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.)