Storms Never Last
Copyright© 2010 by Jake Rivers
It was a windy, chilly Saturday under bright sunshine when we left Austin. We went straight west through Fredericksburg to I-10 headed west. Considering it was in the middle of winter I wanted to avoid any really bad weather, so we avoided I-40 and any mountain areas. We kept with I-10 all the way until we were north of the LA mess and then picked up I-5 to 580 to San Rafael and on up to my folk's house. It was a little over twenty-four hours of driving which we spread over three-and-a-half days. I wanted to make the run through the bay area in middle of the day to miss the worst of the traffic. We stopped at whatever motel looked the cleanest when we were ready to stop each day.
The drive was therapeutic but strange. Annie would take her pill and be on top of the world, talkative, energetic, and restless in the confines of the car. As the pill wore off her emotions would drop like a rocket, weeping silently one minute, being bitchy the next. I couldn't believe that I'd never noticed this, but with her being gone so much for work, and often coming home after I was asleep I could see that it could happen. She must have had incredible intestinal fortitude to make herself appear normal at the hospital and being able to perform surgery in her expected expert manner.
A couple of times she would try to express some objection or another to my somewhat arbitrary plan. I thought about it; was I unfair? Yeah, damn straight I was. I was mad at her for being so stupid. It wasn't only her life that was being disrupted, but mine too. We were at a truck stop in Lordsburg, New Mexico, when she started in again. I took a sip of my coffee, and lay some money on the table for the bill. I stood, reached in my coat pocket for the keys, and then lay it on the line for her.
"Look, Annie, I am not going to keep going over the same things. You made a big mess for both of us. I'm trying to make things better. You apparently don't want to do it my way." I shoved the keys over to her. "You go on back to Austin and do whatever you want. I'm going to talk to those truckers over there and see if I can get a ride to California. I love you—I always will—but I can't live like you apparently want to. Give me a call if there is anything I can ever do for you." And I walked over to the trucker's table and started talking to them. I was just getting ready to sit down, at their invitation, when I felt a tug on my coat. I turned around to see Annie standing there crying.
She handed me the keys, and pulling my arm, led me out to the car. She got in and leaned against the door, continuing to cry silently, and fell asleep after thirty minutes or so. She didn't wake up until I pulled off the freeway in Phoenix. It was a nice business oriented hotel I'd stayed at a couple of years ago for a book expo. It was an upscale for the price and quite comfortable. We lay down with her head on my shoulder, and both of us fell asleep for a couple of hours.
Later we went down to the restaurant and had a very nice steak and salad. I'd discovered over the years that restaurants in the Phoenix area did as good a job with steaks as anywhere in the country, on a par with Denver, Kansas City and Omaha. I wanted some wine, but I didn't want her to have any, so I skipped it.
Later that night she made a tearful, sobbing apology and never pushed back again on this big change in our lives. Sure, we argued about a number of things after that, but not over her beating her addiction or changing her environment for something a lot less stressful. Part of why she had problems was that she was a perfectionist in a job that allowed few mistakes, worked too hard for too many hours, and tried to please too many people. It was a big step for her to abdicate this part of her life to me.
We pulled into my parent's yard about four in the afternoon on the third day of travel. Annie had called her parents as we passed through Santa Rosa, and they were there waiting for us. I'd called both of our folks before we left Austin and explained things to them. So they didn't ask any questions and just shared their love with us. A couple of days later we visited three drug rehab places with the one I'd called and liked the best last, which was the one we chose. After the tour and discussions with several members of the staff we talked it over and signed the papers.
The place was just northwest of Sebastopol on Graton Road, and was about an hour's drive from Dry Creek Valley; farther than I wanted to drive regularly. I would need to find something closer to the rehab center to stay in for whatever time it took for Annie to beat her addiction. The weekend skies were heavy with rain as we all tried to make it as easy for her as possible. Monday morning I drove her down to Gravenstein Acres, and checked her in. They took her off to get situated in her room and get a complete physical, including a wide spectrum of blood tests.
Doctor Ferris gave me an overview of what she would go through.
"We start with detox, which most patients find as the hardest part of our treatment. From our discussions, I think your wife has an emotional addiction as much as a physical one. Given the relatively short time and generally low dosages I think we can get her off the physical need in a week or so. The emotional part, for her I think, will be harder. She has to understand the factors that led to her addiction and be prepared to continue her life without the crutch of amphetamines. I would think it will take two to three months.
"We consider family interaction to be a key factor in our treatment process, so we will schedule sessions with you and with her parents. Weekends during the days will be pretty much open for visitation, and I will occasionally call you if I think a visit from you during the week would be useful. When we think she is several weeks from being ready for release, I will encourage short daytime trips, such as a lunch, a drive over to Bodega Bay ... something like that. It will help her to make the mental and emotional transition to life outside our closed environment.
"I've already talked to you about our methodology, so I won't go into more detail, unless you have questions. It's the usual twelve step process with open group meetings, presentations and one-on-one discussions with our clinical staff."
I left him to go visit a friend, Mark, from the Enology program at Davis. He had been the wine maker for a small winery, but when I talked to him, I found he had bought the place from the owner. When he started there, a part of the package was a small cabin on the property for him to live in. Now he had moved into the former owner's house and offered the cabin to me for free if I'd give him a hand once in a while. Where Annie was at Gravenstein Acres was less than five miles from the winery which was on Green Valley Road. It was unimaginatively called Green Valley Vineyards. It made only two wines, Chardonnay and Pinot. Both varietals loved the cool, foggy climate of the area west of Santa Rosa.
So we settled into a routine, Annie in her little world and I in mine. At that time of the year, there wasn't a lot to do at the winery so mostly Mark and I would work through some of his wine and some of what he traded for with other local wineries. It was hard work but I had to pay for my use of his cabin, so I was as diligent in doing a first class job of my duties. I did help him put together and ship online orders and do the stuff for his wine club.
I was really focused on getting the novel done. I found I was a lot more productive when I was able to put in regular hours. When I needed a break, I started fleshing out the next novel which was something new for me. I was trying my first western and that meant a lot of research. It was located in Wyoming, a few miles north of Laramie, on the Laramie River. It's about a guy whose dad dies so he goes home to take over the family ranch. He falls in love with the daughter of a neighboring ranch and later finds out that her dad is a cattle rustler. I needed to visit the area (my agent had found a contact with a ranch in the area), and I planned on flying to Laramie with Annie for a couple of weeks in September.
Doctor Ferris called me after a week and let me know that Annie had finished detox okay. "No serious problems. She's turning out to have a lot stronger personality that I thought was the case at first. Something for you to think about: she has been focused too much internally, and if you could find a way for her to do some volunteer work, or discover a new hobby, it would help her a lot."
The time went by, sometimes slowly, and other times it seemed to fly by. The treatment center was surrounded by forty acres with numerous hiking trails. There was a gym and a good sized pool. The first weekend I visited, Annie and I walked on one of the trails, and it was pretty and quiet. We both enjoyed it very much. After that she started exercising regularly. I think it was the swimming that helped her more than anything. Annie had been on the swim team in high school. It was at best an average team, and she mostly was a filler on relay teams. She was better at the longer distances, but those weren't swum too often in high school. Next door was a place that rented horses, and both of us enjoyed the several times we did that.
Between walking and swimming every day she looked much fitter with better color and a more upbeat attitude. That inspired me and I began hiking in one or another of the many regional or state parks. I lost ten pounds within a month and felt better than I had in years. It did cut into the time I had for writing, but I became more alert and better focused ... hence, more productive.