Thursday, June 27, 2013

How Are You?

"How are you, John?"
"Oh, just struggling with intimacy and addiction issues and the inevitability of my death. How's your day?"

I'm assuming being in therapy is similar in this way to being in treatment: An acquaintance or co-worker asks you how you are, and your initial reaction is to "share"...and just go into everything that's going on with you. Maybe that's how "they" decide you're ready to go back into society...when you can successfully hold your tongue, grit your teeth and fake a smile. "I'm fine. How about you?"

Thought I'd update you, dear reader, on my current status.

First, I am not dealing with any urges to drink. None... like to the point where I'm almost paranoid I'm in for a big fall or some shit. I did overhear a conversation about painkillers that sparked some uneasy thoughts and feelings for about 5 minutes, but that passed.

I'm having some seriously intricate and active dreams since I started wearing a nicotine patch. Take a small detail from the previous day, buried in my subconscious, and it turns into a big blockbuster movie dream that involves cops, a car chase and/or battling demons/monsters/vampires/zombies. I am not complaining.

I have an overwhelming desire to isolate myself for the majority of my week...mostly to just be alone with my thoughts. I feel like I'm trying to "figure something out"...but it's hard to come up with an answer if I don't know the question. (42...thank you, got it.) I am aware of the dangers of isolation with addiction, of course. I do try to be a little social. And when I do, I smile and say that I'm fine. Ha.

I actually like dealing with quitting smoking right now. Gives me something different to fight against. My old inner enemies and demons are becoming redundant and boring. I needed a new battle to spice things up.

I am revisiting that love/hate relationship with being informed about local and world events. Yay, I'm aware of what's going on in the world! Boo, it's goddamn depressing! Resisting the urge to put my head back in the sand...mainly because I'm pretty sure the cat just took a shit in there.

I was talking with a house mate of mine, and he was talking about his day and getting stressed out. And then he said, "And then it hit me. Oh yeah, I have an addiction problem. I forgot."

Amen to that. I'm restless and I know what I want to do with my life but I have to be patient...even though I know what I want, why am I unhappy at this exact moment? Okay, that passed, but now I'm unsure about this anxiety hitting me about work today when I know everything will be fine. Why am I nervous about something that isn't fucking going to happen?

That nothing that won't occur is scaring the shit out of me!!!

Oh right. I'm adjusting to being sober and this is all new to me...even 9 months later. I thought I was crazy.

Speaking of which, I know I mumble. The reason I am mumbling is because I am actually talking to myself in your direction so it seems less insane. That is why you didn't hear what I said, and that's why when you asked me, "What did you say", I said, "Never mind." Also, if I make random declarative statements to you at work, it's for me. You just happened to hear them.

And then, at the end of the day, I light a candle...sit still and listen to the silence. Remembering to breathe.

Or I drink too much coffee, listen to "my" music, dose myself with social networking and write.

Yin and Yang.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

For Jen T


I met you in December 2004 at the Jackalope. We had mutual friends, and started talking at the bar. We then proceeded to get drunk as hell and annoy everyone around us. We then proceeded to do that many more times. Platonic, pool-playing drinking buddies.

You are the only person I've ever left a message for on a bar napkin in a bar in my drinking career.

However, unlike most of my bar friends, we became good friends within our social circle. You have always been one to just come out and call me on my tell me what you really think, without sugar-coating anything. And I've always been your friend to do exactly what you ask me to when possible...even if that was to slap the shit out of you in public...which I did. (Sorry...but you did tell me to.)

You were also one of the first to really recognize when my barfly routine started going south. And you told me you were concerned. Even though I didn't want to listen, I still heard you.

A lot of good times, and some serious bad times over the past 8 1/2 years. You visited me in rehab (thanks again). You unwisely answered drunk calls from me (don't miss those, do you).

A year ago you gave me a verbal ass kicking that I needed and that ultimately led to me deciding to quit drinking once and for all. The 6 months I was away just sealed the deal...reinforced the decision. You get the assist.

When we stumble in life, we need true friends who are there to pick us up and help us keep moving forward. Thank you for being there every time I've fallen. I can never repay you.

Happy Birthday. I regret I cannot get you a gift due to a lack of I wanted to let you (and anyone who reads this) know what you mean to me. Everything. The world. I love you to death.

Your friend,

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Don't Write And Instead Yell At Cable Box While Tweeting

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Now That Was A Show.

Esther's Follies does not do shows during ROT Rally weekend. If you've ever been downtown during ROT Rally, you can see why. Not a lot of people say, "Hey, I'm in the mood for comedy, singing and magic. Let's park way far away and go wade through a sea of bikers downtown." So Kerry Awn put together the Velveeta Room 25th Birthday Extravaganza, where we do stand-up on the big stage at Esther's.

Great shows tonight. I was on the 10pm show.

Tonight was a personal success for three reasons:

First, I had a great set that included a bit I wrote in the past 24 hours that got a big response. The last time I performed I bombed, and I was going to do some of the same material on this show.  The best part of bombing is remembering why you sucked. I didn't connect with the audience last show. I performed AT them...that's what I remembered. This came back to me as I stared at my set list, about to go up. I put the list in my pocket and decided to try to connect with the crowd first...let the material just work itself out in my head as it came to me. It worked.

Secondly, I was able to hang out with some old comedy friends and joke around...smoke cigarettes, give each other shit, and just fucking relax. It didn't matter I wasn't drinking. We were just hanging out. It was fun.

The third reason tonight was a success was because a good friend of mine that I have not seen in years was there. He follows this blog and he enjoyed my set. A lot. I highly respect my friend's opinion, and to hear this from him just reaffirms the direction I'm going with my comedy and writing. It was highly encouraging. Thanks, brother.

Don't know when I'm going to sleep this morning. I love this feeling.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

9 Months

I have 3 more months of my 6 month aftercare program. For you normies, "aftercare" is basically a series of weekly classes for people who successfully complete an intensive drug/alcohol rehabilitation program. It is supposed to help you as you adjust to being back in the real world. One of the positive aspects of being in this program is you keep in touch and see the progress or lack of progress of some of the other guys you were in treatment with. It's almost like a reality show...every week another person is getting voted off the island. By "island" I mean the outside world. By "voted" I mean arrested for violating probation and relapsing.

They're dropping like flies. Out of 8 of my circle of friends, 3 have relapsed and are either back in custody or on the run. 1 is MIA.

A sober house is a revolving door of new residents as well. You have your core group of 3 or 4 guys who have been there awhile, but then you have a bunch of newcomers who arrive, last a week or two, and then they're gone.

I mention all of this to remind myself that what I am doing is not easy. And that there are lots of people in my situation that don't do what they are supposed to...or who just can't stay clean and sober (not ready to, at least). I have 9 months today...and I am taking this time to briefly pat myself on the back, and say, "Quit downplaying this accomplishment. Keep it up."

9 months may not sound like a long time, but it's the longest I've been sober since 1994.

I never thought the biggest challenge for me would be...well, ME. I do not get cravings to go drink or shoot up. I am not "jonesing" to get fucked up or head to the bar. Instead, I find myself dealing with everyday life shit with a clear head...which means all my thoughts, emotions and anxieties unfiltered. It can be overwhelming. Frustrating. It's not boring, I'll say that.

I really don't know where I'm general. No clue. I know where I've been, and I'm not going back there. All I know is I'm going in that direction...over there. I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for your support. I hope to be there for any of you if you need it.

Until that day, then.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Alone. Ish.

"Every living creature on earth dies alone." - From "Donnie Darko"

What has bothered me in the past has actually been the fear of being a living creature on earth living alone. Being alone.

Moments of uncomfortable silence surrounding me. That silence encouraging me more and more to get up and get my ass down to the bar. It may not be the main reason I drank all the time, but it was certainly an influence.

I've stayed in relationships too long because, when it came down to it, the thought of being alone was too scary. Then I reinforced that with the fear of not wanting to hurt someone else.

(That's really something, by the way. Not being honest about your feelings because you're afraid to hurt the other person, so you pretend and hide them...until it all comes to a head and you really, really hurt them. That's another issue...better dive into that one later.)

A few years ago, being alone meant isolating myself "in a basement room...with a needle and a spoon...and another 'girl' to take my pain away."

I mentioned in a past blog on fear that I've been trying to face my fears as they rear their ugly ass heads. Well, thanks to Travis County, my 6-months "away" put me in a position where I was never by myself. Ever. Shower and bathroom breaks, semi-alone. If you were around people you really like in closed quarters, you'd probably feel like throttling them after a month. I was not around many people I really liked. It was maddening.

I wanted to skate. Take a walk. Sit in silence under a tree. I wanted to have 10 minutes pass by where I didn't see another person.

It's been 90 days now since I've been out. Wow, 3 months. And right now "being alone" no longer means isolation. It's solace. My schedule of working until late evening and then staying up to blow into a breathalizer at 5am has turned into a huge positive. I am the ghost that haunts the sober house. 4 in the morning is great, by the way. Step outside and no sounds of traffic, clear sky full of stars...nothing but the sound of my zippo and the gears in my head turning as I try to write some shit.

I now have two favorite moments of my day...skating to work and writing in the dead of night.

As for that scary anxiety-filled thought that sneaks up on me and says "hurry up and fix yourself so we don't die alone over here"...I don't know. All I could do is continue to be honest with myself and with others...continue to confront fear and anxiety and fight them tooth and nail every day. I said to a dear friend of mine, "Being acutely aware of your issues is irritating." I almost prefer to be ignorant and self-centered. "Hey, this is just who I am. Deal with it" vs "My codependency issues have joined forces with my intimacy issues and I'm being a douche right now. Shit."

Work in progress.

Well, housemates are waking up. I am no longer by myself. Bedtime.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Internal Roundtable

The Chairman: Okay, let's start the meeting. Thank you all for taking a break from your usual routine of power plays and manipulation of John's interests and attention so that we can discuss something important to all of us...

The Ego: I'm pretty sure I run the meeting, Chairman...

The Chairman: Of course you think that. No. Today we need to talk about goals. As in...I think it's time to start looking into the future beyond our immediate needs.

The Intellectual: Should I peruse appropriate literature so that we are sufficiently prepared to move forward?

The Comedian: Yeah, your idea of serious reading is googling "goals", you ass. Let's talk comedy career, man, seriously.

The Chairman: Really? You want to go there? Okay, what do you want to do?

The Comedian: Um...make people laugh?

The Ego: We really are funny, aren't we?

The Chairman: I'll pencil that in as a career goal. But since the court jester has brought it up, shouldn't we set a goal to start networking for after probation?

The Cynic: We'll always be on probation.

The Addict: I have an idea for a goal...

The Chairman: Ugh, you're still here. Go have some coffee. Anyway, Comedian, don't you want to play more venues? More stage time...

The Comedian: Yes, fine. Network. Whatever. Get the smart one working on it. I'm trying to figure out how to make sober bus rides funnier...

The Teen: Put skateboarding on there...

The Chairman: As a goal?

The Teen: Huh huh, yeah...

The Chairman: We only let you do that because it's good exercise and it gets us to work. A mode of transportation is not a goal.

The Buddhist: We should live in the moment. Appreciate what we have. Breathe.

The Cynic: Oh for the love of...shut up, hippie.

The Intellectual: We should consider new employment to afford improved accommodations.

The Chairman: Ah! Good. So we start looking sooner than later for a good fit, then? I think one thing we could all agree on is more money would help.

The Durdenist: We are not the contents of our wallet.

The Chairman: Well, almost all of us.

The Ego: I love this guy! He's the reason I got us to shave our head, by the way. Hey, say that thing...

The Durdenist: Like a monkey, ready to be shot into space. Space monkey.

The Ego: HAHA! We rule...

The Cynic: This is hell.

The Teen: Can we watch "Fight Club" again? Fincher is tits.

The Cynic: No, it just gets all these jerks riled up.

The Addict: Does anyone want to hear what I want to do with more money?

Everyone: NO!

The Chairman: Seriously, keep quiet or we're going to a meeting.

The Addict: Ew. Okay.

The Buddhist: I think it's time we stopped and pondered these things. Clear the room, meditate, then come back together as one...and continue on.

The Cynic: YOU meditate, I'm gonna smoke.

The Comedian: I want a cigarette, too.

The Teen: Oooh, smoking!

The Addict: You know I'm in.

The Chairman: I'll have you know that quitting smoking is still very much a goal of ours...

The Comedian: Make it a long-term one, then.

The Ego: Good one. We are hilarious.

by Mel Bochner,

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Panic Attack

I had an anxiety attack at work. This is unusual for me. As in, I've never had one of these before that I can remember.

It wasn't a stressful day at work. In fact, it was a rather easy day. I wasn't overloaded, but when I felt it building up, I began to put unnecessary work pressure on myself. My coworker had to do a little food prep, so I was doing both jobs...covering until he came back in 5-10 minutes. It felt like forever.

I remembered to breathe, and I knew the panic I felt was all in my head. I kept reassuring myself that it would pass and not to freak out. Breathe again, John.

For the record, fuck self-awareness if it doesn't help you. That just makes the event that much more frustrating and awful. Great...I am completely aware of that fact that my brain is manufacturing all this anxiety for no good reason and I can do nothing about it but continue to work in silence. Silent on the outside, screaming on the inside.

My coworker came back and started apologizing that he took so long. "You look upset, I'm sorry it took longer than I thought."
Me: "No, you were fine. I'm having a fucking panic attack, man. I need some air."
Him: "Dude, go. I got this."

I went to the bathroom, splashed water on my face. Then I walked outside, lit up a cigarette...and then broke down crying for no good reason. By the time I finished the cigarette, it was gone. I went back inside and worked for 4 more hours without incident.

I almost believe part of me staged a riot within the rest of me just so the collective me good take a smoke break. Seems a bit extreme. I don't think Marlboro cures anxiety, though.

That was...well, it was.

I'm trying not to dwell too much on this episode. I think my friend is right. "The pathways in my brain responsible for ______ aren't used to functioning without the aid of one chemical or another." The blank was about human interaction as I have an issue with holding a conversation with most people for longer than a couple of minutes before I get restless and irritated. I think it fits with most things I do every day. I'm coming up on 9 months clean and sober. I don't particularly like the idea of not being able to deal with something, though. My feelings are that I've been through enough bullshit...I should be able to deal with the little bit that I have going on now, right?



Sometimes there is no lesson learned. It's not always about "growth" or "breaking through to the next level". Sometimes you just freak out for no good reason.