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!

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