stage 2 sobriety

no no samo samo

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“Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns...We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.”  ― Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha
“Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns…We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.”
― Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

 

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?

 

everyday i write

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All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him. Buddha.
All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.
Buddha.

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”

Don’t tell me you don’t know what love is
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

 

no money on my mind

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"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the 'universe', a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest  - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affectation for a few people near us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion  to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space.
He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest
– a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affectation for a few people near us.
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

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”

memorabilia

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I may be soft, I made the top, I like my cabaret non-stop,
It may be erotic, it may be ecstatic
With it down on your floor or in your attic.

You take it low or shut our eyes, and let our love materialise,
And I don’t mean love on a chocolate box, I mean the love that really rocks
I say call me the baby, the good time lady,
Just look at me and it’s easy to see why they call me Cindy Ecstasy.

Because I’ve got the eyes, the where’s, the why’s to make your love thing really
Rise,
You don’t need your speed or your pair of wheels.
You’ve got the prize that will brighten your skies.

So look me up and I’ll tell no lies,
Coz I’m the lady with the hot surprise,
If you don’t believe me, ask Soft Cell, because I shook them up and I gave
Them hell.
So Call up Cindy Ecstasy if you’re looking for a memory
Memorabilia…memorabilia

it’s been an interesting week within an interesting month which makes for an interesting beginning to the year. i have passed through an uneasy time at my workplace and let go of a position that no longer felt healthy. i have passed through some financial stressors and can see an end to some challenges in that realm.  i almost rushed into another project, but pulled back at the last minute-deciding i should walk the idea around the block a few more times before i committed to purchasing. 
i must say that this week, this day, this friday evening finds me quite content. as i shred my work clothes just after arriving home, it occurred to me how much in my life has changed. for most of my years, i have never been able to sit home, let alone spend time by myself. yet at this juncture, i find spending time alone at home a very beautiful and happy thing. it speaks volumes to the affects of recovery to my sense of self. and i can clearly declare that i am quite satisfied with this shift.
i was listening to a remix of a sharon redd tune on soundcloud today and it took me back to when i was working at medusa’s- sharon redd came to perform- 1984 i think. she had a hit record “can you handle it” at the time. she was an enigma to me. she had come to know success by that time in her life. she had been “discovered” working for bette midler as a harlette and then sang back up for a coupla more front divas before she got her own contract. she had a hit “beat the street” and then put out a few more records. this is about the time she came to medusa’s. the big surprise was what we shared in common at that time. she was an uber-coke user. she freebased. i snorted. but we got blasted that whole evening. she had blasted so far outa this atmosphere that she built a structure of lawn chairs on the 3rd floor and hid behind them so she would feel safer. her boyfriend/manager came to collect her at the end of the evening and she hid behind the chairs and didn’t want to leave. i can remember the awkward quality of that morning to this day. i never saw her again. we did not become friends. we just got blasted together in a quirk and the drifted. she passed away from aids-related pneumonia in 1992. 
as i wrote that last paragraph, i realize that there are so many facets and flavors in that paragraph that characterize several years of my life. over using, drifting, music, blasted,. enigma, fear- i could go on. of course there were other aspects to my life too, but i really know that part of me was caught up and blinded by a combination of a dance beat, denial, and addiction- all collaborating to change the way i felt. truthfully, in the 80’s and 90’s i had stumbled into a conveyer belt of some kind leading to today. damn i wanted to figure out a way out.

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.

i collect
 i reject….
 memorabilia….

graying

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“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..



The Durutti Column are an English post-punk band formed in 1978 in Manchester, England. The band is an ongoing project of guitarist (and occasional pianist) Vini Reilly who is often accompanied by drummer Bruce Mitchell and Keir Stewart (on bass, keyboards and harmonica).

Chris Ott summed up Vini Reilly in 2003: “Friend to Ian Curtis and New Order, a borderline New Age celebrity within European muso circles and the creative force behind much of Morrissey‘s Viva Hate, Vini Reilly has unleashed untold volumes of music over the last twenty-five years. Delving into modern classical composition with 1984’s Without Mercy, his low-key reputation as an independent auteur was cemented with 1989’s Vini Reilly, a masterpiece recorded in just twenty days’ time after finishing Viva Hate with Morrissey and Stephen Street.

sometimes a closer look

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“In a world where the dead are returning to life, ‘trouble’ loses much of its meaning. … Land of the Dead.”
Dennis Hopper

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.

dancer from the dance

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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. 


By year

  • 1972 – Sweden becomes first country in the world to allow transsexuals to legally change their sex, and provides free hormone therapy;[8] 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 DavisBuffalo, 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.[citation needed]

Gay rights protesters in New York City, protesting at the United States’ 1976 Democratic National Convention

Original eight-color version of the LGBT pride flag

  • 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;[citation needed] 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.[8]…. 
timeline reposted from wikipedia…