Friday, April 2, 2010
Sometimes there is death, and other times, thankfully, there is Bonnie Hunt
This blog is not the blog I intended to write, but so much has happened in 48 short hours, I am starting from scratch, all over again. Things happen so fast in my life that I wonder if its always been like this but I was in some drunken haze for so long that I never noticed or if I am putting out the kind of energy that is somehow attracting things to me like never before.
And as I was trying to figure out how to write this, it never made sense in my head. I decided to start with the worst news and leave you with the best. Here are four major stories from my life this week.
Yesterday, I got a text from Brian. Brooks had died. Brooks graduated the program in January. He was the recipient of a new set of teeth, a new life, a whole set of new opportunities. He came to the ranch over a year ago because his marriage had failed and he wanted to go away and live in the mountains - in tents – off the land. Well, the Rockies can be harsh even in the summer and he decided that he couldn’t make that plan work.
Surrendering, finally, to the fact that his marriage had dissolved because of decades of drinking eventually led him to the ranch. I have to say that the guys who make their way to the ranch are blessed mainly because they find the farm. Or perhaps the farm finds them. It is a special place where special things happen to people who live there. Sobriety is only one of the benefits. I believe that the Universe picks us to live there, that we are chosen to go, far away, and we are given new lives.
Perhaps the universe saw Brooks in his hopeless condition, trying to live in a tent in the wilderness, and called him in. He had a good program, always in the most wonderful of moods. I remember when I first started at the ranch, he would come through the line and flash me the toothless grin he became known for. I would make him special dishes on the days we had crunchy foods because I knew he couldn’t chew them. He never asked for them, but he appreciated it and told me each time.
The day of his graduation, that afternoon in fact, Brooks never made it to his destination in Arizona where he was going to take a new job with his brother-in-law and start his new life. He stopped in town, got a bottle ‘for the road’ and hunkered down for the weekend in a motel.
The drinking did not stop. He made a decision to start drinking when he knew the risks, and he never stopped. Here’s the thing about this process. I feel awesome. I feel better than I have ever felt. I love having a sober, healthy body. And there are times when I honestly say to myself, ‘One drink won’t hurt anything.’
And the truth is, one drink probably won’t hurt me physically. Nor will the second, third, or the hundredth. What will hurt me is the fact that, in my case at least, there WILL BE A SECOND, AND A THIRD AND A HUNDRETH. I don’t hold on to my sobriety with a tight grip, so the opportunity to lose grip is always just a twist off cap away. I know this, it petrifies me with fear. It keeps me from even having the conversation with myself about whether or not I will have a drink at a motel on the way to start my new life.
So Brooks drank himself to death. I think back to the bitter cold Christmas season, he and I rode the same shuttle to work. He worked as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army. One morning, particularly cold, I asked him how he could do that job – stand out there in the freezing cold all day and ring the bell. He smiled at me and said, “I like being the face people see when they feel generous enough to give their change, besides the cold won’t kill me, I’m tough. Nothing can kill me, now that I’m sober.”
Except a bottle and one bad decision.
I usually write only about how addiction and alcoholism affects men. Well, of course this is because I live on a men’s ranch and, I write about what I know. A woman I know very well was admitted to a psych-hospital this week because she has been battling alcohol for 20 years now. She has been trying to figure out a way to stop the abuse and made a decision to get antabuse on Monday.
As so many alcoholics do, Rita decided to have one last ‘hurrah’. I completely know how this feels. Right before I went to the ranch, I, too, decided to have one last hurrah. I was staying with my parents and was about to enter the ranch. I was so close to the top of the list I knew it was anyday I would be called. I distinctly recall sitting on the bed and thinking, I am never going to drink again. I mean, never, Ever… I will never again be able to drink.
WOW, scary. And, so that night, May 5, I went downstairs and decided to have a few classes of wine. Do you see where this is going. Well, immediately, I was in celebration mode. I don’t know if it was celebration because I was finally going to be free from all this, or celebration because I knew my life was finally about to turn for the better, I can’t say. I do know that at that time, I wanted so desperately to not have to drink that it felt like a celebration. I would imagine that if a woman divorces an abusive husband, there might be at least one moment when she stops grieving for the bad decisions that got her there, and rejoice that she is free. This is what I was doing.
I drank. I loved it. I wrote in my journal and thankfully still have all those pages to look back on. It was a good experience for me, I am not going to lie. I was finally gonna be done. I remember that night sitting in the room I had at my parent’s house and dreaming about what my life would look like, what I would look like, what kinds of people I would know, what kinds of opportunities I would have, I couldn’t WAIT to be a sober person. I toasted all this with several bottles of good champagne.
Pause for a moment and think about that. I drank to celebrate freedom from drinking. It's so upside down and at the time made the most absolute sense. There is no sense while in addiction.
The next day, I didn’t feel so hot. Now, when my mom discovered me, she was pissed, but not for the reason you may think. Sure, she was disappointed because I drank at her house and she had to see me drunk. Not a pretty sight. But she had the wisdom to say, “If you could just NOT drink, you wouldn’t be going off to rehab,” she wasn’t mad about that. Instead she was mad because I drank $700 in quality champagne.
“For chrissake,” she exclaimed, “if you needed to drink, couldn’t you down the cheap stuff!”
And so it went, my last time was memorable. I think Rita was trying to get this same kind of closure. Yea, I said it, closure. I mean, I had a full on relationship with alcohol, often this was my ONLY relationship, and leaving it, I needed closure.
Rita posted this on her facebook account, she had made public declarations before about how she was going to go to a doctor and get something to help her get sober. Putting it on facebook was something else entirely, though.
You see, as addicts, this is a preemptive strike directed at you. People often think that addicts do this sort of thing because they are crying for help. And indeed, this is often the case, but to publicly announce that you have these problems while you are in the midst of a full on bender, this isn’t a cry for help, this is a calculated, planned announcement.
It is akin to the times I would call my family, druuuuunk, and apologize for being drunk. It is like the times I would apologize to Alex on the way to the liquor store for having to get more booze. Its when I would wake up and say with incredible resolution, “TODAY I AM GOING TO STOP DRINKING NO MATTER WHAT.”
This is an addicts way of planning the next step, of avoiding the consequences of their inevitable actions. Oh yea, we are so amazing at manipulating people that we even learn how to do it AHEAD of time. Because this is a fine way to say, once we have spun out of control, once we have gone completely off the deep end, we have a cozy little weapon in our arsenal of guilt that we attack you with, we can always say, ‘Hey, you knew this was coming, I cried out for help, you knew I was like this, so this is not my fault at all…. I have a disease, I am sick, and YOU KNEW ABOUT IT. You probably didn’t do enough for me to get me some help.”
And it sucks that we do that to people.
But addiction isn’t going to end because we go to the doctor and get antabuse. People don’t abuse alcohol because they can’t sleep. Alcoholism isn’t something that can be fixed with a pill. It takes time, reflection, and a crap load of work.
Anyway, she also coupled this with a bunch of ambien and ended up in a psych ward. Once she took all the ambien, she was on the phone, texting her family, that she had just taken all the ambien. Another public preemptive declaration. She was found and taken to the hospital. She will be OK, and I hope she gets the help she needs.
So, where are we, one story of death, one story of near death, now how about a story of success.
Mark graduated today. Mark worked with me in the kitchen, he is a class act. He got a kick ass car, an Infinity with a Bose sound system. He worked on himself through the entire program and I always found him in the most reflective moods. He used to tell me that he had a life he had to figure out. I didn’t know what that meant until now. Now, I know what he means.
Over the past year, his two teenage daughters finally started talking to him again, his mother spoke at the graduation that she finally knows the son she remembers, and the guys who wanted to wish him well was a non-stop comment after comment connection. Sometimes at graduations, we are wrapped up in half hour – Marks could have gone on for at least another hour with all the people who wanted to tell him what an impact he had on them.
I spoke to him after and he said this to me, ‘You know, I went through this whole program feeling like I was doing it alone, and today I realized, I was never alone, and I never have to be again. I envy you because you aren’t alone either, and you have this awesome knowledge that you aren't alone.’ This was amazing point he made, and a true one. I don’t feel alone and I love it.
I think that’s what its all about, really. Sobriety. I think its all has to do with the fact that as alcoholics we spend so much time on the outside, looking in, wanting desperately to be in, to be BACK in. Alcohol will kill us, and like any predator, it has remarkable abilities to separate us from the herd, to get us alone. Having people in my life will certainly help me stay sober, knowing they are in my life is frosting on the cake. Because the predator is still out there, and someday, it wants me alone, to convince me to make a bad decision, when no one is around, to grab a bottle when I am on the way to the rest of my life, and kill me in a motel room, like it did to Brooks.
It was having other people in her life that saved Rita from dying.
Maybe this is a profound key to it all, staying connected to people is natural, its how we are built.
And so this brings me to the climax of this blog. The best news of all. Friday, April 16, I will be in Los Angeles, California, attending one of the final tapings of the Bonnie Hunt Show.
You see, I used to chalk things up to coincidence and now, I fully admit, that there are miracles at work. Bonnie’s show was set to end before graduation, and then I got an email from my family offering to send me early. Bonnie’s only available dates in April were on Mondays and Wednesdays, I could not go to any of these because weekend passes are only Friday-Sundays. A show on April 12 was cancelled and moved to that Friday, the 16th, a day I HAD ALREADY REQUESTED FOR MY PASS.
And as I detailed in early blogs, there are many unplanned, cosmic ‘coincidences’ that have led me to the ranch, to sobriety, and have kept me there. This is but one.
And the reason this is so important for me, why this trip to her show is the most incredible crescendo in my journey the past year, is because it is how the Universe is telling me that what I am doing, that the path I am on, is the right path. It is the manifestation of hoping for something, looking at how you want your life to play out, and living it as if it already has played out that way, and it comes to you.
There is a great power in being the master of my own destiny and it isn’t because I have plotted and planned, but because I surrendered to the idea that things are supposed to happen in the best possible way. There is a great freedom in allowing the universe to work in its own time, and faith that my best interest is the goal. Discord isn’t natural, and fighting it isn’t natural. It is addictive behavior to try to control things, then blame others when it all blows up on you. But stepping back, allowing it to all work naturally, this is hard for an addict, but proves in the end to be the best and only way to live. Adaptability and availability to universal what the universe wants to do with you.
Why Bonnie Hunt you may ask? Well here it is. You see, I can relate to each one of the people in the stories I detailed above, including Brooks. I can imagine him locked away, inside, no one knowing what his tortured life looks like behind those curtains.
It is dark, it stinks like old booze and cigarettes and body odor, food is not even a thought. Days are numbered not by a calendar, but by the number of empty bottles lined up neatly on the floor or on the counter. The sound of the rest of the world is drowned out by the constant noise of the television. The television is the most effective tool to drown out the silence in your own head.
Walking outside is a daily task that brings anxiety. The energy it takes to dress himself, count out the pennies he needs to buy the cheap bottle, to run some water through his hair or rub a toothbrush across his mouth, it feels like the kind of energy required to power a house. But he travels there, dutifully, his one and only task for the day, to get the bottle and return home.
And when he walks to the store, the sun shines, there is an immediate awareness that the world is, indeed, still out there. And it sucks to know that he has to go home, to that awful place where he belongs, once he has gotten his bottle. But he can’t escape. It’s the only place he knows to be.
And for me, on those days, I looked forward to only two women. The Chinese woman at the liquor store, who towards the end, was so compassionate she would often have a bowl of rice waiting for me when I came to see her. ‘You look awful,’ she would tell me, ‘You need to eat,” and she would feed me. It never occurred to her to stop selling me gin.
The other woman in my life was Bonnie Hunt. For the hour her show was on, I would laugh, it would wake me up, life seemed like less of a chore and more of a possibility. You may think that I am putting too much stock into a television show, but there was something about her that drew me out, for an hour, to the world.
And I remember last year, at this time, I have it in my journal. I lived alone, Alex had moved out. I had only a few pieces of furniture and a TV. Last year, I was watching the Bonnie Hunt show on TV, imagining, dreaming of my life as a sober person. And this year, I am not going to be in some far off place, watching from the front of the television, I will be in the studio, understanding that I am there because I surrendered to the idea that life, as a sober person, was possible. This is how I am being told I made the right decision. In other words, I am not alone, locked inside my dark living room watching her show, I am out in the world, with other people, watching her show.
So, I want a picture of Bonnie Hunt for this blog. If you feel inclined, please write the show and ask her to take a minute after the taping to snap a picture with me. I think a little grassroots support would be a fine idea!
I don’t know if she knows about my blog, but I want her to know she’s been an unknowing passenger on a very interesting journey.
Peace out all
Days Sober: 332
Days SINCE I saw Bonnie Hunt Show: 323
Days UNTIL I see the Bonnie Hunt Show: 14
Posted by The Drover at 1:17 PM