Someone else who died too young. And he wasn't even a musician.

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon, we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”

– John F. Kennedy

     The rain is providing a welcome respite from the oppressive heat and humidity that has otherwise smothered the residents of the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch. I need rainy days sometimes, if only to let my melancholy out for a stretch. Not that I don’t anyway.

    Some days are still off. Sometimes I feel still feel like I’m spinning my wheels. Some days the outcome still feels like it’s in doubt. Some days I wake up and it feels like faith is out of the question. I don’t always put my recovery first. I still have days when I am eaten up with fear, resentment and shame. I still put too much pressure on myself, often for the wrong things. As for the things that I should be doing, regarding which I should be putting pressure on myself, I still procrastinate. I still allow other people to put pressure on me, and I still enable them to do so. I still mask my true feelings. I still fight with myself to tell people the truth rather than what I think they want to hear. I still put the approval of other people way too high on my priority list.

    I am starting to reconcile myself with the fact that I am hurt and I am angry. More so than I realized, and certainly more than I let on to anyone else. I’m mad that certain people in a position to make a difference failed to see the things about me that make me unique. But it took me 35 years to see some of those things, so to an extent the person I’m mad at is me. I’m mad at the people in this world who are oblivious to the damage they do with their words. Arising out of that general principal, specific unforgettable words out of specific mouths comprise my most personal and acute resentments. In a more subtle way, people also use words to invalidate feelings, personal taste, or personality traits. Not being kind is unconscionable. It is the one thing any human-being can do. It doesn’t take talent, it doesn’t take beauty, it doesn’t take practice. Anyone can choose to do it. But it is a choice.

    Sometimes, I hate being as sensitive as I am, but I wouldn’t change it if I were given the choice. Nor would I trade my gift of empathy; I like that I hurt for other people who are hurting. But I would change, and am trying to change, my tendency to empathize to the point of following them down the drain. I’m not there yet; I still over-relate. I have come across some people in my time here with stories that are absolutely heart-breaking. I still have a tendency to co-opt their pain. I need to figure out how to do the good that I can without becoming a casualty myself. I also need to recognize that Satan uses  the bad-things-happening-to-good-people narrative to attack my faith. My sensitivity makes me vulnerable.

     I still feel overwhelmed by the future, by decisions I have to make, and by the people who are depending on me. I feel overwhelmed by the people I worry about, the remorse I have and the time I have lost. I feel overwhelmed by this path I am on. It is long, it is narrow and it is treacherous. And littered with bodies. Some days that is more apparent than others. Like on a rainy Sunday afternoon. But, borrowing from President Kennedy, I do not do these things because they are easy. I do them because they are hard. It is a challenge which I am willing to accept, one which I am not willing to postpone, and one which I intend to win.


Day 40.

June 3, 2011

What's that warm glowy thing in the sky?

    I believe the worst is over. My worst symptoms now are due more to lack of sleep and nutrition than anything else. (HAVE I GOT THE WEIGHT LOSS PLAN FOR YOU!) I think. Withdrawal is more like a roller coaster than a steady decline or descent. It comes in waves, so it’s impossible to say. But there have been moments, represented above, when light punches through.

    The insomnia is not a whole hell of a lot of fun. Nothing over-the-counter touches it. My insomnia scoffs at melatonin. Nothing available with a prescription that I have been allowed so far touches it. Trazodone? Nada. There’s only one thing I’m aware of that would work (like a charm, in fact). But people in a treatment center get a little freaked out when one asks for a benzodiazepine like Xanax or Valium (Ativan? Something? ANYTHING?), drugs with an apparently high potential for abuse – something I do not understand at all (“Hey, let’s party! By sleeping!”). So I have not gone so far as to ask for them. And I don’t expect an offer to be forthcoming.

    So instead, I just get up, walk around and drink a glass of milk. And sigh. A lot.

Day 35: No Excuses.

May 28, 2011

    I haven’t been posting very consistently this week, but that’s mainly because I’ve been busy during the day, and the time when I post most often – the early morning – is the only time I’ve been able to get good sleep. And I choose sleep over you, I hope you don’t hold that against me. I have lots of material for this week, though, so stay tuned.

    I’ll post more later today (promise this time). In the meantime, enjoy the melodic  “No Excuses,” by a frequent subject of this blog, AIC.

Salvodor Dali knows what I'm talking about.

    I wake up feeling more or less like I was run over by a bus, but sleep is impossible, so I make myself go to a 7am AA meeting. Which is just as well, because that meeting is supposed to be required reading here at the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch, although in my current condition, I could get a special dispensation if I wanted it. But it really wouldn’t do me any good to toss and turn in bed for another hour, so I go.

    We get back around 8:15. Our nurse arrives promptly at 9:00am to dispense medication, including my paltry little 3mg (!) of Suboxone. The worst I feel all day is in the morning between 8am and when the nurse shows up. It goes without saying that that time…passes…very…slowly. Our nurse gets a chuckle now when she shows up at 9 to find me in the group room lying in some state of repose, with the best hang-dog expression I can muster, so as to say: “before you do anything else, please tend to me.”

     Being a first-born (the world revolves around me; never forget this) and somewhat of a drama queen, I have perfected the hang-dog expression to something of an art-form.  Our nurse is the one person in the whole facility who does not have some kind of personal experience with addiction. We call them normies. I have to think that she occasionally (I went to school for like 100 years and I never spell “occasionally” right the first time) gets a kick out of  the theater of the whole thing. But if she does, she never shows it.

    She’s as patient as you would expect a matronly woman in her choice of profession would be. Reading between the lines, you should take my sentiment towards her to mean that she does in fact tend to me before anything else. The real trick is to evoke that kind of sympathy without it appearing intentional. Like I said, it’s art. I have 35 years of experience at this (and I have had a few good teachers along the way), so all you aspiring drama queens, take heart: you too can master the art of evoking pity. You don’t want to overdo it, but it’s not such a bad skill to have when the occasion (really?! two “c”s, one “s”, how hard is that to remember?!) calls for it. Keep reading, and you’re bound to continue getting these invaluable life lessons.

A thing I like.

    The Saturday Autobiographical, back by popular demand. On Monday. To review: three likes, three dislikes, with links, explanation and commentary. The sweet tea has never materialized, but you never know.

     Same qualifications as always. It’s gimmicky. It’s hokey. It is fantastically self-indulgent.  It’s not particularly creative – I’ve seen ads for male enhancement with more subtlety: “Buy this, get any girl you want. Don’t, and die from cancer.”  However, as I indicated last week, 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.

Three things I like:

    1. The Beatles: In addition to having the best Wikipedia entry in history, the Beatles changed everything, forever.  The singer-songwriter band was practically non-existent, once upon a time. Bands were the product of their record label’s design (sadly, these things come full circle). Unlike movies, which went from being an organic creation of people who loved movies to vertically-integrated, formulaic creations of the studios (thank you for that, Star Wars), rock-and-roll bands kind of went the other direction.

    The Beatles changed everything. Before the Beatles, rock-and-roll pop “bands” were often creations of the record labels (real rock-and-roll, of course originated with the blues singer-song writers in the Southeastern United States, but that takes my neat little narrative here and makes it messy; so I am speaking in broad generalities here). After the Beatles, every record label was looking for the next singer-songwriter band playing in a garage. Without the Beatles, there is no Nirvana – likely no grunge at all, in fact.

    For crying out loud, there was a time when the Beatles were terrified to release an album, because people did all kinds of crazy things on the basis of Beatles lyrics. They had a monumental influence on fashion, practically created the music video, and one of them is a knight.  Other artists will get their due in this space, but none of them can claim to have had the influence on our culture, or on me, that the Beatles did.

        2.  The Atlanta Braves: They haven’t given me much to work with in a while, but for the last 20 years or so, I have lived and died with the Braves. And I lived more than I died: fourteen straight division titles spoiled me. The Braves treated me to more wonderful sports moments in person than the average Mets fan can even imagine. World Series. NLCS. Game six of the 1999 NLCS when Andruw Jones drew a walk-off walk to clinch the NLCS and go the Series. When the Mets came to town in ’98 tied with the Braves in the NL East and Chipper Jones hit four home runs in three games.

    During the early years of our (yes, our) success, the city of Atlanta would throw a parade at the end of the season. I was at the first one, the one after the Greatest World Series Ever Played, and the baby ‘Benz Tom Glavine was riding in ran over my foot. And I have great affection for the man at the helm for each of the fourteen division titles. Former manager Bobby Cox retired last year as one of the most successful managers of all time. Well, he was the very best at one thing.  And he bore at least a passing resemblance to…

    3. Ronald Reagan: Bear with me. I was a child of the 1980’s. In my household, the hierarchy was as follows: God, Dad, Reagan. And I had a suspicion that God looked a lot like Reagan. These are the conceptions of a child, of course. Still, President Reagan came at just the right moment in history. Generally wary of strong authority figures, and cynical over the Nixon-Ford-Carter years, America needed Reagan in 1980. People forget what was going on in the late 70’s. Stagflation had a firm grip on the American economy, and the Keynsian economists didn’t have an answer.  People were beginning to think that we had seen the best America had to offer. The Soviet Union was still the Soviet Union. And the majority of academia expected the U.S.S.R. to be the yen to our yang for the forseeable future.

    But here comes this guy with a sunny disposition (usually), a 1950’s sensibility that seemed out-of-place even then, and charms the American people right into the White House. Even the press, hardened, cynical and mostly leftist, had a hard time not liking him.

This is more or less how I supposed God looked, circa 1982.

    He publicly engaged the leaders of the Soviet Union more directly than anyone since Kennedy, standing at the Brandenburg Gate and telling Mikhail Gorbachev – against the advice of nearly every one on his staff – to tear down the Berlin Wall. And behind the scenes, we now know, he directed an arms race that he knew would bankrupt the Soviet Union. Of course it is possible to overstate his role in the fall of the Soviet Union, but it cannot be said that he had nothing to do with it; nor, in the opinion of many, even that he had little to do with it. And his optimism became our optimism. During the 1980’s the American economy started expanding at a rate that was unprecedented in human history. The rumors of our demise had been greatly exaggerated.

    Setting his politics aside – because reasonable minds may differ – the reason I have him in this space is his optimism. His view of America as a City Upon a Hill, a beacon for the world of all that is good. And the conviction of his belief in these things, even when the outcome was very much in doubt. His presidency was far from perfect, as they all are. But if you really want to understand the power of Reagan, ask someone who lived in East Berlin in 1980 what they think of him. Or Yugoslavia. Or Hungary. It is hard to imagine America today, or the world, without his presidency.

Three things I unlike:

    1. The Rolling Stones: The anti-Beatles. This is strictly a matter of opinion. The ‘Stones had (have) considerable commercial and critical success. They have sold to date something in the range of 200 million albums worldwide. But they are too commercial and over-exposed. And rock stars shouldn’t grow old on stage, with a few exceptions (see, e.g., Eric Clapton, and B.B. King). Plus there’s this. But mainly, for me, they haven’t stood the test of time. I just don’t like their music, with one big exception.

    2. The expression “Let me put a bug in your ear.” Gross. This is a concept better suited for a horror movie, not the board-room. Who first used this expression, the person who invented Garbage Pail Kids? What kind of response do you think it got? Exactly. How this caught on baffles me. I just think we can do better. This actually happened in a movie once, in Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn. I saw it as a kid, and it was terrifying. I slept with my covers over my head for a week.

Illustration of the bug for the ol' bug in ear trick in Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn.

    3. Lightning: Lightning combines two of my least favorite things: sudden loud noises and death. Like most phobias, this one – called astraphobia – originates during childhood. Mine developed during my illustrious little league career. At that time, I lived in the lightning strike capital of the world. During one game, I was playing center field when a thunderstorm came seemingly out of nowhere. At some point when my team was in the field, lightning struck a billboard directly behind me.

    The fastest animal on land is the cheetah, reaching speeds between 70 and 75 MPH. The fastest human beings run just under 30 MPH. I suspect, however, that no one has ever clocked a cheetah or a human being after lightning struck an object located 25 feet or so behind them. After the strike and instant “BOOM” I’m pretty sure I hit 96. In my memory, I just vaporized out of center field and reappeared in the dug out. My Dad was coaching third base at the time, and he likes to say that he hadn’t even gotten the first syllable of “EVERYBODY IN!!!” out of his mouth and I was past him – all knees and elbows – and into the dug-out.

    Lightning and I have hated each other ever since. It’s tried several more times to get me. Like the time my brother and I were brushing our teeth in the bathroom, getting ready for bed, and lightning struck the transformer behind our house. There was a flash, a crash and a boom, sparks flew out of our outlets, and then there was total darkness. I figured we were all dead. That’s just mean, lightning.

Trees: not a good shelter in the storm.

    A bolt of lightning is approximately 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or three times the temperature of the surface of the sun. From 1990 to 2003, 756 people died from lightning strikes in the United States, with Florida – site of the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch – leading the way with 126. When people refer to God’s vengeance, they refer to “being struck by lightning.” I can’t think of a more direct illustration of the concept that “it is appointed unto man once to die” than a lightning strike. It’s God’s way of saying, “Hey you, out of the pool!”

    I have developed a specialized way of walking – during thunder storms, mainly – that my family calls the crab-walk. I get low to the ground and walk with my legs spread far apart, thereby resembling a crab. Hey, I’m 6’4″, I’m often the tallest object around. My brother, also tall, does the same thing. On that rare occasion when we are walking in a thunderstorm together, we look pretty ridiculous. And people laugh at us. That’s fine, when they get struck by lightning, I will stand over their charred remains and laugh at them. What one man calls astraphobia, I call good survival instincts.

Never got around to learning how to fly one. Unlike SOME people.

    Just learned last night that a guy who recently took up residence here at the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch used to fly F-18 Hornets. And land them. On an aircraft carrier. That was in the water.

    Just in case I harbored any suspicion that I might be a big deal, I now know otherwise. Knowing the elements for contract formation never seemed quite as lame as it does right about now.

    Something really is different this time, Dad. I don’t know how to describe it other than it’s different. Not just different between this rehab and the last. Something different from my whole life up to this point. I am starting to believe that – even if He didn’t intend for me to become addicted to drugs and alcohol (although, who knows, maybe it was necessary) – God has a plan to use my experience to help other people. He protected me up to this point, and I have every reason to believe that He will continue to protect me. That obviously doesn’t mean that life will be easy, but I truly believe that I have been spared for a reason.

    Truth be told, wouldn’t you gladly trade a decade of chaos, heartbreak, and addiction for a lifetime and an eternity of serenity, faith and hope? I think that’s an easy choice. My addiction was a gift; because without it, I would have lived a life of materialism, humanism and faithlessness. I would have wasted my life pursuing success as the world defines it.

    I don’t have any idea exactly what that means right now, but at the very least I believe that God has spared me from the end so many other addicts meet (described in the Big Book as “jails, institutions and death”). You and Mom have spent your entire lives praying for me. God has answered your prayers in a big way, albeit in a different way than any of us would have ever imagined.
    I used to need people to be around at all times to feel happy. But I think that God speaks to us more often in those still, quiet moments. I feel myself becoming a little isolated from people sometimes. Not in a bad way, though. My intellect has always, always, made me feel a different from other people. I could always feel lonely, even in a room full of people.
    I embrace that now; it feels like preparation. For what I don’t yet know. But I do know that great leaders throughout history have always felt isolated from the people they are leading. I know that grandiosity is a trait that alcoholics exhibit in spades. But I can’t get around the fact that – speaking very honestly – I have leadership qualities that I have thus far neglected. And I believe that God spared me for a reason. And maybe that reason was simply to raise my family and minister to the people in my life. But sometimes I feel like it’s something more.
    Who knows. But my point is that I believe that God will continue to protect me. Relapse is a scary word to all of us, and that is the ever-present danger for a recovering addict. But the God that spared me through active addiction can spare me from relapse, or – failing that – spare me even in the event of a relapse. And before you even say it, believing that is not the same as setting myself up to fail. It is simply acknowledging that the God that has power over death has power over addiction too.
    I love you guys, and I think I may have just written today’s blog post, without meaning to.

The Group Dynamic

May 14, 2011

    One of the single most important keys to recovery is the group dynamic. Newly recovering addicts are not the most stable people to begin with, brimming with raw and new emotions, lacking coping skills, and never too far from any number of a variety of potential mental, emotional or spiritual meltdowns. And in treatment, we take a bunch of these poor souls – usually total strangers  – put them together in a powder keg and hope that they don’t burn the place down. Hopefully the result is something south of a disaster. In fact, it is the best way we know of to get people like me well. The results can be miraculous. Or….

When group therapy attacks.

    Treatment under the best of circumstances is a controlled burn, like the kind they do with underbrush to prevent full-blown forest fires. On occasion, however, things get a little too combustible. That is the risk associated with losing good people like we have over the last two weeks (losing in the sense that people were re-assimilated into normal life; it’s not like people are dropping dead here at the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch). 

    Because the group dynamic is a fragile thing. One or two personalities one way or the other can move the needle from the “healthy-group-therapy-dynamic” setting to the “inmates-running-the-asylum” setting, to, worse yet, the “OH-THE-HUMANITY-LOCK-UP-THE-SILVER-AND-HIDE-YOUR-DAUGHTERS!” setting. There is always going to be an ebb-and-flow to the quality of the group. But it does sometimes go bad. And when that happens, it always seems to happen fast. The staff here and our trusty clinical director talk about the group dynamic like salty old sailors talk about the weather. They stand around with ominous looks on their faces, twirl their crusty sea-beards, and mumble gravely about how there’s “trouble brewin’,” or “this one’s gonna be a doozy.” 

    I’m having a little fun with my analogy, but the fact is, for those of us for whom this thing here is life or death, the group dynamic is awfully damn important. In a good, healthy group, we feel safe sharing our feelings in a group setting. I have discussed in these pages how effective that can be. People support each other and lean on each other. That dynamic is a wonderful thing. But it can also be fleeting. When a group goes bad, the gossip starts. And people stop sharing because they stop trusting the other people in the room. Eventually someone will relapse. Then what you have is Melrose Place, and not much else.

    And when you’re sitting around with the people who are left, the ones who are serious about getting sober, and you’re wondering aloud who the next leaders are gonna be, the ones who will step into the void left by people like R and J, it occurs to you: those people will have to be us. Me. Because in any group dynamic, there are going to be those who prefer chaos, tension and drama. As I indicated above, people don’t end up at the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch – or any other drug treatment facility – because they’re well-adjusted emotionally and play well with others. Quite the opposite. So it’s kind of up to those who have been here for a little while to keep that needle on the “good-group-therapy-dynamic” setting. This is all part our natural growth in keeping our paddles in the water. And we do have help: our clinical director, as I have mentioned, is a get-people-sober wizard. She guards the group dynamic like a mother grizzly guards her cubs. She – all 95 pounds of her – is not afraid to knock heads together for the good of the group.  

Do. Not. Fuck.With. My. Group. /shoots lasers from eyes

    So it is a fair statement that we have entered a new phase of my treatment. It is no longer a luxury for me to allow the group to be shaped by other people. I’ll need to share a little more. I’ll have to communicate a little more. I’ll have to participate a little more. And, to a certain extent, I’ll have to demand the same from some of my new friends. Because this is my recovery, and it’s too important to me to let someone else steer it.

A thing I don't like.

     The Saturday Autobiographical , back by popular demand. On Wednesday. Some have suggested a name-change, so it’s not so confusing when  – as has been the case two out of three times – this recurring theme is published on a day other than Saturday. The person who made that suggestion was a recovering drug addict. Like I’m gonna take their advice. There’s only room for one cuckoo in this clock.

    To review: three likes, three dislikes, with links, explanation and commentary. The sweet tea has never materialized, but you never know.

     Same qualifications as always. It’s gimmicky. It’s hokey. It is fantastically self-indulgent.  It’s not particularly creative – I’ve seen ads for law firms with more subtlety: “Call us, get rich. Don’t, and die a horrible and disfiguring death.”  However, as I indicated last week, 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.

Three things I like:

    1. The Beastie Boys: Three New York Jewish guys with punk roots who seemingly on a lark gave up punk and threw their collective hat in the fledgling hip-hop arena. If your goal is to master an artistic medium in which you are virtually an ethnic and racial outsider, achieve critical and commercial success, and do it all with tongue firmly planted in cheek, then these guys are your heroes. Archetypal, iconoclastic and ironic. Hip, goofy, and gifted. Their music will be studied for generations, even though we were never really sure if they were serious. The Beastie Boys are almost like a 20-year long episode of Punk’d. They also provided the theme song of my youth. And I did indeed have to fight…for my right…to Par-TAY.

License to ill and registration, please.

    2. Coffee: It’s all I have left, dammit!

    3. Sir Winston Spencer Churchill: I have been an Anglophile most of my adult life, and he was the greatest Anglo of them all. He is the subject of William Manchester’s The Last Lion, a three-volume biography, during the writing of which Mr. Manchester passed away.

    This man gets much of the credit – and deservedly so – for his countrymen’s stiff upper lip while London was bombed by the Nazis day and night during WWII. He recognized Hitler (discussed below) as a threat while most of Europe was still under his spell. He was a master of the language, and used that gift to steel his nation’s resolve during WWII. He could have been speaking for all of western civilization when he said:

… we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

    And had a wit without match. An example is as follows:

Lady Astor: Mr. Churchill, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink.

SWC: My lady, if you were my wife, I would drink it.

The Last Lion himself.

Three things I unlike:

    1. Hitler: Sometimes it’s good to cover the basics. You need this box checked to call yourself a member of civilization. It must be in your repertoire. I’m glad to get it out of the way, to be honest. Stalin, on the other hand? Misunderstood.

This Hello Kitty image has generated billions of dollars in licensing fees. Life is really unfair.

    2. “Think Outside the Box:” Along with all the other overused expressions I object to in this space, this was a useful, clever expression for a time, but that time has long since passed. It’s greatest offense is overuse. It’s been used so often – so, so often – simply using the expression “think outside the box” demonstrates an inability to think outside the box. Irony of ironies, the expression is now very much inside the box. And it doesn’t work anyway.

Chickens are by far the funniest bird.

    3. Inanimate objects that hate me: They’re everywhere, things that are out to get me. Umbrellas and newspapers combined with wind are common offenders. Computers, video games, car parts. Electronics. Kids toys (some assembly required is Chinese for “stupid American with enormous hands never figure out toy ha ha”). Ikea, that diabolical little European instrument of torture, will get its own mention in a future Autobiographical. The worst part is that inanimate objects don’t scream when you beat them with a hammer or throw them at a wall, and they have a tendency to break your hand when you hit them. They are altogether unperturbed when you scream at them, and I have a feeling they are laughing at me on the inside when I get red in the face and shout incantations at them in an attempt to destroy them with a hex, or – failing that – at least shoot them with lasers from my eye-sockets. I came by this honestly. My Dad yells at objects, too. And my brother. I already see signs of it in my sons. The men in my family have a real feud with objects going on, but in fairness to us, they started it.

Can you feel the rage?

Butterflies cause hurricanes. Jerks.

    There is a randomness to life. Randomness, in fact, permeates every stitch in the tapestry of human experience (too much?). And we humans do our best to whitewash God’s hand from that randomness. We devise things like chaos theory, which describes how small permutations of initial inputs to large dynamical systems (weather is an often cited example) have vast and wide-ranging effects in the outcomes of those systems. The oft-cited example is that a beating butterfly’s wings can cause a hurricane a continent away. Said yet another way, shit happens.

    But, although chaos theory gives us a what and a how, it leaves us wanting for a who or a why. Who made the butterfly and why is he here? Because of the randomness of the human experience, the odds seem stacked against the alignment of all the thousands (millions? billions?) of moving existential parts required to create those special associations we have with other human beings. Those associations which – due to specific factors of time, space and experience – are sufficient for us to bond with these special persons and become open to them changing us. And when certain events and people come together in our lives in a certain way, the role providence plays in directing those people and events becomes all but undeniable. Without that providence, how many ships would just pass in the night?

    Which brings me to J, who you already know. Today was his coin-out, a process with which you are already familiar. I think most of the people here were dreading J’s coin-out, because – as I have mentioned – J is a phenomenal person. He’s fun to be around, he’s funny. He’s the proverbial straw that stirs the drink (see what I did there?). He’s also kind, sensitive and considerate. So I don’t claim to be special in being sad that J is gone. But sad I am.

    The thing I can’t overstate is how important he has been to my recovery. Something clicked for me when I watched him give his life-line talk. He showed me what surrender looks like. What humility looks like. What vulnerability looks like. I have some pretty high walls up around the real me. I am emotionally unavailable, even aloof. Very few people see the real me. As a wise person recently told me, I am often afraid to let people see what I see.

     But J showed me the way. And I don’t think I even knew how important it was while it was happening, or even when I wrote about it. But something has definitely changed inside me. I don’t know how to describe it other than emotional honesty. For the first time in a long time – maybe in my life – I am being honest with myself. About a lot of things, but primarily about what I am feeling. Or in some cases, that I am feeling at all.  And I haven’t been able to turn it off since.

    As far as J goes, that was just the beginning for us. We were more or less inseparable after that moment. In this environment, 16 days feels like forever. So I feel like I’ve known J my whole life. Today was not an easy day, if I can be entirely honest and selfish for a moment. I was a part of the crew that took J to the airport. I gave my number to J’s dad, and told him to call me if something comes up. I don’t expect that it will, but the fact remains that a certain percentage of us relapse. And then we all hugged and cried and said goodbye. Then they were off.  The actual goodbye always seems so sudden.

    So it occurs to me once again I’m in a strange place with a bunch of relative strangers. I miss my kids. I’m coming off of Suboxone. I don’t have alcohol, cocaine, opiates or any of the other crutches I have relied on so heavily for the last 15 years. I have terrible feelings of guilt about my family, my kids, a marriage in shambles and a career that I took a flamethrower to. And I have this newfound ability to feel things that I haven’t learned how to control.

    J was a big part of me feeling comfortable here. He is a true confidant. I have others here, but he was like my emotional twin. After two short weeks he could read me pretty well. He knew when to ask if I was alright. And if I wasn’t, I would tell him so. I have known people for years that can’t read me like that. And to be honest, I don’t even know if I was all these same things for him. This might have been an entirely one-sided friendship. I hope not.

    Our attitudes, our preconceived notions and our prejudices are too often outcome determinative of the experiences we have in life. Furthermore, those attitudes, preconceptions and prejudices are often shaped by people – for better or worse. And, as far as I am concerned, J completely turned my attitudes, preconceptions and prejudices on their head. I’ll never be the same person, or at least I hope not.

   I hoped to have a life-changing experience when I checked into the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch. I had to; I’ve got a lot of people whose lives depend on it. I didn’t foresee this. I have just witnessed the hand of God reach through time and space and rearrange some of the pieces on the board. I am thankful to have shared an orbit with J for a short while. And I’m going to miss him. Good-bye for now, J. I will see you soon.