Turning the Adversities of the BP Oil Spill into Motivation

A motivational speaker by the name of Jane Rubietta once said, "Someone may have stolen your dream when it was fresh and young and you were innocent. Anger is natural. Grief is appropriate. Healing becomes mandatory. Restoration is possible."

Almost four years ago my dream was stolen. I was a cast net fisherman working in the Gulf, and those of you who are familiar with our story know the adversities we have faced with the health effects that are the result of working to clean up the chemical nightmare BP created along the Gulf coast.

Photo: Joey's daughter, who is his source of motivation.

Yes BP, you are responsible. Each year, on or around the anniversary of the disaster, I have written a story for all to see regarding the health effects I have faced since the spill. I know I am not alone. I have lost five friends now who have passed on because they were not able to seek proper treatment to extract the chemicals from their bodies before the exposure killed them. 

I have shared the gory details of three and a half years of detox, IV drips, bleeding from every opening in my body, taking up to 40 pills a day, vertigo, headaches, ongoing skin lesions that never heal, neurological and cellular damage, waking up daily with my face in the toilet, lethargy, sleeplessness, crippling and constant joint and muscle pain, chemical pneumonia, and the mental anguish that has resulted from fighting sickness for almost four years now. I am in my second year of walking with a cane to maintain my balance. Have I mentioned the $80,000.00 I have spent on saving my life? I am now in debt to the tune of $85,000.00 more now and survive check to check just to maintain a place my daughter and myself can now call home. I still fight the same health issues on a daily basis.

Ah, the paycheck. What a blessing my new job has been. After losing three jobs prior to this one because the physical aspects made me too sick to keep them, I found one that only requires me to talk on the phone and work at a computer. I sought work only out of desperation to survive financially and to avoid homelessness. Working any job is not recommended by my doctors, as it only escalates my health problems. There is no more money to borrow. There are no more loans to acquire. There is only my motivation to survive as long as possible for my daughters sake. I lost my life and now live only for her.

I have always strived to be the best at everything I do. My success over the years speaks for itself. BP took that away from me. Now I am determined to be the best at my current job. My daughter will know that her daddy died with his pride and fought his hardest until the very last day, despite adversity.

My supervisor recently asked me to share my story with my co-workers so they too can realize that you can turn adversity into motivation, overcome any obstacle that stands in your way, and rise to the top. I have now been in the top ten globally in sales and call-conversion two months in a row, received employee of the month in February, and have reached every bonus opportunity they have offered us the last three months in a row now. The global sales team consists of around 50-70 throughout three call centers. I am not and (never have been) a braggadocious personality, but I am damn proud to be on top after facing my daily health and mental challenges that constantly bring me down. They have now asked me to share my story throughout the company so as to motivate my co workers. I am helping others again and that has always been my way of living.

I owe a great big thank you to my beautiful four and a half year old daughter who has been my motivation from the day she was born. I would have given up a long time ago if not for her powerful existence in my life. Maybe she will read this one day after I am gone so she can use it as motivation throughout her life. Prayer, love, belief, and my daughter's smile will continue to motivate me until the end. I have accepted my ultimate death now and fear nothing. My daughter will be proud of who her daddy was, and she will understand what I was fighting for. I am seeing to that as I write this.

I do not seek revenge against the murderers who are responsible for our adversity. I seek the truth and enjoyment of watching them squirm in a courthouse full of my peers, family, and others who are fighting their own adversity to survive this disaster. No matter the outcome, I have already defeated them.

Whether your motivation is your family, overcoming adversity, achieving success, or just survival, be proud of who you are, what you stand for, and what your motivation drives you to accomplish on a daily basis. Use your adversity to motivate you to be the best and always reach your goals, especially when they tell you that you can't do it. They don't want us to survive because they know we now live for the day they are forced to answer for their sins and finally face the truth.

I made the decision this year not to sit back and let the last three years melt me like an ice cube until I am gone. I hope my story will motivate others across the Gulf to continue to fight. Never give up. Use your own adversity to motivate you to survive this disaster. Understand that we are not outnumbered and I believe that God will have his way with the murderers who wish we would all just hurry up and die. Personally speaking, I am at peace now.


Joey Yerkes is the proud father of a young daughter and a cast net fisherman from Destin, Florida who worked clean-up during the 2010 BP Oil Disaster.