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

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

Monogamous Prostitution and Other Love Poems

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The process has started. If you have read any of the “Independent Breaks,” this is what it has become. Watch for updates. Hopefully Gabby and I can get this done soon! Oh, we need an artist for the cover. Inquire please, already know what I want.

The Fraudulent Files: Slumlord Edition

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I sincerely hope that if someone feels a blog is directed at them, they use it for an impetus for change. I’ve written plenty of blogs that were anonymous generalities. That doesn’t seem to work. We’ve all heard the slogan, “if nothing changes, nothing changes.”

I haven’t done a shameless book plug in what seems like forever, but in my memoir, Shoestring Theories, available on Amazon or by clicking HERE, the book starts with my ex-wife’s Amazon review of my first attempt at a memoir. In a word it was caustic. I was pissed off because she didn’t review the book, probably didn’t even read it, she attacked my character. I put that in the new book because that is exactly  who I was. I tainted the good times we shared, I shattered the trust we had. I broke her heart because the drugs were more important than her. It hurt me to read the truth, but it was the truth. Who I was in addiction, the liar, the thief, the ruiner of happiness, has gone a long way into becoming the man I am. As Jack Nicholson said, “you can’t handle the truth.” I disagree Jack, maybe back then, but today the truths about me past and present don’t phase me. Just one of the gifts from the steps and being led through them by a great sponsor.

Then a member of a group text sent this quote:

“Strong characters are not derived from not doing wrong but rather from actually doing right. Unselfishness is the badge of human greatness. The highest levels of self-realization are attained by worship and service. The happy and effective person is motivated, not by fear of wrongdoing, but by love of right doing.” -Michael Josephson

So if you know someone who has had their life taken too soon by addiction, you get there is a big difference between taking someone’s “inventory” versus shedding light on actions that are detrimental to an addict’s journey towards recovery.

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Ok, The stories here were all witnessed by myself, because I lived at this Place right off of Swinton. I got out of DAF the same way I went in, broke. There was a federal grant program that gave people a free month of rent at this “halfway” house. It was a huge blessing, not to mention a lot of my friends I was in DAF with were already there. I met some great men there, and a lot of us have celebrated a year clean  at various times in 2015. The first guy who greeted me there gave me my year on June 18th. His clean date is February 4th, which means he’s nearing 2 years.

The federal grant program ran out back in October of 2014. As the core group of guys moved out, no one was really moving in. All the rumors of everyone shooting dope, rampant bed bugs, and whatever else were false. The place was neglected, sure, but it was a stable place to rest my head. Then one rumor was proven to be true.

A guy almost died. His name is Jimmy. After being rushed to the ER, he came back and demanded to be let into his apartment. Turns out, this place has zero licensing, and therefore had no authority to throw him out. The solution: Bribe him, pay him his security deposit and balance on the week to leave. What the fuck? Giving an active junkie CASH? Why not hand him a loaded gun or a noose after he says “Life just isn’t any fun anymore?” Jimmy DIED the next day. Addiction kills people. So many good but troubled people.

That pissed me off. It still does, and nothing gets done to prevent future deaths. Jimmy wasn’t the only one they paid to leave. Any halfway house resident knows they lose their security if the commitment isn’t fulfilled. Well, they gave this guy both of his back to leave. Thankfully he’s still alive. What an awesome message to send the “clients” who were in fact just renters. If you used and chose to stay, there was nothing they could do other than go through the eviction process. The place turned into the joke it is.

I ended up staying there an extra few months because I felt I had to try and bring to light solutions, the simplest being, get a fucking hotel license. Do you have any idea what it is like to live with an active junkie while clean? Thank God for neutrality. Jimmy’s whole apartment relapsed, one guy carrying it through eviction. I’ll never forget sitting outside, and watching the guy stagger over to his apartment door. I texted the manager: “He made it by curfew if you give him the 5 minutes it took him to stumble over to his door.” Problem was he would be an angry drunk, and guys on probation with anger issues had to be talked down more than a few times that month.

I tried to talk to the owner, begged the manager to get him to a house meeting. Never happened. The shit show continues, intense pressure to pay the rent, even though so many come in with no job. I went through this, even under the grant program because I was paid bi-weekly and they held one check back, meaning I didn’t get paid for almost a month. This was before Jimmy died. Before the ugly truth came out. It stressed the hell out of me.

“You can find $135. I’m not a bank.”

Correction mother fucker, my last “run” was five year descent into utter hell, the only thing I did well other than getting high all the time was take up pyromania when it came to bridges. Friends and family watched from the virtual horizon, reading this blog, wondering if once and for all I had truly given up the fight. Praying that all those brushes with death were finally over with. Almost 18 months later, I’m still grateful for my life and all those in it.

In the end, the owner only cares about one thing: cash. It’s the only accepted payment in reality. Checks are an unwritten no-no (and not the hair removal thing). He even came to my job because he couldn’t wait 45 minutes for me to get home. “Rent’s due by 6:00 on Friday.” What if you get paid Monday? I even suggested a 2-week scholarship period for guys getting out of rehab. I might as well presented a plan calling for providing free hookers on Saturdays for guys who fulfill the 6-month commitment. If the place was full and guys were blowing up his cell phone to get in with a month’s rent in hand. The place was barely at 50%. What’s better, give someone a break to get on their feet, or have empty beds? Take a chance on someone. It’s a halfway house, it’s supposed to be about recovery.

To this very day, they still can’t legally kick someone out. I spent a month with 2 people getting high in my apartment. I had no choice. I wasn’t allowed to switch apartments. It was hell, and thank God I was blessed with neutrality. What about a guy with 10 days clean watching his roommate nodding off? One of those roommates I call my friend, he’s clean and doing alright, the other, no clue what happened to him.

In that book called big yet is regular sized, we learn about the spiritual principles we live by to recover: honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, (brotherly) love, discipline/justice, perseverance, spiritual awareness, and service. We live by these. These are the actions which keep us clean, which help us change and grow.  It’s not easy, and none of us are perfect by any means, certainly not me.

I actually struggle in writing these types of blogs. All of us in recovery have a choice, turn a blind eye, or do something about it. In the end, I always end up thinking about the welfare of people who walk into a situation expecting an environment that will aid them in recovery. That person has to do all the work, but a halfway house should support that, it should be as advertised, not anything less. There are no fucks given by this owner. Check that, there is one fuck given, rent. I think about parents desperate to get their kids well, that Google “Halfway Houses Delray Beach” and look at a website, make a phone call, and send their son or daughter there. If they only knew the truth. They are going to though.

Peace
-MFJ

The Fraudulent Files

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South Florida is hyped as a recovery mecca. In recovery, one gets well. I can’t explain how much I’ve changed for the better. I use the word recovered, because I worked the steps. I work 10, 11, & 12 daily to the best of my ability. I was exhausted from being a selfish ass hole for so many years. I was tired of hurting people by destroying myself and doing anything to feed the beast.

I’m far from perfect, but I try pretty fuckin hard to be a stand up guy. Those who know me can attest to it. I will help you if you ask. I know what it’s like to be all alone, or at least so shut off from God, friends and family, that it’s literally me floating in a vacuum while the world streams past. I wanted to get well. So I picked a man to sponsor me that was the type of human being I wanted to become.

Apparently not everyone values gratitude, grace, and altruism like I do. That, I attribute to God putting my sponsor in my life. I love to have a good time, and in my wallet there’s a joker, and my medallion. It reminds me of balance, it tells me life is about truly living and having a good time. I want my sponsees to get the gifts the steps gave me, that shift in perspective that allows me to show compassion to any human being I encounter, to handle “life on life’s terms” (don’t get me started again on that phrase) by not turning the world inside out so that I can step into the center of things. I’m just not that important.

When I am deadly serious it is when sponsoring someone and working steps with them. When I went through mine, it was a lesson- in so many ways, but it taught me how to be a sponsor. I happen to have worked mine old school, and last I checked, that worked or we wouldn’t have the plethora anonymous groups we have today. I am not saying I am a great sponsor, but I am qualified, I am most definitely a card carrying member. I’m proud of that.

Now then- If not pictured below, take the rest of this with a grain of salt. If its truth resonates with you, and doesn’t piss you off, let’s try and tighten up on those who constantly put others in danger. If you’re angry and not pictured below, sorry, the truth sets some free, and pisses others off.

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Addiction is selfishness. If you are still selfish, you are not helping others. If you offer a hand to someone and have the other out for some sort of payment, you’re not practicing altruism. If you say shit like, people who pick up multiple white chips should be shunned, I have to ask what program are you following. That guy, Bill W., might not have had chips, but had AA been around, he would have picked up multiple white chips. Being that he founded it, well, fuck you. Maybe you don’t understand addiction. That’s not for me to say- I can however comment on actions.

I have a lot of friends, one’s by your logic, I should have shunned. Fuck, I should have turned my back on myself a long time ago. God doesn’t shun anyone. If you’re bigger than God, drop some knowledge on me please. In the interim, I’m going to drop facts on you. Anyone who is a friend of one of my friends, is mine by default. When I get a phone call in the morning about actions, hurtful, self-centered actions, I get pissed. There’s this problem down here- maybe you’ve heard, a lot of people are dying.

As a person, I cannot save anyone. I can offer my help in anyway if that person is willing to get help. I don’t judge sincerity, I just do what I can. I’m a junkie, so I’m pretty good at smelling bullshit. When someone puts their trust in you to help out a friend, and you go from her sleeping on your couch to threatening homelessness over her head if she doesn’t fuck you, well…

That you know she is vulnerable, and you take advantage of that, yeah…That you know she is getting high, and use that against her, to sleep in your bed so you can get laid again, dude… you are all that is wrong with “recovery.” What if this girl, who was so uncomfortable, she slept in her car rather than be inside your place, what if she had overdosed while out there, alone? Her choice right? Yes, it is. There’s this thing though, I learned it from the steps, personal accountability.

It’s not about the other person’s actions, it’s “what did I do?” Step 4 shit, if you’re ignorant to the program. Apparently you did miss that. Recovery isn’t a feeding ground to sleep with girls so you feel just a little better about yourself. Human beings are not self-esteem nourishment, that’s an inside job, accomplished when you reconnect with God and maintain that connection. Worse, you work for recovery communities. Maybe they should market the fact a girl had to leave a halfway because you hit on her repeatedly, and wouldn’t leave it alone. People look up to you as a member of the recovery community? You don’t represent recovery in any way. It’s a fucking disgrace.

Worst of all, you sponsor men. Bad sponsorship kills. Literally. Please stop sponsoring people. That I haven’t said fuck 1000 times in this blog is a miracle. Step 10, make sure to promptly admit you’re wrong. You owe some serious amends to people. You need to get well or get out of the recovery community.

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I’m done.

No Shit, ‘Life Happens’

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This chicken is my neighbor apparently. She did eventually cross the road, not to get to the other side, but to avoid a discussion with me on past lives and reincarnation. In particular, the question, “What did you do to live as a free range chicken in the 21st century?” I can’t be sure, but I think I saw a tear flow down her beak as she went clucking and pecking into the light of a rising summer sun.

There’s something I hear a lot in the rooms of recovery, “Life happens,” or its even worse sibling, “life shows up.” Really? Only a selfish addict would pretend life periodically visits us. It always seems to preface tales of present day problems. It annoys me. Life has been going on the whole time. For me, so many joyous times streamed by, now just dusty memories I couldn’t appreciate or downright missed, due to being enveloped by narcotic fog. Now that I am recovered, I embrace every day. I love that life is always happening.

Good and bad, I don’t use those terms. Life is a continual experience, a series of intersections, where we meet others. Some hitch and we take them along for the ride. How long they’ll be in the car depends on their destination. Enjoy the moments, the laughs, the opportunities to see the biggest ball of aluminum foil, and be sad to see them get out of the car. Some are with us the whole way, become part of our family not defined by blood, but by having my back no matter what and vice versa.
Others collide with us like a Silver Alert senior, hitting us out of nowhere, landing the car in the shop. While that vehicle is being fixed, we can get out and explore a new town if we choose. It’s a sit down in a diner, more lives mix, if I’m aware of the surroundings, if I get out and do. A great conversation with a stranger who is now a friend, every experience a teachable moment, a chance to pick up the tab for the less fortunate.

Too many sit in the waiting room, focused on the dents and scraped paint. They look at the estimate, and stress out. Recovery and steps are insurance, and God is a pretty good level of coverage. He’s got that bill. No deductible because we’ve already paid that.

Enough metaphors. Experience life. Being grateful makes me appreciate the small things that others do not have. Every morning I wake up in an awesome house. I have shelter while others walk the streets, looking for a safe place to rest their heads. Funny part is, I came back from Pittsburgh with nowhere to go. Weeks prior, I met a lady at my book signing, a complete stranger, that became a friend. Hmm…sounds familiar, no? She got me into the house. While it was stressful, I never doubted I’d have a place to live.

Life has been happening for a long time. Acts of kindness are everywhere, I endeavor to pay attention and help others. Moments of pain, times of trouble, I feel the emotions of those moments and absorb the lessons. They make me a better man. I don’t cry about those things, I cherish them. I grow from them rather than sit in the body shop of life, reading a 3-year-old issue of Time Magazine. Yeah one more metaphor.

Peace and love,
MFJ