Well, here we are again. I went through a rough patch a few weeks ago. It actually lasted about a month. Didn’t go to any meetings and so on and so on…you know the drill. The funny thing was that I knew I desperately needed to go, but I was just like, “meh, screw, I’m not going, I’m not doing anything today!” And that’s what my recovery gets like. And it’s ok. I tell the clients I work with, you’re going to have those day or even weeks maybe. But after all you’ve been through, or going through, three weeks is nothing! Grind it out, keep moving forward, there is a reason for all this I tell myself. And now, as in right now, today or tonight rather as I type this, I can breathe. Because my life is so crazy busy with cool stuff in recovery and in sobriety that sometimes it feels like I can’t breathe. But tonight I can.
P.S. Be careful for what you wish for in sobriety, because it comes in waves!
So finally a day off, (huge exhale!). I guess my plan going into the hot summer days of the South Texas heat had always been to “grind-it-out.” However working 12 hours days, five in a week, gave new meaning to my phrase “the grinding summer.” I am not sure if it’s my addiction why I am working so much. You know, the whole, “take everything to the extreme” because I am a true addict or maybe I feel all the wasted summers of me not working needs to be somehow “made-up” in three months. Whatever the case, I do feel spiritually connected not only to the bright clear night sky that host the stars that shine upon the Texas Hill Country treatment center, but God’s creatures that run the drug and alcohol rehab, when the sun sets.
As the classes are done for the day, and groups are all out. I can count on Jim and Terry to be sitting by the pond, which sits next to the main entrance. I try to sneak up on them, driving my little golf cart off-road and barley touching the peddle to slowly creep up. The tires snapping every inch of dry grass and twigs, Jim spots me, “a mile away, he says with a smirk. Jim told me about the Coy fish that lives in the nearly dried out pond. I didn’t believe him at first. I mean the pond looks perfectly placed on the treatment center website, however up close, we probably could be sued for false adverting. (That’s Sarcasm!) I was sure nothing but minnows and the turtle I found about 3 weeks ago wobbling across the parking lot, were the only creatures that could survive the water. As Jim throws cat food into the pond to attract the Coy, Terry sits in a smoke-shack chair right next to Jim, staring aimlessly into the algae that sits atop. Terry, about 20 years older than Jim, comes to the pond every night. Just to stare. Into what, I have no idea.
Jim grabs a handful of cat food from the nurses station cat bowl. Which, lately a doe comes up all the way to the side walk every night. Right about the time the Coy fish waves his white tale so just the tip clips the water surface to prove me wrong, the doe comes and eats the cat food out the of the bowl. The white cat with the Chinese eyes, always politely sits a waits for the doe to finish. By the time the doe finishes, I make my way to the cat food bag and refill the bowl for Chinese eyes.
At first I thought the doe might have been “Daisy,” which was the detox deer that would come up and eat right out of our hands. Daisy was lost from her mother, and with a scar on her stout. Maybe from getting caught on barbed wire would be my guess. But like clock work, Daisy would be at the detox fence line every morning to eat an apple or cereal, whatever I could find really, and ate it right out of my hand.
As the night sets in, and the animals are all fed, the two “twin” foxes come out and play in the field. With my flash light I catch their eyes only. I spot one, then about 20 feet away I catch the other. Then they play this game of stop-in-go, or freeze tag all through the open field between detox and residential.
At last, I go and find the newest person on campus. They’re easy to find. They’re usually the ones that are walking around were they are not suppose to be walking around. Always by themselves. Always with a heavy mind. How did I end up here? After I instruct them where not to walk, I tell them one more things:
The traffic isn’t bad on the drive home from work. I think the school district in the little South Texas cottage town I work in either starts really late or really early. The curvy roads that slash through the hill country have been awaken with a foggy mist lately, which frost the windows but soothes the drive. The morning sun always catches me directly square, then it switches and torments the left side of my face. But this morning the sun hides as the dark clouds hold strong. About a twenty-minute drive through Mayberry then I hit the interstate which heads south back to San Antonio. Back to home. By this time, I’ve had enough of my favorite podcaster yelling online business strategy’s in my ears, so I pull out my ear-buds and prepare to battle the gut wrenching whine that we know today as “the end of radio.” Five minutes in and the radio wins like always and it’s abruptly interrupted by my index finger pushing the “off” button.
Then the real chaos begins. Being alone with my mind.
I do not have this amazing, crazy-successful, super exciting life now that I’m sober. I remember what Jeff said three years ago. I was living in a small college town just north of San Antonio, east from where I work now. I was living in a sober home that replicated the frat house in the movie “Animal House.” I was two weeks out of treatment, the same center I work at now. And I was desperate enough to finally ask someone for help. This time my life, it felt over.
I never took to the idea of having a sponsor. It just felt creepy. I mean put me in the Texas Department of Corrections and it’s like a reunion. At a club or bar I felt invincible. In the bad part of town, in a run-down house with complete drug using strangers, and I’ll spill my life story. But with some guy they call a “sponsor?” It’s just plain creepy.My first ever sponsor was Mario. And I was really uncomfortable. He had invited me to his apartment to go over the “Big Book” and when I showed up him and his wife were cooking. So I sat down and ate with them. Really, really uncomfortable. I wanted scratch my eyes until I bled out. I prayed to myself, while I took a sip of his Cantelope and sugar water drink he made and asked,
“Please Lord, please set the apartment complex on fire so we have to evacuate. Please.”
Your not going to believe this. But moments later, the small kitchen began to fill up with smoke. The smoke alarm went off and Mario jumped up and ran towards the stove.
“Oh my God Lord, I wasn’t serious, wait, just please don’t let anyone get hurt. Oh, and thanks.”
It turned out Mario had forgotten he left tortillas in the oven and they started to burn. So we did have to air the apartment out, however we moved the study pool side.
About 4 months later coming off a relapse and my third treatment center, I had run into Jeff. I had heard him talk before at meetings when the treatment center would take us off campus. Something he said resonated with me.
“I know I have another drunk in me, but I’m not sure I have another recovery.”
That hit home big time. And when my ass was on fire, I knew who to go to. I asked Jeff to help me. I told him I was tired and for the first time in my life admitted, I didn’t know what to do. That’s when he asked, “well what do you want, why do you think you need help?”
“I can’t promise you’ll be happy, but I can guarantee you won’t be miserable.”
“I don’t know, ” I said, “I just don’t want to be miserable anymore.”
“Well that’s good,” Jeff said. “But I can’t guarantee you’ll be happy, but I can guarantee you won’t be miserable anymore.”
So all that came true. I’m not miserable anymore and even on most days I’m even happy. It was just one of those moments that plays in mind over and over at random. Moments like those get me through my hour drive home from work. And I think that’s why I don’t mind the 2 hour drive to and from. That’s two hours I know for sure I’ll be sober.
So it’s been a really great year in all aspects of my life. I started 2015 off amazing with losing 20 pounds, starting a new
job and creating my first podcast and website. I also tried somethings for the first time like “drum lessons” and mountain bike trail riding with my brother-in-law. Although I’m horrible at drums, at least I gave myself the opportunity to try something I’ve always wanted to try. And for me, and hopefully you, that’s what recovery is all about, picking up where we left off!
So here are few things I learned in 2015:
Not just recovery & sobriety are a process, all aspects of life is a process.
Sometimes you just got to work with what you got, instead waiting for the perfect moment or thing.
I stopped looking for excuses to start every little endeavor over and instead, pushed through!
A few things I accomplished:
My Keeping it Sober Podcast. This was super exciting. Creating something from start to finish and have full control of the music beds, (I actually created my own intro music), content, cover art, editing, producing, promoting and seeing my product available on ITunes and about 5 other audio platforms was truly amazing!
My Keeping it Sober website. I literally own about 15 different domain names, all bought with the brilliant intentions of creating the world’s next million dollar website! And it didn’t turn out that way for any of them. However, keepingitsober.org I actually completed and published on the web!
I’m nearly a year and counting working at a treatment center in South Texas. This is huge for a person who is constantly changing their racing thought filled mind on what I want to do in life. And really just having that option is a true miracle!
Here a few things I did not accomplish in 2015:
My manuscript, still trudging it out!
My eBook, I keep changing topics and titles!
My health, I gained the 20 pounds back!
Here are a few things I will accomplish in 2016:
Create my first eBook, ( and I have the perfect name & story!).
Start a daily routine of health & meditation, again!
Provide content of true value to you, through blog and podcast.
Narrowing Down My Niche
When this entire blog and podcast started, I wasn’t sure who I was talking to and which my part of my experiences I shared, would be of true value. However today my challenge has narrowed into a more of a “learning to live sober, in an unsober world! Because that’s what happened to me. After 23 years of using and drinking, it wasn’t enough to just not drink or use, I had to learn how to live and function in today society and that’s one of my my main focus now of keepingitsober.org!
One More Quick Thing
Be looking out for my new website as well as a huge announcement coming out on January 13th!
Today looking back at 2015, I can honestly say that I have learned, experience and have grown so much in my sobriety that I can see the distance between the person that was active in drugs and alcohol to a brand new person who has let go and moved on. And that’s freakin’ exciting!
Jaime Valdes-Keeping it Sober
P.S. To sign up for my monthly newsletter for go to keepingitsober.org and sign up for free!!
Super quick, please fill out my 6 question survey that will help me provide better content for you in 2016!
This week instead of writing just one blog, I though I’d post my “drafts” from the entire week!
You got me.
I actually was driving myself crazy on what to write so I took 3 post I started (but didn’t finish) and fed them to you like high dollar steak!! HAHAHA!!! 🙂
So I was working on my website last night, by the way I have a “new look” site coming out in the new year, and started thinking. (Very RARE!) And I thought to myself, behind the podcast, blog and websites; through my weekly routines and schedules; and everyday responsibilities to the my household and family, that I am finally sober. And that’s all the really matters.
I coming up on 3 years next month, and unlike previous years I able to truly look back and see the addicted person that I am so far detached from. Everything from my thought process, to new friends and relationships have all completely changed.
I’m sleeping better. I mean way, way better. Im sleeping solid through the nights and doing something I have never ever done before. Sleep in. It’s really a beautiful thing when your mind is clear and not keeping you awake for every little thing.
This “new life” or “new me” is much more confident and proud. My motto of sobriety first…allows every aspect of my life to fall in place in random order, however nothing is above anything else.
For the first time ever this week, the thought of using disgusted me. That’s huge. Like really, really huge.
I think I’ve almost seen everything as far as items brought into treatment that are not allowed. And sure some things have merit and seem silly not to be allowed. And there is a huge “grey area,” because rehab is not a lock down facility and people pay to be there. But just in case your item or items falls in that little grey area, I wanted to definitely make absolutely clear that these certain items that I’ve personally have come across as people admit to the center, are not allowed at rehab:
Pills hidden in your passport. (Always a big NO!)
Syringes for the little baggie of cocaine you brought in.
The little baggie of cocaine, itself and the cocaine.
The beer, bottle or wine you drank on the way in to rehab.
A picture of your ex. From high school. And your 40.
A T-shirt that reads, “Rehab is for quitters.”
Your 15 purses and make-up bags.
23 different colored sunglasses.
A BB gun.
The lead guitarist for your “cover-alt band.”
Two mornings ago I got the call. It was truly unexpected. Unlike when JJ, hung himself and my parents drove 4 hours to prison to tell me. I sensed something was wrong when the guard yelled my name for visit, “Valdes!” My parents had just came to visit the weekend before. I felt it in my gut when I saw their faces sitting at the table, waiting for me as I sat down in front of them. Just like how I felt it when Richard was killed on New Year’s Eve and I got the “knock at the door” that Richard was missing, then later “the call.” It’s a feeling I get, all in the gut when something is horribly wrong.
However, when my wife called me back two morning ago, while I was driving back into town and even though I just hung up with her, I felt nothing when the call came in.
But then I heard her voice.
A voice I hate passionately. A voice I probably caused once or twice. A voice underneath tears. A voice that when I hear it, I brace myself for the next few words…
People, places and things have been changed to protect our anonymity.
It’s been another crazy work week. I walked into work Sunday night and to my surprise, Kayla, the girl who I found sleeping in another girls’ bed, is still there and has not got kicked out yet. I’m actually proud of her. She had every excuse she needed plus more to leave the center and go use.
I spoke with her in the middle of the night. She couldn’t sleep and ask if we could talk. I just listened. I’m not a counselor, but I do get what she is going through. Especially after just listening. I had been in her spot before, literally. I was client there at the treatment center, I remember one night I could not sleep, I stayed talking to staff in the smoke shack, even though I don’t smoke it was a perfect setting for someone days in recovery, like myself. I always said, a fifteen minute conversation could be life changing.
As her vapor brushed across my face, she told me her brother passed away by overdose. Her girlfriend is currently in the hospital for overdosing. Although tragic, we both agreed that was not enough to keep someone sober. She squeezed her throw blanket tighter, and said, “I don’t know what to do.”
The vapor smoke and smell took me to a daze. I want to say it’s almost a trigger for me. I quickly dismissed the thought.
So what I heard from Kayla, was she not ready to stop using. I don’t know if she’s hit bottom or completely miserable yet, however in today’s world, I’m not sure we have to with all the help and awareness around. Or maybe we do. Maybe we truly can not begin recovery until we are completely tired and miserable, however how do you get to that point at only 22 years old, like Kayla?
I did not put our conversation in the shift report. I think somethings should be left between to addicts. And instead of being against, I feel I need to be for, just like how I felt when I was client there.
So even in recovery, my wife an I live paycheck-to-paycheck. I know, life is suppose to be perfect once the drugs and alcohol go away, however we now know that is not the case. However, our life is manageable a far distant way than what it use to be like.
Here’s the deal, my wife and I get paid on the same weekend, so extra cash during the weekends we don’t get paid would be great! So I tried a lot of things. Some “get-rich-quick” projects, and some online stuff. But nothing really worked out until now. And it was all right in front my nose the entire time!
So these are the five things I did to help me earn some extra cash!
First things first, Identify what “extra cash” actually means:
So what does “extra cash” really mean? Put a price tag on it. I’m doing mine by the month. So I figured and extra $300 split between the weeks I do not get paid would give me a brief cushion. Set your price tag so that you have a visual number you can work with.
2. Start with you smartphone:
As I shuffled around my computer desk, I was playing chess with unopened packages from Ebay and Amazon. There was literally books and small merchandise that arrived days, weeks and even months ago that I have not even opened. All this can be traced back being bored and playing with my phone. So get rid of the apps. Make it harder for you to do feel good or boredom smartphone shopping. Take the convenience away and that alone will save you money.
3. Go a step further:
So you are off to a great start! However if you’re like me, no access from the smartphone, no problemo! A desktop is usually five feet away! So, in lieu of the greatest discovering known to man, delete your card info from your online shopping accounts. Again, take away the convenience, make it harder to buy something and odds are, you will probably realize you do not really need it, while you’re looking for your wallet. Now I know this is difficult, so do one or two at a time, and the rest will flow as you begin to see the difference in your bank account!
4. Check your auto-renewals:
So for the cards you didn’t take off, go to account settings and change the automatic renewal to off. On one my sites, I saved $54 on canceling subscriptions that I don’t even need or use anymore. Now I know it’s only $54, but think of it this way, $54 minus your goal of $300, is $246! It’s a small difference, but they add up quick, as I’ll show you in a bit.
5. Make 1 sacrifice:
Earning extra cash, takes a little of work as well. Either physical or budget wise. So I looked over my monthly bills and gave up the weekend newspaper, that I receive. Another 17 bucks I can knock off my goal of $300. I also picked up a radio gig, (3 hours for $100) and sacrificed 1 off day for overtime at work, ($120). I did this because after of countless attempts to earn extra cash I can use half that time and energy and just work 1 extra day a month for a guaranteed extra income.
So let’s tally shall we:
My goal per month is an extra $300. I saved $54 from my auto-renewals which brings my goal down to $246. Then I saved $17 when I canceled my newspaper account which now brings my total goal to $229. My radio gig, (which won’t be there every month) knocks off $100. So at $129, one day of overtime at work per month will bring my goal of $300 extra a month down to $9. Not to shabby!
The key here is to make value adjustments to your daily life and you can reach your monthly goal without having to start a whole entire business or work crazy hours at work. Saving money is just as good as earning it, and I promise you there cut backs, cancellations and other things you can do today, to earn you extra cash tomorrow!
So I’ve been watching recorded shows of, “Intervention” and it never fails. The person decides to get help, (trigger tear jerking music), then swept away to some resort in a “galaxy” far, far, away! Seconds later, they do like a 90 day follow up interview where the person is so so so thankful for their new found life and “in-debt” to the counselor for ever and ever. Then the screen go black:
Two days later Kamisha leaves the treatment center and relapse. Whereabouts unknown.
It baffles me on what goes on in the mind of an addict, the next 48 hours! And it happens every freak’in show! I don’t know, I see clients all the time leave the treatment facility and we get a call back hours later that they’ve already relapsed. I know I shouldn’t be shocked!
I just want to know, what (as staff, and an addict myself) we could have done different? Clearly we’re missing something.
Either way, have a great weekend, “Keep it sober,” and If you haven’t listened to my podcast go check it out if you get a second!