Thursday, February 26, 2015

Honest but not brutal
The conversation grew awkward.  We had caught up on old times, and run out of things to say. Out of the blue, Teller asked, “Do you think my brother’s overdose was accidental?”
I didn’t.
I wanted to give Teller some comfort, maybe tell him his brother wasn’t aware he couldn’t mix those drugs.  I couldn’t - Teller’s brother was very street and would have known.
I could have sugar coated my answer, telling him we’d never know for sure.  That was sort of true. We couldn’t be 100% certain, maybe only 95%.
People I knew would have enjoyed being brutally honest. ‘I’d bet the damn mortgage your brother couldn’t stand the life of a crack addict one more day. You better watch yourself with the painkillers or you’ll end up the same way,’ they’d say, happy to have a good reason to confront someone.  I could find no joy in answering his question. I just wanted to tell Teller the truth, without adding to his pain.
“I don’t think it was an accident, but that’s just my opinion. Please be careful.  Clearly addiction runs in your family.  Your brother didn’t start out smoking crack, he worked his way down to it. You know how that road ended. I don’t think taking painkillers for legitimate pain will set you on that road, but you need to be cautious.”

Today I’ll try to be honest without being brutal.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On the Chart
“Almost forgot,” my daughter said, “somebody named Teller called. His number’s on the tablet by the kitchen phone.”
I had known Teller for years. Teller’s brother had been a smart kid with a bright future who overdosed on heroin, Valium, and alcohol. These weren’t his drugs of choice. Like a lot of people I had thought that combination was no accident.   
Teller was having shoulder surgery.  He was worried about developing an addiction to painkillers. “Ken,” he said, “I just want to sail through it, see what happens.  I called to ask if you had any advice.”
I told him people can sail aimlessly through open water.  When they have to navigate rough seas, through the rocks, they need the chart. 
“Here’s the chart for those waters.  Try not to need any painkillers by doing everything they tell you. Ice, stretching, heat, physical therapy, chiropractic, whatever – do it. Most people don’t because it’s so much easier to take a pill.  If you need something for the pain, try non-addictive medications first.  Have realistic expectations. Advil will dull the pain, but you’re not likely to go to your happy place. Manage don’t banish the pain. If you need to take something stronger, be very careful.  Take what you need, but only as long as you absolutely need it.  Take stock of why you’re using a medication.  Are you treating something or treating yourself to something? Re-evaluate your need for the medication.”
We talked about keeping as busy as the pain would allow, using just one pharmacy, making sure everybody with a prescription pad knew what everybody else was prescribing him, and having somebody he trusted hold any addictive medications he might take. 
“We’re talking about painkillers,” I said, “but I think in general the rougher the waters the more detailed a map you need.  If you’re going through a divorce, or somebody you love is dying, you need a plan for getting through it. Live one day at a time, but know where the rocks are on any given day.”

Today I will remember, the rougher the seas, the more detailed a chart I’ll need.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebie
The ebook version of Meditations for the First Thirty Days: How not to become roadkill on the highway to recovery is available free of charge at:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

People change
When I got home my son and daughter were watching TV.  I sat down between them on the couch.
“If you could spend one hour with somebody no longer living, who would it be?” Blondie asked.
I’d seen that question posted on Facebook, and had immediately thought about my mother.  Sitting between my children, I had a different answer.
“I’d spend half an hour with your brother sleeping on my shoulder, and I’d take one more trip to the hardware store with you.”
My daughter turned to her brother and said, “In a couple of years Mom’s really gonna need help managing him.”  She said to me, “Brat Boy is six feet tall. He can’t sleep on your shoulder.  If I need something from the hardware store, I can drive myself.  Have you noticed we’re both still alive?”
“I want one more hour with you kids the way you were ten years ago,” I said.  “Your brother slept more than an old cat, and you went everywhere with me.” I thought for a moment, and added, “We’re told to cherish people today because some day they’ll be gone.  I think there’s a more immediate reason. I need to cherish time with you today, because tomorrow you’ll be a different person, and so will I.  Not much different, but different.” 
My son said, “You could go get me a Big Mac with fries.  Fast food always makes me sleepy.  Take Blondie and drive right past the hardware store.  It could be just like old times.”
“He’ll never change,” my daughter said, reaching around me to punch him.

I will cherish loved ones today knowing we won’t be the same tomorrow.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebie
The ebook version of Meditations for the First Thirty Days: How not to become roadkill on the highway to recovery is available free of charge at:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Big Boulders
“Do you fish?” Mikey asked me when he saw me at the gym.  “Do you ever fish streams? Rivers?”
“I do,” I said.  “I fish Slippery Rock Creek and the Allegheny River.”
“Then you know fish like to rest behind big rocks.  It saves them from having to fight the currents.  Sam is Suzanne’s rock. Not just in the way people usually mean when they say ‘he’s my rock.’ Sam’s like that, he’s always there for her.  But he also makes it easier for her not to go with the flow.  He’s not just a big brother, he’s a big boulder.  Without him, I think she’d be swept downstream with the rest of her dysfunctional family.”
“You admire that about him.”
“I really do.  You can’t budge him, and you can’t wear him down.  Without people like him, I think it’s harder to resist witch hunts and mob rule.  He stands up to people when it makes him look bad.  Do you know what I mean?”
“I’m not sure I do.”
“Remember the Salem witch trials?  He’s the kinda guy who would’ve said enough is enough, they can’t all be witches.  He’d have said that knowing some people would condemn him for being on the side of witches.

Today I will try to be someone’s boulder.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebie
The ebook version of Meditations for the First Thirty Days: How not to become roadkill on the highway to recovery is available free of charge at:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Monsters in masks
Ms. Rella had finished shredding old documents.  I volunteered to take the garbage bag full of shredded paper to the dumpster behind the building.
When I lifted the dumpster’s lid, I found myself staring into the eyes of the biggest raccoon I’d ever seen.  I’d always thought of them as cute little thieves wearing masks.  This one might have been the devil’s kitten, lurking in the vilest spot known to man, the bottom of a dumpster. A red liquid dripping from the beast’s whiskers shone like drool and the blood of innocents. 
We stared at each. I should have shut the lid, walked back to my office, and called animal control.  I couldn’t. I had to face this monster or forever fear the dumpster and the woods surrounding the parking lot.
A foul wind blew the clouds away. Sunshine hit the raccoon’s eyes, reflecting pure malice.  I stood there for a long moment, painfully aware my only weapon was the bag of shredded documents clutched in my sweaty hand. I raised the bag in my right hand, ready to shut lid with my left, hoping to prevent the raccoon from tearing my throat out.
As I swung the bag up and over the rim of the dumpster, the frightened raccoon scurried behind an empty pizza box.  He left behind a half empty container of marinara sauce, no doubt the red liquid on his whiskers.

Today I will ask myself, am I creating monsters in my mind?
Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

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The ebook version of Meditations for the First 30 Days: How not to become roadkill on the highway to recovery can be download for free at  A sample follows.

Lesson Seven
My dog’s brain is the size of a walnut.  We used to walk in the woods behind my house.  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 down 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.  When I look in his eyes 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 that he cannot stop on the linoleum.)

I will prove to myself that I have as much common sense as the average dog.  I will not return to the places where I used alcohol and other drugs.  I will not pick up the first drink or other drug.

God, thank you for the dogs.  Remind me of their wisdom the next time I curse them as I clean the sole of my shoe.

Meditations for the First 30 Days (c) 2002 by Ken Montrose

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Denying Denial 
“I don’t really think Terry is in denial,” Ms. Rella said. “Isn’t denial when you don’t really know you have a problem, or you only half accept you’re addicted?  Terry’s a smart guy, after three DUIs he has to realize something’s wrong. If he didn’t, I’d say he was in denial.  But, he knows he has a problem with alcohol, he just won’t admit it to us. That’s just denying the obvious. He’s more about denying than denial.”
“He has to deny his addiction,” I said.  “He prides himself on meeting problems head on.  If he admitted he had a problem, he’d have to make some changes he’s afraid to make.  I think fear of change keeps as many people sick as denial does.”
“He keeps denying he has a problem, the court system is going to make a lot of changes for him.”

Today I will be as wary of denying as I am of denial.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebie
The ebook version of Staying Clean, Taking Medications: A guide for people in recovery is available free of charge at:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

“Terry needs a bucket,” I said to Ms. Rella. 
“What’s the bucket for?” she asked.
“A guy I knew in AA kept a bucket by his bed long after he got sober.  This is a little weird, but at night he’d put his hand over the side of bed, over the bucket.  He’d imagine all the day’s negativity was running out of his head, down his arm, and into the bucket.  Said he knew it was a strange ritual, but it helped him sleep.  When he woke up, he’d look at the bucket and ask himself if he really wanted to pour that anger and frustration back into his head.  The morning part of his ritual reminded him that every day was a chance to start over.  That day might have its own anger and frustration, but he wouldn’t be adding it to the negativity from the day before, or carrying it into the day after.”
“Bucket,” Ms. Rella said.
“Bucket,” I agreed.


Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebie
The ebook version of Staying Clean, Taking Medications: A guide for people in recovery is available free of charge at:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Anger: A full contact sport
The next morning Terry was at it again, ranting and raving about the legal system. I pulled him into my office.  Rather than rehash why he was in treatment, I decided to address his anger.
“There’s a poem I love that says the more sorrow carves into you the more joy you can hold.  I think I love it because other than some filthy limericks, it’s the only poem I know.  But listen, anger isn’t like sorrow.  The more anger hollows you out, the more anger you can hold.
“Oh, so I should never be angry?  Just you sayin’ that makes me mad!”
“No, there are times when anger makes sense, but you have to be careful anger doesn’t become your favorite contact sport.  People train their anger.  They build up their endurance for being angry, learning to hold grudges forever.  Like a batter develops an eye for the curve ball, they learn to anticipate where an interaction is going, imagining insults and reasons to overreact.  Right now you’re like a player blaming the officials for some infraction he truly did commit. Let it go.  Don’t play the game.  Complete treatment, avoid jail, leave here and never look back.”
Terry glared at me for a long moment before walking away.
“This is why I don’t do much clinical work anymore,” I muttered to myself, conscious of my own frustration.

Today I won’t let anger carve into me.
Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebie
The ebook version of Staying Clean, Taking Medications: A guide for people in recovery is available free of charge at:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Poetically Dysfunctional
“Suzanne’s a smart woman,” I said. “Doesn’t she see through them?”
Mikey described how righteous Suzanne’s family could sound as they used guilt to coerce her.  They talked to Suzanne about family bounds, charity, and compassion.  They talked about love and sisterhood, and how Suzanne owed her family for all they had done for her.  At the very least, her father had argued, Suzanne shouldn’t push the woman who gave her life to the brink of despair.
“Did he really use the expression ‘brink of despair’?” I asked Mikey.
“They’re poetically dysfunctional,” he said with a sad laugh.  “They can justify anything and make you wonder why you thought badly of them in the first place.  They say Betsy’s gambling is just a loving mother betting on a better life for her family.  Suzanne’s father told me he admires how a virile man like her brother Paul sticks to porn.  Paul limits himself to images because of his limitless love for his wife, according to the old man.”  Mikey shook his head and added, “Beware the poetically dysfunctional Ken.  They’ll convince you night is day and right is wrong.”

Today I will beware the poetically dysfunctional.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebie
The ebook version of Staying Clean, Taking Medications: A guide for people in recovery is available free of charge at:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Betsy and Bluffy
I ran into Mikey at the gym.  He told me his wife’s sister Betsy had dropped a bundle at the casino and was in danger of losing her home.  Mikey’s mother-in-law wanted all the kids to kick in $500 to help Betsy save her house and pay her bills.  She had told the family she didn’t know what she might do if Betsy and her kids had to move back home. 
“The kid with the gambling problem is named ‘Betsy’?” I asked.
“Her name is Elizabeth.  They called her Beth until she was twelve and discovered poker.  She used to play with her uncles who started calling her Betsy. The name stuck.”
Mikey’s wife, Suzanne, had called her brother Sam to get his advice.  Sam, the brother the rest of the family referred to as the Aloof Goof, said he wasn’t giving Betsy a dime and she shouldn’t either.  He also said they should call her mother Bluffy, because she would likely call Suzanne with vague suicide threats.  Sure enough Suzanne’s mother had called Suzanne the same day.  She told Suzanne if she couldn’t get her kids to help each other, she had failed as a mother and might be better off dead. 
“Ken, Suzanne knows giving Betsy money is the wrong thing to do, but God love her, she’s not Sam.  She’s gonna have a hard time not giving in.”
I thought about how much courage doing the right thing takes when people around you are pushing you to do the opposite.
“Sad, but peer pressure doesn’t end in high school,” I said.

Today I won’t give in to peer pressure.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow
When I got home that night I told my family the story of the hare and the tortoise’s rematch.
“Shouldn’t the fox have sold hare stew?” my son asked.  “Hares and rabbits are different, so hare stew and rabbit stew wouldn’t be the same.”
“The fox had a sign that said ‘rabbit stew’ because nobody wants a hare in their food.”  I was the only one who laughed. “Oh, c’mon!” I said, “you gotta love a bad pun like that.” Apparently they didn’t, which made me laugh even more.

Today I will laugh whenever I can, even if I’m laughing alone.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebie
The ebook verion of My Favorite Character Defects is available free of charge at:

My Favorite Character Defects is the second book written by Addiction. Addiction describes character defects he uses to keep addicted people addicted. He challenges the reader to recognize his tricks and stop abusing whatever it is they abuse.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Hare and the Tortoise II
The next day it snowed again.  I lived closest to the site and was the only one who made it to work in time to run the morning group.  When I walked into the group room a young man was sitting with his arms crossed and his feet propped up on a table.  “What make believe story do you have for us today?” he said with a sneer.
“How about a fable, the tortoise and the hare’s rematch,” I said, ignoring his scowl. “A week after their famous race, the fox approached the hare who maintained a safe distance.  The fox told the hare he could win a rematch if he slowed down just a little and paced himself.  The fox knew the hare’s ego had been severely bruised by the loss. He sold the hare a couple of Dilaudids.  ‘These will help you beat shell boy at his own slow and steady game,’ he said.
“Next the fox approached the tortoise. Safely tucked in his shell, the tortoise listened as the fox told him the hare wanted a rematch. The tortoise was sick and tired of people saying he’d gotten lucky, and he’d never win a rematch. The fox said, ‘you’re gonna have to pick it up buddy if you want to beat the hare again.  He’s ready for you this time.’ He sold the tortoise a little cocaine. ‘Just enough to get you going,’ he told the tortoise, ‘nothing to worry about.’
“The next day they lined up for the race.  The tortoise did a line a coke inside his shell.  He immediately realized his shell was holding him back, and he didn’t really need it because he was too smart to get caught by any predator. Off he went without his shell, impressed by his own speed.
“Twenty minutes before the race the hare had eaten the Dilaudids. He took off at a slow jog, feeling warm, happy, and just a little bit sleepy.”
“Not that I care, but who won?” the young man asked.
“The fox,” I answered.  “The next day he sold rabbit stew and turtle soup at roadside stand and made a killing.”
“Is there supposed to be a moral to that story?”
I wanted to say ‘come out of that angry shell and I’ll tell you.’ Instead I said to the group, “the world is full of foxes who have a chemical solution to an ego problem. Be careful out there.”

Today I will beware of foxes and my own ego.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Wall of Love
“I love booze,” Terry said.  “I don’t want to give it up.”
“I used to love booze too,” I said. “I gave it up because booze didn’t love me back.  Loving booze is like hitting a ball against a wall and saying you love playing tennis.  You’re really not playing tennis, because the wall doesn’t participate.  What’s worse, it doesn’t care.  Hit the ball too hard and it goes flying.  The wall won’t help you find it. Turn an ankle, the wall doesn’t notice. Have a stroke, and the wall won’t budge.  Booze is like the wall, it doesn’t really love you back because it can’t.”
He nodded his head, but said, “I hear you, but I still love alcohol, even though I’ve run into the wall.”

Today I won’t hit the wall chasing someone or something that can’t love me back.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebie
The ebook version of: 
My Favorite Character Defects: The second workbook written by your addiction

Monday, February 9, 2015

Wait for it…
“You people are all the same,” Terry muttered, “you’re all judgmental.” 
I smiled and waited.  A brief grimace told me he had thought about what he’d just said, and probably saw the irony.  I expected him to get defensive, but he just laughed at himself.

Today I will laugh at myself, and save being defensive for when I'm truly attacked.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebie:
The ebook Home Groupies II, a 'daily messages' book in the form of a novella is available free of charge at:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

“The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." Oliver Wendell Holmes
I heard the commotion and walked to Ms. Rella’s office to investigate.  A pasty middle-aged man wearing jeans, loafers, and a button down shirt, was pointing a bony finger at the office manager, Ms. Rella.  The half glasses hanging from his neck bounced as he gestured.
“I demand a meeting with your CEO. This is bullshit. I have rights!  I completed treatment.  You just want my insurance money.  You have beds to fill.”  I introduced myself and asked him to have a seat in the waiting room, promising to see what I could do.
I read his chart.  Following his third DUI, he had been sentenced to a year in jail, but the judge had told him he could avoid jail by completing treatment.  Terry had decided he was done when he completed inpatient.  His therapist had thought he needed outpatient, and said if Terry failed that he should go to a halfway house.
I told him filling beds was not an issue, the opiate epidemic was swamping rehabs. “No offense, but you’re lucky to be here. The jail is overcrowded with drug dealers and people who committed crimes to feed their addictions,” I said. “Otherwise you’d be behind bars.”
“Those people belong in jail, not me!  This is just a jail without the bars.  I have rights!”
He was starting to sound like a broken record. “OK,” I said as calmly as I could. “I will arrange a meeting with the CEO, your therapist, and your probation officer.”
The color drained from his face, but he still managed to say, “I have rights!”
“You don’t have the right to drive around drunk endangering other people.”

Today I will remember my rights are not limitless.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebie:
The ebook Home Groupies II, a 'daily messages' book in the form of a novella is available free of charge at:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Spring is coming
The next morning my snow blower wouldn’t start.  Eight inches of heavy wet snow covered the driveway.  I remembered a friend who owned a funeral home never made plans after a heavy snow fall.  ‘Lots of heart attacks, Ken,’ he had said.
I was only halfway done with the driveway when my son walked past on his way to the bus stop. “What are you going to do, Dad?” he asked, gesturing at the sidewalks and the rest of the driveway.
I shrugged. “Keep shoveling.  Spring is coming.”
When I finally got to work, I had a pile of paperwork to get through. Much of the paperwork was seasonal, reporting on the prior year’s trainings and get that year’s sessions accredited.  I knew in a week or so I’d have most of it done. “Keep shoveling,” I said to myself as I started filling out forms.  “Spring is coming.”

Today I will keep shoveling, spring is coming.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sock it to Me
My daughter was sitting up in bed doing her calculus homework when I got home that night.  Looking down at the lines of equations that made no sense to me, I suddenly felt old and stupid.  I thought about my conversation with Mikey, and did the only thing I could do.  Stepping far enough away that she couldn’t reach me, I took off my sock and threw it at her.  She flicked it away with her pencil, her features contorted into a mask of total disgust.  I took off the other sock.  She told me not to even think about throwing it at her.  I threw it anyway.
“Foolish old man,” she said, shaking her head.  “I have a hamper full of dirty socks.  I have a brother with a dirty sock graveyard under his bed.  I can buy his loyalty with a ride to McDonalds.” She put down her calculus book and picked up world history.  “Welcome to Waterloo, Napoleon.  Welcome to Waterloo.” 
I did what any grown man would have done.  I ran into my room and locked the door.  I could hear her laughing, which got me laughing.
“You have to sleep sometime,” my night owl daughter yelled.  I laughed even more, knowing I was going to wake up someday soon covered in dirty socks. 

Today I won’t act my age.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Body and Mind
“And what’s wrong with your daughter’s fiancĂ©?” I asked Mikey.
“Truth be told he’s not really an idiot. He just wants to take my little girl away,” Mikey said.
“Your little girl is twenty-six,” I pointed out.
“She’s twenty-six and I’m fifty-four, except when we get together.  Then in my mind I’m ten and she’s five.  The last time she was home we got into an ice cream fight.  We were sitting at the kitchen table, and out of the blue, she flicks a spoonful of ice cream at me.  I had to retaliate! I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun. She reminds me my body and my mind don’t have to be the same age.  I’m gonna miss that when she moves away.”
“You could remind yourself,” I said.  He nodded his head in agreement.
“Wanna go throw snowballs at passing cars?” he asked.  He was only half-joking.

Today I will Grateful my mind and body can be different ages.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Aloof Goof
“Why do you say your in-laws belong in the circus?” I asked.
Mikey said, “My wife and her brother are the youngest of seven kids.  The other five and their parents are all drama queens and hypochondriacs.  They all drink way too much, except her oldest sister who drinks way, way too much and gambles.  Her oldest brother spent $15k on a home theatre where he watches hardcore porn. Their mom uses suicide threats as a bargaining chip.
“The youngest brother isn’t like the rest?”
“They call him ‘The Aloof Goof.’  He laughs at their antics, he refuses to get caught up in their arguments, and he never takes their insults seriously.  Her brother jokes that he ran off and didn’t join the circus. My wife does just the opposite. She tries to play referee, she tries to reason with unreasonable people.  She wants everyone to get along.  She comes crying to me, and I tell her she should be more like her brother.  Hell, we should all be more like her brother.  There’d be a lot less drama if we had more Aloof Goofs.

Today I will be a bit of an aloof goof.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Morning Can Do
“You tired?” Mikey asked me.  “I’m so tired at the end of the day, especially on days I work out.  That’s why I love mornings.”
I had no idea what he was saying. “I missed the connection,” I said.
“My job is killing me, my daughter is engaged to an idiot, and my wife’s family should perform under the big top.  I’m drained when I hit the gym, completely dead afterward.  But, every night I sleep.  I recharge my batteries, and the next day I wake up full of energy.  Mornings are magic.”
“Yeah, but don’t you start thinking about the day ahead first thing in the morning?”
“In the morning I focus on everything I can do with that energy, not whether I want to do it.”

Today I will focus on what I can do.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose