Monthly Archives: September 2015

Eli Writes!

Addiction is the result of a fundamental rejection of self. The essay I read makes this claim, and I tend to agree. Because I thought that there was something horribly wrong with me, drugs were a great alternative to experiencing reality. When I started taking painkillers, I thought I had found my answer. They fulfilled so many needs simultaneously that I couldn’t see not taking them. They did too much for me.

One reason I loved pills so much was because they made me feel like I could connect with people on a deeper, much more intimate level. It’s easy to open up on opiates and feel incredible amounts of empathy and compassion. While others commonly report pills make them numb to feelings, I’ve always had the opposite experience. Opiates enhance my feelings like I’m on ecstasy. They don’t make me dead to the world — I feel like I’m living for the first time, living life as it’s supposed to be. Colors are more vibrant. People are more beautiful. Every texture is luxuriously comfortable and every conversation, no matter how mundane, is a treasure. They’s why they’re so hard to quit.

Even when I’m off narcotics, my addictive behavior remains. Nicotine, caffeine, video games, music, reading — I’ve always seem to go to one extreme or the other. Being so unhappy for most of my life, I like to take things that make me feel good and do them until I’m forced to quit. I do it with the internet. I do it with spending money on things I don’t really need. I drink three Nos’ to get energy instead of one, and I spend my checking account until the balance is below $10.

While I’ve been here, I’ve learned that heroin isn’t my main problem. My main problem is me. And when you think about it, it makes sense. Only someone as consumed with self-loathing as I am self-sabotages and burns themselves out as much as I do.

One of my biggest fears is of everything good coming to an end. When I was 12 or 13 I remember one rainy day when I was wrestling over the idea of a Creator. My mother told me she no longer believed in Christianity, and I panicked. Knowing the extent of my parents’ intelligence, I knew that if they believed in God, he must be real. That belief was not faith in God, but in my parents, and I clung to it despite my demented thoughts that I would go to hell. When my mother told me she had rejected this fire-and-brimstone perception of God, my rock was shattered. I asked her what happens when we die. She had a beautifully devastating answer. “All good things must come to an end.”

Of course, my mother’s intention was the opposite of malevolent. She was simply being real with me and I treasure that both then and now. But as the rain drizzled against our windowpane and the steady hum of the furnace filled my ears on this particular morning, I was once again struck by this haunting, aching, heartbreaking sadness. The sadness that went beyond my mood, beyond my tears. A sadness without discernible origin. A black, hellish gulf that swallowed me up inside and out, rending me into a million pieces, suffocating me until I felt that the very fabric of my soul would rip apart with the agony of it all. I shook in my mother’s embrace, paroxysms of grief thundering through me while I struggled to find a foothold in a safe reality, a reality with definites, with purpose.

As the risk of sounding melodramatic or overly stricken with obnoxiously teen angst, this is literally how I felt every day for years. This is how I thought, and though I can’t tell you why, I can say for certain it’s a huge reason why I started using chemicals. It seemed, I used to think, like school, career, friends didn’t matter — it’d all come to an end, anyway. The effect that had on me as I went through 3rd grade, 4th grade, all the way through 11th grade — was unthinkable. I was constantly paralyzed by an icy terror that filled every ounce of my being, leaving nothing but a desperation to find and to receive love.

To deal with the perils of moving to public school when I was previously homeschooled was honestly difficult enough. When you threw in a demonic source of horrific thoughts and infinite mourning, the problem was compounded. I think this is what non sufferers of clinical depression sometimes don’t understand. I probably spent nearly a decade waking up every day and either feeling like my dog died or feeling like my mom died.

Don’t get me wrong. There were good days. I loved playing soccer, and when I reached optimum speed on the field the wild joy that encompassed me made me feel as though I could fly. I received love from my parents and I had a paper route that I enjoyed. I loved colors, the feeling of sand between my toes, cupping small animals in my hands in delight and showing anyone who would listen my prize. I loved to glide through swimming pools like a dolphin, the cold water penetrating every pore, reminding me that I was alive. I remember my father reading Tolkien novels to us at night, my siblings and I munching contentedly on cinnamon toast and burying ourselves in pillows.

There doesn’t seem to be an obvious reason that I am the only one of five to become a drug addict, but I think I’m figuring out some facts of it. This guilt, shame and grief that has plagued me for years is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. When I figured out there was something like a pill or a powder that could take that all away?

Forget physical dependency. I was hooked ever since i took those 3 vicodin when I was 16. Nothing more important. Even 2 overdoses seemed preferable to feeling those feelings. I sometimes thought I would prefer death.

Today I have been clean for 47 days. I am learning to be assertive instead of passive. I am learning to be optimistic instead of pessimistic. I am learning to live life on life’s terms, and perhaps most importantly, today I am willing to accept my relative lack of control. The only pills I take are prescribed and monitored by a physician to help my brain’s chemistry stay in balance. I have dreams that seem worth pursuing. I still have a loving family who stands behind me. I am still filled with love and passion. Today I am learning to how live. Today I don’t have to be high to feel life is worth living.

Summer is Over; Autumn is Here

beautiful image from

It’s only a matter of minutes until September 23 begins. The internet says that autumn begins at 4:21 am on the 23rd in my time zone. The summer here has been full of beautiful weather, very different from the many years when August was so very hot every day from start to finish.

Now that Toast has come to live with us, I’ve been noticing how the early morning air is getting more brisk as September marches toward October, and I’ve been imagining what it’s going to be like in the early mornings once the temperatures drop below freezing. It’s not going to work to throw on some flip flops (if I can find them; go without otherwise) and hug my arms while I wait for Toast to quickly do his business.

There have been winters where we lived in a place where we had to be outside early in the day and therefore had to brave cold air. I haven’t had to do that for a long time. Yes, I have to walk out to the bus with Kepler in the morning, but by then the sun is up and it’s only for a few minutes and the winters also seem milder. Wait, I might be misremembering. Seems like we have had some crazy cold weather over the past few winters. Anyway, taking Toast out in the mornings has already changed my experience of beginning the day.

I actually love being outside in the early morning, but I currently love sleep more, so I don’t go out unless I have to. Taking Toast out qualifies as having to.

So, fare thee well, summer. I look forward to seeing you again after the winter winds blow through and the spring returns the green.

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload

A tiny excerpt from the Diane Rehm show snuck into my consciousness the other day. Diane was out and there was a guest host, and I wasn’t sure it was actually the DR show. A couple days later I looked up the public radio station schedule and was able to find the show again. I was really glad because the guest was the author of the book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, and he was talking about using more low-tech methods for dealing with the information we receive. As is my habit, I hopped onto the library website and reserved the book.

I haven’t finished it yet. But he talked about one of the changes that has occurred since we do so much online. Companies now require us to do work that they themselves used to do. You could call a company, a person would answer, and you’d be able to get pretty much any information needed. Today, however, we log on, keeping track of passwords, usernames, account numbers, online payments, whether we have to initiate the payment or have it come out automatically, which account it comes out of. Levitin calls this “shadow work,” which is work which is now done by the consumer.

In that spirit, a little postcard arrived the other day from a local bank. My daughter is in the market for a checking account, so we finally made the time to go into the bank. They were offering quite a significant bonus to open an account and fulfill a couple of requirements. Only $25 needed to open the account.

While seated at the teller’s desk, he asked us if we had looked up this type of account online. Well, no, we said. It’s a checking account. Didn’t seem like rocket science and that bonus sounded really good. (Remember, $25 needed to open the account.)

Well, says he, this is our “RichPeopleOnly” account because you need to maintain a $25,000 monthly balance. He went ahead and allowed us to open the account, which will be changed to a free checking account once those two little requirements are fulfilled, but there will be a service fee each month until the switchover. It appears that the service fee is worth it based on the amount of the bonus.

Nowhere on the advert does it mention that this is an account which needs a $25,000 monthly balance. As a matter of fact, I think their advertising is actually misleading since I don’t even understand who would bother opening a $25,000 monthly balance account with $25. I guess the bank was expecting the consumer to do the bank’s work by researching the specific type of account being advertised. I think it was reasonable not to research it. In this day and age, banks are competing for customers and it made sense that they might offer such a bonus in order to get a new customer. And, by the way, this mailing came to our home, and I don’t believe we have ever maintained a $25,000 monthly balance (at least not a +$25,000). So they sent the advertisement without mentioning that most salient of details.

Granted, I might be rather easily triggered into anger today for reasons, but really, that seems like a major piece of information to omit, doesn’t it?

Well, onward and upward toward simplifying my life. I’ll let you know my overall impression when I finish the book.

Eli Writes!

It is day 33 — or maybe 34 — and the rainclouds outside cast an oppressive mask over the parking lot. Caffeine from this morning’s steaming coffee has drained out of my system and I feel sleepy and melancholy.

I spent three hours earlier today picking up trash on the street with five other clients from this place. It was my first time stepping outside in nearly three weeks. Observing the urban landscape I was reminded today why we aren’t allowed to come and go at a whim. Dope boys roll around every corner, absurdly flashy twenty-two inch rims and distorted bass announcing their presence from half a mile away. Prostitutes blow kisses from filthy alleyways and liquor beckons from every storefront. It all makes me relieved to be locked down on the third floor of my rehab, free from the allure of Cincinnati’s grimiest attractions.

Since my “best” choices tend to get me nearer jails, institutions and death than I care to be, something drastic had to happen. Even during the worst days here, I feel genuinely grateful that I’m here instead of prison, which is where most of society would probably place me if given the authority.

It’s an odd environment, really, 21 men living together and trying to achieve better lives with each other’s help. There’s a natural camaraderie that pervades most aspects of life in rehab. After all, we’re all fuck-ups. Broken, bloodied and demoralized past the point of return for the average citizen, we’re all currently trying to make the best of the second, or third, or fourth, or fifth chance.

The interesting part is had I never used drugs, i would have never been interested or been drawn to any of these people, and yet I seem to keep forging friendships that surpass the ones I have had for five+ years. Empathy and relatability are crucial for me, and most days there’s a decent amount to be found up here. Some days I feel curiously alone. Some days I feel more lifted up by those around me than I’ve felt in years. The hardest part is the extreme contrast between each day.

The neurotransmitters and receptors in my brain are constantly shifting irritably, buzzing furiously like a horde of wasps defending their nest. The result is a nice, fat dose of bi-polar. I think about fifty times a day I say to myself “oh, yeah, this is why I did drugs.” About an equal amount of times sweeps through the thought, “and this is why I want to stop.”

Well so far so good. I’ve been clean and entirely sober for 41 days now. When’s the last time that happened? I honestly couldn’t tell you. Probably about four years ago. As you can probably guess, I’m still pretty happy to be in this place. I think it probably saved my life. And I really am so thankful to have yet another chance to make a life worth living, making choices I can be proud of. This can be that time if I want it to be. I don’t ever have to use again, and just for today — NA’s favorite mantra — that’s a relief.

A New Productivity Tool!

Greg (he of the inspiration for the Hallelujah chorus) mentioned a productivity tool called Simpleology the other day. I had just started using a waiter’s pad to write down everything that occurred to me during the day — things I needed to buy, find, do, return, and try. Simpleology has a feature that works the same as the waiter pad without the inconveniences that go along with a pad of paper with messy lists on it.

It’s new to me, but has been around for a few years. So far, I am extremely impressed.

There are many features I haven’t even used yet, but what I am finding is that I am tackling the things that need to get done. Honestly, I enjoy crossing things off of a list, whether or not every single thing gets done that day or not. For me, it is motivating to choose which thing to do next, finish it, and cross it off.

One thing I have been putting off was clearing off my desk. With the addition of Toast to our home, I’ve had to pick up all my little piles and files which were around my desk on the floor. And my poor desk became a receptacle for all of it.

I was feeling pretty intimidated by the thought of actually doing this task, so I split it into sub-tasks of clearing 25 things at a time, so I did get to cross things off along the way. Once I got into it, I didn’t need to keep counting. I knew I could do it. I noticed that I decided to finish the job completely — to take all the things that belonged elsewheres to the elsewheres.

Simpleology is not cheap. Right now, we are both doing a free month of the “pro” level, which will cost $7/month if we continue. There is an “elite” level which is considerably more than that. So, we are going to evaluate this program and use it for a month and then decide. I will say it has enhanced my productivity considerably.

Another feature is the “dream catcher,” which is where I drop things all day long — tasks that come to mind, all the types of things I was writing on the waiter pad. This has always been an excellent method for me to use because I will forget things if I do not write them down.

I have found it quite encouraging and motivating to use this tool. I got the vet appointment made, which has been hanging over my head since the end of August. I finished all the laundry and folded it AND put it away. No big earth-shattering accomplishment, but it feels good to me in my little corner of the world. Best of all, I made a phone call to follow up on a couple of emails I had sent requesting information. Turns out, the organization had not received my emails due to some glitch on their website and my phone call not only alerted them to that fact, but they knew I was interested in information. I found it a little intimidating to make this particular phone call, but Simpleology helped me get it done.

At least check it out. There are MANY more features I haven’t even begun to use, let alone all the ones that I am using but didn’t talk about. Let me know what you think if you give it a try. And leave a comment if you already use it or use something similar which you find helps your productivity!

Singing the Hallelujah Chorus This Morning

Greg is home.

That means that this morning when Kepler was too tired to cooperate and get up, I could do the raspberries on the tummy and put on his socks while Greg protected my back from the puppy who is an excitable boy in the mornings. It means that I could pack a lunch for Kepler while Greg took the dog outside and played catch with him for several minutes to work out some of the energy Toast stores up overnight in the crate. It means that I can search YouTube for the perfect rendition of the Messiah while Greg takes Kepler and Toast out to the bus stop. It means that there are TWO people here to do the job of 10, instead of just one person! Happy Friday, y’all. And if you didn’t listen to the Hallelujah Chorus, go ahead. It’s only three and half minutes long and it’s beautiful. You will be energized by such a magnificent piece of music.

When You’re the ONLY Visitor at Rehab on Family Visitation Night

image from

Last Tuesday, I took my girls and we visited Eli. Tuesdays include a 30-minute session of family education before the hour of visiting. There were about six other families visiting that evening. This week, I was the only person. Not just the only visiting Eli, but the only one visiting ANYONE!

The family education portion was on the topic of re-establishing trust. This seemed like a perfect topic for us, because I have been wondering about how to do this with Eli. There have been many times when I have been willing to start fresh and trust again, but I think I have always dived into trust too deep and too soon. Trusting an addict who is in active addiction is just a recipe for being manipulated and lied to, that’s for sure. Oftentimes, I’ve have a sense of what might be going on, but not direct knowledge and have been willing to keep my head in the sand. Totes do not like sand in my ears and eyes. But it has been easier than what I imagined a confrontation might be like.

What seems of major importance in this process is to be willing to confront when I sense the truth is not present. I believe I worry way too much about making sure no one ever has hurt feelings. If you do that, or you know someone who does, you can probably understand what can go wrong when the highest priority is making sure no one ever has hurt feelings. I think I probably get manipulative in my own way as I strive to make sure everyone feels good about their interactions with me. Geez, maybe that’s why I stay home all the time — gets exhausting to think I’m responsible for everyone else’s feelings. (Co-dependents Anonymous, I’m coming for you tonight.)

During the family education portion, we each had to write some answers to some questions and I found it most interesting to see how much we are on the same page. I appreciated hearing that his answers closely matched mine, which have pretty much been the same for a long time. His are evolving.

I am grateful for the opportunity to visit him for two hours each week. It’s actually helpful to have the limits, because it gives me time to think about our discussions and the dynamics of our family relationships. Our next visit will be Saturday afternoon and I am looking forward to it. The rubber will meet the road once he finishes in-patient and his life isn’t nearly as regimented by an outside authority.

The supervisor for the visitation left for a few minutes near the end of the hour. I was very surprised that he left us alone. And curious about it as well. Did he know he could leave us alone because we wouldn’t try to break any rules? Did he leave because he didn’t really care whether we did? The only rule I would have thought to break was I might hold Eli’s hand if there wasn’t a rule against any touching. But there is, and the LAST thing I would want to do is cause him to get a reprimand. Reprimands aren’t always given out evenly and fairly in life, as we all know. So, I try to just do the right thing whenever I can and trust that that will be enough.

He’s been there for 30 days already and it’s exciting to see the things he is learning. I value the opportunity to respect the confidentiality requirement, while still being able to share my own experience and reactions to things. Thanks for reading.

About that Moving Target Idea

Yesterday, I heard Eric say “depression can’t hit a moving target.” I took pencil and paper and jotted down all the moving things “we” try to catch.

I thought about how hard it is to change the diaper on a wriggling child. Lasso an animal while it’s running. Tackle a running back who is sprinting down the field. Hit a baseball that is speeding through the air. Catch a butterfly in a net. Capture, shoot, or kill an enemy who is evading you during war (or in a video game). Hit the moving duck in the carnival game.

All of the (sentient) pursued have a goal — not to be lassoed, tackled, captured, or stopped. And so they MOVE, for it is a lot harder to take down a moving target, especially one with momentum.

I’ve watched a lot of football games over the years. Once I was watching Randy Moss sprint toward the goal line after catching a short pass. By the time he got to the 10-yard line, I noticed his strides were 7.5 feet long, taking five yards in just two steps. It’s almost like you can fly once you get your momentum really going.

Although the goal of most of the above examples is something short of actual death, it definitely is to shorten, diminish, or stop the beautiful, free movement we see in a butterfly, a running back, an animal running at full tilt.

On the other hand, we have the “sitting duck.”

image by Michael Bedard at

This refers to the concept of someone or something which is vulnerable to being caught without realizing the danger. It’s much easier for a hunter to shoot a duck which is stationary, as opposed to aiming at a moving target.

I bet each of us has something that chases us — some temptation to an attitude or action that doesn’t serve us. I think of addicts who must be intentional about their recovery so that they are able to remain abstinent. Time and time again, I hear someone say they stopped doing the things that kept them on the path they desired, and they become sitting ducks for their nemesis.

I know I have written elsewhere about the importance and value of movement, in a variety of situations. Not only is movement something that can minimize the chances of the butterfly being captured in the net, movement is often filled with grace and beauty.

Here’s what I want to move TOWARD: freedom, love, joy, compassion, ease in my muscles at rest, new experiences, faithfulness, and curiosity. How about you? What do you want to move TOWARD?