Priest Steals Hot Dog From Poor Kid

Back in college in Atlanta, I was in a course for newsprint journalism. I really enjoyed the courses that I took as a part of the public relations program at Georgia State University back in the 80’s. I learned how to hit the bricks, interview, write a lead and compile some decent articles for the Signal newspaper. One article was on the rising cost of MARTA transit including bus and subway passes. Another was on the increasing number of students and decreasing number and ballooning cost of parking downtown. In one of my journalism courses we had a professor who gave us a simple formula for getting our point across in a concise but comprehensive way: “Tell ’em what your gonna tell ’em….. Tell ’em, and Tell ’em what you tole ’em.” When we tell our stories in 12 step recovery programs we use a similarly structured format: “Tell what it was like (before recovery), what happened (to get us in recovery and what we did), and what it’s like now (the gifts of recovery).” The words in parentheses are mine.

This article is mine. It’s my story and I am writing it for you. Why? Because I wouldn’t be recovering and have an 18 year chip indicating I haven’t taken a drink, drug, or mind/ mood altering substance since March 3, 2003 if I didn’t read an article in the very publication you have in your hand and ASK FOR HELP from the CDP. It was the start of “What Happened” for me. I want this for YOU. (I mean not all of this, just the last part. The good part.)

My life is more interesting than most Netflix series. I really don’t watch much TV because of it. My Grandfather committed suicide on D-Day (or was murdered depending on who you ask). I say this to say that this event screwed up my Mom and Grandmother in one fell swoop. My Granny was always good to me but she had a split personality. One was a nurturing country lady and the other was a mentally and physically abusive “man”. She would cut small holes in all of our clothes and then offer to mend them. My  Mom suffered at her hands for years and although my Mom was very loving on one hand, she was negligent and unavailable in other ways. My Mom and Dad divorced in 1972 when I was 5. We had no family boundaries and I knew, at the time, that it was because he was on cocaine and that he cheated with a (many?) colleagues at IBM. After the split, my Dad married and moved in with his second wife. I was around marijuana and cocaine when I visited. One time I got a contact high while I was watching a scene from Rosemary’s Baby over my Dad’s shoulder. Talk about freaking out! Dad and his “enlightened” friends were always around on the weekends. I know now they were just drug addicts and alcoholics but he thought they were breaking historical philosophical ground by accessing a different “plane” of reality. They weren’t.

While with my Mom, I ran amok in the neighborhood. I was molested by older boys in the neighborhood and one of them even attempted to drown me. He later committed suicide by jumping from a cliff into the Chattahoochee River. I ran away one time with a satchel of American Cheese and when it ran out I came home. My Mom had migraines a lot. She was in her bed, covered up with blankets with the door locked much of the time. Thank God for my friend, Cole. He was a calm soul who had a worse life than mine and we kept each other grounded. His Dad passed away when we were in first grade and Cole took his Mom’s sleeping pills and almost died at school while handing out milk cartons. His Mom was a severe alcoholic so he had even less supervision than I.

My Mom began “dating” the priest at the church where she played the organ. I know, it’s too much. This guy was a total a-hole, his training to human compassion notwithstanding. His name was Father Jim. This is important because I stood up for what I thought was right with him for the first time in my life. One day, Cole came to my bedroom window to say he was hungry. I went into the dining room to get a hot dog for him. “Father” Jim told me to put it back. I looked at my Mom with disbelief. I said, “But Cole is hungry!” with tears in my eyes. (Cole’s Mom was passed out and had not made dinner) Jim took the hot dog out of my hand and threw it back on the plate. I remember seeing the bun tear and the hot dog roll away. I screamed at him, “Give me my GODD*** HOT DOG!!!” I was beaten senseless for that but it was worth it. I knew I was right.

Because my Dad did cocaine and other stuff I always said, “I will never do drugs!” I laugh at that now. I was naive. I did very little drinking in college and only tried cocaine once. They never appealed to me which I thought was good. One less thing I have to worry about.  By the time I had graduated from dental school I had done pretty well mentally and physically. No smoking, exercised, and kept my depression at bay to a degree. (I also have to manage depression and anxiety now while in recovery)

My wife and I got married out of undergrad right before we moved to Chapel Hill for me to go to dental school. She was having complex partial seizures and after our first son was born, she got worse. Her depression became severe. In my 3rd year of dental school, she threatened suicide for the first time. By the time we had 2 kids I had started a dental practice in Eastern North Carolina.  At this point her depression was overwhelming and she attempted suicide. She almost died and woke up with a severe brain injury. She did recover but we ended up divorced. Neither one of us knew how to deal with any of that. There really was no help back then. My Dad passed away less than two years later.

I couldn’t handle life the way it was going. I was either going to kill myself or do something to get out of my head. I had two kids and wasn’t ready to check out. Strangely, suicide had never entered my mind prior to this. So I started taking pills, trying to get into new relationships, and doing anything I could to get out of my head. I just couldn’t cope with this life the way it was rolling out anymore. Five years of hiding, sneaking, taking pills, lying while simultaneously trying to maintain a “professional” life. Of course, I was fooling no one. Someone who loved me said, “You have to do something.”  I knew it was true. I could feel something was about to give. I had an opportunity to be a part of the solution.

All that stuff above DID absolutely contribute to who I am and that’s why I mention it, not to belabor it. Drug addiction, abuse, negligence, depression, and emotional and physical trauma all when into the “soup” of my reality and absolutely contributed to my disease. The great thing is, it doesn’t matter HOW you get here, there is help for all of us.

The Caring Dental Professionals Newsletter had been “speaking” to me for several months in 2003. That was when I read a story about a dentist that resonated. His life was more complicated than mine.  In his story, he was so hopeful and encouraging about his recovery. With that article as an impetus, I was finally able to surrender to the fact that I needed help. I called the CDP number and asked for help. The care I received was multi-faceted and all-important. There were so many things to learn about the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction. I learned a whole new vocabulary to put to the feelings I have had. I met people who had stories, experiences, and feelings just like me. Wonderful, creative, successful, vulnerable, and “real” people supported my journey, and I theirs. I learned the 12 Steps, was provided with after-care and even relapse prevention therapy. I have ways to manage my emotional triggers before I go into “monkey brain.” I get to do healthy, useful things to stay on top of my life. I still go to meetings, get help when I need it, and reach out to help others.

Today…. Guess what? Life is still hard. There are challenges with work, kids, money, medical stuff, genetics, personal expectations, expectation of others and the gamut of “slings and arrows” existence can come up with. But there is one of many promises that was made to me in recovery that have come true that cuts to the chase for me: “We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.” This I love. I live without alcohol and drugs so that I can LIVE this life. Just me without impairment. I can see more clearly, feel more deeply and EXPERIENCE my life. I have five children, all adults. They all live away from me but I was taking a nap before writing this article and three of them called me while the other two were talking at my dining room table. That is a miracle you see. I still work as a dentist but I am also a musician and have made some albums with rock stars over the years. I am creating an app for dentists and patients. I work out to stay in shape. I am writing a book. I drive cars really fast around a track. Right now I have a career/life coach and my focus is solving problems and seeing them as opportunities. My life is full.

Please get help if you need it. It’s YOUR life. I want you to grab yourself by the shoulders, shake them and scream, “GIVE ME MY GODD*** LIFE!!!” It can actually be quite wonderful if you give it a chance.

Gratefully,

A recovering Dentist/ Musician/ Father/ Grandfather/ Writer

P.S. Cole is doing amazingly well! He was part of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program and his Big Brother completely helped him transform his life into something incredible. Since the guy was a finance person, Cole could have retired by the time we were 30. He still works though. He is married and has two amazingly accomplished daughters.