Jack Smith is Dead.

I’m trying to get away from using the term: sobering reality.  It sounds like a bad pun in the context of this kind of a blog.  However the truth that “Jack Smith is dead” is something that’s been stuck in my mind recently.

I toyed with the idea of changing his name but frankly, I’m not sure what I’d change it to that’s much more nondescript than Jack Smith.  He was a real person.  I met him several times.  He was the father of a friend of mind and the son of my father’s best friend.  He was a con-man in the most real sense of the word.  He wasn’t the cartoon version that you usually see on TV.  Those guys, you wonder how anybody could be taken in by them because their game is so obvious.  This was a real con man.  He inspired confidence.  He was friendly and seemed sincere.

He did some rotten things and died early.  I’m given to understand that alcohol probably had a fair amount to do with his death.  I wasn’t really sure what happened to him but recently my Dad told me: Jack Smith’s dead.

Another friend of mine has a similar cautionary tale to tell.  It’s about his brother.  His brother was a drunk and was in a recovery program for years.  After years of sobriety he lapsed and never made it back to the recovery rooms.  He never had a chance to pick up another white chip.  At his funeral, friends from his recovery group showed up and tossed some dirt on his coffin.  They looked at that dead man’s brother and told him solemnly: “Well, your brother doesn’t drink anymore.” 

I wish that stories like this were enough.  I wish that we alcoholics would learn from the stories and never pick up a bottle again.  However, we don’t.  At least, it isn’t a long term solution.  We might be inspired to stave off our desires for a little bit, but we need to be constantly reminded of our fate.

The guys I’ve seen who are the most successful in recovery are the ones who seem to truly believe that if they take one more drink….it will kill them.  Is that literally true?  Maybe, not.   However, the concept they have wrapped their head around is that any given drink could be their last.

We just don’t know if we have one more recovery in us.  That’s scary.  But it’s not alway scary enough for some of us.   What we drunks can do it keep adding reminders to our inventory.  “Jack Smith is dead” and “Bob doesn’t drink anymore” are two little thoughts that can put a stop to my temptations.  Some days I think I’m just like them.

On the dangerous days, I think I’m completely different.  Their failings don’t apply to me.  That’s not what my family and friends want to hear but it’s true. 

That’s why I still go to meetings.  I don’t like to do it.  I’d rather be doing almost anything other than showing up in some church basement on any given evening to hear the same stuff over and over.  But, at this point, I need it.  The friendship of the others who struggle helps to keep me sober. 

Someday, it will be said of me: “Joel is dead”.  It will be said for the last time “Joel doesn’t drink anymore”.  When that is said, and under what circumstances is largely up to me.  I hope, frankly, by the time I do shuffle off the coil drinking will be so far behind me that it’s not even mentioned.

Then again, I don’t know that it should ever be forgotten.  Hopefully, if anything is said about my drinking at all at that point, it will be words of hope for those who are there.  He drank, but it didn’t take him.  He fell, but he got back up.  He went through things that he never thought he’d go through but it counted for something.

Jack Smith is dead.  My day is coming.  What will be said after that?  It’s not written yet, but the pen is put to paper every day for what is potentially the last time.

Failing Sucks

Failing stinks.

And it’s darn hard to blog about.  Over the past couple of years I’ve posted my struggles with alcohol but most of it’s been set in the past.  As if it was all behind me. 

Well, I hate to say it, but it isn’t.  During my time in rehab I learned a lot about what my fellow addicts go through.  Frankly, I learned a lot more than I ever wanted.  Drugs must be hard to kick but I often think that at least nobody has to pass by a billboard for crack or see meth on sale in the grocery store.

Well for those of us whose weakness is alcohol, that isn’t true.  It’s everywhere. 

Did you know that mouthwash is 22% alcohol?  I did.  And even on a Sunday when you can’t by alcohol anywhere else you can buy it.

Sounds crazy doesn’t it?  I used to watch the show “Intervention” and see people do that and think how screwed up they were.  Well…there you go. 

I don’t recommend it.  It tastes terrible and makes your stomach hurt.  Plus, when your mind clears it’s hard to think of many things much seedier. 

So, since I’ve been honest about stuff up to this point.  Here I go again.

I failed.   I drank.  No excuse.  I can blame a lot on everything that happens after the first drink…’cause that’s what that stuff does.  However there is no excuse for the first one..

If you’re wondering why.  I don’t have a good reason.  Nothing that would sound logical or sensible to anyone.  I guess we drunks think that we can have the feeling of the first buzz and then stop…even though we’ve never done it before…

Admitting failure sucks and it’s a huge barrier to recovery.  Failing and making a “recovery” ….that I can take.  But putting everybody through another round of this mess is the last thing I ever wanted to do.  It keeps you from asking for help because you know you’ll see the looks of disappointment on the faces of those you love.

So….you lie.  When faced with incontrovertible proof of your stupidity you come up with the most creative load of crap you can imagine and you throw that mess out there.  Because they want to believe you, sometimes your loved ones let it go even though they have to know something is not right. 

This is a hard place to live.  It’s nobody’s fault but mine but it all goes so much further than me.  I can’t take it back.

So what’s next?  Something I absolutely hate.  Meetings.  Accountability.  Stuff that most of you don’t have to do.  You don’t have to toss away your evenings to hang out in a room full of fellow drunks.  You don’t have to have people come check on you when your alone.  That’s the privilege you get by not tossing all trust in you away.  That’s where I’m at today. 

So, you want to read a drunk’s blog.  Here it is.  This is who we are.  It’s a never ending battle.  It’s the ugly part. 

But…I’m not giving up….

Two years later….

May 1 of 2009 a lot of things changed.

When I woke up that morning, my family didn’t realize the extent of my drinking problem and I had a job as a teacher.

By midnight both facts had changed.

It was inevitable by that point, I just didn’t know it.  My body was crashing.  I’d had more alcohol than my system could process.  My judgement was gone.  I wasn’t thinking straight and about a month earlier the events that would end my employment had been set in motion.

What does it take for an alcoholic to get help?  Where is “rock bottom” and once you reach it will you stop or just figure out a way to break rocks and get even lower?  I don’t remember much about that week.  From about Wednesday on I only recall bits and pieces and frankly I don’t know what order to put them in.

I remember waking up on Friday, taking a drink, walking downstairs to say goodbye to my father who was heading back home that morning and then the next thing I recall I was sitting on the end of a table in the emergency room trying to convince the doctor that my 4.2 blood alcohol level was the result of having taken cough medicine.

I was on my way to N.C. so that my family could try and figure out how to help me when I got the call from my dean that I needed to come in and talk with him.  My job was gone before I could get out of town and then a night of the worst detox I’ve ever been through began.

It’s two years later now.  In that time I had a bout where I was drinking again.  I went to a 7 month rehab program.  I spent a year working in food service and fought depression and despondence.  I’ve had dark days and days of hope.

Today, I’m happy.  My family and friends rallied around me.  I’ve fought my way back to a job that I love and it looks like this year, even more than 2009 was a year of negative change, it will be a year of life changing events that are positive.

So, tomorrow begins another year.  This last one, while less traumatic than the one before has been just as full of the unexpected.  The opportunities for joy and defeat were there.  God saw fit to grant me grace and victory in most cases.

The biggest difference between this and last year?  Last year I was wrestling with the idea of cosmic irony and expecting little from life.  This year, it’s about hope and new opportunities.

My thoughts this year:  If you know someone who you think needs help.  Stop waiting and get that process moving.  If you suspect that you are in trouble….well if you think that about yourself…others have probably noticed a long time ago.

If you find yourself doing an internet search on the warning signs of alcoholism and then ignoring it because you only have 6 out of 10…. you are in real trouble.

It’s not worth the wait…It’s not worth your so called pride.  Make the move.  Recovery is possible.  No matter what you think you’ll have to give up to get better…you can do it.  Don’t let a job, fear of what people will say or concern about separation from your family and friends during the process stop you.  All of that is able to be restored.

Now is the day to get help or start offering help.  Regrets are inevitable.  Don’t let the regret for not getting or offering help in time be one of yours.

Consequences

The long term consequences of the stupid stuff you did when in your addiction are the worst.  The body can heal from an awful lot of damage.  Most of the physical effects of the abuse I put myself through cleared up quickly.  Since I tended to binge and then cycle off of the alcohol I became very familiar with detoxification.  The first 48 hours were the worst.  Inside of a week or so the anxiety and restlessness subsided.  I would get my appetite back.  Frequently I’d feel…well not exactly pain in my abdomen…but just an odd feeling.  That took a little longer to subside.

That happened for the last time the week I entered the Overcomer program.  Lots of other changes happened after that during the next few months.  That part is over.  I’m out now.  Now each day the long term stuff comes home to roost.

The pain I caused my friends and family seems to be healing.  Trust slowly comes back.  Frankly, my friends and family are fully aware that I’m not fully trustworthy at this point.  It would be foolish of them to not be closely holding me accountable.  The substance of my temptation is too readily available.

Everyday on my way home I see a billboard at the corner of Wade Hampton and Church.  It’s a bourbon bottle pouring a drink into a glass.  It’s even my old brand.  But really, this doesn’t bother me.

It’s the day to day stuff that’s getting to me at this point.  I have two jobs.  One of them I technically started back in July of 2009.  A friend from BJU who manages a local café gave me a job as soon as he saw my application…no questions asked.  I told him what happened.  Weeks later he was suspecting that I was drinking and even though I left suddenly to go into rehab he gave me back my job when I came out.  Again, no questions asked.

I’ve always felt that I was a grateful person and I really do appreciate the fact that I have a job but that only goes so far to soothe one’s mind.  The job is depressing right now.  Months ago I got passed over for a position with more responsibility and challenge.  Now, though I have weekend job that I really enjoy there is no guarantee that it will turn into anything more than a part time position anytime soon.  That weekend job pretty much sealed my fate at the café.  There is no opportunity for me to progress.  No opportunity to grow.  I’m an interchangeable cog. I’m fully swappable with any high school kid.  The value I have to the company is well represented by the fact that after over a year my nametag is just the backside of an old business card with my name written in sharpie.  It’s 7 or so hours a day on my feet for low pay at a place where the company’s idea of a good raise comes out to about 2%.  I had a little hope a few weeks ago to expand my role a little but that didn’t work out.  After getting it all but solidified I made the mistake of telling the higher-ups that I thought that I was about to go full time at my weekend job so they put it on what seems to be permanent hold.  The pragmatic will probably point out that it’s my own fault for telling them but I didn’t feel right about having them invest some fairly intense training in me only to have me leave within two weeks.  That didn’t work out for me.

I get up at 4:30am to open the store.  I fill the same orders day after day for a couple of dozen regulars along with less frequent walk-ins.  I get a half hour break then lunch comes.  I like lunch best.  It’s usually busy and I stay busy enough during that 2 ½ hours for the time to pass quickly.

Last year it wasn’t quite the same.  In the recovery program I didn’t see the news much.  I wasn’t as in tune with the schedule of my old life as it moved on.  This year when classes go back in session…I notice.  I see Facebook posts from old friends and students who are talking about things I used to be deeply involved with.  Holiday breaks come and go.  They rejoice in the extra time off to be with friends and family.  I pick up some extra shifts and work crazy hours for 18 days straight.

And after all is said and done as the philosopher Jimmy Buffet once said….It’s my own damn fault.  I tough realization but one that has to be accepted.

I accept it better some days than others.  I’m still not drinking though.

Inescapable Conclusions

My parallel time last year in Overcomers would have found me about to enter the program in earnest in a couple of days.  The first two weeks of Overcomers is filled, mostly, with a daily task followed by one hour of class per week day.  Pre-programmers are also required to attend additional sessions at night most evenings.  While the first two weeks are somewhat frustrating because it seems to be so little work being done on one’s problem and so much ….well just other stuff.  The routine and rules quickly become challenging to one’s state of mind.

Days begin early at the mission.  The lights go on at 5:30 and the men only have a couple of minutes to get out of their bunks.  The first mandatory event of the day is “Pray-in” and that happens about 40 minutes after lights-on.  Chapel is at 7 am so and before an Overcomer goes there he must have his bunk and area clean, himself dressed and ready to go and if he still has one of the daily dormitory tasks then that must be done as well.  Breakfast is also fit into this time before 7am.  I usually skipped breakfast as it tended to be the meal of the day where there was the least variety and frankly quality of food.  We usually had cereal two day a week and those were the days I was most likely to go downstairs for a meal.   I would sometimes head down for coffee…well a cup of brown water with grit in it.  For reasons that remain somewhat obscure we weren’t allowed to make have coffee in the dorm though frankly stashes of instant coffee were some of the more benign and common contraband many of us tended to stash away.  Once I was able to go to Wal-Mart as part of my duties I did procure some instant packets to either use in the dorm with tap water or to add to the lousy coffee we did get in the mornings or at church to make it palatable. 

I guess this brings up the subject of contraband and the rules that had to do with it.  Obviously, being an addiction recovery program, the possessions and substances that clients are permitted to possess are very limited.  Mouthwashes and other personal hygiene items cannot contain alcohol for obvious reasons.  Overcomers are also not allowed to keep more than a daily dose of any medication in their possession.  During the week medication was dispensed by the infirmary and closely controlled.  On weekends the men are allowed to have enough doses of their meds to cover Saturday and Sunday.  Even drugs such as over the counter pain relievers are closely controlled and we were not supposed to have supplies of them in our possession.  This was another frequently broken rule as one quickly learned that it was truly a miserable experience to have a headache and no access to pain medication over night.  Initially I intended to keep these rules myself but later on I began keeping a “stash”.  This presents a bit of a moral dilemma as on the one hand as an Overcomer progresses through the program we are encouraged to see our willingness to violate rules as “relapse behavior”.  On the other hand having a headache or bad cold in the middle of the night stinks.  While in a true emergency a counselor could have been called and come in to access medicine unless the situation was truly serious one usually had to wait until the next morning or even until Monday to get medication.  However, one quickly realized that many guys kept supplies of some meds and a trusted friend would usually share or point you in the right direction if you needed something.  It felt rather odd to be “trafficking” in Advil or cold medicine but the men appreciated the irony of the situation.  One man who provided me with some Advil late one evening when I had a headache briefly put on his former hat as a dealer when he informed me that “the first one is free….cause I know you’ll be back.”

Even with only one hour of class per day quite a bit happens in those first two weeks.  In my case I think the most important thing I learned was that regardless of age or background all of us in the program were more or less the same.  There were young guys sent to the program as a last chance before jail and older men who had wasted a tremendous amount of their lives.  There were meth manufacturers and successful business owners.  (In some cases they were the same man.)  There were the openly rebellious and then there were men like me.  Smart enough not to openly challenge the counselors but inwardly most unconvinced that 6 ½ months of treatment and counseling are really necessary.

At the end of the day though I believe every man who is successful in the program comes to the same unavoidable, inescapable conclusion:  No matter what I think of the most apparently foolish person sitting in that classroom, no matter how unlearned, unwise or self-destructive I may perceive them to be: I’m sitting in the same room with them in a recovery program.

The difference a year makes…

August 29, 2009 I awoke from a drunken stupor with my wife and friends at the foot of my bed telling me I needed serious help.

August 29, 2010 I’d been clean for over a year and was offered a job to get back in the broadcasting field I love.

Apologies if some of this post repeats a few things from posts right after I got out of the program but I’m going back through my journals and I wanted to start at the beginning as this new year begins.

This week marks my one year anniversary of entering the Overcomers addiction recovery program so I thought it would be a good time to resume my blogging about that experience.

Here’s how it all began.

On May 1 of 2009 I lost my job at Bob Jones University.  I had let my use of alcohol get out of control over the preceding years and it had begun to take a serious toll on my health.  No longer could I conceal from my family and friends the profound physical effects the abuse was taking on me.  I was using alcohol on a daily basis except for cycles when I would attempt to stop drinking on my own.  In those times I would try different strategies for weaning myself off of alcohol.  Because I was at a point where abstaining from alcohol for more than 5 or 6 hours would send me into very noticeable detoxification effects I was compelled to use alcohol at least enough to stave off detox while I was at work.  This was really dumb but we drunks aren’t known for our clear thinking.

As for how the school found out; well, this is apparently how it shook out:  This may sound odd but when I was drinking at my worst I didn’t need to use alcohol at work directly.  I could, pretty easily, have an “eye opener” when I got up and then make it through the day without alcohol until I got home in the afternoon.  However, when I would go through times when I was trying to get off of alcohol I’d go through very difficult and noticeable detox symptoms.  These included inability to focus or sit still for long and dreadful bouts of sweating.  So in order to attempt to make it through the day without these problems when I was going through the 36-48 hours necessary to truly get off the bourbon I would drink small amounts of wine from picnic sized bottles.  My true foolishness was that I once disposed of a couple of these bottles on campus.  The story that I got when confronted in May was that the custodial crew had been keeping a close eye on the trash in various university buildings because of a problem they had in the past with homeless people attempting to stay in buildings overnight.  (I had actually heard of this happening during summers at least.)  During these searches they found some bottles that I had disposed of in an envelope that had my name on it.  Also, I had apparently thrown away the bag they had come with and the receipt from the grocery store where I had purchased them.  When I was confronted by my dean he told me that they had cross referenced the last four digits of the card used to purchase the wine with Campus Store receipts and found that I used a card that ended in the same four numbers.  Also, my time entering campus on the date of purchase was about 10 minutes after the time and date on the receipt.  I was pretty much caught at that point but still making some feeble excuses.  I was also still drunk from my last bender at the time having blown a .42 blood alcohol level at the hospital less than 4 hours earlier thus when he asked me to pull up my online bank statement for final confirmation I agreed and he immediately saw the entries for a local liquor store.  It was over by that point and after a meeting with the provost I was asked not to return to campus until after the school year was ended to clean out my office.  In retrospect, I’m not sure that was the whole story.  I have a feeling that at some point a collegue or student may have smelled alcohol or suspected my problem in some other way and have brought it to the attention of the administration.  That’s neither here nor there though because I needed to get caught one way or another.  It was killing me.

My usage had been heavy for the past two years or so.  The previous summer, after a year of noticing problems myself during the school year I was determined to get off of alcohol during the summer.  I was totally unsuccessful in this, partially because I really didn’t want to and partially because my wife went away to Boston for a month with her job leaving me with no accountability whatsoever.  For the month she was gone I did pretty much nothing but drink every day all day except for weeks when I worked with the camps I was obligated to.  The university had stopped providing us with summer jobs so I had nothing to do most of the summer.

By the end of that month I was seeing physical issues I’d never seen before.  My urine was bright orange and I had some odd abdominal pain.  This was my first real attempt at stopping.  I told my friend and doctor and my immediate supervisor at work as well as my wife that I had an alcohol problem and I promised them all I would stop.  Within weeks, once I was feeling better, I was drinking again.  I had a physical breakdown just before Thanksgiving one morning.  After a binge of drinking I got up one morning and had an “eye opener” to get me moving, walked outside and realized that my eyes were not at all adjusting to the sunlight.  I was nearly blind and could barely drive to work.  I was terrified and was just trying to make it through work.  That day I was emotional and weepy.  Everybody knew something was wrong but I just lied about being tired and feeling some particular spiritual oppression and then went home and claimed to be sick for a few days.

The question comes up: So what do you think of the university now that you are gone?  That’s not an easy question for me to answer.  When it comes to them letting me go I have no quarrel with that.  I violated a clear policy that I knew was an offence that would result in dismissal if I ever got caught.  My dean, provost and HR representative were kind and sorrowful as I went through that part of the process.

I did have issues with the school but I had not business taking the job with them knowing their stance on things or remaining there as they made decisions with which I had profound disagreement.  When there interference in matters such as where my wife and I would go to church became intolerably intrusive I should have had the courage to leave immediately.  As I became more unhappy as I realized that my optimistic view of “real fundamentalism” was sadly untrue I should have made my plans to move on and then gone.  I didn’t.  I loved teaching and knew that it was most unlikely I could teach at an accredited school.

I have one other regret and criticism of the school.  While I cannot blame them for my alcoholism I do wish that the school had some way for someone like me, who knew he had a serious alcohol problem two years earlier, to get help without the absolute certainty that I would be thrown out.  I had to be very careful who I talked to in order to get help.  Later I found out that some colleagues were questioned about what they knew and when they knew it so as I suspected, even asking friends for help put them in danger.  I know for a fact that there are others who need help and in some cases have been living in quiet desperation for many years.  Yet there is no institutionalized plan for getting assistance and in fact the medical plan specifically excludes coverage for addiction related health issues presumably because we aren’t supposed to have any as a matter of policy.

Three months of AA meetings didn’t accomplish much other than giving me an opportunity to give an outward show of “doing something” about my alcohol problem while masking the fact that it was still there.  For two months I did stay clean but a new job and a return to comparative normality saw me begin to drink again.  I switched from bourbon to vodka which was easier to hide when it came to odor.  It was also cheaper and I found myself drawn to horrible flavored vodka that was easier to chug quickly.  My plan became to buy a bottle on the way home and chug what I could around the corner from the house.  That got my buzz on to get started.  Then usually sometime during the afternoon or evening I’d manage to sneak the bottle into the house and upstairs to hide it.

The charade didn’t last long.  On July 29 I returned home after work drinking as usual.  Within a few minutes she had sent me to bed to sleep it off and when I awoke later that night she and a couple of my friends were standing at the foot of my bed telling me that had a place for me to go.

On August 3 I entered the Overcomers program.  My parents, wife and a close friend dropped me off that morning.  The first thing that happens when you arrive is you are drug and alcohol tested.  Your possessions are searched and your are escorted into the mission where, if successful, you will live for at least the next 27 weeks.

Most guys enter the program on Thursday or Friday and have a day or two to settle in before assigned a job.  I happened upon an opening in the kitchen and offered to begin immediately.  I saw situations where guys didn’t have a job for several days and frankly they quickly became bored out of their minds.  Since “pre-programmers” only have class at 4 pm the rest of the day moves slowly.  Men are not allowed in their bunks during the day or allowed to nap anywhere else in the mission so general lethargy and sleeping isn’t an option.  There is no computer or internet access nor are Overcomers allowed to listen to radios or CDs during the day.

Pre-program is just an introduction to the Overcomers.  It is taught by all the counselors in rotation and one learns a lot about the counselors and fellow Overcomers during this time.  At the high point there were 15 in my “class” that could have potentially graduated the same month as I.  Counselors were honest as they told us a telling statistic.  Chances were that only 2 or 3 of us would be at that graduation.  It was indeed 3 by February and I was one of them.

As I begin updating this blog again I’m reading through my journal that I kept while in the program.  I hope to keep pace with where I was week by week and give you an idea of what a recovery program is like.  After all is said and done none of this is in vain.  Obviously my life has changed but I can’t help but feel that I’m supposed to use this experience for others.  If you or somebody you know has a problem I’ll be glad to advise in any way I can and get you in touch with the right people so that help can be obtained.  Yes, the writing of any blog is a bit of an exercise in vanity and writing about these things helps me remember and work things out in my own mind.  I just hope it’s helpful in some other ways too.

Good ain’t forever and bad ain’t for good.

Writing has hazards involved that one may not consider before the page begins to fill.  It’s not always cathartic.  Sometimes it locks emotions into place when they are better dealt with or moved through.

It’s been a few weeks since my last post for several reasons.  No, that’s not really true.  Just one if I’m honest.  I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been so busy with all the things I’m involved with.  It would be more comfortable to say that I had some kind of writer’s block, couldn’t really figure out where I wanted to go with my story next or just lost interest in the whole thing but none of that would be true.  The real reason I’ve been silent is that the only things I felt like saying..putting down in print just sound like pathetic whingeing on  and self pity.  At least that’s what it sounds like in my head and I would find it difficult to believe that it would come across much differently on a blog.

However, it’s getting in the way of a lot more than just moving ahead with this silly website.  It’s taking an awful toll on my sanity or at least my peace of mind.  It’s robbing me of joy and hope and faith so I guess getting it out is the best way to proceed and then hopefully I’ll have it done with, faced and left behind.

It’s been odd to see how being confined in a recovery program was less stressful than return to “real life”, a home and a job.  On reflection I guess that living in a world where most of your time is structured and your activities predetermined does take a good deal of pressure off but it’s hardly a vacation.  I sure as hell don’t want to go back there.  The honeymoon of homecoming ended quickly though and the last month or so has been rough.

Last post I mentioned the difficulty of my current work situation.  The gratefulness for just having a job in this economy was wearing off and the reality of manning a cash register was hitting home.  It hasn’t gotten much better over the past few weeks.  One customer even managed to one-up the customer I talked about last time who joked about “Undercover Boss” by asking me point blank “What job were you doing before you took this one?” and “Why did you leave that job?”.  Yes, I realize that I would have been completely within my rights to say “None of your business” to both questions but frankly I was so taken back by the direct nature of the inquiry that it was my final answer of “personal reasons” that ended the line of questioning.

About that time something else happened that really shattered my morale.  For the first five weeks or so back at work I was scheduled to work every Saturday.  Usually I was scheduled from the early morning to deep into the afternoon so Saturday by any definition it had ever been to me in all my working years was a thing of the past.  Saturday’s working at a restaurant are great.  Not only are you doing the same job as you’ve done all week but you get to do it on a day when most of the rest of the world is out having a good time.  It’s worse by far, I would guess, than working most other places on Saturday.  I’ve graded papers on a Saturday, been in the office on a Saturday or had to work an event on a Saturday but the special thing about Saturday at an eating establishment is that almost all of you clients are just stopping in to have a meal on their way to or from some enjoyable event.  The weather has been nice too so everyone is in their warm weather outdoor clothing and many are driving up with the various apparatus of their activity of choice strapped on a rack to the top or back of their car.  So generally speaking, on weekends especially, I tended to start out at about 6:30 am at work with a mildly misanthropic attitude towards humanity in general and customers in particular, building towards deep disdain for every S.O.B, and D.O.B for that matter, that walked in the door, finally finishing up with believing, by the end of the day, that I truly understood the motivations of every psychopathic megalomaniacal villain in every movie ever made.  It got worse each week.

One Monday morning after a Sunday of working morning to afternoon followed by a mandatory meeting at work that night I just pulled up in my car to work a few minutes early and prayed for God just to give me some encouragement for the day while I was at work.  That’s all I wanted.  Just something to show me some light in the tunnel for those next few hours.  Well, to human observation at least, God seemed to listen and then put in a call to His irony department.  Within an hour after checking in for work I was given the news that due to the departure of another employee my schedule was going to be changed.  I was going to get a Monday through Friday schedule with pretty much full time hours and I would be working the early shift that would allow me to late afternoons and evenings free to pursue some of the activities that I had been wanting to schedule.  Awesome.  Encouragement at work just like I had asked.   I even called the wife who passed the info on to my parents.  Everybody was happy.

Literal encouragement  just during those few work hours, was exactly what it turned into.  Right after I had checked out for the day I mentioned the changes to another store manager and was quickly informed that she would not allow me to be installed into the schedule I had been offered.  So it was taken away within minutes.  A day of rejoicing was replaced by not only the revoking of the schedule that I thought I had but by being informed by the scheduling manager that she had no intention of giving anyone that advantageous of a schedule at any time.  I wasn’t too thrilled with her to say the least but at this writing at least I have resisted the urge to put mousetraps in the cash register she uses or to inact that idea I had that would make her hair fall out.  Frankly, I wasn’t too happy with God either.  Encouragement during work.  Yep, I had that.  Ripping it all away as I walked out the door.  Very funny.  You got me good with that one.

A person can deal with almost any situation so long as there is hope.  That’s the whole point of that famous sign in hell: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”  Someone flicked a switch and that sign began to buzz and then glow in bright neon in my head.  Any illusions that I had about my situation really getting better at that job were dispelled.  Don’t get me wrong.  That’s somewhat of a freeing thing as well.  Knowing where you stand definitely has value but in a job market where there is a glut of darn near everybody it is a kick in the head to realize that you may well be investing your time in a place where there is little likelihood of there being a payoff.   Cosmic irony kind of sucks too when the mind has been stewing in sarcasm and pessimism already.

When in the Overcomer program I found it easier to be upbeat about the future.  I think that I sort of had this idea that I was paying my penance while in the program and was learning my lesson and consciously our unconsciously was expecting God to notice and then get on with the blessings.  Then I came out of the program and here a year after my world came apart I find myself in roughly the same physical place.  Contentment and peace comes and goes.  Today, It’s back.  I put that mostly on the fact that lately I’ve been able to get my eyes off of myself, look for opportunities in the place God has put me and also I’ve carved out a few opportunities by volunteering with the Scout troop near my home.  That sort of thing is key and it will help keep me from ever being a miserable drunk or miserable sober for that matter again.

The great philosopher Roger Miller said: “Everything changes a little and it should. Good ain’t forever and bad ain’t for good.”