Birthday Reflections 2016

Hello world – I am 34 years old. Yesterday was my birthday. 34, I realize, is one of those years that I hadn’t really thought much about. I wondered what I would be doing at 30, or 35, but I didn’t think to picture what I might be doing at 34. As someone who is regularly plagued with anxiety, this is a welcomed thing. I had no preconceived notions to give myself a hard time about not living up to. I find myself in better shape than birthdays past, which is good enough for me. Feeling that way is strange in its ordinariness.

With each birthday that rolls around, I think surely – surely I wont still be drinking and smoking and leaving minor (and the occasional major) disasters in my wake; only to have yet another birthday roll around where I am still “working on” quitting. Which is depressing at best. On my 31st birthday I sat on my Sacramento porch in the blazing sun, drinking warm 40’s of Steele Reserve and chain smoking, wallowing in a pity party so ruckus the cops should have been called. Except it was only raging in my head. I called no one, I didn’t answer the phone. I drifted in and out of consciousness, attempting to blot out what felt like an intolerable reality. This year on my birthday, I was only 8 days from my last drink. This year at 34, I recognized that I have now been smoking tobacco for 20 years.. Which is coincidentally about as long as I have been playing guitar. This year, I sit with a calm acceptance of my experience as it is. My definition of a “disaster” has shifted, and in consequence my feelings about the disaster-maker have changed. I have done so much intense soul searching and reading about mental health and intersectionality that it doesn’t seem logical to dissolve into an agonizing pity party, only to emerge three weeks later, broke and unimaginably hungover.

I can attribute this shift to plain ol’ ordinary time passing and growing up, a strange insistent drive to understand and not give up, a loving and forgiving community as well as the interpersonal hard knocks, and – drum roll please – my psych meds. Yes, I give my money to Big Pharma the same way I give it to Big Tobacco, to Big Booze, to Big Oil by driving and paying my power bill, to Big Textile when accepting gifted clothes on Christmas. The list is endless. Some of my money has certainly ended up in those off-shore accounts that have just been revealed in the Panama Papers. We are all complicit. But I have come to a point where I recognize that I am of no use to anyone or anything if I cannot function, and I will try any tool available to get healthy and feel like myself. It is a strange thought that I should have to do something extra to feel like myself, something “unnatural”, but I have come to understand us humans as so hopelessly mismatched to our current environment evolutionarily, that we have no choice but to tinker with ourselves and our environment to survive. One might even classify that as evolution itself. Adaptation is nothing more than trial and error, at least I can credit myself for those two. I get an A for effort.

So at 34 I am still smoking, still sweating out the booze from 9 days ago, still wrestling with my seemingly pathological inability to write people back when it is actually important that I do. The more important the communication, the greater the block.. I don’t get it yet, but it is so uncomfortable I can’t do nothing about it. Aside from these things, at 34 I have apparently relocated to Atlanta, GA for the time being, to join up with Pretend Sweethearts. I have been looking for a new band that is down to work hard, play shows, travel and tour, and seek to answer the unanswerable questions, and I didn’t give up looking until I found it. I had no idea it would bring me to the Southeast, to an incredibly talented couple with two kids. The music is totally doing it for me, otherwise I certainly wouldn’t be here. Sometimes I get the urge to coyote off into the desert to “figure things out” first, but I recognize that impulse for what it is – fear, and a desire to escape the hard work of being in the now. That impulse also assumes that there is endless time to spend. Not so.

Now I will go pull up masses of overgrown ivy from my sweet neighbor’s yard so that she can finally after many years tinker in her garden again. Then I will gratefully eat good food that I spent my hard earned money on, and then push through the discomfort of answering some of those scarily important communications. I will contemplate my 20 years of smoking and continue to manifest letting go of such a big relationship in my life. I will be grateful for my measly 9 days free of booze. I will exercise my greatest gift by playing some music. I will accept the world as is, including myself as a thread in the grand tapestry. I can live with this.

Wishing everyone a happy springtime, personal illumination, and all the trappings of a joyful life.

j

TDoR 2015

TDoR 2015

On Trans Day of Remembrance this year of 2015, in the midst of picking up the pieces from yet another defeat in my struggle for sobriety (sanity, life itself), I am wondering how many folks who’s names will be read aloud tonight struggled with drugs and alcohol. I’m wondering how many trans/gender non-conforming folks lost their lives this year to an overdose, liver disease, car accidents, diseases transmitted through drug use, or took their own lives under the influence or with the compounding stress of being trans and suffering from addiction. I have had the honor to know a few of them, before they left us too soon.

I recognize that, except for a few variables in my life, I could very well be a part of that statistic. I have been to rehab three times. I have had access to counseling and psychiatric medication, on which I heavily rely. I have a supportive family that has never given up on me. I was introduced to 12 step early on and have always felt safe there. I was able to transition at 22. I am white. I am seen in the world as a relatively normative male. I can hardly wrap my head around what my life would have been like if any of these variables were different. It’s hard to say if I would be alive today. In these troubled times in my life, I am often amazed that I am still alive, good variables and all.

So this year, my heart and my thoughts go out to all the trans/etc folks who have lost the battle with addiction and mental health. My heart and thoughts go out to those who are alive and still struggling, to those who are still alive but feel hopeless, and to all those who love them. May all the good vibes sent out today give us all the strength and courage to get through one more day.

j

Queer Camp Reflections

This weekend I went to Queer Camp. I was so in the groove of spending all damn day on the computer, an endless stream of booking emails coming and going, flicking back and forth between map and calendar, Facebook and email, Songs of the People and album material… And then along comes Queer Camp, a 3.5 day camping trip in Castro Valley with no phones or computers, to build community and share art and social justice work with queers I may or may not know in a beautiful temperate place. I have to say, it’s not the easiest thing for me to mentally switch gears, especially when I am super nervous about something (like, say, booking a giant US tour and putting out my first solo project), so as fun as it sounded, I wasn’t entirely up for it. But I was teaching a songwriting workshop, so I had to go.

My first evening I had what I can only describe as work/internet withdrawal. My mind was elsewhere and I really wanted to be with it, and instead I was awkwardly meeting new people and swatting mosquitoes. But I figured, since I’ve got my recording schedule all blocked out and I start June 2nd, I should use this time to break out of my compulsive social media checking and energy intensive but only partially productive computer absorption. It turned out to be a good call.

I am always surprised, even though I shouldn’t be by now, at just how small a queer world it is. No one is too many degrees of separation a part, even when folks meet in entirely different ends of the country for seemingly unrelated reasons. Yet, here you are again, you know so-and-so, they know so-and-so who knows so-and-so, oh we met way back in random place with so-and-so. No way! Even so, there can be folks that you may share an entire circle of friends with, been at the same events, but have strangely never met. I was able to connect and reconnect with so many lovely, interesting, and inspiring people, and I fell in love with my community all over again.

The weekend brought us all together, the programming got us all out of our comfort zones and interacting with everyone, and we all became very close. It’s strange to remember first looking around the circle at the semi-unfamiliar faces, and at the end, looking around at the same faces that were now familiar, that showed their depth and insight, and to feel real love between us. When the queer community is so often found in the bars, it was a wonderful thing (especially for this sober guy) to be in a beautiful place out doors, away from the party atmosphere to commune with my fellows.

The songwriting workshop was awesome. Each one is different and they really keep me on my toes, and I hadn’t done one in a while. We got some really interesting pieces out of this one! Someone gave me one of the best and most unique complements I have ever received – they said that I was the song mid-wife! Amazing, and truly an honor. The magic for me is finding that little nugget of concentrated truth, a shining piece of golden art in the ore of words someone just mined, pulling it out and setting it into a form, and building a structure around it. And thus – a song. The magic is also when someone sees their own words, their own story and experience, come alive is a piece of music. It is really, indescribably cool.

So now I am back at the computer, attempting to switch gears yet again back into work mode. The weekend gave me some time to ground out, and settle into my intention for this project. Yes, I am trying to make a living. I can’t do anything if I don’t make a living. But most importantly, I am trying to offer something useful to the world – doing the thing that somehow I seem built for and called to do, and trusting that it is not only an important contribution, but the best one that I can personally make. That’s a pretty tall order, and it reaches beyond this one album – it really is the way I want to live my life. I feel like a toddler in this sober life of mine, my functions barely back on line, the world seeming to be this wide, overwhelming place that I am bumbling through. If I stay the course, I may find myself able to handle far more than I can now, and that would truly be somethin’ else.

So here I go, this coming Monday.. I am locking myself in my studio and I’m not coming out (except to play church gigs, a wedding, and mow lawns) until it’s done. And it must all be ready for submission by July 11th. No big deal.

Wish me luck! Better yet – how bout some patience and perseverance 🙂

j

 

 

White Flag

Capitol Hill in Seattle is mid-facelift; my mosey around my old stomping grounds yesterday was peppered with familiar intersections, nostalgia for buildings still standing, and some now holes in the ground. Some have been replaced entirely with shiny modern condos and storefronts. Quickly vacating are the shabby one-story original buildings along Broadway, the quaint and quirky independent businesses that once took turns year after year, moving from joint to joint. The old Wildrose, the scene of my budding queer identity, along with my entrenching drinking patterns, looks quite humble next to the fancy storefronts crowding around it. The property value for the Pike/Pine area has shot so high that I would be surprised if I see it again next time through the Emerald City. Everything seemed so solid and sacred in my 20’s, that feeling of my era permeating every light post’s plastering of posters. As I walk through it now, it is someone else’s era, someone else’s turf. We all just borrow from the generation before, and pass it on to the next, if we are willing to let it go. It’s the only way we can make room for the next era’s turf.

Turning 31 has, in a way, had more of an impact that turning 30. The big Three-O, the end of the 20’s, etc etc, whatever value the individual assigns to it. I usually dislike birthdays, mostly because I tend to find myself doing the same things I have been “working on” fixing for a growing number of years. Last year I was sober on my 30th birthday. I was a little under the weather, I went to a meeting, had some frozen yogurt with some folks I hadn’t known for very long, and went home to bed. No Dirty 30 parade for me. But at least I felt like I was breaking the pattern. This year, turning 31, I sat on my porch after not having showered for quite a few days, ignoring the phone, and drank Steele Reserve in a blank stare all day. That’s all I really remember. I did not whoop it up with a crew of happy buzzing buddies, bar hopping like it was a special occasion, feeling celebrated and hopeful of the future. My birthday was the down swing of just another drinking cycle that started out as high times and ended with counting change and wandering down to the corner store every few hours. You can’t beat 40 ounces of 8% beer for under $4. Pick up a pack of Fortunas, and you’re good to go. The fact that it was my birthday, unaffected by the seemingly unalterable cycles of alcoholism, was something to be blotted out. This was not at all what I thought I would be doing by the time I turned 31, and that truth was just too painful to look in the face on that day. The mantra has turned from a solid “surely this is the last birthday I will be doing this” to a crumbling “if I have to do this one more year, I don’t think I can hang..” My early alcoholic death would most likely not come from an accident or cirrhosis, it would come because I just couldn’t take it anymore. And that option appears to be the only one when one has buried themselves so far from the rest of the world so as not to see the many, many other ways others have broken free. People often check out for good. But I’ll be dammed if it happens to me, or to anyone within my reach.

I never say that I’m going to just have one, two, or three drinks. What I do say to myself is that I’m going to get hammered just this one day. Ok well, just this weekend. Err.. ok just this week. In December I went out and had some drinks and smoked some weed. Six months later, I haven’t written one blog, I’ve gotten myself in more troubles (details later), and I’ve been asked to move out. And I don’t remember a whole lot. There were moments, a week or two here and there of getting back on the wagon, but really it feels to me like one big arc. And this is by far not what I had planned. It never is for the alcoholic, and each time turns into one more blow to the ability to trust one’s self, one more time you let yourself down and broke your own heart. The attention gets called to everyone near the addict who is let down and broken-hearted, but honestly, it pales in comparison. Only the addict truly knows that internal consternation, frustration, and despair of having gone against one’s own word one more time. The longer the sober time, the higher the stakes. That is the back story behind the incredible denial and rationalization the addict comes up with; the cognitive dissonance must be resolved somehow. It’s too much to take.

Walking the streets of Seattle, I am flooded with memories from all sides. I transitioned here. I went to college here. I met Ingrid here. Coyote Grace began here. I also lived at the bar here. I also found drugs on a tour and scared the hell out of everyone running around town all night and almost missed a plane. I got nudged along by the police when passed out in my car in a park. I had screaming, throwing stuff, raging fights with my college girlfriend in the darkest days of my pre-trans enlightenment life. I stayed up for days and days in a flea-infested basement with another sad unawakened gender screwball. How do I come to terms with all this? What do I do with all this history? How can I make something useful with all these crazy stories? They sit in my gut like a cheap gas station burrito, and I don’t know how to let them.. pass. Sorry for the gross analogy!

It’s been seven days. Seven real days, not just booze-free and on the ‘marijuana maintenance program.’ I’ve been having crazy dreams, as does happen. Two nights ago, it was that a nuclear factory was going to blow and decimate the earth, and people where running between two shelters, and waiting for the apocalypse. Last night it was some crazy runaround pack of wild drinking/drugging people, scattered and trying to climb over broken boards and sinking buildings into the mud, trying to get wherever they were going. You don’t really dream when you smoke heaps of pot. Dreaming is a sign that I am actually sober. I don’t like that word, for some reason. In my mind I associate it with some high-and-mighty state of being that I can’t attain. It smacks of “shoulds,” makes me think of thousands of failures, the righteous hammer swinging down upon my head that I wield myself.  I would never treat anyone the way I treat myself. I have a lot of work to do. I don’t really know what it means to be “sober.”

At the very least, I am back around. I am tired of struggling, fighting myself, and making things way more difficult than they have to be. I’m tired of days going by, opportunities expiring, living in pain, being broke, and most of all my tiny, tiny world. The Seattle drizzle and time away from home is right on time. The Coyote Grace shows are right on time. Each song performed is like a life line hurled out into the torrent. Each breath is a renewal, and each line sung is a cry for help, replenishing my reservoir of hope for actual change. This all feels very dramatic, but I guess it’s somewhere to start. The best I can do right now it to stop fighting the flow of the way things are.

j

Consciousness and the Jailbird

The Sacramento Valley is held by mountains to the east and west, and on a clear day you can see the foothills of the Sierras, if not the snow caps from the right vantage point. You have to get a little further west on 80 before the Coastal Ranges come into view. Otherwise, the valley is as flat as Kansas. Power lines run all along the gridded two lane roads that connect still small farms in various levels of productivity; the encroaching housing developments will only make it so far south before they hit the Delta, with its levees and sloughs, peat and marshland, unfit for higher population density. A few acres of solar panels starkly confront the older industries as the dairy cows look on, RVs rust, and barns decay in the fields. Mustard flowers and spring green grass contrast with the cloudy early morning sky, pink in the east, gray in the west. A partial blanket of clouds hang overhead like a low ceiling. This is driving south on Bruceville Road to the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, or “R triple C.”

I pick a metal stool in front of a window with a phone hung up on my left and wait for the inmates to come in. There is a mother with a one year old to my right and an Asian woman to my left. The door to the hallway on the other side of the glass opens, and the inmates file in looking for their visitor. My brother Robert, in a faded thermal and orange pants, sits down on the stool on the other side of the glass, and we pick up our phones.

Protective Custody (PC) is reserved for gay guys, child molesters, older or disabled men, and gang dropouts. They are housed in a wedge-shaped room, or “tank”, with bunks along the back wall and high ceilings with a catwalk so guards can look into many such rooms at a time. There are a few tables and chairs and two bathrooms. They get to go outside twice a week into a yard with high walls and a net across the top. Visitors can come Tuesdays at 9am for one hour. Three of his friends happen to be in his tank, and they sit at a table and play cards, gossip, and share ideas about what they might do when they get out. They pool the money that gets put on their books, and sometimes will combine graham crackers and chocolate pudding to make a pie, or crush up a candy bar in coffee to make mochas. Robert says the gay jokes are mild and rare, no one really cares much to puncture the monotony. They eat at 5am, 11am, and 3pm, so their commissary is very important to them, as well as the welcomed relief from the boredom it provides. The cinder block walls are painted grey and the high florescent lights are either on or off, obscuring the contours of the day. There are no recovery programs, no classes, no job training, no therapy, no library, nothing that might actually prepare them for re-entry into the world. Almost everyone is serving time for a drug or alcohol related offense. Robert’s friends will all leave months before he will. He has eight long months ahead of him.

The idea of “serving time” coaxes me into rumination.. Is that the most we ask of those who disrupt the social order for whatever reason, to forfeit a specified amount of time from their lives? We don’t insist or even ask that they educate themselves on the consequences of their actions or on the factors that may have led them to take those actions in the first place, not to mention help them to not repeat the behavior. There are obvious conflicts of interest here, few people want to open the can of worms marked “Class,” particularly those who benefit from its structure, who also happen to include the private industries that own and run the prison systems. It is not in their interest to rehabilitate inmates, the profit is in repeat offenders. These are the cold hard turning gears of capitalism. It is proven that education, prevention, and treatment produces better results and is far more cost-effective than incarceration, saddling someone with felonies that limit their employment opportunities, burdening them with social stigma, and setting them up to repeat the same behavior. Robbing someone of precious years of their lives while securing them on the path that led them there is cruel, if you ask me. Time is the only thing we really have, for without it, no dreams can be built and seen through to fruition.

I don’t have a better answer for Robert. Social change happens as a reaction to the current state of things, and often only affects the next generation, if it happens quickly enough. Robert has been to rehab many times, he knows the recovery programs well, there is nothing more anyone can give him that is available. I don’t think he really understands the breadth of why he is where he is. At least I know he is safe in his tank, and at the moment isn’t selling drugs to some young person who hasn’t yet seen many consequences and may have a chance of escaping the black hole of addiction and incarceration. I don’t know what would work now, it is really up to him. The adversities are great, but hey – people do it, and this is the only life.

The walls of my tank are silent, the clock on the computer ticks on. The light through the windows turns dim and bright again from the passing clouds and intermittent rain. Everything that exists in our human world in its current state is only an adaptation of the previous model. Evolution is a response to changes in the environment, and the process often times cannot keep up with quick and drastic changes, which is why species perish. Our world is now a blur of quick and drastic changes. No one would have designed us, nor the systems we depend on to function, as we/they are now; an organism cannot develop a trait to help it survive in an environment it hasn’t yet experienced. Consciousness, as in a group or an individual, denotes “a part of the human mind that is aware of a person’s self, environment, and mental activity and that to a certain extent determines his choices of action.” I would add that full consciousness requires an understanding of exactly what state we are in, how and why we got here, and to what extent is it serving the greater good. Those questions being answered (and they can be), a course of action usually reveals itself in a very obvious way. I venture to say a broader social consciousness is a trait that is naturally developing, however tumultuously, and will surely have a huge impact on the lives of individuals and the community as a whole. Conscious evolution may be our adaptive short cut to the long unconscious process of trial and error that has served us up to this point. The change in environment we must adapt to or perish – the quickening pace of change.

j

On Anonymity

My dance with addiction started at around 13, and by 15 I was in my first treatment center (which I was promptly kicked out of. Way to go, Joe). Addiction – and recovery – and I have been duking it out ever since. It has been something that I have gone in and out of the closet about, depending on who’s butt was getting kicked worse. After a while I stopped telling people that I was trying to get sober; the inevitable embarrassment that comes when caught drinking or drunk got heavier and heavier with each disappointment, as well as with the growing audiences. For certain songs I had no clever introduction, and some I struck from the set list entirely. I can’t describe the internal conflict I experienced when trying to sing “Watering Down the Brandy” while on my fourth pint, not to mention the hairy eye ball I received from my all-knowing stage mate. Staying in the closet about suffering from addiction also allowed me to neatly evade accountability, each new venue’s drink tickets handed over without the slightest hesitation, although they were beginning to catch on. My decision to come out about it was largely based on self-preservation, and a deep desire to communicate why I have been so uncommunicative, unable to remember names, and why I have appeared to be generally disinterested or grumpy. And sweaty. That in its wake I might provide a mirror and a hope to others who are suffering is an awesome side effect. For as Viktor Frankl states, life feels worth living when one’s suffering has a purpose.

When I decided to speak publicly about my recovery, the topic of anonymity was bound to come up. Having been around AA for ten plus years, it was not a decision I gave little thought. Anonymity is also a hot topic in the recovery community, I have found, and I have come up with my own personal philosophy on the matter.

According to the General Service Office (GSO), “A.A. members may disclose their identity and speak as recovered alcoholics, giving radio, TV and Internet interviews, without violating the Traditions—so long as their A.A. membership is not revealed.” Now in my last post, I neither mentioned AA nor the 12 steps. I used no names. I technically did not break the tradition of anonymity. I have mentioned AA in other posts and this one, but I haven’t stated that I am a member. So I could say “my name is Joe Stevens and I am part of a 12 step group and it has changed my life,” or I could say “my name is Joe S and I am a member of AA and it has changed my life.” Either way, my life has been changed for the better, and the more important aim is that other folks might find a way to change their lives for the better. When AA first began, discrimination against alcoholics/addicts was potentially life threatening and certainly job threatening. Discrimination is still rife, albeit much better than it was, but I don’t think the way to combat it is to stay silent about how we have changed our lives.

Another point that has greatly changed my attitude towards recovery is that AA neither “works” nor “doesn’t work.” It is a tool, an incredibly powerful tool to unite people and help them overcome a hard-wired condition that as of yet has no medical remedy. “It works if you work it”, as they say. I don’t believe AA is the only way to sustain abstinence and recovery, it is not the golden path to salvation. But it is an incredible grassroots organization that was created to address a very dire need, and I challenge anyone to find a member-run institution that has so successfully survived with zero profit interest for anyone, with its sole purpose being the heath and well being of its members and the greater community. A recovered drunk is certainly a blessing to society. So when people fear that a public figure’s relapse might turn off alcoholics to AA, it is based on an underlying misconception. And honestly, people are more turned off by AA when they assume its only members are old dirty skid row drunks drinking coffee in dingy church basements and have miserable boring lives. It took me a long time to figure out that there are cool, alternative, queer and otherwise young people in AA doing awesome fun things, and had I known that it might have not taken me so long to embrace it.

As a spiritual principle, in think anonymity has a very real place. The emphasis in AA about being “right-sized”, about being “a worker among workers”, deflating one’s ego and seeing things as they are, being of service to your fellows; all of these would do wonders for our world if embraced. Newt Gingrich’s claims (speaking of broken anonymity) that AA saved his life don’t exactly show in his behavior. “Love and tolerance is the code of AA.” He may have missed that chapter. But many recovering alcoholics didn’t miss it, and the quality and quantity of kindness and compassion shown by even the most unlikely characters is enough to reinstil hope in the future of our specie. I take that principle to heart; I am just little me, doing what I am called to do, keeping full awareness that when one person suffers, we all suffer. I did not know that I would grow up to be a public transman, working for visibility and equality by just doing what I want to do the most. I certainly did not know that I would grow up to be an alcoholic and a drug addict, and that it might actually serve some purpose in the world (I hope). People have their specific gifts to give the world (or crosses to bear, depending on how you look at it), and this just happens to be mine.

Here are some articles that have made a recent splash – a New York Times article that caused a furor, “What Would Bill W Do?”, thoughts about the NYT article, a writer’s view, and some reader’s thoughts. In an era where the ill-fated War on Drugs is not only failing but destroying families and communities alike, our prisons are overflowing with untreated addicts, science is advancing at an exponential rate yet politics and health care are stalemated, I think we need to adapt to be effective in the present. When AA began, there were no cell phones, no internet, no rehabs per se. There was also no Oxy, no meth, no boodbaths on the Mexican border with drug cartels. It was a very different time, and they freely admit that “we know only a little.” In my opinion, anonymity served its purpose, and is now contributing to the misunderstanding and stigma that surrounds addiction. America consumes the most intoxicants of any country by far; that is evidence enough of something screaming out to be addressed. I am going with my gut on this one. I have great respect for those who came before, and feel that the greatest way to honor them is to let their work evolve and be the most applicable and powerful in our current world.

In solidarity,

j

The 30 Day Thaw

It is a cold coastal morning, Sonoma County is bright and clear. The farm is rustling with activity, young chickens asses their new coup, the organic veggies’ saturated color and humorous quirky shapes remind me of the unglamorous yet interesting and healthy nature of unprocessed individual experience, and it makes me smile. Attempts to squeeze into a uniform size or shape or state or story not only devalues that individual experience, but also saps the thing of the nutrients that were present in its unaffected form. Those nutrients are good for the whole garden.

As I drove 37 along the edge of the San Pablo Bay and came upon the first fluffy SonoCo hill with its vineyards and oak trees, my heart sank heavy a little bit. I was really unhappy during the three years I lived here. The honeymoon of my transition had settled down into a comfortable chair, Coyote Grace was toddling with no hands, yet my drinking/drugging was wearing on past the point where I imagined its usefulness had ended. I spent most of my time alone, driving around, wondering why I was still having trouble making friends, doing what I said I wanted to do, and why I just didn’t feel very good. I was convinced (because I know everything, after all) that there was no new information or variables that needed to be considered. I knew all I needed to know, I knew sobriety was going to open up my life, and I was just a self-centered asshole for not doing what I should do. After a long hiatus from therapy I finally conceded that maybe a fresh set of ears might shed some light on the subject. I found a neat lady who, among other things, pointed out the evidence of a mood disorder that had been present consistently since I was a pre-teen, that I had been on and off medications for ever since. Mostly on. I had been on the same medication for 10 years, with little oversight and continuity from any medical professionals. I moved around too much and couldn’t afford it. Since it was up to me, I subconsciously decided that I didn’t want to have anything else wrong with me and took my meds without question. I decided during this time to do a little DIY doctoring and go off of them, and was plummeted back to the bleak depths that I instantly recognized from my childhood, and so convinced, finally went to seek help from a pro. Ok, maybe it was a variable to be considered. I was afraid it would be a big damn deal with many expensive and troubling attempts to find the right brand and dosage, and was anticipating a long stressful process. Only what I found, after the first tinkering with levels and additions, was night and day. Anxiety (which is a common side effect of the meds I was on) vanished, the horrible cycles of panic and depression that sabotaged all my sobriety attempts and deflated my social life were gone… and I waited so long for this??? Thanks, profit-based, unaccountable American medical industry that doesn’t actually have its citizens’ welfare in mind. I slipped right through the cracks and spent a few years in the ringer for an inherited bio-chemical condition that would have been easily addressed.

So now I had two out of three major mindfucks out in the sunlight to heal. My next mistake – sobriety will be easy now! False. But at least I had finally tipped the scale. I liked to think that my addictions arose as a natural response to the difficulties of growing up in the wrong body with a mood disorder and would abate easily once the two conditions were settled, even though almost every one of my blood relatives has an issue with addiction. In reality, my body/identity and mood issues only sped up my pre-programmed and expertly modeled addictive behavior. I was locked in a cycle of maladaptive attempts to sustain equilibrium in my mind, body, and spirit that really makes perfect sense considering my constitution, experience, and environment. I am so very lucky to have had access to the tools that would help me figure that out. It could easily have taken much longer with many more consequences, or my life been cut short by any number of related accidents that could have happened along the way…

So I am once again rounding the corner of The 30 Day Thaw, as I like to call it. They say around thirty days of abstinence is when the first acute phase of detox ends, and your repressed emotions spew out wildly in all directions. Everything makes me cry, everything is beautiful and horrible and exciting and scary. I am ok with that. I am starting to see how it was all intertwined, how the gears were turning, and what I was dealing with. When it is all in the light, logic pervades over attachment and personalization, and the path towards change lays itself out much more clearly. And something I know of myself is that if it is not logical on some level (and I can go deep), I cannot blindly accept it, even if I am living in a state of intense conflict and suffering. There has never been a point where I accepted my drinking/drugging as normal or harmless, I was just at a loss as to its origins and function. I will keep banging on the door until I get an answer. Again, my mistake seems to be my over-confidence in which door I should bang on. I get it. Thinking that I know everything will not serve me. The other lesson – there is always hope.

Two friends of mine just lost their child. “Fairness” reveals itself to be completely subjective with no anchor in reality, it is only an ideal to which we can aspire. They are my age, and the little boy was three. His brief presence has bonded the community on a level of intensity comparable to the shock of his passing, which is to say – immense. Our lives and our presence in our communities are more precious than we often acknowledge. If ever there was a gift from little Nakoa, it is to love each other and one’s self like it is the only day you have, and to be grateful for every following day as if it were one of his. Whatever it is that we think is so important that keeps us separated through resentment, pride, or just plain misunderstanding is ultimately not. It does everyone a service to resolve it and get on with the living of our one wild and precious life.

That is where I am today, grateful to have washed up on the shore by many parts luck and a little will, content to do the fulfilling work of reparation and restitution, now that I have an idea of what the hell was going on. Regeneration is a gift I was losing hope of being able to experience. Hallelujah!

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