Friday, May 5, 2017

Detox Redux (It's Not Easy Being Green, From Where I'm Calling)

With apologies to Kermit the Frog and Raymond Carver.
Those of us there for detox sported green wristbands. Others, such as the dual-diagnosis crew, wore a different color. Yellow, I think. Dual diagnosis represents people undergoing treatment not just for substance abuse, but also an underlying condition, like depression or some other category of what's deemed mental illness. The majority of the detox cases involved heroin users, most of whom were younger. They used the needle. Some people depended upon opioids in pill form, Some, like me, on alcohol. Opiods and alcohol allegedly represent two of the most dangerous substances from which to withdraw, hence the roughly seven-day inpatient stay for me, my second go-round. Medically supervised withdrawal recommended. Which means they pump you with drugs to counteract the potentially lethal effects of withdrawal. I liked it so much I went back.
Two roommates again this time, but not the same ones for the duration. I spent my last night sharing a room with two guys in the early stages of heroin withdrawal. Not the most peaceful night.
One of these guys, el Lobo, equaled a predator, in that he preyed upon vulnerable girls. Take Darla, for instance (her real it isn't). Smiling Darla, she of no confidence in her ability to stop using heroin, or drugging, in the vernacular. Heroin equals dope, by the way. I recall a time when "dope" seemed to represent a broader array of drugs, including marijuana. But now, according to my once-drug-addled younger brethren, heroin is dope (dope, bro).
So one day, el Lobo, Darla, another girl and I shot pool in the basement as, somehow, part of the therapeutic process. Beats shooting heroin or throwing back shots of alcohol, I suppose, at least in that environment. In between shots (billiard), el Lobo stroked Darla's hair, on, like, his second day. Not a time-waster. After which, I pulled her aside and inquired as to whether allowing that type of behavior was in her best interests. Darla, speaking to me: "Please don't say anything. Please. Pleeeeeeease." So I didn't say anything to him. Lo and behold, the next night he had moved on to a newly admitted woman.
Darla had a friend inside whom she called her wife, and vice versa. Chastity. Cute, young Chastity, who allegedly copped as soon as she left the building. Apparently she called in and told someone still on the inside that her dealer picked her up and she used right away. She showed me her arms one day and the damage the needle had done. Customarily, we had the opportunity to address people at our community meeting the night before their scheduled departures. I told Chastity, and included Darla, even though she wasn't leaving, that I didn't want them to become statistics. News reports contain statistics. And generally they don't mean anything to a lot of people. They mean something to me. These are people. Nice kids who perhaps have done not-so-nice things. I place myself in that category, though not a kid, exactly, and alcohol, not heroin. What's the difference? Because we can legally obtain alcohol? I check on Chastity occasionally via a Google search. Still alive, last I looked. Not sure what has become of Darla, but I wonder. She and I left on the same day, and I had offered her a ride home (against the rules). But some people looking out for my best interests advised against it because, well, addicts are capable of anything, meaning she could have asked me to stop at a convenience store and met someone to get drugs and got back in my vehicle with them. Or she could have said I did something inappropriate. To what end, I don't know, but I left without her and still feel bad. I lived with these people and didn't/don't want to believe she possessed the capability to do something along those lines. But, of the addicts I've encountered in treatment, many acknowledge how they were capable of anything while using.
And the activities these girls acknowledged. They more or less woke up and considered how to obtain money to procure dope. Before detox, not during. So they traded sex. Darla preferred older guys because they climaxed more quickly. Seems counterintuitive. Chastity didn't express a preference but indicated that the men's ages covered a broad swath. They divulged this information matter of factly, which is to some extent the beauty of detox. People in that environment tend not to judge one another because of a predilection to overindulge in wayward activity, because, hey, we were all there. That's not to say that the place lacked judgmental people, just not with respect to the drug of choice and associated behavior. People did judge based on sexual proclivities or otherwise aberrant behavior, like that of el Lobo, for instance. Guilty.
Jerry and Robert, for example, engaged in prohibited activity and got caught. I believe they had their mouths around each other's cocks at the time, to which Jack, the former Marine, took exception. The next morning's community meeting nearly devolved into a brawl, with Rick, the martial-arts instructor, taking Jack's side against Jerry and Robert. Jack had already revealed his hand when it came to homosexuals--not in favor.
Jerry had been married, to a woman, but took a shine to Robert. Jerry also heard voices in his head. I'm unsure if a link existed between the voices and having been married. One night he took to pounding his head on the table. Before that, he had discovered that I like the musician John Prine. So Mary looked out for Joe. Mary actually had kicked alcohol but resided on our wing because they didn't have room in the area she normally would have ended up in for her depression. Mary also told the nurses about Jerry's travails. So I got a towel and placed it on the table where Jerry kept banging his head. But back to John Prine. Jerry inquired about a song, he couldn't remember all the details, but I divined that the tune in question was "In Spite of Ourselves." So I started singing to Crazy Jerry, and he joined in, though mangling the words a bit. But at least we interrupted the head-banging.
In the evenings, after we had fulfilled all our obligations, usually following an AA or NA meeting, we'd pass the time in various ways (until they shooed us off to bed at 11). Movies on DVD. Cards. Or, memorably, a home (or institutional) version of Family Feud. I had the good fortune to be the moderator. At one point after I had read a question, one of our female housemates, dealing with an opiate addiction, struggled to come up with a response. She almost had it; to wit, she said: "It's on the tip of my cunt."
Some of the people with whom I spent my stint had double-digit rehab stays under their belts. Like 15 or 16. Considering how much time it takes up, that represents a not-insignificant amount of time. I, between electroconvulsive therapy and two detox residencies, consider myself to have spent a fair amount of time in that environment (same place each time), but I kind of pale in comparison. Nevertheless, I derive a certain degree of comfort from being there, among my peeps. The aforementioned lack of judgment, which differs from the lack of judgment we all display while under the influence of our preferred substances. I suppose not everyone would feel comfortable essentially in a dorm full of heroin addicts, pill poppers and alcohol abusers, but to each his own. One virtue is that there's almost nothing to steal, because my heroin-addicted friends, in particular, acknowledge that they would steal from anyone. Granted, that involved drug use, but some habits die hard. The place permits no cellphones, iPods, tablets, etc. Limited-use pay phones provide the link to the outside world. Visitors could only come on Saturday.
I got the sense that I had become well-respected on the inside. Perhaps because I provided some of the kids with guidance they were unaccustomed to receiving, like take your feet off the dinner table. Seriously. The line between the gratification that accompanied people leaning on me and having to look out for my own well-being could be precarious. In AA, the people want you to call them. They acknowledge that your reliance upon them helps them, as well. In that respect, I consider the program to have a selfish component. On the other hand, not providing support for fellow travelers also can reflect a sort of selfishness.
So, how did I end up there for the third, maybe a charm, time? The easy route to take would have been to keep drinking. Well, I have kept drinking. Percentage-wise, though, with a back-of-the-envelope calculation, instead of 100% of the time since I left detox, I have drunk about 5% of the time. The liver numbers went right back to normal. Less than perfect, but a significant improvement. Anyway, back to how I got there. To satisfy the state of North Carolina, and a judge therein, I got a substance-abuse assessment (moderate) before appearing in court. I wound up in court because North Carolina law-enforcement officials saw fit to arrest me. Twice. On consecutive days. I've seen more of the inside of correctional institutions there than I have cared to, including an overnight stay, also to satisfy the court. The food didn't quite meet my normal standards, but sustenance nonetheless. I can't say much for the decor, either. Bland, decrepit. Uncomfortable bed. And the bars, of the iron variety, as opposed to the booze-serving variety. The entire alcohol-fueled circumstances leading to my arrest cost me a fair amount of money and inconvenience. Especially since they seized my vehicle (eventually returned). On the other hand, having drunk about 95% less since December, I've accrued some money that I otherwise wouldn't have. With respect to the legal aspects of my situation, I did everything right after the initial colossal fuck-ups. I gave the police no shit. Got a respectable lawyer. Had my substance-abuse assessment. Showed up for court dressed relatively nicely, as opposed to my co-miscreants in the judicial complex. They committed drug crimes, theft, blah, blah. Fortunately, a number of people failed to show up for their court dates, the same day as mine, which enabled the proceedings to move along somewhat more quickly. Nevertheless, my case was but one of about 60 that day, if I recall correctly. In one little North Carolina courthouse. So what does that say? That I'm not unique in my fucked-upness. Far from it. To wit, gaining admittance to my friendly neighborhood detox center poses somewhat of a challenge. Some of that stems from most being Medicaid patients. They more happily accept people with private insurance, which I have. So I didn't encounter the same degree of difficulty, or, rather, the same wait, as did others. A bit of a tiered system exists, as in anything, I guess, which brings me back to North Carolina. My lawyer met privately with the judge before he heard my case. Upon briefing me of the situation, my attorney said, "He doesn't give a rat's ass about the details of your case, he just cares about who you are. He wants to know who's going to win the election." That would be the presidential election. I hedged my bets, figuring Clinton likely had the edge while also allowing for the groundswell of support that eventually favored Trump. Why would he care about who I am and not the details of my case? Because I have a job that provides access beyond the reach of most people. People with whom I've attended subsequent group sessions for substance abusers of various stripes took exception to that kind of treatment, which I understand. But I didn't consider turning it down. Justice ain't completely blind. But I've put a lot of time in getting where I am, fucked-upness aside, so it worked in my favor in this case. They even dropped the marijuana charge. Rationalization works wonders, but when confronted with such a situation, I took the advice of my lawyer and utilized my assets. I couldn't control the judge's reaction, but a bad situation resulted in the best possible outcome, even with incarceration.       
On the inside. Maw Maw sort of fulfilled the role of elder stateswoman, though I think I might be older. Maw Maw is an African-American woman with an infectious laugh. I think she preferred crack and alcohol. She had a seizure on my first night, and in came the emergency responders to cart her off to the hospital. Maw Maw bore little resemblance, at least physically, to Maw Maw from "Raising Hope." Our Maw Maw stood about five feet nothing. She provided some good moments of levity. For example, when a young girl recounted a story, deemed credible by few, about having been beaten by her grandmother, I think, Maw Maw opined: "That's sooome kinda ass whoopin'." Despite being in group and, on the surface, the ostensible inexcusability of such behavior (the beating), had it occurred, I cracked up. I suppose that speaks to the credibility, or lack thereof, of the story. That girl had an overbearing way about her, so I think we all had tired of hearing it. Maw Maw, in her way, crystallized it. She also reacted to one of my observations with such hysteria that I thought she might be having another seizure. I came across Mark, a young Asian guy undergoing heroin withdrawal and one of my final-night roommates, on his bed in our room with his torso more or less flat on the mattress and his ass stuck high in the air, At first I didn't know what to make of it. I thought perhaps he was praying, but upon closer observation, he was comatose--in deep sleep, that is. So I later observed to him, in Maw Maw's presence, that I thought he might be praying like a Muslim. That observation apparently struck Maw Maw as the funniest she had ever heard. Hence my confusion as to whether another seizure had visited her, bent over in hysterics as she was.
So there it is, a partial account of my most recent holiday at the institution of my choice. I don't care to return, though part of me feels at home there. I haven't been perfect since I left, but I've been more perfect than before I went in. My after-care program, well, I'll get into that at some other time. But I haven't completely divorced myself from the fucked-up people. My kind.

Monday, July 4, 2016

My Ride's Here

Kind of like "Desperados Waiting for a Train." I would have spelled Desperados with an "e", but why quibble? Guy Clark used a lot of "ain'ts, too. So he died recently, and the unfortunate aspect is we'll get nothing new from him. "My Ride's Here" is a Warren Zevon song.  Bruce Springsteen. performed "My Ride's  Here"  after his death. Well, one of Bob Dylan's favorite songwriters was Guy Clark. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Killed a Dog

I killed a dog. You can sing it to the tune of "I kissed a Girl."
The dog in question was mine. I didn't actually kill her. The vet did. But I authorized it. I carried her to my truck and stood there teary-eyed in the driveway as the kids said goodbye and tossed a ball in with her. And I held her as the last bit of life spasmed out of her. Tonight I will retrieve her ashes. The reason I decided to pony up the extra money for an individual cremation concerns the kids. We encouraged the 13-year-old to go to soccer practice the night of the euthanasia, but his mother had to bring him home because he couldn't stop crying. On the other hand, the 9-year-old said he wanted a new dog that very weekend. I've put down dogs before, two of which were old and one that had bloated. But this dog has hit me particularly hard, probably because of the kids. And maybe the fact that I spent years intensely training with her.
Not to say that this dog didn't possess negative qualities. She was a high-drive German shepherd and liked to bark at anything--anything--that came by the house, like infants, other dogs, old ladies, birds.... The FedEx guy once refused to leave the bottom of the driveway to approach the house. One day son the younger approached me with a pair of scissors, pointing straight at me. She jumped off the couch barking, but did no harm. Likely because she knew the consequences of approaching one of our children with teeth bared. At the gas station, I had to close the back window and get out of the truck, for when anyone came near her vehicle, she went ballistic. The vehicle rocked, so adamant was she that nobody came near it.  She could be really sweet, however, unless you were within 15 feet of her food bowl. Then the growling and hair standing up and territoriality grew to frightening proportions for other members of the household. The poster child for bitches be crazy. Her breeder had said anyone else would have given her back. I wasn't scared of her, though. I put my hand right down in her food bowl. I could touch her while she growled. Near the end, though, she may have become more belligerent, and I took to fending her off with a chair while taking her food away if she hadn't eaten it within a reasonable amount of time. It was like lion feeding time at the zoo, and I acted like a circus lion tamer. I think she may have grown frustrated with her condition, since she lacked the mobility she had once possessed. Degenerative myelopathy, the canine equivalent of ALS, ultimately prompted us to let her go.
Before DM, she had enormous stamina and impressive agility. She would run 11 miles with me. She would scale the rock wall to the kids' clubhouse. She would jump four-foot fences easily. That all makes the debilitating disease even more disconcerting. Because her mental faculties, such as they were, hadn't declined. So at the end, she was just a happy dog at the vet's office, wondering what the hell was going on on the other side of that door as we waited in the room. What, there's another dog out there? Unacceptable.
Dogs are dogs, I know. But my kids hurt, and I hurt for them. Dogs become quickly woven into the fabric of lives. Still I think I need to take her outside. Still I look for here where she's not. Still I expect the barking at the garbage truck or the mailman.
We'll let the kids decide what they'd like to do with her. Perhaps we'll bury her under that front window from which she lashed out at all comers. She kissed me aggressively before she went to sleep, and after, I straightened her head and askew tongue. It's not fun seeing your dog like that, but neither was it fun seeing her struggle to stand up and falling and banging into walls and furniture. Bye, Kelsey.

Friday, June 27, 2014


So, I was at my son's soccer game recently, and I brought up guns. And every guy within earshot, from approximately 30 to 85 years of age, chimed in. I don't know shit about guns, but my father-in-law has given me a few. So these guns are about 60 years old. And I figured since I accepted them, I should know something about them. I've never fired either, but maybe I should know how to clean and maintain them. And make sure my kids never get their hands on them. One of these guns has some nice engraving, which some gun enthusiasts to whom I showed them to went crazy about. Ok, old guns, nice engravings, surely some collector would try to rip me off with respect to them. So, relative to home protection, well, I have a German shepherd who goes ballistic at the slightest provocation. Isn't that enough? So far, yes. And I keep the ammunition way separated from the firearms, lest a child find one or the other. But, guns, let's let everyone within earshot gather around.

Friday, April 11, 2014

School Days

Recently I visited the Catholic school I attended for grades 6th, 7th and 8th. The reason for which arises from my son's middle-school experience. Despite his steady academic performance, he has had difficulty adjusting to a large, public middle-school environment with a diverse demographic that draws from a large swath of our township.
Some people say we never really get out of the high-school mode. To some extent, I feel like I've never really gotten out of middle school. So, K-5 I attended public school. For 6th, 7th and 8th grades,  Catholic school. I served as an altar boy. In fact, I was pretty much like the captain of the altar boys, until I quit. The priest who was in charge didn't molest me physically, but, alas, psychologically. At any rate, now my kids want to attend the same Catholic school to which I went. So when I recently visited that school, emotions came to the fore. Some three decades-plus later, I find discomfiting the thought that that I haven't fully progressed beyond the time I spent there. After having visited, or, rather, revisited, the school I attended, I'm still partially caught in the same mind-set.
After we went there, I dug up my yearbook from that school (yes, I still have my middle-school yearbook), replete with all the messages from the girls about how we became such good friends and how they wanted me to visit them over the summer and how much they loved me.  I imagine that the girl upon whom I had a crush, all these years later, would be the same person. I've even had dreams that I was back at that school, and Sister Luke, having aged not at all, was there to greet me. It was her brother, at the time a priest,who most messed with me psychologically.
I've read articles that say kids these days spend too much time with their parents, depriving them of taking risks of their own, and I've read articles about people who home-school their kids because of the damage inflicted by the school setting itself. Primarily high school. Apparently, studies have revealed that most people on Facebook connect with their high-school friends.
Perhaps I should have learned something from having encountered, a few years out of middle school, that person upon whom I had a crush and treated badly: She didn't appear to have much recollection at all. Such is the curse of memory.
So now my own kids are at or approaching the stage that I feel I've never completely escaped. Do, experiences at this stage of life disproportionately affect who people become? And what do I do about it? Should I be supportive and engaged, or should I give them more latitude to become the people they were meant to be? So far, I've tended to be involved, largely because they seem to want me to be.
One article addresses self-perception versus the perceptions of others. I was a jock and a good student, but I never considered myself as self-assured as others did. Apparently there are ramifications that carry through to adult life. I struggle as much now as I did then, but nobody really knows. And for my own children, how do I decide when I haven't escaped middle school myself?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Creek

Much of my youth revolved around a stream that ran through the woods in which we rode our bikes on well-worn paths, smoked cigarettes after school and tried to thumb through illicitly obtained Playboys, some of whose pages stuck together after being left out in the elements, requiring delicate page-turning and the reward often turning out to be an unsatisfying one breast.
We hid our cigarettes in drain pipes. We rode our bikes on what eventually would become I-95 but was then just hard-packed dirt before contractors put down the asphalt. We would venture down to the train tracks and place pennies on the rails, which would melt into copper dots, blemishes on the silver, as the train passed.
We always just called it "the creek." We fished and shot BB guns and collected crayfish. The creek wasn't the stuff of my adulthood, the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone trout rivers that I have fished, with pelicans and eagles and bison and bears in the vicinity. Or the rivers of northern Maine, where the moose seemed ubiquitous. No, the creek sustained catfish and carp and eels and sunfish, which I exalted in catching in my boyhood as much as I do trout rising to dry flies now. There we collected garter snakes.
Now my association with the creek involves driving over it on the long-completed interstate, but it still runs through my blood nevertheless, since there was born an unflinching fascination with nature. Parts of the creek, as seen from the roadway, appear narrower now than in my youth, and I'm unsure if that results from a changing perspective with age, since, in retrospect, everything to a me as a youngster seemed grander than the reality, or an actual overgrowth of vegetation. The house in which I grew up, the street on which we lived, our backyard, all seem relatively smaller to me now than before. Part of that might stem from my living in a bigger house on a wider street now. I can say with some confidence that areas of the creek have shrunk, with the vegetation beginning to clog it like an artery.
The cornfield that abutted the woods through which we traveled has long since disappeared, having given way to an AMC multiplex, at which I took my kids to see Iron Man 3, which sucked. Along with the movie theater, restaurants and an ice-cream parlor have displaced the cornfield. We used to steal ears of corn from that field, particularly in anticipation of Mischief Night, the Halloween eve on which one engaged in mischief. We would remove the kernels from the ears and, I think, throw them at houses and cars. We also used to write on car windows with soap. Such was our mischief. All the while we feared the farmer, for legend held that he rewarded such pilferers of his crop with buckshot in the ass.
On occasion I drive through the neighborhood in which I grew up, wondering what has become of some of the people who lived in those houses. Some of them I know about. My best young-boyhood friend lives in his parents' old house. My next-door neighbor growing up lives in my childhood house. But chain-link fences now block the entrances through which we used to access the dirt paths in the woods that led to the creek. Why I don't know. To prevent the nefarious types of activities in which we used to participate, like smoking cigarettes and leafing through Playboys?
Part of the creek passes by softball fields. After my mother had her first stroke and lived with my brother, and he let her wander off when they were grocery shopping, the police and my older brother and I drove around separately looking for her. The grocery store sits on the other side of the creek from the softball fields. I pulled into the lot at the fields and saw a few police officers driving through and flagged them down to ask if the were looking for my mother, also. They said they were. I asked them if anyone had checked the creek. They hadn't. So I did. I imagined finding my mother face down, dead in the creek that provided so much of the lifeblood of my youth. The circle come around, the mother who birthed me drowned in the creek that nourished me. The police eventually found her alive, wandering through the rainstorm.
Sometimes, though, I wonder what it was I sought as I sifted through the sticker bushes to the creek's muddy edge.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Note

To readers who have suggested that I should write a book or write more frequently, thank you for the interest. And for those of you who come across this blog and don't realize, there are currently more than 100 posts overall covering a span of a few years. The blog archive exists on the right side of the screen through which one can navigate to older posts.
For me, writing can be anxiety-inducing, gut-wrenching, challenging and sometimes cathartic. The subject matters I touch upon sometimes dredge up emotions that I often would rather keep compartmentalized. As with many endeavors, I find getting started to be one of the more challenging aspects. And I want what I write to be worthwhile, and I want to maintain quality. The inspiration doesn't always arise. I also question whether what I have to say contains any value. That self-doubt creeping in on me. But apparently the subjects upon which I touch do hold value for at least some people, and that's something.
I have a Twitter account but don't post. I don't often consider such relatively short declarations to be worthwhile: "Saw 'Iron Man 3.' It sucked." Who cares? But when presented with an opportunity to elaborate with some insight, perhaps therein lies value, or at least mildly entertaining content.
Some writers take years between books. And those who don't generally involve the mainstream, less sophisticated types. I don't begrudge people reading that stuff. Who am I to judge? And sometimes, albeit infrequently, I read those kinds of books myself because they can be entertaining. But then I find the prose nauseating and return to books about the history of the American West or the Civil War or the Revolutionary War. Or guys like Ivan Doig or Tom McGuane or Cormac McCarthy. I recently read "The Count of Monte Cristo," since that book has endured and is a "classic." I did find the story entertaining, but the writing disappointed me. Maybe something got lost in the translation, but apparently, even in its day, the book wasn't considered weighty, like "Les Miserables."
"The Count of Monte Cristo" started out as a serialization in a French newspaper, according to the foreword of the version I read. Sometimes writers got paid by the word or the line or whatever, so they had incentive to pad their works. Hence, a "condensed" 600-page book with small print. That ain't no Hemingway.
So much clutter exists in today's information-technology-saturated world, and I have done nothing to promote myself. I generally don't tag my posts with keywords that will get Google hits (Pam Anderson nude). The thought of it brings me unease. So I figured I would rely on word of mouth, meaning that if someone found this blog and read something they considered worthwhile, then they could pass that along. Some days the hits on this blog spike, other days next to nothing. Maybe that's a function of not writing frequently enough, but sometimes I have nothing worthwhile to say, or I'm just too blue to summon the energy, or I have an idea that has been germinating for weeks or months that I haven't quite pulled completely together in my head. I get solicitations from people asking to have my blog on their websites, which are compilations of blogs or whatever, and they say I'd get thousands more hits. I also receive solicitations to write about depression for websites.
First of all, I consider my blog to consist of much more than a vehicle to provide insight into depression. Am I a depression expert? I write about what I see through my prism, and if someone can relate to that, then that can be gratifying. But I also write about family and life as I see it in general. And about how wondrous precocious kids can be. And the agony of seeing them struggle. And the guilt associated with not being a good enough person or parent. Or just about how "Iron Man 3" sucked and Robert Downey Jr. owes me money for the price of admission. Or about how I'm sick of goose shit or people texting while driving. Or religion. So, that said, I'm going to start working on another post, the rudiments of which have been chipping away at the periphery of my mind for weeks, or months, or perhaps years.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Black Dog

That's what some people call depression. I can't speak for other people, but the self-image that accompanies depression, that perspective of myself as flawed, makes me feel unworthy of others' affection. I've always had difficulty trying to understand why other people would want to be around me when I didn't want to be around myself. A certain torment exists in being unable to escape myself, to get out of my own head. Others have told me to let them choose if they want to be around me. Maybe that's why suicidal tendencies always have been so present. How else to get away? A friend recently told my wife that, at a gathering years ago, she was introducing me to people and I told her to stop because I didn't have anything to offer. On the contrary, she thought, I was one of the people present who actually did have something to offer. So a disconnect exists between self-perception and outside perception. Then I come across as aloof, a loner, antisocial, someone who just doesn't like people. Not entirely true. It's just that I tend to like fewer people than most other people do. I have a low tolerance for ignorance and rudeness, of which no shortage exists. Maybe that stems from such a longstanding inability to accept my own deficiencies.
Do the feelings of inadequacy come from within, or do they arise out of impossible expectations from, say, a mother. My mother never made a secret out of the fact that I was her salvation. Redemption through the youngest child. I've worked through the feelings of inadequacy in stages. First, a sort of denial, the gnawing feeling inside of me playing tug of war with the knowledge that I could accomplish. I thought accomplishment might lead to redemption, but no.And always guilt. As a younger man, achievement was to be the balm. Hence, good grades, good athleticism--self-worth through these accomplishments and validation by my mother. A good job. All a coverup, a facade. Nothin'.
Eventually the weight, the cumulative effect, and a crash. Electroconvulsive therapy. Too much to bear. The terrifying realization that you might not survive on your own. Your life lies in the hands of someone coursing electricity through your brain. Then shame. Shame in facing people who know the truth. My cover blown. Then an odyssey of prescription drugs that continues and likely will never end. Then the weight begins to build anew, and I struggle to keep it at bay. The job, the house, the kids, whereas previously I couldn't even hold myself up. The cycle repeating itself. So, how to deal?
The medications that don't really work all that well. Then there's alcohol as a lubricant. I tend to lubricate to excess. It killed my father at 49, and seeing as I'm in the proximity of that age, and a father myself, I'm forced to consider the wisdom of taking the slow route to suicide and the ramification that it has on others.
I wonder if alcohol is a symptom of the depression or a result of the depression? Alcohol in unsustainable quantities. Alcohol that makes my kids see me in disturbing ways. John Hiatt says "drink ain't no solution, I ain't had one in 17 years."
For Pete Townshend, however much he boozes, there ain't no way out. Kris Kristofferson talks about chasing the feeling. And Nick Lowe sums it up.
Here's a horrifying article from 1995.
And here's another, more recent.
People suffer. People bear weight. People cope differently.
A common refrain heard from people who have suffered from addiction refers to "hitting bottom." I don't know what my bottom is, but I haven't felt like I've hit it. I don't see myself as an AA-type guy. Hey, I've already said I like fewer people than most. And my experience with Adult Children of Alcoholics didn't go so well while I was in college or thereabouts. First, an older guy invited me back to his place. I thought, well, he seemed sympathetic, so, what the fuck? At his place, a younger, male friend of his showed up. Now, my weirdness radar wasn't going off yet, but then the older guy started playing French love songs on his piano. Ok, a little weird, but I was new to this kind of thing. And apparently naive. Finally, I got out of there, physically unscathed, but perhaps not psychologically, for when I related this experience to and older friend, he told me I was a "mark." As in, those guys wanted to fuck you. Aw, shit. I went back to a few meetings, and, naturally, a variety of different people attended. But for the most part, I got tired of listening to the whining. So, fuck it, I stopped going.
A friend asked me recently why I haven't been writing. I said I have been, just not publishing it. But, really, the truth is that the self-examination required to compose disclosures such as this can be daunting. Instead of being cathartic, the thought of it can be dread-inducing. And if it's not helping anybody else, then what's the use? Ok, I don't always write about, 'Oh, I'm depressed and I'm drinking too much.' Sometimes I just write about oddball or funny shit. But that stuff doesn't come along every day, and lately this kind of stuff has been occupying my mind. As they say at AA meetings, take what you like and leave the rest. As I write this, on the TV in front of me (NAT GEO WILD), some kind of African fox-like creature is trying to kill a vulture-like creature. (The fox wins, but the vulture put up a good fight). Then I think, hey, that's like me, one thing always tearing at the other.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I left work recently and saw, as I approached my vehicle, something on the windshield, held in place by the wiper. Expecting to find an advertisement for somebody to clean my house or remove the leaves from my yard or some kind of handyman pitch, I instead discovered that I'd been RAK'D. A card attached to a pack of Sour Patch Kids said so. Someone's idea of a random act of kindness involved leaving what in all likelihood was excess Halloween candy on my car. Cash would have been better, and, really, I'm not going to eat anything left on my vehicle. Birds shit on it, after all. Or they could have washed and waxed my car. No, just Sour Patch Kids.
So I put it on the car next to mine and left. Then I considered the possibility that someone could be trying to poison me, after which I thought, shit, I could just be poisoning someone who had the misfortune to park next me if that person was stupid enough to eat the candy. Then I thought, fuck, if the package was poison-laced, there were cars of specific people I could have put it on, especially the vehicle parked next to me leaving me virtually no fucking room to open my own door. And, right, when they park that close, they're careful not to ding my door with their own? Opportunity blown. It could have backfired, of course, and I might have ended up giving someone I don't like the opportunity to have candy on their way home. Or they could have given it to their kids, which would have been all right, except for the possible poison thing.
I once worked with a woman who had a sign on her desk that read something like "Perform Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty." She was one of the biggest backstabbing bitches with whom I ever had the misfortune to work. So that's what this "random act of kindness" did for me--it made think of her and just pissed me off. But, hey, maybe someone was just trying to be nice here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

2b or not 2b

Hamlet might have texted this had the technology existed, FYI. LOL! LMFAO ROFLMAO FWIW IMHO BFD BTW WTF? :(
So anyway, I found out recently that a boyhood friend who died about a decade ago committed suicide. I mean, I knew he had died, I went to the viewing. But I didn't consider it appropriate to ask his brother what happened. Also recently, I learned that a onetime class mate and subsequent acquaintance also killed himself.
So that brings to five the number of people I knew who took their own lives. I wonder where that ranks. Does everybody know somebody who has committed suicide? Is five high or low or average? I'd suppose psych-ward workers stand a better-than-average chance of surpassing that number. Or people who hang around with habitually depressed people. But the five I knew didn't appear to fall into those categories. Some of them I knew better than others. One was a longtime teammate and classmate and friend. I would see him intermittently after we'd both gotten out of school. His chosen profession: butcher. He told me he loved it. Not enough to sustain him, as it turned out. I lent him money in high school that contributed to an abortion, an act with which I wrestled then and have wrestled with since. But loyalty, or at least my teenage notion of what constituted loyalty, carried the day, so I ponied up the funds. I don't know how he killed himself, and I'd rather not want to know. But I do wonder if the particular technique says something about the level of self-loathing or despair or whatever serves as a catalyst reveals about a person.
Another person I knew hanged himself. He was a real-estate agent, and from what I heard, distraught over the dissolution of his relationship with a stripper. I don't know the veracity of that information. What I do know is that I've had to see his parents and children consistently at the Little League field ever since. His father apparently remarked once that people didn't say anything about it. What's to say, other than I don't think your son should have left behind two kids? Your son who also survived an organ transplant. On the other hand, nobody can gauge the depths of someone else's despair.
Another was a high-school teacher. Apparently struggling with alcohol and finances. He had kids. Jumped in front of a train. Finality. But to me he never fit the profile of someone who would commit suicide. Blustery, outgoing. Maybe such a profile doesn't exist. We don't know which people possess the most vulnerable characteristics. The butcher who loved his job, the in-your-face teacher. Most people put up a facade, anyway, it seems.
Yet another person, that onetime classmate and subsequent acquaintance, served as a veterinary technician, last I knew. He got kicked out of our high school for stealing a wallet from someone's locker. He allegedly had above-average mathematical skills. His brother previously attempted suicide, so perhaps a familial predisposition existed.
Another guy I knew slightly, from the gas station where he worked and the local bars, hanged himself, I heard. That came after he got arrested for burglary. Could that one traumatic event have provided the motivation? Or was it the final straw? This from Lucinda Williams:

Was it hard to finally pull the plug
Was it hard to receive that final hug
Did evil triumph over love
Was it hard to finally pull the plug

When did you start seeing black
Was it too much good you felt you lacked
Was it too much weight riding on your back
When did you start seeing black

The people I knew were all men. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost four times as many males as females die by suicide. Firearms, suffocation, and poison are by far the most common methods of suicide, the NIMH says. Women use guns less than men but poison themselves more frequently. Suffocation is nearly even. I'm thinking hanging falls under the suffocation category. Pills would be an example of poisoning, I guess. Older Americans are more likely to die by suicide than the population at large. But the ones I knew wouldn't be considered older. Some men probably kill themselves because their significant others (SO's) bitch so much (IMHO).
This book talks about how George Washington wanted liberty--financial independence, but also freedom from "involuntary passions." Involuntary passions being addictions or the like, I would think. Failing that among the living, does suicide provide liberty, the ultimate independence? Perhaps independence lies in the capability to commit suicide.