Category: J.D’s. BLOG

Welcome to Houghton House’s new blog, which features an addict’s journey in their recovery from addiction, as written by recovering addict J.D.


Every week, he’ll regal personal experiences and insights as he makes his way through a life of sobriety

Disclaimer 

More at  https://jdssoberlife.blogspot.com/


 

gossip cat

The navigating of people; the safety of cats.

J.D returns after three weeks absence with an apology, as well as an insight into how work can make one dilly. Is he being silly? Answer: cats!

cat - not that kindI’m sorry I haven’t written in awhile. Work, work work, has just been so hectic.

It’s good to be busy, but there’s also a point where it’s a bit much. Long nights. Long days. Waking up in a malaise. Work work. Work work work. We’re down a person at the office. They left because of personal politics. Which I personally make an effort to keep out of.

It’s highly advisable. I believe, and this is just my opinion, that people tend to be drawn to politics. Oooh! So Juicy!

This may be an evolutionary thing. As a species, we survived best in groups where we have the latest information. Translation: gossip.

But gossip is not good for the soul. I’ve personally found it colours my perception of people. And, at work, I’ve had it coloured both sides. One or the other person bitching about the other. If I took it at face value, heck, I’d see Satan everywhere I looked.

What keeps me sane is remembering that we are all, ultimately, frail. Frail like little frail, frightened chicklings that have fallen out the nest. We have these protective mechanisms designed to make us feel (and thus act) strong. Like the thinking process that leads to me thinking: the person dissing me is inherently a failure / weak / corrupt / disgusting / a piece of genetic machinery that mutated into flawed spawn.

Whatever.

People, generally, are people.

With their own issues.

Some, like a certain bearded creative director warrior*, are more stable than most. Many are not. You’re probably not. Sorry for judging you, though I don’t know you, but I reckon you’ve many scaffolding ideas that help you interpret the world – and its people – in a specific way to help you cope with, essentially, the feeling of being ultimately powerless.

Which we are. That’s Step 1.

At work, I negotiate carefully. With a precise smile. And a delicate question, such as, “how was your weekend with your [visiting from afar] mother?”

We are always careful, aren’t we? Not to offend, not to create unnecessary enemies. For one thing, even if I’m over-capacity work-wise, I will default to taking on more work from the boss or a colleague. There’s nothing more passive-aggressive than ‘no’ in the workplace.

You’re not a “team player”. You open yourself up to gossip. Resentment.

It’s stressful.

How do I deal with it?

It used to be cat. I used cat to cope with the pressure. Now? It’s cats. My cats. I have them on video. Thanks to wi-fi camera technology, whenever I “need a moment”, I click the app on my phone, and “phone home”, to watch my beautiful babies. I even talk to them. There’s this function, where you activate the microphone.

“Maaaxiiiine, where are you, my Maaaaaxine..?”

This beautiful black cat comes running, into camera view. Looking for me. I feel a bit bad. She misses me. But I get to see gorgeous her, and it makes me feel… balanced. I love the reminder that life isn’t all office politics. That it means more than that.

People are difficult. Even those we love most. Sometimes, those we love most.

Cats… cats keep me centred.

The fragility of human psychology in the workplace is best navigated by having a ‘happy place’.

No matter how hectic my day, my cats are my happy place.

 

*Captain, my captain. You tolerated my self-made cat videos with patience and an easy smile. I would follow you into Hell.

Drug overdose

Drug overdose: a night of misadventures that results from stupid choices.

This past week, J.D ends up in the hospital for a drug overdose. How can this be? What did you do, J.D..?

Drug overdoseMy skin is tingling. Burning. Starting to flake. I feel like an Avenger at the end of Infinity War who’s just lost the dice roll – and about to disintegrate into ash. My face is hotter than Mercury; I keep staring at my hands as they bloom scarlet red, swelling intensely.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to die if I don’t move.

Skin crinkling up in dark tinges, I envision it leaving bone underneath steaming. Eyes dried to desert. My cat meows, jumps onto the bed, as I just lay there. I absentmindedly stroke her head as she curls on top of me.

Look down at my hand again. It’s gotten worse. More skin is frayed, peeling away. I don’t have long left.

It’s a cold night to drug overdose.

I’ve managed to leave two full bowls of kitty food, two fresh bowls of water, two trays of clean litter. Before picking up a blanket and stumbling out the door. I walk slowly, in pain, down the stairs outside, skin stretched bare. Like sliced with a paring knife.

It’s really so cold, as I walk a long walk down the townhouse complex. Fire and ice, chills and fever, and all so alone. There are barely any lights on in the silent sentinel houses on either side of me. I walk and walk, foot in front of foot, looking up every so often. It seems so far away. The bottom of the path. Towards the gate.

And yet, every instant, I feel like another layer of skin has come off me. Underneath, burning and churning molten heat – as my body goes mad, as my immune system wages war on my inner core. What a bad night to drug overdose.

By the guard gate, I call an Uber. Wrapped up in my contradictory blanket, cold and hot at the same time, I wait as reality itself shakes from my drug overdose.

Finally get into the cab. “Where we going?”

“Morningside Mediclinic. It should say on the app.”

“Something wrong?”

“Yeah. I’ve got Stevens-Johnson.” Then I laugh hysterically. “I don’t want his johnson. Quick, it’s a medical emergency!”

He drives fast; it’s an empty street anyway. Hardly anyone around at this time in the morning.

He drops me by Morningside Mediclinic Casualty. I walk in. My hands are smouldering volcanic core now. I shake, and say, basically, I’ve had a drug overdose. And I’m going to possibly die.

Too many pricks in hospitals.

I’ve now had my third one. This time, in the gluteus maximus. The bum. That one really hurt. Go back onto the bed, with drip dripping into me, and steroids being pumped in with it. I lie there and contemplate how it came to this.

No, I didn’t relapse. I guess that’s a fair assumption. It would be incorrect, though.

It wasn’t a drug overdose anyone in their right or wrong mind would ever do.

It was Lamictin. It’s not exactly a party drug. Mainly prescribed for prevention of seizures and as a mood stabiliser, it has a particularly nasty reputation. You can get a rash from it, a bad, allergic reaction.

A lot of doctors recommend you stop at that point.

My doctor was super cautious when introducing the drug to me. We took it very slow. She told me exactly what could happen if I had a bad rash. Every time we increased it to get it to the therapeutic dose, there was the danger of it.

Eventually, we got it up to 100mg. It worked perfectly for me. It made a massive difference in my life. How it works exactly, I am not sure, but I understand that it slows down nerve impulses in the brain. It’s calming without being tranquilising. It’s non-addictive.

No, that’s not exactly true. It’s very addictive. Just not very psychologically addictive: there’s no desire to pop pills like smarties. You don’t want to pop out a pipe and put a pill in.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone going into rehab for a Lamictin problem. But it is dependent-making. There’s physical withdraw. You’re supposed to be weaned carefully off it.

Oops, I did it again… I had a drug overdose.

Just because there’s no desire to drug overdose on Lamictin doesn’t mean it can’t happen. For instance, if you’re a philosophical type who lives with two cats, works in an intense environment, writes until late every night, and can’t stop thinking about the nature of life and the universe and everything… well… there’s a chance you might take your evening med… and have no memory of it.

I’m like the guy from Memento sometimes. I need a system to remember stuff. Somehow over three years, I haven’t made one mistake with the Lamictin, but there’s always a first time.

I double dosed 100mgs. 200. My goodness gracious me.

The first clear memory that I had , in fact, actually taken the first dose hit me at the same time as the intense flu-like symptoms did, 14 hours later. The warning symptoms of Stevens-Johnsons.

Where were you last night, when I needed you? I lamented to my traitorous memory banks. They shrugged, I think. As if to say, Maybe survival of fittest includes getting better at memory games.

But I didn’t need this right now. I was about to sign a contract as a permanent at work. I wasn’t going to rush out to Casualty and ruin everything. Who knew how long I’d have to stay in a hospital bed? I had soooo much work to do, so many deadlines, that I risked mine. And left it.

I didn’t want to go cold-turkey off the Lamictin either. Physical withdrawal is so intense it floors you. So I judged an ‘appropriate’ amount of time had passed, prayed for the best, and took the next day’s dose.

Red rashes flared up with alarming regularity.

I was dancing with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a catastrophic skin allergic reaction that leads to massive tissue damage and death in more than 10% of its suffers. It’s like dancing with a fiery red-haired with balestones for eyes and molten skin, and then the damn slow dancing music comes on.

Drug overdose: don’t do it.

I got romantic about it. I’m doing this for my job, I said. I’m balancing the scale between extreme withdrawal and extreme human-combustion… so I don’t disappoint anyone ever again. So I keep my job! I’ll risk it, because I listen to epic orchestral music whenever I start getting freaked out, and it gives me suicidal, heroic last-stand inspiration!

It’s pretty specific in the contract. If I am off sick for a long enough time, the contract is null and void. I panicked. What if I go through either one?

Once my doctor tried to wean me off Lamictin. Wean. Stopping a fraction of the amount that I was supposed to stop now (which was all of it). Could not work for a week. I nearly last my job then.

So this was scary. I was in a very scared place. This past week has been hell. Normally, you take a drug continuously because you want to get high. Here, I just wanted to not go into severe physical withdrawal. Normally, you take a drug continuously and if you don’t exceed it, you won’t die. Here, just remaining on it was inciting an allergic fire under my skin, flushes, chills of the bone, weakness, fear. I was sitting in a singles bar, and Death was the only other patron… and I was sending him free drinks.

I was self-medicating. It’s the worst thing an addict with good intentions can do. But not self-medicating for an effect, to get high. Self-medicating in sheer terror of what could happen one way or the other.

Does that mean I’ve used? I don’t think so. It comes down to intentions. My intentions were trying to wean myself off a seizure-inducing medication that can kill if you go off suddenly. Was that wrong? Yes. My job wasn’t worth my life.

What I should have done was do as my doctor long ago told me to do. Stop completely, go into hospital. Be admitted. Let whatever happens happen.

Even if it meant losing my job.

Not exactly Mr Brains.

I didn’t go about it the right way. But my doctor was away and not giving great advice, except, stop taking it.

I decided to risk it all and I nearly went up in a fireball of flecks of skin. Stupid.

It’s what happens when I’ve been out of work for so long, that when I finally have the opportunity, I go rabidly mad to do everything I can – including working close to burn-out – to keep it.

When I came out of Casualty, the sun had been up for awhile. I awkwardly limped, since it felt like there was a needle sized hole straight through my glutes, to the front of the hospital to hail an Uber.

Looking up at the sky, I thought, I really miss my cats.

Nothing, not even trying to prove a point about how far I’ll go for work, to holding on to a job, is worth losing them.

I sighed.

If it means I can’t work for a month, or have to be admitted, so be it. Just a stupid reason to lose a job. Of all my drug misadventures to make my life difficult, this time it had to be an unintentional one. Like, getting everything right in recovery, and then my stupid absent-minded professor personality comes along and kills me. Well, that and desperate pride.

I opened up my phone, and pressed the wi-fi camera app. It opened on the study, with the daylight giving cool cast to the room. They were huddled in their little kitty bed, together, paws wrapped around each other.

I smiled.

Time to go home.

[Did J.D “use”and drug overdose by self-medicating? Do you feel he’s no longer ‘clean’? Give us your thoughts. If there’s consensus, we’ll remove J.D’s column from the Houghton page. But just spare a thought: every addict has to undergo life-on-life circumstances, and they don’t necessarily make the right decision. So the question is, was J.D’s actions the actions of an addict “using” or a desperate person trying to get off a dangerous medication while ignoring medical advice?]

PHOTO CREDIT: I’m a World on Fire by J.D

Success in addiction

Success in addiction recovery: Moving on, moving on.

Success in addiction and Recovering from addiction can have its ups and downs.

But success in addiction recovery means things inevitably start working out. Like for J.D. This past week, he’s come to the end of his three-month contract at work. And they called him in for a meeting about his future there…


Last week was a good week. A very good week. It went to show how far I’d come since I’ve cleaned up from drugs. It shows how I’ve achieved success in addiction recovery. What happened? Well…

Success in addiction recovery: a step up the ladder.

Success in addiction I was called into a meeting with the bosses at the social media agency I work at. I was nervous. I’m coming up to the end of my three-month contract at my new job. Would they keep me on? Or would they let me go? I was about to find out.


I was in the office with the one Partner. The other Partner walked in with a bunch of plastic bags. She’d just been out to get lunch. She said, “You’re coming up to the end of your contract. We want to have to chat to you about that. I just have to put some things down.”

As she left the room, I turned to the other Partner. I wondered what she meant. Provisions? Lowering my salary because I wasn’t good enough? If I wanted to stay on, would there be restrictions? I should have realised that success in addiction recovery means that, actually, things tend to go your way.

“What does she mean, put things down? Like what? What kind of things?” I asked him in mild panic.

He laughed at me. “I think she means, putting down the things she’s carrying.”

“Oh. Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahaha.” I kept laughing nervously. It was funny. I was a dufus.

She came back in. “We want you to stay, on a permanent basis. We’re really happy with you.”

Success in addiction recovery: managing anxiety without drugs or alcohol.

It’s taken a lot to have success in addiction recovery. I owe Houghton House for that. Coping with anxiety in the work place has been difficult. Sure, my bipolar medication helps a lot. It manages the extreme emotions I often feel. But so does my therapist, one of Houghton’s own from their team of excellent counsellors. She’s taught me coping mechanisms, and acts as a safe place once a week during the maelstrom of the outside world.

Coping is important. There can be nastiness in any workplace. Politics, the wrestling for power over others. Short-temperedness, the intolerance for those who may be under intense workloads. Or even gossip, people hearing another conversation, then tip-tapping on their phones to communicate with their office friend over Whatsapp.

I think I’m paranoid. Still.

I got a new computer. Plugged in an old mouse. Remembered, holy moly*, that was the same mouse we used on our horribly infected by dangerous rootkit (like a computer virus, but much, much worse) laptop that caused me to scrapheap the entire thing. (I used the royal we, there, by the way, because when I’m thinking to myself, well, there are many of us. In my head. There’s like a Senate. I may live alone, but I am never lonely.)

“No! Noooo! Nooooo!”

That’s not me, by the way. That’s my therapist shouting “no!”, as she steels herself to handle another six months of extreme paranoia around infections that are impossible to get rid of. Like syphilis, but if syphilis was sentient, and wanted complete and utter destruction of everything on the entire planet.

Oh well. At least we have company.

It might well be another six months of intensive therapy for paranoia that boggles the mind. But, like that post I did way back in the day about my sister’s diagnosis of cancer, at least somebody is listening.

(Not watching. I have taped over my laptop’s webcam. With black tape. Made blacker by really black paint. So no one can see through. Savvy?)

The guys at work like me despite me going on about the virus (actually a rootkit) that won’t leave me alone. It could be worse there could be no success in addiction?


I could be rocking up to work everyday smelling like a distillery. Like I used to. Or sniffing constantly. Because of a cold – in winter. Or because of hay fever (in summer). Like I used to. I could be constantly going to the bathroom. Mysteriously hyper after that. Like I used to. I could be constantly checking my nose using my phone’s selfie camera, fearing large lumps of white in my nostrils. Like I used to. Or having white snot drip out my nose. Like I used to. Or being dangerously thin, for no reasonable explanation. Like I used to be.

But I’m not.

I’m okay. I’m stressed; I think I might have an immortal rootkit that won’t die on my laptop; I’m still battling to deal with being around lots of people in confined spaces for long periods of time.

But I’m okay.

Thanks to Houghton House.

And how they helped me be a success in addiction recovery.

Buy Now, Pay Later: The Next Gen Addiction

Buy Now, Pay Later: The Next Gen Addiction

J.D., living a life free from addiction as he is, has to still deal with the difficulties. Such as addictions to things we ‘trust’, like apps designed to make us spend and spend and spend… the next gen addiction!

What difficulties? People. I’ve been at my job for now over two months.

And while I love certain aspects of it, I hate certain others. What do I love? I love the sense of accomplishment I get at finishing a task – to my satisfaction. Where I’m proud of what work I’ve produced, and eagerly await feedback.

And the feedback so far has been good. They, the bosses, love my writing. I am most honoured. I put my heart and soul into my pounding of the keyboard keys, they take a piece of my soul, really. When I’m told I’ve written astoundingly good work, it’s hard not to pat myself on the back.

Buy Now, Pay Later: The Next Gen AddictionEspecially, considering, how a long life of drug and alcohol abuse has eroded my self-esteem. It really has. There’s a sense, for many addicts (I haven’t done a poll and I’m certainly no statistician) of worthlessness in the swirls of addiction, and the next gen addiction.

For many of us, it becomes a way of relieving the pain. And it’s not as obvious as injecting a narcotic in your arm to numb you from all that’s gone wrong.

Simply indulging in an addiction, for me, is enough to relieve discomfort. I still do it! I love to buy stuff I don’t need on ebay. Or games I’ll never play on Steam – an online gaming shop. All I need is my credit card details and a finger to push a transaction.

There’s food. There’s sex. The latter I avoid for fear of syphilis. Seriously. Google ‘syphilis’. Do an image search. You will swear a vow of Chasity that will last for eternity.

The Next Gen Addiction, Yeah, addictions are bad, and I’m not the best recovering addict to take advice from.

However, that said, I can comprehend the action of addiction in the brain – that reaction which happens in response to certain behaviours. Free of drugs I might be, but the behaviour, that I’ve not got beyond. It is a big deal not to be putting poisonous substances into my body. It’s just that the behaviour in other aspects of life is also destructive.

I won’t, most likely, die of an early heart attack or an artery in my brain popping. The ruin of quality of life is more likely if I don’t control these impulses to… buy… to shop…

It’s dastardly, though. We live in an age where our very phones, tablets, and computers are used by a new kind of dealer to secure our money. They offer deals to sucker you in. Items at 67% off! The excitement of purchasing something at the tap of a button is overwhelming.

And then, a few days later, we hear the doorbell ring.

“Package, sir!”

Oooh! A goodie! It’s arrived! It’s like you order your very own birthday present any time you like.

There are so many online services offering good deals. I’ll give you an example of one that actually was a great deal.

I had been looking for Bluetooth headphones with noise cancelling tech for a while. I saw a product at a DarkWing (cleverly concealed name) store, that cost a fortune. I bought it, realised I was ripped off, told them there was a problem with it (there was, it was a blatant blood-letting), and got back my money. I then went online, found a foreign store that offered me a next generation headphone for three grand less, including shipping and import duties, and I happily paid for my most precious property yet.

An item I use, in the office (to write those articles that keep the bosses happy). It was the deal of the century.

Now I find it hard not to hunt other deals. Hunt other opportunities to buy stuff I either can’t get here, or can get here, but will be violently violated for.

There’s nothing wrong with an addiction to a good deal. The problem lies in hunting for good deals for things you had no interest in, in the first place. To simply buy for the sake of gratifying the urge to buy. Dealing with the next gen addiction.

It’s been hard ignoring that urge. The apps on your phone for certain of these sites are designed to entice you. To get you to push that payment button.

It’s a sickness. Really. And it’s one that can easily be as uncontrollable as crack cocaine.

I feel, personally, vulnerable to this sort of thing, as an (identified) addict.

What about people who have no history with drink or narcotics? What framework do they have to identify the compulsive urge they have to spend money? Money they shouldn’t be spending, money they need for other things?

It’s not gaudy like a casino, not dark like a crack den, but it is emptying like an abyss.

And it can suck any one of us in.

They count on us to become remiss.

It is a darkness we have to resist.

I’m a drug addict who needs help (and that drug is fantasy).

I’m a drug addict who needs help (and that drug is fantasy).

JD is an addict.

That means being addicted to a lot of things. He’s addicted to EBAY (more on that next week). But he’s also a drug addict who needs help, and that drug is fantasy.

I’m a drug addict who needs help. I have a new drug. It’s a really, really powerful drug. It’s the same drug I indulged in when I was four. Four all the way to eighteen. It’s a drug called ‘dramatic fantasy’. I kind of play music, and let myself get carried away with it. It’s music to my ears.

It’s the soundtrack of my dreams.

The word ‘fantasy’ has these adult connotations I want to dismiss straight away. I was not a pervert at four, sir or madam. I was not.

I only got into wearing suspenders and a bra as a teenager, after listening to that lumberjack song by Monty Python. I’m over that now, though. I wear power suits. (Maybe I’m still a drug addict who needs help… I’m now addicted to suiting up?)

No, what I’m addicted to is fantasy of a world I have under my control. A lot of losers like me, physically weaker than others of their gender, turn to a world of their own. A realm they can control. Power is addictive, if you’ve ever had it. I’ve tasted it. I’ve liked it. Surprise, surprise, being a drug addict. But felt weighed heavily by it.

In my own world, though, even the salty taste of tears is perfect.

I lost sight of my fantasy world, ironically, in active drug addiction. It all became about the actual world around me. That person in the office who was after me. Out to get me. Onto me.

I couldn’t give a fudge now. I have issues at work, and politics to deal with, as any place, but I’m able to unshoulder that burden the moment I get into my car and drive home. (You carry so much when you’re on drugs, it’s astounding – and for me, I was Atlas, but now I shrug.)

I want to tell you about my latest fantasy. I’m so, so addicted to it. Like a drug. (Surprise, since I was [still am?] a drug addict who needs help.)

It’s about… well… you’ll see.

I magically (don’t ask, I won’t tell) obtain a lot of money. I use it to buy a Hollywood film studio. And also to invest in a personal trainer and lots of creatine, and sh!t. I’m buffed, motherbuffers, like Arnie. And I produce a movie. A special movie. That obviously wins tons of gold-painted statues. It’s not what I care about in the fantasy. It’s what I communicate.

I’m addicted to sharing my experience of something really significant in my life. No, not drugs.

A being who saved me. No, he didn’t have a beard, and no he didn’t sandal his way over water.I’m a drug addict who needs help (and that drug is fantasy).

The movie starts with me (now buffed up) in a very 18th Century log cabin, writing – seeing as I’m a writer. But, as the opening credits appear on screen, I’m playing with a little, supple white cat, body like a Siamese, all lean. He’s these piercing blue eyes. This cat loves getting in the way of my typewriter (did they have those in the 18th Century? Dunno. It’s fantasy.). We bump noses.

He wakes me up on my 18th Century bed, kneading like he’s with his mother on my 18th Century pillow. Bites my nose, gently, little git. Licks my face, as I groan, “Basil! Naughty Sh!t!”. Karl Urban’s name appears on screen. Obviously that’s who we hire as leading actor. I mean, c’mon, how great was he in Judge Dredd? The honest version, not that grud with Stallone instead. I love Urban. He and me can co-star anytime, hence his role in this fantasy movie of mine.

Jessica Chastain appears next. The gorgeous red-head who flames all ginger stereotypes to cinder is one of my favourite actresses. Phenomenal in her craft, she plays a woman who believes her husband is lost. Taken in smoke, sword, and cannon on the battlefield.

My fantasy movie is 18th Century, as said. It’s fully of flintlock pistol, front-loading rifle, and artillery fire.

In the first act, Karl Urban’s character is one of the only soldiers left alive on a devastated land. Compatriots and enemy soldiers lie dead alike, and a lone figure (me!!) in his foe’s uniform colours approaches him.

As the figure pulls a sabre from scabbard, amidst the mist of smoky hazy, our Karl pulls a letter written by his wife, to read one last time.

I pick it up, after he drops it as he shuttles backwards on the ground. Read it.

Instead of blade in his chest, I offer my hand.

It’s one of those moments in an epic movie where the orchestral sound score reaches a crescendo (all instruments harmonise) to hook your heart.

Me and Karl, we go on a journey back to his woman. I want to take him back to her, help him find safe passage. At first, he doesn’t understand. But he’s grateful, and we slowly bond.

(This is also important. I am such a fan of the man, and can just fantasise about the awesome Facebook posts I can make. People might be like, who dat? Because not everyone knows Karl Urban. But I do. And I salute you, Karl Urban. You and your chiselled jaw. My next fantasy will involve the guy who plays Thor. But I’ll never forget you.)

We have many misadventures along the way… near deaths involving close-contact fights. Front-loading rifles bloom with smoke, and are hastily reloaded as the enemy attempts to swarm over boulders in the forest, or on sail ships, in forts made of timber wood. Swords and tomahawks to provide exciting close combat thrills.

We pass through small towns under siege from the opposing army (to which I’m now a traitor, see?).

It’s bloody.

We move on, and the audience can follow the journey through a computer 3D parchment map, that appears every so often.

Fiddles, flutes, lutes. They all play, the music of the 18th Century.

All the while Jessica Chastain pleads off suitors eager for her hand, because “none survived the battlefield that day.” She wants time to mourn. But like love lost, she yearns to turn back clock, have him back in her arms, have him by her hearth, her fire, a comfort to each other, in the frost.

The ground is cold, the air icy, except when filled with the heat of gun fire.

Eventually, we, Karl Urban and me, are at a fort guarding the last city before the opposing army (that I was once part of, are you paying ANY attention!?). A colonel hunting us as deserters (dramatic tension / apparent villain) ends up lending his troops to our command as we seek to protect this last stronghold from harm.

Eve of the final battle, in a night crisp in cold, a moon that shines bright. Karl, my Facebook buddy, asks me, “So, why? Why did you do it? All this? You’ve traversed along dangerous roads with me, fought at my side against many an enemy. To bring me to my wife, my love? You read her letter. We are friends, you and I. But how did this come to pass?”

And I reply: “Because, well, of a cat.”

“A cat?!”

“My boy. My special boy.”

We related. Over a letter Jessica Chastain wrote to Karl Urban. It kept me from killing Judge Dredd on the battlefield that day.

He smiles. “You’ll have to explain this more if we survive.”

And the battle comes the next day.

Smoke from cannon fire. Muskets and rifles blast the air. We try to hold the line, as those around us fall.

I puff (poof!) the blood of an enemy officer’s head with my rifle shot, as I throw it to a youth who catches it to reload. I shout, “Next one, boy!” as a charged gun is tossed my way. Karl Urban fires his, so do the other minor characters.

It’s all very tense, and to add drama, we have the first snows of the film fall. Blood against snowy ground is kind of beautiful, cinematically speaking.

We charge! Hand-to-hand combat; rifle blasts; pistol fires; sword strokes; tomahawk hurls.

As it seems we’ve come to our last… enemies coming from all sides…

Soldiers of our regiment ensnare them. In a flanking tactic. All across the snowy battlefield, the enemy throw down their weapons and raise their hands.

Snow.

White. Like my cat, from the beginning, from the title credits of the movie…

We pass on, now that the battle is won.

We journey to his home, in that small town he comes from. Dramatically (!!!) as we approach their house, she opens the door, mind on some business or other. Looks up surprised. Smile blazing her face, and his lights up too.

Their embrace captures another music crescendo. You know how it is with these epic movie film scores. And yes, you’ll be able to add it to your playlist on Spotify.

Next scene, they’re lying in bed, under furs, staring at each other, so happy. Then Jess says, “We must see to our guest.”

“He can wait, my love.”

She happily sighs, and responds, “He brought you back to me.”

They tread down the wooden stairs, to the couch laid out with a blanket.

But it’s empty. It was never used.

Perplexed, Jess sees a parchment letter on their table. She reads it.

“Thank you” is all it says.

Next, we cut to one of those poetically powerful final music scores. You know. Starts off softly, slowly builds. (Until crescendo.)

I’m in a culturally different town, from what we’ve seen.

I now have a beard.

I walk past widows, and orphans, and people eager to hear the latest news.

I walk on and on.

I walk down a path, as Spring starts to set in, and birds on trees are seen alighting.

I walk past my cabin, glancing at it, as I walk. We briefly see the interior we saw during the credits at the beginning. It’s all amber lighting.

I walk down a slope, where the trees are heavy, and walk until I come to a small tombstone.

I kneel before it, and I start welling up.

My cheeks are wet, unburdened by grief.

As I stare at it, I say, “I miss you, boy,”

It reads, “BASIL”.

My fantasy that I’m addicted to is a tribute to my dead cat.

4 January 2016.

I’ll never get over him.

Cut to credits.

(Crescendo.)

 

 

High Life

Addicted to the High Life.

Sunday, bleedy Sunday.
High Life, It’s Sunday. I love Sundays, normally, I sleep in. Till late. Late late. Like 11. I couldn’t this Sunday, as I had an event. So I woke up at 10, and a piece of me died inside. Of course, some might say, it isn’t very Recovery to sleep in so late, even on a Sunday. Well, to those Judge Judys, I say how you spend your Sunday is your business. My Sunday is a precious commodity I spend how I want.High LifeNext you’ll tell me how to spend my money. Tsk tsking at all the Steam game specials I buy (mostly games I will never play, but the thought of playing them is a reward in itself).

 

This Sunday, I went to Houghton House’s special Celebrating Recovery event.

They were celebrating all their former inmates who made the one-year mark, which I did last November.

I felt all kinds of proud to go up there and collect my passive-aggressive recovery gifts to the ringing sound of applause (i.e. soap wrapped in paper that reads: ‘Removes stubborn character defects. Suitable for delicate over-sensitivity). I wanted to hug the very attractive Natasha, but my sensai, Danny Rand, had taught me not to give into temptations of the flesh. I also wanted to give a speech, but time was short, and we needed to allocate as much time as possible to founding partner Dan Wolf’s fifteen minute five minute closing address.

“I just want to thank my parents, for supporting me through this first year of life/death struggle. To God for maybe existing, though I believe in the form of Loki, who is now dead at the hands of Thanos – sorry, spoiler warning, but it isn’t my fault you haven’t watched the movie by now. I also wanted to thank the Academy for their belief in my performance, even while knowing my acting skills are more B-grade than Walker, Texas Ranger. And finally, to the staff of Houghton, who never fail to welcome me whenever I am there for my therapy sessions. Always with wide-smiles, always supportive, always excited to see I’m doing so well. I love them all. Especially Kerry, she’s a king of kick-ass.”

 

Getting my dose of Iron. (A Step in the Right Direction, Part II)

Drugs kept me up all night during early active addiction. Drugs made me toss and turn under my sweat-filled duvet. Drugs made sure I was still up to hear the terrifying sound of the Dawn Choir on a work day.

These days, I’m normally asleep by 11:30. But I wanted my Sunday lie-in this week, because I’ve gotten hooked on my new addiction, Stepping. The Stepper has been amazing. My idea of raising my pulse rate in the bad old days involved a rolled up R10 note.

These days, it’s stepping on an exercise machine while watching Iron Fist and its chief kung fu protagonist, Danny Rand, fighting the evil criminal organisation, The Hand (fist against hand? Seems like the odds are against him, i.e. paper beats rock every time).

Those hardcore fighting scenes get me so enveloped in the action, that I barely notice my legs pumping the Stepper, barely notice my exhaustion, and my limits being broken.

Saturday night, I went a full 23 minutes non-stop before needing a break. I used to break every nine minutes. Then, after swigging down water, I managed another half an hour right till the episode ended on another cliff-hanger.

I’ve really been Iron Fisting hard, and it feels so… good. I just don’t understand the strange looks from people when I tell them that. What’s wrong with Iron Fisting? Hard?

 

High-Ho.

I’ve started work at my new job. More of a way of High Life, really. Already had some great successes this past week – including a very cool blog which impressed my colleagues. I’d share it with you all here, but that might reveal my identity. A closely guarded secret that only, like, 30 people know.

It turns out I’m the most senior person in my division there. Feels weird taking on the responsibility.

But my word-fu is stronger than I imagined.

On Friday, a junior writer handed me some work – there was a lot wrong with it. I was proud of how I handled it though. I made sure not to disparage, not to be arrogant either. After all, I too was a junior writer once. And had mentors who helped hone my talents. So I did some rewriting. But I went through it with her, explaining the whys of writing well. I explained the essence of crafting copy. I made sure she knew I was in her shoes not that long ago, and owed so much to my forebears.

Mentoring another writer is tricky. Because we feel our heart and soul is in our writing. Any perceived criticism is a jagged icicle in the chest. I knew she felt it, and I felt awkward.

But when I showed her how to improve her copy, when she saw how it flowed so much better… there was that spark in her eyes… the moment of insight, the moment of growth.

 

My cat habit is out of hand.

My neighbour asked me the other day who my new girlfriend is. “What girlfriend?” I asked. “Oh,” she replied. “The one who sings such lovely songs to your cats.”

FML. I turned red.

But I can’t help it. I sing to them. I miss them so much during the day, that when I see my cats, all I want to do is shower them with love. Cuddles. Songs. Treats.

*

Life is grand. I’m on the way up. Drugs and alcohol never managed to steal my soul. Sear it, yes, but even bad burns heal, with the right treatment.

That I owe to Houghton House, and their wonderful team.

I’m free from the other type of cat now, methcathinone, after a decade-long destructive relationship. I’ll always, always be free of it, provided I keep working on my Recovery.

The only cat now is the kind that bumps noses and nuzzles.

Soft, calming purrs easing my spirit.

It’s the only cat I need for a life complete.

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 
addiction to toxic masculinity

Addiction to toxic masculinity: the cost of a drug of machismo

J.D looks at toxic masculinity this week, and his personal experiences from it. It’s not pretty. So who is to inspire against this ugliness? A symbol for all men. Addiction to toxic masculinity: the cost of a drug of machismo

Captain America grew up as a weakling. Did you ever watch the movie? He’s like Gollum. From the Lord of the Rings?

Steve Rogers, ol’ Cap’s real name, uses a dustbin’s circular lid to defend himself from aggressive men trying to bully him. He stands up to them. Not very tall. But he takes their punches just the same.addiction to toxic masculinity

(This of course, before he takes the super-soldier serum, and becomes mighty, almost as might as Thor.)

Life’s different when you’re a weakling male.

You’re last picked for the PE soccer team.

You brush it off. You’re made to stand down from your opinions under threat of violence. When you’re in High School, physical presence matters.

Does it not also in life following that?

I dated a wonderful woman while in University. But I’ll never forget when I was in a pub with her, and she was talking to a tall muscular jock. He suddenly made reference to me, skinny, medium heighted me, with his thumb.

“What the hell are you doing with him?”

I didn’t know him from Adam. So, what the heck? He judged me based on physical appearance, on stature. And evaluated it based on her beauty. He assigned values. She’s hot. I’m not. Why would she possibly be with me?

It didn’t make sense to him. And his contemptuous male toxicity smoked through his nostrils.

Male toxicity is the idea of men being a certain thing. The alpha chimp, chest-thumping and aggressive. Able to break arms with ease.

He could have broken my back easily, if he wanted to.

I knew it. He knew it. It’s why he didn’t care about disparaging me in front of my girlfriend. What would I do?

I’ve never forgotten that incident, nor how she looked down, embarrassed, unsure of what to say.

Nor I looking away, pretending not to hear anything.

But I think back on it aplenty.

I have these mad revenge fantasies.

How I call him out, and as he menacingly comes at me, I kick his knees at the side – like I was taught to in martial arts school. Break a cap. As he goes down, I leap into the air, and use all my downward momentum to smash my fist into his jaw. And as he woozily tries to recover, I punch him again and again. And again. And again. Against the floor.

His friends bound up. I kick the one closest to me in the stomach, before kneeing his head. And use momentum to hurl him into the next. I screech like a Wolverine:

“Who’s next?! You! You want some!? I got some for you! I got some for everyone!”

It’s a bit sick, really.

Poisonous.

My Houghton House therapist says I have this deep well of anger buried in me. Not, like some men, at women who have rejected me. I’ve always understood people have their boundaries – even if I have infringed them – that always resulted in deep regret.

Nope.

It’s men.

I’m angry and resentful at men.

Their violence, through threat, through presence, has helped define me.

I drank, heavily, because I am an addict. But did I become an addict in order to be around men? Possibly partly. (I also drank because, as my therapist will attest, I am bipolar-1, and we have a high statistical chance of addiction based on a need for self-medication. If you don’t like that view, if you believe we are inherently all addicts first cause, tough – every individual is different).

Men.

Funnily enough, I wrote about how women could be swept away in hysteria two weeks ago (this is actually an inaccuracy – I was specific as to this being a possibility, and I was clear that this was a human phenomenon, not specific to gender.).

But it’s men I fear. And women who comfort me. I have good male friends I trust more than anything. It’s the men I don’t know I fear. The toxicity we talk about now, en vogue, I believe (here I go again) is a collective issue.

Most men are, individually, good, calm, and understanding.

The toxicity develops in groups.

The culture becomes toxic if left unchallenged for too long.

We end up developing a situation where machismo may breed. Warriors all, we respect strength, and lack of emotional showing.

Women start being denigrated.

Reduced to sexual objects.

My girlfriend, such a special person, told me of her relationship with a man she loved. Not thought she loved. She really did love him. Even though he would sometimes come back drunk to her bed and rape her.

My heart broke for her. I will never stop respecting her for never letting that break her.

To this day, I love her. No, not as a requiem for a romance (maybe a bit of that, actually), but for being one of the most beautiful, strongest people I know. We remain friends long after the fact.

I think we are all victims to the toxicity.

Unless we do things differently.

Like Captain America.

He absorbed body blows with his garbage bin-lid shield.

Eventually, he gained the strength to fight back. Through the super-soldier serum.

And even then, never used more force than needed. Never made forcible moves on a woman (watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies! He has so many opportunities, but shows restraint! Hell, I feel obligated to make a move on him so he gets some!). Never wavers from his code, archaic and all. Never lets even the pushiest of people (Tony Stark in Civil War) make him do anything he isn’t comfortable with.

He stands tall.

He doesn’t exist.

It doesn’t mean, for us men, he doesn’t have to.

Sometimes, when I need him, I have him as my shield.

We men need heroes. Real heroes.

Even if they don’t exist.

We can make them exist.

If we choose to.

Captain America, I salute you.

Photo by Steven Libralon

Life free from addiction: what is Reality?

There’s this guy I know from high school.


A life free from addiction – On Friday, he made the headlines of one of our national papers. And not in a good way.
He stands accused of sexual harassment by quite a few young ladies. See, he’s the co-founder and one of the leaders of an NGO. The accusations are that he used his powerful position within the NGO field to attempt to coerce women into sexual relationships.
It’s believable. I could believe it.
At the same time, one of his explanations as to why he could never be a sexual predator carries weight. He said, essentially, that he is so unsure of himself that he keeps asking, “Are you sure?” in the bedroom. He seemed like that kind of guy, in high school. Unconfident with women. Feeling intrusive in their space. Even when they’d already indicated he was welcome in it.
So which is the truth?
*


Life free from addiction
The Necker Cube, used in this week’s feature image, is an optical illusion. It has no visual cues as to the right way to view the image. Most people will initially see the cube as front, lower facing. But look at it for long enough.
It switches to front, upper right facing.
Did you do it? Did you stare?
It’s weird, huh?
Like a flick happens in your brain?
It’s because both perspectives are equally true ways of looking at the cube. Do it again. Stare at it. Switches. And when it does, it’s like it was always meant to be that way. Fascinating example of how our brains experience the world.
Well, the way I experience the world is one where I can hold both perspectives in my head at the same time. The cube is lower left facing. The cube is higher right facing. At the same time.
So it is in my old school friend’s case. He is both innocent and guilty at the same time. People might say, how could he be innocent if so many (it wasn’t that many) women came out against him?
Well, there are possibilities. There are always possibilities.
For one thing, I am not saying he is innocent and these women are lying. I know this is a very possible truth. Hence the cube is lower left facing for me.
I also know that sometimes people lie to get back at a person. Perhaps one person does this maliciously, but it cascades into a wave which sucks in other people. This is the cube upper right facing.
Let me explain.
*
As a drug addict, in recovery, I know all about delusions. Heck, I’ve been sober for over one year and five months, and I’ve experienced delusions during it. Remember the tapeworm incident? People’s minds are more frail than you think. For instance, in the 1400s medieval Europe, in the wake of the Black Plague wiping out more than 50% of the population, and general destruction burning down people’s ways of life, there was…
A dancing plague.
Yes. Life free from addiction
People danced. Like they were infected. What would happen is one person would start dancing randomly, and it would attract others. Soon, a crowd of people joined in, dancing. For no good reason. For hours. For days. Some died of exhaustion. No one could stop them. Even frightened family members trying to pull them from the dancing throng couldn’t stop them.
These plagues occurred numerous times through that century. It used to be called mass hysteria. Now we call it psychogenic.
It is powerful, and shows us the warbles of the human psyche. People can go mad when a crowd goes mad. We are infected by “mind viruses” called memes all the time. Not literal viruses, but thoughts, ideas, suggestions, they all affect the way we think and act.
Like how a new hairstyle catches on. A new fashion. Or a fad that fades away quickly. Mass hysteria was so called because people got… hysterical.
It’s as powerful as a psychedelic drug.
I believe that IT IS POSSIBLE after the Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby scandals occurred and the #metoo movement blossomed, it created a kind of hysteria. Both those incidences were, I believe, completely genuine. I also believe that most of the time a woman claims she’s being harassed sexually, it is true.
But not always.

Life free from addiction


Never forget, some humans are as$h@les. Women are human. Therefore…
Some of these occurrences of harassment claims may be sparked off by hysteria. For instance, a man makes weak flirtation attempts. Slightly creepy. But he’s not sure exactly how to do it right. Or he happens to be ugly, and the exact same actions by a guy much better looking would be received differently.
I know how I feel when a very attractive woman makes a suggestion to me – I feel delightfully embarrassed and flattered. When an unattractive woman does the same, I feel threatened. Does it mean one is right and the other is wrong?
What matters is extent.
We as a society need to decide what is acceptable. Maybe we can never make sexual innuendos. Though this takes some of the fun out of flirtation, and trust me, I’ve had it, haha, thrust my way before.
Perhaps this guy merely made inappropriate remarks. He wasn’t threatening. Claims he was later were embellished to back up a story a person really believed in. After all, who doesn’t add “supporting evidence” when they believe a certain line of reality is true?
*
We delude ourselves. And maybe he was the deluded one, thinking he could get away with imposing his masculine power over women below him at his NGO. Then when they wouldn’t submit, but fled in fear, he’d threaten them their very careers. Make them feel powerless and small. Because he was such a useless dork in high school, he couldn’t help flexing his metaphorical muscles now – in a way punishing women for not giving him a second glance decades back because he is certainly no oil painting. Perhaps a miles-away Monet. Maybe.
I don’t know.
Both could be true.
I can’t judge.
The best I can do is see both perspectives and hold them in mind as long as I can. So I don’t judge either of them. So I don’t create one reality that isn’t true.
I did that in active addiction. My reality was always false and distorted.
Now, thanks to Houghton House, my reality is somewhat stable, somewhat.
The truth, regarding this guy, may or may not come out.
Perhaps there will be enough evidence, i.e. strong witness testimony, that supports the story he is guilty of sexual harassment. Perhaps there won’t be, and he’ll be found innocent.
Sadly, even if he is innocent, chances are his name is ruined forever. Doubt will always stain his name.
Which reality is true?
If we’re honest with ourselves, right now, he’s both a predator and an innocent.
The Necker Cube flicks both ways.
Until we know for sure, and maybe we cannot, we just don’t know.
In my reality, I often experience great deals of paranoia. I’m both being conspired about and people are barely aware of me.
In addiction, the disparity in reality is even worse for me.
*Life free from addiction


Ultimately, without strong evidence, our reality is merely informed by our mind taking a perspective. It shapes our reality.
How often have you been wrong about something you’ve assumed to be truth?
Resist riding the wave of mass human group-think.
See the Necker Cube of reality both ways.
We must never let the Individual we are submit to the mob.


Never.

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 

Addicted to the High Life.

Sunday, bleedy Sunday.

High Life, It’s Sunday. I love Sundays, normally, I sleep in. Till late. Late late. Like 11. I couldn’t this Sunday, as I had an event. So I woke up at 10, and a piece of me died inside. Of course, some might say, it isn’t very Recovery to sleep in so late, even on a Sunday. Well, to those Judge Judys, I say how you spend your Sunday is your business. My Sunday is a precious commodity I spend how I want.

high life

Next you’ll tell me how to spend my money. Tsk tsking at all the Steam game specials I buy (mostly games I will never play, but the thought of playing them is a reward in itself).

 

This Sunday, I went to Houghton House’s special Celebrating Recovery event.

They were celebrating all their former inmates who made the one-year mark, which I did last November.

I felt all kinds of proud to go up there and collect my passive-aggressive recovery gifts to the ringing sound of applause (i.e. soap wrapped in paper that reads: ‘Removes stubborn character defects. Suitable for delicate over-sensitivity). I wanted to hug the very attractive Natasha, but my sensai, Danny Rand, had taught me not to give into temptations of the flesh. I also wanted to give a speech, but time was short, and we needed to allocate as much time as possible to founding partner Dan Wolf’s fifteen minute five minute closing address.

“I just want to thank my parents, for supporting me through this first year of life/death struggle. To God for maybe existing, though I believe in the form of Loki, who is now dead at the hands of Thanos – sorry, spoiler warning, but it isn’t my fault you haven’t watched the movie by now. I also wanted to thank the Academy for their belief in my performance, even while knowing my acting skills are more B-grade than Walker, Texas Ranger. And finally, to the staff of Houghton, who never fail to welcome me whenever I am there for my therapy sessions. Always with wide-smiles, always supportive, always excited to see I’m doing so well. I love them all. Especially Kerry, she’s a king of kick-ass.”

 

Getting my dose of Iron. (A Step in the Right Direction, Part II)

Drugs kept me up all night during early active addiction. Drugs made me toss and turn under my sweat-filled duvet. Drugs made sure I was still up to hear the terrifying sound of the Dawn Choir on a work day.

These days, I’m normally asleep by 11:30. But I wanted my Sunday lie-in this week, because I’ve gotten hooked on my new addiction, Stepping. The Stepper has been amazing. My idea of raising my pulse rate in the bad old days involved a rolled up R10 note.

These days, it’s stepping on an exercise machine while watching Iron Fist and its chief kung fu protagonist, Danny Rand, fighting the evil criminal organisation, The Hand (fist against hand? Seems like the odds are against him, i.e. paper beats rock every time).

Those hardcore fighting scenes get me so enveloped in the action, that I barely notice my legs pumping the Stepper, barely notice my exhaustion, and my limits being broken.

Saturday night, I went a full 23 minutes non-stop before needing a break. I used to break every nine minutes. Then, after swigging down water, I managed another half an hour right till the episode ended on another cliff-hanger.

I’ve really been Iron Fisting hard, and it feels so… good. I just don’t understand the strange looks from people when I tell them that. What’s wrong with Iron Fisting? Hard?

 

High-Ho.

I’ve started work at my new job. More of a way of High Life, really. Already had some great successes this past week – including a very cool blog which impressed my colleagues. I’d share it with you all here, but that might reveal my identity. A closely guarded secret that only, like, 30 people know.

It turns out I’m the most senior person in my division there. Feels weird taking on the responsibility.

But my word-fu is stronger than I imagined.

On Friday, a junior writer handed me some work – there was a lot wrong with it. I was proud of how I handled it though. I made sure not to disparage, not to be arrogant either. After all, I too was a junior writer once. And had mentors who helped hone my talents. So I did some rewriting. But I went through it with her, explaining the whys of writing well. I explained the essence of crafting copy. I made sure she knew I was in her shoes not that long ago, and owed so much to my forebears.

Mentoring another writer is tricky. Because we feel our heart and soul is in our writing. Any perceived criticism is a jagged icicle in the chest. I knew she felt it, and I felt awkward.

But when I showed her how to improve her copy, when she saw how it flowed so much better… there was that spark in her eyes… the moment of insight, the moment of growth.

 

My cat habit is out of hand.

My neighbour asked me the other day who my new girlfriend is. “What girlfriend?” I asked. “Oh,” she replied. “The one who sings such lovely songs to your cats.”

FML. I turned red.

But I can’t help it. I sing to them. I miss them so much during the day, that when I see my cats, all I want to do is shower them with love. Cuddles. Songs. Treats.

*

Life is grand. I’m on the way up. Drugs and alcohol never managed to steal my soul. Sear it, yes, but even bad burns heal, with the right treatment.

That I owe to Houghton House, and their wonderful team.

I’m free from the other type of cat now, methcathinone, after a decade-long destructive relationship. I’ll always, always be free of it, provided I keep working on my Recovery.

The only cat now is the kind that bumps noses and nuzzles.

Soft, calming purrs easing my spirit.

It’s the only cat I need for a life complete.

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 

How to cope with everyday stresses that cause cravings for drugs.  

Stress – Relapses happen.


Often. It’s not uncommon in the first few days or weeks of addiction recovery.

It’s not uncommon within the first few hours, either.


Why? Well, it’s called ‘Life on Life’s Terms’ by the addiction recovery fellowships. What that translates to is: stress.

stress happens JDs BlogHigh levels of stress are probably the most dangerous experience for a recovering addict to go through.

Sure, some people relapse when they’ve had a really great day. They want to celebrate, and their old friend, Damian Drug, is out there… waiting to pick them up.

Or they’re going through a sad time. Losing a loved one. A relationship breakup. Missing an episode of Game of Thrones, and then seeing a spoiler on Facebook.

(I hate it when people post spoilers about GoT – makes me want to invite them to a Red Wedding.)

But stress… man… that is hard for an addict to cope with.


It can be anything. Going under the microscope of that government agency named after an influenza. Thinking your partner is cheating on you, and you’re waiting to hear from the private eye – imagining writhing ecstasy in telephoto-lensed photos…

Or you have evil co-workers conspiring to make life a misery. And that’s a big thing, workplace bullying and office politics. I went through it once, and, in response, I guzzled alcohol like an SUV guzzles petrol.

So how does one cope with stress? Here’s what happens to me, maybe you can relate:

Something happens which makes my future feel precarious. Let’s say it’s my starting the new job. The job doesn’t only involve writing copy – which I’m pretty darn comfortable with. It also involves content management systems. These are the backend of social media. When you see an ad in your Facebook newsfeed? It seems bang on target for you, right?

That’s because the content management system (CMS) for Facebook business users allows them to hone in on specific audiences. You are a demography. A market. If you post pictures of you cycling the streets on the weekend then: ads for bicycles start showing up in your newsfeed. Or maybe you see diamond engagement rings being advertised? But you said nothing about getting married on FB, you were only just beginning to discuss it with your partner, so what gives? Well, you updated your singleton status to In a relationship with Jon Doe about 20 months ago. They have some algorithm that works out the average dating time before a guy gets down on his knee – as if you’re about to whip out a sword and knight him Sir Stayshomealot. You have been psychographed as being in the prime window period when a proposal is likely to happen, and you can be sure your hubby-to-be is seeing the same ads.

Essentially, CMSs manage content. It allows you to post content onto your business’s page, to do analytics on visitors, all kinds of stuff to bring in the bacon.

Anyway, back to our example: these CMSs are a bit complicated, and I stress that it’ll take me too long to work it all out. I’m now projecting future stress into the present moment like a nervous, sweaty time machine.

What if I don’t perform my job properly? What if doing my best isn’t good enough? What if the amount of work required overwhelms me, and no matter how much time I put in, I end up dropping big hairy balls?

The sheer length of the work list causes me to hyperventilate; panic, pace around the house smoking enough smoke signals to hail a Cherokee; and consider smoking a blunt, popping a tranquiliser, or drinking alcohol at an Olde English Pub with bugged-out eyes – at 10am in the morning.

Because the thoughts of what could happen obsess me. I don’t let go of them. They swirl around my brain like ravenous sharks. I get more and more anxious. It feels like the end of the world is coming… it’s around the corner, man, and my life – as I know it – is over.


It’s not even a case of: maybe I should go use drugs. It’s a case of: drugs, drugs, gimme drugs, drugs, drugs, anything to make me stop feeling this way!

Better options than flushing my life down the drug addiction toilet are:

Talk to somebody. Which I do. Reaching out like they’re a red lifesaver bobbing in the ocean.

Meditation. Going zen, man, as I click on youTUBE videos of trippy patterns playing to Indian sitars.

Not enough? I do research into CMSs, learning that maaaaybe they’re not so difficult to learn, and start trying them out. This is tackling the source of your stress head on, instead of ignoring it. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Because stress isn’t a biological feature that mysteriously appeared just to make life more difficult.

Stress can be your friend. Some situations are appropriately scary. If I didn’t stress about learning how to manage CMSs, then I really would be in danger of losing my job. Stress helps you take threats seriously – so you can do something about them.

I see stress as divided into Good Stress and Bad Stress. The former is stress you can face, if you change your mindset, and use it to power through obstacles. The latter is stress where you’re powerless to do anything. And here is where Houghton House helped me a lot.

We were taught, in situations we had no power to alter, we need to accept we’re powerless over the outcome. Simply by telling ourselves, “Hey, man, might as well shrug, nothing you can do, except plan for the possible fallout,” we let go of the stress.

So a Bad Stress situation would be a nasty co-worker in a meeting with your boss. About you. They’re bad-mouthing you, trying to push you out the door. Either you’ll get a chance to speak up or you won’t, but there’s no control over that. What to do? Shrug, and send out your CV.

Best you can do. And knowing you’ve done your best, well, helps ease off the stress.

Making it easier to avoid the temptation for drugs or alcohol.

What’s your favourite healthy methods of easing off stress? Tell us in the comments section of this blog’s Facebook post. Maybe you’ll help a recovering addict manage their stress better.

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 

 

Demons of Drugs, Demons of Addiction Recovery

We all face personal demons, whether through drug or alcohol abuse, or the negative thinking that we’re not good enough.
J.D faces his demons when he finally gets the opportunity to get a great job… And this week he finds out if he got it…


I’ve a demon inside me. As Houghton House has taught, it won’t dissipate with the stopping of drugs or alcohol. It remains, it takes new forms, it yearns for reward.

We’re hardwired to respond to pleasure. Makes sense, right? Pleasure is meant to motivate us into action. Work harder, be more productive, and you achieve more. Hence workaholics.

Have more sex, increase your chances of spreading a seed to bloom and quicken a womb, and you have more genetic descendants. Hence sex addicts.

Eat more food, store the calories away in your belly, you can weather the lean winter months.

But what worked in the cave(hu)man era is easily dysfunctional now. Hence eating disorders.

The constant sense of reward drives some of us to destructive behaviours. I covered some of this in my Everyday addictions post.

It’s the tentacles of a beast within us. And for me, it’s about alleviating pain.

I experience a pain of my own making every day. A hell self-constructed from the fiery coals of low self-esteem.

I’ve been looking for a permanent post at some or other agency for a very long time now. I wanted to find work desperately.

Yet, at the back of my mind, was the constant voice of a devil shrouded in my own skin.

“No one will hire you – you’re not good enough. You’re too f*$%ed up. They’ll see through you. There’s always someone better than you.

In my line of work, portfolios are important. And mine, through some lack of opportunity to potentially award-winning campaigns, is lacklustre compared to others. Or so I thought.

The negative thinking I indulge in is so self-destructive: it makes it easy to justify picking up drugs or drinking alcohol again. It makes it easy to consider self-harm. It makes it easy to just give up and live in squalor.

That demon voice, the one that breaks you down, points out all your flaws, recites all your mistakes, remembers all the people who you pushed away, eviscerates your bowels with cutting memories… it is as much a part of Hell as active addiction.

Some addicts recovering from drugs, drink, and dubious “escorts”, seem to find their self-esteem grow quickly once they’re on the Path. Houghton House certainly helps them a lot with that. With me, I’m only still walking because of my Houghton therapist.

She’s guided me through a long, winding road which finally saw me face my biggest challenge.

*


Apply. Apply. Apply. And yet so many non-responses from so many companies. Until one day two weeks ago. I sent my CV, and a comic-strip introduction I made on my MacBook, to a social media agency.

The gatekeeper, responsible for filtering the candidates, emailed me back.

“Oh, this isn’t about the job. I just really love your comic strip. Can you make me one? Kiiiiiding. How’s tomorrow for an interview?”

Excited, I affirmed the date and time. The demon in my head kept feeding me nonsense, though. “They’ll meet you. They’ll see how ridiculous you are. Why even bother trying? Go there out of duty, simply to say you did it. But we both know you won’t get it.”

Demons, cruel spiteful creatures, have talons in my soul. I refused to give up though.

Along a long windy passageway, I walked, past office after office, until I reached this agency’s door.

I met the two young ladies interviewing on behalf of their bosses. I hit it off with both of them. We even exchanged cat photos. (Cat people, sigh.)

I was given a test to do. To see if I had the right stuff for the job. Basically, writing social media posts, as required in different circumstances.

Again, the demon.

I was in the shower, hot water hitting me, temperatures close to searing. The demon said, “Why bother with the test? Just do it to get it over with. Someone is out there now, doing a better job that you will ever do.”

I fought that voice. I fought it with everything I had. If I could beat drugs and alcohol, I could beat the personification of my low self-esteem.

“I want the job. If I want the job, I’m going to give them more than they asked for.”

I decided not to respond to the assignment in the word document as they expected me to. I made them a full-feature PowerPoint presentation. I used pictures, I created a narrative structure, I explained my thinking for each Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn post. I wrote a compelling blog entry, raw with emotion yet imbued with humour.

I sent it off to the company.

And I heard nothing.

Nothing.


“I told you,” said the demon. “You went too far. Who cares about bells and whistles? All that effort, for nothing. Go nap now. Sleep away your life. It’s worthless anyhow.”

Instead, I followed up. Refused to give in.

“Hey, I realise the format I sent the presentation in might not have worked on your computer, here’s a version in PDF.” That was my excuse.

“No, we were able to view it fine. We absolutely loved it J Janine [the one boss] will be calling you shortly.”

“Shortly” was a couple of nerve-wracking days.

The demon continued his taunting, his mocking, his attempt to chip away at my self-belief.

I finally got over it. Accepted whatever happens.

Then I got a meeting request. With the bosses.

“You’ll screw up this interview!”

“I have to try.”

It wasn’t an interview. It was a meeting to discuss the fine points of what I’m required to do.

Because they really did love the presentation.

And the bosses told me how their people ranted and raved about me.

I’m about to embark on an exciting new chapter.

It’ll require doing work I’ve not really done before.

But they chose me because they believe me to be a truly gifted writer.

I’m facing down the demon’s horns now.

He’s been sundered but he hasn’t surrendered.

It doesn’t matter.

Because neither have I.


Photo credits. J.D

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 
armed-dangerous

Wings of Fury: trying to quit the addict’s fear habit.

Addicts experience a lot of fear because of drugs and alcohol.


So what’s recovery like?

It depends who you ask, because this week J.D proves to be a wimp when confronted with a stinging issue.


Recovery is about doing things differently. No longer living in fear is one of them. I no longer fear flashing blue lights, for instance. Stops at roadblocks do not cause liquid terror to run down my pants. I know there’s no chance of me experiencing Surprise Date Night at one of Sandton Police Station’s holding cells.

That’s recovery from drugs and alcohol for you. I’m free from worry.

Except that this is me we’re talking about.

And I worry about almost everything. Like Woody Allen, I’m a Great Worrier. We are worriers of the highest order, much like the warriors of the Knights Templar. Both contemplate a mass of bodies strewn on a blood-soaked battlefield, guts hung from trees, hands and legs left metres from their former owners, and enough crushed skull fragments to make you think it was Christmas morning.

But whereas the Templars imagined these things because they were about to have another day at the Jerusalem office, circa violent Crusades, I imagine these things when I’m going into any old office. I’ve been told I catastrophize. The worst-case scenario is inevitable.

“We’re all going to die! Every one of us! They’ll defenestrate us from the fourth floor! There won’t be anything to bury! My poor mother, she won’t even be able to identify me at the morgue!”

“J.D, dude, it’s just a client revert. They’re just not happy with one… small… piece… of… the… creative.”

“You fool! That one small thing was everything! They think we f$c#ed with them! They have to make an example of us! They’ll hang us with our entrails! They’ll flay us alive! They’ll tie us to boats, coat honey on us, and wait till wasps plant their eggs in our eyes!”

“Dude, you should be on medication.”

“I am on medication!”

“Then in a straightjacket.”

Fear is the mind-killer, to quote Frank Hubbert. It shuts down the rational side of the brain. Or subverts it. It drives a horrific campaign of conquest on your goals. I was, for instance, trying to come up with an idea for this week’s blog, but instead all I can do is obsess about an issue most consider insignificant. Which is why I must apologise about there being no blog this week.

See, I was leaving the house the other day when I noticed a miniature mud igloo on my door. A small little mud igloo. With an even smaller little hole in it.

Took me a few stupefying moments to connect the dots. It’s almost like I believed gunk and dirt had manifested in that spot on its own. Like a crystal forming in a cave of mystery. Nothing else needed.

But then I wondered, “Is this maybe an ant’s nest? Teeny tiny little ant’s nest? Is this where the bloody blighters are coming from?” I had an Ant issue, they were always On my kitchen counter, ready to call up all their mates in 60 seconds whenever I dropped so much as a crumb.

60 seconds! Those wiggling antennae are cellular.


fear of worry

But, no, it wasn’t an ant’s nest. I did that Who Wants To Be A Millionaire thing, and asked the audience. In this case, Facebook. It’s a wasp’s nest.

Wasps.

Initially I was confused. However, as there aren’t many Anglo-Saxons in my area, I realised I was dealing with those devil-possessed flying hypodermic needles. Ever since I was a child, I quivered  in fear at the sight of them. A lion charging at me. Hah! I merely have to sing Hakuna matata. But a wasp? It’s like being on the English countryside and seeing the entire Luftwaffe appearing in the sky.

(I recently met a pilot who’d fit right in with the Luftwaffe. Cough cough.)

Panic time.

Now, I’m not 100% sure the best way to get rid of them. Insecticide the flying faqwad out of the nest? What if some wasps survived, and they seethe for vengeance? Sigh. All I need now is a gang of orphaned stinger-armed insects with a blood feud against me. They’d come for me at the worst possible moment. When I’m using the toilet, stepping out the shower, or getting romantic with my iPad.

This required some forethought. This required strategizing. The first step being… Do not step out the front door. Do not open for any reason.

Someone knocked on my door. My one-floor down neighbour.

“Hellooo? Helloo? Ah yoo huhm? Ey sah youh cah, youh mus’ be huhm?”

“Don’t knock on the door,” I screamed from the other side of it. “Can’t you tell? It’s a wasp’s nest there!”

“Thee littah thin’? Not was’. Was’ baby was’. It goh nowh.”

I was even more confused. An incubation chamber maybe? For one of those spider-hunting wasps, where they drag a live, but paralysed spider into it, lay a single wasp egg, and close it up?

If you think you have it bad, imagine being paralysed, but alive, and waiting for a wasp egg to hatch on you. So it could eat you.

“I’m still not opening that door!”

I definitely heard what was most certainly chiding, or swearing, but I couldn’t understand it.

“Mah chil’wen bahl ehn up oh youh balhony. Pleaz thwoah ih dowh.”

“Sure, sure, will do.”

Lovely woman, when I’m not being a freak, or her children aren’t stirring up trouble.

Stupid kids and their stupid splatter patterned puffed-up ball, causing neighbourly tensions like this. It made me want to Google ‘How to have crab-apple trees as pot plants’. Or maybe as a bonsai. With really small crab-apples.

I live in an apartment, but maybe I could dig up a part of my living room, soil it up, and have a real crab-apple tree, with full sized crab-apples.

Then I wouldn’t have to worry about the kids anymore.

They would be the ones worrying about me.

The only problem with a crab-apple tree, especially indoors, is it might attract wasps.

Then I’d be worrying about how my new wasp nests clashed with my curtains.

And I really would hate to have to worry.


 

More from JD 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 
The Next Big Step (in drug addiction recovery).

The Next Big Step (in drug addiction recovery).

J.D leaves the halfway house this week, to take charge of his life. And in the recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, he really steps up to it. With a Stepper. Plus kung fu! Sort of!

So it was adios, amigos to the halfway house I’ve been staying at for over one year four months now.

Alex Hamlyn, a director at Houghton, always said, “You’ll know it’s time to leave once you’ve outgrown the rules.” Mainly, for me, the rules involving check-in times. See, I work from home, have my own little study there (home is where the kitties are at) and I found it jarring to suddenly leave around mid-afternoon everyday so I could make the 5:30pm check-in time.

I often hit my creative stride around 3pm and can keep going, without a break, until 6:30pm or so. Now that I’m in the process of looking for work, I’ve started designing a funky CV in the style of a comic book. (It makes it imminently more readable if you have pictures and pretty words.)

So, it was time to go.The Next Big Step (in drug addiction recovery).

Of course, that means I need to be extra vigilant now that I’m out. A great deal many people relapse once leaving the ‘protective’ environment of a halfway house. That’s because, I think, at the back of their minds they know they’re no longer accountable.

To counter any subconscious sabotaging of my own recovery, I’ve insisted my family randomly test me every week. That means going to Houghton House, which offer this service to external parties, where their highly qualified nursing team handle the testing procedures. And then inform the relevant authorities the results (in this case, Mother, Father, Sister, and Mason & Maxine).

It’s a rather convenient service, because it means my mom doesn’t watch me pee. Winners all round.

Life is a bit messy. Halfway houses help addicts structure their lives, with set meals, check-ins, times you’re supposed to be awake and out the house to do something with your life. Like not sleeping until 11am. Or pm. And then going back to sleep again.

I’m currently not really working. It’s not the best economy for a writer right now. Especially in Advertising; there’s a lot of us throwing ourselves like meat at any wolf with employment opportunities. Undercutting each other, desperately pushing and shoving one another. It’s a Soviet Russia food queue. For canned, spammed beef at grossly inflated prices. Out of an Enterprize factory.

It would be easy to just throw my hands up in despair. Sleep in late. Or take up my old bad ways… I used to believe I was most productive on a narcotic called cat, slang for methcathinone.

It did push me to my limits, that’s for sure. I worked harder, faster, and for longer periods than I do now. It also rained fiery asteroids down on my life, like in the movie Armageddon (Houghton House’s counselling team played the Bruce Will and Ben Affleck roles to save me from myself).

What to do?

I decided, again, as I and other addicts decide on sometimes a daily basis, not to pick up drugs or alcohol. But to find another way. A better way.

I evaluated my weaknesses. Primarily, I’m unfit as f@#%. Here’s a thought, I told myself. Maybe we’d be better at everything we do if we actually get off our @$$3s. It’s not enough sitting on a leather chair in the study, typing away all day.

We know, I said, that cardio exercise enhances the body. By circulating the blood better, by getting the organs to work more efficiently, by clearing out toxins, by improving cognitive function.

I can be as good as I was on cat. Or better. Probably much, much better.

The only problem is, I hate physical exercise so much, I have Western-style wanted posters for its head, dead or alive.

But if I want change, if I want to be able to compete against other writers, I have to be at my peak.

So I got a Stepper. You know, one of those exercise contraptions where you, well, step. In one place. As if climbing stairs. And that’s a hell of an achievement for me: even considering simulation stairs instead of taking the elevator. There’s no simulation elevator.

The Stepper had been gathering cobwebs for a couple of weeks now. After shooing away an alarmingly coloured spider, I took it out on Sunday night. My plan was simple.

Watch some Netflix shows while working out. That way, I could fool myself into thinking I was having fun.

Show of choice?

Iron Fist. It’s a Marvel TV show, and I believe it’s set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Though no Thor or Capt. America crossovers so far.)

Basically, it’s about a guy who returns to New York after he and his parents are believed killed in a plane crash when he was a kid. Except it crashed in the Tibetan mountains, and he was found by mythical monks, he trained in kung fu, he can now kick just about anybody’s @$$, and he returns to reclaim his multibillion dollar company.

(If it sounds a bit Green Arrowish, that’s because they’re both by rival comic book production houses, and they obviously fail at fresh ideas. For one thing, how many billionaire superheroes are there now? “Oooh, my special power is white privilege and losing my parents at a really young age! Suck it!”)

There’s round-house kicks; a smouldering Japanese swordswoman; corporate conniving; cancer-beating immortality; magic golden fists smashing faces; cage fights; a scary, old lady who speaks from the shadows (a change-your-pants kind of scary); AND ninjas riding through the hood in their pimped out car, yo. For reals. X gon’ give it to ya.

(This is, by the way, a real TV show, and not a made-up one, like in my Everyday Addictions blog post.)

Iron Fist is great motivation, because I want to be just like Danny Rand – rescuing his love interest from hatchet-wielding triad henchmen in a tight, martial arts fight in a claustrophobic hotel corridor.

I told myself, J.D, dude, we are going to do this. We will pump this frakking Stepper for the entire show.

Five minutes later, I squeaked, again an internal monologue, let’s just make it 20.

The episode I watched featured a lot of zen-macho. If there is even such a thing. Or perhaps it could be called zenspoilation. In any case, two warriors fighting for higher causes, engage in their own gutter brutal battles. I loved it. Iron Fist provides its own rap-track, but I could clearly hear DMX barking rhymes while I pumped my calves.

Around the fifteen minutes mark, I stepped off the Stepper, desperate for water. It was difficult getting back on. What would Danny Rand say? I asked myself. I pictured him looking at me, disappointed, and slowly shaking his head. I felt more ashamed that being guilted by a Jewish grandmother.

So, I did it. I got back on. Then I lost my balance and fell over backwards.

A cat squeaked in horror and bounded off the couch where I was about to land.

I didn’t want to do it anymore.

C’mon, you can do this. Rocky theme. Montage of me on the Stepper. At different angles. It wasn’t a very interesting montage.

I had to be very strict. It’s necessary if you’re as lazy as me. I really wanted to see the rest of the episode. And my code only let me if I kept in Step.

And I did. There were times I felt like my legs would fall off. Or that I’d lose consciousness and wake up in an emergency room. But I kept at it.

Every time that stupid, traitorous voice in my head said, You’ve done amazingly today. Stop for now. You’ve earned it, I would retort, No way. The whole 53 minutes episode. I’m going the distance.

And I did. I made it to the end credits.

The shower afterwards was the most amazing shower of my life. Not counting the showers I shared water. Obviously.

I guess that’s what recovery is really about.

It’s saying:

I never quit.

I went distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 
Creative without Drugs

How to be creative without drugs or alcohol.

“Oh, how will I ever be creative without drugs?”…


…whine some recovering addicts. Well, creativity isn’t rocket science and the only fuel you need is already in you, says J.D this week.


It’s one of those artist clichés. The great creatively-inclined minds imbibed on mystical juices in order to get creative. It’s also a myth. Sort of.

It isn’t true that substances don’t help with creativity. The common refrain is: “You only think you were being creative.” But you really weren’t?

Tell that to what’s left of the Beatles. What with their smash hits, including the Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds psychedelic playlist smiter. Or to Ernest Hemingway’s corpse, who famously said, “Write drunk, edit sober.” [There is contention about this quote, however.] There’s reasons why some creative people feel drugs or alcohol frees their creativity.

I don’t disagree that substances can help take writing and art-making to, ahaha, higher heights. There’s just the slight trade-off of possibly ruining your entire life.

I have been writing, editing, photographing, photo manipulating, art making, and painting for over one year and four months now without indulging in any form of substance – and I believe I’m just as good, if not better, than I was during my addiction years.


Creative without DrugsWhy?

Because, thanks to my time at Houghton House, and through continued therapy via their post-rehab treatment offerings, I’ve got a better understanding of what it means to be in a creative mind-state. And I no longer need to ‘force’ myself into it through intoxication.

The creative mind-state is, I believe, a moment of unification between the logical and the lateral sides of the brain. With the latter taking the former by the hand.

So this is how I do it:


Relax.

Not chill, certainly not take a chill pill. But one way not to be creative is to try force yourself to be – especially when you don’t feel the vibe. Creativity requires you to gently prod your brain in the direction you want to go. For instance, when I’m designing a logo, I play around. I use logo creation programmes off the App Store that let you interact with different elements of a logo, such as the text, icons, badges, etc. and move them and place them, enlarge them and rotate them, etc.

I don’t try and have a fixed idea of what logo I want. I don’t try force-fit the elements on screen to match that. Instead, I use the idea for my logo as a guide only and play with the elements gently. I see how they look together. I make adjustments to each element based their relation to one another. How do I know when it’s working? It’s called…


…Intuition.

We are all capable of looking at a piece of art and seeing what makes it sing. A logo that calls out to us. A photograph that feels just right. That’s because of a principle I call (it surely has another name) Elemental Relations. “Elements” is a division of a logo, art piece, or photograph to its most basic parts.

An example of an element would be the subject in a photograph. So, a clown. Like the guy from It. He’s (it’s?) an element that you shoot (not with a gun, won’t work, don’t bother) in relation to other elements (another subject, perhaps, staring into the sky, vacant eyed). So your elements in a shot would be balanced with the empty space around those elements. It’s about proportions. Just as a beautiful person’s facial features are all of a certain size and distance from each other that creates the beauty, so to with photography, art, and logos.

So when you shoot those elements, make sure they’re all balanced in the frame.

Oh yeah. Framing isn’t getting someone else well hung for the murder you just committed. It is the framing of the shot you want to take. A lot of people make the amateur mistake of shooting a subject in the direct middle of the frame. That’s not an aesthetically pleasing photo. You want to apply the rule of thirds. That’s when the subject is to the left or right of the centre point. And there’s empty space in the centre and the other side of the shot.

You’ll know it when you see it. Don’t just shoot…


…Play.

I mentioned playing around before. Seems childish, right? Actually, it’s child-like. If it’s a story you’re writing, make the character do something really out of character… wait a second, maybe they’re like actual people: complicated? Oh em gee, stern Judge Jensen was wearing garters and a bra the whole time he was presiding the case! Or with photography, take a million photos of the same thing, take them all differently. Subject close; subject away; far-right like the fascists; far-left like the new fascists; look down at it like the bourgeois; look up like the proletariat; shoot shoot shoot like you’re a lone rifleman facing a Russian revolution.

It is a revolution. Because creativity is about…


…Breakthroughs.

Suddenly, you see the world in a new light. A shining, exciting new light. At least, one small, but still very titillating (I love that word) new light. Whatever it is you were doing, a novel, an art piece, a musical composition, or a photo, you will feel a cognitive jump. Your brain just made a leap between two vast neurological points, and the electric current surges across to make a new pathway. Your eyes light up, you experience headiness. Something, something, connected. If it was a novel, then it could be that a character you’re writing in a scene has an aspect of their personality magically revealed… as if they became alive. If an art piece, you’ve created a being almost independently of you – a shard of your soul now free in the world. If a piece of music, it’s the moment the violin flows into the pounding of the percussions, before the entire orchestra explodes into symphony. A photo, and you’ve captured the spirit of: the moment, the subject, or the landscape. In our featured image this week, it’s a boring old pine cone. But now it’s more than a pine cone. It is the pine cone.


Creativity and being creative without drugs really is that simple.

It doesn’t require magic. It’s not drugs-driven. The potential was always in you. Now… go.

Celebrate recovery. And create something special.


PHOTO CREDIT: J.D

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 

The Room before the darkness of drug addiction


J.D uses weird, poetic metaphor to juxtapose the innocence he had as a young child to the hard-bitten cynicism of and darkness of drug addiction.

But it ends on hope, so chill y’all.


I remembered the room. Small room. I think. Hard to remember. Some chiming tune. Swirling elephant shapes. A horse too. They were singularly coloured. Swirling on a device above my head. If I recall correctly, it was blue. I was engrossed in that chime.

A silhouette of woman kept opening the door. Peering in. I have no recollection beyond that. Not being brought to breast, not suckling, no cuddling. Just the woman. Peering in.

Such an odd memory. So detached. I remember flailing about. Comforted on all sides, enclosed. Perhaps that was truly the embrace.

That tune. Like a piano. But tinnier. Brahms’ Lulluby.

If there’s any hue to my earliest memory, it’s mauve, smoky almost, and I was being. That was all.

Being.

As the spark-like sound of the mobile rotated, I was happy.

*


darkness of drug addiction bedsBoxes. Large cardboard boxes.

Pulled myself into them, flipped them, was inside, giggling with my cousin, in a small room, a lounge, with windows that overlooked a coast. Giants spoke, they made noise, they were our friends, we were safe, while we played in our own space.

A box. Like a womb built magically into a room.

We were safe.

*


The older boys ran ahead. They were twice a head taller than me. Sprinting down the concrete path surrounded by trees, we made our way to the arcades. Machines, so tall, I could barely see the screen, hands-on controls, after slotting in a small 20c coin there was a chime – then I pressed the single player button and took to the air as Airwolf – the sonic-barrier breaking helicopter.

We were in a land of tall green trees, with the smell of salt in the air, where our parents were just out of sight, but never out of mind.

 

My earliest memories. I was so full of innocent joy then. The world was an exciting place, but boundaried by a loving mom and a loving dad.

Snake parks, with spitting cobras coiling up with slithering forked tongues, peering at me through the glass. Joyful, unlike the fork-tongued snakes in office parks, political beasts with knives in sleeves – as if aces to play against you in a game you weren’t aware you were playing.

*


Water slides, with my cousin sailing ahead of me, as we twisted and turned down the tunnel – yelping with delight to alight at the splash pool at the bottom. Fun, unlike the twisted turns and slippery slopes of life leads to drug addiction – where the excitement slowly turns to entrapped fear. What way out of the enclosing darkness? Can’t ask for help, asked for help too many times. No one will forgive me this time. What about a steak knife? Maybe too many pills and a letter blaming no one, hoping no one will blame themselves?

*


Trips to the mountain, the entire family – dad driving, mom talking to us, head turned, while sister and I giggle as we pass my cousins in their old Volkswagen combi. We’ll soon be running around the acre of land chasing chickens, or playing the hunting game stalking each other, or in the late evenings the nine of us will all be watching Star Wars (five years after Return of the Jedi came out!) on a magnificently minute TV. Lazy afternoons watching my uncle stand in his water-proof fisherman’s pants as he whipped a fly-fishing rod’s line overhead before flinging its hook into the vast reaches of the river. Tonight, we dine on rainbow trout!

A gentler trip than I would later take, one involving dropping acid and experiencing a world meld into madness – at first, euphoric. Later, angst. Despair. The intense nature of life’s inner wirings exposed for me to see, the underpinning a skeleton ghastly as it stared back. I’m changed forever. Whoah. Bad trip, man. So, just the body drugs for me. Till I can’t stop, till I have to phone the dealer, at any time of night. Mission off to see him, a journey of misshapen creatures of midnight.

*

Life is a journey. Mine took me through bat country. I feel this sort of sweet sorrow when I reminisce about an innocent boy.

One who didn’t know where his feet would take him.

One time, my cousin and I, at San Lameer, the resort by the salted air, seas, and large trees, were returning from the arcade games in the central district where guest check-ins and admin offices were located. We were supposed to have left earlier, but, as boys do, ended up too engrossed in the games, and were too good at them too. Our 50c coins (now we were a bit older, the machines kept up with inflation) lasted past sunset. We were nine, and walked back through the concrete paths, labyrinth-like, surrounded by shadows of the multitude of trees. We both felt that primal feeling, from those nightmares where you’re being stalked by something… we ran, and ran, trying to find our way back, terrified a strange adult would come upon us… we knew enough then, had it drummed into us, what could happen.

Trying not to panic, we suddenly saw a dark shape ahead of us. A torch shone in our faces.

“J.D!”

Relief. It was Dad.

*


Unfortunately, he wasn’t on the path when I stumbled onto the wrong one and found myself in the oppressively heavy woods of drug addiction. His son, who he had such hopes for. Dreams. Discovered himself lost, scared, unable to find his way out.

Years, I spent in those dark woods.

Many years, high on the strange things I found in there. Happy, I thought.

“I’m away with the fairies! Hahhaha!”

But they weren’t really there. They weren’t really my friends.

Everything hollows out with drug addiction. Every colour turns into greyscale.

“There’s no way out,” I thought. “This is my world now.

“This the rest of my life.”

So I sat down amongst the twisted oaks that had become my tomb.

*


One of my earliest memories was of a nightmare I had. In the dream, gargantuan statues of malformed faces lined up along a path like perverted sentinels. My mother was in the dream. A Force was coming for me. A Force of such great power, it could rend reality.

My mother told me to run, and then she ran herself, but towards it. I was sure she was finished.

Perhaps it was a harbinger of what was to come.

I was three at the time.

But my mother kept running, in that dream, and through it and through the fabric of Time – until she stood before the haunted woods I was lost in, and waved a flashlight furiously into the dense wall of trees.

That light saved me.

For it was the light that finally showed me the way back home.

Back to the room with the hanging mobile and its tinny, lulling chime.


Photo credit: J.D

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 

Everyday addictions

I’m hooked, man. I’m nailing Netflix. I snorting the online stores. I’m smoking the pages of best-selling paperbacks, I’m turning them so fast. I’m addicted to everyday addictions. And so, probably, are you.


Have you seen the new Netflix show Ninjas? Oh. Em. Gee. I cannot get enough of this. It’s kind of got that Heroes vibe to it, that decades old everyday superhero series.


But Ninjas is so much better. Like, in the first scene of the series premiere, Dalton, the guy with the mop of blond hair, weaving his way through the Russian’s mob’s night club, through the dancing throngs, as the gangsters notice him and move in. The way he moved, short sharp kicks to the side of the knee – out of nowhere! Axe-kicking that guy three times his size to the ground before using his own knee to smash the dude’s face. After taking out the mob boss in the lofty glass office, using well-placed ninja-star strikes to the head, he ninja-bombed right out of there in a shroud of smoke – as the bad guys were about to overrun him!

Everyday addictionsBut, as usual with these tight Netflix series, it’s the final act that really rivets you – for that cliff-hanger to make you want more. Like when Shinobi, the mysterious dude pretending to be a beggar – with his off-white shawl actually mimicking a ninja hood – does those fast, fluid arm-breaks, throws, and weaves against the (eight!) security guards in the entrance hall of Yakamato Corp., I practically lost my mind – especially since the entire final act used Mona Lisa Overdrive. One of my favourite films scores, like, ever. Shin infiltrates the building. Finds the microchip. Plans to escape through that secret exit. Then that breath-taking sword-fight with security-commander (and ninja) Jin, where their blades clashed like a ballet dance, whipping small bloody cuts on each other! I re-watched the bit where the rest of the security team broke down the jammed door, just as Shinobi got the upper hand in the fight, flipping Jin’s overly muscular body around so they get entwined back-to-back – with Shin’s sword by Jin’s neck. Can’t shoot Shin with your assault rifles now, lousy security guards!

I was anxiously thumping my foot on the floor as Shin disengages from Jin, and leaps out the building’s third storey window, turning and whipping out a tiny grappling hook – which just managed to hit the glass pane to break his fall… when Jin grabbed that sub-machine gun from the one security guy, firing it off, blasting the grapping hook from the window, rushing to it as Shin crash landed those last two metres to the ground, before firing at him. I wasn’t sure Shin would make it to the sewer manhole… but he did, literally a split-second before he would’ve been glibbed by a metal-storm of bullets.

We ended on Jin’s scowling goatee’d face as his narrow eyes glared with anger. Cross-fade to black. Roll credits.

So I think this is what’s going to happen. Shinobi’s definitely wounded. Jin’s going to try hunt him down with his security team. No way he’s letting him get away with the microchip – and we still need to find why it’s so important to The Scarlet Brotherhood. Then the red-headed chick… um, don’t remember her name… not sure how she’s connected, but the way she saved the Tibetan kid at the park from mysterious masked assailants will be pivotal next episode. And the kid wasn’t bad with his staff-style of fighting. I’m thinking trained by warrior monks, or something.

All I can think about is the next episode. I was so going to watch it immediately, but I had work to do. It’s driving me mad these everyday addictions

Except there is no Ninjas. There should be. It would be so fragging awesome. I just used it to illustrate how crazy I get about a TV series (without revealing spoilers). We’re all Game of Thrones addicts, for one thing. Ordinary people salivate for their favourite series like a crack addict does for his pipe.

I mean, you, the non-addicts who may read this blog, do you relate?

The desperate need to find out what happens next in the tightly plotted tales woven for us by master storytellers?

It’s an addiction. An everyday addiction. Many ordinary people binge watch. And it affects their lives, kind of. Think about the average Netflix series, which is between 10 to 13 hours long. That’s time you once spent reading a book.

Do people still read in this age of instant series gratification? That’s another thing I used to be addicted to.

I’m not ashamed. Sidney Sheldon novels. I thought they were as nutritious as potato chips. And yet I couldn’t stop consuming them. Stories like some a-hole multi billionaire who struck it rich with a lucky oil-fields find… who uses his free time to plot evil plots for reasons not really made clear. Are you so bored with life when you have billions that you’re only entertained by head games? Ah ha!, he must have thought, I’ve convinced you that your husband is in love with your illegal immigrant Hispanic maid! Who’s really your long-lost half-sister! And moonlights as an elite government assassin!

I normally read these books when I was supposed to be studying for my varsity exams. The day before. I would start in the morning and I would be finished by midnight. And the one book I should have actually opened was neglected in the corner – like a deflated male stripper at a lesbian hen party.

Then there’s one of my other addictions. Shopping. Online. I’m a gamer. I love my computer games. And on STEAM, an online gaming platform, there are literally thousands and thousands. The problem, for me, is the store is designed like the Apple App Store. Better than the App Store. It is the man-child’s version of a toy aisle for six-year olds. Except EVERY aisle is the toy aisle.

The worst are the specials. They always have specials. You can buy games, sometimes, for 90% off!

Do I play most of the games I download? No. Actually not. But it’s the buying that triggers something. Can you relate?

Even the famed Alex Hamlyn, one of the directors of Houghton House, slips once in a while. I have it on good authority he once binge-watched eight episodes of 24 in a row until 3 o’ clock in the morning. This was in 2009, Alex, if you’re reading this. I remember very well and will testify in a court of law if need be.

See, nobody is completely immune from everyday addictions. We all experience it to some degree.

The key, and I’m still learning this, is managing it so you don’t disrupt your life. When you’re playing Candy Crush two hours into your work day, unable to pull yourself away from your cellphone while your boss is awaiting that important report… it can cause problems.

Work, incidentally, is its own addiction. It’s that feeling of accomplishment when fulfilling a task… the feeling of dopamine being released in the brain. It’s basically a fraction of what happens when you snort cocaine. The purpose of that neurochemical is to get you to repeat an action. Completing helpful tasks was a key component of our survival as a species.

Almost all everyday addictions are about the release of dopamine.

The anticipation of “watching one more episode”, “reading one more chapter”, “buying one more game”, “playing one more level”, “completing one more task”. It’s like drugs. One more hit of the pipe. One more snort up the nose. One more spike of the needle.

But there’s always one more after the one more.

Everyday addictions are mostly not that harmful. Chemical addictions, of course, are. But they’re essentially the same mechanism. And maybe, if you’re not an addict, you’ve now got a better idea of what it is like to be an addict. Dangerous chemicals. Including alcohol. We know we should stop. But soon we can’t. When that happens, only an excellent rehab centre like Houghton House can help us.

It’s possible I’ll have to check in there again for my Netflix habit.

Because right now, I’m more interested in watching the next episode of Ninjas than completing this blog post.


PHOTO CREDIT: J.D (whatever his non-pseudonym name is, which is known to Houghton House). Photoshoot, photo-editing, and concept by him. This is protected by international copyright laws and no unauthorised usage, including of concept, is allowed.

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 

God, Cancer, and Keeping Clean from Drugs & Alcohol.

Clean from Drugs. They say pray for a miracle. Houghton House is the miracle in active addiction. But with cancer in the family, who did I pray to? Anyone who would listen. And it seems someone did.


My cat is tearing up a newspaper. I’m not sure why, but I suspect he doesn’t like bad news. Crunch crunch, in the next room. It’s torn to shreds. That’ll show it for inundating you with misery, Mason!

Near the end of last year, I had the worst news: my younger sister had a tumour growing in her pancreas.

 

Pancreatic cancer ended the life of Steve Jobs, the man who created Apple.

It withered away Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze.

And it took the legendary actor who played Harry Potter’s Snape, Alan Rickman.

It has claimed countless lives.

When my father sent me the WhatsApp on a November Saturday afternoon, I went cold as an iceberg. I certainly felt hit by one.

After visiting my family later in the day, I did something I hadn’t in a very long time.

I prayed. I didn’t believe in God, and still don’t, but when you’re powerless as a new-born baby, there’s an absolute desperation making you willing to try anything.

I became convinced that if there was a God, He didn’t just perform miracles nilly-willy. It didn’t make sense to me that something brought into Creation could just be taken out.

I believed if there was a God who created the Universe, He would expect Balance, and that’s where most people got it wrong.

I thought about how my sister has four children, all under the age of five. A loving husband who looked wrecked that afternoon, shattered as he was. Two parents I felt would be more destroyed if she left this world than I. In large part because she’s a mother and a wife, and isn’t deeply flawed with the darkest of demons like I am.

So I prayed, and I prayed: “God, damn it, please, I beg of you, take me! Take me for her! Take me for her! Give me the cancer! Take me for her! Please!”

With all my heart I poured into that plea, my vocal chords straining like the world’s loneliest violin.

I spent a good half hour repeating that prayer, and then I was spent.


It wasn’t unlike active addiction, when I was desperate for drugs and alcohol, and an obstacle stood in my way. Addiction was a cancer of sorts on my life, too. One I’m sure most addicts would attest to. They blighted everything. Work. Family. Friends. I became essentially an introvert, detached from all and sundry, like a hermit in the mountains who’s forsaken mankind.

Cancers are treatable. Mine got treated in Houghton House, where their form of chemo is psychotherapy by some of the best counsellors in the country, together with Group sessions where fellow in-patients – in the exact same life situation as you – help deal with your issues. And of course, there’s the discovery of what Addiction really means, according to the Disease Model, through in-depth lectures and videos.

Sadly, not everyone succeeds in their treatment. Like all diseases, it comes down to the individual.

So to with my sister. Except she has the best fighting spirit I’ve ever seen.

However, knowing what I knew about pancreatic cancer, I didn’t believe she had a chance.

I watched her grow thinner and thinner by the day. I watched my mother try to hide overwhelming emotions. I watched my dad being stoic as a Spartan soldier.

But my sister is on a new drug. It apparently has had great results. I looked it up on the net. But nothing to do with pancreatic cancer. Which has a kill rate of about a hundred percent. A hundred people, in a room, slowly all slumping onto their desks… gone.

I’m not much of an optimist. I didn’t pray again.

I did wobble a bit too. On the addiction front. There was a day when it all seemed too much. I sat on the floor, wrestling with myself. I reminded myself, no matter how strong the sudden urge to use drugs or alcohol is, we don’t only keep clean for ourselves. We do it for our family, and mine was going through enough as it was. That gave me strength to get through it.

Cravings happen a lot in early recovery. They dwindle as time goes by, though as this experience shows, they still come back during times of stress or sorrow.

Keeping clean means preparing for these cravings and knowing they can be beaten.

Keeping clean brings rewards to an addict’s life.

Sometimes, the rewards are meeting people who’d never have looked at you, bothered with you, in active addiction.

Special people.

Like my Fox. The delightful young lady I met two blogs ago. We’ve been smitten with each other ever since. And she’s come into my life after a long, metaphorical drought.

Now, the sparks are igniting into a blaze.

So I was very excited to tell her the good news I had recently regarding my sister. Very good news.

“I was in the pet store, trying to balance a bag of cat food, with the new pet-bed for Mason and Maxine, when my mom phoned.”

“Yeah?”

“So you remember I told you my sister’s first course of treatment, the chemo, is done? Mom said the doctors did a CAT scan to see if the tumour had been affected.”

“And what did they find?” she asked.

“It’s been shrunk by 60%!” At the time, I couldn’t believe it. 60% is huge considering it’s one of the deadliest cancers known to humankind. I nearly broke down in the pet store, there was such huge relief. I nearly wept an ocean.

“That’s brilliant!” the Fox said.

“I know! And she still has two more courses of treatment to go! I think she’s going to beat this thing!”

And I really do. I finally have hope, after all this time, that my sister will win.

The Fox didn’t respond for a moment. “You know,” she said, “this is because you prayed that one time, right? That Saturday you got the news?”

My prayer to switch places with my sister, I could still taste the desperation.

“Sure, whatever,” I replied. “I’ll take what miracle I can get.”

“And because your prayer was so selfless, asking God to give you her cancer, he gave you me.”

“What do you mean?”

“My birthday is 3 July. You know what star sign that makes me?”

“Let me guess…”

I could tell she was smiling on the other side of the phone.

She said:

“I’m a Cancerian.”

Funny old world.

Looks like I got Cancer after all.


 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 
greed of addiction star wars

The greed of addiction; the hope of recovery.

The views expressed in this blog are of the author only, who is not a direct employee of Houghton House. This blog is about his experiences and perceptions in the course of his life, and should not be construed as being the opinion or stance of Houghton House, especially on matters relating to politics.

 

My left hand is sore. Last week, I had an incision to release a compressed nerve causing carpal tunnel syndrome. I can’t wait to drive again, but for now I’m being driven miss daisy.greed of addiction star wars

Obviously, (obvious), it’s Uber. I totes heart Uber. The most convenient way to get going when your hand won’t work a steering wheel. So, being the sort that loves making conversation with random South Africans, I chat to the drivers every ride I get. And it’s been a bit A to Z. I’ve been staying with family, who’ve been making sure I get the assistance I need.

But I seriously miss my cats, so I’ve Ubered to see them since Saturday past. It’s a mission navigating everything from stairs to keys in doors, and it’s sobering to have kindly drivers go out of their way to assist you. Even making sure you get through the door without being floored.

They are salt-of-the-earth, these fellows. And my favourite topic of conversation with them is: Zuma. We talk about the edge-of-your-seat day that Zuma finally resigned; it came at 10:40something last Valentine’s Day. I had passed out on the couch, as that was the day of the op. Anaesthetic and nerve-blocker and anti-inflammatory in me together with my body adjusting to physical trauma…

I came to when Superman’s theme music blared on my cellphone. I missed the call from my cousin, but he WhatsApped me mere moments after. I saw the message flash on the screen: “He’s resigned.”

I’ve not felt so desperately happy in years.

No South Africans, except the most naïve or most corrupt, supported that man – and the corruption truly road roughshod over the economy.

Through the galactic singularity that was unparalleled greed, billions upon billions of Rands disappeared in space-time. As if never existing. Constant reports and whistleblowing revealed a web of corruption so grand as to blind all senses blank. Centre of the web? A man who claimed to know nothing. Anything happened that hinted of treachery against the country, the man in the centre claimed not to know. Ever. Always someone else’s fault.

This is what it’s like to be an addict too. To be centre of our own web of chaos, as work responsibilities explode like a Hezbollah handbag and personal lives are pummelled like Tyson’s punching bag. And yet we claim: not our fault.

We have an addiction of greed too. Greed and hunger. More, always more, no matter the damage we cause to ourselves and others. We become so self-centred – everything must relate to us, be of use to us, or, if a threat, avoided best we can. Manipulation, anger, oaths of making changes. All tools to be used to duck responsibility. But we are redeemable. Once the chemicals are gone.

However, Zuma is an addict of opulence and wealth and power. He was probably born missing empathy; though just like us, he hit a crisis point.

What happened last week was spectacular. It was so many things. An intervention, like when our family tries to intervene between us and our drugs or alcohol. An epic stand-off between a cornered outlaw and the posse of deputised sheriffs there to take him down. An electrifying moment where we wondered if we’d wake up to martial law, and tanks rolling down the city streets.

But instead, late night Wednesday, the man resigned.

And the man who replaced him embodies another chance for us all.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is somewhat controversial to some South Africans. To me, personally, he represents hope. Hope of a recovery from addiction to graft that grew like cancer in our country. He certainly will act with a certain interest in bettering our home.

Seeing him deliver the State of the Nation Address was inspiring; especially at the end when he called on all of us to work together. That’s a lot like the Fellowships of NA, AA, and others that Houghton House introduces their clients to. These fellowships are all about fraternity in the battle against chemical and behavioural addiction. Lending a hand, and having one lent back, results in a co-operative, not divided, nation of people working to all our betterment.

As is typical with real politick, we are likely to be disappointed by some decisions made due to alliance obligations. But, at least, it feels like we once again have a genuinely presidential president – a man who actually cares about his responsibility in leading the country, not in undermining the state purely for selfish reasons.

We have hope. Because South Africa is not under the influence of a dangerous man of no substance anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 
Life Without Drugs: The Romance of Rain

Life Without Drugs: The Romance of Rain

A life without drug’s doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it’s far more exciting: I’m driving into Sandton. My heart is a rabid drum on speed. My stomach is bubbling and toiling, an ocean rocked by a typhoon. Hands slick with sweat, even in the air-conditioned cabin of my car.Life Without Drugs: The Romance of Rain

She’s just a carnie dwarf, I think. Don’t stress. We’ll just make polite conversation. I’m driving down West Street. She’s coming from Pretoria on the Gautrain, that bridge between worlds.

As I’m looking for the parking entrance, I see her, on the sidewalk, walking into a coffee shop.

Black shirt on. Blue jeans. Multi-coloured backpack in the pattern of modern-day camo. If camo required you hide in a bespeckled rainbow. Mahogany hair. She told me it conceals her true colour. Red. Like a fox. I love red-heads.

I think it’s her, at any rate.

We haven’t met before, not in person. And she doesn’t look quite like a dwarf. I can’t really make out her features, but I’m sure I can tell height through the magic of perspective. Tyrion certainly would only reach her naval.

She’s not a carnie dwarf? Damn it. How am I supposed to handle the anxiety now?

I voice note her. “Think I just saw you.” Describe her appearance. She just lols back.

Into the Gautrain parking area now. I get out the car nervously. Out the parking entrance. Walk up the street. Couldn’t remember which coffee shop she walked into.

Up the pavement I pound. Just breathe. I look anxiously through the entrance of one of the café’s.

Nothing.

The corner of my eye catches movement. Down the slope, a waiter waves at me, furiously. I walk down to him.

“She’s inside,” he says. “The woman you’re looking for.”

I peer through the door. She’s sitting by the coffee bar, her black spectacles peering down to her phone. She’s stunning. Completely stunning.

I want to run.

This is a whole other league. This isn’t my league. My league is hunchbacks or toxic sludge, not radiant, beautiful young women. What will she think of me? I don’t belong here. I’m a weirdo. I don’t belong here.

But my sponsor told me the previous morning that we, those who are stricken with severe social anxiety, needed one thing. One thing not to lose out on life’s little opportunities:

To be brave.

So I stride towards her.

*

There’s something awkward about dating sites. It’s the meeting people without actually being in their physical presence. How do you know if there’s any real chemistry – you can’t even take in their scent. Scents can’t be transferred through binary 0s and 1s over a network.

You can’t capture the contours of a person’s living, moving face through a static photo.

It just builds an untrue picture in your mind, because your brain is drawing a 3D model with filler parts.

Still, it’s a resource. Extends your reach to connect with somebody.

She “smiled” at me on the site. I smiled back. Got a message from her. After a short correspondence through the site’s messenger mail system, she gave me her number. Just like that. This Fox.

I asked her why, later. And she said, from reading my profile, she could tell I was different.

Unique.

Special.

So I WhatsApped. “Hello. It’s J.D, from the dating site?”

WhatsApping is normally uncomfortable and feels forced for me. So arbitrary the conversations between strangers.

But we WhatsApped for hours. Somehow. It flowed. Then I asked if we could talk… properly. On the phone. She loved the idea. So I dialled her number, and a lyrical Afrikaans accent, with subtle shades of Jewish tang and an Englishwoman’s precision, answered.

My stomach dropped. It felt so real. Too much. It felt too much. But I persevered anyway. We talked and talked. About the strange romances that happened in her family. Like how her grandfather, an English fighter pilot in the Second World War, tried wooing her feisty, independent Afrikaans grandmother, who rebuffed him thrice. He never gave up. In our day and age, that’s stalky. In the dusty world of the late 1940s, that’s courting. She sailed away and he followed her. That’s really stalky. But back then, it was the thread of a love story. His family looked down on her. Her family wouldn’t accept it.

They didn’t care. They had each other.

We talked about small things, and big things. Like how in her family, rain is symbolically connected with them. She drew power from it, when the grey skies showered the earth.

We talked about our lives. Where we were. Where we were going.

She knew I was an oddball. That’s never really been considered one of my selling points. For the Fox, it was what attracted her.

I looked at my watch, three and a half hours had passed. Whoa. So easily, so swiftly? Then, her phone cut out. Couldn’t get her back on the line. I said something wrong, I thought. She’s dismissed me.

That’s me. Expectant on rejection. But, ten minutes later, a WhatsApp came through. We had talked so long, her battery died. Well, duh, genius.

We made plans for the next day. Her idea. I was uncertain. She had sent me a song of hers, her voice was pure, strong, touching. I figured, well, someone with this much magic wouldn’t see us as a match.

My every cell, every fibre, rejected it. The anxiety was too much. But I remembered what my sponsor said.

I was determined to follow through, to be brave.

*

Inside the coffee shop, she looked up as I moved towards her. She beamed, and stood up, to hug me.

I didn’t expect this.

We talked, and talked, and talked. We wandered the streets of Sandton. We walked into the Square, past the giant called Madiba. We entered The Butcher restaurant. I offered her the booth, she said we could both have it. We sat next to each other as she animatedly told me stories of her family. I told her stories of my past.

Suddenly, her leg was touching mine. I felt a wave of overwhelming need then, as her green eyes came alive like a bonfire. I wanted to kiss her.

But I didn’t.

Rain, her rain, bursting from the thunder, poured down outside.

I wish I’d kissed her.

Though the way she looked at me, almost mischievously, said I’d won her over. Of course, I’d find out how much she really, really did like me later. That evening. Over a post-date phone call.

“She likes me for me.” I hummed that classic tune, bringing my cats running quizzically.

Though, I didn’t foresee it that afternoon, as we walked down the street. It was the end of the day, and she needed to head back to Pretoria. I felt too self-conscious, too disbelieving, that red-haired foxes fall for guys like me, so I became very shy near the end of it.

When we were at the Gautrain’s turnstile, we made our goodbyes. I, as I do when I’m nervous as heck, stuck out my hand as if to shake hers.

Her shoulders shook suddenly from a reverberated laugh. “C’mon, now! Hug me!” Her voice was a melody.

Crushingly tight, my face was brought close to the nape of her neck. I caught her scent:

A sun-touched meadow’s jasmine infused vanilla, wafting on a brisk, cool morning in Spring.

*

Weeks ago, my Houghton House therapist told me changing a person – “tweaking” them – doesn’t work. That’s what Annie, my previous girlfriend tried to do. Screw Annie.

I believed for a long time I was just too much a lost-kop wanderer of my own world for a relationship.

That I’d never find someone who accepts me for me.

My therapist said she knows, she intuitively believes, there is someone out there, right now, who’s drawn to me for who I am. A free spirit like me.

Who likes me for me.

I’m not tough like Dirty Harry and I’m not funny like Jim Carrey.

But that doesn’t matter to the red-haired Fox.

Because she likes me for me.

She likes me for me…

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 
I think I’m paranoid (The Don’t Need Drugs Edition)

I think I’m paranoid (The Don’t Need Drugs Edition)

My therapist thinks I’m paranoid. At least, I think she thinks I’m paranoid. I discuss perfectly reasonable conspiracies against me, and she leans back in her chair, her fingers entwined, and keeps as expressionless as possible. Hmmm… That’s what she’s thinking. Hmmm… I can hear the hmmm from across the room. In the recesses of her mind, there is a bespectacled, white-bearded man making notes.

The God who exists in all clinical psychologists, he is chewing a cigar in his mouth as he jots down on his note pad. Writing suddenly and furiously at certain moments when I share something deeply revealing about my psyche.

Paranoid personality, with delusions of persecution. Propensity to experience minor psychosis, with some risk of snowballing into a full-on manic episode. Must watch him carefully, perhaps contact the relevant authorities if he mentions opening a motel with his mother.

Hmmm…

“What?” she asks, in response to my own hmmm.

“You went hmmm. You were making notes in your mind.”

More notes are written. More hmmms are hmmmed.

“It’s interesting that you think that.”

Well, it’s a good point. The whole question about her maybe thinking I’m paranoid (I know she was thinking that, I just know it!) is really my curiosity about… me…

So I ask her, sneakily: “It’s not just psychiatrists who get to make a diagnosis, but clinical psychologists too, right, you’re like honouree MDs, the MCs of mental disease, right?”

She smiles at my pseudo hip-hop flow, but it’s to get her guard down. Bro.

“Yes, we are.”

“Also,” I say as I lay the trap and cover it with branches, “As a professional in the mental health world, you’re required to give whatever diagnosis you arrive at to your client… if they ask for it, right?”

“Is there a reason you…”

No diversions. I know these Children of Freud, Skinner, that archetypical guy, and Ainsworth and their secret tricks.

“Yes or no, please.”

“Yes, it’s true, we are.”

“I hereby formally request that you release the diagnosis to me.”

She pauses for a moment. Looks at me, quizzically.

I know what’s coming – I’m waiting for it with a counter-attack encamped on my tongue.

“Why is a diagnosis so important to you?”

“Irrelevant. I want it. You have it. I request it. Is there paper work required? I brought my pocket pen for form filling.”

She smiles. She knows I do this sort of thing. Get something in my head, and refuse to let go. I want the knowledge that the Order of the Clinical Psychologists rather not reveal.

Why? Because this is dangerous knowledge, not intended for the uninitiated. I could never be a clinical psychologist. They delve into the depths of the mind – and how could you not turn your mind’s eye around and examine your own inner workings? The dysfunctions and the delusions, the mechanisms, the way we are marionettes to influences of our social grouping – the psychic distresses caused by group-think… hysteria and madness, we’re just a thin veneer of civility. It takes nothing more than war for us to ravage and gorge like barbarians from the recesses of ancient Germany – a mind, a single mind, capable of plumbing into abject insanity, (cruelty!), when momentous stresses flay the f#ck out of its congruency.

For example, I’m one bad day away from flak canons and kamikaze katana charges on my totally aggressively useless bank, when their sheer incompetence (bordering on felony) prohibits my attempts to restore basic operational functionality to my debit card – and all they can do, repeatedly, is tell me everything is working on their side…

…the world swirls, because if this became the norm, all society would crumble under the sheer frustration-induced manic rage, and the cities would be burnt out shells with ghostly skyscrapers wrecked like withering skin on the bones of a corpse awaiting service at MotherBeeping Bank, Ltd.

There is only one group of men and women who have the fortitude to withstand the most extreme stresses, whose minds stand tall while others run around screaming pure lunacy, and when we need them, as we emotionally-crippled crazies hop along the pandemonium of life, they carry us as their capes flap heroically in the wind.

These are The Clinical Psychologists.

Elite like the navy seals or delta force, only the few, the brave, and sort-of-proud make it through to study clinical psych during the course of their psychology degree.

But they must first make it past The Trials.

Which are tougher than a 150km one-day death march. I have it on good authority that they’re tested to see how much their minds can handle… by being airdropped into Paola New Jung, those distant Pacific islands in the middle of The Devil’s Starfish Seas – notorious for storms that can rend skin from a golem and sink dreadnaught battlecruisers on a bad day. There these clinical psych hopefuls spend time with the most savage, dangerous tribe the world has ever seen. The Idh.

Far-flung from civilisation, they partake in brutal war bands that raid against mountain goat-like penguins; witness the gruesome ritual of penissoufflaie (which I won’t go into for the sake of our sensitive readers, but involves a form of unspeakable cannibalism); engage in shamanistic skull-shower dances; eviscerate local wildlife and decorate each other with the entrails. And, finally, do unspeakable acts to a gargantuan gum tree called O’ ral-hfux aishun. Crudely translated as: Bad Touch.

It is so horrific, those without the psychological fortitude of steel go brittle and break, and end up sacrificed to the Volcano God Anu laratent-af.

Needless to say, the flight home has a far more spacious cabin.

But the few who withstand the insanity are forged into a true mental health fighting force. They are now ready for their training back at varsity to become master healers of the mind.

I’m proud to say I have one of them as my drugs-and-alcohol addiction councillor. (Although I make sure not to chew gum in her office.) Houghton House is privileged to have her as one of their team. Then again, the entire team love what they do and have the kindness and relentless attitude to go out of their way every day to help any of their patients – most especially those going through a tough time both in and out of Houghton’s walls.

Perhaps that’s why she didn’t want to give me my diagnosis – she considered it counter-productive for me to know. Maybe even harmful, psychically.

But I wanted it anyway.

In my psychologist’s therapy room, I sit, expectantly, for my diagnosis.

“Why do you have to know?” she asked.

“I want to know what I am.”

She sighed. “Alright.”

“You’ll tell me?” I felt excited and scared at the same time. Like a boy on Halloween – not Christmas – morning waiting to open a gift-wrapped box about big enough to hold a human head.

“Yes, but it’s not a full diagnosis, it’s just some thoughts,” then she suddenly smiled. “Promise me you won’t Google this like crazy!”

“I am crazy.” I grinned back. “I promise anyway.”

“Alright,” she responded.

“So… what is it? What do you think?”

She paused for a moment, then said:

“I think you’re paranoid.”

Told you.

 

Photo: The MCs of Psychology from left to right: Carl Jung, B.F Skinner, Mary Ainsworth, and Sigmund “the Slip” Freud. Designed by J.D from various elements “borrowed” from the web

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The spectre that haunts substance abuse.

The Spectre that Haunts Substance Abuse

You’re never alone when you’re abusing drugs and alcohol. Even when you’re holed up in your home, snorting away narcotics in a darkened corner of the house. It’s like this old joke I just made up:The spectre that haunts substance abuse.

A guy sits at a bar, nursing his whiskey. Suddenly, the thick, wooden door opens, and striding inside is a tall, dark-shrouded man. Or seems like a man. Hard to tell, under the deep, black cowl that shadows his face. Harder even to make out his body underneath the void-laden cloak. The guy sips his whiskey as this intimidating figure takes a seat next to him. It’s curious as to why this… person walks around town with an oversized scythe. Its honed edge glints in the bar’s dowdy interior light. But the guy shrugs off all these curiosities, and instead reaches into his jacket pocket.

He pulls out a bag containing a sizable amount of white powder – cocaine. He thumbs in the direction of the men’s toilets, shaking the bag enticingly, and says, “Care to join me?”

The figure replies: “Of course. I join everyone.”

I’m not a superstitious man. But while using drugs, even I heard – faintly – the beating of wings. Especially when I lost some control, as happens often with addicts, and used far more drugs than intended.

My heart would beat faster than a hyperventilating Trance track, and I’d feel a shockwave down my left arm. “Oh f@*k,” I’d say. “Mr. G. Reaper’s in the room, isn’t he?”

1.Reaper is a hard man to distract – and you certainly want to distract him from the matter at hand. His personal calls are very unexpected and uninvited. This guy, in fact, is an infamous party-crasher – and the wilder the party, the more likely he mysteriously appears on the guest list. If you’re a musician, it’s strongly recommended to not throw soirees during your entire 27th year.

I wouldn’t go as far to say G. Reaper and I are friends. But we’re definitely well-acquainted. It’s uncomfortable being around him, since he has a constant vibe – as if you owe him a lot of money.

Addicts only get to duck-and-dive repayments for so long.

I have a sizable list of addict friends who unexpectedly found G. Reaper waiting in their lounge. Almost as if he’d come over for tea. And Mr G Reaper loves sipping his tea and watching while you cut a line or prepare to smoke drugs…

Drugs and alcohol. The day-to-day abuse of them inures a sense of invulnerability. The result of a very dangerous activity becoming mundane. We take the poison for granted.

And so, many addicts end up as memorials on Facebook walls. There’s been an inordinate amount of times I’ve seen shocking status messages like:

“Sorry, Matt, I’m really sorry, mate.”

“I’m saddened by Craig’s passing, and I send my prayers to his family during this difficult period.”

“You were one of the best of us, Sindy. Farewell.”

In a sense, you do owe Mr G. Reaper money, and it gathers interest quickly. There’s only so much an addict can do to pay off what they can – and not through debit orders, but adrenalin-shots and crash-carts in hospitals. Doctors, not bankers, are the ones shaking their heads and sighing in judgement.

Drugs eventually lead to the dead centre of town.

Some of the fallen I’ve known:

Saul. Scottish descent. Heated rival. We blasted each other in Call of Duty and Counter-Strike, and occasionally in real-time strategy games such as Age of Empires. Together, some years ago, at a halfway house, he told me I was a free-spirit. It wasn’t said as a compliment, more like pity in a world demanding conformity. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him for ages when I got the SMS: “Saul Malboro is dead.” Apparently, he was found in a hotel room. Alone. But I know he wasn’t quite alone. A tall, dark figure was there, sipping tea politely. Saul was about 32 years old.

Janine. Started on drugs at about 12. She was believed to be incorrigible. Untreatable. Short, dark, curly hair, Janine would escape or refuse-hospital-treatment at rehab after rehab. Heroin was her poison, but she got free of it for 14 months thanks to Houghton House – it was considered a pure miracle. I was at her one-year share. So was half of Johannesburg’s addiction recovery fraternity. Later, though, she relapsed, and fled into the twisted bowels of Hillbrow’s dangerous streets, fell into the hands of very abusive men, and disappeared into darkness. She died from a drug overdose some believe was intentional. She was dead before she was 24 years old.

Mary-Ann. From Italy, also had a heroin habit. Married to a very kind man, also a recovering addict. I met her during a stint at a rehab. Got on with her very well. Saw her one night at an addiction recovery meeting: she was seated next to her husband, who was chairing. She seemed a queen, regal as always. I meant to go say hello after the meeting. Catch up. She had been fond of me. But I was also tired, just wanted to go home, so I left thinking: “I’ll see her soon, anyway.” The very next day, I heard the news that her husband woke up next to her cold, vacant body. She was holding a syringe. Overdosed in the night, after taking a hit of heroin when her husband fell asleep. He didn’t even know she had relapsed. I desperately wanted to turn back the clock, rewind to the night before. Go up to her. Speak to her. Enjoy her veracious company one last time. She was 42.

A man known as Wolf-Dogg, because he loved his hip-hop and gangsta rap. Short-ish guy, but with plenty of ‘tude. We went through treatment together. Spent a lot of time in a halfway house together. And a sober house together too. He tried to teach me the ways of wooing women. He likened it to kung fu, because that’s how I best process things. He tried to teach me styles. “Hai, Master!” I would jokingly say. Then we had a falling out. I wanted nothing more to do with him. A few years passed, and someone posted a Facebook status about his unexpected death. Cardiac arrest, probably from cocaine or cat. I felt immense guilt – I didn’t even remember what our friendship-finishing fight was about. He was 37.

So far, this year, I haven’t heard of too many deaths. But Mr G. Reaper is waiting. Waiting for an addict to give in to their desire, their hunger. Addicts who don’t get help in time because their families hesitate to intervene – hoping they’ll stop of their own accord. Or addicts who forget their lessons and don’t use the tools provided by rehabs such as Houghton House.

Thankfully, Houghton provides me with the continued support I need to deal with life’s difficulties and avoid addiction recovery pitfalls.

Pitfalls that drop you into the domain of our shrouded friend, the tall figure with the gleaming scythe. He’s waiting for you to join him for tea.

And with Mr G. Reaper, any time is tea time.

 

All names and some details in this post have been changed to protect anonymity.

 

Image: The Spectre that Haunts Us All. Copyright J.D.

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 

 

Substance Abuse is like Relationships. And Relationships are Hectic!

Substance Abuse is like Relationships. And Relationships are Hectic!

Relationships. Don’t get me started. Oh well, too late. I’ve been thinking about relationships this past week.  My excellent therapist,  one of Houghton House’s counselling team, and I discussed the next stage in my recovery.Substance Abuse is like Relationships. And Relationships are Hectic!

Women. Or at least one. The One. She’s out there, according to some rather optimistic beliefs. The soul mate who, even now, wanders the world missing a crucial part of herself. Me.

And I her. Except that kind of view on relationships seems a bit unhealthy.

It’s my experience that being your own person is essential to a relationship working.

I know this because, like the great detective I am, of deduction. I had to deduct a lot in some of my relationships. Like dignity.

Allow me to tell you my tales of Woe.

Margaret was my first. Both girlfriend and cherry-popper. We popped each other’s cherries in a hotel in Cape Town. But she lived in JHB and I Durban, so when we parted ways, we tried keeping the relationship alive through saucy emails and longing phone calls. I was in Matric, but one course I failed was Not Being Needy 101.

Neediness along the lines of: “I HAVE A GIRLFRIEND! I HAVE A GIRLFRIEND!”. Neediness is the anti-oyster. It kills libido faster than a nuclear holocaust wipes out all forms of life1.

Neediness is a mental disease of sorts. It infects you with desperation, and a desire to keep appeasing the other half.

It also smothered my second relationship with that art student I mentioned two blogs ago. She ended up with a bartender who tenderised my heart. (I went there.)

Of course, it’s more complex than that.

My third relationship was with Nix. Nix as in “Not Happening”. That was a great relationship for two reasons:

(1). I kept some emotional distance so I was “Take It Or Leave It”.

(2). She was a former gymnast. OMG OMG OMG OMG2.

In her case, the relationship ended because she, I suspect, cheated on me during a December varsity break. But she never admitted to it, and I never asked. There was just this subtle change when we saw each other after the vac.

I tried getting intimate with her a few times after that, but she cold-shouldered me like she was one part South-Easterly. It certainly blowed. I knew she wanted out. Coward that she was, she expected me to deliver the death blow. Since my feelings for her had deepened, I didn’t want to.

Eventually, though, I had enough. I tried one last attempt. I bought a CD, popped it in her CD Player, and then she came into the room with our meal (she’s Italian, and a fantastic cook, perfect for a useless male like me. My culinary expertise is limited to pouring boiling water into a cup of noodles). As she did so, I hit the play button.

Barry crooned:

“My first, the last, my everything; and the answer to all my dreams; you’re my sun, my moon, my guiding star; my kind of wonderful, that’s what you are.”

I grinned and tried to harmonise with the baritone voice.

She merely rolled her eyes, sighed, and said, “Really?”

It was so wilting, my doctor prescribed little blue pills for the next six months.

Time to abort the relationship.

When I asked to meet with her, I felt so terribly sad, but said I think it’s best we move on.

She tried to keep from bursting into a fireworks display, and nodded sagely. “You’re a great guy. It was special, I don’t want you to think it was anything you did wrong.” Contextual translation: It was the way I fornicated with some random dude, and guilt, unfortunately, keeps me dry.

I merely shrugged.

Next was Elizabeth. She was the one that got away. Scientist. Blonde. Zimbabwean laid-back approach to life’s issues – such as not getting finicky and stressed about the little things.

There’s enough to write a book on her. Maybe one day I will. She was truly special. We kept running into each other during my fourth year of varsity. We’d been acquaintance-friends since first year. Finally, one night at a Grahamstown bohemian club, I got the courage to kiss her.

Of course, with me, I’m so shy and aware of boundaries, I don’t make the first move. Per se.

I first asked her to fill in a form:

I, Elizabeth Regal, HEREBY DECLARE THAT J.D ARENSTEIN MAY KISS ME IN A WAY THAT INVOLVES TONGUE.

IF I SO DESIRE, I WILL “HOOK UP” WITH HIM, AND ENGAGE IN:

 

HUGGING

FONDLING OF MAMMARY TISSUES

CUNN*******

FEL*****

A NUMBER MADE UP OF TWO INVERTED DIGITS

INTERCOURSE / COUPLING / WHOOPEE

 

[PLEASE NOTE: “GREEK” IS NOT AN AVAILABLE SERVICE]

I MAY STOP AT ANY TIME I CHOOSE TO, EVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF ANY ACTIVITY. I HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE DRIVEN HOME AT ANY MOMENT I SO DESIRE, IF HE IS ON DATE DRIVING DUTY.

I ALSO:

CAN DECLINE FURTHER CONTACT OF ANY INTIMATE ACTIVITY AT FUTURE DATES AND TIMES. I RESERVE THE RIGHT NOT TO BE STALKED. BUT HAVE THE RIGHT TO A DECENT LET-DOWN IF I DO WANT TO CONTINUE ACTIVITIES AND J.D DOESN’T. I DON’T HAVE TO FEEL GUILTY OR GUILTED INTO ENGAGING “NAUGHTY” ACTIVITIES, AND MAY DECLARE AT ANY TIME A DISCOMFORT WITH ANY SITUATION THAT MAY LITERALLY OR FIGURATIVELY ARISE.

[SIGN HERE] E.R

[PLEASE PRINT NAME] ELIZABETH REGAL

[DATE] 7 Aug 2002

[PLACE] Pop Art Café, Rhodes

[TIME] Business time! Whoop whoop!

[WITNESS 1] AF

[WITNESS 2] SM

THANK YOU FOR YOUR BOOTY, AND IF YOU ENJOY MY SERVICING, PLEASE LEAVE A FIVE-STAR RATING WITH ALL THE WOMEN YOU KNOW*.

Once the paper work was out the way, we gazed into each other’s eyes and our lips melted together. It was so sickeningly sweet, once we finished we saw vom on the dance floor.

It was a saccharine romance, but over a December break, again, something changed. This time, the woman I cared for told me the truth. Another man had arrived in her life at Harare. We tried continuing our relationship, but – although he was gone in presence – his spectre cast an enveloping shadow over it.

I didn’t think I’d ever be as heart-broken as I was after her. Until Basil, my little white cat, was wasting away from a terminal disease, and I put him into that eternal sleep.

Finally, my most recent relationship. Annie. We met at Rhodes, but nothing happened. Well, something almost happened, but I didn’t get to the form-filling pre-sexual admin before some other guy swooped in. Like Batman. A c@ck-blocking Batman.

However, thanks to the greatest stalkers’ tool known to humankind, Facebook, I reconnected with her. Years and years later. We flirted a lot over the medium. We chatted every day on Gmail. Then we got to that stage of what once was sending scented letters, but now involves, um, pictures.

She lived in Durban, I JHB (by this time). So I went to visit her. Wanted to make this official.

The first night we met for coffee, I was shyer than a deer in the cool darkness of a forest. A deer so shy, if caught in headlights, it would spring away screaming something about personal space a mile long. I could hardly look at her, though I wanted to: she was so beautiful.

Two nights later, we were at a restaurant, both dressed to the nth degree. As we walked out, she sighed, but sweetly, and said, “Looks like I’m going to have to make the first move.” Once she took my hand, and we co-guided each other onto the streets, the making out wasn’t far behind. We only came up for air when a car guard started a round of applause. So, liiiiiike, South African romcom.

Two years later, and things weren’t working out. She had fallen out of love with me, Back to the Nix. This time, I couldn’t, because I loved her so much, find it in my heart to kill the relationship. If she wanted to, then she had to do it.

Took her three more months to do just that.

Unlike Elizabeth and some of my other ex GFs, she refuses to talk to me. I’m not entirely sure why. But some women, (and I guess men too), have a way of keeping a record. A permanent record of your f@#k-ups. Or perceived f@#k-ups. I often felt when the metaphorical mole dug its way back home, a monumental mountain awaited it. We sometimes fought, and it normally ended with me apologising. Well, grovelling. She said she was fine, it was over, apology accepted. But, haha, in this record book of hers, it was a black mark, never to be forgotten. And over time, those marks added up. Eventually I got blacklisted. We’re talking small offenses here, if true offenses at all, but like speeding 20 kph over the limit, they still count and they still add up, and eventually, well, you lose your license to get busy with it. No Barry White can bail you out of this one.

So, yeah, she doesn’t talk to me. Like I slept with all her best friends while at a Toga party, recorded the action, and posted it on BlueTube (I think that’s what the site’s called, wouldn’t know lol ahem). Then sent the link to all her family and work colleagues.

Nope. I was just myself, and eventually, her attempts to tweak me into her idea of a better version failed. Frustrated her, because I didn’t get out of alpha state.

Rejection, and not in the romantic sense, but as a person, hurts when once you cuddled nude in the night, talking about your dreams, your pain, your lives past and lives to come. The intimacy closer than you ever share with another. Destroyed. In the end, it meant nothing.

Like that dead rock dude said, it doesn’t even matter…

We go on.

My therapist, one of the best in her field, knows exactly what I need to hear. She’s preparing me for a woman out there, someone I haven’t met yet, someone who may be The One4. Helping me develop tools and grow as a person for the responsibility of loving another, romantically.

She said, “I imagine you ending up with someone intelligent, calm, and understanding. Someone beautiful, someone who won’t be like Annie, because she’ll be in love with who you are. Not who she expects you to be.”

My therapist’s words ring true. So, after our session, I went home, loaded up my laptop, and did something I haven’t done in a very long time.

I printed out a form. One that’s waiting to be filled in.

Waiting to be dated. Waiting to be witnessed.

Waiting to be signed.

 

 

 

  1. Except for f@#king roaches. Motherf@#kers.
  2. I used to say exactly that during our “privates”3 moments.
  3. ”Privates” time. See what I did there? We wanted lots of “privates-cy”. Haha. Oh God, these puns make me so happy.
  4. Perhaps a MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod? If so, she can certainly handle my sword.

 

IMAGE: The End of the Affair. Copyright: J.D.

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 
Addiction Recovery: Just be Patient

Addiction Recovery: Just be Patient

So, patience has never been my strong suit. Even in Houghton House as a patient, while undergoing treatment, patience was a short-supplied commodity. This past week has been a culmination of trying to exercise patience and delay my need for instant gratification.

Antarctica Dreams.

 It’s hard to focus on writing when your computer is melting into sludge. And you’re sweating like you’re awaiting your blood test results after waking up naked next to Charlie Sheen.

My fan has gone on strike in this heat. Thanks to global warming, even polar bears are out of work. So I procured air-conditioning at the end of last year. They were awaiting stock. It’s now week three of January. Nadda. Sure, it was over the holiday period, but how long do people take to nurse a hang over? Unless maybe they ended up in Houghton House for overdoing the drugs and alcohol?

(I’m going to speak to Alex Hamlyn, one of Houghton’s directors, about opening a Procrastinators Anonymous wing at his rehab.)

But this heat, man… If I have to choose my death from either the Sahara or Antarctica, penguins dance their happy feet around my corpse every time.

The cold is ideal for working. Productivity is, according to studies, best done when you’re slightly cold. Too warm, and the brain gets overheated. Slooows down.

When it’s hot, my brain turns me into a caveman. “Ugh” becomes both my name and my vocabulary.

When it’s fairly cold, I can write a storm.

In icy conditions, I’m composing 50-piece symphonies.

I was once placed in absolute zero to see what would happen. I unified science.*

Anyway, it’s the beginning of the year, it’s the time to fireball the work out, and get a fast and furious start. Hard when you’re towelling yourself off the carpet.

It’s been like a desert in Johannesburg. And the desert is not fit for good, honest citizens; it is for conducting cabals and state capture operations in a luxury mansion.

Although that mansion has the finest air-conditioning system tax payers’ money can buy.

 

Fibre lacking in the diet.

 And it shows: my internet connection is really sh1tty. My cellphone is currently my modem, and an expensive one at that, what with highway robbery our data charges. Worse, 4G is rarer than a unicorn in my area.

Long I have dreamed of fibre. July last year, it seemed to be finally manifesting. A (deliberately vague name warning) long-established public provider of infrastructure promised to install it in April 2016. 80 emails to their sales department later, it was finally moved to the tech guys. Then, more silence than a post-op tonsillitis ward. Later, I lost my mind and vented on Hello Peter, and it got the attention of one of their customer service faux-humans, who took it up for me.

Taking it up for me meant I was the one who “took it up”: I received an SMS saying the order had been cancelled**… due to a lack of coverage in the area. Right. Tell that to my neighbours in a complex down the road. Their Internet router must be tripping on mescaline.

But then, like a knight in shining armour, a (deliberately vague name warning) private provider of fibre infrastructure appeared. After even more months, it turned out, in reality, the armour was made of cardboard with reflective material stuck on.

Months and months and months pass. Last week, fibre was actually installed in the home. But it wasn’t live. They said it was live four weeks ago. Somehow it died on the way. However, kudos to them for fixing that the next day. And today, finally, the Internet Service Provider I’ve selected will arrive to fiddle with my modem (“Dear Penthouse…”) so I can stick my router in their port (“I never thought this would happen to me…”). YouTube vids buffered in moments! iTunes University lecture segments downloaded in seconds! Massive uploads of content onto my new website! Cat pictures by the lolz load on Instagram! Midget clown porn featuring Game of Thrones Tyrion-lookalikes!

It’s so close! This is what Moses felt like after wandering the Sinai for 40 years!***

 

The Great Glasses Adventure.

 It is an adventure when you go from High Definition eye sight to barely visible Standard Definition vision. Blurry, electro-distorted screen SD.

See, I have this habit of reading in bed just before I sleep – and, lazy-ass that I am, I can’t be bothered to reach all the way to the bedside table when it’s time to remove my glasses.

I simply fold them up and put them on the far side of the bed. ZZZZZzzzzz.

Mason the playful Russian Blue Tabby must have swatted the spectacles in the night, because I awoke to broken lenses in the morning. I must have rolled over them in my sleep.

My poor glasses.

They’d lasted a fairly long time for eyeglasses in my care. A good three years.

I wouldn’t say I’m blind as Oedipus (Gods, what a complex!), but the world becomes a very disorientating place reminiscent of the drinking binges of my early student days. (The ones that my mates were able to leave behind, while I graduated to harder tack [much harder tack, considering the chemicals involved] which resulted in a messed-up life, and a stay in Houghton sorting it out.)

My eyes have a slight stigmatism, so there’s also double vision, affecting my depth perception.

Without my glasses, I constantly feel a bit tipsy, but without the buzz.

“Good thing optometrists are open on Saturdays,” I thought. “And there’s even one by the ***** Centre that has my prescription. Should have new spectacles by mid-afternoon,” I said, hopefully optimistic.

Going down there, I choose a frame that didn’t cost both appendages (just a single arm). “Right, my good man,” I said, “should I come back in an hour?”

Eeh. No.

It was going to take five days. And the order was only going to the lab on Monday. Meaning they’d only be ready the following Monday.

What, I exacerbated, THAT long?!

Turns out it often takes that long these days.

I checked this information with other people. Yip, they said. It takes that long now. International trend. For what reason? Reasons.

Why? How? It literally took an hour 10 years ago. And a lab, nogel? When did a ‘workshop’ become a ‘lab’? Do they conduct animal testing on my specs first? See how a bespectacled guinea pig performs in maze runs before moving onto human trials?

Technology is supposed to make things happen faster! The letter once took three days. In its electronic form, that became three seconds. Circumventing the globe took 80 days (if you were an English gentleman and placed a bet on it, though the point spread didn’t always favour you). Now travel takes less time than binge watching the action-drama 24 in-flight.

Glasses probably took less than a day 300 years ago, in an era where people still defended their honour with rapiers – a sword that doubled as a shish kebab implement at barbeques. In the late 20th century, it took under an hour.

But now? In the 21st? It’s a week? Or more??

Going around for days with blurred vision has made me incredibly bitter. All I could think of was how greedy optometrists had become. Their five+ days of “lab testing” Jinny the Guiney wearing my eyeglasses justifies inflating the price by 400%. Hence my missing arm.

Resentment is one of those things that can lead you back to using drugs and alcohol. I didn’t think too much about them, though… this resentment isn’t going to end in a dingy hotel room with vacant eyes and syringes pin-cushioning me out of existence.

Because Houghton has prepared me for a world of monocle’d (with a R5000 frame!) villains charging the Earth for service slower than a three-legged senile tortoise.

Thus I have made adjustments, and carried on more or less calmly****.

People ask me, “How are you getting around? Uber?” I’ve paid enough, thank you! No, I can drive: I see shapes, colours, and can sort of judge distance. Enough to take familiar routes of the road. “But that’s dangerous,” they say! Not really, I respond, keeping the brights on during the day helps (I have now attracted a posse of tow-trucks that follow wherever I go).

“Surely you don’t drive at night then?” Yes I do. “How,” they ask.

Well, you’ve seen the movie Scent of the Woman? There’s a scene where the blind colonel, played by Al Pacino, drives a car while his minder, played by Chris o’ Donnell, frantically gives him directions: “Turn left here!” “Stop it’s a traffic light!” “Right! Turn right! Right now!”.

Well, it’s a bit like that.

Except there’s no Chris o’ Donnell.

 

*Unfortunately for humanity, the experience caused brain damage and memory loss a split second later.

**My deposit, for some reason, wasn’t.

***Although Moses does peg just before he gets out the desert. He should have asked for directions when he first got there.

****Less.

 

UPDATE ON AIRCON:

Update Mon 15:53: Next Monday is the new ETA. But my friend Murphy says Winter is more likely.

 

UPDATE ON FIBRE:

Update Mon 12:01: It’s installed! I have awaited this day for the better part of a year!

Update Mon 12:02: It’s running at a 10th of the promised speed due to fibre cable repairs down the road. BUT I WILL TAKE WHAT I CAN!

Update Mon 20:15: Connection is down. Issue unknown. Time to resolve unknown. Possibly when Half-life 3 comes out.

 

UPDATE ON GLASSES:

Update Mon 14:33: “They’re not here yet.” “But you said it would take a maximum of five working days.” “After you marked your order as ‘urgent’, the lab broke one of your lenses. Would you like to mark it as ‘urgent’ again, sir?” “Um. No.” “Great. We’ll call you when they’re ready.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 

 

 

addiction recovery with support

We’re off to see the Wizard…

Hypnosis, man, is the art of making people do dumb sh!t on stage. A subject I explored when I visited my sister this week, while she sat on her sofa recovering from chemo, and we reminisced about a childhood experience we shared. Her kids at their grandmother’s, we had some time to catch up. And I was glad for conversation away from her painfully thin frame, away from talk of the pancreatic cancer growing inside her.

We’re off to see the Wizard…

Many years back, my dad took my sister and I to a show. Max Collie. An old legendary hypnotist who made a career out of convincing people to puck like chickens… in front of a live studio audience.

I was about nine at the time, and excited. It was pure magic: a guy who’d zone you out, creating illusions in your own mind. All with simple instructions. Then click his fingers and you’d surrender your dignity before your friends and family.

On some level, I couldn’t believe it. Until I saw it.

Mr Collie asked everyone in the audience willing, over the age of 13, to follow his words, and become part of the show they’d paid to see. This wizened old man – with a balding dome, surrounded by Einstein shocking grey hair, and quivering moustache – commanded all those under his sway to meet at the stage’s base.

I was delighted when my own father stood to his feet in a trance, shuffling zombie-like towards Max Collie.

Wizard indeed. A short man, yet Mr Collie carried Gandalf’s towering presence.

My sister, seven, and I exchanged glances across the empty seat. How exciting!

Imagine my father: a reserved man with a calm centre; a sense of steady power that came with running his own law practice; hardly ever cross with his children, but decisive in tone when we stepped out of line… who suddenly becomes a show piece for a midget magician – a blank slate to be reprogrammed at will – and performing inanely entertaining acts.

Because that’s what happened.

Mr Max Collie, using sorcery cast through his voice, had the flesh-and-blood marionettes dancing on stage. Had them trying to wee desperately like puppy dogs, with legs raised against imaginary fire hydrants. Had one person stick a pin in his arm without feeling pain. Had a heavy smoker sputter on a cigarette like they’d just sucked Satan’s codpiece.

All manner of silly, interesting and, at points, beneficial things.

I heard the memory of Obi-Wan Kenobi in my ear: “These are not the droids you’re looking for.”

Here was compact Mr. Max Collie, the human equivalent of Master Yoda.

*

I was lying on my bed, hair length down to my shoulders, oily, yuck, reading a book on self-hypnosis, while I awaited the arrival of my art-student girlfriend, Emma, at my dorm. I was immensely fascinated, obsessed with the subject after all this time, years since I first witnessed it. Weed must have reeked off my clothes. During my first-year varsity, I smoked more bud than a light aircraft carrying Buddy Holly’s entourage.

I wanted to understand why hypnosis. Why it was possible. How it worked. What it could do. The boundaries of it. The sheer power of it.

There was a period in the eighties and early nineties when hypnosis was regarded almost as this mythical art…

That’s faded away. Parlour tricks, brushed under the rug. Nothing to write home about.

But I remembered. I would never forget. And hypnosis was done to me, too, in my high school year of 1998. While killing time during a free period in the library, our resident mage, Daryn Chaucer, put a group of us into awakened slumber.

He’d done a hypnosis course. A couple of people I knew had. None of them were any good at it. Except him; he was talented AF. He told us to do the weird ninja-like hand gestures, follow his voice, blah, and tapped us on our heads, suddenly issuing commands. I felt… odd…

His words wormed into my mind: “You don’t remember your name.”

Some of my classmates congealed around me like blood, pestering my person with: “What’s your name? What’s your name?”

I couldn’t say it.

But I could picture it, in my mind’s eye, in bold letters. I just… couldn’t… say… it… There was a weird block that immobilised my tongue in spasming paralysis.

Though I wasn’t in a deep state of hypnosis. I was still aware of my surroundings, of people, still experienced insight into everything. I didn’t want to be enthralled to the whims of another, as my father was.

I couldn’t let this stand.

*

Dad and the other marionettes were told to go back to their seats. Max Collie commanded them not to remember a thing, but following the show’s interval, Max only had to snap his fingers, and they would all return to his command.

We were instructed by the wizard not to tell our loved ones during the break what happened, even though we’d be tempted to.

Still, my sister and I, impishly grinning, couldn’t help but ask Dad what he thought of the show, as we all stood in the foyer of the theatre. He shook his head, a bit confused, and said he wasn’t sure, he couldn’t remember.

It was surreal. He was completely normal, speaking to us just like… our dad, whose judgement we trusted and whose ability to discern reality we trusted, yet he lacked complete insight and memory into his own actions over the past hour.

*

I was desperate my whole life to understand the nature of our conscious stream of thought. You know, the words we write in our minds as we go about our lives, as we experience the moment-to-moment, the conversations we have with ourselves… And it… could be… so disrupted..? Altered? Reprogrammed by a man we met mere moments ago?

If it were anyone else, someone I didn’t know at the show, I might remember it now as a sham, rewriting events of wonder as rationally explained occurrences…

Except that I couldn’t say my name – many years later in high school – at the library, though I could remember it… Jay… Dee….

And I brought those two syllables together, saying them separately at first, magnetically pulling them closer and closer until I called it out. Jay. Dee. Jaydeeee. J.D.

I was out of Daryn’s control.

I was awake.

Then in my university first-year, the attempt to learn self-hypnosis didn’t quite work out – doing the book’s exercises only brought on a slumber. I was fast asleep when Emma knocked on my door rather loudly. I let her in, and she tersely informed me I was being dumped for a bartender.

A chap who had no prospects for the future: he’d recently been booted out of varsity for failing the most basic requirements.

Ironically, he ended up serving a great deal of the cheap whisky I drank as I mourned the demise of my relationship.

“It’s not you,” he said. “It’s me.”

He did have swirly eyes, so I understand why Emma ended us. And, as per the universal agreement between bartenders and bar patrons everywhere, he was an excellent listener.

*

I have a way of babbling on, causing peeps to zone out (sorry about that), but Max Collie did it succinctly, and in the second half of his show, my dad was within a heartbeat brought back under his thrall.

Max the magician asked my dad who he was at the show with. “My children.” Spotlight on us briefly.

Max programmed him with a code to re-interpret everything the magician said (to the audience) as a grievous insult to his daughter – my sister. He sent my father back to his chair and suddenly he was Dad again.

Then the quivering moustache of Max spoke into the mic; it was generalities as I recall. But every single word spiralled Dad up in tension.

The magician went on talking. My normally calm, reserved father started shaking in his seat, then leapt to his feet. “How dare you say that about my daughter!”

Everyone stared at us. My father is wide-shouldered, and carries a presence I never inherited, a booming voice I did, and he yelled a war cry I’d never heard before.

This rage from a stoic, quiet man, unbridled, with the utmost desire to protect his family was astonishing to watch… He loped through our row of seats, legs pumping down the aisle, feet hitting the steps of the stage, bounding up onto the platform, meaty fist raised, powered to obliterate Max Collie’s head, now mere inches from him…

But the wizard said one word.

“Sleep.”

My God-like father dropped instantly, as if bereft of life.

The old diminutive wizard standing over him brimmed with electrified power.

Even now, 25 years later, Dad shows the same determination and resolve to do anything to save his daughter – such as from the cancer eating her away. “We will fight this!” he told me after I heard the terrible news two months ago. “We won’t let it win! We will do everything we can!” Hypnotically, we’re completely convinced we’ll overwhelm this malevolent entity with the pure strength of our minds. We believe in a miracle of willpower – one to spare our family what pancreatic cancer has reaved from all others.

A power that flies in the face of all reason. A power that defies reality.

But I’ve seen it cast only once before.

And the caster is long dead now. The age of wonders is no more.

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 
Addiction Recovery Reflections: The New Lightness of Being.

Addiction Recovery Reflections: The New Lightness of Being.

What a year 2017 has been. It certainly ended off with a metaphorical bang: for five edge-of-your-seat days, the ANC 54 Conference took place, and the entire country sat to embrace the tumultuous leadership battle’s climax. Obviously, I have my own views, but this isn’t a political blog so no expounding here. I will say this: I spent days with my ear almost literally glued to my Bluetooth speaker, while doing other work (but unable to focus), as I pictured the energy and tension of the Nasrec centre during the conference. It became as addictive as crack. That’s politics for you. Like Hunter S. Thompson, a very famous fellow addict, once said: Politics is the art of controlling your environment. And our environment’s future depended on the outcome.

My father was up from Durban to visit the family, but mainly to help manage the grandkids while my sister, exhausted from chemo therapy, rested.

Addiction Recovery Reflections: The New Lightness of Being.We went to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but I could barely concentrate. This was the day when the new ANC president was to be announced. My dad said, while we were eating popcorn awaiting our movie, the announcement would probably come out at 7pm. We would be in the middle of lightsabre duels at the time. My stomach was gnawing itself into a frenzy. Would the Cabal win? I fretted. What happens then? Munch, munch. More popcorn.

When the movie ended at approximately 19:48, I turned on my cellphone. “Cereal won,” said my cousin in a WhatsApp message.

Then I looked at the Top Six. It looked like an even balance between the Light Side of the Force and the Dark Side. Fits with the movie I just saw, I thought. But, just like The Last Jedi ended, there is hope.

For most of the year, my therapist has listened to me going on about this. About my anxiety related to who wins the race. Over and over. But then, Houghton House’s team of counsellors are only too happy to help you deal with your life issues. After all, for many addicts coming out of Houghton’s excellent rehab, these issues can lead them back to active addiction – picking up drugs and drinking alcohol again because their:

  • Boss embarrassed them in the boardroom.
  • Spouse left them for the postperson. (After inventing a time machine and travelling back to when we had a functioning postal service.)
  • Teenage pooch is now at that rebellious age and constantly sh1ts on the upholstery.
  • Physical Education impromptu soccer team picked them last, even after the guy in the wheelchair.

My issues are wide and varied.

Their multitude is so great, if they were converted into bitcoin stock, I’d have enough money to buy Tokyo. This is why I’m grateful for the continued assistance of Houghton House in my recovery – the extended treatment programmes they offer really do go a long way.

It was the year, as mentioned in my previous blog post, of scattered madness. The War of the WormsTM really brought out my crazy side. That’s when I thought my cats had tapeworms. As a result, I am now on a first name basis with all 40 staff members of the Bryanston Veterinary Hospital. (Interestingly enough, Harold, on the board of directors, told me his nephew went crazy after he contracted syphilis in Thailand. That was just before we parted ways at the Bryanston Country Club, as I’m forbidden to play the 19th Hole.) (Sh1t, maybe I got syphilis from my student days at Rhodes?) (I’m sure it’s just good old bipolar, disco damage, and anxiety issues mating with frakking phobia.) (Maybe I should juuuuust check Google anyway.) (Oh no! I have syphilis! And every other disease known to man! Including kuru, which normally only infects cannibals from Papua New Guinea!)

It was a year of dealing with life-on-life-terms problems, like trying to find a job, without losing hope. It can be tough out there, in the current wasteland of an economy we call South Africa. I resigned from my position at an advertising agency when I decided to come into treatment. It’s not the easiest thing to do, especially when you’re winning with management. Although my head of department was faintly evil, almost in a James Bond villain kind of way. There was always a dastardly plot afoot to rid the company of someone she didn’t like. I won’t go into detail. But she did have a large white Persian cat she stroked while issuing execution orders. Executing campaign ads, to clarify. I miss that cat. Muffins.

It was a year of not picking up drugs, no matter what. Not always easy. One of the toughest things to beat in early recovery is the dreaded Craving. It’s an insidious thought that crawls into your head, even when you’re doing everything right. If you’re a non-addict, think about it like this. You’ve gone 14 hours without eating anything, and you’ve just had a workout. Maybe a jog around your neighbourhood. (If you’re in Johannesburg, that jog would involve occasional dashes and 100 metre sprints to dodge muggers.) You’re back at home. You weigh yourself on the scale. Decide you’re only going to eat salad for dinner. The only thing in the fridge is a pizza with enough greasy meat toppings to stop a geriatric’s heart. You’re starving. Suddenly, you can imagine how good that pizza, with melted cheese from a microwave warm up, would taste in your mouth. You know you should go to your car, drive all the way to the shops. But pizza…

That craving. Right there. That’s what it’s like in early recovery, when you even have a brief thought of your drug of choice. But your drug isn’t in the fridge. It could be in Antarctica for all you care. In that moment, if you give in to the craving, you’d have it by nightfall. A lot of addicts, sadly, do. I did, a few relapses ago. However, it’s possible to beat. Going to a rehab like Houghton House certainly helps, because of the tools taught there (don’t read that as: tools teaching there), and the enforced diet of no drugs for four weeks. I had that metaphorical craving for pizza a lot over the past 12 months, especially the first couple. But I resisted. Recovery’s foundational layer is about not picking up, no matter what.

This year, I have also stopped literal pizza. For fear of developing a waistline large enough to generate its own gravitational field. I’m also fighting the good fight against sugar. I’ve mainly been good, actually. Cut out chocolate, ice lollies, sweets. Chips, too! Coke has been switched for Coke Zero. And you know what, it’s actually an easy adjustment. I’ve been trying to score some of the other sugar though. So, if you know someone nice, maybe you have a pretty friend, sister, niece, daughter, mom, and don’t think she’ll mind a half-creepy guy (I don’t have a basement, so I gain points there), let me know. Send an email to saddesperateguyusinghisblogtotrygetlucky@gmail.com. I’m not picky, just as long as she’s not allergic to cats. And is a former gymnast. (I dated one once. Changed me forever.)

It’s been a year of art, creativity, and writing. Pushing myself to learn photo manipulation. By trial and error. The most frustrating way to learn anything. And it’s like recovery. Even when you’re not enjoying it, you’ve got to just carry on. I’ll tell you one thing that’s great about it: it took hours and hours, and frustration after frustration, but I was finally able to superimpose two images successfully. A fantastic outcome, because the next day, my New Age hippy friend Wendell Ferndale received an email containing a picture of him banging a dolphin. It came along with a request for $10000 wired to a Zurich bank account. Selling crystal trinkets is lucrative for some.

(I’m writing this while holidaying in the French Riviera. Coincidentally.)

This was a year of heartbreak, on learning my sister has pancreatic cancer. It brought us together as a family, though. And my stepmom really reached out to me. We hadn’t been talking for a while, after my last two relapses. But she can see how I’m really trying to get this right this time. My youngest sister, her daughter, hadn’t spoken to me in years, so heartbroken was she over my last two disappointments. But she also reached out, in fact needed help with a varsity project. It gave us the opportunity to get closer. My other sister, the one with cancer, is so thin at the moment. It’s devastating. But all through that, I haven’t picked up.

There’s never a reason to pick up.

Unless its morphine and you’ve just lost your entire left arm to Conan the Barbarian’s greatsword. Well, some addicts might say, NOT EVEN THEN! And they have a point. After Conan is finished with them, I’ll give them two panados for the pain. But, as my arm lies twitching on the ground, I’m sure as heck taking the morphine.

Because if I ever do end up back in active addiction, I know there’s a place I can go to get back on track.

Houghton House.

Without them, I certainly wouldn’t have had much of a year at all.

(The addict in me is now wondering where I can find loin-clothed barbarians wielding greatswords, so I can go and insult their mothers. Time to do some step work.)

 

 

 

 

 

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Tales of Addiction Recovery: War of the Worms

Tales of Addiction Recovery: War of the Worms

The War of the Worms

Tales of Addiction Recovery: Watching my sister getting thinner and thinner is an ordeal. She’s a wisp of a wind now. The chemo makes her so tired, she’s near constantly asleep. I’m tired too. The year that’s been has taken a lot out of me.

I’m plagued by a kind of madness. It’s whimsical in that magical sense. Bipolar plus anxiety disorders can make recovery from drug and alcohol addiction that much trickier. I manage though, however there are colourful incidents.

Like, for instance, The War of the Worms.

What happened was, I thought my cats had tapeworms. This would normally gross people out, but they’d just go to the vet. Get their cats checked out. Give them medication. Leave it at that. Tales of Addiction Recovery: War of the Worms

I, however, have a dark, dastardly fear of them. A fracking phobia. They drove me mad.

When I was really young, my mother bought an encyclopaedia collection called The World Books. She got them because we’re one of those library-collection families: an entire room dedicated to books (okay, it was just a study). And she knew I would go wild.

I was one of those kids who never grew out of the “Why?” stage children go through – where they just try their best to make sense of the world around them.

And wild I went. Other boys ran around outside kicking balls or throwing them. I was talented at catching them – in the head. But reading… that I was good at.

I loved sitting cross-legged, on the study’s carpeted floor, after selecting a random letter of the world books (being an encyclopaedia collection, there was normally an entire book dedicated to one letter’s worth of subjects), and page through it.

Whenever I found a subject that caught my eye, through interesting title (such as The American Revolution) or fascinating picture (Picasso’s Cubism style of art!), I would devour that section with all my attention.

Which was pretty amazing, because normally – in school classes – I had the attention span of a gnat. But when I heard something that piqued my interest, I couldn’t wait till I got home, to pour myself over one of these illustrious tomes.

Then when I was ten, a great disturbance was felt in the Force. It was a tumultuous night in Durban. Outside, lightning flashed across the sky as the Heavens ravaged the earth with hard rain. Thunder claps broke ear drums all around the drenched city. Gusty winds blew poodles from their loving mistresses and flung them far off into the darkened sea.

I opened Book T. Flipped through pages as the lights dimmed momentarily. Then I saw it. A picture out of nightmares. The true face of horror. A grisly alien head, with spikes coming out the top, and three large sucker-like eyes grotesquely puckered out. I went white. What manner of thing is this? 

I looked to the entry this terrifying creature’s picture was part of.

I saw the title Tapeworm. Suddenly, a crash of thunder bellowed as lightning struck our garden’s largest tree. I read what would remain with me for the rest of my life:

These things live in you. Feed off you. Grow to many metres within you.

Consume your soul.

*

So when I thought my cats had tapeworms, I went mad. My phobia ran screaming and crying and spinning within me.

This caused a mass panic within the senate that is my mind, its senators dropping all rationale discourse as they scampered around flailing like their arms were on fire.

I would rather make out with a lawnmower’s spinning blades than have a tapeworm inside me. Because if my cats had it, so did I.

*

After weeks of being convinced I had these worms – and there were segments let loose from the feline buttholes of hell all around my apartment – I wrote, as part of my therapeutic process, a “war journal” of the battle going on in my brain. It is delightfully crazy with hyperbole:

Thrice now, I’ve brought the vets suspected segments found on the battlefield, but they dismiss my concerns. For one reason or another, the segments I find, photograph, grab, bag and tag either lack a characteristic or have a nullifying characteristic of tapeworm segments.Tales of Addiction Recovery: War of the Worms

I’m really not cut out for field work, I think, with a sigh of relief. It’s all fine, I’m just flustered in the mind, I tell myself. The horror of the first war had resulted in some latent PTSD. No problem. All groovy.

But I can’t stop looking down as I walk through the trenches, and then I spot another one. Another suspected segment, and this one is different, this one fits the characteristic I was told.

Am I losing my mind? It’s like Reality itself conforms dream-like to my thoughts. Just not the nice ones, like fraternising infringements with hot members of the office corps, but the negative, scary ones. It is terrifying, out there, in what used to be a safe zone. Not knowing, at any moment, what horror I will see on a spot of carpet that seemed to have just popped into existence. What horrors the worms have for me.

I find myself constantly using soothing techniques, like spinning a fidget spinner indefinitely while trying to rationalise everything. Then, something unexplainable is seen, a white or off-white rice grain-like object, suspiciously where it wasn’t that same place this morning.

So many of these things have been explained away, but the handful that haven’t – they haunt me. So does the oppressive sense of constant vigilance. Menace. Insidious parasites. The sense of decay matches the Existential Dread I’ve long fought against, that takes away from the human experience of being. Instead, we’re reminded that we’re just walking meat… to be fed on by predators and parasites

Without hard liquor, my former comrade, lover, torturer, I’m forced to confront what might be the hardest thing in the world to face:

A fractured mind, so easily distressed, a mind that can make-believe a high-functioning grown up person in the world of adults, a world a far cry from the toy soldiers that little boys play with.

But make-believe only lasts so long. Then we have to confront terrifying truths, like the fact we are frail fragile creatures easily infested by grotesque horrors that feed off of us, living within us, dwelling in darkness, deep in our bowels, slithering through our intestines…

It has made me question my sanity.

There are cultist markings left by the worms. Some on the floor tiles, in the bathroom. In the lounge. On my bedroom’s wooden desk. In the kitchen. No reason for their existence, except as remains from the War. They are white, chalky and worm-like segmented imprints… The worms’ bodies and forms gone, now only aggressive ghosts that mark territory taken. I have seen these markings even within my jeep. How the dickens did they get there? I ask myself. But no answer is forthcoming.

Their appearances don’t make any sense. I photograph them, to check I’m not going mad.

I rationalise it as, well, having a logical, non-terrifying phobic explanation that I’m just drawing raving correlations to, because phobias are, in their way, a kind of self-aware psychosis. Phobias, true phobias, are mind worms that crawl through logic and reason to eat at primal fear, the fear that kept us alive in an era of sabretooth cats ravenous for our flesh, but now act as tripwires to normal functioning.

But the markings, the white, chalky, worm-like segmented shapes, they knock-knock on the dome of my sanity, reverberating it with distortive waves. There’s only so much one can take.

And so, finally, I chose to face my fear, my worst, most deep, darkest fear. My fear that I am being consumed and will be perpetually consumed for all of my time, never ever free of these things, never ever cleansed.

In order to retain my sanity, I had to do what any good soldier in the service of his king must do. Sacrifice himself for the cause. My sacrifice would be to lose my mind.

It’s only counter-intuitive if you use real-world logic. Real-world logic doesn’t apply in the realm of the Mad God. Not in a dream world. Or it’s parallel, the waking nightmare.

So, I knelt down, in the middle of the war zone, and ripped off a blanket sheet. I crawled, dragging it behind me, as I grasped a broken branch, that was just lying there. I tied the sheet to it. Then I stood. My legs were shaking, but I lifted the branch, and I waved my white flag. With all my strength, I waved it.

I accepted the madness.

I chose to accept it all. The worms are all around me. They were in me. They would always be part of me. They would never let me go. They existed. I had them. They didn’t exist. I didn’t have them. They both exist and don’t exist – at the exact same time.

I felt a wholeness, coming over me. A relief. The distress had ended.

I stroked my cat Maxine, her beautiful, black, infested, soft fur. And she purred, she purred beautifully soft love.

The worms responded. And they didn’t respond. It was an unreality moment, which was both true and not true at the same time. Maybe it was them… maybe it was something that had a perfectly rational explanation and was just a(nother) coincidence:

Because, I looked down to see something on the bicep of my left jacket sleeve. It was a white, chalky, worm-like segmented shape. Just… mysteriously there. But I knew better.

They had marked me.

As their own.

 

Post-script: Houghton House’s excellent counselling team don’t just help you get over drugs or alcohol. They’re talented in other issues in your life too, making them excellent in continued therapy during your first year out of rehab. They helped me not go completely mad during my war against imaginary worms, which it turned out did have a rational explanation. Kind of. Actually, we’re really not sure. Life’s like that. We choose to accept a truth about the world that fits best with our expectations, or with what’s comforting to us. Whether or not that truth is actually Reality is a debate best left to the Philosophers.

Post-script ii: Insanity, I believe, is the condition of having another version of the world imposed on the accepted one. The mind is a fascinating thing. We humans developed an extremely energy-hungry, complex brain in the course our evolution. The theories for this are related to an off-set of traditional advantages other animals have. We became bipedal, and lost speed. To compensate, we developed endurance, allowing us to hunt animals by exhausting them with persistence. We lost raw strength compared to other creatures in the animal kingdom, and it was compensated with opposable thumbs (to hold tools and weapons), an ability to communicate more efficiently (to allow for ambush strategies when stalking prey), and a brain capable of imagining tools and weapons (think a stick and a stone – our brains allowed us to conceive of combining the two: a sharpened stone and a sturdy stick become a spear). Our brains, however, being so complicated, developed quirks… errors… that have a way of manifesting in interesting ways. In some people more so than others.

Post-script iii: See? You don’t need drugs to have fun. You can have a mild psychotic break!

 

 

 

 

 

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Addiction Recovery can be Difficult without Support

Addiction Recovery can be Difficult without Support.

 

Don’t Do Cat. Adopt Cat.

The cat’s out the bag. That’s my mother’s favourite joke. She found a bag of what she thought was salt in my room, many, many years ago. It was when I still lived with her. She came into my room when I wasn’t there to make sure the heater was off. Neurotic, neurotic mom. She saw the bag, pondered the question of salt, then realised – shocked – that it must have been narcotics. It explained my weird, hostile behaviour over the past year. Being as naïve as she was, however, my mom initially thought this little plastic bag of white powder was ‘dagga’. But she was right about the heater.

These days, I still have quite a cat addiction.

I walk into my house, every day, and see a little grey furred face staring at me, curiously. Mason the Russian Blue tabby, stands on my wooden dining room table, lifting his little nose up to sniff the air while looking at me docilely and sweetly.Addiction Recovery can be Difficult without Support

It takes every ounce of my will power not to rush him into my arms, and borderline crush him in a hug, as I rapid-fire little kisses on his face. He tends to squirm a lot when I do this.

Maxine, on the other hand, will look around the corner, her head jutting out the study doorway, just to make absolutely 100% sure I’m alone. A little black head, with a slightly pushed maw of a face, and golden yellow eyes, will tentatively watch me.

Maxine is pathologically shy of people. If she hears me talking to someone outside the house, I won’t see her at all for five full minutes when I get in. My guests never get a glimpse of her, except one time, when my neighbour popped by. She was talking to me when she suddenly said, “No! Shame, man!”. Maxine, with her eyes darted on us, was swiftly leopard-crawling through the living room to the safety of the back. Ziiip and she was gone.

But normally, once she’s assured it’s only me, she’ll come brushing against my legs. Then I’m to follow the little miss, as she trots along to the study. Maxine happens to like the carpet there, and as I enter the room, she’ll meow demandingly at me. I get down onto the floor, cross-legged, and start singing her songs. She loves My Little Maxi, My Little Waxi. In our home, it is the platinum award-winning single from the studio album I’m Never Going to Get Laid Again.

Maxine shows the most affection of the two, very much a little J.D’s girl, rolling on the carpet, purring loudly, getting up and practically bashing her body into me.

I think her fur is the best feeling in the world – soft and luxurious, like velvet. Meanwhile, Mason will pounce onto her twirling tail. This may or may not start a fight between the two of them. But best believe, they are the best of friends, and any fight is, at worst, a simple disagreement resulting in a wrestling match. Like two judo combatants, they will try toss one another from a feline grapple. Normally, Maxine is the victor, being bulkier than the lithe little Mason. It will end, and with a bruised ego, he will look at her, sadly, as if to say, “Well, I was just playing, you didn’t have to embarrass me like that.”

Trust me, if you know cats, you know this is far from an actual fight – that’s hideous and scary to see and worse to hear: a howling, hissing confrontation that stops the heart just with the raw fear and anger evoked through sound.

I was terrified that would be the relationship Mason and Maxine had when I adopted the little boy. Maxine, already a year old by this time, was not a friendly cat – very asocial, taking forever to warm up to anyone. And she is very devoted to me – I could just imagine the jealousy she’d feel.

But I had met Mason, and fell in love. I had recently relapsed, after a couple of months clean – these things happen, and I agreed to go into Houghton House’s two-week relapse prevention programme as a consequence. The great thing about Houghton is they never give up on you. We are humans, and frail as any other, and make mistakes. Early recovery does see a high number of relapses – the important thing to do, in a relapse, is never give up the fight. To get help as soon as possible, so relapsing doesn’t result in undoing all the hard work invested already.

I was heart-broken when I had to take Maxine back into a cattery before I went into Houghton again. She was very confused, and upset – and so was I. My family tried to convince me to give up Mason, let the specialised breeder find another home for him – and I could have from the next litter. But these pedigree breeders breed ethically, meaning who knew when a queen would have another litter.

Of course, what mattered was my recovery. However, when I met Mason, the little, sweet, buddle of grey fur with white stripes won my heart in a single squeak. I was determined to get this right, so I’d make a good cat daddy, for him. For both my cats.

Six weeks later, I brought him home. I was so nervous of the two meeting too soon, I put Maxine in a room, then fetched Mason in his carry case. He went into my bedroom, and I let her out. Then, I went into my room, and let him run free. Normally, from what I’ve seen, most kittens are incredibly shy and fearful when they enter a new home, and hide for many hours. I expected him to, so I even made a little hidey spot with cushions and a blanket.

But nope, this little thing was immediately sniffing around the room, investigating every inch of the place. Then he did something terrifying: he bit out the tongue of a plastic snake and swallowed it! I spent hours in fear watching him play with the toys laid out, expecting him to experience stomach gnarls caused by his misadventure. Nothing happened. For many months that followed, he would somehow swallow other little bits and pieces of plastic he managed to find in the house, causing me lots of consternation. I still don’t know why he did that. Nothing bad ever happened, though.

In any case, I slowly introduced him to Maxine. The first night, I held the door slightly ajar as they spied each other. I didn’t like how Maxine slowly stalked towards him as he enquired curiously through the door, but I had control of the situation.

Then, at a moment I also felt too close for comfort, they both simultaneously leapt a meter back, in the air, landing frozen like statues, spines arched and hair bristling. Maxine let out a loud growl. You must understand, such a deep-throated ominous sound coming from my little black baby was highly disconcerting. I closed the door swiftly.

Over the next few days, I took Mason out the room in his carry bag, and placed it in the study, where Maxine would normally be. She’d hiss if I brought the bag too close. Then, low menacing growl. But other than that, she would just sit on her chair.

Eventually, I decided she was familiar enough with him not to attack. Being a small kitten, he wouldn’t be able to defend himself. But he is a bold boy. He would sniffle close to her, as she protested with a snake’s hiss. He was never bothered, never got aggressive, nor scared. A Russian Blue Tabby male tends to be a relaxed, not easily stressed out, cat.

And so, he won her over. It didn’t take long before they were chasing each other around the house and swatting paws in a funny feline game of fencing. I arrived home soon after that, not sure where they were.Addiction Recovery can be difficult without Support

I finally looked in their room (yes, they have their own room!), and, in a large cat carry bag, they were nestling. He was lying contentedly on the faux-fur floor while she groomed him, as if he were her own kitten.

I’ve never seen such sweet friends. And, yes, while they will sometimes unleash wrestling moves that would impress even Hulk Hogan, they – just as frequently – will be spotted cuddling. It melts the heart, and lifts the soul. It certainly alleviates the cravings for drugs and alcohol.

In fact, despite my years of intense cardiovascular assaults via powder inhalation, my risk of heart disease is lower than many people, especially a person who doesn’t like animals. Research shows this, specifically with cat owners, and I think the reason is: cats destress us greatly – and not only when they’re playing with us, but even when they’re simply around us. Just their presence is calming. (Even without realising it, I’m feeling calm – and I look around and see why – Maxine is lying on her cat-tree contentedly.)

There is nothing more comforting than going to sleep at night with two cats on the bed, perhaps resting against your legs. There’s nothing more serene than sitting in the study working and there are two sleepy cats in the chair next to you. And there’s nothing more heart-warming than walking into your house, no matter how heavy your day was, to find such loving creatures awaiting you.

If you’re a cat (or a dog) person, you know exactly what I mean. If you’re an incredibly sensitive person, you’ll know how they seem to hone in on you when you need it most. If you’re a giving person, you’ll know how much love they give back.

I don’t think I’d still be clean if I didn’t have Mason and Maxine. The first year is tough, fresh into recovery.

My sister, my mom, my dad, they’ve been a massive support in my fight against drugs and alcohol. They’re family.

That feeling of familial bond is strong, the world’s strongest form of love.

Mason and Maxine are my family too.

And family makes all the difference.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Strange Case of the Drug Fuelled Car Accident Hallucination 

The Strange Case of the Drug Fuelled Car Accident Hallucination 

He knocks on our door. Tip tap. Then barges in without waiting for a reply. It’s a bit rude, really, but also strange. Being 2:20am, and all. My roommate and I were having one last long chat into the night. Abdul had been sharing a room with me for the past two months, and on the eve of December the 1st, he was due to depart.

Good mate, very wise to the world, despite his young 25 years. A taste for powder back in the day, just like me. But that was far from the only thing we had in common. Over the past few months we had discussions that ranged from theology to the nature of addiction to Instagram awesomeness.The Strange Case of the Drug Fuelled Car Accident Hallucination 

On the theology front, he tried convincing me of the existence of an all-power omnipresent force for good in the Universe. I managed to get him to admit his own doubts.

Of course, one evening I pretended to be a convert to the faith. I went as far as to suggest we blow ourselves up. I guess I just felt that I was a quick learner. Abdul, rather than be offended, laughed. A Muslim and a Jew, staying in a room in perfect harmony. We called our pad the Holy Land.

Not a very good Jew, me, because I partake in bacon. But I’ve decided to quit it. Mostly out of a fear of tapeworms. There are certain worms the early bird is more than welcome to have.

In any case, it’s odd for night owls to encounter early birds in the wee hours. Idiom, not his real name, who knocked on our door and barged in, normally was asleep by 10pm. The past few nights, he’d been up late though. Abdul and I discussed it. We had a feeling something was up.

Of course, being in a halfway house means you might run into a housemate on drugs. More commonly, when someone uses drugs or alcohol, they do it off-property and mostly own up to it quickly. I had my relapse over a year ago, and phoned the house manager herself to tell her. That’s because, for many relapses, the addict stumbles. Has a lapse in behaviour, but really, truly wants to get and stay clean. They own their behaviour in the same way as an Olympic sprinter owns his mistake when he tumbles before the finishing line.

Idiom seemed to be using drugs, based on bits of his behaviour there’s no point trudging up. The problem was, he was being tested through urine analysis, like the rest of us, and passing. Could he have been cheating the test somehow? We didn’t know. (There are methods for cheating tests, but I won’t describe them, and you’ll probably get caught out one way or another if you try them – because everybody gets caught out eventually).

We had been discussing some of this behaviour earlier in the night. And now, suddenly, he was in our room in an ungodly hour.

Abdul and I, sitting up in our beds, asked Idiom what he wanted.

“Dude, do you have airtime?” he asked.

“Yes, why?” Abdul responded.

“My friend’s been in an accident,” Idiom said, almost frantically. “I can’t call him from my phone, I’m out, please let me just call him quick, I’ll get him to call me back.”

“I don’t have a lot of airtime.”

“I’ll be quick, please, I need to find out how he’s doing.”

“J.D, do you have airtime?” Abdul asked.

I didn’t want, suddenly, for my phone to have anything to do with what I suspected was dodgy business. “I don’t have any airtime, dude.”

This was not a lie. I didn’t have airtime. I had a contract.

“Please, Abdul, I’ll be quick.” Idiom said.

“Okay, but you must talk here.”

“Sure. The number is…” Idiom recited a string of numbers, as Abdul punched them into his keypad. The phone started ringing. He had it on speaker mode.

Idiom grabbed the phone, and switched it to normal. There was an answer, we could barely hear the voice as Idiom said, in an almost convincing way, “Are you okay?? Are you okay??”

This situation felt so off, so uncomfortable. Both Abdul and I “knew” this was a conversation happening with a drug dealer – which wasn’t a suspicion lessened by Idiom suddenly saying, “I sent my mate your number…” Then he repeated this, louder. Sounded like a stern voice on the other end.

Hmmm…

Idiom asked that his “friend” call him on his phone, and handed Abdul’s back. Then his phone rang, and he answered it again with the award- winning “Are you okay?? Are you okay??”

He left the room swiftly, slamming the door behind him, and his voice disappeared down the passage way.

“I think that was a dealer,” Abdul said.

“No sh!t.” I replied.

“You thought it too?”

I sighed. “Do you have the number?”

Abdul was, as I was saying this, searching the call log, before looking up at me. “He deleted it.”

We were right, of course. There was way too much smoke for this not to be a deal happening. And it sure as hell felt uncomfortable, like a flashback to an urgent, desperate time of needing to score drugs in the seedy part past midnight.

Yet, where was the proof. We really wanted to catch him out. Somehow, he slipped past the urine test, and clearly he was using drugs on the property, which in itself felt like a violation. So what to do?

“He’s organising for the dealer to drop it off by the gate,” I said.

“I think so too.” Abdul replied. “Go eavesdrop on his conversation.”

“Dude, I’m not eavesdropping on him. That’s some ninja sh!t. Do I look like a ninja to you?”

“We could spot him through the bathroom window.”

Our room, being the best room in the halfway house, had its own bathroom en-suite. Its window faced the front gate.

The thing with halfway houses is there’s a curfew. It’s probably one of the most important of the rules. Creates a clear and safe structure for residents at the house, I feel. So Idiom couldn’t go off on a sojourn – as a currently active addict, his best bet to escape detection would have been to ensure he was fully stocked before coming back to the halfway at night.

But, of course, addicts being what they are, control over amounts tends to get snorted out the window. He ran out of his drugs too soon because we ultimately don’t have control over our abuse – otherwise we wouldn’t need rehabs like Houghton House.

So, Abdul and I figured, he got that ooooold hunger for another hit. “Sir dealer, may I have some more?” Oliver Twisted alright.

Now we had our plan. We heard footsteps, sounded like they were coming from outside, by our room’s main window (curtained), and walking up the driveway.

“You hear him!” Abdul fiercely whispered.

“Yeah!” I replied. “Let’s go be ninjas!”

So we stealth-tippy-toed to the bathroom and kneeled down quietly on the floor. Our bathroom window was open, and we had our vantage view of the front gate. Now Idiom was unlikely to open the gate… the house manager was like a German Shepard: the sound of that gate opening had her go from sleep to barking in mere moments.

The dealer was going to land here.

“Do you see Idiom?” Abdul asked.

“No! Shhh!! Talk quieter!”

We waited for fifteen minutes.

“I don’t think he’s outside.”

“Just wait!” I said. “The dealer can’t be far away!”

“I’m going back to the room.” Abdul walked off. Not even tippy-toeing much.

After five minutes, I gave up and went back to bed.

“So much for that,” I said.

“Okay, try this number out.”

“You have the number, I thought he deleted it?”

“He did, but I’m good at remembering numbers. Let’s try get him.”

“Okay, what’s the number?”

Abdul recited it to me. I punched it in, and then rang it. On speaker.

We waited.

Suddenly the phone call got rejected. Beeep.

“I think that was the wrong number. A dealer would answer even at this time of night.” I said.

“Ummm. Let me think…” “Why are we using my phone anyway?”

“The dealer’s already seen my number. Once, he’ll forget about. More than once, he might save. It’s your turn. Okay, I’ve definitely got the right number now. Try this…”

“I’m not doing this all night, dude.”

“It’s the right number.”

“How do you know?”

“Because it’s the number he called. He deleted it on my phone, but if you press the call button, it still brings up the last number dialled.”

“Oh yeah, brilliant!” We had it. Time to do this.

Again, Abdul recited a string of numbers. Again, I punched them in.

I hit ‘call’.

It rang. I handed my phone to Abdul.

“Here, you do it. I’m no good at these bullsh!t conversations.”

“Okay.” Abdul put it on speaker.

The call was accepted. We heard the voice, loud and clear.

“Hallo, who is dis?” The voice was West African. And not to typecast here, but every dealer I’ve ever bought narcotics from in my entire life was Nigerian. And, this is almost definitely certain, he didn’t sound like someone who had recently been in a car accident.

Dealers also have this very brisk, businessman-like way of talking. But risky business, as you can imagine. And they tended to sound very suspicious of unfamiliar voices, unfamiliar phone numbers. The job inspires a certain amount of paranoid caution, of course.

“Idiom gave us your number, is that okay? He said we could call.”

“Not normally how dis work. Who is dis?”

“A friend of Idiom’s, a friend of Idiom’s, can we get some stuff from you?”

Oh-kay, my name is John.”

Nigerian dealers always use innocuous-sounding and common Western names. For reasons.

Then he continued, “Who is dis, who is dis?”

Abdul and I had heard enough, and actually felt a little tainted by the whole incident. So Abdul extracted himself from Operation: Bad Idiom, and said, “Sorry dude, another time, another time, night night,” and disconnected from the call.

He then looked up at me with a huge grin. “We’ve got him red-handed.”

*

The next day we gave the house manager our “field report”. Idiom didn’t even need to do a test. When he was confronted on the call, he admitted he was using coke. Out the house he went.

Sadly, two other people in the house relapsed in the following days. They did own up to it after they relapsed. It shows willingness. We didn’t even have to smoke a pipe and wear a tweedy deerstalker hat.

But this is a difficult time of the year for recovering addicts, especially those in early recovery. I also need to take precautions, I’m far from far in mine.

I’m not special and different. I can fall just as easily as anyone else. I like to think I won’t lie and manipulate others if I do relapse. I like to think that if it happens again, I’ll own up to it, just as the other two housemates did, as soon as it occurs.

But there’s only one way to know for sure I don’t try manipulate, deceive, and sell other people’s property for drugs.

And that’s not to pick up in the first place.

After all, recovery is fairly elementary.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sugary Addiction is Breaking Down the Gate

The Sugar Addiction is Breaking Down the Gate

The Sugar Addiction is Breaking Down the Gate

Back in Ancient and Medieval times, certain sights had a way of instilling grievous fear. Imagine, if you will, seeing a blackened cloud on the horizon. On a completely sunny day. The cloud is rapidly approaching. Its bolts of lightning, if you can see any, would be generated by the intensity of hooves pounding the ground. Hundreds of thousands of hooves. Because horsemen are coming your way. A people from the Steppes, a region so harsh, only the strongest of tribes survive.

The Sugary Addiction is Breaking Down the GateThis army is made up of grim men interested in plundering gold.  They have no interest in the value of human life. They take it like they take maidens’ virtues. By force. Their surprisingly sophisticated siege engines bring down city walls easily. Their composite bows rapidly fire arrows which puncture plate armour effortlessly.

These are the Mongols. They have laid waste and started fire storms throughout Central Asia. Soon they will be at the gates of your city, and it is too late to run. While you are praying to whichever God you hope will save you, I’m shaving the neighbour’s dog, sticking its fur together in the shape of a handlebar moustache, and practicing my Mongolian for: “Dude, where’s my car?”

We need to make the best of bad situations or we fail to cope. In the case of addictions to drugs and alcohol, we need to find a new way of life. Houghton House taught me that. Unfortunately, with the recent looting of our country’s coffers by Zuma’s The Cabal™, I’ve fallen into some of my bad, old ways.

No. I haven’t relapsed on drugs nor drink. But, as my waistline clearly shows, I’ve found an addiction all the same. It comes in the form of chocolate, ice cream, potato chips, gummy sweets, flavoured cold drinks, and fast food.

I have been good. I managed to get over the hump for my nasty sucrose habit recently. But this all went belly up when I saw the headline of today’s Business Times. We got downgraded. Thanks to wholesale pillaging by Steppe warrior wannabes, all the Presidente’s men, we are in catastrophe. An economy put to the torch through deliberate economic sabotage, which has resulted in a R30 000 000 000 shortfall for taxes.

One that Overlord Zuma has now ordered to be made up for in a revised 2018 Budget, with God knows how high a tax hike.

Only He knows what little of the little we have, we’ll be left with.

Probably just enough for me to start selling my body for Smarties.

If this dire addiction doesn’t stop, I’ll be a poster child for Diabetes. Ho hum. It’s more the fight against the flab I’m concerned with. I need to be able to procreate, so I can pass on my smartass genes. That won’t happen until my breasts are smaller than my potential life-mate’s.

Self-soothing activities, such as the afore mentioned eating issues, tend to be popular with recovering addicts distressed by events like an economy under siege. They can become just as problematic as drugs and alcohol were.

Sex addictions, for instance. It’s easy to get hooked on, say, hookers or even a masseuse’s hand. An issue actually cropped up at the halfway house this week, and it got climatic, but I’m going to have to save those details for the future e-Book I Survived Recovery and All I Got Published Was this Lousy Book.

(It will be under a chapter titled Don’t Bring a Blue Light in Here, Please.)

Let’s just say it concerned an alternative to hooking up with a new beau. They (you know, “They” they) tell you to stay out of relationships in your first year of recovery, and from my point-of-view, that’s because my emotions are frazzled enough as it is. Sober stands for, Son of a Female Dog, Everything’s Real. Love is a kind of magic that releases all kinds of pleasantries, actually a particular chemical very similar in structure to amphetamines. It leads down a dark path…

Counsellors at Houghton House will try protect you from your desire for companionship. There are very strict rules in place about any kind of romantic involvement with fellow patients. Many addicts in early recovery fall to the temptations of the flesh, and elope in lust with another addict.

Feelings being extra intense in the early days of addiction recovery, and with a desire to find pleasure somewhere, you could end up involved in a rollercoaster ride (possibly cowgirl – my lazy-ass’s favourite position) where emotions play havoc and relapse is but a snort away.

I personally know of a couple of couples that coupled their way into a cr@p outcome. But I’m over a year now, so have technical licence to go wild with the oats, as it were.

I just need to check with my therapist on this. Even now, I still defer to Houghton’s therapeutic team on life issues. My association with them has led to complete trust: they’ve always had my best interests at heart, and this includes matters of the heart.

That’s because care, from what I believe to be the best rehab in town, goes a long way past the actual rehab stage. I don’t think I’d still be clean without their help.

So defer I will. If only I could follow their advice on the diet thing.

In Medieval times, there was a lot less sugar to fear. But as the Mongols were tearing down the gates, I’d be hustling to find the lute-playing equivalent of Barry White, to sow the seed before it was too late. Women had a better chance of survival (admittedly, not by much) than the men. Who tended to literally lose their heads before they could fall head over heels.

But that at least – I’d console myself with –  is a very efficient way to lose some weight.

 

 

 

 

 

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J.DBest rehab in South Africa off Drugs and Alcohol.

J.D Manages to Celebrate His First Year Clean off Drugs and Alcohol.

One Spin Around the Sun Later.

Did you know the Sun’s name isn’t actually the Sun? I mean, sure, if you’re not on a first name basis with the Sun, then by all means, call him / her / it the Sun. But actually, to those in the inner circle (like Mars, Earth, Venus, and Merc), the Sun is called Sol. As in Sol from Solar System.

I’ve managed to do one full spin around Solly without picking up drugs or alcohol. The landmark day was last Thursday. It was a hell of a ride.J.D Manages to Celebrate His First Year Clean off Drugs and Alcohol.

As my therapist said, it’s been a year of trench warfare against myself.

Drugs and alcohol aren’t always the primary problem a person has. Sometimes, in my case, they’re a symptom of a deeper malady.

Unfortunately, symptoms in (actual) diseases do sometimes kill. In the case of substance abuse some quality time with Mr G. Reaper is more and more likely the longer you or a loved one are in that abusive relationship of drug addiction.

Addiction may or may not be a ‘disease’ in the medical sense. But it certainly is a destructive set of behaviours that, in me, revolved around dangerous self-soothing actions. I self-soothed with booze, self-soothing my emotions into a more manageable state. Some people say they completely numbed themselves. Maybe that’s them. I did not numb anything, not with alcohol. I just managed my emotions. I still felt everything, and perhaps close to as intensely. There was just a thin wall, a layer of skin if you will, between them and my skeleton of being.

Perhaps it’s a bipolar thing. I’ve mentioned before that as a bipolar, my emotions are physiologically way more intense than the average person’s. This is according to my psychiatrist, who specialises in mood disorders. It’s to do with the manner my brain processes emotions. Badly. As if the crew managing them has gone on extended vacation, and left the office temp with a bad attitude problem in charge.

And when it gets too much, I slip into a kind of madness. The official term for it is mania, and I can go anywhere from completely insanely happy, to completely desperately depressed, to completely freakishly freaked out.

Long before drugs or alcohol entered the picture, I self-soothed through removing myself from you humans’ reality, entering my own. Through books, through wooden sticks turned into samurai swords, to loud music I was sailing along to as lead singer in a superstar band. And we rocked you. We rocked all of you. Even Solly felt it. The Universe shook. I was awesome.

Of course, in actual reality, people just saw this withdrawn boy disappearing inwards.

Later, I started drinking, and realised I could, like some other socially stunted alcoholics, actually have a good time when I had the burning fire of ethanol in my belly. I could be, I felt, the person I imagined in my fantasies.

Not quite. Even in my most social years of substance abuse, I felt lesser than. Lesser than you. Lesser than your girlfriend/boyfriend/dogfriend. Lesser than your neighbour. Lesser than your neighbour’s mongoloid son who throws beetles at passing cars. Lesser than, lesser than, lesser than.

I still went into my world. Until I found that ecstasy pills actually did make me feel like I was worth it. Ecstasy made me love everything. Even myself. I had never ever felt comfortable in my own skin. I disliked everything about me. My therapist (Houghton House™ issued – gotta catch them all©) pointed out, when I told her I wasn’t a violent man, by any means, that in fact I did great (psychological) violence to myself. More on that another time.

But on this magical pill… suddenly, I loved myself. I was like, Hey, how you doing? Having a good time? I think you’re awesome, dang, you are so awesome. Can I get an autograph? For my kid? He really hero-worships you. You’re up there on the top shelf with Wolverine and Batman.

Sad, really. That it took a street drug to make me feel that way. There’s a whole other story, won’t go into it, but I only ever landed up with a girlfriend when I had this faux confidence. Confidence lacking in a life that’s missed so many opportunities.

So that’s how I justified my drug usage, in my little conversations with my inner senate. Or legion, if you prefer…

But, as these things inevitably go, I literally crossed a line. Ended up using the white powder called Cat, and smashing vodka, and popping pills, and slowly my life began to fall apart.

It was like the metaphorical slow-motion car accident. As it happens, the motor vehicle of my life was dangerously out of control, and I drove along a tightly curving road in heavy rain, suddenly all the elements, like the worn brakes, the nearly treadless tyres, the frazzled driver, the wonky steering wheel, made hitting the barrier inevitable. And exploding out the mountain path into the depths of the valley below.

*

I started this journey of recovery many years ago. I have a list as long as my arm of fallen comrades in the war against our addict selves. Because it is an intense civil war. Bombshells called cravings exploded all around me. The artillery fire we call self-will run riot peppered friends into smoke. The gun rounds known as euphoric recall knocked me off my feet too many times to count whilst I charged across the battlefield.

I managed to get up, got helped up, and was sometimes carried over the shoulder – by Houghton House and their team of counsellors – in that desperate bid to get and stay clean.

But, as I first mentioned, drugs and alcohol are signs of a deeper malady in me. They sometimes call it a ‘hole in the soul’. I have heard other addicts describe a similar thing in them. A yearning to fill this void within.

There’s a sense of ‘completeness’ when an addict finds their drug of choice (whether alcohol or otherwise). To the point of experiencing a relationship with it. With a substance. People often make jokes along the lines of hanging out with Charlie (cocaine) or spending time with Johnny (Walker, more than a passing acquaintance for me, in another life).

But recovery is about finding completeness in myself. Recovery is also wanting to recover. And my not-wanting-to-quit became not-wanting-to-quit-also-not-wanting-to-die-terribly-or-at-least-not-wanting-to-have-a-life-of-mistery. Need-a-way-out.

My samurai poet experience (as detailed here) was sort of the start of the journey into a genuine recovery. It took a few more spills, before I went to my family and asked, for the first time ever, for help.

Coming into Houghton House’s rehab was the best thing I ever did. Alex Hamlyn and Dan Wolf have built a haven for drug and drink addicts like me, with a programme that helps teach us the skills and tools needed to live a life free of addiction.

After their primary rehab programme, I continued at their secondary facility, The Gap. It further entrenched the toolkit I’d need when I left the safety of rehab. But out I had to get. I had a lovely cat waiting for me, and she’s been a big part of my sobriety this year.

They say a black cat is bad luck. But she’s been the opposite. I can’t get over the love she exudes whenever I walk through the door. And no, it’s not because she wants food. 🙂

That’s the only kind of cat I want in my life now. As for getting to this point, it’s helped being at a Houghton House’s halfway house, with other addicts like me sharing a journey of sobriety.

I still tend to keep to myself. I found working, either on creative projects or simply writing, to be fantastically therapeutic.

One thing I can definitely recommend, if you’re fresh in recovery out of rehab, is to teach yourself (through Google, youTUBE, and from friends with a talent in that area) a new skill. Like, I got into photo manipulation or simply turning photos into art in some way or form. It started really hard, but became easier and easier. I found I got really focused. I experienced a sense of genuine achievement as I created something fresh and new.

This photo, a variation of which was used for my post about a story I’m working on, took me nearly an entire day’s worth of productivity to make. Hours upon hours.J.D manages to celebrate his first year clean off drugs alcohol

Nothing was as rewarding as becoming adept at the previously unfamiliar.

Something else that worked well for me was family. Family. Family. Family. A support network of people outside of the fellowship of addicts. Normal people. I found that normal, stable persons are a good influence. Obviously, there are some families that the recovering addict might consider ‘sick’. Going into rehab changes your world view. Making you more aware of group dysfunction.

But it doesn’t mean you can’t find a new ‘family’ of friends, who aren’t addicts, and don’t use substances (although drinking every so often does come close enough to normal – for them, not you!), and certainly are sympathetic to the plight of addicts, these people make good influencers.

They’re normal. They lead balanced lives. They manage to wake up without hitting the snooze button, take out the garbage, get showered, dressed, and to work on time. Go to gym, get home, make dinner, play with the kids, enjoy some TV, play some Playstation, meet friends one or two evenings of the week, go on picnics and s#!%, be normal. Be balanced.

They’re great for addicts. Especially addicts just out of rehab. We are who we spend our time with. We’re social animals. We form small sub-cultures.

Find your tribe, as they say.

I’m not the best example of this, I just have enough of a taste of it, to know, it’s beneficial.

I’m clean today because I had help from Houghton House, ongoing and not just from time in rehab. And I furthered myself in a way that helped me grow. And I spent time with people who are following a new way of life. And spent time with people who had a great way of life to begin with. Lastly, cats. But maybe you’re a dog person. Just don’t make them your dogfriend. (If you do have this problem, there is a resident clinical psychologist at Houghton House™ who should help cure you. Ask for Lagertha.)

I still go into my own world, though.

I’m working on it, getting back into your reality, peeps. But, right now, I have the dark forces of the Shadow Khan to fight, and I’m my world’s only samurai.

I just can’t leave them now.

Not while Solly, representative of all I have achieved, still shines bright in the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Addiction Recovery can have its Crazy Moments

Hanging with Mr. Robot – Addiction Recovery can have its Crazy Moments

Hanging with Mr. Robot.

Addiction Recovery can have its Crazy MomentsAddiction Recovery can have its Crazy Moments

I have my very own pet hacker. Believe me when I say, these pets are hard to get rid of. You can set a bird free. You can open the hamster’s cage in a park. You can give goldfish a flush into the sea (eventually, hopefully, shame poor Goldie). You can Gumtree cats or dogs to new homes – presumably, because you’re unable to care for your cute critters no more. Not because you’re a selfish git who didn’t think of the important responsibility you were taking on, and now regret.

But you can’t seem to shake hackers.

My problem started when I got a Dell XPS 13. A very nice laptop, with a business orientation. It is compact, powerful, and allows me to be supremely productive. So, it’s like my own personal office, a portable corporate park for running my business.

There’s just one problem.

The security has a metaphorically fortified entrance – no one gets through. But the alley behind the building has one of those janitor’s doors. The kind that can only be opened from inside, but for some reason, the cleaning guy has lodged a brick to keep it open

This is called Intel AMT. It is a separate Central Processing Unit from the main CPU. It actually overrides the thing. And I have no control over it. It’s meant to be for IT guys at the office to remotely fix some executive’s laptop on-the-fly. Which is of no use to me, since I am a company of one. And there’s a major exploit in it. Anyone who sees you on your “HI I HAVE ONE OF THOSE VULNERABLE COMPUTERS PLEASE HACK ME” machine, such as at a free wi-fi coffee spot, and has the know-how, can take insidious control.

Some guy named Paul did that to me. I saw that on one of my network log’s. I think. I’m fumbling as I go along, trying to uncover the stench of betrayal and corruption caused by the idiots at Intel and their including a major security threat on my “had to sell a vital organ to get” laptop.

I am going to take these [reference for children born out of wedlock deleted] to the small claims court.

One day I will have vengeance on them for this, but right now, I have to live with a compromised machine that I require for work. Good thing I’m not an SSA agent, or I’d have already been bust for whatever shenanigans they do in the service of the Cabal.

My hacker will not go away. So, I’ve covered my web-cam. I now never enter financial information. I make sure I don’t visit Midget Clown Porn sites anymore. (The guy from Game of Thrones is in one – was totally awesome, he kept saying, “Call me TyRIDEion!”).

One night, when dealing with particularly difficult emotions, I realised I didn’t feel so alone. What with being surveyed, wiretapped, keylogged, screen-captured, and whatever else it is that hackers do.

He was there. And I really wanted to talk to someone.

So, I upped the microphone.

And said, “Hi, Hacker.”

*

I told him about how my sister and I grew up so close in age together. How she was very much little miss bossy. “She used to pout when she didn’t get her way. Or this one time, this is funny, she was around five at the time, she asked Mom why she was still in bed, with Dad giving her breakfast on a tray. Mom said, ‘Sweetie, it’s because it’s Mother’s Day!’. My sister replied, ‘When is Children’s Day?’ Mom said, ‘Every day is Children’s Day!’.”

I was talking about it because my sister’s results for her biopsy, the one she had because of a tumour appearing to grow on her pancreas, were due the next day. And I was nervous. I desperately wanted the situation to be explained, by the doctor, as Not That Bad.

The hacker never replied. But I felt… not so alone.

*

The next night, I spoke to him again. “So, I was busy sweeping the lapa area outside when my Dad contacted me. He and my Mom were with my sister and her husband when they were getting the results back. This was about quarter to six this evening, right? Anyway…”

*

Third night. “Our parents got divorced when I was 12. My sister was 10. Mom wanted us to move up with her to Johannesburg. I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay with my Dad, but he wouldn’t fight for custody. He said he didn’t want me to go through that. But it was a good thing, because I stayed with my sister. You know, divorce is horrible. You don’t realise how special the sense of the immediate family unit is until you lose it. My sister and I, though, remained our own family unit.”

I continued. “My Mom took us to live with a man she wanted to marry. That’s why my parents divorced. He wasn’t very nice to us. He treated us as a sort of unwanted extra baggage in his relationship with my mother. The house we lived in was cold. Uninviting. Really heck of a lot different from our life before the divorce. But we had each other. We played card games. We ran around the large garden at the bottom of the property with a large plastic ball and two old broom sticks, whacking it through imaginary goals. We used to sit in the dining room table at his dinner parties, as he turned up the charm with guests, and we communicated just through eye contact: “What an a$$%073”.

Fourth night. “When I ended up in rehab, I had gone crazy. Acted like a weird samurai poet. Drugs do that to you, man. Drugs and alcohol. Story of my life.” I didn’t mention Houghton House, I assumed he was from the Ukraine, and if so, Houghton House as a rehab was possibly a bit far – though they do serve international clients, and help them significantly, I just felt a Ukrainian hacker working for a crime syndicate might not be okay with them. If you’ve been following my story, Houghton came after the psychiatric ward for my drug-fuelled manic episode, but I didn’t want to get bogged down in details.

Anyway:

“Crazy crazy. As the programme at this rehab started to get me right, I had visitors, like my Mom. And my sister – she was pregnant with her second child at the time. She and her husband were overjoyed, even though there was like a one-and-a-half-year age gap between the two children. I said all these nasty things to her when I was in active addiction. But she forgave me. So easily. She knew it was just a monster inside me. My sister loves me more than anything. She helped me heal in my recovery.”

Fifth night. “I think that’s as much as I can say. Really. Just, need to cope with this through therapy.” Lagartha, my therapist. Who I desperately wanted to see. We had an urgently set up early appointment in the week. I don’t know what I’d do without her and the rest of Houghton House’s therapeutic team. Their after-rehab treatment programmes really help in continuing the road of recovery from drugs and alcohol.

“So, thanks for the illegal surveillance, and all. I hope you’re having a good day too, breaking into government institutions, ransomwaring corporations, grabbing credit card details and s#!7 from ordinary citizens. Gotta make a buck right?”

There was nothing more to be said, really.

Back on the second night, the one when my dad contacted me about my sister’s biopsy results, I told the hacker: “She’s got pancreatic cancer. I’ve read up on it. Asked a doctor friend about it. It’s one of the worst forms of cancer to get. If they got it early, she’d have a 20% chance of getting to a year. Something like 11% for a couple more. That’s about it. It’s incurable. If it’s at an advanced stage, there’s no chance. Not of getting beyond nine months. None.”

I sighed.

“They didn’t get it early.”

So, returning to the fifth and final night. “Hope hacking goes well. I’m okay. I won’t pick up. I just, well, I’m so so devastated. She was always there, she’s my younger sister. She’s going to get thinner and thinner and fade away. But I won’t pick up. Have to be there for her children. For her husband. For my Mom. My Dad. Anyway, have a good one, dude.”

My soul felt peppered with shards of glass.

But, well, the talk with the hacker was cathartic.

After all, when you’re going through a tough time, it helps to know someone’s listening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Life on Life’s Terms in Addiction Recovery

Life on Life’s Terms in Addiction Recovery

Life on Life’s Terms in Addiction Recovery

My sister straightens her hair. It’s her little secret. Obviously, miles better than my former secret of using drugs and drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Her natural hair is like a thorn bush. She also has a couple of wigs, that look just like her natural hair, amber brown, which she wears over her head for religious reasons.

It’s a good thing she has this wig collection, because she’ll be needing it soon.

I vaguely remember a time when she wasn’t around. I have a very distinct memory of looking up at a mobile, my mom thinks I was 18 months old at the time. It was at our old house, before my parents moved us to Glenmore, a green suburb in Durban. But that’s about it.

My next memory far back as I can remember was of my mother at the hospital. I was about two and a half. No memory of her being pregnant, but definitely her at the hospital. While my mom was there, my father took me to our cousins’ home, an old Victorian style inn, to visit one Sunday afternoon.

I was playing with the switch to a plug-in point, switching it up and down, while my aunt and uncle showed my dad some new improvements to the house.

The memory exploded. Somehow, the next thing I remember was my hands, black with soot, being washed by my dad. The plug-point was not earthed, and I had been electrocuted. I was lucky, it could have been worse.

Later, my mom, lying in a hospital bed cradling an infant, berated my father for nearly losing her son to an electrifying moment. That little bundle was to be very important in my life. I just instinctively knew it.

Next memory I had of her, was her one-year birthday. Sitting in a baby car-chair, miserable with chicken pox, her lip pouting, her short amber hair all curly, her blue eyes defiant and wilful. When my sister is not impressed, she will let you know about it, and hell, will you get it.

My sister, even though younger than I, has looked out for me my entire life. For instance, once when she was three, she walked into my mom’s room eating a slice of bread. “Sweetie! Who helped you to that?” my mom asked, astonished.Life on Life’s Terms in Addiction Recovery

“Me,” my sister replied. “I got for JD toooo.”

As we went through our childhood, we used to play all sorts of fun games – mostly what we made up, like The Gun Game. This one we played with our cousins, four brothers. We would all pick toy guns and go off in different directions and hide somewhere until a minute passed. You take out a competitor by aiming your toy gun and yelling, “bang!” before they did. Or you could hide your gun, which meant if someone got the drop on you, they couldn’t just shoot you. They took you hostage, and only when they located all the guns could they win the game – by executing the hostages (surprisingly, we were still quite innocent to the ways of the world). All the while you had opportunities to turn the tables and shoot them! Grim game, huh! My sister sucked at it, and never won. Except one time. She got the drop on two of us. They didn’t have their guns with them at the time. So she took them hostage. Took me out, bang bang, I fell to the floor, no more.

Then she got one of my other cousins as hostage. And her hostages, suddenly encouraging her, helping her locate my final cousin. She got him too. Bang bang. Then the little thing with curly amber hair executed her hostages. Sweet thing! Little eight year-old with freckles on her cheeks turned mass kin slayer. Ha ha. Children.

She won! She finally won the Gun Game!

Many years later, when she was in grade 11, I found an essay she had done for her English class, about a pivotal experience in her childhood. She described that day. I thought it was the funniest thing. Ever. “Shame,” I said to her. “Of all the pivotal moments you could choose from!”

But it meant so much to her. A time she was triumphant over all the bigger, older boys. She vanquished them all. She stood over the bodies of giants.

That was some battle.

Today she has an even bigger one.

I found out on Saturday that my beloved sister has a malignant growth on her pancreas. There are also a few spots, indicated by the medical procedure she underwent. They are signs that this tumour is very aggressive.

There are treatment options. Chemo is one, and once they’ve done a biopsy on the tumour and they know more, treatment will be discussed.

It just feels so unfair.

I can’t get over it. I recently had my bloods checked. A biopsy. All normal. 100%.

I’ve spent 19 years doing drugs, drinking copious amounts of alcohol, with some of the worst eating habits you can imagine – virtually no vegetables. Tons of sugar. Crisps, junk food, fast food, deep fried food. Smoking a box a day close to 20 years now.

I’m an oncologist’s worst nightmare.

I should be the one with the malignant tumour.

She’s the epitome of clean living. She does exercise, eats responsibly, went through only a short stage of binge drinking – like many early twenty-somethings – before giving it all up. Doesn’t smoke. Never used drugs.

It’s not fair.

She has four children, all under the age of five.

I’m reminded of a line said by Hawkeye in the movie Last of the Mohicans:

 

Take me!

Me for her! Me for her!

 

That’s not how Death works.  There’s no exchange. Nothing but incredulity.

A Higher Power?

It’s so weird. She is a good, God-fearing woman.

Meanwhile, I’m a primary candidate for a visit from the Spanish Inquisition.

So why her, and not me?

Me for her!

Me for her!

Life, to me, is random. It’s the roll of the dice. My only possible moves on the board game of life are limited to what gets rolled. Just like backgammon. But the numbers came up double ones this time.

Snake-eyes.

F^!#.

So I have two possible moves.

To pick up drugs and alcohol and begin this whole sordid mess anew.

Or to keep myself clean – because once I pick up, all options are closed to me. Instead, now, I can try and be strong for my folks, strong for my sister, strong for her children and for her husband.

If I falter now, it will be the most selfish act imaginable, especially when others need me the most.

Houghton House has taught me how to be more caring and giving, and how to turn my back on the bad, selfish behaviours of active drug addiction.

It’s called Doing The Next Right Thing. In this case, it’s writing my step work, it’s speaking to my sponsor, it’s going to 12-Step Fellowship meetings, it’s speaking to other addicts and alcoholics, it’s reaching out to friends and family, it’s about not picking up drugs or alcohol no matter what.

Houghton House and its team of councillors gave me the coping skills to deal with anything in life. No matter how dark things get, they only get darker – so much darker – if I use drugs and alcohol again. I’m not going back into active addiction.

Because, like that time she helped her older brother to breakfast, my sister has looked out for me my entire life.

Now it’s my turn to look out for her.

 

 

 

 

 

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Swapping the Wilderness of Drug Addiction for the Wilds of South Africa

Swapping the Wilderness of Drug Addiction for the Wilds of South Africa

Swapping the wilderness of drug addiction for the wilds of South Africa

Lying in the early morning sun, the hyena gazed at us deceptively docilely. Her cub was mewling for milk sweetly, pushing against her furred body. They looked cute enough for a Japanese Hello Hyeny merchandise catalogue.

Obviously, I resisted the suicidal urge to exit the roofless safari vehicle. Those jaws can easily take a grown man’s hand. And African wildlife have a way of making wayward tourists into news headlines.

But still… so cuuuute.Swapping the Wilderness of Drug Addiction for the Wilds of South Africa

I was on a safari with my dad this past week. Bonding trip to Sabie, far out into the bush and bordering Kruger.

A gift of recovery, as they call it, because back in active drug addiction, I wouldn’t leave the house let alone civilisation. For one thing, my drug dealer didn’t deliver outside of the suburbs.

I certainly didn’t have adventures like flying in small airplanes. I hadn’t flown in a while (unless you count drug highs), and it was fun… until take off.

I have this belief that small planes aren’t meant to fly. It’s like Gravity takes serious offense to these fragile craft; I really felt its desire to grind us into the ground. We had turbulence, a pocket of air where the tiny plane just dropped like a stone for a couple of seconds. I’d hardly ever thrown up on alcohol (some sort of natural resistance to it, I guess). But this time, sober, I reached for the barf bag. Phew. Nothing happened.

After landing on a juvenile, barely-passable runway, I got off the plane shakily. That’s the last time, I silently communed with Gravity. I will never f#%^ with you again.

From there the adventure began.

On the first day, we saw a bull elephant. He got really close to the vehicle we were in, didn’t pay us any mind. A delectable, nourishing root grew under a tree, and said tree was in his way, so he simply tusked it over. Majestic strength flowed through those ivory ploughs. Nothing stopped this elephant from getting what he wanted.

Kind of like how I, typically for an addict, didn’t let anything get in the way of me and my fix. Always hustling, making a plan, overcoming any obstacle – and just like they call a male elephant a bull, I was a bullsh!%%3r.

I related to the elephant in that way.

We also saw leopards. Out in broad daylight. I think that’s quite rare. They’re normally shy. Elusive. Shadow assassins. We stayed at an open camp – where wildlife is free to move through as they please – so having leopards close by was quite nerve-wracking. Made me always look over my shoulder while walking from the chalet we were sharing to the main areas of the camp.

Reminded me of how I used to be on the lookout for, well, a different species of animal. Pigs. Every addict’s worst fear is running afoul of the blue lights that wafted a lingering smell of crisp bacon. Nothing brings down the drug high like a night with fellow low-lifes in a pigpen.

No telling what predators you’ll find in with you.

We weren’t allowed to leave our chalets in the night, unless accompanied by staff. On the first evening, I heard the loud bellow of a hippo. Directly outside. Hippos being the single most dangerous mammal in Africa, I was a mite concerned. Jaws wider than a chasm of doom combined with a temper that flies faster than buck chased by cheetah, they kill more people in Africa than all the carnivores combined. Hippos are not your friends.

But then, I got confused. It sounded like it was coming from the other room. Oh Em Gee. My dad snores like an aquatic mass murderer.Swapping the Wilderness of Drug Addiction for the Wilds of South Africa

On another exciting game drive, there was a lioness with her cubs. Again, strong suicidal urge to go pet them. The cubs were tugging at her ears, squirming around, wrestling with each other. Suicidal urges are a thing with me. That’s what active addiction does. Makes the use of drugs and alcohol seem like the natural thing to do. Do NOT PET THE LION CUBS. But we do anyway. Then we get mauled, lose something important, like a vital organ or our home, and go, “Never again will I pet a cute lion cub!” But some time passes and we’re thinking, maybe it was just that one lioness who took issue with us. The next one will be different.

Whoops, mauled again. This time, half your face is missing.

This goes on until we end up meeting the resident rangers (i.e. the counselling team) of rehabs like Houghton House – who guide us to the fresh watering hole of recovery.

So now I know not to go petting cute syringes, rubbing my nose in white drug powders, hugging bottles of alcohol, and expecting things to go well.

We also saw buffalo posing like it was their high school yearly photoshoot. Check it out. When I was in high school, my journey with drugs started with marijuana. I also lazed around like these beefy boys, but that’s what drugs like marijuana did to me: took away motivation. And motor skills. I was gawkier than a three-legged lion.Swapping the wilderness of drug addiction for the wilds of South Africa

Early the Saturday morning, I blaringly rolled through the mosquito nets out of the bed. The last thing I felt like doing was going on a 5am crack-of-dawn game drive. Forcing coffee down my throat, I recalled how in active addiction, a night of drugs would have kept me sleeping, if I could, the whole day. But never mind that. Off we went, with me silently cursing the whole way.

Until we came across an antelope. Or at least we think it was an antelope. It was hard to tell. The buck was brutally attacked sometime before we arrived. By the time we got there, the lioness had already ravaged the carcass. And she was close to us. So close, I was sure I could smell her fetid breath. A cub was walking around behind her. Presumably he had his fill already.

Hungry that lioness was, ripping off pieces of flesh and gulping them down, the way an addict, starved of his drug of choice would scarf it the next chance he got, whether through the needle, the pipe, or the straw.

Then, at last, the final day had arrived. It seemed both a lifetime and a mere drop of sand in the hour glass, and we were ready for our lift back to the airport.

A ride on the roofless land cruiser through the bush to a landing strip in Middle-of-Nowhere-ville. We boarded the all-too small airplane, ready to make our ascend.

A gift of recovery, one I’m thankful to Houghton House for. I’d never have been able to explore the deep bush of Africa if I was still abusing drugs. I’d never have enjoyed life at its most primal, while mingling with guests from countries all over the world.

Drugs would have robbed me of glorious sunsets, dinners made of lively conversation with French, American, and German tourists, and trips into the veld that revealed the jewels of Africa.

The only things I missed about civilisation were my cats, supping on meats exquisitely prepared and succulently clothed in thick gravy. Instead of the fresh, frenzied kills I witnessed at Sabie by cats of another kind.

But, my cats purr when I pet them. The others, here, take a literal arm and a leg.

Soon, I’d see them, I thought, as we lifted off to soar through the African skies. As the land’s trees and bushes became to shrink, I spied a grazing gazelle looking up as we passed by.

Contentedly, I began to snooze.

The big cats. My small cats. Now I wouldn’t exchange them for the drugs, like cat, in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Heroes who keep me from getting high on drugs.

The Heroes who keep me from getting high on drugs.

 The Heroes who keep me from getting high on drugs

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Coach Carter, Denzel Washington

Dashingly feisty, she swiftly swings her light saber with the raw power of the Force against a dark, shrouded nemesis. Zhzhzhzhzhz sounds as the plasma blades clash and crackle. But she pushes her enemy back, empowered by a connection to an Energy beyond measure.

Despite the lack of Jedi training, she faces up against the villainous Kylo Ren, and more than holds her own.

Rey is my hero.The Heroes who keep me from getting high on drugs.

When I’m feeling pushed down by the world, facing enmity that threatens to crush my soul, I remember her and how she refuses to ever give up. She reaches for inner strength and embraces it. Like I must, so I don’t have to go back into rehab.

*

A man rises from humble beginnings. Not white, not black, he’s of two worlds. Campaigning on the streets of Chicago’s brutal politics, he brings with him hope. He rises, meteorically, to the highest office of his country. Despite nasty attacks on his character and assassination attempts on his reputation, he surpasses all, becoming the most presidential president in decades to a nation riven by a cruel culture war.

Barack Obama is my hero.

When I feel caught between my world, one which I slip so easily into, and the “real” world of mundane anxiety, I relate to him. When I try to act with integrity even when it’s so tempting to give into spite and verbal barbary, I think of how he was a noble statesman in the whirling cesspool of Washington DC. I think of how he embodies honour and is one of our age’s true gentlemen. It helps me from falling back into drug abuse and dishonour.

*

A monster, he ravaged Europe from Ireland to Italy, and beyond. He consumed more blood than a hundred humans hold. He killed and pillaged for fun. He devastated villages. He ruined great houses. Until he came upon a gypsy girl. Her death at his hands changed his life, for he was cursed with his soul. The weight of a conscience on his vampire’s mind broke him, drove him into quivering insanity. For close to seventy years, he hid away in the shadows of a sewerage system, feeding off rats.

Until he found a cause to redeem himself in his own eyes. To finally face his actions, and to own them. To become a hero for humanity.

Angel is my hero.

When the guilt for what I’ve done, in the past, during active addiction, when I consumed drugs and alcohol in such vast amounts, did actions that I felt irredeemable, like how I betrayed my own family… or those I let down when they needed me the most…

When shame and guilt threaten to cripple me, I think of Angel leading his ragtag band of misfits in one last fight against the demonic forces of evil in his show’s finale.

His courage in facing himself helps keep me from falling back to drug and alcohol abuse.

*

He dreamed of flight, as he watched birds gain lift with the beating of their wings. Designing a man-sized kite, he fought against the forces of gravity. Desperate to understand the inner workings of the human body, he dissected cadavers in a place and time where such acts were forbidden – on pain of death.

He was a man of science, developing an understanding for the natural world, with its wonderous phenomenon. He was a man of invention, as he designed machines only to be realised in a future time. He was a man of art, as he painted, over four long years, the single most famous smile in history.

Leonardo di Vinci is my hero.

His quest for knowledge is a thirst I understand. His drive to become a master in a multitude of disciplines is my own desire. When I feel the pull of inactivity and procrastination, I turn to him, so that maybe, just maybe, my own name can live on through the ages – just like his. A possibility if I keep clean from drugs and alcohol.

*

Why heroes?

I struggled to find my way after I left rehab. That’s because rehab provides you with the tools and the safe, healing environment to learn to use those tools. But when you’re out, you need to actually make use of them. Houghton House does offer continued support and therapy beyond that, making the road to recovery easier. However, I personally wage war with myself, with daily demons from within me seeking to claw me back into the hell of my own making.

I need heroes.

And I have them. They are legion.

Each one represents an ideal I aspire to in my life-or-death civil war.

I believe everyone needs heroes. Heroes are a source of inspiration, a rallying cry, a banner to fight under.

So, what was the process I used to find mine?

Well, I’m passionate about history, about politics, about sci-fi and fantasy, about the human condition. And I’m passionate about creativity.

This last one is a genetic gift encouraged from the time I could hold a crayon. My maternal grandmother was a talented painter. I remember far back into my early childhood: she was always buying canvases and paints for me to illuminate my inner universe.

Meanwhile, my grandfather had an old typewriter – which was already a relic of the past at the time – but I loved tip-tapping away on it, pretending to be a best-selling novelist, writing my next big thriller-horror-love story (girls were still very icky to me at that age).

Creativity empowered my mind’s eye, allowing for a clear vision of anything imaginable. So vivid, they became real.

When I find someone captivating – whether they’re fictional and brought to life on screen or if they are part of the powerful tides of history or they make the pages swiftly turn in a book – they enter my psyche, and become enmeshed.

(Some even come from rehab.)

They breath, they live, they think, they feel, they react. In one sense, they commune with me.

For me, they are as gods among men – embodying the best characteristics of humanity, whether it’s never giving up, like Rey, or simply never giving in, like Angel. I aspire to them. As someone who slips into his own world so easily, I always find my heroes available when I need them.

It doesn’t matter that some don’t exist, some are long-dead, and some have never even met me. It matters that I hold them in my heart.

It may seem odd, carrying them with me as I do, but what it is, is connecting to the purest form of my morals, values, and ideals. Remembering them.

Haha. Being scolded by Barack Obama makes me feel like an embarrassed school boy. I experience shame, so I endeavour to be a better me. Then we go play hoop in my lounge (sad-lol).

When I’m socially anxious, and enter a room full of people giving me long glances, I’m suddenly wreathed in a poncho, six-shooter on my hip, and a brimmed hat crowning my head, with Clint Eastwood’s Man-With-No-Name by my side.

(Not to be aggressive, but to feel a sense of self-assuredness. Clint and me, we don’t run from showdowns.)

Heroes keep me on the road of recovery from the drugs and alcohol that ravaged my body and mind. A personal rehab of heroes I take with me everywhere.

There’s even a hero directly in my life, but who also exists dualistically in my own mind. She truly grants me serenity. Moreover, enables me to question everything I do wherever I go – and thus make the right choices when I need to – in the form of ongoing therapy (including the real, but imaginary, debates we have in my head while I’m bumbling about life).

That is my therapist, one of Houghton House’s excellent counselling team. It’s through the team’s daily experiences with healing fractured, broken souls that they became heroes. Heroes with a great understanding of the terrible condition we addicts go through.

If it wasn’t for Lagertha*, and for Houghton House’s caring rehab staff in general (including the highly-empathetic counselling team, veteran nurses, the understanding admin and office peeps, the wonderful kitchen ladies, there’s too many to name), I wouldn’t have any heroes at all.

So there is hope. For anyone who’s still suffering in active addiction. And there’s more than just the chance to get clean. I found, through Houghton House’s rehab centre, there’s the chance to redeem.

I’d like to end off with my all-time favourite quote. It’s from one of my heroes formed at the ringside of my mind. Rocky Balboa, who went the distance.

It’s a good one to remember when you’re pushed down in the journey of recovery, perhaps feeling self-piteous, perhaps feeling desperate. It’s darn empowering. And it’s awesome.

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” – Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone

 

 

 

 

 

 

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*Not her real name.

 

Kung Foolery and the Art of Addiction Recovery

Kung Foolery and the Art of Addiction Recovery

Kung Foolery and the Art of Addiction Recovery

The mantis spreads its forearms. The snake coils itself up to strike. The tiger tightens its muscles, preparing to launch. The crane kicked ass in The Karate Kid. And the monkey broke into the Shaolin Temple’s winery, and is now doing fancy missteps like a true drunken master.

That last one was me.

A buffoon back in active addiction.

But I had a black belt in it, and so was proud. I could drink you under the table, then kumite kick it to the curb. That’s because somewhere along the path I had fallen to the teachings of a dark kung fu master. The teacher was called Master Poo Luh Choices. Those teachings, however, led to pain.

I had good teachers too.Kung Foolery and the Art of Addiction Recovery

My parents, for one, are masters of justice. They fight every day to bring balance back to the downtrodden lives of this country. They take on, through the courts, those who would criminally neglect the poor, just as the Shaolin Monks of old fought raiders and bandits with spectacular high kicks and spinning bladed staffs.

And you won’t believe the difference they’ve made to so many people.

They’re my heroes. In their sixties, like Mr Miyagi, and they’re master splinter schooling me in kindness. Something I forgot this week in my previous blog post. (Now removed, through the suggestion of a forth-coming zen instructor.)

If we extend this metaphor to warrior monk tropes in a galaxy far, far away, then Recovery is the Force that connects us and binds us to the world around us. If I just keep myself open and serene, I can avoid the tumultuousness, terrible emotions.

They bring trouble.

As Master, whatshisname, Yogurt said: I sense fear in you. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. H8ers bring sh!tst0rms, possibly on social media.

The blog I wrote this week was about my experience with the dark side regarding an attempt to hustle me.

But, no, not the other person’s dark side. That is irrelevant.

My own dark side.

See, I have another teacher, one I visit on top of a mountain in the metaphorical local of Sherpas and sheep shindigs. It’s a steady climb, and it’s an inconvenient journey. But s/he meditates there. And it’s from this vantage point they get to see the whole picture.

Anger caused by fear, and poor impulse control, kept me from seeing it.

This wise old master spoke to me… (actually over FB, since screw mountains. S/he can Instagram that sh!@ – they have wi-fi everywhere.)

…and pointed out a few things.

The blog post this week was a little too free with the details – and, to be honesty, it was more judgey than Judge Dread and Judge Judy’s love child. I made interpretations that may or may not be true.

The wise old master (literally, long white hair and I swear I can see threads of long, wispy beard) showed a vision of a world where people are desperate, and not necessarily desperate because of drugs, but because the world can be a cruel and harsh place.

Desperate, and who need help, and who don’t need judgement. Even when they try and infringe on my boundaries in some way. It would have been better to be vaguer, kept it to my experience of it, but I didn’t. I wanted to prove how clever I was in spotting the flaws in the story, how I poked holes in it, how I would never be fooled again. So there were way too many details, and way too much emphasis on the other person.

But, I had already “won” before that post went up.

Because I managed to put up some boundaries like a – Star Wars reference / Sci-Fi play-on-words, look how clever I am, whoop whoop, sigh –  Force Field. I beat a desperate person’s desperate attempts to shake me down.

Then I went back to an old martial art form called I Do Your Fourth Step For You Fu.

[Explanatory note: the Fourth Step in Recovery is about taking your own inventory for things you’ve done wrong. You’re meant to be focused on yourself and your actions, not with the actions of other people, even if they have brought you harm. That’s because it is your journey and it’s an accounting in order to become a more enlightened being, one who will grow as a kind and caring person who contributes to society instead of taking from it, as many addicts do in active addiction.]

Inventory taking is easy when it’s someone else. It surprised me how easily I slipped into it. Wise Old Master gently reminded me that what makes my own personal-style of writing work is: I normally talk about me. My experiences. My actions. Not someone else’s.

Not unless they’re fictional, blonde, and play the cello. And may or may not be going mad.

Which is how I feel sometimes.

The forces of emotion are overwhelming.

What this person did, and tried to do, though, doesn’t really matter. There was no harm done. I was just left shaken like a power-surged Mr Ever Ready.

The climax was an outpouring of processing on my blog.

It’s gone now. The stain of shame has been washed out white.

White like the belt I wear around my crisp new karate suit. See, I’m still young in recovery, in many ways. That’s part of what this blog is. A journey. I never considered myself a spiritual person, not in any other sense than previously convening with Johnny, Jameson, and J & B.

I guess what I’ve learnt from this is: spirituality is feeling for the other person, looking past the demon ninja masks they’re currently wearing to see their true face.

I messed up earlier this week, because I was unspiritual. And I broke a code of honour.

I hope this post helps bring balance to what I did. And how I got here is because the Wise Old Master taught me to sweep.

Like how many tourists, seeking enlightenment, sweep in the temples throughout east Asia, where a broom is a school for stilling the mind, becoming calm, centring yourself, and cleansing soul-stuff.

So I swept, and I swept, and finally, hopefully, I swept enough that now my side of the street is clean.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll master recovery too, one day.

Because when it comes down to it, life’s like an old martial arts movie on video tape.

When you make a mistake and possibly hurt someone through mean-spiritedness…

Be Kind.

And Rewind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Addiction, the discord of life. Recovery, the harmony of hope.

Addiction, the discord of life. Recovery, the harmony of hope.

Addiction, the discord of life. Recovery, the harmony of hope.

We lose a lot in active addiction. We suffer woes to our finances, our careers, our relationships. We lose time. This week, J.D contemplates how we can use recovery to compose a new story for ourselves.

Armelle’s silken-spun blonde hair flicked with the motion of her musical bow, as the strings she played upon her cello sang bittersweet. It drowned out the night life’s vibrancy below her window.

A former lover, now fallen lost soul, was dying in a sweat-stained bed, somewhere in the bowels of the City – he’d pushed his ravaged body to the chemical edge of the precipice and this time, it crumbled into the abyss.Addiction, the discord of life. Recovery, the harmony of hope.

She still loved him, she just couldn’t watch him commit a slow suicide through a stew of narcotic poison. It had been months since she walked away, and he’d just swam in syringes that much more.

It was all too raw, so she unleashed her heart-piercing emotions through the cello.

A scratching sound, suddenly, made her pause. The bow dropped to her side.

“Missy?” More scratching. Armelle stood from the wooden chair, approached her cello case – scritch scratch. “Missy?”

She couldn’t have fitted in there.

Armelle felt a whirling wave of disorientation in her head.

Everything’s surreal…

Instead, she heard a meow from under her bed’s rumpled, unmade duvet – her sleek Siamese cat had climbed into a warm nest of her own making, escaping mid-Autumn’s sudden drop of the thermostat.

Then what..?

She – with sweat now sticking strands of blonde hair to her forehead – hunched down onto her knees, with her hand working the latch on the cello case.

Click.

Her finger tips trembled as she reached into the groove, and flipped the lid open.

A large monarch butterfly fluttered out…

It… scratched?

…followed by wing dust. Armelle’s lungs strained at the sudden intake of air. In her dizziness, she made out a faint shape… a grotesque face, no mouth, milky-white eyes vacant of a soul.

Then she felt Something… inhuman… reaching out. From beyond.

A sudden streak of blood ran out her nose, and she nearly toppled over. She steadied herself, just as the shockwave hit. Her back fell against the bed as the apartment shuddered from the quake.

“He’s here at last. The Screaming God,” Armelle murmured, as she absent-mindedly wiped the blood away with her embroidered lavender sleeve.

What? What am I saying?

Outside, cars crashed violently, voices shouted, emergency sirens shrieked.

Missy bolted out from the duvet, disappearing through the door of the half-closed closet.

Armelle had a sudden burst of tears.

In the distance, thunder. On what felt like a flimsy floor, she stood up.

Peering down through the fourth storey window, she saw her building was spared the worst of it. There was chaos below. Several structures in the commercial district had caved in. There were bellows of smoke further off.

The blue lights flashing in the streets tickled her brain.

I’m going to have a seizure. Look away, Armelle.

Glancing up, at the clouds gathering in the skies, illuminated by flashes of white, she briefly saw that face again. No mouth, but screaming.

Pulling herself away from the window, she suddenly, desperately, wanted back in her hands her cello.

*

Nah, not a dream. Or a bad acid trip. Something I’m working on. You guys get a preview. Heck, I don’t even know if it’s any good. I dunno, but I like it, I guess that’s what counts right now. It’s the basis of… I don’t know what yet… a new beginning..?

There’s a whole thing that happens, but I don’t want to reveal anymore, in case I’m onto a good wicket. I believe in this, in a way I haven’t believed in myself, during active addiction, for years.

I’m trying to play catch up with my life. I’m a writer. I’ve been in the advertising industry awhile, people I’ve known at the same level as me years ago have gone far flung into the future, now in creative management, or (gasp) wearing suits as execs. Meanwhile, I’m in exile.

And my ex, my one true who slipped through because of my addiction-related selfishness, is now having her second kid with her happily-wedded husband. Everyone is moving on. Except me.

Cue the violins.

*

That’s one thing I need, my own sound track. I kind of have one in my head, and it has a musical score for every situation, every mood. It’s an orchestra, with specific instruments taking lead depending on what’s going on.

Heavy percussions when I’m feeling like an adventurer – and I’m on a mission to achieve some great goal for the day: like groceries!

Piano when I’m reminiscing on the past stories of my life.

The stringed instruments when I’m sad, but it’s a really beautiful sadness.

The horns when I’m happy – I especially like trumpets and bugles.

I’m the conductor of my life. And in addictive addiction, especially when I was hanging from alcohol withdrawal, my baton was all shaky from jittering hands.

In addictive addiction, I fell behind the marching band as everyone else’s lives moved forward.

I now find Facebook causes cacophony, just from the pure envy and the sense of mourning for a life I could have had. Especially when I see young, just recently sprouting families.

Addiction, drugs and alcohol, cost me financially, it cost me growth in my career, it cost me friends, it cost me health, it cost me time.

I burned my down my bridges, then napalmed the ashes.

But it’s really okay. Houghton House was there to help. Not just in getting clean from drugs and alcohol, but in ways to cope with the new life awaiting me – and surpassing the obstacles that my active addiction consequences put in my path.

See, there’s a little song that everyone listens to. They move their feet to it, they fall into a rhythm with it, they sing in harmony with it. They follow it, and it brings joy to their lives.

I’m out of tune, and it depressed me. I couldn’t get it. Addiction made it worse.

But I now hear something else. For most of my life, I’ve heard it, in the background, and barely noticed it. It’s mellow, then it starts to rise, I hear it pulsating, a beat grows louder, a voice lifts and lilts, and then a viola harmonises with a violin, and it sets… me free?

Sometimes, you have to give up on what everyone else is listening to.

Hence, I’m accepting I probably won’t get far in my industry, not anymore. There’s a lot I may never have that other people take for granted. I don’t see a family in my future.

Now instead I’m composing a new future, one that starts with a young woman, and her musical instrument, and how she faces a world gone mad, struggles with madness herself, but all she knows for sure is that as long as she carries her inner song, she’s going to be okay.

And so, Armelle sits back on the wooden chair. And with her bow against the strings of her cello, she begins to play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 
The choices we make in addiction recovery based on childhood memories

Wolf or Man: the choices we make in addiction and in recovery.

Wolf or Man: the choices we make in addiction and in recovery.

What do our favourite characters from childhood have to do with the drugs and alcohol killing our inner child? And why does one of Houghton House’s directors carry a wand? J.D investigates this week. Through a wolf. With a mouse.

I’m a sheriff.

The choices we make in addiction recovery based on childhood memoriesAnd I walked into a bar this week. I know, I know, stay too long in a barber shop and you get a haircut. But I didn’t drink,  the choices we make in addiction and in recovery. I was there on official business. I needed to get ahead of a case where someone got beheaded – and the Woodsman, drunken sot, had answers to very important questions. After all, his axe happens to be very decapitatey.

I was going to try Good Cop. But…

…then some hoodlum, Grendel*, got in my way. Tried to stop me from having my little chit chat with suspect numero uno.

Maybe I could have gone about it differently, but I decided not to take any of Grendel’s sh!^. After I shoved him aside, things got ugly… fast. Grendel dropped his human-guise, becoming the gargantuan monster he truly was, and grabbed me by my shirt with his humongous marble-grey hand. I was smashed onto the floor, and then hurled against the wall, right next to the pool cue rack.

That’s when I let out the wolf inside, breaking a cue in half, and hammered it into his massive shoulder – and followed that up with a jawbreaker, because now I’m half transformed into a howling mad lupine.

A couple more furious fist-smashes, and then a jackhammer kick, and he crashed through the pool table, stunned, the fight flung out of him.

I now had a choice: break off his arm, or walk away.

I chose to walk away. Because, the Fables of Fabletown already distrusted me: there was the whole Three Pigs real estate crash, not to forget predations on girls wearing red riding hoods. I’m the Big Bad Wolf, but I desperately wanted to earn their trust. Like the trust I lost in active addiction.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’ve been playing a computer game. Something I do time to time in-between writing and other creative pursuits and not having a life.

It’s called The Wolf Among Us. The game is set in 1980s New York, where a community of Fables have founded a neighbourhood that’s shielded through magic from the mundane world’s eyes. They’ve fled their various homelands during the Exodus, and now try eke out a living here.

You live a couple of apartments down from Mr and Mrs Beast; constantly chastise Mr Toad – a slumlord – for not using his three-foot amphibian-hiding Glamour; sometimes find one of three littles pigs sleeping on your couch; and work with Snow White – the assistant to the deputy major Ichabod Crane** – to find a killer from within Fabletown.

Mr and Mrs Beast are having marital difficulties – you could get involved if you want, but I personally didn’t. Mr Toad casts a beady eye on his tenants; getting information from the self-serving prat makes playing Bad Cop tempting. Colin the pig never fails to remind you your debt for blowing his house down. And you’ve got a thing for Snow White – not that anyone could blame you: underneath the ice princess veneer, she’s a kind-hearted civil servant who wants to do her best for the Fable community.

Meanwhile, you’re both man and beast. And the choices you make throughout the game lead to one becoming stronger than the other.

Addiction is like that. I’ve made a lot of poor life choices. Some of them could have resulted in very, very bad things happening to me. I, by the grace of whichever deity you believe in, haven’t been locked in jail, haven’t lost everything I own, haven’t been exiled by my family, haven’t died – unless this blog is being typed out by John “I See Dead People” Edwards.

I still have hope.

Because, fortunately, I chose to go to Houghton House, and get help. I didn’t always choose to listen. Which just made things more difficult for me, but I’m a kind of a (har har funny, not funny) lone wolf that way.

Alex Hamlyn, one of the directors at Houghton, made plenty of bad choices himself in active addiction. A wolf of ravenous hunger came out, and he nearly died in a remote part of India using copious amounts of drugs. Legend has it that he was so full of narcotic poison, the mosquitoes biting him exploded like little fireworks of blood.

When he got clean, he made a choice to help people, in the way he’d been rescued from drugs, thanks to folks as caring as him. Now he’s got over 22 years clean time, and he’s spent it taming the wolf in others.

He chose to open a drug and alcohol rehab for the chemically dependent, not an easy thing to start up. But if he didn’t, I – and a lot of people I’ve met through traversing the road of recovery – wouldn’t be in line for a fairy tale ending.

He’ll kill me for saying this, but he’s a Fairy Godmother to many addicts. I personally think the pixie wings suit him.

We’re not bad people. We addicts are consumed by our own terrible hungers. But we don’t have to be beholden to bad choices of the past. We don’t have to let the wolf out anymore.

There’s the real chance for a happily ever after, because – through places like Houghton House – you get to write how your own story of drug dependency ends, and so finally close the book on active addiction forever.

 

*Known for hunting Vikings in mead halls.

**Known for being chased by Headless Horsemen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Active Addiction and True Friendship

Active Addiction and True Friendship in recovery

So long, and thanks for the memories in recovery.

J.D had “friends” in active addiction, but being free from drugs brought him true friendship in recovery, one of whom he said goodbye to this week.


In active addiction, I met a lot of people I thought were my friends. My best friend was my drug dealer. When I had no cash left to give him, I used my petrol card. We’d be sitting at the garage, as an attendant filled up the tank, and I’d tell him about what was going on in my life.

He used to give advice.

Ironically enough, when I asked him if he could get me (the now-completely illegal sleeping drug) Mandax, he lectured me about where it would lead. “You will lose everything,” he said.

I mean, white powder is fine, according to him, but white tablets? That s%!& will cost you more than waking hours.

(White powder, for the record, will also take everything. The only things it gives back is a septum holier than the Bible and cardiac arrest.)

 True friendship in recovery- way better.JD true friendship recovery
I have a particular friend, a Mediterranean chap, who I’ve gotten quite close to.

We wound up at the same halfway house, and have been roommates now for over six months. This week he moved on.

Halfway houses, such as the one that Houghton House has available for recovering addicts, are great places to re-enter society after treatment for addiction. They provide the structure necessary to help rebuild one’s life.

As I also have a mood disorder with the intensity of ten typhoons, I easily let routine slip by. Before I know it, I’m consumed by dreams of singing Valkyries in silver breast-plates, and waking up at a reasonable time is the last thing on my mind.

At the beginning of the year, I had direction-issues. Tough economy being what it is, I struggled to find a job. The few interviews I went to, I fumbled like an epileptic juggler. Then political events conspired to bring darkened storm clouds, and I struggled to see silver linings anywhere.

Enter Samuel*.

Formerly addicted to Walter White grade narcotics, he came into Houghton House, like the rest of us, bereft of hope.

While there, and with significant help from a member of Houghton’s great counselling team, he managed to fight off most of his demons.

Houghton House isn’t just about stopping drugs. It’s about finding the traits in you that will help you win against active addiction.

Case in point: in active addiction, in order to make ends meet, and to support his marijuana habit, he started his own business. Some addicts steal your silver, sofa, and kitchen sink. He went into a trade. It went well, because he had hope.

Of course, that fell apart in the end. Active addiction takes no prisoners. He lost everything. Possessions, places to live, people who cared for him. Even the car he was sleeping in, one night, was borrowed by four men carrying guns and never returned.

Jessa*, an addiction’s trained social worker, took a sliver of light, and ignited something deep within the darkness of his soul. Hope burned again.

When he came to share the room with me, he carried that torch with him.

I was devastated by what I saw as impending doom, for myself, and the world around me. Deep depression is the place circus clowns go to die. Recovering addicts are especially vulnerable to the dangers there, when they feel sorry for themselves.

He helped change me and my view.

He said, “Perception is Reality.” When you see the world as dark, it doesn’t just seem dark. It is dark. When you see the world as light, it is light. That was his message.

He reinforced positivity.

It can be hard to simply change your view by thinking positive thoughts when you’re inundated by negative ones.

So, he suggested I give myself to a positive world. Sound more airy than several mushroom-seated fairies? There’s an expression in the 12 Step Fellowships: “Fake it till you make it.”

He had a better one: “Faith it till you make it.”

That leap of faith that things will work out may or may not put you in Contact with a Grand Intelligence in Charge of The Universe©.

(This is obviously religious belief dependant.)

But it was like I was being reprogrammed by a benign computer technician.

Black mood lifted to sun-spun silk. Suddenly, I had more energy, I was more productive, and I was enthusiastic about opportunities.

I owe him a great debt for his role on my road of recovery.

He’s left the halfway this week. Our time as roommates is at an end.

Will we stay in contact, meet up with each other, or fade away as our lives move along different water currents? Who knows. But what I do know is, he was there when I needed him the most.

Just as my dark hunger for destructive drugs attracted a drug dealer into my life, my need for hope brought Samuel into my recovery.

It makes a world of difference who you have around you. It could mean dank despair or enthusiastic joy.

As Samuel said:

“Perception is Reality.”

So, mould your reality with the right people.

They can bring with them hope.

& true friendship in recovery.

 

*Not their real names.


 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer 

Tales of Active Addiction: Madness of the Ninja Poet

J.D recounts an episode of his active addiction, one that led to him getting the help he needed.

Poetry recitals don’t get more bizarre than this. I was standing in my entrance hall with just jeans on, brandishing a samurai sword while spitting angry stanzas at the front door. I was swinging the sword in curved arcs around me as I recited the lines to those outside trying to break in, “The violin strings have been unplucked; their stirring souls have gone mad and run amuck!” followed by the rest of it, the theme being:

An orchestra falling apart.

Just as my life had done. I was grieving the death of Walter, my cat, who, it felt like, was my child – he had a long dormant virus from the cattery I got him from. I had been in a hostile work environment after getting into a corporate knife fight with someone with more taste for ruthlessness than Hannibal Lector. And my strict diet of drugs and alcohol fuelled an addiction gone ravenously out of control.

A cocktail for craziness, and I didn’t so much go over the edge as rocket boosted off the darn thing.

Naturally, my family were concerned when I declared a holy war on the world, so they tried to get me committed to a psych ward. Being as responsible as a typical addict, I found it hard to commit to a new relationship, especially one with loonies, shrinks and overly manly orderlies.

So, one afternoon, as I lay trying to get some rest, there was a loud knock on the door, and a polite request, as polite as a border collie gone rabid, to open the heck up. When I refused to comply, they broke the lock. Suddenly, with the strength of ten Spartans, I bounded through the apartment and flipped over the dining room table, crashing it against the door – just as they attempted to open it, and push through.

I shouldered back, and with the table wedged there, they could barely open a centimetre before Le Resistance forced them to give up.

My white cat, Balton, my teenage kitten, who I adopted to help heal the hurt of Walter’s loss, scrambled whilst the melee, leaping out the one-story window. I rushed to it, in time to see him scuttle out the gate in the garden below.

An agonised scream issued forth from me, and I ran to the study to grab the samurai sword, and stood spewing words, as my father looked through the key hole in horror.

Poetry I shouted, like a war cry. Funnily enough, I was given the nickname ‘ninja poet’ when I was in high school, but I doubt anyone envisioned I’d get an addiction problem, and it would result in this.

The reason I’m mentioning this incident is because I was reminiscing this week. I was going through some old photographs and found one of a teddy bear. He was wearing a small, red boxing glove, while seated on a window sill, looking out of the brown, wooden shed through a window, to the blue and green world outside.Tales of Active Addiction

I took that picture with my iPad at the clinic for the sanity-challenged. But the psych ward wasn’t enough. It helped repair my mind. I later went to Houghton House, to repair my soul.

(As a side note: I found Houghton’s counselling team very knowledgeable about mental illnesses like bipolar disorder. They also have relationships with various clinics, who will recommend them as the best treatment centre for addiction. My doctor, especially, was enthusiastic when I told her I wanted to go there.)

We all have in our life stories multiple strands of chaos woven together by a loom of lunacy.

You might wonder, how did they get me? This guy, modelling last summer’s jeans in the throes of active addiction, was kind of dangerous.

I wish I was dangerous. It has a certain risqué sexiness to it. But Balton helped save me.

For years, I practiced with that darn thing. Good cardiovascular workout, really, swinging cold steel like a samurai. (This was a replica sword, by the way, the kind they use for movies – it couldn’t even slice bread.) Put on some action music from an intense movie trailer, and you really get the blood pumping. My cat would watch bemused. Sometimes, I felt judged.

Now, hours after the initial attempt to breach the door failed, the emergency team and my family considered calling the police to get involved. I think this would have ended my story in a gripping newspaper headline. Perhaps deadline is more like it.

It had grown dark, the Sun casting her last rays through my window. I still had the sword in my hand, like a child holding his teddy during a lightning storm. All I wanted to do was look for my cat, but I was terrified I’d be carted off the moment I stepped through the door.Addict holding sword

Then I heard desperate meowing outside my bedroom window. I ran to it and looked down. There was this little blue-eyed creature who wanted back into his home. I couldn’t deal anymore.

So I picked up the phone. Like a terrorist negotiating the release of hostages, I got them to agree to pick up my cat from the garden below, in exchange for me.

Then I surrendered. I dropped my sword on the floor, grabbed a cat carrier bag, and walked through the barricade, before opening the door and stepping outside. Carrying no suitcase, nothing, just the cat carrier bag, I begged them to find him.

Meanwhile, off I went to the psych ward in a pretty ambulance, lights flashing and all.

My parents found Balton, and took him to stay at a relative, with cats of her own, who he became best friends with.

Pets tend to be ill-treated in active addiction, and end up with neurotic behaviours. I’m proud to say my cat had a tranquil personality, and a friendly one, where he would introduce himself to strangers without being skittish.

I took care of him, because sometimes even drugs won’t destroy who you truly are. For those reading this, those still stuck in the throes of active addiction, you’re a good person, maybe you’ve done bad things in addiction, but maybe your goodness shone through despite everything. Hold onto that, and get help, for your loved ones’ sake.

He had a lovely, trusting way about him. Had. Because, and I will never forgive myself, one of this relative’s cats had the feline leukaemia virus. Contractible as easily as by the nose-bumping cats do when they greet each other. It is always fatal. A gentle cat who fought a battle against his illness as long as he could, for another year. Then, the day eventually came when I walked, with a heavy heart, into the veterinary hospital carrying him in his carrier bag.

His illness now caused him pain, and we decided prolonging his life any longer was selfish. I didn’t want to let go, but it was time to. I was there with him the whole way through. When the vet said it was time to say goodbye, I kissed his little white, furry, forehead. I used to pick him up when I got home from work, and did it all the time. This was the final time.

He meowed, so confused, at the tube inserted into his slender leg, his baby blue eyes looking to mine for answers. Then the vet asked if I was ready. I wasn’t, but this was now about him.

She plunged the lethal dose of anaesthetics into him, and barely a second later, he turned rigid, tongue out his mouth, and fell over. He had gone from my loving, soft, little creature, who would nip me on the nose in the mornings while I was half-sleeping, as he kneaded the pillow, to just a thing.

“Do you want to touch him? Some people find it comforting,” the vet said.

“There’s not point now,” I replied. “He’s gone…”

He’s gone.

Samurai were said to be the fiercest of warriors, who showed no signs of human ‘weakness’.

They didn’t cry. They certainly didn’t bawl like a summer thunderstorm had erupted in their tear-ducts.

But I’m no samurai. Thanks to my time at Houghton House, I don’t need to be. I don’t have to constantly fight against the world anymore. I was free.

My little white cat gave me the greatest gift one can have bestowed.

The only way I could win the war against active addiction was to wave the white flag of surrender.

For me, I no longer need to carry arms because that war is over.

I hope yours is too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Matrix of Addiction

Going Into The Matrix of Addiction

“Denial is a big part of drug matrix of addiction. And I certainly deluded myself a lot during active addiction. What I believed of myself. And what I believed of others, which included being deeply distrustful.”

by J.D

In The Matrix, young hacker Neo is in search of the truth about the world he lives in. Finally, after he makes contact with the mysterious Morpheus, he’s offered a choice: the red pill, which will show him what Reality really is, or the blue pill, which will allow him to live the comforting lie he always has.

I think addicts would have taken both pills. We being all about excess.

Now living in Recovery, thanks to the help of Houghton House, I need to control my desires for excess. Too much sex leads to carpal tunnel syndrome. Too much gym leads to too much real sex, which leads to too many crabs. Too much cake in the morning leads to insulin injections. Too much broccoli leads to too many hippy-flavoured farts.

Too much time on my computer leads me to feeling like I’m living in a virtual world, same as Neo. But that’s okay. Being an addict, I’m a natural blue piller, and I prefer that “reality’.

But that was taken away from me recently. I discovered I had a particularly nasty bit of malicious code (malware) on my laptop. Trying to get rid of it nearly drove me over the edge of sanity.

This actually happens, for one reason or another, fairly often.Houghton House - Going Into The Matrix of Addiction Imagine, if you will, a ninja. Dressed from head to toe in black, with only cruel eyes showing, and an ability to hide completely in the shadows. Able to bypass the guards at J.D Castle, while going about the business of espionage and the possible assassination of your financial affairs through stealing credit card details.

That’s a rootkit. Called “root” because they gain access to your root directory, they can make changes on your computer as if they were you. They also, like that popular (but dangerous) kid from high school, will organise a party at your house while your parents are away – the kind of party that makes you think, “Maaaybe this wasn’t a good idea.”

Then they invite the most unsavoury bunch of delinquents they can think of. For instance, viruses, those replicants who infect your machine much the same way as floating bits of DNA would infect your body and give you a cold. Or, if you’re a guy, man-flu.

Agent Smith was very much a virus in this respect. Hugo Weaving, the actor who played him, is Australian. And as anyone who follows the Hollywood scene would know, the Australians have been multiplying like viruses there for eons.

Viruses on your computer are just part of the line-up. Think also keystroke loggers, trojan horses, adware, spyware, elopewithyourdaughterware.

My machine would constantly go on the fritz. Applications I’d load up would hang. Haaaaang for a very long time. Or the screen would flash, as if to say: “I’m about to explode in your face!”, and then go back to normal: “Juuust kidding!”

This is incredibly stressful as my computer is how I make my living. I can’t go back to typewriters. What would I do without spellcheck? Ut wouldm’t look prretty.

Back to the rootkit metaphor, finding the f#$kers is really difficult. Deleting them more so. And they hide the existence of all the other malware so it’s like your parents are now back from holiday. They see their prize poodle floating away on a dagga cloud, but they don’t see the circle of reprobates puffing on the porch. They can’t understand why the pool is the colour of beer with a floating crate in the middle (and it isn’t that colour just because of the beer). Your parents certainly don’t see the cause of the broken bed in the guest room. They just know they never, ever want to take a blue light in there.

I spent a lot of time and energy trying to get rid of this thing, which I was barely able to detect. The logs your Windows system keeps will have their entries deleted by the rootkit to hide its nefarious activities. But Karspersky, my anti-virus programme, does keep its own logs, and they appear as incorruptible as an isolated government official on Mars. Through them, I saw dodgy entries of executable files being downloaded and run, files with names like imperfectlylegithehheh.exe.

I took it to a company I for the sake of decency won’t name here, but let’s call them Incredibly Incompetent. (Wait for my post on Hello Peter for more.) A gent there was asked to do a clean reinstall of the operating system. That’s when a copy of Windows is booted up through an external DVD drive, and the entire hard drive is formatted before placing a completely fresh installation of Windows on it.

Clean reinstall. I think that’s a lot like what Houghton House did for me. My own operating software was faulty thanks to the rewiring that happens through drug abuse and addiction. They performed the reboot I needed, to take me out of The Matrix-like fabrication I had spun myself into.

Denial is a big part of drug addiction. And I certainly deluded myself a lot during active addiction. What I believed of myself. And what I believed of others, which involved a deep distrust of them.

If anything, I’ve become a bit too trusting of people now as I walk the journey of recovery. This chap didn’t do a clean reinstall. He merely hit a button I could have pressed, and reset my system. Heck, I could have done the clean reinstall anyway, I just didn’t have access to a clean computer to download the Windows install files needed.

Enough of this technical talk. I found out later he lied, because the rootkit came back and when I revisited him, he let slip. Rootkits have this ability to hide in another section of the computer – and a system reset isn’t going to kill them. So they can then reinfect you. But, they “blue pill” you into thinking everything is fine. For awhile. Eventually, just as Neo sensed something was wrong with his world, I sensed something was wrong with mine.

Finally, I found my Morpheus. He wasn’t as suave as Lawrence Fishburne, but he wielded the screwdriver that opened my laptop’s casing like a katana, and after removing the hard drive, he cleansed it in a bullet-time salvo strike that decimated all enemy code into ashes. Of course, there could still be a rootkit lurking in the motherboard’s firmware. It could be blue pilling me into thinking I’m safe. I don’t trust oddities in my laptop’s behaviour anymore. I am more suspicious of sudden quirks than a counsellor at Houghton sniffing naughty behaviour (oh yeah, you’re not allowed to insert your “USB” into anyone’s port at any treatment centre – one of the reasons is, it could ruin your chances of keeping clean, more on this in a different blog post).

But at least I don’t live in the manufactured (by chemicals) world of active addiction. Like Neo, I’ve been liberated from my personally made Matrix.

Because at Houghton House, they teach you the truth about your matrix of addiction.

And the truth shall set you free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Active Addiction

My Shield Against the Demons of Active Addiction.

 

by J.D

A mass of demons, far as one can see. Glimmering malice in their eyes as they rush forward, relentlessly charging.

But before them, stands a single man.

Muscular, blue, spandex costume, with an iconic five-pointed star on his barrelled chest, Captain America swings his arm, and in a blinding speed, his large round shield, made of the near-indestructible vibranium alloy, shoots at an angle and ricochets off dozens of these demons’ heads – causing them to explode in fire and brimstone – before spinning back to his outstretched hand.

Yet, the demons still come, and yet he still unwaveringly faces them.

This is my most recent dream of the most noble of the Avengers. Why is he so recurring? Maybe because I always get a sense of feeling safe in these dreams, protected by a symbol of selfless struggle in defence of the defenceless.

I guess I fear falling to my own demons. I struggle with them every day. And not just with Addiction, but my bipolar disorder – which is caused by how my malfunctioning frontal cortex processes emotions.

And I do get so, so emotional…

There was an advert I saw off YouTube. An award-winning ad.

The music that plays throughout is soulful and a little sad. An old man lives in an apartment with his dog. The ad starts off with the veracious canine leaping onto this older gentleman’s bed and licking his face with great affection. Now awake, the old man enjoys a cup of tea while petting his best friend. And then, goes out into the city, with his sweet-natured animal companion always by his side.

The old man walks about, stopping off at places such as a bakery or a cafe, and his best friend sits waiting patiently outside.

The ad cuts to the old man in his apartment, watching TV on a sofa, his dog beside him. Suddenly, he holds his head in pain. Next, our ears hear the whine of an ambulance’s siren, as the old man sees, through its backdoor window, his loyal companion chasing desperately after him.

The old man is wheeled into a hospital on the ambulance’s stretcher, with medical staff attending to him. One of the medics closes the hospital’s doors just as the dog tries to come through.

The sad, but soulful, music continues to play. There is a quick flit of scenes, all with the dog waiting close by the hospital entrance, to show time passing. Waiting patiently for the human he loves. Day. Night. Sunshine. Rain.

The dog rests his head on the ground, and we can feel his weariness, but undying loyalty.

And then, finally, the hospital glass doors are opened, and a woman is wheeled out by her family. The dog gets up, no longer mournful, and runs to her, putting his paw on her lap. She strokes his face as she smiles.

The screen fades to black and we see:

Become an organ donor.

I watched it while around people I work with. I started choking and rushed to the bathroom, where, once out of sight, huge blobs of tears streamed down my face.

I tried my best not to think of that ad for the rest of the day. When I came back to my desk, my work partner looked at me knowingly, and then said – as his eyes darted back to his computer monitor – “Quite an ad.”

I just nodded, suddenly struggling to breathe.

Most people were moved by that ad. But I nearly dried into husk from the water lost through my tear-ducts. That’s my experience of living with an intense mood disorder, which I once used strong spirits to inure myself from. Alcohol did the trick. Till it eroded away my life, and I drowned in demons I couldn’t deal with in a functional way.

Now I’ve learnt how to live with bipolar. Even though every emotion is overwhelming. Anger threatens to boil into an all-consuming rage. Love throws me headfirst into an enveloping ecstasy of madness. Anxiety reverberates the world around me – I can’t breathe, I can’t do anything, but silently scream desperately to escape. And sadness spins into a storm of misery, quenching the sun from the sky.

And the worst. Rejection, from anyone, especially friends or romantic partners, is like being cast out of Eden, forever. Feeling like your soul was laid bare and found severely wanting.

Using substances became such a demonic way to control or suppress my emotions. Now I cope with them through writing, by painting, and photography. I cope with them by following the suggestions of Houghton House’s staff. And of course, through implementing, in my own way, the tenants of recovery.

When I was in my darkest place, in the depths of active addiction, when the horde was overcoming me, Houghton House rescued my soul. And now, because I continue to see my councillor every week, she stands by me, making sure I always hold a shield made of indestructible hope, ready to be hurled spinning against the darkness.

I don’t know if I’ll ever defeat my demons. But I’ll be damned if I ever give up the fight.

Living a life of recovery, that is my shield. It helps me become something I never thought I could be: to myself, a hero.

For standing against our demons no matter what…

We are all heroes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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JD's Blog on Addiction & Recovery

An Addict’s Journey in their Recovery from Addiction

Welcome to Houghton House’s new blog, which features an addict’s journey in their recovery from addiction, as written by recovering addict J.D.

Every week, he’ll regal personal experiences and insights as he makes his way through a life of sobriety.

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Winter Has Gone  

 God knows what Season 7’s epic finale will bring (I haven’t seen it yet, so no spoilers). But I’m sure Game of Thrones will never be the same. Like in all the other seasons.

Remember when Ned Stark was like, “WTF? But I’m the main character!” as he kneeled before the chopping block, about to get a short, back, and sides? The nature of the show’s twisty-turny narrative structure revealed itself then. And, of course, GoT has since built up quite the army of devoted fans, moi included, who just have to imbibe the next episode, as it happens.

Game of Thrones is basically TV crack. If you smoke that sherbet, you’re going to have more.

Reminds me of active addiction, obviously, where I had to play head-games with myself just not to take another hit of white gold. “Save it for later.” “Make it last.” “Don’t sell your child into slavery quite yet.” These are the kind of conversations I used to have with myself.

Thanks to Houghton House, now the only white thing I chase is Jon Snow. Totes hot.

Fortunately, my nasal passageways aren’t under assault by white walkers any more, since my time in Houghton House taught me a few important things:

Rule 1. Don’t use.
Rule 2. Don’t f’ing use, ever!

Rule 2. is especially helpful to me, as I’m one of those addicts who needs to be swatted around the cranium a few times for the message to sunk in. It’s now been close to a year since I walked out Houghton’s gate a free man. And by free, I mean, don’t count decadent desserts, video games, or Tinder. Nor, obviously, binge watching my favourite TV shows.

Because I know I can’t control my addiction. It’s like the KGB. In Mother Russia, Addiction control you. And in everywhere else. Even Westeros, and this isn’t a spoiler I promise, Tyrion WILL eventually die of a sexually transmitted disease. Or liver failure. Let that be a lesson to you. Oh, he’s having fun now, but just wait until he’s on his deathbed, moaning, ‘My little Tyrion is burning hotter than wildfire!’

Which reminds me. If you have a sex addiction. And it’s getting out of hand (see what I did there?) maybe it’s time. You called. The H-Team.

They do help with process addictions, and if you don’t know what process addictions are, this is a quick primer: you visit so many porn sites, even your laptop has an STD; you game till your eyes bleed; Montecasino now owns your house; or / and you eat enough to create your own gravity well, then… you probably have a process addiction.

Different from chemical addiction in that it’s not external chemicals (except maaaybe with food) that are altering your brain chemistry, but a complex biochemical reaction in your brain ‘rewarding’ you for the activity you just did. And you want mooore…

Simple example: you’re playing Candy Crush. Every time the screen flashes with “SUPER SUGAR HIGH!” in pretty letters (because a random placement of sweets allowed you to clear a bunch of boilers), dopamine gets released in your brain. You want more. Just one more level. Meanwhile, your kid is still waiting to be picked up at school. And it’s midnight. On Saturday night.

But whatevs. They will never take Game of Thrones from me. I will binge if I want to. How would that go down in rehab?

“I’m in for crack.”

“Oh,” I’d reply. “I’m here for mainlining Lannisters.”

I actually started getting into it while I was in Houghton House’s secondary facility The Gap. If you know the show, you know the Starks love their little Wintery motto. Finally, after dicking around for six seasons since its promised arrival, Winter came to the show.

Winter in Westeros lasts years. Funnily enough, the same applied to me. 10 long years of Winter. And it snowed. Eventually, I was so frozen by my addiction, I started contemplating joining the white walkers’ army of the dead. I was so desperate for an end to my misery. I felt like the world was slipping away from beneath my feet and I was left to tumble weightlessly through the void.

Many addicts get to that point. Where it feels like there’s actually no point anymore. Why carry on? Still, a single, lone voice called out from somewhere, in the depths of despair, a voice I finally listened to.

“Ask for help.”

For help brings hope, and hope Springs eternal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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