Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Six Months And One Day

Six months and one day ago I was alone, homeless, broke, hopeless, dealing with untreated mental illness and didn't have a reason to live.

Now I am not able to say if I came up with the idea that going to sit in a roomful of drunks, junkies and degenerates was better than stepping in front of an oncoming light rail or if G-d Hisownself was responsible, but either way, I made my way to a meeting.

As I walked to the York Street Club, my mind actively plotted how it would end me were it not satisfied with the outcome of this meeting because anything, including death, was better than what I was dealing with, or rather NOT dealing with. My mind had convinced itself that a meeting was only an hour long, and given the 30 minute walk there and back, it could have me stepping in front of a light rail in time to make the drive time newscast if this AA bullshit didn't seem like it would do anything.

The topic of the AA meeting that I first attended was "What G-d Has Done For Me" and when I heard this I laughed not so silently to myself as I already knew what G-d had done for me.

G-d had fucked me.

G-d had taken from me the love of my life.

G-d had robbed me of my livelihood.

G-d had made me homeless.

G-d had deprived me of my very will to live.

Whether or not this was some cruel cosmic joke or some cruel cosmic coincidence I did not know. Either way I was intent on sitting through this meeting as my mind had decided that was what I was going to do and if it didn't work, well, I had a date with a light rail.

Sitting there in that room of sober drunks and me, I passed judgement on this and derisively mocked that until a large, shiny jowled man sitting right next to me said "My name is Joe and I am an alcoholic." His voice hit me with the force of a lead pipe to the head as I had not noticed him sitting there when I sat down. He spoke tersely and forcibly and without embellishment and while I don't remember everything he said, I do remember his closing words "Like G-d will fuck up my life any worse than I have."

That was six months and one day ago.

In that time I have carried Joe's wisdom with me and "Like G-d will fuck my life any worse than I have." has become a very powerful mantra for me.

In that time I have not drank or drugged.

In that time I have started looking for a job and have even had several interviews.

In that time I have started developing a community of people who care about me and I have cried from happiness because of it.

In that time I have started to live honestly and embrace my past misdeeds.

In that time, three people have allowed me to stay with them from time to time so I am no longer sleeping in an abandoned house.

In that time I have begun to deal with my mental illness by attending group and individual counseling sessions and sticking to a medication schedule.

Please keep in mind that my life, by any measurement, still sucks. I've no job, no source of income, no permanent place to live, rely on public assistance for food and healthcare and still have terrible days that see me sobbing uncontrollably for seemingly no reason at all.

However, what I can say exists in my life where before it didn't is an emerging sense of possibility. This has been given to me by people I have met both in and out of the rooms who have gone down this road, suffered what I am suffering and can give me the experience, strength and hope that I don't yet have.

They can help me match serenity to calamity and know that while it won't get all better right now, what I have gone through and what I will yet go through will someday help someone, somewhere.

Just like Joe's words of wisdom helped me exactly when I needed it.

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Alone No More...

A funny thing happened a few weeks back.

One morning I awoke after spending a night of being VERY ill, the majority of which was spent VERY near the loo.

You will be spared the gory details.

Needless to say, after a night of "sleeping" on the bathroom floor, curled in a fetal position using a rolled up towel as a pillow, I was in NO shape to stand up. let alone go out into the world and make my way thereabouts.

As I had a headache and to move any part of my body for any reason left me feeling nauseous and dizzy, I didn't call or text or email or tweet or Facebook anyone regarding my condition. As I have in the past, I was just planning to suffer though my seasonal bout with the flu in the stoic manner that I like to think I do.

The next day the nausea and had abated sufficiently that I was able to call and text and email and tweet and Facebook.  Upon checking Facebook, texts and tweets, I saw that several people had contacted me asking where I was, if I was OK and to call or text or Facebook as soon as I could.

Something was amiss.

This was not what usually happened.

I was not quite sure how to deal with this.

Let me address some relevant background info. The majority of the last twenty or so years has involved me lying, deceiving, cheating or in general being a terrible human being. People that had the misfortune of crossing paths with me usually went away worse for the experience. I would imagine that if you take a survey of my former bosses, friends, co-workers, roommates and significant others, you would find that the majority of them have negative memories of me.

The end result of this has pattern of behavior is that I have VERY few people in my life whom I can say that I am close with.

That now appears to be changing.

People contact me to see if I wish to do things - get coffee, go shopping, take in a movie, eat lunch, etc.

These people know of my past, they know of my misdeeds yet they don't care.

They accept me for me - the good, the bad and the worse.

On pages 83 and 84 of the Big Book of AA , we read The Promises:
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it...Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change...We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
This is happening for me.

I am amazed that people care about me, wish to spend time with me and seek me out for help.

I am starting to know a new freedom and a happiness that comes from knowing that people know about my past and they don't care.

I can see that my attitude and outlook on life are changing in that I am not hiding my past, my troubles and my current situation - underemployed, broke and in recovery.

I suddenly did realize that G-d is doing ALL these things for me because I most certainly am not capable of doing this for myself.

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


This is the season of miracles.

The birth of Christ and the lights of Hanukkah remind us of miraculous events that took place so long ago and so far away. 

If you watch the news, read the papers and listen to friends and neighbors, miracles don't seem so common anymore. 

War and violence and hate are everywhere we turn.  

A common reaction to this is to ask "If G-d loves us, why do all this terrible, evil things occur?" People might wonder "If G-d is all good, why are children in Africa born HIV positive?" We question: "If G-d is present in the world, why are people discriminated against or killed because they are transgender or black or gay."

These questions are asked out of a universal human need to seek meaning behind seemingly meaningless suffering. We inquire because as people who need comfort, we will find no comfort if we were not to ask.

In the program of AA, it is suggested that if we wish to find serenity and peace, we should accept life on life's terms. Page 448 of the Big Book reads as follows:
Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation--some fact of my life --unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.
When I read this, I am reminded that the G-d of my understanding wants me to have peace and abundance and happiness. But how can I have peace and abundance and happiness in a world filled with evil and greed and hate?

It seems upside down.

Then it hit me with all the force of a frying pan to the face: It is not G-d that is upside down, it is me! It is not G-d's expectations that are weird, it is my view of the world I live in!

This realization took me back to a passage in the Talmud (book of Jewish law) I read several years ago that tells the story of a rabbi whose son fell ill and was at the brink of death when his father's prayers brought him back to life. When he came to, his father asked him what he saw in heaven. The son replied: "I saw an upside-down world. Those who are on top here, are on the bottom there; and those who are here regarded as lowly, are exalted in heaven."

If we flip the question, we flip the answer.

The question to ask is not "Why is there evil in the world?" but rather "Why is there good in the world?"

There is evil in the world not because G-d doesn't love us, but rather there is good in the world because G-d loves us.

When looked at in this way, miracles become commonplace and G-d's grace becomes evident in everyday events. 

The person who finds a job after being on the street for months. 

A trip to the emergency room that turns out to be nothing to terrible. 

An alcoholic or addict who stops using, starts working the steps and begins to experience the promises

We begin to see our Higher Power working in and through these and other situations and we realize that each and every moment we are here is exactly what it is: a miracle. 

Be well, do good work and keep in touch. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The willingness to help does not make one charitable; it makes one free. - Robert Brault


I enjoy giving it. 

I loathe asking for it. 

It has been offered to me MANY times. 

To FEW times I have availed myself of it. 

Much of the past 20 years of my life was been spent hiding and deceiving myself and others into believing that I was strong, capable, well off, powerful, etc. 

This misguided, sad trajectory of events brought me misery, sorrow and loneliness - the exact opposite of my intended outcome. 

Why have I never been willing to let others help me? 

What was the source of my arrogance - and that is what it was - that prevented me accepting assistance from my fellows?

Why did I think  I was too good, so much better than others, that I was somehow beyond that need? 

It was a disastrous combination of drugs, alcohol, fear, dishonesty and mental illness. 

Only recently have I been taking small, yet bold steps to deal with the storms in my mind and in my life  - regularly seeing a therapist, not hiding from my own past, writing about my experiences, trying (and often failing) to keep a regular spiritual practice and engaging in a community of recovery. These actions have resulted in small life improvements - fewer panic attacks, a developing network of people who care about me, less frightening nightmares and an increasing sense of self-worth. 

When I was in the depths of my darkness, the lowest point where my pride and arrogance and delusional belief that I was separate and better than others, it was then and there that help came in the form of a nice couple who sat across from me in a Starbucks. I looked at them and I realized that they were everything I was not, yet wanted to be - happy, joyous and free

When I look back at that not so distant day, I wonder if the G-d of my understanding arranged that situation by bringing that nice couple to that Starbucks, by allowing me to become desperate enough to be willing to try another way, by creating within me and within that situation all the facets necessary to bring me to a point of brokenness where I was willing to accept help. 

This willingness to ask for help is but a first step. 

What comes next is using it - to do the actual asking for help. 

This will require me to exercise more humility then I have in the past, to embody the realization that I am not in this alone, that I am no better (and no worse) than anyone else. 

Perhaps in the midst of my pride and failure is that which has eluded me for so long..

Perhaps by becoming willing to be helped by others and then asking for that help, I will find what I have been seeking all along - self-acceptance. 

Be well, do good work and keep in touch. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Soundtrack of My Sobriety

Sometimes a song says what we cannot or will not. 

A single chord, often times a single note is enough to produce a flood of emotion, stir a long forgotten memory or shift an entire point of view.

Below are seven songs that have inspired, sustained and carried me....

Prayer For The Dying - Seal 
This is one of the most powerful pieces of music I have ever experienced. The lyrics pierce my soul - "I may not know what you are going through, but time is the space between me and you." In 2005, I started a downward spiral into the depths of undiagnosed bipolar disorder that would . My then significant other, Jeremy, who had never had someone close in his life with mental illness, said "I don't know what you are going through, but I am here for you." When I listen to this song, it reminds me of that time, when I knew for the first time I was not alone.

Nothing Really Matters - Madonna 
Logically, this is not a song that I would relate to recovery and sobriety, but logic has not always been at the center of my life. This song taught me that wisdom can come from unlikely sources - like the lyrics of a Madonna song. The line that speaks to me most is "Nothing really matters. Love is all we need. Everything I give you. All comes back to me." The rest of the equally profound lyrics can be found here

Let It Bet - The Beatles 
Could there be better advice about turning it over to your Higher Power and asking for help? 

Many times I have recited the lyrics in prayer and have found great comfort and peace. 

Invariably, the answer to what I am seeking comes when I just let it be. 

Run On (God's Gonna Cut You Down) - Johnny Cash
Lyrics here.

Further comment is not required. 

Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole
Sometimes a voice and a song collide and you are never the same. 

Such it was when I heard Iz's cover of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. 

This song is an icon of American culture. 

That reality coupled with the yearning and anguish implied in the lyrics of the song are enough to carry me to where I wish I could be. 

A hymn to Elsewhere...

Hazy Shades of Winter - The Bangles
This song is everything.

Whenever I listen to it, I hear what I need. 

Resolve, sadness, despair, anger, awakening, strength. 

The Catalyst - Linkin Park 
I heard this song last year when I was in a very dark place and while it did not immediately hit me, I liked it...sort of. 

Only recently have I read the lyrics and realized it is me on many levels. 

"God save us everyone/Will we burn inside the fires of a thousand suns/For the sins of our hands/The sins of our tongues"

Be  well, do good work and keep in touch. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Arc of Providence...

As long as I can remember, I have believed in a Higher Power of a sort.

Thankfully, belief in the Unseen comes quite easy for me.

This has at times been a source of much misery and hardship in my life, given my expansive and oft used powers of embellishment and delusion.

Other times, and I count the present time among these, it has been the greatest source of comfort and stability in my life. 

If I let it in

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, we are counseled as follows:
The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God's universe. The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.
Only recently have I realized that my spiritual experience, my burning bush is not an event, but rather an ongoing process. It is not a singular happening or a discrete encounter in which the clouds opened, sunlight rained down and choirs of angels sang.

It is a relationship.

What it has been is a continuous presence of small yet powerful impressions, thoughts, happenings, coincidences,  encounters with people, books, TV shows, songs lyrics that have been there at exactly the right place at exactly the right time to give me exactly the help I need to deal with  exactly what I am dealing with at that exact moment.


Rare were the times in which I was open enough, honest enough and willing enough to see these.

Most times I was to self-involved, self-seeking and self-serving to realize when it was happening right in front of me.

One of the powers of Time and Space is that it gives us the ability us to look back in our lives and analyze what ACTUALLY happened, not what we THINK happened.

When I read the aforementioned quote, I always take hold the last sentence in the highest esteem:
He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.
The vast majority of my adult life has been spent in jails, institutions or on the streets. I had nowhere to sleep, no job to go to and no money with which to acquire the basics: food, clothing, shelter and so forth.

Given this, I have always been amazed at my ability to provide for myself as  I have ALWAYS had these things when I needed them.

Whether it was squatting in an abandoned house or sleeping in a unoccupied dorm room on a random college campus or stumbling across a backpack on a beach that held a box of granola bars and a pair of shoes that fit me just right, I have ALWAYS been provided for.

I was very proud of my ability to live by my wits.


Well, now I look back upon this unbroken line of perfect abundance, this Arc of Providence and know that it was not in any way, shape or form due to anything I did or did not due.

It was God, acting in small, unseen and often unacknowledged ways that allowed me to go where I needed to go, do what I needed to do.

It was God that fed me.

It was God that sheltered me.

It was God that sustained me.

In jails, in dorms, on beaches and in several rare instances, my own dwelling.

I was simply the lucky and undeserving recipient of this Arc of Providence.

Armed with this evidence, with the knowledge that my needs of food, shelter, clothing and other essentials have always been provided for and by logic will continue to be provided for, I move forward.

At this point in my life where I find myself, this terrifying and wondrous point, I ask that God grant me knowledge of His will for me and the carry it out.

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Jedi Sobriety - Star Wars and the 12 Steps

As a fan of pop culture and an admitted geek, I like to watch am completely obsessed with the Star Wars sagas.  One aspect of the films that I find fascinating is the struggle between good and evil and the Jedi knights commitment  to maintaining  balance and harmony in the galaxy through their relationship with the Force.

All Jedi trainees, called padawan learners, undergo rigorous training with a mentor who imparts guidance and teachings on subjects of importance. Jedis learn to master their emotions and  eceive teachings on finding a connection to the Force as they understand it.

Jedi knights became powerful through the teachings of a Master Jedi, a master like Yoda.

What would Master Yoda have to say about each of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous?

What wisdoms might he impart to us if he were to take us through the Steps?

Let's find out...

Step 1 - Admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable. 

Yoda might tell us that we ..."must unlearn what you have learned…for, once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will."

Step 2 - Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Master Yoda places his belief in in The Force - a power greater than himself, and believes that only It can bring true balance and sanity.  In coming to believe in a Higher Power, in a Force of our own understanding, Yoda might tell us that “a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force….May the Force be with you.”

Step 3 - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Master Yoda made a decision to turn his will and his life over to the care of the Force as he understood It. As part of our journey through the 12 Steps, we make a decision to allow a Higher Power into our lives. Yoda instructs us to “use your feeling, and find him you will. When all choices seem wrong, choose restraint, for you must unlearn what you have learned.”

Step 4 - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

In making a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, we get a close-up of our  reactions to people, places and things, and the emotions that follow. For many of us, fear is at the root of our resentments. Yoda believes that taking a personal inventory is crucial to growth because “...named must your fear be before banish it you can.”
Step 5 - Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Once we have finished our moral inventory, we are ready to admit to our Higher Power, to ourselves, and to another human being what we have found. Yoda maintains that the fourth step is crucial to uncovering the truth, for “the dark side clouds everything. Clear your mind must be if you are to discover the real villains..."

Step 6 - Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 

In unlearning what we have learned in our alcoholic lives, we must be entirely ready to have our Higher Power remove all our defects of character. It may feel as though we are losing a part of ourselves in practicing step 6, but to a Jedi knight, loss is another element of growth. So, according to Yoda, you must “train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”

Step 7 - Humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings. 
A Jedi knight humbles himself to the infinite power and wisdom of the Force, humbly asking that It removes his shortcomings and makes him a better, more peaceful person. This step is an ongoing part of Yoda’s 12-Step training regiment, because he believes that “humility endless is.”
Step 8  Make a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 8 suggests we make a list of all persons we have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all. Our connection to the Force we have forged comes particularly handy here because, with the Force on our side, we can walk through step 8 peacefully. Yoda reminds us “a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.”
Step 9 - Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 
When we make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others, we strengthen our relations to those we have harmed. His relations with other groups have strengthened as a result of Step 9, and now he boasts “good relations with the Wookies, I have.”
Step 10 - Continued to take personal inventory and when wrong promptly admit it. 
To be the best Jedi knight you can be, we must continue to take personal inventory and promptly admit our wrongs when we notice them. In practicing step 10, we are readily willing to accept the truth about our thoughts, our actions and ourselves. Yoda believes in step 10 because, “to be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose” how we respond to it and utilize it for positive action.
Step 11 - Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out. 
Step 11 instructs us to seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, and to pray only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. Yoda continues to practice step 11 each day and tells us that in our prayer and meditation to your Higher Power “to the Force, look for guidance. Use your feeling, and find him you will.”

Step 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.  
The core belief of a Jedi Knight is to give freely of that which they have received as a result of becoming enlightened in the ways of the Force. Yoda has said that in order to spread the message of the Force, we must “around the survivors, a perimeter create.” Coming to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, we can identify as a survivor of our Alcoholism—find the other survivors and form a foundation of support.
We can be our own greatest support or troublesome obstacle, for, as Yoda prophesies, in the rooms of A.A. “you will find only what you bring in.”

We are now ready to sponsor a newcomer and take them through the steps, for in this spiritual journey, according to Yoda, “...always there are two, a master and an apprentice.” We can now  share our experience, strength and hope with our new apprentices, but we can't become complacent with our achievement and completion of the steps, for “...much to learn, you still have.”

Be well, do good work and keep in touch. 

Adapted from/Inspired By Addiction Blog

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Only Thing We Have To Fear...




In AA and other 12-step programs modeled after AA it is suggested that those wishing to embark on a program of recovery embrace these three things.

Honesty is listed first and I believe that is not an accident, as for me, honesty is the one thing I struggle with the most.

The last 20 years of my life has been a sad, pathetic attempt to find peace, stability and acceptance through making myself into a different person. Different names, different places, different identities. I thought that if I could just assemble the right list of attributes - military veteran, lawyer, multilingual, well-traveled, educated - and then tell a sufficient number of people, it would "become" true.

The problem with this approach is that people are not lists. Lists are two dimensional things. People are multi-dimensional.

Invariably the end result of this fabrication and deceit was that those whom I started out trying to impress and engage with ended up feeling betrayed by and wanted nothing to do with me.

For several weeks now, I have been involving myself in #OccupyDenver, the local manifestation of the global #OccupyWallStreet movement. I don't march or demonstrate much. I prefer to be in the "kitchen" we have set up and hand out food and water to thirsty and hungry people.

Last weekend, this came across Twitter.

Quite immediately I went into a small panic. How would I respond? What would I say? Right then and there I knew that I did not have the ability to respond properly.

I took a breath.

I prayed.

I asked God to guide my fingers.

My fingers, seemingly not under my own direction, tapped out this in response.  

Then this.

I didn't know what was going to happen when I went back to the park the next morning, but I made myself go.

That next morning I spoke with the young lady who asked about it. She said she was glad I am honest and am doing better.


The Denver Post, which is no stranger to my story, breathlessly reported that I had "resurfaced" and the post got minor play on the Twitter.

Since then, other things have happened.

So, what is my lesson is all this?

What insight can I gain from this going forward?

This lesson that I am getting from this, perhaps 20 years to late or perhaps at EXACTLY the right time, is this:

The degree to which I am honest and open with the Universe is directly related to how much I am accepted by the same Universe.

That is all I need at this moment.

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


This is the first in a series of posts in which I will explore the relationships I have with members of my family. These posts are written from the point of view of a very flawed individual who does not know the whole story.

Please keep that in mind when reading this.

When I think of my mother, I think of a powerful woman who has been placed into tragic circumstances by life.

It has been told to me in so many words that my coming into the world was not exactly planned. While it has never been EXACTLY said in that way, several years ago I had a candid, open conversation with my mother, she told me "When I saw Alex [the name of the man listed on my birth certificate as my 'father'] and told him I was pregnant, he said "Well, it's not mine."

From my mother I get my resilience. Thinking back, I can recall from an early age, that my mother never had it easy. Growing up, we lived in various places, with various friends and family members - aunts and uncles, grandparents, etc. Rarely did we ever have our own place to call our own. When we did, it was just for a short time.

Perhaps my mother had boyfriends. I know of two. I can only remember one - the man who eventually became her husband, then her ex-husband and father to my two siblings. I will explore my relationship with him in a later post.

In childhood and more so as a teenager, I was, if anything, difficult. There were educational issues, psychological issues, sibling issues, legal issues, etc. My mother tried valiantly, for years, with every fiber of her being and then some, to keep together a family that was tearing itself apart at the seams. Top off this shit sandwich of a life with an alcoholic husband and what to you get?  I will tell you what you get: a bigger shit sandwich.

During this volatile time, I would frequently reside with my grandparents. I would, in my own weirdness, play my grandparents against my mother, telling them she "emotionally abused" me or was "playing favorites." Much of the time, this was successful. The grandparents would drop everything and drive to our house and "rescue" me from this terrible woman, this awful person, who I thought was favoring my younger siblings over me. When the grandparents would come retrieve me, they would have yelling matches with my mother,a accusing her of being a horrible parent and other various things. After a few days of living at the grandparents house, I would return home and we would repeat the cycle This happened ad infinitum.

At the age of 15, I told my mother and a family counselor of my sexuality. This was at best unwelcome and at worst the catalyst for a severe beating from my father, who was a virulent homophobe and did not want "that shit under MY roof!" The result of me coming out to my parents was that two weeks later I was placed into a group home by father.

For years, I blamed my mother for abandoning me, for banishing me, for sending me into the wilderness. I would accuse her of selling me down river, of favoring my sister and brother over me. I would, as I described above, drag my grandparents into this.

Only recently, thanks to the twin gifts of time and perspective, have I been able to see this from a perspective other than my own, from a vantage point that is not mine. While I have not confirmed any of these thoughts on these events of years ago, simply acknowledging that I was not the only one involved in these torturous events is a quantum leap for me.

Imagine: you have three children and a husband - a family. This family is being torn asunder from forces within and without. You have a choice. You can remove one source, a major source of disruption, one of these children and possibly save your family.

But it's not a sure thing.

Sacrifice one child for the sake of the rest of the family.

What would you do?

For the better part of two decades I blamed my mother for abandoning me, for starting me down the path of sorrow and jail and addiction and homelessness and violence and mental illness that has been my life for the past two decades.

This blame and anger have poisoned my soul, stunted my growth and chained me to the past.

This blame and anger has been the source of delusions, of anxiety and my hate for myself.

It destroyed the relationship with the man who was the love of my life , the man who gave me five years of his life and unconditionally loved me.

It has also protected me and in some ways comforted me. "You are RIGHT to feel this way!" I would tell myself.

All this it has been and now it must be no more. It has served its purpose.

God please guide me and keep me in this time and place.

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The God of My Own Understanding...

When you hang around the rooms of AA for a sufficient period of time, or anywhere for that matter, you begin to observe certain patterns of thought, speech and action.

One of these patterns of thought and speech that I find most fascinating is the relationship that alcoholics and addicts have with a Higher Power, the way they speak of interfacing with the God of their understanding.

One of the first things that I learned when I came into AA was that I have a daily reprieve contigent on the maintenence of my spiritual condition.

I am beyond human help. SRSLY. No human power could have relived my suffering.

Realizing this, it was necessary for me to turn beyond myself, outside my previous spheres and modalities, to seek a way to rid me of this pain and anguish - to a God of my own understanding.

Rick's God, Rick's Higher Power, is perhaps one you may know or may not know. I had always believed there was a force at work in my universe, a general guiding hand that while caring, was a bit non-personal - a Divine Flight Attedant if you will.

This force, this Divine Flight Attendant, while it did keep the plane in the air and guided it around mountains and through storms preventing a fiery crash of metal from descending to Earth, it did not particular show any interest in me.

I was, to it, I thought, just a body in a seat.

One of several billion passengers on the airline of the Universe.

Then something happened.

This event is best decribed by the words of a man MUCH smarter and greater than me, "Behold I make all things new; former things are passed away."

Today, my Higher Power is much more.

So. Much. More.

The God of my understanding is not a distant impersonal force, but rather a dynamic, living being that cares deeply and is personally involved in every facet of my existance, if I am willling to let that care and involvment manifest itself.

From the smallest facets, the folding the protiens inside my cells to the largest swaths of keeping the Universe from being erased from existance in a vacuum metastablity event, for example.

And in between those points, where my world lies, the Higher Power in which I have chosen to place my belief and trust and faith in also provides for my temporal needs - food, shelter, clothing, sanity, etc.

Life today is far from perfect as I am homeless, unemployed and broke, More importantly, I  have realized, through prayer and honest introspection, that I am not alone. The program of AA has provided a social infastructure which includes people who take me for what I am - a liar, a drunk and a coward.

Today I know that I cannot MAKE my life perfect as such a thing does not exist.

Thank God for that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

All Uphill From Here...

So here I sit -  in this Starbucks, in this city, in this life.

So here I sit - homeless, unemployed, mentally ill, addicted, reputation ruined by my own misdeeds.

So here I sit - and  I am grateful to God for ALL of that. Sometimes. 

When I am not grateful for ALL of that, I try to ask for the capacity to be grateful for ALL of that. Sometimes.

When it all came crashing down, and I realized that I was all of the aforementioned and not the respected, successful natural resources lawyer with a military past who alluded he may have connections to a shadowy intelligence agency that I had convinced myself into almost believing I was, it may have been the most psychologically and spiritually painful realization of my life.

Many people do not know the detail to which I had planned out the alternate reality that I was inhabiting. 

In this world, I had created a whole social infrastructure of friends and family hat I visited in different locations. To support this I had found ways of convincing Foursquare that I was ACTUALLY in different locations, thereby allowing me to check in at places near and far. I had even gone as far as concocting the license plate on my 2007 Audi Allroad - "BTCHPLZ." 

Why did I need to do this? What process in my mind determined that the best way to handle the situation was to construct a parallel reality and attempt to inhabit that reality? Perhaps it was done in an attempt to make up for what I felt was an inadequacy in my life, that I did not measure up to others in some way. Maybe it was done to protect myself from something I was threatened by, that was going to somehow hurt me. Maybe some day this will be revealed to me. Maybe someday it will not. 

That reality is no more. I am now in this reality. This reality with all of its' flaws and perfections and misery and joy and heartache and wholeness. My link to this reality seems, for the moment, to be strong. I am on a medication regimen. I'm doing counseling and checking in routinely with a case manager at a local agency. Old friends I never knew I had are coming back into my life and new friends are emerging. I am trying to be here in my brokenness and my imperfection and destitution. 

It is terrifying. Utterly. Fucking. Terrifying. 

Moment by moment. 

Thought by thought.

Hour by hour. 

Word by word. 

Day by day.

Deed by deed. 

Be well, do good work and keep in touch. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Power of Doing The Next Right Thing...

One of the most subtly powerful passages in the Big Book of AA is from Chapter 11, A Vision For You

It begins on page 154 - 
One dismal afternoon he paced a hotel lobby wondering how his bill was to be paid. At the end of the room stood a glass covered directory of local churches. Down the lobby a door opened into an attractive bar. He could see the gay crowd inside. In there he would find companionship and release. Unless he took some drinks, he might not have the courage to scrape an acquaintance and would have a lonely week-end.
Many of us have found ourselves in a similar situation. 

On one side we have instant gratification and familiarity. We will find immediate relief from our problems and cares. The weight of our situation will be lifted for a short time. But there is a price - a heavy, painful price that we will pay at the end. 

On the other side, we have what in the rooms of AA is often called "doing the next right thing."  

Will it be pleasant? Probably not. 

Will it be fun or enjoyable? Highly unlikely. 

Will it involve thinking and acting in ways that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable? You can count on it. 

Our story continues - 
Of course he couldn't drink, but why not sit hopefully at a table, a bottle of ginger ale before him? After all, had he not been sober six months now? Perhaps he could handle, say, three drinks — no more! Fear gripped him. He was on thin ice. Again it was the old, insidious insanity — that first drink. With a shiver, he turned away and walked down the lobby to the church directory. Music and gay chatter still floated to him from the bar. 
I have been at a similar moment, standing at what the Big Book of AA calls "the turning point" (note it does not say "a" turning point, but rather "THE" turning point) where I am aware of the nature of the decision that stares me in the face, a hair's breadth from me, waiting to see which route I shall choose. It hearkens of the scene from "The Matrix" in which Morpheus tells Neo  "You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."

We return to the Big Book for the final sequence - 
But what about his responsibilities — his family and the men who would die because they would not know how to get well, ah — yes, those other alcoholics? There must be many such in this town. He would phone a clergyman. His sanity returned and he thanked God. Selecting a church at random from the directory, he stepped into a booth and lifted the receiver.
The legacy of this choice remains with us decades afterword, for we people in recovery ARE its' legacy.

There are millions of people across the Earth of every race, every nationality, every religion, every orientation at all socioeconomic levels who owe our very lives to that singular choice.

Please stop and consider that immense and powerful idea - a single human being made a single decision at a single moment and because of it, millions of lives were saved.

Now here is the where the magic for us, as people in recovery - the wounded, broken and spiritually bankrupt people we were and in some cases, may still be, here is where the magic begins.

Every moment we are alive holds the same power, promise and possibility as that one moment so many years ago. Every breathe taken, every thought that passes from our minds, every time we turn this way or that way, carries with it the intrinsic ability to change everything.

And that is the power of doing the next right thing.

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Of Things As I Thought They Were and Things That I Now Know Are.

For the uninformed (read that as fortunate) the title of this blog is taken from pages 83 and 84 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous - a section those in the program refer to as "The Promises" which reads as follows:

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change. Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
A little over a year ago, I stopped drinking and using. It was not for want of a better way of life, but rather because I ran out of money to fuel my drinking and using. To proud to panhandle for booze and drug money and to out of my mind to get a job, I simply existed.  I was a dry drunk, white knuckling it through this so called life - minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day - doing what I could do to make it seem like I was not homeless, jobless, suffering from untreated mental illness, spiritually bereft, broke and alone.

I sat in various Starbucks and other locations with my laptop, my reusable coffee cup, my Sigg water bottle,  with expensive fancy shoes, wearing my Northface jacket while engaging in heated conversations with non-existent people on a disconnected cell phone. The ease with which I convinced myself that all was well did not come as much of a surprise to me, as I have a well-documented track record of convincing people to believe things that are not true.

Did I ever do a good job of convincing myself.

95 days ago, I sat there, in that Starbucks on 16th and Blake Streets, convinced that I was not homeless, jobless, suffering from untreated mental illness, spiritually bereft, broke and alone.

A nice couple sat across the coffee shop from me.

As they sat there, in all their nice coupleness, a storm broke in my soul.

Was it the caffeine or the low blood sugar I may have been dealing with? Was it the light glinting off a parked car on a bright summer morning in downtown Denver, Colorado?

It may have been all of these or none of these.  Who can say? Whatever it was, it pierced me and all the realization of reality, all of the denials, all of the hiding, all of the projections, the facades, the self-avoidance came crashing down around me.

I sat there and for the first time and I knew, in my heart of hearts, in the inner most crevices of my mind and felt with all of my being the reality that I was homeless, jobless, suffering from untreated mental illness, spiritually bereft, broke and alone.

I cried.

Not that I realized it then, or that I fully realize it now, but that was my rock bottom. I had reached  what the Big Book of AA calls a "jumping off place." When this place is reached the Big Book says, in Chapter 11, the alcoholic "...will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do...He will wish for the end." Never before has a place been simultaneously more real and metaphorical.

As I sat in that Starbucks at 16th and Blake streets, I might have well been at the corner of Delusion and Grandeur streets, for the unreality I had been living in, the world of prosperity and abundance and happiness that I had constructed for myself, was instantly no more.

As I find myself in my life, I am now telling my story. Part inventory, part personal need to vent, part need to be heard - even if by no one other than the God of my understanding, this is me reaching out to the Universe.

You may read it, you may not.

I hope in time, once a job, shelter and other life accouterments are acquired, to transfer this blog to a  dedicated domain where I can continue it in a more appropriate format.

We shall see.

As someone much wiser than me says, Be well, do good work and keep in touch.