I have decided to start an online journal. There are often thoughts and ideas that I have that, while not important enough to start new pages, I would like to record them. I will put a date before each one.
As a result of the accident I have begun to get a sense of how short life really is, and how often we can leave so many things unsaid and undone. This is an attempt to put those little things down on paper.
3/1/07 It's the second anniversary of the accident. Kind of important to me in so many ways. We always seem to hold little dates in our memory that we are reminded of each year. For me they are such things as my high school graduation. When I went into the Navy. My tour in Vietnam. My marriage (both first and second time). The birth of my children. The date when I was finally able to find what I hope will continue to be permanent sobriety. The date I got clean again after a brief return to the use of marijuana. My move to Washington and the start of what will probably be my last period of employment. And now the date of what would be my darkest hours and in the end my greatest triumph. As it is said, 'It isn't over until its over'. So what did I do on this day. The same thing I set out to do the night of the accident and the same thing I did on the first anniversary of the accident. Went to a meeting. It still continues to be my source of strength and direction when life seems to be too jumbled and confusing. When all else fails, go to one more meeting. Don't quit before the miracle happens.
3/04/07 When I was in the Navy, every time that I changed ships there was always the usual goodbyes and exchanging addresses etc. We always swore that we would stay in touch. But the truth of the matter is, we went on with our lives and rarely, if ever, corresponded again. On the other hand there are my sponsors in recovery. Got an email today from the sponsor that I had when I quit drinking for the final time 21 years ago. Talked to him in December and have stayed in contact over the entire time.
When I moved home with almost a year sober, I got a new sponsor here in New York. He and I are still in contact after all this time and was the first one I contacted when I moved home after the accident. At that time (over 20 years ago) there was a small group of us who spent nearly every weekend at each others houses. Though some of us have had further difficulties, we are all sober today, and all still in touch.
As discussed on another page, it was the guy I sponsor that kept the faith and hung in there through my darkest times. He and I are still in contact and I still talk to him on a regular basis. I still talk to nearly every sponsor I have had for the last 20 years.
There is a connection that happens to people in the program that happens nowhere else. It is a bond that time, distance and hard times can never break. It is truly the cement that hold us all together, and gives us hope and strength in the tough times that life may put in our path.
3/7/07 Had a realization at a meeting recently. I had a real problem with anxiety attacks when I was in the nursing home. At the time I attributed this to the brain injury. The only other time I have experienced severe panic attacks was when I first quit the drugs and it was withdrawal. It actually happened a few weeks after I actually stopped the drugs. I realized that the panic attacks I experienced this time could very well be withdrawal from the drugs used to induce the coma and control the pain from the injuries. I have not had the severe anxiety problems since then. This doesn't really change anything, but does help to explain some of what I was experiencing.
3/12/07 At times, you become really aware of how things have changed in recovery. When I was using I was a slave to my addiction. When I had a thought of doing something, no matter how destructive, I was almost unable to not put that thought into action. Now in recovery, just because I think it, doesn't mean I have to act on it. I have been sick with a tough cold that has been sweeping through the family. Unable to sleep and with my thoughts running in circles, I imagined all kinds of terrible things. I was making plans to cut some of my recovery connections, tell some people off and it seemed every answer I could come up with was extreme. My addiction talking telling me to give up and isolate. So what did I do? Got up, checked my email, and just generally got a little active with something non-threatening. After a couple of hours I went back to bed, said my prayers, and slept. When I woke up the panic had passed. Was I miraculously cured of my cold, no, but I was still clean and the shouting of my addiction was quiet. My higher power had once again restored me to sanity.
3/22/07 Have had a reawakening of sorts. I have let myself become almost consumed with anger and self-pity. Anger at the accident that seemed to take away the life I had created for myself and self-pity over the life that I now have. Decided that I would not allow myself to be just a victim of this any longer. I'm going to get up and get moving. While not having any unrealistic expectations of the physical recovery that I can make, at the same time there is progress to be make. However small and slow that progress may be, its time to start getting out and getting some exercise to strengthen my muscles and try to get as strong as I can be. Will I ever be able to get back to the shape I was in before the accident. Probably not, but that doesn't mean that there is no progress to be make. It doesn't mean that if I can't fully recover that I am a failure. The only failure is not to try at all and to just accept the present situation as hopeless. Where there is life, there is always hope.
3/29/07 Called and talked to a friend in Washington today. When I was in the nursing home she and a couple other friends came to see me and we had a short meeting. She brought me a large stuffed bear that was to be my companion over the remaining time I was hospitalized. After I was discharged the bear made the rounds as a companion to people who had be hurt in one form or another. Harry was the first to use him when H broke his foot. I found out that the bear has finally made his way back and she is going to send him back to me to be my companion once again as I continue my recovery. Once again I sit in awe of the love that has been shown to me during this difficult time in my life and am committed even more to finding my way in recovery, no matter how slow and difficult it may be. Thank you from the bottom of my heat Renata.
3/31/07 As I continue this journey after my accident I am learning the lessons of recovery all over again. When I first got clean I always felt that I wanted to find some way to let my sponsors know how much they had helped me. They always would say that I had helped them as much as they had helped me. I didn't really understand how this could be. Then when I was asked to sponsor someone else I began to see how true this really was. Recently someone has once again asked me to be their sponsor and it is still true. The sponsee gives as much to their sponsor as their sponsor gives to them. The strength of the program truly is found in the passing along of what we have found and you really do have to give it away in order to keep it. Through all that has happened maybe this was the lesson that I needed to learn again.
4/5/07 Tough night last night. Had pushed too hard and when I got out of the meeting my legs had taken a real nose-dive. They were trebling like they had just before I fell awhile ago. Had to have help just getting to the car, and getting into the house when I got home. Slowly learning what the limits are, and I went beyond them last night. All in all, it still comes down to acceptance of this new body that I have to learn to live with. I am alive and still aware for a reason. My job is not to fight it and wish for the old days to return, but to discover my strengths and weaknesses and to carry on with what I have. Gratitude is hard to find some days, but it really is the answer and my job is to find it.
4/11/07 The end of step twelve, "Practice these principles in all of out affairs" is really taking on a new meaning now. I have found that I had no problem with this when it came to wanting to use and when it came to my addiction, but that I was really beginning to feel that my life was my doing. I was a success at my job, I owned my own home, and I was really beginning to think of myself as a self made man, Over the last few months I have begun to realize again how much the program of NA really deserves the credit for all of this, and how much I depend on them for even the little things that I used to take for granted. Once again I am aware of how much I owe them for my life and all the triumphs that I have enjoyed.
4/16/07 Going to schedule an appointment with a neurologist. Been having a tough time with making any sort of progress physically and am starting to have other problems as well. The fingers in my right hand had lost some of their sensitivity and coordination after the accident, not extreme but just enough to prevent things like spinning a roulette ball or snapping my fingers. Now I am having problems with my left hand. Consistent minor pain, much the same as what I have in my right foot. Sort of like you have if your foot has "gone to sleep" and you start moving it again. The sensation is there all the time in both my foot and fingers. Hopefully the doctor can find and correct whatever is causing it.
4/27/07 Had my appointment with a neurologist. The good news is that there is nothing unusual happening. At the same time I was told that there really is nothing that can be done to make any real change in my condition. It isn't a matter of my not being strong enough. It is because the signals from my brain to my body and from my body to my brain are 'scrambled' and working on strength won't unscramble them. "Can't put humpty dumpty together again' I guess it comes back to acceptance again. It is what it is and I just have to learn to adjust to reality and not change reality to what I wish it should be. Easy to say but not always easy to do sometimes.
4/11/07 I've noticed that New York now seems like "home". When I first moved back here I really wanted to be in Washington at the same time. I guess that was part of the wanting to have things like they used to be. The reality is that life goes on, it doesn't stop just because of an accident, mine or anybody else's. When I open up and start to really listen, I realize that everyone has troubles, others have problems in their lives, many of them as bad as mine or sometimes worse, yet they keep plugging along, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but they important thing is just to keep on trying to do your best. We can only do our best, and in the end that is all that matters.
4/12/07 As time goes by after the accident, I am now finally beginning to realize how much of my life has been effected beyond the obvious physical things. I am realizing just how angry I am, angry not just at the person who hit me, but at the accident itself and how my world seems to have been taken away and so radically changed seemingly overnight. I see too how easy it is for me to fall into self-pity and expect others to do things for me that I should be learning to do for myself. I need to keep learning that I am not in a nursing home, I am not a helpless cripple, I am not just waking up from a coma, and I need to live the life I have NOW, not the life I had nearly two years ago when I woke up after the accident. Many of the things that Marian had to say that I rebelled so much against, are starting to ring much truer than I would have admitted before. Could it be that I don't know everything? :)
6/12/07 I can't believe it has been so long since I made an entry. The last couple of months have really been busy. With the weather finally improving I have been out much more often. I have a couple of people I sponsor now and that has been a major blessing for me. One of them in particular, with his girlfriend, have almost become my chauffeurs. That has really helped get me out more. I spent a day at the NA area convention over Memorial Day and that kind of wore me out. Yesterday I saw what for me was a major milestone. Twice I walked up the stairs to my apartment without the use of the railings. It's the kind of thing that most people take for granted, but for me it was huge. That is the first time in the two years since the accident that I have been able to do that. I'm a little less of a ball of fire today, but am still making progress, so that is what matters.
7/2/07 The depression seems to have returned. Sleepless nights, and the feelings that it just isn't worth the effort. The logical part of me keeps me going, because I know this will pass, but I sure do hate it like this. There are times when I truly am grateful and know what a miracle it is that I am even here, but at other times all I can see are the things that I can't do, and that have been taken away.
7/4/07 On this holiday, as we celebrate freedom, I am once again thankful for the freedom I have. Freedom of a wheelchair, freedom from the coma that seemed permanent, and freedom from the addiction that haunted me for years. In spite of the depression that seems to be my companion all too often, I truly have been blessed.
7/19/07 Talked to co-workers from Tulalip yesterday. Was good to hear old voices and to say hello to them. Seth's aunt and uncle were up to visit a few days ago. She is a nurse and took the time to explain the things that were in the medical reports that I have from the accident. It ended up as a good news, bad news kind of thing. The bad news is that I was hurt much worse than I ever realized, but the good news is that I am alive, conscious, and functioning at all. I truly have been blessed. I got a book from my old sponsor and it has really been helpful. It is called "The Power Of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. It is helping to keep me more focused on the present, and keep me from dwelling in the past and wishing that things had somehow been different. What is, is. No amount of wishing or regret can undo the past. What is important is living in the present moment and and taking advantage of the beauty and wonder that is all around me.
8/15/07 I was sitting outside a couple of days ago, the weather was great and I was just enjoying a good cigar and the peace and quiet. As I looked around me I was struck by how much recovery is like a tree. Out in Washington there are a lot of cedar and evergreen trees. They look nice, but in wind storms they are notorious for being blown over because or the shallow root systems. In contrast, here in New York, there are much more hardwoods. It takes longer for them to grow, but in almost any storm short of a hurricane, they may bend, lose a limb or two, but they still stand tall. Recovery is like that. If we go to meetings worried about how we look, about sounding good, or what other people might think, then when the storms of life come our way we are uprooted and our recovery comes crashing down. On the other hand, if we are painstaking about building a solid root in the program, intertwining our roots with others in the program, and staying on solid ground, then when the storms of life come our way we are able to remain standing. Maybe we will suffer some dings, dents marks, even some broken limbs, but in the end we will endure and be an example to others of the strength of a program of recovery!
8/23/07 About a year after my accident I hit a low point and got suicidal. I ended up sitting on the couch in my living room with a loaded gun in my hand. What did I do? What I have learned to do after years in a recovery program. I called someone. I called the guy I sponsor and he came over and got the gun. That played a large part in my decision to move back home. I just didn't trust myself alone anymore. Things have gone along pretty good since then. I am taking anti-depressants and as far as I could tell, that problem seemed to have passed. Then about a week ago it hit again. For no apparent reason I hit an unexpected bout of being suicidal all over again. Once again I did as I have learned and called someone. After that I had a talk with my family here and made sure that the obvious things were done. My son-in-law hunts, and has a gun collection, so I asked him to make sure it was locked up. We have little kids around the house, and I found out that not only does he keep the guns separate from the ammunition, but they are both locked up and with separate keys. Seems once again I have learned more from the kids than I seem to teach them. It seems on the surface like bad news, but actually it is not. The first time was a year after the accident and this time was after nearly another year and a half. I talked about it after a meeting today, and realized that most people just don't understand. On rare occasions the head injury I suffered leaves me not in control of my own thinking. There is someone at the meetings however who has been through a TBI as well, (I Am her sponsor now) and she understood exactly what I was talking about.
Help is always available if we can swallow our pride, take a risk, and ask for it.
9/30/07 Still having a periodic battle with acceptance of the accident. There are times when I truly am just grateful for the fact that I am alive and aware, but at other times, just so frustrated with the fact that the life I had made for myself was taken away from me in an instant. I am reminded of my own words at meetings years ago. Life is fair. We all have things happen to us. It wouldn't be fair, after years of drinking and drugging, if i suddenly got some kind of exemption just because i started doing what I should have been doing all along anyway. We all have to deal with the seemingly tragic things that happens in our life. ALL OF US. I Can't explain why those things, but it happens to all of us in one form or another, and ultimately, that's fair!!
2/7/08 Sure has been awhile since I've written in this journal, (and I got reminded of that today :) ) so here's the latest. Christmas has come and gone but I have to say it wasn't a really joyous season this year. My mom died two weeks before Christmas. She had been in a adult care home for years suffering from Alzheimer's disease and she hasn't known who I was on the occasions that I have been in to see her.. My dad dies one week before Christmas over twenty years ago. In some ways it almost seems like God is calling people home for the birthday party for Christ. All of my brothers and sister had been in to see her two days before and I spent a little time with her the afternoon before she died. She had been really struggling for a long time and she is finally at peace and without pain.
On a lighter note, my grandson's birthday was last week. He is really quite the little boy now. He just turned four and is becoming quite the little whiz on the computer. He's going to be yards ahead of me in no time. He comes in every morning when he up and gets me up as well (well he wakes me up, even if I don't get out of bed) and I get a big hug every morning. My granddaughter is growing like a weed as well and is beginning to talk a little.
Celebrated 15 years clean in January, and turned 55 in January as well. Although I've been faced with more than on life threatening situation, I truly have been blessed.
One of the people I used to work with in Washington was in a serious accident about a week ago. It was a head on collision and she got several broken bones in her leg. Also a broken collarbone where the seat belt came across, but because of the seat belt, she didn't suffer any head injuries. The driver of the other vehicle was killed. She is in Harborview which is where I was following my accident and is just one floor above where I was. Harborview is on of the best trauma centers and hospitals in the nation so she is fortunate as I was that the best care is available to her. I called and talked to her a couple of times cause I know how boring it is to be laid up stuck in bed for a long time.
I have decided to turn over a new leaf. Because of the permanent problems as a result of the accident I had almost given up on the hope of ever getting much better than I am now. I had a driving evaluation done at the hospital just before I moved home and didn't do very well. Much of it was vision related. I was 20/40 in one eye and 20/80 in the other. This vision problem affected my reaction time as well. I have a prism in both lens to correct for what is permanent double vision as a result of my eyes not being in sync anymore. I had a vision exam last week at the VA center and I was 20/20 in one eye and 20/40 in the other. That is with the same glasses I have been using since coming home from the hospital two years ago. I've decided to stop sitting around thinking of all the things I "can't" do and start back in to building my strength back etc. I start physical therapy at the end of this month and also am starting to see a counselor to ward off the depression. Time to be proactive instead of waiting till I am in desperate straits. Maybe there isn't much more progress to be made, but I sure as heck won't know unless I get off my butt and get to trying. Like they say, failure isn't about not being successful, it's about not trying at all because of the fear.
2/9/08 This may sound kind of strange, but if I were to meet the man who hit me in the accident, I would say thank you. I know that sounds weird, but in the long run I think it changed my life for the better. We had a birthday party for my grandson today and I got to be a part of that. I bought him a present and he came over to say thank you. I got to watch the kids playing together and was a part of the family that I was separated from when I lived out west. These are times that I missed out on with my own kids when they were growing up because I was gone all of the time because of my military duties. Then when they graduated high school, I once again took the selfish route and followed what I wanted to do and move three thousand miles away. Now I am home again and part of the family that I neglected for so long and I get to see the grandkids grow up instead of hearing about it over the telephone. This was the 'nudge' that I needed to make me a part of my family once again. I can be pretty hard headed sometimes, and it would have been nice if I could have done it without such a drastic push, but I am here, with the family that I love. I guess in the long run, that is all that matters. What is real right now, not the mistakes of the past.
3/15/08 Well, Thursday night was another major learning
experience. I had gotten a
pedal machine from my physical therapist and was supposed to use it 3-5
minutes a day. Then, like usual, I had to push too hard. When I got it
unpacked I sat and used it for ten minutes. My legs were a little sore, but
I seemed ok otherwise. I then went up to my room to lie down, After a
little while I began to feel really nauseous so I went into the bathroom. I
laid on the floor for a little while, but wasn't sick so I went to stand up.
When I did that I collapsed. People in the house heard the crash and
thought by granddaughter has fallen out of her crib. Instead they found me
laying on the floor unable to get up. At first they tried to help me stand
but I couldn't even get up on my hands and knees. I ended up sliding along
the floor back to my room. They were going to help me get back into bed,
but I was afraid of falling out of bed so I just laid on the floor with a
pillow under my head. The entire time this was going on all I could think
of was Tommy saying, IT'S NOT ABOUT TRYING HARDER, IT'S ABOUT TRYING
SMARTER!! After a little while I was able to get to my hands and knees and
crawl into bed and after sleeping for a few hours seemed to be back to
'normal' again. Being the stubborn old guy that I am, it looks like I still
have trouble learning from someone else's experience and have to learn the
hard way for myself. I'm feeling somewhat better today, but still sore from
the fall. Thanks anyway for the advice Tommy, maybe I should go back over
some of the old email I have and see if there is anything else I missed that
might save me a little pain in the future.
This is a copy of an email I sent yesterday to my NA friends in Washington
I just got back from an NA meeting and wanted to drop everyone a line and
let you all know how I'm doing.
As some of you know I collapsed a couple of weeks ago. Not really a fall,
just collapsed like a ton of bricks. I was unable to walk or even get to my
hands and knees.
I was in to see the doctor last Monday and he said he thinks it is a drug
interaction and has stopped the nerve medicine I take. Little change in the
Today was the first time I've been out of the house in the last week and
only the second time in two weeks. To get from the car to the meeting room
(at the local hospital) I had to use a wheelchair. That is the first I've
had to use a wheelchair (other than emergency room visits twice) since
returning home two years ago.
On the one hand this leaves me discouraged and depressed.
There was someone at the meeting tonight who's husband is just coming out of
a coma after an accident a week ago.
I remember that it was just three short years ago when it looked like I was
going to be in a coma the rest of my life. Then the miracle happened.
I remember being so proud at the second meeting in the nursing home after I
woke up, and being so proud that I could sit up in the bed.
I remember the struggle of learning to walk again.
As difficult as these days may seem when I look at what I "can't" do, I also
realize how truly blessed I have been.
Let everyone know that even though times may seem tough, I'm still hanging in
there and still an active part of NA. God bless all of you, and drop me a
line when you get the chance.
6/12/08 As my last entry indicates, there have been some good times and some bad times.
After I collapsed a couple of months ago I went through some real depression, and about
a month ago had come to a point where I had decided to just give up. I stayed in bed most
of the day, didn't go outside my room for days at a time, quit eating, and had just decided
that I was just gonna give up and die! Then a friend in NA came over and reminded me that
we were planning to go to the NA Area Convention over Memorial Day weekend. I had a lot
of excuses all ready, but she had answers for all of them so I reluctantly agreed to go. When I
got there no much was different. I was in a wheelchair and was going to hear some of the speakers,
but my heart wasn't really in it. Then on Saturday afternoon someone else just grabbed hold of
the wheelchair and took me in to the afternoon speaker. God must have intended for me to be
there because the speaker was just what I needed to hear. He talked about the responsibility that
goes with recovery and I remembered back to a conversation I had with my sponsor before I left
Washington. He and his girlfriend reminded me that those of use that have received a miracle have
a responsibility attached to it that requires that we pass on the message of hope that we received.
I was reminded that much progress has been made, both in my physical recovery and my recovery
from addiction. I am not alone, and it is not my job to question why God does what he does, but
to do the best I can with what I have in front of me. There is a reason for what happened, and I may
never know what that reason is, but all I need to do is have the faith that God knows what he is doing
and to trust in his judgment and keep focused on doing the best I can.
It has had a major impact on my attitude and outlook on life, and I am once again active in this
life I have been blessed with. Thanks to Russ and Tammy and all the people who have helped me
so much in my recovery
10/12/08 I've been to the neurologist at the local VA hospital and had blood tests and in particular an MRI.
The good news is that they could not see any new damage. I collapsed a few weeks ago, (apparently because of
a drug interaction) and they were concerned that it could be a stroke or something similar because of the brain injury.
Nothing showed up though. The bad news is, that because of the previous injuries, there are parts
or my brain that would mask any new injuries because the old injuries would hide them. I have gotten the MRI's
from before sent to the VA hospital here so we have a progression of 'pictures' of my brain to look at
and it appears that they are going to do an MRI every six months to a year to keep an eye on this
ongoing drama that they call my head!
11/10/08 Went to a concert on Saturday night. It's the first big event I've been to since returning home two years ago.
What a great night!!
1/16/09 Sure have been alot of changes lately. Went through a bad spell a few weeks ago and fell a few times in the space of a couple of days.
Not fell actually, just my legs gave out unable to support my weight. As a result of all of that we all came to the conclusion that
it just wasn't really safe for me to be home alone with no one to call for in case of trouble. On top of that I have been to the emergency room
three time in the last two months, once as an inpatient for three days, and on two of those occasions I was transported there by ambulance because
I was unable to walk. The end result of all this is that I am no living in an Assisted Living Facility. I struggled with the idea for awhile, feels
like it did when I came out of a coma and was in a nursing home after my accident, but after being here for a few days it really feels like I have
come someplace where I can truly relax and be safe. No one is pushing me to do more, to be more than I am. On top of that I really feel safe
for the first time in a long time. I know that help is just a pull of a cord away. There are emergency pull cords almost everywhere it seems. the
funny part of it is that I seems to be doing better lately than I have in awhile. I have taken to walking around the building each night without using
my cane. I have it with me, but just carry it. On top of that there are rails along the walls everywhere. The place is set up for people
with limited mobility like I have, and it just feels safer here. I've started physical therapy at the VA clinic again and will be going once a week.
The friend that took me to the John Hammond concert is going to take me to see Willie Nelson on the 14th of February. Willie has always been
one of my favorites and I'm really looking forward to the concert.
The VA provided me with my own wheelchair a few weeks ago, but so far I haven't had to use it. Guess that all things considered, in spite of any
difficulties I may be having, I really am lucky just to be alive and am contented with my life.
Just went over 16 years clear of all drugs yesterday and 23 years without a drink. Not bad for someone they said was never going to ever
02/13/2011 So long since I've updated this and so much has changed. I've been here at Willow Park for over two years now. I have spent the majority of that time in a wheelchair. I can walk short distances, such as around my room, but any long walks are just too much for me. That's not bad, considering the alternatives.
I have stopped physical therapy. It seems that was doing more harm than good. One of the results of a brain injury like mine is a real problem with fatigue. What has been happening is that I just overdo it really badly trying to get back to the old days (can't be done, you can't un-scramble an egg!) and then I really crash and end up worse off in the long run. This has happened more than once over the past few years, but it seems I may have finally learned to just take it easy.
Seems hard to imagine that I had the accident almost six years ago. Seems like only yesterday that I was still living in Washington and working at the casino.
On a side note, I have kept at my music collection, and I now have 100,000 tracks on my computer. Quite an accomplishment. I don't thin many people ever visit this site, but if you do, and you would like any music in particular, just send me an email and I'll try to get it out to you. Not much else going on, I'll try to keep this more current, why I don't know, but it keeps me busy.