Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Daily Struggle

I was cut early at work tonight, so I went to the Velveeta Room on 6th Street to see friends do stand-up. At 11pm, I started walking back to the bus stop to go home. That's when it hit me. 

I really want a couple shots of whiskey and a beer. No, for real...feel your body, John. That's a serious desire for booze, isn't it? 

Jesus, it is. Thankfully, there isn't a bar I'm walking by that I would stop in. Can you imagine having to live with the fact that you relapsed in a place called the Dizzy Rooster? Douchebag joint, no thank you. I'm going to just keep walking…

I could stop in to a tolerable bar close to home, just before last call. It's what I want. 

Why, man? Shitty bars on 6th don't trigger me normally. Where does this overwhelming urge come from? I don't need to be reminded that I'm still a drug addict and alcoholic...I get that I'm not cured, so knock it off. 

It's Friday night and only 11pm. I'm going home alone, and while I normally am perfectly happy with solidarity, this is what I want. 

Need I remind you, John, how much drunk people now annoy you? Look at these club jackasses in front of you. There's a frat idiot trying to carry his wingman through the street to the left of you. Check out those girls pretending not to be cold in those outfits while walking poorly in high heels. Hey look! Intoxicated tourists that are in your age bracket! Yikes. I have to get out of here.

There are decent drinking establishments on the east side. No one will know. 

I'll know. I'll know that I everything I've done for 2 years meant so little to me that I traded it all away due to no self-control. Yeah, that sounds great. I wake up tomorrow with a hangover from three drinks and a crippling guilt trip. I've been pretty guilt-free for some time and a minimal level of stress or worry.

It's pretty cold, though. Whiskey… 

Hahaha, weather as an excuse. That's pretty weak.

Who am I now, really? I'm playing by the rules now? Fine upstanding citizen who is a productive member of a society that I know is all made up and meaningless in the long run. Ooh, let me please everyone and do the "right" I give a shit what they think. When do I get what I deserve, huh? Why can't I do what I want right now? Fuck it, right? 

You know what? I don't want a shot anymore. What's more conventional than an addict relapsing? That's what we do. We fuck up and give in and the success rate of sobriety continues to plummet. We prove our friends and family right who still have doubts about us no matter how supportive they are...It is realistic to have those doubts because we could blow it at any time. Our brains are rewired and there is no completely fixing that.
But maybe I like being broken. Maybe I like still having issues with narcissism and an inflated ego, but I use it to my advantage? Maybe I'm so damn stubborn that I don't give into that urge. Why? Because FUCK YOU, that's why. I am unconventional, I love who I am now, and YOU DON'T GET TO WIN!

Okay, okay, easy...who are you talking about? 

I don't know..."Them". "They". They don't get to win. I...well, it doesn't matter. I'm getting on the bus now. No booze. That was a stupid fucking idea.

Yeah, I don't really want that anymore. That was a pretty crazy 10 to 15 minutes. Weird. What about ice cream? 

Ooh, cookies 'n cream maybe. Good call.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Two Years, or, Giving Up

Last year I dedicated 1 year of sobriety to my mother, and today I wanted to focus on where I am now with 2 years alcohol and drug free. More recently, being clean and sober defines me less than it used to. It's been nice to write a few comedy bits that aren't related to being a retired drunk and junkie. It is who I am, of course. I am certainly not cured by any means. I'm just thankful I have lengthy spans of normalcy now and that every thought I have isn't "I'm going to the store sober", "I'm taking a sober shower", "This is me feeding the cat drug free", or "I am not high while I am skateboarding."

Where I'm at physically: I still enjoy my job washing dishes, and I live in an apartment with my name on the lease. Considering the bulldozing job I've done on my credit, I am very happy to officially be living somewhere on paper. Apparently, doing nothing negative for 4 years is considered a positive thing to the credit score people. "Hey, you didn't skip out on a bank in a long time! Let's up that score to higher than your IQ!"

Where I'm at emotionally: Not being a fan of my feelings hasn't changed much. I did, however, tear up at the end of the "Bones Brigade" skateboarding documentary… so I'm not a monster.

As for where I am spiritually? That one requires a lengthy, rambling answer.

A favorite answer of mine when people ask how I've been is "Zen as fuck." I like the phrase because I feel that way at least once during each day where I have the sensation that I'm on the wavelength of my world and I'm coasting right along with it. Skating, dishwashing, reading, writing and performing comedy all bring this feeling out of me.

I also enjoy the phrase as it has the f-word in it. I'm unabashedly immature.

I have spent a significant amount of time over the past two years being introspective and searching for "the meaning of it all." I've been looking for a purpose or an answer.

There is a guy I know who has posted "Want To Be Enlightened?" online a few times followed by an example of self-improvement he thought was worth sharing. And while his suggestions have been positive, my initial reaction to his use of "enlightened" is, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Philosopher Alan Watts once said that a person who says they can teach you something is like a man who steals your watch and tries to sell it back to you. A good spiritual leader or guru should provide you guidance to find what is already inside you. They don't have anything to teach or give you. There have been a few times over the past year where I have felt enlightened, and they weren't really positive moments. In fact, they were a little depressing. Opening your eyes to a more realistic way the world works versus your distorted view can be a huge downer.

I think when people are looking for enlightenment, they really are just looking for happiness and a sense of purpose. That's what it seems to me, at least. I have spent a significant amount of time over the past two years being introspective and searching for "the meaning of it all." I've also been looking for a path or a sign to head in a certain direction.

The answer I've found for me is two words: Give up. It came from three different sources, which made it all the more an "oh shit" moment for me and helped me find my center.

In the essay collection Become What You Are, Alan Watts states that we suffer because we desire things. Desire can never be quenched so we always want more...and we're never satisfied. I can't be happy just because I try to be and want to be so badly. I can't find spirituality by desiring it and looking for it. Nothing I attempt to attain in life really matters because I'm going to die. Birth is falling off a cliff, and eventually we're going to hit bottom. Striving for some kind of spiritual fulfillment is basically clinging to rocks that are falling with us. It doesn't matter. Life is not going anywhere as it happens and ends regardless.

Great. So what do I do with this shiny, happy realization? Nothing. I don't pursue a Way to Enlightenment. There is no Way. I just stop trying, and I do nothing but watch. Watching without purpose. The first step is to give up. Essentially, I am treating my spirituality like breathing. I don't try to make myself breathe, I let it just happen. For me, it is a matter of accepting inevitability and appreciating the present without some lofty unattainable spiritual goal.

This idea gets an almost immediate confirmation from my favorite book/movie combo, Fight Club. "You have to give up. You have to know, not fear, that someday you're gonna die." I usually ignored that particular tidbit and focused more on letting go and not trying to control everything, so it was interesting to have that line flash back at me in my head.

And then there is my favorite street artist that I've been a fan of for almost a decade. Give Up is truly authentic: no Photoshop, all original content. He essentially is telling people who are miserable but feigning happiness in their fake jobs, families and lives to just...well, you know. I own several of his shirts that I wear all the time, and it was funny to me to have one on when having my little awakening moment.

The answer was on my shirt this whole time? Huh.

And it's working for me...or should I say, it is not working just fine. After soul searching and trying to "find myself" since becoming sober, it's been a hell of a relief to let go and just observe. I don't mean that I am doing nothing with life as a whole, just the part where I try to find the meaning of it. Everything I am working on now - quitting smoking, eating better, pursuing community service, writing, meditating, developing empathy - they're all things that will help me better myself and enjoy the life I have left.

I don't have any answers, obviously. I have no idea if any of that makes sense, and I'm not trying to win you over on this idea. If I was, it would be a hard sell to a cynic. "Hey, I found spiritual peace from a dead British guy, a vandal and a Brad Pitt movie."

Watts even said at the beginning of some of his lectures, "I want to make one thing absolutely clear. I am not a Zen Buddhist, I am not advocating Zen Buddhism, I am not trying to convert anyone to it. I have nothing to sell. I'm an entertainer. That is to say, in the same sense, that when you go to a concert and you listen to someone play Mozart, he has nothing to sell except the sound of the music. He doesn't want to convert you to anything. He doesn't want you to join an organization in favor of Mozart's music as opposed to, say, Beethoven's. And I approach you in the same spirit as a musician with his piano or a violinist with his violin. I just want you to enjoy a point of view that I enjoy."

Life is good, and I'm doing well. Let's have coffee some time.

Monday, July 28, 2014

"It Gets Better"

Sometimes Facebook is a good thing. By being on the damn thing, it allows people I know who I normally don't talk to on my phone to be able to contact me...although I would normally say that's a deterrent for using social networking. Interacting with others? Gross.

Recently, a friend messaged me because they were having a crisis. It was a bad situation, and they were at that edge of complete despair. They needed to be "talked down" from that edge, and I did the best I could, which was apparently enough. They're doing better and they thanked me for listening and talking them through it.

Why did they contact me? I'll be the first one to tell you I am not a great resource for solid advice. I am a prime example of how not to do many things, so yeah, if you want to know the worst way to handle something, I suppose you could ask, "Hey, John, what would you do?" and then do the opposite.
"Hey Rabon, I'm having this horrible dispute with a finance company. They may ruin my credit if I don't comply."
"Well, fuck them, man. What do you really need credit for, huh? Expensive possessions that will make you a slave? It's a burden. Don't play their stupid credit game, it's all made up anyway. Go out and live."
"Ah. Set up a payment plan. Gotcha."

No, my friend contacted me because they were at maybe the lowest point in their life, or at least it felt that way...and they knew I had been there. I know what it's like to be devoid of hope and ready to just submit to the abyss. They didn't want encouragement or a pep talk. They wanted someone who could relate and who wouldn't bullshit them.

I don't believe in fate, but I like to entertain the notion that I have made it to this point in my life to help others in just this way. I find it comforting to think that my purpose is to occasionally help someone up who needs it. That might be a bunch of crap, but hey, everyone is entitled to their own delusion. Besides...whether I help someone because of a mystical destiny or just because I owe the universe for over a decade of hedonism, the end result is the same. I'm stubborn and hard to kill...might as well put that to good use.

I don't bullshit someone in pain. I may not be able to recollect much of the past 10 or 15 years, but I remember what "rock bottom" feels like, and I remember what I did not want to hear. There is nothing like positive affirmations from the misguided to really send you into a rage when you're down. Forced optimism is more depressing than actual depression.

"Hang in there!" - As much as I love ridiculous pictures of cats, if you show me one of those with the kitten hanging for dear life and those three words on it, it tends to make me reconsider my opposition to violence.

Bitch, put down the camera and help me.
"Smile!" - If you're an individual who likes to walk by a coworker's cubicle and tell them to smile first thing in morning (or at any point in the day), I don't think you're aware how close you have come to enduring a stapler bludgeoning. Oh, and guys: "You look prettier when you smile"? Just go ahead and say, "Hey, it's harder to sexually harass you when you're all down and stuff. It's kind of a buzz kill." Asshats.

I think the worst one to hear is the most common one people say: "It gets better." Hearing this sucks because it comes from someone who (you think) isn't going through what you are and hasn't been where you are. How would you know? Don't blow smoke up my ass! And then, when it inevitably does get better, you still feel like telling them, "Oh fuck off, you didn't know." I think we just don't like some people to be right, because we don't want advice. Don't try to fix me, just recognize I'm broken.

The truth is, it will get better. Eventually. And then it will get worse at some point. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, but our brains can completely forget this when we're down in a hole. Your fears and thoughts can cripple you and send you into a spiral that you don't think you'll recover from or even survive. And this all sucks because it's in our heads not real, and we hurt ourselves way more than the actual thing we fear will. We put ourselves through hell based on the perceived possibility of purgatory.

Four years ago, I was a junkie and lost my job, my apartment and the woman I loved. I was staying on a friend's couch, and I was sure that was it for me. If I had a gun, I would have killed myself. Okay, actually, I would have sold it and bought heroin. But if I had TWO was bad. At the time, I considered it the worst moment of my life. I was wrong.

It got better. Then, 6 months later, I overdosed while living at my father's house after being sober for a month. Dad happened to come home from work and saved my life. When I woke up in the emergency room, I had a brand new "rock bottom".

(The only real rock bottom is death. Things can always get worse.)

Things improved. Because of that I went to rehab...started over in a new city. I made good decisions and poor decisions. Life went on. Due to getting arrested for public intoxication in 2012 while still on felony DWI probation, I had to come back to Austin and go to jail. While in county lockup, I was told I would have to do a 5 month alcohol and drug treatment program and remain incarcerated and that I wasn't going back to my established life in San Antonio. I had lost everything again. And being sober in jail allowed me to really feel this low moment making it way worse than when I was strung out all the time.

About a month later, while still in the custody of Travis County, I had a high point. I had begun to rebuild my thought process without being heavily medicated by booze or drugs, and I was reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, laughing hysterically. Even though I was in the middle of an awful place with questionable people and dressed in reject nurse scrubs, I was happy at that moment. Another moment was being able to host the open mic again at the Velveeta Room a couple of weeks ago. It was a very "everything in its right place" moment for me. In fact, I have a brief feeling of euphoria every time I skate to or from work. The highlight of my day is usually when I'm on a skateboard.

And that is how it will go for whatever amount of life I have left. I'm going to enjoy those ups and fight through those downs. A low point is coming, and I can't stop that. While I do wish sometimes I had an option again to escape feeling shitty, I am completely comfortable with feeling now. That's the problem with heavy alcohol and drug consumption/abuse...and for some, with prescriptions you probably don't need. You stay even keel and numb so you can avoid pain and sadness...and you also avoid pleasure and happiness. It took me a long time to figure that out. Everyone is different, so I don't want tell you what you need. For me, being able to enjoy those beautiful moments in my life fully is worth the ordeal of completely feeling those times of despair. I just have to remember to keep fighting when everything just sucks.

I think I just wrote a big long positive affirmation that would probably make me roll my eyes if it came from someone else. I don't know if anyone will get something from this or not, and I probably would have been fine with instead posting the lyrics to R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts". Truthfully, the main reason I wrote this tonight was for me to read in the future when life takes a turn. So, John, when you read this, take it from someone you'll listen to (you, dummy): It gets better. Hang in there.

You don't have to smile, though. Fuck that.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Nice Try, Kid.

I mentioned in a previous entry that I work with a new dishwasher that is young and energetic. He doesn't know this, but I call him Kid Dynamite when he is not around. He is a go-getter, that one.

On our first shift together last week, I think he was a little nervous, because he was super chatty, and some of what he said was obviously bullshit. Kid Dynamite and I had the following exchange:

Kid: "Sometimes when my buddy and I are at a party, we like to mess with people and make them really uncomfortable..."

Okay, right there I know whatever you are about to say is not true. Unless you are at a party full of real assholes do you immediately play the "make it awkward" card, especially when there is still available booze on hand. Maybe if you were about to bail and you were bored, I can see that. But hey, go ahead.

Kid: ", what we do is go up and ask people, 'hey, do you have any aluminum foil' or 'can you spare a needle' and start scoping the bathroom. It really freaks people out."

Me: "Yes, I imagine it would."

Kid: "It's really funny, man."

Me:  "Sure. Hey you know..." (pause)

Kid: "What's up?"

Me: "Well, here's the thing. I don't really know of many junkies that use foil. I mean, even if you're not carrying a spoon when you normally do you can find a bottle cap to use, especially in this town. Also, heroin people don't just use any random needle from a stranger, assuming they have them. We're pretty particular of our syringes in regards to gauge and whether they're short or long needles. So much, in fact, that we're willing to risk getting an infection due to not completely sterilizing our syringes. See?"

I showed him this.

Kid: "..."

Me: "Yeah, that was a close call for me. Spent two weeks in a hospital and almost lost my arm. Anyway, what you should do is ask people randomly in the middle of a conversation if they have any Q-tips."

Kid: "Q-tips?"

Me: "Sure. You pull off some of the Q-tip, ball it up and drop it in your spoon to act as a filter when you're cooking up. Of course, that's not common non-junkie knowledge, so they might not get it...but it would be more accurate."

Kid: "..."

We washed dishes in silence for about 15 minutes after that. I hope he was taking mental notes, because THAT is how you make somebody "really uncomfortable."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Cat

I had Lucy for 12 years. She was a little black Manx cat with plenty of attitude and tolerance of her boozy owner. She was an amazing little creature.

When she became sick, she hid under the futon and sat in her own urine and feces. And rather than take her to the vet, I debated what to do while I continued to use heroin and not deal with anything. It was a sad, disrespectful way to treat a beloved pet...doing nothing.

The guilt, shame and regret of this broadsided me while I was in rehab over a year later when I vocalized my feelings in my small group. It must have been an interesting sight to see me do so to a group of hardcore drug addicts, some of whom were federal criminals/dealers with the Mexican Mafia (two are still friends of mine). My counselor believed I was actually projecting guilt from hurting friends and family, but no, I'm pretty sure I felt worse for not helping Lucy than anything else I had done.

Time passed...I resolved my guilt, worked on myself, confronted fears and so on and so forth. After I was in a position to take care of myself, I began to have the urge to be a pet owner again. However, I wasn't living somewhere that I found it appropriate to be a cat owner. I was either in a sober house (no pets) or renting a room from someone.

I found myself able to adopt a cat this month after 4 years of not having one. I wanted to support Austin Pets Alive!, and I didn't want to go the kitten route. I stopped in at the Hancock Center Petco where APA had a little "cat booth." There were a couple of outgoing felines there, but the one that caught my eye was a Torbie hiding in a little cubby that wanted nothing to do with me as a stranger there. I'm not sure if I fell for her playing hard to get or if I just related to her general disinterest in people, but I knew that was the cat for me. Her description read: "I can be a bit shy at first, but once I get to know you, I really love to hang out and gossip!" She was also a long-stay resident, most likely because she wasn't one to do the song and dance in front of prospective owners. The Austin Pets Alive! staff member was excited that I wanted to adopt her, and she said that the cat in question was a sweetheart and to be patient with her.

I named the cat Marla. Surprise, surprise.

I was happy the trip from the Hancock Center to Sandstone Apartments was fast, because Marla sounded traumatized in the pet carrier. I let her out in my place and she immediately burrowed under the couch...where she didn't move all night. I called to her, and I talked her ear off most of the night. Having her there was beneficial because technically now I wasn't talking to myself anymore. Friends asked for a picture, so I sent them this:

"I think he just bought a cat box and food dish. There's no cat there."
I wanted to be patient, but I was concerned that she needed to eat, drink, pee and poop at some point. I tilted the couch on its back, and since there was no lining underneath it, Marla climbed inside the couch...but at least I could see her now. She let me pet her while she meowed in a very concerned tone.
I went back to Petco to get suggestions from the APA rep. She suggested moving her to the bathroom as it's a smaller space. It would be easier to adjust to as opposed to the big open area of the living room/kitchen/bedroom. She also mentioned that if she still wasn't eating, try giving her Fancy Feast as it's basically kitty crack. As I skated back home, I didn't like the idea of picking her up by her scruff and moving her to the bathroom. In my mind, she was still in shock from the move, and I figured grabbing her would just freak her out more.

I arrived home, and she was no longer in the couch. In fact, she had disappeared. She was not under my bed or the dresser. I don't have much stuff...there's no place really to hide. I finally found her. She was behind the toilet...she'd already found her way to the bathroom without encouragement. Weird. I moved her food and the cat box into the bathroom as well as the cubby I bought her that was identical to the one she slept in at Petco. It took only a couple of hours in there for her to eat some and use the cat box. By the second evening, she was letting me pet her as long as I was sitting down. If I stood up, I apparently turned into a big scary monster.

By day three, she was tired of the bathroom and was ready to brave the great big outdoors, aka the apartment. She spent the majority of the time in her cubby, but she still found her way under the couch once the sun came up. I fixed that by removing the pegs so that the couch sat flat on the floor. Marla switched to just hiding behind the curtains and looking out the window at night.

Marla has made progress every day. During the day she sleeps in the cubby, occasionally giving a look if you HAVE to walk by and wake her. She is very active at night, especially when I get home between midnight and 1 am. She requires me to pet her quite a bit, and then I watch her eat. She used to meow just when she was distressed, but now it is very conversational, and it's a hesitating shy meow, and it's the most adorable sound in the whole damn world.

I do have an issue with her not letting me take her picture. I can only get pictures of her facing the opposite direction or in motion, like these:



Blurry demon-possessed face

Not turning around.

Maybe she wants me to not turn into someone who Instagrams every single thing she does. Maybe she's a diva. Maybe I have a phone she disapproves of, and she's aware that I should switch from Cricket to a different provider. Whatever the reason, it's fine. I'm just happy she really likes me now after being here a week. I've missed this feeling. I've missed being a cat owner.

If you're looking to adopt a pet, I highly recommend Austin Pets Alive!. They really care about their animals, their staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and they have a whole range of cats and dogs that need good homes. If you can't adopt, feel free to donate.

Thanks, Austin Pets Alive!, and thanks, Marla (APA name "Beth").

UPDATE: She has discovered the furniture. She jumped up on my bed twice last night to lie beside me, but as soon as I woke up and saw her, she meowed a cat expletive and ran off.

Also, she has claimed the chair as her own. Because of this, I was able to get a picture. Look how happy she is being photographed:

Good kitty.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Zen and the Art of Dishwashing

After being short handed at work for a while, two new faces appeared in the dishpit tonight. Well, one new face and one old old coworker was back after a multiple month hiatus. He jumped right back into the swing of things like he never left. The new kid was a dishwasher and bar back, and it was obvious that he had worked in busy establishments before. We were a machine tonight with a consistent hum of productive teamwork. Beautiful.

The new kid was excited and motivated to an almost creepy level. Do you remember in "Field of Dreams" when Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones are driving back to the farm, and they pick up Archie Graham as a kid? And he was cheery and upbeat about playing ball? That was this kid, seriously. "I just read this book called Dishwasher," he started.
"By Pete Jordan, yeah," I said.
"You've read it? Cool! A fellow dish dog!"
"Sure, kid. Whatever."
While it was off-putting, I found it to be a refreshing change.

We haven't been down an employee at work because of a managerial decision or because there was no ad placed. We've been looking. Pretty much the only qualification you needed to get a tryout in the dishpit was that you had to be breathing. Unfortunately, the revolving door of individuals that showed either left after one or two shifts or they were just breathers, not workers. One guy had told the chef, "Oh, I've washed dishes before." After seeing him in action, I can only assume he meant at home. The job I have is not one where you spray water on some plates, give a light scrub and send them through a machine at your leisure. "I've washed dishes" is like applying for a line cook position in a busy kitchen and saying in the interview, "Oh, I've made mac'n'cheese. I can work a microwave."

It's a hell of a gig that involves food prep in addition to all the lifting and speedy scrubbing/washing. You're on your own attempting to finish all the tasks that need to be completed while keeping up with dirty plates, bowls and cutlery that streams in constantly from the front of the house. It's a combination of planning out what you need to do in advance like chess moves while participating in a workout program.

Crossfit? Weight room? Not me...I have Dishfit! How do you think I keep this physique? Oh sure, you might say it's high metabolism, hereditary, smoking or past heroin addiction. All might be (are) true. But here's a fact: before Dishfit, I was a pudgy 145 pounds. Now, I'm a lean, cut (some say emaciated) 139 pounds! (Wow. I feel woozy. I should eat some ice cream or something. Be right back.)

If you follow the Dishfit program for just 8 to 10 hours a day, this could be you:

"Dishfit worked for me. Yay." - skinny dude

Here is just a sample of the equipment you will work with:

The squats and dead lift pot! (Get a spotter)

Racks for curls and triceps extension!

Your delts or your somethings get worked by constantly closing and opening this. 400 reps a day, easy.

Strengthen your fingers and grip for no real reason!

Cause massive damage to potatoes and leave your arms and shoulders sore as fuck!

These fill up and give your legs a work out! Or your back if you lift them wrong!

Dishfit. It's not just a way of life. It's...manual labor!

But I digress.

What I say onstage is that I am a dishwasher because I refuse to be a corporate slave and have my soul die slowly in a cubicle every day. I also wash dishes because I am a convicted felon. But more because of that corporate slave thingy. The reality is that I couldn't find another job after rehab because of the felony, among other things. For some reason, the ending scene of "Office Space" stuck in my head, which was where Peter was happy doing manual labor as opposed to being in a cloth-covered box. That along with "Fight Club" (both book and movie) led me in the direction of working in a kitchen. I wasn't a cook, so that left dishwashing. It felt right.

In "Layer Cake", a gangster explains why he enjoys disassembling and reassembling his guns as meditation. He says, "Meditation is concentrating the front of the mind with a mundane task so the rest of the mind can find peace." That is what my profession does for me. I turn off my phone, cut "the world" off, and do my work. For 8 hours or so, I am alone with my thoughts, or I work and think of absolutely nothing. And at the end of it all, I walk out with the slate in my head wiped as clean as the dishpit, machine and kitchen. There is something to doing a job where you see the results of your labor immediately and you can leave, satisfied. Hell, I leave, and it all stays behind. I don't take work home with me. It falls off my shoulders in the ten minutes it takes for me to skateboard home.

I can't have a day job. I can't do some dumb bullshit for money that I hate anymore. Not now that I finally get it, being a "dish dog" as Pete Jordan calls it. This is my profession. I don't do it for the money anymore...but I do need to pay for things so I suppose I'll take payment.

That's why I go back every night and why some of those other guys disappeared after one or two shifts. They just needed a job, and after attempting mine they needed an easier job. It's not for everybody. I hope the new kid tonight keeps up the enthusiasm. I know he wants to eventually move to bar back, but he's thrilled to be doing dish, and I've missed seeing that in any fashion in a coworker or potential coworker.

I was tempted a couple of weeks ago to ask management to let me post the ad on Craigslist, listing the description and job qualifications as I saw them. While it probably would not have generated the buzz I would want, I would be curious to see the replies.

Here is a typical dishwashing ad that I pulled up (not my work's ad, btw):

Looking for a reliable, hardworking individual with full availability. Must be responsible for your own transportation and be able to lift at least 50 lbs.  Duties include dish and pot washing, regular upkeep and maintenance, and deep cleaning. Must have a current food handler certification.


I think I would take it in a different direction:

Looking for an individual who seeks to transcend this materialistic and impersonal society. Searching for a potential employee who would like to have conventions, assumptions and perceptions destroyed swiftly so that they can rebuild physically, mentally and emotionally. Through the trials and tribulations of this daily labor, the preferable candidate can elevate their consciousness until their true self is revealed. This ideal person should be prepared for a life-changing ordeal, and they should have an open mind...and also a current food handler certification.

Too much?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Coffee With Blake

When I moved out of the sober house, I wanted to room with someone normal, adjusted and not an alcoholic or drug addict. Instead, I ended up with Blake Midgette. Actually, what I ended up with was an interesting, genuine and funny individual who I can now call a close friend. He and his dog Yossarian welcomed me into the apartment that I will soon be taking over, and I hope I can do the same for my future roommates. I am extremely thankful for the past 5 months.

Blake leaves for New York in a couple of days to pursue his comedy career (or maybe just to leave Austin), and one of my big regrets is that I never recorded any of my conversations with him, nor did I even jot down any notes. Some writer, huh? I decided I would interview him before he left. However, comedian Katie Pengra already did an excellent job of that for her Do Good Work podcast which you can listen to here. I highly recommend giving it a listen, and while you're at it, check out the YouTube video, Blake's Kitchen, featuring him and Yossarian.

Rather than an interview, I decided to record part of our conversations when we went out for coffee recently and then transcribe it for you. So, here you go. Good luck, Blake. Keep being yourself, you crazy bastard.

Thunderbird Coffee. Blake tied Yossarian up to the bench and went inside to get coffee, and after a few minutes I went inside as he was coming out. At some point when neither of us were paying attention, Yossarian ended up with chewing on a baseball that came from nowhere.

John: I was away from him for maybe half a minute? How did he end up with a baseball?

Blake: Yeah. I turned around, and he already had it. I don't know where he found it, but it's pretty amazing. Also, I managed to be in there for 45 seconds and make the guy behind the counter extremely uncomfortable. The girl working was saying, "Oh, we gotta turn the music down because people are complaining," and he said, "Man..." And I went, "Yeah, everbody's working on their shitty screenplays that nobody gives a shit about."

John: Hahahaha...

Blake: He was all, "Aw, I dunno, uh, there's a lot of creativity going on around here..." Yeah, whatever, dude.
(A guy who works at Thunderbird came up and wished Blake well on his trip, and said he'd friend him on Facebook. He gave him a hug and everything.)
That was weird.

John: It's your coffee guy, I guess.

Blake: Yeah, but I don't really ever talk to him.

John: Haven't you been coming here forever?

Blake: Probably 5 or 6 times a week since I've moved here.

John: Yeah, there you go. You are a regular.

Blake: It's not the same coffee shop it used to be. When I started coming here there was a lot cooler people...I didn't pay for coffee here for like 3 years. And then, since they fired the last round of people, they've been charging me. Nobody gives away shit anymore. Quality of the food has gone up, though.

John: We're making improvements! First of all, we're going to start charging for coffee!

Blake: Haha, right.

John: So...maybe I just didn't notice before, but I left Austin for 2 years, and I came back and everybody smokes American Spirits, including you.

Blake: I smoked Marlboro Reds when I moved here, but I spent so much time working and being in bars that I would buy smokes all the time, and American Spirits were the same price in the machines. I thought I'd give them a shot and ended up liking them a whole lot.

John: I find them harsh and lacking those lovely chemicals I seem to like.

Blake: (flashes his yellow American Spirits pack) These do again, because they are no longer made in America.  They are now like half Turkish tobacco, which is fucking hilarious. They sold the company or something, and now there's American Spirits Organic, but they are even more expensive. I think smoking these might be one thing that contributes to some people calling me a hipster. Me, an almost 40-year old fat guy who doesn't know how to dress himself.

John: What do you want to do in New York, man?

Blake: Focusing on comedy a lot more than I was here.

John: It's real easy to get sidetracked here.

Blake: I'll eventually get sidetracked up there. But, go there, make friends, get into the scene, do comedy, get booked...there's one avenue of success in this town and it's Cap City. It's the contest or the club, or Moontower. But it all stems from that one club, and the people that run it are in charge of everything. And I never made an effort to get in with them, mostly because of my own ignorance. I didn't know that you had to do that. I thought that you just go to a town and do shows, and eventually they would come to you. And I didn't realize that you have to make yourself known to them -- tell them you want to get on, e-mail them, kiss ass...or not really kiss ass, I don't know. I'm not really sure of their process because I never went through it. I'll try it in New York. There's a ton of different clubs up there, different factions. I have a feeling it's like the Game of Thrones of comedy there, and I'm good at manipulating people, so we'll see how that goes.

John: I don't remember completely what happened with me and Cap City. 12 years ago or so, I was on a path with them, but at some point, my peers were getting booked as features and I wasn't. So I asked Cap management to feature, and here was the thing. They already had the impression of me that I was not looking to get on the road. I was married and had a good day job. And that was absolutely true. And I'm sure I told you about this, but when I burned my bridge with Cap City...well, they didn't give a shit, it was burned on my end only...I was a cocky, know-it-all drunk. I said, "I don't need this place. I'm a Velveeta comic and I have Spite Club, this place is dated and totally not for me." So I do Funniest Person in Austin contest this week, first time I've been in that club in 5 or 6 years. And the one good thing that came out of my lackluster set was that I hated being there. I may have been a boozy asshole in the past, but I still knew what was right for me. And that place isn't it. It was a bullshit night for me, and I felt like I was in a museum for Comedy, 1995.

Blake: I mean, it's a comedy club. That shit seems to be going away. I think the future is smaller clubs, more intimate settings. You have these festivals that are these giant behemoths, but all the rooms are these tiny intimate rooms.

(I fiddled with my phone and wasn't sure if it recorded any of the comedy club conversation, and I did lose part of Blake's take on the grossness of performers at festivals.)

John: Really sucks...I think the recorder missed half that conversation.

Blake: That's probably best. So I love Cap City, please book us.

John: Yes, the people there are very supportive of the scene and stuff...

Blake: Sure.

John: I don't think I have a goal anymore. Career goal? I'm just going to write what I want to write and do comedy when I feel like it...eventually succumb to smoking.

Blake: I've never really had goals for things either. I just do shit, and it either works out or it doesn't, and I move on to something else. Most of my life I've had other people around me, a group sort of thing. Doing comedy is a bitch because you're all on your own, Your success totally depends on how much work you put into it, and I'm fucking lazy...which is why I am not successful. I can try to change that in New York, and I'll be around Sun-Tek who is good about driving me. He is a real positive influence on my life.

John: I get that. I've had an interesting shift where before, I was lazy and comfortable in my life, getting drunk, staying in the local scene.It was easy to say fuck TV and getting on the road because I didn't want to try and I wasn't sure if it was what I wanted. The shift is that now, I'm basically in the same position but I absolutely mean it. I strongly do not want to follow those avenues. With the Internet, I can create what I want and put it out there. I just have to put effort behind passion, now that my passion isn't consumption and shit.

Blake: Also, now you're doing stuff you want to and you're doing it for yourself, which I think allows you to get to an honest place with yourself, and it allows you to write.

John: Yeah.

Blake: I toured a lot in my band, and by the end of the tour we were a fucking machine. And it's the same with comedy, but the problem I have is by the time I have the jokes down exactly how I want them and perfected, by that time I am so tired of saying that shit that I don't even want to go up anymore. That's generally why I do shows I'm booked for and don't regularly go out on my own to open mics.

(We stopped for a second so Blake could throw the remnants of the baseball away before Yossarian ate it.)

Blake: You fucking psycho. My dog ate a baseball.

John: Yes he did.

Blake: That's a problem when I stay in a place too long. I start to feel stagnant, and just going out of town as a new experience opens my head up and allows me to think easier and write better. I've never done well being stuck in a routine, which is why I throw my life into a weird upheaval after I get sort of comfortable.

John: I am a fan of the self-destruct and rebuild, apparently.

Blake: It's going to suck if it happens in New York. What am I going to do after that? Small town America? Have a baby?

John: Don't do that.

Blake: I don't think I have to worry about that. I don't think I would be able to find a woman that would be willing to carry my seed to term.

John: Hahaha, oh god.

Blake: You're a single man, now.

John: Yeah.

Blake: Not ready to jump back into the poon race, feet first?

John: No, not when you make it sound enticing. Nobody wants to fuck the sober guy, that's weird.

Blake: That is weird.

John: First time I got sober I headlined the Velveeta Room, and after the show a very drunk woman told me she thought what I was doing was great, just great. Then she said to the feature act, "Do you know where I could get some blow?" She could of asked me that, I hadn't been sober that long. I could still get shit.

Blake: I do think the biggest asshole move you can make is being sober in this town...because you make people feel weird and you know it.

John: It's pretty great, especially now because I'm completely comfortable with it. They're the ones that are unsettled.

Blake: It's funny, when you moved in, I was like, "Well, I'm not stopping drinking. Sink or swim for Rabon." You were fine.

John: I had more than one person say to me, "Are you sure you should do that, Blake has a reputation..."

Blake: A well-deserved reputation.

John: But the thing is, they made it sound like you were a train wreck. But you're really more of a controlled demolition. You don't get wasted at home...

Blake: I don't.

John: ...whether you had a normal night or a crazy night, you come home the same way. It's just the stories are better.

Blake: Haha, if I could get laid sober, I wouldn't drink. There's a certain charm that only comes on after 3 or 4 drinks with me, and then I just keep nursing it. Eventually, I'm going to need to figure that one out without being drunk because I'm going to have to stop drinking at one point in my life. I realize this. But until then...we'll see how far it goes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sometimes Less is More

My roommate and good friend Blake is moving to New York, so I am looking for a new residence. I have responded to two listings, and I have not heard back from either in 24 hours. This probably does not mean anything...or it means that I might be providing way too much information. I am aware that I am more upfront and honest about myself than I have ever been in the past, and I should probably practice a tad bit of restraint when responding to people on Craigslist. Typically, your crazy radar is working at full capacity when interacting on that site.

My girlfriend said that finding a place to live is very much like dating. It is walking the line between providing enough information about yourself for the resident(s) and overloading them with way more knowledge about your baggage up front than they were expecting. Regardless, this is an irritating process that I find many ways to avoid doing. I actually spent more time yesterday figuring out the official Instagram account of Grumpy Cat than I did searching for a place. That's about right.

"Hi, my name is John, and I work at Contigo Austin. I am interested in renting the room you have available. I am quiet, I clean after myself, I have no pets, and I pay my bills early or on time. Here is my number."

Okay, just leave it at that. No need to go into more detail, right?

"I wash dishes, by the way. I used to work in an office, but I found it soul wrenching. Dishwashing is way more Zen for me. I am also a stand-up comedian and aspiring writer. I skate and ride the bus everywhere. I don’t drive anymore."

All right, man, that's enough. No need to be too-- 

"I used to drink and do lots of drugs, but I’m sober now, and I have been for 18 months. That's really why I stopped driving...I was a liability. I also just got off probation, so thankfully, I am a free man. A free man with a record, but who doesn't have one, right?"

Oh dear God.

"I am 40 years old, and I have had a history of really screwing over banks and corporations because my credit rating means nothing to me. It’s all made up anyway."

Okay, I guess let's just move on to the next ad. This one is done. 

"I reject materialism and money worship. I think most people live a dream and life thrusted upon them by family and conformity instead of following their heart. This leads them to walk around dying on the inside with fake smiles on the surface."

This could not be worse.

"Life is really just a dream we all have in which we think we're people, but in fact we are all nobody. Time is a flat circle. Anyway, give me a call."

Why don't you promote your blog while you’re at it, you psycho? 

"Oh, if you want to know more about me than you ever wanted to:"

I was kidding. Welp, this should be a fun month.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Every Dumb Thought In Your Head

Many people who consider themselves well-adjusted, upstanding members of their community turn into hateful, foul-mouthed demons when they drive in stressful conditions. I have shouted things from my car window I would never say directly to the driver of another vehicle if we were face to face. I guess when we are in our cars, we feel a level of security, and maybe we feel like we're in our own world and everything outside of our vehicle is a faceless, soul-less outer world that is trying to stop us from getting to where we're trying to go. We lack empathy for others that would typically hit us if we ran into all of the same people on the sidewalk.

I think if you take this same concept to the next level of detachment, appalling things you read online should be less surprising. Convenience, lack of personal accountability and zero consideration for others help fuel reactionary emotion-driven comments, status updates, blogs and tweets. I think we are all guilty of this...I know I am. I'm also guilty of being personally outraged and offended on the other side of the things I read. It is really easy to forget that all this (I'm virtually pointing everywhere) isn't real and that I should calm the fuck down. We all should sometimes. A mantra I have been working on when I jump online is, "Not every dumb thought in your head needs to be dumped into cyberspace." While using the c-word makes me sound as old as I am, it's still worth remembering.

All this comes from the past 24 hours of witnessing all kinds of statements made on Facebook in regards to the incident that occurred at SXSW resulting in 2 deaths and dozens of injuries. Being a night owl and having way too much time on my hands, I watched status updates and comments roll out all night. Most of my friends were trying to find out more information and to see if everybody they knew was okay. It made me think about watching my coworkers at Apple Computer back in 2001 trying to get a hold of friends and family in New York through e-mail and phone that September morning.

And then a few hours later, some people lost their fucking minds. It started with a tasteless "joke" made by a guy I had been meaning to unfriend at least he reminded me that he sucked. That was followed up with waves of over-the-top hate once the suspect's identity was revealed. More bad jokes. References to the suspect (who is black) being a thug (the term white people use for young black guys that they think is not racist but I'm fairly sure is). More attempts at humor. Calls for the suspect's death, sans trial by jury.

Not every dumb thought in your head needs to be dumped into cyberspace.

Then there were multiple posts of an "article" titled "Top 10 Facts You Need To Know" (about the suspect), including how many children he has and that he is an aspiring music producer, complete with links to audio samples. Great, that's what we need... a virtual "This Is Your Life" with Austin's newly most hated person. Bang up job using the Internet to fuel the fire, guys. Spot on. "Step right up, see the Hitler of the week...stare into the face of evil and listen to some of his music tracks we pulled from Soundcloud! Listen to the sound of evil...and evil has too many children, let's all talk about that at length!"

I made a wise decision to not respond to anything I read, avoid Facebook for the rest of the day and go to work...because, you know...dumb thought upload thingy. Plus, 8+ hours of dishwashing allowed me to think about this for a bit.

While some jokes made were done by aspiring comedians who mistakenly think they're edgy (they're not, they're just awful), I think most of them come from the same place that people's condolences come from. I saw several status updates by friends stating their thoughts and prayers were going out to the people involved, even though these updates can only be read by their friends and will probably not be seen by anyone directly affected by this tragedy. Why do we do either of these? I've made reactionary jokes or offered condolences without really given a thought as to why, other than both are a way of coping with a tragic event to avoid feeling helpless. And maybe that's all it is. An incident generates uncontrollable feelings and emotions, and your defense is humor...or you feel you've got to do "something." "I'm not sure what I can do...I'll say something on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe I'll blog about it." (Wait, is that what I'm doing?)

There IS something else you can do about this tragedy besides make a joke or vocalize how much you want the guy who did this to die. There's something else you can offer besides well wishes and prayers. You can donate blood. The Blood Center of Central Texas is in desperate need right now. If you have Type O (positive or negative) you're a VIP, and you should go today. Here's more information. Go donate today, and then encourage others to do so.

And if you can't donate blood due to health or, past intravenous drug use (doh), check out The Mohawk and Cheer Up Charlie's worked with the City of Austin today to set up the SXSW Cares Fund. From Mohawk owner James Moody: "We have spent today working with SXSW and the city to create a relief fund for the victims. This is our number one priority — their care and support. We are a community here that exists far beyond the 10 days of SXSW. Our intent is to come together to help the families of each and every one of the victims."

Just to clarify, if you did any of the things I mentioned above are feeling like I'm attacking you or trying to call you out, I'm not. I'm just trying to point out how ridiculous it all is lumped together. But it's all just Facebook. It's not real. What is real are the needs of the victims. What is real are the opportunities to help. I put my money where my mouth/blog is by donating to the fund and I'm poor as shit. If you donate your blood and/or your money, then go ahead and make all the poor jokes and judgmental comments online you want. That seems fair.

But do keep in mind that not every dumb thought in your head needs to be dumped into cyberspace.

Friday, March 7, 2014

9th Circle of Heck

I changed the name of my blog for several reasons. One was there were multiple pages with the same name as "Eat My Blog", and all of them are blogs about food. Neat. I don't really remember why I called mine that specifically, other than maybe I thought it was a bit more subtle than "Suck My Blog" or "Go Blog Yourself". I guess I could say I changed it up and solidified the new name with a bona fide domain/URL to represent the new chapter in my life now that I'm off probation, free of the breathalyzer, classes and meetings. But the truth is I was just bored...and I had 10 dollars.

I wanted to give you a little explanation of what the 9th Circle of Heck means to me. When I got out of treatment and established a residence and employment, I certainly appeared to be doing much better than I was as a full-blown junkie. Obviously I had improved my quality of life, and I was working to find my place in "the real world." But here's the truth about self-destruction: the most depressing and hardest times of your life are not when you're rock bottom. It was bad, sure... but I was high...or drunk. Heroin and booze made sure I didn't have to deal with myself and my problems. I felt very little. The worst part is when you pull out of your nosedive and start trying and giving a shit. You experience the most pain when you're clean and sober and start to have real feelings and emotions again. And boy, do you have emotions... and you get to deal with them with an acute awareness. And you are very aware...that this sucks. This really, really sucks.

And that's where you find yourself for an indeterminate amount of time. You are no longer in hell. You've pulled your ass out of the flames, and you're in a new place. The new place isn't great. You know things will get better with time, but currently you are not having fun. I just figured this new place was Heck, and it was there all that pain, guilt, shame, anxiety, worry and dread that I had avoided for years through consumption hit me all at once. Boom. This is the worst part of this new place. It has to be the 9th Circle.

This is why many addicts and alcoholics relapse after being clean and sober for a few weeks or months. I don't think it's so much about "I miss the drugs" as it is "I can't deal with all of hurts too much."

Life is good now as I've documented on this blog. I still have 9th Circle moments, but they pass. The reason for this entry is I've had brief chats with two of my friends who are going through tough times right now. I didn't get a chance to tell them any of this, but I wanted to let them know that I understand what they're dealing with. There's nothing more annoying than someone telling you, "Hey, hang in there, it will get better!" "Yeah, well, go face-fuck a piranha. I'll pull YOU up by your bootstraps, you shit monkey." (We think this, but just say, "Thanks.")

Nah, I'm not going to tell you to hang in there, like you're a kitten on a sad, useless inspirational poster. I'm just going to offer an ear if you ever want to talk about it, and to let you know I've spent plenty of time in the 9th Circle of Heck. If you need some company there or a tour guide, let me know.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Probation Era

The #350 runs down Airport Blvd and makes a stop at Austin Community College Riverside campus. At that point, most “normal people” get off and go on their way. The route continues to Del Valle, carrying the dregs of society returning to their halfway house, meeting someone getting out of the correctional facility or making their probation appointment. That’s why I was on it...probation.

Last week was my final meeting with my probation officer at SMART, and for that reason I paid closer attention to just how dreary and awful Del Valle is. It is all shattered concrete, dirt and weeds. You won’t see a manicured lawn there, no suburbs really. There’s nothing but shady convenience stores, trailers, county lockup and broken dreams. I can’t imagine considering a halfway house there a fresh start. But hey, I was a resident in the SMART program there for 5 months, so I can’t really say much about an alternative to jail. Considering how ugly Del Valle is, I’m glad SMART didn't have much of a view of the surrounding area. 

While in the waiting room to see my p.o., I ran into one of my counselors from the program who asked how I was doing. He said, “You know, I still mention you in class, not by name of course, but about how you were always honest and called people out on bullshit. And also how you vocalized that you weren’t sure you liked me that much.” I replied, “I’ll get back to you on that, Scott.” He smiled and said, “Well, it’s a good thing I’m not here to be everybody’s buddy.” We shook hands. I'm still not sure if I like him.

A few minutes later, I was buzzed in, and I walked into the office of my probation officer Gabe. He let me know I had another perfect breathalyzer report, meaning I had blown into the device in the required time frames last month, which were between 5am-8am, 5pm-8pm and 10pm-12am. The breathalyzer has a camera on it and records a picture of me taking each test. This means Gabe could, if he was bored enough, could scroll through 90 pictures of me a month (see Ghosts of Breathalyzers Past).

Gabe: “Every time one of my people try to explain why they missed a window or failed a test and come up with excuses, I use you as an example. I say, ‘See this report? It can be done!’” Great. I’m blowing the curve for other drunks on probation. It’s like grade school all over again.

We run through the standard questions I get every month. Have I had any contact with law enforcement? Have I used any drugs or drank alcohol? Am I on any medication? And then he concluded our meeting by asking, “Are you ready to maintain your sobriety all on your own, no monitoring or breathalyzer?”

The question gave me pause. I was pretty sure I was ready to be done with all the bullshit. I was definitely sure I was tired of all the money I had to pay and the hoops I've jumped through. Was I ready, though, to be sober once I was legal to drink?

By the time this is posted, I’ll be done with it all. I have been on probation for 7 out of the last 10 years, and during the 3 years I wasn't I was arrested for public intoxication 3 or 4 times (I can’t remember which). I was a heroin addict for 3 years while "on paper". I drank constantly during both stints of probation, regardless of having a breathalyzer on my vehicle both times (I wrecked both of those vehicles, by the way, because why half-ass a downward spiral). I was able to continue to do what I wanted to because, for the most part, probation just wants you to pay them and not get into trouble. In fact, some people will tell you that their probation officers let them slide on failed drug tests just because they were up to date on their payments.

This is a nice contrast to me doing everything I was supposed to last year but having to still have supervisor hearings because I couldn't afford a payment one month. Never mind I was in a sober house with a job and staying clean...I owed them money. Never mind I had to get on food stamps for 6 months...I had to pay. But hey, most people who don’t pay their fees are using the money for their habit/habits, so I don’t really blame them doubting my sincerity.

For the past year, I actually followed the rules. I've been clean and sober almost 18 months now. So am I ready to continue this “all on my own”? Hell, I've been clever (stubborn) enough in the past to drink and do drugs around all Travis County’s tests, monitoring devices, meetings and classes. If I wanted to, I would have probably found a way this time around, too. I just didn't want to. I’m done. I have been doing it on my own already...with support from friends and family, sure...but when I’m alone...when I have a window of opportunity to stray...on my own.

Time for a new era.

“Yeah, man. I'm ready.”

"Last visit ever to Smart Start," he said for the third time.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Once an Addict, Always an Addict"

"I don't know, I was young, I drank too much, you know, so I stopped. You know what I mean, it's not really complicated. I had no interest in drinking in moderation. And I still don't. Just because all that time's passed doesn't mean maybe it was just a phase. That's you know, that's who I am." - Philip Seymour Hoffman, interview with The Guardian, 2011

Hoffman's death hit me pretty hard. I've been thinking about it for two days now, and what really stabs me in the chest about it is that 20+ years of sobriety he had. That dwarfs my 17 months a bit. Recently I have been feeling that I have had my own sobriety and past figured out, and that it will be smooth sailing from here on out. I've been wondering if Hoffman felt this way in the past... and for how long did he think he had it under control. That interview from 3 years ago sounds like he was still aware of who he was when it came to consumption of alcohol and drugs. I guess it is easy for some of us to get caught up again and lose our way.

I have been thinking about what I wanted to say in this entry. I've been reading comments and articles online about this, and there are plenty of people with their opinions... with their assumptions. I want to avoid speaking for all addicts or for any other one but me. Not everybody is the same, even if many of us go through the same patterns in addiction.

Since we will never know the whole story, I can only go by what I've read of interviews with Philip Seymour Hoffman. It sounds like his main drug of choice was alcohol when he was young, and he dabbled in other drugs as well. You drink, then start doing anything that was available, sure. At some point in 2012, he started taking prescription pills. I have yet to read what kind and whether or not they were prescribed to him. Within a year, he had gone from scripts to snorting heroin. So he went to detox in May 2013.

I wrote a little blog, Rehab Can Kill You, about Cory Monteith overdosing after completing treatment. I mentioned that rehab is dangerous if you pick up afterwards because you lose your tolerance when you take a 1 to 3 month break. Detox is another beast altogether. 10 days helps your physical addiction, but unless you do something about your thinking and behavior, it really is just "taking a break" before going back at it. Hoffman obviously picked up again at some point, and his heroin use escalated to using needles.

Looking at that timeline, he wasn't a heroin addict at 22, and he didn't relapse on booze in his 40's. The old recovery adage is that once you're an addict, you're always an addict. There is no cure, they say. Well, not everyone says that. Chris Prentiss offers "the cure" for $88,500 a month at the Passages Malibu Addiction Treatment Center. Every time a commercial for it airs and he smugly says, "I was an addict, now I'm not", I want to cockpunch him through the TV. Apparently, his view of a cure is drinking carrot juice by a koi pond while he gladly takes 3 grand a day from you. He sells recovery like a time share.

I hope I never find myself in the same position Philip Seymour Hoffman was in... where I know I'm back in the middle of the shit again but I don't want to put my career and family on hold to go back to treatment. One news article said, "Hoffman had struggled with addiction for years." I wonder how true that is. Did he struggle with having a drink at Hollywood parties for the majority of those 22 years, or was it smooth sailing for the majority of the time? Did he take vicodin for a legitimate issue and that triggered his downward spiral? Maybe more information will come out, or maybe we'll never know.

I find myself in the middle gray area when it comes to the concept of addiction as a "disease". I prefer to think of it as a mental disorder since really it's all in your head after you kick the physical addiction. I say onstage that I like to call myself a "retired" alcoholic and junkie as opposed to a "recovering" alcoholic/addict, because it better represents that I am still pro-drug and pro-booze. I'm the Charles Barkley of drugs and alcohol... big fan of the sport, can't play the game anymore. I like the idea of being retired because it sets in my mind that if I was to try to "play the game" again, I would immediately try to jump back into the professional level and it would kill me.

The problem I have with using the term "recovering" is it implies that you will eventually be "recovered", but it is used by AA/NA people permanently...they never consider themselves recovered. Recovered doesn't mean cured, in my mind. From my point of view, I have recovered. I'm on a healthy path, and in a month I'll be off probation completely. I don't owe them any more money, and I can pay all my bills. I've been productive at work, and I'm writing and performing better than I ever have. That sounds "recovered" to me. Labeling myself as a perma-addict and walking around with my guard up consumed with thoughts that I could use any moment sounds miserable. If you have to go to meetings and constantly work the 12 steps because that's how you get through the day, then do what you have to do...I just hope you're happy. I couldn't do it. So I had to convince myself otherwise. I'd rather consider my ass retired and do something else without being obsessive about it.

HOWEVER... I have to keep the balance in my head and not forget who I have been. Things are great now, but when shit goes bad, I can't escape my problems with drugs and alcohol, because there is no reset button. If I take anything into my body, I'll be right back to where I was on my last blackout. All I can do is keep working on my self-awareness regarding old behavior patterns, enjoy my new life and don't drink or shoot up, ever.

Philip Seymour Hoffman's death is a reminder to many of us that no matter how long you've been sober or how well things are going in your life, we can't use again... even if it's a different drug we didn't previously have an issue with. Even if that drug is legal.


Friday, January 31, 2014

You Keep Using That Word...

Key and Peele said that "racist" was the n-word for white people, and I have to agree. Nothing puts us Caspers on the defense more quickly than being called that. Hell, even slightly implying that one of us is racist will spark emotion.

Runner-up to "racist"? Nowadays, it has to be "hipster". It is a strange moniker. Here in Austin, everyone is surrounded by hipsters but no one admits to being one. I don't really get it...I'm not even sure why it is so negative.

I'm 40 years old, man...I would love to be considered a hipster... assuming I am positive what the word means. When you use the word, do you know its definition? I get the feeling "hipster" is like "pornography"... people can't really verbalize what it is, but, "I know it when I see it."

I wanted to research recent articles and columns discussing hipsters, and I came across What Was the Hipster? written in 2010. It's a  little article adapted from a book of the same name, and it is pointless, verbose and an empty waste of time. Sentences like "In culture, the Hipster Primitive moment recovered the sound and symbols of pastoral innocence with an irony so fused into the artworks it was no longer visible" make me want to cyber-bitchslap the author. Really? Did a sociological study of hipsters really need to exist?

I don't care to delve into the origins of the word, the many definitions of it, or common traits of "the modern hipster". I am more interested in focusing on its over usage by, well, everyone. Typically, we use it to slander someone we think is pretending to be cooler than they really are. They're trying too hard, and it's obnoxious.

But this is what has been bugging me. Not everyone labeled a hipster is a snobby scenester. Sometimes I think they may actually be cooler than us and we're just bitter about it. No matter who you are, there is someone with better taste and/or with a better wardrobe...or they just carry themselves more aloof or confident.  Even when I find myself lost in my delusion that I am cool as shit all day, and I'm walking around with my stupid sunglasses on and smoking my big dumb cigarettes, I'll notice my fly has been open for an undetermined amount of time, and I'll submit to reality. "I bet Steve McQueen never walked around with his zipper least not unintentionally."

Don't we need an antithesis to "hipster"? Every Jet needs a Shark, right? I like "normies". It's a word addicts use to describe you lucky assholes who can drink and do drugs without self-destructing. I think I'll start using it to identify non-hipster types, because... it's just a fun word.

I prefer to be in a place full of hipsters as opposed to normies. They're more interesting to watch, and they're so self-involved they leave you the fuck alone and ignore you completely. It's great. You say your favorite bar was taken over and ruined by hipsters? Almost a decade ago, my favorite bar turned into "The Mooseknuckle" and became a frat boy stomping ground. It could be worse.

I like being in an apartment complex full of hipsters. It's a pleasant alternative to a suburb full of normies. But that's just me. No offense, normies.

Like I mentioned before, I don't find the word all that negative. I probably am an "aging hipster"...I apparently dress like a "Post Rocker" according to Rob Dobi. At least when I'm in my own denial of thinking I'm a bad ass I don't project to others that I'm better than them...which unfortunately was not the case in the past. I have changed the vibe I give off from "go fuck yourself" to "hey, you do you" (actually, both of these technically have the same meaning, minus hostility and spite).

I would like for you to reconsider using "hipster" in a negative connotation moving forward. Or at least, cut back on it. When you use it too much, it loses its meaning...its power. Besides, you miss the opportunity to get really creative with your labeling and name-calling. When that guy tells you that band you like sold out because they don't release their albums on vinyl anymore and that you can't really appreciate their music unless it's on an LP, don't drop the h-bomb on him. Call him a pretentious shit funnel. Or an elitist dick bouquet. Go crazy.

End the hipster hate! Or don't, whatever. You do you. (snicker)


Ha. I just had a mental picture of me trying to flip the hate around at a Chili's or Applebee's, saying, "Fucking normies...norming up everything with all their conventional bullshit!"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Don't Re-Memoir

"You should write a book."

Damn right I should. Let me get on that.

Okay, well, what kind of book should I write? The obvious idea would be to write a memoir of my past experiences with a major focus on the past decade of decadence. Sure. There is a tiny problem with that idea: I don't remember most of it. That's a bit of an issue.

I first made this realization in treatment when my counselor had me write "my story" to present to group. I sat staring at a blank sheet of paper and was aware for the first time that my brain was just a big bowl of memory soup... pieces of flashbacks and recollections floating around incoherently in brain matter broth that just sloshes around between my ears. I'm sure I have a sleeve of saltines soaking in there as well just to make sorting it all out that much more difficult.

It makes me wonder how these people who were hardcore drunks and drug addicts managed to write out their stories into coherent tales of innocence lost, pain, self-destruction and salvation. How much of it is true and not just imagined filler to bridge the gaps in their timeline?

Memories aren't really true anyway, are they? The longer you hold onto them, the more you distort them in your head in one way or another. That's another problem for me. Many of mine have been twisted a bit to make myself look less jackass, more bad ass. I'm aware of the truth, but it's easier on the ego to leave the doctored images in my filing cabinet that the originals.

Our memories are, of course, one sided. We remember moments in time differently than other people who shared those same experiences. One night I ended up at an after hours hotel party of some roller derby ladies and friends. I had been drinking since late afternoon, so I don't really know how I ended up there, who I knew, or what all went on. I do know that I had to be helped out down stairs and into a cab. On my way down the stairs, a girl I didn't know had a horrified look on her face as she said, "I think he peed himself." I replied, confidently, "You're goddamn right I did!" And then I attempted to high-five an imaginary person as I strutted (stumbled) away in urine-soaked jeans. I imagine that girl and I remember that moment quite differently. She probably made a personal commitment to "know when to say when" and steer clear of degenerates, and I considered it a funny anecdote and not the first time I soiled myself on a Sunday.

That's a good example. I don't remember any details of that night other than her face and me slurring a comeback I thought was hilarious... and pee pants. That's it. I'm not sure just those three details make for a good "road to rock bottom" yarn.

I suppose some authors are just better at remembering the details. Despite massive consumption of booze and heroin, I still have a knack for memorizing movie quotes and being able to tell you every movie and TV show an actor has done. This trivial memory skill would be very beneficial if IMDB, Wikipedia and the whole fucking Internet did not exist. Also, I can remember bits from comedians' acts I've seen 10 or 20 years ago... which is irritating because I can't remember shit I wrote last year.

The idea of doing research on myself seems too narcissistic even for me. The idea of asking friends and family for their memories of me, both good and bad, makes me uneasy. It also seems like it would be kind of a waste of time.

"I don't know, John...I was fucked up, too, you know. You said something funny then you fell down, I think? That sounds about right."

"I don't remember when it happened but at one point you yelled at a guy for being a hippie. His hair wasn't really long, either...I think that's why he didn't get mad. He was just as confused as I was as to why you would call him that."

"I thought I told you not to call here again, you drunk-dialing asshat."

"Oh, I remember that you loved playing with G.I. Joes with your brother, and you really enjoyed singing at church when you were little. I think we still have some of your stuffed animals in the attic...Hello? Son, are you still there?"

I know this is all due to brain cells I've doused with booze and the "time travel" I did often with pain killers, but I like to think of it as my body and mind protecting me from my past... locking away all those possibly damaging memories so I can move forward with my life. Sure... why not. Either way, I won't be scribing "Here and Back Again... and Then There Once or Twice More... and Back... and Forth: The John Rabon Story" any time soon.

What will I write? Probably a lot of shit like this. I guess we'll see.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Defeating My Inner Demon

"Inner Demon III" by jdotjam

 I figured it out by accident.

I was preparing for war, mentally and emotionally. I learned patience being locked away for 6 months with drug addicts, bad criminals and all-around fuck-ups, and I practiced patience when setting goals for myself this past year. I worked on little things in my life, not really pushing to get to whatever my next step in life was supposed to be. I was interested in the here and now. I attempted to understand who I was without an influence in my body, and I focused on emotions moment to moment as I experienced them. This sounds tedious and mundane, but it had been a long time since I really dealt with emotions...or with anything for that matter.

So, I took my baby steps for months. I wrote when I was inspired or disturbed...or both. I handled whatever was in front of me. (Okay, that makes me sound like a groping uncle or your creepy coworker. There's a better way to phrase that.) I took care of issues as they surfaced and met my immediate needs. (No, now it sounds like I just masturbated alot. You get the idea, I hope. Moving along.)

Doing my best at work, performing when I could, obeying the sober house rules, staying sober, skateboarding, meditation...I followed a routine for months. Good things started to happen - I thrived at work, I wrote new jokes, I maintained an inner peace, I met Katie. And then recently, I completely paid off probation and moved out of the sober house.

The transition to the "real world" is all but done. In less than two months, I'll be done with probation completely, and I'll no longer have this breathalizer I carry in a backpack. It couldn't have happened at a better time. I was tired of being around the same type of people: shifty addicts either beginning recovery or pretending to be in recovery. I've had to deal with them for over a year in close proximity, and I was ready to be around normies. This is Austin, though, and I hang around kitchen staff and comedians. Normal is basically functioning drunks and drug users. Still a warm change, people who function.

While all this is going on, I am working on my mental state, ready for my addiction to fight me at the first sign of bad news. My inner demon...that devil on my shoulder...I knew it was still there, getting ready to attack. My assumption has always been the major battle will occur the day I have no one watching me anymore, which would be March 1st. I no longer believe this to be the case as I'm positive there will be no big attack from my demon.

You see, I made a breakthrough back in October that I touched on in the Duality of Me post:

"I don't really think that the angel is always good or the devil is always evil."
"My duality has to do with who I was vs who I am trying to be now."
"I can't stop being me."
"I am my imperfections, and I can embrace them."

Addiction, anxiety, negative's all in our mind. Everything is in our minds. No shit, you knew that. It's because it is all in my head that I had to change my thinking over time in order to make this new life while clean and sober thingy work.

I had to convince myself that my new life was cool. Sober in AA with a higher power looking at my past as all negative did not sound acceptable. Being very much pro-drug and pro-alcohol but considering myself a retired drunk and junkie looked better. Approaching the reality that I've milked all the bloody fun out of booze and pain killers and the lifestyle associated with both was how I convinced myself to do something new. Take that as a daily affirmation along with my decision I was done for good so that I don't kill myself and revisit them every 24 hours. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It's been working. Like really, really well. My success with rewiring some of these patterns in my selfish know-it-all ego-driven brain made me starting thinking more about the angel and devil on my shoulders...I mean obviously, my perception of "good" and "bad" separated instead of being all one big yin-fuck-yang. If this was a fallacy, wasn't referring to an addictive personality coupled with self-destructive patterns as a demon just as bullshit? I mean, obviously I don't have a demon possessing me...but the concept of separating negative aspects of yourself into a conceptual entity that you have to fight sounded stupid all of the sudden. It's all me, man. I don't need to try to kick my own ass here.

Somehow I ended up in this position and mindframe to consider urges to revisit old habits to be fleeting and pointless. We're old, brain. We've done that already and I'm bored with it.

Like I said...I got to this point by accident.

Just for good measure, though, I focused within myself and formed the angel and devil again. Instead of being combative with my demon, I simply told him, "Hey, I don't like being told what to do." Without warning, I immediately took out a broadsword and Ned Starked the angel, never taking my eyes off the devil. I added, as I mentally cleaned off the blade, "I welcome any suggestion you may have, though. I do like to have a good time, now and then."

Not really defeating the demon so much as deeming him irrelevant and scaring the shit out of him. He hasn't said much since then. RIP, shoulder angel.