Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Boot Camp Day 12 wherein we consider vices

All is well in this world, went to the gym, did my thing. Very sore for some reason, probably because I really pushed it on the double sets to catch up with my cute little husband.

I've been thinking about something David wrote, at Someone in a Tree. David's a good man, talented, creative, disciplined, Jewish, gay. There is much to admire about him, including the fact that he successfully does yoga nude and I can barely do yoga clothed. Then he posted about his vices, or the lack thereof, and it's been on my mind ever since I read it.

Do you have vices? I am literally awash in vices, though most are held in abeyance one day at a time. If I take a look back at my early '20s, before I sobered up at 25, I was the vice queen. Drinking, a few pills now and then, men, so many men, gambling, cussing, bingeing, shopping and even more unsavory acts I'll not go into here. The only vices I've never adopted are smoking, and not for lack of trying, and porn.

So since I read David's post about vices , I've been thinking about the differences in folks and why they occur. David's a good Jewish boy. I'm a good Lutheran girl, or at least I was good until I wasn't anymore. He's very well educated, I am reasonably so. Smart, talented, creative, nice family ~ check on both sides.

I would say that it's something that happened in life to force me off the wholesome path, but there was no real trauma in my life until about 10 or 11. Yet I remember lying in bed in 3d grade, listening to my little green transistor radio playing Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth, dreaming of running away to Haight Ashbury. How crazy is that? I was practically an infant. From my earliest memory, though, I wanted to be bad. Not in a way harmful to others, but I wanted excitement and danger and the night. With reluctant sister and friends, I was sneaking out the bedroom window at 3:00 a.m. to dance in the moonlight even in 1st grade. The thrill of the unknown, the silent city, being free and afoot under the stars was addictive.

An AA speaker I heard years ago summed it up well. He told the story of his first drink, walking into a dimly lit bar, a rough place, full of smoke and packed with people drinking, many of them drunk. He grabbed a stool and a whiskey and with the first drink felt instantly at home, more so than he'd ever felt anywhere in his life. He'd found his place and his people.

That feeling of being at home on the wild side, of always feeling a little like this wholesome path I stay on these days is someone else's path, has never gone away despite 24 years of sobriety and almost that many of being a good citizen.

I'm thinking I was born with vices or with the potential for them. There always seemed to be something just not quite right, a little piece missing on the inside of me. That I am relatively vice-free these days is evidence of having met up with a higher power which filled that void.

And still some days I feel the echo of my old urge for the wrong side of the law, a little not so nice, a little less goodness, more hell for leather, bar the door living. I think it's how I'm made and I can live with it, but I am a little envious of those who have no such urges. Do you have vices?

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Blogger Vic said...

Do I have vices? Dahling, without them I'd be unrecognizable. I might as well start singing "The hills are alive ....!"

My albatross is the same 20-30 lbs that keeps appearing and disappearing on my bod in 2-3 year swing cycles. When I lose, I swear I'll never gain again; when I gain, I say what the hell and eat and drink some more.

Then I look like a little Dutch dumpling. Be assured, there's joy in the eating!

January 10, 2007 7:02 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

I think maybe the idea of being born with an intrinsic need to be wild is dead on. I can't say I have ever been one of those people, as I tried desperately to smoke and party and drink and none of them ever quite held the same guilty pleasure as lying prone on a couch and listening to Garrion Keillor on Saturdays, but I've always had a strong urge to ruin things if they don't seem completely perfect to me, so I sort of understand. For instance in terms of health, if I don't eat completely on plan I'm more likely to binge to somehow prove to myself that I'm a screwup. Instead of calling off an engagement when things turned a little sour, I decided to throw the wedding anyway but gain enough weight that I looked like a whale in my two-sizes bigger wedding dress.

I guess they used to be incredibly passive-aggressive "Hey...I need help!" beacons, but of course they rarely worked. If that's my vice, I'm learning to just take the demons as they come and deal with them on my own terms and that is a tremendously good change.

January 10, 2007 7:02 AM  
Blogger Debbi said...

Before I got sober, and even during the first few years, my motto was, "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space."

I'm very grateful not to live like that any more. It was exciting and risky and fun – sometimes – but also tiring, and I got to the point where I kept trying to top myself. Dan.Ger.Ous.

Now you'll find me knitting, volunteering at a women's prison and playing with the dogs. And also the grandchildren.

The times. They have changed.

January 10, 2007 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, honey. I've known we're soul sisters ever since I first read you on PRGay. From an early age, as young as I can remember, I have been a thrill seeker. That feeling of being completely at home on the wild side is so familiar to me. Sneaking out, running off. 15 years old, riding home from the party in the back of my parent's van, plotting with my cousin to hitchhike back and meet up with the boys. And DOING it. My 20s, rife with sex, drugs, r&r. Always seeking the next thrill, the next conquest, the next high. Never being satisfied by any of it, yet constantly craving more. What would fill the void? I have stories to make your hair curl, many of them. And even more that I will never remember, which totally creeps me out.

I too have settled into a happy life, my vices for the most part a distant yet palpable memory. Wonderful marriage, career, friends. Getting a handle on some food stuff (thanks for the link to MFD, by the way, it is making a huge difference). I have filled the void with love and productivity (and a little too much luscious food and wine). But isn't it so true?! That little voice still there, urging us on to break out once again, to seek "the thrill of the unknown, the silent city, [to be] free and afoot under the stars...." Yes, so true, BAB, my friend.

January 10, 2007 9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your writing Lynette - and your comments on JMG are always worth a read.

So not a thrill seeker - I was the (unbelievably annoying) nudge safety patrol trying to force my peers back into the box.

Vices, oh yes indeed.

January 10, 2007 10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honey, I have had so many vices, I'm not sure I have anything elce. ;)

Sex, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, sugar, and let's not even talk about the co-dependence issues.

I knew long before I had my first drug that I had the potential to be a Class A addict, and that foreknowledge kept me from delving into most of that stuff (not realizing about the first of those vices until later) until I was in my early 20's, and I contracted HIV, and figured I was going to die anyway ... and I was off to the races.

Today, I still race, but in ways that are far more productive.


January 10, 2007 12:15 PM  
Blogger tomvancouver said...

This always comforts me:
Wife to husband
"If we eat healthy, don't drink, exercise, don't do drugs, will live to be 1oo.

Husband: No, it will just feel like 100 years.

January 10, 2007 2:17 PM  
Blogger dpaste said...

First, I'm flattered that my post had such resonance for you.
Second, lest anyone think so, I am far from perfect.
Third, I think I agree with your assessment that people are born with a certain temperment. While yours can lead to addiction, it also leads to an adventurous spirit and an ability to stand up to authority. While traditional vices hold little sway for me, I must be coaxed to draw outside the lines, take risks or challenge the status quo. I probably would have come out a decade earlier if I had your spirit.

I guess it's a trade-off. The grass is always greener, so revel in the gorgeous wild grassland of yourself and I will try and enjoy the meticulously manicured lawn of my own.

January 10, 2007 3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vices? Me? The Picture of Dorian Gray, unfortunately...

- freddy in p'town.

January 10, 2007 4:30 PM  
Blogger tomvancouver said...

Hi Belle, yes Vancouver does have a drug problem, mainly because we have the mildest climate in Canada and 90 percent of the heroin that enters North America comes through Vancouver. However, it's confined to one small area, and the city has taken radical approaches in reducing deaths etc, by funding a safe injection site etc. They model their drug strategy after the European model, not the American one. Still, this is one of the most safest cities in the world, and stunningly beautiful. We've been rated #1 by the United Nations as the best city to live in in the World, several times, but recently have dropped to number two because of the increase in car pollution. Are you still planning on visit. August is the nicest month, but mid July and even May and April when the city is awash is flowers can be beautiful.

January 10, 2007 4:41 PM  
Blogger tomvancouver said...

Ok, typed that too fast, excuse the typos.

January 10, 2007 4:42 PM  
Blogger tomvancouver said...

Oh Belle, I just read your post slowly this time, and it's incredibly profound. You nailed me.

January 10, 2007 4:46 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think that the real "edginess" is a lot more complicated than drinking, smoking, wild sex, etc. I think it took me a while to figure out that those sorts of things were an attempt to take a shortcut to cool, but some of the edgiest, most alive people I've ever met are people who are in recovery or are otherwise just starting to learn how to live as themselves and not as some image of who they should be. It's HARD, though. It's much easier to down a martini.

January 11, 2007 8:16 AM  
Blogger angelfish24 said...

I too had the need to live a little on the wild side. I would sneek out at night, stay out late and get in trouble, drink. Later gambling, men, etc. Part of it was just wanting to be free from rules (in high school) or rebelling from a emotionally distant and sarcastically cutting alcoholic father who I could never please. I mellowed with age and am doing fine now, thank god. Think I still have a little of that wild streak but more want to to travel the world if I could (someday), but that's no vice.

January 11, 2007 1:23 PM  

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