Grateful Sunday #43: Twenty-Five Rotations Around the Sun, Under My Belt

My poor, neglected blog…I have been trying (wherein “trying” = “staring at the words on a ‘To-Do’ list”) to write at least a short update for several weeks now, but as you may have been able to discern from my silence…
I. GOT. A. JOB.

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There is an alternative meaning to a ‘prolonged silence’ here, and I hope I didn’t give any of you pause for worry that my well-being had taken a turn for the worse.

One of the local temp agencies I signed up with came through with a fairly basic contract right before Easter, so I started that week after.  It almost didn’t matter what the position was; if the company was willing to bring me on, I would take it.  I went in for the interview and it was pretty immediately apparent that I was well-qualified and probably even over-, but the hiring manager said if I was willing to jump in and take on the grunt work, the gig was mine.

It is a long-term temp position, extending at least until “the fall.”  At which time the company will have its annual budgetary meeting, and the decision whether or not they ought to carve out a more permanent niche for the work I am doing will be made.  This could go either way, but the more I dig in, the more I believe the odds to be in my favor.

When I accepted the job, it was billed at (20) hours per week.  They needed a manual labor-temp hire to come in and help sort, organize, coordinate sales/marketing materials — in simplest terms, making sure proper files were printed & shipped accordingly as per the sales team’s meeting calendar.  Not exactly thrilling, but also not exactly difficult.  Regardless of task I was eager to work hard and take pride in having any job, so I hit the ground running.  My manager was thoroughly impressed with my ethic and attention to detail, and within two weeks had requisitioned another (20) hours a week for me so I could work for him full-time, basically taking the spot of what would have been another temp hire.

Furthermore those extra hours are reserved for doing more “specialized” production-type work, so I’m even earning at a bit higher of a rate.  Which is awesome.  Even more awesome is how near-perfectly this position has lined up for my needs, both financially and personally in a workspace.  My manager (the man who hired me) see eye-to-eye across the board.  I’ve always been pretty adept at recognizing the best ways to connect with my superiors on the job, but I honestly can’t think of a single disagreement I’ve had with my current manager in the almost two months I’ve been there now.  He has a degree in graphic design where I have a degree in communication, so our similar educational backgrounds certainly account for some of that connection.  Beyond that we share many of the same tastes musically — and oh yeah did I mention headphone use is perfectly acceptable and even encouraged, depending on the particular task I’m assigned to?

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Basically, this is a perfect “foot-in-the-door” position; really, exactly what I needed for where I’m at right now.  I would have loved to work for the city planning and coordinating its major entertainment events, but I have an outstanding relationship with the members of my department here, and regardless of whether I am extended a salary offer in a few months, I will learn many, many valuable tech and software skills I previously did not possess.  And it feels so. damn. good. to FINALLY be putting my specialized skillsets to good use again.

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That’s not to say it has been a cakewalk, jumping into a full-time job.  A large part of what is inherent to successfully completing the work I need to is “reading between the lines” and clarifying communication content, correctly interpreting varying forms of shorthand, or straight-up extracting crucial pieces of missing data.  Which can be like pulling teeth, because more often than not people who are very good at one particular “thing” are not the best at communicating to others details regarding that “thing” in complete yet concise terms.  So to mentally juggle an officeworth of that is nothing short of exhausting.  By the time my day ends I can do little but come home and lounge, despite needing to attend to any number of life’s other requirements for health & happiness.

Meetings have unfortunately been one of those parts of my life that have taken a back seat, for the time being.  However, as I am settling into a real, true, busy, independent routine, I am beginning to understand that, of my own accord and no one else’s because it is what’s right for me, I may simply not be an individual working an active recovery program who needs meetings to be a very-regular part of his sobriety.  This is not to say I believe I am “over” going to meetings, and do not plan to include them in the future of my program.  I still very much want A.A. gatherings to play a part for me.  Lessons learned even in this early period of recovery are invaluable and life-lasting, and I find I am constantly spreading the message, in small ways or in big.

Just not at this particular moment in time.  I am working hard at work, and focusing hard on my ‘self.’  Regular exercise, better diet, more sleep.  A reading list for the summer.  Soon to be going in on graphic design and music production to whet my creative brain.  I have great expectations for the upcoming Connecticut season prime sailboats & sundresses, beaches & bikinis.  I actually have (somewhat of) a real income now, with which to do real-person fun, responsible activities!  Minus of course my back financial obligations such as healthcare and student loans.  I think the contemporary American Dream might be to simply just get personal debt down to 0%, forgoing any kind of career or family aspirations (until the former is managed).

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Aside from the new job there was also a move into a new apartment in there.  Had the pleasure of renting/driving a U-Haul to move beds/desks — throwback to my days as a minimum-wage box truck driver for Bouncey Castle parties!  That was another pretty hectic/anxiety-inducing process, trying to sort living arrangements.  As it came down to it, unfortunately the best option was for Emily and I to split from our partnership in cohabitation, and find domiciles closer to our respective places of work.  I am forever grateful for her open arms hosting me as a housemate for my first major move in my recovery, and for the ensuing safe passage it allowed me into a new city.  I am even closer downtown now that I’ve moved, and settling in quite nicely.  Despite the tax rate and obscene amount of Wall $treet dirty dollar dollar bills flooding these downstate economies, I am really enjoying myself.  It’s nice here.  I like it.

Well, as I have been saying all along: now that I have a full-time job, I will probably have less time/energy for long-form posts (obviously).  So I will do my best to make habit of more-regular, less-wordy entries.  Giving myself the caveat of shortened written content will encourage me to actually write on a more consistent basis.  So keep an eye out, and expect more zen-based faith (or faith-based zen? hmm) to be arriving accidentally on time.

I leave you tonight with a paraphrased bit from an interview with the head coordinator of a music/art/avant-garde festival performance piece, that beautifully captures the essence of music as art and especially sharing it with others in a live setting:

“…we’re ready to go deeper; we’re ready to open up and become more truthful with each other. [We’re ready to] free ourselves from all the rules and regulations we’ve inherited from those who came before us that don’t serve us. I think we as society are so thirsty for that type of freedom and connection.

The original inspiration was to create a safe space for people to come and play and explore themselves, [in order to] find their true essence…to inspire people to be more free, to dance, and to connect deeply with one another. To give people a reason to speak to their neighbor, even if just to lean over and say, “Wow, that was cool.” I have always felt that we as humans spend a good lot of our lives feeling starved for deep intimate connection…you can have that with a total stranger in the middle of a dance floor: a moment of understanding, sharing a feeling without expectation, or attachment or judgment. You might never see each other again, but the energy exchange and the feeling of acceptance and closeness with a total stranger leaves us rejuvenated and charged. That’s how humans are supposed to respond to each other, with unconditional love and understanding.

———

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⇒ PS – 18 months dry as of June 3rd, 2014. ⇐

A Year Without Alcohol

twzombek:

Even when as unique individuals we could not be more different from one another, when it comes down to it we alcoholics all really share the same story.
Thanks Emily for bringing this piece/blog to my attention!

Originally posted on The Adventures of a Sober Señorita:

Wow I can’t even believe I’m typing this! If you’re reading this it’s because I made it.  I made it to one full year without alcohol.  On May 6, 2013 I took my last drink.  I will never forget how it felt.  I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I was tired of being the party girl, I was tired of feeling like shit, I was tired of disappointing and embarrassing my friends and loved ones.  I decided I needed a big change. Trying to drink in moderation hadn’t proved to be the best option for me.  It never worked.  Enough was enough.  I tried something that I never did before – stopped drinking alcohol completely.

When I started this sober journey I wasn’t sure how long it would last and now I can’t imagine going back to how my life was before.  The positives have been…

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Successful Alcoholics [Video]

Pretty sure I posted this very early on in the blog because it was so relevant, and it had stuck with me since my first viewing…which is why I’m posting it again if I did, because it has continued to do just that.  It pops into my head from time to time not only because of how scarily relatable the content is, but also because it’s really truly great writing/directing/acting.

T.J. Miller is a comic writer (as well as producer/featured actor here) and does his own stand-up, so that’s where the “funny” comes in…except when it doesn’t.  Lizzy Caplan, who looked vaguely familiar when I first saw this, also totally nails her role (prior known as one of the “outcasts” in ‘Mean Girls’ as well as a few other minor roles; now a commanding female lead in HBO’s ‘Masters of Sex’).

Premiered at Sundance 2010 and several film festivals following that, ‘Successful Alcoholics’ is a heartfelt, raw short about a boozy, bingey couple who manage to avoid consequences for their indecencies almost entirely, all the way up to the top of the professional, working world.  Now, I remember very vividly where I was when I first watched this: it was early May of 2011, and myself and my roommates had just finished the final bit of moving out of our senior year college housing.  That alone put me in a weird enough mood, which was only compounded by the fact that I would be returning the following autumn to make up a couple of classes I had missed for my major.  A bittersweet symphony welled inside of me; my peers, classmates, brothers were “done” with their four years and so too was I with that particular chapter…next semester just would not be the same.  “College” had pretty much ended for me at that point.  All I had left was to stick around to flesh out the credit hours my diploma necessitated.

Even more twisted was the feeling in my gut because after packing and moving all day we had nowhere to sleep but on a friend’s apartment floor down the road.  It was late into the night at this point, and most of the “graduation partying” was done, most of the seniors having left campus or posting up their parents.  This was a point when alcohol was certainly a dependency, but also as much a sedative if I intended to get any sleep.  With our house cleaned out and with no sane person looking to tie one on before last call, I had little to do but lay in a sleeping bag on the floor of a warm, cramped apartment, fretting about what in the hell I was to do with my life.

I turned to my laptop to browse the Internet aimlessly, sober and in need of distraction from my thoughts.  I wish I could remember the exact sequence that lead me to this video, but I guess the point is that I found it.  I wasn’t really prepared for the feels trip it took me on, but I liked it.  Probably in no small part because I connected so deeply with it.  Back in those days, it was a lot of “me battling myself.”  I had known for some time, at least in some small way, that my behaviors around and feelings toward alcohol were not “normal.”  But I was deathly afraid of what it would mean to tackle those monsters — because that would mean I would have to stop.  Completely.  And I was neither mentally prepared for nor physically capable of taking that step, at that time.

In any case, ‘Successful Alcoholics’ really stuck with me.  If you didn’t catch this the first time I posted it (which would have been over a year ago at this point so even if you did, it certainly merits a re-watch), I urge you to find 25 minutes somewhere in your day and give it a shot (pun intended).

I will say that despite the comedic timing and witty banter, this is a very powerful and raw piece.  And it features some sequences of aggressive, excessive drinking, so if you’re an individual who might find such scenes to be triggers I would not recommend you view this one.

Otherwise, observe & reflect.  Bonus for watching is a small role here for Tony Hale, aka “Buster Bluth.”

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/16640746″>Successful Alcoholics</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/jordanroberts”>Jordan Vogt-Roberts</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

Why I Love Women

twzombek:

I don’t want the world…just your half of it.

Originally posted on Gladius Poeticus:

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Women to me

Are a great source

Of inspiration

No, I’m not a player

Or a womanizer

Just a poet

With a craving

A feel for words

Women are lovely

Understanding and yes

Downright crazy

Out of control sometimes

What else than to love?

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Grateful Sunday #42: I’m Not a “Businessman”; I’m a Business, Man

“To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.”

- A popular definition of “success” that is often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, despite never having turned up in any record of his works.

Somehow, the Internet is even worse at properly attributing quotes to the correct individual than oral or hand-written history…but that doesn’t make it any less a great piece.  I forget what I was reading several weeks ago that featured this poem, but I jotted down a note to reference it for a future entry.  By this definition, would you consider yourself successful?  Would I?

Personally I’m not sure that I can say I have reached the height of success as per these parameters, but I for certain believe I am operating within them (for the most part); using them as a sort of moral compass to guide me toward what I hope is a happy, healthy adult life.  Looking back the other direction, I see now that I used to become unnecessarily salty when confronted with other members of society who in my eyes were seeking “success” through all the wrong channels — money, popularity, fame, vanity, material possessions, etc etc.  Their views were so at odds with the direction of my own…and I let them further intrude by clouding my thoughts and choices.  “Brooding” is a good word to describe one of my favorite mental states of that heyday.

Now that I’m a few years beyond that misguided homogeneity (re: a college campus) I so detested, I can look more objectively upon, and in turn disregard where appropriate, how others’ aspirations make me feel.   I just wanted the people surrounding me to know a better quality of life; to actually LIVE for something!  And of course they all were, in their own ways.  I was just intolerant of what to me felt like willful ignorance.  Who am I to say everyone everywhere must open themselves up at all times?  The world would be that much more brutal for it — which we need about as much as we need the censorship of the female nipple, but not the male nipple, on cable television.  I seriously do not understand how we are not past that double-standard yet.

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Where does this land me, just over a month on the other side of my move to Connecticut?  Well, and perhaps I’m burying the lead here but…I do not yet have a job.  I think it was Einstein who said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results” (or something like that, right Internet?).  Well alright Einstein, if you’re so smart then that would make looking for a job in this market economy STRAIGHT-UP BACK-ASSWARDS FUCKIN’ BONKERS.  I have seriously never worked so hard to produce so little.

BUT, I have been hustling out in these streets 25/8.  Coffee is my ally; a comfortable bed is my foe.  [<---- I am still not sure how to feel about caffeine consumption relative to 'sobriety'...hypocritical? Depends on your program and extenuating circumstances, I suppose. Same for nicotine. And I happen to love coffee & cigars, while having zero dependency on them. Carry on then.]  I’m not going to recount the entire past month because 1) it’s late [of course it is] and 2) that’s not really the point of my writing.  Suffice it to say I was one of (3) final applicants in a bid to coordinate events for the city’s most prestigious community-relations company, and subsequently studied and became licensed to produce health & accident insurance policies in the state of Connecticut.

There was also St. Pa(rty)rick’s in the middle of the month, which is of course worth mentioning for its infamy as the annual “aggressive drinking is my excuse for anything and everything” day.  I celebrated in Brooklyn, where my flatmate and I arrived by rail to visit a close friend from the high school era (who also happened to have a birthday the following week, so festivities served a dual purpose).  We spent most of the day on the roof of her high-rise apartment, looking out over the city underneath the bright sun and chilling wind.  Beers, wine, etc etc, yadda yadda.  It was there; everyone was drinking it; I was expected and prepared for it; hardly even noticed.  It was all minimal and no one made it (alcohol) the focus; part of why I love going out with those particular friends so much.  Also why I was able to stay out til nearly 4 a.m. with them.

Which, as I grow older and no longer have a desire to ‘keep the party going all night long’, is becoming less and less appealing.  I can dig on 4 a.m. if I’m purveying music, writing, reading, watching films — activities that are at least personally productive.  I really do love darts and billiards, but especially on weekend nights/holidays when even the dives I am fond of are packed out…those run their course purrdy quick.

Furthermore, it minimizes the chances of tragedies like this occurring:

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As an aside: why do so many websites fail so hard at proper in-house promotion placement? “Tragic news as a young woman freezes to death while attempting a hike under the influence of alcohol…but hey speaking of hiking, why don’t you click on this link to find out more about some irrelevant, bullshit national park, since we baited you to find out about ‘Utah’s Best-Kept Secret!’” Idiots. This is from Weather.com, by the way.

While western New York is considerably more protected from the elements than is central Utah, Geneseo was not exactly known for its mild winters.  Thankfully I never once had even a brush with hypothermia, but the risk was undeniably out there.  #BulletsDodged.

Another very nice feature of cutting out to CT is that I get to shorten the amount of “winter” I have left to deal with by a considerable amount.  I have even completed two outdoor jogs thus far!  Going to have to hold off on any more of that til the nice weather truly breaks, though; my acute asthma seems to be growing acuter.  In the meantime, it’s about time I get back to recovery-related doin’s right proper.  I have yet to connect to any A.A. meetings in this area, and it is only to my benefit to do so.  Discussing with friends and family, not only to reaffirm my sobriety in new territory but to also reinvigorate my spirit following 5+ weeks of straight job-hunting…and then even to that end, possibly making valuable connections that could yield solutions to that very problem.

So tomorrow (i.e. today, Sunday) I will begin vetting meetings, both local and in surrounding townships.  I’m very curious to see what the demographics and socio-economic makeup of recovery programs in this region are like.  Today, I am grateful to be able to begin a new chapter of my story, where the road rises to meet me, with the wind at my back and the sun shining warm upon my face.

—————–

[Edit: almost to a 'T,' I consider my father to fit that exact Emersonian conceptualization of "success," right down to the garden patch. My greatest sadness is not that I lost him, but that others will never get the chance to meet him, nor have the opportunity to have their lives enriched by his blessings.]

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Grateful Sunday #41: A Return to Form

With consumerism at an all-time high in Great American culture, I knew the retail inventory schedule following the holiday season would be pretty jammed up…but I was not prepared for just how nonstop January was.  Apologies for my lengthy absence, but I can say with a great deal of certainty that the previous two months have indeed been my busiest two months since I began writing this blog.  Much has happened in that time, and much has changed in my personal life.

Firstly, a clarification: there was a post that appeared on EZ between this and my last writing, that I did not author.  I’ve mentioned how this works briefly in a previous entry, but the concept of ‘reblogging’ may still not be entirely clear to those unfamiliar.  What happens is I will come across another thought piece/article/what have you on the Internet, that I believe to be relevant to my own project here.  I then “re-post” it on to the dash of this blog; it is the work of another person or group entirely, but I am sharing it via the web on my own site.  Unfortunately, WordPress formatting leaves a bit of comprehension to be desired in that department, and even more unfortunately, there is no way to edit a reblog.  Thus there appear to be entries made by me, that were in fact not at all, but simply shared pieces from external sources.

I believe this caused some confusion with the last post I reblogged, as it was written by a female and thus contained some perplexing language, using such phrases as “my boyfriend” – no, not literally MY boyfriend.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course; just, not mine.

Anyway, right around the time of my last posting, I made a choice to proactively pursue a course of learning I had been vaguely considering for some time: an online offering of web graphic design instruction.  Studying communication and advertising in college I had always had design in my peripheral knowledge base, but had avoided any kind of true educational pursuit based on an ill-informed belief that the practice was largely rooted in computer programming and mathematics.  Over time, as I’ve been more exposed to various sectors of the professional communication industry, I’ve come to observe that even the most basic of producers or coordinators have at least some experience with design or design editing.

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Furthermore, as I spend a probable majority of my free time Interwebs-browsing, I’ve come to really appreciate good design and typesetting.  Amongst so much amateur content and creation, quality programming really *pops* and is much more enjoyable to consume (indeed, I’ve previously included on this blog some of the more relevant pieces I’ve encountered).  Equal parts intrigued, inspired, and informed, I decided investing in a little self-education in this field would go a long way, and gradually pay for itself many times over.  So I did a bit of research, selected an online institution that offered what I knew I needed, and completed the enrollment process.

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I decided to pick up two courses, “a la carte” (not of a majors or minors program): a basic introduction to web graphic design, and then an advanced media creation section.  Each session runs eight weeks; the first I completed just last week.  The course provided us with lectures, readings, and access to production software.  The instruction was reasonably paced, thorough, and all-inclusive.  I have a fairly good command of Adobe Illustrator now, as demonstrated by this image of my final project (a poster advert for a performance run of “Don Giovanni” at the Metro Opera Company):

ImageThe left half of the poster features a sketch of Mozart, which was initially outlined in a freehand composition based loosely on a portrait, and scanned into Illustrator to be converted to a digital file.  The right half includes the required descriptive text, provided by the opera company.  If I were truly submitting this to be considered for print and not just for a course project, I would probably have used this as a “final draft,” and cleaned and sharpened both the sketch and the text up by a considerable degree.  Nonetheless, pretty proud of going from never having opened Illustrator to producing an original design piece.  Oh, and to top it all off? 96.9%, overall final grade for the course.  Not bad.

My second session will actually resume in May, due to my being tied up with the other major life decision I recently made: to vacate home in central New York and move in with a friend who has available housing downstate, to spend a month searching for stable, salaried, full-time employment.  Thus, this past Wednesday I landed in Stamford, Connecticut, to spend a few days getting unpacked and settled in before I spend March aggressively on the job hunt.

In my three-and-a-half days here so far, I’ve: had one interview that turned out to be a pyramid-scheme type scam; set up my surprisingly spacious room; eaten at a local burger joint; organized the month’s groceries; and made contact with several employment agencies.  Stamford is not New York, though it is largely populated by young professionals (primarily in finance) who wish it were.  Still, the cityscape hustle & bustle is at once invigorating, exciting, and encouraging.  Moves made; hands shook; babies kissed; offshore accounts fattened; scensters seen; life glamorized.  As a man in his mid-20′s with an entirely new lease/perspective on life, I am ready to dive in head-first.

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And that’s exactly it – it’s change, it’s adjusting, it’s a lifestyle.  It goes for not only “relocating,” but recovery, as well.  Admittedly, my sobriety has not been first and foremost in my mind the past several weeks.  I have attended maybe two meetings in two months.  But I’m not on edge; I’m not white-knuckling my days.  I’m not in danger.  I’m at ease, yet still aware.  A hectic schedule may have kept me from devoting my full attention to my program recently…but I no longer feel that I’m just trying to occupy time, to keep my mind and body safe.  There have certainly been times over the past year that I have needed something, anything, to hold my attention and keep my thoughts from themselves.  But these past couple of months have not been mere preoccupation.

No, it is more than that.  It is mindful living.  It is a complete and total lifestyle change, and furthermore, embrace of that lifestyle.  I don’t have to wake up and think “sobriety,” because I wake up and live sobriety.  Between rehab, therapy, counseling, meditation, practice, and routine, it has become ingrained in the very fiber of my being.  It’s a good feeling.  Uninhibited; secure, even.

 

It does not, however, mean that alcohol is no longer an influential factor in my life.  To let your guard down is to get comfortable; to get comfortable is to forget; to forget is to get vulnerable; to get vulnerable is to relapse.  That is a fairly linear descent I just laid out, but the reality of this disease is often far more complicated and chaotic than that.  We just recently saw a very public, very tragic example of this, in the overdose-related death of critically acclaimed acting legend Philip Seymour Hoffman.  A man who had been very transparent and honest about his substance abuse history; a rarity for an individual who spends so much time in the spotlight of film stardom.  A man who had been clean for 20 years, and in that time had cultivated a rich, engrossing, emotional body of acting work.

 

We can only speculate as to what precisely made him turn back to the needle, but I would not be surprised if it was a complicated chain reaction, and not just one specific event or moment in time.  Our understanding of this disease remains woefully incomplete, and so too does our ability to combat it.  It is complex enough that we have yet to discover a permanent “cure.”  No treatment; only remission.  Godspeed, you beautiful soul. The memories of your haunting, ethereal performances will now be immortalized on screens across the globe.  Let us never forget that your untimely demise is similarly not beyond the realm of possibility, for any of us.

I am grateful for personal progress.  I am grateful for a supportive network of family & friends.  I am grateful for sobering reminders.  I am grateful for fresh opportunities.  I am grateful for free time & peace of mind.  I am grateful to be alive & well.  I am grateful to be able to share these messages & gratitudes with others – especially those that may really need to hear them.

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I’m Sober At 24. Want To Be My Friend?

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

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I’ve had an interesting relationship with alcohol every since I dabbled as a teenager. Most people I know saw me as a normal social drinker.

I used to think this too, when ‘normal’ to me was involving alcohol with any meal, event, or change in my life. What people don’t know is that I used alcohol anytime my emotions were heightened, good or bad. I would drink to feel happier or drink to feel less sad. I think the only thing more difficult than sharing the personal choice of sobriety with friends and loved ones is making the decision to stay sober for yourself. My battle ultimately ended in a choice: Stay sober, endure your emotions, and live for true happiness or chase after a feeling that makes love, goals, and life unattainable.

Having a drinking problem is not black and white. Many people believe that either you have a…

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Grateful Sunday (Tuesday) #40: Inspect What’s Next & Come Correct

Thirteen months sober, twelve since returning from inpatient rehab…hope everyone rang in 2014 with style, class & safe celebrations!  Did you make a Resolution?  Have you broken it yet?

Two or three years ago, I made the last New Year’s Resolution I’ll ever make – and accordingly it has been one I’ve been able to keep.  My Final Resolution was…to never make another New Year’s Resolution.  I did it!  Well, so far I’ve done it.  I just have to remember to not forget I resolved not to resolve.  Now, why would I go and do such a thing?  Surely I can’t seriously believe that cleverness excuses laziness…but I am serious.  And don’t call me Shirley.

My fascination with the abstract nature of “time” (i.e. human conceptualization of it) is partly responsible for my outright refusal to make an annual half-assed life-betterment hoo-rah promise to myself.  To me, “January 1″ is just another day on the calendar, a day where we continue living as time invisibly morphs and marches on around us.  Why do I, as an independent, functioning member of society, need to be reminded by a specific date to check my motives and get busy on the one’s and two’s?  I mean sure, I understand the symbology behind the tick of the clock – turning over a new leaf, wiping the slate clean, squashing the beef, so on and so forth.  But if that matters so much, why are resolutions so seemingly easy to break?

Because goals set under flimsy/superficial pretenses rarely if ever carry weighty consequences for not following through on them.  “Working out” or “dieting,” for example – two popular resolutions concerning forward-thinking lifestyle choices that require consistency and frequency for effective implementation…and as we alcoholics and addicts well know, “habit” is not typically a personal trait you pick up at the drop of a hat.  The development of your aspirations takes time, energy, and hard work – none of which you get credit for just by showing up on the first of the year.

So the bottom line here is: cumulatively, proactively work on self-betterment because you want to, not because a failed societal norm dictates that you must try and try again each time you switch out your calendar (do people really do much of that anymore even though? #digitalfreedom).  My own regimens and menus have been respectively less regular and more fatty over the past couple of holiday weeks, but with less epic dinners & desserts on tap I have much less temptation/access to unhealthy dietary options…which reminds me I still really need to hone my cooking skills, while I don’t have to rely on them for survival.  Game plan is to become ace at prepping & serving one really delicious, really healthy, really simple meal.  Probably some sort of chicken/pasta combo; every man ought to have such a meal locked & loaded in his arsenal, ready to flex at a moment’s notice.

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In fact, basic chicken and pasta was pretty much the only “meal” I regularly made for myself, as an undergrad student.  Between lacking nutritional values, vodka dietary supplements, a propensity toward insomniac tendencies, and an overactive thyroid gland…I probably should have declared a double-major and picked up a degree in Casual Napping, while I was at it.  College was very much like that for me: take it or leave it, fuck it or fight it, it’s all the same anyway.  My dismissive attitude was far too cavalier for my own good, and I was *just* immature enough to think that brash disregard for square bullshit was a pretty hip way of conducting business.  Not that this is a major revelation about the nature of my personality, but I did experience a moment of clarity on the subject a couple of months ago.

“Nobody really knows; I was leaving, it was late, and the rent’s due /
But it seems he don’t mind he’s got a pocketful of something in his cigarettes.

Nobody really knows; I was leaving, it was late, and the rent’s due but it seems he don’t mind /
You know he probably fell asleep at the bar.”

When I last caught UM live in Buffalo at the end of October we got a “Last Man Swerving” in the first set, and though I’ve heard the song dozens of times before, for some reason standing in the middle of the packed ballroom it occurred to me just how college those lyrics are.  You can even hear it in the way they’re sung – those words were written by a young malt liquor-swilling good-time dude just trying to get by; they were decidedly not penned by a successful rock star who is hard at work on tour for 2/3 of the year.  And if I’m honest, I do still have a bit of a soft spot for that lifestyle.  Just a very small one, though, and not for the sake of my demeanor and mannerisms back then, but moreso because I was able to get away with playing as fast and loose as I did.

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There is no doubt that I was that guy (or “that guy”), through and through.  Cash flow tight as it is these days I had pretty limited options as far as plans for New Year’s Eve 2013, so I decided that would make a neat opportunity to pop out to Rochester and visit the old stomping grounds, and mix it up with a few different circles I used to run in (i.e. mostly old friends from college I never said a proper goodbye to when I left town to get my house in order).  I was particularly looking forward to catching up with the lot of my fraternity alumni that live out that way, one of whom had gotten married to his long-time girlfriend over the summer.  After regaling me with tales of the bachelor party (which were every bit as debaucherous and regal as I’d imaged they might be), my newlywed-brother and host for the night plied me with hors d’eouvres of various cheeses and a homemade chili and we all gathered together for a champagne toast before they headed out to their $50/head open bar & buffet bar seating (cheers to a full wallet amirite?).

I had mentioned to him some weeks prior that I would probably be stopping through, but it just goes to show the level of consideration and care that he also made sure to have a non-alcoholic bubbly on hand.  Though booze flowed freely (heartily, even; NYE and so it goes) amongst the rest of the guests for the 90 or so minutes I spent there, never once was I uncomfortable or tempted or even offered a drink, really (save for from the host, who was more than happy to serve up a cappuccino from his newly gifted machine).  As the evening wore on conversation did eventually turn to the topic of my sobriety and how I was handling it all.  I don’t know if it’s because actively seeking personal praise makes me uncomfortable, but I tend to forget how good it makes me feel.  Totally reaffirming, to hear how far ahead in the game I am from these guys who all own houses, cars, and some of whom even have families.

Anyway the reason I bring all that up is because during this conversation they pointed out to me, from objective and elder places at the table, that the alcoholic part of my personality while dangerous and destructive was also empowering and a centralizing force to be reckoned with.  As the years progressed that particular niche in the social tree was carved deeper and deeper in…and I was pretty damn good at playing the part.  I knew how to take it to the next level; I knew how to get reactions; I knew how to orchestrate the behind-the-scenes and grease the doors properly (the latter of which also made me such a good promoter…while the former of which got me into hot water on the job on more than one occasion).  So eventually it was just sort of expected of me.  And in a college setting a large majority of people (the ones I surrounded myself with, anyway) are in it to some degree right along with you, so it’s hard for even the closest of peers to peel the layers back.

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Thankfully the lid has now been sealed on that rebel era, and I’m not held hostage as a shell of the man I am capable of being.  Which in turn allows me to hold my head up high and re-enter the world anew, and safely enjoy a still thoroughly decadent New Year’s Eve celebration with the homies.  I had a completely random, chance encounter later in the night when we had braved the cold to post up at a stately little bar downtown, with an acquaintance from Geneseo I had nearly forgotten lived in the area.  Tipsy as she was at 2 a.m. on New Year’s I think she was a bit more forthright than she meant to come off as, but I didn’t mind one bit her gushing over how fresh and healthy I looked.

You forget what a toll it takes on you physically, too, when you relentlessly poison your body with dirty grain alcohol.  It was no compliment just for the sake of a compliment though – I feel like thrice the man I did a year ago, and I was dressed the part that night too.  Intended to grab a good collection of photos from various angles because it’s rare that I have an occasion to suit up to the nines, but my head was more in the moment than in my phone.  Which I’m fine with.  You either get busy livin’, or you get busy dyin’, right?  I’ve got a feeling that 2014 is gonna be bigger than Barry Manilow’s brass.  Let’s get live and stay grateful, shall we?  “I’ve seen the hard times, when the pressures fell on me / Life is so strange, when it’s changin’, yes it is…”

Grateful Sunday (Christmas Edition) #39: The Gift of Sobriety

I’m writing in covert mode, tapping very lightly on my laptop keys…because I should be sleeping right now, and it would be tragic if Santa did not visit our house because I scared him off with my night blogging.  Very grateful to be at home with my family this year, though.  Last year at this time I was nearing the final stretch of my stay at Tully Hill so I was fairly well acclimated to being inpatient and away from home, but it was still not the most comfortable holiday I’ve ever experienced.  I did however thoroughly enjoy the company of the other individuals who I shared Christmas celebrations with – some of whom were parents themselves, with small children at home.  No easy choice to be sheared away from your young progeny, but I was proud to stand next to men and women who knew that what they were fighting for then would ultimately be best and healthiest for them and their families in the long-term.

We got a very unique gift last holiday season, as well.  In some ways, sobriety is really a gift that only you can give to yourself.  But rehab provided us with the tools, resources, and insight that would allow us to hold on to that gift, to nurture it in its frail, vulnerable state.  Few struggling addicts are fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the clean life; even fewer are able-bodied & mentally stable enough to more permanently possess it.  Wherever my conceptualizations of spirituality lie at present, I believe I have been granted a small miracle in the form of my recovery.  It still feels surreal to me at times, that my once-radically warped reality has been shaken free of the impenetrable blackness to reveal an entirely new sphere of existence.

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This still does not mean that all the evils of the world are absolved, and all pain and ill will have exited my body.  A universal truth about humanity (or at least the culture/society we currently prescribe to) that is cementing itself throughout the cracks in my mind is: we are all afraid, and we must all deal with that fear in one way or another.  It is not only the methods of coping but the actual fears themselves that can differ immensely from person to person; however, we’re still all in one big shitheap of extreme discomfort and uncertainty together.  “C’est la vie,” said the old folks – it goes to show you never can tell.

What does this mean?  How are we to deal with this inescapable plight?  Well for a while alcohol did a fine job of stoking the flames and chasing away the darkness, soothing the erratic and sometimes irrational worries of the id.  But used as a militant force long enough, bottle after bottle after bottle will awaken the ancient demons of the ego.  It is not a sustainable model.  I recently came across a think-piece essay that was actually an introduction to another article about one of my favorite topics (the ever-evolving Internet landscape).  My generation (“millenials”), as previously noted, has gotten a fair amount of flak of late for being “lazy and narcissistic” and a whole shitheap of other condescending terms bestowed upon us by people who neither really understand us nor care to take the time to.

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“Unless they are also people who work in an Internet-related industry and thus have egotistical reasons for wanting to pretend that any of this stuff actually has meaning or significance, there is no way that the members of your family know or care about Bustle.com or misandry or bronies or anything else that you count on to fill up the space in your head that would be otherwise used to face the fact that you are going to die.

This is all the detritus you heap value on to camouflage emptiness, and your family doesn’t have any idea what any of it means because they have chosen to keep themselves unaware of their inevitable demise through more popular and accepted forms of death-denial such as sports or reality television or partisan politics. Or, if they’re super-boring, the state of the novel.

It is all garbage that we are focusing on to help distract ourselves from the horrors of existence or to fool ourselves into feeling that the things we are doing as occupations have some sort of impact or worth on lives beyond our own. Actually, it is less than garbage, which at least has physical presence and some level of value, no matter how minor—what you deal with daily is essentially air, blown about from person to person before disappearing forever and leaving no trace.”

Well, shit.  What a horribly depressing way to examine my lifestyle!  Some of the language above may be a little exaggerated…but then again maybe not.  It’s no wonder so many people my age (i.e. mid-20′s) tend to fall back on default drinking to try to understand any of that fucking nonsense.  The point is, we’re all just looking for a tiny bit of light to gravitate toward, shimmering very faintly at the end of a long, dark tunnel.  What’s amazing is that I no longer HAVE TO rely on a substance-crutch for that.  Oh there’s no question I’m still working out what “happiness” truly means and it may be a long while before it wholly comes to me, but I feel like I’m slowly working my way up the levels…perhaps eventually to a state of nirvana?  Wouldn’t that be a hoot?

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Regardless of what death holds, it remains the operative goal to stay ever-vigilant and ever-grateful.  I spent the first three or so weeks of the month engaged in what I’d almost describe as a “courtship dance” with a local AT&T branch, for a sales consultant position.  Which I was ultimately denied.  And honestly it was a position I had no real enthusiasm for, minus the salary.  I’m getting rejected from jobs I DON’T EVEN WANT.  Beggars can’t be choosers, etc. etc., but damn.  So this has kind of thrown me for a funk the past week or two (during which I have had no shifts); I was REALLY looking forward to quitting my even-more meaningless job in favor of some actual advancement.  Finding motivation to adamantly continue searching job postings and applying to them – hell, motivation to do much of anything – has been an exercise in futility.  I’m SO sick of this process.  But you know what won’t get me hired?  Laying about and bitching to no one who wants to hear it.  And it was because I DID have a paycheck from my “meaningless” job that I was able to afford some nice Christmas gifts for my family this year.  Silver linings, folks.  Onwards and upwards.

Now, to cop some Z’s. I’m due to get up and make breakfast burritos in a few hours…something that in the past I probably would have either slept through or been too hungover to attend to pleasantly.  Cheers to Sober Santa!  Merry Christmas y’all; be good to your family, y’all.

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Grateful Sunday (Tuesday) #38: Celebrating One Year Clean

In my previous post I vaguely acknowledged it, covering a year of larger-scale gratitudes. My official sobriety date is December 3rd, 2012 so at last writing I had not quite hit it, and thus didn’t want to mention it (just so much more satisfying to say after it has fully come to fruition).  Personally, I believe having a concrete sobriety date is pretty important.  For me it was very clear that on that day, I had given my will up to a higher power, and would not be going back.  It would still be three days’ time before I was admitted to rehab, but I had made my decision and that finality kept me clean until.

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For some it is a more murky affair: there were people I was inpatient with who were dropped at the door nearly in a catatonic blackout and would have no memory of the moment; others came in also under the influence of all sorts of opiates and chemicals and would not have their senses fully restored for closer to several days; still others willingly loaded up on booze or pills right before they voluntarily admitted themselves, for one final go-’round.  I am proud to say that I did not need to do this.

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So annual Thanksgiving parties will precede two important dates for me: 12/03, of my sobriety, and 12/06, of my admittance to inpatient rehabilitation.  The day following Thanksgiving last weekend, I took a trip back to my old hometown to see everyone – “everyone” being essentially the largest gathering of high school acquaintances at any given time during the year.  Friends are back to visit family and celebrate, but it’s not such a private holiday that you can’t capitalize on reuniting with the posse from yesteryear.  Thus, the nights before/after Thanksgiving day have historically been known to be good for grander gatherings.  I had been planning for this particular visit for some time; one of the more notable musicians to come out of Hamilton Central was playing a set downtown, and his oft-absurd acoustic performances don’t disappoint.

Uploaded in 2006 with some 800,000 views now, Isto was our original “YouTube star.” His favorite tune of mine is one about his “love” for Ann Coulter – take a couple minutes to find it if you’re politically minded.

I first drove over to an old friend’s home (whose family is basically like a second to mine) to meet up with a larger group before walking downtown (perks of smalltown life).  What I was not expecting was a surprise one-year anniversary party, which was exactly what was waiting for me.  It took me probably a full 5 minutes before I realized what was going on; I was completely nonplussed at all the party hats and cupcakes I saw when I walked in the door.  My one-year date had been in the back of my mind, but I thought I had not really shared the time of year with so many people that it would warrant a collective celebration.  The room had a good laugh at my utter confusion; I was totally not expecting it.

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Also ran into this family of deer in the park later on, so there’s that.

Which again goes to demonstrate how truly great my friends are.  I really felt the love that night.  I haven’t done anything extravagant otherwise in terms of an anniversary (tough I did go back to Tully Hill this past Saturday night to pick up my 1-year chip), but seeing everyone congregate to congratulate had me feeling some type of way.  Furthermore when I was out and about on the town later that evening, I was mildly astonished at how many compliments of respect and admiration I got (word travels fast among friends in a small town).  Feels good, man.  They say the first year is the hardest, and I made it through just nice.  Here’s to many more.

Bonus: a tribute mix to John Lennon, honoring the anniversary of the day he was fatally shot. John was my favorite Beatle; Nicolas Jaar is one of my favorite producers. Haunting, beautiful, emotional – this is a good listen.

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