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  • Shamus Flavin

I never meant to stop at the dead end.

Updated: Jun 29, 2022

November of 2014, we turned over the rights to the Bahia Cabana, I have never had that feeling of wanting something more at that time in my life, but I knew it was impossible to keep. Just like the girl of your dreams getting impregnated by another man. I was only twenty-four at that time, so who would take me seriously as the owner? I did have great men and women behind me, but I knew I couldn’t carry the legacy without JJ. My business partner took his life nine months prior and well I wasn’t doing well anyway mentally or physically. Even though on the outside I was trying to act sane, my brain was spinning a hundred miles an hour. That’s around the time I started having vertigo in the mornings. It was difficult for me to act like the new owners weren’t about to come in and fuck the whole place up, but they did that quickly. They just sprayed a new coat of paint on it, it looked beautiful on the outside, but the insides were still rotting to pieces. They all walked in with their suit and ties thinking they just bought a company like Google, but it was a hotel/restaurant, well more like a motel, you stay at Bahia just to sleep in your room after getting loaded out on the town. There was nothing fancy about the rooms, people would get upset because we use to be affiliated with Days Inn and guests would say these rooms are trash but every Days Inn I stayed in made the crackhead La Quinta look like a 5-Star hotel. (All jokes aside, I think the La Quinta and Days Inn are on the same level.). They put in a fireplace, like we really needed one. I mean fuck, it would get down to the sixties a few times here or there and other then that it was too hot for it. They were trying to make it look like the new YOLO or S3 and to be honest the placement was just a fucking fire hazard. They put it right next to the pool bar, the pool bar had tiki vibes to it and well when it was windy the flames would almost set the bar on fire. (By the way I don’t use vibes in everyday vocabulary, it just felt right in this sense.) I ended up staying with the company for another two years, that’s when I saw my day drinking turning into an everyday affair. I decided to work in housekeeping instead of front desk since they had multiple third-party companies come in and try to fix the unfixable. Also, to be honest, maybe I just wanted to try something new. Even though towards the end of my run at Bahia I found myself working at the desk again. I took on the role of Houseman, it was a simple job, I didn’t really need to interact with guest as much, besides the housekeepers, front desk and or sometimes my manger Rosita, who is like another mother to me. I would find myself in checked out rooms and whatever alcohol was left over I would drink it. Even the beers, I would just pour them in cups and drink it like a shot until I saw a housekeeper coming. I’m not proud of always drinking on that job, life was just meaningless, and I had no other option but to numb my emotions. Plus coming across a few dead bodies in the rooms was a great treat to the trauma I have not yet explored until now. I remember one of them vividly and I wasn’t even working that day. Rosita asked me to come to the Bahia for one of the housekeeper’s surprise birthday parties. As I got out of my Jeep, two of the housekeepers yelled, “Chamus, Chamus!” They couldn’t speak English really well, but they pointed at a door, and I assumed they wanted me to go in and check on the person since there was a do not disturb sign on it. I knocked a few times then just went in, what I saw, looked like a massacre. I saw a bloody, swollen up head, blood covered the bed. The A/C was off and well it was one hundred degrees outside, plus the sun faces the main window, so it was a hotbox. I looked around for a gun in panic thinking he shot himself but couldn’t find one and decided to call 9-1-1. Then the Front Desk got a piece of my mind, I have never been prouder of myself then in that moment. I don’t remember the people’s names that worked the front desk at that time, still don’t really care to know but they were pissing me off for months and I just finally lost it. See, what they were doing was rolling over his nights since there was a do not disturb sign on and he was not answering his phone. So, he could have been in there for a few days. I used to roll over people’s nights but it’s because I knew them personally and everyone, I knew that stayed at Bahia was only in their room to sleep and well I didn’t figure they were on a bed dead. Once again alcohol was my master, I drank heavily that night, that room will always be imprinted in my mind. I found out the guy was a charter fisherman; I didn’t know him personally but I’m sure I sold him beer in the gift shop before. I discovered later he had a brain aneurism. I hated spring break, mainly because these college kids got worse the older I got. Its like every year they were more dependent on their phones and I found them to be more foul mouthed for attention. I mean I curse like a sailor, but I was raised to respect women and my elders. These kids did not give a shit. Thankfully TikTok wasn’t invented then, I would have found myself in jail for beating the shit out of those fucks. I’m not going to lie though; I would find a liquor store in every checked-out room after they left. Ironically the building next to the housekeeping office was a halfway house, I would see three people a week try to run away from that place, while I’m carrying dirty sheets and towels down the street, the sober living staff would ask for my help from time to time. “Catch him or her!” They would yell. If only they knew they were asking a drunk man who was in denial that he is not an alcoholic, they would’ve caught me too.

They would ask this drunk man for help?

As I find myself transitioning into a normal life, I stop and reflect on how I got here. A week ago I found myself flustered that it took me thirty minutes to put a comforter into a duvet sheet but now I can say this is my new normal. I would not be here if it wasn’t for putting trust into complete strangers, I was told by my counselor at Cirque I had trust issues and well that never came to my mind until moving here. I was prepared for my father’s demise since he was admitted into the ICU six months before he died. A lot of thinking went into those six months, unfortunately his health was declining but sometimes improving here and there. He would get out of the ICU to just be back a week later. I knew my father was a heavy drinker and chain smoker, so I knew I didn’t have a lot of time with him. I was prepared in a way unlike my brother, I could tell my brothers opioid use was getting worse. My brother decided to go into work instead of watching my father take his last breath. That concerned me, since my brother would start avoiding alot of events after that. I mean fuck there were a few times I had to drive him home from work because of how fucked up he was. Its fucking odd I wasn’t surprised he killed himself, but I was still shocked he did it. I played that tape over and over for another six years until I started getting the help that I needed. (I tried out multiple therapists and even went to the trouble of trying out a life coach but was drunk at every session. I always said none of my therapist did shit for me but maybe it’s because I was hammered and never gave it a real shot. You know the old college try.) Like I have said before, JJ was my brother and best friend, even though we didn’t see eye to eye on things after our father passed, mainly due to keeping the Bahia Cabana. When someone that close to you takes their life, it's hard to live your life to your fullest potential. Thats when my trust for others went out the window. I mean in a four month span the house went from four to two, also always had that feeling like my mom loved JJ more than me. I don’t feel that way anymore even though she still calls me JJ from time to time, it use to bug the fuck out of me but maybe she sees him through me now. I always had that thought, what were his last words before taking his life? Then I would come back to reality and remind myself he is gone, I always exhausted myself with more thoughts than needed. I think overwhelming myself with stress about a career, a family and or just someone to have was a big reason for my use too. I quit Bahia in 2016 because suicidal thoughts were coming to my mind as well and I think they were catching on that I was an alcoholic since I smelled like Fireball behind the Front Desk. I felt free when I left, I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulder, I think it had to do with my Ego, I thought I was hot shit when I was twenty-two, twenty-three and felt like I had to live up to some reputation since I was my father’s son. Quitting that job made me my own man, I could have moved anywhere I wanted to and or work in any industry, but alcohol had to approve and that’s where quitting and or getting fired from multiple jobs became common. Between 2014 and 2020, I didn’t let new people into my life. I hung out with the same crowd as prior, the only new people would be mutual friends from the ones I already had. I was always at the same bars, till I passed out at one like three different times, then I stopped going because of shame and well I was afraid of what my father's friends would say to me. Isolation became my new hobby, and the La Quinta was cheap. When I came here for treatment in June of 2020, I felt like I had to prove myself back home. I stayed sober for a few months. Then Unfortunately, on Thanksgiving Day of 2020, my cousin Danny took his life. That sparked the relapse that would land me here, in the same state he died in. It's odd because we were talking about moving to Orlando, but I think if I lived with Danny, I would not be sober right now. I still haven’t mourned his death, but I think now would be a good time to do it. I have made friendships with a lot of people out here because of trust, I mean some of my friends know everything about me since I have done my fifth step with them. It’s weird because some of these guys I have only known for six months to a year, and they know more about me then my best friends I grew up with. I’m sure it has a lot to do with us being in the same fucked up situations.

Danny and myself.

Before I went home for the holidays, I finished my step eight with my sponsor. Step eight is making a list of all the people you have harmed. Seems lovely right? Step Nine is making those amends wherever possible and well I did not fucking do that. (I flew back to Utah with more amends to make then I came to Florida with.) I felt like I was in the right place to make direct amends with those people I have harmed when I was in the airport in Utah but once I got out of baggage claim in Fort Lauderdale a wave hit me. I didn’t feel right, there was a pit in my stomach, maybe the same pit I had every time I did something out of my comfort zone here in this state. (I don’t have that pit in my stomach in Utah anymore, I know I must get out of my comfort zone here more and more in order to grow.) It’s odd when you don’t feel comfortable in the city that raised you and or was always your default, maybe it had a lot to do with all the egotistical pricks that make up Fort Liquordale (ironically a nickname giving to my hometown). I felt my body change, probably because I was at sea level and not 6,000 feet above it. Driving around Fort Lauderdale everything looked the same, same restaurants, same dive bars here and there, maybe a few apartment high rises have added to the Skyline but not much has changed from December 20th, 2020. I felt like when my mom dropped me off at the airport and I was in Limbo for a year just to come back still as confused as when I left for Rehab. It was like everything I learned over the course of that year meant nothing. So, during my stay, I had a fifth of Vodka a day for six days. Then I found myself back to square one, hunched over the toilet throwing up every morning. I see commercials saying, “Drink in moderation.” My fucking moderation was save enough for the next morning not to have the shakes and or throw up. Then the next morning came, and I would look at my empty pint and just lose my shit. Luckily, I had Drizzly which was an app for liquor like Door Dash is for food but still my anxiety waved high over me. I used to think I needed glasses, but I think it was just because my alcoholism took ahold of my vision. So, when I got on the plane to come back to Utah, I felt a sense of relief that I wouldn’t have to make those amends in person. My sponsor and I redid the steps and I have reread the Big Book twice now, each time got something new out of it. I am back at step nine and well, it looks like I’ll be heading back to south Florida sometime in May to make those amends. Its cowardly to send a direct message and or an email, I have to face my mistakes, head on and maybe I'll feel a sense of pride after that is done. I was nervous, I thought I couldn’t ever go back home without drinking or using but that’s just living in fear. I have been fearful of my future for too many years, now since I have my sobriety, I don’t want to live that way anymore.

I never meant to stop at that dead end, there were many forks in the road before I got there but I was too naive to notice, and my curiosity gets me in trouble sometimes. I think of that cul-de-sac often, twenty years prior I would find myself skateboarding down it. Nineteen years prior I would find myself drinking down there. Eighteen years prior I would find myself smoking my first blunt down there. There are two new houses down that street, both very modern now, both have that open window look. The house I remembered, looked like it came out of The Amityville Horror movie. It was abandoned and we use to throw parties there. The pool always looked well maintained, like the pool guy still came. Then you look inside of it and sheets cover every surface of the house, looked like an orgy for ghosts. It was paradise though, it was right on the intercoastal, and no one ever seemed to notice I had people there. I lust at the fact I want to feel that way again, I was sheltered from trauma in High School, I never had a real close friend or family member die at that point in my life, besides my grandpa. Grandparents seem so old when you’re that young though. That’s around the time I fell in love for the first time just to get my heart broken because of my use with Ambien. A lot of memories at that house, I found myself drinking down that street again, but in a time that alcohol is my enemy. In a time that drinking just leads to lies and disappointment, in a twenty-year span when I was doing heelflips down that street, eight of those years were rough. It's nice to think it took me a year and a half to feel somewhat close to what I have been chasing, a somewhat normal life. I envy those but respect the ones who got it the first time around, after six relapses I can say I’m done living in fear and a part of that comes from my guilt and shame. Once I go home to face my past mistakes, I think I can erase that chapter of my life, I so honestly regretted.

A man living his life the way he always wanted.



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