Chapter 13 - Survival Skills

Chapter 13 - Survival Skills

Postby Tom Jeffries » Sun May 12, 2013 10:28 am

When I walked out of CKBD, and now, I was virtually unemployable (I realized that although I had some money in the bank because of my late Father’s will. I had a few months to figure out what I was going to do. We were making payments on our small condo, in the West End, and using the line of credit, fairly liberally. That can go on for only so long.

I am not sure how it happened – but I got a call from a fellow named Tom Allen. He was an entrepreneur with a mining and interesting website called He asked me if I was interested in doing some interviews for him. The money was passable, and I liked the guy. I was honest with him though, and told him I wasn’t exactly Warren Buffett.

He told me not to sweat it and I would learn as I went along. I took Economics at UVIC and actually paid attention in a few classes, so I knew something, but not much.

I got to talk with everyone from Doug Casey to Bill Bonner and all the “Investment heavyweights” in between. It was fascinating. I would record the interview and then it would be streamed. Tom, in many ways, was a visionary.

Podcasting was starting to come into it’s own and we were starting to get some traction.

I did this for a few years and I enjoyed it, for the most part. Phil Mackesy, who took over at – now took over for me, and I went to work for a larger concern. It shall remain nameless, because they have great lawyers and although are very honorable and fine folks – it was not the best situation and I had to extricate myself.

Just in time – CKNW came calling.

CKNW 980 AM, is one of Vancouver’s longest running big time AM stations – that, like a lot of media outlets, were going through a lot of changes. I was asked to take on a few weekend shows (paid for programming) and even wound up doing the Morning show for Phillip Till, for a week. Their GM at the time, was JJ Johnston, a man I respect and like a lot. He had come up behind me at CFTR and was a fan. He made it clear that I was the kind of guy that would fit in. It was getting interesting, because I was offered weekend morning news. I would record interviews from home – use the computer to up load them to CKNW’s server, and the struggle down to CKNW at 5:00 am on Saturday and Sunday and basically throw cues to myself. It was enjoyable because I had a great op – Nick Ozinski and I liked working for Tom Plasteras and Ian Koenigsfest. They both were great at giving you a hand if you needed it – but let you run your own show.

That came to a surprising end in 2008. I was feeling ill one Thursday – a day after Julie had returned from a visit with her sister –in –law and her nephew. I was sick to my stomach and went to bed and Julie made me some poached eggs. She was in the kitchen then she heard noises from the bedroom.

She found me having terrible convulsions. She tried to help – she dialed 911 – and the Fire guys and EMT’s got there in about 8 minutes. There was blood everywhere, and the poor little Cats were terrified.

The EMT’s wheeled me out to the waiting ambulance, while I was still seizing. I am lucky – I live blocks from St. Paul’s Hospital and the expert EMT’s had me whisked into the ICU – where I was placed into a coma. The neurologist, Doctor Clarke and Resident, Dr. Arsenault, ran every test on my, possible. I had spinal taps (they thought I might have meningitis) – checked for brain tumor…. the works.

I believe the seizures caused by an ADD drug called Ritalin. (*Yeah – ADD, as well – ain’t it grand?).
*Basically speed, and not the best choice for an alcoholic who can get hooked on alfalfa.

It must have been hell for Julie and Jared. They had to watch me thrash and give the poor male nurses such a hard time. I was fighting them and I didn’t know it, of course. I wish I could tell you I saw a white light, or I had some profound experience, but it was dark and warm and that was it.

I woke to the sound of a strangers voice and what looked like a pin light. “Tom – Tom – This is Doctor Clarke, you are St Paul’s ICU, do you understand”? I did and tried to say yes, but the tube in my mouth and my numb tongue allowed me more like a woof. The deal was, the Doctors had no clue why I took Ill – but they would appreciate it, if, since St. Paul’s is a teaching hospital, that I allow other Doctors to have come by on rounds. I agreed and also to give my brain to UBC when I die and they can see what’s the deal with my grey cells. Many people would not have survived as many seizures. I set some kind of record. As you can imagine, my admiration for EMT’s and Firemen and the folks that work the ICU at St. Paul’s is immense. These folks don’t do it for the money. It must be very hard, but satisfying work. I bless the all for their kindness and skill. If I get through till August of this year – then they can start getting me off, anti seizure mediation.

I will have to take one called Clonezepam, for the rest of my life.

When you look at your own mortality – it becomes very clear that this thing “we call life” is pretty weird.

The concept of time for instance, I am sure you can recall the taste of your first serious kiss – like it was yesterday and yet, it could have been 60 years ago.

I am amazed I lived as long as I have and I think that is part genetics and definitely the move away from booze helped.

The life that I have come to live is quiet and the way I like it.

I have had so many years of noise and concerts and roaring speakers and let me tell you – I am ok with NOTHING.

There is a lot to be learned when you actually have time to sit down and think, instead of work all the time. That is the one caution I have for anyone reading this drivel. You have only so many days and when they start to dwindle, those seven-day weeks will haunt you. Then other thing is – be social. Get cut off and it is a lonely place. I get lonely; I know that the boogie man of booze is there to get me, if I slip.

No, it never goes away.

I should mention here that I will never forget the kindness and caring shown me by Tom Allen, Tom Plasteras, Ian Koenigsfest Red and Carole Robinson – Phil and Trish Mackesy and my CKNW wingers plus a lot of people that will introduce themselves as ‘fans’ and they are glad to see me still kicking.

I am not being falsely modest. I am not that talented and people have selective memories. I am sure I had shifts that were garbage, and there were some mornings where it was amazing I was even talking, much less coherent.

Toronto was a boozefest and so was Ottawa – but it was getting serious in Vancouver and it was off the rails in Nova Scotia. The reason I bring all this up - it’s simple. If I can beat this garbage, so can you. It is not easy – you will have to steel yourself. I also spent many quiet nights avoiding parties and the temptations. This is the life of recovery. Grow some new friends. I met some neat people at AA – but we never crossed too far into reach others social circles after the first few years. The people I met at AA were wonderful and also suffering the same affliction I was.

I don’t think that having a Doctor who is drinking Scotch all day, or was, should be caring for my health and so I chose the Doctor and the backup of a psychiatrist. This was both a positive thing and a stupid move. Psychiatrists give out pills and when you have seizures, you need to take Benzodiazapines, or some other ‘anti seizure”. That is great – except that these drugs are very addictive and you sure don’t just stop them. You sit and you itereate over months as you slide down the numbers. I also take sleep medication and medication for another medical condition. That make me a typical Middle aged / elder Canadian. I am in general good health – but I have actually got the lawyer stuff organized and so the boys in Victoria don’t get the money – Julie and Jared will.

They are closer than anyone has ever been to me. I love my siblings – but I was gone at 18 – and well, we had a really strange Family.

Next – a lesson from the master.
Tom Jeffries
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Joined: Mon May 06, 2013 9:06 am

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