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From jail, to the end of my treatment in 3 different V.A. Treatment Centers, this part of My Story uncovers the journey of my recovery. I vividly, and candidly chronicled my day to day struggles with recovery, mental health, amends, and dealing with the V.A. empire on my blog from October of 2016, to the end of 2017. You can find these musings in the Archives. However, in the coming weeks, I look back at those experiences and give you a more coherent story of my life In Recovery. I look back on that year with more insight as to what was happening, and share with you the principles and actions that built the foundation for my ongoing recovery.
|Before Recovery||Part 1: A Problem||Part 2: Jail Time||Part 3: Reality Check||Part 4: VA Program|
|Pt. 5: Jamaica Plain||Pt. 6: Brockton I||Pt 6: Brockton II||Pt 6: Brockton III||Pt. 7: Cherry St. I|
|Pt. 7: Cherry St. II||Pt. 7: Cherry St. III|
I met my wife, Rebecca, through the blog she was writing about managing a Wilderness Life outpost in Sweden back in late December of 2016. By the time February rolled around, we were communicating every day. She uplifted me in my darkest and loneliest days at Reach.
It was very difficult to deal with the time difference between our two countries. However, we never missed a day without chatting on Google Hangouts. I found in her a kindred spirit. I also soon discovered that she was in a devastatingly abusive marriage. Although she didn’t speak much about it, the poetry I had encouraged her to write spoke volumes.
Although the language didn’t formulate in my brain at the time, I had a sense that I was going to get her away from that destructive relationship. And, by the time April came around, we actually started having some deep conversations about what we both wanted in life. I knew that somehow I would find a way to be together with her.
After about a month at Reach I finally was assigned a Compensated Work Therapy position as a Groundskeeper. I spent many days shoveling snow for extra overtime money. Other than the snow, however, we didn’t do much but sit around watching t.v. It was good enough for me. I felt my emotions trying to creep in with feelings of depression and boredom, mostly stemming from my inability to find something productive to do with my time.
So, I went to the CWT Counselor and asked to be put into another position. She sent me over to be an Aide in Building 8. Building 8 is where they housed Veterans who were mostly paralyzed. I remember feeling frightened to go into any of the rooms to introduce myself at first. But soon, I got into a rhythm of visiting the men in between doing things like calling Bingo, assisting with aquatics, and helping the men during shooting practice.
Jimmy was my favorite. Every Saturday I brought in a muffin for him and we would hang out, tossing back sarcasm and insults and generally passing the morning with our banter. To this day I am still in contact with Jimmy; he continues to kick my ass in chess, which aggravates me to no end.
CWT was truly therapy for me. It grounded me and gave me a daily purpose. I was immersed in an attitude of gratitude. For, what right did I have to complain about my life, when these men were confined to their beds and wheelchairs all day? It gave me a slice of humility as well; something I sorely lacked in my life up until that point.
I spent my free time mainly hammering away on my recovery blog, taking photos and editing them in various phone apps, and taking lots of walks. The medication regime they put me on seem to stabilize my emotions to some degree as well.
Even though I justified my time at the computer as ‘therapy’ I was in fact still isolating myself. I just did not have the social tools to go about making friends with the other Veterans, even though I was with most of them for nearly 6 months.
However, at the end of my stay, I gave each and every one them a wooden token that had my 5 pillars of recovery printed on the front and back of it. I had a company do the coin online. I still carry one today.
I wanted them to have something that they could have that was proof that recovery can and does work. It was with some trepidation that I decided to take part in a 3rd VA treatment program called Cherry Street, in Northampton Massachusetts.
I can tell you this: From April 2017, until November of 2017, my life was anything but normal at the new Cherry Street CWT Program.
|Part 7: Northampton|