Monday, April 29, 2013

A Salute To Bottoms

I don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.

I made some comments this weekend on message in a bottle's blog The Bubble that I feel I should apologize for, or at least try to explain.

Paul wrote about his experience in rehab and when he wrote about his physical withdrawal symptoms, I really identified with them.  Although I have met others, on various message boards and blogs that I follow, that have drank long enough and hard enough to build up a physical dependence and then suffer through the same resulting withdrawal symptoms that I suffered, the majority of the bloggers I follow seem to have experienced a softer bottom than I did.  Sometimes when I read those blogs, I can't relate, I find myself saying, "Really? You only drank one bottle of wine a night? What's the problem?"  I'm sure the writers of those blogs read my blog sometimes and say, "Jesus, why in the world would someone let booze control their life that long?  Didn't she care about her family? How could she let herself sink that low?"

A hard bottom is not a red badge of courage, nor is it a Scarlet Letter of Shame. It is what it is, a turning point.  The same can be said of a soft bottom.   I've often thought that having a soft bottom takes a lot more strength and willpower.  To me, it seems much easier to walk a way from a trainwreck of a life that has been "totaled" then to walk away from a life that is starting to show the wear and tear and collateral damage from alcohol.  It takes so much more fortitude to pull back on the reigns when you can see that you are heading into danger then to let go of the reigns and barrel ahead, seduced into thinking that what lies ahead isn't as bad as it seems, that the ride might be worth the fall.

But then again, what about the courage it takes to crawl out of the bottle long enough to see all the destruction that your drinking has wrought lying about you in smoldering ruins and not crawl back in?  To see drinking yourself to death as an easier alternative, but decide to do whatever it takes to get sober, even if it kills you.

I take back what I said about hard bottoms not being red badges of courage, they are.  And so are soft bottoms.  We are all courageous survivors of the same bloody war.

Thank God we bounced!

Sunday, April 14, 2013


The robin and cardinal are quibbling among the sprouting green tops of the bulbs that were buried last fall in hopes of an April resurrection of swaying yellow daffodils, slender red tulips, and sweet hyacinths in every color of a sugared almond rainbow.  I point to the bickering pair through the window and she smiles wanly, a pale lemon sliver of sun behind the dark clouds of a gray Kansas afternoon sky, the kind of sky that heralds the devastation of a poker hand of natural disasters.  Young seedlings, barely taken root, torn from their holdings and pummeled flat by a relentless onslaught  or lifetimes swept away by the nonchalant flick of catastrophe's tail.

I want to tell her that I know how she feels, trying so hard to come out from behind her pain.

I spoon cereal into my grandson's mouth and wipe as half of it dribbles down his chin while I watch out of the corner of my eye as she scrambles the eggs that she intends to will herself to eat. Furiously resolute, the fork makes staccato taps against the bowl. Her shoulders are stooped and she is bent at the waist as if the stretch to full upright is too much to ask of her brittle carriage,  she might snap and crumble like the fall leaves that were forgotten in the backyard and now lay splayed like winter's fallen soldiers on the bright green patches of new grass.  Today she is wearing a paisley scarf, misshapen tear drops of turquoise and maroon swirl about her head.

I want to tell her that I, too, know what it feels like to go through the motions of doing what you have to do to make yourself well when everything in your body is screaming against it.

I strap my grandson into his stroller and take off down the sidewalk, my stepson and other grandson are  loading up the car to go to a' baseball game. I wave good-bye as they back out down the driveway. My grandson warbles and reaches for the red balloons tied to a neighbors mailbox, his chubby fingers curling and unfurling. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

A family going through the rituals of spring on a Sunday morning.  Without her.  She is curled back in bed, the layers of quilts pulled up around her shoulders, her bare head a pale orb against her pillow in the dimness of the shuttered bedroom.

I want to tell her that I know how that feels too, to see everyone going about their lives, about your life, without you, while you watch, while you feel like you are dying.

But I say nothing and I go on my way through the neighborhood pushing my grandson in his stroller while tears roll down my face.  I cry tears of sadness, and gratitude and fear.  And shame.

I am ashamed for every time I've compared my alcoholism to cancer.  My daughter-in-law has poison pumped through her veins in a valiant attempt to save her life, to watch her children grow up, to grow old with her husband.  I willfully poured poison into my veins in a never ending quest for a "good time.", or to feel more at ease, to fit in, to relax, to celebrate a winning team, to mourn an unknown celebrity, because it tasted good with lasagna, because my friends expected me to, because I couldn't dance without it, because it rained, because it snowed, because the sun was shining, because someone made me mad, because someone made me sad, because I was mowing the grass, because I was laying by the pool, because I couldn't make a decision, because I deserved it, because I earned it, because everyone else was, because I was disappointed, because I was elated, because I was bored....

  I squandered precious years like they were pennies in a jar, not valuable enough to bother with.  Springs, summers, snowflakes, daffodils, baby's smiles, a five year old's goodnight kisses, a robin with a worm,  midnight thunderstorms, shooting stars falling from a predawn sky...Plenty of those to go around.

Unlike my daughter-in-law, I could have walked away at any time but I clung to my "disease" like a spoiled child with a favorite toy, whining when someone took it away from me, clinging to it like a grimy security blanket, it's threads seeped in disgrace and regret. I made all kinds of worthless excuses for my sickness and threw blame around like a frisbee.  Hands curling and unfurling around bottle after bottle.
 Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

I won't tell her I know what it's like.  It's not the same.  Not even.  I have no right to claim a fellowship with her.

I'm not even in her league.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Flight Cancelled

So I'm sitting here in a Denver Hotel when I'm supposed to be landing in KC in about 30 minutes to help with the grandkids.  Oh well, the best laid plans of man.  The cap'n just took off driving for OK to work, he's been up fidgeting and pacing since 6:00 am, as if that changes anything.  He has to be at work down in OK late Thursday afternoon and he could have well waited another day to take off but he couldn't stand it.  And he was driving me crazy.

I'm supposed to be able to catch a flight at 4:00 pm, but it's doubtful.  That's ok.  I don't want no pilot flying when he shouldn't be, I'm more apt to say, "Are you sure you want to fly today? I can wait."

I can wait.  That's something new I've learned in conjunction with sobriety, or because of it.

Things will happen as they're supposed to happen as long as I don't muddle in and fuck'em up.

I'm warm, I have enough cash to raid the vending machine, and enough credit on my credit card for another night in a hotel, if need be.

And I'm not worried if the liquor stores are open, or how I'm going to get to one.

Every little things gonna be alright.

P.S. I'm at the airport now and I just finished an $8.00 Triple Dip Ben and Jerrys Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream cone in a Chocolate Dipped with Sprinkles Waffle Cone and as I'm walking through the airport licking this thing, I'm wondering if a 51 year old chick can still manage to look obscene eating an ice cream cone.  I did notice one guy eyeing me, he was even drooling.  Of course, he was being pushed by airport personnel in a wheelchair. I think he was salivating over my cone.  lol  

Hey, at least it wasn't a mug of beer! 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Neighbor Kary May's Radio Show: Guest Speaker; The Husband Of A Survivor

Not my porch, but it sure makes you want to come "sit a spell", don't it?  I'm back in CO and getting settled back in. I'm so glad to be home!  I love Mexico but this is "home".  Unfortunately, the cap'n has the exact opposite feeling.  We'd probably rich by now if both of us weren't so stubborn about maintaining our individual homes.  Oh well, we'll scratch by a little longer.

 Some of you may remember way back when, when I was still trying to moderate, I would reserve Saturdays to try and forget that I had a drinking problem. One way I do this was by holding Neighbor Kary May's Radio Show and I'd gab on about anything and everything but my drinking.  Neighbor Kary May's Radio Show never got very high ratings and I decided to pull it off the air, but this Saturday I decided it needed a revival.  I no longer have to reserve Saturdays to act like I'm not a drunk, because I ain't anymore.  The longer I'm sober, the further and further I move into the "real" world, meeting people and hearing their stories of struggle that have nothing whatsoever to do with drinking, but everything to do with survival.  We know a thing or two about surviving, don't we?

I'm not sure how Cameron found my blog, but a couple of weeks ago he sent me the story of his and his wife's struggle and triumph over cancer.  It doesn't matter how he found me, what matters is that he did, and at a time when I most needed to hear his story. I no longer believe that anything happens by accident and I know that all the things we need will find their way to us when it's time.   I'll be going to help my daughter-in-law who is under going chemotherapy next week and I'll be carrying Cameron and his wife's story a long with me.  Thank you, Cameron, but I want to hear more, I want to hear your stories, your stories of despair and how you found hope shining in the darkest corners.  I want to hear about every person that held you up when you couldn't stand on your own anymore.  I want to hear how you kept up the facade of strength for your wife when you were crumbling inside. I'm a big champion of blogs and I think you should write one because a lot of people need to hear your story. There are probably a lot of blogs written by people who are battling cancer and people who have survived cancer, but I bet there aren't enough blogs written by the people who are holding their hands through it all.  The husband of one of my friends who is a breast cancer survivor says, "It's not only the patient who gets cancer."  Just like it's not only the alcoholic who suffers the effects of the disease.

Thank you Cameron for working so hard to get your message of hope out to the ones that need to hear it.  We know a little bit about that too.

Ladies and Gentlemen may I present Cameron!

A Hard Fought Battle with Cancer

My world was shattered on November 21, 2005, the day my wife Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma.  It was the day I became more than a husband and a father to a 3-month-old daughter.  I became a caregiver to my precious wife, and together we began a long and difficult journey to save her life.

We were the proud parents of lovely newborn Lily, both of us employed at jobs we enjoyed, in a home we had built together.  Now, all of that was at risk -- my Heather could die and I would be left alone, my daughter left motherless.  After we received the diagnosis, we were given a handful of treatment options that might be able to help Heather.  Of all the options presented to us, one in particular stood out.  It was a doctor in Boston named David Sugarbaker, who specialized in treating this rare and deadly cancer.  The choice was easy, and I told the doctor to get us to Boston as soon as possible.

From that point forward, our lives were chaotic. Heather was unable to work, and I had to scale back to part time in order to care for her.  Our schedules revolved around doctor appointments, traveling to and from Boston and taking care of Lily.  We lost all semblance of the life we had known, now warriors against an invisible and destructive enemy.   

I was lost, unsure how to balance the demands of a household, a young child, a seriously ill wife and a job.  My new responsibilities, coupled with the crushing fears and anxiety over what could happen weighed me down more and more each day, and I quickly became overwhelmed.  Luckily, I found out quickly that I did not need to fight this battle alone.

In an answer to prayers, family, friends and even strangers offered everything from kind words of encouragement to desperately needed financial help.  Suddenly lots of people were fighting for us, a consequence of my willingness (in spite of my pride) to say "yes" when asked if I needed help.  I cannot express what it meant to have so many be concerned for Heather, Lily and me.  Our lives,  despite the horrors of Heather's illness, were enriched by having supporters in our fight against it.  

The kindness of these people led me to believe in the impossible, to face that which I thought I couldn't and to reach beyond myself when consumed with fear.  

Over the following months, Heather would undergo many difficult treatments in the attempt to rid her body of cancer.  She would have surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, and in the end with the help of our friends and family she was able to defy the odds against her.  She has been cancer free for over six years. 

Now, over seven years after her heartbreaking mesothelioma diagnosis, we’d like to share our story in the attempt to inspire hope in all those still fighting their cancer battles today.  Never give up hope, and never stop fighting for the ones you love.