Father, my note to thou:
You, my sir, are an O.G. – original gangster. That’s old school for total respect. I’m keeping it 100 percent with you here. Gregory Boyle, you’re a man among men. Your book Tattoos on the Heart (2010) made me leak (cry) during many occasions of reading it in class. I fought to hold it in many of times, or I just didn’t look at any one in the face, I can relate to it in so many ways like few before it. It tugged at me from inside out and made me wish I had someone like you on my team back in my youth. I praise you, sir, for what you do, you are a true angel, and one of God’s chosen ones. You give these young men unconditional acceptance (love), and that’s all anyone can ask for in life. All the chapters had heart felt, inspirational, real life, and brutal honesty in them, but chapter five, “Slow Work” hit home with me.
First let me say I’m no young man. At fifty five years old, I have been ridden hard and put away wet for a very long time. I’m not a religious guy, but I’m a very spiritual person and believe in a high power that I choose to call God. Being comfortable in my own skin has taken me a long time. I can relate to David when you say, “David liked living in his own skin-or perhaps for the first time” (Boyle 109). Wow, my whole life I have done drugs and alcohol so I wouldn’t have to be me, but when I surrendered to God I was cool being just me. I didn’t care what others thought of me, because when I turned my will and life over to the care of God, I stopped comparing my insides to others’ outsides. Change takes place when we are ready and not a minute sooner: “In 12-step recovery programs they often say, it takes what it takes. This is true enough when it comes to change” (Boyle 110). No one could ever change me, not the courts, parole, prison, or even loved ones. It had to be my decision to want to change. We never know when someone will change, all we can do is plant that seed of faith, which is sometimes as small as a mustard seed and you don’t know when it will sprout.
For me, it took hold while in prison on this last term, and I knew I wanted something different and that man who came to carry the A.A. message said, if you want something different then do something different. Ok, that made sense to me. Things don’t change, we change. I have been an active member of twelve-steps programs for the last forty-nine months and my life has done a complete 180 degree change, I flipped the script.
I guess I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Like you said to Omar: “Mijo, it will end I say, the minute you decide. Well he says then I decide. Omar I tell him it has always been as simple as that. How many things have to happen to you? Before something occurs to you “(Boyle 111). What a concept. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. In my addiction I always blamed everyone else for my problems; I was never at fault. I was the victim or in the wrong place at the wrong time. See I didn’t want to change; I wanted the world around me to change, if only they could understand that. It sure wasn’t because I was doing drugs, or being in a motorcycle club, and being caught up in criminal activity that was causing so much wreckage in my life. I was so polluted with ego I was blocking out God and any logical thinking from taking place. I found hope in others who were trying to do the right thing clean and sober. “Ours is a God who waits. Who are we not to? It takes what it takes for the great turnaround. Wait for it” (Boyle 113). As you say throughout this book, find the hope you can change, and have faith that you will change. This is the key to becoming the child of God. Men like you Father G. are far and few in between, and if there were more people that would get out of their self and help others then this thing called life would be that much better.
I’m grateful I had the opportunity to change. Sure, it took me longer than most, but that doesn’t mean you have to go through the same hell as I have. It’s all about desire; your desire for a new life has to be greater than your desire for your old life. Like you said to Omar “you taught me that no amount of my wanting you to have a life is the same as you wanting to have one. Now, I can help you get a life-I just can’t give you the desire to want one” (Boyle 114). When I got out of prison in 2013 and went to a treatment program, they said this wasn’t going to be easy. This is a big boy sport, so put your boots on and put in some work. See, for me I had to change my playmates, playgrounds, and playthings if I wanted any chance at this at all. hey also told me I had to give back what was so freely given to me. Being of service is a big part of change. I know you would agree with me on this Father G., when A helps B, A gets better and sometimes B does as well. Today, I work at a men’s residential treatment facility helping others who are going through addiction and/or alcoholism, going through want I have experienced. It’s not about money for me, it’s about if I can help just one person to do something positive in their life, then that makes me feel good and that I have given back instead of taking away. Mr. Boyle, your book shows all these young men have an ambivalence to want to change; it’s up to people like us to motivate them to change. To be their guide in this new way of life. Thank You, Father G., for all you do. You have inspired me to continue on with my goal to help others, and to make living amends by living by example. I claim spiritual progress not spiritual perfection.
Abandon yourself to God as you understand God; Admit your faults to him and your fellow man; Clear away the wreckage of your past; And give freely what you have found, so you may follow us as you trudge this road to happy destiny.