I guess you could say the tattoos were a gift from the penitentiary. His arms were laced in human skulls, evil faces and more.
Eddie Estepp has had a long life of crime, “I’ve done over 30-years of my life in the penitentiary,” he told me. But many would question, what started him off on the wrong foot?
Estepp told me, “My mother and father was drinkers, there was always alcohol involved in our lives. There were six boys and two girls, all six of my brothers has been to the penitentiary – I got two in the penitentiary now in the state of West Virginia.” Like his brothers, he too spent time behind bars for theft, felony assault, evading police, receiving stolen property, grand larceny and even “Riot in the 1st Degree.”
Alcohol was part of the problem. He said, “Alcohol was my drug of choice.”
Now that Estepp is out of the pen he has changed his way of thinking. While standing outside on a beautiful fall day in Tennessee he said, “You know, I always thought a good looking truck, a good looking woman and a bottle of liquor was a man’s way – well a man’s way is working and keeping a roof over his kids head, and paying his debt to society, being a part of the community and helping others.”
Today, Estepp is clean and sober, “God’s turned my life around. I no longer steal, I no longer drink, I’ve been clean for six months now going on seven. Like I told ya, I just got out of the penitentiary and I’ll never touch another drink of alcohol, never.”
I asked, “What would you say to someone wanting to put the bottle down?” He looked to the side and then said, “Find that higher power because nobody can quit alone, you need that higher power. Jesus Christ was mine.”
American poet Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) knew alcohol well and often wrote about the issues that surrounded the drink involving fictional characters that came to life page after page. In a 1978 novel called Women, Bukowski wrote, “I was drawn to all the wrong things: I liked to drink, I was lazy, I didn't have a god, politics, ideas, ideals. I was settled into nothingness; a kind of non-being, and I accepted it. I didn't make for an interesting person. I didn't want to be interesting, it was too hard. What I really wanted was only a soft, hazy space to live in, and to be left alone. On the other hand, when I got drunk I screamed, went crazy, got all out of hand. One kind of behavior didn't fit the other. I didn't care.”