55 days and counting

So it’s been 55 days since my weekend nuclear meltdown, near-death alcohol overdose, hangover from hell and drug-induced psychosis.  My ears are ringing, I have no desire to do anything, I have no interest in anything, I’m just empty, empty, empty.

It’s not supposed to be like this.  I’m almost 2 months sober, and I keep staring at that empty bottle of Jim Beam wishing I could go back to when it was OK to have a drink, I didn’t do it every day, and it was fun & it didn’t ruin my life.  I wish I could get excited about something, anything.  It’s my day off.  I watched two movies, ate a ton of junk food, smoked some meat, changed the oil.  Wow.  Can’t wait to brag about my “exciting weekend”.  What’d you do this weekend, they’ll say.  I’ll reply with a evil grin, “5w30, dude, Mobil 1 all the way!”  Ugh.

I now take five prescriptions.  Let’s see – reflux, cholesterol, blood pressure, plus I’m still on clonazepam, which my doctor won’t refill so I went to a shrink who gave me number five, Zoloft, for depression.  I’m a blob.  I’m numb.  I don’t even know if I’m here.  Really.  I have no hope.  I can’t imagine being happy.  I can’t imagine anything ever changing.  I still live in a crappy house, drive a crappy car, spend every dime I have trying to make family’s life better, am in significant Christmas debt, I’m gaining weight, can’t get motivated to do anything, and basically hate life and have nothing to look forward to.

Everyone else is so damn happy for me.  Good job, that’s amazing, wow, 55 days, keep at it!  It’s nice being around all the time, following my wife with the shopping cart, helping with the dishes, feeding the dog.  I still go to work, but I’m a clock-watcher; hardly anybody else is there now, all taking Christmas vacations, but I’m all out of vacation time so I’ve got to work every day except Christmas.  I still have the same problems I’ve always had; but now I’ve got nothing to do but sit around and think about them.  Every problem seems huge and unsolvable.  I can’t even spell without the stupid spell-checker.

So the doctor says once the Zoloft kicks in, about 3 more weeks, I’ll feel totally great.  Hmph.  We’ll see.  I guess I’ve made it this far; might as well stay dry until then, I don’t know.  It wouldn’t be the first time that, surprise!, it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Almost nothing is.  Everything is great when you’re imagining, when you look to the future, see hope, and dreams, and when they crumble and die all around you, there’s nothing left, just an empty shell, robotically dragging itself through daily routines, just make it through the day, just make it until bedtime, just make it to work, just survive, just keep breathing, don’t give up.  All based on the glim, dim, fading belief that just maybe it’ll be better.  Eventually.

The promised land of sobriety sure looked grand from my drunken valley, but so far it feels more like a swamp than a majestic forest.  Just sludge and mud and bugs and heat and nauseating monotony.  This has got to get better somehow, right?  I mean, I’ve made everyone else happy, being sober – it’s bound to get back to me, eventually, right?  There’s got to be something for me in this life; after I’ve given it my all, sacrificed and slaved and worked and sacrificed some more; there has to be something, some prize, some reward, some compensation for giving my energy and resources to my family and taking nothing for myself.  Because it just feels horrible, when you do the right thing, and everyone is happy, except me.  I just don’t know.  I have a sliver of hope.  I can stay off the booze, pretty sure I can do that, but then what?  And why?  So I can work?  So I can keep fixing my old car?  So everyone will have their slave, the family fix-it man and bottomless money machine?

Life is just crap.  No wonder I started drinking.  Sober, it’s just so bland, boring and tasteless.  I sure hope it will get better.  I just has to…


The Christian Alcoholic

Being a born-again Christian and having to struggle against physical addiction is one of the most paradoxically challenging things I have ever had to endure.  It goes against what I was taught in church, it’s embarrassing, and there are few people that will even admit that it’s real.  This blog entry will be the culmination of my experience and perspective on what has claimed many days, weeks, even years of my life, and my struggle to rationalize the teachings of Christ with the gritty reality of my weak human flesh.

About me: I have had a propensity towards substance abuse since I was a teenager, which was a good 30 years ago.  I used to smoke tobacco, then during my rebellious late teens, I moved on to pot, krystal & speed, cocaine, LSD, and probably some other stuff that I can’t remember.  I started drinking when I was 18, and have been on-and-off with the booze ever since.  Drinking has been my go-to drug of choice during various rough spots on my life journey.  Lately, my big problem came when my daughter ran away to Mexico a few years ago, and then my drinking ratcheted up significantly when my wife went through breast cancer.  My daughter has since come home, my wife is in remission, and I am only now getting over those most horrid trials of my life.  Over the past few years, my drinking had gotten to the point that I was buying the largest whiskey I could get on Monday, drinking every night, running out around Thursday or Friday and making trips to the corner store for beer, God-awful Four Loco’s and whatever else had a high serum gravity.

I’m married, I have four kids, two grandchildren plus one on the way, I live a fairly quiet life in the suburbs, I have a house, two cars, a decent job, and enough money to pay the bills and buy special things every once in a while.  No-one knows I’m an alcoholic; I hid it well.  I am still addicted to alcohol, even though I haven’t had any in a while, and I would like nothing better than to buy a whole case of whiskey, quit my job, stay home & get drunk continuously until I die.  That, for me, would be wonderful.  I choose not to, for the sake of my family, but I selfishly crave the escape that only alcohol can give.

I got saved about 26 years ago, when I met my wife, who had just found out she was pregnant.  Her boyfriend, my best friend at the time, dumped her, we fell in love, and I went to church with her.  She got saved after taking some Bible classes, and to prove her wrong, I took them too; of course, I couldn’t resist the truth and logic of the scriptures, and after a few weeks, I gave my life to Jesus Christ, trusting Him for my salvation, got baptized and spent many years going to that little church any time it was open.  I tithed, I gave, I attended, I played in the church band, and as much as I could, I worked.  I even taught a kid’s AWANA class once.

I just celebrated my 25th anniversary to the same wonderful girl, who has patiently endured my drinking problem for years.  She is the kindest, most loving and understanding person I have ever met.  If anything, she is the reason I stopped drinking.  If it weren’t for her, I probably would have never even attempted to conquer this debilitating illness.  She and my beautiful children are the only true motivation that I have to stay sober.

So what’s the point?  I guess I’m just trying to say, hi, my name is Mark, and I’m a Christian Alcoholic.

Disclaimer: This blog entry is not intended for perfect people.  If you have no bad habits, believe that anyone with a drinking problem is not a true Christian, you finish every sentence with Praise the Lord, have never had a sick day in your life and can smile for 18 hours straight, then please go find somewhere else to spend your time; the last thing I want is someone looking down their nose at me as I spill my soul out for the whole world to see.  Go judge someone else; believe me, I have already judged myself more harshly than you ever could.

I also use cuss words when the emotions get strong.  If you are offended by words like crap, poop, doo-doo, booger, shit, fuck, lesbian furburger… (did they leave yet?)  Look, I’m not perfect, I don’t admit to being perfect, in fact I aspire one day to be mediocre; I’m weaker and lazier and stupider than I ever imagined I would be; but God loves me just the way I am.  He made me out of dirt, and dirt is dirty.  So please just take all of that holier-than-though shit and cram it right up your ass as you follow your stuck up nose out of here.  I’m here to be honest, and I need my readers to accept what I say as honesty; there is no ambitious pretention here.  If you’re still reading and want to send me some hate mail, please contact me at gofuckyourself@ls1m.com.  I’ll read it, get upset, throw things, calm down, and send you a polite reply, I promise.

Is that even possible? Some people would claim that the terms Christian and Alcoholic never belong in the same context.  After all, when I got saved, I was freed from the power of sin.  I think we can all agree that being habitually drunk is a sin.  Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, I think is how the verse goes.  But there are a lot of sins; surely we can’t be instantaneously perfect?  Why then would God try to encourage us to seek “perfection” (read: maturity)?

Being a Christian is simply being born into God’s family.  When you’re born on earth, you are a child of Satan, the ruler of this realm, with inherited sin via your fallen bloodline.  You have to be born again, of the Spirit, to become God’s (although there is an exemption for infants and small children), and the only way to get there is through faith.  Once you have trusted Jesus to take your place on the cross, to pay your price for being a sinner, then you are a Christian.  In God’s eyes, all sins, imperfections and vulnerabilities, all are blotted out.  When God looks at you, he sees the perfection that only Jesus’ shadow can cast.

It is true, that you should not be the servant of sin, but who among us is without sin?  Wasn’t the whole Jewish law’s purpose to bring us to Christ, to show that righteousness is not of the law (works) but by faith?  And if the apostle Paul couldn’t overcome sin, if even he, personal prodigy of the Messiah Himself, recipient of oodles of spiritual gifts, even if the mighty, dedicated Paul the Great said in desperation, Who shall deliver me from the body of this death, what makes people think that we can also be free from sin?

The bottom line is, lack of sin doth not a Christian make.  A judgmental prick it maketh instead.  No, being a Christian is due to your faith and trust in a holy and righteous Saviour, DESPITE your sinful nature.  It is divine to forgive, and we, like all of His children, need constant and unconditional forgiveness, because we sin.  We will sin constantly, every moment, while on this earth, until the day we die.  So it is indeed possible to be a Christian Alcoholic, just like it’s possible to be a Christian thief, liar, adulterer – heck, even my old pastor was an adulterer, stealing another man’s bride and abandoning his own.  Nobody’s perfect.

Am I alone?  Heck no.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten comments or emails from my blog about people thinking they were all alone, that they were the only ones that had this “secret sin” of alcoholism.  To be sure, alcoholism is a sin, it’s bad, and you should stop drinking today, forever.  Sounds easy when you say it, but doing so is an immense challenge.  It’s like food: why don’t they tell fat people to “just stop eating?”  Why is the diet industry raking in billions every year, cashing in on promises to make people skinny?  BECAUSE IT’S HARD.  Every day of my life, from the time I was able to read billboards or understand commercials, I have been confronted with the idea that beer can make you popular, make you sexy, grow hair on your chest, solve all of your problems.  It’s a lie, but it’s so interwoven in our culture that it’s part of our thought processes.  It’s no different that gluttony: a lust for food is no different than a lust for drink, and both can kill you and BOTH fail to make you skinny, popular or sexy.

I stopped going to church years ago.  There, that’s another sin – forsake not the gathering of yourselves together.  But you know what?  I can go to church if I’m fat.  People might judge me if I overeat, but not much.  I can go if I’m an alcoholic too, as long as I’m sober, but what if people there knew that I was an alcoholic?  There’s such a stigma attached to alcoholism, such shame in not being able to control your drinking, that people just don’t tell anyone.  It’s like a disease, but it’s also your own fault.  It doesn’t matter if I never drive or go to work drunk, that I’m never violent, that I hide in my home office and don’t hurt anyone else: it’s just embarrassing, and people just think it’s a problem that you have to solve, much worse than overeating.  Have you ever heard of a Food Abuse Intervention?  Of course not.

Just because other people don’t share the same sin as you, just because they are weak in different areas, does not mean that they are better than you.  Everyone has problems.  My problem just happens to be an unpopular one, and truth be told, it does have the potential of being deadly, and not many people eat too much & kill someone on the way home, so I guess the concern is warranted.  But church should be a place of undeniable acceptance.  Sadly, often it is not.

Will I lose my salvation?  Absolutely, positively NO!  What did you actually DO to get saved?  Did you serve as an altar boy for ten years?  Did you donate a kidney to a dying lion at the zoo?  Did you sell your belongings, give the money to the poor, fill out an organ donor card and then toss yourself off of an overpass?  Irrelevant.  Salvation is by faith, not of works, lest any man should boast.  So if you can’t boast about how your earned your salvation, if there’s no way you could have been good enough to merit eternal life, then what makes you think you could ever be bad enough to lose it?

There are certain things I expect from my children.  I expect good behavior and school participation and help around the house.  But what could they do to not be my children any more?  Attempt suicide, huff paint, cut themselves, spend a week in a mental institution, and go to Mexico because their boyfriend was running from the law?  (Sorry honey; I know that’s old news, but it makes such a good story…) My children have my total, unconditional, unequivocal forgiveness, based on nothing more than the fact that they were born into my family.  I might get mad, but they will always be my kids, and there is nothing they could ever do, or not do, or say, that would negate that fact.

Jesus said My father is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of His Father’s hand.  Not even you.  You can no more easily reverse your natural birth as you could your spiritual one.  It’s just not possible.

Am I a Christian Alcoholic?  I started to drink, a lot, and I had excuses.  I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway.  I rationalized it away at first, blaming it on the stress of raising teenagers in modern America, or the profound horror of finding out my wife had cancer, or even just thinking that drinking was “my portion,” that I was allowed to take pleasure in this life, that God didn’t want me to be miserable all the time; what am I, Amish?

I knew it was getting bad when I started hiding.  It was OK to go get a beer or two on a Friday night, or to order a margarita with dinner.  But I started to buy it every day, then to save money I started buying it in bulk, and I wouldn’t let my family see me bringing it inside.  I hid it in the car, and snuck out later to retrieve it when everyone was asleep.  I stopped recycling because I didn’t want the trash men to think I was an alcoholic.  I smashed my bottles up and put them in heavy-duty trash bags so no one would know.

But I knew.  I was an alcoholic all right.  I knew it was getting bad.  It used to make me happy for an hour or so, then I’d fall asleep.  The buzz started dwindling down to basically nothing, then I’d basically turn into a zombie (lights on and nobody’s home), and the hangovers went from a headache the next morning to an entire day and a half of being basically worthless, unable to do anything.  I knew that if I drank on Sunday, I couldn’t drive, much less function, at work on Monday.  I used up all of my vacation days staying home to nurse hangovers, and often I felt so bad I was honestly scared that my heart would stop.  Of course, a couple of hours after I felt good again, I’d be back on the bottle once more.  My life consisted of little more than drinking, passing out, getting hung over, and planning my next binge.

Alcohol was all I ever really thought about.  I felt like a bird over water, just waiting until I could land on the next Jim Beam island.  And that was it: I was no longer controlling my alcohol intake, but it was controlling me.  I was hooked.

Should I tell someone?  Yes.  And no.  For me, I had to be selective.  The last thing that I wanted was to tell my mom about it, so every time she saw me she could say, How are you doing with that drinking problem that you’re not supposed to be thinking about?  I love my mom a lot, but she can be a little nosy.  No, I wouldn’t say pest.  Or nag.

I went to a therapist, and the first session she told me all about how wonderful Alcoholics Anonymous was, how it’s the only way to get help, you can’t do this on your own, here’s a list of all the meetings in the area, I want you to do 90 meetings in 90 days.  Hmph.  I took the book home and burned it in the grill.  No, thank you.

I’m extremely shy in person.  I can write, I’m OK one-on-one, but put me in front of a group and I will turn white as a ghost and pass out.  I leaned heavily on my wife’s support.  I confide everything to her, because I can trust her: she won’t judge me, she won’t pester me, and she won’t give up on me.  Ever.  I never gave up on her, you see, when she was depressed, when she first had kids, isolated in an apartment with two toddlers, spending hours each day playing a mind-numbing video game, in the closet, which was the only place the computer would fit and be out of the kids’ reach.  I would come home, step over the discarded diapers and spilled Cheerio’s, see her sleeping on the floor, exhausted, with the baby next to her in a sugar-induced coma, slowly close the door and clean up the kitchen while I waited for her to wake up.  And my wife did similarly for me.  Occasionally it made her mad, but more often than not, she sympathized, understood I was going through a rough time, and she helped me out.  I can’t tell  you how many times I’ve sobbed on her shoulder, spilling my guts out, and she just patiently comforted me as she waited for me to finish complaining.  It really helped.

Everybody needs someone to know.  I don’t suggest putting a burgundy “A” on your shirt and letting the condescending world at large know your imperfections.  But I would suggest you tell someone you trust.  Keeping all that bottled up inside, if you’ll forgive the pun, is just like shaking a soda bottle; one day it’s gonna blow, if you don’t let it out, safely, securely, with someone who isn’t going to turn around and rebuke you.  It might not even be a Christian, or even a family member.  Heck, if it’s your thing, go to AA, I’ve heard it works great for some people.  But the sooner you share this secret sin, the sooner you can forgive yourself and move on, and know that you’re not alone.

Should I quit? That’s up to you.  If you are truly a Christian, and you are truly an alcoholic, then the obvious answer is yes, it’s a sin and you should get rid of it.  It may not be the biggest sin in your life; if you’re a mass-murdering dictator or a methamphetamine drug lord, child molester, or maybe have a collection of frozen body parts stashed under your barn, then maybe those problems over-shadow the need to cut back on the drinking.  Also, some people can drink responsibly.  I tend to doubt it; it’s a drug, we’re all human, and eventually the drug will take over the willpower, but if that’s you, hey, enjoy it while you can control it.  As long as it’s not hurting anybody, a drink here & there, in my opinion, is fine.  Jesus drank wine, you know.  Some people think it was just fruit juice – an idea that never existed until Prohibition – but why’d they call him a wine-bibber instead of a juice-bibber?  Small amounts are good for you, anyway.

But if you’re like me, and the booze is ruining your life, relationships, health and career, then yes please seek help or commit to either cutting back or going cold-turkey.  I’ve tried both ways.  I did the tapering off, got down to one beer a day, then I went back to two, then one beer and some liquor, then just one little bottle of whiskey, then what the heck just buy the whole top shelf… the all-or-nothing thinking, where I just tell myself NO! seems to work for me.  Of course, dropping off cold-turkey has its own perils.  Shakes & seizures are the biggest risk, apparently, but fortunately (or not, as it turned out) I was on clonazepam for anti-anxiety, which prevents seizures.

The first five days: The first five days are rough.  For me, I had such a bad hangover that I couldn’t drive, my heart was pounding, my eyes hurt from the inside, and I was fervently drinking water bottles in the interest of self-survival.  It also happen to be the day my doctor cut off my anti-anxiety prescription clonazepam, so I was suffering drug withdrawal at the same time.  I think my odds of staying alive hovered around 50-50, because my heart was pounding, I was shaking, and the drug withdrawal took away my protection from seizures and replaced it with anxiety, brain “zaps” and twitching.  My blood pressure went through the roof, I hardly slept, knowing there’s a good chance I wouldn’t wake up.  I was constantly doing the relaxation techniques (see below) and it was exhausting.  It’s the worry about what might happen, that can cause the anxiety and make me “trip out,” so I just focused on God and His divine ability to control my future.  I figured, if He wanted me to come home that night, then He would take me, and there’s little that I could do about it anyway…

Thankfully, I was able to get Dr. Ignoramus to realize that stopping a very dangerous (though surprisingly common) drug like clonazepam was a very, very risky thing to do, and he called in a refill for me.  After that, things kind of calmed down.  I knew if I could just make it through day 5, I would be out of the woods, or at least, I could lay down at night without feeling guilty that I had never gotten around to writing that will.

Things that help: lots of water.  I had bottled water in our storm shelter, and I would drink two of them down, sit in a recliner and meditate, and repeat.  Exercise is also very, very good.  Alcohol is removed from the bloodstream via the lungs, so aerobic exercise is a wonderful way to detox yourself.  Especially with the drug withdrawal going on at the same time, I was conscious of not pushing it too hard, to the point of building up my blood flow and releasing too many stress hormones.  I kept my pulse between 130-140 on the elliptical, for maybe 20-30 minutes.  And if you’re married, sex is good too for alcohol withdrawal.  Heck, sex is always good.  Oh, and vitamins are a must.  Your body is depleted of everything, especially the B-vitamins.  I take a natural supplement called Standard Process Catalyn, plus some “sublingual” B-vitamin drops.  It really helps you get back to normal.

Days 6-26: It takes roughly five days for the alcohol to get out of your system.  After that, the withdrawal is all in your head; physically, the nausea, the shakes, the dehydration: it’s all gone within five days.  Not to say that withdrawal in your head is easier than physical withdrawal.  At least with physical distress you can do something about it.  Psychological withdrawal is much worse.  After day five or so, for a few weeks, all I could think about was how I was NOT drinking.  How do you NOT think about something?  Try this: don’t think about an elephant.  What image just went through your head just now: an elephant, right?

The brain is an amazing creation.  I’m told that it operates on a roughly 30-day cycle.  That’s why they always say it takes 30 days to make a new habit, and why 30 days is a big deal at an AA meeting.  Personally, I believe it’s because of the phases of the moon, which used to be 30 days.  That’s called a “prophetic year”, twelve 30-day lunar cycles, because back when the prophets were around, the lunar orbit was 30 days, not the 28 or so it is today.  Probably changed during the “long day of Joshua” when God tilted the earth to give him a little more time in the sun… but I digress…

My two recent attempts at sobriety failed at days 26 and 30.  Right around the lunar cycle, give or take a few days, yes the brain pattern resets, but you’re also vulnerable to relapse.  The therapist left out that little detail; I was feeling really down because I couldn’t get past that barrier, but turns out, it wasn’t my fault.  It’s a very vulnerable time.

Days 26-34: I was doing much better, relaxed, sufficiently distracted, and starting to feel like I might make it, until Old Man Moon started messing with my head.  I was hit by a panicked feeling of desperation: there’s no way I can do this, it’s not worth it, I can’t live like this, I’d rather be drunk and miserable than sober and miserable, fuck this shit, I’m getting something, is the store still open, maybe just a fifth, I better get two just in case… Oh, the bullshit I can come up with when I want to have something I shouldn’t.  The good news is that these attacks, these periods of weakness and self-doubt, lasted at most maybe one or two hours.  Once I muscled through them, waited them out, they were gone and I could relax until the next one hit me.  I drank lots of coffee and ate more Oreo’s that I should have, because that hyped me up, but I was desperate to just put something in my body, try to take the place of the booze-shaped void, fill it up with sugar and caffeine instead.

Days 35+:After struggling through and making it past that critical juncture, I was back to self-control, not letting my mind wander, trying to relax and keep myself busy and distracted from my addiction.  I read a book “Kick the Drink” that was pretty good, but it was written by and for sanguines – from the four temperaments, see Tim LaHaye’s Why We Act the Way We Do, an amazing book, should be mandatory reading for all conscious adults – but Kick the Drink is all about this part animal guy that had to enjoy all of his social life without getting drunk.  Party animal I am not!  I don’t have to worry about drinking at the pub, or at a Bar mitzvah or New Years Eve celebration, because I don’t do any of that stuff!  I gave the book away (hey at least I didn’t burn it) but it did help.  A little.

That’s all I can really offer at this time.  I’m going to list a few more topics below, but basically, I’m a sinner trying to overcome a very common sin, something that snuck up on my while I was thinking I had Christian immunity, but turns out there is nothing that can’t hurt me, there is no pain or trial that I have magical protection from; if God wants me to go through these fires, then I can do nothing to stop them.  I can only trust that He knows what He’s doing, that He will give me the strength to persevere, that His intent is to bring me THROUGH the fire, not burn me up.  I’ve made it this far, the blaze is behind me, but I walk a path of dry grass and glowing embers; I must be cautions, because re-ignition is far too likely to let my guard down, and I don’t want to start over again.

God bless you, my fellow Christian alcoholic.  Be not ashamed, be not high-minded, and do not fear the judgment of man.  We’re all in this fallen world together, nobody is immune, everybody goes through trials, but in the end, all it does is get your feet dirty, and with God’s help and unconditional love & forgiveness, not only are we still clean everywhere else, but Jesus is always there, waiting to wash our feet when we’re ready…

Just relax. I absolutely hate that saying.  When I was first married, with kids and a job and grown-up responsibilities for the first time, I got stressed out.  I had (and still have) chronic migraines, ulcers, acid reflux, a hernia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol – any stress-related illness known to man, is on my medical chart.  The doctor’s advice?  “Just relax.”  It’s like my wife asking me to just tell her how I feel, or what’s wrong.  I can’t do that – I’m a guy!  It takes me MONTHS to figure that out!  To relax, I had to learn how, with techniques.

1. Deep breathing sounds simple enough, and it does really work.  Making a conscious effort to inhale deeply, hold it, and exhale slowly, can really slow your thoughts down and make you relax.  I do that constantly, whenever I feel my shoulders are bunched up towards my ears, when I can’t think straight and have thoughts racing randomly, aimlessly inside my hollow head, then four or five long, deep breaths really do the trick.  Easy for a dummy like me to learn, too.  Sometimes I also chant to myself, IN with cool relaxation, OUT with harsh frustration.  Not out loud of course; I’ve got enough of a crazy dude reputation as it is.

2. Progressive relaxation is when you lie down in a quiet place, close your eyes, and starting at your toes, you tighten them up, hold them for ten seconds, then release.  It teaches you what relaxing actually feels like.  You do that progressively, focusing on one muscle group at a time, going up from your feet, ankles, calf muscles, etc., until you reach the top of your head, thinking of nothing more that turning off your muscles, letting them rest, allowing your whole body to eventually just sink into the floor or mattress and lie perfectly serene and at peace.  I often fall asleep, or enter a self-aware, self-hypnotized state, where there’s nothing in my mind at all, just me, the air, and the hum of my window air conditioner.  It’s nice.

3. The therapist also taught me about visualization.  The idea is to imagine a place where you are at peace.  It can be anywhere – a meadow, the woods, a beach, waiting in line for your turn at the drag strip – but the goal is to imagine it with all five senses.  What do you see?  Clouds, sunset, birds, green leaves.  You hear the wind, the ocean, the growl of a nitro-infused race engine.  What can you smell?  The salty beach air, the fresh flowers, burned rubber.  OK, maybe the drag strip thing isn’t the best idea, but you get the picture.  If you can use all five senses, and see/feel/smell/taste/hear everything around you, then you’re there.  In that moment, at that serene, safe place, you are at peace.  Once you do that a few times, you can close your eyes when you’re stressed out, and flash back to it in an instant.

Distraction, distraction, distraction: One of the problems with quitting doing something, is you need something to take its place.  It’s extremely hard to quit drinking when you’re sitting in a chair with nothing to do or think about except how damn thirsty you are.  So indulge yourself in a new hobby, something you’ve been wanting to buy or do.  You’re going through a tough time, you’ve taken on a huge challenge, and you deserve a little something.  I bought myself a fancy grill and started cooking some amazing new recipes.  You can buy a new TV, or rent movies, get a chocolate fondue fountain and fresh strawberries, get a mountain bike & see if your teeth can stay in while your body gets jarred around on a steep single-track.

Everybody’s different, and everybody’s got different needs and desires.  I used alcohol to quell the disappointment inside of me; I’m old, I’m fat, I’m lazy, and there are dozens of well-intentioned, unfinished projects all over the house.  I have to accept that I can’t do it all, I can’t fix everything, but you know what?  I can smoke a turkey that makes my mom’s bird taste like roadkill.  I never had such a fancy grill before; it’s something completely new to me, and it’s fun, and since it takes several hours to slow-cook meat in it, it keeps me busy and my mind off of drinking.  Plus, it tastes good and provides healthy food for the family.  Being successful at something small, completing a puzzle, cleaning out a cluttered drawer, getting laid – whatever keeps your mind occupied, is worth it.  It’s OK to treat yourself: get a puppy, adopt a rabbit, get that assault rifle you’ve been eying at the gun store: something, anything is better than being drunk and feeling sorry for yourself.

Good is a relative term: If we all agree that generic, imitation, low-quality, 190-proof fake Everclear is the worst of the worst when it comes to alcohol, then anything less than that, by comparison, is good.  I know.  I tried some.  Nearly choked to death on that shit.  But the point is, don’t beat yourself up if you trip up & fall.  If you have a shot of tequila in a moment of weakness, that’s OK – it’s a slip, just get up & try again.  If you absolutely can’t stand it any more, and you have a beer, hey that’s better than the tequila, isn’t it?  It’s OK to make a mistake, to change your mind, to give up, mess up, screw up – we’re all human.  God knows this isn’t the first time I’ve tried to kick this nasty habit.  It’s not easy, and any improvement is good.

If you’ve got cancer, you needn’t worry about your toenail polish, right?  So if you’ve got alcoholism, then stressing over your hairdo or your diet or changing your oil on time is just silly.  You’re sick.  You have a disease.  And no matter what anyone says, it’s NOT YOUR FAULT.  It doesn’t matter how you got here; you’re here now, you’re improving, you’re trying, and if it takes a full package of Fig Newton’s to stop you from guzzling booze, that’s OK.  You have a cancer, remember?  Fig Newton’s are toenail polish.  You can worry about your waistline later.

And in the words of Forest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

God bless…

Blast From The Past-Or

I haven’t been to church in many years.  I’ve had my share of pain in God’s house.  I got saved in a wonderful little church; at our wedding, the pastor officiated, one of the church members sang, another played the piano, and my best man was the guy that taught me the Bible lessons, the truth about God and my sinful condition.  If it weren’t for that church, for those men & women that cared about a long-haired hippie over 25 years ago, who went out of their way to teach me and accept me unconditionally, well then I’d still be smoking pot, drinking whiskey and hating God and religion and everything else…

That’s where the tale turns sad.  The pastor was having an affair with the (married) singer, the piano player divorced my best man, because according to the rumors, he was actually gay.  The whole church fell apart; the man of God that constantly preached to the women about dressing appropriately to keep the men from sinning, even in their own imaginations, divorced his wife and married the (now divorced) singer.  We hung on for a couple of years as we looked for a replacement pastor.  Finally, we hired a guy that turned out to be mentally unstable, power-hungry, and systematically “disciplined” all of the church leadership, putting his own people in positions of authority, as the church dwindled down to a handful of families and eventually folded.

Church after church, pain after pain, it goes on: one pastor had all the time in the world to talk to me about the music program but never found the opportunity to talk about my daughter’s salvation, one pastor cared more about the building than the people & refused to let hurricane refugees stay there because they might mess up the carpet, another church was so darn perfect that my repeated attempts to join it went unanswered, and the pastor of the little church where my in-laws attend, after preaching about faithfulness and staying true to your church for years, quit and took a job in another city.

Maybe I’m being petty, maybe I’m just sick of hypocrites yelling at me from the pulpit to be a certain way and then finding out they’re the exact opposite, or being scolded and riddled with guilt about not giving or praying or attending enough.  Never, never enough.  I tried, I really tried to get into another one, but I haven’t been in church in a very long time.  The last time I was in a House of God was at my parents’ 50-year wedding anniversary commemoration.  I had to squelch the urge to laugh as the Knights of Columbus came in with their scrub-brush helmets, and the solemn procession of artifacts; the HUGE bible, the equally intimidating giant cross, the swinging, smoking box of putrid odors that reminded me of a funeral.  It all just reminded me of Monty Python…

Fast-forward to yesterday, when my 12 year old son got invited to church by a friend at school.  He went, and he LOVED it.  My wife went too.  She LOVED it.  It was fun, exciting, and the Sunday School teacher said that they were about to start the Bible classes for the kids, the same classes that I took those many years ago that led me to Salvation.  It’s been such a long time, I had given up hope of ever finding a church everyone was happy at, one that didn’t make you feel uncomfortably conspicuous, under-dressed or out of place.  There’s only one, teenie, tiny little problem.

It’s my old pastor’s church.  The one from the wedding.  The one who destroyed my faith and led me on a fruitless quest for a new spiritual home.  The one who ruined another man’s life by stealing his bride.  His church.

I swear (though I know I shouldn’t), God has such a weird sense of humor.  Everything about this is wonderful.  I’ve been praying that God would somehow find us a new church, or some way that my two young children could hear the Gospel.  And here it is.  The perfect opportunity, the only church my son has EVER enjoyed going to, the one where my wife met friends she hadn’t seen for years, and the only problem is me.  Funny, huh?  I think it’s hilarious.  I want my kids to go to church, any church at all, except that one, so of course, that’s the one God leads me to.  I just can’t stop laughing.

So what would you do?  I know what’s expected of me.  I’m supposed to forgive the lying, cheating bastard for all the pain he’s caused, even though he has NEVER apologized & never will, and go back to being, in a way, under his authority, swallowing this pride in the interest of making my family happy and getting them to know God and His son Jesus.  I just don’t know if I can swallow that hard.  That’s a humongous pill for me.  It’s about the size of a crocket ball, covered in spikes and coated with tar.  It just won’t go down.  Forgive him?  I’m afraid I’ll see him, say hi, and land a hard right cross on his stupid smug face.  He deserves it, he really does.  And I deserve an apology.

But… and there’s always a but… but I’m not going to.  I don’t know how, but I’m going to have to find a way to let go of the past, while revisiting it again.  Kind of tricky, but I can do it because I have to.  Because being a father that cares about his wife & kids is more important that a vendetta against someone who abandoned his.  I love my wife and my children.  It would pain me for eternity if my entire family didn’t share God’s heavenly house when these clay homes we live in turn back to dust, because of my own sinful pride.  I’ve done it before.  I spent years hating my schoolyard bully that tortured me all during my younger years.  In my heart, I forgave him, realizing he probably had a horrible home life, bad self-esteem, or whatever – it didn’t matter, because as a Christian, I have to forgive, let go, and move on.  And so I have.

This one will be much harder.  It’s one thing to let go of fantasies of murdering someone for crimes they did as a stupid, ignorant child.  It’s quite another to put aside the pain caused by an adult that should know better, that did know better, that did it anyway; I need to see that underneath that tough, obnoxious, manipulative exterior is the same weak flesh that composes my body.  I am a sinner, so is he, and I am in no position to judge, I’m really not.

So I guess putting the past behind you is only a nice cliché; to really move on with your life, rather than ignoring it, sometimes you have to face & embrace you own painful memories.  Sometimes your past catches up to you, and stares you right in the face.  And then you have a choice to make: stay angry and bitter, or forgive & move on.  So blast the past – or forgive the pastor…

The Sober Journal

The short version: I reached my goal of 35 days!  My pain diary is below… a trip down Hell Lane… topic closed…

OK I’m sober.  I hate it.  I need a replacement for the alcohol, but nothing (legal) comes to mind.  E-cigs are a poor substitute.  What can I do, take, buy, ingest, that will make me forget about my stupid life, make my stupid brain shut up?  Anyone got any ideas?

Yesterday, Friday, 10/12/13: Was hung over, so pretty easy to remember not to drink.  I got up at 4, went to the gym, managed to stay all day at work, we rented a movie & I collapsed from fatigue at 8:30.  Pretty darn lame Friday, but sober, so I’ll take it.

Today, Saturday, 10/13/13: Beautiful day outside, was hoping for some action but my wife is pre-occupied with her own stuff.  She became the PTO president of a growing school that never had a PTO before, and now she’s finding out how political an environment it can be.  I end up helping her a lot, drafting emails & doing web stuff and other junk she’s not good at.  She’s better at talking, feelings, relating to people, being cheerful, but me?  Well, I’m her behind-the-scenes geek.  Happy to help, I am, because I’m not much good at anything else.  Just work.  Work, work, work.

Made the mistake of doing the budget, found out I’m a couple of thousand dollars behind my upcoming obligations, and after working for 25 years I have enough retirement to live for one year.  Woo-hoo.  At least I can say that over the last 25 years, raising four kids, I’ve stayed married to the same wonderful girl, who has never had to work outside the home, ever.  For that, I’ve given my life energy time and health away to a large corporation in the hope that I’ll be able to stay there long enough to earn a pension, so at least I won’t starve once all the kids are gone.

Why is it that I get up every morning during the week, make plans, get excited, can’t wait for Saturday to come so I can finish a project, and here it’s almost lunch time and I haven’t done a darn thing, I’m depressed and unmotivated and just wish I had a huge bottle of whiskey so I could forget what a loser I am.  Geez.  Work takes every bit out of me, by Saturday I’m wiped out, and just when I recover from busting my ass at my job, it’ll be Sunday morning, time to go back to work for a few hours and do some programming to make up for the day that I left early.  What’s in it for me?  I know that’s a selfish thing to ask, but what – I get to have a computer so I can boo-hoo to the world about how pitiful my life is?

Let me enumerate the things that have got me down.  I have four major ones, that I cannot change:

  • My dad.  He is a perfectionistic, judgmental, but very sweet and usually pleasant old man, he just has a very narrow definition of what is important, and it’s a little askew of normal.  If there’s something he wants, he gets it, because if Dad isn’t happy, then no one is happy.  He talked me into spending my summer vacation with him and my siblings in Colorado.  I have to call him on birthdays and any special occasion, because he’ll make me feel 2 inches tall if I don’t.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very nice person, but has old-fashioned, extraordinarily rigid ideas, is very ego-centric, has chronic OCD, and is able to make people feel absolutely horrible if they don’t do what he thinks is mandatory.    In his late 70’s, he isn’t going to change, and I will continue to be under his authority on those “special” occasions, like I’m still his kid, and I cannot change that.
  • My neighbor.  We call him Mr. Grumpy.  Once he found a tricycle on his property, so he put it inside his locked gate & I had to go beg it back.  He once heard the kid’s thrown tennis ball hit his rotting fence and said, Oh so now I know why the fence is falling down.  He drew a line, put up a sign, and confronted our lawn crew about mowing on their property; they now have to stop about two feet from the property line just to appease them.  My lawn guy agrees, said they are “not nice people” and would never work for them.  Most recently, I got a city citation for having garbage in open storage, and the only thing that I can think of is some leftover pool parts in my own back yard, but the idiots in the city government never answered my calls and never told me what the “violation” was, so I don’t know if I fixed it or not.  But that’s another thing that I cannot change, and now I know I’m being watched, and I am not free in my own back yard to do what I want.
  • My car.  I bought myself a sports car 13 years ago, and it’s been wonderful until lately.  The door locks failed, the transmission slips & leaks, the rear end leaks, the power steering leaks, the oil leaks, it misfires when it rains, and the paint is peeling.  I just bought a new minivan for the family, plus used cars for both of my grown children, and there’s no way I can afford to replace my aging vehicle.  I just have to keep fixing it and patching the leaks and praying for a big sack of money to fall from the sky so I can buy another one some day.
  • My job.  I’m appreciated, respected, abused, taken for granted and overworked.  I’m stuck on the current company ladder rung and see no way out.  My raises have been mediocre over the past few years because I can’t get promoted.  Plus, they make me do stupid stuff that I’m not good at, which I won’t specify here for fear it’ll get back to the boss, but it’s never enough, always more more more, and half the people are moving on to other jobs at other locations.  But not me.  My parents & my wife’s parents live close by, there’s no way I could transfer, and barring some fantastic opportunity that miraculously appears, I will be there in my cube, obediently grinding away my life, for the next fifteen years.

So those are four things that I am stuck with that I cannot change.  If I could see some hope in just one of them, it would be great, but my nosy stupid neighbors are not moving, my dad will never change, I can’t afford to upgrade or replace my car, and given that my entire extended family is depending on me, I cannot change jobs.  So I’m trapped, and my only escape from this crushing, guilt-driven reality is alcohol, unless I can somehow dig myself out of this pit of despair and find another way to change my outlook.  I tried buying myself something.  I recently bought some Bose Bluetooth wireless headphones so I could use them at the gym, but they don’t make me happy.  Nothing does.  Not my computer that I built for myself, not the new wheels I put on my sports car, not the half-day off from work that I spent with my wife.  It’s all just momentary distraction from a dull, painful reality.

I know that if I can make it until Wednesday, when I have my next checkup, that’s five days since my last drop of whiskey, and the withdrawal symptoms will be gone, but I disagree with my therapist; I don’t think I’m physically dependent on alcohol, I think it’s mental.  I don’t get epileptic shakes and a fever; I just get a slowly growing anxiety, like I’m trying to hold my breath, a bird over water, just make it until the workday is over, just make it until bedtime, just make it through the next day, fight traffic, appease my dad, pay the bills, fix the cars, finish some stupid home-improvement project.  Just waiting for something that never comes, some relief from the unending procession of responsibilities and drudgery, until I can’t take it any more and I pay another visit to the friendly man at the liquor store for some much-needed relief.

I know I need to be more positive.  I could look at things in a better light: my parents love me, and whatever my dad does, he does out of love, he doesn’t know he has OCD, to him everything he thinks is right and appropriate.  My neighbors are OK; could be worse, they could have heavy-metal garage musician children, throw loud parties, or be verbally confrontational.  My car still runs like a bat out of hell, and thanks to the suspension upgrades can turn on a brimstone, and all it requires is a fluid top-off every week and a repair now and then.  Who needs door locks, there’s nothing in there worth stealing anyway.  Shouldn’t really complain about my job; it’s one of the gloriously blessed Obamacare-exempt corporations, the pay is good, the benefits are fantastic; could be worse, a lot worse.

I still covet the prayers of those of you that have expressed your support here & other places.  My drinking problem is globally public and I really do appreciate the positive comments I have received, from people all over the world.  I’ve told my wife that if the self-control and therapy combination does not work, I’ll step it up a notch, an outpatient program or lobotomy or something.  One thing I do have is a loving, caring, sweet wife, kind and sweet children, two adorable grandchildren and another on the way.  There is a lot to live for, and I need to live, not only for those that depend on me, but so that I can enjoy life rather than suffer through it.  A lot is riding on my ability to control my addiction, and I have the best of intentions of quitting, and I have a small bit of hope that a year from now, I’ll read this and see it as a major turning point in my life, when my painful little world I lived in became less bleak and I followed that ray of sunshine out of my cloud of misery and into the light of sober contentment and happiness.

Or maybe I’ll just say fuck it and get drunk.  Again.

Sunday 10/13/13: Woke up lite-headed, a little woozy and unmotivated.  My wife thinks it’s withdrawal, and I’m sure it is.  Was going to go to work, but decided not to.  Took the dog for a walk to distract me, ended up over an hour around & around the park.  Ugh, I feel terrible.  This truly, truly is a difficult thing.  I wish I could warn young people not to drink so much, because once you get to where I am, not only is it really tough to quit, but the buzz you get decreases to the point that it makes you feel good for less & less time, and worse afterwards.  Recovery from binge drinking is no longer restricted to the following morning, but extends into the night & next day.  But, no one would listen; I didn’t.

Going to spend my Sober Sunday with the family, trying to come up with constant distraction.  LOVE my Bluetooth headset and Skillet album I bought.  Hard to exercise without music, and all of the music I already had, just reminds me of being drunk because I listened to those songs over & over again when I was drinking.  Now the Skillet music satisfies my craving for heavy metal, but has a good uplifting message that I can relate to.  More to come…

I find it odd that I’m skipping Church on a Sunday, listening to music that talks about how I feel, and one particular song about how I don’t need to stare at stained glass or sit in a pew, all I need is you (Jesus).  So today is going to be rough, but Wednesday cometh… Keep praying, I’m going to do this.  And no more alcohol – ZERO – I’m not tapering off like last time, because one beer leads to another, which leads to stronger beers, which leads to whiskey, and then I’m hooked and have to start this shit all over again.

If you’re interested, I am a born-again Christian.  It’s embarrassing, but I’ve had it with being embarrassed.  I don’t care if anyone knows I sin, because EVERYONE SINS.  Get over it… my sin is one I’ve hidden for years, and now if you found this blog, it’s still kind of secret (unless you know me), but I don’t care if you judge me, because you could never be as harsh as I am on myself.  I have a splinter of hope here, and it’s fragile, but I’m trying…

Tuesday 10/15/13: This is supposed to be the last day of withdrawal.  I’ve been a little extra jumpy and irritable, but not really that bad.  I remember why I gave up last time; I don’t like being sober.  It’s painful; life becomes one continuous, never-ending procession of events, responsibilities, activities, and absolutely nothing to take my mind off of the world around me, worry about the future, guilt about the past, stress and depression, and no way to take a holiday.  Plus today I managed somehow to strain my back and now it just hurts, constantly.

So day 5: sober and hating it…

Monday, 10/28/13: I have had one of, if not the most, scary, hellish weekends in my life.  First of all, I fell of the wagon, got depressed and haven’t updated this blog for a while.  I made it to day 6 or 7, then gave up.  Again.  I take these pills, clonazepam, that I got years ago from my shrink.  They are mild tranquilizers, meant to treat my anxiety & prevent the panic disorder that I developed when my daughter ran away to Mexico because the law was looking for her boyfriend.  That, and the wife’s cancer, are what got me into this pitiful state I’m in right now.

Anyway, being sick of my life, and my job, I had scheduled a meeting with one of the big whigs on Friday about other positions in the company.  I was EXTREMELY anxious and nervous about it – I’ve been at the same facility for 25 years, and moving away to somewhere new, to me, is a HUGE risk.  So, all of my perscriptions are set up to renew on the same day – did that on purpose, makes my life simpler – and I went to pick them up on Thrusday, and found out my clonazepam was DENIED by my doctor.  Not just, he hasn’t replied yet, but DENIED.  I tried to call on Friday, but was so nervous about the interview that I didn’t, well I tried once but got put on hold & forgot, and they close early so I just went home and drank an ENORMOUS amount of Jim Beam.  I had about three fifths, zoned out & fell asleep.

Saturday was pure misery.  I spent the whole day wondering if my heart was going to stop.  Worse, I started to get withdrawal symptoms from the clonazepam.  I did absolutely nothing.  No projects.  No trips.  Didn’t do a damn thing but sit there, drink water & pray that God would forgive me.  Again.

Since I had some free time, I looked up clonazepam on the internet.  The first hit I got was titled, World’s deadliest drug.  I read & read & read some more, and found out that my depression and weight gain are a symptom of long-term use.  Withdrawal can be deadly.  Stevie Nicks talked about it on one site, said it robbed her of 8 hears of her life.  Just turns you off, makes you not want to do anything after work; just crawl into a bottle and swallow your life away.

I spent Saturday night alternately drinking water, practicing breathing techniques, praying and wondering if I would wake up if I fell asleep.  Sunday I was a mess.  Brain “zaps”, muscle twitches, hot & cold flashes, my asthma started acting up, and I wondered if I should go to the ER but was afraid that they would think I was a drug addict.  Left a message for my doctor and he FINALLY called in a refill around noon, and I swallowed the pill in the car (my wife had to drive; I was so jumpy at every sound & movement I wouldn’t have made it) and about 2 hours later started to feel better.

So now I have two addictions to fight, if you don’t count the nicotine in the ecigs.  The trick is, alcohol withdrawal causes seizures, clonazepam prevents them.  So I’m cutting back on both and hoping my body is still young enough to survive.  Lots of water, lots of walks & visits to the gym.  I guess today is my first “sober day” again; I’m at half-dose on my drug and I drank the swallow of whiskey left in the bottle yesterday.  Still twichy and nervous and last night I woke up & my entire left hand was completely numb, but guess what, now I can say I’m an alcoholic AND a drug addict.

This just keeps getting better & better…

Day 4 Thursday 10/31/13: This has been the most difficult thing I have ever done.  Not only am I giving up alcohol, but I’m also dealing with drug withdrawal.  So far, so good.  I’ve not had a drop of booze, and I’ve cut my anti-panic clonazepam dosage in half.  I’m not shaking as much and my sleep is getting back to normal.  Every day, though, it’s a fight.  I’m heavy into the ecigs; got one plugged into my computer and one in the car.  So I’m trading alcohol and tranquilizer addiction for nicotine addiction.  What do you think; an improvement?  At least I won’t crash my car into a wall… or want to…

Went to the gym this morning at 4:30am.  Just took my half-pill of clonazepam, along with the fistful of vitamins that have been keeping me alive over the past few years.  I was trying to figure out how long I’ve been taking that drug; let’s see, my daughter was 16 when she ran away, and now she’s 22, so roughly 6 years.  Long time.  I can do this, though.  It’s possible.  Life can be better.  I helped my kids with their homework last night.  Haven’t done that in a long time.  And I was completely wasted last Halloween.  This time, if I can fend off temptation, I might remember it.

Prayers are welcome, as always.  I’m not out of the woods yet, but I can see the path ahead…

Day 5 Friday 11/1/13: Quick update, working the weekend; I made it through Halloween without succumbing to temptation.  Now that we’re all done celebrating death, I look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ… oh, I forgot about the shopping… never mind; at least when we celebrate darkness we only have to buy candy… <sigh> credit card, brace yourself…

Day 7 Sunday 11/3/13: This is absolutely the most difficult thing I have ever done.  I want out.  I don’t want to be doing this any more.  I want my crutch back.  I want my booze.  I want my pills.  I want my escape.  Help…

My therapist said physically, alcohol withdrawal ends after 5 days.  Mentally, it takes 30 days to make a significant change in the cravings, and 90 days for permanent sobriety.  And from Internet research, I know that clonazepam dosage adjustment takes three weeks, and getting back to “normal” takes 12-18 months AFTER totally quitting.  This stinks.  I wish I could go back in time and tell that shrink to shove those pills up her ass.  Actually, she loves horses, so she probably does have several asses…

This past week I’ve had one continuous headache, my muscles are still twitchy, my ears ring, I have mood swings, and right now I’m depressed.  I changed my Facebook profile picture to a bottle of Excedrine and a glass of water.  My arms feel too heavy to lift, and I’m sore all over.  I can’t tell if I’m tired, and my mouth is dry.  I just took the dog for a walk, and it helped a little, but I just can’t help but wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.  I’m beginning to think that I might not make it.  This is tough.  Really, really tough.

I know how to DO things.  I can motivate myself to go to work, or help in the kitchen, or fix something.  But how do you motivate yourself to NOT do something?  I’m just beat.  I am so tired of the slow breathing, the walking, the meditation; all the stuff I have to do to keep away from the pill bottle and the liquor store. It’s exhausting.

The job fell through.  I did get a bonus at work, which is nice I guess.  Just enough to cover the Halloween supplies and the cell phone for my daughter (she had a broken screen and I tried to fix it, but broke the damn thing instead so I bought her a new one).  I’m trying to sell my cement mixer so I can have enough money to buy a fancy grill.  Everything is just too hard.  I can barely make it through the work day, much less pursue any hobbies or projects.  The minutes are inching along… I get a half-pill in two hours… ugh I don’t want to do this any more… Jesus help me because I’m on the brink of disaster here… I… want… to… escape… this… horrible… place… and… go… HOME…… (you fellow Christians know what I mean).

Day 11 Thursday 11/7/13: Things are getting better!  I don’t really crave alcohol, the ticks & twitches from the clonazepam withdrawal are all but gone, and the exercise at the gym is finally paying off.  Got my blood work back from the doctor and my chloresterol is down, and my blood pressure is in the green zone for the first time in a very, very long time.  At the moment, I’m at work, typically unmotivated with a mountain of tasks that I cannot possibly complete, but there is hope.

I have a new favorite saying, borrowed from a friend that I got on this blog: “Every day above ground is a good day.”  Amen.

Day 12 Friday 11/8/13: I am now at the “why the heck did I stop drinking again?” stage.  I can read my previous posts and remember, but it’s Friday, I’m home early, the wife is away, and it’s EXTREMELY tempting to get in the car & pay a clandestine visit to the liquor store.

But I won’t.

Life is worth living.  I have to keep at this.  My wife needs me.  My kids need me.  And all the money in the world can’t replace me.  God grant me the strength to resist… I sure as heck don’t want to start over.  Those have been twelve hard-fought daily victories, and I’m gonna be stubborn and stay on target.  Even if it means I raid the leftover Halloween candy.  My numbers are all better – blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, you name it.  I’m getting more muscular and healthier from my gym visits.  I go before work, at 4:30am.  It’s nice, quiet, and makes me more relaxed the rest of the day.

The problem right now is that it’s Friday.  I associate that with partying, letting loose, celebrating making it another week through my slavery – I mean, job – and I’m not really sure what to do with myself in lieu of booze.  Maybe I’ll go grab some orange Oreo’s and watch a movie or something…  Please pray for me; this is still very hard to do…

Day 13 Saturday 11/9/13: Remember when Saturdays were full of projects or fun, and just seemed too short?  No?  Me either.  The clock has slowed tremendously; feels like I’m in a time warp.  Still hanging on (by a thread), but, still in it to win it… just took my half-dose of Clonazepam and waiting for it to kick in.  Did a lot today; up at 4, stretching, playing games on the iphone, on the PC, watched a movie, worked on the car, went to the store, and now helping to cook dinner.  Distractions help.  A little.  Ugh, this is taking forever…

Day 18 Thursday 11/14/13: Still sober!  I was actually in a good mood for about five minutes yesterday.  I am very proud to have made it this far.  Had a little emotional event, a run-in with a painful past, but I’m dealing with it.  Sort of.  At least, I haven’t hit the bottle.  Spending a lot of time with my ecig; I think we’re going steady.

Side effects are subsiding; I don’t crave alcohol specifically, though I wish there was something I could do to escape life.  My body must still be adjusting, because I go through wild changes – not really moods, but outlooks.  One moment I can be excited about the future and love life, another I’m trying to plan the perfect suicide.  Right now I’m dealing with a lot of anger, and I’m not sure where it’s coming from.  Maybe it’s because I feel like I deserve something.  I don’t know.  My car has broken twice in the last couple of days – the tailpipe support broke off, and the heater core sprung a leak, making the ride to work either freezing cold, or toasty warm with a bitter antifreeze smell.

Still, I’m committed.  Gotta make it to day 35 – that’s my new goal, because after 30 days it’s supposed to get better, but right around the 30-day mark there’s a tendency to relapse.  Just ordered a new grille, excited about that, but disappointed that no one wants to buy my cement mixer.  That was the money that was supposed to pay for the wood-pellet grille, but I only had one buyer who offered me half of what I wanted & never called back.  And I still have the same old stupid job in the same lonely cubicle, but I do have a job, I have health care, I’m getting annual raises, so it’s just like my car, just like my whole life; not great, but good enough to make me feel guilty complaining because so many people have it so much worse than me…

Day 25 Thursday 11/21/13: Depressed.  Sober, but depressed.  Nothing interests or excites me.  I don’t understand it.  I’m doing everything right.  Stopped drinking.  Cut back on medication.  Bought myself a fancy new toy.  Spending time with the family.  Exercising three times a week at the gym.  Eating better.  Cooking great food.  But I’m just empty inside.  Just, vague and listless.  I thought everything was supposed to get better, but it’s worse.  People are getting on my nerves, even my sweet, wonderful wife.  I don’t understand it.

Trying to make an appointment with the “AA is the only way” therapist.  Don’t want to start over with someone new.  Tried to call yesterday but so busy at work that I missed her call-back.  She doesn’t work Fridays so it’s another weekend of boredom before I can get any help.  I guess I just don’t deserve to be happy.  I don’t know what else to do.  Hanging on by a thread, in hopes that it gets better after 30 days, like everyone says.  But that wouldn’t be the first time the sales pitch was better than reality; it always is; reality can be harsh, difficult and very disappointing.

My hopes are worn out, but I’m trying to keep them up, trying to be optimistic about it, hoping against all evidence that things will get better.  Maybe tomorrow will be a better day than today.  We’ll see…

Day 28 Sunday 11/24/13: I’ve had a headache and ringing ears for 4 weeks now.  It’s getting hard to remember why I did this.  Babysat my granddaughters a couple of days ago, totally lucid and I was able to spend quality time feeding & changing them (I still remember how to work a diaper) and bouncing around on the trampoline.  Everyone else is thrilled that they don’t have to be scared of what I might do or say, and wonder when I pass out if I’m dead.  But not me.  I’m seriously seeing a blurred line between life and death; they both don’t hold much promise for me.  On the one hand, I’m feeling better physically, able to do things I can’t do when I’m drunk, I remember what people say and what I did last night, and the morning-after guilt is gone.  On the other hand, this is endless agony: I’m listless, emotionless, and if it doesn’t get better soon I’m going to just say forget this and just go right back into the bottle that put this pain in me in the first place.  I may still be miserable, but I’ll think I’m happy.

I did have a bit of an epiphany yesterday.  Sitting in the back yard, throwing the tennis ball for the dog out of guilt, questioning my decision to buy the shock collar that traumatized her to where she shakes all over & won’t leave the back porch for fear, looking at my crappy house and its crappy, dirty, plastic siding, the stupid ugly fence that I put up with warped planks, and letting out a big sigh as I stare at the $1000 pellet grill that I bought, just to find out that a good grill maketh not a good chef; I threw the ball far across the yard, and realized: I did this.  I bought this house.  I got this dog.  I went from a drugged out rebellious teenager, alone and depressed, to a successful programmer with a big house, a big yard, a beautiful wife, four great kids, two grand-kids and one on the way.  And I felt proud.  I’ve done good.  God has blessed me, honored my efforts, and I have enlarged and become greater than I ever imagined.  It’s not perfect, it’s a half-empty glass, but it’s my glass, and it’s half-full with loving, caring people that wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me.  I done good.  I really done did good here.

That calmed me down a bit.  I also realized something else.  I’m a writer.  I can make people laugh.  I can express myself in writing as well as just about anybody.  And, like most good writers, I’m a tortured soul.  I’m an alcoholic, drug-addicted smoker with chronic migraines and profound self-doubt.  It’s my fate.  God gave me gifts that shine brightest against a background of misery, impossible challenges, oppressive heaviness and winless competitions.  I am my own worst enemy.  I am so grateful that I have a place to share my thoughts, that a few people find comfort in my words, and that God has given me 25 years of a faithful woman’s devotion.  It stinks, but at least I have a purpose during my tenure on this rock.

God done good.  He really has…  Hope I don’t flub it up… Stay tuned…

Day 34 Saturday 11/30/13: Still sober.  Warning to the reader: days around #30 are pure hell.  The last two times I did this, I made it to day 26 & day 30, then quit.  One of my friends that I met here made it to day 32 before he had a slight relapse.  The brain resets itself “around” day 30, and I had a major panic reaction and a few times had made up my mind to just forget everything and get something, anything, maybe just a fifth, to survive.  But, somehow I managed to avoid it, and here I am.  Day 34.  Thirty-four days of pure misery, depression, ringing ears and nightmares.  If this doesn’t get better, then I will resume my drinking again.  I don’t see how this is worth anything to me; everyone else is happy, but I’m miserable.  I bought my wife a diamond ring for our 25th wedding anniversary.  I bought myself a fancy grill to try & distract myself, give me something to do besides sit around and think about booze.  I just got caught up on my tithing, and guess what: big surprise, I’m in major debt, in fact I’ve almost maxed out my Discover card, and I’ve already spent my cash-back bonus and I just placed an order to sell all of my company stock.  It’s not much, since I do that every year before Christmas, but it helps.  I can’t spend anything now until the next Discover billing cycle comes around, which means I’ll have one or two days to order Christmas gifts in order for them to arrive on time.  Bottom line is, I’m broke.  I don’t care.  It’s only money, right?  I just sent a couple thousand dollars to a Christian organization that teaches people about the Bible, plus a few hundred to a missionary that used to be our pastor.  It’s not my money; it’s 11% of my gross income, which I promised to give back to God, according to His commandment.  So, I’m not going to worry about it.  I’m not.  Financially, it’s killing me, especially since the stupid government is taking a ton of taxes out of the same gross income.  My semi-monthly paycheck typically has $1000 just in federal taxes removed.  After you subtract the taxes, the insurance, the United Way deduction, well there’s little left, after I pay the mortgage, utilities, credit card bills, car payment.  I’m just dreaming when I think of replacing my 13-year-old Camaro… there is no way on earth that will happen any time in the foreseeable future.  But, God will provide.  He always has, He always will.  I’ve been this bad before.  When I add up all of my money, and subtract all of my obligations, I come up with negative four grand.  But God will provide.  Somehow, someway, He will provide.  And in the mean time, I will trust Him for the strength to make it through work, to continue to dazzle & amaze my boss & coworkers, put on a happy, dedicated, enthusiastic face, while I suffer inside with a shadowy darkness that can only be described as tomb-like.  I’m just dead inside.  I really, really am.

One more day to day 35, and then I’m going to start a new post.  It’ll be called The Christian Alcoholic, and it’ll be a summary of everything I’ve learned, all of the comments I have received, all of the wisdom I have gotten as I’ve stumbled down this rocky path.  Maybe it will do someone some good.  And then, if I still feel like shit, I’m going to go buy some booze.  I’ll get drunk, feel bad, repent, ask for forgiveness and start the merry-go-round cycle all over again… probably stay on that ride until I’m dead… which may be any time now…

How I Envy Walter White

Bryan Cranston did a fantastic job playing Walter White in Breaking Bad.  We just saw the season finale yesterday; I bought it on ITunes since we cut cable service, it’s the only show we watched anyway.  And I was jealous of that old, diseased, bullet-ridden man as he lay dying, because he was smiling.

Brief recap for those of you who never saw the show: Walter White spent his entire life, despite his brilliance in Chemistry and Nobel prize, teaching high school basic chemistry.  He was down-trodden, disrespected, a nerd with a huge brain and no ambition, with no respect even from his own wife.

Then he turned 50, found out he had cancer, and decided to for once in his life break the rules.  He proceeded over the episodes & seasons to build his own methamphetamine empire, of a purity never seen before, using his own expertise and formula.  The trip cost him a lot – someone got killed or put in the hospital almost every episode – and going into the finale, his cancer had come back, his identity had been found out, there was a nationwide manhunt underway for his capture, and he had lost any hope of a relationship with his family or even his own survival.

So, he made a plan to set everything right, or as right as he could, and I won’t go into every detail, but he made one last visit to his wife.  He said, “Everything I did, I did for me.  I liked it.  I was good at it.  And it made me feel… alive.”  I relate more to that man in that moment than I can put into words.  When you’re under everyone’s thumb, when you dance to your boss’ tune, when you are constantly watched by the traffic cops, when your neighbors are constantly looking over the fence to see if you’ve made a mess so they can call the city for a citation, when you have absolutely no freedom whatsoever, inside our outside your house – well, rebellion is inevitable.  In Walt’s case, it was being a drug lord.  In mine, it’ll probably just be blowing my head off with a shotgun or drinking myself to death.

It is impossible to be free in this world, especially in America.  With one politically incorrect word, I could ruin my career.  One bad joke and I could get fired.  One mistake, and I could go to jail.  There is no such thing as forgiveness any more.  Zero tolerance.  If I get caught doing anything that someone else thinks is wrong, I will be mercilessly punished.  Even kids aren’t exempt – play tag with a girl, you’re a sex offender.  Play with a toy gun in your front yard, you’re an attempted murderer.  It’s insane.  It’s what I passionately hated about high school: absolute control according to a rulebook that blindly applies to everyone, no common sense or circumstances to consider, just universal, merciless punishment.

It’s impossible to be free in this world.  You can only be free in your mind.  And this rage that is building inside me, well, what do you expect?  Put a man in shackles, don’t be surprised one day if he wraps that chain around the neck of the guy with the key.  I’m not saying that I have any answers.  What I am saying, though, is that people need compassion, forgiveness and second chances; instead, we get judged, punished and labeled.  I’m not sure if I want to wait around for someone else to call the cops on me.  I still don’t know what that city citation was about; they might not have even had the right house, for all I know.  I just feel like Walt did.  After years and years and years of obedience, I feel dead inside, and doing something, a hidden, secret, blatant violoation of one of the myriad of styfling laws that encompass my life, would be … awesome … and I might just feel … alive ……

So as I watched Walt slowly die, lovingly caressing his meth lab equipment, I couldn’t help but feel jealous.  I wish that was me.  I wish I had the guts to go after my dreams, rather than letting them be strangled by other’s expectations.  I wish I could live a full life of carefree fun and creativity, instead of drudgery, fear and dread.  I wish I could die, having accomplished something big.  I wish I could look back on my life and see something, anything, besides a clean driving record and a string of positive employee reviews.  I wish I could die, knowing that I had … lived…

Christian Church: Bait and Switch

I would like to thank the people in my life who led me to the Lord.  Pastors, evangelists, teachers, deacons; they showed me a free gift from God, Eternal Salvation.  God has everything I need for a rich life: the true riches, like security, forgiveness, wisdom, peace, understanding, and most of all, love and unconditional acceptance.  The whole reason I left the Catholic church was because they didn’t know their Bibles; they have you all anxious about dying, because you never know if you’re going to “get in”, if your good deeds will ultimately out-weigh your bad ones.  The Independent Baptist church that I got saved in knows salvation.  They know it’s a free gift, based on faith, accepting Jesus’ price paid on the cross as payment for my death-sentence because of my sin nature.  They nailed that, if you’ll forgive the pun, having a profound and accurate understanding of the Cross.

And I would also like to thank those pastors for pounding me week after week with guilt and obligation to try & get me to pay back that free gift.  It’s a trick.  All that free salvation and unconditional love lasts about 3, maybe 6 months, and then they want you to turn into a worker, a slave to the church.  I’m supposed to tithe, ten percent of my GROSS income before taxes, and THEN give offerings on top of that.  I have to go to church.  Every.  Single.  Time.  It’s.  Open.

Tithing, I have no problem with, because I’m a giver.  Just look at my bank account; it gets precariously low at times, because I’m constantly helping people out when they need it.  Same thing with my time.  I can’t say no.  I just give & give until there’s nothing left.  I don’t have a problem with that.  But, that’s never enough.  It’s never, ever enought.  I’m supposed to be telling other people about Jesus.  I’m supposed to be cleaning the church.  I’m supposed to be volunteering for a mission trip, or at the soup kitchen.  I’m supposed to be handing out tracks to everyone I see, and finishing every sentence with “Praise the Lord”.

That’s just the stuff I’m supposed to DO.  For a long time, I also gave up music.  Dancing (not that I ever did, but now it’s forbidden).  Smoking, drinking, rated R movies, corner stores that sell Playboy, grocery stores that are owned by an affiliate company that is involved with an organization that supports abortions.  The list is endless.  And no matter how much I tried, gave, and gave up, it was never enough.  I felt constantly guilty.

You know, a lot of Christians complain about how church members act one way on Sunday, then “leave their Christianity at the door” for the rest of the week.  But we have to.  Do you think I would want my church friends to know I have a drinking problem, and I like heavy metal?  I can’t be honest and open at church. I can’t tell them about my new homebrew Beer recipe.  I caught hell for buying a new car.  The preacher would pound out a point about loving the world but not loving God, spending all our money on new cars but neglecting the Church.  Thanks alot, preacher.  Thank you so much, after living with broken-down, rusty cars, after driving for years in a vehicle that was so bad, I could look at every other car on the freeway for an hour in traffic, and NEVER see one worse, that I finally decided to give something to myself that would make my commute to work less like drudgery and ease my depression, but now I’m a selfish, carnal sinner.  Thanks for that.

The wages of Sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Every sacrifice will be tested by fire, to see if it’s made of wood, stubble, or fine gold.  The rewards we get in Heaven are going to be for those times that we yielded to the Holy Spirit, and let Him work through us.  Anything I’ve done out of guilt, forcing myself into uncomfortable roles because the preacher said to, is just fodder for the fire; I will get nothing for it in Heaven, because I did it, not God.  Our souls are eternal, and nothing good can come from our sinful flesh.  That’s why the big bait-and-switch doesn’t work.  Sure, you may get people to be your little puppets for a while, confusing gratitude for Salvation with a sense of needing to pay for it, but in the end, they’ll burn out; they’ll run out of human-based fuel, because they’re not waiting for God to fill them with the desire and ability to perform His will, and they’ll be like me.  At least I’m giving them something to preach about: I’m the backslidden Baptist that they’re always talking about, a lost sheep, or maybe a prodigal son.

So I’m an enigma.  A Christian who is in the world, but not of the world, quietly doing what I feel is God’s will in my life, in such small ways that noone will ever notice.  And if that’s all God ever wants from me, I’m OK with that.  God loves me just like I am.  I trust God.  He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and I will wait on the Lord to renw my strenght, because if He wants me to do something, He will give the the will and ability to do it, NOT a red-faced screaming preacher…

One. More. Time.

I’ve tried will-power.  I’ve tried the Last Call program (see my review, below).  I’ve tried mind games, tapering off, metering my intake, switching to just beer, and nothing has worked.

Until today.

An important step in learning not to drink alcohol has got to be realizing what it is you’re actually putting in your body.  To save some money, I was going to buy some 190-proof Everclear, but the shop owner talked me into getting an imitation brand – same proof, more booze.  Nothing in this world could possibly be worse than no-name-brand imitation Everclear.  Popped the cap off, too a whiff and WHOOO! that stuff is STRONG!  Smells like rubbing alcohol mixed with jalapeno juice, gasoline and red pepper.

For a week, I put about 150 mL of that crap into a measuring cup, filled the rest up with diet coke, and choked it down.  Once I went back for more, took a swig right from the bottle, and gagged & sputtered for a good 30 seconds, which might not sound like a lot, but not being able to breathe as poison eats your insides out, not knowing if it’s going to stop, can sure put things into perspective.  Not to mention waking up choking on my own reflux, repeatedly, all night long.

So now I know the enemy, laid bare, naked and uncovered.  Not so tasty without the hops, crushed ice & lime juice, or 7 years of soaking in an oak barrel, are you?  Like seeing a prostitute in bright light.  EW! Is THAT what I f’d last night?!  I need a shower…

Not only that, but I’m just plain burned out on the stuff.  It used to make me happy, at least for a little while, and my hangovers lasted until maybe noon the next day.  Now, I skip the whole happy stage, go straight to zombie mode, and my hangovers last a day and a half.  If I drink on Sunday, I don’t dare drive, much less try to go to work, on Monday.  I feel like PacMan.  The more you play, the less effect the little dots in the corner have.  Now they don’t even slow down the bad guys.

So I’ve been doing a light beer every day or every other day, just to keep from going through a really painful withdrawal.  I have a therapist.  Kind of pissed at her.  She spent a good 10 minutes trying to talk me into going to AA.  I finally told her no, let’s just try this first.  She actually wanted me to do 90 meetings in 90 days; has no idea of my social paranoia.  I don’t do meetings; I can do therapy, but don’t tell me to go to a group of alcoholics, give them my name, have everyone hug me and tell me I’m still a good person.  I will punch them in the face.  The therapist gave me a directory of all the AA meetings in the neighborhood.  I burned it in the gas grill.

I’ve been having nightmares about college.  I hate college.  It took me years & years & years to convince my parents that it wasn’t my thing.  They always said it was never too late, I could always go back & get “my” degree, like someone is sitting around waiting to give it to me, already with my name on it.  In the dream, I’m always confused, can’t find the dorm, or my books, forgot to go to class, can’t remember my schedule.  But why now?  Why have nightmares about college, a vivid dream of being lost & reacting with rage when someone teasingly took my pillow, threatening him with a gruesome death – I haven’t wanted to kill anyone for weeks…

Then it hit me: it’s the stupid AA meetings.  It’s college all over again.  I don’t want to go.  I will not go.  if they make me go, I’m going to go nuts, kill everyone in the building, buy a huge bottle of whiskey, and pass out in the tub so I’ll drown in my sleep.  I have another session with the therapist in an hour.  Session number two, and my wife is coming with me.  If she mentions AA again, I’m leaving.  I don’t know if I’ll get drunk out of shear rebellion or if I’ll just bitch & moan about it the rest of the day, but I’d rather DIE than go to a meeting.  And if I have to stab someone (or myself) to get them to take me seriously, so be it…

I’ll update this  later.  I doubt anyone is reading this anyway, but it helps me to express myself.  I’m not a social drinker.  I drink alone.  I hide it.  I’m scared of people, mostly in groups.  Paranoid of being put into the center of attention, of being called on.  And I don’t know how to say No without violence.  Maybe the therapist can help me with THAT, before I choke her to death… or maybe I’ll do what I always do, swallow my emotions, be kind, wave goodbye, and pound the steering wheel all the way home as I cuss & swear I’ll never try to quit again… dead by 50, no doubt…

Update 8/30/13: Well, I’ve made it three weeks without getting drunk.  I had a lite beer today, as I did yesterday, but not the three days before that.  So, a beer a day for a few days, then a few days not, then a few daily beers again.  The therapist says that making it one month is important, because our brains work on a 1-month rhythm, just like a menstrual cycle.  Probably has to do with the phases of the moon, but in any case, after 30 days my cravings should go way down.  After three 30-day cycles, they should be gone for good.

I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve learned some relaxation techniques, and they really do work.  One is I imagine I’m in a place, any peaceful place that I care, but I have to imagine it in all five senses.  My special place is on the beach.  I can hear the ocean, see the waves as they crash onto the shore.  The sun is setting and the sky is lit up with a blazing sunset.  There’s a crisp, salty air as the night cold moves in.  I hear seagulls chirping nearby, and my feet are sinking slightly in the sand.  In the chilly night, my wife is hugging me, with her head on my chest as we enjoy the time together.  We have to leave soon, but not yet, which makes it even more special.

Other stuff I already knew.  Slow breathing helps.  So does progressive relaxation, which I’ve been doing for years.  We’ve talked about issues I have with my dad, she confirmed something I already knew, that he’s got OCD, and I’ve learned to pity him rather than feel like I’m under his control.  And I also quit coffee.  I’m back on e-cigs, but I did quit coffee, because I figured if I don’t get hyped up on caffeine, I may not need the booze to crash later.  So far, so good.

I want to tell you that when I start taking care of myself, and stop jumping up to help anyone who comes in my cube with an emergency, when I walk slowly on purpose or take my time & breathe before I check my email, well, people don’t like that.  I could sense it the first day after therapy.  My coworkers have lost their slave.  Oh, I still do the job all right, but I do one thing at a time, and I don’t rush like a crazy person because you know what?  It doesn’t matter.  In a week, day, year, ten years, NOTHING I do at work will matter.

My wife is still getting used to me being up and lucid at night.  The family likes it, I think.  The therapist kind of ticked me off the last session.  I brought my sweetheart with me, and I think she sees her as bossy and she might even be competing with her, because my wife knows more about me and psychology than the therapist does.  But I’ve been a good student, I’ve done my homework, I’ve learned what I need to learn and practiced it.

That’s all.  I have to go now.  I really think this is going to work this time.  I really do.

Update 9/16/13:

I made it 30 days.  Then I got upset.  I can handle one or two bad situations, but four?  I kind of lost it.  I got a citation from the city for having broken appliances, rusty cars, trash & building materials on my property.  They gave me two weeks to clean it up.  The only problem is, none of that is true.  The only thing I could figure is there was some stuff left over from the swimming pool in the back yard – a ladder, some pipes in the ground by the deck – and I was appalled that it was still a violation, since it’s been there for months, and enclosed by a 6-foot wooden fence.  The inspector said the complaint was called in, so I’m suspicious that my nosy back-yard neighbor phoned it in.  Jerk.

I drank, I got mad, I took that PVC pool ladder that I had made & hurled it at the back fence, yelling obscenities and don’t remember much else.  The next day there was crap all over the yard.  Now whenever my 14 year old son has a friend complain about someone, he says, You want me to throw a PVC ladder at him?  I cleaned it up all right.  Threw it all away.  And I still don’t know if that’s enough.  They won’t tell me exactly what to do, so for the last two trash days I’ve had all seven trash cans filled with sawed up old wood and PVC.  Now when I replace the pool with a big new one next year, I’ll have to do all of that over again.  Or can I?  Maybe I can’t build anything myself any more.  Maybe I’m not supposed to have any privacy.  Maybe I’m just supposed to go to work, come home, sleep, wake up, repeat.  And that’s it.

So there are four things that are bothering me, and I cannot change.  My neighbor will probably never leave.  My dad’s OCD will make me do things like spend all day yesterday in church watching my parents get a 50-year-anniversary blessing from some big shot priest with a big white hat.  My job is slowly killing me and I’m shackled to that cube for another 15 years minimum.  And I’m sick of having a car that leaks and rusts and breaks and doesn’t even have locking doors.

I’m late for work.  Noone will notice.  Oh, I went back to a beer-a-day again.  Drank 375mL that first day, then one of those smaller ones (200?) the next, then a beer, and that’s been almost a week.  Got a therapist meeting this afternoon.  Maybe she can help, but I doubt it.  This will be my fifth session and I just don’t know how I’m going to change anything.  I put the word out to an old boss that I’m interested in a transfer, and I’ve been looking at new cars in case I magically get rich, but I certainly can’t do anything about my OCD father, but at least we’ve paid our dues for a while, and my neighbor is at the very least afraid of me, if he was home while I was throwing stuff at his fence.

That’s all for now.  Struggle, struggle, struggle, then a painful death.  My life, abridged.


Too weak for church

I thought I was past this.  I figured, hey, I’m a mature Christian.  I know about grace & faith.  Heck, I got saved over 25 years ago, got several passages of the Bible memorized, pray every day.  I’m ready to try going back to church.  I can handle it.  There’s a new pastor at the local church, and my daughter says he’s nice.  Going to give it one more shot.

Well, I found out I’m still too weak for church.  I can’t ignore the crap that the pastor says, that I know is not true, without feeling guilty, unwelcome and out of place.  They’re all the same.  Why does every pastor in the world think they have to motivate the members?  Why do they have to use guilt to manipulate them into giving money, time & effort?  It’s like they think we’re all just sitting around, bored, watching football or throwing quarters in the fountain at the mall as we watch the shoppers go in & out of Victoria Secret.

It wasn’t even that bad.  He said, If you haven’t talked to someone else about Jesus in the past week, I’ve got to say, I’d have to wonder if you’re really a Christian.  <HUH?>  So, if I’m not an evangelist like you are, I’m not a Christian?  If I don’t have the exact same spiritual gift as you do, I must not be saved?  In other words, if I’m not like you, I will go to Hell.  Really?  Are you serious?

There are many spiritual gifts.  I believe that when you get saved, when you give up on trying to do good deeds to get to Heaven, when you realize the only way is through faith, when you trust Jesus as your savior, you immediately get transformed, and one of the things you receive is a spiritual gift.  Evangelism is only one possible gift.  There’s the gift of administration, encouraging, teaching, giving, mercy, preaching, faith, tongues, the interpretation of tongues; I happen to have the gift of giving.  Probably why I only have $300 in my checking account right now.  I did NOT get the gift of preaching.  I’ve tried.  My first pastor guilt-tripped me bad enough that I actually went out on visitation, where you cold-turkey knock on a stranger’s door and tell them about Jesus.  I was so nervous I was actually shaking.  I can’t do it.  I’m shy.  I don’t push my beliefs on other people, and I never discuss religion unless it happens to come up in conversation, and, well that’s it – I’m shy, so I must not be a Christian.

I’ve heard the line before, if you’re a Christian, you should be producing fruit; the fruit of a Christian is another Christian.  Bullshit.  The fruit of a Christian is the fruit of the Spirit that dwells within him: love, peace, joy, kindness, gentleness, meekness.  Ever hear of that, preacher?  It’s right there in the Bible you keep waving around.  And by the way, the fruit of a tree is NOT another tree.  Duh.  What crazy person ever planted an apple tree to get more apple trees?  Don’t you plant an apple tree to get APPLES?

That’s such a common pitch.  It’s like all the multi-level marketing companies out there.  The product is beside the point – what they really want you to do is recruit two friends, who will recruit two friends, who will recruit more, and so on, until the company is busting at the seams with fresh, new people who are all excited about having this wonderful new opportunity.  Why can’t they just preach the Word?  Isn’t that their job?  It’s the Word expounded that makes believers.  Yes, the world needs missionaries, it needs preachers, it needs people to go and tell the ignorant masses about Jesus, but it’s ridiculous to think that everyone in the church is supposed to reproduce.  God has picked me, given me my place in life, saved me, and right now the best guess I have is that He wants me right here, providing for my family and doing the best I can to help others when the opportunity arises.  If He wants me to preach, witness, or whatever, he’s going to have to miraculously give me that ability, because I don’t have it now.

And what’s this that they always say?  Come as you are, totally accepted?  That’s a lie.  It’s just something they say to get you in the door; they don’t really mean it.  Why do you think everyone dresses up for church?  Because that’s the standard.  You either look nice, or feel awkward in your cutoffs & flip-flops.  And what about my drinking problem?  I’ve struggled with alcoholism for years; sure I can join the church, but if they find out I drink, I’ll be kicked out of any leadership position I might be in, or I’ll turn in to their project; if I don’t get “healed” within a reasonable amount of time, then I’ll be shunned.  Oh, I must not be a Christian because of that too – because I still sin, right?  I’m not under the power of sin any more, so I must not be a Christian because I don’t have the same sin as you?

I know, it wasn’t that bad, but after a couple of decades of preaching, I’m sensitive.  I believe that God loves me just as I am.  I know, I should be going to church, I should be doing a lot of things.  I used to have a long, long list of should’s and shouldn’ts.  It drove me crazy.  Look, when I got saved, I got a new heart; I’m still in this body, and I’m going to have temptations & struggles until the day I die.  Go ahead & judge me, but remember, when Jesus came here his harshest words were for the hypocrites that judged people for sinning, rather than begging forgiveness for their own sins.  Why can’t people figure out that unconditional love is just that: unconditional… you don’t have to DO ANYTHING to get saved, so why do preachers have to guilt-trip you to DO stuff AFTER you get saved?  Is he saying I’m supposed to pay Jesus back for something I couldn’t afford in the first place?

I’m just a weak, flimsy man.  I’m struggling with things that I never in my wildest dreams thought would be an issue for me.  I’m getting older, fatter, drunker and ever more depressed when I thought I’d be fit, rich, successful and happy by now.  And I don’t need someone to make me feel bad every Sunday morning, to remind me of my failures and shortcomings.  I need love, acceptance, encouragement & forgiveness, that’s all, and the preacher can take all of that other crap and shove it up his ass, because I’m not buying shit today.

Poor George

When the George Zimmerman virdict came out, it gave me hope.  Finally, some common sense.  In a world where saying a racial slur, 20 years ago, can end your cooking career, or you can go to jail for making a joke online about killing school kids, or get suspended for pointing your finger like it’s a gun, it was nice to hear that someone who did nothing wrong, who has been the victim of a nation-wide witch hunt for the past year and a half, was aquitted of the trumped-up charges against him.  Yes – innocence is still a viable defence against wrongful prosecution.

This whole thing has interested me from the beginning, because it shows me what my options are.  In the future, if I am in a situation where I believe it’s either my life or his, what are my legal options?  If I am being beaten to death, can I use deadly force?  Maybe.  Apparently, if I’m white and he’s black, it might just be better to go ahead & let him kill me, because if I kill him, my life is over anyway.  Poor George Zimmerman has lost his freedom, his job, his house.  The trauma of the past months leading up to and during the trial alone probably shaved 5 years off of his life, and with so many death threats against him, his whole family is going to be in hiding for a very long time.

Honestly, people, learn to read and think.  George Zimmerman was following Travon Martin because Travon Martin was a stranger, and several crimes had been comitted in that very neighborhood recently by people who matched his description.  Travon could have just gone home.  George could have just gone home.  Both of them could have avoided the confrontation, but who threw the first punch?  Does anybody believe that George attacked Travon first?  There is zero evidence of that.  Does anybody believe that George profiled Travon because he was black?  Again, there is zero evidence of that.  By what stretch of the imagination can you possibly come up with anything but self-defence?

It boggles my mind.  I keep watching clips of the trial and reading articles, and all evidence points to the fact that Travon was a thug who attacked George, who was afraid for his life and used his pistol to get the punk off of him.  He didn’t want to kill him.  He didn’t have time to aim as his head was being pounded.  He didn’t want anything else but for the kid to get off.  George was way outclassed by the much younger and athletic Travon; what’s he supposed to do?  Lay there as he passes out and hope Travon is satisfied with beating him to a pulp but not killing him?

Has the whole country lost its view of right & wrong?  My wife saw something on YouTube, which I’ll try and paraphrase here: “Does that mean that I can walk into a biker bar, get in a fight with the meanest guy there, and kill him when he attacks me?”  The implied answer is supposed to be of course not, but the RIGHT answer is YES. You have the right to defend yourself if you think your life is in danger.  It’s called self-defence.  Now, if you went looking for a fight and tried to provoke the guy because he cheated on your wife and you want revenge, that’s a little different.  But listen, people get into fights all the time.  If I get into a fight and the guy yells at me, can I kill him?  No.  What if he pulls out a gun and I think he’s going to shoot me?  Yes.  What if he knocks me down to the ground and pummels me so hard I can’t see and I don’t think he’s going to stop until I stop breathing?  YES.

And yet, there are people protesting and rioting and killing and screaming their disapproval and calling for more, more, more prosecution.  George has  got to go to jail for something, because he shot an unarmed teenager, right?  It’s like I’m watching the crowd yell Crucify Him! to Pontius Pilate – THE GUY DID NOTHING WRONG AND CROWDS ARE CALLING FOR HIS DEATH!  It’s ridiculous.  And oh, I’m sure that attacking white people and saying “This is for Travon” is going to do a lot of good.  Talk about racist…

But it’s just not possible to go against “the agenda” any more, is it?  The fact that George is Hispanic doesn’t make any difference.  They called him white for a long time, because it fit their story, and when they found out he wasn’t white, they called him white-hispanic (never heard that before).  The fact that George never said “He looks like he’s up to no good.  He’s black.” doesn’t matter either.  Remember that?  NBC should have its broadcast license revoked for such a blatant manipulation of the truth.  Even our own president, who should be encouraging calm, stoked the flames by saying if he had a son, he’d look like Travon.  And on & on & on it goes.

So when is it OK to use a gun?  If you’re a criminal, I guess until you get caught.  But what about us scared fathers & husbands, law-abiding citizens that want to protect themselves and the ones they love?  Only if the bad guy is white.  If he’s black, then heck no.  I’m going to have to look into other options, because now I can’t imagine going through what poor George did.  And if you looked into my past, you’d see a whole lot more bad stuff than his.  “He did drugs” “Mentally unstable past” “History of anger” – hell, just read my blog and I’m already guilty, and that’s just the truth; imagine all of the lies and distortions the media will spread about me.  All because I’m white and he’s black, I’m guilty.  That’s the new world we live in.  My only hope for peace, to be able to live out my life without being publicly crucified, is to stay low and pray to God that I never get in the sight of someone like Al Sharpton or Jessie Jackson or even Barak Obama.  Otherwise I will get crucified.  Even if I win, I’ll lose what I was trying to save in the first place: my life.

God Bless America.  What’s left of it anyway…

Friends are hard to come by

Hello and welcome to my many new friends!  Every day I get several emails telling me another user registered.  Well… if you’re real, then thank you, but I suspect most of them are just some type of spam program.  Maybe I’m supposed to email my users, and then my validated email address will go out across the world and my inbox will be filled with offers of Viagra, Russian naughty girls and money to help a foreign national exchanging currency.

The truth is, though, I am battling a new wave of depression.  I could use a good friend to talk to.  I have been at the same facility for around 25 years.  Every day of my life, I go to the same place, work all day, rarely eat lunch, and by the time I drive home I have little if any life left inside me.  I’d love to ask my boss how he does it.  He got hired a few years before me, and he’s never sick, he’s always there, before I wake up he’s already working, and I leave before he does.  And me, I can’t stand the routine.  It’s killing me.

It’s an extremely depressing thought that I’m going to be on this treadmill for the next 20 years.  Then my wrinkled grayed head will be on a retirement email, and I’ll limp home for the last time.  It’d be great if one of my new friends could offer some hope.  I don’t see it.  I’ve tried a lot of things, and NOTHING can replace my income and insurance.  I started my own business selling scan tools for cars; made about a fifth of what my job pays.  Pocket change when you have a wife, two kids at home, two moved out and still needing help, and your son’s girlfriend is pregnant again.

The drinking hasn’t helped.  I’m starting to just not care any more.  The only time I can forget about my boring life and failing health is when I’m so wasted I can’t remember my name.  My only remaining pastime is to play Bulletstorm with a bottle of Jim Beam.  I’m happy for about an hour or two, I fall asleep, wake up with a splitting headache and nauseated stomach, can’t eat, feel dizzy, and I wait patiently for the hangover to end so I can get another bottle.

I’m out of ideas.  I look around and everything I touch turns to crap.  I remodeled the kitchen: cabinets and walls and appliances look awesome, but there’s scrap wood instead of countertops, and a bare concrete floor.  Redid the bathroom: beautiful corner tub with black tile, but you can see all the tubing because I never finished the steps.  Back yard: there’s a deflated liner on a bed of sand, next to the warped deck that used to grace a beautiful pool, pvc pipes hanging in the air, plus you can’t hardly walk out the back door because of all the garbage & leftover parts I have, the wheelbarrow full & crammed next to the rusty grille and unused, overflowing toy box.

When I was young I dreamed of quitting my meaningless, boring job.  I tried writing programs & becoming a shareware success, I tried 2 or 3 different multi-level marketing companies, wrote my own book and sold I think ten copies, then I did the scanner thing, and my last hope was to become a contractor & build storm shelters or maybe concrete countertops.  Spent almost $2K on a professional mixer, that’s sitting idle by the door to the garage; I get to remember what a failure I am as I stub my toe on it daily.  Oh, and the garage is crap too.  I built my own home office in half of it (and never finished painting the wall) as well as an 8’x4′ storm shelter (and never finished painting the wall) so now, with my workbench taking up the rest of it, I have about ten square feet of floor left that’s littered with the last project’s leftovers.

I’m depressed.  It’s a good job.  I’m well-paid, well-respected, and I’m getting to use my computer skills to make money.  But it’s still a job.  I still have to go sit in that same damn cubicle every day of my life and try to pretend that I’m having fun.  I can’t talk to anyone about it, because I have to keep up my image of a satisfied, motivated employee.  I have to keep getting raises, good reviews and bonuses because of all of the people depending on me.  But I’m not happy.  I’m not happy and it’s getting worse.  There are a thousand things I’d rather do, but each one requires that I start out with something.  Like money.  I can’t save money; I spend 110% of what I make, and I would need money to start any business, and it would have to be an instant success or we’ll all end up homeless.

So I’ve lost all hope for the future, I haven’t balanced the checkbook since I found out my wife had cancer, I’ve stopped caring about finishing projects or cleaning up, I give my soul away to The Corporation and come home & drown it, swallowing all the wasted dreams and unfulfilled potential that I once was.  I have a wall stacked full with shelved ideas and plans, a daily reminder that I have failed at everything.  I’ve even stopped going to church, if you can believe that.  So, friend, if you are there, I could use a helping hand.  Is this all there is?  Is that all I’m ever going to do is sit around & wait to die?

It’s getting late.  Almost time for the bank to open up.  I’ve got a few menial errands to run, and the rest of the day will be helping my wife care for my son, who has thrown up a half-dozen times, plus my wife is baking a ton of cupcakes for my grand daughter’s birthday.  I’ve got to stay sober and focused until that’s over, and tonight I’ll celebrate another wasted Saturday, one more day gone, walking down the path that takes me back around to Monday and ever so slowly closer to death…