Thursday, August 03, 2006

Detox Blues III

I drag myself through the two weeks of outpatient treatment. Trudge. Trudge. Trudge. There were a few things that penetrated through my general fog. One Doctor came and gave a talk about how addiction and alcoholism are truly diseases. He outlined the criteria that the AMA has set for something to be a disease. You need a susceptible host (that's me) and opportunistic condition (booze and drugs), you need a predictable course of action without treatment (die, go insane or go to jail), and a predictable course of action with treatment (stay in recovery, stay clean and sober and have a reasonable chance at a decent life). This realization of having a chronic condition rather than a moral deficiency or failure of character was something I still believe. I am a bit more pragmatic about going into and waxing lyrical on the science. I figure that if addiction was not a disease Blue Cross wouldn't pay for treatment, they'd write you off or tell you to go in a corner somewhere and pray.

Another thing that I saw during the two weeks was that not everybody was going to stay sober even for a short time. The statistics on recovery are grim. Most people who try to sober up don't. There's a saying in AA that "the road narrows" and it's true. There was a surgical nurse at the hospital who was in Detox with me and started in the outpatient program. He got drunk, went back into detox, got drunk there and I never saw him again. There was a very pretty young lady who only lasted a couple of days. The numbers of the statistics don't lie, but I have been in hard places before.

When I was in the Navy I entered a very tough training program that had a high rate of failure. The very first day of our training we were told my an officer to look to our right and then to our left. The officer then said "If you're here on graduation day those other two won't be." The difference for me was that I was standing between my two best friends. All three of us graduated. The statistics were true, they just played out somewhere else.

I realized that the people in treatment with me were not the ones I needed to connect with. When I first got to Viet Nam I was assigned a "sea daddy" who had been in country for a while. His job was to try and keep me from making rookie mistakes that would get me and those around me killed. None of the other cherries saved my life in combat, it was always the older salts. When I went to meetings during this time I was looking for the folks who had some years of sobriety under their belts. I also was looking for people that looked like they enjoyed being sober. I wasn't drinking or doing any drugs, but I hated every fucking minute of it. I knew that I wouldn't be able to hold out forever against that kind of pressure. I started being like a new kid in school on the playground, if somebody looked like they were having a good time I was there "Can I play?" If I heard them making plans to get coffee or have a bite to eat after the meeting I'd find out where they were going and show up.

It had been about four weeks into this when I cornered one of the doctors in the hallway and told him that this no sleeping shit had to stop. He was about to explain to me again that nobody ever died from lack of sleep and I told him "If I don't get a few hours from somewhere the next motherfucker that tells me nobody ever died is going to be the first." They prescribed one pill at a time of Doxepin which is an antidepressent that causes you to get drowsy. The first night of sleep I got was wonderful. After that I was able to muddle through using over the counter antihistamines when it got to be too much for me. I was also at this time learning how to work with doctors and nurses without scamming those "get the fuck outta my office" prescriptions. But I'll get into that whole what do you do with prescription meds in recovery stuff later.

At about six weeks of sobriety I had to play a double wedding. I had already spent the money so I couldn't cancel. I didn't know what it would be like playing in front of people without being stoned. I hadn't done it in years. I took my harp and my gear and went to a beautiful mission in California. They have a wonderful rose garden there and the acoustics in the chapel are superb.

Here I am, set up in the garden. I'm watching the crowd come in and I see the groom, he looks like he's about twelve. The bride doesn't look like she's old enough to be unsupervised on MySpace let alone getting married. I keep playing on, but I'm starting to really knot up inside. Here I am with my fourth marraige in the dumpster waiting for the truck and these poor dumb kids don't know what the fuck is in store for them. Then I realize I'm playing a fucking harp in a rose garden and I feel like shit. I can't appreciate any beauty, I don't want to be here, I am coming the fuck unglued is what's happening.

Somehow, the service ends. I can't leave yet because there's another wedding in a couple of hours. I am about ready to climb the walls or do something stupid. I see a pay phone. I call Jessie Joe and he answers. I tell him how fucked up and shitty I feel. I blurt that "I'm playing a harp in a fucking rose garden for crying out loud. If I can't get ahold of some of this goddamned promised serenity doing that what the fuck kind of hope is there?" Jessie Joe says "Are you loaded?" I say "Fuck no." He says "Good. Do you want to get loaded?" I say "Of course I want to get loaded I'm a goddamned junkie, but I want to find a way to not get loaded. That doesn't make any sense, no wonder I'm so fucked up." Jessie Joe says "Have you tried praying?" I say "Pray? What the fuck kind of bullshit is that?" He says "It's not hard, you just take a few breaths and say something nice to god." I tell him I don't get into all that god crap and Jessie Joe says "Do you believe that I believe?" I say yes. He says "Can you pretend for a few minutes that there's a god that gives a shit about your sorry ass?" I say I'll try. He tells me to pray and then call him back.

I fucking pray. I feel a little better. Jessie Joe invites himself to the next wedding. I do fine. As we are leaving the mission I see that there is a bar right across the street. I didn't go there. I still do that a lot in recovery. I'm an atheist. I don't do god. Except that the program is one of spiritual growth and learning. Most of the time I believe that other people believe and that's enough. I know this for certain. When I prayed to a god I didn't believe in for help, I ended up in AA with people like Jessie Joe. I'm not a big enough fool to argue with results like that.

Another real touchy moment was right after that. I needed to go into Hollywood for a recording session. I took a guy from the meetings who had a couple of years sobriety with me. He was all excited about getting to meet the chick singer I was playing for and I was glad to have somebody there with me to keep me from doing something idiotic on the spur of the moment or a whim. Sunset Blvd can be dangerous. There are people that will run up to your car at a stop light with a loaded syringe of dope or just about any other type of stuff you might want. I manage to get to the studio without buying or using anything.

While I'm in the studio getting ready to do my job I reach into my guitar case to get my picks and my tuner out of the little box under the neck. In there with the stuff I need is a couple of syringes, little bag of heroin, a little bag of coke, some weed and a few pills. I freeze. I just stand there for what seems like forever. I finally find a way to back away from the case and I'm trying to figure out what to do. Luckily I know the sound engineer, I know he's not tyring to quit anything so I go over and tell him what's in my case, that I'm trying to quit and if he would please get it the fuck out of there and away from me it's his to do what ever he wants to do with it.

The session goes well. I am so full of adrenaline it's like I just dodged a hail of bullets or something. I play my ass off and we're out of the session in no time at all. The guy riding shotgun has an autograph and a couple of pictures to keep. I know from checking the internet that there's a meeting on Sunset that starts at 10p.m. I've heard a lot of studio musicians go there to wait for the strip to calm down a little before going home.

With the exception of my agent and my family I haven't gone out of my way to tell anybody in the industry about trying to sober up. I don't know what I was expecting them to say, shit like, "Oh my God! Not you!" or what. The thing is when I go into this meeting, one of the first people I see is somebody I've played with while he was sober and I wasn't. I stand there without saying or doing anything and he smiles big and says "Dude! You made it!"

You're right. I. Fucking. Did.


Blogger Missouri Mule said...

My personal Jessie Joe's name was, Micky. She saved my azz more times than I can count, MBoy.
She's gone to the big meeting in the sky now but to this very day I can hear her saying, "Mule, change
your gawd-damn attitude or change your sobriety date!" She was a piss-cutter, that one. I miss her. Thanks for bringing her memory back to me so clearly.

1:00 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

jessie joe went to his reward about six years ago. there are times where i still hear him too. he would say things like "have you done any of the things i suggested you do the last time you had this problem?" or this, which has become my favorite way to piss off a sponsee - - if they come to me and tell me that they are having a problem with a step, say 7 for purpose of conversation, we will immediately go back and start step 6 over, and keep working our way backward until we don't have a problem. what i finally saw was that he was right in that. if i was asking humbly, maybe i wasn't ready because i hadn't be truthfull to myself, god, or another human being because i probably hadn't made a fearless inventory because i . . .well you know. i miss those old timers who gave me so much help when i needed it, and didn't deserve any of it. one of the best things i've gotten from writing this series is all the people in blogtopia (skippy®) who i find out are in recovery. of course, we've all gone through the same stuff. just slightly different places, with slightly different people. glad you're in recovery mizmule, i bet you were hell with teeth drunk.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

great post, MB . . . the old "I can identify" thing

i'm an atheist, too . . . but I do know that the spiritual experience step 12 says we'll have if we take the steps is both necessary and lasting

be at peace

12:39 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

it's strange for us atheists in recovery to be talking about our spirituality - - one of the things i tell people when i get around to letting them know about it is with or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil: That take religion.

4:49 PM  
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3:37 AM  

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