In my brother’s Minneapolis Basement -2004

A Sweaty Guy Gets Another Chance

This is chapter nine of A Sweaty Guy.

I’m posting here just as it was in the original, with the exception of blatant typos and some formatting changes.

To start from the beginning just click here.

I spent two months in Minnesota with Matt and DK. At the time, my mom was living with them too, helping to take care of their new baby, Frankie.

Shea came to visit and it felt good to spend some sober time with her. She was distant, reserved at first, but she warmed back up to me as she began to feel confident that I was my old self.

Matt had built a cabin on a lake up near the Mississippi headwaters. Shea and I spent a week there with my mom. Autumn had come early and it was particularly chilly. Shea and I would bundle up and drive around on Matt’s little four wheel ATV. At night, we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores.

It wasn’t long before I had to send Shea back to her mom. I was grateful that I’d had this second chance to make some happy memories with Shea. I felt like I’d made up for some of the hurt I’d caused her, but I knew it was only a start. I promised myself I’d get sober for her.

Back in Minneapolis, I played with little Frankie went for walks with Matt’s two energetic Huskys. I would take a skateboard with me to the bike trail around Lake Harriet. I’d get on and yell “mush”. Quinn and Jolie would pull me around the lake at breakneck speed.

I thought about looking for a job. My parents were both urging me to stay in Minnesota, and I figured I ought to keep an open mind. Matt offered to pay me to help him paint his house, so I spent a few weeks stripping paint from the house in preparation for a new paint job. I went to some “twelve-step” meetings and I did some volunteer work registering people top vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Even though most of my family was there, and even though it’s where I grew up, I began to realize that Minnesota would never feel like home to me again…plus it’s was really fucking cold and it was only October.

Shortly after Shea left, I began using DXM again, but at a somewhat reduced rate. During the day I would only take small amounts, waiting for the evening when I would take a larger dose and enjoy the visual patterns that played before my minds eye after I went to the couch that was my bed in Matt’s basement.

One night, after a particularly strong dose, the visuals went beyond just shapes and designs. I began to see iconic images, like cartoon characters and illustrations from 1960s’ first grade readers. Some sort of happy folk music I’d never heard before accompanied the images. There was no message or narrative; the music had no words. The mental music videos were simply entertaining. The experience reminded me of my early experiences of dropping acid in high school.

In the daytime I felt sharp and clearheaded. I was no longer obsessed with drinking and I enjoyed a feeling of confidence that I wasn’t accustomed to. This self-assurance seemed to come directly from the steady, but somewhat lower, doses of DXM I now took each day. I hid my cough medicine use from my family. As harmless as it seemed to me, somehow I knew they wouldn’t approve. I started feeling better about myself and my future and I started to think more about a plan for returning to Hawaii.

I talked occasionally with Jessica on the phone, but she was more distant than ever. That didn’t matter, I was surging with new confidence. I would get back to Oahu and work on starting my new career, what it would be I wasn’t sure, but I knew I would land on my feet. With my new “sobriety” I was assured of success. The “getting the girl” part would take care of itself. My obsession with alcohol was gone; my obsession with Jessica was gone; both replaced by this new obsession with starting a new entrepreneurial life…oh and with cough syrup.

While the door wasn’t closed to me at the school system, I knew I could do better. I was feeling the freedom of having choices to make. Hawaii was my home and there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t be able to do once I got back there. I was ready to go home and get on with my life.

I didn’t have much money, but I’d cashed in an annuity. If I were careful, I’d be able to get by for a month or so while I got back on my feet. My family, especially Dad, tried to convince me to stay for a while longer, but my mind was made up. The ticket DK had given me had an open ended return; I made my reservation for a flight in mid-October, almost exactly sixty days from my arrival in the Twin Cities.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Joe Kernan

Joe Kernan


I’ve been a soldier, a teacher, an advocate for people with disabilities, an attorney and a ne’er-do-well. I’ve struggled with substance abuse and homelessness.