Thursday, January 28, 2010

Three moms

This past week, I have been dealing with moms. I want to start out by saying that I love my dad, and the fact that I don’t write about him in every single blog is not an indication of the importance I place on my relationship with him. He is cool, wise, and warm. As I grow older, I enjoy the time building the relationship I always wanted to have with him. He is good counsel, he is a LOT of fun, and he is as much a part of my treatment as anyone. More so.

My mother, however, is a colorful creature who, without trying, provides me with the kind of subject matter most writers dream about.

But back to the other moms I have met this week. Through a series of unusual circumstances I have crossed paths with three mothers who each have a son in a different stage of addiction and recovery, and to speak to these mothers is a profound lesson on the tireless concern that a mom has for an addicted son, the stages of addiction, and as I spoke to each of them, I could have substituted my name for their son’s name, I could have substituted their faces for my own mom’s.

I am writing about this because it really gives me some insight to the heartache I may have put my own mother through, or the joy I eventually provided to her, through this journey to sobriety. The other reason I am writing about it is that I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I am not special, and that my experience isn’t radically different from someone else who might be entering treatment – I wrote that because I want people who read this to understand that I am not remarkable, and that I have achieved success and triumph because I am living sober, not because I have some sort of special quality that others lack. I am your garden variety alcoholic.

I can’t imagine the emotion a mother must feel when she watches her grown son succumb to the torment of addiction. One mother who reads this blog often does so with her drunk son in the next room, sometimes she listens to him throwing up from the physical effects of long term abuse, or the short term of another bender.

She worries at night,
she is disgusted,
she loves him deeply,
she can’t stand to have him around,
she doesn’t want to be near him,
she can’t fathom the thought of him alone in this,
she misses him.

This is an indescribable emotion I would imagine. It’s the kind of emotion she feels in an instant – all of these feelings, wrapped up in a few split seconds every time she thinks about him; even when she doesn’t.

This mother takes comfort from reading this blog, she has said that there is something comforting to see the progress, the challenges, the changes. She reads it with the hope that soon, her son, will be traveling his own journey – the same destination, his own path.

Her son is on the list to come to the ranch. This is the first part of seeking treatment, but sobriety is an endurance race, it is not a sprint. As a runner, I can say with every ounce of confidence that every endurance run I do starts with what seems like an insignificant step. It leads to the next, then the next, and before I realize it, I look back and I am 5 miles away from where I started.

He drinks alone, he can’t stop. He is me, in another family. He struggles not knowing what to expect. He wants to be sober but the method on how to get there escapes him. There is obvious tension in that family because he has been graciously allowed to live with his family until he gets into the program. His life, like mine did, has turned into a minute by minute exercise in addiction maintenance, like mine were, his days are spent consumed by an excess of the pointless. He spins his wheels, and goes no where. This is the critical point that every addict on the farm describes right before they come here.

The chaos of a life which has spun completely out of control is mostly a blur to an addict. I want you to notice the verb in that last sentence, ‘has spun’ and not ‘spinning’ – I use this because by this point, he has either decided “I am about to stop drinking forever, this terrifies me, so I an going to consume so much now so I won’t have to face the idea that I am going to eventually have to stop,” or it means he has given up.

But what I told this mother was this is unsustainable. Something will end at this point. The addiction will go away, or he will die, but no one, not even the most seasoned veteran of functional drinking, can sustain a drinking habit or drug habit when it has reached this point. I say this with sincerity, if he continues, he will die – and soon.

This mother has glimmers of hope. He has days where he is lucid, she says she can still see glimpses of her son somewhere in there. She calls to discover he is advancing up the list. She tries to go about her day, tries to live like normal. She wants things to return to normal. How they should be, normal.
She said she would come visit the ranch on a day she could be sure that things wouldn’t fall apart, and his drinking wouldn’t become a wet mess if she were to leave him at home. He isn't ready to come visit. She is held hostage by his addiction as much as he is.

We have a new guy on the ranch. He came in a couple months ago. Immediately, I sensed a reserve, almost sadness about him. He doesn’t mope around or appear to be melancholy, but, his smile is only slightly illuminated, it remains dimmed because he is where he is, doing what he is doing, and why he is doing it. I know this smile, I had it too. It’s not a forced happy, its more like, ‘I will tolerate this, I will appear happy but I am perfectly fine with living my own sadness without you even involved.” It’s the kind of smile that never makes it up to your eyes – it’s stalled somewhere before it gets there, perhaps right below the tear duct. By the end of this program, I hope his smile moves back up to his eyes.

This new guy was given the profoundly sad news last week that one of his best friends was found dead, a drug overdose.

He dutifully put his smile on, he went about his day, kind of in a daze. I observed him for several days – because we work out together sometimes, I know him socially, so I made it clear I was available if he wanted to unload. The ranch is a very safe place, but when you first get there, it is really hard to find a place to be comfortable and to find someone with whom you feel comfortable. You may remember, Curtis came to me first when his brother died over the summer. It was a privilege that he came to me. Providing compassion to Curtis, a friend who’s trust I earned, prepared me for the new friend who would require my compassion, a position of trust I hadn’t deserved or actually earned from him.

Because he was still in Phase I, and the rules of the program state that he can’t leave the ranch without being escorted by a higher phase guy, he humbly asked me if I would go with him on a Sunday afternoon to get clothes to wear for a funeral, to get his haircut, and a few small things he needed. WOW!! It’s as if an angel was at work here – I was being asked to go shopping, AND get a haircut. If anyone on that farm knew the importance of a haircut, it was me. Good grooming has been one of the guiding principles of my treatment plan.

His mom also accompanied us. Her son had already been in the program for almost 60 days, and she could hardly contain her glee at how he is progressing, and that he is somewhere safe. It is a small gift that we are able to give our moms while on the farm, the gift of relief. She was a lot like my mom, ‘When can you get a pass, we should go see a movie, what do you need, tell me about your friends.”

It was as if she finally found her son again, like he had been gone, and VOILA here he appeared again. It was as if the past several years were like a bad bad dream and now she had woken up, and here he was, all the time. When my mom dropped me off at the ranch that first day I arrived here back in May, she hugged me, fought off the tears and managed to kindly ask me to, "bring my son home.”

I watched the careful dance this mom danced, the one that my family made around me in the beginning. Not knowing how much to ask but having a million questions, not knowing what to say, but wanting to say a million things, not knowing how to act – they don’t want to offend, or say the wrong thing, but for chrissake, HER SON IS BACK and she is ecstatic.

When we stopped to get his haircut, she and I had a moment to speak. Of course she had a bunch of questions for me. I have been there 9 months now (257 days to be exact) – and I have worked a pretty good program. She is friends with my chaplain, her son has my chaplain, so the opportunity to speak to me was one where she might be able to fast forward and know what to expect, and one in which she might understand what has already happened.

She grew silent in our conversation. As she looked out into space, out of nowhere, she said with grief, ‘They used to find him curled up in a ball, asleep on the street.’ I listened as she began to pour out tales of her sadness, of her worry, she spoke from such a deep place in her heart about how she feels safe that now he is safe. She never looked at me when she told me of these things, its as if her mind shut off and her heart was talking, she was channeling the fear of a mother who lived with the idea that she could lose her son at any time. She spoke of her hopes for him, all the while restrained by her emotional caution. She hasn't completely submitted to the idea that this time, this may work, but she wants it, she hopes.

She bought me a Smash Mouth Hamburger.

I accompanied this new resident to the funeral the next day because he still hadn’t phased. He spoke to me about his conflicts with that day. He wanted to be with his friends to grieve but he knew there would be alcohol and drugs around and he wasn’t ready for that. He wondered what he might have done if he wasn’t at the ranch. He was troubled all day by the tapes in his head, playing forward to what his friends were doing. The divine message that his friend senselessly died from an addiction, from an overdoes, was not lost on him. To his mom, I say, I believe that your son is gonna be OK… he get’s it. He wants to get it.

I thought about the first son, and how I wished he could have been at that funeral to see the kind of love people have for him, and so he could witness the devastating effects of unbridled addiction.

I also heard from a third mother. Her son was doing very good. She didn’t speak to me about his addiction, instead she spoke about a newspaper article she read over the weekend in which her son was written about because of a few career successes. She spoke briefly about her weekend, and she mentioned plans for her son when he went on weekend pass, the fun stuff they might do – or the regular stuff that they might get around to. When I talked to her she didn’t mention a thing about alcohol or worry, life had gotten back to normal.

And that mom was my mom. And next weekend, I will be bringing her son home.

Peace all,
Keep the faith


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I am a selfish jerk. So what.

So, this weekend, I went to the City, and I went out. I had a great time, but as I mentioned in last week’s blog, I went out with someone who I was slightly more interested in that ‘just friends’ and I’ll tell you one thing, this changed EVERYTHING for me.

I have been going out with friends since I have been here. Many of them drink and I have even watched as they metamorphed into completely different people. When you are sober and you watch people you know well begin to drink, there is an almost immediate change in their behavior. It’s a slight widening of the eyes, there is a definite slur – even a small one – the smell is toxic – eyes seem to glass over. Other people may not notice this, but I can see it right away – almost after the first drink someone takes.

When I watch this, I chuckle a little at my own drunken behavior. I mean, who in the hell did I think I was kidding all those times I was drinking and claiming, “No, I am not drunk,” – My parents and Alex all say that they could tell immediately – sometimes within the first sentence. I remember being at grocery stores, the library, the bank, at restaurants, tons of places, just hammered and thinking that no one knew. But the smell alone… that musty, dirty, old booze, hot breath, stale cigarette, sweaty, ‘its coming out my pores’ smell…. It doesn’t have a name, but almost everyone who knows an alcoholic can smell it from a football field away. It’s the putrid smell of a spirit rotting.

Back to my friends. As the nights progress, these people change, become more emotional, rambunctious, I can see the common sense and composure begin to fade. I am usually jovial and happy around them – I never mind if someone drinks to get drunk – I decided early on that I was not going to be one of those recovering know-it-alls who is ready to prescribe addiction examinations to everyone because I made it through a few months of treatment.

God, I hate that.

But watching ‘people I know’ become ‘drunk people I know’ doesn’t really bother me. In fact, at this point in sobriety, it helps reinforce my commitment to staying sober. When I watch cool, calm, collected people become bumbling idiots, it helps me stay on the straight and narrow.

But a strange thing happened to me this weekend during the ‘date’ – I realized that when I am invested in someone, more than friends, someone with whom I want to build something more substantial with, it DOES matter that they drink. I know, I am as shocked by this as you are. I hardly cared a stitch about a buddy or friend or even a family member drinking, but when it comes to the person I want to let inside my heart – well, it certainly matters. And I just don’t think I can date someone who drinks.

You might be thinking that I don’t want this because I may be tempted to drink – but that isn’t it at all. I am not tempted to drink. I find it repulsive, in fact. THAT is why I can’t date someone who drinks. I just don’t want it in my life – not at that level anyway. I don’t want to deal with the drama and confusion that comes with it, I don’t care to deal with the lack of control and the emotional mutterings of a drunk person. I want to be able to go to bed with the same person I woke up with and I want to be able to wake up at a reasonable hour in the morning and do reasonable things and not waste a day on a hang over. So much of my life has been handed over to MY OWN hangovers, why in the hell would I spend another minute on SOMEONE ELSE’S hang over.

Hypocritical, perhaps. I don’t really know what to do about it except say that I am not above being a hypocrite in this regard, I know people stayed with me, loved me, and maintained relationships with me even when I was a dead-inside drunkard, perhaps they deserve a shout out, and I don’t know why they did it, or how they did it, but I am not going to do it. I am spending a heck of a lot of time trying to take care of myself right now, I don’t have the time to be taking care of someone else.

I think I have discovered why they say someone in recovery shouldn’t take care of anything more complex than a houseplant for a full year – for me, if the house plant bugs me, I’ll pull it out, and throw it away, or stop watering it.

They have rules about you doing the same thing to people.

Does this make me a selfish jerk? Maybe. But it makes me a SOBER selfish jerk. I am OK with that.

Anyway, I am not closing the book on the new relationship, but I am going to be a little more critical of where it’s leading. I’ll keep you posted.

Work has been going great. I love my job, and I love the job I am doing at my job. I feel a real distance from the ranch, though, and I don’t really like that. Lane and Marty have already moved to the final dorm before graduation. Next stop – freedom.

Brian, Curtis, then I will be moving to this last dorm in the next few weeks. We do have a transition group meeting that the top 20 guys are required to attend. This is a group that arms us with some real world skills as we transition away from the ranch into real life; when we are no longer accountable to the UA/BA’s we get, and only accountable to the guy standing in the mirror. I have recently found out that I am number 22 on this list. WOW!! I remember being number 72!!

I know there are many people who follow this blog and read it because there is someone in your life who is struggling with addiction. I want to assure you of one thing, I am not special, I am not unique. The successes and the happiness, and the personal triumphs I detail are not only mine. There are MANY guys on this ranch, many guys who have completed all kinds of programs who also have this kind of re-ignition of their spirit.

I am just the one who invited you along.

Peace all, have a good week.

PS - the email for the blog is if you would like to write a personal email.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Now, what do I drink with fish?

The thing about relationships is they generally come when you least expect or even want them. I find it interesting that they tend to find me when I am least likely to make them work, and somehow they tend to work despite it.

I read a while back that it is not recommended for someone in recovery to even entertain the idea of taking care of anything or anyone more complex than a house plant for a FULL YEAR AFTER you’ve completed a program. Obviously, with my beloved dog, I shucked off this recommendation early on – I have every intention of incorporating my dog into my life when I get out and in fact, look forward to including her in so many things I plan on doing.

An intimate relationship, with another human – well, I hadn’t even thought of that. I mean, sure I look better than I have in years, and my personality and spirit have really come alive thanks to nearly nine months of sober living. Because of the program, I have spent a lot of time working on how I handle the world and how I greet the world. In a nutshell, I would TOTALLY date me, I am finally “a catch.”

The kinds of stresses that might have sent me into a tailspin a year ago are absorbed and dealt with as a function of my new instincts – not emotionally, not even mentally – but in a new plane of consciousness that is there for everyone, but often neglected or ignored.

Perhaps that’s one of the things that I find most refreshing rehab and about sobriety, I feel like I have been equipped with methods – automatic responses – that help me deal with life. I will say it again, I think everyone should grab a stint at rehab if they get the chance – even if you don’t have an addiction – the rehabilitation of my thinking and adaptability is the kind of thing I’ve been able to fold up in my back pocket and carry with me.

But back to the relationship – it is easy to get insulated when you live at the ranch. What a completely cool environment it becomes when everyone around is constantly improving something in their lives – all the time. Guys on the ranch are reconnecting with family, getting healthy, starting school, finding ideal jobs, creating new friendships and becoming active participants in their own lives and no longer the clueless observer that they once were. I don’t know if I can explain how utterly helpless you feel when you realize that somehow you’ve abdicated your own control over what happens to you or what you are doing to a bottle of $4 gin.

Lane and I were speaking the other night about when he first got here. Lane had been a career drinker by the time he was 18. By the time he was 21, he was drinking the equivalent of 3 six packs before the afternoon, then would follow it up with a half gallon of other booze or something else to ‘wind down’ the day.

He entered rehab this year, he is the youngest person in my group of friends at 23 – he sometimes regrets that he will never be able to go into a bar and have a beer with friends after work… but the life he will create at his age is worth that kind of denial.

Anyway, when Lane got to the ranch, he was detoxing super bad. Not even he realized the extent of his withdrawals. For a week, he seemed OK – he worked, he dutifully began his program with the mindset that this would have to work for him. And then it started.

Lane slowly began to lose his grip on his reality. Only about 50% of alcoholics will have a physical withdrawal to alcohol and only 5% of them will have Delerium Tremens – but the mortality rate for someone having delirium tremens is about 35%.

The days leading up to his episode were murky and become more cloudy to him as he tells the story. Brian and Marty came in with him and they recount stories of Lane, who would occasionally have a weird episode. One time on the shuttle, he rolled up a shuttle pass and whispered to them, “Hey when we get back, let’s go smoke this.” And while they all laughed at him because it was almost ridiculous, they didn’t realize that his brain had already begun the serious physical withdrawal which could kill him.

The night it all went down, everything appeared OK. Lane was working through the day, and recalls sweating really bad. He also felt extremely shaky.The ass squirts were pretty severe (we call this the Brown-Eyed-Pees – hey it’s a MENS farm, we’re gross, OK) – But then things began to change. Lane was sitting in the dorm where we all start the program and where he lived; people tell how he suddenly jumped up and began to rifle through people’s drawers! Later he would explain that he was looking for his ID because what was happening in real life was a far cry from the reality Lane’s brain was creating - and he was on his way to a party.

His brain was doing this, mind you, because it was starving from the nutrition it had been getting for years from the sugars and carbohydrates in the alcohol. His brain, maybe even by design, was taking over and tricking his body into a scenario where the reward of booze would be the goal.

While he was going through drawers, in his brain, he was in his parent’s basement, and was even beginning to see things that weren’t there – he was looking out into space, but seeing the interior of a room that was miles from where his body was.

Well, as you can imagine, a crazy person rifling through everyone’s drawers muttering things about going to a party and speaking to people who weren’t there was OUTRAGEOUS to say the least. Even on the ranch, a place full of crazies, there is a limit to what is considered ‘normal’. He had reached his.

Finally the guys had calmed him down, the ambulance was called and Lane was carted to the hospital. Once inside the ambulance, Lane was restrained and he remembers vividly the horror of several threathening men banging on the outside of the ambulance door, trying to get in to his new safe place – for what, no one knows. These men didn’t exist anywhere but in the terrifying corners of Lane’s malfunctioning brain.

Once he arrived at the hospital, his mother tells of a son who, by this time, was seething, cussing, and completely out of control, he was foaming at the mouth, even spitting; she described him as ‘possessed’ trying to bite the paramedics and the nurses, scratching and clawing– I can only imagine how terrible the ride must have been for him – the only person on earth that was experiencing this horrible melt down, and he was completely alone in the experience, mind you, still a 22 year old kid. He didn’t tell us the ‘possession’ part of the story until recently because he was so embarrassed about it. The 'possession' must have been a result of the demonic sights and emotions his brain was inflicting on him - terrorizing a 22 year old kid with no means to stop it - and NO help from anyone. He was alone in this, and his brain had him cornered.

At the hospital, he had several other episodes where he halucinated and saw terrible sights he descibes in vivid detail, but which I will nto recount out of respect for him; had to be restrained. At one point, he even toppled a completely full urn of piss because he had little control of what his brain was seeing or doing. I want you to realize at this point in the story, this was all going on 10 DAYS after he stopped drinking. He had been sober for over a week before his brain realized it was going to be denied the precious boozie nectar, and his brain and body WERE PISSED OFF!

Now, I am going to step back and describe Lane. He is one of the most sedate, calm, cool, collected guys I have ever met. He has a sense of balance and quiet about him that men twice his age have yet to master. He is generally in control, and I don’t think I have ever heard him raise his voice or say anything in a tone of contempt. For Lane to behave in the way he was behaving is made all the more horrific when you meet him now, sober, detoxed, healthy.

Anyway, the farm wouldn’t have him back until he had a psych release. His mom scrambled to keep him in the farm, making calls and ensuring that he would not lose his bed and have to get back on the list. Jack, the intake chaplain, assured her that this would not happen and that the farm has seen it all. He told her to take care of her son, and have him take care of himself, and that his bed would be stay his.

Lane describes the three days he spent in the psych ward as pleasant enough. He says it was nice that he was fed all day long, and he just relaxed, he talked, watched TV, he got better. But, in his head, he was still really embarrassed. I asked him what he was embarrassed about and he told me he remembers thinking, “Geezus, you finally made it all the way to rehab, and now you’ve gotten yourself in to a damn psych ward.” It spoke volumes about the kind of person he is – the kind of reflection he is also dealing with, it was a revelation he will always remember about how bad he, at 22, let his addiction become.

Which brings me back to where I was…. When I mentioned that you can’t imagine how helpless you feel when you realize you’ve abdicated your life to a bottle of booze. Lane had that realization and nearly died in the process of seeing it. He is going to choke me for saying this, but, I feel extra compassion for him because he is still so young and the horror of what he saw, what he lived through that night is made worse when you consider that he had to travel that path all alone – terrified – confused – and so damn out of it. Whether trauma is real or imagined, its trauma.

Lane is also the only one of the guys on the farm who has a full time, serious, on-going relationship. His girlfriend has supported him through the program and has stood by his side as he continues to fight the good fight to sobriety. The ranch can really test your relationship and help you see if it has some mileage in it – it’s a major event in a man's life and if your relationship doesn’t have some muscle, it will not survive rehab - don't even expect it. One of you or both of you will not be able to manage it.

Lane was fortunate in one aspect, and that is that he has had this relationship from the beginning, and so he has incorporated it into his recovery plan – the one we all make for ourselves to maintain sobriety.

I, on the other hand, have not incorporated anyone into my recovery plan and so I am now adjusting to someone new in my life. I am walking a fine line between allowing someone into my life and keeping my life private. It would be hypocritical of me to keep this part of my life from someone new when I spent the past few months pontificating the importance of ‘Being Real, Being honest." I can also say that if I was dating someone and they kept something like this from me, I would really feel left out when I discovered it - and frankly, cheated out of the opportunity to offer support, or even decide if I wanted to.

And so I am going on pass this weekend to the City, where I will probably explain why I live where I live and why my time is so limited. I will give an easy exit if this person needs it, I will not obligate them into sticking around. Nor will I make any promise that life will be a rosy picture of barefoot romps through fields of daisies once I am done. That's not real. There will be weak moments, heck, there might even be a relapse, it will not always be pretty, it will not always be a fantasy.

I am an alcoholic, my reality can never give way to a fantasy world or I might end up lost in it. Searching for the fantasy world is part of what got me here to begin with. Its that fantasy world that turned on Lane when his brain tried to force him from reality. If you don’t think peeking out and existing in complete reality is scary to an alcoholic, imagine Lane’s brain, the night it tried to hotwire his body, tried to take control and strong arm him back into submissive "reality aversion." The night it tried to terrify him back to the safety of a bottle, or perhaps kill him in the process.

There is one obvious advantage I will mention about embarking on a new relationship as a sober person… When I go on a dinner date, I never have to struggle with that age old question “What kind of wine DOES go with Today's Catch!”

Hey…. YOU have a good week.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Would I quit rehab over Bonnie Hunt?

When I came upstairs this morning, I was greeted with a sink full of dirty dishes and the cackling of a loud dorm mate who I regard as only slightly less annoying than the cough I have had non-stop since October; no doubt a result of living with so many germy people in close quarters. But the dishes, it amazes me that there are adult men living in a house and it appears that none of them knows clean to do a damn dish.

The cold, the mud, its filthy on the ranch in the winter. The ice cold wind races across the fields like a spray of invisible bullets and greets you with the moment of “GET YOUR ASS UP” shock – the kind I would have in the occasional mornings after a night of endless bar tabs, when I would wake up, roll over and try to figure out who I was sleeping next to.

Then there is the daily battle with the shuttle driver – do I have my pass – am I on time – where will I need to be picked up. I have to pack my crap each day, carry it half a mile to the shuttle, hope I don’t lose anything, then carry it to my car when I get to town, then get it to work, then unpack, then do it all over again in reverse. I have already lost my .mp3 player, my favorite gloves, and a left shoe.

When I get home, sometimes all I want to do is work out, eat a nice meal, watch TV and relax – in silence. WE ARENT ALLOWED TO WATCH TV! I live with 12 men, each with varying degrees of insanity, each with a different schedule, and each one operates at a decibel level that would startle Helen Keller. My food is always half eaten, and I have even had to post a sign on my 2 litre bottle of diet cherry 7-UP that says, ‘I SPIT IN THIS’ so it mysteriously stops disappearing. Someone actually tried to do the ‘water in the bottle to raise the level’ trick on me. WHAT?!? I invented this trick. My dad would sometimes drink scotch so watered down from months of me ‘sneaking’ a drink that I am sure if he started drinking REAL scotch again, he might die.

So, it goes without saying, I am getting over dorm life. And I am not the only one. Lane is part of the group of guys I came in with, he is one of the guys that wanted to graduate together, on the same day. He informed me that he has no intention of that anymore. 13 months, 1 day, he is out he said. The Band of Brothers is often a Band of Bothers.

We all love each other and still get along famously… don’t get me wrong…. But these guys are like my family, and like family, they are always more tolerable in smaller doses and with proper mental planning. Don’t say you’re not like that, we all are. Everyone needs space, time and the ability to live AWAY from the people we love the most. This is nature’s way of preventing murder.

Marty asked me the other day when I would be leaving the ranch. With the new job and money coming in, I have a car, I even have a place I can stay, I have been dating a little bit, I don’t really ‘need’ any of the things that the ranch offers - he was puzzled as to why I am staying.

And that puzzled me as well. I hadn’t really planned on leaving early, but I hadn’t planned on staying either. I kept telling myself that when I got what I needed out of this place, I would leave – whether I graduated or not. Could it be that I am still getting something out of rehab? Why the hell am I staying here? I have completed the addictions modules. I think I have a good handle on recognizing addictive behaviors in myself and I find that I employ the techniques all the time. I am constantly making course corrections in my whole life – not just as it pertains to alcoholism. Alex noticed it and mentioned it at Christmas when I was with my family for a Holiday party and the highly charged atmosphere of ‘fun’ game night was the usual mine field of arguments waiting to happen. And yet, somehow, I stayed calm. I stay calm a lot. My brain is constantly evaluating events and situations on a new scale of relevance.

Its like when my mom checks her blood sugar – if its too high, she immediately employs some exercise (physical or mental) to bring it back down. It’s a habit these days to just ‘know’ whats going on inside – her survival depends on it. And for the most part, things stay at or below the threshold of danger.

This happens in my brain as well. I find that silence is a much more efficient way to get out of a tricky situation than speaking ever was. Many people should try this technique. People would talk a WHOLE lot less if they had any clue how FEW people actually paid attention – or cared.

And so, this means I am cured, right? Whew – its about time.

But, the truth is, I am staying for a different reason, and I had to figure out why. And I’ve realized that I wouldn’t feel right if I left now. I mean, I committed to this and I only have a few months left. What kind of A-Hole would I be to spend so much time working on myself here and decided to bone out before the end.

Back in the summer, before we could leave the farm, Curtis, Lane and I would take walks from one end of the ranch to the other. It’s a half mile from one end to the other. We would walk from the south side to the north side and on the north side is a gate. Curtis would insist that we ALL touch the gate – each time. We would walk and talk and laugh for an hour in the blind darkness of the farm, probably logging 5 miles – back and forth, back and forth – and each time, when we got to that damn gate, we ALL had to touch it. It was not a suggestion, it was a requirement. If we even mentioned that we didn’t touch it, we would turn around and go back and touch it.

Lane and I used to tease Curtis about this OCD thing he had and one day he said plainly, “I just don’t see the sense in walking all the way here, getting all the way TO the gate, and not touching it – its senseless to go this far and not finish.”

Even now, when I pass that gate as I exit the property on a run or a bike ride, I have to touch it.

Much of my life has been like that. Too often, I have robbed myself that small satisfaction of touching the gate. I think we all do that. So much of my life has been in a state of incompleteness, and I can’t live like that anymore. There WILL not be any loose ends. No, There CAN NOT be loose ends.

This seems like a sensible idea for anyone, but for an alcoholic, the penalty is pretty significant. If you remember, I mentioned that one thing addicts all have in common is ‘procrastination.’ The whole idea of getting out of something, of avoiding doing something releases a flood of neurochemicals that are so powerful, that in the right doses, these chemicals will even synthesize the effects of cocaine.

This goes for being chronically late, it goes for calling in sick or playing hookie from school, this happens when we develop and accept the idea that, “I’ll do it later, I’ll get to it, I’ve done enough, It’s OK, I have gone far enough that people notice my effort.”

This is no way to live life, and in developing a new way of thinking, as an alcoholic I need to push through the crap I don’t want to do, and touch the friggin gate! Every time. And when it sucks, I can’t think, I will retreat to the comfort of a bottle of booze, I am gonna get through this. When you approach life with a resolve to finish something, when you put your head down and meet a challenge, then you can walk away from that challenge with your head up, instead.

And so I have to figure out how to survive, I have to put into practice techniques that will keep my metaphoric blood sugar where it needs to be, I need to exercise.

So I learn to develop new routines. This is something I will be doing my whole life – Alcohol was a routine as much as anything. Its methodical for an addict. There is safety in methods. My new routine includes my weekly visit with my dad – For as long as I have been on the farm and able to leave, he has picked me one day a week and we hang out. We watch TV, we go shopping, we do chores, I do laundry, it is my weekly respite from the insanity of living in a Rehab facility.

If it wasn’t for this weekly rendez-vous with my dad, I don’t know if I would have made it this far.

My new routine involves a monthly visit to see family and friends, these are people that I neglected for years when I was drinking, and now they occupy my time, as well as my heart. I will have to maintain that.

My new routine involves working out, running, staying in general shape; it involves new friends…. new ‘relationships’, it involves stepping back from the guys I live with and learning how to incorporate them into my life without suffocating each other. The new routine means that 'down time' isnt 'bored time'.

But the routine also involve quiet time. The idea of solitude was terrifying to me. The business in my head was silenced only by the over amplification of my environment – or else the self-induced coma I would seek to ride out the storm of being alone. Yes, solitude was a storm for me. Yet, now, quiet time is my reward. It isn’t feared, it is relished.

And so, the question remains…. Why do I stay here at this sometimes miserable farm, why do I live in these conditions, why do I tolerate this, day after day, week after week?

Well, you know, it’s simple. I haven’t touched that gate yet.


PS – I received some sad news today. It appears that Bonnie Hunt will be cancelled in May of this year. You will note that it will be a full year, in May, since I watched Bonnie Hunt. I have to wonder if my lack of viewing contributed to this. Kidding.

But seriously, I am kind of pissed because I will be graduating at that time, and I wont have Bonnie Hunt to watch, and worse, I NEVER EVEN HAD THE CHANCE TO GO TO HER SHOW!!!

I was going to reward myself with a trip to LA and see her show in person…

Now, if I don’t quit rehab over this…. Then, perhaps it is safe to say, I can handle almost anything.