Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Crawling Toward a Finish Line

Hi All!

Three damned days to go until Breathalizer Guy takes one last sample. If the numbers add up to zero I will be done with the 90-day rental of my Martha Stewart Fashion accessory.

When I competed with my High School cross-country running team the two-mile races had three basic stages:

The thrill of the gun going off and the chase beginning - I let the jackrabbits go ahead. If I pace myself I will pass most of them in good time. Of course, the elite start in a sprint and soon disappear for good.

The agony of everything soon after the start and soon before the finish - once the lungs start burning and the legs start feeling heavy, the field establishes itself and I know that if I ever reach the finish, which seems ever so far away, I will be a middle-of-pack also ran at a bit over 12 minutes. The only satisfaction comes with overtaking the jackrabbits, the retchers and anyone else who is weaker than me.

The finish line in sight. Runners High. Second Wind. Invincibiliy. The last hundred yards are sprinted without pain or fatigue. They will return come once I come thru the finish chute and get my time. I use my last ounce of energy to drag myself aside so I don't get hit from behind by the next finisher.

I did it! I did it again! Fatigue ebbs, giving way to a warm sense of accomplishment on the cool-down jog. Yeah, I'm still fricken average. No sub 11-minutes for me. Not even sub 12. But I was always a game, yet never very good athlete and for me, this is pretty darn good.

I approach the 90 days on the electronic ball and chain as a sort of mini-marathon - like a cross country race. I am soon to learn that the stages are turned somewhat inside out.

The start is not exhilarating. It is cold and fearful. I turn myself in at the workhouse for some humiliating processing and get to spend some time finding out what dorm life is like there. When they call me to get back into my street clothes and buzz me out through the big electronic gate, I am momentarily relieved to have a few hours of freedom until Breathalizer Guy comes to shackle me up.

The long middle does not seem particularly endless or tedious. I adapt quickly and mostly don't even feel it or think about it. Changing, showering, wearing boxers reminds me, but the only time it is bothersome is during the 5-day hospital stay. Embarrassed at first, I grow weary of every new nurse and nurse assistant asking about it. I develop a pat answer: "I got convicted of stalking pretty nurses."

The last week - I have been warned by several people who have been through house arrest that the last few days are the hardest. I couldn't believe them. I do now. This week is the longest, scariest and most dangerous time. No Runners High. No Sprint to the Finish.

My sleep is haunted with worst-case nightmares about screwing up and starting my sentence over again. In fact, I could even go away for a year! In my dreams I am sneaking booze everywhere, driving without a license, going outside my electronic perimeter without permission. Blowing a .30 for Breathalizer Guy when he comes to release me.

Wakefulness is not alot better. I am crawling up the walls. My attention span is spastic. I sleep alot to make the time go faster and to deliver me from temptation. Yes, temptation. The old rebellious, insane self has easily survived the 7 months of mental, physical, emotional Hubs of Hell.

After a particularly long and scary nightmare I get out of bed today about 2pm and busy myself with email and eBay. I prepare the grill for supper. As I walk out on the deck to check the coals my wife is over at the fence chatting with the neighbor. On the patio table is her glass of Long-Island Tea. The feeling that comes over me is incredibly, perversely strong. I manage to apply my "live in the moment" psychology to stop and choose. And at first I make the wrong choice. But I withdraw for a second vote and sanity wins, barely.

Not five minutes later, Brethalizer Guy is at the door with his expensive little machine that can detect blood alcohol down to .001 -- I am actually fearful of blowing into it, as if even the thought I had recently had would somehow show up on that merciless machine.

Get my .000 and it's back to grilling, feeling that the end may well be in sight. What a strangely empty and unreal feeling.

Some fortunate readers will absolutely not be able to relate to what I have written. What is it that compels otherwise "normal" people, if there are such creatures, to blithely do things while denying or damning the probable consequences?

I don't believe in the "disease" concept. Dangerous copout. Bad excuse. ("I can't help it, I'm sick!")

Environmental? Learned behavior? Doesn't add up.

Heredity, biochemistry? Has to be. I believe that there is such a thing as the "Addictive Brain."

I also believe that addictions are complicated and personal. As deified as is AA is, there are alternatives that fit certain people better.

I'm gonna make it 'till Saturday. On Sunday comes Mother's Day, a niece's confirmation, a sister's birthday. Party time. On Monday comes my 49th time around the sun and my 24th wedding anniversary.

Conventional wisdom would fear for me going off like a compressed spring. I think it will be anticlimactic and serene with a warm sense of accomplishment.

Like a cool-down jog.



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