Tag Archives: relapse

In Recovery:  Part 7 Cherry Street I

Special Note: I use lots of pictures, videos, animations, flipbooks, and other cool layouts and features which can be best appreciated by reading this post on my blog. Mobile View will not give you the very best experience.

Get The Full Experience Here

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 RecoveryPart 1: A ProblemPart 2: Jail TimePart 3: Reality CheckPart 4: VA Program
Pt. 5: Jamaica PlainPt. 6: Brockton IPt 6: Brockton IIPt 6: Brockton IIIPt. 7: Cherry St. I
Entrance to Northampton VA
Northampton VA and Cherry Street
View From Cherry St. Porch

I arrived at the Cherry Street CWT Program towards the end of April of 2017 with high hopes for seamlessly gaining my autonomy. Boy, would the next 7 months be as challenging as it could ever get for me in my recovery. Cherry Street is the name of the location of a three story split residence that housed male Veterans in the VA treatment program.

Having actually changed VAs, I had to start all over with a new support team, new therapist, new everything. It was quite the adjustment for me to go from dorm living to apartment living.

The building that Cherry Street occupied was massive. It had four separate entrances. It had three floors each. The residents numbered about about 12 of us. Each having a room of our own. I ended up on the third floor, by myself fortunately.

The main campus, the VA in Northampton (or Leeds more accurately), was to be the site of our therapies and participation in CWT. The program is strictly geared towards establishing safety and security, and moving rapidly towards independent living.

All the participants were assigned a Social Worker, Psychiatrist, Primary Care Physician and Case Worker. This was a so-called “dream team” of professionals whose main objective was to ensure wellness and strengthen our individual recoveries through the use of Compensated Work Therapy: CWT is basically a paid job at the VA without having taxes taken out of your pay.

Kurt the Conqueror
Kurt Z at Cherry Street by Robert Levasseur
Kurt Z.

Kurt Z. was my Case Manager who had a Napoleon complex. He was a very short and tiny man with a big ego. I disliked him upon first meeting. That disdain only grew exponentially with each mandate he attempted to use to control is “subjects” at Cherry Street. His female counterpart, Kristine W., was cut from the same cloth.

Kurt operated Cherry Street, a VA Program whose policies are mandated by VA Regulations, as if it were his own special island with special rules made up just by him. I would end up vehemently attacking his departure from VA Regulations in the coming months.

Kurt was a “my way or the highway” dictator who did not adjust well to those who challenged his authority. His demeanor was not of a helpful Caseworker, but that of a Conqueror who knew what you needed better than you knew yourself. Over the coming months I waged different wars of self-advocacy to combat Kurt’s omnipotence and penchant for always being right.

Dr. A.M. Psychiatrist Un-Extraordinaire

If Kurt Z. operated Cherry Street like a mini Napoleon, Dr. M. was certainly his sidekick. I was assigned Dr. M. as my psychiatrist because, well, he’s everyone’s psychiatrist. Talk about a wet can of paint. Watching paint dry was more exciting than talking to this bozo.

Psychiatry at Cherry Street Northampton by Robert Levasseur
Unextraordinary Psychiatry

I mean, truly, he was the worst psychiatrist I have ever had in my life. By the end of May, 2017, it was apparent that he was certainly no Dr. Ticlea or my other psychiatrist that I had during my time at the Reach Program in Brockton.

You could ask him 5 questions in a row and he would not have an answer for any of them. A psychiatrist is not only a prescriber, they are also trained to do SOME therapeutic work. Not so with Dr. M. He was all business and no empathy. Didn’t matter what was troubling you. He struck me as an individual who was exhausted with his position and should have retired years ago.

Lyn D. Vocational Specialist
Cherry Street room by Robert Levasseur
My Room at Cherry Street

The only person who seemed to be of the high quality VA professional one can only hope for, was Lyn D. Lyn was to be my Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist. That means she would handle everything coinciding with my CWT experience while I was at Cherry Street.

Lyn was highly reliable. She was also extremely dedicated to her work and the Veterans she represented. I can tell you that she was a bright light in an otherwise very dark recovery room for me during my 7 months at Cherry Street. She tried to do everything she could for me.

In the end, Kurt was the Program Director and nothing escaped his tunnel vision and some of the decisions that he would make–all the while denying that he was the one responsible for those decisions.

I think towards the end of my time at Cherry Street, Lyn had decided to leave the VA for greener pastures. I can’t say that I blame her one bit. Working in that dog-and-pony-show program, with Kurt the Conqueror at the helm, must have certainly made for interesting staff meetings. Especially when it came to discussing me.

Last Few Blog Posts While In Recovery:

Please wait while flipbook is loading. For more related info, FAQs and issues please refer to DearFlip WordPress Flipbook Plugin Help documentation.

Part 7: Cherry St. II

My Ruminations: 4o Things About Me

My Ruminations Robert Levasseur
Robert Levasseur

I was inspired by Rebecca to be brave and bold. After reading her disclosures I realized my previous list was inadequate. I had to get real after her bravery.  See her list HERE.  So, here’s a lot more stuff about me

1.  I love cereal. Healthy and unhealthy. I also LOVE smelling the inside of the Froot Loops box. How do they get that to smell so good?

2.  Noises above the norm make me nervous.

3.  I have 2 older half brothers and 1 younger half-sister. I speak to none of them.  I grew up until 12 with one of them. He hasn’t spoken to me since I was 12.

4.  I have used every drug but heroin and meth. Alcohol is my primary drug, which led to many usages primarily of cocaine and crack.

5. I love rain, especially downpours and thunderstorms. I’ve never made love during a thunderstorm. But I would like to.

6.  I loathe soggy bread.

7.  My Favorite movie is The Longest Day, a movie about the epic Invasion of Normandy.

8.  I’m 6’1″ 225lbs. I would like to lose that 25lbs.

9.  I can whistle through all combinations of my fingers. I can also whistle through an acorn cap.

10.  I am a very good swimmer. I like swimming in lakes and ponds more than the ocean, but I swim there too.

11.  My brother John got hit by a car on Christmas morning and died the following day. He was 8. I was there. I was 11.

12.  My retirement dream is to buy a small house on a lake and have a small boat. Preferably with the love of my life. I’m not Robmoji, I can last more than 9 months with a woman.

13.  I don’t like it when I’m excessively hot.

14.  My favorite season is Fall.

15.  I taught High School English for a year.

16.  I got kicked out of the Army for an OUI I got in Germany. The discharge is classified as General Under Honorable Conditions.

17.  I paid over $350,000 in child support.

18.  I have 2 sons, Nick 28 and Matt 26.  We haven’t seen each other in 15 years. But I’m working on that!

19.  I love Chinese leftovers.  One of the few leftovers I will eat.

20.  I don’t like the winter.

21.  I slept with a fan from age 22 to 52. Jail stopped that habit quickly. I no longer need a fan to sleep.

22.  A medium told me once that I had lived over 1,000 lives.  I disagreed with her.  I’ve lived many more.

23.  I met my wife on my blog.

24.  Two of my previous girlfriends from my early who’s got abortions. One of them I wrote about in A Cold White Door which turned out to be the moment of conception. I was there for one, not the other, because she didn’t tell me until after it was done–the girl in the poem.

25.  I am almost OCD clean and organized.

26.  I attained Expert marksmanship in the Army and with German weaponry.

27.  I graduated college with high honors. I spent 6 out of 8 semesters on probation for various behavioral issues related to alcohol.  I got almost failing grades from elementary school through high school.

28.  I like colored rocks. I have some colored rocks.

29.  Every time I see a clown I am repulsed.

30.  I love archangels and dragons.

31.  My middle name is Marc.  It ends I’m c instead of k because it’s French.

32.  I once had to hitchhike from Monte Carlo to my hotel almost an hour away because I missed the last train because drinking. All I had to give the guy was $1, you’d think he hit the lottery.

33.  One of my girlfriend’s was bulimic. One of my girlfriend’s pulled her hair out incessantly. My last girlfriend was a psychopathic alcoholic. She now spends her time creeping my blog and blogging about me.

34.  My Favorite series was Madmen, followed by The Sopranos.

35.  I have to shake the milk carton and then smell it before I will use it. I don’t care if the cow’s standing outside.

36.  I had 4 episodes with “suicide.” To me 3 were cried for help. The last one, while I loved with girl from #33, I swallowed over 100 pills of various medicines. I woke up the next day as if nothing happened.

37.  Prior to going to jail from May 2016-October 2016, I worked in the car business for 20 years. I managed, sold, and did finance. No, I won’t help you buy a car. But you should always by pre-owned, only use cargurus.com, and never buy anything in finance. You’re welcome.

38.  I love to collect vintage and antique books.

39.  I totaled 3 cars in less than 4 months. I totaled my Altima, Lexus ES350, and the nicest car I ever owned, my Lexus GS450. I’ve totaled 4 cars in my life and never got a scratch, never got an OUI charge from any of them. After I crashed my GS450, the police actually gave me a ride home.

40.  I believe we are cosmic beings temporarily occupying human form. I believe that once our bodies give out, we will rejoin our celestial bodies and exist in a fantastic dimension as a reward for suffering on Earth.

Peace all you lovely humans!

In Recovery:  Part 6 Brockton III

Special Note: I use lots of pictures, videos, animations, flipbooks, and other cool layouts and features which can be best appreciated by reading this post on my blog. Mobile View will not give you the very best experience.

Get The Full Experience Here

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 RecoveryPart 1: A ProblemPart 2: Jail TimePart 3: Reality CheckPart 4: VA Program
Pt. 5: Jamaica PlainPt. 6: Brockton IPt 6: Brockton IIPt 6: Brockton III
Exit Building 7 Brockton Reach Program
Rebecca
My Wife Rebecca

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.

CWT

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.

Photo by Robert M. Levasseur
Fooling Around With Jimmy

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.

My Recovery

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.

My Recovery Token by Robert M. Levasseur

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.

Coming Soon:

Part 7: Northampton

Recovery: Solutions

What I Need Solutions For

If you don’t know me by now, I am a 57 year old recovering alcoholic. Although I did not have dramatic issues with withdrawal once I was forced to quit drinking as a result of jail, I did exhibit attributes of both a Binge Drinker and someone suffering from Alcohol Dependence. The cornerstone of an Alcohol Dependence diagnosis is

Recovery-wise.com is best viewed on a computer. The charts, images, flipbooks, and other features I use to make your experience on recoverywise do not fully translate in mobile view. Click here to view site.

“dependence requires tolerance, drinking to ease withdrawal and continued drinking despite recognizing problems.”

Dr. Thomas Greenfield, Ph.D.

Although withdrawal symptoms were not prevalent in my disease, every other box was checked.

impaired controlattempts to quitneglect of responsibilityin spite of legal or social issues
persistent drinkingdenialamount of time drinkinglife had become unmanageable

Add a dash of PTSD from childhood trauma, some Anxiety and some Bipolar Disorder stuff. Viola! But by the grace of God go I. I spent one year in VA Treatment Programs from October of 2016-November of 2017.

Solution 1: A Golden Rule Realized
Golden Rules Around The Globe
Click To Enlarge

It wasn’t until halfway through my 5 month jail sentence that I finally realized it. I could not drink anymore. I had lost just about everything. The old warning from A.A. that continued alcoholism would result in “Jail, institutions, or death. rang true. I did not truly hit “rock bottom” until mid-way through jail! Even going to jail didn’t do it for me.

Bet you didn’t know that for every religion, there are varying Golden Rules that are similar. But there isn’t just the one. Anyways, I’m talking about my new found Golden Rule: I could NEVER PICK UP AGAIN.

I knew that if I was going to turn my life around. If I was going to be able to overcome all of the obstacles my disease had put in front of me; that I had put in front of me, I had to never drink again. If I did, I knew that I would probably just commit suicide and be done with the whole mess. Hell be damned.

Surviving P.A.W.S.
Click To Enlarge

Early in recovery, and sometimes lasting up to a year or two, is P.A.W.S. Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms is a host of emotional and psychological withdrawal issues that can derail recovery quite quickly if not tended to. Most folks suffer from one or more symptoms for about 6 months, but the symptoms can last much longer.

The symptoms vary widely, but they can come at you all at once, in bursts, and even subside only to show up again in weeks or even months. The idea here is to be mindful of disruptions to your emotional and psychological well-being, and then to find healthy ways of coping and managing what you may be experiencing.

SymptomsTiredness, low energy, low enthusiasmMood swings, anxiety, irritabilityVariable concentrationDisturbed sleep
SolutionsBe PatientGo with the flowRelax Practice Self-care

These symptoms ebb and flow throughout a long period of time, making them stealthy and dangerous. It comes down to vigilance and how much self-care and self-awareness is practiced, as to how one fares in the long run (more on this in Solution 3).

Solution 2: The Acronym I Live By

Within 6 months of being in VA Treatment, and from the many lessons I learned in therapy, I developed a framework for solutions that would help me to avoid old patterns of behavior and thinking: the acronym S.N.A.G.M.

SpiritualityNowAcceptanceGratitudeMindfulness
practicing meditation
-reading religious texts
-listening to ambient tunes
-walks in nature
-living in the present
-forgetting the past
-not getting caught up in the future -shrinking my world
-breathing exercises
-letting things go
-living life on life’s terms
-serenity prayer
-accepting people, places, and things as they are
-appreciating what I have
-practicing contentment
-seeing the positive things in life
-counting blessings
-redirecting emotions
-slowing life down
-mantra
-focused attention on good intentions
-thinking things through

As you can see from the S.N.A.G.M chart above, that’s some serious weaponry in my recovery arsenal; and they have served me well. As of this writing, I have 54.5 months clean and sober. I wish I could tell you that I am always firing on all cylinders with S.N.A.G.M., but that would be a lie.

Click To Enlarge

As an interesting side note, if any of you have visited my actual blog-not just read my posts in the wordpress reader-then you might have noticed my gravatar. The gravatar was drawn by my wife, Rebecca, within a few months of meeting her online.

She is an artist, so I asked her to draw me a symbol of S.N.A.G.M.. She came up with a wonderful graphic that is really the centerpiece of my recovery-wise.com and social media. And one day, it will be a cool tattoo on my shoulder!

Life doesn’t fit neatly into an acronym afterall. Does it? As an alcohol I suffer from certain defects of character. Most of which are policed well enough through S.N.A.G.M. However, there are many other times that my old ways of thinking and feeling sneak up on me unawares. Which leads me to solution 3.

Solution 3: H.A.L.T.
Click To Enlarge

Sometimes all of my determination not to be overly critical and judgemental, not to let the environment unsettle me, and not to allow my emotions to become unruly, starts to wane. Why? Because even the best intentions for ourselves get sidetracked inadvertently.

It’s just as important to recognize why recovery can be derailed. Sometimes, if the circumstances are severe enough-if we let them get away from ourselves-relapse can slowly take root. A combination of self-care and self-awareness can help us overcome common obstacles to our everyday well-being and recovery. H.A.L.T. is a tool that helps us accomplish both.

HungryAngryLonelyTiredness
can be a physical
or emotional need
understand what is causing it
and how to express it.
can occur when we are by ourselves
or when surrounded by many people
work overload
lack of sleep
taking on too much
SOLUTIONS
don’t just eat, eat well!
spending time with loved ones
SOLUTIONS
exercise
punch a pillow
calmly discuss
meditate
SOLUTIONS
avoid isolating
reach out to someone
get out and about
SOLUTIONS
take it easy
get good rest
nap

As you can see, using H.A.L.T. as a kind of preventive and diagnostic measure for ourselves, can lead to us practicing healthy self-awareness and self-care. Of course, you don’t need to be in recovery to benefit from H.A.L.T.. Running down the H.A.L.T. checklist can be a great tool to get yourself back on track, or to help you avoid getting off track in the first place.

Solutions Wrap-Up:
  • Don’t Pick Up!
  • Identify and manage symptoms of P.A.W.S.
  • Use S.N.A.G.M. to live your life more fully
  • Use H.A.L.T. to practice self-care and self-awareness
  • Don’t Pick Up!

Now go out there and get some!

In Recovery:  Part 6 Brockton II

Special Note: I use lots of pictures, videos, animations, flipbooks, and other cool layouts and features which can be best appreciated by reading this post on my blog. Mobile View will not give you the very best experience.

Get The Full Experience Here

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 RecoveryPart 1: A ProblemPart 2: Jail TimePart 3: Reality CheckPart 4: VA Program
Pt. 5: Jamaica PlainPt. 6: Brockton IPart 6: Brockton IIPt. 6: Brockton III
In Recovery Brockton Reach
Smoking Area Behind Brockton VA Reach Building
Welcome Back Legal System
Brockton Trial Court

Not only was I dealing with different kinds of medications to treat my PTSD and Bipolar Disorder, but when I went to check in with the Probation Department at the dreaded Brockton Courthouse, I was in for a little surprise. Seems that when I first got out of jail in mid-October, I was supposed to check-in with Probation. Well, I had not. There was a warrant for my arrest waiting for me!

I explained to two different officials that I was whisked away to a VA Treatment facility. One official was sympathetic, the other official wanted to throw me in jail until monday (it was the weekend).

Thank god that the official who wanted to allow me to simply clear it up on monday prevailed. If you have ever been to court and waited to see if you were going to jail or not, then you know how very stressful that waiting can be.

Legal Consequences of Alcoholism

After clearing up the misunderstanding with the court, I sat down with my probation officer, who outlined the consequences of my OUI and bogus Domestic Abuse convictions:

  • Total Fines, Fees, Penalties: $2,835.08
  • Loss of License: 1 year
  • Probation Time: 2 years – including weekly check-ins with a probation officer
  • Batterers Classes: 45 at $30 a pop
  • Suspended Sentence Still Looming: 1.5 years

Thankfully, the requirement to do 45 sessions of Alcohol Abuse classes was discharged, because of all the treatment time I had under my belt.

However, and as you can see, the fallout from alcoholism can be dramatic. The worst of it was that I had to attend classes with convicted “batterers” for 45 sessions! And pay for that privilege! Absolutely ridiculous. More on that in later installments of In Recovery.

My Worldly Possessions

Before I went to jail, I had escaped from the violent drunk who I lived with. I had been hospitalized on a Sunday in early April for a supposed suicide attempt while I was drunk. It was a suicide attempt, it was me acting out so I could get into a program.

Some of My Few Belongings

Well, on Tuesday morning I was driven by ambulance to the psychiatry department at the VA. They wanted to intern me there as an inpatient for evaluation for 60 days! I managed to explain to the head psychiatrist there the true nature of my situation at home. With assurances that I meet with my own psychiatrist on Thursday, I was released.

I immediately went to my friend at the car dealership and begged him to use a dealership vehicle so I could get my things out of the psychos house. After agreeing, I had only about 1.5 hours before she would get home from work.

I grabbed anything and everything I could get, and was allowed to store it in the attic of the old dealership. Anyway, while I was in the REACH program, I was told I had to get it all out of there pronto.

When I did go to get my stuff, it had been rifled through! All that was left was about three or four boxes of random belongings. It wasn’t like I had packed a lot of things up there; however, many of the things I had packed there were now gone. Still, I was glad to have more clothing and some of the belongings with me.

Time Spent Wisely

As I progressed through the program’s three different levels, I spent lots of timing productively. In the mornings I would meditate. I got to the point when I could meditate for 45 minutes to an hour. It help ground me for the day, and helped me to minimize triggers and what have you.

Blogging with vim and vigor; sometimes for hours at a time. Some of the counselors would approach me and ask me if they thought all the time on the computer was beneficial to my recovery. I simply would say “Would you rather I spend my evenings with everyone else, staring blankly at the t.v.?” Once they saw that the blog was primarily centered on recovery and wellness, they pretty much left me alone.

My recovery was greatly enhanced by bleeding my heart into my blog: was devoted to trying to use my blog as a means of helping others in recovery. And those still struggling with addiction. On retrospect, I can see where I did take it slightly to the extreme. I was not interested in making friends and small talk. I just wasn’t that kind of person.

And there were many, many walks upon the Brockton VA grounds. It’s a fascinating world of serene nature mixed in with old and new buildings of all different shapes and sizes. I walked quite a bit during my time there. Nature has always been my escape.

Finally, I got caught up with taking photographs (as you may know if you read Part 6: Brockton I), and editing them in various apps. When I wasn’t working my CWT position, or in various treatment sessions and classes, I would just take and manipulate pictures. These became the basis of my Instagram and Pinterest pages.

Please wait while flipbook is loading. For more related info, FAQs and issues please refer to DearFlip WordPress Flipbook Plugin Help documentation.

Coming Soon: Recovery, CWT, Rebecca in:

Part 6: Brockton III
« Older Entries