Peace, pussy, pride and harmony

Rock For Pussy 2014

Rebel Rebel: Rock For Pussy

The Fourth of July, Independance Day, will be my one month anniversary of sobriety. So far, it’s been quite an adventure. I feel like I may have picked the hardest month of the year to try and get sober but that should come as no surprise. I’ve never been one for doing things the easy way.  I don’t know if that’s part of the alcoholic mind set or not but it’s certainly my nature. I’m an extreme person. The things that are the most difficult are the things I find most rewarding. The truth is, quitting drinking is not difficult. All I have to do is not drink. It’s just that drinking is so easy. As an alcoholic, drinking is what is in my nature. Embracing sobriety means going against my nature. That is why this is a big deal. That is why getting sober is difficult. What I am attempting to do is to evolve. In a sense, I’m trying to become a different species. I’m trying to overcome my human nature.

The irony is that I wouldn’t even be attempting this without a great deal of arrogance and self-confidence yet if I am to succeed it will only be through humility. I like to think of myself as a peaceful person but I’m probably more of a fighter than I would like to admit. I think that is part of the human condition.  Alcoholism is part of my human condition. I won’t be able to overcome it by fighting. This will require a peaceful solution. This will require a spiritual solution. Many struggle with recovery over the spiritual aspect of the program but in truth the struggle is human, not spiritual. We are not human beings seeking a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. We think of ourselves as our bodies and our minds. We imagine that our bodies have a soul. It would probably be more accurate to say that we are our soul and we have a body. The soul is pure energy. The soul is peaceful. The soul is in perfect harmony. Sobriety is simply a matter of surrendering to my true spiritual self.

Pride 35W Bridge

The 35W Bridge lit up for Pride

Ah but fuck that.  I will find that spiritual perfection and I will be free from the human condition once I die. Since I feel like I’ve taken suicide off the table, I’m left with no choice but to make the most of this life. I’m kind of enjoying this human experience. I like the journey. It’s fascinating and bizarre. If i’m going to get sober I”m going to do it the human way. I’m going to work at it.

I can’t yet say that quitting drinking is the best decision I’ve ever made but so far it seems to be a pretty good one. Life is not perfect so it’s important to keep things in perspective. Sobriety seems to be about 80% good and 20% sucky. I know that for some people that would still be unacceptable but for me anything above 50% is worth doing. Plus, it’s nice to have room for improvement. My drinking life was probably at 70/30 but I feel like that was about as good as it was going to get it. The highs might not be as high now and the lows not as low, but that could just be because I’m being more cautious.  I have a feeling that as I get more comfortable with sobriety the extremes will reemerge.

Project Earth at Harmony Park

Project Earth at Harmony Park

That said, it has still been a pretty exciting month. June is one of my favorite months of the year. This is the month that my band,  All The Pretty Horses, play “Rebel Rebel: Rock For Pussy”, the annual David Bowie tribute show to benefit no-kill animal shelters. It is also the month of Project Earth, a charitable music festival held at Harmony Park near Geneva, Minnesota and the annual Twin Cities Pride Festival in Loring Park, Minneapolis. These are three of my favorite events. They are also three events closely linked to drunken debauchery. Without going into too much detail I think it would be safe to say that I got a lot of practice saying, “no thank you”.

Even my dreams were filled with opportunities to say no. For the first three weeks of sobriety, night after night, I would have anxiety filled dreams of being offered alcohol. Then one night I totally forgot that I wasn’t drinking and had a PBR and a whiskey. The disappointment I felt was overwhelming but I resolved to carry on with my quest for sobriety. Then I woke up and realized it was just a dream. I haven’t had a drinking dream since. I know that there is a moral in there somewhere.

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This is it

It’s been a roller coaster ride but I feel like it has come to an end. I’m ready to start again. My mind is clear; I have purpose and understanding. I know who I am and I’m okay with myself. I’m okay with my situation and I’m okay with whatever happens next. It’s one of those rare moments when I actually feel like I have my shit together. It’s in these moments that I realize what I have and all that I have is what I give; all that I have received has come to me through giving.

I got home late Thursday morning with the intention of just being. It was a pretty cold and gloomy day so I didn’t have high hopes. I cracked a beer and sat down to write. Before long I recieved a text message from one of my friends who is going through a breakup. I had recieved a message from her Tuesday night letting me know that her boyfriend of fourteen years was dumping her. She was now ready to talk and I was ready and able to be there for her. Normally I would have wanted to be sober to meet with her but she was going to have to accept me as I was. I knew that she was one of those friends who would be willing to do that.

When she arrived I suggested that we go to Clubhouse Jager to eat. I had been craving Aura’s food and I knew that my friend would enjoy it as well. I really can’t say enough about Aura’s cooking but I’m afraid if I do she will get swept up by some restaurant that I can’t afford. Everything she makes is seriously the best I have ever had. Thankfully nobody reads my blog so I can keep her my little secret.

After dinner we returned to my house and talked for another five hours while I polished off the six-pack in my refrigerator.

I was just there to listen and help anyway I could but in the process I received a great epiphany. I think that I have an idea for a book, or at least an article for this blog. It’s not like I have any shortage of inspiration in my life. I come up with great ideas all the time. I just want to acknowledge that they come to me when I am giving to others. I still have to figure out what to do with all of them but that’s a story for another day.

My friend Alex Velocity has been wanting me to be a guest on his online radio show BANGWAVE for quite some time. It finally happened Friday. I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous but I had no excuse to put it off any longer. I figured I would just go and give what I had to give and see what happened. It was fun and it was inspirational. I love being part of other people’s creative endeavours. You can find the results here.

I was actually amazed that I was able to pull it off but not for the reason one might think. Sure, I have a lot of apprehension about recording my voice. I worry about embarrassing myself but so what; I can handle the embarrassment. The real challenge for me was the drive out there. I hate driving and it took me twice as long to get there as it should have because I kept freaking out and taking wrong turns and the whole time I was terrified of dying. I had a job driving for many years but not because I enjoy driving. I did it because I loved the company and it was something I could do. I had a van because I had a family and I wanted to work so I looked at what I had and I worked with what I’ve got. I loved the job but I hated the driving and that is why quit. That is why I want to get rid of my van. That, and the fact that it’s costing me money even if I don’t drive it. It’s just stupid for me to own a vehicle.

But since I have it I might as well use it to do things that I couldn’t do without it. So I drove and did the radio show. While I was there I realized that I was one third of the way to my son’s school and he was performing his first headlining show with his band 8-bit Johnson. So I drove another two hours to my son’s school. I seriously don’t know how I made it. I was terrified the entire time. I knew the way but it was dark and traveling at seventy miles an hour with other vehicles on the road just seemed like suicide… and I wasn’t feeling very suicidal. I really just wanted to make it to see my son.

I made it in time to surprise him before he went on stage. He rocked the house for a good hour and a half. I can’t tell you how proud I am because pride doesn’t even begin to explain it. What I really felt was an astounding combination of confusion and serendipity.  It was like sifting for gold in the stream to discover that the real value was in the water.  I never raised my son to be a rock star. I raised him to be a good person. Yet there he was, doing both, better than I ever could. Yeah, I came there for him but he gave me more than I could ever have hoped for.

I could have stayed in Morris but I felt my bed calling me. I’m really trying to be productive at home and I know that I’m more productive at doing “home” work when I wake up at home. Plus I was feeling rather energized after seeing my son play and I knew I could make it. The drive home was so much less terrifying. I could see the near full moon shining in the night sky above me and that gave me a sense of peace.

I got home shortly after two in the morning. I was still pretty wired from all the caffeine I had been drinking. There was a text message on my phone from the friend I was with Wednesday night. She sounded like she was having an unsettling night so I wrote her back to say that I was still up and at home if she wanted to talk.

Half an hour later I recieved a text that simply said “Xoxo”.

She never saw my response but it pretty much summed up the rest of my night. I wrote, “<3 I’m pretty tired but way too sober so I’m drinking cheap beer & cheap whiskey and watching Louis CK videos on YouTube. Gonna spend the day at home tomorrow becoming a better person. At least that’s the plan.”

I think Louis CK is brilliant. We opened the BANGWAVE program with some of his comedy. I may have to do a whole post about Louis CK but here is his bit about wanting to be a better person.

You can buy the whole show for five measly dollars on his website.

I woke up Saturday ready to start back up that rollercoaster. That’s when I started this post. I had decided not drink that day and keep my head clear. The problem was it was too clear and I was flooded with thoughts that didn’t seem to give me any direction. I basically just stumbled around waiting for something to happen that was more important than me.

Then I got a text from my daughter, the one I hadn’t heard anything from in over two months. She informed me that she had an appointment with her therapist scheduled. Apparently the deal is that she doesn’t want to talk to me until she can meet with me, her mother and her therapist together. Frankly, I think that is a brilliant idea although I don’t think that the issues have to do with me and my daughter.  There may be issues that her mom has with me or that my daughter has with her mom but having an impartial third party present could help up get to the bottom of it. And if my daughter does have issues with me that she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about without her therapist, I’m open to that too. I think it’s kind of childish but she is a child. I have no idea what is going on in her brain. I’m just glad that there is a way forward and I’m willing to try anything.

The problem is that the appointment is not for another month. That means that my daughter won’t be going on the family vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico next week. I tried over the next couple days to work through that issue but it is a non-starter. It is what it is but it was worth trying.

Next came a call from my friend who recently moved to California. She has epilepsy and is going through a breakup so she’s homeless at the moment. She’s got all sorts of crazy shit going on but also a lot of good things are happening.  She’s somewhat like me, somewhere in the middle; not everything is falling apart but it’s not all coming up roses either. We talked for a little over an hour until hunger got the best of me and I had to find something to eat.

With my primary need for food satisfied I returned to my quest for motivation but I kept being distracted by the thoughts in my head. The overriding one was that I still hadn’t heard anything from the friend I had recieved a text from the night before. I don’t typically get bent out of shape over these things. There are a million and one reasons why someone might not get back to me but this was unusual and so I decided to follow my instincts and tried reaching out one more time. I still got no response. It turned out that she had left her phone at a friend’s place and that I actually had nothing to worry about. Oh well, shit happens!

During this time I got a text from the friend I was with Thursday night. She was downtown at the Toad The Wet Sprocket show. She had an extra ticket and wanted to know if I could join her. Of course I could. I obviously wasn’t doing anything else and would do anything for her.

I should mention that I put Toad in a genre that I like to call lowest-common-denominator music. It’s not quite as derogatory as it may sound. It just means good music that is accessible to as many people as possible. Most musicians would consider that a good thing. It is a good thing, I guess, if that’s what you’re in to. I’m glad that people are in to it because most of the songs I write would fit into that category. It’s just not the kind of music that makes my dick hard. I like things that are new, shocking, different and blow my mind. I guess that’s why I play in Venus’ band rather than my own. Still, I respect anyone who can write and perform a good song so of course I was going to go.

That is a good song.

I was also feeling grateful that I had decided not to drink that day. Hanging out with sober people when I’ve been drinking is still awkward to me. I have no problem with drunk people when I’m sober but the other way around is weird.

Still, this was a challenge.  Being in a crowd of people is anxiety producing for me. Also standing or sitting in one spot for an hour is painful. Without alcohol, I felt all of that. Now if this had been a metal show or a rave, it might not have been so bad but this was Toad The Wet Sprocket. There was not a lot of moving around, people slamming into each other or massive amounts of drugs. So my whole body hurt, I had stabbing pains in my chest, a tightness around my throat, pain in my teeth and my right eye was twitching. It was fucking incredible!

But hey,  another day that worked out just fine. I had no direction but enough people to provide me with something meaningful to do. I’ll take that.

Sunday was good as well. I had diner at my parents so we could discuss the trip to Mexico. Then I went to Venus’ annual pre-Thanksgiving day Squid Fest party. I could say more about it but I’m getting bored with talking about my life. I’m going to end this blog post here. I have a feeling that things are about to go in a different direction.

See you tomorrow with something new…

Life is like riding a bicycle

I’m on the verge of falling apart. I can feel it in my body – the tightness in my stomach, invisible hands wrapped around my throat, the tingling in my back as if to warn me of some impending danger. Regardless of how many times my evolved brain tries to convince me that everything will be okay, no matter what happens I will be fine, my reptilian brain is on high alert.

My residual animal defence mechanisms know that winter is coming and after months of intense stress I may be too weak to survive it. My body is ready to fight for it’s life. I’m on edge, I’m anxious, I’m exhausted and depressed. One wrong move and I’m liable to bite someone’s head off.

The threats are real, the pain I feel is real but my ability to cope and adapt is more developed than my body gives credit. The greatest battle being waged is within myself. The greatest threat to my survival is me. In an internal struggle for power the best chance of survival is balance. Like riding a bicycle, the only way to stay balanced is to keep moving… or stop and put your foot down.

Blame it on the rain

I’ve had my share of challenges in life. I have managed to overcome most of them. I have made changes where possible and adapted where necessary but sometimes the only thing I can do is surrender. That’s how I felt yesterday. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t change it and I couldn’t overcome it. My obstacle was the weather. With five days of cloudy, rainy weather I just couldn’t do it again.

I didn’t give up easily although I hadn’t made the challenge any easier on myself. The night before I managed to use every available hour of my trip home getting completely shit-faced to the point where I needed assistance for the final leg of my journey.

Still, I did manage to get home. I did manage to get up. I did manage to get ready for work and was all poised to head to St. Paul when the call came in saying that I needn’t bother. They had enough drivers in St. Paul and considering the weather, it simply wasn’t worth me making the trip. To be honest, I was relieved. To be honest, I had already come to the same conclusion. As I was sitting in my van, the engine running, the windshield-wipers removing the raindrops from my view, the only thought in my head was, “I can’t do this.”

In fact, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t go to work, I couldn’t leave the house, I couldn’t even write about how I couldn’t do anything. I had thrown in the towel. I had given up on the day so I retired to bed with a glass of red wine. I spent most of the day sleeping or watching documentaries about the recent economic crash.

But can I really blame it all on the rain? What about my drinking, isn’t that a choice? Isn’t that something I have control over?

Drinking has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember but there have been periods where alcohol hasn’t been such a significant player. There have been times where drinking just didn’t present itself as an option. But I am a drinker. What I know about myself is that given the option, I am going to choose to drink. But I’m more than just a drinker, I’m a drunk. I actually really enjoy the way alcohol makes me feel. Once those chemicals start going to work on my brain, all of my troubles seems to disappear. I’m no longer depressed, I’m not anxious and I don’t feel any pain. As my chemist friends like to remind me, “alcohol is a solution”.

But it’s also a problem. It’s hard to deny the correlation between alcohol and aspects of my life that don’t work as I would like. The question I keep pondering is whether my connection with alcohol is a character defect or simply a character trait.  My instinct is to judge and shame myself for being a flawed human being but my intellect knows the futility of this response. I can change my behavior, I can adapt to most situations, I can mitigate the negative consequences but I can’t change who I am any more than I can change the weather.

Shit on the present

This quote has been bouncing around my head today…

If you are depressed, you are living in the past

If you are anxious, you are living in the future

If you at peace, you are living in the present

It’s often attributed to Lao Tzu, but given that depression is a relatively new term and Lao Tzu supposedly lived in the 6th century BCE, it’s highly unlikely he is the source. It sounds more like the kind of new-age pop-psychology bullshit that annoys the piss out of me. But hey, if it works for you, go ahead and rock it! It’s just not my life.

I live in the present and my present is home to both depression and anxiety. It’s not because I am simultaneously living in the future and the past. It’s because of the particular way my fucked up brain is wired. Living in the present does not bring me peace but living in the present is my only option; at least until I get a visit from a blue police box. In the meantime, I struggle and I fight and I immerse myself in the mystery and chaos which that battle provides.

Today was not one of those days. Today there was calm on the battlefield. Today had structure and a schedule and I pretty much knew what was going to happen. I was going to go close my checking account (finally), have lunch with a dear friend, go to therapy, pick up my daughter and spend time with her, after which I was going to come home and write about my day. These are all wonderful things and I was looking forward to all of them. They just weren’t what I needed to overpower the chemicals in my brain.

I found myself in tears this morning, overcome with sadness  There was no reason for me to feel that way. I had nothing to be sad about but I could feel it in the pit of my stomach. My chest was tight and I was having a hard time breathing. It’s that feeling you get when you are walking home, all alone, late at night, and you just know Freddie or Jason is about to appear from behind the bushes and attack you. But I was safe at home in my kitchen. I had nothing to fear.

I did find my self thinking about losses in my past and uncertainties about my future but the feelings came first. If anything, I was conjuring up thoughts to make sense of my emotions.

It made me think of this quote, which I believe was first discovered written on a bathroom stall:

If you have one foot in the future, and one foot in the past, you shit on the present.

That’s what I was doing… on purpose. The present was so uncomfortable that I stretched out my legs out in both directions just so I could shit on it.

Well, one glorious thing about the present is it doesn’t last long. That is to say, it’s always changing. Whatever discomfort I was feeling was not going to last forever. However predictable I thought my day would be, it was bound to get disrupted by something. I guess I do find peace in knowing that.

I expected to be able to close my checking account. I did not expect a pending transaction to prevent me from doing so for another two days. I didn’t expect Elsie’s to be out of veggie burgers today but found the bean quesadilla to be quite wonderful. I did not expect my therapy session to be all that helpful since I pretty much talk about everything here on my blog but I did notice my SUDS-level decrease significantly. I did not expect my time with my daughter to lead me to Electric Fetus where I got to see my friends Aby Wolf and Grant Cutler perform.

I did not expect to find in my mailbox, anything of value. I love the US Postal service but since they usually only deliver bills and advertisement, I’m okay with them taking a day off now and then. Let me just say that today was the best mail day ever!

The first thing I saw was a postcard from one of my favorite people on the planet. She is in Bali. I got a fucking postcard from Bali – how cool is that?!?

Then I saw a letter from one of my delivery accounts. They periodically send me bonuses for doing my fucking job. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s not like it is enough to make me work harder. I do my job because it’s my job. It’s more like it would make me feel shitty if I didn’t get it. That seems kind of manipulative to me. Anyway, I figured there might be money in there so I ripped it open. Three bucks! Whoahoo! Hey, when you’re broke every bit helps.

Then I saw a small envelope, hand addressed in red crayon with a Finding Nemo stamp in the corner. It was from my first true love. I turned the envelope over. Across the seal was drawn a pink heart. I opened it and pulled out a card with a picture of Tinker Bell, colored in with crayon. I opened it and read:

You are Loved!

Please use this gift to treat yourself to a fun night out

and the rest for whatever.

Happy Late B-Bay!

Enclosed was a hundred dollar bill. She sent this after reading about my financial troubles. I guess I called her just after she had put it in the mail, just to tell her I love her, having no idea what she had done. For the second time today, tears welled up in my eyes.

I will leave you with one final quote:

“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle” – attributed to Albert Einstein although there is no evidence he ever said it.

I prefer the later.

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