Day 152 – A Story Over Too Soon

1:21 AM

I just got a bit of a shock. On a day that I randomly decided to wear a shirt from a gym where I used to work and where I had my massage practice back in the mid-nineties, I saw an obituary for one of the trainers, Joseph Raynor – aka Joe Joe to all of us – who worked there. He was also one of my massage clients, and a friend, at least during the time we worked together. What I remember most about Joe Joe was his deep smile and generally good-natured personality that made me think of a big snuggly teddy bear. He was a big guy – a former football player – and good ole country boy who had a light and sparkle in his eyes and who always looked like he was ready to laugh.

Joe Joe was a few weeks older than me but a lot less mature in a lot of ways. He had a baby-face (and despite his athleticism some baby-fat) and an almost ever-present smile on his face. Whenever we talked I always heard an innocence and sense of wonder or bewilderment about life and what it was all about.

In other ways, Joe Joe knew more about life than I did and perhaps more than I ever want to know. He was a world-class power lifter and competed in events all over the country. He was, at 25, already unhappily married with a child. And he knew what it was like to be arrested, go to jail and have a felony record. Though he was not involved with drugs when I knew him, he had gotten in trouble for helping people in the power-lifting community sell and/or buy steroids and was still on probation.

In the early days of our friendship, Joe Joe was very careful to stay away from potentially bad situations like going out to bars and really didn’t drink. He had a young son and family to take cre of and usually opted to be the responsible one. Later, as the group at the gym got bigger and a little more out of control, I heard a few stories about Joe Joe behaving badly and getting in a few bar fights. But not long after, he seemed to get a better sense of himself back, got some money together and bought the gym. I think we all hoped this would be a turning point for him and his life overall – and I think it was for a while.

But then, somehow, something propelled Joe Joe back into some of his past bad habits. I’m not sure exactly what went on in those days, but I heard stories of problems with the business; then of him getting into hard drugs – both using and selling; and later about him being in back in jail.

Judging from the obituary, I guess part or all of that may be true. It talked about how he’d become a Christian as an adult and had been involved in spreading his faith through prison ministries, AA, NA and another organization that I think is  a rehab center. All in all though, it read like he had turned over a new leaf and was building a life with a woman he intended to marry and her son. 

Though I haven’t seen Joe Joe in years…probably at least 16 or so…reading about his death really knocked the wind out of me. I immediately called another friend who knew him back then and perhaps better than I did. Though neither of us came out and said it I’m sure we were both thinking “What a damn shame.” I don’t know what killed him – it if was a slip back into drugs, driving drunk, or just his body giving out after the numerous and ongoing abuses it had taken. I guess it might have been none of those and instead something totally unrelated or random. But I doubt it. (Update…it was a heart attack at age 44).

Now, as I continue to observe my own habits, vices and behaviors, I feel odd that I was sipping the last of a glass of wine when I saw the news in the paper. No, I wasn’t drunk – not even close. But I have to admit that part of me feels like this yet is another “wake-up” call to pay attention to.

The question, perhaps, is what am I supposed to wake up to hearing or seeing? That I should live life totally sober? That I should recognize life is short and to enjoy all the moments? That I need to be careful about who I partner or associate with? Am I meant to remember that who I am is made up of all the actions I take each day and the lessons I’ve learned along the way? That who I am is not based solely on one or two habits I have – good or bad – but rather the total content of my character. Or that when all is said and done, what matters most is the love andpositive memories you’ve left behind.

I don’t know if I will go to the service for him today or not. It’s been so long and it seems in part like it would be odd for me to be there. Yet, another part says “Go honor the person you knew. Think about the sweet side of him you got to see and preserve that in your mind and that of the people who knew him so he can be healed back to being that man wherever he is now.”

Regardless, my memory of Joe Joe is of that sweet young man pictured above, with his beautiful smile and sunshiney personality. Wherever you are, Joe Joe, truly I hope you rest in peace. xo fb

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Day 120 – Isn’t Liquid Alcohol Enough?

OMG…While doing a random search online I just found an article about the development (possible) of POWDERED ALCOHOL. I was simultaneously thrilled and terrified. Imagine the awesome calorie savings combined with the simplicity of sprinkling powdered alcohol over food like a seasoning – or powdered sugar. And yet I scare myself by thinking how awesome it sounds and wonder if it would make me consume/abuse alcohol in ways I never imagined.

Take a read for yourself by clicking here.

Day 54 – Erasing an Addiction

Day 54 – I’ve been teaching in the Seattle area for the last few days and am now headed to Dallas for another conference. On my flight to Dallas, I see an ad in the in-flight magazine for a 10 day recovery program at Schick Shadel Hospital. Their treatment program is supposed to completely eradicate your addictions through “Counter Conditioning” that somehow teaches you to hate the sight, smell, taste and thoughts of using the addictive substance. They also use “medically administered deep sleep therapy” to cleanse low self-esteem, guilt, regrets and other emotional burdens to improve long-term mental health.

Hmm. I candidly admit that although at this point alcohol is not really appealing to me from a taste standpoint right now, I don’t like the idea of being completely grossed out by the way it tastes, smells or even looks. As prevalent as alcohol is in our culture – and among most of my friends – I almost feel like I’d have to wear a bag over my head to keep myself from feeling sick all the time. 


I’m also a bit hesitant to consider the idea of what essentially sounds like some kind of checmically induced coma/brain-washing. Perhaps there are levels of mental fucked-up-ness that require such heavy duty interventions. But for me, I feel that I am pretty OK emotionally and cannot see turning my brain over to some technician or doctor to clean up while I am in a “medically-induced”sleep-trance. 

That being said, I am curious about both and note that the two clinics listed are in Seattle where I just left and Dallas where I am going. 

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After perusing their website and seeing numerous testimonials from past patients that praise the center, I feel a bit better about what they offer at Shick Shadel.  I don’t see myself going there anytime soon as I am doing just fine without any sort of formal program. For me, quitting drinking is still simply a choice. But I’m glad to know that such an effective program exists if I ever need it.

Here’s their info in case you want to check it out. 

http://www.schickshadel.com or 1-800-Craving

Day 34 – But Who’s Counting?

Day 34 – Believe it or not, I have stopped keeping track of the number of days it’s been since I had a drink. Not that I haven’t continued to be aware of unique things to think about and consider as I encounter new situations and people.  Life has just been busy. And perhaps since I got through my Miami challenge so well, coming back to my normal life wasn’t that big of a deal. I had to look at a calendar to figure out what day I was on.

In fact, once I hit the magical 28 day mark – the stereotypical length of a stay in rehab I believe – I stopped paying attention to the actual number of days it’s been, which is pretty cool I have to say. And I have thought way less about wanting a drink since I got home from Miami and passed the four week mark which is even cooler.

A couple of other positive things to share…

1) I got this in an email from a good friend the other day…

I appreciate that you shared your thoughts on alcohol so openly on Facebook. It made me think of my own habits and although I haven’t cut out alcohol entirely, I’ve certainly cut my intake dramatically. Thanks to you.”

My response – and something about which I could elaborate on further and may later on…

“Thanks for your kind words about not drinking, et al. It has been a challenge – and one that is not understood by many of my friends. I supposed if I had cancer and was doing it as a way to improve my treatment it would be easier for many to understand – or if I had a real ‘problem’ with it then people would get it. The most common comment is about just having ‘one glass’ of something. If moderation were working for me, then I wouldn’t have quit in the first place:-)

2) Also when I was teaching at a conference this weekend, I casually mentioned to the class that I had recently given up drinking and so there would be plenty of chocolate floating around for me and them. Later, one of my students pulled me aside and asked me why I quit drinking. I told her that I wanted to make a change for myself and my body, etc., as I have explained here. She said she didn’t think she was an alcoholic but had no problem drinking a half (or full) bottle every evening. I told her I was writing a blog about the experience and would send a link for it to her. She thanked me then and again before the conference ended. I know that she enjoyed my class but think the real connection we made was because of my current journey.

Despite some of the less than supportive comments I’ve had from other folks and friends, both of these interactions made me feel once again that this “adventure,” as well as sharing my story and experience of it, is worthwhile in multiple ways and is helping others. If taking action in these ways makes a positive impact on just one other person’s life, then it is worth doing and telling the world about it. Thanks to these two for reaching out and sharing how my words have made an impact on them.

Please feel free to share my story and blog with others that you think might be helped by it – and thank you in advance for your comments of support or your own story on the blog or by private message.

xoxo fb

Day 24 – No Miami Vice

Today I am heading to Miami and reality hits me pretty early this morning. Alcohol is everywhere. Even at 8 am in the airport and then the plane, I am surrounded by reminders that I don’t drink and the rest of the culture seemingly does. In the airport sundries shop, I am startled by odd, crumpled-looking shot glasses that say “I got smashed in North Carolina.” Then on the plane they offer us cocktails – at 8 in the morning. Why none of this ever bothered me before I don’t know but I am definitely feeling edgy about it.

When I get to my hotel in Miami to check in, I immediately notice the Happy Hour flyer by the desk and make a mental note to check it out – until I remember I’m not drinking. %(*&#$@@! I go up to my room to unpack and take a few deep breaths.

After I get settled, I go downstairs to eat lunch on the outdoor patio and am stared down by a table tent offering refreshing alcoholic libations – all of which sound perfect for a sunny outdoor lunch. But I abstain – even from the pricey flavored waters and juices to have a delightful glass…of tap water. It is really not what I want but I cannot bring myself for some reason to pay $4 for a non-alcoholic beverage.

If it were a glass of wine I was choosing, I have no doubt I’d spend would or triple that because today I am “on vacation” today and would treat myself. Odd, I know, but it’s true. I guess not drinking is going to save me a bit of money on this trip – if I don’t end up spending it on other ways to amuse myself such as shopping or getting massages.


My big indulgences today are actually getting a manicure and then taking a yoga class at a studio not too far from my hotel. The owners of the nail studio were celebrating their one year anniversary for being in business today and offered me a glass of champagne during my manicure. They were from France – the owners – and I almost felt like I was insulting by refusing the libation. When I explained I was not drinking “for Lent” I got absolutely no response as if I had spoken a totally foreign language that they could not comprehend in the slightest. As I said they were French so the concept of giving up alcohol must seem absurd to them.

The yoga was fantastic – just what I needed – although I know I’ll be feeling it tomorrow. In the class we were offered the opportunity to dedicate our practice to a particular intention. For mine, I decided to focus on not just giving up drinking but also detoxifying my body and life. I want to let go of those things that are weighing me down from being the best I can be and/oror tying me to my past with alcohol so that I may let it go more easily. It was pretty interesting the thoughts and emotions that surfaced as the class wore on and helped me to get some intense clarity.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring in Miami but am so grateful for the chance to have a day to myself to reflect, heal and process all that is happening with/from/because of the simple choice to not drink today.

Day 10

I wake up again feeling great. I work out harder than I have in about a month. I take time to write as well as to contemplate what is really important to me today. All day long I notice that I am more upbeat and energetic than I have been in a while. I sing to the radio in the car, dance to music while waiting in line at a store, and have fun in general throughout the day.

I sense that drinking more heavily for the last few months has been as much about not wanting to see my own future and success as it has been to deal with the stress of working so hard. That’s hard for me to admit because I am so driven and want to accomplish so much. But I think I sometimes feel afraid of the possibilities of what I can do, be and accomplish in my life. By drinking or getting caught up in other addictions like working too much, I cloud my vision of the future. I’m not sure what to do about that right now but as the rune I drew last night suggested, maybe now is not the time to do anything about it. It’s the time to take no action and wait to see what the right action will be.