Saturday, March 31, 2012

pieces of me

image credit.. damien blottiere

Common to my recovery advocacy work and my work in recovery management is the proposition that there are multiple pathways of long-term addiction recovery. I recently collaborated with Ernie Kurtz on a monograph that tries to convey what we know about such pathways and styles of recovery from the standpoint of history and science [20]. In this work, we plotted variations in the frameworks of recovery (religious, spiritual and secular), the scope and depth of recovery, styles and contexts of recovery initiation, and differences in recovery identity and relationships. We also tried to answer the questions of when recovery was stable and durable and whether recovery was ever completed. Our goals were to both summarize current knowledge about recovery for addiction counselors and recovery advocates and to stimulate future recovery-focused research...William L White

it has been a zany month. i got pneumonia at the end of february and was basically out of commission for 2 weeks. i then worked 19 days in a row including some training for the rosc intervention i am championing at my workplace. 
it has not been overwhelming, but it has been a lot. 
my sponsor reported that he was in the hospital all week with a carcinoma scare. he went to the emergency room on monday and the hospital kept him for observation all week. he has already undergone esophageal surgery (highly dangerous) and this new development is not without concern. it is definitely one of those times when my personal lack of power is magnified. 
we have decided to start the recovery rally 2012 on september 8. we are hoping to secure civic center park this year. the last couple of years, the rally has not been held downtown. we consciously made an effort to separate ourselves from a similar event (now dark) that left a tainted footprint in its wake. the rally committee meetings should begin in april. i hope we can create an event for memory as it will be the return to downtown denver. 
just feeling a little sassy this morning. my friend robbie posted this on fb and i was flooded with some memories of days gone by. i still think spp is a hoot and i know i had some crazy good times. and i certainly don't have any misgivings about having no desire to recreate those days.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

stepping through doorways

image credit.... vadim piskaryov

it occurred to me today that i have spouted the phrase that is the title of this post so many times that my audiences certainly have grown weary of hearing. i wonder sometimes why i haven't done the same. truth be told however, it is my truth that it seems i have been stepping through doorways of opportunity since i laid down the meth pipe and let go of the wine glass.

in 1995, i was visiting paris with a friend. we stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment on the isle st. louis for a week. we visited versaille, pere lachaise cemetary, la reine restaurante, veaux le vicomte, and the unforgettable flea market. in the middle of my stay (which was rife with alcohol abuse) i was awakened one night feeling a poking on my upper arm. it was direct and it felt purposed. i woke to see a hooded figure standing beside my bed. this figure gestured with its left arm and directed the movement towards a doorway that stood behind him. as i remember it, i paused for a few moments, but chose to symbolically go through that doorway. 

it is a haunting and very vivid memory. visually i can still recall it, and i can recall the feelings surrounding this event in my life still. my belief is that i volunteered that night and much of the hullabaloo that has made up my life since then is connected to that decision somehow. shortly thereafter, i began to circle the drain with alcohol use. i drank heavily and got a repeat dui. during treatment for that offense, i had a strange psychological break as well as a physical meltdown. i became so weary- what with my full time job and community service- and my hiv was proliferating like ivy in my body. a good friend trapped me in his car to discuss his overwhelming concern about my well being and demanded that i go to a doctor. 

it  turned out that to continue living,  i needed to start "the cocktail". luckily, it was 1996 and the meds had really advanced. that began a trail of health rejuvenation that was remarkable to me. continued drinking and a topsy turvy sense of my life's purpose caused me to leave my job of 11 years and take a corporate post. this led to frustration and anger at living in a city where i had come to die. anger led me to san francisco which brought me to my knees with dot com bust followed by 9/11 followed by 3 bouts of kidney stones followed by a sinister crystal meth addiction. 

this particular addiction tumbled me through some outrageous craziness like fred flintstone in his time machine.  my last days on the west coast were absurd and obtuse. when i look back at living on the street in la's skid row with a hooker who worked out of a pup tent to distract me, it seems more like a performance piece than a slow descent into madness.  and when a fellow addict hustled me yet again by stealing the brillo out of my pipe, the straw that broke appeared. 

back to denver, addiction to avoidance in tow, i landed here and rekindled my slow burn in hell. embezzling money from a longtime friend for the purpose of keeping meaningless sex going found me hallucinating at the bathhouse like ebeneizer in his bedroom on christmas eve. the nightmares on that night remain just as vivid as the paris dream. each of these incidents led me to the next and then the next. 

i found sobriety after the embezzlement issue. treatment was an albatross that didn't really work. therapy with a counselor and psych meds became the path to my resurrection. i had no idea where to find sober folks so i hit the 12 step rooms. i got a call to work as an advocate for plwh- nothing i had ever planned. this led me to understand that i had understanding and communication skills that could be helpful to people. i took classes for counseling. i got a call to work on a meth project for gay men. i got to be creative. this positioned me to get hugely triggered with ptsd which led me to more therapy and working through old old misery. this led me to a job at a hospital. through a few jostles with trauma triggers, i have found myself in a position to help shape some changes at this public entity. at the same time i find myself serving as chairperson for two boards of directors and am helping shape the evolution of both these organizations. 

these opportunities and situations have all appeared like doorways in front of me- much like the night in paris. i have only recently come to understand (and accept). that i am compelled to continue stepping through these opportunities. they are leading me somewhere, and the process colors my life with a sense of adventure and fulfillment. 

as i thought about writing this post, i came across several similar articles about going through doorways. i am not sure if i have lost sight of my path because of the luminescence of what's ahead. i honestly hope i am not overlooking the wisdom of what's already been. 

much of these last paragraphs are new insight. i don't honestly know where my movements will lead. i can't say for sure that my motives are holistic. inspiration, drive, intuition collectively contribute to my decisions.  i can only trust that i am where i am supposed to be.

image credit.... fotofacade

"Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an 'event boundary' in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away," study researcher Gabriel Radvansky, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame, said in a statement.

"Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized," he added.

To come to this conclusion, Ravansky and his colleagues conducted three experiments, the results of which are published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. In the first, they had college students virtually move objects from a table at one side of a room to a table at the other side of the room, as well as to virtually move objects from one room to another room and crossing beneath the doorway.... reposted frum huffington post

The researchers found that the students were more forgetful when they moved between the rooms, versus when they were just moving from one table to another in the same room.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

smashing new obsession

image credit.. e online

i have become enamored with a monday night television show about the creation of a broadway musical about marilyn monroe. the name of this show is "smash". here are 7 reasons i have become a glutton.

1) i am reminded weekly how very resilient and very vulnerable we all are
2) i get to remember that life and relationships are messy sometimes
3) i love broadway and musical theatre after all i am gay
4) debra messing works this role. she's mesmerizing
5) the running marilyn theme charms the pants off me
6) angelica houston sipping martinis in an east village gay bar seems both highbrow and lowbrow at the same time. total camp... LOVE
7) katherine mcphee's performances consistently create a good feeling in me. She's damn good.

thank you my beautiful universe, for this unexpected joy. it certainly is a smash for me!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

soul meets body

image credit.... jumping pages

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.” 

i have managed to become involved in some cultural changes happening at my workplace. we are working to create a recovery oriented system of care (rosc) where there has been little visibility of recovery before. i know it sounds simple, but i refuse to be that naive. if it were easy, it would already be in place. there are some barriers to this that exist and i am not even sure i am familiar with most of them. there is much to do.  i was chatting with some co-workers about it yesterday and i was intimating that part of i am energized by the idea of change and had been involved in creating business and redirecting it for as long as i could remember.

in 1982, i started working for a friend who had spent years developing an after hours club in chicago. i had the opportunity to contribute ideas, concepts, and labor which helped create a fairly well-known night spot that was around for 10 years.

in 1987 i started working for an uncle and his friend for a very small travel agency that was basically a bucket shop- reselling international airline tickets to customers that were issued by wholesalers at highly discounted prices. i was fortunate enough to contribute ideas, concepts, and labor which helped steer this company into a 17 million dollar business over the course of 10 years. a definite bonus was my ability to travel all over the globe and widen my world-view.

interspersed throughout my life, i have worked at the openings of at least 12 restaurants, each time afforded the opportunity to offer ideas, concepts, and labor that would result in the creation of something new. there has mostly  been a source of creation and excitement as i showed up for work on a daily basis.

historically, the sad and painful truth is that mental health and substance abuse have accompanied me on my journey. as i review all these fantastic opportunities, i realize that these issues were the david to my goliath.  i can now see that the gifts of imagination and inspiration are accompanied by self-doubt and a drive to self-destruct. these thrill killers are an integral part of my psychological make-up and have demonically fueled by drugs and alcohol over the years.

since getting sober, i have had the fortune of helping to start a counseling program directly followed by a resurgence of ptsd which became emotionally global. i have developed an hiv community newsletter that has been publishing for 5 years now. i have helped a friend create a not  for profit organization so he could develop his  philanthropic efforts and get funding. most of these things were simple ideas that became inspiration which led to action and creation.

currently, along with the culture change i am involved in, is an acute awareness of my vulnerabilities. they are definitely with me still. i am much more aware now, and have become skilled at maneuvering them without numbing them out. it is very exciting for me to be part of this  change, especially because i don't know where they will lead.

i am following my heart and my instinct here. it is challenging. it engages me. my hopes are ignited- both selfish and philanthropic. i want to succeed and i want to do well. i was reporting to a co-worker that i always find myself in a position to ask questions about making things better. she replied that i put myself in that position. her acumen startled me. i guess it's true. this must be part of my skill set. i hope it is the work i am here to do. it sure feels right.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


image credit.. funfunpics

It helps to remember that our practice is not about accomplishing anything... but about ceasing to struggle and relaxing as it is.... pema chodron

someone shared at a meeting today about feeling lost. they are hoping they can find something inside them to offer to a newcomer who comes into the rooms. right now he feels he has nothing to offer.

this caused me to remember something my sponsor always tells me. "when you can find god in the middle of a storm, then you truly have found god" it is not much of a challenge to feel connected when things are going my way. it is a completely different situation to feel connected when everything is hard. or seems impossible. 

i know that when this person shared today, my heart was affected. they assured me they had nothing to offer, but my experience was very different. they reminded me that struggle is only a situation removed, and that the only difference between that person and myself is the accessibility and the awareness of my connection to life. it was an unexpectedly incredible day.

Step One
I'd like you to start with where you already feel compassion. Currently I feel that's the most effective place to start, where you already feel it. I always mention that when Trungpa Rinpoche was teaching about compassion, he would awaken the feeling of compassion, ignite it or awaken it by thinking it of an experience he had when he was a very young boy in Tibet. He looked down from the top of the monastery and saw people stoning a puppy to death, and he couldn't do anything because he was too far away. He said what made the image all the more painful is that they were laughing and having fun doing this. All he had to do was think of that, and then the feeling of the bodhichitta began to flow.

That's where we would start this practice, with what is a second step on the sheet. But we'll start with that as the beginning. You would think of someone in this category. Then you would wish that they could be free of suffering and the root of suffering. Now this is very interesting. Suppose, for instance, I find that when I do this for the animals in the laboratories, it's very straightforward. I just want them to not be in those experiments. I just want them to be out of there. It's completely practical. That might be the situation with what you've been thinking of as well. 

Sometimes, though, more frequently as I go through my life, it's psychologically a little more complicated. People often say to me, for instance, when they wish for themselves or a loved one to be free of suffering and the root of suffering, and then they say, I don't know if I really mean that. Then they say, I understand the logic of this. You say, "I learn so much from suffering, I'm not sure I really want myself to be free of this particular anxiety I'm feeling now because I'm out of work, or whatever it might be, because I learn so much from it." 

I think it's very helpful, when you're doing this practice for yourself and for others as you move through the list. It might be very straightforward, like the laboratory animals. You just want them out of that situation, and so you know what you wish for them. But at some level we're always talking about the root of the suffering. It's often at the level of psychological distress. For instance, if someone is dying or someone is very ill and I think of them and I wish them to be free of suffering and the root of suffering. Part of that is not wanting them to be in physical pain.... pema chodron

Saturday, March 10, 2012


image credit- owl city photos

Fireflies On A Moonless Night

Fireflies on a moonless night, 
Neath the canopy of trees.
Tiny lanterns all in flight, 
Carried on the evening breeze.

Like pixies and fairies, in a world of dreams, 
Flying in their magic realm.
Perpetuating their magical schemes, 
Your earthly senses overwhelm.

I could just sit and watch all night, 
The fireflies in the air.
Underneath the stars so bright, 
Till early light, without a care. 

Juan Olivarez

. when i was a young boy growing up in rural illinois, the summers evenings were often peppered with the flashes of fireflies. i chased them, i caught them, i saved them, i let them go, i made jewelry with them- rings, bracelets, necklaces- and connected to a higher power with them. their tiny lights assuring me that there is power beyond my understanding. 
i don't necessarily play with fireflies in my life now. but i still believe in their magic. and my boyhood friendship with these fairy-like creatures paved the way for me to have a spiritual program today. and that spiritual life continues to bring light into the darkness of my being today.

i heard this song today on spotify and decided it was post-worthy. ed sheeran seems to me to be a fresh voice and a thoughtful creative spirit. i trust you will see why i am a fan.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

the beautiful south

image credit... samuel hodge

If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany's, then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name. ~Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1958, spoken by the character Holly Golightly

6 days in bed with pneumonia makes a girl a little stir crazy.. or maybe even a lot. i have slept and sweated and sweated and slept. the creases and the clumps in the pillows and the bedding have become just like the pea under the princess's bed and have made it almost impossible to get comfortable.
 i'm almost as tired of sleeping as i am tired.  i am hoping that wellness is on its way.

during my week long romance with bed rest has been an ongoing madness for drama- especially the cinematic kind.  star trek (chris pine and zachary quinto) made me smile  and smile again.  secretariat continued to be a winner. dolphin tale actually made me cry 5 times.  the film that continues to stand out the most for me is the help. i have been racking my brain trying to figure out exactly why.,

i am from a small town in central illinois- not the south. my grandmother, who is responsible for most (if any) moral fiber i have was from alabama. her family were farmers who emigrated to illinois. i don't know if the writing, the stories, the drama, the conflict of the south has particular significance for me, but it certainly is easy to wear. 

i have loved tennesseee williams, carson mccullers, willa cather, truman capote,  thomas wolfe,  and flannery oconnor, and harper lee. i have read and watched those stories with fervor and adulation for as long as i can remember. and as i languished around this week, partaking of this newer delicacy over and over, i found myself feeling as if i had been given a very large and comforting hug from a storyline rife with regional language, sarcasm, innuendo, but mostly the undaunting tenacity of the human spirit. 

i/m not sure about past life wisdom. i am not an expert on reincarnation. but i believe in my mind there is a case for it here. i grew up as a small boy listening to stories told around the kitchen table. and these southern writers and stories sound very much like the same thing to me. they seem to be familiar and personal, like it's being told over a tall glass of iced tea.

so on a week long dirge like this, when i have fever, fatigue, and spend most of my time alone, it makes sense that i would like to drench myself in something that reminds me of my childhood. laughter and drama being played out in stories at the kitchen table. and then there's all that confection and fried food.:)

Minny Jackson: Eat my shit. 
Hilly Holbrook: Excuse me! 
Minny Jackson: I said eat... my... shit. 
Hilly Holbrook: Have you lost your mind? 
Minny Jackson: No, ma'am but you is about to. 'Cause you just did. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

hush hush

Hush hush, sweet Charlotte
Charlotte, don't you cry
Hush hush, sweet Charlotte
He'll love you till he dies
Oh, hold him darling
Please hold him tight
And brush the tear from your eye
You weep because you had a dream last night
You dreamed that he said goodbye
He held two roses within his hand
Two roses he gave to you
The red rose tells you of his passion
The white rose his love so true
And every night after he shall die
Yes every night when he's gone
The wind will sing you this lullaby
Sweet Charlotte was loved by John

i flew to chicago for a memorial service last weekend. my oldest and dearest friend's mother had passed over the holidays, and the family set up a memorial to be held on her birthday. it was sweet, it was eloquent, and it was full of pomp and ceremony. it was an episcopal service, full of music, sentiment, and love. i was very thrilled to be a witness.

she was a modern and sophisticated woman, both a mother of 4 and an executive for an international construction consulting firm. she had dual citizenship with germany and the us. she had been born in germany and sought asylum in the states during the war. she pioneered a new life for herself and created a family, a career, and a legacy. she was loved deeply and will be missed.

my concern is not so much for the loss of my friend's mother, but more for my friend. his grief is real, and his coping skills may just be compromised. i am hoping i am misjudging the situation. what i do know is that there is  a duality in the whole thing  for me. i cannot change the people i love. i dare not even judge them. i have no idea what their path is to be. i know i don't see following their particular journey is for me. my road rolls in a different direction. the challenge remains to continue to love my friend even though zoning out is still part of his modus operandi.

as i spent the weekend with old friends, i was aware that most of them were imbibing with gusto. there were two apartments in the building that had been commandeered to facilitate the large crowd. upstairs was the "smoking lounge" and downstairs was the less toxic agenda. as i sat downstairs for most of the evening, i realized how tenuous i felt the our friendship had become. the last chicago visit had left a sorrowful and worried taste in my mouth. it seemed that the circle of intimate friends that had been tight for 25 years or so was unravelling. that betrayal and lack of compassion was undermining our history. and using was at the core of it all.

knowing that i can't change this is humbling. i understand this is bigger than me. and i don't profess to be on top of all this. i am merely a traveller. i can't control some things. i can just remain true to myself. all of me.