2 YEARS IN

The upside of hangovers-- especially the brutal ones-- is they usually make great stories.  The overindulgence of the night before, the antics, the misadventures, and then, inevitably, the crushing punishment.  It’s like a comedy action movie tinged with schadenfreude.

Who doesn’t love a great hangover yarn?  I could fill a few notebooks with my own: spread over almost 3 decades.  But today I will tell you another tale: the one about the man who no longer gets hangovers.

That man is me-- and today, I’ve been sober for 2 years.  And it feels fucking awesome.

I flirted with giving up alcohol for a long time; even went on a hiatus for over a year once.  I’m an ON/OFF kind of guy.  With my less favorable tendencies, I don’t do well in a gray area.  When I was drinking, I occasionally punctuated normal consumption with a good ol’ binge.  Old school party-hardy.  Weeks would go by with a beer, bourbon or martini here and there and them BLAMO… I’d drop the hammer and get wasted.

Usually these events were set-up by not having any responsibilities the next day.  I was out of town, or the kids were taken care of, or I was with old buddies reliving glory days.  And even though these benders always came with a price, I rationalized it by saying: well, I don’t do it all the time.  Or: what’s the big deal, everyone ties one on now and then?

The problem for me was, as terrible as the hangover would be after “one of those nights,” I was also starting to feel not so good after just one or two drinks.  And this wasn’t limited to the next day, it was something I’d start feeling within an hour or so after my last drink.  If I had a beer with dinner at 7, by 8:30 or so I was feeling kind of cranky and headachy.  The only way to contend with this short term effect was to (can you guess?) keep drinking.

I’ve chronicled my ups and downs with drinking in my blog before (go back and revisit my high and lowlights!), but what I wanted to write about today was this:

It would be difficult to overstate how positive not drinking has been for me.  It’s kind of hard not to be evangelical about it because it’s that good.  I wake up most days and feel great.  I don’t feel ashamed or guilty about the time I waste feeling crappy.  I feel motivated to make my dreams come true.  I feel healthier.  I’m a better dad.  I’m a better husband.  And I feel overall like I’m living at a higher level.

Let me stop here before this starts sounding like a Tony Robbins seminar.  My life is not perfect. I have foibles.  I have shitty days.  And I do not think that what works for me will necessarily work for everyone.  And while I’m at it, I should also say I’m not anti-booze.  While you’re having an old fashioned and I’m having a club soda, I’m not judging.  Of all people, I could never deny that getting drunk is fun or that alcohol tastes pretty damn good.  I’d just had enough of the other side of the coin.  Which was definitely not fun.

Too often, alcoholism is viewed as a YES or NO equation.  It’s a spectrum.  I wasn’t sneaking vodka in the middle of the day or polishing off 9 beers every night.  I don’t know if it’s even relevant to me to decide if I’m an alcoholic.  I had a problem.  Drinking was the problem.  And when I stopped drinking, a lot of other problems began to work themselves out.  Now, 2 years later, I can’t ever see myself going back.

I say all of this because maybe it will resonate with someone.  Maybe you’re that someone.  One of the greatest honors of my life was a friend telling me that he decided to quit drinking because of a letter I wrote him about my journey.  That floored me.  So this blog is an open invitation.  I don’t have all the answers, but if you ever want to talk about it, let me know.  I’d be happy to share more of my story.  And maybe later, we’ll swap some hangover tales.

HOW TO MAKE IT STOP

When will it end?

What’s it going to take for radical change?

Where is the line that marks the end of this country’s romance with guns?

This feeling of numbness is becoming sick and familiar.  I don’t know what to do with it.  I feel like I’m swimming in an ocean of PTSD.  It’s bad enough that our country is mired in a nuclear staring contest between nutjobs… we also endure the weekly splatter across our news and social media feeds.  SHOOTING.  CHILDREN.  GUNMAN.  KILLING SPREE.  I just can’t fucking take it anymore.

I called the republican senator from my state.  I had to.  I had to tell him that when these shootings happen, the lack of substantive response feels like THEY.  DON’T.  CARE.  They don’t seem to fucking care.  There’s no debate.  No “good time” for debate.  Ideas any of us might have get swept away in the enormity of it all.  The impossibility.  

Take away the guns?  Ban assault weapons?  More restrictions?  

Never happen.  The NRA will never let that happen.

It’s this monolithic gray slab of NEVER.  NO.  CAN’T.  WON’T.

GUNS WILL ALWAYS BE EVERYWHERE.  THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO.

THESE KILLINGS WILL KEEP HAPPENING.  THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS AND GO BACK TO YOUR LIFE.

Sorry.  Can’t do it.  I can’t.  I won’t.  This issue needs to be revolutionized.  There needs to be revolt.  But it’s more than a fight.  More than “our side” beating “their side.”  There needs to be coming together.  Common purpose.  It’s an easy goal:

WE NEED TO STOP MASS SHOOTINGS.

Can we agree on that?  Can we say that’s a reasonable bull’s eye?

I know what cable news and talk radio and the talking heads will say.  On both sides.  All the positions are already staked out.  The discussion is over before it begins because everyone knows the points and counterpoints.

We need to turn that shit off and start over.  If we can’t come together as Americans with a goal of stopping mass shootings, we’re lost.

I made a list.  It’s a brainstorm.  In a brainstorm, you don’t stop yourself to second guess or get caught up in details.  You just write it down.  You spitball.  Free flowing thought.

Here’s where we can start.  In this exercise, there is no “CAN’T.”  There is no “NEVER GONNA HAPPEN.”  These are ideas.  Having no plan is not a plan.

These are my suggestions.  What’s your suggestion?  Call Congress.  Talk to your neighbors.  Talk to your conservative cousin or your liberal mother in law.  Let’s start a conversation.  Let’s start a revolution.  If we don’t do it, who will?  If it can’t start now, when will it?

Here’s my brainstorm:

Triple the cost of bullets.

If you’ve been convicted of a felony, you may no longer possess a gun.

If you’ve had a restraining order against you, you may no longer possess a gun.

If you have have spent more than 24 hours in a psychiatric facility, you may no longer possess a gun.

If you are on a federal terror watch list, you may no longer possess a gun.

If the police respond to a call for a domestic violence incident at your house, all occupants are placed on a 6 month list to prevent gun purchases.

Your gun is your responsibility.  If your gun is used to commit a crime by another person, you are liable in civil court for damages.

All guns must be registered into a federal database.  For the first year, to mitigate cost, registration will be $10.  

If you sell a gun and do not register the gun and/or the sale, you face a fine of $100,000.

If a gun sold has not been properly registered and is used in a crime, the seller/dealer can be sued in civil court and will be fined $100,000.

Ban assault weapons, automatic/high capacity magazines, bump stocks, armor piercing bullets and silencers.

If you own one of these, there will be a buy back period.  If you do not turn them in, and you are caught in possession, you will be fined or go to jail.

In any gun sale, in any venue, there shall be a one week period between the purchase and subsequent possession of the gun in order for all checks to be completed.

Private sales or gun show sales are subject to same stringent procedures as over the counter sales.

The 2nd amendment is fundamentally altered to reflect the nation’s current reality with guns.

Any business selling guns must pay a large annual dealer fee to support buy-back programs and gun registration costs.

There you go.  My suggestions.  They’re ideas.  Thought starters.  I know they’re extreme and far fetched in many cases.  So is a gunman killing and injuring over 400 people out of a hotel window.

Revolutions have to start somewhere.

What’s your suggestion?

Are You There God, It's Me Jonathan

God, can you hear me now?  My reception sucks in this area.  How's it going?  Hope you don't mind me calling out of the blue.  Here's the deal.

I’m not sure what to do or think anymore.  Things are so . . .

Hey, God, you mind if I curse?

I do it all the time, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise YOU of all people.

God-- THINGS ARE FUCKED UP.  

There’s a guy in North Korea who wants to nuke us.  The planet keeps getting hotter.  My health insurance has gone up about 3000% in the last 5 years.  And God, you might not believe this, but some motherfuckers were marching around giving Nazi salutes and waving swastika banners in Charlottesville.  

Virginia.  

In the United States of Fucking America!

God am I having a nightmare?  Will I be waking up soon to see Bobby Ewing getting out of the shower?  It’s starting to feel like a haunted house that I can’t get out of.  A terrible roller coaster that won’t stop.  A FOUR YEAR VOMIT COMET.

What am I supposed to do, God?  If I go on with my daily life, am I burying my head in the sand?  If I call Congress all day and sign ACLU petitions, is anything really going to change?  Above all God, how the hell are we gonna get out of this mess?

And here’s another thing, God.  I’ve got friends who voted to go to this amusement park.  They thought it was gonna be TERRIFIC.  Jobs.  Pride.  MAGA.  The whole nine yards.  Now I just don’t know what to say to them.  Should I ask them how they think things are going?  Do I want to hear the answer?  Would I be able to truly remain friends with someone who is totally on board with this unholy shit show?

There’s more to life to politics.  Friends can be on opposite sides of the Red/Blue divide and still bond over any number of things.  

But is this more than politics, God?  Feels like this is a whole lot bigger.  Feels like when there isn’t much common ground on the environment, human rights, racial equality, health care, honesty, integrity and basic decency… what’s left?  Is there anything to build a bond on?

“Oh, Bob is sort of okay with those Nazis goose stepping through Charlottesville, but other than that he’s a good guy!”

I don’t know, God.  It’s hard.  This feels like the hardest thing anyone my age has gone through. We were babies when Watergate happened.  Babies and toddlers for Vietnam.  We lived through the anxiety of the Cold War, but nothing really happened.  Both Gulf Wars were terrible but they weren’t close to the scale of World War I or II.

It feels like the world is falling apart, God.  Truth be told (oh who am I kidding, you know this already) I’m not a religious guy, but we need some divine intervention right now.  I guess I might be one of those snowflakes who freaks out a little too easily.  Hey I can own it, I’ve always been a sensitive new age guy.

But here’s the thing, God.  I don’t think I’m being overly sensitive here.  I think shit is crazy right now.  And I kind of think this crazy train is either going to turn the bend into some kind of Valley of Miraculous Awakening (always darkest before the dawn?) or the engine is about to kick it Thelma and Louise style.

Anyway, God, I guess that’s my prayer.  More of a journal entry today.  Watch over us.  I know you always do.  Send us a few extra signals, maybe.  Make sure we remember all the good things in this world.  Make sure that we remember that no matter how fucked up it gets, we humans do seem to pull through.  Don’t forget about us, ok, God?

Thanks.  And Amen.