Friday, May 29, 2009

All Hands Work Day

Well, yesterday I met with Rusty - who will be my counselor through the program. The program has a couple different areas where you are given treatment - of course addiction treatment; treatments which have to do with health training; Education (which is career counseling, education counseling, and financial counseling- like budgeting, taxes, starting your own business, banking, investing, etc.) and then there is also personal counseling.

Personal counseling is the only counseling that is optional and not manditory because it is counseling which is available to the resident and we are not required to focus on addiction. We can talk about anything - relationship problems, addiction problems, family problems, life trauma, good, bad, whatever. We can go as often or as little as we want, and hell, if I am getting free therapy I am going to take advantage of it. Rusty said I can meet once a week if I want for as long as I want. Some of the guys only meet with him once a phase (thats required), and not weekly, but I think I am going to take him up on the weekly meeting for a while.

I may as well clean out as many cobwebs while I am here. I have a fear of heights, I have a fear of loneliness, and its just cool to talk to someone about anything. I'm going to start a list of things we can talk about.

I was a little nervous about this because one of my triggers to drink is loneliness and boredom, and while I am extremely busy on the ranch and find it hard to be lonely somewhere where there are 70 guys, I am afraid that once I am released I may fall back because I hadn't dealt with that. Rusty told me this was a good observation and we can focus on this in our sessions (he calls these sessions, not treatment, because he does not want us to view therapy as being part of rehab treatment, but more of a life time tool we can use). I think I am going to like talking to him a lot!

Today is all farm work day - everyone on the ranch - no matter what department you work (including staff) has to do farm chores - like pull weeds, get the stables ready, irrigate the corn maze (barely planted) etc. I am in the kitchen, so I dont have to do this, but I do have to work in the kitchen to give the guys a feast, and so I am going to make this entry fairly short as I want to get back - we slaughtered an Angus earlier and here are the rewards. I've also included a 'before' picture of the steak - Cleo the angus who is SO delicious! and the after. I am including some pictures of Brian and me making the steaks - but, pay attention to the beautiful surroundings behind us - I love the views. And the home made pies Mark made and the fresh vegetable salad I made - YUM!

Have a good weekend all - Stay safe.

Days sober: 24

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Some mental detoxing

So, Monday was Memorial Day - it was great because we had a three day weekend and the guys in the higher phases gave us new guys a BBQ - it was real cool of them except that we had monsoon rains so we ended up eating in the kitchen anyway. But the thought was really cool of them.

That same day we got a new guy, Mike. He's real tall - and he HATES it here. I get a little depressed speaking to him because he does not want to be here and he is kind of putting a damper on my experience. I know that there are going to be people who don't want to be in the program, and they tend to infect the rest of the group with the negativity - and - get this, to boot, he got added to the kitchen staff with me. I am sure he just needs time to adjust to life on the ranch, and I am going to try to help him as much as I can - this is a really different scenario for people who are thrown in to this, I had been mentally preparing myself since December for coming here, and had time and opportunity to wrap up my life before I even set foot in the county - so, I suppose this is the time for me to show my ability to deal with difficult people. Apparently God is heavily involved in putting obstacles in my way was well - the great Case Manager in the sky I suppose!
My buddy, Lane, and I had a really nice talk the other night. We stayed up late to do laundry and ended up talking again. I was asking him about his program and how he is progressing and how he feels about it. He is super funny and very nice - but he has a real depth, almost a sadness that comes from his soul. He's also the youngest guy here, only 23 - a drinker for 8 years. I really like speaking to him about his thoughts. He is very social and spends a lot of time with our group of guys, but I can see him reflect a lot and... He said he understands how important it is for him to be sober, and he said that he is in love with a girl who has never seen him sober for an entire day, and he wants her to fall in love with the real him, not the drunk him. He also pointed out something that a lot of people in recovery discover - that life "hurts a lot more when you're sober." He's right.
I found out why my friend Rob sleeps with a tiny blanket - we used to make fun of him because he would sleep with this tiny towel like blanket, and he's huge - like 6'4"! He told me one evening when we went for a walk that he's got a three year old son who he has sleep in the blanket so it gets his smell on it, then Rob can sleep with the blanket every night here on the ranch and smell his son. He wants to get sober so he can be around for him.

There are so many reasons the guys stick it out day after day, why getting healthy is so important to them. Everyone takes their rehabilitation very seriously and everyone has a reason they want to make it work. We hear all the time from the counselors that we should do this for ourselves, and while I agree with that, it also helps to hang on to something, to have some sort of motivation to maintain sobriety - to have a reason - whether a person or a goal. I mean, if we were really our own first priorities, we probably wouldn't have risked our lives and our happiness travelling down the addiction read to begin with. What I am saying is that, without a reason to be sober, we are people who seem perfectly happy, even hell bent on killing ourselves with addiction. Knowing our own importance to other people helps us to realize how important it is to live.

The guys have been really grouchy this weekend. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we all have so much time to think. Luckily I have been busy in the kitchen, so I dont get those down times to really go crazy in my own thoughts. I also think the weekends are a time when many of the guys really understand what they are missing at home.

Theres a guy here, Brad, who looks amazingly like Detective Stabler from Law and Order:SVU. I told him this and he asked if this actor was ugly... I told him that he wasn't and that kind of made him happy - a weird 'man compliment' I suppose.

But, I also told him that I liked his really cool rain poncho because it was Navy Blue and really good quality. He told me that he got it from an army/ navy surplus store and that it was navy issue. It was really nice.

I went to lunch that day and when I returned, I found the raincoat on my bed with a note, "I know you like this poncho, and its yours. I was having a really tough time today, my self esteem was kind of shot, and when you told me I wasn't ugly, I really felt like I wasn't. You helped me through a storm, I hope this raincoat helps you through a couple, too."

WOW! It was super nice - and it goes to show that you just never know the impact a kind word will have on someone, and that the universe sends you what you need (like a kind word), when you need it - but you have to be clear, be open, be sober enough and be willing to see it and accept it. What's sad about it is that, 70% of the guys here at the ranch will relapse within the first year, and many will die within the next five years from over dose - many will die alone, in a motel room or somewhere where they just couldn't escape the demons, and that really sucks.

One thing that I think is such a weird irony is that, as addicts, we have all lost so much, we have all been abandoned or have neglected so many of the important things leaving our lives. But the idea of giving up the thing that causes us to lose so much of ourselves is something many of us refuse to do. We will give up almost everything to keep this one thing - and if you are not addicted to anything, I hope that tells you how strong an addiction can be.

But I am no longer conflicted. I love that I am wrapping my head around my routines here at the ranch - and I am happy that I am able to see the forest for the trees finally. The thoughts of home and what I am missing were clouding me, and at the ranch, I am clear again. I am beginning to see again. Its like reality and possibility and happiness is seducing me again and I think in a year, they are gonna give me a big wet sloppy kiss!

I didn't realize how unhappy, clouded, and conflicted I was a couple weeks ago. I mean, I knew it was there, but I didn't know what I was carrying around - I didn't know how much it was weighing me down. Its only been a short time, but each day I shed a little of the heaviness of unhappiness and I feel lighter and happier.

You know when Jabba the Hut encases Hans Solo in that carbon crap in Empire Strikes Back - then he is rescued and thawed and goes back and kills Jabba - I feel like my inner Hans Solo is melting and Jabba is on my shit list! I was going to use a different analogy - colon cleansing - and how good diet and a good colon cleanse really gets the sh*t out and it all feels good.... but I decided that I didnt need to be quite so descriptive. Besides, I dont have a suitable picture to post on the blog for that one anyway!

I do love the ranch, and I am becoming a really good farmer - I know this because I am usually out standing in my field.... just kidding. I love the baby cows, three of them have some sort of birth defect - the guys all seem to love these calves - I think its because we can relate to them - they're damaged, misfits, and need some help - but otherwise perfectly lovable. One of them can barely stand or move.... but I realized the other day while I was feeding her that, even though the calf has to limp, she is still walking. And happy to be alive, spared the bullet she would have received had the ranch not rescued her. You see, big ranches will kill a misfit calf because they cant make it - but here at this ranch, we'll take it and love it. But thats how I feel - even though I may be limping, I am still walking - and soon to run.

Anyway - I have more entertaining stories the rest of the week. Just thought I would catch you up on the progress of what I call Mental Detox. Its the observations I am making now that I am seeing clearer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Super Busy today....

Its been a really busy weekend, and I have a lot to tell you but I am super busy today.... I'll catch you up tomorrow.... Today is my mom's birthday, so happy birthday mom.

Real quick, though....

I am really enjoying the ranch a LOT. And I am learning a lot. I seem less distracted this week than I was last week. My previous life, the life at home, my friends from home - I worry less about that life... I cant explain it, but I have a "new normal" as I keep telling myself, and I am beginning to let go of the stresses of home. I am accepting that the ranch is my home for a while and I am becoming comforted by this idea.

My mom came to visit this weekend and she seemed to like the ranch and the guys. You cant really understand the warmth and beauty and tranquility of the ranch until you spend some time here, but once you are here and with the animals and in the fields, and surrounded by the guys, you definitely get the vibe.

One thing I love is the fact that I can sit down and speak to people that I would normally never get to speak with, and we are all in the same boat - rehab is a great equalizer because addiction doesn't care about your class, your salary, your family name - it can happen infect anyone - and when it comes time to heal, it helps to understand that you are not alone, and that no matter your status - the gloves come off in rehab - and that makes a world of difference.

OK, I'll fill you in tomorrow!

The baby goat was only about 7 hours old....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

John 16:33 - Not quoting the bible, however....

OK, I started out with this bible passage, not because I am becoming any sort of bible thumper, but because this particular passage is pretty cool in that it tells you, "Hey you're gonna have some problems in life, but be of good cheer," - in other words, everyone's got it rough, don't bitch about it, acknowledge and move on.

So its going well on the ranch, I began a sort of quasi addiction assessment and I found out a lot on how the treatment is going to go. Because I was not a daily drinker, but instead, a binge drinker, the program will not be geared to the daily mantras of "today I will not drink," but instead, "I am going to face obstacles and challenges, I don't want any of them to be the thing that may trigger me to drink on a binge." The challenges I face will be my teachers - kind of cool stuff. Basically, I'm realizing that the challenges I face are also blessings that are opening doors I would never have walked through on my own, normally. For instance, losing my job in December, breaking up a long term relationship, running out of money - all these things led me down a path to the ranch - and this is not a door I would have opened normally - that the universe set things in motion to put me on the path to recovery.

The ranch teaches you how to deal with obstacles in a lot of ways, but one way is to intentionally put obstacles in your way so that you can deal with the, learn to cope and not go on some binge. Sometimes its harsh. My friend Rob's father died last week. Rob asked if he could go to the funeral - he is in candidate phase like me, the case managers told him yes, he could go to the funeral but if he did when he returned he would have to start the whole program all over again. He didn't mind this until he realized that his sister is getting married on June 19 and he wants to go - but if he starts over now, he will still be in candidate phase in June and wont be able to attend the wedding. If he misses the funeral, he will be in phase 1 by the 19th and be able to get a day pass for the wedding.

Tough decision, and I am suprised that he didn't quit the program given that kind of a choice, he asked all the guys, casually, to give him our thoughts; ultimately he wants to get better - he has a 3 year old son and he wants to live with him and love him and grow old with him, so he is missing the funeral for the wedding, and continuing the program - his philosophy is that he would rather get off the ranch for a happy time with living people that for a sad time in a situation where he might be inclined to use drugs to over come the pain of losing his parent.

Really strong of him and its that kind of daily strength I get from living and knowing the guys. Its also the kind of complex obstacle the ranch gives us on our road to recovery. My mom said that when my dad was taking flying lessons on occasion the instructor would reach over and shut the plane off and my dad would have to recover. This part of the recovery therapy a lot like that. I am glad to say that Rob's plane didnt crash and will be landing smoothly on June 19th at his sister's wedding. Good for him.

I have a friend on the ranch, Lane, who, like me, believes in astrology and life force and chakras and karma and universal energies like me, so we talk about it and how we each see the bible fitting in to it. Its cool because I have never thought the bible was in conflict with my beliefs, nor do I think science is in conflict with my beliefs, and neither does he - so we have late night chats about this.

This is not really the jive of the Christian teachings at the ranch, as they tend to lean toward more deliberate interpretations of the bible and of God, but, its how I see things, and ultimately, I need to understand it and make sense of it in my own mind... and I choose to hang on to my belief that humans are connected to the greater universe through energies and power we dont understand.

We have something called devotion in the morning.... this is a real quick bible sermon right after breakfast, lasts about 15 minutes. We are asked to read a verse, fill out a form as to what we got out of it, then at breakfast one of the chaplains explains it briefly- today it was given by one of the chaplains who does the entire sermon while imitating George Bush Sr..... "Temptation....not gonna happen...gonna succeed...not gonna fail...." and while he is mildly entertaining, his message is usually pretty good. However, I may send him a list of pronouns and ask him to use one or two on occasion.

The guys found out about my hypocondria last night and are slowly teasing me on all sorts of diseases I may or may not get at the farm. But swine flu and bird flu are now terrifying me... Ha Ha - real frickin funny - they also told me of something called "fecal fungi aka the mission condition" (the ranch is a former mission) which is a disease that I supposedly can get by breathing in the smell of cow feces all night while I sleep and since my bed is next to the window, this was very alarming. I found out from my case manager that there is no such thing when I went to the office at the urging of the guys to get medication to prevent this and the chaplains all looked at me like I was on something. Not a good look to get in rehab.

But, like some sort of frat house, or anytime you get guys together, pranks are common. In fact, one of the guys here, Marty, read an article on Eastern medicine and it detailed how an ounce of your own urine first thing in the morning from your first pee was packed full of nutrients and you should drink it. In fact, Ghandi is said to have done this to help cleanse his body. So he and another guy, Brian, convinced one of the new guys a couple weeks ago that they had each been doing this for several days and encouraged him to do it. Well, he nearly did it and they couldn't take it anymore and let him in on the secret. I think he's still kinda mad and I believe is plotting to exact his revenge! Luckily, I am smarter than this and I came armed with my own One-A-Day vitamins so I didn't fall victim to this initiation.

I also worked with my work therapy boss in the kitchen for the first time today (he was on vacation until now) - he looks amazingly like Walter Brimley, he's super cool, LOVES cooking, takes food very serious and at any minute I expect him to grumpily tell me that I can get my diabetes medical testing supplies for free.... But I love being in the kitchen with him and he lets me eat some good stuff that is not part of the menu. We can only keep food for two days before we throw it out, so I can munch on the foods I like. Today I had fresh turkey and a bunch of sauteed squash and a baked sweet potato. The ranch was given fried chicken, macaroni salad and a really good vegetable fry I made. My boss grew up on cattle ranches and farms, so he believes that the guys deserve to eat well, and he feeds us really well and takes great care in food prep - hardly anything is instant or canned, almost everything is made from scratch.

I told some of the guys who are trying to bulk up or get stronger that they should eat protein because this would help them maintain strength while they work on the farm - so last night - at my suggestion, we made a white bean, kidney bean soup with fresh ham, lots of vegetables, cabbage and a LOT of yummy spice. The soup was delicious and I left the kitchen in the afternoon with a smug happiness that I was helping the guys become more healthy. This smugness lasted only until I got to the dorm last night and realized that there are serious disadvantages to serving a farm full of guys bean soup and having to sleep in a dormitory with 24 of them - Geezus, if you lit a match the ranch would have exploded like Hiroshima. Today I asked to take the beans and cabbage right off the menu. The other guys in the kitchen agreed.

But I have been trying to get healthy and eat healthy. And continue to run and I feel good. I am going to join the track team when I get the Phase 1 and can leave the farm to go running with the guys, until then I run on my own to build some endurance. Not smoking has really helped a LOT, but I still miss the cigarette after a nice big meal - that'll go away soon as I didnt smoke that much to begin with. But, without a ton to do, I can focus on my health and on getting in better shape - in fact, during devotions this morning, we were asked to think throughout the day on how we would like to be like Jesus and all I can think is, "I really want those abs!" - I mean come on - look at any crucifix, Jesus has got great abs.

We had a new guy enter the dorm last night - his name is Davvie (not his real name) - he came from jail straight here. He's a typical mexican gangster with the tatoos all over his neck and head and face - in fact he has two devil horns tatooed to his forehead - so I am not sure how that is gonna fly on the ranch where I was recently asked to remove my t-shirt because it said, "Want a Quickie? Quickie car wash" - [I suppose I wont wear the one that says, "Welcome to the Loose Lady Saloon, liquor in the front, poker in the back..."] I thought it would be a fun ranch shirt, but.... 'not gonna risk it.' - (George Bush impression)

Anyway, this new guy has been to like 6 prisons and jails, he verbally listed them like a laundry list and several of the guys had a good time with him exchanging stories about the jails they served in that he did also - he's only 27.... amazing. Its wierd because I am sure that before he came here he seemed very tough, but once he arrived on the ranch, he seemed very vulnerable and almost scared - I think the guys sensed this and everyone made him feel very comfortable. Because he was in jail, and his family wouldn't have anything to do with him, he didnt have anything. So many guys gave him snacks, clothes, I gave him like 4 pairs of socks and a can of beef jerkey. You know, even though right now, most of our lives can fit in 3 feet of closet space, a night stand and three dresser drawers, it was real cool to see everyone share what little they have - very humbling.

Today, I am heading over to the small animal enclosure, we have a new goat and three baby cows - each is like a day old, so I want to go get some pictures. You know, if you know of anyone who may want to read this blog, feel free to start giving it out. I suppose I dont mind....

Its a beautiful day, I am gonna go try to walk off some of this lunch. Peace out.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gotta decent vibe, like Buddah

Yesterday was a much better day - I am really finding my groove in this place and really enjoying getting to know everyone. The tensions that arise with this many guys living in close quarters is evident, but, if you find the people who are here because they want to be, not the 'bread and breakfast' crowd (the guys here because they have no other place to be), you can do pretty well.

I couldn't sleep too well last night, the guy below me sleeps on his back and snores like a monster - really cool guy in the daytime, but at night I have to say I have moments where I want to choke him or at least roll him over - but I am afraid that he might then choke ME of I climb in his bed to tell him to roll over!! Loc (not a real name) is our house manager, he helped me fix my bike last night on the condition that I put him in my will - I told him I would leave him my bike.

I've been liking the freedom of the evening - last night I went with Marty to help him feed the chickens and baby goats - he is in charge of small animals and I like to go with him in the evening to feed them - the babies are so cute and sweet and he and I have some nice talks about what we want to accomplish.

I've gotten some of the summer schedule - we have several festivals throughout the summer and we're gearing up for a big one the middle of June - Family and friends are welcome to come and spend the day with us and there is going to be a big bbq and we're bringing a lot of the animals out for the to see and ride, etc. My family will be in Vegas that week and wont be able to make it I'm sure, so I volunteered to help the Ranch with some of the planning and serving on the day of- kind of a good will thing - I never mind being the host of a party, so this should be fun.

I hang out with a small group of guys, and two of them are 'phasing' this week, which means that they are moving from the candidate phase which I am in to Phase 1 - one of the guys in the other phases told me that they really get intensive the end of phase 1 and phase 2, and beyond, so I would imagine that this blog will get a lot more deep in the next month.

I am beginning to miss everyone at home, but I am busy through so much of the day and exhausted by the night time, that I dont even notice it much of the time. Time goes by so quickly sometimes so I think that is gonna help - at least until I get to phase 2, when I can get longer day passes and weekend passes to go home. I really miss my dog and I thought I was going to miss TV a lot, but so far, no big, I am pretty busy in the evenings with the gym, with movies, and just playing with the farm animals that I dont even notice. Then I retire to the dorm around 7 or 8, and sit around and chew the fat with the guys, sometimes we play cards, talk about what we did during the day, inevitably we always end up talking about our recovery. I think that these talks are really important to all the guys - it kind of casually reaffirms the reason we made it though another day and why we're gonna make it through tomorrow.

I also get to hear a lot of "One time I was so drunk' stories, and the ones that the previously homeless guys tell are my favorites - my God, those guys have been through a lot, but they tell their stories with such flavor - its cool. I avoided them when I would see them on the street downtown, but now that I know some of them, I might stop and chat on occasion - one guy told me that a friendly conversation was often more valuable than a hand-out to him when he was out there. He didn't mind being poor and homeless, he couldn't bear to be considered un-human.

Today I hung out in town for much of the morning because I had to get a TB test as well as a general physical to make sure that I was healthy enough to work on a farm. I passed - I suppose its a good thing when the doctor clears you to work - My throat is really sore and I wonder if it is because I am living with so many guys right now and I am still trying to get used to so many germs. I stayed with my family the weeks leading up to my arrival here and they have 5 young kids and I was consumed by germs - this is only slightly worse - and the farm is probably not as messy as an evening with the family at my moms.... kidding.

There are guys here for any addiction - alcohol, drugs, porn, sex, food, smoking, even one guy for shopping. Its interesting to see the similarities in the addiction, no matter what. Cigarettes and food are two of the most difficult addictions to treat because they are hard to quantify and the damage is so subtle that most people dont even see it, but regardless of that, the guys here, no matter the addiction, all take it seriously.

Some of the guys here have been to rehab like 5 or 6 times before this - they call them the re-treads- I suppose rehab is only rehab the first time, then its re-rehab, then re-re-rehab, etc. They like this program because it seems like it works - there is less structure and more personal interaction. The freedom with absolute accountability is cool. We dont have a 'lights out' time for instance, but we have to be at 'work' the next day on time.

Most of these guys are normal guys with families, etc. You might not ever know they have addiction issues if you saw them at the Wal-Mart with a buggy full of beef jerkey and a TV guide, but.... its very eye opening who we all are - some are obvious, ex-cons, former homeless, but many are just like me - I am helping a couple of the guys in my dorm with their GED - they read out loud to me in the evening and one guy I am helping him with math - so they like talking to me. I am also talking to a few of the guys about nutrition etc.

I still think my family and friends think of this like a jail or prison - its more like a college - we have issues, we have to overcome challenges, but they are not going to baby sit us and uiltimately our rehabilitation is our responsibility to put in to and take out what we want.

It was a little tempting to have a cigarette while I was in town this morning (a big no no), but I didn't because I decided that I was here on my own free will, and if I am going to bastardize the program by cheating, I may as well go home, stop taking help from family and friends, and get a job and go back to my life. I am here because I have the chance to make some changes - because I want to not because I have to, and that seemed like enough to talk myself out of it.

Plus, I can now run a mile without stopping to breathe.... and I want to run more - I may try a 5K in August and maybe a 10K by Thanksgiving..... wouldn't it be funny if I ran a marathon by this time next year.... Probably not!!

Baby steps, sometimes I have to come back to where I am before I start imagining where I will be -

In any event, I have a loaf of zucchini bread baking and better get back - I'll write tomorrow. For today, the vibe is good, and I am feeling pretty peaceful and healthy.

Peace out all....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nervous tension....

Yesterday was a nervous day for me, several of the guys got kicked out or left over the weekend, and I found out that only about 60% of the guys complete the program. The summer we lose a lot because many of the homeless people who come here decide that this is the place to be in the winter, but living under a bridge downtown in the summer isnt so bad.

I'd say there are about 50 guys here. About 1/3 are here to avoid jail, 1/3 are here because they have no other place to go, and about 1/3 are here becuase of choice - but it seems that most have given in to the idea that they need a change from the routines that led them to addiction in the first place.

I am taken by the guys - so tough most of the time in their lives, but their understanding of fraility of life is pretty cool. They take such care with their plants they grow on the ranch - nurturing each one, they love each one of the animals and feed the baby animals with bottles, and when one of the guys is sick, convulsing, or detoxing, the guys all check in on him, bring him food and drink and encourage him - they dont stand back or shun him. In fact, many times they have been thrown up on or have to clean up messy bed sheets - and they guys do it willingly. Maybe they see some part of themselves in the sickness.

I got free teeth exam today, so thats pretty cool - I came at the right time. We are planning a rafting trip for June, and I love the kitchen - they let us eat whatever we want if we work the kitchen, so I can stick to my high protein low carb meals. Much of the pork, foul, eggs, much of the produce, beef (we are having steaks for lunch tomorrow) are all raised here on the ranch.
As soon as I get the cable for my camera, I will be posting pictures.

I was running late today, so I didnt have much time to write about some of the treatment and therapy, but I'll do it tomorrow if I can.

Soon, I'll be leaving the ranch to go in to town so I will be able to use facebook, myspace, and have more time to clean up this blog - until then, this is it.

Please wait just a little bit before you give out the address to the blog, I want to get into my groove of both the ranch as well as the mood of my postings before I have a bunch of strange eyes on it.

Talk at'cha tomorrow.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Arrived, haircut solution and some observations

So, before I go in to my first couple days at the Ranch, let me explain a little about the phases. I am currently in candidate phase - this is a 30 day 'try it before you buy it' phase. I am supposed to getting acclimated to life on the ranch, to the people, to the rules and schedule. I wont really get in to the meat of the program until I enter phase 1 which is about 30 days, so until then, I guess I will be blogging about how I am getting in to the routine.

I arrived LATE to the ranch on Saturday - My family was running late, and I think we encountered the ONLY traffic jam to ever happen on Rural Colorado highway on a Saturday afternoon. Dropped off my car for storage at my dad's place. I was stressed to say the least - I even listened to my favorite disco tunes from the 70' s and tried to get the usual rush of excitement I hear when I sing, "Oh What a night," but nothing.

We called the ranch to let them know I was going to be a little late and they said it wasn't a big deal, so I decided to stop in town and have lunch with my parents while on the way to the ranch.

When I arrived at the ranch, it was great, everyone was really nice and friendly. I guess I imagined that it would be populated by people who would be assholes because they were jonesing for cigarettes (not allowed), booze, or their drug of choice - it was none of those things. In fact, everyone was nice and the group skewed much younger than I imagined.

I was taken by how serious and committed the guys all seemed to take the program. I anticipated them to be more cynical and even gruff - but I suppose that voluntary rehab attracts a different type of crowd that one that a judge makes you go in to. The guys here all seem to want to get better, and they seem to want to help each other get better. Two guys left the first day I was here - one because he relapsed and there is a zero tolerance policy - the other left voluntarily because he couldn't take it. The most common response was, "Thats too bad," and it was sincere, the guys truly felt bad that someone could not complete the program because they all want it so badly. This was pretty refreshing.

I was also told that many guys leave during the 10th and 11th month, right before graduation because, if there is any chance of relapse, they can come back - within 30 days and start the program all over. But upon graduation, there is a 8 year wait, so a a lot of guys leave right before graduation.... At least they are being real.

Everything on the ranch is great! I have a good bed assignment because I am in a corner, against a wall, and I have a window. Because my dorm is the entry dorm, and transitional dorm, and a lot of guys dont make it past this stage, its also the most crowded, and dirtiest. You can imagine a room where 22 guys live and sleep can get pretty stinky, so the fact that I have a window is a real treat. I wasn't really sure I wanted to sleep on a bunk bed - I am really afraid of heights so I didn't want the top bunk and I have always had a fear that sleeping on the bottom bunk would result in me being crushed by the person above me. I think that if I had to have someone above me, however, I would prefer a meth head because they would probably be skinny, where as a boozer might have a little too much weight.... in any event, the fact that I am on the top and against a wall is nice because I can only fall off on one side.... I think that I will address this in therapy at some point. I mean, if the ranch is going to support therapy sessions for me, I may as well get a lot out of it, right? Perhaps I will also find out why I continue to have dreams that my cousin Marnie has no hands. Very wierd.

There is a lot to do on the ranch, and I immediately found a few friends who would show me around. I have always made friends easily, so thats cool. By the end of Saturday most of the guys knew who I was, and by Sunday, I had met many of the guys in the other dorms. When I went to lunch in the mess hall Sunday after noon, I was greeted with a 'Hey Roman,' and 'What's good Roman' all over the place. There are only 60 guys on the ranch now and most know who I am. Cool. My friend Brian said that he was kind of surprised because many of the new guys dont make such a splash the first day - Made me feel good. I also had a lot of the guys ask me to hang out on Sunday - they were eager to show me the animals, the pizza garden, mom's closet (a place where we can shop for clothes and supplies (more on that later) and since its spring time, there are a LOT of little baby animals - baby chickens, a baby goose we adopted named Max - no feathers at all yet.
Max thinks she is one of the guys and hangs out with us all the time, sleeps in the barn. There are baby jersey cows, baby angus cows, two baby llamas, one baby alpaca, a piglet and my favorite, a really noisey little lamb named Q-tip. Q-tip and Max (the goose) sleep together in the barn. When they used to be separate, they used to both whine, they sleep soundly together now. I guess every little baby just wants to feel safe and a part of something.

I found the rhubarb plant, I cant guarantee it wont be eaten in a week. There is also a lot more freedom than I expected. We can leave the ranch for 2 hours a day once we complete the 30 day probation phase I am in, and about 60 days I will be able to leave the ranch for the weekend as well.

I started working out a little, the gym is open 24 hours and is really nice, good equipment. For Christmas, Santa (my parents) got me a bizarre light that fixes to the brim of a baseball cap and at first I thought that there was no real need for something like this, but, as it turns out, its great to have because the rec room, mess hall and gym is about a half mile away from the dorms and the country can get really dark - so whether I walk or ride my bike, my path is illuminated by 5 lights that are about as bright as a semi truck.... I thought I would be mocked, but all the guys wanted to know where I got it. I told them the north pole.

We have to choose a church. This is a christian rehabilitation program. That was a deterrent to me initially because I imagined a bunch of penacostal bible thumpers trying to convince me to be born again, but not like that at all. In fact, they are open to all Christian religions (except they think Catholocism is a cult and make going to mass very difficult) - In any event, I went to a church the guys I hang out with call 'Coffee Church' because its held on Sunday mornings in a coffee house. Its pretty laid back and chill, I enjoyed going. The guest-preacher was a little whiney and cried a lot, it was very uncomfortable - and one of the guys I went with mused that the end of the sermon when we bow our heads and pray for something for the day, he prayed that guy would find his testosterone wherever he happened to leave it.

The usual preacher is apparently really good, so I will know next week. Today I got my work assignment, the kitchen, I dont mind it at all! Its air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter - the guys think the kitchen is a sucky job - but I think shovelling pig crap and delivering baby goats (we have seven pregnant goats on the farm) in the hot sun, and freezing winter would be worse.

So far everything is great, I will write more a little later about some of my duties. I did, however, learn my first life lesson. The farm is a place where I am supposed to learn lessons about life which will help me through is, and one of the older guys imparted some of his country wisdom, he told me, 'Roman, as you get older, and once you are an old man, there are three things you should always remember about life. #1 - never pass a bathroom... ever, you dont know when you will see one when you need it; #2 - never waste a hard on, you just never know when you will see one again when you need it, and #3 - never ever trust a fart....

I'll remember these things for ever, I suppose. I need a blanket and a backpack, so I have to work on getting those, but my dad stopped by yesterday and brought me my bike and gave me a digital camera to use, so soon I will be posting some photos as soon as I get a cable to download it to the computer or my flash drive....

Everything else seems to be OK - we had oatmeal for breakfast today and all the guys bitched about it because there are no eggs, but the Friday night before I came there was a fox that got in to the hen house and ate 20 chickens, so we are a little short staffed at the moment... I guess oatmeal is a good substitute, and I didnt mind it one bit. The advantage to living on a ranch is that everything is fresh and we have pork, or beef almost every night. And, there is a vegetarian and health menu as well. This is an incredible place, I am excited to be here, and I'll have to explain more about how it can help me. But for now, I'm excited about practical things - like the freedoms they give me, as well as the fact that the showers are NOT communal, which is GREAT to have a private shower.

I just cant wait until I get to the next phase, with less guys in my dorm. But when I met with my case manager this morning, I had several of my bible assignments done, the entry essay I had to write, and the church wrap up from Sunday - all ready - before I even met with him. He laughed and said he cant even get the guys who have been here for a long time to do this and complete these things on time, so if I keep it up, I am on the right track to get the phase 1, which will mean more privileges.

I didnt tell him that bible study was no problem for me because I had it in catholic school, and prior to coming here, I wrote some term papers for a family member, so I was in the zone anyway.

Oh, and the coffee situation, my sis bought Brazilian coffee for me, and I am a super star - all the guys have coffee after all, but its all generic - so cool. And I have a lot of gadgets and stuff, like the light, my umbrella, a pedometer, etc. Its cool, I felt a little awkward at first because my life had been reduced to a couple storage bins, some clothes on hangers, and some snack food.... but some of the guys here have even less. I mean, to many of the guys here, it was like the queen of England was moving in with all my stuff.

Oh, and the haircut situation, once I get to phase 1, I am excited I can leave the ranch for up to 2 hours a day and plan to have a twice monthly haircut! This was a real relief!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

12 hours to go....

SO, today was a little more stressful than I thought - my apprehension comes and goes in waves and I didnt think I would finish everything, but my mom and I went to Wal-Mart, bought a ton of snacks and the other supplies I need and went to her house for dinner.

She said the guys at the Ranch would probably beat me up because of the kinds of things I was bringing. I needed a couple fluffy towels (I dont like using other people's), I needed body wash, not bar soap, allergen free detergent, and some good gossip magazines. I also wanted SPF 40 sun block and I wanted face moisturizer - I mean, what good is a good head of hair, a healthy body, and a life of sobriety if I am too sun damaged to enjoy the benefits. I mean, drinking was a great way to get laid at a bar, and now that that's out, I have to rely on my charm and nice tight, clean skin! (Once I am out, that is. This is a men's ranch, and I don't want to be living any Brokeback Mountain experiences while I am there. ) It helps that the other person might be drunk. I'm still counting on the lack of inhibition from other people, I suppose.

Jack said that coffee is a commodity at the Ranch and if I brought some, I would be hugely popular, and hell, who doesn't want to be hugely popular in rehab - so I bought a bunch of candy, a couple huge cans of coffee and I hope I am set. I have to wonder what kinds of lives some of these guys must have led before going to the ranch when coffee is a commodity. But, regardless, I don't mind starting out on the right foot at this place, and bribery is usually a good way to get people to like you.

I got back to my parent's house and my brother and sister-in-law brought over dinner to say good-bye. My sister bought me a nice long book and another can of coffee and a nice card. She exclaimed in the card, 'I can't wait to see the new you!' - which choked me up, but I managed a hug and had to immediately retire to the next room to compose myself. It's great to have a supportive family. I've said it before and I will say it again, few people are successful at anything unless a lot of people want them to be.

So, tonight, I have a ton of things to pack and organize, I have like ten lists going! And, I am still really exhausted from working on this blog until 6am this morning, getting three hours of sleep, and jumping up to get the confirmation call from Jack. I tend to be a little cranky when I lack sleep.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Got the call...

Well, Jack called this morning and said that I was in - I'll be at the Ranch tomorrow (Saturday), I'm pretty nervous, but so excited. I have a lot to do before then, but I'll wrap up the day's activites later tonight.

I've been breaking our in hives at night, and last night my hands swelled up and were so itchy. I have to keep an eye on that, hope its nothing more serious than allergies or nerves.

The call and the haircut

Eventually, I am going to write about the back story on how I ended up waiting for a call from Jack, the intake case manager at The Ranch as I will call the rehabilitation facility I am about to enter. For now, I'm just going to say that at 11:14am on May 14th, the anticipated call from Jack finally came.

Last week I was number three on the list of people who wanted to enter the program and it the list was moving at a snails pace - but Jack called this morning to tell me that the the two guys ahead of me haven't called him back and that if he didn't hear from them by the end of the day, I would be in. He asked how long it would take me to get ready, I asked for 48 hours, he gave me 40. Fair enough, I've been mentally ready for a while now anyway. I think.

The list of things I want to get before I go in seems endless but mostly it comes down to toiletries and a hair cut. I am still really worried about how I am going to get my hair cut while I am at the ranch. I know that seems ludicrous but I'm pretty nervous about what the next 13 months are going to be about and it seems like a regular haircut is my last hope of maintaining some piece of my life. Not to mention, when you don't know what else to worry about (because I have no idea what this will be like), I think you tend to make crap up. Most of us like to worry for whatever reason. And, the only thing I know to worry about is the haircut situation.

The haircut is also probably one of the few things I want to hang on to anyway. I do love my hair, and the fact that, unlike so many things I've been proud of in my life, I havent lost it because of drinking. Its been a rough decade and I nervously hope that by the end of the program, the only alcohol I will need to have will be the alcohol in my hair product. Baby steps.

I won't know for sure until Friday morning if I am in this weekend for sure, but, I'm gonna go to sleep tonight secretly hoping the two guys ahead of me were too hung over to call Jack back. Yea, maybe a selfish thought, but so what.

Over time, I'll tell you about the Ranch, and about the stumbles that led me there, but I am really sleepy and have a long day ahead of me.

Days sober: 9