Thursday, March 30, 2017

5. Who’s Got Your Back?
That night I went to an AA meeting.  Hilary was new to the group, but sober three years. Her husband had been killed by a drunk driver ten years earlier.  She’d spent the next seven drowning her grief in wine.  The irony wasn’t lost on her. 
She’d recently started dating again. “How’d last night go?” I asked.
She laughed for a solid minute. “So he pulls up in his Mercedes and texts me to say he’s here.  I haven’t dated in twenty years.  I thought maybe that’s how things were done nowadays. I grab my coat, and my son Heath asks me where I’m going.  I tell him.  Heath goes out to the car, tells the guy he has to come to the door, or he’s not taking his mother anywhere.  The guy left.”
“Were you mad at your son or the guy?”
“Neither. I was so proud of Heath.  He has my back.  Here’s a gratitude list for you, people who have your back.” 

Today I will be grateful for people who have my back.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

4. Changes I Don’t Have to Make
I remembered my first encounter with Jameston.  “Hello,” he said, extending his hand. “My name is Jameston.”
I shook his hand, and not sure I’d heard him right, asked, “Jameston?” A sour look crossed his face. He told me he pronounced his name ‘JAIM es ton’, not ‘jaim ES ton’, not ‘james TON’, and please never refer to him as ‘James’, ‘Jim’, or ‘Jimmy.’
After telling me how  to say his name, he half blinked, and a weak smile crossed his face.  It took me a long time to recognize that tic was one of recognition.  I imagined an inner voice telling him he was right, struggling with a softer one recognizing he was overreacting, and asking him to relax. 
“Do you know the difference between OCD and OCPD?” he asked.  “If you want to help me, it is important that you do.”
 I said, “OCD, is an anxiety disorder.  People feel bad about having it, at least in its severe form.  Most wish they could stop the rituals and counting and hand washing.  The problem is not doing these things causes them a lot of stress. Likewise, they need to have things organized to avoid anxiety. People with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, OCPD, think they are right, the world is wrong.  They wish the rest of us would do things their way, the only way, the correct way.  They need things to be organized and done exactly as they see fit, or they experience anger and frustration. ”
“Well, you seem to have a basic understanding. I suggest you read a little more to sharpen your knowledge.”  
There was the tic again. I felt a sad sort of gratitude about not needing the rigid control Jameston needed.

Today I will be grateful for difficult changes I don’t need to make.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarities between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

3. The Ability to Change the Things I Can
Later, I handed Max The New Guy the message.  He made a face like he’d found a fingernail at the bottom of his soup bowl. “You don’t remember him?” I shook my head. “Tall, thin, balding.  Knows everything about OCPD, but can’t seem to stop being a controlling, perfectionistic, pain.  Knows that’s why his wife left him. Alcoholic you found crying in the lobby. He was one of my first clients.”
Somewhere deep in my head an old brain cell woke up and flooded my memory with sadness and anger.  I’d never met anyone more aware of the need to change, more determined to change, and less successful at making changes than Jameston.
Today I’ll be grateful I can change.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarities between the characters and anyone you might know is pure coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Monday, March 27, 2017

2. Small Change
At work the next day somebody called for Max The New Guy. Even though Max cheered for a football team not well-liked around here, I thought I’d better take a message.  I started to scribble a name and number on scrap paper, thinking I’d give it to him when he got in. 
I knew how this story ended. Max would get to work, and I would discover I’d lost the slip of paper.  I’d waste half an hour looking through stacks of paper, my garbage can, and the recycling bin, until I found it.
“Wait a minute,” I said to the caller.  I opened my email, put the phone on my shoulder, and typed the message as the caller spoke.  Done.  Making this small change spared me time and stress.  
At the end of the message I added, “It’s the NFL off-season. Now is the time to leave the dark side and come into the light...”
Today I will start with small changes.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarities between the characters and anyone you might know is pure coincidental.

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com

Sunday, March 26, 2017

1. Changes
“Whatcha thinking about?” my daughter Blondie asked me.  She was home from college, so mature it broke my heart.
I said, “Something I wrote a while ago, ‘Today I will remember the world owes me nothing, does not respond to my will, and goes merrily on with or without my consent.  On the other hand, I am free to change myself as I see fit.*’”
“Oh, I like that. Why do you look puzzled? You wrote it.”
“I just realized I wrote it fifteen years ago.  I’m wondering if it’s time for some changes.”
Today I will consider making some changes.

Time for a Change ©2017 by Ken Montrose
Time for a Change is a work of fiction. Any similarities between the characters and anyone you might know is pure coincidental.
Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: www.greenbriartraining.com
*Meditations for the First Thirty Days: How Not to Become Roadkill on the Highway to Recovery

© 2002 by Ken Montrose

Thursday, March 23, 2017

67. Of Mulch and Men
A month after he was arrested, Gerry’s father died of heart failure.  He was forty-five years old.  At the time, I thought the deaths of Gerry and his parents were a colossal waste.  Six months later The Other Ken told me almost everyone in treatment when Jerry died was still sober. 

“When Gerry and his mother died, it scared them,” he said.  “They were losing a little of that fear when  they heard the news about Gerry’s dad. It helped them all refocus.”

A young guy named Croft once told me you can be the tree or you can be the mulch.  You can grow, drawing ‘smarts’ from other people’s mistakes, or you can be the person making those mistakes.  “Keep making them,” Croft said, “and life will turn you into mulch.”

Today I think I’ll be the tree.


Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose


Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

66. Before Life Kicks The Denial Out Of Me
I was the first to get to work the next day. A black Escalade straddled two handicap parking spots in front of the building.  As I walked past, the driver rolled down his window and asked if I was one of those idiot therapists. Technically, I’m a trainer, not a therapist, so I answered honestly.

“No I’m not,” I said. Gerry’s father rolled the window back up.  I felt my rage building, wanting to scream at him, ‘You’re the idiot. You’re the one who drank with his son.  You’re the one who got high with his wife.  You’re half the reason they’re dead.’

Instead I walked through the glass doors to the lobby.  I texted Miss Rella telling her to enter the building from the other side.  I asked her to let everyone else know they should do the same.  The police arrived ten minutes after I called 911.

As they took him away, my rage cooled just enough for me to hope this was his wake-up call.  He was estranged from his family and had just buried his wife and son.  He had just been arrested. If this kick in the teeth didn’t wake him up, what would?

When I got to my office, I made a list of times I’d made changes before life kicked the denial out of me.

Today I’ll be grateful for any changes I made before life kicked  the denial out of me.


Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose


Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

65. HALT
“Time for you to go to bed,” my wife said. “Today sucked out all your energy.”
“It did, but it’s only 9:30,” I said.
“What’s that AA slogan? HALT? Don’t let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired?  I’d say you’re tired and angry.  Time to get some rest.  You can deal with your anger tomorrow.”
I knew she was right, but I said, “I’m a grown man, I’ll go to bed when I’m ready to go to bed.” Two minutes later I said, “OK, I’m ready.”

Today I will remember HALT.


Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose


Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Monday, March 20, 2017

64. Not That Stupid
After work, The Other Ken, Max The New Guy, Miss Rella, and I went to Gerry’s viewing.  As we stood in front of the casket, Gerry’s father stumbled up to us and said, “You did this.”

When I got home I told my wife about our encounter. “I wanted to punch him,” I said. 

She said, “That would have been stupid.  Be glad you didn’t.”

“I never would have hit him.   I could have done a lot of other stupid things, starting with telling him off, in front of all his family and friends, standing at his son’s coffin.” 

“Be glad you didn’t do that either.  Anything else?”

“I didn’t break my toe kicking something. Didn’t yell at the girl in McDonalds who got my order wrong.  Didn’t give the finger to the guy tailgating me all the way down Route 19.”  I hugged my wife and added, “Didn’t try to lift my spirits by running off with some smoking hot, twenty-five year old.”  At this my wife laughed. “It could happen,” I said, smiling.  She couldn’t stop laughing.

Today I’ll be grateful for all the stupid things I didn’t do.

Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose


Other works by Ken Montrose are available at: http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Sunday, March 19, 2017

63. Pick a Challenge

When I got home, Brat Boy noticed I seemed a little down. He said,   “You need a distraction, Dad.  How about car shopping.  Have you seen the new Corvette?”

I said, “Buying  a ‘Vette.  That’s a cheery thought. I’d have to get another job to buy one.  Do you have any idea what it would cost to insure a Corvette for sixteen-year-old new driver?”

“Consider it a challenge, Dad.  Think of the pride you’d feel watching me drive away in brand new red Corvette. That's the kind of challenge guaranteed to lift your spirits.”

“Here’s a challenge, take a 2005 Nissan Altima with 215,000 miles.  Keep it running until it hits 250K. Drive it to the gym every day to work on your skills. Stay on the honor roll. That’s a challenge, one you and I can conquer together, son.”

Brat Boy laughed and shook his head, “I can’t decide if you’re just old, or you really have no soul, Dad.”

Today I will pick a challenge wisely.

Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Thursday, March 16, 2017

62. Chart Review
The Boss was texting to schedule a chart review. When something really bad happens in a rehab, everyone involved is called together for a chart review.  These meetings are about more than looking at someone’s chart. They’re a chance to see for staff  to share their grief while reminding themselves what they’re up against – a culture flooded with powerful painkillers, dirt cheap heroin, synthetic drugs sold online, and veterinary medicines being abused by people.  Chart reviews are sad, but motivating.

Years earlier I had worked with people suffering from severe schizophrenia.  At that time state mental hospitals were downsizing. People who’d been inpatient for years were sent to live in communities struggling with the crack epidemic.  I did several chart reviews back then.  I learned to look and look again, giving myself credit for the effort I’d made, but owning my mistakes. 


Today I will remember to learn, I have to look and look again.

Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

61. Boom
Most days the rehab is a funny, inspiring, hopeful place to be. Some days the bombs go off.

“Actually, I wanted to talk to your colleague, but you should know too,” Gerry’s uncle Harold said when I answered the phone. “Gerry and his mother passed away on Monday.  We’re waiting to hear from the coroner, but it looks like they overdosed on wine, painkillers, and Valium.” Boom.

I expressed my condolences and transferred the call to The Other Ken.  Twenty minutes later I was still staring out the window when I got a text from The Boss.


I will enjoy today. I don’t know what tomorrow brings.


Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

60. Little Dog, Barking Gut

The next day at work a woman named Terry stopped me in the hall.  She said, “I’ve been a little jumpy since I first got sober. Is that normal?  Ten times a day I get this knotted feeling in my belly.”

I said, “LDBG syndrome - little dog, barking gut.   That feeling’s like a little dog that barks at everything passing by, every sound. Happens to a lot of people when their lives change – going to college, getting married, having a baby, new job.  I’m not saying you should never trust your gut, but try not to react every time you feel jittery.  The more attention you give to the little dog, the more he barks.”
Today I’ll try not to pay too much attention to the barking dog in my belly.

Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Monday, March 13, 2017

59. Once again with enthusiasm!

That night, I got coffee and two donuts and sat down at a long folding table set up in a church basement.  As I sank into the metal chair, I nodded at the thirtysomething woman sitting a couple of chairs away. 

The meeting began with the familiar readings.  The chairman asked if anyone had one day clean, one week clean, and then one month. The woman bounced to the podium to get her thirty day chip. She beamed as she walked back.

“Will anyone with five to ten years sober please stand,” the chairman said.  “Ten to fifteen.  Fifteen to twenty.”   When he got to twenty-five or more, I stood.   

After the meeting, the woman who’d gotten her 30 day chip hugged me. “Congrats on all those years!” she said.  She held up her chip. “I never thought I’d make it this far.”  As we talked, I couldn’t help but see the difference in our outlooks.  I was content, while she was enthusiastic. After our conversation, I realized a little of her enthusiasm had rubbed off on me.

Today I will seek out enthusiastic people.


Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Sunday, March 12, 2017

58. A Sinking Yacht
Gerry said, “I’m scared, but I’m going to take the concrete road back to rehab.”

“Why are you scared?” I asked.

“I love them.  I want to help them.  I’m afraid they’ll pull me down with them.”

We sat in silence for a moment while I thought of another analogy to help him visualize his situation.

“With no money worries, it’s like your addicted parents had been living on a slowly sinking yacht.  You saw they were taking on water, they did not.  Your relapse was like swimming out to them, trying to save them.   Going to rehab is like swimming back to shore. The halfway house isn’t as nice as your parents’ house, but it represents dry land, it’s safe.”

Gerry picked up the story, “But from dry land, I might see the boat resting lower in the water.   I’ll want to swim back to save them.  Maybe try to convince them to get clean, to leave a sinking ship.  That’s just like bailing out water, and it’s not enough.” He paused.

“Complete the analogy,” I said. “What happens next?

“I might be tempted to stay with them until they sink. Sinking would be my mom dying, or my dad killing someone while he was driving drunk.”    

“So what’s the thing to do?”

“Encourage them, but don’t go to them,” he said.  “Stay dry, stay away from a sinking boat.”

Today I will encourage someone, but I won’t drown with anyone.


Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Thursday, March 9, 2017

58. The Same Successes
“I’m going back to rehab,” Gerry said.

I said, “Go back, but don’t just go through the motions. Whatever you did last time do it a little differently, do it with more intensity, do it more thoroughly.”

“You mean don’t repeat the same mistakes?”

“I mean don’t repeat the same successes.  Go further.  You did well in rehab last time, don’t do that well this time, do even better.”

“I’ll try,” Gerry said.
Today I won’t repeat the same successes.


Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

57. Mud v. Concrete
Gerry graduated, stayed sober for two weeks, and returned for an assessment to be readmitted.

“My mother OD’d,” he said.  “This time she was serious, she almost died. I got drunk with my dad.”

“Now what?” I asked.  “Are you still living with your sister?”

“I have to complete treatment here and go to a halfway house for six months.  If I do, my sister will take me back and my uncle will hold my job for me.   My dad wants me to move back home.  He said it was my fault mom OD’d and I should move home to take care of her.”

“Mud or concrete,” I said. “You can land in the mud with your dad. It’ll be soft.  Drink beer, eat benzos, live off the check from your dad’s share of the business. Or, you could land on the concrete.  Spend a couple weeks in inpatient. Take a hard look at yourself and why you relapsed.  Spend six months in a halfway house working on your recovery all day.”

“I know what you’re gonna say. If I land in the mud, I might never get out. I might sink into the couch with my parents. The concrete is a harder landing, but it’s part of a road that leads somewhere.”

“So which is going to be?”

Today I will choose the concrete over the mud.

Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

56. Ready?
“I hear you’re leaving us soon,” I said. “You feel ready?”
“I’m fairly sure I’m ready,” Gerry said, “but I’m not absolutely certain. ‘Course, if I’d waited until I was certain to start rehab, I’d still be drinking.”
“Me too. My first month sober I spent every day wondering if I was really ready to quit.  Glad I did.”
“One of my uncles spent twenty years with a woman he hated ‘cause he wasn’t sure he was ready to divorce her,” Gerry said.  “She divorced him and got just about everything, including the dog.”  


Today I’ll move forward when I’m fairly sure, not waiting until I’m absolutely certain.

Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Monday, March 6, 2017

56. On Socrates and Sharknado

“Every time I walk by, you’re staring at the computer,” Gerry said, stopping in my doorway at the end of the next day.  “Doing some serious reading?”

I said, “This morning it was opioid addiction research studies. So yes, serious stuff.   In the afternoon I was looking for a quote. I ended up reading some of the great philosophers.   More serious reading – some of it was a little hard to follow.”

“See that’s why I think you recovered. You’re a serious guy.  I’m not sure I have that in me.”

I laughed. “With any luck, my son will be done with his homework when I get home.  We will watch as mindless a movie as we can find.  Something with flying sharks, or zombie zoo animals.  Anything with no message, moral, or serious plot.  I think recovery is about balance.   I read a lot. To balance it out I’m gonna watch something like the fourth installment of Sharknado.” 

Today I will look for balance,
and carry and umbrella and shark repellent, just in case.

Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Sunday, March 5, 2017

55. Can I keep ‘em?
I went to a wedding later that week with friends from high school.  Thirty years earlier, when we were going to each other’s weddings, we joked about sex, classmates dating and marrying,  and school loans. Sometimes we laughed in church until someone’s mom shot us that ‘you’re almost thirty, do I still have to tell you to be quiet in here’ look.

That night we talked about kids and their school loans, politics, and who had beaten cancer. I knew by the time my children got married, we’d be talking about grandkids, retirement, and who’d lost their battles with cancer.

When I got sober, I discovered I might have to change some ‘people, places, and things’ to stay clean.   A few people were so toxic to my sobriety I had to cut them out of my life.  Others quit coming around when I quit drinking.  I counted myself lucky to have friendships that lasted.

Today I’ll be grateful for the people who’ve stayed in my life.


Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S

Thursday, March 2, 2017

54. Rewrite
While I was online, I stumbled on a quote by James Michener: “I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter.” I thought of my life, and the  people I had met as a therapist.  Our lives were like historical fiction.  Past events couldn’t change, but the stories we told ourselves, and the message and morals we got from them, could. Were we stupid or just young and na├»ve?  Had we not given ourselves enough credit? Were we completely the victim, or did we play some role in our downfall?  Were we heroes in quiet ways easily overlooked?

If we’re smart, I decided, rewriting makes us better writers.  When we start the next chapter, or even a whole new story, we’ve learned from our mistakes and our triumphs.  We know our strengths and weaknesses, and we twist the plot.

Today I will write a new story, and maybe rewrite an old one.

Needles Not For Knitting is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and anyone you might know is purely coincidental.

Needles Not For Knitting (c) 2017 by Ken Montrose

Other works by Ken Montrose are available at:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Montrose/e/B001K8MG0S