I come from very chaotic beginnings and an emotionally absent parent in early childhood. My Mother and Father were divorced when I was just 3 years old. With that, I grew up with a single Mother, older Sister and younger brother. Our Mother was a good person but irresponsible and abandoned us regularly. She was carrying on the legacy of what was taught to her by he non-caring parents so she was only doing what she knew.
I know that my Father always fought hard to gain custody of us but in those days Father’s rarely won custody. So, we remained with my Mother. I witnessed my mother being beaten and abused by her “boyfriends,” and I experienced this abuse myself as well. What I saw my Mother endure was horrifying as a youngster and I remember having a great deal of fear and anger against these men. When our Mother would disappear there were scary nights where we had no supervision, or any idea where she was for days on end. With little to eat except dog food I always had my Brother and Sister to count on until I was shipped off to Juvi. In 5th grade I smoked pot for the first time and when I came back from recess. I had the classroom roaring with laughter as I told the teacher that, “I didn’t care what she thought.” I felt powerful and the feeling of being high was great although drinking was to be my true drug of choice. Now that I had smoked some pot it was time to try some booze. In fact, whiskey straight out of the bottle. The feeling was amazing and so powerful that I blacked out and got sick my very first time. That didn’t stop me as I wanted more right away. Because of anger issues, and anti-social behavior, I became violent towards other children at school and began to light large scale fires on the hillsides in California. These are just a few of the stories I share as not to bore you. There are plenty more that I am not proud of.
My first visit to Juvenile hall was at age 9. I was the youngest person they had ever had in Juvenille hall, so I was told. I spent my 10 year birthday there and remember how lonely I was. My Mother did come and visit me for an hour or so and this made my day but my lonlieness came back quickly as ever. I was always an inquisitive kid and loved figuring things out, especially when it came to electronics. When I figured out how the alarm system worked, and how to trick it, plus the combination locks where they looked locked but they were not. I was very excited! My plan? To free all the kids in Juvinille hall and have a mass escape in the black of night. It was around the holidays and my plan was in place. At around 10pm, 50 kids escaped under my plan. Again, feeling so proud of myself for breaking all of these kids out was a highlight of that Juvinille hall experience and would give you a glimpse of where my mental state was at the time. I had little concious and did not care what anyone thought. Can you say Alcoholic behavior? From there I went between a children’s center called Ming Quong, (Means Radiant Light in Cantonese), which was located in Los Gatos, CA, now called Uplife Family Services, www.emq.org where I spent 3 years of my life. They did not say such at the time but this place was for severe cases of emotionally troubled children. I grew to love Ming Quong and all they did for me.
After being released from Ming Quong I went back to San Francisco where I quickly got back into my old ways which landed me in San Francisco Juvinille Hall. Ultimately, I got placed in a foster home. It was a January night. A call came in around midnight to my Foster parents as I could hear mumbled voices in the kitchen but I could not make out what was being said. I wondered who was callng so late at night. I had this sinking feeling though and felt confident someting terrible had happened. I had just seen my Mother hours earlier that day in San Francisco as I visited her in the hospital. The Doctors told my Foster parents that you’d better bring Mark to see his Mother because she is not doing well. I had no idea she was even in the hospital. She had been in a coma for 2 weeks and remarkably, she came out of her coma just in time for my visit. We drove up to see her and I spent alone time with her. We hugged and talked a bit. I told her how sorry I was for being such a bad Son, and she apologized too for not being there enough for me. I gave her a kiss, looked at her pretty face, and said goodbye never knowing that, this was the last time I would ever see my beautiful Mother again. At age15 I lost my Mother to cancer and it was the first time I felt that life was not worth living. The next morning I attempted suicide with an overdose of pills and obviously the attempt was not successful. After the passing of my Mother my foster parents had really become concerned about what I was capable of next. I was into drinking, smoking, drugs, and definitely not doing well in school. They felt they could not handle me any longer and it was time for me to go. They contacted my Father and requested him to take care of me and it was a major blessing in my life. I got to move to Florida and live with my Father who had become a successful real estate developer. I also got to meet my “new” Brother, Sister, and other family members I had never met. I was loving my new life in Florida and know this was a pivotal time in my life that helped me towards success. I was very happy but could never shake the sadness of losing my Mother as well as being separated from my older Sister and Brother I had grown up with. I owe so much to my Foster parents, Jackie and Jay as they opened up their home to me. I remember Jackie telling me one day, “Mark, you don’t have to worry about having enough food. We will alwyas have enough food.” Apparently, when Jackie would go shopping I would quickly devour all the food in a couple of days. I must have wrecked the budget. The kindness they showed me by providing me a place of refuge and love. I am still appreciative today for their incredible contribution towards my life.
My early work life as a youngster: My first job was washing dishes in a Greek restaurant and working in a grocery store where I worked in the produce section, and swept floors at night. Later, After being released from Ming Quong, I secured a large paper route in San Francisco trudging up and down the hills with my cart. These carts were so heavy especially on Sunday paper day. But, I knew the payoff would be treats for me, my Sister, and brother which made it all worth it. I’ll never forget the time I was so excited to buy my Brother and Sister gifts with my newspaper money. I bought my Brother something he had wanted so badly, a Vertibird, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VertiBird Those were toys of the 1970’s, a helicopter toy and my Brother LOVED his vertibird. I was his hero back then. Some of my jobs paid me in exchange for food. I loved getting paid in food or $$$ in exchange for my efforts. This love for work continues today. I wanted to be a success and I knew I would be, one day. Relationships were hard for me and because I had few to rely on, or guide me growing up and I just thought life was about doing what you wanted to do without regard for anyone else’s feelings. Eventually, I married and had 3 beautiful children but continued to be selfish and make poor choices because I felt entitled. I did not think through well enough of how my poor choices would effect so many others. My words went something like this…. “I am providing very well for my family and they should be appreciative don’t you know?”
One of my lows was when I was sleeping in front of a building and looked across the street where my daughter took ballet. I could not believe I was a bum on the street in the early morning thinking I was better than the, “real” bums I saw down the street. It came to me that I was no different than them. I was every bit a bum and loser in my mind. For the most part, I was a high functioning drunk as I always had a knack for selling and making money. I was very successful and regularly earned hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. This ability to secure great jobs and earn a high income contributed to enabling my behavior. It was a feeling that I had money and, “Success.” This success was an illusion because I had spiraled down into the dark mental abyss of paranoia and self loathing. I had all the trappings of success but none of it mattered. I was a failure and felt like I would always be a failure to my kids and wife. I decided to end my life in my garage. I was in the process of saying goodbye in a serious way and I could only think of my beautiful children and the legacy I was about to leave them. My Higher Power stepped in and I suddenly changed my mind. I did not want to die!!!! I have always been a fighter my entire life and I was ready for the fight of my life! To quit this insanity! I was done cutting deals with my higher power. This time my words were, “IF you see fit to allow me to live I will commit my life to a better and sober way. I meant every workd! My choice was to live a new life. One with determination and gratitude.
On August 11, 2001 after many, many failed attempts to stop drinking and drugging, I committed my life to sobriety where my ,”Actions Would Meet My Intentions.” For over 16 years now, I continue to stay focused, one-day-at-a-time, and magical things continue to happen in my life. For example, 2 months after I got sober in 2001, I was laid off from my position at a global semiconductor company. I had to figure out my next move to pay my huge bills. I met the challenge head on and started my own technology company which I built into a multi-million dollar company. This company was later acquired by a larger company in 2011. In 2014 my wife and I started a real estate company where we have a team of 4 real estate agents with a focus on traditional residential real estate sales. We will be expanding our team Rickert Property Group to Florida in 2018 in order to serve the Sarasota/Bradenton markets. In addition, I actively look for apartment buildings and mobile home parks for investment purposes, either for our own investments or to assist other investors earn above average returns on their capital. As I always say, put your efforts into positive things and wonderful things happen. Up From The Ashes….Yes I Have! I’ve always appreciated those who have given so freely to me in trying to help me through the years. I could not have done this on my own. People saw things in me I did not and because of them, hard work, the program of recovery; I am here with a message that life is thriving, great, amazing, and its all up to me to continue staying spiritually filled-up each and every day to remain successful. I am happily re-married for nearly 10 years now and have 5 beautiful grown children. I can’t forget our 3 crazy lovable dogs, Zeus the Min Pin, (Big Name Small Dog), Storm, our 100lb. black German Shepherd, and Rio, our rescue from the Navajo Nation Reservation, (The Rez). Rez dogs rule! 🙂
Today, I choose to Soar!
In closing, I stay humble but want you to know that it is possible for you to have success beyond your wildest dreams. Becoming an entrepreneur, a great Brother/Sister, friend, the Father/Mother you always wanted to be, and even a multi-millionaire. If I can do it…anyone can! Should you ever need to speak privately I will do my best to help you by sharing my experience, strength, and hope with an emphasis on strength and hope!
My prayers go out to all those who still suffer.
Soaring in Sobriety,