Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Step in the Right Direction

Today I received my first request for the full manuscript of DISAMBIGUATION, the memoir I've written. I'm in seventh heaven sitting on cloud nine!

In no way does this mean it's a done deal. What it does mean, though, is that an agent was interested enough in the first ten pages of my book to ask to see the whole thing.

Until writing this post, I didn't even think about using, but I am now. I'm thinking: I'm so glad I'm not using!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Our deepest fear

I've been reading some discussions in some meth recovery forums, and there are a lot of people who seem very lost and alone.

I've posted this before, but for anyone who hasn't read it, here it is again. Have a GREAT day!

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Out deepest fear is that we are powerful
beyond measure.
It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most
frightens us.
We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small
does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so
that other people won't feel insecure
around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own Light shine, we
unconsciously give other people permission
to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our
presence automatically liberates others.
~ Marianne Williamson

Saturday, June 27, 2009

For God's Sake...Enough Already!

I'm having problems with my blog. I can't decide what I want it to look like. Actually, I know what I want it to look like, I'm just having trouble figuring out how to make that happen. My dad designs web sites (and does a stellar job, I might add) so he gives me advice about how to make the blog readable and aesthetically pleasing at the same time.

So I'm thinking about just creating an actual web site and sort of morphing this into that. I bought the domain name last night, so it'll be thenext24.net (.org was taken...grrr!)

I've been thinking this morning about how exactly to design it, what I'd like to put on it etc. My main reasons for having this blog (and web-site-to-be) are to talk about addiction and recovery, and to build a platform for my book, DISAMBIGUATION. I have a few things in mind, but would be open to suggestions.

All the usual negative/addict thinking is taking up space in my head:

1) what makes you think anyone cares what you have to say?
2) what the hell do you need a web site for? you're not even published yet!
3) don't you have something better to do with your time?
4) when are you going to quit trying to live out this fantasy you have of being a published author?

I've been thinking about all that, and here's what I've come up with:

1) I've had feedback from people saying they like what I'm doing and that it's helped them
2) A web site would provide different opportunities to "get myself out there"/develop a platform 3) No, not really
4) I don't know. Never?

I keep thinking about the book/movie, The Secret. Cheesy? Maybe, but I feel like if I live my life pursuing my passion (which is writing and "giving back", as they say in recovery) I'll have joy. And if I live my life as if my dreams have already come true, then eventually they will. The whole universe will just get sick of my determination and refusal to quit just because I feel small and inadequate.

On my best days, I have no doubts at all about my dreams and goals. On my worst days, I feel like a poser. Today is a pretty good day.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oh how easy it is to slip

Anyone who follows my blog probably knows that I've been sober for 2 years, 4 months and 12 days. (Not that I'm keeping track)

Anyway, a lot of people I talk to and chat with ask about triggers: the everyday things that trigger the urge to use. I remember when I had been sober for almost a year and started looking for an apartment. The first thing I would think when I would go look at a place was, "Oh, that would be a great place to use. That would be a great place to stash...etc." That's how I knew I wasn't quite ready to be on my own yet.

Triggers can happen when you least expect them. I was helping my parents decorate the Christmas tree for my first sober Christmas, and Mom showed me this decoration she tried to make the year before. It was a clear glass globe that she'd put glue and iridescent glitter in and swirled around. It didn't quite work. It all ended up in sort of a glob at the bottom of the globe. To me, though, it looked just like really good crystal melted down and ready to smoke. I told her what was going through my mind and she threw it away immediately. (bless her)

So today I went grocery shopping. I just needed a few things, but I also wanted to make apple tarts for my son and myself. Apple tarts are really good served warm with whipped cream on them, so I picked up a can of that spray kind. When I got home and was putting things away, I had a sudden urge to suck all the propellant out of the can. (true addicts will know what I'm talking about) I even had it up to my lips for a second thinking I'd just have a little 'rush'.

I didn't do it.

Why? Because I know and respect my addiction. I know that if I were to start down that road again, sooner or later I would be knee deep in empty Reddi Whip cans and jonesing for meth. Maybe not today, but sooner or later.

Why am I writing about this? The main reason is that it helps me to be able to communicate my feelings when something like this happens. The other reason is that maybe someone in a similar situation will read this and know they're not alone with the weird little thoughts that pop into an addicts head from out of the blue.

Next time I'll just buy Cool Whip.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Families of addicts: Take care of yourselves

What did I do? How could I have been so blind? How do I fix this? Why don't they just stop?

Beautiful Boy, a book by David Shef about how his life was affected by his son's addiction, is an intimate look at what it is to love an addict while being powerless to make them stop. Shef gives a voice to the people on the other side of addiction: the ones who watch helplessly while someone they love destroys himself. Beautiful Boy is at once a requiem for the hope and expectation a father has for his son, and a ballad of self-preservation in the eye of the storm of addiction. If you haven't read it, you'll want to buy it.

Recovery is a complicated process and successful recovery involves more than simply separating the addict from the drug. (As always, when I talk about drugs, I'm talking about all drugs, including alcohol.) HELPGUIDE.ORG , a comprehensive website about drug use and recovery, as well as other life issues, has this to say:

Understanding what is involved in recovery

  • You cannot force someone you love to stop abusing drugs. As much as you may want to, and as hard as it is seeing the effects of drug abuse, you cannot make someone stop using. The final choice is up to them. The right support can help you make positive choices for yourself, and balance encouraging your loved one to get help without losing yourself in the process.
  • Don’t expect your loved one to be able to quit without support. Withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant, painful, and even deadly. While medical input is always a good idea, if your loved one is addicted to benzodiazepines or is a heavy drinker, withdrawal can be dangerous and should be done under medical supervision.
  • Recovery will be an ongoing process. Someone who abused drugs will not suddenly be a cured person once sober. Drug use may have been masking painful feelings that will bubble up to the surface. Many in recovery experience depressed moods for up to a year or more as their brain reestablishes from the drug abuse. Learning new coping skills to resist cravings, and how to apply them in stressful situations, is an ongoing process. Ongoing support is crucial to work through those issues.

Above all, take care of yourself.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pursuing my dream

I've entered another writing contest. This time, it's a short story that I rewrote a bit before entering it here: http://www.thenextbigwriter.com/library/index.html/read/32510

If you would take a few minutes to register (registration is free) and give me feedback, I would appreciate it.

I'm also brainstorming to come up with an idea for another short story for a different contest. I figure all these things will keep me busy while I'm waiting for some brilliant agent to swoop me up out of the slush pile and escort me to my official career as an AUTHOR.

As an addict (and I know I've talked about this before) time can be a real enemy. One of the most difficult things about getting sober is trying to figure out what to do with all the time you suddenly have. Using is a full time job. The days and nights are filled with finding drugs, doing drugs and wondering when and where to get more drugs. Desperately running like a hamster in a cage trying to maintain your high or, more accurately, trying to not come down from the high.

When I speak to women's groups at the Walker Center, I always address the time issue and there are always lots of questions. What do you do when you finally get sober? If you don't find a meaningful way to fill your time, you're doomed to relapse.

All I know is what worked for me, and this is what I tell them:
Think back to when you were young...a little kid. What was your passion? What were your dreams? What did you love to do whether you were good at it or not? Paint, draw, dance, sing, play music, play make-believe (with adults this is called theater or drama...or mental illness, which is a whole different gig...) hike, yoga, lift weights, climb hills or mountains or, as cheesy as it sounds, volunteer. Whatever it is, when you find it, it will be monumental in maintaining your sobriety.

For me, it's writing. So for good or ill, I'm going for it. I'm putting myself "out there" and I've had some success. I hope to have more. For that to happen, though, I have to keep at it...and I am. And most days I'm happy. Some days I'm content and other days are plain shitty, but it's all good. The more sober time I have, the easier it is to find the strength (guts) to risk embarrassment or rejection. Everything else aside, this blog feels like a huge risk for me. Who am I to write a blog? Why do I think anyone would be interested in anything I have to say? Who the hell cares about my sobriety or my writing goals? Maybe no one. So I do it for me. I do it because I love to write. So even if no one other than my parents (hi, guys!) read this, I feel good about what I'm doing.

And with all this damn writing going on, who the hell has time to light up/spike up/drink up/rail up?

Querying Literary Agents

**Disclaimer: To any agents I've submitted to that may be reading this post - this does NOT refer to the query I sent you. (Big cheesy grin)

I've spent the morning writing query letters to agents for my book, DISAMBIGUATION. I've been at it since 6:00 am. It's now 12:24 pm. I've submitted to five agents this morning.

The process is a lengthy one, and obviously time consuming. When querying agents you have to have a great query letter, which is basically the pitch for your book. It needs to be concise and attention grabbing. In other words, ya' gotta WOW 'em!!

In addition to that, you have to research the agents you're going to submit to. Not only to ensure that you're querying an agent that represents the type of book you've written, but to make the letter personal. Agents want to know that you know something about them other than name, rank and serial number. They want to know why you're submitting to them. It makes sense, of course, but after several hours this morning and several more last night, I'm starting to feel like it's more of a process of finding a way to kiss ass.

Oy. So far, I've queried a total of seventeen agents. I think I'll write to three more later tonight to make it an even twenty. Funny, it doesn't sound like a lot but it feels like a kajillion. (Yes, that's a word. Didn't you just read it? Okay, then.)

Happy Father's Day

Here are the top ten things I like most about my dad:

  1. He loves to laugh

  2. He has a heart the size of a third world country

  3. He's stellar at what he does (http://www.andyybarr.com/)

  4. He doesn't care that he's undiagnosed as OCD

  5. He's supportive of me even when I'm not supportive of myself

  6. He made it possible for me to go to rehab

  7. He didn't disown me when I relapsed

  8. He's been married to my mother for 40 years and still thinks she's a sex-pot!

  9. He's thinks I'm wonderful

  10. He looks like Fred Flimtstone

Happy Father's Day, Daddy! I love you.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Today IS a good day

I set a new record for myself: least amount of time between jobs. Last time I had to find work, it took me ten days. This time, I was offered a position in 32 hours. (I accepted, of course.)

I feel blessed, but the emotional roller coaster, I could do without. Lots of highs and lows in the past 48 hours. From despair and disbelief, to shame and self-doubt, to worry and panic, to tentative acceptance...and now this opportunity comes from, seemingly, out of the blue.

I don't believe that things just randomly happen, but I despise the Pollyanna phrase, "everything happens for a reason." Probably because it's so cliche and I HATE cliche. But as new-agey as it sounds, I do believe that we move through this universe with a purpose. The trick...the key, is to figure out what that purpose is and to continue to move toward it while safely navigating the obstacles.

Sounds easier than it is, I know. Since I've been sober, though, it's been a hell of an adventure and a nice surprise to discover just how strong I am when I hold the belief that I will make it. I will accomplish my goal, which is to become not just a writer, but an author. Everything along the way is just navigation, and I'm much better at steering these days.

Today is a good day

I heard somewhere that the three biggest life stressors are divorce, a death in the family and losing your job. I have to agree because yesterday I lost my job.

Well, I didn't lose it. I know where it is. I'm just not there anymore. This is devastating, especially in this economy. The thing is, I loved my job. I thought I had found a home and I worked with some really great people who I will miss. I was good at my job, too. Very good. Then again, I've always done well at anything I've tried. So what happened? The honest truth is: I don't know. I know what I was told. I know I disputed their claims, and I know they refused to show me verification of the reasons for my termination. Instead, they showed me the door. (I'd already seen the damn door. I knew where it was, and yet they insisted on showing it to me one last time.)

So why is today a good day? Damned if I know, but I'm by God going to find a reason.
Let's see...
I finished my book and have been submitting to agents. Five rejections so far (one was a personalized "no thank you") and five that I haven't heard back from...which probably means rejection. BUT...I finished the book and I'm trying, right?

Bills are paid and I've got a little money, so we'll be okay for a little while anyway.

I'm baking bread and making soup today so my son and I have food for awhile.

I'm sober. I'm SOBER!!

Today is a good day!