Month: December 2015

Enter at Your Own Risk

in_the_dark_cave_by_pai_shiifanThe morning dew.  It glistens as if the yard were a sea of tiny white pearls; challenged to grasp each blade of grass and struggle against evaporation or the unavoidable pull of the Earth’s gravity below.  Doses of sunlight emerge through the shadows invoking an eerie haze; the cackling of inconspicuous birds resonating throughout, ricocheting back and forth between the decrepit fences before echoing off into a vast nothingness.  A hollowed out tree towers above and has managed to produce one lone flower.  It’s deep, bursting yellow pierces through the fog as beams of light successfully touch down on its pedals; an integral sign of fragile hope in such a disheartening existence.  It rests, peaceful and vibrant, on a drooping branch that transfers life into its roots.  Silently, it’s witnessed a community form around it; watched generations grow old, enjoying its shelter and company over the years.  It’s weathered the storms that brewed far above; fiercely holding firm against heavy rains, raging bolts of lightning and the weight of snow and ice wrapped around it so firmly, like a serpent squeezes the life out of its prey hunting in the night.  Crisp, cool winds filter through the air; a tidal wave of fresh-starts and new beginnings, the distinct sense of nature’s reincarnation after a long winters hiatus; a phoenix rising from the ashes.    

Through the mist a woman, angelic – glowing with a heavenly natural beauty.  Her crystal blue eyes are soul piercing, trance inducing; a single deep stare breeds a lustful life sentence.  Draped against olive skin are long locks of golden blonde hair, gently dancing in the breeze; perfectly choreographed to an eager beating heart.  Slowly, seemingly without effort she gets closer, floating on air and moving steadily through an erupting surge of passionate energy; it’s intoxicating, paralyzing – playfully she nibbles her bottom lip; pheromone’s saturate the atmosphere forming a tornado of salacious desire that even the gods couldn’t dissolve.  It’s getting stronger now; eyes ever locking; deep, steady panting persists as the signal for final approach is confirmed and then…

The excruciating reality of my eyes opening wide to a life alone in this tiny twin bed, which is not even really mine and sits opposite another tiny twin bed; occupied by a different dude.  Lucky for him, he appears to remain traveling through dreamland at the moment, but his rude awakening is coming and that gives me a debaucherously strange sense of satisfaction – this is getting old.  For some reason, my brain likes to kick back into consciousness at the exact moment the payoff is about to take place; dreams are such a tease.  I subconsciously torture myself; creating perfect and beautiful model-like angels inside my thick skull; the type of woman that doesn’t exist – at least not to guys like me; like they can sense the sunken, shell of a man that walks around all disconnected and zombie-like – I can be the real walking dead sometimes; seriously searching out Daryl and his crossbow – but I’ll be real; it’s not like I’m ever going to find him so, fuck it – time to start another day in paradise.

wildebeest-snp-a5539gI say a quick prayer; a prayer which mostly involves asking for guidance on how to be accepting of whatever I walk into once I enter the shared, common area – the area I refer to in my head as, “The Serengeti” – this is where other creatures like myself freely roam, mingle, and occasionally prey on each other – living examples that prove the nature of human development is also still a work in progress.  The important part is – we mostly get each other, understand the struggle, and are all okay with it; actively looking into ourselves and working to be better people – quite possibly we’ll leave our former “creature” selves behind and merge back into society refreshed and renewed – ready to contribute, and be useful – pay our taxes – maybe.  There are supposed to be two guarantees in life – death and taxes – I can assure you that paying the IRS is no guarantee for an addict or alcoholic active in the lifestyle – at least not willingly.  Death, on the other hand, we’re all too familiar with.

One of the exceptions to the unity I’ve come across in the pursuit of my new life is Braden.  He is sitting at the computer in the hallway outside my bedroom.  I know this because he sits there from sunrise to sunset every day without fail – he has ever since I moved into the residential treatment house.  I’m curious as to how he gets away with missing group therapy all day, but that’s really none of my business and I remember to maintain focus on myself.  Plus, it’s apparent there is more wrong with him than just substance abuse; he oozes that serial killer, psycho type of vibe – which is further confirmed as I exit my room and get immediately stopped to watch a video on YouTube.  There’s a cold, empty look in his eyes and a huge grin plastered across his face; he’s overly excited for me to see what he finds so amusingly hysterical – and honestly, I was intrigued – until – he pressed play.  What took over the screen was the dash-cam view from a police car facing a vehicle, pulled over on the side of the freeway; the night vision recording made it a little blurry, but certainly added to the horrifying tone of what would happen next. 

As the officer is approaching the vehicle, a man steps out and in an impulsive act of sheer violence, murders him in cold blood; one shot to the chest before leaving the scene and the officer to die.  As all this is transpiring in front of us, Braden joyfully points and laughs, screaming “fuck the cops”; creating his own deranged and twisted form of celebration, basking in the injustice that has occurred and for a split second, the emptiness in his eyes suddenly ignite into flames, becoming alive with a demonic lifeform before dying back down into the cold, emptiness once again.  I was startled, to say the least, and my anxiety levels escalated immensely.  What I imagined doing to Braden right then was far worse than the fate suffered by that police officer, but I managed to keep my composure, appear like I wasn’t bothered, and slowly walk away as his sick laughter resonated behind me, growing further in the distance.  No prayer would ever prepare me for an encounter like that.

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The literal space between my titillating encounter with pure beauty and this realness of the ugly, repulsive side of human nature was a mere few paces.  It’s a reminder of what’s ever surrounding me and toying with my head; why I self-medicated to deal with it all.  There’s so much hate that we’re forced to dodge and weave through on a daily basis; so much out of our control.  Flip on the news and get a glimpse of what the human mind is attracted to.  Death and despair – murders, rapes, kid-touchers, mass shootings; the list goes on – and it’s all evil.  A good excuse; a portion of why I could justify and entertain the desire not to be present in this life; drown in the bottle until my time is up; until I check out of this hedonistic place.  Maybe I like to drown in it because there are certain facets of that negativity I see in myself; characteristics I wish weren’t there – the parts that continuously break the hearts of people around me as I let them down once more; the parts where I let myself down.  Or maybe by working through this process, not running or hiding, and getting to know myself without a drink or a drug, I can learn how to see through the fog and the mist; try to focus on that lone flower, bursting and vibrant in its yellow magnificence, and see the true beauty in all things wicked and cruel.  Or maybe I’ll die trying – but I’ll never give up.                 

Yoda Theory & the Dragon Slayer

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FEAR

  1. an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
  2. be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.

In the spirit of everything Star Wars now-a-days, I’ll lead in with this:

Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” -Yoda

In one way or another, I would conclude that the fear of something, situation, person, etc., has impacted most of the major decisions I’ve made in my thirty years of visiting earth. It’s an unconscious part of my mental checklist while weighing out the possible outcomes, and I instinctually make those decisions based purely on a desire to survive. I’m not talking about the decision to choose McDonald’s over Burger King for lunch by the way, although I’m sure I could come up with a scenario where that could be pretty frightening…

…imagine terrorists started targeting our cow population; sleeper cells all over the farmlands and pastures of middle America. Nobody knew they were there because nobody really wants to live in middle America. They pump the cows full of whatever terrorist concoction terrorists come up with and then start flooding the market with the murderous beef. Or maybe they have become so technologically advanced that they figured out how to put mini-bombs inside each and every hamburger patty with detonation occurring upon the first, scrumptious bite, blowing your head off. You, who “forgot” to pack your lunch, again, unknowingly strolls into the joint, free from whatever mediocre, lamentable job you’re forced into doing because you want to at least be able to afford yourself a cheeseburger from time to time – it’s the little things that get us through. Your mouth waters as the burger approaches and then blammo, off with your head – cheeseburger bomb. Next time you eat a fast food burger; there might be a little fear in the mix until you get past that first bite, or maybe you’ll just go with the chicken sandwich.

That’s a pretty ridiculous and far-fetched scenario, but fear can be a tough subject to embrace; especially as a man. We’re told we need to be leaders and warriors; fear nothing; slay dragons or fulfill some other absurd conquest to save the day or rescue a damsel in distress. Now that’s all well and good – in fairy tales – and I’d undoubtedly love to grow up to be a dragon slayer, but in reality, I’ll never grow up and that’s most likely a dead-end career path anyway. So instead, I got educated out of the fear of being un-employable or self-insufficient; got married because I feared being forever alone; had children because I feared ending the family bloodline; stayed in my career because I was afraid of financial insecurity; woke up this morning because I fear not existing; numbed myself for years because I feared being alive – had a chicken sandwich at lunch for fear of a cheeseburger bomb. I made all those decisions based on, you guessed it, fear, and what my best option was for survival.

If Yoda is correct, and fear leads to anger, I must be a rather raging human – I must really know how to break some random household items or smash up a few watermelons like Gallagher. No, for me that’s not the case; my anger is seldom expressed outwardly; it’s turned inward and directed solely at myself – even if it’s something or somebody else that is causing me the irritation or angst. I don’t enjoy confrontation and I’ll do virtually anything to avoid it. Dare I say, I fear confrontation – it’s uncomfortably awkward and I’d rather take skiing lessons from Sonny Bono. I was angry because I didn’t accept things for what they were; I didn’t accept people for who they were. I wanted to be accepted, but I could never see things from the other side of the fence or place myself in somebody else’s shoes. If all the players in the game didn’t comply to my needs or act as I wanted them to, it made me upset and my life inconvenienced. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous paints a very good picture of what I mean and can be found on pages sixty to sixty-three.

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As my anger internally escalated, it started brewing into forms of hate. I had no outlet to express how I felt because I was too afraid to explore one; I didn’t want to be judged – I just wanted to fly under the radar; be liked by everyone and seen as a calm, peaceful guy – a guy that has his shit together and is effortlessly conquering the world. I continued to stuff it all down and “act like a man”. I started to hate the world and everything in it, viewing it as an entity that was forever against me. Day in and day out, I ingested bottle after bottle of whiskey to make it all go away; a temporary relief from the nightmare I felt trapped in. Dealing with the consequences at the pinnacle moment of an urge to cease existing seemed overwhelmingly reasonable compared to dealing with the hatred, thoughts and imagery floating around and infesting my psyche. That’s the power of the mind.

Everything I had in my life was a front for my alcohol abuse. I desperately wanted to project the image of a happy home and functioning family because I hoped it would take the focus away from my alcoholism. I wanted it both ways; stay comfortable; never sleep in the gutter or on the streets while continuing to drink how I wanted and attempt to hold a fabricated life altogether. The amount of time and effort I put into this is unfathomable for those who don’t understand my affliction or that the disease in my brain will go to ANY lengths to protect itself from being stomped down and sent into remission. The resulting conundrum I have found myself in is the suffering Yoda speaks of. I love my little girl and my little boy, I love their mother, I love my whiskey and the freeing feeling of the nothingness it gives me. Yet, at this moment I have none of them anymore, I haven’t for some time now – and it’s the worst part of recovery by far; but – getting through that suffering and coming out on the other side without resorting to the bottle is hands down the best part – a genuine feeling of personal accomplishment. My kids are healthy and alive; I know they are okay and in my heart I know they love me like I love them. I’m building my foundation so I can be the best father I can be, present and alert – the kind they deserve. I love their mother and I always will in one form or another, but her well-being and happiness is more important than all the hurt feelings and broken dreams of the past. I know she’s out there living and breathing life, sharing it with our children, and that’s all I want for her; true, authentic happiness and peace. Next to getting and staying sober, letting go of the love and being okay with what’s leftover is the most difficult thing I’ve had to do in this life, but I forgive just as I wish to be forgiven – and flip to the next chapter as I continue on my journey.

As for the whiskey, it’s best kept on the shelf at the liquor store.

PhD Free: No Lab Coat Required

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It’s been said there is no manual; not a book nor a guideline to prepare a person to travel through this world of chaotic beauty.  The best we can do is learn from our mistakes and bask in the glory of our successes while they last; to savor even the smallest of victories.  When I sat in the operating room and held my daughter for the very first time, I finally felt I had done something successful and good; something righteous that I could be proud of – I experienced a genuine, authentic love – one I’ve never known, understood, or could make reasonable sense of really; the kind every parent has for their child I would like to believe – its powerful and life-changing; I realized what I was truly capable of as a human being in that moment – the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

I envisioned a future full of joy and I knew that little girl had found a permanent, irreplaceable home in my heart.  I knew I could take a life if it meant keeping her safe and protected from evil and its relentless attempts to divert us from knowing the extraordinary.  I would easily sell my soul to the devil if it guaranteed the dregs of society’s un-pleasantries would pass her by.  Seriously, where do I sign?   I can’t stand the thought of her dealing with the daily struggle to see the glass half-full or the heartbreaks and pain of well-intentioned, yet chronic failure; the kind I’m all too familiar with; the kind I never cease to bring upon myself.  I wish I could take on all the pain so she never has to, but I know that’s not realistic; I know she’ll have to make mistakes and determine her own path. 

I plead and cry out to the heavens every day that my major malfunctions never surface in her – the dark side I can’t seem to fully shake; the type that births immense fear: dirty, gritty, bone-chilling fear with a heaping side of guilt for bringing such a beautiful, innocent life into what can be a terribly deranged and fucked up world.  It’s a fear I don’t see ever leaving my side, plus none of this is her fault in the first place; I tend to feel ownership and take responsibility for the things she has been or might be exposed to.  It’s not like she was given the option to exist or not.  She couldn’t stand inside a voting booth, make a decision and pull down the lever for life.  She was tossed into this thing, kicking and screaming, because the stars aligned for a moment in time; two people met and attempted to create the fairy tale that so many of us often hopelessly desire – the ones we were seemingly falsely promised in the books we read as children; the knight on a white horse and the love of his life riding off into the sunset – planting the seed that we’re all entitled to live happily ever after.

I haunt myself – it’s torture really, but as people we also torment the ones we love the most.  That’s a commonly agreed upon theory from what I know and my life features no shortage of supporting evidence on the matter.  Those we love are constantly circled around us, which means they’re always potential victims; collateral damage merely by association.  I loathe having to admit the logical truth over what my false reality of the situation has manifested itself as inside my head.  I would like to believe I’m only hurting myself – I could handle that without too much shame and guilt, but it’s not the case and it never will be.  I’m not the only one going down with the ship when it gets thrown off course.  Yes, I was supposed to be the captain; the leader assigned the honor of protecting and guiding my little girl through life the minute she drew her first breath, but I wasn’t aware that the largest immediate threat to her was me, her own father; that realization threw me for a loop when I finally came to terms with it.  I don’t even totally understand how to protect myself from me, let alone a child that is dependent upon it for survival.  Still, none of these things can stop the earth from spinning on its axis; time doesn’t cease, and I’m in a race against it to pick up the pieces and put back together what I so carelessly deconstructed.

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It seems the right course of action is to punish myself; serve my justified time for the heartache and harm I have caused while accepting responsibility for what’s transpired.  While I’m not physically sitting in a prison cell, being isolated from everything I once knew can start to feel like I am.  Even the bright and warm sunny climate of Southern California, with its magnificent coastlines, palm trees, and beautiful women can’t eliminate the dark cloud that I sense constantly looming over my head; following me where ever I go ready to rain on my parade or strike me down with a well-deserved, fierce bolt of lightning.  But against all odds I’m still breathing life into my lungs and somehow I’ve managed to survive my twenties.  Terrible two’s step aside; I think my terrible twenties has you beat.  There have been countless times and situations where one more bad decision or wrong move would have put me six feet under, but for whatever reason I’m still here – and it’s my duty to discover what that reason is.

I never thought I would be a writer or at least try it on for size, consider it a hobby, and put myself in the mix.  I assumed I had nothing to share and I honestly don’t know much about the writing world or what outlets are even somewhat available – a blog seemed to be a good place to start out.  I haven’t even been formally trained to write, but maybe it’s not an art that can really be taught – just throw a keyboard and Meriam-Webster my way; I’ll figure out the rest – I can’t justify dropping fifty-grand for some stiff in a stadium seated room to tell me my use of semi-colons or hyphens aren’t entirely accurate.  Get over it.  Contrarily, I can’t say my life has been boring or devoid of troubling as well as enlightening occurrences either.  The battle of addiction alone has no shortage of tragic or triumphant situations and it does affect a ton of people and families throughout humanity.  Maybe all the brilliant story tellers out there have required personal experiences with complex emotions to make sense of before they could construct their story or say what they needed to say; like it started as therapy for their own personal maturity and growth; you can feel what they feel as you read the words because it’s real and genuine; it’s raw – not written by some PhD draped in a lab coat sitting behind mahogany doors with a zillion certificates on the wall because he read some text books once upon a time and conducted a “study”.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of what health professionals do is fascinating, important and necessary, but enough with the flashy titles, letters after their names, insurance companies, forty-five minutes in the waiting room, and whatever other rigmarole comes along with it.  My experience is free of charge and degree or not, everybody’s shit smells like shit – close the door, leave the fan on, open a window, and spray some damn air freshener.  Maybe I am here to tell a story or be an inspiration for those that may be headed down the same blackened road I unknowingly chose – even if it’s just one lone person that stumbles across the experience I’ve had and turns around to head back into the light – is that not worth my time?  I certainly believe it is – any life is one that can be valued.  I could just be writing what’s in my head to get it out – maybe this is just an outlet for myself and becomes another working part of my process to recover.  Either way, I don’t see the harm in it. 

My higher power doesn’t have a direct line into my head; I don’t consider myself that much of a lunatic – the clouds don’t part, bursting with rays of sunlight casting upon me divine intervention, but I do think he speaks to me through other people – the people that have been placed in my life whether it be through somebody in the rooms, individuals in my family, the Barista at Starbuck’s, or someone else’s blog as that person embraces the vulnerability to share their story with me.  As people reveal things about themselves, I can potentially start to identify the same feelings – that’s my higher power showing me what I cannot see for myself.  It’s only then I can make rational decisions, weigh out the options or consequences, live with integrity, and start to improve who I am as a person without repeating my mistakes or traumatizing those that are orbiting around my potentially dangerous gravitational pull.

              

Little Bummer Boy

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  I can’t stroll through Target and buy new boxer briefs without navigating through a sea of humans frantically searching for a trivial gift to bring to the company Christmas party they’ve been forced into attending or waiting in line for three to five hours; and that’s just the, “ten items or less” line, on a Sunday night, after nine o’clock.  Yes, I have left the world of boxers, but I’m nowhere near ready for the realm of briefs, and did I say Christmas party? I meant “Holiday Party” of course – I’m not insensitive or anything; and I’m pretty sure the guy in front of me has eleven items, but who’s counting?  Like it’s not dangerous enough inside the stores, I’m surprised a liability waiver to drive this time of year isn’t required by most towns or cities – at least in the parking lots; it’s a warzone out there; every man for themselves – may the best man win.  We must all get our recently purchased items home safe and sound, forget about other people’s well-being.  There is no time to wait for the ninety-year-old lady assisted by her walker to cross from the parking lot into the store.  She’s had a long life anyway, mow her down and get on with the consumerism – lets save the social security dollars.  Grandma got run over by my Volkswagen, not a reindeer; unless my car was irritatingly dressed up like Rudolph – then maybe you’d have a case, but I would never do such a thing and I certainly wouldn’t lose sleep if every car dressed up like that would simultaneously self-destruct.  There is surely no room to be yielding or spineless on the road – places to be, people to see –  lucky for us, two of the three lights on a traffic signal mean speed up and move along. 

Before embarking on a mission to the convenient store for a pack of Twinkies and an energy drink, I stare at myself in the rearview mirror, blast “Eye of the Tiger”, and get hyped up like I’m Rocky; a personal pep rally to catapult myself into the proper mindset; battle mode. Be aggressive, B E aggressive… You get the picture.  December is exhausting; I wish I could hibernate from Thanksgiving until Super Bowl Sunday – since when are bears smarter than us?  Probably always.  My personal, extensive research over the last thirty years suggests it may not be the most wonderful time of the year; the most stressful, depressing, irritating, hostile, and dangerous yes – wonderful?  I’m not sure that’s exercising rigorous honesty; I’m not sure the facts support that theory.  Maybe I’m being a Grinch – a real Ebenezer Scrooge, but…well forget it, my heart won’t be growing this Christmas and bah…humbug.

It’s been a long, challenging year for me filled with no shortage of ups and downs – another crazy adventure in the life of Chris and Christmas is supposed to be a happy time – freedom from stress or worry; days spent with family fulfilling holiday traditions like picking out and decorating a tree, waking up at 5am on Christmas morning, or building gingerbread houses with my children at my parent’s house.  I don’t have that this year and I’m not entirely thrilled about it – it’s actually rather depressing.  I miss the days when I still thought a jolly old fat man was breaking and entering into my house once a year leaving a slew of fun just for me; even though he appeared to despise the cookies we left him – there was always just a bite or two missing.  I was told Santa had to eat cookies at every single house he visited and I easily bought into the lies; it’s not difficult to persuade a kid to believe anything really – I wasn’t exactly tough to convince, especially since I believed in Santa to begin with.  We start out being lied to very early in life – why do we think we won’t grow up and continue the trend? 

We dodge and weave, soften the truth, tailor things to fit our immediate comforts or needs without ever thinking about the long term implications – even something as seemingly harmless and miniscule like believing in Santa.  Do you remember when you first found out he wasn’t real?  I was just a kid and I felt like my heart sunk into my chest and I had been played like a fiddle; like Charlie Daniel’s picked me up and beat me with his bow.  It’s then you realize it’s not just Santa either – it’s the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy too.  What kind of world is devoid of Santa, the Easter Bunny and my beloved Tooth Fairy?  No world for me, that’s for sure – at least that’s how it felt at the time – before accepting things for what they were.  Next they were going to convince me that unicorns didn’t exist.  Looking back as an adult it seems silly, but is it?  In the world of a kid, that is a very real situation; one that is grieved and dealt with on a case by case basis.  If Santa or the Easter Bunny aren’t real, what else isn’t real?  What’s true and what’s an illusion?  Where is the line between authenticity and deception?  It’s a strange introduction into deciphering between the worlds of fallacy and actuality.

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I would normally like to drive home a point or state my case for why I think things are how they are.  That’s what I do here; I share my opinions and my experiences of a life lived as a sober alcoholic.  At first, while I was reading back what I had written, I thought I might as well start over because I don’t see a point other than I’m blabbing about holiday nonsense that everybody deals with; all I did was write it out.  I’m just being a grumpy, dry drunk right now – get over yourself Chris.  Then it hit me; sometimes us human beings just need to vent.  It’s never ended well for me when I let the pressure build up.  I’ve always held it all in and I’m adamantly working towards improving that character defect.  I don’t explode well.  Just by writing it out alone, I’ve let these thoughts out of me and let them flow into the world.  So maybe my seemingly pointless rambling did serve a purpose after all – even if it only helped me to let it all out and get through another day without picking up that bottle.

10,000 Ways That Won’t Work

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Five-thirty in the morning – even the sun, the undisputed center of our universe hadn’t rubbed the sandmen out of its eyes, but I was artificially woken up by an ear piercing, devilish device and, somewhat robotically, I would begin to put myself together for another day.  This is the price I paid for the comfort and luxuries that had been afforded to me; that I’d been taught to work hard for and seek after my entire life.  I’d become obligated to drag myself out of bed and go to work so I could pay to watch possibly three of the nine-hundred cable channels that were streaming into my home projected through the fifty-five-inch flat screen television mounted on the wall.  So I could afford the iPhones and laptop computers that required over-priced internet bills and data plans; the car payments, mortgage payments and utility bills; weekly grocery costs and various child expenses.  On top of that, the maintenance of it all ushered me to obsessively mow the lawn in distinct patterns and compulsively clean up the house so for a few brief seconds every night I could look around, feel proud, and think to myself, “I’ve finally made it” while sporting a mendacious victory grin; so for another day I could fortify our image and convince myself we were a young and happy family beginning to blossom. 

I wore sunglasses I paid one-hundred and forty dollars for because it made me feel more important and successful.  My wife had designer purses and more makeup than the counter at Macy’s.  I thought she loved me for being a provider; I thought that’s what she wanted and what made her happy.  I thought that was my job as a man, but I was sadly mistaken and completely misinformed.  In all reality, between phone, wallet, and accessories; the jeans, shirt and shoes – before I even made it to my car in the morning I was wearing five-hundred dollars every day just to fit in with society and the workplace. 

Unenthusiastically, I would get into my thirty-thousand-dollar vehicle and tune in the satellite radio because terrestrial radio wasn’t good enough for me anymore; I’d become accustomed to my music being commercial free and my talk shows being uncensored.  The car appeared to be set on auto-pilot and transported me about half an hour to my less than desirable office building where I’d spend most of the day bound inside an eight by eight box; which was just one in a collective sea of these torture chambers.  I stared at a digital screen and listened to the sound of a hundred phones simultaneously ringing; all sorts of pointless, time-killing conversations and company gossip transpired outside the tiny space I was banished to; some days the drama that occurred in that place was worse than being trapped in high school.  But they paid me around eighty-thousand-dollars a year to put up with it so I kept going back because it was “stability” and the means in which I could keep all the “stuff” I had – it also provided all the resources I required to feed my dark habits; the protocol I followed to numb out everything I had to do in hopes to sustain the deceptive life masked as the ultimate human experience; a life I couldn’t seem to find the true purpose or desire to be present for.

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So what happens to anything built on counterfeit footings or is completed with a fraudulent keystone interlinking distorted truths?  Collapse. It’s inevitable.  The structure’s not capable of continually bearing the load of lies and eventually it all comes crashing down.  I traded the opportunity of genuine, lasting human connection for the temporary luxuries that society shoves in my face every day and deceptively ensures true happiness and gratification – all these ways to distract myself from life; the need for constant entertainment because I couldn’t sit with myself and my thoughts comfortably.  For me it was alcohol that took me out of myself, for others maybe it’s television, food, exercise, sex, or always having their face planted in a cell phone, frantically checking social media every ten seconds and managing a thousand different text conversations.  Everybody is addicted to something.  We’re the most connected, unconnected generation and being detached from others in that sense is the kryptonite for any addict or alcoholic in recovery.  Hindsight would be a priceless entity if the lessons learned could actually be a foresight.  I would have been happier crammed into a studio apartment with my family; connected and engaged instead of having the house, cars, career, and reputation with all the pressure and tension that goes along with it; the foible attempts to keep that insanity all glued together.  Sadly, hindsight is what it is and the best I can do is not let history repeat itself as I venture out to restart and rebuild a self-inflicted, devolved life.

“I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas Edison

Is This Really My Bathroom?

messy bathroom

Faint, unnatural light flutters around me within confined white walls.  I’ve stumbled upon the inexorable circumstances I must endure from day to day with no revisions in sight.  Unbound drawers feature an array of draped wires providing no outward, plausible signs for rhyme or reason; all attached to superfluous heating devices.  Flesh colored powder is bestrewed all over the counter tops in between a kaleidoscope of towers containing glamour products.  Bottles of body spray and perfume are scattered about whereas toothpaste intermingled with long strands of dark hair lathers the lining of the sink; the room still exhibiting a combined minty, floral aroma.  A heap of dirty clothes has become mushed into a corner, modestly conveying to me they belong somewhere else – somewhere more appropriate for recently worn attire.  Shades of red collaboratively streak about the countertop while the mirror accentuates a chaotic collection of smudges yielded from a combination of warm breath and greasy hands.  Below, the tiny wastebasket vigorously stands, boiling over the remnants of refuse it can no longer physically contain; spilling out like lava and sluggishly settling on the surface beneath; conceding to gravity as it bears witness to the conclusion of its balancing act.  On and on the scene unfolds – and it’s undeniably making me more deranged and ballistic with each and every passing second.  I hate this bathroom.

As I continue to forge ahead in my recovery and as a member of various twelve-step groups, I as well as others in my community quite often recite these words: “God, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  This is commonly known as the serenity prayer and although it’s not the prayer in its entirety, the point and purpose adequately come across in the opening sentences.  Pretty powerful stuff when its broken down into what the words truly mean as a whole and we avoid becoming desensitized to the constant repetition of saying them over and over again.  For me, it’s important to remember this because, not long ago, I wasn’t so accepting of anything unless me, myself, and I were directly satisfied or the primary beneficiary.  What I didn’t know then, I’m starting to clearly see now.  Through acceptance of people, places and situations for what they are, rather than for what I want or think I want them to be, everybody benefits.  It’s taken me thirty years to come to this conclusion for myself.

I’ll revert back to the scene in the bathroom that I shared with my wife in our former home.  Whether or not I got worked up or deranged or even homicidal (kidding) about the state or condition of our bathroom, it was never going to change how she treated it; I could not change her just as equally as she could not change me; that’s how she was whether or not I believed it to be right or wrong.  Those types of character changes can only come from within oneself – generally when things or situations reach the point where change is incumbent for survival, not merely for personal preference or comfort.

let go

Accept the Things I Cannot Change:  As for me, the wiser, more mature handling of the situation would have been accepting it for what it was, processing it in a proper and fair context, then moving on with my day without acting snarky, distant, or bitter.  At least we had a bathroom to make a mess in because I can’t honestly say everyone in the world is so fortunate.  Running tap water is a luxury in and of itself and one that we so often take for granted.  My stress level would have most likely gone way down if I could have just accepted the situation for what it was and the tension between my wife and I may have been greatly reduced.  Add up a bunch of similar situations and quite possibly there would have been little to no tension at all.

Courage to Change the Things I Can:  What I always have control over is how I react to any given person or situation.  My expectations were always set far too high and for all intents and purposes, became unreasonable and unrealistic.  If I spent more time generating what was in the best interest of the entire family, rather than focusing on what I expected of everybody, our lives could have been relatively calm, cool, and collective; at least as calm as running a home with two small children could be, of course.  Expectations are taxing and arduous while modeling reasonable reactions and temperaments can be motivating.  It would have shown I could walk the walk, not just talk the talk – and that’s leading by example – not the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality.

Wisdom to Know the Difference:  The difference, for me, is always in how I react – it’s pretty much that simple, not easy, but simple.

Personal growth is derived from living outside of our comfort zone.  Nestled in my own living space, isolated from people and the outside world with bottle in hand was always my safe zone; now I share living space with a group of people that also search for new life and it’s helped me to form meaningful connections that are vital to thrive, not wither away alone in some dark corner of space and time.  Giving up the unwinnable fight for control has been the key to accepting things for what they are and not as I would have them.  It’s broadened the view of a man once suffering from extreme tunnel vision.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars.  You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S.Lewis

Here Comes the Reaper

The_grim_reaper

Radiant beams burst through the windows reviving me from my mystic and dreamy condition.  Rubbing my eyes, I gaze around the room and submit to the comforting realization that I’m still snuggly embedded in the residence of my treatment center, ideally placed amidst the extensively sought after climate of sunny Southern California.  As a northeast native, palm trees alone give me the distinct feeling that I’m now living in a tropical paradise, although the streets of this town can contradict that Eden-like environment some days.  The circumstances of our community this morning also contradict this netherworld disguised as a promise land.  When I arrive at the main facility, utopia is greeted by tragedy.  My ravishing surroundings don’t match a disheartened energy emanating from the unusual presence of management outside and immediately, I sense something is wrong; which is further supported when we are hoarded into the cafeteria and a majority of the room is now beside themselves, tears flowing and heads down, buried in rugged hands.  Mournfully, the inevitable announcement is made by the head director confirming that our disease won again; claiming another life in the relentless, diabolical fashion its grown so accustomed to.  It’s the sad reality of this journey to recover.  The longer I stick around, the more this becomes commonplace; almost routine; an adverse side effect of the cards I was dealt being predisposed to a daily fight for survival.  Death is always in the mix.

Not all of us can successfully elude the mighty hand of this malady that enslaves us; it’s comforting lure; the mastery of its deception and ultimate goal to cease the beating of our once spirited hearts.  Just as we can never quench our thirstiness to please this uninvited beast, it’s undoubtedly not entirely satisfied itself, fallaciously tempting us until we draw our final breath – far before our lifespan would and should allow.  Some of us have reached the point where we have fully conceded to the enemy and started to learn a new way of life; living free and keeping our demons at bay through seeking a power greater than ourselves and working with others; incorporating personal devotion and daily awareness into our routines.  Some of us continually bounce back and forth between active addiction and recovery, which inevitably gets consistently worse each and every time we go back out; as well as becomes increasingly more difficult to pursue recovery when we come to terms with the unavoidable collapse of our lives once again.  Some of us have permanently lost the battle altogether which, much to our dismay, is a painful truth ever reminding those of us that carry on how we are not immortal creatures; that life is fragile, this disease is deadly, and we are not invincible like we incessantly love to misinform ourselves.  Those that have fallen victim are a substantial testament to this truth.

Cute-Angel-Praying-To-Jesus-Christ-Graphic

As much as these tragic occasions go so often misunderstood by society at large and the loved ones directly affected, I comprehend the inner workings of a mind that succumbs to that draconian disconnect; the mediocre march of merely existing in time and space feeling no other purpose than to be absent of self and numb to everything else.  After all, our minds are virtually identical when it comes to the use of mind altering substances.  Every time I hear of a new loss within our community, I experience a range of emotions anywhere from sadness and frustration to jealousy and envy.  I think about how they are finally in a better place; serene at last and free from the fight – a place I so often dream of being.  On the contrary, I enjoy the experiences of life and to this day I haven’t met anybody in the world of addiction that doesn’t have the potential to live a life free from the constant turmoil, wreckage, and negative consequences that come with remaining active.  It’s essentially a race against time.  We have to be open and willing to change before the reaper comes to town.  If we’re not, it’s game over – no more binges; no more runs; no more chances to get it right – that finality is permanent and we no longer have any credits left.  Today, I pray that the sick and suffering will soon see the light and embrace this potential once in a lifetime opportunity for recovery.