trauma

new order

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image credit… john baldessari
  “Blue Monday”


How does it feel
To treat me like you do
When you’ve laid laid your hands upon me
And told me who you are

I thought I was mistaken
I thought I heard your words
Tell me how do I feel
Tell me now how do I feel

Those who came before me
Lived through their vocations
From the past until completion
They will turn away no more

And I still find it so hard
To say what I need to say
But I’m quite sure that you’ll tell me
Just how I should feel today

I see a ship in the harbor
I can and shall obey
But if it wasn’t for your misfortunes
I’d be a heavenly person today

And I thought I was mistaken
And I thought I heard you speak
Tell me how do I feel
Tell me now how should I feel

i am just finishing a week of satisfaction surveys at my workplace. it has been both an exhausting and exhilarating week. i have had some incredible help from client volunteers and my hope is that their efforts have helped them as much as they have helped our organization. 

my understanding is that there has not been client involvement like this at our establishment in a very long time. my impression is that it has been a welcome change. there was a lot more healthy and positive verbal exchange in our hallways and waiting rooms than i can recall in the few years i have been around.

substance treatment has long had a very deep stigmatized and punitive edge to it. it usually comes about when a person has demonstrated the inability to modify their behaviors on their own volition. shame and disappointment are the very first of many self-criticisms that pull up their moving trucks and unpack their bags. and just like cockroaches or other vermin, there are many friends and family members that soon show up to add to the humiliation and defeat upon the foundation laid. 
traditionally, our workplace has reflected this punitive aspect. probationers, street-walkers, sex workers, addicts turned thieves, traumatized persons trapped in numbness make up a good portion of our daily participants. at least that is how they appear when they first enter our doors. it is our task to help the remember that they are and can still be much more than a few pigeon-holed labels. 
in a rather “medical model” tradition we have treated them with something and sent them on their way, expecting that they will find the other components necessary to remember their higher purpose outside our purview. our workplace has carried on with this belief for a very long time.
but with new leadership, along with healthcare reform, substance abuse and mental health parity, and a burgeoning national grass roots social movement, our society and medical community is learning and incorporating the idea of recovery (and more universally- change) requires more than just treatment. it involves support along a few fronts- ergo recovery support services. and my workplace is following suit.
the inclusion of clients in our current satisfaction survey hopefully represents a much larger philosophical shift within our walls. out of necessity (and some honest desire) we are looking to stronger outcomes, healthier practices, and more trauma-informed care. we have not become experts at recovery, only well informed about treatment. our schooling has not ended.
this week has ushered in another possibility which involves my daily work focus and activities. a very poignant piece of my story resides here- last summer, as i initiated the peer based recovery support services concept, i fantasized about the amazing possibility of implementing such a facet to a large public hospital clinic setting. then life continued to seesaw as is it’s custom, and i let go of that fantasy. but here i am sitting in my chair, contemplating a misplaced idea, and feeling hesitant to embrace excitement. 
i only hope i can learn to let go of fear someday.. 
i felt silly on this friday evening and thought it appropriate to post my favorite cover version of this anthem of my eighties.
but for you hardcore traditionalists, here is a remix of the undeniable classic from new order but a 90’s release on a cd appropriately titled “substance abuse” remixed by dmc.

 “let’s have some fun- shall we?”

that’s life

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image credit… examiner.com

That’s life(That’s life)I tell you,
I can’t deny it

I thought of quitting, baby
but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it
And if I didn’t think it was worth one single try
I’d jump right on a big bird and then I’d fly
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
Each time I find myself layin’ flat on my face
I just pick myself up and get back in the race

i don’t really know quite how to begin this post. so i guess i’m just gonna let her rip. just past midnight on thursday morning in a movie theater located in the outskirts of aurora colorado, a mysterious and angry gunman burst through the exit doors and starting blasting his automatics in the seats. panic ensued and the agitated one started using the fleeing audience members as target practice, like this killing 10 non-provoking movie-goers and injuring 70 others. bullets even pierced the walls of the theater and hit 2 or 3 persons in the next theater over.

many many coloradans have been shocked like this before at columbine. and most of the people i know who  were around during the famous school massacre have had an ache reopened that was hoped had been buried forever. trauma may actually never go away though. as much as i hate it, i must acknowledge it exists. and it takes up space.

i am picking up this post a day later. there sure have been some things that have transpired since yesterday.  i took my mother to see “to rome with love”. it was so forgettable and bland. but i did it to support her really. she had called me in the middle of the day on friday to talk about the shootings. i was busy and didn’t really feel like talking, but i shifted gears on purpose and made myself available to listen. it actually helped me a little i think to be available. and i decided to follow up with a film because she mentioned that she was leery of the theater experience now. we went, and i think she moved through something.

i shared today at a meeting about what i know now about myself. i grew up in a house where my mother drank too much way too often and had several dysfunctional, often turbulent, and sometimes violent relationships. i learned early on to turn a cheek to fear and terror in order to survive. otherwise i would have been over run by fear a good amount of the time.

my belief is that i am good to have around in a crisis because i have learned to surf the fear and the crazy pretty well. i fall apart when things are calm, but when there is an incident such as the shooting on thursday, i turn outward and don’t look in. that my first response.

after a few weeks, i saw my sponsor today. he has been very ill and is struggling with finding balance and emotional safety. i realized that my first response is handy, but is not what is needed in this situation. i need to be pushy, i need to be loving, and i need to be around him. this i think i can do. at least i hope so.

i have written once or twice on how busy i have kept myself and how confused i become about the direction in which i am traveling. all that continues to be. i am realizing that my expectations and my ego do get in the way of the work i am doing. i am trying to ignite culture change at my workplace, and i find that my intention gets muddied over credit and acknowledgement.

who’d have thought that i am just as human as the next guy? i guess that’s life. and honestly, i am blessed to be here. so i guess i’ll just keep moving forward.

the missing boy

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image credit… herr buchta

i spent 3 days in reston virginia working with a team on a design outline for a recovery oriented system of care for the state of colorado. sadly i realized that when dollars are the driving force behind a process, there is a devaluation for me. i went to a workshop which focused on a model for a peer led organization to sustain its funding. i felt my heart sink as i listened to information being disseminated around finding and sustaining funding. my experience tells me that when funding is a priority, then the intention gets really diluted. this was a revelation that came succinctly and discreetly to me. i spoke my mind and revealed my true feelings on the 2nd day which began a process which was like unraveling a ball of yarn.

i am swirling in disappointment this weekend. i haven’t quite figured out how to negotiate all this. i believe that peer services are invaluable. i couldn’t have made it this far without them. i just am not clear on my drive to find funding for them. .i am also drenched in some old shame- from where i am not sure. i am beginning to understand how some of this works for me- but not quite all. i spent saturday isolating and steeping in self-pity and anger about all this.

i know that i had a great day on wednesday. i was able to contribute and i felt energized. however there was a piece of me that felt i had over shared and was inappropriate. this piece nagged at me the rest of the time and became overwhelming by friday. i was unable to see beyond it or through it. it choked the life out of the time away.

i was on such a charge to get away from my companions, i changed my flight and left an hour early on friday. it afforded me time to go to a farewell party for my supervisor when i got home. i found being with work colleagues somehow comforting after the thought provoking melee in va. i stayed for an hour or so and then the isolating ritual began. this lasted through till sunday morning.

i went to my usual meeting and the topic was god-reliance. listening to everyone share really did quell much of my uneasiness. i remembered (again) that the journey is also about struggle. internally, i believe that my struggles lead to self knowledge. it’s the ancient part of me that resorts back to my traumatic postures such as the isolation. i got triggered and i did what i always do. i hid in shame spending over 24 hours fantasizing about picking my life apart piece by piece. thank goodness for the sunlight of spirit i was able to bask in today.

luckily i didn’t contact anyone or make any real decisions. i just sat in the dark-alone-steeped in negativity and licked some wounds. it did give me cause to wonder if i will ever get beyond feeling crazy. i understand more fully that this part of me that protects myself from feeling of shame is a very dogged champion. it has helped me to survive some very very painful and dangerous situations. i guess 24 hours of being inhabited by this walk-in isn’t the worst thing that could happen- although i would much prefer to recognize the pattern in a shorter time. this punk part of me did keep me safe. in the fear and the rush to isolate, my feelings were protected. at this stage of my life though, i am not clear that this protection is what is best for me. i might do much better walking through them.

image credit….. herr buchta

progress not perfection though. isn’t that what they say? i only hope i can remain tethered to the spirit that leads me to the light.

room for happiness

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image credit…domenico cennamo
I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed………..Michael Jordan
2012 has been a series of big crazy issues. death, loss, grief, frustration seem to have over-seasoned my life’s buffet. in the few short weeks that have passed thus far,  i have found myself feeling plucked and pooped most of the time. and i have also realized that i have been overeating, watching too much tv, and toggling to porn mindlessly while online. it’s  certainly embarrassing and not the direction i would like my life to be headed.
please don’t panic…. change is in the works. with the onset of sobriety and a spiritual program, the behaviors and reactions to life that used to hurl me into chaos and darkness don’t land me out of bounds any longer. i find i still  drift to numbing out, but it’s manageable and detectable and i can work with it. 
this perspective is indeed a shift in perception for my life. a miracle. it’s not about hating myself because i have ruined my life and made a fool of myself. instead, a sober mind and a spiritual connection has offered me a time out with the skills of acceptance and forgiveness. 
image credit…. domenico cennamo
i deliberated quite awhile for a song to play with this short post. i came to rest on the idea of 1973 by james blunt. that was a tumultuous year for me. it was my 1st and 2nd year in high school. i had already moved twice and changed schools twice. my home life was rife with a very unhappy parent who was medicating heavily with sex and alcohol. i had become accustomed to feeling responsible for their unhappiness and so it came naturally that i blamed myself. i had engaged in sexual activity with an 18 year old from the 1st school who made it his business to tell as many people about it. the shame of being queer ate me inside like cancer. leaving home seemed the only relief giving solution. i left in august of 74, but began my search for a landing pad in 1973. i used some fake id’s and frequented a bath house in chicago called man’s country. it was rich with distraction  and acceptance for me.  i wasn’t the only queer. i wasn’t the only freak.  i just learned a different type of shame being around older gay men.
anyway- that was when the drug use started to climb. and the ability to face life got put on the back shelf. i ran from my life. and kept going for almost 30 years. 1973 was a pivotal period. my emotional life got put on hold for decades. here i am 40 years later- still learning new skills to help me stay in the game. 

and as an addendum, i am adding another tune. this one hails from clubland and which brings the post to the present. kaskade collaborates with skylar grey and the lyrics are a bit frothy and both music and words strike a chord with me. the add is to represent the daily reminder that i must give myself that i need to make room for happiness in my life and my heart.

Kaskade – Room For Happiness Lyrics (Feat. Skylar Grey)
Sometimes I wish I never felt the influence of you
‘Cuz now I feel a disconnect, like an open wound
Where you once were, there’s now a space that runs as deep as hell
But every morning when I wake I tell myself
Don’t be fooled by your emptiness, there’s so much more room for happiness
Don’t be fooled by your emptiness, there’s so much more room for happiness

the gift

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image credit…. kristofj and sean
I need to go outside
I need to leave the smoke
’cause I can’t go on living in this same sick joke
It seems our lives have taken on a different kind of twist
Now that you have given me the perfect gift
You have given me the gift

today someone told me a secret about their life. they clearly didn’t want to talk about it, but at the same time they really really did want to talk about it, too. i let them make up their own mind without asking. and i didn’t press for details.

it was painful for me to watch and listen. it wasn’t my pain, but it was full of pain none-the-less.  it wasn’t a pretty story. nor was it happy. it didn’t have a happy ending and it’s doubtful it ever will.  there is much shame and guilt around it. there were first pleasures and lost boundaries. and  left on the floor are broken thoughts and jagged memories.

i watched tears roll softly and pointedly as the details unfurled. the teller kept reminding me how okay they were with everything- which couldn’t be further from how it seems. what seems more likely is that the teller has become accustomed to the twisted feelings and somehow thinks (as survivors do) that this is how it always is.

i inquired about whether this wounded one had ever considered self-forgiveness. i was answered with a seesaw response of “i have forgiven myself” followed quickly and painfully by”i don’t know how”. from what i could surmise, both are true, with the latter overshadowing the former in accuracy.

today, i am reminded once more that the bullshit i ran away from in my childhood, used anything and everything i could heavily to drown out reminders, and then uncovered very clumsily in early sobriety has been transformed. i no longer lead with shame and self-degradation as my calling card. though they are definitely still there, they have been recessed to a back shelf where they provide backbone for empathy and and echo chamber to help me listen when working with others.

i understood today’s fractured fairy tale quite well. i felt blessed that i could be with someone as they allowed themselves to remove some of their armor and feel.

i am not the man i had mostly planned to be. thank god. i am just the guy i have become. it truly seems a gift.

rolling stone

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image credit… denis darzacq

here i am on wednesday evening after finalizing the agreement to list my townhouse for sale. it has become embarrassingly evident that the loss of 28 percent of my annual income has taken a toll. i am a mixed bag of emotion- shame, sadness, worry to name a few, and have been scattered and detached for awhile. once i came to the decision that i did, i have felt myself pulling back into the present.

i have changed my job duties, my job title, and the department i work for and now am beginning a transition for my residence and my financial life. i have been in the middle of a storm of sorts in my life and by the grace of a power greater than myself, i have managed to maintain a spiritual life. sometimes the ordinary can appear so very extraordinary.

it is sad to think of leaving my comfort zone. i have been here for 4 years and have grown up quite a bit emotionally here. i first truly came to feel and recognize how stunted my emotional life had been before sobriety. i never understood how toxic shame really is until i found an ancient seed germinating after reliving a drama. it has taken almost 4 years for me to learn how to begin to soothe myself when someone i trust does not  continue to be trustworthy. and it does continue to happen. and i am sure i trust much less easily.

with all this in mind, perhaps this residence shift is a metaphor telling me it is time to move on. moving on is not the easiest task for people with trauma. my experience is that i am much more comfortable when terrorized than i am when things are unknown. and today, i feel confident that moving on will reap some rewards and offer me new insight and a new focus for my future.

my friend jim chandler passed away this week. he had been staying at a hotel in ohio (on kaiser’s dime) waiting for a liver transplant. something went awry and he was in icu for 21 days and the whispered away. jim was a minister at the denver church of religious science. he contributed fairly regularly to the newsletter we publish. jim was always  wearing a positive message with spiritual undertones.

i remember when my friends and i wanted to start a gay men’s 12 step meeting that focused on meth, he offered space at the church. there were already other meetings there, however my understanding is that many board members did not want tweakers roaming free in the building in the evening. jim advocated for the meeting, citing the outrageously high number of gay men who had meth issues, as well as the hiv transmission rates that involved meth. he never boasted about this, he just did it quietly- and potently.

i watched part of the 2011 vma award show and particularly liked russel brand’s tribute to amy winehouse. he pointed out succinctly and lovingly that although amy lived with a very evident drug and alcohol issue, that there indeed is a solution for this. and he wanted to remind all the patrons of the show that a solutions did exist.

i have remarkably come to believe that living with an active faith is far more prudent than not. i love my atheist friends, but i am more enamored with the safety net that faith provides. i never wanted to have to rely on anything like faith when i was young. it seemed so weak. but as the gray antiques my temples, i realize that i struggled with relying on anything because i didn’t grow up with a lot of that around. i believed then that a rolling stone was less prone to heartbreak and i lived much of my life that way.

and here i am on the move again.

why the pain

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Hungry Ghosts:



Characterised by – Greed; Insatiable cravings; Addictions.


“I want this, I need this, 1 have to have this”.


This is the realm of intense craving. The Hungry Ghosts are shown with enormous stomachs and tiny necks – they want to cat, but cannot swallow; when they try to drink. the liquid turns to fire, intensifying their thirst. The torture of the hungry ghost is not so much the frustration of not being able to get what he wants. rather it is his clinging to those things he mistakenly thinks will bring satisfaction and relief. The Buddha in this Realm holds a Bowl from which the ‘gifts of the gods’ are distributed. This is to entice the hungry ghosts to desire for the Truth which is the only way that the deepest longings and hungers can be satisfied.
Consider: ‘Gollum’ from Lord of the Rings; The obssessive nature of Video Games; Addictions of various sorts; We can be helped in this Realm by our willingness to ‘look up’, to see beyond our obssessions…… reposted from buddhamind

i went to a dinner hosted by the harm reduction action center in denver last night. the hrac work with injection drug users to reduce health risks and also inject human kindness into their worlds. the evening was also benefiting improbable pictures who have been filming the creation and development of u.s.e.d (underground syringe exchange denver) as needle exchange has been completely illegal in colorado until may of this year. btw, exchange has not been implemented anywhere in colorado to date, the only legalization was that local governments can now decide for themselves about appropriateness.

the keynote speaker was dr. gabor mate, a vancouver physician who has been working with idu (injection drug users) for 12 years and runs a residential program in that city. he recently wrote a book that i have previously written about briefly called “in a realm of hungry ghosts”. it refers to a buddhist concept of the 7 realms that we move through in life. the realm of hungry ghosts is depicted by a very thin dark creature who is always eating and never full. his perspective on addiction and causation and treatment. he blends  20 years of addiction science with a sense of common sense and simple human kindness to highlight a whole new direction of treatment which makes the assumption that the reason someone is over medicating is due to pain. and he maintains that instead of asking individuals “why the addiction”, we should ask the question “why the pain” and his experience demonstrates a completely different response. he frankly finds that all the female addicts he works with were sexually abused when they were young.

“why the pain” is a question that seems so simple, yet i don’t actually think there is an easy answer at all.  i don’t mean that the response “my mother abandoned me” or ” my uncle molested me” or ” my father abused my mother during my childhood” are not simple. the words are simple. not more than 7 or 8 strung together at one time. no, the complications are not in the expression of the concrete aspects of theanswer. the challenges in the answer come forward in the manner in which the individual comes in the treatment door.the bio-psycho-social factors that have brought them this far. they have a lifetime of (not) coping skills that have been built up. a trauma that happens early in life (especially when repeated or endured over time) can cause a person to shut down so as to stop the emotional pain.  it makes complete sense that these individuals would find external chemicals such as opiates or alcohol that help them feel (especially pleasure). what makes even more sound sense is that letting go of these compounds is not an easy task, especially since for most of them, they may connect to the only pleasure these individuals have felt for as long as they can remember. btw, they usually forget a lot of the pain that led them to addiction with good intention- survival.

for me, i look to the explosion of crystal meth use in the gay male population in the industrialized world in the last two decades, with the highest percentage being hiv positive. this reasoning brings clearly into focus an explanation of this madness. is it not common that gay men identify feeling love and intimacy through their sexual contact, and being hiv positive would directly inhibit this process. crystal meth no doubt allows men to circumvent this inhibition and refill their emotional coffers. but when the emotional coffers never feel full, happiness is elusive, and continues to be chased.

it’s a simple question… why are they doing meth? to feel better. to connect with ohters sexually, to feel loved.  if sex is how we communicate- how else do they make this happen?  the only way they have known to feel loved has been diminished and neutered?

numb

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I’ve become so numb I can’t feel you there
Become so tired so much more aware
I’m becoming this all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you

i have silently said goodbye to at least 15 acquaintances this year. most of them have been due to the lack of self care, much of which somehow accompanies having an hiv infection, being a gay man, or carrying around some dark childhood trauma that one can’t seem to shake.

of course, this could just be a personal projection and not based in truth, but somehow i am inclined to believe it. i see it way too often for it to be some absurd coincidence. today i got word that perhaps another fellow traveller in this time has departed. it is hearsay thus far and wheels have been set in motion to root out some truth. the one i am thinking of has been an iv meth imbiber since his teens. he has been troubled since he was in the womb. and i think he has carried those injuries with him throughout his journey, often wearing them as a war medal.

my experience with him was brief. but it was also quite vivid. there is something very definite and memorable about someone who is in emotional pain. there is the quality of relief as i know that the pain i detected is doubtfully still acute. it is a raging brushfire that has been doused by the rains of the unknown agenda. but there is a remaining sense of numb that swirls around me still. i remember feeling helpless and ineffective. i remember wishing i could do more. and now i understand that all i will ever do in this case is remember.

my spine is the bassline

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No Guts, No Blood: No Brains At All
My spine is the bassline, and the top line
could be broken glass
all amusing views of those better men
dirty habits’ hand on the purses’ strings

i hopefully have come through a few month ordeal with a repeat of drama. it is amazing to me how quickly i can become triggered by others. these others are usually gay men, too. i must have a deep-rooted distrust of a certain type of gay guy. i don’t know quite what the origin of this is, but i do know that it is real (or not) and it cuts deep when it makes an appearance.

i have somehow made progress since the first resurgence, but it still affects me enough to have made a location shift at my job and hold me in frustration for these last several months. i suppose i need to determine exactly what is required for me to feel safer. i may not always have the luxury of alternate respite. but if it hits again, i know that the pain and uncomfortability is so sharp and so encompassing that it is nearly impossible to see beyond it.

nonetheless, i am getting closer to insight. this incident has only lasted about 3 months. i have found a way through and can see the light. i do believe that my instincts are right-on here, btw. i think that there are personalities that don’t care and are self-focused that don’t have my best interest in sight at all. but this is not a requirement. nor should it be an expectation. i should expect myself to take any hits that come my way. and if i step back, i see that i can. those hits just stir echoes of my past and it’s excruciating.

but change is happening. i have made my decision and am making my moves. the universe has smiled once again and opened a space for me to feel safe.

today i am harking back once again to those 80’s of my history. there was a “no-wave” movement out of NYC and many bands claimed to be connected. this band- shriekback- did indeed seem to qualify as part of that movement. dave allen of “gang of four” was part of this ensemble and this tune got underground radio airplay as well as having a short but powerful lifespan in clubland. have a  listen to “my spine is the bassline”.