pointing it in

2745655_0Last year in college I still had no clue what I’m going to do with my life. Following an advice of the school counselor, I figured the smartest thing was to volunteer in a couple of places around the city and then see. I wanted to go change the world, you know. Ha.

I started working at a shelter for people who had no place to call their own. My experience was many people needed sobriety just as much as home. But to get better they needed to act accordingly to what the program of recovery was telling them. I worked with some of these people and the more it went, the more it seemed to me they were not ready, for any recovery or sobriety. It appeared they didn’t care to hear.

It took me years to realize they did hear. But besides the recovery message of care and support they also heard other stuff. They were homeless and thirsty. Every day was a day of coping and surviving. Not just surviving the street, looking over your shoulder, sleeping with one eye open, knowing your friends, knowing surroundings and places where to eat, shower, score whatever you need.

No. Surviving the day of projected blaming. Finger pointing. Many of them lived a lifetime of lecturing. I never pointed finger at them. Not on the outside. But I did it in my head. I guess they felt it. They listened to me and my coworkers, but they were not hearing because the life outside of them was not hearing them. Them and their inside story.

I worked with the people for eight years and those I could reach, some of their lives got better, because me and my colleagues heard them and showed it. We couldn’t change them against their will, but we showed them we heard. Being an addict makes you relate to another addict. We’ve brought empathy and relating to the table, instead of salvation. And we’ve brought some food too. Carrot cake, you know.

I think I’m still a judgmental asshole, like many others out there (see? right there!) but I keep reminding myself of that, so I try to keep my inside finger pointing to a minimum. Even if  I don’t think it is, or I don’t mean it, it is still there, just like in this image I found for this post. Pointing fingers doesn’t do anyone any good, unless you show somebody which road to take when they asked about. Now, that’s a helpful thing to do.


image was copied from https://www.teepublic.com/fr/art-mural/2745655-uncle-sam-hand-pointing-funny-patriotic-government and put on it’s head by me. thanks.

What I Didn’t Know: Alcoholism, Recovery, and the Order of Things

tiger1There was a joke I heard in elementary school.

How many steps it takes to put a tiger in a fridge?

Don’t know. Why…

How many steps?

Don’t know.

Three steps. You open the fridge, put the tiger in, close the fridge. OK? Now, how many steps it takes to put an elephant in the fridge?

Three.

No. Four.

Why…

Look, you open the fridge, take the tiger out, put the elephant in, close the fridge. Done.

Why… would someone put poor animals in a fridge? Who knows. Bored school kids come up with even weirder concepts, I’m sure. Well, I know. I was one. I used to think of so many things and came up with so many ideas. Eventually though I found I had no one to share them with. And then, with the course of time, I started drinking. I liked the effect and I didn’t feel lonely when drunk. On contrary I was happy, and half the time when I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t so happy, so I kept up with the drinking. And then reality kept catching up with me to the point I drank way more often. And then I couldn’t afford it, yet I still did it. Then I started visiting doctors and taking medications to deal with the consequences of that behavior that I really didn’t want to let go of. Nothing seemed to help. Then I was recommended to do something different. As a result, I came to a room occupied by complete strangers who told me that what was happening to me was called Alcoholism.

I heard of alcoholism, but I had no knowledge of it. I thought that it was something that plagued middle aged and older men that often slept in a gutter after hanging around liquor stores, sometimes in small companies, begging or intimidating people for money they used to buy liquor. That was all I witnessed, and that was all I thought it was: drinking, being mean, smelling bad, nothing good came out of that. It never occurred to me I could become one of these people. I was responsible, clean, and had other things to do instead of loitering and being obnoxious. There seemed to be a massive difference between me and them.

I also didn’t know anyone who would prove me wrong, so I didn’t know who to ask when I started having questions. And my questions didn’t last long, because I saw everyone drinking, really, so I felt my behavior was socially accepted. When I started noticing problems arising from my drinking, I figured that was socially accepted too. It seemed to me I just needed to give it some time to normalize, and then after taking a small break, I could go back to drinking without issues.

By then time everybody including my family, employers, school instructors, girlfriends, and the little of friends that I had, – they all knew I had a problem. I was the only one who kept denying the seriousness of it. I thought I could find the way to normalize my behavior and attitude toward drinking alcohol.

The strangers in the room proved me wrong after I already proved myself wrong plenty of times. And they also told me there was a way of action that would help me overcome what I was battling. There were steps to be taken for that way to work.

I’ve heard about Steps and going to meetings, but it took me time to understand the importance of it. However, there was one thing that I took to heart right away in one of my first ten meetings. An elder man said that when you sit at home and think about not going to the meeting, your addiction is right next to you on the floor, and it’s doing push-ups, becoming stronger. It’s a good image and for many years I know it’s the truth, and I still remember it.

tiger2The strangers in the AA rooms taught me about relationships and patience. They opened my eyes to the reality of attaining serenity and the fact that it was not a rocket science to attain it. But there were Steps. Steps to everything. Just like with putting an elephant in the fridge. Open the door, take tiger out, put elephant in, close the door.

I also never heard of a word “resentment”, so they taught me. I wouldn’t be able to learn that without learning first that I was powerless over the behavior that I for a long time considered a blessing. Learning that took humility, and without that accepting the concept of letting go of resentment just don’t work for me.

Thanks to AA, I had my eyes opened to the fact that I had to take care of myself, because no one else would. They would want to, but most of them don’t even know where to start. No one really knows what’s going on behind anyone’s eyes. In disease and addiction no one really knows how you really feel. We don’t willingly talk about our problems. Sometimes even we don’t know what the hell is going on, while we watch it unfold. Then there are people who do know, and they can help, but my self-will-run-riot will mess everything up if I don’t take heed and allow for patience and consideration. Crap hits the fan sometimes, and if I don’t pay attention, the result is, as Henry Rollins wrote, “sometimes happens all the time”. I guess if there is anything I know, it’s that. But I still tend to ignore that at times.

Last fifteen years of living sober were great. I think I did more good than bad, and I’ve learned from more mistakes than I ever allowed myself to in the past. I walk forward, and I have to take steps to do so. It works better that way.


the images were copied from https://www.deviantart.com/uranimated18/art/Heather-Opens-the-Fridge-and-Finds-a-Tiger-759849788 and https://www.flickr.com/photos/16446760@N00/3295951347 thank you.

 

uniting passions

DentalCelebratedHornshark-smallA decade and a half ago there was something I could identify myself as – a rocker. I’m sure there were plenty of other social groups I could identify as: a human, a male, a student, Russian, a misanthrope, maybe. But as a rocker, I was fitting into a subculture that meant everything to me above all others listed above. I’ve been listening to metal and rock and everything that grooved and had fire and could break through the wall. I learned of the bands I liked, bought their music and shirts, and I went to their shows.

At the shows there were plenty of people who came there to see the bands, they shared my passion for the heavy and virtuoso guitar and drums music. Still though, I think they also came to get drunk, and although that was never my original idea, I still ended up getting drunk too.

It was because of that lifestyle that I eventually came to learn there was something else I could identify as – an alcoholic. Coming to that realization took some considerable effort to open eye and ears. And yet was thanks to that effort that I ended up being a sober alcoholic. And I loved it that way. The reason for loving it was me now being a part of another group, only I don’t know if that counts as a subculture. They call themselves a fellowship.

Alcoholics Anonymous are a kind of a group which if I came to their meeting I’d always be welcomed, no matter how many days or years of sobriety I’ve had and there would be no judgement. So they were even more welcoming that the rockers, and this crowd was much healthier. We were united by the passion of staying sober, living it positively and not making it an end, rather a means to a positive and spiritually prosperous end – life of freedom.

I never gave up being a rocker. I still collect music and go to shows and buy shirts. Only now I do it sober and banging head soberly, I think, is more fun – you are less likely to throw up.


the Amon Amarth GIF was copied from https://gfycat.com/gifs/search/amon+amarth+headbang and thank you. keep rocking!

Beat it in

nice+old+elevator+1

Violence is not an answer.

Unless, maybe, when you are trying to make someone think. Think for the sake of saving their own life.

A member in the meeting said they had a conversation with a person who was struggling with making their younger relative see what they were doing with their life, throwing it all down the toilet due to being enslaved to substance abuse.

The mentioned member already had gone through their lot of troubles of making it through addiction in one piece. The family member knew nothing of the addiction, but they witnessed the toll it was taking on the younger one. Eventually the relative said “I wish I could beat the recovery into you” because he was shown how well abstinence worked in others.

I wish we could beat recovery into others. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Maybe micro-chipping would work one day. But then, what would the person learn? Recovery is not a one-time session. It’s a journey. You can’t get far, if you’ve learned nothing of how to take few initial steps.

I’ve heard someone else in a different meeting say “The recovery elevator is broken. You will have to take the stairs.” That’s funny, and wise. But also, it’s too merciful. The truth is the recovery elevator doesn’t exist. We have to take stairs all the time. Although, sometimes we wish we could have an elevator like that to save lives in cases of emergency. There’s plenty of those. And you can’t beat it into them. They have to really want it to give all they’ve got, no matter what anyone thinks. That’s the way I’ve learned it. And thousands of those like me.


the elevator image was copied from https://www.saveourelevators.com/ thanks.

know nothing

u3w7an48ky641A member at the recent meeting shared that there was a massive difference in how they felt about recovery between one and seven years of sobriety. It was not just about the amount of sober time. It was the difference between knowing all and knowing nothing.

I can relate. At age one in AA I did think I knew quite a bit about the program and with that, about the world around me. Around that time it happened so that I did a little lecture about it to a Russian sobriety program on their request. I also wrote an academic paper about it. I went to lots of meetings,  talked to people, and it felt like I knew the important stuff, and I guess I assumed I knew more than that. It was about actual alcoholic sobriety and serenity to me then. I thought that if I knew a lot about sobriety, I was doing well.

I wasn’t though. As it says, without the work, the faith is dead. It was true, as it turned out, because in my first two years of sobriety, although I was working on steps, I was doing it way too slow, and other than that, I was doing no work. Just going to meeting was enough for me, and I didn’t catch the moment of change when I started feeling stagnant in life and sobriety. I had to eventually change groups and once I did that, I found there was more to the program. I joined groups of people visiting recovery houses and intox facilities, introducing my group and AA methods of recovery to those who were in treatment. I started writing more about sobriety. That’s when I started feeling I am doing well. Perhaps that happened because I realized AA was more than just a program of going to meetings. It was also about relationships and connecting. It turned out I seriously needed to work on those things, and although I was willing, I didn’t always have a good guide. I only discovered that years later.

As time marches on, I look at the world and at how people communicate and treat each other, and I feel I know nothing about life. Good thing is, I still know how the program of recovery works. Writing about it, just like now, and communicating with people whose opinion I value, helps me to keep afloat when it feels like the world is going even more mad. It seems to me that sometimes knowing nothing (or feeling that you know nothing) can be healing in a sense that all you need to do is keep walking forward and do simple things that you know work, and that’s how you get by.


the image was copied from reddit.com and circumcised by me. thanks.

How to Read A Book

ent_readwalk_0605How do I read a book? From the beginning. One page at a time. While it goes fun, I don’t care for how many pages are left to go through. Then that may change, and I start looking at page numbers and count how many days it may take me to finish the book. Still, though, no matter how much I’m planning to read it, I don’t get to completing it unless I go one page at a time. If I cheat and skip parts, I miss something and then I find myself confused about things not making sense.

How do you walk a road toward a location? Not drive, or ride a bike, – walk? Hopefully, the way I do it. That is, one step at a time, putting one foot in front of the other. Watching your step is also highly recommended. I don’t remember if I was told how to read the book the right way, but I sure was told how to walk. It works well just the way I was told. I usually keep up a good stature and good pace, and hey, I get where I need to, even if the weather conditions aren’t as favorable as I may have wanted.

How do I live sober? Not how you live sober, or how you should live sober. That is none of my business. I have some ideas to share, though. Nothing crazy. It works just the same way as with reading a book and walking down the road. It even can be tightly related to those two. It is a one step at a time kind of a thing. Sometimes it is a foot, sometimes a couple inches. Sometimes it is a day, but in the beginning it is more of an hour. One in front of the other. When I went one step without booze a day it was easier to focus without too many thoughts, fears, and doubts attached. One step at a time, guarded by a “thank you” at wake-up time, and the other at bedtime. That’s what AA taught me. They taught me well. It works. Step by step progress may not seem like a good ride, but it is, because there are so many examples and metaphors I can find to put “one step at a time” path of living in front of you. That’s right, path of living, because everything that is to stand strong and last works that way.


the image was copied from http://entertainment.time.com/2012/06/06/a-book-lovers-guide-to-reading-and-walking-at-the-same-time/ modified by me for the sake of Saturday morning goofballingness. thank you.

drink u pretty

Godwin Austen (K2) - 8611 mHe sang

He couldn’t drink the girl pretty

She really wasn’t it, I guess.

I tried to drink her pretty,

And I failed too.

Her name was Life,

Her last name was On-its-terms.

Must be French.

I was stubborn though.

I tried, and I tried, and I tried.

She wasn’t. Stubborn, I mean.

She just was.

She sat there like a rock

And smiled sadly,

Probably hoping I’d get it,

But it took me a while:

Years of anger,

Brain cells wasted in millions,

And hope in fellow men – in shovels,

Only it wasn’t their fault.

False hopes and unrealistic expectations did it.

I cared for things that wasn’t there,

Although all that time I had people

Telling the truth to my face,

Truth I didn’t like.

I always thought Plan B would work,

But I got to letter Z and I was still profoundly fucked.

Now I look at the sky with eyes sober

As the morning dew,

(unless the air got drunk on a whim)

And say “thank you” a lot.

I still try,

You know, coffee it pretty.

But I think it’s a different kick –

No one gets hurt,

And the bills get paid.

She still sits there like a rock,

But I know her smile is happier now.


the front image was copied from https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/03/k2-last-problem-of-the-himalayas/554618/. thanks.

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

 

_______________

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.

Eating at the Bar

oSo, we went out for a dinner. Girlfriend felt more uncomfortable than I did.

We had no reservation. We didn’t think we needed one on a Saturday afternoon, figured the place was large enough to fit in all… well, were wrong about that one. The only spots available were at the bar. My girlfriend, knowing of my life in sobriety, turned around to me and said that we could go somewhere else. I said it was not an issue. She asked me a couple more times if I was sure about that, and I said that I was sure. We were seated at the bar. Opposite of us stood a fridge full of booze. To my side – an altar of booze. Right in front of us the bartender was mixing a series of cocktails. I’m gonna be OK, I told myself and to my girlfriend who was twisting and turning on her bar stool and looking way less serene than I was.

We ordered food and then there was not much to do for a bit. We had some small talk. There was a party going on behind our backs. The bartender was fixing a massive jar of a cocktail. I don’t what it was. I used to chug beer and vodka and occasionally a wine, but I never had money for cocktails, so I am rather illiterate in that regard. But it was a captivating sight. So many shot glasses of whiskey looking substance was poured into that jar, I’ve lost count. I was really hoping there would be more than ten people drinking that thing. I was seriously worrying for those folks, whoever they were.

Overhead the TV screen was showing a hockey game. I don’t care for hockey, or sports altogether, but I had to look somewhere but at the booze all around me, so watched the game for a bit. When the commercial of alcohol came on, I had to look away. And to my surprise I realized that besides the alcohol, beers and wines, the fridge opposite us also contained a shelf full of sodas. On the lower shelf stood a four-liter jug of milk. Man, was I happy to see that jug! I just looked at it, and then at my girlfriend, and I felt happy J I wasn’t compelled to drink before that, and I didn’t feel intimidated by the walls of alcohol, my world was not going upside down, threatened by a compulsion or temptations, but the milk certainly provided some reassurance of some kind.

Thinking of it, I recalled several times when I’d head to a show and it would be held at a bar. In fact, those were so many. In the book of our guidance and inspiration it says we should be careful about where we go and if it is at a place where alcohol is served, what is our purpose of being there? And what an alcoholic music fan to do? Well, bang your head, or slam, or sit there and enjoy the slow dance, or what have you, but I never felt threatened by the presence of alcohol, although the people sometimes did cause some trouble under the influence.

However, no, I do remember a couple of times within the first three years of sobriety when I did feel intimidated by the mass of booze in my sight. First time, I opened the door to the club and the bar was right in front of the doors, no farther than two steps! I was shocked for a couple of seconds, but then the person at the door asked me to pay for the entry and was I ever happy to comply!

Second time it was a bit more intense. During a show at a different place I was looking around the place, at the crowd, at the stage, and then I looked closer to me and saw the bar. The lady at the bar looked quite attractive and with her, the whole bar seemed to shine brighter than the stage with all the strobes. I couldn’t look away. It was a rather amazing experience. I didn’t see the bartender anymore, just the bottles. Many. Shiny. Shit! I was sober for enough time to know that wanting booze and getting it would in turn get me in nothing but trouble, and I kept telling myself that. So, what I did was slide my gaze along all those wonderfully looking objects and move it up the ceiling. It took some time, but it worked. From there I moved my sight all along the ceiling toward the stage and lowered it to see the musicians rocking away. Form then on, the whole concert went fine without issues. Each time I am at that venue, though, I recall that incident, and I feel better and reassured, somehow, each time I look around and, all of a sudden, saw the bar. No more ‘freeze’ incidents like that occurred.

So, that latest time after being placed at the bar, we ate, paid for our food, thanked the very accommodating and welcoming bartender that served us, and fucked off. Yes, we were both very ready to go, even though the service and the food itself was quite good.

What have I learned from that? If there is a lesson in everything, then “take on an opportunity and respond with your best”, I guess. Man, was I happy to see that milk jar. I think there is always a milk jar somewhere when I go through times I am not particularly happy to go through. Hope it is there for you too.


the image was copied from https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/st-james-place-bar-and-grill-goose-creek?select=lzAQ_f8F996Kn-lkGy9UDQ and messed with by me. thank you.

 

Trapped Under Bed

22-under-bedOne of my AA group members was celebrating birthday the other day and he mentioned something regarding finding spirituality. He always opposed it, proudly considering himself an atheist.

And then he came to AA. And he still resisted spirituality. And he suffered because of that, knowing he should have given himself a break, yet he kept pushing it away for that’s what he did all his life. The struggle of inviting the spirituality in his life and resisting it at the same time was all consuming and affecting all the areas of his life. The metaphor he used for that time was being trapped under the bed. He wasn’t in his bed from where he could see so much in comfort, but instead he was under. Not only he was stuck in there as the bed pressed on him, he also didn’t have a very good vision of what was in front of him. He was trying to look out and see much more of the room, and out of the room – the house, and out of the house – to see the world around it, and yet he wasn’t allowing himself to do so. Once he realized that’s what was happening to him, the desire to push forward multiplied. And he… well, he crawled out in to the world, so to speak.

I cannot fully sign under these words. I was lucky to have discovered spirituality in high school, and although maybe not fully, I understood what it was and how it was making my life fuller. I was a loner, I believed in things I couldn’t see. I wrote stories about things others laughed at. I listened to music many people around me didn’t understand. Pagan rites of my native country were not something that a lot of people cared at the sunset of the 20th century. But to me it was the world rediscovered, and there was a spirit of wonderful kind, and its inhabitants danced, and they taught me things – of how we used to be, how we were simple and open, and how we could be so much better.

Still, many doors were closed to discover the Spirit and wisdom of simpler things, because I was influenced so much by the utilitarian world. Mythology of the Norse and ancient Greek, not what it stood for then, in old times, but what it taught, what it warned about, – these things were not something that concerned the world that worshipped money and technology. Information, selling it, expanding it, all of it was the major focus. And I opposed it so much that I started closing the doors on all of the real world. I started refusing to accept the life on its terms. It caused me a lot of grief. Alcohol became the permanent solution to that problem. Or so I thought.

Luckily, one day I woke up. By that time, I did a lot of damage to my mental health, so restoring the balance took years. But my beliefs in the spirit world, the wisdom, the care for simpler things, that didn’t get affected. The spiritual understanding of the world only got stronger, I think, because when I did wake up, the spirit within me stood stronger than before. The heart was thirsty for knowing things that rang true. The ears were open to hear the stories of others that taught so much. The eyes refused to shut, for there was much to see, right in front of me, and all around. The room, the house, and the outside, as much as it stretched.


the image was copied from https://film-grab.com/2010/09/29/millers-crossing/22-under-bed/ thank you.