Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Claire's Ass

Day 2
Just beyond my computer screen is Claire’s ass. And even though I’m crazy about curves, there’s something fascinating about an ultra-petite Asian, especially when she’s walking around in ultra-petite white pants. Claire is one of the only two non-family, non-therapist people that Linsey tells about me. All of me, including the bastard part that makes her cry. And I’m totally OK with this, because Linsey needs it. Claire is probably our closest non-Christian friend. She’s a little younger than us, a little wilder, and she reads books like The Secret. She complains about stores in the mall that don’t carry enough size zero dresses. The first time you see her, you might be surprised that her valley-girl English contains no hint of a Chinese accent, but then you’ll hear her slip and say something like “ball-gums” instead of “gumballs.” Idioms can be difficult I guess. If you ever meet her, ask her if she’d like a ball-gum – she’ll smirk and tell you to shut up.

Claire’s smile is tempered by something in her eyes, something more painful. Not a Viktor Frankl knowledge of the brutish and the cruel, more like a child who just found out that people are unkind. She is getting married to her long-term boyfriend after years of waiting for him to propose. Along the way there’s been screamy fights and tears and temporary break-ups. Linsey listens and consoles, things get better, and then it’s Linsey’s turn to cry to Claire about my latest shenanigans. Then I straighten up and it’s Claire’s turn again. We men can be pretty damned insensitive at times, selfish and short-sighted. For example, we might sit down at our computer to write a wise and sensitive paragraph about recovery and all the unconditional love we’ve taken for granted, and instead end up fantasizing about what kind of underwear our petite Asian house guest is wearing. And we do this all the time. By default, I mean. Then you add the whole sex-addict thing and, wow.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Starting Over

Day 1 (again)
I'm starting over. Again. Don't feel like writing much but I should at least document it.

I used last night after we got home from the airport. That's the addict, always trying to squeeze one more in before I really get sober. And just for clarity, "using" for me usually means a combination of porn and drugs. The drugs are over-the-counter and prescriptions, both used in "recreational" quantities (as opposed to prescribed quantities.) I've never really been involved with "street" drugs, thank God. From what I've seen, getting off of meth is wicked hard. On the other hand, when I got hauled to the ER in an ambulance several years ago, my blood tested positive for heroin, and all I'd done was abuse a medicine that anyone can buy at Wal-Greens.

This seems like a good time to reprint my "Goodbye Letter" to my addictions. It was required writing in a two-week rehab at my HMO. I've been through it twice.

Dear Drugs & Alcohol,

I read in my 12 & 12 last night that even when things are good, we as alcoholics still drink to reach for even greater dreams. [p71] The word “dream” caught my eye. Everything you gave me was a dream. I felt sorry for myself because my marriage was awful and I turned to you for help. At first you just numbed me, covering up the anger, the arousal, and the adrenaline, allowing me to go to sleep. That’s all I ever intended, but you seduced me further. I look back now and see that you were part of a lie that told me I could fill in the void. Alcohol, you took away my inhibitions, and stopped me from feeling guilty. You made me feel OK when I covered over my loneliness by turning to other women for affection and porn for sex. Drugs, then you made it all seem real by filling my head with hallucinations and giving me the feeling of being connected, of being cared for. And of course it was all a dream. This dream was so convincing that I chased you for years. When I looked at what I was doing because of you I was disgusted, and I hated that loser. Now I’m learning to hate you, because you chained me there, stoned in front of the computer screen, slowly destroying my marriage and my life.

Here’s what I have to say to you: I don’t need you anymore. I don’t want you anymore. You’re not welcome in my life. Stay the fuck away from me. Your dream is my nightmare and I’ve decided to wake up to real life. The first thing you should know is that I’m learning to love myself, and I don’t need a woman to make me complete. I don’t care if the world takes my wife away, I’ll never turn to you again. You can forget the other tricks you used too: telling me I’m not good enough for my job, my kids, whatever. I don’t believe it anymore. Having said that, I hope it pisses you off that when I chose to leave you behind, I was able to begin learning how to be a husband, and my marriage is coming back. I’ve felt the worst things you’ve had to throw at me in the last months, and I’m still here. There is so much left that I have to do, and so much more that I am capable of. I have a great life ahead of me, full of new experiences and people who love me just the way I am. And you won’t be a part of it.

God let it be true this time.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Day 1
Linsey has a wicked scar on her left knee from a purportedly tragic escalator accident in her youth. You'd think her little blood-filled story, along with the remaining physical evidence, would be enough to inspire my children to politely step forward when they reach the bottom of an escalator, avoiding the otherwise awkward pile-up of strangers. It isn't. They don't.

I also try to keep them from walking up the "down" escalator, which apparently is enough fun to outweigh any threatened punishment. I do appreciate the opportunity for allegory, and when we've apologized (or avoided) the "down" escalator people who’ve uncomfortably squeezed their shopping bags past my totally oblivious offspring, I grab the opportunity and share this bit: Recovery is like walking up the down escalator. You can never stop. You might get ahead once in a while, buying yourself some time, but the AA Big Book is right in warning us to never “rest on our laurels,” instead recognizing that what we have is a "daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition." [p85] This is the terrifying thing to me. I cannot do anything today to guarantee that I won't fuck everything up tomorrow. I can only take today's steps up the escalator, and have faith that tomorrow I will do the same.

Roller Coasters

Day 1
OK. Sobered up. Kind of turned on and energized by this idea, of writing my life. Also kind of forcing myself not to edit the intoxicated ramblings of my first post, because that wouldn’t really be fair.

We’re on vacation: Vegas part 2. Part 1 was the G-rated version with the kids. Well, as G as you can get in Vegas anyway. Now it’s just the two of us, doing more R-rated things. I’m trying to remember why I thought it would be a good idea to bring a sex & drug addict into this environment. Or my kids, for that matter. Back to part 1:

There was really only one time that we officially split up during the week. I took Ashley to ride the New York-New York roller coaster and James went with Linsey to the pool. I try mightily to teach my daughter how to handle disappointment, something I never really learned to do. So each time her excitement bubbled up during the week, I reminded her that it wasn't a sure thing. As we neared the end of the week, I watched her bounce and fidget when she asked "So daddy, if it isn't too expensive, and I'm tall enough, and mommy will take the J-man somewhere else, and it's still open, and we have enough time, and if I've been good, we'll ride the roller coaster tomorrow?!!!!?!?" And my heart broke, because excitement tempered by this much caution doesn't really leave much room for joy, does it? At nine years old she's already learned not to let her hopes get up too high.

So we shared the delicious roller coaster anticipation of ratcheting up, then flying down, loopty-looing and roaring around the curves. It was, of course, over too quickly. The moments following were just a girl and her dad, no bratty brother in sight. And I wasted it looking for porn. I darted around the casino floor, nine-year-old in tow, looking for a shop where I could secretly purchase an overpriced magazine while I sent her to the bathroom or otherwise distracted her. After answering so many "daddy where are we going" questions with "just looking around" lies, I led her back up to the arcade which conveniently preceded the roller coaster's entrance. I told her she could only play two games, and after she pod-raced against Sebulba, we paced around the room for fifteen minutes deciding where to spend that second quarter.

And as I watched her carefully weigh the merits of the rip-off carnival games against the rip-off video games, I tried to get a handle on the familiar heart-breaking feeling welling up inside me. It didn't make sense – I had given her a boundary and provided an age-appropriate morsel of freedom, and she was merely consuming it. But like my mother before me, everything inside me wanted to protect her from my own cruel limits when her last quarter disappeared. Into that son-of-a-bitch prize-grabbing arm machine: It suckers every kid into fishing for an illegally produced Spongebob ripoff doll.

Here's the thing: She's young enough to get excited about an arcade, but old enough to remember how quickly that little cup of tokens ends up empty. And I'm crying inside because I just don't know how to tell her that the reason I'm not pumping quarters into these devices is that they're really not any fun! Once you get past the lights and sound effects, and the daze-inducing gestalt of a room packed with such machines, they just don't deliver. The promise is a lie. You just walk away an hour or two later, from the arcade or the mall or the casino, with your pockets empty, coated in a dirty film of consumerism and waste. Silly rabbit, you can't buy happiness! Instead, happiness sneaks up when you pause to hold your lover on a windy day between your eye appointment and a trip to the DMV. As far as the vast sea of happiness for sale out there, flashing and spinning and screaming for your attention, the truth is painful and simple. Sure it's cool and elegant that M. Scott Peck opened The Road Less Traveled with the phrase "Life is difficult." But festering in the day-to-day noise of rudeness and rushing is the unavoidable and far less gentle: "Life sucks." And anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something.

Later, as Linsey listened to my memories of that day, her words were like a soothing balm on my psychic wound. Ashley will not remember that the machine stole her money or that I was a little distracted. To her, that noisy room wasn't a depressing symbol of life's disappointments or a reminder that getting excited just makes getting hurt feel worse. She'll remember a day with her dad, and a roller coaster ride that she was tall enough to ride. She probably won't remember that we talked about her sexual abuse and self-esteem on the walk back. And I'll remember that for one afternoon, my little girl was in love with me, not her boyfriend or her husband, but her broken, guilty, make-it-up-as-you-go father, who was discovering at that very moment where true happiness is found.

Still High

Hey! It's me. Thanks for reading the first couple lines of my blog. I'll get right to the point.

I'm still high.

So this might not be my best writing. But I had an idea just now that requires me to introduce myself NOW (not later) and I want to run with it. My name's Eli, and I'm a drug addict. Well, kind of. The original "I'm Eli and I'm an alcoholic" kind of snow-balled on me; I think the latest is "I'm Eli, I'm a follower of Jesus Christ, and I struggle with drugs, alcohol, and sexual addiction." Anyways, please don't leave. Don't close this window. I need you. You are going to help me stay sober.

I'm trying to type as quietly as I can, which is a little hard because my left hand is still shaking. I don't want Linsey (the wife) to wake up completely, because then I might get caught. She might notice that my words come in short bursts, and I have trouble with some of the consonants. Or maybe the dry-mouth will give me away. Or the strange marionette-like way that I walk when I've "used." More on that later. For now, the main thing I want to share with you is the bizarre mixture of elation and dread that I feel. I want to invite you into my life. I'm gonna spill it all. For real.