “I’m going to Finnegan Hall and I’m going to do the thing and then I’m going go over to the other hall and do that thing. And. Yeah!” And I’m like, what the fuck am I doing here, man. I just felt like I was watching a video game. I bought a 30 pack of Black Label at a carry-out bar, a place called Bruno and Tim’s on Sheridan Road in Roger’s Park and I just started walking around like the Pied Piper of insanity handing out booze, going “Hey, my name’s Mick and I’m having a party in Campion tonight.” I knew parties worked and I knew beer worked and I got kicked out of Campion in like a month and I got kicked out of Mertz Hall in like two months, and another dorm in three months and they’re like, “you can’t come back.”

 

P:         And what was the college you went to?

 

M:       Loyola. I visited a couple of other colleges, I got into University of Chicago—

 

P:         Holy shit.

 

M:       --North Western, and Loyola

 

P:         Oh my God. Dude.

 

M:       I know, it was crazy—

 

P:         You’re a fucking smarty pants.

 

M:       And it was last, like, no real hope, I mean, I wasn’t gonna, it was hopeless! The scholarship was for those and I think got into Loyola. So, man, I got bounced. And I was fucking—I couldn’t go home. So now I lived near the campus and kind of pretended that I was still going there.

 

P:         I knew a couple of those guys.

 

M:       Yeah. And drank like a fucking animal. Drank like an animal, and that’s really where wheels…shit job here, shit job there. What am I gonna do with my life? I drank, and drank, and drank some more, and like they say, it was fun, fun with problems, and nothing but problems. And then, in fairness to my story, then I…cocaine came in to the thing, appeared out of nowhere in Chicago, like it was an old person, like who the fuck does cocaine? And all of a sudden, it was everywhere…

 

P:         And cheaper.

 

M:       Yeah!

 

P:         The price dropped at some point.

 

M:       It just got, you know, and then it was just me, alone in a motel room wanting to die. That sums up the end of my drinking. And I’m married at the time. And I didn’t want, I didn’t want because of how destructive my life was when I was a kid, I didn’t want my wife to see any of that. So, which was even probably worse for her because I just wanted it to happen outside of the apartment. Like, I wasn’t screaming at her, I wasn’t flipping the table, I wasn’t like, “You’re the reason why…” I was very cautious—

 

P:         You wanted to compartmentalize—the sickness

 

M:       Yes! And so, once I tried to quit drinking and couldn’t, I realized, holy fuck, you’re just like the people – you’re no different, man. You are the same fucking idiot like everyone you grew up around. The shame was too much for me to deal with, so I would white knuckle it. I wouldn’t drink Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Thursday I’d go out, I’d come home Sunday. I’d turn my phone off, or my beeper. And fucking come home, you know, my wife would be hysterical, she’d think I was fucking dead, you know, just like, I recreated history. But, in my brain, I’m like, “listen. You didn’t see any of the insanity.”

 

P:         I protected you from it.

 

M:       I’m protecting you, exactly—in my fucked up thinking. So, you move to LA man, and…I knew I was gonna die. I just knew I was, and this is…I’m doing stand up on TV and everyone’s like, “you’re like Farley, you’re gonna be the best,” and I’m like…Farley died. Belushi died. I’m gonna die. I saw it clear as day. And I didn’t want to do that to my wife. You know, they say you gotta get sober for yourself. I wanted to get sober, but I couldn’t do it for myself. She was gonna leave. I didn’t want her to go. And uh, I stayed sober for myself. And then my son was, I had six months sober and my wife got pregnant. I thought my world was over. ‘cause I just was learning how to take a sober breath, six months is nothing. It’s great if you got it right now, but…it seemed like an eternity when I had six months but I also was very aware of how new and raw I am and just walking the earth…

 

P:         You’re just starting to feel what you’ve been running from.

 

M:       Yes, exactly. And so I thought, well here’s my greatest fear. I’m gonna be a dad, you know, and I hadn’t caught a break yet, you know, when I say I was doing stand up on TV, for anybody listening, you know, that pays about a grand, and you usually do about one or two of those a year. So you’re making, you’re banging down three grand large, take taxes, agency, management, lawyer commission—

 

P:         You’re making $700 a year.

 

M:       You’re making $700 a year. So, it was nice to have those opportunities, but it wasn’t paying the bills. So, my son’s born, I’m working at Starbucks, and nothing’s happening. And I can’t, I can’t pay my bills. And they’re coming to repo the car and they’re trying to evict us out of the apartment and I’m sober. And it’s time to go. I think to myself, “my son is young enough that he’ll never remember me. My wife is young enough that she can fucking go and find a guy that’s got the rule book man, because clearly I can’t fucking, I can’t do this. So I gotta go. I’m gonna check out.” And I didn’t want to be a scumbag, and just fuck it, to me, my brain, to be real about the thinking that was involved there was like, don’t be a scumbag and leave this woman alone with this kid. You can kill yourself. It’s the only honorable fucking thing to do here. So that she can finally have the fucking life that she wants and this poor kid, man, that was born and is inheriting all of your sins. There’s no way that he should have to have my life. He inherits that for what? He didn’t do anything. He was just born into this shit ‘cause of me? No. No! And so I thought, I’m gonna check out and let her get on with it, ‘cause I knew if I was somewhere, somehow, I didn’t want to be…and I know how fucked up that sounds, but I want to be really honest about…

 

P:         I get it on a certain level. I get it.

 

M:       Yeah. I’m not trying to…

 

P:         It’s almost like you wanted to let them know you weren’t leaving them for…because it had anything to do with them. You, if I kill myself, they’ll see I couldn’t live with me.

 

M:       I couldn’t live with me, I couldn’t do it, and I wasn’t…I’m not leaving so that I can go have a girlfriend.

 

P:         Right.

 

M:       And live the good life. While you guys are trying to figure it out.

 

P:         (Laughing) It’s your way of saying, “it’s not you, it’s me.”

 

M:       Yeah. So, I’m gonna die. But those were really, I mean that was really dark, intense time. And I share that because it’s my truth, just like the other stuff and it’s not my truth now. It’s a part of my truth, but it’s not my truth. And so, I shared about it, I talked about it, and what I had to do was surrender my idea of what money was, of what a career was, what God is, and so, that was a big turning point for me of like, why don’t I just commit to whatever the next right action is and struggle through whatever pain or intensity or doubt arrives there, but, I kept saying to myself, “You can’t go wrong doing the right thing.” Long term. So, short term I might be getting my ass handed to me, but you can’t go wrong doing the right thing.

 

P:         And, were you connecting with people in your support group and opening up about what was going on with you?

 

M:       Yeah. Particularly my mentor in that support group, yes.

 

P:         And did that help, you know, give you a shot of faith that you should hang in there?

 

M:       Well, the suggestion that was given to me was, whatever area I am trying to control and manage in my life is usually the area where I’m receiving the most amount of pain. Down. You know, because I’m usually trying to control more than one thing, I just…let me make a column of things that I’m trying to control, arrest satisfaction and enjoyment out of, and those are usually the areas that have my fingerprints all over them and that I’m trying to control and manage and that’s usually where most of my pain’s coming from. Always a good idea, always feels good at the time, massive amounts of pain and shame later. And that might be a little dramatic, but the consequences are always, decisions made from self, for me--

 

P:         And fear.

 

M:       And fear, and anxiety, and whatever it is, you know, always are selfish. And whenever you’re doing something that’s selfish, not self-preservation, but selfish, always winds up somehow stepping on the toes of other people and it’s a minor infraction which you gotta clean up right away or it’s a huge fucking thing. You know what I mean? Especially if you don’t, it starts becoming a secret, because you got away with it, or whatever it is, and then that becomes a thing too, so, I had to—

 

P:         And this is all as opposed to living the principles of trust, patience, kindness, faith, humility, honesty. Is that fair to say?

 

M:       Yeah. Absolutely. Which, you know, part of the hypocrisy of, part of what I viewed was hypocrisy, of like, Sunday mass, when I was a kid that I would go to or even serve as an altar boy, was that no one here fucking wants to…you’re all afraid to go to hell. That’s the only fucking reason you’re here, no one’s here because they wanna be a good person. You know, but I got sober to save my life, and part of the group that I joined was, stop being a fucking asshole, and the obsession to drink will be removed. And so the work that I had to do, like we’re talking about love, tolerance, kindness, patience, were by necessity, not by virtue, then all of a sudden I had that shift of like, alright, well I can be ok with that. Because I came here to quit drinking and I realize that I gotta do these other things and then my character starts to change and one huge problem that I had in my whole entire life was I wanted to think my way into right action and it’s the exact opposite, I have to just act. Act as if, take the actions I don’t necessarily believe are going to work, don’t worry about results

 

P:         Go be of service—

 

M:       That’s the deal, man. My thinking started to change. And I’ve had real moments of peace. I really have, but not…and if you would have told me that this would have been so special and amazing to me prior, my head couldn’t have gotten around it, and I think you said like the mind that has the thinking problem can’t be out thought, or—

 

P:         You can’t fix an unhealed brain with an unhealed brain.

 

M:       Yeah. Yeah, the mind that makes the problem can’t solve it. And, one day I was walking down the street, down Ventura Boulevard, and I felt happy. And I ran to a pay phone and I called my mentor in this group, and I said, “Holy Shit. I just was really, this calm and…it’s gone. But I felt it, man. Sure as I’m sitting in this chair. And if you would have said, “Hey, one day you’re gonna be walking down the street and you’re gonna feel happy, and it’s gonna be amazing,” I’d say, “well, why don’t you go fuck yourself? I’ll be walking down the street and nothing will be happening and I’ll feel good? Oooh, that’s amazing and I gotta put in two years of work for that? Awesome! And it’ll be fleeting as well?” (lots of laughing from both) But it was fucking great!

 

P:         And you know now that it’s there for you and that it can return, right?

 

M:       Yeah, and the trick is, you know, you don’t want to chase it, but, here, the I’m-not-eating-worms-thing for me is that I have to remind myself, because I have some pretty powerful negative thinking, that this is better than that.

 

P:         This sober life.

 

M:       This sober life. This pain, whatever it is, is better than that. So, darkness, which, you know, it doesn’t happen a lot, it just so happens that today and yesterday, they’ve been rough days, man. You know, they just have. And I want to paint an honest picture. I’m tired of the lying and the bullshit, man.

 

P:         Has the obsession to get loaded been removed?

 

M:       Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that went really quickly. Really quickly. Probably my first month.

 

P:         Did that leave you with the feeling that maybe there is more in this universe than we think there is? In terms of goodness, or…

 

M:       Well, I’ve seen good, listen. I, I should be drunk. I should be drunk, and I don’t take…I take my sobriety very seriously…um, and I’m not! And I could not stop drinking, man, I couldn’t do it. And so now, my old ideas of miracles were: guys walking on water, and making fish, and fucking moms flipping cars over ‘cause their kid’s under there…these big things. I’ve seen guys come off of Skid Row…and their lives change. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. And so, that to me is a miracle. And here’s the weird thing, ‘cause I’m sure we’re coming to the home stretch. I’ve also quit smoking the exact same way. Not through any particular club or support group, but using the concept, the idea of, “Hey, God can you take away this obsession to smoke,” now, while I’m smoking, chewing the nicotine gum, and wearing a patch. Right? Like, insane, attacks on my heart. While I’m drag…and feeling like I’m gonna fucking die, praying. And that’s the beauty of that particular club I’m in, like, here’s a great prayer. “What the fuck, God?” and I never thought you could pray like that. But. One day I was drinking and the next day I wasn’t. That’s the truth. It wasn’t one day I was drinking and then the next day my life changed forever and I was rocketed into a fourth dimension of experience my mind couldn’t possibly fathom and now I lead my life based on—no. One day I was drinking and the next day I was not. And it wasn’t, like, I know a lot of people have had—no, not a lot—I know of some people who have had a white light experience…the reason why I say that is for me. I want this orchestral change in my life! It’ll be an upheaval! And it’ll be magnificent! And I’ll feel and experience! One day I was drinking and the next day I wasn’t. One day I was smoking and the next day I wasn’t. Both days are real. But the day I’m living is the real day. And so I had a real hard time with this: if you’re not doing that today, that’s the guy you are. And I thought, no, no, man. My history says no, no. If you’re not drinking today, you’re sober today. And that’s the guy you are. So you could drink 20 years but today you’re sober today. My brain, man, was like no. That can’t be the way, now. If I was selfish yesterday, but I’m not selfish today, and again, even just saying this, I want to throw up in my mouth a little bit…you’re not a selfish guy today. If you’re a thief yesterday, and you’re not a thief today; you’re not a thief today. Because your existence is right now.

 

P:         And forget about where you’re going to be tomorrow. Forget about it.

 

M:       And you can get into the philosophy of like, your character was built up on your history, and I understand that, but for me…live one good day, contrary to what you did your entire life…live one good day and just experience that. And go to bed, and when you get up tomorrow, worry about it then, but then, if I could make a suggestion, try to live that day good too. But just live one good day, and see what happens.

 

P:         Well I think that’s a great note to end on.

 

M:       Yeah, man.

 

P:         Is there anything else you…am I jumping the gun on?

 

M:       No, no, man…I feel…

 

P:         …is there anything else you wanted to share?

 

M:       …like I’ve rambled, brother

 

P:         No, no, you well, you had a lot of stuff to share with us, and I appreciate it because…God, I’m just struck by what a survivor you are and I know that I say that with more than a few guests, but I don’t ever say it if I don’t mean it. And I know the listeners listening to this feel the same way. And now I hate myself for saying “listeners listening to this.” So let’s end on that moment of perfectionist angst. Mick. Thank you so much.

 

M:       It’s great to be here, man.

 

P:         Many, many, many thanks to Mick. Wow. I’m just blown away by how much he’s endured and how far he’s come and there’s a sick comfort in knowing that other people are battling the same self-hatred, the same feeling of, I feel like I’m going through the motions sometimes during their day and…yeah. Thank you, thank you Mick.

 

Oh, wanted to also let you guys know, the last episode that we had done we had talked about, that there should be a name for the act of eating junk food while you’re crying and I asked you guys to submit…and I think we got a winner from, oh shit, was it Rachel that submitted it? I think it was Rachel. Rachel or Renee submitted it and she suggested sob-gobbling and I think that’s our winner. Sob-gobbling. I like it. Before I take it out with some surveys, I want to remind you guys there’s a couple of different ways to support the podcast. The website for the show is mentalpod.com. It’s also the twitter name you can follow me at. You can go there and make a one-time PayPal donation or, my favorite, make a recurring monthly donation. Super easy to set up. You can donate as little as $5 a month and it’s the financial platform that allows this show to continue and allows me to focus on doing this. You can also support us by shopping through our Amazon search portal. It’s on the right-hand side home page, about half-way down. You can also support us non-financially by going to iTunes and writing something nice, giving us a good rating or spreading the word through social media, all those things really, really help. And I really overuse the word really. Really appreciate those of you that support it. You know how you can also support it? Join the forum. Connect to people there. Expand this community that we’re building. Fill out surveys. Have your voice be heard. The more broad the pool of voices that we can share on this show, the better the show is, so those of you that are struggling financially, don’t feel like there aren’t ways that you can’t support the show. It’s not always about money.

 

This is from the Body Shame Survey filled out by a guy who calls himself UtterCarnage, so you know this is gonna be sweet and upbeat. What do you dislike about your body? “Everything from my gut to my small cock. My manly stretch marks, my large balls.” I’ve actually always wished that I had larger balls, so, maybe I’m a little jealous that you shared that. He writes, “even my weird toes. In fact, everything cracks when I stretch it. My hairline’s retreating. My beard is gray, but even that has dandruff.” I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you and really hard. Thank you for that.

 

This is same survey filled out by a woman who calls herself EchoBaby. What do you like or dislike about your body? “I like my eyes and my brain. My eyes are deep and expressive, my mind is strong.” I don’t know how long we’ve had this survey up, but you get an award for being the most beautifully positive and concise person to have ever filled out that survey. So, come swing by the house and I’ll pick on ya. I’ll tear you down. I’ll get you back to where the rest of us are.

 

This is from the What Has Helped You Survey, filled out by LolitaMarie, she is—I’m a little uncomfortable that that’s her name and she’s 15. I didn’t really think about that when I read this, but her issues and struggles are depression and schizophrenia and what has helped her is painting, writing, reading, and smoking. You know, I gotta agree, there were times when I was a cigar smoker that it just made everything ok for a half hour. Sometimes I feel like life is just a slow evolution of finding slightly healthier coping mechanism going from horrible coping mechanisms to kind of horrible coping mechanisms to kind of healthy to healthy. And a lot of times sliding back into the unhealthy.

 

This is from the Shouldn’t Feel This Way survey filled out by, oh, hold on, the music is kicking in and I’m not ready for it, there we go, silence that. This is filled out by, I always forget to mute that and then that track kicks up and I always feel like it’s a voice that’s telling me, “Paul, you’re going too long.” This was, ahh, I’m not going to read that one. I’m gonna read…now I’m feeling under the clock, what time are we at? Oh, sweet God we’re at two hours. This is um, an awfulsome moment filled out by CatLA? I think that’s what it says who is transgendered, male to female in her thirties and she writes, and this is truly awfulsome, “it was a cold, cloudy day in January. I was feeling slightly more depressed than usual and wanted to die. I previously tried slitting my wrists and O.D.ing on painkillers without success. I had a length of rope but nothing to hang it from in my apartment. I tied a noose in the rope, put the rope around my waist like a belt, got dressed for the -30s degrees Celsius temperatures outside and took a…” she must live in northern Canada, “and took an evening walk to my favorite tree. While I was walking, it started to snow. By the time I got to my tree, it was pretty much a full blown blizzard. And I remember thinking it would be quite a while before anyone found me. So it was unlikely that I would survive. However, when I got to the tree, which I usually had no trouble climbing, the tree was frozen and slippery and the wind was very strong and I couldn’t get more than a foot off the ground, never mind high enough to drop and do a noose. At this point I remember thinking that even Mother Nature was against me and I gave up on giving up and walked home feeling numb but not dead.” That is dark but awfulsome. And we’re glad that you’re still here to fill that out. Sending you some love.

 

This is from the What Has Helped You Survey filled out by a woman who calls herself PitMom. Issues: “I feel like something is so deeply wrong with me that no one could ever really love me. People who say they do will always eventually forget about me and move on and when there’s a choice I’m never the one asking them to choose but I’m always the loser.” What helped you deal with that? “I spend more time writing and with the dogs. There’s nothing quite like a dog repeatedly licking you or just laying with you. I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with me. They don’t know that there’s anything wrong with me.” I heartily agree. When I’m feeling down, man I love how excited my dogs get when they see I’m getting into my drawers and t-shirt to climb into bed and take a nap. It’s like all my shame just fades away. They’re not ashamed. They were sleeping longer than I was!

 

This is an awfulsome moment filled out by AndSheWas and she’s in her thirties. She writes: “It was the first or second week after we’d brought our newborn son home from the hospital. My husband and I were sleep deprived and nervous. At the time I was not handling the transition to parenthood well, wondering if we’d made a huge mistake, overwhelmed and sad. My husband did his best to help out, especially as I was having difficulty breastfeeding and said he would handle output as long as I was handling input. He took the baby back to change his diaper and all of a sudden I heard him shriek. Apparently the boy was not yet done doing his business. I ran in to see my husband frantically trying to catch poo with a diaper in one hand while pee was streaming out onto his shirt. The baby caught my eye, turned his head, smiled, and spit up all over the place. I looked at my son, looked at my husband, and said, ‘well, he’s run out of places for things to come out of.’ The two of us broke down laughing. We had officially been inducted into parenthood.” That’s awesome. Thank you for that one.

 

This is kind of a short one that I wanted to read. This is by a guy that calls himself BigPower from the Shouldn’t Feel This Way survey. He is in his twenties. What would you like people to say about you at your funeral? He was a hard worker and provided for his family. How does writing that make you feel? Like there could be more. If you had a time machine how would you use it? Go to classic rock concerts. I’m supposed to feel joy about my kids but I feel trapped/annoyed. I’m supposed to be happy with my home time but I just want to go trucking. How does writing that make you feel? It’s unfair to my wife and kids. Do you think you’re abnormal for feeling what you do? Yes. Would knowing other people feel the same way make you feel better about yourself? Possibly.

 

Well I can tell you that I read hundreds of these that describe that exact same thing, so you are not alone and that…I think I would feel that way times a thousand if I had kids. I regret having kids and I’ve never even had kids. That’s how overwhelmed I am at the thought of having kids.

 

This is an awfulsome moment filled out by MamaBear. She writes, “On a 3-day road trip with my dog while I was trying desperately to figure out how to fix my codependent relationship with an unpredictable and unavailable man, I decided to listen to the audio version of Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood. As I listened to the stories and characteristics about these I was filled with grief, sadness, relief, anger and frustration and a sense of familiarity. I just knew that I was a woman who was in a codependent relationship again. And the craziness had to end. I couldn’t save it. Not now, or in the past, no matter how many times I tried. I shit you not, I looked at something very large ahead of me on the side of the road and as I got closer, I saw it was a dead horse. It was big, and dead. And no amount of beating it would make it get up again. I took a deep breath and let out a laugh. Or was it a sob?” That is truly awfulsome. That is just-- I feel bad laughing about a dead horse, but that’s pretty fucking funny.

 

This is…yeah, I wanted to read this one. This is Body Shame one filled out by a guy who calls himself DestructiveThought and he’s in his twenties. What do you like or dislike about your body? “I’ve been suffering erectile problems. I’m 20 and a virgin and I’ve been intimate with six different women with the inability to maintain an erection for sex. Ever since that first encounter, I can’t shake the thought of fucking it up the next time, which, you know, makes me fuck it up the next time. I know it’s psychological, because when I get hard, I think ‘Yes! I’m not going to fuck it up this time!’ Then I go soft. Now every time I’m with a girl, I try to avoid sex because I know this will happen. I’m crazy about this girl right now, more so than anybody I’ve ever met in my life and I can’t do the deed. It’s only a matter of time before I lose her because of my fucked up head. What the fuck do I do? This is happened enough, and I can’t handle this. I wouldn’t act on suicidal thoughts just yet, but if I fuck it up with this girl, maybe I will kill myself. What do I do?” Well, A) you don’t kill yourself. I think that goes without saying. B) Have some compassion for yourself. C) I think you talk about it with her, because if this somebody that really loves you and is really going to see you and share in what you go through, which is what any healthy partnership is based upon, let her into that. It can bring you closer together and the other thing I would suggest is go to a doctor and while you’re going to talk therapy and getting to the root of psychological issues, get some Viagra, you know, or one of the other things, to help you with that, there’s nothing wrong with that. I went through a period in my life where I needed Viagra, and I wasn’t ashamed to do it. And I gotta tell you, you get a pretty awesome erection with that stuff. The only bad part about Viagra, are the horrible jokes that bad comedians make about them on late night TV. That is the only downside, in my opinion, with drugs like that. So, that’s my two cents, but Sweet God, you’re only 20, and it’s so much more common than you think it is. I think this could be a great touchstone for you to grow as a person and you’ll look back on it one day and say I’m so glad that I opened up about it and I asked for help. So, there you go. From my dick to yours. Or maybe, if it’s from my fetish of my dick into your ear. How does that grab ya? Can you hear me now? Oh, I so want to take that last part back.

 

This is an email I got from a listener who calls himself K. He writes, “While being in my recliner watching something I’m really into on—“ Oh, no. That was my response to him! Jackass! He writes, “I’ve always had the thought in the back of my mind, as long as I can remember, ‘I want to go home now.’ Working, out with friends, or alone; longing for the feeling of home has always been a part of me and I can’t understand why. Late at night with a long commute back, I wanna go home now. Standing in the doorway, unzipping my jacket, I wanna go home now. Sitting in my own bed, where I’ve lived for years, I still feel like I’m missing something others have that they call home. I’ve lived a thousand miles from where I’m from and the heavy homesick pit in my stomach never eases, even when I return. What do you consider home?” And I wrote him back, “While being in my recliner watching something I’m really into on TV or playing hockey on a team that has good chemistry, and I feel like I’m totally in my element, as good as those things feel, I think feeling like I’m truly home are fleeting moments when I’m connecting with another human being and feeling like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Not only in that moment but in the arc of my life, that nothing I’ve been through has been a mistake. That it’s all been heading somewhere where the payoff is purpose and meaning in my life.” So I guess, when I’m doing the podcast or in my support groups or just having an intimate conversation with someone, and all my worries just kind of, if not fade away, seem smaller. I think the only difference between those of us that have a war inside ourselves and calm people…um, calm people are not without problems, they just have a different perspective on them than we do. So I hope that helps. And if not, go fuck yourself. Add that to your problem barrel. Tote that around.

 

This is an awfulsome moment filled out by Navena, love her. She’s very active in the forum. Her awfulsome moment: “In high school, the counselors were recruiting students to go talk to kids at a local elementary school about drugs and why they’re bad. The kids who signed up were all popular, beautiful, and athletic. Oh. Except for me. Frumpy, nerdy, painfully shy, and socially phobic. I think I volunteered because 2% of me always wants to be in the limelight even though 98% of me wants to run and hide. In the front of the classroom, my charming classmates were recounting stories of that one time they were offered a joint and they ran away like it was going to eat their souls and I sat there silent and fidgeting. Not only was I too shy to speak, I had absolutely no stories to tell. I was never invited to parties, my friends weren’t into drugs or alcohol. Suddenly there was a break in the conversation and I heard myself say, ‘in fifth grade, I was walking home from school and another kid showed me that he had a pocket knife. I don’t know if he was into drugs, but he might have been.’ The silence was deafening. That is awfulsome. That’s actually 98% awesome and 2% awful.

 

And, finally, I want to share a happy moment filled out by Mitch. And he writes, “When I saw The Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring…” oh, that’s all one name. I just gave away the fact that I haven’t seen that movie nor do I give a shit about it, “When I saw it in the theaters for the first time, there was a guy who my friend and I have come to refer to as ‘cowboy hat guy’ seated right behind us. As the movie started, he was absolutely giddy with excitement, he kept leaning over, lightly grabbing my and my friend’s shoulders and whispering things like, ‘isn’t this great?’ or ‘man, just like the book.’ He also giggled just like an excited toddler whenever something funny would happen. Normally, I hate people talking a lot during movies, but this guy, he really made me smile. He actually made me enjoy the movie more, as if he were some weird added feature. Something about his pure, absolute glee seeing what was clearly a favorite book of his realized on the big screen just made my day. My friend and I often talk about that experience even now. The un-ironic genuine joy within that man was positively infectious and unforgettable.” That was beautiful. That made my day, reading that. Just, that is what I seek out. That energy in people.

 

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Thank you guys so much for being a part of this and I hope you know that whatever it is you are going through, you are not alone in going through it, and there is hope if you’re just willing to get out of your comfort zone and ask for help. And thank you so much for listening.