Procrastination Remedy

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I’m dying, let’s not sugar coat it. Not in the sense we are all dying, but as in, I’m at the deli counter of life and fell for the Take a Number ploy. I’m in a line now and these mother fuckers behind the counter are moving efficiently. This never happens, what the hell? What I need is for some people ahead of me to not know what they want, to get some samples. Take your time Ethel, Boar’s Head makes a lot of  crazy varieties of turkey. Stop being so plain boring. 

Speaking of diversity, what do I want when it’s my turn? Maple? Salsalito? Should I do turkey and ham? That changes everything. Dammit!

This isn’t real, something happened to the script. Did I miss a re-write? Did that director feel some kind of way and have to have things unfold his way? Was I just a lot of back story that tested poorly with screening patrons? Pace. Things need to move along or people lose interest. Why else are there vines? We live in an ADHD world and I have something that takes a little longer than 15 seconds to explain.

I’m dying, and not alright with that, but the facts are what they are: metastasized cells in my lungs I can deal with, but the bones? That’s the number I have to take to get service, even if I am not even hungry. Some people asked me why I put a pocket watch and a skull and crossbones on the front cover of Shoestring Theories, so I’ll just go ahead and tell everyone- it’s a symbolic representation of life, for me. I’m living on borrowed time. We are all in a sense, just seems others take out a larger line of credit than I did; no, wait, I’m thinking I maxed out at the store of overpriced dreams, and spent recklessly on the most foolish illusions. No bank is willing to extend me any further, and my firebug nature caught up to me, there’s only so many banks and Indian (wigwam kind) payday loans out there to scam.

Live and learn. That used to apply, but the time has come to build a new bridge and hope that is spending the rest of my life and the best way possible. This blueprint is from the last lesson I learned, another taken completely to heart- a lot of people care. I had a steady stream of visitors at the hospital, a virtual flood of digital love and prayers, and private talks where friends and family don’t like how this blog commences. It hurts them. A leech on society and trust, now people see my inate goodness.

Borrowed time, because I shouldn’t be alive. 18 months ago I literally clawed and crawled  my way into rehab, far beyond broken, only fixable by the supernatural. God put the right repair men in my life, the best in the business, because I needed to let go, I needed to stop trusting the wrong voice in my head. I had to get well.

That transformation happened for me, not overnight, but it happened.

“Aren’t you pissed off God did this?
“Did what?”
“The terminal cancer Mike?”
“Why would I be mad at God for that?”
“Because man, you get clean and are just getting ready to celebrate a year and a half only to find out you’re going to die? Don’t you want to go get high?”
“No, I don’t get mad, and he didn’t sit up there and say, you know what Champ, let’s give that grandson of yours some ass kicking cancer.
“I guess.”
“Faith makes guessing non-existent. Seriously, here’s what God did do for me:

  • Saved my life. Repeatedly.
  • Have my family and so many old friends back in my life.
  • Brought a new, incredible group of friends into my life.
  • Freed me from attachments, which brings me peace.
  • Gives me exactly all I need every single day, the necessities.

I could go on and on, but this- situation- is not going to change my perspectives, it’s not going to give life to that sick voice that wanted me to suffer.”

I used to say I am one of the lucky ones. I am not, I am one of the blessed ones. Right now, with my diagnosis and prognosis, whatever, I am here one more day, and am going to make the most of the gift we take for granted.  Cancer is going to wreck me physically, but it is not going to destroy the peace inside me, it’s only going to strengthen and nurture the connection between God and I.

And those friends and family: I love you all. We’re going to get through this, and it’s going to be something to hold on to, remembering it for the joy.

It’s also gave me the title idea for this blog; it’s going to get me off my ass when it comes to writing.

Peace & Love,
-MFJ

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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.

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

Fake It Til You Make It or Die Without Even Trying?!

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Who coined this “saying?” It’s actually spoken out loud at meetings. Stop and think about that for a minute or longer if you need to, instead of  mindlessly regurgitating really stupid shit. Or you can read this blog.

Fake is defined as:
1. to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting,valuable,                     etc., usually in order to deceive

2.  prepare or make something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent.

Yeah, let’s tell addicts, who specialize in dishonesty to “deceive until they succeed.” I seriously would love to meet whoever coined that phrase, and certainly the people that spread this around 12 step meetings. It sure as hell isn’t in the Big Book. Step one’s spiritual principle, i.e. action, is honesty. So the newcomer is just supposed to say, “Yeah, I’m powerless,” fraudulently so that they can fit in a group. Meanwhile, back at the sponsorship ranch, I take someone through step one and ask them after everything we’ve gone over, the physical and mental effects of alcohol and drugs,the spiritual void created, to answer a simple question, not to me, but to themselves. The concession (admission of truth, i.e., I am not a normal person who has an off switch, once I start there is no stopping and I crave more, more and then some more until an only an act of God stops me, and even then I’m fighting Him too) to myself in step one that I am the true, real deal addict.

How am I going to fake that one and possibly get well? Keep coming back? Avoid people, places and things? Fuck. FUCK! They like architecture in that large book, so essentially, ‘faking’ the cornerstone of recovery is tantamount to supergluing dust together and then laying concrete block on it. On the beach. During a hurricane. You are not making it…I need another smoking nun to calm my nerves. Hold please…

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My buddy Pat said something at work a few hours ago that cracked me up- “I stopped doing drugs to be miserable.” I know he was joking, but fact of the matter is, there’s a lot of people that are miserable, so many of them wear the fake smiles. Fake it til you make it? This sounds exactly like me during active addiction. The jester dying on the inside. One more shot of dope is going to fix everything, until it doesn’t. Then the fear and anxiety kicks in, I’m going to be dopesick. I need to get money, so I have a morning shot that I am going to do as soon as I get it.

Deception, lies, all told to myself. And here I am, in early recovery being told to just show up and let the magic happen even if I’m still sick and don’t really see how meetings are going to save my ass.

At the end of the meetings I go to, we say, “Stay.” I love that. If I never forsake my recovery, i.e. God, I don’t have to bother coming back, and the cold, oft avoided fact is I may never make it back. The meetings focus on the solution, not a string of stories about how terrible life is: My roommate ate my Lucky Charms. My boyfriend cheated on me. There’s too many rules at my halfway. Every morning I start my dialog with God the same way- Thank you for another chance to see morning light, for food and shelter, for my friends and family in my life,.. 

What else do I really need? Not only that, I have the faith that right now as I sit in front of the computer typing this while listening to Courtney Barnett, I’m exactly where I need to be. I got a phone call last night, an aspiring author with a powerful story to tell, and I’m totally her editor because she gave me the golden answer- “I feel like I have to do this, even if it reaches one person, and helps them, it will be worth it.”  Amen sister. A-fuckin-men.

Same with this blog, maybe someone is struggling, trying to put on a happy face and going through the motions until something hits them hard enough to not just know they are an addict, but finally UNDERSTAND. With that admission of defeat comes something else, or at least for me it did: I don’t have a fucking clue how to get well, but I am ready to let someone who has done the deal show me the way. The rest is gravy. Actually, the rest is GOD. Gravy Over Duck. Gravy, full of pan drippings and butter, flour and secrets (roux for the chefs,) so good. I digress.

Back to that God guy, thing, whatever you want to call him/it. I’ve told God to fuck off so many times in active addiction I can’t believe he bothered keeping me around. God pulled me through the quicksand Bill W. describes surrounding him, except I mine was more sewage sludge.God and my angels saved my ass when I was such a selfish asshole, when I lived so grimy, so dangerous and care free, why would I ever question the reason for it all. My days have played out and I understand I am most definitely am on the right path. Life and all that happens in it are lessons, lessons that improve me as a human being. I tried so many times to pull away from life, God gave me a long leash, a treasure trove of pain to let go, to mold my perspective into not even an optimist…I don’t know what I call it, but I am so peaceful knowing  my life is perfect right now. I’m where I need to be.

That girl again, another thing she said- “it’s wrong to not use my gift.” Yeah. Another a-fuckin-men. God gives us all something, so often for the junkies, it’s the ability to express in a way that has primal force, be it writing, painting, drawing, music, whatever. I love writing. Keeping that gift in the dark is a slap in the face of God. When He would save me and I’d run right back to the spot, I threw his Grace back with a fuck you attached. You should hear our conversations. Writing is my passion, because the feeling of reaching just one person faking it right now, and praying they get it, and truly make it to become recovered, well, that’s a feeling more rewarding than any material bullshit society’s lies convince us are happiness. Joy is internalized happiness, it warms your soul.

I think I’ve rambled on long enough. Give up. Drugs are undefeated when facing off with an addict. Drugs are that opponent that let’s you punch yourself out, then knocks you the fuck out. Chris Tucker, you’re cue:

“You got knocked the fuck out man.”

But if you’re reading this, you got back up. that’s not you being tough, that’s God throwing the towel in and saving your ass.If you go back in the ring for a rematch, that’s you being stupid. God had you in the most desperate of times, he’s not leaving now if you get some faith and willingness to follow our path.

Peace and Love,
-MFJ

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