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Rated: 13+ · Book · Personal · #2313530
This BLOG is duplicated from my website and can be pretty random. Philosophical.
I have found that the writing I initially did for therapy and catharsis has been of some interest to others so I started a blog on my personal website. I will be copying those here to get feedback as well as entertain.
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April 10, 2024 at 12:45am
April 10, 2024 at 12:45am
#1068415
Trust

What is trust? That is quite a question if you think about it. There are many types of trust. There is blind trust, which comes easier to some than others, more on that in a minute. There is earned trust, broken trust, implied trust, etc. Anyway, trust is very personal and intimate. It is not the same to everyone so one should evaluate their views on trust once in a while or it all becomes blind trust.

Throughout much of my life I lived on blind trust. I didn’t think things through very much and just assumed everything would work out which is one definition of blind trust. I also assumed that most people had good intentions and would not bring me harm. I was proven wrong on enough occasions that I slowly moved to a position of zero trust. This was partially because my motives were entirely selfish and so I perceived everyone else as out to get me.

A leap of faith is another type of trust where the perceived promise is greater than the consequences but not guaranteed. Getting myself sober was a leap of faith and my first real act of trust in a very long time. I was lucky in that the people around me in early recovery supported me without trying to take advantage of me. I say lucky because that is not always the case and I have seen many people taken advantage of in early recovery and it made it much harder for them to trust the process and program of recovery.

I have heard it said that faith comes a lot easier with a track record and that is the same for trust. That would be earned trust. It started with my sponsor meeting me when he said he would, or the meeting hall being opened on time. As people continued to do what they said they were going to do they earned my trust.

I then had to take a long hard look at myself and see that I had earned quite the reputation for being untrustworthy. In the last few years of my addiction I had proven this reputation by chronically calling off work, not showing up when I had agreed to, stealing, and petty much letting everyone I knew down over and over. There were two sides to that coin and luckily one side was a new start with a new group of people.

The other side of the coin was the people I already knew. Promising to stay sober only to be drunk again by afternoon for 25 years shredded any trust with the wife and kids as well as friends and relatives. This is of course broken trust and the hardest to mend. In many cases it is impossible to regain broken trust. As I mentioned trust is a very personal and intimate thing and regaining trust has as much to do with the person I am trying to regain trust with as it does with my new behavior. I know people who have a very short “trust fuse” and once burned it does not get replaced.

I know of people who would never trust me again but at a certain point that is on them and not me, at least in my opinion. So again, I see that trust is very personal. Trust is something that can only be evaluated by the person giving the trust and it can be very frustrating when someone refuses to give you trust. I may feel that I have earned trust but am not looking through the same lens the person I am asking to trust me.

I do not know what that person has been through and how many times they have been burned by trusting someone. Depending on the circumstances I can be a bit of a sucker by extending a person trust when many others would not. On the other hand, I have a very short trust fuse in other circumstances such as newcomers in my Oxford House. It is unfortunate, but most newcomers are being held up to a yardstick built by others’ past failures.

Trust is one of those things that can’t be measured easily and again I may feel I deserve trust from someone who won’t extend it to me in the measure I feel I have earned. I can make charts and look at the pros and cons of trusting someone but in the end, it usually comes down to a gut feeling or instinct. Trust is not like a paycheck where I put in my hours and get paid for those hours. I may put in all of the work and time but still not be trusted by some.

So, in the end, trust is almost mystical in that it may not be easily measured and discerned by the person expecting the trust. I may simply remind the other person of someone who screwed them over before and therefor may either need extra proof to be trusted or never gain trust at all. On the other hand, I may remind the person of someone kind or trustworthy in their past and gain trust easily.

No matter how I have gained someone’s trust I have found, through painful experience, that it is something of extreme value and should not be taken for granted. When I was a firefighter I gained the absolute trust of many under my command and lost it all one night by driving a firetruck drunk. Because of that I had to leave that life behind and could never gain that level of trust back. I have regained nearly that level of trust in my recovery and sober living communities in that whether they love me or hate me, the people around me today know that I do what I say I will and protect the things I am entrusted with.

So today I realize that my actions are very important and that everything I do can affect the trust given me. I also realize that any decision I make or action I take could affect my credibility and trust levels. I also realize that things do not happen in a vacuum and that what I do in one circle could affect my trust in another circle. So, I am careful to speak the truth in all situations. And, as I have said before, the best way to avoid lying is to not do things I need to lie about.

Gaining trust involves loyalty, integrity, honesty, and consistency and those things are within my control. The trust itself is, at least somewhat, out of my control and is complicated by many parameters also outside of my control. What I have found is that if I live my life by those principles mentioned above I have the best chance of gaining and keeping trust and know that if trust is not given it is not my fault and out of my hands.

It is a shame that this kind of wisdom come to us later in life, at least in my case anyway and usually through much pain and error. I am just glad that I am reaching that point.
April 2, 2024 at 4:33am
April 2, 2024 at 4:33am
#1067375
Connections


I believe that everything is connected at some level. If nothing else all matter is connected through the laws of nature and the universe. Nothing can actually defy gravity, so everything is connected by the law of gravity. Going further, all living beings require air, so we are all connected by it. I think that on a long enough timeline, we would all share a molecule or two by simply breathing.

Going further, I believe all beings are connected by energy as well. I'm not just talking about electrical or easily measured energy but energy at a spiritual level. As I have mentioned before I think that all humans, and most animals too I guess, are animated computers made of meat. I will go further to say that for that computer animation to rise to the level of having a "personality" then the energy must be somehow divine or inherently intelligent.

Our species has gone to great lengths to understand and describe the laws and forces that control energy, so I would postulate that the energy that animates the personality of homo sapiens would fall under the same laws. I figure that if this energy, or soul if you will, was not subject to these same laws, at least while it is inhabiting the body, we would have seen some evidence of it by now.

I will simply say that I believe that this energy, or at least the intelligent part of it, is independent of the body containing it. I will not try to explain that belief further because numerous religions, superstitions, and other systems have spent plenty of time and spilled blood over that. I do believe that if my life force or soul energy was to inhabit another body I would still be me in that body.

If this is all true, then it makes sense to me that my life force has had other experiences besides this current one. During those other experiences and excursions, I am sure that my life force has interacted with the other life forces that are traveling through whatever we are traveling through. If you take a still body of water and drop multiple stones or other objects into it there will be ripples created. These ripples along with their interactions and reactions can all be described, plotted, and predicted by scientific methods.

So, if my life force was one of these stones and the body of water the totality of our existence then my ripples have interacted with countless other soul ripples and taken a bit of theirs with mine as well as contributing a bit of me to theirs. I believe that is why when we meet someone for what we think is the first time but seem to have an instant connection and they "feel like home" then we have previously exchanged a bit of energy. I guess it is also possible that we have both alternately shared energy with a common connection.

There have been a few examples in my life where I met someone and there was an instant recognition and comfort level that is hard to explain by intellectual and emotional means only. I have two current friends who meet that criteria, it was like we had known each other forever when we first met. It was as if we were opening a book not writing a new one.

I also recently reconnected with a friend from childhood I had not talked to in over 50 years and we began conversing like we had seen each other last week. She then sent me a couple of photos from that era and along with all the memories that the pictures evoked there was also a stirring or movement of energy within me. I have reconnected with others from my past and seen other photos without this same feeling. I believe that we connected at a deep energy level back then even if I didn't perceive it at the time. Like an imprinting of some sort.

I mentioned in a blog about grief that I believe the pain and emotions we feel when grieving a loss is the loss of the connection. I think that is why there are certain people that I have lost in my life, either from death or the severing of the relationship, that I have grieved differently than others. The people I have had these deeper connections with seem to have been more complex. While the grief is stronger because the lost connection was greater, there is also a certain comfort associated with those losses. I believe that if the connection is strong enough to transcend this existence then it continues. When I think about one of those "feels like home" relationships or lives that have been lost then there is an almost instant warmth and comfort as well.

So, my connections are much more complex than they seem. Understanding and accepting this concept brings me clarity and peace. As to how that energy ebbs and flows under the surface of our existence is a question for another day and well beyond my grasp anyway. I used to think I had to figure it all out but I like things a little bit vaguer today.

I also believe that the same concept works in the other direction as well. There are those people we meet and have an instant negative feeling towards. Maybe they were the landlord that evicted us or possibly ever our murderer in a past life or another dimension, who knows. Or maybe they have just been collecting dark energy for a few cycles again, who knows? I have learned to trust those feelings though and usually deeply regret ignoring them.

I guess this piece has turned out kind of me trying to explain my soul and the interdimensional space I think it lives in. I would love to hear what others think.

March 27, 2024 at 2:52am
March 27, 2024 at 2:52am
#1067007
Hope

Why do I keep going when things get tough? Why I would place my life, standing, finances, etc. in jeopardy to help another?

These questions have plagued us all at various times, I’m sure. At the ripe old age of 62, I feel like I am beginning to reach an age of understanding that qualifies me to begin to answer those questions as they relate to me. I’m also at an age where these questions have begun to beg for an answer.
I’ll start with why I think I keep going. To be honest I have chosen not to keep going in life several times as I am a suicide survivor. Today I just need hope to keep going so I think the primary reason I have chosen suicide over life several times was lack of hope. There was a famous study done with rats to determine their ability to avoid drowning and we will leave the ethics of that experiment for another day. In the study, among other things, it was determined that a rat that was saved close to giving up and drowning was able to hold out for much longer the next time.

I believe that I emerged stronger after surviving each of my suicide attempts. This also gave me hope that was similar to the rats in that study by surviving when I thought I had given up and died. All of the successful suicides that I have known the details of have similar parameters in that they all had a component of lack of hope. My Mother took her own life and reading through her writings of those last couple of months showed me that she was out of hope. So, if it is hope that keeps me going how do I find it?

I was abandoned by both my Mother and my Father in my youth, so I spent considerable time in institutions and orphanages. I also spent several years in mental hospitals as well as incarcerated. I was also sexually and physically abused so much of my youth was filled with hopelessness. In hindsight, my behavior and decisions during that period were really a form of psychological suicide because without hope I had no sense of the future and had very self-destructive and potentially life-threatening behaviors. During that period, I didn’t care if I lived or died because without hope my life had no meaning.

I emerged from that period into what from the outside would seem like a relatively normal life. Even though I had the trappings of a life such as a job, car, apartment, etc. I still had no hope because I had skipped growing up and the emotional growth that comes with it. During this time, my alcoholism really took off and I drowned my fears and anxiety in alcohol, drugs, and false relationships. Since these were not effective coping skills I still had no hope and had a few suicide attempts. In each of these attempts, I woke up grateful to still be here.

Much like the near drowned rats I emerged knowing that I could survive more than I thought I could. Unfortunately, while this did build a new resilience in me it did not equip me with better coping or living skills. Because of this the next many years could best be described as a determined grind in that although I would push on in the face of adversity I still had not much hope of things getting better. The vague hope that things would get better coupled with overdeveloped survival instincts was why I kept going during that period.

In my book, I describe the next few years in a chapter titled “Narrowing” because that is what was happening. I was slowly losing or giving up things and my life became a meager existence with my only hope coming from a bottle. The only way I could face another day was knowing I could get drunk. I guess weirdly it is similar to how I live my life today with the one day at a time philosophy. I can get through today knowing I could get drunk tomorrow but back then I got through the day knowing I would get drunk again tomorrow.

Fast forward to me getting sober and I found hope in the eyes of an old man who told me his story while doing my intake at a drug and alcohol rehab. I could finally relate to someone else about my alcoholism, saw life and hope in his eyes, and I was no longer alone. And while it has dimmed a few times over the last 9 years that small ember of hope I picked up that day is now a bright flame.

I see hope kind of like a credit card in that I have to have enough on the card to make withdrawals when I need to. Before getting sober my only hope was in the form of an afterlife better than the life I was currently living. That kind of hope wears very thin very quickly because it is the same thing I was doing in my youth, hoping for better days without doing anything to help make it happen. While I do still believe in an existence outside this one, by enlarging my spiritual and emotional life I increase the limit of my hope credit line because I am finding true happiness.

With that philosophy in mind, I have faced many hurdles in recovery and after making a withdrawal from my hope card I was able to refill it quicker each time. I have said many times that gratitude is my superpower, and nothing will fill or increase my hope balance quicker than gratitude. When I am grateful for what I have and what I have achieved it reminds me of what I am capable of. I still depend on my higher power for strength but more and more I am seeing that strength dependent on my actions.

In the end, the final stage is where I now have a very good sense of my hope balance, and instead of lamenting over a lack of hope I actively rebuild it by going to more meetings, talking to support friends, or acts of self-care. This has been proven out recently as I navigate easily through what I would have seen as show-stopping tragedies a few years ago.

Life is tough, but it is a lot tougher without hope!
March 21, 2024 at 2:36am
March 21, 2024 at 2:36am
#1066659
What is normal? What is acceptable? In my opinion, there are no such things. What is normal and perfectly acceptable in one situation could be heinous or even illegal in another. The combination of upbringing, education, and current status greatly impacts how one responds and relates to others. Depending on the situation I find myself in I have been described as intimidating, vulgar, and even evil. On the other hand, I have also been described as sweet, nice, and intelligent.

I have, of course, been described in many other ways as well. I am equally taken aback when someone tells me how intimidating they think I am or when someone tells me how awesome they think I am. I have been oblivious to my surroundings way too often due to being very self-centered most of the time. I guess that is my point here today, that what I say and do is perceived very differently than I intended much of the time. As I said it is getting better although that is as much from my improving mental health as becoming a better person.

We all have masks or personas that we use in different situations to fit in, receive rewards, and for many other reasons. For much of my life, my personas were real persons that took over and at times I had little to no control over them. I think that led to me being less aware of how I am being perceived than most people. What usually happens for me is that I have this general generic persona that I use in new or unknown situations. In that mode, I can be quite charming, disarming, and well-mannered. But, that is not who I really am deep down, and that mask quickly slips.

For most of my life, my “normal person” persona was who I thought I was supposed to be, and was always quite frustrated when minutes to days later that mask fell away and I began acting inappropriately. I don’t know if everyone else has a “normal person” mask they use or not, I just know about mine. I also can’t use the phrase “how I was raised” the way most people do because I did not grow up in a household the way most people do. My “raising” was an amalgam of orphanages, institutions, relatives, and even prison rules and discipline.

Looking back on it all today I realize that I never had an identity because my environment was always changing and chaotic. I guess that is part of why I forged so many different identities. Once I had enough therapy to integrate and stabilize my personality, 7 years to be exact, I am now able to work on what that integrated personality is supposed to look like. And what I want it to look like!

The majority of my youth, 11 to 18 years old, I was locked up quite a bit or in some type of nontraditional housing situation. When I was not incarcerated I was with my Mother or relatives and hung out with the freaks. Freaks was the common slang in my time for the drug and hippie crowd. Hanging with that group I developed certain ideals, vocabulary, and looks. Considering that the rest of the time I was usually in some type of institution with rigid rules and often unfeeling staff my values tended to be very loosely defined and very anti-establishment and anti-authority.

I would then spend the next 40-plus years working in professional environments, first as a programmer for pharmacy computers and then as a firefighter and paramedic. I always felt very much like the imposter because here I was this, in my mind, tie-dye-wearing hippie trying to pretend to be a professional. In reality, I was very good at my jobs and perceived as professional and competent, I just left like I would be found out at any moment. I also tended to forget my environment and say stuff that was way out of character and inappropriate for the situation. Sometimes it would be subtle but still noticed. Things like using drug slang with patients as a paramedic.

Fast forward to today, having been sober for a while, living in sober living, and working in the homeless and recovery industry. I find myself once again surrounded by the type of people I hung out with in my youth. I still find myself cringing occasionally in these groups as I get comfortable and say something over the top. I still have to remember that even though most of us have similar stories mine is still a bit more out there and tragic. I have to kind of ease people into hearing my whole story.

Ironically, I had the juxtaposition of feeling like the adult in the room or the authority figure to the youths when I first started hanging out with the sober living and recovery community. I had been trying to remove myself from my roots for so long that I forgot where I came from. It took a while to realize that these are my roots and where I belong.

Because of that I once again find myself more at home with the “freaks” than with “normal” folks. I was at a sober living 4th of July party a few years ago and remember looking out at all of the people partying in the pool. It reminded me of all the keg parties I had been to in my youth with the exception that there were no kegs, and everyone was sober. I was also pretty sure no one was going to jail or the morgue, like what used to happen at our keggers back in the day.

So, as I continue to heal, grow, and recreate myself I am finding my true place in the world. Today I am moving more towards what makes me feel comfortable and at home than where society or someone else thinks I should be. It is funny that I left a world behind to enter another one that I thought I wanted only to want the old one back. Some say people can’t change but I say it is never too late to change and change is always possible.

So, excuse me while I continue to create myself!
March 19, 2024 at 5:34am
March 19, 2024 at 5:34am
#1066551
Change

There are 3 types of people in this world. There are those who abhor change, those who welcome change, and then there are those who crave and initiate change. In reality, we all probably have a mixture of features from each of these groups. I used to belong almost exclusively to the first group, much like my father, but over the years I have softened quite a bit and accept change pretty well.

My father fought and resisted change tooth and nail. As the head of households, companies, and other systems he was able to keep change at bay for much of his life. If he moved, then everything in the house was arraigned exactly the same as the last house if possible. This was most notable in his bedroom. He had a freestanding full-length mirror, Roman statue, dressers, etc. that all wound up in the exact same relative positions in house after house. Everything was immaculately clean as well.

Psychologists can have a hay day with this type of behavior. Some of them would say that he must have come from a chaotic childhood with little order while others would insist he came from an overly structured environment. From knowing him and conversations over the years I know that his mother, by his words, was a slob and the house was always in disarray.
Some would say that the behavior resulting from a person’s childhood environment also depends greatly on what happens next. In my father's case, he would go on to join the military as well as spend some time in prison. Having grown up in disorder and then later being forced to conform to rigid order caused him to have very serious compulsions about cleanliness and order. His closets and drawers looked like showrooms. Everything was hung or folded with precision and perfectly lined up. Anything stained or worn, especially underwear, was promptly discarded.

In my case, my mother was also a bit slovenly although that can easily be attributed to her serious mental health problems. I would also go on to be incarcerated, institutionalized, and then become a firefighter and paramedic. Although our paths seemed very similar from the outside we wound up being very different in that I am a slob. And, while I am not dirty, my environment is always cluttered and in disarray. My cars, bedrooms, and office spaces have always suffered from neglect.

Since my father and I came from similar environments, at least as far as cleanliness and order go, and we obviously have very similar genetics then there must be some other explanation for our differences in resultant behaviors. So, the next thing I would like to explore is resilience to change.

I can extrapolate from conversations, anecdotal information, and family history that my father’s childhood was relatively linear. That means that while he may have experienced stress from the clutter and lack of cleanliness he at least knew where he was going home to and what was going to be there when he arrived from school or other outings. His family didn’t move around much either, so he had a fairly stable environment as well.

My childhood was the opposite in that respect. I was abandoned by my mother numerous times and spent most of my childhood, from 11 years old on, bouncing around between group homes, foster homes, and the streets. I learned to never grow roots and to expect almost continuous change. Unlike a child whose family simply moves around a lot, such as a military family, I was never able to feel secure and expected someone to come through the door any moment and tell me to pack up because I was going somewhere else again. In many of these cases, I would not even be able to take my meager belongings with me, so I would not have even a few familiar things to start over with.

Now all of this brings rise to many psychological and philosophical concepts, but I am focusing on change today. In that respect, I see that while my father was used to the clutter and disorder he was not exposed to constant change and therefore did not develop a resilience to change and became one of those who abhorred change and had to control even the change itself. I on the other hand was exposed to constant change and developed a high resilience to change because my life was out of my control and I had to adapt to new surroundings regularly.

As I mentioned I was highly resistant to change throughout a lot of my life. I think that was because having grown up in constant change and chaos I avoided change because I have a distaste for change more than fear of it. I also have a lot of mental health problems that resulted from my childhood and part of those survival mechanisms was to avoid change as well. I was also in a position to be able to resist change for the most part as well.

Fast forward to now being sober and many years of therapy helping to relieve my mental health issues and I accept change pretty healthily today. That is fortunate because since getting sober I have also divorced, moved out of the house I lived in for many years, and am unable to continue my former career due to my background. I think that is also why I have been able to adapt to living in sober living houses because it is very similar to my youth and I now have the resilience to adapt to moving from house to house and having new housemates regularly.

As I have mentioned in many previous writings today I choose the high road whenever possible. I think a lot of the reason I can do that is because of my resilience to change. Instead of looking at my past as something that beat me up and caused me pain, I can look at it as something that prepared me for my life today.
March 17, 2024 at 9:27am
March 17, 2024 at 9:27am
#1066414
What You've Got

I remember when I first left rehab a few years ago. I had 30 days sober, a bucketful of determination, and a healthy fear of relapse. I knew from what I had already been told and had seen, that one of the first things I needed to do was get a sponsor. I had a temporary sponsor in rehab, but he was urging me to get a permanent sponsor right away. I thought it was because he did not live in San Antonio but in hindsight, I think he knew I was going to be a handful.

Anyway, I went to a meeting right away, well after booking in and out of jail for a new felony I’d picked up while still drinking. By now I was paranoid that I would screw up, so I was still very motivated to do this thing right. I went to at least one meeting a day for much more than the recommended 90 days, the whole time on the lookout for a sponsor.

At my second or third meeting, this guy was sharing and recounting the blessings of a recent experience. I thought he was nuts at first because he talked about how he bought a new bicycle and while riding it home from the shop he was hit by a car and broke his arm. He still had the cast on and was going on about how he had medical insurance, the driver stopped and was insured, and the bike shop repaired the bike for free, etc.

As I listened to him it dawned on me that he had been just like me not too long ago. I started to see that this was the s*** everyone was talking about, the fulfilled promises from the AA 12-step program. It then dawned on me that this would be a pretty good prospect for a sponsor. So, I told him I wanted what he had because problems seemed to roll off of his back like a duck’s. I asked him to sponsor me and he, reluctantly, agreed. Back then I was a hot mess and I don’t think anybody gave me much of a chance of staying sober let alone getting my life together.

We worked together diligently though, and I think he started to see something in me that others didn’t. We had been using the AA meeting hall to do step work but always had to leave when the keyholder left. I talked to the group leader and picked up a key to the hall since by now I was coming around regularly and had agreed to be the unofficial janitor. The next day when my sponsor said we couldn’t stay because they were locking up and I pulled out the key he stopped and looked at me for a minute and then smiled. I think that was the moment he knew I was going to make it. We worked together for several months and he walked me through all of the steps. I moved on to a female sponsor after I came out but have stayed in contact with him.

Fast forward and I am coming up on 9 years sober which still blows my mind. I was in a wreck with my car yesterday and was just happy no one was hurt, and I was able to limp my car home. As I was getting ready for work this morning I had been going over stuff in my mind. I thought that I was blessed that I had the money to catch a Lyft to work and back, I had full coverage insurance, I already had enough money for the deductible, and I would get half price on the bus pass because I am over 62, etc. I was mulling these things over and it hit me – I have what he’s got!

That realization made me reflect back over the last 9 years. If you had told or shown me what my life would be like today, I would have thought you were crazy and at that time I would not have wanted what I have today anyway. My life is simple today and I like it that way. The chaos and insanity have left me. The only thing that the sponsor asked me to do in return is to keep passing it along the way he passed it on to me. Every time I text him or call him to report another milestone and thank him, he asks if I am still sponsoring. I say “Yes”, and he replies, “Then you are still thanking me!”.

Never in a million years would I have imagined still being alive today let alone happy and useful. I hope I never forget those first days and what it was like. In that way, I continue to have empathy with the newcomer. I try also to remember what a pain in the ass I was and the patience and grace that was shown to me.

So, in the end, I can truly say to that man, “Thank you! I have what you’ve got!”.
March 12, 2024 at 4:32am
March 12, 2024 at 4:32am
#1066135
I remember when I was first getting sober I told my sponsor that now that I was getting a handle on alcohol I guessed I would need to go to NA, SAA, and all the other A’s to get a handle on drug addiction, sex addiction, and all of my other addictions. He just laughed and told me to relax, stick around, and see what happens first. Of course, he was right because AA itself describes the disease of alcoholism as being one of obsession. Therefore, if I find a way to arrest the disease of alcoholism I would most likely arrest the bulk of my other obsessions.

In reality, it is only partially true because while I have stopped drinking I have not stopped thinking and that is where my disease and obsession truly live. I also remember talking to Alan, the only real therapist I've ever worked with, and him telling me that most of the things I worried about, watching too much porn, driving too fast, telling white lies, etc. were not necessarily universally wrong. Much of what I have thought was wrong throughout most of my life was all in my head. Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”.

So, in reality, it boils down to harm. If no one is harmed, including myself, then there is no problem. I’m not talking about the bulls*** kind of harm concept that I used to spout like my drinking was only harming myself because that was crap and I did harm others by being absent, spending too much money, etc. My problem over the years has been that I used other people’s morality, judgment, or complaints to assess my behavior and ideas and then commenced to assimilate all of that crap into my values. I used to think that values were my beliefs but today I know that values are the actions to back up my beliefs. Once that process is complete, or at least well underway, then I can begin to figure out what my true beliefs are and begin to take the actions to bring it all current.

Which brings us back to obsession. When assessing my behavior and whether it is wrong and aligns with my personal beliefs and morals today I have to let go of all of the guilt and shame I dragged with me from my childhood and relationships and think about what is real. That can be very difficult because some of this thinking has been with me for a very long time and has become very real in my mind.

When I began working with Alan to clear out the debris from my past, his main test for everything was “Is it obsessive?”. Some things were very clearly harmful and didn’t need much evaluation to judge such as drinking or using drugs again, lying, manipulating, etc. I had to take a long hard look at some other things though and decide once and for all for myself if I thought they were wrong or not. Alcohol and drugs are a no-brainer for me because they immediately become obsessive.

On that note what is obsession? I used to think of it in terms of thinking about something. If I was at work and my thoughts were preoccupied with my first drink after work that is a type of obsession but not the only type. Obsession of thought is easy enough to identify once I begin to get honest with myself. But, the type Alan was talking about is allowing some activity, thinking, or other behavior to take the place of something. Using that test, which I did not so much like at first, it was fairly easy to identify the things I was obsessively allowing to steal my serenity, peace, and eventually sobriety.

It is interesting that once I began to use that test to look at myself everything seemed to do an about-face. The things that I thought were bad for me didn’t seem so bad and the innocuous-seeming things took on a more sinister look. A good example is a friendship I had allowed to become obsessive. While the connection with this person may have had many positive benefits, I was beginning to skip 12-step meetings and other commitments that were more than outweighing any benefit this relationship was bringing.

On the other hand, I had a lot of guilt about my driving habits and was obsessively beating myself up over it all the time. This test helped me see that the obsessive self-guilt was worse than driving a few miles over the speed limit. Once I could take a step back and look at the big picture I was able to set realistic expectations for myself and my driving. I personally believe it is okay to drive a little over the limit and be exasperated over other drivers' obvious lack of skill. In this spirit, I can then look at the rest of my old driving habits and say that they are or could be harmful. I no longer drive excessively faster than traffic, and I no longer “brake check” or use other aggressive driving maneuvers but I no longer stress out about minor infractions either.

Which brings me to other addictions. What I found was that the other addictions such as drugs and sex left with the alcohol. I think that is because all of those were used to alter or remove my feelings and the combination of therapy and the 12-step transformational process has made me okay with feeling. I was blessed to never have struggled much with shopping or gambling obsessions. Some would say I can be a bit of a hoarder but thanks to Alan’s test I know it is nowhere near obsessive. Using Alan’s obsession test has allowed me to finally put porn into perspective and get over my unhealthy guilt about it as well.

So, in the end, it all comes down to harm and obsession. If no one is harmed and it is not obsessive, then it is ok in my book and I no longer care what anyone else thinks about it. But, the other side of the coin has to be true as well - If someone else’s behavior is not my cup of tea but it passes the test I have to let them be true to themselves.
March 6, 2024 at 3:24am
March 6, 2024 at 3:24am
#1065669
I am realizing I am quickly approaching “that age” where things begin to make more sense and I am seeing the wisdom in the things my parents and especially grandparents said. It is like so many other things in life that something sneaks up on you and you do not realize it is happening until it has happened. Part of it is realizing that my actions are falling more and more in line with my beliefs. For the longest time, I felt like many of my beliefs were outdated and old-fashioned. But, I am beginning to see more and more how much sense they make.

Now I don’t know if this process has been the same for others or just for me. For, you see, my life has been a bit different than the average person. I grew up mostly in the streets surrounded by a mostly criminal element. We had different values and ideas than most folks. The idea of doing the right thing because it was the right thing just didn’t fit with our crowd. That was lame or uncool because everything we did was because it would benefit us somehow. The thought of helping someone else without the potential for gain was lost on us.

Life on the streets and a criminal lifestyle are hard to describe to the uninitiated. I know this because every once in a while, I will be discussing something from my past or throwing out an idea and realize that the person I am talking to is shocked. They can’t grasp the ideals surrounding the events I am describing. I forget sometimes that I didn't grow up like most folks and that they can’t see things from my worldview. I guess that is one of the reasons I enjoy living in a sober living home because most of the people I interact with have a similar lived experience.

Most of them have not gone to the depths that I did but we are still all in the same ballpark. There are a few, such as a dear friend I met when I first moved into sober living, that have enough similar lived experiences that we can be totally at peace and ease around each other. I guess that is part of being at “that age” because I am beginning to have that feeling about other more “normal” people my age. I used to think, and occasionally still do, that those people were naïve, square, or deluded and were missing out.

Today I realize that I was the one who was delusional and missing out. By believing that the world was wrong, cold, and out to get me I avoided so much that would have been beneficial and rewarding. After moving to San Antonio in 1985 I consequentially left that life and friends behind. That was when I began to realize that I was not “normal” and that my values did not line up with society in general. I still harbored those same thoughts though and just “went along to get along” for the most part to try to get by as best as possible.

I don’t know for sure what the people in my life saw and thought but I always felt like an imposter fearing that I would be exposed at any moment. Like most things in life, I didn’t realize how much that affected me until I began to shed that skin after getting sober. Getting sober and working a 12-step program let me see my fallacious thinking and how it had affected my life for all these years. It has still taken several years of living “as if” for the old thinking to fade away. That kind of thinking can still pop in from time to time and it seems to appear most when I am meeting new people that I will have to depend on or engage with. I still find myself sizing them up for what I can get out of them or what harm they could bring me.

The good news is that my defects today pretty much stay in my head and don’t escape. I can still find myself acting upon those thoughts, but those days are far less common and the actions milder than they once were. I’m not sure where I thought I would wind up but all of the working on myself, disciplining my thoughts, and staying sober has resulted in simply becoming a worker among workers, a friend among friends, or in other words a decent human being. I remember when I was younger thinking decency was for suckers, that “nice guys finish last”, and that if anyone had described me as a decent human being I would’ve been insulted.

I guess we all get here on different tracks and that most people have some degree of fallacious and errant thinking that keeps them from reaching self-actualization. To me, self-actualization is when my “go-to” thinking and beliefs are in alignment with my core beliefs and when those beliefs are in relative alignment with general society. I say relative because not all societal norms are good for all people and each person's morality is going to differ somewhat from their fellow. The key for me is when those differences bring harm to another. By harm, I mean true harm not perceived harm or ego bruising. For example, if my perceived morality causes me to try to remove a freedom or right from another because I think they are wrong then that is harmful.

This brings me back to the topic at hand – “that age”. I remember there was a point in their lives when my grandfather, then my father, and now finally mine where the tone softened, the words came slower, and the judgment lessened. I remember when all the wisdom that poured out of the mouths of my grandfather and father seemed so silly and demeaning. Now those words pour out of my mouth and guess what? These darn kids aren’t listening any more than I did. I see now why they didn’t push too hard because they saw what I see today, and they knew that, if I lived long enough, I would come to the same conclusions.

Things don’t change as much as we think they do.
February 27, 2024 at 3:10am
February 27, 2024 at 3:10am
#1064965
I told my therapist at one point that I felt like I needed a month off just to remember stuff. Fortunately, I have been given that and more. It Is not a month off but instead a job and lifestyle that lets me have plenty of solitude. And boy have I been remembering.

Let me back up here a minute and explain. Anyone who has been following my blog, story, and book knows that I have DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder. You will also know that we are now fully integrated, and all of the personalities and their memories are accessible to me. Since those memories were not available to me for much of my life I am now in the process of assimilating them and reprocessing my values, beliefs, and ideals.

That is what I meant by needing time to remember. And that requires quality alone time in sufficient quantity to process a memory or group of memories. I use music, imagery, and reading over the narratives written by each personality to pull things to the surface. When I read one of the narratives for a few minutes that personality emerges more and pushes to the front. I then begin to get a feel for the attitudes, morals, and preferences of that personality and can kind of enter its world.

Once I am in that mode I can relive the moments of those memories. It can be confusing and unsettling at times because I am often seeing things through two lenses. One lens is the lens that the memory was formed with, i.e. the personality fronting, or present, at the time. The other lens of course is my current lens. And through this process, the current lens is constantly changing and updating.

One of the results of this process is that I need to go back and reprocess certain things all over again. One of the reasons is that as I process things my values and morals update and something I found offensive, or not, in a previous remembering is now viewed quite differently. A good example is my religious leanings and beliefs. Something that I at one time would have considered wrong or “sinful” today I view differently and mostly look at the intent vs the action.

Throughout much of my life, I felt like my actions were not in alignment with my beliefs, or as Alan used to put it my values were not in a current status. Today as a result of this process I believe I have become pretty open-minded. Therefore, when I look back at events and actions from my life much of what I condemned myself for I see today was not out of line with my current values. The other stuff I can forgive myself for pretty easily now that it is viewed in context. When I used to vaguely remember an event out of my past without the context provided by the personality fronting things would appear to be evil or out of proportion. A good example is when I assaulted my mother. Now that I have the whole picture of what she did to me for all those years my actions no longer feel out of proportion or evil. I am not saying that my actions were justified only that they are more understandable.

It is like standing on top of a forested mountain looking back down at my journey to the top. While I was on the path I could not see the rest of the path it was confusing, and I made a lot of decisions without having all the information needed to make a healthy decision. Also, as my personalities switched out I often would not even realize I was on a journey and just thought I was lost in a forest. This was most evident when my core personality would push through to the front and find us in some awkward or confusing situation that the alter had gotten us into. Today when reprocessing I have the whole picture and see events in the context of the whole journey.

As I go through this process of unwrapping compartmentalized memories I wonder how similar or dissimilar it is to how people with relatively normal recall process memories. One of the cool parts of the human experience is that we all have variations of the mind's eye and internal monologue. For the most part, whenever I remember something from my past there are two mind’s eyes and two internal monologues present. Over time the second set is slowly becoming weaker but is still there. This gives me the chance to look at things, I would think, very differently than most people. What I used to think of as a curse I now view as a superpower because there are two, or more, of us looking at the same thing from different contexts.

I would liken the process to trying to make a bed with multiple cats in the room so that every time I almost have it another cat jumps on the bed and tries to get under the sheets. What I do today is take the high road, look at the journey, and try not to focus on the destination. It can become tiring and tedious at times and like any task, my motivation waxes and wanes at times but the improvement in my mental health and contentment I have gained so far always keep me coming back. I try to remember that I am going down roads that few have journeyed and remember to enjoy the process along the way. I often stop and ask myself, “How the hell did we get here?”, and to be honest I have no real answer.

That is the main reason that I have researched and written about Dissociative Identity Disorder so much, to try to answer that question. So, I do not write about DID from a scholarly or authoritative viewpoint, I instead write about it from an experiential viewpoint. I feel like that has more benefit to many others on this same path than a bunch of scientific explanations because so far, those explanations have not helped me all that much. Once the diagnosis is made and accepted by the person with DID I feel the rest is relatively uncharted, so I write about my journey to help start to build a chart. If not for the many, then at least for me.

In the meantime, I will keep remembering, processing, and taking the high road!
February 21, 2024 at 2:44am
February 21, 2024 at 2:44am
#1064579
I have heard it said that grief is love with nowhere to go. I’m not sure I believe that, but I guess it is about as good an explanation as any. What I believe today is that grief is a complex of feelings and comes in many varieties. I can grieve someone else’s loss and that is not the same as grieving my loss. I can grieve for someone lost long ago or I can grieve for a new and especially painful loss.

So, it would seem that grief does come in many shapes and sizes. I am by no means a stranger to grief, but I don’t think you could call me an expert either. Since grief comes to us all differently I don’t think there is a proper way to define or quantify grief.

My journey through life and grief is quite complex and has taken many paths over the years. For much of my life, I was probably unable to have any real grief because I didn’t give a crap about anybody. Pretty hard to grieve someone you felt nothing for. On the other hand, I spent most of my life either dissociated into oblivion or intoxicated into numbness, and usually both. Again, pretty hard to grieve without access to feelings.

The funny thing is that the grieves I remember the most from those days were all for animals. I was torn up over the loss of tigers and other large animals at a sanctuary where I volunteered. Reba, Tripoli, Lenny, Raja, and so many others. I think that I actually connected with them better than people back then. Also, they were all coming out of abuse as was I. So, it was the actual connection I grieved.

Therefore, it would seem to me that I was grieving the loss of the connection more than the loss of the object. That makes a lot of sense to me because I have eventually grieved all the grief I never felt during the years I was distracted by mental illness and addiction. The key to that was that as I have healed mentally and stayed sober my mind has rebuilt those connections and I now can grieve the loss thereof.

Again, I say that grief is very complex because of the way I have grieved the loss of my mother. For much of my life, I compartmentalized and buried her memories and death. After many years of therapy, the whole picture is clear to me today. Of course, I grieve her physical loss, but I also grieve the loss of a mother, a writer, a friend, and even a lover in my experience of her. Once again, there is a connection to be seen in each of those roles she played that I lost the day she died.

If I am grieving the loss of a connection I don’t think I ever truly get over that. The very word connection implies that it is not casual or superficial but intentional and complex. It is like the fibers of their being have woven and dug into me and there is no way to remove that. I think that is why every once in a while when I think I am done grieving something like a sound, a song, a smell, or even a situation will cause those remaining connection fibers to vibrate and reignite my grief.

In the end, I see that grief is not love with nowhere to go but a connection with nowhere to go. That can explain a lot because I will grieve the loss of a connection when it tries to reach out, like when I get the urge to call someone only to remember they are gone. And that does not always mean they are dead just that the connection is gone. I grieve over the loss of friendship or love as much or more than death. Death is easy enough because it is final but the loss of connection to a former friend or lover is worse because the bargaining phase of grief never really ends in those cases.

If connection is the key to grief, then it would be easy enough to just not make any more connections. The problem with that is that being human one of my drives is to connect. We are socially programmed creatures, so it would seem it is impossible to live life and not make any meaningful connections.

Of course, I cannot avoid grief for the rest of my life because it seems to me it is part of the human condition. Therefore, I need to be very careful with my connections moving forward. I do not always realize the depth of a connection until it is broken, and the grief comes. The flipside of that is if I am careful to only make high-quality connections then the grief is of a higher quality as well.

With all of this in mind, I can look at grief in a different light and see it as more of a celebration than pain. I have come to embrace and at times almost welcome the feelings of grief. Strangely it is like having the connection back for a minute because at least for me grief always comes with memories. Memories that may have otherwise been left buried away or at least ignored.

Today I try to take the high road of grief and celebrate the connection that once was and not just cry over it. In a way that makes the connection more important than its loss. And that is beautiful.

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