Artisan – Post 90 – Death And 12-Step Spirituality

Artisan by Dan Joyce

©2016

Post 90

Death And 12-Step Spirituality

Art90

On the way to the meeting last night, I texted a woman I had been starting to see. After I asked her how she was doing, she responded, “I’ve been doing well. I’m just waiting to get the results from some tests to see if I have cancer.” Being the selfish, self-centered guy I am, I immediately thought, there’s goes that hope for a long-term relationship! I didn’t know and felt selfish not to notice. It’s not something you ask someone on the first coffee date. Then, I did something even worse. I told her I would pray for her and that I’d keep my fingers crossed. “Keeping my fingers crossed,” is considered cute in female lingo and texting. What was wrong with this is that I probably won’t pray for her. In fact, I hardly ever pray for anyone including myself. I find the experience awkward, like rambling in the dark and not getting any answer. Some say they are answered, but atheists consider that borderline psychotic. I was raised Catholic with preset memorized prayers, the Hail Mary, the Our Father and some others if you were really bad and brutally honest during confession. AA’s do have some preset prayers – the Serenity Prayer, the 3rd step prayer, the 7th step prayer, the 13th step prayer “God get this guy away from me!!!” I heard that from a woman running from a meeting once. For men, the 13th step prayer sounds more like, “OOPS!!! What the fuck did I just get myself into???”

When I do to pray, it is somewhat different and maybe just a little more spiritual. I pray by feeling it in my heart. Empathy – the sensitive ability to feel the pain of others. I first noticed this when my sponsor, Carol, got cancer and was dying. Normally, women don’t sponsor men or vice versa, but nobody in the men’s group would put up with me anymore. So, she took me on. Carol had sponsored dozens of people, women and men, for dozens of years and through, trial and error, she seemed to know the answer to everything except how to quit smoking. Which she admitted, she chose not to do. I was in college at the time and surrounded myself with a lot of intelligence, but Carol had wisdom. Admitting to her, I found verbal prayer awkward, I told her I would pray for her in my heart. She understood. When she was dying, the women in the meeting surrounded her to protect her like an old Indian. It was a beautiful death if you can call it that.

I was near the meeting and still worried about my friend’s cancer. I wondered how I could blame this on the world and AA. Then I lit up a cigar with the other members in the smoking section during the coffee break. It dawned on me how much death is prevalent in AA from overdoses to suicides to cancer patients to old-timers being hailed off as they make the grade. There is a saying newcomers have, “I have a sponsor that has a sponsor that has a sponsor…” But did it ever occur to them that if they follow that hierarchy up the ladder of longer periods sober to older age, they are eventually going to find someone who is… DEAD!!! That means his next of kin, who is basically in charge of everyone in the home group, is telling his problems to and taking direction from a block of marble at Forest Lawn! He may tell you what the graveyard is telling him, but I’m willing to bet he’s making some of that shit up himself! If you every meet this old geezer in a meeting and he does just happen to be senile, just give him his cake and coffee and pretend to listen! Look him in the eyes and nod a lot. “Yeah… you were in a meeting today with Eleanor Roosevelt! I didn’t know she was a drinker!”

Thank you for letting me share!

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Artisan – Post 92 – The Universal Laws Of Logic

Artisan by Dan Joyce

©2016

Post 92

The Universal Laws Of Logic

Art92

The other day, I walked to the smoke shop to buy a pack of cigars. On the way there, a homeless man asked me for change and I told him I didn’t have any. Then I walked past him and he seemed upset. After buying my cigars, I purchased a can of iced tea for only a dollar then left the store walking past him again trying to ignore him. When I got to the parking lot nearby, I realized I could afford just one more can of tea. Being a hot day, I turned around and walked back into the store, again passing the disgruntled man. As I grabbed the can of tea from the refrigerator, he stormed into the store fiery red. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he screamed at me, “Why you have to keep walking by me like that?” He obviously wanted to provoke a fight and no one was really sure what to do.

In a calm voice, I said, “I came back for a second soda.” He looked around, calmed down and walked away. Although the customers of the store were concerned, they were amazed at my handling of the situation.

While we have several ethical bases in our society, religion, Christianity, spirituality, hippie “love,” or just good old-fashioned brotherly love, the strongest ethic in life I have found is just plain old reasoning and adult conversation. People universally respect honesty and truth when it is put in front of them. There are many distractions to this, racism, sexism, violent threats, all intended to anger the opponent and always offset one’s ability to think rationally. Insanity is more harmful when invoked by another than in it’s natural illogical state. We all get crazy! Just get cut off on the freeway. To distract from the main claim of an argument by saying they won’t understand because someone is black, Mexican, gay or in my case, treated for bipolar, only offsets the valid reasoning attempts of another to win an argument or conflict rather than seek a just resolution. Sadly, it usually works. Because this man was homeless for whatever reason, many may have not attempted to answer his question in a rational adult manner. But when we reason with one another successfully, conflict and unethical behavior can easily be avoided. Likewise morality prevails.

Like mathematics and based on mathematics, logic is a universal language and can be used as a superior ethical principle. We all have it. We all know it. Whether here in Southern California or in New York or even some place as far as Pakistan, people respect people who respect people. Reasoning and rational conversation, I find, is the best way to accomplish that. Something to think about!

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Artisan – Post 91 – Suggested Conditions Of Negotiation

Artisan by Dan Joyce

©2016

Post 91

Suggested Conditions Of Negotiation

Art91

To Michael Magoski of the Magoski Arts Colony,

My suggestions for fairness on the Stephen Baxter issue:

  1. Ban him from the colony until successful negotiations can take place!
  2. Choose a moderator that will be impartial! You will not do as you are too influenced by the majority to protect a minority in a democratic community!
  3. If sexist or non-feminist language is not allowed, then issues of Mental Health Awareness and appropriate social behavior for such afflicted should be considered. That includes Rene Cardona! I have been appalled by his constant play of that card against me since I have met him some 25 years ago. For someone that stoned all the time, he should be more considerate of others’ mental states!
  4. When negotiated agreements have been met, they should be posted in The Colonist’s Lounge and displayed visibly to all members in the colony.
  5. I expect to someday return to the gallery after an agreement has been reached and negotiations settled! This will be determined by the conditions of the negotiated agreement.
  6. If legal action is still taken by either party, it will remain to be decided by the courts.
  7. As of seven days ago, I have surrendered my attacks. No matter what the outcome, I will maintain my decision. This decision was made for business purposes only and not ethics. As neither party is showing any!
  8. The chosen moderator will be agreed upon by both parties. Until such moderator is appointed, no negotiations will take place!
  9. Negotiations will not be publicly held nor in person for the sake of safety. It is up to you to develop the best multi-user method of communication. Both parties and all involved witnesses may partake as long as neither party is overly outnumbered.
  10. Communication regulation and appeals to speak will be determined by the moderator.
  11. No attacks, harm to nor public humiliation of either party’s businesses or reputation will take place before or during these negotiations.
  12. All references to religious, spiritual or ethical principles, of or lack of, by either party will not be mentioned during the said negotiations.

If the negotiations are successful and an agreement is reached, I will leave it to you to draw a contract honored by the colony to be signed in agreement by both parties.

You must take this into consideration, because both parties have declared a state of war and at least his side is threatening violence!

Thank you,

DAN JOYCE

P.S. In 30 years as an artist in this city, I have never had to deal with anything like this or him before!!! Please take that into consideration!

“Democracy is best served when it is designed to protect its minority.”

– The Courage To Change The Things I Can –

May God bless you Michael, and may you continue to live a fruitful life!

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Artisan – Post 89 – Humility

Artisan by Dan Joyce

©2016

Post 89

Humility

Art89

Humility is a very important word and concept in the twelve step programs. I would like to share a little story regarding this. The other day I went to an NA meeting that I had only attended a couple times before. Being excited to meet and get to know the group, I raised my hand to share. I started off arrogantly by telling them how great I was, how I had had 18 years of sobriety in AA before relapsing, how I had been to college and attained several degrees, how I had a successful art business and felt I had an exciting life. I was on a roll and even had prepared my share by writing it in advance. I even brought my MacBook to share to share it with them. I lifted the cover of the laptop and asked if anyone would mind my reading it. A woman at the end of the table belted out, “I want to know how you stayed clean today!”

Figuring they weren’t interested, I closed the lid of my laptop and answered her nervously, “Well… I woke up late, took a shower, lost my belt. I looked in the hamper. I couldn’t find it, looked in the bathroom, still not there. Then some guy in the house loaned me a belt. I owe him two Mountain Dews. I called my sponsor then came to a meeting.”

She shouted, “Did you pick up?”

I said, “No.”

“That’s how you stayed clean today!” she said. “Thank you” and shut me up.

Now for a man my size to be belittled by a woman so badly in front of all those people is not humility. That’s humiliation! What was humility is that I continued to sit there embarrassed through the rest of the meeting listening to people share without getting up and leaving while making a big scene and maybe starting a fight. I did try to give her a couple dirty looks, but she just sat there smiling.

After the meeting, I ran into her on the side of the building. Both her arms were tacked down with tattoos. She was wearing a tight black t-shirt that said, “Validated Sinner” and she was tending her motorcycle. Now, I never met this kind of woman in college nor did my mother ever want me to bring her home with me. But mom wasn’t’ talking to me after the relapse, so I took a chance.

I said to her, “Thank you for stopping me from further embarrassing myself!”

She said, “I wasn’t trying to embarrass you. I just wanted to know what you did to stay clean today.”

“I came to the meeting to stay clean. But after meeting you, it’s going to be that much more difficult.”

In a soft tough voice, she said, “Good! Maybe that resentment will keep you clean and sober!”

I sarcastically replied, “… or make me go out!”

Then I walked around the corner and threw my hat in the air like the Breakfast Club kid and said to myself, “Wow! I just met the coolest girl in the meeting!”

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Artisan – Post 88 – Sobriety And City Hall

Artisan by Dan Joyce

©2016

Post 88

Sobriety And City Hall

Art88

As part of my focus on a mentally healthier community, I believe sobriety is important for many as well as the whole of the community. While many can handle alcohol in moderation, many cannot and this needs to be addressed on a larger city scale. Studies show that many start drinking at younger ages, because they feel there is really nothing else to do for entertainment. Since my grandparents moved here in the mid 1940’s, Fullerton has always been a largely schooling town providing many educational resources. We now host several colleges with several students starving for weekend entertainment, but what options are we giving them? If we let our college students develop poor drinking patterns at such a young age, many will continue into more severe problems in later adulthood causing unnecessary difficulties for them, their families, the police and the community as a whole. We have to look at the long-term investment we are making into our students and our city.

It is no debatable estimate that downtown Fullerton now hosts over 20 bars and alcohol related businesses in its small radius. This has not always been the case. In the national art boom of the 1980’s we hosted several art galleries instead, The Sarah Bain Gallery, The John Thomas Gallery, Gallery 57 and The Edge, to name a few. These businesses slowly fell out do to the collapse of the art market and were followed by antique shops. During this time, I counted only three bars in downtown Fullerton – Mulberry St., a dive bar called Mikki’s and a Mexican cantina. Now the city is flooded with an onset of alcoholic businesses in what I call, “The Bourbon Street Takeover.” Our students and others are hitting the city every weekend and other nights in a massive downtown party that is ruining other businesses and questioning the safety of our community. Not only are Fullerton’s college students going out to drink, but residents of other communities are driving in from Riverside and L.A. counties including those with known gang affiliations. This “night life” scenario has become a mad house and I feel Fullerton needs more options other than alcohol for entertainment. With the problems that alcohol and alcoholism creates, it will only harm our students and our citizens in the long run. Do we want Fullerton to be a community for families and education, or do we want it to waste away into a party town?

What other options do we have other than a party bar night scene for Downtown Fullerton? Ironically, in this same small radius, I have counted ten or eleven churches whose parishioners are probably not getting drunk in the bars every weekend. Certainly, we can offer them some avenues for entertainment other than just a Sunday sermon. As far as other business options go, of course, I encourage the arts. Fullerton and Orange County have a long historical art community that could still be developed further with minimum drinking involved. Coffeehouses are still popular, vintage record stores, comic book stores, antiques, classic film and live theatre, etc… These can also create a more cultural element for our colleges. Our very own Fox Theater could be a great investment for this while providing a much more appropriate and quaint date night for young students. There are many options besides booze.

What can you as a local governing agent do about this? I learned from my father in early adulthood that 90% of politics is economics. We need to provide greater incentives for sole proprietorships and small business to start up and grow in this community. Other than “Stray Cat” and “Black Hole Records” I have seen very few such businesses survive on Harbor Blvd. in these past 30 years. That is a sad statistic. Also, we need to discourage the bars economically by further regulating and policing them regarding who they are serving to and more importantly, who they are letting drive home. If we are getting this bad element from other cities, as I claim, then legally stop this traffic through enforcement of drunk driving laws.

One last note, I am not just a party-pooper. I am a small business owner and resident for decades in this community. As such, I would like to see a better safer and healthier Fullerton by providing other options for entertainment for ourselves, for our families and for our students. May God bless you all and may you all live fruitful lives!

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Artisan – Post 87 – Rat Park – A New Theory Of Addiction?

Artisan by Dan Joyce

©2016

Post 87

Rat Park – A New Theory Of Addiction?

Art87

Drug addiction and alcoholism is a serious problem in our society. Many will agree and it may be getting worse. However, a new theory is floating around the Internet and the news questioning its causes and nature. The traditional experiment claims the drug causes the addiction. For example, a rat is placed in a cage and given two options – a dangerously addictive drug and rat food. The rat always passes the food and goes for the drug until he dies. In the 1970’s a scientist noticed something wrong with this test. The rat has nothing else to do! So, he formulated a series of other tests in which the rat was in a cage with other rats, wheels, balls and lots of rat toys as well as offering them the food and drugs. He called this new environment, “Rat Park.” What happened? None of the rats used the drugs. In fact, they ignored them completely.

What’s wrong with this picture? It’s saying people become alcoholics and drug addicts because they have nothing else to do! Let’s look at a famous drug addict. Keith Richards is the lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones. He has traveled the world more times than imaginable and socializes with the most notable people in society. He has had a wonderful and exciting life that he can write about and share with people someday if he can only remember any of it. Keith Richards is in no great debt of entertainment. In fact, he entertains people for a living. We see this all over the celebrity world, Paris Hilton, Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, lots of addicts with lots of things to do.

Other than celebrity addictions, why don’t I agree with this statement? Over the past 30 years in recovery programs, I have studied another group of rats – the members of 12 step programs, AA and NA. People’s stories never start with nothing to do. They are teachers, doctors, lawyers, students, my sponsor was a successful architect… from good families and bad families, from good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods. They come from literally all walks of life. They are lots of kinds of people with lots of things to do. But the end of the story is always the same. They lose jobs, families, loved ones… and end up with nothing coming to the meetings to start their lives over. The sad fact of the story is that alcoholics and addicts don’t drink or use because they have nothing else to do. But the true alcoholics and addicts will drink or use UNTIL they have nothing else to do!

One famous comment the study makes is that Vietnam Veterans used heroine in the dark environment of war, yet they quit when they came back to the states. Where are they getting these statistics? In the seventies, I met tons of Vietnam vets in bars and in the eighties, I saw even more in rehabs. While many adapt to society, many still remain addicted. In fact, from the Vietnam war, to the Gulf wars, to police actions like Serbia and Libya, I have seen so many soldiers make their way into the rooms of AA, they might as well start a new group, VAA! And the VA knows this providing several supportive treatments.

Saying drugs don’t cause drug addiction is kind of like saying guns don’t cause gun murders. But if it isn’t the drug alone doing it, then why would some people do them addictively and some shy away. I have another theory. Historically, drugs and alcohol were used for medical purposes. The cowboys of the 1900’s didn’t have anesthesia, so they just used whiskey. Nearly all are painkillers of some kind. Even rats know about physical pain, but what about emotional pain, depression, bipolar, PTSD? Do rats really get this?

Lets take a hypothetical example. Carol suffers chronic depression. The cause is unknown. To alleviate her emotional pain, she goes to bars to socialize and drinks alcohol to lift her spirits. It works temporarily. However, alcohol, being a depressant, only causes her depression to become worse in the long haul. The cycle begins. Psychiatrists and psychologists call this “self-medicating” as they are aware of the prevalence of substance abuse for people they treat in their field. Twelve step groups may provide them with a supportive social group, but often ignore the need for psychological treatment replacing that with a spiritual need for God. Sadly, there are large numbers of suicides reported in either case. Addicts may have either a low tolerance for physical or emotional pain or they may simply have higher conditions of them. From the many alcoholics and addicts I have confronted over the years, on a scale of highly elated feelings to lowly negative feelings, the common answer is that they would simply prefer to feel nothing.

To take this example of Rat Park to a ludicrously literal state, in the 30 years I’ve been in 12 step programs, I have never heard anyone stand up and say, “I came here because I was locked in a cage with nothing to do and forced to chose between doing alcohol or my drug of choice and rat food!!!” The argument for predisposition is still too strong. Something to think about!

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Artisan – Post 86 – My Day In N.A.

Artisan by Dan Joyce

©2016

Post 86

My Day in N.A.

Art86

Every day has a moral and a lesson. This day’s message was clearly “Patience.” I started out at the Target trying to buy two bottles of diet soda and three candy bars for my overweight roommate. It was a common errand for him, but it did make me wonder. Why does he always have me buy 2-liter bottles of diet soda, when with all that chocolate, he can’t be on a diet. Holding the heavy bottles, I got in the shortest line. Then I watched as what must have been a 107 year-old Mexican woman stood there forever trying to figure out how to use a debit card for the first time! Speaking no Spanish at all, I couldn’t help her as she just stood there staring at the buttons. “Come on!” I mumbled to myself, but was heard. Eventually, the woman with her just paid cash. I paid for the sodas and candy, but the checker who had heard me egged me on by slowly unrolling three paper rolls of coins one by one just to push it.

I got home, checked the schedule and realized I had just enough time to catch the bus to my book study. The bus was taking forever to come and I heard a homeless man mocking me from the table in front of the donut shop. I turned around and he silenced. Then with my back to him, he started taunting, “Faggot! Faggot! Faggot…” I’m on probation and I can’t just go off and get charged for battering a homeless man so I let him go on irritating me. Not only was this troublesome, because I’m not gay. But even if I were, it wouldn’t be politically correct. Finally after 40 minutes the bus came.

The bus stopped at every stop and hit every red light. Further, not just one, but two wheelchair people, got on and off the bus. The bus driver knew both of them and held long conversations with both of them as he strapped them in. I wanted to help STRAP THEM IN MYSELF!!! At this point, I almost used, but neither of the wheelchair people had any drugs. It was an intelligent guess, you must admit. With both of them in wheelchairs, one of them was bound to have painkillers! And with two of them, the odds were much better. I quickly said a prayer.

By the time I got to them meeting hall, I rushed into the bathroom, then came out and filled my cup with water. I guess to make sure I would have to go to the bathroom again. As I filled up the cup, I looked behind me and saw that a meeting had already started. I don’t remember this part of AA, but they were all taking turns hugging each other. Then I realized where I was. It was the Huggie Meeting… and it was a men’s stag! Pardon me if I just wasn’t into this at the moment. In fact, I felt more like the Grinch watching Whoville on Christmas… as they all just stood there loving each other!!! Maybe it was my attitude. Maybe it was my upbringing. It may be genetics. Maybe my heart was ten sizes too small. I got the Hell out of there and went into the back room for the N.A. meeting.

Now, I had never been to an N.A. book study before, and honestly I had never even cracked open the N.A. book. I do remember owning one that was given to me customarily from a $60,000 rehab program in my early 20’s. What I do remember about it, is that they have a whole chapter called, “Relapse and Recovery.” Relapse is very controversial in all 12 step programs as to whether it’s part of the process or even necessary at all. I never read the chapter, but I did think it took a lot of balls to put that in.

So, I sat down late. They were reading a story about a guy who goes to Israel with the US military and ends up on a lot of drugs. Of course, his life gets worse and he wants to, or doesn’t know, if he’s going to die. Yep, it was pretty depressing! Then he said something that caught my attention. He wanted to buy cocaine, but instead ended up doing heroine. I got that! I totally got that! In the late eighties, cocaine was very popular and very expensive. Heroine addicts used to buy it with their stuff and mix it with the heroine to shoot it up, something called a “speedball.” Most of them were into the downer effect of the drug and only used enough cocaine to pick them up and keep them awake. So, one day I went to buy cocaine and accidentally bought heroine. Then I purposely shot it up! I never did that again and did not become addicted to it. I remember an older artist in my youth once told me, “If you’ve tried heroine and did it only once in your life, you are an extremely lucky person!” While it was a pleasurable high, heroine has a skull and crossbones stigma that I desperately want to avoid. Likewise, my friend eventually died from it. Addiction is so powerful that you may find yourself doing things you swore all your life you’d never do. I shared about my day and others laughed and felt a strong message. One more day, I stayed clean and today I claim recovery as well. Much thanks to all my supportive friends online and in the meetings! You may be anonymous, but you know who you are.

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