Category Archives: teenagers

Alternate Universe

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Alternate Universe

I’ve managed to create this nice little alternate universe for myself via my blog. I have a handful of in the flesh friends that know about it, but not many. My blog followers, select few that you are, have come here like a gift from the blogosphere (that’s a legit word). I get a slight tingle when I see a new country highlighted in the WordPress stats. Today someone from Japan read one of my posts. No idea how or why they got here but isn’t that cool? I’m in Pennsylvania, typing away and someone in Japan just wandered in. It’s fascinating to me probably because at my age, I can still remember when none of this was possible.

For those of us over 30 (OK well over if you’re going to get particular about it) doesn’t it blow your mind how much technology has changed in the past 20 years. How much more will change in the next 20 years? I suspect we will have autonomous flying cars, artificial intelligence that can learn beyond human capability and a staggering unemployment issue and oh yes, Mars isn’t off the table – thanks Elon Musk.

What are we losing with all of this technological advancement? Do we have to lose something, is that required? I don’t know but I have observed a some things that concern me – instant gratification, loss of privacy and a lack of creativity and freedom.

I have two kids a tween and a teen. They have reasonable restrictions on device time. There are no devices allowed in their bedroom at night. For one kid it wouldn’t even be an issue as he doesn’t care at all. My daughter, on the other hand,would be up all night on Instagram, chatting with friends, making bad musically videos and would be busy not sleeping.

The ability to text, tweet, post and communicate instantaneously has helped to create a generation that expects instant gratification. Midlifers, remember when we would call our best friend in 5th grade on the corded phone on a table or attached to the wall? The phone was always located in some public space in your house and you had to push down on buttons or worse, stick your finger in the circle of the corresponding numbers to spin the phone wheel and call? And, gasp, sometimes no one answered or the phone was busy so you had to try to call them again later and move on with your 10 year old life. Kids don’t do that today. They rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to hear back from a friend and if they don’t hear back immediately, a bit of panic sets in. It’s kind of crazy.

I remember being bored plenty as a kid and I would go outside or write in a journal. We had to make up our own games to pass the time and if we were lucky we got some local kids to join in. We played spontaneously and we figured stuff out. You didn’t like everyone and everyone didn’t like you but you could usually make it work long enough for some variation of tag or cops and robbers. I don’t see that much where we live, sure it happens but it’s special when it does because it isn’t the norm. The usual here is organized activities and sports.

Kids aren’t off the leash much either these days. We need to know where they are all the time because there are bad people out there (and no sh*t, there really are bad people out there). Hell there are sneakers with tracking devices in them now….it’s kind of like Little Johnny is on house arrest or maybe block arrest. Their expectations for privacy are at the bare minimum. They don’t want you to walk in on them while they’re getting changed but most anticipate some level of monitoring of their electronic activities. Late 70’s and early 80’s kids wouldn’t stand for that. We kept our stuff private and if someone read our journal there was hell to pay. Our parents didn’t know where we were half the time and we couldn’t be tracked with a Find My Phone app. If they asked where we were we would either tell them or make up something that sounded reasonable. It was kind of awesome.

Here’s a little something to make you laugh, courtesy of YouTube

 

 

 

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Gasping for Air

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Gasping for Air

What does a writer do when they feel too vulnerable to write? It’s OK I’ll just wait over here until the universe can send me an answer….still waiting……….waiting some more. Well the universe doesn’t seem to be getting back to me so I guess I’ll have to take the steering wheel, again.

I feel like the world has gone fahking mad. How did we get here? The terrorists attacks, the society of rage that seems to be festering all around us……Donald Trump. It feels like one big WTF moment that has gone viral well beyond it’s 15 minutes of fame. So there’s that.

On a personal level I have been watching my kids struggle with tween/teen issues. I feel like my heart resides outside my body in two distinct and always moving places…..and it can be assaulted at any time, unprovoked. I guess that’s how it is when you have kids, forever vulnerable. I don’t think this is a phase we will transition through….sure the teen years will pass, but I will always be vulnerable to their pain, assuming I’m aware of it.

My kids tell me a lot, maybe too much. I’d rather know what’s going on, at least for now. I reserve the right to change my mind on that in the future. My husband thinks I coddle. I disagree. I think I have created a mostly safe place for our children to come to when they need to talk. I say mostly safe because sometimes I suck at this parenting thing. Catch me at 11pm on any given night and I am not at my best and neither are they. Yet that seems to be the time when they want to get close and tell me their fears, their sadness, their pain and of course their joys and dreams as well. It’s a mixed bag but lately the mix is leaning heavy on fears and sadness and it’s weighing us all down.

Raising humans is hard. I mean think about it you are shaping a person into their pre-adult self….enormous fahking responsibility. And I know this…..I’ve been doing the parent thing for over 13 years now…it’s just sometimes that weight just smacks you in the face when you were taking a moment to look the other way. Blind sided, unprepared caught unaware, gasping for air. That’s how it feels right now.

Bomb Squad Mom

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Bomb Squad Mom

It’s that delightful time of year again. Everyone has mentally checked out of school but we have to send the kids anyway because, rules. It happens every year sometime between spring break and whenever the weather gets nice, kids lose their minds. All of them, even the nice compliant kids. The school cafeteria takes on a “Lord of the Flies” atmosphere. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of all of the important dates and forms in a flurry of end of the year activities.

The home routines also take a nose dive. I double dog dare you to tell me you are as vigilant in May as you are in September…..I’m looking at you parents. I am a tiger Mom in the fall by late spring I’m more indoor declawed house cat. Bed time slips from 8:30 to 9 to 9:30 to – hey kids turn the lights off when you go to bed Momma needs her ZZZZZZs. Kidding those buggers still want me to tuck them in.

The later bed time makes the morning routine oh so pleasant though. My morning wake ups are met with grunts and groans and I know at least one of my kids fought the urge to through a stuffie at me this morning. My daughter is the tough one at the moment. She is a typical tween girl and is perhaps ever so slightly mentally unstable at times. The mood swings are of biblical proportion. One minute she wants to cuddle and the next minute is all exorcist 360 degree head spin.

During these times I feel like I am on the Mom Bomb Squad. I have a set time period in which to get her out the door and on to the bus preferably without an explosion. 19 1/2 more days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teachable Moments

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Teachable Moments

For those who are not familiar….teachable moments tend to be awful and necessary. They also like to present themselves at inconvenient times and mostly in public places usually when you are exhausted or at least exasperated. My husband and I are raising two kids; a nearly 13 year old boy and an 11 year old girl. If you haven’t raised humans up to the tween phase let’s just say things get interesting. My number one goal in parenting is to raise kind, productive people that contribute to society in a positive way. I’m not hoping to get a sports scholarship, ivy league acceptance or even perfect hair….I just don’t want to raise assholes.

My kids are opposites in some ways. My son wants to stay a kid. So much so that I had to break the news to him about Santa Claus a few months ago. For the past two years I’d been leaving hints in bits of conversation like scattered bread crumbs, hoping he would ask for more. I leaned heavy on the “traditions” aspect of Christmas and would often say things like, different families have different traditions. We would discuss this regarding Santa and the Elf on the Shelf. I even suggested…scratch that….flat out told him…..”Do NOT talk about Santa at school.” The point is the hints were there, I left them scattered about to ease the transition. He didn’t bite, not even a nibble.

This Christmas Eve he had the “Santa Tracker” on his Ipod and made intermittent announcements about where Santa was in his one night gift giving world tour. I made a mental note to squash Santa on December 26th. Of course that day came and went and I finally had to make myself tell him the last day of winter break. It was hard. I waited until we were alone and I looked him in the eye and decided to ask “Do you really believe in Santa?” I saw sadness and fear in his eyes and I knew I was about to take away a piece of his childhood. It killed me to tell him but he’s in middle school if word got out, the mob would descend on him like vultures on a fresh carcass. I was gentle and direct when I told him something to the effect of……..there isn’t one Santa, there are many Santas – moms, dads, grandparents, brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends….there isn’t one man dropping off presents all over the world. Santa is the idea of giving without expectation, it’s a tradition and a fairy tale rolled into a beautiful message of giving. We both cried a little and hugged. A few minutes later I asked him if he had any questions or if he wanted to talk about it. His only response was “I don’t believe you”. True story.

Now for the girl….ahhh tween girl drama is brutal. We have already experienced frenemies and flat out bullies. At times I think my daughter has been a bit of a bully and I called her on it immediately. I tell her constantly about the importance of not talking smack about people and treating everyone the way you want to be treated. I monitor her Instagram and I am shocked at some of the conversations that take place.

My kids have limited access to electronic devices. Half an hour during the week and an hour on weekends and holidays. They are not permitted to have their Ipods in their rooms at night. This past Valentine’s Day there was a conversation with several girls on Instagram and two girls were pondering where my daughter was since she wasn’t responding. One girl suggested she was dead, another suggested she was pregnant. Yes you read that right and these girls were 10. Do you think their parents monitor their Instagram? Doubtful.

My daughter has not yet found her tribe. She floats between different groups of girls and has some close friends. She does not have a best friend at the moment and she is trying to make me her best friend. This is achingly sweet, but let’s be honest I can’t be her BFF, I have to discipline her. She is very emotional right now and requires a lot of one on one time and I am juggling the chainsaws and kittens the best I can. Yesterday was a disaster.

We set time aside to go shopping in a mall. Let me just state this for the record – I hate to shop, especially at malls but this is my girl so I make time for it. We stopped at a friend’s house on the way which took longer than expected and as a result we had less time to shop. She had about 10 items on her list of things she wanted to do and we had time for maybe 7. When I told her it was time to go, a tear slid down her cheek and I got the instant whinny rebuttal from her. I felt a lava like rage boiling in my gut and I insisted that we had to go.

I won’t lie it was ugly and I wish I conducted myself differently. My initial fear was that I was raising a self entitled spoiled brat and that is oh so unacceptable. I told her we needed to leave and I walked at a very fast pace. She was a wreck. I did not yell but the anger was coming off of me like steam, it was palpable. She was crying before we got in the car.

My tone of voice and body language made it clear that I was angry and I wasn’t good at listening to why she was upset in the first few moments. I came to my own conclusion that my daughter was being a spoiled brat. That probably wasn’t entirely fair but it wasn’t completely off the mark either. So I stepped on to my soap box and told her how I will not tolerate a spoiled entitled child. I explained that I wanted her to focus on kindness, a work ethic, academics and not on shiny pretty things we get at the mall.

Then I droned on in a way that has made kids eyes roll for centuries. I told her that when I grew up, the only clothes I got were hand me downs from my cousins. In addition, I got one new outfit that my Nana would buy me in early September before school started each year. Then I realized that this conversation was taking a toll on her and I reminded my daughter that she is funny, smart and kind to animals and people and that I liked those things about her. I told her that I worried that she was too concerned about designer labels and material things…. Geezus it was just too much to put on 11 year old shoulders.

At the end of the day we were both calm and discussed better strategies for our next outing. We have determined that a prioritized list will help us stay on track and help us better focus our time. We both apologized to each other and ended the night with our usual tuck in – saying prayers, reviewing the best parts of the weekend, making plans before the final I love you for the night. So many teachable moments this weekend and sometimes it’s hard to keep my own brand of crazy out of the mix. My own childhood haunts me and I know it echos into my present parenting abilities. So as the teachable moments keep coming, I need to remind myself to stay teachable. Parenting is hard.

 

 

 

The Family From Hell

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The Family From Hell

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 Long Eddy 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 Argiros 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.

Today I spoke with another survivor, she lived at The Family Foundation School for 993 days. I can only imagine what she endured there. It would likely include a daily barrage of yelling, demeaning confrontations, sexual misconduct and/or abuse, violent physical altercations, forced to eat foods that may cause an allergic reaction or be against religious beliefs, squalor, back breaking physical labor and punishments for imagined misdemeanors. Oh and by the way a  large chunk of students that attended this pay as you go private “therapeutic school”, never even earned their High School Diploma. Many students spent so much time in some form of punishment – for example, being wrapped in a blanket with duct tape around it, sometimes for days while they soiled themselves, sitting in a corner staring at a wall for endless hours because you wouldn’t say you were an alcoholic or admit to some horrendous deed that your house leader insists you did (even when you didn’t). I’ve read the testimonies of the alumni and it is heartbreaking.

My new friend keeps a memorial page for the alumni of the FFS that have passed away. She just posted condolences for #85. That is the 85th known alumni to die. This school was opened for approximately 30 years and the oldest alumni would be under 50 years old. I’m not sure how many teens went through the school in the time it was open but that seems like a lot of deaths. Sadly, a high percentage of these people have passed away from suicide. I’m sure others have died from complications of drug and alcohol abuse. Some of the students had no prior alcohol or drug use before they got to FFS and when they got out they found it nearly impossible to blend into the real world, many started to use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Please keep this mind if you know someone looking for a school setting for a “troubled teen”. There are so many organizations that currently exist that are every bit as horrible as FFS. They are scattered across the country as therapeutic schools or teen wilderness programs. I realize that there are many troubled teens that need help….I implore you to do a thorough search when considering these residential situations. It is not enough to read reviews on the facility or agency website. You need to do your own search with county and state agencies, see if there are complaints, seek out alumni that have nothing to lose from being candid. Insist on being able to communicate with your loved one on a consistent basis with some level of privacy. Trust your instincts, if the place seems off, don’t risk it, keep searching.

 

 

 

 

 

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/

 

 

Do You Value Free?

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Do You Value Free?

Do you value something if it’s free? I was listening to the radio and the DJ was discussing college students protesting for free college tuition and she asked the question “do you value free?” It’s been stuck in my head ever since. Then I thought of what is free – air, water (not really free anymore unless it rains). Then I thought of air and water again and collectively, as the human race, we haven’t valued them much. I realize I am painting with a broad brush but look how we have f*cked up the air and water. Do we value free? I’m not so sure.

Then I reflected on my education….graduate cum laude from the school of hard knocks. I did actually graduate from college with a B.A. but I didn’t take the usual path. I grew up in a pretty messed up family and I missed a year of high school when I was a sophomore. I went back to a different school and finished my sophomore year. I got about half way through my junior year when I decided to pull the plug on high school. It just didn’t work for me and I felt like I was wasting my time….so I quit.

I took the GED as soon as I could and then registered for community college. I had to take a math class over the summer but that was it. I started full time in the fall and my grades were good, honor roll good. I left high school a year and a half early and had no problem jumping into full time community college. What does that say for a mid 80’s high school education in central New Jersey? I’d like to say that I am of superior intelligence but…eh, well, nope, not so much.

The big difference was that I had to pay for college so I was serious about it. Unlike high school where it didn’t really matter because this girl was not vying for the ivies or even a state college. You see we were broke and I wasn’t a star athlete or an academic genius so I knew I had to pay my way. I did get a few Pell Grants to get me started but that didn’t cover everything. So I worked to cover the rest including living expenses. I had been paying my share of rent, food and clothes since I was 15 so it wasn’t a new concept.

It probably took me 4 years to get my Associates Degree. Work came before school because it needed to in order to survive. After I graduated I took a couple years to just focus on work. I had always been a good worker wherever I was and I was getting consistent promotions at work. Eventually though I saw a dead end without a baccalaureate so I started to chip away at one. The companies I worked for offered some tuition reimbursement which helped. The rest I paid for one class at a time.

Was it easy, no I busted my ass. Was it worth it, definitely. I eventually finished my B.A. and got an even better job. Here’s the best part, no student loans. When I was done my education didn’t haunt me like some heinous ex reminding me of the good times in college. No I was free to go on with my life, debt free.

Do I think college is over priced and out of reach for too many students? Yes, I do. Do I think college should be free? No I don’t, because it won’t be valued.

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.