Wednesday, October 23, 2013

34 and sober... Thanks guys.

Birthdays are tough since Ma died.  She made such a big deal out of it, and the holidays AND EVERYTHING since I was a wee boy.  There was always magic in everything she did.  There was always Ma... until there wasn't.  When we lost Ma I lost my sense of home.  I have felt like an alien almost everywhere since.  It's never more pronounced than when I am at some kind of family function or celebration of some kind.  I feel like I don't really belong anywhere, there's no permanent dock, just temporary harbor, both literal and emotional.  This isn't anyone's fault but my own, I have so many wonderful people who care about and support me.  Nobody has made me feel unwelcome in any way, it's me.

Five years ago today I was nearing the end of a 20 day bender.  I was slowly withdrawing from graduate school, withdrawing from my job as a counselor for adults with disabilities, withdrawing from my relationship, from my family... from life.  My universe was breaking apart like that horrible scene in The Never Ending Story.  I was waiting to die.

I woke up bleary eyed and shaking on October 23rd, 2008.  It had been 5 hours or so since my last drink and I could feel the tingling, itchy sweat begin to seep slowly out of my cold and malnourished body.  I splashed some hot water on my face and let it run on my freezing hands.  I was trying not to panic.  I looked for hidden bottles in the usual places, in the drop ceiling, a washed out container of bleach in the garage, taped to the underside of the couch.  And then the unusual places, the backyard behind the tree, the attic... the fridge.  I even knocked on my neighbors door.  Then I checked the place where I would sometimes hide the treasure map I would make for myself when I would hide bottles while drunk.  (I can tell you as a desperate alcoholic there's nothing more maddening that entering the early stages of withdrawal knowing full well you'd come up with some clever new hiding spot that nobody could possibly find... even you... and having no other memory of it's location other than, "it's phenomenal.")  I found nothing... except my hidden wallet.  I grabbed my stuff and went to the store.  That feeling of relief associated with getting your hands on some liquor as you begin to enter detox is both gratifying and sickening.  I spent the rest of the day in and out, pouring one bottle of 18 year Chivas down my throat, followed by two 12 year bottles.  My girlfriend at the time had come home after work to find me awake and seemingly alright.  She would later tell me that she turned around once and saw a nearly full bottle and a few minutes later an empty one and that not long after I collapsed and could not be awakened.  She called 911 and naturally the police were the first on the scene.  I have no memory of what transpired, but evidently I went full blown rhinoceros when I saw the police and had to be subdued and tranquilized.  I was taken by ambulance to the hospital where I was strapped to a bed and given several bags of fluids.  I recall being told that I was .48 and would not be released until I agreed to treatment.  I was released that night after proving I could ambulate and my girlfriend took me home.  I was drinking the next morning.  I was about to spend 7 excruciating days in a locked psych ward for detox and the next 4 months in a wonderful residential treatment center called The Herrington Recovery Center in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.  

Obviously I haven't been sober since I got out of treatment in 2009, but it's not for a lack of desire.  There has been plenty of horror since, but today I am sober and I am grateful.  My life is so different now than it was then.  I went from having every academic and material thing I wanted to having none of them.  I have no money, a crippling tax debt that seems largely unfixable, a horribly paying job at a local charity, no concrete plans to complete my Master's Degree, I'm mostly dependent on others... but, I am almost wholly, in a better place than I was then.  I'm not just waiting to die.  There's real, solid emotional momentum building.  Someone asked me today, "If you could have anything you wanted for your birthday, what would it be?" and without even a though I said, "my independence."  I won't be down forever, I know that... but this tunnel has been long and dark, I see some light now.

I guess the whole purpose of this post is to say thank you to everyone who has been a part of this recovery with me, followed along, discussed it with me via one forum or another, cheered for me, held my hand, patted my back, challenged me... even abandoned me.  Just thank you for everything.  For giving a damn, even when I'm a surly, grumpy, unfunny, know-it-all bastard.  If there's anything I can do to repay the support and love shown to me over the last five years... well... I will at the very least express a desire to wish that it were possible.  I will... metaphysically, repay you.  With... quarks and... chakras? 

It occurred to me the other day that there will never be a time when we are appreciated more than the day we are a cold sack of hamburger laying in a fucking box.  I want to try to show some gratitude for people more... you know, before they're dead as the creative part of my brain has become (I offer this very simile as proof).

Thanks again.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Writing, Blog and Ball So Hard, That Fish Crey.

(The good part starts at... "Now, onto something" if you wish to fast forward.)

I don't write much for the world to see anymore.  I surely used to.  Much of it was here and has been torn down and archived.  Why I haven't been posting stuff here is simply because of reasons.

That's right.

Because of reasons.

I could make up some really good ones, but the real ones have to do with apathy, confusion and laziness.  I haven't been reading as much and that, more than anything, will stall a writing engine.

This blog is something I love, but it's just not right anymore.  All the things I gutted myself over here are still and will always be relevant to my life and story.  I will always have related things to say that fit here and make sense, but a good portion of the things I sniff and knead that make the creative part of my brain fire nowadays don't always have much to do with my alcoholism, personal growth or anguish.  So, I'll get to writing and then just have nowhere to share it that makes any damned sense.  So I read it aloud to my dogs and cats... mixed reviews.  I'm trying to figure out how to create a space that makes sense for some of this, but the content is so broad, ranging and often senseless that it seems an impossible task.

One of the things so stifling for me as a hobbyist writer is that once I exposed this one part of my life (a theme) that people really attached to I found myself sitting at my desk shooting at a target.  That's no way to write, at least not for me.  I've been unfollowed on twitter by more people that currently follow me now.  Most of that is because I'm not giving them what they signed up for originally.  I get it.  I'm not always Zen, fight the bad guys, positive outlook guy with inspirational tales about overcoming adversity and preaching about personal accountability.  That doesn't mean I don't believe those things... but sometimes I have to say, "fuck," sometimes I have to be dark and cynical, sometimes I'm a full blown nihilist.  Sometimes I want to talk about chili and chicken thighs and pork chops.

There's just no reason why any of us should expect anyone else to wear one hat... no matter how good it looks.

A few weeks ago at work I told a coworker that I was an alcoholic and a little bit about my experiences in counseling, both as a counselor and as a client, my time in jails and mental hospitals... regular hospitals, withdrawal, suicidal ideation, just the general horror.  She said, "Wow, I just thought you were an arrogant, over educated, spoiled kid from a rich family who thought he knew everything."  Before I allowed myself to fire back... "I just thought you had some kind of traumatic brain injury or developmental delay." I thought, "this scatterbrained buffoon just illustrated an important thing."  So, she was partially on target with her label but had only a very limited amount of information about me to work with...  Whatever guys, this is a long story just to paint a picture about how writing for a reader (in addition to just writing for myself) is a pain in the ass.  How is a person, any and all of us, supposed to write freely when there are so many unrelated things happening in our lives and minds that we want to write about?  That's not a rhetorical question... I'm actually asking.  How do you fuckers do it?

I just know that I want to write, I want it to be beneficial for me, I want it to be read and I want it to be entertaining or compelling or both.  So, if anyone out there or anyone you know had any suggestions I command you to share them with me.

Now, onto something...

A friend of mine shared this on the f-books.  It's a study by a PhD student about language and how it differs regionally... but don't worry, there are colors and pictures.  There are a few things I'd like to draw your attention to.  (I'm just going to link it instead of posting imgs or screencaps just so I can avoid having to post img credits... told you I was lazy.)

First.  Locate the map that says, "What do you call it when it rains while the sun is shining?"

The options are
1. I have no word or expression for this.
2. Sunshower
3. The devil is beating his wife.
4. Other.

Yeah, I thought about this one for a minute and decided that I didn.... Wait a fucking second... "The devil is beating his wife?!"  Consider the implications of that for a moment.  I don't mean to offend or demean anyone's religious views, but, I'm about to.  To say #3 aloud, in any context, is insane.  The obvious and primary first issue I have with it is that it presupposes that the devil is a man, primary-sub-one the devil exists, sub-two he controls weather.  Secondarily... would the devil marry?  If so would he just marry one demon wife?  How could he find the time to go to craft shows or Bed, Bath and Beyond on the weekends with all that pitch-forking he has to do?  Finally, what about a rain and sun mix makes you think about the devil?  How often do you think about the devil?  How (I mean aside from just crazy magic) would beating a demon wife, in any way, be suggestive of a sunshower... or vice versa?  p.s. I guess I like sunshower.

Second.  Locate the map that says, "What is your generic term for a sweetened carbonated beverage?"

The options are
1. Soda
2. Pop
3. Coke
4. Soft Drink

The raw data is not included, but I would love to see the numbers on people who say, "Soft Drink," and then I would like to meet them just to hear what other remarkable things they say during the course of unremarkable conversation.  I knew a guy from Texas who said, "Coke," in this way... I'm not going to spend any time tearing this down because it is fraught with so many logistical problems.  Seriously getting a pop for his guy was like an unfunny Abbot and Costello routine.

This is a hotly contested and somewhat contentious issue.  It's important to know that I lived in Iowa City for 29  years and I say "pop."  I moved in 2009 to a town outside the Milwaukee area and now I live just north of Madison.  Just look at how shockingly red that area is for soda... I mean southeastern Wisconsin is just throbbing, hot-red for soda.  It's so pronounced that when I say, "pop," I'm judged and sometimes ridiculed.

BONUS: Here's an expert tip from an adept, in-person, troll.  If you're ever in Wisconsin and you really want to upset people just start talking about the merits of California cheese.  Also, this year the cream in the cream puffs at the Wisconsin State Fair will be made in Illinois... so, get a dairy grip, Wisconsin.  Calm down.

Third.  Locate the map that says, "What do you call a miniature lobster that one finds in lakes and streams."

The options are
1. Crawfish
2. Creyfish
3. Crawdad
4. I have no word for this critter.

I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to start discussions about these critters just so I can work in the sentence, "Ball so hard, That fish Crey."

Enjoy the rest of the maps, they're interesting and will give you all plenty opportunities to start light hearted arguments.

Arguments are the best.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

I get it...

The aspect of reading a post from me about mother's day... ON mother's day is a little terrifying.

That's cool, keep reading.

I had 3 friends lose moms too soon this year... and I tried so hard to help.  I'd have given myself away to take their pain.  I would have done anything.  Ryan, Greg, Susan... God if I could have just taken it away from you I would have.  I am so sorry for your loss.


I sought them out for kinship and they sought me out for some kind of... something...

there is nothing.

Nothing.  That basket is empty today... and will be forever.

It doesn't matter what she's done.

Or not done.  Losing your mother is losing yourself.

I spent a lot of time describing the loss.  I've talked about it quite a lot.  I've had some people that didn't know us insinuate that I should move on... the throats of those relationships have been summarily slashed.  To those of you that did know us, and still somehow think that I'm lingering... imagine for a second that she had lost me, and she were facing every single day without the guy she tried her best for.  The guy she carried through losses on her shoulders and tried to carry her.  The only person that she knew would always be around.  The anchor.  The horribly enmeshed, co-dependent son... who could somehow make it all sound fine.  Who could make her laugh in the face of terror.  Who would stand by her no matter what she did. and could make a pork chop that you could cut with a fork (I can't make her spaghetti).   Who she knew would always be on the end of the phone.  Imagine if I were gone and she were dealing with that.

Neither of us would ever be okay, or the same ever again.

You don't understand my loss in the same way I don't understand yours.  We bond over the emotions felt but never the experience, because it's always different and to say you understand it is insulting... to everyone, so stop it.  The only people I really care to grieve with are gone, save for one, and he and I only speak via text about once a week.

It's just a thundering loss... that the most fortunate of us have to face.  We will all do it differently.

People talk about how time can help... it can or it can't.

Just time, that ticks and ticks.

Whatever loss you've had just please remember that time is neutral.  People always run their idiot mouths about how it heals all wounds...  It will not.  Time can destroy you.  You are the answer.  Use it or be used by it.


Grab her hand if you can and just say... something.

She is a villain or a hero, there is no in-between.


Whatever opportunities you have with your mother.  Play cards. Sit.  Laugh.  Drink lemonade on the porch and tell jokes and make faces at each other... (do that for me).  Just touch her and remember it.  Because someday you won't be able to... or she won't... life is terrifying.

Just have a day.

One you will both have and possibly remember.

Talk soon.

Monday, February 25, 2013

There. Not There.

(Please excuse my shifting pronoun use in this entry, should there be any, I'm not sure what direction I want to go with it and I don't really care.)

I've been in Columbus, WI for longer than I had hoped and will be here a bit longer.  I can't continue any graduate work for awhile so I'm kind of just coasting.  There hasn't been anything here that I would call awful, but nothing super promising either.  Since I got out of jail in 2011 I've just been waiting, laying low, working on my recovery and trying to do good wherever I am able, when I'm not able I just aspire to non-maleficence.  To that end I have been mostly successful and so, in that, this time has not been a waste.  I'm sure when I look back on it I will feel satisfied.

Last summer I found a volunteer gig at a local thrift store and charity.  I would go in three times a week and help out with whatever they needed.  It wasn't long before I could see that I was quite useful around there.  Good folks doing good work... but not all of them are what anyone would call, "able bodied."  I have a few years of able-bodiednessedness left.  I can also make decisions, add and subtract and speak eloquently... mix that with a guy who can, "hey carry that over there!" and it was a good fit.  A few months ago that turned into a paid position.

I met a man who was a few months older than I and we became friends pretty quickly.  Our pasts were very different.  You would think he and I probably didn't have much in common and near nothing to talk about, save for, "Uhhh... how are we going to get this giant fucking piece of garbage entertainment center down this lady's stairs so she can feel good about making a donation that we're just going to dismantle and throw in the dumpster?"  But we ended up having quite a bit to share with one another.  We both liked some of the same music.  We shared a similar sense of humor.  We we're both able to toggle working hard and working soft appropriately, an adapted skill which we had tuned to an artisan level.  We had both touched the splintered pieces of a destroyed life.  We'd both had our trains derailed several times and had found our way back.  We shared a similar world view... the one that you have after life has kicked the shit out of you over and over again... It's a peaceful kind of attitude that rarely lets you take too much very seriously. 

We understood each other, we worked well together and genuinely enjoyed the time we spent together.  I logged lots of time in that truck with him delivering furniture to people, moving foodstuffs around, picking up donations.  I'd buy him a sandwich most days from the grocery store deli and we'd sit in the truck in the Pick N'Save parking lot and eat.  We talked about all kinds of stuff, we laughed quite a bit.  We talked about relationships, we talked about addiction and our experiences therein, we talked about how we got here and how we were doing.  It's pretty rare to find a dude that's comfortable talking about deep stuff with another dude.  Generally speaking, male sounding boards are rare to the point of full blown artifact... even in the vastness of the internet... but in real life?  In a town of 5,000?  This was a blessing.

I knew he was using and I knew it was intermittent but also, based on his recount and the observed withdrawal, quite serious.  He would tell me about his intentions to do the right things in his life about his family and with regard to the drugs.  I remember listening and grinning, then cocking my head and shooting him a quizzically intense eye and saying, "Right... but what's your end-game here?"

We had so much in common that way.

We knew exactly what we were doing but had no fucking idea what we were doing.  An addict can get desensitized to it, the life, pretty quickly.  Things that are absolutely insane, terrifying and lethal exist in our life, when we're using, in a pretty routine way.  Think about what it would be like to eat out of a 5 gallon bucket full of cheese balls, except a couple of those cheese balls are deadly.  Those are the kinds of risks an addict will take.  Yeah, it's not super likely we'll get a dirty cheese ball if we just have a few today... BUT THE POINT IS WE'RE STILL COOL WITH EATING OUT OF A BUCKET THAT HAS POISON CHEESE BALLS.  There's a couple things going on here that foster the desensitization. 1st, we've been here before and we're back.  On my 29th birthday I was in the hospital with a .48 bac, catching a "banana bag," and a lecture.  I walked out of that ER with a promise to go to treatment and a colorful lecture of my own the same night.  I was drinking the following morning. 2nd, part of us just doesn't care.  We're partially in denial about our mortality, but partially indifferent about our mortality.  At my darkest, large pieces of me was hoping that I just wouldn't wake up, that I would slip in the shower, or that I'd rupture a vein.  There's a part of us that accepts our use as a form of passive suicide.  It's just a fact, an addict willing to use is, at least partially, okay with dying that way.  It's the same part of us that hates everything we are.

 I talked with him directly about his use and my thoughts about it several times, painting the horrible picture, reframing at ever turn, guiding him through thought experiments, pushing him all the way to the end of the tragic movie he was starring in. These conversations could get pretty intense and they were therepeutic for both of us. I recall saying to him under a month ago, "You're a grown man, you're going to do whatever you want and it's your life to ruin.  Listen bro, I have your back, but it's important that you understand that if you continue, this is how your story will end. This will be your undoing." He responded by saying, "What do you mean my undoing?"

"You know what I mean." I said...

I was right.

"Did you hear the news?"
What news?
"... is no longer with us." 
No I hadn't heard (thinking he quit).
"He's Dead." 

Saturday night.

And there I stood... awash with numbness, 10 feet from the last place I saw him, with my hand on a four wheel cart that we had pushed 1000 times.

I spent the next few hours assembling shelves and frantically rifling through files in my brain, searching for weak welds in our experience that mark points at which I could have prevented this.  "How could you know everything you know and have seen all the things you seen and not stopped this... now your fucking friend is dead, now some kids don't have a dad, now some parents don't have a son... and now there's nothing you can do.  Now he's gone."  Obviously this isn't my fault but it is impossible not to wish you'd done something, literally anything, burned his fucking house down, to stop this.

There is no good here, only tragedy, only waste. Just the feeling of relentless, unforgiving force, pushing life along.  Nothing is worth this.  There is no lesson learned from this that is possibly worth the price.  He no longer has the ability to fight for his own life.  He will not see what comes next.  His adventure is over.  Life pushes on without him. 

Life... one speed and only forward.

Someday, someone that cared for you will walk into a room and remember the last time you were There.  Then they will be forced to understand that room with you Not There.