Why I’m Still Here: The Importance of Celebrating my Recovery

Well, I’m still decompressing after my recent trip to London – I’ve got a touch of travel fatigue plus writing a blog post a day to cover my adventures in The Big Smoke actually quite challenged me.

Me in Trafalgar Square during my recent trip to London

But why do I do it? Why do I write this blog?

Well, given the invisible nature of those people in recovery from alcoholism using The Sinclair Method (as previously discussed HERE) I think that it’s important to maintain a social media presence in order to say “I’m still here”… but, more than that, it’s also important to honour my recovery by having as much FUN as possible during the time that I’ve been granted and to try really hard to be the best version of myself.

It’s about embracing joy and spreading optimism.

If my scribbles on here make even one person who might be struggling smile and feel more hopeful then I’ve done a good job.

What I hope my story demonstrates is that it is possible to come back from the brink and to re-write your own narrative.

As Michael Caine says, everyone should reinvent themselves at least once in their lifetime.

And I also hope that my story shows that even under the strain of the worst adversity it is possible to stay sober and to come out the other end sane.

Patrick Jane (as portrayed by Simon Baker) in The Mentalist

Believe it or not, after my mother’s murder and during the course of the nightmare ordeal of the subsequent trial I found inspiration from the strangest source – the fictional character Patrick Jane from the TV show The Mentalist; I really admire the way how that character is depicted on the show… as someone who, despite having gone through the most traumatic bereavement (the murder of his wife and daughter), consciously chooses to heroically embrace the light rather than spend his life brooding.

It’s a brilliant performance by Simon Baker and I look at it and think “Yeah, that’s exactly the way to be – and that’s how my mum would want me to be”.

The fact is, it would have been quite easy for me to become an embittered and cruel man after what happened to me and my family, but I choose a different path.

 

…And on that note, because further words on the subject escape me for now, I’ll close this article with a classic by Electric Light Orchestra dedicated to anyone reading this who might be struggling at the moment.

 

 

Adventures in the Big Smoke: Day 4… and my visit to “The Satanic Flea Market”!

I was too tired to write this up last night, hence why it’s a day late.

So how did my Sunday go?

Inside Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club for the Satanic Flea Market. As you can see, the venue was packed out. Really busy.

Very well, actually. Mike picked me up after 1.00 p.m. and we drove to Bethnal Green in the East end of London, an area steeped in history (this was where the Kray twins grew up).

The traffic was a bit of a nightmare, but we got there. We had to queue up for a while, but once we got into Bethnal Men’s Working Club it was quite fun attending the Satanic Flea Market, despite hardly being able to move given how packed out the place was.

 

But I did buy a few bits and bobs. Like this “Satan Claus” print.

And this iron-on patch:

I also had a three tarot card reading and was presented with the three cards below which I was told represent upcoming success (the card marked “domination”), happiness (“the sun”) and – most intriguingly – romance with a younger woman (“the daughter of the cups in the north”)

This marks my last full day in London – I’m due to set back off home today. 

And… it’s been good… though Saturday’s memorial service was a sombre affair it has overall been a really nice trip. I’m glad I came. It’s also been fun keeping this “travel journal” whilst I’ve been in the Big Smoke – thanks for reading my adventures, guys; it’s been a blast.

Peace and love,

GARY

Adventures in the Big Smoke: Day 3

After getting a bit lost yesterday as a consequence of taking the wrong stop I was more organised today… which is just as well because it was the most important day of my trip to London.

Today I attended a memorial service for families bereaved by homicide at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square and lit a candle in remembrance of my mum:

It was a good service.

Though I’m not religious I could still appreciate the value of all of these families coming together to grieve their lost ones. The church had hired professional singers who were absolutely fantastic and belted out some great songs.

I have to confess that I nearly lost it when they sang Somewhere over the rainbow… a song that was especially moving to hear at the service, given how much mum loved it… especially the version by Connie Talbot that came about as a result of Britain’s Got Talent.

But I held it together quite well and also attended SAMM’s annual general meeting afterwards.

SAMM National (SAMM is an acronym for Support After Murder & Manslaughter) have really helped me this past year, by the way… they’ve been a real lifeline. I don’t know how I would have coped without them.


I don’t have much else to report, really. I just came straight back to Mike’s place after the service.

I did take a few photos and shot a couple of videos of Trafalgar Square, but didn’t otherwise do anything special.

Tomorrow I go to a Krampus-themed “satanic flea market/anti-Christmas fayre” in Bethnal Green which should provide some tongue-in-cheek fun.

 

Okay, well that’s it from me for now. Thanks for reading.

 

Love and peace,

GARY

Adventures in the Big Smoke: Day 2

A photo of St. Paul’s cathedral that I took during my travels today

Someone remind me… how does that saying go – “God laughs when people make plans”, right?

Pheeeew. What a day.

After finding out that my good friend Frank was ill and thus unable to accompany me today I resolved to go it alone. Which worked out fine for the most part except that (a) I should have set off to the National Portrait Gallery much earlier in the day (because the traffic was mental by the time I got into central London by train) and (b) I shouldn’t have listened to some advice from someone about how Charing Cross is “easy walking distance” from Cannon Street Station.

Yup, I got a bit lost.

 

Selfie taken near the Thames today. Weirdly, my head seems a bit distorted in this image – like I’ve been given a Bruce Campbell lantern jaw! Haha

“Thank God for Google Maps” is all I have to say, because after having walked around for what seemed like forever I finally made it to the National Portrait Gallery.

It was worth the effort, as it turned out, because I loved the art on display by the likes of Lucian Freud, John Singer Sargent and many other famous artists.

My most striking observation of the NPG, though, is that the very best portraits were of celebrities, not royalty… all of which were technically very good paintings (often painted at an imposing scale) but which lacked the charm and personality of portraits such as the ones of Elton John and Paul McCartney that I saw.

I’m just sad that I didn’t get to attend an AA meeting as I’d planned, but the fact is I elected to come straight back to Mike’s place after visiting the National Portrait Gallery because it was getting quite late in the afternoon and I’d been warned how bad getting back home can be come rush hour.


Now to get set for the church service tomorrow… which is going to be an emotional day, since it’s going to be all about remembering my mum; that’s the main reason why I came to London, after all.

Christ, this has been a long, dreary year. I’ll be glad to see the back of it.

Maybe this event tomorrow will give some form of catharsis… I don’t know… “closure” does not exist as far as I’m concerned; but I’m glad that I’m there to represent my mum, all the same.

Okay, well that’s enough gabbing from me for now. Time to get settled for the night.

 

Peace and love,

GARY

P.S. There is an exhibition of Cezanne’s work on at the NPG at the moment, but I decided that £18 for a ticket was a bit much. I like Cezanne, but I don’t like Cezanne that much!

Adventures in The Big Smoke: Day 1

London Docklands skyline at twilight

6:20 a.m. Thursday 7th December 2017

The phone rings, waking me up suddenly.

“Did you order a taxi?”, said the voice on the other end of the line.

I groggily confirmed that I had indeed ordered a taxi the day before, shitting myself at the sudden realisation that I’d slept in.

“Well, we just buzzed your property and someone said that they hadn’t ordered a taxi”.

Then a pause.

“Okay, we’ll sort it; we’ll send another driver out”.

And that’s how this trip to London almost never began before it even started, dear reader.

Cut to:

10:30 a.m. (ish)

…And I’m standing in King’s Cross Square filming this on my Samsung phone:

 

Hehe.

Actually, upon walking around the sculpture, I don’t think it’s a cock at all… it has a nipple thing going on if anything.

Whatever. In any case, I’m pleased that I’ve got there okay after the three hour train ride and I text my friend the fellow blogger Michael Dempsey (of Recovering from Recovery fame).

I like London – so different to the goldfish bowl that is Hartlepool where everything and everyone seems to move so slooowly; now this is more my speed.

Amusingly, a chav accuses me of being a homeless person as he and his dickhead friends walk past.

Crikey, I knew that I was a bit unkempt that morning, but come on! Haha.


…As for the rest of the day, it’s a bit of a blur after I meet up with Michael. Tiredness started to set in quite badly by mid afternoon. But, as ever, it’s great to see Michael and catch up.

We have a walk around central London for a bit and the tour helps give me an idea of where I need to be for the special service commemorating victims of murder on Saturday.

A good day overall, despite the poor start.

Tomorrow/today I intend to get along to the National Portrait Gallery and visit an AA meeting – just because I’ve never attended a meeting in the capital and I have a feeling that it might be quite fun. Besides, it’s about time I claimed my chips.

Hey, why not?

 

The day closes with fish and chips and then coffee back at Mike’s place. Overall, it’s been a fun day spent in good company, but I am a little whacked. Time to retire.

And with that, I bid you adieu for now dear reader.

 

 

The troll strikes back: The revenge of Morris Rosenbaum-Benda

Well folks, after having a nap yesterday evening I awoke to THIS:

“Next time you and your pals get together after an LGBT meeting to write an article about me, try gettin your facts straight. 72 years sober today loser and I’m 96. Yous people with your darkie friends and your rainbow flags, jackasses.
You’ll never catch up to my sober time so yous mine as well Relapse tonight fairy.”

Hahahahaha.

Okay,okay, okay, so I stand corrected on a couple things. Sorry, Morris.

Oh maaan, honestly. Here’s what I have to really wonder about: the emotional well-being of Morris’s poor sponsor.

Can you imagine it?!?? Stop and think about that – and really think about it – someone’s gotta do that job; someone’s gotta help him take his inventory.

…Sweet Baby Christmas. I don’t know whether I’d drink again, but I might well end up jumping out of a fucking window if I was his sponsor.

Hehe. I’d love to hear a recording of one of their telephone calls or Google Hangouts, actually. I think it would be the comedy highlight of my year listening to what pretty much amounts to – let’s face it – the Bad Grandpa of Alcoholics Anonymous recount his sins.

Check out HERE, HERE and HERE for previous mentions on The Free Pigeon Press of the recovery demigod that is Morris Rosenbaum-Benda.

 

 

 

Zen, art & recovery: How I “sculpt” my blog

A Xena/Red Sonja homage that I’m doing as a present for my friend Edie:

…Still needs a lot of work doing to it; there are also certain aspects that need to be fixed – such as the fact that I seem to have given Edie Bell’s palsey! haha – but it’s getting there.

It’s nice to be back into a little bit of drawing.

My approach with drawing these days is to just say “fuck it and do it”. I used to be such a perfectionist; a complete detail-nazi, taking foreeeever on things – either that or saying “I’ll finish it once I have more inspiration” – but, having learned that procrastination is the enemy of success, I now consciously just throw myself into it and say perfection be damned.

What I guess I’m trying to say is that when it comes to drawing your own critical faculties can be your worst enemy sometimes… hence why I guess I’m more zen when it comes to my art nowadays.

Interestingly enough, my approach to writing my blog is similar. I scribble down a “thumbnail” of sorts (usually a bullet list which acts as a rough sketch) and then I sculpt paragraphs on WordPress, typing away like a madman. My approach is one of “more is better” to begin with (ha! I declare war on brevity!) and then, upon seeing the completed shape, I use my delete/backspace keys much like an eraser or a a palette knife or a chisel to give it a better crafted, prettier shape.

Sounds odd when explained like that, I know – but that’s my process.

As I mentioned in a previous article, I’m going to also have a crack at doing a Krampus-themed piece of art before Christmas (as much as anything because I think it could cool to have my own custom-designed Krampuskarten as a new Facebook cover).

It depends upon how much time I have after my upcoming trip to London.

But given that I’m going to cannibalise the composition of an old piece of artwork (see below), it probably won’t take too long.

An old design that I did for an evil tooth fairy. Since I’m not above referencing my own work, I’m going to rip off the composition for this for my own Krampuskarten design.


Barbara’s Elegant Aphorisms Website

From the Oxford Online dictionary:

aphorism

NOUN

 1. A pithy observation which contains a general truth.
‘the old aphorism ‘the child is father to the man’’
[mass noun]‘the debate begins and ends at the level of aphorism, with commentators saying that something must be done’
1.1 A concise statement of a scientific principle, typically by a classical author.
‘the opening sentence of the first aphorism of Hippocrates’
Origin
Early 16th century: from French aphorisme or late Latin aphorismus, from Greek aphorismos ‘definition’, from aphorizein ‘define’.

…So, for the benefit of any readers unfamiliar with what an aphorism is, there you go. I point it out because I recently became acquainted with a WordPress blog that has a really neat concept – a blog called myaphorisms.com.

It’s a great idea: what the author of this blog does is pen an aphorism a day… which sounds so simple, right? But that’s exactly the point… the genius of it, i think, lies in the simplicity of its design and execution. It’s actually a really smart idea for the format of a blog; I really dig it.

And what I like about Barbara’s blog is the way how she interacts with people in the comments section… in fact, that’s where the main action takes place, you could say.

Another thing that’s quite cool about it is the fact that the purpose-built brevity of the format she’s chosen would feed really well into Twitter and Facebook.

What can I say? I like it! It really appeals to my sense of design.

Something like this would work quite well done around a recovery theme, actually – an AA aphorism a day, for example.


…Which neatly leads onto my next subject:

The Welcome Return of Nicky Katz

Click on image to open link in a new tab

After an absence of some time and some hardship, is really nice to see my old friend Nicky Katz back on the horse with the social media scene, rebooting his Facebook and Twitter presence.

What can I say? He’s been missed. My hope is that he’ll also get back into the swing with his blog too… just because I was always a big fan of his website and I miss seeing his articles. Check out Nicky’s blog here: http://nickykatz.org/

Note to self: I really need to give Nicky a guest writer spot on The Free Pigeon Press because I’m fascinated with how he’s combining The Sinclair Method with Alcoholics Anonymous meetings – how he’s reconciling the two (a subject that I wrote a piece about HERE).

As much as anything I think that it’s important that Nicky does write because so many people can learn from his experiences – and yes – his own admitted mistakes too.

But the measure of a man is how he deals with adversity, not success – so I for one am grateful that he’s back.


…Okaaay, well I’m about done for this article, but before I go I’ll leave you with a couple of words of worldly wisdom from my favourite demented, scat-fixated octogenarian AA super-sponsor and wiener pioneer, the legend that is Morris Rosenbaum-Benda:

Hahahahaha. Love it.

I think this is better, though, just for sheer brevity (an art I’ve never mastered):

(!)

Hahaha!


…And on that note:

Peace and love,

GARY

 

 

 

The Further Adventures of Morris Rosenbaum-Benda

So there I was sitting at my laptop the other day and I nearly spat out my coffee in every direction when I came across THIS in my Facebook newsfeed:

…Sweet Baby Christmas.

I mean, where to even begin starting to deconstruct what’s wrong with that status update?!?

That’s like a goddamn nuclear bomb, that is. Hahahahaha.

 

…Aaaaaw Morris.


This is like being schooled in the art and science of trolling, it really is.

The most amusing thing about it? Some of the outraged comments beneath it. That’s where the real comedy gold lies. Hahahahaha.

 

What can I say? Keep coming back. Morris – it works if you work it!

 

 

My 2018 New Year resolutions: “Plans, plans, plans… so many lovely plans”

It’s been quite an eventful year, what with the trial and my home move and my bipolar disorder playing up again (causing me to have to be hospitalised for six weeks during the summer).

What can I say? It’s been a struggle at times.

The trial, in particular, was an absolute nightmare to endure. Though I am satisfied with the resolution of that – the evil streak of piss got a sentence of 33 yearsit was absolutely harrowing to go through; no wonder I lost it months later.

I still find it hard to talk about. So do other members of my family.

But life goes on. Rather than dwelling on grief and letting anger consume me, Mum would want me to make something of my life and in order to honour her memory that’s what I intend to do – to be the good man that she always wanted me to be.

Cruelly taken, but never forgotten: my beautiful mam


“Plans, plans, plans… so many lovely plans”

One of the first things I’m going to do is get back into my training in a big way in the new year. That and the jiu-jitsu classes.

I’m also going to buy a mountain bike to help myself get fit.

As many people know, I’ve already undergone quite a big physical transformation since quitting drinking (thanks to The Sinclair Method).

But what I really want to do is challenge myself with the powerlifting even further and get stronger than I’ve ever got.

My transformation photo. The photo on the left is a picture of me in September 2014 (just over a year after I’d quit drinking thanks to The Sinclair Method) and the picture on the right is how I look now. I’ve lost something like 50lbs in body weight. Not bad going considering that – at the grand old age of 45 – it doesn’t get any easier to get back into shape.

My new goal with the training is to get up to a bench press of over 130kg, a deadlift of 200kg and a squat around 160kg by this time next year – something that I think is achievable because, although my attendance in the gym has been a bit hit and miss this year (for entirely understandable reasons), I’m already pressing well over 100kg and can currently easily squat over 120kg. My only achilles heel is my deadlift… my current one rep maximum is 150kg, but for my build I should really be able to lift much more.

Diet is the key, I think. That and challenging myself cardiovascularly in order to improve my rep range and get my body fat percentage down even further than it is now. Something that my trainer is already helping me out with with a new “fat-burner” training program that he’s given me.


As for other goals: I think that I want to make a much bigger splash with my social media work and my art in 2018.

It’s taken a while with the blog (and what’s not helped is that I had to go into a form of self-imposed exile and make my blog private whilst everything was going on with the trial in order to avoid unwanted press exposure), but now that I’m back the stats are slowly but surely getting up there and I’m starting to see results by cross-pollinating with things like YouTube, Facebook and Quora. The only thing which I don’t have is a Twitter account. But once the book gets released (Claudia thinks it’s going to be around spring next year) I’ll definitely push things further, I think.

Despite my love/hate relationship with Quora, I actually do quite well on there (becoming one of the most popular writers in the addiction section on there, believe it or not) and my pieces have recently hit the 7,500 views landmark.

The real trick, I think, is to just enjoy what you’re doing.

I always find that when I just let go,be less self-conscious and less concerned about things like stats it makes me a far better writer.

A good example of this is the fact that I seem to inject a lot more humour into my blog than I used to.

Talking of which…

…I’m definitely going to do a lot more cartoons in 2018.

People keep asking me why I haven’t done more art and the fact is, as I said before, this year has just been crazy. My head’s just been too fucked up to concentrate on more than one thing at a time.

But yeah, now that I’m getting nicely settled into my new place and I’m finally getting some calmness back into my life I want to do some more stuff. Perhaps experimenting with Adobe Photoshop by doing some painted versions of some of my pencil drawings from the last year (scroll below)

 

…Actually, taking inspiration from the “anti-Christmas” theme of my last article (see HERE), I’m thinking that one idea might be to have a crack at designing a Krampus-themed Christmas card.

That would be quite a fun little art project to get in before Christmas, I think, and would quite appeal to my transgressive, Chuck Palahniuk-esque tendencies.


Anyhoo… that just about covers what I want to do in the New Year.

But what about you, dear reader? What resolutions do you have for 2018?

 

 

The Season of Stupid: My One Man War against Christmas

Heh.

I’ve been rehearsing in my head how I could write this without sounding like a complete dick and I’ve thus far not been successful.

(!)

Oh well, here goes. Deep breath. And –

– I despise Christmas.

No, I really mean it. I’m not kidding. Everybody seems like space aliens to me this time of year. It’s like looking through a weird anthropological lens watching other peoples’ behaviour. Quite uncomfortable to be around, in fact.

Why?

Because it’s like everybody’s on drugs or something and I get people doing things like trying to hug me… a forced intimacy that I don’t welcome. Especially not from the type of people who wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire the other 364 days of the year but now suddenly wanna have bum-sex with me or something.

Hahahaha. Okay, okay, okay, so maybe that’s me exaggerating a bit…

But my reflex is to shrink into myself like a tortoise whenever someone tries to do that uninvited.

The fact is, I seem to be immune to whatever strange gas gets pumped into the atmosphere every December. I don’t get the same mushy emotions as other people and – if I’m truthful – I can’t wait for the whole ordeal to be over.

I’ve been like this for a long time. Christmas just doesn’t do anything for me. In fact, my antipathy is so bad that I make a tradition of watching slasher movies and eating pizza on my own on Christmas day.

…God I really do sound like a misanthropic asshole here, don’t I? Just hateful. I’m perhaps digging myself a hole here.

But I can’t help it.

It’s not that I begrudge other people having a good time and it’s not that I’m anti-religious (hey, to each their own), it’s just, I think, more of a cognitive dissonance issue.

That is to say that, given my atheism and my own sorta materialistic-mechanistic outlook of the world, I find that that there’s far too much saccharine for little ol’ me to handle at this time of year.

So I do my hermit thing, eat pizza, watch Zombie Flesh Eaters and cheer on Al Pacino as he tells Steven Bauer how Miami is “one big pussy waiting to be fucked” in Scarface.

And that’s my 25th of December. That’s my tradition – of sorts.


Under normal circumstances I deactivate my social media at this time of year in a desperate attempt to get away from all the tinsel and saccharine on the interwebs, but this year I need to keep active on Facebook because I’ve recently become an administrator on the Your Choice, Your Recovery forum.

It’s a great forum, by the way. For anybody who struggles with alcohol (particularly anybody struggling with it at this time of year) it’s of particular interest as it has some really good resources about The Sinclair Method and has a really good, supportive community on there.

Another one worth checking out is the Options Save Lives message board. Lots of really good people on there.


On a final note, despite my recent posts (see HERE and HERE) about falling out of love with Quora, I’ve found myself back on there writing some stuff again – hey, what can I say? She’s a demanding mistress. Hahaha.

This time I couldn’t resist answering this question:

(Click on image to open link in a new tab)

I just couldn’t help myself.

The problem? Well… I worry that my enthusiasm to get the message out there and to make a stand against the misinformation, disinformation and confusion out there about TSM has the unfortunate effect of making me sound rather “ranty”… like a nutty conspiracy theorist at times.

But the fact is, this is serious and I’ve been around long enough – living, eating and breathing The Sinclair Method for nigh on five years now – to be quite sure of my facts.

The difficulty is, given how much I owe to The Sinclair Method,  trying to keep my emotions out of my prose – which isn’t easy because I do get very emotional when I think of David Sinclair.

Though I never met the man, I cherish my memories of my e-mail correspondence with him (in which he revealed himself to be an absolute sweetheart of a man with an adorably impish sense of humour) and I can’t help but feel that it was a massive injustice that he was never awarded a Nobel for his contribution to the science of addiction.

Oh well…

Anyway, I may re-edit that response on Quora. It occurs to me that I engage in a bit too much Stanton Peele-bashing (haha! my favourite hobby these days) and perhaps could do with citing some other examples.

Okay, well I have nothing else to report for now. Thanks for reading.

 

Peace and love,

GARY