23 January 2019

Haunted Houses

Within the past year I have watch two horror shows about haunted houses. One was, The Haunting Of Hill House and the other was The House On Haunted Hill. Part of the idea behind both films is that the houses were alive. The Haunting had some good “lives” in it, that made a tree house for a little boy. It created little sanctuaries for a girl to have tea parties. Yet, the house also had evil lives.

That little boy with the tree house? He also had a faceless man, who floated three feet above the ground, with a cane, who followed him everywhere. The symbolism of this little boy’s story was quite powerful. In adult life, this boy became an alcoholic/addict. That ghost who followed him? Was his addictions… his crutch (cane) on life.

The little girl who had little tea parties (with a dead little girl’s ghost), briefly died because of poison in her tea. Years later as an adult she described what she saw in the afterlife. Nothing. A grayish black space in time, where she couldn’t see anything or feel anything. Nothing was alive.

This story of her death hit home with me. It reminded me of my suicide attempt and was an exact description of what I saw and felt. Except with one added element. My parents. As I tried to see in that grayish black void, I could barely see my mom’s hands pushing me away. She was sobbing and saying, “Noooooooo… not now.” In the background was my dad, yelling in my mom’s ear and pointing at me. “I told you he was worthless… this is your fault.”

It was from this attempt that suicide never entered my mind again. That suicide attempt took place in the little town of Tamora, Nebraska. The house I lived in was pure evil. Like my childhood house, the man of the house was evil. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, sexually, you name it… there was evil.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming that house for my actions. Or the actions of my parents on my childhood home. I am saying that when a house experiences evil, it never leaves. The evil lives in those walls for all eternity.

I saw my mom bleeding from wounds inflicted by my father. That was over 50 years ago, but the memory is still there. And somewhere in that house is a drop of blood that was never found. Somewhere on a heating pipe in the basement is some of my mom’s skin from a burn on her leg.

Did the next owners of that home experience the evil that lurked within? I don’t know, even if it has been a perfectly peaceful residence, those walls will always have a touch of evil within them.

What is important for a person who has lived in an evil house is not to forget it. You can forgive the evil, but you shouldn’t forget it. I tried to forget it and it didn’t work. I became an alcoholic and just as abusive as my father.

By letting go of the secrets, the power of the past is defeated and evil dies. My evil died when I quit drinking. And then the shame of my actions began to lessen when I realized that the evil I did when I drank was not present in my sober life.

The evil I did will live forever in the walls of the homes I lived in. Those homes, like my own, are deep in our minds, no longer buried, no longer hiding. They are right next to me. They remind me how easy evil can come alive when I drink. And those memories have kept me sober for over a quarter of a century.

20 November 2018

What Is Truth?

The 10th promise of Debtors Anonymous says that we will no longer fear the truth; we will move from hiding in denial to living in reality.





What Is Truth?

Truth? The truth is I’m OK
My tummy is full
The heat is on and a hot bath awaits
But what if things aren’t as they appear?
Blasphemy! I’m OK

What if the mail hasn’t been open in months?
What if the credit cards are maxed?
What if I’m broke the day I’m paid?
What if the tummy, the heat, the bath is a lie?
What if I’m not OK?

So much fear to look at reality
Rather live in denial
It’s a truth I can live with
No need to bury my head
The illusion keeps me content

Over time denial is harder to obtain
Reality won’t let go
It won’t let me sleep
The phone is ringing
Collectors at the door

With a deep breath and full of fear
Step foot into a future based on reality
A reality that says I’m not OK
I’m broke and scared
And I want security

I want I real home
I want a real life
Not based on shows or illusions
Rather based on comfort and freedom
Starting with freedom from debt

10th Promise of DA

The 10th promise of Debtors Anonymous says that we will no longer fear the truth; we will move from hiding in denial to living in reality.

Like an ostrich I buried my head in the sand when it came to debt. I had an addiction with money. If I didn’t have the cash then I used credit cards or wrote checks. I believed that if I had a blank check than I had money. It didn’t matter how much (or how little) money I had in the bank, if I had a blank check then I had a bottomless pit of money.

It got to a point that I never had cash because with every payday I had to deposit all the money into my account just to cover checks that were written. I got to the point that I was broke as soon as I got paid.

Being broke leads to many creative ways to make money. The easy way is to have garage sales or pawn your possessions, which helps for awhile. Then what? That is where the creativity came into play. I knew some people who did handyman work for cash. Others who did car repairs. Everything was done for cash. And I even knew others who gave sexual favours for money. I won’t say that I did all of these things, but I did most and considered other opportunities. The fact of the matter is when you’re broke you’ll do anything to get a little money.

My own ingenuity led me to the idea of a personal ponzy scheme. I had one bank account that had no money in it, with loads of bad checks written on it, so what was the solution? To open a new account at another bank! In my own insanity this idea was perfectly logical. With this new account I could have some cash, keep some in the bank and pay some to the other bank to eventually pay off all the bounced checks. It worked for a very little short time then I started bouncing checks on the new account. So I would run up the amount as high as I could then go back to my original bank.

This worked for six months or so. I never really had any money. I just used the banks money to live a lifestyle that was destructive and insane. Until my paycheck couldn’t cover the amount owed to both banks. It was there that reality set in.

I knew I was broke but I had no idea how broke. I knew I had bad checks but I had no idea of the amount owed. I knew I owed on a half dozen credit cards but I had no idea of the amount owed. It was a very fearful day when I sat down with a pen and paper and began writing everything down. I started with the accounts I could get on-line, then I started opening letters. Letters that hadn’t been opened in months. A stack at least a foot tall.

Every time I picked up a letter, I wanted to drop it and run away. I didn’t want to know the amount I owed because I didn’t have the money to pay anyone. When I was done and figured out the amount, I was shocked. Pleasantly shocked! Yes, I owed a lot of money but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. If I changed my lifestyle and actually worked on this, I could get out of debt. There was no doubt in my mind that I could do this.

Fear and denial kept me a prisoner for so long. Not only was I financially broke but I was spiritually broke as well. The reality was that I wasn’t a bad person. I made bad choices but I wasn’t a bad person. The reality was that I could and would get out of debt… one baby step at a time. I needed to remember I didn’t get into debt overnight and I wouldn’t get out of debt overnight.

28 October 2018

Too Many Enemies

Their are people who treat me like my last drink was yesterday.  These people expect me to beg for forgiveness for the rest of my life.  I don't mean to sound cold, but I asked many years ago and it wasn't accepted.  I acknowledged their pain - the pain that I inflicted - what else is expected of me?
I've never expected anyone to forget my past.  There was a lot of damage and a lot of hurt.  But the worst thing for an alcoholic is to dwell on the past.  I never want to forget it - I don't want history to repeat itself - but I can't live in the past either.  I've tried my best to move on, but some will always see me as just a sick drunk.
 


Too many enemies

time goes to fast…
yet… now it moves to slow
no happy medium
and the time runs out

just waiting… waiting…
for a ray of hope
a light in the tunnel
that is still pitch black

hard to keep faith
hard to move forward
when surrounded by doubt and fear
more then just paranoia

walls continue to cave in
finding strength… gets harder
securing answers
with still more questions

is failure part of destiny
or the creation of a new hell
built on false pride and denial
a journey of pain

can not accept the easy way
martyrdom a strong badge
difficult to cut free
but… why

27 September 2018

A Score And A Little More

The 4th of September 1994 I quit drinking.  I admitted and finally accepted that I am an alcoholic.  The poem this month is a celebration of 24 years of sobriety.  This poem was written by playing around with words and thoughts from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.



 
A Score And A Little More

Lincoln once spoke of scores and years
today I speak of one score and four years ago
on this formally broken psyche
a new constitution was born
conceived in freedom and liberty
with the proposition that life without alcohol can endure

the self inflicted civil war is over
the battlefield of the mind has been laid to rest
the soul… alive and free
free from despair and self-harm
free to achieve dreams
free to realize that all things are possible

today I can not dedicate…
nor consecrate this event in time
instead I give thanks to those who came before me
I give thanks to a fellowship that accepted me
and I give thanks to a Higher Power that never left me

24 September 2018

Enjoy the process

September is upon us, which means it’s the start of football season. Football (soccer) in England started the second weekend in August, now for this American, real football starts the first day of September. And for me, that means Iowa State University will be taking the field against South Dakota State.

For so many years I sat back with a silent hope that this year it would be different. That Iowa State (the Cyclones) would be better than last year. Then by the end of the year they would be lucky to have won three games. Three wins and nine loses was a good year. Then 2017 happened. The Cyclones beat the number 3 team in the nation – Oklahoma. They followed that up with a win against the number 4 team in the nation – TCU. To say it was good year was an understatement. They won 8 games while losing 5. Those 8 wins equalled the total wins for the previous three seasons. As an Iowa State fan, to say I’m excited for this year would be an understatement.

What is impressive with Iowa State is that they don’t get the best high school athletes. The five star studs don’t want to go to a school that doesn’t have an impressive history of winning games or going to major bowls. The coaching staff have to evaluate talent that others don’t see. To put it simply, they need to find diamonds in the rough.

More impressive than the wins has been the “process” to get to this point. I put process in quotes because their coach speaks about it often. The idea is if you work the process, if you love the process, than the process will love you. What is the process? The team has another slogan they use. Win in the dark.

The idea being that when the lights are out and no one is watching is when the process starts. As players, they need to eat right, get the right amount of sleep, lift weights, run, and stay in shape. The process also means being a good student. Every phase of your life must be part of the process. It must be clean, it must be pure. When this is accomplished then playing football becomes part of the process. Then when they are out in the lights and their fans are cheering them on, they become one, not only with the process, but also with each other.

They know what they should do. They are not expected to grow from a three star player to a five star player. They are expected to be the best three star player they can be and to trust that their three star teammate is also being the best they can be.

What works for a team can also work in our personal lives. It can work with our jobs and our co-workers. Everyone has a personal responsibility to their team. Good work, good ethics, good morals, and a good trusting teammate. They accomplish that then they become one with the process. In reality, the process works with every aspect of our lives. Your workmates, your family… we all need to work together, to trust each other and to love each other, so we too, can become one with the process…

26 August 2018

UK vs USA

Having visited England for six years prior to moving here two and a half years ago, I do believe I can make an honest assessment between the two countries. Many people believe, myself included, that moving between the two countries wouldn’t be that much of a change. I was in for a rude awakening when instead of a visitor, I became a resident. At times, I just wanted to throw in the towel and head back to America with my tail between my legs.

The reason I moved here was because of a lovely British gal and no matter how much I wanted to run away, I wasn’t going to give up on our life together. So I carried on and fought a battle within myself to change what I had learned for over 50 years, to adapt to a new culture and a new way of life.

Admittedly, I still make more than my share of mistakes. Now though, I realize I am the one who needs to adapt, not for a country to adapt to me. Some things were easy to accept and quickly fall in love with. One example would be bacon. Both countries love their bacon. And as an American I can honestly say, you haven’t tasted bacon until you tasted English bacon. Another example with food products is Mountain Dew. The American version of this drink can not be purchased in England. The reason being that one of the preservatives used in it is considered a poison in the UK. To put it simply, all of Europe is a lot stricter with food products than America.

Adapting to food has been one of the more comfortable changes I have had to make. One of the more difficult changes has been employment. From zero hour contracts to contracts in general, work in the UK is more frustrating and in a somewhat bad way, more employee friendly. As an employer, if you have a “bad” employee, it can take forever to fire (sack) him. These employee’s can show up late, leave early and still have a secure job.

The younger generation will work but very few go above and beyond to improve their lives. They know how much to work and when to quit. If they work to much, they can hurt whatever benefits they get from the government. In America, if you work, you may get help with food, in the UK, you can get help with your housing and sometimes travel expenses as well. Some have kids and want to work even less, so they get help with their housing. As and immigrant I am not entitled to any government benefits. Imagine that America. No benefits for immigrants! For me, it is for the first five years that I live here. I consider it one of the smarter things England has done.

Even though, I’m not entitled to any benefits, I am able to receive healthcare. When I moved here I paid a surcharge to have the ability to use the National Health Service (NHS). Now as a working member of the British society I contribute through my taxes to use the NHS as well as help others to have the ability to use it.

This is one expense I have no problem with. I remember back in the 80s when America was giving free breast screenings for woman to look for cancer. Yes, the tests were free, but if you had cancer then you needed money to treat it. Let’s face it. Only the poor people would use this free service. Then when they found out they had cancer there was nothing they could do to treat it.

The reality is that both countries have their own pros and cons. In a very simple nutshell, capitalism says you work to afford things. Mainly though, you work for one benefit – health insurance. One health issue can bankrupt a person. In 2014, I had open heart surgery. The total cost was a quarter of a million dollars. It was also the first year of Obamacare. Without insurance and without Obamacare, I would have gone bankrupt.

In 2016, my first year in England, I was diagnosed with mouth cancer. I had 30 days of radio therapy and spent over two weeks in the hospital. Two years later I see an ENT every three months for check-ups, and through it all I have never seen one bill for any of it. In fact, one expense was even eliminated. If you have cancer, for five years afterwards you get all your medical prescriptions for free.

To be going through cancer or a major health crisis and not have to worry about any bills, makes for an easier path to recovery.

Our two countries have so much in common, yet we also have so much that divides us. We should never assume and American is a Brit, nor should we assume that a Brit is and America. They are two totally unique countries, with a long history that both countries can be proud of.

There is so much difference that it would make an interesting book, from a personal perspective. … hmmm!?!