Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A 2010 Math Lesson....

This blog is a couple days late but I had to do a lot of research in order to put it together so it took some time. It was amazingly eye opening and I am entering 2010 armed with some real data, and I am a sucker for real data.

Well, I've recently set up my bank account with direct deposit, and its cool to see money actually being deposited in it! I love working and having a job again. But this got me thinking about my last bank account, and luckily I was online banking and decided to check out my transactions for 2008.... I kind of wanted to usher in the New Year with an idea of what a sober life might save me in terms of money. Shocking to say the least.

I used 2008 because thats the last full year I was in party mode. I was living with Alex, I was working full time, I had money, I had a car, and I had a nice robust alcohol addiction. And I figured as I head into 2010 with a new outlook on life, one of which is my perspective on money and working, I should probably take a look at what this cost me.

I spend a whole bunch of time detailing the emotional and spiritual cost, but the hard cost of addiction SUCKS as well. And this cost is conveniently spelled out in 12 consecutive bank statements.

Mind you, this is only my bank account, this doesn't count Alex's account or money that was spent on alcohol. It also kind of estimates the bar tabs - I didn't really drink at bars, I was a solo, at home drinker, so this would seem 'nominal' (can I use that word?)

In 2008, I estimate that I drank

308 pints of gin (cost $1268.96)

122 liters of wine (cost $868.64)

61 12 packs of beer (cost $798.34)

I bought 57 bottles of other alcohol (like rum or vodka, or something like that) (cost 889.20)

For a grand total of $3824.14

Now this does not include bar tabs or money I spent on things like cigarettes or food I ate while drunk or work I missed.

But lets do more math.

308 Pints is 38.5 GALLONS of gin. I went online and googled 38 gallons. Sam's club sells a 38 gallon trash can for 102 dollars - this is one of those massive trash cans you see at parks.

122 liters is 32 gallons of wine. 61 12 packs of beer is 8784 ounces of beer (68.6 gallons).

8784 ounces of beer is 52,704 teaspoons!

57 bottles of hard liquor is 102.6 liters, which is 27.1 GALLONS of rum, vodka or other booze.

So... let's add this up again. That's 166.2 GALLONS of booze in 2008. That is 2,656 cups of alcohol in 2008.

I went online and found the calories for each type of alcohol, and I estimate that I consumed 260,288 calories of alcohol.

Since a calorie is about 3500 calories, that is about 74.36 pounds of body weight I can attribute to alcohol.

That was 40% of my body weight.


So, It is nice to see that I am immediately going to cut out $3824.14 from my annual budget. This is an automatic raise of about $2.12 per hour of work. When you cut out cigarettes as well, that number jumps to $2.88 per hour. This doesn't seem like a lot, but imagine that every hour you are at work, you drop $2 in the toilet, just for the 'enjoyment' of it. And you do this every day, for a year. And then, look in the mirror and tell yourself, its not a problem.

Heck, do this experiment, I did it yesterday. I laid $2.12 on my desk at work. And I set my phone alarm to go off every hour. Not because I was really going to throw $2.12 down the toilet, but because I wanted to see how quick an hour of work passes, and I would glance over at the $2.12 each time the alarm went off.

Obviously, the cost isn't about the dollars, its about the hours I wasted, its about the experiences I didn't have, the cost was my health, my relationship, and when you add all that, its not $2.12 you are flushing down the toilet, its a future, its a past, its a present.

These days $2.12 an hour buys me a whole lot. It buys me a new life.

Happy New Year everyone.... be safe.

Monday, December 21, 2009


My first week of work has been great, it is nice to feel like I am getting back into the driver’s seat of my life and things are moving along. We are getting ready for Christmas on the ranch, and our small tree in our dorm is already brimming with small gifts that we have been able to either make or buy for each other. Christmas this year is going to be a good one, I feel blessed by a lot, and there is something that gets you into the spirit when you live on a ranch – it’s peaceful, the snow is untouched, the Rockies are only 11 miles west of me so the snow capped peaks are a welcome reminder that it is December in Colorado.

The buildings on the ranch are bright red, so they contrast the snow – it’s just beautiful.

So, the other day I went to treat myself to lunch. I stopped into a small deli in town and ordered my favorite – Braunschweiger sandwich on dark rye with swiss cheese and cucumbers – and I settled to a small table in back to eat it and suddenly, a small gaggle of high school girls and one parent came up to me and introduced themselves to me.

It was the high school girls soccer team and one of the team mates had heard me speak about sobriety when I visited her school, and she wanted to check in with me and introduce me to her friends and the coach and someone’s mom. They all wished me a great Christmas and New Year, they got my email address and said they would like to stay in touch.

A few days earlier a strange thing happened. I wrote about how my boss Googled me and found out about the article written in the Denver Post and as a result, he also read some of this blog. I mentioned that this didn’t really bother me because, in the long run, it’s easier and healthier to own my sobriety, and getting treatment isn’t something that I should be ashamed about.

A couple days later a co-worker came to me and, over the course of a somewhat awkward conversation (I couldn’t exactly figure out why it was awkward at first), she explained to me that it was she who actually Googled me, not my boss. And then she paused and said, “I am an alcoholic too, I have known I have a problem for about 10 years, but I haven’t stopped, I still continue to drink.” You would think I would be speechless by this admission from someone I hardly knew but I am less and less surprised by the way people have felt close or have even felt a kinship to me since I put myself out there – explaining how alcohol or addiction has touched them – either through a family member or by their own hand.

She went on to ask me a little about treatment and said that she is completely functional (which is obvious, she runs a tight ship in the office – one might never guess), but she said something I found to be powerful. She said that she is fine at work, she works quite hard, and she does, but she said that every night from 6-10, she is completely off-line in her life and is her time. I understand this because alcohol was a very personal time for me too. But by inviting me to share her experience she opened herself up to the uncertainty of my reaction – and this is how I began to own my addiction, it’s how I began to tear down the old self and rebuild a more fortified self, strong in my ability to look people in the eye and say, ‘I am what I am.” And so, it was really a priveledge to have her to tell me this.

At the beginning of this blog I used to say, “People will surprise you if you surprise them first,” and I said this mainly in reference to apologies, forgiveness, meeting you half way in amends, etc. This has happened with most of the guys I live with, they are succeeding in the program and their families are slowly meeting them back where they left off.

I think my statement is bigger now. When I said it, I was speaking about sobriety, but I believe that this statement has effects throughout my interactions with everyone. I wrote about how part of this process is tearing down the old facades and learning to be ‘real’. And the more real I become with people, the more real people become with me. It weird, and it might be unnerving; it’s real and surprising. There is something innocent and basic and comforting about being real. I watch my two youngest nephews, both two and a half years old, and observe how they see the world. To them, the world is very real – people are taken at face value, things that are said are assumed to be true, there are no hidden agendas, no hidden motivations, there is no guilt or shame in being human, whether you have a booger hanging out of your nose or you fart in public, to them, forgiveness is a no-brainer and they offer it as easily as they expect it.

And I think when you become like that, you surprise people, and they, in turn, surprise you.

But these two events, the deli and the office, bring me to this week’s topic, something that I had avoided writing about for some time, but it is an essential part of sobriety, and I don’t know why I haven’t really spoken about it. But it is part of my journey, it is something I had kept out of this blog because I wanted the whole spectrum of people to be able to relate to it, and then I got to thinking, this is my blog, my journey, and I promised that I was going to remain real, and so I’ll tell you, one of the most essential components critical to what got me here, and what might keep me here, is GOD.

My belief in a higher power is real. One of the things that I felt was damaged by years of alcoholism was my spirit, and repairing that spirit happened to me only when I repaired my relationship with God.

I am probably the most spiritual person in my family and certainly the most Catholic. One of the best gifts my parents gave me was a knowledge of GOD. I am not some bible thumper or someone who belts off bible verses to advance my own agenda. But I do spend a lot of time in quiet prayer time with God and I do manage to thank God for blessings. I also ask God for help when I need it, I ask for guidance when I am troubled, I sometimes just tell God about my day like we’re old friends. I am not intimidated by God, afraid of God or ashamed of God. Indeed, I pray to God right before I even start writing this blog each time and thank Him after I post the blog for giving me the gift to write and the burning desire to tell a story.

Sobriety works much easier when you can surrender to a power higher than yourself. There is something that frees me in the belief that I don’t have to solve my every problem, that some problems I can just give to God and have faith that things will work out the way they should. I like the idea that this is not for nothing, the idea that I am eternal in some form makes the work of becoming sober seem worthwhile.

Here’s why this blog topic came about now, however. I read Bible scripture and try to apply it to myself, its how I live the question, “What’s my relationship with my higher power.” (Remember “living the question” blog? If not, go back, these all tie in together) I feel a divine vibration throughout all of nature. There is something divine about the cycles of the seasons, the birth, death and resurrection of plant life. There is something divine about physics and the fact that things have an order within the chaos, today is the winter solstace, it is the longest night of the year... it is also the day the earth is closest to the sun. The longest darkness is marked by our closest proximity to our life source. Tell me that isn't divine.

I’ll wrap it all up, I promise, and I won’t go into some sort of a bible sermon.

But, in John chapter 11 we learn of Jesus’s good friend Lazarus. Lazarus was sick and Jesus was summoned by Laz’s sisters, Mary and Martha, to come and heal him. But Jesus didn’t make it in time (it is a remarkably hectic job saving the world) and Lazarus died and was buried. According to the Bible, Jesus intentionally stays where He was.
When Jesus finally arrives in Bethany, he finds that Lazarus is dead and has already been in his tomb for four days. He meets first with Martha and Mary in turn. Martha laments that Jesus did not arrive soon enough to heal her brother and Jesus replies with the well-known statement, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me shall live, even when he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die in eternity". Next encountering Mary, Jesus is moved by her sorrow, and we read the famous simple phrase, "Jesus wept".
Never one to miss an opportunity to do some miracles when a crowd is present, Jesus comes to the tomb. Over the objections of Martha, Jesus has them roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb and says a prayer – yes even Jesus prayed. He then calls Lazarus, “Hey, Laz, COME OUT OF THERE,” and Lazarus does so.
The next chapter takes place a few days later. Everyone in Bethany is so excited about what happened that there is a huge feast and people come from miles to speak to the guy who was raised from the dead. Lazarus was a spectacle because people began to realize that they, too, could be raised from the dead with faith and friendship in Jesus.

It should be clear by now that I feel like Lazarus. My friendship with God didn’t prevent me from heading down to the path to destruction and death. In fact, I believe that God intentionally stayed out of things, intentionally let me fail, for many years so I could eventually reach the end of that life – and die.

And when I finally surrendered to it, and I died, the stone that separated me, in my tomb, from a life outside, was rolled away by my faith and friendship in God and I was resurrected (I've always said it isn't WHAT you know.....). And now, I am in that feast period, people are coming from all over to speak to me, in a deli, in an office, via email, to speak to the guy who was raised from the dead. My new life offers a bit of hope that the death in their lives isn't permanent either. And while I rarely write about my belief in God, it is there, and I do apply these principles to my sobriety and daily life, and overcoming an addiction is so much easier when you just surrender to something greater than yourself – to God.

This year, Christmas is something I’ve anticipated and will enjoy. Not for the Santa stuff, the family, the kids, all those things are great, indeed. The story of Christmas is most importantly the simple story of a birth; the story of a baby being born - in a barn on a farm surrounded by sheep and goats and cows, a baby who's mom was travelling by of all things, a MULE, a baby who's very birth made people want to seek Him out and visit and share the experience. A birth that would bring hope and save people from their own demons, a baby who would grow up and help raise people from the dead, a baby who would give solutions, provide gifts of wisdom and a closer walk with God.

This is a great story of beginnings, and I bet you thought I would end by comparing myself to that baby, to my new spiritual birth, to my faith that I can give hope to people and offer comfort. Boy, are you off. I’m not going to do that. I am not that baby.

I am just His friend.
Merry Christmas All!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Reasons to avoid swinging dead cats

Well, I started working at a new job this week, and it’s at a job I love. I’ve been blogging about how my physical fitness is a real important part of my overall spiritual health – I can’t imagine staying sober with a body that hardly performs (or looks) the way it should. I mentioned once that in terms of managing an addiction, there isn’t one thing that works for everyone, and so, part of the trick is to find several things that work for you and then calling upon that list whenever you have moments of weakness.

This goes for smoking, drinking, gambling, whatever. And I am less inclined to want to abuse my body with a bottle of sugary rum knowing what kind of work I put into it to maintain it. I don’t know if this will be my sobriety method forever, but for now, its something I have grabbed on to.

And, so this brings me back to my job – at a company that’s all about fitness (with a significant ‘cool factor’). I am not going to add a bunch of details about where, but I am happy to say, I am doing something I love in an industry I really love, with people who I respect and like, and I have a kick ass office to boot. My mom and sister came to visit me yesterday, and remarked that they, “expect nothing less.” I suppose reaching small successes is part of the reason I did this to begin with, so I should be relieved things are beginning to work out.

A funny story about the job, as a side note, my boss googled me and the first thing was the article in the Denver Post. He asked me about it, I was honest with him - as I am when anyone asks me about this process - and I think he respected that. But I am going to own this, its who I am, its real. As I said in an earlier blog, if I had cancer I would be applauded for seeking treatment, and so I would hope that this would be received in the same way. It’s entirely likely that many people still will see this as negative, and slowly, I hope my message and more like mine will begin to change attitudes. One thing I’ve come to realize in the past few months is that no family is immune to addiction. Not even yours.

But he asked. The interesting thing is that I am almost relieved that it played out like that – that he asked ahead of time so it was never a surprise to him, and this adds a layer of accountability to me that I had not counted on. Its less likely that I am going to fall into old behaviors and casually toss them aside to someone who knows that might happen.

I am a little unnerved about my paycheck though. Having money again is going to open up a whole new set of circumstances where something can get tripped up. I mean, you can’t swing a dead cat in this state without hitting a liquor store. I am counting on the fact that I am going to employ all the things I’ve learned the past few months in order to continue on this path. The temptation to leave the program is going to be there, the temptation to even grab a beer with friends after work is going to be there, and though these things have crossed my mind in the past, the opportunity hasn’t been there – in terms of time or money. And I haven’t run across a dead cat I really feel much like swinging.

And I am going to have to figure this out relatively quickly because I will be paid in a few days. But, I’ve always known, I am going to have a job again in my life, I am going to have money again, I am going to have freedoms, I am not going to be in the safety of this program forever. But I hope I approach this in much the same way I have approached other milestones at the ranch – from my first venture off the ranch for my first 2 hour pass, to my first weekend at home, I am just gonna have to remind myself what I am all about, and do it. What skills will I be employing? Well, in those addictions classes, I mentioned something about the lesson on stimulus vs. response. Dave, our addictions teacher, really pounded in the idea that stimulus vs. response is a natural occurrence – if you don’t believe me, ask Pavlov’s dogs.

BUT – here’s where the skills I have practiced and learned at the ranch come in to play. Here’s why a good rehab is important not only because it allows you to dry out and work through the emotional mess, but a good rehab works because it arms you with tools and weapons to keep going. You see, as we practiced, as we studied, and as we were told (a most obvious solution, but, the simplicity escapes you until you see it on paper – or a computer screen). The thing about the natural stimulus vs. response mechanism is simply, the freedom to choose. The freedom to NOT respond the way you always have. Its not easy to put into practice, but when you do, its makes you feel amazingly powerful.

There is a certain rush of energy you feel when you make a blatant, obvious, uncomfortable decision to respond differently to an age-old response. I know you are reading this gem of genius on a blog dedicated to addiction, but this is something you can employ to ANY part of your life.

When you are tempted by that last piece of cheesecake, you don’t have to eat it – you can just decide NOT to eat it for no other reason that its OK to NOT eat it. When you want a cigarette after a spicy meal, you can just decide NOT to smoke, and you can NOT smoke just because it’s OK to NOT smoke (yes I split the infinitive, shhh). You won’t die, there will be other opportunities to smoke again in the future if you really want it, there will be other cheesecakes in your life, I G-U-A-R-A-N-T-E-E it. And each Friday I deposit my paycheck and the stimulus to go grab a drink hits me, its OK to NOT drink that one time – not because I will end up in jail or dead – but, just because.

I am not going to spend my entire life coming up with complex reason to NOT drink. I am just not going to drink. Maybe someday in the future there will be an opportunity for it, I don’t know, I don’t think about that, but for now, I don’t want to drink – and the reason is super duper complex right? I just choose not to. Sobriety for me isn’t going to be a lot of work, it isn’t going to be a daily argument with myself to not drink. When it’s like that, then chances are, I am not finished drinking. If I have to come up with a reason every free moment to not drink, then I am not done. And I am done.

So, on to other things. Someone wrote to me and told me that they did an intervention on their brother and he didn’t respond to it. I asked this woman what they offered her brother in terms of a solution, she said she didn’t have one.

I am only going to say this because I put myself in her brother’s shoes so I could maybe offer insight to what he might have been thinking, and I am no expert by any means when it comes to this stuff. I am ONLY an expert on my own experience, and from my experience, if people you care about sideswipe you with an intervention (and believe me, it is sideswiping, but that’s why it might work), but then they don’t have any solutions like, “We have gotten you into this program, we have put you on the list for this program, we have looked into this program and it fits your needs, we are going to go right now to a meeting,” if you don’t do that, then your intervention is just a group of people who gather around you to call you out for being drunk. And what the hell is that all about?

So, in my very unprofessional, very un-expert opinion, while I think an intervention can be very effective because it really forces you to face your loved ones head on, an intervention without a solution is just a group of people you trusted who gather around to tell you what a lousy drunk you are.

My family tried an intervention on me several years ago after a camping trip and that VERY afternoon I went to a bar with one of the people in the intervention and we got hammered. I am not sure if I would have gone anywhere anyway, but had they been armed with real answers, like ‘You can enter such and such facility in 5 days for a 40 day program, etc.,’ I might have been more inclined to at least think about it.

As a note, I am not slamming my family in the least bit for this. Heck, they didn’t know what to do, staging an effective intervention isn’t something you really get a whole lot of training on and not the kind of thing you learn in business college. I am grateful for the repeated attempts my family made to get me sober.

But when you do make those attempts, be prepared for your addict to reject your attempts. I will say, it wasn’t until everyone left me alone, to my own devices, to my own conscience, to my own tired spirit, that I stopped making excuses and looked into this program. I am not saying this is how it needs to work for everyone, but for me, it wasn’t until I felt completely alone, that I didn’t have to answer to anyone but myself, it wasn’t until I had to look in the mirror at the one person on earth who really knew who was looking back, only then did I decide this was it.

And I will also say that one day in March, I was talking to Alex, and I said I was having second thoughts, that I wasn’t sure if I was even going to come to the Ranch, and Alex looked at me and said, ‘OK, but I think you can do it.’ And I don’t know why that stood out to me, I don’t know why that moment meant a lot to me. Perhaps its because Alex didn’t say, “You NEED to do this, you SHOULD do this, blah blah blah.” Alex said, ‘I think YOU CAN DO THIS.’

Almost as if Alex knew that my defiance wasn’t defiance, it wasn’t even denial, it was fear and a lack of confidence. And those words really fixed me up on the idea. That day was Friday, March 27th, I know this because I wrote about that comment in my journal.

You see, having the confidence to do this isn’t easy. Heck, I recently heard of someone who decided not to come to the ranch because he was worried that if he decided he couldn’t do it, he’d be too far away to escape. That’s a lack of confidence and fear. (I will say that if anyone decides they can not do this, the ranch is VERY accommodating about getting that person to a safe place, there is no ‘escape’ – we arrange a van and drive that person, with dignity, to any location they need to go – including other cities – even one guy all the way to the airport – escape isn’t something people ever need to do from the ranch, participation is completely voluntary)

So, I ran a race today. It was my first official race, I was there with the running team, at 8am, in 20 degree weather. I finished in a respectable time, and it felt AWESOME crossing that finish line, a bunch of guys came along and greeted me in the final 1/5th mile, and they ran along side me and cheered me, then as I crossed the finish line, other guys from the ranch were there to take pictures, hi-five me, and chant my name as I made my way down the winner's corral.

And my finish time?
Is ‘ABOUT TIME’ a time?
Well, that’s all I am saying, I ran a race, I crossed the finish line and ….. ITS ABOUT TIME.

Peace all and have a great week.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Get REAL! I'll never steal grapes again....

Well, folks, I am now a phase 3 guy. I learned that I was approved to phase on Wednesday and I had the phasing ceremony on Friday, its official. I will tell you, if you asked me 6 months ago about getting to phase 3, I would have laughed and said 'Probably not,' and yet, here I am.

One of the perks of being in phase 3 is getting our cell phones back. I checked mine on Friday afternoon and had a text message from a girl friend, a former co worker, and someone that I consider a great confident, that said, "I need to talk to you, but can't right now, can I call you later?"

It sounded urgent so I texted back, "Sure, is everything OK?"

The reply, "Yes, I read Tina's article."

The shock this sent through me was immediate. I had done a fairly decent job of working on my rehabilitation and not having this bleed into my other life, the life I planned to leave in tact so I could return to it, seamlessly, and no one would be the wiser.

When we finally spoke, she brought it up, and her reaction was one I had not prepared for. I had prepared for the snide comments, and the mocking comments, I had prepared for the concerned comments and the comments from people who were wishing me well.

Her reaction was almost apologetic. She said, in a somber tone, "I'm at a loss, I didn't even know that you were having any problems, I feel like I should have known," And the shock this sent through me was super charged. We spoke and she told me that she read my blog and I mentioned my cousin who killed herself, and she told me that she had a close uncle who did the same thing this past June, less than 6 months ago.

Her story and her comments were familiar to me. She spoke of the confusion of not knowing, of the loss, of the resentment, of the sadness she felt, she spoke about her regrets with it, and how that death has put her life into some semblance of order, she prioritized things.

And what struck me about this conversation is that, it seems to me that everyone has a story to tell about this. It seems to me that everywhere I look, once people know that I am doing this, other people are eager to describe their anguish, loss caused by addiction. I know that they tell me this because I am someone who will not judge, and I think they tell me because it might help me to feel that I am not alone. I will tell you, living with my addiction was the most alone I have ever felt, and recovering from it is the most comfortable I have ever felt. The support is amazing, and when people learn that you are being real about it, they seem to come out of the woodwork and help you get through it.

And I mention this because I have been getting a lot of letters and comments about treatment, good questions like, "Is it like prison," "Do you guys chant," "Is there a lot of therapy circles, touchie feelie stuff," and I am glad people are asking - when I considered coming to rehab, these were the kinds of real questions I also had. And I hope this blog addresses some of those things. Its not scary, its not a bad environment, my experience has been positive - but I have had to work at it - and work very hard - and dig - and reach out - and face certain realities about myself and my past and my heart and soul that haven't been fun.

But, in the end, I am healing. And the people around me are healing. And there is no better reason to do this than that. There has to be an end in sight, then you jump off the cliff, and you do the work, and then you get the reward - health, happiness, forgiveness, and you get to be real - the real you that you know you are.

We are beginning a component of therapy called 'Band of Brothers,' and this is a spiritual look at the roles we have as men once we're sober. This part of the therapy deals with things like what kinds of husbands, boyfriends, sons, brothers, fathers, friends we need to be. It kind of gives us a blueprint of how to apply the things we learned about living like a decent human being to our relationships with people. This isn't about repairing your past, its about preparing your present and future.

The thing about this component is that it really helps us to remove some of those deceptive masks we wear as addicts and make ourselves vulnerable to reality. We wear masks to get people to believe we are a certain kind of person, we wear them because we are often afraid of showing who we really are, and removing those masks is about the only way to live, its how we become real, take it or leave it, like us or not.

I thought that I had already been doing this, but one thing about the past week is that I am finding that people, like that girlfriend who didn't know I was even having a problem, are still looking at the mask. It felt cathartic to have the article in the paper, but the masks to my close friends and family still remained, and this component on the ranch is about removing these masks. It's raw, and it's real.

It doesnt mean calling everyone up and making a bunch of uncomfortable statements either. Geezus, I hate when drunks do that. I mean, that can get a little bit creepy if you ask me, and just because I am here and exposed doesn't mean everyone else is in the same place emotionally - in fact, most people aren't. One thing I can NOT stand about a recovering addict is how they try to force their changes, their rawness, their new perspective on other people. For chrissake, I will NOT do this. No one wanted to hear my emotional episodes when I was drunk, I can guarantee no one wants to hear about them now that I am sober.

Real change doesn't mean that you need to wear this on your sleeve. It's not about making everyone see that you have changed. Living the change is when you know and believe in your own progress. Living as a new person, living according to the standards I set for myself and have put in place through my recovery is how I maintain change. I don't need to spend my time proving my changes or looking for opportunities to enact these changes at the pleasure of my audience. If I decide I am not going to walk around the grocery store and eat grapes out of a bag before I've paid for them just because it's right, and not because I am afraid of getting caught - well, thats a perfectly acceptable reason not to do that. Right? If I decide that I am not going to drink ever again because I don't like what it does to me and not because I am afraid of loss or disappointment, well, that's perfectly acceptable.

True realness is looking at the man in the mirror and saying "I kind of like the guy who's staring back at me."

And, these days I do, but it hasn't been easy and it hasn't been fun.

Oh, so I got a job, I am excited about it, I begin next week. Its great to begin living like a real person again and saving money. I am also running an 8K race next week, my first official race. I was reading this blog a few days ago, and I joked back in May, 'Hey wouldnt it be funny if I ran a marathon by this time next year,' and.... well, this plan looks like it can happen, the Colorado Marathon is in May of 2010.... This plan is real.
Reality seemed so scary at one point, and now I'm happy to embrace it. The thing about reality is that you don't really have much opportunity to escape from it, it's there, its not even a matter of hiding from it, it is what it is. And the thing I like about what's happening is that we are being taught that who we really are isn't all that bad, and that all that time I spent trying to not be me was pointless. This is how sobriety has to work this is how recovery works - I've identified the problems (physical and emotional and biochemical), I've faced many issues, I've solved many issues, I have rectified where I could and let go where I have had to, and now, the solution isn't a nice neat package, its a jumbled hodge podge of things that I could fix and things I couldn't, but either way, it is what it is, and I have to live with it. That's real life, baby.
It was such a waste of time, all that drunkeness. It makes me laugh at myself through a few tears - I just nod my head in disbelief sometimes. I like this life now, it's real.

Anyway, have a great weekend.

Contact Information

Some people have been trying to get ahold of me to get more information and I can't write you back through the comments section, so you may email me at: -

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The curtain has been lifted....


I took a very public direction in my recovery recently, and I gave an interview to a respected (and apparently widely read) columnist at the Denver Post about this blog.

The article choked me up a bit, it is unnerving to see my words and my story outlined so well on page 2 of a major daily newspaper – plus I am a sucker for good writing, and Tina Griego painted a detailed picture in 850 words of a decade of grief.

I wrote a while back about the deceptive curtain that alcoholics hide behind, and that eventually, the greatest fear, and the best blessing is when that curtain is lifted and its discovered that the wizard is just a man. Well, suprise, I am not a wizard.

I was extremely hesitant about using my real name in the story – at first it was because I write about several of the guys on the ranch who are with me and didn’t want to compromise their privacy, and, deep down, it was because I was a little ashamed that the whole city would know what I was doing, why I disappeared, and be public participants in a personal, intimate struggle.

The greatest rewards come when you take the greatest risks, and I permitted my real name and the blog address (which I kept confidential from the ranch guys), and closed my eyes, plugged my nose, and jumped right in.

I suppose I was ashamed because developing an alcohol addiction is so tied up in shame, in failures, it seems like it only happens to ‘those kinds of people,’ and now, here I was, one of ‘those people’ and the whole city knew it. They would laugh at me, or shake their heads and say, “Oh that explains it.”

None of that happened.

I received letters and messages from friends and family, all but one of them positive (the only snide comment came from a fellow alcoholic who’s bitter sentiment was to be expected. As a side note, I find it the highest form of hypocrisy when a seasoned alcoholic tells a recovering alcoholic, “Isn’t part of rehab making amends? Its OK, I forgive you”).

I received notes from former co-workers that wanted to reconnect and keep in touch with me. Strangers offered their stories of how alcohol has affected them, how it has affected people close to them. Families wanted to know how to get the kind of treatment I was getting and where. A dialogue had been opened because an undeserving victim of alcohol decided to tell and even embrace the story of an alcoholic, to get some insight, and to offer hope that not every story has to end the way hers did.

Tina wrote to me after the article had been published and said, “By now, I should no longer be surprised by how many people alcoholism/addiction affects, but I still am.” This comes from a seasoned veteran of daily news, in my estimation she’s seen it all, and yet, this still shocks her.

And the article strengthened my resolve that this is the only solution for the problems I had created for myself, that the absolute end to the part of my life that included alcohol as a companion was the only was I would live. I don’t look at my recovery as a shameful venture, as something that I need to hide or avoid in subject. Alcoholism affects so many people and when people talk about it, there is a relief, a collective exhale. That feeling of, “I am not the only one, my family isn’t the only family,” lifts a great burden.

One person wrote, “Alcohol wants to kill you, but first it wants to get you alone,” this resonated with me. It certainly tried to isolate me. I cried a little when I read this because it was so true, in my case and the case of most of my friends. And perhaps the systematic rehabilitation of entire families lies in the ability to talk openly about it, like people talk about cancer.

I’m thinking too globally at the moment, but when I get out of here, it may be one of my goals, to make something like this happen. To create awareness, to lessen burdens, and to help people get help. It all started with an article superbly written by a journalist who wanted to deliver a message of hope, and she used my story to help her tell it. In the process, I have gained a friend and I hope she gets some insight to her father’s torment when she reads the blog. She told me that she knows that her father knew he hurt people, and this contributed to his depletion of spirit, it certainly contributed to mine. But the cathartic release of this knowledge by acknowledgement in this blog is sucking the grief out of me. To share this with Tina, well, this is the greatest honor.

Life at the ranch has been hectic to say the least. Today is the LAST day I will spend in phase 2 – tomorrow I phase to phase 3 – all my homework is finally finished. I think I have an awesome job lined up. I’ve got to wait (and this time I don’t mind).

When I blog later this week, I will catch you up on the Addictions 2 part of the program, I am knee deep in it – and the transition from the safety of farm life to real life is a precarious one, and a misstep can be catastrophic. I’ll also be catching you up on life here at the Ranch. It’s been more than a little fun. I took the picture at the top of this blog of Lane the other night, we were bored and he dressed up in a goofy outfit. I snapped the photo and told him I would post it because in a year, when the stress of real life is upon him, he can look at it and remember what a blast he had in rehab. If you look closely, there is a banner behid him that says 'Hope' - it wasn't planned but its certainly in the right place.

Then I mentioned, when I look back, I will look at this as a SUPER fun year. I used to think of this as a year away from my real life, but this has been the most productive year in my life – the changes, the friends, my health, my growth, I resurrected a spirit, and that doesn’t happen too often.

The guys on the ranch read the article and my celebrity was a good 13 minutes long (I was promised 15 minutes). It wasn’t long before they began hassling me about how long I take in the bathroom, my cooking, I have too many clothes and I am hogging the closet, even about my weight, my friend Brian said, “Its true, the newspaper DOES add 15 pounds to you,” Nothing like good friends to keep it real, eh?

I will say, I feel none of the usual stress of this time of year, and feel hopeful and confident. The fear of relapse weighed heavily on me, but in my conversation with Tina, she predicted something that has really changed my perspective, she gave me a gift she may not know she even offered.

Tina told me with some degree of certainty that she predicts that by the end of this program, I will no longer fear relapse, or fear anything for that matter. She said that in reading my progress from the first blog to the most recent, she believes that I am heading to a place where the fear of relapse no longer keeps me up at night. This, somehow, comforted me. Finally, the end is in sight, to someone at least.

DAYS SOBER: 211 Days