Monday, May 31, 2010

In Which Tigger Recounts the Tale of Her Smashed Knee

Joyce Luck I am icing my knee. Why, do you ask? I fell running up a hill with a rainbow trout in my hands. And almost landed on a gopher snake. Don't ask.
Yesterday at 7:50pm Friends Only · Comment · Like Unlike
Stacia Mumm, Ted Dinwiddie and 2 others like this.
Nicole Hyde
Ha! Ha!
Yesterday at 7:51pm ·
Joyce Luck
And I can't even use drinking as an excuse. Damn it.
Yesterday at 7:52pm ·
Sarah Terez Rosenblum
It must be Sunday.
Yesterday at 7:53pm ·
Dee Styma
if i didn't know better, i'd say you were CHASING an injured gray squirrel, offering him a gay trout?
Yesterday at 7:54pm ·
Amy J. Putnam
Sounds like it could make a great country song.
Yesterday at 7:54pm ·
Janett Blythe
LOL.. Chelle should have been taping that. You might have won some money on America's Funniest Videos. Did the trout survive? Why were you running UP the hill with a trout? Was a bear chasing you?
Yesterday at 7:55pm ·
Lara Goshey
lol sound like me!! i step off a curb and end up in urgent care rofl
Yesterday at 7:58pm ·
Anne Marie McNeil
Hat Creek?
Yesterday at 7:59pm ·
Joyce Luck
Janett: no, but she practically peed herself laughing at me. The trout survived. I was trying to run him up a little hill from Hat Creek to her dad's pond (we catch trout out of the creek and then throw them into her dad's pond). Unfortunately, I fell. So while I'm lying there eating dirt, Chelle grabs the fish from me and gets it to the pond in time. It was a little stunned, but he swam away, no doubt thinking to himself, "That's the last time I'm falling for that bait crap"
Yesterday at 8:01pm ·
Joyce Luck
Then Chelle came back down the hill after tinkling in the bushes and pointed at the grass near me and said, "Look! A snake!"
Yesterday at 8:02pm ·
Joyce Luck
I first ascertained that there were no rattles and then I shrugged. The snake slithered away after Chelle tried poking it with a stick....I don't know why...maybe she was trying to make ME pee MY pants
Yesterday at 8:02pm ·
Jen Smith
blame it on some damn environmental group...they boobie trapped the path you were on cause you were fixin to eat a poor defenseless lil ol fish. they didn't plan on the runaway snake who barely escaped your path of destruction...
Yesterday at 8:03pm ·
Joyce Luck
And all without a safety net, folks! Applause, applause
Yesterday at 8:03pm ·
Joyce Luck
Jen: if there is a critter to be tripped over, I will find a way to do so.
Anne: yes. I'm here making the world safe for ... for .... I have no idea
Yesterday at 8:06pm ·
Corey Tubbs
Oh, crap. A SNAKE!!!!!!!!!
Yesterday at 8:19pm ·
Joyce Luck
Aw, he was a very young one and only about three feet long
Yesterday at 8:22pm ·
Corey Tubbs
That is precisely what ended my fishing career prematurely. A friggin' snake! If there was any fish unfortunate enough to have been snagged by my hook, it was going to be in for one helluva bumpy ride -- cause I JETTED up the hill, carrying my fishing pole over my shoulder, not even bothering to reel in the line! Now the snake was just a garter snake, but I didn't give a flying crap. It was a snake. I run from snakes. That's what I do, mang!
11 hours ago ·
Joyce Luck
LOL! I once almost stepped on a baby rattlesnake on a trail in Yosemite....I think that cured me of any snake SPIDERS. That is a different story.
11 hours ago ·
Janett Blythe
I don't like snakes, spiders or frogs. Looked inside my shed today to get something for the pool and the whole inside was one big spider web and a hundred little spiders. I'm buying all new pool stuff. LOL
11 hours ago ·
Joyce Luck
Ugh. Spiders. The hairy ones are the worst
11 hours ago ·
Janett Blythe
I've never looked that close to see hair, so I'll take your word on that one. LOL
11 hours ago ·
Joyce Luck
Now things are getting interesting. My knee has doubled in size and I can't bend it. Oops. Musta hit a rock when I landed or something.
11 hours ago ·
Joyce Luck
This is a very funny conversation. Maybe I'll copy and paste it to my blog. Does anybody care if I do that? I'll wait until tomorrow morning to give anybody objecting a chance to say no.
11 hours ago ·
Janett Blythe
You need to take some ibuprofen.
11 hours ago ·
Joyce Luck
I have. It just so happened "Aunt Flo" came to see me today too. Hmm, I wonder what else could go wrong today. There are still a few hours left...... I reckon I could fall out of bed or something.
11 hours ago ·
Corey Tubbs
Cool by me, Joyce. Do what you do. You and me are the opposite about snakes and spiders, though. I can deal with spiders: I just stomp or smash 'em with a heavy object, and I'm over it. But if they get on me, that's a different story! I find that I can do the Harlem Shake with surprising skill when that happens! But snakes??? Nah. There is not a snake alive that could catch me if I have even the slightest chance to escape!

There was also this one time in Jacksonville, FL when I was staying down there with my brother for awhile that I was riding my 15 speed down the sidewalk. I thought I spotted the head of one of those tiny lizards that always crossed my path, and I'd long since gotten used to. When its head actually lifted ABOVE the grass, however... Suffice it to say that I practically killed myself trying to peddle that bike faster than it was even built to go!!! Didn't look back until I was almost at the main highway. The snake was gone. Probably thinking "What in the Blue Blazes is wrong with THAT fool?"
10 hours ago ·
Joyce Luck
LOL! Isn't that funny how critters can unnerve us so? And then I think of elephants that are scared to death of mice. Or is that a myth?
10 hours ago ·
Corey Tubbs
Yeah, I think that's just a myth, J. lol
10 hours ago ·
Joyce Luck
10 hours ago ·
Leigh Colenda
actually, there may be some truth to the elephant/mouse thing. it's still up for discussion. didn't mythbusters do an experiment about it once?/ so sorry about your knee, joycie. a compression wrap may be in order to help keep the swelling from getting any worse. hopefully, you had full range of motion and no pain upon standing immediately after ... See Morethe fall. um, for the future, could you guys consider a bucket with a mixture of the stream water and the pond water for safer transport? of course, you'd probably trip over it.....
10 hours ago ·
Joyce Luck
LOL! Leigh! Good timing. My geeky self got curious so I just googled "are elephants afraid of mice?" and found that Mythbusters segment. Corey, check it out:
10 hours ago ·
Joyce Luck
Leigh, we wouldn't have to mix pond and creek water since the pond is fed by the creek anyway..... but a bucket of it isn't a bad idea! My knee is probably fine; I can bend it okay and walked just fine right after it happened. I think I just waited too long to ice it, but we weren't done fishing yet. I think I just banged it pretty well.
10 hours ago ·
Leigh Colenda
i love being a geek, too! if you do the bucket, try a little blaze orange on it.
10 hours ago ·
Joyce Luck
Is that a "Chuck" thing? I'm not "chuck" enough to know what a little blaze orange is. Whatcha talking bout?
10 hours ago ·
Leigh Colenda
definitely..really "chuck"!
10 hours ago ·
Joyce Luck
Dammit. I hate it when I don't pass the butch, I mean the chuck test. ;-)
10 hours ago ·
Leigh Colenda
uh, think you failed that earlier today when you fell down with a trout in your hands...running up hill. --can't even blame it on added momentum. (tee hee)
10 hours ago ·
Leigh Colenda
woops! did i just say "tee hee"?! --think i failed the chuck standard on that one.
10 hours ago ·
Tote Board Brad
whatevs. i saw that episode of Degrassi.
Joyce Luck
Well, fine. I'll just be the "soft chuck" bottom as usual. (TMI for some of you, sorry 'bout that)...then again I mentioned Aunt Flo so everybody knows my bidness 'round here
9 hours ago ·
Joyce Luck
Hey! Maybe I tripped on the snake. THAT is pretty chuck!
9 hours ago ·
Tote Board Brad
shit, maybe it was the camping upstate episode of gossip girl. who can remember.
9 hours ago ·
Joyce Luck
Doesn't matter... I still have no clue what you two are talking about LOL
9 hours ago ·
Dawn Cerbo Perrone
nature scares me.
3 hours ago ·
Write a comment...
UPDATE: The swelling has gone down considerably overnight and I can bend my knee just fine. No worries. It'll be sore for a couple of days, but apparently fish, snake, and I have all survived the incident without too much damage done.
SECOND UPDATE: the conversation continues on Facebook, in which we discuss the finer points of being freaked out in an outhouse by the idea of spiders crawling onto our naked hineys.

Happy Memorial Day

Today we honor our fallen war dead. Thank you, veterans, for giving the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we enjoy today. All of you are our heroes and heroines.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

OMG Cat Cannot Unsee the Horror

This is an OMG Cat I hadn't seen yet. I can see why he'd be a little horrified.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

RIP Dennis Hopper

Today we've lost a great actor and director. I loved Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet, Apocalypse Now, and, of course, the classic Easy Rider. He always played these characters on the edge. And I suppose that makes sense because he led much of his life teetering there himself. Hopper gave up booze and drugs in the mid 1980s but always identified primarily as a recovering alcoholic. He has said:

"The alcohol was awful. I was a terrible alcoholic. I mean, people used to ask how much drugs I did. I said, `I only do drugs so I can drink more`. I was doing the coke so I could drink more. I mean, I don`t know any other reason. I`d start drinking in the morning. I`d drink all day long."


"I`ve been sober now for 18 years [said in 2001]. With all the drugs, psychedelics and narcotics I did, I was [really] an alcoholic. Honestly, I only used to do cocaine so I could sober up and drink more. My last five years of drinking was a nightmare. I was drinking a half-gallon of rum with a fifth of rum on the side, in case I ran out, 28 beers a day, and three grams of cocaine just to keep me moving around. And I thought I was doing fine because I wasn`t crawling around drunk on the floor."

These two quotes alone capture the utter insanity of alcoholism. Hopper himself is testament to the blessings of sobriety. Rest in peace, man.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Roots of Jealousy

Who'd have thought I'd actually start to enjoy working on Step Four?! In rehab, I heard story after story about people who went back out because they couldn't face this step. After some initial squeamishness and fear, I'm finding that the rewards so outweigh any temporary feelings of regret that I'm turning out to like this step. I remember the one time I took magic mushrooms (psilocybin) way back in grad school, when I was stoned I had the feeling that... ah, suddenly everything made utter sense in the world. The blinders had been removed and life was now a brand new thing altogether. My perception was much sharper now. Yup. I was stoned.

But what I'm experiencing now is not unlike that feeling of suddenly dawning understanding. Except this time my mind is clear.

I was thinking about jealousy this morning and how it used to operate in my life. I always hated feeling jealous. Feeling those feelings made me believe I was, secretly, a small person. So I would tell myself to NOT feel jealous even when I did. Instead of examining the roots of my jealousy, I would just deny to myself and to others that I felt that way at all. And then I would drink that nagging feeling of "something is wrong here" away, so that I never, ever got around to dealing with all those root causes.

I remember the last time I felt viciously jealous. It's when I broke up with my ex Her Awesomeness (who is one of my dearest friends and supporters at the present). I didn't really want to break up with her. But I felt like I had to because our needs in the relationship were different at the time: I wanted exclusivity; she wanted the freedom to see other people. Since those needs clashed, I took my leave: so far, so good. Sometimes things just don't work out the way we'd like. But (you knew there had to be a "but.") Then she started seeing a woman she had some history with and when that woman strayed, Her Awesomeness's response was to immediately commit to an exclusive relationship.

OMG you can imagine how livid I was. Jealousy doesn't begin to describe how I felt. I didn't get it. Her new girlfriend was short, a troll; an idiot who didn't even have a bachelor's degree; a liar who called herself a chef when really she just worked as a baker for a local chain of bakeries; not to mention being a slut who probably had a nasty woman's disease. Not only that, she'd clearly played Her Awesomeness by pulling the stunt she'd pulled. WTF! How unfair! You get the idea.

It took me forever to get past my jealousy and anger because all my efforts were spent on venting, obsessing, and feeling self-righteously frustrated over the whole thing.

What a colossal waste of time. For the fact is, none of that ever did anything to make me feel better.

Had I only been willing to give myself an honest, hard look, I would've seen immediately that OF COURSE I would be jealous. She got the girl! She got the commitment I'd wanted. She'd succeeded where I'd failed. I secretly knew that but wouldn't acknowledge it, so instead of admitting I'd failed, I instead projected onto her all the shortcomings in the world so I could believe life was just unfair instead of facing the whys of that failure.

That's just dumb. And why wouldn't I let my mind go there?

Because I would've had to see that it was me who was insecure, fearful, and lacking in self-confidence. Period. Instead of working on my own lack of self-esteem, I tried to bolster it unsuccessfully by obsessing over this other woman, seething with anger at her (when, really, I barely knew her), and pissing my time away trying to stomach the idea that life is full of these kinds of injustices.

The bottom line is, it's much easier to hate and blame someone else than it is to admit something might be wrong with you. Every time that woman succeeded at something (finishing a triathlon, getting a new job, hell, even getting a damn haircut that people liked), it drove me apeshit. When Her Awesomeness finally broke up with this woman, you would've thought I'd won Mega Millions. Vindication! Life is fair after all!

Uh, no. Her Awesomeness didn't come crawling back to me pleading for forgiveness and newly found enlightenment, extolling my charms, wit, and beauty. She was like, "Joyce Who?"

And even if she had--even if she had, every time this woman or another woman would have looked at her sideways, I still would've fallen right back into being jealous. And since Her Awesomeness happens to be a very attractive, charismatic, and smart person, I would have been constantly unhappy in a relationship with her anyway, at least at that point in my own personal evolution... because I hadn't yet dealt with my own insecurities and my own lack of self-esteem.

The lesson, I guess, is that our minds are our biggest prisons. You will never be happy, you will never feel content, you will never feel serenity, peace of mind, and a sense of well-being as long as you haven't dealt with your own shit. No amount of money, popularity, cosmetic surgery, a Porsche, a best seller, and being the love interest of Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt (or both) can make you happy.

Only you can make you happy.

It's a shame it took me until I was 47 years old to really get that.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Queen Nutmeg Whitman

My Dear Loyal Subjects:

As Queen of eBay, We make this proclamation:

You shall elect Us the new Governor of the Kingdom of California, and We shall grace you with Our wit, charm, bleating, and frumpiness whilst We bully the electorate into doing as We bid. Our coffers remain bottomless, and even though We have always viewed the political process with disdain (so tacky), We see it as a temporary albeit necessary evil as We attempt to purchase that office with Our proposed "Buy It Now" option.

Once elected, We shall dispatch the National Guard to the border to shoo away those frightfully awful Mexicans. They complain there are no opportunities at home, no tortillas. We say, "Let them eat flan!"

Our opponent, Steve Poizner, who dares to oppose Us in his own run for this High Office, is a bleeding heart liberal who (and We daresay this is shameful gossip and We would never pass it along except that We will because We are the Queen) is secretly carrying on with Barbara Boxer. We adamantly deny We ever went on record supporting Dame Boxer. My loyal subjects, do not believe the evidence before you. Videos prevaricate. We never have. We are the Queen.

With Our usual magnanimity, We decree that We shall change all laws to support privately owned and public corporations, especially those in which We own stock. We shall defy all efforts to switch to green technology as any move to protect the environment is fruitless--without business, there are no people, and without people, why, there is no need for an environment.

As for the rights of homosexuals, like Our old friend Queen Victoria, We just don't believe in lesbians.

A good Queen is judged by the company she keeps, so We have drawn to ourselves a court of jolly jesters including Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Condoleezza Rice. They shall speak for Us as We find the Press distasteful and beneath Us and shall not grant them an audience.

See ya in Sacramento, suckerz.

All best regards,
Queen Nutmeg

Here's Lookin' at Ya, Kid

I get surly when I grade too many essays. It's enough to make me want to go back on Cymbalta. So, instead, I will just send out a general "piss off" to anybody who might annoy me today... you know, to get it out of the way so I can get on with my day. So, this is for those whom I abhor, and may you enjoy smelling your own bullshyte (with apologies to those of gentler sensitivities):

Open thread. Jibber your jabber, as Kos would say.

Cool Stuff: Kurt's Dad Reacts

If you missed this episode of Glee (the "Lady Gaga" one), you missed it when Finn snaps and starts spewing at Kurt for his "faggy lamp" and "faggy blanket." Kurt's Dad overhears, storms in, and gives Finn a piece of his mind. Later in the show, Finn redeems himself after digesting for a while how hate operates in the world.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Allure of Misinformation

An interesting thing happened on Facebook today. Some right-winger found out that President Obama would be visiting Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend, so while he’s there, on Memorial Day he’ll be honoring veterans at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery while Vice President Joe Biden lays the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington. Obama did personally place the wreath at Arlington last year.

Nothing alarming about this fact. In 1983, President Reagan attended a summit meeting in Williamsburg, Va., on Memorial Day while Deputy Secretary of Defense W. Paul Thayer laid the wreath at Arlington Cemetery. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush attended a ceremony in Kennebunkport, Maine (where he also reportedly played a round of golf) while VP Dan Quayle laid the wreath at Arlington. In 2002, President George W. Bush commemorated Memorial Day at Normandy.

But you can be sure there’s an opportunist ready to find a reason to smear the President whenever Obama so much as sneezes. This wily individual set off a chain of events by tweeting that Obama would be skipping honoring veterans at Arlington on Monday while going on vacation in Chicago.

It was picked up by some Right Wing group on Facebook that has previously used opportunities such as this to ask slanted “yes” or “no” questions designed to get the answer they want, and then sign you (and your FB friends) onto their political cause. (Reminds me of a tactic the Moral Majority used to use—if you even wrote them asking for literature, they’d automatically make you a member of their club so they could claim membership in the millions. I once had a frustrated gay friend who had done just that for a college report in his religious studies class, and he kept getting gay-baiting literature from Jerry Falwell. After numerous requests to be removed from their list, he finally moved, so their mail stopped being forwarded to him. As a gay Christian, he truly hated being counted as a member of the Moral Majority—which, he always hastened to add, “was neither.”)

But back to the story. Today I was greeted on Facebook by no fewer than half a dozen friends who’d fallen for the “Poll Scheme” and gotten angry at President Obama for “dissing” our troops—when nothing could be further from the truth.

My friends: I love you all. Our country is divided enough as it is with grandstanding, exaggerating, and hate-filled speech slung around generously by people of all persuasions. By hopping on the bandwagon, we condone this behavior. We should condemn it. When we see stuff like this, before getting outraged, consider the source and check it out before you act to pass along such misinformation. When I first saw the poll, my “bs” alarm went off, so I googled “Obama not to lay wreath at Arlington” and a news story from an impartial news source promptly popped up. It’s not hard to do. We just need to remember that, in this age of information, some people take advantage by disseminating misinformation.

These things are a mere distraction, meant to anger us and meant to keep us occupied by non-issues. Consider instead what is truly worthy of our attention today.

The oil spill in the Gulf leaps immediately to mind. The “Drill, Baby, Drill” folks have been deafeningly silent throughout this whole crisis. I would be more interested in exploring that as opposed to whether it’s disrespectful of the President to honor our troops at a Chicago cemetery instead of one outside of Washington, DC. Choose your battles. Choose them wisely. And read. Read. Read.

This Could Be on Fox News!

Seriously. That's what makes it so funny.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Step Four: Dealing With Loss

Well, I got a brief reprieve: I was supposed to meet with my sponsor today to start going through my step four work (the past ten years), but something came up for her so I let her off the hook and we rescheduled. (It really is no big deal, Ev.) Here I sit smelling like Ben-Gay and with my wrist in a brace anyway. Tendonitis flaring up ... too many games of Haven and Castle Age on Facebook along with grading essays. So ... alas, I must set aside the essays for today as my poor wrist heals. Heh.

But actually the extra time affords me the opportunity to start thinking about the next ten years of my life, where my job in the private sector played a big role in my drinking to cope and where the loss of my son (I've blogged about that here) also led to an earlier three-year drinking binge much like the one I just emerged from eight months ago. Already I'm looking at losing David in a different way than I did before. Before, I was just stuck in a "I'm a victim of my ex" mode, latching onto the opinion of several therapists, who all agreed that my ex's decision to cut me out of his life was motivated by her desire to punish me. I don't dispute that, but neither did I own my part in her motivation. Fact is, it was I who decided, quite impulsively, to leave that relationship. It was I who decided to ignore all the warning signs that my ex would make a move to strike him from my life. The truth is that she'd threatened that very thing before, which I (at the time) disregarded as a bluff on her part, a kind of emotional blackmail to force me to stay in a relationship I no longer wanted to be in.

So I played the part of the innocent victim who was being punished simply because she was getting even for me breaking up with her. It wasn't really quite that simple.

I chose to believe in a "pie in the sky" idea that I'd be allowed to talk weekly on the phone with my son; that a couple times a year, I'd be allowed to fly back to Ohio to visit him; and that when he was older, maybe he'd even be able to come out and spend summers with me here in San Francisco. In exchange for that, I agreed to sign over to her my half of the house we'd bought together, and I gave her all of my furniture and any furnishings we'd purchased together so that David's environment would change as little as possible. I thought that was awfully big of me. She never said this, but I expect (in retrospect) she thought I was just trying to buy the privilege of continuing to be David's mom while being uninvolved in his life and to assuage my own guilty conscience over abandoning him.

At the time, I had all these romantic ideals that I was choosing love (or giving love a chance) and doing what was right for me in leaving a relationship that had gone sour; I had talked myself into believing that to stay in a troubled relationship and model that to a child was not a reasonable action. But, honestly, who can know? We can't. It is entirely possible that, had I stayed, my ex and I could've worked things out somehow and rebuilt a healthy relationship. I didn't acknowledge at the time that I was an alcoholic, so I didn't see (then) my drinking to be a problem. I saw my ex's demands for abstinence as controlling; I saw her sexual refusals to be just so much of the "vaginal vise" some women subject their partners to in order to get what they want ("I won't have sex with you until you [fill in the blank]," and so on. To my own credit, I had tried a couple of therapists with my ex, and it is a fact that whenever the therapist suggested that she was just as much responsible for our difficulties as I was, she would lose her temper and declare the therapist a quack. At the end, my ex out-and-out insisted she had no problems at all; that everything was just me, so only I should see a therapist. So you get the idea. I did very much feel like I was beating my head against a wall, and the only "out" was just that: OUT. To go. To leave.

Which I did, and she's made me pay for it, no question.

I haven't seen nor spoken with David since he was three and a half. Probably neither one of us would recognize the other on the street nowadays if we passed. There have been days when that has been an awfully hard thing to swallow.

But, you know, I was still wrong in making the impulsive decision I did. I made it quickly; within a week, I was packing up my stuff, took a temporary leave of absence from work; and bought a plane ticket to California. I could just as easily have been less impulsive and more thoughtful in my choices. I could've stayed in Ohio and moved into an apartment. I could've kept my job and gotten legal paperwork drawn up to see to it I would still have visitation rights. I did none of those things. It didn't occur to me to do any of those things. I was too busy being a child, dashing off impulsively, in anger and full of alcoholic, self-righteous thinking, believing that I could live half a continent away in California and still remain a part of David's life.

No wonder my ex was frustrated with me. She just more or less put her foot down, once I'd signed over the papers to the house, and said, "Sorry. You made your bed; now go lie in it." And she has held onto that grudge ever since.

That used to make me angry. Now it just makes me sad, both for her and for David. There are days I worry for him, too.

So. Needless to say, nowadays I don't think very much of people who make impulsive and selfish decisions when a child is involved. It's because I did that. There. I've said it. And not saying that led to years and years of anguish and binge drinking, and for all I know, the Universe was actually just looking out for David by having my ex decide to keep me away from him.

Do I hate myself? No. I did the best I could do at the time, which wasn't much. It's not like I had the intentional purpose of hurting anyone. It's not like I'm some psychopathic or narcissistic mean person. I was a sick person with good intentions, but you know what they say about the road to hell. My ex and I both could have handled the situation so much better, in so many ways. The best thing I can do now is to not ever make impulsive decisions like that again (something I actually did eight months ago when I decided to go to rehab -- I went there instead of somewhere else. And I thank God I did. It would've been a replay of this situation all over again, just with some different details and no child involved). The best thing I can do now is to not brook others' impulsive decisions if I am asked for advice or help, or if that impulsive act impacts me or my loved ones in some way. If you make the decision to hop on my wife's bones because you think she's hot, you can bet your ass I'm going to step in your way and ask you what the hell you think you're doing.

Impulsive people cross boundaries all the time. Been there, did that too.

There's no moral to this story, either, I'm afraid. It's just the same stuff I've been saying for months now: learn from your mistakes. Own your part of things. Forgive others (and yourself) for your screw-ups. Wipe the slate clear and start doing things right from here on out. Keep your side of the street clean. Don't get involved in others' bullshit. Don't try to control that which you can't control. Wish others well, but if they're going to bring you down or trigger your drinking, walk away from them. At the end of the day, review your choices and make sure you haven't been kidding yourself about something. Be aware of your own personal agendas. The only person you can ever be 100% responsible for is YOU.

Natasha Bedingfield: "Unwritten"

Like "Half Acre," here's another song that broke through because of an advertisement! (It's always these inspirational songs, isn't it?) This one is on my mind because it shuffled its way into my iTunes playlist while I was running on the treadmill this morning.

Monday, May 24, 2010

And Speaking of Leaps to Stay Away From ...

The one ride neither Chelle nor I dared to try yesterday was the Xtreme Sky Flyer. In this photo, it looks like the St. Louis Arch! So at first I was thinking, "Was it that, a replica?" But it's just a bunch of steel braces with no way to get up into it (like the St. Louis Arch, which I once visited, by the way, but when I saw the line, I said, "Not worth the wait." When I lived in Iowa City, a friend of mine lived briefly in St. Louis working as an editor at what was then the CV Mosby textbook company. I freelanced for her, so I'd take occasional trips down to that city to visit her. She couldn't wait to get out of there. Ice storms, blight, a gray unappealing brewtown, home to Anheuser-Busch. The only other person I've ever known from St. Louis grew up there and could not wait to leave, either. The lesbian community was just weird there. I went to some bar once with my friend and with another woman who was a med student at Washington University (who, now that I think of it, also couldn't wait to finish her degree and leave!) It was the dead of winter and my friend, Pat, was chortling over how the lesbians there that she knew professionally bought furs that they brought out of storage to wear in the cold weather. Pat was more your leather jacket kinda gal who doesn't have a problem with black folks. She always said the best thing to ever come out of St. Louis was the barbecue, and even that they stole from Kansas City.)

(And Christy, I know you're from the St. Louis area, so this is not a slam of you. Your very presence improves that town. Smile.)

But I'm digressing anyway. (Actually I'm postponing grading papers, if you must know the truth.) Back to the ride. The things in the photo are just the support system for this ride that is, essentially, a fake skydiving experience. They strap several people into a harness and slingshot them into the air. It's hard to describe. Not only was I not about to give that a try (I'd rather have sex with a mule!), you had to pay extra for the experience (you get a video of your ride). To really appreciate it, here is one of the videos from Youtube:

All I have to say about this ride is that I'm glad I'm sober now because if I'd had a few drinks in me, I might've been foolish enough to give that thing a shot. Have I mentioned lately how glad I am to have been restored to sanity? Impulsivity is a lot like being shot out across the air in this ride. Nine times out of ten, you'll just land in the bushes and get scratched up all over (if you're lucky).

There but for the grace of God go I.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Speaking of Big Leaps ...

... Chelle and I went to Great America today, and we decided to try this 224 foot Sky Drop ride.

Did I mention that I'm afraid of heights?

I'm not afraid of roller coasters. Don't ask me to explain; phobias are totally irrational. Being strapped safely into a roller coaster doesn't terrify me at all. It can go upside down, through corkscrews, plunge down big drops at lightning speed, and I just giggle and "Yeehaw!" my way through the ride. (Meanwhile, Chelle looked like she wanted to lose her lunch, but then again, fried amusement park food doesn't lend itself to staying down anyway.)

But because she was willing to go on roller coasters that made her blanch, I offered to return the favor by doing this Sky Drop. She's not afraid of heights.

At at the top, I gazed way out over the Bay Area hills and started repeating, "This is freaking me out, this is freaking me out," over and over to acknowledge my fear and calm myself. Then the plunge began! I started giggling. Out of Chelle's mouth came a terse, "Oh shit. Fuck."

And then it was over and we went on a nice easy horsey ride.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jumping Headlong into the Abyss

Well, except for one more final to proctor on Wednesday, I’m done for the semester. Correction: there’s always the grading. But once final grades are submitted, I’m home free until summer session begins, and a colleague and I have arranged our schedules in the Writing Center so that each of us has to work only three weeks of the six-week term. Needless to say, I am stoked!

And now it occurs to me that, once fall semester commences, my one year sobriety date will arrive. September 4, to be exact. That was the day I arrived, hungover, at Mountain Vista Farm, having had one last bender the night before. It wasn’t even a big blowout one—some Belgian beer (hey, if you’re going to go out, go out well) and then a bottle or so of wine. I remember I went to bed at midnight feeling fairly buzzed but not out-and-out drunk. Nevertheless, the next morning, eleven hours later when I checked in at the Farm, I still blew a .04.

You tell me how big a problem I had. I wonder sometimes, when I really did feel falling down drunk, what my blood alcohol level was.

It wasn’t unusual for someone to come into rehab intoxicated and blowing a 3- or even a 4-point-something. That’s tolerance for you.

I think of kids who die in hazing accidents because of their BAC. I think of friends I know who occasionally drink to excess and still get behind the wheel of a car. You’d suppose something like a DUI would serve as a wake-up call, but nope. It’s so easy to say, “It was random—I don’t drive drunk all that much, or not very far, so it was just bad luck,” or “if the timing’s right, you can have just two drinks and blow an .08 and get nailed for that,” or “I just forgot to eat something”--and the excuses go on and on.

Denial is a powerful thing. That first step isn’t a step—it’s a terrifying leap. No one wants to make it; no one wants to believe they genuinely can’t control their drinking. To admit to being alcoholic is tantamount to admitting you know you can’t ever, ever have a drink again. The majority of alcoholics don’t ever get that far. We’ll admit we have a problem; we’ll admit we need to cut back; we’ll admit to just about anything BUT the fact that we can never drink again.

I think to myself, what if I suddenly developed an allergy to chocolate and could never eat chocolate again? That would suck. Still, it wouldn’t freak me out. Yet, facing the fact that I could never drink again Freaked. My. Ass. Out.

“Oh my god, I’ll be so boring!” “I’ll never have fun again!” “Dinners out without wine will be awful.” “Vacation without a cocktail? How could I?” You might as well have told me I’d spend the rest of my life in a rocking chair, frail and ailing, clacking knitting needles all day long. Without alcohol, I believed, my life would be over.

It’s desperation that finally makes you take the leap. It took me 47 years to reach that desperate point. So, finally, I made that jump into the great abyss, the scary unknown of a booze-free life.

I leaped, and I was stunned.

I didn’t fall. I lifted my wings and flew.

Okay, Here It Is

The gauntlet has been thrown down!

Actually, not really. I've mentioned my weight loss online and have my old bodybuilding photo posted on occasion (to inspire myself by reminding myself I CAN, and WILL, look like that again!) on Facebook, and people keep asking me to post a current photo. So here it is.

In this photo, taken this morning in my bathroom mirror--which is a tricky proposition and why I look like an utter twat--I am wearing the same shorts I used to wear in rehab all the time. For those who saw me at the fair tracks last summer (or at Del Mar when we went), these shorts used to fit me. I promise I am not sucking in my gut in this photo. I really have lost quite a few inches off my waist and hips and all over, for a total of about thirty pounds. I'd still like to drop about 20 more. Then we should be able to see my abs again.

I need to work on that smile, huh?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Jane Lynch on Rush Limbaugh

Sue Sylvester strikes again. OUTSTANDING!

Aye, Mateys, This Facebook Option Be For Ye

On Facebook, on your "home" page, Scroll all the way down to the bottom of your screen. On the bottom left corner in little blue letters, click "English (US)." When the language selection appears, select "English Pirate" (it's in Beta), and watch what happens.

Personally, I can live without all the bottles o' rum, but I be sure me many shipmates can make good use o' those.

Shakira: "Gypsy"

Every now and then a new one comes out that I just like.


I'm thinking about obsessions today. As my "sober time" increases, I find I obsess much less about things. The small stuff really used to get to me. If someone looked at me sideways, I'd worry about it all day and into the next day until I was distracted by a new obsession. If something didn't work out the way I'd wanted, I'd relive it over and over in my head, trying to figure out where things got off track. But because I'd never want to admit to myself I'd done something wrong, I'd cook up some uncontrollable "bad thing" the other person had done to thwart us or some unforeseeable circumstance interfering, akin to a tornado touching down.

Today I understand that very rarely do things happen in a vacuum, and there's always plenty of blame to go around for all parties involved. Some things can't be helped; some things can. The key is to learn from it and move on.

Because I could never learn from a situation, they always remained unresolved in my own head and I couldn't really move on. I hated that "loose ends" feeling. I always wanted some kind of vindication, and because it wasn't forthcoming, I couldn't get past it. I fretted over people and situations for years sometimes. Not so badly I was kept awake nights and such (don't get me wrong), but it was hard to just put something down altogether. I obsessed. It's no wonder I drank.

But the drinking, of course, didn't make it better. It only kept me stuck.

I look at some people now with a fair amount of empathy because I can see only too clearly that they're stuck obsessing over something. Empathy: because I know it's not a fun place to be in. At the same time, I feel, in some cases, a bit of annoyance, especially if the obsession involves me. Look here, I want to say. I've owned my part of things, have learned, and have moved on. So, please stop involving me in your unresolved crap. Or, if you have something to say, just say it. I promise, there is no way I can jump out of the computer and bite you. Just say what you want to say. And then move on. Life is too short.

One thing's for sure: people who obsess over things are NOT mentally healthy. I know. I've been there. I was sick.

If you're obsessing over something, snap out of it. Get help. That may sound mean, but it is actually the best, most loving advice I can give you.

No Worries

A friend has expressed concern that I'm tapering off Cymbalta without my doctor's supervision. Before somebody else thinks the same thing, STOP right there! I most certainly have discussed it with my doctor. Thanks for any concern, but I'm quite okay. Whining, sure. Okay, yes. I will also say that even when I'm feeling sick, coming off Paxil was way, way harder. Now back to your regularly scheduled day, and may the Zap Force be with you.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Schmalta Cymbalta

Geez Louise, seems like LOTS of my friends on Facebook have been on a variety of SSRI's....everything from Paxil to Effexor to Wellbutrin to you name it.

It's good to know it's not just me who gets the zaps!

Last night I felt positively sick, so I broke down and took a quarter of a pill. Since the half life of Cymbalta is 36 hours, going 1/2 pill every other day might give me a very sick 12 hour window every other day. So I'm going to do what I did when I came off Paxil and just take a 1/4 dose about every 30 hours instead. That should keep me from feeling too, too horrible, and I'll be taking in the same amount of drug every couple days. Then hopefully I can just step all the way off sometime next week or until I run out of medicine, whichever comes first.

I like my friend Alison's advice...when you get a zap, pretend you're a superhero! LOL

That's all I've got for today. No deep thoughts, I'm afraid.

Oh, I did start rereading James Michener's Hawaii last night. I'd forgotten the first part is basically about how the islands were formed. Not the most attention-grabbing opener, I will say that. Then again, I was having trouble reading the words ... no amount of squinting was helping.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Withdrawing from Cymbalta

I went on Cymbalta a little over a year ago, when I was experiencing crazy mood swings. Chelle dragged me in to see the doctor because I was driving her apeshit. I gave a list of symptoms: mood swings, anxiety, irregular periods, sweats, occasional chills. I'm 47. We decided more than likely I was just suffering from perimenopause. So I had two choices: have bloodwork done and then have an estrogen regime worked out for me, or try Cymbalta. Apparently it has proven to help with menopausal symptoms.

Well, there's been a lot of press about estrogen treatments being linked to breast cancer, so I went with the Cymbalta. It did seem to help my mood swings--I chilled out considerably. But the sweats and stuff didn't get better, of course.

Eight months ago, I got sober and THAT got rid of the sweats, shakiness, irritability, etc, all related to alcohol withdrawal. I may be perimenopausal, but I don't think I need Cymbalta anymore for anxiety and mood swings because those things have essentially vanished from my life.

I am presently tapering off Cymbalta. It's no picnic.

SSRI's are notoriously uncomfortable to come off. Cold turkey is consequently a terrible idea. My doctor is having me go from 30 mgs daily to 15mgs daily (I have to open the capsule and pour the contents in a little bowl, then take half of it since there are no 15mg capsules). I've been doing this for a little over a week. Withdrawal symptoms have included extreme tiredness and achiness, dizziness, a spacey feeling, and vague "zaps" in my head. Don't know how else to describe them. They're like small electrical jolts, if I turn my head quickly or stand up suddenly).

Today I'm going to 15mg every other day. So I will experience another round of withdrawal symptoms. I didn't take any Cymbalta this morning, so I anticipate an intensification of symptoms in a few more hours, maybe tonight.

Once those lessen, in about another week or so, I should be able to come off entirely. (If that proves too uncomfortable, I suppose I could always divide one capsule into quarter doses--that's kind of what I had to do when I came off Paxil eight or nine years ago--but I hope not. It took me three months to wean off Paxil, and I took it for less than a year.)

Anyway, just letting y'all know. So if I disappear for a few days, it's probably because I'm not feeling too great and also because I have a ton of final essays and exams to grade.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Power of Choice

I was writing about cutting people the other day ... I have embraced lately the practice (oh, such power!) of gently letting go of people whose behaviors might serve as triggers for me. When I look at it, it seems to me the ones I'm letting go are the ones who are persistently negative and/or are surrounded by drama. There are the rare few whom I think are just sick, evil people--folks with severe character flaws, or what the shrinks call "personality disorders." You know, the real narcissists, the borderlines, the antisocials, etc.

I've actually had to deal face-to-face with only one such severely flawed person (at least that I'm aware of). She was the meanest, lyingest control freak ever. And she didn't seem to have one whit of conscience. She rolled right over people, uprooting their lives, and then blaming them for being the suckers who'd believed in her in the first place. She was the President and CEO of a Silicon Valley start-up, went around telling people she had a PhD (it was even on her business card) when she was a college dropout, and basically lied to investors about having a product in development that would make them tons of money. She'd driven something like three such ventures into the ground already, but she always had a story to justify why things like that happened. "It's business, blah blah blah," and she'd fire off a million excuses, all of them believable to the person who didn't know her personally and who wanted to get in on the Movement. People lost millions on her garbage company. (Thank God I wasn't one of them.) She was small potatoes enough that the SEC never came after her, but I feel pretty sure if anyone had gone over her books, they would've found example after example of misuse of funds based on her petty vendettas or personal desires to host a bang-up company party in Las Vegas with a rock star making an appearance (when meanwhile, the company was actually going bankrupt behind the scenes).

Her company has now gone utterly down the toilet, but I'm pretty sure she's up to her old schemes with some other venture, conning others out of their cash because, as far as I know, she's yet to suffer any real consequences for what she does. It also goes on because she badmouths everybody who could possibly blow the lid off her operations; her latest batch of "victims" are people who just believe her when she says it's everybody else who's got the vendetta. Moral of the story: beware the failed business owner who can't find a single former employee who has stood behind her over, say, more than a couple of years, and beware the failed business owner who packs her own Board with friends who know nothing of the actual business she's presiding over. And beware the former business owner who has streams of "disgruntled former employees" in her background.

I tried ONE time to fight back against a person like this. I wound up having my personal life grossly invaded by a subpoena, false accusations cooked up against me (ostensibly for "stealing company secrets" when I had done no such a thing, having worked for that company as a freelancer between jobs, helping them with a mailing project and not even coming near their phony technology--like an English major would understand it anyway)...all because she didn't like me attempting to warn people away from her. She was also pissed at me because she told people "I stole her girlfriend" if said girlfriend hadn't broken up with her before we even met and didn't have a mind of her own anyway. I had to hire an attorney to quash the subpoena (successfully) and go through a lot of headaches just to get this woman off my back. And pretty much all for nothing.

Because the fact was, I was trying to save people from themselves. Everybody I warned got sucked into her bullshit anyway. They wound up learning the hard way and reapproaching me years later with an apology. It was nice to be ultimately vindicated, but the experience itself had not been worth it to me. That's what I had to learn the hard way. Pick your battles. Don't try to control something you can't control.

So, what can I control?

I CAN control the types of people I invite into my life. Nowadays, if this woman entered my life, I would put out my hands and block her entrance into it. "Not interested! Find somebody else to play with."

I actually said a similar thing to somebody about a month or so ago when I realized they were just another one of those negative types, the energy sappers I've blogged about before here. I simply said, "I think I'll go find another sandbox to play in." And, I blocked them on Facebook and deleted a link to their blog on this blog. I want no part of them. My time now is only for the people I choose to have in my life--and they are the ones who add richness and depth to it, who aren't looking for an audience or a partner-in-crime to justify bad behavior, who aren't driven by an agenda to be a jerk all the time. It's true you are known by the company you keep--and my friends nowadays are healthier people, people who are full of love, people who are kind, people who give and take in equal doses.

Nobody's perfect; nobody is totally free of drama all the time. I don't have that expectation, and I sure as hell hope no one has that expectation of me.

But I reject constant negativity and drama and lies and all the bad stuff that comes with those things, because those are the things that make me want to drink. I understand now that even though those people might have a few good qualities, I can't save them and I can't change them.

The only control I have over them is my own power to choose. I choose to walk away and leave them to their own devices.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Who Do Your Lies Really Hurt?

Richard Nixon once said, "If you are ever going to lie, you go to jail for the lie rather than the crime. So believe me, don't ever lie." Boy, did he know what he was talking about. It was the cover-up that got him in trouble, not so much the crime.

This pretty much applies to anybody. When do we really get mad at someone? It's seldom for anything they did. Nope, it's because they tried to hide from us what they did.

So, I've been thinking today about lies again. Yes, I've blogged about them here and here.

The more "sober time" I get, the more I realize that lies wind up hurting us most times more than they actually hurt others, so it makes very little sense to lie at all. (The occasional "moral" exception can be all right, but be prepared to live with the consequences of your lie. At least be aware of what you're doing. I could easily live with lying to the Nazis about Anne Frank hiding upstairs in my attic. I choose those consequences. I can't easily live with lying to my wife that I'm sneaking drinks when she's at work. Even if I get away with it, the lie itself will ruin me. You're only as sick as your secrets.)

That's a hypothetical--I'm not sneaking drinks, y'all.

Working on my Fourth Step this morning, I was struck, when unraveling the dynamics of a past relationship with someone who is very close to me now (hi, Your Awesomeness! Yup, I'm writing about YOU today)...I was struck by how many lies were involved among no fewer than three of us when our original relationship went south so many years ago. I was lying by omission by not telling Her Awesomeness some things a third party had done, but the third party had forbidden Her Awesomeness to discuss the situation with me because she knew I knew the tremendous secret she was protecting; meanwhile, Her Awesomeness had been keeping secret from me the nature of her involvement with the Third Party. LOL!

How silly the whole thing. Had Ms. Third Party simply been honest with Her Awesomeness at the very beginning, none of the other lies would have ever occurred. That's how lies are. You start rolling the snowball down the hill--and here's the key thing--it's not just YOUR lies being added to the original snowball. Other people are drawn in and wind up adding to the snowball too. At the very least, they're just misinformed, so they pass on the lie unintentionally. And then there's a huge honkin' snowball that's rolling over everybody.

So when you're tempted to tell an untruth, examine your motives. If you're lying because you want to rationalize a bad behavior, that should tell you something. If you're lying because you want to protect someone from the truth, are you positive you're not actually doing them more harm than good? If you're lying because you don't want to suffer the consequences of a bad behavior, are you sure suffering the consequences won't actually be preferable to suffering the consequences of the lie?

Lies betray trust, tell others that you haven't learned from a mistake, and involve others in your bullshit. When you lie to yourself and pass those lies along, you are denying who you really are and are keeping the world from knowing the real you. That doesn't serve them and worse, this selfish motive for lying is the very thing that's hurting you. When you lie, you're taking a shit on your own reputation.

Bottom line: it's rare that a lie is ever worth it.

We all agree with that. We learned that from our mommies and daddies.

So live it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Angry Dragon Is Introduced to the Starting Gate

Here's our filly practicing with the starting gate. She's farthest from us in the video, with the blaze; a Smarty Jones colt is practicing next to her. Love how he's got his ears pinned while she looks pretty disinterested in the whole affair. Then the gate opens and she walks out looking like a princess, swishes her tail, and then breaks into a gentle trot.

Preakness Super High Five

I just did a cheap $8 one since they decided to put the Super High 5 on this race, which is a fun idea. Treated it as a kind of cover bet.

My ticket: 10/7,8/7,8/6/2,3,9,12

Other bets: 6,7,8 trifecta $6

superfecta: 7/6,8/6,8/ALL $18

$20 exacta box with 6,7,8,10,12

UPDATE: well, I was right about Lucky and Jackson Bend, but First Dude?! LOL

Friday, May 14, 2010

Preakness Picks

I don't think Super Saver will get away with the dream trip he got in the Kentucky Derby, nor will he get the early breakneck pace. Lookin At Lucky should do much better without all the bumping and jostling he took in that race (in the one hole, an abysmal post). Plus it could very well be a positive jockey switch for Bob Baffert, putting Martin Garcia aboard. Garcia has been hitting with Baffert at an excellent 30+% clip down south in California. (And I just like Martin, period. Remember when he was a double bug boy at Golden Gate Fields.) Likely to be overlooked: Jackson Bend, a horse I also liked in the Derby, but who also had a bad trip and didn't take to the slop. Cross out that race, and he's a very consistent horse with a lot of heart and good Beyer speed figures. To round out the superfecta, I have to like Paddy O'Prado, who put in his best performance yet in the Kentucky Derby and should be able to at least hit the board.

I'm doing a simple $24 superfecta box. So, $1 box 6,7,8, and 10. We'll hope the favorite isn't the one who comes out on top. Actually, assuming Super Saver will be the favorite, you might just bet against him by doing 7/6,8/6,8/10. If you're doing exactas and trifectas, another horse to consider throwing in is Pleasant Prince and/or Dublin. Or do a dime superfecta and include a bunch of longshots in the third and fourth legs. If the odds are short on my top four choices, that's the tactic I'll be more likely to take. (UPDATE: can't do dime supers at Pimlico, so I'm likely to add a couple more horses to the bottom of the superfecta above.)

Check in tomorrow for additional picks such as Pick 4's and the like, or any last minute changes.

Good luck!

(Oh, the photo: that's last year's winner, Rachel Alexandra)

Lily Allen - Fuck You [ HQ live ]

Such language! But fun to play if you're having a bad day because of some small-minded jerk!

Thanks to Heather for the heads up.

Hem: "Half Acre"

Back by popular demand!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Meaning of the Fourth Step

My pal Dawn and I were chatting this afternoon about "owning" your part of things. I guess this keeps coming up lately because I'm plodding my way through Step Four, which requires that I do a complete and thorough moral inventory. It's something you do without judging yourself; feeling rotten about your behaviors isn't the goal of the Step. Rather, it's to clear the decks, figure out what behaviors you've committed that violate your own moral code (usually alcohol will be a part of it), and learn from those mistakes or bad thinking that led you to do what you did in the first place. Truth is, if you don't do this, alcoholic or not, you don't grow, you don't learn, and you're doomed to keep repeating the behavior.

We've all done it ... keep repeating the same behavior or putting ourselves in the same situation and expecting a different result. That, of course, is insanity. But it's what alcoholics do. We keep thinking, "It'll be different this time." "The situation is not exactly like that last one because [fill in the blank]." "Okay, I'll try this again but just do [insert the tweak] instead." And so on.

We'd much rather believe that bad things happen to us because of things we had no control over. Then we can't really blame ourselves. "I couldn't have known so-and-so would do this" or "that" or that "[insert whatever reason here]." Yes? Have you done that? I know I used to do that, quite regularly.

So, I managed to reach the ripe old age of 47 without really growing up much.

I did manage to pick up some wisdom along the way, but I also could've avoided much anguish and would've hurt a lot fewer people had I only been willing to do an honest inventory of my own behaviors and learned from them. Nope, I was too busy trying to defend myself. Funny, had you asked me eight months ago if I was a mature human being with a good grasp of human nature, I would've said yes. I thought I was pretty self-aware. Nope. I was merely good at making excuses.

I'm going to repeat here, verbatim, what I exchanged with Dawn:

Yup. Step 4 is to do a complete and thorough moral inventory...and part of that means looking at what parts YOU "owe" of a situation but also understanding what parts OTHERS "owe" of it. What's been interesting for me to see is that for some people, they really can't accept responsibility for anything. There's always some excuse. So they use that to explain their part away. But that misses the point.
For instance, "You had an affair?" " told me he was going to leave his wife! He told me he loved me!"
"But you had an affair."
"Well, no. It wasn't an affair. We were in love, but he lied to me!"
"So you had an affair."
You get the point.

Step Four is about accepting the FACTS. Eliminating the excuses, the reasons, the rationalizations behind WHY you did what you did. It's not a judgment on yourself. It's just admitting you did this thing you are fighting so hard to not own. We are so afraid of that; we don't want to see our own silliness, our own selfishness, our own lack of consideration for whom we might be stepping on to get what we want. I know I used to be terrified of that, of feeling like I'd done something wrong. It was enough to drive me to drink.

So I did.

But now I can't drink, and I've discovered that, despite all my ugliness, I'm human and I'm still loveable. People are amazingly forgiving once they understand that you not only are sorry for what you did, but more importantly, that you've learned from it and that you are unlikely to repeat that mistake.

Really, that's all most people want (unless what you did was kill their best friend, and even then--family members have been known to forgive a child's murderer; Eva Mozes Kor even forgave the Nazis for what they did to her in Auschwitz.

Forgiving others and being forgiven are gifts. They are God's grace, however you define God. In fact, Dawn says her mother used to say that all mistakes are actually gifts, if you only learn from them. I like that. A lot. In any case, own what you do. And don't make excuses. You will feel a tremendous weight lifted from your shoulders. "Oh! I get it!"

Step Four is not about feeling bad. It's all about feeling better.


In response to yesterday's post, I got all kinds of support from so many of you--friends close to home, friends on Facebook, Chelle, my sponsor, friends from rehab who also knew Christina. EVERY SINGLE PERSON told me I had done the right thing by putting distance between myself and Christina, so that I ought not punish myself needlessly for feeling I could've done more.

For one thing, it's clear she had issues going on beyond the scope of addiction. Two, she didn't want my help. She wanted to keep drinking. Three, when it comes to recovery, bottom line: you have to do whatever it takes to protect your own recovery. It is far too precious to hand off ... and anybody who doesn't understand that or appreciate that fact is somebody you really can't have in your life, no matter how much it may hurt to give them up. Anybody who would willfully subject an alcoholic to trigger-inducing situations, especially when the alcoholic lets them know, "Hey, this is not okay for me," is putting their own desires ahead of your recovery. Anyone who would do that, who would put you in that spot, is not being your friend.

My pal Stacia (hi, Stacia!) put it very well a little while ago. She said, "It sucks. You like somebody but they're not good for you. You get that sick feeling, 'Oh man, I'm going to have to cut you.'" It's not a fun place to be in. But, again, the bottom line: I will do whatever I have to do to stay sober.

It was good to be reminded of all of this, along with all the other reasons not discussed here that suggest I couldn't have done much, if anything, to help Christina anyway. My sponsor suggested she was a perpetual victim; another friend suggested it was professional psychological help she needed--help beyond anything I could ever provide.

But this got me thinking today about what expectations we have of each other, and what expectations we have of ourselves. I'm too hard on myself; I'm forever feeling like I should hop on the white stallion and gallop over to rescue someone. But that's nuts. Where does this come from? I have a heart huger than huge, but rescuing others isn't really good for them. It's the "teach a man to fish" idea. Or in the classroom, I like to say that I bring the food and the spoon to the students, but it's up to them to figure out how to feed themselves; it's not my place to spoonfeed them. If I'm forever doing for others, I'm not helping them in the long run; and eventually I'm just going to wear myself out so much I won't be able to help anyone, period.

I'm guessing completing Step Four will shed some light on the wheres and hows and whens I developed this nagging, unproductive habit. My offhand guess is that the tendency has something to do with making me feel better about myself. So many of us "helpers" just love being martyrs--it's funny how alcoholics can take something like altruism and transform it into selfishness.

But self-preservation isn't selfishness. It's taking care of yourself so that you CAN give, responsibly, of yourself. So yeah--sometimes it means cutting people.

I've been so fortunate that I haven't had to cut many folks. Almost everyone has been supportive and understanding of the place we find me in. It's my job to tell people where my boundaries are since I can't expect them to magically know them. It's their job, once informed, to respect my boundaries and not try to talk me out of them.

Nothing less is at stake but my own sobriety, my own peace of mind. That is not selfishness. THAT is sanity. And anybody who doesn't get that would do well to turn their focus inwards, examine their agendas, examine their own role in the dynamic. It takes a lot of guts to do it. But it's worth it. What's at stake is nothing less than your own peace of mind.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's Not All a Party

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

One thing I cannot change is when and how people die.

In rehab, there was a woman named Christina who was liked by some and barely tolerated by others. Reasons abound why she was an annoyance to so many. She whined and complained a lot. For sure she wasn't in great physical shape, but then again, many people in rehab were not. At least two that I knew of had cirrhosis, one of whom was in constant pain, her legs swollen like sausages about to burst in the microwave. Christina was overweight and had lower back problems, so she took command of the one big chair in our meeting room, padded it with pillows, sat on it, and then propped her legs on a pillow in another chair. I didn't pay much attention to that until it was pointed out to me that there were others (older and with the same kinds of back problems) at the Farm who never got to sit in that chair if Christina happened to be around.

I suppose people stop being empathetic to your pain when they see you never passing the same empathy on to others.

By the time Christina left rehab, at least half the people there would roll their eyes whenever she opened her mouth. Most everybody else just kind of tuned her out, me included.

It was a lot of other, little stuff, too. She felt sorry for herself, constantly seeking pity for the fact that her son might be moving out and leaving her alone at home to fend for herself. ("Escaping from her is more like it!" we hissed behind her back.) She complained about the food, which all of us ate family style three times a day (you're required in rehab to show up for all meals, even if you don't eat). Honestly, the food at the Farm wasn't bad. School lunches are horrible. This was edible, and sometimes even good. But Christina had her own personal rules about what was and wasn't palatable, so her son dutifully brought food up to the Farm for her every Sunday on family day. She kept a secret stash in her room, labelled items in the house refrigerator, and would always make a big production at meals about hauling out her special food to eat while we ate whatever was served.

It was kind of weird. She'd eat, say, little cherry tomatoes from Trader Joe's, but wouldn't eat larger tomatoes grown right in the garden at the Farm. And you bet--she didn't say "tomato," she said "Toe-MAH-toe."

Oy vey. I never asked if she was Jewish, but I think she was. A recovering Jewish alcoholic. I think she lost her faith in God long, long ago. She was a smart woman--she claimed to have a PhD (no idea if it's true, and I did hear some pretty wild whoppers while I was in rehab); but I'm pretty certain she wasn't exaggerating when she talked about having worked for years as a researcher at Stanford. But she'd lost her job, was living in Oakland, and was depressed because she couldn't get another job. Her husband was long gone. So all she had was her son. And he was "abandoning" her.

The dynamic between her and her son was fascinating. To me, the real story is the subtext. They occupied the same home, but seemed to survive by not interacting with each other so much as trading off the space. She was awake during the day while he slept in their bed; he was up all night while she slept in their bed.

What to make of that?

Of course that young man wanted to move out. What man in his twenties wants to live like that--because his mother was also drinking uncontrollably--when he needs to be striking out on his own, forging his own way in the world?

From what I could gather, Christina agreed to go into rehab because, perhaps, she believed if she sobered up, her son would stay at home. Those of us in rehab--there (except for the few forced by the courts) because we WANTED to be there, because we were sick of our addiction, didn't have much respect for that. For her, sobering up was just a bargaining chip. She repeatedly said she didn't think much of AA. We all pretty much figured her sobriety would end shortly after she left.

There were other things about Christina that drove us nuts. Her roommate (who eventually became MY roommate after Christina left) was horrified by Christina's lack of cleanliness. Christina collected clutter. She drank Diet Coke (not Diet Pepsi; it had to be Diet Coke, and rehab wouldn't even let it be caffeinated) like water. Seriously, on Sundays her son would bring up a case of it for her. She drank probably ten or more sodas a day. And, she left the empty cans all over the room. She had candy stashed in her drawers and her roommate would hear her in the middle of the night, crinkling the candy wrappers and crunching on the Peanut M&M's. Her drawers were stuffed with so many things that they wouldn't close, so bras and such draped over the lips of the drawers and spilled over onto the floor.

So, this was how we experienced Christina. People I love dearly couldn't stand her. And I barely tolerated her. I was nice to her, tried to encourage her in her sobriety, but I could handle Christina in only small doses. That's how it was. She had a way of sucking all the energy right out of you. At some point, self-preservation has to kick in.

When I got out of rehab, I made a point of putting together a phone and email list of people I met at the Farm. I saw no good reason to keep Christina off the email list. I sent around one of those "group" emails, letting people know I was back home.

Christina was one of the first who contacted me back, and she instantly asked for my phone number. I deliberated, and then decided I'd give her my home phone instead of my cell phone. We people in recovery are supposed to be here for each other. Surely I could answer the phone if she needed help.

The very next morning, I got a call from Christina. She was utterly out of her mind intoxicated, slurring, forgetting what she'd said from one moment to the next, repeating herself--you know how we are. The problem was that her son had decided to move out anyway. Her precarious sobriety, based on a barter, ended that easily. I tried to help, asking her if she was interested in going to a meeting together. She was dismissive. "No." She asked how I was doing, and when I said I'd been trying out different meetings and was thinking about asking an old friend to be my sponsor, at least temporarily, she cut me off. "No, Joyce," she said. "Tell me for you REALLY are."

She thought I was lying. I guess she thought, because she hadn't been able to stay sober, that staying sober was just a bullshit idea, and so the same must be true for me. I was just giving her the party line. The realization made me sad. That's an influence I just didn't need in my life, me being fresh out of rehab. Because any drunk still using has to protect their addiction and doing so means they need to convince you alcoholism is a crock. I know. I used to do that shit myself.

I assured her I really WAS doing well in my sobriety and embracing my recovery whole-heartedly. She sounded disappointed. And then she told me she was doing well in her sobriety too, "except for today because of ... this," she said.

We signed off, telling each other we'd be in touch, go for a walk some time or something. You know, the usual blow-off. She did call me once and leave a short, confusing message on my answering machine. It sounded like she was drunk again. I couldn't bring myself to return the call.

Is that cold? Should I have done something? If so, what could that be? I had to protect my own sobriety. It's too early in my sobriety to risk my own, dealing with wet drunks.

Was that the right thing to do?

I heard from Christina's son today. She died last week, on May 3rd.

Speaking of Castle Age...

"I'll wave my private parts at your aunties!" "I fart in your general direction!"

One thing this game needs is a French taunter.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Daily Miracles

I'm thinking about daily miracles.

When I was drinking, I mostly had daily frustrations. Occasionally, something nice would happen, but it always seemed by accident.

Today, miracles happen constantly, it seems. Things I never even imagined would come true have.

I've written here before about the little things. Those "little things" are daily miracles to me.

And then there are big things. My relationship, which I was on the verge of ending for no good reason other than the insanity of my own drinking, is better than it's ever been. It's also a big thing that I don't have any more secrets to protect. I tell Chelle and my sponsor everything. It is a profound relief to reveal your innermost self, warts and all, and be loved to pieces anyway.

My personality changes strike me as a miracle. Case in point: my Facebook friends know that I play Castle Age daily. It's just a fun distraction. I get a kick out of battling orcs and hydras and building up an army of other players and getting together to battle armies of other players. Well, my Castle Age name is Xena, Warrior Princess. How perfect is that? I used to watch that show with David. He even had a plastic Xena sword. You haven't laughed until you've seen a three year-old twirl around with a sword bigger than he is and go, "Ai, yi, yi!"

Well, yesterday I ran into another player in the game with the exact same name. Our avatar photos were even identical. I was amused but thought nothing of it, and then I got a message from her asking me if I would mind changing my avatar photo "to prevent confusion in the game."

My knee-jerk reaction was "F*ck you! Who do you think you are?"

And had I still been in the throes of my alcohol addiction, I would've answered back, "No way, get over it," been bothered for days over the fact that somebody had tried to exert control over me, and then gone on to cause a rift among the gamers who happen to be friends with us both.

But I'm sober now. Instead, I told myself: "You have two options here. You can be nice about it, or you can be a jerk about it." And it's true that I have no real attachment to an avatar. They're easily changed. And it is just a game, after all.

So, I changed my avatar. No problem. And then I took it a step further. Since our names were virtually identical, I changed mine to include my game affilations. Now, even though we're both Xena, we're not both Xena, Warrior Princess. I'm Xena {CAD} ^..^ . Clarity prevails.

I was content with that, and let her know I'd made the changes. I wasn't expecting a response.

Surprise! This morning I woke up to a very moving email in which she revealed her reasons for choosing Xena, Warrior Princess as her name. I don't want to blurt her reasons all over the Internet, but trust me when I say there's a good reason she's attached to the name and it involves someone she loves. She didn't have to tell me that. But I'm glad she did, and now she's a human being to me, not just some anonymous person in the game. In fact, now we've joined each other's armies.

See, a miracle.

Oh sure, it's a teeny thing. But the result is that I'm happy about it, when my first reaction was anything but. Instead, there is peace and I feel good about the fact that this person got to keep something all for herself, something that is important to her.

When you translate little examples like this into the bigger things in life, you can begin to imagine the beams of light that are streaming into my life nowadays.

The Promises tell us that when you give up addiction, "We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness....We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace....That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows....Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change."

I can say with utter conviction that Bill W. called them "The Promises" because he knew damn well what he was talking about.

Monday, May 10, 2010

For All My Friends on Castle Age

This isn't half bad. I guess you can find anything on Youtube, including hacks for the game, bot cheats, and the like. I figure, why bother with those? Takes all the fun out of the game.

To arms!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Betty White on SNL

If you missed Betty White on Saturday Night Live, you missed mucho hilarity. This clip is the best one: Betty's answer to Alec Baldwin and his Schwetty Balls.

Happy Mother's Day, Mama, My Angel

Dear Mama, when I look at this photo, I recognize your face, but my last memory of you is as a blond. And, you can't tell from this picture that your eyes were blue, blue as robin's eggs, and sometimes gray, like a stormy sky.

I was six years old when you died, when I went off to school alone. Wayne stayed home sick (to this day I believe he was faking it because it was report card day). It was late November, a few days before Thanksgiving and your 41st birthday. Daddy and I had already bought your present from me, a new pair of stockings. At school, I bit into a hamburger at lunch and lost the loose tooth that I'd been compulsively wiggling for a week. Mrs. Tolliver, my kindergarten teacher, wrapped it up in a tissue for me to bring home to hide under my pillow for the tooth fairy.

I burst through the door when I got home, excited about my good marks and my tooth. Wayne greeted me from the living room sofa.

"Where's Mama?" I asked.

"Hart's Market. She ran out of bread," Wayne said and returned to watching our old black and white TV with tinfoil on the rabbit ears.

I waited and waited, but Mama never came home. And I never saw you, Mama, ever again.

Much later, I found out what happened. The store had been a lie. You caught the bus and transferred several times to get way down Jeff Davis Highway to Moore's Lake Cottages. There you checked in under a false name, Barbara Mooney (I used to love watching The Lucy Show with you), and said you'd been sick recently. You wanted to take a sleeping pill and sleep for a while, so please, you told them, don't disturb you. The next morning, after checkout time, the maid pounded on your door. Getting no answer, she fetched the manager, who unlocked the door and found you unconscious. You'd overdosed on barbituates.

You were rushed to the hospital, but remained in a coma until you died later that night. Your death was ruled a suicide.

It's been a long road, Mama, coming to understand your schizophrenia and the despair you felt. Shock treatments, hospitalization, drugs, talk therapy ... none of it worked. Inevitably the voices in your head came back, the ideas that made utter sense to you but were received by everyone else as nonsense. The little old lady next door wasn't really an FBI agent, but you were convinced she was, going around the house and drawing the curtains. No, you didn't really have a hernia that could only be cured by eating buttered pasta. But yes, you know what, Mama? You weren't always paranoid. You were absolutely correct that Daddy was having an affair, cheating behind your back with "that redhead."

Lois was living in our house by Christmas, and in February Daddy made an honest woman of her by marrying her. For a long time, I was angry with Dad. But age has given me perspective. A psychic once told me that he's not with Lois right now; he's with you. For you are the one he always loved, and you were the mother of his children. He just was an alcoholic and had no clue, in the 1960s, how to cope with a wife who experienced psychotic breaks. He didn't know how to deal with his two oldest boys when they developed schizophrenia. He feared for the youngest, Wayne and me.

We're okay, Mama. We have our own issues with substance abuse, but at least our minds haven't turned on us.

I do think of you, often. I wonder if you were alive now, if the new psychotropic drugs would help you. I do know you loved me, very much, and that despite all I've been through in almost 48 years, I still have a sweet nature and a great deal of empathy for others. Heaven knows, I could've turned into some psychopath, given other things that were yet to happen. Instead, you gave me what I needed while I was very young, taking naps with me, my arm draped over you; buying me coloring books and praising my lopsided horses; reading stories out loud to me; teaching me to tie my shoes with the "Batman and Robin" story.

I'm sure you'd be surprised to know what I am, what I do, although maybe you know, up there in Heaven. I somehow feel you with me always. Sometimes I wonder if you're my angel. It seems like whenever things are about to go horribly wrong, something intervenes, gently pushes me onto the right path. I tell people nowadays the story of how I wound up in rehab. I was in a total blackout, drunk off my ass, about to make a very bad decision to take off, leave my relationship for yet another geographic cure. Somehow, sanity prevailed, even in that dark, drunken moment. When I woke up the next day, I couldn't remember making the decision, but I remembered that I'd decided to go to rehab. I cannot believe that was MY decision, that this came out of my own head. Mama, did you put it there?

I think you did ... Still doing what mothers do, even long after you're gone.

One day we will meet again. I plan to give you a rose for every single year we've missed together.