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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sought through prayer and medication...

The guys at the Vet center pulled some strings and I was taken to the Regional Rehabilitation Center, adjacent to the small Hospital, outside of town. I hadn't had a drink in 24 hours so I was starting to think this whole idea was bullshit. My body thought differently.

I filled out paperwork, which because of the tremors in my hands was mostly scribble, and I answered health related questions. I was taken to a room with a large window overlooking a nurses station. The fishbowl. The repository for all new drunks so staff could monitor them for the first day of intake. My body had started to get panicked at the thought of no booze and I was starting to slide into terrible.

For the next two days I shook; threw up, dry heaved, cried, sweated, stank, hallucinated and did it all over again, sometimes in reverse order.

When I slept I dreamed of my daughter. Still a baby, but in this dark, cold wasteland, and she would hold her arms out to me and I would run to her. But I could never reach her. I heard a voice I imagined to be hers saying, "It's all right, Daddy, It's all right." I cried alot.

After two days of this, I ate an entire fried egg, and it stayed down. One for the home team.

I was moved to a shared room down the hall and heard the new occupant of the fishbowl go through his terrors. I wasn't that bad, was I? The cute little charge nurse told me I was worse.

I had a roommate and we struck a chord. A lot like friendships in situations of major crisis, we bonded through survival and shared experience. We both thought being sober blew, but were open to see what happened. He had a job in the kitchen. I was offered one but turned it down. My back was to the wall too much to attempt to try anything normal.

I began attending 12 step meetings and counseling sessions and started to journal.There was a group of about fifteen of us of varying ages, backgrounds and sex. I was informed I was a liar, a cheat and a thief and I could make no valid argument against it. After a while my vision cleared and I could read again.

I started to put a few days behind me. People from outside the facility could attend the meetings and they were viewed as minor celebrities. Two of them were alumnus of the hospital and had been sober six months. That gave them apostle status in our eyes. Six months? Without a drink, or a drug? Aint no way, baby. That's impossible. But it was possible, and I began to think it might be for me, as well.

Two of the more popular folks who had gotten to this stage in sobriety were a 24 year old ex-logger and a 19 year old Indian stripper. They were sponsoring people in our group and we all thought it too, too cool.

I figured they knew something we didn't and we unknowingly placed them on pedestals. We wanted to be just like them when we grew up. We got real spiritual, real fast, and a few of us had butterflies blowing out our ass...we made ourselves sick. We had not so much gotten sober as we had gotten good. And that, was just plain dangerous.

Within a year they were both dead. He was found on the side of a mountain in a tartan sleeping bag, a hole blown through his head. She was found hanging in her mother's attic, moonlight shining through the attic window, framing her face as she twirled gently from the rafter.

Sometimes the gorilla wants to dance, long after you're tired.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I might have a problem...

I was so screwed up I failed to see that my circumstances, (living in a refrigerator box, under a pier in Alaska,) were indicative of anything other than really shitty luck. The area in which I placed the box was dry, although sloping toward the water at about a forty five degree angle. I would pass out in the box, and awake halfway down the slope.

I kept to myself like some tragic, phantom after my last foray into the public realm ended with me being passed out against the front of the Red Dog, while being pissed on by three Indians. I didn't have the strength or the self-respect to stop them. (Note- very hard to remove the smell of urine from tweed, just in case anyone was curious.)

While tending bar I failed to alienate everyone except for a group of Vietnam Vets who ran a counseling center in town. I was three years past Vietnam, but a veteran nonetheless, and I became an unofficial project.

One of the Vets, a massive trapper everyone called Bear, lived on a boat in the harbor with his huge black, Newfoundland. He thought a roommate situation would be better than the box, so after throwing me into the harbor to get clean, he invited me on board. (His people skills were what I admired.)

I always have had a fascination with Boats and the water so I thought things were looking up. And they were, except that the bow of the vessel was permanently underwater and the harbor master had condemned the boat. But no matter. We lived in the dry part, albeit at an odd angle to the rest of the world, but what was new.

Bear trapped for a living, and the animals kept him in beer and bacon and massive amounts of dog food. I ponied up my food stamps into the kitty and at least we ate. The chubby girl at the grocery in town felt sorry for me, so she would allow me to buy a couple of cents worth of candy with the stamps, then get the change back for beer. I recall looking at a .39 cent comb and thinking, money. I combed my hair with a plastic fork for a month.

Bear drank the way I did, and suffered horribly from PTSD, but felt that I might have a problem with drugs and alcohol.

The nerve.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa...

I didn't exactly ease into a spiraling descent. More like hard right rudder, stick to the firewall, and nosedive into oblivion. The blackouts were coming fast and furious, but not black enough or long enough to erase the guilt and shame.

I came to one night observing a snoring lump in bed beside me. Not entirely unusual but I couldn't remember anything up till then. As I was weaving toward the bathroom my brain registered something propped against the bedside table. Still very foggy, it took awhile to come into focus in the ambient light thrown across the room. The light speared the object at a jagged angle from the bathroom doorway.

Oh, Dear God. It was a wooden leg. Leather straps and all.

It was then I could make out the top of the head in bed. Grey hair. Very, grey hair. Okay...that woke me up.( I dressed as quickly and as silently as possible, which was increasingly difficult to do while dry heaving.)

I made my way to the bar and let myself in, locking the door behind me. A half hour of power drinking calmed the nerves. Then I heard the clop. To be more exact, the clop, drag,sound of a one legged, older Indian woman, coming down the stairs, past the bar. ) I felt like the narrator in Poe's the 'Tell-Tale Heart,' except my madness was inspired by the damned clop, drag, clop, drag, as she searched for her vacant paramour. Not a proud moment but noteworthy in hitting bottom...

That little episode was instrumental in me drinking myself out of a job. (This in a town where drinking is a way of life, not just a hobby.) None of the other bars would touch me, so I applied for food stamps. A friend was letting me sleep on his floor in a used sleeping bag, and he told me later, he was waiting to find me dead in the bag one morning. Sorry to disappoint.

I eventually found a job washing dishes in a waterfront cafe. How sober do you need to be to do that, I thought?

The Southeastern part of Alaska is famous for sudden, blackout inspiring (no pun intended) storms in the spring. As I was failing to hold it together for an entire eight hour shift without a little 'medicine', I took advantage of the power outages.

Whenever the power would go out, the restaurant would cease all activity until the lights came back on. In the dark I would ease into the walk-in cooler across form the steamy Hobart and pound down as many beers as I could before the lights came on. It also occurred to me I needed to hide the results of my activity without taking the empties from the cooler. In a wave of brilliance I decided to shove the empty, brown bottles down the gullets of several large, semi-frozen, whole halibut we kept in the cooler. Genius, I thought.

That was fine until the manager needed a fish. Picking it up by the tail, a case of empty Ranier bottles were vomited across the kitchen. He looked at the bottles. He looked at the fish. He looked at me. I took off my apron and walked out.

That night I threw up on two lesbians at a party in my friends apartment. Even he had his limits.

I moved into a large box under the pier. Now this was living...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ward is a little hard on the beaver...

I met the plane reasonably sober and when I saw my daughter all bundled up like a papoose I almost lost it. I think at that moment I knew I could not pull this off and get my shit together enough to make it work. But I stuffed that down deep and tap danced as fast as I could. I escorted my family into our little one room and showed them a crib I picked up second hand. My wife didn't seemed too bothered by living over a bar, and God knows I thought it was perfect, where else would I have lived?

As usual, my drinking escalated and she took notice. My bar manager noticed too, as I was gaining unnecessary attention with my behaviour. Considering the business he was in- it just wasn't cool.

My betrothed and I began fighting over the drinking. (This was the same women who stood in the Judges chamber six months pregnant with daisy's propped on her belly while the Judge asked me to sit down before I fell down, during our wedding. On the way home we stopped in a Target parking lot so I could pee. The police did not find it amusing.)

The end wasn't just near, we ran over it.

As usual, I had been out barhopping and upon my return she snapped, flying at me, swinging her fists, punching me in the face. I threw my arms out in front of me and struck her in the nose. We both stopped and I backed out of the room and went downstairs where I power drank to mask the shame and self loathing.

Her Mother wired her rescue cash and the following day they both exited my life.

Walking down the long, beige hallway to the airplane she removed her sunglasses and looked at me with a fierce hatred. Both her eyes were blackened and bruised. She never uttered a word, just walked to the plane. I didn't see her again for eighteen years.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fools and drunks...

If you are fortunate enough to find a cab driver who speaks English, they can take you anywhere and find you anything. I threw my duffel in the back seat and sat up front, unnerving the driver. I watched the ferry in the side mirror grow smaller as we cruised through the snow.

As I had no idea where to go, I asked the driver to pick somewhere colorful, possibly gold rush historic, and if he could, near the water. I got what I asked for. The Alaskan Hotel , turn of the century Gold Rush, ornate bar on the ground floor, (very important) and rooms upstairs. The rooms even had kitchenettes, and the room I was given, on the third floor, overlooked the Red Dog Saloon next door and a Mexican Restaurant. Home sweet home. I bounced a couple of times on the springs and headed downstairs.

Swinging open the heavy, oak doors, I stepped into the past. Awesome. I leaned against the bar in that way drunks have when they ooze into their comfort zone, settling in for a bender. A couple of beers later, the bar manager made mention that he was from Houston. A few more and I learned he dealt coke. And after that, I had a job. I would work the day shift behind the stick, with rent being taken out of my check, so I lived on tips, and going home was as simple (or not) as stumbling upstairs. God does indeed look after fools and drunks, and I had elected for double coverage.

For the first week or so, I held everything pretty close, keeping my thumb tightly on the control button. But that failed to stop me from making crying, pitifully drunk, collect calls back to Texas, telling my wife how much better our (her) life was going to be once I saved enough money to send for her and our baby.

My tips added up and I sent the money for my family. I also elected to stop sleeping with one of the waitresses. After all, I had standards. I ended it after a shift one night, laying with her in my room, watching the snow glow as it fell through the light of a street lamp. When drinking I like to ask pointed questions, so I did. I asked her why she bothered with me, knowing I was married and moving the family to be with me.

"Because you're the loneliest man I ever met..."

She had no idea.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Arriving in the great, white North...

I drank beer in a deck chair underneath a huge orange heat lamp, and enjoyed the view. We motored through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world for about 24 hours and all I could do was try not to throw up. Hindsight being what it is, sitting in a deck chair, in the middle of January, on a ferry in Alaska, during a major snowstorm, does not seem like a viable mode of travel. But hell, it worked for me. The booze held the fear at bay and kept me from realizing this was a grossly, stupid idea.

Snowflakes the size of paper plates fell all around me, and as the sun came up the dawn got a bit grey and I looked over the edge. The water looked damn cold and there were sea lions playing in the wake. I was the only one on deck as the other travelers had better sense than to stand in a snowstorm, plus, a few who were entrenched in the bar got glimpses of me in various states of disarray every time I came back in for more beer. (I had begun buying them six at a time, and the bartender kept selling them to me. I guess he didn't have to worry about me driving home.)

I didn't appear altogether sane and they were keeping their distance. Good for them. I was not in a state of grace and poking me with a verbal stick was not a good idea. I was getting surly. To whom? No one; everyone, God, the sea lions...I had long since passed functioning.

By the time we docked at the ferry station I had drank myself reasonably sober. The snow had grown to a minor blizzard and I hailed a cab. The road from the ferry station to town was the only road that went anywhere. Juneau could only be reached by air, or water. No roads in, no roads out.

I left a dog eared copy of 'Call of the Wild' under the deck chair. Fuck Jack London...I had arrived.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The road...

A parka and a pair of long underwear later, I was on the bus. (Years later, my mother informed me a girl I was seeing prior to my departure had given birth to my son. She was pregnant when I left and never told me. My wife and daughter were many hundreds of miles away, and I thought we were just passing time until I left. I doubt it would have changed anything had I known...)

The plan was to take the bus to Seattle, then fly to Juneau. Once I landed I would play it by ear. The trip was uneventful until Bakersfield, California. INS pulled a checkpoint in the middle of the night, and three Salvadorans were escorted off in handcuffs. I was sober until Portland, Oregon. Rain mixed with snow and a 24 hour layover made it easy. I met a girl at the bus station. Her apartment was around the corner. She invited me in for a hot bath and a bottle of wine. I still don't know her name.
The next day I arrived in Seattle and began pounding martini's at SeaTac. The blackout hit before I boarded my flight. I was less than lucid.

In 1982, airport security was hovering around around nil and you had to be pretty deranged to warrant a second glance. I got more than a second glance when we made an unscheduled stop in Ketchikan at 3 a.m. I was escorted off the flight. The cold Alaskan air sobered me up long enough to realize I had been seat hopping and trying to start a conga line on the plane. No one was amused. They dumped me on the tarmac and I was met by a bored security guard. I asked him if it was true that marijuana was legal in Alaska. I seem to remember his answer was no.

As luck would have it, I cashed in the remainder of my ticket and purchased passage on the ferry heading north, catering to the inland waterways in Southeast Alaska. There was a bar on board...and it was open.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The call of the mild...

We spent her pregnancy in South Texas. We moved in with her Mother, and I went to work briefly in a cement factory. Six months of that nightmare and we were headed back to Dallas, this time to encamp with my Mom and her last husband. I went to work for awhile as an apprentice pressman in an offset printing company, while she got bigger, and bigger and my mother grew ever more resentful. I stayed grudgingly sober, proving a point and we grew farther apart.
She hated the fact I would rather read than watch game shows with her. She complained she was lonely. I bought her a ceramic parrot and some paint. Mr. thoughtful.

Our daughter was born in the county hospital, on the dole, as I had no insurance. A few weeks later she and our baby were headed back to her Mom's. I had a plan.
The idea came to me one day after our daughter was born and I tried to envision the next eighteen years in a dead marriage, being Joe Lunch bucket, hating life. Nope. No sir. Not for me.

I needed some distance and a way to make good money. I was sitting by my mother's pool working on the tan reading a National Geographic. There was an article on the Alaskan pipeline boom. That was it. Alaska...a new start, the real frontier, filled with individualists singing the lumberjack song. Okay, maybe not but it was as far as I could get without a passport.

I toyed with the idea of joining the French Foreign Legion instead. Flipped a coin, and it landed on Alaska. Maybe I could learn how to be a husband and a father while I was there. As I was clueless on both these fronts, any idea seemed to be a good one.
I herded them onto a bus and began preparing for my departure. First stop-The Army Navy store-...if I looked like I knew what I was doing, how could this possibly go wrong...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A note on parenting...

A woman knows all about her children. She knows about dentist appointments, soccer games, romances, best friends, location of friend's houses, favorite foods, secret fears and hopes and dreams. A man is vaguely aware of some short people living in the house.

Bobo goes to Dallas

Prior to my ex-wife arriving in Dallas, I had rented a small duplex. Living alone and drinking can get lonely and one-night stands just too much work so the idea of a pet began to germinate in my head. A dog? Cat? No...didn't really say 'me'. One Sunday I was drinking the heart out of a lovely morning and meandering through the classifieds when I saw it. The ad for the monkey. The bells and whistles went off and I just knew this was a genius idea. Brilliant!

My rent was due, but I had the money. However I did not have money enough for both rent and the ape. Rent was exactly half what the animal cost. A few beers and minor calculations later and I made the call. I somehow talked the guy into letting me make a deposit with the remainder of the money in a week and a few hours later a van pulled up outside. The details at this point were rather sketchy, but they delivered the monkey. I had never held a monkey before and this one clung to my face like Michael Jackson on a cub scout. (Note to all future monkey owners- be they spider monkeys, chimps, or simians of any race or creed they should all wear diapers...believe it.)

I then realized I had no bananas. So I thought he might like a beer. Turned out he wasn't much of a drinker.

My landlady lived a few doors down and I wondered if she might spot me a spare Chiquita. (I had forgotten the rent was due.) She opened at my knock, expecting the rent. She did not expect the monkey. She failed to see the poignancy or brilliance of my story and chose to evict me. Long story short, I failed to pony up the balance on the monkey and the sketchy dude's in the van returned for him. I had been evicted and had a monkey repossessed...all because of one, great idea.

I was bummed. I was going to teach it to smoke.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A thought on mortality...

When I die, I want to go peacefully like my Grandfather did, in his sleep -- not screaming, like the passengers in his car.

Our hero meets the first succubus

So there in lied the rub, or lack of a rub actually. I needed a woman, and not in a purely physical sense, but in a sense of completeness, two parts to a whole kind of thing. Now I am so self centered I won't even buy a house plant (water yourself...) but I thought the saving grace, what I needed to stabilize me or bring me in to the human fold, was a relationship. After all, if someone loved me, how fucked up could I possibly be. (See extremely in the dictionary)

I got a job in a hospital during the day as an orderly and tended bar at night. My sobriety lasted a couple of weeks when one day at the hospital I'm standing in the elevator when a high school volunteer got on the same floor. She was Hispanic, eighteen and beautiful. I was done. Desperation made me bold and I asked her out. For some strange reason she agreed, and here it is 28 years later and I'm still paying her child support. If she had just gotten on another floor...who am I kidding, it would have been someone else...and I would have taken them hostage because they didn't love me "enough" or "in the right way" or (wait for it comes...) "they didn't understand me." To think I used to believe my own shit.

At any rate, we went to a dance and I drank without a second thought. At the time I needed it, so I thought, what I did not need were her parent's walking in to my apartment, (small towns...doors unlocked) the morning after her deflowering and telling us both, still in bed, it was time for her to go to school. That was a little surreal, and it also sealed my fate. I couldn't have gotten away from them if I tried. And I did.

After my shift at the bar I would be invited to parties and I would attend, meet some nubile young honey and begin the chatting up process when there would be a knock at the door. It was her, having driven all over town looking for my car, then following the sound of a party, and she would find me, like a fucking bloodhound, every time.

I even moved back to Dallas to try to get away from her, and she showed up one day at the bar where I was working on lower Greenville. She moved in and off we went, until one day after I had been gone for three days, if I remember correctly, acid (that would be LSD for you folks in Park Cities) and a lot of alcohol contributed to that, I came home and she was apparently out looking for me. I locked the door and passed out on the couch.

She came home, having forgotten her key and pounded on the door. And pounded some more. I never budged. Until she broke a window and crawled in the apartment, retrieved a pistol I kept in the bedroom and woke me while sitting on my chest with the barrel screwed into my forehead. She was pissed.

I talked the gun out of her hand and our daughter was conceived next to the couch on a blood stained, green shag rug. were expecting Love Story?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The innocence of children

Overheard conversation between two eight- year old boys in the backseat of a car returning home from the beach. "Okay, if you had to choose, which would you rather do...drink camel pee, or lick peanut butter off the balls of a hobo? And, you have to answer, you have to!" Wow. And to think I have trouble deciding what to eat at Whole Foods.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Remembering Gandhi

In the words of Mohandas K. Gandhi, as he was jostled by a large crowd in the Bombay railway station- "Hey watch it shiteyes! I'm walking here!"

My new disclaimer...yeah I know.

Okay, the old disclaimer was tired. The ideas were outdated and keeping me stuck in a place I don't want to be now for something more refreshing.

I have recently changed my views regarding women. Seems I had some issues with the fairer sex due to past pain and self- centered fear. (Yes...duh applies.)

I'm done with that.

Being in recovery has helped me change my entire life, perceptions and attitudes. I cannot change my history but I can change my today and my future.

I recently realized that the women I know in recovery are some of the strongest, bravest, most gentle and kind teachers I have ever had. You exemplify integrity and spiritual growth, and I hope you know who you are.

Some may know of my past marital and relationship history and been a participant in them as well. It's past and that's where it the past.

I own my part in those failures but claim no more responsibility in any misery you may be experiencing. I am sorry, but it's time to get off the cross. We need the wood.

Thank you all...