Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Being Publicly Private

Warning: Morality Tale

As Ed has noted, in the first two weeks of blogging I seem to have exposed quite a bit of myself. I've done that for a couple of reasons, and I hope to explain them here.

I really believe that's it's hard to know someone without knowing where they came from. Obviously, I am going to hold some opinions that may be hard for the normies out there to understand. I will react to some things in quite a different way from folks who haven't been where I've been. I have made some eFriends (a couple-three-four of whom I believe I could just call friends if all of this electronic nonsense were removed), and those people should know why I believe the things I believe, and why I react the way I do.

Apart from that, though, I want to put aside the idea that things like recovery from addiction and homelessness are things that people should be ashamed of or afraid of talking about. I was a horrible drunk — more than nineteen years ago. I am sure that my friends and family didn't speak of it proudly. My co-workers and supervisors probably didn't brag about having the highest-flying, least-reliable SOB who ever lived on their crew (and YOU can't have him, nah nah nah nah nah nah). When I entered recovery, I sure didn't want anyone knowing who I was. Oddly, I had no problem demonstrating addictive and impaired behaviour in public; it was sobriety that was a problem, I guess.

I am an alcoholic and a multiple-drug addict. I will be that until the day I die. I am not ashamed of my condition, any more than I would be ashamed of having leukemia that was in long-term remission. No-one can hold my deep, dark secret against me unless I try to keep it secret.

At least the first few steps on the road to addiction were voluntary. I can see how some people might be inclined to attach a moral turpitude tag to that aspect of my past. People who don't drink can never be alcoholic; those who don't do drugs will never become addicted to them. (I exclude here those who have become addicted to narcotics due to poor medical practice.) What I can't wrap my tiny little mind around is how people can attach the same attitude to something like poverty; yet I can say that I was treated with more scorn and disdain as a sober homeless man who spent every penny he could scrape up at Kinko's printing resumes than I was as a raging, but employed, everything-oholic.

Something about that strikes me as wrong. Yes, we're all aware of the folks who are left on the streets because of ridiculous libertarian attitudes towards people with severe mental illness, and there is that segment of the population, particularly among youth, who ain't gonna kowtow to The Man no matter what the personal consequences may be — at least until they've had a proper chance to evaluate those consequences. There are those, though, who have just had a string of bad luck.

There are a few of you out there, I suspect, who believe (as I do) that I have at least a budding aptitude for this line of work, yet I spent nearly five years shining shoes (and losing tech currency with each passing day) before I was able to land a zero-expectations, probationary, entry-level job. I'm not the only useful person who has ever been dealt a few bad blows in life — I met few folks on my journey who should have been doing something more than looking for their next meal. What this all boils down to is a plea that you try to judge people on the basis of who they are as individuals. You never know who you might find if you can look past the shabby clothes for a second or two.

8 comments:

Jess said...

Stan, do you think, as I do, that having a blog and writing in it is a cleansing process?

When I leave myself as an open book (which tends to happen from time to time), it's cleansing for me because that means that *I've* accepted it, and not only that - I'm not ashamed of it, either. I don't mind if people know those things about me - Heck, I guess I *wanted* them to know.

We can only be who we are, no more, no less. We should be expected to be who we are. And we should never, EVER be ashamed of it or let anyone else make us think we're inferior for being who we are. And it took me a long time to get there, but I did...

I agree though, you have to be on the receiving end at least once in your life to realize the hazards of judgements.Or, at the very least, just remember what it was like when you were in high school.

Stan Rogers said...

I'm hoping that it will be. Journalling is one of the things that kept me sane during the rough bits, but it always felt a lot like talking to myself. Shame, though, is one thing that I think just about everybody could do with a lot less of.

Like Morris Massey said, what I am is where I was then. If I am to think of myself as a worthy person (whatever that is) today, then I need to accept that who I am is shaped by all of my experiences, good and bad. If I can't face where I've been (or where I am now), then I can't accept myself. And that brings us back to those three questions -- and this is where the answers come from.

Anonymous said...

Stan,

It's funny how it strikes a chord in us when someone opens up their life to us and is so transparent about their past. I find your posts very refreshing in a world where so many paint themselves to look so good (while painting themselves into a corner). Jess is another example of a blogger who is transparent about her life and gives us a peek into what makes her tick.

We are truly (in many ways) the sum total of our life's experiences. I doubt many of us have experienced what you have gone through in life and yet each one of us has our own hangups to come to terms with. Your story has inspired me to look beyond the superficial to the person inside. Ultimately all our knowledge and labels won't count for much. As a great Christian musician Keith Green once said: The only question that will count in the end is : Were we sheep or goats ?I think you're a kick-ass programmer from what I've seen of your posts on Notes.Net and I'm so glad to get to know you (the person) better through your blog.

Dan

Daniel.Soares@stonybrook.edu

"What worse thing could be said of us as believers, than that we are an unfeeling people?" - A.W. Tozer

jonvon said...

hey stan, i just added your feed to my newly created bloglines account. then i saw this. wow dude. you are the supa fly daddy mac hamburgler muffin squeeze.

this is one of those posts i need to reread a few times. man we all have some darkness don't we? i let ppl have little peeks here and there. i'm afraid sometimes that i say too much, or that i am too free. maybe i'm not as free as i think. heck, i know i could be freer. is that a word? freer. its the name of my new band.

anyway thanks for being real. real glad you are blogging man. we are all a little stronger every time you post anything at all.

Stan Rogers said...

I followed you all the way to hamburgler, jonvon. Obviously, I've been too far away from the vernacular for too long ("I used to be 'with it', then they changed what 'it' was. Now what I'm with isn't 'it', and what's 'it' seems weird and scary to me." -- Abe Simpson). I needs a good vernaculing. Er, vernaculating. Anyone seen my vernaculator? Um, is "groovy" still current?

Anonymous said...

Stan, 'groovy' has been and gone, and come back again - it may have left again by the time you read this...

jonvon said...

stan, i just like to make stuff up man! i have no idea what i'm typing or doing, mostly ever. i had to get someone to explain Bling Bling to me the other day...

:-)

Anonymous said...

hey stan,

great stuff, i am currently helping out a relative going through a similar recovery phase, emotionally draining stuff...

billi connoly has a nuber of tshirts and clothes in general he wears and clalls ar@#hole detectors..if you judge me on what i wear then so be it

keep up the great blog

cheers

mark