Saturday, November 14, 2009

The last thing on their minds.... fuggetaboutit!

One good thing about keeping a blog is that I can go back and look at the speed at which change is taking place while on the ranch. If anyone tells you recovery is a drag, they aren’t doing it right. It’s a really busy time, fixing your past, building your future and navigating your present all at the same time!

There is a sort of urgency in being in a program with a set expiration date, it feels almost rushed. My mom and I were talking a while back and I had to remind her that this is a program that is about half completed for me, and that I am not planning on staying longer than I have to. When I said, “I can’t stay there forever, I have to leave and get on with my life, living on a rehab ranch is NOT normal,” she paused for a minute because I think, somewhere, she thought, or hoped I would remain in the safety of a 250 acre ranch forever.

But, that’s not how this story will end, THAT is the only thing I can guarantee about being in rehab. But until then, I am really busy, as is everyone.

So Brian started working this week, he couldn’t be happier. Curtis got his financial aid and will be starting his degree program in January, Lane tested past several of his prerequisites in school and found out he is a semester further along than he believed. Steve has an interview on Monday morning, and Marty has had five interviews and he is going back this week for round two at a couple good places.

I also had two interviews, both of them went extremely well. I enter my final phase the week of November 30 and would love it if I missed this phasing ceremony because I was, instead, at work.

One of the chaplains said that my physical and mental energy is evident and that he is confident that I will be gainfully employed soon, his exact words were, ‘Your sobriety and health makes you look extremely attractive to a potential employer right now, probably more so than ever before,’ he ended our conversation saying that I wear sobriety well.

Apparently someone told him that playing to my over developed sense of self-awareness (read: vanity) is a fantastic way to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Tomorrow I am speaking to a huge congregation in a mountain town about my spiritual journey to sobriety, Tuesday I will be speaking to a juvenile youth-at-risk facility about what they can expect from a life of addiction and bad decisions. Thursday I will be speaking to another High School in the county, to talk about how the decisions they make now will affect their life forever. I will also be encouraging them to seek help now, to empower them and explain the amount of strength it takes to seek help – statistically, 58% of them have already used alcohol and 22% of them are binge drinkers. Statistically, about 160 of the kids in the school will be alcoholic or problem drinkers. And the number of them who will live with, marry, or have a parent or child that abuses alcohol jumps to about 1400 kids.

Who would have guessed that I would be speaking to people about this. A reporter from the Denver Post, Tina Griego, wrote to me and said, “To read your writing makes me think about how when my dad was drinking it was as if he could only play the highest and lowest notes on a piano. But when he was sober, all those notes in between were once again his and they brought to his life depth and nuance and beauty. I just wanted to thank you. You'll be in my thoughts.” WOW! A columnist for a major daily wrote to me!

I also heard from my sister that her brother-in-law had, out of nowhere, just checked himself into a treatment facility. She said she would like to think that my progress has something to do with him deciding to do this. When I saw him three weeks ago, he said he wasn’t ready and I told him, “If you aren’t ready, don’t go, don’t waste your time or their time. But someday, you will say, enough! And when you say that, you’ll be ready.”

Maybe he said, ‘enough.’ Maybe it had nothing to do with me, but I feel rewarded to have at least have had an answer for him that I hope made sense to him. An alcoholic is always told, “You can do it, now is the time, you’ll feel better, just stick with it, do it for yourself, blah blah,” and these things are meaningless to someone who lives with an addiction, because the addiction is telling you the opposite, and who are we inclined to listen to?

AA tells you that the first step is admitting you have a problem, and I am not going to get into why I hate AA, but this is one of the countless reasons. As an addict we already know we have a problem, geezus, we’re alcoholics not idiots. The problems are endless, they’re not some great big shock to us, its not like we wake up one day and say, ‘WOW, this is bad!’ I mean, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the mornings of dry heaves, the hidden cupboards full of booze, the lack of real world interaction, the falls, scrapes, phantom bruises, job issues, relationship issues are problems. FREAKIN DUH!

The first step to recovery is just simply saying, ‘ok, enough.’

My dad was taking me back to the ranch one Sunday afternoon and I was showing him my running route – its my endurance run that I run each week, it’s a little less than 10 miles. He clocked it and was a little surprised that I do this with ease, heck I ran 4.5 miles today before the sun was completely up, and it was 17 degrees!

And he was silent for a little bit of the car ride, I think he was absorbing the idea that my life is becoming what it is becoming, and the speed its happening.

He spoke up and asked softly, ‘Think back, kid, to where you were last year at this time….’ (its cool that he still calls me 'kid')

The answer broke my heart. I thought about my relationship with someone I truly loved which failed miserably because of the drinking. That person had had ‘enough.’ I thought about the half assed comfort I was able to provide my family when my cousin killed herself because I was so far into my bottle that I could only emerge for brief moments of clarity, take a breath, realize the landscape of grief sucked too bad, and then grab another drink.

I thought about my ballooning weight and the fact that I had completely given up on the hope that I would ever again look in the mirror and like who or what I saw. I remember that I was so uninvolved with my job that I only showed up at work, awaiting the lay-off, I don’t think I even showered or combed my hair, I was relieved when they told me they were downsizing my department. Maybe they had also had ‘enough’

I remembered the strained relationships with my family. The apathy I felt towards them was painful for them, but, I really had lost the desire to stay plugged in or connected. Spiritually I had none of my sparkle, no energy, no real joy at all. I was black inside, a bottle of gin filled the hole where my soul once lived.

Through all this my companions were limited to the nice Asian lady who owned the liquor store and my dog – and even the dog was losing interest in me – she would sleep in her kennel even when I invited her on the bed with me. I remember I was so exhausted. ‘Tired’ is the only word that comes to mind. I had finally, just about, had ‘enough’.

And these memories brought me back even further – two years ago, right about this time, I nearly murdered myself – I word it like that intentionally because it would NOT have been a suicide, it would have been a murder, a manslaughter because it would have been my own carelessness and negligence that killed me. After aspiring on my own toxic vomit, I spent two weeks in the hospital on breathing tubes, unconscious, with a caring family who didn’t know if I would wake in a vegetative state or even worse.

My parents would come to see me daily and encourage me to wake up, Alex would take the bus or walk to the hospital to spend time with me. Everyone prayed and what a great tragedy to have died during the holiday season, Geezus, talk about crappy timing! The consequence would have been catastrophic for everyone, probably forever. What a great legacy that would have left, the guy who selfishly stole the holidays from everyone.

The doctors told me that if I kept it up I would die in 2-3 years.

Its now 2 years later. I am alive and well. Better than I have been in almost 20 years. My mom has always said how much she dislikes Thanksgiving – for whatever reason, every year for as long as I can remember, she laments on the holiday. She loves Christmas, 4th of July, hell, I’m sure she even celebrates Flag Day somehow, but Thanksgiving is a holiday that she really isn’t all that excited about every year.

This year, however, after the standard and almost required Thanksgiving family argument, I hope she takes a second and forgets all about me, because this year, I’m A-OK, and back from wherever it was I was for so many years. I hope Alex enjoys the day, drowned in indulgence to the point of sickness (Alex REALLY loves to eat), worry free, and I hope that I am the furthest thing from Alex's mind! Alex deserves a worry free day after all the days spent tied in knots concerned about me. I hope my dad spends his day watching football and thinking about a great meal, not wondering if I am going to spend the four day holiday drunk. I hope my absence is hardly noticed by my nephews and niece and their parents because they won’t need to wonder if I am gone because I am in some altered state of intoxication. Last year, my brother’s son asked where I worked, my sister’s son said, ‘He doesn’t work, he drinks.’

There is something that lightens my load to know that this year I am not the source of worry or anguish for the people I care about. Its kind of cool to know that my well-being isn’t even a thought. For the first time in a long time, I can say, ‘I’m doing just fine!’ and that’s ENOUGH for me to be thankful for!

Peace all have a great week.

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