Well, as the year has jumped to a start, Brian and I have been asked to once again, go to high schools and speak to students about our life – The kids at these schools are always positive when we get there because we never tell them to ‘not do drugs, don’t drink’ – instead we speak about our story, we tell the gory details and they laugh at the fun ones. And we are honest with them and they ask us a million questions.
It’s interesting because our visits are gaining in popularity, when we started, we spoke to one class a day, and it was only to those students who wanted to hear us speak. Tomorrow, when we go, we will be speaking to four different full groups, lasting the entire day. In April, we will be going to Estes Park to speak to another large congregation as well, and I am really honored that I am able to share some of this with so many people, impressionable people.
The kids always ask us what there is to do in rehab. When that question was first asked to me back in October, I immediately said, ‘We don’t do a whole lot,’ and then I continued…
“This summer I went to like 5 Rockies games, I went white water rafting, hiked in Rocky Mountain National Forest like 6 or 7 times. I learned how to ride a horse and the basics of mule training. I skied twice and learned how to snow shoe. I went to the Art Museum, the History Museum twice, and saw the Ghengis Khan exhibit. I helped deliver a baby cow, I bottle fed baby goats, I was an announcer at some pig races (where one was named after me!), I learned how to cook a kick ass lasagna. On warm days, there’s nothing to do, so we play kick ball, volleyball or horse shoes. I weight train, and ride my bike. I’ve been training for a marathon. I’ve cliff dived at Horsetooth reservoir but am afraid of heights so I only did it once. I was baptized in a real river with 30 other people. I painted a youth retreat in Wyoming and the pastor liked our work, he invited Lane and me up to paint the chapel. I fed the homeless in Cheyenne and sat through the worlds longest night time winter parade. I was on TV several times, interviewed by a major daily newspaper and began speaking to people all across Northern Colorado about the life transforming journey to sobriety. I quit drinking.”
And when I began to ramble, it dawned on me, the year as it began last May was viewed as a detour from my real life, the year I was ‘going to take off’ from life… but it was hardly that at all! Instead of taking off from life, my life has taken off! And completely sober. This is how my life is supposed to be. And I am detailing this because I want to illustrate the full life I am living because I am sober – and I am illustrating it for those of you who are apprehensive about quitting with your drug of choice. It’s a cool way to live.
This week, something shocking has happened and I am still unsure of how I feel about it, so as I tell about it, whatever emotions may seem lacking are only because I am still dealing with them.
I have a friend in Denver, who I will call Aaron, and this past Saturday he decided to drink a half gallon of Jack Daniels and swallow a lethal dose of muscle relaxers. When he was discovered 11 hours later, he was barely breathing, his blood pressure so low his heart was considered almost dormant – and he barely survived the ordeal – as of this writing, no one knows the brain damage he may have suffered. I spoke to him when he woke up yesterday, he was hardly coherent, and muttered about nonsense.
I know my family and friends who remember when I suffered from aspiration pneumonia and was in the hospital for several weeks can relate to this wait and worry portion of what I am experiencing. Is it some kind of divine retribution that I have to feel everything I may have made other people feel throughout my illustrious drinking career? What the hell is this all about. I’m a little mad about it, I suppose.
I mean, it gets pretty taxing on my nervous system to always be remembering, to always be recalling, to always be feeling…. It gets a little stale to be so ‘raw’ all the damn time. Remorse is a powerful emotion and I do feel remorseful about so much, but for chrissake, there’s a limit. At some point I am going to have to close the book on the past, and hope that the cosmos kindly does the same. I’m getting sick of all the ‘lessons’ I am learning – OK, OK, OK, fine, I may not have been the greatest person on the planet but it seems cosmically unfair to unload a bunch of experiences on me all at once.
And when I feel like I have reached my limit, which I feel, mechanisms which would have at one time forced me to retreat from this and go get drunk are engaged in a different way. In addictions class I have learned how to change perspectives, to change my belief window, to manage my stresses by tracing them backwards until I get to the source, identify the source, then change the belief. There is an immediate sense of release at the other end and life is, again, manageable.
But it gets exhausting. I wonder, sometimes, if this is sustainable. I suppose there are people with much more stressful lives who don’t have drinking problems, so somehow it must be sustainable. But its damn exhausting to always be on some sort of course correction. Not because I fear relapse, but because I like the person I am now and I don’t want that person to change for the worse. Whether I drink or I don’t, I can’t lose touch with the guy I’ve been building. That’s also stressful.
I’m getting sick of it.
So, this morning as I settled in to the coffee shop where I sometimes write this blog, frustrated and a little angry, and really tired, I didn’t even know what I would write about – I just knew that I am exhausted at maintaining sobriety. I started writing and began to ramble. At the table next to me, a woman came in with her kids. I see her sometimes when I am here.
While she was ordering, her daughter, about 8, made her way over to me and she said, “Hey, you have a good day, OK.”
I was a little floored but I smiled and returned the pleasantry and got back to my ramblings.
Then her mom corrected her, “Lisa, get over her, stop bothering people,” she apologized to me for her daughter’s intrusion.
And her daughter said, “Sorry, but he always tells us to have a good day when he sees us, and he didn’t, so I thought he was waiting for me to say it first.”
Her mom and I both laughed… I was touched. I realized that people may not always realize what I do, what I say, I may not even realize it, but people know how I make them feel. And this morning, I wasn’t making her feel like I usually do, and so she picked up the slack for me.
And in my life, that’s how it works best…. If I live my life well, a good life, if I make people feel decent, or have decent experiences, then on those occasions where I would retreat to my bottle, I can instead just go about my day, because someone will notice, and pick up the slack. And so the cosmos is hell bent on making me feel what I made other people feel, that’s fine – and there is bad with that…. But the more goodness I spread around now that I am happy and sober, the more that comes back to me as well…. And that, somehow comforts me.
You know what, I WILL have a good day.