A Beautifully Chaotic Life

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I’ve lived a beautiful life, and even though I know my countdown has begun earlier than most people, I am ok with it- the majority of the time. Fact is the kid who had a blasé outlook for so long is absolutely loving life. However, on the way home from the Tool concert, I lost it talking to my buddy.

He saw a side of me few do-the raw, unpolished, unprepared guy whose truest emotions rest at the bottom of God’s murky filled cauldron of mystery stew. My batch is good on salt big guy. Every once in a while though the angel stirring the pot is out smoking or on a more important call-lord knows there is enough tragedy and pain on this planet, it’s a wonder dinner is ever served. Point is, that calm, collected demeanor sticks to the bottom sometimes and I scream out unrehearsed material -which goes like this – “I don’t want to fucking die yet. It’s too early!”

Obviously I am still here, but I felt human the other night at Tool. Maybe diseased  or a cancer-ridden  human is more accurate. The metastasized bone cancer areas made their presence known on a couple hour drive. My last vertebrae is affected, as well as areas in my pelvis, meaning sitting hurt. Talk about something we take for granted. “I don’t want to fucking die, and I don’t want to feel so much pain just fucking sitting.” I don’t get both right now, so the living part will be the better play. Tomorrow when I meet with my hospice nurse, my pain meds may go up again. 300mg of extended-release morphine twice a day and 20mg of immediate release hourly if needed put most of my body at peace, but now there’s this, so 400mg, here we come probably.

I had someone tell me how lucky I am to be getting so many opiates. I won’t be speaking to that cretin anymore. “Yeah, I’m blessed- Look at that, I have some leftover chondrosarcoma, lung and bone cancer there’s plenty to spare. Lucky for you my mom raised me to share.” Speaking of lung cancer, 4 flights of stairs at the parking garage and I could barely breathe to curse the cheap bastards for saving  a dime on no elevators. I needed oxygen, desperately. I’ve never felt that before unless someone knocks the wind out of me. It’s a race of ironies, because  needed it as fast as possible, yet had to pace myself between a narcoleptic snail and a Xanax addicted 3-toed sloth.

By far the worst thing though was the other 5 people I was with-they wanted to do something. As I sat breathing in my oxygen, I began to sob. I just can’t keep up with regular people-I’m sick. I’m slowly dying.

I told one of them about it, and through his Russian accent, I remember him telling me that it was cool, not to worry about it. I was there wasn’t I? Isn’t that the important thing? I was fucking there, and that is a beautiful thing. I turn 43 Wednesday. Pearl Jam plays here on April 8th. It would be the 25th show I’ve seen them, and plan on seeing them.

My life has been a wonderful experience. I’ve truly lived it, through all the pain and bs, nothing has stopped me. I saw Game 1 of the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals. I’ve been halfway around the world, countless countries and historical monuments, like Ankgor Wat in Cambodia, Mayan ruins in Tulum, Stanley Cup and a Steeler  victory parades. On and on with the sights, but then there’s the people through all of it. From Mario Lemieux Christmas shopping at Kaufman’s. As a boy, Jimmy “Superfly” (sadly a Murderer) Snuka, to my guys on the railroad tracks, having their deep philosophical conversations on everything from politics to what dog looks strong in the 8th race at the kennel club. The amount of awesome in my life is just humbling.

I got this text last night and cried like a baby who had his Twinkies stolen. Do babies eat Twinkies? Not important.

You’re the man. I appreciate your strength more than you know. It was a good time. I’ll be back sometime this week.

Funny thing, he taught me how to be that man.

Peace & Love-
MFJ

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Cancer Diaries: What is That Creeping Behind Me?

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Angels represent refined earthly wants and desires, and that allows writers to slap “pure” in front of just about any word to heighten its sense of value and universality.

Truths…those absolutes that play out the same way, over and over in life.  Not everyone is going to pay taxes, so that cuts the cliche down to 50%, and really, Michael Jackson is still alive in so many of our hearts, music turned into data or perilously preserved in vinyl grooves, so is even death a certainty?

Legacies…memories with the brain’s Play button pressed in someone’s head, somewhere, right this minute. Since I just wrote it, I’m thinking about seeing him a few nights ago, on a Motown tribute concert, singing Billie Jean, all those sequins refracting light, the one glove, and of course, those dance moves. Because you just wrote it, you’re thinking about him right now too, but maybe you don’t like his music, maybe you think him having Mr. Bubbles the chimp for a pet was inhumane, but MJ left many marks.

MJ…I hear it, I think Michael Jordan. Just my most popular internal search result. The man was the flat out the best to ever play the game. His competitive spirit the thing that should be envied, from playing baseball and gambling, to out-dunking Dominique back when the NBA mattered.

Add up those first 4 paragraphs, you obviously reach the sum of MFJ, the author of this blog, me, physically being consumed by cancer, an unknown quantity of numbered days remaining, who values the one sole truth of love being the answer, and wanting to leave that mark on someone in this world.

I mean clearly, that’s the inside picture from my exact thought process- as one word suggests the next in sequence, albeit my order. A progression where I am denying a very important certainty, we all die. The difference is- I know my time is just about up. Doctors tell me this and the searing pain in my chest remind me there just might be some veracity in their claims, proving they are indeed fortune tellers. Tomorrow there might be a radical discovery curing all malignancies, because a team of doctors have been in the Amazon (which, in this rare case, is NOT a vast place of consumerism, where you can buy Shoestring Theories), find that the feces from a rare moth larvae pulls the plug on this unchecked cellular aggression. That or God is sick of my fucking ‘Cancer Diaries’ blogs.

Bingo Michael.  Enough is enough. I mean, I have given you the PERFECT opening to reignite the halcyon days of Tinderfish, OurTinderTime.com, – that collection comedic genius- that was pure (<- see what I did there?) sophomoric humor at its most sublime. So, you’re going to wrap this blog up, and go edit your Tinder profile:

Ladies, I respect your honesty: that you are not on an app that brings people together based on solely on attraction to fuck and have one-night stands. That somewhere in those right swipes, love blooms. I really want that too, but I have terminal cancer. Do you think we might be able to wave that rule you have  though, because I’m dying – and I know Vanessa Williams is on the money, because I want to Save the Best for Last too.

Enough God, I will not stoop to that level or shut up about my illness. I mean, you’re the one who writes this story line, so at least let me fill in the some of the blanks. That people in similar situations can share exactly how some of this feels, that type of sharing is vital.

I’ve become obsessed with my phlegm. Is that a fleck of red in there? Is that some of my once healthy lung? What exactly is happening on my insides and more importantly, this- you gave me so many shots at dying before- is a shitty way to take me out. I mean it-why did you waste all the time from even my last overdose in 2014 to now. It could have just ended then. My guardian angels would have gotten some extra time off, or re-assigned to someone who had enough to offer he wasn’t just killed off 2 years later.

I am angry. I am sad. Both because I am scared.

I shouldn’t be mad, I should be celebrating life. But I’m in my own panic.

I’m sick of this.

I can’t fall asleep because I might not wake up.

And well, I have more shit to accomplish.

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I’m invested in Star Wars– I have to make it to 8 & 9. Give me that. A legacy. That humor deflects, it never changes the truth. The greatest truth in life- love, for my fellow human being- that is pure. That is joy, to help another human being, to unknowingly pull someone back from the edge so that one day, their faith outweighs their fears, and something beautiful is created.

Never stop living Michael. It’s okay to be afraid, just don’t become paralyzed. Be grateful. Be kind. There’s work to be done.

Peace & Love,
-MFJ

Knives Need A Good Honing

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About a ten days ago I had this post I started, about being thankful all 365 days a year, and not just the one lore tells us of, where the Indians, seeing we were going to bite it, decided to kill those weird birds that always hung around, the ones who never laid an egg, who had scrotums dangling from their beaks. Once a year the most irrelevant, tasteless fowl takes center stage on a dinner table.

Truth be told I’m Italian and much more thankful for the lasagna on the dinner buffet. Yet here it is, Pearl Harbor Day, and I’m just getting around to writing something about being grateful. I’m doing it from a hospital bed. I have had a benign tissue disorder get bumped up into something that has metastasized into my lungs. I sit here waiting for my biopsy results to come in, to see what this hunk of flesh in my chest is made up of, is it bone, muscle, fat, parts of my twin I imagine would have been named Stanley, the one I partially digested in utero or a little bit of everything? How cool would it be if it were just Swedish fish goo?

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That’s me, and my trophy I claimed at the hospital.Most improved satisfaction. The first night I was here, I was scared. 5 people waited with me in the ER. Every day I’ve been here I’ve had company. I’m still scared. Words like metastatic get thrown around, or the simple fact having a ten pound tumor removed is going to be in medical terms, “one hell of surgery,” it would be easy to say to myself I’ve had a great run at this thing called life.

Some things just aren’t meant to be. Love is not enough. Bad things happen to good people. Pick a cliche and run with it. While I had hoped my tumor would have been featured during this past weekend’s closing of Art Basel, there’s always next year.

Some things can’t be rushed. The most important, soul fulfilling things march along at their own pace, on an unseen timeline that only comes into focus in retrospect. I’m thankful though, right this second, I’m going to get through this. Moments like this, I am incredibly grateful to have lived out my life exactly as I have. I am loved.

The suicidal junkie of 18 months ago, the one so alone my shadow was a stranger us gone now. The world had no use for me, or so I thought. Moments of clarity caused full scale shifts in perspective, I had no use for the world. I was a selfish taker, never giving back  to anyone. Now there’s a guest list to see me here.

I’ve become someone just true to myself. I embrace my talents, use them to make a person laugh, to view life from a different plane of view. I encourage others to do the same and am so excited for upcoming Mind Shrapnel projects. As for cancer, I don’t fear that one either.

I’ve got time to leave some more marks on the publishing world, and a few people I can allow to rule the Mind Shrapnel  empire after I’m gone. Point is, I could die tomorrow and not worry the most minuscule bit about things left undone. I accomplished something huge, I got clean, I became recovered. Those people coming to sees me, baking and texting me, I want in their lives 18 months ago. Everyone one of them can tell you who I am. Until the day I step away from gravity, I will always have my integrity in check. Accomplishing that is the ultimate blessing and god gave me that chance- to be someone instead of a something.

Peace and Love,
-MFJ

I Got Clean For This?

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Active addiction sucks. Take my last ‘run.’ I came to Florida with nothing and in about a year and a half, I had a wife, house, car and most importantly to me, normalcy. When I started using, the highs were not like I remembered, because there was this huge cloud of guilt hanging over me. I had clawed through the sludge and gotten what I always dreamed of, a Norman Rockwell painting of what defined happiness, everyday life, enjoying the simple things.

For a while my use was justified, back pain from auto accidents. A doctor prescribing mass quantities of oxycodone, and I was just snorting it. Then buying more from acquaintances because 210 were not lasting. Then realizing I was doing too many per day, decided the smart thing to do would be to boot (inject) them. I would use less. The pressure of keeping my secret was slowly crushing me. My wife’s suspicions were growing like weeds in a forgotten garden. Everything precious, everything beautiful in my life was getting choked out, so bad wild flowers couldn’t even bloom.

When pill prices went out of control thanks to the pill mill crackdown, that logical voice spoke up one more time, heroin is way better and way cheaper. I had painted myself into a disastrous corner, and the lies were so plentiful there was no way to keep track of them. The inevitable happened, I was divorced and mad at her. That’s how addicts think, and I knew how to play the victim so well. It was her fault I was going to sink deeper into the quicksand.

I most certainly did, because we got divorced around August or September of 2011. My clean date is June 18th, 2014. If there was a single day clean between the days, it was because I had to gut it through for a day until whatever plan for money I had launched would deliver. By the end I was homeless, and had given up on life. If I had bothered to look over my shoulder, I would have seen the smoldering ashes of all the bridges I set ablaze, faces in the smoke of the people I fucked over. And I would fuck you over and over until finally those people had to throw in the towel.

“That can’t be Mike, he’s not that kid of guy.” Yeah, I was, way worse in fact. People existed to help me spiral down. By the time I added cocaine to the spoon, all I wanted was to just die. And when luck didn’t intervene, I grew some balls and did enough to kill myself.

One more failure. I ended up in rehab beaten up physically, completely destroyed mentally, and completely empty spiritually. Slowly but surely I began looking human again. I remember a guy asking a question of why there needs to be a CA. There’s AA for alcoholics, and NA for drug addicts. The difference was the Big Book. A few days later I read Bill’s Story. It rocked me. A few weeks later a guy asked about working the steps, and time.

I don’t remember what the speaker said, but if the promises of the Big Book came true, I wasn’t waiting around to get them. I was masterful when it come to creating and enduring tragedies. A few weeks later I was getting out, I met my sponsor the very last night of inpatient, and 2 months later I had done the steps, I was recovered.

One of those torched bridges cried when he heard my voice for the first time, the first time not all scratchy and deeper thanks to opiates. The words that came out were different too. There was a sincerity when I spoke. I held my head high without even thinking about it.

There was a peace about me, that people that really knew me sensed just over the phone. I wasn’t miserable anymore. I wasn’t manipulating a system or person to get something from him or her. A stranger collecting signatures for something gave me $10 to go get him cigarettes. Not even 5 months before that, I couldn’t get a fucking quarter.

Two major things happened to me- gratitude and a shift in perspective. I’m thankful for waking up, food, a bank account, a cell phone, friends and family, of which there are so many. I’m blessed. Truly blessed. And a new perspective, life isn’t a series of positive and negative experiences, they are all opportunities for me to grow as a man. In short, I found my conscious contact with God.

I didn’t get clean to be miserable. I got clean to finally live life. That’s a beautiful  thing, a peaceful, joyous thing I’m not giving back because I try to give a piece of it away every day.

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Peace & Love,
-MFJ

God Gets It Done Whether We Understand It or Not

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Old time scoliosis treatment in case you’re wondering. What does this have to do with the title, I’m not sure. I’m thinking the guy is like Dr. Nick from the Simpsons. Or a pervert. So I pray in a weird way, no Hail Mary’s that’s for sure. There’s a book my sponsor wants me to read, called Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch which I have not, but you can order by clicking on the title. Yes. Amazon affiliate shamelessness.

Anyway, I talk to God, and today I just didn’t even want to move, I actually hit my snooze button rather than wake up 7 minutes before like normal. I merely said, “God, get it done for me today.” Which was immediately followed by, that’s a good blog title, get that in the memos on your phone Mike before you forget it. I am convinced I have lost a million ideas by not doing that, so, mid-prayer, I grab my phone, politely I may add, as I asked God to excuse me for a second.

So I get up, it’s now 8:30, I’m late. That phrase though, now that it was entered into my phone, trailed my thoughts all day long. The ‘whether we understand it or not’ was an addendum, one I did not write down, or put in my phone.

Why do bad things happen to good people? I have never asked that question, I always got it. My name means God-like, the archangel Michael, the one that fucked up Satan. When I was using, I took those things to heart, Flatlining one hour, shooting dope within the next four. and always the bags that killed me because I was indestructible. I was far from that though. I was falling apart, a bag at a time.By the time speedballs entered the picture, I was clinging to the last bit of my soul. It no doubt wanted out of my body, but thank God, it never left me. Bad things happened to me, because I earned them, free will is a terrible thing once addiction takes over.

Still, the indestructible one had been taken apart piece by piece, like a boxer who pounds the body, he chops a man down over the rounds. Yes, I watched a Rocky marathon this weekend. The complete series is available by clicking on the Rocky.

Welcome to my brain, this is how prayers go for me today too, but I always come back to one simple line, I say it every day – “God, keep me aware so I don’t miss the opportunity to help another human being.” No matter whatever other bullshit I talk about, I never forget that. I never forget to thank God for another day. It’s all borrowed time, and I took HUGE withdrawals from that bank. Someone asked me about the pocket watch and skull and crossbones on my book cover (YES, one last shameless promotion, Buy Shoestring Theories HERE). That’s what it means, borrowed time.

I did my steps. For me, they saved my life. I did them the way the founders did them, quick. After all, I love vintage things. I work 10, 11, and 12 daily, and 9 wherever possible of course. Something beautiful happened along the way- the ability to see past “good” and “bad.” Now I see things for what they are, events that produce an emotion that I get to feel. I am out of the mountain building business. I know God gets it done for me, because our wills are aligned. God, don’t let me miss that moment to help. 

If you know me you know I am at peace. I have been through so many tough situations, and people want to actually see me stressed. They tell me it’s good to see I’m human. Sometimes things unfold in such a way I get it right away, but most of the times, the things that happen make sense in hindsight. I just KNOW things are exactly the way they need to be, right here, right now. Again for me, a little chunk of God is inside us all, we’re connected, and the ones we are supposed to meet, we will collide at some point. What you do with it from there is again, your decision.

Trust your gut. Always. That’s our piece. That’s my peace.

Peace and love,
-MFJ

What Needs Left Unsaid

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But I will contradict that right now. and spell it out to the sick and suffering. I get it, you are in a place where hope only exists a few frames in a dream you’ll never remember. Your eyes open and the race is on to swindle money by any means necessary, because that sickness is creeping up your spine. A simple sneeze induces a panic attack. You know the life you’re living is killing you painfully slow. You can give up you know.

I heard that talk a lot, friends and family desparate to see me put down the needle. I know they were worried sick as I self-destructed. Enduring mental torture, waiting for that most random of calls, the one the cements my status- “We’re sorry to tell you your ________ died tonight.” Shocked and confused people offer up the almost cliche response, “at least _________ is at peace now.”

I thank God that call never came. That tonight, my parents rest well, unafraid. I am the person everyone expected to die.the most hopeless of addicts. I got close, dangerously close, too many times. My last breaths before the Narcan hit must have held an unspoken prayer-  “Not yet God.”

Did you hear Philip Seymour Hoffman died last year? Another casualty via a speedball. If you have morbid curiosity, here’s a list of famous dead drug addicts. Want a more detailed one? Here you go. Yet more Americans die from overdoses than are killed in auto accidents. You don’t know their names, unless they hit you personally. Every 12-step program has the 12th tradition regarding anonimity. I’m in CA, but I can’t say anyone else there is.

I got to go home a few weeks ago, to Washington PA. The small, mostly rural county experienced 25 overdoses in 2 days…3 people died. To say this is sobering news is a terrible pun. Read the frightening article about it from the Washington Post- national news WashPA. Just not what you want.

Heroin starts life as a poppy. Pods are slit and opium seeps out. Opium has morphine in it, and that is taken out. From there it’s simple to make heroin, a chemical 4-5 times as strong as morphine. The supply of heroin is dependent on the poppy harvests from places like Afghanistan, Burma and now Mexico and Columbia. What if you could make a drug 100 times as powerful as morphine, and start with 2 easily aquired chemicals? Because you’re a greedy drug lord, you hire a chemist and he makes a kilo of fentanyl, which is actually the equivalent of 25 kilos of heroin. Wow.

In my first attempt at a memoir, Long Sleeved Summers, I laughed at the idea when people told me good bags were being cut with fentanyl. I write in there something like, if that happened, there would be tons of dead junkies. Cue Alanis Morrisette.

Just because it isn’t front page news, the person isn’t famous, or what ever, no one seems to give a shit that people are dying everywhere.I see words like “epidemic” followed by generic numbers, maybe a picture of a sobbing family member asking why. The answer is we’re stuck in that sickness, we are animals, dope is our sole nourishment and we cannot starve to death. We won’t. Until something suspends it, interupts it or ends it once and for all.

Makes the countries that give out pharmaceutical heroin look brilliant. Say what you want, but they aren’t dying. Maybe the sadder point is no one gives a fuck. Unless it stings personally, to someone “important,” life in the junkie world goes on. Fentanyl is not to be fucked around with, shooting blues and D’s is like O’douls vs moon shine. Take care of each other out there, because there are plenty of people who do give a fuck.

So to all the non-famous people dying out there, you’re remembered. People love you. You probably see that now, there isn’t anymore hurt you can cause, it’s a morbid peace that is instilled by your passing. I know a couple people are up there watching me type all this out, trying to keep my emotions in check, but when someone is close to your heart, that bond is never broken.

To the people who’ve lost loved ones, leave a comment, so we can get to know them. No one dies in vain, but they should never be just a digit in a statistic. My lost addicts, up there in the ether, I remember you daily. So I will go first:

A song on the radio, right Aftab, Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” always hits my ears at the right time. It’s fantasy football season and I just don’t care. You won it all that year I think. Truth is I never checked after you switched roles. You’ll always be my brother.

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Pride and Prejudice Redux Recovery 2015

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I am a joker at heart, always have been. Not much I take seriously, and since I don’t openly discuss politics or religion, I am always jovial unless I’m on my period. There will be no Mr. Darcy or Elizabeth here, other than the Keira Knightley photo I heavily edited above to avoid any © infringements.

Buy Pride and Prejudice the book or the movie or even better Pride and Prejudice and Zombies right here #amazonaffiliatewhore

I worked the steps because I tried every other way to get well but remained sick, actually got even sicker. Now I work 10, 11, and 12 daily, I call myself recovered, because I have been freed from a hopeless state of mind and body. How I got that was reestablishing a connection with God (as I understand the jester up there in the ether) and growing it everyday. If you’re my sponsee, I get you through the steps, that’s all. I’m sure as shit not giving relationship advice, and I don’t need to hear from you upon waking, and going to bed.

I take the responsibility of sponsorship seriously, because it is deadly disease. This notion of a “Relapse” being alright, it’s just a stumble, guess what- some people fall and don’t get up. A sponsor walks the talk. I am not perfect. I am not God. The point of the steps is to find Him/Her/It because nature is perfect, and those who have read Shoestring Theories (more shameless marketing, click the title to buy it)   know there is a definite order in the chaos. I needed clarity, or I was going to die.

So, to the sponsors out there drinking Kratom, taking your prescribed mood/mind-altering chemicals, even giving a Xanax or Suboxone to your fucking sponsee, then shooting steroids into his ass, I say Fuck You. What 12-step book says this shit is okay? It’s an honor to sponsor another man. It is a huge responsibility. You don’t need to have 19 sponsees that you trot around meeting places like prize-winning cattle. Stop pseudo-sponsoring women, to crawl into bed with them, just because weed is legal doesn’t mean it’s okay to smoke it. This isn’t a fashion show, this isn’t something to brag about. There is something cool about being in recovery. I take pride in that fact.

What does recovery look like? It’s about attitude- a humble one, a grateful one. It’s in the actions. Especially the ones no one sees but you and God. Doing well has zero to do with a collection of designer clothes, Jordans and getting tattoos everywhere. “I buy shoes that cost $1.57 to make, and pay $200/pair and they stay in the box.” WTF?

Get some integrity, do the right thing for the right reason, not acclaim. Do something for someone today and the gift is a rush inside the soul, and it gives me incredible, unshakable peace, so act accordingly.

The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively. – Bob Marley

So put down the joint. Go through the steps honestly. While I still struggle with certain things, especially relationships, I don’t have a needle in my arm, I have neutrality in my life. I have peace. I have conscious contact with God. While my name is on the book, and it is my story, I don’t doubt for a minute God wrote the perfect screenplay, it unfolded brutally at times, but that just made the beauty of a shoelace that much more perfect.

One last thing- the truth hurts. I know this from being a fake, pretending that I was clean years ago when my wife left me and that ended up with me being a speedballing deathseeker.  Oh, and a COMPLETE scumbag. Today my head is held high, I look people in the eye. I promptly admit I was wrong when I lose my cool, or say some smartass sarcastic comment that someone takes the wrong way. I act out of love, to the best of my ability. This just needed voiced, cataloged in the clouds.

As this no doubt will prove to be a controversial topic, I am sure to revisit it.

Living Peacefully and Lovingly

MFJ     #livespiritually