Monthly Archives: July 2014

I Read a lot of Books …

Of the 33 books I have read so far in 2014, Michael Koryta’s Those Who Wish Me Dead has touched me most deeply. Two of my favorite authors, Harlan Coben and Lee Child have review snippets on the front cover. Coben says, “Warning: Michael Koryta’s wonderful, riveting, and harrowing Those Who Wish Me Dead may just move you to tears. Enjoy at your own risk.” And Child says, “Outstanding in every way … Don’t you dare miss it.” With those two recommendations, I was primed to like the novel, but not to get what I got out of it.

The protagonist, Jace Wilson, witnesses a murder and is subsequently pursued by the killers. He is pursued all the way from his Indiana home to Montana, where he has been sent to participate in a wilderness camping program, which will presumably hide him from the bad guys.

Having been involved in wilderness camping myself throughout the years, I was immediately drawn to this aspect of the story. I vividly remember the muscles used to rappel, rock climb, canoe and hike. I remember learning backcountry skills like orienteering (before GPS), map and compass, reading a topo map, starting a fire, cooking, making water safe to drink. I remember the little treasures — gooseberries along a path, a beautiful sunrise, the wonder that is Lake Superior.

In chapter 8, not too far into the book, which I was alternately reading and listening to, I heard the narrator say, “Anyone remember the chain? The order of our [survival] priorities? … Positive mental attitude, wilderness first aid, shelter, fire, signal, water, food. My mind connected these paragraphs with my son, who is currently in rehab for issues with heroin. I saw how a positive mental attitude would be essential for survival in his situation. And I realized that just as the two killers were tracking Jace in the book, so the killer heroin has been tracking my son in real life.

The wilderness leader, Ethan, was teaching the boys how important shelter is in the wilderness. “With shelter, the environment is no longer in control.” With drugs, when you have any type of shelter from the drug environment, the environment is no longer in control. How essential then for anyone trying to recover from drugs to find their shelter, which could be and probably is all inclusive of a physical shelter, a mental shelter, a spiritual shelter, and a social shelter.

As Ethan taught the boys how to survive in the wilderness, he taught this important concept about recovering from mistakes they might make in the wilderness: “Anticipate and recover, anticipate and recover. If you could do the first well, you were ahead of most people. If you could do both well? You were a survivor.”

Is this not applicable to recovering from drug abuse as well? And, actually, life in general. Although we cannot anticipate everything, I appreciate the approach here which is suggesting that we are intentional about looking at what we are experiencing, and thinking about situations we may face.

Take for example the simple situation we all face twenty times a week; having a time we are supposed to be somewhere. I may not be able to anticipate the exact traffic jam that is on the highway when I am driving, but I can certainly anticipate the possibility of it happening, and when I anticipate that, and leave ten minutes earlier, I’m that much closer to being on time. And when the traffic jam lasts 15 or 20 minutes, and I can recover from the frustration, I am even more than a survivor. I thrive.

In situations of life and death, which drugs most certainly bring about, anticipating where we might get tripped up, by identifying triggers and urges, puts the recovering user ahead of most people who haven’t thought about those things.  Getting connected with others who have traveled this road and who are intent on supporting the recovering drug user into a meaningful life puts the socially connected individual ahead of those who try to go it alone.

Mistakes happen. In drug recovery, relapses happen. But when we anticipate and recover, we have a chance to survive.

Lastly, Ethan gave this speech to the boys, which was instrumental in saving the lives of more than one of the characters:

There is no such thing as quitting time. Remember that, boys. You rest, you sleep, you pout, you cry. You’re allowed to get mad, allowed to get sad. But you’re not allowed to quit. When you feel like it, remember that you are allowed to stop, but not to quit. So give yourself that much. Stop. Just stop. And then, remember what STOP is to a survivor — sit, think, observe, plan. Spelled out for you, right there at the moment of your highest frustration, is all you need to do to start saving your life.

Preach it.


This isn’t just helpful for people recovering from drug abuse or addiction. Can you think of five situations in your own life where this would be a wise plan of action? I love the idea of being able to stop when things are stressful or disappointing or I’m struggling. I’ve always thought stopping meant I was quitting. But if I sit, think, observe and plan, and then get back into action, stopping is simply that — a stop. It’s a step on the journey.

I used to think that me seeing connections and applications like this was enough. That if I could see it and somehow just say it with enough conviction and clarity, he’d get it. He’d apply the idea and stay on the path of abstaining or recovery. I know now everybody has their own path, and it’s rather unlikely that he would see these things even if he read this book. But, what a great addition to my toolbox for life wisdom to consider, apply, and share where I can, like on this blog.

So, go on and survive. Instead of quitting, stop if and when you need to, and fortify yourself for the next curve in the road.

Sauce on the Side — Restaurant Review

I used to know a kid. He grew up and opened a restaurant in St Looey called Sauce on the Side. I lost touch with him, but thanks to the wonder of Facebook, I caught up with him about 15 years after I’d last seen him. While it’s true I don’t live anywhere close to St Louis, we traveled through there recently. My official title was “Excellent Restaurante Finder,” since Driver, Navigator, Teenager, and Are-we-there-yet-er, were taken.

I phoned ahead. OF COURSE. The answer threw me off. All I heard was, “Hello?” Don’t businesses say the name of their establishment usually, to keep the caller from saying, like I did: “Is this Sauce on the Side?”

Thought I’d go ahead and place our order to pick up in an hour, when we’d be driving through the city. They thought different. “Um, can you call back closer to the time?” Maybe they didn’t have the electronic ability to mark an hour for any future time? Almost always agreeable and willing to accommodate, I agreed with a laugh. The guy had made me laugh early on by telling me he would write “Andale! Andale!” to speed up the order. (We would later find out how ironic this was.)

In 30 minutes, I called the hello guy back. He needed to put me on hold. Actually, he needed to put me on HOOOOOLLLLLLLD. Three minutes later, I called back thinking maybe my call had been dropped. I called back — TWELVE TIMES. Each call went to their voicemail, which says, “don’t leave an order on here, buddy. call back.”

Finally, I reached them and placed our order. Thanks to the wonders of electronic navigation, we cruised right downtown and found a parking place in front of the store. We went in and I told them I was there to pick up an order for Susan.

This started a veritable “who’s on first?” comedy of errors. That’ll be $39, he said, and handed me two receipts. One for me to sign, one for me to keep. So far, so good. But THEIR copy of the receipt said $42.65, and my copy of the receipt was for a completely different order and had been signed by Brandon. I inquired about the difference in the price, and mentioned that Brandon’s receipt really wasn’t mine.

The young man (let’s call him Dude) was clearly mystified. Apparently, they had had another order for another Susan, which was further confusing this terribly bemusing situation. So, Dude called another guy (aka Fuzzy Hair) over to investigate this huge mystery. Of course, in any case of mystification, the confusing item must be restated at least 8 times. Dude and Fuzzy Hair needed a third guy to come and powwow with. Crewcut, who I suspect was management, came in and authoritatively cleared everything up. But this process took approximately 10 minutes.

Remember I had called ahead.

We proceeded to wait for about another 15 minutes in the store. The order was originally supposed to take 20 minutes. So, from the time I called in, it had now been about 40 minutes. Well, we weren’t in a big hurry, so we were ok with it.

Finally, Fuzzy Hair walked out from behind the counter and began to call out my name in a monotone: “Suzanne, Suzanne.” Pretty much exactly like Bueller’s teacher did in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He walked to the left of the pillar in the center of the restaurant, and was walking clockwise. I heard “Suzanne” and assumed it was me. Problem was, I was on the opposite side of the pillar, and also walking clockwise. I began to speed up more and more, but couldn’t seem to catch him! I finally decided to stop, drop, and roll. Or at least stop and turn around.

We had to ask for silverware. Hm, seems like something that should be included in an order which contains three salads. But, I digress. Suzanne and the crew carried the to-go food to the car and began loading back up. Suddenly, Fuzzy Hair appeared next to the car. “Do you have a pen?” he asked. “Did you eat at Sauce on the Side?” (as though we are complete strangers he’s never seen before).

Sadly, the extra chicken we paid $2 each for for three salads was only on one of them, so the three of us divided the two little pieces of chicken into sixths.

The salads were good. The calzone was reportedly good. The location was good. The restaurant decor was cool, although a bit of a mystery.

However, I’m all for letting “art … flow … over me.” The guys were friendly. Overall, it just seemed like they were still working out some of the bugs. I don’t know how long they have been open, but they are opening a second location, so it’s been a little while.

Although I didn’t get to see the guy I used to know who was the reason we even stopped there, I’m glad we stopped. I recommend it, and even more so if you are eating there, and can have them correct anything they leave off.

I love the concept and the energy that clearly exists among the three principles. So, much to commend it. Just don’t walk clockwise around the pillar when you hear your name (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). Stand there.

Suzanne? Suzanne? Suzanne?