23 February 2009

Status Quo

I started to regain consciousness, as I like to think of it, around my sixty-first birthday in March of 2008. I had completed substance abuse treatment in 2007 and stayed sober to that point as I have to this day. As does anyone who awakens in a strange place, I blinked and looked around me. There was wreckage as far as the eye could see. I’m talking about my life. The extent of the devastation took my breath away. How could a man not generally reputed to be a fuckup have fucked up so much?


I served four years as a young officer, Airborne and Ranger, in the United States Army Infantry beginning upon my graduation from college in 1969. In 1973 at the age of 26 I determined to change careers. I went to law school and became a lawyer 1976, and I have been a lawyer now for 33 years—not just a lawyer, but a litigator. Those 33 years were hectic and terrifying, I’m tellin’ ya. During all those thousands of hours spent preparing for trial and those thousands of hours in court, it seemed as if I was constantly beset by fear of varying intensity. Contingent fees. Horrendous gambles. Big wins. Bigger losses. It was one big crap shoot, and in a very real sense I thrived on it while at the same time it was destroying me. Oh, and by the way there was the alcoholism.

Drunk, 2004

I did not drink because of my work. I did not drink because of my personal life. I drank because I was an alcoholic. Here is the litany, and litany or not, I believe it to be true. I have a disease called “alcoholism.” This disease is incurable and progressive, meaning that if nothing is done, it will gradually get worse and worse—sometimes not so gradually. Luckily, like diabetes and some other chronic conditions, I can manage my alcoholism. It takes a special species of grim determination to do it, but it can be done. I am doing that. Admittedly, I have only been managing my disease for a little less than two years, but I have been doing it.

Bloated Drunk, 2006

The “crisis” that got me into substance abuse treatment was the sudden disintegration of my fourth marriage. Yes, there were three marriages before that, part of the wreckage I mentioned earlier. My lovely daughters took me in for my initial evaluation. I did so much want to save that marriage. I did so much love the woman who was my fourth wife. That marriage is gone, but I am still sober. Perhaps this is how things had to be.

New Year's Eve 2007-08: Early in the Tranformation

I was able to overcome my addiction to tobacco, too. Working out. Working out. Working out. I am a bit isolated. And reading big, fat novels one after another. That is what I do. And I am stronger now than at any time in my life since getting out of the Army. I hold my arms out and look at myself in amazement. How could my body have recovered to this extent? Wreckage or no, I am lucky in that respect. Wreckage or no, I am so lucky to have four wonderful children who have forgiven me so much.

Triathlon Celebration with my Coaches, June 2008

But now. Materially, I have really nothing to speak of. I no longer have the company of my previous friends, who were actually only drinking companions. I participated in my last jury trial in March, 2008, and my law practice is now much diminished. That is as it should be. I no longer have the heart for my profession. My life is becoming pleasantly quiet now.

That brings us current. The city I live in is full of painful memories—I have emotionally fouled my nest here. In parallel with that, the downtown area in this city that I have loved since I was a child has been physically destroyed by the mother of all floods in June 2008. But my children are grown, and my child support has been paid for some years now. I have the wherewithal to pay my 2008 income taxes. I have no spouse. My physical health is excellent, and I have perhaps ten very good years left. The one thing I do have in abundance now is freedom. It is time to make a move. That has become patently obvious to me. I cannot simply sit here amid this loss and nurse an unseemly bitterness. It is time to make a move!

Clean and Sober, as They are Wont to Say

I am at the last verse of the song:

I used to be a king, and everything
Around me turned around.
But I know all I have to do is sing,
And I'll lift myself way off the ground.
It's all right. I'm O.K. How are you?
For what it's worth I must say I loved you.
And in my bed late at night God how I miss you!
Someone is going to take my heart,
But no one is going to break my heart again.

I Used to Be a King
by Graham Nash

I have loved that song ever since I first heard it in 1972 after buying a bootleg copy of the vinyl album in an outside market in Dongducheon, Republic of Korea. I did come to appreciate its full meaning until 35 years later though.

Daydreams about returning to 1972 and the Republic of Korea last only a few seconds. I do not want to start over. Where is the guarantee that I won't fuck everything up worse than I have? That is possible. Anything is possible with me. Even positive things are possible.

I’m going to Mexico for awhile and clear my mind.

1 comment:

Stephen Brassawe said...

I am you, speaking to you from three and half years later. Everything is going to be alright.