Personal Perceptions

A lot of people have self-image issues. Me too. I can look in the mirror on a given day and see reality has set in.  The image of me that I have in my mind is of a 12 year old boy. Skinny, 70s haircut (in the early 80s), bell bottom or high water pants, hand-me-down shirt, tobacco stains on my teeth and fingers. It’s not reality, but it’s the main psychic self image that I project, why? I have no idea. But I rarely think of myself in any other way. The crows feet around my eyes, the gray hair in my facial hair (or even more disturbing the first few times – gray pubic hairs – Oh no!) and on my head, the sagging here or the sagging there… It’s not just the aging thing – it’s comparing ourselves to the outside world or the world of Hollywood. Yeah, that’s a wise move for mental health, comparing yourself to celebrities.

On Wednesday I dressed up for work, normally I wear jeans and a t-shirt. I had a few errands to run and later would be shopping for a suit at Macy’s so wanted a white shirt on to get the full effect of the image. On the way to the office I had to make a couple of stops, both work related, and was complimented on how I looked by a few different people and even had a few give me the once over. I had my friend take this photo the same day.    While suit shopping after I had left the office two guys flirted with me at Macy’s, and Al at Annie’s was almost in a tizzy and said I looked great – my standard response there is “so you’re saying I look like crap every other day?” Al didn’t take the bait, but said you normally just come in looking “usual”. Hmm, I thought….

When I had a chance to upload the photo to the iMac I took a look at it and saw all the things that everyone else missed. I see the belly that makes me look a bit pregnant,  a gap in-between my teeth that makes me look rural, the receding gray hairline, and a wrinkly shirt. I don’t usually smile in photos so hate this one just like all the other ones that I smile in. That’s just how I perceive me – I have a poor self body image, so do a lot of folks.

I went so far as to put this photo on a few online dating sites I frequent and a lot of guys had very nice complimentary things to say about it, a few people who have seen photos I like of myself said they like this photo best – my perception is rarely reality, or maybe these guys have been doing a lot of hallucinatory drugs or losing their vision – I vote for the later.

I have a friend who is the skinniest person I know who thinks she is fat on occasions, works out constantly and guys cruise her all the time, maybe her self image is of the girl she used to be. I have a friend who’s a big sexy black guy that so self conscious about his body that he wont come to Zumba with me as he thinks folks will not want to see him there – he’s not a freak show, he’s a big sexy guy (lose weight or don’t, you’ll still be sexy), but maybe he can’t get past his self-image – I can’t, so who am I to judge. Yet another friend is trying to grow her hair out after chemo took it all last year, it’s a slow process and the hair is having a mind of it’s own, this frustrates her a lot, but her hair is such a small part of the whole package of her and those of us that know her think she looks great all the time – however I still give her a hard time about the hair, cause I love the reaction.

We are who we are, whether we can see it in the mirror or our minds eye or not. Should we be healthy, I guess… but even then that may not change how we view ourselves. So I might be getting a belly, might have a gap in my teeth, I certainly have gray hair all over the place. I am who I am, I can change some things about that sure, but I’m probably always going to look inside of myself and see the skinny kid with the welfare glasses and paisley shirt.

Oral Follow Up

There I am, sitting in the dentists chair waiting for the periodontist. I can hear the dentist next door talking to a patient about getting a bridge after he has two extractions. The dentist then goes on to tell about an incident where he himself was in a motorcycle accident and have to have his lower set of teeth replaced with implants and how painful it was to have the procedure done…. Honestly, the whole room can hear you talk about that crap while we’re sitting here anxiously awaiting our own torture – LIE or something. It really wasn’t at all helpful for keeping me calm.

I think I sat in that chair for twenty minutes (really – they were late starting on me) listening to the dentist tell tales of horror and the drill and other noises in the background and the sweat was collecting on my forehead and back when the periodontist finally showed up. They got me seated again – I can’t stand sitting too long when my back is drenched in sweat you know – and started some oxygen and then the nitrous oxide. I felt him place the needles in my mouth for novocaine at least I think it was novocaine and that was all I felt for the whole procedure – not a thing more.

Before I knew it I was signing out and getting in the car to go home. I went to get the prescriptions 1 bottle of antibiotic, one bottle of special mouthwash (as I wont be able to brush on the right side for a few days) and one bottle of Vicodin (containing 4 pills). At home I handed the bottle of Vicodin to Gary for safe keeping – I had given him instructions on how to handle me and drugs earlier.

Around 8 or so I had a bowl of cereal and that hurt a little bit so I took two Aleve. The Periodontist said I’d likely need at least one Vicodin to get to sleep the first night so I took one and hit the hay… I didn’t sleep well, I wasn’t in pain I don’t know why I didn’t sleep I just mostly tossed and turned.

The next day I had a minor ache in my jaw most of the day and took two Tylenol, ate cautiously and napped vigorously. That was it – nothing to it.

Before the procedure I had several people tell me how painful it was and that they were thinking of me and really felt for me. I appreciate the concern and care – even if all it did was make me more paranoid and anxious! 🙂 I don’t know why this wasn’t that painful – all throughout the procedure I kept finding myself tensed up and I would force myself to take a deep breath and relax back into the chair, over and over and over again I did that – not due to any pain, just the imagining of pain or worse… maybe all that relaxing and conscious effort to not tense up helped. No way of knowing I guess.

So I’ve got a week and a half more to go before I should be all better and I don’t expect to use the other three Vicodin pills so they’ll get dumped in the toilet so the alligators can have a treat. Even though this was relatively simple I really hope I never have to do it again!

Periodontist – a.k.a. Dr. Evil

This afternoon I’m having minor surgery on my mouth. Apparently years of not taking care of your teeth can lead to fun later on in life – or maybe this is just a result of growing old… although I don’t recall any old people in recent memory talking about a periodontist cutting into their gums and filling in a space that has formed between the root and the bone. Bone loss, I was told – sounds wonderful. I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen, the Periodontist started to tell me and then I started to get nauseous (see this post to see how I am) so I asked him to stop and just give me the basics:

  • How long will it take?
  • Will it hurt?
  • How long is the recovery process?
  • Will I be able to walk home?

I really did ask all those questions and the only answer I remember is Yes, I’ll be able to walk home. I know they’ll give me an anesthetic and maybe some laughing gas.  I know once I’m in the chair I plan to close my eyes and try not to be present.

Gary has agreed to pick me up and manage the pain medication – that’s really the scariest part – Vicodin. I don’t think I’ve ever had any medication that was stronger than Tylenol or Advil – never had a need. Perhaps as we get older and have to maintain our failing bodies we need medication that we wouldn’t otherwise. But I’ve heard story after story of members of AA that relapsed and it started with a pain medication that they were given after a surgery, yeah, I don’t need that to happen.

Yesterday at the end of my meeting they asked if anyone had any burning desires, something that you needed to share because otherwise you feared you might get drunk. I didn’t think that I might get drunk, but I did think I’d heard many people talk about upcoming surgeries or events that they were worried about. But I thought to myself that I’m certainly not that person… I remember a time or two when someone’s burning desire was that they were having a birthday party that weekend or they wanted to whine about the subject they’d been whining about for over a year – yeah, no I don’t have a burning desire so I didn’t share about it. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a meeting where someone had a burning desire that was about wanting to drink… interesting.

Thankfully I have tomorrow off in case I need it and the boss will be in New York dealing with the never ending project. Suzanne says I’ll be fine, Gary promises to manage the medication, Jason says I have a healthy fear of relapse/drinking… Well, none of this really makes me feel better but it’s good to know that I have people thinking about me today I guess.

So anyway, this afternoon I’ll be a mess – then I’ll have surgery and be a disaster.

Crossroads

There wasn’t a lot of church activity when I was growing up – occasionally Mom or one of her husbands would get the idea that they could sleep off their hangovers if we were in Sunday school – but we weren’t regulars at any church. I remember kids in school that were having Confirmation but not having a clue what that meant – some archaic practice by Christians I guess.This was the God that kept my family in poverty, the depths of alcoholism and domestic abuse and did nothing to save us. (views I had as a child)

As I grew older the God of the masses – picture the bearded old man, scowling down from heaven, condemning mortals to hell – and those who worshiped him weren’t appealing in the least. This was also the God that hated homosexuals and had condemn all gays to die of AIDS and I was beginning to believe i was one of those homos. (views I had as a teenager)

So when I was a teen, I opted out – I chose to believe in the the ancient Gods of Greece instead of the Christian God of those around me. I believed that if someone believes in something then that entity becomes real and gains power from that belief – this idea was likely instilled in me by various comic book storylines of the time – Teen Titan’s Brother Blood in particular. So as long as I believed in these old Gods they would have power. Sounds nice no? I firmly believed that my belief in these old Gods was stronger than the belief of 100 Christians.

During the time of my exploration of belief and worship of these old Gods I also did some research into Satanism. I wasn’t really interested in being a satanist, but I figured you should know who your enemies are and I should at least see what all the fuss is about – after all, if the Christians were opposed to Satanism there must be something worth while in it. I bought a copy of the Satanic Bible, by Anton Szandor LaVey the fact that this thing was even available at the book store still surprises me. I read and studied this book and overall didn’t think much of it – I didn’t feel any power or evil aura about the thing – it is just like a Bible Christians use – fiction. I was 15 at the time, I suppose if I looked at it now I might feel different about it or if I studied it with someone who claimed to be a practicing Satanist it might have more significance – but the Satanic Bible, like the Christian Bible, is open to interpretation. If you want to see evil in it, you’ll see evil in it, if you want to see good in it, you’ll see good in it. I wanted to see a path to power and magic, but I didn’t see that in it at all. A few years later I bought a few extra copies of the book and distributed them in school to folks that were curious – still rather amazed that that didn’t get me into trouble.

None of these belief systems was really practiced religiously – for lack of a better word – by me. I’m sure there are aspects of believing in the ancient gods of Greece that didn’t even occur to me. I just know I wanted a better option than what was available to me in Midwest WI, and having many gods each responsible for different parts of the universe seemed very appealing – being different than the masses, the sheep, even more so.

When alcoholism caught up with me at the age of 22 I was without hope – here I was a believer in Dionysus, the god of wine, how could I worship him and be sober – that was a dilemma for me, sounds silly I know, but it really was an argument that went through my mind frequently during my first attempt at sobriety.

At an AA meeting the other day I shared that when I first came to AA (actually, this was my second attempt at sobriety) I was convinced that I had to believe in the Christian idea of God – no matter “god of my understanding”. And that “god” I hated. Here I was, hopeless, and having to believe in a God I wanted nothing to do with – but I really did want to get better and find a solution to my problem. That solution, AA assures me, is a power greater than myself.

Eventually, through working the Steps of AA, taking actions I didn’t believe in, and praying to a God I hated – I grew to no  longer hate the idea of Him. The problem was I was convince that even though I no longer hated him, I knew he hated me – he hates all the homos and queers you know. So I struggled for a while, believing in this entity that I was certain didn’t want me to be on the planet, or in the universe. This led me to wonder why I was cursed with these thoughts of same-sex attraction by this God, why tempt me with these thoughts if you were just condemning me to hell for acting on them? Obviously, he hated me.

What you, well at least what I, come to find out in AA is that God is Love, God is Action, God is. So eventually the fear and hate left me and left my idea of God and I was content.

More will be revealed.

As the years have come and gone, my ideas of a power greater than myself have evolved. This is a result of AA, praying, actions, and love. But also a result of those things is the current state of belief for me – I don’t think at present I believe in a God.

Our book says “Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer.” Alcoholics Anonymous Chapter 6 Into Action. I can do that, I can see where the practice of prayer and meditation can benefit me – even if that prayer is sent up to nothingness it’s the act of saying the words aloud that change me. I’ve looked into the organization that gets people sober without God, but it’s a completely different program that doesn’t incorporate the Steps and I don’t know how deep I want to delve. I know the 12 Steps work, I know it based on myself and countless others I’ve seen changed completely by the Actions we’ve taken.

But, I can’t believe in a talking snake. I can’t stand by and watch the religious condemn others, I can’t pretend to be ok with the hate I see spewing out of these building/organizations that should be about Love. I can’t believe in a God that says “I have to wear a silly hat” or “women are less than” or “thou shalt not eat pork” or “once a year you have to walk around with ashes on your forehead” – WTH is that about. If I want snakes to talk – I’ll drop some acid. What do hats have to do with God? Why do I have to remove my hat when entering a Church, unless it’s one of the silly hats prescribed by the tenets? Does your God only favor certain hats – shouldn’t we stop making any hat that’s not acceptable then?

The point of this particular rant today – at the moment, I choose not to believe in a power greater than myself. For my sobriety, I’ll still pray to nothingness, I’ll still take the actions I know to be the right actions, but I’ve not going to spend time and energy believing in myths and stories from ancient times that people are still trying to make relevant today.

If you want to believe in an ancient spiritual being with guidelines from those times – hey, go ahead knock yourself out. But think about what your doing when you believe. Think about the organization that you are supporting. Are you full of love? Are they? Or are they a political machine or worse a child prostitution ring that continues to get away with raping innocent children with the help of your donations. Is that the type of organization that is worthy of spreading a message of love? I digress – the point is, think about your blind faith.