The earliest things I remember writing for pleasure were stories of Pegasus II and Cygnus with my friend Ted, I think we started talking about them in Spanish class (as we weren’t big on paying attention). We had characters that were partially named after Spanish verbs like “Jorge Dar” was a character. It was our comic book based on ourselves and my practicing religion of the ancient Greek gods. It was interesting to try to write in a way that I found readable – I’m not very good with dialogue still to this day, but I keep trying. I kept writing those stories until I was about 21 or 22.

Once in a while I’d write a different story – a house fire and all the neighbors come and gawk, the little girls charred doll clutched in her hands and the father drives off in their Buick regal,  I liked that one, don’t know what happened to it; a student struggling to learn something new in class and the teacher who just wouldn’t change the way he taught – it was very rough; the rock and roll band playing in local bars, drinking and causing trouble… stories that kind of reflected what was going on with me and how I lived.

Then I didn’t write for a good long time.

In drug and alcohol treatment they suggested I keep a journal and write down my thoughts and actions for the day – I wasn’t a big fan of that idea, it reflected on when my Ma found my diary on my bed and was mad at what I wrote. It was shortly after xmas and I had received underwear, socks and t-shirts (among many other things I’m sure) and I whined a bit… ok, maybe a lot, in my diary about receiving socks and underwear. Her thinking at the time was that I left it our purposefully so she’d see it, but I doubt I was that clever – sometimes I was just a whiny teenager who enjoyed complaining. So keeping my thoughts on paper where someone else could see them didn’t seem like a good idea – I’m often misunderstood. :-)

In 1998 I was published in The Grapevine. I had read in the magazine that they needed stories to print from members. So I thought for a good long time and then wrote my piece they put in their wet drunk section. I have that framed as it was the first thing that made it out of my paper and into something else.

It was 1999 when I started working at Children’s Hospital in Washington DC. I made some fast friends in my department and connected departments – one of those was Staci. Staci is a psychologist, that means she asks lots of questions, and many lunches were spent with her, Christy and others just talking. When I would share stories Staci would listen intently and sometimes she would say “You should write a book.” I never really took her seriously, this was just my life we were talking about nothing that would capture anyone’s attention.

But that suggestion stayed with me and I started to jot down notes here and there and eventually decided to write where I could keep it always (I remembered not being able to find my old stories) so with the internet being new and blogs not that popular yet, I launched “Jamez in the life” on Blogger in 2005, and I started to write about whatever was on my mind.

So of course the first story had to be about comic books. I wrote about death in comic books and how one time it mattered and then it didn’t. Then I wrote about a visit to my friend Julie’s (she also always wanted me to write a book) and smoking (as I had recently quit).

Shortly after that I went to school for a year (just to prove I could do it) and then I began to write for grades and wrote about learning, that was pretty exciting… and I even wrote about the dreaded math… During school I posted 15 to 20 stories a month, usually pretty short.

I try to get 4 posts a month now and sometimes that’s a struggle. It’s not that I don’t want to write, things get in the way or there are things that I can’t write about for confidentiality reasons and some porn that shouldn’t go here (I did submit it to a magazine though).

I often have many different stories in my head all rambling around trying to find a place to go and when they coalesce I obsess about them and on occasion can’t sleep until I get them out on paper (or the electronic equivalent as the case usually is – though I did write about a savage beating I stopped, on paper as I didn’t own a laptop at the time.)

My friend Staci came to Scottsdale this week to talk about some new therapy that she’s really excited about – it includes mindfulness meditation, of which I’m a big fan. So she and her husband had dinner with me and I let her know about my blog, she might even stop in and read a story or two. I hope she likes it – it was her idea after all :-) We even talked a bit about her research and meditation being good for you and how it seems so hard to find the time to do it.

I’m glad I have this outlet – sometimes just writing something out can change my attitude on a situation – seeing it play out across the scenes and help me to see other points of view and become a better person.

For Free & For Fun

The circle and triangle of the program represent Recovery, Unity and Service together as a whole. They tell me it’s an ancient spiritual symbol that existed long before any 12 step program was ever dreamt about and means “wholeness”. I was taught to believe I need all three to recover from alcoholism – that I needed to find the program of action outlined in the 164 pages, that I had to find the fellowship amongst the members and that I needed to give away what was so freely given to me in service.

When I first got sober I took many things for granted. I didn’t think about how much the rent was for the meeting space, or the books and coffee – I thought about the money in the basket quite a few times and wondered if anyone would notice if I took some. I was rather self-centered at the time and mostly just focused on what I could get out of life for me and what you could do for me.

I talk quite a lot about shaking hands. I do because it was so important in changing who I was into who I am. When my sponsor told me to shake everyone’s hand before and after the meeting I hated him, I didn’t want to do that – I hate people. But I had agreed to go to “any lengths to recover from alcoholism” and I meant it. So every meeting I would stick out my hand and offer my name to so very many people (this was relatively small town WI, nothing like the meetings I attend in the big cities).

Some of those people wanted to talk to me – ugh – and asked me how long I’d been sober. I’d rattle off “I’m 37 days sober today” and then they’d say “but who’s counting?” and I’d be all confused, like why ask… I don’t want to let anyone know these things – I hate people.

After a few meetings people started to remember my name, and I felt obligated to try to remember theirs. I knew Mark M – he always had a suit on and a smile, he claimed he was sober for over 10 years but I didn’t really believe him. Nancy was new too and didn’t make me feel uncomfortable, she always came in with her friend and they always sat together. Randy and Mike, Krista and Suzanne… I started to learn a little bit more about the people I didn’t want anything to do with. And I discovered, much to my dismay, that I didn’t hate ALL people… just most of them.

Shaking hands led me to a job in the meetings of setting up. Then I got to tear down – I didn’t really like this one as I wanted to rush out and start smoking right away.  My home group started to teach me about service work at our monthly group conscience – and I’d always hear them share at meetings about the tradition and experience working with newcomers. They shared with me and invited me to events where the business of recovery happens – where I met many more characters and learned the ins and outs of the District, the Area and the General Service Office.

I like to think my home group and my sponsor helped to make me “whole”. Sure the step work was important too, very important to discovering who I had been and how I could become the man I am today. But the service work was just as important.

Bill W talks about all the different drunks he tried to help and not a one of them remained sober. It was Lois who pointed out that he was staying sober by helping them. He remembered that when he was very desperate in Akron and found Bob. And together, they in turn tried to help many others – only a handful stayed sober at first. It must have been very disheartening.

I’ve worked with many a guy sharing what was so freely shared with me. Some very new, some around longer than I have been. I’ve made my share of mistakes with those guy and usually learn from those mistakes and grow. And while it can be devastating to lose one of them or to not reach them at all it helps me to stay sober and that really makes all the difference to me. Its really difficult to look at them struggling and not be able to reach them – to see their pain and hopelessness and know that if they just took that first step, if they were just willing to believe they’d be on a different path they could have never imagined… but they have to make their own journey there.I have expected gratitude from the new man I was trying to help. I’ve expected them to have a program just like mine… well, maybe I was really hurt when it wasn’t and flabbergasted ;-). Bill cautions us in our book about doing too much for the new man. We have to show them the way – not drag them in kicking and screaming, nor carry them in on a pampered throne. Many people come in ordered by the courts, the wife or circumstances… not all of those stay but I did, and I know many others who have as well.

In our book it says “we have ceased fighting anything or anyone”. This is hard for me many days in and out of the rooms. Sometimes it’s very easy to get pulled into the drama. Sometimes, sadly, I might still start the drama – but I’m trying to be more aware of it and change.

“Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to others, so never hesitate to go anywhere if you can be helpful.”

I can be of more help to people and organizations I serve, if I show up and serve – without agendas, selfishness and anger. If I just show up and do what I was taught to do early on – I’m going to show up and smile, shake hands and be of service to the people about me to the best of my ability.

I don’t serve for attention, accolades or accomplishments to add to my resume – I do it because I was told (and believe) that the constant thought of others must follow me throughout the day and when it does I have a better day. I have remarkable days in succession when I’m doing what I ought.

This post was a bunch of different things that were running around in my head. They’re all in regards to things that are currently going on and they all tie together, even if it might not seem like it to the casual reader.

“Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles” this is true for me still today and everyday. I think it’s true for a lot of people even those not in the rooms.

How can I serve? How can I help? that’s how I get out of self, it’s been working for a good long time now and I can’t recommend it enough.

Whining, Windows and What The…

I took the car in for it’s check-up and mentioned that the problem I was having with my window (see this video) is happening again.

My buddy at the dealership said he’d have them take a look at it with everything else and get it fixed. About half way through the day (this was Thursday, the day after my April Fools joke that the car was stolen) he called to say it was taking longer than anticipated and they needed to order a new motor for it but had a loaner car for me.

So after work they sent a van to pick me up and take me to the dealership where they gave me a Passat to drive. Not bad for a car, but no bluetooth or digital pedometer…. Worst of all… no push button start! OMG it was awful, I had to actually take the keys out of my pocket each time I wanted to start the car… and then remember to take them with me when I was leaving the car… the horror and incomprehensible demoralization is real. #whitewhine

Friday they let me know the motor still wasn’t there and told me it would be ready no later than Saturday at 12. They called when I was at the SRI office to let me know it was ready, I was happy and after that gig I headed over to the dealership.

My buddy there assured me everything was fine, let me know they changed filters and also the battery (apparently it failed a test they ran). Thankfully all covered under warranty. Woo Hoo!!!

So I got into my little convertible bug and pushed the button for the top to go down and it was all working splendidly… and then… the drivers window only went down half way. That’s odd. At first I thought that it might be because it was only half way down when I got in, so I put the top back up and tried it again… Same result.

So I went back inside and alerted them to the issue, they took it back again to the techs… and over 30 minutes later they still couldn’t figure out what was going on.. they thought it was the coding but it wasn’t, they tested a few other things with no go…

*grumble, grumble, grumble*

so he offered me the loaner car again, or he said I could just bring it back on Tuesday morning and they’d have a rental car for me then… that’s what I opted for.

This post is basically a “Scottsdale problem” what in DC we would call a NW problem… and I should be happy to have a car at all, but sometimes I like to whine.

Making Room for New Ideas

I haven’t been writing because there are things I want to write about that I can’t post here… and I find that frustrating.

  • I want to write about work, but can’t really, there are people that I work with that read this and we can’t have that. People sometimes take me too seriously and other times not seriously enough. Complaints, ideas, things I like or don’t like
  • I want to write about a volunteer thing I do, but again that’s a confidential thing and I can’t write about it here without violating certain trusts.
  • And one other thing I wanted to write about – a little fiction, but really porn. Can’t really share that here, people are easily offended…

But the problem is no other stories or ideas were popping into my head, just these three items over and over again. Sadly I can’t get something new to write until I get these out of my head – that’s how it seems to work for me.

So today I started writing the porn story and it’s much longer than I anticipated, and I’m really enjoying it… lol… well yes, the sexual nature of it, but I’m also really enjoying the story telling part.  It’s an old fantasy of mine involving a barber, but it’s also much more detailed than I think I usually tell of stories… not the sexual parts but the feelings and emotions, scents and textures of the shop. Honestly there were three pages before anyone got naked.

Usually when I’m telling a story I think – “they’re going to get bored, this has been going on too long” but not with this story, it just seems to be flowing well and kept me wanting to write more.

But I reached a point tonight where I can’t quite figure out how to get what I want out of it. It’s like the classic cheesy porn – what’s a good reason for the pizza boy to need to take off his shirt, thats kind of where I”m at, trying to figure out a reason and a smooth transition. It’s an interesting conundrum and giving me lots to think about.

Mostly the writing has freed up my mind and a new story has popped in, that makes me happy as it’s been a few weeks since something new had been rattling around up there. So over this week I’ll maybe make the time to write about the other two things as well and just keep them to myself – that’s a new thing for me and I don’t really like to do it, but they need to go so I can make room for new ideas.

A day of writing is just what the doctor ordered.

Ceased Fighting Anything…

“OK” is just a better answer to any question or request.

No one is really looking for solutions, creative thinking or honesty – they just want answers and results.

Less to worry about or care about or try to control or manipulate. Just do the next right thing in front of you and don’t get distracted by thinking or stewing.

Easy in theory, harder to practice not pushing back, not saying no or “why”. They don’t really want any of that, no confrontation or queries… no rocking boats.

Why show up at all? that’s what I was taught… suit up, show up, do the deal. Doesn’t matter if anyone else is doing it, you just have to show up and work.

But I’m tired.

My Sponsor Wont Shake My Hand

When i first started going to meetings the very first direction I was given by my sponsor was “Shake everyone’s hand before and after the meeting” I wanted to stop going right then, I didn’t want anything to do with these people – I just wanted to learn how to drink like normal people. (surprise, surprise… they don’t teach that – boy was I disappointed) I had made a conscious decision NOT to go to NA because there was too much hugging (I was like 3 days sober when I went once)

I was willing to do that… willing to do anything to stop drinking and have a better life… so I started shaking hands at every meeting I went to. Soon that habit crossed over into the rest of my life and I shake hands all the time with all sorts of folks… it’s a great way for me to get out of myself and think about other people for a minute or two.

When I moved to the Phoenix area I continued my handshaking routines but soon found all sorts of people that just rush in and start hugging you… (I guess it was somewhat true of DC and WI too – but here there seems to be more of it).  Some of these folks I hardly know at all.. I almost don’t feel like the meeting was a success if I can’t shake hands with everyone – I’ve had to settle for fist bumps with a few folks too – see I’m open minded. I will hug folks if they shake my hand also… seems only fair.

My current sponsor won’t shake my hand… I reach out my hand and he smiles his big loving smile and hugs me. If I manage to get him to shake my hand and he realizes it’s me (I try to shake his hand when he’s distracted) he’ll pull me in for a hug and tell me he loves me. He’s a great guy and I love him. So the other week I said “I’m going to write a blog post titled “My Sponsor Wont Shake My Hand” and he kind of frowned at me in that loving way he does… but he stuck out his hand and shook my hand, I think he still managed to get a hug anyway.

Then I managed to fall off my bicycle and sprain my right hand and had to cut back on the hand shaking. I had it wrapped up in an ace bandage and people don’t pay attention and just squeeze as tight as normal. So I kind of had to quit shaking hands, it’s been difficult…. trying… As a result I’ve had to be open minded and let some people hug me that I otherwise wouldn’t have.. life is hard.

Tonight at the meeting someone else greeted people as I was handing out tickets (we do a raffle for people to share). This greeter hugged everyone it was awful… he’d track em down across the room and just hug em up and love em… I hope he didn’t set a precedent.

yes, this was a post about anti-hugging – it needs to be stopped

Slow Motion Perception

Yesterday while riding my bike I took a fall. I was on mile 8 of the journey and it just happened. What was really cool about it was the slowing down of time and the intense focus on the different aspects of the fall.

I first noticed the tire really close to the edge of the sidewalk and thought I should correct that… then I over corrected and started to fall.

My eyes did a close up focus on the tire, I saw the wheel start to slow down and I was amazed at how slow it was going. I then looked to my left and saw the ground was just hanging there out of my reach but I was getting closer to it so slowly.

This reminds me of Douglas Adams suggestion on how to fly – He says there’s a trick to it: throw yourself at the ground and miss. He suggests you do this by getting distracted at the last moment by a bowl of petunias, a long lost satchel or a pink towel…and boom you might be flying…. this sadly did not happen to me, I just hit the ground.

But the entire process happened to my senses in slow motion. Even the scraping of my arm along the sidewalk, though painful, seemed to take an eternity.

So I began to wonder why that happened, and thought back to a car accident I had been in in 89 or 90 and how that too seemed to happen in slow motion (I wasn’t the driver and walked away mostly unscathed). I found this little article on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_motion_perception and while not a scientific journal I thought it was quite interesting, mostly because if something happens to me and it’s happened to others then I can relate and it’s suddenly relevant… it would have been much more interesting to be flying or discover I had superpowers, but this article will have to do.

Slow motion perception is a subjective perception of time in which things are perceived as passing by slower than the normal perception of time. To a bystander watching a life-threatening situation such as an accident, time is moving at a normal speed. However, to the individual in the accident, time seems to have slowed down. As a result, the individual in the accident may be able to think faster and act faster during these events. However, even though individuals commonly report that time seems to have moved in slow motion during these events, it is unknown whether this is a function of increased time resolution during the event, or, instead, an illusion of remembering an emotionally salient event. Research conducted by David Eagleman has suggested that time does not actually run in slow motion for a person during a life-threatening event, but, rather, it is only a retrospective assessment that brings that person to such a conclusion. To bring this into the realm of scientific study, he measured time perception during free-fall by strapping palm-top computers to subjects’ wrists and having them perform psychophysical experiments as they fall. By measuring their speed of information intake, they concluded that participants do not obtain increased temporal resolution during the fall, but, instead, because their memories are more densely packed during a frightening situation, the event seems to have taken longer only in retrospect

what would be pretty cool is if while in that state of consciousness you realized it and like Tobey Maguire’s enhanced Spider-Man senses in the first set of those movies… we could catch all the items from that tray before they hit the ground… But instead I probably just looked like a flailing idiot at the time.

I think having Saturday Night Live do a skit series where one of their actors plays Neil Degrasse Tyson and uses physics to explain this kind of thing and then end it with “and you basically are just flailing around like the evolutionized chimpanzee you are.” or something… then he could show up and discuss other things that annoy people – like when i’m going leaving an intersection and still catch up to traffic that was doing 45 mph when they passed me “Why does this happen Neil?” we’d ask and he’d go into some long boring explanation of speed and relativity and we’d be all amazed. While he’s talking the camera would catch up to the car in question and we’d see some idiot texting or something instead of paying attention and the Neil could say… “but in this case we just had an idiot”.

I got back on my bike today and rode it to the shop for it’s scheduled tuning… my legs are sore and I can’t grip the handle bar with my right hand (or turn my house key, or a few other important things) but I got the bike there and walked home. I plan to ride it again and I’ll probably take another fall or two before I die some day… but next time I hope someone or something distracts me and I can just fly awayIMG_0403

Fire Hot

So I’m cooking things… well, I’ve always cooked things – soup from a can, tv dinners, pot pies, grilled cheese, pizza… that’s cooking right? There was also rarely a need to cook anything – my Mother cooked, my Ma cooked, my ex-roommate loved to cook – but I’m not the best person to cook for (picky eater) so they didn’t get to cook with the flare they all had really… But now I”m trying to cook other things.

My fire alarm in the apartment is extra sensitive and seems to go off on anything – I have the fan on the stove, the bathroom, two fans blowing out the window and both windows open and still that thing is going off… I swear its not really smokey… well maybe a little but come on… I’m learning here.

In the morning instead of some really great tasting cereal I’m making 2 eggs, sometimes i put em in a tortilla. I have difficulty with the yolks, I like it to be runny but not raw and I have issues flipping the eggs just right and sometimes I’ve not had them cooked where I like em… and if I break the yoke then I just try to scramble em… eggs are hard and I’m not a fan of hard eggs.

I’ve been cooking steaks for myself too. Between YouTube, Wikipedia and my old roommate Gary it’s been going ok. The first few steaks didn’t turn out quite right and I stuck em in the microwave cause they weren’t done… then they were too done… but I’ve gotten better, they’re very flavorful and not well done (which is how I used to like them 18 years ago or so… ). I’ve had frozen veggies with the steaks, mostly I love Green Giant Buttered Corn… omg so good (don’t look at the calories on the box or the sugar count, just eat it) but sometimes green beans, peas, and mixed veggies (no fuckin’ lima beans in my mixed veggies… those things are nasty).

Tonight I was cooking and it was a rather thick steak – I think that’s part of the problem, thinner steaks might be better to start with to get em how I like – and it wasn’t done quite right. I’m reluctant to do the microwave thing again after the last time. The pan I fry em in is safe in the oven up to 400 degrees so I thought that would be a good move. I placed the pan with the steak still in there in the oven after preheating it… great idea. But my mind saw that handle and decided to grab it… thus the title of this blog “Fire Hot” … ouch, burned my hand a little bit. On the bright side my reflexes are great… dropped that thing like a hot potato … which then splattered grease on my legs, my kitchen and my arm…. yeah… great cooking night tonight.

I think next I’m going to branch out to chicken… my ex-roommate used to make chicken breast all the time and I loved those.  I’m not a fan of sauces, so i’m not likely to branch out there or do anything that has nasty stuff in it (Nasty stuff includes but is not limited to: mushrooms, mayo, asparagus, dressings, soy sauce, cheeses that smell like feet, Chipotle… oh sorry, I was listing nasty things and that just came out).

Maybe I should take a cooking class, just for some basics… I don’t want to try out for Top Chef (love that show, couldn’t eat any of that stuff) but I’d like to have a better understanding of what I’m doing. A class isn’t likely to keep me from grabbing hot handles and at 44 if I’m still doing that it’s too late for me.

Anyway – Note to self: Fire hot

Swings and Belts

I took a rare day off from work to travel with my AA sponsor to Palm Springs – he had agreed to listen to a sales pitch for a timeshare in exchange for a nice weekend at a golf resort. I went to keep him company and had intended to sit by the pool reading books and spreadsheets related to a new treasurer gig I have.

We left Friday morning  – I spent most of the time in the car talking about different aspects of the treasurer gig (he held the position a few years prior) and I wanted to be sure I was on the right track in my questions and thinking. He steered me here and there and made some great suggestions.

We arrived in Palm Springs early afternoon and after a quick lunch checked into the hotel. The place was pretty nice – two bedroom suite with a kitchen, washer/dryer, pots and pans and everything. We looked for an evening meeting and drove around for forever looking for a place to eat (he gets a little irritated when he gets hungry). We hit a meeting and then headed back to the resort for an early bed time.

Saturday early we went for a walk around the golf course – until staff told us that was against the rules… so we headed off to get grips for his golf clubs and let him practice on the driving range. He opted to teach me about golfing and soon I was swinging at the ball on the tee – a few times I even managed to hit it towards what I was aiming at. He was very encouraging and helpful. After that we practiced chipping and something else I can’t remember the name of… kind of reminded me of miniature golf and I could do that a bit better. While I was hesitant at first and thought it’d be pretty boring I found I enjoyed myself. I expressed to my friend Jim that I wasn’t very good – he said “No one is, just go out there have fun and enjoy yourself” smart man that JIm. Saturday afternoon I rode on the cart with Flo as he golfed – it got dark quickly so he only played 14 holes – that was also educational and taught me some more about the rules of golf. Then we had dinner at a casino and gambled the free cash they gave us away.

Sunday morning we went for a walk and did some driving around – then picked up his “wife” for the sales pitch he had to listen to. Flo had neglected to pack his belt so I lent him mine – I didn’t want him to come across as a gangsta with his pants continuously falling down. They went to their little sales presentation at noon and I headed off to see my friend Jean-Pierre who lives in Palm Springs – we had a nice lunch and got to chat about all kinds of things. He looks really good and seemed happy. I headed back to the hotel to pick up the crew – we then went to the movies and had dinner before Flo and I headed back to Phoenix.

I drove half way back to Phoenix, we talked a bit and sang some old songs listening to the XM radio. I arrived home around midnight and tried to fall asleep.

It wasn’t until I was getting dressed on Monday I suddenly didn’t have my belt and remembered I had lent it away… I was being of service, really I was. And I have another.. but I’ve been giving him a hard time about it of course.

I’m glad I took a day off. The drive to Palm Springs wasn’t difficult or extremely long so I’ll likely head back often with or without other friends.

I’m appreciative that I got to spend that time with my sponsor too – keeps me on track. There was a point during the movie (Taken 3 – I don’t recommend it) where a character said “he’s not happy unless he does everything himself” and my sponsor sat up and looked directly at me… ugh, sponsors! :-)

2014 Better Than I Imagined

So much happened this year I’m having difficulty believing it all fit in 365 days.


I started work with a new sponsor, Flo. Did another 4th and 5th Step. Sought his advice and direction in many things I’ve never asked a sponsor before, and its really changed who I am. Tonight at my meeting it was on Step 12 (Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs) and just reflecting on the step work this year and my willingness I think I finally feel some of that “joy” we talk about – I still think it’s a bit overrated, but maybe I’ll get used to it.

I sponsored 4 guys this year – one of them moved back to WI (Matthew); one of them got drunk again (Zack) and then sobered up again; one of them has been sober longer than I (Mark); and one of them just kind of disappeared (Jordan).  Each of them helped me tremendously this year and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to share with them (even if sometimes they don’t listen). The very first sponsee I ever had (David) passed away and I was with my current sponsor when I received the news. Continue reading