Six Years Sober: The By-Product of working a Program is Happiness

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

 

 

Using your job as a recovery program

I can’t remember the last time I went to a meeting. If I was being nice to myself I would say about a month. And I did text my sponsor last week. But yeah, it’s been awhile. I got caught off guard while doing a process group last week. I don’t announce that I am in recovery, because my journey has nothing to do with someone else’s sobriety unless I’m sharing my story which in that case it would be to give my experience, strength, and hope. As a counselor, my recovery should not be a tool for me to use. It’s unethical and unprofessional. But when clients ask, it’s a quick yes and I change the subject. However you tell one person, and the entire campus will know. My mistake.

In process group, silence and can be a tool, it also can work against you. I like the silence when nobody wants to share. It’s gets the group uncomfortable, and forces the unsettling idea that they have to sit with their feelings without using and drinking over them. It’s just a matter of time, until the emotion is translated into words. However, when the group ends early, and there is an extra ten minutes or so, I hate reaching. For the sake of time, I don’t try to drag something out of someone. If groups over, its over. No need to force something for the sake of time. And that’s when the small talk comes out. And that’s when they asked me,

“Sir, when’s the last time you went to a meeting?”

“uhh”

“I don’t remember,” I mutter. And dam, as soon the “R” left my lips I knew I was toast. The group roared in unison, “what!”

“Hey guys, my recovery’s not perfect, the only thing I need to do perfect is not drink or use today.”

Yeah they saw right through that bullshit and let me have it. It was all good, I probably needed it. But I did start thinking:

What the fuck, people who say you can’t use your job as your recovery program are full of it, so my disease says! I know, I was just trying to justify my lack of meetings. I mean I know my job isn’t my recovery program but dam if I haven’t worked with people like me for the past four years! And the last thing I want to do is go to a meeting when I get home from my 1 hour drive from work! (That’s my disease talking again!) Ugh…I’m just not feeling the meetings this summer I guess.

But honestly, If it weren’t for my job I don’t know if I’d be sober, seriously.

Ok, that was my disease again!

Sigh……

The Emptiness of Chaos

Early sobriety can be a tornado of emotions!
Early sobriety can be a tornado of emotions!

A friend of “ours” was sharing the other day and said in some weird and sick way he “missed the chaos.” And in some weird and sick way I knew exactly what he was talking about. Which makes our new relationships in recovery that more significant. People know what we mean and say where “normy’s” just thing we are crazy. In a way, they are right, or we would not be in the situation we are currently in, recovery!

So I knew exactly what he meant because in recovery I felt the same way. There has been times to where my life is so freaking peaceful that I physically want to scream to the highest level to break the silence of serenity! Maybe next time I should, however what I learned in these moments, and they are just moments, that instead of eating, buying, creating or whatever else I ran to, to make myself feel better, I sit and do nothing. I allow myself to feel the emptiness of chaos.

It’s a lack of, not a need. But somehow I feel like I “need’ to fill it with something that I think makes me feel good. But I don’t. If I sit in the empty void it will pass. Then I find that everything is fine and okay. I take a breathe. And for one more day I’m sober.

j

 

Staying Sober On My Day Off

Keeping it Sober
The only thing you have to do is change your entire life, one moment at a time!

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.

Keeping it Sober
Is that cat food?

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.

Keeping it Sober
Get your free guide!

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.

Keeping it Sober
Found this guy walking the streets!

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:

Don’t forget to look up tonight.

 

5 Days Of Treatment

I’ve been thinking about my friend a lot lately. He admitted a few weeks ago to the treatment center I work at. I’m really excited for him and for the most part he is excited to. 10

No one ever wants to really ” go to” treatment, however after five days you begin to see how great your life can really be. It’s like starting your life all over. You begin to set goals of things you want to do or always wanted to do. Like go back to school, start working-out or travel the world. And that’s exciting. You even have a great big fake smile. At least your trying right? And all of that is clearly possible. However that entire little “new and exciting life” phase, goes away. I mean, your only a week clean after years of abuse. Eventually, your body begins to ache. The reality of the real life situation you are in is just a phone call away. A couple of bad mornings is all it takes. You want to leave, not even giving yourself a chance.

I see this happen all the time, not just with my friend. And what it is I think, is that we begin to “feel’ the consequences of our actions for the past years or in some cases decades. And even if we were up to dealing with those “feelings” we wouldn’t know how. It’s always easier just to drink or use.

That’s were my friend is at right now. He doesn’t know how to deal with life, so he wants to leave. He says he’ll be fine and he knows what to do. However I know if he leaves, he’ll use again. I told him,

“so this is the part where you leave and relapse.”

You have to fight. You have to fight for your life. What sucks though, is it doesn’t matter what I say. It doesn’t matter what his counselor says. It doesn’t matter what his family says.

Addiction is the only disease which can not be treated, unless the person is ready. No one else can get you sober, but you.

If you stay sober long enough, you will run into yourself

     My sports show was canceled two days ago. Honestly, it felt pretty good. I walked away from it two weeks ago, and to hear it was canceled only validated my decision. It might be the single best decision I have made since being sober. And I like to think, that it was canceled because I left. Even though that might not be the case, it just sounds better. Besides, podcasting is the future of radio, just say’in.

   However that is not what brings the tips of my fingers to the keyboard today. I saw myself, yesterday. Like the literal, exact, addict-self who couldn’t stop no matter what.

Part 1:

I never work days at the center, however some financial changes prompted me to pick up some overtime at work. So I picked up a 7-3pm shift, which is really another world compared to always working nights.

The morning humidity added to the already aggravating morning I was having caused by a lack of sleep the night before. I didn’t take enough Seroquel to last me the extra shift. So my mind never really shut off the night before causing me extreme restlessness.

So working days compared to nights is a completely different animal. For example, at night, I stay inside the nurse’s station a lot all the clients are asleep, as to during the day staff has to be on grounds at all times. There is also no management at night. You are your own boss. However during the day, you rack up around ten counselors, plus directors of this and directors of that and directors of directors! During the night, your radio never goes off. It’s just you. Now that I think of it, I have no idea why I caring the extra weight at night. But just like everything else, during the day the radio doesn’t shut-up!

“We need a male RA up at detox to assistant with a client, please,” the radio shouted! (I threw in the word please).

“I’m on my way!” Anytime, and I mean anytime in life, you get a chance to drive a little white golf cart, you take it!

My motives, of course were ulterior. A few weeks right after the thunder storms that ravished through South Texas, a baby deer was found wandering on the property right next to ours. The clients and I started feeding it apples and slices of bread and it eventually started eating right our of our hands. So figuring upper management would probably not be to impressed with all the clients food we were feeding, “Challenge,” that’s my name for her, I went and bought a bag of deer feed. (you haven’t lived until you have walked into a grocery store and ask, where do you keep the deer feed, and the clerk point you to aisle eight!). So going up to detox meant feeding Challenge, and since I don’t smoke, that’s kind of my cigarette break.

So I filled up the red Folgers container and headed towards the back fence line. On the way, a smoke shack for clients was on the left. One person I could see, slouched over in the chair. I walked passed him not even making eye contact. Just wanted to feed my deer. As I walked back I noticed he was gone. I turned back on my radio and walked into detox.

Emily’s hair is purple. And it matched her scrubs. It was actually kind of pretty. So I let the usual joke go.

“What’s up?”

“Hey, so we got a client, he’s in room 4c, and we need to get a UDS from him but he’s totally out of it and completely hallucinating.”

I grabbed the cup and walked into room 4. It was empty. Three unmade beds and random clothes and shoes on the floor was all. As I started to walk out, a noise from the bathroom startled me.

“Hello?” I said.

I slowly walked toward the bathroom, cup in left hand, radio in right hand with my index finger lightly on the trigger.

“Hello?” I said.

My palms sweaty and my heart raced. It’s the first time I felt uneasy at work. I just felt weird. I’ve worked detox a lot, and I’ve seen a lot lives come and go. A lot of “day one’s.” Pretty roughed up. No one really has shocked me or got me thinking. Yeah I get the usual resentment because people are using and I cant, but nothing I cant work out myself.

A man suddenly popped out from behind the bathroom door. I dropped the cup and took a step back. My finger now tight on the trigger. Any type of noise at all, all staff could here.

I looked back to the room door it was shut. (This was beginning to feel like a movie!) I looked back to the bathroom, and could not believe who I saw.

Keeping it Sober,

J

Hey everyone, have a great sober fourth of July, and do not forget to check out my “Keeping it Sober” podcast, now available on Itunes or click on my podcast link!!