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My Life, My Story by Bill

graphic with brown background the US Navy seal that says My Life, My Story

"Much to my wife’s chagrin I’m getting another motorcycle. Bikers Against Bullies has blessed us and we’re starting a new chapter in Bloomington. We ride into schools and go around to classrooms and give them some ways to stand up. I’m one of those kids who fell between the cracks."

When Veterans share their stories through the My Life, My Story project we build stronger connections between Veterans and their health care teams. We'd like to thank all the Veterans who have shared their stories so far and for sharing their stories with you.

My Life, My Story believes that stories heal, teach and are powerful. You have a story that we want to hear, contact Casey Gunderson at 612-629-7618.

Bill's My Life, My Story

I grew up in a violent household. My first memory was age 3. I watched my mom get her head bashed against the refrigerator by my father. I remember my mom getting taken to the hospital, my father kicking dogs. We know now that he had a mental illness of some kind. Nowadays, I pretty much put my dad and all that behind me. It doesn’t give me nightmares anymore. I went through Prolonged Exposure therapy, one of the best things I did. I’m now seeing what all the years of abuse has done to my mother. She’s now having seizures. She is tippy when she walks. Her bones are all messed up…it’s hard to watch.

I remember sitting on a fender with my dad, working on cars. These are good memories; I don’t have many of them. He gave me the love of being outside, shared his love of music with me. I love anything, mainly rock & roll and country. Those are really the only good things he did for me.

He lost his job in St. Paul for stealing. He found a job up in East Grand Forks. That’s where everything took a really violent turn. He started beating my butt because I was upset with him for beating my mom. I’d antagonize him so he would stop beating my mom.

In East Grand Forks, we lived 2 blocks from the river, that’s when I started drinking. I also blew my knee out playing flashlight tag up there. That was my first experience with pain meds. Mom would give me one, and I’d go take 2 more and things were alright. I ran the streets, I sold drugs. Eventually, dad lost his job, we moved back here, and things progressively got worse.

I got deeper into drugs, alcohol and running the streets. I was selling drugs to put food on the table. Mom was only making like $7-8/hour. My sister quit college, came back home. Lived off my mom. My brother was just a little [pain in the butt] until he moved out. After we sold the family home, my mom got remarried. Very nice gentleman. He’s the father to me that he didn’t have to be. It’s unfortunate that she didn’t meet him until I was 23.

After all this time, it’s just her and I. We’re like two peas. I can talk to her on the phone and within 30 seconds I can tell that there’s something wrong, or that she’s happy. It’s just the way we work. It’s not always a good thing, especially when we butt heads. She’s the reason I’m still here. She’s a tough old bird, and that’s where I learned to be tough. Except now I can’t be tough anymore. August 7th, I was fused from my shoulder blades to my pelvis. It sucks... I’ve always had a good work ethic, worked hard, worked through pain and ruined my back. I can’t feel my hands. I need a partial knee replacement.

I did auto body for 20 years. I was a diesel mechanic in the Navy. In 2009 I crashed. I went through bankruptcy, treatment, divorce, all of it. I crashed hard. I had my first back surgery in 2000 and was severely hooked on opiates. I had to be in the ICU for 2 days. They said there were enough opiates in my body to kill a 300-pound man. It woke me up.

It kills me not being able to go back to work. My wife, kids and mom told me, “you’re so much more than that”. I took some time thinking. Once I calmed down and was in the right frame of mind I thought, I really like animals, kids and coaching. One thing led to another. I went to PPH and things started dropping into place. I sign my medical retirement papers soon, then I’m volunteering as a clerk here. I know so many people, it’s one of my safe places. Things start falling apart, that’s why I’m back in PPH. I got the tools in 2011, and things kind of fall to the side, get dusty. This time around, it’s become a way of life for me. I have a goal. If I can’t work, I’m going to be there for my family. I have to be okay with me. I have to love me. That didn’t come easy!

When I was married the first time, I had 2 wonderful sons. I coached hockey, soccer and baseball for 13 years. This is going to be my 20th year volunteer coaching. Much to my wife’s chagrin I’m getting another motorcycle, a 3-wheeler. Bikers Against Bullies has blessed us and we’re starting a new chapter in Bloomington. I’m the Vice President. We ride into schools and go around to classrooms and give them some ways to stand up. I’m one of those kids who fell between the cracks.

I’m now married to my very first love. We dated first in 7th and 8th grade. We kept track of each other over the years. I’d changed my name, taking the Westover name because grandpa was my dad. The name would have died with him. I changed it out of respect for my grandpa to carry on his name. I always thought about her. When we met, I found out we had worked 6 blocks apart from each other for 10 years, didn’t know it. Her mom and my mom have the same birthday, different year.

I have 3 grandchildren from Kelly’s kids and I’m working at getting in that mode. I do as much outdoors as I can. I’ve got 2 dogs that are my pride and joy. I have my music, my dogs, walking, hanging out.

My oldest son is going to graduate with his bachelors in drug counseling in the spring. I cried so hard the day he told me that’s what he wanted to do; he’d seen my fight with opiates. It made me pretty damn proud.

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