April 30, 2010
April 29, 2010
The past 24 hours have been some of the toughest I've had in a long time. Deactivating my facebook account was more difficult than I thought, probably because its been such a huge part of my life since January 2009. Its hard to describe to anyone what I mean by that. After I was released from the "Holliday Inn" in Elkhart, KS., one of the very first things I did was to find my way to a computer. Being without any kind of "connection" with the outside world, other than what silly TV programs were being played by some of my fellow "mates" and the 15 minute window I had once a week where I was allowed "visitation", meaning a phone call or personal visit, was HUGE for me, especially since being around computers every day for over two decades was an integral part of my life. Before I tell you about that, allow me to digress. The "Holliday Inn", (please note the TWO L's, not one) was what we "convicts" referred to our living facility. Reason being, the sheriff's ACTUAL name was Justin D. Holliday. I'm not kidding. He became affectionately known to us as "Doc Holliday", since D was his middle initial! I coined that one for everyone and we laughed about his name and his "Inn" quite a bit. When your freedom is entirely stripped away, save for the 15 minutes I mentioned earlier for a whole week at a time, humor becomes a part of your sanity program. Jail does strange and bizarre things to human beings and their minds I might add, something I'll go into later...
Rambling on then, after I got out I got my first taste of the "net" again. I was STUNNED at what new information and tools were available after having ZERO connection for 5 1/2 months. I think back now and it astounds me what one can do on a computer in today's world. Not only that, cell phones! Good grief, I never dreamed of the options out there and quickly got hooked on a Blackberry from AllTel with a 24 hour data plan. Talk about a kid in the candy store, I even learned how to "text" for the first time. That may sound funny to you but trust me, I was in a whole new world, and not just "upstairs in my head", not having a drop of alcohol to drink in nearly six months, which, by the way, I can honestly say now was the longest I had been without alcohol to that point in my life but what I'm guessing was nearly 20 years.
And so began my connection with Facebook. Ahhhh, good 'ol Facebook. Building my own profile, posting my first "profile pic", my first status update, yada yada yada. You know what I mean, right? Remember your first "stab" at it? And now today, or should I say up until yesterday, I'm known as the "Facebook King" among some of my SoCal friends; Mr. Youtube for songs, "notes" for lessons I learned, pictures out the wazzoo, and on and on.
But, you know what? I've discovered something recently, which I'm sure you all have already. We are ADDICTED to being "connected" in some way; computers, "cells", iPods, laptops, smart phones, "butt dialing", Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Youtube, etc. Shit, it never ends!! And I've missed out a bunch with that list I'm sure!
There's not a day goes by, not ONE, when I don't listen to "slacker.com" every night on my Blackberry, a free site for any kind of music one could possibly want for anyone with a "BB", or "Crackberry" as many call it, since its so damn addictive!
The point in this whole diatribe about being "connected" in some way is this....I was sitting in the Dallas, TX. airport this past December waiting on my flight and was doing one of my favorite things in a place such as that, "people-watching!" For those who've never been to the Dallas airport, its one of those "international" hubs where you see everything. Every nationality, language, dress style, you name it, it had it. But always constant is the omnipresent and obligatory latest gadget, doesn't matter who or where you're from. Seems EVERYONE walking around or sitting down was either ON the phone, texting, listening to tunes on their iPods, "surfing" the "net", doing business on a computer, and even video conferencing for cripe's sake! So, as I was sitting there "doing my thing", I noticed a distinguished older man next to me, probably oh, 65-ish, nicely-dressed, and happily typing away on his "lapper." Across from him I quickly came to discover, sitting 6 or seven feet away, was his wife; very sophisticated-looking, nicely dressed, and looking all proper. Hell, the two of them could have been from Kansas for all I knew but they looked like freakin' royalty.
Me being me, that is to say, the NEW me; the one who talks in the elevator while everyone else is standing there like statues looking at the lights blink from one floor to the next, as if they had anything better to do than TALK for crying out loud; the one who is famous for "talking" with those "self-checkout" ladies at grocery stores (try that some time, its hilarious! when the self-checkout lady says in her sexy computer voice, "thank you for shopping with us", say out loud, in fact LOUD with a big-ass smile on your face, "You're Welcome!", look back at the people waiting behind you. They're all like.."Whoa....is that dude stoned or what!?"); and so finally (there i go again) I says to the lady across from me in my most pleasant voice possible; " What the hell did we ever do before all this connected "stuff" we have with us? TALK?"
And so off we went, we started TALKING. My whole point to this long-ass story is this. There's a "disconnect" with being "connected." People have lost touch with reality these days. No one TALKS to anyone any more. You know, sit across from each other and TALK; no cells, no 'puters, no TV, no music, no nothing!
You know what I say? Get your ass off that chair you're sitting in right now listening to me "ramble, gush, and spew" all over the place, turn off your damn computer, turn off your "cell", turn off your TV's, your music, your WHATEVER, go to your neighbor next door, knock on it, and say "Hi! My name is (fill in the blank), I live next door, and was just wanting to know if you'd just like to TALK, seeing how's we're all neighbors and all." What do you think will happen? I'll tell you what'll happen, one of two things; the door will slam in your face or, if you're a lucky man like me, they'll "invite you in" to their world and you might, just might, find out you have something in common, and maybe even find a "friend", not one of those so-called 200 or so "friends" you have on Facebook. Get my drift? Do you see what I mean?
So, I'll end it with this as an example of what I mean. Today, while on break at paralegal school, I was "on my cell" checking messages as usual while sitting outside enjoying the sun all by my little lonesome. Dorothy sat down with me shortly thereafter, and she sits two tables in front of me in all my daily classes. She is wanting to become a paralegal like me and today is the first day she and I TALKED in the five weeks of classes together. Guess who Dorothy is? Dorothy is from Buffalo, New York originally and moved here only a month or so ago like I. BUT, she knows all about Kansas. In fact, she is a huge Buffalo Bills fan, and one of her favorite football players from when she lived there? Steve Tasker, 1993 Pro Bowl MVP, born and bred Kansas boy, from Leoti, Kansas, 22 MILES from where I was born and raised. Yep, the same Steve Tasker I saw once on a basketball floor when he was a 7th grader, ( I was a hot-shot freshman basketball player myself!) all 4 feet nothing of him, running circles around everyone else like a darn waterbug.
Next time you're in that elevator staring at those damn blinking lights, say "Hi" to the person next to you. You never know who you might meet because it truly is a small world out there.....
April 27, 2010
Orientation on Wednesday the 24th, that week filled with unpacking, sorting, organizing, and planning once again. Classes started on the 29th of March and I've been non-stop since. Today is April 27th and day after tomorrow I will be nearly to the half-way mark already of this 12 week "accelerated" paralegal program at the University of California San Diego extension campus; two years of studies packed into 12 weeks. I'm the oldest by at least 5-10 years than any of the other 20 students and most I'm old enough to be their father. I'm keeping up. Barely now though. Because I started "Ramblings" on April 9th, after the urging of many, one in particular, one morning I just woke up and it "happened." There's that word again. Why? Why me? What the hell am I doing this for? I don't have the time to be honest, I just finished the final for Civil Litigation and still have the Computer final due day after tomorrow I haven't even started yet. Yet here I am, typing away furiously, heart is pounding, I can't seem to get my fingers to type fast enough, although by now I'm DEFINITELY FAST! Why? Why is this "happening" to me? Why have I got this unbelievably insatiable NEED to share ALL of the experiences that have been embedded into my soul over the past two years and all of my adult years prior to when I was living in the dark?
My good friend who's been a huge help since I've been here told me this in December 2009 when I first came to check into the school, visit family, and just "feel things out". She's sort of a person that "sees" things in others, if you catch my drift, deeply religious, and very in tune with those around her. She said, "Gus, you're stagnating in Kansas and what you are intending to do here with the paralegal idea is just the start. You have a tremendous gift of knowledge that, whether you realize it or not, people are craving for. People read what you have to say and are inspired. Many have told you this, right? Haven't I been telling you this for months? This is your time Gus. People are watching you, though you don't know it, especially your kids. Its your final chance to make a difference by sharing with others what you've learned. Don't waste it."
So, that's what I intend to do. Do things "happen" for a reason? If I hadn't have hit bottom, lost my job, nearly lost my life, not once but three times, got into the "system", and survived it, I wouldn't be here typing away like mad. Yes, I believe...No, I am CONVINCED that things happen for a reason. Because everything that happens in God's world is not by mistake. Its all by design. We are pre-destined to become who we are. We just don't know when or where that's going to "happen." That's why we have to have faith in ourselves, the strength in knowing that our God-given instincts will tell us what to do without us even realizing it. Make no mistake, I'm not one of those "bible-beaters", any more than I care to have someone beat me over the head with AA or tell me I HAVE to go to a meeting. Hell, I haven't been to one for months. But I do talk with people about it. Every day. I just don't spill out the source of it. It's just me. Being natural. Being REAL. That's who I am. I "happened" for a reason.
April 26, 2010
I said to myself, "Self? You've done a boat load of rambling, gushing, and spewing since this started. And almost ENTIRELY about you, other than the story with your daughter, don't you think it's time to hear what some one else has to say?" Weird, aren't I? LOL...I know what you're thinking, "does he really DO that? He actually says to himself .... Self?" That gives you a glimpse of how warped I can some times be!!
Anyway, I'm rambling again so I'll get to the topic at hand. FINALLY. See? See what I mean? Sometimes you just sit there and go, "WHEN is he EVER going to get to the point?"
Have you ever noticed how, some times in a group setting, especially with strangers or people you hardly know that NO ONE wants to be the first to say anything? Take elevators for instance. Ever notice how most people just stand there like statues STARING at the lights blink from one floor to the next? Why? And why is it when you're walking down a sidewalk, a store, or whereever and you see some one about to walk right past you and they look DOWN or away? These are the sort of things that intrigue me about us. That is to say, US as human beings. Hell, it's like we go around AFRAID of each other! Why? I have as many problems as you do, and I'm no better than you just because I "look" nicer in my fancy suit, or the car I drive, or whatever material thing I think makes me special. And so do you! So, let your guard down I say. TALK with people, be open, when the doors to the elevator stop, don't look up and stare with the crowd. Be different! Say something. Anything! If someone you meet actually DOES look at you, or even if the DON'T for that matter, say Hi! Nice day, huh?
It never ceases to amaze me when I or some one else does this. I'm sure you've had the same experience. You felt the immediate change in the "group dynamic" didn't you? You felt more comfortable, more real, more HUMAN. That's what we should be about. To FEEL each other. How else are we going to grow? I can't do it by myself and I'm CERTAIN no one else can. Because we're imperfect. Why try to pretend we are? Help each other; smile, laugh, share, even with strangers. Think back to when you were a child or think of how you look at a child today when they act this way. What is your reaction, what do you see in your "mind's eye?" You smiled just now didn't you? You did! That's what I mean!
Anyway, the whole point of that little story was to get you to thinking about what I started this latest "post" with. Don't be one of those that just stands there and says....NOTHING. Be the first one to say when the doors close to the elevator, "Boy, do I feel good all under!!" I promise you, you'll feel better if you did and you would be AMAZED at the people you meet and friends you might make! Good luck!
Having said that however, it should be obvious now that many of the emotions and the way that I live today is driven by my experience with an insidious disease. So, I ask for your patience and understanding. I'd like to think I'm not one-dimensional; I adore music, love a good joke, or just to talk about silly mundane things that happen in our daily lives.
Even so, allow me to describe what the word FREEDOM means to me. I remember a young man, can't recall his name now, but he was about 20, a fellow "cell-mate" for about three months, tall, very intelligent, and was from a well-respected and wealthy family in the Dallas, TX. area. His Dad is a top-notch lawyer, his mother a deeply spiritual lady, he had one brother and I could tell he came from a family of wealth and influence. He was about to be released from jail, after being charged with felony possession of nearly a pound of cocaine, felony firearm possession, fleeing & eluding, etc. I also remember he read a lot and he was one of the very few people I encountered there and afterwards that I found I could connect with from an intelligence perspective.
So, I asked him the day before he was "getting out" after we talked about what it had been like in jail. I asked him point blank, "What is the very FIRST thing you will do when you walk out of here?" I'll never forget what he said. "I'm going to ask my Mom to take me to McDonald's." I stood there and just looked at him in complete disbelief for the longest time. So I said, "That's it? That's all? Just go to McDonald's?" He said, "yep." I said, "are you fucking kidding me!?" And he replied why Gus? What are YOU going to do when you get out? The first thing that popped out of my mouth was this. "I'm going to walk outside, look up into the sky all around me, then go to the courthouse lawn, get down on my hands and knees, and smell freshly-cut grass as close to my nose as possible." He looked at me like, "dude, what planet are you from?" That's when I smiled because I knew. He didn't know the value of freedom. To this day, I'm convinced this young man likely ended up right back in prison, probably for many reasons. But the SINGLE most important one was this: He hadn't lost enough "blood" yet and didn't have a full understanding nor appreciation for the word FREEDOM.
April 25, 2010
I can't even count the number of times this has happened to me! Every time, and I mean damn near every SINGLE time I have expected something, especially one I really wanted bad, BAM! Doesn't happen and pfffffttt....there went my inner peace and now I'm pissed off the rest of the day. Has this happened to you? Sucks, doesn't it? Most of us aren't even aware of what trick our mind just played on us. All we know is we are mad, upset, and we can't seem to let that go. So, are you aware? Are we intelligent enough to look to our inner selves and, seeing something not right there, do something about it? It's tough. Every day is a struggle some times; can't get breakfast together fast enough, traffic sucks, your whole day starts out bad, and by the end of it you're ready to just say, "aw, to heck with it, tomorrow probably won't be any different." And there you are, caught in your own vicious cycle of your own creation. All because you couldn't keep your eye off of expectations instead of your acceptance.
Recently, my daughter got into trouble back home in Tribune over a weekend when she and several others her age were caught violating school policy on a weekend when obviously there was no school. Still, rules are rules as they say. Somehow alcohol was involved. Now she has been hit with a 16 week out-of-school suspension, meaning she still goes to school but she can't participate in extracurricular activities; sports and so on. One of them is one that is one of the most important to a bright, beautiful, 17 year old girl living in a small midwest town. Prom. She can't go. She's devastated. Its unjust Dad! I didn't bring it and I've been the one accused of it! It's not my fault! I'm so mad! It's just not fair! And then she says this in a facebook email to me: "I'm sorry if you look down on your little girl, sorry for wasting your money for the prom I can't attend! And I'm sorry if I couldn't make a BETTER name for our family."
Tears. I shed a couple. And then I to her in a facebook email: "First, I'm NOT looking down on you at all. Not ONE bit. And money means nothing when it comes to your relationship with me. NOTHING. So forget those two issues. I love you unconditionally and forever." And then something else "happens", something I pull from the past. I've said many things over the past two years, one of which is making something positive out of a negative from yesterday. So, I wrote this: Life is and can be unjust honey.I know that most than anyone. It's what we do when we get our asses in trouble from that point forward that determines the outcome. We can cry about it, moan about it, or take is as an adult, clean up our act, and make positive use of it. This has been a hard lesson for you and I'm deeply sorry it happened. But now you have the chance to show YOURSELF first then others what you're truly made of; a loving, caring, sincere, bright, intelligent, lovely young woman. I'm behind you 100% and I am CONVINCED you will do the "right" thing and make the "right" choices from this moment on. I love you!!!" ...Dad
This was her reply: "Thank u!!"
My point in telling you this story is this. Straight out of the "big book" as they call it in AA. The chapter called Acceptance Was The Answer and I'll never forget it as long as I live. A counselor, one whom I saw only ONE day since my regular counselor was gone that day while in my first stab at rehab while in The Valley Hope facility in Norton, Kansas in September, 2006. She gave me a handwritten note that said this and which I still have in my book to this day: "p. 416-417, 5 x day x 5 days. IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE." From THAT handwritten note and those pages came the inspiration for one of my very first facebook "notes" I have on my personal page written October 10th, 2009:
Acceptance is the answer to all of your problems today. When you are disturbed, it is because
you find some person, place, thing, or situation ---- some fact of your life ---- unacceptable to
you, and you can find no serenity until you accept that person, place, thing, or situation as
being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing,
happens in God's world by mistake. Unless you accept completely life's terms, you cannot
be happy. You need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world
as on what needs to be changed in you and your attitudes.
So this is what I mean when I talk with others about the book called Alcoholics Anonymous. It's not about AA, NA, or whatever addiction or problem you have. That book is about LIFE!! I remember well when I returned to Elkhart, KS. in late May, 2009, after being gone exactly 358 days, after being locked up in a 270' square foot concrete and steel cage with anywhere from three to seven other inmates who had committed various crimes, some horrific, for 158 straight days, followed by 200 days at a half-way house in Liberal, Kansas after I caught my last DUI. I returned to Elkhart and less than 3 days later, walked into the law enforcement center at 8 p.m. sharp on a Monday night and asked if I could attend the weekly AA jail inmate meeting held right there, right inside the very cell, where I had been locked up tight for 158 days; lights on 24 hours a day, fights, lockdowns, and a grand total of 15 MINUTES per week where I was allowed contact with the outside world, either my phone or personal visitation. Two or three of the people jailed there had gotten out before I in November 2008 but were back in for probation violations. One of them, "Katie", took one look at me and said, "My God Gus, you look so different, your whole aura, you look so good!!' I'll never forget that moment as long as I live and since that moment, I can't tell you how many times I've heard similar comments from many people, people who knew EXACTLY what I looked like and EXACTLY how I lived shortly before I hit bottom. One of my favorites was when I saw my ex-sister-in-law in Tribune when I got my first "house pass" to visit my kids in Tribune sometime in late February 2009. She said "Gus, you look good. You look REALLY good!"
There's many things that keeps someone straight or sober, keeps them from getting into trouble again, things that awaken them; rehab centers, books, counseling, jail, half-way houses, you can name many. But to this day, if someone, anyone, asks me what it has taken for me, I can honestly tell you this and its only ONE thing, one very small thing. When someone says, "gosh Gus, you look good, you look REALLY good!"
April 24, 2010
So's, after I googled it I find some times it refers to a self-journal. Check. Been doing that since June 5th, 2008. There's "that date". June 5th, 2008. A day that started like so many ones before it for a long time, but had really been just the same day, day after day after day after....you get the idea, right? Maybe not. Here's how it started.
June 5th, 2008. Wake up. Go to the fridge, shaking. Grab it and "pop one open". Next thing I know I'm headed to the liquor store shortly after lunch (can't remember if I had eaten anything yet come to think of it) for a 12-pack to get me through the rest of the day. By now, I was well over a twelve-pack a day, every day, for what seemed like forever. Not after today. And not ever again, at least until right now at this very second as I type. Fast forward to this moment. April 24th, 2010. As I'm typing I remember many favorite things and favorite sayings, and I mean MANY over the nearly 2 years that has passed. One of them is this. "I haven't had so much as a sniff of alcohol other than what I get from my $3 aqua velva that I get from the $1 Dollar General Store." That's me. You know the drill, well maybe you don't. "Hi, my name is Gus and I'm an alcoholic." Seems strange how it just rolls off the tongue now. No shame. No regrets. No hiding. No pretense. It just IS. That's one of the funny parts. People say, "Don't you have any regrets???" Some seem shocked when I calmly say, "No." "Why?" "Because, if I did, it means only one thing. I haven't learned a damn thing." So, I'm here to tell you friends I've learned A LOT since "that date."
Think I'll stop there for a while, give you some time to absorb that a little, and I'll start filling you in on the days following "that date" at another time.