“I wasn’t scared to try pot, I wanted to do it.” Cutting Honesty. Patrick was fifteen years old about to brazenly smoke marijuana for the first time, armed with a screw-it attitude and determination to shake things up. The fifteen-year-old who blazed with his friends and drank with impunity would later become a twenty-four-year-old man living at home surrounded by a sea of empty vodka bottles and an aftertaste of the birth of despondence. But the teenager committed to getting high despite potential consequences wasn’t always so cavalier. He was once just a little boy in Wisconsin.

Born in Milwaukee in 1991 to a mom, dad, and two older sisters,  all his basic needs were met and his family wanted the best for him. His father was a strong, handsome, and stoic personal trainer, and his mother a homemaker and teacher. Patrick spoke of his childhood family dynamics emphatically and with an almost academic tone, introducing a web of familial suffering.        

Patrick’s father had an aggressive and authoritarian parenting style. “Large, muscular, and attractive;” an intimidating man that possessed qualities Patrick grew to both abhor and idolize. With Patrick’s father vacillating in his mind between the proverbial mental pedestal and dump in which Patrick placed him, Patrick’s Mom ran back and forth attempting to keep the peace. 

In his early years, Patrick wasn’t so easy to get along with. “I was not really good socially,” he said. “There were [only] a few kids who could tolerate me. It was hard to be myself with people I was trying to befriend. It was an identity crisis at a very early age.” Cutting honesty, again. Layered this time with self-denigration. 

When asked when he began to find himself, Patrick replied, “Not until a year ago when I was able to see the steps past step four. I could see my vulnerabilities—I could see that they were not weaknesses. I didn’t have to have shame for my experiences.”

While he began to find himself just a year or so ago, music found Patrick decades earlier. Drum lessons began at nine. Drums provided Patrick a rhythm with which to navigate the world, and he marched to his own beat; a beat that carried him through the challenges of middle school, where “[Patrick] wanted acceptance, and would lash out to get it.”  

In high school, Patrick sharpened his good student, letter-earning-athlete persona all the while drinking himself to oblivion on weekends with his friends and smoking pot like a Rastafarian. Notably, Patrick was living a dual existence. Good guy, bad guy. “Rushing to help carry books at school, then rushing to vandalize the neighborhood at night.” And his body was changing. A pudgy kid was hitting the gym regularly, shedding baby fat, inflating his ego. He gave himself a hard time about that, too.  It seemed that modeling behavior after his Father caused internal conflict. 

Fun with problems became pure problems by his senior year. Patrick had lost the persona he had worked so hard to build: “smart, good looking, edgy…” and his friends who drank and smoked with him saw the need to stage an intervention, but Patrick’s drinking, drugging, and cheating on his girlfriend continued. And then there was a house party. Things were stolen. People were arrested. Patrick caught a charge and went to jail instead of college.

Then Patrick went to community college. He stumbled through music theory and cores. A year later, he was sentenced and had to serve eight months behind bars.

Isolated and detached, Patrick was able to smoke spice while he was in and out of jail in a work-release program. Since spice doesn’t show up on drug tests, he was “fantasizing again. It was all about [him] during those months. [He] went inside. [Total] self-absorption and [self-pity].” He even overdosed during this time. And this didn’t stop him, either.

After release, Patrick had managed to start a band that gained momentum. From age 19 to 23 Patrick took his bandmates on a wild ride. They had a front-row seat to the harrows of his alcoholism, and to a potential launchpad for real exposure, on track to open for major bands. The date for their big break was set, but Patrick’s internal saboteur took the stage. His behavior became so toxic that his friends had to cut ties, removing him from the very band that he created; things fell apart, the band broke up.

At age 24 Patrick’s parents discovered, as you may recall, a sea of empty vodka bottles in the room they were allowing him to stay in. This was the beginning of a series of wake-up calls. Patrick went to treatment, where he reimplemented his good student persona. He tried superficially, but he didn’t have an abiding understanding of the steps, according to him, and he wasn’t ready, in retrospect. He relapsed and moved into an apartment alone.

Patrick’s shoulders dropped as he moved into what I realized would be a heavy moment. He forebodingly recalled those days in Milwaukee. . .a connection to deep suffering was palpable. And yet he sat across from me, with five-and-a-half months sober. While opening up about a chapter of his drinking that brought him shame, I couldn’t help but think of his amazing drum solo during the Beit T’Shuvah talent show. . .                   

After the apartment-from-hell chapter, Patrick’s insurance afforded him treatment in Los Angeles. Moving to the City of Angels was a game-changer. He transitioned from Wisconsin’s dreary rooms of AA where young people were sparsely sprinkled to the recovery mecca of the West Coast; Los Angeles AA  introduced Patrick to sober musicians and other industry folk.. And his myopic view of sobriety broadened as his despondent view of the promises of Alcoholics Anonymous became a hopeful one. AA had given him a new pair of glasses.

Unfortunately, Patrick eventually fell away from his program and relapsed again, which led to his admission to Beit T’Shuvah. He didn’t lose the tools he had gained, however, Patrick hit the ground running. Today, he works in the kitchen, elevating our meals with his culinary skills. Patrick plays drums with the Beit T’Shuvah band for Friday night and Saturday morning services and is a force of percussive nature. Most importantly, he is actively involved in his step work, even carrying the message to two sponsees.

The familial web of suffering is untangling through attraction, not promotion, today. Patrick’s relationship with his father has transformed, and Patrick’s father has evolved. He “expresses emotion more these days, because he learned how sensitive I was. He says I love you.” Patrick’s mother and he have an improved relationship, too. Today Patrick and his Mom show each other love through healthy boundaries. Patrick deeply appreciates his Mother and respects her for holding her own as he works to mend their tethered bond. Manipulation has been replaced with authentic connection.

When asked what he’d like BTS to know about him that we may not already know, Patrick’s response was unsurprisingly humble. “I’d like people to know I always want to continue to learn, I think there’s always more to learn– that there’s always potential for all of us.” And we all have our own internal rhythm whether or not we’re drummers. To live authentically, we must shed our propensity to impression-manage, to wear the ‘good student persona.’  Our God given drums fuel us each day. There are many beats. I close my eyes, I ground myself, I listen, and I realize. . . I need not mock anyone else’s rhythm, for I have my own. To whose drum beat are you marching?  

Spotlight on Patrick D. by Chris C.

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