Saturday, August 27, 2016

Change of Intent

When I got to work a few hours ago, I was going to write about something else entirely A difficult start to the shift has kind of put the kibosh to that.  I would dearly love to dearly tell all of you about all the wonderful stuff that is happening here in the house tonight, but I know better than that. And I also know better than to follow through on my original plan now, which was to make a few rather acidic comments on something that happened at the meeting tonight.
But I am exercising better judgment often these days, and this is one of those times. I would be right if I wrote what I wanted to write, but it wouldn't be kind, it wouldn't help carry a positive message of recovery, and most of all, since the tendency that irritated me has been happening for the length of time I have known the person, it isn't going to change anything. So I'm just going to hold my peace on the specifics--especially since the person and I have a bit of history and I'm not completely without bias when it comes to anything regarding her.
A good point was made several times tonight, though, during the celebration we had for someone picking up two years clean. There is now a pretty strong roster of people around with anywhere from one to five years clean, a generational shift that is both welcome and overdue in the fellowship. I've written about this before, but the most lasting and toxic effect of the Messagemaster's unchallenged heyday in this area from about 2004-2008 is the nearly complete lack of people in the fellowship now with clean dates in that time frame. It led to a serious logjam and crisis in the area's service structure for a few years. But that is starting to change now, and the number of people with only a few black keytags is vital in reaching the mushrooming number of people entering recovery now because of the opioid epidemic. I and others of my generation may have a compelling and deeply interesting story of recovery--but those fresh in the rooms now are not going to identify very strongly with us. But they will with those with a year or three clean, people their own general age that they may remember as a using addict, too. That kind of identification is a necessary foundation to build upon if the fellowship is to thrive, and there does seem to be a big and growing number of people putting some time together.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Revisiting Music Wars

A few days ago, a friend of mine posted on his Facebook page that the 35th class reunion for my high school class (although anyone else that graduated within a year or two of that year is welcome, too) was going to be held in a month, and that he had been delegated with selecting the music to be played at this event. He asked for suggestions as to what to put on the list, with the general proviso that the selections be songs and groups that we were listening to at the time and place.
And what a can of worms he opened. The usual suspects were quickly named. I made a half-jesting contribution, which served to remind my classmates that not everyone in a class that graduated 525 members was all that into Kool and the Gang, REO Speedwagon, the Commodores, and Styx. I know that I detested a lot of that stuff at the time, and I know that I had a lot of company, because there were a quite a few kids that listened to the stuff I was listening to and buying and making tapes of at the time--Blondie, Talking Heads, the B52's, The Clash, Elvis Costello, Pretenders, and the Ramones, to name the more durable ones, along with now-forgotten but then-relevant bands like Tuff Darts, The Buzzcocks, The Jam, and The Dead Boys, and even more mainstream and accessible artists like the Stones, Springsteen, The Cars, and The Kinks that had popular albums out at the time. My comment was noted, applauded--and overwhelmed as more and more people got involved in this comment thread. When I started reading names like Jefferson Starship and Billy Squier, I stopped paying attention.
But like a serious bacterial infection, I keep getting drawn back in, mostly to satirize the process. After a couple of days, I mentioned that I hadn't yet seen the name of a group so lame that it became a putdown of the highest order; among our group, being labeled "a Hall and Oat" were near-fighting words. Predictably, several chimed in with enthusiasm. Another day went by, and I said something about the one group I actually remember getting into serious arguments about with some of the girls in our social group at the time; I remember getting drunk on a day excursion to Greenwood Park and nearly causing Sue Serowik to cry when I flipped out after being subjected to one sappy Air Supply song too many. That one hit a nerve; no one, at least that I have seen, has had the courage to admit that they were Air Supply fans in high school--even though there were at least twenty of you that subjected us to this aural torture for two frigging years...still, I wouldn't exactly say that I am uptight about it all. For one, I doubt I am going to be able to attend; I'm sure it's on a weekend night, and I work Friday and Saturday nights. And even if I did go--the music is just going to be background noise, anyway. I'm not anticipating that the venue is going to seriously remind anyone of the Power and Light Co. (what passed for a disco in our area)  back in the day. If the 30th reunion is anything to go by, most of us are going to spend most of the night chatting amiably, posing for pictures, and comparing notes about who's aged well and who hasn't, and (among the guys, at least) who still has most of their hair and who doesn't. So even though I still retch at the thought of having to endure the inevitable assaults of Keep On Lovin' You, Come Sail Away. Paradise By The Dashboard Light, and other songs sure to deposit horrid earworm eggs for the next few weeks, the larger purpose--getting together with a whole lot of old friends and acquaintances and celebrating a shared heritage and culture-- remains foremost in my head about this.
But the music issue is affecting some of us more deeply. I have received several impassioned private messages deploring some of the names being bandied about. I was awoken yesterday afternoon by a message beginning with the words "Grown men loving on Journey"-- which sent me scrambling back to the thread because somehow, we had gotten four days without anyone remembering those insipid, God-awful creators of some of the worst crap of the era. I was actually disappointed in myself for allowing  them to fade completely from my memory; I think it was some sort of self-defense mechanism, like some people repress memories of traumatic events.
I had a bunch of stuff to do today, and then I had to go to work earlier than normal, but I have dredged up the name of one heinous band that somehow was one of the biggest acts in the world for a short time during the summer after I graduated and my freshman year in college, which means they were part of high school memory for about half the people planning to attend this thing. And my memory is golden, people; I know a lot of you liked them, even if you'd rather have your genitalia removed by feral animals before you'll admit to it today. I am going to pass this name along privately to the putative music director, and ensure that he includes at least two selections from this long-gone, deservedly obscure relic that has been reduced in recent years to playing to half-interested crowds numbering in the dozens at places like the Dick's Sporting Goods Open...
Trust me, you'll be begging to being turned loose from this earworm, and should I be working on that weekend, I will rest easier knowing I've been spared the memories this awful band brings up. Shit, I'd rather listen to the entire canon of Hall and Oates and Journey back to back before hearing a minute of this group. I am actually chortling with delight thinking about inflicting them on everyone. And as I mentioned, I remember who thought they were hot shit at the time, and believe me, if I do attend, you are going to hear about it... in a good-natured way, of course.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Not Just Going For the Gelt

I've worked no overtime the last three weeks, and the results, or lack thereof, are going to start showing up in this paycheck I'm getting Friday (tomorrow, considering it's well after midnight now). And with all the new deductions for health insurance and child support, it's going to be light--real light. I don't know exactly how light, but the relative affluence of the summer is now officially long gone.
But at the same time as the overtime has ended, sanity and manageability have returned. I've commented several times recently that I've gotten into a nice routine, one that is working. And so, when I showed up yesterday afternoon for weekly staff meeting only to find there was no meeting, I chatted with my boss for a moment and discovered that there is an entire shift open here, in the house I work in, tomorrow/today, from 2:30 until 10:30.
I thought about taking it all. But that would mean I would work for 18 consecutive hours, and I would pay a fearsome price until probably Monday, if not longer. True, my paycheck would revert to rather Olympian heights a couple of paydays down the road. But I decided that losing the hard-to-gain equilibrium was not worth the cost. I forget who said it, but a quote I remember from years ago said that when I let price be the determining factor  in a decision, I have become a prostitute. I value my quality of life more than I value money.
And that's why I am not taking the full shift. I am taking part of it--but something I can reasonably manage. I'm not going to screw up what's been working out well for a few bucks. And I know I made the right decision, because when I told my supervisor what I just wrote, it felt right. I'm not going to get rich at this job--in this field, for that matter. I don't need to mess up my life for days for $150. I really don't.
And to me, that's a sign of maturity and even spiritual fitness. Money really and truly cannot buy happiness. I don't know anyone that couldn't use more of it--but I'm not going to let the acquisition of such turn my life upside down, not unless I have to. I'm not going to starve if I don't have ten hours of overtime a week. And I'm sure that I'm making the right choice by choosing to stay manageable and under control.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reality Check For Those On Paper

One of my professional mentors used to work at the local halfway house for many years. One day, we were talking about a particularly recalcitrant client there, and he told me about a little reality check that he occasionally used on the more headstrong and willful people that populated the facility. When someone was not following one of the rules of the house, he would pull them into the office, take their copy of the residential contract out of their file, read the relevant passage about the rule they were consistently breaking, and ask them if they remembered hearing that gone over when they were being admitted. The answer invariably being yes, he would then go to the last page, and ask them, "Is this your signature on this contract, which signified your agreement to abide by the rules of this facility for the length of your stay here?" After the inevitable "yes" answer, he would sit back and ask, "So what's changed?" I adopted this tactic a few times myself, and I usually would add, from the perspective of someone then relatively new in recovery, "You want everyone to believe that you've changed, that you're now trying to live honestly and that your word means something. Well, you said you would do this. And now you're not, regularly. Which is it going to be?"
I'm bringing this up this morning for a reason. One of the facts of life about being a part of a 12-Step fellowship is that you are in contact with, and end up being friends and sometimes more with, a lot of people that are on probation and parole. And it seems like at least 90% of the people on probation and on parole run afoul of the various conditions that are a part of parole and probation agreements, with the result being more trips to rehabs and more time incarcerated. And I am growing heartily sick of hearing the litany of victimhood from many of the individuals that are getting violated and that are running into serious flak from their officers. To hear these people talk, they're the victim of "snitches;" their PO has a "hard-on for me;" the "rule is stupid;" "people ought to mind their own business;" and at least a dozen more creative speaking classics that are textbook examples of failing to take responsibility for your own choices. So I am going to climb into Professor Whoopee's Way-Back Machine and also draw on my own experience of completing a term of probation (without incident) at the beginning of my own recovery process, and point out a couple of "Factz:"
1) Being placed on probation or parole is not just an agreement, but a legal contract. The terms of the contract are that the state or county agrees not to incarcerate your ass for the length of time the relevant statute reads that you could be locked up for. In exchange for this, the probationer or parolee agrees not to engage in a number of certain actions and behaviors, which include engaging in activities against the law, and in most cases to not drink alcoholic beverages.
2) If you decide to break the contract and use drugs, drink alcohol, commit more crimes, or associate with other people on probation or parole without telling your officer that you are doing so and obtaining their consent to do so, then the state or county is perfectly within their rights to cancel their part of the contract and lock your ass up or back up.
That's it. That's the end of the story. There are no excuses. It is no one else's fault. If you do not want to find yourself at risk of being incarcerated--then live up to your end of the contract.
Anything else you might have to add or say is bullshit, unless for some reason it is not your signature on the paperwork that comprises that contract.
And for God's sake, stop whining and complaining and bitching about what happens to you when you don't keep your word. It's a risk you take, and that you thought you could outsmart the system and everyone around you by getting away with whatever you're doing is beside the point. The blame lies squarely in the mirror, and the problem is between your ears.
Maybe y'all should stop thinking so much. Apparently, you're not as good at it as you think you are.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Different Voice

When this blog turned seven years old in July, I mentioned that I was considering implementing some changes in the future. One of them is coming to pass. This blog has been my forum exclusively since it's inception, but my vision for it has evolved over the years, and I've been open to providing a platform for others to show off their talents and provide an outlet for them to express themselves for some time now. And finally, someone has come on board. I'm not sure when her maiden post is going up, but I see it's in draft form now, so I will make a proper introduction now.
I met Kelly a few months ago; we share an outside interest together. Kelly is extremely articulate and quite passionate about the world around her, and I have been quite taken with her writing on her Facebook page for several weeks now. I mentioned that I had been looking for others to contribute to this page for some time now, and she accepted the offer a few days ago. Her enthusiasm is obvious, and her ability to write well is even more obvious. I've enjoyed everything she's ever put up on social media, and I couldn't be happier that she has decided to make this a joint endeavor.
I'm not going to exercise editorial control or censor her in any way. I don't think it will be necessary, to start with, but that's also something I feel very strongly about--this isn't a newspaper or magazine, and blogs are made for individual expression of ideas and thoughts. Part of the journey of life that we all go through is learning to fly on our own, and while I'm sure I will asked on occasion for input and to share experiences on what reactions might come her way. But she is her own person and her own voice, entirely independent. My intention here is to simply share my existing platform, and my existing audience, with someone that is very talented so that she doesn't have to start from scratch in expressing herself to the world.
I'm looking forward to seeing her become a regular presence on this page. Welcome aboard, Kelly.

Monday, August 22, 2016

End of the Freaking Olympics

I managed to get through the entire two weeks of the Olympics without watching a single minute of it voluntarily (there were a couple of mornings that it was on the television in public places; why is volleyball always early in the morning?). I truly believe that in a world full of wastes of time and money, the entire Olympic program may be the biggest of them all. It is corrupt from head to toe, in all corners of the earth. There are invariably scandals relating to illegal performance enhancers, cheating judges, and rigged heats. And most of all, I absolutely despise turning sporting events into contests of nationalism; I'm as much of a patriot as anyone else, in the proper circumstances, but sports is not one of those proper circumstances. Sports should be about individual and team excellence, not become a proxy for "our country/culture is better than yours." I didn't like it when I was a kid, in the middle of the Cold War, and I sure as hell don't like it now, when the USA has no real rivals. When your country wins twice as many medals as the runner-up, what does it really prove, knuckleheads? And to those that complain that some athletes and teams didn't do as well as they were supposed to--are we supposed to win every medal there is to win? The other guys are trying and competing, too, and God did not distribute athletic prowess exclusively to people that were born within the borders of a certain geographic entity. Holy shit, grow up, people.
This Olympiad also continued what is becoming a nasty tradition: it exposed the country that held them as a society that really needs to be overhauled. This is the second time in three years that the world has been made to focus on Brazil (World Cup in 2014, too), and while it isn't a complete festering dump, there is no way that you can tell me that the millions and billions of dollars spent on hosting these events would not have been put to better use improving everyday life for its own citizens. They couldn't even keep the swimming pools, for God's sake...And as time marches on, it is clear that countries that host the Olympics end up wasting the money. Most of them have ended tearing down most of the venues and facilities used during the Olympics because they have no practical use in everyday life. Seems like a big waste of money, doesn't it? And I can't imagine that Brazil is going to need most of what was being used this week ten years from now.
Another complaint about the games--why does the medal given for a team sport that takes two weeks to get through, like basketball, count the same as an individual event that takes thirty seconds to complete? It's ridiculous. Every member of the team gets a medal; why not count it as twelve in the "official" count? It's just another reason why the medal count is a joke.
On a side note--I hope anyone across the world that belongs to Narcotics Anonymous was paying attention this week. The next world convention of NA is going to be held in Rio, as it turns out, next summer. And if the Olympic experience for fans and athletes is any indicator--it's going to be a fiasco. Be forewarned. I know a few people in our area had tentatively planned to go next year, and I seriously hope that they change their minds.
And the Olympics managed to even highlight the ills and terminal rot among some elements of our own society. There were two major media sensations this past fortnight. One was the stink made over Gabby Douglas, one of the American gymnasts, not holding her hand over her heart as the national anthem was played while she was on the medal stand. The other was the unfolding story about Ryan Lochte, a swimmer that won a few medals, trashing a gas station and then fabricating an account of being robbed at gunpoint. Douglas is African-American, Lochte is Caucasian. Guess who caught and is catching more shit?... I'm not racist, and I've never been particularly tolerant of those that are. But I am getting to the point where I'm going to jump down the throat of whoever is espousing it whenever I hear it. To see it this blatantly expressed really pisses me off. Douglas has now participated and excelled in two Olympiads, and both were marred by stupid, race-inspired "controversies" that took attention away from her accomplishments. Douglas is still a teenager, by the way. Lochte is 32 years old and presumably an adult. Why is this shithead getting treated so lightly in the media and among our "fans?" Between this crap and the ongoing circus of a national election campaign, I am getting to the point where I seriously despise a quarter or more of my fellow citizens. And there is no sense of anything getting better on this front anytime soon.
But at least we are getting closer to real sports seasons. Football is a couple of weeks away, hockey is about a month away. Major soccer in Europe is underway. Baseball is at least interesting to me this year; the Red Sox are in the middle of the playoff picture as it currently stands. I don't watch a lot of television, so I can't complain about TV being hijacked by the Olympics too much, but at least my online sites aren't going to be dominated by it now. At least until the next Winter Olympics (which I hope are actually held in a cold-weather venue in 2018, not in the equivalent of Myrtle Beach like Sochi in 2014).

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Becoming Comfortable With What Is In The Mirror

Yesterday, I attended an NA event. During it, I must have been asked by seven different people if I had heard from or had been in contact with my ex, the one who is currently apparently in a crisis center and, at least according to one person I was talking to, headed for the local halfway house. I told them all the same thing--no, I had not and no, I do  not intend to. It takes a lot for me to shut the door on someone or something. But one thing I have always been blessed with is an ability to commit to a decision. This one got a second chance, which was unusual, even unprecedented, from me. But it has been proven to my satisfaction that it is not meant to be, and I have gained a renewed revulsion to being lied to, which basically led to the complete cutting of ties. I'm done. And when I'm done, I'm done. There isn't going to be any contact, because I'm not feeling any doubts or vacillation about the decision. There is nothing to hang onto; there is no reason at all not to move on. And I'm growing very fond of a metaphor a friend of mine uses; when some doors shut, especially with people I've given a lot of myself to, I nail boards across those doors to make sure they stay shut.
And along with this determination has come a renewed and repaired sense of myself. I am not selling myself short any more. I'm not allowing others to rent space in my head. I don't need validation from other people. Yes, these are affirmations that we all aspire to. There will times again, I am sure, when I do not feel as secure and content with myself as I am now. But right now, I'm feeling good about my life, myself, the way I am with the rest of the world, and with who I am. I know I have acted in an upright and worthy manner, and I am continuing to do so now And I like being who I am; there's no better way to say it.
One of the first concrete realizations I had after I got clean was understanding that it was best to develop integrity because no one could take it away from me. And that is true in other areas, as well, including sense of self. I have allowed others in the past to shape how I feel about myself, with results that were something less than satisfying. I've gotten away from that in the last year or two, and it's reached its fruition recently. I don't have any guilt, secrets, shame, or any other burdens holding me down and tarnishing what I see in the mirror. And without them, I am finding that my everyday existence is going smoother than it has in some time. Could some outside circumstances be better? Sure. I caught some good-natured flak today about some of the complaining I've made about my job, for example. But by and large, I'm OK with my life, who's in it, and who's not in it.
And these are the periods I've learned to cherish and enjoy while they last.