We are at ICYPAA in San Ramon California. I took a few more than usual this year (8) because these guys rock! This is the 45th annual ACYPAA (All California Young Peoples in Alcoholics Anonymous). My first was the 8th and I have been sober ever since. I was just speaking with my first sponsor Tom B. (sober now 39 years. He has been sober since the Fresno conference a well. There is something very cool about parting sober all night long with fellow alcoholics and addicts! Yesterday I woke up at my usual time (around 3:30) and noticed only 4 of my 8 were snoring. I went down stairs to the marathon meeting room and all 4 were there participating. These days I'm in bed before the dance is over, but my guys are energetic! I know they could get in trouble. They know they MUST stay together as a group. It's worth the risk to expose them to what is available to them should they choose sobriety. I know now the importance of seeing folks just like me that were staying clean young! I was a teenager that shook when I quit drinking. I needed to know was not the only teenager that did! I was NOT the only one that drank in the morning, by himself, that stole, lied, and was arrested! ACYPAA helped!
ACYPAA is filling. There are more students desiring to attend than I can take. What a great problem! Students attending the Attitude Adjustment Meeting every weekday morning are getting first dibs. These young men are up and ready to go at 5:45 5 days a week. It’s telling that the more they go the more they want to go. We dope fiends have gone out of our way to feel good!
We had to ask 2 young men to leave EMA. We usually have one or two a year. To have two in two months is thankfully rare. We wish both students and their families well as they search for recovery.
We are ready (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) to install the metal on the roof of our new home. This is an exciting time! We are getting used to living in the RV. The site is beautiful. We love the sound of rushing water as the snow melts. It’s beautiful, quiet, and our dogs love it. We just need more space.
I feel good about our current group of young men. Many want to get well! Most are committed to having fun while they are here. There is a lot of excitement around dirt biking and in the building project.
ACYPAA is the All California Young Peoples in Alcoholics Anonymous. It runs from March 30 to April 2 and will be held at the San Ramon Marriott in the Bay Area. I have lots of guys interested but I will ask the young men I think are serious bout sobriety. It's not worth taking guys that want to attend solely to get off campus and simply see girls! The Attitude Adjustment guys that are going regularly will be first up! Barbi, Loretta, and Jessica will answer questions as well as provide cost.
The ICYPAA is typically the largest young peoples conference on the planet. This year it will be in Chicago. Last year it was in Nashville. The cost is a bit more (air fare) but the conference is unique! My first ACYPAA and ICYPAA were both in 1980. ACYPAA was in Fresno CA. We had 13 folks in one room but bed space was not necessary, as we did not sleep much for 3 days. The shower was important. Sleep was had on the way back to the Bay. I will always remember (this happened 37 years ago) the experience of KNOWING I was not the only kid quitting as a teenager, needing to quit young, drinking in the morning, and suffering from lying, cheating , and stealing! I felt I fit in. We were all broke, desperate to stay sober, and convinced God would help us stay clean. We helped each other and were always available to talk. My sponsor Tom drove several of us in his van. Tom has been sober for 40 years! We all kicked in for gas and the room. We did it on a budget!
My first ICYPAA was in Tucson Arizona. I had my own room shared with two guys I was sponsoring meaning I paid! I'm not sure if they stayed sober or not but I have. I went to at least 10 meetings that weekend and my life has never been the same. Back then about 800 folks were at the main meeting. Last year in Nashville there were 3,500 stark raving sober young sober people. I usually pull the plug on the evening at about 3:00 AM as I am getting old! The same rule applies now as it did in 1980: "if it is 2;00 AM and it seems like a good idea..............it isn't!
In a few weeks weeks Loretta and I hope to be moving from Discovery House to our RV on top of the hill. This will allow 1/2 of our current students to move in. We will still be on campus but our commute will change from 200 yards to 7/10's of a mile! While we are in the RV I will be working with students on our new 1 Bedroom 1 bath 1,000 square foot home. We have killer views and total privacy. We have lived with students (from 1 to 12) for 23 years. This is going to be weird!
I think a lot about what independence means to those of us effected by drug and alcohol abuse. The dope fiend in me truly understands the freedom sobriety brings. I spoke much about freedom as I was a slave to alcohol and other drug use. The dope fiend part of Carl was NEVER happy. The folks that cared about me wanted me to quit drinking. They were of course powerless to do much except leave and to pray for me. When I think of independence today I think of being free to choose (one day at a time), to live free from the compulsion to drink. It has worked now for over 35 years. More importantly it works today! I know I must share what has been so freely given to me. Seeing on a daily basis the destruction caused keeps me committed. I remember to well what it was like to have no choice!
My son Edwin and I were behind the boat on the big lake in a tube with Loretta at the wheel. We hit a wave and were launched off the tube. Edwin was about 16 months old. He had a life jacket but when I surfaced I could not see him! It seemed like several minuets but it was probably 45 seconds. On my swim over to him I was thinking………………..He is going to HATE the water, be afraid to get on the boat, and never want to ride again. I also pictured him in therapy complaining about his dad to the therapist and blaming me for screwing up his life. I was really into this! When I got to him I asked him if he was okay. He looked me dead in the eye and said ”daddy hold on tighter”. We got back on the tube and had a great day!
When I was still using I had the following “moment of clarity”. I was drunk, stoned, and had been using cocaine. For me this has NEVER been a good combination! I had a friend visiting from Boston. I wanted to show her a good time. We had been to a party and came home blitzed. I felt to high to go into the house (I was still living at home). We were siting on a hill in the backyard. All of a sudden without warning I started to cry. Not crocodile tears, I was balling! She looked at me and said ”what is wrong with you”? I said ”My life is crazy. If I keep on doing what I am doing, I’m not going to make it”. The bad news is in the morning I went about my business. I used for another two years. The interesting part is I DID get it. I just did not make the necessary changes.
When I first found the future home of Elk Mountain Academy I was camping on the property and slept in the back of my truck. I LOVED the property and had spent all day exploring. I had a dream. In the dream my dad (he passed away in 1985 this was 1990) and I discussed the property. I wanted to know his opinion. He said “if you don’t do it you are crazy”. I do not remember any such dreams in the last 20+ years. I believe He was communicating with me through my “dream”.
Edwin was 3 years old and was still riding on the tank of my dirt bike. He started riding with me when he was 9 1/2 months old, and got his first dirt bike of his own at age 4. We were riding around the pasture at Elk Mountain. We were on the track in the front yard. When we hit the jump I would gas it to do a wheelie. Edwin LOVED the feeling and would laugh and scream with excitement every time we hit it. On what was to be the last lap of the day I over gassed it. The wheelie was bigger than normal. When the wheel came down his hands could not support his weight. His arms collapsed and his nose hit the handle bar. He had blood coming out of his nose. His nose bled and bled. I kew he was okay but was VERY worried about how Loretta was going to deal with it. I did NOT want her to find out. I took Edwin in the bathroom. I took his clothes off and put him in the tub. We got all the blood off and he cleaned up well. When Loretta got home I assumed I was in the clear. Then she asked what happened that day. I told her Edwin and I had gone for a motorcycle ride. She said “WHAT HAPPENED!”. I could tell I was busted so I told the truth. I then asked how she knew. She said she saw Edwin’s bloody shirt in the hamper………………BUSTED.
Three winters ago I was on the roof of the school shoveling snow. I was worried about the weight as the depth passed three feet. A student was on the second floor deck shoveling snow. He saw me climb the ladder and get on the roof. Loretta asked me to pay someone to do it as she did not want me to fall. I insisted. I was up there for about an hour when the slide happened. On the way down I reminded myself to land feet first. I feel of the second story roof. I did hand feet first. But momentum won and I hit my chin on the ground. No one heard the snow slide or saw me hit the ground. When I realized I could still move my fingers and toes I got up sand slowly walked upstairs. When I climber the ladder to get back on the roof the student that was still shoveling knew I had fallen. He made a big deal about it. I planned on trying to keep the fall a secret. It didn’t work. Loretta saw my chin and quickly put the rest together.
I was driving to Richmond from Orinda on my way to my dads house when I saw him walking down the road. I stopped to see why he was walking. He calmly explained that his car had been stolen. It was about noon and I thought he had left his keys in the car. I started to get very heated as he showed me his keys. They had stolen his car in broad daylight! He was not a bit upset. His car only had PL and PD so he was NOT covered for theft. I loved his “vintage” Caddy. I actually tried to get him upset, at least as much as I was. He said “either I’ll get it back or I won’t”. I could not believe it. He did get it back. The police found it a few days later. He taught me a lot “either I’ll get it back or I won’t”. Why get mad?
My mom once said to me “I don’t understand why you drink until you fall over”. My response was “I don’t understand why you have one and quit”. At some level alcoholics and non alcoholics are never going to see things the same way!
I was able to make amends to an old girlfriend of mine. We dated from age 14 to 19 (I was a weird kid). Though I tried to make amends earlier I had to wait until I was about 20 years sober before she would not speak to me. Given How I behaved when drinking this makes perfect sense. When we first spoke I told her excitedly I was still sober. She told me she NEVER doubted I was still clean. She saw me drunk for years yet she was not surprised at all.
She also emailed me a message where I referred to myself as a “shit head” she said “you were not a shit head. You made some mistakes, took enormous risks, and were fearless, but you were a good guy most of the time. I think she was a saint and helped me stay alive long enough to get well.
You love your son! You want to see him do well and prosper. It is incredibly tough to watch your boy make the decisions he is and experiencing the consequences of his actions. If love was enough to get your boy to quit we would not be needed. What you CAN do to help:
1) Be a solid part of the treatment team. This means listing and learning. It means trusting us to do what is best for your boy. We have been doing this as a school for 18 years. I have been doing it myself for almost (October 9) it will be 33 years. We know the damage addiction does to families. We meet as a team each week and discuss each students progress. Teachers, therapists, office staff, and many front line staff attend each meeting. It is important to share any concerns. We MUST work together.
2) Go to Alanon. Alanon family groups are available in every state. Meetings are free (a basket is passed if you chose to donate). One of the most useful results that come from attending is the realization that you can be content wether your son recovers or not. Attendance also can give you the chance to help others. This offers unexpected blessings!
3) Allow your son to complete treatment. We let families know up front to expect treatment to last for one year. This is of course discouraging! “It takes what it takes”. I wish there was a way to expedite recovery. Some times it takes longer, sometimes shorter but it is important to go the distance. In AA there is a saying that explains this well “we did not get sick overnight and we will not get well overnight”. I know it took me years of use to want to quit. I still work on my recovery daily.
4) Learn all you can about addiction and treatment. Read the Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous). I think it still is the BEST source of information regarding this problem. It was written in 1939 and it is still very relevant. Going to Alanon and open AA meetings will help your family. There are many good books available. I wrote a book called “Addiction and Denial”. It is available on line (no charge) or we can send you a hard copy upon request.