As I approached the crumbling, condemned building, it was painfully obvious that my life wasn’t going so well.
Just a few months before I had driven my mom’s mini van several hours to see a friend. Before I left, I’d pack a case or two of beer into an ice chest and put them in the backseat, just within arm’s reach.
I was lethally hung over from the day and night before and I thought having “one or two” on the drive there would make me feel better by the time I got there.
The first few beers did the trick.. . I felt great…
so i had 10 or 15 more.
By the time the police pulled me over I was in full blackout mode. I was swerving on the highway and luckily (I can say that now) I was stopped.
But even as the police officer put the handcuffs on me I didn’t feel like a criminal… Because by all accounts, I wasn’t really a bad guy.
I was just incredibly sad.
You see, some horrible things had happened in my life and I was still reeling from their effects. We grew up pretty broke, then my parents divorced a few times, then my Dad committed suicide.
As soon as I was old enough, I moved to Dallas, TX to try to escape all of that. But while I was living there, I got the call that my older brother had also committed suicide.
I moved back to Oklahoma to try to “save the family”. But what I ended up doing was drinking like a lunatic and causing more problems for everyone.
I was a sad mess!
- When I got really sad, I drank.
- When I drank, I blacked out.
- When I blacked out, I drove.
- When I drove blacked out, I got arrested.
This was my pattern for years.
But wait a minute… Let’s get back to the story.
A few months after being pulled over, I stood in court. The Judge was definitely a “good ol’ boy” and my attorney wasn’t much help either.
He was really cheap. I paid him a few hundred bucks at the most. He wasn’t there to fight for me like a great lawyer would. He just told me to take whatever they gave and deal with it.
In other words… I was screwed.
That’s the difference between having money and being broke. A $200 attorney versus a $200,000 attorney is night and day.
- If you have the cash, you go home
- If you’re broke… you’re doomed
They gave me the maximum punishment allowed my law. But they were kind enough to let me go home, take care of my things and come back at a later date.
So here I was – several weeks after court… walking into jail… on purpose. Checking myself in like it was some kind of horrible motel.
At the time, I felt like my life was over. I had no idea that it was actually the precursor to a new beginning.
Letters From Home
When you’re in jail, you have a lot of free time.
You fill your day by reading books, doing crossword puzzles, and playing dominoes and card games.
You also write A LOT of letters.
When you have no connection to the outside world, or the internet or a cell phone you have to make due with what’s left.
There was a payphone, but the cost to make a collect call was astronomical. And the last thing I wanted to do was be more of a burden to my family and friends.
So I wrote a lot letters. And I received a lot of letters back.
One day I got a letter from my Mom. In it, she explained everything that was going on and filled me in on everything that I’d missed.
“Your sister is doing this, your little brother is doing that. Aunt ”whoever“ was in town…” You know, stuff like that.
In this letter she mentioned something new.
She wrote: “We got a new computer, and it’s connected to the internet!”
This was pretty surprising to me. I didn’t think we would ever be able to afford a computer and internet access. To me those were luxuries for “rich people.”
I wasn’t the most understanding guy in the world back then. So when I read that they were playing with this cool new thing while I was sitting in jail, I got pissed off.
I wrote back something like: “Why did you guys wait to get rich until I was gone?”
Yes… I was kind of an asshole.
She wrote back: “We’re not richer without you, we’re POORER without you!”
Of course… she was right. I was just being a jerk…
But at the time, I couldn’t see it like that.
Months later, I was finally able to go home.
I walked out of that decaying building, squinted at the sunlight and took a big breath of fresh air. My mom was there to pick me up. She was driving the same mini van that I’d gotten pulled over in. We got in, and made the 2 hour drive home.
When we got there, the first thing I wanted to do was check out this computer thing.
I’d been on the internet a few times, but that was just a few hours in a Yahoo chat room. For a long time, I thought that Yahoo Chat WAS the internet.
I thought the whole thing was just 20 or 30 people arguing with each other in a chat room – and I was cool with that. Arguing with people is fun.
But it had been a long time since I’d been online. So I was excited to check it out.
I remember very clearly, sitting down at that computer for the first time.
It was set up on Mom’s little desk in the dining room. The computer was one of those old off-white towers with a monitor that had a backend on it that weighed 80 pounds.
I asked my little brother how to get on the Internet. I was expecting him to open up Yahoo Chat.
Instead, he opened Internet Explorer and showed me a Search Engine.
I started searching the web for all kinds of random stuff. And I was shocked by all the information I was able to find.
I sat back in the chair and stared at the screen.
“There’s got to be a way to make money with this thing…” I thought… “I just have to figure it out.”
This began an almost 10 year journey of trying to crack the code.
And when I did figure it out, it would change my life…