working with others

a spell on you

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"Be not the slave of your own past - plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old."  — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

with each passing year in recovery, the challenges I face become more intricate. it is unclear whether this is due to clarity of focus, or because the responses are have matured because “fuck it” is no longer the 1st response. either way, it is understood that thinking through the consequences of decisions has become the response of choice in lieu of impulse reaction. and damn! this can be confusing.

life has never been better all the while it has never been more mysterious. try as I might, it is uncertainty and fear that cause the most concern. I hope that writing about this does not indicate defeat, but does reflect insight.

only time will tell when coming up for air.





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I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything
What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
You could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

i have encountered a young man who is plagued with pain and crazy. he is 19 and he has been smoking meth anywhere from 2 to 5 years. he has lost sight of sanity- if at all he ever had any. i am convinced he at minimum has adhd and ptsd, mostly because his inability to be still is prominent. he is painful to be around really, kind of like being with someone who has rolled in poison ivy. his mother has been smoking twack for most of his life. she doesn’t see it as a real problem i guess, she just sees it as something that just is. i think this perspective got translated to him as just something that is. everybody just smokes. it is just something people do.

i continue to engage with him with uncertainty as i am curious about what has happened to him. he certainly needs a helping hand and i am not at all sure if that can be mine. it always feels shaky to be with him- kinda like walking with sea legs or petting a porcupine. there have been tales of terror – manslaughter and suicide that should only present as ghost stories meant to scare. yet here they roll with the ease and familiarity of stories of baseball and camping trips.

i don’t know if sanity or recovery or sobriety are part of his path. he is a whirling dervish with no end in sight. i hope he can find calm, but can’t swear he would recognize it. one minute he runs from being centered and the next he laments the peace he can’t have. i guess this post is meant to be a searchlight  and a prayer. i want to witness that he is real and that he matters.

i remember reading “the sluts” by dennis cooper and being gobsmacked by the general sleaze and realness of his characters in that book. young male hustlers who were starting out their lives with fewer possibilities than most of us. they were selling themselves to drown out their own hell.  for some reason i recall these characters as i consider this young man.

i find it fitting to quote from dc here…

Experience:Call me a caretaker if you want, but after reading Brad’s reviews, I couldn’t help but feel concerned about this troubled young man, and angered by the callousness with which the previous reviewers have treated him. I work in the mental heath industry in Orange County, not far from Long Beach. I made an appointment with Brad in order to encourage him to seek treatment, although he didn’t know my intentions until we met.

Regular visitors to this site know that I’m not against hiring escorts. I will even admit that Brad is my type and that meeting him involved a high degree of self-control on my part. Something the previous reviewers are right about is that he’s extraordinarily cute. Brad is one of the cutest twinks I’ve ever seen in fact. I don’t know how a boy as cute and young as Brad ended up in the low end of his profession, but it’s wrong to exploit him. He deserves better.

I had a long talk with Brad. It took him a while to open up to me, but he did. My knee-jerk diagnosis is that Brad is probably schizophrenic with an untreated chemical imbalance. He might also be suffering from a mild neurological disorder, as evidenced by the physical tics that the first reviewer mentioned. He allowed me to drive him to the facility where I work and enroll him in an outpatient program. I set him up to live at the home of a female acquaintance of mine. He is no longer at the phone number posted here and with any luck, you have heard the last of him. Shame on you.

You: Hispanic male in my late 30s.

Brad responds: Don’t believe this guy. He’s a prick. I have a new number. It’s 310-555-9876. Call me if you’re a generous man. I’m up for anything. I need a place to live too. This guy’s a fucking prick. I don’t need help. He’s a liar. I’m writing this on his computer. What does that tell you? Guys like him are the worst. They promise you shit and they don’t mean it. Don’t call me if you’re like him.

Webmaster’s message: My repeated attempts to contact JoseR72 and have him confirm this review have been unsuccessful. Until further notice, I strongly advise all of you to stay clear of Brad.

indeed there continue to be tales about the tenderness of the wolves. “Clearly the secret of happiness…is a variation on the general principle of banging your head against a wall, and then stopping.”
Stef Penney, The Tenderness of Wolves

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.

return to oz

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image credit… jasper goodall
He said is this the return to Oz?
The grass is dead
The gold is brown
And the sky has claws
There’s a wind-up man
Walking round and round
What once was Emerald City’s
Now a crystal town
It’s three o’clock in the morning
You get a phonecall
From the queen with a hundred heads
She says that they’re all dead
She tried the last one on
Couldn’t speak, fell off
And now she just a’wanders the halls
Thinking nothing
Thinking nothing at all
(lyrics.. scissor sisters)

today i talked with someone who is in the middle of the insanity of cravings. she has been substance free for about 2 months and has found herself adrift in her own emotions. the waves of feelings were visibly crashing upon her self-esteem. she seemed worn out from the pitching side to side that she must have been feeling.

i felt unequipped to console her in her process. one can’t continue to pick a scab if one wants it to heal without scar. but this message may not have been heard. there is not much ease in sharing logic with someone who is wearing their “emotional” outfit.

i recognized the combination of frustration and fear that she wore. it didn’t fit, but it looked familiar on her. she ended our chat abruptly and escaped as quickly as she could.

yet again, i understand that i am not the great and powerful oz.


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For many, negative thinking is a habit, which over time, becomes an addiction… A lot of people suffer from this disease because negative thinking is addictive to each of the Big Three — the mind, the body, and the emotions. If one doesn’t get you, the others are waiting in the wings. …Peter McWilliams
it has been said that life is a spiral. a series of circles that keep rewinding around itself like a coil with the emotional journeys repeating themselves with a new level of understanding with each pass through the spiral. i have always considered this to be truth, but most time i am so wrapped up in my own experience that it is not so evident until the actual experiences have passed. but once in a while there is the awareness of a deeper layer of cognition.

i hope that i am gathering the grist for the mill. much of what i see today has an air of re-experience. oftentimes i feel as if i am having another go. ican only hope that it is a good “go”.

i have been working with someone whose brain has very evidently been triggered to hunt for more drugs. this guy who had been searching for peace and change has, because of circumstances, done a complete about face and become demanding, spiteful, manipulative, and mean all in the space of a few days. a demeanor and an agreement field which were not visible at all have taken center stage and it is barely possible to recognize who i am encountering.

and buried somewher inside this jekyll/hyde scenario is the not-so-distant truth about my own memories. it is eerie to say the least-watching an old drama unfold in front of me ancient and evil and hollow are a few of the shells used to fill this weapon i came across.

as i outline and accent new boundaries around all this, both for myself and this traveller, i shudder a little inside. i recognize well the possible outcomes in this dramatic revival. i am hoping that the 3rd act take s a turn this time through the spiral. i hope this revolution brings with it the winds and sun that can dissipate the mists that have settled upon avalon. is it legend? is it myth? or is it just russian roulette?

i can only hope that my work and journey have generated enough motion in a positive direction that may affect an outcome here. one that will move us both into an outer ring of our individual spirals.

Line ’em up
Knock ’em down
My looks can kill
My body’s fully loaded
And I got more ammo
Line ’em up
Knock ’em down
My looks can kill
You’re an accessory to a murder cause

working with others

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Working With Others

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when other fail. Remember they are very ill.

Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends — this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.

Perhaps you are not acquainted with any drinkers who want to recover. You can easily find some by asking a few doctors, ministers, priests or hospitals. They will be only too glad to assist you. Don’t start out as an evangelist or reformer. Unfortunately a lot of prejudice exists. You will be handicapped if you arouse it. Ministers and doctors are competent and you can learn much from them if you wish, but it happens that because of your own drinking experience you can be uniquely useful to other alcoholics. So cooperate; never criticize. To be helpful is our only aim.

i haven’t written about my raison d’etre for awhile. it’s not easy to be objective about something so personal. and working with others is not simple. really, there is probably not much to say that hasn’t been said. what i have realized in the few years i have doing this is that i learn as i go. that holding back  is just as important as pushing forward. that listening holds more power than yakking. and that just being there is the most valuable gift to give.

all the missteps, all the wrong turns, all the dark hours, all the heartache and horror, all the self-deprecation, and all the failed attempts that i have experienced on my journey as well as the shared time with others leads me to an evolving place of the present. part of what i am privileged to witness is definitely the sprouting of fellowship around me. part of what am privy to is the way in which the world opens up to envelop my this intention- this intention of giving back. the synchronicity that prevails in tandem with re purposing my life has been an extraordinary experience  for me. i am indeed a testament to the highs and lows that one life traverses.

however, the highlight of working with others are individual transformations that are sometimes seen. not always the same at all, they are as different as the characters they come through. sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly is a truism, but doesn’t come close to the diversity encountered.  and although as varied as the number of species of plants on this planet, the singular expression of self-appraisal, self-empowerment, and self-forgiveness that accompanies recovery is a quiet masterpiece. and to see it is is a chance to see a one-time event with the best seat in the house.

i can’t imagine how my life would look without this turn it has taken this last decade.  i am so very humbled by the pop-up-book quality that my life now has- turn a page and wow there’s an entire city. and i am thankful for the grace afforded me in having purpose. when i am working with others i am working on myself. i am others and others are me.