The Longer I’m in Recovery, The More I Avoid Conflict from Differing Opinions

Over the years, my wife has pointed out to me that I tend to speak of the Boston Red Sox in terms of “we” as in “We just may have made the greatest mistake in trading away Mookie Betts since we let Babe Ruth go to the Yankees.” My wife is the first to point out to me that it’s a situation of “they” not “we.” I was not consulted on the Betts trade and aside from the large tattoo on my calf and numerous articles of clothing, I don’t actually contribute anything to the Red Sox.

I laugh about this because I don’t think this is one thing I’ll ever be able to change. It doesn’t matter exact players, I feel like I have a connection to the Red Sox and understand when people feel the same way about their teams. But here’s the thing, I think even the most diehard fan understands that it’s all harmless fun. Well, maybe not some groups of European soccer fans, but for the most part, here in North America, I believe we large have our sports fanaticism in check.

If you ever get DirecTV, the remote controls stink. Just when you think it’s the batteries, it turns out you have to reboot the system because a gremlin got into it. This is how I ended up on a Fox News program this morning. If I understand it correctly, they were talking about the fact that another cable news network show had said Michael Bloomberg was as bad in his debate the other night as Donald Trump was in 2016. So simply by repeating this, and actually show stats that proved it to be true, Fox News got the ire of Donald Trump. But a different Fox talking head was appearing to defend the first talking head for having stats to back up what a talking head said on a different channel about a comparison to something that happened four years ago that in the end, had no bearing, because Trump won.

This was the moment that I got up out the chair, went to the back of the TV, and turned the damn thing off. It was also the moment that I realized something else. Over the last two years, I’ve not been to a Boston Red Sox game (about a two-hour drive from where I live) nor had I watched more than a couple of game on television.

I used to be a politics junkie. I loved the game, especially when I was covering it for various newspapers I worked for. I’ll admit that for years, I didn’t vote because I didn’t want to have to pick a side. I was trying to be impartial back when that was still the norm. Unfortunately, in a splintered information world, there’s more money to be made preaching to the choir than informing them of things they don’t want to hear.

Early in recovery, I stopped really following the news. I still see headlines and can’t avoid what’s going on entirely, especially if I tune in to see the weather report, but I work my hardest not to pick sides now because the news is really just one person’s interpretation of something that happened. Most news today isn’t even that. It’s one person’s interpretation of another person’s interpretation of something that happened. Those nighttime news commentary shows, whether it’s Sean Hannity, Don Lemon or Rachel Maddow are entertainment, not news. It’s like Access Hollywood or Entertainment Tonight for people who follow pop culture news. And, it’s also like the pre-game and post-game shows for actual Red Sox games. It’s just talk, talk, talk.

Over the last few months, I think I’ve recognized early recovery is over. I’m in a new phase. Maybe it’s intermediate recovery. The thing that is bother me most is that I find I’m getting a bit testy toward people who can’t divorce their personal opinions and beliefs as being correct facts from other people with different personal opinions and beliefs as being incorrect facts.

Guess what? There is no correct religion. There is also no incorrect religion. Not have a religion isn’t even right or wrong. The fervent believers of any religion believe that they have the correct set of answers to this and the next life. By believing that, they believe that someone just as devout who worships in a different building is wrong. In essence…they picked the wrong team.

Guess what? There is no correct political party. There is also no incorrect political party. And there’s nothing wrong with removing yourself from politics. Democrats are arguing for things Republicans argued for 40 years ago and vice versa. It’s not about the rhetoric…it’s part of making sure you’re picking the right team.

Intermediate recovery has shown me that in this life, there really are no teams. There’s just all of us, and clinging to a belief that your team is better than the other team is more a function of your own inadequacies and fears than whatever the other side is saying or doing. As humans, we have an inner need not only as individuals to be unique and special, but also to identify with others who share our beliefs about what make us unique and special.

I don’t care if you love the Yankees. It’s your belief I’m less of a person because I like the Red Sox that bothers me. I don’t care when my liberal friends say I’m too conservative or my conservative friends say I’m too liberal. If they think the political beliefs – that I mainly keep to myself at all times – make me a bad person, they’re the one with the problem. If somebody thinks that I’m in a position for eternal damnation because I don’t worship their version of God or the rules they adhere to for following him, they should really spend more time worrying about their bad habit of passing judgment on others.

Maybe intermediate recovery is very isolating. Maybe it’s about becoming a curmudgeon. Maybe it’s about cutting myself off from what other people think. Maybe it’s about recognizing I can’t control the world – and as a guy whose control issues defined him and caused the addictions – it’s better to cede all control of everything except myself.

I don’t care who you’re voting for in November. I don’t care why you like them. And most importantly, I don’t care why you don’t like the other guy.

It’s going to be a long eight months…

Pornography Cannot Become Just Another Political Issue

When I’m up with the dogs at 5:30 a.m., letting my wife sleep an extra hour because she has to head for a job outside the house and I have a leeway in catching a nap if need-be, I’ll browse headlines in the Google News feed. I rarely ever read stories unless it’s good news, but an article on pornography was featured today and I’m not sure what to think.

I stopped reading halfway through to be honest because there wasn’t a ton of substance to it. Essentially it said that there are a small handful of Republican members of Congress who have been making waves about doing “something” about pornography. It talked about how this issue was more one of the radical liberals in the 1970s and 80s, but seems to have evolved as the other side’s cause in recent years.

Most of you know my stance on the pornography industry. You can’t fight it. Much like prohibition, it would be destined to fail. And unless it involves children or animals, porn may be immoral or unhealthy, but it’s not illegal. I don’t want the government defining what is or isn’t pornography. That’s not its role. Pornographic magazines are failing not because of any government interference. They’re dying because print media as a whole is collapsing. Let the market define its needs.

I would like to see an embrace of some kind of health curriculum in schools that makes basic pornography addiction education mandatory. A middle school teacher could literally spend only 30 minutes on it in one class per semester and I believe it could change a generation. If Congress is willing to pony up the money for that, I don’t care if it’s a Republican or Democrat; it’s a bill I can get behind.

As an ex-journalist, my former life before recovery was consumed with news and like almost everybody with access to social media, I didn’t mind sharing my opinions on whatever the topic of the day was. I think that was done far more to see myself pontificate and get like-minded people to tell me how right I was vs. truly changing anyone’s mind.

In recovery, I largely limit myself to headlines and stay off all social media except LinkedIn. I suppose I have my website to expound on issues, but it’s still 97% politics-free. I do this because despite my disconnect, which has moved me even further into the middle of the political spectrum, it has certainly not been lost on me that this country is divided more than anytime I can remember.

Now, it doesn’t worry me too much. As a student of history, this is a cyclical occurrence, not an anomaly. If you think politics seems bad now, go read the Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow upon which the musical was based. That was a disgusting, divided time that makes today seem much more civil. I guess it can and may get worse, but I don’t worry about it bouncing back eventually.

Unfortunately, the issues of pornography, pornography addiction and pornography addiction education are coming along during this time of people dividing into little tribes and circling the wagons. I’ve mentioned this before, and I think most people truly in the middle agree, but there’s very little difference between the two political parties except for the small details. Both sides act completely boorish, make unintelligible statements, pander to their base and are far more about power than figuring out solutions. You’ll know if you’re one of these people if you immediately thought, “That’s not me! That’s the other side!” Sorry, buddy, it’s also you.

I’m concerned that if conservatives take up this cause right now, liberals will fight it simply because they feel they’re supposed to fight whatever conservatives want. Similarly, if the liberals were to take up porn, whatever position they took would be opposed by the conservatives not because of facts, but because that’s just the way things are done today.

I know I have people from both sides of the aisle who read my articles, and plenty of folks in the middle, too. I urge you, do not make whatever fight against pornography that may be on the horizon a political one. I know that’s easier said than done, but there are some issues that should bridge the political gap.

Do not let your party affiliation dictate your stance on pornography and if you’re active in your political community (boy, I don’t miss those days) be a voice of reason. If your side is for it, reach out to the other side. They’re probably not against it – just against the idea of agreeing with you. If your side is against it, explain to your brethren why this may be an issue that needs partisan walls to come down. And let’s be honest, you don’t want to be on the side that is trying to frame the argument pornography is not a problem. There’s far too much data against that position…although facts and data just don’t mean what they once did.

This cannot turn into just another political issue. It’s too important.

 

You Don’t Have to Be An Angry, Resentful Person Just Because Everyone Else Is

I don’t think this entry needs a trigger warning in the traditional sense, but perhaps a “take offense” warning is necessary. I’m not attacking or critiquing any specific individual with this entry, although if you take offense, maybe you should stop for a second and figure out why.

One of the biggest parts of my recovery journey is the conscious attempt to be a better human being. I actively work on skills like empathy, inclusiveness and compassion. While I still certainly have a long way to go before I’m the person I’d like to become, I feel that while my life is swinging in one direction, the attitude of the population in general is swinging the other way.

It could be the 24-hour news cycle, more social media than we know what to do with or some other factor, but people seem to have no problem putting their lack of compassion and empathy on full display. Instead, those traits have been replaced with resentment and anger.

I’m not going to get into politics, religion, science, patriotism, parenting or any of the other areas that seem to set people off. I’m far less interested in the specifics of peoples’ opinions than I am in the way that many people present those opinions these days.

I think there are reasons that people become addicts, but there are only excuses why they don’t seek help, especially after learning why they have the problem. I also believe there are reasons that people turn into who they are with the belief system that they have, but only excuses why that belief system allows them to present themselves as boorish oafs.

I’ve been trying to figure out the cause of what feels like this massive pendulum swing in the attitudes of our society. I know it can’t just be the fact that I’m actively trying to become a better person. I’ve come up with a few theories:

The world is moving too fast. While older generations always make the argument their experience and wisdom trumps youth and inexperience, our older generations have seen exponentially more change than those before them. I think this is also filtering down into middle-aged generations. Technology moves at such speed that it seems like only 17-year-olds can keep up with it because the rest of us don’t have the extra time to learn. With all of the new media we have, getting glimpses into the past is easier than ever. I’m sure because of television and the Internet, I understand the culture of 1955 far more than the people of 1955 understood the culture of 1895. I believe this causes a bit of romanticism of the past, forgetting the negative and remembering only positive. The feeling you’re being left behind doesn’t feel good.

People are smarter than you. This has always been the case, but with the Internet and 500 TV channels, we’re constantly exposed to people who are more intelligent, deeper thinkers and understand things many of us could never grasp. I think we also are aware that most smart people recognize their intelligence and far too many of us make the leap that they therefore believe they are better than us when that has never been established. There is deep resentment in this world toward people who act like they are better than someone else, but we seem to be at a point where we invent the idea that others believe they are better without them doing anything to suggest it.

There’s more diversity than ever. I’m sure there have been studies done and I’ve just never had enough incentive to look them up, but I’d like to know when it comes to fear of people who are different how much is nurture and how much is nature. Somewhere, there is somebody out there who has 100% the opposite views as you when it comes to politics, culture, entertainment, etc. They are the bizzaro, anti-you. And guess what? They’re not a crazy psychopath either. It’s not just diverse ideas, it’s also basic demographics. Communities are not as homogenous as they once were. Different languages are being spoken, even in small towns and people who don’t look like previous generations now live there. This is scary to many people.

The recognition you were wrong. I think at one time or another we’ve all recognized we were incorrect about something and instead of correcting course, we doubled-down, despite being wrong. I believe this also extends to those around you who you discover were wrong. Many people directly get their beliefs from their parents and others they knew when they were young, but how many of those beliefs ever get questioned? Something isn’t OK just because mommy or daddy acted like it was. Your friends may all think one way, but that doesn’t mean it’s the correct thing. When recognition that those around you made poor decisions, it’s often hard to stand up to them and blaze your own path.

Simply because you can’t relate to someone does not make them a bad person. Moreover, simply because you can’t relate to them does not mean that you have to present an argument why they are not a good person.

A changing world does not mean it is changing for the worse. Yes, new things – including attitudes and societal norms – take adjusting, but that does not mean they are bad. Despite what people who eschew change believe, most change is designed to make the world a better, inclusive place. Yes, it takes getting used to new ideas, concepts and technology. Changing who you are does not mean you are any less or more of a person before and after that change.

I think most people today are of a mindset of looking for what makes them different than the next guy, and whatever that difference is, it becomes the weakness of the other person, ripe for attack. This is also true with thoughts. The general rules seem to be that if two people think differently, one must be wrong, and it’s always the other guy. In most cases, neither – or both – are wrong.

We live in a world full of angry, sad, resentful, non-compassionate, close-minded people. Standing behind the fact you have the God-given or governmental-given right to be that way doesn’t make it OK. Feeling emboldened by like-minded people to share your negativity doesn’t make it OK.

There is someone, probably more than just one, who is reading this feeling attacked. I’ve shared no actual specific opinions here. I’ve isolated no specific group or type of person. If you’re feeling attacked, I hope you’ll take a few minutes and figure out why.

 

Progress and Evolution Always Win, Even When it Comes to Your Addiction

I was flipping through the news/political channels on the TV this morning and a rush of thoughts came to me, and of course because of who I am, I started overanalyzing them in terms of addiction.

As you may know, I stay away from the news as much as possible these days and my political leanings are dead center. I’d be a registered Libertarian if I ever decided to vote.

Conservatives really don’t want things to change, or at least want them to change at a much slower rate than they ever do. Liberals want things to change today, right now. It occurred to me that in the end, the liberals will always win not because they are correct in their beliefs, but simply because time marches on. Given enough time, slaves are freed, women get the vote and homosexuals are allowed to get married. It’s not even that the liberals win. It’s that progress wins because progress is just time measured by milestones.

In nature, it’s a similar game called evolution. The strong survive and the weak – even if they are monster lizards who roamed the Earth for millions of years – eventually disappear. And even those who in the strongest category die because everything living dies eventually. You can’t slow evolution, even if you’re one of the people who refuses to believe in it. Evolution doesn’t care.

Thinking about progress and evolution made me think of some of the people I met in rehab. While I went once for alcoholism and another for porn/sex addiction, I look at them as two completely different successful experiences. Many of the people I got to know had nothing close to that success record.

There was one guy who must have been about 22. He was handsome, a bit of a jock and a genuinely sweet guy. He was at rehab for the eighth time. The guy he was roommates with, who was very similar, except he wasn’t a sweet guy, was in rehab for his 10th time. Both just couldn’t kick their heroin addiction and both went because they were told repeatedly they’d get cut off financially if they didn’t attend.

Today, more than four years later, one of them seems to be thriving as an EMT. The other has been dead for two years. You can’t tell which one is which based on my description I bet. I wouldn’t have been able to tell who would be successful and who would succumb.

The guy who worked for the rehab and lived at the small motel-like property that I was stationed at in my first stint was probably in his late 20s. He went to rehab 14 times, but for some reason, that 15th time did the trick. Except for the first two times, all of them were ordered by a judge between his short stints in jail or on probation. When I checked up on him a year ago, he’s still sober and working at a ranch that focuses on recovery somewhere in the Dakotas or Montana.

I can run through a motley crew of characters – there’s the 50-year-old former Hells’ Angel and his 18-year-old girlfriend who was pregnant and couldn’t kick her heroin habit; he was hiding out in rehab from the law and wanted to get her straight before the baby was born, or the beautiful former major-market newscaster who relapsed three times in the two weeks I knew her before deciding rehab wasn’t for her – and unfortunately with most of these people I have no idea what happened.

These people are either healthy, dead, or much, much worse off if they happen to still be alive. Yes, most of them had drug-related issues, but I’ve followed up with some of my friends who had eating disorders, sex or gambling addictions and everybody seems to have similar stories.

My point is that there’s a shelf life for an addict. They’ve abused themselves for years and always get away with it. A life continuing to go down the toilet? Ironically, that’s called progress. They’ve tried to be conservative and keep things as they are with their use, but progress escalates things. Progress never lets things stay the same. If they’ve tried to quit immediately, it’s almost always a failure because they immediately demand too much from their mental or physical health in too short a time, almost like a liberal mindset.

Then there are those who are much worse off if they still happen to be alive. They’ll either eventually see the light and walk the long, grueling path to recovery. Those who don’t will die. That’s just evolution.

The message to me was that you keep going to rehab, or at least seeking help, until you get it right because the alternative shouldn’t be anybody’s alternative. If you aren’t one of those people who can stop on your own, get the professional help from people who know how to help and what speed. Recovery is like a dimmer switch, it can go brighter or darker, but it doesn’t just turn on or off. Professional help are the electricians who can try to help before you short circuit yourself to an early grave.

Progress and evolution – they are forces of nature. We have to work with, not against, them.

 

 

How We Judge Guilt of Alleged Hollywood Predators Hits Close to Home

Back when I was just starting as a reporter at a newspaper in 1994 or 1995, I fielded a telephone call from somebody who was claiming that their neighbor was doing all kinds of ridiculous stuff to their property. It was a great story, they told it well and I thought it would make for great copy in the next day’s newspaper.

My editor looked at me like I was wasting his time before 10 words got out of my mouth. He asked, “Have they filed a complaint with the police?” I didn’t know, so called the person back. They said they hadn’t. I asked if they were going to. He said that he hoped a story in the newspaper would be enough to shame the guy into behaving. He didn’t really want to get the police involved. I told my editor and he said we wouldn’t be pursuing it. Until the caller was going to document his claim through official channels, we wouldn’t be reporting about it.

Twenty-two years later, apparently Twitter is now an official channel.

I’m having a deep reaction to the ongoing news cycle of sexually inappropriate behavior in Hollywood, Washington and elsewhere, but I guess as someone who was very well-known in his little corner of the world when a similar thing happened to me – coupled with the pings of PTSD I get when talking about it – it would be more surprising if I wasn’t having a reaction.

First things first: Anybody who has criminally violated anybody else sexually should be held accountable in a court of law for their actions, as I was. It shouldn’t matter if it was 25 days or 25 years ago. Statutes of limitations are ridiculous in these cases. How is it that if a perpetrator does something wrong and then outlasts a clock, they get away with it?

I am grateful for the intervention of law enforcement officials which led to my intense introduction to recovery and the journey I continue on today, nearly four years later. I hope that the famous and powerful men who have committed these crimes are able to seriously devote themselves to understanding why they made the choices they did and how to refrain from making them in the future.

I did most of what I was accused of (which you can read about in plenty of other blog entries) and never denied it to police. While I did plead not guilty at first, it was a procedural move made at the advice of my lawyer that 99.9% of defendants make to hopefully end up with a more favorable outcome.

One of the things that I’m feeling watching these stories come out is the sense of helplessness for some of these men who perhaps did not break the law, but made horrible choices, not recognizing the consequences and who will now be paying for it for the rest of their lives. I feel even more helpless for the men who have been accused of either inappropriate or criminal behavior, but perhaps didn’t do it at all.

Take for instance, the case of Charlie Sheen. A friend of Corey Haim, who has been dead nearly a decade, claims that Haim told him that when Haim was a young teen on the set of the 1980s movie Lukas, a much-older Charlie Sheen had sex with Haim. Sheen denied these charges and even Haim’s mother said she knows it wasn’t true.

Ignoring Sheen’s reputation as a womanizer for the last two decades, there appears to be nothing to this case other than a friend of someone who has been dead for years making an unprovable claim. Even Corey Feldman, who is championing a movie to expose pedophiles in Hollywood and was Haim’s best friend, said that he had nothing to support the story.

But can you ignore Sheen’s reputation over the last 20 years? Isn’t that the part that makes the claim seems plausible? If this was a different actor with no womanizing reputation, would you have a harder time accepting it on its surface?

If the assumption is that any person can write anything on Twitter and it is 100% true, we no longer have a need for a criminal justice system. The same goes for any report in the media, whether it’s a liberal or conservative outlet. Reading Twitter reaction or comment sections on various websites shows that this wave of stories is little more than just another tool by which to bash the opposition.

Following my arrest, before I ever made a court appearance, before any evidence ever went to a grand jury or a judge, my case was tried in the court of public opinion. The public didn’t, and still doesn’t know what actually went down and what I did or didn’t do, but for a significant segment of people, those facts were insignificant details. If I had actually been wrongly accused, I don’t think things would have been all that different.

At some point in the near future, this cycle of news stories will slow down. Hopefully workplace culture will change for the better. People behaving criminally sexual need to be brought to justice more often. People like Louis CK – who seemingly didn’t do anything criminal – but based on his position of power made highly inappropriate choices, will hopefully get the message this kind of thing won’t be tolerated any more.

Whether it’s a fiercely conservative, older southern white guy running for office or it’s an openly gay, liberal Asian actor from the most famous science fiction show of all-time (Roy Moore and George Takai, respectively), when we are given a denial, it should then be up to the legal system to prove guilt. In the court of public opinion, I’ve seen people crucifying and vigorously defending both men. The “truth” has little to do with the facts (since all we really have is hearsay) and more to do with what each stands for philosophically.

What will last longer than this news cycle is what continues to happen: We keep moving in a direction where ideas like burden of proof and presumption of innocence being cornerstones of our society and system continue to erode. We are quickly becoming a world where all you have to do is point a finger to take somebody down, justifiably or not, and that’s not a good thing.