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Ain’t It Good To Be A Gangster…

Last month was my big one-year anniversary celebration at my home group. Prior to that I did my speech back at the hospital, but as I mentioned before, that was a totally different animal. Your one-year speech for your fellow AA’ers is more of a…drinkalogue. You get to tell your story and use the majority of the allotted one hour meeting time limit. I had three other people celebrating with me, all with several years of sobriety, and they all told me the same thing…”first year people take a long time,don’t worry about it”. Obviously, I’m no stranger to public speaking, and I have my methods down when it comes to limiting my time, building a crescendo, working the crowd, etc. I just didn’t realize how much crap I had to pack in there, and I think I took around thirty five minutes. But it was a good thirty five minutes…I know how to work it.

The overall theme of an anniversary speech is “what we were like then, what happened, and what we are like now”. For newbies, there is more of a focus on “what we were like and what happened”, because although you get to know people and you share a lot around the tables, only a handful of people know “your story”. Well, it was sometimes raucously hilarious, sometimes sad, and generally well received as I launched into my journey that began with my uncle getting me high when I was about three, to me standing in a puddle of my own shit in my kitchen at 40. On the surface you have the bizarre dichotomy of a one-time pentecostal minister turned porno dealer turned IT schmoe….but below that there is a ton of interwoven activity and intrigue that can only be shared anonymously in the hall. I know I’m “anonymous” here, but some things can be more damaging than others when committed to the printed word. But trust me, as some details were revealed I got a healthy amount of “street cred” from some of the folks in the program who have spent more time on the periphery of the law than others. My wife and I joke that, when it comes to many of the ladies down at the hall, I must be the embodiment (on the AA scale) of the love child of George Clooney and Brad Pitt….that is to say, I was spared the majority of the darker repercussions of addiction…I got out sooner than many. And all joking aside, I am grateful for that fact every single day of my life. But hey, here’s me, got a job, a house, a car, nice skin, nice teeth, an education, no criminal record…..I’m fuckin’ English Bob. So when I got into some of the real meat of “what we were like then”, it underscored the facts that A) I am incredibly lucky to be alive, and B) boy do I ever belong in this program.

As per usual, the first paragraph or two of my ramblings are but a lead-in to what I’m really going to talk about. This being no exception, I will say that the mystical timing and graphic subject matter of my one-year anniversary was not lost on me when I got some news about an old friend last week. And as per usual, I will mention that in my blog, unless I am OBVIOUSLY writing bullshit, I’m really telling the truth. And the truth here is…. when I look back on my life there are two very distinct, dangerous, and graphic events that have taken place that, at their worst would have killed me, and at their best would have altered the path of my life to a degree that, if I did live this long, I probably would not be able to vote, buy firearms, or get hired for any type of reputable job that required any level of real responsibility. Somehow in both instances, I ended up getting Door #3…a free pass with fair to moderate lifelong psychic trauma.

As far as the trip in the wayback machine….when I was a youngster in high school I had to make a conscious choice between either being the fat kid who did the nerdy crap he really wanted to do like theatre and D&D and suffer through five years of torture at the hands of the other kids….OR I could go the 80’s metal route, get into drinking, drugs, firearms and explosives and be the fat kid you didn’t fuck with. That’s the path I chose. And it was one awesome fucking path. And I will add here that if went to a “real” high school in Wyandotte County vs. the college prep magnet arts and science school I attended, the tough kid thing would have lasted for about a week before I got the shit beaten out of me enough times to go back to Chess Club or whatever nerd paradise awaited me. As I am in all things that interest me, I was an overachiever. And it was the mid-80’s….a different world than it is now. The shit that my Napoleonic partner in crime and I pulled would absolutely be considered “domestic terrorism” by today’s standards. Looking back some of it is just hilarious, but also chilling when I realize that it’s a miracle I have my eyesight and both hands. We researched, built and field-tested every item we could from every old military survival manual we could get our hands on at gun shows….we knew how to make napalm, we could construct working silencers that fit onto the barrels of the homemade guns we manufactured…but we didn’t have to mess with homemade guns that often because his family was from the hills of Virginia and they stockpiled guns WAY before it was the “cool” militia-style thing to do. In short, we blew shit up and burned shit down, and funded our hijinx by manufacturing and selling ultra-explosive M-80’s (we had our own recipe for the flash powder, and we would triple sift it with loving care for that bigger “bang”) as well as bigger, badder versions that used PVC pipe instead of the cardboard casings.

My buddy had a 1970 Camaro with all of the hot-rod crap in it….the four barrels, fiberglass hood…I’m not a car guy so I won’t keep talking about it and sounding stupid, but I’m telling you, this car was badass, and had we not been the equivalent of Lardass from the movie Stand By Me, and Ratso Rizzo, all of the accoutrements of white trash bad-assdom would have gotten us laid to the point where the free clinic had penicillion on stand-by for us 24X7. BUT if we were getting laid all of the time we would not have been able to perfect such fine weapons of mass destruction.

I think he was one year older than me. Both of us had pretty insane reputations at school, and I really cannot paint a picture of how gloriously low-rent our classic 80’s existences were on the weekends…we were bad kids who hung out with people older and much scarier. Drinking red grape malt duck and smoking Thai stick while flying down the road in the camaro, Ted Nugent’s “Great White Buffalo” in the tapedeck, on our way to the drive-in to get even more fucked up and at some point during the evening I can practically guarantee a firearm would be discharged and everyone would scatter. We’d go hang at the lake or at one of the many parks where our kind congregated….on the badass scale in THIS group of people, with the “always shirtless but wearing jeans” guys being the alpha-males, we were somewhere in the middle of the pack, but only because the we knew about a hundred ways to blow you up. In the grand scheme of things we were pussies. So we had to be extra crazy. But at the end of the day, when we were back at his grandmother’s house where I spent practically every weekend, we were still kids…wondering about the deeper mysteries of the opposite sex as we strained to see further into the cleavage of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark.

I don’t remember exactly when, but one day I met his older cousin. If I was fifteen or sixteen at the time, he was probably about 21 or 22. At that age he was already on his second marriage. His first wife had died of a brain tumor, and the son they had together died from some type of sudden infant death syndrome. His wife when I knew him was a couple of years younger than him and they got married after she got pregnant and had twin daughters. He and I hit it off pretty quickly. I was old for my age, and while I was a drinking and drugging hellraiser I wasn’t one of the average idiots from the neighborhood. At first we got together so he could teach me how to play guitar, but eventually we built a friendship as strong as is possible with the age difference. Now I should say, as far as the crazy scale goes, he was the type of guy who could round up about three of the shirtless alpha male ‘dotte dwellers and systematically cut them in half. “Normal” fun for me and his younger cousin was driving up and down a main street in KC shooting out the windows of brand new cars in several of the local car dealerships, torching an abandoned car, or putting a half-stick of dynamite in a mailbox…and Tim scared the living shit out of us on many levels. He was just the kind of redneck crazy you didn’t want to cross. BUT if he was your buddy, you could count on his rage to keep you perfectly safe in any number of questionable circumstances. So as he and I became better friends and spent more time together, I spent less time with his cousin….something he took to heart since it was HIS cousin, but on many levels the kid just wasn’t right. Sure, I was an arch-criminal for my age, but he was the type of kid who would hurt animals, and he lacked a level of maturity that would allow anyone to take him seriously. I knew how to clean up and act right….he didn’t have that switch to flip. So Tim and I were like peas and carrots…soon I ended up spending pretty much every weekend at his place, and one evening the rising tension with his diminutive cousin came to a head and the kid basically wrote us both off after his parents had to step in. I’m leaving out a lot, but trust me, I’ve got about five million stories from back then, each one more awesome than the next.

Oh here’s one I can’t leave out…. the thing that really “sold” Tim on how cool I was is pretty funny. As pure white trash and rednecks, we took revenge seriously. Long story short, an old family friend was making life hard for his wife and so he wanted to fire a warning shot over their bow. So we whipped up a simple baby food jar bomb and were going to drive by their house and toss it in their front yard in the middle of the night. Big boom, but as long as nobody was standing near it there was no real danger of death or damage. Well I shit you not, this was a family affair…..he drove this huge white Mercury of some kind, and it was me, him, his cousin, his wife and 2 daughters and at least one other person I can’t remember. I know, the kid thing. Weird, isn’t it? The logic was sound though….it was his wife being victimized so she deserved to come and see this, and coming up with the money for a sitter or explaining the NEED for a sitter at 2am weren’t options. So I’m in the back seat ready to witness an awesome explosion, but because I had a window seat and the house was coming up on my side, I was the lucky one who got to throw the bomb. I’d done this kind of thing a million times by that point, so I wasn’t worried about it, but I’d also done it enough times to know just how difficult it is to time your throw from a moving vehicle if you were planning on getting close to any kind of target. I had no target other than the huge front yard, but being nervous to make a good impression on “new people” I threw it a second too soon and the damn thing rolled right under a car in the driveway. There was stunned silence as we slowed down a block up to watch it go off, and more stunned silence after it went off…underneath a vehicle. It’s not like the movies, cars don’t just burst into balls of flames, but I promise you this….that car wasn’t going anywhere ever again unless it was hooked to the back of a tow truck. The stunned silence soon turned to laughter and pats on the back as we high-tailed it out of there….everyone thought I had done it on purpose, and they were incredibly impressed. I played along, and began getting very close to people who would greatly alter the course of my life. I realize this is some real criminal behavior to be putting into words, but I feel okay with that because I was way underage at the time and nothing can really come of it, and for a much bigger reason that will become obvious soon enough.

Ironically, with all of the crazy shit that we did, in the big scheme of things, Tim ended up being a calming force for me, and I got into a HELL of a lot less trouble because of him. I guarantee it. He’d actually get me to go to church, threaten to kick the shit out of me if he even suspected I was doing hard drugs, and spending time with his wife and daughters had to be better for me than the riff-raff I was used to with his cousin. I was a decent enough person, I was just deep into the role I decided to take early in my adolescent career. And most of the time, he was just an everyday guy, but his emotional and mental makeup had sustained grave injury way before I ever met him. We were good buddies for a couple of years.

He never called me the night he ended up going to jail forever. I was the closest thing he had to a best friend, but I heard from another friend of mine he said he “couldn’t get Jerry involved in this”. In the weeks leading up to it, he was having more trouble in his marriage, and they were planning on getting divorced. He was getting more and more agitated and distant, and by that point in time I was a high school senior and I was spending less time with him and more with my high school friends. We were getting ready to graduate and go to college, and we spent a lot of time in the local library, fucking around and pretending to study. One night when another good friend who knew Tim came to pick me up he told me about a phone call he had gotten from him. He was planning on doing something to his wife and another friend of mine who was living with them who he suspected of her messing around with….and that was the thing in which he said he could not get me involved. But his young cousin, who had forsaken us two years before, was eager to get back into Tim’s good graces by taking him over to the house where he was going to do whatever it was he was going to do. Obviously, in hindsight, we had enough information to call the police…..but we were kids, and we knew what MIGHT happen to THEM would definitely happen to US if he got wind of our involvement….that’s just the way it was. Plus, as crazy as he was, he talked a ton of shit, so the chances of anything really happening was slim. We called over to the house to talk to his wife for a while, and everything sounded totally normal. We breathed a sigh of relief and went about our evening in the library.

When I got up the next morning for school, I went through the usual routine…turned on the TV to watch Good Morning America, and when it came to the top of the hour and they broke away for local news, there was Tim’s house with the coroner’s van parked in front, two gurneys being wheeled out to it. I should say it’s what “looked like” Tim’s house….there were several tortured hours of not being sure since no names were being released, so I went to school like everything was normal. I think I got to third or fourth hour before the guy I was calling at the tv station would confirm the victims were Tim’s wife and another friend of mine, and at some point they called me to the office when my dad showed up to pick me up after hearing what had happened. It must have been an hour or so after we talked to her, but apparently Tim came home when she was on the phone with another friend and killed them both. I heard rumors about how vicious it was, but they weren’t confirmed until years later when I went to see him the single time I ever visited.

There’s the bad reputation you get being the insane, violent pyromaniac metalhead….you work for that one and you craft it lovingly and proudly. Then there’s the bad reputation even you don’t want anything to do with when your best friend butchers two people with whom you are close. So that was a bad time. Two funerals, and figuring out what, if anything, to do about his cousin who drove him over there to do it and went around bragging about it after escaping charges by testifying against him. I was never friends with him again, and from what I understand his life was never good….he would pull shit like get some scumbags he knew to go to his grandparents house and rob it, splitting the money and goods with him. I’d hear stuff through the grapevine, but my dad called me about five or six years ago to tell me he saw his name in the obituaries. It ended up he had some really rare type of arthritis…his parents had to put him in a nursing home where he eventually died from it. I went to his wake to pay respects to his family, but didn’t even recognize him when I saw him. The disease had his head bent completely down against his shoulder. A bad end to a wasted life.

So Tim went to prison for life, and I went to therapy, then to college for one year, then ministry…..all of that has been chronicled in here at some point. I think it was about 1992…five years after he went in that I finally decided I’d go and visit him. I probably would have before that, but it wasn’t until I ran into his mom at church and she got my name on his visitor list that I was able to do it. To make a long story short, my visit with him started with him asking if I went to the funerals. When I said yes, he asked “were they open casket?”. When I told him they were, he said “I guess I didn’t do a good enough job”. Most of that two or three hours were spent listening to the graphic details of exactly how he butchered my friends and how long it took, the people he had hurt or even killed in prison, and the people he was going to kill when he got out. I wasn’t on the list. But his cousin was, and nature ironically beat him to that punch. I knew in my heart there was no way he was going to leave prison, and after speaking to him I hoped that was true. He had gone completely insane, and from the stories I’ve heard and people I’ve talked to, he made a hell of a reputation for himself up in the “lifer’s club”. For the next twenty three years I was living some of the biggest ups and downs in my life he sat somewhere in a Supermax in southern Kansas and then finally in Lansing State Penitentiary.

The version of this story that folks heard at my home group was, needless to say, abbreviated. Hell, even this version is abbreviated. But it was strange to share something that has always been one of the biggest terrible events of my life, and revisit that “permanent psychic trauma” that I mentioned earlier. For whatever reason I avoided injury, imprisonment and even death during that phase of my life. I have managed to piece together quite a patchwork of varying experiences, but those days of my youth come back to me often…whether I’m telling the story about catching myself on fire making napalm for the hundredth time, or suddenly remembering I hadn’t checked up on Tim in a long time. My one year speech really got the old stories rattling in my brain, so last week I did what I generally remember to do once or twice every year….I went out to the Kansas Offender’s Registry to make sure Tim was still in prison. That’s the permanent psychic damage at its best…to this day I know that if he got out of jail I’d have to be ready to shoot him if he tracked me down, thinking he could either get something from me for old times sake or in some bizarre world, stay with me. Not logical, but I guess it’s a carryover from that insane time. There is a surprising amount of information on the Kansas website…I’ve always been able to see where and when he’s been transferred between facilities, how many times he’s been put in the separate housing unit for assaulting a guard or another inmate….lots of stuff. But mainly I’ve always just made sure he’s never leaving prison and is never up for parole. When I looked at his status on the website last week, it had been changed to one word- deceased. He died at the end of March of this year, and how he died is maybe the one thing they don’t list out in detail.

So I can talk about a lot of the things we used to do as kids. We raised some hell that would have the media outlets lining up to speak with us through the thick glass these days. I can talk about them because I was a minor when they happened, and now I can talk about them because I am now the only person who was around to see any of it who is still alive. That’s a strange feeling….a very dark and inadvertent “tontine”…with me as the final keeper of all of those crazy memories. A different sort of nostalgia that makes me even more thankful for what I have and the people who are in my life now….I have a million reasons to be grateful for what things are like now, chief of which is that I lived through what it was like then.

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One Year In…A Case for A.A.


So the one year sobriety birthday came and went without any great fanfare or epiphanies, which is exactly what one year of meetings and twelve-stepping should prepare you for. No sudden wisdom, no mariachi bands, no parades, no great rewards for finally learning to live your life like a normal human being…it was just Monday. Not only that, I was home sick from work. It was one unremarkable day.  Unremarkable enough for me to sit and contemplate how easy it would be to take a drink…nothing new, nothing grand; just the knowledge that the meetings never stop, you will never be normal, you will always have to work your ass off for this…so what is the point of all of this work?  Why not just say fuck it and go after some pointless fun? 

Now, I didn’t sit there contemplating all of that shit, I’m just saying it was unremarkable enough of a day IF I wanted to do that.  I was actually pretty happy and content with where I’m at, and had some good reflective chuckles about how differently AA’ers talk to you about your anniversaries than sober people.  Don’t get me wrong, a year is great, I’m grateful beyond words to have this and everything it has given me, but when it comes down to it…yay, hooray, you aren’t drinking until you shit yourself or re-enacting the most gaunt and spasmodic moments of Leaving Las Vegas.  And THAT realization and the comfort you have with it ONLY comes from working the program and relying upon the support that comes with it. It’s kind of like doing a masters program for a year with the sole purpose of FINALLY comprehending a single thought such as “keep coming back, it works if you work it”.  If you are looking for soulful illumination and intellectual profundities beyond that…you seriously need to let go of some shit because you are setting yourself up for epic failure.

I won’t do my home group one-year speech until August 6, but last week I had the opportunity to do something that I think was far more critical, which is actually going to be the focus of this post.  On Thursday I went back to speak to about twenty people and their families in the outpatient treatment program, back at the hospital where I did my stint last year. I invested a lot of time and emotion into that program, because I really wanted to turn things around, so I’ve spent a lot of time since then wondering “what will I say when I go back for my one year coin?”. The focus of my daydreams on that speech changed dramatically over the past twelve months; going from “yay me!” in the beginning, to the “if you aren’t already working a program by the time you graduate from IOP, you are in grave danger” theme that dominated Thursday night. So this is going to be a write-up of all of THAT…probably long as hell by the time I get done, but I really think it will be one of the only things of TRUE value I’ve managed to contribute to this blog…

When I was in the five week intensive outpatient treatment program last year (after my stay in detox), I do remember different people coming up to speak to us and get their six month coins.  I don’t remember hearing any one-year speakers, but plenty who had six months…funny how that works.  I probably wasn’t alone in the fact that I kind of felt sorry for them…they all had AA in common, and I figured they they must have lacked the initiative or the magic that I was feeling this early in my sobriety if they were still needing something like AA after six months. They were totally stuck. Looking back, this was just a simple sign of the greatest delusion shared by all addicts….the thing that many say is much deadlier than the drugs or alcohol…what ends up killing us is our “terminal uniqueness”.  Or as I also refer to it- the “Unicorn Syndrome”. It’s easy for us to believe the science of treatment….the meds, the schedule, the group sessions, everything about the neuroscience of the disease….but when it comes to AA, we think “whooaaa….WHHOOAAAAAA!…they are taking this shit too far….that cannot be for me”.  Each of us believes there is something in our intellect, our physiology or our sheer drive and determination that makes us unique enough to figure out an easier, softer path.  We ignore the scientific fact, proven by decades of research, that we have a 90% chance of relapse (usually within 6 months) if we are not in a regular program after we first get sober.  Even Russian roulette has better odds.  We’re the Unicorn. The one who FINALLY gets this recovery thing in a way that does not require the tedium of a lifelong program centered on the indisputable FACT that we have a disease that will kill us unless we are able to find a way to abstain 100% from all mood altering substances. 

 I know the twelve step thing seems too simple, it is boring and sounds like total mouth-breather retard level bullshit.  It really is pretty stupid when you stop to think about it, because there is no way it should be successful for anyone besides the types of losers who sit in those meetings and yack ad nauseum about their eleventeen broken marriages and batallions of estranged children.  I’m an ex-minister who used to have such a hatred of all things higher-powery that when Timothy McVeigh blew up that building my first thought was “I wish he’d parked that truck in front of a church on Sunday morning”….so this generic twelve step shit should definitely not work for me.  But it does work.  And how I know that is I haven’t had a drink or drug in over a year.  So I know it works, and I know that the chances of you being pissed off just reading this if you’re currently struggling in that dysfunctional dance are very high.  If it’s too much for you to handle, go find the easier softer way to get a year under your belt…just try not to kill yourself or anyone else before you end up at your next bottom. They never, ever, ever get any better the more of them you have.  If you want to be successful with a program like AA all you really need to know are these five things:

 #1Don’t worry about the God shit.  I know, you’re an agnostic or an atheist, or you are just so sick of organized religion and what it has done to you, the world, or both, that you fall under the category of “found the easiest loophole to prove I’m too unique for this program”.  When I first started, all my higher power consisted of was my newfound ability to actually have the smallest inkling of concern for another addict or alcoholic because I knew how they felt and I wanted them to get better. It’s no more complicated than that….but you don’t even have to have THAT. Honestly, the higher power thing in no way matters at this point, but if you’ve got an idea of what yours is….bonus.

#2- Don’t worry about the steps. It will be a little while before they really matter.  The most important thing to remember is the ONLY requirement is the desire to stop drinking/using.  If you want to quit, and you are willing to go to any length to achieve it, at some point you’re going to engage with the steps.  But I know, right now the steps sound ridiculous, generic, too involved, insurmountable, etc.  You’re going to need to make things a lot simpler for yourself, and right now that starts with one thing…do you really want to quit? Maybe you just don’t want to quit yet…that’s a pretty natural reaction.

 #3- AA vs. NA vs. CA and on and on…. if it has “anonymous” after it, it’s all basically the same program. Alcohol is only mentioned in the first step, so whether you’re drinking, smoking foils or chewing oxy’s…you are covered.  I realize, especially at first, that you want to be around people with the same problem…but after you’re in the program for a while that matters less and less. The thing about AA is that it has infinitely more meeting times and locations…and it is critical that you get to meetings regularly.  The easiest excuse in the world is “the only Narcotics Anonymous meeting within 25 miles of my home..and it meets at noon when I’m at work”.  Long story short…bullshit excuse.  Go to an AA meeting. And if they happen to be in the extreme EXTREME minority of “old timey” AA’ers who tell people to stick to alcohol-talk only…just say you’re an alcoholic. Trust me. It’s all the same program, your issue is not unique enough for you to skip out due to the EXTREMELY UNLIKELY CHANCE that it is even going to come up.  Yes, it sucks to constantly go to meetings…some are miraculously lifechanging, some are just so-so, but once I’ve gotten off my ass and made it to one I have not regretted it….not one single time.  How hard did you work to get fucked up and stay fucked up?  Enough said.

 #4- 90 in 90, Temporary Sponsors, The Crazy Old Men, etc….. There are several generations worth of urban folktales surrounding AA culture… you have to go to 90 meetings in 90 days, don’t leave your first meeting without having a temporary sponsor, the crazy old men just waiting for you to mention drugs in an AA meeting so they can yell at you…the list of things people use to talk themselves out of meetings is endless, and most are not based in reality. If I got hung up on 90 in 90, the first meeting I missed would have been my excuse to drink.  You don’t really need a temporary sponsor….at your first meeting you’ll get a card with a lot of phone numbers on it….use them. Seriously. And sure, you’ll run in to crazy old men from time to time….this is a club where ruining your life was pretty much the standard before you joined…the lunatics are easy to spot. What you want to do is “stick with the winners”. They are also easy to spot, and one of them will make a good permanent sponsor.

 #5- Stop Googling AA Statistics…yes, there are programs out there other than AA, and way more people fail in AA than remain sober in the long term. That’s just the nature of the disease….if it wasn’t, recovery wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar business.  Drunks and addicts are the most egomaniacal and selfish people on the planet, and they are, ironically, also the most self-loathing and self conscious.  They have a disease that feeds their ego by telling them either it’s not really a disease, or that they can learn to use responsibly….and in today’s culture of Dr. Phil’s and self-help sound bites, there are a million different programs willing to take your time and money and get you to believe your ego. You are too unique for what AA has to offer you. The label of “alcoholic” is too extreme and demeaning, and preaching a lifetime of abstinence is unrealistic. It is not in our nature to live the rest of our lives at odds with what our addiction keeps telling us…it takes a level of maintenance that forces us to live that life at odds with our ego. STOPPING THE BEHAVIOR is the easiest thing in the world…you make it past that initial detox and you’re on your way.  It’s living sober that’s the issue.  And there isn’t any easy way to do it other than one day at a time.

 Basically, if one year has taught me one thing, it’s that you need to keep things as simple as possible. If you are just finishing an inpatient/outpatient program, the work that you do right now determines your success a year from now. And the work that you are doing needs to focus on a couple of things-

 BRUTAL HONESTY– honesty is a pretty new concept for most of us, and it starts with the question….do you really want to quit? Are you really done? Or, do you have some more field research to complete before you make that decision? You don’t have to tell me or anyone else, that’s a question you have to ask yourself…and chances are good that you’ve never even let yourself be that brutally honest in your own head. When you no longer have fantastical substance-driven delusions to bullshit yourself with, the type of honesty you are stuck with is scary as hell.  And you either do whatever it takes to escape it, or you do whatever it takes to deal with it. There’s really not a door #3 here.

RECOVERY IS REAL WORK– that’s basically the whole story. It’s like having another job in addition to everything else you do in your life. It requires maintenance for you to be successful…because you are just as susceptible to relapse after twenty years of sobriety as you were at one year. Just ask any of the people who go back out after five, ten, even twenty or thirty years of being sober….the one thing they have in common is that they quit working the program. This job never stops. And no, it’s not fair. It’s life. And living that life in sobriety, without that immediate chemical escape, is too much for your brain to comprehend…so you keep it simple.  This is the genesis of that AA cliche “one day at a time”.

 Upon entering the program you will discover very quickly that AA is nothing like it is portrayed in the movies or on TV (with very few exceptions)…not every meeting is a speaker meeting, people don’t just sit around talking about how much they used to drink and exchange battle stories …when you first start going, chances are good you have no idea what in the bloody hell people are even talking about.  But don’t let that make you feel self-conscious. Just say whatever you’re thinking, or say nothing at all. Not a big deal either way. We expect to hear some disjointed tales of excess from you, but short of your story including selling dirty bombs to Al Quaeda to support your black market organ harvesting empire and white slave trade…which were all sparked by your addiction to meth that started at the age of 18 months…whatever you have to say isn’t even going to peg our radar. We are exactly like you, we know how it all feels.

I guess this is the point at which I interject “The Matrix” references….  When I talk to newly sober people and recognize the resistance, disbelief and disinterest in their faces when talking about AA, the only thing I can compare it to is “taking the red pill” in The Matrix.  The initial relief and sudden rush of wisdom and reflective thought that comes with sobriety can bring with it a false, and dangerous, sense of self-confidence.  In reality, the journey hasn’t even begun. The psychological and spiritual changes needed in order to successfully live sober are so vastly different from anything experienced up to that point in a person’s life that the only way to begin that journey is just to shut up, put the ego and pre-conceived notions to the side and take the red pill. Go to meetings. Go until they start to make sense….until elements of “how it works” starts to filter in and crack the surface of your brain. Trust me, I realize the absurdity of this, because your brain is doing exactly what it should be doing this early in sobriety….you aren’t close to being in control of it yet….the moments of euphoria, anger, fear, resentment and emptiness that come and go are all part of your brain healing itself. It takes a while for the red pill to wake you up from the dream…and hopefully in a year you’ll be sharing with a group in some treatment center thinking to yourself…”holy shit…they really have no idea they are living in The Matrix”.

 Speaking of movies…and the brain….they say it takes six months to two years for your brain to heal.  Now, this “healing” has absolutely nothing to do with finally understanding the science of the super-collider, or counting toothpicks like you were Rainman.  It isn’t about intellect or problem solving skills. The healing that takes place is far more subtle and has everything to do with your brain’s “LET’S GO FAST! GO! GO! GO! GOTTA HAVE FUN! CAN’T GET BORED!” switch finally shutting off long enough for you to just be alive in the moment without it driving you crazy. Your brain is conditioned to only be satisfied with the neuron-bending highs and lows that come with substance abuse…and just because you stop the behavior doesn’t mean your brain is done doing that.  This is where “your triggers” live.

Again, I’m a movie guy, my life basically consists of one long string of movie quotes and references, so naturally the next comparison I draw for people has to do with the actual act of going to the movies.  That’s what your path to recovery is like….it’s like going to AMC Theatres. 

 The “Pre-Previews”

 These days when you go to the movies, there is a whole show that goes on before they even begin the previews. It goes on while you are settling in and there is all kinds of info on whatever horrible new pop sensation just got their start on American Idol, and behind the scenes on the set of whatever new tv crime drama Coke is sponsoring…..and this goes on until the lights go down for the previews.  Well, if you are doing a stint in inpatient or working your way through an outpatient program, this is where you are at. You’re in the pre-previews. Meds are adjusting, the fog is beginning to lift a little bit, your swings of emotion are at least identifiable and you are able to verbalize them without totally breaking down or acting out. It’s at this stage where you probably fit into one of three categories….unless of course you’re A UNICORN, like we ALL ARE….your existential angst is too big to fit into these paltry constraints OR you’ve been through like six different rehab programs prior to this (which for some reason makes everyone look to you as “the expert” in the group), and you can recite some lesson you got from a process group that trumps my meager offering…..anyway……these are the big 3 in my experience…

#1- HAPPY!… You are just relieved to still be alive and you are going to take this sobriety thing and run with it.  You’re experiencing the pink clouds, you have a new lease on life, you’re doing all of the homework they tell you to do and you aren’t missing a group. You’ve got a decent support system in place, and are ready to rock and fucking roll.  When your case manager asks if you’re already attending meetings, you probably answer something like “I’m sure thinking about it!”…because so far, so good.  You are amazed at the fact that you aren’t really experiencing any craving…even when you went with friends to one of your old stomping grounds to shoot pool.  And when you made it through that okay, maybe you thought it would be nice if you were their designated driver going forward….you were sober now and cravings weren’t bothering you…so it would be nice to give back and make sure they were safe.  You’re happy, which 99% of the time also makes you completely insane and oblivious to reality. If you’re already so healed you’re thinking about “how to be around alcohol”, you are definitely in the pre-preview.  I give you shit because I was a lot like this…. a 100% relapse guarantee unless you are working a program before the previews begin. 

 #2- PISSED!…  Maybe you’re that atheist or agnostic I mentioned…the angry ex-Catholic from a long, long line of hypocritical religious alcoholics. Or not. But you’re still pissed. You’re dealing with personal wreckage…people who are pissed that your recovery is “all about YOU” after you spent so much time making a huge mess that was also “all about YOU”.  A cop, a judge, a wife….maybe someone forced you into treatment and you resent it, and maybe your loss of control over your own life means  that all you have to look forward to after graduation is still being accountable to one of THOSE fuckers.  The  pink cloud people are idiots, you’d be happy just to feel like your skin fit. Complete abstinence is bullshit, maybe it shows just as much weakness as complete loss of control. You don’t know what you need in order to make it past the pre-previews, but you are pretty sure none of the shit up to this point has been it. Just being around people is annoying, and the prospect of HAVING to go to meetings so that the meeting leader can sign  your little slip to prove you were there is incomprehensibly soul-sucking. These and a million other  things…you’re the quiet guy with the crossed arms that generally doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot to say. A huge paradigm shift is needed in order to avoid either living as a dry drunk, or experiencing massive relapse….to be honest, I don’t know which would be more painful.

#3- SCARED!… You have no idea where you are going from here, and craving is a huge issue. Your entire support system up until this point may have consisted of nothing but other drunks or addicts, so there aren’t many people to lean on, or the home you are returning to is not a sober one. You’ve been here half a dozen times, and go through periods of numbness followed by extreme anxiety.  I know this will sound crazy, but fear is a great motivator…as far as long term sobriety I’d put my money on you over the happy or pissed off folks any day.

 Like I said, this is not an exhaustive list, but in my experience these are the common themes during the “pre-previews”.  A cheesy illustration perhaps, but I’m telling you…this is where you start getting your ass to meetings.

 “The Previews”

 The previews are basically…..the first six months after treatment.  I know that sounds pretty shitty because six months is a long time, and if you’re putting in the kind of work that is needed, it can feel even longer. Essentially, this is where you are picking up the pieces. You are learning how to navigate the world. You’re getting the pats on the back, or you’re learning how to deal with the angry people whose lives you disrupted. Trust of others begins coming back, as does trust in yourself if you remain sober. However positive or negative it is, your financial forecast and job situation normalizes…that is to say, you’re learning how to live with it. If you started going to meetings when you should have, the weird old men have stopped seeming so weird, and the literature and meeting formats are making more sense. You’re getting to know people, they’re getting to know you, and you either have, or are close to getting, a sponsor. You feel like you belong, and sometimes it’s just a relief to have a place like that. Because sobriety is just weird….it takes a while for those triggers to settle down, and even after they do they always find a way to pop back up to remind you that you have a disease. Nothing is ever really “fixed”, but it is manageable.

  “Your Feature Film”

 Life finally gets underway. The pats on the back are gone, the wary employer has chilled out, people have either moved on or started trusting you. No parades, no streamers….the realization comes that life is just life and you either live it sober, or you don’t. And there isn’t any great magic either way…it’s totally your decision.  This moment is why you started going to meetings when you did….back when you were happy, angry or scared. If you didn’t put in the work, this is the moment where things seem so back to normal that total abstinence doesn’t make nearly as much sense. Your life is strong enough now to handle the occasional party, the wine with dinner, etc. There is now enough distance between you and the pain that brought you to treatment, that the tenets of a twelve step program sound as ridiculous and as unnecessary as they ever did. You are strong enough to do what no alcoholic or addict has ever done before…you can do it in moderation. 

 And that’s the way it goes and the way it has always gone. You either find a way to work on your sobriety, or you don’t stay sober.  I know, there is the possibility that you are the unicorn, after all….it’s only 90% of the people who fail at this….who is to say you aren’t in the lucky 10%. SOMEBODY has to be.

 It’s when you come to a year after first swallowing that red pill that you realize how much danger you were in when you left treatment, and how going to a meeting the very first night you left inpatient may very well have been the smartest decision of your life.  Because THAT decision gave you everything that you have now.

  Yes, I’m a smartass, I’m sarcastic, and I take great liberties when it comes to sounding like I’ve got my shit together and poking fun at the people who are still living in The Matrix. I talk that way to you, because we’re the same person. The first time I ever really connected with someone in AA was one night during my inpatient stay. We had groups all day and night, and in the evening some AA or NA group would bring a meeting up to the hospital. They were usually what you picture when you think of a 12-stepper, kind of off-kilter, all religiousy, some low-bottom stories. Then one night these two ladies from a meeting held in a Jewish Temple in a very affluent part of town came to see us. We’re still in detox, so we’re in pretty rough shape….the little hospital footies, unshaven, I was all broken out in hives from not having liquor in two days. These middle aged ladies come in…perfect hair, makeup, perfume…clothing and jewelry worth more than all of the cars I’d owned up to that point in my life.  I immediately wanted to punch them in the throat for being condescending assholes, coming in like that to do us some fucking favor. And of course, when they began to tell their stories it broke me into about a hundred pieces. They knew what this hell was like. The self-hatred and shame. The fear. The lying. All of the things that bring you to a state of what we call “icomprehensible demoralization”. That was a turning point for me. It got me to meetings, and while I can’t say with the type of scientific exactitude required by the disbelieving Matrix-dwellers to assure them that meetings are the end-all be-all answer to this conundrum….I CAN say that I’ve gone to a lot of meetings in the past year, and it has been the only year of my life since about the age of 15 where I have not taken one drink or one drug.  

 I’m not here telling you all of this to sell you Amway or Jesus…I know this is a lot to hear and you’re going to do with it whatever you want. I understand that. You and me are the same.  All I can tell you is that a little over a year ago I stood in my kitchen and somehow had enough clarity in the middle of an epic life-ending bender to make the decision to just give up and ask for help. With help, I stopped drinking, started going to meetings,and began doing exactly what people with a hell of a lot of sobriety told me to do. At one point during “The Previews”, I decided all I really wanted, all I honestly and truly asked for out of life was just to be some average schmoe…..a job, a house, my wife, living peacefully in anonymity, with the ability to just sit still and be okay with that. In my heart, that was really what I wanted my life to be. I’m not a huge “big book thumper”…I like to read some of the literature, but not always. However, on pages 83 and 84, it lists out The Promises…”if we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through…”, etc.  Like absolutely everyone I talk to who has worked the program, these promises….for whatever reason, are real.  I have the best job of my life, an awesome wife, I grow tomatoes, play golf and am one hell of a home chef. I go to meetings, I lead meetings, and I love getting up crazy early on the weekend to get my day started. Not only are the promises real, they generally give you even more than you were hoping for.

This doesn’t mean life is just awesome all of the time….life still happens and it can suck. But with the program comes the support and strength to make it through all of that, to learn from it, and to use elements of it to help others. At some point as you work the steps, sobriety becomes your new reality, and the gifts you get from it help you to protect it at all costs. Most of all, you learn how to be quiet and just be in the moment….at peace. No nagging fear, no guilt, no trying to remember what you did the night before or the regret that comes when you do. A new freedom, a new happiness…no running from responsibility or micro-managing the lies.

 I don’t have any magical closing words of wisdom that will finally get you to run to the altar like a repentent sinner….this isn’t as complicated or dramatic as that.  All I can tell you is that if you want what we have, and are willing to go to any length to get it, it is going to take work. But you don’t have to do it alone, and all you have to do to achieve it is keep coming back.

 And with that I’ll pass.

Content Copyright 2008


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The New Job…

Okay, this is as good a time as any to dish out the “new job” blog…

A few minutes ago I got an email from my division chief patting me on the back for crafting a well written one-page request email. To put that in perspective…at my last job you were lucky to get an honorable mention if you made it through a thirty six hour shift without losing consciousness.

Before I get into all of the greatness of contracting for the federal government, in general I’m still in a pretty calm place. We just celebrated our first wedding anniversary, I’m turning 41 on the 4th of July, and my “other” birthday is July 12th. Tonight we are eating at one of my new favorite restaurants- Justus Drugstore.  Still working the program…remaining as accountable to that as possible. I was leading the 8am Saturday meetings for the past three months, and now I’ll be leading the 6pm Thursday meetings. I genuinely enjoy going, but obligating myself insures I’ll attend. The noon meetings over by where I work are good, but there is nothing like your home group.  Remaining accountable to the program means watching out for highs and lows of emotion in order to avoid the egomaniacal pitfalls that are part of life….specifically the feelings of “YES! I got this job and am doing well because I’m the greatest sonofabitch alive!”, or the equally ego-driven “Oh, I know I’m just not worthy of these good things that are happening…”. I try to stay away from all of that, and extreme emotion in general, which I know has a negative impact on the entertainment value here….but I am treating my newly found sanity with cautious optimism and don’t want to rock the boat.

Plus, I’m just making out like a bandit these days and stop to appreciate it all as much as possible…. great wife and marriage, a dream job where I work 9-5 and no weekends, new stuff around the house and a nice new flowerbed out front, high-end dinners out without freaking about every penny, good friends, farmers markets, an overgrown herb garden, a round of golf with my cool new clubs every damn weekend…..and if all I have to do is work the program to keep all of this, or keep me sane if any of it goes off the rails, then I consider it a bargain.

So it is with gratitude and wonderment that I approach the new job…. one that I didn’t even have to go looking for after seven months of following every friggin’ lead I could find.  Even when things get a little surreal or ridiculous around here, all I have to do is remember what it was like week after week with no leads and no hope.

Without getting into specifics that could get me into some kind of trouble, I’ll just say that I currently work as a contractor in a large federal agency in the IT department. And granted, it is such a different environment from anyplace I’ve worked that I could take the piss right out of it for about 6,000 words if I got into one of my modes. I will say that, in regard to the stereotype of the angry, lazy, government employee, you do see some of that. And you do see every type of disability….when the weather is bad, the Little Rascal scooters are lined up like Sturgis downstairs.  But overall, people are pretty nice, and unlike places I’ve worked like Sprint and IBM, people who make really good money here generally don’t go around putting on airs. At the Sprint Campus, someone making 50K would go into hock and lease a new Lexus just to keep up with the faux-yuppie image….and in general, someone making more than twice that here probably still drives their 2005 Chevy truck or Honda…and even though they happen to have some property and a cabin down by the lake they don’t pull the Sprint/Corporate bullshit and act like it’s a tudor in The Hamptons. It is pretty laid back here. The government goes at the government’s pace, and you hear almost zero talk about politics….because the government goes at the government’s pace…the Fox News/CNN battles that stoke the fires of public outrage really don’t spark that much conversation here. For all of the well meaning liberal white-guilt bullshit “diversity” talk you hear in the corporate setting, diversity is real here. When confronted with a well meaning liberal riddled with white guilt (who usually lives in the all-white yuppie enclave “close enough” to the hood to pretend to be urban) who has something to say about diversity, I tell them “If you really believed in diversity, you’d hang out in the DMV or the tax office to make friends”.  Well, working here is like working around everyone you run into in the tax office or DMV….age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief….it is all well represented here in what I refer to as “heaven”.

And it’s heaven because the government has processes, and you learn very quickly who owns those processes, and if you are smart you learn how NOT to piss them off.  Find out what food they like and bring it to the monthly birthday celebration….just be friendly and know your damn place. Do your job. Do YOUR job. Don’t go figuring out how someone else can do their job even better. Getting things done on time here is like extreme overachievement in the corporate world. Know your place, don’t be all loud, and if I didn’t mention it before…know your place.  IF you can know your place and be happy with your place, and I am extremely, ecstatically, enthusiastically ENAMORED with MY place, you’ll do okay. Sure, some people are just angry…that’s their thing.  And if they can make YOU angry, even better for them…..but you spot them quick and tend to avoid them. They are the people who you can literally hear grit their teeth when you hurry on to the elevator at the last second and push a floor before theirs.  So I kid you not, this is something a couple of us do…we wait until we are AT the elevators and we wait for a door to open up. We do not rush to catch one. When we are in a meeting with federals and the conversation abruptly comes to a halt, that means “time for contractors to leave so we can talk government stuff”. You just better know that, nobody is going to say it. When we go to a luncheon, we get our plate of food and leave….we do NOT sit down in the middle of all of the federals and chill with them for an hour thinking we’re getting in good with them. And as crazy as it sounds, it’s the little things like that that will keep you off the radar and allow you to do your job in peace. Now, you have to work with some of the angry people on a regular basis, but it only takes about five seconds of thought remembering how much worse it was at Sprint or IBM to put things in perspective. And like I said, for the most part, people are pretty cool and there are some very interesting and highly qualified folks around here, and while the job can be challenging you generally have realistic expectations put upon you.  You are actually allowed to LEARN THINGS and then PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE….such a different concept.  But in general, it’s not the work you have to worry about, it’s the people.  My masters in org psych is paying off BIG TIME here….because it’s all about getting along with people and personalities. Your boss may be high up on the food chain, but the person with more “power” may be the 70 year old admin you keep pissing off by tying up the printer with those 100 sheet print jobs. It could take your federal lead six months to get rid of you, but THAT lady….she could have you packed and out the door that afternoon because she has worked for the right people at some point. Total common sense stuff, perhaps too mundane, predictable and boring for some, but I love it….I finally found a gig where I can work to LIVE, not live to work.  I put in 40 hours, go above and beyond whenever I can, am always stepping up when volunteers are asked for, and I’m damn friendly and personable. If they want me to work over in the evening or on a weekend (which hasn’t happened yet), that means our homeland security guys need at least a 2 day lead time in order to set up our security access for off-hours. And the cherry on top is that I got nearly a 10K raise when I took this gig. Those promises on pages 83 and 84 of the big book are absolutely real…..I couldn’t make this stuff up if I wanted to. 

So I guard all of this. Guard my home life and guard my sanity.  I don’t rush off into all of the tangents that keep me constantly amazed…especially this insane political partisanship of the past 2 years.  It’s nothing but bad reality tv, but people buy into it.  I guess the new thing is to hate federal employees because they are forcing Obama to raise taxes, because they are the only ones who will get all the money?  It’s shit like that people will say to me when I happen to be among any of the Fox news crowd….lots of slogans, lots of catchphrases, lots of posturing, but sadly few facts or figures to back it up.  Granted, I know those on the left can do the same shit….99% of political arguments boil down to going back and forth matching tales of hypocrisy. Government employees are parasites….well, I would have stayed at IBM indefinitely if the already highly profitable company didn’t decide they could boost their profits even more by sending my and 15,000 other jobs to countries where they can pay people four bucks an hour. So to me all of this boils down to, who do you trust more to run things?  The government or big business?  I realize it’s a nightmare choice, but higher taxes have had way, way less of an impact on me than all of the American jobs that are being outsourced so that fewer and fewer people can guarantee they get more and more of the money.  What I hear from the tea-partiers is “well, jobs go overseas because the companies are getting taxed so much”……so by that logic, if taxes are lowered, all of the jobs are coming back?  And of course there is the whole Arizona immigration thing….which is something that blows my mind. Yes, illegal immigrants are a big problem, but as per usual the knee-jerk redneck contingent would rather have a sabre-rattling good time rousting them than do anything to make a real impact.  They want to send a message to the liberals rather than do something for their country.  And by that I mean…why are the illegals coming here?  They come here because people give them money to work. So instead of making a big deal about the failure of government to control the borders, how about we prosecute anyone who hires an illegal for treason?  I’m constantly told by the Fox News/Limbaugh drones very specific things that mean I “either support America or I support socialism”.  Well I support America…..and I love it enough to put people in prison for hiring illegal aliens to do a job.  But they literally don’t even acknowledge that argument when I bring it up, because then I’m threatening big business…I’m threatening capitalism and unrestricted trade.  And I’m threatening it because in order to cut off the cash flow to illegals, which WOULD keep them in their home country, that would mean that the heads of major companies who support things like ignorant Arizona legislation would have to go to prison.  Companies like Wal-Mart, Tyson, Dole….right now they can afford to pay the wrist-slap fines they incur when illegals are found in their businesses, so the infamous Arizona diversionary tactic works just great for them.  And in short, that is one of the things that just amazes me right now…..there’s no good debate anymore, just anger.  No real dialogue about these things.  So other than this last paragraph I don’t give it much thought, and when I’m drawn into the blackhole that is the discussion with a tea-party minded Palin apologist, I try to bring it all back to “so in all of this what can you or I do RIGHT NOW to make a positive impact in a way that actually makes a difference in our lives and does not involve rhetorical, lazy arguments on a national scale?”.  And more often than not, that question ends the discussion….because people generally don’t want to think or do any work, or make any rational sense. The high-minded conservative “work ethic” only applies to whatever got them to a position where they are comfortable enough in life to say “that’s just tough shit…we can’t all go broke taking care of everyone” when faced with questions about what to do with the extension of unemployment benefits or the fact that so many people can’t afford basic health care.  It’s much easier to demonize EVERYONE like they are that stereotypical welfare mother who keeps cranking out babies because babies mean even more money from Saint Obama, than it is to actually get involved with changing a process….the more time you can spend telling someone what they are doing wrong, the less time it leaves you to worry about what you can do that is right.

And with that, I bid you a good evening and a happy and safe 4th of July weekend. And you know why I don’t have time for some kind of a smartass sign-off?  It’s because I’m a social parasite who gets to leave work now and I don’t want to use any of my own time to talk with you…..

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The Gravy Train with Biscuit Wheels…

We went to see Kevin Smith a little over a week ago at The Midland. Great show,I wasn’t sure what to expect, but he’s a gifted speaker/communicator and he went for three full hours. Part standup, part industry insider gossip, and questions from the audience running the gambit from the finer points of ass to mouth to nerdy shit dealing with the extras on the recent Blu-Ray release of Chasing Amy. Smith’s career has run the gambit from creating the indie flick phenomenon Clerks to the recent release of Cop-Out.  I’ve heard a lot of people poo-poo him for selling out or becoming irrelevant, and I’ve ridden the fence on that one myself.  Smith brought this up the other night and made a point that spoke to me personally in relation to my blog. He said everyone keeps expecting him to make the next Clerks, but when he made clerks he was living in his parent’s basement and was one miserable fucker.  He added that if you want him to be able to write something like Clerks again, then let him come home and see his beloved wife blowing you….then he may be able to get some of the angst back long enough to whip out another dose of misery. The point was, he’s happy now, he’s older, he’s rich, a family man, and he’s no longer the guy who can do Clerks. So he has to do other things that make him happy, and hopefully keep him relevant….to his fans, the people who will always relate, if nobody else.
Other than being a fat guy, I’m no Kevin Smith. However, after listening to him I really believe he is one of the few people in the world I would never have to edit myself in front of…his off-the-cuff humor is pretty twisted, and no matter how “normal” I become I’ll always, thankfully, have a part of my brain that is positively fucked. Lately, in casual conversation when watching TV, I’ve been on this kick where I’ll (for example) see someone holding a folder in a business meeting and I’ll say “I wonder what would happen if they were standing there holding a child’s disembodied hand?”. And it will go on like that for about a week….not just a disembodied hand, but a child’s disembodied hand. And of course it doesn’t pop to mind when I’m watching The Office, it’s always at a time when Tim Gunn is holding a ruler on Project Runway, or something else completely benign.
“So seriously, how do you think everyone would act if that was a child’s disembodied hand he was using to point at the garments?  Do you think they’d just respect it because it was Tim Gunn?  Because there is NO DENYING that fucking hand has been hacked off of the end of a kid’s arm like twenty minutes ago.”
So there’s that. And those moments come and go, and usually I could give less of a shit if anyone else thinks it’s funny, because to me it is hysterical. I always imagine some bleeding heart like Rob Reiner starting a coalition to ban the use of children’s limbs as props on television, for fear that the general public will then believe it’s okay for them to run around playgrounds with pruning shears having their way with youngster flesh. He’d come up with some stupid acronym like W.I.G.B.A.M. (Will It Grow Back Again, Mommy?), that would be all the rage for the limousine liberal set.
ANYWAY, I’ve been too uncomfortable, even apologetic, about the direction of my blog after sobering up. I’m definitely not saying it was always fueled by alcohol, that was usually NOT the case, but things were different. I was different. And I don’t think anyone who reads it regularly would appreciate non-stop insanity for the sake of shock value. I’m a real guy with real shit going on, and I know the absolute worst thing to do would be to enforce a regular schedule here. I can’t depend on recreating something that was funny two years ago to keep it afloat. Life goes on, I keep writing this thing as the motivation comes, and that’s pretty much it.
Right now, things are just good. Life is normal.  The new job started last week, so I’m generally up a little after 6am to take a shower, let the dog out, make coffee and hang out checking email and Facebook until it’s time to get dressed and hit the road with my lunch that my wife usually packs for me. Not a bad situation. Then work is a pretty steady 9-5 with no big surprises or pressure…….I cannot overstate the greatness of a government gig, even as a contractor. It is THE way to slide into middle age, it is my personal version of creating an easy big studio flick like Cop Out. Being financially responsible and living within our means without having to worry about pinching every penny. Things like buying the good Farm to Market bread instead of whatever happens to be on sale….THAT is the good life.
And the obsession with cooking never stops.  My father in law and his wife are in town this weekend, so I’ll get the smoker going.  Then in a couple of weeks I get to do a for-real hyper-planned meal for friends who are about to have a baby. In the middle of all of that is school, which I’m losing enthusiasm for now that I’m working, but even that isn’t so bad. You do meet some batshit crazy people who just don’t get what school is all about….but I have to expect that kind of culture shock since the last schooling I had was grad school, and now I’m at a junior college in their addiction counseling program. If nothing else, it’s damn easy to get an “A”.  Throw in evening walks in the park with my wife and my dog, working together to plan the week’s evening meals, and figuring out what to do with the weekend since we’re both working now….and I have no complaints. After a few years of intermittent insanity, this is the life.  The American Dream, as far as I’m concerned.  If that’s selling out, then fuck it, selling out is awesome.
Of course, probably none of this would be possible without the calm and rational approach to life that comes with sobriety.  At almost nine months, it’s not always the first thing on my mind in the morning or the last thing on my mind at night, but I do know that meetings are something I’ll have to do for the rest of my life, and I’m thankful for the insurance and the structure.  The Saturday 8am meeting that I’m leading now is something I genuinely look forward to all week. I go to other meetings, it’s just my favorite, and I provide the good donuts. I just finished my fifth step with my sponsor a couple of weeks ago, so the focus now is that this is indeed not just a new life….it’s life. This is the beginning of all things, and the strength that comes from that is what will get you through the intermittent insanity that is sure to come.  If nothing else, I now everything will be better than it would be if I was drinking….especially the crazy, unmanageable surprises, losses and failures. 
So when the good times are here, I’ll take them. And with spring in the air as a bonus, and the farmer’s markets on their way…..these are the good times. New furniture is being delivered this weekend, and I’ve begun pricing thermal immersion circulators to take my cooking to the next level.
And I do keep seeing some crazy spikes in readership from time to time, I know people are out there reading, so thanks for the repeat business.  To some degree, this is all for me and about me….but my ego demands attention from others as well.  And that’s all I’ve got for right now. Feel free to take the hand thing and run with it. 

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Well, Momofuku You Too! ….


So I started this blog because of my love of food….a love so deep and misguided that I had to have surgery to avoid an early death.  But I haven’t talked about food that much lately because most of my cooking has been of the day to day Suzie Homemaker variety, and most of my dining out has been the same handful of places due to the lack of employment.  Plus there’s the whole recovery angle now.  Last week’s No Reservations (I just watched it….finally got a DVR!) focused on food obsession and had a segment on food bloggers.  Compared to what’s out there, I definitely would NOT call this a food blog…..and that’s okay with me, I like to mix things up, and while I appreciate food blogs for recipes and restaurant tips, many seem to go in a direction I don’t particularly admire.  Many of them take things to the level of nerds who love to show their dicks in Intel vs. Athlon arguments, partake in cyber-bullying and oneupsmanship, and very few have anything resembling a sense of humor or irony.  As much as I love food, I don’t ever want to come off like a douche, because it is something so elemental and important to me that I can’t stand the thought of taking myself so seriously.  I want to have a fuller life than that.  eGullet used to be a big part of my internet life, and I DO owe meeting my lurking wife to that website, but either it has changed or I have changed….or both to some degree.  It has become as boring as fuck, like a room full of W.A.S.P.-y whites who are chomping at the bit to correct you on some meaningless point, and thereby keep the website (the end all be all of food wisdom oracles) clean, concise, correct…..and so fucking sterile I can’t even think of any decent obscene imagery to describe it.  Shit like…”But in your original statement you inferred that BLAH BLAH BLAH, and while that may have been true in reference to the cultural aspect of BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH, you forgot to take into account that the translation of the dish, is, in itself, a BLAH BLAH BLAH MOTHERFUCKING BLLLAAAHHHHHHHHHH”.  So those types of dipshits turn people off to the website, but hey, they get to feel smart in a vacuum full of boring doppelganger dipshits who also enjoy minutia that  jumped the shark the same day someone had the spare time to take it seriously enough to outline a code of ethics.  A couple of years ago I would have been giddy at the thought of people from the food nerd community getting a few minutes on Bourdain’s show, but now it’s just annoying….kind of like eGullet can be if you spend too much time there.  I mean, if I ever get to the point where I am engaging people  in order to wax poetic on a humorless, humorless, humorless eight page thread about the best type of wooden spoon on the planet, please put one in my brain. Seriously.  And if I ever approach a level of self-importance where I annoy you with a camera at dinner like it is the sane thing to do, sound like I’m a baseball card collector when I’m reminding you of how many cool restaurant experiences I’ve had, or generally lose the sense of irony that comes with the realization that in a few hours I’ll be shitting out this two hundred dollar meal……then kick me in the nuts one good time before you put one in my brain.   Bourdain needs to do that one over……he has a lot of crossover appeal and it would be nice to let the world know that not everyone whose kitchen toys are worth more than their car comes off like a socially retarded douchenozzle when you talk to them about their favorite subject. 

SO WITH THAT SAID…..I finally got to cook what I think of as a “real” meal over the weekend.  Sure, I’ve cooked some great dishes, God knows I’ve had the time, but a “real” meal to me is one that takes a couple of weeks of cookbook research, followed by a process of elimination to narrow down potential courses, followed by the listing of all ingredients, specialty hardware/techniques that are needed…..followed by….a timeline for all preparation leading up to the meal.  If I’m not cooking something two days in advance in order to have everything ready…..then it’s not a “real” meal.

The occasion for Sunday’s dinner was the result of a raffle I may or may not have mentioned in the fall…..basically, I donated a “you name it and I’ll cook it for you” meal for an AA fundraiser, and the people who won it came over this weekend.  They were trying to figure out what they wanted me to cook for them, and while we were chatting after a meeting one day it struck them…..Asian. Dammit.  I’ve never cooked Asian food before, specifically anything Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese.  At least, I haven’t cooked it on a level where I would consider it a “real” meal… damn, you know how obsessive I had to get with that sumbitch.  Oh, and to complicate matters, I had to take dietary restrictions/allergies into consideration…… no corn syrup, no msg, no wheat….and get this….no PORK!  Asian…..and no pork.  Oh well, I was up for a challenge, these were super cool and friendly people and I wanted them to have a memorable meal.

Long story short…I did not stick to any strict theme…first of all, they wanted my famous cream of mushroom soup (Top Chef recipe…simple and it rocks), and some sort of rich, chocolatey dessert.  So after much pondering, reading and obsessing, I settled on the mushroom soup served with homemade shrimp toasts, my wife would make a Vietnamese rice noodle salad, then lettuce wraps with beef for the main, and finally that mega-insane “Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte” with Amarena cherries. 

It took a lot……a LOT….to boil it all down to that list, not to mention shopping for specialty ingredients, which I love to do anyway.  Everything ended up being well received, but I said all of that just to have an excuse to talk about my new favorite book…..David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook.  Total genius stuff….a profanity laced joyride that would be fun to read even if you didn’t cook any of the recipes.  I needed a GOOD excuse to cook from it….I’m not overstating my abilities when I say that it’s not for the entry-level home chef.  Many of the recipes will have a few tablespoons of something that is a completely different recipe in the book, and that recipe will have crossover too….but I wanted to keep it real and not take any shortcuts.  The main dish was the one thing that drew from the book…..lettuce wraps with beef sounds simple enough, but when you are adding half a dozen different sauces and pickled elements it adds considerably to the complexity of the prep work.  I did Chang’s sauteed onions that cook for about an hour to get them just right, his famous ginger scallion sauce, and a pickled mustard sauce that requires you to make a batch of his quick pickled cucumbers and pickled mustard seeds.  But the big boy, a revelation to my kitchen, was his “ghetto sous vide” technique that I plan to use just about any time I need to prepare any cut of steak.  The key to that is having a Foodsaver…it’s one of those things you won’t know how you lived without once you use it.  So the steak, in this case flatiron, goes into the bag with an onion/garlic/soy based marinade, and it sits for a day.  Then things take a turn for the weird…..the ghetto element of the sous vide.  Well, Chang has proven to me that you don’t have to spend a grand on a thermal immersion circulator in order to cook in a bag.  Basically, all you need to do is get a pot of water in your sink and run the tap so that it stays between about 120 and 125 degrees….it takes some finesse, and in my case some adjustment to the hot water tank, but when you get it in that zone you put the bagged steak in the water for about forty five minutes to an hour.  Check the temp from time to time and you’re good.  All you want is for that steak to stay in there long enough to achieve approximately 125 degrees throughout, which in my kitchen is a pretty perfect rare to medium rare. Then you shock it in cold water, take it out of the bag, dry it off and hit it in a ripping hot pan or on the grill for a minute or two on each side. Perfection. Even the usually tough flatiron just melted….I cannot say enough good about this technique.  Slice it on the bias and then surround it with the aforementioned sides and sauces, along with a huge garden of assorted sliced vegetables. Everyone loved it.  Then the death blow…that chocolate torte.

It was good to get back in the kitchen and do something like that. I do love cooking for people, and I have to admit the ego-boosting accolades do not suck.  There is some stress and obsessive compulsive behavior involved, but the payoff is worth it. 

Yep, that’s about it. Just wanted to brag in food nerd show-my-dick fashion…….Lost is on pretty soon. Different subject for a different day, but that show has ended up sucking….big time.  In short, I think the appeal is based solely on the anticipation the viewer experiences from week to week, boosted by the investment one has to put into the show…which does not allow you to then admit the fucking storyline was written by hitting random items on a dartboard.  If you don’t believe me, watch a whole season back to back on DVD….when you do that it’s easier to see the cheesy ridiculousness.  It’s just not that inventive or revolutionary….oh, it’s great network TV, don’t get me wrong, but before you scramble off to some weekly discussion to pore over the details of this week’s episode, go read the fucking Schroedinger’s Cat Trilogy or something….damn. 

I’ll talk to you guys later.  Have a safe St. Patrick’s Day…..or as real alcoholics call it….Wednesday.


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Prostitution Whore!

Motherfucker.   Now every time I have a valid post topic instead of the rambling or total silence of late, I have that stupid goddamn Amy Adams from “Julie and Julia” in my head…….”Tra la la la la!  Well all, today I’ll be cooking sweetbreads!  With NO FEAR!  Just like Julia!  And I’ll squinch my face up and prove once and for all that the only reason I have an acting career is because I can look and act exactly like that annoying Meg fucking Ryan in You’ve Got Mail!  Yay!  Maybe my husband will burn me alive for taking screen time away from Meryl Streep!  Which I would deserve! “.  Yeah, I liked the movie a lot, but that bitch has got to go.  Not a good blog voice to have in your head while you are trying to write.  Where’s my fucking movie deal?  Oh, and the post title is a line from an episode of Jersey Housewives that is currently on a commercial in heavy rotation.  I couldn’t think of anything relevant. We love the Housewives shows on Bravo, and those two words screamed by a woman with the worst hair I have ever seen in my life just cracks me up every time.

So tra la la la laaaaa!  Well faithful readers, today before I practice my annoying nose squinching I just wanted to say….. I got a job!   It hasn’t been an easy six months.  I’ve never been without a job for this long since way back when I was a lazy ass in Bible College.  So long story short, after hundreds of resume submittals, dozens of interviews, and a few close calls, yesterday I faxed in a signed offer letter for a contract with a government agency.  So….between our two incomes we are pretty well covered.  I’ll use what is left of my severance to pay off a little bit of debt and we’ll start socking away rainy day money in case this rollercoaster starts up again.  Six months of no work totally sucked, but in the end I’ve got a for-real nine to five job with no evenings or weekends, all the extra federal holidays, and since it’s the government,  going above and beyond on the job can actually hurt you.  I’m looking forward to the normalcy of a two income family in a nice suburban home with a dog and a cat and the bounty of spring on the way.   If you ask me, THAT is the American dream.

But of course…nothing is ever that simple.   I probably mentioned that shortly after IBM gave my entire team’s jobs to foreign contractors, I was up for a position with a local company…..I waited and waited and waited to hear from them because the interviews went great and they acted like they were lucky to get me.  It turned out, they had to give the job to someone they offered it to previously, because the background check that came back bad for them ended up being a moot point.  Oh well, that’s the way it goes, and they did mention a similar position would be opening up in January.  So in January I started checking back with the recruiters, and sure enough, I was back in the mix for a similar position.  After a phone interview they said was just a formality since I’d been through the whole battery of questions and assessments, I’ve waited and waited and waited to hear back from them.  My recruiters once again said they were extremely interested in having me join the team, but for whatever reason they were still interviewing people…flying them in from different parts of the country to talk to them.  Despite their reassurance, because that’s what recruiters are paid to do….give you false hope no matter what, I kept plugging away applying for everything I could find.  Then a  couple of weeks ago a good friend of mine I used to work with gave me a call to tell me there was an opening on his team; a contract position with a federal agency.  So I was like “HELL YES!”…government contract positions have holy grail potential, with the ultimate dream being a permanent gig with the fed.  If  you think I don’t dream big enough, that’s fine, all I really want is a happy life where I don’t have to pinch every penny, eat well, and travel with my wife from time to time.  Getting into this gig has several levels of interviews, even though I know someone there I’m still up against a lot of other qualified people….but of course, I rule at this particular type of nerd work.  So the good news as of last Friday was that, thank God, thank God, thank God, I got the job offer.

THEN AS SURE AS SHIT….literally an hour after HR called to say my offer letter was on its way, the recruiters from the OTHER job called to say management from the other company wanted to take me out to lunch to introduce me to the whole team and have….yet another….informal interview.  But honestly, the job was pretty much mine if I wanted it…this would be more of a “sorry to make you wait” peace offering meant to give me a level of comfort with taking the position.  So that lunch is tomorrow…..and even though I’ve returned my signed offer letter and really want the federal job instead, I’ll go and hear them out and see what’s what.  After all, I don’t want to burn any bridges or piss anyone off, my particular niche of IT is a pretty small world.  I’ll let them know I have another offer in the pipe, and since I’m going through a recruiter it’s not like they can try and hire me on the spot.  There’s the haggling they do over my rate, offer letter, etc. that still has to happen. 

So here’s the deal, the job I don’t want as badly pays a healthy amount more.  Both jobs pay really well, either one is a significantly higher salary than I’ve made up until now in my career… yeah, I know, world’s smallest fiddler for my rich white man’s dilemna.  The job I’m meeting about tomorrow would be a really good chunk of change, BUT the hours are longer (possible overtime though since I’d be hourly), it’s more stress, more assholes to deal with, and unless the economy and job market really pick up it wouldn’t boost my skillset enough to beat out the same over-qualified project managers that have been taking the jobs I’d be perfect for for the past six months if I got laid off again. Speaking of that, layoff and/or travel potential are much greater because they do hire offshore people, and the benefits are not nearly as good as the government job.  But the money is better, and one specialty I’d be called upon to use would be my ability to run the living shit out of meetings, be a nazi on timelines and keeping things on track, and keep the client in line….and I’ll be honest, that can be pretty fun. A big game of chess one day, playing chicken the next.  Total heads on stakes leading to your cubicle type of shit.  And up until this point in my life I would have jumped all over it….between the money and the mindfucks it would feed my ego and imaginary reputation big time.  But I knew from the moment I got the call about the job I’ve been waiting on forever, I would just be happier with the other one.  Steady hours, no weekends, better benefits, learning new technologies and skills, not to mention a recognized name on my resume instead of another widget company…..a great job for a guy new to sobriety who is loving life in the suburbs.   Oh, NOT TO MENTION the fact that I was practically ready to make a deal with the devil to land ANY job….going back on the friggin’  phones as a CSR until I could get my Addiction Counselor certification and go make half of what I’ve been used to…seemed to be imminent.  So no tears from this white man, no chance.  I’m living a charmed life and I realize that.

But even though, logically, spiritually, intellectually and pragmatically, I know the job I’m taking is the right one….the voice in my head kept throwing out doubt and whispering…..”money money money money money money money money”.  I doubt everything all the time, second guessing myself is a way of life, and this has been no different.  White man’s dilemna gone awry…never focus on what you got, always worry about what could go wrong.

And this is where I get insanely gay……last night I had a dream.  One of those super duper vivid dreams that can only be brought on by needed sleep and trazodone.  This dream was a using dream.  I don’t have a lot of dreams where I drink, some people do.  And when I do they are always super panicky and I wake up worried like I’m going to have to change my sobriety date.  From what I remember, my dream last night revolved around me and my wife getting ready to take some kind of vacation or long weekend out of town.  When we arrived at the hotel she went off to look for something, I’m not sure, she just went off for a while and I was unpacking and resting.  Then somehow, as often happens in dreams, people unexpectedly showed up for no reason.  It was one of my oldest friends, ex partner in crime from way back in the porn store days who spent a decent amount of time in the joint that I was spared…way back in the porn store days, plus some buddy of his I didn’t know.  We were talking and they just started pulling out bottles. Tons of them, all sorts of booze, and the weird thing was……they were pulling them all out of their pockets like their pants were clown cars.  I was uncomfortable with it, then suddenly I had a bottle in my hand.  I remember exactly what it was…. a half pint of Jim Beam.  And THAT was when I got a sudden moment of clarity that said “I think I’m dreaming this”, because clown car pockets aren’t that big of a stretch compared to me ever touching a fucking half pint of anything.  No self respecting drunk deals in that quantity of booze….. a half pint is what you slam when you’re in line waiting to pay for real bottles of liquor. Then, bottle in hand, I started chatting with the guys some more and thinking of how to cover my tracks…..I told them “you guys know not to mention this to anyone, right?”.  And indeed they did, no explanation needed from me, they knew I’d been sober for a long time and was choosing to go off the wagon.  Then I picked the bottle up to take a drink, stopped and just said “Nah, I can’t do this”.  Next came one of those bizarre Field of Dreams moments….if you believe in such things….I’m not really sure I do…..but that aside, I started waking up immediately after that and in my head I heard…”the job you’re taking is the best one for your sobriety”. 

So that’s that.  What little doubt I had is gone, because it’s just the damn truth.  Go with what is best for your sobriety, because if it’s good for that it’s going to be good for everything….your family, your sanity, and you’ll just sleep better at night.  Everything seems to work out in its own time.  In a lot of ways, my unemployment has done me a ton of good.  I’ve learned a lot about priorities; what’s really important, what’s worth worrying about, and things that are in your control vs. the things that are out of your control.  I’ve got a good life, and it’s time to be thankful for it and live it instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I’ll be working as soon as all of the reams of paperwork are filled out, my wife is working, spring is on the way, and I’m going on eight months of sobriety.  But in the midst of all of the good, I know that going to meetings and spending time around those tables is just as important as it was the first day I got out of the hospital.  It’s insurance.  You don’t have to dwell in the bad, but as soon as you start forgetting about it, you are in real danger.   And if you don’t believe that, well then, you are probably one of those pussies who thinks a half pint of Jim Beam is more than about two swallows. 

That’s it for now gang…..I still suck at bowling, school is good but painfully boring (different story for different day there…junior college addiction courses are harder in many ways than grad school), and I’m working the steps.

I’ll check back in after I get my first paycheck and can see whether or not I can blog from a new iPhone.


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The Quotidian…

Wow, Dec. 19th?  Seriously?  That was my last post?  Am I really going to start every post amazed at how long it has been?  Probably……I think I’ve slipped into that vortex that seems to be the norm for every civilian blogger.  I can’t think of much beyond everyday stuff that is impacting me, and therefore that is all I can think of to expound upon.  So here you have the regurgitated laundry list of shit that will sound like your Aunt Betty yammering on about the impact of the sugar diabetes on her life.  And you know what I’m going to do to make it a TOTALLY legit “blog” post?  Oh, you’ll love this…..I’m going to publish this AS SOON AS I FINISH IT…..I’m not going back to check spelling or grammar, and when I find all of the mistakes later, I’m not going to fix them!  How genuine is that?  Hell, the screwups will make me sound as smart as one of them Fox News correspondents…..

So things are good. Still job hunting, which sucks, but now that it’s the first quarter of the year a lot of employers are actually posting IT positions.  I got a ton of new cookbooks over the holidays, so I’ve been cooking more.  I don’t know how many people have come up to me recently and said “maybe you should be a chef”….and I’m nice about it when they say that, but that is the ultimate rookie mistake.  People who love cooking at home becoming chefs….a recipe for disaster.  Sure Pioneer Woman has an interesting angle and got lucky with her celebrity, and her book is good, but first of all, cooking for a living is real work.  And I hate real work.  I don’t think I’d like it if I had to do it for a living. The magic would be gone.  So my friends at AA will have to settle for my monthly potluck contribution of bacon sauteed brussels sprouts.  And how gay am I to be so excited that the new issue of Bon Appetit arrived in the mail today?

So things to pass the time…..meetings, of course.  I just passed the six month mark on January 12th and got my coin at my home group as well as the hospital where I went for treatment.  I got to speak to a group of people who are completing the outpatient program as part of the six-month routine, and I’ll get to do that again at the year mark.  I haven’t been sober that long, but it’s still strange to speak to people who are so fresh into recovery.  As you look around the room you can tell who is hearing what you have to say about the necessity of AA for long term sobriety, and who is hoping you shut up soon because they are either agnostic, don’t think they are bad off enough to need aftercare, or they have some cool new program that is an alternative to AA but only meets once per week at an odd time in an inconvenient location.  The sad fact is, the majority of addicts relapse, and the goal is just to be the one who doesn’t.  As far as my loyalty to AA and its efficacy, if you know me and have read even a fraction of what I have to say about religion, for me to be this dedicated to it should be proof enough of what is referred to as “the miracle of AA”.  Drunks and addicts talking to drunks and other addicts, with the chief goal of not drinking today.  So when I talk to the outpatient people or to newbies at meetings, what I have to say is pretty simple….keep the pain you found at your bottom fresh enough to draw from it from time to time, and hold onto any feelings of hope or love you felt for any of the people who were in treatment with you.  And keep going to meetings.  Don’t worry about the God shit, the mysteries of “the twelve steps”, or how you feel out of place at first.  As long as you dedicate the time to find a good group and you keep coming back, all of those things will work themselves out.  I’m no prophet and I only have a few months of sobriety, but I know that everything in me was built to detest something as cheesy and church-like as AA, yet it is working for me and I haven’t had a day since I came home from detox where I had to “white knuckle it” to keep from using.  So that’s my soapbox….if substance abuse has continually spun your life out of control and you have been unable to stop on your own, and you get sober long enough to figure out why AA (or some similar longterm program)  isn’t for you, it is a statistical fact that you have an 85-90 percent chance of relapsing.  And when you relapse, it is never, ever, ever, prettier or gentler than it was the last time. 

So the program is taking up enough of my time for me to be one of those AA droids….and I’m okay with that.  The people at the hall become like a second family, and much like I describe a fraternal organization that I belong to, it’s kind of like hanging out with a really great group of church people minus the politics or religion.  In fact, and this is a stretch of the imagination you may not be able to handle….I joined the citywide AA bowling league.  I’ve never really bowled a day in my life, so the score for my first game was something like 34. But in three short weeks I managed to bowl a high game of 123, but my average is probably somewhere around 7o or so.  It’s crazy, but I do look forward to bowling every week.  And joblessness aside, I’m pretty happy and calm, my wife is happy, the animals are happy, and no matter how shitty a day can be I know that I’m not going to have to deal with the pain and guilt of blackouts or hangovers.  BUT the shitty thing for any of my friends who read this, especially after these increasingly long breaks, is that I just don’t have that pop,  fuel, or whatever you want to call it, that has been the muse for most of my legendary posts.  I guess I’m just not that angry, and I don’t obsess on one thing ad nauseum until I’m able to get fired up and craft something substantial.  Anger wasn’t always the catalyst, booze wasn’t either.  And don’t get me wrong, I’m not some gentle pacifist now, trust me.  I still come up with some insanely twisted shit, but it’s mainly shared while watching tv.  A fleeting feeling or thought, and then it’s gone.  It doesn’t hang around long enough for my standard 2000 word post.  But oh my God, the things I’ll say…..and reality TV is such great fodder…..that Toddlers and Tiaras show….my lord….I have strong opinions that are very off color at best, illegal at worst.  Don’t worry, I’m not stopping the blog, I’m just trying to find a way to happily and constructively contribute on a more frequent basis.  I do spend time thinking about it, trust me. I’m not one to quit anything once I start….even to the point of my own demise.  A more “recovery-centric” blog?  Not sure, maybe.  I figure my honest take on it could be of some help to someone somewhere.  At least more help than an explicit post about the remake of “Behind the Green Door” starring the cast of Toddlers and Tiaras and Dog the Bounty Hunter.  Not as hilarious mind you, but perhaps more constructive.

Oh, so the other biggie is that I’m back in school.  Kansas City Kansas Community College, to be exact.  Yes, after an illustrious career as a summa cum laude student all the way through grad school, it’s back to Junior College.  Why, you ask?  Well, it’s because I want to become the ultimate cliche…..the guy new to recovery who is going to become a certified addiction counselor and set out to save the world!  Just kidding, about the cliche part.  Honestly, I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ll probably be in school in some form for the rest of my life. I like school. I like a challenge.  And I’ll tell you exactly what I told my concerned sponsor when he found out what I was doing (he’s seen the cliche about a million times during his decades of sobriety)….I’ve always loved to study behavioral sciences.  I love them enough to have spent my time in grad school studying org psych, because I realized long ago that I didn’t give enough of a shit about people to do something noble like help them or counsel them (and yes, I know I was a minister, the irony is not lost on me).  So organizational study I could get into…you don’t have to constantly deal with individuals in your face with all of their crap.  When I was sitting in detox and attending meetings, it was the first time that I truly cared about a stranger. And as I’ve attended the many meetings I go to, I find comfort in the empathy I feel for people who are suffering in the exact same way I did in coming to terms with this disease.  So maybe counseling will be for me, maybe it won’t. I’ll find out. Until then, it’s cool to learn the science behind addiction and its many counseling theories.  Understanding about the “old brain” and the need for relearning habits by going to meetings, for example.  It’s interesting stuff, and it keeps my brain busy.

And before I go, I have one final word……Haiti.  I am not a fool….yes, I realize that we have our own problems here in the U.S., and yes, I am aware that with millions of dollars in aid pouring into a third world country, there is a huge chance for the mismanagement of some of it.  Those things aside, I still cannot get my mind around the conservative backlash.  Apparently, Obama doesn’t feel like he is black enough, so he has to boost his political profile by helping “for real” poor black people….he has no feelings whatsoever for these people, it is solely political.  And, as always, he cares about every other country before this one.  I think that about sums it up, and I’m pretty sure it’s what that dipshit Palin will open with when she joins the Fox news team.  Yes, abandon your post as governor because the media “was mean to you”, and proceed to join the media.  She’s just another reality TV star, and unfortunately there are people stupid enough to ignore the fact that if she looked like Janet Reno, we would have absolutely no idea who she was.  She will never hold a national office. All she has is her reality TV fame, and by that I mean her “I’m not ruling out 2012” tease that is the only thing extending her 15 minutes of fame.  She’s a real politician, and she’s making her buck off of it while she can, but that is forgivable because she ain’t about to go murderin’ no unborn babies I tell ya!  But oh yeah, I forgot, I voted for Obama….which means I also possess a hatred for democracy and this country, and I’m probably one of the idiots who gets on the George Clooney bandwagon and sends money straight into the pockets of Haitian politicians.  It’s just awesome to know that there are big enough pricks out there who can completely overlook the fact that an earthquake hit one of the poorest countries in our hemisphere and killed over 100,000 people (numbers that I’m SURE are trumped up just to get more of our money, right?), basically decimating the quality of life for years and years to come, and the best you can do is sit on your ass, politicize it, and continue to do ZERO for the people in this country you say should get the money before the Haitians.  The type of people who, when I say bring the troops home from Iraq (or send them to Afghanistan where the real war is happening), are quick to tell me…”if you don’t want to stand behind our troops over there, feel free to stand in front of them”…or one of those dumbass finite black or white bumper sticker sayings….yet they’ll still find a way to poo-poo people who want to do something for another person because they are probably a liberal.  As always, when I write about these things I fight fundamentalist stupidity with fundamentalist stupidity……and no, the irony is not lost on me that 99.999% of the party-line discussions we have in this country are nothing more than a tennis match of “your guy did the EXACT SAME THING that you’re saying MY GUY DID!”.  Those discussions go nowhere, and when I talk to some fundamentalist conservative face to face I can’t hate them nearly as badly as I want to, because neither of us can hide behind a keyboard and we usually aren’t smart enough to quote the studies and statistics we THINK we know about….and that is my little secret in life these days…put yourself in the other guy’s shoes.  Despite my ramblings, I really try to do that in my daily life.  If my brain functioned like this blog I would drop dead of a stroke.  My liberal and sarcastic viewpoint isn’t some passive aggressive stab at the people in my life who believe the opposite.  If you think that, all I can say is, you’re so vain, you probably think this post is about you.  In fact, if you’ve spent three seconds with me you know that I’m comfortable saying these things to your face.  Even worse, in fact….if you were here you know how I’d relish the picture of the Palin homestead that I paint for you….where Todd snorts up all the book profits and forces Sarah and Bristol to do a mother/daughter spread for Playboy, followed during the second Obama administration by a full-on Palin women gang bang video.  SO ANYWAY….all I’m saying in all of this is, before your retarded dittohead ass says another negative word about the outpouring of time and money to Haiti…write a fucking check or donate a few fucking hours of your time to something that you feel deserves it.  Chances are probably about….oh, I don’t know….100% that you won’t.  You’ll just have some HILARIOUS remark you weren’t original enough to create yourself like…”I don’t have any money left after your savior Obama went and quadrupled the deficit like he did!  HYUK! HYUK HYUK! “.  Face it dickhead, if those were little white kids they were digging out from under those buildings your opinion on the matter would be completely different.  And don’t act all horrified, or blow me off telling me Obama would never help white kids…..I’m white as hell, live in an all white neighborhood, so I don’t have the ammo to play the race card….but you know deep down in your heart where nobody else can see it…if those were little white kids in that rubble, you would not be talking so much shit. 

So cool, pulled it off in the clutch….a little sarcastic angst for you anyway.  But that’s about it. Wife just got home and I started dinner late.  Man am I going to be pissed when I go back and see all the mistakes I’m not going to correct…..

Carry On.


Filed under Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bariatric Surgery, Blogroll, Christianity, culture, dating, Evangelical Christianity, Food, General Thoughts, Health, Healthy Eating, howard stern, Recovery, religion, Tent Revival, Weight Loss, weight loss surgery

Restaurant Etiquette…


Okay, I’ve been working on a long post that means a lot to me, but in the meantime I’ve thought of something that gets my blood up in classic unsavedlovedones fashion…….with the holidays here, the aggressive frenetic crowds are hitting stores and restaurants like a flood, and pretty much exhibiting the exact opposite spirit that this time of year should embody.  I love to cook and I love to eat in restaurants…something I can thank my parents for, because even though we never had any money to speak of we managed to eat out quite a bit when I was growing up.  So I learned how to act, how to tip, how to show respect to the staff, and most of all, how to appreciate the fact that I’ve been lucky enough at this point in my life to have eaten at some of the very best restaurants in the United States.  I’m sure my advancing age doesn’t help with my intolerance of complete idiots in restaurants, but what I view as an overblown sense of entitlement has become more and more pervasive in the past few years.  I don’t know where it comes from….more people are eating out more often due to the competition and marketing in the industry, plus the modern lifestyle leaves less room to cook, so there’s just a higher density of douchebags?  Much like the invention of the VCR has completely ruined the moviegoing experience because people sit and yack like they think they are still at home; the proliferation of fast food chains leads Joe Consumer to believe that skilled waitstaff in a high end restaurant are no different than the teenager working the drive-thru at Taco Bell?  Not to mention the fast food “customer is always right” law of the land may lead people to think the squeaky wheel should always get their meal for free….

Anyway, it’s the holidays and the wife and I are getting ready to head out to dinner on a Saturday night…..on the Plaza….during the holidays.  I honestly don’t dread it, she’s new to the area and the Plaza lights are truly impressive, we’re newlyweds, and now that I’m sober this sort of thing doesn’t make me flinch like it would before.  We’ll have a great time, but as anyone from the KC area knows….the Plaza has the highest number of knuckleheads and their motard children in all the land, especially during the holidays.   Now, you’ll never find me down at The Cheesecake Factory, Bennigan’s, Applebee’s or Chili’s during this time of year (and as far as The Cheesecake Trough, NO time of year), because they can be painful enough on a Wednesday in March.  I do feel for the staff in those places, because the turn and burn attitude the corporate world has for its patrons AND its employees makes those restaurants complete madhouses of stress, anger, inefficiency and apathy.  If you’re a veteran server at one of the major “good food fast” chains, you deserve a medal. And not just because you are constantly bombarded with non-tipping Christians.

I don’t want to sound classist, like I think those places cannot exist in this world and their servers don’t matter as much as the ones at my favorite restaurants.  I’m all about greasy spoons and one of my favorite restaurants will ALWAYS be Red Lobster.  It’s just that in the past few years since surgery I make my dining dollar count by eating mostly at mid-range to high-end local restaurants when I want a nice evening out on the town.  And the shit that I witness and hear from friends who are chefs, managers and servers just blows my mind.  Oh the humanity.  So I’ll make this post briefer than usual and just list out a few pet peeves….I’ll add to them as they come to mind……

#1- Tipping:  It’s not a fucking contest to see how many things you can notice wrong with the restaurant or the server, so that you can drop the tip down to fifteen percent or less (and if twenty percent isn’t the low-end norm for you when you get good, efficient and friendly service, then go fuck yourself. I cannot stress that point enough.  There is fucking in this corner and yourself in the opposite corner. It’s time for the two of you to meet.)….if you are one of those miserable people who doesn’t know how to just enjoy yourself and have a good time at dinner, then stay home.  YES I KNOW THERE IS BAD SERVICE OUT THERE…..but before you castrate the server, make sure it’s actually a problem with the server and not one of the million things that can derail service in the weeds.  And take things into consideration like the time of year, how busy the restaurant is…is it eight pm on a weekend night and it’s taking longer than normal for you to get a table or your meal?  Well, that’s normal.  No, none of those things are YOUR  problem, but if you’re the type of prick to say “neither of those things is my problem”, stay the fuck home.  Also, if you’re using a gift certificate, then tip on the original amount. Not rocket science, but there are enough idiots out there who don’t do it to make me squeamish when I hand my server a gift certificate and have to assure them that I know the deal.  And do I even have to mention the flaming douchenozzles who go to the trouble of subtracting alcohol and tax from the total bill before calculating the tip?  If not, I will anyway.  It boggles the mind to try and think of the appropriate punishment for you, but I’m sure it involves some kind of poisoning.  Tipping is how a server makes their living.  They are bringing you food, and if a few bucks is really that big of a walletbreaker for you, then chances are good it’s time for you to re-evaluate your dining habits.  Learn how to cook, dumbass.  Oh, and if you’re that soldier in the Facebook group discussion about tipping waitstaff who said “Why should I give anything extra to someone for doing their job?  Where’s my tip for doing MY job to make it safe for idiots like you to complain on the internet?”……well, I seriously just wish you hadn’t made it home.  In all seriousness, your family should be smaller by one.

#2- Children: Hoo boy, will try to keep this one brief.  Granted, I don’t like kids, so I’m biased.  But what I like even less than a kid is the parent of an unruly kid in a nice restaurant.  It’s not the child’s fault, it’s the mouth-breather parent who thinks everyone believes their little one is as precious as they do….especially when they are tripping servers, throwing shit everywhere, screaming, and god knows what else.  I realize that a parent has to develop a coping mechanism to block out the higher frequencies of their child’s shriek in order to keep their sanity and do things like get a good night’s sleep, but the rest of us can hear the little fucker just fine.  And I’m not talking about Chili’s or CiCi’s Pizza here….I’m talking about primetime Saturday night in small high-end dining rooms where the noise bounces around the room, or Sunday brunch in what would normally be a very calm and inviting space, ruined by a spastic midget.  When I’m at Applebee’s, I know I’m rolling the dice, but just because you can afford to pay a premium to feed your brood in a top-tier establishment doesn’t entitle you to ruin it for the rest of us.  And if you’re one of those yuppie dipshits who says “oh, not MY child”, YES!  It is YOUR fucking child!  You are EXACTLY the person I’m talking about!  You’re clueless to it, and you need to deal with reality!  If your child is screaming, you forfeit your right to a hot meal.  Take the kid outside and when they shut up come and enjoy some tepid grub.  And when they start up again, I don’t give a shit if it feels like you’re doing calesthenics with all the up and down….get the hell back out of the room.  It’s people like you who make me militantly pro-choice.  YES, I am aware that the only way a child is going to learn how to dine out properly is to do it, I thank my parents for going to the trouble to allow me that experience.  But at the same time, the unwritten rule was that if I fucked up I wouldn’t have to worry about having any goddamn teeth to eat with the next time.  So there’s a good Plan B for you.  Throttle the little shits.  If you do it where I can see it, dessert is on me.

#3- Groups:  Point of sale/service  technology has come a long way in the past decade, but not far enough to wait until the last second in a packed house for you and the rest of your Red Hat whore buddies to decide to split a check eleven different ways, and leave it to the server to figure out which of you transferred your bar tab over (a dick move to begin with….pay your bartender and tip them, dumbass) and which of you were going halfsies on the desserts you shoveled into your gaping maws.  Yes, technology makes it easier to split tickets, but have the decency to let your server know in advance.  And the “one check for parties of 6-8 or more” rules exist for a reason….and it goes back to point #1, don’t take it out on your server, they aren’t doing it just to get one over on you.  Part of the reason you feel like leaving a shitty tip because your server is too slow is probably because there is ANOTHER dick across from you making them split the bill fifteen different ways….think about it.  Generally, I try not to dine in big groups. For many reasons, chief of which is that I don’t have that many people in my life whom I trust not to be a dipshit in a restaurant.  If you go out in groups of friends or co-workers, you know what I’m talking about.  There is always one asshole who makes the whole group look like pariahs.  They have no concept of the fact that they are the only one pissing, moaning, running a server ragged, and finding reasons to fuck them on the tip.  I used to work with a guy who would act like he was being cool by putting everyone on one check and taking cash from all of us, and then paying with his credit card.  He wasn’t cool. At all.  He was eating his lunches for free by leaving about two bucks as a tip for a group of ten, after we had all kicked in for our meals and tips.  Some people you just have to cut loose. If you have one person in your group who sticks out, cut them loose.  Your life will be happier, because if they are too self absorbed, egocentric and self-serving to go with the flow of the group, they are just a shitty, unhappy person anyway. 

#4- Rewriting the Menu:  This one is pretty self explanatory, but important enough for me not to just roll it into one of the other topics.  When you see “substitutions not allowed”, don’t look at it as a way to test the archaic and bullshit rule that “the customer is always right”.  That’s usually on the menu for a reason….it allows things to come out of the kitchen quicker, and it helps control the costs of some dishes.  Beyond that, most places are pretty reasonable when it comes to requests to leave something off, or get salad instead of fries, etc.  Chefs, owners and servers generally want to make you happy, and they don’t mind some substitutions.  What I’m talking about here is literally rewriting the menu or recreating dishes.  Dressing on the side or no croutons is a normal request…..asking for a fresh batch of Caesar dressing that does not contain anchovy is completely insane.  No sauce or a different vegetable is normal…..pulling single aspects from seven different menu items so that your dish is completely customized with a different cooking technique and preparation, is again, completely insane.  And I say this because if you do this shit, you are the kind of asshole who does it during the height of the dinner rush, you get pissy when it doesn’t arrive to your exacting standards, AND, wait for it……you probably have the balls to argue over the cost if it’s even twenty five cents more expensive than the original version that you bastardized.  Oh, but no big deal, you can just subtract that quarter from the tip, right?  Right!  You should be dead….stone cold fucking dead. Sooner than later.

#5- Church Folk:  If it’s a Sunday afternoon, Sunday night or Wednesday night, and you and your friends just got out of an AWESOME church service where the spirit moved mightily, and you are all hopped up on the outpouring of the latter rain, ready to spread the message and spirit to a lost world, and you are hungry and ready to descend en masse upon an unsuspecting restaurant waitstaff  because you just aren’t ready to go home yet………. go home.  I can say with 99.999% certainty that what you view as friendship, hope and zeal is interpreted by the sane world as you being a total dick.  Not a good witness.  Nobody tips worse than a church group.  Nobody.  And as cool as it is that you figured out a way to save a buck by ordering ice water and a ton of lemon slices with extra Splenda packets with which to concoct a penitentiary version of lemonade…….again, to the rest of the sane world, you’re just being a total dick.

So that’s about it.  As much as I like to find holes in my own logic….I really can’t find any here.  Totally airtight.  And it’s good to be back in the swing…..I can be clean and sober AND an angsty bastard! 

Happy Holidays to you all, I seriously hope you have a great time with family and friends.  Just don’t forget to tip your servers and bartenders a little extra during their two weeks of holiday hell.


Filed under Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bariatric Surgery, Blogroll, Christianity, culture, dating, Evangelical Christianity, Food, General Thoughts, Health, Healthy Eating, howard stern, Recovery, religion, Tent Revival, Weight Loss, weight loss surgery

Dysfunctional Elitism…

Eh, not too much going on here of late…looking for jobs, cooking and cleaning, going to meetings….and of course I HAVE been watching plenty of reality television.  I’m hoping that Bret Michaels will be back for a new season, but in the meantime I have to say that Tool Academy is a fine, fine substitute.  The Atlanta Housewives were pretty good this season, and now we’re into the third week of the original gold diggers from Orange County.  Last night saw the premiere of the second season of Tough Love, and I’m ecstatic about the new crop of completely bizarrely insane females who do not possess reason, logic or intelligence….the shaming that they will experience as they are dogged out every week will be sublime.  With fall here I’m pretty happy with a lineup that makes a couple of our other favorites, Top Chef and Project Runway, look like McNeil Lehrer in comparison.  And how about that Russell on Survivor?

After being in treatment myself, I’m not sure how I feel about Dr. Drew’s franchise……Celebrity Rehab and Sober House provide some good entertainment, but Sex Rehab pretty much sucks.   I was kind of half-watching last night, and during either the episode or a preview, whoever the skanked out ex-Miss Teen America is was getting in Dr. Drew’s face or telling him to fuck off or something.  That gave me a great idea.  Remember that clown that would come and sweep people off of the stage during those Apollo Theatre talent shows?  Well, between that and those constant commercials for the movie “Precious”, I got my latest brainstorm.  I think it should debut on Sex Rehab, but there is a ton of crossover potential for it.  Basically, when someone gets REALLY out of line and in Dr. Drew’s face, telling him to fuck off or whatnot, a really HUGE black woman needs to burst into the room, chairs and tables rattling and falling as they part the way for her…..and she needs to start screaming at the offender- “You did NOT just talk to Dr. Drew like that!”.  But it doesn’t end there, it goes on for at least two or three minutes and she just keeps screaming the same thing, building up a sweat, spit flying…”YOU DID NOT JUST TALK TO DR. DREW LIKE THAT! YOU.DID.NOT.JUST.TALK.TO.DR.DREW.LIKE.THAT….you did NOT just TALK to Dr. Drew like THAT!”.  And the key to the whole thing is that she is as insane and out of control as possible, with the camera cutting to Dr. Drew every once in a while, and he’s just sitting there taking notes and observing.  And it has to go on for a while, long enough to freak the person out and long enough to waste a segment of television time large enough to let the audience know they are fully committed to the new format.

Of course, as the popularity grows and the woman becomes an instant celebrity, she can pop up on different programs.  “YOU DID NOT JUST PUKE THAT MAGGOTY FISH ONTO JEFF PROBST!  YOU did NOT just puke that maggoty FISH onto JEFF PROBST!”.  I think that before her fifteen minutes were up it would be successful enough to worm its way into the regular primetime lineup.  For example, there are a million shows now that are basically the same thing….like those Criminal Order Victim Whispering bullshit shows.  “YOU DID NOT JUST RAPE THAT BABY CHILD!  YOOUUUUUUU did NOOOOOTTTT just rape that BAYYYBEEEEEE CHIIIIILLLLD!”. 

Anyway, I think it’s a hell of an idea.  Who wouldn’t enjoy that?  Even if you aren’t into reality tv, you’d surely tune in just to see a Precious lookalike losing her shit all up in some unsuspecting person’s personal space.  And it would add a little umph to the usual morning-after-The-Office-episode water cooler talk.  I can just see the memos going out to the staff from HR now….”Due to the recent heart attack suffered by Myron Hubbard, we have to ask that employees stop running up to their co-workers and screaming in their faces like that gigantic black woman from the television”.

And now to totally switch gears, here’s a joke I made up that only a real drunk would find funny.  In the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy….If you have to take a drink so that you DON’T fall in the shower, then you might be an alcoholic.  When I thought of that joke it reminded me of something I shared during group while I was in the hospital.  I think of the bond that addicts share as “dysfunctional elitism”.  To an outsider, AA can look like just another stupid club or even a cult.  I know that in the past I passed the same kind of judgment…AA’ers seemed like preachy clones and could come off as holier than thou.  Therein lies the perceived elitism.  Coming at it from the inside now, I wouldn’t necessarily call it elitism, but there is absolutely a cameraderie and common bond that cannot be denied.  And that’s a good thing, it’s what keeps people coming back and eases the need for a drink.  This Saturday we’re going to the 35th anniversary party for my group…, dancing, karaoke…exactly what you’d find at pretty much any big organizational party, minus the alcohol. And sure, my kneejerk reaction would be that it sounds like the gayest fucking thing imaginable. However, that bond and ease of communication and socialization that comes along with it will make it a very good Saturday night.  But ultimately, the vast majority of gatherings are closed. Members only.  However, the price of membership is to be completely fucked.  Lots of very broken people looking to get better……there you have the dysfunction.  And I don’t look at the label of dysfunctional elitism as anything negative……it’s pretty funny, but maybe only to the people who get my Foxworthy style joke.

So things are still pretty calm and good around the house.  We spent Halloween evening at my sponsor’s house, having dinner and playing board games with him and his wife.  My wife took a day off for her birthday on Friday, and we spent the day going down to the River Market and to the Nelson Art Gallery before meeting my parents for dinner.  We’re trying to decide what to make for Thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother’s, and we are fully stocked as far as the Christmas tree and ornaments are concerned.  In the past, I’d still enjoy all of these things, but in the back of my mind I’d be anxiously awaiting my alone time.  Now it’s possible to just calm down and enjoy the moments themselves.  Even with the seemingly endless job search and related drama, I’m in a very good place.  Just got off the phone with a good friend of mine from out east.  One of the only people I can have prolonged discussions with in which we completely disagree on fundamental issues, yet somehow in the end manage to solve all of the world’s ills.  So out out of here for now, but shall return….


Filed under Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bariatric Surgery, Blogroll, Christianity, culture, dating, Evangelical Christianity, Food, General Thoughts, Health, Healthy Eating, howard stern, Recovery, religion, Tent Revival, Weight Loss, weight loss surgery

Obese Grandmother Gets Nude In Christmas…

Okay, when I can’t think of a snappy title from now on, my default action will be to grab something from my dashboard that someone googled to end up at my site…..this one was pretty unique (close runner-up was “Pastor Being Fucked”).  My favorite one as of late though is when people type in “unsaved pussy” and get here… guess is they mis-keyed (I was going to say fat fingered….but too easy of a joke) “unSHAVED pussy”.  And I get way more hits with unsaved pussy than I am comfortable with….but welcome to you!

So I’ve been cooking a lot…..trying to find stuff to do with my time during my favorite time of the year that doesn’t include obsessing on getting shitfaced with all of this free time on my hands.  I’ve pretty much got the daily job search streamlined, so it only takes up so much time.  So cooking is something I enjoy, and I can make a passable dinner.  This week has been chicken and noodles, homemade pizza and risotto.  I’ve never made my own pizza dough or sauce, but now that I’ve done it I have no idea why I waited this long…maybe because I finally have a pizza stone I can use.  Biggest revelation was how great sliced and sauteed (in bacon fat) Brussels sprouts can be on pizza, not to mention the combo of Thai garlic chile paste, ricotta, caramelized onions and mushroom soy sauce marinated chicken breast.  The bacon and Brussels sprouts combo will be debuting at the monthly AA potluck tonight…..but not on pizza (UPDATE: the people at the potluck lost their damn minds over those things….they were gone almost instantly, will have to make a double batch next month).  Today I went out and picked up 20 pounds of beef bones for stock. The meat department just got a bunch in this morning and cut them up for me fresh……I’ll be testing my limits tomorrow, seeing if there is such a thing as eating TOO MUCH bone marrow on toast w/some sea salt and a little parsley.  My gigantic stockpot will be chock full, simmering all day tomorrow after I harvest the roasted marrow….and as usual, I won’t have any stock when all is said and done….I go ahead and reduce it until I’ve got about a gallon of demi glace! 

Anyway, enough of the Suzie homemaker crap.  Like I mentioned before, this really is my favorite time of the year.  USUALLY it’s the kickoff of the real party season that slides on through to the New Year.  So this is about as different as it gets.  An alien planet.  I’ll try to keep things on point, especially if I’m going to burn up blog space with these revolutionary AA nuggets on a regular basis. 

Usually autumn just gradually creeps up on me, I take it for granted and there isn’t ever a singular moment that says to me “it has begun”.  This year was a little different.  We were at the movies last weekend doing a I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell/Zombieland double feature (and by double feature I mean walking into the second movie for free), and at some point in the first movie some guys were walking into a bar…..and whammo, autumn was upon me.  No suffering, no booze craving, nothing dramatic at all…just a subtle click in my brain as I pulled up an old image I’ve lived a thousand times; walking into a bar way before it got busy, the air conditioning set to arctic in anticipation of the drunken hoardes, bellying up to the bar and ordering the first drink, chatting with the bartender in the relative quiet, and feeling the first sip work its way into my blood.  That first drink always kicked off a cheesy carnival music version of “The Sound of Music” in my head, as my body welcomed the dopamine rush and I settled into the safety of the knowledge I was on my way.  There’s nothing like that first ka-pow that hits your brain during the first drink…you can follow it up with a hundred more and you never, ever get that first rush of happiness and comfort back again.  Until the next first drink.  So yessiree, the electric crispness of autumn air, comfy in a bar, cruising through the top shelf bourbons for hours….praise God from whom all blessings flow. 

I don’t spend too much time thinking about it, when I do I can’t say it’s torture.  It’s just a reminder of how different things are for me this year, and this is not a bad thing.  I went to a really good noon meeting yesterday that helped put things into perspective when the wandering mind begins thinking too hard about this alien planet.  We talked about the second step, coming to terms with a greater power having the ability to restore us to sanity.  To seek sanity, you have to admit that there was insanity… problem there. BUT much of the insanity was triggered by the religious insanity, so coming to terms with a higher power that didn’t want to crush my spine could be difficult for me.

I can’t say that growing up in a works-based religion MAKES you an addict, but it definitely helps.  By that I mean, once you accept the fundamentalist/Biblical literalist version of Christ…..who IS the loving deity of John 3:16 (at first anyway), THEN it’s time to get to work and make sure you STAY saved, because faith without works is dead.  So even though salvation and grace are free gifts and you could never do anything to be worthy of them on your own, you still have to attach a blue collar work ethic to your faith and cowboy up and EARN it.  That’s a lot of pressure, and is completely at odds with the “Jesus as your personal savior” evangelical banner ad because it creates a system where the WORKS create the RELATIONSHIP instead of any works/growth/learning, etc. happening as a natural and logical result of the relationship.  It’s the red blooded, blue eyed Republican American Jesus phenomenon….if you work hard enough you can have or do anything, and if you AREN’T working hard for it then you probably aren’t really saved.  And that begats the “members only” club mentality, which begats the arrogance, which begats the isolationist attitude and the greatest religious motivators of all…..fear and guilt.  If people can’t accept the definition of God’s love on YOUR terms, then maybe you can scare them into loving him. 

Sorry, I know I go on those religious rants all of the time, but I say all of that to say this….works were always easy for me.  When I was working at a church I could always do as much or more than everyone, and the more things I did to make me feel guilty, the more work I could do to make up for it.  And the more I offset guilt with works and jammed all of those conflicting feelings down deep, the more judgmental I became because everything had to be black or white.  Guilt doesn’t work.  The same goes for my post-pastor life…..I never really had to work THAT hard to get by.  School was easy for me, I was a quick learner at work, and when it comes to people I can generally find a way to get along with or befriend almost anyone….especially if there is something in it for me.  But with booze comes that same teeter-totter effect that is found in the works/faith dichotomy……working harder to get over the issue of drinking too much, and ultimately watching things come to a critical mass that I couldn’t schmooze or intellectualize my way out of. 

This is an example of what a lot of AA’ers call “my best thinking”……the trap of trying to think your way out of the cycle of addiction.  Then you are well into the insanity.  Oh the insanity and all of the tricks you use to rationalize it or just gut it out.  For me, it was falling back on all of the behaviors that made things so “easy” for me in the past.  I’d use my willpower, stoicism, intellect or charm to make it into a period of sobriety….and honestly, most of the time I probably WAS a manageable drunk.  I never fucked up too badly for a very long time, but I didn’t realize that part of the “unmanageability” of alcoholism was the planning that went into it.  So I’d take it too far, go to a few AA meetings and think I could pick up some tips to either drink properly or stop all together.  Hook right, hook left…..switch it up, try it again…..but over time it never gets better. 

So here I am at the end of all of that, during my favorite drinking time of the year, and it was during the aforementioned meeting that something really hit me.  I’m a very visual person…once I can put some kind of picture around a concept I’ll usually be able to internalize it.  Back to the higher power……what is that REALLY?  It’s not the fundamentalist tormentor of my youth, and it’s not some kind of cosmic feel-good fairy.  So how could I frame it in an understandable manner….in a way that it could be some kind of tangible icon to help me into longterm sobriety?  And when did my writing become so gay? 

I’m rambling, so here it is, the visual……when I tried to use all of the tools and tricks that got me to where I was, to no avail, I was like a billionaire with a huge steamer trunk full of cash….on a deserted island.  The money, ego, popularity, charisma, and intelligence at my disposal…..meant nothing.  The God of my understanding was the one standing on my deserted waterfront property going “so where did all of THAT get you?”.  Things can be just as easy as they were before, as long as you surrender all of the old behaviors and replace them as you learn.  It’s kind of like my dog and her pinch collar… don’t have to strangle her to walk her properly, it just takes a little tweak with the collar once in a while.  That’s me now, constantly correcting my mind to put it in check….as long as it isn’t allowed to get too far out of whack, you’re restored to sanity.  I can be all happy now doing a ton of gay crap like being productive and dependable. 

That’s about it, sorry for the lack of depraved humor and unbridled ill-tempered hilarity.  Overall I’m pretty calm and happy, living the dream of unemployment checks, job listings and MySpace Poker.


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