Excerpt from my newest eBook "The Devil Within"

THE DEVIL WITHIN

Copyright © 2019, Valerie R. Clay

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted

in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Chapter 1

 

THE BEATEN PATH

 

 

I recently spent about four days in Savannah, Ga. It is a beautiful town full of trees covered in Spanish Moss, old mansions, and even a river walk where you can watch the ships pass by. It has a memorable resonance. There are old cobblestone walkways that lead to different tourist routes. There are attractions such as restaurants, art galleries, and wineries around the city. It is gorgeous!

If you want to know where the attractions are, you can simply follow the beaten paths. The old paths are usually lined with brick walls, ivy-covered terraces, and etched antique bricks. The river walk was the best attraction in my opinion and also the most worn path in the city. The beaten cobblestone walkways with horse and carriage travel give the town a great deal of character. The town’s light reflecting off the water casts an unforgettable ambiance at night. In Savannah, everyone follows the beaten path.

The same is true for Las Vegas. My husband and I were married there several years ago. It was my first time venturing away from the southern part of the United States. It was also my first flight. Needless to say, I was very nervous. I was excited that I was getting to see Vegas, so that excitement got me on the plane!

I had only seen Vegas in movies and pictures. All the bright lights and tourists’ attractions piqued my interest. Once I got there, I must say I was very disappointed to realize the entire town isn’t what it appears to be in the movies.

 

There is one main strip through town that has all the bright lights and attractions. Once you get off of the main strip, it is just basically a town like most others. Don’t get me wrong, the strip covers about 90 plus acres. In-person, it all just doesn’t seem as grand as I had it built up in my mind.

 

I had heard it called the place of sin. I had also obviously seen the gambling and mischievous endeavors one could get themselves into by watching movies and reading articles. I had no idea though, the streets would be lined with nude pics of women, and that the strip clubs would be propagandizing on every street corner.

I was quickly regretting my decision to get married there, but we made the best of it and veered toward the cleaner attractions. I did enjoy the lights, shopping, and the surrounding attractions such as the Hoover Dam. I loved staying at the Bellagio and getting to see some live shows. However, since we are not party people or gamblers, I was wishing we had chosen to get married elsewhere.

When you are getting married, you have oneness on your mind. It’s kind of hard to feel that in Vegas. I am sure if I had indulged in a few Vegas bombs, I wouldn’t have minded the "sin city" so much. However, I didn’t want to say, “I do,” and not remember it. Ha! 

In tourist towns, everyone seems to take the beaten path. Most beaten paths surround the partying kind of lifestyle. In life though, the right way isn’t the beaten path. A partying lifestyle will bring you heartache in the end.

 

The right way is usually the narrowest way, the path least is taken, the path nobody else wants to be on because it isn’t fun. It’s tough to do the right thing when you have to do it all alone. It’s especially tough when you are unsure if you're on the right path. It’s harder to be disciplined and use integrity when you have to break away from the crowd that is doing something completely the opposite of that.

The right path in life isn’t always paved with beautiful old cobblestone, or lined with ivy-covered terraces. The right path may not even look attractive. Many times, it even looks like it has no reward, no promise of a better future, no fame, fortune, or even temporary satisfaction.

 

Many times, the way you need to go doesn’t even make logical sense. However, if you take the beaten path, it is quite possible you will end up living a less than mediocre life, doing the wrong thing.

 

The beaten pathways in Savannah are so attractive it makes you want to walk for hours just to enjoy the view, and the antiquities are worth the price of your feet hurting each night. The beaten path in life, however, will cause you to walk for miles without reaching your destination. Miles later, you are still trying to figure out where to go and what to do.

What happened? Why didn’t you reach your destination like everyone else seemed to? The truth is, no one reaches their destination taking the beaten path. It’s all a façade.

THE FAÇADE

Robin Williams was one of my favorite actors when I was growing up. Especially after his role in Patch Adams; a touching movie based on a true story about a man’s struggle to become a doctor. If you haven’t seen it, I would highly suggest watching it. Robin Williams did a good job of portraying a humble man who wanted to help people.

Who would’ve thought a man like that would commit suicide? It was disheartening, to say the least. I didn’t know the actor, but I cried the day he died, and for days afterward. It saddened me that a man who made so many people laugh was unhappy at the end of his life.

It seemed like he had taken the right path, didn’t it? He made it big in Hollywood, had wealth, fame, and just about anything he could want. But the one thing he didn’t have was peace. 

I watched a documentary on his life. His friends revealed he had a past drug habit. That’s the first beaten path Robin William’s allowed himself to be on. They also said he had multiple women at a time in his younger years, sometimes one on each arm. The story went on and on about the ups and downs of his life, all beaten paths that led to depression and addiction. Yet, he also experienced success. Was his success proves that he was on the right path?

It was not at all proof of success. The success was a consequence of the hard work and dedication he put into acting, but that success is not a measurement of who he was as a person.

If you want to know if someone is a success as a person, you don’t look at their fame or wealth; you look at their happiness level and peace. His own son said in the documentary, “In so many senses, he was the most successful person I know. And, yet he didn’t always feel that.” At the end of William’s life, he was sad, felt dissatisfied, and was deeply depressed. That isn’t a success, that is a façade.

Upon autopsy, he was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. He was not only sad, he was sick. I’ve been sick before and I can tell you from experience it literally affects everything else in your life. His wife blamed the disease for his death, but I believe his sickness and death ultimately came because of the lifestyle he’d previously lived.  

I believe his heavy drug and alcohol addiction was a contributing factor to his declining health and mental status as he aged. He had dealt with depression for many years and would turn to drink, thinking it would help him to stop feeling that way. Wrong beliefs, a negative mindset, and bad habits, all took him down the wrong path.

Depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, & lack of peace all go hand in hand.

I did a little research on the subject. Name after name popped up of famous artists who took their own life or overdosed on drugs or alcohol. The deaths of famous people who died of suicide, drug overdose, or alcohol poisoning are phenomenal. The list went on and on from Kurt Cobain, Chester Bennington, Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, Chris Farley, and Jimi Hendrix just to name a few. All of these artists' apparent “success,” didn’t bring them peace.

A book was written about Robin William’s by author Dave Itzkoff. According to the book, his cocaine habit became substantial around 1976. His friends recounted in that book that fans would walk up to Robin and hand him cocaine, and Robin would do it right there on the spot.

Drugs were endlessly at his disposal. His friends couldn’t believe how many drugs he did. The book also states that he would stay out all night sleeping with everyone in town. He lived a life so free from restrictions and discipline, he would come into work having had no sleep the night before and would be a total wreck.

After the death of his friend, John Belushi, caused by a speedball overdose (cocaine and heroin mix); Williams considered the path he was on and realized he needed to change. After having a cocaine habit for many years, at that point, he must have asked himself, “Is it worth it?”

The answer was obvious when he quit cold turkey, just six months before his first son was born, and shortly after Belushi‘s death. No rehab, he just up and quit.

John Belushi was known as a “party animal,” especially after starring in the hit movie Animal House. William’s had been partying with Belushi the night before his death. Belushi’s death was a wakeup call for William’s, and he realized he would not be able to be a good parent living that kind of lifestyle. He immediately got off that beaten path.

John Belushi, on the other hand, did not take a different approach to life before it was too late. He was known for his great acting skills, but more so, he was known for his drug habit. It is amazing how a drug habit can overcome the life of a person to such a great degree, that you remember more about their drug habit than anything else. You don’t notice the person’s skills, talents, and character as much as you notice the addiction. You don’t remember their education, charity events they hosted, or hospitality as much as you remember their addiction.

Nearly every article I could find on John Belushi recalled him being a genius of sorts when it came to his acting skills. However, his drug habit was a stigma that overwhelmed his acting career in nearly every write up. People don’t remember you for the good things you do as much as they remember your failures. Failures usually overpower the good things, if they become perpetual habits.

Failures and bad habits are kind of like the Kudzu vine we have here in Alabama; it takes over. Bad habits are spiritual weeds that take over everything else. The drug habit consumed the theatrical genius right out of John Belushi, and eventually took his life.

Williams stayed sober for about twenty years after Belushi’s death. Then suddenly one night, while he was filming a movie, feeling lonely and afraid, he decided to have a drink to help himself feel better. He told The Guardian, “I just thought, hey, maybe drinking will help. Because I felt alone and afraid... And, it (that feeling) was the worst thing in the world.”

Oh, that all too familiar feeling of being lonely and afraid. Negative feelings are what usually bring an addiction back. It is when we allow our minds to be consumed with wrong beliefs that we get those negative feelings.

William’s wasn’t alone in this world. He felt alone in that moment, and it overwhelmed him to such a great degree, that he turned to an old negative habit to take that temporary feeling away. William’s believed drinking would help him to “feel better.” His wrong belief took him back down the wrong path, once again.

William’s death wasn’t drug-related as far as I’ve read, but his life was definitely a struggle due to his addictions.

Addictions & bad habits take people down the wrong path, or it causes them to stagnate, & unable to move forward.

None of us are above an addiction. Bad habits of any kind can overwhelm you, and overtake you. The best way to stay free is to never start anything you could potentially get hooked on. If you’re already hooked, you need to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” Is it worth the pain? Is it worth the consequences? Is that next fix worth losing your kids over? Is that next bite worth the weight you will gain? Is it worth the health issues you may experience? Is it worth losing your life over?

Williams once said in an interview that he’d never returned to his cocaine habit because he knew it could kill him. He related cocaine to pain, sorrow, sleepless nights, and a negative lifestyle. He did, however, return to alcohol because he knew it was far less of a health risk. A risk, nonetheless, that sent him down a lonesome and destructive road. A road that led him to rehab three years later.

What do you think he would say to you right now if he were still here, and knew the end his path would have led him to? I guarantee you his advice would be to take the path that leads to peace, instead.

Don’t take the path that your party animal friends are on. Don’t take advice from people who are no better off than you want to be. Hang around wise and successful people who live a life of integrity. If peace isn’t what you have at the end of the day, you are on the wrong path, doing the wrong thing; no matter how successful you appear to be.

I have been a success in life when it comes to business. I have also been a failure. I have even been somewhere in between. But I can tell you that none of those situations established my value as a person. Those positions in life didn’t have anything to do with who I am. Our value has to do with our moral character, personality, and the choices we make. That value can change in a matter of minutes depending on what choice we make next.

No matter what material possessions we own, how much money we have in the bank, or what success we’ve had in business, our overall depth and character as a person is what we will leave behind as a memory.

A person’s value is really only estimated by one thing, and that is integrity. I heard my stepdad say something about a man who had passed away. He said, “I never once heard that man tell a lie. He would tell the truth, no matter what, even if it hurt him.” The truth had become that man’s legacy.

What will be your legacy? Will it be that you worked so much, you were an absentee father? Or, maybe you didn’t work at all, and you were considered a deadbeat dad? A person without integrity is a person without hope or peace, and one who will leave behind infamy, rather than a legacy of good works. A good reputation is an inheritance for your children, a bad reputation will leave them with shame.

John Belushi’s kids once said in an interview that they wish everyone would remember their father for the good things he did in life, rather than his drug habit. Unfortunately, his drug habit stood out more than the rest of his life, so that is what people are always going to remember. It isn’t easy to accept, but unfortunately, a person’s bad habits define who they are.

MATTER OF OPINION

Aside from a few short-lived mishaps, I’ve tried all of my life to be a positive influence for others and to create a positive atmosphere for those around me. However, it depends on whom you ask, as to whether or not I am seen that way. Some people have been around me when I was at my worst, and only think the worst of me because of that. I know someone who judges me for a six-month period of my life, during a time at which I was going through a separation. They judge me as though I have always been that same bitter woman. For some reason, people seem to remember your flaws above all else, and they look for reasons to judge you in a negative way.

One of my children has always been very negative, and he sees me in a negative light. The other is very neutral and carefree and doesn’t give much thought to what kind of person I am. One would tell you I am a negative person to be around, the other would tell you I am a pretty decent mom. Their opinion of me as their mother is based on their own attitude and outlook.

It doesn’t move me either way as I’ve done the best I know how in raising them, but it is a good example to show you how a person’s personality can affect their outlook on things. Ultimately, a person’s attitude will affect not only how they see others, but also how they see themselves.

I’ve had outsiders tell me I am the best mom a person could have, and they wish they had me as a parent. On the other hand, I know someone who said they wouldn’t live with me if their life depended on it because I am too strict. My point is, how others see you all has to do with their own perception of reality. Some notice the positive things; some notice the negative.

At the end of a person’s life what will be remembered the most is the overall character of a person. Their bad habits are what will be remembered first and foremost. Next will be their commitment or lack of commitment to integrity. Did they help people? Were they kind, honest, faithful, and dependable? A person’s overall character will even outweigh a bad habit if everyone can see that the person made a fighting effort to overcome it.

For most of my life, I’ve tried hard to see the best in people. However, the older I get, the more I can see the negativity that is in people. Even so, I refuse to allow it to make me bitter. The negativity that is in the world doesn’t have to become your own. My choice in life is to be a giver and allow my love for others to show through that.

I am an artist. I’ve given art away more times than I’ve sold it because I want to be remembered for my generosity. I’ve invested a lot of time, effort, and money into those gifts. I do it because I love giving. I love knowing that other people have something I invested myself in. I can’t think of a better way to show love than to do it through giving.

I know someone who once said, “I became successful in business and God knocked me down a notch to reveal the egotism in my heart.” Well, first of all, God doesn’t do that. Secondly, money and success reveal matters of the heart, it doesn’t create them.

Money or a lack thereof doesn’t make you who you are, it reveals who you are.

Whether you are a failure or success, doesn’t really play a part in your integrity. However, who you are as a person definitely plays a part in your failure or success in life.

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