An honor to serve? How about a fair chance at a job, or housing…

Society doesn’t trust me to use federal assistance for food or school tuition, is willing to refuse me housing and employment simply and solely based on a background check with no discussion because of my criminal record, and some countries won’t let me cross their borders…

…and yet you trust me with the “honor” to be on a “jury of peers” and serve jury duty?

Really.  I find this ironic and hypocritical.  What do you think?

Shame on Hoosiers, Shame on America!  Give us a break!  (Read on to learn more…)

An honor to serve? I’d rather have a fair chance at a job, or housing…or other assistance granted to other citizens. Thanks!


I’ve learned a lot in the last 5 years about the barriers our society puts in place for people living with a criminal record.  I was as surprised to learn about them as many people I talk with about my experience.  I guess “ignorance is bliss.”  But ignorance also keeps the status quo in place…  Which is why I try to talk about what I’ve learned, in hopes that education and awareness might help remove the stigma and perhaps even help to change laws or rules to make re-entry easier.

So to clarify – we are talking about someone like myself who is no longer on parole or probation, but has “served the time” for his or her crime.

In my case, I was fortunate enough to not do any actual time in jail or prison, apart from a couple hours around my original arrest.  (So I haven’t experienced the “full force” of “re-entry” – of returning to society after serving time for a crime.

For a lot of reasons, including a Higher Power who was looking out for me and some “next right things” I did when I hit bottom and sought help for my addiction, I was fortunate enough to be given a plea bargain and a chance, through probation, to have my felony charges dropped to misdemeanors – if I met the conditions of my plea bargain.  I was doing well at first in 2010, but was over-confident in my ability to stay clean for the first year of my recovery (while I was on probation) – and ended up blowing the terms of my plea bargain.  While I successfully completed the balance of my 12 month term without issue, I found myself “living with” a felony record.

So, what barriers are in place for someone who has served their time, but still lives with a felony record?  In the State of Indiana (some of these are Federal issues, some are State-specific):

  • I can’t get a student loan for tuition assistance to go back to school
  • I can’t get food stamps
  • If landlords run background checks, I’m likely to face barriers securing an affordable, well-maintained place to rent and live
  • If employers run background checks and aren’t educated with new(er) guidelines related to “ban the box” and fair hiring practices, I’m likely to face barriers getting a job.  Learn more at:

  • I can’t travel to some countries in the world, including Canada (note: the same is true for individuals convicted of a DUI in the US…no travel to Canada!)
ReEntry Scorecard for the Midwest (click on image for details)
ReEntry Scorecard for the Midwest (click on image for details)


Two overarching principles emerged as key criteria in the grading system (with 1 being best and 10 the worst):

• State and federal laws should require individualized determinations about the suitability of someone with a criminal conviction for the opportunity, benefit or right sought that takes into consideration the nature of the conviction(s), the time that has elapsed since the conviction(s), the age of the person at the time of the conviction(s) and any evidence of rehabilitation.

• State and federal laws should prohibit government agencies, public and private employers, and others from considering information about arrests that did not lead to conviction when making decisions about a person’s eligibility for employment, housing, or other benefits.


Note: since I completed my probation, Indiana has made some steps in the right direction.  After ~8-10 years, under certain conditions, felony records can be expunged – which makes some of the issues/barriers I’m going to talk about mostly disappear.  Records are still accessible to law enforcement of course – but issues of employment, housing, travel – largely become a non-issue.  But, it’s still 10 years until I reach that point…so around 2021.  For details, see:


To learn more, check out:

An explanation and apology…as best I can via the web.

I’m grateful to be “on the other side” of a valley — but as is sometimes the case with my loud mouth and unfiltered comments, I have some damage control to do – “taking ownership for my sh**” as they say.

Or as one Christmas sign says, “Santa, I have some ‘splaining to do…”


It’s clear you’re upset about some things Todd, and I’m so sorry..however, you just managed to insult a whole lot of people in one fell swoop

I’ll lead off by saying that none of these words “justify” my actions or behavior over the last month, and in particular the last week.  There is damage that has been done to some relationships, which will possibly linger “under the surface” for quite some time.

For those who know me, and know my battle with addiction and mental illness (depression, mood swings, etc), some of this will be easier to understand. For some who don’t know me or my journey to “get here,” it may not even come close to explaining my actions and behavior. I understand that – I simply ask for as much compassion and tolerance as you’re able to offer.  And I’ll live with the consequences…because that’s part of taking responsibility and owning “my sh**.”

This year, life continues to happen – even with some of the grounding and framing I set out for 2015 in my “brand” and personal intentions for 2.015.

While I don’t want to go through all of what has been going on “behind the scenes” per se, suffice to say that continuing to look for part-time employment and considering a move to North Carolina in 2015 have brought me face-to-face with some of my demons and some of my past (many of which I’ve written about on my blog here before…)

Personal events in 2009 and 2010 have fundamentally changed my path in life, and either closed some doors permanently or is keeping them closed for several more years…  And while none of the information is new, facing the topics and roadblocks again is hard…and sparks off some grieving and a range of feelings from anger, to sadness, to resentment…  And, I sometimes let those flow over into comments and actions that have hurt others (as the quote above says!)

Of course, having our timelines for the move to NC change again (probably not until 2016!) set off another set of reactions and feelings – and grieving…

And, then last week, a friend that I used to run around with in my using days passed away from heart failure at the age of 23.  A couple people in my life knew about this, but not many…so that was working in the background, bringing about its own feelings, grieving, regrets, self-loathing and fear.  So young…

Lastly, an individual who robbed me last year and has been “AWOL” / missing for a year suddenly contacted me because he was “embarrassed” that I had posted about the burglary / house invasion.  That resurfaced some of the pain of that trauma…


As I’ve shared before, like most people, I’m trying my best, with good intentions – but am imperfect and will fall short sometimes.  So, if I’ve said or done something recently that hurt you – I’m truly sorry.  I’ve tried to “clean up” some of the damage that was posted to Facebook or the web – and as importantly, focused on personal apologies and conversations where the pain / damage was perhaps greatest.  And, I need to “regroup” and get back to better managing my issues and shit, such that they don’t “come out” in such ugly ways.  It’s a life-long process for me…so I’m doing my best, and try to patient and compassionate with myself (and others!) along the journey.

With some exceptions, I rarely intentionally hurt others – but when I do (intentionally or unintentionally!), where I’m aware, I do endeavor to go back and make amends.  So, if I’ve hurt you and we still need to clear the air, even after this post, please let me know.  Of course, as I aspire to as much as I can (and will still fail!), please express your unmet needs and valid feelings in an objective manner that allows me to hear and receive your feedback. Silence is by far the worst of all choices. Passive-aggressive behavior I can work through; silence robs us both of a growth experience and an ability to connect.

Perfectly imperfect,





Clean 2-8-14 #knowyourstatus REALLY?

20 years later…
What have we learned about science and hate?

Clean 2-8-14  #knowyourstatus

Want me to get scientific [on you]…and explain why having HIV is dirty?

I can fully explain it to you.  Chemistry and biology.

It’s a bacteria infection.  Which is not clean.

Your being mad at the world…is not gonna get rid of your HIV brother.  I promise that.

This is an online profile and part of a text conversation with a 21-year-old tonight in the early to mid 2010’s.

AIDS is God’s judgement on homosexuals.

This was from a phone conversation I had with my mother in the early 1990’s.  She had a master’s in microbiology.

I’m not sure which scares – or hurts – me the most.  Judgement and hate from my flesh and blood family, or judgement and hate from my family of choice.

At least my mother grew in her understanding and compassion over the years — along with the scientific understanding of this very manageable health condition.  When I eventually contracted the HIV virus in 2012, she no longer spoke in such an uneducated way.

I only wish this “SomeHotDude” from the millennial generation  learns some things about health, compassion and acceptance.

Anger, sadness and fear…oh my!

Am I mad “at the world?”  I’m mad at a choice I made to relapse in December 2011, which put me in a situation where I had unsafe sex in a careless way that showed little self-respect.  It’s a choice I made to use, and from there…my addiction wanted me dead.  So yes, I’m mad at myself and my addiction.

Am I mad and saddened and hurt by my dead grandfather, who 20+ years later I find out wrote me out of his will because I’m gay?  Yes, I’m mad at his narrow-minded bigotry that excluded me simply because of whom I love.

Am I mad at this cocky 21-year-old who verbalizes things I thought about people with HIV/AIDS for 20+ years, because of my own fear, prejudice and insecurity?  Yes, I’m mad and sad at seeing myself in him, mad at him for openly expressing his prejudice while I at least had the maturity along the way of keeping my fears and insecurities to myself.

Are the decisions or actions we’ve both made any different?  No.

Am I frustrated that our society continues to marginalize, label and push people who are different down into the gutter — whether it be based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, health condition, age or some other “class” we use to describe one another — rather than seeing one another as human beings?  Yes.

And let’s be clear – I’m part of that society, and have some of those same prejudices, so I hope this doesn’t come across as self-righteous.  I’m human, not perfect…just trying to learn and grow with what life experiences I have.

The question is: while we all may have these thoughts, do we let them influence our actions?  Or do we instead ignore the “pre-judement based on a stereotype, label or generalization” and choose acceptance, compassion, understanding?   Do we look past the societal labels, and seek to get to know the person in front of us?  In front of me…

Am I curious about that person, who they are and what they believe?   Do I think critically about the information I’m presented as I listen?  Do I show compassion, even in the face of fear, differences, insecurities?

It’s not always easy…believe me!  But that’s how I aspire to live, at the age of 45.  I only wish I knew at 21 what I now understand more fully…

Clean 2-8-14  #knowyourstatus

So yes, it scares and saddens me that this 21 year old is growing up comfortable about being gay, but judging people in our own community because he is afraid.

So my responses to his blindness were:

Clean 3-17-14, HIV+ March 2012

What does cleanliness have to do with status?  HIV status has nothing to do with being clean or dirty.

Do you like it when gay people are all labeled as perverts?  Then why would it be acceptable to label all HIV+ people as dirty [because people who are HIV- are instead clean]?

Perversion has nothing do with sexual orientation, just like cleanliness has nothing to do with viral status.

So yes, I’m clean and HIV+ — as if those two “labels” are really the antithesis of each other.  (I’ve been on medication since I was first diagnosed, and my viral load has been undetectable since January 2013)

One has to do with bathing habits, or language usage (for fuck’s sake…), or perhaps how tidy one keeps one’s house.  The other is a manageable health condition.  Two very different concepts.

This isn’t the 1980’s folks…get educated.  (Or for any millennials reading this, it’s not the 90’s. )

I hope this 21 year old never contracts the HIV virus and has to eat his own words…like I’ve had to re-evaluate my thoughts and beliefs…or like my mom had to re-evaluate her religion.