The 30 Day Thaw

It is a cold coastal morning, Sonoma County is bright and clear. The farm is rustling with activity, young chickens asses their new coup, the organic veggies’ saturated color and humorous quirky shapes remind me of the unglamorous yet interesting and healthy nature of unprocessed individual experience, and it makes me smile. Attempts to squeeze into a uniform size or shape or state or story not only devalues that individual experience, but also saps the thing of the nutrients that were present in its unaffected form. Those nutrients are good for the whole garden.

As I drove 37 along the edge of the San Pablo Bay and came upon the first fluffy SonoCo hill with its vineyards and oak trees, my heart sank heavy a little bit. I was really unhappy during the three years I lived here. The honeymoon of my transition had settled down into a comfortable chair, Coyote Grace was toddling with no hands, yet my drinking/drugging was wearing on past the point where I imagined its usefulness had ended. I spent most of my time alone, driving around, wondering why I was still having trouble making friends, doing what I said I wanted to do, and why I just didn’t feel very good. I was convinced (because I know everything, after all) that there was no new information or variables that needed to be considered. I knew all I needed to know, I knew sobriety was going to open up my life, and I was just a self-centered asshole for not doing what I should do. After a long hiatus from therapy I finally conceded that maybe a fresh set of ears might shed some light on the subject. I found a neat lady who, among other things, pointed out the evidence of a mood disorder that had been present consistently since I was a pre-teen, that I had been on and off medications for ever since. Mostly on. I had been on the same medication for 10 years, with little oversight and continuity from any medical professionals. I moved around too much and couldn’t afford it. Since it was up to me, I subconsciously decided that I didn’t want to have anything else wrong with me and took my meds without question. I decided during this time to do a little DIY doctoring and go off of them, and was plummeted back to the bleak depths that I instantly recognized from my childhood, and so convinced, finally went to seek help from a pro. Ok, maybe it was a variable to be considered. I was afraid it would be a big damn deal with many expensive and troubling attempts to find the right brand and dosage, and was anticipating a long stressful process. Only what I found, after the first tinkering with levels and additions, was night and day. Anxiety (which is a common side effect of the meds I was on) vanished, the horrible cycles of panic and depression that sabotaged all my sobriety attempts and deflated my social life were gone… and I waited so long for this??? Thanks, profit-based, unaccountable American medical industry that doesn’t actually have its citizens’ welfare in mind. I slipped right through the cracks and spent a few years in the ringer for an inherited bio-chemical condition that would have been easily addressed.

So now I had two out of three major mindfucks out in the sunlight to heal. My next mistake – sobriety will be easy now! False. But at least I had finally tipped the scale. I liked to think that my addictions arose as a natural response to the difficulties of growing up in the wrong body with a mood disorder and would abate easily once the two conditions were settled, even though almost every one of my blood relatives has an issue with addiction. In reality, my body/identity and mood issues only sped up my pre-programmed and expertly modeled addictive behavior. I was locked in a cycle of maladaptive attempts to sustain equilibrium in my mind, body, and spirit that really makes perfect sense considering my constitution, experience, and environment. I am so very lucky to have had access to the tools that would help me figure that out. It could easily have taken much longer with many more consequences, or my life been cut short by any number of related accidents that could have happened along the way…

So I am once again rounding the corner of The 30 Day Thaw, as I like to call it. They say around thirty days of abstinence is when the first acute phase of detox ends, and your repressed emotions spew out wildly in all directions. Everything makes me cry, everything is beautiful and horrible and exciting and scary. I am ok with that. I am starting to see how it was all intertwined, how the gears were turning, and what I was dealing with. When it is all in the light, logic pervades over attachment and personalization, and the path towards change lays itself out much more clearly. And something I know of myself is that if it is not logical on some level (and I can go deep), I cannot blindly accept it, even if I am living in a state of intense conflict and suffering. There has never been a point where I accepted my drinking/drugging as normal or harmless, I was just at a loss as to its origins and function. I will keep banging on the door until I get an answer. Again, my mistake seems to be my over-confidence in which door I should bang on. I get it. Thinking that I know everything will not serve me. The other lesson – there is always hope.

Two friends of mine just lost their child. “Fairness” reveals itself to be completely subjective with no anchor in reality, it is only an ideal to which we can aspire. They are my age, and the little boy was three. His brief presence has bonded the community on a level of intensity comparable to the shock of his passing, which is to say – immense. Our lives and our presence in our communities are more precious than we often acknowledge. If ever there was a gift from little Nakoa, it is to love each other and one’s self like it is the only day you have, and to be grateful for every following day as if it were one of his. Whatever it is that we think is so important that keeps us separated through resentment, pride, or just plain misunderstanding is ultimately not. It does everyone a service to resolve it and get on with the living of our one wild and precious life.

That is where I am today, grateful to have washed up on the shore by many parts luck and a little will, content to do the fulfilling work of reparation and restitution, now that I have an idea of what the hell was going on. Regeneration is a gift I was losing hope of being able to experience. Hallelujah!


13 thoughts on “The 30 Day Thaw

  1. Hi, Joe! I’m really appreciating your writing, thank you so much! Wanted to let you know I was riding in a cab, car broke down, and heard “Heaven Dog” playing loud in someone else’s car. I looked around, ID’ed the vehicle and it wasn’t even someone I know !!! Baltimore loves You!! Layne

  2. Well said. insights are coming so profoundly on your journey. and the “loving yourself” part is so often the hardest. but when we do we really love and honor others so much better.

    what a crazy trip life is, huh?

    Love lights your way, Joe.

  3. You are a strong courageous individual who has persevered through so much and have the strength to make it through so much more. Your grace in times of trial sends a message of hope for those in their darkest hour. Keep those cleansing waters flowing my friend, you are beautiful!

  4. Oh Joe, you are helping me understand how little I know about addiction. I was pretty young when my uncle died from it and he had pulled pretty far from my family. I have not bee very close to anyone with problems and I have not been as kind about it when confronted as I should. You are helping me to understand the difficulties in a way that most can not offer. Your words are powerful and you are strong. No wonder I get tears when I listen to your music (which is often). Keep strong my friend. The gift from little Nakoa is one that we each need to remember every moment. Remember that we love you too, even if we are not there to say it to you!

  5. just passed up my 60 days & reading more about who you are has really made me feel like i’m not flying solo. i always know i’m not, but feeling it instead of reminding myself feels like a different path.
    so glad you’re finding some clarity, joe.

  6. good to read your words joe. they have always, and still continue to be an inspiration. perhaps never more so than now. 35 days ago,right in the midst of all things holiday, I found myself EXACTLY where you are right now. without warning, i was separated from my family as well as all things comfortable and familiar to me. How the F*^&! did i get here? DETOX?? Seriously??? Someone MUST be joking. I’m a mom, a wife, I’m a Registered Nurse for god sakes . . .oh and btw, I too knew everything. And if nothing else, FOR SURE I knew that I was NOT going to be called an addict. After all, I was just taking the medication my Dr. had been prescribing to me, right? Uhhh, YEAH !! (is what I kept reminding myself.) AND, so, well if that’s wrong, then it’s the Dr.s fault – right, because HE after all, was writing alll those scripts!!


    That line of thinking changed pretty quickly, as my reality became awfully small and I found I had ALOT of time to ponder as I began to withdraw from 10 years of taking prescription narcotic medication.

    There are lots of things that came to my life, both before and after those early moments of realization of my addiction — not the least of which were countless moments of feeling the most alone I can remember in all of my 42 years. It was then,in those deafening periods of quite — singing out in perfect harmony was your voice, Ingrid’s voice . . “Every time I feel this way —
    This, old familiar sinking . . .Hallelujah, Hallelujah — I’m gonna let myself be lifted, I’m gonna let myself be lifted — Hallelujah (I’m gonna let myself be lifted)” . . . your voices, your gifts, your music in my “brainpod” (as there were no electronic devices permitted there) it sustain me. It strengthened me. It gave me hope, where moments before there had only been darkness. Words cant convey the true effect of this, the touch it has been upon my life, the deep and profound ways in which your music led me through — and delivered me to a much brighter day. I am so grateful to you,indebted to you for that gift.

    I’m sharing this for a few reasons. One, because after reading your blog I am again reminded of the power in your words, for YOU and for us all. And two, because as Jane in her comment above reminds us, “we are all connected” and “none of us do this alone.” Thank God for that. Wishing you the very best of everything Joe, and thanking you, again, with all that I am, for not letting me do “this” alone. Be Well.

  7. Joe, work your program, one day at a time, and remember to breathe in all the love that surrounds you. It’s that simple and that f*ing hard. Thinking of you every day with affection and confidence!

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