Changes

So now I have purpose…

Elsa, I call her Elise as she responds well to the name, a border collie mix and god can she run!!! This poor pooches spent her entire life in shelters she’s a sweetheart but shy.

She thus far is most comfortable under my bed, I can now say I’ve napped under the bed I think she’s just used to the cages.  I’m hopeful it will change soon it’s only been half a day and she’s already showing improvement.  I can off leash her at the end of a run and she knows what door to go to.

It makes me think though, the last few months have been uncomfortable for me as I’ve been experiencing a lot of change.  And this pup is as well, even if it’s for the best I’m finding change itself a tough deal.

We live in routine and modification scares us often.  Today and next week I will accept the changes given and stand up to my challenges. After all I need to be a good example for my sweet Elsa.

~J

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Random Thoughts on a Monday 

Yesterday and tomorrow are days off (technically tomorrow isn’t off as I’m going in for a test).  I’ve managed to do half my laundry, eat lots, and even get a nap in!!  My next shift starts in about 4 hours providing they don’t call to beg I go in early.

In early, hmmmm Apparently I am good at what I do as I’m on the short list of the first people called for extra time. Even with two days off this week my schedule will give me 60 hours and that’s not taking account for the morning “can you come in now??” calls I receive every day.

While the job I am working is crap and I don’t expect to be there soon I still take pride in it.

Being able to play a cornerstone role has given me………..

Matter of fact I think the experience was needed!!  Lately I’ve felt pretty useless being able to play a cornerstone role has given me some of my old drive back.  I’ve also begun to learn patience and understanding with others. I never thought that such a simple and crap job would have much result.

Thank god I have other irons in the fire as surviving on this job alone would surely be a stress filled life.  And yet people do it!!  For whatever reason, I’ve met plenty that are well qualified and smart but just can’t seem to land the job for whatever reason.

I suppose it’s a blessing I know my reason?!  Today I will do my shift and do the best I can and I will attempt to keep my thoughts of the past and future at bay, a simple sideline as to who I am presently.

Again take pride in all you do, the best legacy is that you always worked hard and took pride in that

~J

Banging my head, sometimes I’m not smart.

So, many of my followers will pretty much know the reasons for my lack of posting recently.  I don’t think I need to really even tell them as even the most basic educated guess is probably enough.  For the rest of my followers that do not know me as well I’ll simply announce that I had a relapse.

I’ve battled alcoholism for far too long now and it’s incredible destructive nature has taken everything from me with the exception of my own life.  The fact that I am still breathing and walking is a miracle itself and for that I am grateful most days.  My father died at a young age of 58 from this evil and I need to continuously remind myself of this fact.  This thing is quite possibly the most destructive force I will ever encounter within my lifespan.  It takes everything away, money, time, family, friends, career…. The list goes on.

So the common questions that I am asked “what triggered you” and “why?” cannot really be answered so easily.  I cannot tell you what “triggered” me or made me think it was a good idea to take a drink, I can only tell you that it happened.  And then the lost time begins…. The inability to function during a drinking run equates to plenty of lost time alone but I don’t drink like normal people do.  The only thing that stops a day of drinking is finally passing out, I drink in massive amounts often more than a handle of vodka can be consumed in a single day which can absolutely not be considered normal.  Add to that the lost time during detox as I am fairly incapacitated for days of projectile vomiting, vigorous shaking, serious muscle cramps, sweats, and insomnia.  Absolute misery for a week or more, and yet when the next relapse hits for some reason the misery that follows is forgotten for some reason.

The anxiety, depression, and frustration with myself that follows sometimes feels unbearable and I don’t understand why it happens over and over again.  The sad part is that there in fact are a massive number of tools to deal with alcoholism it is only a matter of choosing and using them.  I’ve gone through good long phases of using the tools and maintaining sobriety with a good variety of these tools the secret was that I used them on a consistent basis.  The self realization that I picked up a drink because I got lazy and unregimented adds to the depression during a “post relapse” period.

So today I really have little choice but to try again and focus on my tools and regiment to avoid once again banging my head.  So again after a good week and a few days it’s another morning to get up and try to be a regular person for another day.

An interesting view…

So bear with me I’m posting from my phone, I sit surrounded by boxes of clothing and paperwork and trinkets sorting through and throwing away and building massive give away piles.

Sometimes something hits me, remembering a past that seems now long ago or a person even a dog that I lost along the way.  What of this do I keep and what to let go?  How many more pictures can I hang before I run out of wall?

On the one hand shedding some of this is incredibly freeing but on the other I miss a lot of the past.  I will grapple with this most likely for the rest of my life but it’s nice to know I have a few things to reflect and remember over.

Years ago in October I had a mentor pass away in a boating accident, I came across the news clipping last night along with custom tee shirts a friend made with his picture and the word “hero”, I came across a tee shirt a dear friend gave me with nothing but a picture of a chair on it.  So many things I drag around and yes I suppose it’s time to let some go.

My precious Akita’s ashes still sit by my bedside the dog I worshipped (she was amazing) various cards from the love of my life and stuffed animals, etc from my K that I hold dear.  Pictures and even funeral programs it has been an adventure.

I have charechatures from 8 years old on to a more recent 25 ish (well not all that recent I guess).  Box stamps from a former employer, hats, pens and notepads, all manner of random shit that I think we all tend to drag around.

My question is such, do I desperately cling to these pasts or move on?  Do I do a combination of both?

I think that in the coming days I might actually finally spread my pups ashes and play guitar in honor of my lost mentor.  I would view these as the best way to honor both. And my beloved Soja pup will have a bag of haribo gummy bears to keep her company (she loved gummy bears).

I will sort my paperwork and keep that which is truly dear (I have a happy one month anniversary card still) and the rest who knows.

The interesting thought is that I have gone through much of my life absolutely blind to the blessings I have been given through those around me.  My family my K my pup and many friends and customers.  

I had a good run but I don’t think I’m ready to give up yet!

Miss sojas stone

Some Thoughts on Time

Today is a fairly odd day for me, it’s my birthday. I hate my birthday……

I hate the 10th of July, every year I attempt to hide under a rock on this day. To double down it’s also the anniversary of the day my father was cremated. I hated my father for a good portion of my life and it wasn’t until the last year or so of his life that I sort of reconciled. Funny, October used to be my most difficult month as it was the month a mentor of mine drowned in a boating accident. Dads passing wasn’t a shock, the timing however was uncanny.

I now understand why it was important.

My father drank himself to death on Fathers day while I was in rehab for alcoholism. The weekend before during visiting day Karen brought me a Fathers day card to sign for him, I suspect this may have been the last thing he read. For years I harbored frustration when Karen would try to get me to reconcile with my Father. I now understand why it was important.

Thinking of aging, and somewhat still battling issues with my father today makes for a rocky day. I did manage to have an okay day overall. I binge watched movies and commentary and sipped coffee. I answered the phone a few times but for the most part I met my goal of staying off the radar. I did pop online for a bit in my hipchat and of course stared at a blank blog post for the bulk of the day. This is a tricky post to form.

Today as a whole for me was a day for reflection and self awareness, a day to think about my direction and check my actions against my values. Today was a day to hide from as many people as possible and examine myself and my path. Today is *MINE*. I’m trying very hard to be a better person and rebuild my life but I feel like I keep hitting walls. Such is my own doing and are my lessons to learn, I can make no excuses only amends and repairs.

I suppose this thought shift I chose today makes things just that much more bearable. Maybe today isn’t so bad after all? Today after all has in fact been relaxing and emotional. Tonight I’ll ponder one last thought before attempting sleep: “Perhaps it might be cathartic for me to take today back?”

The opportunity to inventory myself should at least prove interesting.

~J

Emotion, Attitude Translated

attitude-emotion-state-modificationemotion-attitude-matrix-1How a good attitude can modify emotional inputs

Recently I have been attempting to maintain as positive of an attitude as I can regardless of emotional state. To preface this I must admit that my life currently is in a state of extreme change and emotions have had a tendency towards the lesser desired. To accomplish this I have set goals to write and perform positive tasks throughout each day as a sort of self-experiment to see how it might affect the outcome of my actions and overall sense of being. This article is a part of the experiment attempting to detail the definitions of attitude and explore the interaction between attitude and overall mental state.

I must disclose that I have no psychology experience (other than that of a patient) and anything in this article should be taken only as my experiences documented as I see them. In a way, as a recovering alcoholic this article is also an attempt to maintain honesty with myself as it relates to my emotions, my attitude, and my actions through this experiment.

Digging in I feel it imperative to define what I believe emotion, attitude, and mental state are. Without correlating definition this article has no direct context and will inevitably be misread.

Emotion: For context I am defining emotion as any raw overall and direct feeling over a mid to long term meaning more than just minutes. These feelings typically last several hours or days to several months or even years. By direct I mean that these feelings are singular in nature and not a varietal combination of feelings.

Attitude: Again for context, I am defining attitude as a more immediate sense of how things are going or are going to go within the short term. Attitude is much more dynamic in nature and can change quickly. Typically, an attitude is held for hours and sometimes days or months with practice.

Overall Mentality: I would define overall mentality as the immediate sense of being or the absolute of how one is feeling overall. Overall mentality directs how we interact with the world around us and think as it relates to “right now”.

So now that we have our definitions let me begin with my overall thought process in how these interact, we will dig a bit deeper later. Again, as this is a self-experiment I will be using myself as an example for context.

The past few months I have bounced between two primary emotions: fear and sadness. More recently I have started this idea of maintaining a new attitude: positive. This is to say that I can be sad and positive at the same time. Originally. I would frame my mental state to be either one or the other however, through this self-experimentation I am finding out that they are indeed two separate items that maintain an interchangeable relationship.

I have found that emotion itself is merely an underlying constant and attitude is more of a current modifier that acts as a catalyst to create overall who I am at any given moment. Over the course of the last few weeks my attempts to maintain a positive attitude has directly affected the outcome of multiple aspects of my life:

  • Despite numerous setbacks I have persisted in my forward progress
  • I have been much more approachable
  • My overall routine has become more enjoyable
  • I have been able to maintain solid productivity
  • Etc.

I find myself examining this dynamic and piecing together a somewhat “aha” moment as it relates to my propensity to sometimes fall into periods of depression or anxiety. If I examine periods of say, depression and work backwards treating the depression as my overall mental state things get even more interesting. Working backwards, I can see that during my most recent fit of depression I had a pessimistic attitude combined with emotions of either sadness, fear, or guilt.

In the middle of the spectrum I have had times where even with a happy emotional state moments of negative emotions change the dynamics resulting in a less than desirable emotional state. What I find more interesting about this is how quickly an attitude can change due to external influences.

I can describe the times when I find myself moody by this effect. I may have the same emotions however my attitude will bounce up and down like a rubber ball. Others then describe the outward appearance of my emotional state as “moody”. Examining this personal trait illustrates how something so simple as maintaining a singular attitude can have a profound effect on day to day life.

So, I begin to ask myself a whole new question entirely, how can I maintain a consistent attitude towards the positive regardless of external influence? If I insulate myself entirely from external influence I cut myself off from possible inspiration. Opening the flood gates to let everything in allows for poor circumstances to directly change my mental state.

The goal here would be to establish some sort of effective filter allowing external influences that reinforce my target attitude, while denying other unnecessary influences. This water gets muddied when I examine how external influences and growth of intelligence are directly tied together. As part of human nature; we often associate our own opinions to be factual (or at least semi factual), when those opinions are challenged there exists opportunity for intellectual and emotional growth.

By filtering out any challenging thought, we tie ourselves to perceptions that may be one sided or inherently wrong. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something that drives me nuts when counselors say it to me: “What does that look like?”. If we were to erect such a filter how many layers are we building around ourselves simply to maintain an attitude?

Consider for a moment the option of “practicing” a positive attitude. If I make the conscious effort to relate maintaining a desirable attitude during an assault of undesired external influences with perhaps military boot camp; it now becomes a training exercise. With this idea in mind I can reduce the smothering nature of so many layers of filter and allow for open dialogue to change views or increase intelligence.

This is not to say that I will not be filtering at all, there are many instances of extremes both to the minus and the plus that should be avoided. Becoming overzealous and overly optimistic can often be just as damaging as having a “woe is me” vision. As far as the intensity of the need for a negativity filter, simply spend 5 minutes looking at the news and the reasoning should be directly apparent.

To avoid beating a dead horse I will close this article at this point and attempt to illustrate attitude training in a future article. As always comments and suggestions are welcomed and this article as well as its accompanying diagrams will be available for download via pdf.

~Joe

When Life Gives You Lemons, Take Them!

Free Stuff is Always Cool!

Oh how I wish I could take credit for that saying, I first encountered it some 20 years ago while in an underground IRC chat room for “network security enthusiasts” (i.e. a mixture of hackers, wanna be hackers, and general misfits). At the time I was a high school dropout with no formal training and an incredibly strong will to succeed in a career in the IT field. A friend (whom I still talk to today) made that comment to me after I went on a rant about my employer hiring college graduates at a higher pay rate while I spent every waking hour performing said graduates jobs due to their incompetence.

Had I spent half the energy I wasted on this useless hate….

In full disclosure, I travelled life for a long time with a chip on my shoulder against formal education and while I still sometimes get frustrated with inexperienced graduates acting as “experts” in areas they have only scratched the surface of; I have come to learn that holding a grudge because I chose a different path is not only pointless, it’s plain stupid! Had I spent half the energy I wasted on this useless hate on my work, I probably would have cut a good 5 years off the time it took me to scramble to the success I achieved in my last career.

Presently, I am in a massive state of flux affecting all aspects of my life. It seems every time I turn around I notice something that needs to be addressed, a setback, a mistake, many times many things that could very easily discourage any human being; but this is a positive thinking blog, remember?!

When I first entered the IT field I used to wake up excited to go to work, I lived there pouring everything I had into what I did. I was excited and simply could not learn enough, it was one of the best moments of my life. As I think about how energetic and genuinely happy I was during those early years I realize that I’ve got something many people will never have, the chance to do it all over again! This time I have an upper hand as I have garnered a great deal of experience in dealing with people, business matters, communication, and a wide variety of other mechanical and thought based “stuff”. While I may not have direct experience in the field I am trying to enter I do have some sharp useful skills.

This whole thinking cycle has me coming to a few impacting realizations (whether I like them or not):

  • Wow, maybe I misjudged those graduates based on perception of direct experience
  • Oh my god, I’ve become rational as I grew up
  • Complaining about opportunity is stupid and paralytic
  • Time to once again be uncomfortable for my own sake

 

And, yes there are a ton of other thoughts swimming around this pot of soup I call a brain but at the time of this writing these are the most impacting and interesting. I have this great opportunity due to how life (and often my own actions) has handed me a barrel of lemons. I absolutely *HATE* lemonade but still I can absolutely state that nothing beats a squeeze of lemon on a good cut of blackened salmon!

Pucker up and stay zesty,

~Joe

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I didn’t have any pictures of lemons in my collection and I strongly oppose posting another’s art without permission so have a picture of me with a puppy from several years ago!  Improvisation!

Remembering the Best Parts

Sometimes I find reminders of the good in my past

There was no internet, no “I” devices

Yesterday while I was cooking lunch I heard an awful loud and rumbling noise outside, I looked out the window to spot a street sweeper passing by. It has been more than 25 years since I have seen a street sweeper in a residential area and I had a little chuckle over that. I did how ever have a spat of disappointment when I noticed the sweeper was using nylon brushes. I remembered fondly as a child riding my bicycle or walking with friends or family collecting whatever “junk” I could find. The metal street sweeper blades were the top echelon of “junk” one could collect.

There was no internet, no “I” devices, just baseball, bicycles, fishing, club houses, and of course junk collecting and trading. We used to keep our junk in tackle boxes or coffee cans, whatever we could put it in! I would collect all manner of nails, bolts, pill bugs (roly-poly bugs), strange parts and pieces of whatever was strewn along the side of the road or in the fields. One had a sense of accomplishment when looking through all the fun “stuff” collected over time.

Realizing I was lost in this thought and my pasta sauce was about to burn I ran back to the kitchen and finished my lunch with a sense of calm serenity. I had a kind of solemn happiness thinking about how I had so many good moments as a child. Throughout my adult life and my battle with alcoholism in particular I have been conditioned to focus on the negative aspects of my past and present. The idea of working with past trauma, and accepting past mistakes is beneficial I understand however, I don’t really recall any situations in counseling or meetings where past positives were a focus.

There are a number of therapy methods centered around positivity such as focusing on daily gratitude and such but most therapy focused on the past (that I know of) seems to be centered solely on the negative. I’m not discrediting any of the methods by any means it is just something I’ve noticed. In any case I will say that gratitude is a good thing and I should probably start working on that more myself! Back to my original thoughts though!

The image that comes to mind is from 2001 A Space Odyssey; Dave removing the “memories” from HAL “Daisy Daisy….” It’s as if Dave is in my head moving the memories around!

In the short time between what I affectionately call “the clean street incident” and the time of this writing I have experienced numerous moments of happy reflection on good times of my childhood! This experience has been wonderful in helping me to continue my momentum of maintaining a positive attitude. I’ve found myself remembering moments long forgotten, almost as if some unseen force has changed the tape in my head. The image that comes to mind is from 2001 A Space Odyssey; Dave removing the “memories” from HAL “Daisy Daisy….” It’s as if Dave is in my head moving the memories around! Lucky for me his goal isn’t the same as it was with HAL, I don’t feel like he’s shutting me down. I think he might be trying to help me organize my storage space.

So for today I think I am going to relish in these good thoughts and maybe jot down some experiences as I remember them to reflect on in times of negativity. I wonder now how different my life would be if I had focused on the positive experiences rather than the negative long ago. Perhaps I should not even wonder this, what’s done is done! Today and tomorrow are what matter most, I should get my priorities straight!

Remember the best,

~Joe

 

Cleaning House

Realizing How Much Baggage I Carry

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Sometimes it’s good to take out the trash!

Like most people during a transitional period I have been recently going through my possessions, boxes and tubs of things I have pack ratted away over a period of time. Granted not all of my stuff is with me and is stored at another location and I must wait to go through that, I am still able to go through what I do have with me. I started this process on a whim as something to pass the days as I wait to hear back from potential employers and it’s becoming an incredible experience thus far.

I’ve always had two habits when it comes to “stuff”:

  1. I collect it
  2. I randomly jam it in tubs and boxes and forget about it

 

 

Sometimes I’ll need something and start going through tub after tub looking for what I needed (often never finding it) and pulling out other trinkets and baubles along the way to mess with “later”. This cycle results in things lying around in stacks until eventually I shift it to…. You guessed it another tub, hah!!! Going through every so often and actually discarding items that I do not, and will not ever need is one thing. Going through and realizing that the cost of keeping something around that I may need sometime in the distant future is a whole new ballgame altogether!

our emotional well-being is often impacted negatively by clutter, disorganization, confusion, and the sense of being overwhelmed when trying to clean up

I suppose I should explain what I am intending to relay when I mention the word cost; from my experience in various warehouse and business settings I have come to learn that inventory has costs that are not directly tied to the purchase price of an item. These costs are the time to move items from one shelf to another, the time spent finding an item, and of course the cost of space where the item resides. Add to those an emotional cost that is often connected to the negative aspects of clutter and disorganization as it relates to personal possessions. Quite simply, our emotional well-being is often impacted negatively by clutter, disorganization, confusion, and the sense of being overwhelmed when trying to clean up.

Initially I had no idea where to start, the first tub had me pulling things out willy-nilly thinking “wow I forgot about this!!” and slipping into my cycle of pulling things out only to create more clutter and disorganization. Eventually I started looking at the items I had spread out over the floor; I stood up and grabbed a trash bag. Quietly and thoughtfully taking each item and focusing my thoughts on the cost of each item and how important it really was to me. As I began judging each item carefully and deciding whether to keep it, throw it away, or give it away things slowly began to change for me emotionally.

I began to feel a strange freedom from a lot of possessions that ordinarily I would never part with. I began to feel more at peace in my surroundings and lighter overall. The idea that when I am done I will know what I have and where it is has overcome my annoyance with how time consuming and tedious this process has become in comparison to my original “tub stuffing” method.   I will wholeheartedly admit however, I had to force myself the first few hours to think slowly and carefully about each item and what to do with it and this was no easy task at first.

I’ve found an amazing goldmine of items (some still sealed in the box!) that I will be in need of in a couple of months when I make my move to a new home. I also managed to consolidate and empty two tubs within just half a day! Two tubs!! Overall I haven’t put much of a dent in all of the stuff I have collected throughout my adult life but I have made a good dent in the possessions that I have with me during this transition. I have also found a number of items I didn’t realize I had that I will need soon thus avoiding additional unnecessary cost, and of course a few items of great emotional value to put in my little treasure boxes (I use cigar boxes for my treasures).

I feel featherweight right now emotionally, light and agile, no longer encumbered

Today’s start was a good one and I hope to keep the momentum, I didn’t think it would feel so good and expected it to be more of a tedious task that I would drop only an hour or so in. I’m actually excited to go and get a few more tubs and continue the process, it’s been rewarding knowing I can let go of a lot of things I no longer need to drag around. Almost like dumping emotional baggage at times! I feel featherweight right now emotionally, light and agile, no longer encumbered by so much stuff.

Chang Tsu once told of a story about a deaf, mute man whom many went to see to learn. (I’m going to paraphrase this as I do not remember the actual text) The student was confused as to how such a man could be so sought a teacher to which Chang Tsu replied “heaven and earth could collapse and he will not be moved, to this man losing his speech and awareness of trivial external things is like throwing away so much dirt”. I used to try and wrap my head around this thought and now I think I might have a little bit more understanding.

It’s invigorating to realize that I can part with things I no longer need or want, and to know that if I need or want something I still have the ability to put in the efforts to achieve should I simply decide to. Today was a good day!

Happy housecleaning,

~Joe

Why do I not deserve success?

I think I shouldn’t succeed!?

Writers note: This article came about after a conversation with a regular at the Farewell to Addiction HipChat group who was curious as to why I self-destructed every time I achieved or became very close to achieving success in something. The conversation not only inspired me to write on this topic, but also gave me a greater insight into myself as well as others in relation to success and achievement.

Over the last several years as I grappled with sobriety I’ve seen a great deal of counselors in a variety of situations. Whether it be one on one in an office visit, via an intensive outpatient, or through an inpatient or residential rehab environment. There always seems to be a common question they ask after examining me for a while:

why do you feel you don’t deserve success?

The reason for them to ask this question has been known to me for a very long time, my achievement cycle has been the same for as long as I remember. Since childhood I would find a path to something that would ordinarily be considered out of reach and drive forward like a rabid dog until I would achieve success or get within easy reach of success; and then I would self-destruct. After the self-destruction I would lick my wounds in stagnation for a little while and then start the cycle all over again with something else.

I’ve had conversations about some of my accomplishments, or things that I have attempted and people tend to ask me why I’ve done so many random unrelated things. The idea that I will attempt just about anything no matter how lacking I am in qualifications or ability seems to confuse people, including me. It has been suggested to me that I enjoy the struggle and art of creation; the learning process that often is filled with fits of trial and error and the excitement of doing something that I was never meant to be capable of. If the thrill of achieving the impossible is the reasoning why is it that I stop short of completion or tear down the final product? Counterintuitive would be the phrase I’m looking for, the person that inspired this article asked me “If you don’t feel you deserve success then why even start?” why indeed.

The maddening crux here is the complexity that is human thought

I’m somewhat of a mechanical thinker, I have always enjoyed the art of fixing things this is what I do. The maddening crux here is the complexity that is human thought, conscious and subconscious alike. What makes up our beliefs, our self-identification, mannerisms, values and ideals, how we react, what pleases or displeases us; the scholar will tell you there are “thought mechanisms”. I disagree with this being a mechanically minded person; I can look at a chain of gears and with a little musing understand how they function together and identify where the “breakdown” is in most cases. In my train of thought I have been able to identify the results of the problem I don’t deserve success as well as the consequences I need to destroy this and start again yet even with support from a myriad of sources I have not been able to identify where the “break” actually is.

Could it be that I am not listening to these “experts”? I have been through the process so many times I can almost repeat most counselors word for word from memory; trauma, depression, self-awareness, mindfulness, meditation, sleep hygiene, socializing, so on and so on. I still struggle with the actual solution itself! So, in my usual fashion I decided to come up with my own plan of attack I am going to form a habit of accepting success! As I have formed a habit of smoking there should be absolutely no reason I cannot accomplish this. I am going to force myself to accept whatever my next success may be.

I will keep you posted thanks for reading,

~Joe