It’s About Prevention

My son is fifteen years old and he just started his sophomore year in high school. This year he will attend school with one less classmate. You see, back in June, Tovonna Holton, who was also fifteen and also preparing for her second year of high school, took her own life. Tovonna lived a quarter-mile down the street from my son.

Suicide creates a profound impact, whether directly or tangentially. And although the circumstances surrounding Tovonna’s death are in debate – did she take her life because of cyber-bullying, or was it because of domestic issues in her home – the end result is the same. A young girl struggling with pressure and crisis in her life took a handgun and killed herself.

Crisis can feel insurmountable. It can be overwhelming. When left solely on the shoulders of an individual, it can be tragic.


Two years ago, our friend Susie took her life. I can honestly say things haven’t felt the same since. But we don’t just let it end there, with the grief and the “what if’s”. We take the pain and the anguish and the heartache, and we channel it in hopes that no one else ever has to feel those same emotions.

That’s the thing about suicide; it is 100% preventable.

On Wednesday, August 31, The RITZ Ybor is hosting Beer and Bowties Tampa Bay, a fundraising event from which all proceeds go to suicide prevention and awareness. The team that founded Beer and Bowties have partnered with the Tampa Bay Crisis Center in order to bring people together to strip away the taboos that surround the conversations of suicide and shed light on the epidemic that claimed over forty thousand American lives in 2014*.


The mission of the Tampa Bay Crisis Center is to ensure that no one in our community has to face crisis alone, and awareness is critical in curbing the suicide rate in our country. Knowing there are people and organizations that are willing to help is the difference between someone choosing to end it all and someone taking that first step towards getting better.

I encourage you to join us on August 31 in the hopes of having an effect in the life of someone struggling with crisis and confusion. If not, I trust this post serves as a reminder of the resources that are available to those contemplating suicide. Remember, 2-1-1 is a free, 24/7 helpline that connects individuals to essential health and human services.

Whether it’s someone with whom you work, attend school, or who lives just down the street, we all have a role to play in helping prevent suicide.



*Source: Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

Click here to see video by Vox regarding the impact of guns on suicide.

UpLIFTed: Pt. 2

Very few people really enjoy starting anew. Personally, I very much try to avoid getting out of my routine and taking on something new. That is the primary reason I found myself flabby and lethargic at the end of 2013, and feeling simply disgusted with myself.

This year, Lee and I decided to do something about it, and we not only changed what we ate but how we ate. Going through that lifestyle change was difficult, but it was worth it. Looking back on the past year, nine months removed from that first day of ‘diet’, I can’t fathom the idea of eating some of the stuff we had been eating on a regular basis. What is maltodextrin anyway?

We’re also six weeks into a regular fitness routine. Our new normal is waking up early to be at the gym at 5:00 AM. It was grueling at first, but we both enjoy the extra energy we now have as a result of getting our heart going so early in the day. We’re also starting to see the subtle muscle definition that comes with working out (almost) daily.

What does this have to do with Sister Hazel you ask?

Back in late 2004, when my life hit rock bottom, there was one song that almost literally defined my existence. It’s a song I would turn to when I had nothing and no one else. And it’s a song I consider to be an example of lyrical genius.


The song is called Another Me and it is on the album Lift. It tells the story of a person’s struggle to get through the tough time, to get back to some sense of normal.

And I’m waiting for another me
One that can change the pain of yesterday
Carry me through another day

That was my everyday for the better part of six months. Taking showers until I was shivering from the hot water having run out. Crying myself to sleep. Drinking myself to sleep. Feeling delirious because I hadn’t slept in 32 hours. All the time waiting for ‘another me’ to show up.

I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t realize that season in my life was a process I had to experience in order for that ‘another me’ to arrive. Not unlike starting and sticking to a new diet or workout regiment, getting from bad to good takes time. There is no fast forwarding through the process, no matter how much it sucks or how badly you desire to get there.

I am blessed to have the ability to look back and see the path that lead me to where I am today. I’ve learned many things from those moments, the most important being that it does get better. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true. The key is not to get there overnight; that’s never going to happen. The key is to make tomorrow just a little bit better than today.

What’s really ironic is that in my darkest moment, I lost faith in God. He, however, was faithful to me, and He opened my eyes to the reality of what I needed to face and overcome. By placing my faith back in Him, God delivered ‘another me’.

“Another Me”

Diggin’ in for another day
Carrying on in my own
But you know me
I live and die nearly every day
Insanity, it’s havin’ its way with me

These days in the gallows
I’m kneeling at the block
With my neck outstretched
And I should’ve stayed in the shallows

But you know me, I’m in too deep
And I’m waiting for another me
One that can change the pain of yesterday
Carry me through another day
And I’m waiting for another me
One in between the burn
And the lessons learned
‘Cause being me ain’t no way to be

I’m talking law down at Murphy’s Bar
Unhappy hour on my own last call
Calling me out on my living lie
Looking for luck I can’t even buy

Give me one chance at recovering
What was lost
And give me one shot at redemption
At any cost
Repair my way before it breaks me
Don’t break me

Hello did you notice me
Can’t you see that I’m crumbling down
Tired of the same old same
I’m coming to
I’m coming back around