I Am Good, I Am Grounded…NOT

Abby, me and Emma at the beach!

Just back from spending a weekend at the beach with Emma, Abby and my folks. Still feeling so lucky to have this opportunity to interact with my daughters, after all I’ve been through. Lucky they still want to spend time with me after what I did to them last summer.

Abby, me and Emma at the beach!

It all started at the West End, early last summer, my sister was tending on a Friday night and I was drinking drafts at the bar, high as a kite as usual.

My drug of choice was Adderall, an amphetamine prescribed to me by my psychiatrist, to treat my lingering depression that continued to reach epic proportions.

I had previously gone through nearly every antidepressant over the years I’ve been treated for bipolar disorder. None seemed to do the job. But I didn’t always take them as instructed. In hindsight I had been filled with self-loathing since my divorce and hours’ separation from my daughters, and my escalating drug addiction did not mix well with the pills.

Instead of taking the Adderall by mouth with a drink I had resorted to snorting it. And I was doing this with more pills pills than prescribed, in addition to skipping my daily dose of lithium which catapulted me into hypomania, then into the telltale features of a manic episode.

So sitting at the West End that night I was definitely more gregarious than normal, making friends left and right and trying to determine who I’d be smoking pot with next. In addition to the Adderall, marijuana was my drug of choice to come down from the amphetamine high.

Even when I ran short of Adderall, which I was bound to do every month, I smoked pot many times a day for the perceptual clarity it gave me to go about my business.

It was almost closing time and I was feeling looped. For whatever reason, I asked my sis for a pair of scissors then proceeded to snip up a straw into a bar ashtray. I took the “nicest” straw piece out and pocketed it for later sniffing.

I went home, snorted an Addy and smoked some weed, then decided to drive to another local bar. Amphetamines give me untold energy and even though it was after midnight, I was raring to go.

My sister just happened to be at the late-night bar with her husband, and she was not pleased to see me.

“What are you doing cutting up straws at the bar, Damian? They got you on tape doing that!” She screamed at me. “I could lose my job because of you! Just go home!”

I was so high and out of it, but I started to make my way to my Subaru. My sister followed, then her husband, and he demanded that I let him drive me home. So I did.

Checking my email when I got home around 1 a.m., there was a short message from an old friend, threatening to kill herself. She lived two-plus hours away, but I was far from tired so I packed up a few things and snuck out of my parents’ house through the basement.

I had my CDs playing full blast in my car and was smoking cigarette after cigarette, along with a few stops on the way to smoke some weed. I made it to her block a few hours later and saw the living room light on in her house. So I parked and got out.

My friend opened the door and let me in, her eyes barely open and watery. She said she had run out of Adderall and was feeling depressed. Did I have any?

Of course I had brought my pill bottle. I was feeling magnificent at this point and wanted her to be happy again. So I counted out about 10 Adderalls and gave them to her. She promised to pay me for them at some point, and she popped a couple and within 10 or 15 minutes she was her old self again.

I was a hero! I was a savior! I crushed one up and snorted it as her gift of gab emerged again, and we talked for a bit about how great I was. About how I had saved her life. I was feeling truly angelic by now, so I told her I was leaving to go see Emma and Abby. Nevermind it was 5 in the morning.

So I drove to their house revved up and stoned, trying to think what I would say to them. I hadn’t called the day before to let them know I was coming like I always did. And they are teenagers, they like to sleep in on weekends when they’re not working.

Pulled in to their mom’s driveway sometime around 7 a.m., and my mind was working in some crazy orbit. I honestly don’t remember what I was thinking, but I knocked on the door and when my ex-wife answered, I told her I had stage 4 lung cancer and was dying. Could I see the girls?

I have no idea where this came from, but the drugs obviously played a major part. I love Emma and Abby more than anythig in the world, why would I do this?

But my ex took the news without any sad or surprised expression. Told me the girls were sleeping and she would talk to them later.

I left the house a few minutes later as if I had done nothing wrong. Didn’t question my motives or reasoning at all. Looking back, I was definitely delusional from the Adderall abuse but at the time I thought my actions were completely rational.

I stopped at a local restaurant for some breakfast then proceeded to some unknown hotel an hour away where I was forced to stop because I was puking while sitting in my car. The pills and pot had finally gotten to me, along with the lack of sleep. I got a room and slept away most of the day.

When I woke, I was surprised I hadn’t heard from the girls. Did my ex-wife tell them? I wondered over and over, in between snorting more Addys and firing up a few bowls.

It was close to bedtime for the girls, I was thinking, but I was somehow still living off my “story” and decided to call Abby. I surprised her telling her about the cancer, and she started to cry on the phone. Somehow it seemed to me this was really happening, and I talked to her as if I was truly dying.

It was a terrible conversation, I don’t remember the details, thankfully. I tried to call Emma, too, but she wasn’t answering. I remember texting her about my impending doom but I never heard back from her.

Maybe at some point they had gotten the truth from my dad, I don’t know. But Em and I had tickets to see one of our favorite musicians a few days later and we never made it. I didn’t see the girls for months after this debacle. I was living a drug-addled life at this point, and luckily my ex kept them away from me.

Now I’m 10 months straight and sober. A lot of shameful and humiliating things happened last year, but I’m lucky to be alive after my car accident. Grateful for another chance to be a real father to these singular girls.

They haven’s given up on my. Yet. I had a minute with them alone in the beach house and I profusely apologized to them for what happened last year. I told them I was living a new life and felt so grateful to still have their love.

I got a big hug and kiss from each of them. We had a great weekend together, and our relationship has definitely improved this past year.

I’m finally managing my addiction, but I realize how tenuous things are with my loved ones. I know this is my last chance and I remind myself daily to stay on the right path and steer clear of the people, places and things that have caused me trouble.

Every morning I thank my lucky stars that I’m alive, and say a short, sincere prayer of thanks. I love you Emma and Abby, more than you know.

Off Drugs, But I Know Them All Too Well

I woke up this morning and thanked my lucky stars for another day. This has been an ongoing occurrence for me since my car accident that kept me in the hospital for 40 days.

I’m grateful just to be alive and have the opportunity to reconnect to the ones I love. The two most special people in my life are my singular daughters, Emma and Abby.

Still fighting the shame and embarrassment of letting my girls down last year, over and over again, when I was heavily into drugs and living off a manic high for months.

I dedicated this video to Abby at the beginning of recording it, and emailed the link to her to see how she liked it (she’s a big Taylor Swift fan).

Abby laughed when I talked to her about watching it last year and said “you made it your own!” So sweet and loving she is, but in the back of her mind she was probably thinking, unfortunately, she knows all too well what I’m doing.

And that was drugs. Abusing prescription pills of Adderall, smoking weed every day, and it only got worse as the year wore on.

A few months after recording this video, I was living out of random hotels under the daily influence of whatever drug presented itself to me.

Snorting painkiller pills, smoking methamphetamine and bath salts, I was in a bad way. I even missed my dear Emma’s high school graduation party because I was just too high.

“Just as well he’s not here,” Emma told my dad the day of her celebration. And I didn’t see either daughter for months last year, an embarrassment I’m trying hard to rectify now that I’ve been straight and sober for 9 months.

Fortunately, my girls have ostensibly given me another chance. While recovering from my accident I visited Emma down at Georgetown for a weekend with my mom and dad, and got to see Abby all dressed up and so happy right before her junior prom. I’m one lucky dad.

My daughters still don’t know I was near death after crashing my Subaru last September. My dad and ex-wife decided not to tell them details of my hospitalization so they could continue with school unencumbered.

The first few months after getting released from the hospital I still craved drugs and alcohol, so much that I spent most of my time laying in bed wishing I were dead.

As time went on, I very slowly began to feel better, feel “normal” again after being a hardened drug addict for 25 years. I don’t ever want to go back, but it’s still a daily struggle.

Like they emphasize at all the NA meetings I attended over the years, I’ve radically changed all my “people, places and things.” I no longer associate myself with anything that leads to addiction. My mom, dad, Cindy and sister Amanda have greatly helped me to become the new man I am today. I can never properly thank any of them enough.

So it’s a bit after 2:30 pm on a Wednesday right now, and thankfully I have no thoughts or desires to use. I’m getting a bit sleepy and may take a short nap, something I never would have considered with a pill or bowl handy.

I’m thankful to still have my daughters, girlfriend and family in my life. Over the years I’ve put them through hell but now I just hope all my good thoughts and feelings continue.

Tomorrow is another day.

The Beach is Still Fun, Straight and Sober

The Atlantic Ocean & The 
OC

It’s the first time in 25 years that I’ve visited the beach without a drug in me. Here for a week thanks to mom and dad bringing me. Emma was even here for a couple days and we soaked up the sun together on the sand.

Emma relaxing at beach

Emma relaxing at beach

Unfortunately Abby had a softball tournament and couldn’t join us, but hopefully I’ll see her soon. I miss riding bikes with her at the beach so much, she always made it a great time :)

I got sunburned hanging out with Emma on the sand. Mom put aloe on my aching arms, neck and knees yesterday and it felt measurably better.

Emma started her summer job this past Monday and couldn’t stay with us long but we had a lot of fun. Em’s boyfriend even came and stayed a night, although my snoring had him searching for another room to sleep in.

My 90+ year-old grandparents also made the trip to OC with us and it has been nice to talk and relax with them this week. Who knows how many more vacation they have left.

It’s been a bit unnerving to be straight (at long last) while I’m here but I’m slowly getting used to it as the days go by. Haven’t even had a drink yet. I’m finding sobriety to be kind of addictive like a drug and hoping it continues.

Another 5 days to go at the beach then it’s home again. I see a local neurologist in a couple weeks and I’m hoping he can determine what’s causing my constant back and arm pain. We’ll see.

For now I’ll enjoy my time on vacation. It’s been nice to spend time with my sister, Amanda, away from her work. She and her husband, Dave, have been my buddies for the week.

What does the remainder of the summer have in store for me? Cindy is at home and it will be great to see her when I get back. Hopefully I’ll be driving soon and see the girls as much as possible. And I plan to continue to stay off drugs now and forever.

It’s still a daily struggle. So far, however, being straight and sober is working out in all good ways for me. And I’m doing it for myself, first and foremost. I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Beach chair

Learning from Franz Wright

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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 :)