“It is never easy going to war with the person you once were.” - Unknown
That’s the quote that altered the trajectory of my life back in 2015. I remember it vividly. I was sitting on the couch, smoking what must have been my 7th or 8th cigarette in a row, wondering what the hell went wrong in my life and how I could put it back together.
All sorts of things were going through my mind at the time. Every single thing that had happened to me in my life was flashing before my eyes in a whirlwind of chaotic emotion that I was unable to contain…
Before I dive into all of that, let me go back in time. To July 4th, 1982. The day I was born.
I was born in Charlotte, Mecklenburg, North Carolina at 4:44am. I always found it kinda cool that I share a birthday with our nation, and that I was born in Mecklenburg, which was the first colony in the union to declare independence from the British Crown. It was a running joke between me and my mom that I came out early to make damn sure I was born on America’s birthday.
I was 2 months premature and the beginning of my life introduced me to fighting and surviving. I spent nearly a month and a half in the NICU, my mother and father never sure from one day to the next if I’d make it. My mother was advised to abort me in the months leading up to my birth. She obviously didn’t (and herein lies one of the reasons I am Pro-Life and will never sway from that belief).
My parents were amazing. They always made sure we had food to eat and clothes on our backs. No matter how little it meant they got for themselves. Mom and dad were the classic high school sweetheart story. They were married for 52 years, from 1969, until mom’s passing in 2021, which I will circle back around to.
As we come towards the 90’s, I can say I was a pretty normal kid. Fairly quiet, really introverted, and somewhat anti-social. I always did well in school, never really cut up or made things difficult for my parents, and I kept to myself a fair bit. I had varying interests growing up: music, sports, writing, drawing. I’ve always been the kind of person who doesn’t do well with sitting and doing nothing and I’ve always been driven to attain knowledge as far back as I can remember.
This is probably my father’s fault. See, when I was a youngin’, as far back as 9/10 years old, my father used to listen to Coast To Coast in the AM w/ Art Bell, and I used to lay on his bed listening to it with him. I mean really, a 10 year old laying there listening to stories about JFK and Area 51 is gonna get the inquisitive mind going, ya know?
About the time middle school came calling (1993), I was becoming pretty opinionated. I began having problems in school - I got suspended in 7th grade for arguing with my history teacher about the JFK assassination, for instance.
It wasn’t that I didn’t do my work, it’s that I got it done too fast and then began pissing around in class and being a joker. Looking back, I’m sure there was some ADD there. Thankfully my folks have always been kind of red pilled, and going on any sort of medication like Ritalin or Adderall was always gonna be a no-go from them. Besides, I’d get around to pills later in my life (I say this with no pride at all).
8th Grade year is the first year I can pinpoint in my life wherein things really shifted. I was 13, I had started playing roller hockey and other sports pretty frequently and I was really excited to go out for the school football team. God had other plans.
In the summer of 1995, I was reintroduced to what it’s like to fight. I had been bitten by a Brown Recluse. The only problem was, we didn’t know it. I was playing some good ole’ fashioned sandlot football and twisted my ankle. So, the next morning I assumed my ankle pain was from that. After it persisted for a couple days we went to Urgent Care (Pro Med at the time, if you remember those). Even the doctor assumed it was a sprain, as the swelling and even color at the time looked exactly like a sprain.
A couple more days go by, and now there is a blister. It was small, maybe the size of a pea. We went back to Pro Med where the doctor began giving thought to the possibility that I had been bitten by something. I was given antibiotics and told to rest it. Welp, that didn’t work. A couple days later, that blister was the size of a half dollar, and the color had went damn near black. We go back to Pro Med, and the doctor told my parents to get me to the hospital ASAP.
Saving you an even longer story here - that tiny spider really fugged me up. Having gone so long without the bite being realized and without treatment, that little bastard landed me in the hospital for 3 weeks. My leg may as well have been an elephant’s leg with all the swelling. I didn’t find out the following until some years later, but the bite had gotten so bad that my parents had signed the papers to have my leg amputated from the knee down because the bite/venom/infection was beginning to have an effect on my heart rate and respiratory system.
The night before the surgery, I recall this so clearly - My dad came in to pray with me, and he was going to tell me at this point that they were going to take my leg. He prays, he prays harder than I had ever heard him pray to this point. Shortly after he finished, the blister/infection on my foot opened up and began draining. I’ll spare details, just know it was disgusting.
The site of the bite had went necrotic. There was no skin/muscle/fascia left on my left ankle. I was told I’d need multiple reconstructive surgeries and that walking would be difficult. Certainly carrying on playing hockey and other sports was gonna be nearly impossible.
The healing was nothing short of miraculous. Not only have I never had one surgery for that ankle, but a few short years after this, I would be playing hockey at a very high level. It was, without a doubt, this incident that made a 13 year old me believe in God. And that was without knowing until some years later that I came within hours of losing my left leg.
Along with finding school to be exceptionally boring, I was also bullied fairly frequently. The incident that broke the camel’s back was sitting in class one day and having a kid throw a dictionary at me from behind. It caught me in the back of the head and it did not feel good. The teacher did nothing. I grabbed the book, and slid it under my chair. As class ended, and he walked by, I grabbed that book, got up, and fuggin’ clocked him with it like it were a chair and I was doing my best Mick Foley/WWE impression.
I beat the shit out of this kid. Y’all should be familiar with this scene …
Yeeeeeeah. That’s what I did to that kid. After which, a meeting was held between myself, my parents, and the school’s administrators. My parents were told “we knew Paul was being bullied and were wondering when he’d snap” (just in case you think the issues with our education system just began, HA!).
I was suspended, while the kids who bullied me and brought me to that point were not. It was at this point that my parents decided to home school me, which in hindsight is one of the best things they could have ever done for me.
Throughout my teens (95 - 02), my main focus was hockey. It’s all I did. I was kind of a natural at it, and I absolutely loved it. I played for various travel teams in my area, and eventually wound up playing in the AJHL in Alberta, Canada. Summer of 2000 comes around, and I am presented with an incredible opportunity to go and potentially play in the WHL (For the unaware, the WHL is arguably the top Junior League in the world and has produced countless NHL players).
In full support of me, and my dream, my parents made the decision to sell our home and relocate to Canada.
Things were going well, and I was playing tons of puck. In September of 2000, I attended training camp for the Crows Nest Pass Timberwolves. You folks know “that guy” who espouses the stories of old and reminiscing over how he “could have made it” had he not blown out his knee? Yeah, well … I’m not saying I would have “made it”, but I’m one of those guys. Despite my talent, a tiny rubber disc traveling at speeds in excess of 90mph slamming directly off of my kneecap and shattering it made the decision for me. I continued playing after this injury, but I was never the same.
To a finer point, I believe I merely used this injury as an excuse. As a way out. I was well beyond the point of being burnt out. Hockey was no longer in my soul. But let me tell ya, looking back now? Best time of my life. Being a teenager and getting to experience all that I did because of that sport is something I will always hold a fond memory of.
The silver lining of this was that because of selling the house, my dad was finally able to buy me a drum kit. Something I had always wanted. And wouldn’t you know it? That drum kit came home with me. It was because of that drum kit, and getting into music and playing shows that I met my wife, with whom I am still with, by the way. We have been together for 17 years and counting.
The next story I will share really did shape the next 10-15 years of my life, and not necessarily in a good way. This happened in the summer of 2003, shortly after I turned 21. Actually, it happened on July 17th, 2003. Because why not?
It was a day like any other. I woke up, and prepared to go to work. When I walked in the back door, I was greeted by a gun to my head, being pistol whipped, and then being tied up and thrown in a walk-in cooler while the nitwits robbing the place decided to try and get in the safe (they failed, because nitwits).
When it was happening, I remember being scared, but I also remember not realizing how dangerous this situation was and not really putting much thought into it - ya know, other than the fact that my fuggin’ face hurt from being pistol whipped with a Glock.
I’d later discover this wasn’t my being flippant about what had happened. It was shock. And this robbery is the genesis of a whole lot of PTSD, fear, anxiety, and drug use through my 20’s and early 30’s. I was constantly nerved up, constantly anxious, and this led to depression and an endless vicious cycle of trying to find ways to ignore confronting the real issue.
The real issue being that I had become consumed with fear and had no idea how to expel it. Everywhere I went I was looking over my shoulder. I couldn’t go out to eat without constantly fidgeting in my seat. Everywhere I went I expected someone to pop out from nowhere and put another gun to my head.
I was never good about talking about personal things that are bothering me, although I’ve gotten better about this, back then I was a complete clam shell. So what did I do? I began drinking. Just a “little” to knock the edge off. And then a little became more, and more. Until I was drinking every day and drowning my emotions.
The drinking carried right on into meeting my wife in May of 2005, hell, I was drunk when we met. She had her own past trauma to contend with, and once we paired up the drinking went next level. We fought all the time, and sobriety seemed a lost cause. While the wife never quite took to pills, I certainly did. Specifically Vicodin and Xanax. I’d take one here or there, and then just like drinking - I’m finding myself taking these substances every day to cope with the fear and anxiety I held inside.
It didn’t help that within a year of our meeting, my wife severely broke her leg which required surgery, and two months after that, my knee finally gave out and required surgery (yes, this was related to the aforementioned hockey injury). Because of this, pain killers were on hand 24/7. And I didn’t need to go through the hassle of obtaining them illegally, which was not a good thing.
During this time I was very into music. I reckon the old cliché rings true: Drugs, Sex and Rock & Roll. From 2005-2013, my main focus was music, I of course worked various cooking jobs at the same time, but my passion was music. It still is, to an extent (as you see with my videos).
One of these bands I played in which shall remain nameless ended up taking it pretty far. We played shows with Iron Maiden, Chevelle, Evanescence and many more. It was a whole lot of fun while it lasted, but it was doing nothing to help or nurture my soul. Only serving to further suffocate it.
In the end, this band wound up falling apart because the singer was becoming more and more Satanic, and despite my not feeling particularly close to God at this point in time, I still wasn’t okay with jokes being made about Jesus, and more and more dark symbolism entering the band.
The band disbanded in summer of 2013, and this, my friends, is the point of which my life underwent it’s most radical shift yet. the band I created and built had fallen apart. I was a drug addict. I was an alcoholic, and the one thing I had in my life at that time to look forward to was now gone. I had a shit job at a pizzeria that was barely paying the bills and to say I didn’t cope well would be an understatement.
Hell, you’d think landing a gig as the chef for the Charlotte Hornets in 2014 would have lifted my spirits. Nope. I was miserable, which made that job miserable. I stayed there for a season, and then moved on.
The next job is where the rebirth began. This would be in the Spring of 2015. I interviewed for a gig at a place named The Asbury. It was a very high class restaurant with a stellar reputation. At the time, I really did enjoy cooking, and was hoping this would finally be the cooking job that would provide me with a “career”. And in a roundabout way, it did. The first thing that this job altered for me was my drug usage. This was, and still is, the only kitchen job I have ever had to take a drug test for, and I REALLY wanted this gig. I knew things like pills and alcohol would exit the system in 3-5 days. I knew cannabis would take close to a month. So, I quit toking, and 5 days before my drug test I committed to not drinking or taking a single pill.
I know 5 days doesn’t seem like much. But it was this stretch of 5 days free of alcohol and pills that helped me prove to myself that I could do it. I got the job, and I was settling in fast and impressing my bosses. However, behind the curtain in my mind, everything was a complete trainwreck. I was 100% going through the motions, as it were.
November of 2015 rolls around, and I’m at work. Another routine night on the line. Much ado about nothing, really. I was in kind of a funky mood, and I recall spacing out from time to time during the shift. I just wasn’t “present” - if that makes sense.
An order came in, and I began preparing it. I place my pan on the stove, get it rip roaring hot, add some oil, and then place the fish in the pan. The problem was, like a true idiot, I placed the fish in the pan the wrong way. I laid it in the oil facing me, as opposed to away, and this made the oil splash back all over my hand.
I don’t mean a small part. I mean the back of my entire hand (sans fingers). I looked down to see the skin on my hand bubbling up, and then the pain kicked in. Now, I’ve burnt myself plenty of times, but this one took the cake. I was shaking, I even blacked out. Not physically, but mentally. I don’t recall much of the rest of the night at all until I got home. I kind of just went on auto-pilot to get through the shift.
I got home, and vividly remember walking in the door, and just slowly collapsing to the floor.
I was done. Mentally, I’d reached my breaking point. Keeping all the fear, anxiety, and depression bottled up and hidden behind substances for nearly a decade had finally caught up to me. I was a mess. A complete mental and nervous breakdown. I literally lacked the strength to even stand up.
The next day I went for coffee with my boss, who despite being a far lefty, was still there for me when needed, and helped to set my life on a new path. Chef Coleman, if you somehow happen to see this, God bless you, and thank you. (It was upon returning home from this coffee excursion that I heard the quote mentioned at the top of this article).
In this conversation he offered to help me find help. Real help. So we did, and I began therapy. Low and behold, it was actually helping. I still felt we weren’t getting to the cause, but talking it out and realizing all the baggage I was holding on to was a huge factor in my turnaround.
We roll into 2016, and I feel myself begin to turn the corner. Spring time rolls around and I am offered an incredible job opportunity at a Christian Ministry in town named Project 658. By now, therapy was really making headway. I was still drinking, and taking pills, but these things would soon meet their end in my life. Once the therapist nailed down the cause of my anxiety and depression as the robbery, I felt like a 10 ton blanket had been lifted off my shoulders.
Things are going well. And then ..
I had an accident at work resulting in a torn labrum in my shoulder. Yep, it was surgery time again. Surgery wasn’t foreign to me at this point. Knee surgeries, finger surgery. Now this one. Hell, when I was 7 I had my tonsils taken out and stayed asleep for 3 days. This was how doctors found out that I am allergic to Sodium Pentathol.
Let me tell ya, losing the use of an arm for 4 months did not do me any favors. I basically couldn’t do much, and this caused me to enter another mental hole. I was pissed. Everything was going great, and now this? In this time, I sat on my couch doing nothing, and ballooned up past 275lbs. What’s worse, I didn’t care.
Now, to backtrack a bit, something very significant in my life happened before this surgery. My employer was hosting an in-town employee retreat, which I attended. At this retreat, they had an instructor give a self defense lesson. I obviously couldn’t participate, but afterwards I spoke with the instructor at length to discover he was a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and he taught at a local academy. I shook his hand and promised him when I was all better, that I’d try a class.
Back on track - After a couple months, I was released for work duty, and was beyond happy to be able to return to work. The job itself was very fulfilling on a soul level, as it was my job to help newcomers to America integrate and gain a skillset they could go into their new world with.
Except there was a problem lying in wait. My boss calls me and asks to go to lunch, so we do. I assumed it was to catch me up, and get me up to speed for my return.
Nope. The lunch was to fire me. this coming a mere two weeks after he shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and assured me my job was safe.
I was disappointed, mad, sad, and everything in between. So what did I do? I went home and sat on my couch. I didn’t run to drinking, nor did I pop any pills. I prayed.
Know what came of that? Me going and grabbing my prescription, and yeeting it as far into the woods behind my house as I could. I took my last pill (painkiller or otherwise) in February of 2017, and that continues to this day.
I went about recovering and rebuilding myself. I began praying everyday, reading the Bible, watching motivational videos, and doing everything I could to alter my mindset. And damned if it didn’t work.
July of 2017 rolls around, and I’m fully healed, so now it was time to honor my word, and go try some JiuJitsu. And wouldn’t you know it? The date I began JiuJitsu just so happened to be July 17th. that Ministry I mentioned? It was located in the same exact building (refurbished) that used to house the roller skating rink where I began playing hockey. So, in essence, this building was the birthplace of hockey, and JiuJitsu for me. And hockey of course led me to my wife through way of the drum kit I was able to finally purchase during my hockey journey.
What JiuJitsu has done for my life is nothing short of a miracle. Within a year I went from weighing 275lbs to weighing 185lbs. Within a year, I quit smoking cigarettes, and my diet was far better.
2018 was going fairly well and it felt like life was getting back on track. And then mom got sick. It was a head cold, but being a diabetic, her immune system wasn’t the greatest. It ended up progressing into a sinus infection, and my mom ended up in the hospital. As it turns out, there was more going on. Along with being sick, she was also severely dehydrated. Her kidneys nearly crashed, and we nearly lost her right then. The end result of this episode would be my mother’s kidney’s being degraded to the point that dialysis would be required. Being a smoker, and a diabetic, a transplant for my mother was simply not in the cards.
She managed as best she could. God, did she fight. I mean, she FOUGHT. She never frowned. Never showed how much it dragged her down. She never even had a hiccup in her faith, and not once through 20+ years of fighting diabetes did I ever hear her blame God.
Herself, and all of us came to terms with this new routine in our lives.
Sidebar - If you haven’t figured it out yet, my wife and I chose to stay with my parents even after being married and beginning to make our own way. Why? #1, because as I illustrated above, my parents sacrificed damn near everything for me so I could pursue hockey. When it comes to my wife, they allowed her to move in after only 3 weeks of dating because her father went after her one night while I was on the phone with her. My parents wouldn’t allow that, so within a couple hours, I was at her place picking her up. And that is why we never left my parent’s side. Because they never left ours, and family is meant to stick together. In no universe were we going to allow my mother and father to face this challenge alone. Nor was I going to allow my father to shoulder the entire financial burden.
We were doing well, and things were stabilizing. I truly felt good about my life, and it’s direction. I had finally worked up the courage to start my own business as a meal planner/personal chef, business was good, my anxiety and addictions seemed to be in check. To start 2019, I had the opportunity of a lifetime and was able to go to NYC to train at Renzo Gracie’s main academy.
It was during this trip that I had my last drink. February 5th, 2019. And I have been dry ever since. With my addictions firmly in the rear-view, I was sincerely optimistic and loaded chock full of hope.
Annnnnnnd then life did that thing again in Spring/Summer 2019. You know the thing. That thing it does to level you out. The thing wherein everything is going well, and then the roof caves in out of nowhere.
My right knee had given up the good fight … again. I completely tore my lateral meniscus and required yet another surgery. This wasn’t such a big deal, other than the fact that it kind of set the stage for the summer that was to come.
About a month after surgery, my wife gets a phone call. It was her mother letting her know that my wife’s grandmother was in the hospital with shortness of breath, but it didn’t appear to be serious.
She passed the next day. This crushed my wife, as her and her mom’s mom were very close.
Not even a week goes by, it was my birthday, as a matter of fact. And the wife gets another call. This time, it was her mom being rushed to the hospital. Her BP had bottomed out, and her heart was struggling. within 3 days, my wife had lost her mother. In a span of a week, she lost her grandmother and mother. It hit like a ton of bricks - how quick things can change, and how fast the things you love most can be gone. Oh, and how poignant that realization would be less than a month later.
August 14th, 2019 had begun as normal. We went to JiuJitsu class like normal. As class ended and I got to my bag, I realized my phone was blowing up. I opened it to see 16 missed calls. What were the calls about?..
This. Our home had caught fire due to faulty wiring in the walls. It didn’t “burn down”, but it was totaled. We lost everything. What the fire didn’t destroy, the smoke and water did. The only things saved were: all human life, all of our pets, and all of me and my wife’s JiuJitsu gear (I’d say that’s a sign, no?). My father’s Bible which was on the kitchen table was also unscathed. But aside from that, it was all gone. Our home of 19 years, gone. It is where me and my wife were married. Gone. I assure you, losing a home to a fire is not “like moving”. We didn’t get to choose what heirlooms and keepsakes we got to keep. Nope. It was all gone.
We had renter’s insurance which put us up in a hotel but the coverage did not come close to covering all we lost. It was a complete kick in the gut.
Not to be outdone, 2020 rolls around and goes about putting an end to my meal planning business thanks to Hoaxvid.
Aside from the onslaught of bullshit we all had to endure in 2020, our lives stayed fairly mellow. Which was good, because all 4 of us needed more healing than a couple months would offer. We settled into our new home, and began doing our very best to make it ours and gain some sort of normalcy back. To this day, sometimes I still wake and have a moment of “where the hell am I?”.
2021 became another seminal moment in my life. One which most of you were around for and helped me through. This is the first time I’m telling this complete story publicly. It was March 4th to be exact. Around 3am I noticed my cat was acting a little weird.
I walk into the living room, and can hear my mom gasping for breath and saying “I can’t breathe”. Her and my father were in the bathroom with her oxygen tank. Now, these sort of episodes had happened before. Suffice it to say calling an ambulance and going to the hospital given her health had become somewhat normal. But this one? This one felt different from the jump. The look on her face was genuine fear. Something was wrong. Big time.
I call 911, and I’m on the phone with them while popping back into my parent’s bedroom to check on her. I go and check and she says “My Heart, bubby, My Heart” - It wasn’t until after the fact that I realized she wasn’t talking about her heart. She was telling me she loved me. One of her nicknames for me was “My Heart”. She was letting me know that I was her heart.
After about 6-7 minutes the paramedics arrived. During this time, my mother had lost consciousness in my wife’s arms. We exit the room to allow the medics room to work. A couple minutes go by, and I hear a flat line. I go rushing to the hallway and peer over a medic’s shoulder to see them furiously performing CPR. They did this for 17 minutes (I’m not kidding) until they got a rhythm back, but by this time I firmly believe she was gone. I believe she passed in my wife’s arms. What went to the hospital was a shell.
She was brain dead, and never wanting to live her life in such a way helped us to make the decision to take her off of life support on Sunday, March 7th, at 7:00pm. She passed a couple of hours later at 9:11. And with that, this southern mama’s boy lost his wingman and biggest supporter. It still crushes me to talk about to this day, but mama wouldn’t want me sitting on my feelings. I love you mom, I hope you’re proud of me.
I have nothing to hide. I’ve been arrested once for possession of cannabis in 2004. I’m an alcoholic. I’m a pill addict. Despite the fact I’ve done neither in years (even after my knee surgery in 2019, I didn’t accept my prescription), it will still always be a part of me and something I actively keep myself from doing.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I’ve wronged people who didn’t deserve it. I’ve sinned, as we all have. I may not be perfect, but I am real. And just like all of you, I fight for my, and my family’s survival every single day. I fight to better myself every single day, and I strive to be closer to God every day (although I could probably deal with cleaning my language up a bit lol).
I’ve went from being a burnout line cook, to being sober and doing my very best to aid in saving this country while also consistently working to be a better person and servant of God. I am, for all intents and purposes, a work in progress - as we all are.
This has become my life. My mission. My passion. And maybe it didn’t “become” anything. Maybe, in fact, it has been there my whole life - researching, digging for truth, bringing people hope and light .. these are things I’ve done my entire life but never put any weight behind because I was always sidetracked by cooking, music, or hockey.
I cannot express my gratitude to all of you enough. Your support and love have carried me through some dark times and your continued support of me and my content gives me the motivation to keep trucking day after day after day.
My Substack will be switching to paid subscriptions. There will be plenty of free content, and my videos will always remain free to view. However, as I progress into the realm of doing this 10-12 hours everyday, I have to find areas where I can make revenue and provide for my family. I don’t apologize for this. I am a Capitalist, and I believe people providing honest work should earn an honest wage. Even the Patriots and Sons Of Liberty had funding during the Revolutionary War, frens. They didn’t do it for free. They had families to take care of as well.
God Bless all of you. God Bless America. God Bless the world.
Remember, God wins in the end. WWG1WGA
What a tumultuous journey you have had ~ you made me cry. I cried because of your tragedies, your strength of perseverance, your herculean efforts to overcome your addictions and being able to share your personal story with thousands of people. I admire you for sharing your vulnerabilities ~ not an easy feat by any measure.
I am so thankful for you and your talents. You are appreciated. Sincerely, Sunny_Day
Wow!! Praise God!! You were made for such a time as this. God has been preparing you your whole life. God bless you and your family 🙏
Keep up the awesome work!!