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.