The Addicted Lawyer: Unchained Love

I am pleased to present a new excerpt from my upcoming book,”The Addicted Lawyer”. The usual disclaimers. These excerpts are solely for content preview. These excerpts are not professionally edited. That occurs when I pay someone later. They also may not appear in this form in the published book. While your waiting for this book, feel free to read my previous book, Shattered Image. You can also stay up to date by following “The Addicted Lawyer” Facebook Page.

December, 1990. Driving home from work. Listening to music. The Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody” starts playing. The song is on the radio a bunch these days thanks to the movie Ghost, which was released a few months earlier. I now know the words by heart. I start quietly singing along. Once again, the tears start. I’m bawling, and soon I have to pull over. I start screaming at the top of my lungs. “I’m sorry! I am so sorry! Don’t leave!”

It doesn’t matter. She’s gone. We’re still in the same house, but she’s gone.  Divorce is imminent, but I can’t accept it. I’ve never known so much pain. I’ve never known such intense grief. The grief of failure. The grief of loss. Divorce is loss. The confusion of not understanding why she didn’t love me anymore. I’d never told anyone I loved them before. She was the first woman I’d dated who had ever said she loved me. “I love you.” Magic words to me. The words of acceptance. The words that told me someone saw more than I saw in myself. The most important words in the world to me. As I let go of everything on the side of the road, those words seemed like ages ago. Like they never happened.

We’d met at a bar a little over a year after I got to Dallas. My favorite hangout, Fast and Cool. I was drunk and high when we met—cocaine was giving me all sorts of new confidence with women. Cocaine had become part of my social survival kit, along with my fake diamond earring. Whatever look I was trying to pull off, it seemed to work with her. She told me I looked like Bruce Springsteen. She liked that I walked her to her car and asked permission to kiss her. I loved her West Texas accent. A sharp contrast to my Yankee Pittsburgh accent, and having her interested in me made me feel like I belonged in Dallas. When I gave her an alcohol-aided goodnight kiss, she was only the third woman I’d kissed in my life.

We were married in 1988. We hadn’t been dating long. Sure, we could have waited longer and got to know each other better, but for me at least, that wasn’t necessarily a desirable outcome. When she looked into my eyes, I could tell she was looking at someone she admired. That meant the world to me. I wasn’t going to blow that by letting her get close enough to see who I really was. I hid my coke use from her. I hid my eating disorder from her. I never told her what it was like for me to look in the mirror. All that would only complicate the one important truth of our relationship: she actually like me.

Our early marriage was a continuation of our first date in many ways. We’d go out drinking together. But perhaps for both of us, young as we were, and as little as we’d actually come to know each other, the “going out” part was far more important than the “together” part. She had more and more girls nights out at the country bars. Not my thing. I was having more and more guys nights out at the coke clubs. She didn’t know what I was doing. I thought that was for the best. I’d never learned how to allow myself to be loved. Not only did I want to protect my secrets, I wanted to protect myself from knowing what my own wife thought of me, of our relationship. In my mind, if I ever opened up to her or sought to talk about feelings, she’d reveal the truth of who I was—a fat, ugly little boy.

February, 1991. The last time we’re together as a married couple. We’re in her car in the parking lot of the Blue Goose Cantina. We’ve been separated since January. I moved in with my brother Mark, who once again is there for me. Our meeting at the Blue Goose is about finally having a talk about how we really feel. There’s so much I could say, so much I should say if I want to keep her, but she speaks first. She pulls out a handwritten note. “Brian, I’ve made a list of the pros and cons of our marriage. I miss the comfort of being with you. I miss the security. I, however, don’t miss you. I want a divorce.”

Days later, the moment I’ve been dreading. She’s coming to my office at Transport Insurance with the papers. The office phone rings. It rings again. I almost let it go to voicemail. It doesn’t matter anymore. Avoidance won’t bring her back. She’s at the reception desk front with her mother. The fifty feet of walking to the reception area seems like three football fields. My legs feel like they are encased in lead. They don’t want to move. Look at the floor—one foot in front of the other. I don’t want to do it in the lobby. I don’t want to cry in the lobby. I don’t want my failure to be in the lobby. It’s always been my failure. We walk out to the car. I sign the papers. I don’t want to, but I believe that if I am agreeable she will reconsider. She’s crying. In sixty days, it’ll be over. I walk back to my office I shut my door. I think of the Righteous Brothers again. I start to cry. I’m convinced no one will ever love me again.
If there was an upside to my first divorce, it was that it was the first time I’d ever thought about the possibility of therapy, even if my motives were a little misguided. I vividly remember going straight back to my office after signing the papers, shutting the door, and bawling. Through the tears and pain I hatched a plan to get her back. I’d go to marital counseling. If I showed her that I was trying to be a better husband, she’d join me in counseling, and we’d reconcile before the divorce was final.

I was broke, but I did have health insurance, so I scoured the providers available for those  providing marital counseling. It was slim pickings. I finally found a Christian-based counselor. Being Jewish, it was not the ideal choice for me, but was better than nothing and would serve the purpose of showing my awareness of the error of my ways. My wife was in the Church of Christ so I thought that the religious element would be a plus in getting her to join me.

I remember driving the twenty miles to the  counselor in Duncanville, Texas, projecting out the fantasy I needed to hang on to. I went and saw the counselor for about three weeks until it became clear that my wife wasn’t interested in reconciliation on any terms. I later found out that she’d met someone before we were divorced and had moved on. My plan had failed.

But as with my personal relationships, I revealed nothing of substance to the therapist. I cried a lot, and he gave me a lot of tissue. As with “frank” discussions in my personal relationships, seeing a therapist was more about patching up the story I wanted to tell myself about my life than exploring any problems. Soon I gave up therapy all together and delved deeper in the Dallas nightlife to find someone who would lift me up again. I had no conception that it as my job to do that.

Over the years, I’d occasionally see therapists, and I’d also get antidepressant prescriptions (I started those after my second divorce). But just like failed relationship after failed relationship, therapy wasn’t ever going to help sustain me because I continued to conceal what was really going on in my life. I got used to only revealing a little of myself to my therapists, just like I’d reveal just enough to my girlfriends—or wives—so they’d think they knew something about me. My biggest secrets were keeping me from love, and from self-understanding.

Relationships are hard enough, but when substance use is added to the mix, and recovery is not a part of the picture, not many survive. I was no exception. I was no exception three times over, in fact. I often think of the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. The character played by Alec Baldwin is trying to “motivate” a group of down and out salespeople with a sales contest he’s come up with: “As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anyone want to see second prize? Second prize’s a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.” If third prize in a sales contest earns you a pink slip, what does three failed marriages earn you? I’ve long since blown past earning my set of steak knives. I figure one more failed marriage and I’m dismissed from the dating pool.

In reality, none of my divorces were funny, and each in its own way was just as painful as the others. Loss is painful. Failure is painful. My first divorce was a link in a chain of denial that kept me from having successful relationships. In all three of my marriages (as well as other relationships) I refused to address or reveal two important essential facts of who I was: my underlying mental health issues stemming from childhood and my substance use issues. I was in denial, and more than that, I did whatever was necessary to conceal those truths from the women with whom I shared my life. Without honesty about those fundamental issues, how could I expect help from those who loved me?


Xanax Memories

I am pleased to present a new excerpt from my upcoming book,”The Addicted Lawyer”. The usual disclaimers. These excerpts are solely for content preview. These excerpts are not professionally edited. That occurs when I pay someone later. They also may not appear in this form in the published book. While your waiting for this book, feel free to read my previous book, Shattered Image. You can also stay up to date by following “The Addicted Lawyer” Facebook Page.


June, 2014. I’m going through fifteen years of accumulated change in box. I dig through worn, corroded nickels and dimes and find a few Susan B. Anthony Dollars, fifty-cent pieces. Then a few rarer tokens as well: my first day desire chip taken from “John G.” I remember that day, sobbing, powerless and broke. Here’s my one and five-year sobriety chips.

This old coin box is a box of memories. I remember my father’s old coin jar, and how once, as a teen, I stole quarters from my his jar while bouncing a basketball so he wouldn’t hear what I was doing. Then I remember pouring water into the whiskey bottle so he wouldn’t know. Just nickels and dimes, a little off the top. Then I remember the subterfuge of my older years. Memories of hiding my cocaine and black-market Xanax in this very box in front of me. An almost nightly combination punctuated by the once sickening, six a.m. sounds of the blue-birds and robin wake up songs after being up all night. Fragmented memories and dreams.

I keep digging.  I pick out a few pesos from a trip to Mexico,  and I remember signs on every bathroom stall that made it clear that cocaine is illegal and you will go to jail if caught. I didn’t care. Never saw one of those signs on the countless United States bathroom stalls I utilized to do my blow. Would it have mattered? Nope.

Next I pick out slot machine coins from various casinos in Vegas. Vegas was my favorite place to party and do cocaine. The Flamingo Hilton. Used to go there with my family. I fought with my mom when we went. We fought over multiple failed marriages (mine). We fought over unresolved guilt past and present. Both of ours. We fought over what was in my mind, a lost childhood. Lost teen and adult years I subconsciously blamed her for. Eating disorders, alcohol, drugs. There is always someone to blame.

Then I start to reach the bottom of the box, and I find something white hidden deep in the loose change. I dig down. It’s a 2mg Xanax bar. Where the hell did that come from? Has to be at least ten years old. Memories of that first time. Cocaine binge with Jack and Diet coke all night sitting on a bright red couch given to me that seemed more fitting in a house of prostitution than my bedroom. Watching endless ScarFace over and over. Know all the lines. I’m no Tony Montana. I am not drug kingpin. I am just an addict alone in his bedroom. So alone. Pop the very first Xanax of my life. The next thing I know its almost a day later. I loved that I had slept away an entire day.  A day of pain that was passed by.  I needed more of those.  If only I could sleep away my life.  I had to have more

As the Xanax bar appears among the loose change of my life, I feel my heart rate quicken. I talk about triggers all the time and how to deal with them. Now here it is. It’s me. It’s now. A decision. I could pop it and no one would ever know. Is it about that? A new cycle of guilt. A new cycle of sobriety. Staring at that tiny white oblong object that had the ability to stir up so many intense memories and emotions within seconds. Frantic calls to my dealer for baggies of Xanax to bring me down from the cocaine binge the night before. When I couldn’t get it, the next call for my black market Ambien. Lying to my shrink to get it. Sleep all day. Call in sick.

That little white pill knew all about me. It asked me what I intended to do. I walked into the bathroom. A bathroom where I had embraced bulimia. Where I had done cocaine on the granite counter top. Where I had secretly worshipped that white pill on my knees, sick from the night before.

I thought about my girlfriend (now fiancee) who trusted me. Trust was the first thing I destroyed with her and had worked hard to rebuild. It can be done. I thought about my family who had always been there for me. I thought about my future and the moment I was in. Eight years into recovery and I am not immune to such thoughts. I walked to the bathroom toilet and dropped to both knee as I had done so many times before in addiction and with my eating disorder.  Like I had done in 2006 with the one thousand dollars in cocaine I had obtained in trade for  Dallas Mavericks championship tickets. Like the cocaine, I dropped the pill into the toilet.   In 2006, it was because I was in a cocaine addiction fueled paranoia.  paranoid. This moment is about recovery.  I flushed. Recovery is every day and every moment often not knowing what is around the corner. Sometimes pure chance has a way of reminding us. In recovery, life is full of loose change. It would not be the last time I would face challenges that require what I have learned in recovery to deal with them without relapsing.  Profound  loss was not far  around the corner.