Life After Booze

It’s been almost six moths since my last drink.  I would first of all like to apologize because it seems I only write something when I feel bad.  When I feel good, I typically am busy doing something else besides feeling sorry for myself.  So, although I tend to paint a pretty bleak picture here on my blog, life can be good.  Sometimes.

I no longer crave alcohol, per se.  Those of you who have kept up with my struggle know that I was drinking heavily, daily, trying to wash away my reality after my daughter ran away to Mexico and my wife got breast cancer.  That was the lowest time of my adult life and I just couldn’t bear to face the day.  I went through the “Last Call Program” which turned out to be a total rip-off, I tried tapering off, cold-turkey, herbs, you name it.  I think I finally just got tired of feeling like shit all the time.  So I’m clean.  But, I do still crave escape, some kind of solace, some way to take a break from this tired old world.  And here’s the reason why:

FREEDOM

I can’t even remember all of the stories, both national and personal, that lead me to the conclusion that I am a ward of the state, oppressed, submissive, demoralized and living in constant fear that some government entity will one day take away everything that I have ever worked towards.  There are one or two times in my nearly five decades on this rock that I was happy to see a cop or a fire-fighter, and dozens upon dozens of times that I have been scared of them.

It’s all over the news.  If you’re a simple rancher with cows on the same land that the government wants to use to build a solar farm, you’ll be confronted by trained & heavily armed government SWAT teams who will take away your livelihood and put you in jail.  If you dare speak against the sitting president – especially if you’re not black – your Facebook and Twitter posts will be used to try you as a subversive terrorist.  If you have a beautiful patch of land in Colorado, and the government finds out, they will bankrupt you with legal fees until you have to settle for barely enough money to pay your lawyer.

Personally, I’ve had many similar, though not as newsworthy, experiences in my own life.  I had to scrap my plans for a building in the back yard because of the assholes in the code enforcement division giving me hell over getting permits and the futility of trying to explain that I was a homeowner that actually wanted to build something myself.  Or the time I got a letter from the city that the scraps of PVC pipe in my back yard, behind my six-foot privacy fence, constituted visible waste, which I had to clean up immediately or face prosecution.  I’ve all but given up on building my own car because I’d have to do it in the dark of night to avoid the piercing gaze of the homeowner’s association.

It’s like the America today is full of all these power-grabbing, omnipotent, self-appointed guardians of righteousness, and they will do anything and everything to make you comply with what they see as how you live your life.  I can’t grow my own pot, I can’t distill my own whiskey, I can’t do much more than change my own light bulbs without hiring a professional.  It’s like they make these rules that fit 99% of the people out there, and people like me that want to change our own oil or build our own structures are rebels that must be found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  It didn’t used to be like this.  People used to have common sense.  People used to become police, firemen, IRS agents – OK maybe not the IRS – but they used to actually want to help.  Now they just want an excuse to use the power they’re drunk on.

So I am living in constant fear of the Authority.  Any moment, dozens of armed men with automatic rifles and bullet-proof vests are going to drag me outside in my underwear and cuff me in front of my kids for not having the proper papers.  And I’m not even Jewish.

That’s another think I’d like to bitch about.  I feel like wild game, and I’m in season.  I’m not part of any protected class.  I’m the most despised, hated person on the face of this earth, because I’m not under any special category: I’m not female, I’m not Hispanic or black, I’m a middle-aged white Christian male, which means I must be super-privileged and never earned what I have and everyone believes that I don’t deserve anything but should have my property and wealth confiscated and distributed to illegal alien Muslim drug dealers, because it’s OK to offend me, insult my religion, call me all kinds of names, but don’t dare draw the word Mohammed on a napkin or you’ll be arrested faster than you can say Praise Jesus.

At the risk of getting fired, something that is constantly on my mind and haunts every waking moment, I will give you another insane example of rule-making gone amuck: let’s talk about flashlights.  Where I work, there are areas that could have explosive gasses and so, logically, spark-producing electronics are forbidden without written permission and an air sample.  But the letter of the law, the company make-one-mistake-and-you’re-fired rule is written such that even a pocket flashlight is deemed an extremely dangerous device and if you have one in your possession, EVEN IF THE BATTERY IS OUT, and even if you wear a daily-calibrated LEL meter that continuously checks for an explosive atmosphere, even though you may be walking in one of those units but OUTSIDE the danger zone, well, the rule is “no flashlights” so your ass is gone.  You get 15 minutes to clean out your desk and you may never, ever return, plus the rest of the companies are told of your reckless behavior so you’re blackballed on every other site’s list and you end up on food stamps or begging under a bridge, which is just where they want you anyway: helpless and dependent.

I used to think that here in the USA, if you do what’s right, work hard and don’t intentionally look for trouble, you could be safe, successful and secure.  I don’t feel that way any more.  Now the only way to be successful is to play politics, say the right things, act the right way, dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s, find out what the company likes and play their game, fake your way to the top, OR, screw all that and be a victim.  If you don’t work, or you’re a minority, well, then you can depend on the government to help you out; food stamps, medical care, free cell phones, whatever you need, because poor you, you can’t be expected to help yourself.  Victims are noble, self-motivated workaholics are evil.

So on this beautiful Easter weekend I can thank my GOD that against all of this prosecution, all of these dangers, this government of, by and for the rich and connected, I have the assurance of a Savior that is still (barely) legal to worship and who loves me and protects me and is in control of all of those who would do me harm, that want nothing more than to count the likes of me as sheep for the slaughter, because without Him I would be without hope and beaten down, scared and cowardly, head down, submissive and quietly obedient – or maybe I’m already there.  Maybe I AM scared of anyone with a badge or government seal, maybe I AM fearful of the Authority, and maybe I’m just so sick of waiting to get hauled off, fired or shot for an unintentional clerical error that I’ll just beat them to the punch, become the criminal that they think I am anyway, and have a little fun before I go.  Maybe I’ll be a bad guy, because they don’t have to follow the rules, they can have guns, drugs or booze, they’re the only ones that can do whatever they want, because they just ignore the rules, and in America, that’s now the only way to be truly free.

I’d like to ask God to bless America, but I honestly don’t think there’s much left to bless.  And besides, in a few years it’ll inevitably be illegal to say God anyway.  So let’s just say Thank America for letting me live.  For now.

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…

 

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…

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…

Depression: an analysis

I’ve been battling depression for as long as I can remember.  I have gone to shrinks, taken vitamins, prescription drugs, tried all kinds of things over the years.  But what is it that makes someone (me) depressed?

Life isn’t fair: When I was young I was taught to stay in line, wait my turn, obey the rules and finish my work.  Up through the third grade or so, that worked out great for me.  The teachers found out I was smart, I was teacher’s pet in all of my classes, and I got rewarded for good behavior.  But around the fourth grade or so, bullies started popping up.  I was physically tormented, verbally assaulted and threatened by one bully or another, all the way into high school, so much so that I had drawn out revenge plans on how I was some day going to find them and kill them.  I never fought back.  Bullies cut in line and get to go first, have no remorse, no guilt at all, and even when confronted say it’s all just part of growing up, helps kids toughen up.  And guess what – they get their food before I do.

It still happens, you know.  I get bullied in traffic all the time.  What do I get for obeying the law, waiting for the light to turn green, while others cut through the parking lot?  They end up way ahead of me, and never get caught.  And if I know the left lane ends up ahead, I’ll stay in the right lane, and there’s ALWAYS a big truck that races down the left lane and shoves his way in front of me at the last minute.  I drive a short car and bullies in big trucks act like I don’t exist; I’ve been run off of the road several times, literally, and what reward do I get?  What reward comes from having no tickets on my record, always obeying the speed limit, getting passed left and right, never EVER seeing someone else get caught?  Cheaper car insurance.  Big whoop.  The bullies get to drive faster than me, they beat me, outrun me, and look like they’re having fun while I suffer.

The same thing happened in school, and at work.  What reward do I get for finishing my work?  A paycheck and a mediocre review.  Some time around the fourth grade, work started to get tough, I started to get pushed, taking advanced classes, doing homework for hours every night, all kinds of extra credit, so I could get an “A+” while kids all around me were having fun, forgetting their homework, getting B’s in normal classes while I was being depressed, watching my life go by.  In order to be successful and maintain the ultra-high expectations that everyone had for me, and still do, extra credit is required.  And it’s not fair.  Life is not fair.  I should be able to just do my job, which I’m very good at, and go home & relax, but if I don’t meet my “stretch goals” I’ll get a poor review.  That means doing the same thing I’ve always done – bust my ass to make everyone happy, which means long hours or weekends.  I’m still doing “extra credit” while people all around me are having fun.  If it’s not job-work, then it’s home-work: remodel the kitchen, fix the car, build a fence, build a deck; I try & try & try to make everyone happy, and just because I CAN do something, I feel that I HAVE to.

So that’s one thing: life isn’t fair.  When I stop working and look around, I get jealous of the guys with boats & new cars & fancy houses.  I know they’re in debt, and I’m not, but that’s not much consolation when I’m busting my butt replacing my air compressor and the neighbor drives by towing his new boat with his new SUV, out for another fun day at the lake.  It just seems like with all of my hard work and dedication, I DESERVE a new car, for instance, but I don’t get one because I’ve already spent the money on gifts for my wife – mostly appliances or fixtures for the house – or on supporting my kids or whatever.  I have an excellent credit score, but like I said, that’s not much consolation.

Life is too hard: I start way too many projects, and I am feeling incredibly overwhelmed.  It always takes four times longer to do something than I think it will.  I’ve got requests & plans stacked up so high that if I was somehow able to quit my job & spend 40 hours a week on projects, I would never, ever finish.  In fact, it’s sad, because by the time I reach the end of one project, the last project is already deteriorating and needs to be redone again.  Now with four kids and two grandchildren and the job and all the projects and bills and work that has to be done (by me, because if I don’t do it, it just won’t get done), I’m totally buried.  Just maintaining what I’ve already got takes all of my spare time.  Car maintenance, pool maintenance, home repairs and the yard use up the 5% of energy that I have after a stressful day at work.

I don’t know how some people seem to always have time on their hands.  They come home, kiss their wife and have a beer, watch TV and wait for dinner.  Maybe my wife doesn’t cook that often, but it’s not her, it’s me.  I feel guilty if I sit down.  I come home and get attacked by the dog, kids and wife, all wanting attention, and as I look around, projects are screaming at me for attention too.  It’s just too hard; there’s not enough of me to go around.  Life, I suppose, was not meant to be easy.  Life is hard.  It’s hard to wake up at 4:30 am.  It’s hard to keep a car running and shiny.  It’s hard to install cabinets or stain concrete.  It’s hard to make progress, get to the finish line while I feel like I’m walking through molasses.  It’s hard to maintain the image everyone has of me that I can build or fix anything.

Life started to get hard in the fourth grade, and it hasn’t stopped since.  I truly wonder if other people are as relaxed and happy as they seem.  My life is incredibly hard, and when I try to make a list or plan out how I’m going to get everything done, it’s depressing.  There’s never anything left over; never any free time, unless I choose to sit on my butt and let the weeds grow.  It is very depressing, for me, because I put myself dead last on the list.  I always figure that if I work hard enough, I’ll finish, and then I can relax.  Well, it’s been decades, I never finish, and as soon as I start to take a break and someone can see that I have some time, they ask for something.  And since I never say no, I either do it right then, say no & feel guilty and do it right then anyway, or put it in my planner, adding it to the dozen or so undone check-list items on my to-do list.

Life is too short: Having watched my youth slip away as I spent most of it working myself to death, I’m almost 50, and having given away any extra money that I ever got instead of saving it, I have less than one year’s salary saved up for retirement.  I don’t think you could call my life fun when I was in school, because I rarely did anything but work.  Even being on the baseball team got to be a source of stress that the other kids depended on me so much, and I quit.  In fact, anything you can define as “fun” I’ve quit.  I don’t play tennis, even though I love it.  I don’t play music even though it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to be a successful musician.  I’ve even given up on ever being able to start my own business, due to a long, long series of failures, from multi-level marketing to software development to masonry work; if I’m going to have a ghost of a chance at living past 65, it’s going to have to be on a company pension.

Five years ago I really threw in the towel.  I was a contractor with big dreams of somehow making it big.  The teachers were always so impressed by me, I thought I could come up with something on my own, an invention, that fame & wealth would follow me and I’d be my own boss.  But it didn’t work out that way.  Part of it is health insurance, but five years ago I gave up the I-can-quit-any-time role of a contract employee for the I-am-chained-to-my-cube-for-the-next-20-years role of a direct hire.  Sure, the benefits are great, the insurance is great, the salary is great (as long as I keep over-achieving like everyone expects me to), but I have no hope of ever becoming anything more than a dad with a job and several demanding “hobbies”, or more accurately, do-it-myself projects.

So what am I working towards?  I’ll retire in 15 years, the house will be paid off, I’ll start pulling a pension, and I’ll be a hunched-over sad little man, showing the scars of a long life of stress and tension on my wrinkled gray head.  Then what?  I will finally, finally have the free time that I’ve craved and lusted for, and it’ll be too late.  I’ll be old and if nothing changes, in very ill health.  I won’t be able to do anything else but shuffle to the mailbox or pull myself into the hover-chair by my bed.  Life is too short.  You work your butt off to save money or earn a pension so you can retire when you’re weak and frail and can’t pursue any of your dreams anyway, and then you die.

Nobody loves me: This goes back to the extra-credit thing.  You know, I love my wife dearly, and my kids too, but in order to get someone’s attention I have to either harm myself or perform like a circus monkey going above and beyond everyone’s expectations.  I’ve done both.  See the section on my struggle with alcohol for “proof” of the self-harm thing.  (Get it? Proof, like the 80-proof whiskey bottles I have in my room.  Ha. Ha. Ha.)  As I’ve grown older, it’s become harder and harder to “top” my last performance.  People get accustomed to my level of achievement, and not only that, but to my INCREASE in achievement, and are not impressed unless what I do today is bigger and better than what I did yesterday, or better than they could possibly imagine.

What makes a person feel loved?   It’s when someone gives you something without you having to ask.  It’s when someone notices you’re depressed and gives you a hug.  It’s when someone strokes you and says everything is going to be all right, or compliments you or says something nice.  It’s when you get something without having to PAY for it.  I can’t stop myself from paying; I go the extra mile, I do the extra credit, I try to look at the world through other people’s eyes and see exactly what they want & try to give it to them, but I don’t get the attention and affection.  It doesn’t work that way.

The only people that “love” me are my parents, and they don’t count.  I know, I’m lucky to have them, and they would do anything for me, but I have my own kids, I know what that kind of love is.  But I’m married; I’m supposed to be unconditionally loved 24/7, but I’m not.  I know, she says she loves me, all the time, but she never DOES anything about it.  Never, ever for free.  It’s very aggravating.  If I want a hug I have to ask, or behave the right way, or be in the right mood; if I want anything more, then there’s a list of a dozen things that have to all line up for a minimum of 24 hours.  And then I look at the kids; I have two, unmarried children, and they have more sex in a week than I do in a year.

The bottom line: To sum all of this up, I am depressed because I feel like I deserve more than I’m getting, and I’m jealous of others who are breaking the rules and getting all the things that I long for.  I play fair, I try to make everyone happy, I give until I’m broke, I work until I collapse, I drive my 350 horsepower Camaro like it was a family sedan, never cut anyone off, have no tickets on my record, I tithe, I pay my bills on time, I do anything and everything that anyone at work or home asks of me, and I get a nod of approval for all of my efforts.  Never a bonus.  Never more than a “good job, now can you…” from anyone in this world.  No matter how hard I try, no matter how much work I do, still trying to follow the simple rules from elementary school, staying in line, waiting my turn, which never ever ever ever ever ever comes because I let everyone in the world step in front of me.

The truth: In reality, I don’t deserve any of those things.  If I got what I deserved, I would be eternally burning in a lake of fire.  My perspective is all wrong; God sent Jesus to die, He paid an extremely high price to redeem me & save me from the flames, and I have enjoyed peace and grace ever since I decided to trust Him.  I don’t deserve to break the law and speed around in my hot rod.  Jesus said we should obey the magistrates and they that have authority over us, and that was during a time that Jerusalem was being ruled by a malevolent, vile dictator.  Much less the cops who are actually (usually) enforcing the law without malice.  I will be content with what I have, because He will never leave me or forsake me.  That’s in the Bible somewhere, too.  I am blessed beyond measure in just having my salvation, and His Word, and the assurance that He will take care of me, no matter what.  Even if I spend an entire weekend drowning in whiskey, He may not be pleased, but He will never cast me out.  Just like my kids; sure, I’ll get mad, but they’ll always be my kids and I’ll always love them.  There is nothing they could ever do to NOT be my children, and that includes the one I adopted.

The solution: Putting this into practice is the part I have a hard time with.  When I’m jealous of some fancy new car, I need to remember how blessed I am to not have a car payment, and how nice my car is compared to the old rust-buckets that I used to have, and if Christ wants me to have a new car, then some day I will.  When someone bullies me in traffic, I have to remember that I’m following Christ, not my own path, I’m driving like I care about other people, and I don’t have to keep looking out for cops so I can try & slow down at the last second before they catch me.  I can feel sorry for someone who thinks he has to prove his worth by beating everyone to the red light.  And when I’m overwhelmed and stressed out, I need to stop & pray, be still and know that God is ultimately in control.  I need to yield and let Him work through me; then if the house looks like crap, it’s all His fault 🙂

Easier said than done, that’s for sure.  It’s so easy to forget that Jesus is the answer to every single problem there is.  Every time I find myself frustrated, I realize I’m not trusting God to do it, but working my butt off to do it in my own strength.  Every time I catch myself being jealous, I’m forgetting who He is and how He saved me and provides for me and how much I have, not just in money and posessions but in love and acceptance.  And when I need attention and my wife is ignoring me, I need to remember how much I love her and let her know how beautiful she is and how lucky I am to have her.

I really wouldn’t want to switch lives with anyone else.  If I really think about it, my life isn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t want to give up what I have – my wife, my kids, my home, my family – just so I can be a jerk with more stuff and shallow relationships.  I’m good.  As is.