Decision Tree

This is a pretty simple concept. When I was in fifth grade all of the kids in the neighborhood decided we were going to steal alcohol and cigarettes from our parents and throw a little party. Needless to say, my best friend and I were the youngest, 9 and 10, while the other kids were almost in high school. Because they were much older, the told us we should bring the beer and cigarettes. If I remember correctly, I volunteered to bring the cigarettes and my friend stated that he would bring the beer.

Later that night, we met in the middle of the cul de sac, our loot in tow. We ventured out to the woods and began to have our party. I think we might have lit one cigarette and shared a fourth of one beer before a parent found us and the party was busted.

Being the my parents had recently divorced, but continued to always parent on the same page, my mother called my father. Later that night he showed up. I don’t remember much about what happened that night but I do remember sitting on the steps in our entry way talking to my parents. Although I cried the entire time, my parents were not harsh or bitter, only asking me to be as honest as possible about the activities of the evening and who decided what was to be brought to the party.

I didn’t know it at the time, but every other kid involved lied and placed the blame of the evening on me. Apparently I was the one who came up with the idea. I was the one who volunteered to bring the beer and the cigarettes and I was the only one who drank or smoked. Funny…I didn’t remember it that way?

My parents asked me only once, “Are you sure that’s the truth?”, and I answered yes. “If you say it’s the truth, then I believe it’s the truth.” My father said. “We raised you to be honest and I believe we did our job.” There was some discussion about what I thought my punishment should be and then I was dismissed while my parents sat on the front porch and talked about the incident…while drinking a beer.

For the rest of that summer, all of the kids in the neighborhood were unable to play with me because their parents had termed me a “bad influence”. They would ride up and down the street and shout “smoker, smoker” and “drinker, drinker” at me, knowing they had been part of the party as well.

I was 10. During that same summer, my friend and I had been caught by his father dressed in drag in the front yard of my house. My mother took a picture of us, every bit the Kennedy clan in wide brimmed hats, smoking tree twigs as cigarettes. His father had been furious. My mother laughed as our neighbor hauled my friend away while tripping on his long gown.

When I was in high school I got in trouble for another drinking party. While talking to my father over dinner he brought up the incident from the summer of my tenth year. “You know, I was always very proud of you for that night.” He said. “The other kids were rewarded by their parents for lying because those parents couldn’t deal with the fact that their children could possibly engage in such behaviors. They received new hockey equipment and shoes while you were punished for your involvement. Their lies will haunt them.” He told me.

“In life, there is a decision tree. The tree grows into a trunk which supports the rest of the tree. This is the foundation of your morals and values given to you when you are young as well as any of your genetic makeup. Next, we have the branches. Each branch splits in two eventually. Each branch represents choices you make in your life. Each choice leads to two or more choices and so forth. As you grow, your decision tree grows and all of your choices compound on top of one another. I wish I could show you my decision tree, and explain all of the good and poor choices I made in my life so that you could live your life to the fullest based on my experience. Unfortunately, you have to grow your own branches. Your mother and I always understood that which is why that evening, whether you had been telling the truth or not, we knew your choice would ultimately affect mostly your life. One lie would lead to another lie and to another lie. As life moves forwards, those kids who lied that not will display similar behaviors but you will be a finer human being for telling the truth and moving through difficult choices.”

And then he patted my back and the lesson was over.

I won’t bore you by telling you I became one of the most prolific liars this century has ever seen or that I had countless arrests and addiction treatments. I won’t bore you with how I treated people horribly, felt that I was owed something from my family and blamed other people for all of my mistakes. I won’t bore you with the countless drugs I did or how much alcohol and cigarettes I used over the years. I definitely won’t bore you with details about how I didn’t care about others’ feelings for years and only, selfishly, thought about my wants and needs.

But I will tell you that because of those years, I do not behavior in any way like that today. In fact, I attempt to live such a right life by the standards I set for myself that I am completely offended when others challenge these values. About a year ago, a business associate accused Alex and I of lying about how we had witnessed an event and reported it. I won’t dredge up the past because, as I stated, I’ve learned from those behaviors and don’t react the same way today, therefore we are friends again and both apologized for hurting each others’ feelings.

Needless to say, in being called a liar I explained that I was completely offended because that challenged the foundation of my sobriety and my values. If I am a liar, then the rest of it is a scam true; my recovery, my relationships…all of it. I might be a lot of things. But I am not a liar. Those behaviors of yesteryear were my picking the wrong branches to climb. Today, I choose different branches because I’ve learned…and my dad was right. In looking at his choices and the choices of others, and learning from one another, I’ve been allowed to live a better life.

While dissecting your life, ask yourself, Am I happy? Are there things I want to change? Are there things I believe are out of my control? What would I change today that would make me happier?

Now look at your choices!

You have many choices. The fact is not that you don’t have choices. The fact is that you don’t like where your choices lead. Many of us don’t like our choices, but sometimes choices we didn’t want to take led us in the right direction. I had no intention of staying in treatment on December 17, 1994 but by going I’ve been allowed to have the most amazing life possible. While working in treatment, I was adamant I was not going to participate in a new family group therapy program that had been designed, but after making the choice to participate rather than be fired, I learned I loved working with families. I was also forced to do an internship in an inner city elementary school. I begged and pleaded with my dean to let me do another internship, but due to my lack of planning, it was all that was left. During that internship, I met my mentor and had some of the best life change experiences ever!

It is easier to let go than to resist.

That branch was my most important.

My parents were very wise. They knew how to raise me with enough liberty to become the person I was meant to become while guided enough to have the values and morals they had learned would further me the most in this life. They were wise because they never allowed me to see them argue, with the exception of a few occasions, and they never spoke poorly of each other. They never made parenting decision without consulting one another. They did this because they loved me. They were the best parents any kid could wish for in life.

My mother was very, very wise. She never threw anything away in fear of possibly needing it again someday. Downstairs in our basement, right on top of her old Smith-Corona typewriter, sits a gorgeous photograph of the Kennedy sisters, both draped in beautiful dresses, wide-brimmed floppy hats shading their faces as they drink lemonade and smoke cigarette tree branch twigs.

I might post that picture someday…hell, we’re on borrowed time as it is!


On Borrowed Time…

“We’re on borrowed time as it is”…As many of you know by now, my mom used to say this to me on an almost daily basis. How true, but I guess I think about it more philosophically than realistically. We are, in fact, on borrowed time. I was really thinking about this last night as I was driving home from work. For some reason I was having a Mom day, which means I can’t get her out of my mind and usually I’m a little bit more fragile than other days. I was thinking about how much I would love to see her just one last time. What I wouldn’t give for a little more time with her. A whole day…an hour…a half an hour. But what would I say? I’ve joked with people for the past three and half years since she’s passed away that if she came back for a day, we would hug and cry and laugh for the first two hours but then we would probably be bitching at each other again. If you knew us together, you know this to be true. We were like Italian alcoholics in recovery, downing coffee and screaming one second and crying and saying ‘I love you’ the next. It was insanity.

I was thinking about how many clients have told me how much they wish they could spend just one more day with a loved one who had passed away. The funny thing is, we never think about this on the days that we DO have time to spend with our loved ones. Honestly, how many days have you spent with your husband, best friend, mother or even your dog where you appreciate every second, every moment of the day. Even just a half an hour where you think to yourself, “I really appreciate this person. I love them so much and I am so present in this moment I am spending with them.” Don’t even think about it because the chances are you’ve haven’t. Most of us can’t conceptualize losing someone until they’re terminally ill or have passed away. It is only in those moments when we say we wish we could have them back to spend precious time. Oh, the things we’d say and do.

Why aren’t we doing those things now?

And further more, we grieve all of those dreams we wish our loved ones would have achieved. Why aren’t we pursing our own dreams on an intense level every day. In the end, we’re the only ones who can make them happen.

My mom had several dreams. She wanted to be a costume designer in Hollywood for epic films like Gone with the Wind. She adored the designer Edith Head who did all of the costumes for the Hitchcock movies and she dreamed of following in her path. She also wanted to be an actress or a writer. I have since found over 30 journals and an entirely completed manuscript. So she was, in fact, a writer. She was just never published. I do have the copy of her rejection letter from Robert Bly, the poet laureate of Minnesota, for his literary magazine. She always believed someday she’d win an Oscar and would talk about how she played the main character in The Bad Seed her freshman year of college at Indiana University. She was really going places. But most of all, she wanted to be a criminal trial attorney, living on a houseboat in San Fransisco harbor. She’d say, “don’t you think I would have made an amazing trial attorney?” And everyone would just stare like she was crazy, imagining Bobbie Monn in court, the judge unable to shut her up or pull her hands from the neck of a rapist…or Republican.

She never accomplished these things. I’m not sure she ever would have even if she lived to be 104. Fear kept her stuck in place. Fear keeps me stuck in place. Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear of commitment. Fear of the unknown. Maybe it’s just how I’m programmed that throws those walls up in front of me, but I think that fear harnesses my thoughts of “I wish I had one more day” instead of “today I will set out to accomplish everything I dream of and spend the time with the people who mean the most!” I remember while my co-worker’s father was terminally ill she beat herself up because she wasn’t visiting him regularly because of her demanding work schedule. Towards the end a friend told her, “Years from now, you won’t look back on this situation and wish you had worked more.” God…ain’t that the truth!

Take time today to really enjoy the day. Smell the air. Drink some really good coffee. Enjoy the freshness of a glass of water only the way it tastes, icy cold, first thing in the morning. Smile. Dance down the street. Be unafraid. Jam your music and sing at the top of your lungs, even if it’s Do Re Mi from The Sound of Music. No one cares! Have an adult lemonade stand. Start writing that book you always wanted to write. Or start reading the book that has been sitting next to your bed for months. Look up casting agents in Hollywood. Put your pictures up on Model Mayhem. Take some chances. Have great sex with your partner. Do the whip cream and chocolate strawberry’s you’ve been talking about forever. Stay up late watching a scary movie in bed. Tell old memories to friends. Make new ones. Eat lunch somewhere you’ve never eaten before. Eat dinner somewhere you’ve never eaten before. Get a slushy and mix the flavors. Buy a children’s book and read it to your dog. Take a walk. Take a run. Buy a bike! I did…just to ride around the neighborhood and say hi to my neighbors. Enjoy today…because you could be gone tomorrow…or someone you love could be gone tomorrow. We only have a limited amount of days here and no one knows how many.

At the end my mom looked at me and said, It’s not the things you did that you regret. It’s the things you didn’t do.” She was so right! And somewhere up there, I believe, she’s still dancing with an umbrella to Singing in the Rain, kicking at puddles on her front porch, splashing raindrops of dreams and opportunities for all of us down here….just smiling and smiling…because we’re on borrowed time as it is!

Please follow me on Twitter HERE
Like my Facebook Fan Page HERE

Awwww…Sweet Dedication…

Years ago, I fell in love with the movie Mask starring Cher which tells the story of Rocky Dennis, a teenage boy suffering from a rare condition known as craniodiaphyseal dysplasia. To this day, I’m not really sure why I love the movie so much, if maybe it’s the fact that I relate to Cher’s addiction issues in the movie, the difficult love relationship between he and his blind girlfriend or the amazing soundtrack sampling songs from Bob Segar. At the end of the movie, Rocky dies due to complications of his disease and when his mother finds him in bed, the song Ripple from The Grateful Dead begins playing in the background, as she puts pins into a map sobbing, “Now you can go anywhere you want, baby.”

It’s always these melodramatic, sad Terms of Endearment/Color Purple type movies which cling on to my soul and make me feel alive. And yet, from time to time, I find that life, is so much more real than the films which those emotions.

I knew a Rocky in my own life. He struggled hard with addiction and held several long periods of sobriety. About two years ago he called me and we started meeting once in awhile to talk about stuff in his life. When we would meet he would tell me everything that was going on his life and ask for advice on how to improve his future. He would read me his songs or tell me about his children and his ex-wife who he dearly wanted to reunite with but realized that he wasn’t good for her at the time.

And then he stopped calling. I didn’t hear from him for almost six months…until two weeks ago. I was out with some friends and Rocky called me late one night, leaving two consecutive messages telling me he was doing much better and he wanted me to know that he wanted to come in some time and say hi and let me know how he was doing. I never heard from him again.

Today, his ex wife called me and told me that he had overdosed yesterday and died. And when I got off the phone with her, I sat outside behind my office and wept. Maybe at the fact that I would never get to see him again or that he was leaving behind two beautiful children and a family that cared deeply for him, but also because addiction had yet again gotten someone I cared about so deeply.

I called my best friend in recovery and told her and she said, “I think we forget everyday that this is life or death.”

Life…or death. We’re promised those things by this disease but I forget those things regularly. I forget when I’m working with someone that has relapsed, trying to get them into treatment or trying to help them with legal issues…that this could have been the end of this life that they know. And none of us are bad people…we’re all good people trying to get well.

I’m tired of losing friends and people I love to addiction. But on the other side of the knife, I wouldn’t be where I am in my life if it weren’t for this disease, so it cuts both ways. I just know I’ll keep on doing whatever I can to keep one more person around and try to live my life to be an inspiration to those that don’t think it’s going to get any better. It’s all I can do.

When I first got sober, I lost a friend I had made in treatment to an overdose. My sponsor told me at the time, “some people have to die so that other’s may stay alive. Learn from this.” And I did. And hopefully, someone will learn from what I’m writing and allow Rocky to be an inspiration to them. Because this didn’t have to happen. And it’s no one’s fault. He’s just one that got away.

Which is why today, I drove home from work and blasted “Ripple” by The Grateful Dead and wiped tears from my eyes in honor of my good ole buddy Rocky. May you meet Jerry Garcia and my mom upon walking on those clouds, paint words on the sky for everyone to hear and always, always continue to smile that quirky, little smile! And as the AA texts says…hopefully we’ll meet again as we trudge that road of happy destiny! I dedicate this song to you…because how poignant that, like the song, you’ve made such a powerful impact, or ripple, into the lives of others!

I dedicate this one to you!

If you know someone who has a problem with addiction, if it affects their life in some small way, DO NOT take it lightly. It is life or death. Contact me or someone to help…because, we’re on borrowed time as it is!

The New Rules…Rules #1, #2 and #3


Several years ago, there was a book titled, “If Life Were a Game, These are the Rules”, by Cherie Carter-Scott. I have used this book with my clients in therapy ever since I laid my hands on it. While I believe in the small rules she has applied, I think Dr. Carter-Scott, self proclaimed “original coach-trainer”, needs to update these rules just a bit.

Lately, I have been swamped with clients who feel stuck and are feeling completely unable to move forward in their lives. Since I’m a therapist who uses a lot of my own life experience, I have shared many of my stories, but they continue to feel stuck. Tonight, one of my clients contacted me and stated that she believed that no amount of therapy will allow her to change and she feels as if she will be stuck forever. At first this made me a little sad, but quickly I realized, she doesn’t know the rules. And then I began thinking about Dr. Carter-Scott’s rules and realized, they just wouldn’t work with this client. In fact, they wouldn’t work with a lot of my clients. And what I realized was that I must go back to where I started in my own self discovery and identify the rules, as they were, and explain them in my own words.

First things first, let’s use the word rules to define our…hmmmm…how about Voyage! Yes, yes…rules to a successful Voyage!

Part one of any journey is Preparation. So Rules 1, 2 and 3 center around preparation.
Rule #1…Identify your destination. Most people wouldn’t pack a bag, save money and get ready for a trip without having a destination in mind. Sure, the idea of just getting into our cars and taking off is appealing, but isn’t that really just running away? And I don’t think the solution to our life problems is running away. So first, we must come up with a destination. What do we want our lives to look like? Be creative. Be original. Dream big! You only have one life, this is it! Write it down, use descriptive words. Draw pictures, diagrams. And maybe, just maybe, you need to be a little bit realistic. Sometimes, that is where therapy is helpful. In the movie, “The Miss Firecracker Contest”, it is a sad moment when Alfre Woodard realizes that the Elysian Fields where people can eat all of the ambrosia they want does not really exist, but is fictional. So, she decides she must go elsewhere. But in reality, what is she REALLY after? A place of peace, harmony and love. Maybe your dream is to be a movie star, to be rid of your addictions or to have a boyfriend. No matter what your destination, be specific. Who do you want to be? Define your life vision!

Rule #2…Start packing. For this voyage you are about to embark upon, what will you need? If you were going to Siberia, would you need warm sweaters or shorts and sandals. Will you need a passport to get you into certain ports. Will you need cash, credit cards, what things will help you with your journey? Just the same as any other trip, you must be prepared to open yourself to anything that will come along the way. That means opening yourself up to the voyage that is about to begin. By identifying the points in your past that might be pertinent to your future goals, but also, keeping your eye on your destination. Make a list of all of the things that might be obstacles along the way, and also those supportive devices that might help you be successful on your voyage. Who could you call in times when you need assistance? Any emergency numbers in case you get a flat tire? Make sure you are truly prepared to leave.

And then…it is time.

Rule #3…Open the Door to your Future…Take off on your VOYAGE! It’s time to go, but like on any trip, once you walk out of the door and board that plane, boat or car for a road trip, you don’t turn around and change your mind, you just…keep…going! You must trust the process of your voyage! I have worked with so many clients who come two or three times to therapy, not trusting the process, constantly questioning their journey. How much more they would have received had they been open to the process instead of constantly questioning the voyage. How many people truly enjoy a trip to Mexico if the entire time they are sitting on the beach they are questioning if they can really afford it or what they should be doing at home. If that is the case, pack your bags, return home and live that life. You only have one life to live and if that’s what you want then you should be focused on daily rituals instead of making changes. Which is where I will talk about two subtle rules to the rules…

Crown Rules!!!! IN ALL THINGS THERE MUST BE GRATITUDE AND SIMPLICITY!!!! Without these two crown rules, the Voyage will be pointless and you will lose sight of your destination.

Your destination IS reachable! You must believe this. Above everyone else, YOU must believe this. It doesn’t matter who else believes you or what they say or don’t say, YOU must believe you can have everything you deserve! If you don’t believe this…the voyage is pointless. Sit at home, watch family videos of other people’s travels and wish you could pack that bag. And maybe someday, you will.

This summer I was at the State Fair with Alex and our two friends. We witnessed a mother cow being extremely protective of her five-hour old calf. Even though she stood in front of him the entire time, he continued to fight to get around her to look at us and see what the world had to offer him. We all start off that innocent and wide-eyed, but somewhere along the way, we lose sight of what we can achieve and we allow our dreams to fade into the mist. I used to tell my adolescent clients that the only difference between me and Tom Cruise, besides the obvious, was that he showed up for the audition! We must have this attitude to move forward. My life was once clogged full of alcohol, drugs, chaos and desperation. I chose to move on. I picked a different destination and prepared for a successful voyage.

Tonight, my friend Lis celebrated six years of sobriety. For a 23 year old young lady, that is an amazing feat! We lost our mother’s
within two years of each other. Constantly when one of us gets down, the other one reminds us that our mother’s do not have the luxury anymore to bitch and complain about their lives and that, as my mother used to say, you can sleep when you’re dead. The time is now! Pick your destination! Be as wide-eyed as that young calf and see the world as full of possibilities as a field of clover!

Because, we’re on borrowed time as it is!

The Hawk Walk…

(While I almost NEVER do this…I thought I would just cross post this one from raannt to make sure that all of my readers saw it…)

Ok folks, this one is dear to my heart…and it is very serious to the boys of raannt, who would most likely not even be here if it weren’t for second, third and fourth chances. Teenage addiction is one of the leading and deadliest diseases in the United States. As a person in recovery from addiction and having worked for years and years with those affected by addiction, the 24 Group Inc. is a foundation I stand behind completely, especially since I have the honor of knowing almost all of those involved since the beginning.

On Saturday, October 17th, from 9am-12pm, The 24 Group Hawk Walk…First Steps to Recovery will begin at Carmel Civic Square Gazebo. In their own words, “Please join us for this years fourth annual “Hawk Walk..First Steps to recovery”. This important fundraiser is to provide recovery support for adolescents suffering from the disease of addiction. All of the proceeds from this walk go to support adolescents in treatment for substance abuse, funds that are not available elsewhere.

“The walk is a 5K family fun walk, starting from and returning to the Gazebo in front of the city building in Carmel Indiana, we walk to celebrate Recovery along the Monon Trail on a beautiful October fall morning.

Before the walk you will have an opportunity to hear some interesting speakers and to visit our exhibitors for information on addiction, addiction treatment, and life in recovery.

Please consider forming a “Walk Team” this year ask three of your friends to walk with you or to support your walk. In this way each walk team will raise $80 in support of our effort…about the cost of one day in supportive living for an adolescent or young adult in early recovery.
There is little or no coverage for substance use treatment form traditional health insurance, please help us stand in the gap for those suffering from addiction.

We need your support this year more than ever, please get involved, take a few hours out of your hectic life, walk with us on this beautiful fall morning along the tree lined Monon Trail, and give to support a young life in recovery!!

We can tell you on this morning in October, you will experience something that is life changing…for you, and for a young person struggling with substance use. Please walk with us.”

While the boys of raannt are often misconstrued as partying, absent minded characters without focus and care for others, the reality is much of our life and the people we know, is surrounded by those affected by addiction. While only one half of us is personally, biologically affected by addiction, both of us live around recovery every day and believe that all addicts and alcoholics deserve the chance for sobriety. After 15 years of my own sobriety, as well as being able to develop a relationship with my mother who was also in recovery, I believe teenagers often get lost or left behind. The boys of raannt have made it our mission to bring social awareness to Indy and to improve the social quality of our great city, but that doesn’t mean that we turn a blind eye to those who have a chance to turn their lives around.

Please join all of those involved with the Hawk Walk, or if you can’t attend, please visit The 24 Group website, read their story and mission, and consider making a small donation…And like us, don’t let your friends drink and drive, always make sure they make it home safe, confront dangerous drug use and be enough of a friend to bring awareness to those you feel have a problem.

And if you are still concerned, contact a substance abuse professional.

Eyes Open…We’re Watching!

18 Degrees of Insanity…

Years ago, when I read James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces”, I was infuriated. Angry because as soon as I was twenty pages into the book, as an alcoholic and addict in recovery, I knew he had fictionalized his experience. And maybe it doesn’t matter. I’ve spoken to several addicts and alcoholics who feel that even if he helped one person, then his intentions were honorable. And well, it was a great piece of literature. So maybe, in reality, he’s just a great storyteller. But I still felt cheated, because I felt that I had earned my journey. I felt that I had earned my misery, as well as my sobriety. It was mine. The one thing no one could take away from me. And then I realized, it just didn’t matter. We all fictionalize pieces of our lives to help others. Or to even get attention, right?

For years, people have asked me about my story, and I’ve kept it close to my heart, except in the rooms of my cohorts where I find solace and serenity. But now, I think, it’s time. Because maybe, just maybe, I can help one person out of the madness. The madness, which for me ended on December 16th, 1994.

I always considered myself, “The Pretty Drinker”. It was a term I had used to describe my mother in her drinking days, hair combed back, adorned in a cute suit, nice piece of jewelry around her neck, with a beer or martini in hand. And even as a small child, I yearned to be that “pretty drinker”. But there was nothing pretty about December 16th. And to this day, I wonder what it was about that morning, or afternoon as I was accustomed to not getting up until after three at that point, that made it any different. I remember walking into the kitchen and cracking open a Colt 45, having moved onto malt liquor as a starting point every morning, because quite frankly it was cheaper and more potent. In the bathroom, I examined my face. I looked closely at the stubble around my chin, powerful grey clouds foreshadowing a storm under my eyes, and the always constant perspiration. By that point in my addiction, I could no longer smell myself. But I had learned that others could, and quickly. I cracked open a bottle of Vicodin, swallowed two with the malt liquor, and started the shower. Back then and even now, I always start my day with a shower. A small piece of wisdom my mother allowed upon me when she would roust me up in the morning and get me started, long before high school, when her days began late after mine. She had told me it was always important to get up, get dressed and start your day. The motto of a pretty drinker.

I remember standing in the shower, holding myself up against the wall, the Colt 45 accompanying me under the water, as I soaped myself up, cleaned myself up and became beautiful. At least to me…

After my shower, I walked around in a robe, fixing my hair, smoking several cigarettes, smoking a joint, and just lazing in front of the tv. Typically, I had one movie in the VCR that I would just have on in the background, over and over again, and at that point, I believe it was “Out of Africa”. I tended to always lean to the beautiful and the desolate. By this time, it was six or seven and I needed to begin getting ready for the evening. Somehow though, I found myself down at my friend’s apartment, drinking and getting ready for the evening. It was Friday and that typically meant we were on day two or three of the weekend. Looking back, I realize it took me three or four hours of drinking, pills and weed to get to the point that when walked through my friend’s door, they always thought I was stone sober. And then the real party would begin.

And honestly…that’s about the extent of the party that I remember. That first drink, which at that point in my drinking was always a Jack and Coke, well, actually, a double. And then out…like a power outage at midnight, with the freaks still running the streets in my mind. I don’t remember much else. I remember being at a club and standing at a bar. I remember someone buying me drinks all night long. But I don’t remember that someone. I remember going out into the alley behind the club with someone else, a girl maybe, and smoking rock, something I had begun doing towards the end, but had literally been too ashamed to admit to myself or any of my friends. I remember showing up at my friend Jack’s house and he took my keys and told me I could leave. I remember waiting for him to go to sleep, sneaking into his room, stealing back my keys, plus about six beers and several cassette tapes and heading back to my apartment up north. I inherited one quality from my mother…always wanting to be at home after the party. Home was safe. At home, nothing could happen, and I didn’t like being out of my element.

So I headed up north from downtown Indianapolis. And that is where I vanish into the night…into the black, only to remember one memory until the next day. I’m driving home, and I remember sitting back in the driver’s seat, not touching the wheel, looking over at the passenger’s side and talking to someone…who isn’t there. I rarely share this with anyone, because for me, looking back, it was somewhat mystical, or hallucinatory, but I believe something happened in that car that night. I don’t think I was supposed to make it. But I did…

And the rest, I rely on my father to fill in the blanks. He apparently received a middle of the night phone call and came out to rescue me, stepmother in toe. When they arrived, they found me, pacing in the driveway next to the White Castle, mumbling, not making much sense, in a tee shirt and jeans, in 18 degree weather. Just today when I called him he told me that it was bitter cold that year and he couldn’t believe I was walking around in nothing but a tee shirt. I do vaguely remember walking to the grocery store before my father came, and buying cigarettes with every cent I owned because I knew I was going to jail. I had driven my car almost into the kitchen of Perkin’s restaurant and had landed, nose down, in the ditch. The car was littered with alcohol and most probably other substances. When my father arrived, he looked me over once and stated, “Jail or treatment. It’s your decision, but I’m done.” I guess I decided, as any good alcoholic and addict does, that treatment sounded pretty good, because I jumped in his car and my stepmother drove me to the closest treatment center, leaving my father, a prominent plastic surgeon and board member of his hospital, to say he had been driving my car. The consummate enabler.

I don’t remember walking into treatment. I don’t remember the .37 I blew on a blood alcohol level, which should indicate death. I don’t remember the urine drug screen I gave which tested positive for alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, opiates, benzodiazepines and barbiturates. I was a walking pharmacy of the sick…sick of mind.

I must have slept much of the next day, because when I woke, it was early evening and I was craving a cigarette, at that point, being a three pack a day smoker. I turned over in my bed and looked at an at least 7 foot, black giant next to me, snoring and moaning in his sleep, tossing back and forth and pulling at his sheets. I quickly pulled myself together, ready to sign myself out. I ran into the hall and walked up to the nurses station, only to be met by eyes I had known almost my entire life. She smiled and took my hand from across the counter. “You didn’t know I worked here, did you?” she said. And I stared back at my childhood neighbor and the mother of my childhood friend. Which should have been comforting…

It was so, fucking embarrassing. To say the least. She explained to me that I was on the detox unit and that it was a locked unit, stating that I would be given medication every several hours to help me detox my system. She also explained that I would have my vitals taken to make sure my body was safe. I laughed and she looked across the counter at me. “It’s not funny. You’re in really bad shape.” She handed me a pack of my cigarettes and told me to go to the lounge and have some juice. I walked down the hallway, in a pair of oversized scrub pants, no shirt, a long hospital robe and footies. As I walked past a full, length mirror, I realized one thing. I was glamorous. This was the life I had hoped and dreamed for all of my years.

After all…I was 22 and I was a pretty drinker…