Saturday, July 30, 2011

Angry Dragon to Have Her First Race!

We made a small investment in Angry Dragon and a half sib, Red Baroness, over a year and a half ago, and honestly, we were beginning to wonder if they'd ever reach the racetrack. Well, the day that never seemed to get here has finally arrived!

Angry Dragon is in the entries for Tuesday's races at Parx (Philadelphia Park). She drew post 9 of 9 in the 3rd race (1:12 post time, EDT), which is a maiden special weight going 5 furlongs on the turf with a purse of $45,000. Of course, a first time starter actually winning is more than I dare hope for, especially given the outside post, but she couldn't ask for a better sire than Smarty Jones! There are several other first time starters in the race and a few coming off of long layoffs so it may not be the toughest group. She has just as good a shot as any.

Jose Flores will be up. There is a chance of thunder storms in Philly on Monday, but trainer Chuck Simon feels that as long as the track conditions are safe we would run on either surface. He likes the five furlong distance for her first start.

A Typical Conversation in Our Household

HER: Honey. There's a turd on the floor by the washer.

ME: What? Wow, somebody must've really flung that one! [The kitty box is about five feet away]

HER: No, I think it's a dingleberry gone wrong.

ME: Yeah, that could be.

HER: Um, you're in charge of that.

ME: Okay.

Cool Stuff: Glowsticks in Blenders

Not sure what the purpose of this was, but it's pretty awesome.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Shut Up Already and Get It Done!

Let me see if I have this straight. In the name of compromise, Obama has taken removing tax breaks for the wealthy off the table and said he'd be willing to settle for closing a few tax loopholes instead. Boehner, et al, have in return agreed to let low-income college students keep their Pell Grants. The Tea Party? They're saying closing tax loopholes is the same as raising taxes and that Pell Grants for poor kids are socialist, so no deal.

No wonder the Republican Party is increasingly being perceived as having gone insane.

Well, I suppose that's what you get when you sell your party to a third party in order to get your party elected.

Forget this "Super Congress" idea if it's still on the table. The GOP needs the Tea Party to become its own separate third party. A "Super Congress" is not only unconstitutional, it's a coward's way to sidestep the Tea Party Republicans.

We could also use a viable fourth party that's more fiscally conservative than Democrats but much more socially libertarian than Republicans.

Meanwhile, they all need to just shut up and raise the debt ceiling and knock off the lying. (For clarification: "barely true," "somewhat true," "half true," and "mostly true" are still all lies in my book. The only truth is the "whole truth.")  Raising the debt ceiling does nothing but allow government to pay for the things it has ALREADY approved. If you want us to make good on our Treasury bonds, Social Security, paychecks for soldiers, payments for contractual obligations on services we have already collected, etc etc, we have to pay, or we default.

If Congress didn't want us to default (which a fair reading of the 14th Amendment makes treasonous), it should not have approved those expenditures in the first place.

This present mess is the direct result of the Republicans getting the bright idea to use the debt ceiling vote as a mechanism whereby they could push their own budget agenda. I'm pretty sure right now they're wishing they hadn't done that. You don't really argue the budget after you've already approved the budget, which is basically what's going on and why the debt ceiling has always been a rather routine rubber-stamp "approved" kind of vote.

Shut up already and get it done.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Joke for the Day

Two women who were drinking buddies decided to have a girl's night out, left their husbands at home, and went to a bar together to tie one on. After numerous frilly pink umbrella drinks, they switched to shots and closed the place down. They left, locking arms together, and began weaving their way back home.

Along the way, they realized they really had to pee. There was only one convenient place to go--the local cemetery. Scared and drunk, they decided to risk it anyway.

The first one did not have anything handy to clean herself with, so she took off her panties, wiped herself with them, and discarded them.

The second one, not finding anything to wipe with either, thought, "Well, I'm not throwing my underwear away," so she looked around, found a flower wreath on a grave, and removed and used the ribbon from that to wipe herself with.

They went on their way, got home safely, and went to bed.

The next morning, one of the husbands called the other on the phone and said, "Look, we need to be on the look-out. I think those two were up to no good last night. My wife came home without her underwear."

The other husband said, "No shit, dude! Mine came home last night with a card stuck to her ass that said 'We Will Never Forget You.'"

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Your Daily Inspiration

Okay, so what she says is maybe a little obvious and a little hokey, but she does nail it. And besides, she reminds me so much of my friend Amy P that it's unnerving! She also has inspired me to swing by the store and pick up a little surprise for my coworkers tonight, since it's the last day of the summer session for me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Got Problems?

Because I used to think of happiness as "absence of conflict," "everybody is getting along well," "nothing is wrong," and that sort of thing, I used to be continually unhappy. In fact that's a pretty self-sabotaging way of thinking. This Daily Meditation from In the Rooms sums it up pretty well:
Today I do not see a life free of problems as a healthy life. Wanting my life to look and to be problem-free goes against what is natural and mobilizes my vanity in the struggle to hide anything that I consider "unpleasant." Problems that I hide don't go away. It is facing adversity and pain in the light of day, sharing it with others - breaking isolation and connecting with those around me - that promotes growth. When I want my day to be struggle-free, I stop the wheels of life from functioning. Problems are a part of living well and being alive.

If I have life, I will have problems.

Nowadays, for me, happiness is more a state of inner contentment: I'm satisfied that I'm doing my best; I have love and I give love; life has its ups and downs, and I am gifting myself with the full experience.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Daily Reminder

RIP Amy Winehouse

Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, now Amy Winehouse.

All phenomenally talented musicians, all addicts dead at the age of 27.

Such a waste.

Was Winehouse's death today accidental or a suicide? Regardless of how the coroner rules it, it's both. If it was a deliberate suicide, you can still blame the substances she was on. An addict is not in their right mind. A sober Winehouse would probably not have been suicidal at all. In this sense, it's an accident.

And yet, allowing yourself to be an addict or alcoholic is the same thing as making a choice to die. In this sense, it's a suicide.

I see people on Facebook posting "Moron," "Idiot," and joking, "Yeah, she should've gone to rehab!" It saddens me how many folks are under the impression addicts and alcoholics are all irresponsible people having the time of their lives. That is simply not true. It is a living hell. It may start off as a fun kind of recreational relief, but by the time you're addicted--married to your substance--you are scraping the bottom of the barrel in desperation; you are sick; your spirit is broken; you're at the mercy of out-of-control emotions; you're acting out in total delusion. You're a shell of your former self.

How many times did I almost die?

There was the time I passed out in a bar, fell off my barstool, hit my head, and slumped unconscious on the floor, puking. I had to be rushed in an ambulance to the nearest Emergency Room. Had this happened at home with no one around, I'd probably be dead.

There was the time I slammed into a concrete wall so hard I blackened my own eye. What if I'd been behind the wheel of a car?

Alcoholics die all the time, slipping and falling in the shower, tumbling down stairs, passing out in hot tubs, passing out drunk and then choking on their own vomit.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Today I pray for every using addict or alcoholic out there, the ones lost outside the rooms, the ones in the belly of despair. May you find a way out.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Claiming Back My Life

We alcoholics are an extraordinary bunch. We tend to be sensitive individuals (I used to get called "oversensitive" all the time). We feel things deeply, which is probably one of the main excuses--aside from alcoholism itself, which is the actual reason--we used for drinking. It helped numb pain or helped us avoid pain. We're also pretty insecure and run on fear a lot: fear of rejection, fear of the unknown, fear of being disliked, fear of being alone.

At the same time, most of us think we're special. No one, but no one, has felt the depths of pain the way we do. Nobody has suffered the injuries we have. Nobody else has been subjected to the runs of bad luck we've been on. Our suffering is so much more amplified.

It's all bullshit, of course. One thing I quickly learned in rehab was how UNSPECIAL I really am. If horrible things have happened to me, I discovered that's nothing compared to the guy sitting next to me whose father ass-raped him repeatedly when he was a child. I'll take it a step further. I found out that it's silly to even compare the types of injuries, the gravity of pain. The person on the other side of me who is upset that his wife cheated on him isn't honestly feeling any LESS pain than the guy on the first side of me. Pain is pain. It all hurts. We have all suffered greatly in some way or another.

We have ALL been devastated. Every last one of us has teetered on the precipice of that vast, empty place of nothingness over which we have no control. We have ALL experienced profound grief and spent hours shaking in fear. We would rather die--or drink ourselves to death--than feel that way again.

But, we must. If we are to survive, we must. We must start owning our lives again, start taking responsibility for our choices, stop letting life happen to us and start directing those things we do have power over.

We do have more control over our destinies than we've thought. Too many times we failed to see we had a choice when we took no action at all. We turned a blind eye, we looked the other way, we didn't ask for clarification, we assumed, we held irrational expectations, we put out exactly what we got back. Our drinking and numbing out, our denying responsibility, our lame excuses of, "It just happened that way"--were a choice.

Today, I will make a better effort to claim back my life, and to pray for strength and guidance when I am unsure.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Night Game at AT&T Park

We went to another game last night; this time it was versus our archrival, the Dodgers, so I'm pleased to be able to say we beat them 5-3. You know, every time I'm at AT&T Park, I'm struck by how beautiful a ballpark it really is. When you exit a night game onto Willie Mays Plaza (sculpture of Mays in the photo), the orange lights wrapped around the palm trees are all turned on, and it really is a magical atmosphere.

You can walk around the entire ballpark. The bleacher side (with the Coke bottle and glove) backs up against the marina and San Francisco Bay, whereas the Arcade side faces McCovey Cove. Home runs that fly over the Arcade and land in the Cove are called "splash hits." Boaters and kayakers (and often rented "party boats") fill the Cove during games, hoping that a ball will be hit to them. That happened with some regularity when Barry Bonds was on his run to break Hank Aaron's record. The video below shows you McCovey Cove--and Chelle as well, being a smart ass.

For a change, we got front row seats in the Arcade, and even though they're bleacher seats and not as comfortable, they're still great seats. The guys behind us apparently have season tickets there and had the game on the radio as we were watching, so that added some great running commentary on the action. The highlight of the game was when 1st baseman Brandon Belt, back up from the minors, lived up to his name and knocked a home run right over our heads--unfortunately, there wasn't quite enough loft to get it all the way into McCovey Cove.

The next two photos are of our view of the field and the scoreboard (with a glimpse of the Bay Bridge behind the Coke bottle). The Arcade fans were relentless in their taunting of Dodgers right fielder Rivera. The last picture is of me well before the game in my new Cody Ross jersey, looking like an orange menace.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Today is one of those days in which I feel emptied out. What's left: gratefulness for small joys. The quiet ache of sorrow. Compassion for us all.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Step Four: Learning to Grow Up

Life throws things at us on a daily basis. Some of it will be good stuff while part of it will be difficult stuff. Our inescapable biological reaction to the occasional more challenging stuff--by that I mean any sudden trauma or threat--is to either fight, run, or freeze. Once past that, we then need to sort it all out, reason, come to grips with what happened, make rational decisions, process it all, learn, grow, and move on.

My Step 4 work has shown me some important things about myself. As a child, it was rarely possible to fight or run (most trauma was inflicted by my parents), so the only option for me was to freeze. This kneejerk response has continued to be my usual initial response even as an adult. That is okay, as long as I don't stay stuck there and as long as I move into the next phase of processing.

But as a child, "processing" is done by someone who isn't yet an adult, so a lot of the processing is done in an ineffective manner. So, kids get mad, throw tantrums, slam doors, sob, act out, cut (yup, I was a cutter for a while, before "cutting" was part of our popular lingo). I suppose that shouldn't be too much of a surprise since my mother was, after all, a suicide, and behavior is learned. For me, slashing my wrists with a razor blade was (no doubt) on the one hand a cry for help and attention, but on the other hand a way to relieve anxiety. I remember very well thinking to myself all the time: "Oh well, if it gets too unbearable, I can always kill myself." It was as if cutting reminded me I always had a fail-safe, a way out. It was soothing.

So yeah, kids don't process things like rational adults--no, they learn how to do that from other rational adults, such as their parents.

Unfortunately, I was born to parents who did not process their life experiences like rational adults either. Absent those role models, I grew up taking characters in books as my models and/or thinking my parents' reactions to things were normal and healthy.

When I reached adulthood and found alcohol, any growing I had managed to do came to a screeching halt. I didn't HAVE TO process my experiences any more. If life got tough, the tough got going, all right--right to the nearest bar. Thus I have spent most of my adult life never really doing the learning, growing, and letting go that comes with properly riding things out while processing them. Instead I just reacted, bottled things up, shoved things aside, drank pain away, and acted on impulses. The hell with the consequences; the chips would fall where they fell, and if I didn't like it, I could always drink.

Now sober almost two years, that option is no longer possible. And now, instead of me whining and moaning about how everything hurts and how hard everything is, Step 4 work has taught me this: when I don't process or "live through" my life experiences, they get stored, hanging there in my subconscious. I never reach any closure, so I never let anything go--not truly. Something that happened ten years ago can still irritate me if it happens to come to mind for some reason. All this "unfinished business" still wants closure, still wants some sort of satisfactory resolution. Thus, at some point they will come roaring to the forefront, demanding attention, while I sit there clueless about why they're cropping up and what on earth they have to do with whatever situation is at hand.

I can't exactly go back and reprocess--or process for the first time--everything that has ever happened to me. I can do that a little bit with Step 4 work. But it's not humanly possible to dig out every last thing; for one thing, memory simply fails. But what I can do is be aware of myself. If I am having powerful feelings I don't understand, then I need to slow down, stop, and take a hard look at them. Where are they coming from? What in me is unresolved? These feelings are reminding me of what? Or if I see myself on the verge of acting out impulsively, I need to stop right there and tell myself: "I don't need to do this today. I don't need to decide today." Instead, I need to stop and look within; I need to ask myself what old wound is trying to be heard and seen. I need to listen.

I'm finding that when I slow down and act with awareness and with conscious deliberation, I may still make mistakes, but they're not of the kind that I come to regret later. They're not of the kind where I hurt other people. They're not of the kind where any damage is irreparable. And people find me much, much easier to understand.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Drunk Walks into a Bar ...

A drunk walks into a bar, sits down, and demands a drink. "Get out," says the bartender. "I don't serve drunks here." The drunk staggers out the front door, only to come back in through the side door. He sits at the bar, bangs his fist, and demands a drink.

"I just told you to get out, didn't I? Now LEAVE!"

The drunk gets off his stool, stumbles out the side door, and comes back inside through the back door. Once again, he sits at the bar and loudly asks for a drink.

The bartender, now glowing mad, looks at the drunk and yells, "I TOLD YOU, NO DRUNKS ALLOWED! NOW GET OUT!!!"

The drunk looks up at the bartender and slurs, "How many bars do you work at, anyway?"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Your Daily Giggle

I posted this on Facebook yesterday, but it's too priceless to not put here as well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Raise in Taxes, My Eye

Here's a scenario:

Dad is sitting at his desk figuring out the family budget for the year to come. He's pleased to discover he's flush. He decides to share the wealth by giving his son Johnny a bonus on top of his allowance. Johnny is thrilled to pieces. Dad's also curious to see what his son will do with the extra money. Will he save it? Invest it? Spend it to start a lemonade stand? Share some with his baby sister, who isn't old enough for an allowance yet?

A few years pass. The family stays flush, so Dad keeps giving Johnny his yearly bonus, though honestly he hasn't paid any attention to what the kid does with it.

But then comes a run of bad luck. The family car breaks down, and repairs are expensive. Then the hot water heater springs a leak. That's another two thousand bucks. Dad is reviewing his budget and figuring out where to make cuts and how he can perhaps find some extra revenue. He considers Johnny's bonus.

"Johnny," Dad says, "Money's a little tight, so even though you'll still get your allowance, I need to pass on giving you the bonus this year."

Johnny's lower lip trembles. "But Dad!"

"I know. I've already cut some other things. It wasn't enough. The bonus has got to go."

Johnny starts throwing a tantrum.

Dad is surprised. "Well, good lord, son," he says. "What were you spending it on anyway?"

Johnny blubbers: "A football ... some new CDs ... a catcher's glove ... a ballcap ... "

"So you've just been spending it on stuff for yourself?"

"Well, my other football was getting old, and I also play first base, so I needed a new catcher's glove for when I play that position, and--"

"Okay, son. Try to see it my way. I would use your bonus money to pay for things that benefit the whole family. You know: the roof over our head, food, clothing--"

"I don't care! It's not fair!" Johnny falls down on the floor and screams and kicks his feet.

End of story.

This, to me, is exactly what's going on in Congress right now as the two parties posture and use their manufactured "debt ceiling crisis" as a way to push their own agendas. Let's not get into all the political details (because they could fill a book), but one thing that's on the table is Johnny's bonus. Johnny's bonus equals the tax breaks given to wealthy Americans when the economy had a surplus. The surplus is now gone, and we have an eye-popping deficit. One solution being floated (as part of a package of cuts and other measures to save money and bring in more revenue) is to rescind the tax cuts for the wealthy (ie, take away Johnny's bonus).

It is part of a perfectly rational solution to me, when we are also looking at cuts across the board. In fact, if we are willing to take away Johnny's bonus, we may very well not have to cut or make any drastic changes to Social Security and Medicare--programs that impact ALL Americans, not just Johnny. These programs are also on the table.

Adding to the confusion is that Johnny is now saying that if you take away his bonus, his ability to start up a lemonade stand, make some money for the family, and perhaps employ a friend or two to boot, will be gone. Never mind that he's had the bonus for several years and did no such a thing with the money.

Now you may find it to be a false analogy to call Johnny's bonus equivalent to a tax break. But in effect it is. The govt is letting the wealthy keep money it didn't used to let them keep. That equals more money in their pockets. It was a gift from the Bush Administration when the US had a surplus. By saying "sorry, the surplus is gone, so we need to start taxing you again on x" is not really a RAISE in taxes. They are just taking away a "bonus" tax break that is no longer a fiscally sound thing to keep in place.

But, the GOP are calling it a raise in taxes so that they can add to it that old chestnut (which is in and of itself an arguable adage): "You don't raise taxes in a recession. That's a job killer."

Folks, even Ronald Reagan raised taxes when he saw a need. So did the first George "Read my lips, no new taxes" Bush.

We need to get real and stop the pissing contest.

Coldplay: "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall"

"I'd rather be a comma than a full stop." Seriously, only an English major could love a line like that! I have to admit, the song's growing on me. I was lukewarm at first. But, Jonny Buckland's singing hammer-down, hammer-off riff is hard to resist.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Step Four: The Relationship Game

Continuing with my Fourth Step, I can see I've been harboring some pretty nutty ideas about love.

I thought love began as an infatuation (passion, belly flips, obsessing about the other person) that (if we were right for each other) would evolve into something deeper. If it did, this true love would conquer all. Passion would remain; fidelity would come so naturally it wouldn’t even have to be imposed; a mature love relationship was a joining of two adults who were able to communicate, and the desire to make it work was enough. Love would find a way.

Silly me.

It’s not that the above is a lie. It’s just awfully misleading. It’s also childish in its na├»ve expectations. But because I ascribed to that crap, I look back on my own relationships and realize I sabotaged them a number of times. Here are some things I'm coming to see.

MYTH #1: All love relationships begin with an infatuation. Actually they don’t, but because I thought this, I was in a couple of relationships during which, deep down inside, I thought we were missing something. The most recent example is Chelle, who is my legal wife. That did not start out as an infatuation for me. When we first got together, I had just broken up after a six-month relationship with a woman with whom I was deeply infatuated. Points to me for telling Chelle this at the outset—I was at least trying to be honest and fair. When we moved in together, I took care to remind her that our romantic relationship might very well transition into just a friendship; it was a risk she was willing to take. Ultimately it has all worked out for us, but not without some major bumps.

When I look at it now, I can see that I’ve been confused because we bypassed that crazy, infatuated period. I have always had this nagging worry that because I never felt for her that passionate, wild, abandoned "love stuff" that we were mismatched. So I’ve acted out in the form of one affair or, less impulsively, in the form of getting tiny attachments or obsessions/crushes on other women. I have to laugh at myself—because, over the years, it's as if I’ve been tossing out little feelers just in case I really am with the wrong woman. There is no motivation for that other than fear.

Yet, almost seven years with the same partner brings me up short: I wonder, how on earth have we stayed together? Especially when I have subjected us to so much of my bullshit?

Well, she’s clearly patient. Every now and then when my step work gets me to see that I’ve done or been doing something that’s really pretty awful, I’ll ask her why she hasn’t thrown me to the curb. She deflects such questions with things like, “I married you for better or for worse.” She is a woman of her word, and her word is free of these mental asterisks so many of us unconsciously stick there. Because of that, I absolutely trust her. We may occasionally spat over little stuff like what time to leave the Pleasanton Fair, but I already know that she does nothing to hurt me, has no secret agenda to manipulate me to get her way about something, and that she’s perfectly frank. I always know where I stand with her. I always know how something I say or do is likely to result in some given feeling in her. But by far the biggest thing is that I already know that no matter what I do, I am already forgiven. Nothing I can do is an automatic deal-breaker.

So we have this openness between us: there is nothing I can’t tell her. Not having anything to fear (anymore—and all of it used to be fears of my own creation), I do tell her everything. And then you find that the trust and the openness go both ways. Despite all the crap I've done to her, in the almost two years I've been sober and finally wrestling with all my garbage, she's developed absolute trust in me.

The rest is just gravy. We’re flatly compatible. Both of us are introverts, so we’re happy being in bed at 9pm with books and laptops or the tv on. We share many of the same interests or beliefs—horse racing, baseball, political convictions—enough that we enjoy each other’s company and don’t disagree on basic values. But we’re not clones of each other, either. She’s an atheist, for one. In recovery, I’m anything but. But she respects that and I respect her. We “get” each other.

And maybe that alone is the big thing. I have never met anybody I understand so thoroughly and still feel a tremendous amount of affection for. She has her quirks and stubbornness and foibles, and I love her anyway. They make her who she is. I accept her 100% exactly the way she is, and I love that person.

She is the only person I have ever felt this way about.

The fact that I missed the “infatuation period” with her doesn’t mean jack shit. The point is what we have now.

MYTH #2: Infatuation is love. It sure feels like love, doesn’t it? That’s because every single romantic novel or movie we’ve ever seen shoves infatuation down our throats as being love. I have done all kinds of crazy things as a result of confusing the two. A big one: “Oh my god, I adore so-and-so so very much. Oh my god, this must mean I don’t love Chelle.”

What a crock. Why does infatuation burn off? It’s because, with a little time, you get to genuinely know the other person. At the beginning, you’re projecting all kinds of things onto them (and they’re doing the same to do), many of which turn out to not be even remotely true. You obsess about them; you want to be around them constantly; you need their approval; you need their promise of faithfulness (in other words, you’re insecure, possessive, and jealous right out of the box—because you don’t really know how truthful this person is, or what their boundaries are, or whether or not they’ve got their head screwed on right). The sex is always awesome because you’re expressing your infatuation. Your brain is cascaded with all kinds of “feel good” chemicals—“love is intoxicating.” That’s no lie. The same chemical pathways are firing on all cylinders—under scrutiny, the infatuated person’s brain looks like an addict’s brain. It’s a fabulous, wonderful rush.

And you are fabulously, wonderfully not really in your right mind, but that’s okay. Enjoy the ride!

The important thing is to see it for what it is: a huge crush. Do NOT make enormous, life-altering decisions on the basis of a crush. You might get lucky and it will all work out for the best, but don’t count on it. Problem is, with the intensity of an infatuation, it’s really easy to fool yourself because you want to fool yourself.

Here’s where I went wrong: I guess I had the expectation that, with true love, elements of infatuation would always remain.


I sabotaged a very significant relationship in my life because I had that expectation. I genuinely loved her, as did she me, but I didn’t hang in there to work things out. Honestly, there were enough differences between us that perhaps it wouldn’t have worked out. The real point is that I’ll never know. I smashed up a fragile, porcelain vase because I thought it should be blue when it was yellow.

MYTH #3: You are different; you are special; they will treat you differently because of this. Yes, every situation is different and everybody is going to rationalize each situation differently. Pay no attention to any of that. (I always got caught up in the “reasons” people did things, and I expected any new lover to accept and excuse my “reasons” for doing things because I believed that she would be different and that I would be different.) Instead, pay attention to what people actually do. Red flags:

--if the breakup of any relationship is all the other person’s fault, beware.
--if they’d cheat with you, they will cheat on you. Period.
--if they’ve been in a string of failed relationships, there’s a reason, and it’s probably not the one they’re admitting to.
--if you see them telling lies to other people, you can count on the fact that they will lie to you.

All of these things I got off the hook for because a new lover was willing to give me a pass. She thought she'd be different. I ended up hurting all of them, and I regret it. It wasn’t on purpose: I was also clinging to the idea that they would be different and I would be different. The thing I didn’t understand was that I wouldn’t magically become different, overnight, as if some fairy godmother merely had to wave a wand over my head. What I needed to be different was to take some time off (I once read that most therapists, as a rule of thumb, say you need about a month to a month-and-a-half of “recovery” time for every year you’re in relationship before you’ve really processed it all and are over it.) Jumping from relationship to relationship, I never gave myself enough time, and as a self-absorbed using alcoholic, I never grew up or learned much of anything except for new ways to rationalize bad behavior. Thank God Chelle has granted me the patience and the time to do some serious growing up within our relationship.

The most dangerous people in the world are the ones who are unaware of their own personal agenda, who have no clue how many of their actions are driven by unacknowledged fear or hurt or irrational expectations. Their hearts may be in the best place and they may be doing what they think is the best they can, but a hard truth is that they tend to leave debris floating around in their wake. And they usually don’t go back to clean up the oil slick.

I should know. I’ve been one of them. I continue praying for change and growth, and I'm seeing The Promises beginning to operate in my life.

And may I just say that my wife is a saint?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Daily Inspiration

"Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form." ~ Rumi

Today I will focus on the blessings in my life instead of obsessing on the losses.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

And Now for a Belly Laugh

Okay, I have absolutely no idea what this commercial was for, but I wasn't expecting the twist it took and I almost peed my pants laughing.

I started a more serious post today, but it ran away with me. Long story short, I'm still doing 4th step work on the subject of my acting out in relationships and trying to get at the "whys" behind repeated patterns of behavior.

In the meantime, I've started submitting some older recovery posts to In the Rooms at the site's new online magazine. So far two of them are up. Check it out, along with the other writers in the community, right here. Eventually they'll be available as part of an app for the iPad, but the site for now is still under construction.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

More Tigger Gear

Here's my new Tigger sweatshirt from Disneyland. I'm trying to mimic Tigger's expression, but I dunno. Looks like someone passed gas near me instead.

My temple is really getting gray. Holy cow.

The Fray: "Over My Head (Cable Car)"

And suddenly I become a part of your past
I'm becoming the part that don't last
I'm losing you and its effortless
Without a sound we lose sight of the ground
In the throw around
Never thought that you wanted to bring it down

This is one of those songs where bits of the lyrics stick with you but break through the clouds in some way every time you hear it on the radio. I think it's about having to cut certain friends or lovers, or being cut because someone "trades up," dishonesty between people, using people or discarding them when you're done with them and marveling over how the wreckage doesn't seem to matter. Something like that.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Letter I Never Sent

Dear Teddi,

I owed you a letter. I didn't get my act together. I didn't know things were urgent.

You always were such a beautiful, fragile soul.

This isn't goodbye. You're walking another path right now. Our paths will someday converge again.

Until then, you are not forgotten.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

My, How Things Change

Sometimes I have to stop and think about how far along I've really come.

Chelle's at Disneyland with her brother Matt and his family (I couldn't go because I had to work last night--she flew down yesterday.) Last week when I was still reeling a bit from some bad news, I had her remove all liquor and beer from the house. It's just a temporary precaution; why make it easier for myself to act out, as I'm more likely to do when I'm an emotional basket case? So last week, she would just pick up a couple bottles of beer on the way home if she wanted any to drink while watching the ball game on tv, and that way there'd be none leftover in the fridge.

Yesterday she called me from the airport when she got in. "Joyce," she said, "I forgot and left a beer in the refrigerator."

I felt fine. "No big deal. I'm not tempted."

"Well, why don't you just dump it out? There's only one."

"Really. I feel okay now."

"I'd feel better if you got rid of it."

So, keeping her on the phone, I walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge, found the beer, and dug in a drawer for a bottle opener. I set the phone down by the sink so she could hear what I was doing. I opened the beer, poured it down the sink, then pitched the bottle into the recycling.

End of story.

Two years ago, I would not have been able to do that.

Fighting Hate with Humor

Some of these signs are particularly clever!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thought for the Day

Ironically, it's the crybabies who grow up faster and grow up first. It's the stiff-upper-lip, always be strong, never show a weakness, never be vulnerable people who grow up last. Crybabies learn how to deal with their emotions. The super strong sometimes never do.

Daughtry: "Over You"

Sometimes Daughtry just rocks. He's a guilty pleasure on a scorching day.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Revisiting Step Four

Lately I've gotten a couple of requests to be a sponsor. I declined both times (one because the other person lives on the other side of the country and she needs a sponsor close to home; the other because she's a friend and we share some mutual friends, so the ability to be 100% honest could be difficult--or more difficult than is helpful for a person so newly sober.) It's not impossible to be friends with your sponsor: my own sponsor and I used to date each other, years ago. Prior to my getting sober, though, we weren't that close. We run in different circles and have different friends. At first I asked her to sponsor me just temporarily, until I could find a sponsor. But it has worked out so well that there was no need for a change.

The main reason I've declined, though, is that I don't feel ready to be a sponsor. I haven't completed all my step work--at least not officially (even though step work is never really done). Some folks blast through their step work and are sponsoring several people within six months of getting sober: that's just not me. I need to be much more deliberate. It seems like every time I think I figure something out, something else happens that makes me realize I had barely scratched the surface. In all honesty, I don't believe I'll be that helpful (except in a surfacey kind of way) until I have a much better understanding of my own alcoholism. Fact is, I'm still making some stupid choices in my life and learning how to be a better "reader" of alcoholics and why we do what we do.

I think I've come to understand the nature of deceitfulness pretty well, but one thing I'm just now starting to grapple with is acting out--something that alcoholics do quite a bit of. The term gets thrown around a lot. A child has a tantrum: we call it acting out. An adult has an affair: we call that acting out. An alcoholic drinks their booze: we call that acting out. It dawns on me: I'm not even really sure what acting out means.

Try googling it and you will get a ton of differing definitions.

But it seems to me "acting out" appears to mean something along these lines when most folks are using the term: somebody has powerful impulses or feelings, and despite knowing it's destructive, or at least not productive, to act on them, they do it anyway. Often the impulse or feeling has been tamped down enough and not dealt with that it overpowers them. And often there are buried feelings that are underneath what's been consciously stuffed down. To us, acting out looks childish. To them, acting out feels like the final straw, something they do when they're fed up and sick of frustration, an action that feels utterly necessary. They just want to feel better.

Almost all of my previous romantic relationships have ended because I acted out and was unable to see at the time that there was a better way.

I was one of those "serial monogamy" people who would stay in a relationship for about six years (actually it was 4 yrs, 6 yrs, 6yrs, and now Chelle and I will reach 7 years in August, yet I did my best to end it in our 4th/5th year--interesting, huh? I will say that my marriage with Chelle did not commence as an affair; thank God we have that going for us.) But typically, I ended relationships by cheating and getting involved in a new one. The cheating was always me acting out. Now I'm not taking all the blame--relationships are a two-way street--but a fair portion of the blame belongs to me. My relationships would all turn into this psychological knot of misunderstanding and miscommunication, failed expectations of each other (some of which were not vocalized by either person), needs not being met, and digging in of heels and not being able to understand where the other person was coming from at all. So both of us would feel victimized by the other and there we were, stuck. It seemed impossible to untangle the knot we'd created. Over time, I would lose the energy or will to even bother untangling it. I felt that tired.

Then boom! Along would come another woman (and they always come along. I don't care how fat I am or how fit I am; how drunk I am or how sober I am; how together I am or how falling apart I am; the Universe sees fit to play a game of Woman Chess with me. God and I are trying to work this out together.) This woman would be everything I needed. She'd listen. She'd understand. She'd adore me. We'd have great sex. I'd look at her, look at my present relationship with the dead sex life and the huge tangled up knot, and the result was inevitable. My savior had arrived on her white horse.

It was easier to just start over again from scratch with the new woman.

And, of course, in six years, I'd be right back to where I'd been originally because I had never learned anything from the first, second, etc episodes of acting out.

When I was in the middle of it all, I could not have begun to realize how much my acting out was just a big "fuck you" thrown in the face of my previous partner. I thought it was just life, not me refusing to be a grown up and deal openly and responsibly with the normal conflicts that will arise in any relationship. Indeed, I could not have begun to articulate the buried feelings that were underneath all the anger, the tumult, and the rush of a new love.

I'm pretty sure my two biggies--hurt and fear--are somehow the culprits, but I've yet to tease it all out.

I hope I'm not making myself sound like too much of an asshole. Acting out isn't always necessarily a totally horrible thing. Acting out is a powerful learning tool. Knowing this little bit I know, I'm already finding out that with some people, ironically the only way to really know what they're feeling is to watch how they act out. We've all got friends who keep things to themselves. It may be that they themselves so are completely unaware of their own feelings (because they find their feelings unacceptable, so choose to ignore them or bottle them up) that they are unable to articulate them to you--thus, their acting out is the only way you can truly get a glimpse into what's going on inside them. Having that insight, you are then able to help them out, be a friend to them, by getting them to look at those feelings. Of course, this only works if they want to do that and want to get better.

I will be a sponsor one day--perhaps sooner rather than later. I do "get it" that sponsors receive help for themselves by working with those they sponsor. And people who are sponsors still keep their own sponsors. It's not like a military hierarchy. We're all equally in this boat together, pulling the oars.

That's one more thing I like about AA.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Fourth of July at the Ballpark

What's more American than baseball, our national pastime?

And what's cooler than a flyover on July 4th, after the singing of the National Anthem by a lieutenant in uniform? Video below. Do stick with it--the sound is very low at first, but then the crowd noise picks up, and the flyover was deafening.

By the way, the Giants lost 5-3 to the Padres, but we did get to see Pablo Sandoval (the Panda!) hit a splash hit into San Francisco Bay.

My Politics in a Nutshell

On this Independence Day, I thought I'd take a few moments to make my political convictions clear to folks, since sometimes I seem to be a bit of a contradiction/anomaly.

Succinctly, I am a liberal libertarian.

What does this mean?

When it comes to personal choices, I am all for the government keeping its nose out of my business and your business. This is not a view that liberal authoritarians agree with. (I often get lumped in with liberal authoritarians, and that's a mistake.) Thus, with abortion, I might not choose one for myself were I to get pregnant, but I don't think it's the government's job to make up my mind for me. In contrast, I find myself off the typical liberal bandwagon when it comes to other matters of personal choice. I am firmly against, for example, the current ban on circumcision that will be on the ballot in San Francisco. I don't think it's the government's job to decide for mom and dad and baby boy whether or not he should be circumcised. I also don't think the government needs to poke its nose into my bedroom or your bedroom (so I am all for not censoring pornography between consenting adults, which drives some of my feminist friends crazy); if you decide to smoke cigarettes in the condo you own, I don't think the government should tell you that you can't; and I hate the Patriot Act because it infringes on freedoms that we are guaranteed (my government should not have the right to spy on me or you, period). I support the 2nd Amendment, another thing that drives some of my liberal friends crazy. Sorry, but we are given the right to bear arms, an utterly necessary right the more I see our government shifting into authoritarian mode. I don't want Big Brother watching me and taking away my right to defend myself from Him should the need ever arise.

But I'm liberal because sometimes I DO think the government needs to stick its nose in our business. This is when the rights of many collide with the desires/rights of others. I'm sorry, but big multinational corporations, for example, don't care if they pollute the environment or pay their fair share in taxes for the privilege of conducting business in our country or if they treat workers well. Their only obligation is to themselves and the bottom line (ie, profit). Entities don't act out of the goodness of their hearts because entities don't have a conscience. So, at times the govt must step in to ensure they don't abuse others or deprive others of their rights. So I'm all for legislation that guarantees equal opportunity, equal access--all the things that give every last one of us, no matter what religion, race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, etc, a fair chance to thrive in society.

There is a constant tension within me in deciding what's more important in any given situation: personal liberty or social responsibility to others?

So sometimes I will side with the Democrats. Sometimes I will side with the Republicans. But very rarely will I side with the authoritarians of any shade, and those come in both Democratic and Republican flavors.

Peace out.

ps: and both parties spend too much of our tax money on everything but me and you, and are using the current budget crisis--if it exists at all; this country has plenty of money; the question is whose hands the money is in--to push its own agenda. 'Nuff said.

Happy Independence Day!

Off to a game today to see the Giants play the Padres. Can't get much more American than baseball, hot dogs, and Cracker Jack. Bonus: Tim Lincecum is pitching. For as many games as we've gone to, we've yet to see him pitch live and in person. Let's hope he's on today.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Aaron Rowand at Bat

On a lighter note, here is the Giants Aaron Rowand at bat. When he steps up to the plate, anybody in the stands with a clear view usually chuckles. Chelle and I call him "Weeny Waggler." Watch and you'll see why.

"Falsehood Is Cowardice, the Truth Courage"

I’ve blogged many times about lies. I think it’s because I used to be such a self-deluded liar when I was a using alcoholic (either self-delusionally so or just plain outright intentionally so). I’ve been lucky; I haven’t lost too many people over the years because of my lying—I can think of only two, and in both cases lying wasn’t the only cause. Nevertheless, most of the nonviolent hurt we do each other in this world will find its root in selfishness that led to someone being deceitful.

Now, I’m not kidding myself here. We all lie, all the time. We lie about little stuff: yes, that blouse looks great on you, or isn’t your Jell-O cake delicious, or yes, your new haircut flatters you. We tell these fibs (we like to think) to save hurting the other person’s feelings. That’s a lie we tell ourselves. Actually, we tell these fibs to save ourselves the discomfort of being honest and thereby possibly hurting another’s feelings. I’m discovering there is a way to be honest without hurting somebody. I just add a truthful disclaimer, like: “I’m not that up on fashion and that’s not my personal taste, so I feel iffy about it.” There is nothing even remotely hurtful about that statement. If a friend asks your honest opinion, they should be prepared for an answer they may not like. This is what honesty and free and open exchange is all about. You can be honest without being cruel or critical. You can be honest while doing your best to NOT hurt the other person.

This may seem like little stuff. A blouse or a haircut is little stuff. But the fact is, if you get accustomed to telling little fibs all the time and justifying them to yourself as a good idea motivated by kindness, telling the bigger lies gets easier and easier. The next thing you know, you are just a flat-out deceitful person and you may not even be aware of how deceitful you really are. Lying is that normal to you.

Been there, done that, so don’t get me wrong. I’m not making the claim that I don’t still tell the occasional fib. Hell yes, I do. I keep catching myself. I am working on it. I am doing better. Sobriety and continual step work are slowly but surely revealing to me how deeply flawed I really used to be (when all along I didn’t think I was that bad a person), how much work I still need to do to fully align my values with my words and my actions. For whatever it’s worth, I think this is a lifelong process. I guess life is a process of self-improvement.

Here is a truth I’m coming to see: lying is almost always self-serving and there’s usually nothing kind about it. (And I’m not talking about lying to the Nazis that you have hidden a family of Jews in your cellar. That is completely different.) I say this because deceitfulness has more bad consequences than just the lie itself, that is, the one told to save yourself from the one negative consequence to begin with. Betraying another’s trust is hurtful, no matter what you think your “good” motive may be. For one, there can be no friendship between people who cannot completely trust each other. At least, there can be no genuine friendship. How can you be friends with a person who has you wondering half the time whether they’re being real with you? And how can you feel friendly towards someone you know you’re able to fool all the time? Lies hurt both people.

Second, I’m coming to understand that deceitfulness is crazy-making. Unless I have a friend who fishes for compliments all the time, my friend with the ugly blouse is asking my opinion because she’s unsure. A part of her is saying to herself, “I’m not so sure about this blouse. I think I may look foolish in it.” She is asking me for a reality check. But if I lie to save her feelings, I have just accomplished the exact opposite. She trusts my words, keeps the blouse on, goes out and later finds out—maybe in some awful, embarrassing, or humiliating way—that she looks like a damned fool. Now not only does she feel like an idiot, she is left questioning her own judgment. She feels as if she should’ve known, should’ve gone with her instincts. She wonders if she’s nuts. She asks me about the blouse again, and I either admit to the truth this time and she loses a little trust in me, or I cling to my original lie and insist that blouse is awesome and everyone else is crazy—in which case, now she’s wondering if I’m not the crazy one. Either way I lose again, and she loses again.

Now try rewriting the blouse story, only substitute a bigger lie, such as an affair or a money issue or damage to someone’s property or person, and you can begin to see how destructive lies truly are.

It’s much, much better to tell a hard truth to begin with than it is to outright fuck with somebody else’s head: and that is what lying amounts to.

When it comes to repairing the damage caused by deceitfulness, there is really only one way to do it, and this one I’m learning the hard way as well. It is to own what I did to the person I did it to. By this I don’t mean simply saying I’m sorry. It’s not enough to say, “I didn’t do it out of malice and I didn’t mean to hurt you.” I used to kid myself and think that should be enough, but it doesn’t help. All it means is that I haven’t yet learned from my own mistake. Indeed, the above is only a way to further piss off or injure the person I’ve already hurt. I’m asking forgiveness, but there is zero evidence I wouldn’t turn around and do the same thing again. Why on earth would they trust me?

You have to prove that you have learned from your mistake. Acknowledge your lie(s); why you lied (you have to do some soul searching for the truth here and be willing to tell the truth to yourself about some personal failures—be they selfishness, immaturity, or other flaws in your character); show that you understand (perhaps by enumerating to them the harms, such as the betrayal and the crazy-making) the damage your lie did to them; and then plainly state: “I will not do this again and from now on I will go out of my way to NEVER lie to you and to NOT hurt you.” And don’t just say it—mean it. Of course, only time and your actions will truly show whether you really meant it… or if you were just lying again.

Still afraid to tell the truth? Lately I'm trying to keep this is mind: nobody ever got mad or hurt over something they perceive you had no control over. If you genuinely had no choice—if it was one of those situations in which you had to make a snap decision and no matter what you did, someone was going to get hurt and you chose to do the least hurtful thing for the greatest number of people involved—nobody is going to get mad about that. Nope, people only get mad or hurt when they perceive that you deliberately chose to act badly. Very few people are going to get mad at you for telling them the truth (unless it’s after the fact, and the truth that you’re owning up to was that you told a lie, in which case you’re doing the right thing by owning up to it, but you need to expect to face the consequences of that lie.)

Someone once said, “Falsehood is cowardice, the truth courage.”

The deceitfulness I used to practice to save my ass actually did nothing but repeatedly bite me in the ass. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to finally get it.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hoobastank: "The Reason"

For Chelle.


Nice thought in my inbox this morning from Daily Meditations.

"I will value the comfort of friendship and hold a true friend dear. Soul is expressed through human relationship; care of relationships is care of the soul. Relationships are what trigger my anxieties. Intimacy acts like a black light under which my emotional cracks show up. In a close friendship I have an opportunity to see and feel those cracks, to allow them to be looked at so that I can work with them and heal. A friend is someone with whom I can explore my limits and become more of me."

To this I would add, and it's mutual. Friends are mirrors into which we glimpse each other's souls, and our own.

I'm grateful for all my friends and the gifts they give me on a daily basis.

Friday, July 1, 2011

On Hurt, Forgiveness, and Love

I watched a film last night titled Inheritance that I'm still pondering this morning. It may not be everybody's cup of tea: it's a documentary with, well, lots of scenes in which two women are doing nothing but crying together. It's about a daughter, Monika Hertwig, who is struggling to deal with the fact that her father, Amon Goeth, was a Nazi responsible for killing thousands of Jews. In the story, Monika reaches out to Helen Jonas-Rosezweig, her father's Jewish maid and slave during the war. (Helen was 14 years old at the time and witness to many atrocities committed at the hands of Monica's father, who was commandant of the camp outside Krakow, Poland--the camp portrayed in Spielberg's film Schindler's List.)

The entire film was moving, but what impacted me the most was how much Hertwig's family kept from their daughter. Her mother had been there, also witness to the appalling crimes committed by her husband, but she'd explained some of it away to her daughter with excuses like "the Jews had a contagious disease and your father was forced to kill them." Hertwig did not understand the actual nature of the slaughter until she saw Schindler's List being filmed, in which actor Ralph Fiennes portrayed her father as the monster he was.

She was horrified. And she says regretfully, in retrospect, "Spielberg told me the truth, and I attacked him. Spielberg told me the truth, and I didn't want to know the truth. So I attacked him."

Denial. Anger. Hate.

God bless this woman for her honesty, for her insight into human nature. And for owning that response.

And I think about things such as, for instance, how many mothers of sexually abused children refuse to believe their children because it somehow seems HARDER to think their husbands could do such a thing?

How many people who have been deeply hurt are so involved in their own pain that they're unable to see the hurt they cause others, or take any responsibility for what they do beyond "I didn't mean it?" Or, worse, they accuse the injured person of the very self-centeredness that engulfs them?

And how many times is their accusation also true?

Sometimes human interaction is a world of hurt. Sometimes I think the mere fact of being human means that you will hurt other people, despite all your efforts to do anything BUT.

Horribly empathic, I feel so very keenly other people's pain (it's gloriously empathic when I'm feeling their love). I feel their fear, their panic, their guilt, the howl they're holding down in their gut. It feels like being punched in the stomach.

Helpless to intervene (it's THEIR life, THEIR choices), I watch people I love act out foolishly, impulsively, without forethought of injury or consequence, unknowingly motivated by fear, hurt, guilt, or anger.

I see myself doing it sometimes, realizing it after the fact.

What can we do?

A wise person once said, "The only sin is selfishness." All other sins flow from selfishness--the impulse to put ourselves first, to rate our needs and wants as higher or better, at the expense of others. I see sin as being on a continuum: on one end is the "evil" person, 100% selfish all the time, justifying all actions, no matter how heinous, because they're self-serving. On the other end of the continuum is sainthood, pure selflessness. Most of us fall somewhere in between the two extremes and occupy different places on it at different times in our lives.

How do we not get trapped in our own pain, how do we accept hard truths and heal anyway, rather than falling victim to our own selfish natures?

Forgive. The only peace is in forgiveness. Love in humankind is only to be found in forgiveness.

It is a struggle. But, forgive and love anyway. Love even if it hurts.