Thoughts on loneliness and superficial living

This:

Not exactly certain what recent posts I’ve made public or kept private, but the topic expressed in the video above has generally been weighing heavy on my mind once again this year. Perennial concern I might as well consider it by now. Loneliness, lack of tribe, superficial social connectivity (e.g. bar pals, association via job alone, association purely for the sake of entertainment without bonding, etc.), isolated living and losing a sense of purpose to our lives seems to be a hallmark of modern life in what appears to me to be a failing civilization project.

It’s such a queer inquiry since, on one hand, we have so much to appreciate modern life for (such as certain technologies and medicines and comforts that enhance our quality of life), yet, on the other hand, we’re rendered less whole and less capable of functioning in a psychologically healthy manner as a direct result of several aspects of how life is being structured nowadays. Plenty still prefer to argue against this point, claiming the problem ultimately resides in us individuals who aren’t adapting properly, but I’m wondering if perhaps we’re expecting too much out of human beings when we assume that proper adaptation (whatever that means) is possible or that it itself doesn’t entail some very antisocial features.

On that last point, antisociality appears to be becoming normalized. For example, the individual who lives alone, works alone (or works remotely via computer), and who expresses disdain toward his fellow humans, preferring to not engage with the rest of us as much as possible (at least not in person) — is that not becoming more common these days? And are we not treating it as if it’s no big deal, dismissing it as harmless introversion and showing little to no concern so long as the individual in question remains gainfully employed and therefore contributing to our modern (primarily economic) perception of the common good? We call it a choice and like to regard it as a rather benign choice at that. But is it really? No consequences to this trend as we all go forward as a society?

Then again, I shouldn’t frame it as if we really care all that much about future sustainability for society since it seems clearly obvious by now that most can’t (or won’t) imagine beyond the next quarter or year and more rarely beyond our own lifetimes, children and their future progeny be damned. Might as well be honest about it. Mostly we pay lip service to giving a damn when really we care more about scoring points in our arguments today, wishing to come across as intellectual and morally righteous and forever inclined to cast the blame on that other group over there for whatever future problems may befall us as a people. Never our problem here today, especially not my own. But, in all fairness, we were all born into this and arguably are just trying to find our ways in the maze as it’s been constructed. Though I’d also argue that we’re co-creators of this societal maze since it has evolved throughout our lifetimes as well.

Anyway, antisociality is real and expresses itself in various forms. One currently popular form is preferring pets over people. We see it more and more, and no one seems the least bit taken aback by folks announcing such a preference. It’s treated almost playfully and humorously, yet some of us get a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes reality and are aware of a growing number of individuals who live alone (or in what appear to be strained/empty marriages) and center all their (non-job-related) attention on their pets. And we hear these people speak of their fellow humans as “not worth dealing with,” contrasting the cruelty of humankind with the sweet naivety of animals. They’ve undoubtedly been hurt by people in their pasts and are retreating into the comfortable company of pets as an alternative, and I can see why that may seem harmless and even necessary in some cases. But the trend keeps mounting along with the attitude that likes to accompany it, declaring we humans to be jerks and monsters while Fluffy is immune to such evils. What worries me is the level of fantasy and escapism that is increasingly appearing bound up in that outlook. Do you imagine these people, despite their furry companions, are less depressed and/or anxious to where they’re at least less inclined to take prescription pills for managing their moods and worries? I’d like to see a study on that and am willing to bet that the comfort of pets still isn’t enough to overcome their sense of restlessness, purposelessness, and alienation.

Another form of antisociality that I am very familiar with is that which can come by way of frequent reliance on alcohol. Though here perhaps the primary goal is to escape our own selves, to get out of our own heads for a spell via temporary chemical lobotomization. And many of us would argue that alcohol can (or at one point seemed to) enhance our sociality, allowing us to more easily mingle with strangers and laugh and carry on. Problem with this strategy is it eventually proves addictive, as is the case with any dopamine-stimulating drugs. AND there’s a thin line between buzzed and outright drunk, the latter condition in no way proving beneficial for socializing over the long term. While we try to escape ourselves by checking out in this manner, we also manage to tune out from others also. Sure, we might go home and fuck them, but it’s not quality companionship and social bonding in most cases. The sex itself in these instances can be viewed as yet another form of escapism whereby we’re using the other person for our own personal sensual pleasure and to experience a temporary social connection without the formations of bonds or the acceptance of social expectations like further contact. In other words, it sets up shallow connectivity between chemically-altered persons who don’t give a damn about one another, which both tend to recognize the day after. Yet it’s oh-so-common, probably because we are lonely and this is one way to achieve physical contact and potential stress relief and a sense of comfort, however temporary.

Setting the sex aside, the barscene unto itself is problematic because of the culture common to it. No discussion of topics in real depth, particularly on matters pertaining to one’s spiritual journey or worldview. The name of the game there is entertainment, even if that means listening to horrific karaoke sung by sloppy drunkards-without-a-clue while overpaying for the supposed privilege to be there. Many of us have regretted our decision to spend so much time and money in such joints, yet we keep doing it because it’s a social venue we can easily access, especially in the late-night hours when our apartment walls threaten to drive us into comas of boredom. We’d rather go sit among a bunch of others and drink concoctions that rob us of our memory and ability to care much about one another. Can’t recall who said what and can’t really know one another, despite what emotionality may pour forth as the night wears on. Fake bonding that can’t be remembered clearly occurs. Superficial and relatively pointless, yet accessible more than practically anything else for those of us lacking tribes and families to turn to instead.

Then, drunks tend to engage in the next antisocial behavior so common to that lifestyle: we drive home in our altered states of mind. Demonstrating how much of a damn we truly give about one another and ourselves, numbed off to the fear of consequences (even after having experienced one or more O.W.I./D.U.I. or car accidents already). We cease caring about you or your laws or the future. Carefree living in the moment…

Also, it’s not uncommon for some to grow disenchanted with the overpriced barscene and to prefer instead to turn toward drinking at home so as to save money and be free from the idiot buffoons typical in that atmosphere. And that can easily turn into an antisocial situation itself, not only through avoiding people but by creating a situation where we can drink a great deal without checks and balances from others or cops. We can create a cocoon-type atmosphere when we drink alone, and that can unfold for years and turn into a very ugly situation in its own right.

Drinking and preferring animals over people are just two popular ways in which antisociality is manifesting these days. Not that alcoholism is a new trend, though us living alone opens up new possibilities there, new ways to conceal our problem from others and avoid detection from otherwise limiting factors.

Some might argue that intense video-gaming is another form of antisociality despite its social component since you’re each hidden behind screens rather than interacting face-to-face. Basically like each interacting from his or her own pod. Probably not all that different from the last several decades of people sitting glued to television screens, observing life unfolding as it’s been presented to us via those who wish to sell us products and propaganda. Then I get to thinking about people coming out about their porn addictions and how that negatively impacted their ability and willingness to pursue real, in-person sexual connections with others.

Then I veer off and get to thinking about all these people working jobs they don’t particularly like so as to buy stuff they don’t need, warehoused in houses they paid too much for, and all for what? Because that’s the prescribed way of life these days. THAT is commonly touted as success. Materialism over nearly all else. Slave to the economy. Is that way of life necessarily antisocial? No, but it possesses antisocial features as well, such as prizing economic interests over all else, particularly when it comes to one’s political outlook. That can’t help but impact society in various ways, including giving the impression to others that those disinterested in pandering to profit motives are useless bums unworthy of being brought into certain social folds.

A topic to continue on with another day.

Back to sobriety

It’s been a long year so far. Not necessarily bad, at least not in full, but definitely strange, shifting, changing. The man who was once my love is now gone, off with a new woman, and good riddance. Our game went well beyond tiring. Though it is a transition to leave it all behind, to let it all go and not keep looking back. No point in questioning where all went wrong or why when the questions have already been asked countless times. The answer remains: life is crazy, life is mad. Sometimes people come into your life and things go berserk because of the dynamic between the players involved. Simple as that. Reminders of the past can create intrigue and solidify bonds that probably never should have been. But we learn from all experiences regardless.

That he referred to himself as a “martyr” during one of our last phone conversations a couple weeks back is severely disappointing. Thought we were beyond this cat-and-mouse game of accusations and guilt. But that game never ends apparently. The only way to stop it is to cease playing by ceasing interacting altogether. And so be it.

Unfortunately, throughout the transition I decided to try my hand at drinking once again after 7.5 months sober. As to be expected, this three-month spell only further proved my inability to moderate. So, as of nearly 2 weeks now, I have returned to sobriety. Absolutely necessary if ever I am to move on in this life and arrive at greener pastures. The past cannot be changed, and that drug doesn’t help a thing — just makes each day foggy and keeps the ruminating alive. Keeps the pain alive, forever in limbo.

Been giving a great deal of thought to the reality that is addiction. Come to believe that anything can be addictive, not only substances but also relationships between broken people with dysfunctional pasts. Seeking to fill a void is all it ever is, and yet it does not work. Will never work. Depression can grip you like a vice, strangling all that matters while robbing all present and future potential. That much I’ve come to see very clearly over time. That anxiety can’t dissipate so long as such a dynamic is allowed to interfere with one’s daily process. Just keeps the wounds raw and forever reopened, never letting healing to take place. Why? Who knows? Competitiveness? Anger, justified or otherwise? Needing someone to blame? Seeking an ultimate reason on which to lay blame (God, Life, etc.)? I tire of trying to sort it all out.

The answer is that it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s been over for years and yet kept rolling on so long due to being allowed to do so. Like sleep-walking, it just kept happening regardless of intentions. Unconscious motivations must drive it. As well as spirits, quite literally.

Alcohol is a hell of a drug. Seems rather innocuous when looked at through the lens of socially acceptable pastimes. But that’s a mirage, come to find out. It’s the closest I’ve come to feeling possessed by forces and drives that felt foreign, hidden, dark and destructive and nihilistic. That’s not offered as any sort of excuse, just a realization of the power of intoxication once indulgences have gone too far. Years and years went by within that lifestyle — nearly half my lifetime. More than half of his thus far also. Amazing how communication breaks down and truths wind up distorted over and over again. How crimes become commonplace, dismissed, accepted, laughed about, ignored, downplayed. Shocking how much time slips away…

Months slide by. Then years. And you arrive at a point where you have to ask yourself what the hell is going on here. Why have I forsaken myself? To escape? Why? There is no escape from reality. There are just ways to complicate it further unnecessarily. Addiction being just one, albeit a powerful one.

It’s not about transferring blame to a substance, though it is about recognizing the power such substances can grow to have over one’s life and mind. It’s certainly not a secret that people can and do fall prey to such traps and have for thousands of years. Why? Temporary easing of pain, escapism, alteration of mood, seeking pleasure, etc. And then one day you wake up to the inescapable realization of the shackles you’ve placed on yourself. A new form of slavery, this one self-induced. Not intentionally, sure, but intentions have little to do with what becomes real. All feels like a choice in the beginning. This sort of thing can even feel like fun…until it isn’t.

So much time escaped me. Years. Wake up and you’re middle-aged, worn out and feeling defeated, overwhelmed by new grief you’ve self-imposed through ongoing hedonistic pursuits, crying out to God to show you a sign and help give you the strength to walk away from what now binds you. Such is this lifestyle…eventually.

But here we are, back to taking a long hard look in the mirror. Back to recalling the dangers and pain we’ve put ourselves and others through. Back to contemplating future consequences if that path is not abandoned. Swirling in the stupid memories of a life on autopilot, of a relationship headed nowhere and only going through the motions. Of self-inflicted wounds created out of a desire to escape from thoughts and feelings of previous wounds. On and on and on it went.

Part of me feels guilty, like I’ve let myself and my loved ones down. But none of that can be changed now. All we can do is get up and stay up and learn to fight a better battle. Mourning over time and money wasted helps nothing, erases nothing.

I feel much better when I’m sober. But, at the same time, I have a lot of time on my hands needing to be filled in other ways. Been exercising more and trying my hand at preparing low-carb meals once again. Tried to get out to socialize and meet new people, but so far that hasn’t proven too fruitful. Needing to reconnect to my creative side, though it’s slow to come back to life. Been listening to a lot of music and am back to watching more films and videos. Occasionally go to the movie theater with friends. Resumed the decision to start getting up earlier so I would go to bed earlier in an effort to bypass the “witching hour” (as I refer to the late-night timeframe). Listening to audiobooks like usual, but also trying to get back into reading print books more now too. Finally worked on a website yesterday that I’ve been putting off for ages, so that was good. Still have a little more work to do on it. Glad to have bought a newer car a month back and am looking forward to taking roadtrips when time permits. Basically needing to get out of the rut I’ve mired myself in over the last several years.

Takes time. One day at a time. But onward we go…

Tuesday morning journaling in February

Yesterday was a very dark day over here. So far this morning I’m feeling kind of numb. Not sure what all to say about it. Gets very tiring going through these depressive episodes, though yesterday was likely of my own making due to drinking the night before. That poison depresses the hell out of me, clearly so. One more reason to leave it alone forevermore. There truly is no upside to imbibing any longer.

But some nights it feels necessary to escape myself for a little while, hence why I chose to drink again. Doesn’t work though. Just piles on more pain. Makes it harder to get through the next day with a raging headache. Makes me feel emotionally spent and crazy.

I’d love to blame the alcohol alone, but my time quitting it taught me that this depression is just a part of who I am regardless. Apparently got to live with it somehow into the indefinite future with all of its accompanying anxiety and obsessive thoughts. Honestly, some days I’m not sure how I’m going to manage that. I can quit drinking for good (and will), but this I don’t know what to do with. And I’ve come to the conclusion that nobody else can help me with it. All that is paraded as “help” for it comes with their own consequences and side effects and problems, sometimes as bad as that which they’re designed to treat. Been down that road before and learned that lesson. So…not sure what to say about that.

People say “mind over matter,” but what is over mind? Do you really control your own mind? Can you truly claim to control your thoughts and emotions? Sure, we might choose not to give in to them, but we don’t control all that happens in our heads. Can’t.

Is it a consequence of nature or nurture? Probably both in most cases. I’m to the point where I don’t care what initially created this or got the ball rolling. Doesn’t matter. Just matters that it’s here and won’t go away no matter what I do. And I get to feeling so frustrated with myself for envying the lives of others, their coping skills and social connections and less neurotic personalities. Would love to be able to accept myself as I am, but I’d be lying if I said I did. Just can’t seem to forgive myself for ruining some things, much as I know it does no good to worry on that now. It would be one thing if it were just a couple regrets, but a lifetime of regrets is harder to stomach. Especially when I’m not sure how to move forward from here.

To speak about this is to invite criticism. People will say you have to get up, get on with living. Quit feeling sorry for yourself. Quit dramatizing and catastrophizing. I agree and wish it were that simple. Hence why it’s so frustrating. I see others bounce back from so much worse, and I know I could too perhaps if I had something to believe in. That being the ongoing existential panic I can’t shake. My own logic and reasoning actually sabotages me in that arena, on top of the emotions I can’t stanch. I can see it all pretty clearly, but I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve thought about this many, many times over the years and still I can’t seem to fix it. Spoken to friends until I’m blue in the face. Doesn’t appear to be a problem I can think myself out of. No amount of expression provides lasting relief.

The closest approximation to a heaven on earth that I can comprehend has evaporated. I keep telling myself if I just get over this next hill, maybe there will be something worthwhile on the other side. To just have faith that there’s more to this life than what I’ve experienced thus far. That I can someday be of service to others through what life’s teaching me. And that’s what I really want to believe.

But right now it all seems so far away and I’m stuck in the middle of this long winter for now. Am not blaming anybody else for this predicament. I know they can’t fix it either. It’s my own mind playing tricks on me again. And my life as it’s been constructed up until this point is pretty fucking disappointing. And this degree of isolation is doing me no favors.

Everywhere I read people saying that you just have to learn to be alone with your thoughts. But there has to be some sort of balance, we being social animals. Too much time alone with our thoughts is crazy-making. Turn toward the internet and it’s crazy-making too. Political talk is crazy-making. Observing the lives of others as if on the outside looking in is depressing. More time alone doesn’t appear to be any sort of remedy. If anything, I need to get out of this cage of my own creation. Break free and get back among others.

But I don’t wish to complain, and it feels like that’s all I do anymore. Brings people down. Makes them worry when they’ve got other problems to tend to. And that makes me feel guilty. So it’s a feedback loop that keeps perpetuating this. Other factors contribute too, like probably hormones and events I can’t or won’t accept. Two days ago I felt pretty steady, then snap. All turned black in a matter of hours once again. And it gets so fucking tiring to keep going through this, wondering what’s wrong with me, why can’t I be like those other people? Why can’t I be stronger than this? Why can’t I be healthier than this?

I don’t know. The more I learn, the less I know to be real and true. So much seems like a mirage anymore. Can’t trust my own mind with its compulsions and expectations and gremlin voices and irrational fears. To have something this self-destructive living inside oneself, pretending to be oneself, is maddening over time. Makes you not trust yourself.

This isn’t how this game is supposed to play out. I wanted to be triumphant in some areas in life. Needed to forge connections that lasted. But I broke it all and now I don’t know how to put the pieces back together. Yes, we are individuals alive in amazing times with so many options and choices, and yet we’re more lost than ever before, knowing not which directions to take. And when we fail, we have only ourselves to blame. And when we need help, we have only ourselves to rely on. That’s the downside to modern life.

COLD late Saturday night in February tunes and journaling

Went out for a few hours earlier. Unsweetened tea all night, visited with a few people I hadn’t seen in a while, listening to tunes and watching the winter olympics (mostly curling). Good to get out of the apartment sometimes, go be social. At least hang out in the presence of people. But goddamn it’s cold outside.

Back in and warming up now. Tune currently playing in the background, Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”:

Prior to that, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord” with the Carter Sisters:

One from earlier in the evening:

That was Depeche Mode’s “Hole To Feed.”

We’re a weird fucking species, man. WEIRD. Difficult to make sense of, inside our own selves included.

On a separate note, I don’t need AA meetings when I have bars. Any bar will do if you want to bear witness to the problems that like to accompany alcohol consumption. Case in point, tonight I ran into a barpal who’s regularly at this new lounge, having known him from the old bar that closed about a year back. Big-time drunk. And it’s sad to see continuing to unfold, now going on knowing him nearly 3 years. Partied with him and his friends a few times in the past in his garage and new house. Don’t wish to go into the details that are his business, just sad to see him going down like that. He used to talk with me about how he wanted to quit, but now it’s obvious he’s given up on that plan. Congratulates me on my success though, which I appreciate.

Some people handle it better than others. But hard, regular consumption degrades us all over time. It’s the nature of the drug.

Not wanting to come off as judgmental about everybody at the bar. I like this particular new lounge, and it’s far less drama than most other bars in the area. A bartender from the old bar transferred over there, so it’s nice to go in occasionally during his shift. Believe I’ve been in there 3 times since December, then not since August. Never been drunk in there, though the regulars from the old bar that came over have witnessed plenty of that out of me for a couple years prior. But it’s nice now to be able to just chill and socialize a little and people-watch. Ponder a bit. And there are a number of people in there who are supportive of quitting drinking and a few others who don’t drink alcohol who hang out there too. So, not a rough environment like some of the other shitholes around.

Though bars are kind of a depressing scene either way—no question—perhaps more to me now than ever. Even the nicer bars. An asshole I don’t like dropped in shortly before I took off to head home, telling the bartender about how he got an O.W.I. last time he drove home from the bar. Paid nearly $6,000 so far just for his lawyer — god knows what the fines will be. Said something about it affecting his license.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t have $6,000 lying around. Can’t pull it off my credit cards either.

A D.U.I. will fuck you up.

Have no idea how I avoided one all those years. My friends say it’s a miracle, and it was. Talk about Russian roulette. And it would’ve probably made me lose my job. I knew that, and yet I gambled anyway many, many times. Eventually the odds are we’ll get caught. Or wreck into another car. Or a tree.

Thankfully, some play it safer than others.

That was “Done Got Old” by Robert Belfour.

We’re all getting older…

Sometimes it’s best to call it when there’s still time. Why do we wait to hit some sort of rock bottom to force our hand? And how many “rock bottoms” does it take?

There are so many ways one can become addicted. Can become addicted to attachments with certain people too. Come to find out.

Jotted down some notes earlier and taped them to the wall. Made a list of attributes for the HELL I’D LIKE TO AVOID and another one for the greener pasture I’d like to strive toward. Then listed a few goals for this upcoming year. Focal points to try to keep my mind on track going forward.

Turnpike Troubadours — “Before The Devil Knows We’re Dead”:

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – “I Need Never Get Old”:

Still never tire of that song.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – “S.O.B.”:

Son of a bitch

Give me a drink

One more night

This can’t be me

Son of a bitch

If I can’t get clean

I’m going to drink my life away

[…]

Now for seventeen years I’ve been throwing them back

Seventeen more will bury me

… Yup.

I’ll tell you what, Schweppes black cherry seltzer water has been a big help. Keeps me content, replaces beer nicely, with no calories or sweeteners.

Need to quit smoking soon enough.

“Blood Sweat and Murder” by Scott H. Biram:

Blood, sweat, and murder
Black luck and trouble
Head full of sorrow
I’m in a whole lot of trouble now

Long-time favorite, “Copperhead Road” by Steve Earl:

Dwight Yoakam’s “Fast As You”:

Listened to a lady barpal tell about her crazy antics tonight. She also mentioned having been in treatment three times in the past. She’s a grown woman, at least my age. Sister to that other fella mentioned already. They came up in a good family by all accounts. Have good jobs. Mentioning it as an observation.

People say they want to quit, but they don’t really. Not yet. I said I wanted to quit for at least two solid years before finally pulling the plug. Sometimes I get scared that I’ll prove weak and succumb to that scene again, but I really hate what alcohol does to my life and am already well-aware that I can’t moderate. No point in continuing to try to do so. Luckily for me, drinking stopped being much fun by the end. Those whose friends and family are all involved and make it seem like fun probably have the toughest challenge. This is one instance where I’m glad to be more of a contrarian loner — makes it easier to part ways and say fuck ’em. Mean as that may sound. You care, but what can you do about somebody else’s choices? Nothing. It’s theirs to make. Hard enough keeping one’s own ship afloat.

Certainly not there to preach the virtues of not drinking — wouldn’t matter anyway since they already know. We’ve all tried quitting before.

What I find interesting is how the barscene atmosphere itself proves a bit intoxicating. No drugs required. Maybe it comes from being submerged in a rowdy gathering of any kind. Nice to find out.

Oddly enough, I don’t crave alcohol all that much while out at bars nowadays. Not sure why. You’d think watching people drink would make me want to all the more, but actually not very strongly. Had stronger urges sitting alone at home.

Doesn’t feel like I’m missing much. Headaches and various pains. Making a fool of myself. Risking an O.W.I. if I’m stupid enough to drive. Saying shit I might wish later I hadn’t said. Wasting lots of time and money. Etc.

Obviously the gremlin inside still wants to drink. Which isn’t surprising since it’s proven hell-bent on pursuing mindless destruction. That’s just what it does apparently. Can’t reason with it; just have to stop feeding it. Keep the alcohol out of my mouth. Simple as that. And simple doesn’t necessarily equate with easy. That’s the trick, in a nutshell.

Anger has proven invaluable in kicking my ass away from that lifestyle, mostly anger with myself. Some like to think keeping a “positive” frame of mind is where it’s at, but I disagree. That can turn into coddling oneself. Being too permissive. Hence how we got into this mess over time. There’s definitely a point where getting pissed and staying pissed seems more fruitful, serving as a propellant and barrier for re-entry. Getting fed up with disliking oneself so goddamn much and perpetually feeling disappointed for caving is key. Pretending like it’s a never-ending party when it’s long since stopped being merely that isn’t “positive” — it’s deluded. But each has to arrive at that conclusion their own way, I guess. *shrugs*

This year is still young. Continue reading

Monday evening journaling in frigid February

Had a snowstorm today that caused half of my appointments to be cancelled. So go winters in the Midwest. Wound up taking me over 3 hours to go where I needed to, dodging around all the cars spinning their tires in the middle of the road or in snowbanks along the side. Didn’t have my snow shovel on me so I couldn’t be of much use to any of them. Pretty dangerous to get out and try to push vehicles since other cars can slide on the snow and ice and wind up running into you. That actually happened to my second cousin decades ago, though not due to snow — he was just trying to help someone push their car that died when another car rounded the bend and struck him, pinning his leg and resulting in it having to be amputated. Tragic accident. Makes one think carefully about offering help to vehicles stuck in the middle of the road (most especially at night and on a winding country road as in his case).

Another tragic accident: I knew a girl several years back whose aunt and uncle were traveling up north after I believe coming down to attend a funeral. Icy conditions led to several cars piling up on the freeway, including theirs. Her aunt was injured so her uncle exited the car to go around to her side to try to help her, and that’s when another car slid into him. Killed him.

In short, these are reasons why I don’t play in traffic, especially in dangerous weather conditions. People up here who’ve lived here all their lives ought to have the sense to put snow tires on their vehicles. Helps tremendously. Hence why I never get stuck anymore. Used to get stuck all over town, having to shovel myself out everywhere I went. But no more. Now I cruise around the rest who are spinning in place and go about my business. I occasionally stop to try to help, but they better be in dire straits (because of examples outlined above). Taking a big risk exiting your vehicle on roadways on days like today. Was a clusterfuck all around town. Cars in the ditch every few blocks. You would think people who didn’t absolutely have to come out in such conditions would’ve stayed their tails at home, but alas, no. For some reason the roads were completely packed, seemingly more than usual even. And I’m not aware of any event going on to draw so many out.

Anyway, I headed home as soon as I could, leaving them to their demolition derby. Been inside since the afternoon, keeping warm. Cooked a spaghetti bake dinner that turned out well. Lots of garlic and also added zucchini to it, served with a side of green beans. Took a nice bubble bath and then trimmed my hair, all while listening to Eric and Bret Weinstein chatting on the Rubin Report.

Sipping coffee now and preparing my nails for re-polishing. Just trying to take it easy these days, still adjusting to the shifts in my personal life. Haven’t spoken to Former in a week, nor have either of us attempted to reach out to one another. And that’s good. It’s for the best.

Did stop by that local bar last night where I had my issues over a week back. Wanted to apologize to the bartender lady in case I acted a fool. Can’t remember, but I assumed I had. But she said no, that I actually wasn’t the problem that night. That real-life troll asshole I can’t stand started lacing into me, calling me every name in the book once he got past a certain level of drunkenness, and she tried checking him. I recall none of it since I had a lot to drink that evening (hence why I quit drinking and am back on the wagon ever since — that night being outside of my new norm). Was good to know that I wasn’t a problem child in there though. She said she and I had been outside smoking cigarettes and that as soon as we stepped back inside he just went off on me. Sounds like the douche. He’s a real thorn in my ass and has been for over a year now. Just a super insecure older guy who can’t stand to be ignored, and I have absolutely no time for him. I ignore and avoid him, and that apparently just irritates the hell out of him until he’s too fubar to not share his thoughts with the room. Hence why I avoid him. He’s a shitty drunk who’s a dumb jerk normally with nothing going for him except superficial charm. Treats his ex-girlfriend the same way in there, and I now hear he’s taken to lacing into a few other women the same way. Short guy with a bad attitude who surely wouldn’t run his mouth like that to another man, but he’ll talk big shit to women. Ugh.

Anyway, I was just in there for an orange juice and to clear the air with her. And he wasn’t there yesterday so it all went fine. Had run into another bartender lady who works there at a separate lounge I was at with a galpal the day before, and she alerted me that the rumor mill informed her that he and I had a fight that night. Like I said, I don’t remember it. And when she approached me, after having heard about the ordeal secondhand, she let me know I was welcome back in there and that she wouldn’t let him talk that shit while she’s working, which was nice of her. He’s such a permanent fixture in that place to where I rarely go in anymore (maybe only 2-3 times since I quit drinking last summer). Not interested in being harassed for no reason by a guy holding a grudge over god knows what. He was a dick to me back in the day, so I learned to leave him alone. I quit even being cordial because he kept being verbally abusive toward me, though that has continued regardless. Why? Because he’s a major alcoholic with problems in his life, all of which he created but won’t face. And I know all about his problems, so he probably doesn’t like me around since I serve as a reminder of someone who knows what a loser he actually is. Doesn’t matter that I’m silent toward him and let him be — he can’t let me be. Why would a 52-year-old man behave like that? I assume because his life is just that empty and pointless. Otherwise he wouldn’t sit up in the bar half the day, everyday, wasting money he doesn’t have, further wrecking his already-declining health, berating women who don’t want to talk to him.

There’s a little bit of history there dating back about 1.5 years. Made the mistake of hanging out with the guy for about a month or so in the summer of 2016. Worst decision I made. But I was lonely at the time and my former partner was trying to date other people, so I went with it. And in short order it didn’t work out. He and I had absolutely nothing in common besides drinking, and as already stated he’s a really shitty drunk once past a certain point. Truly am embarrassed I ever gave that man the time of day back then. But, on the upside, one good thing about meeting him is he has served as a potent cautionary tale on what not to become. As in, if you kept drinking like you did you risked becoming someone like that over time. And that’s all he is to me anymore and all he has been since we parted ways over a year back — an example of what not to do.

So I ignore him if I see him. For whatever reason he can’t stand that, so I tend to steer clear of that establishment since I’m not fond of being yelled at and called a whore and a slut just for being in the vicinity when he’s had a few too many.

Thankfully most drunks aren’t that bad. Or else I would’ve given up on bars long ago. My goal in life at this point is to be the opposite of that guy.

Anyway, mentioned I met with a galpal a couple days ago. She texted me on Friday so we met on Saturday and had dinner. Caught up on what’s been going on and have plans to start mall-walking again beginning next week. She struggles with her weight and wants to start working on getting it down again, and I can always use more exercise myself. That will give us each something to do a couple evenings a week. Will be good for me to get out more. Still haven’t returned to the gym yet. Difficult to feel up to it when it’s this cold and snowy out. But soon enough…

Played cards with a couple other ladies on Sunday afternoon at a coffee house. Learned the card game Golf for the first time. Was fun.

Planning on attending a meetup group this Sunday. Believe it’s an atheist luncheon. Might as well. Probably good for me to get out and try to socialize with new people instead of spending so much time in this apartment. Winters here can be pretty isolating, especially when you’re trying to change your lifestyle and aren’t exactly sure where new to go.

Am planning to re-listen to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations in audio format while out and about this week. Will also be ordering new audiobooks in a couple of days, though not sure which ones yet. Considering checking out Murray Stein’s Jung’s Map of the Soul since there’s a local discussion group that’s reading it and meeting at the library once a month. Also contemplating getting Noah Levine’s Dharma Punx.

Tuesday night journaling in late January

OK. Going to try this again today since my earlier entry was a bit too personal and therefore needed to be marked private.

Keeping it simple, I’ll just say this. My worry over the “relapse” last Thursday wore down and I no longer am as concerned about seeking outside help, at least so far as AA is concerned. It’s not that difficult to keep the alcohol out of my mouth (having made it over 7 months since the last time I drank and am right back to leaving it alone again), and my knotted stomach days later continues alerting me that it felt abused. That was a glitch, a momentary bad idea that I take full responsibility for, and it had a bad outcome (that shouldn’t be too surprising). Certainly not as bad as it could’ve been, though, thank god. Not worth playing Russian roulette with it, as I full well know already. I’m going to chalk that up to one bad decision in 7.5 months of sobriety and simply carry on with my plan to keep alcohol out of my mouth. Might not always be easy, but it is simple.

If I feel the need to reach out for external help, I will do so. Nothing is off the table in that respect. But my fear has abated and I recognize the situation for what it was. It feels like a showdown with “the devil” because indeed that is essentially what it is. And so be it. Hanging out with a bunch of recovering alcoholics doesn’t sound like the smartest way to confront that problem though.

One reason being that I texted this guy I met a couple years ago who had a horrible drinking problem and finally went to AA (he preferred the atheist meeting that is held downtown) and got sober. Good for him. We talked about all of that back then, and then we lost contact over time. I reached out to him the other day, while I was lying around on my comfy sack trying to recover from Thursday’s shenanigans, to ask if he is still off the booze. Unfortunately the answer is no. Said he made it 19 months and however many days. Said he broke his ankle a few months back and wound up moving back to his hometown and is now back to drinking with no desire to quit again anytime soon. Hmm. That’s disappointing since that guy was a poster-child for someone who needs to lay off of alcohol. The stories he used to tell me were disturbing, and I witnessed enough firsthand from him, which is largely what ended our interacting. So…that’s a bummer. And that guy was avidly on board with AA back before.

Not saying AA doesn’t work, just noting another example where someone in that program returned to the drinking lifestyle. Not exactly wanting to subject myself to making friends with people who are going to fall off the bandwagon and return to boozing. Strikes me as counterproductive, like it would be better to instead meet people who don’t have drinking problems. Because I have no desire to return to that lifestyle. It’s frickin’ suicide in my view, and so many of the people who’ve succumbed to that way of life for many years are bound to return to it. I intend to be an exception, and will be. Unless (or until) I grow old and get cancer, then all bets are off.

It’s not a lifestyle for someone wishing to live and make productive use of their years on this planet. Leave it for the hospice cases.

Heard too much negative stuff about AA. Though I’m willing to read their literature online and acquaint myself more deeply with their ideas espoused. Just don’t think hanging around with a bunch of its members is the best gameplan for me personally. I’d rather go it alone primarily. Social support can come by way of friends and family.

The counselor lady I used to see and sent an email to over the weekend has yet to respond. So I’m starting to think she doesn’t work at that clinic any longer. Might look her up to see if she’s practicing elsewhere in town. If not, I may consider arranging a visit with a therapist who specializes in addictions, since it might be good to gain more insight from a professional perspective. Maybe. We’ll see.

I’m not one to trust the mental health field much, but that’s just me. My Papa licked this addiction on his own, as have plenty of others, so I know it can be done. It’s one day at a time regardless. But I have so much anger and frustration toward that time in my life and the barscene as a whole (and my idiocy within it) that it’s not tempting to return to. Thursday night was the result of a self-destructive impulse to block out other pain in my personal life, which didn’t do a damn bit of good and only left me feeling far worse afterward, as to be expected.

As for my personal life… Former has fully moved on to this new lady and has announced her as his girlfriend. I’ve given him my blessing on that when we spoke at length yesterday. Undeniably an odd and crazy dynamic between us two. But now he gets to move on in this new relationship, and I told him I’d prefer to hear fewer details in moving forward. Their personal business is and should be their own. He’ll have to turn to other friends for those types of conversations. Yes, I asked some questions, and now I’ve heard enough. We intend to remain in contact, though less frequently, and I plan to reduce that further as time goes on. Because I really need to care for myself right now, having already devoted the last 7 years to our chaos. I’m admittedly a little miffed about a couple things he cared to share last night that I thought were attempts to rub salt in my wound, plus he confessed to lying to me on one matter, which was irritating. What’s going on with him? I’m not entirely sure. But either way,  we’re headed in separate directions now. I wish him all the luck and want the best for him, and he says the same for me. And we will remain friends, albeit at a much further distance.

So, it’s been an interesting new year thus far in that respect. All of this was inevitable and I accept it. Is for the best. That man and I cannot communicate effectively with one another to save our lives, and that gets to become her problem now. Don’t mean that to sound bitter, but damn. I deserve to purge our drama out of my system, and so I am. Not feeling sad any longer, though I will undoubtedly continue missing him a bit since we spent so much time together. But it’s also a relief quite frankly. Been on this carousel long enough. Wayyy past feeling disoriented and nauseous. He’s not a bad person, nor am I; we just had a ton of problems and weren’t suited for one another romantically, as we began figuring out long ago. I look forward to experiencing less stress in the coming months, as I’m sure he does as well. Those two already have a vacation scheduled in the spring, so I’m sure she can keep him entertained over in her corner at least long enough for me to work this attachment out of my system in case they don’t work out and he gets to thinking he can come back to me until he meets the next one. Nope. No more of that will be tolerated. Hurts too much to deal with that yo-yo bullshit.

And then I basically blogged the same damn thing I marked private earlier. Ugh. Oh well. This has been my life. Won’t claim to be thrilled with all that’s been going on (actually quite the opposite), but there it is. I’m a little over half a year into giving up alcohol (aside from last week’s reckless outing), and then I got to start off this new year saying goodbyes to my ex-boyfriend whom I’ve gone through the longest breakup in recorded history with. Was a unique relationship, to say the least. But I am actually very glad that both of these phases in my life have come to an end and that now I am free to head elsewhere. It’s all an adjustment though. Was pretty sad for a couple weeks there, but c’est la vie. This is the best timing for this to occur, and we both knew this day would come eventually. He sounds very happy and excited, and she sounds like a decent person, so far as we know. So, good for him. And that’s that.

Turned my attention to cleaning some in my apartment today after work and resumed re-listening to Mark Manson’s audiobook The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Didn’t make it to the gym this afternoon since my left foot still hurts, but soon enough. Later I began listening to Kevin Hart’s audiobook I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons while out at a little Chinese buffet that I enjoy.

Am supposed to bake brownies for my neighbors who are moving out on Thursday, which I may do later tonight once the dishwasher finishes up.

It will be quieter around here, but that’s okay. I need some time to myself right about now.

One man’s struggle with quitting drinking

A timely video on the subject of one man’s struggle with alcohol addiction:

I relate with so much of what he said in there. Know the feelings expressed inside and out by now. The drinking game definitely does get weirder over time, as does the barscene. Weirder and scarier once you realize how much of a grip it really has on you.

That man’s name is Noah (a.k.a. BigNoKnow) btw. And here are a few other videos I watched by him today that share about his journey thus far, beginning with where he’d been sober for a year:

Going back 4 years, his dealings with relapses and trying to get sober:

His decision to start drinking again in 2016, with the goal of keeping it under control:

Brave of him to put all this info out on the internet so that the rest of us can observe and relate and hopefully learn vicariously. He shares some very raw details, particularly when it comes to his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. I very much relate with the feelings he expressed throughout, as well as being familiar with some of the logic he was operating with at various points. My own mind is an insane chatterbox too, and the thought of being trapped with it forever with no means escape is a daunting prospect.

Actually helped me today to stumble back across his channel. Watched a little from him in the past and was already subscribed, but then his 1-year sober video came up in my feed and gave me pause, leading to binge-watching a few of his videos this evening. Nothing better to do since I handicapped myself and am laying around feeling miserable today.

Daunting is the best word to describe how it’s making me feel on this day. So tired of this insane game — long past being fed up with it, and yet still playing it. We definitely are cruising toward a worse outcome. Seems inevitable. I feel super lucky that I’ve gotten by relatively unscathed as much as I have so far, but it’s always a gamble and not one I’m likely to beat all odds on indefinitely.

Anyway, just wanted to save his videos here.

Dammit

Just got back in from work. Feel like absolute hell today. What a stupid thing to have done.

But it’s over now. Did it and reminded myself why it’s not worth it. Going to hunker in for the rest of the day and likely much of the weekend so I can get to feeling better. Poisoned my mind and body, and for what? Wanting to escape some other form of pain. Okay, well it didn’t work. Now it’s just pain multiplied inside.

Son of a bitch. Dallying with the devil once again. Wasn’t even interesting. Truly monotonous bullshit.

So there was my relapse. But it’s over now. I am severely disappointed in myself at present, as to be expected. But like my friend said earlier, I survived it and didn’t kill anybody else or do anything to get sued over. So it could’ve been worse. And it will be worse if I return down that road, I know that. Known that for a long while now. Just a matter of time.

Made myself feel more miserable is all. Helped nothing. Improved nothing.

It’s a bad habit, man. Tough to kick. Better to not even form it in the first place if it can be avoided. But here we are. The neural circuitry is already linked up for that habit, so cravings will be inevitable long into the future. Even when you make new habits to replace old ones, that still doesn’t undo the old links in your brain. They live on, just like never forgetting how to ride a bicycle. And they act up when we’re stressed, calling for us to reengage them. Just have to ignore it, which is admittedly easier said than done. But it has to happen. No good comes from caving to that crap.

I opted to go that route last night. I decided to do that. Knew it was a bad idea and did it anyway. Why? I don’t fully know. What’s the point in desiring to partake in a self-destructive activity with no benefit?

All is not lost. Just have to accept that this happened and resume the path I was on. Am pretty unhappy with myself right now, but that too shall pass. Ugh…

So anyway, back to one day at a time. Onward and hopefully upward.

Journaling Friday night in the new year

Just got off the phone with my best guyfriend. Love that guy. A true-blue friend to the end. Helped me put things back in a better perspective.

Life is a gift. Never guaranteed tomorrow. Reflecting on people whose lives have been cut short or who just are no longer with us. Imagining some of their circumstances and how their passing leaves their loved ones’ mourning. Definitely puts my own little ongoing “existential crisis” in proper perspective. I am a lucky human being. I live in America and have an apartment that’s pretty comfortable, a solid roof over my head without worries on how to pay the rent each month, have food in my belly regularly that tastes great, enjoy indoor plumbing and heating during these cold Midwestern winters. And I have awesome friends, real people who aren’t afraid to speak their minds and tell it like they see it while coming from a place of good faith. That’s a big blessing. Plus, I still have my Grandma.

Don’t even feel the need to cut the man down to feel better about where I’m standing right now. This was all inevitable, and we both knew that. And that’s fine. It is better this way, truly it is. I know this, and I also know I’m a lot stronger these days than I once was. Proof is in the pudding. I got this. Just had to mourn a bit, per my custom, but it’s all right. I’m feeling better tonight already. Thoughts like to roam and ruminate, that’s a given, and the stupid alcohol cravings like to pester me when stressed out. Drinking never fixed a damn thing, though, so no worries about falling in that trap again. Would be too disappointing to give in to that again — takes too much strength to keep trying to quit over and over. Once the line is cut, it’s best to leave it alone. SO VERY GRATEFUL that I quit drinking in 2017, allowing me to approach 2018 without that weighing me down and messing with my emotions and basically fueling the drama in my life. It’s a choice, but I am so glad that I made it and have stood by it.

It’s easy to get down on oneself and just focus on the negative, but sometimes I just have to pause and recognize my own accomplishments so as to make that sense of futility back the heck up. Doing better than I was 7 months ago. Doing better than I was in summer of 2016 when I took sabbatical in Mississippi, and even back 3 years ago. Learned a lot through that leg of the journey. Can’t fully regret it due to its lessons presented, even the really painful stuff. In a way, it’s all a blessing since it did provide valuable insight and new perspectives. Living and learning…

Stupid earworm of the week that I finally caved into and am listening to on YT currently:

That gem was Hall & Oates’ “She’s Gone.” Literally have been waking up to that song playing in my head for the last 4 days. LOL! How dumb. On one hand super-annoying, but also kinda funny since I do love that song but my brain is such a drama queen. That song just keeps circling through my mind this week, pestering the hell out of me, but tonight I find it delightfully goofy. Not sure if that part of my brain is trying to torment or amuse me, but it succeeded at both. Ha

A comment someone left that cracked me up:

If John Oates’ mustache couldn’t keep her from leaving, nothing could.

Gotta love the internet. 

Time for another tune.

One that it helps me to listen to occasionally is “Getting Better (All the Time)” by the Blind Boys of Alabama:

Just a beautiful, humbling song.

Gotta keep on keeping on. Onward and hopefully upward. Try to walk like a more upright human being, despite being a monkey who isn’t as evolved as imagined.

My compulsivity remains a challenge to continue wrestling with. And so be it.

Very lucky when the power of love touches our lives, even when it’s accompanied with pain. Probably can’t have one without the other.

Always have to return to that one.

I know I’ve got this. Truly am in a better space these days. Helps to reassure myself occasionally, versus just berating myself for not being where I think I ought to already be. Life is not a race.

Ben Harper’s “Where Could I Go”:

There’s no deal to be made with the dawn…

The truest truth.

But the verse that’s been on my mind again a lot lately is where he says:

They say freedom is just another place to hide

Something about that rings so true…

“Well Well Well” by Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama:

Excuse-making is something we’re really, really good at.

Switching gears, Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On”:

Tonight is kind of a rough night. My head hurts, lungs hurt, eyes hurt. I’m pretty emotional. But it’s going to be okay. Been down this road many times already with him and need to step on. Everything tells me so and has for a long time now. Only holding myself back at this point. Not even sure what the hell I’m afraid of anymore. Thought about all my supposed fears and I can see their irrationality. Amazing how seeing a problem really is only the first step and doesn’t remedy it much, but c’est la vie. Some say seeing is half the battle. But I have been inching into the future and made a good bit of progress already, so it’s not likely we’re stepping up from rock bottom. Attachments are hard to let go of, but it can’t be helped. Severance is necessary. Besides, he said and did enough bullshit himself, and I really don’t need that anymore. We’re not bad people, but we are on such different tracks. And at the end of the day it’s not even really about him. He’s just been made the focal point over time. This is my own journey, and I have a responsibility to myself to take better care of me, including cutting ties that wind up perpetuating pain and stifling personal growth. The back and forth and repeated game changes and general drama have run their course. There’s no going back to that. Not even if invited once again. It’s no good for anybody involved. And now I really need to be the one strong enough to keep walking. Keep caring but maintain distance. Return to my own life without him playing a central role within it. Can’t focus on my own shit when we’re hanging around with one another. Way too distracting with no positive end in sight. We know this.

The jealousy will pass. And I’ll try to keep busier during the evening hours so that I don’t concentrate on him being out with the new woman. He needs to move on, and hopefully he stays safe in doing so. But I don’t like being lied to, and I’m so sick of our drama. He riles me the hell up, and it never changes. Says stuff that just drops my jaw sometimes, but whatever. That’s his life to manage and navigate. I don’t want to stand too close to it anymore.

On the upside, I did demonstrate that I could quit drinking while still hanging around a heavy drinker. Dawned on me that people say not to do that probably because it can be so difficult, but I did it and it was easier than even I expected. Because I am truly wanting to be completely done with that lifestyle. Of course he’ll remain in it, and a part of me does get jealous of that, even though I’ve come to loathe the barscene. Part of me gets to feeling like I’m being left out, like that life is moving on without me. But that’s such a dumb thought. I’m moving on, regardless of what it or they are doing. Sure, it used to be fun at times, but I’ve paid my dues on the downside of what comes out of it too and don’t want it anymore. That may be his life, but it’s not mine nowadays, and I need to find new directions to turn my attention. Sitting around toying with the internet isn’t enough, and I really need to get out more. To where? I don’t yet know. Maybe just go on walks when it’s not too icy.

Feel like I just need to take care of myself right now. The last 7 years have been a really tumultuous ride that I want off of. But at the same time, it’s disorienting for that ride to halt so abruptly. It’s done it before and it’s always jarring. But oh well. Let this be the last time.

Too much solitude does make me nervous. And that’s the fear I have to confront.