Solitude, My Fortress

I don’t like people.

Crowds of people. New people. Old people and Young people. Couples, families (not just mine), adults or children alike. Just in general – people I don’t like them.

They make me feel uncomfortable, ill at ease. My skin itches and I want to make them stop looking at me, even if they may not be looking at me.

I feel like I’m obligated to interact with them, to want to be interested in their needs and desires. It’s rude to just kind of walk away from them as they’re talking or just kind of pose random questions that have nothing to do with them.

There is an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation whee data is kissing his girlfriend and she asks him what he was thinking about during that kiss.

If you don’t want to watch it – he talks about configuring a warp core, indexing the various works of Charles Dickens, how much pressure to apply to her lips without hurting her and more… I can relate to that. My mind is doing all these other things when I’m supposed to be focused on an individual or task. I don’t want to stop my brain from doing the other things it’s doing so I can focus on someone else… it’s selfish I guess.

During the brief time I was engaged I struggled pretty regularly with how much attention he expected. While I was just comforted by him being there near me and for us to communicate and have sexual relations – he wanted me to be interested in his interests and do what he was doing, regardless if I liked doing that or not. It wasn’t ideal for me.

With my two best friends, Suzanne and Eric, I find I don’t really worry about that. I just am and they are just there with me. Sometimes they talk and I participate but I don’t mind them and it doesn’t seem to interfere with what I am doing. When they met I wasn’t even aware they were meeting at the time – I was sitting by the pool with my headphones on and eyes closed. Suzanne had come to find me and sat next to me without disturbing me and then Eric came to find me and they introduced themselves without me even really having to be there. It was comforting. I honestly put my headphones back in without a care that they would be offended or want me to be part of that conversation. I love them – they are just right.

On the cruise ship we had dinner with a bunch of folks one night and were joined by a woman, who I heard was a little sloshed, and she was telling me that I was going to make so many new friends and best friends on the ship. I told her two is enough, more than enough – they call a couple times a year or I do and send emails. It’s a lot to deal with really – why would I want more of that? I don’t know. I told her as such and I was half joking but she was insistent that having more friends was such a great thing – I don’t get that.

During the muster – when we learned how to evacuate the ship in case of an emergency – we were packed pretty tight in there with the other passengers and it was taking forever. I don’t like that at all – don’t want those people to be near me breathing my air and keeping me from an exit. Always look for exits, that’s a good strategy.

Not liking people causes me some issues when I want to meet a guy.

I don’t like bars, too many people – I don’t drink and drunks can be rather annoying. I don’t like pride – way too many people. Or parties – small talk omg please no.

The trick at parties is to ask them questions and then hope they start rambling on and you can just void out of the conversation – once in a while nodding or saying “uh huh” or “hmmm” and you’ll be just fine. If you’re very lucky they catch on and will leave you alone. But that doesn’t really get you a guy.

So I talk to folks on dating apps – Growlr and the like. Many of them would like to meet me and I’ve considered meeting some of them – once in a rare while I will meet one of them out and about.

I went bowling with a nice guy – but started to feel very uncomfortable during the event and shortly after wanted him to just hurry up and bowl so I could go. Nothing to do with him, just wanted to crawl out of my skin and hide somewhere safe.

Mostly on the app I don’t want to meet them, I would rather stay home and not deal with another human being. So I take long breaks off the app and/or men 🙂 Probably not very good for the psyche.

A friend will invite me over, say to meet her new puppy, and I’ll agree to go, but getting to that point when it’s actually time is the difficult part. I start dreading going days before the agreed upon time and wonder if there is anything I can do to get out of it. I don’t like lying so it’s hard to find legitimate reasons to not do things others want me to do.

While in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) I learned skills to deal with people alone and in small and large groups. Shake their hand, ask how they are, try to listen. In groups stay busy – have a job you can focus on and think about – has it been done properly, was there something else that needed doing with that? It gave me a reason/excuse to get away from people too – I either had to shake someone else’s hand or a task needed doing so I could excuse myself – supposedly without hurting their feelings.

Sponsee’s were another matter entirely – It’s your job as a sponsor to listen to them and listen intently so you can help them find a solution. Ugh. That’s like the worst thing in the world to do to me. I never thought I was a good sponsor – I just wanted them to get better so they could go do things and talk to me less… yes, that’s my goal in AA, talk to me less.

Work is similar to AA. I have certain tasks to do, I can stay very busy and focus on those things without too much interaction with people. But they usually think I’m a good trainer or something and then I have people to teach and manage. Those people ask me questions – sometimes annoying questions they should know the answer to already and I just want to scream out loud and send them all scurrying away.

They don’t fear me, they know I’m usually patient and have an answer they’re looking for. Today one of them came up asked me a question, answered his own question and then asked if that was ok… honestly that was annoying, I likely could have done so many other things during that time.

Employees are akin to sponsee’s I just want them to get better so they can go do things and talk to me less. If they talk to me less I can work more and that keeps me from realizing all the people that keep interacting with me each day.

Work though gives me things to do to keep me focused. I feel comfortable there as it’s an every day thing and I know what to expect (usually).

Truthfully, I feel comfortable and safe in my bedroom. If I have to venture out I try to arrange it so I encounter as few people as possible and can return home experiencing minimal interactions.

Tonight though I drove to the middle of the city to attend the semi-final game for the high school girls basketball team I like – Mesquite Wildcats! I sat comfortably in the stand, surrounded by a couple friends and a bunch of folks I don’t know and was fine. I was focused on the team and how they play.

There I’m comfortable too. But still happy to be home in my room this evening.

Originally published on Niume – same day.

The Journey Out of AA – so far

It’s been a little over five months since I published my story “Walking Away from AA” where I talked about my decision to leave Alcoholics Anonymous after almost 22 years. I stated then that I didn’t have a desire to drink, but I had a desire to be more honest and truthful with all aspects of my life.

Being sober – living a life without drugs or alcohol – is for me. It’s a cheaper life, more enjoyable and less messy… things I need and want. Belief in a “higher power” or “faking it until I make it” aren’t for me, I can’t live that lie anymore. I gave it a fair shot – lying for AA, lol.

So what’s changed really?  Continue reading

Andre

I use writing as a tool to get things out of my head – ideas, conjecture, stories and memories. I can’t seem to move on from one of these things rattling around in my brain until I set it down on paper. Sometimes it’s just drivel, sometimes it’s quite beautiful – at least to me. I’ve been having a rough couple of days and I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to get this out there. But lack of sleep and the flashing of the incident keep bothering me. I’m hoping this will help me to get better, to recover and move on. This is selfish, I understand, but I need to be me again and I’m impatient.

My co-worker and friend Andre was a French Canadian. You could hear the accent especially when you would talk to him for a while. It was just precious the way he would say “pardon” or even “yes”. He would call our mutual friend Guy “Gi” and myself he would call “Jamie”.  Continue reading

Moved

I am almost all moved in – all the essentials are here: iMac, Superman stuff, clothes, soaps, AppleTV, coffee, insurance magazines, some dishes, too many shoes and me of course.

It’s a nice little two bedroom condo – Anne has the bigger room with the attached bathroom. I remembered in the middle of the night to slip on my boxers to go to the restroom that I get to use.

We have a balcony, breakfast bar and our own laundry stuff… all very very nice.. and track lighting which I understand is an indicator that someone is gay (some old movie I think).

I am about 4 miles from the office, the other apartment was under 3. Right next to Papago Park which I enjoy walking.

Now I get to start unpacking and arranging things which is fun. I haven’t had a dresser so I’ll need to think about one of those or hang all my clothes in the closet. My bathroom is very spacious for all my colognes, moisturizers and such… which is good.

Anne already invited a guest to stay with us, her best friend has been here since Friday before a trip to Oz – she seems nice.

I always like to think my favorite color is blue, but the majority of the stuff I own is red or black so maybe it’s red… who knew?

I have until the 17th to be out of the other place and I’ll get the rest of the stuff out one piece at a time, maybe when it’s cooler and I have some energy back.

 

Unity.. no thanks, I have plans

I don’t like people. (I frequently say “hate” which might be a strong word)

I’ve said that a million times before and it’s still true. One of my bosses says that too – I tell him he doesn’t because he’s so nice to everyone, but he insists that he does. Probably why I like him so much. I guess you could say I’m something of an introvert – I would rather spend time alone than in a group setting. My “fun” time is at home with a good book, writing or watching some TV. I find it very difficult to have “fun” in a group of people… can’t do it.  Continue reading

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

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! 🙂

Time

I had dinner tonight with an old friend – we both talk about the rapid growth of gray hairs in places we still have hair (that’s old) – and his daughter who might be coming out this way to go to college. He now lives in Maryland, but he’s a friend from WI high school, when I moved to DC it was nice to have him there and even though I didn’t get to see him all that often, when I did I always enjoyed it. Tonight we had some small talk, a good meal, and some laughter; it was just nice.

It does make me reflect on how quickly the time goes now. Back in high school it seemed we had eternity to do all the things we wanted to do, but looking back now (some 26 years later) it seems like it just flew by and we missed it all. We didn’t of course. He spent 20 of those years in the military and I wasted six of those years in drugs and alcohol before starting a new life sober. He created families and I created new friends, he continues to cheer for the Green Bay Packers and I knew better…

But tonight sitting there with him, pausing before I say his name (I want to call him his high school nickname, but it doesn’t fit so much anymore) each time, I see my old friend with his black hat and blue car in Galesville just living and doing and being. It’s nice to have friends like that, I’m fortunate that I have him, and others, that I think of in that way.

Last night I had dinner with another friend – from Washington, DC. I know him from the rooms of recovery. He’s a great guy and comes out here at least once a year to visit other friends. I can expect to see him pretty regularly I think. It was nice to sit with him and talk about old times and current times and fear (I asked him about steps 6 and 7).

I spent 15 years in DC but that time seems to just crawl at times – not necessarily in a bad way.. but like I was there for a year or so and driving by the Pentagon I was struck by where I lived, and the significance of that place… I had driven by several times before and even been in for an interview, but that one day just stuck out and grabbed me.

But I can look back at helping Gary to set up the dial-up internet at the house and how exciting it was, and the next day there was DSL (that didn’t work most of the time) and then cable the day after… and all that happened in a blink of an eye and the longest of years (trying to connect with dial-up or diagnose a DSL issue took decades).

It’s hard to believe that I was there that long but at other times it seems I just got there and felt so scared and alone in the big city and before I knew it I was gone, off on a new adventure on the other side of the country.

I want a time machine to go back and advise myself to

enjoy

taste

savor

risk

live

love

hope

dare

forgive

forget

cry

and maybe not to get one of my tattoos… maybe.

I think as time goes by I become more of an old softie… all I really wanted to be was a curmudgeon.

Time and friendships… never enough of both and especially together.

Surprising Beginnings

My sponsor gave me directions when I hired him:

  1. 1. Shake everyones hand before and after each meeting
  2. 2. Go to the Northside Group every week – no matter what

So that’s how I found myself at the Northside meeting on a Sunday night, following sponsor direction I was there and he had assured me he’d give me a ride home. But at the end of the meeting he had forgotten (actually he had relapsed and we just didn’t know it yet) and asked someone else to give me a ride.

That person was Suzanne W. Who I knew as one of the pretty girls at the meeting, but I don’t really care about girls so whatever. She agreed to give me a ride back to the treatment center.

As we approached the cars in the parking lot she walked towards a white Z and we climbed in (she loved that car). Very sporty and I think with a t top.

All the way to the treatment center she talked and I swear she wasn’t watching the road, she was looking at me and talking and talking and talking… and in a New York accent I could barely understand at all. The whole trip I was watching the speedometer and I swear we were doing 300…. ok, maybe I was nervous…. we were going super fast and she just knew how to look at me and the road and talk (and maybe smoke – we were both smokers back then) all at the same time….

scariest ride of my life!

That was almost 20 years ago… in June of 1994 I think. That crazy girl from New York became my best friend and while she still does that thing of looking at me and the road and going hundreds of miles over the speed limit (I exaggerate) she’s such a different person now…

you should all be so lucky to have such a friend and you never know where these types of things are going to come from.

love you Zanaramadingdong

Review, Renew, and then Redo

Last year was full of change.

Yeah, it was an interesting year. I look back and think that I am really glad that I moved to Phoenix. Do I miss my friends and my cat in DC? Yes, but I like my new friends here and Gary send me pictures of my cat, I know she’s ok.

I had my first summer here and the temperatures got pretty hot as far as I was concerned it was 118 on June 29th and that was pretty uncomfortable, but I really didn’t mind it until it surpassed 115. The coldest day that we had that I was here was of course my birthday, December 6th, and it was 37 degrees… I was miserable anyway so didn’t notice to much. I didn’t like the few days that were humid at all, the dry heat is really what makes this place so nice for me.

Besides the weather here, which I really love, what I like most about Phoenix is the A.A. There are so many more options here than there were in DC and they are a lot less politically correct than DC. Are they big book thumping, tradition defending meetings? well not yet, but they are a refreshing change to what I found in DC.

As I reflect on what happened in the last year and start to look forward to the New Year, I find that I want many of the same things that I had happen to me in 2013. I’m hopeful that this is going to be a better year and full of change!

Happy New Year to you!