I


I

I have been stuck for a VERY long time. I have been stuck in perception. I have been stuck in belief. I have been stuck in addiction. I have been stuck in my heritage. I have been stuck in my family. I have been stuck in mystery. I have been stuck in unknowing. I have been stuck in history and I have been stuck in myself.

I have been on this journey since I was born. Every experience; every person; every thought has gotten me to the point where I am right now, in this moment. Right now, I am not stuck. I am experiencing. I am practicing. I am growing. I am changing. I am finding my own personal enlightenment. I am defining my own beliefs and not relying on a holy text or the dogmas of man. I am feeling. I am thought.

I no longer need approval from anyone. I no longer define myself by what others believe. I believe in many things. I believe in every truth. I believe in spirits, gods, and fairies. I believe in angels. I believe in demons. I believe in history. I believe in space. I believe in science. I believe that these things do not contradict. I believe in myths. I believe in aliens. I believe in magic. I believe in healers, psychics, and saints. I believe in shamans. I believe in good. I believe in love. I believe in my third eye. I believe in divination. I believe in my soul. I believe in yours. I believe in evil. I believe in tricksters. I believe in monsters. I believe that in everything and everyone there is a purpose. I believe we are divine.

I am not striving for perfection. I am striving for progress. I am not afraid to laugh at myself. I am not afraid to laugh at you. I am not afraid to laugh through my tears, or have my laughter interrupted by them. I am afraid of emptiness. I am afraid of contempt. I am afraid of indifference. I am not afraid to connect. I am not afraid to explore. I am not afraid to dream.

I love walking among people and I love avoiding them. I love learning about you. I love learning about me. I love learning. I love animals. I love rocks. I love mountains, trees, and vistas. I love stars. I love the universe. I love being outside. I love reading. I love rivers, lakes, and streams. I love waterfalls and oceans.  I love pictures. I love my friends. I love my enemies. I love my values. I love my morality. I love my fears. I love my family. I love yoga. I love therapy. I love words. I love writing. I love thinking. I love dreaming. I love touch. I love solitude. I love learning. I love sharing. I love my honesty. I love my love.

We spend so much time trying to figure out who we are and what we are supposed to do and what we are supposed to become that I fear we miss the journey. I have always been full of angst about what I was. Who I should be. What I should believe in. Who I should be with. What people think of my choices and actions. I have embarrassed myself. I have failed. I have quit. I have been hateful. I depend on sarcasm for defense. I have been afraid. I have been a bully. I have been bullied. I have been depressed and crazy. I have been sane and happy.

I am appreciating the trials. I am cleansing through my tears. I am awakening. I am power. I am fulfillment.  I am dreaming. I am acting. I am learning to trust my instincts. I am listening to my intuition. I am paying attention. I am learning. I am changing. I am happy. I am sad. I am joy. I am peace. I am patient. I am compassionate. I am kind. I am impatient, intolerant, and mean too. I am flexible. I am open. I am writing. I am exploring.

I am everything and I am nothing. This is my truth.

What is yours?

Namaste

 

I am ready to quit (I think)


smoking

Smoking.

Yes. As if quitting drinking, revolutionizing the way I think about myself, and dealing with past traumas and triumphs wasn’t enough; I have now decided that I need to quit smoking. This is an impulse that just hit me last night really. I’ve been mulling around the idea to quit since I first picked them up about 34 years ago (yeah really). I’ve tried to quit more times than I can count. I have used gum, patches, Zyban (Wellbutrin), Chantix, will power (LOL), and forced breaks (Army training where smoking wasn’t allowed, long flights, church trips), yes, I have tried everything.

Nicotine was my very first drug of choice and smoking is more automatic to me than breathing. So lets talk about impulse. That’s the word that kept coming to mind as I woke up this morning and that is how I plan on attacking the smoking thing. I have to rewire my impulses. Much like I am doing with alcohol, unhealthy food, opinions and writing.

I am an impulsive person; I think we all are but some folks possess the ability to resist or rewire better than others. I have good impulses, bad ones, and ones that are questionable depending on whether or not I act on them. “Impulsive” is a very loaded word that often comes with negative attachments. I don’t see my impulsiveness as negative, I just see it as something I need to understand in order to help myself distinguish between impulses I should encourage and those I should resist or abandon.

Most of the major changes/actions and even friends in my life are a result of my impulsive nature and the simple fact that when I decide to do something (either on impulse or well thought out) I tend to have no fear about acting. I have had the impulse to quit smoking a million times. When I have acted on that impulse I am successful every time; the problem comes when I enter into that unknown place because of the impulse, and fear takes over. Then I indulge the fear instead of cultivating what I started, and usually quit. This is my pattern. Thankfully, I can also resist the impulse to quit when I take the time to think about it. The impulse is what I need to spur me into action; letting go of fear is what I need to make that action a positive one.

After my Mom passed away my impulsive nature took on new life. I no longer had any reason to stay put in my little town, and my desire to travel, to move, to explore was freed up. No more attachments to worry about. I impulsively decided to do one of two things; I was either going to just pick up and move to some other country and “wing it” or I would go active duty. I decided on the more stable path of the Army. I was fine with that decision. I had already done basic and served in the reserves for 8 years. The Army had rules and structure to follow (which I needed), and I could get rid of that travel bug that I couldn’t afford to entertain. Perfect. I was living in Sacramento, CA at the time and from impulse to arriving at Fort Drum, NY took a mere month. No time to regret or be fearful… I just had to move on the path I put myself on. I took my then girlfriend and we drove across the country to start my new (yet somehow familiar) life. We got to New York, NY and that is where we parted ways – a fun cross country adventure came to an end and I was now on my own as she flew back to CA. As I drove from New York City I was more excited than fearful, but as I approached Fort Drum, the doubts started to seep in. “You made a mistake.” “You will never be able to do this.” “You are going to fail.” “Why the fuck is there so much snow?”

I got to the post and checked into the hotel on post to take one last night before I was a “real” Soldier. I reported to my first formation the next morning and got the dose of reality I had feared. Six AM, surrounded by strangers, no idea what to expect. Of course that first morning was a nice 5 mile run, outside, in upstate NY, in January.

Now I have to digress just a little. I hate running. I am not good at it. I don’t like it. I do not want to run. Seriously – if I am running, something is wrong or someone is chasing me. As far as impulses go – running was never one I had to worry about. In the reserves I would ignore the need to run for months, and then nearly kill myself to pass the Physical Training Test every 6 months.  I will walk for miles without complaint, pick up the pace to a jog or a run and I am pretty sure death is imminent.

So we go on this 5 mile run and I made it approximately a 1/4 mile before I decided that I had indeed made a very bad decision. I was not made for this. It’s cold. Someone I don’t know is screaming at me to get up and run. They are appalled that I only made it around the block. Who is this Soldier? Yeah; I am the Soldier who decided a few short weeks ago that this would be a good idea. Being homeless in Ireland was starting to look like it would have been the better choice. I quickly convince myself that I will get kicked out – possibly by late afternoon. Except, it isn’t that easy…

You see. I couldn’t quit. It’s not allowed. It isn’t an option. I gave up things like free will, choices, and the ability to make impulsive decisions. The formation is long gone. I am alone on the side of the road, freezing to death, tears streaming down my face (no one could tell as they froze as soon as they left my eyes), the yelling has stopped; for now, my chest is screaming, not only am I out of shape and I smoke like a chimney, I am not acclimated to 20 degree weather, and I am sure as hell not used to being outside doing things. The reserves were nothing like this. I have been on active duty less than an hour and I am done.

After that day, it took me 7 years to quit that job; but quitting was in my head from day one. For seven years I simply accepted the consequences of my impulsive decision to go active duty, and reenlisted because I was too afraid to change or try something else. I mean, we see where my last decision landed me! Self-doubt, complacency (I eventually got used to being in the Army obviously), and the learned lesson of thinking things through kept me stuck there even when I knew it wasn’t quite what I wanted. There was enough there to keep me satisfied. I liked a ton of things about being in the Army and looking back on it all now I know that it was in fact one of the very best AND very worst decisions I have ever made. So basically, one impulse lasted 7 years and the ramifications of that are still being realized.

I am at another crossroads in my life right now. I have a ton of decisions to make. I have to figure out what I want to do with myself. I need a hobby, or a job, or some money, or a path, or a miracle. I don’t know. I have no clue. All I know for sure is that I don’t want to make any rash decisions. I have put my impulsive nature in a time-out. I do not want to join the Army again and that’s all I know for sure. I know that I am tired of trying to kill myself, and that isn’t what I want anyway. Drinking has stood in the way of good decisions either well thought out or impulsive; it always provided me an excuse, and a way to plan my life (I can’t go there because I can’t drink, or I will have to drive somewhere)… so many missed opportunities. I can regret all that time, or I can act differently now. I am liking the acting differently part. It isn’t easy and like that first snow filled morning in New York – I do have some fears and feel like I’ve made the wrong decision or the wrong choice. However, now I have more desire than fear, and more love than fear; those things are more powerful than fear. When we train ourselves to do something, that can be our best ally against being afraid. The Army knows this, that’s why training is so important. The more you train, the more automatic things become. What I train on now is entirely up to me. I can train myself to respond fearfully, or impulsively, or lovingly… I really am in control of how I feel about anything. That friends, is empowering. That starts the elimination of self-doubt that has plagued me for years.

How does this all relate to smoking? Well, I have an opportunity that arose from an impulsive decision to be in an environment where smoking is inconvenient, time consuming, and will be more of an annoyance than a coping mechanism and it will be difficult to light up out of habit. In order to smoke I will have to make time for it (unlike sitting here where just during the time it took me to write this I have by sheer habit alone smoked about a half a pack of cigarettes). I have been slowly but surely eliminating unnatural things from my life. Better food, no booze, no prescription medications… my last two drugs to rid myself of are nicotine and caffeine; the two most addictive substances on our planet. I am going to need to be out of my comfort zone to change the habit part, and I am going to have to think before I act to get rid of the impulsive part. Being in an environment that naturally encourages those actions (leaving comfort zones and thinking) will be helpful. I never would have quit drinking without rehab. I needed to be in an environment where I couldn’t drink, along with the mindset that I wanted to stop in order for the lessons to be learned and for the habit to change. So far that’s working, and has worked longer than any other attempt to quit drinking. I figure it will work for smoking too.

So I guess I am taking my impulsive nature and making it work for me. I am going to take full advantage of being in the most restrictive state in the country for smokers and enjoy my time with my non-smoking friends (pretty much everyone I know now doesn’t smoke anymore or never has), and I am going to make the most of being outside in beautiful California. I’m tired of cigarette butts in my pocket, the smell of it nauseates me, the cost is ridiculous, the damage I have done to my body, the inability to breathe (and my new-found love of breathing is also a huge motivator)…. I mean at least with alcohol I could come up with a pro/con list. With smoking, it’s all con. I don’t even enjoy it anymore and honestly haven’t in a while. Let go of those things that don’t serve you. Really, I am looking forward to creating new habits. I am looking forward to (several) long walks in my California sun/forests/beaches without having to stop and smoke.

Will I be successful? I don’t know. All I know is that this is the perfect opportunity to jump on the impulse and have it supported by my environment and the people I am with. It can’t possibly be bad – especially now that I know how to cope with emotions (better). I don’t need cigarettes for that anymore. If I get frustrated I have all kinds of things to do other than smoke. I won’t be drinking, so that drive to smoke will be a non-issue. I am looking forward to spending time with the people I am going to visit with; not plotting time away from them to indulge in this deadly habit. Some people I will only have a few hours with, how sad to spend some of that time away from them to smoke? How silly! How wasteful! I have this opportunity to go home; and I want to experience and enjoy every second of it.  I would worry about mood swings due to nicotine withdrawal, but honestly my mood swings are out of control right now anyway; might as well do something positive with it. I go from laughter to tears in seconds these days. Waking up is full of sensations.

This is a long post I guess, but welcome to my process. When I write things, it sort of seals them for me. It makes things real. It takes the thoughts out of my head and organizes them, and cements them in place. I have just chosen to allow to you see it.

Namaste

Thank you for your service!


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This was my second deployment. I was pretending that the chair was a horse – while enjoying the Pink Hats that the ladies of the “Red Hat Society” sent us for our ladies tea party. Afghanistan: Experiences may vary.

I’ve been meaning to write this particular post for quite some time, but I have had a hard time finding the line between sharing my sentiments on the subject and possibly making people think twice about sharing an “attitude of gratitude” towards Active/Reserve/Veteran service members. However, I keep reading the articles on veteran suicide rates (22 a DAY), I personally know my own struggles as a veteran, and I know that the majority of Americans just want to express thanks for something they are unwilling or unable to do. I feel the same way about EMT’s and other “jobs” out there that we desperately need people to rise up and do; but most people would not or could not do them. Teachers fall into this category for me was well. There is no end to their deployment…

Anyway, I have been out of the Army now for 6 years. It doesn’t feel like 6 years. It doesn’t even feel sometimes like I am out – maybe I am just taking really extended leave… I don’t know what my brain is doing, but I do know that it feels like yesterday that I was putting on a uniform everyday for work instead of residing in my pajamas for the majority of my days. Maybe it is because I have been unable to find a new job to throw myself into, or maybe it’s that what I did in the military had deep meaning for me and I will never let it go as something I once “did” for a living. It will always be there. I will always on some level be an American Soldier. Maybe it’s because it’s the only identity I have ever had that I could be proud of, or that others could easily identify and understand.

In recent months I have had to introduce myself to countless new people. Mostly it’s “Hi I’m Carrie (Kathryn) and I am an alcoholic.” Once we get past that introduction (that I am totally sick of saying), there is a lull, and the inevitable question of “what do you do?” Honestly, right now I don’t do anything. So my responses range from, “I’m unemployed right now” to “I’m in-between careers” or I pretend that my writing (that I have been ignoring) is what I do. “I write.” All the responses have follow up questions and eventually we get to the fact that I am an Army Veteran. Then the response 99% of the time is “Thank you for your service!”

Now, in normal conversations, “You’re welcome” should suffice as a response, but some people won’t let it go and this post is asking you to just let it go if our conversation is never going further than this exchange.  Here is MY reason why…

When people in the grocery store or yoga class or an AA meeting thank me for my service it is very easy for me to muster up the pride I have in what I did to say, “You are welcome!” It is the veterans equivalent of passing someone in the hall and saying, “Hi how are you today? and the expected response is “Good” or “Fine” and that’s it. You don’t really want to know the persons life story, or want them to tell you about the cat vomit in their shoe that morning. It is a polite exchange we participate in. How are you? Fine. Thank you for your service. You are welcome.

When you take it beyond this exchange, I feel awkward. How much do you want to know? Why are you still talking to me? What is it exactly you expect me to say? Gah!

I sort of bring this on myself because I still wear my SETAF t-shirts, and my “Been there, done that” T-shirt from Afghanistan. I do invite conversation, and being the chatty person I am – I will talk to you for hours on end if you let me. I enjoy talking about my military service (though I do not enjoy discussing the politics around it in the grocery store check-out). For instance, someone sees one of my military themed shirts and asks, “Were you in the service?” Yes. “Thank you!” You’re welcome! “(insert President you love to hate here) really fucked you guys over.” Silence. Then to break an uncomfortable silence I usually come up with something to change the subject. “Uh… I see you are buying potatoes.”

Seriously, I don’t care about your political views Bush/Obama – whoever is next… this is not a grocery store/gas pump/fast food line conversation to have. I also don’t care about your cousin/son/daughter/parent/friend who is also in the Army. I don’t know them. Jews and black people have this problem too – Oh I have a black friend, his name is Tony. Do you know him? No. Stop it. Again, small talk is meant to be easy. Please keep it that way. Weather. Weather is good. “Thank you for your service!” “You are welcome!” “Great/shitty/warm/cold weather we are having now right!?” Yeah.

Let me tell you about the political beliefs of service members. We are under oath to serve whatever jackass we vote into office. It doesn’t matter if we voted for them or not. It doesn’t matter if we like them or agree with them. It doesn’t matter if they are ethical or corrupt. It doesn’t matter what their intentions or purposes are for sending us to war, closing bases, cutting benefits, or increasing our COLA rates. Do we have opinions on these things? Yes! Do we want to share those opinions with you while we are buying Slim Jims and cigarettes at the gas station? No. Not really.

Then there are the underlying issues with these conversations and I only recently realized why these interactions make ME so uncomfortable.  While in rehab one of the ladies I was with thanked me for my service; this was different though as we were forced to live together for 31 days and its all about getting to know one another and dealing with scary feelings and stuff. So when the conversation went beyond Thank you, you are welcome; it took a surprising turn and I have wanted to write about it since it happened.

First of all when she thanked me for my service she adjusted her body language. She squared herself up, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Thank you so much for your service, you guys do so much that we can’t even begin to understand.” Well shit. “You are welcome!” Then she went and sat down. A few minutes later she said, “Can I ask you a question?” I said yes, and the resulting conversation surprised both of us. She said, “Do you enjoy when people thank you for your service? I mean, should we do that?” That is one question I have never been asked so I had never had to think about the answer. What came out for my answer surprised me. I started to cry. Now – understand I was in rehab, and crying is a daily event and can be brought on by a sneeze. However, the tears in this case were relief, and guilt. Odd right? Relief and guilt.

Relief because someone asked me how I felt about it. Like, not just that I am supposed to be grateful that you are grateful. I had never really thought about it beyond that. I hear “Thank you for your service” and it means as much to me as “How are you?” because the response is automatic. I will say you are welcome, because that is what I am supposed to say. I can’t say that I don’t feel like I deserve to be thanked. I can’t respond with, “Well I didn’t really do anything.” I am not at liberty to burst some kind persons patriotic sentiment with sprinkles of survivors guilt. People don’t REALLY want to know how I feel, they are just doing what they are supposed to do so they aren’t labeled like their parents were when troops came home from Vietnam and got spit on. While I have survivors guilt – our country has a collective, we treat our service members like shit; so  I’ll make sure to let them know that I am not like that and I will say thank you guilt. I will just say it – most of the “thank yous” do not feel all that genuine and the follow up questions/conversations usually turn to how that person is dealing with the wars/politics whatever and isn’t about me or my service at all. So when someone genuinely asked me questions about how I felt when someone thanks me; well I was overwhelmed by it.

The guilt comes when the conversation gets to the inevitable “Did you go over there?” Yes. Twice. Then people pity me. Oh you poor thing! TWICE? Yes. Twice. What I am thinking is, “However, a friend died on his FIFTH deployment right before he was supposed to come home to his wife and five kids. Have a nice day!” or “Yeah, Twice. One kid though only went once, he was 18. I had to cover his Fallen Comrade Ceremony/Military Funeral. He had only been in the Army for 6 months. He looked so peaceful there in his coffin all dolled up in his uniform with all those medals pinned to his barely haired chest.”  So yeah. I feel pretty fucking lucky. I feel like I didn’t do enough. I feel like I don’t deserve to be home in my pajamas. I feel like I had it easy (which I did). I feel like I shouldn’t even mention my deployments because I am okay. I am alive. I am still here. I am not physically or emotionally broken from my service. I have all my limbs. I don’t desperately need the VA to treat me. There is really nothing to thank me for.

You see though, we understand that the average person doesn’t get to say thank you to those who have died, and it would be way too uncomfortable to thank the guy with no legs and a burnt face because to look at him frightens us. It is much easier to thank the happy looking person in the Army T-Shirt at the local convenience store. I understand this. I understand that 99% of your intentions are good and that is why no matter how I really feel I will ALWAYS say, “You are welcome” because I am answering that question for those who can’t. They too would say that you are welcome and I am happy to take that small burden for them.

I guess all I ask is that you get to know us a little better before you take the conversation further, or to truly understand your own intentions for continuing the conversation. I don’t know any Service Member past or present that will refuse to answer your question, or who will burden you with how they feel. Just know that we have a lot of feelings associated with our service, and not all of them are things you want to hear or know about or could possibly understand even if we told you. Asking about that is for friends, family, and fellow service members.

I know I am not the only one who feels this way but I am also not pretending to speak for any of my brothers and sisters. This is just my thoughts and feelings on these exchanges. If you are ever in doubt, or you are talking to someone you don’t really know and don’t have the time or inclination to really have that deep conversation; please just leave it at thank you, and I promise to say that you are welcome.

Namaste

 

 

 

Yoga Pants for Cats


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I forgot I have a blog. Okay, I didn’t forget. I’ve been thinking about writing something, and then I don’t write. I’ve been stuck.

You see I started this particular blog at a really odd time in my life. I stopped the Tolerant People blog because it wasn’t what I wanted it to be (even though for a first time blogger it was rather successful). I started this one, with the web address as my name so that it would be more permanent and it would just have to grow and change as I did. Well, I have been growing and changing at a pace too quick to write about – which is good.

So part of that change that leads to all the others is the whole rehab thing. I said when I started this blog that I didn’t want it to be limited to recovery issues, then I started writing and realized that’s all I could write about at the time. You know, it kind of dominated my life. It still does, but the way it is happens is changing too and for that I am grateful.

The other bar to writing has been my mood swings. Seriously. I am fine and happy one second and the next I am a puddle of tears. There is no real transition time. I have become super sensitive to feeling things. When you have numbed your feelings for over half your life, allowing them all of a sudden is as much entertaining as it is difficult. I do have to laugh at myself.

I’ve started talking to people again. Other than the writing I did when I first “got out” I haven’t been talking to anyone really about what’s going on with me (other than Stephanie who hears it all, all day, ad nauseum). There are the AA meetings and people I have met there – but I don’t like many of those people. AA in rehab and AA in real life are two very different things. I’ll get into that in another post, but for time and word count sake; lets just say that I am no longer going to meetings everyday. I still like the steps, they makes sense and they work, but like many other “programs” people tend to ruin the intention of the program and make it something it wasn’t supposed to be. For instance, if I wanted to be lectured about God, I would have gone back to church. I am also in an area where the meetings close to me are chalk full of racists and I had my fill of passive aggressive racist remarks without opening my mouth or punching someone.

For now, I am learning about myself. I am a pretty interesting individual (apparently) and I have a lot to say about pretty much everything. I honestly want the world to be a better place. The whole point of this blog and the Tolerant People Blog was to use my random crazy life as a launching point to share the things I have learned. I mean, I don’t have children to warp with this stuff, so strangers on the Internet will have to do when it comes to passing along my life lessons and wisdom. LOL I don’t often feel wise. I have however learned a lot of stuff the hard way, and really, its amazing that I am not dead, in jail, or a horrible excuse for a human being. I’ve actually managed to learn throughout my life. I’ve managed huge recreations of myself even drowned in alcohol. Eliminating the filter of booze has opened my eyes to who I really want to be, and what I really want to write about. The bottom line is that I want to be a teacher. A healer. A light in the darkness. I want to use my evil life to chase darkness as far from people as I can – this finally including myself. I used to just think I could do that for others without really looking inward. That friends is impossible.

So before I impart great teachings (LOL I make myself laugh), I really need to learn who I really am. Learning to feel things is pretty crucial. Being mindful of my thoughts and motivations for writing stuff steers everything in a productive direction. Today is quite simply the first day in a while I have felt like sharing – and that’s okay.

Yesterday I spent a good portion of time online. I was chatting with friends. I resolved a HUGE issue with one of them in a way that I never would have handled it while drinking. All responsible, measured, unemotional, critical handling of a problem; That is usually not my MO. It felt really good to own my own shit, and hand off a plate of someone else’s giving up my perceived responsibility to hold it. Instead of coming from the conversation pissed off, and wanting to avoid the people involved – I ended the problem and it was super easy to do once I let truth dictate my words and actions rather than hurt feelings (which actually go away faster when you are honest). In the process I gained back a friend I had been avoiding, and I may have completely lost another friend in the process… that friend though was lying and hurting ME with the lies; so I don’t feel bad. 3 months ago I would have felt bad. Really really bad. So bad that I never would have said anything and if I did it would have been a train wreck. I like this version better and I can appreciate the entire process because I was PRESENT for it. Weird.

If you have read this far you are probably waiting to hear about cats in yoga pants. Sorry to disappoint, but really I just wanted that for the title because I hate coming up with titles and yesterday I kept finding odd cat things and one of those odd things was “Yoga apparel for cats.” I didn’t click the article, but I can’t get the image of a cat in yoga pants out of my head.

So my randomness is still intact and that’s good because it is one of the things I truly love about myself. Now that I am sober, I am learning that there are lots of those things. To think, I spent so much time thinking myself uninteresting and unlovable. How beautiful to be wrong.

Namaste

 

Serve one another


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My entire life has been spent battling between making other people happy and making myself happy. The problem with that is often the needs of others are so constant that they become rather overwhelming. Unless you are “keeping your side of the street” clean, you really can’t be of good service to others.

Most of the jobs I have held in my life are service positions. I have never really been the boss, or climbed a professional ladder. I have worked with people with disabilities, volunteered in nursing homes, served in the military, and now I am taking service positions in my A.A. group.

I like serving others. I find myself that way and I don’t do any of it for recognition or praise. In fact when people do recognize me, I tend to devalue it rather than accept the compliment and move on. I am learning to stop doing that, and to value my service to others as they value my service. It actually feels pretty good to allow myself to feel pride in what I am doing, and to let someone congratulate me for a job well done. I think before I knew that I was living a lie in a way and wasn’t really deserving of recognition. Now however, my motivations are different. My focus is to help others by helping myself, and personally, I think that is the greatest service I can offer.

I also like to educate people. Either by sharing my experiences, or by sharing the tons of information I have read but failed to apply or understand in my life. Just because I still need to learn things, doesn’t mean that I can’t share the knowledge I have. My head is full of information, and I don’t always understand why it sticks in there they way it does until a conversation happens and my mind jumps to that article I read a week ago, or a phrase I read in a book somewhere. Sometimes I think that stuff stays in my head so I can reference it when someone else needs to hear it. Who knows, maybe they will “get it” and help me learn how it applies to my own life and experiences.

I guess the point is to share and serve even if you think you aren’t capable or deserving. One of the things I am really enjoying about the fellowship in A.A.  is the importance of service and how it impacts an individuals personal sobriety. I am only 45 days into the program and I have already learned so much from so many people that to get up and offer to chair a meeting is more of a privilege to me rather than an obligation. It is a simple commitment to show up sober and help the group share with one another. It gives me yet another reason to stay sober each day because without my sobriety (even in it’s infancy) I can’t serve others the way I would like too. So once I hit that 30 day mark, I knew that I wanted to volunteer for whatever commitments I was allowed. For now, it’s simple things like cleaning up, making coffee, and chairing meetings. Without those simple things though – A.A. wouldn’t be the fellowship that it is.

The thing I always liked about going to church was the fellowship parts. The singing, the sharing, the hugging, and pot luck dinners. I never enjoyed listening to one guys opinion on how I should interpret God or how I should live my life on a daily basis. I preferred to learn those lessons from those of us on the other side of the pulpit. Those of us who learned through trial and error, not through the interpretation of a book, or the doctrine of a particular church. As individuals, we all have something to offer. We all have things that have happened around us, to us, and because of us that shapes who we are and how we deal with the world around us. I would like to hear as many of those experiences as possible. Those experiences are where I find my own sanity and purpose.

I like the simple service of chairing a meeting. I like being in front of the group and seeing the faces of the people sitting in the rooms. The nods of understanding, empathy, and concern. The smiles when an anniversary is announced or a newcomer raises their hand for the first time. Here are a bunch of drunks. Selfish people. People who have spent a good part of their lives thinking only of themselves and their needs. People who found a way to step outside of themselves in order to help others. People who find experience, strength and hope in one another. People who have made a commitment to try and live a better life one day at a time. We are all walking contradictions. A.A. is the land of paradox but it works.

Each day I live sober I am serving myself and others. Each new day is a new victory. Even if I falter, as long as I am honest, open, and willing – even my mistakes will serve a purpose. Man, I have been searching my entire life for purpose, and I think I have finally found it. I have always known my mouth and my words would have something to do with it, but I never imagined that my simple presence would also be a huge part of it too. I can be quiet and serve. I can listen and learn and still be of service. It doesn’t take much, and you don’t have to be in a 12 Step program to practice these principles. This stuff makes sense for everyone.

There is a meme that floats around and I don’t remember who said it, but it goes: “You can choose to be right or you can choose to be kind; if you are kind, you will always be right.” Kindness is never wrong. Our opinions are just that; opinions. Each person has a different perspective and a different need. Each person fights a different battle everyday, and showing kindness will never hurt someone. Being kind to one another is one of the greatest acts of service we can perform for one another, and it doesn’t take but a second to share it. Sometimes you can change someones entire day by just smiling at them.

There is also a personal joy in knowing that you did something selflessly. I know for me, my greatest lessons have been learned when I am serving others. When I serve myself I often find that I am discontent. I can’t seem to get what I need or want when I need or want it. However, those things seem to just fall into place when I take the focus off myself for even the briefest of moments.  Today by serving my group I was reminded of how very blessed I am today. I didn’t have to have money fall into my lap, or a job offer. I just sat and listened to a man who lost his son to suicide a few short months ago. The only thing I could do for him was to listen. What he did for me by sharing his pain was to remind me just how small my problems are right now. We served one another, and that is what being human should be about.

Today I am grateful to be of service. I am grateful for my new fellowship of walking contradictions and the lessons we share with one another.

“If you want to go fast; go alone. If you want to go far; go with friends.” – African Proverb

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This wasn’t in my 5 year plan


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About a year ago I wrote an article about a job interview I had and the inevitable question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I have always hated this question in interviews because honestly, who the fuck knows? I can tell you this though, going to rehab was NOT in my five year plan. I mean really, who wakes up one day and says, “I think someday I want to go to rehab and learn about my fucked up brain!” I’m going to go ahead and guess the answer to that is no one.

I didn’t set out to be someone who is powerless. Quite the opposite really. I didn’t ever wake up and say, “Today I am going to live my life in an unmanageable fashion because I think that would be super!” I never made a conscience decision to drink until I blacked out or to urinate in places other than a bathroom. I didn’t choose to ruin my military career, hurt the people I love, or hide little stashes of booze around the world to keep myself from getting sick. Yeah. That wasn’t written into the story intentionally.

It is however who I became. I realize now that I am a sick person in need of healing, and not a sinner that needs to be saved (thanks Father Bill). I am an alcoholic. I planned on being an alcoholic as much as someone plans to get cancer. Now don’t get me wrong, my choices certainly did contribute to this disease, just as my choices now contribute to keeping it in check. However, just because I make a decision each day to not pick up that drink, the fact is that if I do – I will suffer. I made the same choices in my youth that almost every other person did – I experimented with drugs and alcohol. I went against my mothers advice (shocking I know) to never drink. Fuck her. What does she know? You know – typical teenage shit. Of course I didn’t listen to her. I was different. I would never turn into her! I was smarter. I was aware. I was determined to not be the drunk on the couch with no social life; no friends; no one to love me. Yeah – I didn’t plan this.

I never planned to be the first one drunk at parties, I never planned to be the one who has to be told the next day everything that happened the night before. I never planned to embarrass myself on an almost daily basis. I didn’t plan to hole myself up in my apartment because if I left I might not be able to drink the way I needed too. I didn’t plan that I would bury bottles in the park so I could always have alcohol available to me. I didn’t plan to drink in order to feel or not feel emotions. I didn’t plan to have to attend meetings every day in order to keep myself sane. I never planned to need rehab, and detox, and therapists, and doctors…

This wasn’t in my five year plan. This wasn’t in my lifetime plan.

Even in A.A. you hear people say, “Just don’t drink!” Yeah. Okay. If it was that fucking easy these rooms would be empty and treatment centers would be out of business.  I haven’t met a person yet who knows they are suffering from addiction who was able to “just not drink or drug.” Seriously, if it were that simple I would be writing a completely different post this morning. I would probably be focusing more on the Veterans Bill that failed to pass yesterday because of partisan politics. I would be writing about the old man Stephanie and I met at the grocery store yesterday who was so shocked to be shown a little kindness in finding chocolate bars and coffee he wants to share his lottery winnings with us (should he ever win). I didn’t plan for addiction to my my focus everyday.

I didn’t plan on being born to an alcoholic mother. I didn’t plan on not being taught how to properly cope with my emotions and the world around me. I didn’t plan to learn this shit at 41 years old.

The only thing I can plan now is to make a different decision every day. I can plan to attend meetings and listen to people like me who also didn’t plan for their lives to fall apart at the seams. I can plan to be grateful each day that I have been given the opportunity to learn and recognize my addiction for what it is and WORK to make better choices – while I still have the option of choice. Once I take the drink; choice leaves me. I am no longer in control. I can only plan to use the tools I’ve learned, and I can choose to ignore them. That is where the choice ends. However, when we start; we are mostly all just people doing what people do. We experiment, and sometimes that experiment goes horribly wrong.

Many people will die without ever realizing that they are sick because they have been told to just stop. They have been kicked out of their homes, kicked out of their families, kicked out of their jobs because the perception is that they choose to be a vagrant; they choose to put a needle in their arm; they choose to drink until they can’t stand up anymore. I know that I tried over and over again to “just stop” – I even did pretty well sometimes. I actually stopped drinking for about 8 months on my own (of course I then had Xanex and Vicodin to take the edge off and keep me from detoxing) but I stopped drinking! Victory! I even went for a visit out to CA completely unsupervised and drank like a “normal” person. I had ONE beer at a friends house! Amazing self control! Amazing resolve! I am awesome! Of course; we know how that turned out now don’t we? I got home and celebrated my new found freedom to drink like other people and completely lost control. I went from normal to monster in about 6 months. You know why? It is a PROGRESSIVE, chronic, fatal disease that wants me alone and dead. That “dry” time I had, my addiction was working overtime to beat my resolve. That voice in my head, that obsession never left me. I just managed to ignore it for a few months and quiet it with pills instead of liquids.

Today, by the grace of God, the obsession isn’t there. I haven’t been ruled by cravings to drink (today). I have asked for help and have received it. I can’t choose to stop this on my own. If I could have, it would have been done without rehab and meetings, meditations and prayers. If I could have planned to just quit drinking; by God I would have quit drinking. I am a spiritually, physically, and emotionally broken person and I need help to heal those things. I didn’t plan to need all this help; but I am sure glad that is is there for me now.

Namaste

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A Gay Dad Takes on the Frozen-Hating Mormon Grandmother


An EXCELLENT blog and response to a Mormon Grandmother who fears the movie “Frozen” is leading children to accept or conform to some gay agenda.

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ImageLast week a self defined Mormon grandmother named Kathryn Skaggs wrote a blog in an effort to alert the world that the movie Frozen was targeting children with a “gay agenda”.  In a sense, she was not alone in seeing “something gay”.  Many gay bloggers reviewed it with the thrill that it captured the air of gay persecution and some went so far as to dub it “the gayest Disney movie ever.”

They, of course, did not mean it in the same way Ms. Skaggs did.    There seems to be some common ground that there is a relevant LGBT message, even if we can’t all agree on exactly what it is, and whether it is “bad”.

Ms. Skaggs is a California pro-proposition 8 activist who feels her religious beliefs should trump the right of other families to enjoy the love and commitment she does.  Her writing expresses the fear that…

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I’ve been busy!!


They make my life better!
They make my life better!

For being unemployed my schedule has been crazy since I have been home! They say if you want to change your life you have to change what you do everyday, and I am finding that to be quite true!!

Before treatment, I would sit around on the computer all day, drinking secretly, and basically refusing to leave my house ever. No wonder I was depressed and miserable! Since I have been home, it has been non-stop appointments, some shopping (I needed some clothes that fit), and meetings. Its been busy but it has been good.

We used to schedule all our appointments as early as possible so we could come home and not worry about having to go out again, but now I am missing my mornings and writing first thing. I have actually not posted the last two days because I haven’t been home and I don’t like to write later in the day.  For some reason, I just really enjoy starting my day with a few cups of coffee and writing. It just sets me up for a good day, and I have missed that the last two days.

So it’s time to reevaluate the schedule. Since we actually like leaving the house now, morning appointments are a thing of the past. Active afternoons will now be the norm.

In other news, we took our two dogs to a homeopathic veterinarian today and the results were immediate and awesome! We have spent thousands of dollars trying to figure out how to help them in the last several months as both of them are old girls now with all the ailments that come with a long life.

Our Boxer is losing feeling in her hind legs due to spinal degeneration/arthritis and has been having trouble walking and keeping her legs under her. We took her to two orthopedic surgeons and a neurologist who did nothing but put her on a steroid treatment and recommended an MRI to locate the problem area (the MRI would have been $2300). All the while she has been getting worse.

Our Rottweiler also has arthritis and has a nail infection that won’t go away (even with the $300 a month antibiotic) and she keeps losing her nails. She is also quite nervous at the vet.

The woman we went and saw today pinpointed the issues, “talked” to the dogs, and both of them were visibly relieved. She performed acupuncture on the Boxer and treated her with an herbal tincture along her spine – with immediate results in how she walks and supports herself. She spent 2 1/2 hours between both dogs and sent us home with instructions for massage, allergy relief/identification tools, and herbal medicines all for around $400.

Now I will admit that I am a bit skeptical about some of the homeopathic things out there. I do believe in energy and energy manipulation to promote health and wellness, as well as herbal treatments for certain issues. I am open to trying anything for myself or the dogs, but you know, a healthy dose of skepticism is warranted even for “modern” healthcare.  For the price though, at this point I would recommend a homeopathic vet to anyone prior to dumping thousands of dollars for 2 minute vet visits and putting your animals on medications that will more than likely do more harm than good.

I don’t know how to recommend a good homeopathic vet but if you are in the Philadelphia area I would highly recommend the vet we went and saw today. The vet clinic does traditional veterinary services as well, so they aren’t JUST homeopathic. Here is their website: VCA Pets. We went to the location in Yardly, PA and saw the one homeopathic practitioner they have there. Simply amazing. It is wonderful to see our dogs relaxed and doing better, and it’s good for us too as we were really at our wits end as to how to make them comfortable.

Have any of you used non-traditional methods on yourselves or your animals? How did that work for you/them? 

I may not be posting tomorrow as I have another busy day starting early – who knows though I might squeak something out in the afternoon. 🙂

Namaste

 

 

Lessons Learned


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So yesterday was kind of rough, but I am glad it turned out the way it did. I learned a lot about myself, and put into practice actually feeling things and coping with negative emotions without alcohol. So while I wasn’t pleased about what happened, I am truly thankful for it.

I touched on a part of the issue with yesterday’s post, and it deals with the negativity of some members in the A.A. community. I posted to a group on Facebook asking about it because I am genuinely curious how they think beating people over the head lends itself to helping people live sober lives.

To me it is basic psychology. People respond to kindness, and flee from brutality. Their logic is that they have seen people come into the rooms on their “pink cloud” and then leave thinking they don’t need the program; only to relapse because they stopped coming to meetings when they felt good. The point I think they are missing may just be WHY those people left.

I left that group on Facebook yesterday not because I feel good and don’t think I need the program, but because I was quite literally belittled, demoralized, and “yelled” at for asking a question. Now if I were a less dedicated person, or if I didn’t have the education I received in treatment, these people a month ago would have quite literally driven me to drink. “Why bother?” would have been my excuse. No one who is feeling good for the first time in their lives wants anyone to shit on that feeling. No one is going to respond positively to being told to shut up. No one in their right mind would tolerate that abuse especially when they are feeling good and actually have some self esteem for the first time in their lives. I didn’t leave because I don’t think I need A.A. I left because they are a bunch of assholes who can’t manage to listen to any other point of view other than their canned responses and wise words of their sponsors.

Now I understand the warnings. I understand why they feel the need to prepare people for the inevitable. In my mind however, there is a right and wrong way to go about that. Certainly you don’t need to abuse people to get that message across. I am painfully aware of the statistics of people who are able to quit drinking successfully their first time out. They are dismal. However, those stats depend on the people who act as support, the A.A. groups themselves, people who have trudged through their lives and learned how to do it without alcohol or drugs. We can’t beat the physical disease, we can only put into practice measures to protect us from ourselves. Realistic and honest conversations need to happen; however, not allowing someone to learn and grow as an individual and belittling the progress someone has made – even if it is only 4 hours; is not the way to encourage people to stay.

Let’s look at it this way; you go into a nursery because you want to start a garden. You are super excited to start that garden, and you want every plant in the store. The ecologist who works there starts showing you around, and telling you which plants you might have better success with as a beginner, and teaches you about the different kinds of soil, fertilizer, and sunlight needed for each new plant to thrive. You take their advice and purchase the recommended plants. Then you get to the cash register, and are all excited and the cashier says, “These are all going to die within a week! I’ve seen new gardeners buy these plants in the past, and they all died. They will all eventually die. The fertilizer you have is wrong. Your yard can’t possibly provide the sunlight and nutrients to sustain it. You are wasting your money, and you will never be able to keep these plants alive until you have at least 20 years of gardening experience.” All of a sudden you are standing there, all excitement for gardening gone. You stare at those beautiful plants, and you don’t want to kill them so you put them back. There is a possibility that an experienced gardener might buy those plants, but there is also the possibility that no one will buy them and they will die anyway. The ones that suffer from those cashiers words are the dashed hopes of a new gardener, and a few plants that may not ever have a chance to thrive because someone didn’t even try to nurture them because they were too scared to give it a shot.

No one wins. That new gardener will never go into that store again. That cashier with their words and negative attitude killed dreams, and the plants they were trying so fiercely to protect. The ecologist is sad because they just wasted a lot of time helping that new gardener set a foundation to learn; that they will never do now because they are too afraid to try because they now believe they are incapable of caring for those plants (even with help from an expert).

I like metaphors and analogies. I use them all the time because it puts things in a new perspective. I might be a new gardener, but I did take the time to learn. I might have a few plants die along the way, but with time; with help I will be able to take on greater gardening challenges. I refuse to quit trying because some bitch cashier thinks I can’t do it, and thinks me even trying is a waste of time. I am just going to go shop at a new nursery that welcomes new gardeners and helps them plant beautiful gardens that will last a lifetime. Who knows, I might one day become an ecologist.

The lesson I learned was simple. Don’t let the negative people drive you away from what is important to you. With all the negative voices out there; there are positive ones too. Focus on the positive, be realistic with your choices, and don’t ever give up on your dreams no matter what the odds are. 

Namaste

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Riding the Cloud


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I really like being sober. I like knowing that my moods are organic and how I deal with them are choices, surrender, and actually feeling and processing my emotions in a healthy way. What I am quickly coming to realize though is that people seem to project their own failures or experiences on to me and my recovery process. 

Even my therapist who is the one who recommended treatment and adopting the 12 Steps seems to belittle my progress by saying, “Oh; the pink cloud of recovery.” Apparently, this pink cloud is something that happens when people get sober and like it; get excited about it; and look forward to a sober future. I don’t see an issue with this, and I can’t understand why so many people feel the need to shit on this phenomenon. In my mind, if riding this feeling keeps me sober; it is a good thing. 

I understand the fears people have. They don’t want people to set themselves up for disappointment. Life gets hard. Life happens. However, the mantra is “one day at a time”, and I am practicing living that. I do have a healthy fear about my future. I know life isn’t always fair or happy. I know more than most just how fucked up life can be. The point is though, I now have the tools to meet life on life’s terms and when I face trials I will deal with them as they present themselves. Sometimes I may falter, sometimes I will be successful. Right now though, I am happy. Today I am sober. Today I don’t feel the need to reach for a drink or drug. Today I am surrendering to my Higher Power and enjoying every second of joy that is given to me. 

It’s like people want me to walk around with an umbrella open on sunny days. I am grateful for my umbrella (A.A.) and I know that storms will come. However, I don’t feel the need to miss out on sunshine because one day a storm will come. I don’t need to be paranoid. It’s like people forget that I have experienced life before. I wasn’t born yesterday, I just learned some new coping skills. I have already had to put them into practice. I used to cope with alcohol. Now I cope by letting feelings happen, asking for help if I need it, and sharing my own experience, strength, and hope with others. 

So what if it’s new? Should we not enjoy the fruits of our labors? Should we not have a bank of great days to remember when times do get tough? People are referring to it as a high. LOL Yes. Yes it is a high. I am high on living my life in a positive and productive way. I could go get drunk to celebrate like I used too, or I can just be really fucking glad that I can actually enjoy a great day without beer. 

So for today; I am really fucking glad that I don’t need alcohol. 

I will ride this “pink cloud” as long as God allows. 

I will share my hopes, dreams, and 37 days of success without clarifying it with, “I know it won’t last.” I refuse to set myself up for failure, and I refuse to let others make me feel like this is some sort of fluke. I worked hard for this feeling. I made a decision to live my life differently, and I will make that decision everyday. What will come will come; and I will face it with my God, those who support me, and the skills I have learned. 

So for those of you in recovery; regardless of your setbacks, relapses, or trials; just remember that it is your life and your sobriety. Don’t let anyone take that from you if you have 1 day or 40 years; you worked for it. You wanted it and made that decision everyday to surrender and make better choices. Just because others struggle, doesn’t mean that you will struggle in the same way. Keep an honest perspective, but also don’t wallow in what might be. That is why most of us turned to alcohol or drugs in the first place. If you have a day without fear – thank God for it. If you have another day of sobriety – acknowledge what you did to achieve it. If we live in our fears about tomorrow; well then, we haven’t gotten the “one day at a time” message right. 

I’m off to enjoy my pink cloud on this beautiful sunny day in Philly. 

Namaste

 

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C.J. Haydock

No Name Coach

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