Fatherhood Saved Ozzy, Eddie & Me

Yesterday I watched the “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne” documentary, which focused heavily on how his addictions maimed him and his family over four decades. Though my addictive behavior pales by comparison, it still struck a chord.

Mood music:

What hit me deepest is how Ozzy finally decided to get real sobriety after his son Jack had kicked drugs and alcohol. It took his son to show him the light.

There’s a similar plot in the recent comeback of Van Halen. Armed with the knowledge that he’d be able to make music with his son if he cleaned up, Edward Van Halen finally got sober a few years ago.

The son showing dad the light theme is an old one. It’s the whole “Luke Skywalker helping Darth Vader find his good side again” story. Only in the real life examples, the fathers get to live after having their epiphany.

In the documentary, we see Ozzy changing into a different, crazy person who continuously brings heartbreak to his family — especially his children. The daughter from his first marriage is asked point-blank if he was a good Dad. Her answer is a simple “No.” We learn — though it’s not really a surprise, given how incoherent he was in all the episodes — how his alcoholism was at its worst during the run of “The Osbournes” and how his youngest kids started using in that period. Finally, we see his son Jack deciding to clean up, inspiring his father to do the same.

Like I said, my addictive personality didn’t come close to the levels of Ozzy Osbourne or Edward Van Halen. But it was bad enough that I can relate to things like being useless on the couch when my kids needed me. I was never that way all the time, and I’ve been a pretty active Dad more often than not. But I am guilty of those bad moments.

But what I relate to most is how it took becoming a parent to drive home the need for me to be a better man and reign in my demons — the OCD and addictive behavior    that was a byproduct of constant fear, anxiety and exhaustion.

It wasn’t an instant thing — Sean was almost 4 and Duncan was was barely 2 when I realized things were not right in my head — but the cattle prod was definitely my hunger to be a better parent.

So yeah, I have to say I’m inspired by these rock n’ roll stories.

A Few Degrees South Of A Relapse

My recovery program for compulsive binge eating hasn’t been right lately. This is where I come clean about something many go through after extended periods of abstinance and sobriety.

Mood music:

I haven’t been to many OA meetings lately.

I haven’t called my sponsor in awhile.

I was getting to a point a couple weeks ago where I realized I was also getting sloppy with the food. It’s always the little things you get reckless about: Instead of the 4 ounces of protein I should be having during a meal, I’d let the scale go to 5. I’d slack on the vegetables and sneak in more grain. This is where the relapse starts.

For some of you this isn’t easy to understand. An out-of-control relationship with food still isn’t accepted as a legitimate addictive behavior in many quarters, and one of my goals in this blog has been to raise awareness and understanding.

A lot of my earliest posts preached the Gospel of the 12 Steps and Overeater’s Anonymous. I had reason to be so fanatical: OA helped me break a horrible binge cycle that I hadn’t been able to stop before.

It owned me until I started going to OA meetings, got a sponsor and started to live the 12 Steps OA and AA use to give addicts the spiritual fortitude needed to break free.

I still depend on the program today, but a big problem has gotten in the way: I’ve started to rebel against a lot of the rules. That’s typical addict behavior. When life gets a little rough, we start looking for excuses to fall back to old, self-destructive patterns. My family has experienced difficulties this past year (my father’s stroke, etc.), and that has made it difficult for me to stay squeaky clean.

At one point I started smoking again. My wife caught me and I stopped. But I was pissed, because I felt entitled to do something bad for me. People like me are stupid but common: When we want comfort, we do the things we know will kill us in the end. Stuffing cocaine up your nostrils will eventually give you cardiac arrest. Weeks-long binges, centered around $40-a-day purchases in the McDonald’s drive-thru, will do the same. The latter may just take longer.

I also started to give the halls of OA the stink eye because I was starting to find a lot of people too fanatical about it. There are people in the program who will tell you that you’re not really abstinent if your program doesn’t look exactly like theirs. One person told me the program comes before everything and anyone else. I bristled over that, because in my mind my family comes before everything else.

True, without abstinence and sobriety I can’t be a good husband and father. But I can’t be those things if I’m running off to four meetings a week and making six phone calls a day to others in the program, either.

I’ve also had the sense that people in these meetings love to hear themselves talk too much and too often.

I’m ashamed to say that, because I think these people are doing exactly what they should be doing. I’m just tired of hearing it is all.

I don’t think I’m rotten for feeling this way. I’m trying to figure out where this program truly fits in my life, and I think these are honest reflections on my part.

If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that you can’t do the same exact thing forever and expect the process to stay fresh and helpful. Like a tire that’s rolled thousands of miles, a recovery program can wear down until you get a blowout.

I do have a few things to cheer about: I haven’t suffered a full-blown binge relapse and my weight has remained steady. Clothes still fit. I still climb hills without spitting out a lung halfway up. I have absolutely no interest in hitting the McDonald’s drive-thru or stuffing my coat pockets with candy bars and cake in the gas station snack aisles.

I haven’t caved to alcohol either, and believe me, there are times I’ve wanted to. Alcohol was never the monkey on my back that food is. But I used it heavily as a crutch at one point.

I brought all this up with my therapist at last week’s appointment. I lamented that I can’t spend all week in 12-Step meetings and still have a life. I complained that people simply trade their first addiction in for a new one — the program itself.

My therapist noted that some people have to do that, otherwise they will certainly binge and drink again. It’s not a choice for them.

So here I am, plotting my next move.

I already tightened up the food plan. I’m being strict in weighing out the food. I’ve all but eliminated dairy from my diet, because I was starting to use it as a crutch. I’m walking regularly again. I’m hitting at least one meeting a week.

Today, I’m calling my sponsor to come clean with him and see if he is still in fact my sponsor. It’ll be a good conversation whatever happens, because I relate to this guy on many levels.

It’s time to look at the rest of my program and honestly assess what I need to be doing. A “program before everything” approach isn’t what I want right now. My life is too busy for that. I need my program, but I need it in its proper place.

I need to go to more meetings, though three or four a week ain’t gonna happen.

I need to talk to my sponsor a lot more often, though not daily like some people do. In the very beginning I needed that. Now it just irritates me, because I usually have work to do right after a call, and some mornings I simply don’t have anything to say to people on the phone.

I know I still need the 12 Steps, meetings, a sponsor and a rock-solid food plan. But my needs aren’t the same as the next person, and that should be ok.

Some in the program will read this and suggest I’m pining for the easier, softer way that doesn’t really exist in an addict’s world.

I don’t feel I am.

I consider this my search for the more realistic, honest way.

Addiction — And Security Journalism — Showed Me That Anonymity Matters

Journalists like me have never been particularly comfortable using anonymous sources. When you don’t name names, someone inevitably questions if your source is real or imagined.

But after dealing with some addictions in recent years, I feel differently about it.

Mood music:

There are some important distinctions to be made from the outset: I’ve written opinion pieces in my day job as a security journalist that have been critical of the hacker group Anonymous for hiding their identities while doing damage to others.

Going behind a mask so you can launch protests is fine with me, because honesty can be difficult when you fear the FBI agents at the door. I’ve been specifically critical of cases where I thought their actions had harmed innocent bystanders. In cases where innocents are hurt, hiding behind a mask makes you a coward, in my opinion.

That aside, we do live in a world where speaking your mind will get you blackballed, investigated or unfriended and unfollowed — if the latter two matter to you.

In one example where we were covering a data breach, a former employee wanted to tell us what really went on in the lead-up to the breach. But the person didn’t want their name used for fear that the company would try to sue them or hurt their chances of landing future employment. I agreed. A few days later, the person decided not to tell their story because people still in the company were snooping around the LinkedIn profiles of former employees. I can’t say I blame the person.

Indeed, covering security has made me understand the importance of anonymity compared to my experiences in community journalism.

But my experiences with addiction are what truly brought the importance of anonymity home for me.

Though I chose to tell everyone about my dependence on binge eating and, to a lesser extent, pain pills and alcohol, I’ve met a lot of people in OA and AA who never, ever would have started dealing with their demons if they had to do so publicly  — in front of friends, family and workmates. The prospect of being blackballed, fired or worse would have kept them on the same path to self destruction.

But because they can go somewhere where everyone is going through the same ugliness and not have their names exposed, they can be brutally honest about themselves and take those few extra steps to get help.

It would be nice if we lived in a world where everyone honored naked honesty. But as Ice-T once rapped in a Body Count song: “Shit ain’t like that. It’s real fucked up.”

I was lucky. I was able to out myself and my demons without getting blackballed. It’s been an immensely positive experience. But you can’t always depend on the loving, respectful response I got.

In that environment, if anonymity can help a few more people get at the truth about themselves and the world they live in, then let it be.

The Monkey Will ALWAYS Be On Your Back

I’m standing at a bar in Boston with my wife and stepmom. They order wine and I order coffee. My stepmom beams and says something about how awesome it is that I beat my demons.

I appreciate the pride and the sentiment. But it’s also dangerous when someone tells a recovering addict that they’ve pulled the monkey off their back for good.

Mood music:

Here’s the thing about that monkey: You can smack him around, bloody him up and knock him out. But that little fucker is like Michael Myers from the Halloween movies. He won’t die.

Sometimes you can keep him knocked out for a long time, even years. But he always wakes up, ready to kick your ass right back to the compulsive habits that nearly destroyed you before.

That may sound a little dramatic. But it’s the truth, and recovering addicts can never be reminded of this enough.

Dr. Drew had a good segment on the subject last year, when he interviewed Nikki Sixx:

Sixx talked about his addictions and how he always has to be on guard. Dr. Drew followed that up with a line that rings so true: “Your disease is doing push ups right now.”

So painfully true.

I know that as a binge-eating addict following the 12 Steps of Recovery, I can relapse any second. That’s why I have to work my program every day.

But Sixx makes another point I can relate to: Even though he’s been sober for so many years, he still gets absorbed in addictive behavior all the time. The difference is that he gives in to the addiction of being creative. He’s just released his second book and second album with Sixx A.M. Motley Crue still tours and makes new music. He has four kids, a clothing line and so on. He’s always doing something.

I get the same way with my writing. That’s why I write something every day, whether it’s here or for the day job. I’m like a shark, either swimming or drowning. By extension, though I’ve learned to manage the most destructive elements of my OCD,I still let it run a little hot at times — sometimes on purpose. If it fuels creativity and what I create is useful to a few people, it’s worth it.

The danger is that I’ll slip my foot off the middle speed and let the creative urge overshadow things that are more important. I still fall prey to that habit.

And though it’s been well over three years since my last extended binge, my sobriety and abstinence has not been perfect. There have been times where I’ve gotten sloppy, realized it, and pulled back.

But the occasional sloppiness and full-on relapse will always be separated by a paper-thin wall.

I’ll have to keep aware of that until the day I die.

The monkey isn’t going anywhere. My job is to keep him tame most of the time.

Drawing by JUSTIN MCELROY (imaginarypeople26@yahoo.com). Click the photo to see more of his work.

Strong Too Long, Or Weak Too Often?

There’s a saying on Facebook that depression isn’t a sign of weakness, but simply the result of being strong for too long. Somewhat true — though weakness does feed the beast.

Mood music:

I’m feeling it this morning.

I’ve always taken a certain level of satisfaction from my ability to stay standing in the face of death, illness, family dysfunction, depression and addiction. Sometimes, I get an over-inflated sense of survivor’s pride.

People love to tell you how awesome you are when you emerge from adversity stronger than before. The victor is placed on a 10-foot pedestal and life looks hunky-dory from up there. But it’s only a matter of time before the person on top loses balance and crashes to the ground.

I’ve fallen from that pedestal a bunch of times, and my ass is really starting to hurt from all those slips off the edge.

All this has me asking the question: How much can you blame depression on being strong too long when many times it comes back because the victim has been weak?

I don’t think there’s a precise answer. I only know this: I feel like I’ve been trying like a motherfucker to be strong 24-7. But I don’t seem to have the fortitude to maintain it, and I give in to weakness.

In the past, that weakness would involve indulging in food, alcohol and tobacco until I was too sick to function.

Today, the weakness involves getting angry and self-defensive and distant at the drop of a hat.

For all the progress I’ve made in managing my OCD, there are still moments where I go weak, put the blinders on and do some stupid things.

It’s the compulsion to keep staring at the laptop screen when one or both kids need me to look up and give them some attention.

It’s stopping in the middle of a conversation with my wife because the cellphone is ringing or someone has pinged me online.

It’s spending too much money on food and entertainment for the kids because it’s easier to me at the time than  cooking the food myself and playing a board game with them instead.

I’ve been working double-time at bringing my compulsive tendencies to heel, going through some intensified therapy. The short-term result is that I’m an angrier person than I normally am.

My therapist made note of that anger at our last meeting. The trigger in the room was him taking me back to my younger years in search of clues to present-day debacles. I thought I was done with sessions like that five years ago.

But I’m learning that the road to mental wellness is not linear. It goes in a circle. It’s like driving to the same place every day for work. The drive to work and back is a loop of the same landmarks, the same traffic patterns and the same behind-the-wheel thinking sessions.

I’m learning that managing my issues is going to involve frequent trips back and forth from the past to the present. This pisses me off. But I know I have to keep at it.

I guess I’ll always have my weak moments because of the events that shaped me.  But you can still be strong throughout it, learning to regain your footing more quickly  and being better at the kind of discussion with loved ones that prevents endless miscommunication from adding up to a mountain of pain.

I don’t know when I’ll truly reach that level of strength. But for now I’m leaning hard on all my coping tools, including the music and the praying.

When The Going Gets Tough, I Disconnect

I’m leaving my weekly therapy sessions with a headache these days, because I’m working through another deeply embedded flaw in my soul.

Mood music:

It’s not nearly as bad as the therapy I had in 2004-2006, when I had to endlessly churn the sewage of my childhood memories in search of clues on what was wrong with me and how I got that way. Back then, I didn’t know myself very well. Now I do.

Knowing myself as I do, I’ve started to zero in on the ongoing flaws that hold me back and hurt loved ones. That apparently requires a few more trips to the sewer.

I’ll give you a fuller account further along in this process. For now, let’s just say I have a wall I tend to hide behind when the going gets tough. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if not for the fact that life is ALWAYS tough. Not just for me, but for everyone. We all have our Crosses to carry and difficulties to endure. In my case, it’s a lot harder with a wall in the way.

So here we are again. Back in the mental sewer. I know my way around now, but the stench can still be too much to take.

The first question from the therapist was if I had talked to my mother lately. No, I told him. I thought Mom and I were making progress in December, but she couldn’t handle this blog and went off the deep end. I won’t defend myself. She’s entitled to her point of view. But let’s just say I was hoping to be writing posts by now about how we were reconciling.

So no, I told him. We’re not talking.

Then he asked about how I handled my brother’s death when I was 13. I told him I pretty much disconnected from the world. Same thing after my best friend killed himself in 1996.

“You’re starting to see the pattern?” the therapist asked.

Yeah. When the going gets tough, I disconnect. The bigger events caused that self-defense mechanism to take root all those years ago. But it kicks in during life’s more routine challenges. And when the wall goes up, my anger level kicks up a few decibels. I don’t do what I did in my teens and 20s: Throwing furniture through walls and plotting endless ways to find those who hurt me so I could hurt them back.

I’m not THAT guy anymore. But I do still get angry. When I do, I turn in on myself and brood.

But I knew that already.

Now the question is, what to I do about it?

I love my life now, and I’m blessed beyond measure. But the better my life gets, the more of an eyesore the wall becomes. It’s got to go.

My therapist has seen this stuff before. He knows the wall is rooted in the memory sewer.

So I guess I’ll be here for awhile longer.

Chain Smoking In Bickford’s Was The Best

Though I no longer smoke or eat the kind of food they served, I’m feeling nostalgic about the days of old when you could sit in any of the dim, dank coffee shops in the local Bickford’s chain for hours, hanging out, chain smoking and drinking those awful, bottomless cups of black coffee.

I blame The Doors for this trip down memory lane. I’ve been listening to their first album this morning and when “Soul Kitchen” came on, the lyrics transported me back.

Well, your fingers weave quick minarets 
Speak in secret alphabets 
I light another cigarette 
Learn to forget, learn to forget 
Learn to forget, learn to forget 

Let me sleep all night in your soul kitchen 
Warm my mind near your gentle stove 
Turn me out and I’ll wander baby 
Stumblin’ in the neon groves 

Well the clock says it’s time to close now 
I know I have to go now 
I really want to stay here 
All night, all night, all night

It makes sense that I was going through the Jim Morrison phase in those days. I used to sit at the table for hours and hours, with friends or alone, tearing through a pack of Marlboro Reds and filling notebooks with song lyrics, bad poetry and, occasionally, an essay I had to write for school.

I had two favorites: A Bickford’s in Swampscott and another in Lynnfield, right off Route 1 North at the Peabody line. The latter location is now a pretty good Greek restaurant. The former is now an Uno’s Pizza restaurant.

The food at Bickford’s was pretty bad, too. But it always hit the spot for a 20-something kid who had just spent the night drinking, smoking marijuana or both. I would often end up at one of these places at 5 in the morning after a late night. We would order the junkiest breakfast food they had, drink the coffee, smoke and be generally obnoxious. But everyone else was usually there under the same circumstances, so we fit right in.

On Tuesday afternoons, me and a couple friends would sit in the Swampscott shop laughing at how we were the only people there under the age of 76. Tuesday afternoons was when they had the senior citizen dinner specials.

It always puzzled me that they would eat there, since the food quality was no better than what you would find in any given nursing home. I felt the same way about the old-timers who would flock to a place on Route 1, Saugus called the Hilltop Steakhouse. The food there was a little better than Bickford’s, but not too much better.

Here’s where we get to the big point of this post.

When we’re in our 30s, 40s and 50s, I think we go through a long phase of food snobbery where only the more sophisticated bistros will do. But when your very young or up there in age, all that really matters is the change of scenery and hanging out with friends and significant others.

Of course, we live in a much different world now. Smoking is almost universally banned. Restaurants kick you out if you don’t buy something.

True, you can sit in Starbucks for hours nursing the same coffee and not be bothered, but that’s different. Starbucks has a cleaner, more comfortable environment, and the food and drinks cost more than it used to cost at Bickford’s.

Meanwhile, the food is usually steeped in some “artisan” concept. The quality ain’t much better, but the packaging is a lot more slick than, say, Bickford’s corned beef hash.

I love that Starbucks has so many blends and roasts to choose from, though I sometimes laugh over how they over do it with their seasonal and holiday blends.

You have the Christmas Blend, Thanksgiving Blend, etc. They could go on with this shtick indefinitely, with a “Good Friday Blend” that has no taste or color, in keeping with the Christian obligation to fast. Or they could do a “Back To School Blend” with traces of speed in the mix to jolt students back into the studious frame of mind.

I’ll tell you what, though: It was far cheaper and efficient to get back into studying when you could make pennies for bottomless coffee and smoke your way through assignments.

Those are happy memories, but today’s scenario is a better fit for who I am.

I don’t smoke anymore. I’m sober. I don’t eat flour or sugar. I sleep at night and work by day.

It’s good to have the memories, though.

Smarter People Drink, Which Makes Me Feel Stupid

I’m pissed off about an article in Psychology Today that suggests smarter people consume more alcohol. As someone who’s sober, the article is kind of insulting. After all, I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person.

Mood music:

Here’s a snippet from the article by Satoshi Kanazawa:

Drinking alcohol is evolutionarily novel, so the Hypothesis would predict that more intelligent people drink more alcohol than less intelligent people.

Human consumption of alcohol, however, was unintentional, accidental, and haphazard until about 10,000 years ago.  The intentional fermentation of fruits and grain to yield ethanol arose only recently in human history.  The production of beer, which relies on a large amount of grain, and that of wine, which similarly requires a large amount of grapes, could not have taken place before the advent of agriculture around 8,000 BC and the consequent agricultural surplus.  Archeological evidence dates the production of beer and wine to Mesopotamia at about 6,000 BC.  The origin of distilled spirits is far more recent, and is traced to Middle East or China at about 700 AD.  The word alcohol – al kohl – is Arabic in origin, like many other words that begin with “al,” like algebra, algorithm, alchemy, and Al Gore.

Indicators of alcohol consumption in the Add Health data include the frequency of binge drinking (drinking five or more units of alcohol in one sitting) and the frequency of getting drunk.  That such behavior is detrimental to health and has few, if any, positive consequences, is irrelevant for the Hypothesis.  It does not predict that more intelligent individuals are more likely to engage in healthy and beneficial behavior.  Instead, it predicts that more intelligent individuals are more likely to engage in evolutionarily novel behavior.  Since the consumption of modern alcoholic beverages – including binge drinking and getting drunk – is evolutionarily novel, the Hypothesis would predict that more intelligent individuals are more likely to engage in it, and the empirical data from the UK and the US confirm it.

His hypothesis pisses me off because there are days when I hate being sober. I’d give anything for a few drops of wine, for that mellow feeling I get after a couple glasses.

It’s also been drilled into my head that addiction isn’t about being smart or stupid. The perfect description comes from this “West Wing” episode where Leo, the chief of staff, tries to explain what alcohol does to him:

As Leo says, his brain works differently. It has nothing to do with being smart or stupid.

Nevertheless, there are days where my addictions make me feel supremely stupid. It has certainly compelled me to do stupid things in the past.

To be fair, the article doesn’t really say that only smart people drink a lot. Reading it just pisses me off because I can’t drink anymore.

I can’t eat flour or sugar anymore. Lots of smart people love those two ingredients.

I can’t smoke anymore. Lots of smart people smoke.

I won’t lie: I used to think I looked very smart and sophisticated with a cigar hanging from my lips.

Some would call that stupid. Whatever.

The bottom line is that I can’t drink or do the other things anymore. It’s not because I lack intelligence. It’s because that intelligence is powerless against the mental impulse that screams out for a good feeling; for a break.

Mine is a particularly strange tale of addiction. My biggest problem was compulsive binge eating. My drinking accelerated after I put the flour and sugar down because I needed a crutch. Then I realized I needed the wine a little too much, so I put that down and started on the cigars for a crutch.

Now I don’t smoke anymore, and there are days where I struggle to find a good release. Yoga doesn’t do it for me. As Erin points out, yoga could do it for me, but I’m prejudiced against it. Fair enough.

Moderation doesn’t exist in my world. It’s all or nothing.

That doesn’t make me dumb. But it might mean I’m a victim of dumb luck.

Skinny Like A Fool

At dinner with friends last night, a conversation about weight control got started. It reminded me of how hard I used to work to stay thin, and how dangerous some of my methods were.

Mood music:

Some examples:

–In my late teens, I got the bright idea that I could party and drink all I wanted on the weekends with no danger of weight gain if I starved myself during the week, often living on one cheese sandwich a day. As a little treat to make it bearable, I chain smoked in the storage room next to my bedroom.

–My senior year in high school I wanted to drop a lot of weight fast. So for two weeks straight, I ate nothing but raisin bran from a mug two times a day and nothing else. I also ran laps around the basement for two hours a day. It worked so well that I adopted it as my post binge regimen every few weeks. It lasted into my early 20s.

–In my late 20s, after years of vicious binge eating sent my weight to 280, I lost more than a hundred pounds through some healthy means and some fairly stupid tactics, like fasting for half of Tuesday and most of Wednesday. On Wednesdays, I would also triple my workout time on the elliptical cross-training machine at the gym. All this so I would be happy with the number on the scale come Thursday morning, my weekly weigh-in time. Thursday through Saturday, I would eat like a pig, then severely pull back on the eating by Sunday. Call it the 3-4 program (binge three days, starve four days, repeat).

–In my early-to-mid 30s, some of my most vicious binge eating happened. For a while, though, I kept the weight down my walking 3.5 miles every day, no matter the weather. I also never ate dinner, but would eat like a pig earlier in the day. This was while I was working a night job, which allowed me to get away with the dinner-skipping part. That worked great for a couple years, but then the dam broke and I binged my way to a 65-pound weight gain by the end.

Today I put almost everything I eat on a little scale and I avoid flour and sugar. I don’t exercise as much as I should, but I’ve maintained a weight that works for me. I am  three years into that program.

I don’t always get it perfect. I’m also nowhere close to skinny.

But I’m a lot healthier — and probably a little smarter — than I used to be.

THE OCD DIARIES, Two Years Later

Two years ago today, in a moment of Christmas-induced depression, I started this blog. I meant for it to be a place where I could go and spill out the insanity in my head so I could carry on with life.

In short order, it snowballed into much more than that.

Mood music:

About a year into my recovery from serious mental illness and addiction — the most uncool, unglamorous addiction at that — I started thinking about sharing where I’ve been. My reasoning was simple: I’d listened to a lot of people toss around the OCD acronym to describe everything from being a type A personality to just being stressed. I also saw a lot of people who were traveling the road I’d been down and were hiding their true nature from the world for fear of a backlash at work and in social circles.

At some point, that bullshit became unacceptable to me.

I started getting sick of hiding. I decided the only way to beat my demons at their sick little game was to push them out into the light, so everyone could see how ugly they were and how bad they smelled. That would make them weaker, and me stronger. And so that’s how this started out, as a stigma-busting exercise.

Then, something happened. A lot of you started writing to me about your own struggles and asking questions about how I deal with specific challenges life hurls at me. The readership has steadily increased.

Truth be told, life with THE OCD DIARIES hasn’t been what I’d call pure bliss. There are many mornings where I’d rather be doing other things, but the blog calls to me. A new thought pops into my head and has to come out. It can also be tough on my wife, because sometimes she only learns about what’s going on in my head from what’s in the blog. I don’t mean to do that. It’s just that I often can’t form my thoughts clearly in discussion. I come here to do it, and when I’m done the whole world sees it.

More than once I’ve asked Erin if I should kill this blog. Despite the discomfort it can cause her at times, she always argues against shutting it down. It’s too important to my own recovery process, and others stand to learn from it or at least relate to it.

And so I push forward.

One difference: I run almost ever post I write by her before posting it. I’ve shelved several posts at her recommendation, and it’s probably for the best. Restraint has never been one of my strengths.

This blog has helped me repair relationships that were strained or broken. It has also damaged some friendships. When you write all your feelings down without a filter, you’re inevitably going to make someone angry.

One dear friend suggested I push buttons for a good story and don’t know how to let sleeping dogs lie. She’s right about the sleeping dogs part, but I don’t agree with the first suggestion. I am certainly a button pusher. But I don’t push to generate a good story. I don’t set out to do that, at least.

Life happens and I write about how I feel about it, and how I try to apply the lessons I’ve learned. It’s never my way or the highway. If you read this blog as an instruction manual for life, you’re doing it wrong. What works for me isn’t necessarily going to fit your own needs.

Over time, the subject matter of this blog has broadened. It started out primarily as a blog about OCD and addiction. Then it expanded to include my love of music and my commentary on current events as they relate to our mental state.

I recently rewrote the “about” section of the blog to better explain the whole package. Reiterating it is a pretty good way to end this entry. You can see it here.

Thanks for reading.

"Obsession," by Bill Fennell