Wednesday, October 23, 2013

No, THIS Is 40

I was thinking about what to write regarding my 40th birthday. I've been drawing a blank for the most part.

The whole "over the hill" thing really means dick since I've accepted the fact that it's a miracle I actually made it this far. I shouldn't be alive, so needless to say, I enjoyed my birthday...celebrated with someone special, watched "Spaced", ate ice cream...crazy night. Ha.

This was my first birthday in 20 years where I was not drunk nor incarcerated. You might find it unsettling that that's a big deal, but the highlight of my birthday last year was leaving Travis County Jail downtown to Travis County treatment center in beautifully fecaltastic Del Valle. So yes, ice cream and Hulu Plus with Katie kicked ass.

One thing about being 40 in my situation. I am not going to go through a mid-life crisis. I've manufactured enough crises, yeah? Besides, where would I go from skateboarding dishwashing Zen minimalist? Maybe I could dye my hair and stop using proper word spelling in text messages. Hashtag fat fucking chance.

I remember when my dad was 40...I was 15. He was a coach, teacher and preacher. Oh, and a father and husband...and worked on the house, yard and cars. Jesus, dad, I don't know how you did it. I can barely deal with taking care of just myself. I don't try to compare myself to him. It's just a hell of a contrast of lifestyle.

Side note: I'd love to freak out 15 year-old me: "Hey, I'm you at 40. You're a former junkie and drunk with a felony on probation who washes dishes and skateboards as transportation. Stop crying. You also write, do stand-up and are ridiculously happy. Okay, go back to masturbating. My bad."

I am ridiculously happy. I am glad Joss Whedon is not writing and directing my life because if he were, he'd be killing me off right now, that's how good I feel. As I've written before, I know it won't like this forever. Dark times could be right around the corner. I just need to be ready for them and remember that it'll turn around again. You don't fully appreciate the good without the bad, right?

I love taking on life at my own pace. I like being in control of my actions and just letting myself be. "Watching the Wheels" came up on my iPod on shuffle recently, and it means more to me now.

"Well, they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind. I tell them there's no hurry, I'm just sitting here doing time."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Duality of Me

Pogue Colonel: You write "Born to Kill" on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What's that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke? 
Private Joker: No, sir. 
Pogue Colonel: You'd better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you. Private Joker: Yes, sir. 
Pogue Colonel: Now answer my question or you'll be standing tall before the man. 
Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir. 
Pogue Colonel: The what? 
Private Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir.
-- "Full Metal Jacket"

Ah, dualism. It's a term used in many different contexts, but I tend to read and think about mainly moral dualism (classic good vs evil) and the duality in Taoist nature, the yin and yang.

We like to think of our inner struggle as having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Am I going to listen to the angel more today? Or do I say "fuck it" and listen to the devil? The thing is, I don't really think that angel is always good or the devil is always evil. That "angel" could be wrong because aspects of your belief system might come from being misguided and close-minded. The "devil" wants you to indulge in your desire or your craving, and sometimes going that route might open your mind or be beneficial. Things aren't black and white as most of us know. Calling someone evil means you lack empathy towards that person and that's how you're dealing with their actions. It's easy to categorize yourself as good and someone you oppose evil. We as humans are good at that.

Discovering spirituality has changed how I view others and the world. I have a new conviction to avoid harming living things, harming others and harming myself. My duality has to do with who I was vs who I am trying to be now. I have been reading many books on Buddhism and Zen, and I've been working on myself in sobriety, as I've written about here several times. My progression in "developing my Zen mind" has been healthy and life-changing...but it's also been wrong a bit. I'll try to explain.

I was in a controlled environment aka Travis County treatment aka Jail Lite, so I had no outside distractions (other than really shitty people forced to be there around me all the time). I read "The Four Agreements" and start slow by trying to practice just four principles: 1) be impeccable with your word, 2) don't take anything personally, 3) don't make assumptions, 4) always do your best. Trying to follow those changed my thinking and attitude within days. I went back and revisited principles of Buddhism and began applying those to the best of my ability, and I started meditating every day. These are great things.

The phrase "on a pink cloud" describes someone who is newly sober or newly spiritualized where everything is great and nothing can go wrong again...a temporary euphoria. Then you come off of that cloud, and if you aren't ready for it, life can broadside you and you find yourself using again or dismissing those spiritual principles. I came off that cloud right before they released me in March, so I felt grounded when I was in the real world again. The big issue for me, I now realize, is that I still remember what that temporary euphoria felt like...and I thought that was the Zen state I should be in.

What happen is I tried to be perfect based on what I was reading. If I wasn't having the right view, thought, livelihood, action, speech, effort, mindfulness and concentration, I'd feel like I wasn't "doing this right". Well, I'm aware I am not perfect and that I'm a big old dumb human male. Even knowing this, I still tried to be this image of what I thought I was supposed to be now. I no longer had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Instead, I had a big fat Buddha on one side and John Fucking Rabon, the "me" of old, on the other.

And then, I read something that smacked me in the face, and I "woke up", in a way. It wasn't a spiritual book that changed my perspective. It was a Hellblazer graphic novel. "Roots of Coincidence", to be specific.

John Constantine
Regarding John Constantine, from Wikipedia: "Although a compassionate humanist who struggles to overcome the influence of both Heaven and Hell over humanity and despite his occasional forays into heroism, Constantine is a foul-mouthed, disillusioned, British cynic who pursues a life of sorcery and danger. His motivation has been attributed to an adrenaline addiction that only the strange and mysterious can sate."

Not to go into the plot of the particular graphic novel, but essentially Constantine could allow another soul (a "good" one) to merge with his which would then make him a more powerful sorcerer and benefit all of mankind. Being the great anti-hero he is, he says "fuck all that" because he wants to live life his way and he's nobody's puppet, even if his way causes himself and others pain and suffering.

How this affected me, besides giving me the urge to dye my hair blond again and wear a trench coat for no good reason, is I realized I can't stop being me. I can work to improve myself on a daily basis. I can practice the Four Agreements and principles of Buddhism to the best of my ability. I can work on my empathy towards others I don't agree with or like. But sometimes I have to let "the old me" out on occasion, because that persona with its attitude its mouthy bullshit is part of me. I am my imperfections, and I can embrace them.

An example of this is that I've been working on not having to be right or not having to win, because it's an ego thing. So, I've avoided getting into arguments both in real life and on social networks, because trying to one up someone on Facebook or even in person when they won't change their opinion is a big empty waste of time, usually. But there needs to be a balance, like in everything. Right, don't fight everybody you think is wrong, but don't not say anything ever. So sure enough, in the middle of thinking about all this a "friend" on Facebook posts the dumbest thing I've read in a long time regarding how "redskin" is not offensive and is instead a term of honor. He could say this because, as he put it, he has "American Indian" blood in him. After a few comments of people saying "amen" and "agreed", I broke my little "let it go" thing and had to say something. Did it change his mind? No. Did I make anyone think about their own bullshit with my response? Probably not. But my gut told me, "Fuck him." My new principles and being sober allowed me to intelligently respond without personal attacks, so there's that. I didn't have to respond at all. But it's in my nature to combat loudly broadcasted stupidity and bullying, even on stupid Facebook. Even on the bus. Even in line at the convenience store. Even at the sober house.

I am aware that telling an ex-coworker on Facebook he used the "I can say that because I have friends who are black" argument means very little in the grand scheme of things, but it just helped things click with me. I wasn't evil in the past. Not everything I was sucked. I can't try to throw everything away because I would just be fighting my nature. I have to trust that being myself will work out because my perception is no longer distorted in a drunken, doped-up haze of self-centered motivation.

I will put my foot in my mouth. But making mistakes is better than doing nothing. Maybe I learn from them and the next time I just put my toe in my mouth.

And all this came from a comic book and a random guy I know who got angry at Bob Costas. Life is weird.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

When the Going Gets Tough...

Things are going well for me. I love my job. I love doing stand-up comedy. I enjoy skateboarding and meditation immensely. I go to sleep without stress and wake up the next day refreshed...after coffee. While I don't have money for my own place yet, I am able to afford my probation payments, and I'll be done with those by December.

I went on a date recently like a real boy.

Everything is going my way. And because things are amazing right now, I am already preparing myself for the future when things get bumpy again. Life isn't just all ups and no downs, of course.

I have heard many people in treatment talk about how they always screw things up when everything is going well. I used to think the same way. You convince yourself that you can't be happy, and that's why you sabotage your happiness. You'll hear the same old story..."I was in recovery and drug-free with a good job, and then I decided to go ruin it all."

I do not believe that we fuck things up to ensure we won't remain happy. I think we get comfortable and let our guard down when everything is great. "Oh, I feel fine now...I'll stop taking my meds." "I'm going to kick back today...I'm not going to do my daily workout/meditation." "I don't need to work on myself anymore. I'm good." And so forth.

This is not just about addiction either. There have been times in my life where things were great, and I ended up making bad choices because I wasn't remaining mindful and being aware of what the right choices for me were at the time. My intuition is usually right on...if I'm paying attention to it.

It dawned on me the other day that the reason I got into heroin was not because of other drugs or alcohol and certainly not the fault of the person I was dating who got into it with me. It was because I ignored my gut. I remember the moment of saying "fuck it" after deliberating on whether to try it or not. Something told me it would end poorly, but I chose to ignore it because things were great.

And that's the thing about me and these other addicts I've met. When things got tough, we still managed to fight to keep going, even though we were miserable. When life is kicking my ass, I struggle to stay afloat. I don't let myself drown in despair. I may wait until the last possible moment to get help or do what I need to do, but I pull back from the edge...I pull the plane up before it crashes. It makes me think I should fight just as hard now that things are good. Don't let up just because life has turned around for me. Keep it going, you know?

I don't regret my past choices anymore. In fact, I am thankful for mistakes and the shit I put myself through...I'm older and wiser now because of them. I hopefully won't repeat those cycles as I attempt to maintain self-awareness...I don't want to get comfortable and stop working on myself. I am enjoying my life now, and I cherish every good day...the bad days of the past stay with me and remind me to appreciate today.

My favorite "Fight Club" quote 6 months ago was, "Quit trying to control everything and just let go." Today it is, "May I never be complete. May I never be content."


I have talked with several friends and relatives recently about issues they have been going through. Regardless of how great everything appears to be on their Facebook page (sigh), these people are going through some trying times right now. I feel for each and every one of you, I do. Life sucks just does.

Keep what you can. It gets better. I never thought it would. To put it in perspective, I'd like to post something I wasn't going to show anyone when I wrote it. It was an anonymous blog I wrote related to my heroin addiction, and this was the last entry I wrote in it:


Heroin and My Mind

This would be the first update in almost 6 months. I don't kid myself and think that anyone actually reads this. This journal is more for me to track this sickness, this addiction that I have.

You have no idea what heroin does to your brain...unless you've researched it online...then you do. Smartypants. Regardless, the first time you use it, I think it plants itself in your head. The longer you do it, the worse it is in your head. So you stop shooting up for a while because you're going clean. Guess who's sitting there with you every day? The Cravings stay with you, and they can be triggered with something as little as just seeing a 20-dollar bill. That's what happens to me. A twenty or higher triggers thoughts of using.

And you fight it...oh, you fight it, to no avail. The 12-Step Programs say you are "powerless over BLANK"...well, I don't know about people who have a "pot addiction", but I sense they just got caught and feel guilty. People who use junk are definitely powerless. I know at least 5 examples of people who can't or currently don't want to quit the shit right now.

I have to be honest here. I don't know how I'm ever going to shake this shit. Part of me still doesn't want to even though it has led me to lose everything I took for granted in my life: my job, my apartment, and my fiance. I lost all three in the past 30 days or so. And you attempt to deal with this loss at the same time trying to be clean...HA! Good luck, everything in the world screams.

Is Narcotics Anonymous and me going to meetings and working steps enough? Can we beat this motherfucker? I don't know if it's possible.

It gets better.