bravery

80a898dac48e313dfc891418ea61b4faWas it an act of bravery when you gave up drinking?”

“I never really gave it up,” she said. “That isn’t how alcoholics do it. They can’t do it that way. You employ a lot of sideways thinking instead. One day at a time, easy does it, live and let live, all that. But the center of it is this: you give up believing you can control your drinking. That idea was a myth you told yourself, and that’s what you give up. The myth… What I do – what we do – to keep away from the first one… it’s not that kind of bravery. In spite of movies like The Last Weekend, I think what we do is pretty undramatic.”

Stephen King, Library Policeman, 1990

The first time I read this story I was in ninth or tenth grade and didn’t start drinking yet. I tried it on more than a couple occasions, yes, but I had not even come to buy it or have been to a single drinking party. So, I don’t even remember reading this chapter where the protagonist Sam meets the couple of people who turn out to be problem drinkers and who he’s yet to find out are going to cooperate with him to beat the ultimate evil of Eternal Librarian and Sam’s greatest fear, the Library Policeman. I don’t remember alcoholics or the candy that Sam used to beat the evil, so to speak, but I do remember getting freaked out a bit. After all, Sam’s greatest fear came from a very real situation of being raped by a person in position of power, something he denied has happened to him for decades. Thankfully, he didn’t become alcoholic himself to deal with that experience.

When I read this book again earlier this year, the above passage struck me between the eyes. It is always kinda nice and kinda freaky for a bit to come upon something you’ve missed in the process in the past. It happened to me writing a story 17 years ago about a problem drinking who eventually dies from it, and not realizing that I wrote a cautionary tale to myself.

I always respected Stephen King for his writing, freaky or not, but I came to respect him more after finding out he had a serious drinking problem and addiction to prescription pills, and that he was brave enough to come through by joining self help groups like AA and kept going forward after that, keeping his family and keep writing great books. His writing about problematic behaviors, family violence, and addiction in his scary stories always made more freaked out because I could feel the real terror of it. The real horror is not the ultimate evil with fangs and bat wings, it’s what people do to each other.

And the real bravery and relief is learning that people do get through those experiences and still manage to have a good life after, learning from trouble others cause and from their own errors.

p.s. as for The Last Weekend movie, I think I wrote it before, maybe I should revisit it one day 😊


the image of Stephen King’s face made from the covers of all his books is amazingly done and an amazing idea and it was copied from https://za.pinterest.com/pin/533676624577675719/. thank you.

 

Un#@%*able

yoda“Make it unfuckable.”

Those were the words of my boss, the chef from the catering place where I worked 15 years ago. I think it was the first time I heard him swear. He also was very particular about washing hands for 30 seconds in hot water before putting apron on and on his breaks he meditated on the floor in the office.

The particular situation when the phrase was pronounced took place while he was instructing me how to do chicken kebab, laying a grand bowl of raw meat in front of me. He told me about salmonella poisoning and made sure I wore gloves and didn’t puncture myself in the process. “Make it unfuckable,” he said.

(Having said that, I’d like to point out that this post is not exactly about making kebab, although considering that gods work in mysterious ways and we know nothing about that, it just may be.)

It appeared to me that what my boss cared most about was me. Sure, he cared about the meal was done right, but he surely didn’t want to deal with any liability that my messing things up could cause. So, he cared for me and so he made sure I did things right.

When I came to recovery rooms to get my life together, I wasn’t told or advised to make things unfuckable for myself. I’ve already fucked up plenty before coming over, and everybody knew I did, otherwise I wouldn’t be coming into the room full of strangers, announcing I needed help, would I?

It went without saying that I may mess up again. And it was OK. I mean, nobody really likes messing up. We all want to be winners. But crap happens. And if we did mess up in recovery, our brothers and sisters in the fellowship would tell us: “Keep coming back” which, I think, means “It’s OK to mess up. After all you are a human, not a god or a superhero. Just do your best to learn from the mistake and try again.”

Still though, I kept trying to make it unfuckable. I remembered all of my relapses prior to joining the said recovery fellowship and they weren’t pretty. I never wanted to have them in my life again. I stayed sober for all that time, but I also quit smoking, and I did give into cigarettes a couple of times. Out of three times, two were at the same place with the same people, but that was not a place or the people that I could walk away from. I just kept, as they say, counting my blessings, and walking straight and watching my step all I could.

I never wanted to say that I am coming back. Granted, shit happens, and it could happen to me, just like disasters and accidents happen. Yet I made sure that I keep my part working smooth and watch what I was doing, so in case it did happen, it wasn’t on me. Otherwise, I’d be making excuses all the time, and that’s so easy.

I kept going to meetings, and I kept writing about recovery. Then I found a job at a place that served the disadvantaged population with a place to sleep and helped people with substance abuse issues to turn their life around. That was the best thing for me, because it kept me paid and it kept me sober.

I started writing about recovery, first a diary, then a blog. I went on writing about that, and sometimes did that for the guys in recovery at work. Helping them, I helped myself. I kept it that way and still do, although the amount of people in recovery that I communicate with lately is smaller, due to a different nature of my work and to a growing level of isolating, I think. Excuses, hey?

Unfuckable. That’s how I want it to be. So far it’s been good, and so I want it to keep going. Thanks all for keeping me on the track.

… and I don’t know if he really said that but

einst

 

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the images were copied from https://www.reddit.com/r/STAR_WARS_LAST_JEDI/comments/7k2270/the_greatest_teacher_failure_is_yoda_d/ and https://www.amazon.com/Einstein-Failure-Progress-Motivational-Poster/dp/B01NABXWB5 . thank you.

Veiled Opportunities

notexitThere are all these signs. On the walls, on buses, on TV, in the papers. Some good ones, some better ones, some crappy and misleading. And many deep ones, many that make you think and wonder. I saw a new one at the work place weeks back.

“Things don’t happen to you. Things happen for you.”

Talk about deep ones, hey. How does that wise vase work?

Crap happens. Loss takes over. Tragedies crawl in and linger. Abuse of all that feels good and/or should stand strong and untouched breaks through and demoralizes. The dark suffocates the light and there seems to be either no end of misery or no sense of why would it ever happen, whether to the good people, or to the people in general.

Really, why? Well, hell knows, someone would say. Shit just happens. Or…

One very smart, but not very happy German said once “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Then a fictional villain extraordinaire paraphrased: “what doesn’t kill you simply makes you… stranger.” But whoever posted the “happen for you” sign was way ahead of these two, or simply learned from them. Isn’t it more smart to be positive about things that wallow in infinite grieving and self-pity? Yes, grieving is important, but to keep swimming in the black lake, never allowing yourself to come on shore? I don’t think so.

So… things don’t happen to you. OK, I understand that some things do happen to you, disasters and death of loves ones, that seems too much and too great to see anything positive in, but still… things happen for you. To overcome. To learn something. Maybe not right away, because the pain is too much. Yet still, you and I and them, we learn how not to give up, how to stay on and not exit, how to cope, and a mass of time may pass and then we look back…

Yes, we look back and we see the wisdom, sometimes harsh truth, but if we take it for what we saw it before, that sharp punch of doom that knows no mercy, then we will learn nothing but that gods hate us. And if we did try to overcome, if we wanted it, and we looked for a better time, if we (important word) allowed us to have a better time for ourselves, then we will see the things for what they are, the possibly veiled opportunity to benefit from. And we will learn even better. From a mistake, or from a tragedy that wasn’t caused by us, or from a strange event that made no sense, and we will move on. And we may get way better. The crap that happened has done so for our good. I know you don’t like that perspective. I used to dislike it a lot, and who knows what else is coming my way. And yet, it is usually all good. I just have to give it time to see it in a different light.


the front image was copied from https://www.homedepot.com/p/12-in-X-8-in-Plastic-Not-An-Exit-Sign-PSE-0091/206873504 and altered by me. thank you

Lonely Not Alone

crowdJohn looked for an easy way out

Steven looked for love, too embarrassed to say a word to display his need for it

Mike waited for a stranger to say “hello” first

George had the want that overpowered the need and couldn’t tell the difference

John, and Jack, and Mike, and George are the same person

But he is too frustrated with the mediocrity of his life to be just one self.

He became aware of the limitations and failures

But wouldn’t act to improve the condition.

He became lonely way before becoming alone.

He blamed others for something that was only in his power to alter.

He sees life as survival and living as existence,

Joy is being flushed out.

He’s feeling deserted in a crowd of people

With no hope in sight on a sunny day

He listens to the air move around the room,

Concentrating on breathing,

Thinking that meditation is key to happiness,

That communicating with others is too much work.

He starts doubting self,

Starts reading self-help books.

He met a girl, bored her to running for her life

So, he committed himself to a mental hospital.

Four walls feel friendlier than life with responsibilities.


the image was copied from https://www.flickr.com/photos/127972570@N06/34202407680 thank you.

Rain People

rainSo, I changed jobs recently and now work directly in the field with people who have serious mental issues and because of that their independent life is limited to zero. It’s a challenging job, even compared to what I used to do before, which was similar, but now the level is more acute. It’s a good challenge for me to stay objective and caring in the face of the intensity of the issues these people experience on 24/7 basis.

Some of my patients are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and this is something I have never worked with / faced before, except for hearing some stories about family members of one or two of my friends or classmates. And then there was this movie.

I watched Rain Man for the first time when I was 13, I think. And I thought it was funny. Well, up to about ¾ of it. And then it started to get more emotional, and I thought it was a great drama. It challenged something in me, and it felt good. But when I watched it again, I thought it was funny, again. The way Ray acted/behaved, it was hilarious. It became one of my favorite movies.

“Are you taking any prescription medication?”

“What?!”

“That means he likes you.”

Up to that point I watched the movie and for many years after I haven’t met people with any kinds of mental disorders, and I never heard of autism and of what it does to people. I had no family members who had a mental illness. I knew no friends who had it either. If I saw a person on a street or on a bus who was exhibiting a strange behavior, which was rare back in Russia, I just told myself they were “not all there,” and I just stayed away and didn’t make eye contact.

So, Ray The Rain Man was funny. To me he wasn’t one of thousands of people in the world afflicted with a debilitating disorder. He was just one unique fellow from a movie. Good story. Funny movements and peculiarities.

“Hey Raymond, am I using you? Am I using you, Raymond?”

“Yeah.”

“Shut up! He is answering a question from a half hour ago!”

Time passed. I finished school, changed work places, battled addiction, and came to work at a downtown city homeless shelter where I witnessed people behaving in every way imaginable. There was addiction, grief, loss, behavioral issues, and there was mental illness at all stages experienced by people from near all walks of life. I worked at that field and some other similar ones for over ten years. Around the time I started that journey, my brother started experiencing serious issues which were eventually diagnosed as the bipolar disorder.

Now, as I said earlier, I changed jobs again and now work with folks, among whom there are people diagnosed with autism. And though it hadn’t happened before, on the second day of working there, I recalled Rain Man movie. The scenes from it started jumping out at me. I was amazed how little I knew about something that I was directly dealing with. So often I had no idea how to be of help to my patients, sort of glad that I was not a nurse or a doctor.

“What is the issue?”

“He lives in his imaginary world.”

“OK, but are there any issues?”

So, I went and bought the movie to watch it yet again, because it’s been a long while. Had a great time watching it, but it didn’t feel the same. I mean, it was still fun, but it wasn’t hilarious anymore. Now that I have experienced, from a spectator and mental health worker point of view, the tiny bit of what people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder go through, there wasn’t as much roaring laughter out of me as it used to be. I then knew he was not a peculiar funny guy. He was one of so many rain men and women who were terrified of the world around them if one small thing was altered, rules changed, new people appeared. Ray as played by Dustin Hoffman was the person with a high functioning form of autism, but in my eyes, he still suffered, which is something I didn’t realize for a very long time.

“Raymond, do you know what autistic is?”

“Yeah.”

“You know that word?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you autistic?”

“I don’t think so. No. Definitely not.”

Still, I had a great time watching it and telling my partner who watched it with me about my few experiences at work regarding the behaviors Ray was exhibiting on the screen.

This time the movie has taught me something else about mental health and people. We’re all vulnerable. We are imperfect, and we hate to show it. We can be affected by events out of our control so often and so quick. And this movie, although I didn’t realize that for a long time, showed me that. The fragile sides of human personality. The sides that push away our inner desire to be caring for others. And that when we don’t understand something, we laugh at it. That laughter can be endearing, but it could be hurtful, especially if one misunderstood stranger is faced with a group of the ones not in the know. Now because I know how addiction affects mental health, I can understand how people can feel when they are ostracized, laughed at, shamed, and persecuted for something they have no power over.

Thank you yet again, Levinson/Hoffman/Cruise team. I learned something again. And thanks for the laugh again, but with no roar this time.

“Well, Raymond, aren’t you more comfortable in your favorite K-Mart clothes?”

“Tell him, Ray.”

“K-Mart sucks.”


Quotes used in the post are from the movie, tracked by memory or copied from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095953/quotes/?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu . Front image was copied from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095953/?ref_=tt_mv . thank you.

 

old life

life-doesnt-get-easier-you-just-get-stronger-me-now-3675925Somebody at the meeting said they heard others being regretful and remorseful, talking about wanting to have their old life back, before they started getting in trouble. The response to them was: “Why would you want your old life back? Clearly, it didn’t work!”

That is such a good insight. Change is something we all go through, and I think I won’t be the only one to say that not many people love change. Change brings stress and vulnerability, new challenges, just as much as it brings change in vision, new friends, and a promise of fresh start. Lots of anxious times, even if half the time positive.

As for old stuff, like a suitcase full of decrepit clothes and no longer relevant ideas, it needs to stay in the past. And not only it deserves to stay there, we deserve a life in which the old stays exactly that way, old.

There are some things you don’t want to forget. Your grandparents, the memories of childhood friends, and first love. And the recollections of making through what you thought you’d never be able to do. And the reminders of how badly you can mess up if you don’t keep yourself in check. Those are not to be forgotten, because it made us what we were once, and they can still teach us something.

At the same time, the relationships that didn’t work, behaviors that didn’t help, dreams we didn’t work for to make real, – all those belong in the trash or in the fire pit. There is no use for them. Let them go.

I will not say a word about the easiness of letting go, because I often have a hard time with that one myself. But important thing is we want to let go, and we try to do so. Trying it like we mean it – that certainly counts. Change will make its walk through our lives, whether we are trying or not, only when we didn’t, we’ll know. The old have stays in the past for a reason, just like what we have now is for a reason. And if life passes us by, that’s our own fault, I think.


the image was copied from https://me.me/i/life-doesnt-get-easier-you-just-get-stronger-me-now-2305673 thank you.

Poking the Bear

poohWhen you say, “Don’t tell me what to do.”

When you think you know everything, but keep it inside,

Thinking how much smarter you are than the average bear.

When reality stares you in the face

In a manner you cannot ignore,

And you still do things your way,

Which is the opposite.

When you hang out with people

That always led you to a wrong situation and bad health.

When you know what you should be doing

Because you witnessed and felt the benefits of it,

And yet you go for the immediate gratification,

The satisfaction of here and now.

When you walk away and slam the door, knowing you are wrong,

Cultivating your anger

So that you will “show them” one day.

When you are shown a better way to live

And you spit on it

And live the way that always hurt you, –

That is when you are poking your alcoholic bear

Who will wake up and destroy your peace of mind

And raise hell in a manner

That you still haven’t learned

To safely deal with.


the image was copied from http://musingsfromanotherstar.blogspot.com/2014/09/winnie-the-pooh-is-a-redshirt.html thanks.