Masculinity, Initial Thoughts

I don’t ever promote other blogs here but there is one on which I read and comment on every post. Rinse Before Use is a relationship and lifestyle blog excellently written by two talented friends of mine. It’s witty and funny, covering everything from online dating to book and tv reviews. A lot of what I write and the fact that I continue to write is due to their website. If you have a moment, check out their site. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! If you like what you read, please vote for them in the Infinity Blog Awards.

I’m not really feeling it today, my friends! Normally when I wake up, I jump out of bed and already have an idea for my post making my fingertips itch. No such luck today! But I did challenge myself to write a post every day for thirty days and I am a man of my word! Usually… most of the time.

On Rinse Before Use, they’ve recently been talking about the state of masculinity in the world and that’s a topic I find intriguing, in large part because not only am I a man but I am the kind of man people are usually talking about when they say that masculinity is in decline. We have to be honest with ourselves about these things; it’s the only way one can change for the better.

Growing up with basically an absent father, I learned everything about human interaction from my mother. I can’t even begin to explain to you what my childhood was like. My therapist has helped me to see that, in a way, I was actually the father (which feels kind of gross but true) and had a big part in raising all of my siblings. It’s not a role I wanted so I didn’t do a very good job as evidenced by all of their drug and alcohol problems; I digress.

What my mother taught me, above all else, is that women hate me and I should fear them. She didn’t SAY that, of course. Children learn from what you do far more than from what you say and she was/is a terrifying woman. In my later years that terror turned more into annoyance as it became apparent that she couldn’t actually do anything to me but the instinct to fear her and (by proxy) all women is still there.

The strange thing about this is, as a nice guy (a term that doesn’t mean you’re actually a nice guy at all), I have tons of female friends. In fact, I have almost exclusively female friends. I’m not threatening to women. It’s obvious I’m never going to make a move or treat them poorly because I am just a little puppy waiting for them to toss me some table scraps! Looking back on my past, there are many gorgeous, intelligent women who I can see now wanted me to make a move but I was too weak to do anything. That hurts, deep in the gut. The worst kind of hurt is when nobody but yourself caused it.

All of that said… I am changing! Slowly but surely, my confidence is increasing. Physically, I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in my life which means that, in my locale, I’m also in better shape than virtually every other man my age. That makes you feel good about yourself, let me tell you! Women pay a lot of attention to me now because they’re in miserable, failed marriages with men who let themselves go ten years ago. Of course, they’re still married so that isn’t doing much for my sex life but it’s a confidence boost.

The big boon to my confidence though is my lifestyle, without a doubt. I’m sober, after going through over ten years of struggle that is tougher than most people can even comprehend. I’ve stuck to a consistent exercise and diet regimen. I jokingly said when I first started working out (while I was still a drunk) that you only live once and I want a 6-pack before I die. It was just a ha-ha moment, but it’s actually becoming a reality! Why do we obsess over 6-pack abs so much anyway? Probably because they’re the hardest muscle to obtain; fat forms on the belly first.

I don’t know if this will last. Historically, it hasn’t. I try things for a few weeks and then I quit. But this has been over a month now and it’s certainly due to finally getting my medication straightened out. I can’t emphasize enough how much I believe people who are struggling should see a psychiatrist.

Anyway, look at that! Didn’t even feel like writing today. See you all tomorrow! (or in your comment sections)

Between the Rested and Me

(featured image is another of my photographs from the cabin trip. not happy with the composition but I like the effect!)

My insomnia continues, to some degree. Falling asleep wasn’t difficult last night; actually, falling asleep isn’t ever difficult, staying asleep is my problem. I went down at 11pm after reading my allotted 25 pages of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, which drags on enough to get me in the mood for sleep. I’ve made it to chapter 6 where Raskolnikov is about to carry out his evil deed, so it’s starting to finally get interesting. I will say that parts of the book portray alcoholism far better than any literature or film I’ve ever encountered. If you have an interest in how the alcoholic mind works, this book would help.

Anyway, I woke up at 4:30 despite setting my alarm for 6am so that I could “sleep in”. Again, I’m not tired in the least. I wake up full of vigor which only increases when I take my medication shortly afterward. I putzed around on Pinterest; my current Pinterest passion is building a board of travel destinations in Michigan. I’m very adamant about exploring my home state so that I learn to love it. Younger goth Brian always hated Michigan, the way young goths hate any state they live in. It turns out there’s a lot to see and most of it is right up my alley. I have a goal of collecting rocks unique to different areas and building a display for them. I’ve never been into rocks. Yet another effect of Walden, possibly.

While I do have the energy this morning, I decided to not go to the gym until later in the day. For one thing, I wasted enough time on Pinterest that it’d put me somewhat behind in my work routine and for another I have a doctors appointment at 12:30 and decided to take the rest of the day off of work (I’m leaving at 11:30) so I’ll have plenty of time for the gym.

A few different blogs I’ve read this morning are all coincidentally talking about sugar and dieting. Perhaps it’s because it’s the summer and people are more conscious about their weight and how their bodies look right now? One of my passions has always been nutrition and over the last year, I’ve become more and more convinced that sugar is actually a highly addictive narcotic that society has simply been duped into believing is almost akin to a vitamin (to be sure, it was classified by some doctors as a vitamin in the 19th century). There’s nothing I advocate my friends and family do more than quit all forms of sugar. Alcohol, corn syrup, fruit (yes, fruit! the fruit we eat today has been modified over the millennia to produce far more sugar than our ancestors got from an apple), etc. I’ve already said on this blog that once I gave up sugar I dropped 20lbs like it was just air leaving my body. People struggle with running, lifting weights, and counting their calories and never lost a consistent pound. I didn’t go to the gym at all and ate as much food as I wanted and I lost all that weight just by abstaining from sugar and refined grains.

Why not make September a no-sugar month for you? It’s early August now so you have plenty of time to plan meals and prepare failsafe plans. I’m not an expert and there are plenty of other resources online for how you can do this so I’d recommend looking into those. If you’re overweight and want to lose it, this is pretty much the only way it’s going to happen. There’s no such thing as an inherently fat person. I’ve never met a fat person who simply couldn’t lose weight. They never genuinely tried.

BPD

Oh muh gawd-being bipolar is a struggle! It never hit me while I was drinking because I was always in too much of a haze to think about it but now that I’m actively trying to better my life it feels like I hit a cement wall every two weeks. I’ve not written anything here for weeks because I just couldn’t. It was hard enough getting out of bed to go to work. The medication I was prescribed doesn’t work at all… I guess those three weeks of heavy productivity were just a placebo effect. However the fact that a placebo effect is even possible given my brain chemistry tells me that I can beat this. I’ve redoubled my focus on diet and exercise. Diet seems to be the key (go figure, science was right about that). The days where I make sure to pack a ton of fruit and veggies into my meals I get a lot more done and wake up the next day with more energy. Real energy, too, not the fake manic feelings I get.

It hasn’t all been storm clouds and self-pity, though. I’ve kept up (more or less) with my 5k training and I started school last Tuesday! I did attend a community college last year but dropped out because I just wasn’t retaining anything with all the booze in my brain. I’ve gone to the same community college in the past but this is the first time I’ve attended a real university. It’s a might expensive and I’ll probably have debt for years to come but it’s so worth it in my mind. I’m working towards a bachelor’s in computer science with a focus on advanced cyber security. Cyber security is in high demand these days and I’m hoping to one day have a 200k square foot house on the beach in Santa Monica. Haha, kidding but I am for sure tired of living paycheck to paycheck.

I also secured a promotion a couple of weeks ago but the new position doesn’t start until the 11th. Job-wise it’s a huge downgrade and is moving me in the opposite of my desired career track but it’s a $5000 a year raise and I’m not planning on working here beyond graduation anyway so I don’t think it’s that important. The extra money will be a nice cushion to get the rest of my current debt paid off and to start building my savings. I currently have more in my savings than I’ve ever had thanks to my tax refund and some better budgeting decisions. I haven’t even touched my refund and I put half of my check in that account every pay period so it should grow consistently. My stocks aren’t doing anything for me right now but I don’t think they’re doing anything for anybody.

Still sober and that’s really all that matters in the end right now. Over 9 months currently although I don’t track the days so I’m not sure of exactly how many. I still go to therapy every two weeks and group therapy every Wednesday. I occasionally glean some knowledge from group therapy but mostly all it does for me these days is remind me of how far I’ve come. I’m the only one from my original group who hasn’t relapsed (two people graduated out) and the new batch are pretty insane. I’ve talked before about the “creepy kind of Christian” that comes out of AA and that’s pretty much my whole group. My therapist in one of our personal sessions encouraged me to be more confrontational with people in expressing my own opinions and I tested that out on the group last week by challenging AA and their idea that Jesus is responsible for everything good in their lives. It was met with a ton of defensiveness and accusations that I’m just going to relapse because I don’t go to meetings. I laughed because they don’t know my thoughts or how I feel… even my therapist said that if there’s anyone he thinks will never relapse it’s me. It was still a net positive though because I felt like I stood up for myself… maybe for the first time in my life… and at least people knew what my stance was. For my whole life I’ve just agreed with people on the surface even though I was screaming on the inside. It’s something I’ll continue to work on because it just feels better to have people know how you feel instead of incorrectly assuming you agree with them. Obviously not everything is worth arguing over and not everyone is worth arguing with. That’s something I’ll have to learn as well. Also how you argue is important. Never make things personal and try to avoid the logical fallacies that seem to be the only mode of discourse this country knows anymore.

I feel good today. I’m not perfect and I never will be but I work towards being a little better every day.

Bad News

So apparently my medication was just a placebo and didn’t actually do anything. There are countless medications out there in which the med sites say “some studies have shown that…” which generally means it doesn’t actually work. My medication was primarily a seizure medication but was marketed to treat BPD because “some studies have shown” that it works. It doesn’t.

I crashed hard last week and haven’t started to come out of it until today. I managed to run twice since then but am way off schedule with it as well as just about everything else. I see the psychiatrist again in a couple of weeks and I’ll throw in the towel and try an SSRI again. I start school next Tuesday so I can’t be having these two week long periods where I don’t even want to get out of bed. I know diet has a lot to do with it but once the depression starts coming it’s not easy to cook a meal of fruit and vegetables 3 times a day.

But I remain positive because 9 months ago I just let it happen and lived with it. Now at least I am searching for answers and trying to beat it. I’ve figured out a lot of things that help and now I can happily say that my depressive periods only last a week or a week and a half instead of MONTHS like they used to. It will get better.

7 Months / How I Stopped Wasting Food and Lost 30lbs

In December – January 2018 I attempted to complete my third Whole30 reboot. I had been marginally successful, food-wise, on my first attempt and utterly failed at my second. I say marginally successful because I was of course still drinking alcohol which is a major no-no on the Whole30 diet. My goal for these wasn’t to lose weight or to start eating less but to re-evaluate my relationship with food. When I (frequently) state that I believe almost every American is an addict, what I can usually point to is food. “How can you be addicted to food though? We need it to survive!” is the average rebuttal. While it is true that one can’t quit food the same way they can quit alcohol and drugs, the way Americans eat is disgusting and, frankly, killing us as a society.

If you’re an average American, you probably swing wildly between wanting to be healthier and binge eating Taco Bell at 2AM like some kind of manic, off-rhythm metronome. Once a month or so you begin the day with great intentions of this finally being the day you’ll start cooking all of your meals, possibly prepping ahead of time, and tracking your caloric intake to figure out just how much you need to feel “normal” throughout the day. Then noon rolls around and you don’t feel like cooking; maybe you’re too busy with work or the kids have been a nightmare all morning. Then one o’clock comes and goes and you still haven’t cooked but now you’re really hungry. You have to eat! You’re totally sicking to your diet but you need to get something fast in you to make it through the next several hours so what’s the harm in a Big Mac? You cave to your emotions and dinner, as well as the rest of the week, is a wash.

Just like there are many ways in which an addict deals with their addiction, there are a million ways in which the above story can play out for different people. I illustrated how it worked for me but if you can’t relate to that particular story, it doesn’t mean we are inherently different. Coinciding with addictions are decades of emotional and physical trauma and genetic predispositions that make each of our situations unique. How it all culminates is familiar to most of us though. We eat a whole bag of Doritos while sitting in front of the TV because we had to have chips. We pick up fast food on the way home from work because we’re just too tired not too (a strange thought: being tired so you have to go out of your way to get something you don’t need). On the off chance that someone reading this isn’t a drug or alcohol addict and wants to understand what it feels like, that is what it feels like. That feeling of not being able to say no to a cheeseburger is how an alcoholic feels when they crave booze. The main difference is that after your cheeseburger, most of you can bring yourselves to stop.

So Whole30 wasn’t doing it for me. It’s a lot of work and very expensive if you want to do it the right way (you could eat chicken salad every day but that’s not really the point). I learned a few skills from it such as building a meal template for the week and prepping ahead of time but I couldn’t stick with it. Things kept “coming up” and I’d cave into my cravings for bread and cheese which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me given that I didn’t have much success fighting my craving for alcohol for 20 years. The biggest challenge I had was coming home and wanting to cook. Even in sobriety there are days where I don’t want to come home from work and spend another hour in the kitchen. So I did something a bit radical and to some people a bit silly. I felt that the only way to be able to turn addiction to food into a simple consumption of fuel I had to really dumb down the process.

I ate nothing but potatoes for a month. This isn’t a new idea; Andrew Taylor has written books on it and given probably dozens of talks. In fact I first heard about it three years ago on some podcast or another (I used to listen to a lot of podcasts while nursing a hangover in the morning; they keep you awake). My friends will tell you that I am oft taken by extreme ideas because I love being gung ho about something for 45 minutes and then quitting completely. I think that I’m attracted to the idea of reinventing myself, but that’s another story for another time. It’s simple, though: you eat nothing but potatoes (about 5 pounds a day) for at least 30 days. Andrew Taylor did it for a year and lost 117lbs but I wasn’t really doing this for weight loss. I was doing it because eating the same, semi-bland (let’s be honest) meal for a month is a great way to show yourself that you don’t need to eat what you WANT every time you’re hungry. Post-potato diet my beliefs have changed fundamentally about food. When I look in the fridge and see a bag of spinach, chicken, and various other veggies and condiments, I don’t see what I want vs. what I don’t want. I don’t even see potential meals. I simply see calories. I’ve always been good at memorizing numbers and currently my head is a database of nutritional information for all of my staples. I didn’t choose staples by the taste or whether or not they were my favorite things, I chose them because they were the most nutritionally dense foods at the most reasonable price. Once could say that my new addiction is portion control (a great band too, by the way).

Now, I’m not insane. I still like doing out to dinner with friends and enjoying a well cooked, delicious meal. It’s not not what I need 6 days out of the week. Not only has this affected my waistline and wallet but it’s also removed a lot of decision making from my life, leaving me free to make more important decisions in that time. If you’re struggling to get over food addiction or even if you don’t think you have a food addiction but acknowledge that you eat too many french fries, give it a shot. You don’t have anything to lose and eating a bag of potatoes over a few days (if you fail) will at least save you some money. I spent about $10 a week on food during that month.

And… if you’re like the one friend I have who told me “but I don’t like potatoes” well… that’s kind of the point.