Did I ever tell you about my friend Dangerous Dan? We called him Dangerous Dan, The Marathon Man because he could go on and on, longer than anyone. He was a good man, funny as could be, and mostly a fun-time drunk with a bit of a cocaine habit and a mighty severe gambling problem too.
Dan loved the ponies. He knew everything there was to know about gambling, except of course, how to pay off his debts.
We met the day Danny came in through the double doors at my first treatment center. It was at the end of summertime, at the birth of mid-September is a bit more accurate. He was extremely tan-skinned, middle-aged with dark blonde hair, almost bronze, and parted from the right side over to the left.
Dan was blue-eyed and drunk when he came through the door. In fact, Dan was not the only one that came through the double doors, drunk or high, or stumbling through.
He wore a red buttoned-down Hawaiian shirt, short sleeved, of course, and the kind with a wide lapel.
He had a gold watch around his wrist and wore a pair of khaki colored Bermuda shorts, which were just about to the top of Dan’s knee. He was not tall or big by any means.
Danny was an average sized man with a wealthy family behind him. Anytime Dan worked up too much of a gambling debt, he reached out to his family, promised he’d clean up, and then Dan would do a short-stay at a rehabilitation facility to save face. And this time, I have to say it was my pleasure to spend a little time with my good friend Dan.
Dan was kept away from everyone the first day. I assume the powers that be did not want the rest of us to be triggered or get any ideas of making it for the fence. The staff didn’t want anyone running out to the main road to find a ride to the nearest bar in town, which in fairness, this was a pretty hard task.
To be exact, we were up in the mountains, hidden away in a town that no one ever heard of. the town was smaller than a speck on a mad.
The nearest town with a bar was far enough away to make this a difficult trick to pull off, which is not to say that no one ever tried.
Of course, there were a few people that smuggled things in on their first day. There was some that kept themselves a private stash from what I was told.
My friend “The Breeze” had a stash that he never told anyone about. He was another one that came in through the doors, drunk as could be, a southerner, wealthy, and holding on to an idea that rehab was a good place to hide for a while and dry out. We called him “The Breeze,” named after the song by Lynyrd Skynyrd. And the name fit. “They call me The Breeze. I keep blowin down the road,” was a great way to define that man. Nothing was ever serous. No one was ever going to stop him or the drug store he kept in his bag under the bed. On the other hand, Dan played it fair.
Dan was charismatic to say the least. He always had a smile or a joke. He was good to have around, especially in times like this. He was no stranger to treatment programs. He had been in treatment centers more times than he could count. and he laughed about this. He bragged a little but he was never sarcastic at anyone’s expense.he was kind to everyone, including me, and he never joined the band wagon when someone else was in trouble.
Treatment was just time away for someone like Dan. This was a good way to call “Time-out,” and clean up for a while.
Plus, this was the only way Dan’s family would pay for his gambling debts, which were pretty big. And man, did he love to gamble.
Dan loved the ponies more than anyone I have ever met. He played the numbers from time to time. He played a good game of cards too. But ponies were his thing.
He loved everything about the track. He loved the announcers. He loved the smell. He loved the races and he loved screaming for his horse and jumping around like a lunatic.
I’m not sure who gave Dan his nickname. Everyone had one —or, at least I can say everyone that played along had a nickname.
The rehab was once an old hotel, which meant it held a lot of people. It would be inaccurate to say that we all knew each other very well.
But at the same time, we all showed up at the same places when we were supposed to.
We all ate in the cafeteria at the same time. Some people chose to stay to themselves. Some people actually took place time seriously because, after all, they were only there to save their own lives.
And then there were the others, still crazy, still not sure what to think about the idea of sobriety, and not looking to open up to a counselor or least of all, anxious to open up to a group of other drunks and junkies to tell them about some deep dark secret.
Dan was in my group. So was The Breeze. Neither of them ever opened up in group but both of them had been in treatment enough to know how to say the right things at the right time. they knew how to fly under the radar, and yet be seen at the same time..
I have to admit though; this place was intense for me. I was in a strange way. I hated my life. I had prayed more times than I could think; and I prayed to anyone that was listening, or if there was anyone listening, with hopes that I could find some way out of my own skin.
I had always wished I could be someone else or be from somewhere else. I wished I could be more like other people. I never knew how to feel comfortable just being me.
There was a feeling I had, which was neither good nor bad, but instead, I believed I was desperately in the middle, or mediocre, and unnoticeable at best. anyone that said otherwise to me was either biased or had a role in my life in which they had to say that cared.
I never thought that I had anything about me that would make people stand up or take notice. I was not ugly or good looking,. I was just me, in the middle.
There are people, Like Dan for example. He could walk in a room and somehow, people take notice. This was one of his talents.
I never saw myself like this. Instead, I saw myself as someone unnoticed, and worse, unremarkable, which is one of the reasons why I loved my friend Dan. He really knew how to play his part.
Dan had a way of treating people that was top notch. I would assume even his bookies loved Dan and quite possibly, they almost felt bad about beating Dan up when he failed to pay his debts. But still, Dan was cool. In no unspoken terms, this man had to be one of the coolest people i have ever met.
Keep in mind, treatment time gets to be intense. There are people talking about real issues.
You hear it all in treatment. You see the life people were made to endure. You hear the horror stories and the glorified war stories. You see the scars people live with. You hear about the close-call deaths and sadly, you hear the stories that come back about people that left the day before, only to be found dead a few days later.
You hear about abuse and neglect that sounds worse than humanly possible, but possible or not, still this is what occurs in treatment. And sometimes, this is sad enough to make people want to run away, screaming, or like I mentioned before; it’s enough to make someone run for the fences and try to find the nearest bar.
I have an analogy that I often use to describe this disorder of mine. Some call it addiction and some call this the disease of alcoholism. some use the word, “Disorder,” to keep from being insulting or accusatory. Call it what you will, but this is why people keep doing what they do.
I have talked about this before in other publications, which in fairness, I mention this because I hate being repetitive; however, the analogy fits here, which is why I offer it again.
I was a kid and watching my Old Man hit a chisel with a hammer. He was banging the chisel to break through a piece of pipe at the bottom of an oil burner. And me being young, and of course, me not paying attention to where I held the drop-light, my Old Man snapped at me. He yelled for me to pay attention and to “Watch what the hell you’re doing!”
So I did.
The Old Man missed the chisel a few times. I noticed him hitting his hand with the hammer because he accidentally missed the chisel. And he was bleeding too.
In fairness, I admit that I was angry at my father but I did not want to see him hurt himself.
Either way, The Old Man kept whacking away at the chisel as hard as he could. I remember wishing he would stop but he wouldn’t.
The Old Man just kept hitting the hammer into the chisel, missing a few more times, and then going back at it until the chisel broke through the piece of pipe.
Finally, The Old Man stopped. He stood up, wincing from the pain.
I asked him, “Why didn’t you stop?”
The Old Man looked at me and said, “Because when you stop, that’s when it starts to hurt.”
And he was right. I can say this without any question. When you stop is when the pain starts to hurt. This is why people don’t want to stop drinking or using drugs.
This is why people avoid treatment centers. This is why people avoid self-help groups and this is why people stay in their life, stuck on a path to self-destruction, because no one wants to feel the pain.
And yes, this was painful for me. Yes, the idea of me facing myself was absolutely terrifying.
The fact that I was learning why I felt the way I felt and the fact that literally everything hit home and hurt me was painful enough to make me want to run for the fences.
This is why I never wanted to stop because if I stopped, I knew I would have to feel the pain. And in addition, same as it was painful for me to see my Father inflict pain on himself, in the case of substance or alcohol dependency, it is just as painful to watch others on their crash course to hell—Meanwhile, you just wish they would stop because you can’t stand watching someone hurt themselves.
In times like this at treatment, people look to find a distraction from the pain. People want to soften the intensity. Since there was no television and there was nothing else we could do but talk, some of the boys sat around one of the tables in the cafeteria.
Somehow, Dan got on the subject of drinking and going to the track. He was wild-eyed for sure, as if suddenly, Dan transformed into something electrified. Although unhealthy and certainly counter-productive, the moment was pretty damned amazing.
Dan talked about the track and the horses and the races.
Dan had dreams of announcing horse races, said he could do it right then and there, so we challenged him.
We put 12 names of different horses in someone’s baseball hat. The names were silly names, which made this all the more fun. we used names like Rubber Chicken and Silly Nelson. There must have been at least six of us at the table. All of us were crazy and all of us were in need for some kind of excitement.
Dan wrote down the names of the horses and then cut them up into pieces of paper, crumpled the pieces up, and then he placed the names in the hat. He checked the names once more and then had me draw three pieces of paper from the hat.
Dan did not tell us the names of the horses that won, placed, or showed, which means which horse came in first, second, or third.
Instead, we pretended to take bets. Of course, this was not the healthiest type of distraction and the counselors gave us a good “Pow-Pow,” when they found out, but for the moment, this distraction was better than anything.
Suddenly, he was Dangerous Dan, The Marathon Man, wild as ever, calling out the race, blind, as if we were at the Kentucky Derby, only better.
I mean Dan was perfect.
It became so that this was like a night at the races. And we cheered like we were there. We screamed in the cafeteria like lunatics at a race track. And for the moment, Dangerous Dan, The Marathon man was a hero to me.
Dan had no plans on cleaning up, nor did he have any plans to quit gambling. And I’m sorry to say that I never kept in touch.
Most people looking to get back to their life will seldom keep in touch. And this is another truth about treatment.
You make the closest friends within two days time; and they seem closer to you than anyone you’ve ever met in your life. And you swear and you promise to keep in touch, and you’ll mean this too, but most times, no one ever does.
Sorry to say, I have no idea where Dan is or how he is. Truth is as charismatic as he was, there was a lot of pain beneath his smile. Dan had a story too.
But still, if given the chance, it would be nice to see him.
It would be nice to let him know what that night at the races did for me. It would be good to tell him that no matter what, Dangerous Dan, The Marathon Man, you will always have a friend in me.
Just don’t bet in the E horse, right Dan?