Sid/Alex, Part II, and a note on sympathy

Imagine my surprise to wake up to hundreds of notifications about a blog post I made days before, thinking that no one else would ever read it. Not only was I shocked that anyone had bothered to read it, I was floored by the amazing comments left on the post.

A trend I noticed when reading through the comments (for which I’m extremely grateful for!) was a sense of camaraderie between other sympathetic people and myself. We all seem to be aware that not everyone loves every living creature as much as we do, which I believe is fine. I can’t judge anyone on anything. That’s not to say the majority of people have no regard for life, just that they probably wouldn’t cry after stepping on a snail but would most definitely mourn a treasured pet.

So, if you read my Sid/Alex post and felt a kindred spirit in me, you are my people and I am so glad to have met you.

I also feel I should expound on just how amazing Sid, Alex and all their other brothers and sisters were. Each of those fish lived their lives very loved, despite my not knowing how to properly care for them. I went into the position of goldfish minder knowing that most of their lives would be short. I will admit that. That knowledge did lessen the blow of being faced with yet another tiny little life lost every morning, but I did feel like a failure. It also made me feel terrible for the other 80% of the fish in that crowded tank at the pet store, destined for the same sucked-against-a-grate fate.

During their first summer, we had a very intense heatwave. The temperature inside my house reached the 40s (the 100s for all my American friends). I stared at the little floating thermometer I’d bought every few minutes, as it had a “happy zone” with a “sad zone” on either side of it. It began to teeter into the sad zone, and I panicked. I replaced a bit of their water with slightly cooler water, but it warmed up so quickly. So, being a silly kid, I came up with an extremely harebrained plan. I decided to put popsicles in their tank. Looking back, that probably wasn’t the best plan of action, but I felt like a genius at the time. I would check on the popsicles after a while and when they were thawed out, I’d replace them with frozen ones and put the thawed ones back in the freezer. In case you were wondering, I did indeed have designated fish popsicles.

There’s a sentence I’m sure you’ve never read.

That’s obviously a tale I haven’t shared with anyone, but I feel like I can tell you all.

I’ve doubted my sanity when it comes to my love for animals, and I’m sure my family has too. If you all sympathize with my experience with Sid and Alex, I have got some doozies for you. Some quick examples, rated on a scale from Completely Acceptable Human Behavior to What the Hell is Wrong with this Girl:

  • The aforementioned cringe when my dad made fresh crabs, usually cracking them in half (I believe as to spare them the pain of being boiled alive). I think a lot of people would feel somewhat bad for having to deliver the fatal blow to their dinner, but as someone especially sensitive, it had a pretty intense effect on me just to watch.
  • The had I had when I lived in Vancouver was a serious street cat. He lived strictly outdoors for years before we took him in. As if to show his appreciation (not really, probably, but I like to think so) he was very good at bringing us half alive presents. One night he caught a tiny little mouse, and my boyfriend, being extremely squeamish about animals, insisted I take the mouse from the cat and “get rid of it”. I asked how the hell he wanted me to do it, and his suggestion was to take it into a safe yard a few houses down. Now, I was pretty intoxicated at the time, so I just picked the poor thing up, cradled it in my hands and walked it down the alley and into a neighbors yard. It was raining, fittingly. Water beat down on him, robbing him of any comfort and warmth as he died in my hands. But at least he didn’t die alone.
  • Another rodent story, unfortunately. A rat made its way in through our cat door a couple weeks ago. It settled in under our fridge for a few nights until my father decided to get a rat trap. I suggested trapping and releasing it, but he was sure it would just come back. This isn’t my house, so I only have so much say in what he does. I did make my discomfort clear. Somehow, that rat managed to get the little nugget of Kraft Single cheese out of the trap the first night without the trap going off. That lead me to believe he was either extremely smart, or extremely lucky. His luck ran out the next night, however. My father accidentally engaged the trap as he was trying to load it and it was violent. I wish I hadn’t seen how they work. I won’t even explain it. I was laying in bed that night, unable to sleep, when I heard the snap, followed by a split second of scuttling, then silence. I had to walk into the kitchen to refill my daughter’s milk shortly after and I was T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D. I did my best not to look down, but I had to make sure I didn’t step on him. Awful.
  • Once, I was at the beach with my boyfriend at the time. We sat down on a bench, out of the sun, and a crow flew down from the tree that was shading us and he had something in his mouth. Now, crows are notoriously crafty. This crow was especially ingenious. In his little beak was a large clam. He was obviously having trouble opening it. He stared at us for a long time, picking the clam up and dropping it a few times. I knew he wanted me to open it for him, which opened up a very difficult decision to be made. Do I kill the clam to feed the crow? In the long run, the crow would get it open some how, such as the food chain is. I began to wonder if he was starving. How long had he been dropping that clam from great heights? And more importantly, how long has that poor clam been tortured, knowing his death was imminent? I tried to walk away, hoping he’d move on and task someone else with that uncomfortable decision, but as I left the park, he flew close and dropped it in front of me. It was as if he could sense my inner turmoil. He could feel my conflict, and the bugger knew just how to coerce me. I stared at the clam and saw that it was already broken, and likely already dead. So I stepped on the thing, partly to ensure its demise, and partly to feed that damn crow. But I still think of that often, wondering if I made the right decision.

That’s all I have time for tonight, and perhaps I’ll spare you all any more “cheerful” animal experiences I’ve had.

I will say, these stories are outnumbered by the amount of truly amazing memories I’ve had with all animals I’ve come across. There isn’t enough time to talk about the every day joy my two cats bring me, nor the other 3 I’ve had the privilege of caring for, as well has Sid, Alex and the 8 other nameless fish.

The bad memories do tend to stick out, but the good ones keep us going.


The One Minute Rule

I read an article about the “One Minute Rule”, which essentially is if there’s something you need to do and it takes less than a minute to accomplish, just do it right then.

At first this seems like a wonderful way to get a handle on chronic procrastination, which I suffer from. Greatly. It’s a simple enough rule to follow… Until you think about it.

As a chronic procrastinator, there are naturally a million and one things on my to-do list, and that list grows every single day. So imagine waking up, intent on following this miracle rule, only to be faced with an existential crisis before you even have a sip of coffee.

Not fun.

Do you realize how many things you need to do in a day? Do you realize how many things you want to do in a day? I’d suggest you make a list, but I value your sanity as much as my own.

It starts off simply enough. When I wake up, the first thing I try to do is take my meds, as they’re sublingual and take 10-15 minutes to dissolve and kick in. More often than not, I’d plunk down at my desk, growing more and more uncomfortable due to not having taken them, stuck in the inner turmoil of needing something to make me feel better and not having the energy to actually get the hell up and take them. I started making a point of taking them as soon as I woke up, and that honestly makes the beginning of my day a lot less bleary.

So, One Minute Rule  – 1, Stef – 0

The problem with all that is that without the fog in my brain, that leaves space to think. I suppose people without anxiety and depression issues find thinking… normal, I guess. But to me, all that thinking can be downright dangerous.

I have a small business that I run out of my home. It’s a very broad niche, and I have dozens of products to design and create at any given moment. Thinking about the rule and applying it to my day is a terribly daunting task. Where to begin? Usually I move between projects all day until I have perhaps one completed product and a dozen half formed ideas. I still haven’t found a good way to tackle this while keeping the rule in mind, as most projects require more than a minute to complete.

So that brings forth a dilemma in the rule. A minute, though a definite measure of time, is subjective in a way. Some things that take me a minute to finish would take you 10 seconds, but if we’re in a race to find weird and scary video clips, I’ve got you beat. For example, throwing a load of laundry in would normally be a quick task, but when you’ve got a toddler hell bent on eating the strangest thing she can find in the house, it takes a bit longer to get her sufficiently distracted enough to not consume the crumbs from between the couch cushions that have been there since 2010. So, do I add that task to my growing list, or would that mean that putting the load of laundry in no longer qualifies for the One Minute Rule?

This is why I literally got nothing done today.

One Minute Rule – 1, Stef – 1

The match will resume tomorrow.

In Memory of Sid or Alex

Did you know that goldfish can live for over 10 years in a decent tank?

When I was 16 and working at Walmart, they had this employee appreciation sale and I had no idea what to buy, so I bought an aquarium. I think I had dreams of having pretty exotic fish since I bought a heater and everything.

I went to the pet store and asked for 2 fish. The woman said something along the lines of “No, you’ll want more. About 80% of them will die within a week, so I’ll give you 10.” They were literally like $.25c each, so I went along with it, but it was pretty morbid to think that the majority of them would die.

But die they did. I was a kid. I had no clue that pH balance was a thing. I’d wake up with a new fish sucked against the filter grate every morning until there were just 2 left. And they were the runts of the troubling (a group of goldfish is called a “troubling”, look it up.) They were less than an inch long.

I didn’t name them all at first because apparently they were going to die pretty quick anyway. But after a while, those two fish thrived and began to grow. They’d bump into each other constantly, almost like one was always bugging the other. So I named them Sid and Alex, as this was at the height of the Crosby and Ovechken rivalry.

Fast forward many years, to when I was living in Vancouver. I got an e-mail one morning from my dad saying one of the fish was dead. I asked what he did with the body. He flushed it. I got unreasonably angry. The fish was at least 6-7 at the time, and in my eyes was a constant in our every day lives. But that was just me, the hopeless animal sympathizer who will likely worry about an animal every day for the rest of my life.

I never really decided which one died and which one was alive. I honestly could never tell them apart.

A few days ago I noticed the fish was at the bottom of the tank, and he was extremely lethargic to the point where I thought he had already died. But he twitched his gills when I looked right at him and slowly swam away.

The next few days he got worse and worse. At first he was swimming aimlessly on his side, then the next day he was at the bottom of the tank, burrowed into the rocks, his gills moving intermittently.

Like any crazy person would do, I began to look into humane ways to kill a goldfish. Turns out there’s only really 3 ways to do so. The first is to take it to a vet to be put to sleep, and I’ll be 100% honest that I considered it. If it weren’t a weekend, I probably would have spent +$75 to put a $0.25 fish to sleep. That’s the extent of my pathetic love for animals.

The second is to put the fish in a clove oil bath, which would put the fish to sleep and eventually it would kill him. Of course, I had no access to clove oil at the time.

The last, which to me isn’t “humane” at all, is to physically kill the fish. People suggested putting the fish in a plastic bag and bashing it onto a table. Others said decapitation was the way to go. Those options made my stomach turn. I cringed when my dad cracked live crabs in half before boiling them. I felt depressed for days after accidentally stepping on a snail. I can’t physically assault and murder my fish.

There were arguments that the best way for a fish to die is to let it die naturally. I looked at him and although you can’t tell what a fish is thinking or feeling, I knew it had to be painful. But it was nearing midnight on a Friday and I was out of options. I said goodnight to him before bringing Peyton to bed.

The tank is still. The filter is off. The automatic feeder is still turning. The fish is gone.

This time my dad asked what we should do with him. I said I’d like to bury him. Dad joked that we should bury him on top of where my first cat, Galileo, is buried under the pear tree in the backyard. Forever chasing that fish.

I realize I’ve just spent almost half an hour typing up the life story of a damn goldfish, but I believe every animal deserves to have its story heard. So this has been the memoir of Sid or Alex, the 14 year old goldfish who died on February 24th, 2018.

He was a good fish.

Whatever Light You Shine

Whatever light you shine will illuminate the path for others.

-Gabor Mate

I went to a seminar recently, and the speaker was Gabor Mate. It was last minute for me, and I wasn’t even sure what to expect. He’s such an inspiration, and I’m so glad I went. I took pages of notes; things to help give me hope when I feel like I’m drowning.

I’m the type of addict who likes to know where my addictive behavior stems from. It used to baffle me that a craving would seem to come out of nowhere. When asked why I drank or used, I couldn’t think of a reason other than “I wanted to.” Maybe I was emotional, maybe a boy hurt me, maybe I was bored, or maybe my body was lacking a chemical it was used to thriving on.

He mentioned that people tend to get addicted to different types of drugs depending on what mental disorder they suffer from. People with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder lean towards opiates, such as heroin and morphine. Others with depression go for Crystal Meth or Cocaine to boost their mood. That made me wonder about myself, because I suffer from severe depression but rarely touched any stimulant drugs like coke. Perhaps I was content in depression and numbness, which is why my drugs of choice are benzodiazepines, alcohol and heroin.

With that new information, I was glad that I went to my doctor to have my medications looked at the previous week. All I can do now is move forward, and try something different.

I wish you all another great 24 hours, and thank you for being a part of my recovery.

Into the water.

Sometimes we jump out of the canoe just to see if the water is still cold. The important thing is to get back in that canoe, and not get used to the chill.

I relapsed on Monday night with a cheap bottle of cider that left me so hungover, I only left my bed to throw up or go to a meeting. So, in case you’re wondering, drinking didn’t become fun since the last time I sobered up. Five hours after I woke up, I planted my queasy ass in a well-deserved chair at my home AA meeting and I was welcomed back. Usually after “coming back”, I feel a wave of shame and guilt and the tears start flowing. Maybe I was just turning off my emotions again to protect myself, but I just sat and listened to the wisdom of the group. This particular meeting has a few old timers with amazing messages and quality sobriety. To be accepted and loved by those people is powerful and encouraging for me. I’ve spent a lot of time with partners and friends who have given up on me or walked away due to my addictions. I realize that those relationships ended in the best interest of everyone. I have the support of people who understand this disease and can help me through it now. For that, I remain extremely grateful. I am also grateful for the strength given to me by my Higher Power.

I won’t be defined by this slip. I will learn from it and use it as proof that I am truly powerless over my addiction.

I wish you all another good 24 hours, and thank you for being a part of my recovery.

Show Me How To Live

This is rough.

On January 22nd, I sat down with my brand new sponsor and she asked how I was. In an attempt to work an honest program for the first time in 6 years, I told her I was fucked up. She asked why.

“I’m dope sick.” I admitted.
“What does that mean?” She asked uneasily.
“I haven’t used heroin in 2 days.”
She raised her small but strong hand and punched me on the arm. “Don’t do that!”

In the rooms, I’ve heard time and time again that if you want to get sober and stay sober, do exactly what your sponsor tells you to. I’m happy to say that since that tiny assault, I haven’t used.

In the past 2 weeks, I’ve gone through a number of emotional experiences. My partner left for a 28 day treatment program, and I had to tell my parents the true extent of my addiction. Needless to say, I broke their hearts. In the first few days, I battled physical and psychological hardships. I barely slept for 72 hours after my last fix; unmanageable body aches and intense cravings kept me pinned to my bed where I felt safe.

Somewhere in there, I surrendered my will and my life to a power greater than myself. I’m not going to get religious on you, so fear not. My higher power is a number of things, including God. It’s my support network. It’s people in AA and NA who have what I want in sobriety. It’s the 12 steps.

We’re on a whole new adventure to a better life, guys… And we’re going to do it one day at a time.

Just an update.

I know I’ve been slacking. I’m sorry. I’m having some motivational problems when it comes to blogging. My recovery is still going well! I take my 30 day AA chip at noon, and my 30 day NA keychain at 7pm on Monday. A lot of people from my very first meetings will be in attendance, and that means the world to me. So many of these people shaped and built the foundation for my sobriety. I wish I could break up my rewards and share them with them… And you. Yes, you. This blog has also helped me be able to go back and think “I remember that meeting. I loved that meeting.” Or “god, that seemed so long ago. Look at me now.”

I’ve officially started working my NA steps. There’s a shortage of women in my AA group who can take on the role of sponsor. I was extremely lucky to get an NA sponsor.

The steps are overwhelming, as I’m sure you know if you’ve ever worked them. I’m being asked questions that I never even thought to ask myself about addiction. I’m happy to begin my journey into getting to the root of it. Understanding it will help me deal with it.

That’s all I have for now, guys. Thank you for being a part of my recovery and I wish you another happy 24.

November 15th Topics Pt. 2

The NA meeting was a line by line meeting of Step 6 and 7.

One of the lines that stuck out for me was about rebelling. It may or may not be obvious, but I know a little bit about rebelling.

If you tell me to do something, I will want to do the complete opposite in the most majestic way possible.

I skipped meetings yesterday so I could spend the day with my dad. I felt a little weird at the end of the night; kind of like my day was incomplete. I went to bed a little frustrated. I had structure to my days and I liked it that way.

When I woke up this morning, I didn’t read the daily meditation or reflection. I went to a friend’s place for coffee before a noon meeting. As soon as I walked into the meeting, I didn’t want to be there. As soon as people started talking, I was irritated by everything they said. The topics chosen were about one incident or one person. I went to the back porch to smoke while I waited for my ride and barely spoke to people who tried to talk to me.

It wasn’t until we began to read at the NA meeting did I realize how I was beginning to rebel against the good voice in my head. I was actively looking for things to hate about these programs so I wouldn’t have to do it anymore. This is what I do when my motivation to stay sober is at its lowest.

The daily meditation for NA began with the Third Step Prayer.

“Take my will and my life. Guide me in my recovery. Show me how to live.”

Jesus take the fucking wheel, because I am clearly too messed up to drive.

At the end of the NA meeting, I realized how the other voice in my head, the addicted one, was trying to run the show. Realizing that allowed me to feel a bit better. I had more control over the inner addict. I could identify when it was getting more power and shut ‘er down.

I left the meeting feeling lighter. The night is just going to get better.

November 15th Topics Pt. I

Here are the topics from the AA meeting I attended this afternoon:

1. Vital Sustenance
Today’s reading had something about needing food, sleep, light and prayer. When I was drinking, I never ate, slept well, left my room or prayed about anything except for more booze. I also never took the time to breathe properly. When I moved home, my brother in law told me to breathe in and hold it for 3 seconds, then breathe out. Repeat that 3 times, he told me. People never really think about breathing, at least not devoting enough time to it. Those few seconds ground you and let you refocus.

2. This meeting is a safe place.
I’ve been to a lot of meetings where it did not feel like a safe place. Creeps and 13-Steppers are always zeroing in on the newcomers. I haven’t experienced anything like that at these meetings, and I’m thankful for that.

3. Conflict
I have been known to go to great lengths to avoid conflict in the programs. I’ll leave a meeting before I’ll engage in a conflict. I sincerely hope that this group is able to work through something in a reasonable way before it becomes uncomfortable for anyone to be there.

4. Reaching out
Before moving from Vancouver, I never reached out to anyone who gave me their number after a meeting. I was terrified of inconveniencing someone, or being rejected when I needed help. But I have been so unsuccessful when I try to work through a problem or new emotion alone. I need to learn to reach out and use the supports that have been offered to me without any conditions. What we can’t do alone, we can do together.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this meeting. The first speaker revealed some drama that made me anxious about going to that group. It set the tone for the other speakers. Many of them spoke about that drama, perhaps because they were involved or heavily affected by it. There was so much negative energy in the room for the rest of the hour. I was nervous speaking for the first time in weeks. Near the end, one of my friends had to ask if I was okay.

I’m going to an NA meeting tonight, which is my home meeting. I really hope it takes away the anxiety over this afternoon. There are a few people in that meeting that go to AA meetings and they have spoken out about how different the two programs are. But if you’re trying for 90 meetings in 90 days, you really have to go to both. I think that when I reach 90 meetings, I won’t go to those AA meetings anymore. I don’t like leaving a meeting feeling worse than when I walked in. I don’t like hearing about how much this person hates that person. That doesn’t help anyone in their desire to stop drinking and that is the only reason why we’re there. Supposedly.

November 13th Topics

Here are the topics for the NA meeting I attended tonight.

1. Not Perfect – From Just for Today
We are not going to be perfect. If we were perfect, we would not be human.

I was reminded of my experience with my friend, who I left behind when I moved. He always spoke about me being “Fixed” like I was broken and all I needed was some super glue. In some way, I think he wanted me to be cured of my addiction and just go back to who I was when he met me. I always thought he had the right idea. I would go to treatment and come out bright eyed and bushy tailed. That’s why I always failed when I tried to get sober. I allowed him and others to set unrealistic goals for me. I know now that I won’t be perfect in 30 days, 60 days or a year. But I’ll be better, because I’ll still be recovering. I will never be perfect, and I am perfectly fine with that.

2. Step 1/Tradition three [For a newcomer to the group]
I’m reminded of Step 1 every time I’m handed my medication from my father, or when I walk by the liquor cabinet that is now fucking Fort Knox. That’s because I asked to have my medication taken from me, because if you give me the bottle I’m taking it. I asked for the booze to be locked up because I admitted I was powerless over my urge to use and to drink. 

3. Growth
The fact that I have taken personal steps to keep me from using or drinking in having those things be controlled and locked away tells me I have grown. I’ve never done that before. I would go to any lengths to get something. I am the best liar in the world. Earlier today, I went through my planner and marked off when I would reach 30 days, 60 days and so on. I normally wouldn’t do that, because I knew I wouldn’t get there. I’d get to Day 60 and have to think to myself “I don’t have two months, I have two days.” But I feel confident in those goals, and a huge part of that is the group that I go to. I am so thankful for every single person in that room/

4. Therapeutic Value 
I didn’t speak on this topic, and I don’t have anything to say about it.

After the meeting, the woman who took me to my first meeting offered to be my temporary sponsor until I find a permanent one. We’re going to go for coffee and go through how to work the steps. I’m really glad that she offered, because I didn’t know how to ask someone to be my sponsor. I really want one, because it’s not recommended that you work the steps alone. I have motivation issues, and if someone doesn’t remind me to do something I’ll probably never do it.

A few people approached me after the meeting and thanked me for my share. I wasn’t going to speak, because everyone else seemed to have very powerful and helpful things to say. The chairman asked me to go last, and I figured I’d just run with it. There seemed to be some drama at this meeting that I didn’t know about, and I was chosen right after someone had a very angry and emotional share. I’m glad I did speak though, because when you speak at these meetings you aren’t just speaking for yourself. You might help someone else in that room and not even know it. You might start some cogs turning that would otherwise stay stuck in a bad position.

When I speak at meetings, I tend to just start spilling my guts and start saying things I didn’t even know I was feeling. Maybe that’s the therapeutic value?