Live Like Jack
Live Like Jack
Words / Johnny Minnery
Photos / Courtesy of Johnny Minnery
I’ve only told a handful of people this story.
It was the morning of Saturday, June 21st, 2014 and I had just come home from another night of partying. I walked into my dad’s house, the door was never locked, with my backpack full of clothes and other things. The first thing I said was, “What’s up dad? How was your ride last night?” – He rode his Harley Fatboy to Whittier the day before (“It was one of the best rides I’ve ever been on,” he told me over the phone). I happened to be working in Soldotna and he wanted to meet up in Girdwood, but I had plans back in town, so we never got around to it. There was something going on that night, a party maybe, I don’t remember. It was a Friday, the night before Solstice, and I wanted to go out with my friends. It was about 11 a.m. the next day that I walked into the house and up the stairs to my room. I headed right back down to talk to him. There was no answer at first, but I didn't think much of it. Just thought he was napping. “Dad, are you awake?” And as I turned the corner, I saw him lying flat on his back, naked and completely purple from head to toe.
I sprinted over to him and start screaming: “DAD?! DAD?!?! ARE YOU OK?! OH MY FUCKING GOD! NO!” I tried to move him a little bit to see if he would wake up or something, but there was nothing. After pacing around the living room for about 20 seconds – talking to myself, saying, “this cant be fucking happening” over and over – I called 911. Bawling, but trying to keep it together as best as I could, the woman on the phone was walking me through what to do. I pumped his chest for what felt like 3 days. I did that until the firefighters got there and took over. But, at that point, I already knew it was too late. He was gone forever.
I went upstairs and sat on my bed listening to the firefighters trying to get him breathing again. I was trying to pull myself together. I didn't want to call anyone just yet. My dad had taught me to never give up “until the whistle blows, Buck.” Finally, after 20 minutes, a firefighter came into my room and said, “John, I'm sorry. We did all we could, but we were already too late. I'm sorry for your loss.” My knees instantly buckled. I slammed to the floor and started bawling and repeating, “what the fuck?! What the fuck?! Why God?! Fuck you!” I did that until I was able to gather my thoughts and decide what my next course of action would be.
My mom was the first person I called. I was sobbing while she kept asking me, “what’s going on, hun? What’s wrong? What happened?” “Dad’s dead,” I finally told her. She started crying immediately. But then, being the strong woman that she is, pulled it together and said, “I’ll tell everyone, you just stay there until someone comes. Okay? I love my boy.” The first person to show up to the house was one of my best friends, Michael Wolcott. And then, one after another, other friends started showing up – I didn't call anyone besides my mom; my friends just showed up. I am so lucky to have the friends that I do. They're more like brothers to me. They were all just as devastated as I was. My dad was a father figure to all of my close friends who didn’t have one. Our house was always the spot to hang out at. We’d watch sports or just hang out and talk about life. My dad always made sure my friends and I were fed. If they needed a place to stay, they knew they could always stay at our house. He always wanted to know what was going on in their life, always giving them advice about how to deal with certain situations. If they needed him, he would always be there; he always put others before himself. Even when my friends moved away for college, or whatever, he would check up on them just to see how they were doing.
We all sat in my room, none of us saying a single word, just crying. Finally, we all started to tell stories and reminisce a little bit. We remembered how my dad used to talk in his sleep. He would say the funniest, most random shit. “Cows can’t make cheese!” he said one time and then startled himself awake. And he would always deny that he was sleeping. This other time, when my sister and I were in the car with him, we were driving home from a family gathering and we stopped at a stoplight and one of those Stanley Steemer vans pulled up next to us and he just whispered to himself “ha…Stanley Steemer.” I never heard him laugh so hard in my life. My sister and I were losing our shit. I was like, “Dad, you know what that is?” I could write an entire book of stories that my friends and I have about him.
A Celebration of Life for Jack Minnery.
After the funeral and after my sister and I got everything squared away and after her and my mom went back home to California, I moved out of my dad’s house. I moved in with a friend of mine and started doing anything and everything to numb myself. Drugs, alcohol, pills, anything to keep my mind distracted and mask what I was feeling. I was lucky enough to keep my job as a cable locator even though my head wasn't right. I was only getting about 2 hours of sleep a night because every time I shut my eyes I saw that image of my dad when I found him. So, I started using cocaine and MDMA, plus alcohol to make me feel like everything was going to be okay. In the long run, it just made things worse.
In the winter of 2014, I was unemployed. My dad left my sister and I some money and the first thing I did when I got my portion was buy cocaine. From December of that year to about April of the next, I was doing any and every drug I could get my hands on. May came around and it was time for me to go back to work as a cable locator. That lasted about a month and I got fired because I didn't do my job correctly. Luckily, I got another job doing asbestos abatement the same week. Sometimes I think that maybe my dad had something to do with that one.
Around that same time, Cody Liska got in contact with me and asked me a question that would change where my life was going: “do you know how to use a camera?” I told him, “kind of.” He let me tag along to an event as a part of Crude to take photos. I needed this more than anything at this point in my life. More than he knew. Fuck, more than I knew. It gave me a sense of purpose, to be a part of something bigger than myself. I started to realize a lot of things and stopped using so frequently. I realized how happy shooting photos made me. It’s been a great outlet for me. It’s given me something to think about and, ultimately, something to create. It’s almost spiritual in a way, to be able to capture a specific moment forever. So, I bought a camera and started practicing and taking photos whenever and wherever I could.
I stopped using cocaine and went to the doctor. I was prescribed 90 bars of Xanax a month, which equaled 3 bars a day. I was also prescribed Adderall for work. It was a bad combo. I would get up for work, Take a full 30 mg Adderall on a empty stomach – because all pills work better on a empty stomach, right? I would take one of those, then before lunch I would take a Xanax. My lunch consisted of me snorting an Adderall. I wouldn't eat. After work, I would get home and the first thing I did was pop 3 bars and drink 4 beers. This went on for about 3-4 months. I started using cocaine again, but only on the weekends. If I wanted to come down, I would just drink beer and take more Xanax. All of my friends and family were concerned and every time they said something to me about it, I would justify it in some way that made it seem like what I was doing was normal.
Fast forward to mid-August 2015. I wasn't working at the time because I had become a zombie. The pills kept me off jobs because I was useless. So, I began collecting unemployment and then I used that money for cocaine every weekend. It took me videotaping myself pouring out a full gram of coke and doing it all in one line to realize that shit was getting out of hand. After that night, I stopped using coke and to this day haven't done it since. Meanwhile, I was still jobless and still had my Xanax, Adderall, and alcohol. But at least I stopped doing cocaine, right? Well, being jobless and bored with 180 bars of Xanax and alcohol is not a good combination. Any sort of drug and alcohol do not mix. Again, something to numb me and my mind. The reality of the situation – coping with my dad’s death – was too heavy for me.
September 9, 2015 was the night I hit rock bottom. From what I can remember, which is hardly anything, I took my “normal” amount of prescription drugs and drank my fair share of beers. I guess something in my mind just decided that there was no point anymore. I was completely alone, with endless amounts of Xanax and a full bottle of whiskey. My girlfriend had been my rock through all of this, but she was in Portland visiting her parents. So, throughout the night I just got progressively more fucked up. I ended up leaving messages on friend’s phones about how it wasn't their fault. I don’t even remember picking up my phone to call anyone. When it was all said and done, I drank a full bottle of top shelf whiskey and took 30 bars of Xanax.
To say that I don't remember much is an understatement. I woke up, which I probably shouldn't have, to my friend Ryan and my roommate telling me to sit up and drink water. I was still completely out of it. I had no clue what I had done, I had to hear it from them. I was ashamed, to say the least. We had a mini Intervention with 4 of my closest friends. We came up with a plan to get me better and decided that the first step was to stop drinking completely. So, that’s what I did. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since that day, and have since been lowering my dosage of Xanax with the help of my doctor.
Thanks to the support of my family and friends, I’m back to the Johnny I know and am comfortable being. I had to hit rock bottom to get back up. In a way, I'm glad it happened because I’m the best version of myself now. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. If I had to choose only one word to describe how I feel, it would be “free.” Free of substance and free to choose a positive path in life. Now, I wake up with a feeling of purpose, never forgetting to take it one day at a time. Everyone grieves differently and I was grieving in the worst way possible. I know that now.
Pastor Jack Minnery, My father, was the greatest man I have ever known. If you knew him or ever got the chance to meet him, you were lucky. He treated people with respect and he never judged anybody. He was always happiest when he was helping people or he was with his family. My sister and I were his first priority, except when we would watch Buckeye games together, which we did every Saturday from September to December. I looked forward to those Saturdays because that’s when we got to talk about life and watch football, something we both love. If you ever needed someone to talk to, he was your guy, no matter when or what it was about. He was patient, kind, and the most loving person I have ever known. I miss him everyday, but I know he’s still with me in my heart.