Abstinence 2019

I remember when one month off the grog felt like a major achievement and it was.

I’m now coming up on 5 years in May. 5 years!

Recently an old friend and drinking buddy(they are different) told me that he had given up the grog. He was a few weeks into it and was feeling good about his decision. As well he should. We shared stories of the good old days, drinking together. Drinking sessions that at times would seemingly roll on for days. We shared the same problem of never being able to have just one. Just one turned into a couple, then to a few, until it had transformed into a session.

When I finally stopped, it was my third or fourth attempt, I can’t exactly recall. On one occasion i stopped for a month, another was two weeks.  I do remember the final time clearly though. I had fallen into depression, which I had suffered from for most of my adult life in various degrees, but during this period I becoming very dark and I was drifting back to “those” thoughts. I had been here before. I was thinking about having my affairs in order in the event that I would die, say in an “accident”. I had bumped up my life insurance policies a couple of years earlier and in the event of “dying” those closest to me wouldn’t be faced with any financial burden. Not a good place to be. Fortunately I ran into a cousin who put me onto a Psychologist, another in a long list of mental health practitioners that had crossed my path over the previous twenty odd years. But this one was different. She would only see me on one condition. I had to stop drinking.Untitled design

“I’ve often heard people tell me they drink for the taste. I call bullshit! They drink for the feeling. A feeling that some can never get enough of.”

So I got myself a psychologist who wouldn’t accept anything but a grog free client. I told her how previous practitioners had said that it was ok to have a few and even when I was on medication I was permitted to have “a couple” provided I didn’t overdo it. Well you can guess what that turned into. Not pretty.  That’s a story for another day.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had a drop during this time, however it’s pretty close. According to my calculations I’ve had two and a half stubbies of beer and nine, we’ll call them half nips, of “Rakija”, a balkan brandy of sorts, in some cases home made. I only usually have it as token of respect for a dear friend that passed away. This practise is not without it’s dangers and I am forever mindful of slipping into a bender even after only a few millilitres.

Copy of Abstinence 2019

Drinking is engrained in the Australian psyche, but it is changing. Ask any person who works in hospitality how many lemon, lime and bitters they are serving today compared to ten years ago and you’re sure to be surprised. It is no longer a given to have to order an alcoholic drink when entering a bar. It certainly was in my day.

The benefits of abstaining are clear. But better mental and physical health come at what can sometimes feel like a cost. The uncomfortable question from friends and family “Are you still off it?” is sometimes easier to manage than the awkward silence that often precedes the question.  It will often feel as though people are expecting you to get back on the grog or at least just “have one now and then” For those that are on the path, good for you and stay strong. And if you slip, get back up and dust yourself off, because I can tell you from experience it gets better and easier over time.

 

 

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Persistence

PERSISTENCE: The fact of continuing in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.

My last blog post was a little over 4 years ago. Time sure does fly.  At the time my post on Robin William’s death also appeared to mark the death of my blog or did it? It now appears that it may have just been an extended hibernation of sorts.

So why am I back at it?  I’ve thought on that question long and hard and the reality is I never really stopped. It just took on a different form, a form that I stopped sharing. I kept it to myself. As any writer will tell you, sharing your work is both terrifying and exhilarating.  I came to recall that sharing what has been going on in my life or what i was thinking about and knowing that readers would potentially get something of value from it, was a buzz. I’ve missed giving readers that value and the  “buzz” that went along with it.

A lots changed since that last post and a lot hasn’t. Im still passionate about writing and things are moving along in that area. I no longer run service stations for a living. That all came to a blunt end back in 2015. I took up acting in the same year, which I love. It continues to play a big part in my story telling journey. Plenty of stories to share from the last four years exploits. But most importantly I’m still on the writing path or what has now adapted into a broader storytelling path,  be it this form, or screenwriting, or playwriting , acting and potentially or perhaps a youtube channel.

PERSISTENCE?

The word first sprung at me when I was looking for a heading for this return post. It was around December last year and it was time to purchase the latest  Paulo Coelho diary. The colourful journals are amazing, packed full with Coelho wisdom in the form of quotes from his many books. Each month is given it’s own title representing a theme with a defining message from one of Paulo’s books to go along with it. The theme for January was? You guessed it. Persistence. The accompanying quote really hit the spot.

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Persistence: “I considered giving up, I thought God was no longer listening to me. I often had to change direction and, on other occasions, lost my way. Despite everything though, I found it again and carried on, because I was convinced that there was no other way to live my life.”  Paulo Coelho, MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN ACCRA. taken from PATHS, 2019.

Above is my collection of journals from the last five years.

Persistence latter re-appeared and kept re-appearing throughout January via a number of social media posts and writing forums of which I am apart of. I firmly believer that this quality or trait that we all posses in varying degrees, is very important as to how we see ourselves. If we are able to achieve something that is relatively difficult or where the odds have been stacked against us it gives us the opportunity to grow, moving on to bigger and greater exploits. It all sounds pretty straight forward but how many people do you know have started on a path and then dropped it or then moved onto something else. I would say we have all done it. Going to the gym was always a classic for me. But now I have discovered that my persistence is starting to pay off. My writing continues to develop and I’m confident and most importantly happy where things are going in my life.

screenwriters pyramid

Screenwriters Food Pyramid: First appeared online as part of  a screenwriting blog. Screenplayreaders.com back in October of 2014.

So as I re-embark on this branch of my writing journey I find that Persistence will once again have to play a part. Just as it has in various areas of my life in recent times. For those that are interested I’m Still not drinking or smoking  or gambling. I remain off the caffeine, I’m a vegetarian going on almost 4 years, haven’t been quite able to go vegan just yet but I will persist in my efforts. Started practising Yoga recently which i’m sure will be the subject of a post. Also getting in the water to do some laps on a daily basis and of course writing loads. Exciting stuff happening in that department, so stay tuned.

You’re welcome to keep track of my exploits @ tonybarea.com or via social media. If you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear them. Remember this is scary shit I’m getting myself into. Look forward to having you on this journey with me.

T.xo.

The worrying truth behind the death of Robin Williams

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If you haven’t heard the news by now you either haven’t turned on the radio or TV or you are on another planet. It’s been almost 48hrs and during that time I’ve read a number of blog posts and tributes as I am sure many people have and I’ve come to learn a lot that I didn’t know about the man Robin Williams. What strikes me is that nothing that I have read has surprised me. Unfortunately it all makes perfect sense.

I didn’t know that he had a serious drug and alcohol problem. That’s quite common for hollywood types…isn’t it?

He was plagued by depression. Of course he was he was a comedian/actor. All comedians have a dark side. If you don’t agree check out this link below. It’s a compelling piece written by american comedian David Wong.

http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/robin-williams-why-funny-people-kill-themselves/

There was another article that I came across earlier today that went to the root cause of his depression in it Christopher Stephens from the Daily Mail writes. “Williams was a lonely child raised in Bloomfield Hills in the Detroit suburbs. Today, the area is afflicted by bankruptcy, but in the Fifties it was one of America’s wealthiest cities. His rich parents had little time for him. ‘I was supposed to be seen but not heard,’ he said.”

He also added.

His closest friend, though, was his pet, a hunting dog called Duke. The boy was so desperate for a companion he spent hours trying to teach Duke to play hide-and-seek.
Most of his free time was occupied in the attic of the house — the only place he was allowed to play with his toys. The attic was badly lit and Robin was afraid of the darker half. It creaked, and he imagined he heard voices and footsteps. Susie told him it was inhabited by ghosts.
His father Robert, a Ford motor executive, scared him, too. Robin was rarely allowed to be with him, except when he was presented to guests at house parties. But it was his mother whose affection he longed to win. Most of all he wanted to make her laugh.

Williams discovered that the vivid imagination he had developed while playing alone in the attic could provoke howls of laughter from an audience. Suddenly he had the attention he had always craved.

You can read the whole article which also deals with his battle with alcohol and drugs at

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2723387/A-genius-manic-said-cocaine-helped-calm-CHRISTOPHER-STEVENS-Robin-Williams.html

Nothing in the article came as a surprise to me. A brilliant performer with a troubled soul .

For me the most troubling aspect of this whole event is that he had access to what you would think would be the “best treatment” available. And, as has been widely publicised he was on several occasions over many years engaged in these so called “treatments” or “programs” that get mentioned so often. Clearly it wasn’t enough.

Here in Australia suicide has become an all too familiar part of life. I don’t know of many who haven’t been touched by the darkness that surrounds the death of a friend or loved one by their own hand. It is clear that there is some really great and positive work being done to illustrate the effects of depression and ways of treating it and how to recognise the signs of depression in those closest to us and that’s fine. BUT IT’S NOT ENOUGH. If multi-millionaires who are suffering from this horrid condition can’t overcome it, then how can everyday working people with limited resources expect to have any hope.

It’s been encouraging to see so much discussion on this issue be it mainstream or social media, his passing has certainly put depression into the spotlight. But for how long? How long before some other news story hits the headlines and moves depression back into the darkness??? It remains to be seen. Hopefully this event will be seen as I see it. As an example of a victim of a disease who had access to all the possible treatments available but couldn’t beat it.

Perhaps there is something wrong with the treatment?

A New Beginning….. Again

It’s been just over a year that I submitted my last blog post and I’d be lying if I said i’ve been too busy. There is a difference between being preoccupied/distracted/procrastinating and being busy. Being busy should reflect that you can’t “do” something because you are currently doing something else just as important or that needs to be done so as to free up time so as to do the “something” that makes you feel productive or fulfilled, if that makes any sense.

When I began writing last year I felt that way, productive with a sense of purpose, if only for a brief period of time. There were a number of reasons. I had been exercising regularly, improved my diet, stopped taking antidepressants, stopped drinking and smoking. One would have thought that I was on the right track and that was true to a certain extent. I’ve always been one of the those to the extreme type of people. A “habitual binger” is how I would describe it. Whatever I do I binge it, binge exercise, binge drink, binge smoke, binge gamble, binge eat, binge work, binge shop, binge tv, binge writing, binge relationships, binge sleeping, binge everything. I even binged my first blog posts……

The truth of the matter is that following my first post where I promised so much, I soon found myself slipping back into the same bad habits, the same feelings of depression began to rise up within me once again. Why was this? Why was it that on so many occasions over so many years had I tried and failed. The answer is quite simple really. It’s psychological! So how do you address these issues, these behavioural problems this binge mentality. That’s simple also. With the right treatment, not just any old treatment, the right treatment. And yes I know that everyone is different and different things work for different people but it has become all to clear to me that there are some people who work in certain professions and it’s like they are just going through the motions and I’m sure everyone has experienced it. Over the years I have visited numerous so-called professionals in the field of psychology and psychiatry and it is clear to me that they were all going through the motions. The reality is that there are very few people in this field that are truly driven to get results, real results and why is that? Because its hard work and let’s face it most of us don’t like “really hard” work.

Fortunately for me the universe has steered me into the path of someone who is truly dedicated to there work. I’m now moving to a new beat from a different place and it feels good. I’m still doing the service station thing and that’s fine, but I’ve started a couple of new projects that are really exciting and I’ve found the energy/strength to post again. I look forward to delivering on my previous commitment to share some of my experiences in dealing with my depression and life in general, all within a reasonable timeframe of course.

Sometimes We Get A Second Chance-Part 3 Talking To The Dead

Talking To The Dead

I can recall just about every little thing about that night. But ask me about the trip from the emergency room to the operating theatre and I draw a blank. One minute were in the emergency room the next minute I’m standing in front of the surgeon listening to him explain the procedure, that it would take about an hour and that he had a 95% success rate. Fair enough, I signed all the necessary documents and away they went.

I took a seat in the empty waiting area. Dirty Harry had just started on the TV. It was about half an hour later when I was joined by Anne, Ken’s partner and Joyce his sister. They had been given the news. Chances were that he wouldn’t see out the night. I was devastated for them. They asked about my Dad and they were equally sympathetic for my situation. They explained to met that Ken had lung disease even though he had given up smoking and drinking some 25 years ago. His problems went back many years and they noted that they would be happy for him to go if it meant he wouldn’t have to suffer any more. Brave words.

About an hour passed and they were taken in to see him. Not long after my father’s surgeon walked out of theatre passed me a piece of paper,photos of the procedure and said “All fixed!”. I waited a further hour or two before I was able to see him. I walked into ICU for the first time in my life. Not a pretty place at the best of times let alone 3am. Dad looked comfortable and the nurse reassured me that everything appeared to be alright. I stayed for an hour or so before deciding to leave. Prior to doing so I asked about Ken. I didn’t realise but he was in the bed next door and it had been a hive of activity.The nurse re-iterrated Anne’s words. It’s not looking good.

The next morning dad was awake and doing better. He had been in a very bad way and was now on the path to recovery. I told him about Ken his neighbour who was still with us barely.

Dad continued to improve over the next couple of days.

On the third day when I arrived to visit my dad I noticed Ken was sitting in a chair and was talking to Anne. I stayed with my dad for a bit over an hour until it was time to leave. I stopped outside Ken’s cubicle he was seated with his eyes closed though they seemed to open as soon as I stopped in front of him. I said hello and he just looked at me as if to say “who the fuck is this bloke”. I moved towards him and quickly explained how I had been in the emergency room when they brought him in and that I had also met his partner and sister. I asked him how he was doing. He said that apart from the “ambos” breaking his ribs he was feeling alright. I told him that I wouldn’t be putting all the blame on the “ambos” that chances were that one of the ten or so doctors that took turns on him may have something to answer for. He looked at me surprised “really?”

“I really didn’t expect to be talking to you” I told him. I wished him well and was on my way.

I won’t forget that friday night for as long as I live I was fortunate enough to see a man brought back from death’s door and as an added bonus I got to chat to him a few days later.

My dad is also back at home and doing fine.

Sometimes We Get A Second Chance-Part 2

It’s about to get very crowded in here.

I didn’t think much of it. I had spent the last 7 hours with my Dad and just making sure he was being looked after as best as possible. It had been decided that he was to have a surgical procedure done and all the doctors were confident that this would eliminate the source of the infection plaguing his body.

It was some 5-10 minutes later when the doors flung open. A bed was wheeled in completely surrounded by doctors. The patient,Ken was in his mid to late sixties. One doctor was operating a ventilator, another was performing chest compressions whilst another kept count all whilst moving. When they settled into position Mark, the senior doctor on shift took control. Handing out instructions with a professionalism and ease which just blew me away. Cool under pressure would be an understatement.Here was someone who had clearly been in this role on more than one occasion.

They continued to administer CPR for well over an hour. During which time they administered numerous injections of adrenalin, hooked up a multitude of sensors, inserted tubes down his throat, in his arms, all the while continuing the compressions. A queue of doctors had formed at the end of the bed and they were lined up to take turns at doing the compressions. At one stage I counted twelve doctors. Whilst some of them were waiting for their turn to do compressions they helped keep count. Others ensured that nothing had been missed. They were all covering each others arse. Nothing like the movies or TV. A few compressions a quick zap with the good old “CLEAR” pads and we all live happily ever after. It was clear to me that this was going to be a long and exhausting process that would go on for some time.

I turned to Jenny “the Gem nurse” and asked what she thought.

“It doesn’t look good” she replied.

This was the closest I had ever been to someone who was “knocking on heavan’s door”. I felt certain that the door would soon open.

We chatted somewhat casually whilst all this was going on.

“It can all change just like that hey” I said to her.
“Yep. People in the waiting room don’t understand that when something like this is going on all the docs are helping out. Imagine two or three at once.”

I found it hard to imagine but the likelihood was all to real.

Whilst all this was going on. I heard a loud moaning coming from the corridor outside. A few moments later an ambulance officer stuck his head in.

“I’ve got two bottles of Vodka, a swim at North Beach and washed up on the rocks for ya”

Shortly after they wheeled him in. Jenny went over to attend to him at which point all she got was “FUCK OFF” which was shortly followed by him spitting in her face. He then got up and took off down the corridor in only his underwear. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to give chase and knock him out. How dare he do such a thing.

Quite frankly it was all becoming a bit too much for me. My father was delirious with fever, the guy next to him had just spent the last couple of hours having his chest pumped by a team of doctors and now this pisshead maniac had come in and caused havoc in the middle of it all. I would be glad to see the back of this place.

They soon had the maniac back…. with the aid of two security guards. They proceeded to sedate him and look after his various injuries. It was around this time that I overheard a discussion between Mark,the head doctor and one of the others. They were going outside to talk to Ken’s partner and his sister. It was around this point that we got the call that theatre was ready for my dad. Jenny,myself and an assistant began to make our way out just as Ken’s partner and sister walked in. I turned and watched them as they stood for a moment at the end of his bed turned and walked out.

I had arrived at 3pm it was now 11:45pm.

to be continued.

Sometimes We Get A Second Chance-Part 1

The last time I attended the emergency department of Wollongong Hospital was back in September 2012. I had taken my mate Bob there to get looked at. Unfortunately his time was soon to be up and he left us 10 weeks later. So when my mum rang me at 3pm on Friday afternoon to tell me that she had called an ambulance for my father and that he was on his way to Wollongong I thought to myself here we go again. This thought lingered, whilst I waited to be permitted to see him. … Never a good sign. They told me they were getting him settled… Yeah Right

Thirty minutes passed and I was permitted to go through. This time I was greeted by a doctor at the entrance to a Room separate from the rest of the emergency department. Another ominous sign. He told me that he was in a bad way and that they were just trying to get him settled. He had a bad infection somewhere and they had just pumped him with everything they had. He allowed me to enter. My father looked like he was possessed by some demon. His temperature and blood pressure were through the roof he clearly had no idea what was happening. The Fever had him.

It wasn’t long after first entering that the Doctor looking after him, Denson introduced himself and proceeded to ask me “THE QUESTION”. For those who haven’t been in this situation before. “THE QUESTION” is….If something further where to happen or go wrong with your loved one, how far would you like the medical staff to go. It’s quite standard practise these days. For me there was no hesitation. You do whatever it takes. Break ribs stick tubes in whatever… you do it. He’s been in hospital before but never in this type of situation. I felt it would have to be first time lucky for him.

Over the next four hours some 6 doctors came to asses my dad. They concluded that there was a stone lodged in one of the ducts that runs between his Bladder and Liver. They felt that this was the most likely cause of the infection that was terrorising his 75 year old body and that it had most likely been festering for about a week.

Approximately 7 hours after arriving steps where being taken to have him go into surgery. The on-call surgeon was on his way along with the anaesthetist and two theatre nurses. It was around this time that a nurse stepped into the room. Up until this stage it had just been myself,my dad,Jenny the Gem(Champion Nurse) and the doctors who were treating my father.

She cast a gaze over the room which had room for another two patients. Turned to Jenny and said.

Its about to get very crowded in here.