in hospice by my dads side
The struggle is real! For me most recently I have slipped, relapsed to heightening, freighting levels, and in response I have waged an all out war to win my fight with sobriety. I look somewhere to find the root, am I victim of bad genetics? one of my grandfathers was an alcoholic, as well as my father, was it a not so fairytale upbringing, moving out young, feeling judged at home, learning and growing up quickly? Is it how, excuse me, how fucked up the world seems, war, racism, divide, poverty, or maybe everyday stress like not making a living wage, turmoil in relations with friends and family and loved ones? I’m the sort that just give me an excuse and I’ll run with it. Drinking began as a fun, party, social activity, and man I liked it right away, however somewhere along the way it has become a remedy to feeling pain and trying to make it go away, only it only has proven itself to be my enemy, my demon and make everything far worse. Maybe its failed relationships that sometimes left me feeling used and not good enough? Or feeling I’ve fallen short as a parent? or as a true love companion? To some extent I’m at a loss and often feel lost and uncertain in my own skin. The truest excuse is that fault lies within myself. I do have a disease, an illness, I’m drawn to drinking same as the old cliche a moth to a flame. I react, quickly, without thought, without patience, without care or worry or fear, without regard. In short, sometimes I’m pretty weak and controlled. You might catch a hint of my insecurities along the way now. A quick scorecard, I stopped drinking in January of this year, I learned my father had pancreatic cancer which had a big impact on how I looked at drinking and the damage it can do. I knew my dad drank quite a bit, he used to ask us to get him a beer whatever, but I learned from some of my family that he drank alot and I found many liquor bottles at his house and my grandparents that he had stayed at. I began meditation and looking into meetings, AA, as well as a healthier diet, quitting smoking cigarettes, doing regular meditation and yoga practices, thanks in a large part to my girlfriend JIll who supported me tirelessly and religiously, I really felt awesome and proud of myself.
Let me take you to the moment I knew I needed to stop everything and realign. ,Jill was abroad visiting Nepal, India and Bali for a month and I was not slowing anything down, at that point of my life I was doing LSD, drinking heavy for what I thought was good fun, driving my car`all the while, in short I was living a sort of reckless life. I had gone out to see nappy roots with some young 20-something friends and sure enough dropped the ball, I got very drunk and again was tripping on acid. Jill called me from abroad and I was getting ready to drive home under the influence, a terrible mistake I made with regard countless times, shortly after our talk I drove home. The next day I had to had to face my consequences and that meant her leaving me, I instantly gave it up and went right to a meeting, my first ever AA meeting and felt empowered. For the next five months I lived in sobriety, a state of bliss, I was eating better, not drinking, doing healthy activities and doing it right I thought. I found out my father was terminally ill and made a trip to visit him for his birthday, this was super healing, we made certain amends with one another and the visit was soo important. I rebonded with family I had not seen in years and again felt strong and determined. Jill returned and we living together now made us closer. The months flew by but then I got the call I needed to get to Buffalo quick my fathers health was slipping. Jill, my son Brendan and myself packed up and drove to NY to find my dad bed ridden and looking very bad. It wasn’t but a day or two that the ambulance was coming to the house and picking him up to go to hospice. His last act of being able to walk was to take us three and my brother in law Joey to my grandparents house to get golf clubs for Brendan and I to play at home in North Carolina, how he found the strength to do this is beyond me! The next week would be extremely hard, he declined quickly, as we all stayed there at hospice watching the slow slipping away of his life. During this time my sobriety was tested, having gone to his house and having full bottles of top shelf liquor in my hands, stuff I could never afford and always wanted to drink, it made me shake, desire it, but my half sister Jenna talked me out of it. He eventually lost consciousnesses and layed breathing in a shell for about a day as we waited, slowly his feet and hands starting growing cold. In some of his last moments of having his eyes open and being able to talk we exchanged some powerful words and emotions. We all gathered around him as he took his last breathes, I placed my hand on his chest as his heart gave out and felt the warmth leave his heart completely. The funeral was close behind and before I knew it we were on our way home with a small container of ashes. I would have no idea how much this event had effected me till about a month later. We returned home and not long after Jill treated me to a trip to California and the redwoods! It was amazing, which I wrote about in a previous blog post, there I layed some of his ashes in a few special spots. Not long after returning came the most terrible time of my life, the relapse from hell!
I’m not even sure what it was that made me take that first drink, it was the anniversary of my five months sober, Jill had caught me in yet another lie, and when I say lie I mean I lied constantly to her and everyone with no second thought. The urge came in like a tidal wave, a flash of heat rushed through me, I had decided I was gonna drink, sitting in a downtown Asheville parking lot about to go see a monk speak about his story of survival, I pulled out and headed straight to the gas station and bought two tall beers. I drank them so fast and was ready for more. So it began, I had slipped, relapsed, and before I could realize I was in way over my head. The shame, guilt, sadness and disappointment raged inside. Those few beers lead to a month straight of drinking, increasing to a fifth a day, hard and fast, each time becoming more and more regretful, and the mode of self sabotage, self destruction was activated in full swing. I began punishing myself and those anywhere near me, I smashed my head repeatedly on a cast iron sink until I had a concussion, drove my car into a ditch so good it took two tow trucks to pull it out, and began to cut myself with razor blades and pieces of glass from a frame I smashed with my fist, breaking some of the golf clubs my dad had given me and then breaking down in a puddle of tears, all in complete blackouts, not remembering a single thing. It all came to a head when in another blackout I called Jill and asked her to take my to the er, call it a moment of clarity in the middle of a shit storm, I didn’t want to hurt myself again, I didn’t want to drink another drop, I needed help! On the way to the hospital I tried to jump out of car twice. I was lost and broken, I had reached my bottom. I woke up the next day in the hospital bed feeling fuzzy and uncertain of the previous nights events. I needed a major change and fast. I called a mobile crisis hotline and within hours they were at my house ready to help, it took a few hours of phone calls but by the time the angel in disguise had left I was set up to go to a detox unit the next day, life was about to change.
Enter detox, the padded room if you will. I spent three days there, the longest three days of my life. Everything was taken from us including our clothes, sporting new scrubs and hospital issued sandals, I was cut off from everything and everyone I knew, most importantly alcohol, it is just what I needed to be honest. Many of the people in there were there involuntarily, in trouble with the law and it showed. We were not allowed outside, which broke my spirit, I can’t stand staying inside for too long at a time. They fed us awful food and we were left with each other for company. Here I developed my seriousness to get myself better, I never wanted to see the inside of these walls ever again. Days passed slowly, we had a few groups to talk about our issues etc and I began to bond with my fellow fuck ups if you will. I heard stories of people just hours after getting out going out and dying after relapse. I began to read about AA, we even had a meeting in the unit, I began to write and put my full attention into the small meetings we had, I knew this was to be the start of my journey. I was slated to be here two weeks at minimum but on my third day I got word that my love Jill was busy on the outside working to help me set up a rehab, I got to speak with the transition lead and like a ray of sunlight bursting out of a huge gray cloud I was gonna be set free, enrolled in a rehab in Boca Raton Florida, they were gonna even pay for my flight down there. The wheels of recovery were spinning fast, I was excited and motivated. I was on a plane the next day, got to spend a night with Jill before I left which was awesome, I was leaving home for an unknown amount of time to dive head first into my recovery.
Enter Rehab. Before going there I spoke with the admissions guy Andrew who seemed pretty cool, he spoke of weekly visits to the beach, gym workouts, visits, therapy and on and on in sunny Florida. The picture of rehab seemed almost like a mini vacation with real help and therapy. However that picture faded quickly as I learned many of these promises were not so. I entered a glorified prison of sorts, one with changing rules, little freedom and almost absent therapy. I was roomed with three other guys, which luckily were great guys that were in the minority of serious fellas in the whole place. The rehab is called Wellness Resource Center and I would not recommend it to anyone in recovery, I would recommend rehab in general for those like me that need hard core change and simply cannot fight their illness on your own. I was a hopeless alcoholic, I cannot have a few drinks and call it a night, I’m compulsive and don’t have a shut off valve, one drink leads to a whole bottle, blackouts and dangerous behavior. I needed to be removed from my environment and the people I was around and my 28 days did just that. I was completely cut off from contact from all I know and was comfortable with, so I immersed myself in the process. I wanted to get every ounce of information, strategies and plans out of the program. I was in a group, a tribe if you will of about fifty to sixty others, some alcoholics, some drug addicts and some simply depressed, in a way we became like family. We had several groups a day and attended daily AA meetings in various settings, these groups were hit or miss. There was many groups that had little real content and saturated with distractions and immaturity as the majority of clients were between the ages of 19 through 25, some not wanting to be there, some forced there, some headed to prison, some this their 4th or fifth rehab and most of them not taking any of it seriously. There was some powerful groups, music therapy, trauma group, spirituality and cognitive therapy to name a few. Noticeably absent were things like mediation, yoga, exercise, nutrition and one on therapy. These things are essential to recovery in my opinion and experience. Small groups were better as they were intimate and we shared our stories and darkest moments and connected with one another. The AA meetings were always great, and developing the routine of going everyday was effective. I got a sponsor in the process and sober supports both who could take me out of the complex to meetings or to the park etc to do book studies or simply discuss recovery. This was my first experience with a sponsor and he was great! He walked me through the first part of the big book thoroughly, had me highlighting and underlining things, explaining how things related and shared his own experiences, all of which was priceless. Having had 20 plus years of sobriety he offered alot of wisdom and hope. I put in my work in groups and at meetings and became a respected member of our tribe. I learned to open up in groups and share whenever possible, this was invaluable to my progress as I had never opened up about my guilt, shame and addiction. The empty promises and limitations made it hard at times to stay focused as well as some old ghosts coming back to haunt me, Jill had found out about some serious lies I had told and the pain I caused her continued. My bottom was deeper than I thought. Now was the time to work, to change, to start a new life. I did get to the gym and began a routine of fitness, that felt awesome and became a bonding time with others. I realized I was not alone with my fuckups, many others had done alot of the same things and felt the same as I did, how healing that became. While in rehab I wrote my sun Brendan a letter airing out my regrets as a father and explaining myself for the first time, this was so healing for me. I had also brought some of my fathers ashes with me, he never sought help for his troubles and in a way I knew he was with me getting healing also. Towards the end of my stay there hurricane Irma came right at us. I bailed a few days early to seek refuge at my brother Kris’ house. In the end I got mostly what I needed, made a few great connections but most importantly had taken several steps on my new path of recovery and sobriety, I had tools to combat my disease and a solid plan to go forward with. My brother, his family and I bonded which was very healing, I helped him board up and we helped others, that felt awesome, a natural high, a first step of a life of service to others. Luckily not much damage came from the category 4 hurricane, but it sure was an experience to go through, I’ve never heard or seen such strong winds and rain, it also marked my first test as neighbors were drinking beer and such but I was not fazed, I was now motivated and resolute. My return home was delayed but I got out and on my plane ride home sat next to a lady that had been through rehab, was clean and sober and gave me some great advice and hopeful thoughts.
Lets come to the present. Today I am 42 days sober, I’ve got my first two chips from AA, I just got a super sponsor, beginning my step work, have a regular routine of meetings, mediation, yoga, exercise, I’m eating healthy again, started an intensive out patient program three days a week, have a great therapist I see, making new sober friends, speaking at almost every meeting and group, have my love Jill as my top support and have started a new relationship between us, a healthy, honest, beautyful one! Life is on track, feeling amazing and the future looks hopeful and full of light. I do a daily morning mediation with an AA group who I consider my mentors, I attend a weekly Buddhist mediation group, who have became my people, as well a community yoga group that is wonderful, I started refuge recovery which is a different take on the 12 steps and rather refreshing. All this is so fulfilling as I continue my work and so necessary. I never could imagine I would feel like this or leading this life, I’ve found a new tribe and I’m winning the war! I’ve come along way in a short time, but this path is to last the rest of my life, I have so many, many miles to go, it is a daily fight, a daily struggle, a daily practice, a daily routine, a life one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. I love something I heard along the way, while I’m in these rooms getting sober my addiction is out in the parking lot doing pushups, waiting on me to slip. I know this is literally a matter of life and death for me. It’s like fighting cancer, I have to do everything in my power to stay healthy. I’m living a life of clarity, I’m finding my highest, truest self, I’m finding and getting touch with my higher power, connecting, I’m getting stronger, I’m living the life I couldn’t imagine a few months ago. I’m the man I always wanted to be. Jill has come to meetings with me and gone to al-anon on her own and has been such a rock for me, our relationship has gotten so much deeper, it speaks volumes her dedication and support and understanding, I’ve definitely put her through the wringer and still here she is by my side, amazing! I’ve come to understand my allergy, illness to more in depth levels, diving in to the cognitive aspects, the physical effects and the spiritual pieces, all of which play major roles in getting sober and staying that way. My goal eventually is to be a sponsor and work in the field of recovery and help others who struggle with the sickness. I’ve had to rearrange my lifestyle, my circle of friends and mentors and my study and though it’s been hard and challenging it’s all worth it all….my higher power has always answered my cries for help and guidance, I am so grateful and humbled. I honor all those who have helped me, the many doctors, workers and everyday people in the programs, all that without I’d be still in state of arrested development, lost and slowly still killing myself. If you suffer from any kind of addiction you need to seek the help that’s readily available and the power of manifestation is real, think it, believe it and live it ya’ll (: That’s my short story of getting sober with many chapters yet to write, thanks for reading. Upon returning home I returned to the forest with my baby and hauled in 16 pounds of chaga mushroom! I’ll be writing about that in my next post stay tuned…….