Monday, July 2, 2018

Has it been 10 1/2 years? And have I not posted in almost three years?

Wow, where's the time gone?

I find it hard to believe it has been just about 10 1/2 years since I did my ten days at Schick. I do the math, then I say to myself "there's no way it has been ten years." But math says so.

A more full-featured update will be posted later this summer. I would like to share some big experiences I have coming up in August and September.

Until then I'll simply say that non-drinking persists. I'm still doing great in that area. I posted in 2015 that I was starting to wonder if I would or could drink some day, I don't really have thoughts like that any more. I have zero interest in alcohol and I'm happy about that.

In late 2016 I moved to California to take a new job. I fly back to Seattle very often to see my daughter who is now 16 and doing great. I'm now divorced but my ex-wife and I have a great friendship and I smile to see her blossoming too. Life is not without challenge, but life is good.

More to come later this year. Be well.

Friday, September 4, 2015

7.68 years later, still going

I have received encouragement from an old friend from Schick to update the blog, and after far-too-long here is my update.

After nearly seven years and eight months, I'm still alcohol-free. But occasional thoughts of "could I have a drink some day?" have happened. I admit it. But life is hard and I know I can't test it out even for a second. It would feel too good to not feel the struggles I'm dealing with.

I like to review past posts here, it is a good reminder of what I've gone through. The last few years have been tough. I wrote in 2012 that 2011 was rough for me. Indeed it was, and I'm still constantly reminded that being a grownup is difficult. At the end of 2013 I was laid off, earlier this year my wife and I separated, I feel like a terrible parent to a child that's growing up too fast. Too-often feel like this is just too hard.

But, it isn't all doom and gloom. In the last year I have really enjoyed getting my fitness on and I'm starting to run some fairly long distances. I have run five half marathons in the last year and I'm currently training for a 50km trail race. Looks like I'm going to just skip over the marathon milestone. Exercise is a wonderful defense against emotional struggle, too, but I can't get out as much as I'd like. Still, I'm proud of my running accomplishments. It helps me see how far I've come.

December 27, 2007, here's me during my intake into Schick Shadel Hospital.
Here I am in July 2015 pushing hard to finish the Dolomite Dash half marathon outside Lander Wyoming.

Even though thoughts of "maybe someday" drinking have snuck in, I am honestly happy to remain abstinent from alcohol. It would not be very helpful for the life stress I'm battling, it would also be a giant calorie infuser that would impede my running and eventually ruin my good health. I can't drink but more importantly, I don't want to drink.

Stay strong, friends, we can make it through.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

5 years

Update time!

I'm pleased to share with you that another anniversary has passed, it has now been 5 years since I completed my 10 days at Schick Shadel Hospital. Still not a single thought or desire or craving for alcohol!

I remember being advised: Don't test your aversion. I certainly haven't, however I am confident the aversion remains in me. I generally don't have a problem being around friends or coworkers who are drinking, however it has happened a couple of times that the smell of alcohol caused me to feel sick. Here's an example: In September I was visiting London for work and a couple of my colleagues and I visited a pub at the end of the day. We sat outside beside the sidewalk, my friends with their beer and me with my tonic water. Now, we were outside and I could barely smell their drinks, but after some time I actually had to get up and visit the toilet because I was sure I was going to vomit. I nearly did, but didn't end up going all the way. I was amazed how strong the aversion remains to this day.

Life still has its challenges and stress, but I'm still very grateful for the care I got at Schick.

Thank you to all of the commenters who post to this blog, it is truly a blessing that my experience can help others make the choice to get treatment.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Challenging Year

It is now the end of January 2012 and it has been just over four years since my 10-day stay at Schick Shadel Hospital came to an end. I am still not drinking. I have still never had a single craving for alcohol. Indeed the cure is still working quite well for me. However a lot happened in the time since my last post, making for a very challenging year. But even when I was most desperate I said one thing to myself over and over: I am so glad I don't drink anymore.

The details of all that happened since last January are rather boring if you're not me.  I'll just say that emotionally it was one of the hardest years of my life.  Some ups, lots of deep downs, some dark despair and too many of thoughts of ending it all.

When I drank it was to escape. It was a false escape, of course, because sometimes my anger or sadness would rise with my level of intoxication. As I struggled through this last year the only times my thoughts would turn towards drinking would be to be grateful that I don't do it anymore. So many times I said to myself (and sometimes to friends who were kind enough to listen to my woe), "I am so glad I don't drink anymore!" The stress and emotional anguish I was feeling was so great that no amount of alcohol would have been enough.

What I'm trying to communicate is that even when there are hard times we can look at sobriety as a steady rock to help us through. A lot of people, when in the midst of struggle, like to say things like "I could use a drink." And I imagine there are ex-users who, in their tough times, wish they could ease the trouble with their drug of choice. I am extremely grateful that I never had that wish, never had a craving, never wanted to go back to the old ways.  Indeed I feel so much stronger now.

Things are looking up.  The major stresses I've endured over the last year are nearly all in the past.  It gives me great hope that the future will be brighter.

Thank you to those who continue to visit this blog, and thank you for your comments to my posts.  Life in recovery isn't always easy, but even when the road is hard I am reminded that I will make it through and by not drinking I ensure that I will.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Three years and six days later

Zoom went the year.

I realized the other night that I forgot to commemorate January 6, my anniversary date for finishing my ten-day stay. Before the new year it occurred to me that I was coming up on three years and that I'd need to update this blog, but then a couple of weeks passed and I missed the day entirely.

This means that with regard to my recovery things are great. Another year gone by with never a single thought to have a drink.

Well, that's not entirely true.

In November some bad news was visited upon me. The company I own was named in a lawsuit (unjustified of course) and when it first started to sink in that no matter the outcome it was going to cost us a lot of money, I experienced a kind of despair that I'd not really felt in a while. As I drove home I thought to myself that this was almost bad enough to get me to think about having a drink. Almost.

No, I didn't actually want a drink, I didn't crave it all. But I did recognize the trigger for what it was and I am so grateful that the help I received from Schick Shadel Hospital allowed me to sail past a pretty big storm. The storm isn't over by any means, it will likely be months before this is done, but I am doing remarkably well.

One of the things I used to hear at the weekly meetings was the idea that if you ever thought you might want to use again, play the movie forward to how using would work out this time. It wouldn't be long before I'd be worse than I was in my life before Schick. There was a voice in my head in the car that night that immediately reminded me of this advice. The entire mental journey from "this sucks" to "this is the kind of thing that could almost drive me to drink" to "Thank God I don't have to do that" happened in mere seconds. I didn't need to battle a craving, I didn't need to talk myself down, and best of all it all happened pretty much automatically.

I've been a non-user now for three years. The care and treatment I received at Schick Shadel prepared me tackling the challenges of life without any worry of going back.

Thank you for reading about my experience, I enjoy reading your comments.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My ten days ended 2 years ago today

Today I celebrate two years since I finished my ten day treatment at Schick, and to me the most remarkable thing about it is how quickly the time has passed. I'm sure to others it is remarkable that I'm still sober, or maybe that in the last 730 days I've not had a single desire or craving to take a drink. But I guess to me not-using has become so normal to me I just don't even think about those possibilities.

I've done a lot in the last two years that I would have never if I was still drinking, new accomplishments, new talents, new hobbies. I'm not a new person, but the focus on the good creative parts of me is finer making it even easier to see what a wonderful and wonderfully interesting person I am.

I'll celebrate tonight by attending the meeting at the hospital, if I have anything worth saying I'll chime in, otherwise I'll just sit and send good vibes to everyone in the green scrubs.

Thank you to everyone who had read this blog, especially to those who have reached out in the comments section or said "Hi" at the Schick Meetings, I'm humbled to have been able to have even a passing part in your path to recovery.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

18 months

Recently the 18 month mark of my non-drinkerness passed, I am happy to report this aspect of my life is still going well.

I'll mark the occasion by posting this update, and I'll share a thought that I've been recently considering, a theory that was backed up with some real world experience just last night.

One thing I have heard more than several times, both while in treatment and in group meetings since, is that patients coming out treatment will probably need to find new social circles-- find new friends-- because the old friends aren't going to understand, they aren't going to accept you, they are going to pressure you to use.

Maybe my experience is unusual but I can think of exactly two times in the last year and a half where I was "challenged" about my decision not to drink. One was on a long dinner-time flight from Boston back to Seattle, the flight attendant was being very service-oriented and kept offering me wine with a slight hint of surprise that I wasn't accepting until I finally put a stop to it with a friendly "I can't drink." The second time I was "pressured" was this last April at a bar in Las Vegas. I was attending a party with industry friends and guess what, most people were drinking, and I asked the bar tender for a Sprite. "Just Sprite?" he asked with a skeptically raised brow. "Yes, just Sprite," I replied. I think there was one more round of back and forth, but I don't remember the exact conversation. Clearly I was able to handle it.

In my experience the people around you probably won't notice what you're drinking. They probably don't care. They are probably, understandably, paying closest attention to themselves.

So last night I went to a party, a get together of a bunch of old friends from high school and I hadn't seen some of these people since our 10-year reunion eight years ago. Instructions in the invite were to bring a sharable appetizer and, of course, BYOB. I brought the only app I know how to make (a garlic dip that I expected to be ignored but ended up being a hit), two Sprites and an bottle of water. I know how to party.

Based on the theme of my post you might surmise that no one noticed I wasn't imbibing, but actually you would be wrong. One person did ask me about it, one close friend who already knew that I stopped drinking and asked me how it was going. Not to challenge me, not to test me, but to learn more about my success because he cares about me.

Everyone at the party was having a grand time laughing and many were getting pretty silly, it was a fun night. No one asked why I wasn't doing shots, no one thought I was weird, no one made me feel uncomfortable.

It is wise council to beware that there will come times when someone will inevitably invite you to stray from your convictions, but I'm not sure you need to make yourself sick worrying about it. You may be, as I have been, pleasantly surprised by how little people are concerned with your business.

I wish good luck and continued success to all of those who have worn the green scrubs. I am grateful for this journey, and there is more to come.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

One Year later

Today I celebrate that it was one year ago on this day that I completed my ten day treatment at Schick Shadel Hospital. It is a natural milestone to commemorate and while in my daily life I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my recovery, today I make a point of acknowledging my accomplishment. I’m surprised to see that it has been six months since my last post to this blog, I guess that is an indicator of how life goes on even in recovery.

One of the things I did for myself this last year was make time to travel to some concerts. I’m not normally a concert-going kind of guy, but I’ve always enjoyed attending them and seeing my favorite artists in person makes them so much more personal. In my previous post I wrote about seeing the Dave Matthews Band at Rothbury and how one of their songs touched me just right, in October I went to San Francisco to see one of my long-time favorite bands who were touring the US. James is the band, and in the song I Wanna Go Home Tim Booth sings “In, this bar, in this bar I am dying/In this bar in this bar, my heart’s dying...” That was me a year ago and I knew it. I am so thankful that I was able to get help.

I still attend the Schick support meetings that are held twice a week at the hospital, though I’m not necessarily there every week. It is such a boost for me to see the patients as they go through their process, I am so happy for them and it warms my heart to hear them discuss their experience. Every now and again I have something useful to share and the exchange of ideas and feelings helps both the patients as well as us graduates.

At one recent support meeting there was discussion about forgiveness and acceptance and how they come into (or don’t) the recovery process. A lot of us feel shame that we ended up here, a lot of us have shame heaped onto us, some have financial or legal issues that might take years to mop up, then there is the contrast of how good we feel as we graduate from Schick and develop sober lifestyles. I am very proud of the gift I was given and I really want to help others as they recover and move to a better place. Yet I realize that I could not be where I am today had I not developed a destructive drinking problem. It saddens me that I caused my family so much pain in the past but it all is a part of my life story, and this chapter where I’m writing about a year’s sobriety could not have happened if I hadn’t wound up in recovery. I’m grateful God has given me the opportunity to bring good from this.

Life Continues
So life moves on. A sober life is not challenge-free by any stretch. The complications of life that I used to hide from with a bottle (a big bottle!) remain and some days are better than others. I have battled with depression since I was young and like the flu it comes and goes, with some bouts easier than others. Recently this “flu” has flared up again and while it isn’t enjoyable I am encouraged (and I hope it can encourage others who are recovering) that I have not had a single craving or thought to drink.

Thank you to Schick Shadel hospital and their wonderful treatment program that has worked so well for me. Thank you family and friends for supporting me. Thank you graduates and patients for helping me feel strong. And thank you to You for reading this, I can’t know who you are but you’re helping me too.

A year. Wow.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Celebrating six months

Last weekend I celebrated six months since I completed my 10-day stay at Schick, and I was able to celebrate in a special way. Two of my close friends and I traveled to Rothbury Michigan for the inaugural Rothbury Music Festival, a four day Woodstock-like event featuring a lot of great music. It was the kind of thing I had never done before and it was a blast.

I have loads of wonderful and crazy memories from the days spent there, but two things really stuck out in terms of my recovery.

One of my friends said to the other, then later shared with me, that "Wes is still a lot of fun even though he's sober!" It was nice to hear. I know I'm a lot of fun but I wouldn't want anyone to assume I would be a killjoy. Anyway, this made me smile.

The second to last night was a performance by the very popular Dave Matthews Band. They didn't disappoint, they were great. The last song they did, however, as part of their encore was particularly special. DMB performed a cover of Sly & the Family Stone's "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)". I'd never heard the song before but was caught up in the groove and sang the chorus along with the crowd... "Thank you- For letting me- Be myself- Again!" I realized, what a perfect song! Here I was, fun, happy, Not Drunk, being myself. I raised my hands to the sky and I sang the chorus louder and from my heart. I meant it.

I'm really surprised how quickly and how easily the last six months has passed by. Life has its struggles and I know that some patients haven't had an easy time with recovery but I'm lucky that for me it has gone well and has been pain-free.

I continue to visit the Schick Recovery Group meetings, though life seems to be getting busier so I'm down to going once every two weeks on average now. The camaraderie of the graduates and patients is so valuable and I try to occasionally have a little something helpful to share. And I appreciate what the others have to say too, the people are incredible.

Life is good. We're planning summer parties and big vacations (and more hopefully music festivals) and the last thing on my mind is drinking.

Six months! Wow! Thank you, Schick, for helping me be myself again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm awesome, but also normal

It is difficult to believe that it has now been over five months since I completed my ten-day stay at Schick Shadel hospital, the time has gone by so fast. And thankfully it has also gone by well.

I continue to enjoy not drinking, being a non-user is now just a part of my everyday life. I feel increasingly non-special about my non-using status, just as someone who doesn't ever wear long-sleeved blue shirts doesn't feel like that trait might set them apart. I, on the other hand, wear a navy blue long-sleeved shirt just about every day.

A woman who I first met during my ten-day stay also attends the weekly Schick Recovery Group meetings made a comment a couple of weeks ago that I really identified with. She talked about how she's learning to deal with the change in attitude that her non-use had become commonplace and less worthy of celebration. I have been feeling the same way. While our decision to have sought treatment remains no less commendable, being clean and sober is becoming less remarkable. Less something to be all "Yeah Me!" about.

Like losing weight, it is fun and people notice while it is happening and maybe just as it is ending, but a year or so later if you've kept the weight off your new size is just going to be part of who you are and people may forget what you once looked like.

I know my family certainly remembers the "weight" of my alcoholism and the affect it had them as well as me, and maybe they still find the "new me" new and exciting, but I'm becoming used to me.

I think this is a good thing, my new lifestyle is just normal and I don't have to feel odd or different at being a non-drinker.

I'm currently in a period where I'm doing a lot of business travel, I'm typing this while on the outbound leg of my third trip in three weeks, and the second to NYC with my last being just last week. In a previous blog post I wrote about my first post-treatment business trip where I experienced airports and flying without drinking for perhaps the first time. By now drinking Diet Coke or coffee during the flight doesn't seem weird at all.

Anyway, last week on my trip to New York I had dinner with the hosts and other guests of a panel I participated in. There were seven of us around the table and the group ordered a couple bottles of wine. The server came by and began distributing wine glasses and when he came to me I just waved him on and said I'd stick to the water. No weirdness, no gasps from the others in the group. And when toasts were made to congratulate the success of the meeting, I raised my water and clinked just as well as everyone else. I didn't need to explain why I wasn't drinking, it was just normal.

So that's where I'm at, I'm normal.

And I feel great.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The treament is finished

My final Duffy was thankfully not the worst I've had. I was pretty nervous this morning though. My Duffy was scheduled for 9:15am and around 8:00 my stomach started getting all tight and I felt like I was going to puke just thinking about it all.

I tried my best to relax as I drank lots of water. Eventually the call came for me to Duff one more time.

The actual Duffy went pretty well. I was vomiting quickly, after just two glasses of beer it was coming back out. It seemed to go fairly fast, maybe I was just in a hurry to get it over with. But all the alcohol seemed to come up in the treatment room. I only vomited once back in my room, and that was after the Butterfly. In general it went fine, I didn't feel all that sick afterwards.

So now the treatment is finished. No more recaps, no more Sleepys and no more Duffys. It feels weird to be graduated completely, to have no more treatments scheduled. It is like an empty feeling, but I don't feel empty. I guess this is just an example of life moving on. I was a patient, and now I'm not.

This has been a great experience. I am very grateful for Schick Shadel Hospital.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Just woke up, what peace

Patients at Schick love their Sleepys. The feeling is hard to describe. I just woke up from mine, and I feel great.

So here I am, back at Schick for my second recap, my final treatment. It has been nearly two months since my first recap and tomorrow afternoon I'm all done.

I arrived this morning before 8:00 and then they got me settled in. There are two other patients recapping who were here during my 10-day, so it is good to hang out with them and talk. One of them lives far away so she opted to do both recaps during one four-day stay. She said that after a month or so thoughts of drinking began to increase then finally she did slip and have some wine, though she hasn't drank since and she said the experience stregthed her aversion. She wishes she'd come for a 30-day recap instead of waiting 90 days to do both.

The staff puts a great emphasis on the recaps, and apparently the numbers bear them out. Schick claims an 80% success rate, but that only includes those who did both recaps. For those who don't recap the success rate drops to 50%.

I haven't had a drink since coming here, but in the week or so leading up to my first recap I was starting to have more thoughts about alcohol. Wondering about drinking again some day, imagining if I'd be able to do it again, all with some sort of rationalization that maybe it wouldn't become a problem. I can't fully describe the thoughts I was having, but they were along those lines.

Oh did that first recap deal with those thoughts. Entirely. So for me that first recap came at a great time. Not that I was having cravings, but the thoughts were there. I don't have those thoughts anymore, I know that I can't drink and thankfully I don't want to. Now two months since my last treatment I'm sure this recap will bring even more reinforcement.

They really seem to know what they're doing here at Schick. If anyone reading this gets to come here, two things: 1. You're lucky and I'm proud of you. 2. Don't skip your recaps.

So here I am, still waking up from my Sleepy and the feeling is so pleasant. It is low-level pleasant, not any kind of climb-a-mountain-and-sing kind of pleasant. I just feel good. A nice reward, I suppose, for what will come tomorrow.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Schick Support Meetings

Each week on Monday and Wednesday there are Schick Support meetings, where graduates and patients gather to share how things are going and support each other.  I've been attending regularly on Wednesdays and I quite enjoy it.  It is not only an opportunity to see fellow graduates and chat and catch up, it is a good chance to support and encourage those who are in the midst of their treatment.

A week ago yesterday I went down for a Wednesday meeting and when it was my turn to share how things were going I decided to talk about how I'm feeling less on edge and how my hair trigger temper is gone or at least has a much longer fuse.  I talked about how my wife and I don't fight much anymore and how I'm much more pleasant to her, and how things just don't bother or annoy me as much as before.  Even the home remodel we're in the midst of isn't stressing me out.

One of the patients really keyed in on my comments and asked a couple of questions.  When the group ended he approached me and we talked some more.  He was looking for advice since he was to be going home the next day and he was anxious about returning to his girlfriend and the relationship he'd damaged.  I was more than happy to share what happened to me and what I'd learned.

This is a long way of saying that last night this same guy returned to the meeting and we were able to speak again afterward.  He told me he was really grateful for our chat and that the advice I'd given him was exactly what he needed.  It sure made me feel good to have helped someone, even though I'm not entirely sure what my helpful advice was.

I've said it before, it is the people.  Patients, graduates, we're all in this together and I am grateful to have the opportunity to share my experience and help others.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

First recap Duffy

Today was my Duffy, something I've not been looking forward to.  For an hour or so before my Duffy my stomach was fairly tight in anticipation of what was to come.

I did get a happy surprise in the Duffy room, not anything major but it was welcome nonetheless.  Instead of 20 drinks as I had heard I would be doing the recap Duffys are only 15 drinks.

Not that getting 15 drinks down was easy.  The drinks were beer, vodka and tequila, and they were yucky.  I did my puking as I went and finally returned to my room when finished to puke more, meditate on the experience and recover.

I also got my read-back from yesterday's rehabilitation interview.  No surprises in any of my answers, and I reported 8 as my aversion level.  I think I'm reluctant to say I have a 10 out of 10 for my physical aversion to alcohol, while my desire not to drink is strong I don't get nauseous when I see or smell alcohol like some people do.  For me it just doesn't register as something I'm interested in.  The alcohol aisle at the store has become one of those aisles that just happens to hold no products I'm interested in, like the book aisle or the international foods aisle, or the bulk candy aisle...   You get the idea.

I will go back to Schick in two months for my 90-day recap, one more Sleepy and the final Duffy.  I'm glad I have some time before it all happens again.  :-)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

First recap

This morning I arrived back at Schick for my 30-day recap. If you're familiar with the Pat O'Day radio advertisements for Schick Shadel, you'll remember the phrase "...just 10 days with a couple 2-day follow ups." So I'm here for my first of the two follow-ups.

I got here pretty early-- before 8am. I actually woke up at 5am so I could have breakfast-- since today was a "Sleepy" I had to fast for several hours the instructions I was given was no food or liquids after 5:00. I met with the doctor this morning and then I had a lot of time to wait, I didn't get in for my rehabilitation interview until 2:30pm.

But it was a fun day, there are a few people here for their recaps that were here during my first 10 days. One is actually here for a "six-pack", she had a relapse shortly after getting home so she's here on the Duffy-Duffy-Sleepy-Duffy-Sleepy-Duffy schedule. It is good to see these guys again, we had spent a lot of time together during our 10-day stays.

Tomorrow I'll have my Duffy, and I'm not looking forward to it. I am looking forward to the aversion-reinforcement, but I'm not going to enjoy getting there.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

First "industry event"

This week I went down to San Francisco for the annual Macworld product show, as our company was sponsoring an event down there. This is a perfect example of a time where I would have been enjoying the drinks.

First, there are free drinks at the Board Room at the airport, then free drinks in first class. Since this was my first time flying since my 10-day stay this was the first time I got to enjoy the airport and plane ride without any alcohol. I gotta say, it was fine.

Then the event where we had a table where I talked to attendees and gave out brochures and generally had a "presence". There are always bars at these events, and I was within a 10-second walk of two of them. But it wasn't hard not to drink, even though in the past I would have made sure I always had a vodka & tonic in my hand. Water did quite nicely, and I had a surprise: The water was free!

So it all went very well. I shared with two of my closest "industry friends" that I'd gone through treatment and they were both extremely supportive. I have always been grateful for the friends I spent time with at industry events around the world, and it is nice that we're close enough that I can share my stories of the trials and triumphs of recovery.

Monday, January 14, 2008

One week later

I got home from my Schick Shadel 10-day stay a week ago yesterday. It was wonderful to come home. I got a very big long hug from my daughter and wife, they were so happy to see me. I was happy to see them!

The last week has been wonderful. It feels great to wake up each morning without a hangover. It is fantastic to wake up knowing I didn't black out the night before and forget about a terrible fight I had with my wife. In fact there have been no fights or disagreements at all since I've been home. I guess I can be quite pleasant when I'm sober!

I have no cravings or desires to drink. I barely even think about alcohol except to notice that I don't think about drinking.

Tonight I went back down to Schick for one of the twice-weekly Schick Support meetings. It was good to see familiar faces from some who were in at the same time I was. It is quite encouraging to hear from others who have completed the program and how they're doing so well and it is also cool to see current patients and their excitement for the program they're going through.

I'm very happy.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Day 10 Takeaways

My 11 days (10 + 1 detox day) at Schick Shadel hospital have been a wonderful experience.

The people at Shick Shadel hospital do a great job helping us through our stay. The nursing staff is incredibly caring. The counselors really want to help us learn more about ourselves and our addictions so we can succeed in our recovery. Even the cooks go out of their way to make us feel welcome and support us.

It is really remarkable how well the patients bond together to promote each other's recovery and treatment. While Schick is great and wonderful and staff work hard, like any complex system it can't be perfect. Incoming patients are left with many questions as they start treatment, even after orientation. Rules and procedures can change at a moment's notice, so what you're told upstairs may not still be true by the time you walk downstairs. But one thing solves it all, the patients.

The patients who have been here a while embrace the new ones and fill in the gaps. From the best advice for how to prepare for a Duffy to how to get your Rehabilitation Interview read-back, the collective experience of those in scrubs is invaluable.

And we all help each other succeed. We share stories in group about our lives, addictions, successes and failures. We swap jokes and stories on the smoking deck, uplifting each other with caring support. We candidly discuss shit and puke. We laugh about shit and puke. We have to. Of course the new patients, just out of detox and on their first days into the program wonder what they're in for as they hear us swapping tales of mad rushes to the toilet and Butterflies. They're scared. But us "old timers" are more than happy to take them under our wing to educate and encourage them, as was done for us.

We all want ourselves to succeed. We also want everyone else to succeed.

Of course not everyone makes it. In my time here two patients weren't able to fully handle the program and did drugs in their rooms. Sadly both of them were already here after relapses anyway. For all of us relapse is just one drink away and we will have to keep guard against it. But Thank God Shick Shadle has not just counseled us on how to avoid our temptations, we have also had our cravings taken away.

I simply don't want to drink. At all.

Day 10 Duffy 5

Today's Duffy was rough. Ugh. I've been released for almost two hours but I still feel pretty bad.

Of the 20 drinks I had today two were "sniff, swish and spit" but I managed to get the rest of the 18 down. It was hard to get through, though, as you might imagine.

I'm going to lie down.

As soon as I'm feeling better and solid I'll be heading home.

I'll be back in about a month for my first recap!

Day 10 almost done

I can't believe I'm almost out of here. I'm anxious yet scared to go home. I've been in a very safe little cocoon here. Maybe that means the worm that walked in here will leave as a butterfly? Of course I've come to better understand I wasn't just a drunk before, I was afflicted and ruled by my disease. I now have the strength and tools to live well despite it.

Yesterday was a great day. Following my Sleepy we watched the Seahawks playoff game and someone ordered pizzas for the group. Sleepy, football and pizza-- that's heaven! A few people commented on how it was the first football game in a long time they'd watched sober.

Later on I met with one of the counselors and she went over my last rehab interview. But she didn't stop there. She read through my answers and saw common threads in my issues and really dug deep into me and pulled out some stuff. It was incredible.

I look forward to being the Real Wes all the time, not just while I'm drinking.

Anyway, I'm awaiting Duffy number 5. Let's get it on.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Day 9 relaxed and present

This morning in morning group I happened to sit next to the counselor and he asked me to read the thought of the day from a book whose name I don't remember. Gary, maybe you can email that title to me? Then I read to the group a poem my mom found and sent in a Happy New Years card, that was nice.

Then we had our 8:00 class, led by the same counselor who did the morning community meeting. He's a very deep guy and a lot of the time I don't get what he's saying or where he's going or coming from. But I am getting more of what he says and understanding some of it. What I've also learned in the last nine days is that this counselor really cares for us. And that kind of overflowing love will cover over all kinds of space/time confusion I have.

At about 9:30 I was paged for my Rehabilitation Interview, my last sleepy of this visit. The last three times the person administering the anesthetic was a nurse, this morning it was an anesthetist so I guess I got a different serum. It had a different feel to it. I remember actually being asked questions this time, where before I only remember a few affirmations before being waking much later in my bed. I remember thinking that I was aware the experience was different and that I was "awake" longer, but I don't have any more specific memory than that.

Before I went out I reported my aversion level as being a 9 or a 10. If I'm not all the way at a 10 yet I'm sure tomorrow's final Duffy will take care of that for me.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Day 8 aversion 7

This afternoon I got the read-back from yesterday's Sleepy. Before they put me under I indicated my aversion level was "close to 8" (out of 10) and while under sedation I reported a 7. After today's Duffy and the nausea I felt just thinking about alcohol I'm sure I'll report 10 in tomorrow's final Sleepy.

Tomorrow should be a good day. My Sleepy is in the morning, so I'll be able to enjoy the Seahawks game in the afternoon.

Two days to go.

Day 8 Duffy 4

I've been having trouble getting to sleep most nights I've been here and the medication the doctor has prescribed isn't really doing anything for me.  They seem reluctant to try anything more powerful though.  So last night as I tried to get tired enough to sleep I read the first half of Drink Up!: A Recovery Road Less Traveled, a book written by a Schick graduate about her experiences here and her recovery.

It is a great book, and easy to read.  It is amazing how the book so perfectly describes the experience here.  I recommend this for anyone who wants to know more about how things work at Schick.

Eventually, of course, I fell asleep.  I even woke up early.  Today is a big day.  After today I only have one Sleepy and one Duffy, then I can go home.

This morning at 8:00am I went into the morning class, they were showing an old Bill Moyers video about the mind-body connection and how even the immune system can be conditioned to help heal a body by suggestion.  It was old (produced in 1993 based on my Google search), played off VHS, and the interviewees had that very-unsubtle ugliness characteristic of the beginning of the 90s.  The video was bad, but that isn't what was causing me pain.

My stomach was aching in anticipation of my Duffy.  I was feeling queasy just knowing what was to come.  That's a good sign I believe.  Somewhere after 8:30 I was paged to the nursing station, it was my turn.  As I walked out of the auditorium my fellow patients wished me good luck.

I drank some more water then reported to the treatment room.  I was getting so bothered in my tummy I wondered if I'd be able to keep anything down.  I got my shot and drank my two cups of Emetine.  The nurse and I chatted while we waited the 8 minutes, then we got to work...
  • Beer
  • Beer
  • Beer
  • Vodka
  • Vodka
  • Beer
  • Beer
  • Tequila
  • White wine
  • Red wine
  • Beer
  • Beer
  • Rum
  • Brandy
  • Beer
  • and finally, Beer
I started puking before I even finished the second beer.  I vomited many more times and after I was done drinking everything I got out the remainder.  One needs to remember to breathe when they're vomiting, I was reminded by the nurse.  But when fluid is rocketing out of your mouth you don't dare inhale for fear of doing so at just the wrong time.  I noticed at one point that the nurse was marking a chart each time I vomited, I guess they track at what points in the treatment we puke.

Last time I "swished and spit" two of the 12 drinks, today I had to drink all 16.

I was led into my room at approximately 9:10am, here's how the rest of my morning went...

9:25 - The nurse comes in to check my pulse, ask if I've vomited or had diarrhea and ask my nausea level on a scale of 1 to 3.  I report a 1, I feel pretty good.  I decide to keep reading the Drink Up! book, maybe I can finish it today.
9:40 - I start feeling more nauseous.  Just about then, the nurse comes in.  I report a nausea of 2, but still no puke or diarrhea.
9:45 - I'm on the toilet making with the wet poo.
9:55 - Another nurse comes in with the Butterfly.  I don't feel well just looking at it.  "My gift to you" she says, and gives me the glass.  I shudder then I drink it.
9:56 - Just a minute after drinking the Butterfly I'm wretching and I empty my guts into the bucket.  The stuff just reeks, it smells terrible.
10:30 - The nurse returns to check on me, I report I'm back to a 1.
10:35 - More diarrhea, I bring the bucket with me in case its needed.
10:40 - I feel mostly pretty much ok.  I don't have anything left to vomit and I don't feel overly nauseous but the beer-soaked rag next to my pillow smells awful.
11:05 - Nurse returns, I'm back at a 2 again.  I hate that rag.
11:10 - Somehow I'm puking again.  I start off with a few dry heaves then out comes the bile.  It is so gross.  And it seems like a lot comes out.  When it is over I feel physically spent.
11:50 - I finish the book.  The beer-soaked rag was so offensive, I pushed my head to the other side of the pillow when I was reading the last bit.
11:52 - The nurse comes back in to check on me.  She says some stuff I couldn't understand then suggested I walk around the room a little bit.  I do that, and perhaps as she wanted I go into the bathroom to squirt some more.
12:05 - I'm released!

I settled my stomach with Saltines and Sprite for a while, then I was called-on by another patient with a Mac who was having trouble getting online.  Once he was sorted I went down for lunch.

That's essentially been my day up until now.  I am going now to get my read-back from yesterday's Sleepy (Rehabilitation Interview). 

Later skater.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Day 7 spiritual alignment

Today was a pretty chill day for me, a break from the Emetine treatments.  I had my Sleepy around 11am and I woke up in my room at about 1:30.  I had lunch then went to classes at 3:00 and 6:00 with dinner at 5:00.  The day seemed to pass by fairly quickly, the days are certainly going faster as I get closer to the end.

One of the newer guys had his first Sleepy today after his first Duffy yesterday.  He's anxious to get moving through the program and was wishing he could do a Duffy today instead.  I remember that feeling-- the Sleepy days, which are like a day off, can make you feel like you're not doing anything.  But I've come to like the space between the Duffys.  It is a nice time to reflect on yesterday and anticipate tomorrow.

I'll have Duffy number 4 tomorrow.  There will be 16 drinks involved.  Blech!

The evening group session tonight was led by a wonderful counselor I'd not met or heard speak before.  I guess he spoke last night but I didn't go as I was still recovering in my room.  Anyway the session was really great.  He's a powerful and dynamic person and I think we all learned a lot.  I will continue to read over his handouts and try to apply his concepts.

I can't believe day 7 is coming to a close, my time here is almost over.  More new people keep coming in and I'm enjoying getting to know them and help them into the program.  I'm so grateful I've had this opportunity.

Day 7 aversion

I'm scheduled for my third rehabilitation interview today, I'm looking forward to it as the "Sleepy" times are really nice.

Last time I had my Sleepy they failed to ask the questions I wrote for myself so I'll ask them today to be sure to do that.  I've had two read-backs now from my last two interviews.  In the read-back they go over the questions that were asked and the answers I gave while under sedation.  I was a little surprised that the answers I gave were the answers I would have given, I guess I wondered if my unfiltered-unsedated mind would have a different opinion. 

I wanted to share that at some point last night something happened that caused me to think about alcohol.  I don't remember what I was thinking about but as I had the thought I kinda felt slightly ill-- just slightly-- but it really surprised me.  "Wow, its working!" I thought.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Day 6 Schick support

Tonight the Schick Support group met, I guess it meets every Monday and Wednesday, we patients were invited.

I was really impressed by how many local Schick graduates came to the meeting.  A few folks who were far away attended the meeting via a speaker phone, it is great that even grads who are distant from Seattle can still participate.

It was a pretty simple meeting, we introduced ourselves and us patients explained briefly why we were here and how we found Shick Shadle.  Those who have been through the program gave encouragement for how well the treatment worked for them.

It was inspiring to me on two levels.  First it was great to hear how well Schick's unique system worked for them, but I was also impressed by how many came to the meeting.  Somehow I didn't know the Schick Support group met each week, but now I am excited to attend from time to time in the future.

The last of the patients who were here on Christmas finished their ten days today and went home.  I'm happy for them but I missed them this evening, I had so much fun getting to know them.  There's a lot of new patients following in behind me, and it is cool to get to know them and help them get acquainted with how things work here.  I'm happy that I'm able to help ease anxiety and be a friend.

Only four days left!

Day 6 Duffy 3 of 5

Well, I guess I got my wish.  Duffys 1 and 2 didn't hit me too hard, but today's was much more ass-kicking.

On the menu today...
  • 3 glasses of beer
  • 3 glasses of vodka
  • 1 glass of tequila
  • "swish and spit" a small glass of Kahlua
  • "swish and spit" a small glass of Jagermeister
  • 2 glasses of vodka
  • 1 glass of beer
I started vomiting pretty quickly, and I vomited often during the treatment.  By the time I left the treatment room I was able to get just about everything out.

I felt OK in my room for a little while, but then I received a gift called the "Butterfly".  Butterflies are small glasses of beer with Emetine added, so it is like a mini-Duffy in my room.  It increases nausea and will bring up anything still in the stomach.  Eventually I heaved more and the diarrhea began.  At one point I was throwing up into my puke bucket while I was sitting on the toilet.  Nothing better.

I left the treatment room about 4:15 hours ago and I'm still not feeling well.  If I continue to feel sick they can give me a shot to stop the Emetine's effect.


Day 6 half two

I had the hardest time getting to sleep last night, I don't think I was anxious about my third Duffy today, maybe I couldn't sleep because I had my Sleepy-time yesterday.  I finally went out between 12:30 and 1:00 I think.

So I was grateful to get my coffee this morning.  Since I'm Duffying today I only have to fast off food, I can drink clear liquids.

I am now in the second half of treatment, five days behind me and only four more after today.  Hooray!

While I didn't have any expectations when I came in here, one of the things that I couldn't have expected is how special to me Schick will be when I leave.  Not only because I won't have to drink anymore, but mostly because of the relationships that develop between the patients.  The quality of people is quite amazing.  This is not a nest of vagrant drunks, the people here are strong individuals with a lot to offer the world.

Probably not surprising there are quite a few of us here who work in the entertainment field.  A radio journalist, a television producer, a key grip, a graphic designer, a musician...  And there is more proof of our small world--  one of the guys here has worked many times with one of my favorite clients from my editing days.

It is remarkable the change you see in people as they spend time here, both physically and otherwise.  One older guy came in around the same time I did and he looked like hell.  This morning I commented to him on how drastic the change in him is, he's alive and fresh and looks a completely different person.  Another guy was quite angry when he arrived and isolated himself, but now he's opened up and is making friends with the rest of us.

Like Cispus, the place where I used to work the leadership camps, there's something magical here at Schick.  People come here as though they're meant to, and combinations of people come together here as though they're meant to meet.

I'm very grateful to be here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Day 5 aversion level 5

Happy New Year!

I stayed up until midnight last night so I could celebrate the New Year with my new friends. We had a nice night, the staff brought up all kinds of snacks and munchies for us at about 9pm. Then we watched the guy on ESPN do his big motorcycle jump.

Today was another "sleepy day", the Rehabilitation Interview. Sure makes the day go by fast to go in at 10:30 then wake up in my bed three hours later.

Yesterday I talked with one of the counselors about my previous interview. They encourage us to write our own questions to ask ourselves in addition to the standard questions they ask. So I did that on Sunday and yesterday they read back all the answers I gave. So today I wrote a follow-up question to my first question, I'll be interested to hear what my un-filtered subconscious says. :-)

Today I also met with one of the counselors to write up a treatment plan, just a list of six things I should do when I'm out to reinforce my sobriety.

All things considered I'm having a great time here, the camaraderie is such a big part of what makes this place work.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Day 4 Duffy 2

Today's part of my treatment was my second Duffy, and I was happy that one of my favorite nurses got to be my guide.

Since vodka is one of my "drinks of choice", there was a focus on it today along with the beer.

Like before I was given a shot of some medicine that I can't remember the name of, it is meant to cause discomfort with sweating and feeling hot. Then I drank the Emetine and waited several minutes for it to get into the system.

Then I drank:
  • 3 oz vodka*
  • 5 oz vodka*
  • 5 oz vodka*
  • 8 oz beer
  • 8 oz beer
Then we paused to get the body pumping out the poison. I vomited up the beer and probably some vodka, but mostly I think we wanted to get the bubbles out. Then we moved on to:
  • 3 oz vodka*
  • 5 oz vodka*
  • 5 oz vodka*
That's a lot of vodka!
* Actually I learned that these figures are not straight vodka, the nurses water down the liquor. A 3oz drink probably contains about 1oz of liquor.

I was able to vomit the rest of my stomach contents there in the treatment room, which made for a better recovery in my room. I didn't feel too sick in there, and while I did vomit an hour later, it was mostly dry since my stomach was empty.

If you're wondering if food is also coming up with all the alcohol, the answer is no. We fast at least six hours before a Duffy, so that essentially means no breakfast. We can drink clear fluids so all we're puking is liquid.

The rest of the day will hold a couple classes, dinner and a group meeting. Six of the "old timers" are leaving today, so it will feel different tomorrow with some of the folks I've been hanging out with going home. But there is a steady stream of new folks coming in, I'll be one of the old guard soon enough.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Day 3 sleepytime

Today I had my first rehabilitation interview, which we call a "sleepy". It is difficult for me to explain exactly what this is, so I'll just try to describe what happened.

I had to start fasting at midnight for my 8:30am session, not a big deal since that only meant missing breakfast. At 8:30 I entered a room and sat in a nice comfy reclining hospital bed. The nurse asked me what I thought my "aversion level" was, and since I've only had one Duffy it is fairly low.

Then they connected me to an IV that administered either sodium pentathol or something a lot like it. This is often called a "truth serum" but its use is so that they can speak to my subconscious and I guess read affirmations to me as well as ask questions that help reveal my aversion level. I'm not yet sure all they ask, so I'm not sure.

Anyway, they connected the IV and I repeated a few affirmations after the counselor, things like "I choose to be in control of my disease." Next thing I knew I awoke in my room in my bed and it was 10:30. I went back to sleep until 11:30.

Pretty interesting deal to be sure, I look forward to learning about what they asked and what I said.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Day 2 Duffy done

The Duffys get more and more intense as the visit here goes on, so the first one was the easiest.

The setting is a small room where the patient sits at a counter with a mirror on the wall facing. Set into the counter is a large stainless steel bowl.

Several minutes after taking the Emetine and being administered the other medication I chugged two beers (warm btw) that were poured into four cups. Then the nurse had be depress my tongue to get the upward flow started, so I vomited into the bowl.

Then I moved into my room where a plastic bucket was waiting beside the bed. I laid down and the nurse placed an empty beer bottle on the table next to me so I could look at and think about it. She also placed a beer-soaked rag next to me so I could get the beer smell as I lay there too.

After about 10 minutes or so the rest of the beer came up into the bucket. Then maybe 10 minutes later I hurled up whatever else could have possibly been in my stomach and finished with several dry heaves. I had one trip to the toilet for diarrhea but otherwise my job was to lie there and make all the negative associations I could with the beer bottle, the smell of beer, the smell of vomit, etc.

So my first Duffy is down, only four more to go.

Day 2 pre-Duffy

I've not had any food since breakfast as six hours of fasting are required before the Emetine Aversion Treatment, known as the Duffy. I'm not necessarily hungry because I've been drinking lots of fluids.

Today has been mostly quiet though I'm anxious to get this first Duffy behind me so I feel like I'm making real progress. I was hanging out near the nurses station with my old roommate Scott for a while and lucky for him he was scheduled before me so he got to go in.

Basically, a Duffy is a method for building aversion to or a lack of desire for alcohol. We are given something called Emetine as well as another drug the combination of which induce nausea and sweating and discomfort. Then I guess we drink a lot of alcohol and pretty soon it is vomit-city. When I'm done in the treatment room I'll be returned to my room where I'll continue to vomit as well as probably have diarrhea for a few hours.

See why this is called aversion therapy?

I wanted to mention that I've met a lot of cool people in the last couple days. The patients range in age from younger than me to some grandpa-types. There's a lot of bonding and chatting and laughing outside in the smoke shack as everyone encourages each other and shares their experiences of the day.

Also, the food is good. I've not lost weight yet though I think overall I may, one guy said he's lost 13 pounds.

I just want to get the "real stuff" going.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Day 1 inner peace

I just returned from my relaxation session, a nice half hour watching and listening to a "hypnosis video". I feel nice and relaxed. It is nice. :-)

This was really the most momentous part of the day, the rest was a lot of waiting. My friend Scott who was roommate last night and I are "jonesing" (his word) to get started with the real work.

After waiting all morning I finally met with a counselor at about 1pm and answered many questions about my situation. So many of these questions are asked over and over again on so many different forms. I wonder if they are cross-checking us.

Then I met with the doctor to discuss a lot of the same things, though his focus was medical. Nothing too earth-shattering went on in there, and like all the rest of the staff he was super-nice.

Later there was dinner, then a class about resisting relapse, then here we are now.

All in all a slow day, I'm thankful I put several games on my iPod, they kept me occupied for a while. :-)

Tomorrow the aversion sessions will begin, the "Duffys", even though it won't be fun it will feel good to be doing something.

Day 1 getting started

I slept well last night but morning came too early when the nurses roused me at 6:30
to draw blood and take my blood pressure. Then it was get dressed (in my comfy scrubs) and head to the orientation meeting.

We filled out more forms and questionnaires and learned a little about the schedule for the coming days.

Following that we went to our first lecture. We learned about the right-brain/left-brain and conscious/subconscious mind. It seemed pretty heady for 8am with only one cup of coffee.

That's what's happened so far. Next I'm waiting to meet with the doctor, then I'll be assigned my own room. After that lunch, another lecture/meeting then today's therapy is some kind of relaxation/hypnosis situation. I'll let you know about that later.

Oh, Jessie's on her way down here to bring me socks and undies-- I didn't think to pack those.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Arrived, day 0

I hope I can find time to enter some thoughts about my experience here at Schick Shadle. Here's my first go...

I arrived today at 2pm, and as I arrived I started feeling little butterflies of apprehension in my tummy. I wasn't scared or worried or afraid, I was just wondering what was going to happen.

The guy who admitted me and had me fill out all the forms turned out to be a WSU grad from the communications program. He graduated in 1992 (I in '95) and we knew a lot of the same people-- tho I don't think we knew each other. So we had a good time talking.

Then I was led to a room in the "detox" area. Since it has been less than 48 hours since my last drink I will start "the program" tomorrow morning. My roommate is a guy named Scott. He's nice and we've talked quite a bit. He's been here a couple days now and he's anxious to start.

Next I met with a nurse to take blood pressure, blow into a breathalyzer (I blew a 0.00) and answer a lot of health questions. Then more paperwork, a urine sample, dinner.

I have spoke with a few other patients who have been here for a while now and they've been sharing their experiences with the aversion therapy, it sounds terrible but they say it is already working for them.

It isn't as "locked-down" as I expected, they didn't take all my belongings (save for checkbook and wallet put in the safe for safe-keeping) and I can wander the halls and go outside.

So for now I just wait. Tomorrow it will begin.