I began this process to be better. I was journaling more and more about the times of my youth and the misunderstandings of my life. I was feeling better. My journaling was therapeutic. However, the details of my life, which became the subject of my journals were truly amazing to me.
As I recalled the next few stages of my life and as I recalled the time I spent in treatment, as I recalled the total annihilation of self, the pain, the growth and my rebirth, I began to detail the stages up to my biggest losses.
I began to understand more about the way I viewed things. I began to understand why I had so many trained opinions.
I was learning more about my own biases and subconscious programming and moreover, I began to learn more about my depression and repetitious behavior. But to build from the ground up, I had start from the ground up. This was healing for me because I was able to relieve myself of my thinking. I was in control too because I could evaluate me, heal me, and write in whichever direction I chose to.
Most of my journaling was stream of consciousness, which meant that I did not think or care about the context. Instead, i just let the words leak from me. If I thought it, I wrote it.
This was better than any anti-depressant pill or drug for me. This was rebuilding me and redeeming for me. I was about to leave myself on a page and let the facts of my former self, rest in the past, and be forgiven.
I started to look back in my journals and wondered how I ever survived myself. Not just the drugs or the lifestyle that comes with it. I never gave myself a break. No wonder I was stressed all the time—I was always in flight mode. I was always in a state of crisis. No wonder I wanted to be high all the time.
It was explained to me that our bodies are equipped with everything we need to survive. In my case however, and in my misconceptions of self —I swore up and down, there was something wrong with me. And there was. There had to be.
It was explained to me about an animal in the woods. Like say, a deer for example.
A deer is in a field, grazing and eating grass. All of a sudden, the deer hears a sound. The deer’s ears perk, the animal spooks, and then runs away to safety. Eventually, the deer finds a place of safety and then goes back to eating or grazing or doing whatever it is that a deer would do. The fear goes away.
Anxiety disorder is when the fear does not subside. In cases like this the mind is always on high-alert. There is no return to safety. And that was me. I was always in flight mode and always looking for safety. I was trying to get away from my thinking, and above all things, the anguish of depression, which was all fear-based, self-based, and inaccurately based upon personal rejection.
As I began to detail the accounts of my time in rehab, I wrote about my first facility. I detailed the moments of my suicide watch.
I wrote about the day of my birthday, in which Mom called the phones in the lobby.
I was allowed to speak with my parents. I heard from Mom and she was happy to tell me Happy Birthday. She was happy to know I was someplace safe and not on the street.
I suppose I felt a sense of relief. I was happy to have a change in my routine. I was happy there was no one looking for me anymore.
I was happy to be removed from the stress and to be away from the whirlwind of my personal destruction, which was incredible to say the least.
The Old Man took the phone from Mom and asked me if he could do something for me.
Keep in mind, my Father was not a soft man. He was kind. He was generous. He was a good man on all accounts; however, in my case and with our relationship’s history being as it was; The Old Man was hard on me.
I had seen emotion from my Father but I rarely saw him cry. Same as I mentioned before in previous reports, there was the time when he stopped coaching peewee football. There was the time when his Mother, my Grandmother, passed away. There was the time on the boat when he cried to me about my arrest—and then there was this time, on the phone with me, his youngest son in a drug and alcohol treatment facility.
“Can I do something for you,” he asked.
And that’s when it happened with me, standing at the payphones in the front of the lobby at my 1960’s hotel-like facility, listening to a man whom I swore never liked me and regretted the day I was born as he sung the words Happy Birthday to me, and crying while he sang the song.
I stayed in this placement for 28 days; however, my agreements with the T.A.S.C. program required that I find a long-term treatment facility for a period of no less than 18 months.
I went from one place to another. I completed my time at the place in Kerhonkson’s facility for adults.
Then I was moved to an adolescent facility for another 42 days. This facility was in Liberty, New York. I was moved farther upstate and deeper into the mountains of Upstate New York.
This place was not as good as the 28 day place. And I stayed here until they found my long-term placement on the farm in a town called Hancock.
I swore, if they ever let me out or if I had the chance or someplace to go, I would fly away like the accidental release of a waiting and readied bird, darting out quickly to get its chance at the morning air. I suppose everyone knew this. I suppose my case was no different from the countless other cases of people looking to escape themselves.
I was eventually remanded to long-term treatment by the courts, which meant my sentence was conditional upon my completion of treatment.
On occasion, I had to return home to face the judge. This was strange to me, to see my previous world through a sobered set of eyes.
I recall the first time I stepped foot into my room. I looked around as if this were a murder scene, complete with an outline of a taped body.
I could recall the moments of cocaine fueled binges with my furniture pushed up against the door to keep anyone from coming in —meanwhile, no one was home and all the sounds and paranoid whispers I heard were nothing other than tiny evil phantoms, made up by the cocaine demons.
I was able to see the darkness of my deepest secrets which no one knew about, nor would I ever dare to tell anyone about.
On the date of my last court appearance, I returned home. The Old Man took me to see the judge. We were driving to the courthouse. I remember feeling so small, like I did back when I was just a little boy and The Old Man used to take me on long drives with him.
I recall the sense of looking up to him the same way I did when I regarded my Father as my first hero.
“I just want you to know that I’m not mad at you anymore.”
I’m not mad at you anymore are words which to me, hung in the moment, like something so healing and redeeming.
“I’m not mad at you anymore,” he said, which are words that I had not heard, nor did I ever expect to hear. What an amazing accomplishment this was. What a gift . . .
At the time, I was still not ready or willing to say goodbye to any or all mind altering drugs. However, in the earliest stages of my sobriety, I was able to see benefits.
(I never expected benefits)
I was the king of not liking my choices. And if I was not happy about my choices (or my life) then I would make sure that no one around me was happy about my choices either.
I had moved through my two places of treatment rather easily. The third place was not going to be the same for me.
I began to journal about my time here. I journaled about the strictness of the facility, the rules, the times I was sat in a corner, and I journaled about the times I was made to wear a sign around my neck, one in specific was a sign to be worn around my neck that read, “Ask me why I am a spoiled brat.”
There was a 20 second rule in the morning, which meant I had to get up at the sound of the alarm clock, feet on the floor, bunk made, and moving to clean up and the two minute shower.
There was no privacy here. The toilets were next to each other. The bathroom was less than desirable. The hot water depleted very quickly and if we or anyone from our bunk was not at the breakfast table on time without a valid reason, then there was no breakfast.
I met an entire world of different people throughout my time in the facility. I suppose my first place in Kerhonkson was the most impactful up to this date. The men I met here lived hard lives and survived hard times. I met men with bodies under their belt. I met a young man that had actually murdered his abusive father. I met people that lived on the streets for years and never had anything. I saw kindness here that I could never comprehend.
I saw the line between black and white soften as I let down my guard. On the farm however, this place was different. I met young people from different parts of the world. Some were transformed. Some were like me and looking for their escape.
There was no music allowed because the music we listened to was seen as negative and part of our previous image. There was a strict dress attire, which was unflattering to say the least.
I was in trouble on the farm. I hated this place. I hated the rules and the times I was stood up at the main house, in front of the entire community of the farm. I hated the yelling, which we called “Blasting.”
I hated the kitchen crews and the work details. I hated the owners, whom of which acted like the Mom and Dad of the house.
I hated the barn crews. I hated the pig pens and the time I fell face first into a heap of pig shit. I was afraid of the cows because I watched them kick people while being milked.
I liked a few of the others on the farm. But in fairness, I need to stress the word, “Few” because mostly, I hated everyone. I hated them. I hated their prayer time. I hated their entire program-minded, bullshit. I hated the 12 steps of A.A. and I hated the ratty kids, the ones that spoke out to look “Good” and the ones that preached holiness in front of the counselors, yet meanwhile, they held what was called negative contracts, which were lies or dishonesties against the house rules.
They leaned on me. No matter how much I bitched or complained, they leaned on me harder. This was called a therapeutic community; however, their tactics to me (at least in the beginning) seemed abusive and cruel.
The farm was a Franciscan house. I was one of only two other Jewish students. This place was a farm, a school a rehab, and a place for behavioral modification. There was no fun here. There was only work, —except for Sundays.
I remember Thanksgiving. We the people on the farm in order to prove a better union to our family, were made to clean the main house, set the tables and then serve Thanksgiving dinner to our parents that came up for a visit.
The Old Man and I stood on the deck for a while. He was looking at the scenery. The farm was in the mountains and the view was literally stunning. The view of distant mountains were like knuckled of clasped fingers—the empty, winterized trees stood up from the land and the mountainside like the black hairs in a drown man’s arm.
“This is nice up here,” said The Old Man.
“You’re doing good, kid.”
He said, “You’re doing real good.”
Had I have known this would have been the last meal I would ever have with my Father, I think I would have stayed with him longer. Maybe I would have hugged him more before he left the farm to return home.
Maybe I would have said I was sorry or let him know the things about me he wished he could change were not his fault.
Or, put simply, maybe I would have just said, “I love you,” and allow those words to be all-encompassing and sufficient enough.
I had no idea what was about to happen; however, the details that come next are the details that forever altered my life.