Tag: Musings of my Mind

Who Ya Gunna Call?

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Green and gooey, this monster-like mass continuously compelled to consume; an insatiable appetite reaching realms of relentless proportions; sludgy, gross gunk left in its wake; a subtle producer of vague chaos; any given kitchen stood a better chance standing its ground against a feral, famished pack of teenagers – padlocking the refrigerator and pantry won’t keep this annoying apparition away.  Home was the Sedgewick Hotel when we first met this anti-social, unfriendly ghost and the staff put up with its shenanigans for as long as they could, making every effort to keep things in check and the establishment functioning flawlessly.  By all accounts, Slimer cared solely about stuffing its face – an affirmative inconvenience, however, nothing uncommonly menacing or violent took place as far as ghosts go.  But in time and under certain circumstances, even that became too much of an encumbrance; it could no longer be contained – situations were becoming increasingly dicey; action was necessary; the issue required resolution.  So who did they decide to call?  I think we all know so I’ll spare the dramatics – Bill Murray & Associates came in and took care of business.

Some kids were militant in their loyalty to G.I Joe while others found their strength getting lost in the pages of comic books.  I was all about the Ghostbusters, for a stretch of time, and when I think about the personality Slimer embodied, I can, to this day, relate my own flaws and character defects to it – particularly the imagery of Slimer chowing down at the room service cart, slabs of food falling straight through and directly down onto the floor of the hotel hallway.  To me, Slimer sort of represents a manifestation of the empty-void I sense within myself – endlessly consuming, in spite of never being filled; leaving behind my own version of unsavory slime wherever I may roam – the wreckage of my past.  For a time, the people nearest me could handle an occasional drunk incident and look past a hangover or ten, chalking it up to living through my early twenties – it’s normal, that’s what folks do in their early twenties – true for many; false for me.  I can’t pin point it, but the day came where I brought my destiny to fruition and crossed the line, flipped the switch; an irreversible switch and a line I could never retreat back across – much to the chagrin of myself and everybody in my life, Bill Murray & Associates weren’t available to save the day.

With the Ghostbusters being a generally impractical option, “who ya gunna call?” when that uneasy emptiness inside starts creeping its way into consciousness or our own “slime” in life reaches capacity, breaching the banks of our river to ruin?  The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that once we pass that threshold of no return, the ensuing situation is left beyond any measure of human aid; that a spiritual remedy is required to remain rational; to rise from the depths of distress and climb to that ostensibly unattainable crest of contentment – shattering the sadistic cycle of suffering; autonomy at last.  Still, there is one troubling dilemma blocking my path – I haven’t quite locked in on what spirituality means to me; I’m not confident in what I believe to be my higher power – two crucially important aspects of long-term sobriety that could potentially occupy that void which bedevils me; an antidote to the alcohol, the over-eating, under-eating, women, sex, Netflix binges, isolation, and every other unhealthy Band-Aid solution that materializes in this muffled melon of mine.

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Most treatment centers or rehabs that promote the 12-step path to recovery hold at least one group therapy session to address what qualities your individual higher power might personify.  Everybody then randomly screams out different traits like, “all powerful” or “forgiving” or “unconditionally loving” – occasionally something to the tune of, “major pimp” or “swagged out playa” slips through the cracks – kids these days, ya know? But I think you get the gist; all the while the group facilitator is writing these random, yet positive personality traits on a dry-erase board in list format.  When the board is filled, the facilitator turns around and says, “why not let this be your higher power?”  Now – that’s all well and good, in theory, but it just doesn’t do it for me – I still can’t put a face on it; what do I do? Put Bill Murray’s face to all these character traits and call that my higher power?  Maybe I can pray to Mr. Murray temporarily, but I’m trying to determine or compute what my long term, eternal higher power actually is – for real; what it actually looks like to me; and much to my dismay, I’m not confident that Bill can be my permanent solution. 

There is a lot I still need to look at within myself; a lot of rigorous, honest work to be done – but I’ve recognized that this time around things are slowly starting to feel a little different; my approach and attitude has reached a point of sheer desperation – and no matter how big the mountain gets that stands in my way; no matter how far down the rabbit hole I am or how much life wishes to brew up storms of shit and send them my way, I sense a slight feeling of ease wash over me from time to time; like it’s going to all work out how it’s supposed to.  I’m not sure why I get this feeling; maybe it’s because I feel I have nothing left to lose at this point; an authentic “rock bottom” – and as for answers; I don’t have them; for now, the question prevails: “who ya gunna call?”

“50 Shades of Addiction”

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I spend a lot of time exploring the darker side of addiction, both generalities and my personal experience, because I have spent a lot of time in that darkness; the human mind has a propensity to be attracted to what’s lost in the shadows; the lowdown dirtiness of it all; the shock factor.  Folks may act as though they don’t like to see, hear, or talk about it because it’s “uncomfortable” or “inappropriate” – “what about the children?!?! ooooh lawdy, help ma Jesus” – yet turn on the news or look to our entertainment choices in movies and television – even novels; darkness sells – bigtime.  Facts are facts and the verdict is in.  In any case, I thought I would lighten things up a bit for a change and have a little fun, or at least make an attempt at it.  Although addiction and recovery should be taken seriously, it’s not always a bad thing to poke fun at ourselves or the insane behavior we exhibit along the way; a portion of recovery is to have fun and enjoy life, isn’t it?  Dare I say, I’m seeing a light in the darkness?  I picked out a few of the more colorful to breakdown and analyze…

And so the rituals begin; every group, clique, or crowd has developed their own traditions which become revered and sacred over time; shoes off; form a circle; pass to the left; burn incense (preferably Nag Champa); display paraphernalia, choose the one which best suits the situation and, perhaps most crucial, have plenty of junk food on hand – these are simply some of the classics without delving into particulars or individual details.  There’s generally no contest implying that stoners are an interesting breed of people – intensely philosophical in a “spaced out” sort of way and thoroughly intellectual about subject matter entirely irrelevant to anything happening in the present moment…perhaps entirely irrelevant, period.  Somehow, someway, over the course of a cypher, all problems in the world are solved – typically however, the same conclusion is always met: if everybody in the world smoked weed, there wouldn’t be any more problems because all would be “chill”; the universe would unite in perfect balance and harmony – peace symbol necklaces and hemp blanket jackets for everyone…que up ANY Grateful Dead song and get lost in translation; they all sound the same, sorry deadheads – put down the joint and you’ll see.  Strangely, stoners can see or make the number “420” in or out of anything and, sticking with the theme of numbers, they are practically profits in the realm of fractions for whatever reason.  Meals for the average weed smoker predominantly consist of a buffet of items that do not mix together; a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch paired with a Taco Bell burrito isn’t uncommon and all of a sudden those hot dogs rolling on and on for centuries behind the glass at 7-11 start to look intriguingly tasty – it would actually go quite well with a Pop Tart and that can of cranberry sauce leftover from Thanksgiving dinner.  In an encounter with individuals high on cannabis roaming through the general public’s daily life, one may notice random laughter which cannot be made sense of – do not take offense, they are not laughing at you…or me, birds, trees, clouds, air, rain, buildings, cars, street signs, or the sky; they are, more than likely, laughing at nothing.  It happens – often.  When coming in contact with their apartment or car for whatever reason, don’t be shocked to find an alarming number of empty Visine bottles, that too happens – often.

Let freedom ring!  All those thoughts and ideas floating around inside the brain that should remain there, don’t remain there.  Evolutionary barriers that were put in place for a reason go down and the decision maker doesn’t make such good decisions anymore, but it doesn’t always start out too bad.  A long night of drinking with buddies has, for lack of a better word (and trust me I wish I had one), led to many “bromantic” situations.  “You know what dude, I like, really, really love you, bro…like I should say that more often, why don’t we? like, like it was just meant to be this way, you’re soooo my wingman for life!” and on and on, usually involving some type of unnatural hugging, and the next morning all parties involved try to act as though not a memory could be had – some portion of the conversation or events can usually be recalled, but it’s ignored nevertheless.  An alcoholic beverage is sometimes referred to as, “liquid courage”; most of the time this fabricated boldness only proves to work against whoever ingested it – the guy at the party who thought it would be a commendable feat to jump from the third story balcony onto a parked car or the fella suffering from napoleon complex that picks a fight with the biggest, toughest guy at the bar – neither of which are effectively wise decisions, but watch an episode of “Cops, Spring Break Miami” – that packages it nicely, topped with a bow.  On the subject of out-of-control, drunk college guys and gals, it’s not out of line to say alcohol could be a contributing factor to the over-population of the world, is it?  Walk of shame, ladies? One high-heel on, the other broken and stuffed into your black hole of a purse, smeared make-up and joker-like hair, cursing your girlfriends by name in your head for letting you do this – again, cannot confirm whether or not a stop at the pharmacy for “plan B” is necessary so it’s just wise to do it exclusively out of precaution…need I say more?  Didn’t think I was going to let you ladies off the hook now, did you?

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Out of all the various types of addict and the unavoidable tragic, odd behavior that plagues us, my personal favorite; the most entertaining, maniacal, crazed, and winner by a landslide is, no doubt, the tweaker.  Without question, methamphetamine thoroughly sends a person flying aimlessly into another dimension altogether.  The shadow people; they’re out there in the bushes – they can be spotted while peering through the blinds of a motel room or from across the parking lot – they can never be caught though, just a bunch of tweaker Peter Pan’s out there that’ll never quite get it, so don’t bother trying.  As the shadow people retreat for a bit, that desktop computer starts to make itself known; it’s breathing out questions into the room like, “how do I work?” or “what’s inside these outer walls? Take a look why don’t you.” Before the questions are done being asked, the entire computer has been dismantled and laid out all over the floor around said tweaker.  Then, a sudden, but brief noise resonates outside – it’s probably nothing, but it could be a S.W.A.T. team or the U.S. Army finally ready to invade – run to the door and lock all 14 deadbolts; move the couch in front of it for extra security; peer through the blinds again – nothing there, it’s drones…they’re using drones!  Must hide; wait; cameras were planted in the light fixtures, or behind the paintings, or in the television – they’re might be one in that disassembled computer.  No.  Nothing there – wait; the webcam! They’ve tapped into it; they know everything – they’re coming for sure now…I’m finished!  After a few hours of running back and forth between peering through the shades and hiding in the closet, the pieces of the computer look like they need to be put back in place – okay, computer reassembled – time for more tweak.  It’s been five days, no sleep – more tweak…..S.W.A.T.……drones………..shadow people……………..disassemble…………………reassemble……………repeat.

There you have it; a little comedy out of tragedy.     

This Tour Intertwined with a Nursery Rhyme

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Atmosphere.  Sustenance of shelter; careless and carefree – perfection; this world within a world; security before insecurity is understood, it’s comfortable; no formidable argument could be made to abandon this accommodating abode, nevertheless, venturing into the world above is unavoidable; farewell and good luck.  Peer up into the unknown; nerve-racking and overwhelmingly uneasy – yet no other course of action is in play, so press forward; head up.  Storms brew over the horizon – darkening skies with an aroma of rain; there’s no other option – ascension remains.  A few drops at first; a drizzle of sorts, but it can’t overpower the driving life force.  But the drizzle won’t last, the rain goes full throttle; once again found right back at the bottom.  The shelter’s still there but it’s just not the same; no more perfection and no more security; regardless, it’s more comfortable than that world outside here.  The argument can be made to leave here again, but the desire to hang back stays extraordinarily strong.  There’s a faint, distant light – it can be seen through the blanket of black; it ignites that life force – yet one more attempt to venture out of this shelter; the decision’s been made – now to press on, to that world up above, in search of a life that’s worth living; and for love.


   “The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the waterspout,

Down came the rain and washed the spider out,

Out came the sun and dried up all the rain,

And the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.”


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My fascination and interest in children’s books is no secret, especially the likes of a Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) or Shel Silverstein – more so now than when I was actually a child.  The wisdom hidden or implied within their pages is the knowledge of genius’s leveled down into words and sentences a kid can understand, read, and enjoy.  This is not to say that children generally comprehend or see what we can as adults, but it’s still pretty interesting that all those nursery rhymes and beginner’s books are being stored into the memory of a forming brain; that later on we can look back and say to ourselves, “whoa, that’s what that meant?”  The itsy bitsy spider translates much different to me now than it did twenty-five years ago – that spider is me, I relate to it; my whole life I’ve been climbing up the waterspout and then alcoholism showed up and wiped me out – completely.  But the rhyme doesn’t end there; the rhyme goes on – there was light and subsequently there was hope; the storm passed; the spider could have conceded and gave up, what’s the use?  He was so far up that waterspout at one point and to start all over again would be too hard and overwhelming; the cards were stacked against him – surely there would be more storms; it would just be easier and more comfortable to stay put at the bottom; but the spider chose to climb nevertheless and that, in and of itself, is respectable.  That’s the attitude it’s going to take to make it in a life of recovery.


“Oh the places you’ll go, today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting so…get on your way!”

– Dr. Seuss

Hustle or Bust – Act 2

Addicts and alcoholics such as myself are extremely resourceful and clever people; the gift of desperation can work for or against us depending on state of mind or, more importantly, spiritual condition.  The following are merely a couple examples of how I, myself, and other addicts I’ve met along my journey have supported the habit.  With that being said, how we did it is not really the point of what I’m driving at. 

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They are found in neighborhoods throughout the country; undersized and red; mostly disregarded or neglected; never in the forefront of busy minds traversing through daily life – work, kids, bills, friends, family, and the list goes on.  They are positioned up or down depending on the situation; their unvarnished intention to notify postal workers of outgoing mail – and what is generally mailed out from homes?  Payments for various personal bills and expenses so, consequently, these indicators also dispatch the same information to criminals and identity thieves looking for a score.  Now, this was never my hustle, but I have heard scores of testimonies about the triggering effect these seemingly harmless red flags have on the drastically desperate addict or alcoholic consumed with obtaining the next fix; even to the point where cruising through a neighborhood on the prowl for upright red flags becomes an entire addiction in and of itself.  The prime targets are obviously checks, gift cards, and even cash if folks are naïve enough to send it snail mail – checks seem to be the most frequent find and its surprisingly somewhat simple to execute check fraud once the check is in the wrong hands – all it allegedly requires is a little sandpaper, a pen, and some balls to go through with it.  I’m certainly no expert in the business, but I imagine there are all sorts of other ways that it can be done as well – this is purely the version I’ve heard.

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Getting back to my own lunacy…

As I retreated from laying my soldiers to rest in the dumpster of the high school across the street, I schemed and analyzed – thinking of anything or anyway I could diminish my distress; this unrelenting, incessant desperation digging deeper by the minute; by the second; completely overtaken as my head relays to itself an urgency; deprivation has become a threat to my survival – it’s out of my control, the power of choice stripped away.  The hour of insanity draining little drops of liquor into a medicine cup was, for all intents and purposes, just a teaser – undisputedly igniting the over-powering phenomenon of craving; it was alive and in full force.  Distraught and on edge, I paced the kitchen when all of a sudden it hit me like a sack of bricks.  Out of all the fucked up things I’ve engineered, plotted and carried out over the years to support my addiction, what popped in my head that night was the lowest – at least it was to me – from a moral standpoint; hell – just from a human being standpoint.  But nonetheless my mind was foggy and overridden by selfish desires so I walked towards the kid’s room, slowly and quietly, every effort and measure taken not to wake them.  I turned the doorknob and peered in – two sleeping children; just what I wanted.  I slid in, shut the door behind me, and laid cold, dead eyes on the target of this mission.  The Spiderman nightlight provided just enough glow to guide the way while also reminding me that I was preparing to army crawl through an innocent child’s bedroom in pursuit of a piggy bank; I had become desperate enough to commandeer quarters from my five-year old.  No words; no justification – just shame and guilt and remorse.  Addiction in its cruelest hour.

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I’ve also manipulated people in my family for money, sold valuable belongings to pawn shops, and cashed out gift cards; all pretty typical in the world of addiction.  I’ve heard stories anywhere from folks selling drugs to selling their bodies on the streets of wherever it is they came from – the desperation factor is incredibly strong when it comes to getting that fix; that tiny taste of relief I talked about – soon to demand it again, and again, and again – where does it end?  I work and scheme and think and plot; I plan well in advance; I deceive others; I fool myself; it rents space in my head from the moment I wake up until I pass out into oblivion; and even then it haunts me in my dreams – the effort it takes; it’s an extraordinary undertaking when I really think about all the time and energy it takes to keep an addiction active and alive; all the willingness I had in me to chase bottle after bottle.  It’s commonly agreed upon in treatment centers around America that if we, as addicts and alcoholics, would put a fraction of that energy towards recovery, our chances of successfully remaining clean and sober would significantly increase; yet we continue to relapse, and at a rather alarming rate – why is there virtually all the willingness in the world towards killing ourselves via substances, yet virtually none to break free of the bondage and actually live? 

This is the question I desperately want an answer for, but I still haven’t found – I’m not sure there is an answer…that I want to hear that is; maybe I’m wired wrong and I’ll leave it at that – it could be something greater than just that alone.  The Big Book conveys a message somewhere to the effect of no human power having the ability to relieve our alcoholism; we suffer from a spiritual malady; in which we need a spiritual solution.  I don’t like that answer, I don’t like that solution; it’s not tangible; I can’t see it – it’s too hard for me to reason with, or analyze, or the number of other ways in which I want to find that easier, softer way.  I want to fix this myself, but I am human, and all I have is human power which suggests that no matter what I try, no matter how hard I try it – I will never fix this myself; it’s literally impossible and it’s one of the biggest resentments I have in my life – it tears me up, I crumble over and over at its mighty hand.  I know all this; the information is in my head, and after everything I have put myself through, I still yearn to find a different way.  I despise doing things that are difficult, and recovering from active alcoholism is exactly that; it’s my big white whale.  If my hustle doesn’t change, I never will – this cycle of bringing about still more and more pain will continue with no care or regard for me and my life.  Actions speak louder than words – the cliché thing to say I know, but it’s true – conceding that I cannot do this by myself and putting all my knowledge of this disease into action will be the hardest thing I ever do this lifetime. 

Hustle or Bust – Act 1

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My well had run dry – both the liquor that customarily inundated my bloodstream and the great American dollar I relied upon to obtain it; the catch – money essential to fuel my alcoholism could not be traceable by my wife, which, to say the least, was not an easy task; she was annoyingly scrupulous and thorough in regards to our financial situation which forced my hand into adapting a very elusive, clever, and creative skillset to carry on in my ways.  I had started to exhibit faint signs of the shakes; ensuing symptoms of cold sweats and hallucinations were more than probable occurrences should I not scheme up a remedy for this particular predicament in a timely fashion.  The demon inside demanded to be pleased and satisfied or misery would surely be headed my way, sooner rather than later – and trust me when I say I would always rather deal with consequences later – preferably never, but surely not sooner. 

Triggered into a trance; I frantically parade around my basement, sporadically reaching up into the ceiling to reclaim lost treasure.  Within fifteen minutes, I was madly and meticulously draining diminutive drops of liquor from the empty whiskey shooters I kept hidden and haphazardly placed about in black baggies above the ventilation systems and ductwork of my home.  Hundreds of miniature bottles stood at attention, united as one flowing entity with a common mission; an army amped up; obeying the command of their General, strategically spread out and categorized by rank in a grid on the surface of my washer and dryer; soldiers I had formerly tucked up and away instead of providing a proper burial for; all in preparation for just an occasion such as this; the obsession that never ceased thinking three steps ahead to ensure my well would remain perpetually plentiful.  

After an hour of this astonishingly unorthodox undertaking, I had extracted enough booze to fill one shot glass or, in my case, the medicine cup that accompanied the bottle of Tylenol in the cabinet – It was in these moments of desperation that the disease completely hijacked all rationale and the age-old-alcoholic insanity showed up to prove what lengths we are willing to go to for even the tiniest taste of relief.  This sickness that plagues me; it disgusts me at times and I myself get perplexed trying to make sense of or decipher the depths I would sink to in pursuit of relieving my undesirable discontentment.  I wish I could say the insanity stopped there, but one shot would never hold me over, let alone subdue my compulsive craving for more; I still found myself needing a means in which to feed the beast; alcoholic activated – welcome to my hustle.

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I’m not the alpha male type that strolls into a bank wielding a gun on the hunt for cash – the risk doesn’t match the reward; percentages favor the house leaving my chances of getting caught far too high, ultimately interfering with my agenda; how to successfully arrive at the liquor store undetected each day.  So no, my hustle never involved violence, grand larceny, or any category involving a major felony; I had to face the facts and accept that I would make a shitty criminal.  I found my strengths, my “calling”, if you will, was in the art of denial, deceit, and manipulation.  I bagged up the entirely empty pocket size vessels of anesthetizing solution into a large garbage bag and crept slowly up the stairs and out the side door like a deranged and maniacal Santa Claus hoisting around a sack of certifiable nightmares.  Across the street from my house was the town’s high school; an optimum and favorably anonymous dumping ground; under the blanket of night I could finally bury my valiant soldiers virtually undetected.  After making gesture of my final salute for a job well done, I retreated back across the street to my house, hamster wheel spinning rapidly in my mind – forecasting direction of the next act in this nonsensical shit show; a quest to fulfill an insatiable inclination that cannot, in all reality, ever be filled.

(In act 2, I will delve into my own personal various hustles over the years and how low I would go to feed this addiction. I’ll also explore some of the ways in which other people I’ve met along the way have fed their addictions over the years.  Stay tuned.)        

A Walking, Fearful Contradiction

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A scorching hot, August sun incessantly beat down over New Jersey as electrifying screams reverberated far into the expansive and virtually endless rows of parked cars.  The presence of my family there was merely a fraction in the midst of an immense crowd – thrill-seekers, teenagers, and families of every kind still lively and boisterous, even despite the ascension of mother nature’s thermometer.  Adrenaline junkies had come from far and wide to fill their ever depleting tanks due to daily life trapped in the office; teenagers traipse around, encountering a newly found freedom from the dictatorship of their parent’s kingdom; young families spending time together out of the house – bonding, laughing, and enjoying a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. 

The more popular rides on a hot day like that are the ones featuring water – a nice, cool break in marching from coaster to coaster waiting in hot, ostensibly endless lines.  That seems to be the real “theme” when spending a day at the theme park – wait in line for three hours to ride a coaster for three minutes, but we do it nonetheless because we’re all presumably robots.  But, it gives us a chance to have conversations with our friends or family; it gives us a chance to bitch and complain about our lives; it gives us the opportunity to brush up on the art of combating enormous amounts of bees – trapped in line, there’s really nowhere to run and we’re forced to confront our fear of these tiny, little ninja black and yellow bastards.  Even with all this going on in our frenzied state, we’re feverishly scoping out the area for line cutters; the equivalent to murderers and rapists in the world outside a theme park; when spotting a violator, our minds automatically think, “where’s the guillotine!?” – don’t lie to yourself, you know you think it. 

We waited in line to ride the log flume for a while before it was finally our turn.  I sat in the back, holding my two-year old daughter in front of me; my wife (at the time) sat in the middle holding our son in front of her.  At first, the ride was calm and refreshing – my little girl was having a blast, gazing around, taking in new sights, sounds, and smells.  She giggled as splashes of water breached the wall of our log and sprinkled over her as if the clear blue sky was producing a mid-afternoon rain shower.  We were genuinely bonding, laughing, and enjoying time together as father and daughter when suddenly the mood shifted.  Looming just ahead, the calm tube of water we had been meandering through disappeared, opening up into a wide view of the park below; the only way from here was straight down.  As we reached the point of no return, the grasp my daughters hands had on my arms transformed from lightly resting to super-human strength – digging her nails into me and holding on for dear life – by the time we reached the bottom she had actually left marks on my forearms.  She had experienced true, certifiable fear – and fear, in all its varied forms, is what holds us all back from experiencing the extraordinary and achieving greatness.

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Don Miguel Ruiz talks about fear in his book on Toltec wisdom entitled, The Four Agreements, “If we look at human society we see a place so difficult to live in because it is ruled by fear.  Throughout the world we see human suffering, anger, revenge, addictions, violence in the street, and tremendous injustice.  It may exist at different levels in different countries around the world, but fear is controlling the outside dream.”  He goes on to say, “That is why humans resist life.  To be alive is the biggest fear humans have.  Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive – the risk to be alive and express what we really are.  Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of human beings.”

I can remarkably relate to what he describes here, especially as an alcoholic and feeling that overwhelming desire to numb life out altogether – my personal fear of the risks involved to be truly alive, but I have come to find and play around with two large subcategories within myself that, although contradictory, would be the biggest personal fears I face on the grander of scales: Fear of succeeding and fear of failing – I wrote letters to each, as suggested through sessions in therapy.


Dear Acheivemephobia (fear of success),

            We have navigated paths together periodically, seemingly always embodied in a temporary transaction of good fortune, true love, consummated promises, and tremendous achievement.  You actually dangled the keys to all my wildest dreams right before my very eyes – even passed them over, providing a peek into a world I could exist in; keys that would unlock doors of happiness and joy; fulfillment and purpose; like I somehow matter and have a secure, resolute place in this world.  An advancing career with a great income, a gorgeous wife, beautiful children, a house, two SUV’s, a loving family and in-laws – you tantalizingly let me form an intense attachment to it all for a while, before savagely retracting your offer, leaving me crippled; critically incapable of accepting the truth, consequences, or real world circumstances of what was literally unraveling; my perfect excuse to numb it all out and be absent from the torment; from the anguish; but mostly from the heartache.

For lack of a better word, I’m completely PETRIFIED of you.  I yearn to set goals for myself; I crave to live out my dreams; I long for my son and daughter to grow up; notice me as that success story; a dad to be loved and respected; a dad that lives with dignity, integrity, and class – who didn’t throw a potentially meaningful life away – who overcame the captivity of a vicious disease for so many years.  Yet still I’m afraid to try and reach or live them; to get back to that place I worked so hard to arrive at, just to have it snatched away once more – I don’t believe I could handle it; hell, I couldn’t really handle the situation I’m in now.

The things I had were never enough for me; I suffer from an adversity that virtually could not allow me to ever feel totally successful in the first place; something, somewhere was perpetually superior to what I had or where my life was heading; I felt stagnant; stationary; essentially lifeless; in other words, the “I’ll be happy when I get…” mentality prevailed steady within my being.  It was discouraging to say the least, arguably incapacitating because I could not locate the motivation to even grant success a fair opportunity to enter into my existence.  I really hadn’t formulated a running definition of what success looked like for me anyhow.

My only saving grace will have to arrive through connection with a power greater than myself; God; a guiding light who reveals the genuinely legitimate way towards prosperity; to help me comprehend that there is a very distinct difference between what I actually need and what I think I need for wealth and well-being.  Success is in the daily journey; doing good deeds and helping people in need, not any form of self-seeking final destination because, in all reality, when my time is up, I can’t take any of the material things with me; the things I coveted more than anything else; the stuff that gave me the illusion of success.  I can, however, look back on my adventures through all the trials and tribulations of dark times; be proud of what I was able to accomplish and overcome; the changes I made in myself, and the way I was able to finally understand how to live with honesty and integrity.  In my book and in my mind that will be genuine and authentic success.

Sincerely,

        Chris


Dear Atychiphobia (fear of failure),

I nervously took in the sight of you from my vicinity opposite the room; I was quivering and trembling so you instinctively took notice of me as well, peering diabolically back as our eyes laser locked on to each other like past lovers in the dead of an eerie night – time stood still; it was haunting, yet mysterious – I sensed I knew you and your self-professed irresistibility; by all means I wanted to confront, but my fear was so intoxicating; a paralyzing intimidation; an obvious advertisement of apprehension that left me unable to allow myself the engagement in that desirable showdown.  I can still feel your laughter and pity virtually every day of my life – it resonates within the confines of my head; it produces still more fear, embarrassment, disappointment, and an extreme sense of low self-worth.  You have that influence over me; a perplexing power to command my surrender; to make me throw in the towel – waive that immaculate white flag.  As soon as I perceive your alluring vibe in my presence, I dwindle into a morsel of the man I fiercely want to be; I want to be strong and courageous; exhibiting respect, exuding integrity, and transmitting the wisdom of my experiences to those who may be traveling down the same ill-fated path I have been tirelessly trudging for far too long now.  In lieu of elevating to the coveted status of, “Knight in Shining Armor”, I turn timid and hesitant; I become the soul crushing, seemingly heartless beast that lets everything and everybody down because I’m so afraid to revoke your perpetual power over my contemptible condition.  This incapacitating phobia of you is like struggling against quicksand – the tougher I try, the more I’m sucked in.

You have remarkably presented the case to judge and jury that I could never be desirable or good enough.  So much so in fact that I might as well plead guilty and accept the plea bargain which, to say the least, is an ego-crushing blow; like I shouldn’t even make an attempt at constructing or rehabilitating a worthier life for myself because it’s only outcome is failure anyhow; if I don’t try; if I just plead out, I cannot fail; essentially that takes you off the table altogether; it relinquishes your power over me and then you’re the one that dwindles away into nothingness or at least becomes forced to go leach off somebody else for a change.  However, deep in our beings, we both know that this is an unlikely scenario.  You’d likely still cast me down into the ever blackening abyss no matter what I do or don’t achieve, or how I perform, subsequently leaving behind the broken shell of a man that maybe could have done great things in the absence of your influential oppression.  I always wonder what people think when you have me held tight within your indomitable grasp, like a serpent squeezes the life from its prey; how interest must finally be lost in me or if folks have smartened up and just conceded to my inevitable demise altogether; how I’m forever broken, that’s just the way it is, and no more time, energy, worry or effort should be afforded the issue – lock me away in a padded cell somewhere and get it over with; at least family, friends, and society at large would be a little bit safer.

It’s been said time and time again that contrary action can be an effective source of solving a problem or conquering an issue – contrary action is, for all intents and purposes, doing the opposite of what’s deemed comfortable, living outside one’s comfort zone; do the opposite of what feels normal or what the instinctual action might be.  For example, if I were afraid of the water, I should get on a boat and dive right in; if I drink too much soda, it would be wise to start drinking more water and phase the soda out.  This leads me to believe that the only way I’ll conquer my fear of you, being failure, is by facing you head on; by taking contrary action; approaching what I could only ever see as the unapproachable; dart across that room and show you I’m not a scared little boy and I know you’ll always be there in my life from time to time, but it’s okay; understanding that if and when I fail, there are lessons to be learned and ultimately growth to be obtained.  You don’t have to be intimidating or diabolical or even paralyzing – but rather educational; a means in which to learn what ways do and don’t work.  As long as I can take you for exactly what you are: opportunities to find a better, more effective way to accomplish the task at hand and provide a much more meaningful and fulfilling life, not just for me, but for those whose lives I impact on a regular or even daily basis.

Sincerely,

            Chris

Clearing the Cloud of Confusion

 

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“I got my own self by my side

And mentally we gotta be free

I see the wickedness coming full speed

But I hold together like the ball needs the seam

I’m trying to do something not nothing,

You’re trying to hold me back and that’s fine

Nothing you say or do is worth my time

Good day to you, I respectfully decline

And now I’m coming stronger than ever

You say I’m a fool I say whatever

I’m in it for the good vibes together

And the love lasts forever

No time for the wicked, If you’re in my line, I’m a go around the side and still bring it

Sky is the limit, Out of my way, You can’t get me down”

-Rebelution, “Sky is the Limit”

An unusually brisk, overcast morning befell us for what was a normally bright, sunny, and vibrant environment – even in late January – even in the cloudy, emotional wake of my recent relapse, where I came to, in the middle of the desert, in a motel somewhere between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, with virtually no clue of what, when, why or how this could have happened again. Other than finding out it had been a week since I checked in, the rest is and will remain a mystery other than what I learned about through third party accounts and following a rather confusing and nonsensical paper trail. This particular day, my treatment center had made arrangements for us to venture out on a hike; part of the physical aspect of resyncing mind, body, and spirit; in my case, a personal attempt to honestly harmonize them for the first time. The expedition started with a steady descent, accompanied by my latest rehab battalion, into one of a plentitude of canyons located along the Southern California coastline.

Almost immediately, I got the distinct feeling that this slide down into the foggy, gray canyon was metaphorically speaking to me; representing where my life plummeted to yet again by a series of bad decisions, disrespect for the power of this disease, and becoming complacent in my program (or lack thereof by this point); the seemingly never ending downward spiral that, when all is said and done, undeniably requires a decision to be made, if I even survive the whole ordeal in the first place. The first is to continue on downward; just give up altogether and succumb to the almighty power of Alcohol, slowly fade away into misery, despair, and ultimately concede to its mastery over me. The other, to admit defeat, fully surrender, and start the ever increasingly difficult backtracking; laboriously forcing myself into the uphill battle to regain some semblance of self-respect, dignity or, at the very least, an ability to look myself in the mirror without filth and disgust staring back at me.

At a certain point, we happened upon a fork in the trail; yes, a literal option to go one of two ways; not referring to a metaphorical, “fork in the road”, ladies and gentlemen. As a unit, we chose the way to proceed and our pilgrimage continued on to wherever it was we were going to end up. I’m rather confident in my belief that nobody really had any idea as to where this path led; we could have been marching towards the cult-like initiation ceremony featuring some insanely bizarre chanting and a human sacrifice for all I knew, but hey, wouldn’t that be quite the story to tell, huh? Fortunately, for whatever imaginary person being sacrificed for the, “greater good”, of some looney belief, we never came across such an event; I apologize to all you sicko’s out there for not having a tale of human sacrifice to share today.

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(The Abandoned Barn we Came Across)

After a while, a clearing in the forest presented itself; lingering fog remained settled in between the range of hills that towered over us. A strange sense of uneasiness flooded over me; like I was in the presence of something mysterious or experiencing an infrequent phenomena of sorts. Off to the left of the trail in the field was an old, abandoned barn surrounded by chain-link fence and topped with barbed wire; a spot where graffiti artists and taggers would come to create and express their art; a form of art that I have always found fascinating and different; an entire subculture devoted to it in fact – one of which I am not nearly knowledgeable enough or qualified to comment on, but I have met a few people and made some friends in recovery that were involved in the scene.  Whether it be considered criminal or not, in my opinion it’s one of the coolest and most creative ways to be rebellious if those were the cards you’ve been dealt as an individual. It was, however, also a place where junkies and alcoholics would come to become isolated from society, in the darkness, traveling through time and space with no purpose or direction – just a needle, a bottle or, perhaps both.

(A Glimpse Inside)

Amidst my fascination of this whole experience, which was starting to feel very spiritual and meaningful for me, I envisioned myself seeking shelter in a place like this if I continued down the path I’d been traveling; one of relapse after relapse – loss, loss, and more loss; pain, suffering, misery – to the point that, where from a societal and legal perspective, I’m technically homeless – the address on my driver’s license is that of my treatment facility’s main corporate office because I had nothing else to put; I’m no different from those folks hanging in that abandoned barn that suffer from what I suffer from, except in the cases where other serious mental illnesses are in the mix, of course. I went from living with my wife and kids in a household pulling in around $120,000 a year at one point, to being technically homeless, and it all happened pretty quick. I feel like I’m already living on borrowed time; time that is going to expire. I’ll be given no more chances to get it right; just a six-foot hole in the ground with a stone on the surface; name, dash, and some numbers; a dash that I really don’t want representing a life wasted or purposeless – but my fear and reality of the situation is that’s exactly where I’m headed if I don’t fully give myself to this thing called Recovery right now.

As we made our ascent from the canyon that day, rays of sunlight started piercing through the clouds, burning off the layer of fog down below; healing that dismal, gray environment. Coincidence? Maybe, but what I really believe is that the God of my understanding has been with me all along, and that day, was showing me He has not left my side and does not ever intend to, no matter what I do or how many times I fail, as long as I keep trying; I can’t say that about many people here on Earth, that’s for sure – at some point, most give up on me, or are embarrassed by me, or don’t want to acknowledge who it is I am in the interest of protecting their own interests or reputation and that’s just how other people are. I’ve made promises that I have not kept; there are those that have made promises to me that didn’t keep them, there were mutual promises made between myself and others – whether they were in the presence of God, of family, of friends, between friends or family, or even with employers. I guess in the end we are all just human and we all have our own struggles; I have to be okay with that – all I can really do is eventually clean up my side of the street and accept whatever it is that happens from there. The important part is that I have to be okay with me; with loving me. I have to be okay believing something, whether or not I call that something God, is bigger and greater than myself.

I threw my shades on and coasted the rest of the way back out of the canyon, enjoying the comforting warmth and essence of connecting with nature and feeling an authentic gratefulness to be alive.