Permission to Heal

Permission to Heal Episode #29 - A Conversation with Forrest Lang about Healing from Childhood Abuse and Trauma.

June 02, 2021 Marci Brockmann Season 1 Episode 29
Permission to Heal
Permission to Heal Episode #29 - A Conversation with Forrest Lang about Healing from Childhood Abuse and Trauma.
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Permission to Heal
Permission to Heal Episode #29 - A Conversation with Forrest Lang about Healing from Childhood Abuse and Trauma.
Jun 02, 2021 Season 1 Episode 29
Marci Brockmann

May the heart be your guide as you rescue your inner child. As we recover, we transform into victors vs victims, heal our minds and psyches.
Eventually, we learned that all we need is inside us already.

Forrest Lang
was raised by his biological mother until he was placed in foster care at 12. Forrest joined the Navy as a hospital corpsman at the age of 18. He served honorably for 5 years during peacetime, after which he attended community college in San Diego studying illustration. In 2003, he reenlisted and was deployed to Iraq, serving as a line corpsman with the First Marine Division. After one combat deployment, Forrest returned to San Diego, where he has been a tattoo artist for the last 16 years.

Forrest is the author of Angel Blue, a memoir about recovery from severe mental, spiritual and emotional trauma. He currently resides in La Jolla, California, with his fiancée Kristin and daughter Grace. His Mission - To promote his book, Angel Blue the story of his recovery, to serve as inspiration for those who have experienced physical mental, & sexual trauma.  It is possible to live a great life, full of purpose, connection, and success in love & career regardless of where you came from.

Connect with Forrest
Instagram - @angelbluebook , Facebook - @angelbluebook, Email - [email protected]

Connect with Marci
Marci's Website, Patreon, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Facebook Group, YouTube Channel - What's up, Marci?

Permission to Heal is on YOUTUBE!!
Check out the uncut, unedited VIDEOS of all episodes Permission to Heal on YouTube.

Listen Please join me on the Podcast Business Network  EVERY Wednesday, April 14 - August 4, 2021, from 3-3:30 pm LIVE as I chat & take calls with
KC Armstrong. Shows will be replayed and shared widely. Find us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Deezer, Tune In, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, & Amazon Music Podcasts.

Email me with your questions and I'll answer them on an upcoming IG live!

*****Subscribe to PTH on Patreon!*****
Thanks to all of you who support this show on Patreon. You keep Permission to Heal up & running. 25% goes to Caron Treatment Centers where lives impacted by addiction and substance abuse are transformed. Join & subscribe today for added PATRON perks & swag.

If you are in danger of domestic abuse, child abuse, and need confidential help & support call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Call 800.799.SAFE (7233).
https://www.thehotline.org/get-help/.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/PermissiontoHeal)

Show Notes Transcript

May the heart be your guide as you rescue your inner child. As we recover, we transform into victors vs victims, heal our minds and psyches.
Eventually, we learned that all we need is inside us already.

Forrest Lang
was raised by his biological mother until he was placed in foster care at 12. Forrest joined the Navy as a hospital corpsman at the age of 18. He served honorably for 5 years during peacetime, after which he attended community college in San Diego studying illustration. In 2003, he reenlisted and was deployed to Iraq, serving as a line corpsman with the First Marine Division. After one combat deployment, Forrest returned to San Diego, where he has been a tattoo artist for the last 16 years.

Forrest is the author of Angel Blue, a memoir about recovery from severe mental, spiritual and emotional trauma. He currently resides in La Jolla, California, with his fiancée Kristin and daughter Grace. His Mission - To promote his book, Angel Blue the story of his recovery, to serve as inspiration for those who have experienced physical mental, & sexual trauma.  It is possible to live a great life, full of purpose, connection, and success in love & career regardless of where you came from.

Connect with Forrest
Instagram - @angelbluebook , Facebook - @angelbluebook, Email - [email protected]

Connect with Marci
Marci's Website, Patreon, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Facebook Group, YouTube Channel - What's up, Marci?

Permission to Heal is on YOUTUBE!!
Check out the uncut, unedited VIDEOS of all episodes Permission to Heal on YouTube.

Listen Please join me on the Podcast Business Network  EVERY Wednesday, April 14 - August 4, 2021, from 3-3:30 pm LIVE as I chat & take calls with
KC Armstrong. Shows will be replayed and shared widely. Find us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Deezer, Tune In, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, & Amazon Music Podcasts.

Email me with your questions and I'll answer them on an upcoming IG live!

*****Subscribe to PTH on Patreon!*****
Thanks to all of you who support this show on Patreon. You keep Permission to Heal up & running. 25% goes to Caron Treatment Centers where lives impacted by addiction and substance abuse are transformed. Join & subscribe today for added PATRON perks & swag.

If you are in danger of domestic abuse, child abuse, and need confidential help & support call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Call 800.799.SAFE (7233).
https://www.thehotline.org/get-help/.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/PermissiontoHeal)

Welcome to permission to heal. I am Marci Brockman. I'm thrilled that you're here and today after a long awaited time, we have forest Lang forest. Welcome. I'm so pleased that you're here. Thank you. It's good to be here.  I got your book months and months ago.

It sucked me in and wouldn't let me go. And I could not read it fast enough. And then we had scheduling issues between then and now, and we finally were able to get it together. Excited. Me too. I admire you as a, as a writer and podcaster and a person and a mother. And it's good to be here. Thank you for that.

My pleasure. I feel the same way about you. Like this is the first conversation we've ever had, sort of face-to-face and yet I feel like we're already friends. Cause I read your book and we're friends on Instagram and have been commenting on each other's feeds and posts for quite a few months now. So, it's the internet is the strangest thing, isn't it?

It is. It's a very powerful tool and has a lot of potential for positive if we use it the right way. Exactly. So we always start with the six quick questions.  I'm ready. You go. There you go. All right. What six words would you use to describe yourself? True, true ordinary.

With integrity. I don't know how to say that.  You know, say integrity, I'm a warrior, I'm an artist. I'm a dad. How many is that? That's enough. Cool. That works. What's your favorite way to spend a day

with, with Kristen and grace together? It's not very often that we get to do that, , spending an entire day together.  And, and to me that's the best when the three of us can do something together. Would it matter what you did or just anything? Just anything. It was nice. I like the simplicity of that.

Yeah. Now that my son has flown the coop and is in Vermont most of the time and my stepdaughter's in Florida, we don't see her most of the time. I'd seen her in what, 14 months. Now my stepson lives about 30 miles east of us. The only ones who who's home right now because of COVID school. You know, college online is my youngest, my, my daughter.

And, to gaff all four kids under the same roof, it hasn't happened in a long time. I don't know when it will happen. Again. Truth be told. So I guess at some point, let's try number three, maybe a little tough, but what's your favorite childhood memory?

Maybe that's not the right question. Okay. There we're good. I ran away from a group home in Fillmore. I was supposed to go to a new school that day and I didn't like the group home. And I ran and ran and ran and got away. And I got to, a shopping mall and I was 13 years old and I had never wanted a cigarette so bad in my life.

And I bummed a cigarette and I was free all by myself in the shopping mall. That's maybe my favorite memory of childhood. Okay. That's fair. That first taste of freedom, especially when it's denied you is pretty palpable. Yeah. Okay. Let's try. Number four. What is your favorite meal? Steak and potatoes.

Finally a state Glover.

I like regular normal things. Um, I enjoy red lobster too. You know, my kid thinks it's trashy, but when I walked into red lobster, they still ask me if it's a special occasion. So, oh yeah. When? Yeah, my husband's mom's favorite restaurant is red lobster. So when we were regularly going out to see her, it was always a red lobster.

She wanted to go it's all right. It works. Number five. What is one piece of advice you would like to give your younger self?

Just to hang on that it's going to be all right. And you're going to get through this. That's good. Hang on. You'll get through.

I had a, an image of myself oil ago. I was like meditating on the idea of telling that younger version of me that she could trust herself, that what she was experiencing on the inside really was the truth and what was going on around her wasn't and if she just held on long enough and really believed that it would be okay and a very similar, and I had this image in my mind, imagination of me as a 52 year old hugging, let's say the eight year old version of me and making her feel better.

And it was just. So like a happenstance, I don't know what the white word is. It's not like I went into the meditation thinking about it that way, but it just sort of organically happened. Just sort of, I don't know. It's very interesting how that that happened. I don't know Marcy, same here and over time it developed for me and I built a whole meditation around that where a black Hawk helicopter lands outside with soldiers on board.

I climb on, we take off, go through a vortex land, wherever the horrific thing is happening in my life. The soldiers kicked down the door. We either detain or kill whoever is hurting me and I grabbed little forest. Bring them to the helicopter. We take off, fly through another bortec's land. In a clearing, I go into a secret tunnel down into another clearing, which is a gigantic tree house with everything that little forest ever needed and care.

And there's a lion that guards the door and I sit and I visualize each thing as clearly as I possibly can until I'm back in my body. And that inner child rescue is so paramount and so important for somebody to rescue me my whole life. I'm 43. I don't need anybody to rescue me anymore. When some part of me still wants that never came.

I go and do it myself. And I teach other people how to do that as I go. And it's a beautiful thing to be able to do that stuff and feel complete, feel like I have a childhood, even though it's in a very Treehouse in my imagination, you know? Yeah. Yeah. What did you call it? Childhood rescue, air, child rescue inner child rescue.

That's awesome. So I was actually doing a therapeutic thing without realizing it. That seems to happen to me. I do these things by accident. Well, I really think that most of what we need to know is already inside of us , we need maybe some help from professionals to access these things sometimes, but human beings are, we're pretty resilient and we are born with formations, you know, and we have the ability to, to self heal in many different ways.

Right. I agree. I agree. All right, let's try number six and then we'll get to the meat of this. What is one thing you would most like to change about the world?

Are we talking like I'm Superman and I can change anything. I want sure. Why not? No kids will get hurt anymore. Well, that's good. That's good. I was just listening to another podcast.  Was actually Brenae, Brown's unlocking us on my way home from school today. And there was a startling statistic about child abuse and child trauma, but the doctor, I forgot, remember his name that he, she was interviewing with Oprah, actually Oprah and this doctor had written, wrote a book about the, effect of childhood trauma on, on adults and on society and everything.

I only listened to the first 20 minutes of the interview, so I don't really know the rest of it, but they were saying that like the first. Six months, really, even four months of an infant's life already is starting to make blueprints and templates of the effect of trauma on a nervous system. And if it doesn't get resolved and it just keeps building and building and building and building throughout childhood, that, that, that creates the uncertainty.

The, I wish I knew the technical terms. I wrote them down, but don't have them with me. I think it's better in just plain English. Yeah. Yeah. They call it event experience and affects the pattern of activating your stress, your stress system, from the beginning,  in infancy.

And then if it. Continually gets negatively activated and reinforces all these negative behaviors or these negative reactions that as a, as an older child, as a teenager, and then as an adult, you have less of an ability to be resilient and bounce back from small traumas that might not affect other people who had a more predictable non central nervous system screwing with S childhood.

You know, that's a terrible way of explaining it, I allowed to cuss on this show? Yeah, sure. We can fuck them up very easily. Yeah, right. Yeah. Little more kids and bad things happen. We're victims at that point, right? Yeah. You can't do anything about it. You don't know better and you're stuck.

Yeah. But the moment we step out on our own. Right for me, I was 16 and a half and I walked out of that foster home for the last time ever. And I was, I took charge and control of my life. Right, right. I was in the script now, although my subconscious had been formed to work against me in my life. Right. We have the power to become victors and no longer victims when we start to rewrite that programming and change what we do.

Right. So, 

I like that victors versus victims. Absolutely. And let's say , let let's use like the human body as an example of the psyche. Right. Let's use it. Or my low back is injured. Right. Injury probably won't recover. Right. It'll probably always be injured in that area, but if I don't exercise the muscle around it.

And build strength around it. The injury gets worse, right? And I can get to a place where I am in better shape than I was before the injury started to hurt me. Now, some people may misinterpret that is that injury may be strong. No, absolutely. It did not. That injury caused weakness. Yeah. You were talking about your back. Yeah. My, my back was injured when I was a kid, as a result of physical abuse.

Right. And so, as it sits right now, the way medical technology is right now, that injury will always be there unless I choose surgery, which scary because I've seen people have bad outcomes. So. I choose to exercise my body and build core strength and build more strength around that injury. And I believe that eventually I may be better off than I was stronger than I ever was.

Right. And some people would misinterpret that and say that an injury made a person strong. And I strongly disagree with that because if injuries made people strong, if pain and trauma made people strong, we would just traumatize people. We would inflict pain on them to make them stronger. Right. Right.

The same is true of my spirit. They're in my psyche, their wounds in there that are lasting for, from maybe might never go away. But as I exercise and build my spirit and my psyche. I developed greater resilience. Right? Right. Yeah. And those things that did not kill me, it did not make me stronger, but I did.

I chose to do the work. And a lot of times we only see in here on public platforms, people like me and like you who have done a lot of work, we don't see the ones who ODed in the alley on these platforms. We don't see the ones who's felt life in prison. We don't. And so people can have like a misunderstanding of what the chances are, what the success rates are and how much we need to really focus and hone in on re, repairing these wounds culturally, because this is not a meat problem.

This is not a you problem. This problem. You know, the darkness to light.org, is a pretty respectable organization. And by their numbers, there are 68 million people in the United States who were sexually assaulted before the age of 18. That is acceptable. And not only that, if we think about what the impacts are of a trauma like that on a person, if it's not dealt with, what does that do to a culture, right?

What does that do to our way of living? What does that do overall physical health? We're learning that these types of adverse reactions during youth caused a lot of physical health problems as well, right? Absolutely. With the mind body connection. Absolutely. I internalize my anxiety as stomach issues. So, what do we do about it?

Right? Like we can sit here all day and cry about our childhood and say these bad things happen, which is important to start. Right. It's very important that we first speak about these things. I didn't, I did not want to talk about that shit. You know, by the time I was 19, I was a grown man and I didn't want to talk about my childhood anymore.

Right. Not wanting to go back and deal with that stuff. But if we don't, the wounds just fester inside and we, we commit violence on ourselves, on others. And violence comes in many forms. Violence could be a word words of, well, we're the only creature on the planet that can utilize the vibration in our approach to communicate in the way that we do.

You know, we have a lot of work to do, and I do not think that the situation is hopeless. I have a bright outlook on the world. I believe that the curve of civilization is up and we're going to get better when we are. Yeah. I feel the pendulum swinging towards at least more acknowledgement that these things happen.

And that's the first step in the road to fixing it, you know, figuring out that yeah. These things happen. And each of these events in isolation, aren't isolated. So talking about it starts the healing process and begins empathy, and that's where it all starts. And for a guy like me, it starts with removing drugs and alcohol, you know, and that's where the real recovery begins, you know?

Right. Well, I mean, but it, but it all feeds into it. You turned, I would imagine you turn to the drugs and alcohol because of the things from your childhood, you were trying to mask and deal with. So if we can reduce that 68 million children who were being assaulted, we can reduce alcoholism and other addictions at the same time and reduce the number of people in the prison system and so on.

Yeah. Right. Okay. So let's, let's take a step back and let's talk about angel blue. I think when you start talking about the book, we'll get, the audience will get a clearer picture of where you were that led you to the place where you are now. So, so tell us about your wonderful book, angel blue. I knew I wanted to write a book for a long time, but I wanted to wait until I had something relevant to say, right.

I wanted to wait until I felt like I was in a good enough position that I made it and the share, and I got to that place and I decided to sit down and write my story. And I started it, um, with a very horrible accident, a horrific accident, because it was the hardest part to write on April 17th of 2000. I accidentally shot and killed my.

Dear friend. And it was a really, um, awful horrible experience. And, um, it took me a long time to work through that and find forgiveness. And that's what I thought that book was going to be about. I thought it was going to be about that in the war. And after I wrote the first part, that was, I believe the most painful I started at the beginning, you know, and the original original documents that I was born May 24th, 1970.

So I changed that, like, who gives a shit? You know, well, I was born May 27th of 1968, so we're only a few days apart, but nine years, you know? So I unsuppressed all the rest of the childhood.  I was raped from four to 16 by two different people. I'm an alumni of the California foster care system. I was homeless at 16, I got in the military.

I struggled with substance abuse. Got sober. My friend died right after I got out of the military. I was homeless again. I went back in, I wanted to die in combat in Iraq. I wanted to regain my honor and be remembered as for slaying the guy who died as a hospital, corpsman saving a Marine's life rather than forcing the guy to commit suicide or the guy who accidentally killed his best friend.

Right. And I came home and I built this wonderful life. I have had a lot of work and lessons to learn. I still do, but I've gotten to a place in life, or I can firmly say that I am happy from a happy person. I feel I am successful. I have purpose. And my intention is to inspire others who have had a rough go, or maybe don't believe that they can become something because a, B or C happened to them.

 Inspire them into stepping into their life and not in like a life coaching way or a therapeutic way, just in a way of sharing. Right. There aren't enough voices of people who have recovered from, you know, horrible things, and all the voices that we can get, because I may be able to talk to someone Marcy, and they may be able to respond and trust me and hear me.

And I might try to talk to someone else and they might need you, or they wouldn't be able to hear me. So we need these voices to collectively lift us up. And my hope and intention is to continue to add my voice to that conversation and just share what works for me. I feel that that's, I'm all on qualified to do.

I can't, I don't want to tell anybody what to do, but if. If I trip and fall over a certain thing and I see someone else trip and fall the same way I go, Hey, well, I, I stepped this direction in this work and maybe it'll work for you. Right? Right. I mean, that's all any of us can do. We're we're not, we don't have PhDs in psychology.

You know, we're not educators in that. We're not clinicians, but we're survivors where people who have experienced a set of, of, of things, traumatic experiences, whatever, and have figured out behaviors, habits accidentally, or on purpose that helped us along the way. And why not share that with others?

Absolutely. I want some other foster kid who had just been through the fucking ringer. Um, to have the experience of maybe not the same place, but for me this morning, I stood in my living room in the hallway at California and put on nice music with my beautiful little dogs sitting there, staring at me and I did chigong right.

I think this thing is to go on, it's like a meditation and like slow movement martial arts thing. And I want them to feel what it it's traditional Chinese medicine, healing, feeling that feeling just to be the essence of being and, and being safe and secure and, and having a general feeling of happiness about life, especially when they're in a position of powerlessness and hopelessness.

And they just feel like it's over before it's begun. You know, they don't have to be that way. The same way we were talking about reaching back to our younger selves and healing our childhood inner child . You know, you can reach out and help somebody else who may be in that position now and make them feel a little less bleak.

Absolutely. And give them hope. I mean, we want to inspire hope, right? Cause I never copied anybody exactly what they did. I copied some things, but there were people who I saw and it just gave me hope. I was like, well, if they did it, I can do it too. Exactly. Exactly. So, so you had a very traumatic childhood from the very, very beginning. Your biological parents were. Unusual unusually consistently abusive. And you were pulled out of that home because of what they were doing and what your older brother was doing and put into the foster care system.

I got pulled out of that home because I kept running away. Right. You know, and when the caseworker started to investigate and ask me questions, I didn't tell him what my brother was doing. I was too afraid to tell anybody that, but I did tell them about the beatings and the religious abuse and the strangeness, right.

The strange things.  And they decided that I didn't have to live there anymore. And unfortunately, I got groomed by a pedophile who became a foster parent to take care of me. And that lasted until I was 16 when she tried to take my life. And I lived on my own from 16 on now, did her daughters know what was going on?

No. The whole family was in denial.  It's very easy to look the other way when something like that is happening and some people are able to wield mental power over others. Yeah. And Judah was very good at doing that. She was, uh, very, uh,

did you ever see the movie with Stephen King where the Stephen King movie, where the writer crashes his car? Yes. Yes, yes. Um, with Kathy. Yeah. That's what she was like. She even looked like that. Um, just very controlling and very good at controlling. Wow. Like is not how I pictured her living shit out of me.

I can't watch that movie because of the situation that I felt I was in at the time. Yeah. I have your experience and I can't watch that movie either. I have a thing about being stuck someplace without the power to get out and that's not claustrophobic. It's it's powerlessness. It's. Lack of safety, you know?

And, and so, yeah, I can't, I can't watch stuff like that. Life is scary enough who needs a horror film, you know, like or movies, just that one happened to really terrify me on a fundamental deep level, you know? Yeah. No, I can't, I can't, I'm too, empathetic and my husband calls me snow white about certain things, you know, I just, well, I've always liked Stephen King books.

I taught myself how to read reading Stephen King lips. And he's a phenomenal writer that I know he is and the good guys typically win. So I liked that about his stories. Okay. So, so tell me about Dave Casey. I was sort of fascinated by this, this figure in your life. So he used to BiPAP for my foster mom and.

When, child protective services and the police were looking for me when I was running away and going to that home, Jill, to stash you with, with Dave Casey, and just told Dave, Hey, this kid's in a bad situation. I'm trying to help him. I need you to look out for him. And Dave was a great guy. He was really funny.

You like to smoke pot and drink Heinekens and he had a dog named Ben and Ben was, named. So because he had gotten carbo when he was a puppy. So he's named after barbell, Benjamin Franklin. And he just really, he was the first adult male in my life that was ever nice to me, call me champ and you know, Hey, you will come to work with me, play this computer game. You know, we'll go watch HBO at night. It was just nice. Did you think there was something up with it? I trusted him. I, I had never experienced that. And, you know, I, I was just so happy to have somebody be nice to, you know, even the social workers were horrible to me so mean, and I just bonded bright to him.

And we talk about, you know, resilience, right? So when Dave died, he died of an aneurysm. I was a freshman in high school and I was devastated for like six months. I couldn't, I was so devastated. And last year my daughter's grandmother died and my daughter was very close to her grandmother. And I was so terrified to tell her, you know, it was so hard for me to tell her and I remembered my first experience with death.

And I said, oh my God, I hope she's not devastated for six months and failed out of school and stopped eating and all these things. And she bounced back. She, I mean, she was sad, but she did still good. And by, by the time a month had gone by, she was functioning at a regular level and, oh my gosh, because she didn't get fused and she didn't get hurt.

She has resilience has parents who love her, who she can trust and, and a home and safety and she's developing typically, you know, normally. So she has the resilience and the flexibility and, and the emotional support to deal with that. It's not yet another deficit. It's just a little dip in, in a life that's generally good.

Yeah. And back to Dave, you know, I heard somebody say or write, because I said so much time. Looking at and reading personal growth type stuff. And you know, like the kind of pictures you see of a wallet, Starbucks, where it says you are enough. I ended up at a low now. Right. Which I never was before. And it was something like responds to basic human kindness with, oh my God, this is the best thing ever.

Like, oh, I'm not worthy. Just basic human kindness. Right. And so Dave showed me basic human kindness and it meant the world to me. And that means the world to a lot of people. If we just practice, especially people who have had cruelty, inflicted upon them. Yeah. And it doesn't really even have to be the level of cruelty that you experienced.

Notice somebody who treats you with decent human kindness. Like I know that I put up with. Very bad behavior. From my first college boyfriend, he was a total Dick. You know, he was a narcissistic crazy person and he treated me like garbage, but, and I knew that, and I knew he was cheating on me and all these other things, but I loved his parents.

They were exactly the kind of parents that I had wished that I had, they had this really cozy house and they w there was always something cooking on the stove and his parents were just, effusively warm and emotionally generous. And I knew that when I broke up with him, I was going to lose that. And during school vacations, when I didn't feel like going home to either my parents' houses, because they weren't really emotionally safe.

I went to his parents' house and felt. Cocooned in love. I didn't want to give that up until I sort of had to, and that was the end of that. But yeah, I got it. There's a wide range of, of all of this. And uh, I think sometimes people, they, they do that competitive catastrophe game, you know, like, well, look how bad so-and-so has it.

I don't have it that bad. So I should really shut up. Like, why do I have to complain about, but there really is significant stuff going on there that you have to overcome and deal with. And so on the competitive catastrophe thing, I think is ridiculous. It's not helpful. It's not helpful to, even, you know, people still say that, you know, well, I, I heard your story.

So now I just not even sad about what's going on. That's not even helpful to me. That kind of sucks, but right. It it's irrelevant. Our pain scale is measured on a, on a, on a scale of zero to 10, right? So although for you see your 10 pain, I might die if I felt that pain, right? Because nowhere near the worst pain I've ever felt, but my 10 is my 10 and that's how we treat people for pain.

We say, compared to the worst pain you ever felt, that's true. It lives zero to 10. So the only person I can ever compare myself to is myself. Right? How do I feel today versus how I felt yesterday, a year before. Five years before, 10 years before. And I will tell you with 100% certainty that there's zero, that you could give me.

There is nothing you could offer me as a reward to go back to five years ago, 10 years ago, or 20 nothing on this earth that you could get. I'm so grateful to be here where I am. So how did you get there? So you were on your own, you joined the, you were in the military, you did your tour in Iraq, you had problems with alcohol and drugs.

And then what? I, I wish there was a simple, easy answer, but life isn't that way I got sober. I started working and doing that recovery work , that people who get sober do. Yeah. Yeah. And I started to meditate and I got a therapist. I started going to therapy. I self explore discovered myself. I, you know, after Thomas died, I was, I was pretty frozen for awhile and I was lucky enough to have good people around me and more therapy.

And the thing that fundamentally changed me was the war in Iraq, because I always felt like a walking ball of shame up until that war. And as I served, and as I was seen by my brothers that were there and I saw them and culturally, the United States welcomed us home and held us like heroes. Right. They treated us, what was as if we were honorable is if we were heroic.

Right. Well,

I didn't go there initially under the military out of a sense of patriotic duty. I did it for selfish reasons, right? Like I want to have a college education and, I wanted to get out of the ghetto. I wanted to learn a trade and all these things. And when I went to the war, it was also for selfish reasons.

I wanted to die in combat. So I could be remembered as a person with honor. So to me, that's debatable, but we definitely were treated that way. And I, I was treated that way and I started to hold my head, my head up a little higher. When I got out, I thought maybe, you know, I'm worthy of doing this work and I'm worthy of healing and forgiving myself.

And I started to seek that, meditation, I Wasco, you know, initiation, connection, leaning forward and purpose, you know, being inspired by others in searching purpose. What does purpose mean? Why am I here on the planet? See, and you're going through all of these things rather quickly, but. I know as somebody who's done some of what you're talking about, that this shit's hard.

There's nothing easy about this. That's painful to turn the mirror on yourself and actually look in all those dark scary corners. Absolutely. Absolutely. We don't start off, you know, I think I'm pretty decent at doing this stuff now. I've been doing it for 20 years, right. The recovery stuff. So when I decide, I like to do something once a year, some kind of personal development or PTSD rehab or whatever it is.

Right. And I'm pretty good at just diving in. But you know, if I was to jump in the water with people who are triathletes and try to swim with them, there's no freaking way that I would just be, do that I would need to practice. So , it's, it's baby steps and one thing and a Thailand and I've done a lot.

So I sum it up pretty quickly and I hope I don't sound. Try or like any of that was easy. Each of those things that I said is a lifetime meditation is a lifetime to learn to just. Get the nuts to do it. First of all, and then learn how to be still. It was so hard for me. After Thomas died, I used to scream.

If there wasn't like, if I sat still, I have a flashback, it starts freeing me. It took a while to be able to do that, you know? Right. And meditation doesn't have to necessarily be. I talk about this a lot on the show. Doesn't have to necessarily be sitting quiet with yourself and, and not doing anything else and just focusing on your breath and yes, for a long time, that's what I thought it was only, but there are all sorts of other meditative activities that we can do that bring us in the moment.

The idea is mindfulness and cutting out the past and cutting out the future. Cutting out five minutes from now. And five minutes ago, we're just in right now. And what does right now feel like, and how do I feel in right now? And, and I know I do it through doing other things that are sensory for me. And that to me is sometimes easier than.

Just sitting quietly or even doing a quiet guided meditation to just my noisy brain it's just helps me.  But there are plenty of people that do the quiet focusing on the breath thing. It seems, it seems like 20 minutes of holding the human body physically still is like the sweet spot. Right. And it's not, it's not easy to practice.

Nobody likes doing that. Nobody's mind is ever quiet. Our minds. Oh, um, so a component of mindfulness for me is holding my body physically still. It it's very beneficial to me, although it's very difficult. Right. I don't want to do that. You know, there's a lot of things I don't want to do that are really good for me and helpful.

You know, there's still that little defiant child, like I'm not doing that, you know? Right. I'm not taking my vitamins no matter what you say I was having a conversation with my husband, last week, I guess he is what he calls a sober alcoholic. He's been clean for 13 years sober for 13 years.

And I guess I was talking about the word recovery with him, you know, people in recovery and he, he kinda, he didn't call me out on it, but he said that he hates that word recovery. It's just used too much and too loosely. And in his opinion, and he'll be listening to this. So I don't know if I'm going to get this a hundred percent.

Right. But his opinion, once you're an alcoholic, you're always an alcoholic. You're never recovered from it. You're just an alcoholic who is sober. Do you agree with that statement? I just think it depends how we look at it. I I'm a recovered alcoholic because I don't drink. Now. I could say that I'm no longer an alcoholic so that I could drink, you know what I'm saying?

So it's just, it's a way for people who have deep emotional wounds, right? Who would an alcohol is the solution to that wound, to that emptiness, to some people call it a God shaped hole inside of them. And we fill it with alcohol until it doesn't work anymore. And the, the buzzword doesn't matter to me, recovery, sobriety, whatever those things are, we just get sick of hearing words.

Sometimes we pick up repetition of words, you know, like I'm, I'm tired of a lot of words right now. I'm tired of a lot of phrases. I mean, we've got to figure out other ways to. They things that aren't played out in burnout, you know, but that shit COVID. Yeah. You know, so you also, you have a group or you work with veterans , who I volunteer.

So , you finish the sentence better than I do. God, me and a group of guys started a 12 step group for trauma for veterans, and first responders called Spartan suicide prevention and resilience training anonymous. Right. And we just modeled it after the other 12 step programs because they were relatively applicable to everything else.

And we, we meet once a week and we do a meditation. We focused on solution. We don't do war stories there because we don't have a therapist in the room to help everybody process it. So we talk about something like integrity or something like forgiveness or something like work ethic or something like an emotion, right.

Instead of going explicitly back into stories of trauma that re trigger everybody, we're there to heal whether to get better. It doesn't mean that we disregard and ignore the past, but we talk about what we're doing about it. That's the culture of that meeting. And it's for me very helpful. And, you know, I, I started that meeting five years ago, me and one or two other guys in my friend's living room.

And now we have regularly, maybe six to 12 men and women that show up once a week. You know, other people have tried to start it in other parts of the country, but, I don't know if any of them were successful and continuing, it's not easy to start a group like that. It takes a person to sit, you know, To be willing to be there by themselves.

Yeah. And you'll have to be consistent and get the word out and so on and, and, and have it be an actual safe place. I liked that it's just behavioral and healing and it's not reliving ripping band-aids off, you know? No, we're not qualified to do that, or it's just not the right place, you know? Yeah. Yeah.

 So here's something I want to know. How did you get into being a tattoo artist? I always loved to draw. I drew when I was a little kid, I used to make up fantasy places that I went and it was a part of be they nights or out in space or, you know, far away wars.

I used to draw it all and I continued to draw and I wanted to be a commercial artist when I was a kid. I thought that was my calling in life and life moved in different directions. And when I got to Iraq in 2004, I drew some pictures and one of the guys really liked them. And a kind of half rumor started that I was going to start tattooing.

And by the end of the day, all the guys in my unit had pitched in to buy like four or five grand worth of tattoo equipment. Wow. It shipped it to Iraq and I started tattooing in Iraq. Have you ever picked up a tattoo machine thing? No. Okay. Never. And I found out later, I was married at the time and my wife had been cheating on me and the military had stopped my pay and I hadn't been paid in three months and I was really kind of going through it.

And my company first Sergeant decided that he would let me tattoo because he was worried that I was going to commit suicide and he thought tattoo and he keeps me busy. And the unit that I was with was a very special, they were reservist from east Tennessee. They were very close and , very capable and they gave him shit about me and it felt good, you know?

So. It'd be my career. Those guys that's very cool. I liked how organically that happened like that. Oh, it was really bad to pick somebody five years to learn how to tattoo. So I did some pretty bad tattoos the first five years. That's how it goes, you know? Well, don't think learn don't you learn on like animal flesh, like dead animals first?

No, not well, not you, but like other people, I don't know. Maybe I'm making it. They, they learned to draw first and then like, they tattoo me first and then they tattooed their friends. Right. So I've successfully taught three tattooers. How, how to be an artist and there are successful tattooers, which is not sure I can draw, but I wouldn't want to put something on someone else's skin indelibly forever.

That's a little pressure. Okay. Let me, let me look at that from a different place, right? Do you paint. Yes, and I have tattoos. So, you know, right. You paint, paint, paint. Is that okay? That's a high likelihood Marcy, that that painting will still exist after every tattoo I've ever done is fine. If someone doesn't like it, they don't have to stare at it every single day.

It's true. But it's the most temporary art form. One of the, one of the most temporary art forms, because it's only going to last as long as that life does. Yes. That's interesting. Dang. I was looking at it as the most permanent because it's always there. I can't escape it.

Well, you know, with enough laser and determination, you can. I love all of mine, so yeah, no wait covering tattoos. , I enjoy, the, the most, the biggest reward tattooing. For me is covering human trafficking marks for people. Wow. Eliminating them. That means so much to me to do that. That is, that is my calling in life to do that.

And I will do more of it as time goes on. Do you cover scars from surgeries and things like that too? I can, yeah. Yeah. It also scars from, other things that maybe weren't so awesome. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Trauma and injuries and so on. I love doing that.  I don't know how to ask this question.

How do you think your past has influenced the kind of dad you are? I knew exactly what not to do. Well, okay. And I don't know. Did you think it made you more scared or more frightened? Maybe? Yeah. I mean, I've always been, you know, overly protective, and maybe I'm overly nice. I doubt it because she is coming up to be a really wonderful young lady and successful and powerful.

And I have always been kind to her. I've never yelled at her. I've never said because I said, so I always explained to her and I always talked to her. Like she was a human being and I always gave her power and control over her environment as much as it was appropriate for her, never read her diary. She has her ribbon, my home.

I don't go in her room without permission. I mean, she has, she, she is entitled. She is, she is her own human, right with her own set of dreams and desires. So I treat her with respect and I expect the same in return. And when she does it, we talk about it. Right. Instead of punishing, I very rarely have ever had to punish her, you know?

 And, and sometimes she's a little rough, but I don't ever want to put her in a box or put her in her place or take her down a notch or any of that stuff. Of course, I want her to have high expectations for life and, and how people treat her. And I want her to expect kindness and expect respect, demanded and command and respect, you know? I think if somebody, I know if somebody is disrespectful to her, she's confused. She's like, where's what, and she doesn't have time for that person anymore. 15 years old. And, Just, I buy her, her and I don't, I don't know if maybe it was better that I learned nothing. Did I just chose to unlearn everything that was done to me or  and just replaced it all with positive?

I don't know. I don't know the answer to that question. Well, it sounds like you're practicing really mindful and respectful parenting techniques, you know, to that make her feel safe and loved and comfortable and supported and cheered on well and not, not always cheered on because sometimes she's done things that are not very nice.

And we talk about that and we talk about why we don't do those things, you know, just be all positive, but there's no, no, of course not. Of course my kids got punished when they did things that. We're just unacceptable, but it was mostly a conversation, you know, why, why do we do those things? Or why don't we do those things?

What happens? How did that person feel? You know, create empathy around the situation they don't have. They don't have much empathy when they're little, you know, I don't think we've fully available or our brain capacity until we're 25. Right? I mean like that. Yeah. Certainly for abstract reasoning and cause, and effect like Marines and Corman to be 18 and 19 on the battlefield because they don't know they're going to die.

You know, they, they still believe they're immortal. Yeah. Maybe that's not so fair. Well, war is business. It's not fair. No, no. So your mission is to bring angel blue to the world. And what are your hopes for your book? What do you hope people get out of it when they read it? Or maybe if the screenplay works and you get this guy to make a movie out of it, what do you, what do you hope that his audience gets gets from it?

I hope to get some inspiration, you know, I hope it inspires people to be their best, to be their best self, to believe that they can be their best self. , I don't expect, any book or any set of words or any tools to change the world, right. To have this, you know, Messiah echo. Is that the right way to say that?

I think that's the attic being , I just hope to add something good to the world that I already am. You know, there's maybe. A little under a thousand people that have read that book. And, , most people that have read it have responded and said that they, felt better about something or they, some part of it inspired Devon.

That's all I want. Yeah. You know, it's already happening and so grateful. And of course I want more because I'm a human, like, give me more, you know,

you know, another friend of mine said, you know, I want this body to be used up when I die. Right. I want to use this, this body and this, this experience and this opportunity. I want to live it to the fullest. I want that for others as well. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So do you have any last little bits of wisdom for our listeners? All I have is other people's wisdom that I absorbed, right? Like in my experience, stuff worked that stuff didn't and at every, every critical juncture in my life where I've been out of answers, where I haven't known what to do, or I've been seeking so hard, there's always been somebody that pointed right at my chest.

And they said, everything you need is in there. Right. And so that's one thing that I definitely can say to you and to the world that you already have, what you need. Right. We already are born with everything that we need and the may the heartbeat of our guide. Right. Beautiful. Follow our heart and also follow angel blue book on Instagram.

On my story.

I'm going to put that in the, in the show notes, the mayor, the mayor, may the heart be your guide.  So I will put links to all your socials and where to buy the book and everything in the show notes. So no one will have even a moment's hesitation about how to get in touch with you. Okay. The book's not for sale yet.

Um, if anybody wants to read it, they can read it for free. They may read a PDF form of the manuscript free. I am not selling it yet. Um, I will not sell it until it's gone through a traditional publishing house and I'm waiting for the right opportunity. So yeah. Yeah. It's you can't have it or you can't buy it, but you can have it.

So what was the reasoning behind that?  You know, I started doing that with all the drafts and, I didn't self publish. It's the first thing I've ever written. And every rejection, every, no, every, barricade to publishing has benefited me and benefited the story and it's gotten better and I've gotten better.

So,  maybe at some point I'll self publish it and start selling them , I don't know. I just don't, I've been, I've been going by the HeartMap this whole time. Marcy. I don't know. I don't know why I've been just doing what my heart told me to do. And that's just where I feel led right now. You know?

Beautiful. I'm about 40 a hole on the book. I haven't made much off it. I made anything off it, you know, uh, it's a labor of love. And when I'm not, I'm not afraid to get paid when the time is right to publish it. I will, you know, but just now it's not the right time yet. Okay. It's a beautiful sentiment forest.

Thank you so much for being here. This was a lovely conversation. Thank you for having me, mark. I hope you have a great, okay.