Back To Work

The end of this extremely long holiday is coming to an end. Seven weeks. Nearly, two months without worrying about my job. Worrying in the sense of going to bed at decent times. Setting the alarm clock. Making my two meals for a 12 hour shift. Wondering what magazine or book I should take in case I have some free time. Working 7 PM to 7 AM, I usually having some free time.

This is the third week in a row that I was preparing to go back to work. I started getting notices that it would be the first weekend in May. That was quickly changed to the next weekend. I began getting prepared. Got my meals made. My backpack loaded with my work shoes, odd medications, and other trivial stuff for work, as well as a book. Then the call came that we would wait till at least mid-week depending on what the Prime Minister said.

He said, we can work, yet we should probably stay home. He said not to use public transport unless of course you need to use it. By the end of his talk, I was more confused than I was before it. Instead of staying alive we were told stay alert. Say what? I’ve been alert. I’ve stayed two meters away from others. Except for grocery shopping and an occasional medical appointment I have stayed home. When I’m in a store or on public transport I use a mask. More to protect you than to protect myself.

After his talk, I waited to find out when I would return to work. I guess my employer was just as confused because for the next three days my phone and e-mail remained quiet. Finally, on the fourth day I hear we would be reopening on Monday, the 18th of May.

For the last seven weeks the major decision of my day has been what movie would I watch tonight? I have watched more movies in this time than I have in my whole lifetime. Now I need to get back into work mode. Find my work clothes. Have a shower and shave. Hopefully, my wife will cut my hair. Later, I’ll look on-line for train schedules and begin final preparations for my journey to work.

I’m grateful for the chance to get back to work. I’m thankful that my employer believes that I am worthy of returning to work. Yet, I’m also anxious about the return. I work at a major transportation hub in the north of England. When things are running smoothly there is no way that social distancing can be maintained. While I have had this job for a few years, Monday will seem like day one. New rules. New regulations. It won’t be just that way for me but for everyone who has been on furlough.

I’ve read stories from America, where store employees have been mugged and even shot because they denied entry to a person without a mask, or they were walking the wrong way in a store. Everyone is going to be on edge. Whether they admit it or not, everyone will be a bit fearful. When is the last time you walked down a crowded street bumping into people. It used to be normal. Everyone in a rush to get where they needed to be. The sidewalks have been empty and the roads quiet.

Many businesses won’t return. Many employees won’t have a job waiting for them. Many people have become ill. Many people have died. I wonder when will I be safe to shake someone’s hand, or give a supportive hug to someone? When will we be able to have company over and not worry if they are sick or not?

Three years ago I had treatment for throat cancer. The treatment has left me with an occasional dry hacking cough. I’ve become paranoid with this. Every time I cough, I get strange looks then folks moving away from me. I remain quiet knowing why I’m coughing, yet I so much want to explain this uncontrollable cough of mine. I also admit that I look at others quite sceptically when they cough or sneeze.

I have friend who survived Covid 19. He was in the hospital for three weeks. One week spent in Intensive Care. He has admitted that there was a time he wanted to quit. He couldn’t breathe and the pain was unbearable. He has been verbally attacked in stores because of his cough. A cough that he will have for the rest of his life. Unlike me, he has tried explaining it to the people that point fingers at him, only to be met with a cold shoulder. Not one apology from those who were quick to judge. It’s a brave new world. Something we are all a part of. I admit it’s something I’m a bit nervous about, yet I can find comfort that I’m not alone in these uncertain times.

Just think how strange it will be to go out to a restaurant and then catch a movie. How rewarding it will feel to go to a concert or a sporting event. That day will come and we’ll give each other high fives! We will survive. We’ll share stories with our kids and grandkids about how we survived and remember those that have died.

Until that time comes, I’ll go to work. I’ll stay alert by using common sense. I’ll be polite and courteous with those that appear healthy and strong, as well as those who are coughing and ill. After all, at the end of the day we are all one. We are all brothers and sisters and we’ll spend our eternity together.

Becoming A Chameleon

Chameleons are a distinctive and highly specialized clade of Old World lizards with 202 species. These species come in a range of colors, and many species have the ability to change color.

An adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA) can be described as a chameleon. They change colors as a form of camouflage to protect themselves. They learn at any early age that if they can blend into the wall they may be able to avoid physical abuse. If they can be quiet they may avoid sexual abuse and without engaging they can avoid the emotional abuse.

Sadly, the abuse doesn’t come from just the dysfunctional parent. It also comes from siblings and anyone else who is close to the disease. Siblings can be more brutal than the drunk parent. And the lower you are on the totem pole the worse it can be.

By that, I mean the amount of older siblings you have is the amount of pain and suffering you will receive from them as well as your dysfunctional parent. If you have two siblings, than it’s doubled. I had three older brothers and the closer they are to me, the more pain and punishment they inflicted on me.

It was only natural for this to happen. The oldest one, got to know my parents before alcoholism took hold. He might have seen and witnessed some dysfunction, yet he had a normal and happy childhood. When brother number two came along, the drinking maybe increased and yelling probably intensified, yet it still was manageable. Plus the two of them had each other for support. To survive the beginning of this insanity and having only two years difference in age, it was easy for them to have their strongest support from each other.

Then brother three came along. The oldest was now 4, the second brother was 2, and now number three. As the family grew so did the events. Family vacations became a yearly getaway for everyone. The boys excited for two weeks in a cabin. Next to a lake where they could fish and swim. The long ride there created some stressful times for the parents and brother number 1 began to see that things weren’t as beautiful as they once appeared.

By the time brother 1 was 10 years old I was born. He was now old enough to realize that mom and dad, at times, drank to much. But he couldn’t grasp the idea that they were sick individuals. It had to be someone’s fault why mom drank. It had to be someone’s fault that made dad yell at mom. That someone had to be brother 3. No way could it be brother 2. After all they had been joined at the hip since birth and brother 1 could not trust anyone like number 2. With me being just a baby there was no way it was my fault, so the logical answer was that it had to be brother 3. And so the rift began. Brother 2 was caught in the middle. He had a sense of loyalty to number 1, yet he also felt parental to number 3. Brother 4? Me? I was in another family. The age difference between us made the brothers realize that it wasn’t cool to be with their baby brother.

Unknowingly, at the time, battle lines were being drawn. As years moved on, I began to comprehend what was taking place. The insanity went to a whole new level. Brothers 1 and 3 were constantly fighting, while brother 2 moved halfway across the country to avoid the wars. The parental wars went from bad to dark. Attempted suicides by dad. When he was wasn’t trying to kill himself, dad’s rage came out on the body of mom. Physical beatings. To heal from the pain she drank more… and more. She began hiding her scotch bottles in my closet – her own secret stash. No sharing with dad with those bottles!

As I got older, I tried to please my dad by having dinner ready for him when he came home from work. Pleasing mom, by lying to dad that she was sleeping because she was sick, not because she was drunk on her ass. Pleasing brother 1 by saying it was brother 3’s fault, while also pleasing brother 3 by saying it was 1’s fault. Brother 2? He was my idle growing up. What happens with idols? When the illusion of them being perfect is destroyed you move on to something else. I have not seen brother 2 in over 40 years. Yup I had become the perfect chameleon. Changing colors (feelings) to protect oneself. The sad part though was that with this change I lost myself. Scared to voice my own opinions and always craving for approval from others.

I also became full of resentment. The ones who never looked beyond my camouflaged colours became mean when I didn’t do what they expect of me.

Growing up I never received a weekly allowance. I rarely got any money. What money I got I usually stole from my parents or my brothers. One brother used to give me a dollar to wash his car on date nights. At first it was a big deal. Then after a few weeks I realized how little I was actually earning for the work I did and decided that he could was his own car! He didn’t like that idea and slapped me around in my bedroom and as he walked out of the room, he picked up a glass end table and threw it at me. I ended up in ER that night getting stitches in my knee. This was a fight that would never happen in a healthy family. This brother was not only feeling the shame thrown on him by our parents but also the shame from other brothers. His resentment, his anger, made me an easy target for his rage. Yet it was never because of our parents. The fingers pointed at each other but never them.

As the years have gone by, the patterns of our childhood still haven’t changed. All of us are either retired or nearing retirement. So time isn’t so precious that we can’t learn new things. Awhile back, I found an article about our home town that talked about the soldiers who died in the Vietnam War. I followed the link and watched a video on one of the young men who died from our town. I sent a link to a brother and told him the story. The next day he e-mailed me back saying he found two other stories about soldiers from our community. I asked him for a link and his response was to look it up – it’s right there.

That really hit me wrong. I am one who does still work. Hard work, exhausting work. I spent the time to make it easy for him but he couldn’t return a simple favour like that. The frustrating part is that if he knew how I felt about it, he’d shake his head, laugh and tell me to grow up. My feelings would have been thrown away like they have in that family since childhood.

Recently, it happened again and it is the reason for this ramble. With everyone in some sort of coronavirus lockdown, we all have more than enough time on our hands to learn something new. I was contacted about an article I wrote about seven years ago for a chance at appearing in a Chicken Soup For The Soul book. He asked if I could send it to him because he’s not that good on computers. Hey, I’m not your secretary. You’re not that good on computers? What a perfect time to learn! Anyway, if he can’t find the time to do it himself, why should I do it for him?

I know some would say it is trivial. But if you grew up in this environment and nothing has changed in over 60 years, why should I keep changing colors to please any of them? With that said, a couple of years ago my oldest brother passed away.

The last time we chatted was before Christmas in a series of e-mails. The context of those exchanges began to hit a nerve, so I never opened his last one. After his death, I opened it and in it he said that for what it is worth I did have a childhood filled with terror. A childhood that none of them could ever fully understand.

I waited my whole life to hear those words from any one of my brothers. I just wanted an acknowledgement that my childhood was hell. That the parents that raised my brothers were not the parents who raised me. Physically, yes they were. Spiritually, emotionally, mentally, they were not. Sadly, I didn’t open that one at that time. Kind of the story of my life growing up in that family – we will take things to our grave.

Not Scared Of Hell

On drunken nights my mouth brought my dad satisfaction, other nights my bed would be his urinal.   I’d lay there perfectly still pretending to be asleep waiting for it to end. In the mornings, I’d awake to the slaps of my mom for being a baby and wetting the bed.  But I kept the secret.

I kept the secret of my father sleeping with me entirely nude. I’d awaken to his snores and crawl out and sleep under it.  That way, if he woke up looking for me, I could come up with the excuse that I must have fell out of bed. But he wasn’t the only one who slept with me.  Mom did too. Though she was never entirely nude. She’d have a top on and that was it.

By the time I was 10 years old, I grew cold to the touch – any touch.  I remember one drunken night where my dad tried hanging himself.  I just laid in bed praying he would die. Another night, I woke up to the screams of my mom as she was being chased around the kitchen with a butcher knife.

I share this with you because I do have the experience of growing up in a very violent and dysfunctional home.  Through years of living life the 12 Step way I’ve come to a point of acceptance and forgiveness though I will never forget. 

By the time I was 16 years old I found out the way to stay numb and not feel anything was alcohol. That worked for 5-6 years but then I needed more and more booze to numb the pain, so drugs entered the scene – LSD, Meth, Coke, Pot, PCP, and even one time Heroin.  That worked for awhile.  When that finally quit working I tried suicide.

After that event I realized that I was rapidly becoming my dad. A violent drunk who abused anyone who stood in my way. That realization brought me to the point where I knew I needed to get clean and sober. By the Grace of God, I celebrated 25 years sober in 2019.

The start of my journey wasn’t the easiest. I, too, had to get to a point of reconciliation. It started with AA. Though at first I was quite cold to the idea of a Higher Power. I was raised in a very religious family and the God I grew up with was one I wanted nothing to do with.  He wasn’t there to protect me as a child.  Even when I called cops or talked to clergy no one helped.

Then I was told the only way to salvation was forgiveness and yes honouring my parents. Bullshit! Then one night at an AA meeting a gentleman was speaking (he later became my sponsor) said that Religion was for people scared of going to hell, while spirituality was for people who’ve been in hell.  That lit me up! I wasn’t scared of hell I was born and raised in hell.  No matter what anyone said to me about a peaceful and serene eternity didn’t matter.  I just wanted a little peace and serenity in this lifetime. 

So that day I quit worshipping a God of the church. I found a Higher Power of my understanding and began the work of healing and the rebirth of my soul. As both of my parents were deceased I couldn’t confront them with what I endured, so I took a suggestion of a counselor I was seeing – she too was an ACOA.

She told me to write individual letters to my parents and share my pain with them.  I worked on those letters for about a week. Then she told me to find someone I trusted who would just listen to me read it.  Then after I read it to burn those letters.

I’ve got to say it was one of the most powerful spiritual moments that I’ve experienced in sobriety.  By the time I was done reading that letter, I was shaking like a leaf and teary eyed.  By the time that letter was ashes, my hands were covering my face as I balled like a baby. That letter was to my father. 

The one to my mother wasn’t as intense and left me feeling a lot of pity for her. By the time I was done with both of these assignments I had reached a point of forgiveness. No, I’ll never forget – I owe myself that – but no longer do they control my life.

I’ve even come to a point where I understand that they weren’t really bad people. When they were sober they were in fact pretty good parents.  They had a bad disease – alcoholism. 

To this day, I still don’t have anything to do with the church.  Someday who knows, but right now, I still just want peace and serenity for today.  Tomorrow will take care of itself. And I believe my HP respects that.

That’s my experience.  One thing I’d like to share though is my relationship with counselors. Everyone I’ve ever been too, right off the bat, I ask them if they are either an alcoholic or a child of an alcoholic. I will not see a counselor who learned everything through a book. I want someone who has survived the war.

In The Moment

The Universal Law of Here and Now states that our tendency to cling to the past and grasp for the future is just an erroneous preoccupation with the idea of linear time. To live life to the fullest we need to focus on moment to moment events.

Yesterday my former wife, Betty, passed away after a 20 year battle with cancer. This event has brought me some sadness and put me in a place back in time. I’ve been on both sides of the cancer battle. First , as a caretaker for Betty and then as a survivor myself from throat cancer.

I do believe that it is harder on the caretaker than the patient. The patient has a schedule and rules to follow. Granted the treatment is grueling and at times you just want to quit. If it wasn’t for medical reasons, what you have done to your body would have you seeing a psychiatrist because of inflicting pain on yourself willingly.

The caretaker though, sees what you are going through. They see your hair falling out, your appearance changes and your weight drops. They try to cheer you up. They change menus trying to find something that you can eat and more importantly keep within you. They try there best to make your life as stress-free as possible.

As a good caretaker, the patient doesn’t see or sense or own fears. They have no idea of the financial situation their family is in. The caretaker does whatever they can do to make it possible for the patient to do nothing else but focus on their treatment and recovery.

I reflect and see that I wasn’t the best caretaker, nor was I the best patient. I did want to quit treatment. It was a demanding treatment. I lost my voice, I struggled to swallow, which made it difficult to eat, and my neck was burned from radio therapy. I know how much fear I gave my wife for wanting to quit, yet as a great caretaker, she supported me. Deep down she wanted me to continue treatment but she bit her tongue and hugged me. Eventually, with some nudging from doctors and nurses and her never ending support I did complete treatment.

As a caretaker, I did my best but I do feel I let Betty down as well as her family. I struggled with the bills and keeping them current. I wasn’t a good paternal figure for my step-children. I didn’t want conflict, nor did I wish to hear of their fears. I just wanted everything to go back to normal and forget this ever happened.

The reality is that I did do a good job. Could I do more? In hindsight, for sure I could have. Yet, I did everything I could at that time. The fact is that after being diagnosed with cancer Betty lived for another 20 years. She got to see all her kids finish schooling and all of them become parents themselves. She got to be a part of her six grand-children’s lives. Through our marriage, she got to travel throughout America and met people she would have never known and witnessed things that others have never experienced.

I say this because it is easy to shame myself for things that weren’t done correctly or done at all. Yet, finding it difficult to say I did do a good job and helped her have a fulfilled life. It’s not healthy to dwell on the past. It’s OK to look back on it – just don’t stare. Spending to much time looking back does nothing but destroy the present.

Double Standards

I have had this JPEG for a couple of months and find it very meaningful. If you look past a penis, breasts, and a vagina, it is thought-provoking. It speaks of a society filled with double standards as well as personal choices. It is why I saved this photo, in fact, it is my wallpaper on my laptop.

Let’s look at The Law of Choice which says that we have free-will and choice, we are never powerless, we can change our perception of people, places, and things.

If there is perfect freedom of choice, society wouldn’t have any double standards. The picture above is a perfect illustration of a double standard. The left side has a fit young lady announcing to her to date that she is a nudist. She’s comfortable and relaxed. Her date has a big smile thinking how lucky he is to have this lady as his date. He can stare and she won’t mind, she’s comfortable in her own skin.

On the right is a young man, doing the same thing to his date – telling her that he is a nudist. He too, is comfortable and relaxed. Yet, his date looks shocked, revolted, and maybe even fearful.

Both of the nude figures are sharing their lifestyle with their dates. Trying to make a story from the illustration, I see that both couples just came back from a dinner date. The nudists got their dates a cup of coffee and told them they’d be right back. They go to their bedroom and take off their clothes. They emerge from the room with their proclamation that they are nudists, to the thrill/fear of their dates. Both look ready to return to their bedroom if asked to put something on. The reality for both of them is that it’s a lifestyle and has nothing to do with sex. Yet, their dates see it differently. The man on the left is excited by the thought of what may happen, while the woman on the right is scared of what all this means. Neither one has a look of just simple acceptance.

It is just a cartoon, yet it does show how easily our thoughts and imaginations can run wild. Now imagine if the two dressed people were swapped in the photos. So the nudist was showing themselves to someone of the same sex. My own double standard mind would say that the woman would be more accepting than the man. In fact, the naked man might end up with a black eye.

It is because of choice that we can understand or we can judge. It is because of choice that we can be accepting or we can be disgusted. In my life my own choices have covered the whole spectrum, from understanding and accepting, to total disgust and judgement.

My own personal experiences in life has taught me that there is more than just black and white. There is a large grey area. A nude person doesn’t mean they want to have sex. The same can be said that a chubby person is not necessarily lazy. Just because a person didn’t finish school doesn’t make them dumb. Just as a nude woman isn’t a prostitute, nor a naked man a paedophile.

No matter what you believe or how you may judge the people in this illustration, I do believe it is wrong for the nudists to just shock their dates like that. The subject could have been handled while they were out and about, where everyone was dressed and content with how things were going. Then when they were in a more private place there wouldn’t be any surprises. The nudist would have known in advance what their guest thought and their guest would have known what to expect.

It was through the choices made earlier in the evening that led to the reactions later on. I believe that my Higher Power gave me one and only one gift in this life of mine. That is the freedom of choice. My whole life has been made up of choices – both healthy choices and unhealthy ones. No choice was good or bad – just healthy and unhealthy.

The healthy ones taught me how to succeed and accept the beauty in myself and others. While the unhealthy ones gave me the experience to improve, repent, and try again. Now when you look at that picture again do you see more than just a couple of naked people?

Thriving in Coronavirus

One of the things that prepared me for a lockdown in a coronavirus world was growing up in a home with two alcoholics. I grew up to constant yelling of one parent belittling the other. The other parent screaming from the pain of being punched in the eye. It was an insane way to grow up. The other sad part about it all was that was the baby of the family and could not turn to three older brothers for comfort and support.

What I had was a world of fantasy. A world of sports, where I was the hero, the owner of teams, and the commissioner. When I was a pre-adolescent child, I would play tackle football in our backyard all by myself. I created a scoreboard for basketball games which I also played by myself.

As I became a teenager the beatings my dad put on my mom became more intense. They went from her being a punching bag to being chased around the kitchen with a butcher knife. During her drunken episodes she’d find new places to hide and sleep it off, hoping to avoid the evil which would be returning home from work in a matter of hours. I got to the point that I didn’t care. In fact, I began to wish that she would just die, it would become a sure way for the insanity to stop.

At that time, pure peace was found when it was quiet. This comfort of peace stayed with me after my mom died and I was home alone. Sadly, this peace disappeared when I found alcohol. But before that, I could spend hours on the couch, with a Sports Illustrated Football Game on the coffee table in front of me. The teams were the Steelers, Cowboys, Dolphins, and seven others. They were the best teams from the late 70s.

The game had individualized stats for every team, so it was quite realistic. I would set up a nine game season. Each team would play each other once. Next to the game board, I had a notebook and a pencil and I kept the stats for every game. The season would last a couple of months, usually playing one game a day. By the way, a game lasted a little over an hour, so it did occupy my time.

I started doing this when I was 16 and kept it up into my early 20’s. I had two brothers who shamed me for wasting my time playing a kids game. It didn’t matter that it brought me comfort. It brought me peace from a childhood that showed me pure evil. It taught me that there was nothing wrong with staying home, by myself, because I was happy and far from feeling lonely.

I enjoyed that time and honestly, I forgot all about it until this new insanity in my life. Coronavirus. Covid 19. Whatever you want to call it, the premise is that for society to beat it, we need to stay home and stay away from crowds. No longer can a person go window shopping because they are lonely.

I’ve been at home for over a month and have read articles about the increase in spouse abuse. I believe it has happened because some people have never learned how to find peace and comfort within themselves.

My wife is similar to me, in that we are quite comfortable with the company of ourselves. We can sit in a room together all day and not really say anything to each other, yet we are at peace. There isn’t any underlying tension – just peace and comfort. I don’t expect her to keep me entertained, nor do I feel obligated to keep her entertained. Though, there are times I wish she would take notice, like right after I shower. Woooo, incoming shoe! Of course, I’m joking! I could go down a whole new path with this paragraph but I’ll save that for another day.

What I have learned through all this is that everything that happens in life is perfect. It may not make much sense at the time but it’s all perfect. It was the insanity of having alcoholic parents that programmed me into becoming an introvert. An introvert who found comfort with board games.

Over time the board games left. Also the peace and comfort left and wouldn’t return until I surrendered to alcoholism. That surrender led me to a Higher Power where I found that being myself and enjoying the quiet was a good way to live. I found a new spiritual way of life.

My old AA sponsor once told me that religion is for people scared of going to hell, while spirituality is for people who’ve been in hell. I know what hell is. I lived in hell. Spirituality has taught me that being home and being quiet was learned from the horrors and nightmares of my childhood.

We’re back

That’s right, my writings on the 12 Steps and 12 Promises of various recovery programs are back on an easy to find site. I left the internet world close to a year ago because of frustration with my previous web service. Basically it came down to the fact that I had no service. Over the course of two months my business e-mail disappeared and after four attempts to contact customer services with absolutely no response I gave up. The straw that broke my back was biting the bullet and by-passing e-mail correspondence and trying to contact them by phone. After 20 minutes, someone finally answered, which was a total waste of time. They couldn’t speak English, not even broken English. And I couldn’t speak Chinese or whatever language he was speaking.

I moved all my writings off that site and placed them all on blogspot. It’s a nice place for them but with no way for anyone to find those written words, my simple way of helping others was gone. The idea of recovery is to help others, in short, you’ll lose it if you keep it.

Anyway, this is a new site with different ways of uploading and publishing. So for now, it will be very simple, as far as templates, photos, or videos. It took me quite awhile to feel comfortable with my previous site, so I have no expectations on how fast I can make this site as lively.

One thing for sure, this site will be kept simple. Time to get back to what made me known – recovery and cancer. These two topics affect many people and it is time to go back and bring comfort to them. For venturing into other topics and falling away from a loyal audience, I do apologize and I hope that I can rebuild your trust in me and give me another chance.

As the site goes live, I do ask for some patience as pages begin to come to life. In the end it will be worth it. I’m excited by our future together, learning and helping each other along the way…

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