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IAM shows the true meaning of "Community"

Shannon suggested this catagory for my experience.

Despite the climate of hostility, suspicion and stratification that exists in today's society, we are occasionally given glimpses of our potential as a race of beings; it is from these brief glimmers of hope, seen in the "eye" of the storm, that we draw the strength to move forward.

Recently, I had the privilege of experiencing the true meaning of community. The most surprising thing about my experience is that it didn't occur in my hometown, it happened online. Thanks to BME/IAM my faith in my fellow beings and our potential is, somewhat, restored.

As a tattoo artist (7 years) I am very familiar with the body art community- it's strengths AND it's weaknesses. Unfortunately what our industry usually shows is a potential for strength and a propensity for weakness. Considering that we, as body artists, are viewed as a 'fringe' element by the art establishment the fact that we can form ANY kind of non-cannibalistic community is pretty amazing. Add to this, the fact that we welcome every freak with a keyboard, access to a scanner, an interest in modifying the human body and it's a wonder that we haven't been shut down by the NSA, the FDA or the MIB! So what do we do? We turn-around and show the "real" world what the REAL meaning of community is; we show 'THEM' why 'THEY' should try to be a little more like 'US!'

Let me set the stage: I am a fairly new member of BME/IAM, with a relatively new girlfriend. I am a fairly well known tattoo artist in Austin, Texas where I live; but only a few members of IAM know m, and no-one on IAM knows my girlfriend, Sarah, personally. Sarah and I are both in recovery from drug addiction.

To make a very long story somewhat more manageable, here's a synopsis of what happened: Sarah and I went to a little town outside of Fort Worth, Texas to take care of a minor offense (criminal mischief from messing up a hotel room) that she had from a couple of years ago. We had already hired an attorney and paid her bond in advance. We were there to do what's called a, "walk-through" where you turn yourself in and are immediately released on a pre-paid bond. After she is booked into the jail, a detective calls from Tarrant County (Fort Worth) and informs the jail that he has a new warrant for Sarah for a first-degree felony possession charge; some obscure Justice of the Peace in Tarrant County set the bond on that charge at $100,000! It turns out that Sarah's ex-boyfriend is trying to wriggle out of a life sentence as a habitual offender (manufacturing methamphetamines) and is trying to put one of the cases against him onto Sarah's back, with the help of his family. Al l of a sudden, what had seemed like a minor legal issue had become a MAJOR nightmare!

I was not prepared for this at all. Sarah and I had only been together for a, relatively, short period of time (in spite of the seriousness of our relationship) and I wasn't certain where I stood or how I felt. Now I was faced with a decision that could, potentially, be life altering. When I approached the lawyer that I had already hired for Sarah he told me that the retainer would be $5000 and could go way up depending on how long the case took, and whether or not it went to trial, and none of this included the price of bailing her out! The lawyer said that he was sure that he could get the bond lowered fairly quickly, but we were still talking about a bond around $15,000 which would require a payment of, at least $2,500 to a bondsman. Right off the bat I was looking at having to obligate myself to $7,500 for legal fees plus helping Sarah to meet her other financial obligations if she lost her job during all this! I was about to open my own tattoo studio and I am in a position where I need to take care of my mother financially- at least in part. I was torn. On the one hand I had been working towards, and dreaming about, owning my own studio for about 4 years and I had my mother to consider; on the other hand I felt like Sarah could be the one. "What's the right thing to do?" I kept asking myself. I just didn't know what to do.

What I DID do was I wrote about what was going on with me in my IAM diary- letting everyone who knew me, or just visited my page, know EXACTLY what I was going through and what I was thinking. Anyone who has ever been in a twelve step program knows that one of the keys to staying sober (and to staying sane when you are sober) is letting others know what is going on in your life; and using the advice of others to help make decisions.

The response that I got from members of IAM was, in a single word, OVERWHELMING. There were days when I would get 15-20 Ims, visits at the shop from local members, and calls at all hours! As this drama dragged itself out over the following weeks, the support and interest of the IAM community stayed constant. As I explored the depth of my feelings for Sarah, examined my finances, bargained and cajoled the attorney, and pondered the decisions I had to make the members of IAM were there to listen and to advise; there were times when they raised important questions that I had asked, and helped me to look at the situation in way that I wouldn't have otherwise. I only have one family member that I am in contact with, in this country so I didn't have a large resource for support. Sarah's family, while supportive, is still recovering from trauma that the families of addicts suffer and they were not in a position to help. IAM quickly became my extended family. I didn't always he ar what I wanted to hear (always a good sign for a recovering addict) but I got honest opinions and objectivity- Two things that make all the difference in a crisis situation. For me, this WAS a crisis.

Members were concerned as concerned with Sarah's well being as they were with mine- and they didn't even know her. I created a forum on my page where people could leave inspiration for Sarah, and people made posts every day. I printed these entries out and sent them to Sarah every few days to help to keep her spirits up.

There's never been much doubt that this legal issue will resolve itself in Sarah's favor, but the cost of getting her out and maintaining a good lawyer has been astronomical for me. At the suggestion of IAM members I created a PayPal® account for donations and posted a button on my page. Other members posted the button on their pages and we began getting donations to Sarah's Legal Defense Fund immediately. Some IAM members brought me donations at work, and several members came and got big work in exchange for donations to Sarah's Fund! One member even sent us a $100 from her first paycheck at her new job! As of right now (the time I am writing) these donations totaled almost $2,000. I also got a new customer through my Mini-Portfolio in the BME tattoo gallery. He donated a couple thousand dollars in exchange for a half-sleeve he wanted to get. Brian has since flown down here and gotten the sleeve he wanted.

The donations of IAM members have really helped to ease some of the financial burden that this whole fiasco has caused. Of course, all this happened to us during an unusually slow time at the shop and I still had to meet my own financial obligations. I wouldn't have been able to make it through this episode without the emotional and financial support of the IAM membership. I have to say that support for myself and for Sarah came from many quarters including the Austin, Texas tattoo community- but our single biggest (and yes, BEST) support group was the IAM "Tribe."

On July 1, 2002 Sarah got out after 17 days in jail. I know, without a doubt, that Sarah would not have gotten out when she did, and that I would not have been able to get through this whole nightmare, if it had not been for the members of IAM. I know I can count on IAM for what is to come too. This little adventure of ours is far from over. I will be looking to my family, here at IAM, for the support I need to keep going through this whole thing. Sarah and I owe our deepest thanks to Shannon for creating BME and IAM in the first place! Shannon made this whole thing possible. The gratitude that we both feel for "da Tribe" can't be effectively expressed in words but I felt the need to tell the story.

I am hoping that this 'experience' will shine some light onto the depth of our sense of community. As in any community, we have our problems and our disputes; but when one of our own needs help we put aside these 'childish ways' and rally together. We can count on one another (for the most part) and we actually care about each other. This is what the word community means. We are unlikely to ever receive the credit we are due from the more mainstream "communities," nor should we really be too concerned if we don't, but that can't detract from the truth. What matters is the truth, and the truth is that we are a community in the very best sense of the word!

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 26 July 2002
in Ritual

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