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Friday, February 21, 2014

ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD

So, there I was, watching the Winter Olympics from Sochi, in my second month of debilitating illness, already knowing that feeling sorry for myself was pointless, that feeling hovering just outside my awareness nevertheless.

I don't know what it is about nausea, but it seems to change all the rules. I want nothing more than to get to my keyboard and write my stories. When I need a break, I want nothing more than to slap on my skis and hit the slopes. When I'm sick to my stomach all I want to do stop feeling like that by any means.

And we all know what by any means means to an addict. I stumble into a meeting or three, stay as long as I can, talk to program people on the phone, and work on waiting out the illness. As we know, patience is not waiting; patience is doing something else.

My "something elses"  involve listening to Audiobooks, rereading some of my own stuff, watching TV, petting my dogs, and when the Olympics are on, I watch.

Inspiration, that emotional boost that lifts you from despair and self pity back into hope and gratitude, was the medicine I needed, and in a series of events such as the Olympics there are usually several such moments. There are also lessons to be learned.

Yesterday, for example, I watched the USA women's hockey team crying almost to an individual because they earned silver medals instead of gold. I can only think offhand of several thousand Olympic athletes who would have killed to have traded places with them.

Yet, there I was, a moderately successful author, awards, over twenty books in print, living in a home I love, good friends, good program, no worries about money or employment, pissing and moaning because for a space of time I couldn't write or go skiing.  The parallel was rather glaring.

Many years ago, a writer friend of mine listened to my bitching for awhile, then he said to me, "Barry, there are hundreds of thousands of writers in this world who would kill to have your problems." 

I've said it before: A time is coming for all of us when we will be able to look back upon this moment right now as the good old days.

Another inspiring moment: Men's single figure skater Jeremy Abbot. The videos must be all over YouTube by now. Check them out.

Every Olympian goes through the same thing, especially figure skaters. Day after day, practice, working out, more practice, more working out, day after day. The goal, for most, is a gold medal. The goal for everyone is to do their absolute best. So there he was, his program before the judges just begun, he was going into his very first jump, and suddenly everything went wrong. Before he fell down he had to have known that everything he had worked for, all his Olympic goals, had just evaporated.

Then he hit the ice.
Hard.
He landed on his hip and side with enough force to put most persons into the hospital. Everyone who watched was expecting his team's medics to run out onto the ice and haul him away. The inspiring part came next: Slowly, he struggled up, back onto his skates, his face drawn with pain. He took a breath, then he completed the remainder of his program without error.

Offhand I can't remember the names of those who medaled in that event. Every time I fall, though, or come up short in things I counted on, I'll have that performance of Jeremy Abbot's in mind. The medal he won in that event wasn't gold, silver, or bronze; It glittered quite brightly, though.

Friday, November 29, 2013

BEWARE THE MALIGNANT FLYSPECK

When he would hear someone pissing and moaning about their physical problems accompanying their advancing years, my late sponsor Larry used to say, "We weren't even supposed to be here. Addicts used to die very young. Those who don't get into recovery, as a rule, still die young. What a miracle it is that those of us in recovery have lived enough additional years to be able to bitch about getting old."
 
The big setup for any addict in recovery is the malignant flyspeck. What's the malignant flyspeck?
 
Imagine a pristine wall of white or some pleasing color. The wall fills the universe with its pleasing light, an existential vessel for our joy and serenity. While you're looking at that wall, though, you notice a flyspeck on it. You stand closer, making the flyspeck seem larger, to examine it better.
 
"Look at that!" you cry. "Some damned bug attached itself to our beautiful wall and crapped all over it!"
 
You stand closer and closer until all you can see is the flyspeck. The universe is no longer beauty, joy, and serenity; It's all shit!
 
Anyone ever tell you about addiction's bag of tricks? Its number one trick (therapists like to call it a "dynamic") is behavior based on the disease's founding premise: Nothing comes between my addict and the drug.
 
Happy, grateful, serene recovering addicts don't use. Hence, thinks the disease, I must destroy the joy, kill hope, and vaporize serenity. In other words, if the addict can be made to make himself miserable enough, the addict will go back to the drug.
 
Meanwhile, back at the flyspeck that seemed to have swallowed the universe: if I step back from that unfortunate mark on the wall, noting the 99.9999% remainder of the wall that is clean and beautiful, it is no longer such a big deal. Some might even go so far as to get a sponge and remove the flyspeck.
 
However, if I choose to focus on the flyspeck until it seems to fill my universe, life for me will suddenly become hopeless and unbearable. That is precisely when that little green dragon climbs up on my shoulder and begins suggesting certain chemical "solutions" to take care of my "problems."
 
Can't seem to get away from that flyspeck on your own?
Go to a program meeting and share.
Write a gratitude list.
Call your sponsor and talk it out.
 
Oh . . . you don't have a sponsor? Haven't been to a meeting in awhile?
 
The way Larry put it to me was this: addiction has a bag of tricks; the program gives me a bag of tools. To counter the tricks I need to use the tools. If I choose not to use the tools, I am choosing to live and die in that universe full of crap in which staying clean is all but impossible.
 
You ever try to unplug an overflowing toilet by bitching, feeling depressed, and sticking your head in the bowl? No. You either use a toilet plunger or get someone to come in and . . . use a toilet plunger. The tools of recovery and how to use them to stay clean and live life joyous and free is what the program provides.
 
So, when you find yourself stacking up things about which to be miserable, health problems, love relationships falling apart, pets taking a dump on your carpet, you burning the turkey, losing a job, sticking your head in a toilet, or all of the above, use the program tools to help back you away from that flyspeck.
 
If you want to stay clean.
 

Friday, November 08, 2013

THE SLIP


Bubba had had just about enough of going to Twelve Step meetings. All of this don't use, go to meetings, and ask for help crap was really pissing him off. Everything was making him angry and all he wanted to do was hit someone.

"One drink won't kill me," he said to himself, and he headed for the nearest bar.

Once he got into the establishment, he saw Willy, an old sponsor of his who had gone out again, sitting at the bar, hunched over a drink. Bubba walked over, grabbed the guy's drink, gulped it down, and said, "So, what are you gonna do about it?"

"Come on, man," said Willy. "I'm a complete failure. I stopped going to meetings and got back into drinking. My wife left me and took the kids. Then I was late to a meeting with my boss, and he fired me. When I went to the parking lot, I found my car had been stolen and I don't have any insurance. I left my wallet in the cab I took home, I opened the door, a burglar hit me on my head, stole my computer and TV, and when I woke up my dog bit me. So . . . I came to this bar to work up the courage to put an end to it all. So I buy a drink, drop a cyanide capsule in it, and sit here watching the poison dissolve, then you show up and drink the whole damn thing! But, enough about me, how are you doing?"

Thursday, November 07, 2013

DOES PRAYER REALLY WORK?


A lady goes to her priest one day and tells him, "Father, I have a problem. I have two female talking parrots, but they only ever say one thing."

"What do they say?" the priest inquired.

"They say, 'Hi, we're hookers! Do you want to have some fun?'"

"That's obscene!" the priest exclaimed. Then he thought for a moment. "You know," he said, "I may have a solution to your problem. I have two male talking parrots, which I have taught to pray and read the Bible. Bring your two parrots over to my house, and we'll put them in the cage with Francis and Peter. My parrots can teach your parrots to praise and worship, and your parrots will surely stop saying that awful phrase."

"Thank you," the woman responded, "this may very well be the answer to my prayers."

 

The next day, She brought her female parrots to the priest's house. As the priest ushered her in, she saw that his two male parrots were inside their cage holding rosary beads and praying. Very impressed, she walked over and placed her parrots in with them.

After a long moment, the female parrots cried out in unison to the male parrots:  "Hi, we're hookers. Do you want to have some fun?"

There was stunned silence as the woman's mouth fell open and the priest's face turned red.

Then one male parrot turned and looked at the other male parrot. "Put the beads away, Frank," he said. "Our prayers have been answered."

 





Monday, November 04, 2013

THE FINANCIAL INSECURITY BLUES


The financially insecure addict, new in the program, asked his sponsor what he should do about his financial woes. "I don't know," replied his sponsor. "Ask your Higher Power for what you need."

So the newcomer climbs to the top of a very tall mountain, looks up at the skies, and cries out, "God, are you there?"

"I am here," answered God. "How can I help you?"

The newcomer felt strange about asking for all the money he wanted, so he decided to come at his request indirectly.  "Lord," he asked, "what does a million years mean to you?"

And God replied, "A minute."

The newcomer nodded and then asked, "And, Lord, what does a million dollars mean to you?"

And God replied, "A penny."

The newcomer asked, "Can I have a penny?"

"In a minute," answered God.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

GOOD MORNING, GOD!

A visit from an old ghost

Updating the Webmansion, I was looking through some old photos for my site biography when I ran across an old photo from shortly before I went into rehab. This was taken at a World Science Fiction Convention in Boston in 1980. It was first thing in the morning at an autograph session after a night of drinking and about half an hour of sleep. I was looking at the line of fans waiting for autographs, my brain leaking out of my ears, and one of my fans took this picture and mailed it to me.

Amazing how finding this picture brought it all back: My head ached so badly I thought my scalp would shatter, and I was speculating how far down the line of autograph seekers I could reach with projectile vomiting. Everything hurt, I was so very weary, and the prospects for the future looked so very bleak.

Hard to believe it was at that convention where I won the Hugo Award and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, making me the first (and perhaps still only) writer to win the Hugo, JWC, and Nebula awards all in the same year. I had talks with editors and publishers who wanted my stuff, and the hoard of booksellers at the con twice sold out of my latest SF novel, Infinity Hold, and had to restock. And right in front of me was a respectably long line of my fans who wanted my autograph on books of mine that they had paid for. It would seem that things in my life were going pretty well.

Three days after that picture was taken, I was back home, sitting at my desk, a gun in my mouth, getting ready to end it because everything in my life felt like shit.

"Don't you miss it?"

I've been clean and sober for thirty-one years. Every now and then, a drinker will ask me, "Don't you miss it?"

Let me look at that photo again. Yeah, it's what they mean when they say it's the difference between "Good morning, God," and "Good god, it's morning!"

Do I miss it?
Not today, Jack.
Not today.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

UNITY AND RECOVERY - A Very Big Club

For Your Information.

For regular readers of this blog and for the surfing curious wondering what "Life Sucks Better Clean" means, I thought I would share with you where our current bunch of fellow page viewers are located.

The Big 10. 
Although we get occasional visits from Israel, New Zealand, Mexico, Belarus, Malaysia, Ethiopia, and Vietnam, in descending order here is the Life Sucks Better Clean Top Ten:

United States
Lebanon
France
Germany
Russia
Canada
United Kingdom
China
Ukraine
and India

Aside from the U.S., I have no idea why the page views are distributed in the above manner.

The Meaning of Life Sucks Better Clean
Wherever you are in the world and in life, there are problems. Everything from little frustrations and worries on up to lethal threats and painful disabilities, deprivations, death, and disease. It easy to look at all of these negative things and say, with a fair amount of certainty, that life sucks.

It's like that joke about the Irish greeting card. On the front of the card it says: "Man is born in pain, lives in despair, and dies alone." Then you open the card and it says: "Happy New Year!"

That's what many people mean when they say "Life Sucks." For those in recovery from addiction, however, there is at least one thing they can do that is absolutely guaranteed to make whatever the problems they have much worse: Picking up and using that drug. The bottle, pills, herbs, powders, rocks - It doesn't matter what. For the drug addict who isn't frustrated or depressed enough or in enough pain, there is always that decision that leads straight back to the nightmare.

Yeah. There are problems. You have a better chance of surviving them and dealing with them if you don't pick up and use a drug. Life sucks sometimes, but every time it does, it sucks better clean.