Start Over


Muscled and gorgeous, he came in, like dessert, main course, and appetizer. Some people just carry themselves that way. It doesn’t work if they dress low, chest hair accentuated by opened buttons and glimmering chains. It doesn’t work if it’s their agenda, checking to see if you noticed, a finger hovering over the acoustic applause button. No. Attire must be intact, normal, not baptized in cologne. In fact, attire must be worn as if it is completely a non-issue. Attitude of a jack-rabbit, who never thought about his muscled legs. Those legs just hop because that’s what they do. That is the kind of attitude-ingredient to this kind of presence-recipe.

How would a mother name such a son? How could she know he would turn out this way? Greg is an essential name for this elixir to work, as essential as “Fabio” is to its destruction. Everything else may have been in place, developed over years, like a bonsai tree groomed under the tender ministration of Father Time, and caboom! “Fabio.” The bonsai becomes a paint-can-frosted Christmas tree. Greg’s mother named him ‘Greg’, in fact, because it was the dullest name she could think of, not wanting him to grow up to be anything like the sort of philandering infidel his good-for-nothing pig father “Fabio” was. Greg told me this. I didn’t come up with it. He knew it because his once beautiful mother, who worked seventy hour weeks, told him whenever he messed up, “I named you Greg! This is not supposed to happen!”

In came Greg, after three years of absentia. And it was like I had just seen him yesterday. His mother couldn’t believe that the name Greg would hold such a man, an addict. Yep. Greg hadn’t seen me for three years for a reason. There I was. Chirpy as ever.

Greg! Where you been?

Whenever a patient comes to see me, I believe in him or her. I believe. In part, because I believe in Me. I believe in my value. Wink. But I also believe in them because I believe in Love, and because I’m simply wired to. There are more reasons why we behave and feel the way we do, more than colors in your crayon box. It’s not just a moral issue, biology, or an adjustment to our human condition. Heck. His name may have even had something to do with it. “Greg,” is quite a name. But I did believe, more than I disbelieved, that he hadn’t been in to see me for reasons other than relapse. Maybe his primary doctor was filling his meds, and he was so stable he didn’t need psychiatry anymore! Yah! That’s it!

(This is inside information folks. You can’t tell anyone. My patients can’t know this about me. It could ruin my career! I don’t want them to be any more afraid of disappointing me than they already are. It’s hard enough to be honest in these places, and I do my darndest not to project my Pollyanna-agenda’s on them. They don’t deserve that. They deserve the hard-earned poker-face I screw into place when my heart gets broken. I purchased it with ten-years of my life from some magic spiders I quested in a cliff off distant shores. Bargain.)

Greg! (I said,) It’s great to see you!

Every patient wants to please their doctor. And every doctor wants to please their patient. And we all get our hearts broken at some point.

I was really glad to see Greg, after all. And he was looking good. But then I noticed he had more weather in his face, some clouds, lines, and gutters. And I noticed he wasn’t as glad. He had an aura of melancholy and self-loathing rolling off of him.

His little boy was with him, too, (Fabio. …J/K! Gotcha! Good ‘ol “cycle.”)

Greg sat there, thunder in his sorrow shaking his frame, and we reviewed his story. You may know Greg’s story. Greg may be your friend too. Or brother, husband, dad, or You. And you know the high from this addiction feels better than everything, until it doesn’t.

The best line ever spoken in this context is, “Relapse is part of Recovery.” That is from the God of Hope. That is what makes sense in every illness, like Charles Dickens is to literature, timeless and universal content, man. When Bob reaches for that doughnut, when Harriet rolls the dice at Pechenga, when Fabio uses porn rather than intimacy in a meaningful relationship, when Myrtle has to pull over on the freeway in a panic attack, this is when we ask, “Why am I alive?” and demand to start over for that answer.

I’ve asked that question fifty-plus times a week for fourteen-some years, and every time I ask it, I listen for an answer. I’m curious too. We all are, right?! It’s a marvelous question. Every time I ask, I wonder about the magic that keeps this beautiful creation in our community. I listen, because every answer is something that crescendos into the room, the words explosive, the best part of the atom.

I have a daughter. She needs me.

My dogs. Nobody loves me more than my dogs.

I want to know what it is to live without this.

I’m too scared to die.


I just don’t know why.

Oops! Wait. “I just don’t know why,” isn’t good enough. Figure it. Finger it. Cradle it, and answer. What do you want to stay alive for? Because this thing! This thing is part of your recovery. Another day will come.

Greg left our appointment with options for treatment and a commitment to treatment. I’ll see him again and he’s one of the reasons I love life. Can’t wait.

Questions: Why are you alive? Please give us your answer. It will explode into the universe and someone out there needs to hear it.

Self-care Tip: Answer the question and start over. 

9 thoughts on “Start Over

  1. This is an amazing piece, Good Doctor. It made me cry. I have seen many people struggle with depression and other curses of the mind and soul. Some of them have been dearly loved ones. I have also asked myself that question often, and the answers have changed at different phases in my life. First it was for my sweet nephew, in the days when adolescence was an enemy for me and my brain had many torments to make me wonder often why I was still there. I was alive for him because he needed and admired me. I was a role model. Then he was no longer, and left the world when he was barely a grown up, along with three other loved ones in a very short period of time. The question screamed in my head very loudly for some time.

    The answer morphed into that I was needed here to write, needed to “help make the world right”, in my own tiny way, needed to love the struggling and disenfranchised, then because of my children. For thirty years, too, there were people waiting with aching arms for me to bestow on them the kids they could not have, or just had room for in their hearts. There were the kids from all corners of the world, saying, don’t give up because of the obstacles, the government to, the red tape, the low pay. We need a life. We need a family.

    When that part of my life was done with, the question became insistent once more, pounding me over the head often, and I found more answers. I am so thankful that the answers keep coming for me. Nowadays, it’s still for my family, my grandchildren, friends, and my clients too, and still for writing, in case the world still wants to hear what I have to say (though sometimes I wonder about that). I am hopeful that more purposes will find their way to me. I want to have reasons to be here, as long as I am. That is not to say the darkness doesn’t sometimes descend. It does, along with the fears and the tears. I control it now. It doesn’t control me.

    So there’s my answer, and thank you for this wonderful,piece, making me reflect once again on a Monday morning.

  2. I think love and beauty are my simplest answers. That’s why I’m alive. Connected to those is the opportunity to serve and do good for others.

  3. “I-Can’t-Believe-There’s-Light-At-The-End-Of-The-Tunnel”.
    Sorry, had to get my Fabio chuckles out first.


    Thanks for writing this. It’s a lot to think about. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

  4. If one person in my life was not there i would not be alive today i’ve been in the dark for a few years. This has been my best year i’m in recovery 4 years of hell hospital tears and hurt. Your blog really sums something up deeper then we think a friend to your self but in order to get there you have to believe there is a better day tomorrow. I have two nurses in the NHS one was positive every day never mind all the bad things that were going on. I met a new love in Indonesia and today were i’m heading is to live there. Not only that some guy i helped said wait there son you have just consulted for me your a consultant that bit help i gave i have got back one million times and it started me in my new adventure.My nurse i trusted in and she saw things could get better and so far so good.

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