The Overcoming: Part 4

[Editor: This is the last part in a series of articles on overcoming escapism by Brother Jason, a soldier in the Salvation Army. Jason doesn’t have a blog, but you should show him some love here in this shithole. If you’re joining late, you’ll want to read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.]

Obviously……I didn’t jump, fall or drop off the Golden Gate…but even today, every January in California since then……’s always to this day been an uneasy month to realize how close I was. On the 10th anniversary of that fateful day…..I did actually weep a bit at home. Life went on.

What kept me from plunging to my death? A vision. Really. A vision. As I stood, barely balancing on the rail on the rail ready to go to my death…….I saw a man. He had sandals on. Was dressed in a tunic, a robe of sorts with a belt. He had long hair, a beard…….and the most serene dark eyes I had ever seen. He was standing about ten feet away from me. His eyes had such deep pity for me. Real pity. As if he could feel everything I had been through for my whole adult life. All he did was beckon me to come to him. He didn’t speak. He didn’t slip me the answer. He didn’t tell me “I had so much to live for” and he didn’t make any defensive moves to save me from falling.

He beckoned again. I jumped off the rail back on to the walkway and smacked down hard on to the pavement. I looked up and he was was gone. I suddenly felt very sick again……..I started puking again. I passed out.

I awoke in a bedroom. I immediately knew it was a hospital or sorts. A nurse smiled at me and said gently “hey…’re awake. you took quite a spill…a passing car saw you passed out on the Golden Gate Bridge. They called the police. They found a dogtag on you, around your neck; assumed you were a veteran and brought you here….you’re at the veterans hospital here in San Francisco. You’re safe now.” (the dogtag was my grandfathers from WW II) “Mr. Jones???” She said cautioiusly….I just shook my head and said “that was my grandfather….”

“You’ve been out cold for almost 48 hours……you detoxed bad, you’re still detoxing we have you on sedatives…….” I then noticed the restraints on my arms and legs.

Once the formalities were cleared up, of who I was………I was introduced to a man from Narcotics Anonymous. It was then I decided that life may not be worth living, but I was going to finish it up the proper way. I also promised “god” that I would never drink and drug again. It would ber a few more years before I became a practicing Christian.

I stayed sober and clean for the fact that I almost tasted death. My life did not suddenly become “easy” after getting sober……in fact for a few years… got worsre. All the nonsense I had let go over the years came back. All at once. ALso confessing to my parents that their “bright and promising son” had in fact been using drugs since 1989. The people I hurt, stole from, let down, lied to over the past decade with a clear mind suddenly washed over me hard. I also lost my mother to undected cancer a few years after getting cleaned up. She was only 62. A woman who never smoked, drank and was not by any measure a typical “wimmen” you see clogging the streets, church and Internet today.

I stayed sober and clean for the fact that I had made a “promise” to the “big guy upstairs” and I figured for once I was going to keep a promise…….had not kept one to anybody for a very long time. It wasn’t easy, but it gets easier now…..I do owe a debt of gratitude to Narcotics Anonymous. It really helped me at first…especially in the first year. Jokes about “AA” programs and people aside; all this support group does is to help people who don’t want to use anymore to be encouraged, listened to, understood. I’ve been involved in very heated meetings, cried a lot, argued and laughed too. I am grateful. I am also grateful for the people I saw when I first came. All colors. All walks of life. Old and young. Rich and poor. Clean for 24 hours, clean for 25 years. Drug addiction is an ironic equalizer in our culture.

No, I never relapsed but have been temped more than a few times.

Yes, I did eventually become a Christian…and the man I saw that night on the Golden Gate Bridge???? I am convinced it was indeed the Savior of us all. Jesus Christ.

Here is a video of Fiona Apple, she looked like this when I partied with her. Her song “first taste” probably from 1999 or thereabouts

The Overcoming: Part 3

[Editor: This is the third part in a series of articles on overcoming escapism by Brother Jason, a soldier in the Salvation Army. Jason doesn’t have a blog, but you should show him some love here in this shithole. If you’re joining late, you’ll want to start at Part 1 here. You can also go back to Part 2 here.]

I was now “sneaking” drinks at the nightclub to steady my hand and to stop the “shakes” that were almost uncontrollable when a level of alcohol was not kept up in my body.

The club owner, Harry Denton an “old SF queen” (or “hag” depending on his mood) warned me right before Christmas, “babes, you gotta get it together, I don’t know what’s wrong, but figure it out…you’re on thin ice here.”

I started to pawn off anything, and everything that was of value that I had in storage. When I wasn’t partying, or working…….I was at my roach infested room just crying……..bawling is probably the better term. I remember waking up New Years Day 2005 on the floor in pile of my my own puke in some house waaaaayyyyyyy out in the Richmond neighborhood; I awoke, looked around and saw two “hot girls” giving me looks of hate of “GET OUT NOW”

I came to work on January 5th, 2005. Before my shift started, I was stocking the bar…….and I ducked below, grabbed three shots of Jim Beam…….to steady my hands, they would not stop shaking! I stood up and………there was my boss. The club owner, Harry Denton. “What’s up babes?” He asked, he was smiling, and I figured….okay, turn on the charm. Be cool. He won’t know or he’ll just give me a warning (again).
He jokes with me a bit and then says, I gotta talk to you real quick in the office before you start……..

We get to his swank, and gaudy looking office. He is telling me about work, how he started out as a waiter in San Francisco in 1966; while printing up paperwork…….small talk. No anger, or attitude with me. I’m thinking to myself “dodged it, he’s just making sure I am sober for work, testing me. coolness!” He then, hands me the paperwork he printed up.

He says “Babes. I am really sorry. I have to let you go. You have been sneaking drinks here, which is theft, and it’s a policy when you were hired that there is absolutely NO drinking on the job.” He then tells me to read the document and sign it. He opens a business “checkbook” and then says, “since I am terminating you, on the day of your shift…..I have to pay you for the shift…….and I actually like you. A lot. I am going to pay you for a full forty hour week, and I am doing this as a favor because I do like you.”

I am reading the document, tears welling up in my eyes. So this is the end. Statements from co-workers stating on dates when they saw me “sneaking” a drink. I tried to plead with him, promise him that it would not happen again. The usual last straws of a drunk and druggie. Lies. Promises that I would not keep.

Harry took off his glasses, leaned on his desk, gently smiled and said “I know now that you lost a decent career at IBM probably due to this same issue I am firing you for now. Look, you’re young… are slumming it here at place like this, look…you do good work, and you have potentials….but this is MY business. MY career. MY passion that I built from nothing when I arrived in San Francisco almost 40 years ago. If I let this slide, then I will lose control of this whole place. It is a priveldge to work at this club and for ME. I need people here who are on board 100% with MY vision here in this City. Look, get some help. It’s not too late for you. You have your tip-book / log? Let me see it.” I handed him my tip-book.

Harry carefully looked at my tip log, got out a calculator and got an average of the tips I made during a work week. He then opened his wallet and pulled out 950.00 cash and said “Here, I don’t have to do this either babes, but I like you…I am going to ‘tip’ you out for the work week as well.” He then gave me the check for a weeks worth of work.
He again asked me to sign the document…….more firmly now. I picked up the Cross pen, and signed it.

He then stood up, and asked me for my nametag. I gave it to him.. He shook my hand and again said with sadness, disgust, and a tad of betrayal by me…..”Get some help.” He then motioned for me to leave, I did. He walked behind me. There were no other goodbyes or talk. Outside his office, he locked the door and he got on his cellphone and said “Katie, yeah…call in in Jared immediately to work. I just fired Jason…..well, he had plenty of chances……” and he walked away, didn’t even look back at me. I stood there for a minute or two and left the hotel…………

DId I learn???? Hell no!!! I took that money and went on my final bender. Was out all night, well into the next morning! Blew it all on drink and cocaine. Partied for two days straight. Everything was okay for the next two days! I didn’t need that job……..I would find another one. I would get “serious” and “knuckle down” for a bit…………but really, deep down……I knew it was the end. Even if I got another job, I had zero savings to hold me until money started coming in again like the last time back in 2003. I could liquidate my 401K, but that would take a few weeks to get the check. Rent due, and how would I maintain without the cocaine? The drink? For that matter all the other bills I had been putting off. Laundry? Haircut? What was I going to eat? Yes. The end was here. I had that bender, and I decided it was time to kill myself. Off the Golden Gate Bridge. I would go quickly, only one in a hundread survive that drop…and haven”t I been wanting death for a few years now anyway???? I would destroy my ID, make sure it would be a mystery to what happened to me. I would leave no note. Nobody cared anyway…….I destroyed my ID, bank cards, social security card. I would hock my class ring from graduate school (a gift from my parents back in 1994). I would pay the rent with it……..thus not causing suspicion that I was missing,

Four days after I was fired, I was standing on the rail of the Golden Gate Bridge, mid-span at 3am……………I was gonna just lose my balance and just fall down, down, down……WAY down to the cold murky swirling waters below. Should be easy, the shakes were back. I was siging a Beatles song loudly as I recall (Let It Be)…..the fog was heavy………….the fog horn was beckoning me….daring me to do it…..I was starting to detox bad. Delusional visions………..the shakes….I dry heaved a few times while walking out to the Golden Gate and while on the bridge……….never was good enough……no one to call. It would be weeks until perhaps connections were made that I was gone and the body retrieved from the bay was me…..more than likely my landord at that scuzzy place I was living……the prick! Next month would come, and his insipid puss would come knocking for the rent, he would check the room and it would not have been lived in for almost a month (I left the room spotless, clothing folded, everything in its place)……Police would be called….a small but ineffective investigation would happen……some connection to an unknown body found in the bay, the landlord comes to check it on bequest of the fine folks at the SFPD….he would say “yup that’s him, that’s the drunk a-hole who rented from me” and that would be that. He had my first and last name only….it would be perhaps a few more weeks before any family would find out…..the churning waters far below…..”just let it be, let it bee, yeah!!!!” The random car passing honking its horn. Another car passes, and womans’ voice from car yells “do it!!!! Jump!!!!” I feel sick…….dizzy……..I think I can feel myself about to fall….no, no not yet…..the sound of blood thumping in my ears blots out any other and every sound….pins and needles prickling sensation on my lips, my body is preparing for it. In a few seconds……a minute…..whatever…it’s now all over. World 1. Jason 0.

Read Part 4!

The Overcoming: Part 2

[Editor: This is the second part in a series of articles on overcoming escapism by Brother Jason, a soldier in the Salvation Army. Jason doesn’t have a blog, but you should show him some love here in this shithole. If you’re joining late, you’ll want to read Part 1 here.]

I danced. I partied. There were still some laughs I suppose as the decline quickened. I partied with Fiona Apple in 2002 one night. We ended up some underground party and danced, grinded on each other while the group “Morcheeba” sang, and mixed their wizardry on the stage……..she “of course” just wanted to party with me and didn’t want to hook up with me……….

I met Sergio Mendes one night at a nightclub. I jumped from the upper rails of a nightclub down to the crowd below who broke my fall during a “soul / motown / Mod” all night dance party. Everyone thought I was insane. I was so high…….I was hoping to die countless nights. I would always ask myself as I looked in the mirror as I perfectly knotted my tie “This is gonna be the night…hopefully. I’ll pass out, crash out and never wake up.”

The SF Police twice fished me out of an alley deep in the Tenderloin neighborhood, and got me home. My parents back east started to worry about me……..I disconnected my telephone. My work performance sank, and after being given several warnings…..I was “asked” to leave IBM in the fall of 2003. The rush from sweet cocaine now was a problem…..I was honking up well over $1000.00 a week. I was an addict. I was ashamed but there was nothing really anyone could say or do to help me. Who was I gonna talk to? Someone in a club? My parents? Gonna meet a “nice girl” who just understood? My few peers?????

Despite all of this, I found another job rather quickly…….I was hired by a swanky nightclub atop the Sire Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco as a bartender……it was like adding gasoline to an already out of control fire. The party scene now was kicked into hyperspace, interstellar overdrive. I was still keeping myself up, but I hated looking at myself in the mirror while shaving, or sitting in a barbers chair……..I hated everything about me. I was mechanical at my bartending job. I did solid work under stress and pressure…..but the second work ended. Out until the sun came up…..or later at underground clubs for bartenders, or more nefarious places……saw people shooting up heroin in filthy alleys (never touched needles btw). The dance went on……..I lost weight…..the shakes would not stop, and this would be the downfall of me bartending……the IBM stock I had was running out…….taxes killed my portfolio……….the savings was being sucked dry quicker than it was coming in. It finally came to the point when I just “quit” paying rent.

I was evicted from the condo I had been renting since 1997 in 2004.

I moved to a scummy residential hotel in the Western Addition neighborhood…….and that is when the bottom fell out……..

Read Part 3!

The Overcoming: Part 1

[Editor: This is the first in a series of articles on overcoming escapism by Brother Jason, a soldier in the Salvation Army. Jason doesn’t have a blog, but you should show him some love here in this shithole.]

I have been clean and sober now for 13 years. January 2005 I snorted my last line of cocaine, drank my last drop of alcohol and took my last puff of marijuana. It was in San Francisco. My life had been in a downward spiral for a few years at this point… accelerated after 9-11-01 but there had been problems with me beneath the surface for quite a few years before that. I just turned 34 about one month prior to deciding to become sober.

This won’t be some butthurt empathy winning testimony about “if a woman just gave me a chance” or how “my parents didn’t love me enough” then I would not have drifted into these problems. I made the choices in the end. They are my choices to live with, bear and hang my head in “shame” with. There are a few people I have tried to make “amends” with who still have not forgiven me. I can’t really blame them for not forgiving me if truth be told. Towards the end of my addiction……I became a nasty sort of fellow. Ruder, meaner, nastier and badder. Not in a violent sense…but in many ways the worse kind……….the pure “evil” kind. Hoping misfortune on others. Wishing harm and reveling in it when someone got housed, busted, or lost something important to them. It made me smile inside……..thinking that “they might know now how I feel most of the time”. The reality was, most…heck….all could care less about what I felt. My addiction was evil in the end. Very evil. Sneaky. Loving it when a woman got cheated on. Thinking it great when someone didn’t get that promotion. I loved watching people in emotional pain. It almost alliviated mine…..albiet briefly.

If I had been “good looking” on a cultural standard, I could have pulled it off a bit longer and perhaps even gotten away with it. That is a discussion for another time.

My drinking didn’t make me confident. I suddenly didn’t become suave, or cool in a club / party / bar scene because I was drinking. Neither did the cocaine. What it did do was just make me “forget” how useless I felt on the inside. How I was always ignored, or invisible to women. How I was always that guy in a peer group who was “just not with it” like the rest. The times I was flying high or drunk or both on those fog-soaked San Francisco streets……..being in this state constantly helped me cope with my strong but solitary nature. Something I always was. The guy picked last for any team sport. The kid who somehow “messed it up” or “didn’t do it right”

Now, this situation just didn’t start with me taking a line of cocaine, and suddenly I lost everything a week later. Nor did I take a drink in high school while living in West Germany as an American exchange-student and suddenly “had a drinking problem”

It slowly, slowly accelerated. After 9-11-01, like I said above it kicked into overdrive. I kept my haircut. I shaved. I dressed well. I still took vacations (usually to Seattle in those days). I still served on the Board of Trustees of my beloved undergraduate, I was one of the top donars to my college (25K a year from 1998-2002). I suppose I looked okay for my age……but obviously to women and others, I wasn’t. Alcohol and drugs did help me cope in this area. I had an advanced degree from one of the top polytechnics in the USA (Rensselaer Poly). I worked for freakin’ IBM Corporation! I pulled over 135K a year in 2001. I had three patents. I was leading a huge project for their new and innovation Enterprise Storage Server at that time……….a multi billion dollar project in storage technology. I was living in San Francisco, a place so many would want to live in……….my parents of course were proud of me. My college was grateful for my patronage……….and yet……………………………….and yet

A failure with women. Total failure. I was (and am) still a virgin. Never kissed a woman. Never even had a date. I won’t blame, nor lay my drinking and drugs at the feet of women……and I did for awhile. Looking back….ughhhh….THAT was so pathetic. It probably fed into the vicious circle thing…..and just made everything worse for myself and my outward portrayal to women.

This combined with being shy, solitary……alone……..seeing my friends from college and grad school date, get sex, date, get sex, date…….get married…….combined with the lies I had heard since I hit puberty that “women only want a really nice guy” and facing the reality of this not really being the truth. I also was not happy with my job. Sure, I did it and did it well. I didn’t really enjoy the corporate office culture. Forget the “suit and tie” thing……I dealt with that. I hated the politics, the phoniness, the “air family” of fakeness. I hated working in a skyscraper. I wanted to be the guy who BUILT the skyscraper.

This combined with a varity of other things led to 9-11……and my core finally was shaken. Not that I was some “pillar of stability” at that point, but all I had faith in……was shaken hard. Conspiracy theories aside……we had been attacked, and the people who were supposed to protect us didn’t. It became politicized almost immediately and add to the fact…….I was supposed to be there. Two weeks before that fateful day, I returned form a boring business trip from the Tucsan, Az facility. At the Monday morning staffie….I was told to go help configure the new servers that were just intalled in the bowels of the World Trade Center. A coworker, and co-developer Doug asked me if he could go instead. He was from NYC, and he would do the job…………and then take some vacation time to spend with his mom and dad….sister. I agreed. Anything to keep me out of New York City was fine by me. I told my manager Doug was going in my place…and he agreed to this.

Well… you can figure out……..Doug obviously died in the attack. No, I was not buddies or pals with him. We worked well together. He was my age (31 at the time), married for a few years. Had the cute wife. A little baby boy. He went to NYC and never came home……….everyone in my department KNEW I was the one asked to go…….and he ended up going….and no, it wasn’t on purpose and maybe it was paranoia……..but I “felt” like everyone in my department wished Doug was still around and I had not returned from a fateful trip to NYC. Doug was popular on the team.

This pushed me into a downward spiral……tailspin………..and anytime I wasn’t at work I was drinking, snorting up enough cocaine that would have even made Kieth Richards raise an eyebrow and say “whoa there Welshman! your puttin’ me to shame!”

I wanted to die. I kicked my feet up and jumped head first down the slide while telling myself “I’ll be dead in a few years….none of this is gonna matter”

Read Part 2!