addiction, Podcast, Recovery, Uncategorized

Since Right Now.

Got to join the guys at SinceRightNow.com this past Wednesday 10/5 for a chat about recovery, music, yoga, love, cross-stitching and…well…yeah, it was a good time. You should check out the link below on Soundcloud:
https://soundcloud.com/klen-and-sobr/312-djfm-jon-g-djfm

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It’s not the only time I’ve been on Since Right Now…have a listen to my debut back in 2014!
https://soundcloud.com/klen-and-sobr/episode-18-jon-g-my-last-stand-dj-fm

That’s all for now…enjoy the rest of your weekend!

JG

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addiction, Recovery

#RecoveryPosse

The one, the only, the G.O.A.T…originally posted to tumblr August 7, 2014:
http://djfmdotcom.tumblr.com/post/94124796592/rp

 

Who says recovery can’t be fun? (or viral). Made these last night and will continue adding to them. Please share, I don’t care where 🙂

FYI: this is what graphic designers in recovery do when they’re really bored 🙂

LETS DO THIS #RECOVERYPOSSE!

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(RIP Gene Wilder)

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addiction, Consequences, Recovery

High Bottom, Hard Luck, Low Life.

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A near death experience will humble you.

I didn’t choose to overdose. I simply ingested the amount of drugs I thought would sufficiently anesthetize me from the emotions I was feeling in the moment.

I spent four days in the hospital. Multiple doctors asked me afterward if I had done it on purpose, if I was having suicidal thoughts. I assured them all I did not, because it was true. I had a chance to bounce back, but I kept on drinking and using as soon as I had been released. I had no respect for the chemicals I was putting in my body. I had no inkling of how close I’d come to death’s door. I didn’t care.

My experience of alcohol, drugs, misuse, abuse, addiction and physical dependence has always revolved around catastrophe and desperation. An innocent good time gone horribly wrong. A party at one person’s house suddenly transformed into a 3-day vacation from life resulting in panic and chaos afterwards. And no matter how bad things got, a complete unwillingness to stop. There were no in-betweens or burning bush experiences for me. I rocked it until the wheels fell off and kept going.

By contrast, sobriety seems to be the new “movement du jour” these days – and I welcome it. What I don’t welcome is the blanket assertion of some within the movement that because they chose to stop (as in, their biology had not yet betrayed them), everyone should be able to do likewise. You are powerful! Simply follow my 5 step plan to a new you!

It’s classic human nature. Experience X was like this for me, therefore it must be like this for everyone else. In the context of recovery, I’ve seen 12-steppers do it to newcomers, saying things like “you may as well just go get drunk right now if you don’t follow this program!” A sort-of twisted reverse psychology wrapped in a backhanded insult that suggests their own way of life is threatened. New school sobriety’s response is just equal and opposite.

And there is no middle ground. You are either utterly desperate and destitute and you better do work (or else), or you’re an appropriately dressed uptown someone who found enlightenment and walked away from “Substance D” cold turkey.

Being of sound mind and body at last, I get it. I feel like the sky is the limit some days and love the life I have today. But I also remember that at one point in time I had become a slave to the brutal changes I’d wrought in my own biology. Addiction is biological. Once your midbrain is hijacked to the point where self-preservation is disregarded, you are no longer in control. You are not powerful. It’s terrifying to me to think of it, and has made me cautious in a way that I’ve never been.

I did not simply wake up one morning and say to my mirror image, “Dear god these bags under my eyes make me look ten years older.” I didn’t roll over in bed and realize I was hungover (again) and say “Goddamn it, I’m late for work. Time for a change!” Being a musician and DJ certainly didn’t help. You’re surrounded constantly by enablers of all kinds.

Some people were able to do that, however – stop themselves before it was too late and right the ship. I hold no resentment toward such people, and wish I could’ve been one of them. In meetings, they are derogatorily referred to as “high-bottom addicts.” A kind of caste system within recovery. The new school sobriety movement adds yet another caste, one that seemingly looks down on anyone who applies the word “recovery” or “sobriety” to themselves – simply because they’d been able to hold onto their dignity and some of their social status after giving up their vices.

We desperately want to keep up appearances in this country. Our clothes must be “fabulous” – not so dressy that we appear uptight (“Today was a jeans and t-shirt day!”), not so casual that we couldn’t run the board meeting. Thanks to the democratization of technology, our selfies can and must be flawless. But not too flawless. Sterile like a pharmaceutical commercial but not so much that you can’t have a slight inkling of hipster chic. I’m edgy, dammit! *Snap!* Lord knows the power of dysfunction and codependence in American families have long lent themselves to secrecy and denial.

But addiction – the kind I dealt with in my own life – is messy. It is ugly and hard to Photoshop away, especially when you pass out drunk standing at a bus stop (this guy). For its part, the recovery community does itself no favors by forcing the “school of hard knocks” approach, an outdated idea of anonymity as social bullwark, and a rejection of 80 years of scientific method. As long as we continue to shoegaze, we’ll continue suffering from terminal uniqueness and miss the world turning.

When I was living in an Oxford House my first few months in recovery, I came home one day and began to pontificate on all my difficulties as newcomers sometimes do. Somewhere in the discussion I referred to myself as a “hard luck case,” which a housemate took issue with. “Jon G,” he said, “you a good dude, and I know that you been through some pretty bad shit from your view. But you ain’t no hard-luck case. I’ve seen hard luck cases, people with nothing, people running in the streets with no clothes and no food. You ain’t no hard-luck case.” So even my experience wasn’t the be-all end-all of rock-bottom. I had unconsciously created a caste for myself, and was judging everyone I thought was beneath me. It was a hard pill to swallow.

Addiction is a broad spectrum, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. For me, addiction will always be a desperate matter. My behavior took me to extremes that by any metric were beyond the pale. Quantifiably, measurably, there will never be a good justification for me to put drugs and alcohol in my body again. Sure, it’s still technically a “choice” for me to do so – in the way that it’s a “choice” for me to drive my car off a bridge.

Some people had a choice in when they gave up their vices. But having a choice doesn’t mean you have power. True power is knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and then honestly building on that framework. True power is also being humbled enough to understand that judging someone else’s experience through the lens of your own is futile.

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addiction, Recovery

Three Years, Revisited.

(originally posted to tumblr July 31, 2016)

So this past Thursday I celebrated 3 years sober. The first time around in recovery I always claimed to be “sober” (I hadn’t taken a drink), but had been dabbling again in weed and psychedelics by the end of year two. It was only a matter of time.

This is 3 very real years for me, completely clean and sober. I’m so grateful to be here. I spent the day at the pool with my girlfriend, her sister and little niece. Then we came home, Netflixed and chilled. I didn’t get sunburnt at the pool (if I was any whiter I’d be transparent), I ate well, laughed and was sober another 24.

But I’m going to tell you, I’m tired. I’m fucking tired.

The events of the last 7 years in recovery are catching up with me. Like a person whose adrenaline has spiked, allowing them to perform a feat of superhuman strength in the moment to save a life. They wake up a few days later to feel sore, beaten – alive, well, but exhausted. I could sleep for a week.

For one, I fired my therapist…she and I were simply not gelling. It was a difficult thing for me to do and put me in a weird headspace, but it needed to be done. I’m trying to work out the anger I have towards my father, accept that there are things I will never hear from him, that maybe he simply isn’t the male figure I need in my life. Maybe I need to find someone to fill that role. Not an easy thing for anyone to come to grips with.

Second, third and fourth, I filed trademark paperwork on the DJ FM name, commissioned a new remix for one of my songs, and booked gigs that could last well through October (if successful). I find myself wondering if I’m not “too old for this shit.” If not too old, then too tired. Too tired to lug my PA system all over creation to various gigs and events. Music has always sustained me emotionally – saved me, many times – but never financially. I’ve come close to breaking even a few times.

I’m at that point again in my music life where I find myself saying, “maybe I should just sell all this gear, recoup and be normal.” LOL, normal. I doubt I’ll ever be normal, and I’m okay with that. I just wonder if I have outlived my artistic usefulness.

Music is not an easy path to walk. There is no clear definition of success save for the individual, how you personally feel about what you’ve accomplished. Sure, if you sell a million albums, then you’re “successful” in the business sense. I just wonder sometimes if my desire to be successful in music was fueled in part by some alcoholic/addict “drug planning.” Ego and ambition run riot through the lens of MDMA and vodka. It scares me to think about it, because I know that I do truly love music.

Maybe all this is absurd – simply how I feel at 2am on a Sunday morning after a day in the sun entertaining a 3-year-old. I don’t have a desire to drink or use. But somehow I need to find the energy to push on with my dreams, while at the same time wondering if the tank has been on empty for awhile and I’m simply running on vapors.

Real talk at 2am, LOL. I am grateful for another day. Time to get these dishes done.

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addiction, Consequences, Recovery

Catastrophe.

(originally posted to my old blog, February 2, 2014)

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“My life had become a catastrophe. I had no idea how to turn it around. My band had broken up. I had almost lost my family. My whole life had devolved into a disaster. I believe that the police officer who stopped me at three a.m. that morning saved my life.”
– Trey Anastasio, lead singer/guitarist, Phish

Much of what I write here is about my experiences in early recovery from substance abuse, as well as prior to. I think it is crucial that those in early recovery know that no matter how happy or content those with long-term sobriety may appear, we had many difficulties to overcome. Mine had been a slow burn over the course of more than a decade. Once drugs other than alcohol entered the picture, my fate was sealed and my journey to rock bottom was accelerated exponentially.

It came to a head on Tuesday, September 29, 2009.

On the evening of Monday, September 28, I received a very terse email from my boss. Not the usual “hey let’s have lunch and talk” kind of email, but the kind that left you with a sinking feeling in your stomach. Somewhat like Bill Lumberg coming by my desk and saying, “Ummmm, yeaaahhhh…Jon, I’m gonna need to have a little talk with you, mmmmkay?”  I knew something bad was in store for me. I had this sinking feeling I was going to be fired, so I packed up my company computer, the books they’d bought for me and some of my paperwork. I put them in my car the night beforehand.

By this point, my anxiety was out of control. I was abusing my Clonipin prescription, in addition to my old standard alcohol and GBL (an analogue of GHB and a depressant, first popularized in the UK – a so-called “legal high”). The script called for me to take two 1mg doses, one in the morning, and one at night. I was easily taking 3-4 a day, and that would eventually go up to 5 a day, in addition to everything else. So as you can imagine, my work performance was “wanting” at best.

Now, let’s talk biology here for a second. That’s three GABA agonists at once: liquor, benzos, and G. What’s GABA, you say? GABA is Gamma-aminobutyric acid, a natural inhibitory neurotransmitter which reduces excessive brain activity and promotes a state of calm. In essence, it assuages some of your anxiety. So a “GABA agonist” is a substance that hijacks your body’s natural process for calming itself – hence, why many people use alcohol in situations that provoke social anxiety.

For a normal person, who doesn’t drink to excess (or at all) and doesn’t abuse other substances, a single dose of Clonipin (even 0.25mg) would probably be more than enough to alleviate some of the day’s stress. The point of taking a prescribed pharmaceutical isn’t to feel “buzzed” – it’s to feel “normal,” like a deep breath on a clear spring day. For someone like me, however, who was drinking a half gallon of vodka every two days and taking in somewhere between 20-30mL of GBL a day (a 1mL dose every hour or so), 0.25mg isn’t even a blip on the radar. Even 5mg wasn’t a blip on the radar for me. My body was simply too numb to feel the effects any more.

The real kicker though, is what happens when you try to *stop* taking all those substances. It’s bad enough when it’s *just* alcohol, or *just* benzos, or *just* GBL/GHB/BD. You become “tolerized”, meaning the receptors in your brain get used to those chemicals pumping through your system. Your body begins to rely on these outside chemicals to function properly. It’s not god punishing you or a failure of your spiritual condition. It’s simply your body doing what it does naturally: evolve and adapt. What’s worse is that if you try to come off any one of these substances without medical supervision, it leaves your central nervous system in a hyper-excitable state, which can ultimately lead to excitotoxicity (your brain cells begin to die of overstimulation). This is the beginning of what is known as Delerium Tremens, or the “DT’s.”  And without close medical supervision, you *will* die from it.

I woke up that morning terrified, literally shaking so badly that I could barely put on clothes. By that point in my addiction I was sneaking shots of vodka and G in the morning while my girlfriend was upstairs showering. Ostensibly I was supposed to be making us breakfast (two protein shakes), so I simply added the GBL and vodka to my protein shake. I know, that’s pretty nasty. 1mg Clonipin, followed by shot of vodka and 1.5mL of GBL mixed in a protein shake. Breakfast of champions. The anxiety went away within 3-5 minutes, and I felt that warm, buzzed sensation pass through my body. I was back to my old, indignant, irresponsible and omniscient self – at least for a little while. I got in my car, high as a kite, and drove to work.

In my altered state, I began to formulate all possible end results for what might happen when I got to the office. My pride began to well up within me. I had been with this company for all of 45 days. In the 5 minutes it took me to drive to work I realized something which was, in fact, true: even without all the drugs – which somewhere in the depths of my mind, I knew were bad for me – the experience of working there was just too much. I was both a useless employee, *and* the personalities of the people I was working with clashed.

So I quit. I resigned. It was the only active choice I’d made in months, if not years. I couldn’t handle my direct boss, and was using drugs to drive away the pain. I had taken care of one problem, but not the other.

(Note: Until now, I’ve told everyone the story that I was fired, assuming everyone would think I was too useless to effectively hold a job anyway. In my delusional state I thought it was easier to explain it that way. Everyone expected me to be the “fuck up” by that point.)

As I walked to my car, having returned my computer and reference books, I felt free. Of course, I had more GBL in my car and proceeded to get high, because inside I felt like a failure.

All I had to do then was make it home, a 10 minute trip.

The next two and a half hours were a blur. I recall fleeting moments where I “came to” behind the wheel of the car, driving into oncoming traffic on a small, 2-lane country road. Horns honking at me. I think at one point I even stopped on the side of the road. What possessed me to keep driving – if I wasn’t imagining all this – I have no idea. The next thing I remember, I was in the parking lot of a convenience store in another county, with 3 police cars behind me.

The officers could tell that I was clearly altered on something, but were completely perplexed when they gave me a roadside breathalyzer and I blew a 0.0 – thank god I’d only had *one* shot of vodka that morning. However, I had done poorly on the roadside tests and was clearly out of it. In addition, I had one of my prescription bottles with me in the car as well as the “conical” and transfer pipette I used for the G. They arrested me, then took me to the local hospital where they did a blood test, and finally to jail.

To make matters worse, I was supposed to attend a couples counseling session with my girlfriend that afternoon. A session which I missed, because I was locked up.

For me, this was only the beginning of rock bottom.

It’s almost 5 years later, and here I stand proud. Clear-headed, making more sense than I’ve ever made in my life, humbled by what life has shown me both bad AND good. I’m grateful for this moment.

You see, we all have that chaos, that “catastrophe” in our pasts. As the promises tell us, we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. I need the experience of my past to help me remember what happens when I go down that road. I need it to keep me humble.

I need it to show myself and others what we can overcome when we make the next sober decision.

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Recovery

Exercise.

(originally published to my previous blog April 28, 2015)

During my 6 years in recovery from addiction, I’ve learned that exercise is essential. By “exercise,” I don’t mean a pick up basketball game, 3-4 hours in the gym, or training for the Tour De France. I mean simple, regular, and consistent physical activity.

Every so often I’ll come across some #GenX pundit (I’m Gen-X, by the way) who has some clever reason for “why millenials are fucked up.” No different from what the baby boomers did to Gen-X 20-30 years ago – come on guys, didn’t we learn from this shit already? Invariably one of the reasons they give is that “we had to play outside – not sit inside on our smartphones!”

So, from someone who didn’t play outside, who is a Generation X’er, let me explain what life was like for me between ages 8-18. I was awful at any kind of athletics, in school on otherwise. I was frequently ostracized and bullied because of it, and as a result hated physical activity or playing outside – because playing outside always involved some type of competition. Competition which I almost always lost, and was then berated for.

So I stayed indoors and learned about computers, programming languages, and video games. In 1985 my parents bought me one of the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment Systems. For 3 days, I was locked in my room with very little food, playing Super Mario Brothers incessantly, until I won the damned thing. My path was clear.

At various points in my life, I’ve struggled with my weight. I’d go on jogging binges for months at a time while simultaneously downing enough alcohol to knock down a horse – all the while wondering why I would lose barely 2 tenths of a pound after having gone 5 miles. Of course, I’d give up shortly thereafter. And once drugs other than alcohol entered the picture? Forget it.

In November of 2009 after 15 years of pummeling my body, I went to rehab. Today, I’m almost 6 years removed from that horribly naive, dysfunctional, insecure, overweight and dying mess I had become. And I’ve discovered a few simple things that *anyone* can do to improve their health (and help recovery):

– Walk. It’s not a competition. It requires little to no equipment. You don’t have to have a gym membership, black yoga pants or a pink fleece or an Under Armour shirt or $200 Nike’s to do it. A decent pair of shoes with good insoles to help protect your knees is all you need. And, a favorite place to go walking. (The pic below is a state natural area where I like to go on my lunch break. I took this picture today in fact.) We are surrounded by sidewalks, greenways and trails which will take us to every corner of our country. They are free – some of our tax dollars go to maintaining them. Use them! If you can, try to go walking every day, for at least 30 minutes. Take your favorite music – or not. Take photos! Make it something you enjoy, not a chore.

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– Drink Water. Quit Soda. This one will probably be the toughest. Deal with it. Here’s a hard truth: The ingredients in a 2 Liter Coca-Cola will dissolve the paint from your car and take rust off a nail. You’re putting that into the lining of your stomach daily. According to this video, a 12oz can of soda has the same harmful effects on your liver as a 12oz can of beer – without the buzz! Start by drinking flavored seltzer water – if you choose the lemon flavor, you’re getting the carbonation and citrus kick from soda which should help you transition. Zero calories, zero artificial ingredients. Water, lemon. Arrowhead is a good brand and can be purchased at Wal-Mart. Trader Joes also has several varieties of sparkling water that are flavored.

– Walk away from fast food. You know fast food tastes awesome. You know it’s horrible for you. So you’re going to have to make a very simple, and very difficult choice: are the taste benefits outweighing the damage you’re doing to your health? In the south, we have a fried chicken chain called Bojangles that’s the BOMB. My friends and I used to get it every Sunday after spending the entire weekend eating ecstasy. I used to eat the 3 piece wing dinner daily for lunch at work. The wing dinner alone contained 106% of my daily sodium intake. That’s 106% in that meal alone, every single day. If you eat fast food for breakfast and lunch, you’re probably spending anywhere from $10-15/day. That’s $50-$75/wk, or $200-300 a month you could be saving.

Quitting alcohol and drugs is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. If you can do that, you can also take these 3 simple steps – one day at a time. I promise, you won’t regret it.

jg.

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Recovery

The Amazing Pizza Man.

(originally posted to Tumblr Feb 5, 2014)

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11 days out of rehab in December of 2009, embarrassment came over me again as I started my first job in sobriety: pizza man.

Jobs have always been a strange thing for me. When I was 15 and a half, my dad told me it was time for me to get a summer job. I remember having to go downtown to get a “work permit” which he would have to sign. This allowed me to legally work in certain kinds of jobs, up to a certain number of hours, prior to turning 16. During high school and most of my college years, my first job was working for Toys ‘R’ Us. I worked in the stockroom, occasionally built bikes and Power Wheels cars, sometimes worked as a seasonal cashier, and sometimes on the sales floor. I was proud to have that job.

One weekend, I helped an old man carry a 20′ swingset to his station wagon. He must’ve been around 80 years old, was nicely dressed and very considerate. As he got in his car, he handed me a $50 bill and told me, “Thank you son. Are you in school?”

“Yes sir,” I replied. “I’m starting at _______ in the fall to be an architect!”

“Good on you. Then you have something to look forward to. You know what the point of jobs like this are, don’t you?”

“No sir,” I asked.

“The point of jobs like this is to remind you that you never WANT to work in jobs like this.” He smiled, nodded, and drove away.

I felt deeply ashamed and embarrassed. I was no longer proud of my job. From that moment on, I carried a single lesson in my heart: people judge you based on your job. Always try to have a job that makes you look as important as possible – or at least SOUNDS as important as possible. As the weeks went by, the memory of meeting that man faded. But I never forgot the feeling of embarrassment. As it turns out, I frequently drank and used because of that embarrassment.

Fast forward to 2009, and there I was, a college graduate with 14 years of experience in design and advertising, “reduced” again to minimum wage work – delivering pizzas. I had never worked for a restaurant in my life, save for 3 months at a coffee shop. I was quietly “let go” from that position due to my utter inability to properly make gourmet coffee drinks, and a desire to eat company cookies on the job without paying for them.
I was lucky to get the pizza job. It was 3 days before Christmas, and no one was hiring seasonally anymore. And even though the store was part of a major pizza chain, they happened to still be taking paper applications. Most corporations now only take applications online, and applying for a minimum wage job online is a lot like throwing a penny in a fountain.

At the start I was still going through mild withdrawal symptoms, shakes and such. It was hard to cover up, but I did the best I could. My first week was a trainwreck. During my second or third night delivering, i was so nervous i forgot to put the parking brake up in my car. As i walked proudly to the customers with their pizza, one of them politely informed me that my car was rolling down the hill. Without a moment’s hesitation I turned and ran down the hill towards my car, tripping and falling flat on the pizza (which had landed upside-down). Fortunately the car veered slightly to the right and stopped on the curb. Crestfallen, I returned to the store, brought them their remade pizza and drove back to work. I chuckle now when I think about it, but that night I cried the entire way back.

While working, I was attending outpatient treatment at the same county facility that essentially saved my life. My psychiatrist recommended an SNRI called Effexor to me. 2 days after beginning my regimen, I felt like a new person. The knot in the pit of my stomach which had plagued me for the majority of my life, even prior to adolescence and into early childhood – a knot which, again, I frequently drank and used to drive away – was gone. As were the shakes.

I can’t over-emphasize how this discovery was a VERY lucky break. Most of those suffering from any kind of mental disorder have to try several different medications before landing on the “magic bullet.” And I couldn’t take “benzos” (ie. Benzodiazepines, as I had abused both Xanax and Klonopin in my last months before treatment). From this point on, the job got easier. I had a home in an Oxford House. Bills started to get paid. I was also able to apply for food stamps, and realized something: I wasn’t embarrassed anymore. The old me would’ve been. One thing I came to understand is that these social services, like food assistance and healthcare, are available to anyone in need regardless of race, color, background or circumstance. We all have the potential to end up in the path of the tornado.

During my tenure as a delivery driver, I saw many different sides of drug use and abuse. On New Years Eve, I watched a drunk driver going the wrong way down a major thoroughfare. That same night I delivered pizza to a hotel room where a guy and his girlfriend, both barely clothed and dancing around ran to the door to see me. The gentleman was so stoned me gave me a $20 tip, as he couldn’t count the money in his wallet. I also once delivered pizza to another gentleman in a hotel room. His girlfriend was a waitress at a restaurant next to our store, and bought him pizzas every day with some of her tip money. She had us deliver them to him at the hotel, where he drank and smoked crack. Some part of me is still trying to determine where the symbiosis was in that relationship. He never once tipped me.

I delivered pizza to an older man living in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Raleigh. His apartment smelled of urine and feces, and frequently he answered the door having been drunk for days, holding an empty fifth of Seagrams gin in his hand. In another neighborhood not far down the street, I delivered pizza to a father, his girlfriend and 3 daughters. He realized he didn’t have the $28 he needed to pay for the 14″ pizza, wings and drink he ordered. Putting down his drink, he ran across the street to get cash out of the ATM – which was in a grocery store. A store where he could’ve probably purchased 6-7 store brand pizzas and a 3-liter soda for his family for about half the cost.

In contrast, I also delivered to some of the richest neighborhoods in Raleigh. I once brought a “10 pie” (ten pizzas) to a kids’ birthday party. It was 10:30 in the morning and most of the adults had either a beer or a glass of wine in their hands. Honestly, I can’t really say much. I used to dose myself on GBL and take shots of vodka as early as 9am sometimes. As the joke goes, “you can’t drink all day unless you start in the morning.” Little kids love the pizza man, though. You’re their personal hero. You may not have anyone else’s respect, but you have theirs. Their smiles always made it worth it.

Most of the people I worked with at the store were in their late teens/early 20s, all thinking they were invincible and bulletproof. They would often joke about drugs, and brag about how much they could smoke or drink. Frequently I would joke back, and provide a warning: “…but it doesn’t stay that way forever.” I wanted to tell them the truth about me, about what I was facing, but was afraid of losing my job. Everything was so precarious. I wish now that I had done things differently. I’m not proud of that.

I learned a lot along the way. Most importantly, in any station in life you should always give a thing your best effort. Try to care even when those around you don’t. Don’t let their attitude affect yours. As much as my recovery is in my own two hands, so is my life. I might impress my cool, lazy co-worker if I joke about being lazy. But that won’t help me when I’m in the poor house.

I’ve heard the phrase “fake it til you make it” often in recovery. Personally, I don’t believe that for a second. I’ve found that living deliberately is much less dangerous than living life passively for lack of a better option. If you don’t like the food, don’t eat at the restaurant. If you don’t really believe in God, don’t go to the bible study. Putting in face time won’t change your soul. I go to the meetings that I go to because I get something out of it. I have a sponsor because he helps me. I take Effexor because it *works* for me. I work – whether delivering pizzas or sitting at a desk – to earn money and do my best for those I love.

One more day to be grateful 🙂

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Recovery

Newcomer.

(Originally posted to my previous blog, March 23, 2014)

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I heard this at an N/A meeting tonight…
“I would never wish newcomer problems on any living soul.”

I was totally blown away, because it echoes something I read in David Sheff’s book Clean:
“Prevention efforts have failed, and so too has what passes for a treatment system. Ninety percent of people who need help never receive it. Indeed, people with addiction are more likely to wind up in prison than in rehab. Those who do get treatment enter a broken system that’s almost impossible to navigate. When addicts must decide what to do, they’re usually in crisis and terrified, consumed by worry, and immobilized, and yet in this compromised state, they must make one of the most complex and important decisions of their lives.”

Newcomer problems. The Big Book talks about them in “The Doctor’s Opinion”:
“These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all; and once having formed the habit and found they cannot break it, once having lost their self-confidence, their reliance upon things human, their problems pile up on them and become astonishingly difficult to solve.”

Newcomer problems. Newcomers are people, fragile people. Fragile people of all different ages, races, sexual orientations and beliefs. Fragile people, many of whom had traumatic backgrounds for which nothing was done, until they found their “cure” in a bottle, pill, needle, or their parent’s medicine cabinets. Forced to make important decisions, under not only the duress of learning how to stay clean/sober for the first time, but also their problems (or “outside issues” as they are incorrectly referred to in meetings) which have piled up on them, which they have piled on themselves.

And they are, truly, astonishingly difficult to solve.

Russell Brand had the following to say in a UK article which wrote about the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman:
“This is an important moment in history; we know that prohibition does not work. We know that the people who devise drug laws are out of touch and have no idea how to reach a solution. Do they even have the inclination? The fact is their methods are so gallingly ineffective that it is difficult not to deduce that they are deliberately creating the worst imaginable circumstances to maximise the harm caused by substance misuse.”

Link: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/06/russell-brand-philip-seymour-hoffman-drug-laws

I believe Mr. Brand is sadly, dead right. I am now firmly convinced that these people do not have the inclination. Drug policy is and always has been set deliberately, by people who either have been hurt by addicts in their own lives, those who bought into the “scourge of addiction” hype without further investigation, or the benefactors of the prison-industrial complex. Because Mr. Brand is dead right, so many millions of unknown, unnamed addicts throughout history have found themselves simply, dead. Dismissed as hopeless, drunkards, lushes, “the town drunk,” junkies, crackheads, cokeheads, tweakers, ravers, ragers, freaks, bath salt zombies – the list of derogatory labels could go on ad infinitum. They choose not to search for solutions because it would mean victory and freedom for the very enemy their fear has created, the enemy whose plight has lined their pockets.

Addicts are the castoffs of society, the scapegoats for every “upstanding” citizen that pays their taxes and commit their sins behind closed doors – the ones who can keep it together while they secretly have their hand in whatever cookie jar they like. Unlike those with serious, obvious mental illness, addicts somehow “chose” their disease. The belief that addiction is a moral and spiritual failing first is still pervasive in our society, even after 100 years of evidence to the contrary. Prior generations are still in power, still influencing our politics, the legal system and the population with their decades-obsolete and irrelevant moralizing, as well as dangerous magical thinking substituted for real problem-solving measures.

For instance, imagine modern churches implementing the 12 Step model of recovery as a way of getting nearer to god (“Step 1: We admitted that we were powerless over sin…”). Attendance would probably plummet to 10%. Very few people have the capacity for honest self-examination which are demanded of addicts right out of the gate. Addicts are already guilt-ridden when they are “unplugged from the Matrix.” Like a person who wakes from a nightmare and finds it to be real, they are suddenly flooded with a whole host of thoughts which they would naturally want to avoid by clinging to their only security blanket. Any “normie” would be no different if they were faced with the same circumstances. They would probably piss themselves and cry like scared children. I certainly did.

When I left rehab for the first time, in early December 2009, I was facing two misdemeanor charges in a different county, $24,000 in hospital bills from an overdose (without a job you must buy your own insurance, and I had been denied coverage by BCBS for “pre-existing conditions”). I was behind on every bill I had, and owed the IRS close to $1200 in back taxes from 2008 – a matter completely unrelated to my addiction which simply reared its ugly head at the wrong time. Oh and I had a girlfriend who I owed money to, who was still using. Newcomer problems. “Outside issues.”

I am a fairly educated person, a fairly intelligent person with resources most addicts simply don’t have, the least of which being my own computer and the ability to use it on multiple levels. It took me almost a year and a half to navigate and overcome all of those difficulties. Oh, and I was trying to maintain what gainful employment I had and learn how to stay clean and sober in the face of it all. I succeeded with the help of the wonderful friends and strangers I met in the rooms of recovery. Very little of that help came from “blood” family, save for a few select individuals.

The only way this purgatory of revolving doors and empty promises will change is if addicts are empowered to rise up and lobby on their own behalf. It’s time for addicts to become powerful voices for change. Imagine the power of 1,000,000 men and women whose sole purpose in life for years was to obtain illegal substances – or legal substances by illegal methods – at any cost, for their own pleasure, now made clear-headed, substance free and focused in one single unified direction. If no one will help, we must choose for ourselves the road we will go, and then walk with our heads held high.

First, information must be immediately available to them upon discharge from rehab: who their congressmen and women are; how these individuals have voted on drug policy or mental health issues; and the most current biological and scientific research on treatment, spelled out in layman’s terms. Second, addicts must gather as they have in recovery meetings, to vote en masse for those public officials and judges who have their best interests at heart, and to discuss the crucial public health issues relevant to addicts without fear of reprisal.

The technology exists to make this happen. This is not the Bronze Age or the Wild West. We are no longer living in the era of the Gutenberg press, web-fed newspaper publications or coin-fed public telephones. With a laptop and smartphone, virtually anyone on earth can access anyone else on earth, and communicate a message to them. Many addicts have limited computer skills and, as a result of financial difficulties (or ruin), will never be able to access one, even one as simple as a basic smart phone. Where those services do exist, the way the information is disseminated to the population is grossly inefficient.

Additionally, the science and technology behind diagnosis, treatment and recovery are decades-old. Rehabs are still essentially beds, kitchens, meetings and nurses. Sure, blood pressure monitors and thermometers now have digital displays, but the the analog devices from the 1950s and 1960s do the same job. We can squeeze years of music, a portable HD television studio, and a phone/internet communicator into device the size of a deck of cards. Yet we can’t develop affordable bluetooth/wireless devices that stream realtime vitals to doctors and nurses? We can create Google Glass, but can’t develop a brain scanner to record changes in an addict’s brain activity – again, in realtime? I find all this extremely difficult to fathom. It seems reminiscent of the drug companies who’d rather research pills to help a 70-year-old man’s erectile dysfunction, versus more targeted medications for those struggling with “the scourge of society.”

I know I have the tools to begin disseminating information in my community. This blog is one of those. However, these are problems bigger than any one person can solve. I certainly don’t have all the answers.

But it can happen. Occupy Addiction, anyone?

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Recovery

Gratitude.

Having recently celebrated 3 years #clean and #sober, I find my mind taking me back to places I’d rather not go.

I remember 3 years ago this week – just after entering rehab from my relapse – not knowing if I’d have a place to go. I had two days left in rehab and still had no idea where I would stay. I was pondering how I could re-organize everything I had in my car so that I could sleep in the back. I was pondering where I could park my car long-term (the back of the gravel parking lot at our AA “clubhouse” in town). At the last possible minute, myself and a friend from rehab (Chuck) both found rooms in the same Oxford House.

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I remember having to go over to my ex-girlfriend’s house to retrieve my things. She had confiscated all of my studio equipment while I was in rehab, as payment for money I owed her. She wouldn’t allow me in the house unsupervised, nor would she allow me to see my dog. It took 4 trips to get what was left. It was heartbreaking.

I had been locked out of my main checking account because I was past due on a loan payment. Fortunately I had a backup account with a different credit union, but had hardly any money in it. Nor did I have any money coming in. I applied for work with several different retail stores but never heard back from any of them. I finally landed a freelance contract worth $500, which covered my rent at the house and one other bill.

My car was out of inspection and falling apart. Were i to get pulled, I would’ve incurred additional expenses I couldn’t afford. I continued to drive with the car in that condition, because I had no money and no choice.

My 8 year old Mac laptop (the only computer I had left after my girlfriend took my other computer as part of my studio) worked about a month and a half until the motherboard failed. I had to take out a loan immediately to buy a new one to continue my freelance work. So not only was I broke, I was also $2000+ in the hole.

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I had been all but abandoned by blood family, save for my mother who, though she was 2,000 miles away and broke, was able to help me financially.

That was just the first two months.

But that was yesterday.

Today, life is not like that.

I have a good job with a great company, where I’ve been for over two years. I’ve built a brand new studio with new recording and DJ equipment and have been playing regular gigs since 3 months into my recovery. I have a girlfriend who i’ve been with almost a year and a half whom i love dearly. We live together and have a dog (Boots) and a cat (Shadow). She is also a musician, singer and songwriter.

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I’m in good health, and getting better. I’m not under anyone’s thumb, or under threat of arrest or commitment. I have true freedom, freedom of the soul. I know who I can truly count on.

For those struggling, have hope. You may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You may be scared shitless, angry, hurt, sad. I personally have never known what the next “right” thing was, but I knew what the next “sober” thing was.

I pray that you will too.

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