Jaime's old man was a gynecologist and his mother a psychologist so I'd razz him that they must have flipped a coin. It's little wonder that Jaime turned out to be a smooth talking ladies' man.

He grew up on the right side of the tracks in an affluent suburb of Cleveland but he spent the bulk of his childhood and adolescence looking for escape. Jaime didn't so much have a problem with drugs and alcohol, he had a problem with a world full of straights and a life that constantly interfered with his buzz.

He was a star athlete in more than one sport but the culture he inhabited was not one of sober athleticism. Jim Carroll's Basketball Diaries might well have been written about Jaime and his buddies, to whom scoring off the field was of primary importance. While lightweights in the stands might be jazzed on a little schnapps they'd lifted from their parent's liquor cabinet, Jaime and the rest of the offensive line chased acid with Jack Daniel's at the pre-game party.

Jaime never met a drug he didn't like and he never found a dosage that could satisfy him. Still in his teens, he'd been to the end and back again with junkie pride, any quantity, any orifice, any time. His parents pulled his ass out of the stew a dozen times before turning to professional help in the happy heartland. Cleveland may rock, but Minneapolis rehabilitates.

I met him at the haunted hotel on Nicollet Island almost twenty years ago, soon after he had begun his treatment at St. Mary's Hospital on the banks of the upper Mississippi. "The land of ten thousand lakes" has many claims to fame, from the invention of Scotch tape to the Governor formerly known as Jesse the Body, but Jaime emigrated for a different reason entirely. Minnesota holds quiet preeminence in the science of detoxification.

Very few people move here on purpose, due to our legendary winters, but fewer still decamp in disgust. Minnesota grows on you. I've always thought it a blessing to be born here and have kept mostly silent about it for fear that the Shangri-La would be discovered and overrun. When a business traveler at the bar would whine about being transferred to the tundra against his will, I'd whisper encouraging words, "Don't moan about the weather, brother, you've landed in God's Country. Winter keeps out the riff raff."

Jaime, like many outlanders, didn't choose Minnesota; it was thrust upon him.


Drug and alcohol abuse is a symptom, not a disease. I'm not a physician or a specialist in obsessive behavior but my profession involves ministering to the afflicted. I claim my expertise as a life-long drug dealer, the legally sanctioned kind, with a shot glass and a tip jar. In my humble opinion, every alcoholic is a potential jogging fanatic and every neat freak is a heroin addict waiting to happen.

There is only one sure cure for obsessive behavior of any kind and that is to replace it with an alternate obsession.

If you examine the spectrum of people who exhibit these behaviors you'll find a startling commonality: elevated intelligence. The best and the brightest are invariably touched by manic obsession of one kind or another and the busiest brains often seek quietude in chemicals. Don't be surprised if you wake up the junkie in the gutter and find a former College Bowl contestant or if the barfly puking in the alley turns out to be Charles Bukowski.


Jaime took the cure at St. Mary's but never counted himself among the hardcore disease victims. Alcoholics Anonymous indoctrinated him at first but he wound up tripping over a couple of the twelve steps. When they told him that he couldn't pal around with anyone who was "using" it pretty much ruled out everyone he was fond of, so he gave AA the slip. He was the living exemplar of the guy who would have been an alcoholic if he'd only had time for the meetings.

When Jaime was released from rehab he took a job in the banquet department at the hotel on the island and changed his obsession like flipping a switch. Waitresses. He was a charming little cat to begin with and the introspective therapy he endured at St. Mary's rendered him more sensitive than Oprah. Girls fell at his feet because he did what other guys only pretended to, he listened to them. Clever bastard.

Skirt chasing is benign in and of itself but it often leads to matrimony and worse, as it did for Jaime. When he slipped on that wedding band, fidelity demanded that he start all over again with a new obsession.

By the time I made his acquaintance he was up to over a hundred rounds a year and he kept his clubs in the trunk throughout the winter. If you blink you might miss summer in Minnesota, so it's no mean feat to squeeze that many holes into one season; you have to be driven. He golfed at least four times a week, rain or shine, to the joy of his bride who preferred it to backsliding into substance abuse.

Jaime's smart and hilarious and still sober by his own devices. It goes without saying that he's become a wicked good golfer and you should demand at least a stroke a hole if you meet him on a tee box.

He once confessed to me that he missed getting high but that he knew he could never do it half way. He’d either be a dead junkie or a scratch golfer.

Sort of a coin toss.

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