I struggle with ways to discipline my son.

This is the one thing I have really struggled with the last two years. (Besides my car troubles the last few months. I mean, something that gets to me emotionally.)

Josh is mostly a good boy, but he has some bad habits and behaviours that make him a difficult child. There are a few things, and last Wednesday they all seemed to come together, along with my anger management which I took years to learn to get right. I’m not sure if I handled it correctly.

The day started off well enough… It was a public holiday and my mother made us waffles with the waffle maker I bought her for Christmas. She made a few, and we had a relaxing day watching some movies I’d downloaded. (King Arthur is excellent, btw.)

Then sometime in the afternoon the behaviour started. Josh wanted cooldrink, and I refused to buy more because he had selfishly finished it alone. But like his mother, he doesn’t take no for an answer. He just keeps right on asking. For two hours he carried on, and I refused. It went right past the point where my parents would have given me a hiding, but I don’t do that.

Eventually he decided to have the last waffle, that had been saved since morning. It wasn’t his waffle. He’d already eaten that. This was my mother’s one. But he didn’t listen and took it anyway.  He covered it in Nutella – way too much, and then came to stand in the doorway and ask for cooldrink again. At this point, I’d just started to play King Arthur, and he’d deliberately gone to the kitchen to prepare his waffle in order to inconvenience me. So I started the movie without him. Then he went into sulking mode, standing in the doorway and mumbling some excuse why he couldn’t watch the movie. (Next thing he would have done is interrupt the movie every five minutes and ask questions, and beg for me to go and buy cooldrink.) When he gets like this, he’s impossible. It signals that he’s about to behave really badly and no matter what I do, it’s going to happen. So I mocked his mumbling excuse for not watching the movie, and my mother joined me. I’m good at that – I can mock anybody. (Yes, I shouldn’t have done that.)

Then he had one of his temper tantrums… He threw the waffle face down on the floor right there, then went into the room and started throwing things, including some of his toys. And I lost my temper. I went after him to the room, and took the one toy he had thrown, it’s called a Yakkity Yak (It’s a soft toy that you speak to and it plays back your voice chipmunk style) and I bought one for him and one for his sister when they visited us last Christmas, and said, “You throw your toys? I can do that too.” I threw it against the wall so hard, it smashed the insides completely. Then I took the waffle he’d thrown on the floor, smeared the Nutella all over his face, and made him sit in the corner like that, with his face covered in chocolate and him bawling his eyes out.

Then I felt bad. It happens every time. It was all over in a few minutes. I helped him wash his face, and we watched the movie with no more asking for more cooldrink. But still I felt like shit. And he kept the Yakkity Yak. He threw the insides away and said now it’s a hand puppet.

I’m not sure why I’m sharing this. I hate that so many people like to make as if everything is always perfect. Our life is most certainly not. We have our problems. Parenting is not always easy and I don’t always know what to do. Overall, it’s good. I love my son and he loves me, but sometimes he’s a right little bastard.

Posted in Family, Parenting, Relationships | 8 Comments

“Look at the good we’ve done” is as bad an argument as “Other people are also wrong”.

I’ve seen several arguments in debates recently where the reasoning of the apologist debater could be paraphrased as, “Others are also wrong”.

To illustrate, here are a couple of examples:

  1. (The one I wrote about recently.) Islamic apologists responding to the criticism of their religion’s oppression of women, who point out that other religions also oppress women.
  2. Religious apologists who respond to people criticizing the inhumane religious slaughter of animals (halaal or kosher) and say that others are also inhumane in their treatment of animals.

Is it not obvious that just because other people are also wrong does not mean that you are right? Two wrongs don’t make a right… This is a tactic used by children when adults point out they’ve done something naughty, and I shouldn’t need to explain that it is a bad argument.

In the case of animal abuse, there’s probably a good argument to be made that at least in the first world (and the developed parts of countries like South Africa where I live and we can afford to make this choice), those of us who are privileged enough to be able to do so should ethically stop eating meat. Nowadays, many of us can get by without eating meat. We are evolutionary omnivores, but just like we can use our intelligence and rise above the evolutionary trait to believe in bullshit (AKA religion and other faith-based beliefs), we too can rise above an eating pattern that is no longer necessary. (I eat meat, by the way. But I do believe the time has come when it might be a good idea to make this change. Not me though, because I like the taste of meat. Yes, I’m a terrible person, sorry. But the point that this argument can be made stands.) So yes, eating meat is probably wrong, and while we can’t get everybody to stop, surely at the very least we can stop the barbaric and ritualistic killing that’s inhumane and based on superstitious nonsense?

Recently I saw a similar argument, just as faulty as the “others are also wrong” garbage, and it goes like this: “Look at the good we’ve done”. This meme featuring a quote by Stephen Fry sums it up perfectly:

fry

Again, this should be obvious. Just because an institution of person/people that’s done wrong has also done some good, does not make the wrong not wrong. It’s still wrong. (There may be degrees of wrong, but something you did wrong doesn’t go away if you do something good. Again, this is reminiscent of the reasoning of small children and shouldn’t even need to be written.) The Catholic church is a fine example… While it brings comfort to many, the systematic covering up of child abuse, and lately the all too often blaming of the victims for their abuse, is wrong. And let’s be fair – the church has collected wealth for generations, more so than it has ever given to people in need. The sainthood of someone like Mother Theresa, who left sick people to die without medical attention while taking millions for the church, is sickening. The false comfort people receive does nothing for the harm that has been done. That church has overall done more harm than good.

I was loath to tag this post with “critical thinking”, because for me it paints a disturbing picture where most people on this planet are dismal at thinking critically. Then again, if 70% of people are religious (and I don’t recall where I heard that statistic), then it is not unreasonable to conclude that most people don’t think critically at all. Heck, maybe none of us are good at this? But we can at least try, and a good way to start is to throw out any belief you have which is based on faith rather than evidence. The fact that I have frequently seen adults make such childish arguments as those mentioned here, and not once have I read or heard anyone point out how childish those arguments are, is something I find upsetting.

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I propose a simpler explanation why “Once an addict; always an addict” is not true.

The last time I wrote on this subject, it was from the perspective of twelve step programs being nonsense. While they are absolute tripe, it occurred to me this morning that considering them clouded my view and there is a much simpler explanation for the idea that addicts can not change being untrue. I’ll keep this short, and it comes down to a reluctance to change, psychological inertia we have that causes us to resist that feeling of discomfort when breaking habits.

Consider this: I was late every day of my life. Right through junior school, and then high school, I was late every single day. In high school it became part of my identity, in that I’d have to sit in a “latecomers room” instead of attending assembly where they sang hymns and said prayers… and did whatever else they did in assembly. There I’d write essays mocking the stupid system, and even had a couple of teachers who used to pass those essays around and have a good laugh. After that, I continued to be late for more than another two decades. People accepted it because I told them, “I’m not a morning person” and also accepted that I am “slow” in the mornings.

And then, around two years ago, I decided not to do that any more. I need to make sure my son is ready for school by about 6:30AM, and I see no reason to sit around at home after that. So I leave early enough to be able to get to work at around 7AM, which gives me time to attend to anything urgent if there is anything, and if there isn’t, I can write a blog-post and still start working half an hour before office hours are supposed to begin.

So at around 43 years old, I proved that the idea that I could not change, and was not a morning person, was bullshit. After all the years believing it, one spontaneous decision two years ago, to go to work early… changed all of that.

Ending addiction was the same. In September 2013, after around eight years of meth being part of my identity, and me being unable to function without being high, I chose to stop. And like getting up early, which took a little bit of effort at first to jump out of bed when the alarm went off, it took some effort at the beginning, but became a habit too after a while.

To conclude, I believe that ending addiction is just the same as ending any other habit. It’s only difficult because we are reluctant to change, to leave our comfort zone. But once we overcome that initial inertia, we can use the psychology in our favour. If you break a habit, doing the opposite of whatever that habit was itself becomes a habit, a part of your identity and a part of your behavioural comfort zone. So for me, just like being up early so I can write is now part of who I am, so is being clean and sober.

Posted in Addiction, Recovery, Skepticism | 4 Comments

Being a single parent isn’t easy, but I’m doing my best.

Here’s a shout-out to all the single parents out there… I don’t think everybody realizes quite how difficult it can be to work a full time job and also be a parent. I only have one child and it isn’t easy. But it is rewarding.

In December it will be two years since I got Josh back, and while we have our difficulties, on the whole life is good. He’s an affectionate child, more so than I ever was, and he wants lots of hugs and always tells me he loves me, and that he loves me more than anyone else. I’ve had to adjust to the hugs and cuddling, because I’m not that kind of person… I never told my parents that I loved them… never. (I did love them. Didn’t need to say it or hear it though.) I also don’t touch people and don’t like to be touched, but I think I’m doing OK now…

He is also a difficult child. I suspect that there are some fears of abandonment there underlying his need for validation, and those fears also present themselves in other peculiar ways. For example, reprimanding him when he has done something wrong can have the opposite result to intended – he’ll clam up and sit or stand in one place and refuse to move or do anything. He’ll decide out of the blue that he isn’t speaking to somebody, and will then not say a word but ignore them for hours or even days. He’s also stubborn just like his mother, and just like her, if he asks for something and I say, “No”, he will keep on asking, over and over, for several hours.

It’s also difficult to help him with his homework at the end of a week day when I’m tired, but since he often refuses to do his homework with my mother (despite my and his teacher’s efforts to have him do otherwise), I have no choice. I also have issues with the way his grade 3 teacher teaches him… He often does not understand how to solve his maths problems, and it shouldn’t be my job to teach him. Last week he had to pluralize some words in English, and he had no idea that there’s a rule for pluralizing words that end in “y”. For example, berry, cherry, ferry; all get pluralized with “ies”. My way to teach this would be to teach the rule, then you don’t have to remember all the words, only words that are exceptions to the rule. Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to spend an awful lot of time teaching him stuff that hasn’t been taught properly the first time.

But all in all, things are good, and despite the difficulties, I am loving being a parent to my son.

One thing that annoys me whenever mother’s day or father’s day comes around, is the way people are quick to acknowledge single fathers on mother’s day, and single mothers on father’s day. I don’t consider myself to be both a mother and father, or perceive gender-specific roles for mother and father, but think we should all do the best that we can. In any case, though single parenting is more difficult, I suspect that it is worse for a woman in the sense that women are judged more harshly by others. (Why?) There is no stigma attached to being a single father, but there can be for a single mother.

So when mother’s day rolls around, besides being a time for me to acknowledge my own mother, I like to reiterate to Josh that his mother does love him. (She does. And also we call her every night so she can say goodnight and he can speak to his sister.) The situation is not as simple as it seems… After Josh was removed from us because of our addiction, we tried for years to do the right thing and get him back. But he was fostered by members of my extended family, who judged her more harshly than me. Some of that bias in my favour and prejudice against her even crept into the court, and besides her eventually giving up on Josh and I, at some point she realized that if she stayed, there was a possibility that we would never get him back. Whereas I alone could get him back, and I did. Mother’s day is also a day to remind him that his mother is a person of colour, and though he doesn’t feel that he is, thanks to inheriting my pale skin, it is something that’s important. He has a heritage and another whole family that he doesn’t know. I hope that he gets to appreciate that more as he gets older, and also, I hope that one day he grows to understand that Megan did not abandon him… She left so that I could get him (as well as for other reasons – she’s no saint) because together, my family would never have let us get him back.

Edit: Just got a weird call because her family told her I “wrote about her on Facebook”… For the record, and I thought it was clear, I’ve stated above that Megan does love our son and she did not abandon him (and I hope one day he can understand that fully – but he’s still too young to “get” the raw deal his mother got), and that one of the reasons she left was because she realized that together, we would not get him back due to the reunification process being unfair. It wasn’t as simple as that, because in the end, I had a better history of maintaining a relationship with our son. So she attended at court when the decision to end foster care was made, and agreed that our son could go to me. It broke my heart after all the years of trying to get him back and not being able to do so together, but I had to respect the decision of the court, as well as appreciate her difficult decision to have him return to me. This isn’t ideal. It isn’t what I wanted. I still remember the day when she gave birth to him, and our time together when he was a baby before it all fell apart. She is not a bad mother, and I miss her, but I have to make the best of the situation as it is now.

Posted in Family, Parenting, Recovery | 3 Comments

Gap of the gods

I don’t have anything to write, other than my swapping the words around in the title, which I couldn’t resist…  just wanted to share the excellent image I saw on this article

I love this because it’s a great parody of those arguments from personal incredulity/complexity, AKA god of the gaps. The image speaks for itself, so I don’t need to write anything further here.

creationist_wheel_of_misfortune

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The direct effects of meth on my life in the last few years I used…

One month until I’m another year clean, and in this time I remember some of the bad things that happened to me. I’m going to chicken out of writing about the really bad shit from before (the end of) 2009 when I first cleaned up, and instead write about the less bad shit from after my relapse.

I’d made it to six months clean when my girlfriend joined me, each of us having spent three months in rehab. I didn’t listen to the people who ran the rehab and insisted that she needed long term rehabilitation, and figured three months was enough. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for her to start asking me to get some meth so that we could use just one more time.

So I made it to nine months clean before giving in. I’m not blaming her – we did it together. We used for one week and then stopped. And then, after all sorts of judgement and threats from my family (and lots of stuff I’m leaving out), we continued using. Our son had been returned to us and then removed officially this time, and at the time, my logic went something like, “If you’re going to treat me like I’m using, I might as well use.”

And so everything fell apart. She started cheating on me and then left me, and I couldn’t stop using. I felt abandoned, not only by her, and humiliated, and the only way I could feel good was to use meth. I quit my job even though it was a permanent one, because I didn’t trust my employers. They’d employed me to develop in c#, but to “work in Delphi for the time being”, and after nine months of “the time being” I was sick of it. In retrospect, this was a mistake. (Clarification: “I quit my job” means I found a new one, signed the contract, and then gave thirty days notice. I wasn’t stupid enough to walk out of a job without getting a new one first. It was a mistake because I left a permanent position for a contract one.)

I went into a new job, but was using meth again. It was a three month contract, and should have been renewed, but I messed that up, in three different ways… I confided in another developer that I was using meth again, and he told the manager. That somehow didn’t lose me the job. They were working in ABSA Towers (part of a major bank) in the Johannesburg CBD, and the software was all about risk assessment. They were very happy with my work there, but I did mention the other two ways I screwed that up… They had a strict policy that nobody who had calls from creditors could work for them, and one Thursday, she came back to me… We used together that night, and I went to work the next  morning…

Before I left for work, she had the forethought to swap the SIM card in my phone, and remove the bank card from my wallet. (She knew my PIN number.) While I was at work, she went to the ATM, drew out R2000, left my bank card and a note saying sorry on the table, then packed her things and left. (Since there was a different SIM in my phone, I didn’t receive the notification of funds being withdrawn from my account.) I was devastated, and at work on the Monday after that I blurted out the whole story over the phone, and then received a call from a creditor because a debit order had bounced. So my boss told me that very day that they would not be renewing my contract.

Things only got worse from there. She came and went multiple times after that, leaving me unexpectedly while I was at work several times. I used more and more meth, as ironically even though it was the cause of my woes, it was also the only way I could feel good at the time. But I started hearing voices… especially hers when she wasn’t there… telling me she loved me and was sorry, crying and pleading for help, whispering in my ear when I was in a room full of people, and would end up jumping in fright.

Plus of course, meth made me an asshole.

In about April 2011, I started working for a company called Lazercom, a company that did large scale print jobs for advertising. I knew in the interview that I shouldn’t take the job, but took it anyway out of desperation. There was c# work, but also I was expected to learn a scripting language which they used for the bulk of their projects. They were short staffed, and ruled by the hand of an autocratic, arrogant, rude, opinionated bully of a company director, who would force people to work overtime in what was effectively a sweat-shop.

He hated me and I hated him. His name was Mario and he was Portuguese. So I started referring to him behind his back as Luigi (you know, the other Mario brother) and generally I was an asshole. Since he couldn’t stand me but loved his country, I made a point of wearing a Portugal world cup soccer T-shirt as often as possible too. The voices in my head began to get worse, and I spent more and more time in my head trying to determine what was real and what was hallucination.

Then I broke my one and only rule in my years of addiction: Don’t use at work. That didn’t work out so well for me… I’d  make excuses that I had to go to the bank at lunch time, then go to a dealer, come back and use meth in the toilet… walking there every few minutes to take a hit. I became erratic, more than my normal sarcastic, and my unhappiness there turned to hatred.

They weren’t happy with my performance, and though I hated the job, instead of doing the sensible thing and looking for something else, I continued working there, while I became more and more unstable. I did get my work done (the c# work) although it was buggy and I probably had more rework than usual. But it was my non progress in the other language that pissed off the director… because I made no effort to learn it.

So he arranged a performance hearing. I knew I would beat it for two reasons:

  1. I was expected to have made progress in a language that I was unfamiliar with and had received no training from them. So they had no leg to stand on really.
  2. He was unhappy with the amount of time I spent on the internet. But I didn’t believe that was relevant.

So to prepare for the performance hearing, I downloaded a “web spider” called Teleport Pro. It’s one of those applications that downloads web pages (and entire web sites) so that they can be browsed offline, and can be configured to follow up to a specified level of links. Usually, one would sensibly set it to stop after following three links or so, but I set the limit really high (or unlimited – I don’t remember), and scheduled it to download nothing but crap (I can’t remember what) while I was in the performance meeting. That way it would download the first site after following all links on an article, but also download many other tangentially related sites. (For example, follow the source link at the bottom of an article, which generally leads to another clickbait site, with tons of more vacuous article crap.) They could look at the logs, but all they’d find would be clickbait crap, nothing offensive or illegal. In the hearing, when he brought up my internet usage and time wasted on the internet, my sarcastic reply was, “So what? I’m on the internet right now, while sitting in this meeting room with you.” After the hearing, I simply stopped it and deleted everything it had downloaded.

So while being an asshole, I beat the performance hearing, by bringing up both the lack of training and the internet usage not being any indicator of what I did with my time.

Of course it didn’t end there. I’d spent much time writing on my old blog. In one post, I mentioned Edcon, the name of one of their customers. In another, I wrote jokingly about a bug in one of my programs caused by runaway parallel threads. It was badly phrased, and they took it out of context as a threat against the company. (My writing may have been entertaining then, but it wasn’t any good. I’d start an idea, or have an entire post in my head much as I do now, but then when writing it, I’d lose track of which parts of the plan in my head had been written and which had not – because I never do write it all, and leave subjects started but not finished, or worse yet, write the paragraphs that complete the points made in previous paragraphs that I hadn’t written. So the words didn’t flow.)

Anyway, that resulted in disciplinary hearings, where they insisted I’d made threats against the company and was a danger to them. (I hadn’t and they knew that. It was just an excuse to allow following the proper process to remove me. But because they were dishonest about it, that made me angry. And on meth, I was not a nice person when I was angry.) That dragged out for three months. Three months of sitting at home getting high and earing a salary for it. I did lose the job, of course, and they were even kind enough to offer to send me to rehab and pay for it (via the company medical aid). And I turned that down.

Meth made me a fucking jerk. In retrospect, I could have taken that offer and may have  saved myself another two years of using meth. There’s a lot I did wrong there, and even after that, because they had forced me to resign but also demanded that I take the blog down, I continued writing about them. Except then, I called them, “the company with the name that sounds like Loser-Com”.

Oddly enough, after that my meth use was an anti climax. I used less, didn’t break my rule of not using at work, and by 2013, I was using and also sleeping every night, and the voices in my head faded a month or two before I cleaned up for good in September 2013. But in 2011, I was an asshole of note. I wish I could go back and change that. I could have proven myself to be an asset to that company. I’m so much better than that. I could have, single-handedly, written a program that consolidated all their messed up printing projects that really did use the wrong tool for the job, and made their work easier. I have found through the years that overcoming personality conflicts and improving the relationship with a difficult person like that company director, can be one of the most rewarding experiences to have. It involves growing emotionally and maybe intellectually, but I just didn’t see reality at the time.

So many things… I could have done better. Oh well, next month I’ll try to write something nice when I hit four years clean.

Posted in Addiction, Methamphetamine, Recovery | Tagged | 1 Comment

When you argue that criticism of your religion is unfair because other religions also oppress women, you’re probably wrong.

So yesterday I saw this meme shared yet again…

CoveredWomen

I’m writing this because I am tired of seeing this stupid meme, and equally tired of the usual rebuttals to it. Mine is simple.

I’m not interested in this being a false equivalency because nuns choose a life devoted to their god while Muslim girls are often forced to cover themselves from an early age. I don’t care about that because of the one thing this meme gets right: Religions in general do oppress women. They do in general require women to cover themselves.

So what this meme is really saying is that criticism of one particular religion is unfair because other religions also oppress women. Thus it doesn’t make the point it intends making.

Why should women be covered? Why are women who have freedom considered impure in some religions? Why do religions so often have rules about what women (especially) can or can’t do with their bodies? Why are women who are the victims of rape blamed for the transgressions of the men who rape them?

The answers to all of those questions are that the religions responsible were invented by men. Their male gods are like the patriarchal men who invented them, men thousands of years ago who had many wives as well as sex slaves, in a time when women were mere property, and rape was not a crime against a woman, but a property crime against a man.

There is nothing valid in the arguments for women to cover themselves, and any rational thinking person should not even consider debating that. Some subjects are simply not up for debate.

At the end of the day, if you argument is that you’re less wrong because other people are also wrong, you’re still fucking wrong.

To be fair, I do believe that arguments against Muslim people, rather than arguments against Islam, are wrong. You can disrespect the religion(s) while respecting the people who practice those religions. But those religions themselves are wrong. All of them.

Posted in Skepticism | Tagged , | 1 Comment