No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 8 – Telling People I’m an Alcoholic

I’m running out of excuses to not hang out with people.  It’s been two months since I’ve hung out with any of my friends outside of work; I haven’t done anything since I started sobriety – outside of hanging out with my family.

Frankly, I don’t know how to hang out with anybody without drinking.  Alcohol was the glue that held all my relationships together.  Without it, what’s left?

I’m wondering how best to tell people about the alcoholism and my choice of sobriety.  It’ll no doubt strike people as odd – especially from me.  I don’t think anybody’s ever seen me without a drink in my hand.  I’ve earned a reputation for being a fun drunk, the life of the party.  For me to suddenly go back on that and say that it was a problem will be confusing for people.

So how does one break it to people that all those good times were actual just the tip of the alcoholic iceberg?

“It was time to quit – I’m a father now.”

Pros: I’m a good dad, and a decent, selfless person who’s leaving the party-animal behind him.

Cons: Makes me sound like a sanctimonious asshole.

This is a decent start I guess, but honestly, it’d sound really out of place coming out of my mouth.  For one thing, I’ve been a father for over three years, so why is it just now a thing?  For another, so what if you’re a father?  My dad drinks… most people’s dads do!  And they’re all just fine.

Also, this has a certain holier than thou tone to it.  It’s like saying I don’t drink because drinking makes you a bad father.  Well isn’t that sort of a tacit condemnation of everybody who does drink and also is a father – which is basically everyone?

This one’s also tough since I’m still young enough that most of my friends don’t have children yet, so they probably won’t “get” it.

“I’m not drinking tonight… I have an early morning tomorrow.”

Pro: Completely sidesteps the issue – for now.

Con: Completely sidesteps the issue.

This could work once or twice to delay my having to tell everybody that I don’t drink anymore.  And it’s also the chicken-shit easy way which is always my preferred method.

Also, it doesn’t sound credible coming from me.  I used to drink until the early morning hours, then get up a few hours later and function just fine.  Early mornings have never bothered me in the past and everybody knows that – so why should they now?

At the end of the day, this is just a punt.  I’ll still have to address it at some point.

“I’m on this stupid diet and I’m not allowed to drink.”

Pro: Sounds plausible.  I could definitely lose some weight.

Con: Lacks credibility when I’m shoving 3000 calories of nachos down my face hole.

People love talking about whatever fad diet they’re on to lose weight.  Why not claim that I’m on some fad diet and that I’m not “allowed” to drink?

This could work, and would be a decent way to save face.  It’s perfectly acceptable for a fat dude to talk about being fat.  Shit, how many comedy legends are fat dudes who make a joke out of being fat?  Why can’t I do it?

The problem is this is also a temporary solution and one that’s doomed to fail because, let’s face it, I’m not going to stop eating Taco Bell and Reese’s Cups anytime soon.  Eventually it’ll become pretty obvious that my diet is a complete joke.

“I’m an alcoholic and I’m in recovery.”

Pro: Unambiguous and… well… it’s the truth.

Con: “Wow, can you believe that about Matt?  I never knew… Hey John, did you hear about Matt?  Yeah, can you believe that?  It’s kind of sad really…”

Yikes.  The truth?  Bold move.  By now you should all know that I’m too much of a coward to go with the truth.

I feel like as soon as I drop this bombshell everybody will think I am weak.  They’ll all just think I wasn’t mature enough to drink like the rest of them and keep my shit together.  They’ll think I’m pathetic.  And I’m not pathetic.

Worse, maybe they’ll walk on eggshells around me.  They’ll be thinking, are we allowed to drink and have fun around Matt?  Or will he feel compelled to start drinking and ruin his life?

“I stopped drinking because it started to become a problem.”

Pro: It’s the truth, and I don’t have to say the phrase “I’m an alcoholic.”

Con: “started to become a problem” is vague and open to interpretation.  Did you hear Matt’s drinking was a problem?  What’d he do, beat his wife?  DUI?

This one also has the benefit of truth to it, but it’s also wide open to interpretation.  And you know people love filling information voids with the absolute worst shit possible.  I can hear it now:

Did you hear Matt beats his kids?

He must have gotten arrested!

I thought he looked weird at work… he must have been drunk!

Fuck. That. Shit.

“I’m not drinking anymore and it’s none of your goddamn business why.”

Pro: Unambiguous and, again, it’s the truth.

Con: Combative and people will still come up with their own reasons.

Really, at the end of the day, it’s nobody’s goddamn business why I stopped drinking.  I have my reasons, and maybe they should just stay my own.  If they’re real friends of mine, they’ll understand.  And if they’re not, then why should I give a shit what they think?

Whatever I decide, it’s probably time to come out from under my rock…

On to week 9. Continue reading “No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 8 – Telling People I’m an Alcoholic”

Bipolar Disorder Described in a Word: Addicting

For me, bipolar disorder is addicting as hell!  I’m not just talking about alcohol, drugs, gambling, buying 50 pairs of shoes (a week) or whatever other destructive habits you can think of; I’m talking about becoming addicted to virtually anything I’ve ever cared to do in my life.  I don’t know how to half-ass anything.  I either whole-ass it, or zero-ass it; no partial-assing for me!

I’ve also been told this once or twice, but I’ll save the assholiness for another post.

Really, this is just an extension of another post I wrote about bipolar disorder being engrossing, but it’s definitely worth expanding on.  Also, I’m currently addicted to Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, and if I stop writing this article I’m literally going to eat my face off (OK, figuratively eat my face off; whatever, I know).

Why is Bipolar Disorder addicting?

Imagine you’re white water rafting.  Everything around you is tumultuous, and you’re doing everything you can just to get down the river, and stay in the boat.  Maybe that’s holding on as tight as you can.  Maybe it’s paddling like hell.  Or maybe it’s something else entirely because I don’t know the first thing about white water rafting and this is just the first metaphor that popped into my head.

This is sort of what mania feels like.  You’re on this precarious little boat and your thoughts are racing around you like a raging river.  So you work like hell to stay in the boat.  Often this involves throwing yourself into something completely to keep your mind busy;  maybe you’re brewing beer, writing a blog, buying 5,000 pairs of shoes, or my personal favorite, becoming an (almost) YouTube star.  Whatever it is, you become addicted to it – at least for a time.

Conversely, maybe you’re depressed, and life is starting to feel a little overwhelming.  So you check out for a while – you start drinking, smoke some weed, eat 4 lbs of Reese’s peanut butter cups; really, just pick your poison!

They sell these fucking everywhere.  I shipped a package the other day and the UPS store had them.  So of course I bought one, goddammit!

I guess chocolate-peanut buttery goodness isn’t as bad as the war I’ve been waging on my liver for the past 10 years with booze, but still, it’s a little destructive.  I was hoping the first time I was on TV wouldn’t be on My 600lb Life.  My minimum goal is making the news getting perp-walked for something cool; like stealing a truck filled with Reese’s Cups.

It Ain’t All Bad

Addiction definitely has a negative connotation.  It should, since usually when you’re talking about addiction you’re talking about it in the medical sense – as in “Matt drinks so much he jumped into the resevoir, then came home and ate an extra large chicken bacon ranch pizza; he did that 3 separate times last week.  I think that meets section 12 of the DSM critera for Alcohol Use Disorder – do you do stupid shit at least once weekly?”.

But really, it can be a good thing if you channel it into something productive.

Here are some examples of the good and the bad in my own life:

The good: Got addicted to exercise and dieting and lost 40lbs (which is good since I was about 40lbs overweight).

The bad: Gained 40 lbs in two months after becoming addicted to Reese’s Cups.

The good: Created a successful YouTube channel after becoming addicted to Minecraft and video editing.

The bad: Became addicted to Minecraft and video editing and stopped hanging out with friends.

The good: Became addicted to work, got promoted several times.

The bad: Got addicted to work, got promoted into role that I hate.

The good: Got addicted to brewing beer, and had fun learning about one of my favorite things!

The bad: Got addicted to brewing beer, a habit which complimented my alcoholism nicely, and temporarily turned me into the most vanilla version of Walter White you’ve ever seen (I even have a chemistry degree).

The good: Got addicted to writing, and created a blog.

The bad: Got addicted to writing, and inflicted several made up ass-related words like “assholiness” and “partial-assing” to the general public.

Bonus Bad: Got addicted to diet Mountain Dew in an ill-advised attempt at a beer replacement and now my pee glows in the dark.

Weeeeeeeeee!

There’s many more examples, but it’s been 10 minutes since I last shoved Reese’s cups and Mountain Dew into my face so I’m going to have to wrap this post up.

Check out my other posts from my Bipolar Disorder Described in a Word series:

Like and follow me for more!  It really helps!

No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 7 – No Finish Line

Alcohol always felt like the finish line for me – like my life was a race but there was a place I’d get to stop running and take a breather just around the corner.

I haven’t been able to replace that finish line feeling yet.  Getting home from work, getting the kids to bed, and finally sitting for a minute with a glass of whiskey (and then another, and then another, and then another… on a Tuesday) was one of the greatest pleasures in my life.  I could physically feel the tension release in my body, and the various worries of my day wasted away.  Now I have nothing.

I’m struggling to find that replacement.  I’m blessed to have a wonderful family, and being with them is also a great pleasure, but it doesn’t have the same ability to make me forget about the stresses of my day the way alcohol did.  Being with my family, playing with my children, introduces good feelings, but it does not replace or eliminate the bad ones; alcohol did.

I thought I was over the cravings for alcohol.  I haven’t been going to group therapy because, frankly, I’ve told myself I don’t need it.  I saw a psychiatrist this week who told me would relapse if I didn’t go to group.  I thought that was a pretty bold statement.  Not I might relapse, or I was at increased risk to relapse.  She said I would – definitely.

I thought she was full of it, but the next day I had a terrible day at work, and I won’t lie: all I wanted to do was get hammered.  If there had been any alcohol in the house I absolutely would have.  There was nobody to stop me, my wife was at work, and the kids were in bed.  The cravings returned as strong as they had when I was in the thick of my alcoholism.

I needed my finish line; I needed my relief from the stress of the day.  I realize now that my cravings haven’t gone away, it’s just that the stress in my life has diminished.  Weeks 3 and 4 of sobriety I was on vacation, and during weeks 5 and 6 work has been quiet and my in-laws have been available to help with the children.  This past week has presented me with my first real challenge in a while and my mind immediately went to getting hammered for relief.

It’s clear I need to find a replacement to deal with stress.  I’m not too good for group therapy, and my psychiatrist is absolutely right – if I don’t figure this out, I will relapse.

One good thing to close out the week: I mentioned that alcohol was my way of killing the bad feelings and stress that accompanied my days; while it was extremely effective at this, it also was extremely effective at killing the good feelings that I should have been getting.  Being with my family fills me with way more joy than it did before, and even simple things like writing this post give me a greater sense of accomplishment than it did when I was hammered.

So sobriety doesn’t suck as hard as it did when I started; but I still have a long ways to go.

On to week 8…  Continue reading “No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 7 – No Finish Line”

No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 6 – No More Friends

I still remember the last time I made a real friend.  It was January 20th, 2011; the night I met my wife.

No, this is not a story about how I met my wife and then became a recluse who shunned all social contact outside of my relationship with my significant other.  Really, nothing could be further from the truth; my wife has always encouraged me to go out and enjoy myself and I’ve often taken the opportunity to do so.

No, this is about the realization that I haven’t made a single real friend since… well, since before alcohol.

Anyone I know in “real life” would probably be surprised to read this post because I’m more or less universally well-liked.  I’m gregarious, friendly, helpful, funny, intelligent – just a decent, easy going dude (If a little immodest).  I’m usually one of the more boisterous people in a group, and I’m happiest if I’m making those around me laugh.

But being well-liked by someone is not the same as having a real friendship with that person.  A meaningful friendship requires that you be able to talk about the things that make you uncomfortable.  It requires accepting a certain degree of vulnerability.  Accepting that vulnerability opens you up to the risk that someone will see the “true you” and not like what they see – or even worse, exploit what they see to harm you.  To me, that is simply unacceptable.

My family’s discovery of this blog was one of the most devastating things that’s happened to me recently because of how vulnerable I’ve made myself here.  This blog contains shards of the real me, the part you’re not supposed to see.

My relationships, or at least the ones I’ve formed since I started drinking, are all superficial.  I show exactly what I want to show, and absolutely nothing more.  And what I want to show is carefully curated to protect myself from risk and present myself in the best possible light.  It’s pathetic, but I realize now that the risk I’m protecting myself against is that someone might (gasp) not like me.

Sobriety has helped me realize that being universally well-liked is actually kind of a bad thing – it means I’ve never shown anybody anything except what I think they’ll like.  Nobody dislikes me because I’ve never stood for anything!  There’s nothing there!  I’m completely nebulous – I’ll agree with whatever you tell me!  I’ll like whatever you like… Just so long as you like me!  I become whatever you want me to be.

Alcohol was the one thing that allowed me to become vulnerable at times.  It was the only thing that could pierce my armor and allow me to open up to people.  In a strange way I owe a great debt of gratitude to alcohol – I would never had met my wife without it.  I probably would have been too afraid to say a word to her; or I would have just said the same boring shit that I say to everyone.  And she would have thought, oh he’s nice; and then in a day or two she’d have no memory of me just like everyone else.

Since becoming sober six weeks ago I have not hung out with anyone but my family.  Drinking was the glue that held my relationships with all my “friends” together.  I realize now that there’s nothing there – only the most superficial of relationships that exist solely to facilitate and legitimize the drinking.

I want to get better though.  I want to make real friends because let’s face it – I’m lonely.  I miss talking to my buddies the way I did when I was a kid.  I miss having stupid inside jokes.  I miss saying and doing stupid crap and sharing memories.

I need to find a way to accept vulnerability.  But like everything else with sobriety so far, I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do, and absolutely no idea how to do it.

Well my friends (see what I did there), I’ll see you in week 7…  Continue reading “No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 6 – No More Friends”

5 Tips to Stay Productive With Bipolar Disorder

Do you have bipolar disorder and struggle to consistently maintain a high level of productivity?  This is a common problem for people like you and I who suffer from bipolar disorder.

While manic or hypomanic, your mind is racing, and you struggle to focus on just one damn thing!  Or you can focus on one thing, but you can only focus on the one thing; you become obsessed with YouTube stardom, or baking cakes, or brewing beer… whatever!  But this obsession comes at the expense of everything else.

Then depression returns and kills whatever drive you had to do anything.  It’s hard enough just getting out of bed, you want me to go to work too?

Thankfully, over the past 15 years or so, I’ve discovered a few tricks to keep my productivity up while experiencing the waxing and waning moods of bipolar disorder.

1) Plan the Work.  Work the Plan.

This is about as simple as it gets.  Take a minute and evaluate what really needs to be done that day.  Don’t spend more than a couple minutes doing this.  Try to limit yourself to a few items that you can reasonably get done that will have the most value-added contribution to your day; Then focus on those things!

Making a list might not seem like the world’s biggest breakthrough in productivity, but I’ve found this is critical when experiencing a hypomanic episode.  Too often I set out to complete some task and then before I know it I’ve got 15 internet tabs open and I’m trying to write 5 emails simultaneously.  Next thing I know I’ve completely forgotten what the hell I was trying to do in the first place!

 

Why can’t I get anything done?!

I write a list for what I want to accomplish the next day before I leave work.  Then when I come in, I see the list and I start hitting those items.  Yes, life is crazy, and the circumstances of your job often make you have to change the list or throw it out entirely, but at least it’s a place to start.

The list helps you keep it simple, and boil things down to what really needs to get done that day.  It’s a good tool for holding yourself accountable too.  I need to get these things done before I can go home today.  You’ll also feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment as you cross things off.

2) Depressed? Slow Down but Don’t Stop.

Depression can make even the simplest things difficult.  It’s hard to be successful at work when you can’t even make yourself a sandwich.

If you can, it’s OK to slow down while you work through your depression symptoms; but don’t stop completely!  You’ll regret stopping.

One of my favorite non-work related projects I’ve ever done is make a YouTube channel.  I had fun doing it, I learned a lot of great things, and I even made a little bit of money.  Then my depression returned and I let it die.  I deeply regret that now.

I could have made 1 or 2 videos a week instead of 3 or 4.  Or even just made a video every other week.  Anything would have been better than letting it die completely.  Eventually the depression will pass, and you can kick it back into high gear.

Here’s another example: say you’re on a diet.  You go to a birthday party and allow yourself to eat a piece of cake.  You think, well I already blew it, so who cares if I eat a little bit more.  Then you eat the whole cake.  Then you eat like crap again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.  Next thing you know you’ve gained 20 lbs and you’re filled with regret; eating cake is fine, slowing down is fine – just don’t quit!  Put the cake away tomorrow!

3) Keep Learning.

I’ve said before that mania or hypomania can be a kind of superpower.  Take your increased energy and invest in yourself.  Learn something!

It’s the 21st century.  You have YouTube.  You have sites like Lynda.com and Wikipedia.  You can learn anything.  Challenge yourself to take 1 hour every day and teach yourself something you’re interested in.  It might not be immediately clear that it could be useful, but you never know.

I taught myself how to do basic computer programming in a couple languages; years later I distinguished myself by making a simple software solution that’s been implemented throughout the company I work for.  I taught myself about business management principles, and rose into a management position well before I “should” have.  By teaching myself at least an hour a day I’ve essentially given myself the experience of someone at least 10 years my senior.

This also has the benefit of making your work and life more interesting.  Hypomania or mania has the tendency to make people feel bored with just doing the status quo.  So learn something and switch things up a bit!

4) Set Meaningful Goals for Yourself.

If tip 1 on this list is about making a list to accomplish things short-term, than this tip is about making a list to accomplish things long-term.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of how to set meaningful goals since many other people have already done it better than I could.  I personally like this article.  Instead I want to talk about the specifics of how setting meaningful goals is important to people with bipolar disorder.

It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you have bipolar disorder.  Your priorities change drastically when moving from manic or hypomanic states to depression and then back again.

Goals while manic.
Goals while depressed.

If you want to maintain some stability and forward momentum in your life, it’s critical to define what’s important to you, define where you want to go, and then set goals to get you there.  This will help keep your life on the rails and moving in the right direction when your mood fluctuates.

Oh, and about that list from tip 1: You should have at least one item on that list that helps you get to your goal(s).  “Becoming a computer programmer” is a big goal, and it can seem impossible to ever get there.  Break it down; put “Take one online course on programming – watch for one hour today” on your list and get it done today.  Complete goals like that 100 times and you’ll be shocked to discover that you’re on your way to becoming a programmer!  Big transformations are hard but they happen through that 1 hour you spend today, and tomorrow, and the next day hitting that list that supports your goal.

Lebron James does not have be the best basketball player alive on his to-do list.  He has “Wake up at 3am, go to the gym, eat, practice, eat, practice, go to the gym, eat, play game, workout, sleep” on his list.  Do that enough times and you might become the world’s best basket player.

Start young and practice on your brother.
Had to shoehorn in this classic; if you can name this movie you’re awesome.

5) Forgive Yourself. 

Lastly, know that sometimes you will fail.  Sometimes the depression is too much.  Sometimes the list, the slowing down, the goal making… sometimes it’s just not enough.  You will fail, but when you do, I hope you will forgive yourself.

I hated myself for letting the YouTube channel go.  It contributed to my alcoholism at the time.  It made the depression worse, it made everything worse.  My productivity went straight to hell.  I didn’t fail with grace.

It’s OK to fail.  Your life is difficult – it’s harder than most if you suffer from bipolar disorder.  But you know what?  You’re a badass!  You’re going to battle with your own mind each and every day.  I think you’re awesome and I hope you do too!  Take it easy on yourself, dust yourself off, tomorrow’s another day.

I hope these tips help you.  Let me know if you’d like to see more posts like this!

Like this post for more, it really helps!  If you haven’t already, go ahead and follow me – it’s as easy as putting your email address in the box on the top right of this page 🙂  I won’t spam you; I promise you’ll only get notifications about good content like this a couple times a week!

No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 5 – Group Therapy, Me and the Pathetic Ones

I always thought people who went to group therapy were pathetic – right up until the day I found myself there.

I’ve become amazed at how far my delusions of grandeur have gone.  The first pillar of my religion created by me, for me – that I must be better than everyone has led to the delusion that I actually am.  Especially those people.  You know, people who can’t keep their shit together; people who let addiction cause their lives to devolve to the point that they’re no longer able to take care of themselves or their families.  Pathetic people.

My first impressions of the people in my group only served to confirm my superiority.  I walked into the clinic to see a group of perhaps 15 standing in the lobby, waiting for an elevator to take them to the second floor.  Idiots, I thought as I took the stairs.  They aren’t even smart enough to figure out they don’t have to wait.  Or, they’re so lazy they can’t even walk up a flight of stairs. 

I was first into the waiting room of course.  I snuck a glance at the others as they shuffled in minutes later.  What stuck out the most were the ankle bracelets.  Felons… I’m surrounded by felons.  I started to doubt this whole group thing – I can’t believe I let my therapist send me here.

Eventually we were called back into the room – a tiny, cramped space with a single window and one dim light that barely allowed us to see one another (perhaps intentionally?).  There was an old TV-on-a-cart that wouldn’t look out of place from my old middle school classrooms.  A whiteboard had one of those immediately forgettable phrases that’s supposed to uplift the soul or some other nonsense.  All pathetic.

We started with check-in.  What’s your name?  What’s your drug?  When did you last use?  How has sobriety been lately?

“Matt.  Alcohol.  July 16th.  Fine.”

Most of the others were similarly unenthusiastic; the ankle bracelets were no doubt court-mandated to be in the group against their will.

The therapist handed out packets to each of us once we were seated.  The topic of the day was “Basic Problem Solving.”  Really – what are we 3?  The condescension was completed by the childlike pictures that were peppered throughout the material.

She began reading through the packet but was constantly interrupted by interjections from group members.  Occasionally a discussion would spring forth from one of these interruptions.  I checked the clock; the session was scheduled for an hour and a half, but if we booked it through the packet I wagered we’d be out in 45 minutes.  The interruptions pissed me off; why do these people keep interrupting her? – let’s get out of here!  And even worse, Why is she letting them interrupt her?

Eventually, I actually started listening to the side conversations.  Out of respect for the individuals in the group I won’t share any of the specifics.  But I started to realize that shit!  I’m exactly like these people – a revelation that shook me to my core.

Like me, many of them lived perfectly “normal” lives.  Even the ankle-bracelets were mostly guilty of crimes that I myself had committed at some point or another; drunk driving, vandalism, perhaps a physical altercation.  What separated us was luck – I hadn’t been caught; they had.  Had the circumstances been different, I could be wearing the same bracelet.

It’s hard to articulate how humbling the experience was.  My ego returned to Earth with all the subtlety of the Hindenburg.  A crack has started to form in the pillars of my religion.

When we left, the group again paused and waited for the elevator; I immediately continued to the stairs.  At least I still have that on them.  It wasn’t until the next meeting that I discovered the true purpose for the waiting – It was an excuse for members of the group to converse with one another without the social pressures imposed by the larger group.  In truth, I think the real therapy happened in the 3 minutes people stood waiting for the elevator.  Maybe I’m the idiot.

On to week 6...

Continue reading “No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 5 – Group Therapy, Me and the Pathetic Ones”

I Once Was (Almost) A YouTube Star

Bipolar disorder giveth, and bipolar disorder taketh away.  Case in point:

Fueled by mania, I almost became a YouTube star – then depression returned and my dream of YouTube stardom died like so many projects before, and so many projects since.

Right after I graduated college I became obsessed with Minecraft like a lot of other people around that time.  I also became interested in video editing because mania makes you interested in totally random crap – so why not?  Then I married the two and voila!  A Minecraft gaming YouTube channel was born!

pn
Good old Pugnation!  And no, this is not a shameless plug for my YouTube channel.  I promise you, there’s no reason to go there unless you really want to hear my faux-excited / nails on a chalkboard announcer voice.

OK, maybe 5,000 subscribers doesn’t make me a YouTube “star” but at the peak of the channel the growth was incredible.  I was gaining subscribers by the dozen every day, and like a snowball rolling down hill, it was picking up momentum at an incredible rate.  I started getting big views like this:

big vids
These actually paid for the computer I’m writing this on.

Stardom was still far away, but it seemed inevitable.  Fantasies of quitting my job ran through my head.  I became obsessed with making the absolute highest quality content possible.  It took hours to shoot a 20 minute episode, and then that was followed by many more hours in the editing room (And by editing room I mean the unused bedroom of our two bedroom basement apartment).

Everything had to be perfect – the footage, the edit, even the video thumbnail.  It seems strange now that I had that much time to do anything, but that was before children.

Just kidding.

I remember this obsession was a source of stress in my still new-ish relationship with my then girlfriend and now wife.  She always supported my little (or big) projects and still does; but this one was truly consuming.  This was years before my bipolar diagnosis so I didn’t fully understand all the reasons for the obsession myself; but really, it makes sense.  Bipolar mania hooked me at the beginning, and it slowly became an addiction.

At first, you’re sustained by your interest in the topic alone.  You spend hours working on a video, you release it, and nobody watches it (just like writing a blog!).  Then you do it again, and again, and again.  Eventually you get a trickle of views and some comments, and you’re thrilled!  It feels amazing seeing people interact with your work; it’s a high!  As you build an audience the positive feelings grow and grow.  And just like that, you’re addicted.

“Hit like, comment, and subscribe!  I need your views to validate my self-worth because I have crippling self-esteem issues that fuel an incredibly destructive alcohol habit that’s threatening everything I hold dear…”

But like alcoholism, it requires more and more work to keep getting the same high.  The pressure to release more videos grew and grew.  Eventually it’s all I wanted to do, and anything that interrupted my video making was extremely frustrating.

Ultimately, the channel collapsed.  The stress of continuing to release high quality content as quickly as possible began chipping away at it.  The strain it put on my personal life began to take a toll as well.  Eventually the depression returned and finished it off; one day I simply lost interest and stopped making videos.  The channel has since faded into obscurity, but still exists as a living monument to my bipolar disorder.

This all seems pretty negative, but there are some lingering positives that came from the whole attempt at YouTube stardom.  I already mentioned that it paid for my computer, but I also gained a ton of knowledge about video editing, image editing, and internet advertising; not too shabby!

Additionally, I gained some other valuable insights:

  1. You’ve got 5 seconds to hook people: YouTube lets you see exactly when people stop watching your video, and it’s very frequently in the first 5 seconds.  That’s how long you have to convince people to watch your stuff.  I can’t tell when you stop reading these articles, but I imagine the same principle applies to this blog.
  2. If you’re not passionate about your topic, nobody will watch: My voice might be annoying-as-hell in those videos, but at least it’s enthusiastic.  People hate it when you sound bored in videos.  They’ll be bored too.  Again, the same thing applies to writing.

In closing, I wanted to point out that Loudest Minds actually does have a YouTube channel.  Granted, it’s not exactly something I recommend you visit since there isn’t a single video there yet.

But hey, I can fix that!  Why don’t I just apply what I learned while making Minecraft videos and make a Loudest Minds video?  As I recall, the recipe for a successful YouTube video looks something like this:

  1. Get people’s attention FAST: Blow something up in the first 5 seconds.  Whatever you have to do to wake people up.
  2. Be enthusiastic: Drink 5 cups of black coffee.  Channel your favorite annoying sports announcer.  Hit record and let whatever happens happen.
  3. Give people a reason to watch: People have approximately 400,000 TV channels, 3 quadrillion webpages, instant access to free porn, 2 trillion apps, and Words With Friends all at their fingertips.  They have a lot of other stuff they could be doing other than watching your video.  Remember this and work tirelessly to give them a reason to watch. 
  4. Keep it short: Ever load a video and see that it’s 20 minutes long and think, No. effing. Way?  Me too.  Remember, brevity is the soul of wit.  Keep it as short as possible.  I made a successful tutorial series that promised you’d learn the concept in “3 minutes or less.”  People loved it.
  5. Cut Mercilessly: Record 3 hours and keep 10 minutes.  95% of what you recorded sucks.
  6. Include shameless self-promotion: Hit like, comment, and subscribe for more!  I need your views to validate my self-worth because I have crippling self-esteem issues that fuel an incredibly destructive alcohol habit that’s threatening everything I hold dear…

So with all that in mind, here’s the very first, very awesome video from Loudest Minds!

Hit like, comment and subscribe for more!  See you again soon.  (Side experiment: If you made it this far in the article, leave a comment that says “Rosebud” and confuse the 95% of people who stopped reading in the first 5 seconds).

No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 4 – Discovering Consequences

Actions have consequences.  They also have emotional consequences.  You know that, your children know that, everybody knows that – but I didn’t.

I’ve always possessed a certain swagger that’s helped me both personally and professionally.  It’s a trait that I always assumed was an inherent part of me, and was also one of the things I liked the most about myself.  Now sobriety has robbed me of this too, replacing swagger with fear.

I always relied on alcohol as a parachute.  If I ever tried something and failed, I didn’t have to actually feel the failure.  Embarrassment, frustration, shame – all gone, replaced by a relieving numbness.  There were no consequences; at least not substantial ones.  Sure, the plane’s gone down before, but I’ve never gone down with it – I’m somewhere else, gently floating down to earth.

Now that I’ve thrown the parachute away, I’m a lot more hesitant to fly.  If the plane goes down, now I’m screwed too.  Forget that, better keep the damn thing on the ground…

Let’s ditch the plane metaphor and talk about boats instead: I recently tried to take my wife and three year old out on a canoe ride.  My family vacations every year in Maine, and canoeing is one of our favorite activities.

My wife and daughter were sitting in the boat, ready to go.  I decided to show off a bit and sort of “skate” the canoe out to the lake.  With one foot in the boat, and the other on the lake bottom, I pushed off as hard as I could to give the canoe a bit of a boost; picture someone skateboarding a canoe (and try not to laugh at how stupid that is).

So obviously, this is a pretty dumb maneuver, and also one that is completely pointless since the boost you get takes you about 5 feet further than you would otherwise go.  But it’s a cool way to get in a canoe.  This is a great example of what I mean by swagger – Showy, confident, and often pointless.  But look at how cool I am.

But of course, this time I fucked it up – the boat capsized almost immediately, dumping my wife and 3 year old unceremoniously into the water.  My daughter was terrified.  My wife was pissed.

I now had to drag the half sunk canoe back to shore while trying to comfort my daughter who was sobbing hysterically.  Her fun boat ride was ruined… and now she’ll probably be too scared to get in the canoe again – at least on this trip.  My father-in-law and my wife’s cousin looked on with expressions hovering between amusement and vicarious embarrassment.

Four weeks ago, I would have excused myself, went up to the cottage, and drank a glass of whiskey.  I would have come back down to the beach, probably made a self-deprecating joke or two about how stupid that was, and life would go on.  The parachute would open, and I’d glide back down to the surface.  The swagger would live on.

Now, sober me has no fucking clue what to do.  I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and angry at myself.  My mind immediately turned to alcohol, and I felt the strongest urge to drink that I’ve felt in weeks.  This was supposed to be fun!  Now I fucked it all up!  I fucking suck!  I need a drink!

I assume a logical, healthy person who experienced this sort of set back would recognize it as just that – a minor set back.  I assume they’d process it in a matter of minutes, and would be on to the next thing.  My wife got over it in less than a minute.  Even my 3-year-old got over it in a couple minutes.  But me?  My response was to go inside, isolate myself, and sulk for over an hour.  Did I mention alcoholism has turned me into a child?

I suffered a trivial defeat and had to face the consequences.  I had to feel negative feelings; and over the past 10 years of alcoholism I’ve completely destroyed my ability to do that.

I’ve started to actually worry about what I’m doing.  You probably take that for granted, but the whole concept of worrying about anything is completely foreign to me.  I suppose this is anxiety – I’m not sure because I don’t think I’ve ever felt it before.

It once took me about 10 seconds to decide I wanted to move out of state when offered a job promotion – If I’d been asked to make the same decision now I don’t think I even could make a decision.  The anxiety would probably kill me.

How do people deal with this?  Do they?  Is this why so many people live such safe, boring lives?  Do they fear the emotional consequences of failure, and so avoid the possibility altogether?

Presumably healthy people have a way of working through this, but I have no idea what that is.  I guess on the surface a little bit of worrying is probably not a bad thing.  I mean, if it stops me from riding a canoe like a skateboard with my wife and 3-year-old in it it can’t be all bad.  But like almost everything else with sobriety so far, right now it just sucks.

On to week 5Continue reading “No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 4 – Discovering Consequences”

Can’t Sleep? Science Has 4 Completely-Not-Made-Up Remedies For You!

Can’t sleep?  Mind running wild, holding your body hostage while you lay awake in your misery bed?  Don’t worry, Dr. Scientist Man has some advice to help you get that much needed rest; advice he has shared with me, your humble slob, lunatic, author.  Read on for more!

Dr. Scientist Man let me know this advice is perfectly applicable to you “normal” people, not just the certifiably insane those of us with especially beautiful minds.

adult-care-cure-433635
Trust me, I’m a doctor.  Kind of.

So without further ado (adoo?… uh-do?… you-do?… we-do?), here’s an exclusive sneak peak at this definitely-not-bullshit-written-at-3am-because-I-can’t-sleep research study!

(Full paper to be featured in North Korea Journal of Medicine pending peer review by expert team of 13-year-old internet trolls).

#1 Get Hammered

Yes, the classic.  Did you know science says alcohol is a central nervous system depressant?  What that means is that this shit will make you tired.  And it definitely won’t make you dance like an asshole at that party.  Or tell your great-aunt what you really think of her.  Also, Scientist Man let me know that drinking alcohol has absolutely no negative long term effects – a fact I can personally vouch for!  Did I hear miracle drug?

“Vodka’s the most efficient alcohol known to man.” – Professional alcoholic, insane person, author.

As a bonus, you can use the whole “depressant” line on that recently divorced woman at the bar who’s drowning the emotional scars inflicted on her by her douche-bag ex-husband and get punched in the face impress her with your intelligence.  Then tell her (this part is important), “Now you know.  And knowing is half the battle…”

GI JOEEEEEE!  Works like a charm.

(Dr. Scientist Man has informed me that he will be including GI Joe in his published research findings).

#2 Do Activities! 

Maybe you can’t sleep because you have too much pent up energy?  So why not burn some of that off!

Dr. Scientist Man has informed me that calories are just a unit of energy, and when you perform exercise that burns calories, you’re in fact burning energy!  Fascinating!

So extricate yourself from that human-sized burrito of sheets you’re currently entangled in and do some activities!  Yeah, it may be 2 am, but your neighbors won’t mind if you shoot some baskets for about an hour.  Then when you’re nice and sweaty, take off that comforter (you won’t need it now!), wipe up that sweat (liquid energy leaving the body – science!), throw it on the floor (someone will get that), fix that fitted sheet (one more corner and… god dammit!), and go to sleep!

Dr. Scientist Man BONUS TIP!

Combine tips #1 and #2 – do activities while hammered!

Dr. Scientist Man TOP SECRET EXCLUSIVE BONUS TIP!

Alcohol has calories, so you’ll need to limit that.  Remember science!  Calories = energy.  Vodka’s the most efficient alcohol known to man.  Cheap, low calorie, gets you drunk.  Did someone say miracle drug?

The worse the medicine tastes, the better it works – Science.

#3 Think About Something Boring

OK, you’re out of booze, and your basketball mysteriously went missing… is all lost?

Well, no, obviously.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have asked that question in a super-helpful-evidence-based advice article.  What do you think I am, a hack-fraud writer spewing falsehoods to boost his readership?

Dr. Scientist Man suggests that you focus your thoughts on something boring.  This will have a numbing effect on your mind, and eventually you will fall unconscious.

Not sure where to start?  Dr. Scientist man recommends focusing on work:

“For patients struggling to fall asleep who do not have access to booze or basketballs, I recommend focusing on the most boring thing you can to numb your brain into submission.  Statistically speaking, 99.999% of the general population finds their jobs to be the most unfulfilling, boring aspect of their lives.  For those new to this technique, thinking about their job is a safe go-to!”

Science has also demonstrated that statistically speaking, 95.7% of the time you’re actually at work, you’re thinking about anything but work (ironically, you’re probably thinking about sleeping).  By focusing on your job while laying in bed, you’ll also begin to see benefits at the work place!

3 am is also an ideal time to realize that, shit, no, I didn’t send that email I was supposed to.  And… actually, wait, I don’t think I told Susan about the electrical problem maintenance found with the copier… I think Tim mentioned something about “electrical burns.”  

This time of reflection helps you identify the things you needed need to do!  Scientist Man warns that potential side-effects include night-sweats (See tip 2 for instructions on dealing with night-sweat), increased heart-rate, an-elephant-is-standing-on-my-chest sensation, and an impending sense of doom.

#4 – Read a Blog Post

Dr. Scientist Man conducted an experiment wherein a representative group of 30 individuals selected from the comment section of the Info Wars Facebook page was given a simple task; the participants were given a laptop without internet access, and 5, 1000-word blog posts to read.  The blog posts were scientifically determined to be representative of the internet as a whole.  They were as follows:

  1. The 5 Things Your Cat Doesn’t Want You to Know.
  2. The 5 Things Your Cat Does Want You to Know.
  3. Donald Trump Did Something Reprehensible Today.
  4. The 49 Ways You Are Silently Destroying Your Children.
  5. You Are scuh an iodit and I htae evyerhintg aoubt you!!!1!

The participants were also denied access to their phones, or other electronic devices.

Out of 30 participants, 25 fell asleep within approximately 10 minutes of the start of the experiment.  The remaining 5 had to be removed from the experiment due to a physical altercation arising from an argument over former president Barrack Obama’s nation of birth.

While Dr. Scientist Man did not offer any definitive statements around the cause of the massive loss of consciousness observed, he did offer a tentative hypothesis:

“Well, to be honest, I think what we showed them was just mindless drivel.  The human mind, which is capable of going to great lengths to protect itself, simply shut down consciousness.  Further experimentation is required to validate my hypothesis.”

This sentence began exactly at the 1000th word of this blog post (a coincidence that caused the author to chuckle hysterically in an endless it’s-3am-and-my-brain-won’t-work-anymore stupor).  Statistically speaking, if you are still reading this, you are one of 17% of people whose minds are resistant to the numbing effects of meaningless internet drivel.  The rest of you are already asleep, having accomplished the mission of this article.

(The validity of this study has been called into question by some.  The 30 members of the control group, who were also selected from the comment section of the Info Wars Facebook page were disqualified from the experiment; members of law enforcement were called to the university after violence erupted when members learned Facebook had shut down the Info Wars page and banned Alex Jones from the social-media service).

If you’re still awake, and you’re still reading, then unfortunately science has nothing for you.  At this point you should just stay awake – and maybe warn Susan about that copier thing.

Dr. Scientist Man and I encourage you to click that Subscribe button over there to the left and follow LoudestMinds.com for more!  Or don’t.  It’s 3 am and I’m incapable of encouraging anybody to do anything right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bipolar Disorder Described in a Word: Frustrating

I wrote a post on The Bipolar Writer Blog wherein I described Bipolar Disorder as engrossing.  I encourage you all to read that post, but the short version is this: One effect of hypomania or mania experienced by many people suffering from bipolar disorder is an intense desire and focus to do one thing – in short, they become completely engrossed in that one thing, sometimes to the point of having no desire or ability to do anything else.

Basically, this.

Engrossing isn’t always a terrible thing – you can get a lot done in a short amount of time if you have the time to work on that thing.  In fact, I think this is one of the best parts of bipolar disorder.  I’ve learned a lot by becoming engrossed in different things throughout my life.  The problem is that things like work, children, and… you know… eating, sleeping, and having actual relationships sort of get in the way.

And this leads us to frustration.  Ah, frustration – that thing you feel when you’re unable to achieve something you want… or what you experience when trying to open one of these:

clamshell.png
Fort Knox.

To me, frustration is one of the defining emotions of bipolar disorder.  I get so wrapped up in one single thing, and it becomes all I want to do; but life keeps getting in the way!  I still have a family.  I still have a job.  And my 4 month old doesn’t care that I have to finish this blog post or I’ll lose my mind!

This leads to anger, and the occasional shameful parenting moment; and over time it can lead to resentment.  Unfortunately these emotions are usually directed (unfairly) at the so-called “obstacles” to fulfilling the object of your manic engrossment.  This leads to some very odd, very unhealthy thoughts like: man, can’t my 3 year old just walk to preschool so I can work on this masterpiece tongue depressor bridge model that I have to finish. (side note here: It turns out tongue depressor bridge building is a thing because of course it is.  While googling it to find an image for this post I found a rich online community dedicated to it.  I love the internet…)

Frustration is a normal part of parenting, and life in general.  But it can be elevated to irrational levels for someone suffering from bipolar disorder.  Denying access to the object of a manic or hypomanic person’s engrossment is like denying an alcoholic their precious whiskey… something I also know nothing about.

In turn, the person or people who are seen as denying access can come to be seen as “enemies” – which to me is one of the most difficult and tragic parts of bipolar disorder.  Anything that has the ability to make you view your family as an “enemy” – even temporarily – is truly terrible.

And finally, bipolar disorder is frustrating when the depression returns and robs you of your will to continue pursuing your engrossment.  It’s like when you have to sneeze, and at the last moment you can’t.  Except the sneeze is your entire life’s work, and the sneeze going away is soul-crushing depression returning.

Here’s another helpful image:

Science’s best depiction of bipolar disorder.

It’s around the time the depression returns that you begin to realize you’ve probably been neglecting a lot of things you shouldn’t have – and maybe you’ve been a bit of a jerk too.  These realizations make the depression even worse, and feed into self-loathing… but that’s a topic for another post.

So that’s how I find bipolar disorder to be frustrating.  This is the second part of a series I am writing that explores various aspects of bipolar disorder, and how I experience them as someone suffering from type 2 bipolar disorder.

Follow for more!