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.

 

Prompt
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Two Years, About One Quarter of the Time (Now with footnotes!)

Dear Readers,

I recently got a notification from WordPress that is was my second anniversary of having a blog. That’s just it, I have a blog. I don’t own one, I don’t run one, and I sure as shit don’t maintain one. Of the 730 days involved I’ve managed to publish not quite 170 posts, of them I could easily discount ten to fifteen percent of what I’ve written as utter nonsense posted just because… well that’s what you do1. For what it’s worth I am here and still trying, I guess that’s a good thing.

The oppression of dates

I suppose the date of Oct 18th should seem meaningful. It is nestled quite nicely somewhere between my actual birthday later this month and the date that I had my last drink towards the end of September, some years ago. I think more about the passing of the latter than I do the former. Due to the personal philosophy that keeps me sober though I don’t really hold much truck with the pitiful insignificance of specific dates of my life because right now, today is the only thing that you can hold onto with any certainty. This is probably a reflection of my father’s lack of concern or respect for outward displays of ceremony2.

Why am I here?

I started this blog with the intention of getting back to writing, specifically fiction. I’ve done a fair bit of that. Thirty-two of my posts have been a work of fiction. That’s about a 27% success rate on that front. It took me a couple of weeks of dicking around to work up the courage to post DIG! which, as it goes I rather like. By far the bulk of the material I have worked on I like to use the cute little label of “Creative Nonfiction”3. We’ll just chalk those up to journal entries, memoirs, coping with my sobriety and, attempts at making somewhat intelligent commentary on the world around me. One of the things I’ve been rather proud of is starting a serialized fiction piece.

The Untitled Thing has often shown a lot of promise but the last few entries have gone of track a bit so I feel I need to take a long hard look at that before I go any further. I doubt I’ll go as far as a full rewrite but I am keeping the nuclear option open for now.

And I was of course extremely flattered that I got Freshly Pressed for writing Rarity of Quiet sometime ago

Absences, breaks, and hiatuses

Life gets in the way. A lot. I learned not to apologize for that a early on4. I do however feel like talking about it right now.

I have these bouts of insomnia, like not sleeping for more than two hours at a time for more than a month kind of bouts5. On the upswing of these I feel great and get super productive for a while and everything is kinda awesome. Then the exhaustion erodes everything away until all I have I anxiety wrapped in a nice warm sweater of depression and self loathing. That’s when I generally stop writing because everything I do upsets me in some way and most of my energy is spent on keeping myself upright and making it through work, often to come home and stare longingly at my blog’s dashboard for about an hour or so before pretending to sleep.

But then eventually I feel better and when I get over it all I always come back here so there’s that.

Also I don’t like publishing when I am angry at a specific person in my personal life because it always winds up being about them and quite frankly that’s not fair to myself, them, or my readers.

Sometimes I have too much other shit to do.

And, sometimes I just don’t feel like it… which is completely valid.

In all serious gratitude

There are a handful of people that I know for sure have been following and reading my works for these past two years. I cannot express properly how much that kind of support means to me. If it was not for them I would have given up long ago.

I also am more than grateful for the browse by readers, new followers, random likers, and odd commenters that pass through here from time to time. I am firm believer that writing without some kind of audience to share it with is a rather sad and pointless endeavor, well it is for me any way.

Thank You,
Doug Hippensteel
Corned Beef Hashtag


  1. I’m looking at you, pretty much all of November of 2013 and also the bulk of this post most likely 
  2. Let’s not dwell too much on my father unless you’re gonna wheel in a chaise lounge6 and start smoking a cigar. 
  3. Which is about as close to an oxymoron as you can get without needing special gloves to handle it. 
  4. Seriously if there is one piece of advice I got about blogging that I feel needs to be passed it’s: Never waste time apologizing for not posting something; it’s a waste of your talent and your readers attention. 
  5. As opposed to the, “I didn’t get any sleep because I spent all night binge watching Netflix and getting wasted.” kind seems to be an epidemic, and pisses me off greatly when someone refers to it as insomnia. Just sayin’ 
  6. Sometimes a couch is only a couch. 

In need of a Plan

 

The university in the city where I live held graduation recently. That makes it the busiest time of the year for the restaurant I work at. This translates into longer, harder work hours for me, meaning even less time/ energy for my family and practically no time for myself.

Every year I plate and send who knows how many hundreds of meals through my pass. It seems that every year we go through this ordeal with a less and less experienced crew. Almost every year there’s some set of minor, yet absurdly frustrating complications with the scheduling of either the staff or reservations, or both. Every year there is always some inane last-minute problem with inventory. Nearly every year half of the staff shows up late for their shifts. And every year there is some melt down between coworkers resulting in yelling matches, hurt feelings and possibly someone quitting or getting fired.

Every year I swear that this is going to be the last one of these weekends I’m going to work.

It was a long week, and I’ve been in a rotten mood to begin with, so I just decided that when I had a couple of days off I’d just spend it hiding under my blanket and trying to come up with a plan.

Part of this plan involves me finding a new job, but I think that’s been the plan for about eight years now and I see how that has worked out. I needed to figure out my deal with the writing thing, get back into reading more, and get more exercise.

I guess the plan here is that I want to focus on specific writing goals instead of just pushing myself to publish stuff here as often as possible. I need to finish the serial that I’ve been working on, maybe finally giving it a tittle (though I see no pressing need for that) so I am going to make that a priority. This is mostly just to prove I can finish the damn thing really. Following that I have another piece of flash fiction that the consensus among people whose opinions I value needs to be expanded out. So I think I am going to work hard on that. I haven’t decided yet whether to make it an actual  short story or to write a series of related pieces. Right now the latter seems more feasible, we’ll see what happens.

I used to read a lot more than I do now. The problem is that I drank a lot while I read, and largely when I read it makes me think about drinking. Thinking about drinking makes want to drink. That makes me me angry, so I haven’t been reading much. This sucks because I liked reading. I’ve been working on it, slowly. I have a back log of stuff that I want to read so I am going to be doing that as well. I have to do this because I am trying to raise a child who reads. My reading list at the moment is as follows:

  • Under the Empyrean Sky by, Chuck Wendig. I started following his blog for the flash fiction challenges he hosts, which are very entertaining, and I thought in fairness to myself I should read at least one of his books. I’m only about 130 pages into it and enjoy it so far but for the aforementioned reason it has taken me a considerable amount of time to get there.
  • The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind the 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry by, Lance Dodes, MD, and Zachary Dodes. As an alcoholic I am not a fan of  12-Step programs for my own reasons. When I heard about this book on NPR it caught my interest. I have not yet started this book.
  • Screenwriting for Dummies by, Laura Schellhart. No real reason. I saw this on the reshelving cart when I took my daughter to the library, and thought, “Now there’s something I don’t know anything about.” so I picked it up.

I’m giving myself a generous six weeks to read those three books. I’ll let you know how it goes.

As for exercise, I’ve been spending too much time moping in my bed lately and I need to force myself to get out in the sunshine and what passes for fresh air these days. So I am dusting off the bicycle again and re-installing Ingress on my phone and seeing what mayhem I can get up to. Largely this is in hopes that some no work related physical activity will help improve my mood, and perhaps straighten out my sleep issues.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been thinking about this past week.

Happy Monday.

 

 

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.

Guilt

I had my last drink that night,BadPoetryLogo1
And in the morning you were gone.
Only a note by way of apology,
for being how I treated you.

You came back home,
Even when we had no home left.
Now I still panic,
If I wake up in an empty house.

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

Day Pass

He had gotten a day pass from work release to visit his dying grandpa. I, being the family chauffeur by default, am tasked with picking him up.

I spot him, in the rear view mirror, and shake my head slightly as I watch him swagger towards the car. He tugs at his clothes and tries to smooth the wrinkles from his faded, preppy attire. He looks around, like someone is more likely to judge him about his brand of clothing being slightly out of fashion than the fact that he was walking out of the county lock-up. He gets in the car and barely says hello before his little claws seize hold of my phone, a moment of reflection makes him decide it wold be wiser to ask me, before dialing his girlfriend.

After the call, without asking he adds her to my contacts list. He turns the phone over in his hands, his narrow, avaricious eyes sizing it up for its approximate value. He proceeds to tell me how cool the new iPhone is, that he wants one when he gets out, but my phone is pretty good too. I tell him I bought a phone not a status symbol.

He breathes in deep, as if trying to suck, from the air, all the freedom that this tragedy provided him in one gulp. He talks about getting out of jail, and all the things he’d going to do, all the things he’s going to buy. He doesn’t ask about his grandmother except to remark about how cool it is that she’s just giving me her car. He can’t believe that it’s not like that, it’s still her car I’m just driving her around when she needs it.

He talks to me about how it’s all past him. About how he’s just ready to be with his kid, to be there for him. How he wasn’t going to go back to jail. How he was glad for the second chance he was getting. How he was going to stay sober, and how hard it was to have an addiction. I tell him about how I haven’t had a drink in almost a year.

I try to talk with him about being sober, the one subject we might have in common.  Mostly the conversation revolves around focusing on yourself, and not paying attention to what other people do, or what they have that you don’t. About making consistent choices. I glance over and he is staring out the window, not really paying attention, talking without listening.

We pulled up outside the palliative  care building at the V.A. hospital. He get’s out of the car and spots my wife, it’s only a matter of seconds before he is asking her for a cigarette, and trying to weasel a free lunch out of her. He had already forgot why he was here. That’s when I knew.

He wasn’t going to make it, he wasn’t going to change.

Expectations of the Day

There are always certain expectations we have in our lives.

I can expect today that I will  leave my house to go to a job that I have long since lost all passion for. It would not be unusual for my daughter to get angry or upset because I am leaving so soon after bringing her home from school, my getting a bit frustrated about this would be about par for the course, from here the prospects for my day will only get grimmer.

When I arrive at work I can assume that my boss will greet me and ask me how I am doing. I am expected to say, “Fine.” I am fairly certain that if I were to say anything difference would change his , we’ve been going through this routine for years and I can tell that he’s not really paying any attention. I’ll draw some coffee from the air pot, in all likelihood it will be luke warm and taste of old pencil shavings.

At some point, probably late, the rest of the staff will begin to trickle in, various levels of excess from last night all too readable on their faces. I can anticipate an exasperating string of hours watching them drag themselves through the paces of the day.  It is only a matter of time before they get started, probably early, on tomorrow’s hangover.

In all probability the mediocrity of my employment, the drudgery and thankless nature of my work will further embitter me, and throughout the night I can safely expect to seriously consider quitting my job about four times, at least one of those times I will come close to just walking out. It won’t be worth it, I’ve got too much sense and too much responsibility, but it would be a damned satisfying thing to do.

After some many years I would suppose I might be inured to the feeling bleakness when examining my prospects for an evening.  It is within all reasonable expectations that I will struggle with the urge to drink. At the end of it all it will probably be best if I go home eat a pint of ice cream, and stare at my computer in mild annoyance. These short bouts of depression really get to me sometimes.

I expect…

Well, I expect I’ll feel better tomorrow.

This was written in response to a Weekly Challenge.