Thursday, September 25, 2014

Blog Reactivation

For various reasons too convoluted to address at the moment, I was unable to continue with my blog for the duration of my incarceration. Over the coming months, I plan to re-activate this blog through new posts devoted to my experiences as well as the re-posting of previous posts devoted to my life behind bars that I was asked to remove. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Out of Time

I just posted a short piece on the Etika site summarizing a few of my thoughts and feelings on this last day of freedom. Feel free to check it out.

I'm usually quite eloquent and wordy, at least where writing is concerned. Finding words to write is usually not my problem; my problem is writing too much. But today I'm mostly just speechless and grumpy - I want to be alone and not to think about tomorrow.  So please forgive my in-eloquence on this last post from freedom. I'm not going to run or do anything stupid like that. And until now I've been counting down with impatience, ready to get on with it already. But now with one day left I suddenly want more time. Go figure. I hope that in a few months I look back on this post, and on my feelings today, and realize it was much ado about nothing.

In mundane news, I've been puffing away all day on my e-cigarette. No offense to my friends and family, but I'm going to miss good old nicotine more than anything. I haven't smoked real cigarettes for the last five years, but my e-cig is a constant companion. I dread the withdrawal I know will hit me tomorrow morning, just when I don't need it. Bye, bye, old friend. 

I also already miss my children. Our relationship is conducted via Skype and soon that will be no more. I'm thinking about them fast asleep at this very moment in Moscow. I wish more than anything that I could hug them one last time. 

Today has been filled with calls from family - although I'm not in the mood to "hang out" I appreciate that everyone has reached out to connect one last time. I wanted to take this moment to thank all of you - friends and family both - who have offered support over these past difficult months. Your kindness has helped me get through a tough time. When I decided to go public with my problems I expected the exact opposite: scorn and condemnation for my stupidity. While I still got a tiny bit of that, so many people reached out to help me along that I was overwhelmed. I made some new friends and connected with some old. I wish the circumstances were different but it means a lot to me that so many people stepped up to the plate.

I've heard it can take a week or two to reconnect with the outside world through e-mail and phone. Apparently there are some bureaucratic hurdles to overcome. But rest assured that as soon as I am able I'll be posting (with the help of my mother and sister) once again.  If readers send me messages or comments my mother and sister will be doing their best to ensure that I eventually receive them.

I have posted my contact information on the "Contacts" tab of my blog: please write!

So....So long.

It's time for a new adventure to begin.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Everyone's High

I was planning to stay on topic these last few days before I go to prison, to only write about my thoughts and feelings before I "go away". But as I was driving earlier today, listening to the latest broadcast of This American Life, I knew I had to write about it.  The episode, which they call I Was So High, is about doing drugs and getting high. First I laughed - the story about a man who got called up to participate on The Price is Right while high on shrooms is particularly funny. But after I laughed, then I cried. Not something that happens to me much while listening to the radio. Why? I hate to admit it, but it was as if they were talking about me, about my life.

The piece that really got to me is about a smart, normal guy who went through life, a life filled with loving family and a prestigious job at an advertising agency, while high on pot. He was living an entire hidden life toking up in back alleys and the stairwell at work while at the same time appearing, for all intents and purposes, to be a pillar of the community. No one knew about this secret life until he came clean, many years later, after a medical scare.

To non-addicts, I could understand how the story may seem incredible: the un-afflicted amongst us often don't realize how possible it is for an addict to hide his addiction, the great lengths he will go to to appear sober. We carry the stereotype with us of fall-down drunks and dirty, homeless addicts on street corners. At the edges these stereotypes may hold true. But the reality is that the vast majority of addicts manage to function in society, to hold jobs, to raise families, to appear respectable, to carry on with life while at the same time they are as high as a kite. I should know. For quite a long time that was me.

Look around you. If you are out walking or driving it's pretty likely an addict is somewhere nearby. That's what the story is about: how many people around us at any given time, people who may appear perfectly sober, are actually high on drugs. Studies of various professions show that a surprisingly high percent of people do drugs regularly. The program cites the astonishing statistic that at any given time, a full 5% of on-the-job medical professionals (a category that includes doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, etc.) are high on some illicit drug. Rates for waitresses, bartenders and construction workers are even higher.

That's not to say that these "functioning" addicts manage to skate through life without facing the consequences of their addictions. Many eventually lose control, or are found out, or get divorced, or are fired for other (related) reasons, or overdose. This is what eventually happened to me, in a fairly spectacular fashion. What I could relate to is the statement by that former addict-executive that he was running from something. It was hard, at first, for him to pinpoint what that something was. But with the help of his son (who also happened to be the reporter) he concluded that he was running from his feelings. His son, who didn't know about his addiction until much later was hurt: to him, it felt as if his father were running from him.
Like this executive, for quite a long time I managed to hide everything. I got high at work, at home, on business trips, in airplanes, before meetings, after meetings, on at least four continents, on vacation, before scuba diving, at my grandparents' house, during family dinners, at family reunions. I sat through board meetings high, I met famous politicians high, I gave speeches high, I drove high (every day), I played on the playground with my kids while high.... The list of what I did while high is endless - the same list, basically, as that of how I spent my life. And for the longest time, no one ever knew. They didn't even suspect. It's easy to keep a stash of pills hidden, after all, to pop them on the sly. 

In my experience, addiction is a magical deadener of feelings. It helped me deal with a stressful job, a stressful marriage, a stressful life. In my ordinary state I feel too much, I get nervous, I cry. Some feelings are difficult: who likes to feel anxious after all? I became pathetically enthralled to this means of escape. It became my crutch, how I dealt with uncomfortable feelings. At first it seemed all good: no more anxiety, no more fears. But an addict can't pick and choose which feelings to lose: in running from certain feelings I lost others I would have liked to keep - joy, happiness, the ability to get close and relate to other people.

I will be the first to admit that not everyone may find the episode as meaningful as me. It was as if they were talking about MY LIFE, after all. But even for the majority of non-addicts out there, it can be helpful to think about those suffering, addicted souls who may very well surround you. At the same time as they desperately seek to hide their vice from the world they may also be longing to call out for help. Addiction creates a terrible tension between secrecy and confession. Over time, the secrets come to seem too terrible to divulge. For non-addicts, it is important to understand that addiction is not a problem that only affects others, those from the bad side of town, or the big cities, or the weak, or the poor, or the disadvantaged. By labeling addicts as "others", we push away the problem, discount its seriousness. Addiction can affect good, normal people, people who may have started in a misguided effort to "run away", but who eventually run so far that, without help, they cannot find their way back again. 

As for me, I wouldn't wish addiction on my worst enemy. While doing drugs can be fun, addiction itself is a real bitch. It is an absolutely horrendous experience, an experience that dogs you for life, a monkey on your back that is incredibly hard to shake. I wish I weren't an addict. But I am lucky to have moved (at least a little bit) beyond it, to begin to heal, to feel again, to reconnect with everything (and everyone) I pushed away. Now, it is as if I have a newfound second sight: I see people, perfect strangers, out on the street, who look like I used to, people trying desperately to hide their disease but who clearly have the word "addiction" written all over their face. I'm not an evangelist. I don't know what to do so I walk right on by. But I do believe that seeing is the first step to understanding. And I whisper to myself: "there but for the grace of God go I."

Friday, May 2, 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Snap + Massage

I don't have much left on my "to do" list, which probably says something more about the length of the list than about my efficiency in checking items off. One thing that wasn't there but which I decided to add at the last minute was a massage. 

For whatever reason, I just love massages - the poking, the prodding, the feeling that I'm a loaf of dough on the kneading board. With ample time and money, I would happily go every single day, perhaps with a break for Christmas and Easter. And - though I don't know for certain - I suspect that massages aren't provided in prison or, if they are, that I wouldn't appreciate the strings that come attached. So off I went for a massage - in LA, salons are on practically every corner - and now I'm back, an hour later, $25 poorer and much more relaxed. I'm so relaxed, in fact, that it's hard to even lift my fingers to type.

I suppose that it should come as no surprise to anyone that my muscles were perhaps a little tense. I am getting older, but I don't blame age for my recent aches and pains. No matter how you look at it, how fervently you try to convince yourself that it's just the start of another adventure, the weeks leading up to prison can be a stressful time, a time that makes your muscles ache and your shoulders throb. 

I spent the past two days in the company of a producer from Snap Judgment, a nationally syndicated program aired on NPR. I told my story, with a few meanders and detours, pretty much from start to finish. All told, I blabbed for almost six hours, with short little breaks to wait for loud cars to pass and weed-eaters to stop eating weeds. Honestly, I didn't know I had so much to say (or that there was so much background noise in what I thought to be a very quiet house). 

It will be interesting to see how they manage to pare those six hours down to ten minutes, but I have no doubt that they will do it well. If you haven't checked out the program, you should, and not just because I will soon be featured. They take a very interesting, unique approach to storytelling. I don't yet know when my story will be ready, but I'll try to post a notice on my blog when the big day comes.

Dredging up all the ancient history of my sordid past was not exactly fun. At times, I felt as if I were telling someone else's story. I wish it was someone else's story, to be honest, but unfortunately it was me doing all those awful, stupid things. I may have been a bit too forthcoming - it's easy to forget, sitting in a living room with one other person and talking into a microphone, that you're actually speaking to the entire country. But I'm intent on telling my story as honestly as I can, not to whitewash any of the details, because only through complete honesty will I ever be able to even begin to transcend what I did.

In any event, after all was said and done, after I'd bared my soul, after the producer had hopped in her car and drove off for the airport, after all of that, my shoulders hurt like hell. So off I went to get a massage. 

I'm glad I did.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I'll Miss...

I will miss my kids

I won't miss my kids' friends

I will miss sushi

I won't miss fish sticks

I will miss driving

I won't miss the DMV

I will miss breakfast in bed

I won't miss scrambled eggs

I will miss my very-own bedroom

I won't miss my pillow

I will miss a private bathroom

I won't miss cleaning my toilet

I will miss Slate

I won't miss Fox News

I will miss NPR

I won't miss NPR fundraisers

I will miss fireworks

I won't miss President's Day

I will miss my e-cigarette

I won't miss nicotine withdrawal

I will miss my niece and nephews

I won't miss Minneapolis

I will miss walking to the post office

I won't miss the post office

I will miss wearing whatever I want

I won't miss shopping for clothes

I will miss Sorbet

I won't miss cleaning Sorbet's poop

I will miss ice cream and Greek yogurt

I won't miss cows
I will miss women

I won't miss men

I will miss parent-teacher conferences

I won't miss other parents

I will miss vacations

I won't miss deciding where to go 

I will miss doing homework with my children

I won't miss math

I will miss being able to go to the dentist

I won't miss going to the dentist

I will miss swimming

I won't miss surfing

I will miss my passport

I won't miss visas

I will miss flying

I won't miss airports

I will miss Netflix

I won't miss Hulu

I will miss Microsoft Word

I won't miss Microsoft

I will miss NA meetings

I won't miss addicts

I will miss Target

I won't miss Wal-Mart

I will miss having money

I won't miss money

I will miss Chinese food

I won't miss Indian food

I will miss voting

I won't miss election coverage

I will miss my apartment

I won't miss paying rent

I will miss being a lawyer

I won't miss working as a lawyer

I will miss my last job

I won't miss the job before that

I will miss some Russians

I won't miss Russia

I will miss Moscow

I won't miss Putin

I will miss my lawyer

I won't miss my federal prosecutor

I will miss Facebook

I won't miss Twitter

I will miss the seasons

I won't miss the snow

I will miss driving fast

I won't miss red lights

I will miss homemade food

I won't miss cooking dinner

I will miss fresh melon and strawberries

I won't miss apples or bananas

 I will miss Culver's

I won't miss McDonald's

I will miss the ocean

I won't miss rivers

I will miss my life

I won't miss prison

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Lawyer No More

I never liked working as a lawyer. But I liked being a lawyer. Today, I found out that soon, I will no longer be a lawyer. I can't figure out if I'm upset or relieved. 

Let me explain.

For me, becoming a lawyer was a means to an end. I wanted to live and work overseas, dabbled unhappily with other "international" professions such as diplomacy and journalism, and ended up at law school by default. I wasn't drawn by the possibility of a good salary, or a stable career. I really hadn't the faintest clue about what lawyers actually do all day. What I wanted was to see the world and earn enough to support my family. 

Although I never liked the work, to my surprise I found out along the way that I was actually good at it. I have an analytical mind and a penchant for the big picture, traits that made up for my lack of attention to detail and gave me a leg up on the vast majority of lawyers who insist on missing the forest for the trees. I realized that I like to think like a lawyer - analytically, rationally - more than I like to practice law. But they call the law "the golden handcuffs" and before long I felt trapped by my choice of profession.
My law school diploma - sitting forgotten in a corner

All the same, and although I wouldn't have admitted it at the time, I was proud to have happened upon a profession and made a success out of it. Although at cocktail parties I would shrug and act embarrassed when answering the question, "What do you do?", deep down I did feel pride at being a member of what is, in essence, an elite, member's only, club. Despite their tarnish, our society continues to value the professions above most other careers.  My JD was my entree to success, to a life in which I always knew that I would be able to make my way. 

This week, I heard from some official at the New York bar, where I am registered as a lawyer, that they have initiated a disbarment action against me. Essentially, this means that soon, I will no longer be a lawyer. Now, this wasn't at all unexpected. Any lawyer convicted of a felony would face the same punishment. And I'm not really upset. In some ways it's a great relief, as if the golden handcuffs have finally been broken.

But it's also a little strange. Even now, if someone asks me what I do my first reaction is to say that I'm a lawyer. This happened yesterday when the man who bought my car asked me that very question. "Lawyer," I mumbled and changed the subject. What do I say otherwise? That I'm a blogger? Or a writer? A felon? Permanently unemployed? Maybe in time I'll get used to those new responses but for now they don't feel quite right. I miss being a lawyer although I don't miss working as one.

Once a lawyer, always a lawyer, I guess. So long golden handcuffs.