Alcoholism: A fact in my life.

Alcoholism is a disease of apathy. I have always known that alcohol is poison to my body. But the truth is my disease does not care. I can write about my track record pertaining to alcohol. I can talk to sober friends. I can look someone in the eye and admit I still struggle with alcohol but it will never stop me from picking up again and again. It does not matter that I get physically sick or that I embarrass myself. Money is no object because I will find a way. And that is something that I have to live with for the rest of my life.

I remember coming up with this great speech that I would give to young people whenever I had a chance. It goes something like this: Do you know what happens to you when you say you don’t know or you don’t care? The students say no. And I ask again…You don’t know? And they get more interested. And I repeat the question for impact. Do you know what happens to you when you say you don’t know or you don’t care? And then I answer. When you say you don’t know or you don’t care decisions get made for you. You have given up your option to choose. And you don’t even know it. 

But the truth with most issues in life is that we do care. Alcoholics care far more than anyone realizes. We are super sensitive individuals battling a disease with our own mind. And that disease needs to be respected because it is bigger than us, more powerful, cunning, baffling, disruptive and painful than we can humanly handle. And we care. We care that we feel like crap and that our dreams fall to the wayside. We care that we have lost ourselves over and over again. But again and again we lose this battle.

And that is why divine intervention is real. The fact is there will be thousands of days I cannot stop drinking and then one day I ask God for help and I stop shortly after. This is commonly reported by many recovering alcoholics. Furthermore, our problems soften in time and turn into miracles if we stay on task. I am not sure if a “normie” is that lucky. Maybe God allowed a normal person to have many joyous days and we needed the extra help. It seems plausible to me at this point.

Divine intervention has always preceded my ability to live a sober life. When I get out of my way and trust there is something bigger present, my life takes on a new form. Many alcoholics do not like the idea of God. They say that they do not believe it. It doesn’t matter to me anymore if it is true or not. I don’t want to die so I will believe in God. And I cannot do it for someone else. God does not play that game. It has to be for me.

Although, there is nothing better than being in a room full of happy recovering alcoholics. Recovering alcoholics are hilarious. They get each other’s warped minds. We understand that we are isolators, easily resentful, maimed by our own actions. We know the depths of hell each of us has traveled and we are very grateful to be back.We become awesome leaders, lovers, parents and people.

And in a split second we do not care. And the minute we begin to not complete tasks, not show up for commitments, not participate in an active way in our lives we unravel. It doesn’t always pretell a pending relapse but it does say something about the state of mind of the person.

Therefore, my actions must direct my life, not my thinking, if I am to lead a life free from this substance. I do not need to know why. I just need to do it. There it takes great humility in surrendering to this fact. And in humility there is  great freedom. I cannot think of a better way to live than to be free. I could ask for nothing more.

Peace out.

 

 

The House of Hope

children's parade.jpg

 

Culture shock placed my body in perpetual disbelief when I entered the House of Hope. I was now living with people I probably would not have spoke to in passing. Thank God for humility because I was no different from these ladies despite my drug of choice and the color of my skin.

“You’re my buddy!” This giant black woman announced and then she grabbed me and hugged me hard. She had done 10 months for fraud in the Twin Towers of Los Angeles. A wild look lit up her eyes. In fact, most people there had wild looks as I silently watched the group interact. The wild look in their eyes simply was early sobriety. And I had it too.

I was so sick. I compare my disease to thinking you have a cold when you actually have pneumonia. The more sober you become the more you realize how sick you are. And I was given the opportunity to get the help I needed with free housing, food and solid recovery.

“What is your story?”A woman asked and handed me a menthol cigarette.

I don’t belong here, I thought.

“I am an alcoholic.” I replied. I was actually the only alcoholic there. Most of the girls shot up heroin, smoked crack and experienced rock bottoms that I could not even imagine. We had prisoners, prostitutes and women who lost their children to the system all living together. I felt like I did not belong but that was far-fetched dream I call magical thinking.

The facts were I lost my car, my house, my friends, my money, my cats (all eight) and most importantly, I lost my ability to see right from wrong while I remained a bankrupt tax evader. How was I different from them? Addiction is color blind. It is socio-economically blind; it can creep into the nicest homes and destitute any family.

And I was there. With one bag and no where to go for three months. That night they had to look for a blanket and a pillow for me. The place was getting by on a shoe string and all the ladies signed onto welfare, general welfare and food stamps to help keep the place going. We shopped at the food bank and we became very blessed for the food we had.

My first night gave me a glimpse of what the next three months would hold. And while I was trying to go to sleep in a shared bedroom for six,  I could hear some girls making out nearby. I felt like I was in a movie.”What if someone approached me? I don’t even know how to defend myself!” However, I later learned these women were beautiful people.  The drug controlled their choices, my choices and our outcomes. I kept wondering how the morning would be in my brand new world where anything was possible as I drifted off to sleep.

In the morning I learned about chores. The chore rules were strict. Every chore was inspected and if you did not do it right, everyone would have to wait while you went back and tried again.

After chores we were shuffled into a van. I had no idea where we were going. I would soon learn that this was would happen often. But the women were laughing and happy. And even though I knew nothing about their backgrounds, I began to feel a sense of ease.

Little did I know we were being driven to a children’s parade down San Pedro’s version of Main Street. This was before Hippa but the staff responsibly painted clown faces on each of us and suited us in clown garb. It was like 90 degrees and we smoked menthol cigarettes as we waited for hours for our turn in the parade. Turned out… we were the finale. Our makeup had melted off our faces but we tried our best to funny and dazzle the crowd. The children seemed happy and so did I.

But, I was so sick as were many others but we did it. Service. Service was the key. In this self-absorbed world service will set you free. And I live by that now. And walking down the San Pedro Main Street smiling and waving at the children and their families was actually fun. I had completely forgotten what it was like to have fun without alcohol or drugs. And the act of service brought me joy! That was quite a surprise!

I still had three more months to live in this strange place. I had nowhere to go. It was the first time I had no other choice. And that is always the key with this disease because if I had just one more person to help me, or even the slightest ability to try something else, I would not have lived very long. Nor would any of these other women.

So the adventure began and I learned, lived and loved in an entirely different world.

 

 

God is Orange

orange chair

I threw myself into alcohol oblivion while going to different bars hoping no one would recognize me from other bars in town. I was living with my best friend’s mom and she was nice enough to take me in and help me detox and provide much love that I desperately needed. She was a Eucharistic Minister that attended church everyday who was serving God by helping me. And it felt wonderful to be around someone who was not toxic but only held great concern for me.

It was the next day at her house that the truth about my alcoholism became utterly apparent. And one would think  that after the detox, the shakes, the sounds, the voices,the chills, sleepless nights and countless cigarettes that I would never dare touch the stuff again. But it didn’t take long for me to relapse and I started right where I left off; wanting to die.

I knew of one place I could go to get help but I thought I was better than those women. They were criminals and prostitutes with their kids taken away. I could not get help with this sort of foul-natured types. I was from Thousand Oaks. I was upper middle class and I was not about to go.

Jose, a busboy from work confronted me one day. “I saw you running in your car today.””Running?” I thought to myself. I had no clue what he was talking about. “I spoke to the Holy Spirit today and he said you are not one the right path. That God has other plans for you.” This was not what I wanted to hear.

Yet he was right, entries from my journal begged for death from this torturous life I was living. I could not see any way out. It was just a matter of time before I would end it.

A few nights later, I dreamed that I walked into “The House of Hope.” This was the place where the criminals roamed and the prostitutes taunted. But I walked in and the entire room was decorated with orange furniture with barely any room to actually move.

A woman asked, ” What do you want?” I answered in a soft voice that I was looking for the House of Hope. “You got insurance?” she asked. “No, I will go.” I said. “Now wait a minute I will be right back.”She shuffled through the orange furniture until she found her way out. All I could hear as she walked off was something extremely foreign to my ears.

When she left I noticed a radio. But what played from it seemed unfamiliar. It was like a thousand angels singing at once. Music so beautiful, I became mesmerized and I completely forgot the orange room with the firm lady and why I was even there in the first place. It was the loveliest sound I had ever heard in all of my life. No instruments, only acapella. And voices sung from the end of time out of the speakers of this old rusty radio that radiated the unconditional love that we all search for.

Then I woke up.

I could not shake this orange room dream. It was like no other. And for the next few nights when I woke up I felt like someone was holding me in my bed. But I was alone. Things were not making sense.

My best friend’s mom became aware I had relapsed. The feeling in the house grew cold.When I fist moved in all doors were open throughout the house and now they were closed. I was making the mom sick with stress. No one wants an active alcoholic in their home. Yet I had nowhere to go.

She finally confronted me one morning after I had a night where I blacked out and made a terrible mess in her home. I did not deny anything. But I was not about to go through withdrawals again without  being under the care of a doctor.

I was  accepted in the hospital and I shook and I sweat and I was scared and I was ashamed. The doctor gave me some Valium but when I went to sleep I dreamed of some snake man pushing me into a smelly swamp of serpents. “Is this where you want to be?” The Snake Man screamed. “Is this what you want?”

I actually woke up and I was sure that the doctor had given me LSD. But this was good old fashioned delirium tremens. Like many before me, I was experiencing hell on earth.

When I was finally released from the hospital I was pretty ecstatic. I had no cravings for alcohol and I was willing to do what it takes. I told my best friend’s mom that I was not going to call the House of Hope, I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I just want to see if it is orange.

Down into the barrio I went. The streets of San Pedro shared great violence among its residents. But I had nowhere to go. And as I pulled up in front of this halfway house/rehab I could not help but notice two of the brightest orange chairs sitting outside the gate waiting as if to say hello. ORANGE. No doubt about it. Flawless beautiful orange.

And I was home.