The Bogeyman

March 12, 2020


A virus was in the air long before this one. Canceling people, places and things anonymously and viciously. It was in our politics. Infecting belief systems. Pitting race against race. Few were immune. Yet, the more we suffered the more we had to hide, suppressing our anxieties, burying our fears. For fear of being canceled, shunned or worse. Humanity was plagued…is plagued.

The zeitgeist is a petri dish. Ground zero could have been anywhere…is everywhere.

But at last we have a villain: COVID–19 aka the Coronavirus! This glorified flu virus, which has killed very few healthy people, a mere handful actually. Most of its victims were “elderly with underlying health issues.” No matter. COVID-19 has found the perfect storm in which to spread. Not by creating actual new sickness but seizing upon the one that was already here. So let’s cancel classes. The NBA. Cancel conventions. And meetings. And all work in general.

Social distance is the new normal. But hasn’t it been that way for years?

How to save a life.

February 23, 2020


My philosophy as it relates to recovery has evolved since I first became clean and sober in 2003. While I began (and continue) my path to recovery as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have never completely accepted a number of its foundational tenants. For example, I remain uncomfortable ascribing to the disease model espoused by AA (and elsewhere). I believe each person with a substance use disorder has played as major a role in their problem (routinizing bad decisions), as they will in their recovery (changing the behavior). However, I recognize the usefulness in calling alcoholism a disease in terms of framing the therapeutic aspects of 12-step recovery models and in determining healthcare policies, qualifying for insurance, etc. Like with any disease, I also believe that alcoholism and drug addiction are progressive in nature.

What I most cherish about the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and what I will carry with me into counseling is the knowledge (contrary to some medical opinion) that nothing aids in the recovery of an addict or an alcoholic like another addict or alcoholic. (It’s why I want to be a counselor.) I know there are other modalities and practitioners capable of accomplishing the task. But one is hard-pressed to find a better ally than experience, strength and hope. I am a big believer of therapeutic self-disclosure. As a drug and alcohol counselor, I will establish empathy with my clients while establishing reasonable boundaries.

What I will leave behind from 12-Step recovery vocabulary is the utter reliance on a Higher Power to achieve sobriety. For one thing it would be hypocritical! Additionally, I will be open-minded to harm reduction as an option for certain patients as opposed to total abstinence. And so on. The point is I intend to be a therapist in the modern world… not a book-thumping old timer.

Having been clean and sober for nearly twenty years, I am deeply familiar with the 12-step model for recovery (I actively participate in Alcoholics Anonymous and am grateful for the program) but I also recognize that AA and NA are not treatment programs and that there are other modalities and therapies for helping patients achieve long-term sobriety.

Though I am middle-aged, I feel my message resonates with young people and I am interested in helping them in particular. Part of this reasoning has to do with my own recovery journey and how I have always endeavored to tailor my message to those still raw in their recovery, or even still using. I feel a kinship with individuals who struggle accepting AA’s first step: that of being powerless over drugs and alcohol and accepting that their lives have become unmanageable. Powerlessness is a cop out. We do have power to change the things we can. I did. And I can help others to do so as well. Part of my message will be about healthy replacement strategies for drugs and alcohol, of which there are many.

Additionally, I have always had a tenuous belief in the concept of a Higher Power, let alone one being necessary to achieve sobriety. I have seen too many addicts and alcoholics (and those still not sure) simply turn away from 12-step programs because of the “God thing.” I was and am able to “work around” my own agnosticism and I do not necessarily believe that a spiritual component is critical to recovery. Redefining spirituality for every patient is the start of a discussion not the end of one. Along those lines, I can help patients see the wisdom of 12-Step programs, despite their ambivalence. Statements like this: AA helped me despite my qualms; it might be able to do the same for you. Not this: Without a Higher Power, your chances for sobriety are nil.

As a counselor, I will adhere to the five ethical principles: Autonomy, Beneficence, Fidelity, Justice and Nonmaleficence. Realizing that while each has specificities all are beholden to the other. Indeed, one may be in conflict with another, such as confidentiality and the potential for imminent harm. Untangling a sticky ball requires a measured hand. In a given situation, if right and wrong are not crystal clear, my intent will be to discuss options and scenarios with my peers before acting. I look forward to that collaboration.

In college, I studied journalism. The first thing I learned was that there is always two sides two a story. Likewise there are multiple stories for every individual who suffers from alcohol or chemical dependency. A person’s drug narrative is often shaped by their genealogy as well as environment. Things like family structure (or lack thereof), social groups, ethnic and cultural norms and other issues almost always play a role in the formation of a substance use disorder. How could they not? Therefore, a counselor worth his or her salt must be culturally competent beyond what passes for acceptable in today’s divisive political climate. As I ready myself for work in the field I know this is an area I must continue to develop, letting go preconceived notions I may still harbor and would be harmful to providing exemplary care and therapy.


February 21, 2020


The current President of the United States, Donald Trump is an idiot and a bully. What is the saying? We reap what we sow. A scary thought. Still, you believe Trump is an aberration that will soon be corrected. You hope. Either way, you know the next President will be flawed too, same as you, same as everyone. Hopefully, he or she won’t be as flawed. Sadly, it’s a low bar. Even you are less marked than this President. Politicians seldom inspire you. Obama did for a while. JFK. When you vote, it has always been for the candidate with least flaws.


February 19, 2020


“I’ve never been this old before.” You heard a man say at an AA meeting. He wasn’t trying to be funny, but it was good line. You guffawed into the circle of chairs.

Sitting outside your home in the waning minutes of daylight, you think about your age. You are 55 years old. Double nickels. The speed limit. Rock singer, Sammy Hagar, who lives in Marin County as well, had a big hit in the 80’s: Don’t Stop at 55. He’s much older than that now and from what you’ve read about him, he’s still pretty active, in both his music and outside endeavors. An “adrenaline junkie” the writer called him.

You don’t want to stop at 55. But more and more the river of life recedes and your feet get evermore stuck in the mud. You’ve never been this old before. It takes getting used to. You fear you may never get used to it. You wonder, or is it worry, that getting used to aging means you have officially, irrevocably, become old.

The other day you while you were at the gym, fighting the good fight to keep your body in some reasonable shape, you saw an older fellow being helped into the workout area. He walked feebly and had a female caregiver by his side assisting him from one machine to another. In addition, a personal trainer was there, guiding them both. Together they would get the man into a machine. Then fasten the ties and set the weights to an appropriately low level. “Push slowly down taking care not to move your head forward,” the trainer said. She spoke loudly and declarative, the way a second grade teacher would. You found that sad, having to address a grown man like a child. But there it was.

Reflecting on that scene, you now realize how frightened it had made you. Not so many years separated you from that old man. Age may well be a state of mind but his decrepitude was real. Any person would dread becoming as he was, in need of constant help doing rudimentary tasks, like putting on a pair of jeans, wiping his ass. Did the old man have a nervous stomach like you? Every shit you take was an adventure, resulting in either gassy torrents or a painful dropping of pellets. Sometimes you pushed so hard it broke the membranes in your anus bringing forth pink blood. Whether the old man in the gym had these issues or not you knew they came with age. It scares you thinking of what else is coming.

You take a puff on your cigar, something you absolutely should not be doing. Like the caffeine you ingested almost hourly it was very unhealthy. But the pull is even more powerful than the fear of getting cancer or becoming decrepit. You’re an addict. Paradoxical behavior is no surprise.

Feeling good and feeling young are the same thing. During exercise, when the endorphins kick in, you become exalted. Your muscles tighten. You feel powerful. Fucking is, by definition, being virile, a stud. Using your muscles elicited a sense of youthfulness, vigor and purpose, which honestly was disappearing elsewhere. You chase that feeling like a good buzz. In this way you are like Sammy Hagar, a rock star, an adrenaline junkie. An addict.

Doctors say the mind stops maturing at the age one begins abusing drugs and alcohol. That means you were 16 years old when you stopped using at 40. Doing the math, now 55, you have a thirty-something brain assuming you’ve matured at all.

Does it matter? You are a man getting older. Maybe the last few years are merely a protracted mid-life crisis. Some men jump out of planes or climb an imposing mountain. Satiated, they return to their domestic lives and begin the process of aging gracefully, whatever the fuck that means.

You do not want to go quietly into that good night. Sometimes when your back aches and your eyes lose focus or the ringing in your ears become conspicuous you think you are going whether you like it or not. So you open a Monster and guzzle, the caffeine, taurine and guarana working their unsavory magic on your nervous system. You take your vitamins and supplements, including creatine and glutamine, two substances that are banned in professional sports. You pack your gym bag and get in your black Jaguar XF Sport and race to the Bay Club. Fuck the chronic strain in your right shoulder. To hell with the tweaking in your lower back. You press. You pull. You push. You do an hour and twenty before heading to the sauna. You take a multi-bladed razor and shave your head bald. In the shower you marvel at the muscles in your body, how they bulge and pulse, engorged with blood, their veins visible under the skin. When you dry off you feel electric, radiant, and full of life. You feel good. You feel young. It won’t last but nothing good ever does. So, you keep coming back.

You’ve never been this old before but right now you are as young as you will ever be again.

Author’s note: If you’d like to read the entire book or would like me to write something for you please look me up. Thank you!


When I was a teenager I didn’t see this movie because of the music and the fashion -not my thing. Last night, I finally watched it with my wife and daughters. Honestly, I was stunned by the movie’s misogyny and racism. A gang rape is handled with casual indifference as is a beat-down of an innocent group of Latinos. It’s like, whoops that happened. In one scene a girl begs John Travolta’s character to let her wipe off his sweat. And on and on. At least “Last Exit to Brooklyn” and “The Accused” had a moral core. You knew badness when you saw it. With “Saturday Night Fever” it’s all just so… whatever. I can’t imagine this script getting made today, let alone written. Am I over-reacting?