August 20, 2015 Leave a comment

I will let myself learn.

I will let myself grow,

Although my ego screams against it,

Preferring, as it seems,

An easier way of rejection and denial,

Which, however,

Brings me into emptiness,

Confusion,

And never ending wonder

That knows no path to travel.

Arrogant wry smile slays the seed of knowledge

At the stage of the unborn,

Sending me into despair before I am awake.

Categories: Uncategorized

Thirsty and Ignorant

August 14, 2015 Leave a comment

saintvitus_thirsty_hiBy 1999 I was nuts for sure. Drank like a sailor and tried to hide it – could you imagine how much mental power that takes?! I was trying all sorts of beer for I was travelling the world aplenty. I felt I had a lot of catching up to do in the alcohol department for all the time drinking too much Russian beer. I had conversations with my family about that they thought of that behavior. I listened, but it mostly went into one ear and out of the other. I didn’t care much about what people had to say about what I am doing wrong in whatever area, be it family, school instructors, or girlfriends.

Alcohol in its many variations became a new passion of mine which partially covered up the passion to music which in its own turn partially covered the passion for reading books. And as for music I cared for it a lot. The very language of music I could understand very well. Two thirds of my lunch money were spent for buying music, and the rest and the money for public transportation were spent for alcohol. Hey, you can’t call me a drunk! I spent more money or music!

Right. Anyway, I think my Higher Power of which presence I didn’t know and didn’t care was trying to reach me in many ways to save my arse. If the language of music was all I listened to, it pushed the right messages and signs my way. I remember listening to Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” and I knew that song was about drug addiction. But I had no drug addiction, or better, I didn’t consider drinking an addiction, so their message didn’t work well for me. I read around that time that song “Damage Inc.” from the same record was about the band breaking things on the road when drunk and I thought that was funny. By that time James Hetfield didn’t end up in rehab yet and drinking hard hasn’t killed many of my rock heroes by that time either.

I was also listening to some Black Flag then, and among all the songs they’ve got that I had on tapes, Damaged/Jealous Again EP and “In My Head” there was a track called “Thirsty and Miserable.” The song’s lyrics are about drunks who get loaded all day and trying to figure out how to get booze before the liquor store closing time. Although I could claim that since English wasn’t my first language, I didn’t understand the lyrics too well, be it Rolling Stones or Slayer. But at the same time, I suppose by 1999 I was in some serious denial about the severity of my addiction that I wouldn’t think it had anything to do with me.

The facts were looking me in the eye but they were too inconvenient to swallow so I’d shove them back, sometimes projecting the blame on the person who’d try to show the truth to me. There were plenty of signs, and yet I ignored them with such ferocity as if my life depended on it. Well, it sort of did. I didn’t want the party to end. I was sure I had control over the situation, even when seeing clearly that from time to time things did get out of hand.

The things were getting out of hand quite a bit with the passing of time. So all I did was minimise the problem: yes, I do drink much, and things are weird some time, but I am going to cut down a bit. Hey, I quit for five months! Yes, going back to drinking after five months was a disaster but I’ll catch up (whatever that would mean!).

The worst thing about my denial was that often I believed in the irrationalities that were coming out of my mouth. I guess the need to keep the fort of peace, even if built on illusion, was too important for me. I didn’t want to face reality and pursue change too much. I wanted the status quo to reign, although it was constantly biting me in the ass. The signs of warning were many still, and I walked around them with my eyes closed, I guess.

My passion for reading didn’t die, even though music and alcohol sort of moved it into the peripheral area for a while. Besides sci-fi, I also read Ernest Hemingway. Man, did this man make his characters drink a lot! A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls (say hello to Metallica again!) are just rivers of booze in your face. You can’t stop thinking about going to a liquor store while reading, can you? I couldn’t.

2002. Things got worse. I was doing even worse at school, leaving jobs to concentrate on school (less money for booze! Crisis!) Strangely, however, I still didn’t do good enough. Hangovers were head splitting. Parties were disastrous. Relationships didn’t work. World was a grey place for most of the time. I had an excellent proof in front of my eyes that alcohol is not my friend anymore. I was sitting in my room listening to Saint Vitus, especially tracks from Born Too Late album. If I cared to listen attentively what the song “Dying Inside” was really about, I’d get hair standing on the back of my neck for a week. It is one of the best songs about alcoholism ever written. But I didn’t care. I kept listening to Saint Vitus’s version of “Thirsty Miserable” (yes, the same old one!) and I kept poisoning myself, paying no attention to the reality of my misery.

Stephen King was by that time my favorite writer. I read King’s The Ballad of a Flexible Bullet ten years or so prior to that point, but didn’t remember it too well. Something compelled me to re-read it at that point. The novel in short is about a schizophrenic writer, but told from the perspective of his alcoholic publisher. At some point down the road the publisher goes on the road trip to visit the writer, I think, and takes a couple of bottles of booze in the trunk. A week later his car full of loads of empty liquor bottles and himself almost comatose is fished out of the river. That detail stayed with me for a very long time. He was denial he was going to have a crazy drinking road trip or maybe he was going bonkers already, not realizing his was stacking his car with boxes of booze.

Shortly after I was leaving in Canada, in a college dorm. Drinking wasn’t allowed on the premises so I was sneaking booze in as quietly as possible. Spring break came and I remember have some beers for the first night and next afternoon and then blank! No memory at all for the next six days. I was putting empty cans into the suitcase I kept on the top shelve in the closet in case the folks came with a search (which I knew they loved doing). By the end of the sixth day I opened the suitcase and couldn’t believe me eyes – it was full with empty cans! I couldn’t remember anything than and I don’t remember now. Maybe it is for the best. However the image form the story that impressed me a lot didn’t keep me from drinking heavily and the knowledge of that drinking spree I went on, locked in the dorm room for a week didn’t teach me about the drinking for the future. Oh, no, it sure didn’t.

In 2003-2004 the world was getting darker and narrower for me. I didn’t know of Saint Vitus track “The Lost Feeling”, a finely written song about depression. But if I knew, would I care this time? I was also listening to Annihilator those days, including a song “Don’t Bother Me”. It’s about an alcoholic who constantly messes up and finally loses his job and instead of dealing with it, gets hammered again. I remember sitting in my apartment with a bottle of wine in my hand, listening to this song, and thinking, “That is not going to happen to me! No way!” But it almost did happen a couple of years ago and did happen very soon after thought it couldn’t. Lost the job due to missing work because drinking was more important. Classic.

Three of four years later, sober and joyous and free, I finally purchased a copy of Born Too Late. I started listening to it and felt the lyric sheet falling out of my hands. It was a very rare sensation. One of those when even though you know you’ve been bad, still you had a undeniable proof that you were screwing yourself even harsher than that, not seeing what you were doing. I was sitting there with my eyes bulging, not knowing should I cry or laugh.

It was the same feeling with one story I wrote in 2003. It was about an alcoholic who was living alone in a luxurious house, wasting his life away. I wrote, so inspired by what could have been real, perhaps judging on what I saw around, but not at me. Two years sober, I found the story and vaguely recalling what it was about, starting editing the draft. Somewhere I the middle of it I stopped and couldn’t move farther. Why? I think you already know. Even though the plot was totally different, I was writing about myself. About me wasting my life away, about the apartment where I lived here and there and there was going insane as well. How I didn’t see what I was doing to myself. It was like a ghost of the miserable past putting his hand on my shoulder, laughing at my face.

It was in relatively early sobriety that I learned that Hemingway was an alcoholic which costed him a lot of health issues, finally leading him to commit suicide. King was an alcoholic, as well as pill-popper, but he managed to get his addiction by the throat and join AA. Thinking of this now makes me sneaker. I, an alcoholic, was reading books of alcoholics and listening to alcoholics’ music (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Motorhead). How would I end any other way but with active addiction eating me alive? And as these people that inspired me didn’t want to hear of their problems for a long time, so didn’t I.

denialIgnorant me didn’t want to see, hear, or smell, or whatever. Just kept the receptors shut, dead, and poisoned. I didn’t have my HOW (honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness) modus operandi, not even on the primal stage. Reading about it in the Big Book of AA kicked my butt even a couple of years after quitting:

“Any alcoholic capable of honestly facing his problems in the light of our experience can recover, provided he does not close his mind to all spiritual concepts. He can only be defeated by an attitude of intolerance and belligerent denial.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, fourth edition, p.568)

I am so glad today to see I am moving away from that every day. I am not perfect, perhaps never will be, but I can and will keep trying to be a bit better every day. Keep paying attention to reality, not fantasy I once was so good at creating for myself.

——

[the front picture of the original EP by Saint Vitus was copied from ‘ere and miserableized by me. I as well don’t have any rights for the Jack Handy quote picture. thank you.]

The Eye of War

August 2, 2015 Leave a comment

chaoss

The night is over,

Light is in

Another day to face

No motivation stronger

Than a battle to fight

One more weapon to be explored,

One more territory to be taken over.

In the eye of war I move forward

Through barren plains, through forsaken cities,

Through cries of others, through woes of mine.

Bonds are built and broken, wounds suffered and healed

Another day to dedicate to warfare

One more skill to learn by the time dusk falls again

Another battle to pronounce lost or won

With no blood to spill, but sweat

With no enemy in sight, but life itself.

Dusk covers the earth

Then it’s time to calm the blood rush

For the rest time is needed

To forget of fighting

Until another day.

Light in, night out, year after decade

Life in the eye of war.

[the picture was copied from ‘ere. thank you]

Categories: Uncategorized

Importance of Self

June 26, 2015 2 comments

smileRemember that you are important before anyone.

I’d go to meetings and hear people say that they were looking forward to or are now, recovered, happy to be the productive members of society. I must say that never has been my concern. I never cared to be a productive member of anything. Perhaps it sounds egocentric, but when I entered recovery stage, I wanted to have peace in my mind all the time, not matter what. Sure, I am glad to lead a meaningful life while helping others, but it wasn’t ever “I want to help others and then I’ll have a good life.” It was more of “I’d like to have a good life and help others in the process, and then, maybe, it would get even better.” My well being was most important.

Face it – when they call AA way, the Twelve Step way, a selfish program, there is a large seed of reason in that expression. You first need to take care of yourself to be helpful to others you meet on your path. You need to go through personal healing first before you stretch the helping hand to others. Unless we re-build our minds, we can throw ourselves to the garbage bin, and with that any hopes of caring for others.

We, the individuals, the persons, we matter first.

Of course, there is always a danger of falling too much into ourselves. That possibility of egocentrism I mention earlier – it can unravel into a true problem. I keep seeing ads and slogans that scream of wanting to help you to celebrate your uniqueness by using their products. Some people fall for it. They start believing in the power of their uniqueness through the support of the goods they are talked into purchasing. And what are they in the end without the help of the things they bought? Things others promise them?

With that in mind, what about holidays, so called loving life through celebrations? What about birthdays? Why do we celebrate it? Is it to postulate that we are here, and therefore important? That the world is ours today? Seems like people embrace it that way often. To some it is important to have parties or receive best wishes, I think, because that way we show that they are important to us and that we remember of them.

So I feel important on my birthday only because others make it that way and feeling that is amazing. Still, I try not let it get too far in my head. I have to remember that my true religion is walking one step at a time, enjoying life one day at a time. Those steps taken forward and not aside is most important to me and while making those I am the most important person on the road (though I sure need to watch the traffic and be respectful to the others passing.)

This importance I am talking about is more about awareness. Don’t get selfish beyond the wise “selfishness” of the Twelve Steps. Don’t get too full of yourself and your accomplishments. There will be the day when we’ll have to give it all away. Life until that day shouldn’t be an all burning party, unless of course we don’t care to keep falling face into the mud.

Still, however, do remember you are the most important in your life, just like the newcomer is the most important person in the AA meeting. Be aware of what can happen, of what you’ve seen happening to you and what you heard of others. Know your weaknesses and remember that just like you have a right not to explain why you are not having a drink with the others, same way you have a right to walk your own path even if it is not along the path of everybody else. Take care of your own business, but not blindly, and not in the expense of others. That is the most important thing.

bill2

[the images were copied from ‘ere and there. thank you!]

In Action

im notGreat picture on Facebook the other day. “I am not fucking stupid. I mean, I used to, but we broke up.” I laughed at it. Then I went to the meeting and we shared about taking action and changing attitude and I recalled the picture, and this time it made me think.

I used to be rather stupid in the ways of insobriety. OK, people in recovery prefer not to call themselves stupid when relating to the ways they ruined their lives when referring to addiction, though. They prefer saying “been in denial” or “being insane.” That works too. I was insane for sure.

These days I could still be stupid from time to time, or should I say “weird,” “illogical”, etc. But it is all much better and more responsible than I ever was when active in addiction. In the times of insobriety I’d either believe in the same thing even though it’d hurt me on a regular basis, or I’d do the same thing over and over again and see no result from it, yet still try to prove something to myself and others and keep at it. That is truly crazy.

As well, I’d invest an hour into recovery and wait to be cured for life, as I went to AA meetings once in two weeks and talked to no one. When I didn’t go, I suffered from voluntary isolation and contemplated suicide or running away to the woods. In all of the pain and alienation I listened to no one, and couldn’t see that instead of banging my head against the wall, I could’ve walked around and looked for a new door.

Somehow I managed to make myself listen and pay attention. Now, ten years sober through AA, I observe my good friend doing the same thing I used to. Half a year ago, witnessing his trying to put a couple consequent sober days in, I snapped: “Twelve Step recovery is not a program of going to meetings. Your going to meetings is a vital part of it, yes, but you need to put more action into it. You need to chat to people after the meetings, exchange phones to call them. You need to do Steps.” He managed to clue in finally. We started doing Steps and he got a month of sobriety for the first time in ages. They he messed up again, and is still trying to get back. No matter how much I am trying to be there for him, nothing I can do until he accepts help. But the good thing I can learn from that. I used to do this, now he does it, and I can learn from it again. I know what not to do.

I am not fucking stupid. Not all the time. That other stupid I used to be in relationship with (me?) is done with. This is a new era in progress and I am taking action to make it work well for me with action being a key word, because without it everything else fails.

[the front picture was copied from ‘ere]

Drug as a Higher Power

the-truth-about-alcohol_o_92990It’s been several times in last couple months that I heard it and finally I decided to share my thoughts on it.

When time comes to face the fact that we, the addicts, cannot control our lives and look for something that could bring us to serenity (AA Steps One and Two), we find ourselves at the crossroads. Western world brood, we are raised to be responsible and self-sufficient. Even if many of us addicts were taken to church at the early age, plenty of these folks haven’t developed a meaningful relationship with our spirituality.

Eventually, in our own special ways, we all have succumbed to the addiction of our doom and lost all faith and hope, our spirit rotting away. And yet, while watching our lives and sanity crumbling, we’re still not ready to allow something greater than ourselves to bring us to any kind of balance. Our pride, fears, distrust, suspicion, and subconscious desire for chaos don’t let us embrace what other folks in recovery talk about: this power that strengthens us and opens a true new meaning of life.

In my case, alcohol was my higher power. Its effect on my mind was profound in its force of illusion. I loved what it did to me in the first several drinks. I was amazed at how the next several drinks enslaved me, broke my will and yet still made me like what I saw. My desire for more alcohol grew exponentially. After just several months of having an occasional beer on the weekends I didn’t just want more of it – I required it to get through the working/studying weeks. On the weekends I needed it to fill the day’s emptiness, caused by my inability of making friends or keeping them. My daily actions, minus work, school, and visiting family became a ritual of alcohol worship. Thus, alcohol was not just a substance – it was a supreme being and my thirst for it was undying.

All these unhealthy things considered, to beat alcohol, to banish it out of my life, I needed something that would replace it. When I came to AA to stop drinking, I started smoking cigarettes again in order to concentrate on something different than overpowering chemical intoxication… well, with another, but weaker, chemical intoxication. Still, if I needed a healthy life, I shouldn’t have kept tobacco around for long either.

So going back to AA Steps One and Two, when we face our one unmanageability and look for help, concept of a Higher Power of our own understanding comes into play, we stumble. We know we need something, but what is it? How we do we define it? Some of us dread the idea of getting on our knees (although addiction already brought us there), some others hate the idea of praying (even though we already did it many times, mumbling “God please help me”, facing the havoc of a life we lead). Thus people start making other people their Higher power: their children, or their sponsors. Some others put their trust in a light bulb over their heads that literally gives light and literally is higher up there than you are. And some put their trust in the diseased relatives that used to inspire them,

Here’s what I have to say about that. First of all, folks! By all means do your own things and believe what you prefer, yet if keeping the ones you’ve lost as spirit of guidance and eternal love makes sense, putting your trust of recovery into fellow humans is a mistake. They are (we are!) not perfect, they got their own agendas and plans in life, and they may not be there for you when you need them most, simply because they got their own paths to walk in life. Their walking their own road in disregard for you one day would make you feel you trusted the wrong person and make your world crash down. People also die, usually when you are least ready for it. Another crush of hopes! And the light bulbs are easy to turn off or smash.

Having said all that, the best way I can explain this Higher Power thing is it should be bigger than us and bigger than our addiction of doom. If you feel like you can’t possibly believe in a being in the clouds ruling your life, fine. Believe in the power that runs the Universe, light that brings flowers to bloom, the breeze that refreshes you in the days of heat. Finally, how about the recovery group spirit? There is a true power in the rooms of Twelve Steps: you see a bunch of people that have failed in many terrible ways and yet there they are, sober and clean for another day, positive, helping one another in altruistic manner. Don’t they possess a force you wished you could have one day? Hold on to that, that spirit of them all sharing it freely. Be one of them to share it. If one person leaves and screws up, the Spirit still stays. The Spirit is so strong that even just two people at a meeting keep it alive.

It is something bigger than us and our addiction, compulsions, obsessions, our call for self-destruction. Don’t look too far. It is right here. Just choose well, don’t abuse the trust you gain from it, and it will always be there for you, as long as you keep watching and listening to what it has to say.

[the pictures were copied from there. thank you!]

The Power of Persuasion

ten yearsAlcohol was my demon, my primary addiction of doom. I drank from the age of 15 until I turned 26, and through this time my life in many ways was an absolute disaster. There were good times, yes, but the bad ones overshadowed those.

I didn’t see it right away. I don’t know how, but I managed to miss the forest for the trees and I was oblivious to the crap I unleashed on myself. I was revelling in my bullshit to the point I believed in it! There were other people, however, who could see through it and see my becoming worse. My family members talked to me about my problematic attitude to alcohol, but I didn’t listen at first. They’d remind me of my grandfather dying from drinking excessively. All I’d say to that was Grandpa was an old man drinking vodka and I was much younger and drank beer. After all, what damage could a can or two of beer do?! Which reminds me of this joke I read online the other day.

From the latest news: most of the Russians still don’t consider beer an alcoholic beverage. A cop stops a driver on the highway: “have you been drinking anything?” – “no, just beer.” (c)

Each time I’d realize I spend too much money on booze, I’d slow down and cut to cheaper stuff, or quit smoking for a while. I knew how to deal with hangovers. And when I failed to do that properly, I’d dismiss it by a wave of hand and say that “OK, I’ll watch it.” I’d fail with that one too, but I didn’t worry then.

Things became worse in several years and I finally started to pay attention to my worsening moods, classes, jobs. By this time I’d be seeing psychologist on a regular basis. My girlfriend was concerned, so were my parents and instructors. What they had to say about the effects of alcohol on mental and physical health, their points on my losing jobs and failing classes made sense by then, and I was eager to take some kind of action, but it didn’t work for too long. I’d either think that I was OK after a month of sobriety and screw up when I got too cocky or I’d collapse as often as I would when learning to walk for the first time. All the rational seeds of their arguments would dry up and fade away as soon as an opportunity to have a beer after a hard working day. Same way, a necessity to push away unpleasant and worrisome thoughts would ring and I couldn’t resist drinking.

So I “journeyed joylessly” for a while and I kept making a lot of mistakes. Each time I drank, or was faced with an idea to go drink, hopelessness and loneliness would beat me into realization that I couldn’t master alcohol and my life was crawling to a ditch. There was an ever present thick black wall of depression (not clinical, but still deadly alcohol-induced depression) that hung over me like a cloud of radiation, and seemed to be dropping seeds of terror and damnation everywhere I went. Suicide attempts are hardly signs of positive living, aren’t they? Getting fired from jobs and letting relationships falling apart wasn’t fun either. The bottle was always around, with every year more explicitly. Days were becoming darker and longer, full of temptations. Night time dreams were becoming more nightmarish. Eventually all these factors finally started knocking on my head, as if saying “Have you had enough yet? Don’t you feel like kicking booze goodbye?”

It was hard to even start thinking about quitting, though, because for a very long time alcohol seemed to be all around me. For a very long time alcohol was my magic potion, an answer to the world craziness and the load of responsibilities. So by the time I got to the stage I had to quit or else, it seemed like I constantly had to have battles with myself. Should I or should I not? You say I can’t handle the drink? Well, hey, I am so much better than others! Then again I couldn’t understand how others could drink responsibly and I kept making a fool of myself.

My mind was still raging and didn’t feel like giving up, but my body was taking toll. I’d have minor tremors, my fingers would be shaking, I’d be having cramps in the morning, and hangovers were just terrible. So finally I came to the realization that I couldn’t drink anymore. Because you see, when you go around your apartment in circles, speaking it out like a mantra, “can’t take no drink, can’t take no drink” it’s no fun. Life starts looking like a retarded conversation with yourself that starts with: “Which part of NO don’t you understand? Is it N or is it O?”

When I came to AA and listened to the people in there, there was a quite different technique of persuasion at play. Here is another, a bit grim, joke I remember from back home.

A mother brings her six year old to the store and he starts crying about having one toy or dessert or another. The mother has none of that, so the kid starts having a fit. The mother just stands there, shaking her head. A clerk comes over and says, “You know we have a highly trained psychologist on staff, do you want me to call them to deal with this, convince you child to calm down?” The lady is happy for the opportunity, so she says yes. Couple minutes later a young man comes over, looks around, accesses the situation and sits down next to the kid and says something in his ear. The kid immediately gets up, shuts up, and quickly comes over to his mother. Hand in hand they walk out of the store. Surprised mother asks the child: “What did that man tell you, sweetie?” The kid says: “He said that if I didn’t shut up and get out he’d cut my throat from one ear to another!”(c)

Brutal! I know. None of the psychologists I knew used that technique. And yet the way members of AA had their message to me was very close to what happens in that joke. They said to me: “You heard our stories. We heard yours. Sounds similar, doesn’t it? Well, if you keep drinking like that, here’s what’s going to happen to you: liver failure, heart attack, loss of everything you have and mental institution or incarceration possibly await you. You also will be trapped in your spinning mind, knowing that all your misfortunes are the results of your own action. But if you stick with AA, you’ll have a huge chance to experience none of that and get back to life full circle. All you have to do is not take the first drink and come to meetings. If you’ll stick around, you’ll learn how. Would you like that?”

It was blunt. It was a hit right between the eyes. And that sold AA for me immediately. I was tired of the crap I was feeding myself. I wanted peace of mind and I needed a break. In front of me was the best power of persuasion. These were the people who not only knew what massive and repetitive alcoholic intoxication does to people. They lived it. They suffered it. They spent years and some of them decades in mental, spiritual, and physical pain and despair over their addiction to drinking. Their stories were true and I believed them. These people were very similar to me. My parents, friends, partners, instructors, employers – their stories about harms of drinking weren’t their own. That fact doesn’t take away a single bit of the fact that they were great amazing people who cared, but I couldn’t relate to them.

I could relate to the AA people. All of them were strangers to me for a while, but at the same time, these drunks in active sobriety made a world of difference to me while all I knew was wallowing in my own bullshit and my fear of the world, responsibility, and inability to hold it together. And in the long run they not only persuaded me to stick around and do the homework, but also to stay around for years, sober in body, spirit, and mind, for my own sake and for those around me. Stories of a bunch of strangers in strange rooms did for me what I couldn’t even dream I could do for myself.

This weekend I celebrate ten years sober. There is absolutely no way I’d do it without taking in AA wisdom. Thank you all for welcoming me, letting me learn, being persuasive, inviting me back, and being there for me for all this time! Thank you for my good life!

[as for the picture, I didn’t really get that medallion yet, but maybe I will :)]

Categories: Uncategorized
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