Self-Accountability. Sorry, but…

***Edited on 07-25-17***

Pondoff’s Anonymous – #1

(Recommended Background Music: “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy)

“Self-Accountability. Sorry, but…”

“Memories give me the strenf I need to proceed… strenf I need to believe” – Puff Daddy

I had my first (and only) restraining order issued against me 25 years ago today… and I can finally say that I’ve learned something from it.

Now, before you go off and label me as an eight-year-old wife beater or cat killer… let me explain.

For those of you reading this that don’t know me well… on July 25, 1992, my father took my two friends and I go-karting. We were regulars at this particular race track and had gone so often that we are on first-name basis with the owners. In fact, we had gone so often that they were pretty flexible on the safety rules for us kids. Unfortunately.

Hindsight is twenty-twenty, I guess.

Long story short, as I came out of turn four, my best friend’s go-kart got sideways and flipped right in front of me. Johnny and his go-kart landed upside down, on his helmet-less head, and that was all she wrote.

We were eight.

What the fuck just happened.

To this day, I vividly remember TP (my old man) hurdling the fence and rushing over to Johnny’s motionless body. For the life of me, I have a hard time shaking this. I can still see him lying in a pool of blood… in a fetal position… as if he were sleeping.

“He’ll wake up”, I thought to myself…

Later that evening, in the emergency room at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville, I learned otherwise.

Aye yai yai.

Then, shortly after the emergency room doctor informed us of John’s fate, his real “father” arrived. More on the quotations later. For twenty-five years t I have one hell of a time forgetting how he stormed in hammered drunk and pummeled the shit out of my old man.

My best friend is dead. My old man hero-fuck-of-the-universe is getting fucking wailed on. And I couldn’t do shit about it.

God Da**it!

Man.

But, in possibly my first experience with God, Tom sat there and took it…

Maybe God doesn’t want me to forget this particular memory, now that I think about it.

Now. I know most normal, loving, good-hearted men would take a beating from a parent who just lost a child. Yes, I get that. I would like to say with one hundred percent certainty that I would behave the same way Tom did. At least I sure hope I would.

But, now, as I look back on things with some resemblance of a clear head emotionally and a minor ability to write and discuss this memory, I can honestly say I think this is my first memorable experience with God.

What if Tom lost it there? What if he fought back? Right in front of his eight-year-old son who worshiped him. Moments after his eight-year-old son watched his best friend die.

Some heavy fucking shit, right?

But he didn’t. He kept it together. After all, the prick’s son was just killed.

Faith. Hope. Love.

Mother fuckers.

That’s what that was.

Anyway, Pondoff… let’s reel it back in here. Recovering alcoholic, grief, restraining order, town drunk, and now an altar boy… how does this all connect?

The next couple of days after Johnny passed away were definitely a blur. But what I do know is that Johnny’s douche bag of an old man filed a restraining order against me personally (and my family) from coming to any of the funeral services.

We did not oblige.

We went.

I was a Paul Bearer.

The fucking kid was my best friend.

So. Tough times. Life happens. But it was the following years that were especially rough for me and my family. That asshole “dad” of his was suing us for millions of dollars that unfortunately we did not have and It wasn’t until my junior year in high school that it was settled. Needless to say, it drug on quite a bit. We walked away unharmed… financially… but, from my perspective, and looking back, the damage had been done.

For those of you that do know me, it’s been said softly with a whisper that I may have had a wee-bit of a temper problem growing up… Not like a gym-rat, handjob-in-the-mirror, fucking toolbag temper. No. My temper was more like the one that would boil over, on occasions, and be considered somewhat unhealthy (“somewhat” is my term). I was never Joey-Badass but I could hold my own in scraps… and growing up on the ice, playing hockey my whole life was a certainly a good outlet. I would have it no other way.

Some mothers and fathers celebrated their kids making the honor roll.

My old man gave me a fifty for every Gordie Howe hat trick I racked up.

To each their own.

Anyway, off of the ice, I did develop a problematic way of thinking. Whenever I would act out, do something stupid, or get in a fight, I had it blueprinted in my brain that I was suffering from a case of “survivor’s guilt”… and that most of the times my bull shit… well, it was all because of the accident on the go-kart track. It was because I had witnessed something horrific and endured such a tough loss as a child that I was always going to be a little fucked up upstairs…

Fair enough.

The problem, however, is that I began to use this to my advantage and I was able to conveniently substitute my “survivor’s guilt” and childhood trauma in the place of self-accountability. Real smart, Pondoff. The connection to my alcoholism here is that when I made the transition from “acceptable drinking” to “just a fucking alcoholic”, I was able to make this transference. Being a drunk asshole was never my fault.

I had no self-accountability.

“Sorry but…” is how I began my morning phone calls.

If I made them.

The “drunk apology tour” we called it…

Keep in mind that it happens subtly and over a period of time. It’s not that I’d go to the tavern, put down a bottle of VO, mouthwash with a couple shots of Rumplemintz, and, get all coked up with some strippers, or, get in some sort of bar fight because my main guy got killed right in front of me when we were eight…

No.

What I would do, however, is blame my shit on something…

Constantly.

My behavior was never really my fault. I called you drunk and screamed at you? Sorry, but it was because of ‘ABC’. I got in a bar fight with you? Sorry, but I did that because of ‘XYZ’… I came at you with a baseball bat and a hockey stick? Nope. Sorry, but it is not my fault. I dropped x-amount of money on blank, blank, and blank? Sorry, but…

I bashed in your Television set with a fucking golf club?

Actually. This one was warranted.

You get the point.

Fast forward to when I’m twenty-eight, kill Tom off, and there you have it… all sense of accountability for this boy was like the line in that Top Gun song “Lost That Loving Feeling”…

“gone, gone, gone…woh”

Nobody knows how to go through a tragedy like this. Nobody knows how to parent a child through this. There’s no manuscript or “Tragedy for Dummies” book out there… at least there weren’t at the time. My mother chose love, unconditional love. Tom and I? Two guys who talked about everything in the world… and I mean everything… didn’t speak of it much… if at all. But, as an opportunist at a young age, I grasped onto the “this shit ain’t my fault because…” lifestyle and could sure throw one hell of a pity party.

“Sorry, but I drank too much. I promise I won’t do it again.”

Unfortunately… this coping mechanism and excuse-making did nothing but help the whiskey bottle tighten its grip on me…

At least until March 25, 2014.

When I decided to take back control of my life.

Talk about a fucking liberation.

I cannot tell you how liberating it is to take back control and live each day free of being owned and controlled by a fucking cocktail. And for my sobriety, this one of my pillars.

I took back control.

And now I know. I drank because I wanted to drink. Plain and fucking simple. It’s on me. I own it.

No more excuses.

To wrap up, I want to share two very real truths that I’ve learned by getting sober and staying sober…

There IS joy in life without drinking and this reality DOES exist

And…

Self-Accountability. Own your shit. Take your life back. Go be great!

No more fucking excuses.  Man the fuck up.

To much language? Sorry, but…

Not sorry.

Love, God bless, and goodnight.

Chris (NA1218)

Oh… and the guy that filed a restraining order on me when I was eight… fucking douchebag… lucky for him, he’s doing life in prison.

I guess I haven’t crossed the Christian forgiveness bridge for that motherfucker just quite yet…

Let us pray.

PS: Love and miss you, Johnny. Thanks for always having my back. As always, until we meet again. JNG 07-25-92

PPS: The baseball bat used in the attack referenced in this post was indeed Johnny’s Little League bat… that I still carry around with me… just in case this Christian thing don’t work out.

Go be great!

… So I Thought

05-12-17

Pondoff’s Anonymous – #18

(Recommended Background Music: “American Pie” by Don Mclean)

“… So I Thought”

May 11th, 2012.

What is the worst thing that could happen to you, personally?

Had you asked me that question, I would have looked at you like you were stupid and answered as if you should have already known the answer.

“Easy. Tom dying. No fucking brainer.”

Tom was way more than just my father.  And I don’t have kids. That I know about. Or pay for…

Long story.

Anyway… Nice night out there this evening, ain’t it? Where was I?

Oh yeah. The worst imaginable thing that could happen to a guy…

I can even hear myself now, making the argument that I would much rather be the one to bite it than him… and that life without him was an unbearable thought.

No way would I be able to continue on if he were to go. No fucking way.

Listen. I’m aware that the blunt response I would have given could come off as a little insensitive to others in my world, namely my mother. Fair enough. Maybe it could have. Sure. But what we need to keep in mind here is that the dynamic between Tom and I was so uniquely fucked up… We were inseparable… to a fault. From the absolute first second I can remember as a human being, I had an incredible sense of hero worship towards this freaking guy… and it was unshakable.

Tom. Then Jesus.

That was my pecking order.

Some even have labeled our relationship as “unhealthy” for a father and a son. Unhealthy my ass. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would. Without hesitation. But. To each their own with their opinions, right? You know what they say… opinions and liberals are a lot like assholes.

Well. We all have a liberal. I do know that much.

I’ve shared the conversation below before over the years, so… sorry for the repetition, but nothing encompasses Tom and I’s relationship better than the last conversation we ever had together…

It was a Friday night. Not a cloud in the sky. The birds were chirping and the neighborhood children were filled with laughter and smiles…

“T. Would you wanna come over and hang with (us) tonight? It’s real nice out so we’re going to sit out on the patio and grill and have a few drinks.” –CP

“Chris. I’d rather have a hot cattle prod shoved up my asshole than come over and hang out with you and that stupid, annoying, know-it-all woman that you’re shacked up with and that little, annoying ass kid of hers.” –TP

Beautiful. And I would have it no other way.

With that being said… and I were asked how I would handle it if this worst imaginable scenario were to ever present itself…

I would have looked at you… laughed… and said with a shit-eating grin:

“I’d be a dead man walking.”

Then I would yell, “Bartender!”

No way would I survive a loss like that. Not a chance in hell. I would lose everything. In my mind… in my realty… that loss would be terminal. My homes, my job, my security, my everything-financial, my best friend, my only brother, my old man…

Et cetera.

My life would be complete carnage.

It would be like a nuclear atom bomb shoved up my ass with a very short timer.

Tick fucking tock.

It would be like that asteroid from the movie Armageddon hitting Earth and blowing the whole planet to smithereens.

But no Bruce Willis.

Yippee-ki-yay, mother fucker.

Wait. Wrong movie. Oh well. You get the point.

That would be my answer. The short version.

You see. Nobody had my back like Tom.

… So I thought.

 

May 13th, 2012.

What. The fuck. Just happened.

It was all a dream, right? I woke up, fixed my girlfriend’s two-and-a-half year old son some breakfast and turned on SpongeBob… standard. I made a pot of coffee. I ran my quick 5k of course… being a Saturday morning and the sun was shining… It’s what I do.

I called ‘T’ to check in. No answer. He must be in the yard or something. He’ll call me back. My girlfriend and I went over a Saturday grocery list. Pretty normal stuff. We were actually getting along nicely, her and I… so it had to be a fucking dream. Right?

Grocery list. Check. Kiddo is happy watching Saturday morning cartoons. Check. Let’s get something on and head out to the grocery store so we can get back, hang out, and I can watch Saturday sports. She can take the little guy to his dad’s… maybe since it’s his weekend we can do our thing and go on a bar crawl… which really means just sit at Friday’s all day… maybe pop into Moe’s. You know.

Then. My phone had a couple of missed calls. From my older sister Sarah? Wait. We weren’t even speaking to each other at the time. What’d she want? Damnit. Did I get drunk and say something stupid to her on the facebook? Shit. So I checked my phone… Nope. I behaved last night. I better call her back…

So I called her back…

 

May 12th, 2017. 12:04am

I’ll never forget that fucking call…

And, I’ll never forget that fucking car ride.

Five or six miles. No stop lights. No stop signs. No sirens.

Not that day.

When I made it to Tom’s house, I threw the car in park halfway up the driveway, I think, and I sprinted through the garage and into the laundry room where I caught my poor, sweet, innocent Brookie out of the corner of my eye…  I flew up our wooden staircase… where I was cut off at the top of the steps by my father’s best friend who lived up the street. He had gotten there after Brooke.

He bear hugged me tight as I tried to fight through him… He wouldn’t let me past the top of the staircase…

“He’s gone, Chris. He’s gone”, whispered Bill.

Aye yai yai.

But I saw.

Tom was lying on the upstairs bathroom floor down the hallway…

My hero. My idol. My best friend. My fucking old man.

My eyes had connected with his bare feet, then wandered up his legs to his knees, to his torso… and as they were about to connect with his lifeless face…

Fuck me this is hard to write. (first time)

Anyway. That’s when I lost it.

The next thing I remember is being propped up against a vehicle in the driveway… surrounded by close friends and family.

God bless them.

And then some cops. Here we fucking go.

But they were nothing but empathetic, classy, and extremely graceful.

God bless them too.

What was I going to do anyway? Be a defensive prick? I was reduced to a crying, snot nosed, little boy that was dying of thirst in-between dry heaves.

After all. Tom was dead. My life was over.

And I was a dead man walking.

… So I thought.

 

…Then my mother showed up from St. Louis.

And as royally fucked up as she was with paralyzing shock and grief she just wanted to hug and claw (if she had to) her kids. Me. Brooke. And Sarah.

You see… without getting into the weeds too much regarding my family’s dysfunctionality… we were a unique, difficult, resilient, unit that had been through a fuck-ton of drama, bull shit, and real life tragedy that our odd dynamic really was unbreakable in our own little way. Crazy at times… but loving as fuck.

The reason I explain this is because before May 12th, 2012, I had gone a few months being a stubborn asshole and not speaking to my mother… all while shacking up with a dancer from Sauget and her child and pretending to plan a wedding while my roommate Vern was playing Fran-que the wedding coordinator.

True bliss.

You’d think with all the experience I have with kids and mothers and mothers abandoning their kids… that I would naturally be grateful as fuck for the mother I have…

You’d think.

I’m like the strippers’ kids whisperer.

Kidding. Sorta.

Okay… now I’m starting to feel a little better. That previous page was fucking brutal.

The point is… before my old man died, he was my only path. Whether it was right or wrong… I was following. When he veered off of the path, I veered off of the path. If he fell, we fell. He soared, we soared. And the hell with everyone else. If they questioned our path then so-fucking-be-it. The girls (my mom and sisters) will come around eventually… but until they do… it’ll just be us against them.

What a way to live.

So, when that worst imaginable scenario became my reality… it was my mother that showed up. It was my mother that put this humpty-fuck-dumpty of a family back together again. It was my mother and her one hundred pound soaking wet, loving, caring, liberal ass that walked with me every step of the way as I self-destructed into the dark depths of alcoholism for twenty-two months AD.

It was her, man.

All while she was grieving the fuck out of her husband’s death.

It was my mother that brought me back to God. It was my mother that prayed with some singing nuns in that chapel in west Belleville. It was my mother that went to Al-Anon classes. It was my mother. She walked beside me every step of the way through the pits of my self-pity alcoholic bullshit… And it was she that got me to rehab and got me sober. It was her that took me in when I got out of rehab and helped me get back on my feet during the infancy of my sobriety.

It was her. My freaking mother.

And I just know that my old man is smiling… I really do. I know that he’s happy that I listened and opened my heart and quit drinking and fucking shit up. He’s happy that I’ve put myself in a place to be there for Brooke and Sarah if and when I’m needed. He’s happy that I’m doing well at a company that he lived and died for. He probably makes fun of me in his TP way for being such a sober, goody-goody-fuck, church-coffee-maker that’s helping raise a foster child… but I can handle that. I bet deep down he know it’s good shit.

Most of all… while he’s not physically with us now… I know he’s happier than a fat kid at a Golden Corral with a chocolate fountain for me realizing how special my mother is and how lucky I am to have her. Deep down I always knew that… because she’s told me every day of her life… no matter what… that her children are her only real concern… But. For some reason I would suppress it in some form of alcohol induced anger.

Now… Now I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude for her.

I love you, mom.

Happy Mother’s Day!

And this whole time, my old man was the only one who had my back?

Well.

… So I thought.

 

With love, grace, and gratitude,

God Bless. Goodnight. And have a wonderful Mother’s Day, y’all!

Love,

Chris (NA1144)

*No matter where we’re at right now, in this very moment, we can be grateful… we can be graceful. Go get ‘em. Be well!

**In full disclosure, my mother did forget to pick me up from soccer practice in middle school, however. I guess that’s what I get for playing soccer. I am an ice hockey player anyway. Duh.

***Tom “TP or Tommy P” Pondoff. 02-20-58 – 05-12-12. A devoted husband, brother, and loving father of three. Oh… and the funniest motherfucker that ever lived.

Amen.

A Second Chance, Perhaps…

04-11-17

Pondoff’s Anonymous – #17

(Recommended Background Music: “Second Chance” by Shinedown, “Second Chances” by NeedtoBreathe, and “Chances” by Five for Fighting)

“A Second Chance, Perhaps…”

Five years ago, On Easter Sunday, I kind of, sort of proposed to my then-girlfriend.

Who the fuck am I kidding.

There’s no “kind of proposed” about it.

I proposed. She said yes. We never got married.

Thank. God.

Now. From here, we can go two separate directions.

The first direction could be to write a dissertation on relationship what-not-to-do’s and elaborate on why my mother could not get out of bed and missed church that Easter… But that would be counterproductive.

So. Not tonight.

For those of you that do not know me or maybe are new to reading my blog, it is safe to say that at times I can be a bit of a shit talker. Mostly all in fun… but there has been an incident or two where I’ve had to use my colorful language to escalate certain situations that, shall we say, needed escalation. I cannot help it. I was born with a gift. And, for the record, I still object to my lifetime ban from the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, MO. Watch the tapes you pricks. Those collar-popped, spray-on-tan, douchebag, frat boys who just got done shaving each other’s legs after roofying one another needed somebody to “call their parents”. So, I “called” them alright… and took out four of those girl scouts.

Anyway.

Let us pray.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. Taking the road less traveled with my little postedy-post. Listen, in all honesty, talking shit about this past situation could easily be done. But it is exhausting. And I’ve done it before. Far too often. It was a disastrous ordeal, yes, but I do not regret it. I absolutely do not regret it. I am remorseful for my role, which can arguably be more than fifty percent responsible for the demise of the relationship, but I cannot and will not live in constant regret. I am so sorry that I hurt my mother, rather intentionally, with pursuing the relationship in the manner that I did. Needless to say, this gal and I did not work out and we went our separate ways. Her in a police car and me in an ambulance…

Stop, Chris. Don’t go there.

I’m kidding, guys.

I declined the ambulance. Who do you think I am? Some too-tan mall bitch at the Ameristar?

So. I could do this little dance all night and explain in greater detail why this Springer-bound relationship did not work out or I can man the fuck up here and get to the point.

I am so, so sorry for my part in the toxicity. There is absolutely no doubt that I am remorseful and praying for her to find peace.

Forgiveness.

Fucking forgiveness, man.

Forgiveness is such liberation.

Disclaimer here, y’all. This is where I start talking about my faith and God and his grace… so feel free to pull the ejection cords, if you wish… but before you do, remember that shit didn’t work out too well for Goose in Top Gun. Granted, I would probably do the same thing he did, parachute or not, if I were stuck going down in flames with that scientology freak job as my pilot.

I’m talking shit again…

Like I said. It’s a real gift.

But please keep reading. I am a big attention whore. Obv.

And. It’s fucking Holy Week.

Of course I’m going to talk about my faith and God’s grace and all that shit that drives skeptic’s nuts.

So back to forgiveness.

Five years ago, before I got sober, I was utterly and wholly (holy, ha) consumed with alcoholism and anger that I lived this “God-fearing” lifestyle where I really did not give a fuck. I’d just answer to God later. I used to be angry at a whole lot of shit, man. I did some good, sure. But more times than not I was chasing a party, a thrill, a fucking escape.  I made awful decisions that had such ripple effects within my immediate family, extended family, and so many friends that it is so unbearable to even think about.

At least it was unbearable to think about.

Tom and I were falling apart the last couple months of his life. We really fucking were. When I look back now, I really can see it. We were still drinking a lot. We were still working tirelessly and traveling often. He was still killing it, business wise, and I was starting to make a name for myself.

But we weren’t smiling like we used to. Not behind the scenes. He wasn’t lighting up the room like he had done so naturally since as far as I can remember. I was only happy when I was sitting at fucking Friday’s, doing shot after shot, smoking cig after cig, doing line after line, and getting in fight after fight.

So I’m sure my life altering decision at the time didn’t fucking help anything, as far as his health goes.

And after he died, that would make me cry like a little bitch to think about, let alone, write about.

But that was before forgiveness.

I used to say that I got engaged to this particular gal just to piss off my mother… and that I didn’t mean to give my old man a heart attack. He died four weeks later. How do I not make that fucking leap?

Well I don’t anymore. I promise.

Forgiveness.

Fucking forgiveness, man.

Forgiveness is such peace.

As many of you know, since getting out of rehab and sobering the fuck up, I’ve attended a church here in St. Louis rather religiously. (ha, a pundoff) I often call myself a “recovering Catholic” and seem to fit right in at this place. The leader of the church is a close, personal friend and I’ve illustrated before how he has really walked the walk in regards to my life and my family’s… and his other walks of course. He has said before that we are a church made up of people that have felt or been burnt by other churches and to say that something compelling is going on here is truly an understatement. When I left rehab I was scared to fucking death and I needed a place to find peace. I needed a place to find liberation. I needed a place to find forgiveness. Lots of forgiveness. No, no… not the Hustler Club. Although it may offer some of these things, I kind of, sort of burnt that bridge (see beginning paragraphs). In all seriousness, I was fortunate enough to have known of this church before sobering up. I had actually attended a couple of times with my mother a couple of years prior to entering rehab as she had become a regular with her sister. So I knew where to go.

My old man actually had gone a few times. And he really liked Pastor Matt. In fact, he would often say… “Man… I really like that Master Pat.”

That was TP’s seal of approval, Matt. In case your reading.

Listen. I’m not going on a sales pitch here… I’m not asking you to prick your index finger, lick it, stick it on your forehead, and then up your ass before drinking our cool-aid.

Nope. No rituals here.

“Just Jesus” as one of our pastors told Screech.

I have often, throughout this blog, refrained from getting too deep about the church and my attendance and participation. Partly because, if you have not noticed, my writing style is a little grotesque at times and the language used can often be four-lettered… so I don’t want people to confuse me, by any means, as The Gathering’s poster boy. Also… I hesitate to dedicate this many sentences in a row (in America we call that a paragraph) to me being super-christian-churchboy, king of the pews. I fear people, for some reason, are bored with that and / or get turned off by it. Church talk don’t sell newspapers. Right?

But. I wouldn’t be authentic if I didn’t mention what this place has helped me with. I’ve always known God and loved him. No doubt. I, since a child, just always thought of God as like my supreme grandfather. He loved me. But don’t fuck with him. I still have this concept to some degree but through the leaders and friends that I have met at this place, I have come to know a little more of what God is all about, man. The altar boy visual in your head isn’t the God stuff that I’m talking about here. Cue your Catholic jokes. I can hear Tom saying now, “Full Nelson, Half Nelson, Father Nelson”.

Ha. And I laugh every freaking time.

Because I’m an inappropriate asshole some times. Okay… a lot of the times.

But one of the biggest things I learned about God through this place is…

Fucking forgiveness, man.

And forgiveness is second chances.

As many second chances as you need.

A clean slate. Another shot. An even playing field. This, for me, is peace. This, for me, is the whole faith, hope, and love thing that I write about often. This, for me, is the gracious, merciful God that I’ve come to love and trust with all my shit.

For. Fucking. Real.

God forgives you, y’all. It’s time to forgive yourself.

And speaking of chances… I’ll leave you with the short version of a second chance story that I’ve come to enjoy.

A story of someone giving it all to God because he couldn’t fucking handle it anymore. He was ready to call it quits and just end the pain and the suffering of his broken heart. You see… his old man was his whole life. He was his earth, sun, wind, fire, and all that shit. “You get a line, an’ I get a pole, honey”… he can hear him singing “Crawdad Hole” right now. And when he lost him… he was a fucking dead man walking. A failed relationship (understatement), another tragic death in the family, and gallons and gallons of hard liquor later, he was still breathing. Barely. But then… something happened to him. Something that he cannot articulate well enough no matter how hard he tries… God gave him the will to live and got him sober and showed him what grace and forgiveness looks like and what it feels like. And now… now he is able to live a life of forgiveness… where he can forgive not only others, but, so importantly, himself. He can live with a much less angry heart and seeks peace at almost every turn. He makes mistakes but knows they are not only forgiven, but they are also opportunities to love and learn. He now lives with an upward and onward mentality and wants to show others what God’s grace really feels like now that he’s experienced it… as if it were a new, hot restaurant in town.

And then.

And then he found himself a church girl.

…that he absolutely loves to fucking death.

A “second chance” perhaps…

He keeps pinching himself. I know that for certain.

 

With love, grace, gratitude… and some second chances, y’all.

God Bless. Goodnight. And have a wonderful Easter.

Love,

Chris (NA1113)

*No matter where we’re at right now, in this very moment, we can be grateful… we can be graceful. Go get ‘em. Be well!

**I’m not on any sales commission program here for the church I go to… so this invite comes motive free… If you do not have plans for Easter or you are looking for something compelling, new, fun, and open to all… Give our church a shot this Sunday. We’re downtown at the Peabody Opera House this year (next to Scottrade)… show starts at 9:30am.

***A churchy post, yes… but, Holy Shit! It’s Holy Week! Sorry… ain’t sorry. Bitches!

****Let us pray.

 

O’Pondoff

03-14-17

Pondoff’s Anonymous – #16

(Recommended Background Music: “Better Days” by Goo Goo Dolls and “Danny Boy” by whoever)

“O’Pondoff”

Corned beef. Cabbage.

Carbombs. And cocaine.

Fuck me. I’m Irish.

Not full Irish. A little Irish. I don’t admit it often. But yes, I have a little Irish in me.

Nobody’s perfect.

Listen. Nothing against the Irish. My grandfather was Irish. And I loved his ass. He was my mother’s old man… Tootie’s husband… and Tom Pondoff’s number one adversary. In a good way. I think. (TP used to call himself Tommy O’Pondoff on St. Pat’s). And from when I was as young as I can remember, and up until my early twenties when cancer ate him from the inside out, I fucking loved this guy.

Hold on y’all. My old lady just text me that it’s the final rose ceremony… in case I wanted to tune in.

Stand. By.

……………………

Okay. That bachelor guy is such fucking tool. He said to Raven (I’m team Raven, by the way), “I’ll miss you.” And she said, “I know”.

Good for her! Her gain. He’s a bag of shit. Go find a hockey player if you want to get treated well. Not a loser like that prick with uneven nipples. Douchebag.

Anyway. That’s not Christian.

Let us pray.

Okay. Where was I? Oh yeah. Grandpa Mike and the Irish and how I’m a little Irish but I don’t really claim it because I’m Italian like my daddy and whatever he was I was duhhh. That’s where.

My grandpa Mike.

He was a proud, Irish iron worker. He never missed a day of work and he loved his family very much. He really did. He taught me a lot about being a boy and a man. He ‘taught’ me tooth and nail on respecting women and being a gentlemen. He loved his wife. He loved being a veteran. He loved the union. And he loved being a democrat. (Ugh.) He loved his Irish whiskey. He loved his house. He loved his garage full of stuff, his shed full of stuff, his other shed full of stuff, and his other shed full of stuff.

My grandpa Mike in a nutshell. And of course I miss the shit out of him. His long ass stories, his extremely slow driving, his thorough handshakes, his invaluable life lessons, and yes… his Irish pride. Often times to my grandmother’s dismay…
 
“A saint he ain’t”, she’d tell my mother, as he could do no wrong in her eyes.

Yep. I miss the fuck out of him.

It certainly doesn’t take much to trigger the great memories I have with this guy… but during this time of year it’s especially hard to avoid them. With every bagpipe, green parade, and four leaf clover, I think of my grandfather. And it makes me smile… most of the time.

Until I go there.

Until I see him standing down that long hallway at the Siteman Cancer Center here in St. Louis… in his black VFW jacket, his Irish cap decorated with all of his favorite pins, and his Irish blessings in his shirt pocket.

Until I remember the times we stood there together quietly and didn’t talk much.

Until I remember the way I felt when he would silently gaze out of the floor-to-ceiling windows to a building being built on the other side of Forest Park Parkway as if he were helping place the steel himself.

Until I remember the small talk we made as he would explain to me how the iron workers across the street were doing it all wrong and that back in his day… You get the gist.

Until I remember how an indestructible, tough-as-nails man that once got ran over by a forklift on a job site passed away frail and ill.

Until I remember how wrecked I was that he was dying but how calm he stood upright, fighting.

Until I remember how I coped…

I’m not advocating self-shrinking here, but I’m almost one hundred percent certain, even though undiagnosed, that I transformed from a “he’s young and twenty-two” to a full blown runny-nosed, alcoholic during this experience in my life. I partied a lot in high school and college… as I’ve mentioned before in this journal.. but it shifted into a higher gear during and after my grandfather’s cancer story and eventual passing. What was going on internally… the only way to describe it is… as a crazy, impossible game of tug-of-war where it was me pulling on one end… and a couple of fat fuck sumo wrestlers pulling on the other.

I was going nowhere.

Let me try and explain.

During that semester in college, I was often driving back home from Champaign to Belleville/St. Louis and missing classes to be with the guy. Even though there was some objection, I just had to help and be there for my mother and my grandmother during this shit. I knew I couldn’t miss these days with him and I needed to help. Somehow. Someway. Sounds noble and sacrificial right? Maybe. A little bit.

But I’m not proud. Sure I’m glad I spent those days with him. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. No fucking way. But when I look back at those memories… that teary-eyed pride feeling that I have starts taking on water quickly like a sinking a ship.

I start flooding these memories with how I coped when my grandfather wasn’t looking. All kinds of shit starts going through my mind. Thoughts on how he would understand that I was drinking to relieve stress because he knew I drank. We drank together. (Remember… the prick was Irish). He could handle his fucking whiskey. Undoubtedly. Bushmills to be exact.

But he’d have my fucking ass if he knew I was jacking around with coke. For fucking real. And that’s when the knives start penetrating my stomach and the anxiety and shame seeps in. Here I was… trying to be there for my grandfather and see him through this miserable-fuck disease, and after we got him home and in his chair, I was off to the tavern for whiskey, shots of hundred-proof schnapps, and lines of blow off CD cases in the car in the parking lot. And for a while, I could not fucking stand thinking about him knowing the shit that I was up to. All of that bull shit… while he was puking his guts literally the fuck out and couldn’t help it, I was off at the bars and strip clubs destroying my insides on purpose.

What. The. Fuck.

He passed away at home on May 27th, 2006. On May 26th I received a call from my mother letting me know that I was needed for the night shift with him at Barnes before being sent home with Hospice. She and my aunt needed a couple hours to sleep and to get the house ready for him to come home so my oldest cousin, David, and I were to be there with him through the night to try and comfort him. I had been at the tavern when she called. I finished my drink, did a last line coke, and headed to Barnes.

Crying like a bitch.

Fuck cancer.

You know how songs hit you at the most random times and then they stick with you forever? Well. I’ll never forget the song that was playing as I drove from Belleville to Barnes that evening.

“Better Days” by Goo Goo Dolls.

Yes. The fucking Goo Goo Dolls.

“And you ask me what I want this year. And I try to make this kind and clear. Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days.”

I couldn’t believe he was actually dying. But he was. And he did.

And he and I both needed better days.

I can’t get any more flowery or poetic than this tonight… sorry.

I do know, however, that we all have been affected by cancer to some degree, and yes, some of us way harder than others. I would even bet that fucking(verb) cancer is the one thing left in this world that all of our facebook statutes could actually agree on.

But cancer does not win in the end. I know too many people that have lost their life here on Earth to this stupid, rotten, piece-of-fuck disease. Too many have held their head high in their final breaths to this shit to say they “lost” to cancer. And I’ll be mother-fucked if cancer wins. No fucking way. Those folks, that I know personally, won. They won big. They beat that shit with their courage. Courage that I can only dream of having one one-thousandth of. They beat cancers fucking ass with every hug, smile, tear, and memory we have. They’re peaceful as fuck right now, with God, and looking over us every step of the way.

The least I can do is sober the fuck up, no?

I’ll never forget one night, during a stretch of remission my grandfather was in, while him and I were at the bar, he looked at me and smiled and said, “Chris… I beat cancer. Let’s have a drink.” And a of couple drinks we had. I still to this day believe that he knew he beat cancer temporarily, and that he knew that he was going to die from it… but what he really meant was that he was going to beat cancer in the end. And beat cancer he fucking did.

And now, sober, it doesn’t hurt nearly as much when remembering back to my grandfather’s sickness and death. I still have some anxiety and guilt regarding the coping mechs that I turned to back then, sure. But I’ve learned a fuck load about forgiveness as I’ve traveled this Christian faith road. And forgiveness is so fucking powerful. I’m pretty sure my grandpa would have been disappointed in the shit I was up to… but what trumps that is the thought of him smiling now at my sobriety. That Irish fucking grin of his. Freakin’ priceless. And that’s what I try and hang onto when going down memory lane.

Another verse from that Goo Goo Dolls song that I listened two twelve times on the way to the hospital goes like this:

(“So take these words. And sing out loud. Cause everyone is forgiven now. Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again.”)

On March 26th, 2015, one year and one day after I checked into rehab… one year and one day after my world began again, I received a random note from a dear friend, a brother, another Mike, that said this:

“Hey Buddy,

I just wanted to pop in real quick and let you know that I’m very impressed and proud of you. You are an inspiration to many. Love you buddy and keep staying strong.

Mike (Kelley)”

On May, 14th, 2015… less than two months later… Mikey passed away. But neither he, nor my grandfather, lost to cancer.

They prison-fucked cancer. And that’s the way it is.

Pardon my French. I’m Italian.

…And Irish.

 

With love, grace, gratitude, and a little sense of humor y’all…

God Bless. Goodnight.

Love,

Chris (NA1086)

*No matter where we’re at right now, in this very moment, we can be grateful… we can be graceful. Go get ‘em. Be well!

**“Better Days” by Goo Goo Dolls you say… well It was on a burnt CD and it randomly came on you assholes. I’m not a Goo Goo Dolls fan. I swear to gah. Ugh. Can I just tell my story? Jesus.

***“Danny Boy” will tug on the fucking heart strings every time. FYI.

****#refusetolose

To Be a Kid Again

02-20-17

Pondoff’s Anonymous – #15

(Recommended Background Music: “I Will Buy You a New Life” by Everclear, “Closing Time” by Semisonic“, and “When You Were Young” by The Killers)

“To Be a Kid Again”

Last week, an extended family five year-old nephew of mine had his tonsils taken out, the poor guy, so I took over a cool, new toy to help cheer him up. A pretty badass set of Michelangelo Ninja Turtle Legos to be specific… with nunchucks. (He already has all the hockey stuff he needs for now. Obv.) So, when I showed up this past Friday night he was super excited to see me, and after he tore open the box and spilt the hundreds of legos all over their kitchen, his mother looked at me and said…

“You know… the other day he told me that he wanted to change your name to Richie Rich. And when I asked him why it was because he said that, ‘Chris must be Richie Rich because every time he comes over he’s bringing me toys and surprises’.”

I’ll be a son-of-a-bitch.

He has me pegged for a sucker.

Listen, child. I’m far from Richie Rich. Far. From it.

And in case you’re new to this saga, my pipe line dried up five years ago this upcoming May when my old man checked out. And with him went the fists full of hundos and security blanket that was warmer than a stripp—let’s just say it was warm. Real warm.

In all seriousness, God bless that little boy. He constantly cracks me up. I love him. And I’m proud to be a sucker.

I guess there are worse things to be called than a “sucker”, “Richie Rich”, or the “big dumb fat kid that’s always buying me shit”. Absolutely. So I did smile when she told me this. It was funny obviously but it also really took me back to when I was a kid. And I instantly recognized where I got it from. Needless to say, my old man was a buyer. One of his most famous phrases to us kids was, “… as much as you can carry”, in reference to how many snacks, toys, and other bullshit we could buy at the gas station, convenient store, pro shop, or ice rink vending machine. I mean… TP was freaking cool. And he loved being cool.

He also loved the ease that came with being “the buyer”. How do you get kids to stop whining and bitching? Buy them shit. Plain and simple. How do you get kids to listen? Bribe them. How do you get things done and accomplished? “Cash is King” he used to say. This really ain’t rocket science here, folks. Judge the parenting technique if you may… but I didn’t want for nothing growing up. And I was one of the happiest little shits running around Belleville. Even at the pool I spent my summers at (Westhaven. Holla) I was charging skittles to a credit card at age four and five. I had it all when I was young. And I was going to be like Tom.

Tom was the funniest, coolest guy on the planet. And he was my hero. Anything he said was gospel. My mom would ground me. Tom would unground me.

You get the point.

Don’t get me wrong though. My mother, as I’ve previously written, is God’s gift to me. She really is an angel. She just had rules when we were kids. Following them was a different story. But bless her heart for trying. The one thing that she did stick to her guns on, however, was her intolerance to whenever I would behave like a chauvinist or say something chauvinistic at a young age (or any age for that matter). She had an old book titled, “Women Who Dare” and whenever I made some asshole, chauvinistic remark I had to write a report on a famous woman from this book. I’ll never forget that time in junior high … telling Mrs. Humes when asked if I ever have known of any women pilots… that sure I did… I then proceeded to tell her that TWA Flight 800 had a couple women pilots.

She through an eraser at me and kicked me out of school.

And then I wrote a report on Hellen Keller.

(I still dispute the punishment however, as half of the class was laughing their asses off. This obviously only hurt my case as the detention was served and the report was written.)

Anyway.

To be a kid again, eh?

So when this particular nephew took me on a trip down memory lane, it made me immediately think of my old man and the things he would buy me and do for me. It also took me back to a conversation I recently had with some folks at a tavern in Belleville. Some friends and friends of friends were asking me about my sobriety and recovery journey and I started to explain something that I’ve wanted to write about ever since. I began to articulate a renewed source of joy that I found when I first got out of rehab and still have today.

I started being a kid again.

Seriously.

At one point in rehab, when thinking long and hard about how and where it all went wrong, I realized that it wasn’t just because Tom died that I drank too much. I was a heavy drinker and recreational drug user long before he passed away. I drank every day and night for years before he died. And the description “recreational” is probably bullshit… an understatement at best. I really looked hard in that mirror as I asked myself when it was last that I found happiness that didn’t revolve around alcohol and / or drugs.

That was a tough question.

So when, then? When was the last time that I had fun doing things without needing a drink? When was the last time that I really found joy in life which did not include a trip to the tavern or liquor store… or both… with a “road soadie” for the ride in between?  When did I last smile from ear-to-ear at the simple things?

I know when.

When you were young. That’s when.

I started doing things again that I liked to do when I was a kid. I used to love hats. So I started buying cool hats. I used to like to play some video games. So I went to a game store and bought an old Sega Genesis and a bunch of games and played the shit out of it until I got bored. Fat jokes don’t come into play here because I was never fat when I was a kid, but I started enjoying food again. I had stopped enjoying food when I was the town drunk. I never wanted to eat because it would kill my buzz. Now… I look forward to going out to eat. Back in the day, if the place didn’t have a bar, it was an automatic no-go for this boy. Now. Every once in a while… you can find me at some liberal coffee shop. Smiling even. And not just at the good looking girls that tend to frequent these joints. Because I’m truly a much happier person living this sober, God-loving lifestyle. But don’t get me wrong… I don’t drink my coffee like those liberals. Latte, schmatt-ays. Not yet anyway. I still like my coffee like I like my women. Hot and black.

I couldn’t help myself.

Anyway. I also got back into watching sports. And I mean every sport. Intensely. Because I’m an impulsive addict, remember. I have always loved sports since I was young. Now I watch them, read about them, root for new teams and players, and try and go to the games live when I can. And I love every second of it. And I can remember. Would ya look at that. And no, mom, I’m not gambling. I promis. I just used to never go to live sporting events because I was a prisoner to the next drink. It caused such intense anxiety. Like, how much whiskey do I need to bring in the stadium to get me through the game? How was the drive home going to be from St. Louis, Champaign, or further? Who had the blow and where was the after party? The only live sporting event I wanted to go to was the NASCAR races where I would camp at for four or five days… and drink at for four or five days. Literally.

All the same for playing golf. I especially hated playing golf after my old man died. Memories, yes. But also because all I wanted to do was get drunk. Not play golf. I used to say that I was a, “drinker with a golfing problem”. Now, I just have a golfing problem. I also like to collect things. Sports memorabilia for my hockey themed “racement”. Heart stuff for Ollie. Harley stuff for Tom. Anything Italian. Aluminum can tabs for Screech. Money for my baby sister Brooke to shop with. Bar tabs at Olive + Oak and Friday’s. I just have fun doing the simple, easy shit. I love barbequing with friends and family. I enjoy family get-togethers. Trips. Car rides. Playing cards.

I remember one of the first things I did when I got out of inpatient was find an old movie and record store and buy the hell out of cheap DVDs and collect them. Ones I’ve seen a million times. Some oldies I haven’t seen since I was a kid. Some I’ve never seen that I plan on never seeing. They were like buy two get three free like a firework store.

I like walking my dog.

I like to go to church.

I love my mornings again.

I can breathe while sleeping again.

I started writing again.

I love my job again… even without TP.

Because I’m not without TP. He’s right here. By my side. On his birthday. Eating this large pepperoni pizza and watching the Blues game. God damn right he is.

I could go on and on with this intentional ramble but I grasp that you get the point.

And that point is that alcohol is one hell of an edible, chemical product that we consume. Its very design is to alter brains to depend on it. And it really works, man. And works well at that. And for certain folks (ah hem) alcohol takes over control way more than it does on others. It sucks. It’s unfair. So what. Let’s own it. Before I got sober I knew that there was no life outside of drinking. I was so sure that I would finish my days consuming alcohol and being the best functioning alcoholic I could be. And I was in my late twenties saying this shit. The reality while drinking was that the world was flat. And nobody was going to tell me different. Not even Kyree Irving.

Alcohol had retrained my brain to think this way. Like it has done for millions of others.

So what’d I do? How have I been successful up to this point in my recovery battle?

I went back to the days before I ever had a sip.

When I was young.

Aw, to be a fucking kid again.

(I almost made it.)

With love, grace, and gratitude y’all…

God Bless. And Goodnight.

Love,

Chris (NA1064)

PS: Happy birthday, T. I left out the hockey stuff… do you think they’ll notice? Don’t tell anyone. It’s our secret. I just don’t think the pond is frozen enough for me to skate on just yet. I’m still scared. I’m still scared I’ll fall through the ice. We need to wait a little longer, right? Just a little bit longer.

*No matter where we’re at right now, in this very moment, we can be grateful… we can be graceful. Go get ‘em. Be well!

Ain’t So Bad

02-07-17

Pondoff’s Anonymous – #14

(Recommended Background Music: “The Kids Aren’t Alright” by The Offspring, “Crazy Game of Poker” by O.A.R., “So Far Away” by Staind, and “Your Grace Finds Me” by Matt Redman)

“Ain’t So Bad.”

Tom played a little football back when he was in high school. He was a lead blocker fullback at Belleville West and his favorite memory he’d often recall was, after returning to the huddle with a giant cleat mark on his back following a failed running play, when the running back looked at him and said short-breathed, “Pondoff… next time just get the fuck out of the way.”

Tom was a hockey player. Not a pansy ass football player. And the super bowl is no Stanley Cup.

But. I’m no Robert Downey Jr. He and I both spent a good chunk of our lives high on whiskey and cocaine. We both cleaned our shit up. He’s a multi-multi-millionaire… and I live in a motherfucking townhouse. Rent.

Comparisons can be unfair.

And unhealthy.

They tend to do nothing but bear bitter fruit.

So fuck Robert Downey Jr.

(Let us pray.)

But the super bowl does have its place with all sports fans. Including me. And this past super bowl was my third that I can remember.  Hey ohhh. Super Bowl. More like Sober Bowl.

Like everyone else on this planet (not named Nicky Rahdreegez), the Super Bowl is appointment television for me too. I do love football. Only my love for football comes with the understanding that it is a simple game… not a way of life (i.e. Ice Hockey). This is fact. This is undisputed. And this is okay. We can have football too. Don’t cry.

For me… my interest in football may have begun a little differently than most. It is no secret that I am… eh-hem… It is no secret that I used to be a degenerate fuck gambler. For as long as I can remember I have been a slave to the point spread. And I have a pretty good fucking memory. When I was super little, I used to look so forward to chasing my three, four, and five-team parlays with my grandparents at their house on Saturday’s and Sunday’s. I know, I know… five-team parlays never hit. I was six. Give me a fucking break. Thanks, Grandma.

And she would always let me learn the hard way when making risky moves with the book. Like when I’d go down liable in liability rum. Tough lovin’, I guess.

So, while some kids were playing with their Legos and G.I. Joes when they were six (fucking dorks), I was betting the piggy bank on the over/under’s with Tootie. I can remember to this day us both biting our nails while chasing a back-door cover to hit a three-team parlay that pays six-to-one. Six-to-one back in my day. I know, I know… it pays five-to-one now. Fucking recession.

Thus my love affair with football and the super bowl.

This past Super Bowl Sunday really was a great day. Great game. Great food. Great company. And I happily ate like a fucking pig. I used to never eat at these things. Either I was too high on blow to have an appetite or I just wouldn’t eat because it would jeopardize my buzz. Not this year. By the end of the night I was sprawled out on the couch like a belching, beached whale in a chili-stained, white wife-beater tank top.

How ‘bout that visual.

And I still have a girlfriend.

God. Bless. Her.

You see. This sober thing ain’t so fucking bad.

I had a great time on Sunday. And I won some money. Legally, of course. And, yes, Pastor Matt… I plan on tithing ten percent of it. There was a time in my life where the eighth string quarterback on the Rams cost me thousands during the early shift (*cough Gus Frerotte cough* – fucking loser) and I would double down during the afternoon games without batting an eyelash. But… along my testicles, I’ve since left that life behind as well.

For the most part.

And now. Now I’ve been giving this God stuff a shot. What do I have to lose, right? The bubble I lived in got popped in May of 2012. And I mean really popped. Like a ‘machine gun to a balloon’ popped. So, why not give the God stuff a chance? And once I did, things in my life really changed… understatement alert… for the way-fucking-better did they change. Sure. My mouth waters occasionally at the thought of that first sip of a double whiskey shot. But I think that through almost instantaneously of what it would become. And as quick as the thought enters my mind it quickly exits. Sure… I have a whole fuck-ton of accountability on my shoulders now as I’ve progressed down this nearly three-year long wagon ride. Which is good. But I can promise to those of you that read this shit that accountability is not the only reason I remain sober.

Nope.

I remain sober because I received God’s grace when I was ready to give up.

Fuck that. I received God’s grace when I had given up. My chips were cashed. I was out.

And that is my rock solid foundation. And it can not be taken from me.

One of the most important things that I have learned over these past one thousand and fifty-one days is that I wasn’t in control. That I am not in control. And pardon the pun here… what a sobering thought. You mean, I’m not in control of my world? I’m not in charge here?

Nope.

And it took a stint in rehab for me to stare at this realization and figure it the fuck out. And, cliché or not, what a weight lifted off of my shoulders. So God’s in control? Fine. He can have all this bull shit I carry around with me. Anger. Depression. Anxiety. Dark fucking sadness. Hate. Self-hate. Broken heart. Loneliness. Alcoholism. Addiction. An above average gambling problem. He can fucking have it. I don’t want it anymore. Fuck this shit. I told you, God, that I give up. Didn’t you fucking hear me? I quit. I was sick of feeling gutted from the inside out every day. This is no way to live.

I. Quit.

I threw in the fucking towel.

But then God caught it. And he picked me up and he wiped me off with it. And he took all that shit off of my shoulders. And he put this fucking humpty-dumpty back together again. And he sent me back out into the world. And now… all I want to do now is show people that they too receive God’s grace. They do. You do. I intentionally do not use the word “can” here. It happens to all of us. Just listen to your fucking heart. That’s how God talks to us. It has to be. And we will recognize God’s grace for what it is… everlasting and unconditional love. I was able to move a fucking mountain by getting sober. Alcoholism had my life in its death grip and I slayed that fucking dragon. Thanks to God.

I know some folks aren’t on the Christian train… and that’s cool. To each their own. Always. But some real unexplainable shit has happened in my life time and I am just now finally recognizing it for what it is. Did I deserve this everlasting love and grace? Probably fucking not. That’s not how God rolls though. He’s got your fucking back. Shit. He has mine. Thousands of years of personal testimonies on how God can handle your burdens if you just fucking let him… why not give it a shot? What do you have to lose? When I got sober my mother told me that she always kept her faith in the fact that God can change the heart of any man and that is why she never quit on me. Never.

God. I’m glad she gave you a shot.

And I’m glad a bunch of people in St. Louis, Missouri did too.

And I sure am grateful that they started up the place that I now refer to at taverns and gentlemen’s clubs across the metro east as, “my church”.

Well. Not really the strip clubs anymore. Promise.

I remember going to this church with my mother every once in a while back when I was drinking. I’m telling you… this place is a great fucking church. This joint welcomed me then and it continues to welcome me now. I even accidentally said the “f-word” in church on Sunday and I didn’t get the boot. (Don’t worry, Pastor Yvi, it was before your four year-old son sat down with Ashley and I.) My point here is, that even when I was a fat fuck drunk gambling prick, I was welcome. I would attend back then with my mom on occasion. And when I did, the lead pastor would always approach me outside and say, “Chris. God’s got something special in store for you brother. I just know it. And I’m from Granite City. So I get it. I can handle your bull s**t.”

Maybe I’m paraphrasing. But it went something like that. And I’m not sure what he meant by “special”… but if it were along the lines of pulling me up from rock bottom, getting me sober and healthy, and pulling me from the dark, black fucking hole I was “living” in, then yeah… I’d say God did have something special in store for me. If he meant that one day I would be in a position to help people beyond buying them a drink and a shot at the tavern, then, sure, he was onto something. And If he meant that, in time, I would be able to look up to the sky and crack a fucking smile at my old man because I can honestly feel he’s somewhat proud of me… then maybe he just fucking nailed it.

Thanks, Matt. In case I don’t mention it enough.

A couple of years later. As our family was shattering to pieces for several days in the PICU of Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital here in St. Louis, the guy sat with us praying. He was doing whatever humanly possible that he could do to help keep us together in one piece. He was reminding us that no matter how broken we all were that God can and will put our hearts back together.

He walked the fucking walk, man. And from that moment on I knew that if and when I ever decided to quit drinking that I always had a home. Shit. I had a home there even when I was still drinking. The place just welcomes all. No matter wherever the fuck you are in your journey.

And I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that God does that too.

Wait. I didn’t just read it.

I fucking lived it.

And so can you.

You see. This Christian thing ain’t so fucking bad.

With love, grace, and gratitude y’all… forever.

God Bless.

Love,

Chris (NA1051)

*No matter where we’re at right now, in this very moment, we can be grateful… we can be graceful. Go get ‘em. Be well!

 

“What a P***y, Right?”

01-17-17

Pondoff’s Anonymous – #13

(Recommended Background Music: “Purple Pills” by D12 ft. Eminem, “I Have This Hope” by Tenth Avenue North, and “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones)

“What a P***y, Right?”

Paroxetine (generic Paxil). 40mg. Once a day. (Used to treat depression. It may also be used to treat anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

Let me tell ya’… this premenstrual dysphoric disorder is no fucking joke.

Trazodone. 100mg. Once a day, at bed time. (Used to treat depression. It may help to improve your mood, appetite, and energy level as well as decrease anxiety and insomnia related to depression. Trazodone works by helping to restore the balance of a certain natural chemical (serotonin) in the brain.)

After taking this at night… you got about 15 minutes. After that… good freakin’ night. You could drive a Mack Truck through my bedroom and I’ll sleep right through it.

Communion Bread and ‘Wine’ (generic grape juice). Once a week, Sunday Mornings. (Used to treat loneliness, anger, and a broken heart… Literally and figuratively. Also used to help with finding and experiencing joy, the ability to love one’s self and others, and to embrace the power of hope even when all appears to be lost.

Check. Check. And Checkmate.

What a pussy, right?

Nah. You’re the pussy.

I got my shit right.

And now I can weather storms like a m’all-fucker.

But I still love you. And I get it… I really do. Most of us guys… we don’t have time for no shit like that. We can handle our families. Who are they going to come to when they need something if I’m all doped up on anti-depressants? I gotta tough this shit out. I’m a fucking ice hockey player. I don’t need no freakin’ pills.

Unless they’re pain pills, of course. We can take those. Because we’re physically fucked up… ya’ know… from being a badass.

A dear mentor once told me… “Some people take fucking Prozac and shit like that. I drink whiskey and do a little cocaine.”

And for a while… for the better part of my twenties actually… that was gospel. I wasn’t going to be some chump prick and go see a shrink. Fuck that. I’m not weak like that. I’m not a big pussy. I’m a fucking man. I’ll deal with my stress like real badasses do. With a shot and a key bump. (More like 20 shots and 10 key bumps but you get the picture.) Or, some guys prefer recreation pain pills. That’s the ticket! (Until it leads to fucking heroin.)

And church and Jesus and stuff? Ha. Who the fuck are you kiddin’? Fucking priests and the Catholic Church. All they do is molest little boys. Fuck that. Always telling me what I did wrong and shit. I ain’t got time for that. And I’m busy as fuck on Sunday mornings. Who else is gonna mow the grass and take care of the yard and shit. The last thing I got time for is to go sit in some building and sing like a bunch of fucking weirdos and pray and shit. I mean, I believe in God but what does God give a fuck about me going to church on Sunday mornings for one hour a week? He don’t give a shit. He’s got bigger fish to fry. All the crime and shit. Wish he’d figure that out. Church. Ha. Fuck that.

(So. I swear a little bit in these journal entries by the way… if you haven’t noticed. I apologize for that. I should have a movie rating on my website or facebook page to warn you of this. PG13… maybe? “R”?… Worse? Yikes! Com’ on! It ain’t that bad. I wonder if people reading this thought they were going to read a blog (ZeroProof Journal) about recovery from severe alcoholism and addiction with a tie to emotionally castrating grief and get nothing but roses and fucking humming birds? Sorry to those folks. The Mary Kay makeup party is a few clicks over. But hit me up with a fucking candle… I love candles!)

Folks… all kidding, shit talking, and sarcasm aside here… I cannot be more grateful for you reading this. People out there are hurting. Some are hurting small. Some are hurting big. Some don’t even know that they are hurting. But that pain is real. That anxiety and depression is for-fucking-real. I mean… do you think suicide numbers are just some Trump conspiracy or “fake news” shit? Well… they aren’t. People are killing themselves because they think that is a better option than living. People are sticking needles in their veins, in between their toes, and in their fucking genitals to escape the hurt they are in. Some of us are living every day, consumed in a bottle of vodka or whiskey because we think it will numb our broken-as-fuck-heart that resembles a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle. We think that if we have just one drink, this grief we’re dealing with will subside… even for a minute.

And that’ why I’m sharing this. That is why I share these bi-monthly posts with you.

To spread a message of hope. To try and defeat loneliness with you. To stop the stigmas and be vulnerable for you. And to show you that the impossible is possible. It really is. And I know I’ve said it before, but it is so worth repeating. I would not be sitting here, writing to you about this real, deep, personal shit if it weren’t true. There is light at the end of the tunnel you’re in. I promise you.

We all know the stigma. And most of you have probably heard this before, and it is also worth repeating… You’re not a whack job for seeking help to assist with your mental shit. People with diabetes should take insulin, right? And they’re not big fucking pussies, right?

Exactly. Enough said. tom cruise. Now you’re the freak. You ain’t shit, bitch.

And to each their own on how they get to their own place of peace, joy, love, and hope. For me… it was going back to church. And thank God for my mother and her sister and our family for finding the church we attend in St. Louis. I’m well aware of the bull shit, exclusive, shame-slinging churches that exist. The church I go to is not one of those churches. I can guarantee you that. This church preaches love and grace and all are welcome. All. And the place has helped play a role in saving my life. So if you’re faithful and seeking Christ, there are churches out there for you. If you don’t think so… come to ours. It’s the shit.

The church lets me in, right? Have you read these posts of mine? They’re littered with swear words! And the stories I write about… as you can tell I’m no little Timmy and Bristol sure is no Lassie (that fucking goody two-shoe). Regardless, this church has embraced me and my imperfections and I can hear the similar echoes to the ones I heard when I got sober, “If Pondoff can, anybody can.”

My faith has played a vital role in my recovery battle and, in an effort to stay authentic with all of you, I cannot reiterate it enough. As I mentioned earlier… faith, the Christian stuff, that’s my way.

To each. Their own.

Except you tom cruise. You can go fuck yourself. Now, when I watch Top Gun, I root for the bogies to missile fuck your ass. Wish Goose had shotgun on that particular flight.

Let us pray.

As I wrap up tonight I need to mention a few things regarding these past three or four weeks. Sorry for the delay in-between posts… I’m aware it has been about a month since I last wrote. I have some good excuses though… like just needing a break during the Christmas stuff and its stresses… or the annual Testicle Festival at TR’s Saloon in Belleville that goes down every New Year’s Day… or the Winter Classic, which for me to be in attendance was nothing short of divine considering that I was looking up to my old man with tears in my eyes more than I did the actual ice surface. (I could write 3000 words on this day alone… but I’ll spare y’all that sob story… for now).

To be perfectly honest, since the days leading up to Christmas, through Christmas and New Year’s, and up until about last Thursday… I’ve been in the midst of my own personal storm. I was depressed again. I was stressed to the max. I was more anxious than I probably have been since leaving rehab in 2014. Fuck me. Am I losing control again? Am I losing my grip on recovery? I know I do not want a drink… no way will I go back to having a drink… but what if this anxiety and shit gets any worse? Will I be tempted? Getting out of bed was hard again. I wasn’t working the room in social settings like I normally do as the chipper fuck that I am. I did not live up to a couple of small commitments that I made. That’s not Pondoff… not the new Pondoff at least. I’m now a moodier prick than I ever have been. What. The. Fuck.

I’m stressing about money. More than usual. I spend too much. I overdid it for Christmas. God I sound like Tom. I need to save a little bit. Shit. I got something brewin’ here that requires financial security.

I thought I beat this. I don’t have time for this!

Shit! I’m even up ten pounds since all this holiday crap. I can hear you now… “Ten pounds? Goddd… Shut up Christina Pondoff”.

I’m telling you… the smallest things were keeping me down and making things darker. And I need to get better in a hurry! I got kind of a big deal on the very near horizon here. What has changed all of sudden?

Welp. Chris Pondoff decided to anoint himself as M.D. Dr. Chris Pondoff. That’s what. Have you ever heard the saying, “Be confident, but don’t be cocky”? I got cocky. The aforementioned medicine I take, Trazodone, was given to me in rehab to help me sleep and has been prescribed to me ever since. And a couple days before Christmas I decided, having graduated Magna Cum Laude from medical school, that I was done with the Trazodone. Fucking brilliant, Pondoff. More like, “Magna Cum Shitty”. After realizing that I was off my rocker and remembering that Trazodone is primarily an anxiety disorder medication, I decided to take the advice of my physician (you know… a real doctor) and resume the medication.

All. Better.

I share this story to illustrate that these drugs, when taken under the guidance of a trained physician, actually do help and could, potentially, be lifesaving.

Lifesaving and happiness?

That’s for pussies, right?

This past weekend my girlfriend, a girl that I have grown to love and respect more and more each day, and I took in the winter storm and hunkered down for a couple of days. We let the ice paranoia be our excuse to be lazy and relax with one another. We pigged out a bit, watched some dirty movies, and took in a little playoff football. (By dirty movies I mean a Disney movie she made me watch because she wants to see if it’s appropriate for children between the ages of two and six). You see… this weekend was probably our last quiet weekend because as of Tuesday she, we, will be on the clock, per se, to receive a foster child from the state of Missouri. Holy shit, right? Yes, I’ll be honest, as tomorrow’s date loomed closer and closer on my calendar, this journey and adventure has added layers of stress and anxiety to my plate. Pretty good time to go rogue and stop taking a key medication of mine, eh? Fail.

I’ll tell you one thing… It’ll be nice being as happy and healthy as can be (and sober obv) so I can stand side-by-side with this girl to provide a warm home and infinite love to a most likely broken child. What a fucking honor and privilege. And I could not be more inspired and proud of this young lady. A-fucking-men.

And in a way, I’m grateful I got cocky when I did and decided that I was better than my “crazy pills”. It quickly reminded me that I was on them for a reason and, yes, they were helping. It also reminded me of something a little more important… it reminded me that we will all encounter metaphorical storms in our lives, and that as abruptly as they show up, they will indeed pass. And then it reminded me of how I used to ride out storms… drunk and high on whiskey and blow.

Now. Now I ride them out with my faith, sobriety, and a little fucking Paxil.

What a pussy, right?

Nah. I couldn’t be more badass.

And grateful.

With love, grace, and gratitude y’all…

God Bless. Goodnight.

Love,

Chris (NA1030)

**It’s okay to seek happiness. It does not make you weak. Like milk to bones, seeking health and happiness in the face of grief fuels the heart.

**No matter where we’re at right now, in this very moment, we can be grateful… we can be graceful. Go get ‘em. Be well!

One Day at a Time

12-13-16

Pondoff’s Anonymous – A “Chrisclaimer”

(Recommended Background Music: “Broken” by Seether ft. Amy Lee, “Self-Esteem” by Offsrping, and “I Will Follow” by Chris Tomlin)

“One Day at a Time”

Being alone fucking sucks. No?

Especially in December.

When I first started to write for my friend, Beth, earlier this summer I had no idea where it was going or what this thing would look like. I had no idea that it would turn into a website, some cocktail napkins in lieu of business cards, a healthy dose of readers and social media “likers”, and, most importantly, some unfathomable real life feedback from people that this little internet shindig has helped in some fashion.

When she approached me with an idea to contribute to her “Joyful Life” cause on facebook I was immediately on board. I really have always had a hard time saying “no” to people I admire. No matter what.

Maybe that’s why I became a g*d damn alcoholic and borderline cokehead.

Borderline? Don’t be judgmental.

“Just Say No”. Ha.

Whatever. My D.A.R.E officer in middle school reeked of scotch and cigs.

Wait. Maybe that was my backpack. Or Rief’s. Oh well.

Anyway…

When Beth reached out to me to help with this cause of hers… one to spread positivity and joy to the lives of others… it was something I couldn’t turn down. And as I’ve written in previous entries, I told her that I’m not your textbook “happy, happy, joy, joy motherfucker” here… She affirmed and nudged me to write and be myself and make people laugh. She told me once that sharing my story may “unlock the key to someone else’s prison”. She said that I had a way about my writing that can keep people engaged and could be inspiring.

Fucking saleswoman, right?

Beth – You had me at, “would you like to help contribute…” but keep ‘em coming, dear!

At first I was extremely anxious, nervous, apprehensive… Share my story? You mean more than my big mouth already has via “inappropriate”, sometimes humorous facebook statuses? Shit. Sounds vulnerable and exposing. I have a job, a church, a mother… what if they read? This could bring some unwanted adversity in my life. Right?

Sure.

But, obviously, I was also flattered, intrigued, an excited to be able to write. I fucking love to write. And to write about shit that I know and am passionate about? And with having a chance for my bullshit to inspire and help others that are fighting and living with the same crippling grief and alcoholism that I was?

Essentially… to write about myself? Cue the narcissist.

Sign me the fuck up! I just may have found my medium, or platform.

Granted. I still feel a calling to go and help some of the trainwreck disasters over on the east side…

Help. Not marry.

Whattaya up to, Pondoff? Oh nothing. Just saving the world, one stripper at a time.

One meth head, coked up stripper at a time…

God. I just cannot help myself. Maybe I’ll hold off on that and just pray for now.

(I say these things in self-degrading comedic relief and mostly in jest but there really is a whole world over there that is anything but humorous. Tragic as fuck, actually. Tragic childhoods leading to tragic ways of life… You never know… maybe someone in that life will stumble upon this blog (journal…) and find it helpful. The same message is to them as it is to anyone who reads… as long as we have air in our lungs we can change, sober the fuck up, and live a healthy, happy, and loving motherfucking life.)

Anyhow. I digress.

When I first agreed to take the plunge with Beth and offer my writing as a way to bring faith, hope, and love to others through my story, and personal hell, I agreed to under the condition that I had to write as myself… from my experiences… and if I tried to dress it up and PG the fuck out of it, I wouldn’t be effective. The message, in my humble opinion, would not be nearly as effective. I’m not sure I’d call my writing “a gift” to anyone, in fact it is anything but I’m positive… However, in an effort to keep up with the season I offer the Screech-and-Pondoff gift giving analogy… Normally awesome, badass gifts wrapped up in leftover newspaper or simply handed over in the Wal-Mart, Rod’s ‘n Racin’, Lowe’s or Home Depot, Jack’s Asian Mart Liquor Store, Dollar General, or Dollar Tree bags that we got them in. Depending who you are of course. And how well you have behaved.

The message is good. It’s the wrapping that’s a little shitty.

You get the point.

So Beth would have it no other way. She smiled and took my hand and assured me that this is how she wanted me to write. As myself.

I’ve since seen the words “raw” and “authentic” used to describe parts of my story or content. Beautiful and flowery, no. But graceful and real. Okay… maybe graceful is my word… whatever. F off.

Guys. I write the way I write for a reason. You see… the intended audience for this ZeroProof Journal, as I call it, does not have time for bull shit. The intended audience is folks that are in a deep fucking hole here, man. They are people that are feeling completely swallowed or suffocated by the depths of grief and / or alcoholism. Nine times out of ten… both. And I have sooo-motherfucking been there. And I know when you are there… sitting in that personal fucking hell… that you—we… do not have time for bullshit. We need it to be real, in our fucking faces, and at times a little GD comical to keep our attention. We have short attention spans. It’s called impulse control. Dumbasses.

We are at rock bottom, y’all. Rock fucking bottom.

I’ve said it before… I’m not writing a fucking children’s book here. The hungry, hungry caterpillar got drunk and high and is all fucked up in this story. And he certainly didn’t turn into a fucking butterfly.

And yes, I’m aware that my mother reads these entries… my pastors probably read them… my sisters, my nieces, my aunts, and even possible business associates. One of my remaining grandmothers… albeit legally blind… probably even reads some of these things. And that big, bad four letter word that starts with the letter ‘F’, at the very least, makes some of them cringe. If not all of them. Yet, most appreciate my authenticity and want me to be real, raw, and honest regarding my “drugs, sex, and alcohol” lifestyle during my late teens and most of my twenties…

If only there were a way to describe my coke binges with a stripper named after a crayon without using the word “fuck”.

Sorry. It’s just not possible. I tried.

So, “get the fuck outta here”.

All kidding aside… I am aware of my writing style and the content that I provide for this ZeroProof Journal, or Sober Blog, and I know that it can be rough around the edges… and I really do wish that it were possible to please everyone with the language and message… but, unfortunately, I don’t feel that it is. So I have to focus on the intended audience. I have to focus on the people that don’t really care if I write the word “fuck” or “pussy”. I have to keep in focus the motherfucking pricks like me who are out there where I once was… in the overwhelming depths of gut-wrenching loneliness, grief, and alcoholism. And by meeting them where they are… by writing a little bit colorful… by typing the words “fuck”, “keybumps”, and “motherfucker” I’m hopefully…

(and I type each letterkey of the word “hopefully” with authority because this is my whole fucking cause)

HOPEFULLY (pop, pop, pop goes the keyboard) I’m lending a hand, arm, embracing hug if you will… to someone that is in the pits of self-destruction and guiding them to the place where I’m at now. A place of peace and liberation. A place of faith, hope, and love that I do not ever plan on leaving. A place that is so fucking possible for people who have walked similar paths as me to get to. Guys like me who was on bended knee crying like a bitch and praying to God to help me help myself… Guys like me who couldn’t tie his fucking shoe without breaking into an alcoholic sweat. Guys like me who couldn’t go four hours without a drink of alcohol in fear of having a paralyzing “I can’t breathe” anxiety attack. On my 30th birthday party, co-hosted by my mother at some of my closest friends’ house, I became so sickened with whiskey withdrawal that I had to lay on the bathroom floor for two hours with the whiskey shakes. I remember waking up that Saturday morning with the intention of laying off the booze until at least the early afternoon… After all, I didn’t want to be too drunk by the time the party started at 5pm… A lot of good that did. Instead I had a near withdrawal seizure and laid on a bathroom floor like a little five year old with the stomach flu. A thirty year old grown ass man… on the floor like a fucking bitch. In front of all his family and friends. Jesus. I remember my mother being so concerned for my health and appearance that she urged Big Vern to pour me a double VO to cure my symptoms.

The next day she went to those singing nuns in west Belleville behind Shenanigans and prayed for me.

Thanks, mom!

God, what a drunk asshole I was.

But not anymore.

Not anymore.

It’s so… fucking… possible. Getting sober. Finding joy in life. Receiving and giving grace. Regaining hope. Experiencing love and having the ability to love yourself and others.

So. Fucking. Possible.

For even all of us addicts, grief stricken drunks, and those of us that suffer from a piecing, broken heart. That’s grief too. I don’t care what anyone says. You are not alone.

Especially in December. I promise you.

Her prayers and nuns fucking worked for me.

If they can work for me… you know the rest.

Four months later I was checking into rehab.

And when I got out… those closest friends of mine who hosted my thirtieth birthday party… they presented me with a silver bracelet engraved with a life-saving phrase that I still wear today.

“One Day at a Time. 03-25-14”

With love, grace, and eternal gratitude y’all…

God Bless. Goodnight.

Love,

Chris (NA995)

*No matter where we’re at right now, in this very moment, we can be grateful… we can be graceful. Go get ‘em. Be well!

 

Holy Shit! I Can Do That Too!

11-29-16

Pondoff’s Anonymous – #11

(Recommended Background Music: “Wanna Be A Baller” by Lil’ Troy, “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure, “Be Like That” by Three Doors Down, and “Numb/Encore” by Jay-Z and Linkin Park)

“Holy Shit! I Can Do That Too!”

To be in the seventh and eighth grade again… What I would give. I was an up-and-coming young talented hockey player, I didn’t have to pay for anything, I didn’t really have to work much, and I’m pretty sure a lot of the Whiteside Warrior cheerleaders were hot for me. Obv.

I say all this in jest…

Wait. Who I am I kiddin’… straight facts!

Just thinkin’ of my girlfriend’s dad coming home early from work when we were making out on her couch back then still scares the shit out of me. Man he was intimidating.

But what can I say? I was a fucking baller.

Needless to say things were going good for CP.

Fast forward fifteen years later and I’m twenty-eight… about seventy-five pounds overweight… a massive alcoholic with an above average coke problem… and engaged to marry a stripper.

Damn. And it all looked so promising at one point.

I know what you’re thinking… how can I be a fat fuck and also have a bad coke habit?

Well. Life’s a bitch.

Assholes.

Anyway. So where did it all go wrong?

Fuck, y’all… I don’t really know… I don’t have the precise moment or a definitive answer on when it all got sideways. I do know that I first drank alcohol for fun as early as thirteen or fourteen and it wasn’t long after I first started drinking that I began to drink to “cure” something. It was this type of “therapeutic” drinking, in my opinion, which started my descent down the very slippery slope of alcoholism. I’m not saying that drinking at that early of an age isn’t problematic in and of itself… but let’s get real… a whole bunch of people drank when they were young and didn’t wind up in a rehab unit being strip searched by a recovering heroin addict turned camp counselor named Ryan because some junkie chick smuggled in weed and Xanax up her p***y (vagina).

Just sayin’…

My point is… as I recollect… that I feel that every time I drank to “cure” or “fix” a problem I became more and more susceptible to alcohol dictating my life. To becoming a fucking alcoholic. I had a bad night on the ice? Let’s have a drink. I was stressed? Drink. I was sad. Drink. I was pissed off about something. Drink. I was sick? Drink. Nyquil is for babies. I was lonely. Drink ‘n think. I was heartbroken? Drink. As much as possible. I mean… this was my life… for a long fucking time. And I lost control. And this went on through my teens and twenties. Needed to cope? Pour a double. Do a shot. Bust a key or cut one out.

Life was back on track.

Rigghtt…

Don’t get me wrong here… I’m not, nor have I ever been in my recovery, on a crusade against alcohol. My mission is clear. To share parts of my story that may be able to connect with folks who are dealing with overwhelming grief and alcoholism. There have been points in my new journey when I briefly, selfishly wished that I could be “normal” and have a few drinks. But I quickly think those moments through and know that I can’t just have one drink… one beer… one glass of wine. I just cannot. I also know that my words, my story, will not automatically flip a light switch in someone that is struggling mightily with this shit. I heard people push me to get help… I heard tear-filled pleas from my mom… I heard my friends. Fuck… I heard Brooke. It just took me a whole lot of time to come to the realization that I needed help. And when I did… and as I’ve continued on in my recovery… all those conversations, pleas, and stories passed down have remained with me as my sources of strength to stay on this path. They are all like little homing beacons. And they’re also great reminders that I am an alcoholic in recovery now and that this is so o-fucking-kay. It took a fuck load of nasty events over time to get me to the point where I not only knew that I needed to get help but I also wanted to get help. It wasn’t the time that I had a whiskey bottle, end table, CPAP machine, coke mirror, remote controllers, change jar, and the kitchen sink smashed over my head in a domestic incident with my then fianc… I can’t say it anymore… girlfriend. It wasn’t the times I had jumped out of moving cars… not the countless times I got into drunk fucking scrums. Not the time I called an oncologist in Boca Raton at 1am in the morning and threatened his wife until he called the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis to give a second opinion regarding a dear friend’s mother’s cancer diagnosis. But it was all of those events added up… and by the time I had finally had enough and checked into rehab I had lost all hope at being able to experience any form of joy in life without having a drink. At this point I just wanted to live.

And it was in rehab when I started to learn, realize, and feel that I could find “life” in life without alcohol.

For. Fucking. Real.

This is why I’m sharing this personal shit… to tell, to show, to articulate that the impossible is possible… that sobriety is a way of life worth living… and that there is joy in life outside of the bottle.

There really fucking is.

Family get-togethers? Without a VO and club, diet soda, or water? No way. Summer BBQs? Fall football? Sunday NASCAR? Without alcohol? Fuck that.

Vacations? Celebrations? Sober? Impossible.

Wakes and funerals? Shit. I’ve gotten drunk at every funeral home in St. Clair County.

What about the little things… that normal people don’t drink at… but I did drink at.

Like breakfast.

Aldi’s? Sober? Get the fuck outta here.

Rush hour traffic on the way home from work? Guys… Tom and I would split a pint of VO on the way home from our office every day that we carpooled.

When he died, I didn’t change my order to a half-pint.

I couldn’t go from here to there without stopping at a tavern to knock one down.

So rehab? Stop drinking? Forever? How in the hell was I going to do this? How was I going to acknowledge that if I wanted to live, it had to be without alcohol? I hadn’t lived without alcohol since I was like a seventh or eighth grader.

But it is possible. You can live without it. I promise.

I’ll never forget that first day when I checked into rehab… I had an entry interview that my mother was allowed to sit in on… Her and I still laugh as I arrogantly explained to the social worker how I was going to stay with them for a couple of days and then head home confident that I would no longer drink whiskey or any other hard liquor on a daily basis… but that I would still have a “few coronas at Sunday BBQs while watching sports”… Yeah I told her that alright. And God bless her. She didn’t start laughing in my face… she smiled and nodded, wrote something down, and didn’t argue with me. (I now know that they are trained to deal with cocky assholes like myself… that smiling and nodding is what they do so they can get your fat ass through the door and locked in on the other side. Clever pricks.)

I was unable to comprehend life without alcohol at all. I really think what I was telling that hot little social worker with an Eastern European accent and long blonde… whoa, settle down tiger… What I think I was telling her was that I could live with being miserable and sober for six days of the week and I was going to have a few beers and be happy and BBQ on Sundays. That’s how God did it, right? I can live with that. I guess.

Yeah… well God wasn’t a falling-down town-drunk alcoholic douchebag.

I was.

Funny I bring up God… because that first night I prayed hard as fuck. How was I going to live? Without alcohol? Shoot me now. For real. No thanks. Good night. But then I woke up. And I’m not reciting some nursery rhyme fairy tale here but that next morning I was overcome with a sense of grace and peace that I cannot explain. I really can’t. (Uh yeah I can… Thanks, God) I was finally able to recall back to when I was in seventh or eighth grade or younger… when I lived life without alcohol.

And had fun.

And found joy.

And loved life.

And all of a sudden, life without a drink didn’t seem so impossible.

I have watched people who have walked this path “cure” their disappointment, stress, sadness, anger, fucking colds, loneliness, and heartbreak without a double-on-the-rocks. I have watched so many people still have fun in life golfing, going to sporting events, and barbequing without drinking. I have witnessed people experience so much joy out of life sober that it is freaking contagious. And so much more real. And so much less temporary. And finally, I have been held up and encouraged and loved by people that aren’t prisoner anymore to alcoholism that I was able to look at them, with a heart full of love, and a smile from ear-to-ear and say…

Holy shit! I can do that too!

With love and grace y’all…

(…you can do that too!)

Love,

Chris Pondoff (NA981)

*No matter where we’re at right now, in this very moment, we can be grateful… we can be graceful. Go get ‘em. Be well!

**Thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart for continuing to read my journal. I apologize for any repetitiveness and I sure hope that the message isn’t getting stale. If you, or anyone you know, need help… especially during this Christmas season… please know that you are not alone… that they are not alone.

***I’d like to dedicate this post to my cousin Mark Hinkle and his wife Jennifer Hinkle and their son, our family’s heart angel, Oliver “Ollie” Hinkle. Thank you, Ollie, for teaching me how to love more and more every day. And thank you, Mark and Jenn, for continuing to inspire me and showing me that we can walk or, as Jenn so eloquently put it in a post earlier today, run with our grief. And that love always wins. No matter what. Happy birthday, Ollie.

 

 

 

Thank You, Grief. For Real.

11-24-16

PA – #10

(Recommended Background Music:  “You Should Be Here” by Cole Swindell, “Crossroads” by Bone Thugs ‘n Harmony, “Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot)

“Thank You, Grief. For Real.”

Have you ever noticed how certain advice we follow often times pop up in the most random places? Truck stop bathroom stalls… little fortune cookies… internet pictures with quotes written on them from recovering alcoholics… tattoos on the lower backs of girls down at the Hustler Club… On that note… I bet I’ve missed some great pearls of wisdom over the years by not being fluent in stripper-tat Chinese. Damn.

Anyways.

I don’t think it’s the actual advice that is unique and special or unheard of… No. It’s not. I think it’s a combination of timing and randomness. Or, more specifically with me, it is God’s way of saying…

“Listen you dumb prick… I’ve been trying to send you the message through all of the normal channels (family, friends, church pastors, tavern keeps, The Sopranos, Manhattan cabbies) but you won’t get your head out of your ass and listen… so here’s a random ass stranger out of left field that will hopefully say something or do something to smack some sense into you.”

Something like that.

I really believe this though… I think we have the tendency to tune out those close to us at times. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s our own stubbornness… Maybe it’s that the sound of that same old voice is getting stale in its constant advisory role… Maybe it’s just God’s way of catching us off guard, and, more importantly, on his timing and not ours… when we need it most.  I mean… my mother preached love, grace, and kindness to me for as long as I can remember but it didn’t really slap me in the face until I read it all fucked up on some stripper’s leg tat.

Kidding! Sort of…

At least it was in English.

To the point here… being Thanksgiving and all… I received one of these random ass messages at a funeral a couple of years ago and it has stuck with me for quite a while and I never really did much with it. Maybe I regurgitated it once or twice to a friend in need who may have been struggling with grief… but I never really recognized it for what it was until I, months later, saw a picture quote on Instagram involving grief, drugs, and alcohol. It was then that I sort of connected the two messages in a way that made sense to me and has now helped my ass in my recovery from grief and alcoholism…

What I heard at the funeral service sermon was simple… that God blessed us with memory. The statement did hit me then… and I was grateful for hearing it… because it’s very true. Memory is such a blessing and gift from God. I could not imagine life without memories. God though… of course I hate the painful, sad, heart-wrenching memories. However… if presented with the choice to have suffocating grief removed from my heart for good by taking away my memory… I’d aggressively decline that offer and hang the fuck on to all of my painful, sad, grief-filled memories like they were children of mine holding on to me for dear life. That grief is mine, motherfucker, and you ain’t takin’ it from me! No fucking way! Capiche?

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago… sittin’ in Screech’s garage with Vern and Fingers… scrollin’ through my phone Instagram deal… and boom! From the account of a recovering alcoholic and heroin addict I see the quote, “grief is the price we pay for love”.

Hmm…

Is it? Maybe. But along the same line of memories… if someone told you that they would take the most suffocating grief away from you by taking away your ability to love… to feel love… to give love… would you? I sure the fuck wouldn’t. Not in a million years. Now the two phrases or random messages I received are beginning to click.

Cliché or not… even if these two one-liners are complete bull shit… they both made me think. And they both came at important times for me. I was very early into my sober journey when I heard the first message… and I had just begun this online writin’ shit when I read the second. Both were random and thought provoking to me as I reflect back… absolutely they were. But what’s been the most helpful to me regarding these messages haven’t been how I received them or even the messages themselves… but it’s been that the timing was right and that I was able to connect it to what the fuck my heart was feeling. I’m sick of being owned by fucking grief. F that! F you, Grief. You don’t own me! I own your ass! Bring that shit!

And now, hopefully, I can articulate it in this ZeroProof Journal, or bloggg, the best I can to help some motherfuckers. After all… that is what we’re trying to do here. Right?

I’ll keep this Thanksgiving post short and sweet… since most of you that read it will either be still drunk from the night before or so incredibly hung-the-fuck-over that your reading capacity and patience will be that of a drunk carney working the county picnic at the Belle-Clair fairgrounds… so I won’t press you too much. But I want you, especially if you’re dying on the inside from devastating sadness and grief, to remember a couple of things as this Thanksgiving and Christmas season takes us down memory lane.

Our grief is our grief. And it is o-fucking-kay to grieve. It’s normal. And it’s supposed to be difficult and non-joyful. You’re supposed to cry… ’till it hurts even. You’re supposed be angry at times. You’re not supposed to be hunky-fucking-dory. But… and this is so important in my walk with grief… I hurt this bad because I love so freaking hard. I loved hard as fuck, y’all. And I still do! And my memories aren’t too sad to reflect on. A fucking lot of them are so GD funny that I cannot catch my breath from laughing so hard. Tom Pondoff was the funniest mother fucker on this planet! In my world he was… no fucking doubt! And every time I start getting that food-poisoning-esque sick-stomach-knotted feeling, I think of something he said or did that makes me laugh and I slowly begin to feel a little bit better. Him and I… we ate our weight times two on Thanksgiving. He cooked the bag of innards inside the turkey, bag and all, more times than not. And he and I would eat that shit. The heart, gizzards, liver, neck… of course we did. Not because it tasted good… but it would make the room laugh. Boy he could work a fucking room… like nobody I’ve ever seen.

And Christmas… ha! TP loved to hate Christmas. All the shopping, pain-in-the-ass decorations and lights, the shopping, the spending, the tree and ornaments, the shopping, the spending, the traffic, the people, the shopping, the spending… I mean every Christmas Eve he’d have a bottle of Crown all to himself and eat the shit out of the “Santa” cookies and leftover meatballs. Hell… since I was 15 or so I’d sit with him in the basement and drink whiskey and laugh and have a good time. I know that sounds a little unorthodox, mother… but it was our time… and now it’s my memory. And as much as he put on the Scrooge show… every Christmas morning he was happier than a pig ‘n shit… watching his kids open up all the dollars he bitched so much about spending. Then him and I would piss and moan at each other about something over breakfast and everything would be right back to normal. Fucking bliss!

Sure. I miss that SOB no less than I did the day after he died… probably more and more every day actually… but I’d be damned if I don’t own that shit. Losing his ass… that’s my grief. And nobody… no Grinch, no brilliant scientist that always talks shit about God but can’t cure a fucking cold let-alone a broken heart… no doctor… Nobody! Nobody will take my memories, my love, or my grief for missing my old man. That shit is mine!

…and no matter how hard I tried… no amount of whiskey and no amount blow is going to take it away either.

So fuck that. I got this.

Sober, healthy, clear headed… and with a big ol’ beating heart full as fuck of memories, grief, and love.

My memories… my grief… my love…

Those are the three things that I’m thankful for this year.

 

With love and grace, y’all… Good night, God Bless, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Love,

Chris (NA976)

*No matter where we’re at right now, in this very moment, we can be grateful… we can be graceful. Go get ‘em. Be well!