Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An Ogre and his sweet tarts

This is hardly going to be one of the blog entries that may resonate with you for some time – in fact, if there is going to be a blog that you intend to just skip, this one would probably be it. You see, I am not feeling well at all – and I am a little irritable – so irritable in fact that the guys in my dorm have completely given up on speaking to me and instead bring me apples from our orchard, fruit juice and the day before yesterday, they left a bag of sweet tarts and a Carl’s Junior cheesecake outside my door.

This reminds me of those movies where people leave gifts for the Ogre so they can cross the bridge. I have to tell you, it makes me feel a lot better just knowing that they care. But I can be a real pain in the ass when I’m not feeling well, so ultimately they benefit as well – and I have to think that may be much of the reason for their ‘generosity’.

I have still managed to head out and do my bike rides each day – 12-17 miles a day. This is my meditation time – the time alone that I spend, just me and God. Say what you will, but the idea of conquering an addiction without the surrender to a higher power is pretty rough – so whatever yours is, its nice to have a couple moments, each day, to spend with ‘Him’.

This is not a new concept to someone in the throngs of an addiction, surrendering to something else is pretty common in the mind of someone who develops a serious addiction to anything. By definition, this is addiction – surrendering.

So, things seem like they’re going well – I am about to phase in a few weeks; get a job, start working on the rest of my life. My program is going well, I haven’t had any significant cravings or any thoughts of relapse. I have been staying busy, I have a lot of really good friends, love working with the horses. Life seems drama free, right? But being sick this week, one thing I’ve realized is that, damn, I’m alone, and I’m pretty lonely.

I suppose it takes a real miserable Ogre to be surrounded by so many people, so much good opportunity, and still feel like the unknown in a small crowd of one.

This could be the meat of why I tended to seek comfort in the embrace of a bottle of gin. The bottle is always available, and its pretty consistent. There is the glossy endorphine release that I experienced in the early detoxification period – those earlier blogs about how good I feel, how I’ve noticed all the small little things that I had forgotten about, the connectedness of nature, and the parallels of my life etc.

I still notice those things, I notice all the connectedness, but sometimes that harmony of senses I heard before sounds like a clitter clatter of distraction on occasion; but the reality of life is beginning to occupy the fairy tale I’ve lived up to this point on this ranch, and I have to somehow digest the loneliness and reconcile it. A couple months ago I thought that the ability to out-run boredom, and loneliness was to be my method; then I believed it was to occupy my time to avoid it; and now I realize its gonna be around and I am just going to have to live through it, like a normal person. I'm surrendering to boredom, lonleiness, the tedious, surrender to my new normal, the normal that everyone else is required to surrender to and I somehow thought I could avoid.
I can't hide under that bridge like that Ogre, I have to come out of it and face it. But the one good thing is, I don't feel like having a drink. Not even a little bit.

I’ll think about this on my bike ride and enjoy those sweet tarts.
I'll write more on the wrap up of my Addictions 1 class in the next blog - And explain the Addictions 2 module to you. Even though I am making my way through the program, I still am only half way finished.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My friend with the removable limbs....

The first of the group of guys that I came in with moved over to the next dorm this past weekend, Phil. He’s one of my favorite people on the ranch – and he’s the only Catholic that’s left. There’s one more, but he’s older and really cranky – a true testament to his faith, I suppose.

Phil is actually the absolute first person I spoke to when I got here. He had an Armenian friend with the same name as mine and spent the entire time I unpacked telling me about this friend and at one point even offered to let me talk to him on the phone. You can imagine that I thought this was outrageous and added to my feeling that this ranch was inhabited by crazy people and he was only the first. I can only imagine the astronomical odds that must be involved in actually engaging with absolutely absurdist person on the ranch within the first 3 minutes after my parents dropped me off. The dust had barely settled from their exit from the property when we met.

But as time went on, his quirkiness really grew on me and I found him to be awesome. Its nice to know there is someone on the ranch who is slightly moodier than I am. I usually take that title right off the bat.

One time, Lane and I were sitting on the back porch talking about a new full circuit weight training circuit we read about in a magazine and Phil stormed through the door swung the door open grasping his shoulder and hollered, “Great, real F**king great, my damn arm fell out again,” and stormed by.

You can imagine that Lane and I were kind of surprised at this – its hardly every day that someone storms by you holding a limb and muttering, so in our stunned silence, we watched as he wandered around the campus, holding his arm, cussing, muttering, and trying to find a ranch driver to take him to the hospital.

He decided to come here because he had spent a lot of time in a serious binge. By serious binge, I mean about 4 years straight. He is one of those guys that was able to hide it well until it finally consumed him. There were signs it was heading that direction –

He shamefully recounts the cold December night he went to a Mexican restaurant in a small farming town not far from here and was blitzed out of his mind. He walked in, noticed no one was attending the bar, he sat down and the only other patron was a mentally disabled woman sitting at the end. She smiled and waved at him, offered him a chip and some salsa. He ignored her, walked behind the bar and jacked a bottle of tequila.

He took this bottle of tequila and drove about 80 miles to the city where he decided to visit his family who was celebrating Christmas. While he was invited, he didn’t want to show up without his companion. I could relate to this, but I stopped visiting my family when I was drinking and instead avoided them. The most complex relationship an alcoholic has is with his parents and siblings – these are people that you really can’t fool. We think we do, but we don’t.

I did this so often and for so many events over so many years that my mom one time called and said, “Look, I don’t like this, but if the only way I am going to get to see my son is to have you some over drunk, then do that at least. I’ll even go pick you up. But stop avoiding us.”

I still hardly ever came over.

Anyway, Phil arrived to the satisfaction of his mother who worried sick about him. She had invited him for several days but he never gave a definite. Answering in the ambiguous tense is an art form for an addict. There’s a certain finesse it takes to satisfy the question without committing to an answer.

As the night went on, Phil would sneak out to the garage and take shots of the contraband tequila he ‘snuck’ out, then ‘snuck’ in. At one point, his mom asked him to go out to the car and get something. Because this was a cold December night, Phil decided to wear his step-dad’s slippers and upon his return was met with the grumbling attitude of his step-dad, who (in his inebriated state) promptly began to berate Phil for disrespecting him and using his things without asking, etc. etc.

You know as well as I do that these kinds of exchanges, with alcohol involved, on a Holiday, when you least expect them to happen, almost ALWAYS happen. Maybe its because emotions are already at surface level, I don’t know – but they happen.

So Phil calmly walked over, removed the slippers, grabbed a lamp and broke it over his step-dad’s head. The ensuing fight was a complete blur to everyone except his mom (who I speak to a lot when she calls – for whatever reason, the guys on the ranch like me to meet their parents and spouses and kids. I think this is because on the outside I appear normal and this kind of reinforces the idea that if the resident has normal friends, they might also be normal. But, as anyone who’s followed this blog knows, I am FAR from normal. This is an adaptive deception, I suppose. Great, I’m still far from cured!)

But anyway, the ensuing fight was a bloody mess (this sentence is funnier when you realize that the step–dad is British, but I digress)…. The walls, the drapes, the tan burbur carpeting were all covered in the crimson color of blood and the chaotic flavor that only a bottle of Jose Cuervo and years of resentment can add to a Holiday gathering.

The next day, Phil decided to get some help.

So he did what ever absurd little person who has removable limbs might do. He called a monastery. Now, his desire to get help was so great that he researched this monastery and even visited. He filled out the application and waited to be accepted to the six month program. He was allowed two pairs of pants and a pair of shoes, the monastery would provide the rest.

And while he waited and waited for a response, he continued to drink. He told me that the abbot was a real bitch to get ahold of because, as you can imagine, he can only speak during certain times of the day; so if Phil missed his window of opportunity to speak to him, he had to leave another message, and they had to try again in four days when the abbot could, again, speak.

And while while this story seems outrageous, its not. This is the kind of thing an alcoholic might do in order to seek help. I continue to say it, we think we are fooling others, we even think we are fooling ourselves, but we all know, deep down, that there is a misfire, that this isn’t normal. And we try everything.

Anyway, I am telling this story because another friend of mine, Brian, had his parents visit him from California for the first time in three years. Their relationship had been spotty at best – Brian is a life long user that once told me that he remembers clearly that on his second acid trip, he remembers losing his last baby-tooth.

But he invited his family out, spent the weekend with them, and he reconciled. He didn’t apologize – as I quoted many blogs ago, ‘People don’t want to hear you’re sorry for stealing their VCR, they want the VCR that you stole from them back!”

He acknowledged their feelings, especially his sister’s. His sister was the most hurt by his addiction. My theory about siblings is this is something like survivors guilt a sibling that must have. They had basically the same experience, but they survived it a little bit less harmed. One of my sisters reads this blog and offers me words of encouragement and support and this must be such a relief to her that I am finally at this point. I think losing me to addiction would have been very hard on her. Dare I say it, yes, she likes me, she really likes me.

And Phil is still struggling with reconciling with his family. The stains on the carpet are only a small part of the stain in the memory of that person he once was.

I am not struggling with reconciling with my family. I continue to reconcile with them, and they have met me half way each step of the way. To me, reconciliation is not an event, it’s a process. There may come a day when I am sure we will finally put it to rest – to finally bury the past – or there may not.

But the ultimate thing that the people who unfortunately love you want is that you reconcile the problems within, and really, they in plain terms, they just don’t want your problems to continue to affect their Holiday parties. I think this is fair. By the same token, they DO still want you around. Like I told the 9th graders, it’s all your story, it’s up to you how you want to write it.

And this all came about because I was out on one of my marathon bike rides, and I saw a commotion in the air. One large bird was being harassed by a gaggle of smaller birds. I thought it was either sick or hurt. I also thought that the bird might have been the instigator.

And then, all of a sudden the commotion stopped. I didn’t think too much of this until I got back to the ranch and told the story to one of the farm hands who explained to me that those were crows and they were attacking a hawk. And when the commotion stopped, well, it was sudden and deliberate.

You see, the issues and problems in life are much like that gaggle of crows. Imagine yourself a hawk. Here’s the cool part, when the gaggle attacks the hawk, the hawk doesn’t strike back, he doesn’t retaliate, the hawk flies higher. And in the process of recovery, that’s what Phil, Brian, and I each are trying to do – gain some altitude and leave the problematic crows below. That’s an awesome concept.

Peace out, have a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I wish I could smile....

This past week, I know I’ve been real slack on keeping up with the blog – but its been really hectic – first of all, my buddy Brian’s parents came to visit him over the weekend – this was great for him.

He hadn’t spoken to them in like three years and the ability to spend a weekend with them SOBER was great. Marty and I had lunch with Brian’s family after church on Sunday, and had to rush back to the ranch – this is Fall Festival time and they keep up really busy. I had a Greek Salad and went back to the ranch to work.

On Tuesday, I went to get my teeth cleaned – and while this is normally not something I would blog about, I will tell you that, this time, it hurt.

We have an agreement with a dental school about 40 miles away to ‘practice’ on us for their students – and if you’re ever gotten a student haircut from a hairstyling salon…. Just imagine that one of the students takes a pair of her scissors and jabs it into your gums for about 6 hours (not an exaggeration) – and then tells you she is only half finished and you gotta come back.
The other thing that kind of freaked me out is the fact that they use Novocain and this can show up on a drug test as a metabolite caused by cocaine use.

So I asked them to use it very sparingly – and LO and BEHOLD, when I got back to the ranch, I had a ‘random’ UA… I was pretty nervous. The ‘NO TOLERANCE’ policy would certainly have meant I would be dismissed from the program if I tested positive – even though the dentist gave it to me.

But – it metabolized in my system, or I peed it out earlier, so I was OK.

But my damn mouth is in some serious pain!

And today I was asked to go to a couple high schools and speak about drug and alcohol addiction. I was nervous, but I wanted to say something that really meant something.

Basically, I didn’t spend the day saying ‘Don’t do drugs, you’ll be like me’ – instead I said ‘This life is like your myspace profile, only YOU are responsible for the ‘about me’ section’ – and if you want to be known as a druggie or an alcoholic, its kind of up to you and no lecture from some burn out in a rehab facility is gonna change that…. ‘ – I mean, there was more – but basically I explained that they are the authors of the story, they own all the failures and all the successes, and that they are not allowed to blame anyone for what becomes of their stories because only they are responsible for doing it right and getting it right the first time…. I explained it can be amended, but it can not be rewritten – and that drugs and alcohol are like placing a period in the part of the story that should have a comma….

There was more, and I made a couple girls cry, and one boy came up to me and said he is going to go home and think about what I said – he confided that he has been drinking because his older brother encourages it, but that I kind of him permission to decide NOT to drink – that he couldn’t say it was his brother who made him…. And he stopped short of saying he was going to stop drinking, but went so far as to say that he would think about what I said and he was glad to hear that HE was in control of his decisions.

There was more, of course, but that was the gist.

Kind of weird, I never thought a couple months ago that I would be going around to high schools talking about alcohol addiction – A girl from Seattle Washington reads this blog and she said that she and her 20 year old boyfriend are both battling an addiction, but lack the resources to stop it. She said that they read the blog together and discuss it.

That’s awesome – I mean, I am by no means trying to tell anyone how to beat addiction, but I certainly hope it at least gets you thinking and talking about it.

And I am also pretty happy to report that I have an interview for a job Friday…. Wish me luck. I have reached the portion of the program where I am chained to the ranch…. I’m on the back side of the mountain now – the descent back into normalcy; transitioning back to my life.

I spend so much time looking forward while I am here, but its nice to rest a minute and look back and see that I’ve already come a long way… I’d smile about it, but my damn mouth really hurts.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Culture Club

So, the early part of this week was spent mostly on recovering from an eventful weekend on pass. And while these weekends are always great and the chance to spend time with my family and friends is definitely one of the things that makes a 13 month rehab livable, I spent the weekend with 5 kids, each under the age of 10. And, frankly, very few things make a person want to drink more than 5 kids yelling over who has to use which pair of scissors.

When I came back from pass, there were 8 new residents! WOW! This is more than 10% of the residents on the ranch. Of course, since I never mentioned a graduation in there, you can imagine the reasons why we had 8 new beds available. That would be 6 relapses, one guy who was asked to leave because he needed serious mental help and one who was asked to leave because he had for a reason I wnt discuss.

Its not hard to forget the adjustment period we each go through when we are dropped off at the front gates of the ranch. Those first few days are very challenging to say the least – and the idea that you aren’t going to stay is constantly nagging on you. It takes a lot of personal convincing to decide to stay and the fact that the ranch is out in the middle of no where helps.

But the other thing that is hard is learning the grooves of the culture of the ranch. Like with every population, there is an ever present code of behavior, of expectations, a method of getting our needs met. As addicts, I will say that adaptation to new circumstances is probably one of our best strengths. We have learned from an early age to be who we need to be in each situation to get what we need to get – I don’t mean taking advantage of a situation or of people, I am speaking more about the idea that – with addiction as our leader, we’ve developed the sophisticated ability to learn the environment wherever we are placed in order to feed the addiction. And knowing how to get things done is one way to get things done. Does this make any sense.

But, here on the ranch, there is a culture and, just like in a wolf pack, the older animals tend to school the younger animals on behavior. Its weird to me to realize that I am one of the older animals these days and the newer guys actually look at me as someone they need to emulate. Geeze – the group of guys that I hang out (including me) with are hardly the kind of people that I would want to emulate.

As I mentioned before, there are about 5 guys that I am particularly close to. In our own small group, there is also a culture, and we are each really good at keeping each other in check. In this place, we are the only people that actually know what we are each going through, so this helps.

ME: Hey, what are you doing with those pants
PHIL: I am throwing them away
ME: So you don’ want them anymore?
PHIL: No, I am getting rid of them
ME: I like them, I’ll take them
PHIL: No Thank you.

CURTIS: What are you drinking?
ME: A diet orange Sunkist
CURTIS: Is it good?
Me: Yea, its pretty good
CURTIS: Then, why don’t I have one?

LANE: Why are you looking at me like that?
ME: Because I thought your hat was crooked, but I think its actually your face or your head
LANE: Your attitude is crooked

And while all this creates good friendships, it also adds to the dynamic of a group of guys that are each trying to become rehabilitated while maintaining some sense of normalcy in an environment that is far far from normal. But, like my nieces and nephews who fought over scissors all weekend, we too have petty fights and tend to keep each other in check.

And its ironic that I am blogging about this or that this even came up because the latest lesson in addiction is the addiction culture and the culture of addiction.

There are several ways in which addicts have adapted to the culture of maintaining an addiction, but first and most important to note is that we are generally taught behavior, like the new guys are taught behavior. Whether you are a smoker, a drinker, a druggie, or addicted to gambling – chances are pretty high that you never decided to try these things – or to get hooked all on your own. In fact, its highly likely you were ‘mentored’ in this – someone told you the awful taste, the horrific coughing and upset stomach would go away – ‘TRY IT AGAIN’, “It will get so much better”…. And for a while, it does.

But this is how culture works.

Its also highly likely that you learned all this while still in the midst of true development – at a critical time when thinking and behaviors are developing and brain chemistry is taking root on a blank canvass – and those ‘good; feelings are imprinted on your brain code FOREVER! In fact, studies have shown that if you start drinking before you are 15 years old, you have a SIX TIME greater chance of developing a serious drinking problem. But, no matter what age under 25, you are still running the risk of developing misfires in your synaptic response centers that are being imprinted on your brain chemistry and leading you to areas you do no want or need to go.

This leads to a prolonged adolescence – in fact, certain changed thinking actually STOPS the brain from maturing and you maintain behaviors that you had when you started – as if time freezes – Think of how you handle money, relationships, responsibilities – if the other areas of your life are unmanageable as a result of your addiction, its highly probably that its because your brain hasn’t developed the skills you would have normally developed had you remained sober.

Paranoia, depression and isolation are real ones, but so is NARCISSISM – my GOD, I cant tell you how many people have this distorted thinking – and I don’t mean an inflated sense of self, although that is one portion of it – its deeper than that – and in fact goes all the way to the idea that you can’t see how your behavior affects other people. And its funny I talked about this last time I blogged, but it is a real distortion in the thinking of people who are addicted to something. Even to the smoker who is offended that they can’t smoke in a restaurant. The world is seen through your addiction.

Almost all addicts have authority issues because authorities are the people who want you to stop – parents, spouses, even the police – these guys can be such a buzz kill. And immorality – there is no guilt or shame for behavior.

It is said that you should anticipate at least one month of rehab for each year you are in your addiction, so because of this program, I might be confident at some success because 13 months is about 13 years, and I have not been addicted to alcohol for 13 years (although some therapists say that an addict is addicted the moment they take that first drink – many others have a tough time….er….swallowing that theory)

But the beauty of addiction is that you have some definite career milestones you can certainly see.
Initiation – learning from others,
Controlled use – weekend parties, getting hammered in college, nothing significant interfering with your life
Justifying – beginning to get some negative feedback about your use but trying to justify it to the ‘party poopers’
Identity change – denial by yourself to your peer group or family and the eventual shift to a new peer group that is more accepting of your habits
Letting go of Normalcy – This is a progressive disengagement from society and increasing engagement with your new culture – removing barriers and inhibitions.
Learning to Hustle – and no, I am not talking about that kick ass 70’s disco mantra – no, this is when you shift from leisure use to cultural use, to the victimization of people in your life (stealing money from your sister to get beer or sneaking a couple cigarettes from your parents bedroom, etc.) – its also when you first start to look out for #1
Kicking – this stage can be categorized by your first few attempts to quit using – generally on a dare, as part of a trendy event like New Years Resolution, or even in order to get someone to love you or take you back.
Getting Busted – arrest, incarceration, losing a job, losing a relationship, not being able to function – hell, even getting your ass beat in a bar…. There are many ways to get busted
Doing treatment – Notice I say ‘Doing Treatment’ and not ‘Getting treatment’ – because getting treatment happens much later, but doing treatment means completing a program because you are under the gun of a sentence or because you have no option in order to maintain freedom – but until you actually decide to GET treatment, chances are, you’re not going to be really successful.

I am going to blog more later this week on how some people maintain strategies to avoid changing while in treatment, but, I’ve been droning on and on, and if I don’t get back to the dorm and find those pants Phil is gonna get rid of, I may never get them – and its highly likely that Curtis, and crooked head Lane, have already discovered my Diet Sunkist stash!! This is my new culture – and you gotta admit – I’ve got it pretty good being sober these days. I think there’s a definite cultural connection that may just stick around.

PS - While I was writing this, the staff has resident review and three more residents were asked to leave. That makes 11 people this week.... its gonna get bumpy around here! Stay positive everyone- and be like that ultimate Culture Clubber, be a Karma Chamelion.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Maybe a chicken isn't so dumb....

When I first got to the ranch, my dorm was garden level – so when I looked out the window, I was ground level. While this had its advantages – it was always cool in the daytime and warm at night – and I could always see people as they walked across the campus (yes, I am a lil bit nosey), there were also some definite disadvantages.

One such disadvantage is that the ground is usually not a pleasant place you want your face while on a ranch – it doesn’t smell very good. Another disadvantage was a peculiar one. The ranch has a lot of free range hens that wander the grounds. Chickens are by far the stupidest animals on the planet. And several weeks after I arrived, one such hen parked herself outside my bedroom window and never left. That damn hen even laid eggs there! Now the novelty of having a clucking hen outside the window is cool for the first day or two it happens, but it quickly wears off. The clucking, the cooing, the smell, we all thought she was just lost and couldn’t find her way back to the chicken coop.

This sounds ludicrous but, as I said, a chicken is really stupid.

For a while, the hen was a bit of a pet to the guys in the dorm. I think I even blogged about her once– can’t remember. But the guys would feed her and she would eat – and hell, maybe she wasn’t such a dumb bird in that she always got some good food and lots of good company – far above what the other hens got.

One day, she died. I looked out my window and there was a dead hen laying there. I asked around and we came to the conclusion that the hen had simply given up. She was old and it’s a strange thing in the animal world that an animal knows when they’re giving up and they leave the group, go off on their own and they die. Our best hope is that they don’t suffer – and this hen didn’t suffer one bit, in fact she was indulged. But she died.

One of my roommates since the day I got here, JT, left this weekend. He was 71 years old. He and I have a great friendship – he has lived a really amazing and colorful life. In the 60’s he owned a night club in Compton where he had pole dancing women that he ‘rented’ out for special occasions. In the 80’s he owned a liquor store that was one of the few businesses that survived the LA riots after the Rodney king verdict. He had two wives, his brother wasn’t mafia, but he ‘knew people’ – He was also one of the few Catholics on the ranch so we tended to stick together.
He also told me one time that I was the first friend he had in about 25 years. I thought this was really amazing. But he was old, he was tired, and alcohol had been a huge part of his life for so long it seemed kind of stupid to finish the program now.

JT was kicked out of his house by his wife after decades of marriage and thats why he came to the ranch. A few years ago, she suffered the loss of her daughter to cancer, and now her son is afflicted with liver cancer and dying, and the thought of watching JT slowly kill himself with alcohol was too much so she told him to leave. He went to the ranch. He was great at the program. His job on the ranch was about 1 mile from the dorms so he would ride his bike to work each day and I would often see him joyously pedaling down the roads of the ranch, kind of lost in thought – but he always had a smile.

A couple weeks ago JT got sick and at this point he decided that he really didn’t need or want to be at the ranch. He certainly wasn’t going to get a degree through the education program, he didn’t need to find a job to save money – he had social security and pension and investment income. He didn’t need the car. So he called up his wife and told her to rent him a small apartment (she wouldn’t take him back in the home) and decided to leave.

I helped him move. As he packed we talked and he told me that he was pretty much ready to die, that he felt at peace and that he had decided that he didn’t have anything left to do here in the world, he was ready to go.

On the ranch, we have something called ‘planned departure’ – its sort of a way to gracefully step out of the program before graduation, but leaves opportunity to still use some ranch resources in case you needed it. It also keeps us from talking about you behind your back once you’re gone. We dissect each person who leaves the ranch because of relapse in our addictions classes because that’s the most telling evidence of relapse scenarios – often we trace a relapser’s last few weeks so we can see the behaviors that led to the relapse – it’s a macabre way of learning but it works. We knew these guys, they were our friends and our roommates. Again, like the chickens – when one of them dies or is injured, the others circle around it and peck it apart. Its disgusting to watch but it could be why the dying hens try to leave when they get sick so they can die in peace and not get pecked to death – I dunno. Maybe they aren't as dumb as I imagined.

JT’s wife, Nancy, used to speak to me often. He had told her about me and she was curious about me. I am also about the same age as her son who is dying, and she encourages me often. She emails and asks how I am and sends me little prayers to say. My sobriety is somehow important to her. Maybe its also because I am pretty cool to her husband. I think she was relieved he had someone who considered him a friend. I’ve realized that even if you can’t live with an alcoholic, if you love one, you still don’t want to think of them suffering alone because of their sickness.

When Nancy picked him up, I met her at the door. She decided that he needed to have his stuff waiting at the door and she gave him about one hour to pack. At first this seemed like a bit impatient, but I think its because she’s probably understanding what is going on…. And maybe by this point in the blog, you are too. Sometimes, facing the inevitable and getting it out of the way right away seems like the best way to deal with something. I think her attitude might have been, 'C'mon, JT, lets just do this and get it over with....' Hard to say - a lot of unspoken communication must happen between people after 40 years of marriage.

You know, I am pretty glad it was me that helped him move. I was able to briefly witness the devastation that a lifetime of alcohol abuse leaves on the people you love. You see, Nancy was pretty mad at him, years of resentment had built up. Her life wasn’t supposed to happen like this – this isn’t how she planned to spend her last few years. And it was JT’s fault.

When he was saying good bye, she gave me a hug. She asked if she could occasionally check in on me and I agreed. I told her ‘Take care of my buddy, he means a lot to me,’ and she looked at me and said, ‘He won’t take care of himself, and you should say good bye to him.’ At that moment, our eyes locked and I could see the decades of pain welling up in the tears that she tried not to shed. I could see that she knew this time, JT was through, he was done - he had a planned departure in life too. He was going to find his quiet corner and simply retire. As they drove away, I saw him open the glove compartment and pull out a bottle of scotch.

She had to have provided it to him, but I think after so long, she was exhausted, and this is what he wanted. But the look she gave me haunted me. There is no way I can do justice to what a person looks like when their heart just breaks - the expression can only be slightly described as "crushing," and you are not human if you do not feel for the other person. I felt it and it was really powerful.

The pain of knowing he won't last long, in his apartment, his only company a bottle of scotch; it just seems too unnerving to me. I wept a little bit. Not for JT, but for Nancy. She was taking the old bird away where he would just kind of die – and this was his choice, like that hen who was indulged in her last days, JT, too will be indulged in his.

So the weekend progressed, and I found out that a really dear friend had gotten entirely too drunk and had fallen and woken up in the hospital with a breathing tube. He was unresponsive and in a semi-coma state. I felt helpless about this because I wanted to go rush to his side but couldn’t find transportation. When he was finally able to speak to me, I wanted to lecture him, but decided against it.

I mean, WHO the HELL AM I to lecture someone about drinking too much and worrying everyone. Who the hell am I to tell someone the consequences of drinking that much. I mean, I have’t even been completely sober for 150 full days and I can’t imagine taking hypocrisy to that level. I also know what its like to be on his end of the receiver and a lecture wouldn’t be heard, and frankly, the humiliation is enough.

Not really, but it WILL EVENTUALLY be enough.

So I comforted him, and let him know I cared about him. I do care about him. I felt bad and scared and helpless and it was an UGLY feeling. And now, this will add to a worry I feel each time he goes out again. In a way, its cosmically awesome. I am beginning to feel what its like to care for someone who may be in dangerous situations and he is racking up the experiences which every alcoholic MUST have in order to decide to quit. Rarely does anyone decide, “Hey, I’ve had absolutely NO bad experiences drinking, and absolutely NOTHING humiliating or dangerous has ever happened to me, but I’m gonna quit anyway.”

As we were speaking, he was describing what he was feeling and what it was like to be connected to the machines and at one point he casually and almost silently muttered, 'I hate this,' and I was almost relieved that he said that. Thats at least a start and how many times I've said those same words before I decided to stop hurting myself I have no idea.... but for him, this is at least one down.

And these two experiences this weekend kind of really brought home the idea that this isn’t just one person’s disease; that addiction is a family disease, but its inflicted by one person. And, its really not fair. I mean, I’ve commented once before that as an alcoholic, it seems like we’re perfectly content with just hurting ourselves, but its not that cut and dry. We cut a swath of hurt in everyone who has the misfortune of loving us.

And, if you’re struggling with an addiction and you’re reading this and you’re not fully grasping the idea that your problem has painful consequences for other people – often worse for them because they feel helpless and because they aren’t drunk most of the time, so they live it each moment in complete painful understanding of whats happening, you should spend a moment and ASK them, straight up what it does to them. Be prepared, but I bet you, they've been wanting to tell you for a while how you hurt them. If you aren't gonna quit drinking, at least have the decency to let them have a moment to describe to you what it does - this is merciful.

So, that was my weekend. I’ve got some funny stories I’ll share next time – I am going on weekend pass again this weekend to spend time with my family and be able to blog then. In the scheme of things, I’m pretty glad that JT left BEFORE I went home and I had to witness Nancy’s heart break right in front of my eyes and I’m pretty glad that my friend was hospitalized BEFORE I went home because I can appreciate a little bit more the people who I've made worry. Its so interesting how life works out like that.

But I have to wonder what will become of JT, and although he may look like the bad guy or the insensitive one in this scenario, he, too is a victim. He will carry his addiction to his owned planned death like the scotch bottle hidden in his glove compartment - and I see now that for some, the only way to escape it is death, and can you imagine the lonely and hopeless world they live in up to that point?

Peace all. I mean it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

120 Days since I saw Bonnie Hunt Show.... I'm feelin it.

So, my postings for the next couple of weeks might slow just a little bit - we are in the beginning of the Fall Festival season, and with that, work hours are all screwed up and everyone is exhausted.

But, good news is that I found out that I will be phase eligible to the final stage of the rehab phases on December 2. This is awesome, and a little bit scary that its coming so quick - but this also means that work and life are getting ready to start again.

I have more to write, but I'm exhausted, so I'll collect my thoughts and post more this weekend. Have a safe one everyone and thanks for hanging in there.

DAYS SINCE I SAW THE BONNIE HUNT SHOW: 119 - but I have Monday off so MAYBE I'll get to watch that show then. Keep your fingers crossed for me.