Category Archives: recovery

Mother’s Day is Hard……

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Mother’s Day is Hard……

Mother’s Day is hard for me.  My mother lives close by in a small house that I bought for her. It’s in a retirement community and is a 10 minute drive from me. And it is kind of a remarkable thing given our history. Let’s be clear though, I mostly bought the house for me, not her. I need to be OK with myself after she passes.

My mother has been mentally unstable my entire life. As a young child I watched her drink alcoholically, drive drunk, and create drama. There were the standard saturday morning thrashings if my brother or I woke her up too early. If I’m honest, my brother took the brunt of that. I would scurry away and he would try to reason with her, smack. When I was in first grade she was brushing my hair and got so frustrated with me that she hit me hard on the forehead, which caused a bump and a surprising amount of blood. I was told to say I walked into the door so mommy wouldn’t get in trouble. Most of the abuse was mental. She would routinely say “I wish you were never born”. That’s hard to reconcile as a child, hell it’s hard to type that now.

It was just the three of us – my mother, twin brother and I. My parents divorced when we were two years old. We saw our father on a regular basis until we were moved out of state at 8 years old.This move followed a custody battle between our parents and as soon as the ink was dry from the case our mother moved us to Florida with her charismatic and somewhat insane boyfriend. So we went from 3 to 4 for one drama filled year.

I remember crossing the state line in a red convertible Cadillac “Welcome to Florida – The Sunshine State”. It was pouring and the irony or perhaps it was foreshadowing was not lost on me. That year was filled with insanity and contradictions. We moved four times in 10 months and went to two different school districts. There were snakes and palmetto bugs, lizards and a trip to Disney. We had a 40-foot boat and I learned to fish and went snorkeling, it wasn’t all bad.

The bad was really bad though.The relationship between my mother and her boyfriend was volatile. I saw him beat her. I listened to countless loud, uncontrollable arguments. At one point my mother left with my brother to go back to New Jersey. I was left in Florida with a family that we barely knew.  They had rented one of the houses we had lived in and they had 5 kids, I was 9 years old.Who does that? Who leaves their 9 year old girl in another state with strangers for a month. A desperate crazy person, that’s who.

My mother came back in about a month and was promptly hospitalized after a suicide attempt. I was sent to a foster home for a week. Soon after my mother had another breakdown and destroyed the place we were living in. I watched her get arrested and placed in the back of a police car. A few days later I was taking my first ever plane ride back to New Jersey, alone.  My brother and I stayed with our grandparents for the next year until mom could get a place for the three of us.

The roller coaster continued throughout my formative years.Mother continued to drink and spoke of suicide often. Each day when I got home from school I would walk into every room in our apartment. Honestly, I did not connect the dots on this behavior until I was an adult, but I was looking for my mother’s body. There were also plenty of nights when I found her passed out on the floor with the telephone cord wrapped around her or in the bathroom. In between there was lots of yelling, uncertainty, acid laced gossip and talk of bankruptcy. I would be filled with panic when I heard my mother’s footsteps coming home at night, we never knew what to expect.

The high level of dysfunction continued until 1983. That year I was sent to rehab after a brief but intense bout of teenage rebellion. My mother had just gotten sober and once again introduced an insane man into our lives. Eventually that union caused the original three to be scattered in different living situations. My year consisted of institutions – including a cult working farm which portrayed itself as a recovery half way house. My brother lived with a friend’s family and mom couch surfed. The three of us never shared the same roof again – my brother and I were 15.

I grew up fast out of necessity, with little familial guidance. I learned how to “adult” in AA. Truly the 12 steps are a nice road map for life and I sure as shit wasn’t getting solid pointers at home. I learned about taking responsibility for my actions and my emotions. I became financially independent while I was a teenager and harnessed a strong work ethic. I put myself through college and really have done OK for myself despite the enormous odds stacked against me.

So how is it that after the shit storm that was my childhood am I able to care for my mother in a way that she never did for me? I don’t know maybe I get the illness part of mental illness. I mean if she had cancer or lupus I wouldn’t abandon her. I know it isn’t the same because the cancer patient doesn’t typically destroy others with their narcissistic ways, but I do know this, the woman is not well. So for the past 20 years or so I have managed to find a balance between compassion and self preservation.

So once again I will opt for the funny Mother’s Day card and some flowers, maybe a meal out for mom. I will not blubber on about how wonderful she is or post pictures on Facebook of smiling faces. I don’t do fake but I can do compassion.

 

 

 

 

I’m Angry

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I’m Angry

I am angry and sad, disgusted, grateful and happy. So what led me to be this twitching mass of emotions? My past. Old wounds long ago scabbed over and faded are suddenly brought to light. Burning sun on Mercury light. Yesterday I unearthed a message that was buried in the not yet friends message folder in Facebook. It was waiting there for three weeks.

It was from a lovely women living in another continent who stumbled upon my humble blog. She was enthusiastic in her message to me, a total stranger, because we shared a common teenage horror. We were each sent to “The Family” in upstate NY in 1984 when we were 15 years old. We were not there at the same time but our experiences had some unfortunate overlap.

I have written about “The Family” before in some of my posts which describe my first year of sobriety. Here’s where they come in to play in my story if you are so inclined,  https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/05/02/1-out-of-37-part-4/  it was a horrible place to say the least and not something I think about often. Of course now that it has been revisited, I find myself in investigative mode and the stuff under the rocks is pretty gross. Think contender for Dante’s 10th circle of hell and you’d be getting warmer, much warmer.

Tony Argiros and his wife Betty ran “The Family” when I was there  in January of 1984.I’m not sure how long they were in the group home/work farm business at that point but I found some testimonials that go back to 1979. I suppose they tweaked their sadistic craft over the course of several years and decided that they were so fabulous at wrecking lives that they ought to expand their services.

My new online friend informed me that Tony and Betty Argiro founded The Family Foundation School in Hancock, NY. According to Wikipedia The Family Foundation School was established in 1984. In googling the school’s name I came across a website http://www.thefamilyschooltruth.com/Home.html whose sole purpose was to get the place shut down. They sought testimonials from alumni, parents and staff. After a 5 year battle, they were successful and ultimately the place shut down. The Family Foundation School, later known as the Allynwood Academy closed in 2014.

Sadly, in the time that they were open, hundreds, if not thousands of lives were forever altered. I’ll toss a bone Tony’s way and suggest that perhaps a handful of kids were helped along the way. And I say that knowing the ends do not always justify the means. Based on the testimonials that I read, the school shared some common traits with it’s precursor group home “The Family”.

Both places had a strict blackout period during which residents could not even communicate with their parents. Pro tip, if a place says your kid can’t talk to you for 3 months, that’s a red flag. They shared a focus on breaking down the individual.  They did this by removing all personal belongings, providing unfamiliar clothes, cutting hair in a severe manner and horrid meal times where staff and residents would select targets for humiliation and degradation. With the added bonus of sleep deprivation and physical labor to the point of exhaustion.I honestly don’t know how some of these kids made it, some where there 3 or 4 years. To top it off many of the alumni complained they never finished school due to excessive punishment or manual labor. It was supposed to be a school….shouldn’t the academics come first?

Imagine if Jim Jones opened a school except there’s no Kool-Aid. Just a steady barrage of soul shattering punishments, isolation and humiliation. The founders loosely based the school on a 12 step program and inserted their own brand of insane diabolical fundamentalist values. The result was disastrous.

Read the words of the alumni testimonials. Visualize for yourself what these teenagers endured, some for several years. I only spent a month or so during my incarceration at the family farm and in that time I ran away twice. I was successful the second time. Others tried to runaway from the school or the farm. One kid was killed by an 18 wheeler in his desperate attempt to flee the farm. Many attempts were made at the school and at one point they used search and rescue dogs to retrieve the escapees. Another student killed himself by jumping off a second story balcony. During my time I fantasized about breaking a leg just to go to the hospital. I even had a failed attempt at burning the place down. I understand their pain and I want to tell their stories.

 

 

 

 

 

Keep On Truckin’……….Part 9

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Keep On Truckin’……….Part 9

So in 1983 my world imploded just the tiniest bit. We had been living in the same town in central NJ for about 5 years. Some years were better than others but it was the longest stretch I had lived anywhere in my 15 years so it felt like home. I lived there with my mother and twin brother.

A little background, mom was a drunk until she got sober for good in August of 1982. That is pretty much when I started to drink and “experiment” with drugs. Fortunately for me, I had limited means so it was mostly some pot and an occasional pill. I am pretty sure I would have tried anything put in front of me. We called that a garbage head in the 80’s. I was quite reckless and I put myself in harm’s way on a regular basis. Traded in my long term friends for a sketchier variety that wanted to meander along with me on my path of self destruction.

How did the once good girl suddenly find her self so misguided? Escape. I just wanted to escape from the life I was in. As a young girl I remember looking at the most popular girl in the class and I wondered….what is it like to be Kim? Back then I was a judge-a-book-by-it’s-cover kind of gal and my cover was torn, tattered with some coffee stains and a cigarette burn or two. Kim had a flawless, shiny, smells like a new car cover going on…..I wondered what that was like.

In addition to having the family from hell I also had a fairly long “awkward stage” that’s the stage when the kid is fairly ugly for a few years and everyone hopes it’s temporary. So I basically went from being the buck-toothed scrawny girl to braces straightened teeth, kind of pretty and overly made up. It wasn’t a magnificent transition but it was enough to get the boys to notice me. The ones who made fun of me the year before suddenly wanted to “hang out”. I was insecure enough to not tell them to fuck off. If only I had a time machine…….

So this is where my childhood ends. The story, my story continues in another series titled…..(insert drum roll here) “1 in 37……..”. That series describes my first year of recovery. Spoiler alert I have been sober since 1983. Don’t let that stop you from reading…….some crazy shit happened that first year (and trust me, I know crazy, we’re like besties….smh).

https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/04/28/1-out-of-37-part-1/

 

 

Beating the Odds

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Beating the Odds

I grew up in a the textbook dysfunctional family. Divorced parents, alcoholic mother, absent father, no money and not a lot of hope. There was verbal abuse, some physical abuse and of course the mental torture that lends itself to that environment. The odds were stacked against me.

I cleaned up after my mom when she got drunk. I was the good little enabler, the peace keeper, people pleasing and overly responsible little kid. It gave me a sense of importance, a purpose. I was needed. No matter how many times my mother told us “I wish you were never born” and she said that frequently, I knew she needed me. I had a purpose and I swore, swore to myself I would never EVER end up like her.

Not sure when I had my first drink but it was a grenade from go. I remember my first real drunk though, it was planned. I stole a bottle of Jack Daniels from my uncle’s stash. He had a large basement bar and I was confident no one would notice the missing bottle. A few days later I rode my bicycle to my friends house and three of us started drinking the Jack Daniels and some beer. We were counting out our shots and I got to 21. Seems I won or lost depending on how you see the world. Now I have to say I felt fine with my 21 shots of Jack and assorted beer until I attempted to stand up….then the world shifted in that carnival spinning ride way and I was in and out of a black out for the next several hours.

I woke up in the hospital with a nurse complimenting my nail polish. I didn’t know how I got there. I did notice that my bra was undone and my jeans were unzipped. I was a 14 year old virgin at the time and required a gynecological exam to determine if my hymen was intact. Fortunately it was and the incident became an early example of how I would put myself in harms way so I could get wasted.

I became what was termed in the 80’s, a garbage head. I would do whatever chemical was available to get high. I was really lucky that there wasn’t a lot of intense stuff like cocaine or heroin. I have no doubt that I would become hooked on anything that was within reach, it is in my DNA. I hitch hiked for a chance to get high. I knocked on random doors if I liked the music I could hear from the street. I was equal parts stupid and selfish with the added affliction of being young and dumb enough to think I was bullet proof. I was a good liar, a fast talker and a quick thinker – honestly that and some invisible force in the universe stopped me from getting raped more than once.

After about a year and a half my mother was sick of her teenage daughter coming home drunk or high. My last drunk left a trail of vomit that led from the front door to my bedroom. I was able to convince everyone except my mother that I had the flu. She knew I was full of shit and decided to send me to rehab.  I was 15 at the time.

I had a pretty cocky attitude about going to rehab. I thought I could write a book about it someday, maybe gain some street greed….what a punk. What actually happened is that I had realization a few days in, some call it a spiritual awakening. It was simply this….I had a moment of clarity where I was certain that I was an alcoholic and an addict and that I needed to get sober. It was as if a new life path was placed before me and I had a moment of sanity where I chose sobriety and I have continued with that choice for more than three decades.

My first year of sobriety was absolute hell. I wrote about it in a ten part blog series called “1 Out of 37”. You can find it on my blog at https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/ I have to say since then my life has improved greatly. I would not be on this path if I wasn’t sober. No doubt about that.

1 out of 37………Part 10

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1 out of 37………Part 10

My time at Crawford House was well spent. A new “normal” was set for me as I attended regular AA meetings, group and private therapy and made some sober friends. The ladies at the halfway house were interesting. Every single one of them had a story. Having just turned 16, I had a lot to learn about life. Some residents were gay, some straight, some claimed to have had relationships with famous musicians, some had tattoos, some had kids, those were tricky relationships for me.  There was one rich girl and a handful of teenagers throughout my stay. At least half of the population never graduated from the program. Most were kicked out for using drugs or alcohol, others just bailed. Getting sober is a bitch and you need to be ready and willing to do the footwork.

I was lucky to have such limited residential options. My family circumstances kept me in institutions for a majority of the first 10 months of my sobriety. That gave me time to get settled into the whole sobriety thing and come to terms with a “God of my understanding”. I was kept away from people, places and things that would have likely led me to use drugs or alcohol. My sobriety from the age of 15 is indeed miraculous and it is something I could not have done alone.

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I was discharged from Crawford House in early August of 1984. As you probably guessed my family life did not magically fix itself. The first night I got out my mom and I stayed at a hotel in Hightsown, New Jersey. She left me alone in the hotel room to go on a date. My brother was not with us. He was living somewhere in Sayreville, New Jersey. That was where I lived before I went to rehab the first time in the fall of 1983. My mother’s brief second marriage imploded our trio.  So my brother was couch surfing through high school and my mom and I were still figuring it out.

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I spent a few weeks sleeping on the couch of an old family friend. Her name was Eleanore and at the time she was sober about 5 years which is forever when you are new. I remembered Eleanore as a spectacular drunk from many years prior. We first met Eleanore in the early 1970’s. My mother, brother and I lived in a room in a boarding house in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Eleanore and her husband Frank had an efficiency in the same building….it was a palace compared to our living space.

Frank and Eleanore were really nice to the three of us. I do remember being freaked out my Frank’s war injury. According to Frank, he was a POW in World War II and the Japanese captured him and chopped off the tips of three of his fingers. He had the stubs to prove it and you don’t forget that sight when you are 5 years old. A few years later my mother had a birthday party for my brother and I when we turned 8. Eleanore and I slept in my mother’s bed and I woke up in a pool of urine. I thought I had wet the bed and had a moment of absolute panic……then I realized my underwear was dry. Turns out Eleanore got so drunk she wet the bed. At some point she decided it was time to get sober.  It was very kind of her to let me spend some time couch surfing while my mom tried to get a place together for us.

Eleanore had an apartment in Bricktown, New Jersey. I got a chance to catch up with some friends I had made in the early part of winter.  For a brief time I stayed with Lola, my original rehab room-mate and her family, also from Bricktown. I finally had some fun again and I also got into a bit of trouble. I had no interest in drinking or using but I still had a wild streak. Lola and I hitch hiked a few times to Seaside Park to go to the boardwalk. One time we got picked up by the cops. They didn’t give us too much of a hard time but it was humiliating. The last straw for me though was when I hitch hiked alone one day and the guy that picked me up offered me money for a blow job. I declined, he kicked me out and I never hitch hiked again.

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After about a month I had to pack my bags yet again. This time I went to stay with my mother who was renting a room at her friend Lorraine’s house. Once again it was all ladies – Lorraine, her mother, Lorraine’s daughter, my mom and I living in Matawan, New Jersey. Couch surfing again until my mom and I could get an apartment.

I started 10th grade for the second time in Matawan, New Jersey. I had missed about 8 months of school the prior year so I had to stay back. This was particularly humiliating for me because I have a twin brother and he was going into 11th grade at our old school in Sayreville. To make matters worse, the apartment fell through so we were delayed again in effort to hit the reset button.

Finally in October my mom got a one bedroom apartment for us in East Windsor, New Jersey. I started at another new high school in Hightstown. The first day I was there I was mistaken for a new teacher by a male staff member. I never felt like I fit in there. Somehow though regardless of the high frequency of moving, life changes, multiple schools, the institutions, the good, the bad and the unacceptable……somehow I had made through my first year of sobriety.

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I celebrated my first anniversary at a speaker meeting in Freehold, New Jersey. I remember feeling a sense of accomplishment…..that somehow I had achieved something that not many could. I suppose that is true to a certain extent. I  prefer to see myself now as someone living their life in the manner that was intended, nothing extraordinary. I do believe that getting sober set my life on a completely different trajectory. I don’t think life would look the same if I didn’t make a decision to get sober all those years ago. I will be forever grateful to everyone that had a part in my recovery, especially that first year.

1 out of 37…………..Part 9

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1 out of 37…………..Part 9

I celebrated my 16th birthday in a substance abuse halfway house for women. Celebrate may be a little too cheery for what actually happened. As you may have guessed, I did not have an ideal family life. My twin brother and I were raised (fed, clothed and housed) by our mother. Our mother was a drunk until we were 14 years old and then she got sober. I pretty much went off the rails when she started to dry out. My level of self-destruction was about an 8 out of 10 and the speed at which it happened was super hyper fast (that’s a highly technical scientific term).

The day of my 16th birthday was a sunny Sunday in June of 1984. My mother and brother picked me up to go out for a few hours. I honestly don’t remember what we did for the first hour or two. What happened on the way back to the temporary place I called home is forever tattooed to my brain. I asked if we could stop at McDonald’s for a cheeseburger. I was after all not “free” to come and go as I pleased so this would have been a treat…..on my birthday….my 16th birthday.

The place I was staying at was in the country….not Nebraska country but rural New Jersey.  It took a solid 12 minutes of winding country roads to drive to McDonald’s. You would have thought I asked for a kidney, a bag of cash and an all expense paid trip to Europe. At first the request was met with a slightly irritated shrug and an OK attitude. As the minutes and miles ticked upward the resentment and outward rage began to boil over, for both of them.Featured image

My mother started bitching about how far it was and soon my brother chimed in. He had friends to see and things to do – fun things, with real people in what once was my home town. No one had the time or inclination to satisfy my stupid request and yet here we were driving toward a cheeseburger…..it was horrible.

I’m sure I fought the tears as long as I could, that was my way. I just couldn’t believe how selfish and cruel they were being. It was my 16th f*cking birthday and I’m basically in a lock up facility….getting sober. Early sobriety isn’t easy for anyone let alone a teenager and you two can’t take an extra half hour out of your day for a simple request. Assholes.

By the time we got to McDonald’s I was a wreck. I’m not sure how much it showed. I was told to go in and get my cheeseburger and come back. They waited impatiently in the car. I got out of the car, walked straight through the place and ugly cried in the back parking lot of that McDonald’s. I gave myself a good five minutes before I could muster the strength to get back in the car sans cheeseburger. They didn’t know I skipped the burger, they didn’t care. They just wanted to drop me off so they could get on with their much-better-than-mine lives.

When we got back to Crawford House the place was empty and the doors were locked. I assured my mother that someone would be there soon. She did not require a lot of convincing and quickly left. They left me there outside oblivious and/or indifferent to how shitty they just treated me. Who does that?

I was out there maybe half an hour before other residents started to return with the weekend supervisor. Those women hugged me and comforted me and treated me like a human being. I was safer there with drunks and addicts in early recovery than I was with my own family. Perhaps my mother did me a favor by keeping me away from her.

To be continued……………https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/05/29/1-out-of-37-part-10/

1 out of 37….Part 8

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1 out of 37….Part 8

So in mid February of 1984 I found myself in an adolescent rehab (again). This time I was about five months sober. I was there because I had no where else to live. I was 15 years old and no relatives would take me in. My mother got married to a monster two days after I got out of rehab in December. He got violent shortly after the wedding so my mother did not want me (or my brother) to stay there. I stayed with a friend’s family for a short time, that didn’t last. Then I ran away from the halfway house from hell in upstate New York. It was not an easy time. I find it ironic that in AA they tell you not to make any major changes the first year of sobriety, yeah right.

I felt like I could exhale when I got back in rehab. My life was so intense during my short span of sobriety that the place felt like home. It was nice to be around other young people. Some even shared my desire for sobriety. The counselors were extra kind to me, they made me feel special. More important, they made me feel loved. I was so in need of that at the time.

The plan was to go through the 28 day program and then go directly to a halfway house in New Jersey. Rehab was crowded compared to the first time. There were a lot more people which meant a lot more families visiting on weekends. That was rough for me as I did not get a lot of visits. Infrequent visits created another issue, no clean laundry. The place did not have a washer or dryer so most families would bring clean laundry for their kids every weekend. I wound up doing a lot of laundry in the bathroom sink. It was not an esteem builder. I did not feel loved by my family.Featured image

Thank God there were people that showed me kindness. I had an excellent tutor named Max, he encouraged me to write. At that time I wrote a lot of poems and he gave me a beautiful bound book to keep them in. I got him hooked on blueberry bubblicious so it was a mutually beneficial relationship.

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Some Sundays a religious couple would come to the rehab and offer a Christian Service for anyone that wanted to participate. The woman that came had a beautiful hair clip and I complimented her on it. Without hesitation she removed it from her long brown hair and handed it to me. I knew she wanted me to have it with all her heart. I also made a good friend there named Jen – we still keep in touch.

My counselor was named Laura and her husband Phil also worked at the rehab. They were both so kind to me. Many times Laura told me how much she wanted to take me in….to the point where I could visualize my own bedroom in her house. Phil told me that sobriety isn’t about a destination…it’s all about the journey. This time around the major lesson was love and kindness as I prepared for the next phase of recovery.

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In early April I was released from rehab and taken to Crawford House in Skillman, NJ. I was scared. The place I had been to in New York was awful, truly awful. Thankfully Crawford House was different. When I was there in 1984, residents lived in a big old house and there were cows roaming around the front lawn. I was relieved to learn that we were not required to maintain the cows (unlike the first halfway house). This was an all female house (another sigh of relief) and I was the youngest one there. My room-mate was named Michelle and she was 17.

The first 15 minutes I was there another resident asked me if I was gay….that was a pretty big deal in 1984. I told her that I wasn’t and her response was “don’t knock it ’til you try it.” That was a little unsettling but if I could live with 30 male nearly convicts and not get physically assaulted, I was pretty sure I could hold my own in this place. I did find a vibrator in my bedroom closet that first night and I didn’t know what the hell it was….so clearly I had a lot to learn. I suspect the last girl left it as a welcome gift or perhaps she was severely disappointed when she unpacked…..but I digress.

This place was OK. There were about a dozen ladies living in the house at any given time. Everyone had chores and we all took turns cooking dinner. Cooking dinner for a dozen people was not a skill I came in with but I learned. In the summer I was able to get a job as a janitor cleaning a school which was within walking distance. I was happy to have a job that paid.

The services at this place were light years ahead of “The Family” in upstate New York. I had a counselor named Theresa and we had group sessions and regular AA Meetings. My favorite meeting was on Thursday Nights on Witherspoon Street in Princeton. It was a speaker meeting and there was an old timer in the group that would say “uh ha” every time he agreed with the speaker, it became comforting for me. I also got my first AA sponsor at that meeting and celebrated a long overdue 90 days.

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I was so gullible I was always stunned when someone got kicked out for using. There were some interesting characters in that place. I wish I kept a journal. There were a few girls that resented me but honestly I didn’t know it until they confessed with an apology. I was upbeat most of the time. We had a chalk board near the phone (single phone with a cord,1984 y’all) and I always wrote something positive there – Sobriety First, Happy 24, stuff like that. I had some hiccups along the way too, the worst was my 16th birthday.

To be continued…………..https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/05/13/1-out-of-37-part-9/

1 out of 37………..Part 7

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1 out of 37………..Part 7

We got to Monticello, NY unharmed. I was filled with a liberating joyful feeling from running away from “The Family” but I had no idea what lay ahead for me. I was officially an out of state runaway. Sandy couldn’t go to her family so we went to stay with some of her friends. I find it amazing that someone would let an unknown 15 year old that just escaped from a halfway house sleep on their couch but they did.

The first night there we decided to go to an AA meeting. Above everything I still wanted to be sober. We hitch hiked to a meeting. We got picked up by some of Sandy’s friends, not the sober kind. I mean who doesn’t love getting a ride to an AA meeting in a car that is filled with pot smoke.

Bear in mind, weed was my very favorite thing on earth. I loved it more than alcohol. Weed had the benefit of causing a great high (until the paranoia set in) without the puking. So while I was in the back seat of some strangers car on my way to an AA meeting, someone handed me a lit joint. I held it between my thumb and pointer finger in my right hand and I tilted it from side to side as if studying something new for the first time. The thoughts in my head were this – I’m 15, no one will know, no one cares, I’m basically homeless and damn I love weed. I passed it on to the next passenger without taking a hit. In AA/NA they say that there comes a time when the only thing between you and a drink (drug) is your higher power, that was my time. Three decades later I can recall that time with the clarity of something that happened five minutes ago. That time has kept me sober through some real shitty days.

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We spent a few days basking in the freedom. Sandy was already smoking pot but her drug of choice was heroin. The guy that picked us up hitch hiking made good on his offer to take us back to “The Family” to get our belongings. I look back on it now and marvel at the balls it took to go back there. I marched in there with my make up on in normal teenage clothes and demanded my things back. Oh and by the way f*ck you. Best day ever.

I knew that Monticello was not a long term plan for me so I started making calls. First I called my best friend back in New Jersey and her family was on board with me staying there for a while. The problem was I needed transportation. I called Catholic Charities and requested money to get back to New Jersey. They wouldn’t help because I was a minor. I still did not want to call my mother so I called New York Child Protective Services (CPS).

I turned myself into a CPS office and I was brutally honest with the person I met. I basically said I’m a minor you need to deal with me. Do not send me back to the crazy ass half way house again because I WILL runaway. By the way you may want to check out the place because I am sure they have countless violations. So I got sent to an emergency foster home until my mother could pick me up.

I can’t remember the name of the place I got sent to or where it was located. It was a seasonal hotel, summer being their busy season. It was a beautiful place and the lady there was so nice. She told me not to smoke in my room and like a selfish brat I did. Other than that I followed the rules. I was there maybe 4 days before my mom picked me up. Talk about a long awkward car ride. She was pissed that she had to drive 4 hours each way to pick me up. I was pissed because, well everything……

On the ride back she told me I would be home for a few days and then I would go back to rehab. Not sure if she thought I drank, she probably did. She told me the reason I was going back to rehab was because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. She also wanted to find a better half way house for me and I would have to enter it directly from rehab. Awesome. So here I am four months sober going back to rehab.

To be continued……………….https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/05/12/1-out-of-37-part-8/

1 out of 37………..Part 6

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1 out of 37………..Part 6

“The Family” was a long term facility and most graduates stayed two years to complete the program. I could not swallow such a big, bitter pill so I focused on the first three months. Each day trudged along and I was depressed but playing along to just crawl through my 90 day blackout period. About a month into my stay two counselors came up from the adolescent rehab that I had attended the prior fall. They were checking out the halfway house to see if they should refer some of their residents that needed a boost after rehab.

I look back on it now and it’s like the clouds parted and trumpets blared but I tried to stay neutral. They recognized me when they came in and somehow Tony agreed to let me visit with them instead of sending me off to do some filthy chore. Guess I had a believable game face, they must have thought that I would give the place rave reviews.  I didn’t.

I played it cool at first. Trying to convey a message with my eyes which was in absolute conflict with the words coming out of my mouth. A few minutes in they asked me how I was doing and a dam broke. I tried to keep it together but I couldn’t. I swatted the tears away and in a whisper, behind gritted teeth I told them not to send anyone to this place. I hugged them when they left and tried to get my game face back on. I was confronted immediately with angry words and an accusatory tone.

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I didn’t fight it, I admitted it…..I hated the place. I told them that I didn’t think that this setting was appropriate for me and I wanted to leave. They told me they didn’t want to be bothered calling the authorities could I wait until tomorrow. OK, I guess. The rest of the day and evening carried on without much fanfare. That night I had sheep watch at 2am and when I came back from that Sandy was awake and asked me if I wanted to leave.  Hell yes.

Within 10 minutes we were out the door headed toward Monticello, NY Sandy’s home town. Keep in mind it was February in upstate New York so it is cold, negative temperature cold. We were dressed pretty good for the weather although I managed to lose a glove at some point. The first couple of hours we hid from the few cars that we saw but mostly we sang. I don’t remember what we sang I just remember the feeling of joy from being out of that damn place……it kept me warm on a cold winter’s night.

We walked all night and into the next day when we finally got to a more active road then we went thumbs up. It is just under 50 miles to get to Monticello from Long Eddy and we probably walked half that distance. Mid morning we were able to hitch a ride with a guy in a truck. He seemed friendly but we were a little on edge. Hitch hiking sober was a lot more intense than doing it high. I calmed down soon enough.

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Maybe ten minutes into the ride a car drove past us and the guy that was driving us gave a friendly toot toot of his horn. I noticed that the car that passed us had an AA slogan bumper sticker “This too shall pass.” I asked if our new friend was in AA and he was…..the relief that washed over me was overwhelming. Sandy and I both started to tell him about the crazy place we just left and that we were sober. We explained that we just couldn’t take it there and he agreed to drive us the entire way to Monticello.  He even offered to take us back to “The Family” to collect our belongings if we wanted to…..wow. That was a real God moment for me. Just one of those times when I felt a divine intervention. I didn’t have a plan once we got to Monticello but I sure as f*ck wasn’t going back to “The Family”.

To be continued…………https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/05/08/1-out-of-37-part-7/

1 out of 37……….Part 5

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1 out of 37……….Part 5

“The Family” was an awful place but I didn’t have anywhere else to go and since my attempted escape didn’t go well I decided to fall in line. The days were long and arduous. We were up by 5am each day to work on the farm. Even as I look back on this more than 30 years later I still think they purposely gave me the most disgusting chores. My barn jobs were shoveling cow shit from the barn which is just as delightful as it sounds. I also carried bales of hay to the goat pens. Interesting job since a bale of hay was at least half my body weight.On the plus side this task wasn’t as pungent and I made friends with a billy goat.

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After the early morning chores were complete we were rewarded with breakfast. I have to say that I loved breakfast at this place. Perhaps it was the early morning activity that made me appreciate it or maybe it was the lack of things to enjoy…… whatever the reason, the guy in charge of breakfast made the best cheese omelets.

Meals were interesting and intense at this place. By interesting I mean incredibly horrible, awkward and demeaning. Imagine 40 people, mostly grown men spread out among a handful of tables that spanned two small rooms. The facilitator, Tony and his wife sat at the head of the largest table and no topic was sparred at meal time. One time a male resident discussed the fact that he had a wet dream about me the prior night. Nothing was off limits if Tony approved of it.

There were tears, yelling and general condemnation at almost every meal. One 14 year old boy routinely cried and was lambasted over his “crocodile tears”. He was the only one there younger than me and my heart broke for him a million times. Another fun fact, if you had to go to the bathroom during meal time you had to sit with your right thumb up in the hitch hiker position. You could not be excused to use the bathroom until Tony gave you permission.

Household chores were completed after breakfast. In keeping with the “shit” theme, my job was to clean the bathrooms. There were two bathrooms for 40 residents. The septic system was pretty fragile so you could only flush toilet paper when you dropped a deuce. And so it goes, I had the delightful job of cleaning the bathrooms with the piss soaked garbage cans overflowing with used toilet paper.

After morning chores it was lunch time and once again you had to hitch hike to use the bathroom and endure whatever f*cked up confrontation came up. Afternoons were a little more relaxed. They included odd jobs around the farm, perhaps some tutoring (I was supposed to be in school) and maybe some kind of recovery discussion. There were a few days when I was sent to another local community to clean rooms or make juice from raw liver. I can’t remember the religious sect but the community had “cult” written all over it. I think that place scared me more than the halfway house.Before you knew it dinner was on the table and after that there would be an AA meeting or small group discussion reading Hazleton books. Lights were out shortly after 9pm and by then you were tired.

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I shared a room with four other females we slept in a bedroom that housed three bunk beds on the lower level. I got along with one of the girls there her name was Sandy. The other three took turns crying, masterbating or talking in their sleep and none of them could be trusted. We were lucky in a sense because our room was close to the wood stove and people took turns throwing logs on the fire throughout the night. Everything was based on an odd/even schedule including showers. You could only shower every other day. Fire and sheep watch also rotated.

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Oh wait what’s sheep watch? Glad you asked – in upstate NY temperatures get very cold in the winter and pregnant sheep need to be checked to make sure that after they give birth their babies can be kept warm. If a newborn lamb is left outside it could freeze to death if left exposed to the cold for too long. So we took turns checking on the pregnant sheep every two hours. At least that was the explanation I got but perhaps it was just a ruse to keep us sleep deprived, which was a constant.

I don’t think I can adequately describe the level of despair I experienced in this place. I felt so utterly and completely alone. I worried a lot about my twin brother. One time I had a dream that he killed himself and I had no way to process those emotions. I was not allowed to call or communicate with my family in any way. I could not even jot my feelings down in a journal. I didn’t want to die but I wanted out of that place so bad that I would fantasize about breaking a leg just to get to a hospital.

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Sandy and I actually made a lame attempt at burning the place down. We didn’t want anyone to get hurt we just wanted the place to be inhabitable so we could leave. For a couple weeks Sandy and I collected matches on the sly. Late one night we put a handful of the matches along with some lighter fluid in the oven and cranked up the heat. Nothing substantial happened and the smell from the oven caused someone to investigate the kitchen. Nothing was damaged,  no one got hurt and we did not get caught which was a relief…….but the disappointment of having to stay was unbearable. I had a lot of shame about this foiled plot in my early sobriety. It could have a been a horrible disaster and I am thankful that no one was harmed.

To be continued……………https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/05/06/1-out-of-37-part-6/