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A dear friend of mine describes me to others: “Oh, James is all about shock and awe, but he’s harmless.”

Is that what I want as my epitaph? I think not. But, she’s right. I am, to some great extent, about shock and awe. What kind of reaction can I get? How can I make the labyrinth so twisted that people with have almost no choice but to follow it to it’s ridiculous end? To me, part of the shock and awe is the mental process that people have to endure to get to the pointless point. It’s rather like a roller coaster that accelerates, decelerates, climbs, plummets AND goes through dark tunnels before the carnie pulls the lever that puts you right back where you started. There’s really nothing tangible, but he probably gets a huge bang out of making people gag and puke just by initially throwing that switch that sends you into the labyrinth. Shock and awe.

My little bits of shock and awe performance art are seemingly dependent upon my level of ennui at the moment; my need to fire a certain neuron grouping that’s lying dormant. I need to have someone see, take and swallow the bait only to find an empty hook. It’s like writing a pop song. There’s a hook, but there’s no meaning.

Why does this fascinate me so? It’s a good question that’s been under consideration lately. Am I that bored? Or am I just a pest? A gnat that needs to be swatted to put my own butt on a more tangible track.

I put it under the boredom column, indeed. But there really is more to it than that. It’s also about how far I can push someone. How deep of an imaginary hole can I dig them into. The deeper into the labyrinth, the more intricate the deception, the greater the result. So, it’s also a mental game. Wit matching. Daring. Challenging. Shock and awe. And bullshit.

Thankfully, unlike some other shock and awe types who do this for a living and legally cross so many borders that even the feebs throw their hands up in the air, I never cross the line into illegality or actual harm. I keep it on the joke level, face to face, in person and usually culminating with all of us laughing. And in that moment the deception is on me, because I’ve now created a relationship that cannot be trusted. My next encounter with the same person is going be like a resonant pealing in their mind: Is he being up front, or is he pulling my leg again?

And that’s the indication that shock and awe, while fun in the moment, is actually self-destructive behavior. If I’m actively and consciously creating a situation that will put me in the shitheap of someone’s trust bucket, then the shock is all on me. Ultimately it’s like winning the battle and losing the war.

Maybe, just maybe, I’m best off not even starting the war, because the world has enough losing battles to face without me stirring the emotional pot. Shine on, folks … and don’t pay too much attention to anything that even has a twinkle of pure foolishness.

Prescription medications are fearsome. I know this. I am, at the very least, dependent upon them.

Pain, everyday, is overwhelming for me. It can bring tears to someone who refuses to cry. I can hold back any emotion, but pain can reduce me to a babbling idiot. And, pain is what I live in twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. ‘Round Midnight and around the clock. It stinks. I am not alone. Chronic, progressive diseases afflict a great many of us. Mine is auto-immune; there is no cure. There is no surgery.

But there are prescription medications.

Oh, the euphoria that can occur twenty to thirty minutes after combining an opiate with a benzo. Wanna have a little fun? Throw in a nerve blocker. Instant daze. You can feel people get further away from you. You hear but you cannot listen. You listen but you don’t really care what’s being said, because you know you’ll never remember it. Not that you care.

Don’t eat, though! Drink a little caffeine to accelerate the effect, but don’t pad your belly with anything that might inhibit the euphoria. They’ll still work if they’re swimming among a meal, but not as intensely, and it’s the intensity of the very absence that you’re after.

And it’s all legal; it’s all good. If you’re in a better mood one day you can scrimp and skip a dose or two, which works out wonderfully for the day when you just don’t want to be in the day. You have an extra. You’ve got to pill count; you have to make sure you get through until the insurance company will cover the next refill.

Yes, it’s all legal, but it’s all bad. Very, very bad. If you have any leanings toward an addictive personality, you’re screwed to the tenth power. I do. I am.

I’m not actually doing anything for my disease but masking the symptoms. The only medication I take that actually helps is a “disease modifier”, composed of human hormones and injected every twelve days. This cannot stop the disease, it cannot make it go away; but it can slow the progression. All the rest of it simple masks the effects of it.

I imagine my pain growing worse each and every day. And, maybe it is. But I really can’t know because I continue to mask it. As an opiate wears off you feel some pain, so you have another. As an opiate wears off you also get cranky, so you have another. Ditto a benzo. You get cranky and anxious, so you have another. When a nerve blocker wears off, your nerves come alive again, so you take another to knock them back down. I’m not helping myself, I am reducing myself to someone who cannot feel.

An unfortunate side effect is that I cannot think, either. I feel like my brain has turned to swiss cheese, to pabulum, to dog shit.

One day, constipation. The next, diarrhea. One day I’m sharp as a tack. The next, dull as a railroad spike. One day I’m friendly. The next day I am grumpy. I have lost respect for other and for myself. While I still welcome moments of total lucidity, I don’t have them for long. My acumen is at risk. My life is at risk. All within the confines of prescribed, legal medication.

I was recently blessed with yet another one to add to my palette. I haven’t filled it yet. I may, I may not. It’s non-addictive, which is good, but it can effect my eyesight. This I may not want to face head on. With a pun definitely intended, I cannot see the point. This one is for the swelling in my feet that causes me so much discomfort in the mornings. But why take that, a medication that might actually do some good, when I can simply mask the pain with something that’s doing incredible harm? Is there a credible answer? I was also blessed with the grace of my physician. I am now allowed to get stronger and more frequent dosing of the pain-killer. Ah, just exactly what I was striving for. When a doctor is stymied by a patient’s seeming lack of improvement, or worse yet, a turn toward the negative, the only recourse is to turn the easy corner and up the ante. It’s the American way, for Uncle Sam’s sake! Oh, and I’ve also been graced with permission to up the nerve blocker. It may not be addictive, but it’s the greatest way to pull the shades down over your eyes of them all.

I find myself having three choices right now:

1. Accept the increased in dosage, and risk: A) My longevity, B) My productivity, C) My relationships. Additional risks include total addiction, the possibility of doing harm to myself and/or others when I fall asleep driving home at night and standing in front of a customer with piss running down the leg of pants because I forgot to take a leak.

2. Remain at the present dosages and remain in the (truly) questionable state that I’m in.

3. See my primary physician and ask for Revia (generic: Naltrexone), which is an opiate blocker, take a week off and detox while I reread the Big Book, spend as much free time as humanly possible with my dearest AA friends and maybe even hole up in the basement quarters of my totally dear friend (and boss) where I can almost be under lock and key until I’m safe to reenter society with acuity and a sense of reality well in place.

I have some time left to decide, but in conversation with my wife last night I do find myself leaning toward option three. I must have have been in one of those rare moments of lucidity, be it silent or not.

Well, Christmas/Holiday shopping has begun. Though it’s not in full swing just yet, the attitudes exuded by the shoppers certainly are. In the snap of a finger, we’ve gone from courteous and cooperative shoppers to rude, impatient and totally intolerable shoppers.

What is it about a person, what switch flips, bringing about such an obvious and negative change during such a celebratory time?  While we’re supposed to be joyous during this time of year, so many people become selfish. Of all the seasons and situations that occur in a year, this is the one where you should be the most understanding of the fact that things will take a little longer, or someone else might actually be “in your space”.

Trust me, you did nothing to elevate your status above the person in front of you. Your purchase may be larger, and your attitude may be worse, but you’re going to be served in the same order. There’s no point in sighing, looking upward, stomping your feet, muttering, nudging, grunting, groaning or whatever else it is that you do to show your frustration in not being king of the momentary hill.

Despite performing all of the above childish, little displays of assholity, you are also still going to be treated with a smile and respect by the person who is there to help you. WHEN IT’S YOUR TURN! So, until then, give yourself the pleasure of knowing that all your little displays are going unnoticed, uncared about and completely disrespected. And be careful to count your change, because someone might just hold back a buck or a five from your and give it to the Salvation Army Santa who is jingling his bell in the freezing cold … the very Santa that you’d piss on rather than give up a precious nickel.

While these escapades cannot possibly appear in any semblance of chronology, they can be roughly time-lined by any mention of year, age, etc. They will appear as they pop into any particular day’s reality; something will happen that makes me recall one, though there may well be no actual connection between what’s happening and what I am remembering. So, let’s go …

One night I was out, alone, and bar-hopping in Plattsburgh, NY. I suppose I was about 19 .. maybe 20. I know it was winter, because I was driving a Mercury Montego and my MG was on blocks and garaged until spring. Plus, I remember it being cold. Really cold.

The drink of the night was Johnny Walker Black and water … but knowing me the water was probably only the ice.

I spent a good part of the evening at my cousin’s club, called The Office. They had rock bands six nights per week, so it was a destination spot for me; plus I could drink practically for nothing. Oddly, I don’t remember leaving there, but obviously I did, because I ended up  at a college hangout called The Monopole, which is in some alley in downtown Plattsburgh. Kinda off of the main drag. And, trust me, Plattsburgh is mainly a drag.

In any event, I eyed this girl who I thought was totally attractive. I don’t really remember too much about her. I do remember that she was probably a few years older than I was, maybe 24 or so. On the shorter side, small and not overly curvaceous, with short dark hair; just my type. We chatted for a bit, and out of the blue she said “I think I could really like you, but I know I can’t trust you because you’re too good-looking.” I protested this, but any effort from that point on was wasted.

Now, I can’t comment on her taste. I may have been halfway decent looking back then; I don’t know. The point here is that that put me in a mood. I became confused and half pissed off. Naturally I was confused; I must have had well over half a quart of Black into me by that point.

I left the bar and saw some unfortunate, drunken dude outside. I asked him what was up. He said he was drunk and needed a ride home. I offered. He accepted. My evil side was coming out in full demonic force.

We got in the car and I headed north for the 25 mile drive home. I already had 2 DUI’s under my belt, but was I about to care? No.

About ten miles into the ride, the guy says to me, “I don’t think this is the way to my house.” I asked where he lived, and was told he lived only a couple blocks from the bar where he’d been a mere puddle in front of ten miles previously. I just told him that he could stay at my house that night, and that we’d keep drinking. He seemed OK with that, and nodded off.

Back in Rouses Point, where I lived, I pulled up in front of a nice apartment building and he woke up. He asked, “Are we there?”. I said yes. I told him I had to park the car, but that my wife would let him in. He only had to go apartment whatever, knock and that I’d be along in a minute. The apartment I chose was upstairs and not right next to the car. He said cool, got out and went to find the right door. I left. I went to where I actually did live, which at the time was on the 3rd floor of a hotel/restaurant where I was head bartender. The apartment was part of the package. It was only about a quarter-mile from where I’d dropped this poor bastard off.

The next morning the hotel owner, who was a great friend as well, looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and asked what I’d been up to the night before. I said not much. He went on to tell me that some drunken dude had banged on HIS door, which was on the 2nd floor, waking both he and his wife. He’d told him that he’d gotten to Rouses Point in “that green car out there, and where was the asshole who owned it?” He got no info, but did get a threat of police intervention. I also heard the next day that he ended up actually going back to the original apartment, which was occupied by an old lady I didn’t like and was specifically chosen for this little misadventure. They guy did end up getting arrested. He had himself a helluva night at the expense of my own drunken behavior.

This is a good example of what you SHOULD NOT do, despite youth, drunkenness or just idiocy. Causing problems for someone who already has a plateful of them is a really, really rotten thing to do, and I regret having done it. But I laughed like hell when I did it!

I lead a disjointed life. I’m not happy. I’m never happy. I am occasionally gratified, but I’m never happy. Happiness eludes me like Madoff eluded honesty.

Why am I not happy? I can never put my finger on it. Sometimes, often, I don’t even try. I just accept it. My wife has often said to me, “if there were one thing I could give you, it would be happiness”. This, an odd statement from someone I love and have been married to for ten years and with whom I am expected to be happy. Maybe there are pockets of happiness like the cells of a honeycomb. I am as happy with my wife as I know how to be. AS I KNOW HOW TO BE. That’s the issue. I don’t know how.

It’s like sympathy and empathy. I can be sympathetic to a situation, which means I understand it. But do I feel sympathy? No. I don’t tend to feel. My therapist has told me innumerable times that I need to live in the moment to feel. TO FEEL. What is feeling? What the hell am I supposed to feel? When I feel, I feel like shit. We’ve also worked on my inability to feel empathy. But how can I feel empathy if I cannot feel in the first place?

I work with someone I love as a friend, a mentor and a guiding light. In that same old “whatever” capacity I have to feel love.  She has said that I am damaged. You betcha I’m damaged. I am as damaged as the crate that fell out of the airplane at 35,ooo feet. I’m cracked; I’m shattered.

And yet I function. I go though all the motions. I think most of the motions are right. Societally right. I do have interest in the situations of other people, and I lean very heavily toward other damaged people. Half of me wants to fix them so that they can succeed and be happy. Half of me wants to see that someone else is more damaged than I am.

My family structure is peculair. My mother once told me, when I was about 43 and had already gotten sober, that she wishes she had never had either my brother or me. I can understand wishing she’d never had my brother. He’s so wrecked he really should be institutionalized. She also said that she wishes she’d never married my father. Was I really the person she should have been telling this to? Shit, in whatever capacity that it could, it hurt me. On that day we were at the fair. I had taken her to the fair. The PRECIOUS GODDAMNED FAIR that she loves so much. She wanted so badly to go; my father would not take her. I took her. I took her many times. And she announces that she’s wishes I’d never been born to her. Both my parents are odd. My mother is as cold as ice. My father is so overly sentimental it’s sickening. He has family photographs dating back a hundred years all around. I don’t have one. NOT ONE. Not of my wife even. Well, let me ammend that. I have a picture of my maternal grandfather, unframed and in a closet. I have pictures of vacant doorways, the doors slightly ajar but opening up to nothing. I’ve paid for these photographs; they’re framed, matted and hanging in my office to ever remind me that there is nothing out there.

Materially I am spoiled. This I cannot deny. Nor can I deny that I derive gratification from having my little bevy of toys. They’re worth thousands upon thousands of dollars. They gratify me. I don’t like them. I don’t want them. I want different ones. Materially I can obtain most anything I want. I have resources. But I don’t care that much. I don’t drive a slick car. My wife has a cute little car; I don’t care. I could purge all of my toys tomorrow and not give one shit less. I could purge my family, for that matter, and not give one shit less.

What I am able to do is appreciate. I appreciate the people around me, but I don’t commune with them. I watch them. I analyze them. I observe. I love to observe. I don’t miss much. I may act like I miss things, but I don’t. I pick up every nuance, every iota of what’s around me. Often I dislike it, but I appreciate the fact that it’s there. I can appreciate beauty. I can appreciate success. I can appreciate failure. From these things I grow. But into what? I keep all inside. I’m letting some out here. I like the opportunity to write these things, as I love to write. I love to read. Since these things do not require me to feel, I can love them. I have capacity for that. I love my cats. They provide comfort. They provide happiness as opposed to gratification. They cannot hurt me.

One thing I enjoy is working. It makes me feel. It makes me feel like shit most of the time, because it hurts physically, but at least it’s feeling. I deal with the public. I don’t necessarily like those people, but I appreciate them. I enjoy them in the perverse capacity of being able to extract money from them for the good of the company that employs me. I try to extract as much as humanly possible from them to add to the daily totals. They like me. I have a “knack”. It’s acting, but I would guess that that is what someone who doesn’t really feel anything does. He acts.

Today I could not work. I needed to assist my father. He sprung it on me at the last minute, so I didn’t like having to do it. But, he’s damaged and needed help. I was at the ready, as he’s far more damaged than I am. Of the four immediate family units I am the least damaged. My therapist, whom I also love in whatever capactity I have, says that I protected myself from them by drinking. In a manner of speaking I protected myself from myself as well. I no longer drink. I might like to. I don’t know. I know that if I drink I’ll IMAGINE that I feel something, but I really won’t. It would be an impaired sense of feeling. Bullshit feeling. I’d rather feel nothing.

I will continue to work on trying to feel. I will continue to try and find happiness. I know it’s out there. All of these people who say that they’re happy cannot be lying. NOT ALL of them. I know many are unhappy. I can see it. I can feel it. I can feel it like a blast of icy cold. Others seem genuinely warm, though. That tells me that they are very possibly happy.

I will be happy someday. I know it. I just have to figure out how. When I become happy I’ll discover that I can love in the same wholehearted manner, with true feeling, as others can. I need to purge the damage. I need to. I will. I just don’t when.

Life, as we know it, is so full of changes, curve-balls and oddities.

You plan to do one thing one day, and something comes up that totally alters your plan. You plan to go to work, you plan to take a trip, you plan to go to the zoo … it doesn’t matter; you have to always be on the ready for the unexpected change due to a need, a request or just an illness.

I was so looking forward to going into the shop tomorrow. I’ve had a day off, and I feel OK. I’m anxious to be back in the saddle.

I get a call from my father: he’s got a medical appointment. He’s 80, and will be 81 in a few days. Mom cannot drive him the 25 miles to the hospital for the test, so I get the call. Do I really want to do it? Gosh .. no. I had plans.

But, the point is, one needs to be always on the ready to change a plan. Shit happens; life happens. What’s more important, I guess is the question:  What you have planned or what your really need to do.

The underlying problem is the guilt or disappointment in not being able to stick to the plan. Most often it will foul up someone else’s plan.

It’s a never ending balancing act of who to please: Yourself? Your family? Your boss? Your spouse? Your goddamned pet? No matter what choice you make someone is going to be upset.

Life changes. Accept it, roll with it and don’t worry about who might be disappointed, put out or pissed off. Life continues no matter how it all turns out.

Facebook has become a concern for me. It’s always been just a lark, and nothing to take seriously, but now it’s becoming somewhat of a pain in the butt.

So many people you don’t really know “friend” you; you accept in good faith, only to find out that they’re jerk-offs or “head collectors”. Others start out with a bang, and then either fade into obscurity or develop attitudes and start sniping or just being dumbbells. Then, of course, there are those who merely want “friends” to suck into their silly games like Mafia Wars or Farmville. I can’t stand this.

Today I trimmed back 31 “friends”. Will they be upset? Well, possibly, but that’s not anything I need to or should really care about since I don’t even know them. I don’t think I’m finished yet, either. There are some I’m on the fence about, which actually tells me that they’ll probably be gone by close of business.

One thing that really irks me is all these people who post nothing, and mean NOTHING but music videos from You Tube, another site I don’t have a whole lot of use for. I love the fact that people enjoy music, but when all they do is post videos it can take an awful lot of scrolling down to actually see some post of interest. Every other day or so I will post my “Recommended Listening” for the day, which will always be either an Amazon or a Barnes & Noble link to a really good CD of jazz, blues or rock. But I keep it to a minimum, only post links to CDs that I actually own and simply think that others might enjoy. It’s not a total barrage of tune after tune.

There are many days that I think I just want to toss Facebook to the wolves and spend my time more constructively. I have many irons in the fire. Some are business related, many are solely for my enjoyment, but either way they’re more constructive than gaping at silly shit posted by ever sillier people I don’t know and don’t give a damn about.

One reason I DO like Facebook is the relative anonymity. You can control what other people know about you, and you can hide or share as much or as little about your life as you please. I admit that I will sometimes say too much myself. Especially in responding to someone’s post that seems to be a cry for help. An alkie who keeps relapsing, for example. But, then, you offer your experience based advice and get shot down like a duck in September by everyone else who’s an “expert” on the subject, and all that means is that they lean on the God Crutch (see previous blog entry) as though that’s actually going to hold up anything heavier than an invisible toothpick. 

The people that post honest, bare-bones items related to real life are the ones I like. The people that actually share something of validity, and not some indication that they “like” something. I have one “friend” (an on the fence one) who finds more shit to “like” than I could ever even imagine possible. Do they create their own little ditties to “like”? Usually it’s stupid crap, like “you feel hot when your pants are on fire” or some other totally ridiculous shit. Man, get a life!

There are people who seem to monitor Facebook all day on their Blackberries, I-Phones, etc. I really can’t understand that. Is Facebook such a critical tool that people have to be alerted when anything whatsoever is posted? I can just picture this scenario: I’m in a business meeting, my Blackberry (which I actually do not, nor ever will, own) signals a message. I look and it’s Joe or Jane Doe saying that they like “Simon and Garfunkel reunite for six millionth time”. You know, the stuff that makes the world go ’round.

All of this crap is starting to really get to me. Facebook, I-Phone apps, Tweeting, My Space bullying, etc. It’s all just negative ambience that life doesn’t need. I think I’ll eventually let Facebook go the way of my ex-wife and spend those three hours every day reading instead. Let the world go ’round without me, as I’m getting very tired of being a part of it.

So many people fall upon hard times. We all feel bad for those who fall upon hard times due to circumstances beyond their control. I do, anyway. As a recovering alcoholic, I understand hard times.

Our economy has leant itself nicely to the downfall of many. Homes have been lost due to jobs having been lost. Companies have folded due to the importation of foreign goods en masse, as well as greed from the top and overall mismanagement. Many companies don’t know how to manage operations in hard times. Rather, they can only cope with good times when business just happens without challenge or serious hardship. Too often, those companies will fold rather than reassess their management strategy, and those closings can toss entire communities into a well of endless misery.

Sadly, many people turn to the streets for help. This is a problem for me. This country has services available. Pride is no reason not to avail oneself of those services. There’s more pride in feeding your family than there is in giving up.

Very often I think that we actually have too many such services. They tend to take the will to survive away, generating a system oriented culture that breeds entitlement and a REAL lack of pride. It’s important for people to actually pick themselves up, dust themselves off and move on. Sitting idle until the next check comes in from the government is not healthy, emotionally or societally. Someone, afterall, has to pay for all of these services.

Certain, perhaps many, people think that we don’t do enough to help those in need. The feeling that the supply should be endless is pervasive among the liberal wings of our society. I’ve always found it very odd, though, that those very same people are the ones that seem most willing to personally snub someone who is in lesser financial comfort. The hypocracy of the liberals is really quite abhorrent. The want more and more provisions made for the very people that they seem to so strongly care about, yet when it comes to putting their money where their mouths are, they cringe as though hit by the smell of a ten-day dead body. For those people I can only offer my deepest disgust. I cannot offer my respect.

Narcissism plays a huge role in how the liberals act. Outwardly they want to be the nice guys, the societal heroes. Inwardly their noveau riche hatred of those oppressed is indeed indicative of their true selves. The famous are the most classic examples of this ilk. I truly wonder how much Bono has actually extracted from his wallet. Putting on a concert, with all expenses paid out of the gate of course, costs him nothing. Putting on a big show with Obama costs him nothing. But, he keeps his name in lights. Michael Jackson was another one, along with Elizabeth Taylor, Susan Sarrandon, Tim Robbins, Sting, Bob Geldoff, Oprah. The list goes on ad infinitum. Assholes, every one. Narcissistic hypocrites.

We now also have myriad street beggars. This sect is yet another phenomenon. Using their I-Phones and Laptops, they sit on the sidewalk and harass people for money. They claim they can’t feed themselves, their families or their pets. In fact, a common new ploy is to secure a pet to aid in the sympathy factor. Interestingly if you actually offer them a bite to eat, they turn it down. They’re already well fed via the Salvation Army or any one of a host of other free meal establishments. They want money. Cold, hard drug and booze cash. Yet, they have the I-Phone and the Laptop. I don’t have these things, and I work full time.

Sitting across from my shop right now is the apparent ring leader of all the street beggars here in Burlington, Vermont. A red-haired, slovenly bum who is, today anyway, holding a sign that says she’s pregneant and that anything will help. She’s not doing a damned thing to help herself, though. She’s leaning back against her rock and reading the newspaper. We have day labor organizations here. She could, at this very second, be doing a days work and earning the money she alleges to need for her “new family”. UhUh. Sitting there, ass sticking to the sidewalk and probably scaring 20% of the people away from going into the shop she’s actually in front of. This is legal. She cannot be moved, as it’s her constitutional right in Burlington to be there. It’s also her constitutional right to work for a change.

A week or so ago, a fellow approached me as though I were a magnet, looking for a cigarette. And it’s true, the second I’m seen lighting a cigarette in public I am a target; a major target. This guy actually pulled a pair of scissors out of his pocket as he asked for the cigarette. Shocked, I gave him one. Next time, the scissors go straight up his ass, with probably a  little more force than actually necessary. I’ve since seen that same fellow LYING ON THE FLOOR at Borders Books, not just reading a magazine but destroying it in the process. People had to step over or around him, and he could not have cared less. HE WAS ENTITLED to be there. Perhaps it was a spasm, but I kicked him. He said nothing, because the glare he was getting off of me was enough to freeze fire. He actually gathered the gumption to roll somewhat out of the way, which then sent forth an odor that I’d have really rather not experienced .. but at least he got out of everyone’s way. Borders, of course, had to toss the magazine and take the hit.

So, hard times? Sure, it happens and we all get it. But DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!! In speaking with my dearest friend yesterday, he said “it’s fundamentally wrong to give these people anything”. He’s right. Times are only as hard as you let them become.

I recently received the following, in e-mail format, from my alcoholic, bipolar, borderline, sociopathic brother:

(I won’t use quotation marks, but it is verbatim)

 I have not heard from you. Why?

I am OK; better than. I have a choice of going back to work.

It’s a good offer; six figures plus bene’s.

You don’t know it because you have always dismissed me as shit!

Reassess me.

And Damn it, Respect Me!

Respect him:

He barely squeaked by with a degree in English from a liberal arts college, after having been ejected from the seminary. Thank God he never actually became a priest, as the Catholics would have been paying out even more millions for foibles he’d have committed.

At any given time he professes to be: a PhD, an architect, an interior designer to the rich and famous, an famed artist, a doctor, a lawyer and practically an Indian Chief. He hasn’t held a real job since the 80’s, when he was an English teacher at a private school for boys and was fired for sexual misconduct.

He lives on disability, welfare and has free housing. He is a raging alcoholic who refuses help because, it’s part of his “creative power”. He shakes like a dog shitting razor blades, and blames it on his AIDS medications. He reeks of alcohol and blames it on his pain medications. A booze smelling pill? Hmmm …

He wants my respect, but has abused me both physically and psychologically since I was a child. He tried to kill me when I was a year old. He spent his teenage years kicking me below the belt. He collected jock straps in high school so he could smell them at night. He’s a pedophile and a porno villian. He has beaten up my father as recently as two years ago, when Dad was 78 years old. Physically, he’s scared to death of me, as he knows I’d love to beat him senseless, but I don’t want his blood on me.

On the one hand he’ll claim to love me, then he’ll get drunk and send out bullshit like this.

He’s an idiot, a pervert, a criminal and an ass. He’s fugitive from Vermont living in New York. Ultimately, he’ll die in jail; it’s just a matter of the next time he’s caught, but he gets away with fraudulent bullshit like we change our socks. He’s smart; he has a genius IQ. He’s stupid; he’s a moron and a ticking bomb just waiting to go off. When he blows, the psychological, financial and possibly physical carnage will be massive; and will probably be targeted our own parents.

Jesus Christ, what a life. Brotherly love? Right …..

I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in any supreme being. I am an atheist, tried and true.

Others try to push the belief of God on me, and they try to insist that my life will be so much more fulfilling with God in it. If not God, per se, then a power greater than myself that I’m free to call a doorknob, if I choose. There’s sense to this?

I have had numerous experiences with people who blindly believe that God will solve all their ills. I find it hilarious, though, that this belief usually comes on the heels of personal tragedy or unrest of some sort. Recovery is a classic example. The 12 Steps include a belief in a higher power as a suggestion not to be taken lightly. I ignore it, heavily. The belief in some power greater than myself is not going to help me stay sober; I am. It’s mind over matter, not my ass in a pew or kneeling by the side of my bed in the morning speaking to a spirit that is about as likely to hear me as the proverbial man on the moon.

I had one very close friend become “born again” because he suspected his wife was having an affair, which I knew she was. He felt that by instantly placing bibles on his bedstand and TV table that all his problems would go away and life would go back to its merry way. Of course they divorced, and the bibles ended up in the trash. The crutch collapsed.

Belief in God or any higher power that is intangible is a crutch. I understand that people go through some very hellish times, but is placing your faith in a mystery going to solve your problem? No. Medical science might; better financial management might; putting your nose to the grindstone and actually doing something about your problem rather than turning it over to this higher power to solve it for you is a complete cop out. It’s akin to the need to find yourself. Look in the mirror. You’re right there. And when you die, you won’t be. Simple stuff, really.

I don’t believe in crutches. Every ounce of trouble, misfortune or just plain shit that I’ve found myself in I’ve gotten through my using my own biologically granted power of thinking. Sitting in a pew or kneeling on a hardwood floor may make you uncomfortable enough to think you’re actually suffering enough that this nonentity will come to your aid, but all you’ll end up with is a sore back or a sore pair of knees.

Will God strike me dead for writing this? Not likely. If I die it’s likely to be by my own hand, lifestyle or simple old age. No fantasy is going to prolong my life, save it or make it any better …. or any worse.