This was going to be an ending to the blog. That was the plan.
I planned to write about all the exciting stuff coming up for myself, my wife, my family and our company, Brown Dogs Farm.
It was loosely the plan from the time I wrote my first post a year ago. I wanted to write for one year, twice a month, and take you through the deepest darkest parts of addiction and into the light of sobriety that is “what comes after the dark.”
My plan was to put a bow on it. Let you see all the great things that have happened in my life as a direct result of the end of my relationship with alcohol. That was the plan.
Plans, of course, change.
It’s important, I believe, to be able to change with those plans, so the plans have changed for this blog post. Instead of a pretty picture of life after alcohol, I want to tell you about a month or so that didn’t go as planned. It certainly wasn’t the best month, in fact it might have been one of the more challenging stretches I’ve had in sobriety. Yet I still find it unfair to classify it as a bad stretch. Difficult? Sure. Uncomfortable? Yes. Outright bad… I can’t get there.
Back in April, I began having issues with my feet, issues that made it painful to workout or play basketball. I started going to the doctor to figure things out and it took some time, trail and error, but eventually I was sent to a podiatrist in October, and diagnosed with bunions on both feet (note: bunions are not onion buns as I had previously assumed). I was told that I would need surgery on each foot to correct the issue.
Not ideal, but I was excited to have found a potential resolution to the problem. Not being able to work out or play basketball is one thing, but by the time I saw the podiatrist I was in pain daily, just from having shoes on. Add feet to my list of things I wish I hadn’t taken for granted for so long.
The surgeries had to be done one foot at a time as you had to be able to bear weight on the healthy foot, and there had to be a month in between surgeries so that the foot could heal before the other side was done. Couple that with insurance deductibles and being fiscally responsible, it became apparent that the best thing for me to do would be to have both surgeries completed by the end of 2018. That meant we had to act fast, and I wouldn’t have much choice on dates. The first surgery would be the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and the 2nd surgery would be December 28th. I was in pain and agreed to it without hesitation.
I honestly didn’t even consider much how these surgeries would affect Amanda and I during the holidays. The only issue I was concerned with was that we had a bathroom remodel scheduled to start the first week of December. This was something we had been planning for 6 months- it was a really big deal. We actually hired a company to do a real remodel in our main bathroom – the only shower in the house. We were totally prepared to use the gym for showering during the remodel, but having a surgically repaired foot during that time was not something that was planned.
There are 2 weeks post surgery that you can’t get the foot wet, at all. You have to wear a protective boot over the wrap so that it doesn’t get wet. So that would be a really daunting task in a public shower situation, because you also can’t put weight on the foot during the shower (the padded boot you wear for walking also can’t get wet). Luckily, the remodel ended up being pushed back a week, so the last showers I took in the old shower were in a chair with my foot hanging out of the shower door.
The surgery itself wasn’t bad either. It was much easier and less painful than expected, because I had expected the worst.
That doesn’t mean it was fun. It totally sucked. I missed Thanksgiving! Leftovers are great but nothing compares to the actual meal. In fact, it was a pretty weird feeling to be all alone on Thanksgiving. Noon to about 4 on Thanksgiving Day is really quiet, with no one texting or calling. Everyone is eating with their families. Also, I was high on drugs. Okay I wasn’t “high,” they were prescribed for pain, and I was in pain.
I was cautious though. Everyone has heard the stories of people with long-term sobriety who get injured or go through a surgery and end up addicted to pain killers. Opioid addiction is terrifying and heartbreaking. So I took the pills for 3 or 4 days and then I stopped. No weaning or anything, so I felt a bit of a detox at the end of it. It was all a reminder of what my old life was like.
It really wasn’t too bad though. Mostly I was just bummed that I missed out on Turkey day with my fam. We typically go bowling and of course I wasn’t able to do that either. It did remind me of how great Thanksgiving is. It’s easy to dread the holidays and take them for granted. I won’t do that next year.
Next up was the remodel, which was a lot like our house having surgery. This was the first time we didn’t ask someone we know or DIY a home project, so it was a brand new experience having 3 strangers at our house working from 8 to 4, 6 days a week for 2 weeks.
It’s an odd feeling, to feel in the way in your own home. It’s loud and dusty. Like, really loud and really dusty. We were out of our comfort zones for sure. Showering at the gym isn’t a big deal to me, because it’s still much better than showering at the Fort Des Moines Correctional Facility, but having a fresh surgical wound on my foot while showering in an unfamiliar shower was pretty disconcerting.
Our lives were pretty jumbled by the surgery, the remodel, the upcoming surgery and preparing for Christmas. Jumbled, but fine. Everything was fine. Our bathroom and my feet were causing pain, but pain that would, in the end, render us great rewards. Healthy feet and a brand new shower, tub etc. It was all worth it.
Then our dog, Amanda’s dog, Prince, fell ill. He was fine and then he wasn’t. It happened very quickly. One night I noticed he hadn’t followed Amanda to lay in the bed, which was incredibly odd, so I checked on him and noticed his hind legs were trembling. After that he deteriorated very quickly. I won’t go into details, but within a week, while there were still 3 strangers in our home every day, we had to make the decision to let Prince go. It was awful. I wrote about his passing here.
The men who were working on the house saw me digging the grave for Prince and took the shovels from me. The three of them dug the hole better than I could have. It was a moment of kindness from strangers I won’t ever forget.
That was December 17th. It crushed our spirits to say the least. Watching him deteriorate those last few days made me feel so helpless. It was emotionally exhausting. The day we let him go I felt a bit of relief, knowing he wasn’t struggling anymore, but we were sad. We were sad and we had to go to a Christmas party that Friday, host a Christmas party the next night, and attend another Christmas party the night after that. Then of course we had to make our rounds on Christmas. It felt like a lot but it was probably the best thing for us, being around our family and friends.
So on Monday we buried our dog, on Friday we were on our way to a Christmas Dinner Party that my mom put together. We were ready to have a little fun on what was really starting to become a drag of a month.
As we pulled up to the stop light to turn into the restaurant, we saw an ambulance with its lights on headed our direction. I was in the left turning lane and just then got the arrow, so I started to turn into the driveway of the restaurant and wouldn’t you know it, the ambulance followed. We still had a bit of a lead on it so we were able to pull into the lot and again the ambulance followed. At that point my wife said “I hope they aren’t here for someone with us,” and at the same time I saw a crowd gathered just outside the front door of the restaurant and immediately recognized several people including my step dad and my uncle. I threw the car in park in the middle of the lot and ran out hearing my wife saying “you can’t just park here, what are you doing?” I ran up and saw my 94-year-old Grandpa laying on the ground with a stranger pressing an apron on the back of his head. There was a pool of bright red blood on the ground. What a scene. He had missed the curb and slipped and fallen. He had a good gash in the back of his head but was otherwise fine. He was coherent. He knew what was going on and he knew who I was. He is pretty amazing, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that he was basically fine in the end, that is after the ambulance ride to the hospital and several staples in his head. Helluva way to get the party started. The rest of the night was a little odd and hard to get back in the spirit for everyone. From what I heard, Grandpa was mostly just hungry at the hospital as he had expected to have a good meal. His official statement about the issue was “sometimes a smack to the head can be good for a person, knock some sense into them.”
After that, thankfully, we had a run of things going as planned. The other Christmas parties were great and no one was injured. The bathroom remodel was completed and looked incredible. It seemed we had made it through, beaten down but not defeated.
The last thing on the list was the second bunionectomy. I was feeling really good about the second surgery since the first one went so well. The only thing that would be different was that we had switched my pain medication from Hyrdocodone to Oxycodone as the hydros made me itchy and tight jawed. I really thought this second surgery would be cake, and I’d be able to hang out and watch college football or play video games for 4 days and be ready for work on the 2nd. That was the plan.
I sure you guessed it… it didn’t go as planned.
When I woke up from surgery, I was in a lot of pain and I was nauseous. Right away this was different and worse than the previous surgery. I also realized I had been back there for closer to 2 hours as opposed to the other foot which took less than an hour. I was given 2 10 milligram oxycodones before I left the hospital. I was still in pain despite those 2 pills, the anesthesia in my system, and the ankle block that was supposed to keep me from feeling my foot for a couple more hours. There was also a problem getting me released from the hospital, some mix-up between the hospital and the surgeon’s office. I was in bad shape and just wanted to go home. Finally after 3 hours, I was released.
Things didn’t really get any better when I got home though- the pain wasn’t subsiding and the pills weren’t working. Well they weren’t working great for the pain, but they were totally fucking my head up. I could hardly see my cell phone, my vision was so blurred. By the 2nd day I was nodding off repeatedly and constantly. I called the doctor to ask if anything was different this time. He said no. Seemed surprised I was in pain. I asked why the surgery took longer. He claimed it hadn’t. Then changed his mind and said it had taken a bit longer because “a piece of a tool we were using fell into your foot. We had to use the x-ray machine to find it, so that took maybe an extra 10 minutes.”
I was taken off guard by this, and really fucked up from the surgery and subsequent drugs, so I really didn’t press him on it. Just left it at that.
A couple days later the pain let up so I immediately stopped taking the pain meds. This time the kick felt worse. I was freezing or sweating for 48 hours after the last med. My stomach is still a bit upset a week later. It took me 5 or 6 days to fully come out of the fog the surgery and those pills had put me in. I felt like shit. It was like a controlled relapse and I went through all the stages. Turns out they are all still really awful.
I wasn’t able to watch many football games, I kept nodding off during them, and worse, I wasn’t able to make Black Eyed Peas for New Years Day. There goes my prosperity for the year. I think it was the first time since I have been sober I didn’t make Black Eyed Peas.
Last week I went in for my 1 week post-op appointment. The nurse was changing the bandage and noticed a random stitch under my big toe. The surgery was on the outside of the foot with a large incision, there was no reason why my big toe would have needed and incision for anything. The nurse was baffled, I had no idea… then the doctor came in and told me that he hadn’t previously told me the WHOLE STORY, because he didn’t want to concern me. The whole story was that he had dropped a pair of scissors into my foot, not just a faulty piece of equipment, the whole scissors, and then they couldn’t find them so they had to use the x-ray machine, but even with the x-ray they couldn’t reach them, so they pushed the scissors through until they were pressing against my toe from the inside out. Then they made an incision under my toe and pulled the scissors out through the incision. What the fuck. Seriously, what? Go ahead and read that part again, as every person I had told the story has asked me to repeat it.
And for whatever reason, I really didn’t even press the doctor anymore about it. I think I was again, caught completely off guard. Having thought about it extensively since, I imagine that trauma caused the extra pain I felt to some degree. That being said the foot is healing well and feeling better every day.
I guess all’s well that ends well.
After all that I suppose it would be fair to classify that month as complete bullshit and say that it sucked and it was the worst and so on. I can’t do it though.
I gained perspective. It’s during the hard times that I am reminded of how fortunate I am.
When you first get sober, every day is a challenge. Everyday is an achievement. Everyday you realize how lucky you are to be alive and how incredible life is when you are really living it.
Years later, it’s not as easy to be so thrilled to have another day sober. You start to take it for granted. You start to judge your days, weeks, months, and years with different parameters. And you should. You don’t ever want to become content with the progress you’ve made in life. I don’t want that. Happy and proud, sure, but content- no way. At least not to the point where you become stagnant.
I am thankful that I was able to navigate through that difficult month with a grace and perspective unlike any I’ve had before during times of great stress. I would not have handled any of those things well individually when I was still drinking, let alone all of them at once.
So instead of a pretty little story of light after the dark, I wrote a story about how life still happens when you are sober. Plans still get fucked up. Shit goes sideways. Some days still really really suck. BUT, you don’t need a depressant (drink) to help you get through it. It doesn’t even make sense. It never made any sense.
The holidays were difficult this year, but I’m still married (we didn’t even fight), I’m still employed, my family isn’t pissed off / concerned for me and I didn’t get addicted to opiates, so I am still able to find a way to be thankful for that month.
And I am still going to write an exciting story about big things that are happening for Brown Dogs Farm this year. I just don’t think it will be the end of the blog like I previously planned. I thought maybe I was running out of stories and so I should stop before the writing gets boring. Instead I think I need to keep living a life worth writing about. Keep experiencing new things and setting new goals. Keep sharing pieces of my life with you, good and bad, so that someone somewhere who needs to, can see that it is possible to recover.
I want to continue to show you what comes after the dark.
Happy New Year.