Toby Keith: A Philosopher For Our Generation

I’ll never be ashamed to quote a bad writer with a good saying.

Seneca, On Tranquility Of Mind, 11.8

I’m starting to question my reality. I was forced to endure a country song I’ve heard a 27garbage_600thousand times and actually took something from it. Toby Keith’s song “Ain’t Much Fun” has imparted some wisdom on me. Mr. Keith (because I know you are reading), I respect you as an artist, being one myself. I like country music, but I am a purist. While I can’t say I particularly enjoy your lexicon of work, I will say thank you for this song.

The premise of the song is of a man getting sober and returning to real life. Chores, the “honey-do” list, the everyday routine of life. It’s very tongue in cheek, but the reality of it is, well, my reality. I don’t get to go out an party all the time, drinking away my problems for another day and time. I can’t go to work and drink the whole time (I’m a musician) and then come home and do it again scot-free. At this point, why would I? Things creak and cramp hard enough in the morning without a hangover.

I know that a fear that many people in recovery have is how to cope with being sober. One question is whether they will get boring, whether they can have fun sober. Continue reading “Toby Keith: A Philosopher For Our Generation”

You Always Hurt The Closest To You

As regards his general attitude to the war, you must not rely too much on those feelings of hatred which the humans are so fond of discussing in Christian, or anti-Christian, periodicals…is is usually a melodramatic or mythical hated directed against imaginary scapegoats…thery are the creatures of that miserable sort who loudly proclaim that torture is too good for their enemies and then give tea and cigarettes to the first wounded German pilot who turns up at the back door…the great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbors whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know.

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, 27,28

I’ve asked both of my parents multiple times why they didn’t just give up on me. I had lied and hurt them continuously for eight years. How many sleepless nights had I caused? How many times had they worried if I was alive, dead, hurt, in jail? What made it so easy for me to keep handing them the aftermath of my alcoholic spiral?

Often, the answer I get is the rote “we are your parents and we will always love you”. But why? I had given them so many reasons not to. So many of my motivations were to spite them. I was sick of them babying me, telling me I had I problem I didn’t have, threatening me with treatment, taking my car, kicking me out. So what? I’m a grown man. I didn’t need them. How wrong I was. At 32 years of age by the grace of God, I’m beginning to understand that they aren’t just overprotective idiots.

We hurt the ones closest to us, the loves of our lives, our firm foundations, the most and the deepest. We know that we can stab them in the heart and they will forgive. Or, we take for granted that they will. We know every button to press, exactly the most precise point to cut with the scalpel of words to make them bleed out. Yet, through my drunk years, they would stitch and bandage their wounds and keep on fighting.

I’m almost embarrassed as I write this. Not to relay the information, but just thinking about all the times I have drunkenly screamed at my mother or girlfriend. How I was too drunk to have the common courtesy to send a text and let anyone know where I was or if I was safe. I would be nicer to my friends (let’s say drinking buddies) than I would be to those closest to me. I would rather move into a tiny little house that should have been quarantined so I could drink in peace than live under the “iron fist” of my parents. Pride and stubbornness were a contributing factor in my downfall.

In sobriety, I realize the grace that my closest allies have. I know that I am having a terrible time with continually forgiving someone who keeps doing me wrong. I know it is because I am holding others to my own expectations of myself and have to stop viewing people through my lens.

I have had my fair share of ultimatums. The last couple of them have stuck. My girlfriend’s last ultimatum contributed to my sobriety. I think it hit just at the right time too. I was close to rock bottom.

The quote above really struck a chord in me. How often have we all done this? We treat the closest people to us like dirt, but are sugary sweet to friends and acquaintances? The answer is that those closest to us hold us most accountable, as they should. The mistake we make is assuming that they will always be there to pick us up when we fall. I know at this point that I have too much skin in the game to assume. If I pick up the path I was going down, I will lose them. She will leave me. My parents will not be as forgiving. They may say they will, but do I really want to test that theory? I have pushed the envelope for long enough.

This isn’t to say that I will be a perfect model from here on out. I will slip up and take advantage of their kindness, as they will mine. But it won’t be because of alcohol. Cling to the strength and safety of your true allies. Show them you love and appreciate them. Make every effort to not hurt them. For us addicts, they have put up with us in times when any other person would have given up on us. Keep that thought as a constant reminder. There is a lot at stake now.

 

 

Sober Scapegoat

I’m going to make this post short and sweet.

The definition of a scapegoat is defined in two ways, both very fitting:

  1. a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency
  2. (in the Bible) a goat sent into the wilderness after the Jewish priest had symbolically laid the sins of the people on it.

To be clear, I’m not calling anyone who drinks a sinner! I’m the alcoholic here. Drinking responsibly is the way to do it, a commendable trait. I hope that I am humble enough to take responsibility for my past transgressions and regret my actions as a user, both of people and alcohol.

I have had more people than I can count drive my drunk carcass home. Honestly, like a selfish moron, I would drive myself more often than not. But this isn’t the point.

I am always here to help a friend home who has had too much to drink. I wish I had enough forethought to make the call myself. However, sober friends are not yours to use as your personal taxi service. We aren’t your proxy designated driver. Do not assume this position and do not make your sober friends your babysitter.

Another scapegoat scenario, this one for alcoholics and addicts: if you get caught, fess up. Tell the truth. One of my favorite excuses for my girlfriend finding empty beer cans at the house was to blame it on my friends who came over to hang out. “Oh no, babes. Such and such came over to watch wrestling/football with me. They were drinking. I didn’t have any.” Don’t blame your friends. Don’t lie and place the blame on someone else. Don’t scapegoat your friends, placing them on the altar of lies.

As a former idiotic drunk driver, if you are my friend and I know your are impaired, I will ask for your keys. You’re talking to the king of “nah, man, I’m fine”.

Don’t use your friends for your needs.

Don’t drink and drive. Ever. Period.

That’s Just Your Opinion, Man

Men are disturbed not by the things which happen, but by the opinion about the things: for example, death is nothing terrible, for if it were, it would have seemed so to Socrates; for the opinion about death, that it is terrible, is the terrible thing. When, then, we are impeded or disturbed or grieved, let us never blame others, but ourselves, that is, our opinions. It is the act of an ill-instructed man to blame others for his own bad condition; it is the act of one who has begun to be instructed, to lay blame on himself; and of one whose instruction is completed, neither to blame another, nor himself.

Epictetus, Encheiridion, V

Disclaimer: Reading this aloud to myself, it rattles of teenage angst. Emotions involved with anger are difficult dragons to slay. I am proud that I am able to take responsibility for my actions, to the point of blaming myself for things that I shouldn’t. This is a hard pill for me to swallow because I almost want to be the agitator, I don’t want to think others have done wrong. The fact of the matter is that I can’t blame myself for everything, only the things that I know I am directly responsible for. C.S Lewis stated that “true humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less”. In this particular situation, I still find myself on the fence. I haven’t discovered the true resolution if one is possible. I would rather face this than sweep it under the rug, cognizant of my lack of definitive proof against myself or a surefire resolution.

Resentment is an ugly, awful feeling. There are a couple of people to this day, as hard as I have fought in my mind, that I continue to harbor varying degrees of residual resentment towards. One, in particular, has become very troubling. I started to really analyze this problem and figure out how much of it is me, picking individual elements and situations apart to see if I was the ultimate cause.

According to the dictionary, resentment is a feeling of “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly”. If I adhere to this definition, I’m not truly resentful. I’m angry, to the point that I don’t want anything to do with the situation any longer. Continue reading “That’s Just Your Opinion, Man”

Feel Free To Remove The Kid Gloves

Kid drawingWhen kids do something wrong, often you have to handle them or the situation gingerly and delicately. As an adult, I expect someone to call me out if I do something wrong. But not with kids. They don’t process like adults. Drawing a picture of the house and the family on the living room wall with markers is technically wrong, but the child did it with the best of intentions. They love their family and want to create, sometimes for posterity thanks to the Sharpie company, a visual representation of that love. There is a subtle art to balancing discipline with toleration. Consequently, my former alcoholic brain didn’t process things like an adult either. The problem encountered by our peers is that most of the time, kid gloves nor iron gauntlets can show us the error of our ways.

I know that all recovering alcoholics and addicts have experience that awkward situation where a friend or family member tries to protect you from yourself. Continue reading “Feel Free To Remove The Kid Gloves”