Friday, April 01, 2016

Life in the Blue Nowhere; or Nostalgia

There are times when I like to sit back and just think about nothing in particular; let my mind wander around and around and around and around and around, just waiting to see where it lands and where that takes me. Tonight, talking with someone I would consider a friend, it ended up landing on the subject of no small amount of weird: How I grew up.

I was an awkward child, to be be completely fair about it. I was scrawny, had freckles, wore "nerdy" clothes, and my tastes were not that of the average child of my age. Where most kids chose to eat chips, I would go for fruits and veggies. Where they would get soda or artificial juice, I wanted water. They were into sports, I was into the X-Men and Super Mario. They played during recess, I watched ants and bugs and even wildlife. It made it hard to have friends.

I say these things not to prop myself up in some weird, egotistical way, but more to provide context for the rest of this mental vomit that's the result of entirely too much meandering about in psychological/memorial purgatory.

When I was 11, I got my first real PC. I remember it well: It was a cheaply built tower with a 28k dial-up modem - top of the line for its day, really - with moderate graphics and disc space (250MB!), CD-ROM, keyboard, mouse, and old fashioned CRT monitor. My father built it for me so I would have something to play games on and go online with.

The first time I made a connection - via NetZero, if memory serves me correct - and first fired up Internet Explorer, I was hooked. My every interest was minutes away - forever by the standard of today, but back then was lightning fast - at any given point in time. I could get the absolute latest news of my favorite comics, TV shows, video games, and so on whenever I wanted, and it wasn't long before I discovered chat rooms.

Here's where it starts getting weird.

I had recently seen the movie First Kid (I'm not proud of it) and gotten the idea to even search for them from there. There was this scene where the kid is talking in a chat room called "Kid Chat." I couldn't believe this was actually a thing, so I did what any kid with enough privilege to access the Internet that age: I used it. I went to a search engine that I can't remember - maybe Lycos? - and typed in, of course, "kid chat."

I was warped (almost) instantly to a slew of results. I clicked the first one, and was connected to a chat room of the same name via the IRC chat Web server WebNet. Suddenly, I found myself thrust into a constant, seemingly unending, stream of constant conversation with people around my age, and I couldn't believe it.

I was finally, at the age of 11, able to talk to other people nave have them acknowledge my existence. The feeling was one of exhilaration and disbelief that had an unholy union to produce an emotion that can't even be described as a mixture of both that is at once gratifying, and intoxicating, therefore addicting.

Attention. Beautiful, beautiful attention.

Before I knew it, I was spending all of my time in this chat room, as well as others. I was an active member of no fewer than three chat rooms at one time, and I still remember the elation I felt at finding out that they were all a part of the same network, meaning I didn't have to have multiple connections or windows to talk to everyone.

You might be saying to yourself "Yeah, but you really don't know them. You've never met them. They could be anybody." And in certain cases, you'd be absolutely correct.

Over these (almost) twenty years, I have made many friends. While I've lost touch with most of them, there are many of them that I still talk to this very day. One of the best friends I have ever made was over the Internet. My friendship with her is something that I cherish, and she is probably the person that knows me the best out of everybody else that is a part of my life. She understands me on a level that is matched by only one other (who is also a very close friend of mine, and appreciated just as much).

During this time in my life, I learned to substitute interaction with my immediate, more physical peers with the interactions I could get at will with those that I found infinitely more interesting. These were people from all over not just the country, but the entire world. I was talking with people from all over the States, in England, Scotland - hell, even the Middle East - and, what's more, they talked right back to me.

Some would call this unhealthy, that this is no way to go about learning about human interaction, but I would beg to differ. I know that when we're online, we have the ability to be anybody that we want to be. However, in my vast experience - very close to twenty actual years' worth - everyone tends to become themselves while they're online. With the promise of anonymity, knowing we could adopt whatever persona we want, we will more often than not revert to our true personas.

You see, I feel like we all want to be known and understood, and, in turn, know and understand each other. We have this deep-seated need for companionship that, as I am walking proof of, we have an instinct to seek out however we can.

There are probably many discussions out there about the merits or disadvantages of learning human interaction in this way, but fuck them all. I have something more than studies: I have actual experience. All they'll ever have will be second- and maybe third-hand stories.

I, however, along with the very friends talked about here, helped to write a book about some of those experiences. It's free, so there's no harm in at least giving it a look-see.

This is to all my Internet friends, past and present, most of whom I've never met in person, and the likelihood of ever doing so is realistically remote: I love you all. I love having you in my life. and I can't really put into words just how much I appreciate each and every one of you, and the things we've all been through together. You all helped me through some of the roughest times in my life, and I am indebted to you in a way that I don't think I can repay. Thank you all so much for being there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blurble; or Into the Fire

As I sit here writing this entry tonight, I find myself staring down a fairly big and rather important life change. I'll spare you all the blasting of my personal life on a public blog. Suffice to say, things are changing, and in big ways.

In just a few short days' time, I will find myself transplanted back to the East coast; back to Maryland. I stare at this monster of a life event, and I peer at it suspiciously as I continue to puff on the cancer sticks that are slowly killing me.

I have mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, I'm rather excited because I'm being handed a very rare opportunity in life that we shall call the Reset Button. While it's not a full reset - nobody is that fortunate - it will be enough of one to change my life for the better, and for a very long time. On top of that, having the chance to see family and friends again is a rather exciting prospect, indeed.

On the other hand, as Steven Wright once said, you have different fingers. While this is an amazing opportunity, it's going to require a lot of sacrifices on my part, and ones that I'm still unsure if I'm actually willing to make or not.

The move is temporary - a time frame of three years - so there's that. But what's really bothering me about the whole thing is the unknown.

I have no idea what's going to actually happen when I get back home. I have a plan, of course; I'd be stupid not to have one. However, even the best laid plans may not bear fruit. And if that happens, fine. I can deal with that. It's what's going to happen between now and the part where the plan ends and the time frame has expired that drives me to wring my hands with worry.

If I had any hair left, I'm sure I'd be pulling it out.

It's exciting, and yet terrifying. If I had been in this position even last year, it wouldn't be as big of a deal as it is now. But with my daughter and her well-being now to factor into the equation, it completely changes everything.

I know that what I'm doing is the right thing to do. I know this because it's the harder thing to do. But that's little solace when you have no way of telling what kind of bullshit is going to pop up while you're off doing work. You can't help but wonder what will change, what won't. Pondering the unknown, the could be, and the might have been.

I am on the brink of madness.

And I feel strangely alive because of it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fascism You Can Vote For; or What Have We Come To

By now, I'm sure you've heard all about the nonsense going on in Missouri that is the current hot-button debate issue. It's sad that things have gotten to the point that they have, but more importantly, the response of the authorities is terrifying. What the hell, America?

We are quickly moving toward becoming a fascist police state, and it's getting closer every week. There are many people out there with varying opinions on the matter. Some are in support of the police and our government on the way that cops are carrying themselves and how they respond to the dissenters. Others, of course, are the dissenters themselves or those that support them. I've spent a lot of time talking about related topics in this blog, because it's something I feel deeply about. We cannot allow this to happen to ourselves.

Yes, this whole thing started after 9/11, when we allowed the Patriot Act to be signed into law. We sat around, telling ourselves that our liberties being taken away in exchange for security was a good thing, and since we didn't have anything to hide, it wouldn't matter because we had nothing to hide.

But then..... Edward Snowden.

Now we're suddenly finding ourselves facing a tyrannical government trying its best to disarm us, further violating our Constitutional rights, and make it harder and harder for us to gather and protest them, even peacefully, because the responses from them and their hired thugs that we call the police are getting more and more violent.

Since when did resistance to a fascist government become a bad thing? Isn't that kind of the entire reason we exist as a country to begin with?

Look, I'm not here to preach at you, but I am going to ask that any and all who read this take a good, long look at what we're becoming as a society in this country. We have tons of surplus food that gets thrown in the garbage every day because it isn't sold, and yet we have millions of starving people in our country that could really use said food. We have trillions of dollars floating around the country, most of it going to just a few, and yet we have people living in poverty that have no way out. We have a prison system that is already over-crowded and has proven time and again that it doesn't work as far as rehabilitation for the prisoners is concerned. We have problems, folks, and nobody seems to give a goddamn because they're too busy dumping buckets of ice water on their heads.

Further, they're being told that this is all for their own good. As a society, we cannot function this way for much longer. Things are reaching a boiling point, and that's scary to me, because I can't see it ending any other way than another bloody civil war.

I'm not yet calling for revolution, but I'm getting close. I cannot stand to see what we have spent centuries building go down in flames over the course of decades because of the actions of a greedy few.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Tears of a Clown; or A Life Once Lost

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 48 hours, you've surely heard by now that legendary comedian, actor, and all-around funnyman Robin Williams has been found dead in his California home. Apparently, it was a suicide.

Ever since hearing about it, and finding out that this wasn't just another hoax, I was absolutely floored. I simply couldn't believe it. He was a huge inspiration throughout my life. His stand-up routines were things I could watch while in one of my notorious depressive funks, and still get a laugh.

Which brings me to the point of me writing this post. Mr. Williams was someone that I respected and admired a lot growing up. My first introduction to him, like many others my age, was the certifiably insane bat from Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest. From there, I stared at the TV for hours, saucer-eyed, as I watched him give voice to Genie from Aladdin, rewinding the movie when it was done to watch it all over again. I learned that being a father was something that sometimes requires one to do rather silly things to be able to ensure that your kids grow up right when I watched him turn himself into a woman in Mrs. Doubtfire.

Then, as I grew up, I started digging into his older works in his career. I discovered the Dead Poet's Society, where he managed to teach me more about poetry and English in the span of two hours than most of the my teachers had managed to teach me in two years. I also learned from him that it's never a good idea to put kids' lives in danger during the rain, especially since you never know who's getting a blowjob just right around the corner. I watched him spin tunes as a record DJ during the Vietnam war.

He had a range of roles, and if you're really that curious, I linked his IMDb page for a reason. He could be more than just funny. There were times that he was downright dour. But all in all, he was an amazing man, and will be missed.

The reason I speak about all of this is that, underneath his veneer, his fame, his fortune, his success as an entertainer... None of it meant jack-fuck. He, like many of us int he world, suffered from chronic severe depression. It's not something that people like to think about. It's not something that they want to admit is a real problem. Since the announcement of his death, I have seen tons of people offering condolences and support. I've even seen some people be real assholes - like a guy I've been arguing with off and on in this article here (which should be read, by the way, as the article is very important, I feel, and does a far better job than most of addressing the problem) - saying that what he did was "selfish" or "cowardly." Even Conservative windbag Rush Limbaugh is getting in on this, albeit in his usual stupid ways.

Look, there is a real problem with the world today, folks, and if there's one good thing that come of the death of Mr. Williams, it's that maybe now we can stop trying to say that those who are depressed are weak and just need to "get over themselves," and we can have the conversation about it that has been needed for a long, long time.

Depression and suicide are things that I don't take very lightly. I suffer from depression and fight with it every single day. Sometimes, it's even hard to smile when I look at my daughter. Not a single day goes by that I don't think about suicide. And I know that I'm not alone in this. However, it certainly feels that way.

And that's the thing about depression: You're constantly feeling as if you're alone and that you have no way of relieving the pain that you feel on a regular basis. People react to it differently and will find different avenues to fill the void. Some people cut on themselves and tear their skin apart. Other people will separate themselves from the rest of the world until they can somehow manage to pull themselves out of their funk. Others write, or walk. There are people out there like Mr. Williams who find that a good way to keep your spirits up is the lift the spirits of others. What they don't like you to know is that these outlets only last for so long.

If you've never lived with crippling depression before, let me tell you that it's not just "Oh, I feel blue today." It's more than that. I can't really put it into words. Have you ever had something really terrible that you just had to do with your day, and it was something that had to be done later in the afternoon and you couldn't follow the advice of Mark Twain and eat the frog first thing so the rest of your day would be wonderful? That feeling of absolute dread that you get knowing that you have to do this thing? It's kind of like that, only multiplied by a number that doesn't even exist yet. And the frog for those of us that suffer from this isn't just "Oh, I have to go to court" or anything like that. It's life in general.

Many people throughout my life have told me that I'm just being melodramatic about this, that I should just "lighten up" or "think positive!" or some other useless platitude that doesn't really do anything to help. It's not that simple. And honestly, saying those things to someone that approaches you about this overwhelming feeling of dread and despair is a lot like saying "I don't care what you're feeling. Fuck off with that shit, man, because you're bringing me down and, like, I don't need that right now because my phone charger isn't working properly." And that's usually how we take it when people tell us these things. We feel as if those we care about don't really care about us.

Therein lies the problem. We have viewed depression - and pretty much any other kind of mental illness - as a sign of weakness in our fellow human beings and as something that should be treated the same way we used to treat lepers back in the day.

There are a few that we talk to who say "Man, you need help." Like we didn't know that already. But if we're reaching out to you, it's because we're trying to get that help. And then we're met with the useless platitudes that I mentioned above, and it's frustrating.

Yes, there are a lot of resources out there for those battling with depression and thoughts of suicide on a regular basis, and I'm going to do anybody struggling who is reading this a courtesy of leaving links to these helplines at the end of this post, because this is really some serious shit that shouldn't be swept under the rug.

But what happens when these resources are no longer helpful? What if it starts feeling like these resources that actually want to help you through your struggle are just giving you the same useless platitudes that you get from your friends? That's another problem for many of us, and then we end up feeling like the only way out is death, and that's when suicide looks like more and more of a better option. I mean, why continue waking up every day, knowing that your life is in the toilet and feeling like the whole world is against you when you can just simply end it all and be done with it?

Yeah, it's not really a good solution to the problems, but at least it's a solution. That's what is going through the minds of those with this sickness, and if you know anybody who is going through it, you need to recognize that. It's not selfish when it's the only way to stop the never-ending pain and torment that you live through on a daily basis. Lord knows that I've given it serious consideration in the past, have done so recently, and, knowing myself, I will give it consideration in the future. As I mentioned earlier, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about it at least once.

It takes a lot out of me to write about this. I'm not good at expressing the feelings that I have, in any capacity. I hate myself a little more for even writing about this to begin with, because I feel like I'm just whining. I feel as if people who read this won't really get it, and will continue to tell me to just "lighten up." I really don't know what else to say or do to make people understand, or even really care.

And that's the most frustrating part of all.


Click here if you are a cutter.
If you're on the verge of suicide, these guys can hopefully help.
For more specialized help, I'd advise using Google to track down local support.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A Sigh of Resignation; or That's a Fucking Secret and You Know It

So, after much deliberation and procrastination, I have decided to finally get around to talking about Edward Snowden.

Edward. Fucking. Snowden.

If, for some reason, you aren't familiar with this guy, Google has about 530 million results to choose from, and from all political slants. Take your pick and catch up. We'll wait. Alternately, he has own Wikipedia page.

We good? Good.

Snowden is, depending on whom you ask, a traitor or a hero. I have read about this man that I know nothing about whatsoever from various sources. I have read the ballad-like entries of left-leaning bloggers to the apoplectic, almost psychotic, ravings from the right. You know some shit has been stirred, through, when Glenn Beck throws a curveball of this magnitude.

So, I guess the question that should be addressed is: Where do I stand on this? Is Snowden a whistleblower? A hero? A traitor who needs to be put to death? Before we can really answer this, though, there are a few things that we need to ascertain, not the least of which is drawing clear lines between Snowden and Bradley Manning (who, I feel is prudent to note, only has a paltry 189 million search results on Google).

What Manning did was, in my mind, incredibly stupid. He made available information that seriously jeopardized the lives of our troops and ambassadors. He put into public view information that our enemies could have used (and most likely happily did so) to evade efforts of apprehension. While I can't really knock his reasoning for doing what he did, that doesn't mean that I have to agree with the means to his end. Even if the judge isn't buying the entire story of the prosecution. He really should have tried harder than two sources before dumping to WikiLeaks.

Before I go any further, let me clarify something specifically for Julian Assange: You are an asshole of a greater caliber than I. You can consider that either a compliment, or an insult, because I'm seriously not sure of it myself.

Now, what Snowden did was something entirely different. Yes, it's similar in the sense that he leaked information that was considered to be classified to a source who then turned the public eye towards the issues raised. The difference, however, is that Snowden did nothing more than confirm something that we already kinda figured was going on, anyway. That video is from 2010, by the way. I could probably find earlier, but to keep up with the current trend, here's some Google results.

To call Snowden a traitor, I think, is rather extreme. Is he a criminal? Oh, hell yes, he is. There is absolutely zero debate in that regard. He broke the law - not to mention his government contract, essentially guaranteeing nothing but fast food employment here on in - and definitely needs to answer for that. However, I don't believe he is a traitor. Espionage isn't really what I would call it, either. All he did was cause the American government embarrassment. That's hardly enough to warrant the poisonous rhetoric, much less recommendations of Dick Cheney. Even the reaction of John McCain is entirely unwarranted.

Now, let's take a look at the facts, and then we'll arrive at what, I feel, is a logical conclusion reached by the facts, and the facts alone.

First and foremost, cellphone users are apparently too stupid for privacy in the eyes (or ears, as it were) of our "government." According to a federal judge - that I should remind you is paid off our tax dollars - if you are willing to pick up your cell phone and turn it on, then you are automatically waiving your Fourth Amendment. In the exact words of New York Magistrate Judge Gary Brown himself: "Given the ubiquity and celebrity of geolocation technologies, an individual has no legitimate expectation of privacy in the prospective of a cellular telephone where that individual has failed to protect his privacy by taking the simple expedient of powering it off."

"But... but.... that's not right! Surely the liberal Democrats have our backs in this!" you might say. Well, Billy, are you ever wrong! Both parties are actually 100% A-Okay with this entire system! As a matter of fact, days after the leak, Republican Saxby Chambliss (probably the douchiest name ever) and Democrat Dianne Feinstein both outraged against Snowden and his actions, and actually stood in support of the NSA! How about that?

Now, it's not exactly a secret that this isn't exactly the first time that our government has been exposed when it comes to spying on us. Hell, we had almost the exact same scandal not even ten years ago. The problem is that we're too focused on some incredibly dumb shit and we shouldn't even care about it. These things have absolutely no merit in our day to day lives. I get why people would want to watch the white trash stereotype perpetuate itself - particularly after being enlightened to the idea of white privilege - but I cannot fathom why anybody would actually care about the birth of a new generation of people that our forefathers fought against to free us from tyranny, and bring us to the great nation that we're supposed to be.

When the founders of this great nation first drafted the Constitution, they did it to free us from tyranny. They did it to keep us from the very things that are happening in our government right now. What they are doing to us with this NSA thing isn't what they would have wanted. Any person who can look at me and honestly say otherwise.... well, I can't imagine such a person exists.

Especially if they understand that, despite government assurance, they most certainly are using data collected against Americans. This alone should tell you what they're intending on using it for. You think you're safe from this? You're not. And the fact that we even caught wind of this is because we were suddenly looking for it. Why were we looking for it, though?

Edward Snowden.

I understand why many people would jump to the conclusion that he is a traitor, though. He flew to Hong Kong. Now, that's actually very, very important. Hong Kong, despite popular belief, isn't really a part of China, anymore. It's more what you would call a Chinese territory, much like how we consider Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands are territories of the United States. The difference, if it isn't already obvious, is that they are entirely autonomous from the controlling lands. Well, in the spirit of accuracy here, Hong Kong is more semi-autonomous versus fully so, but the point does remain that Hong Kong is not China. If he really wanted to sell our information to the enemy and really betray the country, don't you think Beijing would have been the more logical place to go for such an action? You can't tell me that they wouldn't have welcomed him with open arms. Instead, he went to the place that would have bought him the most time to plan his next move.

That move ended up being Moscow, but by the time he landed, his travel papers were no longer valid. It's not as if he wanted to end up there. I'm almost positive that he was hoping to beat the clock and head into either Havana or Ecuador, where his American money dollars would have stretched a lot further than they would in Russia. I admit that this speculation stems from what I would do were I in his position. However, his luck gambling ran out and he ended up in Russia, of all places.

As many news sources have pointed out (see earlier link to Snowden search results - a few are on the front page), it's not like Russia is an ideal place to be for anybody, least of all an exile. Yes, Russia granted him asylum for one year, but what then? There are only two reasons why Putin would pull such a move, that I can see.

1) He simply couldn't resist giving the United States a black eye. Given our current role on the global stage, we aren't exactly very well-liked by anybody right now. When the people that you call your allies are keeping relations with your enemies, you know you're in a bad spot. And our few allies that weren't mad at us are - on an official capacity, anyway - outraged at the fact that we are also spying on them. Combine this with the rapidly deteriorating relations between Russia and the United States, add in a bit of Cold War mentality, and have a desperate expat with classified information about the inner-workings of the United States, and you've got one hell of an opportunity to make America the Brave a complete fool. What Communist dictator could possibly resist?

2) He really, really wants that information. Let's not forget that he's a Communist dictator who has proven that he has very little regard for anything but his own motives, time and again. Various violations to basic human rights, as well as lots of oppression towards the LBGT community (though that might be a play from America's book), doesn't exactly paint a pleasant picture of what is most likely in store for Snowden. If Putin gets all Cold War on him, Snowden is going to wish that we caught him instead. Again, for the sake of clarity, Vladimir Putin is a fucking Communist dictator who clearly is out of fucks to give. If he decides that he wants what Snowden has in its entirety, you can be damned sure that he's going to get it. To what ends he'll use it is anybody's guess, because he really is nothing if not unpredictable.

So, where do I really stand with Edward Snowden? I personally think that he's a hero. He's a criminal, sure, but he's a damned heroic one. I have done my best to explain the facts, as I see them, and provide you with the sources I used to get to my conclusions.

At the end of the day, you can feel how you want about Snowden. I won't hold it against you. Just remember that without people like him - or rather, his courage - we wouldn't have the great nation that we do. He took a look at something that was happening to his fellow man and said "No, this will not do." He took a stand. He did something that many people do not: What he felt was right, and what's more, is he owned up to it. Feel him a traitor. Consider him a coward. Lift him up as a hero. Do what you will. But be sure to give him the respect that he deserves in the sense that he did what he felt was right, regardless of what it's going to cost him.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ad Hoc, Ad Nauseum, or The 13th Step

Before we start, I'd like to apologize for not giving this blog the attention that it deserves. I've been quite busy in life outside of the Blue Nowhere, what with getting engaged and now studying to take my LSAT exam in a desperate attempt to claw my way out of lower-class mediocrity. Also, work.

That being said, we're just going to jump right in to the hot-button topic that has been getting under my skin. I know that there's a lot of different things to talk about going on right now, from where I stand on the issue of Trayvon Martin (I'm not touching this subject with a ten-foot pole on this blog) to the latest scandal of the White House (too many jokes, not enough words in the English language), all the way to what I feel about Edward Snowden (maybe later). But that's not what we're talking about today. Today, we're going to revisit the topic of addiction, and how I feel about it.

This won't be the first time that I've railed against modern-day addiction "treatments" on this blog. Nor will it be the last, most likely. Not unless shit changes, and fast.

Now, as I say this, I want and need you all to understand something: I am an addict. I am also a former addict. How can this be, you ask? Simple. I have an addiction to nicotine that I am currently a slave to, but I've also kicked various other addictions in the past, including cocaine.

"But, Rob," you might say. "You are always going to be an addict! There is no getting better!"


The modern-day approach to treating addiction is exactly what causes people to say that, and what's worse is that they honestly believe every single syllable. This is a problem, because the programs that we force addicts in to and provide for those that truly want to get better are crap. I have said before that all they do is wear down a person's self-worth and convince them that they are sick and that there is no getting better. This is only half-true, and it's directly their fault. They talk up the first 12 steps of recovery (which, I might add, are designed to convert people into Christianity), but constantly neglect to mention the 13th step, which is as follows: Get the fuck over it.

You see, addiction is not the problem with those that develop it. Indeed, it is their attempt to solve the problem that leads to the addiction to begin with. If you cannot understand this simple concept, then you have no business attempting to lead others down the path of recovery yourself. It just cannot be done effectively.

Listen: I started doing various drugs and consuming more alcohol than what could be considered safe - much less reasonable - because I had a hole in my life. A big one. And I filled it with what was easily and readily available at any and all hours of the day: Substances.

I grew up as a social outcast. I had just two friends until I hit high school. I was that weird kid at recess who was never asked to join the soccer games or the kickball matches, or even to come play on the monkey bars. Even those regarded as the nerds and other rejects ostracized me. You all know the kid that I'm talking about. Hell, some of you might even be "that kid." That was totally me, and let me tell you, it fucking sucked.

Now, things didn't exactly get better for me until many moons later. Before then, I had to deal with my share of the shit that life shovels into your face if you dare come above ground for longer than it takes to get a breath of precious fresh air. I was taken away from my home (but only after the physical abuse ended), and ended up experiencing things that no child should ever have to endure. By the time that fiasco was done, I was a very angry and callous child. I wanted nothing to do with anybody. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was a damaged individual, and at the ripe old age of 11. To make matters worse, those that I went to school with regarded me as a ghost or some other kind of supernatural phenomenon that was better to be talked about in private circles than out in the open. It was disconcerting, to say the least.

It wasn't long before I started using escapism to cope. My choice to follow the path of addiction came subtly, at first, and it wasn't what you expect. Then again, what in life is?

Anyway, my first addiction was books. It changed - rather rapidly - from wanting only science fiction to branching out to mainstream and independent fiction, to start dabbling in literature and non-fiction, making the final leap into philosophy. I was - and still am - a voracious reader. It's not strange to find me reading two or more books at a time (I prefer a different book for each week day, in case you're curious). It was the final leap into the more... shall we say "exploratory" philosophers such as Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna that things took a turn that was awkward, and yet incredibly fun.

My very first drug was acid. I know it's not your typical gateway drug, but let me tell you: it was one hell of a gateway. After my very first experience - trying a mere two hits - I was fascinated. The connections that your mind can make after being introduced to that very special plane that one can only get after ingesting psychedelics.... well, that's another post for another time, not to mention that possible inappropriateness of unintentionally advocating the usage of psychoactive ingredients in a post that talks about getting over addiction.

So, after realizing that everything that I had learned about pretty much anything at all was complete and utter bullshit (yes, this is how I felt at the time that everything spiraled), I started experimenting with just about anything. To date, the only substances I haven't tried are (intelligently) the experimental ones that supposedly mimic the effects of the real thing, crack, and heroin. Rotten stuff, every one on that list, and any wise man would do well to stay far the hell away.

Anyway, so my addiction to escapism started to go. Soon, though, it became an addiction to the feeling of disconnect that comes with any form of intoxication. I was unknowingly trying to fill the hole in my life that was left there through not only the circumstances of upbringing and being practically friendless, but also my unwillingness to accept the fact that I was the one who put myself into this position to begin with due to my incapability of seeing how I could have done things different to better not only my situation, but myself, as well.

As addicts tend to be, I eventually went overboard. I developed a nasty habit with cocaine - a self-indulgent drug if there ever was one - and we all know the story from there. As much as I hate to say it, I became the stereotype coke head who couldn't handle it. Lost the girlfriend, the job, the home, the friends.... all that good stuff that we constantly take for granted.

A lot of people don't know this, but I went through the 12 steps. Not through any stupid organization that is meant to do nothing but perpetuate its own existence, but through the sheer power of God and the free will that He gave to all of us.

I'm not going to preach at you here, because again: That's not what this is about.

And, I think because I have done it this way, I realize that there is, indeed, a 13th step of getting over yourself, and now that the preamble is out of the way, we can get down to the real meat of the discussion.

My addictions - save for nicotine - various as they were, are a thing of my past. I realized something that I don't believe is possible in the "treatments" that we're forcing legitimately sick people into, and that's what the root cause of all of my problems was me. It wasn't something that I'm genetically predisposed to (something that a leading addiction medicine specailist is calling bullshit on anyway) or that I was a victim of circumstance or any of that other nonsense that people spout when it comes to this nonsense. At the end of the day, the problem was myself, and my inability to cope with terrible things that happened in my life, since I had very little in the way of being taught proper coping mechanisms, instead being allowed to indulge in other escapist behaviors that eventually led to drugs and their invariable abuse.

To anybody who has been/currently is in the "treatment" programs, let me ask you: How often do they ask you about your past? Your trauma?

And then we wonder why our current systems continue to fail, time and again. They are absolutely refusing to address the real causes of the problems that people are having. Rather than helping the addict travel the proper path to recovery, the one where there is a 13th step, they choose instead to take them down the path of those that are feeble. Rather than giving them the strength to face their trauma and get over it and realize that drugs or alcohol or sex or goats or newspapers or what-the-hell-ever is not the answer that they're looking for, and that depending on such things as a way to deal with it is not going to give them the peace that they seek.

Instead, they lie and cheat and manipulate those attending into thinking that they are worthless scum who will never get better. They choose instead to keep these people from getting better, truly, and brainwash them instead. And what's worse? Everyone thanks them for it.

My name is Rob, and I was an addict.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Social Disparities; or A Work Put Off

Whether or not you readers know this, I am a Feminist.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain, and try to avoid what is known as "mainsplaining" as much as I possibly can with my admittedly infantile knowledge of the movement as a whole. The best place that I can think of to start is the beginning.

Before I came to understand the Feminism movement as a whole, I, like many of you who would actually read this thing probably have/do, pictured a Feminist as something like this:

So, anyways. I wasn't ever exactly directly disrespectful towards women. Not knowingly, anyway. Thing is, I was a huge fucking asshole and never even realized it.

Up until running into a string of true Feminists - and not the loud ones that are just using Feminism as an excuse to spew hatred and ruining it for everybody else - who all blasted me for being a chauvinist, I had always considered myself "old-fashioned" in my dealings with women. Without ever realizing it, the way I dealt with women as a whole, from simple mannerisms as opening doors (more later this post, if I don't get too sidetracked) right down to the way that I would talk with them, was all perpetuating a gender role within society. "Old-Fashioned" is really just another way of saying "I'm stuck in a culture of prejudice."

Gender roles are, briefly, for those that aren't already in the know and somehow can't divine what I'm talking about when I say that term simply by how it's worded, are ways in which the system of privilege that our society currently operates on oppresses us into filling certain niches. Women are widely "known" to be the weaker of the two sexes, being far too emotional to think rationally or critically, and are therefore relegated to their gender roles of caretakers. Men are supposed to be the providers in our little system that we've constructed for ourselves. And by we, I mean men.

You see, any woman working in the professional world - regardless of its area - will tell you about the inequality that they face on a regular basis in the work environment. The facts, no matter how you want to view them, are still the facts. Specifically, men earn more than women, on average. Granted, there are a ton of variables that can explain these disparities, but at the end of the day, the numbers are what the numbers are.

"But wait a second, Rob!" you might say. "Women make choices differently than men do! There has to be some kind of explanation as to differences of jobs taken versus money earned!" And you'd be right to bring that up. It's been touched on before, and I'm sure you're still more than welcome to perform some digital necromancy on an old thread to throw in your two cents. But before that, I'd highly recommend getting to and reading very carefully paragraphs 5 and 6 in that article, and tell me what the problems are.

Here's a hint: There are men and women who do exactly what she describes in both paragraphs. For example, there are plenty of female prison guards throughout the country, even though it is still a male-dominated work environment. Every single thing that this woman writes while describing what men "gravitate" towards is just noise. That's all it is. She's doing nothing but perpetuating this system.

To make matters worse, as a society, we accept this, for the most part. Seriously. Just pay attention. How often do you hear someone make a joke at women's expense? Here's a good one: "Of course she didn't realize she just cut me off. She's a woman." Implying that because she's a woman, she inherently isn't observant enough to drive or had any business driving to begin with. This is a problem that goes by usually with a chuckle, but if you're perceptive enough, rarely ever in earshot of a woman (unless it's said in actual jest, but still).

Or, perhaps more recently, the debacle that was Seth MacFarlane's performance at the Oscar's. In a room full of talented women who worked hard to get to where they are today, and in an industry that is notorious - and even famous - for being a town full of misogynistic jerks with their heads so far up their own asses that their entire diet consists of the fecal matter that spews from their mouth. The last thing they need is to be reminded that millions of people everywhere saw their naked bodies. We're not talking even Feminism at this point, either. We're crossing the realm into the outright absurd amount of disrespect that we are constantly throwing at each other.

Don't get it? Well, think of it this way: We've all done things in our lives that we're not exactly proud of, but we do have our own justification for doing so. Do you ever appreciate someone bringing those things up to you, especially at a formal event? Then why would you accept it from someone else? Just because the guy is famous for acting like a 12 year old, you do need to keep in mind at all times that he is famous for acting like a fucking 12 year old.

As I mentioned earlier, the image of the stereotypical Feminist stands out in both sight and sound. Understand that these, truly, only make up a very small percentage of the Feminist population, from what I've seen. It's like comparing Westboro Baptist Church to all of Christianity and saying that they are good examples. They represent the extreme minority, and don't even come close to accurately depicting what their beliefs really are, choosing instead to use them as a conduit to spread a doctrine of hatred and intolerance.

Makes a little more sense now, doesn't it?

Look, I'm not asking you all to agree with me. What I'm asking you to do is maybe consider the idea that maybe, just maybe, there is perhaps more to this Feminism thing than just topics that make you uncomfortable talking about. If that's the case - and truly the case - then don't talk about it. You can easily find comprehensive literature from professional Feminists. Otherwise, at least consider that Feminism is, at it's very core, an idea of equality for all.