Friday, April 24, 2009

Active Alcoholism Sucks!!!

Double banger from me today just to get things out of my system and besides work is dead so it is either write a blog post or read stuff from the net, or maybe get PO’d as the pc cheats me in Hearts. Something I failed to mention about my anxiety yesterday is that part of addressing it was writing about it yesterday and also telling a couple of people what was going down, thus not trapping the feelings inside.

You know I really hate alcoholism. I hate what alcohol does to the alcoholic and those involved in the alcoholics life. I know as a Buddhist I am not suppose to hate and most of the time I can abide by the suggestion but in the case of alcoholism there is no disliking about my feelings especially when I see first hand the destruction it causes.

A friend of mine relapsed again. She has had periods of sobriety off and on for 10 years, with the longest stretch being 4 years. Each time she has gone out she has been worse than before, alcoholism is a progressive disease. She crashed last November, lost her good paying job, got busted for DUI, lost her living accommodations and was pretty much a mess. Her sponsor (AA mentor/teacher) let her move in with her, was taking her through the 12 steps of recovery, they were up to step 9. She was getting involved in service work, making at least one meeting a day, hanging out with people in recovery and for the most part doing really well as far as anyone could tell. My friend has a couple of degrees, very intelligent and semi-intellectual, she got a job working at H&R Block for the tax season so come April 15th she was out of a job and couldn’t fine another one due to her past history of alcohol effecting her performance. She has twins who are in the custody of their father a non-alcoholic, the boy is in a group home due to mental issues and discipline troubles and she has a sex parent who lives in another town who she was not suppose to be seeing since he uses alcohol and drugs not to mention that relationships are not advise when you are new in recovery because of messed up emotions and perceptions. None of these things to me are an excuse to drink, a lot of people have these things going on in their lives and don’t pick up a drink or drug to drown the feelings. Over and over again we talk about thinking the drink through, how one drink starts a chain of reactions that lead to destruction, my friend knew all this. She understood the hopelessness of alcoholism, she understood the compulsive nature of alcoholism and how powerful that compulsion is, she had a cell phone full of phone numbers for AA members, she lived with a woman who has been sober 33 years and is still active in recovery, she wasn’t strong spiritually but was getting there, she knew about every tool in the tool kit of recovery, yet she drank again. She is now detoxing, she is now homeless, she is penniless and at the mercy of others, she is a chronic alcoholic who has seen others die from alcoholism yet is sitting on deaths doorstep herself. Not only did she hurt her self she hurt her kids, her family, her sponsor and her friends in recovery, alcoholism much like suicide is a sick selfish and self centered act.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous calls alcohol “cunning, baffling and powerful” and it is. I have seen what happened to my friend happen to others too many times, either with alcohol or drugs and it still blows my mind. How can people lose so much from the poison they are putting in their bodies, knowing they will lose even more the next time they pick up or use and yet do it again and again and again. For some the only bottom is death, I hope this doesn’t happen to my friend, I will always be there for her and so will others. No one really knows what will happen to her now. She has been to rehab at least 3 times and most rehabs won’t take people at short notice. She needs to go to a long term rehab that is more regulated and harsher than the 30 day stay rehabs, but his is just human speculation on my part and those of others. She has chosen her path by her actions and inactions now she must pay the price, karma is what karma is.

It makes me sad that she has picked up again and for what may happen to her. It makes me realize how blessed I truly am to have had the compulsion lifted from me on December 1st 2006. That I have been blessed with the gifts I have, with finding a spiritual path and I am willing to follow it. I am blessed that I am fairly honest about what is going on in my life and let others in, I think my friend was holding too much stuff inside and not letting go of past resentments. Yeah I still think about a drink now and then, but I think it through, that cold six pack leads me back to jail, ruins the beautiful relationship I have with my daughter and granddaughter, it ruins the relationship I have with my mom and my family, it will cause me to be unemployed and homeless, it will ruin the regained trust of old friends and my new ones in recovery. We in recovery always welcome someone back after they have fallen but the fear is they may not make it back in the rooms. I was one of the lucky ones I made it back after 10 years of heavy research but some don’t once again I am blessed. But really all any of us have is this 24 hours we are living in and we need to make the best of it, we need to stay spiritually, mentally and physically fit every minute of those 24 hours.

Blessings be on those have gone back out to live the life of active alcoholism and drug addict.

Outside the Comfort Zone

Hello anxiety my old friend you’ve come to talk to me again and sending shadows through my mind of things that aren’t real, illusions from a fear (thanks Paul Simon). I have a clearance that allows me to be involved with AA meetings at the county jail. I have only been to 1 meeting since I was cleared in November 2008 mainly due to the fact that the jail meeting conflicted with the mental health hospital meeting that I was supporting. About 2 months ago there was a fallout between the guy who had been conducting meetings at the jail for the last 5 years or so and the inmates; it seems they wanted more NA meetings and less AA meetings or none at all, a majority of the inmates are locked up for meth related offenses. Background, NA has meetings the first 2 Thursday’s of every month and AA has the rest of the Thursday’s so on occasion there are 3 AA meetings due to the month having 5 Thursday’s in it. The guy who was conducting the meetings didn’t contact anyone in upper service work to explain the situation or ask for help, he just stopped showing up. A close friend of mine in recovery is doing 35 days for getting caught bending the rules, he is has work release so he can call me, he really wanted an AA meeting so he asked if I could help and I said I would. I contacted another member who has clearance and he said he would try to help but wasn’t sure since he is still on probation for a domestic violence charge, just cause we get sober doesn’t mean we still don’t have troubles due to character defects that are left unaddressed. The jail is one of those places that brings up anxiety, I have spent a bit of time in jail so the odor of the disinfectant has an almost haunting effect on me even though bring in jail was a dull and boring event but still a bit stressful due to lack of freedom and living conditions. Another thing that brings anxiety is that I was a notorious bad check writer in my drinking days and even though it has been over 2-1/2 years since I have drank there is this paranoia that even after the background check an outstanding warrant will surface. And lastly in the anxiety column is the inmates themselves, I am not a very big person, not muscular and pretty non-violent, so some of the inmates can be a bit intimidating. Some inmates are very angry people and their anger can flare up when talking in a group setting, basically they are venting, very rarely do they cause trouble but my fear is they will and since no guards attend the meetings and we are locked in the cafeteria my mind drifts to the worst possible scenario. So this is where I was at off and on yesterday.

The other guy showed up at the jail and had no problems getting permission to enter. He had conducted meetings in jail before and chaired the meeting. Most of the inmates shared about themselves and what they where going through without getting obnoxious. Most of them thanked us for being there. A couple of the jail staff members thanked us and mentioned the absence of AA meetings and told us to please come back. So once again my anxiety was for nothing, the illusions that messed with me off and on yesterday proved to be just that illusions. Once again a lesson learn, maybe next time I face something challenging the anxiety will only be half as much.

This is not the first time I have stepped outside my comfort zone in recovery. I am by nature rather quiet and reserved, not one who stands around and talks a lot, when I do talk I do so with minimal BS and speak from my heart. I have been on panels and chaired panels at the nursing college, a family advocacy group, probation officers board meeting, I have chair meetings where the majority of people in attendance where from a drug and alcohol awareness class. I just recently spent 2 days with another guy at the state family physicians conference in an AA booth talking to doctors about alcoholism and AA’s role in recovery. I also gave a talk on working with professionals at a state AA workshop, some of those in attendance I admire greatly for their commitment to service worker and their speaking abilities. I have been blessed and gifted with the ability to speak articulately and to share my insight in a way that others can comprehend, not in long drawn out rambles but with shorter to the point statements and metaphors. I enjoy doing service work, I was told early on never to turn down an AA request unless absolutely necessary and also by doing so I am freely given back what was freely given back to me, this is also a blessing and has nothing to do with me other than service work is about learning to be humble and selfless. I have learned that if I share from the heart then the right words will come, if I try and be funny I will fail, I try and sound profane I will fail, I try and show off I will fail, by fail I mean sound phony and ex-drunks can pick up on that really fast. It gets easier every time I step out side the comfort zone, not that I am not nervous but experience has taught me to just flow with it, know that I will be alright and that what will be will be, just as it was proven yesterday.

It was reminded to me again today in a book I am reading by Kevin Griffin, it is about progress and not perfection, we are not saints. Stepping outside the comfort zone is about letting go of self, it is an exercise in non-self, it is about putting the Four Noble truths and the Eightfold Path into practice to the best of my ability. It is about trusting my Higher Power, the Dharma, and faith in the teachings I have received so far on this journey. It is about all the little prayers and short mediations I do during the day when faced with discomfort and need to re-harness the inner peace. Some times awareness needs a helping hand from illusion to open my mind, this is alright though, this is how I learn sometimes, a bit of discomfort leads to using a different tool, once in a while we need to round the head off the bolt with the vise grips to realize we just need to get the correct size wrench to fit the job.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

10 Honest Things about Me

Monica at posted her 10 honest things so I am passing it on, some of this I have been thinking about posting anyway so now is a good opportunity to get them out on cyber paper.

10 Honest Things about me

1) I smoke way too much, drink too much coffee and eat too much meat and not enough fruits and vegetables, oh yeah I am addicted to salt, no wonder I am on high blood pressure medicine.
2) I have a hard time with childish behavior, in fact childish behavior in others pisses me off, I can’t stomach stupid comedies, belching or flatulence out loud and joked about, giggling at sexually innuendo’s, childish sexual remarks in general.
3) I hate profanity or vulgar language used for the sake of just saying “bad words” I can swear with the best of them but when I swear it is in context or to make a point that otherwise couldn’t be made, I suppose this is hypocritical thinking but that’s me.
4) In response to #’s 2 and 3, I take myself too damn seriously and have to keep in mind rule #62 “Don’t take yourself too damn Seriously!!” work on it, work on it, work on it.
5) I have been given the gift of insight but am learning when to share it and when to not, daily awareness through Dharma practice.
6) Sometimes I want to smack people upside the head with a reality stick but know they have to live in their own ignorance and suffering, just hope which they would hurry up and wake up so they can live in inner peace.
7) I have an ego problem, my self centeredness causes me to take others inventories too often, working on this but it is slow progress
8) I love animals and am in harmony with them sometimes more so than humans
9) I am quite comfortable being alone but know I can’t isolate, isolation is dangerous for this ex drunk, I need to interact with people on a regular bases, 1 it keeps my ego in check, 2 when I am with others in recovery it reminds me of where I came from, 3 it provides reassurance that my path even though it may be the one less traveled is best path for me to travel on.
10) I still have a hard time with compassion and interdependence towards all, my sick human side still wants revenge against people I consider evil doers, still can’t be 100% pacifistic, I have to constantly tell my self when I am judging others by their appearance, attitudes, social stanches that we are all One dependent upon each other, that we are connected by the air we breath, our chemical make up and our need for love and security. A am working on overcoming my intolerance of Fundamentalist religions, especially the Christians whose loud mouths are covered 24/7 by the media and who have infiltrated society even in places that use to be completely non-bias.
11) O.k. I added one, I don’t know how to flirt and can’t tell the difference between flirting and just simple friendship and basic kindness from someone of the opposite sex especially if I am a bit attracted to them, try as I might to not care about finding a companion I still try to figure things out, when a pretty lady is giving me a bit of her attention, this is a damn hard one to overcome/mature/learn about.

I have some work to do but I try and chip away at the defects of character as best I can, some days I am sick and love to roll in the manure of my sick judgmental behaviors but most of the time my conscience/awareness stops me before I get carried away. Every morning I take a few minutes for prayer and calm mediation, I give thanks for still being sober and alive, I seek awareness of my selfish nature and the ability to counter it using the Eight Fold Path, several times a day I step outside and listen intensely to the sounds of nature, animals and the wind. Be doing these things I stay fairly calm and get excited about life’s happenings and others defects less often.
The above list seems to be mostly about the negative so here is a short positive list; when asked I help others out if at all possible, answer the phone no matter what time it is, I give back to recovery what was freely given to me, I stay positive most of the time and smile, I am friendly without having to think about it, my granddaughter thinks I am the greatest and my daughter loves and respects me again, it is becoming easier to practice being humble and I keep my mouth shut more often, I am on longer a social burden. I don’t gossip and what is said to me stays with me, except is in recovery I seek the advise sometimes from trusted older members.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Music and the Masses

Monica at Buddhist in Nebraska , wrote a good post on music and how listening to darker music has an appeal to her. One of the questions she posed was about it being Voyeuristic. Below are my thoughts on what I got from her post concerning my own assocaition with music, I have been a huge music fan since I was a little kid, it was much a way for me to escape and transcend out of my mental misery.

Voyeuristic or fantasy good question. As a middle class white person whose life is pretty uneventful, I think it is more about fantasy than being a voyeur; to think about something dark and sinister has a morbid appeal, it is the dark side of the personality coming into view. As an ex drunk and druggie I had my share of drama but nothing compared to those at true street level, I had the means to never be homeless, or hit the lows some have. I think of the popularity of Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home” or Brad Paisley’s “Whiskey Lullaby” no one wants to live those songs but they were big successes because of a fascination with the subject matter, safe escapism?? Music is escapism at so many levels. Lost young kids or those who feel that don’t fit into the status quo find escape in punk, alternative, indie, white kids wanta be black and listen rap, heavy metal fuels insecurities about ones masculinity or lack of power, back in the day it was southern rock, punk and progressive that where the non main stream sounds that the misfits listened to; I can name that Rush or Allman Brothers tune in 3 notes. Even in early rock we had Elvis versus Jerry Lee, Beatles versus the Stones, Velvet Underground versus the whole hippie scene, Dylan freed us all yet some people hated him. Rock/pop has always had a niche for every personality type.

I feel it isn’t unhealthy to listen to the type of music you describe if one is mentally health or has a grasp of awareness and don’t get sucked up and brought down by the lyrics or mood of the song. I know I can’t listen to Sabbath, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine or that genre if I am angry, anger is for Indigo Girls, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell. Same goes with feeling down/self pity, self pity is why the Blues where created the Blues isn’t about being blue it is about raising above the feeling, looking the suffering square in the eyes and giving it the middle finger with a soaring guitar backdrop. Music says things that I can’t express myself, music is mediation when I can’t bring myself to sit or stand still long enough to relax and feel the flow. Music can be as good as the best sex or as bad as the worse drug, but I have to find the balance in it otherwise I can get caught in both effects; the choice is up to me.

I understand what you mean about suffering also. I have a love of socially conscience music. I can’t begin to fathom the experience that brought about Marvin Gaye’s classic album “What’s Going On” nor the songs of Marley, Burning Spear, Cutis Mayfield, Public Enemy, or other black artist but through their lyrics I can find compassion for them and what their people are going through. They teach me compassion even if they are a bit piss off at the leaders who share the same skin color as me.

For the most part music is about making money and a comfortable living. Most artist are in the business to make money and if they feed a niche they will continue to do so, whether they believe in what they are singing about or not, even the most hard core anti-establishment punks will jump on a recording contract given half a chance. It sucks that some kids get caught up in the grind and lose touch with reality via the music and fashion associated with the it but I imagine these types of people have always existed in society.

Thanks for letting me reflect on my own experience with music.