I remember when I was a sophomore in High School, I would often hear about these parties a kid would always throw. Every single weekend he would have a bonfire. These parties got so big that all the seniors in school would frequently attend. I remember one day thinking that I no longer want to be out of the loop. So I walked up to him at football practice and told him I wanted in. He looked at me surprised, and said, “really?” That was the first time I ever got drunk. I was drinking a King Cobra — 40 oz. Yuck. That was the first time I really felt like I was a part of something.
I know what you’re thinking. Really, Bobby? You have never felt like you fit in before? No. I grew up the middle child and was always being compared to my brother. He always got good grades in the classroom, rarely ever got in trouble, and was always respectful. On top of that, he was good at sports at a young age. It felt like everyone always wanted me to be like someone else. So I started acting like someone else.
When I speak, I say that I never used to give people the accurate version of me, and that was very true. I was just a young kid trying to find my way. I was trying to find exactly where I was supposed to be but that didn’t end well. As I got older and I tried to be someone I wasn’t, alcohol was the only thing I found that accepted me for exactly who I was. This turned out to be a relief for me. So I would try harder and harder to fit in and it took me further and further away from who I really was. I never felt like people understood who I was but alcohol did.
This continued until one day I woke up and had no money. My family didn’t want a whole lot to do with me. I was homeless — not on the street but I didn’t have my own place — and it had left me more alone than when I started. In May of 2011, I decided to check myself into Keystone Treatment Center in Canton, South Dakota. Turns out, that place was full of people who were just trying to gain a sense of belonging their whole life too. There, I found a community of people just like me who had many talents. They all had ambitious goals, and dreams, and because they were also accepted by addictions those were all lost. It was the first time where I really felt at home. It was a place where for the first time in my life I had to get real with myself and look in the mirror. At the time, I didn’t like who I saw.
In that place there were countless people who were discovering who they really were for the first time. This is very scary because we have never been comfortable before in our own skin. After 30 days I walked out of that place with a better understanding of who Bobby Jones was, and then the real journey began.
For the first time in my life, I knew people genuinely wanted to see me succeed. I walked away understanding that I wasn’t alone and that others were in this fight with me. And my sense of belonging came in the form of others who didn’t quite fit in like me. I found out we were all humans and we all deserved a second chance. I discovered that all I had to be was me — nothing more and nothing less. I found out that I like the person I am, even if someone else doesn’t. I found out that a sense of belonging is individual — there is no standard for it — and who we become is where we belong.