Anything is Possible!

With Hope, Faith, and Perseverance


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Theo’s Story

As September is “Recovery Month,” I’m sharing this story based on my interview with a man who has become a respected friend.

broken window black and white

Some of us remember it as “The Blizzard of ’89.” To Theo, it’s the night he almost froze to death.

Not technically a blizzard, the storm was an anomaly for the Carolina Coast, especially on Christmas Eve. He’d quit his job at Dupont to drink liquor and sell blood. He’d been arrested 66 times for child support. The money was supposed to be taken out of his check, but it’s hard to hold on to a job when you keep getting locked up.

On that Christmas Eve in 1989, he walked to the club on Orange Street and got hit in the head with a bottle by a man trying to rob him. Theo stumbled into the cold and headed toward Ann Street and the place he called home.

The house had no electricity, no water, and no heat. Windows of broken glass allowed the frigid night air to permeate every room. But he figured it would be warmer than sleeping outside. Theo wrapped himself in whatever coats and blankets he could find and fell asleep.

He woke up shivering in the middle of the night and saw snow blowing in through the window.

“Lord, let me go to sleep and not wake up,” he prayed.

 

Theo had never prayed such a thing before. Even during his three years, six months, and 11 days in prison he’d always found enough hope to stay alive.

His prison time started in 1966 when he was convicted of armed robbery while serving in the Navy. He’d been drinking heavily and hanging out with the wrong crowd again. On a five-day leave, he planned to spend time with family in North Carolina and caught a ride from the Florida base with his buddy, John. They partied along the way but ran out of money in Georgia where John decided to rob a gas station and landed them both in prison.

Working on a road gang in Georgia, Theo was charged with insubordination and ended up in the hole for 15 days – naked, in the dark, on concrete. He got one meal ever four days. Even then, he didn’t lose hope, though he did lose 20 pounds during each of his three stays in the hole.

After a year of incarceration, Theo wrote a letter to the newspaper about conditions at the prison and was interviewed by the press. Shortly after that, he was transferred to a larger facility that held over 4000 prisoners.

prison fence

“There was a killing every day.” Theo recalls. “I didn’t know if someone was going to stab me in my sleep or set me on fire.”  For the first three months, he just sat on his bunk and watched. He noticed some inmates reading, writing letters, or making crafts (handbags and wallets) and started doing some art himself – painting portraits and making handbags to sell to relatives back home for spending money. Trying to stay out of trouble, Theo gravitated toward the creative crowd. Watching all the killings going on, they realized how many prisoners didn’t know how to read or write. So, he and a group of 8 to 10 inmates started a group called, “The Barons of Goodwill.” They helped fellow prisoners read and write letters. Theo believed this was his turning point.

While in prison, he took courses in electronics and welding. He started writing a book called, Choices by Chance, but since it was about life in prison, the guards confiscated it along with some of his poems and paintings. With about seven years left on his 10-year sentence, Theo was in an accident on the road gang truck which left him with 3 broken ribs, 27 stitches, and a busted shoulder. They released him from prison a couple weeks after the accident.

He planned to stay sober and live with his parents for a while. But three blocks from the bus station, he ran into old friends drinking on their front porch. He was drunk before he got home. He told his mom over and over that he was sorry. This was his first clue about the cunning, baffling nature of alcoholism.

Theo got a job welding at a factory and did stop drinking. But after about two years, he thought he could drink a little.  First, he only drank on his days off. Then only after work. Eventually, he was drinking before work, then during lunch. He’d stop drinking off and on, but over time, his disease got worse. In 1983, he married a woman who also drank heavily. They argued a lot. On Valentine’s Day, he saw a TV commercial for a treatment program asking, “Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?” He called the number and his wife listened in on the other line. When he hung up the phone, she came out and shot him four times in the stomach and legs. He decided the relationship was over. After that, Theo didn’t drink for a while, but he still hung around with the wrong crowd. He started a roofing company, but hired people who were just like him. “working to drink.”

In 1989, Theo got locked up on his birthday over child support. He went to an AA meeting to avoid the fighting, drinking and reefer in the prison dormitory. He remembers one of the men in the meeting sharing he had 20 years sober. Theo didn’t believe it.  “You’re a liar,” he told the man. Someone told him to “shut up and listen.” The next time he went to a meeting, he just listened.

Theo got out of prison in October of ’89. A friend invited him to an AA meeting at Good Shepherd where he’d gone to the day shelter. He saw some guys he used to drink with there, which tweaked his interest in the program, but he continued to drink off and on. His addiction to alcohol grew stronger with each episode.

On Christmas Eve of 1989, the years of misery, broken relationships, and doing time came bearing down on him. Theo woke up to a blanket of snow on Christmas morning. He had to do something to get warm, so he walked to the day shelter knowing they were closed. The man who lived across the street from the shelter was shoveling snow. Theo thought he recognized him from meetings and asked to borrow a shovel to remove snow from the shelter sidewalk and parking lot. The work kept him warm for a while.

Then, Theo walked to the liquor house which was open. He was no stranger to drinking in the morning. But today was different. All he wanted was to be warm. When the woman asked him what he wanted to drink, he said he wanted something hot. She gave him some of the stew she’d been cooking for her husband.

Theo never drank alcohol again after that. He spent much of his time at the day shelter where he could get lunch, shower, and wash his clothes.  A counselor there named Ann knew he’d had a drinking problem and must have seen a change in him. One day, she asked him to come into the office. She asked him a list of ten questions.

“Does drinking interfere with your relationships?”

“Yes.”

“Has drinking ever caused problems at work?”

“Yes.”

Theo answered yes to all ten questions.

“It’s like you’ve been following me around or something,” he told her.

“Do you want some help?”

“Yes.”

Every place was full. But Ann told him, “If you don’t drink, come back Monday.”

On Monday, every place was still full. But on Tuesday, there was an opening at Stepping Stone, a halfway house for alcoholics and drug addicts. After the interview, they told him to come back the next day with his stuff. “He won’t last three weeks,” he heard someone say. But Theo lasted seven months.

It wasn’t easy at first. There were all kinds of men at the halfway house. It helped to remember he’d lived with a diverse group of people in the Navy and in prison. Theo’s three years of military service and three plus years in prison, helped him adjust quickly to the structure and routine of morning meditations and going to three meetings a day. At first, he didn’t listen at the meetings and focused on eating cookies and drinking coffee. Then, one day, this guy came up to him and said, “I’m your sponsor.”

“I didn’t ask for a sponsor,” Theo replied.

“My sponsor said you need a sponsor.”

The man turned out to be Theo’s sponsor for the next 25 years, until he died.

Working the 12 steps, Theo learned the real him, not the monster he used to see in the mirror. “I had to learn to forgive myself – to make amends to myself,” he said. All his life he’d felt like the fifth wheel, like he didn’t belong, but when he went to AA, he felt like he belonged. He’d thought that God didn’t want him, but realized that God had led him to AA, and that God had never left him. He knew that it was time to stop taking and start giving back. He knew this might be his last opportunity.

praying hands

As Theo stopped blaming other people for his shortcomings and taking responsibility, he learned that he was “the author of all his tragedies.” He learned that he had to get real, that he couldn’t run from himself and had to face up to things.

Over the next few years, things fell into place. After the halfway house, he worked regularly as a welder, in apartment maintenance, and as a longshoreman. He fixed up the house he was born in, the house where he slept on that snowy Christmas Eve. Then, in 2014, Theo married a preacher. They had dated for a few months way back in the 1960s when he spent his free time in clubs and on the street. She didn’t go to clubs, didn’t drink, and focused on work, so the relationship didn’t work out back then. They finally reconnected after Theo got sober and she showed up at his church.

Throughout his journey, what made a difference in Theo’s life was the company he kept. He’s tried to impress this upon his sons, telling them to watch who they hang around and to do positive things. “If the person you hang around goes to jail or Yale, you’re going too,” he says. Theo says he’s met the best people in recovery, some of them even in prison. In recovery, he’s met people who are honest and working on the same goals. He’s developed friendships that transcend age and race.

Today, in his early seventies, Theo is “semi-retired.” He fixes up houses, tends his garden and gives his home grown produce to older people at church. He’s been teaching Sunday school at his church for the past ten years. He buys books at thrift stores and gives them out at church, to people in recovery, and on the street. Theo attends meetings for himself every week and goes to the prison every Sunday. He sponsors some men there, remembering that his first meeting was in prison. When an inmate doesn’t believe he has 17 years of sobriety, he doesn’t tell them to shut up, but he does tell them to listen. He tells them to look around for a sponsor and to get a “home group” when they get out, a group that can become like family. He tells them to stay in recovery.

hawk in flight bird (2)

 

(All photos in this post are from Pixabay.)


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Call Me When You’re Sober.

Song Lyric Sunday

Today’s theme for Song Lyric Sunday was to post a song about alcohol. I wasn’t sure if I could offer anything since I don’t drink anymore having already done my share. But then I remembered this song by Evanescence. (One of the benefits of having a teenage daughter during the post-divorce years was being exposed to cool bands.)  “Call Me When You’re Sober,” written by Amy Lee and Terry Balsam, was one of my healing songs after the rebound from hell and reinforced my right to set boundaries and keep myself safe.

Don’t cry to me.
If you loved me,
You would be here with me.
You want me,
Come find me.
Make up your mind.

Should I let you fall?
Lose it all?
So maybe you can remember yourself.
Can’t keep believing,
We’re only deceiving ourselves .
And I’m sick of the lie,
And you’re too late.

Don’t cry to me.
If you loved me,
You would be here with me.
You want me,
Come find me.
Make up your mind.

Couldn’t take the blame.
Sick with shame.
Must be exhausting to lose your own game.
Selfishly hated,
No wonder you’re jaded.
You can’t play the victim this time,
And you’re too late.

Don’t cry to me.
If you loved me,
You would be here with me.
You want me,
Come find me.
Make up your mind.

You never call me when you’re sober.
You only want it cause it’s over,
It’s over.

How could I have burned paradise?
How could I – you were never mine.

So don’t cry to me.
If you loved me,
You would be here with me.
Don’t lie to me,
Just get your things.
I’ve made up your mind.

(From azlyrics.com)

 

 

Song lyric Sunday is brought to you by Helen at:

https://helenswordsoflife.com/2017/06/10/song-lyric-sunday-theme-for-61117/


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We Are the World and Trees are the Lungs of the World

dogwood in front of pine

As I looked for a story to post for today’s kickoff of  We Are The World, there were many. But I kept coming back to this man who died and came back to plant trees. I first found this interview at ALK3R ‘s blog. It’s a fascinating story, originally published at Daily Good. Here’s the link:

http://www.dailygood.org/story/1549/the-man-who-planted-trees-a-conversation-with-david-milarch-awakin-call-editors/

watw-turquoise-badge-275-x241-white

To learn more about We Are the World, you can visit Belinda’s blog:   http://www.belindawitzenhausen.com

 

 


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Carrie Fisher is still teaching me to be brave.

carrie-fisher-quote

“If you pretend something long enough, it comes true.” Carrie Fisher

These quotes about confidence and pretending remind me of the expression, “Fake it til you make it.” When we do that, we’re pretending with a purpose. We’re being brave in spite of our fear.

Being brave is one thing Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia had in common.

In  Star Wars, Princess Leia battled the evil empire. In real life, Carrie Fisher battled insecurity, addiction, bipolar disorder, and of course the expectations of Hollywood. At the age of 19, she portrayed a strong, intelligent, no nonsense woman of power in the original Star Wars movie, “A New Hope.” I watched that movie in the theater at least ten times in the late 70s when I was about 21. I was one year older than Carrie who died on Tuesday, December 27th. Like many of my peers, (boomers/sci-fi fans) I thought of her almost like friend, especially after I started watching her interviews.

As she got older Carrie grew wiser. She wrote books which have been on my want-to-read-list for years. I still look forward to reading them. In her interviews, Carrie is hilarious in that feisty, authentic way smart women get when they no longer care so much what people think of them – something I aspire to. I love that she performed her autobiographical play, Wishful Drinking, barefoot.

As Princess Leia and as herself, Carrie Fisher influenced me in ways that I am not even aware of. I do know that she made me braver and still does. As I process my grief  (and consider my own mortality) I’m imagining her cracking jokes and exploring life in a galaxy far far away.

I wish her a good voyage.

In the following interview, Carrie started talking about recovery more in the second half if you want to skip the baring all part.

And in this next interview with Oprah, she talked about her family, electroshock therapy, and healing her relationship with her mother who she partially credited for teaching her to be strong.

After writing this, I read that Carrie’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, died the day after her daughter and that she said she wanted to be with Carrie. As a mother, I understand.  I understand about the worry, the tension, and the closeness of that complicated bond. I’m glad they were able to talk, to come to a better understanding of each other. Now, I hope they are at peace.


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A Gift You Can’t Buy in the Store, Part 1

wooden-balloon

Tuesday was my last full day at the job I worked for 30 years. In January, I’ll go back for a few hours to wrap up some paperwork and get the rest of my stuff, and there will be a “retirement” party. But these things will be on my terms and at my convenience.

My husband told me he was proud of me for retiring on my terms. But it was because of him that I was able to do it that way, cutting my hours back gradually, building my courage for the leap of faith, trusting that I would be taken care of. My husband, not wanting to contribute to the commercialization of Christmas, doesn’t like to buy presents from a store, but he loves to make things from wood like candle holders and Christmas ornaments like the balloon above. I tend to agree with him. He’s giving me the best gift of all the Christmas – the gift of retirement.

It was hard to say goodbye to my clients. But it was the right decision for me. Now, I get giggly inside, like a kid at Christmas, as I realize I don’t have to go back to the bureaucracy, to the demands to do more in less time – or bringing work home,  or to the witnessing of the wreckage of addiction.

I am forever grateful to have witnessed the triumphs over addiction and for the privilege to be able to help a little. I’m thankful for all that I’ve learned. But I believe I’ve paid my dues. Now, it’s my turn to follow my heart back to its creative home. I’ll probably do a stress management group somewhere, maybe a group with a creative twist! But it will be on my terms.

I will remember all those late nights I drove home exhausted, my hands aching from the keyboard, wondering if I would ever get caught up on the paperwork, wondering if I  could make it another 10 years until social security and medicare kicked in, wondering if those benefits would even be there for me in 10 years.

I will remember praying to God for deliverance, telling myself, God has a plan.

Little did I know how marvelous that plan would be. God was watching me, loving me, encouraging me, and doing the same for my soulmate 700 miles away. God waited for the perfect time, when my soulmate and I were ready to journey together. (And in case you didn’t know, I’m writing a book about that.)

Ten years ago, I asked God to take away the desire for a partner, or to send someone who is a good fit.

Today, I thank God for the gift of my husband who is a good fit. And I thank my husband for the gift of freedom to be me. On my terms. And on God’s terms.

doorway-apostle-island


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Contact Highs, Trauma, and Recovery: Addiction Conference Highlights

socsbadge2016-17

Can a person show up positive for marijuana on a drug screen just by being in the same room with people smoking the weed?

The opening speaker at Wednesday’s addiction professionals conference says no. But he wasn’t clear on the cutoff levels/sensitivity of the test used in the study. I believe it’s possible, though the smoke would have to be pretty darn thick. After all, people have been know to get a contact buzz from being in the same room with someone smoking, right? Of course, It’s been a very long time…..

I did get a natural high with my high school girlfriends during our reunion last month. I was the only one not drinking, but I laughed, giggled and almost choked on my own silliness, all drug and alcohol free, which was my goal. I also won the trivia game which I like to think I won because I remember stuff I studied in high school, and I am smart in some things, not just because I was the only one sober.

But back to the conference that finished up yesterday. Our closing speaker was Austin Eubanks, an injured survivor from the Columbine shooting. His story was moving and powerful. I even got teary-eyed when he told us about how his best friend was killed in the library. It turns out that Austin became addicted to pain pills which were easily accessible after the Columbine trauma because he was shot in the hand and the knee. But he got more pain meds than he needed and used them (without realizing it) to numb the emotional pain of the trauma.

Austin was clear that he does not want to prevent anyone from getting the medication they need, but he also said that it would have been better for his doctors to realize he was using pain pills to cover up the emotional trauma which took him years to process starting in a therapeutic community on his third treatment episode. One way to minimize that risk, is for doctors to screen people coming in for acute physical pain to find out if there is also emotional trauma they might be trying to avoid. Recovery is about learning how to cope with challenges with support but not with illicit drugs. It’s way complicated. But one of the best things is that Austin encouraged those in recovery to look closer at the issue of anonymity. A person should not publicly reveal membership in a specific 12 step program, but Austin said that if you’re in recovery, be “loud and proud” about it.

Kids and Adults need to know that it’s okay to choose not to drink or drug, and that there is support for working through trauma. Recovery is not easy, but worth it in the long run.

Today’s Stream of Consciousness Prompt was the word, “screen,” brought to you by Linda HIll at:

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Oct. 15/16

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” “Begin with the word ‘The’,” or simply a single word to get your started.

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top. NOTE: Pingbacks only work from WordPress sites. If you’re self-hosted or are participating from another host, such as Blogger, please leave a link to your post in the comments below.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. As a suggestion, tag your post “SoCS” and/or “#SoCS” for more exposure and more views.

8. Have fun!


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Time and the Toilet Paper Roll of Life

socsbadge2016-17

This is the busiest time. No, wait. It’s not that busy. Maybe this is the busiest time since I started semi-retirement in June. Was that this past June? No way. I have to check that. Time is so strange. I think this is the fastest time has ever moved. It moves faster and faster the older we get, and also the busier we get. Just like the toilet paper roll goes faster as you get closer to the end. But then someone will hopefully replace that toilet paper roll with a full one. Usually a mom type person does that. Does God replace our roll when we get to the end of our life? Do we get another assignment? I like the idea of taking a rest for a while, in my idea of heaven being a cabin in the woods, running around with all the dogs I’ve ever loved…and then getting an assignment, as an angel or whatever God wants me to do. I just really want a rest for a while and to see my dogs.

I had no idea I was going to go there. That’s what I love about the Stream of Consciousness.

Though theses are the busiest times lately, they are also the best times. So I want to stop complaining and have some gratitude already!  My busyness has been writing, a little art, feeding feral kittens, puttering around the house in the never-ending busyness of things like replacing toilet paper rolls and de-cluttering.

The best things about this busy weekend are:

This afternoon, I get to read one of my two stories which will be published in the public library’s e-book about our coastal county. I should say, I get to read it out loud, in front of people! I’ll send you a link to the e-book when it is unveiled.

Tomorrow afternoon, I get to lead a guided meditation at a coffee house celebration of Recovery Month. That’s right, September is RECOVERY MONTH. We need to celebrate recovery because so many people don’t get how much work it is. We need to applaud people in recovery from addiction and other illnesses.

Both of these events are related to my work. The first, reading my story, is about my new work and my new creative life. Sunday’s event is about my old work as a counselor, which I continue to do one day a week. So this weekend is sort of an affirmation, that for now, I can do both.

Next week could be even busier. It might be the busiest week!

Monday I need to go cut my father’s hedges. And visit him which is more important. And then I need to go the old job on Tuesday as I get ready for a reunion trip with my high school girlfriends in Mississippi!

One thing’s for sure, I’m not bored.

And I am grateful.

 

Linda’ prompt for today’s Stream of Consciousness post was, “-est” to be used as a suffix.

Read more SOC posts, and join in the fun at Linda’s blog:

https://lindaghill.com/2016/09/16/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-1716/

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” “Begin with the word ‘The’,” or simply a single word to get your started.

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top. NOTE: Pingbacks only work from WordPress sites. If you’re self-hosted or are participating from another host, such as Blogger, please leave a link to your post in the comments below.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. As a suggestion, tag your post “SoCS” and/or “#SoCS” for more exposure and more views.

8. Have fun!