By Trent Rosser
Last Friday, Kip Billups announced that he too was going to run for mayor of Amarillo. This was a shock to say the least. To bring some of you up to speed, Kip was arrested last year for clapping at a city council meeting. To be correct, the official charge was disrupting a meeting. I was actually there at that meeting and witnessed the entire incident. Many people clapped, but Mayor Nelson singled out Kip Billups and another man. Mayor Nelson asked the other man to stand and when he did she said that he had a choice, he could abide by the rules, or leave. She then turned to Mr. Billups, and asked him to stand, he refused to stand so she asked the officers to escort him out. He was handcuffed before he reached the door. He did not resist or do anything other than disobey the Mayor’s order to stand. This made national headlines and he became known as “the Clapper”. So when he filed to run for Mayor, it was a shock to many people. Social media posts about the campaign took off like crazy. This is what really got my eyes seeing red.
One of the first things that Mr. Billups did was reveal his past. Being homeless on skid row in the deadly streets of Los Angeles to his two charges of D.W.I. Naturally, he started being attacked because of his past. This is what ticked me off. I know that anyone that runs for any kind of public office will be ridiculed because of his past. Most everyone knows that Kip Billups is an advocate for the homeless in Amarillo. He staged the protest that ended up in one of his arrest at city hall. But what I, and many others, didn’t know: he is a recovering alcoholic. Yes, he did have two D.W.I. charges, but he has also been sober for over 6 years now. This is where it gets crazy. A couple of people started to make fun of his recovery of alcoholism. Calling him a drunk and a drug user. Hmm, let's see, the drug charge was for drug paraphernalia and that charge was dropped. The last D.W.I charge was in 1997, over 20 years ago! So according to some people on social media, if you ever make a mistake, you are branded for life, and can never change for the better. Well, I hate to prove them wrong, but you can change for the better.
I myself have had 3 D.W.I charges. It took me a little bit, but I finally learned that I cannot drink like a normal person. I am an alcoholic. No, I take that back, I am a recovering alcoholic. I have been sober for over 9 years, and the last 9 years have been far better for me than anything before then. People tell me, “I wouldn’t be telling people that you have a D.W.I. charges like that.” Well, believe it or not, I am grateful for those charges. For without them teaching me a lesson, and learning to live without alcohol, I could not be the man I am today. I still make mistakes, and I learn new things every day, but I will always choose to be the person I am today than the one I was 10 years ago. People do change for the better, just because they have a past, doesn’t mean that they are the same person as before. Even celebrities have had issues with alcoholism. Daniel Radcliffe, of Harry Potter fame is a recovering alcoholic. Even Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. has drastically changed when he sobered up back in 2003. He is arguably one of the bankable and highly paid actors in show business. If you look at his previous movies, to his movies now, you will be able to see quite a difference in his acting skills. So why couldn't a non celebrity change? Again, according to some, once a mistake is made, it is with you for life and you are branded that way forever. I guess if you ever get any kind of traffic ticket, according to some, you are a criminal for life! Yep, put everyone in a cell and throw away the key. I have news for them, people can, and will change. The only thing that stays the same is..... “Everything Changes”.
When you are an alcoholic, one of the hardest things to do is to quit drinking. Life ends up revolving around getting that next drink. We cheat, lie and steal for that drink. Robin Williams said it best when he said “Alcoholics do things that make the devil himself go....'Damn!'”. But, when the decision is made to quit drinking for good, it becomes a challenge to make it day by day. One of the things we have to do is to get new people, places and things. In other words, stop hanging out at bars with old friends. Get new friends and go to places that do not serve alcohol. One of the things I had to do was to walk completely around the convenience store to avoid the beer aisle just to get a fountain drink. I started to go to A.A. meetings and hanging out with new people. I take that back, I actually started to hang out with my family again. At one time, they did not want anything to do with me. Throughout the years, I have changed for the better, so why could Kip Billups not do the same? I do not go to A.A. any longer, and I still do not drink. I have learned from my past. Getting sober is a tough experience. Everything that you would want to drink for, like a bad day, or even a celebration, you can no longer do it. It is actually harder than you think, but it can be done.
Thinking about it now, I would rather have a recovering alcoholic running a city than someone who is in denial about their alcoholism, or someone that has never know what it is like to be at the bottom of the barrel. They do not know the joy and gratitude of the work and rewards of certain things. They take other things for granted. Now some of you might think that this is a “Plug” for Kip Billups, let me assure you, it is not. All I am trying to say is, don’t judge a person because he had a few instances with the law. If they paid for their mistakes, then it is done. If they have made amends, then again, it is done. Am I going to vote for Kip Billups?.... Maybe, maybe not. Will I vote for Claudette Smith?.... Maybe, maybe not. Will I vote for Ginger Nelson?..... Maybe, maybe not. Remember, we all make mistakes, will we learn from them, or repeat them. Insanity, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. We should all strive for progress and not perfection.