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Friday, September 30, 2011

The Journey Back: The Awakening

In my last post written earlier today called And So It Begins...I cover my daily morning meditation and wake up routine. I attribute my ability to stay sober through those first 18 months or so to that routine and a couple of activities that I did religiously, almost without fail each day. My motivation? It was easy...I was scared to death that I was going to drink again and I was going to ANY length to avoid doing so.

I was not easy for me at all for my entire world revolved around drinking. The extant of that was news to even me until I tried to quit drinking. Then it began very clear how much focus I placed on drinking and having the ability to access drink virtually at all times.It truly was an insane life driven by uncontrolled and unchecked selfishness on my part.

And that is why it required drastic measures applied with steadfast consistency, over a long period of time to break those habits, routines and ultimately my entire way of living. Most of us think quitting will be a hassle but no big's because we are in complete denial about how this disease of alcoholism/addiction controls EVERY single aspect of our lives, we are completely clueless about this. When we realize it for the first time the typical reaction among alcoholics who are honest with themselves is...Despair.

Because it truly looks hopeless...and it sure did seem hopeless to me. There were things I felt OK about but deep down I couldn't picture how I could possibly function without the drink or drugs. Or what would I do? Every thing I did in my life contained or revolved around, entertainment, everyday living...everything. I had no idea where or how to even start.

The best thing I had going for me was desperation...the fact that I nearly died at my own hand, that I was hospitalized long term for psychiatric care, that I had no job, no relationships...nothing, all worked to my advantage. First...simply because I had no more excuses...they looked stupid and ridiculous even to me at that point. I had to do something...

This desperation forced me to listen to the suggestions of others because ultimately the help of people who had been there themselves was the most beneficial help at all. It was from people who had been through this that I got the suggestion for daily reading and meditation. To do it EVERYDAY at about the same time and never diminish or stop.

Those folks saved my doubt about it. They are the reason you here me mention serving others as often as I do here on SHELL SHOCK SERENADE. Because I learned from them how critically important it was to the new person in recovery. How did I know? Because I experienced it for myself and there was no doubt what so ever in my mind that this was true...serving others helps you..

So that is the background information on those early days. In the coming days I will try to continue this series on the process and how recovery began to come together in my life. Eventually there were a series of transformations that took place along the way that strengthened my routines, my resolve and ultimately my recovery overall. 

I have to laugh because when I posted this morning I had no idea that I might beginning a series of posts on how my recovery came together yet that is exactly what has happened. It is quite useful for me to take this journey back and share it with you right now. So until the next time...

(Painting by Fredrick Remington)

And So It Begins...

Often, with the night-time schedule I have, it is difficult to know exactly when one day ends and the other officially begins. Because I frequently only sleep in short increments of 25 minutes or so from midnight until 3a give or take...then periodically "cat-nap" into the new can be confusing and difficult to tell. But as awful as that sounds to some has become a familiar pattern and yes, even a routine that I am comfortable with now . I enjoy the quiet solitude, the "private" sunrises as it were. So it is truly the natural beginning of my day.

I still happen to be one who enjoys the feel of a real newspaper in my hand so around 4:30a each morn I sit with coffee and the paper for an hour or so before spending some time in quiet reflection. Having this quiet reflection or "prayer time" used to be nearly impossible for me because I could not physically SIT STILL. Nor could I shut the hundreds of spinning thought-wheels in my brain from churning out thoughts, questions and answers at a mile a minute. I couldn't concentrate longmenough to clear my mind...

That is still an issue with me even today though it is getting better by degrees. I just keep sitting quietly while silently praying a simple prayer for guidance or peace or understanding. God will usually take over from there. Over time, the cacophony of sound in my mind  has diminished somewhat as the Creator has claimed my mornings, as well as the rest of my day(s)...for HIMSELF.

At this point in the story of how I start my day...I have found it necessary to come clean on a strange habit or activity of mine. At the risk of spilling TOO much information about myself, I confess that I am a "bath-room" reader. Yep I read while nature calls. I'm not talking about a paragraph or, I'm talking whole books.

Even though I was a guy who would pick up a magazine or newspaper if there was already one in the rest series of stomach illnesses over the last couple of years put me in the bathroom for long, unpleasant stretches at a time and being able to read actually made a very painful and unpleasant situation for me tolerable. So while i was sick I really started to read and that habit has stayed with me...

So I usually do what I call my "morning meditation" reading in the bathroom. I typically go through a daily reader type book with a recovery focus. It has an entry for every single day of the year. Usually it starts with a quote from a recovery oriented book followed by a person's synopsis of what that passage means to them. I have used that same particular book called Daily Reflections since I got sober and it has been a real benefit to me. I think it also helps me a great deal to read it at the very start of my day...before I even go outside to walk,  run errands or do any chores. It is written by AA Members but is a useful text for anyone who may be in recovery from any of life's maladies...

Establishing those little daily routines were critically important for me in my sobriety. Because I had NO discipline in my life when I sobered up and I basically had to start know, throw a dart! I know it may sound pathetic today but doing my daily reading each day without fail was a great accomplishment for me back then and I was really proud of it. Every daily routine I do regularly branched off of that one simple daily task.

When you are re-building your life from scratch..literally you realize that it really begins with a single, solitary brick of action to begin to build that foundation. The foundation of daily discipline for me was begun and solidified each day on the toilet as I did my daily reading. Funny, I know...I think it's hilarious now but it's TRUE...a very true story!    

I still follow this basic routine each day, even when I travel. It is a lot easier today of course, I do it almost without thinking about it but if I skip it for some reason, I REALLY notice it and typically it isn't a positive experience when I do.

 So I usually start my day with some coffee and personal  newspaper reading time, followed then by prayer/meditation time and some recovery/spiritual reading after that. All before I start my day out in the "big bad world". I have found that routine provides me with a solid start (a foundation really) to a healthy, productive day and I've discovered that for me this daily routine is really a good thing for me.

Not sure why I chose today to describe the start of my day but last night I had realized that I have never blogged about the nuts and bolts details of how I begin my day. If you are brand-new to sobriety...this is my sincere suggestion of how to start your day...the details of your reading/quiet time may be totally different and that is cool, but I think the true key is the DAILY ROUTINE itself because of the stability it provides and the discipline it begins to build. Just a little (Pre-breakfast) food for thought this morning!                                            

Thursday, September 29, 2011

GOT That?!

Black Dog Days are here again...Black Dog Days, that's right folks, my cutesy nickname for depression that I pinched from Winston Churchill. Funny though it's one of those "happy" cases of Depression...ever heard of that? me either, I just made it up!

Ach...I am an unhappy know what? I'm not going there. Life actually is really good. I'm tired of this uncontrollable gene or whatever it is that brings on Depression from having a say in how I feel. So I'm fighting back. Thats right I am not giving into the black freaking clouds that are moving in from the north...and south, east and west. 

I think some of it is my physical well being isn't so hot either. My health has deteriorated in the last couple of weeks. It is mainly disability related...terrible electrical shock type pain in both feet. Nerve pain up/down my legs and a real concentration of it in my left side of my neck towards the back. 

We are supposed to go to the Purdue-Notre Dame Football Game Saturday night at 8pm in West Lafayette, IN. Perhaps the stars will align and we can win that game but the experts are not giving the BOILERS much of a chance against the fearsome IRISH of Notre Dame!

I look forward to spending the time with my father but I long ago started disliking 8p start-times to games. It's way too late and we are talking about driving home after the game which means we'll pull in here Sunday morning about 4a or so if traffic is good.

So I'm just going to focus on the game and having a good time with the old man...the Big Black Dog can go bother someone else tonight...I'm too busy being happy, got that?!

Slogging My Way Through...The Sludge.

And the rains continued to come, washing away the face of everything familiar here in the Coldwater, MI area. It has truly been a lousy, cool and wet September and in my recollection I'd say it has been the worse early Fall stretch of weather I can remember in many years.

The mood around here is damp, cold, wet and somber and I think that is rubbing off on folks. Of course I am an exception to the rule...I'm not overly fond of sunshine for the simple reasons that it bothers my eyes and since I was quite ill last year I get over-heated very easily. I also happen to adore cloudy skies...big, burly snow clouds, thunder-clap clouds....puffy little white jobs...I love 'em all, I truly do. 

More often then NOT the weather doesn't affect my mood. Sure after 15 straight days in the 90 degree range when I lived in an old farmhouse in Holland, MI that didn't have air conditioning...well that got old, I'll admit it. But typically it doesn't bother me when it is grey out for a month at a time!

Lately I have felt a bit off-kilter in regards to my mood though and the weather hasn't anything to do with it. I just feel a little stretched emotionally. Pushed and pulled in different directions and I have lost some of the certainty or say clarity that I have enjoyed most of this summer.

I think a couple of the challenging events of the last couple of days have had some influence on my mood. Let's face it, I don't care what's going on in your life or who you are, we all can get in a rut sometimes. Things can stagnate or frustrate...I feel more frustrated by circumstance this time. I don't feel stagnant or in a rut. I have certain expectations regarding some personal issues that have not come to pass.

So I feel a bit down and unsure how to proceed day to day to change that circumstance. I know there are things that I'll keep doing in my life and they don't ever really change. That is some of the service work for others that I enjoy. I just know from experience that it is important for me to keep moving forward, just move and things tend to shake out of their funk for me a bit.

I have developed this feel for my writing over the last year and I can tell by that if my life is running smoothly or not. It's more difficult to write right now so I know deep down things are a bit of a struggle. My posts don't have that usual flow for me that they typically do. So I just keep writing and figure that I'll break through the sludge eventually...


I quick glance, it 'tis the eye that smiled, it owns that view rather loosely then relinquishes it for another...mistress. Time alone stands...still alone it stood. No heart beat it's penance...A requiem for the sinful, a pageant for the poor. In attendance at the pyre once more...HIS Heart won't MELT.

Often, the words just come to me...they will flow in on an air current or whisper in the breeze. Some will come suddenly in a big blow...a thunderstorm at dawn, others merely a light, late evening shower. No real pattern, there is NO normal...nothing is routine about it really...yet frequently they leave me more puzzled then before, less self-assured yet strangely strengthened. Collected calluses on the writer's soul sustains further investigation of such wayward nudges, it 'tis but a word-bump in the night.

I don't often know what I am to do with what I write. I am left with a pile of words, perhaps a jumble of attached emotion to accompany them but usually that is it. Emotion and words...those are the tear-drops of FAITH that collect at my feet, transforming the pool of sorrow into an ocean of joy.

What to do then? Ahh, that question, for this writer as with most I assume answers itself: WRITE. 

And so I shall, My Dear Reader....and so I shall.

(Painting by Claude Monet)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Spiritual Stew

I've noticed that there are times when I am frustrated, surprised, perplexed or feeling other similar things that I'll often make an unplanned audible noise, sort of grunt or Hmpf-type sound. Regular readers here will recognize Ach because it's one I have incorporated into my regular writing. It's an unconscious involuntary act I'm sure and I hear other people do it too.

The reason that i bring up such a funny little thing is I have probably reacted with an: "ACH, Hmpf, Peeraha, Doooa,  Yikes (hey a recognizable word!) and Pfaah, etc more today then in the last month combined. The day has been perplexing, to say the least. What a strange week...I'm not kidding. Is the moon blue or full, blue and made of Swiss Cheese? I don't know but some bizarre stuff has been happening that I was not expecting at all...

And yes, a great deal of it has to do with the spiritual aspect of my life...admittedly the most unsettled area and the one I am least comfortable with in general because I am so new to it. I feel vulnerable because I lack not only knowledge but the wisdom for discernment...I know enough to get myself in deep spiritual HOT WATER I believe!

I respect people and their beliefs and feelings...that has always been a priority of mine. Unfortunately in the deepest throes of my addiction, I wasn't able to always follow through and show such respect but today it is very important. So I do not as a rule attack people or their beliefs here unless it is something like Hate Crime, Racism, Domestic Abuse, Child Abuse and the like...then all gloves are off.

Yesterday and today were the first times since my Spiritual Awakening in January that I have been really challenged or called out about my beliefs and my behavior regarding my beliefs. In both cases they were friends though not close, everyday kind of friends but people I've known a while and respect. I was surprised both times and it really forced me into situations where I had to deal openly here on the Internet, through FaceBook and through private Messaging/Email.

I tried to be honest, loving and respectful but in what is a typical after-affect for me when in a conflict, disagreement type situation I feel quite unsettled afterwards though I feel satisfied the way it ended. I guess my true feeling is I wish i hadn't been forced into having to respond yet I was. 

i also realize that I brought some of it on myself by posting some Bible quotations in my daily status on FB. I have said here quite frequently that this blog is a record of my daily life. I am documenting it because I was an addict/alcoholic whose life completely bottomed out and I came very close to taking my own life in a suicide attempt in 2006. I then found recovery, one day at a time and have been sober ever since.

I wanted to document this in case there are those who are curious, perhaps they themselves have a problem or some one they know does. Some people may just be curious and some professionals in the psychiatric field have written and tell me they follow along to get a better understanding of what some of their clients my be experiencing. So I document my daily life here in detail...

That includes my physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well being. All those areas of my live have been seriously impacted by my disease of alcoholism.

But one thing that I am very careful NOT TO DO is set myself up has having the ONLY answer to this issue...I do NOT. These are the things that I do that have worked for me that I record here. For example I have gone through a significant spiritual change in the last 9 months or so but you will not find me recommending that people go to church or imitate my behavior.

I do not tell folks what to do, how to act or how to live, I just tell them what i have done...warts and all: The successes, the failures and everything in between. If someone wants to borrow something...well by all means, use it. But I cannot in good faith say believe this or believe that. No all I can say is this is what has worked for me.

I guess that is why I was somewhat surprised by the challenges these last couple of days but honestly...they were good learning experiences for me and perhaps for those individuals as well. But I still feel a bit dis-combobulated by the whole experience and perhaps a tad leery now as I look toward the future. This too shall pass but i thought I'd throw the experience out here and share it with readers of The SHOCK. Perhaps others have experienced this as well...

(Painting by Vincent Van Gogh)

Tricky, Complex Stuff...and SCARY TOO!

When it comes to my spiritual life I will admit to the fact that I am learning and seeking as I go. Faith and prayer have such an important role in my life today and good thing to, I rely on those two things to help me learn and grow. I am quite new to Christian teaching and it would be easy for me to get way off track. This is an area where my natural scepticism and suspicion probably conspire to actually work to my PROTECT me from mis-quoted scripture, self-appointed messiah's, Cults, nut jobs and the like. If a philosophy, message or statement comes directly from man (a human being) and it can't be confirmed by scripture or true biblical teaching, I tend to avoid the plague.

This kind of situation also makes me grateful for my close friends and mentors who I can bounce stuff off of. Believe me I can come up with some wild stuff all on my own. I need help. This is another reason that you really don't ever see me writing that you, the reader should think, do and believe what I do. No...I live and do what I have to do in my life today...if that by some chance appeals to someone else after reading this blog and they are interested in more information, they can email and ask me about it.

Religion has always frightened me. I was always mistrustful of what one charismatic person had the power to do...see Jim Jones and The Peoples Temple if you want an example of what I'm talking about. This fear of Religion kept me away from even considering God for a long long time. I could not separate in my mind a personal, relationship with my Creator from Religion. In reality they have nothing naturally to do with one another. Man created religion and often uses it to to achieve negative ends of greed, power, etc., frequently using the the Bible to justify their intentions. 

This is a hugely complex subject and I am not an expert on any of it. I know that...I am but one believer in Christ but I want to do and believe the correct things so I read the Word of God in the Bible and listen in prayer to my heart, not to an evangelist on TV for guidance. So many people want to tell me their way is the right, I look to the Bible and so far that guidance as been more then sufficient.

I won't shy away from writing about my fears and concerns about religion here. Because I often write about my spiritual beliefs I think it's important that there is a hard distinction between my belief in God and religion. I have a personal relationship with God, I will write about what that relationship has done for me in great detail. I am not ashamed of it what so ever but you will not see me tell you that i think you should believe like I do. That is a decision each individual person has to make for themselves...

I know this is heavy stuff this morning but I felt because of circumstances in my life at the moment that I should probably post on this subject. It is complex as I said and a lot of people get very emotional and angry about such things. It isn't my intention to stir things up just to state my belief so there isn't any confusion.

Now I'll get back to posting about more light-hearted subjects like alcoholism and addiction....I jest, of course!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


"Catching Hell" is the name of an ESPN Films 30 for 30 special on some of baseballs more infamous episodes relating to catching the baseball. Bill Bucker letting the ball slip through his legs in the 1986 World series against the NY Mets and Steve Bartman potentially interfering with a foul ball that could very well have kept the Chicago Cubs out of the 2003 World Series.

I didn't even intend to watch this program though i knew it was going to be on. Frankly these two stories tend to bum me out. Well I was sifting through the channels, saw it was on and off course I watched those two episodes on Buckner and Bartman. Sheesh, I wish I hadn't...I literally feel like my childhood dog Pepe' died all over again!

Ach, what a strange and melancholy day this has been.This is one of those days I was thinking of when I posted yesterday about the intensity of my emotions. Man I wish I could turn these suckers off at times cause I would rather not deal with them all the time. I often think I just care too much about stuff. But that is part of who and what I am. I hope it is what makes me a more loyal friend, a more dedicated employee, a more loving family member and a more caring person.

But I get carried away. There are times that I really wish I was a bit more calloused, that I could just let stuff roll off my back a bit more. Because tonight, I let a freaking TV show eat my lunch basically and snuff out what glimmer of good memory was left of this forgettable, weary and gloomy day.

You know what is MOST ironic about my description of this day just past? Nothing significant happened negatively yet to me it was an unpleasant day because I let a whole bunch of small setbacks and hiccups build up  and have a pee on my parade....I should know better!

But if there is one thing that I have discovered about myself over time it's that I either FEEL or I don't...there is no middle ground. My emotions are either switched ON or switched OFF, it's truly black or white. So I feel intensely about everything I feel. That actually is something I am trying to not react so strongly to insignificant stuff. I haven't had a great deal of success with that as of yet but I'm still plugging away....

So I am not sure why I feel compelled to mention it here but I do... I feel like I experienced a terribly difficult day when in fact, my day was really pretty good, certainly at worst it was OK. I let a couple of emotional "downers" influence and basically mark the entire day as a "bummer" when in reality it wasn't. I really have some work to do there...but change all starts with recognition of the issue so I'm at least on my way.

I'll close here and go back for a second to the two B's: Buckner and Bartman. I can't imagine what they must have felt like. Buckner, frankly he has always handled it like the Pro he was and is. In big time sports, there is a chance of that kind of thing happening EVERY TIME you walk onto the field of play. It comes with the territory for a professional or big-time athlete. 

But the Bartman that was and is truly awful. I haven't a clue what happened to him but for a long time I often wandered if there would be a news story some day that he had tragically killed himself or something. I sure hope not because he did what any of us would have done were we in his exact place. I doubt he lives in the Chicago area...Honestly, someone in Miami probably should have bought him a home or something...the Marlins should have taken care of him for life! 

Any way both stories are sad and show how unreasonable a "Mob Mentality" can be because that is exactly what that is...a mob rules kind of behavior. Well I am gonna try and put this all behind me and turn in for the night so...Good Night All!

Verbal Diarrhea or E-Vomit: YOU Choose!

I suppose you could say this is the time of what? The, that one has been used already...hmm, time of the week? Well I don't really post like this that frequently...let's just say it is TIME to let GO! Go? Let go of what you ask? Let's just say it's time to blow all the unnecessary emotion, thoughts, feelings, anxiety, fear and whatever else out the back end of me bum) and get on with life. I call it E-Vomiting or EV or E-vomit or EMO-V and Emotional Vomiting. basically I have a case of Verbal Diarrhea or I don't think I want to use that abbreviation  how about Verbal D or V-Diarrhea. 

Basically I'm trying to get too cute...I'm venting. Yep I'm releasing the venom again. And it's also a case where i just love to say and write EMO-V or E-Vomit...don't know why I just do.

Funny thing is this time around I really do not have a single true AXE to grind. Perhaps some frustration with certain people but that is to be expected in life and I totally understand. 

I have made it pretty clear that all of my life I have been an individualist, a loner, I am pretty introverted meaning I get most of my internal energy from within, extroverts get it from interacting with others....I did things on my own and frankly, I liked it that way and yes in many ways i still do. It truly is the way I am. I never liked belonging to groups because I always felt like a sheep, where it was necessary to always follow along. Also I don't like feeling like I am in the middle of people or being told what to do...

I am experiencing a bit of that right now in my life and I wish I could laugh it off but it really isn't amusing. I would think most if not all readers here (unless this is your first visit to Shell Shock, then WELCOME!) know I am in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. I have been clean and sober since June of 2005...

Most folks also know I became a Christian in January of this year. Needless to say when i became a Christian I started doing some different things in my life and it drastically changed me in some ways. I made a ton of new friends, I have an active social life in my church plus I started volunteering at the Jail and in nursing homes in the area. I've undertaken some other projects as well...

Well my friends in recovery interpret this as me thinking I'm not an addict anymore or I think my sh*t doesn't stink or whatever. There are many Christians who have stopped drinking who think that you do not need recovery based activities to get and stay sober. No they think you just go to church. So both sides seem to have strong opinions that i am not behaving the way i should. This doesn't feel good being in the middle...

Plus a few people think they know what's wrong with me and are telling me in no uncertain terms that I'm TOO SPIRITUAL that I'll forget I'm an addict. Well that DOES get my attention! I obviously cannot blow that thought off because it happens to a lot of people and they use drugs or drink again. So I have to take a close look at my life, my behavior and my activities and the strange this is they all check out. I know these folks mean well and I really appreciate their concern. The strange thing is I haven't really heard from anyone all summer so I'm not sure what they are basing their assumptions on now. 

What happens to me in situations like this is I can get kind of ornery and that is NOT a good thing. I can get testy and I don't care for people telling me how I feel and what they assume I am doing, especially if they haven't so much as called or spoken to me at all. It goes back to that old thought of "they don't even know me and they are judging me". That may or may not be the case.

The truth is, that I really try to carefully check and double check on a daily basis my motives and my behaviors for everything I do. I am not perfect but over the years, since I have been in recovery I've learned to seek out warning signs that things are not OK. I feel pretty solid that I am in a pretty good place in life. My friends and mentors that I communicate with daily feel this way as well...

So I have to just stop reacting to what others do and say. I know people are just trying to help...they care about me. There is no sense getting my wicket tied up in a know over something that quite frankly is a non-issue. It's a case where my tendency is to want to please everyone...I can't and I won't. 

There Was Victory In Defeat

I think one of the most difficult things that I ever had to do in my life was recognize that I was powerless over my addiction and admit that my life was unmanageable. And as as result of these facts...I needed "help" living my life.

I believe that readers of Shell Shock Serenade are discerning, intelligent, open-minded people. And because of this I'm going to make the assumption that you have all noticed that in the previous paragraph I used the word "I" instead of saying "we" or "people" or "everyone" or "all people". The reason I did this was quite intentional...I am ONLY speaking for myself here. Some folks won't agree with what I am saying and I am totally OK with that...for them.

But I'll be honest...these conclusions I just described  came at a very high cost to me and especially to others. I nearly died trying to figure this stuff out for myself. I hurt a lot of people that I cared about trying to learn how I could live. I lost a house, a lucrative career, friends, wealth, respect...I think you get where I am going here. 

I did not just figure this out one day and think "Oh, if I recognize that I am powerless over my addiction/alcoholism and find God, well my life will be great!" didn't work out that way. This was the absolute LAST RESORT for me...I was sitting on a hospital bed in Holland MI, restrained, after a suicide attempt when I realized that I could no longer try and handle life on my own. I knew that to live I was going to need help...but I did not know where to turn at that time. I believed in my heart that I was hopeless.

I have said this before on many different occasions and the concept is still a difficult one to comprehend but the end result of my life suggests that it is true. By admitting my powerlessness, by giving up and surrendering my will to God, by accepting what I considered a humiliating DEFEAT in life...I actually became victorious over my addiction, one day at a time. 

It was that admittance followed by a total reliance on God that helps me overcome my alcoholism/addiction on a daily basis. I will admit that the concept of "relying" on anything other then myself did not sit very well with me...I thought it was weak. I thought all Christians were weak and couldn't handle life on their own. Little did I know the truth...  

Yesterday I had a reader comment on a post that this reliance on spirituality seems like a crutch, just like booze and drugs were. I thought the very same thing when I was a practising addict/alcoholic. Today I guess my response is you can look at it whatever way you want, all I know is those other ways of living nearly killed me, they ruined my life, hurt other people and things never got better. This life...where I surrender my will to God and accept my powerlessness over my addiction is simply the best life I have EVER had. I'm happier, healthier, productive and the list of positives goes on,  there aren't any negatives. Why is this? I don't really know...and I don't care. I just know that it is REAL!

The purpose of Shell Shock Serenade is to document one addict/alcoholics life in recovery. This is a record, a daily documentation of how I live my life in recovery, the successes, the defeats...the good times and the bad. It is not a white-washed, fairy tale account...No, it is real and sometimes it isn't pretty. But it is my life and one day at a time I am recovering from my addiction...what else can I say, it works for me...I am not saying it will work for anyone else. And yet I'm not saying it won't either...that is up to each individual to figure out for themselves. But if anyone ever would like more specific detail from me on my story, feel free to email me at: 

So that is where my head was at this morning...the concept of surrendering to win goes against everything we are taught in this life from the time we are children right through adulthood. Some people won't ever accept it and that surely is there prerogative...but I sure am grateful that did because I had no other alternatives...I had used up all my lives!

(Artwork by Georgia O'Keeffe)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Weep Yet...No longer Wonder

I have often wished that I could turn my emotions off...sometimes permanently! This has been especially true after I became clean and sober because I was no longer numbing or totally obliterating those feelings with booze and drugs. I was learning all over again what I think I always knew deep down: that feeling could really hurt!

But if I was going to make this change and live in recovery, I was going to have to learn to deal with my emotions. It has not been an easy process, let me assure you. It became even more complicated and difficult because of all the repressed feelings and emotion from my past...being raped, all the guilt from my past behavior...from hurting people, the fears and feelings of inadequacy that I have had as long as I can remember and on and on.

I'm not even sure I could write a post documenting how I have worked through all of that stuff. Let's just say I have had a great deal of therapy, I've learned to openly and honestly express my feelings and act on them in real time. Honesty and communication have been the keys here for me. 

There are certain practices that I have borrowed that were critical to me becoming healthy and stable enough to continue to grow into a more emotionally healthy human being. There was a whole process of steps I followed to take care of the wreckage from the past, to recognize who and what I was (an alcoholic/addict) and develop a spiritual life based on God and living in service to others. This took a great deal of time and a lot of support from people who had been through the very same things. (If you are really interested in knowing the details and specifics of these steps I took, email me at and I email you the information)

I could not learn to deal with my emotions without becoming stable and sober first...they went hand in hand. That is why trying to explain this process here in detail is impossible and I would have to leave certain details out or it would take perhaps hundreds of pages to cover everything...

Now with all that being said, I come to the reason I posted here in the first place...

I still have trouble at times with my emotions getting the best of me. I mentioned in an earlier post today that out of the blue I was feeling "weepy". Yep, this happens as do other similar type behaviors. I've always believed that I was a person who felt things very deeply and I am more convinced then ever that it is true. I think the tragic, traumatic experiences from my past have made me even more sensitive and intense where my emotions are concerned.

Obviously when I drank and doped, I could try and "control" this a bit but now it's another story all together and I have to cope with them just the way they are. And my emotions are extremely intense and powerful today and sometimes I really wish they weren't...but hey, it IS what it IS...that is my reality today.

My life has changed spiritually a great deal in the past 9 months and it has had a very positive affect on me emotionally...I do seem to operate on a more even keel typically though I still have times where my feelings will spike a bit between the highs and lows. Yet these episodes themselves seem to actually diminish more quickly then in the past. I see that as progress, no doubt about it....

So those thoughts about my feelings and emotions have suddenly weighed quite heavily on my mind the last few days. But since I've given some thought to the subject it doesn't seem to be as critical as it once was. And that is representative really, of how dealing with something openly and honestly in real time works for me. Things don't seem so impossible this way and I don't get my emotions all tied up in knots trying to figure everything out for myself...

The Odd Ball Hour & A Warm, Wet Wind...

Rainy and rather warm outside this morning though I think most of the showers have made there way pasts us. It is quite breezy as well...actually very windy is more like it. Warm, humid wind is an odd thinks.

I'm not sure why I think so but I do...and the odd combinations, well I am no stranger to those. I was an athletic kid who loved sports but was also an obsessive book reader, still am...that was a contrast that was more then most high school kids could comprehend or understand. I think most folks who knew us would say my X and I were an ODD couple... Ahh, perhaps...but after so much time and negative memories, it is quite impossible for me to fairly asses but we also had our differences, for sure...yet there were a lot more similarities then people imagined so you never really know. K-Sue and I come from different places on the human spectrum as well but we are actually quite similar too...

I do like odd circumstances, combinations or opportunities...probably because I always felt different or odd myself...but then again who knows now, so much time has passed. I really enjoy the fact that human beings are individual creations...God's Art Work perhaps?! Uh...yea, perhaps we are but it is that uniqueness that can also lead to difficulty because I know for myself...I took it to far...much too far. I thought I could control things...including other people, places and things. Well...I wasn't God but that didn't stop me from trying. The results of my playing God, as documented throughout this blog from the very beginning, were nothing short of disastrous.

Frankly I haven't a clue why the warm, wet wind of this morning has moved me far enough off my square to actually go and write about it but it has. Autumn brings odd weather combinations and that more then likely is another reason it is my favorite time of the year....

As I sit here writing this post I find myself feeling extremely emotional...not quite "weepy" but shockingly close and for the life of me I don't know why. I find it surprising to say the least...

On that note...I will close this warm, wet and windy post...more then likely dear reader, you haven't seen the last of me or this subject for the day. No I would almost suggest that whatever may follow could quite possibly be a DOOZY of a post as well because something, once deep inside of me has worked it's way to the surface and my overly emotional reaction suggests it may very well might give way...We shall see my friend, we shall hang in & HOLD ON.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Not A Day Goes By....

I've been sitting here at my desk for a good ten minutes or so just pondering how I can write what's on my mind and in my heart right now. I really do not know how to express it, how I could say it or if I even should at the moment.

I have been pretty open and very clear in past writings that I have had moments in my life where I really feared for my sanity. Certainly during my active addiction my behavior and thinking process were pushing the envelope of what would be considered sane. After trying to commit suicide I obviously was under a psychiatrists care for well over a year after the fact. 

In the Psychiatric Unit at the Hospital after my attempt, there were initially some grave concerns whether I was clinically Mentally Ill with Chronic Depression, Bi-Polar Syndrome and other like illnesses. Or an alcoholic/addict who because of long term use of drugs and alcohol started acting out similar behaviors then trying to kill myself.

I wasn't very cooperative and I'm not sure I was even capable of reasonable behavior...I was heavily medicated with a wide variety of powerful psych meds, I was very confused, I was still hurting emotionally and  feeling acutely the failure of my suicide attempt..."I failed at failure"( I had always considered suicide the ultimate failure of life, well I failed at failure in my mind).

Eventually this all sorted itself out reasonably well and I focused on recovery, weaned off the psych meds and treated my addiction/alcoholism while still receiving intense therapy, trauma therapy and outpatient alcoholism after-care. I was still confused and felt really out of whack but at that time my father became gravely ill from a burst appendix and I threw myself into caring for him and my mother. That really helped me get my focus back and I learned a lesson that I've used ever since: You help yourself when you help others!

But the issue that has troubled me lately plus the reason I have back-tracked through some of my case-history here is concerning whether I still have some psychiatric illnesses at play here or are these just recovery type issues and I'm just overreacting? I do know that I still have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms. So I don't know the answer to that question but the reason I've been wondering about it is I can experience some rather powerful reactions or sensations to things, right out of the blue. It's disconcerting and difficult to suddenly after all these years still have doubts about such a thing. 

But I try to be realistic. I experienced some very difficult things physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually...I was terribly wounded inside, badly scarred yet no one could see these wounds or scars and decades later they still fester at times, bringing nightmares, voices, I'm not totally sure what's happening to me.

On the other hand, since I became spiritual life has been extremely good and quite helpful to me on a day by day basis. I am a calmer, more deliberate, happier, more serene, more loving, caring person then ever before. It's a stability thing for sure...but it is much, much deeper then that.

Obviously these are the types of things that no one really wants to discuss at all but hey, it's reality and I have to face reality head on these days. And remember...I have been coping, living, learning and growing for nearly 5 years now with no psychiatric meds at all...NONE.

I'll be honest right now about all this mental illness concern...It is my opinion on this that I am not crazy, not at all or even a little bit. Certainly no crazier then any other adult who lives in our society with his eyes and mind wide open 24/7. It is a fact that I have experienced a lot of painful and traumatic things in the past and still relive it at times thanks to PTSD. But I'm open and honest about it and I actively share my concerns, troubles etc. with people I respect and trust who listen and give me feedback. I have found this invaluable to working through my issues on a daily basis...

I am also pushing the envelope for myself artistically writing this blog and I think there are some very positive benefits for doing so...I also think there is a bit of an emotional cost to pay for doing so as well. I dig deep and am brutally honest with myself and in my sharing, doing it here publicly for anyone to see. In 18 months or so, I've written over 900 posts or articles for Shell Shock Serenade. In doing so, I have re-visited some of the most difficult and painful experiences of my life and again I did it in a public forum. 

I honestly believe I really would be crazy if I DIDN'T experience a bit of internal "weirdness" once in awhile just to relieve a little bit of built up pressure while writing about this kind of thing every single day...

So that is where I am going to "land" with this little post tonight...Let's just say I've been experiencing a little understandable "Internal Weirdness" as a result of pushing the envelope writing The SHOCK and laying out  all the BADDIES that have been haunting me all these years for everyone and their grandmother to see and read. I'm not going to sweat it though I am going to continue to be aware of my feelings and emotions, keeping a lookout for any unusual changes or behaviors.

It is quite enlightening, really refreshing even to live a life where you basically do personal trauma therapy several times a day in a public forum. Some shrinks and other therapy specialists may think I'm absolutely MAD for doing this but I have worked through most of the really tough stuff and feel good about it.

I also been out-spoken about the benefit I receive from opening myself up here on the blog and elsewhere to help others. There are few things in life that have pleased me more then being able to take this terrible, painful crap from the past and use it for achieving something positive and good for others. I feel blessed and grateful for the opportunity to do so. 

Let me assure you that not a day goes by that I don't realize that most people who have experienced what I have aren't alive anymore to reap any benefit from those experiences. Why did they have to die and I survived? I do not really have an answer to that question except maybe Shell Shock Serenade IS the reason...maybe it's to lay myself out there and share this stuff so others don't have to experience it like I did. If that's the case then I am proud to do it...

Well, I was sort of wondering how a post about this was going to turn out tonight...Actually I think it worked out pretty well. I don't feel strange sharing my doubts and concerns about myself though it is hard to admit I still ask myself these difficult questions about my sanity once in awhile.  But honestly...the answer is more important then the question and I like the answer I'm discovering. It's "living life stuff" that I am experiencing and I'm a better person for doing it....I really believe that as I close this lengthy little, post.

(Painting by Claude Monet)

Being Human: Rainy Days, Sundays & Us

Rainy days and Sundays always bring me...FOOTBALL. Sorry I couldn't resist a silly Pun on the classic song "Rainy Days and Mondays" by The Carpenters. Yep, believe it or not I am writing a post that references The Carpenters and this lovely and lonely song.

If I am anything, I am a product of my generation...most of us are though with the onslaught of technology changing lifestyles so quickly and drastically now...the very stuff that "defines" generations has been eroded away leaving very little obvious difference in the current generation growing up and the few directly preceding it and those more then likely that will follow.

I was certainly influenced by the music and culture of the late 1960's and 1970's. From the classic 60's rock of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors leading into the 1970's Cultural Icons The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and many more. But there was a lot of other music being written and performed at that time, perhaps in the background of life but just as relevant. The artistic outpouring of this brother and sister act of Karen and Richard Carpenter was was definately some of that relevant music.

As I listen to the words of this song, I have to admit it sends chills right through's absolutely haunting. It reminds me how I felt during those extremely isolated  and lonely periods of my life. But also knowing Karen's sad and tragic history leading to her eventual death of complications from Anorexia make it that much more difficult to listen to.

The music of the Carpenters is often discounted as Top 40 fluff-pop but in my opinion in was anything but...this was heavy, real life emotion. These are some memorable lyrics...extremely relevant and emotionally powerful. People could relate...I could relate:

Talkin' to myself and feelin' old
Sometimes I'd like to quit 
Nothing ever seems to fit
Hangin' around
Nothing to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down
What I've got they used to call the blues
Nothing is really wrong
Feelin' like I don't belong
Walkin' Around
Some kind of lonely clown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

I think the sheer simplicity of these words actually adds to their impact. I also think this is why so many people, myself included responded to them so emotionally.

I'm sure I'll get blamed for brining everyone down on a Sunday morning but hey, I can't turn this stuff off when it pops into my head!

I think human beings nurture each other through song. I truly believe that Karen Carpenter, with her gloriously beautiful voice is letting is all know that "I feel that way too sometimes...and it's OK, that's life." That was her appeal, she was just like us except she had a gift of Angels...her magnificent voice. I think it's important and yea rather sad to note that only an extreme focus on self could silence that wonderful gift from God. Yet that is exactly what happened...she silenced it herself with her addiction, so sad!

I don't know why I got out of bed humming this song this morning and thinking about such things...It wasn't Monday and at the time it wasn't raining either! Clearly it was just something that needed to be said today...and I guess I got the job. Happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What's So Good About It?

Evening has fallen over the landscape and with it comes a soft rain, a grey gloom spreading far and wide with each additional drop. And though it is not the optimum day for being outside and doing was a wee bit better earlier in the day so we enjoyed some time outside before the rains came.

Saturdays in the Fall are a favorite time of year for me and the college football games being played all afternoon & evening add a special "aura" to the day. I was raised to watch college football and naturally fell in love with the game. Going to games with my father and watching the games at the stadium were a cherished tradition that still is alive and well. We will continue next week when Notre Dame comes into Ross-Ade Stadium at Purdue for a Nationally televised game at 8p.

Other times we had the games on television or worked outside with the radio tuned into the Purdue game. Perhaps I'm just feeling a little nostalgic tonight...K-Sue is here and we have had a quiet weekend mostly just staying around home...though I think we are going for a ride around the lake to search for ice cream though no one knows about it yet except MOI!!

Readers may wonder why in the world would he even consider this day's activities "post-worthy"...because it's just ordinary, every day kind of stuff. They would be right, it is...except it wasn't "ordinary" for really even close. I never spent Saturday evenings with my family doing quiet things at home...unless I had a beer or a drink in my hand...the whole evening. 

Usually when a certain level of intoxication would be reached..."we" might decide to seek out friends to party with or I'd just completely hammered at home. 

My point is evenings like this never get boring or routine for me. Nope, I am truly thankful for every single night I have that is like is just very peaceful, comfortable and there is something reassuring about it..

I never realized how much LIFE I was really missing while in my drunken haze...I know it is a cliche of sorts but today I cherish every single moment like this. I enjoy the company of friends, of family and future family...Just having an appreciation for being alive is a paradigm shift for this guy. And I love it, I truly do.

So we are off to pile into the car in search for "sights" and ice cream plus a bit of companionship along the way. I never really understood why people who had "ordinary lives", like the one I am now describing would often   say: "Life is Good". I clearly remember wondering: "what's so good about it!?"

Now I know...