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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Alcohol, anyone?

Here's a bit  I did a while back that I think remains relevant.  You don't have to be alcoholic to get something out of it.  As I recall, I wrote it for the spouse of a "recovering alcoholic," or for anyone who wonders why an alcoholic they know keeps going to "all those meetings."  It would seem, once the drinking was under control (stopped,) the meetings would cease to be a requirement.  If you are a friend or spouse of a "recovering alcoholic," and you wonder why they continue to go to "all those meetings," please read on.

My Prairie, My Desert
An alcoholic’s description of alcoholism

Imagine a gently rolling grassland, healthy in every way.  The grassland supports a wide variety of creatures from insects to shrews to prairie dogs to bison.  All is well. 

Rains come to our grassland from time to time.  As long as the rains are not excessive, the grassland thrives.  Indeed, a certain amount of rain is both beneficial and necessary for the grassland.  Occasionally there is a real downpour, though, and some low-lying areas are flooded.  Instead of gently soaking into the grass, some runoff forms small gullies in the landscape.  Still, as long as these incidents are relatively isolated, no real harm comes to the grassland.  The small gullies are filled with grass and, with time, they are filled in completely as the grass thatch heals the prairie. 

When the soaking downpours come in too great a frequency, though, another phenomenon occurs.  The ground stays saturated and runoff is the main way the prairie has of ridding itself of excess water.  This runoff creates gullies that grow to the extent that the grass is no longer able to heal the prairie’s surface.  Eventually the gullies become so efficient at removing the water that the prairie itself is threatened.  Less water means less water for plant growth.  It also means less water for evaporation to provide for the periodic, small rains that sustain instead of damaging the prairie.  The gullies become canyons, the ground becomes drier, and the prairie suffers. 

If the rain moderates at this point, the prairie still suffers since much rain that does occur runs off instead of soaking in.  The gullies continue to grow.  If the rain stops altogether, the gullies stop growing, but they remain.  The prairie has been damaged beyond recovery and the dry conditions turn the once vibrant prairie into a new ecosystem—a desert.  Deserts are good and worthwhile themselves, but they are not prairies.  Still the land around the gullies is maintained so long as the flooding rains do not return.  Should the rains return, the erosion will be even greater than it had been before.

If I were to stop writing now, I would have a brief explanation for how a canyon system and desert might be formed.  If I were to stop writing now, though, my reason for beginning to write would not be accomplished.  I am an alcoholic, you see, and, while I have quit drinking, I need to remember returning to drink is not an option for me—that is, unless I wish to continue to erode the landscape that is me and continue the damage to what started out as a vibrant prairie in the continent of humanity.  The fact is, I am no longer a prairie.  I am now something different.  I am a desert with a canyon running through me cutting deep into my body, even to my heart, and I will never again be that pristine prairie. 

Still, though I am changed forever, I can be of use to humanity and to my fellow man.  Prairies are great.  So are grand canyons. 

The analogy given here can be used to arrive at a pretty accurate understanding of the long-term effect of alcohol on the alcoholic.  While it is not totally applicable--a little rain is absolutely necessary to the prairie; a little alcohol to a “normal” person is often considered a good thing; a little alcohol to the potential alcoholic is just a point of departure--it is, with few exceptions, a good fit.  

Most of us began life in a relatively unscathed manner.  We had the usual variety of disabilities: some of us grew up with overbearing parents; some of us just couldn’t figure it out in high school--we never seemed to fit in; some of us weren’t the best of students.  Still, we grew up, got married, had children, and worked profitably to support ourselves.  In short, we had a life.  We were each a prairie to ourselves with both the prairie dogs, and the grub worms nibbling on the roots of our beloved grasses.  All was, apparently, well. 

Somewhere along the line we began to drink, or use, as the case may be.  As long as we drank reasonably, our prairie continued to grow well, and we thought all was good.  Unfortunately, we had a bit of something in us, be it genetic disposition or whatever, that would not let us leave well enough alone.  We liked drinking.  We liked the taste; we liked the way it made us feel.  We even liked getting drunk.  We didn’t like some things that came with the drinking (DUIs, hangovers,) but we discounted these as not particularly significant compared to the specter of quitting drinking, and we kept drinking.  Giving serious consideration to quitting drinking was something we just did not want to do.  Our prairie had begun to develop gullies that could not be grassed back. 

Eventually we discovered wrecked cars, job losses, jail.  With luck, we did not discover we had killed someone while driving blacked out although this has happened altogether too often.  Some of us lost our homes and our families.  Nevertheless, we continued to build our canyons, wondering why.  As long as we continued to drink, we continued to dig our canyons deeper and deeper, not much noticing the change of our prairies into the deserts of the alcoholic.  All was not well.

The lucky ones of us discovered Alcoholics Anonymous sometime after we realized the changes we had made in ourselves and began to realize the irreversibility of our state.  Some even more lucky ones of us discovered AA early in the process and availed themselves of the knowledge found in the literature and in the fellowship to prevent descent into the very depths of the change we learned would certainly follow.  Indeed we met example after example of people who had ridden the alcoholic elevator down to depths we hoped to avoid.  No matter how bad it had been for us, we could always find someone who had had it worse.  Some of us would read remembrances on our clubhouse walls of those of us who died in sobriety.  We would, every so often, hear stories of those of us who did not die sober.  These stories were, in the least, sobering.  The alcoholic death, be it by chemically induced disease or by a rope, is not to be wished on our worst enemy.

Still, even with all the information available, some of us came into AA and went “back out.”  Those of us who made it “back in” to AA were able to tell how our disease had started back as if it had been progressing even while we were experimenting with sobriety.  The rain fell on our deserts and ran into our gullies and canyons as if no cessation of rain induced problems had occurred at all.  Sobriety does not insulate us from our disease unless it is practiced without exception.  Breaks in sobriety can be devastating.  The good thing about our experimenters is they confirm our understanding of our disease.  Unfortunately some of them are not able to come back.  They join the list that is not maintained on our clubhouse walls. 

In my opinion, and in the opinion of many AA's (Anonymous Alcoholics) and workers in addiction, alcoholism is a disease.  It is a disease of mind and body.  It is not curable.  It may be lived with, but only in sobriety.  Those of us who have found our way into Alcoholics Anonymous find AA helps us live with our disease.  While AA is probably not the only way, it is a way that is proven and more cost effective than probably any other. 

If you think you may have a problem with alcohol, or with any other addiction, for that matter, AA is something you should try.  At the very least, the knowledge you will gain will enable you to know if you are an alcoholic (or addict) or if you just had a bad run of luck (no one ever even thinks about AA unless some substance abuse problem, for example: a DUI or a problem at work or with a loved one, has occurred.)  In any case, you will learn about alcoholics and alcoholism and hear some things you just might be able to use in your life.  You may find you have a talent for public speaking you never suspected even though you will not be required to speak at all. You may revive some old friendships in the meetings.  You will certainly have an opportunity to make some new friends and new contacts.  AA is not just about alcohol.  It is a twelve step program about living life in such a way that alcohol is not something to be needed  or even desired--and that is something anyone can benefit from, alcoholic or not.

Steve / 16Feb2010/ World Famous New Ellenton Group

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumn, again: Harleys, blowers, and rakes

                                                            Autumn, again

I decided to try something today.  I went to my garage, moved an inordinate amount of non-vehicular stuff, and found an old, prehistoric implement; I believe in its day, it was called a “leaf rake.”  I took the old rake out to my front yard and began to use it in its intended manner.  Lo and behold, it worked.  After a while I began to notice green grass, unencumbered by the brown of the fallen leaves, yearningly seeking out the morning sunlight.  Amazing.  Also, I began to hear the twittering of neighborhood birds and even enjoyed the company of my two cats who came out to my work space to try to fathom what exactly “in tarnation” I might be doing.  On figuring out to their satisfaction that my efforts were not generating anything worth eating or playing with, they returned to their napping spots to simply watch. 

One of my neighbors apparently had a similar notion.  I became aware of this when he cranked his 100+db leaf blower.  RRRRaaaaaahrh!  Tranquility a thing of the past, I came inside to leave a few tracks on the old word processor (remember that, another thing of the past.)  Oh, well, I digress.  I don’t know if such an animal still exists.  In any case, you can buy a program for your laptop that turns it into a good, nay, improved, version of a word processor, which is what I actually have done.  The laptop word processor is really a better use of 3D space in that when it is not used as a word processor it will allow for quite a few other uses--unlike the leaf rake and its successor the leaf blower. 

Things seem to have quieted a bit outdoors; guess I’ll return to my raking.  Yup, the birds are still twittering away and I believe I can hear a train from the tracks a couple of miles away.  As to the birds, I can readily identify the jays and the mocking birds.  Among the other twitterers are possibly the nuthatches and Carolina wrens that regularly visit the suet holder outside our front window and the cardinals that like the sunflower seeds in the mix in the bird feeder.  Purple finches also frequent the feeder and probably may be originating some of the other unidentified twits (or is it tweets?) I am hearing.  A rat-a-tat or two could be coming from a red bellied woodpecker, or a downey, both of whom also appreciate the suet feeder.  RRRRaaaaaahrh!  Oh, no, my neighbor again.  This time it’s only about 90dB.  The “muffler” on his riding mower is a bit more efficient than the “muffler” on his leaf blower.  I don’t blame him for wanting to get out.  The sky is robin-egg blue; the temperature is a perfect 69 degrees; the only other sounds (other than the occasional truck on Whiskey road, a neighborhood away,) are the birds and the scritch, scritching of my rake.  Oh, well, this will be his last time to ride his John Deere until his rye grass gets up.  He looks quite contented with his paper mask and airport tarmac ear muffs.  More power too him.  Guess I’ll go back inside and record my musings until the Gong show comes on and we again change places. 

Back to the rake.  Tranquility, it seems, is a bit underrated these days.  Perhaps there is something different between the folk and rock generations.  Judy, Joan, and PP&M seem to have left us with a group of emerging oldsters who still have some modicum of hearing—some of whom even may be able to hear that elusive ring tone that the kids call their own and use to communicate with unbeknownst to their gaol (er-) teachers.  I was not one of the fortunate ones, though.  I call my impediment M-16 ear.  I came about it honestly, though, and find no fault and I still can enjoy many sounds and types of music that seem to be lost to others.  No matter, Chaqun a son gout, each to his own. 

A veritable explosion next door lets me know the grass cutting job is finished.  Hopefully the Harley is on its way somewhere and not being cranked to be worked on.  I don’t know what it is about Harley riders.  I guess it has to do with not getting enough attention as a child.  Look at me, Daddy!   I understand Harley does make relatively quiet bikes, but, for some reason, most of them do not remain that way for very long after leaving the showroom floor.  I had a Honda once.  It was fairly quiet, ran sufficiently fast, and did in one of my knees.  Yep, it qualified as a motorcycle on all fronts except the one that the Harley riders seem to value most. 

Ah, good.  Quiet again.  Perhaps the Harley has gone to town or to the mall.  It’s safe to go out again. 

I now have a line of leaves that stretches across the front yard.  It consists of oak and pine leaves.  Where there are mostly oak leaves I make piles to take to the mulch pile.  Where the pine predominates, I’ll have to ask the wife.  Generally these go in several areas to use as ground cover.  When enough cover has been accumulated to suit her, the remainder is generally placed at the base of a number of azalea bushes on the edges of the yard.  Any excess above this joins with the oak leaves in the mulch pile.  Some people call their mulch piles compost piles.  For some reason, my dad called ours a mulch pile.  Which is why, I guess, I call ours a mulch pile.  Mulch or compost, it all goes in the garden in the spring.  I like to point out to anyone who might listen that we were organic before organic was cool.   My apologies to C&W fans who might want them.  In any case, with the Harley gone it’s time to stop huntin’ and peckin’ and get back to the rakin’ and proceed with the pilin’ up and the haulin’.   That’s actually how I say ‘em.  It’s just as easy to type the “g’s” though.

Moving leaf piles can really be getting down and dirty.  The smell is usually good (to me, anyway) though there can be a bit of dust.  The temptation is to overload the old blanket and end up with a burden that borders on back breaking.  Usually just one of these suffices to mellow out the remaining loads.  In any case, that’s how it goes with me.  Once the leaves or needles reach their destined spots the job is done, for a few weeks or so, until the leaves again require a repeat performance.  Of course this will be a welcome task, though the weather may or may not be as perfect as it was today.  It will probably be cooler.  The grass will probably not be as green.  And my neighbor may or may not be as noisy. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I know what you're doing

When you pull up to that stop light and a car pulls up beside you, you naturally look over toward the other driver, right?  So what do you think when all you see is a darkened window pane?  I'll tell you what I think:  I think, "That sucka's done that for a reason," that's what I think, yes, sir! 

So, other than the obvious, "I can see you but you can't see me," what do we have?  A simple list might include:  1) I'm a movie star, or 2) I look like a movie star, or 3)  I don't look like a movie star, but I wish I did, and I want you to think I look like a movie star.  4, 5, just like 1, 2, but substitute "well known indicted politician" for "movie star," and the list goes on.

Eventually, we come to my favorite reason, "I'm picking my nose." 

Why is this one my favorite?  Well, it just is.  When faced with one of those anonymity panes, I console myself with my favorite answer and think, "He's probably over there picking his nose or something."  This gives me an immediate feeling of superiority (I'm not picking mine) and gives the nose picker a smiley face to look at in the car next to his as an unintended consequence of his decision to tint his windows.

Now--what do you think he's thinking?  I think he's thinking, "What does that guy think is so funny?"

Nose pickers--ya gotta love 'em.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Plan

I think I'll start going over to North Augusta, to the boat launch area on the Savannah River, every day.  I'll time my trip to get me there just before dawn so I'll be able to sit on a bench in the woods and watch the sun rise through the trees and listen to the birds welcome the day.  There'll be a few others around, from time to time, fishermen launching their boats, an occasional bird watcher, but they'll leave me alone with my thoughts--most won't even know I'm there.  And, oh yes, did I mention before I begin my morning meditations, I'm going to jump into the river?  This should wake me thoroughly, help me stay clean (nah,) and, on those warm summer days, keep me cool and refreshed as I "do my own thing."  What if it gets cold?  Well, it will get cold, fairly soon, I expect, but the water temperature isn't all that cold now and probably won't get that cold that fast.  Of course, when I get out, that's another story.  Maybe I'll take an old blanket with me.  In any case, I'm going to do what I'm going to do--that's just the way I am. 

What if people try to convince me to dry off and warm up in their car?  I'll be polite to them, I may even tell them I agree with them, but I'll just continue doing what I'm doing (I enjoy it, sometimes) and they'll give up, eventually, and leave me alone.  But, they say, the winter's coming on. You'll get too cold.  You'll get sick. 

Who do they think they are? They don't really know me.  I know what's best for me, after all.  Sure, I have my problems, but I'm the smart one here.  And what if I do get sick?  It's my body, and no one's gonna tell me what I can and can't do to it.  Sure, I love my family, but they don't really understand, either.  Nobody really understands how I really feel.

Yes, I'm cold.  Yes, those are my teeth chattering.  (Can't you see I'm shivering?)  Sure, I look bad, but what's it to you?  OK, maybe tomorrow I won't jump in the water.  That's right, tomorrow...maybe...

Oh, Hell!  Why don't you just go away and leave me alone!

     (I need help.)

            (c   o      l           d     ...    .    )

Well, that was the plan, anyway.  All I wanted was a little peace and quiet, a chance to be alone and collect my thoughts, maybe plan my day.  What went wrong?  It couldn't have been that "jump into the water" bit.  I like the water.  I've been jumping into the water for years.  I just jumped once, and I didn't stay long.  I can't imagine not jumping in, really. 

Maybe I'll try again, as soon as they let me out of this place--my psychiatrist says it won't be too much longer.

stephen v geddes

Saturday, October 1, 2011

family humor

Several years ago, my wife, Jennie, bought her father a gag gift, "Big Mouth Billie Bass."  At age 93, he was not particularly impressed with Billy's rendition of "Take me to the river, throw me in the water," which played whenever its motion sensor was activated.
Billy sat around gathering dust until, in a bit of mischievous inspiration, Jennie asked me to hang it by our toilet.  Giving the matter due consideration (wife in the middle of the night?) I hung it.

A bit later, during a family get-together, we adults were sitting in the living room when 3-year old Dillon rushed in, pants somewhat askew (and more than somewhat wet,) pointing back toward the bathroom shouting "Fish!"

So much for imagination--right response, wrong responder. 

Does anyone in DC make sense?

In 2010 it could be said that ten years earlier the two great parties got together and came up with a compromise to provide a tax cut.  They said, let's give the people a tax cut, one that would let our economically more endowed citizens keep (tax) funds to enable them to provide jobs, grow the economy, (provide for the common welfare, etc.,) and would, at the same time, give everyone else at least a little tax relief.  This tax reduction would last for ten years, and then it would expire. 

Well, it's eleven years later and what has happened?  The jobs aren't there--many of them have been sent overseas (by those more endowed citizens?)  The economy has tanked--our government has tried to bolster it but there seems to be a lack of tax income to allow for much more from the government (those tax cuts have gone to further endow our more endowed citizens at the expense of what, our national debt?)  Our banks (and some major industries) have been saved but, while there were funds to bail them out, those same banks are unwilling to release funds to provide loans to bail out small businesses or people wanting to continue to own their own homes (they say we are a Christian nation--but the applicable Christian parable apparently does not apply to those well endowed individuals, the bankers.)  Meanwhile, while most worker pay is being cut (as are, also, many workers themselves,) CEO and upper level executive pay continues to rocket skyward (paper pushing, policy making, and deciding who to give raises to and who to fire is really hard work) and overseas accounts have become such a problem that legislation to address them has caused some to hire more overseas investment counselors to find other ways to avoid keeping that money in the USA.  Send the money overseas, send the jobs overseas, and spend more time on the seas on the yacht.

And a year ago, with the tax cuts set to expire (by law,) some said let them expire, others cried that would constitute a tax increase, and still others said a "for real" tax increase is exactly what is needed.

But wait, along came a slight problem with funding the government, one that threatened the triple-A rating of the USA, and one party said they would only agree to a resolution to permit the government to continue its operations (and at the very last minute, at that) if the other party agreed to extend the tax cuts for two more years.  Aside from the fact that this was simply blackmail, on a grand scale, a blackmail agreed to by both the blackmailers and the blackmailees, does this make any sense at all?  Why did the Republicans make such demands?  Why did the Democrats agree to those demands?  Intransigence from one side would seem to require the same from the other, or at least some modicum of mutual benefit in the resolution.

Question:  Since the tax cuts did not, in any way, shape, or form, do what they were purported to do, how is it that some expect us to believe them when they tell us what we need now is more tax cuts (and cuts in government spending, throwing countless government workers and contractors into the job market, to boot, not exactly providing more jobs and growing the economy?)  Someone must think the American People are all dolts, or worse.  That being the case, perhaps those "dolts" should speak loudly in the next general election.  And they might, if the premise "If you tell the same lie over and over, soon it will be believed to be the truth" fails to hold water--and it will fail to hold water if the American People are not, in fact, dolts.

The only thing that could cause problems with this line of thinking is the possibility that that premise about the lie might be just a bit true.  It should be remembered that the Roberts (Supreme) Court has ruled that corporations, unlike real people, may spend as much as they wish to influence elections in any way they wish.  Of course, we know how those well endowed individuals, the ones who own and/or otherwise control the large corporations in our country, will direct the funds from those corporations.  The tax cut lie, and lies supporting those who are running for election to maintain that tax cut lie, and, of course, the Big Lie that our current President is not doing his job, just might be told in advertisements on almost every web site, on almost every channel, on every TV set, and over every radio incessantly from now till the next election (try Fox News for a preview) making the message from those well endowed individuals the de-facto message of the land.  How will Mr. and Ms. Taxpayer come close to matching funds being spent by those well endowed individuals acting under the cover of their Supreme Court enabled corporations?  One man, one vote may be true, but some well endowed individuals will obviously have much, much more control than anyone else in the land when it comes to spreading their message and promoting their candidates.   

Doesn't the Constitution have provisions for recalling individuals that fail to perform their duties in reasonable manners?  Should our Supreme Court Justices, the ones who voted to enable the control of our elections by our well endowed corporation controllers, be brought to task under those provisions? 

Should they be required to step down?

If so, when?

I know one thing for sure:  If I keep spouting off like this, it will be assumed that I am a card-carrying Democrat--not the independent I claim to be.  The truth is, I maintain that claim, even while writing things like this that appear to contradict that claim. The problem is, my independent assessment is that the party of no is doing the country, as a whole, no good.  And, it appears to me that their current mantra--no taxes for the wealthy, less government for everyone--will soon be serving their masters and themselves poorly, too.  Checks and balances in government are needed.  What is not needed are terminal checks to government and interminable balances to the rich.

It is often said that the rich use their money to buy votes.  Considering campaign expense requirements, it appears some voters on the hill may also be using their votes to buy donations. Symbiosis made in political heaven, I'd say.  And, are the Republicans the only ones in this hunt?  No--they are just the most obvious.

Lieberman for President!