Judgement Day 2: This Time It’s Judgier

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Great news! My day in court went well. I have to go back for official sentencing on November 30th but here is the deal I got:

  • 30 Days Limited Driving( To and from work only)
  • $400 fine
  • 20 hours of community service
  • No probation
  • 5 months with Interlock Ignition Device(breathalyzer in car connected to the ignition)

I am so completely blessed by this. I can’t tell you how much I’ve been dreading this and I feel like my Higher Power stepped in and gave me a break. Losing my license, even for just 30 days, completely would have been a major strain on my household. I’ve put my Mom through so much this year and I really didn’t want her to have to worry about driving in the winter at night. The $400 fine is going to take me a while to pay, but they let you make weekly payments on it so that will be manageable.

I am actually looking forward to the community service. If anyone can think of a good place to lend a hand please let me know. I was thinking about possibly Youth Pride or AIDS  Care Ocean State maybe. Something in the community.

As far as the Interlock system goes that is the only thing that concerns me. The monthly service fee is $75/month, so I’m going to need to do some creative accounting to figure that all out. I’m thinking part-time job on the weekends or nights. Anyone have any ideas?

Lastly, THANK YOU ALL!!!! The messages/phone calls and texts of support I have received throughout all of this time has been so key to my recovery. I have never felt so much love in my life! You guys are great!

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Daily Gratitudes: Judgement Day Edition

So today is Judgment Day. My day in court…again. My DWI happened on 9/2/16. Today is 11/17/16. Today will be my 5th court appearance and even though I am not looking forward to having my license suspended and then having to have an Interlock Device in my car for the next 6 months and having to pay thousands of dollars in fees and fines, I am very happy that it(hopefully)will be over today. I want to move on. I want to begin to put this time behind me and take the lessons I’ve learned from it and grow a nice life. 

What is still so mind blowing to me is that since the events of these past few months how much my life has improved…in every aspect. My relationships with my friends and family have never been stronger. Even though I’m having some challenges, work has been great. I have a new car that I love. I have connected with an amazing support network through AA and met some truly inspiring individuals with whom I’m building new friendships. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since I was in high school. I am actually looking forward to the Holidays. I am happy.

Crazy, huh? I’m sitting here typing this, thinking about having to go to that damn courthouse and face a judge and stand in front of a gallery full of others like myself and talk about the worst thing I have ever done and I feel happy. This is serenity. This is sanity. What a wonderful gift this is! I am so grateful to my Higher Power for granting me this serenity. I am grateful to myself for finally allowing my Higher Power back into my soul. 

I just re-read that last paragraph I wrote. I was about to delete it because Brenda tried to tell me that people were going to roll their eyes and think “you are ridiculous and a hypocrite after a life-time of thinking people who believe in a Higher Power a crazy whack-jobs”. Maybe she’s right. Maybe people will think I am excusing my past behavior on alcoholism and not taking responsibility. Maybe they think I am writing a blog for attention. Maybe they think I am making it all up. Maybe all of these things are 100% true. I reminded Brenda of one the most important thing I have learned in Recovery. My recovery is my own. There is no right or wrong. If other people think all of those things about me that is their right. I’m actually ok with it. It actually has nothing to do with me. It is also none of my business. (She didn’t like that and is now currently eating a box of wheat thins, sulking and binge watching “Hoarders” on Netflix).

This week I had coffee with a friend. He related a story to me about people who used to be a big part of my social circle and are still part of his. The details of the story aren’t as important as the fact that they were just being catty for catty’s sake at my expense and he stuck up for me. Where does this all fit into the context of this post? He told me this story back on Sunday. Today is thursday and it is the first time I thought about it. You see, this is the type of thing that would pre-occupy my mind 24/7. A story about people talking about me, especially when I feel what they are saying is not justified and unfair, would have devastated and consumed me. I would have tried to find a way to get to them and let them know somehow that I know what they said and that I think they are treating me unfairly…or worse…sought revenge. Believe me, Brenda was champing at the bit to help me cope with this but I didn’t feel any of those emotions. You know what I focused on? I focused on the fact that my friend had my back. My friend saw an injustice and stood up for me. My friend loved me more and put me first instead of whatever “reprocussions” he would have for having a dissenting opinion. That was an amazing gift he gave me. His actions gave me solace, because a friend who has your back is FAR more important than the opinons of people who are no longer part of my life.

                                            (OK, I guess its possible that Brenda won a little bit since I wrote about it, but recovery is a marathon not a sprint right?)

Wish me luck today, friends!!!

Impossible Amends

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed,

and became willing to make amends to them all.

Well, here we go. This one is difficult for me. Part of me completely understands exactly what this means and another doesn’t understand it at all. I am struggling with defining exactly what constitutes “harmed”. I know that I haven’t physically harmed anyone(that I am aware of). I know that I have caused emotional harm and there are many in my list that go without question. I know that I will spend the rest of my life working on step 9(Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.) but coming up with this list has been filled with emotional challenges.

I have learned that I’ve been entirely way to hard on myself about a great many things. A perfect example of this is a story I want to share about my ninth birthday. I think it is important to understanding my deeply rooted troubles with guilt and self-loathing with lead to feeding my addiction. I would like to add a disclaimer to this story before you read it. I truly believe that my parents actions in this story, though misguided, came from a place of love and concern for me. I do not condone their actions, but I forgave them both and more importantly, myself, years ago. Making an emotional amends to a person no longer living, in this case my father, is what I am struggling with and I hoping that by writing this and seeing it in print will bring some serenity to my soul.

The Watch

In the fall of 1983 I was almost nine years old and I became enamored with a show on TV called “Voyagers”. It was about a handsome, swashbuckling time-traveler and his spunky pre-teen side-kick keeping history on track. It only lasted one or two seasons, but I never missed an episode. Their means of transportation throughimg_2239 time was a slightly malfunctioning gold pocket watch looking device called an “Omni”. It was the most beautiful looking bauble I had ever seen and I WANTED one. Being a curious almost nine year old I had the proclivity to want to know how things worked. Which means I took EVERYTHING apart. I had absolutely no skill in being able to put them back together again, but with regards to the deconstruction aspect I was a “TED conference” level genius. (We had a pinball machine that I absolutely destroyed. To this day I still don’t understand why I did that.)

One day, while investigating my parents jewelry box I made the most wonderful discovery. My father was in possession of a GOLD POCKET pocketwatchWATCH! Good fortune! My prayers had been answered! I would soon be traveling through time having adventures with a big, goofy, sexy time-traveler helping the Wright Brothers with their first test flight and having tea with Attila The Hun! I immediately took possession of this treasure and began my play. There was just one, tiny issue. It did not look EXACTLY like the Omni. “No problem!” I thought, and almost nine year old Jimmy went to work creating his OMNI. Off to Dad’s work shed I went and got the tools necessary to complete my task. Watch face? Gone. Chain? “The OMNI had no chain!” I thought. Gone. “I can put this back together…no sweat.” I told myself, having no past record of being able to support this notion. The “spare parts” went into my shorts pocket and once my OMNI met my expectations, off to the woods I went to find Joan of Arc and assist her on her quest.

For those of you of a certain age you will remember that PAC-MAN mania was sweeping the nation in 1983. I had been begging my parents to buy me a tiny arcade version of the game. I was fairly certain that they would buy this for me due to the fact that I spoke about it 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week for months. My birthday came and I was so excited! I would be munching ghosts and power-pellets soon I could feel it! I was careful to be good and not do anything that would make my parents mad because I was certain they bought it for me. That night it was just me, my sister, my Aunt Carol, Mom and Dad. They sang happy birthday and I began to open my presents. Clothes…clothes…clothes…and then…the last gift…PAC-MAN!!!! I was on top of the world! I hugged and kissed and thanked my parents and started to tear open the box when my father stopped me and said. “Wait, there is one more.” He went into his pocket and pulled out a small box wrapped up in He-Man(my favorite afternoon cartoon) wrapping paper.

“Another one?” I thought. Nothing was going to top PAC-MAN. I took the present from my father and unwrapped it. I opened up the box and there it was. His dismantled pocket watch. My mother had come across it in pocket while doing laundry. The room was completely silent. I stared at the watch in shame. I realized all of the sudden what I had done. I had fucked up big time. “Jimmy, that watch was my father’s and the only thing he ever gave me.” My father said to me in a stone cold tone. “I was going to give it to you someday, but I figured since you took it upon yourself to take it, I thought I’d make it official.” I started to cry. My Dad was good with the guilt. His words were far worse than his hands. Shame and guilt over-took me. I got up from the table and ran away. My Daddy hated me now. How could I have been so selfish? Why did I take that watch? Why did I have to take it apart? Why did I suck so much? I couldn’t look my father in the eyes for days. Every time I looked at him all I saw was disappointment. I made it my ONE vow in life that someday, I would replace that watch for him. It would be the most special watch he ever had. It was my first amends.

In 1994 my father passed away suddenly at the young age of 46. After the initial shock of my father’s death subsided all I could think about was that pocket watch. How I had not only lost my father(with whom I had a very strained and unresolved relationship) but I had lost my chance to make amends for that horrible thing I did to him almost 11 years earlier. You see, to me that meant everything. For me, that was the reason my father didn’t like me. I knew that my father loved me, but I never felt like he “liked” me. I always felt like a disappointment and sometimes told me in no uncertain terms what a disappointment I was.

I remember a desperate conversation he and I had in his car one time. He had picked me up after a rehearsal for a high school play I was doing(It was Little Shop of Horrors. I played the Dentist). We had just recently learned that my sister was pregnant and we were discussing that. It was an uncomfortable conversation. My Dad and my Mom were fighting about what to do about “the situation”(as if they had any say in it). My father had suggested that my sister consider “all her options” and it infuriated my mother. Their divorce had recently been finalized and it was, like most divorces with children involved, a nasty one.

I was quite upset that my father had even suggested that my sister consider giving the baby up for adoption. The thought of being an Uncle was so exciting for me. I was so looking forward to having someone in my family with whom I had a chance to have a fresh start. For some reason, my father always seemed to take offense to me having an opposing opinion of him. He found it “disrespectful” when I questioned him. He always used to tell me that if he ever disagreed with his father his father would have “bounced him off the walls.” This frustrated me and kept us from seeing eye to eye. I was older now and had been through a lot. I needed him to respect that I had an opinion and was entitled to it. I tried to reason with him and find common ground but I could see we weren’t getting anywhere.

I just didn’t want to fight with him. I wanted to be his buddy. I reached out to him and said “I just want to be close to you, Dad. I want us to be close like Uncle Eddy and Scott.”(My uncle and cousin) I will never forget his response, “Jim, some times Father’s and Son’s just don’t have that kind of relationship.” It was a dagger through my heart. I was never going to have that relationship. Years later I have come to the realization that his emotional issues with his abusive father most likely prevented us from having that relationship I so desperately desired. His death closed the door on any final chance I would ever have for redemption. I would always be the horrible son I felt my father thought he had.

When I went into therapy after Greg and I separated I remember telling this story to my therapist. He helped me understand that what my parents did all those years ago was not kind. It was not to teach me a lesson. It was cruel. I fought him about that. My parents were not cruel. They were just trying to teach me a lesson! I remember he said to me “If they wanted to teach you a lesson about taking other peoples property, wouldn’t it have made more sense to confront you about the watch and tell you that they were not buying you the game you wanted? Instead they brought you up on an emotional high. Got you excited about your birthday present and then ripped the rug out from you. That emotional torture lesson you learned when you are nine is still hurts the 38 year old man sitting in front of me. Do you think it’s ok for someone to suffer for nearly 20 years about a mistake a child made.?” No. It’s not ok.

I talked to my Mom about this soon after this conversation I had. She barely remembered the incident which infuriated me. She told me that my Dad really wasn’t that upset about the watch. This infuriated me further. How could they have been so thoughtless, so careless with my emotion. How stupid I felt for holding onto and assigning blame to this childhood mistake I made that had a large part in the self-loathing I endured for nearly 20 years. I was angry. I no longer knew what or who I was. What else had I been wrong about?

I want to be clear about something. I love my father. I have forgiven he and my mother for this. My parents made a mistake, just like I made a mistake. Had I not lost my father as early in my life as I did I would like to think that we would have resolved this situation. So my amends I’d like to make involving this situation is not to my father, but to myself. Recovery has been the step to accomplishing this amends. It may take the rest of my life, but I owe it to nine year old Jimmy to do this.

Loss of Innocence…Loss of Faith…And where it all began.

 

 Old Friends

I am lucky enough to still be very close with one of my oldest and dearest friends. Katie and I met in 1983 in Mrs. Parrillo’s third grade class at the tender age of nine. Katie and her family had moved into her grandmother’s home and was new to my elementary school. We fast became friends. The next year seated at our “project desks” or some such thing I professed my undying love to her in a carefully crafted note. “Katie, will you be my girlfriend?” I wrote,(most like with my favorite blue crayon). She calmly read the note and replied back (in what was probably a sensible BIC Pen recently recovered from the class kleptomaniac, Becky.) “No. But we can be best friends.” and that was all it took. We were instant best friends and have remained so for the last thirty-three years. She’s been there through everything, so of all of my friends, she has a very unique perspective on me and my addiction.

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Since all of the chaos in September and the weeks that followed, Katie and I hadn’t really had a chance to speak about everything in depth. She lives near Sturbridge, MA with her beau, Derek and her lovely daughter in a GORGEOUS home she and Derek built and only gets down to Rhode Island occasionally. She invited me out for
breakfast to catch up and after breakfast we decided to take a ride around our old stomping grounds and chat. Our conversations are always a treasured experience for me because, again, we’ve known each other so long. I wanted to express to her and make sure she knew how much I appreciated her in my life. Katie was my life-line at a critical point in my emotional development.

The Fall of the House of Carroll

In the Fall of 1988 my family dynamic changed drastically. My father, who traveled much of the year for business, decided he no longer wished to me married to my mother. My mother, of course, was devastated. She was completely blindsided and fell into a very deep depression. I was very difficult for me to see my norma

lly happy-go-lucky mother completely change overnight into someone I barely recognized. As an adult who has experienced the pain of divorce I have a completely different perspective on what my mother went through than I did as a fourteen year old.

 

The problem is fourteen year-old me did not get it. I knew that my mother and father did not have a happy marriage. When my father actually was home he was completely miserable, and because of that, so was my mother. They argued about everything and didn’t seem to mind that my older sister and I bore witness to all of it. When the pressure finally built up and boiled over and my father decided to walk away he not only left the country for business, he also left a big mess behind for my sister and I. Neither one of us was prepared for what was to come.

My sister had the luxury of escape. She was 17, a senior in high school, had a boyfriend and drove a bitchin’ Silver 1981 Volkswagon Rabbit with baby-blue “pleather” interior. (It took Diesel gas and got about 100 MPG. I remember it had what my Dad called a “globe plug” and needed to be plugged into an electrical socket to keep the engine block from freezing in the winter.) My sister worked as a dance teacher at the time and kept herself busy. I don’t actually remember seeing her very much after that. My Mom had become unmanageable in the weeks proceeding Dad’s exit. It became necessary for my sister and I to take my mother to get help, and so we did.

I remember the details of the evening vividly. In the days before my mother often mumbled strange things to me such as wishing she would die. At dinner she implied to me that “nothing really mattered anymore” and that “it would all be over soon.” So I called the ambulance and my Grandparents and told them to meet us at Rhode Island Hospital. As much as I love my Grandparents, I will never understand how they dealt with the whole situation. Firstly, I had to convince my Grandmother that my mother needed help and that she couldn’t even handle such simple tasks as bathing.  I was legitimately afraid that my mother would take her life and at this point I was afraid she had.(Mom’s bathroom vanity has always and will always be a disaster of make-up,ointments, hair rollers and medication. It wasn’t clear to me whether she had actually taken something or not.) I think my Grandmother was just in extreme denial. My Grandfather would just wring his hands and make some exasperated noise. Once my sister and I convinced them and my mother that it would be best for her to take a “time-out” we took her from Rhode Island Hospital to Butler Hospital. Being both under the age of majority neither my sister or I could sign my mother in. We convinced her to sign herself in for us and to her credit, she did. My Grandparents brought us home and then went home themselves. They left us alone.

The next morning I called my father’s secretary and asked her to connect me with my father. His company was based in Sweden and it was probably around his dinner time when I called.(Remembering the hoops it took for me to jump through to connect to my father a half a world away in the late 1980’s gives me a total appreciation for the technology which is available to me today. If things had been different I could have FaceTime’d him and he could have seen how terrified I was and perhaps, just perhaps, things might have gone differently). After several mishaps and international operators my father’s secretary finally connected me with my Dad. I told him what had happened. He asked me if we were ok, and I said that I was. That was both the truth and a lie. I was “ok” in the sense that I was no longer worried that my mother might harm herself because she was under supervised care, but I was not ok with this whole situation. I asked my Dad if he would come home and he said that he “couldn’t” because of work. As long as I live I will never understand why my father, who had such disdain for his job, showed more loyalty to that company than to his own children. He said he would call my Aunt Sue and let her know what was going on and she would “check up on us”. I have no memory of this actually ever happening. I’m not saying it didn’t but the memories I have of this time are very specific and if my Aunt Sue did check on us it didn’t make me feel any more safe.

My sister and I did the only thing we could do. We followed our daily routine and went to school. When I got home later that afternoon, I was surprised to see my Aunt Barbara’s car there. When I walked in the house I saw my Aunt and my mother sitting at the kitchen table. My mother was not looking much better than she did less than 24 hours before when she was telling me she wanted to die.  I remember saying something like “What are you doing home, Mom?” And my Aunt replying something like “We can take care of your mother, she doesn’t need to be in that place…” I think this is the first time I ever “saw red” in my life. (As an interesting aside, my Aunt and I have recently had a conversation about this story and to my utter shock, she remembered what happened next quite differently than the actual events. I will examine in another post a familial coping mechanism I’ve seen my mother and her siblings exhibit that I find absolutely fascinating.) I couldn’t believe my Aunt’s gall. What did she mean “we can take care of your mother?” Clearly, we could not. Was she going to sit there and watch my mother 24 hours a day? I flipped out. I started screaming at both my mother and my Aunt. “Who are you to take her out of there? She needs help! She says she wants to die! Get out! Get out of my house!” I’m sure there were expletives, and inappropriate words I had heard my father refer to her as over the years. It was enough that my Aunt finally left. My sister came home at the tail-end of everything. I told her what happened and she was also furious. We told my mother she had no choice but to go back to the program and that we were taking her now.

When we arrived back at Butler Hospital I remember sitting with my mother and some administrator and pointing my finger at them and saying “No one, is allowed to visit my mother without MY permission, and NO ONE is allowed to remove my mother from this property unless I approve it!” I’m sure none of this was legally binding but they agreed. I know that my mother stayed there and got help because she realized that she needed it and that she needed to get better for us and that is what kept her there and I am so proud of her for it. She continued and then switched to an Outpatient Program.

The Well of Loneliness

Things started to get a little better at home once Mom returned home. She began the long journey of being returned to sanity. She started going out with my Aunt, who was single herself, and found a group of single girlfriends and would go out dancing on weekends. During the summer of 1989 she was out with my Aunt on most nights. I spent alot of time on my own. Too much. As I mentioned earlier, Katie was my life-line.

We spoke on the phone for hours, much to her faththe_weller’s dismay. “Call-waiting” was a fairly new feature that was not readily available in our area so if you needed to get in touch with the Prime household between the hours of 6pm and 11pm…good luck.

Back to the present, Katie and I were laughing about how we used to make her Dad crazy. It was during this conversation that I made an interesting discovery. I had always thought that my drinking started when I got to college, but Katie reminded me that I used to drink from my father’s wine cellar. I used to mix red wine and coke to make my “cherry coke”. I used to get completely hammered at 14 years old. I had found another way, besides food, to numb the horrible feelings of self-loathing and loneliness.

I blamed myself for so many things that happened back then. In a strange way, it was how I “comforted” myself. I just had to make some sense of how all of the adults in my life were acting. My father and his family had almost completely disappeared from my life. Cousins that I spent every weekend with and played sports with were a distant memory. My sister was pregnant with my neice and beginning a new life with her boyfriend. My father had met a woman and was planning to move in with her. My mother was trying to pull her life together and spent alot of time “sewing her wild oats” that she never got to do in her early 20’s. I was trapped in a rural home with no access to the outside world besides Katie and my dogs.

Thankfully, I had a vivid imagination. I used to perform entire musicals in my house with the music BLARING. I can’t tell you how many times I sang the score of “Annie” at the top of my lungs. I identified with her. My parents had left me, but I always held hope that they would someday return. To this day, I can’t even listen to the song “Maybe” without having emotional recall of a young me singing that song to my dog Brownie. As I type this I am tearing up, because the pain was so real. I felt like an orphan and it was all my fault. God was seeking vengeance on me, because I was bad. He took everything and everyone I love away from me because of what I did, and who I was. I was an aberration, a deviant, a misfit, disgusting, deplorable, unredeemable. I deserved this because of what I was and what I had done. There was a time when I actually believed that it was possible that I had died and was now living in my own private hell.

Not Like Other Boys

I was an “early bloomer”. Puberty started at age nine and I was shaving by age 12. I am always fascinated when I read stories about how guys discovered masturbation on their own. I didn’t. “Wet Dreams” were a common occurrence for me. I just thought I was a bed-wetter. If my Mom knew what was going on she never said anything, and my Dad, of course, never talked to me about any of that so I was flying solo. It wasn’t until I started having sleep overs with my buddies did I understand what it all meant. As a gay man, I am proud to gloat that my very first sexual experience was a three-way at the age of 11. I remember my first orgasm like it happened yesterday. I will spare you the details, but I will share the thoughts I had as it occurred. I remember the build-up and the uncertainty of these new sensations. I wanted it to stop, but didn’t want it to end. Right as it was about to happen I realized that something HUGE was about to happen and I jumped up and ran to my cellar door and ejaculated outside. “I never want that to happen again!” I lied. It is a very precious memory to me. I was with my buddies. We were bonding. It was natural. Though I am the only one of us who is actually, gay, there was actually nothing “gay” about it. It was primal. It was no more sexual than a group of chimps pulling on each other. It was release of pent-up sexual tension. I’m glad to say that it did happen again and quite often for the next three years.

My sexuality developed quickly. I had no idea what it all meant, but I was INTO it. I didn’t know what “gay” was apart from the way it was portrayed by Jack Coleman’s

Steven Carrington on Dynasty, and for those of you familiar with the reference you know that this wasn’t exactly the best role-model for a young homosexual. I applaud ABC and the producers of that show for being brave enough to explore the issue to the extent that they were able to but it did nothing to help me relate to the feelings I was having. I had heard vague references from my father and uncle’s and kids at school about “fags” relegating them to pedophiles, deviants and cross dressers. Homosexuals and Homosexuality were displayed on TV as the butt of the joke. Political correctness had not yet become the epidemic it had in the mid-late 90’s into the millennium. Characters like Jack Tripper on Three’s Company used it as an actual plot device and running gag to explain the crazy notion that a single man could only live with two women if he had no sexual interest in women. Misogyny in it’s highest form. None of that made sense to me. Jack, Chrissy and Janet were friends. Why was it so hard to believe? My best friend was a girl. She wasn’t in constant need to be protected from me. I just didn’t get it.  I recognized more and more as I got older that my attraction to men was not the norm. I kept it a secret. A closely guarded secret, or so I thought.

 

Loss of Faith

I lost my faith in God a long time ago. I felt abandon and disillusioned. I was raised catholic and went to church faithfully every Sunday with my Mom and sister. Went through all the motions of receiving the sacraments and even became an Altar boy when I was 11 or 12 years old. During this time there was a young priest named who was in charge of training the Altar boys. He was very attractive and all of the women in the congregation adored him. I also shared this feeling.  He was the first member of the clergy I had ever met who wasn’t a grumpy old man preaching fire and brimstone. He used to play the guitar at mass and had the most beautiful singing voice which always thrilled me. I looked up to him and for a short time I thought that someday I might want to go into the Priesthood(which to this day makes me laugh). He refused to call me anything but James(at the time everyone called me Jimmy)which made me feel special. It seemed like he had a lot of respect for me and I had never encountered that with an adult in my young life.

We used to have “practice” for mass on Tuesday nights from 7-8:30pm.(I remember this specifically because I used to be mad that I had to miss “Growing Pains” and I had a MAJOR crush on Kirk Cameron). This one night we had finished up early and the other Altar boy had left early. Father told me he had an obligation to get to in Providence so we closed down the church and he said I could wait for my Mom in the rectory. The rectory was the small living space the priests had that was attached to the church in the back. Father turned on the small black and white TV they had and told me he was going to take a shower and I could watch whatever I want(Kirk!!!).  He went into his room and a few moments later emerged completely naked with a small towel covering his genitals. He then walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower, but he did not shut the door. He got into the shower which had a clear shower curtain and began washing himself. The way the TV was positioned it was impossible for me not to watch this show that was being put on for presumably for my benefit. None of this seemed odd to me. After all, I’d been to the Y and seen men taking showers in front of each other many times and had been in locker rooms at my dads country club seen many a nasty old white guy cleaning themselves off. Then I became aware that he was staring at me. Then I became aware that I was watching him not so discretely. He started cleaning his penis and it became erect, he then started masturbating. I became noticeably aroused and turned my attention back to the TV because, and this is the part that kills me, I was afraid he would see that I was turned on and that he would tell my parents and I would get in trouble. At this point I said to him “I think my Mom is here. Bye Father.”and left the rectory and ran back through the church. I remember the only thing that I could see the red lights emanating from the EXIT signs and the light that illuminated the face of the gigantic wooden sculpture of Jesus on the cross which hung over the pulpit. I remember stopping for a moment and thinking that Jesus was punishing me for having fooled around with my male friends and I think that was the first time I experienced self-shame/loathing.

My Mom was running a little late and I sat outside on the church steps replaying the scenario in my head and swore to myself I would never lust over a man again and prayed to God for the strength to overcome my desires. When my Mom finally arrived I got into the car and she asked me how everything went and I said “fine”. I think she could tell I was shaken up and she asked me if I was ok and I told her I was feeling sick. I never liked lying to my mother, but it was a partial truth, I was feeling sick. Not sick that I had just had been emotionally violated by a trusted adult, but that I was some kind of disgusting freak who was turned on by watching his priest pleasure himself. This began a pattern of me blaming myself for the behavior of others. That same year I had another experience with an adult with whom I was helping with the renovations of his old house. The details of that are not as important as the fact he was married with a baby on the way and I blamed myself for doing something with him that I knew was wrong. I assigned zero blame to him and felt like I was the one who had done something wrong. What made it worse was I adored his wife and felt like I had violated her trust. That next year the events of my family breaking up I described earlier in this post began. I view these events described as the beginning of the patterns of destructive behavior and self-loathing which led me to this path I am on now.

People I have shared these stories with personally have asked me why I have not pursued holding the men who abused me responsible for their actions and the answer to that is simple: I’ve forgiven them and more importantly, I’ve forgiven myself. It serves no purpose for me to bring harm upon any other innocent party. The experiences I had are mine. That’s MY power. I have asked my Higher Power to relieve me of this burden I’ve carried and he has answered. I am setting this free and no longer allowing the thoughts I had about myself to hold me hostage. I truly believe that God works in mysterious ways. My DWI and the fallout after has forced me to take a long, hard look at my life and who I am. Some things are great, some things are not so great, but everything is better.

A Letter to Brenda…

On my last day of IOP(Intensive Outpatient Program) the counselor had us do a powerful exercise. She had us read a letter from our addiction. I wish I knew who wrote it so I could give them credit here(and if anyone knows the source please comment so that I can do so.) She then had us write a “Dear John” letter to our addiction to say goodbye. The letter I originally wrote was shorter and less meaningful so I decided to re-write it and share in this Blog.

         Before I do so, I should explain the title of this post. I find visualization to be a powerful tool so early in my recovery I named and gave a backstory to my addiction. I named her “Brenda”. Brenda is a six foot Sharon Needles on a REALLY bad day drag queen who is constantly smoking and looking like she’s been walking through a Tsunami. She’s rude, inconsiderate, selfish, hurtful and worst of all…Ever-present. Now, before all the lovely drag queens out there start screaming at me, you should remember, I’m not saying that all drag queens are like this so keep yourself tucked and let’s move on.

The letter from Brenda:
Dear Jim,

I’ve come to visit once again. I love to see you suffer mentally physically spiritually and socially. I want to have you restless so you can never relax. I want you jumpy and nervous and anxious. I want to make you agitated and irritable so everything and everybody makes you uncomfortable. I want you to be depressed and confused so that you can’t think clearly or positively. I want to make you hate everything and everybody-especially yourself. I want you to feel guilty and remorseful for the the things you have done in the past that you’ll never be able to let go. I want to make you angry and hateful toward the world for the way it is and the way you are. I want you to feel sorry for yourself and blame everything but your addiction for the way things are. I want you to be deceitful and untrustworthy, and to manipulate and con as many people as possible. I want to make you fearful and paranoid for no reason at all and I want you to wake up during all hours of the night screaming for me. You know you can’t sleep without me; I’m even in your dreams.

I want to be the first thing you wake up to every morning and the last thing you touch before you black out. I would rather kill you, but I’ll be happy enough if I can put you back in the hospital, another institution or jail. But you know that I’ll still be waiting for you when you come out. I love to watch you slowly going insane. I love to see all the physical damage that I’m causing you. I can’t help but sneer and chuckly when you shiver and shake, when you freeze and sweat at the same time, when you wake up with your sheets and blankets soaking wet.

It’s amazing how much destruction I can do to your internal organs while at the same time, work on your brain, destroying it bit by bit. I deeply appreciate how much you sacrifice for me.

The countless good jobs you have sacrificed for me. All the fine friends that you deeply cared for-you gave them up for me. And what’s more, for the ones you turned against yourself because of your inexcusable actions-I am more than grateful.And especially your loved ones, your family, and the most important people in the world to you. You even threw them away for me. I cannot express in words the gratitiude I have for the loayalty you have for me. You sacrificed all these beautiful things in your life just to devote yourself completely to me. But do not despair my friend, for on me you can always depend. For after you have lost all these things, you can still depend on me to take even more. You can depend on me to keep you in living hell, to keep your mind, body and soul. FOR I WILL NOT BE SATISFIED UNTIL YOU ARE DEAD, MY FRIEND.

Faithfully yours,

Brenda, Your loving addiction and drug of choice
A letter to Brenda:
Dear Brenda,

It’s not you, it’s me. It’s been 35 days now since we parted. I want you to know that I appreciate your desperate need to be friends but I simply cannot any longer be part of your destructive lifestyle. We used to have a lot of fun, you and I, but somewhere along the line we spiraled out of control and I can’t let you drag me down any further than you already have.

It’s never been easy for me to let go of people, places and things in my life. Sudden drastic and jarring changes to my life frighten me more than anything in this world. You know this, and while I appreciate your loyalty, I feel like you’ve used this to take advantage of me for your own selfish reasons. I want you to understand that I understand now that your entire existence is based upon the fact that I couldn’t cope with difficult things my life. I know now why you’ve stood by my side. It wasn’t for me, it was for YOU.

You’ve been by my side since we were kids. Sharing such wisdom like “You’re so pathetic, no one gives a shit about you so just keep eating until you want to throw up. That’ll make you feel content. Who needs love when you have cookies and crackers?” You’ve bore the burden of my emotional and physical trauma for a long time. I am thankful that the destructive distraction methods you’ve employed through most of my life have mostly only impacted me, but this year your insatiable thrist has caused me to potentially mortally wound myself and others and I can no longer sit by and allow your insatiable desires put anyone in harms way.

It’s time for me to grow up. It’s time for you to move on. I don’t need you anymore, you’re irrelevant. You’ve become a bitter, angry bitch who only cares about herself. You stopped caring about me and only cared about the “good time”. You’ve stolen from my mother and caused her stress. You’ve affected my reputation, my livelihood, my marriage, my family’s trust and instead of filling that place in my soul with happiness like you promised you’ve managed to make that place colder and darker.

Our relationship is toxic. You are toxic. I know that you are not able to part ways with me amicably so I am cutting you off completely. I will not check on you and will not allow you to check in on me. I won’t check in with you to see if you’ve changed…I know you are incapable of change. I, however, am not. I am making friends and strengthening existing relationships in healthy ways. I want to help people and do something I can be proud of that will fill that hole in my soul with light and not the darkness you tried to convince me was a safe place to be.

I hate you, but I also forgive you. More importantly, I forgive myself for not cutting you out of my life sooner and not asking God for help. Goodbye , Brenda. Please respect my wishes and stay away. If we should ever meet again I will act like I don’t know you. If you try to speak to me I will not answer, because if I spend even one minute of my time with you it means to lose everything I worked so hard to have. My soul is worth more than you. I’m taking it back. Goodbye.
Best regards,

Jimmy

Why I’m Doing This…

                     Hello Internet! My name is Jim and this blog is going to serve as a place to share stories about my life and my path to self-discovery, redemption and happiness. I can’t promise that I will always be interesting, funny, poignant, topical or intelligent. I can promise, however, that I will always be honest. 2016 has been the most transformative year of my life. I have set goals and accomplished them, faced challenges and conquered them. I’ve encountered demons and fell prey to them. Most importantly, I have found the path to inner peace and started mapping it. Discovering that truth and transparency can be valuable tools has been such a wonderful surprise and that is the main purpose of this blog. Truth.
                     I think for my first post I’ll share a post I made last week on my personal Facebook. It should give you a good understanding about who I am, where I’ve been, and where I am going. I hope you can find something inspiring or something you can identify with in this post and with my blog in general. I welcome reader feedback and challenge you to share your own experiences and your own “truth”. It has brought me such unbelievable serenity and I hope it does for you too.
                Today is November 6, 2016. Today I am thankful, surprisingly, to Facebook’s “On This Day” feature for reminding me that today is the day my life changed. Today is the anniversary of my epiphany, the spiritual experience, the “awakening” I had which set the wheels in motion for me to make the changes I’ve made in my life on the path to emotional and physical health and sobriety. This post is my first official statement on something I’ve been dealing with along with everything else I’ve been working on. 
                                                                                                            My name is Jim Carroll and I am an alcoholic. 
                     But I am getting ahead of myself…

                My journey actually began back in 2004 when I joined an early precursor to the social media platforms we use today called “Livejournal”. It still is so amazing to me that 12 years later most of people I met on this platform I am STILL friends with and have met in person mostly ALL of them. These are men and women from all over the world. The internet used to be a very positive and hopeful place where people were interested in connecting with their peers all over the planet. While Livejournal did have it’s troll and drama(There was an amazing group called LJ_Drama which was absolutely the most entertaining thing that ever existed LOL) it was mostly, in my experience, a great and safe place to have a voice and receive feedback on whatever what was on your mind.
                One of the awesome people I met on this site was a guy named Gary from Dallas, TX. His LJ handle was jediknightcub and based on the simple criteria I employed at the time which was “If I liked your LJ handle you’d be my friend.” What wasn’t to like? Star Wars…”cub”(for my non-in-the-know friends a “cub” is a man who identifies with the Bear sub-culture of the gay community. I won’t get into the difference between a Bear and a Cub because this is “Roe v. Wade” level internet debate-bait and I ain’t going there today.)
But I digress, Gary and I hit it off for a variety of reasons. We played a MMORPG called “City of Heroes”. For those of you who know my love of puns, Gary is the Grand Master Sorcerer Supreme of puns. I wish that I could remember the names of some of his hero avatars because they were drag queen level puntastic characters and were built hysterically appropriately.(It is my hope that Gary will reply to this post with the list of names and screenshots if they exist so you can share in the brilliance). Ok I am getting way off topic…
                I met Gary in person in when my ex-husband Greg and I went to Dallas on vacation for a Bear circuit party called “Texas Bear Round-up” aka TBRU. Meeting in person was awesome as it was the first time I met someone I felt I knew well in person for the first time. It was like seeing an old friend after a long time apart and this experience, at least for me, cemented Gary’s place in my heart.
                Ok, flash forward to 2015, I received a message from Gary informing me that he and his partner Brian had decided to get married and that they both wanted me to come to their wedding. To say that I was honored would be an understatement and I wanted to go so badly and I RSVP’d that I would be in attendance. Gary had moved to Chicago to live with Brian years earlier and I had never spent time in Chicago itself, unless you count a layover at O’Hare. I WAS IN. When I received the awesome invitation to their wedding I RSVP right away, but as I have done so often in the past I gave no thought as to how or if I could even possibly afford to go to this wedding, you see, at this point in my life if there was something I wanted, I would get it, consequences be damned. 
            As the date approached I was in denial about the fact that I absolutely could not afford to go. I spent a great amount of time trying to come up with a plausible solution and find some way I could get to Chicago. There was no way. About three weeks before the wedding I sent Gary a message on FB apologizing that I could not attend. Gary was not having it and made arrangements for me, at he and Brian’s cost, to attend. He sent me this message:

                              “Hey, I never heard back from you yesterday, and I can understand why (unless you were actually just distracted by Arrow, Empire, and American Horror Story all on the same night). I know this might be uncomfortable for you, but please bear with me.
                            I wanted to let you know that if you would be comfortable with sharing a room with someone for Friday and Saturday night of the wedding weekend, my friend Pennington (he was the newly-out twink friend I brought along with us to TMC at TBRU in 2005 or 2006, if that rings a bell) has offered to let you stay in his room for the weekend. He has a room with 2 queen-sized beds, and he’s not bringing a guest. You don’t have to pay anything for this. Nothing is expected in return except that you come to the wedding and have a good time.
                          The other part of this travel conundrum is the plane ticket. I will take care of your plane ticket. No questions, no strings, no payback required, no nothing except a round-trip plane ticket to and from Chicago for the wedding weekend.
                          Pennington is offering to do this because, as one of my oldest and best friends, he said he would do anything to help someone if it mattered this much to me.

                          Which brings me to the fact that, yes, you do matter this much to me. I know we haven’t been in the same physical space very often, but you have been a constant source of support and humor throughout many of the hardships of my life through your online presence in City Of Heroes, on LiveJournal, and on Facebook. You and I share a brain: evil, campy, and loaded with obscure pop culture references. Brian and I would really like for you to be at our wedding, because you are an important part of my life and have been for many years.

                       I know that it’s not easy to accept someone’s help, especially financially. I was once in a position where I needed help paying for something similar and a friend of mine paid for it. He never expected anything in return. He never expected to be paid back. He had no other motive than to help me out. The only thing he asked me to do was this: if I was ever in a financial position to help someone, help them without any expectation of being paid back. So, here’s an opportunity for me to do that.

                     The only things I ask of you are to accept this offer and come to the wedding (and tell me after the champagne toast that the champagne is burned, because reasons) and if you are ever in a position to do this for someone else do it without hesitation.

Let me know.

BIG HUGS!”

            I was completely blown away. I was completely humbled. I was embarrassed and honored all at once. I felt like such a miserable failure in life and felt like I looked pathetic. I accepted because it meant so much to me that Gary wanted me to be there and I could not possibly let him down. I had no excuse. I would have to suck it up, swallow my pride, and be there for him. Little did I know that Gary and Brian not only gave me the gift of friendship and provided for me to be there to witness their union, they also saved my life.

        For an obese person flying on a plane is a horribly humiliating experience. Having to stop as you are greeted by flight attendant and ask quietly if you can have a “seat belt extender” is a demoralizing experience. The look on the face of the people sitting next to you when they realize that for the next several hours they will have to sit with you in these uncomfortably close quarters is so very damaging to self-esteem. This has always been my experience and a source of great anxiety while flying. My flight to Chicago was no exception.

        The flight went by quickly and without incident save for the cramped quarters and dirty looks from my seat mates. I was relieved to get off the plane and head to the rehearsal dinner and meet Gary and Brian’s family and friends. Over the years I had travelled frequently by myself to unfamiliar places. I was no stranger to traveling, but it became apparent very quickly that this was no ordinary trip. Something was different. I was different. I was at the heaviest I had ever been in my life. I don’t know what my exact weight was on that day, I imagine it was somewhere between 410-420lbs, but I might as well have been 600 lbs. I realized after about 5 minutes of walking and carrying my luggage that I would not be able to get to the baggage claim unassisted. The pain in my lower back was so intense I had tears flowing down my face. I searched frantically for somewhere to sit. I saw a bench around 100 feet away, it might as well have been a 100 miles away, I could not make it. I collapsed. A young security guard ran over to me and helped me up. Beyond embarrassed I tried to push him away insisting I could get up on my own, which of course, I could not. He helped me up and looked me in the eye and said “It’s Ok, sir. It’s my job to help.” It felt like I stared at him for an hour after he said this, something about his tone, something about his choice of words brought on a calmness in my soul I had never felt. It was ok. I needed help. Again, I accepted help. I surrendered to my circumstance. No matter how ashamed I was, no matter how utterly low I felt I was in that moment, I recognize that this moment was a turning point in my life. The moment I said, “Enough.”

        That weekend I spent much time on my own as I didn’t really know anyone besides Gary. I had never actually met Brian until that weekend although it felt like we’ve known each other for years. I had the fortune of meeting Gary’s best friend Pennington who showed me such compassion and shared his hotel room with me without asking for a dime. I had a lot of time to reflect. And reflect I did. I made many decisions on that day. I made many promises to myself, and for the first time in my life, I felt hope. That was the day I decided to change and I am very happy to report that I did just that.

I had considered weight loss surgery for a long time. I have struggled my entire life with eating healthy and losing weight. This seemed like the right way to go. I originally looked at it like “I need to take away my ability to over-eat. This will solve my problem.” I got a referral from my doctor to see a bariatric surgeon at Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence and went to an informational meeting in November. The meeting was very eye opening for me. It was not anything like I thought it would be. It had inspirational stories and live testimonials from former patients. It was exactly what I needed to hear. That the hard work didn’t happen after the surgery, it happened before. You had to be emotionally fit before you could be physically fit and I began my journey towards emotional and physical health that day. 
        I am proud of the way I handled myself before the surgery. I had the support of my friends and family, without which I could have never accomplished what I had. I decided that I needed to change the bad behaviors slowly and one at a time. I focused on things like cutting out excessive sugar slowly. Once I felt I had a handle on that I moved to quitting smoking. My niece and her fiancé had started becoming distributors for Herbalife and had had much success. I looked into the program and realized that the Herbalife “diet’ was in line with how I would have to eat post-surgery so it seemed logical that I should begin eating in this way. I explored the many options of apps for tracking my progress and invested in a scale that could keep me on track and work in concert with these apps. Becoming fit and healthy became a game of numbers. Numbers I could handle. Numbers made sense to me. The weight started coming off quickly. I could see how my efforts were being accomplished. I highly recommend to anyone looking to lose weight to seek out the technology that exists to help keep you accountable. It works.
     
                  By April I had lost enough weight to feel comfortable to start exercising and joined Planet Fitness. I purchased a FitBit and began taking challenges with people at work. It was motivating. I am very competitive and this helped and was completely rewarding. Throughout this six month period between January and June I had accomplished more changes in my life than I had in the past 41 years. I was a new person. By the time my surgery date arrived I had lost 75lbs. I was walking 3-5 miles a day and working out at the gym 3-4 days a week. I felt like a new man. There was however, one more demon that was biding their time to rear their ugly head. They had been patiently waiting and planning their attack. I actually never stood a chance.



                The signs were there all along in retrospect. The doctors told me that drinking alcohol post-surgery was a BAD idea. But just like many times in the past, I scoured the internet to find evidence that could support the notion that it would be “fine” to drink occasionally. I just couldn’t seem to reconcile myself to the notion that I would need to cut alcohol out of my life. It just wasn’t an option. I was determined to prove highly trained medical professionals and the medical community that they were wrong. I COULD drink. I COULD handle it. My hubris was never higher and never more wrong.
        My drinking increased astronomically. I started drinking daily within 6 weeks of surgery. I had created “rules” to monitor myself that would allow me to justify my drinking. I found myself engaging in new “rituals” which included mostly drinking alone and in my car. I gave no thought to the danger I was putting myself and others in, because from my perspective I “had it under control”. I became a master at hiding it from friends and family for a short time. It wasn’t until my ex-husband mentioned to me that he noticed a change in my behavior and that he witnessed the evidence of some empty bottles of vodka and whiskey nips in my car. I dismissed his concerns with statements like “I’m just going through something right now. I have it under control.” This was of course a lie.

        With the increased drinking came also the increased lying. I lied to nearly everyone who loves me. My “dirty little secret” was being noticed and I needed to cover it up. Lying was the only way. My friend Julie tried to tell me she was worried about me, but much like my response to Greg I told her I had it “under control”. No one could tell me not to drink. No one had the power to make me stop, not even myself.
        On September 2, 2016 I left work early and didn’t feel like going home yet. I decided instead to go to Goddard Park and play Pokémon Go. I parked by the beach and did not play Pokémon Go. I did, however, crack open a bottle of vodka and mix it with a peach flavored sparkling water from Cumberland Farms. I finished it quickly and made myself another. Then for some reason I’ll never understand I decided to leave and drive home. I have to guess it was home because of the direction I was traveling. The only thing I remember from that drive was a crash and then chaos. I had driven off the side of the road and somehow ended up on the other side of the road facing outward toward the road. I had no idea what happened. I remember cars pulled over on the side of the road and a man running toward me waving his arms telling me I couldn’t drive my car because the wheel was busted. I didn’t know what was happening. I got out of my car and walked around to the passenger side and saw that my wheel was completely bent and the whole side of my car was smashed in. I had apparently side swiped a tree. 
        Somehow by the grace of God, I did not kill anyone or myself. The East Greenwich Police(who could not have been more professional and polite) gave me a sobriety test which I, of course, failed. They arrested me. I used my one phone call and called the only number I could remember which was my friend Ron. I blew 0.44 on the breathalyzer. I was brought to a cold cell. The door shut behind me and I waited. I cried. I puked. I banged my head against the wall. How could this happen to me. I had everything going for me. Why had I done this? I had no answers.
        I wish I could say that this stopped me from drinking. I wish I could tell you that this was the epiphany I had that made me say “enough!”. That’s not how this story goes. Within days the people in my life took care of me and had me on the road again with a car I bought from my friend Darren. My friend Mike loaned me $500 to buy the car. I thought to myself “I’ve got this under control. Vodka is the enemy. I just need to switch to whiskey and everything would be fine.” Yes, that is what I actually thought. You see, what I didn’t know about alcoholism is that the alcoholic brain is in charge once you reach a certain point. I had gone way past the point of no return. If you’ve ever asked yourself “How can someone have multiple DWI’s? Wouldn’t they learn their lesson after the first time?” That means you are most likely not an alcoholic. There is a saying I’ve heard over and over in AA and in other recovery groups “One is too many, 1000 is never enough.” This is a true statement. A week or so after my DWI incident I began drinking again. I drank several pints of whiskey a day. I had lost all hope. I had completely given into my addiction. I was powerless. 
        On a beautiful Sunday, October 2, 2016 I met my friend Steve for coffee at our usual Dunkin’ Donuts near my house. We chatted for an hour or so and had some great conversation as we normally do. I looked at the time and realized that I had made plans with my friend Julie and her daughters. Julie and I were exposing her teenaged girls to the wonderful world of “Twin Peaks” and it was a favorite activity of mine that I looked forward to greatly. I had promised my Mom that I would pick up some sandwiches for us for an early dinner before I went to Julie’s so I placed our Subway sandwich order on my app and started to drive home. As I was approaching the Subway I thought to myself “Hey, its 5 o’clock somewhere, its time for a drink!” I walked in and bought a pint of Honey Jack and sat in my car waiting for the sandwiches(they were probably ready 10 minutes earlier) and drank my pint in about 5 minutes. If you are my friend on Facebook you can look back into my videos on that date and see a video of me, completely wasted, talking about going into “The Perfect Puppy” and wanting to take “all of the puppies”. I thought I was hysterical. I wasn’t hysterical, I was completely drunk. I remember being asked to leave and thinking it was because I was filming the puppies, it wasn’t.
        I went home and ate about two bites of my sandwich and told my Mom I had to leave to go over to Julie’s. I got into my car, completely wasted, and drove on 95 south to her home in Coventry. Somewhere along the way(I only know this by viewing my online bank statement) I purchased another pint of Honey Jack, drank it down and somehow, again by the grace of God, made it to Julie’s without killing myself or anyone else. 
        The rest of this story I learned today from talking to my friend Julie for the first time since the incident. Some time had passed since I had arrived at Julie’s and Julie and her daughter noticed that I was sitting in my car outside their apartment. Her youngest, Lila, came down to see what I was doing. Apparently she helped me out of the car and helped me up to the apartment. I came in and something like “Wasssup, bitches” and bee-lined for the bathroom and vomited. When I came out I sat on the couch and slurred something about “getting our Twin Peaks on” and Julie asked me if I was ok. I was a mess and she asked me to go outside. She took my keys and called my Mom. I broke down and told her I wanted to kill myself over and over. I went and sat in my car and Lila kept me company so sweetly rubbing my arm and telling me everything was going to be OK and that she cared about me. That is when my memory of the day begins with Lila sitting next to me rubbing my arm consoling me and Julie standing outside my car crying. My Mom arrived shortly thereafter with a look on her face I’d never seen before. She had the look of a woman who lost her son. The only thing I remember for the rest of the night was sitting at the kitchen table sobbing hysterically, completely wasted with my mother, my sister and my brother-in-law Todd. I went to bed shortly later around 7pm and cried myself to sleep. 
        The next morning I woke at 3 am. I woke up sober, not at all hung over. But I was crawling out of my skin. I kept replaying what I could remember of the events from the day before over and over. I was lost…I had crossed a line. I had to go to my third court date later that morning. I kept thinking over and over that if things had played out differently the day before and I had gotten pulled over by the police there would have been no coming back from that. An intense anxiety attack ensued. I got dressed in my gym clothes and at 4 am walked out of my house and ran down to the gym. I needed to get some kind of fix. I ran. I ran the whole way there which I had never done and threw up twice on the way. I needed to punish myself. I somehow felt that by punishing my body that could somehow make the horrible and constant pain and guilt go away. It, of course, did not. Nothing could. Alcohol was my only friend. The only one with the answer. I made it into the gym and pushed myself hard than I ever had until I was exhausted. I barely was able to make it home and I am sure I was completely dehydrated. I made myself a protein shake and got myself ready for court. Mom and I didn’t really speak that morning. What could she say? What could I say? There were no words. I had no credibility. Anything I would have said would have been a false promise. I was running on fumes. I barely had the focus to get myself dressed properly. 
        Mom dropped me off at the Kent County Courthouse for 8:30 am. I texted my lawyer to make sure he would be there this time(my lawyer had previously missed my first pre-trial hearing date due to being help up with another case in Providence and my court date had been rescheduled.) When I arrived at the courthouse I searched the list to see which courtroom my case would be heard in and when I found it my heart dropped. I was to be seen by Judge Bucci. The judge my lawyer told me was the worst case scenario. She had a reputation for being unreasonably hard on first time offenders. It was her “thing” he said. He had told me that if some reason we were to be seen in front of her he would petition to get my case moved to Superior Court. If I was to be adjudicated by her the consequences of my actions would be the maximum. I could have my license suspended for a year with thousands of dollars in fines and up to 5 years probation. She would, as they say, throw the book at me. I began to panic. I texted my lawyer to tell him this horrifying news and received no response. He still hadn’t arrived by the time court had started at 9 am and did not answer my messages or phone calls. He was going to abandon me. I was going to have to go through this alone. 
        The judge called my name and I stood up and informed her that my lawyer had not yet arrived. She asked me who my lawyer was and I said his name and she, no word of a lie, did an epic eye roll and told me to leave the courtroom and call him again and ask him if he “Would be joining us today?”. The courtroom giggled. I did not. I left the courtroom demoralized and in the most heightened panic attack I have ever had. I couldn’t breath. I called him…no answer. Finally I texted his associate to find out what to do. The associate texted me back immediately and told me that my lawyer was probably stuck in traffic and that he was on vacation in California so he couldn’t help me. These men had a thousand dollars of my mother’s money and to date had done nothing for me.
        I finally sent one more desperate text message to my lawyer:

        “Chad, you are acting incredibly unprofessionally. I need you to contact me ASAP. I don’t know what to do.”

        One minute later I received this text message from him:

        “James, I’m in the parking garage.”

        That was it. He was 40 minutes late and that was how he chose to reply. He didn’t show up for another 10 minutes. He strolled up to the entrance to the courtroom and without saying a word summoned me with his index finger, like he was my high school principal about to give me a stern talking to. His attitude infuriated me. I wanted to fire him on the spot. I couldn’t believe that this man could have so little compassion for me and my situation, but I guess when you hire “The DUI Guy” that’s what you get. I’m sure he deals with a lot of Jim Carroll’s and even worse. That didn’t matter to me. This was my life. This was possibly the end of my life. I had no control. I wanted to run. I have never been so scared. I could lose my job. How would I survive. How would my Mom survive? The anxiety level I thought I had peaked at earlier got kicked up another 10 notches.
        My lawyer approached the bench with the prosecutor to have a conference. I carefully watched the judges stern expression. The prosecutor said something. My lawyer nodded his head and I could tell he was agreeing to whatever the prosecutor offered and the judge looked at both of them and very clearly said “No.” I was done. I was toast. My actions caught up with me. I was going to pay, harshly. 
I started mentally preparing myself. I became numb. My lawyer called me into the hallway outside the courtroom and told me the judged denied his motion to have my case moved to superior court. He said something like “but don’t worry, we’ll appeal it at the pre-trial hearing and then they have to move us to another court.” So I walked away from the courthouse again, nothing resolved. My fate still in the hands of my idiot lawyer and an evil judge. I called my mother to come and pick me up. 
        I stood alone outside the courthouse on a beautiful, sunny Monday morning in October with one thought:

        “I want to feel numb. I need a drink.”

        Something inside me snapped. I knew if I didn’t take drastic measures and get help I wasn’t going to be as lucky as I had been. I admitted to myself outside that courthouse that I my life had become unmanageable and that I was completely powerless over alcohol. I had unknowingly completed the first step of recovery. My mother picked me up and asked me what happened and I told her briefly what had happened and she began to barrage me with questions I just did not have then answers to. I told her that I needed help and that I wasn’t going to work. I went up to my room and called or texted my therapist Rob and asked him for recommendations for a treatment program. Which he replied to with lightening speed. I called my insurance to find out if any of these places were covered by my insurance, which of course, they were not. They gave me my choices and I cal/led the Phoenix House in Exeter. They had a bed available and I checked myself in later that day.

        The Phoenix House was such an eye opening experience for me. I had never been in such a situation. It felt like prison. The facility was old and dated. The unit was filled to capacity and completely understaffed. I realized quickly that there would not be any counseling or meetings. There were three activities that happened in the detox unit:
* Adult coloring books
* Endless junk food
* Cigarette breaks every 45 minutes.
        
        Aside from the coloring books, which was my least favorite childhood activity, I had nothing to do except talk to my fellow prisoners and talk we did. I learned that of the 16 or so of us that were there at least 10 of them were there for opiate withdrawal. I learned, for the first time, about the heroin epidemic that was killing their friends and family. I heard horror story after horror story of overdoses and death. There was a young gay man there who was young enough to be my son. Hearing his story was heart breaking. It also provided me with a much needed perspective on my situation. My life, while having its problems, were nothing compared to what these pour soul were enduring. I had a moment while speaking with this young man when I looked into his eyes and said something that to this day and even as I’m writing this I don’t know why I said it or where it came from. I said “You don’t have to be in pain, Tyler(not his actual name). You don’t have to be afraid. You have the power to beat this.” He looked at me and said. “How did you know my name is Tyler.” He had introduced himself to me by his middle name Paul(again not his real name). I could not answer his question. I didn’t even remember saying it. He then went on to explain that Tyler was his grandfathers name and that his family called him by his middle name because they wanted to name him after his grandfather who had passed before he was born but his grandfather had died suddenly and it was hard for them to call him by his name. 
        Paul went on to tell me that the only person who called him Tyler was his grandmother(who he referred to in a child-like voice as his “grammy”) and that she had recently passed away. We both sat there for a minute in silence. We both had a significant moment. We both realized that something spiritual had happened. He began to cry. I began to cry and we embraced. I told him he was going to be ok over and over again. What’s funny is that I wasn’t talking to him, I was talking to me.
        I was released from the Phoenix House the next day after a conversation with the doctor and the counselor. It was clear from my vitals that I was not detoxing and we all agreed that my stay wasn’t necessary. I asked if there was some outpatient programs they could recommend and the counselor had me call a place near home called AdCare. I called the intake and made an appointment to be seen the next day. I met with my counselor Erica and made a plan to attend their “Intensive Outpatient Program” or “IOP” three times a week starting the following Monday.
        The following Saturday was my mother’s 70th birthday and the plans my sister and I had tried to make for a surprise party had become an abysmal failure so we decided that instead we would invite her and her two girlfriends along with my niece Tabitha and her husband Jay, myself, my sister Kelly, my brother-in-law Todd and my nephew TJ. I invited my buddy Ryan to join us due to his wife being out of town, and because I genuinely enjoy his company.
        We all had a lovely time and I planned to leave after dinner to go to my first AA meeting in Providence. I had contacted an acquaintance on Facebook who had been open about his struggle with alcohol and asked him if he knew of any Gay meetings I could go to and he sent me to the “Brother’s in Sobriety” meeting which meets weekly on Saturday nights at 7:30 at the Community Church in Wayland Square on the East Side of Providence. In all honesty, I was so nervous about going that I almost didn’t. I parked on the street and debated whether or not I could do it. When I had finally convinced myself that I would not go in and was about to leave a man got out of the car in front of me and looked at me and smiled like he knew me. I thought to myself “Oh god who is this guy who thinks he knows me. Oh god did I sleep with him? Who is this person? He clearly knows who I am and I have no clue who he was. Did I make out with him in the back room at the Eagle?” The questions were endless and unanswerable. He waved at me again and at this point I went into “fake it til you make it” mode and got out of my car and said “Hey, you! How’s it going?” He smiled and said “I’m great, my name is Tim.” And put out his hand. He didn’t know me, he was just friendly. He said “Are you here for the meeting?” I replied that I was and that it was my first meeting. He took me by the hand and said “Come on!” And proceed to introduce me to practically everyone and made me feel like I was an old friend returning home from war. 
        Before the meeting began he came over to me with a packet of information and a pen. He wrote his phone number on the envelope and said “You can call me any time.” I found this so odd and uncomfortable. Was this guy hitting on me? I was so confused. I didn’t understand. I was soon to find found out.
        The meeting began and they introduced the person who was going to speak. He started telling his story and I listened intently. I couldn’t believe what I heard. I kept looking around the room to see if there were cameras any where. Clearly I was being put on. This person was up there telling MY story. How could he express what had happened to me. How could he know my deepest, darkest secrets. Was this some elaborate ruse being put on by my friends and family. Was Ashton Kusher going to pop out of a box and tell me I was being Punk’d? I started to panic. I was ringing my hands and sweating. The speaker finished his story and everyone clapped. Other’s started sharing and relating to his story and that was when I realized as I listened to each person tell their own story that I was not part of some hoax…I was just an alcoholic. I wanted to share at that meeting. I wanted to tell them all that I was was frightened. I raised my hand several times too late becoming anxious that if I couldn’t share I was going to start crying. It was at this moment that I realized what I, in my infinite wisdom, had chosen to wear to my first AA meeting. The brightest, gayest most obnoxiously tight HOT PINK tee shirt with matching HOT PINK wristband for my Apple Watch and matching HOT PINK case for my iPhone. I was mortified. I shut down. I told myself not to embarrass myself any more than I already had and don’t raise my hand.
        After the meeting concluded the man sitting next to me introduced himself to me. He had a soft and caring demeanor. He said he name was Joe and asked me how I was doing. I told him the truth, that I was struggling and what I had experienced during the meeting. We talked for a little while longer and he gave me his phone number and told me to call him if I wanted to meet for coffee and chat. He explained that he had been sober for six years and had recently moved to Providence from NYC. I thank him and left the meeting feeling optimistic. I texted him later that night and thanked him for his kindness and asked him if he would meet me the next day for coffee. He agreed and we met at the Seven Stars Bakery and chatted for over an hour. He told me all about his struggles and how AA had helped him. I told him my story and he listened intently. It felt wonderful. He told me about a Sunday night meeting at a church on Benevolent St at 7pm that he was attending and invited me to join him. I agreed.
        I went to the meeting and had another almost magical experience which I will hopefully share another time. I spoke at the meeting and it felt wonderful and freeing. After the meeting Joe and I spoke and he offered to my temporary sponsor. I told him that it wasn’t necessary, I wanted him to BE my sponsor. He agreed and my path to sobriety began officially.
        The past 35 days have been nothing short of a miracle. My mind is clear and I am able to focus on myself truly for the first time in my life. I have stepped into the past to rebuild my future. Sobriety has given me a gift I have never had in my life. Hope. Thank you all who have stood by my through this time. I owe you all my life.