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Evolution Series: The Beast

The Beast

For a long time, I couldn’t silence the screaming in my head.

It wailed day and night, night and day.

Years passed while it ranted and raved, quieting occasionally in slumber.

After a while, I wrestled that wraith into a box where it remained my captive.

Its muffled screams blending into the soundscape – white noise humming and buzzing at the periphery of my mind like the foggy mist of last night’s dream.

One day, a maelstrom came along and unleashed The Beast.

Intimacy Series: No One is Sexually Broken

No One is Sexually Broken

“Sexual health.”

 

Those two words in response to the question, “Oh yeah, what in?” elicit stunned looks and awkward silence with consistency. Depending on who I am talking to, I hesitate to varying degrees to acknowledge that I am finishing up my master’s degree.

 

People who know my passion for writing about and studying maladaptive coping mechanisms like alcoholism assume psychology. Others who know my wife and I are self-employed assume it’s an MBA. A master’s degree in sexual health drops jaws to the floor. Those who compose themselves always have one or both of the same two follow-up questions. “You’ve got to be the only 50-year-old heterosexual white cisgender male in the program, right?” and, “Why?” The answer to the first question is, “I am meeting a lot of people I would not otherwise encounter, and it’s great to hear different perspectives (that is a long way of saying, ‘yes.’)” The answer to the second question is so simple in my mind, but it’s a bit hard to explain.

Cat Videos, Sugar Shame and Treadmill Trauma

Cat Videos, Sugar Shame and Treadmill Trauma

Over the New Year’s weekend I heard David Brooks, New York Times opinion columnist and author of How to Know a Person, describe social media as performance art. I like that. It is not connection or interaction no matter how many people we can reach, how fast or how far across the globe. Social media is not about growing closer. It is about screaming our opinions into the wind and posting pictures of our best, fake selves.

 

I have never really interacted with social media on a personal level, and we ditched facebook, Instagram and X for promotion of our blog and podcast in mid 2023 as an experiment. Our platforms continued to grow at the same slow and steady pace. No social media had no impact.

 

I do watch Instagram reels in bed most nights looking for funny cat videos to send my wife. It makes her giggle, so in that way, social media does create connection in my life. A wife who giggles because I show interest in her passion is about as good as it gets.

 

This is the time in the annual cycle when we all vow to make profound changes in our lives. You know it is the start of a new year when some of the beer commercials during the football games are replaced with ads for exercise equipment and tax preparation websites. But change doesn’t come from gym memberships and diet plans. Change comes from pain, and a few pounds gained from eggnog and sugar cookies doesn’t hurt enough. That’s why in January, when we realize our winter sweaters are sufficient cover for our holiday indulgences, our resolutions are fleeting little traumas of unwelcomed self-restraint.

 

But what if you are in enough pain?

Evolution Series: Taking Back the Holidays

Taking Back the Holidays

Our last Christmas as a couple was in 2020. I knew going into December that if nothing changed, this would be our last time through the holiday season together.

 

Nothing changed. No Christmas miracle.

 

Starting in 2021, I found that some traditions and memories were too sad or too hard to continue. But I like the holidays, and I didn’t want to abandon them. Here are a few things I have done, and continue to do, to help make this time of year different.

Sobriety is Not My Thing Anymore

Sobriety is Not My Thing Anymore

For a large part of my seven years of sobriety, I had conscious thoughts about alcohol. I was alert for potential triggers. I considered how alcohol would enhance, then ultimately unravel, various situations. I worked to combat the shame of addiction, then the shame of sobriety in a society that reveres alcohol.

 

I felt pity for people who tried to quit drinking to appease a frustrated spouse. I felt pity for people who tried to quit drinking without a plan for recovery – as though not drinking was some sort of solution. I felt pity for people who put rules around their drinking and tried to control it. I thought about all the people I pitied, and it helped me maintain my commitment to sobriety.

 

But I don’t have a commitment to sobriety anymore. Not really. I don’t think about drinking or not drinking. Sobriety isn’t my thing anymore. At least it isn’t my thing any more than not drinking Drano or gasoline is my thing. I have no intention of ever drinking battery acid, but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about not drinking battery acid. It is hard to consider your thing to be something you never consider. How can I claim sobriety to be my thing?

Evolution Series: If You are Wondering

If You are Wondering

If you are wondering if your relationship is like the relationships of others, it’s probably different. If you are wondering, you are probably too afraid to ask.

 

If you think marriage and children will fix things, they won’t.

 

You can’t fix their holes that they had when they came to you. You can’t give them your family as a replacement for what they didn’t have, no matter how much you share and shower them with love and attention. It can’t fix that which never existed.

The Developing Story

The Developing Story

I have vivid memories of the high school English teacher who ruined writing for me. I don’t remember her name, but she was tall and slender, and she wore flowing, button-down blouses and kept money and slips of paper tucking into her left-shoulder bra strap. I cringed every time she reached behind those shirt buttons and pulled something out.

 

She was propper and groomed and articulate and full of herself. Her criticism of my writing was consistent. It wasn’t about punctuation or grammar. She corrected what I still remember to this day to be stylistic differences. She only knew one way to write, and if my classmates and I wanted good grades, we had to conform. I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t an idealist or full of confidence and rebellion. I just couldn’t write her way. I lacked the talent. So I dropped out of advanced English down to regular English, and I spent the next couple of decades or so convinced I couldn’t write and feeling traumatized by rare glimpses of money tucked under bra straps.

Alcohol Could Make It All Go Away

I sat on my front porch alone Sunday afternoon. I had just finished a painful, hour-long discussion with my wife about one of our kids. He is struggling with an issue that is not the point of this writing, and so in an effort to protect his privacy, let’s just say it is one of the hundreds of challenges young people face as they grow and mature.

 

The discussion was painful because Sheri and I mostly agreed about what was going on, but we had a slightly different take on the nuances. It was painful because despite having four kids, this is our first time dealing with this particular issue, so we are a bit lost as to what to do next. But mostly, it was a painful discussion because we are both hurting for our son, and feeling immense guilt for our potential roles in causing his struggles, and for our inability to make the struggles go away. Like most parents, we would do anything to take pain away from our kids, and when we can’t, that is about as helpless a feeling as I know.