Texas girl in the middle of Kiwiana

Amy Boatman

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I knew it was going to happen. I even shaved my head before I started chemo so it wouldn't fall out in clumps. It's been almost three weeks since my first treatment. I was beginning to think maybe it wouldn't fall out. And then today it started happening.

Ever since I shaved my head I've fallen into the habit of rubbing it. It's so soft! Anyway, today I was thinking hard at work and rubbing my head when suddenly I noticed little grey hairs raining down on my desk. At first I thought it was just a few but no, they're all starting to fall out now. After my shower tonight the drain cover was full of grey hair.

I'm not vain about my hair. It's something that grows from head over which I have very little control. It's always done whatever it wanted regardless of what I tried to get it to do. When I was younger it was dark and curly. I had Shirley Temple ringlets if I let it get long. At that time in my life I didn't appreciate the curls. It didn't go with my more butch-like persona.

As I got older my hair began to turn grey and the texture changed. It went from curly to coarse and wiry. After a while it stopped growing down and started growing up and out. If I let it grow I'd end up with a bushy head of hair like Einstein. I rarely let it get very long because that's not a look I'm going for.

The fact that my hair is falling out means the chemo is working I suppose. It means I'm one step closer to getting rid of this fucking tumor. I've been checking the lump periodically and it seems to be getting smaller. I hope it is and it's not wishful thinking. I have my next treatment this Thursday and then I see Dr King the following week to do an ultrasound. Then we'll know for sure.

Until then, bring on the bald head!

Side Effects So Far

I've been surprised at the lack of side effects I've experienced so far. I had nightmare visions of constant nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. I imagined feeling so bad I didn't want to get out of bed or having open wounds in my mouth. So far though it's not been like that.

The medication they put me on for the first four days have definitely kept the nausea and vomiting at bay. They also can cause constipation so diarrhea has not been a problem. The main things I've noticed so far is that my soft palate feels like I drank something too hot and burned it. My tongue feels that way as well.

The first few days my asthma was in overdrive and I had a pretty bad headache but luckily that only lasted a short while. A week and two days in and I'm feeling pretty good!

So far no hair loss but I went ahead and had Shannon shave my head again so I'm basically bald. I use to drink my coffee with a bit of milk and a couple sweeteners but that tasted disgusting. Now I drink it black which makes Shannon happy. She's been on me to get off the sweetener for ages. I feel pretty good. My energy level hasn't changed much. My attitude and outlook are still really positive. All in all I'm doing great.

You're Gonna Put That in My Chest?

When my doctor first told me that he wanted to start me on chemo he also said he wanted to have a portacath inserted in my chest. Having been a paramedic for a long time I'm familiar with portacaths. It's basically an IV port inserted in the skin so the nurses aren't constantly having to start peripheral IVs. It's easier, more sterile, and much less painful. At least once it heals.

The original appointment had been booked for August 20th but we went into level 4 lockdown on August 17th so the procedure was postponed. As soon as I heard we were going into lockdown I was really afraid they were going to postpone everything. As I mentioned in my last post the waiting is stressing me out more than the cancer so the thought of postponing the chemo indefinitely was terrifying. Fortunately, they don't postpone chemo so I had the treatment.

They called me on Wednesday and asked if I could come in on Thursday morning. Heck yeah! I said. With fucking bells on! I was psyched to be getting it done.

I had to be at the Southern Cross Hospital in Newtown at 7am. We weren't sure how long it would take to get there from Naenae so we left at 6:15am. Given we're still only in level 3 there was hardly any traffic on the road so we were at the hospital at about 6:35am. Shannon couldn't stay with me so she dropped me at the door and left.

A little past 7 the came to take me to my room. Turned out I was on a ward by myself with my own dedicated nurse. Given my cancer status they didn't want to expose me to too many people. I felt like Queen for a Day! My nurse was Jane and she was great.

She got me all checked in and into the very less than flattering hospital gown. The doc came in to tell me about the procedure and make an X on my chest and then it was time to go.

They wheeled me into the theatre in my bed and then I had to scoot from my bed to the metal surgical bed. For some reason they couldn't get it right up next to it so I had to bridge this enormous gap. Just as I got my ass on the surgical bed I let out an enormous fart because moving to the bed with my ass hanging out of the back of the gown wasn't embarrassing enough. Sheesh!

They don't make those surgical beds for comfort that's for damn sure! My ass does not allow me to lie flat but luckily I had Helen who made sure I was comfortable. She gave me a bunch of pillows and generally made sure I was doing okay.

Next came the IV which the doctor did with an ultrasound machine. I had never seen an IV done this way before. The doctor made a point of telling me the ultrasound machine was made in Denmark and he didn't really know how to use it. What a joker!

The IV in, now it was time for drugs! Given my history with drugs I'm always wary of what they're gonna give me. This wasn't a general anesthetic procedure but a sedation procedure. I remember lying on the bed with everyone bustling around. He told Helen to give me a dose of midazolam. The wall suddenly started going fuzzy and then there's a gap. At some point they put a drape over my face and shot me full of lidocaine but I don't remember any of that. At one point I remember it hurt like a hot razor so they gave me more lidocaine.

Next thing I know, they were done and were wheeling me into recovery. I had the whole room to myself. My reign as Queen continued! My lovely recovery nurse was Steph. She was pretty awesome as well. Since we're in level 3 everyone has to wear face masks so I would have no idea if I was standing in line at the grocery store with any of the wonderful people I met that day.

I wasn't in recovery long before I went back to my room where I finally got a sandwich! I hadn't eaten since dinner the night before so I was famished. That was the best egg and chutney sandwich I have ever had. And the cup of instant coffee was pretty good too.

Luckily I didn't have to stay in the hospital for long. Props to all the great staff but I'd really rather feel like shit in my own house. Shannon came popped back in to get me and I was home by 12. I had specifically asked not to be sent home with any narcotics so I was straight on to the paracetomol/ibuprofen schedule. Actually the pain hasn't been too bad. I mean, I'm not a masochist so pain isn't my thing but when you gotta deal with it then you gotta deal with it.

Here we are 2 days later and the main issue has become my skin's reaction to the adhesive on the waterproof bandages. By midday Friday I was already starting to feel the painful itch that accompanies my irritatingly sensitive skin reactions. A sore had developed where the corner of the bandage sat and the pain of that began to overwhelm the pain of the actual wound.

Last night I didn't want to sleep with nothing covering the wound and the medical tape was also causing a reaction so Shannon wrapped an ace bandage around basically my entire torso just to hold on a small rectangle of gauze. I really looked like I'd been in the war.

Today I've spent the day in nothing but my fleece so I could keep it zipped down and not have anything rubbing against the gauze. We've discovered that moleskin doesn't seem to cause a reaction so now the gauze is being held down with little strips of moleskin. Seriously who thought the main issue of this procedure would be wound dressing?!?

First Treatment Done and Dusted

First chemo treatment

Finally the first treatment is done! It's such a relief to have started this process. One of the nurses at the clinic mentioned the long road I had just stepped onto and that's how it feels. I'm starting out on my long journey of recovery.

The clinic is one of the best in NZ supposedly. Everyone I've come in contact with there has been wonderful. Because NZ is in the middle of our strictest lockdown, level 4, Shannon wasn't able to come with me into the clinic so I left her in the parking lot with the free wifi and her laptop. My first meeting was with Dr Okonji. He's got such a great manner. Next step was into the actual clinic area where they administer the chemo.

I was supposed to have a portacath put in that would have made giving me the chemo drugs much easier but the lockdown postponed that so they had to go for a vein. Apparently I have pretty crappy veins but the nurse was able to get one in my hand first try.

The first drugs they gave me were ondansetron and dexamethosone IV. Next up was the adriamycin/doxorubicin which they call the red devil. It's got a bright red colouring, hence the red, and it is the one that causes the worst side effects, hence the devil. This med can damage tissue if it gets outside the vein so the nurse had to stand there the whole time and make sure it went in okay. After that came the second chemo drug, cyclophosphamide. This one isn't as dangerous so she was able to set that one in the pump and walk away.

At this point there wasn't much to do but sit there and read my book. I chatted with Shannon and my mom over Messenger. I surfed the web on my phone. Ya know, all the things you do when you just have to sit somewhere for a while.

There were a few other women also getting treatment at the same time. I wonder if these will be women I'll get to know? I'm confident I'll get to know the nurses. I'll be seeing them every three weeks for the next 12 weeks and then possibly the 12 weeks after that. Mom suggested I bake them something. I probably will. I enjoy baking.

The whole thing too about three and a half hours this time. They said it took longer this time because they were explaining everything to me. I felt bad for Shannon having to sit in the car for all that time but she went down to the grocery store for a bit. That and the pharmacies are the only things open right now.

Back at home I felt fairly uncomfortable. I was really tired and my head was pounding. They said the meds sometimes cause a headache. I was supposed to work in the afternoon but that wasn't happening. I spent the rest of the day on my couch dozing off. I was not looking forward to how I would feel the next day.

That turned out to be a non existent worry though. I felt fine the next day. I had a bit of a lingering headache and my asthma flared up a bit but other than that I felt great. Even now, two days after, I feel fine. I expected to be completely wiped out for the whole first week but that has not been the case. I have to admit it makes me wonder if the meds are working. I know that's silly but still...

I worked on Friday but had off today and Sunday. I spent the day today cooking. I've found that I really enjoy making a good soup or stew. I've made three in the last few days. Luckily we have a chest freezer so I can freeze these things! We'll see how the rest of the treatments go but so far, so good.

Fuck Waiting

So far one of the hardest things about this whole cancer journey has been the waiting. I found the lump and had to wait to see my doctor. I saw my doctor then had to wait for the mammogram and ultrasound. I had those then had to wait to see my doctor again who referred me to a specialist. Had to wait to see him. I had the biopsies that day and then had to wait for the results. Found out I had cancer then had to wait to see the oncologist. Saw him then had to wait to get tests done. Now all that is done and I waiting to start chemo. I'm so tired of waiting!

I'm the kind of person who can dither all day about things uncertain. But when something is inevitable I just want to get it over with! I know that in the grand scheme of things waiting eight weeks from first discovery of an anomaly to treatment isn't that long but it's felt like six months to me. Over the weekend I was doing some reading on what's good to eat or not eat during chemo. There's so much info out there it's hard to narrow down what's helpful. It also totally depends on how my body tolerates the chemo. Will I be hungry? Will I not? Will everything make me nauseous? Will I feel pretty much the same as I do now? Will my mouth get tender so I can't eat some stuff? Will my taste buds change and things will taste weird? There's so much I don't know which makes it all hard to plan. I want to start now!

I want chemo to fix everything that's wrong with me which I realize isn't feasible. I want it to help me control my eating and help me lose weight. Honestly though I know that if I don't get my own eating issues under control no amount of weight loss would stick anyway.

Honestly I'm just tired of being in this holding pattern. Let's get this started!

Medical Oncology

Shannon and I met with the medical oncologist on August 12. Dr David Okonji at the Bowen Icon Cancer Centre. The appointment was first thing and since we don't like to be late we were there before most of the staff. Dr Okonji is wonderful! He spent an hour with us telling us the history of breast cancer treatment from 1979 until today including the pioneers who forged the path. He explained his recommendation of neoadjuvant chemotherapy followed by surgery to remove whatever is left. He answered all our questions.

The idea behind neoadjuvant treatment is that if chemotherapy is used first the tumor will shrink and when we get to surgery there will be less tissue that needs to come out. So instead of a full mastectomy it will hopefully be a lumpectomy and I'll get to keep my breast. Although truth be told I wouldn't be terribly upset if they removed them both. Boobs just get in the way. Bras are supremely uncomfortable!

I really took to Dr Okonji. He has a great manner and seemed really on it. It's important that a doctor instills trust. The folks at the Bowen Icon Cancer Centre all seem great as well. I feel better about the whole thing knowing I'm being taken care of.

I was supposed to have the echocardiogram on Wednesday and the portacath put in on Friday. And then NZ suddenly had positive delta COVID cases. We went from life as usual to level 4 complete lockdown with 6 hours on Tuesday. Luckily they were able to do the heart scan first thing Wednesday morning but the the portacath procedure has been postponed. I'm not sure when that will happen.

It's really strange going back into lockdown so suddenly. The rest of the world has been battling COVID for the last year and a half while NZ has been this little isolated country where we've had life as usual. Sure most of us wear a face mask on public transport but we don't really worry. Our pandemic experience has been vastly different from the rest of the people on the planet. Suddenly the delta variant call is coming from inside the house. Cases in Auckland and Wellington. Locations of interest growing every day. Just as I'm diagnosed with cancer and about to start chemo we suddenly have delta popping up all over.

Under level 4 we're all working from home. There's a lot of drama at work now too. There's a restructure happening and who knows where the chips are gonna fall on that one! Who will still have a job? Who will move up and who will move down. All I can do is my job and hope for the best.

The Lump

It all started with the lump on July 2. I'm very sensitive to latex and elastic so after wearing a bra all day the underside of my boobs was hot and itchy so I was soothing the skin. That's when I felt it. Inside my left boob was an enormous golf ball sized lump. In fact it actually felt like a golf ball, hard and round. I was immediately scared. I called for Shannon to come tell me if this had been there before. She confirmed it had not.

Well fuck! My imagination immediately started running towards the terrifying and macabre. If I'm honest, though, I really didn't expect it to be anything other than benign. I'd never had lumps or bumps in my breasts before but I also don't have any history of breast cancer in my family.

The weekend dragged by until finally Monday morning I was able to call my doctor. Happily enough she was able to fit me in that afternoon. She felt around a bit and then said "Yep, that's concerning." She gave me a referral for a mammogram and an ultrasound. Unfortunately they weren't able to fit me in for that for more than a week.

During that 10 days I still didn't think it was going to be cancer. The doctor had used the words "High suspicion of cancer" but she told me that was because she wanted me to get in for the scans sooner rather than later. I strictly avoided Googling anything. I didn't need any fuel for my imagination. And yet I still didn't think it would be cancer.

I had never had a mammogram before. The only thing I knew was that they squished your boob onto a plate and that it was quite uncomfortable. Well that turned out to be exactly what they do. I had to stand in front of the machine while they pressed my boob flatter than I thought it would ever go. To say that it was uncomfortable is an understatement! I can see why women don't want to do it. I wonder if men have to have their balls squished like that. Since the medical field seems to cater to men then probably not.

Anyway, the technician told me she thought it was a cyst. A cyst! I was cautiously optimistic. A cyst would be benign and would go away on its own eventually.

Next up was the ultrasound. By this point I was completely nonplussed walking around with a top on. Somewhere along the line I lost my modesty. The ultrasound was done with me lying on the table. Where the mammogram tech had been personable and friendly, the US tech was cold and business-like. She poked and prodded all over my chest and found not only the golf ball sized lump but also a weird lymph node in my left armpit and a dodgy bit on the right side. She told me it was not a cyst. It was a solid mass, still quite suspicious. I would not know the result until I saw the breast surgeon and I wouldn't get an appointment with him until I got a referral from my GP. Still more waiting.

I saw the surgeon on July 23 where he did a biopsy on the three spots. My goodness that's a thing! It was actually pretty interesting watching him insert the needles using the ultrasound. He took samples on all three spots. And then it was another 10 days of waiting. All the fucking waiting was awful! At this point I just wanted to know one way or the other so I'd know what I was dealing with.

I met with the surgeon again on August 3. On the entire drive over I was trying to prepare myself for the worst but to be honest I was still convinced it was benign. The scenarios playing over and over in my mind were almost all how I would laugh off the uncertainty. How I would go into work the next day and tell them it was all a false alarm, that I was fine! Finally inside his office he said the spot on the right and in my left armpit were benign. The big lump was cancer. I stopped listening at that point. I was shocked. The word "cancer" kept echoing in my mind. You know how when you repeat a word over and over again it stops making any sense? You begin to wonder if that's actually the right word and if it's really spelled that way. Cancer, cancer, cancer over and over.

The doctor and his nurse gave me some pamphlets and other information and said they'd book me in with a medical oncologist. Soon we were leaving the office. I managed to hold it together until we got to the parking lot. That's when it all came crashing down and I melted into a puddle of tears on Shannon's shoulder. I cried all the way home. By the time we got to the house, though, I was feeling better and a bit more optimistic. What can't be avoided must be endured or something like that. No amount of wishing it away would get rid of the cancer so the next step was to deal with it.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Before I got to Texas this time, I could count on one hand the number of people I considered a real friend and I probably wouldn't need all the fingers on that hand. It's not because of other people though. It was because I had become so closed off there was no way anyone could truly get to know me. Hell, I didn't even know myself.

When I first got here in mid-June, I didn't anticipate that changing. I went to a few meetings but by and large I continued my habit of staying closed off and never letting anyone see my soft underbelly. I met up with a couple of the dear friends I did have and continued that relationship but that was about it. Even that was fraught with addiction issues since I stole drugs from them while I was visiting with them. The first month and then some I was here every move I made was calculated to score drugs. I visited people I thought would have them. If I didn't think you had any then I wasn't interested in seeing you. That all changed on a Sunday in July.

I didn't use drugs that day not because I didn't want to but because I didn't have any. I didn't have any way of getting any and I didn't know of anyone that had some. The same thing happened the next day. I didn't use because I couldn't find any. The next day was a Tuesday and I met up with my sponsor for the first time. We began my step work that night sitting in the bar area of a restaurant. That became the first day I didn't do drugs because I didn't want to. The next day I was tempted but I didn't do it. Instead I texted her and told on myself. Thus began the journey that I'm now set upon.

During the last 52 days, I've met some amazing people here! I've connected with people here that I hopefully will be friends with for a long time to come. It's amazing what actually being honest with people and letting them SEE you will do. I go to a meeting every day and in each one I've met at least one person, if not several, that I connect with on a real and personal level. It's an amazing feeling to walk into a room and have people call out my name and seem genuinely glad to see me. That's not been the case for me for a very long time.

There have, however, been a few women with which I've bonded quite tightly. One of them, J, is an amazing woman who has 18 months sober and has been such an inspiration to me. She is at one of the meetings I go to about three times a week so I would see her often. One day she shared something personal with me before the meeting started. After that we began texting each other pretty much every day. If I don't have a text message from her when I wake up I send one to her. We've had some really meaningful discussions about issues that effect us both. I honestly am just in awe that she thinks so highly of me. I'm so used to being the one to pursue a friendship, it's weird for me to be in such a reciprocal relationship. She cares for and loves me as much as I do her. I'm going to miss seeing her so often when I go back to NZ but I know we'll stay in touch. I can't wait to see her grow and blossom as she gets older in sobriety and sharing my journey with her as well.

The second person I've especially bonded with is my sponsor. She's an awesome person who was exactly the type of sponsor I needed. The first time I heard her share I knew we'd get along. Then we all went out to dinner and she was the instigator of the group so I knew we'd do well together. She was also the first person who was totally blunt with me. She asked me if I wanted to die because that's the road I was headed down. When I asked her to be my summer sponsor she didn't hesitate. She said yes right away. For my first step, she had me write out five ways my life was unmanageable. I honestly thought my problem was drugs. I knew I couldn't drink but I thought all my addict behavior and all my issues were centered around drugs. Then I wrote out five ways my life was out of control and half them involved alcohol. We did the first three steps that first night. I told her I had a limited amount of time and I wanted to get as far as possible into the steps before I went home. The last time I got into recovery I didn't do any step work and I relapsed. It took seven years but it was inevitable. This time I wasn't fucking around. I knew I needed this to save my life so I hit it hard. I did my fourth and fifth steps with her less than two weeks later. I was convinced she would judge me when she found out all the shit I did but she didn't. We discovered why our HPs had put us together because we had a lot of the same issues. We'd had a lot of the same experiences, not exactly the same but similar enough in essence. She really got me and that was honestly a first for me. To have someone completely understand where I came from and the weird way my brain works. She's had me calling her every day. I missed a few days calling but I always at least texted to let her know all was well. She didn't always answer the phone but I know that if I needed her she would have called me right back. Last week when we got together and she told me someone had approached her about my sobriety it made me really uncomfortable. I know they meant well but it still didn't feel good knowing someone in recovery went behind my back. I expect it in the rest of my life. I expect that my parents and my wife and my normie friends will wonder. Especially since I've become "too much" again. I know people will wonder if I'm high. I just didn't expect my recovery friends to wonder. I thought they would know me better than that. It's not like I've been a wilting flower in ANY meeting I'm in. I'm loud and excitable and frenetic every time I share. Have been almost from the very start. So when she said that someone had talked to her about me my first feeling was that feeling I would get when I was worried I was about to get into trouble. Those feelings of trepidation and dread. Like she was about to get mad at me I guess. It was weird. Anyway, our last visit just felt off to me so the last few days I've been wondering if she's distancing herself from me because I'm leaving or if she's judging me now or some other stupid shit my brain makes up. I didn't talk to her on Monday but I left a message. On Tuesday, she was supposed to come to the meeting but had to deal with a flat tire so I didn't talk to her that day. Wednesday I was feeling all kinds of shit and pouting so I didn't want to call her. I sent her a text but it was pretty bland. So today she calls me. She scolds me a bit for not calling her, letting me know that it's not really cool and I gotta keep up with her. Letting me know that she cares basically! That she's noticed I've not called and she's worried. I felt silly for doubting. She was giving me a hard time as she does and then just before we hung up she asked if I knew she was just joking around with me. Like it was important to her that I know that's how she expresses love and that she really cares. It gave me the warm fuzzies. She's one of those people who doesn't love lightly or even care lightly. She takes a bit to warm up but once you're in, you're in. I'm so happy I listened to my gut and chose her. She's been perfect for me and I only hope I find someone half as awesome as she is back in NZ.

The third dear friend I've made is the one who prompted this blog post. I just found out tonight that the time we'll spend together tomorrow will be the last face to face time we'll have until I come back to the US or she comes to NZ. I knew she was struggling with her issues but I guess I just assumed she was struggling like I was struggling: not so much with the actual use of drugs/alcohol but with the reality of being sober. We've been suppressing our feelings for so long that we don't know how to deal with them. We've not faced life challenges sober before so it's a new experience and we're like blind people feeling our way through an unfamiliar room. We bump into furniture and fall over obstacles but we're there for each other to lend a steadying hand or to pick the other up off the floor. I just found out tonight that she's been struggling in a totally different way than I have. Over the last couple of months we've both saved the other more than once. She's been the mouthpiece of my HP and I have for her as well. We've commiserated, cajoled, rescued, leaned on, cheered up each other so many times. Now she has to go on part of her journey on her own. Well, not really on her own. She'll have heaps of support. It just won't come directly from me for a while and I won't get any back from her for a bit. She's on her way to treatment, inpatient, for 42 days. It's for the best I know. It's to save her life and god knows I want her to save her life. It's just that I'm gonna miss her and I'm feeling especially selfish for it. I know she'll come out the other side healthier and happier and that's really the important part, right? It's not like I won't see her again. I don't know if she'll be allowed to keep her phone but I'm sure we'll at least be able to write to each other. I've gotten so used to the instant gratification of sending a text message and receiving an instant reply that I've forgotten what it's like to write letters. I know everything works out for the best. Hell, she should have been in Colorado today but her flight was cancelled because of a hurricane which allowed her to see her sponsor tonight which in turn allowed her sponsor to find out how much she was struggling and suggest treatment ASAP. There are no coincidences. Things happen exactly as they should and that's what's happened here. Tomorrow we'll get to spend a few hours together while I take her to the airport and for that I'm extremely grateful. We wouldn't have gotten that if not for the cancelled flight. So there's our HP working in both our lives.

Lastly, I've reconnected with a past girlfriend and that was certainly unexpected. When we split up, we kind of fell out of each other's lives. We hooked back up on Facebook but nothing too deep, the occasional "like" on a post but that was about it. Since I was down here I messaged her to meet up and we did. I got to meet her amazing new partner and hear about how her life has gone in the last 25 years. She's definitely had her ups and downs but has come through with an amazing love for life that I envy a bit. We text each other pretty much every day and will hopefully see each other one last time before I go back. I know we'll stay in touch now since we've become good friends again. It's nice to talk to someone who knew me way back when I was different from who I am today.

The word that comes to mind now that I've gone back and read this post is "grateful." I"m so grateful that these wonderful women have been placed in my path. They've been exactly what I needed when I needed it. They've lifted me up and saved my life. They've loved me when I wasn't sure I could love myself and believed in me when I definitely didn't believe in myself. Having these kinds of human connection again makes me realize how much I've missed over the last ten years and I never want to lose that again. I honestly feel that my life is finally headed onwards and upwards again!

Too much

Sunday, September 15, 2019

All my life I've heard that I was too much. As a child, I got Unsatisfactory in conduct all the time because I talked too much. I was seemingly unable to keep my mouth shut. As I got older, it didn't improve. Junior high saw me get put in the corner a lot because I talked too much or disrupted the class. High school, I developed a bit of a reputation as a minor troublemaker because I was disruptive. I cracked jokes and made people laugh. I talked during the lecture. Whatever. I was told time and time again: You're too loud! You talk too much! You're too disruptive! You fill every room you're in! You don't leave enough room for other people to breathe! You suck all the oxygen out of the room! I've heard this so many times that it's become a sore spot for me.

I discovered at an early age that when I drank I didn't care if I was too much. Other people might care but I didn't. I suddenly felt able to express myself any damn way I wanted to! I know it made me even louder. I know it made me talk even more. I didn't care. That was the beauty of it for me. I didn't care. Until I did. Until it became a problem. Until I started losing friends and getting banned from bars. Then I started to care again.

I can almost pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that while alcohol made me worse, drugs made me better. I had a terrible crash and burn in Witchita Falls and moved back to Austin. That's when I met Star and that's when I discovered that drugs mellowed me out. The first time I dropped acid with her, the frantic energy that constantly lived in my brain quieted. The first time I did mushrooms, the same thing happened. I could be in the world without overwhelming it. Suddenly I had a solution. Until I didn't. Until I could no longer drink because it made me black out. Until the drugs that made me mellow were actually separating me from my feelings and from all other people. Sure, I was mellow but I was also so numb I wouldn't have known a feeling if it had fallen from the sky on my head. I existed in a constant state of lethargy in my own mind. I was convinced that the drugs now made me "speedy" when in reality all they did was lift my mood enough for me not to be sick. There at the end, I would take my 30 pills at once and for a few minutes I would feel "good" then I went back to feeling shitty again. In actuality the "good" feeling was just my body not being in withdrawal for a bit.

Getting clean and sober this time, I've discovered some things about myself. I LIKE being too much. I LIKE all this energy crackling out of me. I LIKE being super talkative and bubbly. The feeling I've had most days since I got sober IS the feeling I've been chasing for years! I had forgotten that it was my natural state and I had forgotten how much I liked it!

Last weekend at the AA conference, I was on a really big high. I was around lots of people, many of them I knew. I was, for brief periods, the center of attention which I love. I was chatty and happy and energetic. I was really hyperactive, I'll be the first to admit. I feed off people. The more people around me the higher I get. I can stand in the middle of a gathering and feel energy coming off people in waves. I lap that shit up like a thirsty puppy. I can almost see my pores opening and taking in all that energy. I LOVE that feeling! That's the best high I've ever experienced only somewhere along the way the last couple of decades I forgot that. I forgot how great I feel around people. I've spent the last few years isolating myself, walling myself up in my castle not letting down that drawbridge for pretty much anyone. Shannon has been allowed in for a while but even her I've held at arms' length most times. I've only had my own mind to live in and that is NOT a good place for me to be. When I'm in myself, I'm unable to tell what's real and what's delusion, what's actually happening and what's wishful thinking, or, more accurately, what's negative self-talk. If my mind didn't need my body to walk around in, it would gladly kill me and that's what it's been trying to do for the last few years. Left to my own devices, I begin to think that I'm worthless and the world is better off without me.

Anyway, back to the AA conference last weekend. I was on a really big high. When I got home on Friday night, I was almost totally unable to sleep. I tossed and turned and finally got up after less than two hours of sleep. I was wired! Saturday was more of the same. I was hyperactive and super energetic. I was also sensitive and touchy. I got a bit resentful at people for pointing out how hyper and energetic I was because it felt like they were holding up a spotlight to my sore spot. Well, come to find out someone went to my sponsor days later to ask if I was okay. This person, she wouldn't tell me who, had asked her if I was on something. Now, I'll be the first to admit that when she told me this I was insulted. Why would they go to her and ask and not come to me? Why would they think I was on something? Well, after some introspection and reflection I've decided that this is a good thing. Someone cared enough about me to go to my sponsor and make sure I was okay. Not to be a nosy gossip but to check in that everything was alright with me. That I was still sober and working my program. I've decided to be happy about that! Not that long ago, there wasn't hardly anyone who would have cared enough to check on me. There wasn't anyone they could have gone to that would have known if I was okay or not. Today I have a network of people who will check on me, who know what I'm up to, and who will ask if they think I need help. That's a blessing.

It's been ten years

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ten years ago today my father shot himself in the head. Shannon and I had been living with my parents for quite a while. I came home from work that night and Jim told me what had happened. I remember my overwhelming feeling was anger. I was so angry that he had done something so utterly selfish. My feeling today is still anger.

My father and I had always had a complicated relationship. He left my mom and me when I was four. We moved from Dallas to Marble Falls and into the hotel my grandparents owned. For the next 15 years I saw him very infrequently. I was quite close to his parents so I was at their house all the time. He would say he was going to come visit me there. I would stay up as late as I could, sometimes falling asleep on the floor waiting for him and he wouldn't show up. Years later I found out he would come visit friends just a few miles away but not come see me. I thought it was my fault. I thought I wasn't worth him visiting.

My main memories of him are how much fun he was. He was the life of every party. He played guitar and sang songs like Hello Walls and Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog. He was charismatic and people were drawn to him. He had a big booming voice and an infectious laugh. He was great until he got too much alcohol. Once he hit a certain point, he wasn't fun anymore. He became an asshole. He would yell and throw things and have temper tantrums. The next day he was always contrite, ready with an apology. He'd say he wouldn't do it again but he always did.

When I was around 10 or 11, he married a woman named Lee. She was an even worse alcoholic than he was. My only memory of her was going camping with the two of them and my uncle. At some point, she became angry and belligerent and my father decided it was time to take her home. He loaded us all up in his van and off we went back to Austin. During the trip, Lee became enraged at me and tried to throw me out of the van as it hurtled down the interstate at 70 mph. Luckily my uncle caught me before she could do that. Lee was like a wild animal so Bruce handcuffed her to something inside the van. Once we arrived at my grandparents house, he left her out there all night long. They divorced soon afterwards.

His third marriage was to a woman named Julie who had three kids. He adopted those kids and gave them my name. I hated that. They weren't real Boatmans! After being married for several years, one day he just walked out and never went back. It was more than three months before Julie knew that he wasn't dead and had run away. I have no idea what happened to them after that.

When I was 18, I rode on an Amtrak train halfway across Texas from Austin to Alpine to visit him for the summer. We had a great time at first. We watched old movies he had recorded off the TV. Soylent Green was a particular favorite. He would invite friends over and there'd be parties. One time he ran out of toilet paper so he attached a blow dryer to the roll holder. He was a hoot. He drank beer for most of the day and then at night he'd switch to mixed drinks. He would get me to mix his drinks for him and I would fill the glass up with coke then splash a little bit of whiskey on the top so it would taste much stronger than it actually was. I knew that the fun-loving Bruce would soon disappear once he got enough whiskey in his system. I don't remember exactly how it all fell out but fall out we did. I left and didn't speak to him again for another 15 years.

I got into recovery the first time in 2002. I knew that I could no longer carry this anger and resentment I felt towards him. It was wearing me out and causing me pain so I decided to forgive him. He was still drinking at this point. He was always drinking. I stayed with him for about five days and we had a really good time. I was in a place of forgiveness and he had mellowed with age. At the end of the visit we parted as friends. Perhaps not father and daughter but friends.

I spoke to him sporadically until 2006 when my grandparents died. After my grandpa died, he sat up all night in their dining room drinking and brooding. I'm sure he felt he had unfinished business. When my father was a small boy my grandpa accidentally set him on fire. He went through months of painful debridement treatments. His grandfather gave him a silver dollar after each one. At some point, my grandfather stole all those silver dollars and bought booze with it. Bruce carried that around his whole life. During the night a few days after grandpa died, Bruce broke the dining room table which was made from glass. He said it had just broken but I'm pretty sure he got angry and broke it. Four days after Grandpa died, Bruce stole his van and drove it back to Alpine. I tried to get Granny to press charges but she wouldn't. Bruce was always her golden child even though my uncle was the one who straightened out his life, not Bruce.

Just a few months later my granny died. Bruce was insufferable the whole time he was there. He was drinking in the house which was one thing that was NOT done. He left in a huff and I never spoke to him again.

When Jim called to say he was dead he told me this tale. He said that Bruce and Maere had gotten into a big fight. Bruce had gotten really drunk, as usual. He also became very angry, as usual. This time, however, he was going to show Maere that he did NOT have a problem. So he went out into the culvert next to their street and shot himself in the head. Blew out half his brain. Maere had to be the one to find him like that. Can you imagine? I know most suicides don't even consider the person who will find them or the people they leave behind. What an asshole, though, that he let Maere be the one to see that.

So here we are, ten years later. He had just bought some property that I inherited. I still haven't gotten put into my name so I can sell it. I've keep paying the taxes because I'll be damned if I let anyone insert themselves in that. He burned through so much money in his life that this bit of property is the least he could have left. He got about $80K from the sell of my grandparents house and within six months it was all gone.

I'm just so fucking angry at him for doing that. What a cowards way out! Rather than do the tough work to get into recovery and make a better person of yourself, you just blow your head off. What a coward! It's late now and I'm sleepy so I'll have to postpone the rest of this diatribe to later.