Learning from Franz Wright


I read that Franz Wright just died, an amazing poet who won the Pulitzer. He had lung cancer and died at the age of 62, smoking from an early age. His work showed the agonizing pull of self-annihilation and self-preservation, a struggle I have faced on a daily basis for the last 25 years, since I was 18 yeas old.

Throughout his life, Wright struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction and manic depression, much like I have. I drank beer in excess starting at age 16, smoked my first joint a couple years later, and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after my freshman year in College.

I smoked weed continually after the first hits I took, until last year when I was in my car accident and was diagnosed with three brain bleeds. I was a chain cigarette smoker, too, during the same time.

“I thought all adults were insane drunks and chain smokers” – Franz Wright said in 2004 to the New York Times

Throughout the last 25 years I have definitely been insane, manic and depressed, hospitalized for psychiatric reasons more than 12 times. But I’ve been clean and sober for almost 9 months now with no plans of going back to my up and down life.

“It doesn’t matter what it was – every drug that exists, any form of alcohol. All of a sudden I could talk to people, I was happy, I didn’t feel terrified, I was confident” – Franz Wright, in same interview

Wow. When I read Wright’s words in The New York Times yesterday, it truly hit home and brought back plenty of memories. In addition to marijuana I’ve snorted heroin, shot liquid Diladin, snorted Adderall, Percoset and Vicodin in excess, smoked methamphetamine, and more. Yet I’m still alive, lucky father of two singular and beautiful daughters, and I have Cindy. Whew…

I’m also finally off cigarettes for 9 months, sucking on Camel snus in its place, and hopefully I’m done smoking tobacco as well. We’ll see.

My life has definitely changed for the better since my accident. It’s been a daily struggle. I spent the first several months after leaving the hospital last year in bed, awake and at times wishing I had died in my car. The last couple months I started truly getting better. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Hopefully my ongoing recovery will one day be an example for anyone suffering from the same. Maybe one day I’ll be giving talks to high school kids, I don’t know. But I’m a survivor. Nothing is as easy for me as it once was, but I’m learning new “tricks” every day. I love you Emma, Abby & Cindy. Thanks for everything.

Ain’t No Telling

Me & Cindy at Locust Lake

Cindy was just saying that she and I are “both train wrecks” because of my ongoing recovery as well as hers from a procedure she had done a few weeks ago. I said we’re both getting better everyday and we’re gonna live to be 90…she laughed. Well, there sure ain’t no telling.

Me & Cindy at Locust Lake

Me & Cindy

Cindy introduced me recently to the rad park at Locust Lake. We’ve been having a great time walking all the way around the water and talking it up. We also made plans to bring bicycles and go for a ride as well as grabbing fishing rods and trying to catch a trout or two! Excellent and yummy breakfast this morning at close-by White Birch as well.

I’ve been staying at Cindy’s apartment with her for the last few weeks and I have no complaints :) It’s been invigorating, to be honest, and my bipolar mood has improved measurably. My psychologist is so happy for me that I’ve been feeling better, and my DUI counselor has moved me to once every two weeks now, instead of every week. Another step I’m trying to climb, so far with success.

What am I going to do with myself when Cindy is ok’d to go back to work? I told her I’d like to stay in Ashland. It will be up to her of course but going back to staying with my dear mother again would definitely shoot holes in my recovery. To her credit, Cindy knows this and she has been super supportive.

So what are my plans? Get a new car, the sooner the better, and regain control of my bank account. Cindy and I are planning to find a better apartment for both of us and I would like to go back to work part-time.

Whether I do website development from home again or get a brand new job is still in the cards. Ain’t no telling yet. But with Cindy by my side I feel confident that I’ll stay sober and continue healing. She’s an angel :)

Surviving A Jet Plane and My Subaru

Last year in the middle of a hypomanic episode I went to visit my niece Tilly, sister Gena and her husband in Dallas, Texas. I packed my bags along with my folks and hit a jet plane leaving Philly.

Ostensibly I was “invited” to my sister’s to make major updates to my brother-in-law’s website which I had created for him several years ago. I had every intention of fulfilling this “job” during my stay but, alas, I was a bit too hyper. Instead of a brand new website I played ping pong and canvased the city with my brother-in-law, played in their swimming pool with Tilly, hit golf balls onto the green in their backyard, and ate like a pig. Everything but creating a new website.

I had left my girlfriend Cindy back at her apartment wondering what was truly going on with us. I was living by the week out of a hotel at home and had invited my ex to stay a few days with me at the hotel cuz I felt bad for her. This was to Cindy’s chagrin and I am forever sorry to her for my actions. I was daily snorting pills and smoking weed and in no shape for anything.

Perhaps the height of my manic behavior while I was in Dallas was videotaping myself playing John Denver on the guitar sometime early in the morning, everyone else sleeping, outside my sister’s house. I don’t even remember doing this a year later but I had even uploaded the video to youtube.

After spending a week in Texas I flew home and nearly ran out of gas driving back to Cindy’s apartment. Fortunately she met up with me and put gas in my Subaru in order to finish my trip. I never talked to my ex after returning home but Cindy has reminded me of my abhorrent behavior. I’ve apologized to her several times since but I’m not sure if she’ll ever forget.

A few short months later I got into my car accident and was hospitalized for 40 days. Thankfully I still have Cindy in my life but I still have yet to get a text, email or call from Gena. I’ve learned the hard way how stupid I was and I’ve promised Cindy it will never happen again. I’ve been completely off drug for almost nine months now and I don’t ever plan on going back.

I Was Lost

I still remember. It was a year ago but some details are etched into my brain. Now my accident and resulting brain damage have left me with a faulty memory at times, but it seems that the bad stuff still resurfaces.

Last year I spent many days locked up in random hotel rooms, doing drugs and playing my guitar. I wouldn’t interact with anyone, really, keeping to myself and my noseful of drugs. Sometimes I would venture out to buy alcohol or food but mostly I was into what I laid out on my little mirror.

But tonight is real. As real as it’s gonna get for me. And I couldn’t be happier, spending time with Cindy and slowly rehabilitating myself from the drug-infested world I once knew.

My days are now spent a lot more slowly and surely. On occasion I even take naps, something I NEVER would have even considered last year. In fact many nights I stayed up snorting and smoking til the morning sunrise would merely be a come-on for another pill or bowl.

My psychologist often tells me I need to find hope in the “simple things of life” and Cindy has helped me tremendously in this regard. She doesn’t smoke, drink, or do drugs and the simple things that occupy her day she’s slowly taught me to find as well. I’m incredibly lucky to still have her in my life and I thank my stars everyday I still have  her with me.


Prom Night

Abby's Prom

I’ve been feeling better the last couple months so I was super excited to visit the girls and see Abby before her Junior Prom.

Abby's Prom

Abby and her Prom friends!

It was hard to believe I was seeing Abby so grown up. She looked so beautiful…Emma said she had been getting ready all day! I briefly spoke to her date and he seemed like a very nice young man. In fact everyone was cool that night and I talked to Abby the next day on the phone and she said she had a great time. I put a picture of me and Abby on Instagram that she liked at 2:10 a.m. so she was up late having a veritable blast.

I’m still without a vehicle since my accident so my parents drove me to see the girls. My dad and I spent several hours with my mom before the Prom pictures while she shopped. The highlight of that long afternoon was getting an Oreo ice cream while I got my dad a milkshake (that he didn’t tell my mom he got :)

After Prom pictures Emma joined us for dinner at a local Indian restaurant. She recently completed her first year at Georgetown and her grades were excellent – all A’s! I’m so impressed with her studious vigilance. Makes me think of my first year at Villanova when I was lucky to break a 3.0. Emma is doing so well in comparison and I am very, very proud of her.

At the Indian restaurant I had a yummy dish of lamb that was delectable. Emma had chicken curry. After the Indian food we all traveled to Handel’s up the street for ice cream (again, for me :). Soon we’ll all be going to Ocean City for some beach and ocean time. Can’t wait!