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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Alcohol is a solution

Alcohol is a solution

My last post was a little cryptic. It was one of my more poetic posts. I was playing with language because I was trying to make sense of things which don’t make sense. When I started I was trying to make sense of big issues like war, poverty, racism and sexual assault. By the time I finished it several days later I was thinking about my own life. Specifically I was thinking about the role alcohol plays in my life.

I’m what is commonly referred to as an alcoholic. I tend to reject labels but as they say, “if the shoe fits…”. The label alcoholic is one that I identify with strongly, I accept it, I embrace and I will even take pride in it. Society tends to look down on alcoholics and attempts to instill shame. Shame is a destructive force and so I reject it. Alcoholics are not defective people, they are just people. Sure they do some fucked up things sometimes but everybody who does anything will fuck up from time to time. Bigger things can mean bigger fuck ups. Combine that with social stigma and ostracization and you’ve got a mess. I happen to find most alcoholics to be pretty freaking amazing people.

For me, alcohol is not a problem. Alcohol is a solution. It may be an imperfect solution but there are no perfect solutions. On the whole, alcohol has served me pretty well. Alcohol has been there for me when all else has failed. Alcohol is like a best friend… only more consistent, and more predictable. Alcohol has been my mentor, teaching me countless life lessons. Alcohol has held my hand as I’ve attempted things I never thought I could. Alcohol has taught me courage. Alcohol has taught me to speak my mind. Alcohol has taught me vulnerability. Alcohol has taught me how to ask for help. Alcohol has taught taught me the power of forgiveness. No matter what I am feeling, regardless of my state of mind, alcohol can put me in touch with my true self or give me an attitude adjustment when needed. Alcohol has been with me for virtually every major life event. Alcohol has introduced me to the vast majority of my lovers, partners and friends. Alcohol has got me through every brake-up and has even helped me end unhealthy relationships when nothing else could. Alcohol has been my medication for chronic illness. Alcohol has been my motivation to keep going. Alcohol has been my reward for a job well done. Alcohol has fueled most of this blog. Alcohol has literally saved my life.

Yeah, alcohol is pretty amazing stuff!

As I look at my life and all I’ve accomplished I realize that I owe alcohol a deep debt of gratitude. Alcohol has worked for me and it has got me to this point. I just have this aching feeling like there has to be more to life. Maybe I’m wrong but I know that I’ll never find out as long as alcohol is in the picture; keeping life exciting and making everything okay when life gets too much.  In order to see what is around that bend, I’m going to have to break up with alcohol. I’m going to have to become a sober alcoholic.

Yeah, right! Like that ever happens. Sounds like a flightless bird to me. 

Well, as it turns out there are a lot of sober alcoholics. They even gather in groups multiple times a day, every day of the week. I’ve been going to these gatherings and what I’ve discovered is that like the ostridge, these people are pretty freaking amazing. Them do seem to be rather down on my beloved alcohol however; blaming it for the problems in their life rather than celebrating it for their accomplishments. Still, despite our differences we seem to have a lot in common. As I listen to their stories it sounds like my life. We may not share the same perspective but the experiences are pretty similar. When sitting with these sober alcoholics I feel like I’m where I’m meant to be. I can’t help but thank alcohol for helping me find this place. I think my new friends feel the same way because when I said, “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for alcohol”, they all nodded in agreement.

I heard a speaker the other night say that the Alcoholics Anonymous steps and program are not something to believe in, it’s not something you learn from, it’s something you do. I think what he was saying was that the beliefs and knowledge come from the doing, not from the steps themselves. I’m not going to AA because I believe in it, I’m not going to learn how to be a better alcoholic, I’m going because I need something to do. Alcohol has been my thing to do and it has works to this point. The one thing I want now is the one thing it can’t get me. I want sobriety and alcohol will no longer get me there. I’m sure that there are other ways but Alcoholics Anonymous has a proven track record of helping alcoholics find sobriety. As they say, “It works if you work it.”

Things to come

As my life is becoming more structured I want to get back to trying to write everyday. There are so many thoughts and ideas floating around in my head that I really want to get out. I have an opinion about just about everything; I just haven’t felt that I have the  moral authority to speak about them. The more I read other people’s opinions the more I realize that I shouldn’t let that stop me.  It helps me to see that the crazy thoughts in my head are shared by great thinkers who have actually garnered respect for their ideas. When I find myself still disagreeing with people whose ideas I highly respect I come out thinking that I may have something original to offer. This doesn’t mean that I am right and they are wrong, only that I have a perspective which is uniquely mine. Some people will probably like what I have to say and some people might not. I hope you will let me know either way. I think the conversation is a good thing in and of itself. My thoughts and my beliefs are constantly evolving.

I want to try and tackle some of the big issues even if I can only do it in a small way. I want to share my musings on subjects like, god, meaning of life, good and evil, human evolution, fame and success, morality, inspiration, creativity, society, government, punishment and love. I also want to write my thoughts on the more mundane topics of the day like marijuana legalization, global warming, income inequality, gay marriage, the Arab-Israeli conflict, religious freedom and politics.

I’m sure that I will continue to intersperse some stories about my life but I don’t want that to be the focus. I’ve been using this in-the-moment memoir approach because my memory sucks and I wanted to have a way to remember what I’ve been through. I also figured that if anyone was going to be telling my story, it should be me. What I’ve found is that I don’t find my story all that interesting. I remember what I want to remember and the rest I am more than happy to forget. If someone else finds my story interesting, they are welcome to write about it. I need to write about what interests me.

My hope is that I will be able to develop a structure and framework that will make it easier for me to write. I also want to get to the point where I can write comfortably without the use of alcohol. I simply am not going to have the time to drink like I have been and there are some consequences to drinking that I would like to avoid. I know this will be a challenge for me. I’m much more self critical when I’m sober. I also have a hard time focusing on a single thought. I find my brain racing three pages ahead when I’m still struggling to find words to complete the sentence at hand. It’s really frustrating and time consuming but I need to find some other tools to help me focus.

Life is beautiful

The other morning, to be specific, the morning of Tuesday August 20th, 2013, I woke up with the most incredible sensation. As my eyes opened to greet the day I felt absolutely convinced that life was beautiful and that we lived in a world where everything was exactly as it was meant to be. For that moment in time I was living in the best of all possible worlds.

Then two hours later I woke up for real. I had in fact only been dreaming of this world. But could there be some truth to it? Could it be that life actually is beautiful? Many people have suggested that it is but given that I write a blog titled “Life Sucks, So What?!?” I clearly have my doubts.

Still, for two hours I was living in the best of all possible worlds. I was completely safe, happy and receiving everything I needed or could possibly desire. In that moment what I needed more than anything, to the exclusion of everything else, was sleep and what a beautiful sleep it was.

So this begs the question; does life suck or is it beautiful? I don’t think that I am going too far out on a limb to say that it is both. I realize that this might upset some of my friends who are convinced that life is beautiful but welcome to reality.

Actually, that is the real question. What is reality? I love my happy-go-lucky-life-is-beautiful friends but sometimes I get frustrated because I feel like we are not living in the same reality. Perhaps that is the case. Perhaps there are multiple realities. Or as I like to think of it; reality is just really, really fucking big and no one person can ever see all of it at once. Sometimes we see the parts that suck, sometimes we the parts that are beautiful.  Some people carve out their own vision of reality by only seeing what they want to see. Actually, that might be most people but I don’t have the budget to do the research and frankly, most statistics suck. Feel free to prove me wrong it you want to conduct a study and quantify the beauty of statistics.

My life is as an artist… or philosopher or whatever the fuck I am. I see my job as looking at everything, trying to make some sort of sense out of it, and doing the best job I can at communicating what I see. My job is to connect the dots. My job is to bring the universe back to earth. What I am quickly realizing is that the universe is really fucking big and that there are a lot of dots. I feel like an astrologer looking up at the ancient night sky and thinking, “there has got to be an answer in there somewhere”.

monthly-astrology-forecast-and-podcast-for-ma-L-bWDarU

The truth is that all those dots are connected. They all affect one another. Some connections may be more significant than others, just like some of our personal relationships are more significant than others, but the truth is we are all connected. To be honest, the dots connected by astrologers seem a bit random to me, but so what?!? We all have to make choices in this universe and if it works for you, who am I to judge?

Reality is big enough for everyone. If you want to believe that life is beautiful, go ahead. There is plenty of evidence to support that theory.  If you want to believe that life sucks, it’s pretty easy to do that as well. If you think that there is a supreme order to the universe and that everything happens for a reason, be my guest. If you think we live in completely chaos, I feel ya there too.

On this particular day in late August three young people including a toddler and a pregnant woman were shot in my neighborhood.  While no one was fatally injured there is no denying that this was a tragedy and the outrage exhibited by the community is completely understandable. My heart goes out to all the victims and to everyone affected by this incident. This has got to stop and our communities have got to come together and do a better job.

Still, I feel it’s important to point out that there were 387,750 people in Minneapolis who were NOT shot that day. Our odds of being shot on that day in Minneapolis were less than 1 in 100,000 or 0.0008%. Fortunately I don’t need a big research budget to come up with those statistics but they don’t exactly help much either. Crunching numbers and connecting dots seems pretty stupid when we have bullets connecting with flesh.

On that same day I took my daughter and her dog Toastie for a walk along the Mississippi River, across the Stone Arch Bridge to explore the ruins of the old mill city. It may very well have been one of the best days I have ever spent with my daughter but what I found most profound was that my daughter had a dog. She got this dog just a week before but she had been dreaming of it for two years. She even had the name picked out. So many people tried to dissuade her from her pursuit of getting a dog but she persevered. I encouraged her to keep her dream alive because even if it was unattainable I know that life can only be as good as our dreams.

And her dream did come true.

My dream in which I discovered a world of beauty could come true as well. I doubt that it will but so fucking what?!? Of all the misguided dreams and false hopes out there, believing that we can make the world a better place is one I’m willing to embrace.

Speaking of dreams, given that tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom I want to leave you with these words of another unrealistic dreamer, Martin Luther King Jr:

I didn’t see that cliff on the map

This whole year I have been running. I have been running to keep from falling down. I have been running because I am afraid to stop. Like a shark, if I stop moving I will die.

While not literally true, this is what it feels like to be me. For the most part, this approach has worked well for me but I have survived enough pitfalls to see it’s limitations. I am convinced that the reason I got sick back in 1999 was because it was the only way for my body to get me to slow down.

I have been on a path on constantly thinking, feeling and doing. I have accomplished a lot. It has been a full life. I honestly believe that if I seize every moment as it comes and make the most of it, when my final moment comes, I will know that I lived the best life I could.

But I also know that I need to take time to just be. But how do I do that? What can I cut out of my life to make room for nothing?

I’m not going to cut out time with my kids. I’m not going to cut out friends. I’m not going to cut out writing. I’m not going to cut out music. I’m not going to cut out working. As it stands, I don’t even come close to doing everything others want from me. I don’t even come close to everything I want from me. I barely, barely have time to do what I absolutely need to do for survival.

Perhaps I could just keep going like this indefinitely but the pragmatist in me says that it is not sustainable. I could just bury my head and keep forging forward but the cautious person in me fears that I may be about to run into a brick wall or off a cliff.

It’s time to get some perspective. It’s time to step back and look at the big picture. I know that I do that from time to time but I don’t know how I do it. What I do know it that one factor that allows me to keep going, even against my better judgement, is alcohol.

I’m going to spend the next two weeks not drinking, just to see what happens. I know that two weeks is pretty much the minimum time needed to assess the effects of a behavioural change. So far it’s been two days and it’s been a mess. I’m sleeping more but when I’m awake I’m running more, thinking more and feeling more. I’ve been doing more but accomplishing less. I have no focus. Basically, my life is in chaos. So the experiment continues…

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