The Big Purchase Cycle

Having just ordered a $1500 grill, I have identified the stages that I go through when making a big purchase:

  1. Discovery: “Oh my gosh, this is so cool! I didn’t even know stuff like this existed!  I have GOT to get me one of these!”  This ecstasy is followed by hours of internet research: video reviews, Amazon comments and other Google searches.  Looks like a pretty sweet deal!
  2. Suspicion: “Eh, it probably won’t work for me.  It’s probably just a big rip-off.” I notice that I have an un-natural excitement over an inanimate object.  Start to search for negative information.  Get slightly depressed.  Give up on the whole thing.
  3. Revival: “You know, after think about it a few days, I DO want one of those!” After letting the positive and negative swings level out, I can make a clear-headed decision.  I re-visit the web reviews, double-check the feedback, and convince myself that this is a really, really good product.
  4. Purchase: “I’m going to go for it.  I’m going to go to Amazon and press that Add To Cart button like a real man!”  It’s a Friday, and I start to think about how I will regret not buying one.  Having talked myself into it, and afraid I’ll get depressed if I don’t do something nice for myself, I place the order before I change my mind.
  5. Panic: “Oh dear God, what have I done?!  I just blew a ton of money on something I didn’t even know existed a week ago!  I’ve made a huge mistake!”  After the rush of purchasing, the adrenaline subsides and I get my suspicion back, but this time with an overwhelming sense of having made a huge mistake, blowing a ton of money on the first thing I saw after I got my bonus.
  6. Calm: “It’s OK, it was a good decision, and it’s only money, no big deal, right?”  I remember why I bought this thing in the first place: I’ve been working very hard and I deserve it, and it got 4.8 out of 5 stars.  It’s going to be great.  I’m really looking forward to getting it and making some amazing BBQ!
  7. Doubt: “Hey Bob, I just bought a new smoker!”  “Oh man, did you pay for it already?  I wish I’d’ve known you were looking for one.  I know where you can get a better one for much less money than that!”  This always happens.  I finally get to stage 6, and the minute I tell someone, I’m back to worrying I made a horrible decision.  To get past this newfound buyer’s remorse, I have to go through, again, the thought process that got me here: why I ended up picking the one I did, why I don’t trust Bob’s recommendation, and even though I can see how stupid my decision was through Bob’s eyes, it was the right one for me.

I went through this recently when I bought a new car.  I bought one that I hadn’t really seen before, and the exact opposite of what I had: went from an 8-cylinder Camaro to a 4-cylinder Subaru.  Got the same response, the same confused-dog stare when I told my friends about it.  Most people when they want a fast car get one with a big V-8.  Most people when they want a good smoker get a big, heavy pit.  Maybe it’s because I live in Texas; everything is supposed to be bigger in Texas I guess.  But for me, I like compact, high performance.  I love my new Subaru, which by the way is faster than my old Camaro, and I hope to love my new grill.  It’s small, but you can stack a lot of meat in it, there’s better smoke control, and it should make some amazing food.  It think it will be a huge success.  And it’s not about competition.  It’s all about making good food for my family.

As long as I can make a better brisket than Bob.

-Mark

Harvey vs Allison

My how times have changed.

My wife and I had been married for a year or two, and she had just started selling Tupperware.  Being new, poor and immature, we took them seriously when they said the order had to be in by the end of the day.  Sure, there was a tropical storm, the roads were flooded and wind blowing like crazy, but deadlines are deadlines, right?  So, we loaded up in my ’73 Valiant and headed out in the storm to deliver the all-important Tupperware order.  Stupid, right?

Made it to the Almeda mall area, and water was lapping the bottom of the car.  Headlights were dipping in and out of the water, which splashed up on the windshield and formed big waves as we trudged along.  Finally, I made the executive decision to turn around.  Deadlines be damned, this was just plain crazy.  So I saw a big, open area and made a sweeping turn, trying to keep my momentum up so I wouldn’t stall out.  Suddenly, the passenger side front plunged down into something murky.  I leaned on the throttle, and managed to peel away when halfway through my U-turn, the front end drove straight down into the water.

The engine died.  I immediately tried to start it, heard the whrr-clunk of hydro-lock, and knew it wouldn’t run again.  Water was pouring in to the front, submerging the pedals and up into the front seats.  I yanked my wife into the back (still not sure how I did that), got the baby unbuckled from the car seat, and got out in the impromptu lake just as the car settled into the ditch.  (Found out later that “big open area” was just a regular road with ditches on both sides.  I almost got into the first one, then plunged straight into the opposite side. Like I said: young and stupid.)  It happened so fast.  To me, it was like slow motion.  My wife says, one minute we were in the car and the next she knew, we were in the street.  I guess there’s a reason God gives young people fast reflexes, eh?

So there we were.  Gale-force winds driving the stinging rain almost sideways.  Barely able to see the freeway, soaked to the bone, pushing our way through the waist-high current, me, my wife and baby.  I can remember him actually laughing at the rain as it struck his face.  To him, it was just another adventure, I guess.  Me, I felt like we were in a disaster movie.  It was surreal.

Trudging through waist-high water, we finally made it to the freeway.  We went in to the waffle house and stood shivering in the entrance.  Patrons gave us a curt look, rolled their eyes and went back to their dinners.  A waitress noticed us and reluctantly asked if she could help us? I asked if they took checks, which is all I had besides a little change.  Nope, they don’t take checks.  I glanced longingly over at a man sipping a hot cup of coffee.  Do you think we could just come in and sit down while we wait for a ride?  The waitress glanced at the puddle on the floor, then looked at us.  I guess so, was her reply.  We ordered two waters and I went to find a pay phone to call my pastor, who is the only one I know with a really, really big truck.  We were there an hour, as he searched for us at the wrong diner.  It was much harder to communicate in the pre-cell-phone era.  And we did finally make it out.

People forget how it used to be.  Nowadays, people are falling over each other to help in a crisis.  It’s wonderful that they had to turn away people with boats because they had too many.  It’s great that we don’t have room to fit all of the food in the fridge because FEMA put a bunch of money on my daughter’s welfare card and the stores finally opened up & she went on a bit of a spending spree.  It’s awesome.  It used to be that people didn’t help you.  You were on your own.  The government wasn’t going to save you.  They were a last, last, last resort, after all other attempts had failed.  Maybe.  You had to save yourself, and if that didn’t work, you had to find someone to save you.  And if you couldn’t be saved, well then, I guess you just died, right?

The overwhelming outpouring of support for Harvey victims has been extraordinary.  People really are more connected and more caring than they used to be.  It may not seem that way when you watch the evening news, but I have seen it first-hand.  Say what you will about people, and how things were better in the “good ole days”, but when something really big happens, people get up and help.  Trust me; I’ve been through Allison and I’ve been through Harvey.  This ain’t the good ole days.  It’s better.

-Mark

 

My Hurricane Harvey Experience

I’m happy to say, we’re safe and dry in this household.  And by dry I mean both physically and spiritually.  This October will make 4 years of sobriety for me, and if this storm doesn’t make me drink, nothing will.

Like everyone else in Houston, I am in shock at how much water and flooding has occurred.  It’s hard to know when to take the weather predictions and the news seriously.  Every time it rains, they get all excited and tell you the world is ending.  Weather is the only subject they seem to be comfortable editorializing.  Everything else is more or less fact-based, but when it comes to weather, it’s opinions galore.  Locally, we have received about 40 inches of rain since last Thursday.  Saturday and Sunday night were the worst.  It was coming down in buckets, and my phone alerts were so frequent they became annoying.  During the tornado warning, with the wind whipping around outside, we actually thought we might get hit.  I got the storm shelter ready, put some dry clothes & a flashlight in there, a few other little things.  Thank God we didn’t need it.  Water got up over the curb, but that’s it.  Turns out our neighborhood has some really good drainage.  I’m about 30 feet above sea level here and outside any flood zones.  Turns out it really is all about location, location, location.  I could probably sell tomorrow for $200K as a flood-proof, hurricane-proof house.  We never even lost electricity.

My daughter’s house got about a foot of floodwater in it.  She’s here with us now, along with her family and pets.  It’s been a struggle feeding everyone and it’s a constant routine of cleaning, cooking, laundry, repeat, every day.  The chemical plant I work for is flooded as well.  I’ve been told to stay home until called in, which is good because my little BRZ wouldn’t make it that far anyway.

I pray to God for the rest of Houston.  This is an incredible disaster for the city.  I’m not one of those big tough guys that rescues people with his big truck and giant boat.  I’ve never been that guy.  God has given me the skillset and abilities to do just one thing, and that is to take care of my family.  It would be nice to be able to save people and get them to dry land, pick them up from rooftops in my big fan boat, but it never seems to work out for me.  And that’s OK.  We all have different roles to play, don’t we?  I’m the grandad.  I provide.

I doubt much of anyone is still reading my posts, but if you are, say a prayer for Houston, especially the poor.  My daughter’s situation is pretty common.  They basically don’t have a penny to their name, and have lost almost all of their possessions.  Their house may not be habittable, and it’s likely the car they left behind is totaled.  Without help, they’re in a world of hurt.  And theirs isn’t even the worst story.  At least they got out.  I would imagine a lot of people, they will find after the waters recede, did not.

God bless Houston and God bless Texas.

-Mark

What did you not do today?

Don’t beat yourself up over what you did not do today.  The things you didn’t do is infinite.  There is no way you can do all of them; it’s impossible.  Concentrate on your accomplishments.  You will get rewarded for your works, for the things you did, not the things that you didn’t do.  Think about it.  You didn’t give all your money to the poor.  You didn’t offer your body to be burned.  You didn’t clean the grout in the bathroom with a toothbrush, especially that little spot by the toilet where you have to get on your knees and stretch until your nose touches the bowl right next to the trash can and there’s always a spider’s web and a few dirty Q-tips.  The list is endless; no one can do everything.

You know what I didn’t do today?  I didn’t drink alcohol.  In fact, I haven’t had a drink for almost four years.  Maybe I didn’t finish painting the upstairs, and maybe the check engine light is still on, and maybe we don’t have lunch ready to cook yet and will probably eat junk food again, but damn it, what’s more important?  The fact that I’m sober, or the fact that the fucking walls don’t match the new couch?  Nobody is impressed with sobriety, or faithfulness, or any other type of tireless consistency.  People want to hear about your new (finished) home theater room, or the new recipe you mastered, or the new car you bought.  Maintenance isn’t sexy.  Everyone wants to hear about upgrades, but upgrades don’t pay the bills.

I refuse to beat myself up for the infinite number of things I didn’t do.  I’m not God.  I don’t have unlimited time, energy and money.  If God wants me to do something, He’ll give me the opportunity along with the will and ability to do so.  In the mean time, I’ll keep doing what He put me here to do: taking care of my family.  It may not be glamorous to replace a broken fence slat, drive the kids to the mall, change the oil or run the dishwasher, but it needs to be done.  When I get to Heaven, I want to hear, well done thou good and faithful servant.  And that’s what I am, a servant, not a CEO.  I’m doing my best to obey my lord, stay out of trouble and keep everyone safe, sheltered and fed.  It uses up all my time and energy, and if that’s all I get done, so be it.  The rest of that shit doesn’t matter.  It’s like dessert.  Cake is awesome, but eating sugar on an empty stomach can make you sick.

So what did you do today?  If you’re still married, employed and sober, you’re doing good.  Very good.  Well done, fellow servant.  Well done indeed.

-Mark

Just existing is enough

It’s enough to just exist.  It’s enough to watch a sunset, or sit by a lake, or close your eyes and listen to the wind in the trees.  It’s enough to watch children play at the park, to see the turtles swimming in the fountain, to gaze out at the stars.  God created a wonderful, beautiful world.  You don’t have to earn it.  You already have it.  It’s yours, all the fabulous beauty in the world, for you to behold and enjoy.  God gave you eyes to see His creation, and ears to hear the music of His nature.  It’s good; it’s very good.  And it’s OK to enjoy it.  How many times does God say to rest, trust, consider, watch – these are admonitions to slow down, calm down, stop working so hard.  Didn’t Jesus chide Martha for busting her ass in the kitchen instead of listening to Him?  It’s OK to relax.  You can work so hard that you miss all of it, and before you know it, you’re a bitter, aging  man like me.  The world was made for us, not us for the world.  The Sabbath day of rest was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.  It’s important enough to make the top ten commandments.  Peace, not stress, is the fruit of the Spirit.  It’s OK to take breaks.  It’s OK to leave a project unfinished.  It’s OK to just be still and feel God’s presence.  It’s OK to just… exist…

-Mark

 

Strict rules create criminals

I am so sick of following the rules.  I pay my bills on time.  I tithe.  I go the speed limit.  I obey traffic laws.  I obey the rules at work.  I pay my taxes.  I do nothing intentionally wrong, and I still get in trouble.  Fear rules me.  I’m scared that someday, someone will find something that I did without permission or the proper government forms, and the Authorities will swoop down and take away everything that I’ve worked so hard for.

I hated rules in high school.  I was a good kid.  I was tied with about 6 or 7 other nerds for Valedictorian.  I never got in trouble.  I was never tardy.  I always had notes for any excused absences.  I always turned in my homework.  And when the pressure got to be too much, nobody was there with anything except a cold, formal rule book.  I guess that’s how you control 750 teenagers in a giant socialist jailhouse – by making rules.  I followed them, but when it got to be too much, instead of having someone who cared and took the time to talk to me, I was judged and forgotten.  That’s when I started smoking, taking drugs, failing my classes and basically giving a big Fuck You to The Establishment.

I’m about to have the same reaction again.  There are rules in my community, and they are strictly enforced.  I get notices in the mail every once in a while – as all the residents do – about fence slats that need to be replaced, trash cans that need to be moved out of public view, or bushes that need to be trimmed.  And never mind that my house looks better-kept than most of the other ones; it doesn’t matter, because there are rules, and the homeowners association has lawyers and can put a lien on your house if you don’t do what they say.  And they won’t come talk to you.  They’ll send you a nasty note in the mail, and file papers in court if you don’t comply.

So I’m at a point where I can either go on being the straight-A nerd, or I can join the freaks in the smoking area.  I am really, really tempted to do something illegal.  I really, really want to break every fucking law that I can get away with.  Or, hire the toughest, meanest lawyer I can find to bury the HOA with discovery requests, depositions, endless litigation, until I bankrupt those assholes.  Or, I’ll try to come up with the most annoying things I can possibly do to make life a living hell for everyone around me, until they beg me to stop or change their minds and treat people with respect, rather than quoting rules from afar like the little ninnies that they are…

There was one guy in the neighborhood that got complaints about his trash cans.  They were on the side of the house, where he had kept them for years, but they were in “public view” so he got nasty letters telling him to move them.  After two such letters, he relented and built a small fence to hide the trash cans.  Of course, he didn’t get a thank you note.  No; he got another nasty note saying he put up a fence without HOA approval.

Why is it that people have to apply the rules and laws blindly, without consideration or reasonableness?  I can’t put my finger on it; it’s impersonal, it’s picky, it’s petty.  Some people can sell drugs, prostitute, steal, and they get a slap on the wrist, while others who do something really minor get the book thrown at them.  It’s not fair.  It’s not friendly.  It’s not human.  It’s just a bunch of laws written by those in power to control the faceless masses.  And it’s wrong.

I guess I should say what’s worrying me.  I installed an air conditioner.  Not an ugly window unit, but a nice little mini-split system.  The only visible part is the condensing unit, which is sitting on a concrete pad right next to my big one.  This morning, I was washing my cars like I do every Sunday, and someone pulled up next to my driveway, stayed there for a little while, then drove off.  I know that was the HOA bitch out to make people miserable again.  I was right there.  She could have come out and said Hi.  She could have mentioned something six months ago when I emailed her about putting in a mini-split unit.  She could have said something several weeks ago before I finally got it all working.  But instead, she’s sending a formal complaint, quoting the rule I broke and demanding that I do something about it.  Mind you, I haven’t gotten any letter yet, but I know it’s coming.  Because someone found out that I did something on my own without getting permission first.  Oooh, I’m sooo bad.  I need to be thrown in jail.

If I am going to be treated like a criminal even though I do my best, then why not act like a criminal?  If they’re going to cite me for putting in an unauthorized air conditioner, why not cook meth in the garage?  Why not be the bad guy that they see me as?  It seems like so much more fun, and if I’m going to get in trouble anyway, who cares?

Strict rules make criminals.  I know.  I am one.

-Mark

Random thoughts

First of all, comments are welcome, but spam is not.  I currently have 637 comments waiting for approval and *maybe* one or two of them are legitimate.  The rest are trying to sell me Gucci bags, directing me to porn sites, or telling me “you have good site, much good info, but have trouble viewing on mobile, click here…” or some other such nonsense.  If I figure out how to disable comments all together, I will.  It’s just too much garbage to sift through.

Trump: Yes, I was excited when he got elected.  Yes, I thought (and still think) that he can change things for the better.  And yes, I am bitterly disappointed.  I suppose even Donald Trump can’t overcome the Washington bureaucracy with his bravado and confidence.  He’s learning that it takes more than a loud voice to make things happen.  It’s probably good, in a way.  That’s what prevents one man from being able to destroy everything, whether he’s a conservative or a liberal.  I do wish people would just stop fighting and agree on simple, simple stuff, like enforcing the law.  I mean, really.  We shouldn’t even have to discuss that.

Alcohol: Still sober! 🙂  Have other things going on in my life right now, and I am so glad that getting drunk is no longer a problem.  Right at three and a half years since my last drink, and no regrets.  Becoming sober was one of the most worthy efforts I ever expended.  Highly recommended to anyone who still thinks they can “handle it” or “it’s not so bad”.  It may not be.  But it will be, eventually, with few exceptions.  Almost everyone just gets worse & worse until it overwhelms their entire life.  Wish I was an exception, but I’m not; I’ve consumed my lifetime allowance of booze.  No more for me.  Ever.

Work: It’s Friday and I can barely stay in my seat.  How is it that other people can work 60, 70 hours, and I can barely manage to squeeze 40 out?  I mean, it’s a lot of my life spent in this little chair, in my corporate cubicle.  Every single week, it sucks 90% of my life out of me.  By Friday, I can barely stand any more of this torture.  I love my job, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great job, but it’s a job.  I just can’t stand it after 8 hours.  I need a break.  I don’t want my life to consist only of hard work and sleep.  I don’t care how much they pay me, at the end of the week there just isn’t any more left to give.  I’m empty.

Sound: I’m very excited about my new home theater room!  We took our upstairs loft, which I walled in years ago to a separate room, cleaned it out and put in a big couch and a big TV.  I bought some vintage Bose 901 speakers along with a MiniDSP sound processor and QSC amplifier, and have now gotten it to where I think it sounds great.  There’s no surround sound, but oh my gosh, tons of tight bass, a huge “wall of sound”, the effect is really quite good.  I’ve been playing with the Room EQ Wizard and a Dayton USB microphone to get the sound right.  It has not been easy.  I found out a flat frequency response sounds terrible to me.  I always thought it would be perfect, but no: you have to EQ it flat, and then add a “room curve” (very gentle, wide EQ bands) to get it right.

Subaru: I passed inspection!  Despite the fact that I have installed an aftermarket supercharger, along with some supporting mods (injectors, tuning, fuel pump), they did an OBD scan and I’m good for another year.  The car puts out over 300hp now at redline, though it rarely ever gets up there.  But it’s a blast to drive and no one has rear-ended me since the lady did at the dealership 🙂  I’m debating what to do next.  The car is plenty fast.  I could put in a catless header (biggest restriction) or I might get a radar detector, which would probably make the car way faster than anything else.  I haven’t gotten a ticket in well over a decade; don’t want to screw that up.  I kind of like the way the car is now anyway.  Nothing about it would lead you to think it’s wicked fast.  Which it is.  Up to the speed limit, anyway.

Church: I promised God that I would attend the new church in our neighborhood after they opened it up.  I didn’t.  They finished it up for Christmas, and they started having regular services in January.  I bet my wife we wouldn’t last 30 minutes before we got offended.  She said it would only take 10.  We were both wrong.  It took zero.  I don’t know why they thought it was OK to pepper my house and cars with flyers.  It’s definitely NOT OK to put anything under my windshield wiper.  Just stay away from my car, OK?  It’s private property, and no one is welcome to advertise anything on my vehicles or doorknob.  Not a good first impression.  I will go there like I said I would, at least once, but I don’t expect to return to church life, like, ever.  Just too many memories.

Home: I paid off my mortgage!  Took me 21 years and 3 months, but I can now say I really do own my own home 🙂  I’m a little worried about the taxes and insurance, though.  I’ve never had to save up thousands of dollars before; they always just took it out of my payment.  But hopefully it’ll be easier now that I’m not sending a grand a month to the bank.  I really wanted to pay it off in 15 years, but with kids and everything, I never could put more than an extra hundred or so towards the principal.  And for the last few years, I couldn’t do that at all.  I used a big portion of my annual bonus to pay the balance off.  So no big vacation this year, but it’s money well spent.

So.  I’ve got an hour to kill before I can sneak out of here without drawing too much attention to myself.  How about some random thoughts.  Lego juicy transmission hair nemesis laser toast.  Pick axe slumber nervous tick.  A wide-angle lens capturing the aura of the northern kingdom.  Sound waves bounce but water waves slurp.  Tick tock gotta rock, stuffed turkey or dead cock.  Munchy bunchy two-by-four, can’t go surfing, I’m too poor.  Robot poop and dandelion farts, buy a zebra and save it for parts.

I don’t know why I even bother with this stupid blog any more.  I don’t have anything to say, really.  It was good therapy for me when I was drinking, but it’s kind of outlived its usefulness.  I’d rather spend my precious free moments in life doing something else.  My book was a complete flop.  I don’t see myself getting anywhere with my writing.  I make enough money at my job now that anything else would have to be only a hobby.  Which means, in 20 years, I’ll be sitting in this same chair, waiting for the clock to tell me it’s time to go home for the last time.  Cheerful thought, isn’t it?  God willing, of course.  I don’t know what He has in store for me.  It may be as boring as that, or there may be some more plot twists waiting for me just around the corner.  Who knows…

Thank you for reading.  Feel free to leave a comment, and if by some miracle I manage to see it among the ocean of spam, I’ll approve it.  Otherwise, have a nice life, stay sober, it does get better, life finds a way, praise God and enjoy whatever you manage to accomplish.  Life is a gift.  Enjoy the present.

-Mark

A Happy Place

I haven’t updated this blog in forever (and by “forever”, I mean a very, very long time).  There were actually a couple of more recent posts, but since the server crashed, I restored the most recent backup I had and, well, a few things got lost.

Most of my readers know about my problem with alcohol.  You can see more detail below about my struggle.  After I finally got sober, I wrote The Christian Alcoholc, where I recorded everything before I forgot.  It’s been exactly 2 1/2 years now (Yay!) and I can honestly say I do not crave alcohol any more.  Not that I don’t wish I could swallow something to make me feel better – I do all the time, but these days it’s wheat-grass-banana shots and coffee – but I remember enough of the nausea, headaches and regrets to remove booze from the alternatives I seek out when I’m feeling bad.

One of the posts that got lost was about my 1-year sober anniversary.  It was a trying time for me.  I thought I was done with it, but for some reason when the same time of year came around, the same desires & cravings came with it.  Something to watch out for if you’re in the same boat.  One of the other things they don’t tell you when you’re drinking: it will be YEARS before your wife stops mentioning the things you said or did and how much it hurt everyone.  YEARS.  At least more than 2 and a half.

Life is much better now.  I recently turned 50, and I got myself a sports car as a pre-emptive strike against a midlife crisis.  Abandoned my old friend Camaro for something smaller, a Subaru BRZ, with all of about 175 horsepower.  Then I added a supercharger, injectors, flex-fuel kit, custom tune – at 300 hp now, it’s basically a rocket 🙂  My formula for happiness hasn’t changed much since I was a teenager: a car, a dog and a girl.  Got the car, got the dog, and my girl has been in remission from breast cancer for almost 5 years 🙂  See all the smiley faces?  I’m happy now 🙂 🙂 🙂

The truth is, I’m not driven to write when I’m happy, unless it’s something abnormal and freakishly weird, like if I won the lottery or cracked the code to an ancient mystery or discovered the cure to cancer, so you may find the reading here to be a little on the downer side.  I have found that most people who contact me have found solace in the fact they are not alone.  I certainly did.  I’m not the only one who’s a Christian and also an alcoholic, who trusts Jesus for salvation and still wants (or wanted) to get hammered.  Don’t ever trust a salesman: the life people advertise is not like the brochure.

But still, I can’t complain.  I thank God every day that he gave me the strength to give up drinking.  It was a horrible, frightfully desperate time in my life, brought about by a sick wife, rebellious children and a crumbling church, where everything I every cherished or believed in was faltering.  But, I made it.  It wasn’t easy, in fact it was just about the most difficult thing I ever did, but if I can do it, so can you.  In the end, there’s always hope.  And isn’t that what happiness really is?  The hope that tomorrow will be better than today, and looking back, today really IS much better than yesterday.

Things can and do get better.  Never give up hope.  Sometimes, it’s all we’ve got…

-Mark

Six months sober

It’s been over six months since my last drink.  I have been off of Clonazepam for a couple of months, and dropped the Zoloft about 3 weeks ago.  I hate life.  I really, really wish there were something more to it than feeling anxious all day and being awake fidgeting all night.  Very annoying.

The cravings for alcohol are long gone, but my best guess right now is that I’m suffering with long-term benzo withdrawal.  My ears started ringing while I was still on Zoloft.  I went through a time a couple of weeks ago when I was dizzy and my blood pressure fell & my pulse went down below fifty.  I went to my general practitioner, the on-duty nurse at my job site, my shrink and an ear-nose-throat specialist.  I’m perfectly healthy.  Or so I’m told.  Normal ECG, no hearing damage, good auditory and sensory response.  But, I’m still anxious, my body is restless but lacks energy, I’m losing focus and can’t remember words.  I now have a 20-pound weighted blanket to help me feel secure when I sleep, but I can’t lay it on my chest or I’ll get stabbing chest pain.

I know what it’s like to die.  Nobody believes me, but I swear to God, my heart stopped.  I was lying down and couldn’t move.  No energy, and I just felt so heavy, like gravity just kept getting stronger & stronger.  I fought against it, but couldn’t open my eyes or move my fingers.  Everything was quiet and I just sank into my mattress.  I was powerless to wake myself up, communicate, open my eyes, say or do anything.  I felt my chest fall into my back and I couldn’t stop it.  I breathed out and then, stillness.  Dark, still quiet.  I was expecting some sort of fireworks or angels or one of those out-of-body experiences.  No tunnel.  No light.  Alone.  Very, very still and completely without sound or feeling.

My wife thinks I’m crazy, but I know what happened.  I guess it wasn’t my time yet.  I woke up.  Somehow I forced a scream, which came out as a mumbled groan, and my eyes woke up to my pounding, restarted heart.  That day I bought some baby aspirin, which I take now when I can feel myself slowing down, getting heavy.  I haven’t, but I thought about, writing down my super-secret passwords at night so my wife could find them in the morning, so someone could get into my affairs and pay the bills after I’m gone.  I had a friend at work who got a pacemaker when he was about my age.  He was perfectly healthy, but an overnight monitor revealed that his heart slowed down to near death at night.  Doctor told him one day it’s just going to slow down too much & stop.  I’m pretty sure I need one of those, but like I said, nobody believes me.

If I do die, I want my tombstone to say “I told you I was sick!”

Other than the whole dying in my sleep thing, I still find every day a struggle.  I can only pray that God still has a purpose for a burned out recovering drunk like me.  Still manage to go to work every day, and to accomplish some small portion of our remodeling project each weekend.  My car is aging along with me; every day it seems to sprout a new leak, lose more paint or develop a new habit, turn on another trouble light on the dashboard.  The latest trick is after twenty minutes of driving, the transmission decides it’s gone far enough.  I can rev the engine nearly to redline and barely accelerate.  I guess 150,000 miles will do that…

I sincerely hope that eventually, maybe in another six months, I’ll be better.  I started working out again, and I’m taking more vitamins, trying to clear this fog and hedge my bet against the grave that will eventually claim me.  But youth is gone.  I’m in a daze, stumbling through life, no longer searching for anything, just trying to survive, pretending to be interested in the day-to-day monotony, keeping up with the bills and various obligations.

I guess it’s better than hugging a toilet though, right?  Yeah.  It’s definitely better.  Much better.  I guess I can only go up from here.  If I don’t go to hell first, that is…

-Mark

FRIDAY!  Last night I didn’t die.  I felt heavy as a rock, and I had my first good night’s sleep in a long time.  All of this anxiety is really wearing me down.  My wife reminded me that she’s seen me stop breathing at night before, so I’m going to yet another doctor for sleep apnea.  Come to think of it, my friend with the pacemaker, that’s how he found out.  He went to a sleep clinic and they woke him up and said, dude your heart just stopped, you need a pacemaker…

As I was reminded by hulioathome’s comment, I’m not really destined for Hell because I’ve been born again, into God’s family.  To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  True that… thanks for the reminder, hulioathome, I needed that.

Have a nice weekend, dear reader.  It will get better.  If not soon, then eventually…

-Mark