Thursday, March 31, 2016

92. Lasting Change
On Matey’s last day the group asked him what he had learned. He said, “Lasting change is less about what you don’t do and more about what you do instead. I seen people relapse ‘cause they did nothing but miss the booze.  I met miserable people with years clean bitter ‘cause they couldn’t drink.  That won’t be me, I’m finding things to do.”  He listed a few, then whispered something in Connie Lee’s ear that made her blush.  She laughed and elbowed him in the ribs. 

“It’s like a diet,” Connie Lee said. “If you replace food you like with things you don’t, you won’t stay on it long.”

Today I will remember lasting change is less about what you don’t do, and more about what you do instead.

Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and someone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

91. Surprise!
When I got home, Blondie and Brat Boy had ordered my favorite pizza, wings, and salads.  It had been a long day, and I appreciated the nice surprise.  When they were little I had liked to surprise them with fast food meals or small toys.  I wondered, when was the last time I had surprised anyone?

Today I will surprise someone with a small act of kindness.

Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and someone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

90. Promises, Promises
At the end of the day I passed DUI Dave in the parking lot.  He was shaking his head. “What’s up?” I asked.

“I told Terrence when he could run again, I’d go jogging with him,” David said.  “He says he’ll be ready by summer.” 

“That’s great,” I said, “You two can keep each other motivated.”

He shook his head again.  “You don’t understand. People in my family don’t run unless we’re being chased. Usually by the police, or somebody’s husband.  I only offered ‘cause I wanted to cheer him up. He could barely walk when he first got here.  I didn’t think he’d ever run again.  Now I gotta go jogging with him ‘cause I promised. My family’s a bunch of violent drunks, but we keep our promises.” He laughed, “You almost never hear any of us promise not to drink.”

I wasn’t sure I believed Dave.  Broken promises were usually part of addiction.  But if he kept his promise, he’d do himself and Terrence a lot of good.

Today I will be grateful for people who keep their promises.

Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and someone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Monday, March 28, 2016

89. Bad Decisions
We transferred Norman to another site. He hooked up with a woman half his age.  They dropped out of treatment together.  She dumped him the day her boyfriend got out of prison.  Thinking younger women were his problem, he had a series of short relationships with slightly older women.  Comparing them to AA coins awarded for a single day sober, Andra called these women ‘Norm’s twenty-four hour chippies.’  He got another DUI driving one home from a bar.

Andra, who’d been sober for three years before she relapsed the last time, had some insight.  “Sleeping with Norman?” she said. “A bad decision, but bad decisions just come naturally.  Having the drink, eating the brownie, buying the shoes you don’t really need –so much easier than doing the right thing.  And once you’ve made the bad decision, momentum carries you into the bad habit.  Do you know I called Norman to say I’d forgiven him?  I wanted him to come over for round two.  Some young girl answered his phone.  Otherwise, just like Norm, I might have started the same bad habit of hooking-up just because I was bored.  Bad decisions become bad habits that end badly.”

Today I will remember, bad decisions can easily become bad habits that end badly.

Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 by Ken Montrose

(Just a reminder: Sober Not Somber is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and someone you might know is purely coincidental.)

Sunday, March 27, 2016


88. Good Advice
The next day I could feel the tension as people walked past my office to the group room.  The night before, Norman and Andra had skipped an AA meeting to work on their recovery from a horizontal position. At the worst possible moment, Norman had called Andra his soon-to-be ex-wife's name. While Norman tried to laugh off his mistake, Andra hadn't been amused.  She had thrown Norman's clothes out the bedroom window and sent Norman after them.  She dropped his keys in the bushes below the window and told Norman she was calling the police to report a burglary.  

The Other Ken had advised Norman to get his life in order before he started a romantic relationship. He had told Andra she had a few issues to deal with before she got involved with someone.  

Despite The Other Ken's years of experience, all he had taught them, and their respect for him, Norman and Andra had ignored his advice.   Norman told me he'd been too lonely to listen to The Other Ken.  He asked to be transferred to another site.  Andra told the group Norman was an idiot. She hadn't had a drink, but she wanted one more than she had in months. 

Today I won't ignore good advice. 


Sober Not Somber (c) 2015, 2016





Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

87. On the Other Hand

On the other hand, I was grateful for the first caller who got right to the point.

Today I will be grateful for people who can get right to the point.

Sober Not Somber (c) 2015, 2016 by Ken Montrose

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

86. Are You Listening
The phone rang.  Somebody wanted to schedule a training.  She gave me a brief history of the conference and what they needed from me. We agreed on a time. In ten minutes we exchanged all the pertinent information.

Two hours later the phone rang again. The caller sounded like a scared young man.  He had a list of questions about rehab and getting clean.  Each question was a signpost to one of his fears.  Being a young man, he didn't want to admit being afraid, so he wrapped every question in a lengthy, rambling, explanation of why he was asking. He frequently contradicted himself, and I suspected he had large gaps in his memory.  The conversation was frustrating, to say the least.

After almost an hour on the phone, I finally knew enough to say, "Of course you're scared, but get help anyway, today before you change your mind.  I'm going to transfer you to Ms. Rella who will get you started."

He said he wasn't scared, didn't really need help today, but would talk to Ms. Rella anyway. At that point I was glad I'd listened.

Today I will try to listen to people who have trouble telling their story.

Sober Not Somber (c) 2015, 2016 by Ken Montrose

Monday, March 21, 2016

85. If He Did It, I Want To Too

I saw Connie Lee enter the center, but I couldn't hear her, which was unusual.  I found her talking to Bitsi and Max The New Guy in his office.  Between sobs and smiles, Connie Lee said, "Matey hasn't been sober  a month, and some of his old friends are calling.  They want to know if he can help them or somebody they know. You know why they're getting in touch? 'Cause of what he did in 'Nam, and with his life.  People want to follow his example."
.
Today I will remember, the more I accomplish, the better an example I can set.

Sober Not Somber (c) 2015 and 2016 by Ken Montrose

Sunday, March 20, 2016

84. Magic Time
As we all finally walked inside, I noticed Terence wasn’t limping as badly as he had been. 

“You’re looking better,” I said.  “How’s your hip?”

“Healing,” he said with a broad smile.  “I got a new physical therapist.  He makes me work harder, but he increased the amount of rest time.  I think he’s found just the right mix.  Although, I gotta say, I didn’t really rest my hip the way the first physical therapist told me to.  Just letting time pass without putting any more strain on the hip has done magic. Do what you can and let time pass.”

I thought that formula applied to a lot of things in life.

Today I will do what I can and let time work its magic.

Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 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, March 17, 2016

83. If You Listen Carefully, You Can Hear The Universe Laugh
Marjorie must have circled around the office park.  She drove by to flip us off again and hit a tree.  Despite the car’s airbags, Marjorie – the very person trying to alert people to the connection between binge drinking and head injury -- got a concussion. Some would call Marjorie's head injury just a coincidence and blame it on a defective airbag.  I could almost hear the universe laughing.  She had tempted fate and gotten burned.

Today I will beware: the universe has a wicked sense of humor and loves irony.

Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 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, March 16, 2016

82. Rules Not Meant To Be Broken
While I was talking to The Kid, Marjorie wandered inside.  Ten minutes later she burst through the double doors with Bitsi (Bridget The Super Intern) in hot pursuit.  Bitsi told Marjorie she couldn’t stay in outpatient treatment with a BAC of .16.  Marjorie said she’d drive herself home, and headed toward her car.  Just then The Other Ken came out and told Marjorie she could go inpatient, that he’d arranged a bed for her. She told him where he could go, she was going home, and we couldn’t stop her.  The Other Ken said if she got behind the wheel, he’d have to call the police.

“Can’t!” Marjorie said, smirking and swaying.  “You gotta follow confidentiality rules.  You can’t say anything.”  The Other Ken told her confidentiality could be broken when a crime was being committed.  She flipped him off and drove away.  He went inside to call the police.

Bitsi and I exchanged sad looks.  Not obeying one rule by driving drunk, and not understanding the confidentiality rule, might cost Marjorie dearly.  She was likely to get another DUI, lose her husband, and probably her job. 

“It’s ironic,” Bitsi said, “She liked to complain how younger addicts bent and played with the rules during her last inpatient stay.”

Today I will remember some rules are not to be played with.

Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 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, March 15, 2016

81. A Photoshopped Life
“You know where I want to go?” The Kid asked. “Somewhere I’m not photoshopped into the picture.  Do you know what I mean?” I didn’t, and The Kid went on.

He said, “If someone does a good job with photo shop, you can hardly tell the picture was changed.  But look closely, you’ll see something doesn’t fit.  I’ve always felt that way about my life.  I shouldn’t be running the family finances.  I’m a kid photoshopped into an adult role.  The role doesn’t fit me, but to the outside world, I look like part of a picture perfect family.  I don’t think I can stay sober until I cut myself out of that picture.”  

I smiled, thinking he was wise beyond his years.  He had taken an old adage, ‘To thine own self be true,’ and given it a modern twist, ‘Don’t live a photoshopped life.’

Today I won’t live a photoshopped life.

Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 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, March 14, 2016

80. Follow Me! (Or not…)
“My parents think I’m crazy for going to rehab,” The Kid said.  “Their lives are so warped they don’t see anything wrong with mine. My sister can’t see past her report card and the bathroom scale.  She thinks my overdose was an accident.  I want to shake them, make them see we all need to change.  Lead them to something better.”

Terrence said, “Before you try to lead them, you gotta explore that better place yourself.  Before you convince your sister she needs help, you gotta show her you’re not crazy, that getting help changed your life.”

“And kid,” Matey said, “You can’t know if or when they’ll follow you.  Connie Lee got help a long time ago. I’m just now following her example. But, if she hadn’t gone exploring on her own, there’d be no path for me to follow. You do what you gotta do to find your path.”

Today I will remember before I can lead, I have to explore.


Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 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, March 13, 2016

79. Not Waiting for the Near Death Experience
“Hi Marty,” The Kid said to the man in the ball cap. Later The Kid explained his father got sued a lot and Marty often served the papers.  “Dad’s addicted to money.  He makes a little through shady deals, but mostly he lives off my mother’s inheritance.  Mom’s addicted to drama and sex.  Choosing just the wrong partner feeds both her addictions. Dad won’t leave her because of his.  My fifteen-year-old sister makes straight A’s, hasn’t gained a pound since she was twelve, and looks like she’s thirty without her makeup.  She’s addicted to perfection, control, and energy drinks.” 

“And you?” I asked.

“I was addicted to keeping the family together.  And Ambien and vodka.” He paused, and added, “The philosopher was wrong.  The overdose that didn’t kill me didn’t make me stronger.  It made me see I needed to make myself stronger. I’ve got a lot of heavy lifting to do, starting with separating from my family.” He smiled, but wiped his eyes.  

Today I’ll make myself stronger. I won’t wait for something to almost kill me.

Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 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, March 10, 2016

78. Row, Row, Row
When DUI Dave saw that Marjorie had been drinking, he hit the roof.
Marjorie had a dozen excuses, none of which made a dent in Dave’s anger.  I thought Dave went a little overboard, but his intentions were good.

It reminded me of an argument I’d overheard about self-groups.  The first man said self-help groups were just a place for people to whine about their troubles. The second man said a good group supports people, but confronts them about making excuses and whining.  He went on to say having someone in the same boat helps because they know when you’re conning yourself and them.  They don’t want to hear why you aren’t  helping yourself, why you aren’t rowing.   

Today I’ll row rather than trying to con my boat mates.

Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 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, March 9, 2016

77. Parting Shots
The next day Norman was standing in front of the building with the smokers when I got there.  A tall, thin man in a baseball cap approached the group.  I recognized him, but couldn’t remember where we’d met. When he pulled an envelope from his pocket, I knew.  He had served me papers years earlier when Dave from my home-group  –  not to be confused with DUI Dave  – had tried to sue me for not getting him out of jail.

The man in the ball cap handed Norman an envelope. Divorce papers.  DUI Dave told the man to hit the road.  Matey put his arm around Norman’s shoulder.  Andra tried to hide her smile. Marjorie stumbled up to the group, a little unsteady on her feet.

I understood Norman’s wife’s anger.  He’d run up enormous fines and court costs.  Far worse, he had almost killed their son. Having papers served on him in front of his new friends may have been her parting shot.  In her shoes, I might have done the same.  On the other hand, I had seen parting shots invite return fire.  If the wronged person could, they were better off letting things go and moving on quietly.
Today I will try to let go quietly.

Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 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, March 8, 2016

76. Batter Battles
Blondie announced she was making dinner and Brat Boy was going to help. Blondie alone could make dinner in thirty minutes.  With Brat Boy’s help she might finish in just under two hours.

One would hit the other with a spatula. There’d be a chase. Blondie would sprinkle flour in Brat Boy’s hair and tell him he was going gray.  Work would stop for really bad dancing and singing. One of them would try to rap. Somebody would forget whether he or she had added one of the ingredients.  They would laugh and carry on until my wife or I asked them to please hurry up.

When Blondie made her announcement I was worrying about election politics, and money I might not collect for trainings because of my state’s budget impasse.  I had been thinking about people I loved getting old, the heroin epidemic, college tuition, and work piling up.  ‘I don’t have time for this,’ I thought at first.  ‘I need this,’ I thought next. “Can you guys make brownies?” I asked.  ‘Batter battle,’ I thought to myself. ‘Nothing funnier.’

No matter what worries I have today, I will make time for silliness and laughter.
Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 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, March 7, 2016

75. You’ll Get Used To It
When I got home that night Brat Boy was limping.  He’d gotten blisters from his new sneakers. I asked him if he wanted to return them to the store.

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “Once I break ‘em in, it’ll all be good.” He pointed to his sneakers with a look I’d expect to see on the face of a new mother sharing pictures of her first child. “I love these shoes.”

“Sometimes even good things take a while to get used to,” I said.  “It pays to be patient.”

“You promised one day I’d love having a baby brother,” Blondie said, laughing and punching Brat Boy.  “It’s been fifteen years.”

I remembered knowing recovery was a good thing, hating it early on, but learning to enjoy my new life more than I would have thought possible. I made a list of all the good changes I’d seen people make that had taken them a while to get used to.

Today I will remember even good things may require a ‘breaking in’ period.

Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 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, March 6, 2016

74. 75 Years of Turning Beer into Urine Does not a Life Make

The next day was going to be family day, and I could hear the Kid telling the group why he didn't want to invite his father.

"Dad has a keg in the basement," the Kid said. "Every night after work he drinks from 6:00 to 10:00.  On weekends he watches TV and drinks.  Dad never gets a DUI.  He always goes to work. He doesn't fight with his family because we stay out of his way. He doesn't understand why I can't quit the pills and join him in the basement."  The Kid was terrified of sinking into his father's pattern.  "Unless his liver fails, he could shuttle between work and the basement the rest of his life."

I thought of two quotes.  My first sponsor had said to me, "Montrose you were put on this earth to do to more than turn to beer into urine."   I had recently stumbled across a Robin Sharma quote: "Don't live the same year 75 times and call it a life."  These two quotes left me wanting to do something useful, and something different each day.  I hoped the Kid would get that message.

Today I will do something different and useful. 

Sober Not Somber (c) 2015, 2016 by Ken Montrose

Thursday, March 3, 2016

73. My Point Is
Right after lunch I heard The Other Ken and Bitsi (Bridget The Super Intern) talking with Marjorie.  They had surprised her with the breathalyzer.  She had blown a .05 and admitted to drinking wine with her meal.   

Marjorie pointed out that .05 was below the legal limit.  She objected to Bitsi testing her. “Under Pennsylvania law only nurses and cops can administer drug tests,” she claimed.  She accused The Other Ken of being culturally insensitive, arguing wine with meals was part of her heritage.  She threatened to sue us under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  “Addiction is a disease,” Marjorie said.  “You have to make accommodations for me.”

The Other Ken pointed out no such law existed, and he wasn’t required by the ADA to allow people struggling with addiction to use their drug of choice.  He could have argued about her culture, but he wisely chose not to.  He knew there was no point.  I thought about pointless arguments that I’d almost been drawn into.  These were arguments about opinions unlikely to be changed by emotion or reason.  There were better ways to use my time and energy.

Today I will avoid pointless arguments.
Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 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, March 2, 2016

72. Watch Where You’re Looking!
After Norman left, I began looking on social media for topics to write about.  I had noticed days earlier that LinkedIn, a site for professionals to connect with professionals, was becoming more juvenile, mean spirited and Face Bookish every day.   When I looked that day I found a lot of inspirational posts and serious discussions. In fact, most of the posts were not ‘only a genius can solve this’ puzzles, pictures of someone’s lunch, or like challenges. (Like challenges give the reader a ridiculous choice. ‘Will you like this or do you hate America, mom, and/or apple pie?’)

It occurred to me I had noticed the nonprofessional posts because that was what I had been looking for.  When I looked for wisdom, I found it. “I need to watch where I’m looking,” I said to myself.

Today I will watch where I’m looking.

Sober Not Somber © 2015, 2016 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, March 1, 2016


71. At My Own Pace
"One final piece of advice," I said to Norman.  "Don't let helpers become a burden.  Look, people want you and your son to get better. They want to help.  Their hearts are in the right place, but they may get frustrated if you don't get better as fast as they'd like. Don't take it personally.  Accept help, do what you can to help yourself, and don't pretend to feel better than you do for their sake.  Recover, grow, soar at your own pace."


Today I will accept help, 
do what I can to help myself, 
and recover, grow, and soar at my own pace. 

Sober Not Somber (c) 2015, 2016 by Ken Montrose