Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The best $10 burger.....

Well, I've got to tell you, I had a major mental blockage last week. It was tough because I had committed myself to the tranquility of the ranch and had forgotten that, at time, real life would come knocking at my door.

I mentioned the challenges I was facing regarding a friend who was repeatedly making a decision that kept pissing me off - and frankly, hurt my feelings deeply. And I had decided that I would just let it go and see what lessons life would bring to me. Its funny how the universe works when you listen.

So I spoke to Rusty, my therapist, and we kind of broke it down a little bit. I explained to him that there had been a disrupt in a relationship I had with a friend in the City, and this was causing a bunch of distraction to me and that I couldn't concentrate and I was focusing my energies on this event and less on the things at the ranch. Its easy and dangerous to get distracted by life outside, and one hard lesson is learning to control your life as it is, confined to the ranch, and not how you think it should be. Learning to surrender to this is a great challenge, but a necessary lesson.

One thing he explained to me was that when you feel that kind of a distraction with a person or an event, its likely that you feel this way because you have miscategorized this person. In other words, you're not going with the mental flow. You are trying to look at this person or relationship in a way that is no longer working with the dynamics of your brain and heart and situation. You may want to be a protector, to be a close friend, even to be in love - and if this person is not right for those categories, your whole brain has what I call, a malfunction of conscience (YES, I made up this term)- and you can't reconcile the things this person or event causes.

So, I've recategorized, and the distractions ebbed. This mental cloudiness is normal, however, for someone as they get tot he 60 or 90 day of sobriety. As your brain begins to recategorize the rest of your life in a sober perspective, its natural that your relationships will undergo this as well, and letting your brain put people where they belong and not fighting it can be a real scary thing because the brain does it regardless of what you want.

I thought this would be it. But on Sunday, I went to Church. The message was pretty clear to me - it was basically the biblical lesson about the blind leading the blind and not being judgemental. In it, Jesus says that its ridiculous for you to tell someone else they have some saw dust in their eye when you have a wooden plank sticking out from yours. In other words, don't be calling someone out on their faults, and don't label someone, and especially, DO NOT slap them with a condemnation - even in your own heart. You don't know their experiences or what their lives have been like.

And so I thought about the friend I am losing because he is planting all that Canadian Thistle in his emotional garden. I thought about the resentment of him doing this again, of how I feel betrayed by this. And I thought about the condemnation label I had placed. And I thought, and with my newly cleared up mind that I got from recategorizing him a little bit earlier, I had decided that I should forgive - and I am not talking about the friend. I could eventually probably forgive the friend anyway. There was a greater challenge -

I had to somehow find it in my heart to forgive the thistle for being a thistle. I had labeled this person who was killing my friend's spirit an insidious character and I was carrying around the burden of hating this thistle - and this not only wore me out on some level, it may not even be fair, but especially, it gave this thistle power over me - so... I forgave the thistle for being an asshole. ;-) OK, forgiveness is a work in progress.

Anyway, I decided to look at the things I am responsible for, and the things I am not - and when you see them, life is less of a burden. When you add the reflection of what you can control and you can not, life becomes almost harmonic. And the people that I am leaving, or that may be leaving me.... well, they are people that I need to recategorize or lose, and I need to understand, there are some people who may be a little resentful that I am here, that it had to come to this, that I had to leave them in order to fix something. And maybe someday they can forgive me because I had to do this and I let it get this far, and on some level, I had to leave them. But just for now.

But although regret is not good to keep - its magnificent to feel. In fact, most emotions - even bad ones, are magnificent to feel. Take it from someone who's been numb for the better part of a decade.

My family came to see me over the weekend - AND my beloved dog. This was GREAT! I was very excited to see them and to share the coolness of the ranch with my nephews and my niece. I got to see my brother and sister in law, and of course, my parents came to see me. I wished I had more time to spend with my dad, we didn't get to talk too much and I could tell he wanted to talk to me - but all the activity made it hard. But the fact that he reached over to me at the end and made sure I gave him a hug was real cool. Very out of character - and as I've said before, I've noticed people surprise you when you surprise them. So, the fact that he surprised me means I may be surprising him, which means - ultimately, he believes in me - and thats the kind of 'cred' you cant just ask for - you gotta earn that.

But my parents generously gave me money for my birthday. (THANK YOU BOTH BTW!!!) I decided to do something normal that evening. I invited my two best friends - Curtis and Lane- to a small dinner (Small as in, I only spent $10). They are phase 2 guys so I had to go to town with one of them. I asked them both to come and have a burger with me. So, there we sat, in the Loaf n' Jug gas station, eating a burger, and for a while, I felt like a normal person who was not in rehab. And it was great. After the week of mental turmoil, and the inability to hide in a drunken state at some point to deal with it, the fact that I survived it, dealt with it, and then had a most remarkable Sunday.... well, this is how life is supposed to me and I was proud of myself and I am glad I got to celebrate that with them. Even if they didn't know why I was celebrating.

In my addictions class we are speaking about controlling cravings. In the syllabus, this is lesson 3 (last week was obstacles to recovery if you recall). This week, we are examining triggers and cravings. Some of the guys have dreams about drinking or doing drugs. Admittedly, I have had these dreams as well at times - where I wake up and feel like I am waking up from being drunk.

The facilitator said that this is also normal. That we tend to dream about things we fear, things we anticipate, or things we want. And maybe we want to be drunk, or fear it. A friend of mine (who once said about the 12 step program requirement that you make amends, "People don't want to hear that you've stopped stealing VCR's.... They want the VCR you stole from them BACK), this friend said, "Heck, I dream about being high on crack all the time, but I just enjoy it, I consider it a freebie."

Drug addicts always have such an insightful good perspective.

Anyway, What I've realized is that cravings are common. They may be so strong that you feel like you'll go crazy. I've also not had any significant cravings yet (other than cigarettes), but I think its because the memories of the damage of being drunk are so fresh in my mind. When these memories subside and I start to remember the good times I had on booze, I am worried the cravings will become more challenging. Your brain tends to remember the good stuff over long times. Mine does, anyway.

But cravings and triggers can be overt (I drink when I am lonely, I drink when I am bored, I drink when I need to relieve stress, I drink when I want to be popular, etc.) or covert - and these covert triggers are the ones that I need to figure out. I don't have a CLUE what they are yet. There must be a reason that I can become irritable, upset, or edgy - and - sure its because I am not drinking - but what triggered that covert desire to drink. Drinking can mean power, stability, confidence, love, and other things that are nice to feel - and release me from the burdens of life. And something must happen to me on some level to make me feel like I'm not those things or do not have those things, and so I drink.

Thats my theory anyway.

So, I'll be looking at this over the next week as I let the whole trigger lesson sink in. Hey, it takes me a minute to figure some of this stuff out.

I am supposed to be looking at my internal triggers - my feelings, my thoughts, and physical sensations. Then my external cravings - people, events, rituals, situations, etc. Then I will have to look at recent cravings, how I coped with this without alcohol, and how I would feel if I gave in to this.

Now these all seem like elementary life lessons - but it really means something when you have to write them out and look at them on paper. So.... I'll be doing this tonight. I'll let you know if I have an epiphany of some kind. But everyone should do this as well - whether you struggle with booze, drugs, emotions, food, work, cigarettes, or anything else you want to stop doing.

Its very eye opening.

THEN.... on Thursday, I will get to the portion of the class where we deal with cravings busters. And, I peeked.... lots of good ideas. Like going someplace, accepting this will pass, doing something to take your mind off it, calling someone, etc. I havent gotten the lesson yet, so I cant expand on these, but when I do - it may be some cool stuff.

I know one thing, though. There is gonna be "Eat a $10 burger at the Loaf n' Jug with friends," on my list of ways to cope with a really stressful week.

Days sober: 55
Days without Bonnie Hunt: 46

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My friend and his Canadian Thistle.....

The photo is of the view I see each day when I leave my addictions class - it reminds me that life is worth living, its really beautiful, and iconic in that its a long horizon with an inviting vista.
Well, Rob, my nemesis was asked to leave the ranch. Incompatibility with the program, and a generally annoying personality were the main factors. You've got to be able to get along with people on a closed facility like this or it really throws a wrench into the whole process.

The Expected Farm Reference: One bad apple ruins the bunch.....

As I mentioned earlier, he is the third person in a week to leave the ranch (One, who went on a weekend pass and never came back, and another, who tested positive for nicotine); he's also the 11th person to leave since I got here.

I've written how my perspective changes while I am up here and before I got here, advancing up the waiting list was such an exciting part of my week. I would dutifully call in each week and check my progression on the list of names. Friends and family also anxiously awaited to see my number and we all were relieved and delighted when I got in to the top ten, the top five, and when I was next. Yes, I was anxious to get to rehab. I suppose that when you finally decide to do it, you just want to get it done, and not drag it out.

But now that I am here, the numbers have names, faces, lives. It is equally as disappointing and sad when someone leaves the program as it was once exciting when I would climb the list. I don't want to see anyone leave, not even "p-ROB-lem" residents

Leaving the program midstream can, and often does lead to relapse and death. Relapse is dangerous when you are at this stage. When you have been without your addiction, and it becomes available again, your mind wants to get lost in it, but your now clean and unexpecting body does not tolerate it very well.

I imagine it like crossing the Atlantic. You spend your life on one side, the 'Old World' and at some point you realize that the 'New World' awaits you - it calls to you. You cant see it, or even imagine it, but you heard stories and its there, you just know it. You have to commit to leaving and crossing a deep, sometimes stormy sea and the journey is scary, but calm seas do not make good sailors, and you're determined.

And if you jump ship before you get to the other shore, you're liklihood of drowning is so much greater than if you just stayed on your own shore. Its part of the irony of seeking treatment. It often gets more dangerous before it gets safe again.

Anyway, the numbers mean something to me now.

Its strange the way people suprise you when you suprise them. A dear friend wrote to me over the weekend to express to me how proud he was of me that I am doing this. But more shocking was the apology he gave to me. He regretted how he treated me while I was drowning in gin. It came as a shock to me because so much of rehab is about looking at yourself, its easy to lose sight of someone else's perspective on the situation.

It hadn't dawned on me that others in my life also needed time to heal from the damage of my addiction - and releasing their own demons which were spawned by my behavior was important for them as well.

It was easy to forgive him. In part because I think he meant it, and also in part because I was too drunk much of the time to remember he offended me at all!

In my addictions class we spoke about obstacles to my recovery and what I think they were. I had some immediate answers like, 'Well, gin is so damn cheap," and "You cant swing a dead cat in this town without hitting a liquor store," or "Asians." (Anyone who knows this city knows Asians own a disproportionate amount of liquor stores).

I didnt mention these. I did, however, say that timing, denial, and boredom were obstacles. Also I surrounded myself with enablers, and of course, the almighty influence of procrastination. You always say, 'I'll give it up next week.'

I know you may have expected some deep thought obstacles like, "deep pain," "past relationship problems," "my parents never loved me," etc., but these are all excuses of an addict, and I believe rarely a reason to avoide recovery.

And someone who lives daily with 72 addicts, I can say with some authority that there is a difference between a reason and an excuse. And for many of us the reasons are really simple.

Sometimes drinking makes you feel good. Sometimes smoking relaxes you, sometimes drugs can be fun. And being real about this is how I intent to avoid REAL temptations.

I mean, to put it another way, maybe you drive too fast on the highway because its a little stimulating, its a little dangerous, its kind of cool to go that fast - and maybe its not because you're still harboring some deep 5th grade resentment about getting picked last for kick ball.

I got a little frowned upon by the facilitator, but he couldn't really argue with my reasoning. I mean, even in rehab, there are no wrong answers and this is how I feel.

The Canadian thistle is a BEAUTIFUL weed. It is bright and purple and amazingly fragrant. Its got thorns on it, but they are not pokey, in fact, when you touch them, they almost melt and leave the smell of honey on your hands. At first glance, this is a remarkable plant and its not clear why its a weed.

But underneath, the root system is disgustingly hostile. It is insidious. It doesn't just smother other plants, it actually consumes them and what made the plants it consumes is killed. To anyone who watches Star Trek, its the Borg of botany.

There are many people like the Canadian thistle. Beautiful on the outside, fragrant and intoxicating, but below they infiltrate and consume.

I've been grieving for a couple days because I am in the process of losing a friend of mine in the City. This friend of mine continues to plant a certain Canadian thistle in his garden - intentionally - and each time, he dies a little because he is consumed by it.

Its hard to grieve for someone, for losing someone who is still alive. You just never know if you're making the right decision, but one thing about rehab, it teached you how to live without - even without people.

I am in the process of planting a new set of ideals and values and behaviors, and I don't want any exposure to any kind of Canadian thistle - see, I live on a farm and I know what they can do, the damage they can create - and I used to have this particular Canadian thistle in my own garden once.

There is a point, stay with me....

I thought that being sober magnified pain, but I realize, it just makes it real. And I've also realized that life dotted with several moments that cause you grief - DAILY in fact. Its part of a routine to handle it. Its important to manage it, but damn, it hurts and I hope that it always will. I am through numbing my pain, thats my addiction that does that - I need to experience it and deal with it, thats my humanity that does that.

In any event, here is the challenge am facing. I mean, my first reaction is to drop this friendship and give up. I am really pissed at this person, and really hurt. I want to let this person get swallowed up by a bunch of his own Canadian Thistles. But, people didn't give up on me when I was knee deep in alcoholism and would it be hypocritical of me to do this to someone else?

I mean, at what point is it NOT considered selfish to give up on someone.

And so I've been thinking a lot about it - and I suppose the only solution is that I can let this person cultivate their thistle. Enjoy the beauty of the plant and when they are ready to pull some weeds, I'll help out.

Until then, I don't think its wrong if I decide that I dont want to eat from his garden. I'm not giving up on him, I am just awaiting the day he plants a new crop.

On that note, take care, have a good weekend, and I will write next week.

I'm excited, my family and my dog are coming to see me - Lucky me.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Busy week, and worlds collide...

I didnt blog too much last week and the main reason is that it was extremely busy on the ranch. First, I phased on Wednesday - this was a great time for me because I have reached the first of many milestones on the road to recovery. Its like as if you are driving along a long long highway with nothing around you but dirt and desert (think Thelma and Louise highway) and, just as you are about to run out of gas, when you are so thirsty for some sort of sign that you're on the right road, you see a sign. Now, getting phase 1 may not be an exit sign, or a sign indicating a town, but its at least a 'Next Restroom, 1 mile ahead' sign. And, its a metaphoric utopia because I had to metaphorically piss like a racehorse!

This also means that I got a new case manager. I like him a lot and met with him for the first time today. The staff treats me much different now that I have phased - as I said, the initial phase is only a trial run and I dont think they really think they spend a lot of time getting to know people in that phase because many wont make it. Many pull over on that metaphoric highway and.... well, have a drink.

Since I have been here, 8 residents have been asked to leave - relapse is a weekly occurrence here, and there is a zero tolerance policy. One guy got kicked out just this past weekend for smoking. Now for me, that would be ludicrous. If I was going to relapse, it would be for something fun at least.... I mean, I'd make a go of it. Thats one regret I have about rehab - it sucks a little bit that I didn't try more things before I came here, and that will probably always haunt me. I'll bring that up to my case manager.

Anyway, the case manager, Art, said that I am a high functioning individual and that he is happy he got assigned to me. We'll see how he feels as I get more in to the program.

This also means that I will begin the addiction awareness component of the program. Tuesdays and Thursdays I will be having classes on addictions - to get a handle on the nature of addiction. Then I meet with my counselor to see how I FEEL about this addiction, and my case manager to see how I can apply some of the addiction and recovery training to my real life. Real life....

I havent really written about the mindset I had to be in when I came here, and I've given it a lot of thought - I told some of this to Art and thought it would be something to blog about for anyone considereing rehab. I think the emptiness of addiction and the isolation of addiction were only a result of the soul ache I had before I came here. Its a really bad pain when your soul aches. I cant describe it, but its physical and losing a cousin last year, I really thought about the fragility of my own life and the devestation that death leaves in the wake for the people who stay behind. Maybe thats why they call it a 'wake'....


We also had a family picnic here on the ranch. Some of the sister agencies came as well, and we fed well over 500 people. It was a really fun time even though I missed my family. I am attaching pictures from the event. Funny thing is that I was a little happy they weren't here because the overwhelming lonliness that a lot of guys felt when their families left was nerve racking. Its like having a non alcoholic beer - or an herbal cigarette - you get a taste and a sensation for real life, but you don't get it for real.... it just makes you miss it.

After I got done helping serve the crowd, (I work in the kitchen, so we were kinda the whole reason people came the the picnic), I decided to go watch an impromptu softball game in the fields we have on the ranch. I settled in on the grass with a bag of ranch fresh kettle corn and began to get in to the game when all of a sudden.....
"Oh my God, is that Roman?" came a familiar voice from behind me. I sat there, almost motionless, thinking the same thing that many of the small animals on the farm think, 'If I dont move, they cant see me,'

But she did.

The months I spent preparing to come here to the ranch, the decision to make this process public by blogging about it, the idea that the experiences I would have here might help people understand the nature of addiction, of an addict, and to let people into the real experience of rehab had not prepared me for the idea that one day, my real life would come intruding on my new life - like an imposing relative or the jerk at the grocery store that always has 20 items in the 10 item or less line.... there she was. My former co-worker, my former boss, was waving right at me, and calling my name.

Now in that brief moment, the wideness of my new eyes, the extended periphery of vision I had been patting myself on the back because I had begun to see become a long, long, LOOOONG tunnel. And I wanted to be anywhere else on the planet, anyone else on the planet, or perhaps able to fly.

We spoke briefly and she never once asked why I was here. I dont know what I would have said if she did. I have long anticipated people discovering this when I complete the program, but never really thought about what I would say to someone who discovered this process while I am AT THE RANCH!

And I wish I had an answer on how I cleverly handled the situation. I wish I knew what to say - but I still have no idea how I am handling this situation. I wish I had some comment or remark or some wise insight, but truthfully.... I don't. But I am going to ask the universe to help me out with this one, and when I get to the answer, I'll be sure to write about it, because, living in the moment is something an alcoholic does all the time, and preparing for the possibilities is something we avoid, so this is a good exercise on being more prepared I suppose.

Oh, the Bonnie Hunt thing.... well, the truth of the matter is that I am trying to keep a more meaningful count of my time here other than the last time I drank. And, well, I love Bonnie Hunt. I love that she is so open and candid about her family, that she still listens to the wisdom of her mother, that she laughs at herself, and her overwhelming appreciation and love for animals.... and she is incredibly hilarious. And, well, here in the ranch we dont get to watch TV, and so I decided instead of holding a vigil to the last time I saw my dear friend alcohol, I would, instead, hold one to the last time I laughed at the genuine spirit of Bonnie Hunt. I could count down the last time I saw family, or held my beloved dog, or something more personal, but, the truth is, those people and my dog are on this journey with me, and I dont want to be reminded of how much I might miss them. The Bonnie Hunt Show is more of a pleasure.... and well, there is a lot of time in rehab to think about the trivial, and sometimes its all you've got.

So.... with that, I'll write more this week on my addictions classes. until then, enjoy the scenes from the picnic.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Plenty more later this week....

I have plenty to blog tomorrow.... for today, I am just enjoying a new week - hopefully advance phasing on Wednesday, and today, just coming off a really really nice weekend.

Days sober: 40
Days without watching the Bonnie Hunt Show: 31
(I'll explain the relevance of this on a later post this week)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Perspective, purpose, and the last bad day

Yesterday was a really bad day. First, I woke up in a bad mood because Giant Rob snored so loudly I couldn't sleep - I dont think human beings are supposed to make those kinds of noises.

Tuesdays and Thursdays is the lifeskills and education part of the program on the ranch and most of the guys in the kitchen have to attend, so I was in the kitchen alone with only Mike - who I mentioned earlier hates being in the kitchen and doesn't hesitate to mention it.

As I said earlier, Giant Rob is also in the kitchen, but he stepped on his glasses and had to leave the ranch to get more. Add to that, there is a mission group that came to the ranch to spend a few nights on the campground and so there were an additional 25 people I had to feed along with 70 or so hungry ranchers. Then there is the cleaning. As a kid, dishes were a punishment, and as an adult it still is.

I went to break around 2pm, and tried to speak to a dear friend (Alex) on the phone to catch up - to get a little bit of normalcy in the day - to be reminded that there is a life outside the ranch. He had plans and we could only speak for about 5 minutes. As I was leaving, I received a call from my mom who informed me that, while they are on vacation, my beloved dog will be in the care of neighbors - and of course this worried me sick.

The heavy rains we have been having are great for all sorts of plant life on a farm - including weeds, so as I was riding back to the kitchen on my bike, I ran across a patch of thorns that had sprung out and got a flat tire. So I had to walk in the mud, carrying my bike.

I got back to the kitchen, the hamburgers hadn't thawed for dinner and now Mike had a counselor meeting - so I was ALONE to feed 125 people!

After work, I headed to the gym, to relieve some stress - and every weight was being used - everyone decided to all work out at the exact same time that I was.

Frustrated to say the least, I figured I need some alone time, some 'active rest.' I needed a drink! This would have been the perfect time for me to get some nice friendly alcohol and have a nice relaxing evening. But, instead, I found a small garden outside the kitchen where we will eventually plant sunflowers and I decided to weed it. This would burn calories, and since no one on the ranch is eager to join someone who is weeding, it would provide some good alone time as well.

I got to thinking about the fact that I kinda wanted to retreat to the safety of a nice stiff drink to relax. Because of my bad day. But then my thoughts took me to think in a suprising other direction -

I mean, I didnt get a good nights sleep, but I woke from a warm bed; I had to work alone, but I managed to satisfy and feed 125 people and they all thanked me; I only spoke to my friend for 5 minutes, but it was 5 minutes hearing a friendly voice; my mom called with news about the dog, but I got to speak to her and I knew my family would take care of my pet; the gym was full, but it took me to this garden where I could be alone. I decided that the bad day was only a few bad moments. That in the past, the moments were called bad days - which resulted in drinking, then they became bad DAYS, then I was having a bad week, then a bad month - and you see where this is going.

The beauty of journaling is that you can go back and read what the 'bad days' were like - the things that sent me to the liquor store were just bad moments - and really, excuses. I looked back and those bad momnents were unimortant to me these days, and a year from now, these bad moments will be equally as unimportant, and so why drink.

And as I weeded, I also thought about the need to 'weed the bad from your life, blah blah.' The ranch speaks to me, it tells me lessons in the activities of living here. I just need to listen to them. I couldn't believe that the ranch was going to give me a lesson so ridiculously obvious... purging the weeds fromy our life and mind before they overgrow your brain like the kuzdu off 285 in Atlanta.... this was too easy.

Maybe there was no lesson here. Sometimes, maybe there isn't a lesson. I would finish weeding because they had to be done before we could plant the sunflowers, then go home and relax.

And there it was. The weeds had to be pulled. The universe chose me - the only person on earth, in the history of earth, to pull THOSE weeds for THAT garden. I had a purpose.

And all the small things I do in life are important and have a purpose. I am important, no matter how small the things I do seem. We are needed, whether by the people who love us, or the garden that needs to be planted. I always have a purpose.

And my life is often spent chasing the BIG PURPOSE I lose sight of the small, equally important ones. I am here to serve many purposes.

And so there it is - the small bad moments are only moments, not a bad life, and the small useless purposes are all still purposes, and a good reason to be here. I guess it goes to show, I am needed.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A new challenge....

So, last week was a week with many meetings - I met with my counselor, who I mentioned earlier I was committed to meeting with once a week, despite the fact that I am not required to do this. He's pretty interesting and helped me to come to the realization that perhaps the boredom or loneliness I feel, which I have decided is the first set of binge drinking triggers I am gonna deal with, could be caused because the universe (he says its God, but I am trying to keep this as secular a blog as possible) - is trying to tell me that I am not living up to my full potential. I mean, I have HUGE dreams, and even some talent, and I am not using them the way I am supposed to - gave me a lot to think about.

We've already established that Mother Nature (God, the universe, whatever) can really stick it to you if you don't listen... and well, that kind of hit me as interesting advice, so I am going to pursue some of those dreams. I know one is supposed to happen.

He has also been asking me about my sugar consumption. A lot of guys on the farm balloon up and have severe sweet tooths and I haven't had that sugar craving. Initially this led him to believe that my craving for alcohol was only psychological and at first I believed him - however, when I reflected on that later, I KNOW that once I start drinking, I almost NEED to drink more - and that is physical. He cautions about thinking of alcoholism as purely physical because its not like a cold, it won't go away.

But it kept nagging at me. While I agree, phychologically, I often prepare for a drinking binge - renting movies, cancelling plans, getting food prepared, but once its gotten going, a blizzard won't stop me (nor has it - true story, I walked two miles in a blizzard once in bed shoes for a pint of gin - only to realize later it was SUNDAY and the liquor store wasn't open! Bad luck!)

And I never drank as much as the guys here (a handle a day is a LOT of booze - geezus!) But I take cinnamon supplements and have been taking them, and I read in Men's Health that these metabolize my sugar consumption as well as curb my appetite for sweets. I did this on my own as a weight loss technique, but there are other benefits as well, and he said he takes cinnamon also- that this is a GREAT idea that he may suggest to other patients who crave the lack of sugar their bodies are used to metabolizing from booze. He has asked me to keep a food journal as well as a weight journal. He also wants me to document when I feel physical craving for alcohol and if the cinnamon supplements counter act that.

This is OK, except, I keep this blog, I keep a real journal as in a diary, I keep a work out journal, I have to keep a gospel journal for my chaplain, and now this - I am going to have a LOT of juicy information for my 'E True Hollywood Story'.

Interesting... and I am glad he's taken an interest, I have often thought there is a physical reason I drink as well as a psychological one, and its cool to see someone take some time to help me break it down so that I can examine the whole picture. I think this is one reason I didnt like AA - because they only focus on the effects of alcohol and the results of drinking - and the daily reminder that 'you're a drunk' is stupid. You cant hang on to that kind of regret, I believe, and AA neglects the physical addiction to alcohol.

I also met with my case manager last week. He said that he is happy I am doing well here and that he envies me - this was a surprise - he said that when he entered a program (he is a former addict also) he wasn't in the same place educationally or mentally or spiritually, so that made me feel good.

The case managers know everything - there is a lot of big brother going on here and the guys in their case manager meetings tell their managers everything, and the managers talk - so they all know everything and hear everything about you.

He said that my work therapy supervisor (boss) likes me, and the guys here really like my personality - and so I am happy for that because "becoming wildly popular at rehab" is one thing I thought I would NEVER be able to cross off my bucket list.

I told him that I was worried about becoming complacent in the program - that I was worried I would skate through it on personality and charm (which, I am sorry, lets face it, I just can't shut it off.... just kidding) - but that I wouldn't get the full treatment I needed.

And he said, have faith the universe would somehow help me along...

And sure enough, it did.

Rob is a giant - almost 6'6" - he has been kicked out of several rehab facilities for relapse, he snores real bad, he steals, he breathes out of his nose (I know - it seems minor, but I am venting here!) Lane and I caught him his first day in the bee farm where we harvest honey, smoking something and drinking something (the zero tolerance policy starts on day 2 I guess - I wish I would'a known! kidding again - although, had I known I would end up in rehab, I might have done more 'experimenting'.... but thats a whole different blog).

He has a violent past, and as a former crack addict, his detox can be violent. THEY STUCK HIM IN MY BUNK! AND IN THE KITCHEN, and for the first time at the ranch, I am actually afraid of someone. This feeling sucks.

He slept and snored all through Sunday church and he really gives me the creeps because he talks in his sleep and its never anything I am equipped to hear. If I wanted a challenge, the universe sent it... and then some.

And so I thought about it. When I arrived here, I was extended so much warmth and generosity of spirit from the residents, and I soaked it all in, and it made this experience good for me.

I suppose, this is the universe's way of telling me to pass it on, so I am determined to make this work somehow, and, if he manages to stay in the program, I will do my best to be kind and realize that he is a human, with a heart, and we both went down a dark path - and like my mom had to do with the cat that got out one night - a cat she hated, in fact - a cat that was so dumb, she was actually afraid of the dark - she had to stand out there and shine the flashlight on the pathway to the house so the cat could come in - so, now I need batteries for my flashlight.

Besides, being a jerk isn't really me - and its certainly not how one gets to be wildly popular in rehab, now is it.

Take care all.

Days sober: 35

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fieldtrip to home.

We went to the City today for a graduation - this is an event that we hold at our sister facility in the City where all the graduates of the program as well as the educational programs at the ranch and in the sister facility are celebrated.

It was nice to get off the ranch, and I looked forward to going to the city for a while - You don't really know what a place means to you until you are no longer there.

So, we sat through the ceremony - it was a little strange because the guys and girls in the program all wore caps and gowns and we even had a key note speaker.... Reverend So and So from The Christian Such and Such. Apparently he is a real rock star in the Christian therapy circle... whatever that is.

It was nice to be there and see everyone who had succeeded, but the highlite wasn't really the ceremony, or the success of the graduates, it was the city herself.

As we drove through I was reminded of so many things that were taking place there, or that had taken place there. One of the guys in our shuttle who had been homeless pointed out all the bridges he lives under as we drive closer to the ceremony - almost gleeful, like when you show someone the house you grew up in. He also commented on which freeway exits were best for making some money. I asked him how much money he could make in a day, he replied, "Brotha', if you need so much money you have to work all day, you should get a job." Its a little scary that this kind of logic made sense to me!

(Note: They can make $30 - $40 in an hour on a good ramp, with a nice smile, he said. Two good hours will buy him a bottle, something to eat, and a place to sleep. Yikes!)

The city was so alive, and I was struck by the speed everyone was going. It seemed like everyone was in such a rush to go no where in particular. I havent really left the ranch in some time, and it was like I had jumped into the Matrix or something!

Its funny, the guys on my shuttle who I am friends with, Lane, Brian, Marty, and the guy who cuts my hair, a guy I call Blue. We all sort of huddled together, went through the motions of being there, dutifully clapped for people we didnt know, and removed our hats when we prayed; and once the ceremony ended we all immediately went back to the shuttle van. Almost in a dash.

Everyone else from the ranch stayed after the ceremony, milled around a little, but we found our driver and insisted we needed to get back to the ranch for a number of 'work or therapy' related reasons.

We sat in the shuttle, fairly silent on the ride home and when we got back, we each came back to life and went to the mess hall to have lunch together (none of the rest of the ranch had arrived, they stayed in the City).

During the lunch, Lane said, "You guys are gonna laugh, but I couldn't wait to get back here, I couldn't wait to get out of that city."

And almost at once, we all laughed out loud because we ALL had been feeling the same thing. It was frightening almost. I cant explain it. I am not ready to spend time in the city where I lost myself just quite yet. I keep in touch with friends who keep me abreast on the drama that is still there, on all the false friendships I had, on the relationships I built based on partying and drinking - empty relationships that were sustainable only while I was drunk, or preparing to be drunk. Other than family and a handful of close friends, I am perfectly happy with not visiting.

I was, at one time, almost resentful about the limited access to home I have in the early stages of the rehab program, but its turning out to be a blessing.

The ranch is such a safe place, and, I mean it when I said, You don't really know what a place means to you until you are no longer there.

Its good to be home. Have a good weekend everyone.

Days sober: one month

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sober time, is a much slower time.

There are a lot of things on a ranch that I don't understand. For instance, I don't understand how a spinning windmill can get water out of the ground for decades - when you never move the windmill. I don't understand how a combine knows how to pull the corn cob away from the corn stalk, and how it knows which is the good part. I don't understand why a cow and a llama both eat the same thing, why they are both about the same size, and both weight the same, yet llama poop is small and pellet like - and in neat little pyramids, while cow poop is wet, soggy and really sloppy.

Many things on the ranch I find perplexing. Time is something I that also puzzles me on occasion here on rehab ranch. Many addicts or alcoholics need 'time' to adjust to 'time.' As an alcoholic on a bender, probably the only time that matters many times is 'last call'. Indeed, there have been many mornings I have woken up, only to stumble to my neighbor's door to look at the news paper so I could know what day it was.

Time is mysterious. You cant see it or touch it, but here at rehab ranch, we can charge upwards of $15 per hour for it and mostly all you will get is a hay ride around the farm, a slice of totino's pizza and the chance to discover, for yourself, what I am saying about the difference between llama and cow poop. If you're lucky, you'll see a crew of alcoholics and drug addicts digging an irrigation ditch or something.

Because days become other days almost seamlessly on the farm, the most often referred to unit of time is the 'weekend.'

"We'll be digging that irrigation ditch, after the weekend," the guys will say,
"I only have two more weekends, then I will be phasing, then I can go home on the weekend."
Its kind of golden when your entire life is measured by your progression through 52 weekends.

There are other 'times' we acknowledge as well. For instance there is "When I got done with the program....." time which consist of the hopeful plans we make for when we get back to real life.

There is 'This one time...." which is usually followed by "I was so drunk, messed up, stoned, wasted, sloshed, etc." and usually concludes with "I'm lucky I didn't A) get caught, B) get arrested, C) die.

Of course, there is feeding time and harvest time, we are on a working ranch.

There are the two hours we get to leave the ranch daily, this is free time, or time to kill, or real life time.

We have quiet time, at 8:30 which is a time when we let the early risers who do morning feeding time to sleep, thats usually when I read, write, or work out.

We do make a big deal out of Black Awareness Month, apparently, and Labor Day. Also, the seasons for dung beetle, locust migration and time to regerminate.

There is the time we have been sober, we do keep track of that. Not sure why, it only reminds us how little or how long we have been away from a dear friend. You wouldn't keep track of how many days you're been divorced or someone died.... but we do keep a daily vigil to the death of the addiction. Wierd.

We also operate on 'blink time' which is the hours after they divert the power from the dorms while they operate heavy machines, like the water pumps or generator rechargers. I call it this because all the clocks blink "12:00" and many guys have just given up on resetting the clocks. The kitchen, where I work, the clocks reset to "00:00" which is good, because I often come to work and think to myself, "Wow, I am so glad its "00:00", it must be time to drink some coffee.

And then there is alone time, when I can think about all the times I wasted being drunk - birthdays, dates, evenings with loved ones, times I chose to chill with a cold bottle rather than a someone with warm heart. This is one of those times.

Good night.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mother Nature's life lessons....

So I have gotten a lot of comments on the idea that I posted a couple days ago about having something to hold on to while in rehab - in other words, making a commitment to be sober as a result of your relationship with other people, or some other person, and a lot of the comments were along the lines of, 'You should be doing this for yourself, not for someone else."
I thought about this a lot, and I remain of the conviction that there is nothing wrong with making this commitment because it will make someone else happy. As someone who has been addicted understands, almost all of it up to the point you decide to dry out is 'for yourself.'
The drunken nights when your spouse or partner wanted to spend time with you were 'for yourself', the nights at a bar when you lost control and got too drunk and someone else had to be responsible for getting you home and making sure you didnt get arrested or worse were 'for yourself,' the money you spent, the hours you wasted, the worry you caused - all of it was 'for yourself' and I believe that while you may reap endless rewards from being sober, rehabilitation is also about doing something selfless, about doing something to keep you around for the people who care, and about thinking of others first for a change.
And with that, I'll fill you in on a little of whats been going on.
The weekend was a good time - its been really rainy and I am happy about that because I dont work outside and because I am able to wear my new raincoat!

I am finally over the fact that a couple days ago I accidentally stepped on a baby chick (which we get through the mail believe it or not - see photo of the mail crate) - and the chicks are still only hours old when we get them. They dont know that when a giant human (giant from the chicks perspective at least) steps in the hen house, its not a good idea to run under one of his Sketchers because, well they can kill you. Not on purpose, and when I stepped on the chick and heard the resulting 'POP' I was mortified. Marty assured me that the chick was already dead, or sick and that I didnt do anything to harm it - I think he was just trying to make me feel better as I was about to be sick and possibly start crying!
The other chicks surrounded it and pecked its dead corpse and I was mortified that I caused this to happen. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about animals. This was tragic to me. Chickens are disgusting cannibals, they will peck an injured hen to DEATH at the first sign of weakness.

So, after the guys in the hen house teased me a little and could see I was emotional, they stopped bugging me and I went on my day - ruined day.
They joked later about how I could solve the chicken feed problem, they would let me loose in the hen house with some cleats and I could 'handle it." - UGH!
The circle of life I was told - and that I live on a farm, death happens.
Two nights before we had a terrible flash thunder storm and one of the pregnant sheep was so startled she went in to labor and had a lamb in the mud. Marty asked me for help and we all ran out to the small animal enclosure to herd all the small animals into the barn - not realizing that the lamb was born in the mud only moments earlier.
The night on a farm is so dark, and seems more so in a raging storm. Often, the only illumination we had was the flash of lightning bolts as they races across the sky. The mother sheep was so distraught, she was aggressive and acting unusual, and we thought it was just the storm, and eventually the two of us had to lasso her and drag her to the barn - without her baby - and she cried and wailed all night. Again, we did not know the lamb had been born.
And the next day we discovered a baby. Cold, shivering, covered in mud; survivor of what must have been a horrible experience - dropped from the warm womb into the muddy, feces infested ground - in the rain, and with no mother to love it. You can imagine we were heart broken - and the mother sheep is still inconsolable, she lays in the mud where the baby was born, even now, a week later - I think she is looking for it.

The lamb lived for about three days - with several of the guys taking turns bottle feeding her, singing to her, and comforting her - and she died last friday morning.

Again, The circle of life.
I am realizing that sometimes Mother Nature can be a heartless b*tch when she wants to be!! Sheesh!
But I have been studying the Book of John in the bible (this is the gospel that deals with what Jesus SAYS not what he does, which is why we study it) and have come up with some real interesting observations.
First - I dont know if you believe in Jesus or not, but even if you dont, he's still quite the cool character. I thought about how, even on the cross, beaten and ready for a new life, abandoned by all his 'friends' and only his mom and John, and Mary Magdalen were at his feet and Jesus mustered up enough strength to tell John, "He dude, I'm about to bone outta here, so, look after my mom!"

Moms always manage to be there for stuff like that. I mean, in a way, I am slowly dying too - the drunk me, which will lead to a new sober me. I thought alcohol would kill me someday and in a way, I was right - it is killing me - its killing the me that was hurtful, that was hurting, that needed to escape - and I am being given a chance to come back to life here at the farm. And, like Jesus, my mom is right here with me, in the final days of who I was. And she is also someone who I am reminded of each day I commit to another day in rehab. One of the people I want to complete this program "for."

And, I am NOT becoming a bible thumper, but as a story, the bible has some good lessons - whether you believe they are divine lessons from God or no more heavenly inspired than a James Michener novel (and equally as long and repetitive). The gospel also says another thing about 'turning the other cheek, and forgiveness' (Luke 6) and its strange the way the universe works because I think this is a lesson that was reinforced to me only a day before I came here by a 5 year old girl.
The girl's friend had been mean to her and the five year old girl went next door and gave her flowers, even though she wasn't at fault. Her father was perplexed by this and asked why she, the innocent one, gave the flowers to the mean girl. The five year old girl replied (and I am NOT making this up), "We have a history of friendship, dad," and the matter was settled.

And this five year old is very special to me and makes me proud to be her uncle. She is my niece.
The ranch is really making me aware of so much, but mostly the fragility of life (like the chick's, and even my own), the divine wisdom of children when it comes to simple matters of the heart which we as adults make so complicated, and the never ending love of mothers, even in the worst thunder storms of our lives, when life drops you in a cold muddy, rainy pile of feces, if you're lucky like I am and Jesus was, your mom will usually try her best to get you out of it or spend the night worried in the barn when no one else noticed you were even there.
She'll walk up to Calgary with you and wait with you while your life transforms. And these lessons I am beginning to absorb come from the things I see on the farm, from the natural cycle I am exposed to here by Mother Nature, and its my responsibility to live long enough and happy enough and sober enough to help Mother Nature spread it around a little.

Talk to you all soon. (PS - this baby goat in the picture loves to kiss me, I've named her Isabella II for personal reasons)