That Hard Livin is Gonna Catch Up to You Boy ) F{UR [

the peak of my self-destruction

My wife was waiting outside in our Camry, it was still raining and she looked none too pleased. She wasn’t outwardly angry until I complained about having to go to the bail bondsman’s office before going home (yes I’m THAT entitled douche).  We went to Dog’s office to sign some paperwork essentially promising not to run away from home and join a non-extraditable circus…fair enough.  We then headed for home quietly, in the rain.

All of this would’ve been bad enough but there was another problem, we had a daughter in China waiting to be adopted by my wife and I, and this could be the end of the entire process.  This meant disappointing many people, and I had no doubt that I had let everyone I knew down.  Once home I asked the question that had been plaguing me since I first laid eyes on the lights in my mirror. “Kristy”, I asked “what does this mean for our adoption of Ruby? Is it over?”  “I think so”, she replied, her voice sounded like she had been contemplating this possibility all night, not angry, not bitter, but a sad resolute view of the possibility.  We sat and cried for a while.  I didn’t know what to do.  I was locked in shame.

My friend Austin once told me, “sin is a son of a bitch”.  He was talking about something else I was dealing with, in the interest of full disclosure, but he was right.  However, I’ve determined that no matter how bad one feels about their mistakes it is grace that’s designed to break the heart of the proud.  Shame sucks in terms of what it did to my pride, but the consistent message that, “I love you in spite of your shortcomings” was the thought that kept me up at night.  The wave of grace started with my wife, and continued to come from every friend and family member who was made privy to the details of my latest faux pas.  I was truly floored.

The next year of my life would be marked by a list of things I could do to make my wrongs right in the eyes of the legal system; I had been forgiven, but there was the question about whether or not I could be a responsible father hanging over my head.  The first thing on my list was a visit to a lawyer’s office.  I found a lawyer based upon a tip from my friend Anna, she gave Kristy a name, and I went with it.  I walked into the lawyer’s office, we’ll call him “Ryan” (that’s what he told me to call him, I think he told me this because it is his name) the radio was tuned to 107.7 the end, there were car magazines lying on the table in the lobby area, he was dressed in a business casual style with the faint shadow of grease hiding in the cracks in his fingers and under his nails, and I felt comfortable.  This, plus the fact I didn’t have much time to find a lawyer before my pre-trial hearing that afternoon, (DUIs on a holiday weekend, who knew) convinced me that Ryan was the lawyer for me.  We went over some details and he told me he felt that we had an 80% chance to have all charges dismissed.  Note of warning: it is my experience that mathematics, especially pertaining to the discipline of statistics, is not one of Ryan’s strong suits (this information may never help you, but if it does, great).  For a lawyer, he was an alright guy.  When we actually got around to the hearing to get the charges dismissed, it struck me that my chances were closer to 50/50; I was sitting there listening to the arguments and I couldn’t decide whether or not the charges should have been dropped.  Long story short, the charges were not dropped; so we started preparing for the appeal which meant months of doing nothing…or so it seemed, it’s funny but given a long enough stretch of time something has a tendency to feel like nothing.

One of the things Ryan had me do as a show of good-faith was entering a drug and alcohol counseling program, which meant two group-counseling sessions a week and one meeting that requests to remain nameless (it likes its anonymity).  The prospect of this seemed daunting and terrifying, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me, in terms of educating me about me.  I am so thankful for the folks at Agape in Bremerton.  Slowly I worked through all of the programs that were recommended while I waited for the day to come to appeal my verdict and have all the charges dropped.

As the day approached with all the enthusiasm of a three-toed sloth on methadone, it quickly became clear that I was not gonna walk.  Every option had been carefully considered and all the ducks were lining up so that we would be able to move forward with the adoption, save one caveat, every deal I was being offered was going to drag the process out for multiple years thus making it impossible to complete the adoption of Ruby; in the end, the best option was to plead guilty to 1st degree negligent driving, and accept the sentence of fifteen days in county jail, and a six-hundred dollar fine.  I agreed to it, and the prosecutor agreed to it, now we just needed the judge to climb aboard.  The day of the trial arrived and the judge went for the deal sentencing me to fifteen days, with five suspended, she also dropped the six-hundy, and there I was two days from going to spend ten days in the county clink.  It sounds strange, but I was thankful and amazed at God’s provision, both in terms of reliability and creativity.

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That Hard Livin is Gonna Catch Up To You Boy )The Third[

 “Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection; the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.” – C.S. Lewis

It is a strange thing, the decor of a jail cell, every where you look or touch there is the imprint of a person trying to recreate a hangover in three dimensions.  The walls are a pale yellow tinged with a putrid green, as subtly acrid as bile itself.  This was the room’s softest feature.  It was here that I began to reflect upon the events that paved the road to this room.  Maybe it was neither the time nor the place to embark on this journey, but that had never stopped me before – prudence.

It is one thing to have a love for alcohol, it is another to have a hatred for authority, rules, and convention; neither are terribly beneficial to a person trying to toe the line, but when mixed they are a horrifying cocktail.  Not that I ever tried to toe the line, but I did try to keep my nose clean…well I didn’t really try, but I thought it sucked when it was dirty.  I had spent the better part of a decade exploring the edge of what was acceptable behavior; I thought that it was no big deal, nobody was getting hurt, and I was having a good time.  This was not the truth however, my poor wife and everyone else who cared about me spent more time than they should have had to wondering about my safety and my sanity.  The good time I was having was costing them plenty, and it was slowly becoming a not so good time.  Much of my need for a good time came from insecurities and depression with which I was wrestling, and at the end of the day, fighting depression with a depressant is lose, lose every time.  This was not the way I was thinking at the time, waking up most mornings feeling desperate, knowing I had never seen the color black in real life the way it looked to me when I closed my eyes, and wondering why all this was the way it was.  All that to say I had a tenuous relationship with responsibility before we were given clearance to travel to China to adopt our first daughter…note of warning: if you struggle with using alcohol responsibly, Asia is not the region for you.  China, for me, was a turning point in my struggle with stress and alcohol…not a good one.

Fast-forward two years, or so, from the day we got back from China and my life was getting no better; not that it needed to be better, I had, and still have, a great life (sorry if your life sucks and that came across as braggy) (sorry if that apology sounded dismissive and trite) (maybe it would help if I put the word “I’m” in front of the apology itself…but alas, who has the space or time) (am I right?).  The way I was handling life sucked.  I was living my life as though I was the only one who had to face the consequences of my miserable immaturity, and at home I had a wife and a daughter, and in China, in a group home, in Beijing, there was a little girl who knew nothing about me, but was counting on me to not screw up too badly…and here I was in a jail cell wondering if I had screwed up too badly…if it was all over.  Here’s the hard part of the entire equation; I wasn’t living as though ignorant to the fact that my actions might catch up to me and someone else might have to suffer the consequences, I was, on some level, aware of the fact this was a possibility – but I felt if God wanted me to adopt a little girl…if he had involved a little girl in all of this, He would allow me a free pass in the interest of saving the girl.  I was holding my daughter hostage…I was holding everyone I loved hostage.  I don’t know if I realized this while waiting for my wife to bail me out, but it started there.  Its hard to reach any sort of catharsis while incarcerated, there are no “Hang in There” posters with a little kitten struggling to keep hold of a tree branch to ground you, and help you remember “It’s gonna be okay kid, buck up”.  It’s just you and your thoughts, and maybe – if you’re humble enough, a still, small, voice.  I wasn’t.  Kristy picked me up around 9:30 a.m. Monday morning.  Kristy is the name of my wife.

That Hard Livin Is Gonna Catch Up To You Boy )deux[

At first I thought I’d start part two of this saga with a moment of reflection, kind of a “how I got here” flashback sequence, but then I realized that would be un-copacetic to the narrative.  Here’s why, when one is sitting along side the road, in the pouring rain, with red and blues strobing in one’s rear view mirror, and the silhouette of one of Washington’s finest  growing larger in said mirror, one does not take time to reflect.  There are only two words running through one’s mind, the word “Oh” and a word that starts with an “F”, ends with a “K”, and has a “U” in the middle (no, not fire truck), and these words run on a loop in one’s mind like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” played in Seattle from the early nineties, until I put a drill bit through my ear.  Well, whatever; never mind.

“Can I see your license and registration?”  “Of course you can officer, here you are.”  “Do you know why I pulled you over?”  I have no idea why cops ask this question.  Does this tactic work?  Optimal scenario: “Do you know why I pulled you over?”  “The dead body in my trunk I suspect”, replies the driver.  “No, you ran a red light, but I’d like to see that body.”  Even if I thought I knew why an officer pulled me over I wouldn’t say.  Here is one problem with society today: people think they know more than they do.  Of course I don’t know why you pulled me over unless you tell me why.  Long story short, I said “no”.  Upon saying “no” the officer informed me that he had witnessed me doing nothing wrong, but was stopping me on account of a call that a concerned citizen had made.  Suspicion of drunk driving…sounded like something I’d do.  He asked me out of the car, asked me to do some roadside tests, of which I passed none.  He then asked me to do a Breathalyzer test, but I was ready to be in a car; I was wet and miserable it was clear my car was no longer an option, so I declined the breath test and he put some bracelets on me and me in his car.  He was a nice guy, he called my friend Chad who came with my friend James and got my truck and took it home for me, and even tolerated my inquiries about why one would ever become a cop (this is a concept that eludes me to this day).  At any rate, after what seemed like hours sitting in the back of his car, we headed to the Kitsap County Bed and Breakfast.

First up on the agenda, a breathalyzer test, which I passed, or failed…I got a .3 something which was high.  So, I made the cut-off and was booked.  If you’ve ever been booked into county you know there are a lot of ridiculous questions for which a smartass anti-establishment minded person like I has little patience.  I became indignant around the time the booking officer asked me whether or not I wanted to be designated as an Hispanic or non-Hispanic.  I told him that I didn’t care one way or the other.  To which he answered that I had to care.  I then replied that I didn’t have to care, and that I didn’t care, and that he could call me whatever he wanted because I wasn’t a racist.  This displeased the man, who skipped the question and went on to the disclaimer to which he wanted me to agree, that stated basically, that I wouldn’t hold the county jail responsible for any injuries I acquired while in their custody.  To which I answered, “What the fuck are you planning on doing to me” (brilliant).  His answer to this was succinct, “Alright in the tank!”  Then he put me in a cell, I’m guessing to sleep it off.  It is a tough thing to fall asleep in a jail cell, I imagine if you were drunk enough you could fall asleep anywhere, Ironically, I was drunk enough to be admitted but I wasn’t drunk enough to sleep there.  It was a rough night.  That is the gist of going to jail…it was less fun than I made it sound, of this I am certain.

That Hard Livin is Gonna Catch up to You Boy )pt. 1[

  “By three methods we may learn wisdom:                                 

    First, by reflection, which is the noblest;

    Second, by imitation, which is the easiest;

    And third, by experience, which is the most bitter.”

                                            Confucius (551 bc – 479 bc)

It was around 11p on March 30th some time between 1998 and 2010, I had been over at a friend’s house playing some guitar and having drinks…but in reality I hadn’t done much of either on account of my brain being kinda broken that night.  I left in a manor I generally wasn’t accustomed to, early.  In earlier re-tellings of this story I had attributed this fact to the possibility that I was trying to be responsible (you know, not staying out till the small hours drinking), now, I doubt that had anything to do with it.  Regardless, I was in my truck idling along side the highway, it was pouring rain, to my left traffic slowly and cautiously crept by, to my right enormous ships long mothballed as a result of not being very effective at killing people or toppling dictators (or so is my naive understanding of foreign policy), in my rear-view mirror red and blue lights lit the night sky like fireworks on judgment day.  In my chest, my heart was telling me I was trapped.  Deep down I knew she was right.

I started that Sunday like was usual for me those days, by dispassionately getting out of bed and getting ready for church and helping as little as possible to get the rest of my family ready.  That night there was a block party that was put on by my friends’ band; I was looking forward to it.  I knew, however, that I had to prepare; this involved drinking enough alcohol to relax but not so much that I relaxed too much…sounded simple enough.  I had spent around a decade working on the formula that gave me these results, but I was still far from perfecting it and this night was going to prove to be great evidence in the realization of that fact.  I had about four beers at home prior to heading down to the party; while at the party I had a couple more, plus, part of one somebody left on a table.  This was not a huge amount of booze, but it was enough; it was time to go home.  At the party I hadn’t really eaten much so once home, my wife made some dinner for me and I had another beer with my meal.  Between drinking and hearing my friends’ band  my thoughts started to vacillate between jealousy and disappointment in my own accomplishments (more to the point the lack there-of), this started at the party and intensified as I ate my steak.  A friend invited me over to his house in Purdy for an after party, despite my wife’s protests, I hit the door and headed out to the party.

Once there, I had a Coke and whiskey, the Coke was fine; the whiskey was a blended Canadian, not great, but who was I to complain.  I was talking to my friends and things were okay, but my thoughts were still ebbing to and fro, flirting with the dark side of self-reflection.  I finished my drink.  My friend mixed me another and I talked him into bringing out some guitars to jam a bit.  This was semi-antisocial there were people having a good time talking to one another and I was pounding out “House of the Rising Sun”, I looked up from the guitar and was embarrassed by the looks I saw the room over.  I was embarrassed by my own selfishness.  Without finishing the second drink, I headed for home.  It’s about 45 minutes from his house to mine, which leaves time for many a slip between cup and lip, and in the process of moving from point a to point b, I found myself sitting outside the shipyard with a state patrolmen behind me.  This was not good.