Now that I have some folks' attention, it is time for me to vet myself.
There are those who think I represent the firefighters, and they are wrong.
There are those that think I represent certain candidates for the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees, and they are wrong.
There are those that think I speak for certain citizens groups, and they are wrong.
Truth be told, if I was one of those groups, I would not want me representing them. I am damaged goods, and quite honestly, they deserve better. They fight the good fight, and they do it in an above board manner, consistent with how a democracy is supposed to work.
I am also an example of how democracy is supposed to work. When you are no longer fit to serve, you should resign or be voted out of office, and this brings me to the point of all of the political blogs I have written thus far. My story:
I served proudly on the Board of Education for Clarenceville Schools in Livonia for seven years. Prior to that I had served as a precinct delegate, and state delegate for the Republican Party.
It all came crashing down one night at my home, and to protect just a bit of my family's privacy, I will only say that I called the police knowing that I was kissing a seven-year school board run goodbye. It was all my fault. I had relapsed on a drug that used to be my drug of choice 13 years earlier. I had given up 13 years of "clean time," and a lot of respect I had gained from folks who trusted me to do the right thing.
It was the worst night of my life sitting in jail that night on a charge of possession of cocaine. I had let my colleagues on the schoolboard down, I had let all of the people in the school district who I had worked with down, I had let all of those who had trusted me - and elected me - down, I had let the awesome girls on my tennis team down, and most importantly, I had let my children and my family down.
The next morning, when I came home, I made a pot of coffee, sat down, and called the president of the school board, and resigned my seat, as well as my position as head coach of the varsity ladies' tennis team.
Roughly a half-hour after getting home, with my seat on the board resigned, the Detroit News called asking for a comment, followed by the Free Press. They seemed surprised that I would comment but I wanted to make sure that I apologized to my family, supporters and tennis team, so in that respect I was quite comfortable speaking with them.
They treated me as fairly in their stories as anyone could expect under the circumstances, and my only criticism would be that in the stories that they ran, they neglected to communicate that I had wanted to apologize to my girls on the tennis team. I eventually ended up on a website called MyBad.com.
That day was spent with family, and it was a difficult day to be sure. My marriage had been on the rocks for quite a while before this happened, and this pretty much was a death blow to what turned out to be a 20-year marriage. I could sit here and rationalize that the strain on my marriage was to blame for my relapse, but that would be the cop-out of all time. I relapsed because I had become complacent about my recovery. I had become arrogant, and in the end, self-serving and indulgent. In short, I had become everything that I rail against now, six years after the worst couple years of my life.
In the weeks that followed, I received hate mail, hate texts on my phone and pretty much became a pariah in my neighborhood and my community. Every good thing that I had ever done in my life was immediately erased and my relapse was the only thing that mattered to anyone, and the only thing that most people would remember me by.
People who were my friends, people I had known for 15 years, wanted nothing to do with me. Neighbors, whose kids I had coached for nine years suddenly hated me. I literally became a recluse, isolating myself from the world. I remembered the days when I would go out to get my mail, and someone would be driving by and stop to chat, but now they just kept on driving. That stuff really hurt. It got to the point that I would get my mail at night, and take my rubbish out at night.
In the months that followed, my wife and I separated, and I was alone. These were the worst times I can ever remember. You have a lot of time to think - too much time to think. There was the bitter breakup of my marriage, and to be honest, there was lots of fighting on both sides, and then there was all of the pain and humiliation of what I had done.
I was literally alone, fighting to recover and stay clean, and trying to get back some semblance of as normal a life as one could have under the circumstances. I can remember writing each of the girls on my tennis team handwritten letters, telling them how sorry I was and urging them to learn from my mistakes, so that they would never make them. I was absolutely heartened that some, not all, forgave me.
From time to time, six years later, I still hear from a couple of them, and as a matter of fact, I just bought some cookie dough for a fundraiser from one of my tennis girls, who, after graduation, has gone on to help coach of of the teams she played on. I am very proud of her for giving back her time and energy to the teams that she enjoyed playing on.
Things were very tough for the next year. One of the toughest things was to go out in public amongst people I had let down, but I could not run from it. I knew that I had to stand up and face people from the school again one way or the other. I had a son who was playing sports, and I was not going to hide out and miss his games. I dreaded that first game, I truly did. It was awful hard to go there and be alone, endure the mean looks, endure being ignored by folks who six months ago would have chatted me up, and sat with me in the stands, but that's how it was. I literally stressed out the whole day before every game. Road games became my friend, as not as many parents attended them. The further away the better. Six years later, I look back and reflect, and I know that this was what I had to go through in order to become a better person from the experience.
Looking back, I can remember the day that I finally decided in my heart and in my mind that I was finally going to move on, and grow from this experience. I had received a text from one of my tennis players, and she asked me to come and watch a few of the girls at their next softball game. I was reluctant at first, but I really wanted to go and support them, because in my darkest days, they had supported me when almost nobody else would. These girls through a simple text message of support had gotten me through some days and nights when I literally didn't want to take another breath. I decided to show up, and it was just an awesome day. I was able to talk to my girls, and cheer them on, and I went home feeling pretty good about the whole thing, and glad that I had decided to go. Three days later, I got home from work and grabbed my mail. By this time I was getting it during the day, which meant that I was having more better days than bad days. I saw a letter hand-addressed to me, and I was excited because I knew it was from one of my tennis girls, as it had been hand addressed, and I had gotten a couple of others in the past. I didn't even wait to go in the house to read it. I read it on my porch.
Turns out, it was an anonymous letter telling me how I had embarrassed the school district, that everybody hated me, and to never show my face there again.
I can honestly say that I am a tough guy. Over the years you will vote a certain way on a certain issue and people will be angry with you. They will say mean things about you. They will tell lies about you. You need to have thick skin, and wear your big-boy britches to some meetings. Well, for whatever reason, this letter affected me in a way that no other letter or words or whatever had ever affected me. I suspect it's because I was expecting it to be a letter from one of my tennis girls, and the shock of it being hate mail was too much for me. I don't know, but what happened is that I sat on my porch sobbing uncontrolably for about 15 minutes. I didn't know or care who saw me. Everything, and I mean everything, finally came to a head, and it all came out like a volcano.
I eventually went in my house, made myself dinner, and sometime that night decided that I was going to move on. I decided that I was not going to allow people to bully me into submission and dictate my actions anymore. Sure, I screwed up, and I couldn't be any more sorry, but life goes on, and it was that night that I decided that I was not going to let those actions be the focal point of my life.
I decided that, to some, all the good things I had done were erased, but to the people whose lives I positively affected, those things can never be erased. The kids who learned the game of baseball from me didn't suddenly forget how to play. The girls who learned from me to love the game of tennis still play. The matches we won, still stand in the record books. A man whose life I once saved, is most likely still alive today. Yeah, I once pulled an unconsious man out of a burning car, and according to a Civillian Departmental Citation awarded to me by the Chief of Police in Redford Township, I saved his life. Yeah, I'm a real live hero, and I got the piece of paper to prove it.
In the end, I needed to come to grips with the fact that although I have done some bad things, I had also done some good things, and there are only two people who can rightly judge me. Myself, and in the end, God.
Six years later, my relationship with my ex-wife is amicable, and we are no longer trying to claw each other's eyes out. My relationship with my boys is beyond what I deserve, and for that I am grateful. My ex-wife and my boys actually read my blogs and give their input, albeit privately. My true friends showed themselves to be true, because when I wanted them to leave me alone, they steadfastly refused to leave my side. There are also folks in my community who have forgiven me, and welcomed me back into their lives. There are also a some people who never pushed me from their lives, I just never saw it at the time.
I did end up moving to Plymouth Township after the sale of my house, but that was mostly because of me having a pet and the limited amout of choices one has in pet-friendly apartments. I won't lie, though, part of it was a needed change of scenery and a new beginning. All in all, after my disgusting display of behavior and all of the bad things that came from it, I can honestly say that after six years, give or take, I am a better person than I was while I was sitting on the Board of Education at Clarenceville Schools.
I have learned many lessons with the proper amount of distance and hindsight as well, and this brings me back to why I even began blogging about this Plymouth Township election in the first place.
I learned that the shelf life of a trustee or councilperson is pretty much two terms. In my case, near the end of my second term, I was becomming arrogant and self-serving. I didn't realize it at the time, but looking back, I can identify instances where I bullied newer boardmembers. I can see instances where I became consumed by my power, and quite honestly, full of myself to the point of narcissism. Looking back, I can now see that it was, and is, not a very good look for me, and I will always carry a necessary amount of shame for my actions. There were folks I treated like crap, they know who they are, and while I am pretty sure they will never read this, I would want them to know that I am sorry for my actions.
How does this relate to Ron Edwards? It relates in the fact that it takes a bully to know one. I know a self-serving bully when I see one, because that was once me. Ron Edwards was the reason I ended up blogging about politics again. Matt Jachman from the Observer saw me at the last board meeting, and we talked after the meeting. I knew him from my school board days. We chatted, and he asked me if I was getting back into politics. I told him basically that after my abrupt departure I just recently got interested because of the craziness here in Plymouth Township, and we left it at that. He may not want a compliment from me, but I think Matt is a really decent guy, and he always treated me fairly, which, as an elected official, is all one can ask for. But I digress.
I stayed away from politics, and from all those I knew in the political circles for obvious reasons until one day I saw Ron Edwards throw a hissy fit on the news. It hit home with me, because I saw the same sort of arrogance I had once shown. I decided to do some digging and see how long he had been the treasurer and confirmed what I had thought. The man has been around too darn long, and is now consumed with his power. I looked at the date of his re-election and vowed to myself that he would not get my support. As time went on, I found out more and more about the guy, and what I have found bothers me. In my opinion, he is the proverbial "playground bully" and to me, he represents the worst of my behaviors, and I will no longer stand aside and allow those things to happen without at least saying something about it.
I initially was only going to share my opinions about Mr. Edwards. I only wanted to point out some of his well-known bullying tacticts, but then Mr. Reaume stepped into the fray and wrote an attack ad against Plymouth Township Clerk Joe Bridgman. It was the same type of bullying that Mr. Edwards does, but it was done with a certain kind of political savvy that Mr. Edwards clearly lacks.
I really do not understand why Mr. Reaume would have done this. I am absolutely conflicted by this guy. I hate the way he attacked a fellow board member, and hate even more how he used false information to do it. This would be a slam dunk against him if it wasn't for the other things that he has done in his life.
This is the part where I have learned from my life experiences, that I need to look at the sum of Mr. Reaume's life accomplishments. If you ask me what I think, I'll tell you that he lied in an attack ad against a sitting boardmember from his own political party, and that to me, is wrong and unprofessional on every single level. But if you were to ask his daughters what they think of the man, they will tell you the story of how their lives were changed dramatically for the better because of his selfless actions. They will tell you that he completely changed his way of life in order to give them a chance at a decent life. I'm pretty sure I know how God will judge this one, and the sum of the mans actions are the whole of his life's accomplishments, and one with my life experiences can never forget that important point.
I don't see the same things with Mr. Edwards. I refuse to count his tireless work on the Good Old Fashion July 4th Picnic, or the annual fireworks display the same way as I count Mr. Reaume's other accomplishments.
Having said my piece, I have found this whole experience to be very cathartic. I am sure there will be those who will leap all over this to discredit me. That is OK. I am sure I will be called a junkie, druggie, and a whole host of other names. I've heard them all, and it is OK. I understand, and unfortunately for me, I earned them. Those who are smart though will put the word "recovering" in front of whatever name they choose to call me if they want their words to be true. These days, my pee is as pure as the driven snow. ;)
This blog may come as a huge relief to some, who will correctly assume that nobody will take the word of an admitted drug addict. They will see this blog as a self-repudiation of my own words about Mr. Edwards and Mr. Reaume. I would caution those who will feel that way to remember a couple of important things, though. The truth about me, and my life does not change the truth about the lives and actions of Mr. Edwards, or anyone else I choose to write about in the future. The words I write here today, do not change the words that Mr. Reaume wrote in an attack ad about a fellow board member. His accusations were blatently false. Nothing about me changes that fact.
Those that accused me of being a spokesperson for whatever candidate or group they oppose, have a little crow to eat today. Quite simply, you were wrong. I am not a reporter for Patch, either. I write a blog, nothing more and nothing less. Mr. McKay, who watched from a distance, probably found it a bit amusing, I think, because I told him from the outset that this particular blog was coming and he knew that a day would come that it would become clear that I was speaking only for myself. I am certainly not the spokesman for any group whatsoever. What group or what candidate for public office in their right mind would have me? I am damaged goods.
I may be damaged goods to most, but to me, my friends, and those who love me, I am just a person, imperfect in many ways, but always a work in progress...