stage 2 sobriety
one thing i have come to know closely this last onth is that when i make efforts to change and the universe responds, well then thing are going to be different. damn! it is not easy to be different. it is easier to grow into being different. and of course that’s what happens when we change. we grow. and there is a death. and a dirge. and a birth.
tara branch’s quote is precisely reflecting my conundrum du jour. if i am to change, how best can i do this with true healthy change in view? how can i not make emotional decisions?
sometimes i wonder if living with a virus is really like being branded. or it might be like testing just how much endurance one has. so many people haven’t survived. yet so many people have. certainly some will insist that there is not a spiritual component to life. my experience however has convinced me that the only sense to be made from the randomness and the madness is the spiritual aspect. i am not imparting dogma here. i am sharing personal experience. the connecting thread to all the craziness and to the amazing streaks of good luck has been exposed as a raison d’etre or reason to be. i am connected to the rest of the world not by intention but by design without my consult. i give thanks today in being connected an in feeling that connection. i didn’t have that for much of my life- or actually i wasn’t aware of it.
early in recovery i used a mantra i found in “a course in miracles” which goes like this..
i am not a body
i am free
for i am still
as god created me
it brought me comfort and relieved much much early recovery anxiety and uber emotionality. developing daily spiritual practices to use as centering tools helped ground me and paved the way to understand that primal connection to earth was visibly absent from my world. life hazed me for 40 years until i was willing to let the truth be revealed. and wow. double wow. wow to the 10th power.
i began a new gig this week. i have a large office. i have what might be called hands-off supervision but evidently wonderful support. i had felt placated by management for so long, i had almost forgotten what it is like to be involved in a thoughtful work relationship. i am anxiously anticipating growing this feeling. my duties have expanded but not compounded. i am in a completely new part of town that promises adventure. every day i may get to write the book.
“Everyday I Write The Book”
When you’re old enough to know better
When you find strange hands in your sweater
When your dreamboat turns out to be a footnote
I’m a man with a mission in two or three editions
And I’m giving you a longing look
Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book
i have had quite the week. it seems that the sludge that overran the rivers of virginia may have made its way into the culture in which my days are spent. i have conferred with far too many individuals who have lost their jobs or lost their housing within the last week or so. it has been a little daunting and a little bit more heart wrenching witnessing others’ emotional self-sabotage patterns trample through their lives like an ever-ready bunny. it’s very much like the 1st half hour of “war of the worlds” or “independence day”- destruction and chaos is rampant. so crazy it seems beyond belief.
there are no easy fixes here. and although i want to feel helpless, it just isn’t so. being present is often the best gift i can offer. and serving up hope is my chopping wood and carrying water at my workplace. i continue to try to spread it around and hope that it will be of use. then i have to let go of my expectations around that. in 12 step circles this is what may be called a “gold problem” – hard to deal with, but hardly a risk to life and limb.
i got a call from someone who was having difficulty breathing and in distress reporting a 10 day drinking binge. when asked how i could help, i was asked to listen which i tried to do. i did listen for a few minutes and then i brought up detox which was rebuffed as definitely not an option. the hospital came up next and i encouraged a 911 call. there was another couple of minutes of resistance, followed by some desperate sounding moans around statements like “i’m so scared” and “i don’t wanna die like this”. i revisited the 911 call which was received with more embrace. i agreed to remain where i was while the emergency help call was made bargaining for a return call after 911. i got the return call and waited until the paramedics arrived. the breathing pattern was frightening as was the self-judgement on the other end of the line. it felt like a bracing arctic wind.
i also stood today in a pool of icy disbelief as i discussed a situation with another while they fabricated tales, lied, projected, redirected, and lied again to avoid personal responsibility. the sheer audacity caught me off guard. that and the complete science fiction quality of it all. i was lied to- blatantly and without regret or concern- lied to (he fretted indignantly). how very dare you….
of course that was a feeling and a thought that has not been allowed to linger. it does no good whatsoever to talk the talk about breathing in compassion for myself and breathing out compassion for others if i am unable to muster it when a small situation arises. luckily, muster i have done.
truth be told- i am no different from the suffering and somewhat sedated individuals before me. i have been in those shoes. under the influence of substances and my own shame- enough to the point that untruthing was commonplace and done without care.
i am those suffering souls i see and hear. i experience myself. this angers me at first. but i hope i am drifting to compassion. and then hopefully love.
When the sun will set
Don’t you fret
No I have no money on my mind
No money on my mind
No money on my mind
No I have no money on my mind
No I have no money on my mind
Just love…… Sam Smith “Money on My Mind”
on monday i had 3 teeth pulled. i could have prolly had 2 crowns put in, but at my age and considering the cost, it seemed more practical to just exorcise them. i feel a bit naked in spots today. i will have a bridge built and slip something where there is now nothing and smile a little easier then. considering the sugar addiction, the 33 years of tobacco, coffee, and teeter-totter of vodka-scotch, it’s a wonder i haven’t lost more. still as i saw them being hoisted from my mouth, i felt a sense of loss and circumstance. i will not see them or use them ever again.
i had lunch with a friend today at work. she and i reminisced about some time passed and spent more time sharing observations about how things are now. the whole lunch fed my soul. she is emerging from a surgery which kept her at home for about 6 weeks. her recovery is slow, and seems to be keeping her in gratitude amid the fragile qualities that are life. our discussions lent themselves to what seems to be the focus of our days and efforts. and it’s nice to have a cheerleader. and i hope i can be one also.
this morning i walked up to work while it was still dark. i got met with a big glass of insanity being splashed in my face likea slushee on glee. then a second splash came my way right after that. and all before i got into the building. sometimes i am not quite ready to help someone self-soothe. sometimes like today. although i work with many folks who have little or no self-soothing skills and have often felt ambushed before i get into the building, have a coffee, or get to set my bag down. it’s a strange circular dance i engage in. again and again and again. i try to set boundaries. i try to slip in quietly. i try to ready. still too often i am approached before i feel ready and then try to dry off the slushee feeling for the next hour or so. without question there is a part of me that feels put upon. but the flipside is that i am lucky anybody wants to speak with me at all. there were times, many times, that there wasn’t a voice within earshot that was meant for me. no i need to be okay with feeling invaded and then remembering that it’s only a feeling. and feelings are not facts.
went to see august:osage county today. wow- was that a challenging experience. hard really. there were snippets of me, certainly snippets of family members, and swatches of addiction reality that cold-cocked me in the throat. it wasn’t the gut-punching or kicking as i had found “requiem for a dream”. osage county was more like a super 8 home movie that i didn’t even know existed before this- and all the scenery is remembered, but i can’t believe that’s how we actually looked. this film had me peering in through the windows of my memory with a real fear that i would be found out. i tried hard not to make a sound, lest the anger i witnessed would be directed my way. i teared up a few times, mostly when the characters were talking gently about the dead dad. this film left a strong taste in my mouth. i may have to go back in and get more.
i found this version of soft cell’s “memorabilia” on soundcloud. it sparked the title for this post. i remember dancing to this- or body rocking really- at an after hours club in chicago called columns. it was on south michigan avenue. the crew i hung with in those days used to go there after the bars closed. my friend katie and i used to frequent the place. i met my best friend blue at columns. he was an odd duck then- still is actually. he was wearing a scottish purse on his head as a hat the first day we spoke. we walked home from columns north along the lake and forged the framework of a friendship that has lasted over 30 years. after hours clubs were just getting started in our town then.
“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” ― Gabriel García Márquez
i was born in 1958. the world was quite different then. my world was different and the larger world i traveled in as well. and yet so many things seem quite similar. as i approach the middle point of my 5 decade walking through this life, i am swirling in an understanding that i enjoy my life on a completely different plateau than i did in the prior decades.
my 50’s have afforded me an ease and a laissez-faire which i had not touched prior. i would imagine that without this shift of perspective i would still be lost in the land of high. but my years caused me to become weary, weary of judgement, weary of worry, weary of pretending. of course i still engage with all these things, but maturity has allowed me an exit strategy from caring about the unimportant. in other words- priorities in life have changed drastically.
i tip my hat to the relief i feel because of age. all the while i cringe just a little when i see the extra jowls, the enlarged pores, or the gray hairs. or when i am pushing twice as hard to drop an extra 20 lbs i have managed to acquire during a 9 month dark period from which i am gratefully emerging, there is a tranquility that replaces the panic and fear that used to pervade the background of my mind. instead, i drift towards letting go of worry about the inane and move in the direction of “i’ll do what suits me” in direct opposition to the prior decades motto of “do i look good doing this?”
no doubt the crossing of the 55 line will be without pomp and circumstance. my celebrations have become quieter and rather introspective. the journey has at once slowed and sped up. the years go by more rapidly as i experience the nuances in life’s revolving chapters-not merely the basics. the older i become, the more i understand how limited my knowledge really is. all this is quite fine as the real gift and the bonus for me is the peace of mind and the ability to rest that has appeared with ripening.
the workplace continues to undergo metamorphosis. my previous supervisor was laid off- i believe his team lead position has been dissolved and there will simply be one team. he hadn’t seemed happy since new management moved in at the beginning of this year. i spoke with him briefly after he learned of this decision and tried to assure him that better days would be coming for him. sometimes my life has moved ahead of me and removed me from situations to make room for learning, growth, and fulfillment. i venture to guess that my entire workplace is in one of those patterns now.
i worked 2-16 hour days thursday and friday (between full-time and part time gigs) and have been pooped this weekend, really pooped. but i have caught up on sleep, had my house cleaned, finished laundry, shopped at sprouts, finished the criminal minds marathon, taken naps, and feel rested. it rained most of last night and there is a soft grey blanket of quiet tossed on top of our town. i love days like this- it reminds me of chicago.
also reminding me of chicago is a band of musicians known as durutti column- they weren’t from chicago, but i loved them when i lived there. here’s a brief paragraph or two from wikipedia..
i went to the 1st of 2 trainings on the DSM V which has just been released. it is such a controversial document. in medical circles the dsm is known as the source of order in the crazy crazy world of mental health and substance use. yet from the eyes of many persons living with medical issues in these areas, the dsm represents the pigeon-holing of their individuality and reduction of a whole person into a diagnosis. the book and its implications are the source of many a controversy. for today’s sake, since i work in a hospital environment it is necessary to use the content of the dsm to communicate with other providers, funders, overseers in a systematic and consistent manner. the dsm offers this type of solution.
although there is much to say about the dsm v versus the previous edition and about the dsm’s in general, i won’t go into that today. suffice it to say that i found the training enlightening and inclusive, as it allowed me some insight into the elusive mental health provider creature which was a rare treat. and honestly (and hopefully) the manner with which i write my notes will be changed as a result of these trainings.
i caught wind of the reality that change is sweeping our institution. every department is to be effected and it is said to be swift and succinct. i am unsettled by the information. not because it is unexpected, but because it is has moved closer to truth. it is a source of continued surprise that i live and work in a culture of change and yet i am just as affected by it in my own life as anyone else might be.
i went to dinner with friends a couple of months ago and saw a picture of myself posted on fb, this sighting caused a shudder to resonate within me as i was forced to wrestle with the largeness of my girth. i knew i had become big, but here was indisputable proof that the growth might be nuclear. i have been doing cardio again 3-4x week for about 5 weeks. there have been some improvements. i have set a goal of 20 lbs- i’m 8 down but have a ways to go. i haven’t been at 240 or lower for a couple of years. the weird thing is that i have been depressed since last year and i didn’t realize it. my sponsor of 7 years passed from stage 4 liver cancer in just a few months after his diagnosis. this loss led me directly to feelings of disenchantment after volunteering for an organization last year as well as frustrated with working with a team that felt toxic and stagnant, (i.e. one was on the internet for hours in the afternoon, one worked the nyt crossword puzzle daily-shouting out the clues hoping for an answer, and a third on personal calls for 1/2 hours on end) that i numbed myself further. this was such an invisible and silent action that i didn’t notice until my work shifted and i once again became truly engaged with what i was doing on a daily basis. so very relieved to be on the upside and very happy to be getting some endorphins flowing again, too.
i was thanked today at work for some efforts and for some changes i have been implementing. i was informed that thanking was the only way it was possible to show gratitude right now, but that it was hoped that this would change soon. gotta say that this felt really really good. especially when hearing the other information about changes.
about 3 years ago i found myself (as is par for the course for someone with bi-polar disorder) having spent my way into 22K debt over a summer. it was a good summer, but certainly not outstanding and more thank likely not worth several thousand and 3 years of way too high payments. but i am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. i have about 8 months left. i will be able to buy new clothes again, shop till i plop, travel a little, and maybe upgrade the kitchen and bath.
i am currently on the 2010 series of criminal minds. i am engaged, enthralled, and affected by the creepiness and the sadistic tales. and it’s interesting how my favorite character shifts from year to year. right now i am loving dr. reid- the geek. i have always admired smart guys.
We had all see Malone, yet going home on the subway no one spoke of him, even though each of us was thinking of that handsome man — and he had seen us. What must he have thought of us at that time. What queens we were! We had been crazed for several years already when we danced at the Bearded Lady that winter. We lived only to dance. What was the true characteristic of a queen, I wondered later on; and you could argue that forever. “What do we all have in common in this group?” I once asked a friend seriously, when it occurred to me how slender, how immaterial, how ephemeral the bond was that joined us; and he responded, “We all have lips.” Perhaps that is what we all had in common: No one was allowed to be serious, except about the importance of music, the glory of faces seen in the crowd. We had our songs, we had our faces! We had our web belts and painter’s jeans, our dyed tank tops and haircuts, the plaid shirts, bomber jackets, jungle fatigues, the all-important shoes….Andrew Holleran
it’s a saturday and i find myself reminiscing a bit about my 1970’s. it was a decadent and tumultuous decade to say the least. i left home at 16 in 1974 and moved to chicago from the burbs. i worked as a rent boy and a gogo boy until i landed a job as a bartender at 18. i shared an apartment with a puerto rican drag queen early on and learned how to speak with a spanich(ha) accent. i also developed an emotional rhythm sequence that embedded itself deeply into my psyche.
i assimilated to 1970’s gay culture through osmosis. music, fashion, attitudes, tastes, and beliefs all were shaped by our mysterious cultural norm. it was urban, it was rogue, it was survivalist, it was guerilla, and it was inventive. i don’t remember making conscious and thoughtful choices about these things as much as i can recall intense peer pressure and a need to belong- after all this urban landscape accepted my twisted ternderness much more thoughtfully than my family of origin had.
i was able to hide even further from my nature as i immersed and lost myself in the choreography of that decade. there were parties, drugs, laughter, theater, short romances, and galaxies of anonymous sex. it was the decade which allowed me to say “yes” to pleasure- which i did to excess. platform shoes, low-rise hip-huggers, afros (well.. perms), disco, acid, mdma, sid vicious, the sex pistols, vivienne westwood, radical faeries, harvey milk, the bus stop, the bump, the introduction of middle class cocaine, my only live-in relationship, sparks. and on and on.
the 80’s rang in a whole new act in this dance of our culture. but those 1970’s were specific and boutique. there may never be the same intersection of indulgence and ingenue on our cultural landscape- mostly because those was the first years after stonewall. maybe my introduction to lgbt culture during that time has allowed me the grace of believing beyond what i know. i am not clear that the generations behind me have that same capacity. i may be in the last of our kind to undestand suppression and to understand freedom from the outer edges of the pendulum.
- 1970 – The first Gay Liberation Day March is held in New York City; The first LGBT Pride Parade is held in Los Angeles; The first “Gay-in” held in San Francisco; Carl Wittman writes A Gay Manifesto; CAMP (Campaign Against Moral Persecution) is formed in Australia.
- 1971 – Society Five (a homosexual rights organization) is formed in Melbourne, Australia; Homosexuality is decriminalized in Austria, Costa Rica and Finland; Colorado and Oregon repeal sodomy laws; Idaho repeals the sodomy law — Then re-instates the repealed sodomy law because of outrage among Mormons and Catholics. The Netherlands changes the homosexual age of consent to 16, the same as the straight age of consent; The U.S. Libertarian Party calls for the repeal of all victimless crime laws, including the sodomy laws; Dr. Frank Kamenybecomes the first openly gay candidate for the United States Congress; The University of Michigan establishes the first collegiate LGBT programs office, then known as the “Gay Advocate’s Office.” The UK Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was recognized as a political movement in the national press and was holding weekly meetings of 200 to 300 people.
- 1972 – Sweden becomes first country in the world to allow transsexuals to legally change their sex, and provides free hormone therapy; Hawaii legalizes homosexuality; In Australia, the Dunstan Labor government introduces a consenting adults in private type defence in South Australia. This defence was initiated as a bill by Murray Hill, father of former Defence Minister Robert Hill, and later repealed the state’s sodomy law in 1975; Norway decriminalizes homosexuality; East Lansing, Michigan and Ann Arbor, Michigan and San Francisco, California become the first cities in United States to pass a homosexual rights ordinance. Jim Foster, San Francisco and Madeline Davis, Buffalo, New York, first gay and lesbian delegates to the Democratic Convention, Miami, McGovern; give the first speeches advocating a gay rights plank in the Democratic Party Platform. “Stonewall Nation” first gay anthem is written and recorded by Madeline Davis and is produced on 45 rpm record by the Mattachine Society of the Niagara Frontier. Lesbianism 101, first lesbianism course in the U.S. taught at the University of Buffalo by Margaret Small and Madeline Davis.
- 1973 – The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II), based largely on the research and advocacy of Evelyn Hooker; Malta legalizes homosexuality; In West Germany, the age of consent is reduced for homosexuals to 18 (though it is 14 for heterosexuals).
- 1974 – Kathy Kozachenko becomes the first openly gay American elected to public office when she wins a seat on the Ann Arbor, Michigan city council; In New York City Dr. Fritz Kleinfounds the Bisexual Forum, the first support group for the Bisexual Community; Ohio repeals sodomy laws. Robert Grant founds American Christian Cause to oppose the “gay agenda“, the beginning of modern Christian politics in the United States. In London, the first openly LGBT telephone help line opens, followed one year later by the Brighton Lesbian and Gay Switchboard; the Brunswick Four are arrested on January 5, 1974, in Toronto, Ontario. This incident of Lesbophobia galvanizes the Toronto Lesbian and Gay community; theNational Socialist League (The Gay Nazi Party) is founded in Los Angeles, California.
- 1975 – Homosexuality is legalized in South Australia; homosexuality is legalized in California due to bill authored by and successfully lobbied for in the state legislature by State Assemblyman from San Francisco Willie Brown; Elaine Noble becomes the second openly gay American elected to public office when she wins a seat in the Massachusetts State House; the first National Homosxual Conference is held in Melbourne, Australia; Panama is the second country in the world to allow transsexuals who have gone through gender reassignment surgery to get their personal documents reflecting their new sex.
- 1976 – Robert Grant founds the Christian Voice to take his anti-homosexual-rights crusade national in United States; the Homosexual Law Reform Coalition and the Gay Teachers Group are started in Australia; the Australian Capital Territory decriminalizes homosexuality between consenting adults in private and equalizes the age of consent; and Denmark equalizes the age of consent.
- 1977 – Harvey Milk is elected city-county supervisor in San Francisco, becoming the third out American elected to public office. Dade County, Florida enacts a Human Rights Ordinance; it is repealed the same year after a militant anti-homosexual-rights campaign led by Anita Bryant.Quebec becomes the first jurisdiction larger than a city or county in the world to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the public and private sectors; Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Vojvodina legalise homosexuality. Publication of the first issue of Gaysweek, NYC’s first mainstream gay weekly.
- 1978 – San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone are assassinated by former Supervisor Dan White; a protest commemorating the Stonewall Riots leads to many arrests, with commemorative protests the following year known as the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras, later Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras; The rainbow flag is first used as a symbol of homosexual pride; Sweden establishes a uniform age of consent. Samois the earliest known lesbian-feminist BDSM organization is founded in San Francisco; well-known members of the group includePatrick Califia and Gayle Rubin; the group is among the very earliest advocates of what came to be known as sex-positive feminism; The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) is established. Theatrical release and television broadcast of the feature documentaryWord Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, and publication of the book transcribed from it.
- 1979 – The first national homosexual rights march on Washington, DC is held; The White Night riots occur, Harry Hay issues the first call for aRadical Faerie gathering in Arizona, and Cuba and Spain decriminalize homosexuality; A number of people in Sweden called in sick with a case of being homosexual, in protest of homosexuality being classified as an illness. This was followed by an activist occupation of the main office of the National Board of Health and Welfare. Within a few months, Sweden became the first country in the world to remove homosexuality as an illness.….