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Healing Begins with Forgiving yourself

The Baldwin Blog

I watched Daniel Baldwin on Prime Time’s Family Secrets. It covered his stay in a rehab.
For the 9th time.
He checked into Renaissance Malibu treatment center.
It’s one of 25 in a 10 mile stretch.
Dr. Daniel Gatlin, executive director of the therapeutic program, spoke of talk therapy – where people talk for years & years about their story and soon, instead of changing their life,
They become their story.
It defines them.
“It’s a really good way of not having to change.” He said.
I thought about that.
My story has basically defined my life.
My 2 year old daughter Joy accidently strangling in her Grandfather’s recliner chair.
Her nine months in a vegetative state,
Blind, deaf, paralyzed.
Being fed through a tube in her stomach and breathing through a tube in her throat.
Imagine your worse nightmare,
Then wishing it were only that.
Until I took it upon myself to decide that she would be better off dead,
Than to exist like that for years unending.
Being convicted of 1st degree murder;
The first father convicted in the mercy killing of their child.
The judge sentencing me to life in prison with no parole for a mandatory 25 years.
The media circus that followed me into prison;
From Time magazine to The National Enquirer.
Spending the next decade in a maximum security prison,
Not believing in God and hating Him if He was real.
Until the police officer who took Joy out of the recliner and gave her CPR until the ambulance arrived; visited me in prison to apologize.
For not letting Joy go.
Having a spiritual experience in my cell after that visit;
God told me I would see Joy again one day.
Not believing God was real,
Knowing it.
But now believing there was no way He could ever forgive me.
Getting released 15 years early after a deal was worked out with the Gov. & State Attorney.
And the media circus that followed that.
Being finally free, but still imprisoned,
Smoking, drinking, swallowing, shooting up and snorting anything,
Not even trying to stop the pain;
Just find a bottom to it.
Trying to fill the loneliness, the,
That ached.
Trying, if not to stay clean, than to just get clean;
To keep my wife/ family/ job,
But never for myself.
Never listening.
Never talking.
Patiently suicidal.
Until my brother died,
After partying with friends in Las Vegas.
Sean got drunk, passed out, got sick,
And suffocated on his own vomit.
Then, giving up.
Selling my home. Going into treatment.
For me this time.
Having an epiphany.
Realizing that my pain was not the worse.
Just a different kind.
Everybody’s pain is the worse; to them.
Getting a sponsor, working the steps,
And finding out that God does forgive me.
When I told my sponsor my story, and that there was no way that God could forgive me,
He asked me if there was anything that Joy could do, that I would not be able to forgive her for,
Or that would make me stop loving her?
I answered, “Nothing.”
“Then how much more,” He asked, “Do you think God loves and forgives you, His child?”
And I knew it was true.
And the void inside me was gone.
And the God shots started.
Things that made me know that He had a plan for me.
The day before going to visit my daughter’s grave for the first time clean & sober in 21 years?
So scared to go sober, not knowing what to say to her?
I met a daughter and mother named Faith and Joy.
And I made peace with my daughter the next day.
When I first got out of prison I married a dancer from the Czech Republic who worked at the club I managed;
So she could get her green card.
We fell in love and didn’t apply for it for 5 years.
I made her a manager with me and we rented a house so her friends could live with us and dance at the club.
Ten years later;
My counselor recommended a realtor when I started to look for a place to live at the end of treatment.
We talked as we drove around.
Turned out she had bought my old house and made it a recovery house for women.
So out of 100’s of thousands of houses in Miami, my old house, bought by my new realtor, went from a house where women used to drink & get high just to go to work;
To a house where women work just to not drink or get high.
And lately? My lease is up on the house that realtor did find me, so I started asking around for a new place to live.
I found one.
A friend’s father goes to New York every summer and was looking for someone to stay at his house and watch the property; it’s almost two acres.
Perfect for Flop, Teddy Bear and Lady; my three dogs.
The only hitch?
He told me there was a girl he was letting stay in a trailer on the back of the property who had been homeless and was trying to get clean.
Take three guesses what her name is.
The first two don’t count.
I have a Joy living with me, coming over and talking a mile a minute, and generally driving me nuts.
I love it.
I gave Joy her AA book.
“Bartender!” Another shot of God, please!”
I spoke at a meeting and afterwards a girl shared.
She said that she had lost a child and wasn’t real sure about God. But, that after hearing my story she felt better and believed there must be some reason, even if she couldn’t see it yet.
When the meeting was over she came up to me and told me she hadn’t planned on staying until she saw it was me, then she wanted to see “What the hell you had to say.”
Turns out my dog Flop had attacked her dog at a picnic, and because of that she stayed to hear what the hell I had to say,’
And came closer to God.
But the greatest one?
The meaning of God shot?’
The one that still sends a tingle of awe/amazement/wonder at God’s greatness, down my back?
I was asked to tell my story at a treatment center,
At the end I said, “I believed hundreds of children have been saved because of Joy.”
Recliners were redesigned so there is no space between the footrest & the chair after Joy’s accident.
“My counselor at my treatment center told me that last one.” I told them as I was finishing. “That may have been God’s plan for Joy.”
Then a girl, no more than twenty or so, raised her hand.
I pointed to her and she said, “My little sister’s name is Joy.
Joy Rochelle.
I used to take care of her growing up because our parents were never home.
She got caught in our recliner chair one day, and she was wedged in there good, too. It took work for me to get her out.”
I waited, so scared of what I was about to hear.
Then I got the God shot.
She continued.
“But she was OK, because there was a thing that came up and kept the footrest from closing on her neck completely.”
She looked at me and said, “So I just wanted you to know, that I know, that your little Joy saved my little Joy.”
“I just wanted you to know that.”
I started crying in front of all of them.
I’m crying now.
I thanked her.
I told her I always assumed Joy had saved children because of what she had gone through.
But to actually know.
To know.
If the feeling of that realization could be described
To know a little girl was saved from serious injury, suffering, even death, because of Joy,
And her name was JOY!
It was the greatest thing God has given me, next to telling me I will see Joy again one day.
I went to speak at this treatment center hoping my story would help someone there.
Someone’s story there helped me. Beyond…..
How can there be so few words for so many feelings?
God shots.
Bartender, I’ll take a double.
I have told my story for the last two years.
In treatment.
To groups,
To my sponsor.
To AA meetings.
To NA meetings.
To people detoxing at the center I worked at.
To the readers of my blogs.
And now in a magazine.
Oh yeah, I am now the editor of It’s all in the JOURNEY’,
The only magazine written by, for & about the recovery community.
I got a job at the same detox center I’d gone through 6 times in 8 years, after I got out of rehab.
I started writing blogs at night while the patients slept,
I wrote about life, God, addiction, recovery, love, loss, redemption,
And people started reading them,
Including one lady who asked me if I would be the editor of a new magazine.
I also told my nephew.
Last week.
An employee of my Dad’s club let someone into the club after hours. That person robbed the safe.
It was caught on camera.
The employee, who has been with my Dad a long time and considered family, was arrested.
The Orlando Sentinel had done a front page story on me and the magazine a few weeks earlier
My sister and my nephew went online to see if there was anything in the local paper about the arrest.
My story about the magazine popped up.
My sister and one of my nephews started to read it.
He started crying, my sister told me when she called.
He admitted to her that he had a problem.
But wouldn’t say with what.
Then he asked if she thought I would talk to him.
My sister called me and I said of course.
We agreed to meet at her work. It is closer to Miami than her home is.
But still a ways.
She is a restaurant manager in Delray Beach.
I rented a car; wasn’t sure if the Hyundai would want to go that far.
When I got there we talked.
I told him my story.
He knew about it, of course, but I told him everything.
Including the God Shots.
Especially the God Shots.
He told me what was bothering him. And that he wanted to be clean.
The main part was that he was scared he wouldn’t know what to do straight.
He knew that he wanted to be clean. He’d had moments of clarity that made him realize God had a plan for him.
So I asked him if he wanted to go to a meeting.
He did.
So we did.
And he picked up his white chip.
Because I told my story to the newspaper,
Somehow he found it.
I started telling my story because it was killing me trying to bury it inside of me.
I was killing me.
Patiently suicidal.
Whenever I tell my story; always,
Someone hearing it says, If you can make itafter all thatand even be happy? I think I might be able to. I’m going to try.’
And I am always,
And so grateful.
That I, somehow,
Help someone else.
After what I’ve done.
The feeling I get from that…
How can there be so few words for so many feelings?
I have told my story so many times.
And I guess I will continue to tell it.
Because one person who didn’t believe in God; thought, “Maybe.”
Because one person who thought they could never get clean; thought, “Maybe.”
Because of my story.
I’ve heard that people who tell their story so many times,
Become their story.
And that’s a good way to not change.
I’m trying to change,
And I hope my story is still becoming.