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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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May 21, 2024 at 9:44pm
May 21, 2024 at 9:44pm
#1071500
When I Die
What happens when my physical body ceases to function? A great number of theologians, philosophers, and other social thinkers have dedicated countless energies to solving this riddle so I’m not going to tackle it in the global sense. I do though plan to talk about what it means to me because I have my own thoughts, hopes, as well as fears about the subject.

I guess I never thought about it until the church, the Southern Baptists to be precise, suggested to me that I have an immortal soul, that it was in danger of burning forever, and they had a solution. My earliest formative years were spent, from birth through 5 years old, with my mother and I living with her parents, and no one ever brought up church, God, or even death that I remember. After my dad came back and started beating the shit out of us regularly my mother, I’m sure to try to make sense of it all, sought refuge in the church. I learned all of the Bible stories and all about Jesus and they told me if I professed my belief in him my soul would be guaranteed a free pass into heaven.

So, at the ripe old age of 8, I was baptized into the Southern Baptist church. Shortly after that my father left, my mother went off the rails, and she became my new abuser. It’s funny that in hindsight my faith, or what I knew of faith, never wavered. I have heard story after story of people losing their faith after their parents or whoever introduced them to faith turned on them. I guess if it had been my father and he then continued to beat me it might have been different. I did kind of put my faith on a back burner though since my mother stopped taking us to church.

I would go on for many, many years with what I call “back pocket faith”. By that, I mean that I had this fervent belief that my statement of faith that I made when I was baptized made me bulletproof, and kept that in my back pocket knowing I was going to be ok in the end. In the meantime, I figured I was just supposed to have this horrible life full of abuse, delinquency, and abandonment and then go to paradise. It falls a little flat when I get it down on paper, but I ran with that for a long, long time.

I guess I stuck with it so long out of laziness, and it gave me a sense of hope. As the years went by though it became more and more threadbare, but I was afraid to think otherwise for fear of losing what little hope I had left. For many of those years, I was doing some pretty messed up stuff and I wonder if my blind faith gave me a morality I would not otherwise have had and kept me from crossing certain lines thereby saving my life or at least freedom. My religion had me believing that even thinking about any alternating was blasphemous and could result in damnation.

So, I ran with that and tried to wrest some actual solution and guidance from my beliefs, but it never came. It wasn’t until getting sober and being introduced to the 12 steps that I let go of my boxed-in, regimented version of a higher power and started thinking outside the box, the box I had put myself and my God into that is. And it was only through seeing other people getting the peace and serenity I so wanted and knowing they were not using the same concept of God that I was. One of the hardest things I’ve done is to let go of that belief and think for myself again because I still had a vague notion something bad would happen. But I wanted sobriety and what I saw these people with, end the life in their eyes, bad enough that I no longer cared and dared to think about a God personal to me of my understanding and giving it the characteristics I wanted in a God.

Once that momentous task was complete the rest was easy as the saying goes. Not really easy I guess but much easier than trying to hold onto and justify my old beliefs. For the next few years, I worked on a faith that was personal to me and worked for me. The higher power concept I had held onto for most of my life hadn’t served me well and I was immoral, delinquent, and uncaring. Today I feel that the concept of a higher power I have is working, persists, and my being sober for 9 years proves to me it is real.

So that brings me back around to my original topic of whether I have an immortal soul, what happens to it, and whether it can be destroyed or damaged. Today when it comes to a higher power, I conceptualize it more in terms of energy than a being. I believe that whatever animates my physical body and brain with consciousness, life, and personality is an intelligent and powerful energy. I also believe that energy cannot be destroyed and that one of our fundamental laws states that fact. The God concept still works because it gives me something to wrap my head around, but I don’t believe in it the same way I did.

I further believe that my uniqueness makes me separate from the source of this energy or we would all be cookie-cutter facsimiles of the whole. I also think that my energy, or soul if you will, is bound to this body by space and time as we know it. Now, whether I was forced into this position, volunteered for it, or whatever I cannot possibly know. Just as I can’t think about time or space outside my human means I can’t think about my soul either. In other words, I think that I am too complex, powerful, and wonderful to think about my true self with this current version of myself. So that is my declaration that I believe I have a soul, is it endearing or not immortal, and part of some kind of collective.

The reason I believe we are a part of a whole or collective is the intensity of our connections to each other. I don’t believe that would be possible without energy beyond our understanding. I can toy around with this and conceptualize it as simply us being bored and creating this playground, or maybe it is a game with real consequences. I don’t know the answers, but I do think that we get something out of it like maybe we can do, feel, and experience things we cannot on a different plane. I have the vague notion that I have a lot more to do with my existence than my human mind can fathom.

Either way, my current belief system tells me that something happens to this energy, and I don’t just extinguish. I can have fantasies, wishes, and fears surrounding what that looks like but since I can’t understand it, I don’t spend too much time on it. I also know that my life energy feels like it is bigger than me and that it is waiting for something. I know that no matter how hard I try my beliefs will always be wrapped around some concept that includes an energy state after this one. That is the human in me, or I guess the human I am in, needing and wanting that hope.

Today though instead of depending on that “back pocket faith” to save me and being an asshole in the meantime my spirituality guides me to help others and be kind when I can. It is still all a work in progress, but I know I’m on the right, or at least better, path. If nothing else my sobriety proves to me that I’m doing the right things.

As to what happens when I die, I am no longer in fear and that is enough for me.
May 14, 2024 at 9:54pm
May 14, 2024 at 9:54pm
#1071103
Disappointment

Disappointment is another very complex issue. Disappointment, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. One person can be hugely disappointed by a sequence of events whereas another person will find the same situation acceptable or possibly even pleasing. Disappointment could be avoided altogether if one has enough serenity, acceptance, and maturity in their life. Since I experience my fair share of disappointment then I must be lacking in one or all of those categories.

In the vast majority of cases I could have avoided disappointment or at least lessened it by having different expectations of the situation. Ah, there lies the crux of the issues, expectations. Every one of my numerous 4th step inventories has resulted in my sponsor showing me that I still suffer from the character defect of unrealistic expectations. In reality, I don’t think there is such a thing as a realistic expectation because only in the rarest of cases could someone predict the outcome of a situation.

So, I will take a look at some of my recent disappointments and compare those to my expectations to see where I may improve. As of this writing my car has been in the shop for collision repair for about 2 months. I had not followed through with an earlier claim because car repairs have been taking so long lately. I also know the car was badly damaged. But I convinced myself, with unrealistic expectations, that the car would be done quickly. So here I am nursing a large disappointment and resentment. It was my choice.

Most of the time I can see the problem clearly in hindsight but at the time the same logic and rationality are lost on me. Don’t get me wrong it has gotten much better in the 9 years I have been sober and working a program of recovery, but it still happens. I don’t know if I will ever be rid of this particular character defect but judging by my past and current behavior as well as observations of other alcoholics, I’m not going to hold my breath.

So, what exactly happens during a disappointment? I start by convincing myself something is going to be better than I thought or that the consequences are going to be dramatically less than I thought. In both cases, the mental reward I give myself gives me a dopamine hit or reward signal, and I like it so at that point I have already defeated myself mentally. Then when the larger-than-expected consequences happen or the reward is less than expected the dopamine hit is less than I imagined, and it becomes a negative reward feedback.

Once I get the unfulfilling dopamine reward and other neurochemical and physical effects, I have a depressing and let-down feeling. Most of the time this leads to anger and resentment. In many ways, it is also a grief process so denial, anger, and bargaining are added in as well. If I can simply accept the disappointment and move on life is not so bad but that is not my usual outcome. My most common reaction is bargaining because I think I can still make the event turn out my way, or my expected way.

Since I am quite clever and manipulative, I can very often twist the events around to my liking or to a state I can convince myself I still won. Because of this, I have spent an amazing amount of energy performing this unrealistic expectation, forcing the situation, and occasionally winning scenarios over and over. It wears me out and I still have a negative reward feedback but can convince myself I have won at that point anyway, even if bittersweet.

In the case of my car repairs, I have convinced the collision company to comp me back some of the deductible. In this way, I can use that little dopamine reward to think I offset the whole event. In reality, I have spent much more than that on rental cars and still did not get my vehicle back within the parameters of my expectations. Sometimes this is very dangerous because I can stuff the feelings of disappointment down and they will fester without validation.

So, in the cases that I can sit in my feelings of disappointment and process them, I can keep in the moment and learn from the event better. When I do not allow the feelings to be felt I will be doomed to repeat the behavior because I will still fool myself the next time. On the other hand, when I process the feelings, usually through step work with a sponsor, I can identify the character defects involved and my part in the events.

I am quite sure that there is no way to eliminate self-delusion and disappointment at least not in my life. But if I also believe that disappointment is always brought on by expectations and I, at least in theory, have control over my expectations then, again in theory, have the ability to slowly bring my disappointments to a lower level over time.

There are also times that in hindsight I think that I set myself up for disappointment and enjoyed it. I don’t mean I was like woohoo and enjoyed the negative feelings, but I used the situation for vindication against a rival, obtaining pity, etc. In those cases, there is obviously more going on than disappointment alone, but it is part of a more complex cascade of emotions and rewards.

In writing this I have learned a lot about myself and hopefully given you, the reader, food for thought.
May 8, 2024 at 1:39am
May 8, 2024 at 1:39am
#1070697
Time

What is time? Is it a construct we use to frame our existence? Is it immutable? Or is time malleable and we just don’t know how to manipulate it yet? Don’t worry I’m not going to try to answer these questions. The greatest philosophers and scientists of the ages have managed to describe, manipulate, and harness much of our environment but time has remained elusive. Everything we know is dependent on time and for the most part, we use time to measure and control all of the other pieces of the puzzle.

So, if we cannot control time why don’t we, or more precisely I, use it more wisely? The 2 things I have no control over are time and my life force. One might say that I do have control over my lifeforce because I have the choice to end my life. I have the feeling though that my life force would only change states and not really cease to exist. So, my life force, or more precisely my soul, is obviously very precious to me because without it I truly do cease to exist.

I can contemplate my death or even ceasing to exist although it may be difficult, but time is another matter. I cannot truly contemplate existence without the element of time. Others may be able to but no one I have met has made any headway with that endeavor, although it is not a common topic for conversation. My thoughts are even ordered by time because I cannot think of a thought before another. In other words, I even need time to write this blog because I cannot think of the end without thinking of the beginning and the middle. The beauty of that is that I am never stuck where I am at because time will always move me forward.

Ok, I don’t know about you, but all of this has made my head hurt and get a little wonky. What I really wanted to explore is my own personal use, management, and voyage through time. In a certain sense, I am making use of time whenever I set anything into motion. If I apply paint to a surface I need time to dry it, there is no other way. On the other hand, mankind has spent quite a bit of effort in making the time spent on such things less with quick-drying paints, quick-setting concrete, etc.

We seem to put a lot of time and energy into time conservation. So, I guess if we use time to create time savings then maybe in a way we have traveled time. Yeah, probably not. I can manipulate everything else in my environment, but time is constantly marching along unstoppable, unchangeable, invincible. You would think that in that case, I would have spent my time more wisely over the years.

As I have gotten older I realize that time is much like a river that I cannot get out of. The vessel I am floating down that river has changed and picked up characteristics along the way that have made me who I am at this instant in time. I will never be the same again though. Just writing that last sentence made a subtle change in my thinking. So, in the end, I think that the only thing that has truly changed with time is my thinking. Sure, the environment has aged with time, but I don’t think it has really changed all that much. Things like trees and plants age and die but they are replaced, and, in the end, things stay pretty much the same.

On a long enough timeline, everything will pretty much return to its original state including the things we have made like buildings, roads, etc. The one thing that has changed over time and cannot be reverted though is my thinking. My ideas, knowledge, and memories are permanently changed. I cannot purposely forget something, I cannot unsee a memory, and I cannot remove an idea. I can only move forward and try to learn something new that will alter the thing in my head. I think that is what time is really all about. Time keeps me from getting stuck because I cannot stay in the same instant, it is impossible.

Getting more personal I see time from different perspectives depending on my context. There is the more global sense of time like seeing myself getting older. The age I am at now really brings that into perspective. I can look back now and see this very long timeline with so many events in it. A younger person can’t have or know that perspective. Then there is the more immediate part of time such as calculating when to go to bed, what time to set the alarm, etc.

Then there is time management and how to spend my time. Time is kind of like a type of gift card. I cannot add any time to the card, but the amount left on the card is constantly going down. That thought gave me chills! Many days I feel like I only watch the card balance go down. Sure, I go to work, sleep, etc. but it feels like the time just slipped by. Part of why this topic came to mind is that I am semi-retiring and will have a lot of time on my hands soon. I am worried that I will just look back at most days and realize all I did was convert oxygen into carbon dioxide for the most part.

So, the time spent writing this piece has been well spent because my ideas have changed somewhat while writing it. I hope that the intentions I have to make better use of my newfound free time do not diminish with time, pun intended because that would be a real waste. I set out to simply describe my views on time but have seen a whole new side to it. I hope it has helped you as well.
May 1, 2024 at 2:59am
May 1, 2024 at 2:59am
#1070348
Wired

I’m wired. I remember when that statement meant something completely different, but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, what I mean is I am wired to be wired. In that I mean wired to other people, animals, places, music, etc. I believe that all life and matter is energy and because of that it is all capable of being connected by wires. Now I obviously don’t mean physical wires we can see of touch. That would be rather inconvenient.

In other writings I have discussed connections, grief, and even hope as all connections or the loss thereof. I recently had an amazing vision of how that looks to me. I wish I were an artist or animator because the visual would be cool. But as I am a writer I will describe it for you. In my vison of how everything connects, disconnects, and rips away from me I see wires. Wires that connect me to other bits and sources of energy. How big the wires are and how they look has to do what I am connecting to me or what is connecting itself to me.

I also believe that some of the connections are the ones I intentionally make, some are involuntary yet preprogrammed, and others are forced. The ones I intentionally make can be broken down into several categories such as friendship, romance, and many other reasons. For example, I can choose to connect wires to an animal that I care for as a pet, acquaintance, or just a cool animal for many reasons. I volunteered at an animal sanctuary that had great cats like tigers and lions. While they were not pets, they were animals I interacted with on a regular basis and had a similar connection to that of a pet. In the same way when one of them would die the wires connected to them would get ripped out of me the same way as the ones connected to a pet would.

You may notice I say that the wires were ripped out and that is how I see it. When a connection is severed by force I feel like the wires are ripped out and leave scars and wounds just like yanking the wires out of the back of a computer or device without disconnecting them first. There is a gaping hole or stump with the shredded wires hanging out. Some would describe it as a hole in their heart but no matter what the description, I like mine best, there is trauma. If I view this as the ripped out wires it helps me to see it, since I cannot draw it.

I see this sad forlorn image of a person with damaged wires hanging out of its arm slowly trying to reconnect them only to find they are damaged beyond repair. The person looks skyward with tears and its head drooping in acceptance. It slowly gets up and looks around trying to find new wires to connect to the damaged area but since it is experienced it knows not to try and shuffles off to continue its journey.

I feel like I have easy to use quick connect wires with plugs that don’t connect and pull out without damaging me or the receiver. I can use those for a quick conversation with the store clerk, petting a passing dog, greeting someone after a meeting, etc. but those connections get pulled right back out and don’t leave much impression. Sometimes the other energy source insists on or tries to strengthen the connection or give permanence to it and in my experience the decision to go ahead and sever those connections may damage the receiver.

I also have wires that have screw in connectors or need to be spliced and soldered to make a stronger connection. Again, I see those as one sided in that I may connect to a source with a whole bundle and make it permanent very quickly, I am actually pretty bad about this, while the source may not see the connection the same way and not fasten the wires in the same way. I have many, many old scars where wire bundles have been ripped out because of this. Although I believe some of these connections have a deeper or even divine wiring it is still always up to me to assign the permanence to it. Actually, I don’t always believe that, but logic tells me so.

In a perfect world we would discuss it with each other logically such as, “Hi, I like your energy and would like to connect these wires to you. Should I use a permanent connector, or do you plan to sever this connection as soon as it becomes uncomfortable?”, or whatever the case may be. But in reality, we, or at least I, tend to connect from our side without full consideration of what the other side is using to connect their wires. Here I’m not talking about romance per se just connections in general, but it obviously applies to romantic ties as well.

So, what happens over time is that I wind up with all these broken wires hanging out of me in various states of damage. I also have many areas with scabs or scar tissue over the areas that a large wire group was ripped from. Some people are better than others, think empath, at seeing the damaged wires, scabs, and scar tissue. Some of these people see their role as a healer to try to help others fix their wounds and wires. There are, unfortunately, others who see the damaged areas as a weakness or thing to be exploited.

As a young child I saw the broken wires and scars on my mother and in the attempt to heal her we became inextricably and tragically connected. To the point that we eventually became more lovers than anything else and it left me perpetually scarred when those wires were ripped out. Over the years I have, many times drastically and tragically, tried to find wires compatible to those that were ripped out, pull the scabs off of that wound, and splice them in to finish my healing. In each attempt the wound was only made bigger because that is a connection that could never be replaced.

In the end awareness that the wires exist and a slowly growing knowledge and skill at dealing with them is all I can achieve. There is no cure for “The Wired Condition”, at least not for me, that I am aware of. Some folks have limited or damaged wiring such as narcissists, sociopaths, and others who cannot fully connect to others. I have learned to see these people for what they are and try not to connect fully to them but am still often fooled.

So, I guess I am doomed to wander this life connecting, disconnecting, repairing, and healing my wires as best I can. Actually I guess I wouldn’t want it any other way.
April 24, 2024 at 3:18am
April 24, 2024 at 3:18am
#1069551
Suicide

My mother took her own life. Two of my uncles have taken their own lives. Several of my friends have taken their own lives over the years. I have tried to take my own life numerous times with a couple of those attempts very serious. As a paramedic for 20 years I attended thousands of completed and attempted suicides. Finally, although not licensed I completed a college course in counseling. So, I think I am qualified to speak a bit about suicide.

I’ll start with my mother. She had been doing a lot of writing and had started an autobiography shortly before her death, so I have a bit to go on there. She also had lists of bills, potential homes, etc. so she was not planning to kill herself during at least part of that time. She had been making plans and trying to help herself. The introduction to her autobiography shows that she knew she was in poor mental health and thought by getting everything down she could save herself. Towards the end the writing got darker, the drawings macabre, and the lists were unachievable. She ran out of hope.

As I’ve mentioned in other blogs hope is the key to surviving suicidal periods. The one suicide attempt that I made that was truly intended to end my life and left me angry the next morning when I woke up was at a point I saw zero hope left. It was towards the end of my addiction and I was being indicted for my 4th felony and I knew my life was over and I would be going to prison. I believe that surviving that attempt, along with putting my life back together after getting sober, has shown me that there is always hope. I have had some suicidal thoughts since then but no real intention or plan to go through with it because I have hope.

The state of mind that precedes a suicide attempt is extremely powerful. I know intimately the pain caused by the suicides of my uncles, my friends, and of course my mother. The devastation left behind is so complete because not only is the person gone but it is sudden and usually unexpected. The survivors usually have guilt because they wonder if they could have done anything to stop it. The bargaining phase of grief never seems to end with a loved ones suicide. Yet, having this intimate knowledge I still went through with it multiple times believing I would die even knowing the pain it would cause. That is a powerful state of mind indeed.

I can only speak for myself but at that point everything seems to slow down. It felt like my mind was going in slow motion and I felt numb. Suicide is very selfish and during those periods it was like I couldn’t think of anyone else. My mother’s writings don’t mention anyone else, outside her distant past mentioned in her autobiography, in any of her journaling or manuscript. It felt mechanical like once the decision was made the mind goes into a different mode and excludes everything and everyone except the details necessary to complete the task.

When I’ve had suicidal thoughts without the determination to go through with it I was still able to think about my loved ones and the pain it would cause. I could still make plans to get out of the current situation. Once the ability to plan and cope with whatever was bothering me diminished is when I would actually begin to make serious plans. My attempts were all using something I had on hand and did not require any real preparation. Most of the attempted and completed suicides I have been aware of were the same that is using something on hand.

Unless one is seriously disturbed, outside of the suicidal thoughts, I don’t think myself or most other people would be able to follow through with any suicide plans that required the gathering of materials or extensive planning and preparation. I have seen anecdotal stories of people doing so but I have not witnessed that. For me the simple act of getting in the car to go to a store would break that train of thought and make me see things differently. I would find hope again.

So once again hope is the key, see: https://wandajane.com/f/hope, and it is what has saved my life over and over again. I may be able to define other components of the decision not to kill myself on many occasions – prayer, friends, getting to a meeting, etc. But, it was always the restoration of hope that took the thoughts and urge away. I know what I’m going to say next may sound dangerous to some, but suicidal thoughts can be very comforting also.

Much like using the “one day at a time” concept from AA about drinking I can do the same with suicide. I know I can push through difficulty one day at a time without taking a drink because that concept contains the implied promise that I could drink the next day if I wanted to. In the same way I can push through difficulty one day at a time without killing myself because I could end it tomorrow if it seems to be too much. I also believe that both concepts only work if I have intimate knowledge of both subjects.

In other words, I know the horrors of alcoholism, so the concept works. In the same way, I know the power of believing I have killed myself, so the concept works. In both cases it is not merely words but the intimate knowledge and power behind it that work. I also know the devastating consequences of both decisions, so I do not believe I would go through with either choice today. But, I am also aware of myself enough today to know when to get help. I drove over to a friends house and asked to sleep on her couch for a couple of nights because I was scared of myself. I also have gone to meetings and confessed the urge to drink.

I want to stress that these thoughts apply to me only! If you are having suicidal thoughts or have contemplated killing yourself do not rely on my thoughts or methods, please reach out for help.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
• Call or text: 9-8-8
• Chat online: 988lifeline.org
• Support for people who are deaf and hard of hearing: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

April 17, 2024 at 12:23am
April 17, 2024 at 12:23am
#1068950
Prejudice

I was listening to Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd the other day and it reminded me of how I thought and believed just a few years ago. My mind was very different at that time and prejudiced against most cultures, races, preferences, etc. Oh, I fancied myself an open minded person, but in reality I was extremely close minded. I was afraid of everyone who was remotely different than me or who had any thoughts that crossed mine. Hell, for that matter I was afraid of anyone who thought at all. Because I was afraid, but didn’t know it at the time, that if I thought much my little world would fall apart.

After getting sober I did begin to think, and my little world did fall apart. What I have found in examining my “little world” was that it was a tiny stain of a worldview built up by adopting the thoughts of other people also with little worlds. The problem with that kind of worldview is that it is very, very fragile and a little bit of independent thinking tears it apart. That tearing apart is terrifying, so it is protected with hate, vitriol, and violence or in other words hate.

So how did I get there? I’m certain I wasn’t born racist or hateful. My early upbringing was done primarily by my mother and her parents and they were certainly not racist or hateful. My grandparents were very open to accepting all people on their merits. I never heard any of them use racist language or any racial slurs. I was in that environment until I was 5 years old and then my dad came back into the picture.

Now my father on the other hand is a different story. He was admittedly by word and deed very racist. Three years after my parents got back together and we settled into a house in Denver my mother became friends with a black woman from church and I was friends with her son. She sought relief and hope in the church because my father was always drunk and abusive. I remember us getting a ride home from this woman one Sunday and my father using a common racial slur and telling my mother to make the lady leave, and she refused. My father left us the following weekend.

I think that started sewing the seeds of racism because I blamed that woman for losing my father. I also had a best friend form the neighborhood who was black, but we got into a terrible fight and became enemies. Not too long after that I started being bounced around group and foster homes as well as institutions and eventually youth corrections. Throughout all of those places we tended to stick together by race and culture so that reinforced my cultural stereotyping.

After getting out of corrections I wound up living with and working for my dad for a year or so and his racist ideology continued to rub off on me. I then began hanging around with a certain group of people who also had racist views and actions for a few more years. I then went back to my dad for many more years. There is an old saying that says, “If you hang around a barbershop long enough you’re going to get a haircut”. I also know that habits come from practice and after being in racist environments long enough it becomes habit and eventually an adopted ideology.

I guess I never did anything overt like publicly using racial slurs or wearing identifying clothing or tattoos. I would certainly judge you though and my actions showed it. Even though I didn’t realize how racist I had become I’m pretty sure people of color get to know a certain look and language that come from racist people and saw it in me. Still though, I was for the most part okay on the outside, but my insides were pretty ugly by the time I began to change my views. Being alcoholic made not caring about it even easier.

In January of 2015 I was involved in a road rage incident that was at least in part racially motivated. That is what led up to me getting sober as well as taking a hard look at my views and behavior. I could no longer rely on my old argument of it’s okay to think it if I don’t act on it. I had actually shot at someone again at least in part due to their race so I could no longer fool myself.

Part of doing a thorough 4th step is getting everything down on paper, so I listed all of my resentments, including my racial and cultural bias so we could take a look at it and see my part in all of it. The thing is with hate is that it was ALL my part because none of those other people had done anything other than exist. Once I began to get honest with myself and really look at my hate it all melted and faded away pretty quickly. With that said I still have prejudicial thoughts come to my mind from time to time. Like thoughts of drinking or using they become less and less frequent but much like the urges to drink remind me that I am a recovering alcoholic the thoughts remind me that I am a recovering bigot as well.

This has been a difficult article to write because it can be painful to remember how nasty I used to be. It brings hope though because in writing it I realize how far I have come and can demonstrate that change is possible. I think that much like my recovery from alcoholism I need to be able to “play the tape to the end” when certain thoughts and ideas pop into my head to remember how bad it got. I am grateful today for all of the events that led up to me realizing I needed to change.
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!

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