For the Children

Those of you catching my blog for the first time will soon learn what those who’ve been around awhile already do:  I am obsessed with animal advocacy.  This ISN’T what I’m going to write about today, though.  Not exactly.

I’ve mentioned previously the circumstances surrounding my divorce, and that those circumstances centered around my stepson’s abuse by his biological father.  The trauma and emotions and everything just destroyed my family. The divorce may have happened anyway, but the abuse and accompanying trauma was the trigger.

So, how does this tie into my affair with animal advocacy?  Well, I’d gotten a dog as a way of moving on and into another chapter of my life, and the more I loved my dog (and who couldn’t), the more I felt the need to be involved with animal rights.  It occupies a great deal of my free time, but I love it, I love doing it, I love being part of positive change.  I love knowing that I may contribute to the success of any given campaign.

But I often imagine my ex-wife asking me, “Why do you do all of this for animals, and you’ve never done anything for abused children, for children’s rights?”  I often ask this of myself in my own voice, let alone hers.  I feel guilty for not doing it.  Shouldn’t this be a topic even closer to my heart?

I’ve seen what abuse can do to a child’s life.  My stepson’s reality became daily and nightly rages that would require restraining him most days, for he couldn’t get himself under control and he was a danger to himself and everyone around.  He was diagnosed as having dissociative flashbacks as the cause of these rages, and obviously these are not remotely anything a 7-year-old can handle.  He usually couldn’t make it to bed without incident.  He couldn’t even make it to school a lot of the time.

By his 9th birthday, he was living in therapeutic homes and hospitals for children in such situations.  By that point, my wife and I had already separated.  We were back together, and then not, while he lived in several such homes for the next 3 years.  Having lived all of this and seen it happen to the child I tried to raise as my own, shouldn’t this be a cause I’d more eagerly join?

He still has the rages.  Anything can trigger them.  I don’t get reports from his mother as to how he’s doing most of the time, and frankly, I really can’t stand having to deal with her anyway.  My stepson himself isn’t going to volunteer the bad things that have gone on in my absence.  I still see him every couple of months, but I’m almost more of an uncle in a way at this point.  But when I DO get the news of incidents he’s having, I die inside.  He’s 13 now; He’s already lost his childhood, and now his adolescence is jeopardized.  I don’t know how to handle that, how to accept it.  It’s a crippling feeling.

I think this is why I don’t get involved in children’s advocacy, especially that for abused children.  It might be too close to home.  I see so many things daily on the internet doing animal stuff, like dogs being tied up and thrown outside to freeze to death.  Puppies who’ve had their eyes gouged out and then shot with BBs.  These things make me want to curl up and give up so much of the time.  There’s so much wrong, so much evil in the world strictly dealing with animals.  It’s hard to go on sometimes.  I don’t know if I can do this same thing and hear the stories of what’s happening to kids out there.  I already know so much of it.  Maybe it’s partially because MY OWN trauma is tied up in these things.  I don’t think I can handle seeing what I’ve seen happen to animals happening to children, but I still beat myself about not being involved.

I can only thank whatever powers might be, mankind generated and/or higher, that there are people out there who deal with those things daily.  Some of those folks are and have been involved in my stepson’s life.  There are so many programs out there that you wouldn’t know existed.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to stomach doing it myself; I hope it doesn’t make me a bad person that I’m not involved at present.  But for now, all I can do about it is what I did back then: cry.

      

In Better Times

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2012, My Personal Apocalypse: “May You Live In Interesting Times”

I wanted my blog to consist of thoughtful things, things which might engage potential readers, and to NOT be a bunch of updates on my life.  I have FaceCrook for that.  I didn’t want my page to be a bunch of diary entries, essentially.  But I haven’t had any topic ideas, and it’s been 11 days since my last post (I think).

It is said there’s an ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”.  The phrase is allegedly NOT Chinese, nor ancient, but it proves an amusing curse nonetheless.  And I find myself in interesting times.  As I wrote about in my post “A Week of Friday the 13ths”, I began the year with some unexpected veterinary issues (with accompanying bills) after a clean semi-annual checkup of my dog on January 4th.  This all has come to $139 I didn’t expect to spend (on top of the $132 I’d just paid for the blood work, stool and urine samples, and office visit for the clean checkup).  The worst part of it , though, is Furgii having the seizures and needing to go back on the Phenobarbital.  The money is nothing compared to concerns for her health.

Then, on the 25th, I noticed that my email account was sending some strange emails to every email address of which there were records, even if they weren’t in my address book.  I figured it out when the Mailer Daemon sent me notices that my messages to Shop.NFL.com and some other addresses were undeliverable.  This had been going on for 5 days.  When I looked into my “sent” folder, the outgoing messages consisted of what sounded like Biblical passages followed by some kind of coding.  I had to get a new email account, and I changed every user name and password for everything I do on the computer.

Today, I found upon checking my bank account (which I do fairly regularly to double check my math) that a charge of $45.51 to a merchant (WMV*Match.com) is awaiting clearance.  I naturally thought of the dating site, Match.com, to which I have never gone or used.  I called my bank, and was informed that I can dispute the charge once it clears, which will likely be tomorrow.  I had to cancel my debit card and will have to wait for a new one to arrive via mail.  In hindsight, I maybe should have gone to an ATM to get some cash before canceling the old one, because I now have no access to money.  I do have enough food in the house, so I’m not that stuck.  It’s just inconvenient.  I wanted to cancel immediately so no other charges could be made by the villain.  After getting off the phone with the bank, I googled the address, and there has been a string of credit card fraud of varying purchase amounts all made to this “merchant”.  I happen to joyously be one of the latest victims.

Not a good start to my year, to say the least.  It’s funny because just a few days ago, I was telling a co-worker that I have always been a generally unlucky person.  I have had luck kick in when I needed it most, but otherwise, mine has been dreadful.

For example, I should have failed my senior year of high school, most notably because of my history class.  I can only conclude to this day that my teacher passed me because he liked me.  I never did the homework, I never paid attention, and my tests had to be abysmal.  But I used to talk to the teacher about music all the time after class.  I simply couldn’t have earned a passing grade based on anything of a scholastic nature.  It’s unfathomable., but luck allowed me to graduate.

My wife and I found out after moving to Rhode Island that my stepson’s father was abusing him.  Very unlucky thing to have happen (most so for my stepson).  But we found out just before we were up there 6 months.  After that time, my stepson would have been a resident of that state rather than New Jersey, where he was born, and the original custody agreement that my wife was his guardian, with visitation rights by his father, would have been nullified.  Once back in Jersey, we retained the original custody order and could pursue the eventual restraining order against his father.  This was the only lucky thing in the situation, but we got the information we needed in the literal nick of time.  March 1st of 2006 would have been the deadline, and my wife and stepson made a run out of town on February 27th (when we found out about the deadline) and enrolled him in school in Jersey on the 28th.  Nick of time.

Wy wife left me, twice, in the years that followed, but the one lucky thing for me there is that I’m no longer embroiled in the drama that has befallen my former family since then.  This is an awful thing to say and think, but I know I would have been destroyed if she hadn’t left me.  Nick of time (though the scars remain).

My first dog, which I’d gotten to help me move on from that situation, came with chronic health issues that were hidden from me by a completely irresponsible and negligent foster home.  I had the dog 5 weeks before I was able to get someone else to take him.  I could not as a single person care for the dog’s needs.  But he and I were a nearly perfectly compatible match of personalities.  It’s still heartbreaking.  My”nick of time” luck there might have transferred to poor Chance.  If I hadn’t adopted him, the foster home probably would have killed him through negligence, and the home that has him now was finally able to get the proper diagnosis for a dog that has many years to go still.  My 5-week role in his life literally did SAVE it.

I got my current dog to replace him.  She had 2 seizures in my first 2 weeks with her.  The foster home that had her had not witnessed any.  I covered this also in a previous blog post, but I DO NOT in any way blame that foster situation.  It was a young couple that worked and had social lives, and if the seizures had occurred, they hadn’t noticed them. They weren’t even part of the rescue.  They just found her and agreed to foster if the rescue paid the bills.  I truly believe them, and still correspond with them sometimes.

But at this point, my abused stepson, the woman who dumped me twice (and hooked up with someone in one of her outpatient step-down programs after she went bonkers), the two dogs’ health issues….God surely hated me.  In fact, I wondered if Furgii had never had seizures UNTIL she came here, because I’d given my bad luck to her.

And last year, I had a very bad year at work.  I had let so many of the negative issues in my life effect how I was behaving on a day-to-day basis.  I’m deeply ashamed of my conduct during the middle stretch of 2011.  I am very lucky that I was given a chance to turn myself around and was not disciplined or punished in any way, though I should have been.  I was fortunate to “see the light” before it was too late.  Nick of time.  I was looking forward to a good 2012.

And now all of this email nonsense and financial b.s. happens.  I seem to have caught both in the….well, you know.  But It’s maddening that I have to go through this shit.  I know my problems are greatly outweighed by the problems some others have, I do.  But still.

Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls”.  Well, THIS MAN wants to TRY to put the SOULS of his shoes up the ass of THESE TIMES.

“And I Say to Myself….’What a Wonderful World’….”

Previous entries of mine have talked about the evil in the world, mostly that inflicted on animals, and I am in no way doing an about-face regarding that.  There are so many disgusting and disheartening things to be seen daily.  But today, I want to do something else.  Yes, there are those things that are born in the darkest corners of the human mind, but there are amazing, beautiful, wondrous things, too.

There IS love out there, the love of people to make a CHANGE, and even to BE changed whether they want to or not.  I have been doing what I can to change the injustices out there, and I am but the metaphoric grain of sand in the movements I have joined.

I read an article today by someone who fostered animals, including dogs, but never considered herself a dog person until her family fostered, then adopted an aging pit bull, and helped him to live the rest of his years with dignity.  I also saw a PSA featuring a player on the St. Louis Rams football team for pet adoption.  I signed a petition for the protection of wild buffalo and other creatures.

But it’s not just about animals.  A friend of mine supports Somali Mam Foundation, an organization that’s fighting to stop human slave trafficking.  There are movements to protect children.  There are movements to save the environment.  Speaking of which, I received an email today that a bunch of jungle land that was going to be destroyed to make paper plates was saved, as per a petition I had previously signed.

There is darkness, but there is also light.

There are still individuals that care, saving farmland, saving the underprivileged, saving animals, saving the subjugated.  There are the people that even FIND OUT about these troubles in the first place, and act to CREATE the petitions I and others are signing, and making sure it’s all sent where it needs to go.  THAT can only be called LOVE.

It’s still here in this world, though it faces many obstacles.  But instead of focusing on those obstacles, today I want to focus on and be grateful for the people tearing them down.  Because I want to express what they’ve been expressing:  LOVE.

Somaly Mam Foundation

Becoming a Dog Person, article about the aging pit bull

HOMEGAME with PSA, PSA for pet adoption

(Look, I figured out how to install links!)

The Ghost in the Machine

I have been posting for a few months now, and this is my 25th post (a milestone!).  What I want to say here today is how in awe I am that I’ve been able to reach readers.  It started with friends in one of my writers’ groups at a meeting about beginning/promoting/streamlining blogs.  I have since somehow magically gained readers, or at a minimum written posts that at least one of which landed on someone else’s computer screen, and they liked it enough to click “like”, to comment (nicely), and/or to even subscribe.

I thank all of you that have enjoyed what I’m doing and especially those that follow regularly.

I’m still very new to this, and very new to computers in general by comparison to most suburban Americans.  I’m definitely NOT a tech-savvy person.  I’m amazed that the wizardry of these computers and the internet has allowed me this “voice”, and for the digital ears to “listen” to it.  I’m grateful for that, grateful for the spirit in these electrodes and wires and satellite beams that lets us reach out to each other this way.         (Reaching Out)>>

But I’m most grateful for those that support what I’m doing via that spirit by liking and continuing to be open to what I have to say.  I most humbly appreciate that and thank you all.  Peace, love and light to you all, as my friend Jacquie would say.

An Anniversary

Okay, I’ve shared with you, my precious readers, some things that happened in my domestic life which are very personal.  And yet these things weren’t too hard to write about or share.  This is possibly because the dissolution of my family happened officially in 2007.  While it’s not exactly water under the bridge at this point, it’s not such a fragile thing to handle as it was.  What I’m writing about today makes me feel very open and vulnerable, like I’m taking a huge risk by revealing it.

In 3 days, on January 7, it will mark 2 years since I’ve given up drinking.  Alcohol abuse has plagued me throughout my life, and yet it does not run in my family.  It was something I latched onto very early, and did to myself.  This paragraph alone makes me feel like I should wait for judging eyes, shaking heads, and faces turning away to other things.

I suppose the best way to write about all of this is to start at the beginning and work my way forward.  When I was in my adolescence, I hated my life, and I hated myself.  At 15, I wanted to kill myself, but hadn’t the willpower to do it.  I started raiding my parents’ unused liquor cabinet at that point, because I figured that if I couldn’t end my life quickly, I’d end it slowly.  The big surprise (other than learning that scotch tastes like what I imagine urine does) was that the feeling I’d get from drinking would turn every emotion I had around.  I had no more hate, anger, or depression.  Life, while drunk, seemed simply wonderful.  Instead of being the slow form of suicide I envisioned, it became a crutch.  I emptied that cabinet pretty good, and since my parents didn’t touch it, it went unnoticed.  My parents also weren’t around a lot.  It still seems strange, though, not to have gotten caught looking back at it.

I gave up drinking for the first time in 1990, a month shy of my 19th birthday, when I became startled that a stressful day resulted in a very clear image of a bottle in my head.  The image appeared in my mind, accompanied by the thought that it would all be over soon, when I got home to my concubine, the bottle.  It frightened me to find myself having that thought.

I’m not sure how long I was “dry”, but I did eventually go back to drinking, because my senses of worthlessness, inadequacy, loneliness, etc., were never addressed.  I understand that now, literally as I’m writing these sentences.  I’m actually tearing up with this revelation.  But onward I must go.  This tale has not fully been told.

I remember that I had gotten obliterated every day for 9 months straight with the exception of perhaps 2 or 3 days when I had a cold.  I was in my mid-twenties.  I worked in the morning, got destroyed when I got home, and would pass out by 8 p.m.  I had plenty of time to sleep it off, and so rarely was hungover or ill-effected for work the next day.  Of course, we seem to be able to handle that kind of lifestyle when we’re young.

I quit drinking at that time because my boss knew what I was doing.  She didn’t stop me in the way you might think.  The drinking didn’t effect my work or reliability, and to be honest, she probably had some problems of her own.  The reason she induced me to stop was because she called me on Thanksgiving, saying she wanted to wish me a happy holiday before I was too drunk.  She didn’t mean it in a negative way, I don’t think, but in a caring way.  I believe she may have had a similar destination, although it was because she was a party girl whereas I was avoiding life.  She wanted to let me know she cared before I’d be unable to have the conversation.

I’ve mentioned my writing of poems and lyrics in these posts, and I was doing this very extensively back then.  1995 was one of my worst years emotionally, and I can recall this because of how prolific I was that year and what it was I’d written.  Anyway, there were a few people at work with whom I shared my writing.  About a week after the Thanksgiving phone call, one such friend wanted me to show the poem I’d just shared with her to another coworker.  I refused, citing how personal my writing was and that I was very selective of whom got to see it.  She said, “What’s wrong with showing people there’re other facets to Jordan besides just being the Shift Leader in the Deli?”  I still refused to share the writing, but I started putting the phone call and that conversation together; what if the other facet everyone saw was just Jordan, the drunk?  I dumped out the bottle I was drinking when that thought hit me, and every other bottle in the apartment.

I had been sober for over 4 years when I started dating my wife-to-be, at 29.  I had made it almost to 5 years, when, strangely enough, Thanksgiving would factor in again.  We had gone to the house of friends of my wife’s (then fiance’s) parents.  I used to wonder if I’d ever drink again.  I thought that because I thought about it so much and wanted there to be a day when I could, it meant that I wasn’t ready to.  But at this Thanksgiving, I was surrounded by the woman I loved and her son, their family, and their friends.  When I was offered wine, it seemed to me that it was just a celebratory thing, it was for the right reasons and not the wrong ones, and I had no pressure or expectations of having a drink.  It frankly seemed inconsequential, so I figured, why not?  This seems like the time is right.  I didn’t get drunk, I just had a glass of wine.  But it awakened that thirst back up.  By the time I was married, I was having an occasional beer with dinner if we went out.

I eventually started buying  alcohol and hiding it in my closet (my wife and I had separate closets).  I would have a six pack in the fridge sometimes, but I’d drink some and smuggle fresh ones from my closet into the six pack so it never looked like I’d touched it.  Sometimes my wife would go with my stepson over to her parents, and if it got late, they’d stay over.  I looked at those nights as times I could take a “mini vacation” and get lit.

I think I should point out here that I never required alcohol on a physical level, which is why I would be able to quit at various times over my life or could wait until my next opportunity to drink.  I never had the D.T.’s.  I could get through my day without it, without needing it.  It is, however, a very deep emotional addiction.  I’m addicted to feeling the way I do when I’m drunk.

I realize this might sound like the typical things addicts will say:  “I don’t have a problem”, “I can quit whenever I want”, “I’m not addicted”, “I’m in control”.  But there is physical dependency and emotional dependency.  I have the latter.  I know I very much do indeed have a problem.  I can have a single drink today and stop there.  I can wait a week or a month and have a second single drink.  But eventually I will want to have them more frequently.  And I’ll want to not just taste it, but feel a little buzz.  And then I’ll want to be drunk.  And then sloppy drunk.  I CAN stop at any point, my problem is in convincing myself I want to.  It becomes a game of “Forever Tomorrow”.  “I’ll stop tomorrow, this is the last day.”  The next day, “Okay, tomorrow, for sure.”  Like I said, the trouble is in convincing myself that I want to stop and not feel that feeling I love so much.  Feeling that false happiness I get when I’m in that state and that I don’t feel when sober.  I was able to control this emotional addiction when I was married because I had something to lose: my family.  It was easier to convince myself then.

However, my family situation ended.  In the first year back from Rhode Island, with my stepson raging violently every night once safe from his father’s abuse, there was no thought or ability to drink.  We just tried to get through each day.  But when my wife and I separated, I drank every day for a month.  I continued to do this for most of the next few months until my wife and I “hooked back up” several months later.  When she eventually became so depressed that she had to go inpatient several times (her son being cared for in the live-in facilities himself at that point), I drank away in despair for her mental state.  When she broke up with me again, guess what I did?  Mind you, I firmly believe my wife never knew of my closet drinking.  I do not believe this had anything to do with her decision to break up with me either time.  I don’t think she’d let me still see her son if she did know.

After the breakup, my drinking continued for a few years, until January, 2010.  By that point, I had dug myself into a nice whole financially, jacking up my credit cards, then about $35,000 of total debt, $20,000 of which I had accrued during the marriage, mostly during the last year of it paying for my stepson’s psychological treatment and medicines not covered by my insurance.  Plus what I’d charged to keep us afloat that whole year back in Jersey when my wife didn’t work.  To add to all of that, from 2008-2010, I not only bought massive amounts of alcohol, I’d buy things online while drunk.  I became $55,000 in debt trying to buy happiness.

So, that January two years ago, I realized something had to change financially.  I had to stop drinking, for one, obviously, and I’d have to see what I could do about the debt for another.  I eventually filed for bankruptcy.

It’s not been an easy road since then.  My money is tight, but this is how I have to pay the ferryman (metaphorically) for the lavish cruise I’d chartered.  I accept that.  That brings my story to the present, 3 days away from 2 years of sobriety.  I have to realistically assume I can never drink again, which is sometimes hard to pull off.  There are ads all over the television, there are social situations in which drinking is prominent, the temptation is always there.

Like I said, I have to convince myself I don’t want to do it, and just as my family was the reason I’d held myself in check before, my reasons now are that I have an amazing gift in my dog, and she needs me to keep my priorities straight.  Plus I’ve worked hard to rebuild this life.  I’ve wasted so much of it, but I’m not dead yet.  Perhaps I can still find some happiness, REAL happiness in my life, and to do so will require saying no, probably for the rest of my days.

“Satisfaction”

This is another “recycle” piece from my early days in one of my writer’s groups.  The prompt given on which to write was “satisfaction”.  I think I need to re-read it a few times myself, as I had been in a pessimistic state to say the least for the last two years, and I’ve been fighting to turn the page, to revisit the thoughts I had when writing this piece.

“Satisfaction”-7/22/09

I often reflect on life in sports analogies. At work, for example, there are the (metaphoric and literal) Captains and other locker room leaders, the role-players, the bench guys who come in in relief. You can’t always win every game, but you do your best.

Sometimes in life you feel like you’ve had your three strikes and you’re out. And sometimes you come up a yard short (remember the Titans?). Sometimes on paper things don’t seem in your favor, but you stick to your game plan, you steel yourself, and you pull off the Cinderella Story surprise victory.

A lot of the time, you remember to be humble, and that you owe it all to the people who’ve trained you, who’ve been on your teams in the past, the folks who believed in you, and supported you even when times were tough.

To apply the analogy again to my workplace, I’ve been in situations when I realized that I had one of the higher salaries on my team, and I felt the pressure of those dollars, because if I’m earning such a high salary and I don’t perform, well, the fans aren’t going to be happy, are they? And let’s not talk about how the Team Manager will feel.

In life, as in team sports, there are those that lead a team by example, those that are the rah-rah guys. There are those who might seem to be lesser players, but you won’t win without them. There are those whose single-minded intensity makes them dominant over all the rest.

So, what does this have to do with satisfaction?

You see, I remember a scene in Kevin Costner’s “For Love of the Game” when a player is leaving the team to sign with the free-spending Yankees (a team I hate in real life, by the way, but I digress). Costner’s character expresses disappointment and feels betrayed, because they had been teammates for so long. What about the team? The departing player points to his wife and child in the corner of the locker room, saying, “You see them? That’s my team.” I not only got that, but felt the same way.

I’ve brought up work in this piece twice now, but I had rubbed the people I’ve worked with the wrong way because I wasn’t interested in friends. If I got along with you, great. But I was there to do my job, and keep my (home) team afloat. I wasn’t there to be social. It was all about the team at home. The team at work was strictly minor league to me.  In sports, the athletes work hard, train, learn from the mistakes of the past, and sacrifice for the good of the team. I know I did these things for my REAL team, for my wife and stepson. My passion for that game should not be questioned, and I gave what I had to give.

Ah, but here’s the Shakespearean rub: teams disband, players sign elsewhere or retire, some players are simply cut from the team. Sometimes there’s a Team of Destiny, and sometimes you’re not on it.

I’ve touched on the end of my marriage and what happened to my stepson in earlier posts.  Using the sports analogy, suffice it to say, that I have lost my players to other teams.  Some (including myself) might say that I was cut. When this happens, the team must rebuild to make another run at it. I’m rebuilding.

So….satisfaction? Some players aren’t satisfied until they get a championship. Look at Elway, Bourque, Bettis, and others who got to go out on top after decades of failure. In a way, isn’t that what we all want? To achieve all we’ve strived for since we were kids? Knowing we never gave up, and persisitance payed off? What about Nomar Garciaparra, a fan fave in Boston, traded away at the deadline to watch the Red Sox win their first championship in 86 years? That’s brutal. Sometimes I feel like I’m that guy.

Will I ever be satisfied? None of us ever knows. There were times I’d believed I had my one chance at a ring (metaphor, anyone?), and that was all the chance I’d get. But the aforementioned retired players eventually got their satisfaction, and poor Nomar, at least, went down still trying.

Will I get to my final day, satisfied that I achieved what I sacrificed so much for? Nothing is certain, but unless I rebuild after my losses, my personal victory lap will always elude me. You’ve got to fight to win, so I’ve got to dig deep, put on my eye black, put aside the pain and weariness, put the losses behind me, and give it another swing.