This is the goal.

    One more day of Suboxone. I’m only taking 1mg at this point anyway and my body knows it. Can’t sleep and don’t feel like reading, writing (this short post = huge effort), socializing, eating, drinking, exercising, or really much of anything else. Pray and hang on. That’s the game plan. On the theory that it’s always darkest before the dawn, I’m relieved.

One of the best things I’ve ever read:
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
4. Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment. It will be different when you are healthy as opposed to when you are sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
5. Be Skeptical, But Learn to Listen – Don’t believe yourself or anybody else. Use the power of doubt to question everything you hear: Is it really the truth? Listen to the intent behind the words, and you will understand the real message.
From the book, The Fifth Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz

Day 35: No Excuses.

May 28, 2011

    I haven’t been posting very consistently this week, but that’s mainly because I’ve been busy during the day, and the time when I post most often – the early morning – is the only time I’ve been able to get good sleep. And I choose sleep over you, I hope you don’t hold that against me. I have lots of material for this week, though, so stay tuned.

    I’ll post more later today (promise this time). In the meantime, enjoy the melodic  “No Excuses,” by a frequent subject of this blog, AIC.

Hi. You might not want to make eye-contact.

    I proposed stopping Suboxone completely today. My doctor, probably wisely, suggested that we taper off to 1.5mg, then 1.0 over the next 5 days. I have been told to listen to my body, and take it easy for a little while. Which is good advice. One of the things my body tells me to do is move. Walk. Play basketball. Throw the football. When I’m moving, I feel almost normal. Almost. When I don’t move, I feel like snowball up there.

   I’ll have a more substantive post later today, after our nurse shows up and I feel like talking.

Salvodor Dali knows what I'm talking about.

    I wake up feeling more or less like I was run over by a bus, but sleep is impossible, so I make myself go to a 7am AA meeting. Which is just as well, because that meeting is supposed to be required reading here at the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch, although in my current condition, I could get a special dispensation if I wanted it. But it really wouldn’t do me any good to toss and turn in bed for another hour, so I go.

    We get back around 8:15. Our nurse arrives promptly at 9:00am to dispense medication, including my paltry little 3mg (!) of Suboxone. The worst I feel all day is in the morning between 8am and when the nurse shows up. It goes without saying that that time…passes…very…slowly. Our nurse gets a chuckle now when she shows up at 9 to find me in the group room lying in some state of repose, with the best hang-dog expression I can muster, so as to say: “before you do anything else, please tend to me.”

     Being a first-born (the world revolves around me; never forget this) and somewhat of a drama queen, I have perfected the hang-dog expression to something of an art-form.  Our nurse is the one person in the whole facility who does not have some kind of personal experience with addiction. We call them normies. I have to think that she occasionally (I went to school for like 100 years and I never spell “occasionally” right the first time) gets a kick out of  the theater of the whole thing. But if she does, she never shows it.

    She’s as patient as you would expect a matronly woman in her choice of profession would be. Reading between the lines, you should take my sentiment towards her to mean that she does in fact tend to me before anything else. The real trick is to evoke that kind of sympathy without it appearing intentional. Like I said, it’s art. I have 35 years of experience at this (and I have had a few good teachers along the way), so all you aspiring drama queens, take heart: you too can master the art of evoking pity. You don’t want to overdo it, but it’s not such a bad skill to have when the occasion (really?! two “c”s, one “s”, how hard is that to remember?!) calls for it. Keep reading, and you’re bound to continue getting these invaluable life lessons.

30 Days.

May 23, 2011

This one speaks for itself.

Dear: Anheuser-Busch, Ketel One, the entire nation of Columbia, the cartels in Mexico, the opium growers of Afghanistan, Miller-Coors Brewing Company, Amneal, Watson, Xanodyne and Pharma Pharmaceuticals,

Suck it, Trebek.

A thing I like.

    The Saturday Autobiographical, back by popular demand. On Monday. To review: three likes, three dislikes, with links, explanation and commentary. The sweet tea has never materialized, but you never know.

     Same qualifications as always. It’s gimmicky. It’s hokey. It is fantastically self-indulgent.  It’s not particularly creative – I’ve seen ads for male enhancement with more subtlety: “Buy this, get any girl you want. Don’t, and die from cancer.”  However, as I indicated last week, my shareholders demand page-views – you know how advertisers can be – so I’m gonna do it anyway. Editor’s Note: I have neither shareholders nor advertisers.

Three things I like:

    1. The Beatles: In addition to having the best Wikipedia entry in history, the Beatles changed everything, forever.  The singer-songwriter band was practically non-existent, once upon a time. Bands were the product of their record label’s design (sadly, these things come full circle). Unlike movies, which went from being an organic creation of people who loved movies to vertically-integrated, formulaic creations of the studios (thank you for that, Star Wars), rock-and-roll bands kind of went the other direction.

    The Beatles changed everything. Before the Beatles, rock-and-roll pop “bands” were often creations of the record labels (real rock-and-roll, of course originated with the blues singer-song writers in the Southeastern United States, but that takes my neat little narrative here and makes it messy; so I am speaking in broad generalities here). After the Beatles, every record label was looking for the next singer-songwriter band playing in a garage. Without the Beatles, there is no Nirvana – likely no grunge at all, in fact.

    For crying out loud, there was a time when the Beatles were terrified to release an album, because people did all kinds of crazy things on the basis of Beatles lyrics. They had a monumental influence on fashion, practically created the music video, and one of them is a knight.  Other artists will get their due in this space, but none of them can claim to have had the influence on our culture, or on me, that the Beatles did.

        2.  The Atlanta Braves: They haven’t given me much to work with in a while, but for the last 20 years or so, I have lived and died with the Braves. And I lived more than I died: fourteen straight division titles spoiled me. The Braves treated me to more wonderful sports moments in person than the average Mets fan can even imagine. World Series. NLCS. Game six of the 1999 NLCS when Andruw Jones drew a walk-off walk to clinch the NLCS and go the Series. When the Mets came to town in ’98 tied with the Braves in the NL East and Chipper Jones hit four home runs in three games.

    During the early years of our (yes, our) success, the city of Atlanta would throw a parade at the end of the season. I was at the first one, the one after the Greatest World Series Ever Played, and the baby ‘Benz Tom Glavine was riding in ran over my foot. And I have great affection for the man at the helm for each of the fourteen division titles. Former manager Bobby Cox retired last year as one of the most successful managers of all time. Well, he was the very best at one thing.  And he bore at least a passing resemblance to…

    3. Ronald Reagan: Bear with me. I was a child of the 1980’s. In my household, the hierarchy was as follows: God, Dad, Reagan. And I had a suspicion that God looked a lot like Reagan. These are the conceptions of a child, of course. Still, President Reagan came at just the right moment in history. Generally wary of strong authority figures, and cynical over the Nixon-Ford-Carter years, America needed Reagan in 1980. People forget what was going on in the late 70’s. Stagflation had a firm grip on the American economy, and the Keynsian economists didn’t have an answer.  People were beginning to think that we had seen the best America had to offer. The Soviet Union was still the Soviet Union. And the majority of academia expected the U.S.S.R. to be the yen to our yang for the forseeable future.

    But here comes this guy with a sunny disposition (usually), a 1950’s sensibility that seemed out-of-place even then, and charms the American people right into the White House. Even the press, hardened, cynical and mostly leftist, had a hard time not liking him.

This is more or less how I supposed God looked, circa 1982.

    He publicly engaged the leaders of the Soviet Union more directly than anyone since Kennedy, standing at the Brandenburg Gate and telling Mikhail Gorbachev – against the advice of nearly every one on his staff – to tear down the Berlin Wall. And behind the scenes, we now know, he directed an arms race that he knew would bankrupt the Soviet Union. Of course it is possible to overstate his role in the fall of the Soviet Union, but it cannot be said that he had nothing to do with it; nor, in the opinion of many, even that he had little to do with it. And his optimism became our optimism. During the 1980’s the American economy started expanding at a rate that was unprecedented in human history. The rumors of our demise had been greatly exaggerated.

    Setting his politics aside – because reasonable minds may differ – the reason I have him in this space is his optimism. His view of America as a City Upon a Hill, a beacon for the world of all that is good. And the conviction of his belief in these things, even when the outcome was very much in doubt. His presidency was far from perfect, as they all are. But if you really want to understand the power of Reagan, ask someone who lived in East Berlin in 1980 what they think of him. Or Yugoslavia. Or Hungary. It is hard to imagine America today, or the world, without his presidency.

Three things I unlike:

    1. The Rolling Stones: The anti-Beatles. This is strictly a matter of opinion. The ‘Stones had (have) considerable commercial and critical success. They have sold to date something in the range of 200 million albums worldwide. But they are too commercial and over-exposed. And rock stars shouldn’t grow old on stage, with a few exceptions (see, e.g., Eric Clapton, and B.B. King). Plus there’s this. But mainly, for me, they haven’t stood the test of time. I just don’t like their music, with one big exception.

    2. The expression “Let me put a bug in your ear.” Gross. This is a concept better suited for a horror movie, not the board-room. Who first used this expression, the person who invented Garbage Pail Kids? What kind of response do you think it got? Exactly. How this caught on baffles me. I just think we can do better. This actually happened in a movie once, in Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn. I saw it as a kid, and it was terrifying. I slept with my covers over my head for a week.

Illustration of the bug for the ol' bug in ear trick in Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn.

    3. Lightning: Lightning combines two of my least favorite things: sudden loud noises and death. Like most phobias, this one – called astraphobia – originates during childhood. Mine developed during my illustrious little league career. At that time, I lived in the lightning strike capital of the world. During one game, I was playing center field when a thunderstorm came seemingly out of nowhere. At some point when my team was in the field, lightning struck a billboard directly behind me.

    The fastest animal on land is the cheetah, reaching speeds between 70 and 75 MPH. The fastest human beings run just under 30 MPH. I suspect, however, that no one has ever clocked a cheetah or a human being after lightning struck an object located 25 feet or so behind them. After the strike and instant “BOOM” I’m pretty sure I hit 96. In my memory, I just vaporized out of center field and reappeared in the dug out. My Dad was coaching third base at the time, and he likes to say that he hadn’t even gotten the first syllable of “EVERYBODY IN!!!” out of his mouth and I was past him – all knees and elbows – and into the dug-out.

    Lightning and I have hated each other ever since. It’s tried several more times to get me. Like the time my brother and I were brushing our teeth in the bathroom, getting ready for bed, and lightning struck the transformer behind our house. There was a flash, a crash and a boom, sparks flew out of our outlets, and then there was total darkness. I figured we were all dead. That’s just mean, lightning.

Trees: not a good shelter in the storm.

    A bolt of lightning is approximately 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or three times the temperature of the surface of the sun. From 1990 to 2003, 756 people died from lightning strikes in the United States, with Florida – site of the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch – leading the way with 126. When people refer to God’s vengeance, they refer to “being struck by lightning.” I can’t think of a more direct illustration of the concept that “it is appointed unto man once to die” than a lightning strike. It’s God’s way of saying, “Hey you, out of the pool!”

    I have developed a specialized way of walking – during thunder storms, mainly – that my family calls the crab-walk. I get low to the ground and walk with my legs spread far apart, thereby resembling a crab. Hey, I’m 6’4″, I’m often the tallest object around. My brother, also tall, does the same thing. On that rare occasion when we are walking in a thunderstorm together, we look pretty ridiculous. And people laugh at us. That’s fine, when they get struck by lightning, I will stand over their charred remains and laugh at them. What one man calls astraphobia, I call good survival instincts.

I will kill you. /shoots lasers from eyes

    Remind me not to get addicted to opiates again. I’m currently taking 4mg of Suboxone a day. If you remember, I started at 24mg only 20 short days ago. Ouch. I’d put myself at about a 6 on the misery index, with 10 being full-blown withdrawal. That’s what Suboxone does for you: allows you to trade a 10 for a 6.

    And just for good measure, yesterday the universe dealt me a healthy dose of irony (I’ll get to that in a minute). First, you need to review the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. I’ll wait.  First of all, let me point out that looking at the symptoms of withdrawal written in cold black and white gives you about as much of a sense of the real thing as reading the Cliff’s Notes of Dante’s Inferno.

Dysphoria. Not a real country.

    Take “dysphoria,” for example. Dysphoria sounds like it might not be too good, but then again not so bad, either. It sounds like a country in the former Soviet Bloc. Maybe the government’s corrupt, but there are economic opportunities everywhere. A loaf of bread no longer costs a week’s pay. Sure the Russian mob controls all the entertainment rackets, but at least there is entertainment. Which is better than your options in the before times, limited to mainly kick-the-land mine or…well, not much else.

    But that’s not dysphoria at all. Dysphoria, at least as it’s experienced in withdrawal, is a feeling like – not only am I not happy now – but I’m not ever going to be happy again. Ever. And Santa died. In bed with someone not Mrs. Claus. In fact, it was  Mrs. Bunny. Husband named Easter. And the Fourth of July was cancelled, along with New Years. Now I think the picture is clear.

    So with that backdrop, I’ll note certain other symptoms of withdrawal. The ones involving the gastrointestinal tract. Given my description of dysphoria, let me assure you that every other symptom on that list is equally magnified. So you can understand my consternation when I went to Public (that’s the singular) yesterday and found out that Imodium had been voluntarily recalled. All of it. There was nothing left on the shelf. No store brand. Nothing.

    There is cosmic irony in this scenario. I get that. It’s probably hilarious. I would appreciate it even more, were it not for the fact that laughing riotously is NOT A VERY GOOD IDEA WHEN YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS YOU WOULD OTHERWISE TREAT WITH IMODIUM OH THE HUMANITY.

If you look close, you can see God laughing.

    I know, I know, I doubt God was behind the imodium recall. But you can’t rule it out entirely. So I will soldier on today in my quest to defeat addiction (subdue might be a better word).  But for the next few days, the battlefield will never be too far from a bathroom.

One thing there's never a shortage of on the internet - other than depravity - is cats.

    Stephen Hawking got a lot of attention this week when he declared that there is no heaven. Thank goodness we cleared that up. I can only assume – since he did not elaborate – that the world-renowned physicist believes that physics precludes the likelihood of an afterlife. I guess I’m glad I’m not as smart as Stephen Hawking, because I tend to trip over my own intellect as it is.

There's faith involved whether you believe in heaven or believe there's no such thing.

    The funny thing is, physics told us at one time that man would never fly. Not in the dark ages, mind you. In 1902. I don’t presume to know much about physics, beyond the observable phenomena around me. But I know that physics has laws. And laws are something I do understand; they’re my stock-in-trade. One thing I know for certain when I come across a law: someone wrote it. The laws of physics are immutable, permanent, and probably unified in a way we don’t yet understand. I suspect they have an author.

    Einstein, as most physicists since, believed that the universe was governed by a unified field theory that explained all the forces of nature in a unified way. We’ve barely scratched the surface of understanding unified field theory. Another 100 years and we probably still won’t. Because it’s frankly all too big for us.

    It strikes me as a little ridiculous to suggest that physics disproves heaven, much in a way that it would strike me as ridiculous for an ant, with its limited understanding of the material world, to argue that an internal combustion engine is a conceptual impossibility. What we humans have been able to do so far, with all our alleged understanding, is to describe the universe. We can’t yet explain it. Given that fact, is it a leap to suggest that our understanding of the universe might be as far from the whole truth as the ant’s understanding of the internal combustion engine? I’m probably not even giving enough credit to the ant. After all, not that long ago, we used physics to prove that man would never fly.

    For me God shows up in the very big and the very small. The universe: big. Twenty-four-hour increments of sobriety: small. Both are miracles in their own way. So with all due respect to Stephen Hawking (I am an admirer of his, incidentally), I prefer the Wright Brothers’ approach. It took faith to believe that man could fly. It frankly took faith to believe man couldn’t fly, too. But the former approach started with the premise that we don’t know what we don’t know until we know. And I don’t think we’re anywhere near knowing what we don’t know. You may believe that there is no heaven. But you don’t know it any more than an ant knows that –  not only is there such a thing as an internal combustion engine – but space travel  is possible.

Never got around to learning how to fly one. Unlike SOME people.

    Just learned last night that a guy who recently took up residence here at the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch used to fly F-18 Hornets. And land them. On an aircraft carrier. That was in the water.

    Just in case I harbored any suspicion that I might be a big deal, I now know otherwise. Knowing the elements for contract formation never seemed quite as lame as it does right about now.