Letter of Reckoning
Cletus was fishing when his father called about a letter in the mail. Cletus had sold drugs to an undercover police officer and was now facing numerous charges. His life changed in a heartbeat. He talks about what led to his using, his dealing, and the other mistakes he made along the way. More importantly, he discusses what he learned from those mistakes and how he found his way back. If you or a loved one needs help due to substance use disorder, help is available. There are online Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every day at https://aa-intergroup.org/meetings/. A registry of Al-Anon meetings for friends and families of those who are afflicted with substance use disorders can be found at https://al-anon.org. In Southeastern Wisconsin you can find AA meetings here: https://mtg.area75.org/meetings.html?dist=7 and NA meetings here: https://namilwaukee.org/meetings/
[Jaunty Guitar Music]
Mike: Welcome everyone. This is Avoiding the Addiction Affliction, a series brought to you by Westwords Consulting. I'm your host, Mike McGowen.
Mike: Sometimes substance use contributes to somebody person making decisions that have long-term consequences. Cletus, my guest today made some decisions a while back that he's had to deal with now for quite a while.
Mike: He's been kind enough and generous enough with his time to share a story with us today. A story, eh, it's not so much about mistakes, but about learning and growing from 'em. Welcome, Cletus.
Cletus: Hello. How are you doing?
Mike: I'm doing great. I really appreciate you doing this. This can't be easy, but you know, let's start out with the easy one.
Mike: You know, or I guess, get it outta the way. You were arrested for...
Cletus: Selling marijuana.
Mike: Now for those that don't know, how much marijuana do you have to have on you to be arrested for selling it rather than just possessing it?
Cletus: So for my case, it was actually different cuz it wasn't actual grown as people think as like the actual flower.
Cletus: I was selling cartridges.
Cletus: So as long as you have one, technically they can do it.
Mike: So were you pressing it yourself or were you refilling the...
Cletus: No, no.
Mike: Were you buying, you were buying them then?
Cletus: Yes. Yes. And so basically someone got arrested and then they would find people that was also selling and then basically tell on them and yeah, that's, so basically I got caught by an informant is what they call them.
Mike: Well, now did you have to actually sell to somebody to get arrested?
Cletus: Yeah. I sold five grams, so five cartridges and technically I never actually got arrested.
Mike: Tell me about that.
Cletus: So I've, I was never in contact with police or anything. Yeah. It was a very weird case, to say the least.
Cletus: So it was during COVID.
Cletus: So, things were weird, as everyone knows. So I got caught back about four years ago in wintertime, and I didn't know anything of it. I was just doing my regular stuff and actually stopped doing it about a week or two after I actually got caught. Which I found out later, which I was like, it was, it was a sad thing because I got done with everything right after that, but. I was actually fishing and my dad called me in the middle of summer, so it was about eight months after the actual date that they came and bought from me. And he asked me what was on the paper and he was saying all this stuff about felonies and all this stuff, and.
Cletus: It ended up being the piece of paper saying that I was getting tried for this and that I was guilty because I sold to the cops. And I called the state and I was like, eight, nine months after, you're first gonna tell me that you're pressing charges for a felony because of selling. And their only excuse and the only thing that they said is, mail is delayed because of COVID.
Mike: Okay. So you sold, do you think you know who you sold it to that was undercover?
Cletus: I have general ideas.
Mike: Yeah. But you still don't know. And then, so you were never arrested, but you were charged.
Mike: And you were charged by mail?
Mike: [laugh] And so you had no idea this was coming.
Cletus: It was a beautiful summer day.
Cletus: I was out fishing and so it was about eight months after the actual charging, and then I had to go through so much court and stuff, which also was a lot harder to get through because of COVID. So sometimes you could go in, sometimes you couldn't. All their times were messed up and they were so busy, and yeah, it was.
Mike: Well take, take me to that day for a second. You said your dad called you. Did he open it up?
Cletus: He did because he just saw a mail addressed to me. Cause when I'm at school or when I'm out and about, he'll just open up my mail and let me know what it is to see if I need it or not. And yeah, when he said it, I knew exactly what he meant.
Cletus: Even though I, I didn't know that what was going on. I, I knew. And I was like,
Cletus: I was just like just put it aside. Don't show mom for now.
Mike: [laugh] Don't, show mom.
Cletus: Yeah. And I went home and read it and I was like, yeah, we need to, we need to call a lawyer and deal with this.
Mike: Wow. Did they know you were using?
Cletus: Uh- uh.
Cletus: My mom had suspicions, I would say, but.
Mike: Yeah. So that had to be well, and that's part of the cost, right?
Mike: That had to be just tremendously embarrassing and anxiety producing.
Cletus: Oh yeah. It was, it was a feeling that I will never forget and I hope I will never have for anything else.
Mike: Well, okay. We rarely get a chance to do this, so if you'll indulge me a minute, if you can tell me about the feeling. What did it feel like?
Cletus: It felt like it was a mix of scared, panic.
Cletus: And also just kind of sad cuz I, like, I knew what was gonna be coming forth now and it was, and a, it was a moment of realization of like, this is real. Like this stuff can happen. Like you hear it in the movies, you hear it on shows, you hear it on podcasts.
Cletus: But you always think, oh, this can never happen to me. Even though I was doing it, I was part of it. You always think, oh, no, no. And so the, yeah, that was the moment of it happened. This is, this is it. And yeah, just especially hearing it from parents was weird. Instead of getting arrested or knowing like, well, here's a process.
Cletus: We go through it now. Then it was almost like you said, it was, it was almost going backwards.
Cletus: Instead of going from the cops and going forward with that. I had to go to them and go backwards through this situation where most people get arrested, you go through the system where I had to figure out my way to get into the system. And because of COVID, I couldn't go in and really talk to anyone.
Cletus: And so it was basically up to me to figure out how to get it over with, how to get into the system. So yeah.
Mike: You know, a a lot of people I've worked with Cletus over the years have sold as a sideline to their using so they can afford to use cheaper or for nothing.
Mike: Is that, how did you get into selling?
Mike: Is that how you got into selling or was it a different.
Cletus: Yeah, yeah. I would, I would say so. Just cause, I mean, I was making a lot of money off of it. So that was also a perk, and I did do everything for free then as well, and get it cheaper. But yeah, I mean that was definitely a reason for it. It was, and it was easy access for me as well.
Cletus: Then I didn't have to worry about going to people like me that were doing it or going place to place. I just had it on hand for myself. So it was a lot easier.
Mike: Were were you cautious when you first started doing it and then lost the caution?
Mike: And do you beat yourself up for that or are you grateful?
Cletus: A mix of both. A mix of both. Cause I, knowing that I was so close to being done with everything.
Cletus: And it definitely was upsetting that I was so close when I stopped. But also it's like I'm happy because it really shaped where I've been now and has made me be very cautious and thoughtful of. Not just stuff like that, but anything in general in my life, it's really made me stop and think, what could this do for the future?
Cletus: And what could this impact? Cause I mean, that was a treacherous three, three and a half years of going through the whole process of it.
Mike: Well, what did you have to go through?
Cletus: So start off with me trying to call and figure out what I needed to do because they weren't very instructive or responsive.
Cletus: It took many calls to get response from anyone and lots and lots of phone calls with lawyers and stuff. And then I probably went to 10, 15 different court dates and that was a stretch over a long time too, because you have to wait for the evidence and this and that and back and forth and plea deals, plea bargains, all of that.
Cletus: And yeah, just in and outta the court. Always having to worry because you never know what's coming next. You don't know. And they were constantly throwing different charges that they wanted to charge me with and just back and forth. It was a lot of back and forth. So.
Mike: And then eventually, how was it adjudicated?
Cletus: So it was originally they wanted to do like three, four years of probation, three separate felonies. And a few misdemeanors, but it ended up just being one felony for production and distribution because it was cartridges. So they can consider that as me making it.
Cletus: Even though it was not. And three misdemeanors.
Cletus: And then two years probation, and I spent 48 hours in jail.
Mike: Altogether, probably not your favorite 48 hours [chuckle].
Cletus: Yeah. Yeah. It was, it was not the best, but at least it, it, it was a lot better than what they wanted to do. They wanted to do a few months of jail. So.
Mike: Did you, did you have to do any education programs or urine screens or sobriety tests or?
Cletus: There was two kind of programs, but it wasn't really educational programs.
Cletus: One was I kind of had to go into a person that kind of could read if you were lying, I guess that they made me go through the state and it was basically just to see if I needed further help or if I needed some type of program, which they then said I didn't, because. Of how I kind of stated myself and where I, where I was at at the time.
Cletus: So he kind of said, I don't need to go further within that, and I only ever need to do one. Well, two urine samples overall. One was my lawyer had me do it to give to the court to say "He's clean, like this is an ongoing thing". And then one time during probation.
Mike: Well, okay, so when you were... only one time during probation, you were asked to drop a sample?
Mike: I'm actually surprised at that.
Cletus: And he said it was only because he thought the state was gonna start asking for one, and he just wanted one in case they asked.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. Well, they have a pretty good sense of who they're working with for the most part. Did, did you had, when you say you were almost out of it, had you.
Mike: By the time you got the letter in the mail, were you, had you stopped selling by then?
Cletus: I, so the technical date that I got caught on, I stopped selling without knowing that I got caught. I stopped selling two weeks after that.
Mike: After that. Okay. And, and so you mean after you sold the stuff that you got there?
Cletus: Yeah, so after I was done with that batch per se of stuff I had once I was done with that, I didn't sell again.
Mike: So it had been months. When you got the letter.
Cletus: Like eight months after I got caught, they, I got it.
Mike: And you weren't even, it was in the rear view mirror. You weren't even thinking
Mike: this was.
Cletus: I didn't even think about it because I didn't sell anymore.
Mike: Wow. Why? Why'd you quit selling?
Cletus: I just had a feeling that something like that was happening and I just didn't think it was worth it. And I had some friends go through stuff and I just decided it probably wasn't the best idea.
Mike: Yeah, were, were up until you got the letter. Were you still using though?
Cletus: Not as, not as much. I definitely slimed down a lot on what I was doing, so.
Mike: Yeah. Can I, can I go backwards then and, and ask you like, when did you first start smoking weed or dabbing or whatever you were doing?
Cletus: I was probably like 16.
Mike: 16. And you said your parents might have thought about it, but they didn't really know.
Cletus: My, my dad is just kind of oblivious and he doesn't really care per se, about a lot of things. He's just kind of living his life and he's just a really supportive, good dad. So he never really thought about it or questioned me, and he just kind of, he does his stuff. I do mine and we don't question other stuff, but my mom definitely did some digging and knew at times and wasn't the happiest, but I basically told her that she didn't really have a choice.
Mike: Because you were gonna do it anyway.
Mike: Yeah. And so what was it like then to have that conversation after you got the letter and the charges? Because it sounds like your dad would've been supportive.
Mike: Your mom, I'm, was she?
Cletus: Honestly, a lot more than I thought?
Mike: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
Cletus: I thought it was, she definitely was upset, but she also realized it didn't. Her getting upset or mad at me wasn't gonna change what happened, and she was just like, all right, let's just, let's deal with it now. It's, it happened, but now it's not like we can reverse this.
Cletus: So it was definitely a lot better of a situation than I thought going forward and definitely lost some trust, but I kind of knew that was gonna happen. I, that that was all part of it.
Mike: Well, and that's part of the dealing with it moving forward, right? Is. You know, I, this is a cost. That's a cost.
Cletus: Yep. Yeah, there was lots of costs.
Mike: Well talk about those. How much costs first, first go to the economic ones. Like did you add it all up or, I don't wanna depress you, but.
Cletus: Yeah, it was about $15,000.
Cletus: Right outta my pocket. So that was I've been lucky where I have worked really hard for a lot of my life. So I'm, I've set myself up with enough to fund that, but they actually offered for me to be an informant and they said basically, this has never happened if you do this.
Cletus: So basically they were gonna erase any charges or anything and put it on the back burner if I would go and tell them other people. But I knew that I had enough money and wits to be able to go through this and not have anything bad happen or kind of go down the rabbit hole as some say.
Cletus: Within the system because you do see people, once they're in it, they kind of can't get out and. But I know a lot of people that aren't fortunate enough for that, and I know it would basically ruin the rest of their life. And I just decided I didn't want to put other people in this position. It's my choice.
Cletus: I did it. I'm gonna take my responsibility for it. I'm not gonna bring other people in to save myself.
Cletus: So I took it full on and I, I just told them no. I was like, I, I'm not doing that. I'm, I'm not gonna break someone's life apart and although they're not doing something good, but I also did it as well, so I'm gonna take my consequence and you can go through them how you would like that.
Mike: And so other costs, relationship costs?
Cletus: Yeah. With friends and everything? Not really. Since everyone kind of knew what I was doing. And also it was honestly surprising that how little people looked at me negatively or differently with my charges and stuff and being on probation. And I would say people actually were more open to me.
Cletus: They were kind of like just curious about what's going on. But with family also, everyone was really supportive and. Like I said, it definitely broke trust, but I think it also grew a different type of trust. Because from then on I was a lot more straightforward with my family on everything, and they knew that this is probably the worst type of thing that I could get caught with or do for myself, and that I was open and knew the consequences and I took that.
Cletus: And I think moving forward it definitely built a better relationship than what started, but yeah. And. So that it was definitely a lot better on that case. I'd say.
Mike: You know, you just made me think of something. I, and I haven't talked about this for a long time. I used to say to people when, young people, when they would say, well, what's the big deal if I do it?
Mike: And I, and I would always, one of my answers used to be, well, the first time you do it, first time you use it, just, it makes you a liar. Cuz all everybody who uses for the first time lies.
Mike: To their family and friends or whoever isn't they're using with, and you know, when you say be straightforward, it's like, yeah, I can drop the pretense.
Mike: I can just be who I am now. Cause that lying builds up. Right. That lying makes you feel bad about yourself too.
Mike: So then, then as you're, you come out of this center, are you had to stop using while you were on probation?
Mike: Yeah. And, and, and so then, Just continued with your life, your college, your job, rest of it.
Cletus: Yeah, everything just kind of moved forward. Cause I was lucky with probation of not really having to do much for it per se, where I've heard a lot more strenuous situations that people have gone through. My actual first probation officer for the first year, he was retiring, so he. Was basically MIA.
Cletus: And that was a whole situation moving to the next probation officer because he never contacted me about anything or did anything. He just retired. So I was left in the dust and no one even contacted me or anything.
Mike: Did you get in trouble for that?
Cletus: Well, no. I tried calling him on our meet date for our last meeting and he just didn't answer and he actually ended up blocking me cuz I texted him and called him and I was like, "I knew you were retiring soon, but I didn't know you retired early, so like how was the, what's the process of finding, getting someone new?" And Yeah, he just blocked me.
Cletus: So I had to go through the state and they had to figure out who I was and what was happening. And then it was this whole long process of being able to find a new one in my area because they didn't know what was happening either.
Mike: What would've happened if you wouldn't have done that?
Cletus: Honestly, I have no idea.
Cletus: I personally didn't want to, cuz I was halfway through, I was like...
Cletus: I don't. I was calling him. I was like, I don't, I don't wanna get in trouble. I don't want something to go wrong here. I don't want to, we have to go through this because yeah, we'd meet every three months or maybe a minute on the phone.
Cletus: He'd be like, you good? I'd be like, yeah. And then that was basically it.
Mike: Yeah. I, you wouldn't want to all of a sudden do nothing and then have it show up 10 years later.
Cletus: Yeah, and that was the thing. No one contacted me. I had to keep calling the different like, places trying to figure out where I can go to get someone and people would not contact me back.
Cletus: It was awful. It was an awful experience.
Mike: Well, did you consult your lawyer during that time and say, what should I do?
Cletus: I didn't because I ended up figuring it out.
Cletus: I would've if I wasn't able to. But after a persistent few days, I was able to get contact with someone and they were like, here you go.
Cletus: But. Yeah. Honestly, I, I don't know what would've happened if I didn't contact anyone.
Mike: And so then eventually your probation ends.
Mike: And so, free and clear?
Cletus: Mm-hmm. Yeah. So my probation, I was complete sobriety, so even being 21, I couldn't drink.
Cletus: So I wasn't, I couldn't go out to the bars or do any of that stuff. So.
Cletus: Now after probation, I am able to do everything the same. I'm the, I can vote now, I can do everything, because my felony was expunged.
Mike: Because you completed what you needed to do?
Cletus: Yep. That was one of the probation agreements.
Mike: Hmm. And, and so what I, through all of that did you ever think Cletus did, did you ever think you had a problem with your usage?
Mike: Because it sounds like you had already started to slow down, quit. Did you think you had a problem?
Cletus: There was a period of time where there was a problem, but after that, not really. I did lose a few people that I knew through drugs.
Cletus: So that definitely changed how I looked at it and how I did it.
Cletus: And it was definitely a lot less because of all that stuff. So.
Mike: And, and so now moving forward, are you more careful? Are you aware of yourself? Because I assume when you said you can resume that, you know, you're of age, you can drink, right?
Cletus: Mm-hmm. Yep.
Mike: So what do you, what are you watching out for?
Cletus: Just being physically careful, most of it because I'm at personally a really good mindset in health in general. Very happy person. A lot of stuff has gone good now and jobs and everything, so it's, it's just a lot better for me personally, and so I don't really need to worry about getting into it as a problem.
Cletus: If I wanna drink for fun or recreation or do something else, it, it's not a problem or all the time as it used to be. But yeah, it's. So it's more just physically watching out because mentally I'm a lot healthier of a person, so.
Mike: And, and your relationships are stronger?
Cletus: I would say so, yeah. Because I understand that the people that told me not to do these things were right.
Cletus: And also that it shows me how much people cared and how much people were supportive through all of that, where you always think, oh, how would that person kind of be, or what would they do if this happened, or if a larger situation would arise, like what would they actually be there for me? Through this I was actually able to see that in people, so that was really cool.
Mike: Yeah, I like that, I'm nodding because I, I think that that does happen to a lot of people. I, you know, when you get into trouble, you find out who your real friends are, right?
Cletus: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. And that's 100% true. People say that, and you always can say, oh, you're just saying that to say it, but. When actually going through a situation like that, it is 100% true.
Mike: Yeah. No kidding. And, are you ever tempted?
Cletus: At times, yeah, but not as much as I used to be, to say the least.
Mike: Do you have people in your life who would kick your butt if you, if [laugh] you were ever indulged?
Cletus: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. There's, there's those certain people for sure.
Mike: Your mom would be at the head of the list [laugh].
Cletus: Ugh, flying colors.
Mike: [laugh] That's great. You know, this is all about learning, and I think that part of this is, is really, really instructive because the system isn't easy to navigate for anybody.
Mike: And you hear, we've had three or four podcasts in a row where people have battled the system to get the help that they needed. And you're coming at it from the other way where you'd think the one thing the system would be good at is holding people accountable, but you had to actually hold yourself accountable.
Cletus: Yeah, it was a really weird situation to say the least. Like I, I was basically forcing the system to get back to me rather than them coming to me because everyone always say, oh, they're gonna come to your door, blah, blah, blah. But I was like, I need to, I was needing to go to their door.
Cletus: Yeah. Hearing them about the system, and I never really got into anything or in any trouble growing up or anything, so I was never able.
Cletus: I was never, I never had to go through the system in any case. So you'd always hear the system is broken in certain ways and I was like never really thought about it until it was, I was actually in it and I was like, it is, it is. It is very sad to say the least.
Mike: Well, and I, I think had you had a more severe problem yourself with quitting, especially for when you got caught, it would've been interesting cuz during COVID we heard all sorts of stories about people.
Mike: Who had nowhere to go if they got into trouble with their own usage. So.
Mike: Glad it worked out for you.
Mike: You know, thank you so much for telling your story. I think it's just so instructive and I'm glad you're healthy and...
Mike: I'm glad you're wise. [laugh]
Cletus: Yeah, it's, it definitely has helped me out in a lot of different areas that I never thought a situation like this could end up bringing light out of something.
Mike: Mm-hmm. Well, there's light out of every dark tunnel, you know?
Cletus: Ya, absolutely.
Mike: We have to find it. Yeah. Cletus, thank you for being with us, and I hope those of you who are listening found this as instructive and beneficial as, as I have. Please join us next time when we, who knows what we'll talk about next time.
Mike: Always something interesting. And until then stay safe and stay outta trouble.
Stream This Episode
Download This Episode
This will start playing the episode in your browser. To download to your computer, right-click this button and select "Save Link" or "Download Link".