Stringing Sentences Together When You Don’t Know What Else To Do

I’ve tried to write this multiple times. In fact, I’ve written the phrase “I’ve tried to write this multiple times” multiple times. I’ve created lists of what I’ve wanted to say and tried small chunks. This is the first paragraph you’re reading but it’s probably the 30th paragraph I’ve written.

I don’t get writer’s block, and this doesn’t feel like writer’s block. It’s not apathy. It’s not melancholy.

I’ve gone back to the TV news and most print/online news blackout I put myself in immediately after recovery began. I don’t find myself getting overwhelmed, nor do I want to share all of my opinions like I once did on every subject.

Objectively, I understand that people get through things by talking about them, and the kind of people who feel the need to become pundits, columnists or online forum commentators use their opinion as a shield to get through things. I was that person. Still am, but to a much lesser degree. Unlike them, I realize now sharing my opinion has never been about changing your opinion…it’s about processing my own thoughts and looking for a feeling of control over a situation.

I once had 4,000 Facebook “friends.” I wrote the editorial for a newspaper that reached almost 20,000 people. I was regularly quoted and on television for things I did in my community reaching who knows how many. Now? Since I stopped posting every day on the blog part of my website, hits are way down. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of only 200 people who will read this in 2020…or even fewer in future years. That’s OK. I’m not writing it for you. I’m writing it for me. Most people who share their opinion don’t recognize it.

I would bet less than 1 in 1000 people will have their opinion of Donald Trump altered to the point it changes their vote in November over how he’s handled the COVID-19 crisis. It’s only going to strengthen what people already think. I’ve heard people carefully defend and brazenly attack that think line between being prepared and hoarding – and it has nothing to do with their politics. And of course, this has helped everybody recognize what’s really important… as long as it was already really important to them (and hopefully this is a wakeup call that it should be important to you and it turns out, I was right all along).

I guess what I’m noticing more than anything else is that I’m at a stage of irritability with people where normal isolation usually works. What happens when the extroverts are forced to become introverts? The introverts really have to go to their secret happy place.

My problem in trying to write this has been that I can’t tie everything together in a nice bow and give a great line of summation. As a journalist, I always prided myself on the endings of my stories. I thought they were more important than the beginning. Sure, 100% of your readers start the story and only 30% ever reach the end, but I think you have a duty to leave that 30% with a feeling of satisfaction and my ability to bring it all together and end on some kind of takeaway was honed over years of writing thousands of articles.

Just not today.

Turn Off the TV Before Taking Your Nap

I learned something new today. Don’t take an extended afternoon nap with CNN on during the largest deadly global crisis most of us will experience in our lifetime.

I’m not going to bore everyone with my unorthodox sleep patterns over the last 30 years, but when you couple a guy with bipolar disorder that has almost always run to the manic side of things, meaning I only have needed 4-5 hours a night for most of my life (2 hours is fine during the over-the-top manic times, but those almost never happen anymore) and a guy who has either owned his own businesses, been in charge at those he didn’t own, or work as a freelancer/ghostwriter for the last 20 years and you’ve got a guy who does not really adhere to any hard-and-fast sleeping schedule. Most days now, it’s 1:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. and a 2-hour nap in the late morning.

I mention this because I rarely am not in REM sleep when I am sleeping, but my REM is very light. I am the most lucid dreamer I’ve ever met, to the point I’ve actually taken part in two sleep studies over the years because experts have wondered if I’m full of shit when I tell them how I can control 50% of my dreams without disrupting them. I don’t decide on the place, the characters or the theme (almost all my dreams have some kind of goal or objective, even if it’s as dumb as “get home.” I can mostly control how I get home. I can’t control the fact it’s 1987 and George Michael is with me.

The point is that the stuff we’re hearing on TV now is doomsday-level stuff reserved for movies that I don’t like because they’re unrealistic. And word to the wise, now is not the time for pandemic movies like 28 Days Later or I Am Legend. As I slept and would be dreaming, the sounds of CNN kept sprinkling my dreams, turning them into pandemic disaster movies. I don’t have nightmares in the classical sense because I don’t let them get that far, but these were very disconcerting. When I woke up, I looked at the side of the screen that has the death total and the state of a horrible lack of preparedness we’re in. Today, a million people will become infected worldwide. That number will soon be just America…like probably next week at this time assuming we can do the tests. The final American death tally is expected to be between 80,000 and 200,000. We’re now at 6,000.

Rarely do we get to know when the most historic events of our lives are unfolding around us. This is THE MOST historic…and tragic…and we’re only in the very early days. I think it some ways, it may be better that the White House just tacks on 15 days to the “Get Through the Pandemic Program” every couple weeks. Nobody wants to see a “180 Days to Get Through the Pandemic Program” started. It’s too unfathomable. We keep pretending schools are going to open on May 1. They’re not. They’re done. But it’s better to just push it along a little and let us live in two-week, instead of four-month chunks. They can come on TV and pitch catchphrases like “flatten the curve” but anybody can tell you that’s a concept and something we’ll never know if we did or not.  I guess as long as we feel like we’re helping, it’s better than feeling helpless.

People watch Fox News to be told that despite the problems, Donald Trump is doing a great job and is a great man. People watch MSNBC to be told that Donald Trump is a failure as a President and as a human being. CNN is really just about the facts. I think that’s why Donald Trump dislikes it the most. Fox News and MSNBC are different sides of the same coin. They bully the other political party. And it gets great ratings. CNN is more a legit news organization, the kind I used to work for. They still exist, even if the partisan types don’t realize it, or don’t want to because it hurts their talking points.

CNN just repeatedly points out, using data and videotape, we were ill-prepared as a country and that Trump can’t claim he hasn’t said certain things because we have videotape. No president or administration would have been prepared for this, Republican or Democrat. As I wrote in an earlier entry, I don’t blame Trump for what happened as I think you’ve seen a guy who is generally optimistic, can handle his foes and has always had the resources to tackle his problems in life. He doesn’t now. That’s not his fault, but his reaction to it hasn’t been stellar. If the facts don’t fit your narrative, just call them fake has been his go-to strategy. It’s a tactic that sadly, so many Americans have bought hook, line and sinker. “I don’t like the news, so it’s not real!” We’re all human though, need to really see that in times like this, and I’ll likely write about that another day.

It’s hard to be a real leader in massive times of crisis when you’re built to be a leader in times of prosperity. Bill Clinton, another questionable human, was the right guy for the country at that time he served, just like Ronald Reagan, JFK, Truman and FDR were for their times. (And bonus points to LBJ – he did more for civil rights than anyone in history,  despite his Vietnam record, but that’s another entry). Donald Trump would have done very well during those Clinton years. But these aren’t those years, and CNN taking an objective position, unlike Fox News or MSNBC, is not good for a president like Clinton or Trump in a time the world is falling to pieces and charisma can’t save it.

Most importantly though, do not fall asleep with CNN on.

 

 

Prepare for a Post-COVID Explosion of Porn Addicts and An Idea to Keep From Going Stir Crazy

Note: I posted this on LinkedIn this morning, but I think it makes sense here, too.

The saying goes that idle hands are the devil’s plaything, and I think that’s never been more literally true. There are a lot of men and women in this world whose COVID-19 idle hands are likely turning them to online pornography. Not all will end up as addicts, but some probably will who never would have otherwise.

In a world where PornHub is offering premium access to Italian residents in a quarantine PR stunt and other sites are bracing for record-shattering traffic, I fear that porn addiction statistics are going to skyrocket during this worldwide pandemic.

In a normal scenario, I think most of us preach the opposite of social isolation to those seeking recovery from pornography addiction. Now, we’re encouraging everybody to embrace the aloneness.

I only did 12-Step groups for most of that first year of recovery, but they were crucial, as were weekly face-to-face appointments with my therapist and another weekly support group I participated in. Had they all been cancelled, and I was left alone, I don’t think I would have had the strength to abstain that first year, or maybe two.

I think about all of those men and women who have tried to kick the addiction on their own to this point. Many of them are stuck white-knuckling it through their seemingly endless days and even longer nights.

I’m worried about those who will never see the addiction coming. I’m worried about women who think porn addiction only happens to guys or older people who think it’s a younger person’s problem. I worry about people who have told themselves they use porn “recreationally” and didn’t have a problem who now are utilizing it two, three or four times more than usual. I’m worried about younger guys and gals who have never looked at online porn regularly who now find themselves discovering just how deep and dark the world gets and I’m worried about those who are addicted and are escalating the extreme nature of the content they are looking at because nothing else in the closed-for-business world can tweak their pleasure centers.

And the answer is… we have no perfect answers. It doesn’t matter how many letters you have after your name, whether you fancy yourself a pornography addiction expert or not, whether you’ve been an addict or not, or which spiritual building/book/deity you prefer. We’ve never seen a global health crisis in the age of the Internet, nor in a world where porn is so pervasive.

A few days ago, I put out a message on LinkedIn letting people know if they wanted a non Covid-19 person their podcast, I could talk porn addiction, and I was expecting one or two reactions. I’m booked on four shows and did two over the weekend. We actually talked a lot about being stuck at home and the lure of pornography.

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I came up with one potential solution that everybody who feels like they’re on house arrest can utilize. It once helped me. Maybe it can help you in the coming days when it feels like the walls are closing in on you.

For those who don’t know, I once did six months in county jail. With few people to talk to and my safety never an issue, it only took a couple of weeks before I was going stir crazy. The key to keeping my shit together was routine, scheduling and knowing what was coming next.

I always knew the next 2-3 things I was going to do, whether they would take 15 minutes (doing a Sudoku puzzle) or 2 hours (watching another insipid superhero movie on FX or USA). I knew what I was going to do after that, and after that. It allowed me to create the illusion that I was always busy, had a full schedule and always had something else to do.

My activities were reading the newspaper, writing letters, cleaning the pod, reading books, doing Sudoku, doing crossword puzzles, talking on the phone, exercising, showering, writing books, napping, reading the newspaper, playing cards, talking to people and watching TV. I’m sure there were other things I did and don’t remember, but I always had a basic structure for my day, even if the specific tasks weren’t always the same. Sticking to a schedule and having a plan for my day allowed me to have some of the normalcy of my busy life in the outside world and I think maintaining that structure allowed me to reintegrate much easier than I expected.

If you’re an addict, partner of an addict or help addicts and need to talk, I’m here, by email, telephone or video call. If you’re looking for something to read, I’ve got a ton of blog entries on this website and my books are on Amazon. If you’re looking for resources, this site can help, or I can help you find what you need as well. And if you need a podcast guest, my headphones are always ready.

I have no magical answers. Nobody does. But when you think about, we don’t even in the best times either. We just pretend we don’t need each other as much, so maybe that’s a lesson we can take from this weird era in history we’re living through. We need each other so much more than we admit or recognize.

I Totally Forgot My Anniversary of Sobriety…Maybe That’s a Good Thing

I’m writing this the evening of March 22, 2016. March 20, which is the anniversary of the last time I used pornography (six years and two days ago) and I didn’t realize it. In past years, it’s something I’ve seen coming and celebrate. I know we’ve got a worldwide plague going on, but I don’t know how much that really distracted me this year.

The truth is, I don’t feel any more special than I did on years 4 or 5. I expect to feel the same on year 7, with 100% assumption I’ll get there. Sure, I’m proud of myself, but it’s my new normal. It’s not even my new normal. it’s just my normal. I don’t know if my normal state of being is what is to be praised or if failing my normal state of being is now the bigger story, should it ever happen. I don’t think about the fact on April 1, it will be 6 years since I’ve had a drink because I just don’t drink anymore, much like I don’t about how on April 15 it’ll be 28 years since I got my driver’s license. I’ll only think about how long I’ve been driving when I crash the car.

I think the celebration of milestones is a little piece of what drove me from the 12-step groups. You get chips/coins for certain amounts of days, months or years that you’re sober, like little trophies. Since a pathological need for trophies was part of my sick former life, and I operate better without them now, highlighting moments that I feel should be part of the process seems wrong in my situation. If you feel better about a coin that says you didn’t use in a certain amount of time, please, take one. I just don’t want it.

I have two coins that mean something to me and I got each upon graduating from my two inpatient rehabs, respectively. I see them about once a year when I clean out my desk drawer.

I guess by mentioning the milestone of two days ago, it does still mean something to me, but more than that, I want anybody reading who is short of six years or has absolutely no time behind them to realize that you can get here. If I, who was a porn addict, alcoholic, horrible husband, father and son, self-centered narcissist and egotist who thought you were only put on this earth to serve my needs can change 180 degrees, so can you.

Early recovery is a bitch, but it does get easier. Yes, your life will change. Yes, many of the people around you will change. But those are good, necessary things. I’ve still not met a truly recovered person who is not far happier than when they were using. After a while, you even stop romanticizing the “good times” and see them as what they were, the “sick times.”

We’re in a weird time right now, and I worry about former addicts falling back into old roles and those in early recovery tossing in the towel. If there was any time to say, “screw it” one could make the argument it’s now, but those of us deep into recovery can testify there is no time to say “screw it” ever. Especially if you’re a sex addict. Heh heh heh. We have nothing if we don’t have laughter.

So yeah, six years. Yay me. Go wash your hands.

I Was Wrong About the Severity of This Crisis, And It’s OK to Admit That

Time and perspective are funny things. I see these yahoo 22-year-olds on the beach in Florida, screaming “Coronavirus come and get me! Nothing’s gonna stop my partying!” while ironically holding a Corona beer in their hand on TV. I have to admit, at 22, I probably would have been that yahoo.

As somebody who was a journalist, I know that the story is usually never as good or as bad as the “civilians” (as we called them) think it’s going to turn out. When the newsroom scanner sounds an alert and I’d hear a dispatcher say, “Engines 1, 4, 7 and 10 and Ladders 2 and 4 to…” and I’d grab the portable scanner and head to my car, I still knew that 19 out of 20 times, just as I started to drive away, the dispatcher would come back on the scanner and say something like, “Cancel all except Engine 4. It was a toaster fire and the tenant put it out. All except Engine 4, stand down.”

I’d still rush when they first said something, because 1 out of 20 times, it would turn into a massive fire, but even on the toaster fires, you’d see people who listen to their scanner at home show up at the scene. They chased scanner traffic the way I did, but they were doing it for fun, not work.

I think some people live for doom, but as a kid, I remember seeing a documentary about the 1972 Munich Olympics where a bunch of Israeli athletes were kidnapped, held hostage and killed. Sports commentator Jim McKay was cast into hard news reporter duty and after the athletes were killed he said, “When I was a kid my father used to say ‘Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.'” I thought that was poetry and have lived my life by it. For every 9/11, Oklahoma City Bombing or Bay Area Earthquake, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of stories that never live up to their billing.

COVID-19 still may not live up to its billing, but it’s looking more and more like it will and even if there are not the casualties that are expected, we’re still looking at an economy that has been kicked in the gut and a springtime full of rituals that will never be, like baseball season and college graduations. Life is forever changed, no matter the body count.

But, on March 6, which seems like it was 38 years ago, I wrote this blog entry. While I think it still makes sense in the context it was written and when it was written, I have no problem admitting I was ultimately wrong. My take on things was incorrect and I was hoping and being optimistic that statistically, things would fall the way they usually do.

I wish our President would just say that once. I neither hate, nor love Donald Trump. As I’ve phased my following of politics way down over the last six years, I’m aware of what both liberals and conservatives say about him, but I don’t know who is exactly right because I don’t do the research and have diverted my former passion for politics toward things I can actually have an effect on in my daily life. The best I can tell, nobody cares about Trump, they care about what they think her represents, so his shortcomings are overlooked, or overblown, depending on who is speaking.

But I am watching the virus coverage on TV. The reality is, he is on videotape saying a lot of things similar to what I was saying two or three weeks ago. I think that, like me, he’s lived a life of mostly optimism and seeing things ultimately turn out for the best. I’m sure his money hasn’t hurt him in getting his way and preferential treatment. Like me, he has an obvious streak of narcissism and control issues. I truly do not believe he was trying to lie or misdirect the public. I believe he was hoping for and expecting a different outcome. But he was wrong, and we have it on video, just like you have me in writing. Denying it now just looks bad.

One morning in December 2012, when I was a City Councilor, the weather was horrible in the morning, yet they didn’t call school off. After bringing the kids to school in absolutely nasty weather, I posted my belief the school system was wrong in having classes that day to Facebook. Forty-five minutes later, the superintendent called me. Twenty minutes after that, the newspaper called me. The story was actually picked up by other newspapers in Maine in communities who were smart enough to call off school. It was amusing that my opinion of the weather was front-page news, but it was the surreal world I created for myself back then.

I know the superintendent learned a lesson that day. You err on the side of caution. I don’t think I do that enough and I believe Donald Trump probably doesn’t do that enough in his personal life, but he’s got to do it as the leader of the free world. I just wish he could say he was wrong because everybody would move on from the issue and deal with the actual important news.

I was wrong. I hope that people didn’t make their decisions strictly based on my opinion, and I think it’s obvious I changed my tune in the last week. If the last six years of recovery have taught me anything, it’s OK, and actually healthy to admit when you are wrong. For any person who looks down on you, there are five people whose opinions of you improve because of the ability to admit your shortcomings and learn from them.