the brilliant logic of addicts

A pair of news stories popped up in my Twitter this morning feed that I found interesting. This is a miracle for several reasons a.) I actually read something other than an arbitrary list about Mean GIrls or Disney Princesses and b.) that I could relate to two stories featuring behavior most people find completely irrational.  The first was about Rob Ford. Over the last 48 hours, simply  walking by a computer or turning on a smartphone and not seeing the name “Rob Ford” pop up has been an impossibility. Ford, if you don’t know, is the Toronto mayor who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

mayor-ford-2

 

Late night comedians and news outlets have had a field day with Ford since last year when a video of him smoking crack surfaced online. Despite the obvious content of the video, Ford denied he smoked crack or used illegal drugs. Then in January another video popped up of the mayor babbling incoherently at a fast food window. And finally, today he took a break from the campaign trail to enter rehab after another video of him smoking crack surfaced. While non-addicts shake their heads and spout off one-liners about Ford and wonder what the heck he was thinking, I feel like all this sounds totally par for the course.  Moreover, to me his thinking sounds perfectly logical. As an addict, my natural instinct is to lie and deny. Doesn’t matter if cocaine powder has rimmed my nostril like sugar on a donut or if tequila is coming out of my pores, if you ask me I’ll tell you that, “I’m fine. I’m just tired.” From my experience this is how we roll. Insane bullshit ideas and wackadoodle plans are just the norm. Doesn’t matter how famous we are or how many videos exist, we don’t get the message until we’re really ready. By entering rehab, we can hope maybe he’s starting to get the message. In the meantime, it’d sure be nice if the media showed him and other addicts compassion, instead of stringing them up like piñatas and beating the crap out of them.

george_washington_bridge_haer_ny-129-8

 

Sadly, a lot of the time we addicts don’t get the message at all. Like in the other news story that I read this morning about a couple who after killing a relative and struggling with crippling heroin addiction jumped off the George Washington Bridge. Ugh. To call this devastating is a total understatement and yet again, I totally get it. Addiction is a dark place and if it gets dark enough, ending it seems like the only option. In her suicide note left for her 4 children the woman heartbreakingly wrote,”I’m sorry. I beg you to remember that Nickie that I used to be. Before I was introduced to heroin. You would not understand how much it would hurt for me to wake up every single day without you. I do know that I am taking the cowardly way out. I just don’t want to hurt people anymore.”As usual, the comments sections on the stories about this couple can be relied on for complete ignorance on the nature of addiction and should be avoided if you want to retain some serenity. But as horrible and tragic as their story is, I can’t help but feel lucky and blessed that at least for today, at least for right now, I know I have other options. I know that people can get better. Even murderers or crack smoking mayors. Mainly, I know that my crazy ideas are better off if I run them by somebody first and that I don’t have to do any of this recovery business by myself. And that gives me a lot of hope.

5950_387420728035066_1062601721_n

Advertisements

Viva La Revolution!

2157898324

“All books about all revolutions begin with a chapter that describes the decay of tottering authority or the misery and sufferings of the people. They should begin with a psychological chapter — one that shows how a harassed, terrified man suddenly breaks his terror, stops being afraid. This unusual process — sometimes accomplished in an instant, like a shock — demands to be illustrated. Man gets rid of fear and feels free. Without that, there would be no revolution.” – Ryszard Kapuscinski

Every year on this day, I want to pull the covers over my head. I want to acknowledge the date and its significance by not acknowledging it. I want to hide. I know that’s not the patriotic response or something that inspires a “Never Forget” truck mudflap or Toby Keith country song. But that’s me.  I find life to be ugly and hard and then I hide. Whether its September 11th or a random Thursday in March, fear of the world being real, sad or hard kept me under the covers (and in the bottle) for the better part of nearly two decades. While my drinking and drugging ended in 2009, fear still manages to slip in and cripple me. The above quote, however, got me thinking, what if the changes I seek in the world and in myself begin with finally telling fear to fuck off?

Seriously, fear. Suck it. I don’t think the lives lost are honored by me feeling afraid or by living in fear that it’ll happen again. Or by drowning my sorrows. The more I stare fear in the face, the closer my revolution gets to becoming a reality.  My revolution starts by writing this blog. Not that I have any delusions that my pictures of ponies and quips about reality shows will save lives but facing my truth and telling my story helps kick fear right in the crotch. My revolution continues by spreading the message to gays, lesbian and transgendered folk that they don’t have to live in bars and hate themselves. It’s not Westboro Baptist Church or the Mormons or the GOP that’s killing us, its self-hate and an incredibly high rate of fatality due to drugs and alcohol. Also, my own private revolution is committed to not living in shame about being in recovery, being HIV positive or being gay. Yeah it’s not a worldwide peace treaty but it is what I can do from my dining room table to maybe help somebody else going through the same thing.

Finally, my revolution needs to be fueled by love. Theres nothing more fear hates than love.  On a day where so many feel loss and heartache, actions motivated by love instead of fear are more powerful than any bumper sticker, flag or network TV report. Luckily, the incredibly human and flawed world I live in gives me ample opportunities to practice this. Again, the practice of love starts with this guy behind the keyboard. I’ve lived in fear about silly, stupid stuff lately and yesterday I had it. I was sick of making the conscious choice to feel afraid or doomed or that the planet was out to get me. It was as if I did as Kapuscinski said and got rid of my fear and felt free. I know this in an ongoing battle, this war against fear. And I know there will be times when fear wins. Nevertheless, it feels like a war I should keep fighting.

Bjork, Nachos & God

When I used to fall into a tricky little hole called depression or the neighboring, less threatening hole named sadness, the tool I used to get out was my old pal liquor. Liquor, I thought, could make a ladder to help pull me out. What it did, though, every single time was fill the hole with more chaos until I was not only stuck in a hole but also drowning. Recently, the ladders I had to use to pull me out were of a different variety to say the least.

bjork

Sometimes pop music transcends pop music and while listening to “All is Full of Love” by Bjork, I finally heard something I have needed to hear for weeks. Like a lot of incredible songs in my life, this one showed up in my headphones and out of nowhere it told me the truth.

You’ll be given love
You’ll be taken care of
You’ll be given love
You have to trust it

Maybe not from the sources
You have poured yours
Maybe not from the directions
You are staring at

Twist your head around
It’s all around you
All is full of love
All around you

I’ve  heard this song a million times but it wasn’t until now that it really shook me to the core. After a difficult month involving a creative breakup, some financial uncertainty and a batch of sad news, I had fallen down a hole. I knew it too. My first instinct was to panic and freak out and try to frantically dig my way out. I’m sober and I always thought feeling sad or being depressed was who I was and not who I am. But the truth is, I am a human and sometimes my life is sucky or hard or fucking sad. And this last month was one of those times. What I did know is that I needed to go through it, no matter how long it took. I have been relying on meetings, bad TV and nachos to pull me out. But mainly, and not to sound like some horrible coffee mug that you’d get at an inspirational bookstore, I’ve needed God as my ladder. (Country song idea #51: God is My Ladder) The fact is that all of this seemed to heavy or too overwhelming and too fucking much.I kept up my prayer and mediation practice even when I didn’t want to get out of bed because I knew that this was going to eventually pass but I needed some supernatural non-human aid of the higher powered variety to help it along.

And just like that it did. After a month of pushing on and feeling my feelings, it happened. I was lifted out of that hole that seemed too deep and too scary and neverending just a few weeks ago.  As this lovely song, now added to my “Play it at the Funeral” playlist, filled me with gratitude. It made me realize that my life, holes and rough patches included, is good. That I am taken care of.  It is full of love and it is all around me. Even when I can’t see it. Especially then, I think.

omg(od)

I don’t know how to talk about God. Mainly because there seems like two options: either crazy town, evangelical nutjob or equally as whacked out new age mumbo-jumbo. I want to talk about God though. Not because I want to convert anyone or because I want to prove to the world how remarkable my faith is. It’s just a really interesting relationship. I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk and write about God for about a week. I even pondered it on Twitter. Because if you’re gonna delve into life’s complex topics it’s best to do it on the same platform where stars from Jersey Shore share what they had for lunch. In 140 characters or less, naturally. As usual, my “unique problem” with God isn’t so unique and there’s even a study to prove it.

Last week this headline caught my eye- “Critical Thinkers Less Likely to Believe in God.” Being critcial and sarcastic myself, I couldn’t help snarking, “Nooooo! Reallly?!?” New research shows that, yes, smart-ass, people who like us who love knowing all the facts aren’t too big on drinking the God Kool-Aid. “Most of the people who have ever lived believe in a religion of some kind,” says Will Gervais, the author of the paper and a doctoral student at the University of British Columbia in an interview with US News and World Report. “But there are nearly half a billion nonbelievers. We’re trying to understand what leads some people to believe and other people to disbelieve.” The study put participants through a series of exercises, like surveys and critical thinking drills. Through the scientific yammering all they came up with was, in essence, people who need to believe in God do and people who don’t need to, well, don’t. Here’s where my God stuff comes in and where I tie back into what I opened with (I know. It’s about fucking time.) Maybe I’m still a little like those smarty pant non-believers. Maybe I still have moments where I think I’m too cool for school when it comes to God. And I definitely don’t think religion is the thing for me. I’m not a joiner, says the active 12-step member. Me and God we’ve got our own thing going own. I don’t feel the need to hang out with God and a bunch of people in hats on a Sunday to prove I have faith.

So why the hell, if I’m a little like those survey people, do I want to talk about God so darn bad? Because I need to. Believing in something else saved my life. Asking a power bigger than me to take my problems continues to save my life. I’ve been so supremely fucked so many times that nothing could get me out of it but somehow I’m still here. And it wasn’t because of any of my big ideas. Regular readers of this blog know that most of my big ideas are pretty cray-cray. The fact is that I’ve dodged too many bullets to not believe in God. Or at the very least “The Universe”. I guess the main reason I wanted to talk about God is this- maybe I’ll never know what to say or how to define my relationship or receive any “Mega Believer” plaque in the mail. But all I can tell you is in this era of “we hate everything” and “we’re suspicious of everyone” perhaps it’s really badass to believe in God. Or something. And maybe it’s punk rock to have faith and it takes balls to pray. It’s chickenshit to hate everything and trash talk everyone. You have to have real guts to just  believe that everything is going to be okay. And truly believe it. Yeah I guess I just wanted to say if you are one of those believing types, I think it’s okay. More than okay. I think it’s amazing. And don’t worry, I won’t make you talk about God. You don’t have to. I totally get it.

Beaten by the Headlines

I work online. I research,write and ingest all of the headlines of the day. Most of the time, I do a pretty good job letting “the sky is falling” mania bounce off like bullets from Wonder Woman’s wristcuffs. But sometimes the barrage of crazy bullshit is enough to drive you to drink.

Theoretically speaking, of course. It’s been some time since anything or person drove me to take a drink. Thank God. As my life was going down in a flaming ball of alcoholic shit in 2008, I was obsessively watching the news. It was the election year. The threat of Prop. 8 loomed over California, where I was living at the time and every good LA liberal watched the batshit shenanigans of McCain and Company like a hawk. As if wringing our hands and complaining was going to stop nutty politicians or thwart homophobic legislation. Nevertheless, that’s what I did. Watched news all day and checked in online and drank. Alcohol was the fuel for the raging fire I had burning in my mind. This blaze told me the world was out of control and that I was right and everybody else was wrong and that things were going from bad to worse. At the time I thought I was contributing to a better world by getting upset and involved but I think I was just adding to the hysteria. Being of Irish and alcoholic descent, it is my civic duty to get riled up at the actions of politicians. No other politician did that trick than Sarah Palin. This dunderhead from Alaska who could see both Russia and a book deal from her house, pushed my buttons like no politician since W. In fact, I’d like to blame Sarah Palin for me hitting rock bottom but since I’m in recovery I’m not allowed to blame people anymore. Whatever. I joke, of course.

As it turns out, it wasn’t a world gone mad or even Sarah Palin that made me drink until I lost my mind and my home. I’m just an alcoholic. That’s what we do. As i got sober, my news intake was limited to basically zero. I remember watching Obama’s inauguration at only a few days sober. And then I didn’t turn on the news again until six months later when Michael Jackson died. My brain needed an info-break. And still needs it today. I have to power down and grab a book or go have a coffee without my laptop. I was prompted to write this after a crazy two weeks of depressing news and studies and political crap. It’s exhausting and I’ve hit my breaking point today.

In the end,I have to remember I can be a good person and care about the world I live in. And I can do all of that without turning on the news.