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Friday, June 19, 2015

My 1am A.A. Meeting

He's a member of Allergenics Anonymous, a group of like minded people trying to stop themselves from making others have to take Benadryl when they visit my house. All the cats are members too. They all slip constantly!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

(insert metaphor about six in a row here)

Today was my sixth A.A. This makes six days sober. This was a different type of meeting I had not been to before: an Anniversary Meeting. This meeting allows those celebrating a milestone period of time sober a time to speak and they are alloted more time than in regular meetings.

All meetings that I have attended, besides this one, have a nearly identical format. The meeting starts by describing the purpose of A.A. (helping people stay sober), the fees due (none), the requirements to join (a desire to stop drinking) and a speaker is introduced. This speaker tells of some of his experiences, troubles, and how A.A. has helped him.

The floor is then opened up to short, usually two to five minute, times for any member to speak. No topics are off-limits as long as it relates to drinking, desire to drink, or stopping drinking. People talk about family, friends, A.A., food, vacations, depression, suicidal thoughts, and any other topic imaginable. The members are either chosen by raising ones hand, or a round-robin starts at some point in the circle. If round-robin is the method, the last fifteen to twenty minutes are held aside for someone who wants to speak but was missed.

The meeting ends with words from a founder of A.A. being read and the whole group holding hands and saying "Live and let Live" together.

It may sound hokey. People who have done 12-step may say "where is your highest power," "when do you study the steps," "who is your sponsor," "where is your chip," or a half dozen other questions. My answer is "This is working for me. This is helping me."

I didn't slip yesterday. I haven't slipped yet today. I'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.

New Release Date

Dad did a bunch of exercises yesterday and today more aimed at day-to-day living. They had him doing stairs and walking with a grocery bag full of books, to name two.

He got a visit today from one of the hospital higher-ups, and his new release date is set for the 30th. This should give him plenty of workout time. I expect him to be able to go home send live significantly more independently than he did before.

Ill still be around to help him out, but I might be able to go job hunting or develop the two mobile apps I've been bouncing around in my head.

He just needs to keep off the booze, or all this work will be for nothing. He will quickly regress once he starts drinking again. His health and independence will quickly fade back to worse than before. I plan on going to A.A. with him, or just bring him to meetings if he doesn't feel comfortable with me there.

His substance abuse counselor wants him to go to an outpatient rehab program. Dad has expressed little interest in going due to the distance involved. It's on 34th street. Since dad lives on 72nd street, that's a distance of two miles. In any other city, that would be about a 5 minute trip. In Manhattan, it's about a half hour. I'm trying to convince him to go.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Subscription Service Change Reminder

As I said in a previous post, there is a new subscription service and the feedburner-based one will shut down later tonight. Don't forget to sign up for the new one to continue getting updates. The new site sends hourly updates, if and only if a new post was created. I think this is much better than the previous 12:02AM email.

Contact Form Added

As many people don't have Google+, (because it us a steaming pile of horse manure) I have added a form to allow readers to email me if they wish. This will let you discuss things without resorting to public comments, if needed.

New Subscription Service & Mobile Site Update

I have changed the subscription service being used. The previous one didn't give control over when the updates were sent, and I find 12:04AM EST to be a silly time. The new one sends an email every hour if there has been an update to the blog.

I have re-subscribed everyone who joined the old subscription service. You should get an email from Click the link inside the email to confirm. I'll delete the old subscription list later on today so everyone doesn't get duplicate emails.

If you didn't get the email, check your spam folder, click the link and add to your whitelist or address book to avoid future issues. If the email isn't in your spam folder, I must have missed you. I apologize; you just need re-subscribe using the new form on the top right (bottom for mobile users. More on that to follow.)

You may have noticed I have also updated the layout of the blog's mobile version. The statistics bar should now show at the top, and the subscription gadget should be at the bottom.

Hopefully this will enable the many mobile OS users (more than 50% of the hits come from Android and it's and one strange should using a BlackBerry) to subscribe much easier than before. Using the full version of the site is troublesome on a small screen. Guess that's why they made a mobile version, huh?

Like Carl Lewis at the Long Jump

I have a four-peat!

Today was my fourth consecutive AA meeting and my fourth or fifth day of sobriety. It depends on how you count: do I start on Saturday, the first day beginning at 12:00am where I didn't have a drink, or Friday, when I didn't have a drink after I woke up (my last drink was at somewhere around 3AM. Understandably I am a little fuzzy on the exact time)? For ease of counting, I may just call it four AA meetings and four days of sobriety.

My days are not the hard part. I spend them with my dad or my wife. I help Robert at the Jewish Home, walk with him, keep him company in a strange environment and run whatever errands he may need. Joycelyn and I watch TV, cook dinner (that's more her than me. You would understand if you ate a meal made by both of us as to why), and enjoy married life in a city as wonderful as New York. I attend my AA meeting in the evening. I watched the NBA Finals and enjoyed the game quite a lot.

I, generally, wasn't a daytime drinker. That was one of my innumerable excuses as to why I couldn't be an alcoholic. It is very hard to explain to someone without an addiction problem the rationalization process that goes on in your mind to convince yourself everything is OK, but the following may give you some insight.

I didn't get my first drink until the evening, so I didn't have a problem.
I didn't get "really" drunk every single day, so I didn't have a problem.
I didn't get hangovers all the time, so I didn't have a problem.
I didn't get as drunk as "real" alcoholics, so I didn't have a problem.
I didn't get blackout drunk all the time, so I didn't have a problem.
I didn't get into legal trouble, so I didn't have a problem.

I didn't get it.

Habits are hard to break and habits involving drugs are very hard to break. In New York City, a drink is never more than $1 and a couple of feet away. I'm very proud of what I have done and indescribably thankful to all that have helped me, but doesn't mean there won't be some times that are hard. I am an adult, and if I decide to drink, I can.

I must make the choice not to have a drink every minute of every day. Some days are harder than others and some minutes are harder than others. The last few hours, after the game ended, has been very hard for me. I even watched the post-game bullshit just to keep busy. This is because the hardest time for me is after Joycelyn has gone to sleep when I'm still home and not ready to go to sleep. I'd usually be three-quarters loaded by the time the NBA Championship was won. It's because I'm just here, essentially by myself, and wandering minds are dangerous. No one can watch over my shoulder 24-hours-a-day.

This is why every AA meeting I attend adds to my collection of phone numbers associated with first names and last initials. I get handed business cards with the personal cell phone numbers 60 minutes after being met by essentially a stranger. Some business cards have the person's name and the business they work for. I've had a card or two where the person's name is part of the business name like Meyers from Jacoby & Meyers. (This is alcoholics Anonymous, so NO I didn't meet Jacoby or Meyers! I would never out someone like that, but it's an example most can understand.)

I get a phone number and a name. And then I am told to call anytime. If I need to talk, if I am thinking about a drink, if I'm just lonely. It's for the dark times. I've been told some AAs spend as much of the day in meetings as they can for they feel safest there. It sounds strange to need to feel safe in this fashion, but AAs generally fear alcohol and what it will do to them if they slip. I face my fear every day when I visit Dad, but sometime those consequences seem distant and some booze would make the problems seem that much further away. Things seem so much easier when I'm drunk, despite how much harder they really are. All your cares are washed away as you make that horrible decision that, in reality, adds to those problems.

This post may have seemed to start out upbeat, and get progressively worse as I continued to write, but that is the furthest thing from the truth. When I started writing this post I really wanted a drink. I know I could have woken Joycelyn to keep me company, but I didn't need to. There is a reason this post actually got happier as it continued, despite sounding darker and darker:

Instead of fixing everything with a bottle, I made the choice to write about it.
Every word you have just read represents me choosing to type and not drink.

I don't want a drink anymore and that makes me happy. I think I'm going to go to bed now.

I didn't slip today, and I'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.

OK, Maybe Things are not Quite as bad as Denmark

I woke up late today with a call from dad. I was half-awake when I spoke with him, so I do not remember what we discussed. I jumped out of bed, walked the dog, and was off. When I arrived at the Jewish Home, Robert told me today he went on an Adventure! Using his walker, the occupational therapist and he went all the way outside of the facility (a significant walk), across the street, into a grocery store (for New Yorkers: bodega) and pretended to shop for milk and eggs. Now, using his cane, after his simulated shopping seminar (alliteration aggressively asserted? affirmative!), the OT and Robert walked across the street, into the Jewish Home and back to his room. This is a milestone event. I can not remember, before his fall, the last time dad was outside of his apartment, let alone shopping. I'm very glad this type of simulated real-life therapy is occurring. Due to the following, I expect much more to come!

I then met with the Administrator of the Jewish Home (not an assistant for once). I told him I needed a social worker to go over my Dad's release plans and explained why the person currently in charge, the Assistant Director of Social work, was not acceptable. He called the director of the Physical Therapy department but she was not in. He then personally walked me back to Robert's building and went to meet with her. Her office is on the third floor of my dad's building, so I went back to dad's room.
Sidebar: I am amazed and delighted at the level of access concerned family members are given, up to the highest level. I just walked to security, told them I had a concern and they put me on the phone with the head of the entire operation. I was invited up to his office within 30 seconds. They truly want issues resolved and have bent over backwards to regain my trust.

Shortly afterwords, our actual social worker came by and talked to us about the situation. I explained the issues we were having and she told us everything would be taken care of. Dad's substance abuse worker also dropped in for a chat. He, very reasonably, explained the meeting may have gone differently if I had not just quit drinking, resulting in a short temper. I agreed, but stuck to my guns about the form signing duplicity. He did not disagree on that front.

After he left, the head of the facility came by and introduced us to the Assistant Director of the Physical Therapy department, as the head was unavailable. I inwardly cried "Higher Power, protect me from Assistants!" Fortunately my cry was unneeded, as she sat with us and went over the goals originally set and worked out what was missing from our expectations. Taking notes the whole time, she agreed to add work on going to a store for groceries and sundry items, walking on uneven surfaces, practicing stair climbing, stair descending and kitchen safety.

She was a very pleasant woman, fulling informed about dad's care to date and was able to describe how we could reach our goals together.

Barring one interaction with the Assistant Director of Social Work, our time with the Jewish Home has been top-notch, and the Administrator and Assistant Administrator of the entire facility have promised to change the training to ensure this never happens again. I don't blame the social worker at the discharge meeting for the mess-up. This is a training issue. I believe there was no intent to deceive, just improper instruction to staff that is being address as I type.

While it is much better never to have a customer (even in health care, people are customers to some degree) satisfaction issue, the way you handle the problem can make someone never come back and curse your name to everyone they meet. On the other hand, if you handle an issue with true remorse, resolve the concern, and do so in such a way that is above and beyond what is expected, even those you have wronged (actually or imagined) will sing your praises from the mountaintops!

Inquiring Minds Want to Know!

1. Why are so many people still using Internet Exploder? 
2. What is CriOS and Silk? I could Google it, but I would like to be suprised!
3. BlackBerry? Deanna, did your iPhone die?
4. Linux represent... or something
5. Just "Mobile". It's like being a French automaker and calling your car "Le Car".

Sorry for being silly, I can't sleep tonight and needed a distraction until 4:00am or my mind stops racing and I can get to bed. I'll post a Robert and Peter update soon.

Monday, June 15, 2015

There is Something Rotten in the Borough of Bronx

Despite the positive news today, one event has put a definite damper on an otherwise beautiful set of progress reports.

Today Robert and I had a meeting with a social worker, physical therapist, occupational therapist and his substance abuse counselor. They are planning on discharging him this Thursday. Both Dad and I disagree with him being ready to go home, wanting more strength, balance and endurance training. I admit I got a little testy with the people in the room. Adding to my distress was the team assembled was full of temps. Dad's main physical therapist and main social worker were both off today, and the physical therapist substituting showed up late, without reading, or even HAVING Dad's file. I believe I got snarky, saying something along the lines of "Is the person who schedules these meeting on vacation too?"

It was then explained to me the decision to release is not in the hands of the hospital, but MediCare. MediCare has reports on my dad's progress physically and made the choice to not pay for anymore therapy in the Jewish Home after Thursday. I apologized once I understood this. I believe my exact words were "I'm sorry I directed my ire at you people in this room. I didn't understand where the decisions were being made."

We conversed for a while longer about dad's condition and issues. The meeting was winding down and the social worker asked for Robert to sign a form indicating he attended and understood the discussion. The form was in a large binder full of pages, conveniently opened to the proper one. This led to a HUGE explosion on my part, as this was the form they wanted us to sign is the following:

The social worker said the form was acknowledging attendance. What the form actually said was by signing, Robert was accepting the plan of care we had been arguing against the whole meeting. I took the social worker out to the wood shed, and was stunned with the lack of concern. She said of course we had the right to disagree with the course of care. I told her my issue wasn't my right to disagree, but her misrepresenting the contents of the form.

You have to trust the care facility one entrusts a loved one to. There are horror stories the world over about bad aides, rotten nurses, missing items, lackluster care and not meeting patient needs. I never expected a social worker to attempt to trick my father into signing his right to disagree away. When called on it, we were told that wasn't what occurred and this was a common practice. I got Dad and myself out of there before I blew my top.

I walked my dad back to his room. Joycelyn had just arrived and was waiting for us. I explained the situation and she shared my disgust. We planned on going to meet the head of the social work department, but stopped to fully explain what we were about to do to my dad. How did we know the laundry department hadn't gotten Dad to sign a form agreeing to a $100/day new sheet fee? Once our trust had been breached in this fashion, I was very concerned. Dad understood and fully supported us. After Robert promised not to sign so much as a post-it note during our absence, we went hunting.

The head of the social work department was off for the day, so we got the Assistant to the Director of Social Work. This meeting was fifteen minutes of running headfirst into a brick wall. At no point did she understand that our trust had been breached. She said she wasn't even familiar enough with the form to know what it said and claimed she had no access to the form in her office. This form is competed by every single patient being discharged, so unless they DIE at the facility, this form passed in front of every single resident. I asked her to sign a form I wrote out at the time. I told her it was for her to acknowledged we had a meeting. What I wrote on the page was "I agree with Peter Berbec. x                             " She refused to sign. I demanded a copy of every single page signed by myself or my father post haste, because of my lack of trust. Joycelyn and I then left.

Upon explaining to dad what had happened, I told him I was going on the warpath.

Shortly after that, the assistant head of social work arrived at my dad's floor. She went straight to an office on the same floor, where she was holed up for 10 minutes. She returned with the form in hand. She acknowledged the form and what was told to me had no relation. Scarier, she said this was the standard policy of the department. Form now in my hand, she left.

The main entrance's security guard had gotten me to Social Work, so I went there to track down every single department head: physical therapy, occupational therapy, admissions, finance, substance abuse, everyone. The guard said I seemed to have a problem with someone and told me he was getting the head of security to help assist with my needs. Mr. Penn arrived not five minutes later and listened to my issues. He then led me directly to the Jewish Home's Administrator's office. Just my luck, the Administrator wasn't there, leaving me with a deputy.

Things finally started to look up. She listened to me, said she understood, and would take steps to resolve the problem. I told her I wanted to have copies of all forms signed by Robert or myself. She called the head of the records department directly and said she would be waiting for me by the time I made it downstairs. I thanked her for her time and effort, but reiterated my, honestly, disgust involving the social work department. She promised to handle the staffing issue and get back to me.

I'm in a holding pattern now. Thoughts? Opinions? Advice?

Have Cane, Will Travel. Wire AA, San Francisco

Today's physical therapy had a new twist: new in that Robert was allowed to use a cane during the session. He has been pushing for this and complaining about only being trained with the walker. His walking is improving daily. One of his main concerns is walking in environments outside of the Jewish Home. The floors are perfectly flat, no ups or down and no carpets. He often walks with his feet very close to the ground; basically shuffling. This leads him to trip going up curbs or when he walks between overlapping carpets. The are going to take him outside and have him walk up steps and deal with carpets. This new training will aid him greatly in his home life.

There a breakthrough today, but not in the physical recovery arena. Possibly influenced by my joining AA, Robert has agreed to not drink when he gets out of the Jewish home and join AA. He is starting to realize how important not drinking is for his health and future. We are so proud of him and will be with him every step of the way, as I know all of our readers will be!

AA Meeting the Third

Today was my third AA meeting so far. Joycelyn joined this meeting, as support. It again was a wonderful experience. The AAs loved my wife coming to have my back. It was quite a good meeting and we went out for Chinese afterwards. It even got us a free ride 66% of the way home from a kind AA!

I didn't slip today, and I'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.

Comments - Let's Get Some!

There, as of yet, been zero comments on any of the posts. It is much easier for all of us to discuss things if we can read each others comments.

If you have google, its easy.

Now as myself:

1. Typed in a comment.
2. Pulled down to Google.
3. Clicked publish
4. It brought me to a Google login page. I logged in

Livejournal, Wordpress, Typepad and Aim are just as simple as google.

OpenID is the last option and a little stranger.

Check to see if you already have one, or google your email address. Dad's email is so he would get the following result:

Let's google "where are prodigy's email accounts now run"

Scrolling down we see Yahoo now owns prodigy

Let's have "Robert" make a comment

1. I clicked to add a comment.
2. I used the pulldown to select OpenID.
3. I put the address of "YAHOO.COM" which is who controls Dad's email server.
4. I hit publish.
5. It brought me to a page to verify i was dad.

You can click the "Notify me" check box to be told when someone replies to a discussion you have been involved in.

Google, Livejournal, Typepad, OpenID, Wordpress and AIM are best.

OpenID includes: Yahoo, Hyves, Blogger, Flickr, Orange, Mixi, myspace Verisign and Aol

Next would be name/url. Use your real name, but any url will work. see the comments below! :)

Worst is anonymous. If you chose anonymous, identify yourself with full name at the in your post. It is safe to put your email address in an anonymous post as no one looks at this blog in the "outside of dad's friends world". And spam filters are really good now.

Mom you could comment by picking OpenID and putting in

I also get an instantaneous email about any comments, so if by some fluke spam bots start showing up suggesting the can "mighty my penis", I can delete the very easily.

Post Now Labeled and Searchable by Catagories

To aid in people knowing which posts are about what, I have added labels to describe the content.

Currently we have:

This should allow readers to concentrate on what they want to read about. You can select posts via the list on the top-right, above the subscription area.

Dad's Release to Go Home Meeting (wtf?!)

There is a powwow scheduled with Robert's entire team today, Monday, at 11:45am. I will update when I have news. Dad and I are in agreement: it is too early for him to go home. Hopefully Robert, I did his Substance Abuse Counselor can talk sense into the overly optimistic physical therapy crowd.

I have updated the Berbec main website.

The True Stairmaster and Guilt Worthy of the Best Yenta

Dad had a double physical therapy session today. (more likely physical and occupational, but meh) There was walking, standing, sitting and stairs!

This was incredible tiring and difficult for dad, but made it up and down a full flight. I reminded him how stairs are just like walking, but more stressful on the muscles and balance. I'm quite proud of the work he is putting in, not to end a sentence with a prepositional phrase, which I won't, Mom!

I informed dad I went to AA yesterday, how it went, what went on and that I thought it was helping me. I also told him I would be leaving from my visit early to make my Sunday meeting. I went over how important not drinking was to me and my loved ones. My reasons were: I didn't want to develop health issues, get memory loss or shorten my lifespan; reducing the time I get to spend on this Earth with those who care so much about me.

I can be a bastard sometimes, can't I?

Blog Name Change

I have changed the name of the blog to more reflect it's dual nature. I may create a second blog just for me later, but I'm not sweating the small stuff right now. Also, there is likely to be serious overlap between the two.

The new name comes from a story told in my first meeting. The AA said:

"A Native-American chieftain was conversing with his son. The child was asking about how to be a good man.

"The father said 'Everyone has two wolves inside of them, battling to control our actions: one good, one evil.'

"Worried, the son asked 'How do I make sure to stay on the right path.' 

"Showing his wisdom, the elder man said 'Feed the right wolf' "

AA LGBT Alphabet soup!

I went to another AA meeting today. There was just as much acceptance and support as the first one. I was a little worried about not being welcomed, I will admit, as this was a LGBT meeting. Breeders are encouraged to join, but there was some trepidation.

This proved to be totally unfounded. They were as caring, accepting and supportive as one could ask for.

I didn't slip today, and I'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My First AA Meeting

Yesterday I went to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. It was a small group, around ten or so, in the Art room of a community center. As Robert is, I am not much for religion and, this being something much featured in AA, I searched for a group that would better meet my father and my needs.

Enter Agnostic Alcoholics Anonymous of New York City. They are a collection of AA groups who put the emphasis on the twelve steps, downplaying the God part therein. They like to say the G.O.D. they have for a higher power, guiding light, spirit animal etc are the meetings themselves: Groups Of Drunks.

I found acceptance, trust, and a true willingness to help others. Like Planet Fitness spouts in their advertisements, this was truly a "Judgement Free Zone©". They listened to me tell some of my problems, my concern for my dad and my decision to join. It warms ones heart and provides a sense of self-belief when people who have been sober so long applaud my statement "Hi, my name is Peter. I am an alcoholic. I have been sober one day." I got the same applause as the person celebrating three years.

I would like to thank all who read this blog for the support and belief in Robert and I. Make no doubt: this is hard. But with the people around us: some I barely know, some people we love and some I haven't met yet, we have a chance!

I don't know if this is my magic bullet. I know myself and have no illusions: I might slip.

I didn't slip today, and I'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.