Ronnie Winter is the vocalist and a founding member of The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Winter responds to all submitted questions with one rule: No question is off limits. Submit your question: ronnie@hmmagazine.com

‘She did everything in her power to kill me’

Ronnie,

To be honest, I don’t know why I am doing this. My name is Ricky, and I am 26 years old and a proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
When my real mother was pregnant with me, she was abusing herself, hoping for a miscarriage. When I was born, she did everything in her power to kill me, from forcing bleach and other chemicals down my throat, mistreating me, raising me in a dog’s cage. Fast forward to when I was 6 or 7 years old. One of my family members raped me. I was beaten on and didn’t have a childhood. Wasn’t allowed to have friends over or go to a friend’s house or use the phone or go outside unless I was forced to. At age 7, that’s when I started cutting, and it grew worse as the years went by. At a very young age, I was moving city-to-city, house-to-house as I was homeless and living in the streets.

I lost a lot of friends to suicides, from cutting to overdosing to ending their life by hanging themselves. I joined the Marine Corps to better myself — or so I thought — but it just got worse when I got out. Due to hardship, I was back on the streets, homeless, nowhere to go, moving house-to-house. Seven times in less than one year. Even now, I am considered homeless. I live in a transitional program, and it’s only getting harder as many thoughts run through my head to the point where I just want to scream from the top of my lungs and end it all.

I have no family. No friends. (My) dream of becoming a professional tattoo artist or body piercer just crumbles down; I keep getting turned down (because) I have no car. I work a dead-end job where the only way to pay rent is to literally starve myself. No matter how hard I try to meet people or make friends, I get told to fk off, kill myself.

So what do I do everyday? Work my dead-end job, go home, lock myself in my room, listen to music and draw. That is life. I don’t know what to do. All my dreams are crashing around me and I just want to end it all. … All the Vet Center can say: “I’ll get better.” When? When everything in my life has gone to sh-t and all I have is myself, not a strand of support, 26 years and counting? And everything has gone to sh-t? It sounds like I’m rambling, so I’ll just shut up completely.

Dear Ricky,

Hi! I’m Ronnie. Thank you for sharing your question with me. First of all, thank you for your service, and — although you may not see it now — it is a great thing to serve your country, and I respect you for that.

I can relate to your situation in many ways. I lived on couches for almost a year. I bounced from one crap job to another, always month-to-month. Days dragged on like a 700-page novel that’s been boring since the first paragraph. It sounds like you’ve seen a lot. I, too, have seen a lot. We are not so different. Even with drug abuse and domestic violence at home. Once, I had to bail my own dad out of jail for domestic violence. I can detect anger, too, because I was also angry for a long time. Too long. The thing was, my anger was misdirected.

I did notice you did not mention God once in your message to me. In that respect, we are not alike. When I was able to remove my pride, I was able to see most of the anger I was directing at God was truly anger at myself. I understand it feels like no one cares about your existence. For those of us that believe, the problem with that thinking is that it simply isn’t accurate: We know God cares because we’ve experienced it, seen or unseen, and we use those experiences to help other people with similar issues. Like you and me. We’re not so different.

The one we entrust with our lives believes it was worth it for Him to send the thing He loved most (Jesus) as the means of atonement for the things we do wrong. He could have done it any other way, but He did it that way to prove how much He cared. He still cares. He loves you right now, in this moment. The thing is, you have to make the decision. You have to let him in and do his work through you.

That’s what I did. I’m not saying getting “saved” will change your life. It isn’t like winning the lottery; that’s an unrealistic expectation. But it is the first step in saving your mind. God was very clear about life: You have to lose your life to find it. You may already know God but have lost hope. It is easy to lose hope, especially when you are in the middle of losing your life. I once lost faith, too.

Either way, I want you to know the key to a happier life is the connection of one’s mind and body to the Spirit. As it begins to repair your mind, the responsibilities of a job will come and, later, doors will start to open to places you never knew existed. Trust me, man, it’s not worth it. One day you will see that. Don’t lose hope.

Ronnie