Vacation

I need a vacation.

Many people will chime in here and say “You’re going to Washington DC Saturday for five days” or “you just spent the weekend in Casa Grande at a retreat”

Those people have a very different interpretation of vacation than I do.

In a recent post I talked about when my Ma found my diary and how sometimes I have to be careful what I write so I don’t offend people… but today, I don’t care.

I”m about to travel the span of the country and spend the weekend with my best friend catching up, shopping, whining and being best friends (she’s not one of the sensitive types that I’m referring to) and then going to Washington DC to help my ex roommate and see my ex boss and his wife and some AA folks (who I love like family) for the rest of the trip… but that is NOT a vacation. Nor is flying to a winter climate to celebrate a holiday you don’t care about. participating in a retreat when you’re the registration chair and the people around you can best be described as self-centered, self-seeking kindergartener … Yes, I’m one of them.

A vacation is about relaxation, about not worrying about how to act or behave or treat people based on their sensitive. A vacation renews and refreshes a person so they can keep doing the mundane tasks they do most days. For me a vacation is about lying by a pool for days, with a book and my own musics… and naked men are helpful too. Swimming and sunning and sleeping… I need a vacation.

in 2005 I decided not to travel to WI for a whole year – I’d been going 2 – 3 times a year to see family/friends and not many reciprocated. So Ma, Pa and Rhonda came to visit me. That was a nice change. Many folks have already been out here to visit me in Phoenix, that’s nice too.

I once had a job that let me take off whenever I wanted, we didn’t accumulate days or run out – if you need off you take off. I managed to take a laptop with me most times and do anything that came up that needed to be done… but I got to relax. Thanks Jim.

But in most jobs when you have to accumulate vacation days … those days when you feel obligated to spend with family or friends is more aggravating. There was a recent day when the only thing that kept me from walking out the door at work was the realization that at a new job I’d have to start vacation days from scratch again… and I just can’t have that happen. Days for Xmas, days for working, days for funerals and weddings… how dare people die or fall in love, don’t they know I need to relax?

I’m just out of energy, out of caring, out of give a shits.

I whined about this today to my sponsor and he laughed at me… no really, he did. He’s driving me to the airport early Saturday morning – he volunteered… he’s crazy. Truth is he’s a better person than me (that’s true of most people). Some day maybe i’ll look back on this post and laugh at myself – I hope when I do I’ll be lying naked at a pool next to some handsome men.

Pandora’s Box

The story goes the ancient gods gave Pandora a box to protect and never open. But curiosity got the better of her and she opened the box which kept safe all the evils of the world. Pandora panicked and closed the box, leaving inside one thing – hope.

I always thought that story was a little odd – is hope an evil that didn’t get to escape? and if it’s not an evil but didn’t get to escape how is there still hope? that Zeus was a crafty bugger.

I was recently presented … well, more accurately, I presented myself with a Pandora’s box. I crafted it myself and filled it with expectation, hope, anticipation, pride, justifications and right. It was a beautiful box and I loved to polish it and make it shine – the beauty of it called to me and beckoned me to open it. I fought the temptation for a good long while, I thought better of my desires to see what was in the box – I set it aside and thought it would keep… but it kept glinting in the sunlight of the spirit, happiness would make the box more tempting.

I took steps to open it, I jimmied the lock open and let it sit – it was almost like I could hear it calling to me each day “just open the lid, come see the wonders we have to offer you”

I had a moment of clarity – slam it shut, change your mind, you don’t want to know what’s in there… but the moment was fleeting.

I threw open the box and found what appeared to be treasures and gifts – but what turned out to be hurt pride, doubts, and anger. Now those gifts are festering spoiled fruits that have lost their taste.

I’m not sure hope is still in there and I think the spoiled fruit may have caused me to lose my appetite for what I found so promising.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever learn to be happy with what I have and just live the life that I have… ugh.

Writing

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.