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.

1 comment:

  1. Everyone except for me! I have to work today but I will be coming up the first chance that I can. I will let you know when I will be able to make it.