11 July 2020

LIVING HAND TO MOUTH WAS ALWAYS ABOUT ALCOHOL

(garythomas.com)

Whatever I made in tips bartending was immediately consumed in alcohol when my shift ended. For me, living hand to mouth was always about alcohol and never about food. I was never really starving to death until two or three relapses ago. Living hand to mouth over alcohol. Alcohol. Borrowing money for alcohol. Living on borrowed time. For alcohol. I would seemingly never grow up. For alcohol.
Psychotherapy, as the joke goes, works so well for many alcoholics because delving back into early childhood is such a short trip.

08 July 2020

Covid-19's Effect on My Recovery from a Substance Use Disorder (& Vice Versa)

(futureoflife.org)

Covid-19, in untold ways, is potentially robbing the futures of those who today are called asymptomatic. Science does not yet know the lingering side effects in the near or distant future that may appear within them, physically or psychologically.
Beyond unwittingly (or without care) spreading this contagion far and wide, they, and we (none of us) do not know what the future brings.
AS IF WE EVER DID.
Unintended and unknown consequences.
I circle the wagons around myself. The reasons for caution are many.
My gratitude for simply being alive (after surviving my addiction to alcohol, pneumonia, cancer and my encroaching old age) is fairly self-explanatory.
And now we are all faced with surviving Covid-19.
How odd that I am grateful for all of this. Viktor Frankl explains it well for me: "If there is meaning to life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.... Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation."
In Alcoholics Anonymous one often hears another call out that they are "a grateful recovering alcoholic." I did not understand that 'grateful' part clearly for the first dozen or so years of my recovery. Now, after surviving that and pneumonia and cancer and the world today as depicted by Covid-19, I'm beginning to understand that I did not know what I did not know back in my early recovery, but I'm beginning to know now that whatever the outcome, whatever the suffering that may ensue, I will get through all this as I did before again and again.
Finding strength in one recovery prepares one for the next.
Covid-19 is but another lesson to be learned and for this I must say I'm grateful. I've spent another day alive.
Infinite outcomes await.
I will not speculate.
I wait.
I'm in recovery (and am grateful).
It turns out that Life is Good.
I did not know that I did not know that I could and would pull through.
Imagine that.
Imagine.
*****
May you also enjoy my Autobiographical Fiction, ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal
On Amazon.com. Book it here: http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO 



06 July 2020

[OVERDOSE ACCELERATION]: STORM, HAROLD JAMES, - 15, of Pine Hills, PA., passed away unexpectedly on July 3, 2020.

(medicalpress.com)

The name, of course, has been changed to protect the innocence of the young man, now dead of an overdose. Let the drug be anonymous, too. And the family, friends and future of this boy-man.
Let it all be anonymous. The future that died with him. Anonymous.
"Suspected overdoses nationally jumped 18 percent in March, 29 percent in April and 42 percent in May, data from ambulance teams, hospitals and police shows." - The Washington Post
The blood from June (and now July) will trickle in slowly, too. 
Let an intravenous drip measure all of this, like an ancestral method of measuring time, of lives lost. 
All this. All of it is prelude to a post I wrote some time ago and completes this post for me. It really says all I have to say about this matter. Draw your own conclusions. 
I have to stop, but here it is anyway:
*****************************
“The Tomb of the Anonymous Addict”

Sometimes
walking down the street
you think you hear the sounds of leaves scuttling along,
but these are the plans, hopes, dreams of the dead.
Wind barely whispering over the green lips
of empty bottles,
syringes puncturing the silence in their stillness.
Sentences gasping for a last breath,
forever unfinished.
The Tomb of the Anonymous Addict
is really many tombs in many doorways, further down anonymous valleys than any still alive have ever ventured.
No such monument truly exists.
It's undedicated,
the dead remains unidentified.
It is truly unnamed and unguarded.
It tires me,
this Tomb of the Anonymous Addict.
It exists in my mind only. 
And it makes me weary.
*******************
Rest in Peace, Harold James Storm, whoever and wherever you are.

05 July 2020

BECOMING UNBROKEN


Sometimes habits are hard to break until you yourself are broken.
That is the past, the past that is in your head.
The future is in your hands and you are becoming unbroken.
Breathe in. It costs too much to do nothing. Breathe out. You cannot live your life in these trenches. Breathe deep.
Breathe in, then slowly out.
You did not drink today.
Success is at your fingertips.
And in your footsteps, your heartbeat.
You can do this. Others have.
Millions have.
Life is change, all about change.
You have changed since the start of this paragraph.
*****
"No man steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." - Heraclitus
*****
And there.
You have changed again.
Habits are hard to break.
But you are becoming unbroken.
Breathe in.
Breathe deep.
Then slowly out.
We did not drink today.
*******************

12 June 2020

16 Years Sober: June 16, 2020


(commonwealthclub.org)

****************
The smallest of notes (ha-ha!) is that June 16th, 2020 marks my 16th year of continuous sobriety, preceded by 8 years of perpetual relapse and 30 years of blackout drinking (50,000 plus drinks really do add up) before that.
Okay.
That's looking backwards.
I admit it, but this birthday (of sorts) has refreshed my memories.
I could go on and on, but let me delineate a few of my more prominent moments of reflection:
1) What about Covid-19, the protests of racial injustice sparked by George Floyd's death and staggering unemployment? What if I were newly sober today, confronted with greater unpredictability than I've seen in my lifetime? Would I be able to accumulate 16 years of sobriety?
It's an "If Elephants Could Fly" kind of thing, I know, but I'd have to guess, if I were now the person I was when I first got sober, I'd likely have an even harder time of it under these present conditions.
You see, in my addiction, alcohol eventually separated me from anything that did not include more alcohol. In drunken oblivion, around 1996, in a solitary stupor, another nearly empty bottle at my feet, I thought to myself, nearly aloud, this four-word absurdity:
"I am a cup."
It's silly and a little bit painful to admit, but it seemed that the only purpose of my existence had been reduced to drinking, a drinking animal and barely that. I had become an empty container of a man.
"I am a cup" was a twist on the "Hamster Wheel of Addiction." But I was too immobilized to climb aboard that Wheel, so, if you will, fill my cup, fill my cup, please fill my cup.
Today, 16 years of sobriety has given me a certain degree of fortitude and I stand on solid ground. 16 years and one more day, I think I can do, but were this my first day sober, in the world as it is, would likely be a bridge too far.
A drink, too close.
Hope too much to even hope for...
WRONG! Enough of me looking back into a well of self-pity (almost fell in there!). I did it. Under any conditions, including these, you too can do this and I could do this again. Each day we all do it again. Each day we all need help, including me. Please include me. I am not immune. 16 and a day, a day, another day. Each and all.
************
Gratitude.
************
2) I need my Peeps.
It took me around 5 years to admit to myself that Social Connection is what brought me back to the Human Race. I began to understand that my most profound inspirations were off-shoots of my human experience, refined in isolation, perhaps, but learned and experienced in real time at moments of human connection (including science, literature, music, art and all the humanities).
**************************
Gratitude. Gratitude.
**************************
3) I'm not so afraid of the distant future, the near future, tomorrow, this moment, now.
*****
Oh, listen...
My air-conditioner just shut off.
Distant sounds seep through the walls.
I hear music playing and I am not so alone now, even in solitude. Human community is all around me. My perceptions are so very present now. I feel more in touch, more human. Through these walls, the distant drumming of music heals and connects me.
Solitude and a sense of belonging are still mine to feel in isolation.
Sober.
A drink is the most disturbing company I have ever kept.
***************************************
Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude.
***************************************
4) I have crossed the threshold of my 16th year.
"Welcome Home!" (I welcome myself home here, back on Planet Sober, Planet Earth).
Through these walls even the sound of human music is the music of the spheres. For now, all is sweet music, none my own, and I am home, at last, sweet 16.
P.S. I'm still a cup. Only now, the four-word reality is "Recovery, fill me up!"
*****
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."
*****
Passages in quotes are from my first book, All Drinking Aside: The Destruction, Deconstruction and Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal. This 17th year ahead involves working on my next book, Becoming Unbroken: Inside Addiction & Beyond Recovery. Inspiration is all around me.
Thank you & you & you & you.
One and All, Thank You!
Sweet 16.

10 May 2020

ADDICTION: (I'm getting a little choked up here) STRIVE

(crunchbase.com)

Addiction is a degenerative disease characterized by progressive and sometimes irreversible deterioration and partial or total loss of all matter of bodily organs and functions.
Some changes are unchangeable (I'm getting a little choked up here).
Imagine being the sibling, parent or child of someone deep into their addiction. Now imagine wondering if the addict doesn't stop now, they may be on the road to where certain changes to their brain will become permanent. It may be too late already, you think.
You know that the addict or alcoholic is still using because with your own eyes you see that they have been slowly dying. You are glad when they get arrested because you know that when they are behind bars, their disease has also been arrested. It's not living, but it's not dying either. You squeeze a little hope out of this jail cell interruption. This is wearing on you, has been wearing you down for years now. Your hopes are slowly eroding, hoping for the best, but beginning to expect the worst.
Each time, each relapse, each arrest, each drama more like the countless times before. Hope itself has become degenerative.
Unwillingly, you are swept up in your user's addiction too.
You, too, will now need help.
Whether you can feel it yet or not, you are becoming the victim of a victim of addiction. Twice removed from reality you may begin to wonder about those around you. Are they becoming a victim of a victim of a victim? Thrice removed.
Addiction spreads outward from the human pool, infecting the waters.
None will be untouched.
These waters have become dark and silent.
You have long felt that everything you do and/or don't do has somehow become part of the problem.
"You didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't cure it."
You'll hear this in an Al-Anon meeting. The 3 C's. Cause, Control, Cure. "You didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't cure it."
There are no 100% right or easy answers. Every situation is different. Every person is different.
It is easy to forget that Change is possible.
"Addiction spreads outward from the human pool, infecting the waters. None will be untouched.
These waters have become dark and silent."
*****
"Hope is still possible," I tell you.
You are reluctant. You've heard it all before, from the addict, from others in recovery, from deep within your own heart (I'm getting a little choked up here).
Change is possible.
I've seen it before.
I warn you that I've seen people suffer permanent brain damage. Suicide. Complete and utter hopelessness. But I have seen change, too. The possibility of change. The reemergence of hope after the smallest hope seemed nothing less than foolish. 
I have seen too, that recovery may miraculously spread outward from the human pool, purifying the waters. All may begin to heal. These waters may become restorative and resilient.
*****
"It is not the most intellectual or the strongest of species that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself."- Charles Darwin
*****
These are the waters in which we find ourselves. These are the waters of addiction and these also are the waters of recovery. Every flick of our fins may move us towards the Beauty of Recovery and away from the complicit and degenerative qualities of Addiction. 
Swim in the direction of Recovery and away from the progressive, downward pull of Addiction. There are 10,000 ways forward. 
Find your way forward because "nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."
Recovery is possible, doable, beautiful.
Strive.
Strive on.
It is the least, the most and sometimes the only thing that we can do.
Strive!
*****
ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal
On Amazon.com by this same author. Book it here: http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO 
*****

18 January 2020

BECOMING UNBROKEN: Waves of Recovery*


"Some people who survive a life-altering disorder or experience develop special sensitivities, insights, and skills to help others similarly afflicted." - William L. White
*****
Striving to motivate others is fodder for my own recovery. Brick by brick, a life in recovery is built. Fast and slow, in uncertain measure, the days go by and years of recovery are built. 'It takes a village to raise a child' and I could not have been raised out of addiction (SUD Substance Use Disorder) by my own bootstraps alone.
I encourage courage because courage will be necessary.
Shared Courage was my Gateway Drug to Recovery.
My celebration is solemn, quiet and quieting.
Delete the scientific jargon and the religious jargon and pretty much the only thing left, for me, has been others. By myself alone, I am lost, or will and would become lost again.
I live in a perpetual feedback loop of recovery. No alphabet soup of the letters of diplomas or sworn testimonials by people of faith are enough alone to keep me sober.
Connection is key.
Recovery is constructed from the debris of the persistent pummeling that addiction has been. Recovery constructs itself out of nothingness.
*****
This short post is a single wave of recovery. I think of it as a single inhalation and exhalation. It is one continuous brushstroke forever repeated.
*****
Recovery is life itself to me.
*****
I will express another breath of it tomorrow or soon after.
For me, today, this is enough.
Becoming Unbroken: Waves of Recovery.
This single wave of recovery has broken on a sober shore.
And of this, I am sure: each sober day brings me closer to Becoming Unbroken.
*****
*I think, perhaps, my second book begins right here. To read my first, ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction and Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal, click here: http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO
For thousands of Recovery Tweets: twitter.com/JimAnders4

21 December 2019

"The Destruction, Deconstruction and Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal"


(en.wikipedia.org)

In the far-flung future, when I will have written and rewritten this post several times, it will have become more refined, sculptured, recognizable. Memory of its original contents will have been altered in each subsequent remembering.
That's part of my point.
Let me proceed in rough-hewn form.
*****
The Dilophosaurus pictured here is a fairly complete fossil.
Not so the remains of the bones of memories from my drunken days.
Like the children's puzzle book, "Where's Waldo?," I would have to do much searching to reconstruct my 30 years of drinking into a recognizable form. 
The skeletal remains of my drunken days were incomplete. 
I was broken.
Addiction breaks everyone.
Those who remain have much reconstruction to do to put together a clean, sober and survivable sense of self, a life worth living.
*****
Go back to the title of this post, "The Destruction, Deconstruction and Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal." 
What do destruction, deconstruction and reconstruction have in common? Like any fan of "Where's Waldo?" might advise you, "Keep Looking!"
It's simple. The word "STRUCTURE" is buried deep (or not so deeply) within each of these words.
*****
Alcohol destroyed my life (structure destroyed).
What little was left would have to be held up to the light of day, examined for clues as to how it could have gone so well for so long until "by the time I had a reason to stop drinking, reason no longer had anything to do with it." 
I would have to deconstruct my past addiction to construct a life fully in recovery.
*****
Point to make: I did not even see the word "STRUCTURE" as the unifying element underlying my book's subtitle when it was first published. Such an awareness took time. 
Recovery, for me, has been, ultimately, about structure.
Strive on! 
*****
All Drinking Aside: The Destruction, Deconstruction and Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal.
It's beginning to make sense to me now.
I hope it serves you well as a tool in your Recovery Toolbox.
*****
ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal
On Amazon.com. Book it here: http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO 

03 December 2019

Bipolar Disorder, Crystal Meth (& lest we forget... My Alcoholism)

"Bipolar disorder can be characterized by extreme mania followed by dark depression - but so can using crystal meth."- David Sheff in Clean, p. 242.
*****
My daily intake of alcohol followed a wide curve, a roller-coaster much as David Sheff expresses in the quote, above. Up, then down, Up, then down, my pattern of use and misuse continued for me emotionally, long after all alcohol was drained from my system. 
The first few drinks of alcohol elevated me until their accumulated effect was to bring me down. Up, Down, Pass Out, Come To. This pattern repeated itself daily for 30 years.
If three separate sheets of graph paper are drawn showing the up and down cycles of bipolar disorder, crystal meth use and alcoholism, they might (minus words of explanation) easily be mistaken for each other.
It's no wonder when I first got sober that I was misdiagnosed as having a bipolar disorder.
Long after a ship's engines are shut off, it will coast forward in the water under its own momentum before it slows to a stop.
After 30 years of daily drinking, the ups and downs produced by alcohol continued in my early sobriety. 
",,, extreme mania followed by dark depression" is only the slightest exaggeration of my worsening 30 year ride on a sea of alcohol.
*****
Stigma slows the treatment and recovery of these 3 disorders and a boatload of other disorders that I have not included here.
Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. To each and all.
No matter what boat you're on or off or in or out or under or around or through.
Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.
*****
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."
*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
*****
You may also enjoy my Autobiographical Fiction, ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal
On Amazon.com. Book it here: http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO 

07 October 2019

The Symbolic Emergence of a New & Sober Self (at JBRC)

(drugfoundation.org.nz)

"At my second two-week Rehab at the Institute for Human Development [now John Brooks Recovery Center (JBRC)], ... high on Librium as we detoxify on alcohol and other drugs, one guy gave five or six of us a new haircut, one after the other. That was the symbolic start of the emergence of a new and sober self for me. An aboriginal ritual. 'Today you are a man. Free of alcohol and drugs. Go forth. Build a new life.' None of that was said aloud, of course, and the symbol of the haircut and the reality of the haircut were quite different things.
Am I splitting hairs?
Yes, but wisely (Har-de-har-har hair)."
*****
And 'build a new life' indeed, I did.
*****
Without OTHERS, my Recovery would be un-doable & un-sustainable. In no time flat, I would be replaced by a Relapse (and unknown consequences leading up to and likely including death).
With the help of OTHERS (this is a very partial list) these are some of the stops on my trip to my life of Recovery:
JBRC (twice)
AtlantiCare Hospital (countless times)
Homeless Buddies in & out of Recovery (homeless twice)
Atlantic City Detox (back-in-the-day, twice)
Lakewood Hospital (extended stay)
Atlantic City Rescue Mission (twice, once sober, once not)
A.A.
N.A.
Al-Anon...
and with a Host of OTHERS, I have remained Clean & Sober....
Let me end by saying "THANKS!" to You and All the Many OTHERS without whom I would not even be here today!!!
*****
Recovery is doable, sustainable, irreplaceable.
Share the Riches of your Recovery.
I'd like to suggest that you consider donating some of your time &/or money to a favorite charity. Help others in the Emergence of Their New & Sober Selves.
(I am a John Brooks Recovery Center volunteer and have donated $10 to Jim's Birthday Fundraiser for John Brooks Recovery Center - A New Jersey Nonprofit Corporation).
Share the Wealth.
*****
Pause....
Move forward....
Give back....
Share.
*****
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."
*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
*****
The quote at the beginning of this post is from my Autobiographical Fiction: ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO