This blog post was inspired by my favorite part of the day, going home to my family after work!
Turn Frustration into Joy
For every moment of pure joy I experience with Bubba, they’re moments of pure frustration. I’ve learned that when I come home from work, he’s ready to see me no matter my mental status, which is usually between stabbing my eye with a dull pencil and road rage without intent.
The gauntlet of a typical day as a clinician, has me dealing with people like me, the first 37 years of my life. That person is an insane individual, insanity level being between psychosis and the sworn revelation of events from psychosis. So not exactly playing with a full deck.
However, daily balance comes in the form of a wild, relentless, no fear, built like a truck two-year old. My boundary from work life to home life is literally at my front door. On good days, it’s as I exit my work place, but at the very least it’s my front door.
After Bubba crashes into me, I grasp my hands under his arm pits and lock them air tight! I then raise him until my arms can’t reach anymore, then slowly give him the dramatic fall to the couch, “Bub…ba..noooooooooooooooo!” He laughs hysterically, and then says, “guin?” So I repeat the process one more time.
One of the things that I experienced in becoming a sober dad, is being mindful of even though my day is ending, family time is just beginning. Listening to their day versus complaining about mine, which takes practice, allows me to unleash pure frustration and welcome pure joy!
Jaime Valdes is in his 7th year in recovery from drugs and alcohol while live a daily life of sobriety. He currently works at a South Texas treatment center for substance use and mental disorder as a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, intern. Jaime earned his Masters in Interpersonal Communication in 2019, and loves writing, melting silver, and most of all hanging out with his family.
My son is eighteen-months old. When I hold him in my arms, we connect. A boy needs his father in his life. He just does. I love when he brings me a book to read. He puts the book in my hand, then makes his way to my lap. He has a million toys, but he wants to play with the pencil on my desk. Or he will dump out the blue recycle bin in search of an empty water bottle that may have a loose cap. When I look into his eyes, I see purity, in every form; love, happiness, joy or even anger, frustration and hurt. But it’s all pure, it’s authentic.
However, when I look into his eyes, I also see addiction. I see the twenty-old who says he’d rather kill himself than get sober. I see the guy wearing red boots, slouched in the counselor’s chair; completely hopeless after his wife and kid left him. He would rather be dead too. You don’s see heroin addicts past the age of forty in treatment. You just don’t.
It scares the shit out of me. The 20-year-old, and the guy in the red boots ,once were innocent kids. They were once pure. At one time in their life, they had a million toys, but wanted the pencil off a desk. They tried to take the top off the empty water bottle for amusement. They connected with their fathers. Or maybe they didn’t.
My wife talks about home schooling our son. I talk about never letting him grow. I am not sure at what point you stop making decisions for your son. The girls are so independent and successful. My son eats Chapstick.
I fear the day he stops listening, not that he listens now. It’s my job to raise a man and teach him to say no to drugs. To open the door for a lady or lay his jacket down over a puddle. But today is different. Today addiction is preventing many things in a boy’s life. And the most dangerous thing addiction can do is create a disconnect between father and son.
The thoughts above reflect years as a drug counselor preceded by my own personal battle with addcition. While working with men of all ages, in their own battles in addiction, I can’t help but think of which path my son will choose. Ninety percent of the men I work with did not have a father present in their life. The unofficial statistics are alarming. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a sober father, which is the by-product of maintaining a daily life of sobriety.
Upon the New Year, I am not one to reflect on the past 365 days. Reflection for me, comes 13 days after. Six years ago, I was at my parents house, on the couch, slamming beers so I could come down off meth. I had $82 in my pocket, but nobody would answer their phone. Three beers were left, and I was coming in and out of consciousness. To put it bluntly, I fucked up again. With the seconds it took to hit a pipe, my life went straight back to were it had lived for the past two decades. My wife left me, again. The little job I had only worked one day at, I lost. And the insanity in my mind once again, woke.
I didn’t want to go back to treatment. But no one would take my call. Even drug dealers wanted nothing to do with me.
“You need help,” one said.
I even had to lie, to buy drugs. I had to convince one, that the drugs were for someone else. My options were this: 1) Die, 2) Go back to treatment. By the way, nobody should be in a place in their life where those are your only two options. That’s not normal. And yes, I actually showed up to treatment with $82 in my pocket, and three beers left in the fridge. (that’s the real tragedy!)
I hated treatment. I hated sober living. It was not fun going back. I was miserable. Again I had two options: 1) Die, 2) Work a program. So I gave it a shot.
I want to make something clear. I just didn’t wake up six years later, and have a family, career, education, sports broadcasting opportunities and most of all a life. Today my family and the people I have in my life along with the success Ive had at a career and education, are by-products of hard work in sobriety. Some days, I am so excited to go sleep, because I am so excited for the next day. Or, some days I want to stab my eye with a pencil. However, whatever kind of day it is, drinking and using are not an option. I woke up six years sober today, and I’m fucking proud of it! #stillSober
I’m still learning my triggers to alcohol and drugs. What exactly it is, that grabs my attention and sets my mind and heart rate into a false reality. Then it prompts me to think, “it was fun” and it would “surely be different,” this time if I use and drink. The trigger or a trigger, basically sets my focus back to time when I was using and drinking. And it can be literally anything that sets it off, like a song, a smell, the morning dusk, or the darkness of night. For me, a couple of nights ago, it was a scene in a movie.
It was around dinner time and my wife’s sisters and mother were over for the usual after work meal. I’ve been practicing lately not watching television, because I’m trying to Knick away piece-by-piece at a school project. One of the biggest challenges for the project is the finding the time to write. So I few nights a week, just for fifteen minutes I elect to write instead of watching television. That day was no different, but I was home early from work so I fell into a patch of time that allowed me to relax on the couch.
I’m watching what my family has on…(you see there, I’m already assigning blame!), and it’s movie where the boss of a company throws this “end of the world” epic Christmas Party. I’m laughing and enjoying it. The water coolers filled with tequila and the DJ spinning records along with all the employees in a drunken stupor don’t bother me. But what happens next, does.
The boss gets into a huge fight, and leaves the party. The scene is now where he is at on a downtown sidewalk, drunk and high, and someone who he does not know, screams from a car, “hey you wanna go party?”
The next scene shows him now at a underground shady-dark club, sitting on the couch drinking and doing lines of cocaine. There is music and club-goers, (ha..I’ve never used that word, “club-goers” im getting old!) all around and he has know idea where he is at, and doesn’t really care.
That was a gut check. I didn’t see it coming. That scene triggered me into a frame of reference like it happened yesterday. I felt as I was 1 day sober, instead of the 5 years that I am. My heart raced making my body warm, which caused my palms to sweat. The uncomfortableness caused me to fidgeted my body. My mind spun off, and for a split second I was in the club. Shaking the moment off, was no problem. My son was there, my daughter and wife were there along with her family. And just to note, this why we are told not to have alcohol or drugs in the house or hang-out with old friends in old places when we are getting sober. For moments like these. If I was at bar watching that movie, or with my old friends, this might be another blog topic.
So I went to a meeting. No, I’m not that Super AA person, It just happened to be meeting night at my home group. So I shook-it-off, grabbed my 12&12 and left. When I a came home it happened again, the one-two punch. I went to the bedroom to find my wife watching some movie. And like always, I got ready for bed and because I’m trying to have boundaries with Facebook, I start watching the movie instead of grabbing my cell phone. And this was this scene I fell into:
A romantic night, in a fancy hotel room and the lavishly dressed girl, downs an orange juice and vodka in front of her date. The guy said, , “Whoa, slow down.” The girl then grabs his drink and downs it the same. The she said, “what, that’s how I drink!”
So that just hit me square in the jaw. Same symptoms, accelerated heart, sweating palms, my mouth salivating and my mind inside the glass licking the ice cubes with my tongue.
Here’s the solution:
I pointed out to myself why did I stop there? Why do I allow my mind to play the first half of the fantasy only. I never went to a party where drugs were free and everywhere, then I realize it’s 11:30, so I shoot for the door, and pick up something to eat on the way home and I wake up on time for work in the morning and have a fun memory to share of the night before. That never happened.
Never, have I had only two drinks, like the girl in the movie. I’m just not that person that can have half-a-glass of wine, bite into my medium-well steak, while enjoying the spring breeze off my balcony in the hill country. For me it was always, two-drinks, phone call to my drug dealer and disappear for three days.
I never went to a party and went home any earlier than 3 days. It was never a fun and clever night of jousting between parties and people only to end up all with a big laugh, when the night is done. It just doesn’t happen like that for me.
So when good memories of you drinking and using pop-up, play the entire night out, and see where you end up. Because, well, that’s where you end up.
A loud screeching, yet familiar yell woke me up two hours before I was suppose to wake up.
“Colt!” she yelled.
He jumped the fence at 7am. He’ll come back I thought. But the I heard the bark. Colt has a distinct bark when he has something. So I got out of bed, put on my slippers and grabbed a light jacket on the way out to 30 something degree weather. I opened the alley gate as Colt’s bark got louder and louder. And there he is, in my neighbor’s backyard. He has a skunk cornered. Again. The tail pointing straight up in the air, Colt finally comes to me after repeatedly calling his name. It’s like he has a cloud of something awful around him following him everywhere. Instead of letting him in the house I put him in the garage. Manu and Kenny Boy start whining. I’m the worst pet owner ever.
Then it hits me. I realize on the way back in, I heard running water by the back house. Funny, I don’t remember turning on any water. Hum. But now I do remember covering all the pipes for the hard freeze except the ones at the back house. Of course.
I think about calling into work since I’ve never called into work. (Thanks Sobriety!) But no, I text Jodi and tell her I am not going to make it by 11am, I’m going to be late.
However before fixing the busted pipe, the girls have to shower. Then I kill the water. Take off the pipe. Run to the hardware store. This all takes two hours. The actual fix, 45 seconds. Of course.
I show up at work at 11:45am. My co-workers are looking at me like I’m more than 45 minutes late. I look at the schedule. I was suppose be there at 8. Oops!
We are short staffed, again. And it’s visitation day. Clients can have their family visit the treatment center. The gates open at 1pm. Nobody locked the gates. Family members are driving on campus 30 minutes early. I have to be the jerk to kick them all out. And everyone is pissed and not understanding at all, including me.
I end up in the nurse’s station that checks in all the clients family members. Everyone who I just kicked out, I have to check in. All the smiling faces! (Dark, deep sarcasm!)
I text my friend/counselor:
“I have million reasons to use today.”
I went to her office and vented. She told me her very new marriage is being challenges already. Ryan tells me he hit a coyote and it fucked up his new car that he just got, because his last car got totaled when he hit a deer 2 months ago. A nurse tells me she hit a deer on the way to work and it fucked up her front end. A client tells me he’s facing 20 years for manslaughter.
I realize my problems today are nothing. I just make them something. I realize everyone has problems. Everyone is fighting some kind of addiction. Everyone has $22 in their bank account. Everyone has pipe issues during a freeze. Everyone has some kind of stress and anxiety. There is no difference and I am not special.
And the cool thing, not once did I think about using or drinking, not once.
I had guest post that was really inspiring and heartfelt. It’s from a mother who lost her son to prison because of heroin. Please feel free to share, support and comment on this beautiful letter to heroin.