Friday, June 18, 2010

The End.... or is there more to be written?

Well, there it was. The end of my time at Rehab Ranch was greeted with a sunny morning, family, friends, and the entire ranch assembled. I don’t know what I was expecting from all of it. I am still in a bit of a daze, some numbness, it doesn’t feel real.

If you’ve been following this blog the past several months, you know that I have been on an emotional rollercoaster. I have experienced the spectrum of emotions three or four times over. And today, at the end, there was none.

I look back on the past year, all the people I met. I attended the Bonnie Hunt Show and met Bonnie, went rafting, ran several races, the weekly outings with friends, the way people would look at me and say, “You look amazing,” I vividly recall all the victories, the laughter, I can vividly recall the the private tears. My heartache, my joy, the spring I discovered in my step; these are all things I remember. I did a lot of work, but I also had a lot of fun. I made some friends I will know forever I hope, sometimes I believe I even fell in love. I lost a lot of weight, I managed to bench my body weight, I connected with hundreds of people through this blog, former employers and friends reconnected, I spoke to schools and students. I learned to enjoy simple activities like roller skating, and horse back riding, and cycling. My family and I are closer than ever, I have an amazingly satisfying job, I read a ton of books. I learned to make lasagna, I learned how to be alone and be happy with it. I tore myself apart – by choice, mind you – and reassembled myself. It was like Humpty Dumpty with no kings horses and no kings men anywhere to be found.

I spent a lot of time escaping from the dark images I had of myself in my head. I illuminated those images and realized they weren’t as scary as I believed them to be. I studied addiction with wild abandon, I was educated on the biochemical effects of alcohol and alcoholism, I learned techniques to apply when I feel the physical need to drink. The ranch was dirty, muddy, and often a huge inconvenience, but I did it and I did it with the knowledge that the future had some pretty significant things lined up for me.

But it’s all over now. I have to admit, there is some uncertainty about whether I got everything out of it that I was supposed to. Matt and I talked a couple nights ago and he said that the best thing the ranch offers is time. I have had 13 months there, I have had time. Ironically, time is also the one thing that has an expiration date at the ranch. Everyone who enters will leave it. We can take our sobriety, our spirituality, our car, our teeth, our health, our friends, but the time is what will end.

I have to wonder if I used my time wisely. I still am no closer to discovering what it was that drove me into this frenzy of alcoholism to begin with; at times this bothers me because I want to know that it is over with, and to be sure that its over, I feel like I need to identify exactly what it was that caused this to prevent it from happening again.

I understand that I will never get this. I will never be able to put a thumbtack through a piece of paper and hang it on my cork board so I recognize it if it ever comes creeping back in.

I have a lot of hope, I have a lot of skills I didn’t have before, I have some clarity and some peace about a lot of things. But there’s tonight. Tonight, I am troubled by different things – the health of my friendships; what my home life looks like; what I want to do next. Not next as in, in my life, next as in BEFORE I EVEN GO TO BED! The ranch was such a HUGE part of my routine I am having trouble discovering what I am going to do Monday after work, then Tuesday after work, and Wednesday and every day after that. I don’t know what my weekends will look like. There is so much uncertainty in all this crystal clear clarity.

I sat up last night thinking and was trying to play the movie of what my life should look like now. There was nothing. Each day I am going to have to build on the previous day and create something out of nothing. The new days will take form from the remnants of previous ones. Slowly the picture will emerge.

This is all fine and dandy and in three months I might have a good idea about what my direction is, but today, right now, the faith that things will work out is about all I have and that doesn’t amount to a whole lot. As I was thinking about all this I noticed one thing, none of my fears are fears of drinking.

It’s easy for the guys at the ranch to look at the guys who relapse the first night and proudly pontificate about it. Admittedly, I secretly even considered them a bit ludicrous. Its easy for the guys at the ranch to envision what life looks like when they leave – they have a plan in place, a good workable, beautiful plan. But the long term plans we put in place, our three month plans, six month, one year plans – they are WONDERFUL in three months, six months or a year when they begin to bear fruit. But there is this first night.

I am by no means going to say that a relapse is in my immediate plans, but, today, right now I can certainly understand the huge vacuum that is felt the first few hours off the property – and I can understand why some of the graduates went out and drank before they even arrived at home. I have somewhere to be tonight, I have plans with a buddy this weekend, I have a job that needs me to be functional tomorrow, I have family plans over the weekend, but I still have this feeling of, “What the heck am I gonna do now!! – my life is now going to be all about going home and watching television until I conk out.”

I believe that the sense of accomplishment is going to hit me, I believe that the joy of this ‘new life’ I was promised will be felt, I know that, in time, I am going to be active and fully engaged in my new routines. But tonight, and tomorrow night and every night until it fills up, there isn’t a whole lot.

I would imagine its like a baby when they take their first few steps. So once they get up, there isn’t any place in particular they need to be, so they just kind of wobble around, walk in no particular direction, then sit back down. Eventually they have a purpose, they understand each destination, they begin to stand up, walk to where they need to go, then walk to the next place, and it continues.

But no one thinks about the first couple steps, the first couple days, when there is no destination, there is no purpose, there isn’t really anywhere to be.

I think about what Matt said, about the greatest thing the ranch offers is time. Tonight, I question if I used mine wisely. I suppose that I have to remember that it was a gradual process that got me to the ranch in the first place – alcoholism doesn’t just happen one day like a bad haircut or a zit; it was a shorter, but still gradual process to get me through the past year to where I am at this moment. I can only hope it will be an even shorter gradual process for me to begin to see where I am headed and then, get there.

But the first night, well, it’s not going to be a whole hell of a lot of fun, its not the celebration I thought it might be. Frankly it sucks. This is not what I was picturing at all! I fell into that planning trap of ‘what my life will be’ but I neglected the reality of ‘what is it right now.’

I hadn’t intended to continue this blog once I graduated, and I still may not, but I am curious if my feelings about this will be different in a week, then in two. I am curious what the picture which emerges will look like.

In any event, graduation was a victory for me. A hard won, difficult battle, waged on many fronts. Although I am now staring into some darkness about the future, for the first time in a really long time, I can look at my past with a sense of accomplishment, victory, humility, and pride. There is no shame, humiliation, there is no regret, I don’t lay my head on the pillow and begin to beat up on myself on all the things I messed up. I am exhausted from good work and not from running from my demons. In the fairy tale that runs in my head, those demons are slayed. I set out what I intended to do and I went even further that I planned.

And exhausted, tonight I will go to bed uncertain about what tomorrow even looks like, but I will sleep peacefully, confident that in my recent yesterdays, I did my best, worked my hardest, lived the fullest, and loved the purest that I probably ever have. I had no secret agendas, I was honest with my every emotion and every expression that I gave to others. It is hard to do this, we face considerable resistance when we are honest about what's in our heart. I don't get that. But peace of mind is only a sliver of the reward for peace of heart. My heart is at peace, I have left nothing that needed to be said, unsaid; nothing that needed to be felt, unfelt. I have given back everything I took from others, I have validated the feelings of other people, I have accepted responsibility for what I have caused and now, I am exhausted.

Sometimes that’s about the best you can hope to do. Vince Lombardi once said, “I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious.”

This must be my finest hour, because I am exhausted.
I am also very proud of myself.
I did it.
I am victorious.

Peace all, and lead a good life.
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(If you are new to this blog, you should begin at the beginning - and end here. The story of addiction, as told from the perspective of an addict should be witnessed before and during recovery, not after. This was a long, painful process, but it began with a phone call and a haircut and a frenzy of misplaced priorities - the kind every addict denies. Plus there are some really extensive clinical entries which we got as part of the program. It hasn't always been this motivational to read. TRUST ME!
If you have been following this blog, this may or may not be the final post. But, in any event, thank you for joining me on this journey until the end.)


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