Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's been one hell of a year!

It's been January 1, 2012 for about an hour. I'm sitting on my couch in my apartment, watching an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I just got home a few minutes ago from picking up friends, A&L, from the airport. They just returned from a week in Mexico, and we counted down the last seconds of 2011 on A's iPhone on I-205 somewhere around exit 23. I asked her what she did for Christmas.

"We laid on the beach and I drank a bloody Mary. Ironic, right?"

"I was just talking about you today", I said, because I was. In noon AA meeting today I was talking about my friend who let me live in her guest room after my life had fallen apart. I moved into A's guest room one year ago today, and eleven months ago today was the last time I took a drink. That's the coin I got today!

Anything is possible. Today I drove myself in my own car - sober - to two meetings, came home to a clean and cool apartment in a great neighborhood, washed next week's work clothes, watched some cable, surfed the internet, and picked friends up at the airport. If I had imagined this scene a year ago today, it would have broken my heart. To me, a year ago, this simple day was not possible. Last ditch survival instincts were kicking in. I could hardly be sure I would still be around at all. That I have a guest room today means that ANYTHING IN THE WORLD IS ACTUALLY POSSIBLE.

My last entry wasn't very positive, and when sharing this journal to new people since March, I've had to reassure them that I haven't relapsed. This, I could imagine eight months ago, but I wouldn't have bet more than I could afford that it would come true.

I'll be following up here with stories from the last ten months, and there are lots of them. For example, the guy that lived in the tent? It turns out he was a huge asshole, and was removed from the program after I ratted him out for stealing. The hot smack junkie came back, then left. Last I heard he was back in detox, which is great news. I moved out in July and into my new apartment in August. I've been a legal driver for about two weeks now.

I haven't been perfect about following the program. But just for today I'm thinking about the wonder that allowing myself to be open to a Higher Power has brought to my life. If I read a story like mine I wouldn't believe it at all. What a fantastic year.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Basically, this week kind of sucked

Bored: 45 days

Secret Gay was booted from the program after coming home wasted tonight. Yesterday was the first time I spent any real time with him. He took me to a gay meeting here in town, which was awesome, but which was also awkward because we had to be all cagey about where we were going with everybody else since he is, you know, SG and all.

One of the things we talked about yesterday was his relapse months ago while in the house. They let him back in. He was extremely grateful. He's the only person I haven't spent much time with here, and I think I'd decided I didn't really care for him. Then yesterday we hung out, he got to be himself, he bought me a muffin, and I started to look forward to our weird-ass covert meetings. Learning about his struggle with relapse, his sincerity in conquering his addiction once and for all, and coming to terms with his sexuality so late in life gave me a new respect for him. "Tits on a nun C", our mentor, said he hoped I could help SG be more gay gay and less Secret Gay. I kind of hoped so too. When I got back from an evening AA meeting, he was gone. I wish I knew what happened to him today.

A and I went to a convenience store on our way home from tonight's meeting. This was my idea. Depending on who you ask, this is, or is not, against The Rules. For the purposes of tonight's hastily assembled emergency meeting to discuss the sudden departure of Secret Gay, it was against The Rules as everyone was kept waiting for us. It was apparently a VERY BIG DEAL INDEED because the house manager was extra pissed. This means new restrictions for one and all. Also, because A is a "phase 2" and I am a "phase 1", he's busted for it, even though it was totally my idea and he was only doing it as a favor to me, which is fucking rad, obviously.

Here, your pee gets tested all the time. A trained professional is on dong watch as you go about your business, preventing you from sneaking any contraband internet whiz into the little plastic cup. If you read my first ever entry from 2007, you know that this can sometimes be a problem for me. Blessedly, this has not been an issue here. UNTIL last week, when suddenly the ol' performance anxiety reared it's retro head forcing me to explain to my patient dongwatcher, "Yeah, this isn't going to happen. Sorry. But uh, could you leave? Because I seriously do have to go." I am 32 years old. Not sure if or how this is going to affect my ability to participate in the program.

Also, I'm getting a little tired of the lumberjacks at the meetings we always tend to go to, and recovery in general. There is a point in the AA meetings where the chairperson says to a full house, "To show that this program works, can we see a show of hands for everyone who has been in this program for more than five years?", and the same three people raise their hands: the chairperson, the secretary, and the guy who always sits at the front of the room with his AA jewelry, his leather-bound copy of The Big Book, and an orange highlighter. He's been going to three meetings a day, seven days a week, for ten years. To pervert a recurring saying from TBB, I'm not sure I "want what [he's] got".

My hackles are up because the honeymoon is over and I've been here before. As I adjust to a clearer head and as my shiny new optimism makes way for the ugly reality - that this program isn't successful for lots of people in the long run and many of the people that it does work for are super fucking annoying - I know I've got to be really on top of my game. I've been reaching out online and am happy to report I've received some reassuring wisdom in response.

I did read some fascinating information this week about alcoholism as a disease and its relationship to Tourette's, with which I am afflicted. That's what I was going to write about tonight, but it's late and I'm tired.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

All fatties with beards look like Zach Galifinakis, apparently

Bored: 38 days
Number of milestone chips in my wallet: 1

The newest housemate is a 52 year old man whose wife died about four years ago. In short order he'd lost his job, pared his belongings down to a backpack and some clothes, and moved into a tent on a strip of grass between two auto dealerships. They let him stay there in exchange for guarding their pile of scrap metal. He lived there for three years.

He doesn't remember getting so wasted that he told the people he was drinking with that he was finished living before throwing himself in front of a bus. He vividly remembers the next few weeks in the hospital, followed by a few more weeks in the psych ward, followed by a couple of months in intensive inpatient rehab. Now he's here, and he can't stop smiling. His enthusiasm for the rest of his life is something I've never seen before. He's found the kind of peace and serenity that you can only get by taking advantage of a second chance you thought you'd never live to see. It's a real lesson in humility: How dare I feel bad about anything?

Tonight he pointed at the TV and said "Hey, you look just like that guy!". Zach Galifinakis was hosting Saturday Night Live. I said "Thanks asshole, my former co-workers said the same thing to me around Halloween, and that was thirty pounds ago". Then I shoveled another spoonful of Ben & Jerry's S'mores ice cream into my word hole. And I didn't feel bad about it because I never had to live in a tent, you know?

There was a kerfluffle in the house last week. A, a former gang-banging dope-slinger from Colombia who is all muscle and scars, came into the bedroom we share to impart some well-meaning, but misguided advice. "Hey, I don't want to embarrass you or anything, but you might want to be careful about what you look at on the computer". Because there are plenty of times in my life where a legitimate response would have been mortification, I was mortified. But then I was perplexed, since the most potentially offensive thing I'd seen all day were the saucy banner ads at "What are you talking about?", I asked. "This doesn't change anything between us or anything," he began, "but I guess R (20 year old new guy, just moved into the house as part of his parole) saw that there were some gay websites on there, and I mean, *I* don't care, but I think he told S about it and was making jokes about it. I just don't want the word to get around, I don't want you to get made fun of or anything".

Oh, THAT stuff I was looking at on the computer. The online gay AA meeting I'd just started participating in. "Oh, the gay AA site? I don't give a shit about people 'making fun' of me for that. I've been out for 18 years. Thanks for looking out for me, though". Turns out he thought my mentions of ex boyfriends were some kind of me-centric colloquialism along the lines of "gal pal". I thought it was weird when he told me he thought Justin Bieber looked like a "fucking faggot" when he spotted him on the cover of my Vanity Fair. Didn't he know I was gay? Not only had I mentioned my boyfriends in group to everyone, but also, I was reading the issue of Vanity Fair with Justin Bieber on the cover. Anyway, our conversation ended with "Sorry about that thing I said about Justin Bieber. I didn't know". I said "That's okay, because I'm still going to make fun of you for being an ethnic stereotype when you go to sleep in nothing but boxers and six gold chains".

That was that until days later when S, who it turns out is secretly gay, ratted on R for saying something homophobic about my lurid browser history. Tons of muckety-mucks got involved, everyone was taken aside and spoken to about what they knew, an emergency house meeting was called, and R was given the boot. As happy as I am that they take this shit seriously, I thought that seemed pretty extreme for a kid who made a stupid comment (granted, I don't know what it was, and don't care) and who may have to go to prison for a few years for violating his parole by getting booted from his recovery program. Probably just saying "Hey, shitface, zero tolerance on the homophobic comments, okay? Read your fucking client handbook" would have done the trick. This went down on the first day that the newest guy, the one who lived in the tent, moved in, and we had to assure him that things were not normally so dramatic. "Hey, if you want someone to go to your meetings for homosexuals with you, I'll go", he offered. I love that guy.

Tonight we went to a "speaker meeting", a two hour AA meeting that features normal meeting business followed by a one hour presentation by a fellow member. These are big, special events with lots of attendees. As soon as we entered, a plucky girl approached and said "Hey! Have a raffle ticket!". "What do we win if we get called?", asked RF, the senior housemate who had chaperoned a group of four of us to the meeting. "Prizes?", she said, looking suddenly irritated.

Out of 240 people in attendance, my ticket number was called first. "What do I get?", I asked as I walked to the front of the room, half kidding. "Looks like this young man hasn't had his number called yet!", said the older gentleman behind the podium to the room. Then to me, "Step right up here, fella! We'd love to hear you speak for two minutes. It's not optional." Some prize. But, I think I actually did okay. I say "I think" because I don't remember a thing I said, but I didn't wet myself and I heard people laughing when I said something I hoped would make people laugh. A cool guy came up to me after the meeting and gave me his number and said I should join his group. This is pretty standard AA stuff, but I probably need to workshop my response or something, because it was along the lines of "Oh yay! You like me and I can join your club!". But it sounds like I'll be getting a sponsor out of the deal, which is timely. I'm stuck at step three.

An explanation of sorts for my lazy posting: 1) My counselor recommended I take it easy with "stressors", things like responding to emails and posting here and worrying about Japan and everything else happening in the outside world. And 2) Things are getting really boring. The last ten days have been a time of really important growth for me, and something I mean to be recording for my own benefit, which is the whole reason I started posting things here to begin with - to have a record of my growth for myself. Everything I've written along those lines is something that I wouldn't want to read if it were about someone else and, mindful that approximately two of you are reading what I am writing, I've been reluctant to post my X-Treme navel-gazing. So I resolve to get over that, and apologize in advance for the boring results.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In which I talk about myself a lot, also please contact me if your pissed-in bed did not receive a shout out here.

So I'm in the house. My "room" is the basement of every house of this era that features a massive fireplace, little natural light, and is guaranteed to have had a pool table in it at one point. When I got here, I was assigned to one of the four beds in this room. Also in the basement was another enclosed bedroom. If you grew up in the eighties, you know this room as the bedroom of your friend's older brother who smoked weed and listened to Anthrax and had bootlegged Faces of Death VHS tapes and didn't have a lot of trouble sneaking out at night. In this house, though, it's just another bedroom with two beds.

Long story short: One guy graduated today and one got kicked out for dealing his prescribed buprenorphine. Another guy took it, and that guy got kicked out too. So now I'm sharing the Faces of Death bedroom with A.S., which means that fewer people see my sleepy ass in the air on the way to do an early morning load of laundry. This is a positive development. I mean, for me. I feel bad for the guys that got kicked out and sincerely wish them well.

The foremost thing I'm trying to do by making a record of all of this is to have something to review later for myself. In the last several years, I found myself many times returning to the things I'd written about my first attempt at sobriety in 2007. I erased a lot of old entries in the ensuing drunky-years, and I don't remember why; if it's because they were painful, embarrassing, or contained egregious syntax abuses. What I'm finding now though is that the painful and embarrassing stuff is the stuff I most want to share. Each time I reveal something about myself lately, it takes a little of the load off.

Because, absolutely, the most damage I've done in the last several years was keep secrets. Alcoholism is a progressive disease that works to isolate you, and it's so gradual that you really don't know it's happening until you can take a clear look back at yourself before you mopped yourself into a corner. Also, it becomes so ingrained that you find yourself not only withholding information, but telling stupid lies for NO REASON. To people you care about. About bullshit!

"Today I went running and got my hair cut, and later I'm going to the movies with a friend". No I didn't. Also, no, I'm not. But, you know, at least you won't suspect that I've actually been sitting on my balcony drinking all morning if you think I'm going to the movies at six! Except, of course, that you usually knew I was lying anyway. Since I drunk-dialed you at 11am and all.

This newly recovered aptitude for honesty is a little dangerous. It's like taking a pistol from an amateur marksman and handing him a bazooka saying, "Go to town!". I'm telling on myself in ways that are probably too much information. Like Saturday, for example. I went to an 11:00 AM AA meeting because nobody else in the house was going. Don't get me wrong- I've come to really enjoy my new housemates with few exceptions. But sharing at a meeting with someone who you're going home with is just different than baring all to a roomful of strangers.

The facilitator called on me, and the standard response I'd planned went out the window. I wanted to say, "I'm B, and I'm an alcoholic. My sober date is 01/31/2011. Thank you for calling on me. As I'm so new, I really don't have much to share at this time. However, it's been a blessing to come here and listen to all of you today and for the last week or so. Thank you." What I actually said (I think... I was terrified, and all I could hear was the blood sizzling in my ears.) (More on my new Prozac prescription later), was "Thank you so much I'm new and I'm nervous. Oh! My name is B, I'm an alcoholic, I really like what you said... did you say osmosis? Because all of this is confusing at first... I mean one of the things I really liked was from chapter eight, where it says not to withdraw now that we're re-entering society, and I think you said something about that? You didn't?... confused about the spirituality aspect but thinking I understand it more? Maybe that was the osmosis part and... I have pissed in more beds than I can count... Vegas, Bend, Minneapolis, Missoula... in Myrtle Beach my boyfriend insisted on tipping the housekeeper $20... maybe osmosis, maybe I thought that up. Sorry, I'm nervous!... pissed on my friend E's air-mattress, and all of my boyfriend's beds, and...

... it's been a blessing to come here and listen to all of you today and for the last week or so. Thank you."

And you know, when I should have felt mortified, all I felt was relief. When the room responded, as is its custom, in a chorus of "Thank you, B", I really think I was being thanked for sharing.

The thing about sharing in meetings is that it's imperative. You leave feeling that you contributed, and that other people have a personal interest in your success and your growth. When people feel that way about you, you can sense it, and you naturally care more about them, too. Eventually what you get is a true fellowship (and interestingly enough, isn't that also kind of how friendships work?). At first, though, it's hard. I went to a few meetings before coming here, and shared, sincerely, in one small one. Walking away, it was the lightest I'd felt in ages. I'm eager to become comfortable doing it regularly, but I'm happy to take it one day at a time for now. Or, if the Big Book has its way, forever.

The thing about the truth is that it, too, is imperative. There were dozens of truly affecting things said to me by my closest friends during the morning of my intervention, but one of them was from L, who basically said that the foundation of our relationship was our relentless honesty with each other, whether it was sad, inconvenient, darkly funny, or just plain hilarious. Now that I was out of the truth-telling game, he didn't know where our longstanding, deeply affectionate friendship stood. He nailed it, and it broke my heart. After all, my friendships are the most important things to me in my world, and the same damage has been done to all of them in varying degrees.

But just like that, I started telling the truth, and things started to get better. Later that night, I would call my mom and tell her everything. I had dreaded the thought of this call for ages. But immediately, I started to feel the distance I'd put between us in recent years start to evaporate. Living without the truth will make you crazy. I can't believe it took me so long to figure that out.


March 2 marks my first 30 days of sobriety, and a likely onslaught of navel-gazing about my personal recovery as I get a handle on this system and the program and all that. I thought I should warn you. Writing about this, even the stupid shit, is the best way for me to sort all of this out.

I replied to my friend E's email today (he's the one whose air mattress I pissed on, and he still talks to me. E, if you ever read this, I love you!), and said that it's funny: Ultimately, this program promises to change my life by focusing on selflessness, charity, and service to others. This appeals to me. So it's odd that it initially requires that you think (and THINK and THINK and THINK) about yourself in so selfish a way. "It's all about thinking of me, me, me so that one day my most important priority is you, you, you."

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tits on a nun

She tapped the mouse, and we jumped 15 feet down the street. A few seconds later, the fog of pixels cleared to reveal... what we were just looking at, only fifteen feet closer.

Tap. Jump. Tap. Jump.

Things went this way for awhile. Several times we thought we may have found what we were looking for, only to tap/jump ourselves closer and each time, it was just another strip club. With what limited information we had, we were trying to find the rehab facility I would be moving into the next day using Google Street View. Frankly, I was getting a little tired of the sleuthing, but A was on a roll. A is the kind of person who will buy an appliance and read the manual, just in case the information comes in handy some day. I am the kind of person who buys an entertainment center from Ikea and puts it together based on the picture on the manual's cover, which usually means that I not only have spare parts when I am done, but have to run to Home Depot to buy new parts to finish it my way. I've gone through a lot of entertainment centers this way, and this inability to defer (or even work very hard for) gratification is something I need to correct, but fast. More on that later.

After several minutes, I said, "I don't think we're going to find it"
A said, "Dude, I think maybe your new neighborhood is kinda sketch".
"This can't be the neighborhood."
"I hope not. But at least, if it is, you'll be close to Mister Peeps." Tap. Jump. "And OH MY GOD! FABRIC DEPOT! We are SO going to Fabric Depot when I come to visit!!!"

She was already forming an agenda for her first visit, and I could see the bullet points popping up in a thought bubble above her head. Already we had dissected the facility's client handbook, and encountered some enigmatic formatting. Such as:
  • Phase 1 clients must be escorted by a phase 2 or higher to all activities outside the house.
  • Phone calls are to be limited to 15 minutes unless express permission has been granted by the House Manager.
  • Internet access is only available for personal use after 7:00 PM on weekdays...
Obviously, someone flushed something fucked up down the toilet once, and we spent a good chunk of my last day of freedom wondering what it could have been. Nobody would tell me what the address was until I was actually collected the next day by my "mentor" to be taken to the house. So I had two questions for my mentor: 1) What is the address so that all my friends can look it up on Street View, and 2) What got flushed down the toilet?
That one kind of spoke for itself. It is a house full of ten guys for 3-6 months, after all.


C is my mentor. Upon assignment to the program, I was given his number and told to call him to make arrangements. Our conversation went like this:

Me: "Hi, I'm looking f-"
C: Is this B? Hold on a second.
Fumbling noises, freeway din. Then, after a long pause,
C: Fuck it. They can just give me a goddamn ticket if they see me using my phone, I don't give a shit. This goddamn hands free get-up is about as useful as tits on a nun. Is this B? Yeah sorry about that, this is C. I'm glad you called."

I hadn't gotten that far yet and could have been his daughter's soccer coach for all he knew, but something tells me he wouldn't have cared much.

C gave me some of his background. He's spent a total of 15 years in prison and has "tried everything, you name it, I done tried it at least a dozen times". His drug of choice is meth. He's been clean for 7 years.

C: "I know this program in and out, up and down. My job is to get you prepared to tackle recovery and tackle the twelve steps. I'ma gonna give you time with each step, you know, to really get the most out of it, but if I think you're slackin' or not pullin' your weight around the house, BLAM, I'll be a drill sergeant on your ass, in a heartbeat, you bet".

I do not want C to be a drill sergeant on my ass, so, mental note: "Follow the rules".

Before November, I didn't even know how unemployment really worked. Before my date with C, I definitely didn't know how to get things for free from the government. I'm no libertarian or anything, but I feel weird taking things for free. But since a good portion of C's job is seeing to it that I get a bunch of gratis necessities, I had food stamps, a bus pass, personal products, and a gym membership within three hours.

A and I were on the right track when we were Street Viewing Mister Peeps and Fabric Depot. These are some of the places I can get to from where I am. I was more surprised, though, to see where I actually am, on a quiet residential street of 1950s single family homes. The place looks like any other house from the outside. Not until one enters do you notice the walls covered with informational brochures, a dry erase board with numbers indicating who has to take a piss test today, institutional furniture, and a kitchen with four mismatched refrigerators.

I was led to a bed, one of four, in the basement den that had been converted into a sort of bedroom. C took a bite of his fried cherry pie and said "Welcome home!". He departed up the stairs shortly thereafter, smacking his lips the whole way. I made my bed, sat on it for awhile. Then, when I was sure he was gone, I went into the bathroom and carefully flushed the toilet.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Is that a pound of halite in your pocket, or are you just happy to watch me starve to death*?

"I have put graham crackers and peanut butter into the cafeteria!" said V, who I think had come to find me watching The Shawshank Redemption alone in the movie room specifically because I'd made a big stink out of not getting any the last time. Bless her Russian immigrant heart. It's that kind of thoughtfulness that almost made you forgive her deliberate pairing of silver patent leather tennis shoes with purple stirrup pants. (Two days in a row).

Here's the thing about the graham crackers: what the fuck? Because I've never seen adults behave this way about a snack in my life, or at least not since the first regional Krispy Kreme opened near my work in 2003. What's worse, in the end, I was starting to behave exactly the same way.

Here's how it went down - Once every two days or so at an unpredictable time, a tub of graham cracker packets would appear in the cafeteria next to a tub of single-serving peanut butter packets. A symphony of excited whispers would soon erupt in the dormitory. Minutes later, the unmistakable din of crackling, crushing graham crackers would fill the room as men aged 21-65 would emerge, pockets bulging in odd angular ways, from the cafeteria. Each man was holding a single packet of crackers and a single container of peanut butter as if to suggest, "Who, me? I'm not the one hoarding the graham crackers. I just have this one packet and two pockets full of, like, Legos." Eight minutes- that's the longest I ever saw those tubs retain their product.

I didn't even realize I cared about crackers until I couldn't get any, and I suspect the same could be said for most of my roomies. They assumed the role of currency in this place, the way cigarettes do in prison movies. The worst offender was a very hot, felonious smack addict named S. Owing to his towering height, his giant meatball hands, and his adorably oafish demeanor (and also his willingness to share with a select few, me included), S was forgiven.

I'm not sure how I got on his good side, as we couldn't have had less in common. We were addicted to different things, we came from different backgrounds, and there was a 12 year age gap. Still though, we ended up hanging out a lot and discussing strategies for snagging hoardable grahams.

He got word that he was entering an inpatient facility; he'd waited long after he was "medically stable" for the opportunity. It wasn't until he told me this that I'd learned he'd been homeless for years. He was extremely excited. "They help you get your license back, they help you find a place to live, everything! It's not just drug treatment, they actually help get you back into the real world!".

The day he left, I took a nap. When I woke up his bed was made, and he was gone. I didn't get to say goodbye. When I rolled back over the other way, though, an avalanche of graham crackers and peanut butter containers fell all around me. It was the most touching cracker-related experience I'd ever had.

Many days later, I learned that the program I was being shipped off to was the same one that S had gone to. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to say thanks to the hot, huggable smack junkie. When I first spoke to my program mentor, C, I said "Hey! I understand that this is the same program S went to a couple of weeks ago. How is he?"

"Let's just say S is no longer a part of this program".

Turns out, shortly after arriving, S had learned that there was a warrant for his arrest. Rather than have the program members hold his hand through the legal process, he snuck out of the house before anyone could stop him.

*you couldn't actually starve to death in this place if you tried. I gained 1.013 pounds for each day I was there.

Stay Classy

At four in the morning, J and I found ourselves alone in the dimly lit cafeteria. One couldn't say that the state we were in was "awake", exactly, but we were present enough to acknowledge that we were homosexuals, and attendantly we were both really concerned about the color scheme.

"I find that the crayons aren't always the color you think they are, especially when you're dealing with the generic ones", he said, spitting out the word "generic" the way my Southern Baptist kin do when using the word "Catholic". "That's why I like to create a color story before I begin a new project." He gestured towards an unmolested page from a coloring book featuring a pair of joyful stegosauri that we'd selected as tonight's enterprise. "Do you see how razzmatazz looks mauve by just eyeing it? Check this out".

He rubbed the crayon onto a piece of scratch paper.

"Ooooh, right", I cooed. "It's like, more purple"

After a battery of testing, we decided on complimentary shades of brown and copper, bright splashes of cerulean, and that we would definitely be in touch with each other after all this business was said and done because we were both awesome.

I'd met J in the cafeteria a few days earlier, randomly sitting across from him during one of our tray meals. I'd seen him in the last few days, I thought, but in my benzo -fog I wasn't sure where, or why I sensed that I had been there a little longer than him.

We started talking and he made an offhand comment about an ex boyfriend and the band Built to Spill. We were fast friends. It was his second time in this facility in a month. "And the first time I was here I spotted absolutely no 'mos at all, which, come ON!".

At five in the morning, we'd made considerable progress. While discussing how to alternate the placement of Alloy Orange Metallic and Chestnut on our second palm tree trunk, my counselor arrived for her day at work. She seemed surprised by what she interrupted.

"I guess you really do get here at the crack of dawn!", I said, because she'd said that.

"Yes,.........", she said, before quickly disappearing into her office.

J and I were pals for days, sitting together during acupuncture hour, watching the Shawshank Redemption again, and again, and again, eating our thousandth garden-salad-with-ranch. A few days before I left, though, J got good news. He was being released from the facility and would be entering an inpatient rehabilitation facility shortly. It was bittersweet, like it must be when your prison bro gets paroled and leaves you in the clink with words of encouragement and nobody to color dinosaurs with at four in the morning. "I'll text you with my info when I get home", he said before he left. I was discharged several days later and made a beeline for my phone. I was delighted to find that J had texted me. I got in touch with him and we made plans to attend an AA meeting the following evening.

I was with my friend A the next day when Josh called to confirm our plans. When I got off the phone, I said to A, "I really wish you could come with us to the meeting tonight. You would SO love J. For example, he has a tramp stamp that says 'Stay Classy' and-"

A interrupted, "Oh MY GOD. YOUR friend J is my friend J!!!". It was true. They'd known each other for years. It was only one of a mystical series of coincidences that have occurred lately.

Before our meeting that night, I gave him the finished dinosaur project. I'd deviated from his color story somewhat, and it was clear the project had gone downhill after his resignation as Project Manager. He didn't mention it, though, which was uncommonly kind.

J's time since leaving detox has been a little rocky, and he ditched the city to stay with his sister in a more rural area until he gets placed into an inpatient facility. He was a priceless resource when I needed someone who knew the score to speak with during my brief period of freedom between facilities. I got a really encouraging email from him regarding his circumstances today.

Before leaving the detox facility I had a conversation with my counselor about my post-detox plans. I said "You remember that guy I was coloring with the other morning? We have a lot in common and he has some experience with meetings in my neighborhood, so he was able to recommend a few for me".

"Uh huh", she said, eyeing me seriously over the top of her Tina Fey glasses. "Just be careful you're going to these meetings to recover, not because they're some sort of meat market". Noted.