And now for something completely personal

After twelve years at the same group home and fifteen years in human services I walked into my boss’s office this afternoon and told him that January 18, 2014 would be my last day.  For these twelve years I’ve worked at the same house taking care of the same two autistic adults.  It’s interesting work and I’m glad I did it but I stayed longer than I should have.  I got comfortable and didn’t want to push myself to move on.  Working with autistic people, or any sort of direct care work, is rewarding. There’s no reason to get into the field because of money… there is none.  I’ve been poor for the last twelve years.  That’s been fine with me though as I felt good when I got off work which I know a lot of people don’t get to experience.  Unfortunately over the last couple of years that feeling has dissipated.  I still care deeply for the guys I take care of but I am just burnt out on the job.  One thing, very particular to working with Autistic people, is that you MUST follow a set schedule 100% of the time.  So while there’s been a lot of heart in the last twelve years of my career there’s been very little use of my brain,

This has been a very transformative year for me.  Probably the most transformative years since puberty did its thing of biological weirdness.  It hasn’t been all good but I think it’s brought me to a pretty good place.  The first step of this journey was admitting that I do, in fact, not like my job.  I don’t know how long I’ve been lying to myself about it, I’m guessing a few years, but it may be much longer.  Making that realization was important because it meant that something had to change.  I also started exercising earlier this year and that had a very positive impact on my mental and physical health.  From there the #PS4NoDRM thing took off and I was in the middle of something so huge and so fun that I never could have expected and I handled it all really well.  That was important to me because I knew I didn’t like my job and then I learned that I actually had some useful skills.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses though.  My grandmother died early in the year.  That’s to be expected when you’re 36 years old – in fact, I’m quite lucky that it was that late, but it still takes a toll.  Then just a few months ago my sister-in-law was murdered in cold blood by her husband. This is the type of tragedy that is completely surreal.  It happens in shitty Lifetime movies or A+E shows about “Dangerous lovers” or some bullshit.  This doesn’t happen to your sister-in-law.  But it did.  It was fucked up.  It hit all of us very hard. Life seemed hopelessly pointless for a long time.  In some ways it still does.  It has changed my view of the world and what it is capable of.  The version of myself that existed in early August is gone.  I’m different now.  I think that for the most part it’s a good change as well. If there’s a silver lining to something so completely awful it’s that it has allowed me to look at my own life in a new way.

There’s also been another rather large change; after almost 4 years without a drink I am drinking again.  This isn’t a case of “falling off the wagon.”  Arnee and I have talked about it on and off for a while with each other and our therapist.  I’m not going to argue that I was a reasonable drinker and that everyone overreacted because we all know that’s not true.  But I do think a lot of that was predicated on anxiety (and was a vicious circle of raising tolerances and changes in medications).  I don’t feel like that person anymore.  I don’t long to get “fucked up.”  When I think about drinking I think about sitting back with a glass of wine with some music on and just letting some built up stress exit.  It’s been a bit shy of a month now and everything has been 100% fine.  I’ve been to parties, I’ve drank alone with Arnee in NYC (and by alone I mean on Skype with friends).  I drink two or three drinks and get a buzz and stop.  I think I’ve been drunk for maybe a total of one hour, both at social engagements.  Some nights I’ve had a few drinks and didn’t even catch a buzz because I drank them so slowly that my liver just processed it all.  This is very different than how I’ve ever drank.  And to be clear, I’m not against the concept of getting drunk… if I go to a party or whatever, totally cool, let the good times roll and whatever other 80s slogans you got.  But if it’s just arnee and I watching some TV after long days at work… a couple drinks to relax is all I want.

That last paragraph is probably one of the most dangerous paragraphs I’ve ever written because someone may read it and go “I can do that” and start drinking again and totally fuck their life.  I may still totally fuck my life.  Maybe I’ve just had a mellow three weeks for some reason.  I don’t know.  All I know is that I love my wife more than anything in the world and I trust myself that if my drinking were to become a problem that I would solve that problem like I try to do with any problems my wife has.  If I didn’t have her I wouldn’t be able to do this.  If she left me I would probably be a drunk.  My drinking lightly/socially now doesn’t change that in any way, I don’t think.  I really don’t know.  But she trusted me to give it a shot and so far so good.  Should other people try this?  I have no idea.  It’s an extremely personal thing.  I also know there are a number of people reading this that are now worried about me, angry with me, thinking that I’m lying to myself, or whatever.  There isn’t anything I can do about that.  I appreciate the concern and if you want to express it to me I can’t stop you… but as of now my wife is happy with how it’s going, my therapist is happy with how it’s going, and I’m happy with how it’s going.  So that’s that.  For now. If it escalates it will change.

So I feel like a very different person right now that I was a year ago.  I’m more relaxed in a way…  I’m also a bit more driven.  Arnee and I are frustrated by our failure in producing children thus far but I think overall we are handling it well.  Arnee had two vacations with a surgery in between before her sister was killed (which of course ended up with her taking more time – 10000000000000000000% with my blessing) and we really, really struggled to get by.  Our landlord was really nice and let us pay late.  I sold my Wii U and my 3DS.  I spent the $500 I had saved for a PS4.  Some EXTREMELY EXTREMELY EXTREMELY kind souls that I’ve become friendly with on the internet insisted sending some money which was a huge help.  As of tomorrow I believe Arnee and I will be 100% caught up on bills and nothing went into collection or anything that would damage our credit.  We survived.  And now Arnee is working her ass off again and will be pretty much through new year.  I’m in a much different position…  I’ve been doing this same job for 12 years and been pretty uptight about it since they have wanted to fire me for most of it (the main office… not the people I actually work for – go figure).  So not only has a huge burden been lifted off me but I have several weeks worth of paid vacation I need to burn off!

I’ve also been stuck at this job because it’s been our healthcare/dental/etc because Arnee is a freelancer.  So the ACA (you know, the one people like more than Obamacare) is a godsend.  I’m not thrilled with Obama but this is something the government doing that will actually benefit me and that’s like fucking unheard of.  So hooray for that.

I guess some of you may be wondering why I’m quitting on January 18, 2014.  Well, a few days after that Arnee and I are going on a family vacation my father has graciously planned for us (including my sister and her husband) down to Puerto Rico and other places.  When we get back we will be hopping in a rented truck and driving across the country, stopping in SW Utah, a stones throw from the Arizona and Nevada border (and about 1.5 hours from Las Vegas).  Arnee has been looking to get into real estate and she has a cousin that lives there that is willing to help her… and I’m happy wherever I can plug into the internet.  Arnee still needs to sit down and talk to her brother and whatnot so she hasn’t been going nuts about it on facebook…  but it’s definitely happening.  We are getting a loan from my father to make the move and settle in and, well, I already quit my job.  This shit is real!

I don’t know what I’m going to do.  I will probably do some website work.  I may end up at a group home short-term just to make ends meet while Arnee gets into the real estate business –  though I’m so burnt on the work that I may be happier just working retail instead.  But if the real estate thing takes off it will give me the opportunity to try to do a videogame related website fulltime which I think I would really enjoy.  Or I may go back to school, I’d enjoy being a high school English teacher, I think.  We’ll see.  I’ve been locked into this job for so long I’m excited by the fact that many possibilities are open in front of me.  Maybe there is some other way for me to work in the industry as well since it’s only a daytrip to most places in California maybe I can work remotely as a community manager or something like that. I know I have the skills for it.  We’ll see.

It’s been a hard, weird, fun, relaxing, tragedy filled, transformative, year.  I’m happy that I’m coming out of the back-end of it better than I started.  Things actually feel like they are looking up.


6 thoughts on “And now for something completely personal

  1. It takes a wise man to admit these things to himself and embrace the unknown path ahead. I’m sincerely happy for you, both of you. If I may offer one piece of advice, keep both eyes on the drink. I’ve had a sordid past with alcohol and still drink, sometimes too much. A thing I’ve learned about myself is that I have to have absolute, concrete rules concerning my behavior while drinking that are unwavering when both sober or drinking e.g never driving after even one sip, seriously. This is a thing that I had problems with. We all have different issues. I know that you are fine and Arnee will let you know if that changes 8)

    Best of fortunes to you guys, I know that you have what it takes to make it happen!

  2. Yeah that is a big part of why I’ve been successful so far is that I’m completely anal about these rules I’ve created for myself. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I drink a lot… not just alcohol, but when sober I would drink 2 to 4 liters of soda a night. So when I “go out drinking” I will just keep sucking down beers or whatever because that’s what I do. What I’m doing now is drinking a freaking ton of soda while I drink alcoholic beverages. So over the course of three hours I’ll have 3 drinks and 2 liters of soda. Perhaps it’s not the healthiest thing in the world but it means I’m not drinking very much… keeping it all in check and it satiates my desire to drink more. It’s a weird little thing but thus far it’s worked well.

    And yeah, I’m constantly in self examination mode so I’ll be analyzing every drink I have for the rest of my life… that’s just the way my brain is. The thing is that I really like having a couple drinks and I don’t want to fuck that up, ya know? Like I feel like i have an incentive to not get wasted. The brain is weird.

  3. Wow. Pete Dodd, you have turned into such a cool guy. I also remember hanging out with Arnee a few times with some other mutual friends we all had at the Daily…ye olden days 😉 I’m really impressed with your insight, and willingness to change. Also my chosen field is in human services, I started as a CADC and I’m finishing the BSW/psych thing….so I know how it is to work and be burned out by that world of caring for some incredibly rewarding and challenging people. I also know the world of recovery, and what it’s like to feel the need for a nice glass of wine (or an IPA, in my case).

    My word of advice (and I’m telling this to myself too)….1) get thee to a new therapist out there. Do not let yourself slack on this. 2) if it works, get to some meetings. But most of all 3) do not sit alone, in your house, with no new friends, bummed about work and inadvertently let yourself undo all your hard work and wonderful accomplishments. You’ve come a long way baby! 😀 I know how it is to unwittingly fuck it all up. It’s a slow, sticky trap we set for ourselves….Just be smart and keep talking.

    Good luck to you both and to the future of your family 🙂 I hope we get to see you guys here again – at least on the holidays!! Give Arnee my best too 🙂


  4. Hey i dont know you at all, but you seem like a good guy. Euhmm if i can give you one advice… be carefull with the drinking, even a glass a day can make you into an alcoholic. If the ‘need’ for alcohol is there, it means you’re an alcoholic, even if its not much. I know this cause a relative of me used to drink. Anyway, be careful cause you cant know what the future is made of and if alcohol is an ‘option’ for you to deal with stuff, i think you should be careful. I hope you understand what im saying, you do whatever you think is best for you of course, i just thought of giving my little advice on the matter. Anyway, dont worry, time heals most wounds…

  5. It’s amazing that you are making this huge change. Moving across the country is no joke and it takes courage and a big leap of faith. I wish you and Arnee the best of luck in this adventure. The time is now.

  6. Pete its great to hear that you have plans and i really hope you find an amazing job… Debra was very lucky…. i am very lucky for getting to know you even if it was just a little… i enjoyed our time at Debra but i agree there is so much more out there… have fun explore and if your travels gets you over to this part of the world i am more than willing to show you my country …. take care and great to hear about your plans..

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