This is where that five-minute tutorial really pays off.

    Before they set you loose on grade four rapids at one of those white water rafting rides, they give you just enough of a lesson to presumably keep most of the people in the boat for the duration of the ride.  It usually works. Usually.

SON OF A...*gurgling sounds*

      The most important thing, they say, is to keep paddling. The act of keeping the paddle in the water has the effect of pushing you back into the boat. When you are in the boat and hit your first rapid, your instincts tell you to move to the center of the boat, pull your paddle out of the water, cower in the middle of the raft, and pray to your god of choice, lest you die a violent and terrifying death at the bottom of a rapid hydraulic (the scariest word I had ever heard when it was explained to me as we put our boat in the water).

    The last thing you want to do when panic sets in – and it always does set in – is keep your paddle in the water. The right thing to do in white-water rafting, as the right thing to do is wont to be, is completely counterintuitive. Recovery can be equally counterintuitive. One of the critical parts of treatment, is getting used to attending AA meetings (or NA meetings) on our own. These meetings take place off site, and we go to at least two a day every day we are in treatment. The idea is to get us in the habit of spreading our wings and taking the reins of our own recovery.

    As a newcomer, our instincts, when we appear at these meetings – which can admittedly be intimidating – is to cower on the back row and not participate. “I’m just here to listen, pass.”  Sometimes, that feels like the respectful thing to do, to defer to the veterans. And perhaps for the first time, or even the first few times, that is okay.

     But I believe our best bet for a lasting recovery is to put our paddle in the water. I have chosen to participate. I’m gonna say stuff. Even if it feels like the wrong stuff. After all, AA is predicated on giving away sobriety: newcomers are the lifeblood of the group. I would propose that newcomers should feel welcomed to participate (at most meetings). If I for some reason do not, I think it’s time to find a room where I do. I have come to the determination that this is something that is critical to my treatment.

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A Good Meeting.

April 28, 2011

I was told there was going to be a camp-fire, hand- holding and Kumbaya, and I'm not leaving till I get it.

    Group meetings are a part of treatment, everyone knows that. The group therapy concept is fodder for mockery in an uninitiated popular culture. And I get that, the concept is a little hokey. But it absolutely works. I had a fantastic meeting yesterday, and I want to give you, my readers, a little glimpse into the inner sanctum of the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch.

    Today, we heard from one of our own, a guy we’ll call J, who gave his “life-line,” which is a talk that everyone in treatment must eventually give to his brothers and sisters in recovery. The life-line is basically the Reader’s Digest version of our autobiography. It takes a lot of guts to give this talk. And the staff usually gives people about three or four weeks – at least – before they are asked to give their life-line.

   I asked for, and J gave, his permission to share this story. J is an affable, good-looking fellow just this side of thirty. Treatment has done him good: he is articulate, intelligent, tan, and has an extremely positive outlook on life. He looks ready to go home and set the world on fire with his talent and positive energy. So it was surprising to hear how the events that lead him to treatment unfolded.

   One of the natural things we do as human beings is size-up other human beings and compare them to us. That is doubly true in treatment; how do these people and their problems stack up to my own? Natural as it is that we do this, we’re not necessarily any good at it. I had J all wrong. Which goes to show that judgmental-ism is more art than science. And it’s a dark art.

   It is a credit to the work that he has done here that when I arrived, I assumed that J probably didn’t have a problem on the level I did (he was about 70 days in when I got here). After all, people arrive here in all different phases on the hot-mess scale: not all drug problems are created alike, or so my thinking goes. That thinking is flawed, evidenced by the fact that it only ever seems to surface in concert with two negative emotions: shame (e.g., “I don’t deserve forgiveness; what I did was too bad.”) and vanity (e.g., “Ha, my problem was way worse than your problem.”). I had sized J up along the lines of the latter: I thought there was no way he could relate to my problems. Until, that is, he started to tell his story.

    J talked for almost a full hour about his history with drug abuse, and we are substance-abuse soul mates. He was unflinching in his honesty. He wasn’t afraid to let us see his emotions. He cried early and often, particularly when he discussed his family, for whom he obviously has great affection. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house; I was overcome myself, several times during his talk.

    I connected with J’s story in a very powerful way, because his story is my story. So many features do we share: same substances, same crazy drug-addled psychosis, same feelings of guilt for letting our families down. J spoke at length about how hard it is for him to forgive himself for putting his family through such a long ordeal.

     The cycle of active use-getting clean-relapse, along with all the lies that we tell our family in the process, is devastating for our loved ones. And right now, we have nothing but time, and none of the crutches or coping mechanisms that we had before, so that guilt and shame is REALLY raw. As I have indicated before, I have been working on my problem for the better part of 15 years. I can’t tell you how many come-to-Jesus conversations I’ve had with my parents, my brother, my friends over the years. It’s enough to just about kill a parent. Or a sibling. Or a spouse.

    More times than I can count, my inner circle has had to stop what they were doing to try to put Humpty Dumpty back to together again. J’s story is almost identical along these lines. The pain I saw in his face when he discussed what he has put his family through over the years – particularly his mother – was like an arrow through my heart.

    I hurt for J, because I can relate to so much to his story. After he finished his life-line, we had an opportunity to give feedback. When it was my turn, I tried to tell him how much I could understood because of what I had put my family through, and I fell apart. And J fell apart again. Two tough-guys in a room full of people crying like babies, and no one was laughing at us or judging. Just total and complete silence and respect for two people that were working through some really heavy shit. This is why group therapy works.

    The most poignant part of J’s life-line was when he discussed his little girl. Almost the same age as my little girl. For a good portion of the time that he tried to talk about his little girl, J just sat with his face in his hands and sobbed. If we could have, every person in that room would have walked up to him and put our arms around him, and told him, “Dude, it’s okay; you don’t have to do this now.” But he did have to do this. He needed it, and so did we. It’s part of the process.

    So this grown man, with all the talent in the world and his whole life ahead of him, is sitting in front of us, completely unable to speak, unable to face us, unable to read his notes, unable to do anything but hold his face in his hands. So we just sat there for a few minutes, all of us in complete silence, until he was able to continue, which he did. This is a man who has been the most popular person in the room everywhere he has ever been. He is proud, intelligent and accomplished. He knows the joy of victory and the agony of defeat, in all phases of life. And because of his honesty, because of his raw display of emotion, because of his humility and his because of his willingness to share it with us, everyone in that room did some healing. And when the time comes, everyone in that room will be able to give their life-line. J set the example. It was one of the most courageous things I’ve ever seen another man do.

   I’ve known this man for 5 days, and he’s done more good for me in five days than my drinking buddies have in years spent together, getting to the bottom of a thousand bottles. J, your daughter is getting back her Daddy, your family is getting back a Man, and I have gained a Friend.

    Real men do cry, in spite of what you’ve heard.

J is on the left. The guy in disguise on the right is your humble author.

The Storm That Rages.

April 28, 2011

      Addiction is occasionally analogized to a tornado. No argument here.

    There are people whose lives will never be the same due to the storms that ravaged Alabama and Georgia today. My children were in the path of these storms all day. They are currently in a basement riding out the storm. This is the kind of event for which Dad should be around, or so my thinking was most of the day today. Then it occurred to me that I brought a tornado home in my hip pocket nearly every day for the last two years. And unlike the cosmic roulette wheel a real tornado represents, the tornado I brought home hit home. Every time. Which makes me feel like a real selfish prick.

In addition to being honest, Abe also spit mad game, yo.

     If don’t start being honest, I will die, and probably sooner than later. I don’t know how to put a finer point on it. If I did I would. Without honesty, I will relapse and die from this disease. I can’t directly apply my free will to an addiction and expect to get a handle on it. That approach would be doomed from the start. But I can indirectly use my free will to tell the truth, and telling the truth can in turn tame my addiction.

   I’m not trying to play cute rhetorical games (maybe a little): this concept is the single most important thing for me to take away from treatment. I’ve been in active addiction for a long time. I do not have a habit of telling the truth. For an addict to continue using, they almost without exception create a world that is built on lies and deception. Sometimes the lies are overt, and sometimes the lies fall into a category we might call deception by omission. But a lie is a lie is a lie.

I cannot tell a lie: I CANNOT tell a lie.

   It’s interesting to me that we have two Presidents who are noted for their honesty. Out of 44. Come to think of it, that sounds about right, and not just because Presidents are by definition politicians (and politicians are by definition – you know – scum bags). I think people who strive for 100% honesty are the exception, not the rule. It’s just not a priority for most people, which is odd, because most people are revulsed by the idea of a perpetual liar. But most people are unconcerned with the concept of “little white lies.” I believe that in my post-treatment world, I can no longer indulge myself that distinction.

Does this make me look fat? Yes. Yes it does.

   Lying is an action that is rooted in one of two emotions, both of which are fatal to addicts: shame and fear. Every lie is the result of one or both of those emotions in some combination. I posit that shame and fear drive most, if not all, of the awful things human beings do to each other. Think about it. Except for the few that are rooted in anger (which almost singularly drives violence), nearly every other negative human action or emotion is borne out of fear or shame. Prejudice, envy, gluttony, gossip, sloth, judgmental-ism, stereotypes, xenophobia; even that dragnet of all negative human emotions – hate – is very often, if not always, rooted in fear or shame.

   So I’m going to take my cues from a character from the real Disney World, a character who sets an example from whom we addicts here in the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch could all learn a thing or two. So much the more that he – like us – learned his lessons the hard way.

Pinocchio: providing pithy analogies since 1883.

Three a day, dissolved under the tongue.

    I have been doing Suboxone therapy for an opiate addiction for about a month now. I have detoxed from alcohol and stopped taking all other drugs, but Suboxone is an opiate in its own right, and I ultimately intend to stop taking that as well. The plan is to do that gradually. I will diminish my dose by two milligrams every second day. Two milligrams is the equivalent of 1/4th of a strip. This won’t be a pleasant part of this experience, because there will be withdrawal symptoms. Mitigated symptoms, but symptoms nonetheless.

Sure beats heroin.

   I have a background in marketing and advertising, so lets all bask in the glow of a clean and effective package design. Suboxone has an extremely well-designed, coordinated and integrated marketing campaign. The materials the doctors give out in addition to consistent branding aesthetics in the website and other marketing materials scream EXPENSIVE. And I’m here to tell you, that price is passed along to me, the erstwhile drug-addled consumer.

    And you would have to be on drugs to pay these prices in the first place! These things are seven dollars apiece. At three a day, that costs me $21 a day, $147 a week. That is outrageous. Considering that many Suboxone MD’s charge a monthly subscription fee – sometimes as high as $500 a month – I am slightly cynical about the whole thing.

    But the fact of the matter is, drugs are a lot more expensive. My opiate habit ran about $120 a say. THAT is outrageous. Am I better off with the Suboxone? Yes. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think there isn’t maybe just a little bit of exploitation of a captive market going on here. That money all goes to the manufacturer, too. I can tell you that the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch isn’t making a penny off of my Suboxone.

The Sad Truth, Part II

April 26, 2011

As promised. Part I is here, in case you haven’t read it.

Holy metaphor, Batman!

During this period, I started releasing information to my parents piece-meal. I wasn’t comfortable with giving them the full monty, I was too embarrassed, and I felt that it would all be too much for them to tell them the whole story. However, due partly to some events beyond my control (e.g., getting fired on the fifth day of a new job), I started to lose control over the flow of information.

I also recognized I needed a major shake-up. I was lucky to have survived this long, say nothing of the next six months or a year, and if something major didn’t happen soon, I feared I would become a casualty to this disease. So all on my own, I started to come to the realization that I needed to tell the whole story to my parents. But it didn’t matter because I was about to unknowingly do exactly that.

I was seeing a counselor for my depression – we had, in fact, only just gotten started – and she realized there was a major substance abuse problem that either existed because of the depression, or the other way around. She referred me to a specialist on the subject who worked in her office. I made an appointment with him, and just decided to tell him the whole ugly truth about my drug and alcohol abuse. It was probably the first time, ever, that I came completely clean with another human being about my drug addiction, and I did so in unflinching detail. Unbeknownst to me, I was ringing a bell that I would not be able to un-ring.

I had completely forgotten that I gave my counselors permission to share anything from our meetings with my parents. When I gave that permission, it was in the context of treating my depression. And since my parents were paying for the therapy and were very concerned about me, I felt like it was fair for them to know about my progress. It never occurred to me that I had given a blanket waiver for any treatment I received for any issue from any counselor who practiced under that roof. Thank goodness. If I had remembered that, I never would have been so frank with the addiction specialist.

I had barely gotten home from that meeting, when I got a call from my Dad. This was on a Thursday, and I was driving home so that we could go visit my brother for his birthday out-of-state on Friday. We were going to surprise him. Oh, and I was about 24 hours into withdrawal.

When my Dad called, he sounded completely different than he usually does. He just said, “we got a call from [name redacted] (my counselor)…” That was all that I needed to hear and I remembered the waiver. This lead to a cascade of other realizations. One thing I knew for sure: nothing was ever going to be the same. The concern at that moment was that I was going to have a seizure and that it wasn’t even safe for me to drive a car.

I was able to at least reassure my Dad that I wasn’t going to have a seizure within the next two hours. My counselor had misunderstood one fact about my situation. I had told him that I was in withdrawal, but that was just from opiates. He thought I was saying I had stopped everything, and cold turkey. Withdrawals from alcohol, as I have mentioned previously, can be very dangerous – even fatal – and often do include seizures. In my case, I felt like hell, but I was still drinking often enough that alcohol withdrawals were at least a few days away, even if I had any intention of stopping cold turkey. Which I did not (SHOCKING, right?).

Furthermore, I had found someone who had a little Suboxone, and I was able to quell the withdrawal symptoms for the remainder of the weekend. Which I had intended to do all along, because my Mom and my Brother deserved to have a good weekend, and I had promised my son a special road-trip weekend with his Daddy. Withdrawal would have ruined everybody’s weekend. That’s what it does. It had ruined Christmas for me, and I wasn’t going to allow that to happen again.

What I did do over the weekend, however, is stage my own intervention. I had everyone who cared the most about me all in one place, so we set aside a night to talk about me. I have a feeling that, under the circumstances, an intervention would have been happening whether I staged it myself or not.  But, since the hard part would have been telling my parents anyway, I decided to take charge, and I even wrote out a little narrative to read to the whole family.

From that point forward, my parents more or less made it their full-time job to find me help, find the money to pay for it, find the money to support my kids while I’m gone, and figure out how to provide for their mom while I was gone. I think we came up with a pretty good plan. And it was work. I had professional ends to tie up. I had personal ones. I had a few people that I wanted to tell what I was going through, and a few others I needed to kind of cook up a story for, so I would at least have the possibility of future employment once I return. Maybe.

Once we got back, we devised a plan to get me on Suboxone, detox me from alcohol, and figure out a long-term treatment plan to get me into, in all likelihood for sixty days (I will forever be grateful to Dr. Richards, the only person I will ever identify by name, because she agreed to help me come up with a creative solution to the many challenges we faced in getting me off to treatment; the woman is a saint, and has a special place reserved in my heart).

From there, everything started to fall into place, and right in the order we needed it. It’s like someone carbon-copied our to-do list to God. The more I think about it, I think he might have carbon copied HIS to-do list to us. (Can you feel me smiling through your monitor when I come up with something really clever like that ? I know, I need to work on that; it’s on my list.)

I have now more-or-less connected the dots between the last 18 months of heavy substance-abuse and how I ended up in treatment. The blog started about a week after that fateful weekend when we went to visit my brother. If I stop and think about the last few weeks, several emotions threaten to bubble up. I am extremely sad about leaving my kids, and about how I took a wrecking ball to my profession and to some of the people in my life I really took for granted.

A Happy Medium.

April 25, 2011


Riding a bike. It's just like ...riding a bike.

I’ve promised part II of A Sad Truth, and you will get it. But tonight there’s something more important for me to talk about. I believe that there are people who visit my blog to find inspiration for their own struggle – I’ll concede that there’s a chance this is just vanity talking. But with the number of daily readers I have, there’s a percentage that I believe are reading because they hope to find something that is relevant to their own struggle. This is an important post for those people to read, and it’s an important one for me to write.

Let me note one important detail about my relationship with drugs and alcohol. I am at the greatest risk of relapse when I am on either end of the emotional spectrum. Too up or too down: those are the places I need to avoid. Both roads lead to using. I don’t think this is unique to me; it’s almost axiomatic: people either drink to remember or drink to forget.

Right now, I’m definitely up. I’m excited to be here at the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch in an undisclosed location with undisclosed people. I’m excited to be around people who understand. I’m excited about the possibility of pursuing a passion for a living. And most importantly, I’m excited to be getting on with this new phase of my life. I feel like I’ve kept 15 years of creativity bottled up and it all wants to come out at once. Before I left home to come here, there were nights when I stayed up until three of four in the morning working on the blog. I feel this incredible pressure to make up for lost time. And it’s not just writing, I feel the desire to get back to art, music, reading…everything.

And I am savvy enough to know that this emotion will be a danger once I’m back at home. Mania is not my friend, and this feeling of wanting to get it all out at once is dangerous. I need to content myself with the eat the elephant approach to re-assembling my life. Same goes for carving out a new profession. Staying up until three or four in the morning, for example, isn’t healthy, even when I’m doing good things.

Incrementalism, ancient Arabic proverb style.

I need to be smart enough to know that relapse is series of decisions, of which only the final step involves actually using (or as the caption above suggests, using is only the final straw that broke the camel’s back). The using is just the tipping point of a pile of incremental bad decisions which, taken alone, don’t look all that unhealthy. But even though they don’t look unhealthy per se, they are irrational. It isn’t rational for a very recently recovering addict to be staying up until three in the morning, even if that person is engaging in an otherwise healthy activity. Why? Because it still represents excess. Excess is excess, whether the object is sugar, sweet tea, or cocaine. A mindset that embraces excess in one context has a hard time rejecting it in another. Why raise the degree of difficulty?

I am not a normal person. I am exceptional, like all addicts are. It’s not a bad thing in every context. But I do have to keep a wide buffer between me and danger. Wider than people in the general population. The “-isms” and “-ancy’s” (e.g., workaholism, co-dependency) the rest of the world labors under with little ill effect are fatal to us, because the road to relapse is paved with -isms. Working 80 hours a week isn’t good for anyone. But it can be fatal for me. Same with indulging an unhealthy relationship, indulging an obsession, doing anything to excess.

So the thing I am seeking is balance. A happy medium. The discipline required to stay sober is not nearly as simple as the uninitiated think. Avoid using, avoid people who use, and avoid places people use. That sounds simple. But it’s a lot more complicated than that.

It may be counterintuitive, but the recovering addict’s real enemy is excess in any form. And right now, the things that are tempting me are not the bad things. It’s the good things. I want to work on my blog and write and play music and create art and read and exercise and go to meetings and pray and go to church. And I want to do it all TODAY.

It is almost as important as not using for me to understand that I’m not going to make up for 15 years in a day, or a week, or a month. Rather, I need to content myself with doing the next right thing, string together some of those next-right-things into a good day. Then I’m hopefully stringing some good days together, and days become weeks become months become years.

The good news is that good happens the same way bad does: incrementally. It is overwhelming for me to consider having a good week or a good month. But I can make it from breakfast to lunch tomorrow. And probably do the next right thing after that. With that approach, I can accomplish a lot of good, almost without trying that hard.

That’s the plan. Tomorrow I’m going to give you A Sad Truth Part Deux, and I’m going to discuss how I’m weaning off of Suboxone, the only remaining chemical crutch I have. I’m currently taking 24 milligrams a day (which is a lot), so we’re going to do it over a period of weeks. Until then…

Day 12. I’m Here.

April 25, 2011

You’ll get part II of “Sad Truth” later today, hopefully, but I wanted to let you know that I am in Florida, at an undisclosed location, with people of an undisclosed identity. For ease of reference, I’ll just call my location the “Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch.” Because it is all those things.

This is where I'm not.

I found out today that the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch is totally WiFi, so we here at SoulWornThin can continue the Lord’s work apace. The Lord’s work being – naturally – to cure the world of addiction, one bon mot at a time. And since we have to eat the elephant one bite at a time, saving the world will start with saving me. It is – after all – my hand that is on fire in the header art.

I have been here long enough to know, that the people are great, the group is great, the staff is great, and, as I indicated to you already, I know the clinical director is great. So if I fuck this up, I will have only me to blame. Honesty. It just feels so good.

The Sad Truth.

April 25, 2011

This appears in two parts, due to length (and your short attention spans).

If Matlock isn't the gold standard, then I don't know who is.

I have lost a lot over the last 18 months. I hardly talk about my profession, because the toll my addiction and depression have taken on my family is preeminent. Also, I cling to a little bit of denial, I think, about the fact that I have created a world for myself with far less opportunity. In a lot of ways, this is the part that is hardest to own up to. A lot of people have families. Not a lot of people have the means, the talent, or the opportunity to become lawyers.

I am a trial lawyer. I was anyway.

I debated about whether or not to reveal what I do for a living for two weeks. I came to the conclusion that it’s almost impossible to tell my story without revealing that fact. Being a trial lawyer under the best of circumstances is stressful, demanding, and, at times, downright terrifying. There is a reason lawyers lead the way in divorce rates, mental health issues, suicide and substance abuse. It is a profession that chews people up and spits them out. And I loved it for seven years.

And I need to discuss it, because a lot of things in my story won’t make sense without this backdrop. I worked hard for years to get the degree of juris doctor and learn a profession that I expected to be in for the rest of my life. And I was really good at it. I am really good at it. But I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to return to being a lawyer. At the very least, it won’t ever look the same. I have burned a lot of bridges and lost a lot of credibility within my field.

I was making a six-figure income, I had memberships to private clubs; I entertained clients, other attorneys, judges. As you might suspect, I excelled at that part of my job. Which was part of the problem. In the south we have an expression for what I became: too big for my britches. I had a bit of a sense of entitlement, because, in my estimation, I brought in a lot of money in to my firm. I overestimated my worth. And when we got an across-the-board pay-cut in September of 2010, I took it as a personal insult. Suffice to say I would gladly take that salary today.

This period of my life includes one of the saddest chapters in this story on a personal and professional level, because it carries with it one of the worst human emotions, that of regret. I worked for a good man, and good men are not necessarily in abundance in my line of work. I worked for him for seven years. I clerked for him while I was in law school and he offered me a permanent job in August, 2002.

This was a man who cared deeply about me personally. He was a true mentor. He cared about the kind of lawyer I was, the kind of husband I was, and, eventually, the kind of father I was. He insisted on giving me the time to be a family man. He had a great deal of trust in me. And he set a great example. He was like my professional dad. I took a wrecking ball to this relationship. I’m pretty sure I hurt him in the process; he had invested a lot in me. He had even supported me through one stint in rehab.

We didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything, but I miss working for this man every day. Regret is a terrible thing; life is not a dress-rehearsal. I had an enviable position in this world – largely owed to this man – and I blew it.

I also worked with one of my best friends in the world. We worked for this same man. Our offices were next door to each other for seven years. Looking back, I had it pretty good.  I put my friend in a terrible position, because I was acting out in an extremely selfish way at this time. I know it was a miserable period for both of them because my friend wanted to try to continue to be a friend to me – he recognized a man circling the drain when he saw it – but he also felt loyal to our mentor.

When it was finally over in April of 2010, my boss wasn’t even the person I talked to on the phone when I was let go. I’m still devastated. I haven’t talked to him since. I had no idea how much this would effect me. Leaving that job was the real beginning of the end for me. There were some other fits and starts for me in an employment context (I held down one job for all of five days), but the short of it is I haven’t been able to hold down steady employment since the events described above.

And in a sense, thank God. Having a job and money masked a lot of things that were wrong. In fact, my status and my money prevented me from seeking help, even though I knew I needed it, and had for a long time. Somewhere around this time, I broke my hand and required surgery to repair it. Which meant a nearly bottom-less supply of oxycodone. Gas, meet flame.

So began the rocket-booster phase of my demise. It went downhill real fast after this. I managed to flunk out of a few other jobs – jobs that I felt were way beneath my education and experience level, as if that mattered. I had no sense of self-preservation at this point. And I was mired in the worst, most self-destructive cycle of active addiction I have ever experienced. My consumption levels of opiates, cocaine and alcohol were all at all-time highs.

What fight I had in me was all but gone. I didn’t care whether I lived or died. Even if withdrawal weren’t a constant menace at this point, I had a  crippling bout with depression that saw me lay in bed for days at a time. I would just lay in bed and think terrible things about myself. I would repeat lines over and over in my head for some reason. Like, “I hate everything,” “I am a complete failure.” I occasionally fantasized about dying.  I would sometimes just ask God to take me.

I had blown everything I had worked for my entire life. I had hurt the man who was my mentor. I was an utter disappointment to my parents, my kids and wife, my brother and sister. Embarrassed doesn’t do it justice. I was humiliated in a very public, very painful way. Mostly, I was just really really sad.

The worst part is I felt like I was a failure as a dad. It meant a lot to me to be a dad. My Dad had a plaque on his desk when we were kids that said: “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Daddy.” I truly believed my kids were better off without me. If you’ve never been there, with the combination of drug abuse, withdrawal and clinical depression, in addition to a (now-separated) spouse who reacted to my depression with anger, then you can’t understand. I love my kids more than anything, and I had lucid moments when I thought I was more of a danger to them alive than dead.

(I will continue this narrative in The Sad Truth II.)

A thing I like.

You don’t know much about me other than the dirt, so I’ve decided that on Saturdays, I’ll talk a little bit about my more wholesome biographical features. The desideratum of my 30-something years will hopefully provide some contrast and context for the  flotsam and jetsam that is the principal subject of the blog. Specifically, I’ll identify three likes and three dislikes a week. There’ll be some explanations and descriptive images and links, and maybe even some sweet tea.

Gimmicky? Sure.  A little hokey? You betcha. Self-indulgent? Absolutely.  It’s not even particularly creative – I’ve seen ads for protein powder that are more clever. “EXPERIENCE MIND BLOWING GAINS AND OTHER CAPITALIZED STUFF!!!!”  But my shareholders demand page-views – you know how advertisers can be – so I’m gonna do it anyway. Editor’s Note: I have neither shareholders nor advertisers, just for the record.

Three things I like:

1. Bill Watterson: This meek little man from the mid-west had a disproportionate impact on my life, considering the fact that I do not know him personally, we do not share a profession, and we really don’t have all that much in common. Bill Watterson is the creator of Calvin and Hobbes. Maybe the most understated genius in the history of genius. He is kind of a recluse, so far as I can tell. When he retired a decade or so ago, he kind of just rode off into the sunset, and he’s done little for public consumption since. But Calvin and Hobbes made me love words. I learned no less than a third of my vocabulary reading Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson also inspired me to be an artist. He  was an old-school guy who drew his strips by hand and with ink and his Sunday-edition strips  delivered an absolute masterpiece every time, without exception. Sustained excellence is a truly rare thing on this earth. Bill Watterson lived it, and he is one of my favorite people of all time. He is still perfectly alive, by the way. That last sentence kind of implied that he wasn’t.

Two of my life coaches.

2. Squash (the game): I am neither rich, nor old, nor living on the Upper East Side in 1984. But I love this game. Back when I worked out more and did drugs less, I played this game so much I lost ten pounds in a month. The ball is small and dead (unlike racquetball). And, also unlike racquetball, you have to chase the ball, rather than wait for it to come to you. Squash is chess to racquetball’s checkers. Well, it’s like chess until I start breaking racquets. Then it’s more like a game called crazymandestroysproperty. Seriously, when I lose, I completely lose my shit. I get so mad, it’s hilarious, because it’s not my nature to fly into a blind rage ordinarily. And the courts are just glass enclosures, so I’m going nutso for the entire gym to see. I wonder what people – say nothing of my partner – think when they see an otherwise-rational, adult human being go completely apey on the squash court. Anyway, all the great tennis players play squash. People are often surprised to find out I like it too.  

3. Beethoven: the theme for Armageddon (not the one directed by Michael Bay, the real one) and the return of Christ undoubtedlywill be written and conducted by Beethoven. Beginning with the trumpet solo at the rapture (a little evangelical Christian humor there; my father is a minister, did I mention that? Yeah, I know you’re not surprised). This will of course hurt Bach’s feelings on account of all the church music he wrote in his lifetime, but tough cookies; he’ll just have to settle for a co-writing credit.

 I grew up playing the piano (still do, for fun), and I can tell you there is no greater feeling than being able to play a Beethoven piece well, and no poorer feeling than making him turn over in his grave with an awful rendition of one of his masterpieces. Moonlight Sonata might be the most beautiful music ever written for the piano. 

As if setting to music the maxim that true power means never having to raise your voice, Lud also gave us the allegretto of the Seventh Symphony (the second movement, sometimes called the slow strings) which is one of the most powerful movie scores ever: it might have even won Colin Firth an Oscar.  I don’t care if it’s a home video of a burlap sack race at a family reunion, if you score it with the slow strings, it will take on a life-or-death solemnity. 

The Ninth Symphony (youv’e no doubt heard at least the final movement, Ode to Joy) is arguably the greatest music ever written for any instrument. Beethoven – who in my mind’s eye will always look like Gary Oldman  – was completely deaf when he wrote the Ninth. Let me repeat that: the greatest, most textured, dramatic, and beautiful music ever written, was written by a deaf man. A genius.

Three things I unlike:

1. Squash (the vegetable). Tastes like brains. No, I’ve never had brains. But I’m pretty sure they taste like squash.

2. The phrase “it is what it is.”  Take these letters, and rearrange them into something else, because what you are giving me with this expression is basically as follows: “I’m not good enough at the English language to put words together to describe the actual thought in my head, but I don’t know any other languages, so I’m just going to say these  five words and hope you don’t notice that I am failing miserably at communicating with you right now .” I took the liberty of writing some to get you started. These sentences all use the same letters as the nonsensical phrase above:

a) It shits, I wait.

b) I wait, his tits.

c) I shit, I, Watts, I.

d) I is that wit I is

e) Wii is tat tits.

I could have come up with more, but I wasn’t comfortable with how many times I was encountering the words “tit” and “shit.” My Mom does on occasion read this blog, after all, and – regardless of how many ways I have wrecked my life – my Mom can still comfortably say to herself, “well, at least he never intermingled sex and the scatological.” I’d like to keep it that way. Let her hold onto this one shred of hope for my poor soul. I feel I deserve extra points for incorporating the Wii into the fifth one, but then “tits” makes another appearance. Hopefully this isn’t like the Rorschach test.

 

There are no wrong answers. Ha, just kidding, there are lots of wrong answers.

 

3. The Yankees: I do the tomahawk chop for a baseball team located in the southeast, and Jim Leyritz stole my dynasty. We were on the verge of a dynasty and he stole it from us. We had just won our first World Series in three tries, and were on the precipice of a second in a row, up two games to one, about to be three games to one, and we had a six-run lead, which eventually turned into a 6-3 game, and Jim Leyritz came up to bat with two men on base. Mark Wohlers threw a breaking ball that didn’t break, or a slider that didn’t…ummm…slide, and Leyritz came off the bench and smacked the ball “… in the air deep to left field..back, to the warning track, to the wall, WE ARE TIED!!” (I hate Joe Buck for that call; he was happy about it; he was rooting for the Yankees, I know it). The worst thing about this event is that the story of the Series SHOULD have been about how Andruw Jones, only 19 at the time – hit home runs in his first two major league at-bats, which just so happened to take place in the World Series.  

The home run wasn’t even the worst thing Leyritz did. This is. Oh, and while we’re at it, can we talk about the fact that the Yankees had a larger payroll by half than anyone else in baseball, and they still had to juice?

Booooooooooo.

To be clear, I’m booing the Yankees, not the sign. Because the sign says the Yankees suck. Which means I love the sign. Hooray sign, boo Yankees. There, I’m glad we cleared that up.

Brace yourself for some doom and gloom stuff later today. Bummer, I know, but I do claim to be climbing out of the Hell of addiction; it can’t all be fun and games and puppy dogs and sweet tea. I’m planning to update you on my physical condition, as well as talk about the consequences of my little 15-year sojourn to the wrong side of the tracks. I’m nine days sober now, so I have a little clarity that I didn’t have a week ago. Enough clarity to grasp that I really took a flamethrower to my professional life, a profession that took a lot of work to learn, and a lot of school. Real bummer.