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Friday, May 27, 2011

My journey through music

And now for a journey into my mind and thoughts.  Caution:  Squirrels ahead!

Okay, so I got to thinking about my taste in music today.  Okay, okay I got to thinking about Heavy Metal today.   I remember the first HM song that I heard.  I was over at Troy's house and he played Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train for me.  Growing up we had listened to the radio station KVIL.  It is AMAZING that I still remember that.  I heard Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, Heart, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and many of those have songs I still like, except, of course, Barry Manilow.  But this was different.  The electric guitar sent vibrations into my body, the drums thumping my ear drums, and that distinctive voice of Ozzy and I found a style of music I was enthralled with.  But it wasn't until I heard Motley Crue's Shout at the Devil that I was hooked (My Mom is cringing now!).   I heard this, along with Billy Idol's Rebel Yell from my aunt's boyfriend and that little rebel inside of me screamed for more.  Of course this was not the music of my parents.  Why is it that most people I've talked to have different tastes in music than their parents.  Of course I was a teenager, and during those teen years we all, at some point or another, try to seperate ourselves from our parents.  My opinion.

Of course, during this time in the Christian community, I heard so much about this being the devil's music.  I have thrown away countless cassettes, and even a few CD's in an emotionally charged sermon that talked about how I was sinning and needed to repent.  Though I liked the music, I would feel guilty for liking it.  Wanting to please those around me, or the church, or whatever, I wasn't really being guided by God, just an effort to please others.  Don't get me wrong, I never got into the Black Metal, bands such as Venom or Mercyful Fate or Slayer. I'm reading a book about the history of Black Metal right now and it's influence on society, but screaming is not my style.   Of course, some think HM is screaming too.   But on the same line, I did like the Glam Rock, bands like Cinderella, Skid Row, Poison, and yes, Motley Crue.  I liked the older HM bands, like Queen, AC/DC, Judas Priest, and especially Iron Maiden and Def Leppard.  Songs I grew up with, songs that I had fond memories of.  I remember, for example, Poison's Nothing But a Good Time, because my brother and I would air guitar in the pool to the song.  Def Leppard's Hysteria is one of my top albums of all time, I'd play the Nintendo and play it over and over.   Fun times.  There is some music that to this day I choose not to listen to, for example, Queensryche, which reminds me of a particularly dark time in my life.  I never associated my addiction with the music I listened to, particularly because I listened to it before, during, and after my addiction years.  Interestingly enough, many of the bands I listened to had their own battles with addiction, and some found recovery. 

Of course, at the time MTV was popular and I loved their videos because of the girls.  Come on, I know I'm not the only one.  A teenager with raging hormone's, yep that was me.

So I guess the argument could be made that the influences that came from the music were not good for me.  Drinking, girls, and such.  I listen to Pour Some Sugar on Me and I think of Ginger.  I think you get the point.  And I make it sound as if this is the only music I listen to.  It's not.  In fact I just saw Mercy Me in concert and they rocked the house!  My favorite band of all is a band called Skillet, a Christian rock band that even Ginger likes some of their music.  One of my favorite singers is Enya, and you'll find me painting at work listening to her.  My car radio is set to KVNE or Bot Radio.  I have a myriad of interests in music.

The fact is, depending on the mood I'm in, and if I'm in a squirrely mood, I'll put "my" music on.  I just want to hear the electric guitar, feel the beat of that drum, and just, well, just be me.  Am I a rebel, well, Ginger does call me her lil rebel.  And now I don't apologize for the music I listen to.  Am I a bad witness?  I don't think so.  But then again, I go beyond the guitar's and drums and listen to the lyrics.  Papa Roach sings a song called Last Resort.  It is about suicide.  It is a haunting portrayal of what some teenagers or adults have gone through (like me) and seeking a way out.  It's a deep, raw song.  It has a message.  And some songs, well, they are just fun.  And that is what it is about for me most of the time, fun.  It reminds me of the good times I've hads, but mostly, the fun I am having now.  Depending on the day, you may find me singing Counting on God, or Iron Maiden's Trooper.  Like it or not, I don't push my music on anyone but I'll tell anyone why I listen to it.

I've felt the conviction of God on certain songs, and I'll refrain from those.  But that is just it, I've decided that ultimately it is I who will answer for my actions and I don't have to feel guilty when I'm dancing to AC/DC's Shook Me All Night Long for Ginger, because, well, if you listen to the song you'll get it.....

So I read this to Ginger and she goes WOW, that's really open.  But as she says, I have to let you breathe, to be yourself, I don't want to squash you.  I want you to be free to express yourself.  I appreciate that so much from my wife.  She says I'm not a cookie cutter person.  I'm outside of the box.  My opinions, for so long, were what other people thought as if we were one person.  Please understand I'm not saying my way is necessarily the right way.  But at this point in my life I'm willing to make mistakes, I'm willing to be wrong, I'm willing, well, willing to be me.  And with a wife that supports her husband on this journey he is taking, well, that is a priceless gift.  I've always wanted this blog to be an honest portrayal of me.   Not what others wanted me to be, just me and my journey through recovery, through life.  And best of all, I have the right to change it at any time....


Thursday, May 26, 2011

9 Years of Recovery!!!!!!

9 years ago I took my last drink.  Heck, last drug, drink, mind altering chemicals short of Excederin.  I will admit to taking lots of aspirin in those first few weeks of soberiety, but hey, it beat the alternative!  I've had a chance of reflection today, but not about what brought me to recovery, but my recovery itself.  You look back after taking one day at a time and you realize you've amassed alot of days together.  But it is only recently, the past year or so, that I've found I'm really coming more into who I am.  I've said it before, when I first got in recovery I couldn't tell you one or two sentences that defined me, except maybe alcoholic, addict, dying, you get the gloomy point. 

But today, I realize I'm really beginning to be me.  I texted my Mom last night, for example, excited that James from American Idol was playing with Judas Priest.  Specifically, Living after Midnight and Breaking the Law.  Now a couple of years ago I couldn't see myself doing that for fear of getting disapproval.  It's okay to be different, she loves me no less.  She may not like the fact that I can sing the songs word for word, but I've come to realize that regardless of that, I'm still her son, she still loves me unconditionally, and should I say it again, it's okay to be different!  If this sounds like codependency that I've been dealing with, it is, but my addictive behavior and codependency were intertwined.  First I had to work on recovery from addiction, then came the codependency.   After all, you have to have a sound mind, an unaltered mind, to work on the other.  My opinion, I know, but hey I'm allowed my opinion. 

The fact is I revel in my artistic role.  A bit of a rebel, I've always wanted long hair and I have that now.  I like my bandana's, I listen to a wide variety of music, from Christian to Enya to Heavy Metal, and I no longer feel that I have to apologize for the music I like.  I've been sketching alot more and I've expanded my reading horizon.  I'm on a kick of reading about the bands I use to follow so closely.  It was as if before I had to have approval that hey this is okay, or this is okay, instead of seeking God myself and making my own decisions and giving myself the opportunity to make mistakes.  Yes, I've read books and about a third of the way through and then thrown them away. 

So I know I'm kind of all over the place with this post, chalk it up to the squirrels in my head and too many nuts for them.  But that brings me to my next point, I'm goofy.  Who cares if anyone gets it, it's okay to have fun and let my hair down so to speak.  Of course Ginger gets it and laughs hysterically at how random I can be.  For example, why can't carrots be yellow and banana's orange?  Don't think too hard on it, just a moment of randomness that gets a chuckle from the one I love.

Anyway, I woke up this morning and Ginger said happy birthday your 9!  Mom texted me to tell me how proud her and Dad were of me today.  Those things mean so much, the acknowledgement of yet another milestone.  In perspective, however, even though I have nine years, I'll wake up tomorrow and I'll face tomorrow because it is still, and always will be, one day at a time...


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Testimony Last Night!

So last night we have an incredible testimony at CR.  It had something for both Ginger and I, as Janie talked not only about eating disorder's but addiction as well.  You know, sometimes I've looked at my own past, my own "bottom of the well" and thought, man could it have gotten any worse?  Then you listen to a testimony of someone who had 17 warrants and a 1.5 million dollar bond on her head, and you realize that yes, indeed, it could have gotten worse, and she is only 27!   We had things in common, however, especially her family being behind her now, and just wanting her better as she struggled. 

Of course Ginger could relate to the eating disorder, having struggled with self image for so many years.  And when Ginger was diagnosed with bipolar and her medication caused weight gain, well, the image that she held of herself was crushed.  But at that point the choice was between health or weight, and health won out.  Ginger still struggles at times with battling between her "former" self and who she is now.  There have been times she has been mad at bipolar, even God, and just wished she could go back to who she was then.  But as I tell her, if she was who she was then, I'd of never met her, or even if I had I wouldn't have been her type, I was in a different circle.  But being in the common circle of Celebrate Recovery, we met, became best friends, and fell in love!  But as with me, Ginger's family was behind her and just wanted her better too!  They tried everything they could (as did my parents), and through the pain and struggle we've found victory through God and recovery.

The fact is Ginger is gorgeous.  I mean, to me, drop dead gorgeous.  And I make sure to tell her that as often as I can.  Can I say this without offending (when did that ever stop me...) she has all the right curves I tell her.  Ginger, of course, is trying to lose weight now, and I support her in it, because she is doing it for her.  God has been with her in this process.  It hasn't been a dramatic lost.  God works in different ways than ours sometimes.   It started with giving up sweets (she is over 6 months from having dessert).    Then we began changing our diet (yes, our).  We eat more chicken.  I've come up with recipes that are healthier, and Ginger is cooking her lunches, or eating salads at work.  She is running!  Right now, on the treadmill, she works out about 45 minutes, running a minute or so, then jogging or fast walking, and so on.  I'm so proud of her.  She's slimming down (she doesn't see it, but everyone else does, especially me...), gaining muscle now.  Sometimes, for her, it doesn't seem fast enough, but it is an exercise in patience at times.  It's trusting God, making sure her motives are right, and again, I want to help her in anyway I can.

Ginger says she's an open book.  She doesn't want people to think she's perfect or has it all together.  She want's people to know that she does struggle.  For example, we are watching Biggest Loser finale.  As she says, it is good and bad.  She sees all these people that look "perfect" and there is some discouragement.  On the other hand, it is a motivator for her to do what she is doing.  Because how many other people out there struggle with self image or weight?  She wants her story told.  But that can make you vulnerable, as she says, and that is a battle that even I have struggled with.  But if either one of us can help one person, just one person, then making ourselves vulnerable is worth it.

We listen to these testimonies and stand amazed.  Broken lives made new, all because of one decision, turning to Jesus Christ.  And I stand firm on this, I married the most beautiful girl in the world in my eyes and no matter what weight or size she is, she is and will always be the most beautiful to me.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Season for Everything

Ah yes, Sunday and schedule back on track!  Nap time was on schedule, and I even got to do some honey do's around the house.  Small things, but hey, that's why I get the big kisses....

Yesterday was able to help out with hanging some blinds.  The significant part of it was just a simple phrase that was told to me, a season for everything.  I reflected on that for the rest of the day.  Mind you, it was refreshing to hear.  I'd talked about cutting back at Celebrate Recovery.  For the past couple (several?) years I'd been, well excuse the term mom (and if it gets past the EDITOR, ill be amazed), balls to the wall.   I'd so immersed myself in the past with ministry that I believe part of me had blurred the line between performance and actually serving God out of a pure heart.  I could put the blame on the ministry before Celebrate Recovery and the philosophy of putting your nose to the grind and filling up all your time with ministry work.  But I can't rightly put all the blame there, I did, consequently, have a choice.  But approval seeking, people pleasing, alas codependency was still being worked on and I still had tendencies.  I remember the day before my wedding telling my Dad I'd worked alot on codependency and he told me I still had a ways to go.  Ouch, but so very true.  Didn't realize how much more till I was actually married.  We both, Ginger and I, had ways to go.  Ginger had her own battles with codependency that she is making great strides on.  I have, as well, though it is a lifelong journey.  But stepping back from performing, from being the go to guy, from being mr. I'll do everything you ask, was an important step for me, not only as an individual, but as a husband as well.  I mean, every Christian is called to ministry, so that is important right?  But then, God has put this wonderful woman in my life to be my wife?  So when there is a choice, what do you choose?  Rhetorical question, I know the answer.  The problem was, for me, I was putting God and ministry in the same category.  They weren't separate to me for so long.  And as I grew in my recovery from codependency, as I began to define Paul and who Paul was, I found a love in God like never before.  He made me how I am.  As well I found that loving my wife as God loves me gave me great joy and lessons from God.  I also found that God uses our marriage, our lives, as a testimony to Him and that ministry came out of that.  When there is conflict with ministry and my wife as far as choosing, wifey is the first choice.  I use to agonize when she was sick at home with bipolar and there I was at CR because I didn't want to let those people down.  Things are different now.  Don't get me wrong, I love CR, it is a great ministry and I will be there for a very long time.  But CR doesn't define me, ministry doesn't define me, God does.  I've seen too many marriages struggle because one person is so entrenched in ministry that their family becomes second fiddle.  I don't believe that is in God's plan.  I believe, in fact, that as least for me, it is God's plan to grow our marriage like He has and will lead us in those things of ministry that He wants us to do. 

For so long I didn't know how to relax.  Had to be doing something.  Busy little beaver.  Do you know what I've found?  It's okay to spend all day Saturday reading if I so choose.  It's okay to lay in bed on your day off and not get up.  It's okay to lounge around the house, relaxing with my wife, and not feel I have to be doing something.  In fact, it's okay to sit down and blog!  It's okay to go out every Saturday night with my wife and have a date.  And it's okay to come home after a hard day at work and relax with my wife. 

The fact is, since I've made changes, I'm starting to see a change in me.  I'm less stressed.  I'm more carefree and goofy (Ready for Zombies?).  Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking giving up on church, ministry, etc.  But I am talking about priorities, and, well, for everything there is a season.  True Words...Thanks Tanna...


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ready for Zombies?

So here I am in my respirator at work.  Ready for the zombie apocalypse.  Not really.  I stand amazed sometimes at how people can live the way they do sometimes.  I got a jump this Friday on an apartment I'm suppose to make ready next week.  We'd opened the windows and patio door for a week to see if we could get the smell of pet odor out of the apartment.  You name the pet odor, it was there.  I mean, without a mask you practically gag going in.  Sometimes you hope that by ripping the carpet out that the smell will go away.  No luck here.  The "stains" had gone through the padding and soaked into the concrete.  With gloves, respirator, and humidity that was stifling, I began cutting the carpet out.  You know it's bad when the padding doesn't want to come off the concrete.  A little sweeping and then I brought in the secret weapon, 5 gallons of oil based primer.  Oh yeah.  You want to kill some odor, bring this bad boy in.  This stuff smells so strong I could smell it through the respirator faintly.  But that was the point.

So at what point do you realize that you live in filth?  At one point do you look up and see roaches crawling on the walls, roach eggs everywhere and think this is normal?   I was blessed to have a Mom who cleaned the house regularly, a Dad who did the honeydo's, and parents who taught us to do those things.  Yes, I'm not afraid to pick up a broom and sweep, dust, do laundry, change light bulbs, fix things around the house.  Things get a little cluttered when we get busy, but not to the point where we just leave the half eaten hamburger on the floor to become petrified!  When we spill something, we clean it up.  I mean, I've seen where people dropped gum and just left it there.  And sinks.  My goodness!  Sometimes it's like the bugs version of Las Vegas!  "Come to the bonanza in the sink of apt. 1000!  What happens in the sink, stays in the sink!  Am I ranting a little bit, well, you bet your left toe I am!  I've walked into apartments that the smoke smell is so bad, and the walls are discolored that we have to paint everything!  Don't get me wrong, it keeps me in a job, but people, come on!  And should I venture into the state of bathrooms that I've seen....Again, when you see black in all the tile crevices, it is a perfect opportunity for you to put down the bag of chips, get up off the couch, pull your britches up, and clean the tile!   And toilets, are they that hard to clean?  Are you afraid the tidy bowl man is going to getcha?  Heck, some of the toilets not even the tidy bowl man would venture there without a gas mask and packing serious heat.

Really, it's as if the roaches are family.  That ones is stinky, and there is fluffy, and there is mongo.  Honey, leave some food out for the children....I get home and I can't wait to take a shower!  The funny thing is I've been there long enough I see how we give them the apartment and what it looks like when they leave.  It's all nice and painted, cleaned, and ready for them, but when we get it back sometimes it's like, really people, really?  I will say this, it is nice that they keep me in a job, because as long as there are messy people, I'll have walls to paint and carpets to clean.  I'll quit ranting now....I will say this, it reminds me of how my life was before God cleaned me up.  I had such a mess in my life, in my heart, but just like I make apartments ready for a living, God is in the business of cleaning up lives...


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Anatomy of a Bipolar Attack

I've been wanting to write this for a couple of days but sometimes you have to let the thoughts just come together as you ponder.  Sunday we had our monthly leadership meeting.  It was officially announced that I was stepping down as coministry leader to concentrate on the newcomer's class.  Not being in upper leadership is less stressful and it allows me more time with my beautiful wife.  With my work schedule I wasn't able to get their early and when you leave the house on Monday at 6:45 am and don't get home till 10, well, the day becomes long.  And Ginger was just taking her medicine and going to bed by the time I got home so we had little time to decompress together.  I had, for the past couple of months, been talking to my leadership, my mentor, and Ginger as well.  More importantly, I'd been praying and seeking guidance from God as to which direction He wanted me to take.  And I love the newcomer class.  It is a humbling experience to see people who come in for the first time and you remember your first time.  And now to look at all the friends (and family) I have there (Ginger and I are the darlings of our Celebrate Recovery) is just amazing.  With this comes less time at the monthly leadership meeting (drop an extra meeting) and you'll see the point of this post momentarily. 

During our meeting we had a "discussion" about small groups.  What is not relevant, but many strong opinions were expressed to the point that Ginger's bipolar began to manifest.  I didn't realize at first, until we were on our way home and I heard the words "I don't know why God is letting this happen."  Simple statement that some may say is just the "enemy" attacking.  But for those that know about hyperreligosity dealing with bipolar, this is what is known at a bipolar statement, the beginning of an attack.  The chemical reactions in her brain are affected by stress, even what seems to be a heated conversation.  She was beginning to fear having an anxiety attack at work.  She had taken her medicine at the first signs of the attack, but the medication takes about an hour to kick in.  At this time it had been about 40 minutes.   If we would have had to stay for the extra meeting, the attack would have become full blown (which explains the paragraph above).

Let me stress something.  This had nothing to do with God punishing her, or "letting things happen".  I've heard these words several times.  I've learned to try to find the trigger quickly, in this case the meeting.  At first I tried to reason and then I remembered my comment of trying to explain quantum physics to a rabbit.  Well I told Ginger that, and she laughed.  That is a very good sign, it means the attack hasn't taken full root.  We were a couple of minutes from home so I kept her laughing (I'm good at this with her).  Let me say something else, people with bipolar do best with structured lives, where things are as predictable as they can be.  We have a specific routine on Sunday and it was altered because of the meeting.  We usually take a nap.  Well, we got home and I said, well, let's take a nap.  We crawled into bed and soon Ginger was asleep.  One of the things she said before falling off to sleep was she was concerned about making her chicken and vegetables for her lunches (which she cooks now!).  One of the things I've said is, if I can take some of the stress away from Ginger I will to help the bipolar.  So she woke up to the smell of cooking chicken and vegetables.  You guessed it, I got up and began cooking.  So our routine got back on track, we watched Celebrity Apprentice, and her mood was so much better, the attack gone.  Sleep helps, but as well the "stressor" (cooking) was eliminated when she woke.  She had to do nothing but relax the rest of the night.

I write all this to inform.  So many people think it is a matter of willpower, or mind over matter.  It's not.  Medicine plays a part, communication takes a part, God plays a huge part, and our faith in God guiding us through attacks has never been met with an empty prayer.  God has always delivered.  No, bipolar hasn't been taken away but God works through me, works through her friends, and works through her.  Ginger is not shy about her bipolar.  She gives her story in the hope that others will find comfort that someone who is Christian and bipolar can lead a fulfilled spiritual life.  We work hard to achieve this and our love grows deeper each day.  This is a glimpse into our life.  People on the outside see our love, see our happiness, but behind all that is alot of hard work.  I'd have it no other way because when you've met your soul mate all the rest is small potatoes. 


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pennies from Heaven

Woke up this morning to an unseasonably cold May morning.  I actually turned the heat on because it was going to be in the high 40's, low 50's this morning.  I hear the birds singing outside and it is quiet in our home.  I love that.  Ginger is sleeping peacefully, looking truly like an angel with the sunlight coming in our windows, beaming down upon her.  God's way of shining on one of the biggest blessings in my life.

At work I'm known for picking up the pennies in the apartments we make ready.  People leave and I've found they leave their pennies.  I mean, it's only one cent right?   The smallest denomination in our currency.  I mean, people will pick up a dollar (or more), they'll pick up quarters, they might pick up dimes and nickels, but pennies, they are a dime a dozen (or should I say a hundred to a dollar?).  The other people on the crew, for the most part, leave them behind as well, some know that I go around and pick them up.  It takes such a small amount of time to pick them up and put them in my pocket.  Sometimes I'll find other coins, hidden behind trash or refrigerators, but for the most part it's the pennies. 

If you look at the picture above, you'll see what I've accumulated in a couple months.  Sometimes I find a couple, a couple of time's I've found quite a few in a jar or cup.  I put them in a container and bring them home and put them in my drawer.  So today I got them all together and this is what I came up with, the fruit of my labor.  Now all told, that is probably less than ten dollars in coins right there.  But there is a spiritual lesson lurking here, at least what God is speaking to me in my heart.  How often do we overlook the little blessings that God gives us?  Sure, we see the big blessings.  Ginger is a priceless jewel.  As I've told her, with her, I've won the lottery.  I don't need a 100 million dollars, I have her, and no big mansion, or expensive car, or whatever is worth what she is to me.  My soberiety and Ginger's stability, those are both big blessings.  But what about the everyday blessings, the one's we tend to overlook?  For example, I mentioned the birds singing earlier.  I can hear that.  I can see it.  I get to witness a piece of God's creation, enjoy it with a right mind.  How often do we overlook such things as our senses, then again just ask someone who is blind, or deaf, and ask what that would be worth to them to have that?  Makes you think.  Ginger tells me all the time one of the things that is most important to her is a clear mind.  And when she gets that each day she is thankful.  Do we take moments to reflect, to look back and see all the blessings we've accumulated from God, or do we leave the pennies on the ground, discarded, only looking for the big things from God?  I mean, just material wise, I'm looking around the apartment right now.  There is the couch, a wedding gift from Mom and Dad.  The coffee table, from Ginger's sister.  A huge TV, a gift from good friends of ours.  The stereo from Ginger's Dad (a NICE stereo).  The desk this computer is on, new, abandoned in an apartment.  The quilt my Mom made me, made out of love and a reminder of the love and forgiveness in my new life in recovery.  And let's look beyond the material.  The love that Ginger and I have for each other, and the walk with God we share with each other.  We are both healthy, I'm sober, Ginger is stable.  How about the blessing of my inlaws loving me as a son and my parents loving Ginger as a daughter?  How about a church we love to go to and we get fed from?  The food in the pantry?  The jobs we have, the cars we drive.  See how the list can go on if we just take a minute to stop, gather it all together and just look?  What seems like a penny to us may be a dollar to another, or winning the lottery for that matter.  Sure, I could get on the I want more train.  I want a better TV, a better car, etc. etc.  Nah.  We love our simple life because it is so full of blessings.  Even in the valley's we find thankfulness.  Because when you look back, over the hills and the valley's you see how God carried you on His wings, how with the little (and big) blessings He sustained you, gave you comfort, or peace, or joy.  How much are those things worth?  So take time today to look around and gather your pennies, and nickels, dimes, and quarters of what God has done for you.  You might be surprised to see how it all adds up....


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bipolar and squirrels

You ever have one of those times you want to write, you have all the words in your head and yet everything seems jumbled together?  You start writing and your like, those are the words, but that's not what I'm trying to say!  It's as if there is a short circuit between my brain and my fingers and the squirrels in my head are on vacation, sipping on juice and eating nuts and I'm left trying to figure all the mayhem out by myself.  Someone is going to accuse me of sniffing paint here in a minute....

This week the other book I've been reading, besides the Bible and Steven Tyler's book, is a book entitled "Loving Someone who is Bipolar."  It's about a holistic treatment plan that includes medicine, therapy, and having a PLAN.  That's right, a plan.  One of the things I found out reading the book is that we were doing things pretty much spot on.  Identifying triggers, talking, recognizing when Ginger is speaking out of bipolar and not herself, those kind of things.  For example, when Ginger says, "I think God is punishing me..." the red flags go off in my head, the sirens go off, and the counselor cap goes on.  There is a secret to dealing with bipolar, catch the symptom (or in this case the bipolar phrase) early.  We've spent many a night identifying triggers, Ginger crying in relief that it's bipolar and not God out to get her, working through trust issues, etc.  The book calls me the caretaker.  At one time I was the super caretaker, I wanted to fix it.  Fix it fix it fix it!  Make our world a nice beautiful place where cats and dogs are friends, and we can eat all the candy we want and not get sick.  Well, for those in the know about codependency, that is a classical sign of codependency.   So when I finally realized I couldn't fix Ginger's bipolar, and that reasoning with someone in the throes of bipolar is like trying to explain quantum physics to a rabbit, I instead relied on prayer and asking God okay, I need You to help me here, because I have no clue.  Relying on God was the best plan.  I would say things and it would help Ginger get off the roller coaster.  She'd ask, how did you figure that out?  Um, God, because 5 minutes before I had absolutely no clue.  For those that don't believe in God, that sounds foreign.  They think, come on, you have to do this, get into yoga, meditate, get off the medicine and find your inner self, etc. 

You see, we work hard on Ginger's stability.  There are certain foods that cause triggers.  Events, such as work or even words I say can spark things.  If I had a dollar for every word I said that caused anxiety.....But it has done wonders to my speech!  I hardly ever talk in slang anymore because of it, though I've absolutely refused to give up the word jack.  You know, jacked up.  Yep, my one wordy guilty pleasure.  Instead of it sucks, it stinks now.  Tush instead of butt, I think you get the point.  I remember I went to work one time and said I had to go potty.  Oh my goodness, there was alot of rolling on the floor laughing on that one!  You can imagine how they are at work, F this and that.  But people, amazingly at work, clean up around me, as best they can.  I'm not in on the dirty jokes, or texts, or pics.  I like it that way.  But again, I digress, blame it on the squirrels....  One of the guys points out a girl and I just smile, wink and say, yeah, but my wife looks better, and while ya'll just get to look I get to go home to my wife tonight.  Stops them in their tracks.  Everyone at work knows about my wife. 

As with any relationship, it takes work.  Bipolar takes work.  It does not go away just because you want it to.  It's a disease, a brain disease, chemistry is involved, and you don't just up and go, "Well, I'm going to be better today, I don't need meds anymore."  In bipolar they call that mania.  It'd be like me waking up and going, you know, I'm not going to be an addict anymore!  In addiction they call that relapse!  We didn't ask for this stuff, it happened, and now we work to have a happily married life.  And we do.  I've learned to be a caretaker, but not a CONTROLLING caretaker, who has to fix everything.  I listen, I talk, I counsel, and if there is something stressful I can help Ginger with I take care of it.  Do I get burned out?  Do I get tired and need rest at times?  Absolutely.  So how do I overcome such feelings?  I have my down time.  Let me tell you something very very divine from God.  I have about 50 minutes to work and from work.  I have 50 minutes of talking with God, blasting the radio if I choose, or turning the radio off.  I have time to process things and have heart to heart's with God.  I'm honest with God.  On the way home, I get that rest, even driving, so that when I get home I'm there for my wife if it is good, or if she's had a stinky day.  I've had people say, you could get a job closer, think of the money you'd save, etc.  I'm so happy with where I work and the drive is like built in meditation time.  If I'm feeling squirrelly, I'll take out my mix CD that has Sammy Hagar's Heavy Metal, and Kiss's Uh! All Night, and just let everything flow away and find my inner headbanger.  Yeah, I get flak from some in the Christian community for my choice in music sometimes.  Don't get me wrong, I listen to KVNE, I listen to the Bible Answer Man, and I even drive in silence.  But certain music is my out sometimes, again, my guilty pleasure and I see nothing wrong with letting my inner headbanger out at times.  As long as he doesn't try to put on spandex and put on makeup we are all good...

But as well, I talk to Ginger about it.  I have stinky moments (I changed that word for you sweetie..) and Ginger can tell I'm wrestling with God.  She doesn't take it to heart, she lets me wrestle.  Ever wrestle with God?  Do you ever win?  Eventually I'll say I need to talk and behold, Ginger becomes my counselor.  She's a good listener. Even counselor's and caretakers need help.  But eventually I'm back to my old an goofy self, just as Ginger becomes her carefree and loving self, after we've talked, identified triggers, etc.  I'm a nut and most have never seen the full impact of just how goofy I am.  Quiet and reserved usually, you'd never know behind the doors of our home. 

Along these lines, I stepped back from ministry a bit.  I'm over the Newcomer class and that is it now.  Because of work demands I can't get there early, and I was having to stay till about 9:45 to help close things up and then I'd get home and Ginger was just about asleep and we'd had no down time together.  Burn out thing and having too much on my plate.  I realized Ginger is my bigger priority.  I enjoy CR, and I am enjoying my new, less stressful role.  Now I'm not in upper leadership so I don't hear EVERYTHING that is going on.  I like that.  It's like watching the news, which we stopped doing months ago.  Too depressing.  My mood changed dramatically when I stepped down, about CR, about ministry, about God, about life.  It was voluntary, I had good talks with the upper leadership about what I was going through and how I felt God was leading me.  Ginger and her bipolar were top on my list.  I believe, as I reflect, I was getting stuck in the performance trap again and not being able to say no.  I had to realize that obedience to God is not killing yourself in ministry.  After all, notice I'm blogging a little more?  This blog was a type of ministry I felt God calling me to, and now, to use an Aerosmith term, I'm back in the saddle again!  And as I read back on this blog I see some of the goofiness that had gone from some of my posts coming back.  A wild spirit I have inside of me.  As well, I realized I was waiting to write blogs so no one would miss anything.  As if no one is scrolling down to see if there are more than one post....Writing posts is about sharing a piece of my life with you, letting you come along for the ride.  Sometimes it is the kiddie coaster and at other times it's the Texas Giant! 

Anyway, feel like I have the mojo back, like the lil rebel is back, bandanna on, long hair flying.  Speaking of long hair, my hair is the longest it has ever been.  I love it.  Didn't realize I would, but I always cut it because everyone wanted it short, except Ginger.  The big breakthrough for me is when I went to my brother's when Mom and Dad came down.  I had long hair.  I waited for the comments, none.  The next day I wore my bandanna, and I realized, hey, I'm finally being me.  Anyway,  I told Ginger I was thinking of cutting it, she asked trim or off?  Didn'y know and she said she supported me either way.  However, when I told her trim a few days later, I could see relief.  I like your long hair, she said, and there, wouldn't you know it, was that look.  I call it the eye candy look, I was her eye candy and she liked what she saw.  Cmon, you can't tell me we are the only couple that has those type of looks!  Or maybe I'm just bold enough to admit it.  Either way, I better submit this to the editor for editing.  Yes, I proudly love the fact that Ginger reads through my posts before publishing.  Call it what you want, but her and I, we are a team, and she has squirrels in her head just like me, a match made in heaven....


(P.S. My editor just said this was my best post ever!!!!!)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rock n Roll Rebel

So I'm reading Steven Tyler's rock n roll memoir, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?  For those not in the know, Steven Tyler is the front man to Aerosmith.  Yeah, go figure, a lil rocker like me interested in a rock n roll memoir.  I'm about 3/4 of the way through the book, I devour books, and it is definitely not for the faint of heart.  It is creatively written, bounces over the place, and yes, talks about the drugs and alcohol exploits of the band and himself.  Not that I'm crazy about that, but I can relate on many levels.  Whether you have millions of dollars or not, addiction knows no boundaries.

But as I reflected today on this, I began to realize a few things, and yes, I just had to blog about them!  I've had several people say I need to write a book.  I did want to at one time, talking all about my addiction, the exploits, the struggles, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Kinda like this book.  But I've changed.  Amazingly, the change came in a conversation with my Dad and Mom as I was talking about the testimony I give at Celebrate Recovery.  It'd been changing, I began to talk more about recovery, how I got there, what I do to stay sober, instead of the past.  They said something to the effect of it's time to put the past in the past and move forward (paraphrasing obviously, but you get the gist).  When I speak to the newcomers now each week and give a mini testimony I say something like this:

My name is Paul and I'm a grateful believer in Jesus Christ and I'm in recovery from drugs and alcohol and codependency.  I grew up in a small town called Fort Worth Texas with two wonderful parents and a brother.  They stressed two things, God and education, both which I had a passion for.  In high school I learned about something called alcohol.  When I graduated college I moved to Illinois and my addiction took off.  The party scene, drinking my problems away for the night, then drugs.  My soberiety date is May 26th, 2002. And then I go into recovery.

Short and sweet.  And I say what I want to say.  The rest of my speech is about recovery, my journey, meeting Ginger, etc.  I like it this way.  Because here is a fact I learned.  All addicts have stories.  Most are similar and when they get to newcomers 101 they don't want to hear my stories, they want to hear how to get into recovery.  I mean how do you stay clean and sober.  I know how to be an addict, they say, how do you be a recovering addict?  Sure, I have some that come up and say, have you experienced this or that, and I'll happily tell them.  But the past isn't as important as how I am moving forward.  And honestly, writing a book that rehashed all the bad memories (like this book) would only, in my opinion, open up old wounds.  Yes, I've explored some of my past in this blog, to help others.  But my focus has changed.  Doesn't mean I won't explore my past, but it won't be center stage.  Recovery and God should be.  Just my two cents.  When I do talk about it, I want to make sure I have a purpose, a hope, a light, or should I say pointing to THE LIGHT.

And I got to thinking about my Dad today.  My Dad is my hero.  I picture him younger in jeans and a white T-shirt, leather jacket, a rocking rebel.  Wonder why I love to wear jeans and a white T-shirt!  I can imagine how my Mom swooned over him as Ginger swoons over me.  Let me get this out, Ginger hates my rock music.  She's a pop girl, my lil dancer.  But when I pick up that air guitar and dance in the living room, she can't stop laughing and those eyes...Can I see my Dad doing that?  I'll let that be my Mom and Dad's lil secret!  Now, my Dad is my spiritual mentor, and, well, my Dad.  God speaks to him, through him, and he loves me unconditionally.  And he is still my hero.  It was due, in part, to God's wisdom through him that I am where I am today.  And my marriage is modeled after my Mom and Dad's.  I always wanted a girl who looked at me the way Mom looks at Dad.  Well, I got it.  But I digress, there is a bit of a mystery with my Dad.  I know enough, and through his past he's given me wisdom.  I like it that way.  And I try to lead as he leads.     Dad has taught me about God and in that aspects of recovery I never knew.  I have others who've taught me recovery, from drugs and alcohol, and even codependency (enter Mom and Dad on this one too!). 

Quite a bit of reflection I might add.  When I get into the "blog zone", the words just seem to flow.  As my soberiety birthday comes closer later this month, I've had a chance to reflect just how far God has brought me.  May 26th, 2002, my life began.  It has been a journey of ups and downs, of struggles and victories.  I've had moments of tears and unbelievable joy.  I've seen God do things that could only have come from Him and only He could get the glory.  More importantly Mom's prayer was answered.  She asked God to do whatever it took just please don't take me.  I still get choked up writing this.  But you know what, He answered.  He did what it took and now Mom calls me her walking miracle, and because of the mercy of God, I am....

A very grateful Baa....