Beer Cans

In the wilderness of insobriety, the landscape was dotted with beer cans. Scattered about a small existence. Standing in miserable chaotic rows. Stacked in columns of twos and threes. A sad, and dark forest. With aluminium foliage of whites, reds, and silver. Here and there a few standing in clearings. Lonely by themselves. Some partially crushed, teetering on edges of tables and desks at odd angles like some Suessian topiary. I would usually be found hiding amid the copse in the corner of the stoop.I would perch there, in the cool shade of numb inebriation, bitterly caw at the world.

 

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Life as a Three Legged Cat

My wife is kind of a cat lady. In addition to our personal pets she likes to feed the neighborhood strays. She takes part in our local Trap/ Neuter/ Return program. Were currently discussing fostering some kittens from Animal Services. Point is she likes cats. I do too, I guess. Up to a certain extent.

There’s this one cat, she calls him Tripod. Yep, he was born without one of his hind legs, the right one. Watching him do his little hobbled, skipping walk is almost an amusing sight. He’s gotten kind of fat over the years; the other cat lady down the street to start feeding him. When he was younger and thinner he was actually something of a bad ass, as far as cat’s being murderous bastards go. I witnessed that physically challenged ball of homicide pull birds right out of the air, hold his own in wrestling matches with his friends, and chase invasive tom cats, larger than himself, away from his feeding spot.  Now he’s just some fuzzy paranoid Weeble.

The most remarkable thing about this cat is the sad way he keeps trying to scratch behind his ear with that little nub of a leg. Can you just imagine the frustration? When there’s thing in the back of your head and for whatever reason you were born missing that one tool that can bring you relief. And even though you know it’s not going to work, you can’t help but give it a try anyway.

Lately I know just how that must feel.

Of Cigarettes and Alcohol

I was recently asked by a coworker, apparently out of idle curiosity, whether it was harder to quit smoking or quit drinking. I told him it depends on how you look at it.

When I quit smoking it sucked right away. It sucked for me and everyone around me. I was nervous, irritable, and moody. I was hardly able to concentrate on anything at all. I couldn’t sit still, and I couldn’t stop talking. In short I was a severe annoyance to myself and others. For months after my last cigarette I would still pat myself down looking for a loose pack. In the long run though, it got easy. I would find myself standing in line at convenience stores staring longingly at the tobacco displays. At some point I stopped thinking about smoking, mostly. I still have those few moments where I crave one, but I realize how stupid that is and it goes away on its own.

Not drinking was pretty easy at first, I mean once I got past the actual not drinking part. It took a couple of days to really sink in. Then the internal dialogue began trying to talk me into giving in. It became an unsilenceable argument about how I could handle it and I was just out to prove something. A never-ending torrent of utter bullshit, that still crops up on a regular basis. The farther out I get from my last drink the more time seems to crawl. When I think about it I now I still get anxious. I find myself from time to time nervously walking through beer aisles at stores. The worst part is that now, approaching three years sober there is still this emptiness. Like a hole somewhere that I nothing else will fit into, no matter what I try. I don’t have bad days with sobriety, I bad have weeks and months where all I want is to get drunk.

Because it would be easier.

In the end I explained it like this; When I quit smoking I stopped carrying a lighter on me. I still have a bottle opener on my key chain.

That’s what’s been on my mind this past week.

Happy Monday.

We never lived here

“Daddy, did we used to live here?”

An innocent question asked some distance between a park and an ice cream shop. Maybe it was the butterfly that drew her attention.

An echo of shame bubbles to the surface. Memories of having to run for refuge during evictions from various homes, or the power being turned off in the Florida summer when the bill money got misspent on inebriation. Excuses made to hide the slinking back here after a night drinking. No rent money, but enough for a buzz.

“No, baby. We never lived here.”

Can’t really call it living anyway. wpid-cam00413.jpg

Re: The ongoing conversation

I need a drink.

I haven’t published a single word for over a week now.  This is despite my recent commitment to build better habits concerning that area of life, including joining a challenge for just that and that is  best I can come up with. A whole week of processing a long string of bad news, focusing mostly on uncertainties involving my housing status, which in the very long and short term screws with my finances. Literally, hours and hours of internal dialogue.

“I need a drink.” That’s what you got for me?

Really?

So I guess we’re going there, again.

I have grown quite tired of this conversation. I long ago have realized that drinking doesn’t solve any of my problems.

Except for the immediate one of wanting a drink. It might take two. Well okay, the usual prescription of about one gallon of beer and the better part of a pint of whiskey, that should do nicely.

The old habit is getting creative in it’s arguments with me. Citing real and imaginary statistics about relapse rates, as if some how I am entitled to backslide. I feel it is prudent to remind it how all those other times over the years I tried to quit count as relapses.

Shortly after I got married. Right before my daughter was born. After I fell and broke my knee. Every morning that I ever woke up and swore I wasn’t going to get hammered, but was ready for a party by sundown. All those times, yeah remember those.

The conversation eventually revolves around how much more entertaining life was when I drank.  I used to have a social life. I was a lot more fun to be around.

Yeah I was a fun drunk, that was true. I’m pretty sure I am still fun to be around. Quite frankly I am still the same lovable jerk that everyone laughed with previous to sobriety. I just have lost all taste for watching people get drunk around me. Admittedly I should get out of the house more often. Maybe join the PTA. That’s a funny thought.

But, it would be for my own good right. What about that article I read about drinking being good for the creative process. That sounds like it would sure help out with that writing thing there. They did a study and everything. It’s basically science.

I skimmed a 2013 article, which happened to briefly mention a study done in 2012, and now my drinking problem manifests a PhD in psychology. That’s really cute. It is equally adorable how it conveniently forgets that the subjects of that study were at a blood alcohol level of .075, my proclivities have lead me, at times, a bit closer to the area of .36. Let me say that again, point three six. That is roughly the equivalent of being under anesthesia. It’s kind of hard to write when you might slip into a coma.

I really do get bored with all this. The worst part about this ongoing argument is when it gets this loud it occupies too much of my head space. It pushes out other thoughts. I can’t concentrate. I lose focus. I become depressed. Well maybe I become depressed, and then I think about drinking.

Focus on that bit of circular thinking too long and you might go mad.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about this past week.

Happy Monday

It’s Kind of a Long Story

I wasn’t an avid reader in my youth. Don’t get me wrong, I liked to read books, I just wouldn’t consider myself widely read. What got me telling stories was sitting around kitchen tables playing Dungeons and Dragons.

I started off as a bit player. The older kids had a regular game and one of them couldn’t show up. I was just the annoying little dweeb that wouldn’t go home, and some how I wound up spending the rest of the day fumbling around with a half-elven magic user and bugging the crap out of the rest of the group as they tried to explain the rules. By the end of that first session I don’t think I had a handle on what I was doing, but I knew there was something there I wanted more of. I loved being given the opportunity to be part of the adventure. After a few more tries I made my first ham-handed attempt at running the game. My first story had little in the way of plot but there was a dungeon and there was a dragon, the heroes prevailed and so I guess three out of four wasn’t bad for a preteen with a fist full of dice.

It all sort of ballooned from there. I spent the larger portion of my formative years geeking out with what ever game could be found. Fantasy, western, spy thriller, science fiction, super heroes; if you can name a genre I have been an active participant in a story of that fashion. My compatriots and I got to spend any number of afternoons describing as a group the various adventures of a universe full of protagonists.

My earliest writings that I found satisfying were in a journal that I kept as a way to pass the time while I was homeless and hitchhiked my way from state to state. It was a way to keep sane, my own little piece of mental real estate. It wasn’t my first diary, but it was the first where feel I was writing creatively. Not necessarily fiction, but lets just say that my life as a vagabond looked a lot more interesting on paper.

It was also the first journal I let anyone else read.

It’s a big step to let the general public into your head space. Let them read the things you think about in the dead of night, in the middle of the woods, with no one around but the crickets chirping at you. In a way that journal was the first step towards blogging.

I was dedicated to that journal, I wrote in it everyday (except for the time it went to Jamaica and back without me) until the swampy environs of Florida caused it to molder and rot apart. It’s so hard to have nice things when you’re a vagrant.

There is only so much rough living a body can take, so it does become useful to reenter society.  The upside of networking from scratch to obtain lodgings and a source of income is very time-consuming, and my relationship with writing became a little more erratic while I reestablished myself. All the socializing this required did allow me to bring together a rag-tag group of people interested in adventure games. This kept the stories flowing, gave me a chance to develop some skills, work on technique. A well thought out game is some times a lot of paperwork, a lot of writing.

My character sketches were becoming more like narratives, my plot lines more elaborate I was getting good at it. I started penning out a story, well technically typing but you get the idea. It was a nice piece of fantasy fiction. It was going well I thought. Somewhere along the way I became a drunk. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure it was a preexisting condition.

I got distracted. I forgot to write one day, then I forgot another day. Sometimes I would forget for weeks at a time. Then came a day when, in a fit of inebriated shame and depression I deleted the contents of my hard drive. A few years of drinking later and I can’t say I remember many of the details of the story.

Sobriety isn’t a second chance. Sobriety does make second chances possible, that’s what I have to believe anyway. At any rate if you want something you have to pursue it. I decided some years ago that I would like to be a writer. I failed in this endeavor the first time around. Now I’m ready to try again, and that’s not the only thing I’m taking a second shot at.

I couldn’t say if I aspire to write for a living. For now that point is moot, we’re not there yet. I am at best and out of practice amateur, getting some practice in, needing to keep these ideas from boiling over in his head. At worst I am grasping at straws, just searching for focus, a way to replace the booze. Either way I suppose it’s either try writing or go crazy.

For now I settle for writing, I’ll always have crazy to fall back on.

This essay  inspired by a  Weekly Challenge.

Pointing in the Right Direction

Recently I was reading through the work of other bloggers and came across a post by Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger. In an article from January 12th, he specifically cites the Murder of George Moscone and Harvey Milk by Dan White in 1978 and  White’s attorney using expert testimony to shift the blame of the killings from the defendant to his dietary habits, which aided in White being convicted of the lesser crime of voluntary manslaughter. This later became known as “The Twinkie Defense” in the reporting of the trial. It is a very well written piece and I highly suggest reading his full editorial, The Dissection of Blame

It was this passage from that article that gave me pause for an introspective moment:

“When our decisions and our choices, wreak havoc in our lives, we may tend to become more defensive, angry without knowing why. We are challenged in getting back on track, everything we do derails, and everything we try does fail. So we begin the dissection of blame, assigning each disappointment to a family member or friend.”

One of the things I find about my sobriety, is going back and facing all of the things that I had previously blamed on other people in my life. I walked away from the rest of my family when my parents died and later was angry at them for not being there; I watched my business fail from my inattention to the details and claimed my would be associates were accountable for not doing “their part”; I would hurt my friends and loved ones and blame them for being so fragile; I would shut people out and it was always their fault because, “they didn’t get me.”

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On and on I shifted guilt for my short comings and failures onto others and eventually, as I fell into my alcoholism, I would cite job stress, relationship problems, and social aspects of bar life as the reasons why I drank. When all of that fell away I wound up blaming the alcohol for why I was so miserable all the time. It was, of course, very easy to claim that I couldn’t stop drinking because I was addicted.

Time has proved all of these notions to be utter crap and now, living sober and relatively clear-headed, I am left to take hold of the responsibility for my faults and mistakes. I have to say it is a liberating as well as, at times, frightening prospect.

Image Credit: ThePointer by Gabe Austin CC-BY-2.0
Thanks To: Kendall F. Persons for inspiring this post.

New Year, Same Me.

The past year was slightly different for me, few changes and some milestones. For some reason, perhaps it was an attempt to come out of my shell a bit, I started a Twitter account last January. I do at times find great amusement in it, however I have yet to discover any real or practical use fo it; I’ll chalk that one up to just trying something new. In may I celebrated my first year since I was fourteen in which I did not smoke at all. The end of September marked my first full year off the booze, though the way I have felt for the past several weeks indicates I am not quite free from it entirely. October was a month full of changes as I began bicycling on a regular basis, a thing that I need to get back to as the holidays wind down and my daughter gets back to school and my schedule returns to normal; it was also the month in which I began my blog, which would be another thing that I feel my focus on slipping just a bit. I, once again, engaged in my unique habit of growing one year older on the day before Halloween, a tradition that I plan on continuing for many years to come; I am happy to report that my scheduled midlife crisis is in full swing and is going about as well as can be expected given my budget. Not an entirely bad year I’d say.

I think the only thing bad I have to say is that I have not read a single book in the past 365 days. I have read articles, blogs, and essays but I could not bring myself to read any work longer than a couple of thousand words. This has been a thing with me since I became sober. I got so in the habit of pouring over a book while I poured beer down my throat that it has become practically impossible for me to separate the two activities; sometimes it seems like my addictions last stand. This is something that I am determined to overcome, as it makes reading to my daughter more than just a little bit frustrating. I also was supposed to read a friends first novel earlier this year and I very quietly got derailed from that, I owe her an apology.

By the end of 2013 I was in a bit of a funk.  A waning amount of sunlight, dreary weather, hectic scheduling in my personal life, frustrations with my job and lack of exercise have all conspired to fill me with a strong desire to remain in bed as much as possible and eat nothing but breakfast meats and sugar. The holiday season has always gotten me down and this is only my second time through it sober in many more years than I can even recall, so I guess we can count me going through a pint of ice cream and a ton of cherry soda each day for the past week or so instead of a ton of beer and a pint of bourbon as a positive.

To assuage my recent depression a bit I started the year off right. First I took everything out of my spice cabinet and threw out most of the crap I found there. All the stale dried herbs, the duplicates of spices I wound up buying because I thought we were out, the half empty tin of Old Bay, the Montreal Steak Seasoning that I have no idea how it got there, those spice rubs and season salts and herb mixtures that have been gifted to the family over the years and never opened, the mysterious shaker of meat tenderizer because in the end it’s really just salt, and someone please explain to me what the hell Mrs. Dash is doing anywhere near my kitchen. I love throwing things out, it just makes me feel good like I just shed about a few metric tons of bullshit all at once. When I was done I neatly put the survivors of my purge back in the cabinet and proceeded to cook way too much food.

Living with my mother-in-law means learning to cook with at least one extra plate on the table and on New Year’s day my nieces were at the house while their mother worked her nursing job, a convenient excuse to make a rather large meal of rosemary and Dijon rubbed roast pork, black-eyed peas, collard greens and roasted potatoes. It was nice, the meal came out well, if a little later than I planned and preparing it reminded me what I like about cooking and I liked starting the year off with the family around the dinner table. It might even be nice to make this a new tradition.

Promises You Are Probably Not Going To Keep

Let us just imagine the average human being at a New Year’s Eve party, because that is where most people wind up making some sort of bullshit declarations of intended self-improvement, It’s getting close to midnight, they’ve been gorging themselves from the assorted troughs of food laid out by the host. If they smoke they’re probably sucked their way halfway through the second pack of the evening. They have, almost without a doubt, had too much to drink. In just a few short moments the clock is going to run out and it is going to be a brand new year.

Then what?

Is it even likely that, when the little ball drops that this person, this mere mortal is magically going to have the strength of will and the moral conviction to now embark on a journey of personal growth and spiritual advancement. They will rid themselves of one or more of their undesirable habits, or perhaps take up some new proclivity for exercise or other healthful activity.

What a wonderfully arrogant way to lie to yourself.

Quite frankly I think the whole New Year’s thing just cheapens the experience of doing attempting positive change with your life, its sort of the same way I feel Christmas does with giving or receiving gifts. I can’t recall a single gift I was given that made any great impression on me over the tradition and ceremony of the holidays in the long run. It is the unexpected gestures of appreciation and generosity that people offer throughout the year that always seemed make a larger impact.  I think that we use the custom of making those annual resolutions tends to lessen the impact of those promises; and it becomes just another convenient way to put off making those important changes for for a few more minutes or another day or until next year, rather than just going ahead doing those things now. 

Besides, no one ever keeps their New Year’s Resolution. right.

I don’t think I have bothered to make a New Year’s resolution in several years, and I don’t think I was very good at it when I did. I often wonder how many times I declared that, come the first of the year, I was going to quit smoking or stop drinking, or that I was going to start exercising, or some other nonsense. Chances are that I kept those promises for about two weeks, tops. I’m not sure when I got hip to the fact that I was basically unreliable, but all in all I think I’m happier for it. It’s not that I lack will power or resolve, after all I did finally stop smoking and sober up, and look at me riding my bike all over town. The difference was that I didn’t make any of that shit conditional on the changing of year. I was able to make these changes because they were needed and I made them as immediate actions without looking back.

If you need to change something in your life then make changes, not promises.

Simply Over It

I want a beer. Once again I have hit a wall where I just am frustrated and pissed and I want a god damn drink.

I am over the holidays. I know I have only a couple of more days to get through but I am tired of this bullshit already. I am tired of rushing from place to place for that one more last-minute thing to grab, I am tired of the gaudy decorations and crappy music everywhere I go, and yes it is crappy; before you say anything let me just point out that if, holiday music wasn’t horrible people would listen to it all year round. I am fed up with constant nagging upkeep of this house. I was very happy with apartment life; where other people mowed the lawn and did the rest of the yard work. I am sick in general of the never-ending stream of tasks, and errands that always seem to eat up just enough time that I am always rushing to get to work on time.

I am not even going to get started about work right now.

I have had it with the periodic bouts of sleeplessness followed by several days of constant exhaustion and over sleeping. I can also do with out the consistent worry about the finances, my family’s health and what will happen if I get injured again, or what will we do if the car breaks down. I am weary from anxiety filled days when if I am left too long by myself I can’t quite tell if I am going to cry or just pitch a fit of anger.

In short I am tired of being a grown up, who has grown up responsibility and concerns. A bit over a year ago I’d just drink myself stupid and hopefully passing out before i started an argument with my wife.However, I have committed to a sober life and so I am fighting my urge to drink.

I know I am just going through a bad spot in my sobriety and I know it will pass but, this one has been going on for a while now and I just need a damned break from it.It’s okay that I want a beer, it’s fine really. I am allowed to want one. I just know that I shouldn’t have one. I’m not going to have one. I am just going to sit here and breath and write and eventually I will be alright again, at least for a while.