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Thursday, July 30, 2009

A minor surrender equals a very small victory...

I realized I had no where to go. No home, no family or career. I had family in Dallas but I was not willing to subject myself on them. Somehow, I had to find my feet.

I did, and I began to shuffle.

I performed all the exercises I was told to. Prayer; forgiveness, the letters to my Mom and Dad, but they were empty and I felt, pretty futile. I had yet to learn to follow directions with willingness.

It was mentioned I could continue whatever type of recovery I was in living in a controlled environment in Temple. There was a center there for Veterans to stay. The domiciliary. I would have to apply and meet with a board of Doctors.

My options were gone, so I began the process.

A Bluebird bus took me from Waco to Temple for the review board.

The panel was about a dozen medical professionals, headed up by a skinny Vietnamese Doctor.

What a, he actually talked down to me in the review. I learned later he did this to all the Veterans, as did the majority of the government teat sucking staff.

With the amount of Vietnam Vets at the Dom I wondered how long before his head was found on a pole.

I plead my case, carefully omitting the real reasons. My alcoholism was holding it's breath, afraid I would spill the beans. I was accepted into the Dom and I felt like my disease clapped me on the back after it was over.

I packed my small amount of stuff, including the coffee cup and moccasins. The jewelry box I gave to my girls.

I shared a room with an old veteran, dying of lung cancer and renal failure. My nights were filled with his phlegmy coughing and moans of pain.

Boy, that was good for depression.

The Dom was across the street from the local college, so I applied for financial aid, got accepted and became an art major. I loved to draw, (see escape) as a kid and I thought maybe I could learn something.

I gained part-time employment as a desk clerk in a local hotel. I kept that until the night one of the housekeepers boyfriends showed up drunk. She met him in the lobby. Loud words were exchanged. He slapped her. I heard a roaring in my ears and everything went red.

The next thing I knew the police were there, pulling me off. Appears I had piston punched him in the face until he stopped moving. I didn't remember it.

I was my Father's son, after all.

So much for kinder and gentler. But that was my makeup, to defend the weak. Did it without thinking, which was good, because if I thought about it, there was no way I would willingly choose to do that. Unless a loved one was in danger...then, all bets were off.

However, I was let go. Whatever. I was looking for a job when I found that one.

Of course I was thinking a lot about my parents. And death. There had to be something after this, I thought, because if not, why bother?

One afternoon I was walking to a convenience store to get a diet coke. The sky was that light Texas blue and filled with huge, cotton candy clouds. So I began talking to my Dad.

I asked him...if there was something else...if we did continue on after this veil of tears, to let me know. I was going to purchase a quick pick at the store for the cash five lotto. Back then spirituality had a price. If any of his answers were yes, if he could hear me at all, I simply asked him to influence the ticket. That was that.

I let the machine crank it out, and I had my five numbers.

I had just finished an episode of the X-files that night when the lotto results came on. I had forgotten about it.

I dug the ticket out of my 501's and watched as one number, then two and three and four hit. I missed hitting all five and won $450.00.

It actually scared the shit out of me.

Be careful what you wish for...

Monday, July 27, 2009

I don't think it rained at all...


Washed out blue sky, and the odd, big white cloud. For thirty days.

It was Texas after all.

I had been placed on Prozac for the depression, and Trazadone...for the nightmares. After about a week, the anchor came loose out of the mud and I started to look at things other than my feet.

It was still heavy, but now there was forward movement. Guess it was progress.

My Doctor was a woman from India. We began to discuss grief and mine was thick enough to spread on toast. Then we came to loss, and worked backward...

As we worked through it, it became evident that loss and abandonment, were my two major issues. I didn't know it, but my entire life reflected that, and for many years afterward, I simply reacted to it.

Today, if someone I love says "we need to talk..." I understand the words, but my brain tells me they're leaving, or they want me to.

I lost my Mom to alcoholism and the court system, after they declared her unfit. I lost my Dad to his personal demons and subsequent rage.

I lost my innocence to sexual predators. And I kept on losing...especially those I loved.

Later in life I learned that if they had no intention of leaving, my actions made sure they did. I became oddly comfortable with loss...I could predict it...I knew what it felt was what I knew.

The medication helped the depression, but nothing changed my perception. I didn't get it yet. I didn't know that if I kept doing what I always did, I would get what I always got.

We talked. Or to be more accurate-she listened and made notes.

I made a coffee cup, and a jewelry box and moccasins, and they called it therapy.

All the while looking at the sky, sensing it had gotten bigger, since my Mom and Dad were now a part of it. I asked for guidance, a sign, a voice out of the tree's...anything.

What I got was a hot wind...that said nothing at all.

It was my thirty days in the desert.

If it had rained, maybe it would have been different.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A family affair...

The meds kept me under the radar. The television, mounted on the wall, was apparently tuned to the Matlock network.

All Matlock all the time, interrupted by episodes of "In the heat of the night." The nights were thick with late spring, Texas heat.

Three days of close observation-with smoke breaks on an outside porch-encased in the same gauge mesh that covered the windows. Once outside the familiarity of the building was even stronger, but the reality was always just beyond my reach.

How am I feeling? Do you want to hurt yourself? Others? Tell us about your alcohol and drug use...

Man, I covered that up. My alcoholism was so strong it was making my decisions for me. It couldn't stand it if I didn't romance the pain.

I was just there for depression...the using, (I told them) was a byproduct.

They nodded and never spoke of it again.

On the third day, I ate a fried egg. With watered down ersatz coffee.

At night the meds were stronger, and in the twilight between awake and complete black, the crying and isolated screaming from the other vets was stark, sharp and terribly lonely.

But the meds worked and night after night, I would spiral slowly into nothing at all.

They kept the dreams at bay...except one.

My oldest daughter, a baby in the dream, standing in a dark, barren landscape, wind blowing through naked tree branches. She had the voice of an adult and would hold her little arms out to's okay, Daddy...I'm here. (Today is that little girls birthday...twenty seven years...she doesn't visit anymore, in dreams, or reality...)

My crying always woke me up...then shuffle down to the nurses station. Gulp a plastic container of juice and try to shake it loose.

Back to a fitful sleep, until first call.

Then do it all over. The memory of the building kept bugging me. It was an old complex and had been on the ground since the fifties.

A moment of clarity on another hot, dry, endless day.

I visited my Father here when I was four years old. WWII vets called it shell shock. Then battle it's PTSD. He had been housed and treated in the same building.

This shit runs in families.

I had come full circle.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A true psychotic break should leave one breathless...

I came to hearing Andy Griffith.

You have got to be shitting me. God has the voice of Matlock? I hate that show.

Apparently only if the afterlife consists of cheap, thin pajamas, with property of the V.A. Medical Center stamped above the right breast.

Brown tile floors; washed out brown walls, big, almost floor to ceiling windows, covered in large gauge steel mesh. Window fans that could power an air boat, slowly blowing hot air throughout the ward.

A thin antiseptic smell-pine sol- with a liberal dose of "end of the road."

At first I had no idea how...then snapshots of the day before, flashbulbs brightening brief memory.

My roommate, finding me, wanting to call 911.

Talking him out of it, promising I would go to the V.A. Throwing what I could in an overnight bag, including a carton of camels. Leaving the rest behind.

My ex-wife and my babies, picking me up. Driving to Waco. One of the largest V.A. nut hutches going. Tears.

Wind through an open window, and more tears.

The eyes of a kind, older nurse, calming me down.

A cupful of pills, washed down with diabetically sweet, warm, red kool-aid. Then dark.

The pills should have had me down for a full 24. I had no idea when I went out, or what time it was now. I simply knew it wasn't long enough.

I liked the dark, with no dreams. I wanted it again, because this reality was bullshit.

I heard crying, then sobbing and screaming.

Poor bastard, I thought. Someone needs to sedate that man. I wondered what nightmare drove him here.

Then I heard my children's names through the sobs.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Stardust and straightjackets... Dad's favorite song.

At his memorial three of his musician friends played it. The first few notes reduced me to wracking sobs, while I held my twins for dear life. They were too little to know what was wrong, or why Daddy was so upset, but my little troopers hugged me back, and were very brave.

What kind of man relies on four-year old daughters to hold him up emotionally? The kind with nothing left I guess.

I don't remember much of the service but I do know the coffin was empty as he had opted for cremation. I was glad it was empty. It made things less real.

As usual, my pain and focus was all about me. I couldn't console his wife, or his brother or anyone pain was greater than anyone's. It had to be. My selfishness disturbs even me.

But I knew one thing...

My parents, as screwed up as they were, having an emotional and spiritual toolkit containing only a hammer and a bottle opener, were gone.

I was alone in the world without a rudder. No guidance or direction had ever been given me and I didn't have a play book. Thirty-five years old, and I felt like I was truly alone in the world.

I couldn't pick up the phone grudgingly anymore to make the obligatory phone call. I couldn't bitch about them to friends. I couldn't blame them for my failings.

All I could do was miss them.

I stayed in my attic room for three days, only venturing downstairs to pee and get water.

I talked to them, I talked to myself and I went a little bit mad. The screaming "WHY? WHY? WHY?" in the middle of the night must have been unsettling for my room mates, but crazy will certainly guarantee your private time.

Eventually, with tears streaming down my face, I picked up the shotgun. God didn't exist, my parents had abandoned me for good and my babies didn't really know who I was. Two failed marriages, failed careers, a failed life.

The only thing strong about me was my self pity, self-centeredness and my willingness to use people, places and things to patch up the holes. I had run out of all of them.

I thumbed the hammers back one more time, and placed both barrels over my heart.

I just knew it was going to hurt.

I pulled the triggers.


My roommate had removed the shells.

I laid on my mattress and cried, until I could cry no more...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Take it from someone who has's a hell of a long way down.

The next few months were a blur.

The hole in my soul was wide open, a cold wind blowing through it.

Part of me was not here anymore. She wasn't out of town...or in a foreign country. I could cover every inch of this planet and she would not be here. My Mother was gone.

I didn't drink, but used every other conveyance to try and stop feeling. Nothing worked.

(Authors note-never do cocaine right after eating beef ribs...I'll spare you the details.)

It was during this period that my Father elected to cease the medication he was on to combat his congestive heart failure. He had been reduced to an oxygen tank and a wheelchair, this man that used to fill ballrooms with his presence.

He had chosen to move on. He made his peace with God and hospice took care of him in his home as every day he got smaller and smaller.

Our peace was unspoken but we had stopped the jousting. I was hurting too much to defend or attack. He was too medicated to hurt. I suppose it worked out.

I would visit a couple of times a week, not staying long...I couldn't. I remembered sitting on his lap when I was too little to know what anguish was... smelling his smell, hugging his neck, dying for his approval.

But I could not approve of him dying. He was supposed to live forever... isn't that what Daddy's do?

My oldest brother came to visit, healing the 20-year rift the old man had started. We never had the chance to be close, but would have taken it, I know. (He died a year later-heart attack after work, walking to his truck on a muggy Houston night.)

When not visiting I would sit alone in my attic room. I would hold a double barrel shotgun, loaded, and place the barrels on different parts of my body, knowing all I had to do was thumb the hammers back and squeeze, just a little.

Eventually I tasted gun oil, but decided vanity wouldn't allow me to blow my head off. (How's that for ego?)

My Uncle called me on a night in March, telling me if I wanted to see my Dad one last time, this was it. They expected him to go sometime in the night.

I don't remember the drive. I remember him laying on a hospital bed in his living room, breathing fast, wispy breaths, his dry, paper thin lips making a small puffing sound when he would exhale.

He woke up and saw it was me holding his hand. His eye's smiled and he said, "I'll love you forever..." and he slipped back into sleep.

I left but can't tell you how I got back. There was a roaring in my ears while the rest of the world had been muted. Time was stopping and all I could do was watch.

About two-thirty in the morning, my Father was dead.

The hole in my soul had become alive, and it screamed in pain.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.- Matt Groening

And a torrid, brief little affair began.

Once it was determined that, while her baby girl was precious, I was in no frame of mind to be a new "Baby Daddy," I was replaced by a Frito Lay truck driver.

Good for her.

My guilt about my girls was a fog that would not lift, and the financial wagon I had hitched my sputtering star to, was in a considerable rut.

One missed paycheck...then two. Can anyone say "Karma?"

I wasn't drinking but changed the way I felt through fist fulls of Benadryl. Complete with muscle spasms in my legs, and feeling like I was sleeping in jello. The end result of yet another great idea.

The job came to an end after a particularly nasty assignment. I was through with crime scene photos, diagrams, lying clients, and dirty prosecutors.

Defending the guilty had already begun to leave a decidedly sour taste in my mouth and finally, I had enough.

The underbelly of life. With it's pale; translucent, squirmy things, always digging under rocks, uncovering dirty little can wear you down, and it certainly had an effect on my general outlook.

Depression was settling in, and I never saw it coming.

My Father was in his last few months of life, and I decided to move in with he and my step-mom and care for him, one last time.

I wanted to connect. To let him know, that through it all, he was still my Dad.

I mowed the lawn, I cooked, cleaned the pool, and cut his toenails. I took him to medical appointments...always waiting for the right time, to have "the talk", or to let him initiate it.

Both of us were too proud. It never happened.

Before Christmas, I moved out.

Moved in with a friend who had a vacant attic. Six blocks from my Mom's house. I may have visited once.

Spent my days on unemployment; playing disc golf, smoking weed, and trying to start up a P.I. business. (i.e. delusional, grandiose, pipe dream)

The week of Christmas, I got the phone call.

My Mother was dead. She had been sober twenty years. She started to drink again on a Monday and was dead the following Saturday.

Dear readers, if any of you smoke weed on a regular basis, do not, I repeat, do not, under any circumstances attend your Mother's funeral high. I did. I thought it would help.

I forgot it was an open casket.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ego...not just a screwed up spelling for a waffle.

Powerful stuff.

The Ego, the Id, whatever it is.

It makes me believe my own bullshit, when left to my own devices, and that never, ever, ends well.

The home life was quiet. The hurt echoed through the house.

My head kept telling me I could do better alone. It's truly a terrible thing to be absolutely lonely when you're married. But I suppose I had it coming.

The firm I was working for was working me to death, as lead investigator, and the partners collected the cash, rode motorcycles and played golf. The nerve.

Again, my head told me I deserved better. Of course it did.

We lived next door to one of the partners, and late one afternoon I received a call from a prospective client and acquaintance I had known, working at the D.A.'s office. He needed us on a case, outside channels.

I told him I'd give him a sweetheart deal, do it on my own and off the books. We agreed on a price and he hung up. About fifteen seconds later the partner was at my door, phone in hand. He overheard the entire conversation on his cordless phone. I was busted flat footed.

Heated words were exchanged and I shut the door, hot with shame and embarrassment. I called another client, a prominent Defense Attorney in town and told him I was looking for greener, more permanent pastures. He agreed to see me the following day.

I interviewed in Preston Towers, and he offered me the job. My own office and secretary, a twenty-something, single, Hispanic Mom, who, truth be told was cuter than a baby duck wearing a hat.

Of course I took the job. The P.I. firm failed to take it well.

I told the wife I was moving out, needed some space, and rented a tiny apartment in Highland Park. She took it even worse. The guilt over leaving my girls was crushing, but my false pride carried me the next step. I was a shit heel and a fraud, and I knew it.

However the defense firm I was working for paid well, and I kept getting coy looks from my secretary, while she played with her hair.

Defending the guilty, while distasteful, is a requirement by Law. The adage, somebody has to do it applies. I admit to idealistic visions of defending the innocent, but no one innocent ever came to our office.

We won some and lost some, as is the case most of the times. But I was able to wear nice suits, afford Armani eye wear, and feel special.

One night I was working late, just me and our secretary. I was going over client interviews when she appeared in the doorway. A storm had rolled in, and lightning flashed through the blinds. She shut the door behind her, and turned off the light.

I heard the fabric of her dress as it dropped to the floor.

Oh, shit...this was not covered in the employee handbook.

And to think, I didn't even have dental...

Friday, July 3, 2009

The chronicle continues....

The last post in the autobiographical narrative of this is dated 12/03/08, if one wants to catch up.

Fast forward three years. Interior of Mexico, attempting to gain medical documents in an insurance scam case with disregard for the usual channels.

Once again, I do not speak Spanish.

Through ridiculous pantomime, a bit of mordida and ape like gestures I got what I came for.

Having passed a bit of a bribe to a border guard to expedite the process on gaining entry without too many questions, as I had absolutely no legal authority to be doing what I was doing in a foreign country, I felt smug.

Tracking the nefarious through foreign countries was pretty cool. I enjoyed it. For a time. But as with everything, a price will be exacted.

Sober four years and my twins were three years old. I was gone most of the time. Case after case.

My girls had a nodding acquaintance with Daddy. Back for a couple of days; a couple of tuck-ins, and gone again.

I didn't know it, but it was the beginning of the end, precluding years and years of ugliness between their Mother and I, and brief bits of it with them.

Lest one think the life of a real live Private Investigator is glamorous, consider if you will the following:

Exhibit A-I video taped an Insurance claimant from a Port-a- Potty, for eight hours, with an out-of-service sign on the door, at a Canton, Texas, trade day show. He was running a barbecue concession, claiming total disability. I will never forget the cloying smell of shit and barbecued turkey legs.

Exhibit B-I video taped another insurance claimant through a hole in my gym bag, while she conducted an aerobics class at an all black community center. She too, was claiming total disability.

Exhibit C- I staked out a Nigerian money laundering operation from an empty apartment, across from a Nigerian owned convenience store for three days, sleeping on the floor, with various people pounding on the door, screaming for someone named LaToya.

Either she was very popular or she owed some bad actors some cash.

There are many more of these exhibits; following unfaithful spouses, digging in to child abuse cases, tracking a stolen Lexus to a storage facility- somewhere in Kansas, and on, and on.

This was my job. I felt providing for my family was most important, as my wife at the time was not working, and from the growing impression on the couch, had no intention of it.

I will never get that time back with my girls, and if I had been going to regular meetings and working with a sponsor, maybe someone would have called me on it.

I wish they had.

The girls were making a foray into the child beauty pageant, commercial, modeling arena. I wasn't home enough to complain, but attended one event. Behind the scenes it was like Mother Bear's gnawing on pure adrenal gland.

Terrible ugliness, but my girls were darling.

The home life was headed down a narrow, steep, slope. It could only end crashing at the bottom. With any luck there would be survivors.

As we lay in bed one night she asked me an innocent, conversational question.

"You know what I'd like to be?"

"I don't know," I mumbled, " A size six?" What an asshole.

The crash had started and I never once pumped the brakes.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Resuming the tale...

Since we are pretty much caught up on my present situation I am going to resume the saga wherever it left off. I will post the date and title of the piece where I stopped and go from there.

As this takes more thought than simply rambling about my present circumstances, it may take some time to kick back into gear.

Thank you for your patience...

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...