33. Somewhere I Belong

Somewhere I Belong

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

Psalm‬ ‭40:1-2

Austin snapped out of unconsciousness to find his car wedged between two pylons preventing cars such as his from driving across a pedestrian footbridge. In his rearview mirror, flashing lights of fire engines and police cars caught his eye. After finding nothing ailing Austin’s scratch-less body except an absurd amount of alcohol in his blood, the police took him to jail. 

Nani and Pops picked him up again, though furious instead of frightened. Once home, Pops slammed a drug test on the table.

“If we ever catch you taking so much as a puff of weed or a sip of alcohol you’re on your own,” Pops shouted. Austin glanced at the drug kit on the table. 

“Could you even pass this right now?” Nani asked.

“No,” Austin said.

“What are we going to do with you?” Nani moaned.

“Listen here shithead, this is your last chance,” Pops continued, pointing his finger at Austin’s chest like Nani once stabbed him with hers many decades prior.1 “One more fuck up and you’re gone. We’ll kick your ass to the curb not giving a shit where you end up. You got it?!” Austin nodded, the weight of a choked up, embittered frown on his face.

About a week later, Austin became suicidal. He didn’t know why, but knew he was walking continually through fields laden with marked, unburied mines and intentionally blowing his life up. The guilt of it all buried him. There was only one way to truly end his never ending wicked ways, so he wrote out a note and devised a plan. He knew where Pops kept his gun. On a Sunday, when they went to church, he readied himself and walked down the hall to their bedroom.

While on the way to retrieve the handgun, Austin had a change of heart. The thought of ending his life shook him. Instead, He wanted to get better. Realizing how frighteningly close he was to ending his own life, Austin checked himself back into the psych ward. While there, he contacted Pops, saying, “I have a problem and I need help.” 

Once his three day observation stay ended, Pops took Austin to his first AA meeting on March 29th, 2008, the first positive social group he attended.  Austin knew he violated probation with his DUI. Knowing it would catch up to him, he signed up for 90 meetings in 90 days to help show the judge he truly wanted to turn things around, sometimes attending multiple meetings per day. 

Austin met a man at AA involved in a halfway house where he ended up living as a patient from April through July. After completing his inpatient stay, he continued with three months of sober living. One of the men he lived with, Randy Ross, was involved with a Christian twelve-step program at the local Nazarene Church in Oroville. While attending this church, Austin became established in the Christian faith. 

When Austin went to the hearing for his probation violation in LA he showed the judge the many signatures he’d acquired from willingly attending AA meetings. Rather than receiving a one to two year prison sentence, the judge said, “How ‘bout another thirty days in county jail?” So, for the month of December 2008, he resided there willfully and joyfully.

“So, how’s it going?” I asked, observing my brother on the other side of the thick glass. 

“I’m doin’ real well,” he said. “I’m making the best of my stay here, only got about two weeks left.” Something about him looked different. He sat peacefully and spoke calmly. I’d never seen him pleasantly smiling with a glow so content. “I met a Christian man here who’s taken me under his wing. He’s a really nice guy and been teaching me a lot. I’ve volunteered for nearly all the duties I can to help out with. I’m enjoying three square meals a day, life is goin’ great bro, how ‘bout you?”

“It’s going okay…” For me, this is codename for: life is shit. “I’ve had my ups and downs, but I’m hanging in there. I’m happy for you though. Glad things are finally looking up. So what you gonna do when you get out?”

“Well, I’ll keep attending AA meetings and church and working. God blessed me with a great job.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, when I returned to Paradise after my hearing in LA, I walked into a computer repair shop and spoke with the owner. I was honest with my situation and being a convicted felon, but seeking to turn my life around. He hired me on the spot.”

“Wow, that’s awesome.”

“Yeah. I’m in a good place right now.” Austin looked over his shoulder to a clock behind him. “Well, I gotta go. It was so great to see you though. Enjoy the rest of your stay.”

“Thanks, yeah you too.”

I left contemplating through a mix of emotion on the car ride home. Though he was in a much rougher spot, he seemed to sail smoother than I. He seemed freer than me despite being locked up. Even his faith in God felt more real than mine. It seemed he finally found a sense of belonging, something I only grasped a fleeting sense of in BSG.2 Though my life didn’t whipsaw like Austin’s had up until this point, I still hadn’t found my place. I hummed a song on the way home, the lyrics putting my emotions to words.

I wanna heal, I wanna feel what I thought was never real

I wanna let go of the pain I’ve felt so long

(Erase all the pain ’til it’s gone)

I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real

I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along

Somewhere I belong3

  1. The story I’m referring to can be found here
  2. BSG is Basic Security Guard course. I wrote about my time there in this post.
  3. LInkin Park, Somewhere I Belong

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