Tag Archives: recovery

I didn’t get ‘Fixed’, but Kirkus does

I’ll never forget the first time I read Doug Piotter’s first chapter of what would eventually be called Fixed: Dope Sacks, Dye Packs and the Long Welcome Back.

I’ll confess. I didn’t get it. I wanted to get it. But I wasn’t sure.

Now, we know for certain how wrong I was in my first impression. Fixed has just been given the Kirkus Star, which enters the book in the competition for its Kirkus Prize award and the $50,000 prize that comes with it.

It’s safe to say Kirkus’ reviewer got it.

“The author’s life, as portrayed here, contains enough screw-ups for 10 dysfunctionality memoirs,” the review writes, “but unlike other memoirists, he eschews angst and self-pity and highlights the absurd humor of the predicaments he made for himself. The pathos here is all the more moving for being spare, understated, and well-earned from hard experience. A smart, occasionally wise, and always entertaining recollection of addiction, crime, punishment, and recovery.”

I didn’t know Doug when I went out of my way to introduce myself to him at a writers conference. He unabashedly touted his book during the Q&A, describing it as micro-stories from his time as a drug addict, bank robber and prison inmate. He said, “it’s the real deal. It all happened.”

I introduced myself to him and invited him to a writers group. His moxie and story impressed me. I knew he could benefit from a serious group. Soon, Doug sent me his manuscript. I read the first chapter, and like I say, I didn’t get it.

But he added one more thing to his email, a link to the first reading of the book he had done. I listened to the reading and then I knew we were on to something.

Folks were cracking up. I may not have gotten it, but the crowd did.

Writing funny is nearly impossible. Perhaps it’s raw talent. But it’s also craft. And within Doug was a writer of raw talent and hidden determination to get better at the craft. Beyond the writers group, of which Doug remains a vital member, I’ve worked as his editor to help bring Fixed to life. It’s been a pleasure and an honor. We’ve now shifted into high gear for Doug’s second book, a work of fiction that offers much of the same promise of his memoir.

Meanwhile, Fixed continues to gain momentum, earning acclaim from dozens of reviewers and book awards including, a Finalist Beverly Hills Book Award and  first place of the 22nd annual Colorado Independent Publishers Association and CIPA Education and Literary Foundation, Self Help.

Fixed is funny.

It’s also, as Doug, says, real. It all happened. And that is where the true amazement of this book’s accomplishment sneaks up on you. This funny writer with self-effacing charm survived all this pain and brokenness that makes the book so sharp and important. Funny is good, but impact is better and this book has both.

Don’t take my word for it. Buy it. If you do, we invite you to send us your review of the book. We will gladly post it here.

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Long odds pay off with release of ‘Fixed’

Doug Piotter beat long odds in life. He continues to do so, as the release of his comedic memoir attests. A guy who lived the life that my friend Doug has, shouldn’t be breathing, let alone publishing books. But here he is, as of today, a published author.

I’m honored to introduce to you, Fixed: Dope sacks, dye packs, and the long welcome back, by Doug Piotter.

Doug’s story is compelling. The Seattle native’s unique perspective and gratitude for the life he has helps also make it funny. Very funny, which comes through in his quirky writing style.

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It’s staggering to think Doug came out the other side of harsh addiction, a bottom-feeding, crime-riddled youth and a decade in prison. It’s literally miraculous that he came out the person he is, enthusiastic, positive, driven, successful and still, after more than a 22 years of sobriety, giving back in service to us fellow addicts.

Back when I first entered rehab, I thought anyone who went to rehab was weak. I looked down on them and really didn’t like them very much. So as I started rehab, it was the one time in my life where I really didn’t like myself much at all.

The blessing came when I realized how absolutely EFFing stupid I was about the people who went to rehab. Within the recovery community I found examples of transformation, strength, grit, gratitude and courage that I had rarely seen before. Not only did I find a better version of myself, I met a whole community of people who inspired me to be the best self I could be–and to do it joyfully!

Doug is an example of the type of hero I meet every day in recovery. He’s a stellar craftsman, an honest businessman, a mentor to addicts, husband to an incredibly talented artist, Terrell Lozada, and now a published author.

So many people would hear the stories about Doug’s life and tell him, “You oughta write a book.”

I know a lot of people who think that. Many start writing. Very few finish. Doug did.

He beat the odds for those recovering from addiction. He beat the odds for those sent to prison. He never again used or committed crime. He beat the odds by building a successful business. He beat the odds again today by publishing a book.

In life, we are afforded few times to let others know they matter. For an unsung hero like Doug, this is one of those times. Click here, spend a few bucks on a book to celebrate a true Effin Artist. Write an honest review, comment here, and/or visit his web page.  Share Doug’s book on social media, by posting this blog, or sharing the link to his book.

Effin Artist is about the transformation of the human spirit. So is Doug Piotter, an example of how vast that work of grace can be. Let’s celebrate him with our support.

Doug, you’re an EFFin Artist, man!

Shrinks agree: number of boozers is just crazy

Last week, Time Magazine reported that 14 percent of all Americans have experienced problems related to alcohol.

“In the new research, the study authors interviewed more than 36,000 adults about their lifetime drinking behaviors. The report shows that 30% of those interviewed had been a problem drinker at some point in their lives and 14% currently had problems. Many of the people had never been treated,” the magazine wrote.

That’s like 1 in 7, or one dude standing around every other pub table in the country. As one of them, I can tell you that number is not lofty.  It’s likely conservative, because it’s an almost certainty that when people are asked about their drinking they report about half. They don’t even know they do it. It’s our defensive mechanisms at work. My shrink from years ago asked me about drinking and immediately said, “Cut it in half.”

Only later did she tell me that if I did what she asked, she figured I’d actually drink the amount I reported. She was more than 80 years and had been doing that for pretty much 50 years because it had proven so reliable.

Try it out. Ask someone you know how much they drink. If they drink five nights a week, they’ll say three. If they average four drinks a night, they’ll say a couple. It’s ingrained, because when we say “drunks,” we mean someone else.

The bottom line in this extensive study: There are a whole lot more of us drunks out there than anyone wants to admit.

The genesis for this study flows from changes in a book psychologists use to diagnosis their clients. The latest version has what is called Alcohol Use Disorder, and it can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. Each iteration of this book (called the DSM) has tweaked our mental disorder classification of addiction. Addiction is a mental illness. Psychologists and psychiatrists have to to classify it and treat it. But also by classifying it, they can study its prevalence, which is what this study did. They found out its prevalent. And yes, that’s an understatement.

The numbers don’t bother us too much because so many more than 1 in 7 drink. It’s not like, say, heroin use, where if you use you most likely have a problem. So if you get three gals shooting up smack the number that has a problem is three. Pretty easy.

With drinking there is nothing easy about it, largely because we are heavily, heavily invested in minimizing the problems associated with it. Nobody at happy hour wants to be confronted with the problems involved in the custom

But let’s do a little visual exercise. Picture your favorite watering hole. Picture your friends gathered there, watching their favorite sports team in a big game. Picture the crowds. Hear the noise. Smell the foods. See the servers hustling between tables. Enjoy the loud talk and flirtatious looks. Then see that server drop off your table’s order. A basket of fries. A draft beer. A couple glasses of wine. The health nut that orders a salad at a bar, who is made fun of by the loud guy with a triple cheeseburger. One by one the orders are set down until they come to the person next to you. See that person? Your best friend maybe or your significant other. Their order comes and it’s a spoon, a rubber tube, a lighter and a syringe.

“Here’s the heroin you ordered,” the server says. “Can I get you anything else?”

“No, I’m good here,” the friend says, while clenching the tubing in his teeth, tieing it off and slapping his arm for a vein.

Would that be a problem? Would you feel any ethical problem about being there?

But if same friend sucks back four Long Island Teas, gets stupid loud, has to be carried out to the car and barfs in the backseat, we laugh about it later and say, “Geez, you went too far that time!”

One in seven are boozers. Likely more. Most likely one in, say, four have some level of Alcohol Use Disorder. That’s not so funny is it? It’s worth calling time out and considering just for a minute before you head on back down to the bar.

Surf’s up, I’m down and feeling good all over

I have loved the idea of surfing for decades. I’ve romanced it in my thoughts even though in practice the actual experience involves something far more consistent with drowning.

I have never once called myself “a surfer.” But I EFFin love surfing.

So I was stoked to make arrangements to go surfing recently. I knew I’d suck. But sucking does nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for surfing.

I got up at the crack of down and was soon prying myself into a wetsuit while listening to the waves crash on the beach. Nothing big, but they were nice pretty rolling waves that made my heartbeat rise. The surf was up, which meant soon I’m be down, rolling around, crashing around in my humility. It thrilled me.

I pondered all of this floating out on my board among far more proficient surfers. They sat up  straight and still looking out for the next great set, while I wobbled and waded like a dysfunctional Weeble. I looked across the dotted landscape of surfers knowing full well I was the worst one out there. Three guys who counted two hundred years of age between them surfed by me with ease, like artists of the ocean.

But sucking didn’t bother me.

Normally I mind sucking. I mind it a lot. I mind it enough to stop doing what I suck at or work very hard to stop sucking.

Surfing has never been convenient enough for me to practice much. The gaps between outings relegate me to learning and re-learning the same stuff. And surfing’s hard. I’ve done most sports and done many of them well enough not to suck. But this is one that humbles me. The ocean can do that to you.

Remember that line from Forgetting Sarah Marshall when Paul Rudd plays a surf instructor who keeps saying, “Do less. Jump up. Do less…less, well more than that. Jump up. Do less…”? Well, that’s surfing. Somehow you have to do less and do it so well that you can succeed at something that takes an incredible amount of energy, grace and courage. I suspect that’s why I love it. It’s hard.

As the sage Jimmy Dugan says, “It’s the hard that makes it great. If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

So, I didn’t worry too much about my general sucky-ness. Instead I embraced the present moment. I practiced stillness and tried to relax. When I positioned for my wave I tried to deepen my effort with less frenetic energy. When I paddled out I tried to even my breathing despite the enormous effort required. When I crashed (most every time) I tried to roll with the turbulence rather than panic.

I even stood up, sort of, a couple of times.

In between sets as I weebled and wobbled, my new BFF/surf coach and I talked about God, work, vocation and disappointment. We talked about stuff, the real stuff, the stuff that makes life a life. We had just met in person after weeks of getting to know each other online. I felt like I known him for a long time.

This is the stuff, I thought often, of both the conversation and the experience.  All too often I get so wrapped up in trying to find my life, I forget I’m living it. I get bogged down in the muddle and forget that the muddle is the life. So I remind myself often, this is the stuff. This is my life.

I needed this morning in the water flailing about. It turned into one of those hoof-to-head type of days that restore my sanity. Even as I wobbled trying to stand in the roaring tide of the surf, I felt the joy of needed balance coming back to me.

Sitting on a surf board in the Pacific Ocean challenged me physically, energized me mentally, nurtured me spiritually and well, it was just … bitchen.  Something about it.

But it was also something about me. Coming up on six years sober after a twenty-year dance of destruction with alcohol, I am well aware of how much more expansive life is these days. It’s full even in the struggle, rich even in the poverty, blessed even in the suffering. It’s surfing even in the near drowning.

I do all sorts of things I suck at simply to experience them, things I would have never taken the time to do, or had the interest to do, or been humble enough to do back in the ambitious, flawed days in my addiction.

Somehow in all of this I learned to accept what I suck at, which enhances the embrace of those moments when I don’t suck, those ah-ha moments when I say to myself, “I’m an EFFin Artist, man!”

Someday soon I’ll hit that moment on a surf board when I say, “I’m an EFFFIN SURFER, Brah!” and that will be … beyond bitchen. Until then I’ll keep practicing because when I do I feel better, from my toes to my bald head and everywhere in between.

Sucking never felt so good.

90 BLANK in 90 days corrects my path

Ever have one of those moments when you look at a picture of you and it seems foreign? Is that me, you think? Do I look like that? I look fatter. I look angrier. I look… ugh.

The discomfit with the outward appearance then causes reflection on all the inner stuff the picture doesn’t show but you know lurks.

I had one of those moments recently. It wasn’t pleasant. I had lost contact with the various touchstones in my life that keep me centered, healthy and grateful. I lost the present with an absurd focus on the future. I lost the me I worked so hard to find.

In rehab terms they call this White Knuckling. For those trying to stay sober, they lose the joy and health that one fueled it and have lost contact with their inner state. Emotionally they are a wreck, imploding and even doing the destructive behaviors they would only do when using or drinking or behaving compulsively. The white knuckles snuck up on me because I didn’t want to drink. At least not yet anyway.

But old habits were returning. Working too much. Compulsive eating. A lack of patience with others. Frustration with myself.

Good habits were fading. In my search for a “new” workout routine, I stopped doing the one thing that really worked for me: yoga. My running declined. My clothes hung poorly off my growing gut and swelling love handles.

In recovery I often wrote a reminder to myself called the four Ps: Positive. Present. Productive. and it’s been so long since I wrote them I forgot the fourth P. That says a lot. I lost one P entirely and two of the other three were fading like the family photo in Back to the Future.

My picture wasn’t an actual photo this time. Usually it is. This time the picture was a living moment. I tried to do yoga again after a layoff of at least a month.

I’m no cover of a Yoga Journal on my best days, but I used to have a good practice. I was told I had some beauty to my practice and I even taught some others with confidence. All of that…. every bit of it… had disappeared when I huffed and puffed and grunted and moaned through a short yoga practice. I stumbled and staggered and strained. Midway through I looked up and caught a glance of my body in the mirror and it hit me.

I was white-knuckling life again. I looked it. I felt it. I could see it. The outward merely reflected the inward chaos.

I was filled with self-loathing.

In recovery when someone relapses the first advice they are often given is get back to a meeting. In fact, we are often told go to 90 meetings in 90 days to re-establish the habits and to make sobriety the intentional priority of each of those 90 days. Everything else comes second.

I hadn’t relapsed and had no intention of doing so. I don’t need a meeting to stay sober. But I needed the intention. I needed the focus and I needed to rebuild the habits that keep me healthy.

So I drafted my own 90 in 90 plan. I call it 90 BLANK in 90 days.

The blank, I realized, involve many things for me.

  • Yoga. A must.
  • Spiritual exercises including quiet prayer and journaling.
  • Healthy exercise
  • A vast decrease of chocolate
  • Gratitude
  • Art, like playing the guitar or working on my novel.
  • Time for others
  • Service
  • Learning Spanish

It’s odd, but all of these things were the touchstones of discipline that I used to get sober, get healthy, and get focused on being a better person with proper priorities. I needed them all back in one way or another if I was going to rid my mind of the self-loathing that had grown.

So I crafted a schedule. I stated the intention of each day going forward. I weaved in the above activities starting with yoga and spiritual disciplines every day. The other stuff weaved in and out, but intentionally so.

The first three days were hell. I hated how bad I felt during yoga. I hated seeing my belly hanging over my waistband. I hated struggling to do poses that had been doable just a few months before.

But I took the advice of my yoga teacher to try to observe myself without judgement.

“Where you are is where you are,” he’d say.

I didn’t want to be where I was, but, for now that was it. I couldn’t change it immediately. But I could return to my practice and know it would recover. I could recover, too.

After two weeks a spiritual mentor checked in. I told her, “I’m much better. Well, that’s not true. I’m much less EFFed. I’m getting better.”

The work continues and will for many more days until I hit the 90. It won’t stop then I realize, but the milestone will be important. I need the achievement of following through. I need to know I did it and will continue to do so.

This life I chose is not a fad. These things I believe are not temporal. Because in the end, I am convinced I didn’t choose it really. God chose me. And to be what She chooses me to be, I have to be the me she chose. The only way to do that is to live as me, every day, with the intention necessary to live it well.

Recovery is an active, present verb in my life and will remain so. I’m not sure I entirely got that before. The whole “one day at a time” thing doesn’t make much sense until you live it, one sober day, one healthy day, one loving day after another until you welcome it.

I wish I hadn’t lost track of these things and wish I didn’t need to also consider my life in recovery. But in seeing myself in the photo for what I was slipping into, I stopped the slide and returned to the disciplines I established. I came home and this home I’ve built is lasting.

For that I am pleased.

First brush can chart a new artistic course

Think of all the things you put in the blank at the end of this sentence: “I’d love to someday learn to ______.”

When I drank I only talked about the words that would fill in the blank. Now, I routinely fill do them.

Do yoga. Play the guitar better.  Foreign languages. Knit a beanie. Bake bread. Listen. balance my life. Meditate. The list grows as I take on things I’d only dabbled in before or never got around to trying. One of the big ones was paint.

My mom painted for several years when I was young and some of her paintings remain throughout her house. I never fail to look at them when I visit. My cousin Dona, is perhaps the single best portrait artist I have ever seen. For years and years I would see her art with a mix of thrill and envy.

One of my earliest memories as a child was a beautiful dream that felt like heaven with a mental image so powerful I recall it (mostly) to this day. For decades I wished I could paint that picture. But I never once picked up a paint brush and applied paint to a blank white canvas.

Until now.

I won’t forget my first brush stroke when I started to finally fill in the blank that someday I would learn to paint. I paused to enjoy it because I knew how much I had been waiting to try.

 

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It didn’t look like much, but to me it was the first brush of a new interest that immediately felt like something I should have been doing all my life.

The class was the genius idea of Art Social, a business that started out marrying art and wine, but really got it right with its name. It’s a marriage of art and social because the wine it turns out isn’t necessary. On this night, held in a large restaurant’s upstairs conference room, wine had little or nothing to do with the event. We ate a burger before the event and got serious about painting once it started. We even socialized a bit.

Fun was the order of the day, the instructor Katherine Yost said. With quirky humor and a stellar playlist of background tunes, she set a light-hearted approach to filling the blank canvas with whatever interpretation of Van Gogh’s Cypress Trees that came out of our minds and through our brushes. She offered enough instruction that folks could succeed, but absence of rigidity that would cause us to become art critics of our work.

As we slowly began to turn our canvas into a painting, I couldn’t help but be amazed. I could “see” things I wanted to do like my five-year-old dream of heaven, but for once my brush-weilding hand could execute what I saw.

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I knew I’d end up Monet-ing my Van Gogh a bit. He painted the Cypress Tress near the end of his crazy life (this is the dude who chopped off his own ear to paint it if I recall). The darkness that ruled his mind during these years shows in the blacks that dominate his art. Having had enough darkness, I purposefully went for more light while trying to stay true to the original form. Yost encouraged such freedom so I took it.

“I’m going to officially declare you artists for the night,” Yost said enthusiastically. Effin Artists, I thought. Yeah, man.

Yost, program director for ArtSocial.com, said she’s been an artist and art teacher all her life because as she played with art as a kid like we all do, “nobody ever told me to stop creating.”

If that’s not the best advice, I don’t know what is.

Toward the end of the night with wildly different interpretations created by the novice artists in the room, I couldn’t find a single person who didn’t look positively thrilled with their creation. Everyone had that look…. the “I’m an Effin ARTIST, man!” look. I know it was plastered to my face.

When I signed my first painting I had a sense of accomplishment that defies simple explanation.

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It wasn’t an act of crossing off an item on the bucket list. It was a greeting. Welcome to paint. I knew I’d soon have to learn more, do more and explore more. Knowing full well I’d never be “a painter” I now embrace this for what it is, an expression of something within that to this point hadn’t had precisely the right way of communicating. I continue to fill in this blank, just as I continue to struggle with foreign languages and guitar and surfing and a host of other things I want to “learn to do.” I don’t ever really arrive at these things, but life is so much more full with the pursuit.

And my newly redecorated bathroom has a personal touch as a result.

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I may never be a painter, but my life as an Effin Artist continues to evolve ever-deeper and richer, which has been the point all along since I decided to put down the bottle and start living again.

A door of opportunity there if you look for it

I was jogging recently at a pretty snail-like pace, not really feeling it, when I came across a bare lot that had recently demolished the house that once resided there. All around it were lots with some fairly broken down places. It wasn’t felony flats, but it certainly wasn’t anywhere a real estate agent would purposefully drive by to show off the neighborhood.

Then the middle of the barren lot caught my eye and I actually stopped my run.

Someone had torn down everything else on the lot. Every weed, board, stick, broken glass, you name it.. except, a single red door.

I took its picture and ruminated about that door for the rest of my run.

How many times in life have I looked around at the fine mess my addiction and/or recklessness has caused and saw a stripped-to-the-dirt, empty-slate of a life that has so little left to show for it?

But each time, every time,  I also found the equivalent of that red door. I found something I could reach out, turn the knob, walk through and start again.

I call it grace. The red door is grace. And its there waiting. Every time.

It may have seemed like a joke at the time. By opening the door to the same empty barren lot of a life what really changes?

As it turned out, everything. Walking through those doors of opportunity that life afforded me even at my worst has made all the difference.

Nearly five years ago, life literally picked me up and chucked me through the door of recovery that seemed more barren, hopeless and desolate than anything I’d ever known before. I couldn’t fathom a life without alcohol. I envisioned perpetual grief over the loss, a constant feeling of absence and withdrawal.

Instead, as that blessed five year anniversary fast approaches, I know it’s anything but. I went through that red door of grace into a room of seeming nothingness and found instead a life I never knew could exist that had been waiting there for me all along.

Those red doors are there. Right in front of you. No matter how bleak the surrounding area, look for it. And when you find it, turn the knob, pass through to the other side and though it may feel very much like the same old thing, believe it isn’t. Because you’ve taken a first step into a new life that has been waiting for you all along.

Alcohol out, veggies in: My transformation continues

Ever since I have started school I feel as if my whole life has been transformed. At least the seeds of transformation have been planted. The plants are just starting to sprout. I have been on a quest for a healthier lifestyle, which incorporates physical as well as nutritional health.

Sobriety was definitely the first step. It’s hard to believe my one-year anniversary is fast approaching. But this set the stage for all that came next. Now with school I feel as if my feet are firmly planted, and I’m on the right track in this goal of whole health.

To this end, I tracked my food intake for the past two days. The internet has given us so many tools at our disposal to assist in this process. Two of those tools I used to complete this project include www.myfitnesspal.com, the food journal that I chose to complete this project (and will continue to use to assist me with my goals of eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods and exercising for good health). I also used www.choosemyplate.gov to see where I stack up related to the national guidelines of calorie intake for my age and sex.

According to www.choosemyplate.gov the average calorie intake for a 47-year-old woman is 1,800 calories. However, this daily calorie suggestion does not count physical activity. Since I lead an active lifestyle my calorie intake increases. According to my age, sex and the fact that I exercise, moderately at least 5 days a week, my calorie intake can be increased to 2,000 calories each day. My daily calorie intake should include the following five food groups:

  • fruit (at least 1 ½ cups each day)
  • vegetables (at least 2 ½ cups each day)
  • grains (no more than 1 cup each day), protein foods (no more than 6 ounces)
  • dairy (3 cups per day).

After analyzing my diet for the past two days I feel that overall my diet is pretty healthy. I notice that there is always room for improvement. One area that I am going to concentrate on improving for overall better health is to increase my vegetable intake. One of my goals with this is to incorporate more raw vegetables into my diet.

I was inspired while watching the video by raw food experts Chef Matt Amsden and Nutritionalist David Wolfe. Increased energy, better skin health (inside and outside) … why would I not want to try this?

I am also going to work on decreasing my caffeine consumption (and my hubby can tell you all the reason why I wouldn’t want to try this…). I drink way too much coffee. I am really bad at sneaking an iced coffee that I frequently purchase at Starbucks or Dutch Bros. I have not been able to let go of my iced non-fat, sugar-free vanilla lattes despite knowing the fake sugar that lurks inside these drinks.

The point is I can still improve to get to my greater goal of whole, real foods (mostly vegetables), 100% organic and natural. I’ll get there.

Test kitchen to return to artistic pursuit of chocolate

We mess around with a lot of different things in the test kitchen. We can be so all over the map that it’s hard to remember this whole thing started with the idea of experimenting with chocolate. We launched the test kitchen to simply experiment with the artistic expression of chocolate– art you can eat, we called it, because we don’t like the clutter of most types of artistic expression.

The idea for all things Effin Artist came to me in rehab. Needless to say, the food sucked. Hell, everything sucked. But my daughter sent me books on artisan chocolate. I had mentioned in passing the idea — virtually clueless that the trend was long established — and she sent me the books to encourage me. I’d lay there and look at the incredible pictures of different chocolates with exotic flavors and beautiful expression and I simply wanted to make those things. Losing wine and cocktails and happy hours I was desperate for something I could call mine. Chocolate — the idea of it anyway — became “mine.”

Now nearly five years into sobriety my life is rich, full and expressive, in direct contrast to the narrowed, limited and depraved life that came at the end of my two-decade long dance with the bottle.

Here I sit on the other side of those perilous mountains of recovery that I simply couldn’t imagine crossing and life is good. EffinArtist is more than I ever dreamed it would be. Life is too. Health is great. Creativity is the key to sobriety. Blessed, I think daily. Blessed.

But those original pictures of chocolate art remain beyond reality and it’s time to change all that, I think.

As the test kitchen evolved, we went where our interest took us and so far, most of our chocolate remains entirely experimental and not very artistic at all.

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This summer we resolve to return to the original mission for a basic reason: A piece or two of beautiful, hand-crafted chocolates satisfies on so many levels: artistic expression, sweet tooth cravings, but also maintaining a healthy approach to food. And because it’s not easy, we have the blessing of Jimmy Dugan, and the interest to see it through.

 

Opening Day remains vital link to American pastime

As my life swirled ever-deeper into alcoholism, my interests diminished as if being forced through a funnel. At the end, I kept my work, my life with The Bride, our family and little else. Fun meant Happy Hour. I did little else because supposedly I was stressed out and tired at the end of the day. I didn’t want to do anything but watch a movie and relax, which was code for have a 4 p.m. cocktail, open a bottle of wine, drink it will mindlessly watching TV, open another bottle and get a little happy until I fell asleep in a stupor. Some days it took more than two bottles. Some days the cocktails started again around closing time. Some days it was not a stupor but a blackout.

Over and over again.

Recovery is about expansiveness. Once I broke through to the other side, life became big again. Glorious. Beautiful. Artistic. Creative. Interesting. It became filled with those “Ah-ha” moments that define EffinArtists.com.

Tomorrow is part of that expansiveness returning. It’s opening day of major league baseball. It’s the one interest of mine that I have loved and participated in for decades. It brings me back to the excitement of my youth, of going to games with my children and watching them become fans, of the thrill of covering baseball and seeing Opening Day from a press box, and the rhythm of consistency every year this time of year.

The only times in my life I let Opening Day slip by relatively unnoticed were the times at the very end when the grip of addiction took its toll. I can’t tell you how happy I am today to have it back.

I won’t be in ballpark this year, but I’ll have the television on for the first games. I’ll make sure to tune in to every inning of my hometown Giants. I’ll boo everything about the Dodgers except the magic artistry of Vin Scully.

And if ever there is a picture more beautiful that the artistic symmetry of a ballfield–the grass and the dirt and the distant skyline and the Opening Day colors of bunting and banners and American pageantry–I don’t know what it is.

We celebrate life and recovery every day (or try to anyway), but on celebrations of our past and present and future like Opening Day, it is truly time to take pause and thank the heavens for small blessings.

They say on Opening Day “hope springs eternal.” On Opening Day every team has the World Series in their view. Six long months from now through the dog days of summer there will be only one champion. But on Opening Day, everyone is a winner. Hope indeed. Eternal, indeed.

Play ball.

PS. Not that matters but each year I predict my winners for the coming season. In my mind I want to show I stand with the legion of prognosticators on the web and hold my own. Most year’s I do. So it’s important I call my show now so I can brag, or be rightly belittled at season’s end. So…

Predictions:

American League

  • East: Rays
  • Central: Indians
  • West: A’s
  • Wild Card: Angels, Orioles

National League:

  • East: Nationals
  • Central: Cardinals
  • West: Giants
  • Wild Card: Dodgers, Pirates

American League Champs: Rays

National League Champs: Nationals

World Series Champs: Nationals

If you are a baseball fan and want to talk trash later in the year, you better get in now with your predictions by replying below. If you don’t call your shot, don’t start talking later.