Three Songs That Saved My Life

Today, celebrate three songs that are significant to you (Writing 101, Day Three: Commit to a Writing Practice).

Before starting: The exercise calls me to write for at least 15 minutes, and however long I spend writing today to be my average writing time for the rest of this month’s course’s exercises.  A lot of people have been saying on The Commons for this month’s course that they find the time passes too slowly.  Not for me.  I have, so far, found myself having to stop myself when I’ve already gone over.  I’ve heard the term “bloggorhea” (like diarrhea of the mouth, but transferred to blogs) used to describe tendencies like mine to just write endless posts about what I find interesting.  I think my challenge this month will be to find a better “economy of words,” as my friend Nancy (an acclaimed gallery artist and former high school English teacher) from my young adulthood claimed was the only real thing my writing lacked.  And here I go doing it again.  Time to just do the exercise.

Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

1.  Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in C Minor, as performed by Vladimir Horowitz on a cassette tape recording made during the early 80’s.  Also called “Pathetique.”

I still have the cassette, somewhere.  The music encoded on the magnetic tape of that cassette has been fuzzed out by the noise created by having played it many too many times.  I would play its movements, then rewind, then play it again, and rewind, repeating these as often as I needed to until the tears would slow down and eventually dry up.  I was so often so lonely that I would pity myself my (total) lack of any friend my own age – all my friends were adults, who understood my plight all too well, but they couldn’t take the place of the scoffing, mocking, bullying adolescents who were my peers in school.  I often used to say, “I didn’t have friends, I had books,” growing up, but that’s not completely true.  I had Vladimir Horowitz’s fingers caressing those white and black keys, comprehending the absolute despair that overwhelmed me, soothing my pain.  No other interpretation of that sonata has sounded so right to my ears since, no other version does for me what that one did then.  I found another Horowitz version recorded a couple of decades later, but it doesn’t have the same passion, the same skill, it is a faded replica of the older one’s glory.

2.  For My Lover – Tracy Chapman

When I was 12 or 13, I was given my first CD boombox.  My dad had already started collecting CDs, cassette tapes were still sold in stores but it was clear that CDs were the wave of the future.  With that boombox, I was given the three CD’s that were my favorites of my dad’s collection: Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies of the Canyon,” James Taylor’s “Greatest Hits,” and Tracy Chapman’s debut album.  All three were rotated and played on repeat, but the latter was the one that spoke to my adolescence in a way the other two did not.  It was difficult picking just one song from that album – “Fast Car,” “She’s Got Her Ticket,” and “Baby Can I Hold You” were also top on the rotation of songs to get repeated on my headphones and sung along to under my breath at night, but “For My Lover” spoke to a time of great tribulation when I was 14.  I had been dating a 19-year-old, and he got me pregnant.  I miscarried soon after, but my mom (shortly after he had left town to go home to live with his parents again) went through my room, found my diary, and read the entire thing to find out what was going on in my life.  She tried to have the older boy prosecuted for statutory rape, to which I responded that I would volunteer to testify for the defense and appear in court wearing the sluttiest outfit I could find to prove that I had initiated the relationship and that he didn’t know my age until we were already involved.  I felt like I was in prison, I felt like I was being punished for my choice of lover and for protecting him and, in a way, that was true.

3. My Dad’s Gone Crazy – Eminem

This rap song starts out with the sound of someone chopping up lines on glass with a razor and then snorting something with a straw, only to follow with the sound of a toddler asking, “Daddy, what are you doing?”  The song speaks to the craziness of addiction, the anger and self-righteousness that goes along with it, the rebellion against society, and the grief at what is happening, what he is doing to himself and those who love him still in his life. ‘Nuf said.

The Flow of Ink (Freewriting)

Freewriting for 20 minutes (Writing 101, Day One: Unlock the Mind).

I’m torn. Torn between my desire for thrift in using every page of this journal, and between my desire for ink that flows freely from the metal nib of my new fountain pen that soaks through and makes the back of the page unusable.  I opted for the flow of ink this time, as I think most easily for wordsmithing in cursive, and the bold lines stand out indelibly dark purple against the pleasantly beige page.

I almost forgot to write today, I remembered at five minutes to midnight.

I’m writing in the garage, the only place with the needed combination of adequate light, seating, privacy, and the ability to chain smoke cigarettes, a bad habit I will soon enough need to untrain myself from. It’s going to really suck trying to write for a long while when that happens.

I’ve been in a funk the last couple of months.  It’s been difficult to get out of bed for any reason but unavoidable obligations and social occasions for that time.  I wish that one antidepressant were sufficient for combating my clinical depression, but wishes have always been fishes in that regard ever since I hit puberty.

I’m glad to be clean off drugs, but sometimes I really wish I didn’t have cravings anymore.  They depress me even more.  I cleaned the garage out today all the way back to the wall for the first time since we, my husband and I, moved into this house in 2009.  June, in fact, so this month makes it five years that we’ve been here.  So much has happened since then that it feels more like it’s been a decade, but anyway.  While I was moving the dust around, er, I mean moving boxes, I came across a couple of baggies that had once held drugs.  Not together, separately.  One was one of the baggies from when I was snorting cocaine, toward the beginning.  The other had likely held crystal meth.  While I’m glad I was able to eliminate their presence from the house, it was a real harshmellow (a word I invented many years ago) to find them.  A small part of me wished to be doing drugs still, so I could lick the baggies in futile thriftiness – futile because no small amount of residue they could have contained could have any perceivable effect, but I would still have considered that action a relapse.  Most of me was just sad in remembering that I used to hide back in those areas of the garage so that my husband, if he suddenly came out to check on me, wouldn’t see the straw or flame from the lighter and pipe in my hands before I could hide them, to prevent the explosion of rage and sorrow in discovering me attempting to use in secret – yet again.  Every time I encounter another reminder of my not-so-well-kept-secret life, I mourn for all the heartache I put my husband and my family through.  I didn’t share that at my meeting tonight, the focus/topic was on other things and I was more focused on carrying the message to the newcomer who was there, but I talked with a new female friend about it after the meeting.  She was right, a person so early in recovery  like myself shouldn’t be dealing with paraphernalia alone like I’ve had to on several occasions (I blogged about one of those times recently), but necessity has made my cleaning a solitary trial, so far successful in staying clean through it, however.  Yay, I filled two pages!

Why I Don’t Do Legal Drugs

An old friend stopped by today.  He asked me how I was doing, and how I was staying away from pot, considering my husband and non-program friends all smoke it.  He and I used to smoke it together, back in the day, and he still smokes it now.

The thing is, although for long periods of time I used to smoke it several times a week with my lovers, friends, and later my husband, pot is the one drug I never had a problem putting down.  I never craved it when I wasn’t smoking it, and on many occasions I would stop smoking it for months on end with no issues.  I never stole to get pot, I never spent my rent money on it, I never prostituted myself for it, and I was almost always honest about my use of it (excepting at job interviews).  Once I joined a 12-Step program, however, that all changed.  I stopped consuming it altogether, partly out of respect for people who did do those things to get pot, and partly because I believe in the fundamental principles of the program in treating the disease of addiction.

You see, I don’t really have a drug problem, I have a reality problem.  The drugs I took were just a poor method of dealing with reality and my resulting feelings.  Almost anything can take the place of drugs in an addict’s efforts to not face reality – sleeping, eating, shopping, gambling, shoplifting – anything that can give a little thrill that allows us to ignore what we really feel about the way things really are.

The whole point of drugs, for me, was that I was willing to go to any lengths to change my perception of reality into something different, to numb my feelings so that I wouldn’t have to face them the way they were.  Feeling depressed? Overwhelmed? Irritated? Lonely? Angry? Sexually frustrated?  Instead, I would focus intensely on my next “score” (what some programs call “chasing the bag”) that would get me the drugs I wanted, so I could feel “better.”

Eventually, the drugs stopped making me feel good, and instead just made me more miserable.  I no longer got “high,” but I was so deeply enmeshed in the habit of chasing drugs – doing drugs – chasing more drugs, that I had alienated myself from any remaining resources (family, friends, therapists, case managers) for other kinds of real help.  I had managed to change my reality so completely that I had become an outsider to everything and everyone, especially myself.  The last thing I was willing to do was to wake up and face all the damage I had done to myself and all those close to me.

At the end of the road, I spent countless hours contemplating suicide.  I started shooting without cottons (extremely dangerous and deadly), I tried to overdose a few times, without success.  The thing was, a small sliver of my conscience remained,  despite all my efforts to ignore and destroy it so that it wouldn’t bother me anymore.  I couldn’t kill myself.  I couldn’t get high anymore.  I couldn’t get numb anymore.  Drugs only increased my misery… yet I couldn’t stop, not on my own.

See, thinking about a problem will not solve it.  Only action can do that.  I had trained myself into countless methods of avoiding responsibility for my own behavior.  I couldn’t think my way out of the prison I’d placed myself in, no matter what I tried.  My thinking had become flawed, by my own unintentional design.  I thought of everything I had lost because of my drug usage… and that only made me want to use drugs more.

So anyway, back to pot.  Pot is not my problem, but if I smoke it, I get loaded.  Allowing myself to artificially change my reality in any way allows my “stinking thinking” to get going, to say that if one drug is okay, then the others might be okay too.  It’s a slippery slope.  I know, intuitively, that getting baked, or tipsy on alcohol for that matter, would allow it to be all too easy, with my lowered inhibitions, to think “just a little” of another drug would be okay.  Just “one hit” of crack, of meth “a few” whip-its, or pills, one slip-up leads to two, and then a thousand.  I know this.

There never has been a time, since I started hard drugs, that I could do “just a little” of anything.  Stopping is always a gargantuan task for me, once I start I must move heaven and earth to get myself back to ask for help stopping again.  I’ve relapsed so many times in the last two years that I know all too well what “just a little” would cost me.  Everything.

So I Never Forget:

Today, I repurposed the garden shed after it had been sitting, filthy, for the last year, after having been my meth/crack crash pad when my husband kicked me out of the house again for using drugs… yet again.  I’d forgotten … Continue reading

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Carrying the Message: How Sharing in a 12-Step Group is Like Writing a Successful Blog Post

Hi, I’m Venus, and I’m a blogging addict.  (Hi, Venus!)

But seriously, a lot of aspects of a successful blog post are similar to a “successful” share at a 12-step meeting.

First, what do I mean by “successful?” I believe that most people blogging want their posts to be read and liked, just like I believe most people sharing at a 12-step meeting want their audience to pay attention an find something valuable in what they have to say.  In 12-step programs, this concept is called, “carrying the message.”  If each person only shared a self-centered, narcissistic view of what was going on in their own lives or an egocentric monologue about the topic of the day, 12-step meetings could not work as they do.  Instead, each sharer (in theory, as they gain more experience in their recovery) is supposed to blend a share from both what is cathartic to say with what will inspire their listeners.

This blending consists of what is called, “experience, strength, and hope.” Say that I’m sharing at a Blogging Anonymous meeting. (Disclaimer: Blogging Anonymous, like 12-step groups for pretty much every type of addiction known to mankind, may indeed exist despite my ignorance of its existence.  I am not a member of that group, therefore I am not breaking anonymity by using this hypothetical statement and thereby breaking any of the Traditions that accompany the 12 Steps of that group.)  Like all the other members at that meeting, it is generally expected that I will, during my share, do all of the following:
a) Share on my experience of events and situations related to the topic chosen for that meeting.
b) Talk about how I dealt or am dealing with those events and situations in a way that demonstrates or increases my strength as a person, focusing on solutions rather than allowing myself to get mired in the problems.
c) Explain what insights and realizations I gained by working through those problems toward the intended (or unintentional/incidental) solution or other resolution of the central events/situations related to the topic at hand.

If this formula was not fulfilled by at least a noticeable portion of people sharing at a meeting, if each person simply vomited forth their complaints, issues, and problems — this is what is called “sharing the mess instead of the message” — then 12-step groups could not sustain themselves.  People would simply not stay at meetings to listen to anyone.  Newcomers who start attending meetings need a reasonable motivation to return for the next meeting, to invest themselves in the group, in order to start turning away from whatever addiction is common to the membership of the group, and to eventually find recovery from said addiction.  That motivation — to stay, listen, pay attention to others’ shares, and absorb each message for use in their own lives — cannot exist in an environment of selfish pseudo-sharing.

Similarly, if a blog consists only of self-centered and/or superficial diary entries that no one else can relate to, then few, if any, would choose to “follow” that blog, return to it to read later entries, recommend it to acquaintances, or comment on the blog’s entries.  These are, I’m fairly certain, some of the main goals many bloggers seek to inspire, in order to gain a regular and expanding audience of followers who enjoy or otherwise get satisfaction from revisiting a blogger’s site again and again, to re-read valuable posts or see what’s new.

When you write a post, read it over before you publish and ask yourself these questions:
– If this post wasn’t about me or my life, would I be interested enough to come back this blog later?
– What about this post relates to many other people’s experiences?
– What can others get out of this post that they haven’t already found somewhere else?
– What information do I present that others can use in their own lives?

It’s alright to write exclusively about your own life, but if it’s all about your own unique life experiences and views of the world, try to include some humor or insights that will inspire others to achieve something better in their own lives.  Add some sort of value: a moral to the story, a point that provokes thoughts for others that will draw their attention and make your post memorable.  Remember to carry the message.

Poetry – Crack-Ho’s Cookbook

Note: This poem is written primarily in street slang, so it probably will only confuse you or be irrelevant unless you have an interest in the urban dialect of the pacific northwest. It also speaks of numerous deviant activities, with which I became familiar in recent years. I no longer spend any time hanging out with my former street “friends” but my experiences were liminal and fairly formative in my current inner personality. I don’t dwell on it much lately, this was written during a period at the beginning of the year when I was not clean or sober in the slightest.

If you are a minor, please wait until you have some adult experience before trying to comprehend these concepts. Kids, stay kids as long as you can, some people (like me) never had that option.

Okay, disclaimer done. Read at your own risk.

Crack-Ho’s Cookbook

Ten toes down for that rusty renegade rock-bottom crown
That prehistoric hustle of hips hovering horizontally, they
Numero ocho their way above the ground.
This well-designed dawdle is a marketing ploy, out on the
Bleak blustery razor of the blade,
Saying simultaneously, “Come catch me!”
And yet, “Too pricey for your pocketbook, Loverboy.”

You can only make it here if you
Stay always somewhat out of reach.
It’s unattainable for me to stay in pocket
Me, the potentially top-dollar head doctor
Still intrinsically the same small-town whitey-whitebread reject kluck
Finding over and over that “I got you”
Equates to “I’ll bop you” time and again.

Unlike the other ho’s I was born to the trade
but not to The Blade.  I didn’t trick, didn’t have no licks, cuz
I was the trick, I was the lick.
Not for my Johns but for those damn gorilla pimps
Who take a “No, thank you” personal and so maneuvered
To be my non-consensual gigolos

Here, where a head-game
Is naught but the time of day (where no one wears a watch)

So I branched out to feed my habit
Boosted bottles and such, switched up those toes
For a few fingers – five, to be exact.
Slung a few rocks, but couldn’t stop myself
From lezzing it up for that cold, hard, White B**ch
More than a little, for
More than a little too long
But because I didn’t also fall for the Midnight Lady’s numb embraces
I was constantly inundated by my emptiness.
The street can only be home when you no longer feel your heart.