Thursday, June 30, 2011

Earworms and Closed Doors

For the past two or three days, I've had the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes' cover of "Goodbye Earl" running in a continuous loop in my head.  I don't really mind, I like the song a lot (I even like the original).  So things could be a lot worse.

So it's been just over 30 days without a drink for me.  I've been to a couple more meetings, which were significantly better than the last one I wrote about, a lot more like the first one I went to.  Actually, the one I went to on Tuesday was an "Open Discussion."  The other meetings had more of a lecture format, where people would stand at a podium and tell their story.  This one had us all sitting around a table facing each other.  No one got up to speak, and everyone was given a chance to discuss the nights topic once the meeting chairman said their piece.

I chose not to share my story on this night, as it was my first time at this particular meeting, and I just wanted to observe and get a feel for the dynamic of the group.  It was interesting.  You definitely learn that pretty much everyone has their own version of the same story.  There are variations, but there was a lot of "Like s/he said..."  That's not a criticism, as it was more informal than the other meetings I've been to.  But it was definitely eye-opening.  Except for one thing.

A lot of the folks there talked about how they can't even be around alcohol, or people who drink.  They get agitated and nervous.  Thus far (and I know it's only been a month) I haven't had that experience.  I mean, I'm in a band that plays in bars and pubs almost every weekend, and I haven't had to go outside for some air because I just couldn't take not drinking any of that beer.  It's like, after Memorial Day weekend, something in my mind simply said "Okay, you're done now."  That part of my brain that really really wants to have a pint or twelve has been sealed off and locked, at least for the time being.

This is both something of a relief, and a little nerve-wracking too.  I'm glad I can still maintain friendships and not disrupt my life TOO much.  But I'm also wondering if, at some point, I'll start having those feelings of dread and fear about being around people I love, just because they drink and I don't.  I don't want to have to stop going to the same places as my friends.  I don't want people to feel like they have to change their routines (or worse, stop being around me altogether) because I'm getting nervous about being near booze.

I've watched trays full of pints pass by me to my band mates, and yes, there is some regret that none of them are for me.  But the knowledge of what will surely happen if I give in even once seems to be enough for me to shrug it off.  I really hope this keeps up, and isn't some kind of temporary phase.

Speaking of band mates, just a reminder that the Gobshites are playing in Providence tonight at Whiskey Republic with our pals Brother Moon.  There's a $5.00 cover, and the doors open at 8.  Hope to see you there.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Insert Clever Blog Title Here

I seem to be accumulating musical instruments lately.  In addition to my tin whistles and bodhran, I've had custodianship of the band-owned drum kit for several months now.  It's a Tama kit, which is cool because I always wanted a set of Tama drums when I was kid, mostly because that was what Neil Peart played.  Then he switched to Ludwig's, and eventually to DW, but the Tamas were always the childhood dream kit, and I finally get a chance to play them after all these years.  I even did some recording yesterday, my first time ever being recorded playing drums.  I think I acquitted myself fairly well.

Also, I bought a set of harmonicas last week.  There's a harmonica intro that we do on the song "Dirty Old Town", that used to be done by our accordion player.  Since he's no longer a regular member of the band, it's fallen on me to learn that part.  I don't mind.  It's a new challenge I look forward to.  The set I bought was an economy line from Hohner, all seven keys and a carrying case for 20 bucks.  Not a bad deal.  Charlie Musselwhite has nothing to worry about yet, though.  I'm only concentrating on getting one song down at this point.

Lately, I've been itching to learn guitar and/or mandolin and/or banjo.  The website has a house line of stringed instruments called Rogue, and from what I've been told, they're pretty good quality beginner axes at a good price.  They have all kinds of package deals that I've had my eye on, but finances being what they are, even the good prices are little out of my reach right now.  Hopefully, if my girlfriend's web cam does its' magic, that will change soon. 

(Um, that's a possible new job reference, not an Internet porn reference, by the way.)

So what's the driving force behind my musical renaissance?  I have no idea.  I think I'm just making up for lost time.  I've always wanted to learn guitar so I could do more things and actually understand what the rest of the band was talking about at practices.  I even borrowed one of my friend Dave's old electrics several years ago, which has seldom left its' case except to show it to people once in a great while.  I don't even know how to tune it.

So all of this soul searching and self-discovery and transformation seems to have lit a fire in me, creatively.  I've written more entries, by far, in the last few months than I have in years, and I've even written some lyrics.  My whistle playing and drumming (kit AND bodhran) have drastically improved, I started singing in another band, and I'm looking towards taking on some new musical challenges.  I've even been eyeing sketch pads in the store lately.  Maybe one of these days, I'll design my own tattoo.  Maybe even further down the road, I'll learn how to tattoo someone else...

In other news, the Gobshites are playing in Providence this Thursday at Whiskey Republic, Ken Casey's bar that opened on St. Patrick's Day week last March.  Really looking forward to this gig, as we haven't played in Providence in a while.  Also, I got my one month chip last night.  Everyone's been so supportive and great.  I really do appreciate all the good wishes and positive feedback, and I plan on thanking each of you personally.

Get busy livin'...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Meeting Others, Meeting Myself

So I've been to two meetings now.  One was a very positive experience, one was just so-so.  The first one I've already talked about, the second one was last week.  I was having a particularly stressful day, and the thought crossed my mind that "I could really use a Guinness or twelve."  That's when I went online in search of a meeting, and I found one just over the border in North Providence.  I got there just as it was starting, nodded to a few folks and sat down as the facilitator was finishing the group's announcements.  One thing he said that kind of set a wierd tone in my mind was that the group was not accepting any new members.  Not quite the friendly, welcoming experience I'd had the week before.

But I decided to stick around anyway and see what was what.  There were four speakers, and none of them seemed to have any kind of plan or structure to what they were going to say.  There was a lot of "Where was I?" and skipping back and forth and repeating stories they'd just told.  I'm not saying this to ridicule anyone, we can't all be great orators, but it didn't seem like the meeting was very well organized.  And the group came off as more or less insular and exclusive.  Hardly surprising, considering that they weren't accepting newcomers.  One or two of the folks there were friendly enough, but only to a point.

I've learned from friends and relatives in the program that some meetings are better than others.  There are a few more in my immediate area that I still want to check out.  The problem now is timing.  My work schedule varies, and most of the meetings near me start at either 7:00 or 7:30, which makes going to them difficult if I'm on a late shift that week.  I haven't been back to the first meeting I went to, but I definitely plan on it.  I liked the atmopsphere and the people there.

I said that I wasn't too crazy about the "Let go and let God" aspect of the program, but through reading some of their material, and talking to folks, I've gotten a little clarification on that.  It's not a religious group, and it doesn't promote or endorse any particular religion (which is kind of interesting considering most meetings are held in churches).  But the idea of God in this context is what they call "God, as we understand Him."  This leaves a bit of wiggle room for those of us who, while not particularly religious, feel that maybe there is something more than this mortal coil, a "higher power," whatever that means to you.

The other thing that impressed me is that, unlike the stereotypical teatotaller, there's no taking of any pledges.  You're never asked to swear off of alcohol forever, because everyone knows that you can't reasonably make a promise like that.  All you can do is concentrate on not drinking today.  That's where the "One day at a time" slogan comes in.  I'll never vow that I wont ever drink again in my lifetime, because who knows what will happen over the course of my life?  I'd like to think that's the case, but I'm only flesh and bone and meat.  All I can reasonably promise is that I wont drink today.  If I feel the urge to drink, I put it off until tomorrow.

And when I wake up tomorrow, I'll take a minute or two to decide not to have a drink then, either.  I'll put it off until Sunday.  One thing I wont put off is going to more meetings and learning more about myself and my addiction, and making every effort to make the most out of each sober breath I take.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What He Said

A lot of attention has been focused on the death of a guy on TV.  While I'm sorry he and his friend were killed, I'm glad he didn't take anyone else out in the process.  I have other things I want to talk about, but I thought this post over at Action Recon deserved a wider audience.

Roger Ebert may have pulled the trigger a little too early, but he was right.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What to do, what to do...

I was listening, recently, to a conversation between two teachers, when they started talking about something called Executive Function Disorder.  I'd never heard the term before, but everything they were describing almost compelled me to chime in with "You know, I'm standing right here."  Everything they were saying sounded exactly like what I've felt like all my life.  For those of you who didn't click the link above, Executive Function Disorder is usually, but not always, linked closely with ADHD.  Its' most common symptoms include things like the inability to organize, plan, adjust, start or complete a task.  Usually it's accompanied by a feeling of being overwhelmed, even with things that seem simple for others.

Think of it this way:  Your child has a messy room almost all the time.  You keep telling him to clean his room and get it organized, and yet it remains in a constant state of disarray.  If your child has EFD, simply telling him to clean his room is like telling him to build and fly a space shuttle.  He can't process "Go clean your room" because he doesn't know what that means.  He has no idea where to start, what to pick up and put away first.  Same goes for phrases like "Go do your homework."  If he has homework from five different classes, he wont be able to process that, because he can't figure out what subject to start with.

This is almost exactly how I've gone through my life up until now.  When I was still in my dark fog recently, I would think about all the things I needed to do: Practice the tin whistle, start writing again, get back into a healthy exercise routine, start actively looking for ways to supplement my income, and of course, start going back to therapy to help me with my mental health issues.  And I froze up, never really starting any of these things with any sense of urgency or even enthusiasm.  Bear in mind, I love playing the whistle, writing, even working out is enjoyable to me.  At least the end results are.  So why couldn't I get it together and get into all of this?  These were all things I enjoyed, and if I do say so, I'm rather good at, and they were important for my physical, mental, and emotional well being.

Here's why:  I couldn't figure out where to start. All of these things, while enjoyable, were time consuming and involved me changing what had become my routine, and I just couldn't figure out what to do first.  Unfortunately, it took some pretty upsetting events to shock my system into taking action on all of them, and even one or two of them continue to have stuttering starts and stops.  But these days, I am ever mindful of my tendency to retreat when things get overwhelming, and I'm determined, at those times, to double down and force my way through that ennui to the other side.  It's helped me re-lose the weight I had gained since my surgery, go back to therapy (actually THREE therapists, because I'm determined not to do anything halfway again), focus more on what makes me satisfied and happy, and most importantly, curbed my self-destructive tendencies (READ: Drinking) before they passed the point of no return.

I'm not saying I'm cured.  I don't think that ever really happens with mental health issues, unfortunately.  When part of your brain is broken, it tends to stay broken.  All I can do is keep going to therapy, keep my goals and desires in mind, and remember my motivation to follow through and actually DO, instead of WANT to do.

Go dtí an chéad uair eile...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Best. Spoiler. Alert. EVAR.

Hey Ho,

Not much to say right now, although I did go to my second meeting last night.  This one I wasn't as crazy about, although it wasn't necessarily bad.  But for various reasons yesterday I just needed a meeting, ANY meeting, to help me through the day.  Trust me, it was required.

Anyways, I found this through the twisted folks at, and just had to share it.  Some of you wont get all the references, but for those who do, I think you'll agree this is a great piece of satire, well written and well played.

Game Seven tonight.  I'm wearing my Winter Classic jersey all day today.  Go Bruins!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Feelin' 7-Up (Which is weird, because I don't drink soda...)

I'm feeling pretty good lately.  Whether that's chemistry doing it's job, or a combination of that, plus my sobriety, plus some pretty cool things going on in my life right now, I don't know.  And I'm not going to question it.  I'm just gonna ride the wave...

I went to my first meeting last Thursday night.  A friend sent me a text message and asked if I was interested in going.  As luck would have it, I was leaving work early that day for an appointment, so I was able to make it (my work schedule lately has made it hard for me to hit up meetings, but I'm still looking around for ones that fit my needs).  I actually kind of enjoyed it.  It was a nice atmosphere.  Nobody was overly maudlin in their talks, and everyone was very friendly and welcoming.  I got a chip for my first two weeks, and when one of the members won the night's raffle, he graciously gave me the choice of books available for the prize because I was the newcomer.  I'm going to try a few more meetings before I make the decision to join and go through the actual program, and to be honest, I'm not wild about the whole "Let go and let God" aspect of it, but my first experience was a positive one.

I'm still with the Gobshites.  I was able to work things out and convince them that I'm determined to stay on the path I've chosen, so pubs are on notice to have plenty of Arizona diet green tea on hand, because there's one Gobshite now who doesn't drink stout (or lager, porter, IPA, etc...).  We're playing the Boston Irish Festival in Canton, Mass this Saturday night at 7, and we just added a show this Thursday, the 16th, at Murphy's Tap Room in Manchester, New Hampshire at 8.  The only way I'm going to be falling off any stages now is if Pete trips me.

I spent the weekend in Worcester in the company of someone pretty special.  We met through a mutual friend when she came to a Gobshites show a couple months ago, and things have been progressing slowly but steadily.  She came to my daughter's graduation, and survived a Curtin family birthday party on Saturday, as well as taking me to a tattoo shop run by a friend of hers to get some new ink.  Plus she brought treats for the cat the first time she came over, so he's definitely a vote in favor.  And she's a Bruins fan too, which pretty much sealed the deal.  I've been pretty open with her about what 've been going through lately, and she's been spectacularly patient and understanding about it all.  It's weird, the paths that life sends you down.  I haven't been this happy in quite some time.

I'm still struggling financially.  I hope to turn the corner on that soon.  Otherwise, I'm optimistic about the future, and mindful of what I need to do to keep the momentum going.

Thank you, come again...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Go Raibh Maith Agat

Wow.  Last Wednesday's post really seemed to strike a chord with folks.  It's gotten three times as many hits as the second most read post I've ever made.  I've been told that people are forwarding it to others who may have similar problems with alcohol.  That makes me glad.  That's one of the main reasons I post so much personal material here.  That and so I can own up to my issues and take charge of them, instead of ignore them and run away.  I can only hope that someone who reads that post decides to take a stab at making their own life better and getting help.  Andn a great big thanks to those of you who responded.  I've received nothing but positive feedback, both on Facebook and privately, from a whole host of friends, family, and even some strangers.

So how is everything else, you ask (You may not be asking this for real, but you are in my head.  That might be another issue to discuss with my therapists...)?  Pretty okay, to be pithy.  I've been able to maintain my weight loss despite a spotty workout schedule, and life on my own is starting to feel more or less comfortable.  Doesn't hurt that I have some great friends to lift my spirits, as well as what may be the most affectionate cat I've ever known to keep me company during my alone time.

As of right now, I'm not entirely sure of my status with the Gobshites.  I know I wont be playing either of the shows this weekend.  If that becomes permanent, I'll be sad, but I understand.  I have no one to blame but myself.  Disappointing, but not entirely surprising.  Even people that love you can only take so much.  If I'm being completely honest, I can't say I wont miss having a few pints now and again, but I wont miss it nearly as much as I'd miss playing with that travelling party we call a band.

I'm getting closer and closer to pulling the trigger on getting back into standup, even if it's only hitting the open mic around the corner from my house now and again.  Lord knows, the second job search has been a bust so far, and I can only sell so many of my things before it ceases to make sense for me to even have more than a studio efficiency with an outhouse.  I've written one or two things that seem like they could be forged into good bits.  Now I just need to get on a stage somewhere and hammer them out.

As the song goes, money changes everything.  So if you need me to wash your car or cut your grass or something, let me know.  My rates reasonable.  I'm also looking into buying a metal detector and becoming one of those guys in the park you see every weekend...


Monday, June 06, 2011

Baccalaureat Is Not A Card Game

Okay, today let's talk about something FUN for a change.  I made a post a little while back about my daughter going to college.  Well yesterday, she actually graduated from high school.  I really can't believe this day has come.  For the past few weeks, I've been going over random memories of swing sets, jungle gyms in the park, trips to Falmouth, Christmases, birthdays, soccer games, dance recitals, and on and on.  I don't know what triggered these random thoughts, maybe it's the fact that she's not really my little girl anymore.  I mean, she'll always be my girl, but she's grown up now, and there's no more cuddling on the couch watching Disney movies, tickle fights, trick-or-treating, or making cookies in the Easybake oven.  That's all over for good.  It has been for a while, in fact, but her graduation brings that hard truth back like a ton of bricks.

This isn't a downer, though.  I mean, of course I miss those days, and I can get a little melancholy about it, but I love watching her move through life now too.  I swear, I've never seen a kid so ready to just get on with the next phase of her life.  That she has so much self confidence at her age just blows me away, because I was never like that.  I'm still not, really.  She's so independent and self-sufficient, and has been for some time now.  I know this will serve her well as she goes through college.  As any of us who've been know, college comes with a whole new set of temptations and challenges, and keeping a truly independent mind is a great tool to have when you're in that kind of atmosphere.  High school does have many of the same temptations, but most of us don't live at high school, away from our parents.

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day for an outdoor ceremony, and watching her walk across that stage and accept her diploma is and will continue to be one of the highlights of my life.  If I could give her any advice (and I will), I would say this:  Keep your independent spirit.  Peer pressure in college is no different than peer pressure in high school.  I'd never be a hypocrite, but I would say that, whatever decisions you make, always be aware of where you are, and more importantly, who you're with.  True friends will always have your best interests at heart and will be there for you if things go sideways (I'm living proof of that).  But above all, make decisions based on what YOU want.

I really can't wait to see what she's going to do next.  I think I might be just as (if not more) excited about her future than she is.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Hi, I'm John, And I'm...

The Gobshites were back up at the Blackthorne again for Memorial Day weekend, and by most accounts, it was another good time.  I'm getting a lot of details second hand because, although I was there, I was pretty much blackout drunk for most of the weekend.  This is a very painful thing for me to admit, maybe the most painful thing I've ever had to face.  But here it is: I'm an alcoholic.  It's not like I haven't seen the signs before, but this weekend showed me, through probably one of the most humiliating experiences I have ever had, that I finally need to face the facts and take action.  I embarrassed myself, I embarrassed my friends, and I caused undue worry and concern for people who should have been spending their time enjoying each other's company and the long weekend.

Depression, ADHD, Co-Dependency, and whatever other issues I have are generally seen as being caused by external influences, be they learned behaviors or chemical imbalances or whatever.  Alcoholism can only really be caused by one thing:  Picking up a drink.  There are studies that link family members and DNA and predispositions, but that only measures the potential for someone to develop a drinking problem.  Predispositions mean nothing if you avoid alcohol altogether.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I made a decision in college to stop drinking, which I did for quite a few years.  I saw myself heading down a very dark path, and I caught it early enough to do something.  After a while, when I thought it was safe, I decided to begin moderately consuming.  And that worked, for a time.

This time around, I saw the signs plenty.  I knew where I was headed.  And I just didn't care.  I wanted the numbness and the escape.  I wanted to completely withdraw from my worries and sadness and disappointments.  There are plenty of safe, healthy ways I could have dealt with my issues, but I took the easy way out, no doubt about it.  For months now, I've repeated the completely delusional mantra to myself:  "Okay, tonight I'm gonna keep it in check.  Only two or three this time."  Of course, anyone who has seen this before knows that "This Time" is never going to happen.  Denial is a bad bad thing.

In addition to family history, research shows that people who have had gastric bypass surgery also have a higher risk of addiction than the general population.  So I've got that going for me too.  The thing is, even with those factors, it did seem like I was in control of it for a time.  I really couldn't tell you what the turning point was, or when.  But at some point, I crossed an invisible line between social drinker and problem drinker.  I know other people could see it, because they said things to me.  But I didn't listen.  I was sure I could get it back in control.

Well I couldn't, and I'll never be able to.  This is not self-pity, it is a realization of a cold, hard truth.  I am an alcoholic, and I can't drink any more.  I may have been in a high risk group or two, but I chose to take the risk, and I lost.  And all of the rationalization I've been doing means jack shit.  I'm solely responsible for where I ended up with alcohol.  I hear the term "abusing alcohol" a lot.  I don't believe there's any such thing.  Alcohol doesn't have feelings, you can't hurt it.  You can only hurt yourself.  And those who love you.

And to those who love me, believe me when I say I get it now and I'm sorry, and I hope you stick with me.

Time to go meet Bill W...