Wednesday, December 30, 2015

28. I Don’t Hate Myself For Loving You (with apologies to Joan Jett)
“Do you hate booze now that you’ve been sober awhile?” Norman asked as we headed out the door at the end of the day.  
 “No,” I said, shaking my head.  “I love booze.  People rarely get addicted to things they hate.  That’s why I don’t beat myself up for loving it.  I just deal with my addiction by not drinking.  Accept you love it. Don’t kick yourself for loving it. Knowing you love it too much to control it, don’t do it.”

Today I won’t kick myself for still loving things I no longer do.

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

27. Time’s Hostage
As they walked out of the group room, I could hear Marjorie the soccer mom talking to Andra.
“So what’s holding you back?” Marjorie asked. “It’s been ten years. Why don’t you date someone?”
Andra said, “When my husband died, I was crushed.  I didn’t just drink, I went into hiding.  It took my girlfriends three years to pull me out.  I fear if I met someone, and something happened to him, nothing would bring me back. I’d die drunk, with curtains drawn, and the house cold.”
“I don’t know you well enough to say this, but you can’t let the past hold you hostage. Believe me, I know.” She told a story that reminded me some people who seem to have it all have been through it all.
Today I won’t let the past hold me hostage.
Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Monday, December 28, 2015

26. Danger
The next day I could hear the group discussion from my office.  Norman was looking for someone more credible than DUI Dave to say the accident wasn’t so bad. 
Terrence said, “About ten years ago Michael Jackson dangled his baby over a fourth floor balcony.  A year later Steve Irwin fed a huge crocodile while holding his infant son. People were furious. Driving drunk is like dangling someone four stories up over hungry crocodiles.”
“How the hell do figure that?” DUI Dave demanded.
“You’re drunk brain thinks you have a grip on the situation.  People in other cars are like little kids who’ve been put in danger through no fault of their own. People in bad accidents get torn up like they’d been attacked by crocodiles.”
“Life is dangerous,” Dave said. “People need to accept that.”
“I accepted facing danger when I chose to join the Marines.  I resent people putting me in danger without my consent. When you drive drunk, when you buy illegal drugs, you make whole neighborhoods more dangerous.”  
Today I won’t put people in danger.
Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

25. That Ain’t No Swimming Pool
Later that day I ran into Connie Lee, who was waiting to drive Matey home.
“I told you Matey’d always been a drinker, right?” Connie Lee asked.  “That was the hole he dug for himself a shot at a time. You know how they say some rain falls in everyone’s life? When our boy went to Iraq, it poured.  Matey watched the news constantly. He put his phone in a plastic baggie and took it into the shower, afraid he’d miss a call.  Never turned the computer off, waiting for an email. He didn’t draw a sober breath that year.” She paused to wipe away a tear. “When our boy came back, Matey couldn’t stop drinking. Now he’s drowning in the hole he dug.” Connie Lee added.  “He blames the rain, but I remind him who dug the hole.”
Today I won’t blame the rain if I’m drowning in a hole I dug.

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

24. Breath is Hope
I did Matey’s breathalyzer the next day.  He tested negative, but he feared he couldn’t stay sober for long after so many years of hard drinking.
Matey said, “I killed people and I saved people and I’m wired and tired all at once. I’m like a downed cable after a storm. Jumping around and putting people in danger.  I’m waiting for the transformer to blow so I can lay still.  I’m a scaredy-cat badass full of fear I can’t back down from. Some days I think I should put myself out of my own misery.”
“There’s a reason you haven’t,” I said.
“In the tunnels in ‘Nam I used to count my breaths. It helped keep the panic at bay.  Same when I’d go into a burning building. Breath is hope, Ken. As long as I’m breathin’ there’s hope I can beat this drinking thing. I know I gotta, for my sake, and for Connie Lee.”

Today I will remember breath is hope.
Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

23. Submitted For Your Approval
Later that night, Blondie assured Brat Boy she approved of his new girlfriend.  Brat Boy pointed out he didn’t need her approval.  Blondie laughed and gave him permission to continue dating her. Brat Boy shook his head, muttered something about crazy sisters, and turned back to his homework.
Over the years I’d met many people who got hooked seeking other people’s approval.  Too often their boyfriend or girlfriend got them started on a particular drug.  I’d met many more who relapsed because of someone’s disapproval.  “You think you’re too good to drink with us?” their loved ones would ask.   
I thought about the people in my life, whose approval I needed, whose approval I valued, and whose I’d be foolish to seek.  I made seeking approval wisely my goal for the day.   
Today I will be careful about whose approval I seek.

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

22. Life Lessons for Dogs
That night I was sitting on the couch between Brat Boy and Blondie, working on my laptop. The dog chased the cat through the living room, around the kitchen, through the dining room, and back.  Just when it looked like she’d cornered the cat, the dog slipped on the hardwood.  The cat stopped, swatted the dog, and bit her hindquarters.  Then he jumped onto the back of a chair, a look of calm contempt on his angular face.
“It’s your own fault,” I said to the dog. “The harder we chase something we shouldn’t, the more likely we are to slip.  The more likely that something will bite us in the butt.”
“Life lessons for animals,” Brat Boy said, smirking.  “You should write a doggy meditation book, call it ‘Hush, Puppies!’ and tour doggie daycare centers. Maybe get on Oprah. ” His sister suggested ‘Unleashing Your Potential,’ and a cookbook for dogs, “FiDough.” I knew they were just getting started.
Today I will remember chasing something I shouldn’t is likely to bite me in the end.
Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

21. Grateful for Miserable People
After group I took a call for The Other Ken.  Before the caller realized he had the wrong Ken, I learned he hated his job, and didn’t much care for rehabs.  He wanted me to know he ‘knew people’ - whatever that meant. I felt bad The Other Ken would have to deal with him, but be grateful I didn’t.  I made a list of miserable people who were unlikely to ever cross my path.
Today I will be grateful for all the miserable people I don’t have to deal with.

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

20. Bad Seed
The man’s name was Norman. The very bad thing was a crash that left him limping, and his son Devin with brain damage.  Norman told the group,“After the crash, Devin couldn’t play his trumpet. He smashed it against the wall. The school pulled him from the gifted program - he spit on a teacher. I found his lacrosse stick broken in half.
“One day Marcus from next door rang the bell. Devin had been his Special Olympics coach. He’d convinced the lacrosse team to let Marcus sit with the players at games. Devin pushed him off the deck, swore at him, and told him never to come back. Sometimes I see Marcus sitting on his porch, staring at Devin’s window, and crying.  It kills me.”
“Quit beating yourself up,” DUI Dave said. “You couldn’t have known any of this might happen.”
I said, “Bad seed sprouts in unlikely places.  We don’t have to know what kind of bad, or where they might sprout.  We just have to not sow them.”

Today I will remember bad seed sprouts in unlikely places.
Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

19. Nothing Bad Happened
Two days later, on an unseasonably warm December Sunday, I decided to sneak in one more fishing trip. 
Two boulders, each larger than a king size bed, jutted into a river I had fished many times.  Stepping onto the first boulder, I didn’t see moss had grown up the sloping side of the second.
In all my fishing trips I had only fallen in once, tipping a rented canoe.  I had walked the banks of the river many times, never so much as stumbled on a rock.  Putting my iPhone and key fobs into a plastic bag hadn’t occurred to me. I never slipped, so why worry?  
I hopped onto the second rock and immediately began sliding off. Crawling out of the cold water, I cursed myself for not taking better care of my stuff.  
I thought of someone who’d driven home from a holiday party with his kids in the car.  He hadn’t been worried because over the years, he’d driven home a little drunk from a lot of parties. He had said nothing bad had happened, so why worry?  Something very bad happened.
‘Nothing happens until something really bad happens,’ I said to myself.

Today I will remember nothing bad happens until something bad happens.
Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

18. Chemical Concussions
After group I asked Marjorie what brought her to rehab.
She said, “My husband and I were getting drunk with my son’s football coach.  Coach and I were working on a campaign to prevent brain injuries. Players knew he didn’t care if they got hammered after a win. They also knew you couldn’t call what the coaches and parents did to celebrate ‘social drinking.’  Did you know severe binges are like chemical concussions?  That their effects add up?  I didn’t know that until recently.  How could I tell the kids about head injuries without feeling like a hypocrite?  And believe me, I really want to protect them from anything that will hurt them down the road.”

Today I will do what I can to prevent head injuries.
Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

17. Time Takes Time
When the group was over, a sixtyish woman in a blue sweater named Andra pulled me aside.
“You quoted the slogan Time Takes Time,” she said. “I know some things about time. I know time heals, but almost never quickly enough.  Acceptance makes the passing of time easier.  Keeping busy makes time pass more quickly, especially if one busily cleans up her life.”
I didn’t know what to say, what she might be getting at, so I waited.
Finally, she added, “My husband and my sister died in a car crash on their way to my birthday party ten years ago. I drank heavily for three years, then went to AA and stayed sober for seven.  On the tenth anniversary of their deaths, I thought I deserved a drink.  I’d handle their deaths well, and time had passed.  In a month I was right back where I started. I learned one more thing about time.  We can go back, but it’s rarely a good idea. From now on, I will respect time, and use what I’ve learned.  I expect you and your colleagues to remind me about time.” She turned her back to me and walked away.

Today I will use time wisely.

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

16. Ho, Ho, Hope You Understand
When it became clear DUI Dave wasn’t going to respond, the group turned its attention to the holidays. They agreed newly sober people were better off skipping holiday parties where alcohol and other drugs might be served.  Several group members felt they had to attend some events. We listed things they’d like to say to friends and family.
  • Don’t get upset if I skip your party.  My chemical and me are in that awkward ‘just broke up’ stage.
  •  If I could stop after a couple, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
  •  Please enjoy yourself. Don’t walk on eggshells on my account. If tomorrow I blame you for my relapse, I wasn’t ready to get clean.
  •   I’m not drinking.  That doesn’t mean I think I’m better than you, or I’ve decided you drink too much.  On the other hand, if you’re that upset I’m not drinking, who has a problem?
  •  Let’s keep to a minimum those hilarious stories of stupid things I did when I was getting high.
  • Don’t make a big deal about my clean time. A toast to my sobriety? Really?
  • Please label things: rum balls, spiked punch, and those special brownies covered with Doritos crumbs.
  • Thank you for your patience and understanding. They told me I’d lose some friends when I got clean – I’m relieved you’re not one of them.


Today I will be grateful for people who understand…

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

15. Don’t Look Now…
Marjorie was a petite soccer mom with a ready smile.  In addition to her addictions to alcohol and Xanax, she struggled with depression and anxiety.  She shocked the group by saying to DUI Dave that she’d like to ‘punch him in the face.’  I reminded her that threats weren’t allowed in group, and she apologized.
She said to Dave, “If you close your eyes to who you really are, you can’t see the threat you pose to everyone else. You don’t want to see you’re an alcoholic, so you drive around drunk, not seeing clearly – figuratively and literally -- the other people on the road.  One of these days you’re gonna kill someone. Then you’ll say it’s not my fault, I’m an alcoholic.  Then you’ll see you opened your eyes too late.”  Again, Dave said nothing.

Today I will face the world with eyes wide open.

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

14. Steadfast vs. Stubborn
Terrence had played running back at Howard in the 80s, and then served eight years as a Marine Corp officer. He was a full professor at a local college, teaching history.  Two months earlier he’d fallen while rock climbing, dislocating his hip and breaking his elbow.  He’d become addicted to painkillers.
“Do you know the difference between steadfast and stubborn?” he asked DUI Dave. No response. “Someone steadfast stands up for a principle, refusing to move. We say steadfast if that principle is right, just, even noble.  Stubborn people refuse to budge for no good reason, or for selfish, even stupid reasons.” Terrence paused, waiting for a response, but DUI Dave refused to even look at him. “You’re being stubborn.”
Today I will try to be steadfast, not stubborn.
Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Monday, December 7, 2015

13. DU I Don’t Have A Problem
DUI Dave, as he came to be known, told the group bad luck rather than drinking was his problem.  He blamed his first DUI on road construction. If he hadn’t been detoured through a small town, nobody would have known he had been drinking.  He got his second DUI in his driveway.  The police spotted him sleeping behind the wheel with the engine running.  He’d turned his headlights off. ‘Just bad luck they spotted my exhaust,’ he claimed.  Being in the wrong place at the wrong time caused his third.
Group members told Dave he set himself to be a victim of bad luck by drinking and driving.  He told them they didn’t understand how luck works.  I agreed with the group, and Dave crossed his arms and said nothing more.
Today I will avoid situations where I might be a victim of ‘bad luck.’

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

12. Sharks and Dolphins
The next day I was running a group while Max The New Guy dealt with a crisis.  A group member with three DUIs claimed he was a social drinker.  He listed all he had in common with his brother who didn’t seem to have a problem with alcohol.
I said, “Dolphins and sharks have a lot in common. They swim in the same waters.  They both eat fish.  They have powerful, smooth bodies that let them race through the water.  On the other hand, if you fell overboard, you might soon discover they are very different creatures.”
Most of the group members seemed to get my point.  One man said only idiots fell overboard. An argument broke out about the best way to deal with a hungry shark.   I realized how easy it could be to lose the meaning in the details of the message.
Today I will look for the meaning in the message.

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

11. Step 1A
After group I talked with Matey.  To my surprise he didn’t argue with me about needing treatment. Instead he admitted he was afraid of life without alcohol.
“I’m not bragging, but I’ve done some scary things in my life,” he said.  “Things most people couldn’t do. I don’t know why I’m afraid to quit drinking, I just know I am.”
I said, “If admitting you have the problem is step one, figuring out what’s keeping you from dealing with the problem is step 1A. Maybe it’s not part of the Twelve Steps, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Today I will take Step 1A for whatever problems I’m hesitant to face.

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

10. ReSolvent
Connie Lee told me Matey said booze held him together.
“People say alcohol is a social lubricant,” I said. “That’s in small doses. In large doses it’s a solvent. It dissolves morals, judgment, and relationships. Worst of all, it dissolves our ability to change our lives. It doesn’t hold us together, it just makes it easier to ignore we’re falling apart.
“So why can’t he just drink it in small doses?” Connie Lee asked, wiping away a tear.
“Because he’s an alcoholic.  The first drink dissolves our resolve to drink just a couple.  For us it’s a resolvent.”

Today I will remember alcohol is a resolvent.
  Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

9. Pushy
Connie Lee was Matey’s wife.  “You must think I’m a real witch, the way I get after him,” she said to me after she made sure he’d gone to group. “I push ‘cause I still see him the way he was back in the day. People said Matey was tough as nails, sweet as sugar, and smooth as silk. He had been a tunnel rat in Vietnam, twice decorated for bravery.  He was a fireman for thirty years.  Rescued a bunch of people.   Last couple of years it’s been like he’s lookin’ into the bottle ‘stead of the mirror. He can’t see who he really is.  I can, that’s why I push him to do for himself.  I ain’t giving up on him.”
I thought of people who had pushed me, who had seen things in me I didn’t see in myself.  Some had been kind and subtle. Others were every bit as grating as Connie Lee. I wondered how my life might have turned out differently without them.

Today I’ll be grateful for the people who’ push me, no matter how annoying they might be.
Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Monday, November 30, 2015

8. Half Measures
The man’s name was Herbert, but friends called him ‘Matey.’  Matey wasn’t a reference to pirates, but a slurring of ‘M80’, a firecracker that blew off the tip of his pinky finger when he was a teenager.  He never drank vodka again.  He stopped drinking tequila after his first DUI; whiskey when he got caught shooting at a cow, from his car, without a hunting license, during small game season. (He claimed from a distance the cow looked like a groundhog.)
Matey reminded me of people who don’t take an entire course of antibiotics, killing some but not all the bacteria.  The bugs that live grow stronger, more resistant to medicine.  Avoiding certain drinks let Matey believe he was in control, so he fought going to rehab. While he resisted treatment, alcohol’s hold on him grew stronger.

Today I’ll beware of ‘half measures.’
Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

7. I Made Me
I heard an older couple arguing in the hall the next morning on their way to The Other Ken’s family group.
“If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t do nothing,” she said. “You wouldn’t even be here.” She recited a long list of things he did because of her.
“You’re right,” he said. “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t drink, wouldn’t need no rehab.”
“See! I can’t even leave the boozin’ to you.”
I decided to pull him aside to point out nobody made him drink.  ‘Tomorrow,’ I said to myself. ‘He’s heard enough for one day.’

Today I will remember nobody makes anybody drink, smoke, overeat, gamble, hit, cheat, etc.
Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sober Not Somber will return on Monday, 11/30/15.

Monday, November 23, 2015

6. Cats and Dogs
When I woke up, I remembered something I’d written years before about cats and dogs in a workbook called Meditations for the First Thirty Days
“My dog’s brain is the size of a walnut.  We used to walk in the woods. Two days in a row he got a big thorn in his paw.  Now we walk the other way.  When I try to walk him toward the woods, he sits down.  He cannot be forced onto the path where he felt the pain.  I have a much bigger brain than my dog.  Time and again I walked down a path that nearly killed me. I know he knows he’s smarter than I am.  (Now and again I have to remind him who smashes his muzzle on the cabinets because he’s forgotten for the umpteenth time he cannot stop on the linoleum.)
“My cat has an even smaller brain than my dog.  He can transform a ray of sunshine into an event.  He has an insatiable curiosity, and no creature better exemplifies gratitude and contentment.  Several times a day he takes an inventory of himself, cleaning what needs to be cleaned, and stretching what needs to be stretched, and purring about nothing.”   
Today I will try to be as smart as the average dog.
Today I will try to be as grateful and content as the average cat.

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

5. Peer Pressure
The next day I was on my laptop at home, working against a deadline.  The dog curled up next to me on the couch.  She put her head on my leg, went to sleep. 
“You’re a bad influence,” I said to her as I scratched her ear. “I gotta finish this today.” A sunbeam hit the back of the couch.  Our cat stretched out behind me, warm against my neck.  He purred briefly before going to sleep.  Before I knew it, I was asleep as well.  Peer pressure can be subtle and pleasant.
Today I will beware of peer pressure in any form.
Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

4. Accepting the Unaccepting
I went to an AA meeting that night.  Standing at the entrance with the other smokers was Tucker, by far the most miserable dry drunk I’d ever met. We had our usual bitter argument about all the things he disliked or resented.  Finally I asked, “Will you ever accept education has its merits? Young people can sincerely want to get sober? Rehabs can be helpful? Antidepressants and heroin aren’t the same?” He spit on the ground, muttered an obscenity, and stalked away.
It dawned on me he was never going to accept what I saw as the undeniable truth. Nor was he likely to let go of his resentments because of something I said. The sooner I accepted his lack of acceptance, the less angry I’d be.

Today I will accept other people’s lack of acceptance.
Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

3. Locks
The next day I provided two trainings at a maximum security prison.  The prison was designed so ever smaller sections could be locked down, isolating violence.   Everywhere I went I passed through gates and doors.  At some junctions I could almost stretch my arms between the locked doors. 
Outside the prison, rolling hills had been plowed into wide open fields. Ducks on ponds rested up for their trek south, free to see the entire eastern seaboard.  At the bottom of the hills, the Monongahela River meandered through wide banks, giving way to steep hillsides.  A traveler in a boat could float all the way to Pittsburgh, where the ‘Mon’ joined the Allegheny to form the Ohio River.  On the Ohio, he could tour three states.  From there he might ride the Mississippi through the Southlands all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
As I drove away I was struck how a few decisions might make the difference between encountering locked doors or passing through locks on rivers.   

Today I will make decisions that keep the world open for me to explore.

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

2. What Can I Do For You?
Brat Boy got home from basketball practice and slumped onto the couch next to his sister. “Who’s calling you?” she asked him.
Puzzled, he looked at his phone and said, “Nobody.”
“Exactly. Yesterday I told you to call one of my freshmen teammates. If you had, your new girlfriend would be calling today. You wouldn’t be alone and miserable, a smelly pile of broken spirit and defeat.”
Brat Boy looked baffled. He pointed out he wasn’t lonely.  His spirits were high. He’d just showered.  I told her he was happy with the status quo and it wasn’t her job to find him a girlfriend.
 “Didn’t you say brothers and sisters should look after each other’s best interests?” she asked.
“I also said sometimes the worst thing you can do for someone is something they can, should, or want to do for themselves.”
I was glad Blondie was only half serious about picking her brother’s next girlfriend.  I’d seen too much deadly serious enabling, meddling, and manipulating, sometimes done with love, sometimes disguised as love and done out of spite and a need to control. 
Today I won’t do anything someone can, should, or wants to do for themselves.

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sober Not Somber

1. False Start
Blondie, my teenage daughter, was sitting next to me on the couch, doing homework.  I was writing my fifth or sixth opening sentence of a new daily messages blog.  I typed, muttered ‘another false start’ under my breath, and jabbed the backspace key. 
“Whatcha doing, Daddy?” she asked.  I explained I was trying to start a new blog, but I couldn’t come up with an opening sentence I liked.
“My track coach says false starts show you’re eager to race.  Gotta false start now and then, or you’re not trying. You never win sitting on your heels in the starting blocks. Better to false start than to start too late.”
Today I will start something.
If that something doesn’t work out, I will start something else.

Sober Not Somber © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

101. Lessons Learned
Sam completed treatment a few days later. We talked about the lessons he’d learned so far.
“Some things I learned too late, like taking the courts seriously,” he said. “I’m never gonna get custody of my son. On the other hand, I learned some lessons sooner than my friend who had a stroke, or my cousin in jail. My other buddy just found out he got Hep C.  I’m glad I learned my lesson before I did more damage.”
I had done some damage with my own drinking.  I’d learned some of life’s lessons later rather than sooner, but I too was grateful for lessons learned early, learned in time.
  
Today I will be grateful for lessons learned in time.

Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

100. Easier To Than Not To
I went to the gym that night and ran into a guy I knew from AA.  He struggled with his weight, but never missed a workout.
“I’m not a gym rat by nature,” he said. “It’s not easy for me to make myself exercise, but it’s been easier than trying to change my eating habits.” He smiled and added, “Reminds me that it’s easier to stay sober than to get sober. That’s why I don’t pick up the first drink. I don’t know if I could stop drinking again.”

Today I will remember:
It’s easier to sustain a good habit than to break a bad one.
It’s easier to stay sober than to get sober.

Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

99. A Kid Driving a Tank
A week later, Tara decided to leave treatment to take care of business and her husband. He had gotten lost in his own housing plan.  A neighbor kid had found him crying on the swing set in the park and brought him home. She wanted to work from home to be with him and her son.
The dentist she’d had the affair with offered to let her continue managing his practice if they resumed their sexual relationship.  She counter-offered not to forward the dentist’s erotic texts to his wife and/or his wife’s attorney if he never mentioned the affair again. Tara could still play hardball.
 “When I was drunk, I was a train,” Tara said. “Powerful, but stuck on a rigid track.  I would have ignored my husband, plowed ahead with my life without him.  The dentist’s wife would have had those texts a minute after he threatened me.”
“What are you now?” I asked.
“I’m a tank, driven by a kid.  I’m still powerful, I work hard and get things done, but I can change direction. I can go new places.  The kid in me gets out of the tank and plays, mostly with my family.  I like being a kid driving a tank.”

Today I will be a kid driving a tank.
Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

98. Be Reasonable
The next day Phil blew a .07 on the breathalyzer. Per their agreement, The Other Ken called Phil’s wife. Carolyn had told Phil if he drank again, she’d divorce him. He stormed down the hall, looking for someone to complain to.
“Point oh seven?” he said to me. “She’s going to divorce me for .07?  That’s not even a whole drink. She can’t divorce me, I’m not legally drunk.”
“You agreed she should divorce you if you drank again.  Nobody mentioned being legally drunk.  You’re trying to move the goal posts.  She won’t let you.  She’s done enabling.”
“She’s done being reasonable,” he said. “Got nothing to do with goal posts or enabling.” He stormed off. We never heard from him again.  At the time I thought Carolyn was being completely reasonable. Clear headed reasoning told her Phil just didn’t get it, and she had every reason to think he might never.  Being reasonable probably saved her a lot of heartache.
Today I will be reasonable.
Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Monday, November 9, 2015

97. Flag Day
Sam showed me a picture of a small church cemetery.  A white and/or a blue flag adorned about a third of the headstones.  Sam explained the white flags were people who had surrendered to addiction through death.  The blue were people killed by another person’s addiction.   
Sam said, “Gloria’s boyfriend is buried there.  She convinced the pastor to ask the congregation to mark the graves with the flags. Gloria thought maybe one family might go along.  The flags sat in boxes at the back of the church for weeks.  Then one by one, people began putting them on the graves. Each flag chipped away at Gloria’s hatred for the drunk driver who killed her boyfriend. It was like exposing the depth of the problem exposed her wound to the sunlight.  She started to heal.” He paused. “The more difficult the situation, the more creative she gets. I love that about her.”

Today I will look for creative ways to handle difficult situations and emotions.

Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

96. Friends and Family
The next day was Brat Boy's birthday. We laughed our way through dinner. Family blew up the phone calling to wish him a happy birthday. It truly was a happy event.

Sadly, my years as a therapist had taught me birthdays bring out the pathology in some families. Certain personality types had trouble putting their issues aside long enough to be happy for someone else.
  • The Drama Queen, furious because her present wasn't opened first.
  • The Naysayer, determined to find fault where none existed, "Nice kid? That's what they say about serial killers after they're caught."
  • Mr. Gloom & Doom, telling an eight year old to enjoy today, because life becomes one long kick in the teeth.
  • The Competitors, divorced parents trying to be the kid's favorite.  "Daddy took me horseback riding.  Mommy bought me a pony. We had to sneak him into the apartment."

My extended family and my friends had their quirks, but they could be genuinely happy for each other.

Today I will be grateful for family and friends who can be happy for family and friends.

Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

95. Moving On
Mick called to say she had officially changed her name to Ashley, no more Mick.  Ashley was thrilled the baby was starting to move around.
“I told my brother he had to stop dealing and stop drinking if he wanted to be in my baby’s life.  He said he wouldn’t drink around her. He’s kidding himself.” She sighed. “I’m moving on, he hasn’t and won’t. I’m going to have to leave him behind.”
Today I will accept moving on may mean leaving something or someone behind.

Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

94. True champions act like champions long after new champions are crowned.
Blondie’s soccer team lost in the semifinals of the regional tournament. They had won the regional title the previous two years, but injuries had kept Blondie out of the final games.  She’d lost her last chance to play in the championship.  She and her teammates were devastated. The coach gave them the next night off. 
The consolation game to determine the third and final team to advance to the state playoffs was scheduled for two days later.  Blondie and her friends got the team together in the park for an informal practice.  Champions act like champions regardless of their circumstances.
AA has a slogan, ‘stick with the winners.’ These winners are sobriety champions.  They work their recovery when loved ones die, disasters hit, people hurt them, and diagnoses scare them.  They act like champions regardless of their circumstances.  

Today I will stick with the winners, I will strive to be a champion.

Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

93. Ready or Not…
Tigger bounced into my office on his way to lunch. He told me was getting discharged soon, he felt prepared, but not 100% ready.  As we talked it became clear he defined ‘ready’ as thoroughly confident and completely at ease. 
I told him how I had hesitated for months after deciding to write a blog.  Home Groupies, my first daily message book, had been written.  I had amassed thousands of email addresses.  I knew how to use the technology.  Completely prepared, I felt totally unready.  I kept waiting to feel confident and calm. Finally I accepted I was prepared and sent out the first message.
“Tigger, I try not to do anything unprepared, but if I waited until I was completely ready, I’d get nothing done.”
Today I will move forward, prepared if not completely ready.
Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Monday, November 2, 2015

92. Kindness
Tara had a son ten years older than Amanda who was leaving the military to help with his dad. 
Tara said. “Darren loves us, but he really doesn’t owe us anything. We neglected him while we got our careers started. He made his own way. Darren joined the Air Force and put himself through school.” 
“Then why do you think he’s coming home?” I asked.
She smiled. “If I wasn’t there for the birth I wouldn’t believe he was my kid.  He’s a kind soul.  I’m grateful for him.  When the world seems unfair and unkind, I think about my son, and it balances things out.”

Today I will be grateful for kind people.

Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

91. Assuming the Worst
The next Monday I realized we hadn’t heard from Mick the previous Friday. My mind jumped to all sorts of negative conclusions.  She had relapsed.  She had relapsed and lost the baby. She was in jail.  “Dammit,” I muttered under my breath. I emailed The Other Ken.
Mick was fine, the baby was fine, nobody was in jail.  Mick and her mother had spent the weekend with Mick’s grandmother, patching up their relationships.  Her mother wanted to be part of the baby’s life.  Mick forgave her mother for naming her “Glinda Belle.”  Assuming the worst had been depressing, and not very useful.
Today I won’t assume the worst.
           
Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

90. Listen, Friend
The next day I sent an email ad to 2,000 addiction and mental health professionals in western Pennsylvania.  Unfortunately, I was a little rusty on the software. I sent it before I realized I hadn’t changed the template. Instead of my information, they got suggestions on how to write the ad.  The sarcastic little voice in my head said, ‘Look on the bright side, only 70% of your local colleagues got that mess of a message.’
‘That’s harsh,’ I answered the voice.  I asked myself what I might say to a friend who had done the same thing.  I’d say apologize, correct your mistake, and move on. That’s what I did.

Today I will be no harsher with myself than I would be with a good friend.

Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


89. Promises, Promises
The next day Phil complained that his wife Carolyn still wouldn’t let him move back home. He said he had learned his lesson, he was done with booze.  He couldn’t understand why she didn’t see he meant it this time.
I pointed out he had told her that many times. While he might feel differently, his promise sounded just like the promises he had made a thousand times before.   
“Promises kept become lenses through which people see the strength and goodness of their relationships,” I said.  “Promises broken leave shards that cut.  The more times you lie or break a promise, the longer it takes for people to believe you when you are sincere. Most people feel betrayed when someone they love breaks promise after promise.  You’ll just have to be patient.  Lord knows she’s been patient with you.”
Today I will keep my promises.

Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose
(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)









Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

88. Can’t Win ‘em All
“How’s Amanda these days?” I asked the kids.  Neither of them knew Amanda’s mother Tara was in treatment. The whole family was struggling.  Tara, was working hard to stay clean and sober.  Amanda’s father had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers.  Amanda was trying to become a better person, changing the character traits that had earned her the nickname ‘Demanda.’ 
“People are starting to cut her some slack,” Brat Boy said.  “She’s like another person, someone you might actually like.”
“She still hasn’t won some people over,” Blondie said.  “Some she’s never going to win over. Idiots.”
I thought of people who, almost three decades into my sobriety, still wondered why I couldn’t have a beer or two, were insulted I wouldn’t drink with them, or insisted I must be getting chemically altered some other way.  I hadn’t won them over, and lost no sleep over it.
“Tell her you can’t win ‘em all, and you can’t win ‘em all over,” I said. “No sense in worrying about ‘em.”

Today I will remember, you can’t win ‘em all over, so I won’t even try.
Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Monday, October 26, 2015

87. Think Collectively, Respect Individually

When I got home Blondie was helping Brat Boy with an assignment. He had to come up with a slogan that would make people think about their actions. Then he and two classmates had to act out a scene where the slogan applied.

"It's got to convey a good message in under ten words, Daddy," Blondie said. "Something like
'think globally, act locally.'"

"Think collectively, respect individually," I said.  "You impersonate an actor who claims he supports the working class. That's the collective part. Your friend plays  a waiter the actor verbally abuses.  Your other friend plays a manager who politely asks the actor to respect the waiter or leave. That's the individual part."

"I like it," Brat Boy said.  "Can the waiter and the manager kick the crap out of the actor for being so rude?"

"Better if they don't," I said.

Today I will think collectively, but respect people individually.

Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose
(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

86. Pull Ups

"Tim is going to Al-Anon," Tigger said when our paths crossed in the parking lot at the end of the day. "A friend of a friend saw him there."

"Good for him," I said.

"Yep," Tigger said. "Maybe he'll learn not to be played by addicts like me."

"You don't sound happy."

He ground out his cigarette.  Looked away, took out another, broke it in half, and threw it into the shrubs.  "I'm a horrible person," he said.  "I should be happy for him, but I'm not.  I hated how my addictions hurt him, but I .... damn .... I'm not a good person.  Part of me loved manipulating him.  He was so kind and thoughtful, he made me feel like something he forgot to flush.  Making him wonder what he'd done wrong, letting him think he contributed to my drinking, it kinda gave me a feeling of power, maybe leveled the playing field a little. Is that terrible?"

I shrugged. "Sounds human. When we're low we can pull ourselves up or other people down. Pulling them down is easier.  Give yourself credit for admitting you did.  And put all your effort into pulling yourself up."

Today I will put my effort into pulling myself up.

Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose
(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

85. Say the Next Right Thing
Mick called us on Friday to say she was nineteen weeks into her pregnancy, the baby was fine, and she was still clean.  She choked up a little when she told us the baby could hear her voice now.
"What if I say the wrong thing?" she asked.  "From now on, my child will be listening."

Miss Rella told her to relax, kids never really listen anyway.  Mick laughed a little, but asked me if I'd ever said the wrong thing at a training or when I was running group.  A long list of bonehead, ill-advised, mistaken, and insensitive comments came to mind.  I decided repeating them served no purpose.

Instead, I said, "It's natural to worry about saying the wrong thing.  I purposely try to say the right thing when I can just in case I say the wrong thing accidentally.  For example,  I say I love you to my family as often as I can. That way when I call Blondie's boyfriend some other boy's name, she's not quite as mad at me.

The Other Ken studied me for a moment. "You call her boyfriends the wrong name on purpose," he said. "Nothing accidental about it!"

"We're fathers with daughters," I said. "It's our job to keep boyfriends off balance."

Today I will say the right thing as often as I can, 
especially if that right thing is 'I love you.'

Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose
(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

84. Wings

"You know what's funny?" Sam asked me.  "My sister Gloria has been clean for eighteen months.  My parents are convinced she's miserable and gonna come to her senses any day now.  By 'come to her senses' they mean start getting high again. I wouldn't be surprised if my mom has a bottle of Xanax set aside for Gloria. They tell Gloria they'll always be there for her.  I don't think they even know they're waiting for her to fall so they can take her back to their sick little nest."

"Vultures and angels both have wings," I said.  "When you're really down it's good idea to look closely at whoever comes to be with you. You don't want to confuse one for the other."

Today I will accept help with a little bit of caution.

Writing My New Story © 2015 by Ken Montrose


(Just a reminder: Writing My New Story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone you might know is purely coincidental.)