Host and author Mark S. Negley shares an important conversation with comedian Jeff Allen. Jeff is a very successful comedian who is living a joy filled life, despite a sordid past. Jeff is an alcoholic and drug addict celebrating over 3 decades clean and sober!
Jeff Allen: I have only learned one thing in 20 years of marriage and it’s this, happy wife, happy life.
Jeff: If you’re married, you already know that. My dad tried to tell me the same thing in his own way on my wedding day. He came to me and he said, “Son, I have only one piece of marital advice for you. Before you argue with your new wife and believe me you’re going to argue with her before you do, I want you to stop and ask yourself two questions. “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?
Jeff: Then, he broke down and sobbed right in front of me.
Mark Negley: We understand that loss is not a one-size-fits-all. It comes in a million different forms, and all of them hurt.
Melyn Galbreath: We want you to know whatever your situation, there is hope, and you’re not alone.
Mark: That’s right, you will get through this. Please believe you can experience happiness and true joy again.
Melyn: Welcome to Survive-Alive-Thrive.
Mark: Navigating the journey from loss, to hope, to happiness.
Mark: I’m your host Mark Negley and today I have a very special guest. Jeff Allen will join us. Jeff, thanks for being here.
Jeff: Thanks for having me. Those of you who may not know [unintelligible 00:01:27]
Mark: That sucks. [laughs]
Jeff: One of those funeral things, “Hey, thanks for having me here.”
Jeff: Have you ever met a happy funeral director? [chuckling] Just awful, out of not working. Obviously, you can’t in and the guys doing cartwheels during the funeral. You met him at a golf course?
Mark: I think they’re inherently somber, I think is the idea.
Jeff: It’s funny, I had a guy, a friend of mine– I think I know we’re off-topic– A friend of mine, he had a funeral business. I said, “Was it a family business?” I didn’t know who grows up. He said, “No. Oddly enough when I was a kid, I used to play funeral parlor with my friends and stuff.”
Jeff: That spoke to me from a point of view that God does give inside of us purpose, and paths to take early in our life if we just pay attention. As I earlier said, I was really a morbid kid. I would just have my friends laying on the couch, and I would play funeral director [chuckles]. When I got old enough I went to college. Now, he has a chain of funeral parlors. I thought, “I always thought it was just a family thing [chuckles] [unintelligible 00:02:32]
Mark: Someone had to initiate– [crosstalk]
Jeff: That’s it, but God puts it in our hearts. Anyway, it has nothing to do with what we were going to talk about.
Mark: What you might be able to tell here as we get started is that Jeff is a professional comedian and a very accomplished Christian comedian. Really happy to have you here. Jeff, tell me a little bit about your career right now? How’s that going?
Jeff: We’re getting back to work. COVID hit and it was interesting. I had had a couple of videos go viral a year earlier. It was just a peak of a 40-year career. It was like a resurgence. I was just busy, busy, busy. Then all of a sudden, shockingly, nobody’s meeting to see comedy anymore. [laughs] It was five months at home. My wife told me after 30 days, “This is the first time in our entire marriage you’ve been home 30 consecutive days.
I said, “Really?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “I don’t believe you.” She goes, “I’ve been waiting to say that.” I know, okay. At day 34 I think she said, “When are you leaving?” She goes,
“I can’t take it anymore.” It’s picking back up. I’ve been very blessed to be able to at least keep my head above water where a number of my peers, basically, a lot of them have retired. We’re at that age now, and I’m old 65.
Mark: To put this in perspective, before the pandemic hit and changed so many lives, how many shows were you doing a year?
Jeff: I was on track. The previous year I was actually turning work down by the end of the year. Then, by March, I was as busy as I wanted to be, or I could be. It was interesting, my wife and I were having conversations about it because prior when our marriage started to fall apart, I remember I was getting audited by the IRS. He says, “How many days a year are you on the road?” I go, “I don’t know. It’s on the paper,” and I looked down, it was 228 days I was on the road.
It wasn’t all shows. It was 5 days at a club, 7 days at a club. I said, “No wonder she’s leaving me.” It’s weird that God would use the IRS to give me the epiphany I needed to go back home and fix things. It really hit me. I’m like, “No wonder she’s leaving. Oh my gosh.”
Mark: Obviously, people can look you up, YouTube, or Google-
Jeff: Oh, sure.
Mark: -Jeff Allen comedian”
Mark: Jeffallencomedy.com. What are your favorite clubs and memories that you want to share?
Jeff: Obviously, for start, I was 22-years-old. I got lucky, I started in 1978, and by 1980 the country exploded with clubs. There were more clubs than comedians really. By then I’d had a couple of years. I was able to travel the country, and be bad at something, and make a few bucks while you’re learning some craft.
Mark: You’re originally from the Chicago area?
Jeff: Yes, Chicago. We’ve lived everywhere. In Jersey, I’ve lived in Boston. I just followed the comedy scene where it was popular. New York, first time in there. Just I had heard about those clubs and heard the names that came out of those clubs in the day. I’ll tell you, the best show I had, the most moved I was, was when I did The Ryman Auditorium here first time.
Mark: Here in Nashville?
Jeff: Nashville. We’d just given our life to Christ, our marriage. We were just coming off of, which we’ll talk about maybe a little more, we had divorce papers filled out. She decided not to divorce me, and we decided to put everything together. God was really beginning to heal us. We moved to Nashville just for a new, fresh start. We had filed bankruptcy, we had all this stuff that had gone on.
I walked into the Ryman to see a friend of mine who managed some big artists. One of his artists was hosting a show at The Ryman. He says, “Do you want to go up and do 10 minutes?” “Are you kidding me? The Ryman, wow.” Looking at the pictures of Elvis and all the big names that had performed at the Ryman Auditorium. To be on that stage and walk off, my wife was in tears. She had–
Mark: Wonderful story.
Jeff: That was the beginning of a new career really. Some things had happened. There were people there that invited me to perform at the Belmont Mansion for 20 people. It was the Christ Presbyterian Choir. He calls me at home, “I got your number from my friend.” He said, “Would you mind doing a show? I don’t have any money, but it’s just to say thank you to the choir.” “Oh, sure. I’ll do it. I don’t care.”
There was a guy in there that knew Bill Gaither, the singer. He says, “I think Bill would like you,” and then I went to lunch with Bill. I had never heard of Bill Gaither, I don’t know who he is. I came home and told Tami, “I think I just had lunch with the Elton John of gospel music.” [chuckles] From there, I ended up touring with Bill for seven years. It’s just interesting that if you’re willing to be available, for anything, God will use it.
Mark: Let’s jump into that a little bit. Obviously, it’s fair to say today you have a full and joy-filled life. You are-
Jeff: Oh, absolutely.
Mark: -happily married to a woman that you love deeply.
Jeff: Yes. Being the skeptic and cynic, I am a recovering cynic and skeptic, I keep waiting for the shoe to drop.
Mark: [laughs] It’s so good. It’s so wonderful to take the moments when we’re in these circumstances to really-
Mark: -recognize that and embrace it. It wasn’t always like that for you, was it?
Jeff: We got married in ’86. In July of ’87, I had gone out, and got drunk, and coked up. It’s a hard story to tell, because I ended up, my youngest, my baby was six months old. I had a three-year-old and a six-month-old. Tami had a two-year-old when I met her. We met in November, and I asked her to marry me in April, she got pregnant in May, we got married in July. [laughs] I don’t recommend that for anybody.
All of a sudden, I went from single and traveling 50 weeks a year, I was only at home a couple of weeks a year in Chicago, to married and two kids inside a year.
Mark: You were actively doing drugs and drinking?
Jeff: Oh, alcohol. I was a binge drinker, big. I’d binge for four or five days on the road, come back home, and dry out for two days. Then, hit the road and binge for four or five, and then dry out for two.
Mark: Was that an important part of your career, your performance preparation?
Jeff: Not at all. I think you’re using an excuse. When I first got sober I go, “Will I ever be funny again?” It’s such nonsense, gee, the clear-eyed, clear thinking, gee, why would you be funny in a business that requires clear thinking [laughter] instead of standing up there with blood running out of my nose?
This stuff that happened. My baby started crying, and he wouldn’t stop. I spanked him hard, and I mean really spanking him when Tami came in and took him away from me. She sat on the end of the bed and then fed our son. It hit me, through all the booze and coke, that I could’ve killed my son.
Mark: It took a very low, long [crosstalk]–
Jeff: That was the most shame. Again, anybody listening that’s been through alcoholism [unintelligible 00:10:42], already, in that. You got arrested for DUIs. That’s part of it. If you were around the right kind of people, you were laughing about it two days later, you were not ashamed of it. Obviously, it’s an inconvenience in the– Back when I was drinking, 30-something years ago. Now, it’s jail time.
Anyway, bar fights, they didn’t bother me. It was just all part of the cost of drinking, but this was frightening. I told my wife, “If you didn’t take me to AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, I wouldn’t go, and if I didn’t go, I don’t know if we’re going to make it.”
Mark: In Survive–Alive–Thrive, in our model, we refer to that moment as the point of impact, when your loss becomes so clear to you. Your loss was really recognizing that you need to make some serious changes in your life because you were lost.
Jeff: Absolutely. I knew I had a problem. Any alcoholic that tells you, “I didn’t think I had a problem,” is a liar. I knew I was not normal, even when I was back in high school when I was drinking, the blackouts. Friends would tell me the things that had happened, and I’d pretend to know, “Oh yes, I remember that,” and I had no clue.
Mark: Your experience at this point of impact, emotionally, you mentioned shame, guilt–
Jeff: Yes, and fear. I had a fear of quitting. Believe me, I was– That thought of, “I can’t drink the rest of my life? Are you kidding me? I can’t?” Believe me, in my 20s, I’ve tried. I would go months trying, white-knuckle my way through months. At one point, I did go to a 12-step program for a month-and-a-half, and realized, “I’m not as sick as those guys.”
Jeff: There was fear and, more than anything, just afraid you were on your own. I call it the beast. Anybody that has an addiction, it’s the beast. The beast starts chirping, “You can’t live without me. You’re not going to be funny anymore.” It’s almost as if it has a life of its own inside you, which is why you cannot do this alone. I applaud people who can isolate themselves away from their vice, but I couldn’t. I needed people, I needed to be around–
Mark: In the context of the emotions you’re experiencing at this time, I describe it in the early stages, as atomic in nature. Meaning there’s not a singular emotion that you’re going through, but there’s all kinds of stuff swirling around and colliding, including fears about your career and about your future, and what does this mean? Is that– [crosstalk
Jeff: There’s also maturity. They say– I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I’ve read this. I’ve read a lot of books on this. When an alcoholic starts drinking, it’s where they pretty much freeze themselves emotionally. I started at 13 or 14, which explained to me, and then helped me get through what was going on inside me.
I was going through puberty at the age of 31. It’s when I got sober all of a sudden. I called it my own personal cryogenic program. I froze my emotional life at 14 and decided to unfreeze it on my wife. I was a scab. I’m telling you. I was a walking, talking scab. Everything in the external picked in this pus. It’s the only thing I can describe.
It came out in the form of anger and rage. I was just, I don’t want to even talk about it, but horny. I’d go chasing around me. It was like I was going through puberty. She just goes, “What is going on with you?” I go, “I don’t know.” I started talking to people in the program, which is, again, why you don’t do it alone. You found out you’re not a freak. Oh, that’s normal.
The sugar-eating, my God, I was eating three, four, five, candy bars a day. I never ate candy, but the alcohol turns to glucose in your body. When you take that out of your body, all of a sudden, there’s this craving for sugar. I did most of my drinking between 10:00 PM and 4:00 in the morning so all of a sudden, I’m eating cereal at eleven o’clock at night, cocoa puffs and things like that, and putting on weight.
Again, to have the knowledge that it’s normal, the craving, and what you’re going through is normal, helped, even though I felt like a freak. Again, you’re talking about emotionally. For me, I didn’t know how to deal– I had two basic coping skills when I got married. I drank and I slept. That was basically how I coped with life.
All of a sudden, I’ve got to deal with all of this responsibility as an adult and I’m, again, a good example of a 14-year-old kid. Imagine putting your 14-year-old in charge of your finances, in charge of your family, in charge of raising your kids, do you know what I mean? Their younger brothers, a six-month-old and a one-year-old, and a three-year-old. You’re emotionally–
Mark: Well, that’s it, yes.
Jeff: I was just a child in an adult’s body. Again, my only emotion that I had a grasp on was anger. That was comfortable for me. When I was angry, I was comfortable. What I found out later was anger is a cover emotion for sadness. Most people who are rage-filled were hurt, wounded as children, and covered the sadness. There comes a point in your childhood where you’re sad, sad, sad, sad, sad, and then one day, you wake up and clench your fist and go, “I’m not going to feel this anymore. I’m tired of it,” and you cover it with anger.
Jeff: Until you get through all of the anger, to the sadness, it’s like an onion. You remain angry, bitter, jaded, cynical, and fouled up, which is what I was for years. When I finally started dealing with the sadness and just crying a lot over whatever I perceived as loss, father stuff and mom stuff, and just even baseball. I had to grieve the loss of my one true love in life, it was baseball.
Mark: We’ll circle back on all of these things, but let me frame this a little bit. You find yourself going into AA after this epiphany. You’re struggling with your personal emotions, and guilt and shame and fear for the future, and all these totally legitimate emotional concerns. AA calls upon a higher power. Where were you at that point [crosstalk]–?
Jeff: Nowhere then. I was an atheist. I was a loud-mouthed, uneducated atheist. I couldn’t make an argument for any worldview. I just– God, [unintelligible 00:18:23] God. You walk in and they say pray, and you go to, “What?” They go, “We don’t care, but just basically supplicate yourself. In the morning, get on your knees and pray to whatever you feel like.”
Mark: How do you reconcile that with [crosstalk]–
Jeff: I didn’t. I wanted to quit drinking. I was like a child. It’s funny, where the Bible says, “And Jesus said, “Become like children,” which means basically, “Do what I say.” Anyway, I just said, “All right, I’m going to do it.” It’s like when I got a manager for my career, and Tami says, “Why are you going to do that?” I said, “I didn’t hire him to question him.”
[laughs] I said, “Let’s remember where I brought our business, okay?”
Anyway, I started to pray, and they gave me what they call The Third Step Prayer. Anybody listening that’s read the Big Book will recognize this, but it was “God, remove me from the bondage of self, so that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulty so that in victory over them, others may bear witness to Thy strength, Thy power, and Thy way of life.”
Then I threw the Serenity Prayer in that, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” not knowing what I was praying to or who I was praying to.
It was just doing what I was told to do. “If you don’t want to drink, do this,” so I did it. I said I’ve rebelled enough in my life. I was mature enough on the one hand to at least look back at my history and know, on my best day I’m a drunk, that beats a six-month-old. That’s my best day. I’m going to do what you tell me to do. I looked around those rooms, which is why it’s important to look around the rooms and see years, and years, and years of people, and hear their stories. I was this guy.
My favorite story was a guy in Boston, that used to lay on a bench and laugh at people on their way to work, and try to panhandle and then he heard about a AA meeting, you can go on if you can take the money out of the basket, and nobody says anything. He goes, “Really?” He went for months and he would grab the money, and he’d look around, nobody said a thing. After two or three months of taking it, just about every day, it got to him and he passed it on, he didn’t take the money, and the whole room stood and applauded.
Mark: What a powerful story.
Jeff: On top of that, he said those high rises, there’s two of them that my company has built in his construction company, and I heard that as a newbie sober, and you hear, I didn’t hear the spiritual side of it, I heard the financial and material side of it. That if I stick around here, I’ll be able to maybe make a few bucks and do some things.
Mark: I refer to that in the period that you’re talking about as the alive stage, which is effectively, you’re still working through the pain and the hurt in your life and your heart, the loss and the mistakes that we’ve made in our lives continue to be part of the fabric of who we are, but at the same time, we are finding that new ways are working and bringing us or allowing us to start healing. When did that healing start taking place?
Jeff: There’s a saying in the 12-step program that you’ll find that God is doing for you what you can’t do for yourself. For me, I was not a poster boy for the 12-step program. I’m the reason it’s an anonymous program. Even talking now about it is probably violating one of their principles –
Mark: As long as you keep it to yourself.
Jeff: -at the level of press. Lest one speak for the entire group. I am not a spokesman for the group. It took me a long, long time to get comfortable in my own skin, and I’ve taken 18 months. I was sober 18 months and I was ready to drink. I was working in a club in New York, Catch a Rising Star, and I was sitting at the bar and I was ready to start up again. Tami and I had an argument. Anyway, a friend of mine who was in the program goes, “Hey man, I’m going to a meeting. It’s right around the corner. What time’s your show?” I say, “Well, not until nine.” It was seven. He goes, “Great. Meeting’s seven, eight.”
Anyway, this was really a turning point for me spiritually. I’m in there, and I’m white-knuckling it. All I’m thinking about is getting back to the bar, I want to get a drink. They have speakers. It’s a speaker’s meeting which is like, oh crap, I’ve got to listen to another story. He gets to some point in a story, a very successful guy. Again, a very successful guy. Now, he said at 18 months, and that’s where my ears lifted because I’m at 18 months. He said, “The wheels came off in my entire life and my sobriety.”
He said, “I just for whatever reason, woke up one day, and I didn’t want to do this anymore, and it took me,” he goes, “7 to 14 days of just work on this program, just getting into these meetings and stuff,” and eventually, he busted through that.
Mark: He’d relapsed right at the same time as you.
Jeff: He was close to relapsing. The same thing. He said, “I wanted to just cash it all in,” and of course, that resonated with me. I am at 18 months and I want to cash it all in. I was able to grab him on his way out, and I said, “What did you do?” He says, “Get into the program, just deeper in. Dive into what you’re doing, and don’t listen to that voice inside you.”
Mark: You said that there’s almost a spiritual turning point.
Jeff: When I was there, because he talked about God and leaning on Him, and I said, “Well, the higher power?” He goes, “No, I mean God. It’s God.”
Mark: Not a concept, but an entity.
Jeff: Not a concept, and that’s really what started me on the journey. It was about that moment. Tami and I had what I call the big fight, where I stood on a stool in the kitchen and I yelled at her until she felt on her knees and she started sobbing. I’m standing on a stool screaming at my wife. My son, I put him to bed that night. He goes, “Daddy, you win.” I go, “What do you mean, I win?” He goes, “You yell, mummy cries. You win.”
Mark: Oh boy.
Jeff: I went downstairs, and I talked to Tami and said, “I’m going to get some help.” I started therapy, a week later. I went to a meeting the next day, and I said, “Anybody know a therapist?” By the way, I tell people, if you go to a therapist go to one that works for the state. They’re not there the money. It was $15 an hour.
Jeff: She wants to get you well and get you out, and she wasn’t taking any crap. She could see right through. It was so funny. I wanted to tell my story, I really did. I wanted to tell my story, have her pat my hand, and tell me you need to let this woman go. You need to get a divorce, and I’m not kidding you, I was three minutes into telling her my tale, oh well, and she goes, “Look, I’ve got to stop you right here.
If you came here looking for permission to get a divorce, you came to the wrong therapist.” I got to backpedal. I go, “No, no, that wasn’t my train of thought.” I respected her right there, for her ability to see that in me. Again, God puts people in our life, and we went to marriage counseling together. We couldn’t do it together. We made about eight minutes and she separated us.
We couldn’t sit in the same room and let the other person talk. We had an interrupt and we weren’t the kind of people you ran over for a friendly game of scruples let’s just say. [laughs] Anyway, I kept going, and she put books in my hands. After that particular meeting, when I came back to her and I said that I need to get into this God thing. Anyway, she put The Road Less Traveled in my hand. Scott Peck’s seminal work, it’s an amazing book.
Really what I got out of that was, life is difficult, when it can be accepted as such, it no longer as. It becomes a series of problems you need to solve. That made sense to me from a logical point of view. That okay, I have bad coping skills. Obviously, problems are part of life, I learned that. Then the other thing I really got out of the book was, you can’t have love without conflict. It doesn’t exist.
You can’t begin to be truly loved until conflict enters the relationship. Obvious thing that leads up to that first moment of conflict, that euphoric feeling that we all feel and chase was an illusion put there by God to keep the species going. Without the art of attraction, without that attraction, there would be no possibility to have that first fight, because we’d conflict if we didn’t conflict well.
Again, that was something that I could work on logically, and reasonably. It wasn’t some concept. It was like, okay, when you feel the rage coming up, there’s things you can do. Leave the room, calm down, take some breath, come back, and maybe have an adult conversation rather than stomping around like a 14-year-old.
Mark: Was the counselor that you were seeing, was she Christian or was she-
Jeff: No. I don’t think she was. Certainly, if she was, she wasn’t pushing it. I ended up going to group therapy, which was again, eye-opening in the sense that it’s easy to get wrapped up in your own, they say there’s no smaller package than a man wrapped up in himself. When you get wrapped up in yourself, your mind is contracted to the smallest possible.
There’s no expansion when you’re wrapped up in yourself. When it’s your problems and your life and everything. Group helped me to realize that there was a kid in there, whose father was a former marine sergeant that used to stand him and his mother up and berate them, two, three hours at a time, pacing back and forth. If he fell out of attention, he got smacked, and he didn’t have a bed with sheets his entire childhood. His father wouldn’t put sheets on his bed.
Jeff: Yes. He would bruise him on the body, and he made the mistake once of telling somebody at school about it, and he was put in a hospital in another state. His father took them to another state, put him in a hospital. One of the most funniest, driest sense of humors of the group, and it was funny we were talking about unconditional love once and does it exist? Is there such a thing as unconditional? Can you actually love unconditionally? Somebody said, “I think Joanne,” that was the therapist’s name, “I think Joanne loves us unconditionally.” This kid shoots up, “Yes? Stop paying her.”
Mark: That’s a great point, though. For people who look for counseling, and in some cases, it’s through struggles with substance abuse, anger, emotional issues, abusive upbringings, and brokenness through your early life. For others, it’s trying to find somebody to talk through their emotions and experiences when someone they love has passed, therapy is incredibly valuable and important as we’re repairing our heart and soul, but it’s also a difficult maze to navigate.
Jeff: You got to shop. Tami and I even 10 years ago, we knew that we needed somebody to get between us and see it. Iit took one session, there was just an issue in our marriage, the clean house thing. We tried, the boys probably wanted it 10 years, because the boys– We would clean up, she would travel and we’d come home anyway.
Mark: You found an harbor.
Jeff: We found an harbor and I just said, “Look, we need somebody to mediate between this discussion.” I told my story, she told hers, and again, we’ve matured, so we were able to finish without interrupting. He just looked at her and said, “You think you’re getting a little obsessive or raising the expectations that are unattainable?” Tami goes, “No. Maybe. Yes, could be.” Then she started talking about the way her mother would come home from the road and just barrel through the house and scream and holler and rant and rave that the house was never clean enough and all of this and all that.
Anyway, it was fine after that, it was just but sometimes you need a mediator therapy, where you’re going into that onion and peeling back to get to sadness. As I said, an unexamined life is not worth living. I knew that I was broken or damaged. I didn’t want to be the man I was, so I wanted to be different and I found myself able to maintain appearances, but when stress hit, we play golf so you know, when you’re working at something at a swing change, it works fine until pressure comes and you revert back to what’s comfortable.
It was the same way in my marriage. Eventually, I would rage out, smash something, break something and then Tami would cower. Therapy helped with just being in books. Bradshaw’s books on Family Dynamics helped me tremendously. Learning where you fit in birth order. That fascinates me even to this day. I love birth order.
Mark: Where are you on that–
Jeff: I’m the baby, I’m the clown, I’m the comedian, I’m the good-natured one. That’s how I dealt with this stress of stuff around me.
Mark: Here’s what I love about your story, you’re now not a comedian, you’re a Christian comedian and you mentioned earlier, that foul mouth and no boundaries whatsoever in your early career as you were struggling, as you’ve described, what happened when that changed? When did that light go off that inspired you to approach?
Jeff: It was before I was a Christian, probably two years before, my son, we got called to school. My fourth-grade son called his teacher nasty names and the teacher couldn’t repeat them and she just hung her head. I looked at the teacher, I said, “I love to be able to look you in the eye with a straight face and tell you I’ve no idea where the child heard that kind of language but it doesn’t exonerate him.”
Mark: Good for you.
Jeff: She goes, “What do we do?” I said, “What school policy?” She says, “Suspension.” I said, “Great.” Tami looks at her and she looks at my son who was sitting there, she said, “Great. I can use some of your work around the yard for the next few days.” Again, he goes, “I didn’t mean to say it.” I said, “All right. We can all get on the same page here. You have no control what comes out of your mouth? None.”
If that was a 6’4, 255-pound linebacker man, you would have said the same thing? He goes, “Probably not.” I go, “So then you do have control. Anyway, you can work in the yard for a few days.” Anyway, she said, “I don’t know if that’ll be necessary.” I said, “I’ll tell you what, we’ll back whenever you want, you want to take him behind the woodshed here and hit him with a long belt.” I said, “I’m all for that too”
Anyway, when we got home, this is what I really I liked what I did. This is something more parents I think should do is, I made him write out an apology. I said, “I want you to write it out what you’re going to say, because you’re going to get there, you’re going to freeze, you’re not going to remember and you’re going to look at your feet and go, “I’m sorry.”
I want you to write it out, that I understand you’re somebody’s mother, that you’re somebody’s wife and I was wrong in what I said, everything, blah, blah, blah.
Anyway, he comes home that day with it signed by the teacher. I said, “How was it?” “It was awful.” I go, “It should be.” I said, “Only what comes out of our mouth which hurts and cuts. We make mistakes, you made a mistake, that’s all it is, it doesn’t mean you’re bad.”
Mark: You’re looking in the mirror when you’re going through this.
Jeff: That’s what I had to do. I got to the point where I apologized so many times I walk into my kids room, going, “Oh, you’re sorry.” I go, “I’m trying, I’m trying so hard.” It just broke my heart, because I’d see my children when I raised my voice, I couldn’t even raise my voice watching the Bears play football, I told Tami, “I haven’t had a stroke. I can’t yell at the Bears.”
Mark: For full disclosure, transparency, I’m originally from Chicago, I’m a Bears fan also, so believe me, I know that feeling.
Jeff: You survived [unintelligible 00:36:18].
Mark: Those were the days not and it’s not so much better right now.
Jeff: When they dismantled the ’85 dynasty, that’s when I lost, I said, “I’m done.”
Mark: You can take the boys out of Chicago, but you can’t take the Bears out of the boys that’s the problem.
Jeff: That was my father, he goes down to Dallas to live with my sister and he’s wearing a Cowboy coat and I go, “What, are we going to commit you? Really, this is it, you’ve lost your mind.” He goes, “When in Rome-” I go, “Not when in Rome, you’re Bears. My God, do you remember?”
Mark: We understand each other completely.
Jeff: I went to Phoenix, I was a Bears fan, I was in Boston, I was a Bears fan, I wasn’t a Patriot fan.
Mark: That’s exactly the way it should work. The process here in your journey is first, you’re realizing that the changes that are taking place in your life are not just emotional growth and maturity, but you’re also recognizing that things coming out of your mouth and the way you’re modeling and so forth is yet to be addressed.
Jeff: I’ve seen it play out in my sons. At one point, I wanted to raise them in a Buddhist monastery. That was an interesting conversation. I came home, I was studying Buddhism at the time and came home and I said, “I think Tam, I’m going to put the boys into a monastery, Buddhist.” She goes, “Over my dead body.” I said, Oh, okay.” That’s how long it took her to talk to me out of it. I had reasons.
When’s the last time you read about a Buddhist Tibetan monk at a red light beating somebody up? No, I was always getting a screamer Jags in my car at red lights and stuff with people yelling across, I’m that guy. I didn’t want to be but I was, that scrape in the wheel, and I almost yanked the steering wheel off a car one day, I was so angry. I yelled at a bank teller for having the nerve to bounce one of my checks because I didn’t have any money in the bank, as if she personally, but I had a fit, an absolute fit.
I went to a meeting that day and somebody said, “You got to go back and apologize.” I said, “No, I’m changing banks.” Because there was no way I’m going to step foot there again after the scene I made. Anyway, he says, “Oh, no, you don’t.”
Jeff: “No, you don’t, you own it.” Anyway, go back in and sheepishly like a child, I’m shuffling across the thing and the woman that I embarrassed and humiliated was having a conversation with one of her co-workers, when I walked in is smiling and laughing and then she saw me and it all went away and she bowed up. I walked over and I said, “I owe you an apology.” I said, “I was way, way out of line.”
She said, “Thank you.” That’s the way it was for me, I’d react and then and then that now, I’ve had enough program time to where I got to own that. Then it came to a point after so many years that I started to react and I’d go, “I don’t want to apologize, so I’d bite my tongue.” Then, seeing it play out on my children when he says, “I didn’t mean it.” I could sit there as a father and excuse it, “You know what? He didn’t mean, just let him go,” or I could give him the tool I have been given, own it.
It’s not pleasant. It’s not fun.
Maybe next time you’ll think before you speak because it worked on me.
Mark: How long have you been clean and sober now?
Jeff: 33 years.
Mark: Wow, congratulations.
Jeff: Yes, again, it’s one of those miracles, you look at. Again, you start at day one and go, “Well, I’m going to quit after 33 years. I’ll make 33 years. There’s no way, God.” It literally is a 24-hour, sometimes 24-minute, sometimes 5 minutes. I was at a bar in Florida, once, had a beer in front of me. I talked about it on stage, some guy walks by and he goes, “Is that stuff on stage true, you’re an alcoholic?” I go, “I am.” He goes, “What’s that?” I go, “Suicide.” He says, “Come, on man.” He took me to a meeting, and that’s when I really started to believe in God, no coincidences, that there are angels, and we are his instruments.” I started paying more of attention to things like that as moments that maybe there is. Those receipts that were planted early, that when eventually I couldn’t deny anymore.
Mark: What was that epiphany? Where did the higher power, a God-like concept turn into the person of Jesus Christ?
Jeff: Oh, wow. I started with self-help, I went to a lot of New Age, and then Buddhism. Then, eventually, I was [unintelligible 00:41:39] Humanism. Which, if I was not a Bible-believing Christian, I would be an Objectivist, I really would. I loved Ayn Rand’s philosophy, I loved her stuff about personal responsibility, and capitalism, and stuff like that. I started going to some churches in Atlantic City. Wound up in an all-black church, that was interesting. [laughs] I’m not a churchgoer, so I don’t know what church is, but the pastor kept passing the basket around, going, “You can do better than that,” and passing it around again.
I’m a guilty white guy, I’m [unintelligible 00:42:14] that I didn’t have because I didn’t want anybody looking at me. Anyway, I was dabbling in that, and then I met a businessman on the road. Again, another seed-planter. He’d sold his business for how many millions, and I’d heard about him. As a golfer, you’ll understand this. I found out that he was a member of Muirfield Village in Ohio. Also pressed a trail in Dallas, which was an amazing course. He could get me on Augusta, The National, and he could get Shinnecock, Pine Valley. He had connections with all of those through [crosstalk] an organization called Golf Links, which I did not know was a Christian ministry, I’d just heard it was called Golf Links.
Anyway, I told my agent at the time. I said, “I want to work with this guy, and I heard he’s out open MC-ing comedy clubs for $100 a week. Is the only MC in my lifetime to pull up in a 550 SL Mercedes.
Mark: He liked it.
Jeff: Well, yes. Anyway, we were golfing. This was at a point where Tammy and I, we had filled out the divorce papers, had it notarized, and then she changed her mind. What I haven’t shared, and, again, I’m not breaking any trust, Tammy shared this on a video. She was having an affair. I still wasn’t a Bible-believing Christian, but I was going to church, trying to find this God thing. Because I would tell people, “Look, if I’m making up with DeeDee, that makes me delusional.” The whole “Whatever you want” concept of how the universe runs is great until you lose a child to cancer, or loss of a job, or loss of a spouse, or loss of something really heavy.
You’re on your knees looking for comfort in the middle of this tragic storm, and your voice in your head is going, “What are you praying to? There’s nothing. You made it up.” It’s a nice fuzzy thing to say, “Our prayers are with you,” or whatever, but prayers to what? That was my struggle was just, “Does God exist? Really, does God exist, and if so, what does that look like?”
Mark: Here we are, 25 years ago.
Jeff: Yes, and I find out she has an affair. I knew something was going on, and I called my AA sponsor, and I said, “I think Tammy’s having an affair.” He says, “You don’t want to know.” I went, “What do you mean, I don’t want to know?” He goes, “Here, trust me. I’ve been through this. You don’t want to know. Just let it run its course.” I go, “I can’t do that.” He goes, “Well, don’t call me in a month or two weeks with your head in your hands, because I will tell you, “I told you so.”” I said, “Fine.” All I did, she was in California, visiting a friend, and I went and called American Express. I said, “Is my card being used?” They said, “Yes, it’s in a hotel whatever.”
I called the hotel, and she picked up the phone. I said, ” I got you.” Big pause. “I said get your home now. This is bad enough you’re doing what you’re doing, but I got to pay for it too.”
Jeff: The beauty of the whole thing, she didn’t come home that night. Her friend called me, she said, “Tammy’s too distraught to get on a plane.” I said, “Oh, really, she’s distraught?” I was snotty. That night, I couldn’t sleep, and every time I tried to get self-righteous about what she was doing, that little voice would say, “Remember the time you stood on the stool in the kitchen?” There were time, after time, after time. By the end of the night, I was, “No wonder she did what she did.”
Mark: [unintelligible 00:46:07] moment.
Jeff: It was. I picked her up at the airport the next day, and she literally comes across baggage claim, and I put my arms around her and gave her a kiss, and said, “We’re a mess. An absolute mess. We can get through this, but we’ve got to make some changes.” She says, “That’s it?” I go, “Babe, I tried to get righteous about this. I don’t blame you, but if that’s what you want, we’ve got to cut it. We’ve got to file those papers and cut it. I’m not going to share you with somebody else.” That went on for two or three months. She traveled doing dogs, so I knew when she was at a dog show, she was with him.
I was in Vegas. I have a picture, I love that picture, I really do, because it was at the lowest point of my life, and she is just absolutely stunning. We’re in a restaurant, and I had no money. We were broke. I took it I wanted to win her back. Her friend told me that, “Let her go,” I go, “I don’t want to.” She says, “Then fight for her, for God’s sakes, fight for your wife.” I tried to date her again, instead of being the prick that I was, tried to be a nice guy. We went to this restaurant in Vegas that I couldn’t afford, it was like a $200 dinner, and we had this picture taken. I look at that even now today, 20-something years later.
What we were going through, and what it means to me is that I fought for something of value. She went off to Jersey to do a dog show, and that’s when you called from the hotel. I had one-dollar charges, 102 of them in five days, all hang-ups. I would call the front desk, they’d ring the room, one ring, I’d hang up, because I didn’t want him to pick up the phone. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy. Eventually, I told Tammy I had given my life to Christ in the midst of that. That was in August. She came back from Ohio with the kids in August.
Mark: Humbling experience for you.
Jeff: Yes, it was. I told her again, I said, “I’m going to reiterate. If that’s what you want, I’m out, but I’m trying, sweetheart, I’m trying. If you ever want me to intervene with this, let me know.” She said, “Okay, I will.” A month later, she came to me, she said, “He won’t leave me alone, I’ve told him for a month now to stop.” I was a different man, something different. I called him up and politely told him– [laughs] [crosstalk] I said I am on a fight in California, or whatever. “Drag you on your front lawn and beat you senseless in front of your neighbors, it wouldn’t have been a Christian [crosstalk].
Mark: Something gentle is loving.
Jeff: I said, “I think your next six months of meals will be through a straw.”
Jeff: He actually had the nerve to say to me, he goes, “Well, you better treat her right.” He was married. That’s what I tried to explain to Tammy. “These guys, they prey on–” That’s what Tammy said to me, and she shared this publicly. Men need to hear this. Anybody listening who’s a man and married needs to hear this. “I just wanted someone to listen to me. I wanted someone to talk to me.” She said, “Jeff, you never listened to me, and you never talked to me. You talked at me.”
Every now and then I grabbed her hand in a mall. If I was all over her, hanging on her, she’d think there was something wrong with me, but the occasional tender moments, and things. I’m very aware that today I’m one of those guys and just put my head down and do what’s in front of me and not pay attention. I’ve asked her a thousand times in our marriage, “Please tell me.” I do a joke about Dateline. I don’t know if you watch Dateline, but it’s all on spouses killing each other. I always tell them, man, I go men in the audience watch five Datelines with your wife. You’ll look her right in the eye, “We’re doing all right, you’ll be–?”
Jeff: Because nobody ever sees the comments. Anyway, I met this guy the businessman and we’re in the middle of all of this. I told him, we’d probably get a divorce. It’s just not working out. He started quoting the Bible at the golf course. Again, I’m a reader. I hear the quote and I go, that’s great words. He goes, “It’s in the Bible.” After about three Bible quotes. I go, “Stop it with the Bible.” He goes, okay, “What do you mean?” I go, “Who actually reads the Bible?” He says, “I do actually.” I go, “Again, you give him that look and we’ve all seen it. Really it’s a little archaic, God, God’s word, come on. Divinely spoke up. Really?”
Jeff: He says to me, “What’s in the Bible. You don’t think it’s true?” I go, “I don’t know. I never read the Bible.” Then he goes, “Then you’re not an atheist. Really? You’re a moron. Are you kidding me? You’ve never read the Bible?” I go, “What are you talking about? Why would I read the Bible?” He says, “It’s the most influential book in the history of the world. There is a great book out there, by the way, called The Book That Changed Your World or Changed The World written by an Indian Christian.
When the Brits who tried to colonize India when they were booted out, they left behind the Bible. The areas of India that embraced the Bible are flourishing. They’re absolutely flourishing. Where the other ones held onto the caste system and the Hindu system, the caste system, which is one of the most brutal system. I always bump into people and go, that’s when I go, “Do you have any idea what karma is? It’s the most brutal concept ever created by man to keep people down. I could help you and lift you out of your poverty, but I’m going to ruin your karma. You’re in poverty and you’re living in your own waste.
Mark: Because you deserve it.
Jeff: Because you deserve it from other lives past sins, and that’s just where the Christian says, “Oh no, no, no. You see someone laying in their own filth. You pick them up, you clean them off in my name.”
Jeff: Anyway we developed a friendship around golf, which is why I have such an affinity towards golf ministries. We would talk on the phone and what men talk about whether it was politics or philosophy or whatever. Eventually, it came around to how are you and Tammy doing.
Mark: His advice, maybe you ought to read the Bible?
Jeff: He signed me up for Bible tapes and from Denton Bible, a great teacher Tommy Nelson. I think four days after I got home the first tape arrived. He made it was on his list and the Bible came that he put the NIV Bible, which I throw in a junk drawer, and the tapes I’ve ever opened one up. He never really bothered to ask are you listening to the tapes? After about a year and a half of all of this, it fairs, and all that stuff, Tammy just grabbed the kids one day and said, “I gotta get outta here, going to Ohio for a few months. You need to sort out your life.” I was giving up comedy.
Again, I don’t know if anybody listening knows what it’s like to not know why you’re here, what the point of your life is, or the purpose. But it’s a meaningful question in my 30s. Based on my upbringing, we were not deep thinkers. We were blue-collar. Not that there aren’t blue-collar people who don’t think deeply, but we were more reactionary than thinkers. We’re not idiots. We just weren’t thinkers.
When all of a sudden you get in your life is 30 something and the questions come, you’re asking. I began to ask myself, “Where are these questions coming from?” Again I just wanted to have a few beers, raise my family and tell him a few jokes. That was my plan. Now all of a sudden I’m going, “Why does it matter? What’s the point to life?” When I got to a point where I tried to latch on to something outside of myself for meaning theological answers what if it goes away because it can. Where does it leave you? Whether it’s wife and kids, whether it’s job.
Because if you check off the boxes by my late 30s, I at least could say I had the boxes checked. I had a home, I had a roof over my head. I had clothing. I had a job that I could do fairly well. I was making a living and had a beautiful wife. We had a healthy family at that time. Why was I so miserable? I don’t know if I told you the dribble thing, but that was it.
Mark: No, tell me.
Jeff: The sticks. I was obsessed with the dribble in the kids’ room. Tammy comes by one day. She goes, “What’s with you and the– Because I would watch it like television. I would just sit there.
Mark: Behind the wheel?
Jeff: Half-hour while occasionally but it, what it would do, it would get sticks on one side, run toward the other side, stack them up. Then when they were done, he made me spin the wheel for a while and then take the sticks and move them back over there. Tammy goes, “So what?” I go, “That’s our life.” She goes, “What do you mean?” I go, “Look, I go out and make a few bucks. We buy a few things. They wear out, we take them to the landfill.” I said, “If I’m lucky, I get a movie deal, a sitcom deal and make a lot of money, but it’s all this stuff that we eventually the sticks we bring home wind up in the landfill.
We get bigger and bigger buildings to house our sticks in. We go to Disney World with the kids or you and I go to Vegas and that’s our wheel that’s we spent a couple of weeks out of the year.” I looked at her and said, “That’s my life for the next 20 years, I’m checking out.”
Mark: Doesn’t seem like much of a purpose.
Jeff: No, and she said, “You’ve checked out years ago.” She couldn’t get her head around this stuff I was thinking about. She’s, “I’m trying to raise a family alone.” That was her thing. She goes, “We need money. We’re losing the house and I get the impression you don’t care.” I go, “I don’t care, but do you think I wake up in the morning and look at all of this responsibility and think, I shouldn’t care. I want to care. I just don’t because I don’t know why it even matters.”
Mark: How did that change?
Jeff: The Bible, Ecclesiastes. First book, meaningless, meaningless all in life is meaningless, and I just went, “Wow.” It was like bam, that was that phrase meaningless, meaningless all in life is meaningless summed up my eight years. That was it. In the sermon that the 45 minutes, the first couple of chapters of Ecclesiastes, was about life without God will have no meaning, without meaning in your life, there’s no purpose to your life. You might as well commit suicide. It was like, holy cow. I wanted to get more of that.
I ripped open all these manila envelopes. Tammy was in Ohio. Matter of fact, this is actually funny. We had our furniture hauled away because we couldn’t pay for it. All that God left me and my living room was a boombox that I could put a tape in. That was our entertainment center was a boom box, 39 95 boom box. Here I am sitting in Arizona listening.
The next tape I remember hearing and again you paraphrase, but it was if happiness was an act of human will we’d all be happy because you ask anybody what they want out of life. They want to be happy. What do you want for your kids?, I just want them to be happy. How do you define that? Then you get into the materialism versus God. If it’s the next car, the next relationship, the next house, the next job, the next, whatever. If only because that’s what I used to tell myself. If only if, only if only.
I remember I did a show with Jerry Seinfeld never seen him since again, he’s the seeds that get planted. I believe this. I believe this with all of my heart and soul. God puts this guy in my life and we’re waiting for our checks. I was like going on a shoot. He couldn’t get away from me. I’m just complaining about everything, “If I can get out of Letterman if I can get on this if I can get there.” Finally, after about 40 minutes of listening to me, he goes, “Can I say something?” I go, “Please.” He said and all your complaints and he goes, “Oh wow.” He said, “You never complained about how hard you work on your craft. You get good at what you do in this business entertainment word gets out. “I’ve never had to look for work.”
Of course, I look at him I go, “Are you on a 12-Step Program?” He goes, “No that’s common sense.”
Take care of what you can control. I just got into the Bible and specifically Ecclesiastes. When I got to Genesis 1:1, in the beginning, God, this is two or three weeks of obsessively listening. Four or five, six, seven hours of Bible tapes a day. Even now I have 20 some years. I wish I could get into that. I really do. It was a wonderful time in my life. I was learning and I was being pulled by the God of the universe. The scales were coming off. I was just talking about a joy-filled life. I was experiencing joy and it was a strange feeling for me. It really was. I do the joke where I was doing Bible studies in my car steer with my leg making notes. I almost met Jesus before I met Jesus.
People were waving at me one finger at a time and I am just waving back.
It was an amazing spirit-filled time. The Genesis 1:1, in the beginning, God, that’s what broke me. I knew, as sure as I’m talking to you, that this God I was reading about in this book was real, was real. I called my friend Phillip scared to death I’m screaming, “There’s a God Phil, there’s a God Phil.” “It’s what I was trying to tell for you for a year, year and a half.” I said, “No, you don’t understand?” He was, “What was your problem?”
I go, “I’m a blasphemy.” [unintelligible 01:00:27] denied him. I sat there siding on the phone, “Why would he want me?” He says, “Have you begotten the cross yet?” I said, “No, because you can’t ruin the ending for me.” Study the cross, study the cross man and we’ll talk. It was probably a month later I was in Dallas where he lives and I went to church and met Tommy briefly. I was going on issue, just going, “Oh my God.” I was like a fanboy, “Oh my God [unintelligible 01:00:58].” We got back to his house and he just simply asked me, he goes, “Can you admit you’re a sinner.” You’re always was overboard, but when God breaks a man he never leaves him broken.
Mark: Ever. Amen.
Jeff: When the world breaks a man, they just throw him in the trash heap and move on to the next one. God broke me, but he had a break me of the earth, all these external things, and just said, “Get on your knees and talk.” Anyway, that’s, again, he’ll know it’s not perfect. Again, I think you get this marriage with Christ for me anyway, you get so far down that path, then all of a sudden, life starts happening again and you start finding old habits coming back and blah, blah, blah and you start thinking, “Maybe I’ll abandon this whole thing, because it’s hard,” because that’s what Chesterton said, it’s not that Christianity was tried and found wanting, it was tried, found too difficult and abandoned.
Anyway, you get down road the road, I’m committing some sins, throwing clubs at the golf course again, these old habits are coming back. I remember sitting in my bed one night in the voice going, “You’re a hypocrite, you’re just a hypocrite. What would your Christian brothers think of you now, hypocrite, loser, hypocrite, loser.” Where’s this coming from? Oh my gosh. Are you kidding me? Anyway, Christ gives you enough of a wedding ceremony to where all of a sudden you look back and you go, “I’m not going back there. There’s no way. I’m going to plow through this and I’m going to do what is asked of me, I’m going to on my knees.”
Mark: When Lewis was asked the difference between Christianity and every other faith in the world, he very quickly responded, that’s easy grace. The misunderstanding, particularly of those who are skeptical or are hostile to Christianity, which is, if you’re a Christian, how can you act in a way that is inconsistent with your faith? The answer to that is that because we’re human and we’re broken and we’re not perfect, but we do know that if we endeavor to work in a way that reflects and honors him that when we fall short and we recognize and admit that his grace is exceedingly available in any circumstance and loves us unconditionally, that’s a big thing.
Jeff: When you realize that it’s easier to extend grace to others, which is what I see lacking in the culture today. There was a foundation that we grew up in that even atheists were raised by parents or grandparents, they had a basic understanding of grace and forgiveness in the Bible. That’s gone and I just don’t see a lot of grace and forgiveness out there, I really don’t.
Mark: Oh that brings us to an interesting question as we start coming to a close here. For folks that are listening and have been through tough stuff themselves, could be going through tough things themselves right now. Through your journey, in the last part of Survive Live Thrive, we talk about joy and what joy really means. In our earlier discussion about happiness, which is such an American concept, isn’t it? It’s like are you happy? It’s in the script, temporal.
Jeff: What’s so funny is the new age tells you and I’ve tried it, believe me, I’ve tried it, I tried it all, stand in front of the mirror affirm yourself. I couldn’t even look myself in the eye, I knew it was a cry, I knew it was, I was just, “Who are you kidding? Are you kidding me?”
Mark: In our journey in America, happiness is temporal, it’s connected to how much money you’ve got, is your job going well? There’s the old saying, you’re only as happy as your [crosstalk].
Jeff: It’s called conditional happiness.
Mark: What’s joy?
Jeff: Joy is, I think, an unconscious state of being.
Mark: Where do you get it?
Jeff: I believe it comes from outside, I believe something comes from outside of us works its way through us in the form of the Holy Spirit. That’s my belief. It does not mean that I’m ignorant to situations around me that warrant sadness, that warrant grief, those are things that need to be worked through. I don’t know if it was Louis that said this, “To the pagan, joy is peripheral, suffering is central, to the Christian, joy is central, suffering peripheral.” If our core is the state of being, where I know everything’s going to be okay, there’s a plan in place, then it makes navigating through the fallen world a little easier. At our age, we’ve all had friends that have passed away, my mother is a perfect example. My father was an atheist to the day he died, he was not a happy man.
Mark: You know my story losing Victoria.
Jeff: My mother, I remember she was in a hospice and her sisters were there my aunts and I said, “Is mom okay with the Lord?” She got saved at a Billy Graham Crusade, your mother’s been prayerful one. All of a sudden, we never talked about it at home, because my father was so visceral in his dislike for Christians and Christianity and God and anything that my mother never spoke about it, which explained a lot, because she was very, we used to call her St. Darlene. With all these lunatic man around, she was the one calming force in all of that.
Mark: Imagine that.
Jeff: All my mother said to me three days before she died, is that “It came so quick, Jeff, there are so many things I want to say. I’m blessed for having that time.”
Mark: Amen. God’s love is manifest so clearly in your life, and I love your definition of joy. There is a well-known scripture Philippians as Paul writes in chapter 4, that, “When you share the needs of your heart with him, that the peace of God will be with you that surpasses all understanding.” It’s so hard to explain, but at the same time, I love the exercise of trying to articulate what that means. It seems like the joy that you’re explaining that you’ve experienced is a gift that’s been provided to you unconditionally from a loving God.
Jeff: There’s no A, B, C, D plan, there’s no one acronym you could put in a sermon and at the end of it you’ll have joy, I just submit to that.
Mark: Let me ask for the folks that are listening, that have gone through tough stuff or currently going through it, what sort of advice do you have for people, words of wisdom, if you will, about their journey?
Jeff: I hate to say this, but it’ll pass, but you got to work through, you can’t skip the steps, you got to work through it and surround yourself with people, the worst thing you can do is isolate.
Mark: Research I quote in the book about the act of sharing being healing, not only for those that are listening but the act of sharing for the sharer, you’ve been so generous in sharing your story here today. Do you encourage other folks to open-
Jeff: Absolutely, in my case, I’m an alcoholic drug addict and I have secrets, shameful secrets that you don’t want, but you’re as sick as your secrets. Somebody who loses somebody, if that’s not the issue, I don’t think you’re carrying around some deep dark secrets. Again, I don’t know what the inner dialogue is, but I know what my inner dialogue is and it’s usually not healthy. In order to get it out, I remember when I shared the first time about spanking Ryan in the crib at six months. I was humiliated, it was at a men’s meeting or something and almost to a man I was never going to talk about this.
A lot of men were able to get out a secret in a shameful thing. Each one you get out just heals you that much more allows the joy in. I’m always hesitant to give advice because it almost sounds like one size fits all. I just like to share what I do. I know enough now where if I sit in my own pain– Someone once said pain is the only motivator for change in our lives. God gave us pain for that so that we would get up and change. We make changes. Without pain, why would you? The question is, what is your threshold of pains? When I first got into the 12 Step program, I had a high threshold of pain, very high, but now, not so much. I get a little uncomfortable. In my prayer life, it’s basically what’s going on.
Mark: In the book, I love what you’re saying, particularly one of the hallmarks of what Survival Life Thrive is about is making sure folks, no matter what stage you’re in in your journey, realize and understand that you’re not alone.
Jeff: Right, absolutely.
Mark: [crosstalk] the isolating thing?
Jeff: That’s what kills me about we’re in the middle of this COVID thing. The most heinous punishment a prison can do is isolate a prisoner, and we’re doing it willingly in the culture. Don’t get me started. It is, and as far as recovering from grief, loss, or an addiction, you cannot isolate. You just can’t. It’s just you’re not equipped. No human being is equipped to do life alone, nobody.
Mark: Amen to that. I’ll remind listeners that at survivallifethrive.org, that’s survival-alive-thrive.org, our website, offers online virtual community gatherings for folks to get together and experience support exchanges to realize they’re not alone and community even if they can’t get out. Boy, I love your thought that isolation is so tough. We are not alone. Our journeys are unique but we have so much in common as we struggle. We have a solution, and that is surrender and acknowledgment that we need God’s grace to move through this.
Jeff: The situations are different but the feelings inside are the same, whether it be grief, loss. It’s how you react to it. Everybody is unique but in the situations of what you’ve lost, it might be different, but the feelings themselves and that’s important to be able to express that in an environment. If you’re around somebody who judges you, find another. There are lots of people. [unintelligible 01:13:15].
Mark: The problem is there are people.
Jeff: Yes. I went to a therapist once that I realized, at some point, had not dealt with their own issues and stuff that I was bringing up. We get to a part where they got comfortable and they would blow it off. We don’t need to talk about that. I was like, “What’s going on?” Anyway, they’ll find somebody that had done the work and was able to walk me through it.
Mark: The last word from you, and then I’ll close us out. What’s the last thing you want to leave our listeners with?
Jeff: Just laugh. Find your sense of humor again. Somebody said, “Our comedy was tragedy plus time.” If you have time to heal for a wound, you should find [unintelligible 01:13:56]. I think that’s more than ever now. The endorphins and there’s just so many healing benefits to laughter. Again, maybe I’m selfish, but that’s what I do for a living, go to a comedy club, laugh.
Mark: They can hear some of you, where?
Jeff: Jeffallen.com, or you can go to my Facebook page, Jeff Allen Comedian. We post videos almost daily, funny video, Jeff Allen comedy that has everything on it.
Mark: They can follow you on Instagram?
Jeff: Sign up for my YouTube channel so you get notifications.
Mark: Jeff, you’ve been a great blessing. Thank you for joining me here today.
Jeff: Thank you. As long as [unintelligible 01:14:39] to stay in somebody’s in this house.
Mark: I like all the things that’s coming out. I want to thank everybody for listening, and in particular for Jeff for sharing his story so transparently and honestly. For those out there, remember, you are not alone. Thank you for listening to Survival Life Thrive, our podcast on living a joyful life. God bless you and we’ll talk soon.
Melyn: I’m Dr. Melyn Galbreath. Thank you for joining us on the journey to hope, happiness and joy. It’s our privilege to spend time with you.
Mark: I’m Mark Negley. Remember that no matter what your situation, you are not alone and you can experience a joy-filled life. We’ll see you next time.
[01:16:03] [END OF AUDIO]