Book of interest: “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” (my thoughts)

Today I began listening to the audiobook Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance and am currently on chapter 10, putting it on pause until tomorrow. Definitely speaks to my own spirit and life experiences, both directly and indirectly among people I knew.

To begin with, rarely have I heard of anybody else referring to a Memaw and Peppa. That’s what my stepdad’s parents were known as too. Memaw Allen we called her, and Peppa Pete we called him. Weird to write down those names now since I’ve long since switched to referred to them as simply Mr. and Mrs. Allen, having effectively divorced myself from accepting them as kin since back in my teenage years.

J.D. Vance’s description of his Appalachian Kentucky-rooted family shares similarities with what I’m familiar with in my section of the Deep South, though notable differences as well. Enough similarities though that his story really is resonating with me, reminding me very much of various family members, particularly my Papa (my maternal grandpa, not to be confused with Pepa Pete mentioned prior). Though I’d say that my own people tend to be a bit more conservative both in mannerism and political affiliation, as well as religious involvement. Interesting to observe the overlap between our two camps, not that it should be too surprising considering we share historical ethnic heritages (Scottish primarily). His people and my people came originally from the same regions of the United Kingdom at roughly the same time, belonging to the same socioeconomic class as well. Some went to Appalachia whereas others populated deeper parts of the South. The rowdiness he described there among his people is reminiscent of that which was described by Dr. Thomas Sowell in his book Black Rednecks and White Liberals, which also resonated with me. But the differences are worth noting here. He spoke of his people being Christian yet rarely attending church services, whereas many of my people remain lifelong active in their churches. He tells of his people voting Democrat because they were union folks and associated that political party with being for the working men, while my people viewed the Conservative political party as more beneficial for the working class, if only because they viewed government encroachment on their lives as doing more harm than good more often than not. Though I can see the commonality in the underlying political sentiments despite our camps belonging on opposite sides of the political divide, most markedly in their distrust of getting the Law involved in their personal affairs and vying to align themselves with the political party least likely to screw them and theirs over (though it appears we’ve all failed in that regard, both political parties demonstrating over time that they don’t give much of a damn about the working class aside from paying lip service to gain votes).

Parts of the book struck me as very funny, particularly when he described his grandparents hillbilly ways and inability (and/or unwillingness) to adjust to the established middle class norms and expectations in Ohio where they migrated to in search of jobs and an escape from Appalachian poverty. My Papa shared a lot in common with his people, from the gruff talk to the gun-toting, as well as the years of drinking and the damage that did to his family. But also the defiant pride and desire for your children and grandchildren to go to college so as not to have to work in laboring jobs like he and others in his generation had to. So much Vance said on all of that had me tripping down memory lane about my home county in Mississippi and various family members and neighbors. But we’re not hillbillies since we never resided in hill country — we were rednecks. Though I suppose to outside onlookers we all appeared to simply be “white trash” (a pejorative I do not like or accept being applied to my people).

Our stories differed in important ways, such as my mother thankfully not subjecting us to a carousel of husbands and boyfriends (to which I give credit to my stepdad for working with her as much as he did expressly to ensure that did not happen). And my mother never became a drinker nor a drug user (prescription or otherwise). Was just crazy in her own right, though not necessarily in a uniquely Southern/redneck fashion (we speculate it being due to brain damage likely experienced early in life during a car accident). But I knew those kind of people too. And I also wound up being raised largely by my grandparents and proved better off as a result thanks to the stability that offered. I also grew up hearing rough stories of violence and abuse, including episodes between my grandparents back when Papa was drinking. I can also understand the feistiness  among women that he described, though my own female family members tended to be a little more reserved about it than his. Among my people it was less acceptable for women to smoke and drink and curse like the men did, though some did anyway (myself included). And even among the men it wasn’t viewed as positive attributes to do so, the only exception being when they channeled their aggressive tendencies in the service for protecting the family. There is especially where I saw the women behave like junkyard dogs themselves, because all bets are off when it comes to defending one’s own. It’s a matter of pride and protecting, checking disloyalty and disrespect. And yes, it can go too far and wind up creating total chaos in some circumstances, which I myself have had to discover the hard way in my own behavior and reactions.

Perhaps that’s the biggest difference I noted there between our camps of people: self-control. Not that mine are terrific at maintaining self-control, but it’s definitely prized among them in many social situations. Because they deem it necessary for moving up in this world, though they too expressed feeling conflicted about it when it came to accepting poor treatment from others. There’s an underlying resentment toward those who look down upon you, who see you as nothing more than a member of a downtrodden class not worth much and treat you accordingly, leading to the manifestation of a great deal of class-related distrust (which I too continue to struggle with). On one hand they want you to do well in school so as to have greater opportunities, but on the other they don’t want you to get “too big for your britches” and forget where you come from and who helped you along the way. It does create a bit of cognitive dissonance within us to come up with so many contradictory messages. Want your daughter to marry well but then resent the man she does marry because he’s some highfalutin academic who doesn’t really with the rest of the family. Kind of sets up a no-win situation in a way. But that’s the way it goes. Probably has something to do with why I prefer to date working-class men — feels like there’s too much of a social divide between myself and my people and folks of middle-class origins for a romantic partnership to likely prove workable long-term.

In chapter 7 where J.D. Vance spoke of his Pepa dying, it really pulled at my heart strings. Especially when he stated that his Pepa died on a Tuesday and how that Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Tuesday’s Gone” played on the radio afterward. Was out walking in a neighborhood while listening to that part and had to turn off the audiobook so as to compose myself. Breaks my heart to hear of someone losing such an important father-figure while they’re still so young, he only being in his early teens by then. My Papa died 6 years ago when I was 29 and I still can’t barely talk about it without crying. Just can’t. Losing the big man in one’s life is a tragedy we don’t easily recover from apparently. In J.D. Vance’s case, it was so sudden with no warning, which is really sad. My Papa had cancer so we knew he was going down for a year and a half and tried to prepare ourselves for it, so much as one is truly able to do so. And I can understand how one wrestles with the memory of someone so important to them who also happened to have had drama with others in the family, largely due to his own doing through drinking and acting wrongly. You love him so much, and yet you can’t pretend he was perfect. We’re lucky in that our grandpas did change over time, they did both quit drinking (his in 1983, I believe he said; mine in 1990) and they sought to become better people toward their loved ones so as to find some sort of redemption. I think there’s a lot to learn from life stories like that, demonstrating that many people we consider good and valuable had to make a conscience effort to become that over time. They weren’t necessarily born that way, or their life experiences didn’t incline them toward a more noble direction originally. They had to make the choice themselves at some point, and often it comes after years of pain and strife created within their own families unfortunately. Pain likes to pay forward, and that can be a very difficult cycle to break. Speaks a lot to their merit as people, I would say. To come up in such rough circumstances, to fall into bad habits, and to eventually pull out of it. But we each wind up experiencing these events in life differently, especially us grandkids who weren’t yet alive for the worst of the storm.

He mentioned a book that really resonated with him that actually was about black people in urban areas and the problems they face. Many times I’ve noticed similar overlaps between members of the black community and my people as well. People like Thomas Sowell attribute that to a shared Southern culture, which I don’t doubt plays a role to whatever extent. But this is one reason why I find it difficult to view black people as if foreign, as if their community’s problems are entirely unique. There are similarities worth noting there, as I hope more of us explore in going forward since we’re all Americans here and share more in common than some may care to acknowledge.

When he spoke about his mom claiming her addiction was a “disease” I couldn’t help but cringe. He’s absolutely on to something when he stated that regarding addiction as a disease, while that may be somewhat true insofar as brain chemistry is concerned, winds up causing the addict to have less success in kicking the bad habit. It’s almost as if thinking of addiction like a disease winds up being some sort of crutch whereby one can dispense with personal agency, and that’s not a good situation. He spoke of his Pepa giving up alcohol after years of drinking without much fanfare or going to meetings, and my Papa handled it the same way. Yet I see so many out here returning to treatment facilities and turning to AA only to relapse again and again. But we’re not supposed to judge them because they have a “disease.” Yeah, a disease of the spirit, I’d say. An excuse to give up and give in to craven desires that destroy one’s life. It’s no good. Am currently 6 months into sobriety myself and while I’m proud of me, I’m very wary of myself also because I know me and I know the allure of alcohol and how much trouble it’s caused me and others. It’s an ongoing decision to leave that lifestyle and substance alone, one that has to be renewed with each waking day and bout of temptation. It’s not easy, but it is indeed a personal decision. A choice, ultimately. Yet some folks prefer instead to remain infantile and blame all off on external factors, as if the substance itself has the power to penetrate our bodies without our willful involvement. He has my sympathy in dealing with all of that. I’ve known many people who’ve had drug-addicted and/or alcohol-dependent parents and it sounds like a horrible way to come up. My former partner’s parents both drank (and still do) and I hear the resentment in him pretty frequently, reminded of the fighting and negligence. My ex-step-aunt and her husband were like that too, and it wound up producing nothing but carnage. Some people can manage their drinking and drug use better than others, but many can’t.

He spoke of his mom being unable to comprehend the significance of her father dying on her kids who viewed him as a father figure. Gotta admit, no disrespect intended toward the author (considering how sensitive he admits to being when it comes to his family), that level of selfishness burned my soul a bit to hear. My mother was like that in her own way, unable to comprehend how I could view her father differently than she did, she opting to blame everything in her life on him. And when he died, she didn’t attend the funeral and didn’t even so much as contact me or anybody else in the family. Asked her last year for the first time what she thought of his passing and she simply said she would not talk about it, so I dropped the inquiry. To her he’s a monster. To my aunt, he was her daddy but they grew apart emotionally over time, and I think she was bitter about that. To my uncle, he was a frustrating man but his daddy, and I think he has a lot of conflicted emotions too. None of them aired their grievances to him while he was alive, so now they’ll fester on, unresolved. Very unfortunate. But I can recall back when I was little and my grandparents were fighting for custody of me and I got caught in the middle and was made to choose on the spot between my mother and my Papa. I didn’t know what to do, being only 6 at the time, so I laid still until she began crying and walked away. In her heart I doubt she’ll ever let me live that down, and it still bothers me sometimes since I didn’t know what to do. I had to go with him — he was more trustworthy than her, more dedicated. Yet all she’s ever seen is her own view of him and her own sorrows from her upbringing, conveniently forgetting that she had a kid that had to be raised by them and who bonded with them. But in her warped mind, she just sees betrayal. As a result, I now see her as a lost cause. Like a perpetual child unable to grasp anything outside of her own perspective. Forever. No drugs or alcohol even needed to cause this to be the case. It is very frustrating to deal with, especially when you felt loyal to them all and loved them all.

I hate those memories. They always get to me, no matter how many times I’ve been over them in my head and recognize the situation for what it is. Left me feeling like the best way to stop this stupid cycle was to refuse to ever become a mother myself. Never wanted to let anybody down to that extent. Tarnishes one’s view of motherhood, whether we mean for it to or not. Some are able to overcome these types of upbringings and do better by their own children, which is good. But some of us think it’s best to withdraw from taking on such obligations, uncertain of ourselves in such a scenario and very wary of what the past brought. Guess we all must handle such matters in our own individual ways since there indeed is no one-size-fits-all answer to be found. That aggressiveness he spoke of I feel inside myself and express from time to time, always making me think that it wouldn’t be suitable around children. Not in this day and age, most definitely. Especially not outside of a tribe where such expressions are regarded as the norm, though even there it tends to prove dysfunctional. In my mind’s eye I can hear police sirens and crying, and I’ve never wanted any part of it, never wanted to bring children into such a life. Right or wrong, that’s been my resolve since I was young and remains so. Tangles my emotions to read or hear of parents fucking up, of children have to raise themselves and one another, of new men being cycled in and out of kids’ lives, of mothers who don’t understand the harm they’re creating, etc. Ugh…it messes with my head. Definitely stopped me in my tracks long ago, thank god. I just cannot imagine bearing the burden of bringing new people here and then winding up failing them. Yet, it goes on all the time…

Burden. J.D. Vance mentioned that word in reference to his Memaw having to raise him. I can most definitely relate with that. It’s quite embarrassing to feel like a burden on one’s family, so once again he and his sister have my sympathies on that. My Grandma would say things sometimes too, mostly when I was a teenager, like how she couldn’t afford me anymore. Hence why I kept moving around, trying to find ways to take care of myself so I wouldn’t be such a burden on her and Papa. Though I kept having return to her home, at least until I was old enough to attend college. Went into debt for it but never returned home to live again. Gave her and Papa money throughout my 20s in an effort to try to offset some of what they had to spend on raising me, as well as paying back what I owed her directly. Yet that feeling of being a burden hauntingly lingers on. I feel it with friends and loved ones even now sometimes. Live alone and try to be as independent as possible, yet still it lingers, whispering that if not for others I would be nothing and that I ought to find some sort of way to succeed so as to make it all worth it in the end. However success is to be defined here. Never do I forget where I come from or how much I am indebted to my grandparents for taking me in and providing so much love. Their commitment to me was a game-changer, no question. But I don’t wish feeling like a burden even on my worst enemies. Messes with the head and trains you to see yourself as a lesser-than, like a little parasite — needy. Because you can’t help but be needy as a kid. But when your own parents can’t or won’t take care of you properly, others have to, and that entails a sacrifice. I don’t know if it’s possible for such a realization to not color one’s outlook on life. But such is life. Guess it’s most important to take to heart what others have been willing to do for us and to carry that love forward in whatever ways we can. They made a choice because they love us, and I’m infinitely grateful for that. The alternative would’ve been to be perceived as a burden by people who didn’t give a damn about us, which would’ve been so much worse.

I know I’m rambling off on here a lot about my own people and upbringing, but this book tapped into all of that. And it’s a very good book so far. Very worthwhile. The author became a lawyer, so he really did manage to succeed. That makes me very happy for him. I look forward to continuing on in chapter 10 tomorrow.

Inching toward winter (journaling/updates)

In other news, I’ve been doing very well on my diet the past several days. Managing my macros and keeping my carbs under 30g per day (20g or under for 4 of those days). Weighed in on Tuesday and am down to 165 lbs. (fully clothed), so that’s nice. Even decided to snap a photo yesterday (perhaps the first one I’ve taken all year).

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Not known for being photogenic, but that’s okay. Working with what I’ve got over here. Hair was frizzy after working out — didn’t feel like trying to get fancy for the camera. So anyway, I’ve been tracking my calories through MyFitnessPal for over 40 days now and am really appreciating that site. Unfortunately I’ve had to stay home and away from Former this past week in order to stay true to my diet, lest he wreck it like usual.  LoL  Missed out on his chili and tacos. Bah! But oh well. Might stop over to visit him tomorrow.

Been working out with my trainer a couple days a week (would like to do so more often but we have schedule conflicts). Beyond that, been going to the gym a day or two a week on my own. Mostly focusing on strength training, plus some cardio on the elliptical. Same old, same old there. Overall I’ve been feeling pretty good. Kind of felt like I might come down with a cold at the beginning of this past weekend, so I stayed in as much as possible and kept warm and managed to stave it off.

Besides that, the new books I’ve listened to in audio format recently were The Art of Invisibility: The World’s Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data by Kevin Mitnick (narrated by Ray Porter); The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld by Jamie Bartlett (narrated by Matt Bates); The Secret History of the World: As Laid Down by the Secret Societies by Mark Booth (narrated by John Lee). Those first two were very interesting (especially enjoyed Ray Porter’s narration) — gave me a lot to think about in terms of personal security online. That last book was a bit of a wild card, and I can’t recall how it ended up on my wishlist. Actually was interesting to take in up until the last chapter or so, then it just seemed to wrap up quickly and in a super-woo-woo form of a happy ending. Can’t put much stock in the content of Mark Booth’s book, but it was something different to contemplate.

Since finishing up those three I decided to re-listen to a couple others: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman (read by the author) and Thomas Sowell’s Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality? (really appreciate this one!). Made some electronic bookmarks so that hopefully eventually I’ll get around to uploading clips so as to lure others into checking these books out for themselves.

Believe I already mentioned before on here that I also listened to Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (and loved it). Would so highly recommend that one to others. It’s a must read for people curious about evolutionary psychology, biology and/or sociology.

Been getting chilly out lately. Down in the upper 30s the last couple of days. Not looking forward to snow, but it’s coming whether I like it or not. Praying this winter doesn’t kick my ass, having been spoiled by such a mild winter last year (which people around here say was highly unusual and probably shouldn’t be expected for another 40 years or so  eye-popping_smilie ). Just a matter of weeks before I have to get my snow tires put back on (usually around Thanksgiving) and start trudging around in my heavy-ass snow boots again. What fun. But ah well. So long as we don’t have blizzards then it’s not so bad.

What else? Oh, my little brother celebrated a birthday recently. He’s now firmly in his 30s. I ordered him a cake, which hopefully tasted good. As always, he’s super busy with work.

Not been getting out much these days aside from working and going to the gym and occasionally visiting a couple of friends. Haven’t set foot in a bar in weeks, therefore I haven’t kept up with any pals in that scene. Yesterday marked week 20 in my commitment to stop drinking alcohol. Still going strong with no problems there. In fact, a couple days ago when I was out driving along I got to thinking about wine, but this time it was accompanied with a sickening feeling, reminiscent of a particular brand I used to buy and a few bad nights I had with it. Wasn’t alluring. So I suppose that’s progress — no longer dreaming of wine in a tempting fashion. Rarely do I miss beer despite that being my main drink of choice. Not sure why. Perhaps I drank enough of it to suit me for an entire lifetime. lol  Probably.  Still amazed at how much money I’ve saved by not going out to bars or buying drinks to bring home. Saves me oodles of money, no joke. Shocks my friends when I calculate up what my average cost of drinking likely was in any given month. Even the one that drinks more heavily seemed surprised. Note: drinkers are notorious about NOT tracking how much we’re spending while involved in that lifestyle. Starting to think I’m having a positive influence on Former since he hasn’t been going out to his bar as often in recent weeks, nor does he seem to be drinking quite as much at home. I never nag him about it since that’s his lifestyle and his choice and I know for certain he’ll never give up alcohol. C’est la vie. But for whatever reason he seems to at least have cut down, which makes me happy in terms of his health.

I certainly haven’t cut down on smoking cigarettes though. If anything I probably smoke a bit more nowadays, unfortunately. So easy to do when I’m hanging around the apartment much of the time. Though I do smoke less when I’m over visiting Former. My lungs have been giving me a little trouble this week, as they do sometimes. Twenty-two years of smoking is taking a toll — imagine that. Though this is one addiction that has my butt straight-up kicked, so I’m pretty terrified of trying to go up against it. Keep saying I will one of these days…

Not been sleeping too well lately. Actually I sleep fine once I finally get to sleep, just can’t seem to get there. Just bounding with energy and curious about what all is going on on the internet at any given moment. Ha! Thinking about picking up some more of that bedtime (Chamomile) tea to see if it might help relax me. Probably need to find ways to exert more physical energy.

And lastly, my eyesight is very noticeably declining. Having trouble reading more and more without the aid of my new drugstore reading glasses. Former says it’s due to all the years I’ve been sitting staring at the computer screen. Heh  He’s likely right. Thinking I’m going to have to locate a coupon and go in to see an eye specialist one of these days and maybe purchase prescription reading glasses. The joys of aging…

Anyway, that’s about it for now. Onward into November!

Putting myself on a diet

Enjoying a lazy weekend over here. Though I am a bit moody as well, partly to do with trying out a diet plan (referred to as ketogenic wherein you severely reduce carbohydrate intake). Why? Because my weight bugs me. Went down between 2015-2016, then jumped up again in 2017, irking me a great deal. Occurred because I got lazy over last winter and spring and also because my former partner is a good cook who loves to make all things fatty and/or sweet. I don’t care to cook much, so I rely on his meal offerings instead, and so then I ballooned up 20+ lbs. once again. Certainly not his fault — he has enough muscle to allow him to eat whatever he wants. I, on the other hand, must be more restrictive.

Can’t say that I’m terribly enthusiastic in this stage of the game though. My net carbs today came out to 20g — on point. But I can’t stand the taste of artificial sweeteners. Never did and likely never will. Tried Stevia, tried erythritol. Nonplussed, to say the least. disgusted  Would rather skip sweeteners altogether than deal with that crud. Ugh. But this is a temporary diet intended to help burn off the stores of fat I’m currently toting around so that eventually I can maintain at a healthier weight level. That and I’ve been having issues with my blood sugar acting up during the day, leaving me jittery and shaky. Can’t be having that. Gotta get my body under better control and cut out a lot of this highly processed food, particularly the carb-rich, starchy products that have long played havoc on my health. Heaven forbid I turn out to be pre-diabetic.

So, this is what I’m trying to do currently. Figure it’s high time I confront this sugar addiction. Not a major fan of sweets so much as potatoes and bread, but all winds up affecting my blood sugar in a similar fashion. I guess I consider this phase 2 where quitting drinking alcohol was phase 1. Seems like a good idea, or at least it did until I tried eating a bowl of artificially sweetened chia seeds and hemp hearts this morning.  yuck_smilie  Straight-up sucked!

Lots of eggs are also involved in this diet plan. Lots and lots of them. Made an egg bake yesterday with tomatoes, spinach and cheeses that will hopefully be finished up tomorrow. Tried making a veggie pasta the other day with spaghetti squash noodles alongside a grilled chicken breast, but something was seriously off about the squash. Didn’t smell right. Must’ve bought a bad pack, so into the trash those noodles went. Settled for sauteed zucchini grown in my best guyfriend’s garden, which was great. And bacon is permissible on this diet plan too, so that’s comforting.

I’m not one to diet. Never really have been. Tried Weight Watchers once upon a time (over a decade back) just so that I could track my food intake on their nifty website (now a better and free alternative exists: myfitnesspal.com). Tried a water fast for 4 days back in early 2007, but only because it was necessary that I drop a few pounds pronto (for reasons I don’t care to disclose here, just know it wasn’t for vanity purposes). That wasn’t too bad after the first couple of days, so I’d be willing to try a water fast again eventually (during a week when I’m not too busy). But other than that, dieting has never been my bag. Always struck me as unsustainable and not worth the time and effort. Better to just exercise more and eat relatively sensibly. But then I got to reading about the dangers of sugar in our typical American diets and how it’s linked with various medical maladies. Then I learned of people who dropped significant amounts of weight (even without exercising) through cutting down on carbs. So now my vanity is acting up and wants a piece of the action.

So, this is the new project to keep me occupied in weeks to come. Have a few items on order from Amazon to aid in this pursuit, including a dark chocolate protein powder (that received high ratings and better be tastier than the other I sampled recently). The primary goal of making shakes/smoothies for me is to use them as a means to hide other ingredients within, such as beef and pork gelatin powder (for my joints — still having a lot of trouble with my knees) and veggies that I otherwise won’t eat (like kale). We’ll see how well that works out.

A few days ago I purchased a bottle of Torani’s sugar-free hazelnut syrup for my coffee and was left seriously disappointed. Perfectly good cup of coffee ruined by that. The aftertaste lasted for hours no matter what I drank or ate (even after brushing my teeth). Ugh. So gross. Wondering which neighbor I can possibly pawn that stuff off on.

Am thinking that I’d be better off finding ways to utilize the sugars in fruits instead of screwing with those nasty non-sugar sweeteners. Otherwise I’m just going to stick with eating fruits by themselves on occasion and Ghirardelli’s 86% cacao squares for when I crave a dessert. Earlier tonight I tried my hand at making a chocolate mug cake, though I reduced the amount of sweetener the recipe called for since that stuff sucks. Turned out tasting pretty weird. Not sure I want to go that route again. Seems I’d be better off using a tiny bit of actual sugar and then cutting carbs elsewhere on days I decide to fix a treat. Or maybe I can find a blueberry mug muffin recipe that doesn’t call for sweetener at all. That’d be ideal.

AND, this week I also fucked up by sampling a seaweed snack on sale at the local natural grocer. OMG! SOOO nasty! It had the texture of crinkly plastic film and came in super thin sheets. Folded one sheet into my mouth and attempted to chew, but no. No no no no no. Had to spit that crud out right away. That’s not food. Tasted like a dried salty leaf (which technically is exactly what it was) and smelled like old seafood (duh). Made me angry at myself that I ever put that in my mouth. Ha! No joke though. That was disgusting! I kept the bag just so as to warn others. Annie Chun’s Roasted Sesame Seaweed Snacks — buyers beware. Its texture and taste is still haunting me.

Yeah, so I’m off to a rough start. Not a seasoned dieter, so I’m bound to make dumb mistakes like this. Probably will be best if I just keep it simple and stick with basic tried-and-true foods that also happen to be low on carbs. Like meats and cheese and veggies. But it is fun experimenting, at least some of the time anyway. Turns out that I happen to like unsweetened vanilla almond milk. And I found some tortilla wraps that are high in fiber and low in carbs that actually aren’t bad (brand name: Tumaro’s). Sunbutter (kinda like peanut butter but with sunflower seeds instead of peanuts) is all right. And I’m planning on trying my hand at making a pizza crust using only riced cauliflower and parmesan cheese — wish me luck with that.

As of the last time I weighed myself (on Wednesday, I think), I was down approximately 5 lbs. Will likely weigh myself again on Tuesday (when I regain access to a scale, refusing to own one myself). Still working out, but only at the gym maybe 3-4 days a week right now. Playing with my dumbbells at home some too. Still trying to take it easy so that my left elbow will heal, but it’s proving to be a very slow process.

Currently am 15.5 weeks into my commitment to stop drinking, with no slip-ups since that first week. Giving up beer seems to have contributed to me turning toward consuming more carbs and putting on a few pounds — hence another reason why this all feels necessary right about now. Many people quit drinking and lose weight, but not me apparently. Nope, I turned to snacking on junk food instead. So this is my attempt to rein myself in and develop greater self-discipline while aiming to curb my appetite for sugars so that hopefully those cravings will lessen with time. Sounds good in theory anyway. It promises to be an interesting exploration regardless.

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“Addiction – Reconsidered” (plus personal thoughts)

Liked that video and want to share it with others. Often lately I think about the notion of being cleansed by fire, which is to say purified in some sort of way through trials and struggles.

This past weekend was the first time in months I’d talked to my (ex-step)dad and brother on the phone. Told them that I had quit drinking, which I’d been holding off on sharing with some folks until I had more progress under my belt. Today marks the beginning of week 11 since my commitment to stop drinking. Dad asked if it’s been difficult, if there were physical side effects like shakes, and I told him this time around it’s actually been surprisingly easy, as it has. Though it’s been perplexing me as to why it’s felt so comparably easy.

When I think on it, I believe the reason is that the process actually began a little over 2 years ago. Back then I did get shaky at times due to going through spells where I’d drink entirely too much and hurt my body. Drinking on that level was often concealed at home where I could be alone. And that’s an awful way to become. Then when I did start heading back out to bars once again I’d wind up having problems with people over social matters, which were the sort of issues that drove me to staying home more and more in the first place. My behavior and attitudes became increasingly volatile as a drinker. I was severely unhappy — depressed really. Frustrated with myself but at the time feeling too weak to make real and lasting changes for the better. Dreamt of changing all the time, but struggled to do so and keep with it. So there was a lot of yo-yoing occurring within the last couple of years. And I guess that time period was in itself a slow-motion bottoming out. Actually I know it was and knew it at the time too. But I kept thinking I wasn’t on total rock bottom yet…not that I wanted to land there, but there’s some stupid little measure of comfort in believing you’re not there yet.

Humiliated myself many times. Numerous bad nights pepper my memories over the last couple of years (and before). Nights when I’m lucky to have made it home in one piece and not harmed anybody else in the process. Nights where portions of the evening are completely erased, blacked out, only known through what others later told me. Bad thoughts and bad decisions had me in a tailspin for a long time there, culminating in those last two years of suffering because I knew the jig was up but yet couldn’t seem to lay it all down and walk away. That was a very frustrating time in life, to say the least.

And then something happened inside that allowed me to say I’d had enough. Don’t believe it was any one event, just a broad collection of them that finally broke the camel’s back. And I got really angry, at myself and the others surrounding me and the lifestyle overall. Had been angry about it many times before, though, so I still wonder why this time something stuck and I was able to walk away. Didn’t feel like the change was completely due to my own will power alone considering how much that had failed me in years prior. Hard to say why the shift occurred so abruptly and how I’ve been able to stick with it this time around. Too much water under the bridge? Too many bad memories generated? Too much money wasted to where I was facing dire straits soon enough? Too many embarrassing episodes spanning back longer than I care to look? All of the above and then some.

But that had been my lifestyle all throughout my adulthood and it was my norm. Though, some part of me inside was never content with it, always critical about it. Maybe it was that inner voice that finally took over the helm when I was weak enough to allow it to do so, and through doing so I’ve gained a measure of strength and determination that I didn’t know I had. It’s kind of queer to think about really, how it’s unfolded and where my mind has been and how something inside became so damn enraged that it simply refused to live like that anymore and therefore took over operations. So, in truth, I did save myself, or at least a part of me saved the rest of me. And that’s a strange thought since so much of me had fallen down and I figured might not ever get back up and stay up. Most of the people I surrounded myself with on a day-to-day basis were heavy drinkers themselves who saw no problem in our lifestyle choice, taking every opportunity they could to defend it. Sometimes I’d debate with them over what we were doing, hypocritical as that always felt (in a bar setting, no less). But in the end, none of them or any of their empty excuses mattered one iota, and I was able to walk away.

Does it have to do with one’s personality? Has my stubbornness saved me once again? Or my fear of complete and abysmal failure? Or worries over becoming a devastatingly negative force for change in the lives of some innocent people who happened to cross my path at the wrong time? Or concern over potential destroyed and wasted? Or humiliation over the (repeated) results of the toxic mix of alcohol and emotional volatility that undeniably damaged my character? All of the above, I assume. But it still seems so strange to me that someone can be that entrenched in a way of life and that deeply steeped among others of like mind and still break free. But I did. Still coming to terms with that and am so grateful for my internal levee to finally give way, generating enough force to propel me out and away from that addictive trap.

Urges will remain into the indefinite future

Had a dream last night. In it I was at some small, out of the way bar I had never been to before, accompanied by a few friends, and decided to order a drink. The beer I had ordered arrived, but it wasn’t beer. Someone said something about the drink containing vodka, but it tasted like a sweet white wine. I recall the way the bartender looked at me very curiously. And I took the small glass and sipped its contents. Felt rewarded for a moment. Inside my head began the struggle between enjoying this one libation and throwing caution to the wind and going ahead and drinking my fill for the evening. Seems that in the dream I opted to carry around the cup rather than down it and refill it. There were a bunch of vehicles around, including some that didn’t appear capable of running, like we were out on somebody’s private property. I can’t recall who the friends were who surrounded me, but I heard us laughing. Then I woke up to the alarm blaring.

The urges remain, as they likely will continue for a long time. Nothing I can do about that. Though so far I haven’t had many dreams about drinking alcohol. Just every once in a while one pops up into my imagination. Habits die hard. But this dream contained no profound insights or interesting events. It was humdrum and felt typical. The only part that really stands out to me about it was being presented the clear, slightly fizzy concoction in the small cup that looked nothing like beer with the unknown bartender looking at me in a peculiar way. Though I can recall feeling a rush of release, the sensation of the floodgate coming down when I give into temptation. Experienced that feeling many times in the past and know it well. It feels elating, pleasurable, welcome — the opposite of holding myself back and restricting my access. But with the latter comes a greater long-term payout: increased satisfaction with myself and my decisions.

Not much more to it than that. Decided to record it here regardless since most dreams evaporate within a few short hours if I don’t trap them in writing.

Alice Cooper quit alcohol too

Didn’t know much about the man other than enjoying a few of his songs (a couple of which were showcased in the “Dazed and Confused” and “Wayne’s World” movie soundtracks in the ’90s).

Alice Cooper’s real name is Vincent Damon Furnier (for those of us who didn’t know). Currently age 69. And he’s been off alcohol since the ’80s.

Reportedly considers himself to be a born-again Christian. Interesting. An excerpt from that linked article (published Tuesday, 28 March 2006):

Though some have questioned combining his faith in God with his rock-and-roll background, Cooper doesn’t see a conflict. “I’m the first one to rock as loud as I can, but when it comes to what I believe, I’m the first one to defend it too,” he said. “It has also gotten me in trouble with the staunch Christians who believe that in order to be a Christian you have to be on your knees 24 hours a day in a closet somewhere. Hey, maybe some people can live like that, but I don’t think that’s the way God expected us to live. When Christ came back, He hung out with the whores, the drunks and miscreants because they were people that needed Him. Christ never spent His time with the Pharisees.”

[…]

“I used to celebrate moral decay, the decadence of it,” he admitted in the KNAC.com interview. “I can look back on what I did then and what I’m doing now and they’re two different things. But at the time I was the poster boy for moral decay, you know. So yeah, I’ve got a lot to be forgiven for…out of ignorance, I thought I was doing the right thing. I was totally in agreement that every guy should sleep with every girl and drink as much as they can. I don’t believe that now. I don’t believe in it, because I see how destructive it is.”

Spiritual awakening is happening around the world, Cooper believes. “It’s obvious humanity is craving for answers directly born of awareness,” he said. “That’s the healthiest thing I’ve seen in a long time because there is something better and everybody’s gotta find it in their own way. People aren’t feeling fulfilled by how many cars they own or the size of their stock portfolio. Even the addicts are saying, ‘It doesn’t matter how many drugs I take, I’m not fulfilled. This isn’t satisfying.’ There’s a spiritual hunger going on. Everybody feels it. If you don’t feel it now, you will. Trust me. You will.”

Worth reading in full.

Far less interesting, though, is he’s now into golf.  But to each their own…

Learn something new everyday. Finding out more about this man has given me greater appreciation for him.

But I never forget his cameo appearance in the movie “Wayne’s World”:

Hehe   bow   cool