Saturday, April 26, 2014


Click here for the story: "Fat & Thin," by Anton Chekhov

The fat and thin man know each other from their school days.  They meet accidentally.  Not having seen each other since they were boys, they begin trying to catch up.
The thin man loves to talk -- mostly about himself. He tells the fat man all about his family and work. And then the bomb drops. The thin man is a head clerk in the civil service but the fat man is now a privy councilor, an even higher official.
The news is too much to digest for the thin man.  All he can do is compliment the fat man and stoke his ego.
The thin man now feels like a failure. He is comparing his accomplishments with the fat man and there's not much meat on the bone.  What we get with the thin man is a lot of superficiality.  He is not very deep.  His whole life it seems is mainly show and the inner happiness and satisfaction is not well-developed.  His body is thin and so is his soul.
The fat man is proud to be a privy councilor but he doesn't stand on his rank. He prefers for his old friend to treat him as an equal. You get the sense that he is a decent man and well-rounded (no pun intended :-).   In fact, the fat man never brags about his accomplishments and only tells the thin man he is a privy councilor when asked.
The fat man is more content.  He has achieved more in the civil service.  Maybe his personality helped him move forward or possibly his success has given him comfort.  Either way, he is now in the position of being charitable to those less fortunate.
The thin man might have wanted to get ahead too much, and like an overzealous salesman turned people off with his runaway ambition.  Not attaining his goals has left him bitter and jealous of those who have 'made it'.
The fat man could've helped the thin man if the thin man was honest.  The thin man's fawning obsequiousness was too much for the fat man to deal with -- so instead he walks away leaving the thin man with the stress of failure.  Or his 'apparent' failure.
Apparent?  Yeah, because, meanwhile, the thin man undervalues his greatest possession, his ace in the hole, something which the fat man may be missing --  a family.
Who wins the 'game', the fat man or the thin man?

All the more reason to shoot your TV and go play with your kids...

Monday, March 10, 2014


My first overnight stay in jail was in 1984, when I was a sophomore in college, 20 years old.  The charges were DUI, although I blew less than the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit on the Breathalyzer.  Fortunately, at that time in Kentucky, the BAC legal limit was 0.10%.  I blew a 0.09%.  As most people know, the nationwide legal limit has since been lowered to 0.08%.  

It was the Saturday night before Easter, and my fraternity had a formal dance in Louisville.  This is sort of like the high school prom, where the men wear tuxedoes and their dates are dressed in formal evening gowns.  My date that night was one of my best friends from high school, who was attending UK.  My college was near Lexington, KY (I won't name it to preserve my anonymity for this blog), and it was ca. 50 miles each way from campus to the hotel in Louisville where the formal was held. 

Anyway, after eating dinner with my date in the Lexington area (I confess, I took her to my college's dining hall, as every Saturday night was "Steak Night"), and borrowed someone's meal ticket for her to use.  After dinner, we bought enough wine coolers to fill a cooler and then drove to Louisville.  I was drunk by the time we got there, and I remember it was raining a bit, and just after crossing into the city limits my car spun out and jumped a median. 

At the party, I drank a lot of Scotch, and got really drunk.  Even my fraternity brothers had not seen me this drunk, but my date was a real "party girl," and she had a good time.  A few days later one of my best friends in the frat said, "Damn, you really got drunk and made an ass of yourself."  Yeah, I can vaguely remember telling his girlfriend some dirty jokes.  He and his girlfriend didn't drink and were very religious, by the way. 

Anyway, I was chugging Scotch straight from the bottle, and spilled a lot of it on my tux.  So not only was I really drunk, but I smelled very strongly of Scotch. 

Sometime around midnight, my date and I left the formal and drove back to my college.  About halfway there, in Franklin County, KY, I decided I needed a cigar, and these were locked in my glove compartment.  I was trying to get the key to the glove compartment off my keychain while driving, and was apparently weaving too much, too obviously, on the interstate.  Then the ominous blue flashinig lights appeared in my rearview mirror. 

The cop asked me why I was weaving, was it because I had too much to drink?  I told him, "No officer, I was trying to avoid the puddles on the interstate."  He didn't buy that answer and made me take the field sobriety test.  I personally thought I passed the test, but nevertheless he smelled the Scotch on my tux and then arrested me for DUI.  My date had to drive my car back to campus, and since she didn't know how to drive a manual transmission, she drove the remaining 20 miles back in 1st gear.  She crashed in my room, which was amusing as me and my roomate shared a bunk bed, with him on the top bunk.  Probably worth mentioning that my roommate was a conservative religious type like my other friend in the fraternity.  He didn't even sleep with his own longtime girlfriend, to my knowledge.  Anyway, he thought it was funny. 

As for me, I was hauled in to the Franklin County State Police barracks for a Breathalyzer test.  I was fortunate, because the cop didn't really know how to set up the Breathalzyer correctly, and it took him about an hour before it was working.  I think this was enough time for my BAC to drop below the 0.10% limit.  So, I blew a 0.09%, which meant I wasn't legally drunk, but I was put in jail anyway.  I can't remember if I called my parents to come and bail me out, or my date called them.  An interestig connection was that my date's father worked at the same company as my dad, and they were pretty good friends. 

So, remember that I'm coming back from a formal dance, which meant I'm in a tuxedo, and since I liked being 'different', instead of the customary black tie, I wore a hot pink bow tie with a matching cummerbund.  I think I made quite an impression on the inmates, as one of them offered me his bunk, after I sat on the floor for a couple of hours.  The jail was severely overcrowded that night, the cell was designed for 16 inmates, but there were 62 inmates crammed into it, including myself. 

Monday, March 3, 2014


Jihad means 'struggle', and I interpret jihad in this sense as my personal struggle, my own private jihad, against alcohol, and to a lesser extent drugs.  In 12 step meetings, various lengths of abstinence are celebrated.  Continuous times of being sober/clean, total abstinence.   We generally give out poker chips, or tokens with the serenity prayer on front and some recovery slogan on the back. 

Generally, the colors have a meaning.  The poker chips symbolize that we are gambling with our lives.  The first chip, or token, for a beginner with only 24 hours sobriety or less, is a white chip.  White symbolizes 'surrender', like waving the white flag.

The chip for 30 days is generally green.  To symbolize the money we seem to have more of now, that we're not wasting it on alcohol, or drugs.

The toughest, hardest chip I ever earned was the 90 day red chip.  Red symbolizes the 'blood we've gotten back into our alcohol system.'   I got my first red chip on November 29, 1989.  It was the first time since I was 13 years old that I'd gone 90 days without drinking alcohol, and no drugs either.  It was a very very difficult time for me but also an incredible journey, considering how fucked up I was when I stopped on August 29, 1989, a totally wasted loser.   Only 3 months later, my mind had cleared enough to understand my classes in my last semester of college (actually a repeat from 1986's true last semester which the results were I failed all of my classes, I never went back to classes after Spring Break).  And so this was a big deal, the college professors who had given up on me were now showing a bit of respect, impressed at my mathematics senior board exam score, the 2nd highest that year, although I was only a math minor.  My major was physics, and I wrote an illustrated (with 4-D spacetime handdrawn diagrams) on "Cosmic Implications of General Relativity."  I also finally grasped a good understanding of quantum mechanics and particle physics.  3 months earlier, as the semester started, I could only show up and stare blankly at the chalk board during classes, my mind was totally foggy.  

Fast forward now to 2014, 25 years later, and I again got a 30 day chip tonight.  Unfortunately, due to too many to count relapses over the past 25 years, I've gotten several 30 day chips.  Enough to make a tambourine with, LOL.  I hope this is my last 30 day chip, and I hope I can stay sober/clean for the rest of my life.  The binge I was on in January, only 10 days long and only drinking wine, was severe enough to nearly kill me.  Even 4 days after my last drink, I almost collapsed at the health club and had to be taken by ambulance to the emergency room.  I was so poisoned by way too much alcohol.  My blood pressure taken in the ambulance was only 70/30.  Nearly dead.

So I will be on a lifelong jihad, living 24 hours at a time, praying each morning for the primary goal of staying sober.  I pray because ultimately rely on Allah to help me in this jihad against alcohol.  So far Allah has been listening to my prayers.  I pray for sobriety and for the knowledge of Allah's will, and the strength to carry out His will.

I pray to Allah to help me find the power within, and to free my imprisoned spirit.  I pray to Allah that I may keep my eye's trained above the horizon, so that I may complete this journey successfully.

InshAllah, MashAllah, Amen...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


I am grateful that I completed another 24 hours without drinking alcohol or using drugs.  I am grateful to God for this accomplishment.  And I pray that I can go another 24 hours without alcohol and drugs.  So, living for the day, and not letting my ego get in the way, which causes me to fear for the future, to fear I won't have enough money for whatever, to buy status symbols maybe?  More Lacoste shirts, a new BMW, and the things I valued so highly when I was so unhappy and so in need of chemically numbing my sadness.  I once lived in a 6 bedroom 'mansion', with a high-paying prestigious job, and found myself one Saturday driving through town, steering my car with my knee so I could uncap the bottle of pills for a few 'hits' and then pour vodka in a cup to wash it down with.  A Saturday morning, when my son was a few months old. 
I'm grateful for my son, he's 10 now, and he gives me all the happiness I need and so I don't need alcohol or drugs, just my son.  And his mom has taken him away, to somewhere I don't know, and changed her phone number, despite nearly 2 years of little or no drinking and very hard work to rebuild my career.

And this loss, right at Christmas last year, was so painful that I couldn't take it.  So to numb the pain, I went out just before the stores quit selling alcohol for the night, at 10 til midnight, and bought some alcohol.  And numbed the pain.  I did not drink to get a buzz.  I don't even think I feel these so-called 'buzzes' anymore.  I only drank to forget this immense pain.  And I drank to pass out, and just kept doing it, until I came to 10 days later and was poisoned.  I ended up in a local hospital, with a blood pressure of 70 / 30.  Nearly dead. 

Today I am sober, and don't feel the need or desire for any chemical mood changing.

I'm not totally happy, still wanting to see my son.  Worried what he's thinking, too, as we were 'best buddies' for the past 10 years.  Does he think I am the one who forgot him?  I can only pray and hope...

Saturday, February 22, 2014


I went to an interesting 12-step meeting last night.  The discussion topic was, "What was the craziest thing you did while drinking?"  That was the first time in 26 years of these meetings that this was the topic, usually the topic is kinda generic, kinda boring, and mostly when I share I go off-topic anyway if it's the usual boring stuff.  The usual topics are things
like denial of one's addiction, resentments, one of the 12 steps, etc.  This was a very good topic and a very good meeting, and a very good group of recovering addicts & alcoholics.  I'll go back to the same group meeting next Friday for sure.  But, I was a little surprised that my 4-5 craziest things kinda shook the group up.  There were about 10 of us there, spanning the age range from 20-somethings, 30s, 40s, 50s, to a guy around 60.  There was a young woman there, kinda cute, and maybe 9 men.  I didn't count them, I didn't know I'd be writing about this later though.  Really, I was surprised my 'crazy drunken acts' kinda shocked them.  I knew I did some really fucked up stuff, but over the past 26 years of 12-step meetings, and 6 rehabs, I've heard worse.  I told my number 1 crazy drunk action only once, in Rehab #5, in a group session.  One woman cried, most of the others were a bit shocked at the sheer horror of it. 

Everyone who shared at the meeting had some real horror stories, and hearing the others tell some of theirs really helps me to remember how fucked up we can get, we addicts & alcoholics, when we drink and drug.  These meetings only last an hour, I waited until I was last, after 50 minutes.  What I shared really shook these people up.  I'm not insane but I do some insane things, especially when I'm really drunk.  Just totally out of character.  All alcoholics and addicts do though.  Or it wouldn't have been the discussion topic.  But I'm just so completely different when I'm wasted that I'm really completely not myself.  Like a Dr. Jeckyll to Mr. Hyde transformation.  One of the crazy stories I remember was from a guy in his mid-30s who went to Vegas with his buddies.  Right after they arrived at their hotel in the early afternoon, he went off by himself to gamble and he also got very drunk too, and in a few hours he lost the entire $3000 he took with him.  The guy still had $3000 in the bank, so he called his bank to approve his withdrawing the rest of his account, all the remaining $3000, and the bank approved it.  But the guy promptly lost that gambling too, while getting even more drunk.  So within his first 8 hours in Vegas, and he was there with his buddies for a week, he had lost his entire savings!  And then he only had $10 to his name which he used for a cab ride back to the hotel where he and his buddies were staying.  It was only around 8 pm, their first night in Vegas, and he's completely broke, and his buddies who apparently weren't alcoholic like he was and they were just then going out for the evening.  But this guy couldn't go, he was too drunk and also broke.  He just went to bed.  I can't remember how the rest of his week went, but I'm sure it sucked and maybe I didn't want to hear it and tuned him out. But this was really screwed up and really sad.  Despite this, after I shared my stories later on, this guy was kinda shaken up by what I shared.  I know this because he said so.  But he thanked me, he said to me and the group that hearing my tales will really help him stay sober, he just doesn't want to go down that road,  Damn, am I that fucked up when drunk? 

So what did I do to shake these people up, none of whom were newcomers by the way, they all seemed to have been in the group for some periods of time.  Probably had heard a lot by then in the meetings.  Anyway, I'll list the things I shared, in no particular order except the first one was the worst by far, the rest I consider just equally crazy.  I'm not proud of them, in no way am I bragging, but sharing them helps me stay sober when I see in writing just how fucked up I can get when drinking too much.  I am very grateful to God and my Guardian Angel to still be alive after some of them.  I could have died in a few.  Here's the list below:

The absolutely most insane thing:  When I was 17 years old, on a Sunday night in November, I was drunk and passed out, and my dad was drunk too.  He was mad at me for coming home drunk so came into my bedroom and started a fight.  It was a very violent fight, with a lot of my bedroom furniture getting smashed, and I was losing, so I jumped face-first through my bedroom window, and ran away, it was cold and I didn't have a shirt on, and I somehow ended up at my girlfriend's house, 20 miles away, at 1:00 a.m., covered in blood and bordering on hypothermia.  This was by far the most insane thing I've ever done while drunk.  Imagine, diving face-first through a window.  I had a long scar for a year afterwards, barely missing my left eye by 1/4 inch, it went from my forehead down to near the corner of my mouth.  I wouldn't come home for nearly a week, I stayed with my grandma, and when I came home there was no offer to take me for stitches despite the huge gash, and really it was never even discussed again.  The only change was that my dad never beat me again, he ignored me for the most part.  This made some women cry when I shared this in rehab group sessions, and one of the counselors seemed to be a little shocked.  I just look back at it, I have no real feelings or emotions when thinking about this or discussing it, I just think, "What didn't kill me made me stronger."  And I could have died, I should have gotten hypothermia with the blood loss, fatigue, and being in cold weather, it was November and I vaguely recall the temperature was in the upper 30s or lower 40s.  I was outside in this cold weather, bleeding and no shirt, for maybe 3-4 hours, and had walked-jogged several miles too, so I was exhausted.  Thanks Guardian Angel!

In no particular order, all are maybe equally insane, the rest of the list:

- When I was 23 and in my 5th year of college trying to get a 4 year degree, I went into a redneck, biker, topless bar and after the bouncer, in my opinion, seemed to have an attitude problem towards me I got up to leave, picked up a chair and threw it across the bar, smashing some things.  I ran out the door across the parking lot to the bar where my brother, sister, brother-in-law, and friends from college were, (where I was supposed to be until someone told me that just across the parking lot was a redneck, biker, topless bar so I just had to sneak out to go there).  This was very dangerous, I had just barely gotten too the other bar's door, and this was some preppy college hangout and we're all dressed in Lacoste and Polo clothes, but one of the redneck bikers caught me as I was opening the door but fortunately one of our friends was this huge football player from my college, and in the nick of time he came out and pulled the redneck biker off me.  We went inside the preppy college hangout and locked the door.  I had literally caused a riot.  A bartender at the college hangout called the police, and 5 police cars showed up.  Me and my friends and brother / sister / brother-in-law tried to go out the back door, but there were several redneck bikers out back too!  They were ready to fight too, these big ugly leather-jacket wearing hillbillies, maybe 20 or 30 of them, out back and out front swinging chains and clubs, and I'm sure some had guns and knives.  Luckily, the 5 cop cars and maybe 10 cops got there before these outlaws kicked one of the doors in and luckily they of course thought these redneck bikers were the instigators, the troublemakers.  Who would have thought a bunch of preppy college kids, no long hair or beards etc., would start a barroom brawl and riot.  So this all ended, no one was hurt, and some cops escorted us to the football player's car, he was a non-drinker, and so he was our little group's designated driver.  Afterwards we laughed about this, and this story made the rounds all over my college, they thought I was a real badass.  If I'd have been 1 or 2 steps slower, I'd have probably been beaten to death, at least beaten to the point of hospitalization.  When I think about this night I kinda shudder, just 1 step slower...

- I allegedly threatened to shoot 2 Atlanta cops with an AK-47.  So I ended up in jail charged with 2 felony counts for threatening to shoot 2 cops.  Plus a misdemeanor for not answering the door, which these 2 cops were beating on late at night.  What happened, without the background of why these 2 cops didn't like me, was that they were knocking (actually beating) on my door on a Tuesday night, when I was home alone and sleeping (passed out) on my downstairs TV room couch.  Before that, I'd never been in trouble with any cops in my life except for a supposed DUI in Kentucky, which was reduced to reckless driving after my breathalyzer test indicated I was below the legal DUI limit.  In fairness to myself, the Atlanta and other area cops were known to have several rogues on the force.  I was dealing with some of them that night.  And also, in fairness to myself, although I'd been drinking beer that night, and really I can't remember if I just fell asleep from being tired or passed out, but anyway I was in my own home minding my own business.  And still being fair to myself, these two cops really were not on my property legally.  We found out that they got a judge the next day to backdate a misdemeanor summons for me to appear in court.  When I did show up 2 months later, it was at a traffic court and my name wasn't even on the docket.  Apparently they were too stupid to ensure the backdated, fake summons, had the correct legal system followup.  The judge dismissed it.  But I was still in trouble for the alleged threats to shoot the cops.  Anyway, these 2 felonies were dismissed without any trial, not even a preliminary hearing, because my attorney told the D.A. that he was going to make the central point of my defense the fact that these 2 cops were there just to provoke me.  And he had the facts to back it up.  The case was dismissed.  But I'm including this in the list, had I not been drinking a lot of beer, I'd probably not have gotten so riled up as to talk about my AK-47, which was really only a semi-automatic AK-47 lookalike.  Thus I consider this to be something crazy I did while intoxicated.

- The last time I visited my family (family here means my parents & siblings) in my hometown, due to a long-running feud with my brother, and to a lesser extent my brother-in-law, I threatened my brother, although in a general sense, and then threw a propane tank through my brother-in-laws back porch glass door.   In addition to the feud with my brother, which is over the sad way he treated my youngest brother who died from the consequences of alcoholism, and really also neglect by his family there, I was stoked into these 'crazy' actions by the way I was treated, like a dog, by my severely dysfunctional parents.  They insisted I come and stay with them due to the fact that me and my wife were arguing way too much all summer.  It seemed like they really cared about me, wanted me to get a break from my wife, and wanted me to visit too, I'd not really been there in 4 years since my brother's funeral in October 2007.  But despite this seemingly 'concerned' invitation to come up to their house to get away from the stress of a very unhappy marriage, as soon as I arrived they treated me really poorly.  The last time I saw my dad, I had to hold him up during my brother's funeral, he was really gonna collapse from shock and grief.  I really did hold him up.  When I walked in his bedroom 4 years later, cheerfully saying, "Hi Dad!" he looked at me, shook his head in disgust (at what he considered to be my too long hair) and looked down.  Then he looked right at me and said, verbatim, "You look awful.  You need to go get a haircut.  You can't come here looking like that."  I was really very shocked at this.  And being a mature adult just kinda said, "OK" and was cordial to him after this, the next few days.  He continued to bitch about my hair, to me and to my mom, and she joined in, starting to bitch about it too due to my dad's bitching.  After 3 days he just started to ignore me, in the mornings I'd say, "Good morning Dad!", and he'd just look back and not say anything.

And I'm sharing this now, about that last visit to my (former) family, because it has been a very toxic resentment that I've not been able to come to terms with.  To this day, almost 3 years later, I really cannot believe this happened.  That I was treated so badly, there's more besides the idiotic long hair nonsense.  I was going through a rough period in my life, just wanted a break for a few weeks, and this break turned out to be much worse than if I'd just stayed in Atlanta and put up with my wife.  At least she largely kept to her side of the house.  We literally lived on separate sides of the house for a couple of years, and I'd wait on my side until she left each day for work before I'd go downstairs which was considered 'neutral territory.'  It had been a very unhappy and dysfunctional marriage for years. 

Last night, I may have shared more stories of doing insane things while intoxicated.  I can't remember now.  Maybe what I've written above is enough.  I'm kinda tired of thinking about it now anyway, as it's another day and I like to start my days with a prayer and a positive outlook.  And for a change it's sunny outside too.  I'm hopeful. 

Am I insane?  Not at all.  I've taken the MMPI twice, and the CPI once.  These are common psychological tests.  I always score in the normal ranges on these tests.  Every psychiatrist I've seen, and I've seen the nation's best, the top ones from Harvard, they all have told me  I'm OK, except for ADHD.

They all assure me I'm normal, and will remain so, provided I do not drink. I pray I never drink again, it's just too much insanity. 

Friday, February 21, 2014


I have struggled with alcohol, and addiction, mostly abusing alcohol but sometimes drugs,  since I was 12 or 13 years old.  The first time I got drunk was the Easter Sunday when I was 9 years old, the first time I smoked marijuana was the first day of 7th grade when I was 12, the joint was laced with angel dust too.  By the end of 7th grade I was paying my friends to steal Valium from their parents and then I'd take it at school.  So, there have been many many times, too many, times that I've really fucked up, big time.  To be fair, when I've been abstinent for long periods, and I've gone without alcohol or drugs for as long as 4 years, and 2 years, and over a year a few times, and during these times I've had some huge academic, athletic, and career successes.  Made the news paper several times, and I was even on CNN and the BBC in 1998, as I was a UN nuke inspector getting ready to go inside the Chernobyl plant, and well there just happened to be a news crew there that day who interviewed me on camera.  So there's hope, and that's one reason I don't just give it up and end it all.  Not that I haven't considered suicide as a real option though, during the darker times.

Just a comment on suicide, it's been in the back of my mind as an option since I was 15, and the closest I came was one sad lonely night when I was 22, at college, and during finals week realized I was gonna fail all my classes.  It was my senior year and after spring break, I just came back to the fraternity house, spending the rest of the semester skipping classes to play basketball on the court out back during the days, and my nights were spent drinking and 'being' with the wrong girls.

One of these girls, the most wrong one of all, although I kinda think I'm not one to judge, well I had gotten her pregnant and she had an abortion.  Would I have been man enough to be the dad?  I don't know, she didn't tell me until months after she had the abortion.  I've been haunted by some guilt over this ever since, anyway.  A year later, I tried to talk to her and make it up to her, after all it was partly my fault, but it didn't work, the damage was done and she never spoke to me again.  I still feel guilty at times.  And she wasn't the only one, there were 2 others, they both had abortions too.  All three times I've gotten girls pregnant, I was under the influence during the whole time I was with these girls, including during the sex.  This was many years ago, once when I was 24, the other I was 35, and I felt bad about those also, still some guilt.

One of these pregnancies was with a girlfriend, we were both 24, who after almost a year realized I was losing interest and she admitted she got pregnant on purpose so I'd marry her.  I wouldn't marry her after she told me she was pregnant, but to be somewhat fair to myself, I vaguely remembered that I offered to be the (potential) kid's dad.  She said no to that, I had to marry her, or she'd get an abortion, and when she asked me to pay for it I said no.  So she got an abortion.  What was sad about that was that she was my best friend's (at the time he was my best friend and my number one drinking buddy too for a year) sister.  Somehow, he forgave me for this, and invited me to his wedding 3 years later.  And we haven't talked for 23 years, he went on to get elected to a state representative office and now is an assistant District Attorney in a big city.  At state lawyers' conventions he still asks my brother and brother-in-law (both are attorneys) how I'm doing.  I'm very grateful for his forgiveness, we were very close when we were friends.  I still feel the guilt though.

Those are just examples of how alcohol causes me to fuck up.  It's not just car wrecks or going to jail.  My fucking up has fucked up some lives.  I feel guilty and always will. 

Over the years, parents, brothers, sister, teachers, friends, bosses, co-workers, and mostly myself, wonder whether I've just fucked up (as in the verb 'to fuck up' meaning to make a mistake or fail), or whether I AM a fuckup (as in the noun 'fuckup' meaning someone who just can't get it right.

But I've come to realize, that I am NOT a fuckup, just someone who tends to fuck up when I'm intoxicated.

Curiously, when I've been abstinent, or sober, or dry, or clean, whichever term you choose, and I've had several long periods without alcohol or drugs in my life like I wrote earlier, but during these times I may have made some mistakes, but I've never really fucked up.  And during those periods, I've actually had some phenomenal successes.  Made a lot of money too.  At one point I can say I was wealthy, whether that's a relative term or not.  I really did live in a huge, really huge, house at one time, with rich neighbors and prestige, etc.  And interestingly, I was probably the most screwed up in terms of alcohol and drugs during this time.  I remember driving back to my huge house one Saturday morning around 10:30 a.m., with a newly filled prescription of Adderall when at that time I really abused a lot, and while I was driving I was pouring some vodka into a cup of orange juice using my knee to guide the steering wheel through town.  And my son was just recently born, a wonderful little boy whose birth was really a miracle, there were so many complications during this pregnancy,  and the previous attempt a year before ended in a miscarriage. 

I don't live in a huge house now, I live in a hotel. I don't mind, I've learned not to be so arrogant and worked hard on corralling my ego.  In fact I'm kinda happy, content, although currently I don't have a job.  I'm alive today, and sober.  I pray each morning and thank God for my son, my health, my life, and my sobriety.

I hope I never drink or abuse drugs again.  And the last binge was so poisonous I ended up in the hospital four days after it was over, barely alive with a blood pressure of 70 over 30, which I had to be taken to the emergency room by ambulance.  I kinda collapsed at the gym, four days after my last drink, and even during this 5 day hospital stay the blood tests told the doctors I was going through alcohol withdrawal, and really this was shocking, because when the doctors asked me about this it had been nearly a week since my last drink.  The last binge, I'd gone 47 weeks without drinking and then was feeling really depressed, and instead of calling my friends, I just isolated all day until midnight and went on a 10 day spree of drinking of 5 or 6 bottles of wine each day.  That's just an estimate, I may have drank more, but I was really out of it and don't remember much after day 1 of this binge.  When I was too sick to get out of bed, much less go by more alcohol, on day 10, it was an agonizing day of physical, mental, and emotional pain.  The worst day of my life.  I think (I hope) it was so bad that I'll never forget this pain and this will deter me from ever taking a drink again.  I can say that during this binge I never felt any of the usual 'buzz' from the drinking, I was drinking to forget whatever was making me sad.  I drank it fast so I'd just pass out quickly.  When I came to, I'd just repeat as needed to dull the pain.  There was a convenience store within walking distance, and by day 10 I'd nearly drank all of their wine, and bought some beer too.  Beer makes me puke, I've drank & puked so much beer over the past 37 years that just imagining the taste has literally made me puke.  I can really make my self puke at will, just by imagining the taste of beer, wine, or liquor.  I think that's a good thing, though, and gives me some confidence that the thought of the taste of any kind of alcohol makes me puke, and also that it doesn't give me the feel-good 'buzz' anymore.  I've gone to one 12-step meeting each day since I got out of the hospital, sometimes 2 a day.  And call my friends each day.  There's hope, I'm cautiously optimistic.  I pray every morning too, for God to watch over me and keep me sober.  I am sure the next drink, and resulting binge, will kill me.  I just know it. 

I'm still alive, and I'm grateful for that.  I'll see more successes, I'm sure.

I'm not a fuckup, I just fuck up when I'm intoxicated.

One more drink and I truly believe I'll end up dead.  I pray my Guardian Angel watches over me, and I pray that it's God's will that I live alcohol and drug free for the rest of my life. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

REHAB #3, and some other thoughts

Picking up from where I left off, the story of Jail #2, which led me to Rehab #3.
So after I got out of jail, in December 2005, and lost my security clearance, which means I was suspended from my job (with full pay though), I ended up in Rehab #3.

This was at the urging of one of my attorneys, which my main attorney for the 2 felonies thought was a great idea to help me get the charges dropped, as I was under the influence of alcohol when I threatened (allegedly) to shoot the 2 cops banging on my door.

So it's March 2, 2006, and I'm checking into Ridgeview Institute, in a suburb of Atlanta called Smyrna.  It's a nationally known center, especially for treating professionals such as doctors and nurses who are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs.  Greg Allman, of the Allman Brothers, was one of their famous patients, as were a few NFL players, I don't know which ones, I met one though.

And one thing about alcohol/drug rehab, most of them anyway, is that they also have patients there for psychiatric problems.  And my first night there, there were no beds in the chemical dependence detox facility there, so I had to stay with the psych ward patients.  Wow!  They are really some messed up people, but who am I to judge, I was pretty messed up too.   They really do have padded rooms, where the wilder patients are put.  Most of the psych patients are heavily medicated.  And maybe once or twice a week, one of them goes berserk and tries to escape by breaking out the windows or similar acts.  So over the course of my in-patient month long stay, we'd periodically see an ambulance from another hospital at the doors of the psych ward, and someone strapped in a gurney on their way to a more serious psych ward.  Scary stuff.  I had a few conversations with some psych patients though, and maybe due to their meds they actually could converse quite well, seemingly normal except for when they'd explain what they did to get them admitted, some bizarre stuff.  Again, who am I to judge?  Threatening cops with an AK-47 is kinda 'out there' too.

And then after one night in the psych ward I'm moved over to the detox unit, a kinder and gentler area.  Mostly, alcohol detox patients are given a mild tranquilizer called 'Atavan' to ward off the shakes.  I went through the usual sweats and chills as the poisons left my body.  Every 2 hours we have our blood pressures and temperatures checked.  We're encouraged to drink lots of Gatorade and fruit juices, as our bodies were used to getting lots of carbs from the beer and wine.  Hard liquor has no carbs by the way.  I mostly drank beer but often drank bourbon with it.  I drank a lot leading up to Rehab #3, as I was home all day and not working and still getting paid.  But I felt like my life was ruined.  Suicide was an option in my mind.  I was gonna go hiking way way out into some woods and shoot myself in the chest, hoping no one would ever find me.  Just an option though, always in the back of my mind.  I never told anyone at Rehab #3 about this option.

My attorney in fact told me to say very little in the event he couldn't get the charges dropped and my Rehab hospital records were subpoenaed for a potential trial.  Fortunately he got the charges dropped with no trial, but my records were obtained by the government security clearance department.  They were fairly innocuous records, but the clearance 'experts' made a big deal of anything not positive, which in reality there are always non-positive things in a Rehab patient's records or we wouldn't have to be in Rehab.

But I was only in detox for 3 days.  I had a really good doctor, a psychiatrist who specialized in addiction, he seemed very impressed that I was a scientist and we got along well.  He was my doctor also in Rehabs #4 and #5.  And my counselor was very good too, a former addict.  So, after detox, I'm still on Ridgeview's grounds in the Men's Residence.  There were about 30 guys in there.  A few doctors, lawyers, some black guys recovering from crack, a dentist, and just a slice across the spectrum of society.  My roommate was a fireman who was a pot-head.  I never thought pot was addicted, and in 26 years only saw one other person claim to be addicted to pot.  But if he said so, and his doctor agreed, and rehab helped him, then more power to him.  His wife and kids would visit, they seemed like a very ordinary nice family.  He was a successful 'graduate' from the program. 

And for my first 2 weeks, I was on the 'buddy' system.  This meant anytime I left the Men's Residence I had to be paired up with someone else.  Even for the 3 minute walk down to the Day Hospital.  Every morning by 8 am we had to be out of the Residence, and our bed's had to be made.  This was enforced fairly strictly, the Residence had these Counselors who'd police the bedrooms after we left, and if we got too many 'strikes' against us for unmade beds, or walking across campus without a 'buddy', etc., we'd lose some privilege.  Cell phones were forbidden, but each of the dorm rooms had its own land-line phone.

Each day, we'd go to the dining hall for breakfast, and the food was really good.  All 3 meals were really good, I gained a few pounds in Rehab.  Remember, this is Ridgeview, one of the nations best Rehab Facilities, it was somewhat like a country club, with a pool, tennis courts, a gym with a basketball court and Cybex workout equipment, Stairmasters, exercise bikes, nice locker rooms, even a softball field.

After breakfast, we'd have a morning 'spiritual' service at 9:00.  Rehab philosophy is that addicts are spiritually bankrupt in addition to being physically dependent, and thus try to infuse some non-denominational spirituality into the programs.  I personally liked this, most patients did.  And at 9:15 some lectures about the nature or physiology of addiction or similar topics.  Addiction by the way is a physical affliction.

As for the psychology of addiction, there is not much really that one's psychological makeup adds to the picture.  One exception is that most addicts have some form of abuse during childhood.  Either physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.  My dad brutalized the hell out of me both physically and emotionally, I was bound to be fucked up.  I have been all my life.

But the root of addiction, plain and simple is that addicts' brains react differently than normal peoples' to alcohol or drugs.  We just get our synapses flooded with mood and pleasure regulating neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA and some others, when alcohol or drugs enter our systems.  Normal people just get a small increase of these and feel just a little pleasure from a couple of drinks or a hit of coke, and they can walk away after the weekend parties with no cravings, living a normal life.  About 90% of the population is normal, which puts me in the 10% minority of addicts.  It's a genetically transmitted disease also, and all of my male relatives are/were addicted, mostly to alcohol.

I say 'addict' instead of 'alcoholic' in that I think that's a more accurate way to explain the disease.  If I couldn't get alcohol for whatever reason, well I'd abuse the hell out of Zanax or Klonopin, or Adderall.  In Georgia, they don't sell alcohol on Sunday.  So, one Sunday I instead took so 10 hits of Adderall, so much that I started hallucinating.  I didn't hear anything but I was driving around and the fire hydrants were 'waving' at me.  10 hits of Adderall could have caused my heart to overspeed until I had a heart attack.  Just an example of why I call myself an 'addict', if I can't get booze then I'll still find a way to get a chemically altered state of mind.  I'd use Zanax and Klonopin to come down from Adderall, and sometimes for days at a time I wouldn't drink alcohol but do Adderall and Zanax.  Just a fucked up way to live.  I'd always go back to the alcohol though, I loved that feeling.  Sometimes, on these Sunday  'no alcohol sales' days in Georgia, I'd drink a couple of bottles of Nyquil, it has 10% alcohol and also a drug called dextromethorphan, which I eventually grew to dislike, the DXM made me feel too weird.

Stocking up with extra alcohol on Saturdays never worked, it would be gone by 6 am Sunday.

Anyway, despite my main attorney's advice to say as little as possible, I did get a lot out of Rehab, especially the daily group sessions.  The patients are divided up into groups of about 10 patients each, both men and women, and we just share our 'issues' in a group setting.  But to be honest, I mostly used these sessions to tell jokes and make funny comments.  I was kinda serious about Rehab, grateful for the opportunity to help me stop drinking, but kinda thought it was too much fun at times, like a frat house without booze, probably the country club atmosphere.  But maybe it was good we can laugh again despite the circumstances?

One thing that helped was that the patients all sort of bonded.  There were some really awesome people in Rehab.  My favorite was this woman named Magdalena.  She was 38, had a husband and 2 kids, and was really funny, and very pretty.  She liked me a lot, thought I was too hilarious.  She was in Rehab for an addiction to Adderall, and was in some pretty serious legal trouble for forging prescriptions for it.  As for myself and Adderall, I can take it or leave it.  But Magdalena was hooked.  I never saw her again after that and I always worried she was gonna do some jail time, she was just a typical suburban mom, very sweet.  She was really cool too.  I wished I had a wife like her.

As for my own wife, she was supportive.  Every Sunday was family visiting day from 10 am until 3 pm.  My son was 2 years and 10 months old.  He would run to me every Sunday and jump on me, we'd just hug each other, then play some games or ball for 3 hours.  He never cried when he left at 3 pm, but he looked very sad and asked me why I wasn't coming home.  A big reason I try to stay away these days from alcohol and drugs is for my son.  It's for myself too, but he's my main inspiration.  I cannot say how many times I haven't been there for him, even when I was there, due to being intoxicated.  He's 10 now, he's very smart, and over the years he'd find a hidden bottle and take it to my wife, he knows alcohol is what killed my youngest brother and it's in his mind that drinking alcohol is inherently fatal.  Once I ordered a beer in a restaurant when he was with me, and my father-in-law.  He almost cried to see me drink one beer.  So I have this powerful motivation to stay 'clean'.

In the medical checkup at Ridgeview, on my 1st night in they took blood samples and did the usual tests, I was told I had liver damage, the related enzymes were 10 times the normal levels which indicated some damage.  Curiously, I went to my family doctor 3 weeks later for a physical, and these enzymes were at normal levels.  I always thought that there was something special about my physical makeup, because I was able to play full court basketball during Rehab #3 against the 20-somethings and did very well.  I played soccer and track in college, I'm just lucky to have played sports and worked out most of my life.  This was when I was 42 years old, now I'm 50, I don't know what kind of shape I'm in now, and surely I've damaged my body as I've since gone out and drank after Rehab #3, as recently as last month.

I was in the hospital 3 weeks ago, I just almost collapsed at the health club.  After being totally abstinent for 47 weeks, I went on a 10 day binge and drank really a lot those 10 days to the point I could not get out of bed on day 10.  That's how my binges end, I'm so poisoned I cannot walk or function.  But 4 days of sobriety and I'm overdoing it at the gym and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital, my blood pressure was 70 over 30.  I was exhaustion, dehydration, detoxing, and diabetes.  I was in from Sunday night until Thursday afternoon.  On Tuesday, the doctors looked at my blood test results and from some chemical imbalance, they figured out I was detoxing from alcohol.  So they started giving me Atavan every 3 hours.

Even just a 10 day binge after 47 weeks clean, and then 4 days sober after the binge, my body was really screwed up to the point my blood tests told the truth: I was poisoned.  And so when I'm at the store and see a display of beer or wine, I look away.  I just see it as poison.  I cannot say for certain I'll never drink again, it's a very very tricky addiction.  But in 2012 I only drank on a 4 day binge in February then an 8 day binge in March, then no more until February of 2013, a six day binge and that was it until January 19th 2014.

Honestly I can say I'd rather drink cyanide, and I'm being honest here, than drink one beer.  It's just that I know one drink is too much while 1000 isn't enough.  And to have hurt my friend is all the more painful emotionally, she was my favorite person after my son, and now who knows.  I just pray each day she'll understand what happens to me when I'm under the influence, a lot of alcohol, and when this happens I'm just not myself and do & say (& text) things that way out of character.  I'm just not myself when intoxicated.  I hope my friends understand.

I hope one very special and dear friend in particular understands and she forgives me, and we can be friends again.  I pray for this everyday, down on my knees. 

So Rehab #3, after 30 days in the Residence I could go home, but had to come back for 3 more weeks of outpatient group sessions and lectures.  I paid for this, plus part of the in-patient, out of my own money, about $20K.  It was worth it.  And I actually 'graduated', they have a little ceremony for those completing the program, we get a 'coin' with the Serenity Prayer on it:
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

I say this prayer at least once a day.  

And I was sober for 13 months after completing Rehab #3.  One thing which important to recovering from addiction is family support.  My wife supported me pretty well through this, she was really happy to have the 'normal' me back in her life.  But my parents, brothers, sister, etc., not really.  And on my first visit to my hometown, 13 months later at Easter 2007, well just the way they treated me like a dog, and the feeling of discomfort to be around them, I couldn't take it and relapsed.  I don't blame them for the relapse since I poured that first drink down my throat, no one else.  But they're very dysfunctional and since then, for the past 3 years we've just had zero contact, no phone calls, mail, email, or visits.  I just cannot be related to them, especially my parents.

So when my dad died 2 months ago right before Christmas, I felt no sadness whatsoever, and didn't go to his funeral.  In a way I'm glad he's gone, he mostly brutalized me when I was growing up, always referred to me when talking to my mom as "Your son."  She's not much better, and no love lost between she and I.  But I miss my 5 nieces and 2 nephews and my Godson who's also my cousin's son, he's named after me.  In fact my brother and brother-in-law had me put in jail the last time I visited, which was Jail #3.  So the verdict from the judge was to ban me from my Kentucky for 5 years and ban any contact between me and my family with the exception of something unusual like a funeral.  So rather than beg my brother-in-law, the county's prosecutor for permission to come back for my dad's funeral I just didn't go back.  But even without all that, I probably wouldn't have anyway.  I just didn't care that he died.

What's bad though is there is a toxic resentment I've been carrying around since that last vist to my (former) family.  And this resentment, plus some other issues, kinda led me to my relapse last month.  I was really treated like crap by the whole bunch, and the reason to visit was to get a break from my wife, who bitched all summer of 2011 about minor things, like the dog I got for my son.  It was really threatening my abstinence, and so going back home these people treated me like an outcast, a loser.  All of them, my dad and mom included.  And I realized, this is how they treated my youngest brother, Chris, when he went home to try to recover from his alcohol problem.  They treated him like a loser and outcast.

Chris actually spent a few years there, I had to go to San Francisco to persuade him to come home, he was in kinda bad shape there after losing his job in 2001.  I thought if he was around his 'family' he'd bounce back.  Wrong.  Chris came home to some seriously dysfunctional surroundings, he had never failed in his life, was always the favorite kid in our family, and suddenly he's treated like some lowlife outcast.   He also was put in jail by my brother and brother-in-law.  They actually told my mom to get him out of town, when they should have put him in a rehab.  So with her 'help' he ends up in Lexington in some dingy apartment way out on the outskirts of the city, with no car.  He had to sell his car and he at least had the common sense not to drive, he had gotten so many DUI's that if he would have gotten 1 more it would have been a felony with a year in prison.   But, to me he was always the same kid and I treated him that way, unlike the others.   And he really appreciated this, I'd go visit him when I'd travel through Kentucky.  I regret not doing more, we always regret not doing more when someone dies tragically.  I should have had him live with me.  I should have paid for him to go to Ridgeview.  I've been a lot less selfish since he died, largely due to some guilt over not doing more for him.  I knew he was gonna die young, he was only 33 when they found him drowned in the river, not far from my (former) parents' house.  And he'd suffered through this bullshit for nearly 6 years.  Which is why we still don't know if he jumped off the bridge to kill himself, or fell in the river by accident, or someone killed him and threw him in.  The autopsy showed a very high blood-alcohol content, and the last person to see him alive was a bartender who refused to serve him and said he just staggered out the door. 

I don't know where Chris got his money, I suspect my (former) mom enabled him.  During his last days he'd go down to a local convenient store and buy some beer or wine and just stay in the basement drinking until he passed out.  Then repeat it, day after day.  My (former) parents just ignored this, they're that dysfunctional.  They simply just let it go on as if it were nothing.  To my credit I warned them to do something a few times up until he died, I told them that something bad was gonna happen.

And I'm happy in a way that he doesn't have to suffer anymore.  I can only imagine the hell of being treated like he was, my (former) family is cruelly dysfunctional.  I even think that some of them are glad he's dead so they can party without guilt.  Seriously, they're that bad.
And getting this terrible resentment out of my consciousness is gonna take some work, it's almost as toxic as the alcohol.

I can only pray the Serenity Prayer and hope that God gives more serenity, courage, and wisdom...