Saturday, March 29, 2014

Day 378

Three days into the SCD program, I stopped. Cold.

The depressive state I dove into was alarming, deep, immediate, and visceral. Granted, I suffer from depression (something that I am on western meds for), so I suppose that my already completely out of wack dopamine levels are impressionable, to be diplomatic. I felt hospitalized. Cornered by sadness, a complete lack of energy, and a lack of even wanting to find any. If I were further along in my recovery I would've fought through it. But the dangers are still too present. And I couldn't risk heading down roads that lead to places that only end with dire consequences. I will say that my stomach felt great for those two full days. Better, in fact, than it ever has. Driven by that, I've decided to go unprocessed in all of my food choices for now. This coming from a guy that lived out of boxes of foods for years. Pasta, breads, sweets, etc. So far, I feel pretty good. I don't have the stomach relief that I had for those brief days, but I most certainly see a very noticeable improvement, and I also immediately leapt from the depression within moments of making the decision to stop. Food is a motherfucking powerful beast.

The SCD program, however, has done wonders for my fiancee. She is, it should be noted, someone that does not suffer from addiction or clinical depression. So I suppose my generic statement is if you wish to try this program, and you're a victim of any sort of mental illness, check with your doc before starting.

Sorry. I just got distracted. Sammy Hagar has a song that contains the line "I'm alive when I breathe the air..." Give me a second. I have to clean some water off my computer.

OK. Back. Shit, that was too good.

In other news, I received my one year coin last night. I had a dear friend in the audience that made the special trip to be there. My fiancee was also there. For many, many reasons it was one of the most moving days of the year for me. Some things (most, if you can believe that) remain private however.

Earlier in the day the present my fiancee ordered for me arrived. It's one of my favorite pictures of us. We have a nearly all black & white artwork delegation in our hallway, and I just love it in all of it's canvas glory.

We also might have met someone. I say might. We'll see. I am a dog person. She is a cat person. Neither of us dislikes the other, we're just more drawn to one than the other. My only rules are don't bite me, don't scratch me, don't destroy every piece of furniture in the house, shit in your disgusting box, and don't attack our future dog.

There will also be rules for the cat.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day 371 - SCD

Day two of the SCD program.

I've suffered from chronic stomach issues since childhood. I won't go into details, but you'll just have to trust me. All I am allowed to eat (granted, as much of it as I want, and only for 5 days) is homemade chicken soup (nothing in it but chicken, it's own broth, and emulsified carrots), gelatin, steamed carrots, grape juice, eggs, honey, and beef patties. Essentially, I am eating like a sick dog.

My better half suggested this program (and has gone WAY out of her way to cook and prepare essentially everything for me) knowing that I have never been able to find an answer to my stomach issues. And believe me, I have tried. I've cut out various foods, in various combinations, too many hundreds of times to even begin to count. To no avail.

I'll spare you the descriptive element of how this works, but just say that it's basically not allowing the bad bacteria in my stomach to survive on junk sugars and junk carbs.

I've learned two things thusfar

1) My withdrawals were immediate. I don't think I got through the afternoon of day one without already craving salts and sugars. It opened my eyes even wider to the addictive element of me. And has proven just how out of wack my dopamine is. I am a creature of habit. And when you take away my ability to mindlessly snack on something throughout the course of the day? I want to fold like a cheap suit. This has truly been as difficult as the attempt to quit smoking (I'm still smoking, but have quit in the past).

2) I was told that the reaction to the death of these bacteria might be immediate and pervasive. Well, it is. I feel flu-ish. Have on and off headaches. I'm exhausted and cranky. I want to eat a plate full of nachos and chase it with some ice cream like you wouldn't fucking believe. To end the agony.

But I can't do that. I need to heal my stomach in order to heal my mind. And 41 years of this is enough.

If you're going to try this, and you're predisposed to an addictive element of yourself like I am, be prepared. This is not fun. But from what I've read, it turns a bit of a corner by the third day.

I'll try and let you know if that's true. If you don't hear from me, I'll be headfirst in a vat of nacho cheese.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Day 365

Dear friends,

I am 1 year sober today.

1 year ago, on this day, I was in 4 WEST (the psych ward, to most of you) at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Only 2 days removed from the bottle. A bottle that had landed me in the hospital 3 times within the course of the month. A bottle that had me checked in at 145 pounds. Had me shaking like a leaf (this continued for another 2 weeks). Had me crying. Had me admitting that I was trying to kill myself. Had me ready to die. As the woman I loved, and loved me equally, held my hand. Lost.

That's what this disease did to me. See, I didn't want to kill myself. But I had gone so far down the well, there seemed to be no turning back. I knew what the withdrawals were like. This wasn't my first rodeo. The searing chest pain, the sweats, the chills, the shakes that disallowed shaving or opening a can of beans, the nausea, the aches, the dizziness, the inability to sleep, the screaming tinnitus, the blasts of violent dots (stars in the dark), evil hallucinations out of a Timothy Leary study gone awry, the restless legs. Essentially, the pure and incessant horror.

It lead me to accept the fact that I was going to die. Because at that point, dying would've been such a huge relief. A relief not only to my own anguish, but a relief to those that I had dragged into the cellar with me (that's how I saw it). My soul mate, my parents and brother, my extended family and my friends (too numerous to name). I had lied, cheated, bullshited, and pillaged their compassion to its bitter end point. All so I could continue to pour Vodka in my mouth by the gallon. Alone. In bed. In and out of consciousness.

I knew I finally had to face myself. Purely. And unadulterated by the interests of anyone other than myself. I had to meditate on who I was. I also had to get combative, and angry, in order to dig to the bottom of me. Why I suffered. And how I could survive. Because the core truth was, I did not want to die. But this disease sure as fuck wanted me to. I broke my soul in half. Unsure of whether or not I could sew the seems back together. Regardless, there was no other way. I had to go all the way in. I had to.

My story is very long. With many turns and tides and shifts. I don't feel like it would be right of me to share it all right here, right now. 2 reasons for that. 1? I am in the process of writing a book about it. 2? I share the entire story these days to the rooms of AA that I frequent, and the detoxes, hospitals, and other similar facilities where I am asked to speak. And for now, I feel that full story is best served for those that I have direct contact with.

When I am asked to speak (and when I am speaking, and after I am finished and immersed in the people that are in the audience) I feel a fire in my soul, regarding what my path will be, that I only felt 1 other time in my life. Back when I was 17 or so and my band was asked to play a show. I feel that same desire, fire, passion, and joy. I NEVER thought that feeling would happen anywhere else in my life.

I no longer feel those things with music. I still love it. And it will always be a huge part of me. And I hope it is forever a major character in my life. But it never defined me. I never achieved any peace with it. And most days, I got just the opposite. Now I have found, after all these years, my true calling. To share my story of survival and hope with those afflicted with the same beast that I bear. If not to save, then to simply extend a hand with the message of “You never have to feel alone”.

Here's a short glimpse of the book I am trying to work through. It shares but a minimal fraction :

-------------From 2007 through 2011 I was married. Owned my own 2,200 square foot home. Had a beautiful dog. Had just wrapped up a very successful record store that I co-owned. Had a steady, and reliable job, as a public assistant (bartender). Toured the world as a guitar player. As far away as the southern most reaches of New Zealand to a 10 minute drive from the Arctic Circle in Sweden. And nearly everything in between. 19 countries. Hundreds of States/Cities/Provinces. Performed in theaters built for royalty that held an average of 1,000 people. Each night was sold out. I had people tugging at my shirtsleeves to get my autograph. A photo. Anything. People jumped with joy when I gave them a guitar pic.

I also drank, on and off (mostly on), after 7 years of abstinence.

In the March of 2012, I laid in the back of an ambulance.

I couldn't feel or move my arms and legs due to the onset of severe atrophy. I had been pissing in bottles. When I could reach the bottles. When I couldn't, the floor of my parent's house. Or in my pants. The only reason I wasn't shitting myself was I hadn't eaten anything in over 2 weeks. I was barely able to lift my arms to dial 911. I told the operator in a whisper (I had lost my voice due to complete dehydration, I hadn't drank any liquid other than vodka, rum, wine, mouthwash, vanilla extract, and cologne (yup, cologne) for over 2 weeks) that I couldn't get to the door. They would need to break it down. Miraculously, I was able to fall out of bed and drag my paralytic body to the front door when they arrived.

“Been on a bender, Schwabe?”

One of the EMTs knew me from High School. I tried to say “That's an understatement” but couldn't get the words out. As they wheeled me out, the EMT that didn't know me asked if I had my ID for registration purposes. I was barely able to tell them that it was in the ransacked, filthy, empty-bottle ridden bedroom. He went to retrieve it. Moments later he returned. Slightly more gray-faced than when he left.

He looked me dead in the eyes. I think they were the only words he could find.

“Holy. Shit.”

A short time later, in the ICU, I was shown my blood work. The doctor spoke evenly.

“Sir, when did you take your last drink?”

I believed that it was roughly 6 or so hours before this moment. So that's what I whispered.

“6 hours ago? Are you sure?”

“Give or take a half hour or so” I muttered.

“Sir. Your blood alcohol level is a .48”

He then asked me to sign the paperwork. I barely got my hand around the pen.

I was divorced. My dog had terminal cancer. I lost my house. My music job had come to an end and my regular work of nearly a decade followed suit. My whole family was about to live in Arizona. I spent every dime I made playing music. I spent my last 100 dollars on 10 gallons of Vodka. That I drank over the course of the previous 9 days. I weighed 140 pounds. I was living at my parents house. Scratch that. I was nearly dead at my parents house. And now I was covered in my own urine. And my beard caked with vomit. Hooked up to every tube in the book.

But this doctor just asked me for my autograph.

Much like those crazed fans did in Portugal a mere 9 months earlier.

And then?

Then, it got bad.-------------------------------------

There are too many people to thank for me being alive today. I would, however, be remiss without mentioning a key few.

The people of The Hope Center in Springfield, MA. They opened doors for me that I never knew existed in myself. Rob and Eric. Two of my favorite things on earth. We've been through the wars. If not for them, I am not entirely sure I'd be here today. My Aunt Allison. If there are angels, she is undeniably one of them. My parents and brother. They've stood by me through this nightmare, and now this dream, with the same vigor and peace throughout. AJ, Terry, and Lindsay. For lending their ears when I needed to speak, and their words when they knew I needed to listen. Chris Herren. His story inspired me through film. It continues to inspire me. Only now as a teammate, and friend.

Ada Langford. My soul mate. My everything. A pillar. You inspire me every single day. I love every single thing about you. Your compassion, strength, and love are unparalleled. A moment without you is a moment wasted.

To all of you that dropped by, or sent a message, or called, or even took a small moment to take another look at how serious this disease is, I thank you all. Boundlessly. Not a single thing went unnoticed or unappreciated.

Sure. There are still horrible days. Days that take strength. Life doesn't stop being miserable here and there. My dear Uncle passed away last month. I don't have a car, or much money at all. And I could continue this list, like any of us could. But I choose to take away its power. I refuse to focus on it. I acknowledge it and move on. For this world is, by and large, too beautiful of a place to relinquish to the demon dormant within me.

Today, I am engaged to the love of my life (we plan to marry this Fall, if we can hold out that long). I have a job, and a beautiful home. I weigh 185 pounds (a healthy weight for my height) and I don't shake. At my last check up my health was spot on, which is nothing short of miraculous. I am in the middle of writing the aforementioned book, and recording my 3rd solo record. I am making amazing connections in the sober world (they help me more than I can ever help them, and therein lies the endless pursuit), and aim to council my fellow addicts as a career. And for the first time, in 41 years, there is a permanent smile in my soul.

I am the first to admit that I have done shameful things. But in no way am I ashamed of who I am. This is my story, and I survived. I love myself today. And every single day, I am thankful for that. And every single day, I work to stay here. In this, the truest version of myself.

If you're out there, and you're lost, send me a private message and I will send you my phone number. No judgments, ever. I can't promise you but 1 thing. I promise you that I will listen to you for as long as you need.

All love and gratitude, always.

M

Friday, January 24, 2014

Day 314 - A Telegraph to the Chamber of the Wicked

24/1/14 00:27AM

A telegraph to the chamber of the wicked.

If only.

If only there were a way to convict them. Their desolate patterns. Collectively. A way to keep their glaring eyes at bay. Their structured void. So convincing. Scientific, even. Their theories proven. Time, and listless time, again. These beasts without form. Impossible to nail down. Shadow cancers. These empty cars crashes. Steel and rubber. Careening and crucified. Their desolate patterns. Shadow snowflakes. No one else can see them. Nor you, theirs. They are governed by chaos. Egalitarian schisms. They can pillage and fuck and cower. And leave us none the wiser.

Just lay low and await their next transmission. We can't win the battle. Nor the war. But we can allow the lamb its day with the lion.

Yours in attempted valor, and candid dignity.

M

Friday, December 13, 2013

Day 272 - Vampire in the sun

My breath acts the part of startled, miniature ghosts. Jumping from my mouth every 3 seconds or so. My hands are stiff. I'm married to the nearly wet warmth between my scarf and lips. There's a slight breeze and it's razors line my finger tips. It's only been a half mile and I am already over winter.

I'm nestled into the warmth of a local restaurant. Remembering how the 18 year old me would've already been writing about how 'disconnected and indifferent' I can be. Hell, the 25 year old would've written that. Who am I fooling? Up until 40, I would've been writing that very same umbrella sentiment. It might have been veiled in a more obtuse way. Prettied up and candied, or viciously violent and lamenting.

And here's the part where I tell you that the man from those days has died. And in many grand ways, that's true. But it's more important for me to tell you (and myself) that the deep, undeniable darkness isn't dead. It merely lays dormant in me. Even with the light of therapy, sobriety, true love, focus, and medication. It would be a lie if I told you that my darkness was a vampire. That it was murdered by exposing it all to the sun. I have done that. With all of the darkness in me. I fully opened my book. And the bloodsucker just won't die. And that's fine, because now I have room for him.

I share this for those of you out there that may think I have been miraculously cured. That I am nothing but rainbows, puppies, and good tidings. In many, many ways, that is how I am. A freed man, most certainly. But I am absolutely not unilateral. The other dimension very much sits there. Peeking out from behind a corner. It's eyes dead and intentions miserable. My strength, however, comes from appropriating the correct tools to handle the little fucker. I've worked incredibly hard at it. And I've had overwhelming support in that battle.

What the fuck is my point?

Do yourself a favor. If you suffer from anything similar, don't ignore a single element of who you are. Face it head on. Accept that you might not be able to win for one day here and there. But for God's sake, don't ignore it. Doing that landed me dead once. And nearly twice. Shit's gonna keep coming, man. Always. Be alert, aware, and confident. It's the only way to make sure it stands no long term chance.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Day 268 - Feat damp, at best.

It was a bit naive and overly ambitious of me to think that I could start writing every day around the time that I worked 84 hours, traveled to 5 different cities on the East Coast, hosted Thanksgiving, went to a screening of a small film, made weekend long plans with my fiancee for her birthday, and had two rehearsals for a Christmas show all in less than two weeks.

Seems I still might not be ready given that the sentence I just typed went on for four lines.

But what the hell, right?

Happy to report that it was two weeks that I absolutely loved every minute of. Well, nearly every minute. Could have lived without my glasses breaking (again) and some critical back issues. But I'll take the percentage of amazing that I was lucky enough to swim through.

Looks like I start my record back up this week. With Joel, now that he's back from tour.

The break was good. It allowed me to distance myself from the things I have been writing. Allowed that necessary distance as to not fall into the trap of *the latest thing I've done is the best thing*.

Also, I can tell I am going to enjoy writing again. Once I get flowing, that is. I truly despise trying to quantify the speed of my thoughts on a cell phone. I guess that's the blessing and the curse of being a decent typist. It's nice to be in front of keys again.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Day 261

Writing the first sentence is overwhelming.

So there. That's all set, I suppose.

There is so much that I want to write about. So much that I have to divulge. To share. To blather about. So it's safe to say that the first sentence is hardly the most overwhelming thing about writing again after a four year silence.

I am not sure where to start. And in order to keep this blank white box from glaring back at me I figure that filling it with just this will provide a stepping stone.

I want to keep a journal, I suppose. Of things that are happening in my world, and of things that are happening in the world that lives in my mind.

I will try and do this on a very regular basis. I have wanted to do that before, and failed. So there are no promises. But I will try.

Maybe you can send me random questions? About anything. Maybe that will kickstart things? But please, no hipster smart ass rhetorical things please. Cheers.

In the interim, the is a plethora of old stories to pick through on here. Much of it feels like someone else's memories. But that's the charm, I suppose. Feel free to browse, if so inclined.

I'll be considering words.

*This format is completely (and lovingly) ripped off from F. Alex Johnson's wonderful blog Fearless By Default