Someone else who died too young. And he wasn't even a musician.

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon, we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”

– John F. Kennedy

     The rain is providing a welcome respite from the oppressive heat and humidity that has otherwise smothered the residents of the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch. I need rainy days sometimes, if only to let my melancholy out for a stretch. Not that I don’t anyway.

    Some days are still off. Sometimes I feel still feel like I’m spinning my wheels. Some days the outcome still feels like it’s in doubt. Some days I wake up and it feels like faith is out of the question. I don’t always put my recovery first. I still have days when I am eaten up with fear, resentment and shame. I still put too much pressure on myself, often for the wrong things. As for the things that I should be doing, regarding which I should be putting pressure on myself, I still procrastinate. I still allow other people to put pressure on me, and I still enable them to do so. I still mask my true feelings. I still fight with myself to tell people the truth rather than what I think they want to hear. I still put the approval of other people way too high on my priority list.

    I am starting to reconcile myself with the fact that I am hurt and I am angry. More so than I realized, and certainly more than I let on to anyone else. I’m mad that certain people in a position to make a difference failed to see the things about me that make me unique. But it took me 35 years to see some of those things, so to an extent the person I’m mad at is me. I’m mad at the people in this world who are oblivious to the damage they do with their words. Arising out of that general principal, specific unforgettable words out of specific mouths comprise my most personal and acute resentments. In a more subtle way, people also use words to invalidate feelings, personal taste, or personality traits. Not being kind is unconscionable. It is the one thing any human-being can do. It doesn’t take talent, it doesn’t take beauty, it doesn’t take practice. Anyone can choose to do it. But it is a choice.

    Sometimes, I hate being as sensitive as I am, but I wouldn’t change it if I were given the choice. Nor would I trade my gift of empathy; I like that I hurt for other people who are hurting. But I would change, and am trying to change, my tendency to empathize to the point of following them down the drain. I’m not there yet; I still over-relate. I have come across some people in my time here with stories that are absolutely heart-breaking. I still have a tendency to co-opt their pain. I need to figure out how to do the good that I can without becoming a casualty myself. I also need to recognize that Satan uses  the bad-things-happening-to-good-people narrative to attack my faith. My sensitivity makes me vulnerable.

     I still feel overwhelmed by the future, by decisions I have to make, and by the people who are depending on me. I feel overwhelmed by the people I worry about, the remorse I have and the time I have lost. I feel overwhelmed by this path I am on. It is long, it is narrow and it is treacherous. And littered with bodies. Some days that is more apparent than others. Like on a rainy Sunday afternoon. But, borrowing from President Kennedy, I do not do these things because they are easy. I do them because they are hard. It is a challenge which I am willing to accept, one which I am not willing to postpone, and one which I intend to win.


Day 47. Still Here.

June 10, 2011

Another original. Birds express expert indifference. Second only to cats.

     I’m still here. I’m not dead, relapsed, in jail, or in an institution. I have so far avoided the dreaded three-headed Hydra of “jails, institutions or death” referenced in the Big Book. But I am in a bit of a danger zone emotionally. Kind of just holding on in a strong head-wind some days, like my friend up there. My brain is still healing, which is so apparent in acute physical withdrawal, but easy to forget post-acute. Miraculous organ that it is, the brain eventually makes an adjustment and the most acute physical symptoms go away. During the period of being physically sick, those symptoms crowd everything else out.

    But when those symptoms go away, there is a sudden glut of emotions that cannot be trusted whatsoever. Because the physical manifestations of withdrawal are gone, the temptation is to think that this…is…what…sober…feels…like. But it’s not. I see too much evidence to contrary “in the rooms,” as we say. (It is an exercise in futility, by the way, to throw yourself into this program without having the lingo seep into your subconscious. So why fight it?) I see people who have years of sobriety. Decades. I see people who have buried parents, buried children, lost careers, lost every material thing they own, etc., all without picking up a drink. I saw a person today who tomorrow is moving home with their spouse, who has a terminal illness, to allow their spouse to die and be buried in the place of their birth. NEWSFLASH: I’m not there yet. But these people provide evidence to me of the potential for a serenity that I have never known.

    Which leads me to the reason I have been a little remiss here on regular posting. The best place for me right now is in the rooms. Not the rooms of the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch. The rooms of AA or NA. Hearing people with more time than me talk. Because some of them sound terminally happy, and I want that. And even if I find myself in a lousy meeting (they do exist) listening to someone talk who does not have a program that I would like to emulate: hearing what those people have to say is better than listening to the stuff that’s inside my head right now. I’m writing some of that stuff down, too, but I want to give myself time to sift through that material to determine what’s real and what’s diseased thinking. I prefer, in other words, a little bit more distance between my brain and my keyboard, for the time-being.

    P.S., Go Dallas.

Day 44: Sunset.

June 6, 2011

This one is an original, so the legal department is happy.

    Took some pictures yesterday of something we have an abundance of at the NotDisneyworld Sober Ranch: beautiful sunsets.

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them, He has set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. Psalm 19: 1-6.

    Sunday school over. Sometimes you need to let your Mom know your head is in the right place, ya know? I’ve given her plenty of material to fret over in this space; it never hurts to push the needle in the other direction.

Not a bad idea if the intent is to remain upwind.

    Some days just drag by. Any number of things explain it: anhedonia, which can be a vestige of substance abuse (and a symptom of post acute withdrawal syndrome); or clinical depression which was possibly a pre-existing condition and exacerbated by substance abuse; or yet, still, a syndrome called dysthymia, a milder but-longer-lasting-cousin of depression which seems to be gaining steam as the likeliest of the causes of my flickering light.

     I suppose partly to blame too is the fact that I have worked long days and weeks for as long as I can remember. The…pace…of…recovery…is…by…design…less……..intense. Some days it’s easy to find stuff to do with down-time. I read, I write, I draw, I socialize. Sometimes though I don’t have any desire to do any of that stuff, either. On those occasions, I can either force myself to do something (like I am now), or…what? I guess that’s the $60,000 question. Sleeping isn’t really an option. Exercise works if it’s not 100 degrees.

    But at some point, I need to wrestle – under someone’s guidance, of course – with the fundamental brain-chemistry questions posed in my first paragraph. For fifteen years, when I had this feeling, I would use something to alter my mood. That approach, as we now know, will eventually kill me, if I let it. Death is bad. So I need to find another way to treat the underlying syndrome. These questions, this early in recovery, are tantamount to putting the cart before the horse. We still don’t know what my normal brain chemistry is (maybe I can speak Spanish?). I’ve been told many times already to lower my expectations for myself right now. Just don’t use today. Good, great, grand, wonderful.

    Some days it feels like I’m just hanging on. Which makes me think of a song by the greatest college-radio rock band ever. It sounds like a morose song at first, but the message is one of hope. Hold on. You’re not alone. Take comfort in your friends.

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.

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.

The People Problem.

May 17, 2011

Stupid lemmings. They haven’t even invented nuclear weapons. So stupid.

    Ah, humans. The Cadillac of the biological world. The culmination – depending on your viewpoint – of millions of years of biological evolution, or of creation by God, and in His own image. We are the pièces de résistance. The big cheese. The kings of the food chain, the apex predator to top all apex predators. We subdue and have dominion over all creation. Crocodiles, great white sharks, lions, tigers and Kodiak bears: they’re all looking up at us. Our intellect sets us apart from all the rest.

    Except when it doesn’t. We can be shockingly unremarkable when it suits us. Banal, conformist, and shackled by old ideas and prejudices. These things are nowhere more evident than when many human beings get together to form a group.  And we have determined that groups, meetings and fellowships are the best way to defeat addiction.

    Ironically, it is group-think that often puts us in this predicament to begin with. We start using for a variety of reasons, and get addicted for a variety of reasons, but many of those reasons fall under the group-think umbrella. Fitting in. Peer pressure. The phenomenon of thinking we don’t have a problem because we’re not as bad as that guy. Until we are that guy.

    So now that we know we have a problem, we turn to a group. A group with good values instead of bad. A group that eschews the ephemeral in favor of the permanent. Long-term fulfillment instead of immediate gratification. But it’s still a group of imperfect human beings.

    Truth be told, there is plenty to find unlikable about these humans, if I want to look for it. Not everything people say in groups is beneficial to every person in the room. Or any person in the room, for that matter. Sometimes what people say is downright contradictory, banal, or even stupid. Sometimes what people say is flat wrong. True wisdom is a rare commodity, as in life, even in the best rooms.

    This same phenomenon made organized religion unappealing to me for a very long time. As the Big Book puts it, it’s possible to miss the beauty of the forest for the ugliness of some of its trees. I would even say “many” of its trees. Because human beings are flawed creatures.

     But history is littered with flawed humans performing beautiful works. If we were to throw out every idea that emanated from a flawed human being, we wouldn’t be left with a whole hell of a lot. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln, David of the Bible,Voltaire, Socrates, Plato, and on and on. All flawed. And if thieves, philanderers, adulterers, murderers and racists (as represented by my collection of historical figures) are capable of producing enduring works of wisdom and beauty, then a group of drunks is surely capable of saying just enough to sustain me for one more day.

    One of the things I need to get over is my idea that a thought – to have merit – must come from an intellect that is at least the equal of my own. Not only is this idea a fallacy, it’s repugnant to some of the ideas and some of the teaching of the very people I have placed on intellectual pedestals. Jesus Christ, MLK, Ghandi, and Jefferson, just to name a few, believed fervently in the wisdom of the “common” man. And who am I to even make a determination of who possesses a common intellect, and who does not? My mistrust of others is rooted in my own flawed determinations of who merits listening to and who doesn’t. I’ve been wrong several times about people here at the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch.

    But on occasion, people will do and say unmistakably stupid things. And they will do and say unmistakably stupid things in groups. So, what do I do? Throw the baby out with the bath water? Or recognize that groups are made up of imperfect people, but people who can nonetheless be used for a higher purpose. A miraculous purpose even. Jesus didn’t spend a lot of his time with the intellectuals. He preferred the prostitutes, the dregs of humanity, the proletariat. Jefferson trusted the wisdom of the people (tempered by a representative republic structure, but that’s a story for another day).

    At the end of the day, though, the best reason to leave my prejudice at the door is that I am not qualified to make a judgment about who is worth listening to and who is not. The things I hear should be judged on the merit – or lack thereof – of the thoughts themselves, not on a judgment I make on the person submitting them. After all, I must consider the possibility that my own ideas might just as easily and summarily be dismissed as the judgmental and addled thinking of a drunk.

That's me on the left, the one with the white wooly coat.

    Something really is different this time, Dad. I don’t know how to describe it other than it’s different. Not just different between this rehab and the last. Something different from my whole life up to this point. I am starting to believe that – even if He didn’t intend for me to become addicted to drugs and alcohol (although, who knows, maybe it was necessary) – God has a plan to use my experience to help other people. He protected me up to this point, and I have every reason to believe that He will continue to protect me. That obviously doesn’t mean that life will be easy, but I truly believe that I have been spared for a reason.

    Truth be told, wouldn’t you gladly trade a decade of chaos, heartbreak, and addiction for a lifetime and an eternity of serenity, faith and hope? I think that’s an easy choice. My addiction was a gift; because without it, I would have lived a life of materialism, humanism and faithlessness. I would have wasted my life pursuing success as the world defines it.

    I don’t have any idea exactly what that means right now, but at the very least I believe that God has spared me from the end so many other addicts meet (described in the Big Book as “jails, institutions and death”). You and Mom have spent your entire lives praying for me. God has answered your prayers in a big way, albeit in a different way than any of us would have ever imagined.
    I used to need people to be around at all times to feel happy. But I think that God speaks to us more often in those still, quiet moments. I feel myself becoming a little isolated from people sometimes. Not in a bad way, though. My intellect has always, always, made me feel a different from other people. I could always feel lonely, even in a room full of people.
    I embrace that now; it feels like preparation. For what I don’t yet know. But I do know that great leaders throughout history have always felt isolated from the people they are leading. I know that grandiosity is a trait that alcoholics exhibit in spades. But I can’t get around the fact that – speaking very honestly – I have leadership qualities that I have thus far neglected. And I believe that God spared me for a reason. And maybe that reason was simply to raise my family and minister to the people in my life. But sometimes I feel like it’s something more.
    Who knows. But my point is that I believe that God will continue to protect me. Relapse is a scary word to all of us, and that is the ever-present danger for a recovering addict. But the God that spared me through active addiction can spare me from relapse, or – failing that – spare me even in the event of a relapse. And before you even say it, believing that is not the same as setting myself up to fail. It is simply acknowledging that the God that has power over death has power over addiction too.
    I love you guys, and I think I may have just written today’s blog post, without meaning to.

A thing I don't like.

     The Saturday Autobiographical , back by popular demand. On Wednesday. Some have suggested a name-change, so it’s not so confusing when  – as has been the case two out of three times – this recurring theme is published on a day other than Saturday. The person who made that suggestion was a recovering drug addict. Like I’m gonna take their advice. There’s only room for one cuckoo in this clock.

    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 law firms with more subtlety: “Call us, get rich. Don’t, and die a horrible and disfiguring death.”  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 Beastie Boys: Three New York Jewish guys with punk roots who seemingly on a lark gave up punk and threw their collective hat in the fledgling hip-hop arena. If your goal is to master an artistic medium in which you are virtually an ethnic and racial outsider, achieve critical and commercial success, and do it all with tongue firmly planted in cheek, then these guys are your heroes. Archetypal, iconoclastic and ironic. Hip, goofy, and gifted. Their music will be studied for generations, even though we were never really sure if they were serious. The Beastie Boys are almost like a 20-year long episode of Punk’d. They also provided the theme song of my youth. And I did indeed have to fight…for my right…to Par-TAY.

License to ill and registration, please.

    2. Coffee: It’s all I have left, dammit!

    3. Sir Winston Spencer Churchill: I have been an Anglophile most of my adult life, and he was the greatest Anglo of them all. He is the subject of William Manchester’s The Last Lion, a three-volume biography, during the writing of which Mr. Manchester passed away.

    This man gets much of the credit – and deservedly so – for his countrymen’s stiff upper lip while London was bombed by the Nazis day and night during WWII. He recognized Hitler (discussed below) as a threat while most of Europe was still under his spell. He was a master of the language, and used that gift to steel his nation’s resolve during WWII. He could have been speaking for all of western civilization when he said:

… we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

    And had a wit without match. An example is as follows:

Lady Astor: Mr. Churchill, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink.

SWC: My lady, if you were my wife, I would drink it.

The Last Lion himself.

Three things I unlike:

    1. Hitler: Sometimes it’s good to cover the basics. You need this box checked to call yourself a member of civilization. It must be in your repertoire. I’m glad to get it out of the way, to be honest. Stalin, on the other hand? Misunderstood.

This Hello Kitty image has generated billions of dollars in licensing fees. Life is really unfair.

    2. “Think Outside the Box:” Along with all the other overused expressions I object to in this space, this was a useful, clever expression for a time, but that time has long since passed. It’s greatest offense is overuse. It’s been used so often – so, so often – simply using the expression “think outside the box” demonstrates an inability to think outside the box. Irony of ironies, the expression is now very much inside the box. And it doesn’t work anyway.

Chickens are by far the funniest bird.

    3. Inanimate objects that hate me: They’re everywhere, things that are out to get me. Umbrellas and newspapers combined with wind are common offenders. Computers, video games, car parts. Electronics. Kids toys (some assembly required is Chinese for “stupid American with enormous hands never figure out toy ha ha”). Ikea, that diabolical little European instrument of torture, will get its own mention in a future Autobiographical. The worst part is that inanimate objects don’t scream when you beat them with a hammer or throw them at a wall, and they have a tendency to break your hand when you hit them. They are altogether unperturbed when you scream at them, and I have a feeling they are laughing at me on the inside when I get red in the face and shout incantations at them in an attempt to destroy them with a hex, or – failing that – at least shoot them with lasers from my eye-sockets. I came by this honestly. My Dad yells at objects, too. And my brother. I already see signs of it in my sons. The men in my family have a real feud with objects going on, but in fairness to us, they started it.

Can you feel the rage?

Can't type. Palms sweaty.

    Belief…or trust? I would have described these words as synonymous until an AA meeting earlier this week. One morning this week – I forget which: my days all run together – at my 7:00 A.M. (!) meeting, an out-of-town guest spoke about the difference between belief and trust. The difference can be illustrated by this old story with which I have taken artistic liberties:

Tight rope performer: Today I am going to push a wheelbarrow across the high-wire.

Tight rope performer’s wife: Oh that sounds wonderful! Good luck, I have total belief that you can do it.

Husband: Do you trust me?

Wife: Yes I trust you completely. I absolutely believe you can do it.

Husband: Okay, then you’d be willing to sit in the wheelbarrow?

Wife: …

    Therein lies the difference between belief and trust. We say things like we “believe in God” all the time. The people in this world who are certain there is no God number relatively few. The believers vastly outnumber the non-believers. But how many of the believers actually trust God? I’ll ask the question another way: how many believers try to control events in their life? How many believers manipulate people to get them to do what they want them to do? How many believers have fear? Anxiety? How many believers fret about tomorrow? (/hand raised for all of the above.)

The wheelbarrow says put your money where your mouth is.

   The answer is relatively obvious, but I’ll spell it out anyway: all believers at one time or another do all of the things I identified above. And isn’t it impossible to do any of those things if we trust God? Trust in God, it seems to me, means the complete absence of fear. Of anxiety. Of manipulation. Of fretting. Of doing anything but living in the moment. This moment, the here, the now, today: those things are God’s gift to us. And by fretting, worrying, being anxious, manipulating, etc., we in effect say: no thank you, I’ll pass on your gift of today, God, because I don’t know that you’re going to be here for me tomorrow.

     My anxiety, worry and manipulation are all rooted in fear. Fear that either there isn’t a God, or fear that, if there is, he didn’t really concern himself with me. Fear is the primary emotion I was trying to squelch with my using. If, as I have suggested here, trust in God is tantamount to the absence of fear, then trust in God is also the absence of drugs and alcohol. For me anyway.

   Buon weekend.*

* this is the only phrase I remember from three semesters of Italian, and one of those words is the same in English.