Scotch on the Rocks -prose-

scotch

Nine years ago, I had one of these. Around 4 in the afternoon, as soon as I could after getting out of work. I know I probably had two before going home for about 1/2 hour and then taking off with the excuse that I had correcting to do. My school basketball team was in the state tournament the next day. It was St. Paddies day. I remember because that was the day that I had my last drink, at about the time of this writing. I left my favorite watering hole after finishing a martini. See I had made the transition to martinis because that was the natural progression necessary to be a full blown alcoholic. That night I slept on a thin mattress with a metal frame nailed to the floor. Unfortunately, I virtually remember everything about that experience.

I recall sitting in the bar knowing it was midnight, and thinking I could get to the next tavern on time for last call, and then I would just have a quiet road to get myself home unscathed. I got into my car, pulled out, followed the avenue with one eye on the rearview mirror scanning for any cops. I pulled up to a left turn lane with a red arrow and waited for all of about 30 seconds before I decided to make the turn without a green. The lights went on just out the right corner of my windshield and then followed the back of my car for about 150 feet until I pulled over to the side of the road, in plain view of the next bar I was heading to. I could have parked the car and run in, but I probably would have created a scene. Instead, I became the scenery.

The officer that arrested me was an extremely gracious man. I waived my right to walk a straight line as my body careened against the side of my car as I was being escorted to the back. He read my rights, and I was soon in the back of a squad car, another patrol intervened to record the entire arrest. My common phrase at the time was, ‘my life is over’ almost a chant that lasted for a couple of hours, audibly to no one who would listen. After processing I told the officer he would hear from me in six months, that I’d had my last drink. I hadn’t a clue how often that guy probably heard the same thing but never got the calls.

I remember my head spinning as I was walked out to another squad to be transferred to jail. I was basically put into a drunk tank and told I would be processed in the morning. That would be a Friday, and my team would be playing that evening. I suddenly thought of Dennis Hopper in Hoosiers, but the glamour didn’t stay with me, and I soon passed out. Have you ever woken up and suddenly felt something was terribly wrong? Or, did you ever have that instance of wondering if everything that seemed to be drifting in your mind actually revealed at truth? When the officer woke me, I asked if I could call my wife. He told me I needed to get my jail clothes first, and soon afterward I was wearing pajamas and brought up to the actual jail, where I later met a gentleman named Bubba.

The room was painted white with a heavy metal phone, and a small fuzzy tv in the middle of a wall. There were around a dozen beds in the room, all seemingly filled with patrons. I was relegated to the top bunk. Imagine climbing up a secured ladder, while hung over and feeling the embarrassment and shame with each step. I got to the top and laid down, only to realize I had to use the bathroom. As I crawled down, I looked at the metal caged wire across the thin basement like windows that showed no scenery but only allowed white light to encompass the frame, the only light of day I would see for many hours. I walked into the bathroom, and found a metal toilet, a metal basin, a metal shower head with no curtain, and I began to weep. I knew I wouldn’t last a day in this place and I hoped I could be released before the weekend kept me for three days.

On the outside, my wife was scrambling to get bail together. We were in the middle of a winter storm, she was forced to drive across the city in weather no one in their right mind would attempt. I have thanked her many times for that gesture, and I think I will probably thank her again before I go to bed tonight, in my home, in my bed, with a comfortable mattress, pillow I love, and a beautiful woman that I can hold while my final waking moments drift into a peaceful reality.

Today, I celebrate nine years of sobriety. I chose this to save my marriage, but more importantly to save my life. Had I not quit drinking it would not have had an opportunity to kill me before I took my own life. So I am a fortunate man. I have my family, I have my peace of mind, I have my home and all the responsibilities that go along with being a father, a husband, a teacher, a director, a positive member of our society. What I do not have is an urge to return to the events that lead to this story, and for that I am grateful.

A scotch on the rocks was my drink of choice. I loved to roll it in the cubes of a cocktail glass, imagining myself to be that suave guy at the end of the bar that attracted attention for his debonair personality. The reality was, I was simply a drunk that created no positive persona in my community of alcoholics. Nine years ago I was given an opportunity, and there isn’t a day that goes by where I am not reminded of how fortunate I am.

Here’s to you and yours and may the spirit of our Lord be with us to carry our load in all of our endeavors. I am a grateful human being.

Wandering Souls -prose-

The other day when I wrote I was upset about the circumstances of a loss of human life, one that would be thought of as too soon. Some might call it a waste of a good life. I remember hearing a colleague, a person I consider a friend, even though they might not value that same connection, say those words in reference to the loss, and I walked away confused and sad. How do you call a human being’s life on this earth a waste? I mean, they did exist, they did touch lives, they did create memory by their actions. All of that really does count even when they are cut down early by impulsive actions that could easily have been prevented. Yes, that part of it is a waste to think about what might have been, what could have been.

I wondered what I might write about today, as I wanted to touch on some aspect of my daily life. I spend the majority of my time in a coffee shop watching the people around me when I am not working in the classroom or on the stage. I have found that in recent weeks, with my writing becoming more emphasized I look at certain aspects of my daily life far differently. I feel like a writer these days, I feel I can call myself that without any reservation. I don’t know if I will ever get published, but I do know with certain accuracy that I write on a daily basis. So I guess that makes me a writer, correct? Now the task ahead is to continue to explore why.

The Beatles song ‘Nowhere Man’ is playing in the background as I write this passage tonight. I find that rather cool because that song has always had such meaning in my life over the years. I remember when I was 16 and I first heard the song, I wondered how profound it was that Lennon wrote a song that related directly to me. Back then you know everything revolved around our teenage egos. I recall wondering about the words and whether the people around me could perceive this reality of my identity. A person could really sink in the mire of such a mindset you know. I am fortunate that somehow I battled through.

So tonight, I’m just writing to sort of bring my thoughts out of my head a little bit. Not really sure if I am summarizing my day, or giving any pointed thoughts that are amounting to any value, but I suppose it feels pretty good. I think about that kid we laid to rest a week or two ago, and I think about all the others that are passing before us, and I wonder about God’s plan. I am thankful to be able to keep a journal and actively say good night at the end of my reflection. Good night.

Lest We Forget We are Human Beings -prose-

human condition

There’s a famous line in the relatively obscure movie Freedom Writers that has stuck with me since the first time I heard it in context. ‘You know what’s gonna happen when you die? You’re gonna rot in the ground.” – Erin Gruwell. The context speaks to a young African American student wanting to be recognized as an original gangster – instead of living by society’s standards. I’m struggling with this statement today as I recognize the loss of another young man in our community to drugs. I want people to remember him. I want people to recognize the value of genuine beauty he brought to the people he interacted with in his world. I don’t want people to remember the mistakes he made that cost him his life. He was just growing up, and he made an egregious decision that effected his well being, and it ultimately tested his mortality and won.

I have spent a lot of the last week pouring over his Facebook page looking at the commentary from his friends that supported his recovery; a constant barrage of positive words in countless threads offering hope and prayer for this delightfully idyllic young man. Those posting are gradually moving to quiet and heart-felt memorials, as people begin to recognize his hours are now seemingly limited, perhaps reached at this writing, and people are now asked to remember his spirit and the moments that he touched their lives with his remarkable energy. I glance back at that opening comment in the movie, and I realize it was delivered harshly to drum home an important point. We cannot, no one in fact, overcome the grasp of our human condition’s mortality.

The time for this young man to depart may very well have been far too soon for those closest to him; indeed, also for those whose love for him goes well beyond an occasional encounter, those who knew of his positive spirit at parties and gatherings, those who remember his dynamic upon entering any room of people. Yet, today I wonder if this might be God’s plan. Are we not often asked to face our important decisions when we experience a major crisis? Does that moment often not change our lives, or at least put us in a position to start to actively make healthier choices? Perhaps we need to really grasp the reality of this occasion and recognize that this young man’s early departure is meant as a harsh learning tool for those closest to him, beyond the agonizing family, and more directly to the people in his social circles that likely carry on similar lifestyles.

So when I speak of the beauty of a young man, I also ask that all of you, young people and old please respect the diligent nature of artificial stimuli that is not meant to interact with your human capacity. I ask all of you to speak to each other, and help one another know there are other healthier departures from the daily grind, than the insidious gesture of testing your mortality at the hands of an illicit drug of choice.

I am my own example of the harsh reality of drug and alcohol use. I am standing here today with an addictive personality. I am realizing how vulnerable we all are to our own selfish pursuits, even when we’re not aware of how quickly these ideals may turn our lives upside down. I have experienced consequence, and am perhaps fortunate that my actions did not sacrifice my own humanity when as a young experimenter I thought I could beat any challenge. Today, I know I cannot and know I have to take a higher road, and acknowledge the damage that drugs could very well continue to wreak upon my life. I now look towards my children, my students, and anyone that feels they have that ticket to escape the fragile reality of our mortality and I plead with all of them, I beg all of you to take a pause, be grateful, and go forward with your life in a healthy and respectful manner.

Rest in peace and Godspeed to our good young man of smiles. Others will certainly join you very soon on this fast course to immortality. Eventually we will all be there with you as the natural course of time calls out our number. I hope that your example can help a few fend off that early departure from life as we know it today.