The Elephant’s Graveyard – A Poem Written in 3 Stages


Elephant's Graveyard - Slim Gravy at JourneyPure at The River Recovery Center

Elephant’s Graveyard – Slim Gravy at JourneyPure at The River Recovery Center

I kinda disappeared for a month. I was in a treatment facility in Eastern, TN as a result of not having dealt with some things from my past. Acute anxiety, depression and substance abuse finally and thankfully caught up with me! Not to belabor the issue, but I had progressively been sinking since early summer. My life on the surface was filled with a myriad of goodness and things to be thankful for, yet I was miserable—frighteningly so… On Sunday, September 10th, I cried out to God and he answered, promptly. My wife Madge, and a bevy of good friends and family quickly came to the rescue, and I found myself inside what had long been my greatest nightmare and daydream—a facility designed to confine my freedom.

What was, I thought, to be my darkest valley, ended up being my temporal salvation! God be praised! In-treatment saved my life, gave me life and imbued me with hope for a new life—substance free! I let life get sideways for way too damn long, and though I believed in God and knew He could help anybody, I was not humble and present enough to think He would help me! He did!

What follows was written in three parts: the first in April 2018 was when I was in a manic state coming out of winter, the second was written in early September when life and my own dysfunction had swamped me (SEE: Take Me To the River When I Am Depressed), and the final was written a week or so ago.

All I am able to write is what I know, think I know or experience, so I am sharing this for those who helped me, wrote me, encouraged me, prayed for me, or just wondered where in the hell I had gone. I am not ashamed; now fully realizing I have serious addiction issues, along with lifelong depression and anxiety. I am thankful to be in recovery, substance free, participating in Intensive Outpatient Treatment and attending Narcotic’s Anonymous meetings daily.

I judge no one, but I am fully aware that I must remain substance free for the rest of my life in order to be healthy, happy, constructive and productive!

This is dedicated to Madge, Bryan, Corinne, Elizabeth, Felicia, Savannah, Jeff, Bill, Kelsey, Jeremy, Chase, Dustin, Justin, Glen, Chuck, Joe, John, David, Russ, Julie, Keoni, Keith, Dr. W, Dr. C, Jamie, Mary Catherine, Joey, Rex, Chantelle, Kyle, Brian, Jeff, Margaret, Jane H, Carlos, David, Simba, Chris, Alex, Luke, Twiggy (R.I.P.), April, Jamie, MJ, Sandi, Denia, Frunko, Kim, Sparky, Nancy, Sandy, Ed, Shauna, Whitney, Mike, Glenn, Ransom, Jill, Renee, Cliff, every speaker, Recovery Coach and staff member at JourneyPure-The River, everybody else I forgot to mention here and the guy who cut my hair after about nine years with a pony tail! All y’all are important threads in my recovery and budding sanity! Cheers! Chilly, a.k.a. Slim Gravy  


APRIL 2018: I flew too close to the sun today. Sometimes things just work out that way. When wings are spread, neck craned and winter’s dormancy sheds its mane, spring burgeons brightly rending hibernation’s complacency. New growth bursts forth, pains of labor shattering winter’s easy dealings as longer days thin blood amidst spring’s warm awakening!  Life renews! Hope restored! Healthy things grow! But, it ain’ always easy!  I live in the elephant’s graveyard, where the sun seems to always shine, where clouds appear as grey memories, flitting across the landscape, littered with bleached bones, plucked clean of all the mean!

EARLY SEPT: I slowly sink toward unknown depths, air hard to find in the stifling mire, no gills, chest about to burst heavy-laden with liquid sacs of cerise sorrow…

OCT. EARLY: In-treatment the cure, dark roads turned brilliant, vulnerability the key, petitions answered promptly, Him who is able answers timely, friends and family my juggernaut, hope restored, sins forgiven, diseases healed, extraction from the pit, love and compassion crowned, restoration imminent and ongoing; God be thanked!

Elephant's Graveyard - Slim Gravy getting his hair cut

Elephant’s Graveyard – Slim Gravy getting his hair cut

Elephant's Graveyard - Slim Gravy - The new man!

Elephant’s Graveyard – Slim Gravy – New Look New Life

Elephant's Graveyard Moon Lake Tree We encourage comments and sharing.

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  1. Janet Bryant says:

    I left a comment on “Take Me to the River”, but I don’t see it. I hope this comment works. I’ll spend more time tomorrow with this amazing story of transformation, but I wanted to comment right away — to applaud your courage and your talent to write about your journey. Thank you!

    • I left you a comment here earlier. I had not enabled the reply aspect of comments…..or somehow it got disabled through the years…..but have not enabled it again!! Yea!
      I am bad about not checking to approve comments. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Janet. I’m so looking forward to your visit!!

  2. As always Slim Gravy, well thought out and beautifully written. Thanks

  3. Thank you, Janet! So looking forward to meeting you! Be yourself when you are here! All is good! Thanks again! Billy 🙂

  4. Thanks Joe, you were and are important in my Recovery, Brother! I miss our patio mornings! 🙂

  5. Janet, I was just painfully late in approving your first comment on The Take Me To The River post. My bad!

    I can hardly wait to see you!!

  6. Dayle McArthur Tenhet says:

    My hat is off to you, Chilly !!! Bless you and yours!

  7. I’m just happy we didn’t have to send Randolph P McKee in there to play Chief and pillow you.

  8. Charlie Musselwhite says:

    I love that name: Slim Gravy.
    Welcome back. We didn’t know you were gone. We’re familiar with rehab and we applaud you on your happy resurrection and return. Love and kind and healing wishes to you and Madge, too. Upward and Inward, your pals Charlie & Henri

    • BILLY HOWELL says:

      Thank you Charlie & Henri! Miss y’all! I’ll have to tell you the genesis of Slim Gravy from Rehab the next time I see y’all! Much love & affection! Slim Gravy 🕺

  9. Beautiful words my friend . Thank you for sharing this. These words were fully received by me today. HE who lives in us in much greater than he who lives in the world.
    Be blessed bro

    • BILLY HOWELL says:

      Thanks Hayden! Your words bless me and He is greater…He saved my life—numerous times—but this last one was big time! Thx! Billy:)

  10. Be well Billy. Best to both you and Madge.

  11. jon popper says:

    I hope you get some restful hammock time in- Jon.

  12. jimmy wiygul says:

    Like the haircut but love the smile. Keep on keepin on bro

  13. I had no idea you were going through this, but I am so glad that you are in a good place now. Although I have never met you, I have been following you and Madge for a while now and I have a genuine affection for both of you. May God continue to bless you and your family — He is able to conquer all and gives us the strength to carry on.

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