The problem of evil

No time to write now, but I saw this cartoon and I love how it is so much deeper than it may appear.

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Nope, we don’t all need a god.

And nobody has one. Show me your god… have him drop by and say “Hello”.

Yesterday a friend of a friend shared some ignorant comments about atheism by my fellow countryman, Trevor Noah. Well, I guess he fits right in, in America… Unfortunately I can’t find those images this morning, although I see some of them were shared over here

This sucks, because I was going to write something completely different. I was going to write about tolerance, and some criticism of my own approach to criticizing theism. Little did I know that my mind would become preoccupied with the intolerance of someone on the other side of my lack of belief.

So here’s the abridged version of my self critique… I unfortunately tend towards dogmatically rejecting all religious and spiritual (God, I hate that word – and no, the irony is intentional) approaches to recovery. It didn’t occur to me until yesterday that my approach to recovery, that is it all being about taking personal responsibility…might work just as well for religious folks as it does for me. You can believe in god and still do recovery as I do. You can believe in god and still be skeptical about an approach to recovery that isn’t evidence based. And you can “thank god” without literally giving credit to a deity, but rather as an acknowledgement of your faith. And maybe sometimes I can get over enthusiastic in my mockery, to the extent that I alienate someone who might get a helpful hint from my approach. Anyway, I’m afraid I find it difficult to tone down the anti-theism. (Aaaand that’s as close to an apology I can get.)

Anyway, on Noah’s idea that we all need a god. Um, no. I don’t think the problem here is ignorance, not really. The problem is bias. If you believe in god, and you hold that belief as important – after all you believe that god is the only thing stopping your immortal soul (which doesn’t exist, by the way) from suffering for all eternity, then you will think everybody needs a god. As with all these arguments, you start with the assumption that your god exists.

The truth is, nobody has a god. What you have is faith. That’s a belief in god despite never having seen god, heard god, or felt god. If you think you feel god in your heart, that’s the result of wishful thinking and years of indoctrination. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It might be good for you. It might be what you need. But it isn’t that you have god. What you have is a belief in god, and no more.

I think many people make the mistake of erroneously attributing meaning in their lives to their god. I can understand how this might happen… Your belief is sincere, and you believe that you have a genuine relationship with your god. You also mistakenly think that morals come from your god. However, other people believe just as sincerely that other gods give their lives meaning. It is clear, if you can think about this objectively, that the meaning is emotional, a feeling that you (and others) have. There is no real meaning coming from your god – it’s just a belief. Without the belief in that god, there is no void left to fill. We make our own meaning, or we see no meaning at all. But assuming that others need this intangible meaning that you think you have, just because you feel that way, doesn’t make sense.

So let’s try to be more tolerant of each other’s views. Most people I know are religious, and I don’t mock them, although I do make fun of what they believe in. And they are free to debate me or mock what they think I believe in. (Almost without exception, theists do not understand atheism. Even my mother is not quite there yet.) But let’s not impose our beliefs on anyone else. We can all believe what we believe, and debate others with whom we disagree… But don’t tell anyone else what they need, for goodness sake… You might just be projecting and that’s dumb.

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I watched Justice League twice and loved it both times

This is not a review but rather my opinion of the state of super hero movies in general…

My son is with his cousins at my brother’s place this weekend, and after taking him to watch Justice league last week, I decided to watch it again, so yesterday I took my mother to watch it. We both enjoyed it.

And yet I’ve heard that there are bad reviews out there, criticizing it for bad editing of all things. For the record, there are no major plot holes, at least nothing that jumps out at you. There is also no lack of continuity between the DC movies, and nothing jumps out as being complete nonsense. My only slight criticism could be that Wonderwoman knows who Steppenwolf is, despite starting out believing that she was crafted from clay in her own movie. It’s implied that she learned this from the Amazons, and that doesn’t exactly fit with the way she was when she left their island. Still, she had a hundred years and maybe she learned some shit in between…

If we compare the DC movies to the Marvel ones… The foundation of the Marvel heroes is Iron Man. And let’s face it – there was one good Iron Man movie: the first one. The second one was stupid, what with hundreds of Iron Man suits flying around and looking fake as porn orgasms. As for the third Iron Man movie – let’s just forget that existed at all. Captain America Civil War… had characters acting out of character to further the plot. Spider-man Homecoming… had a watered down Spider-Man with no spider-sense and a stupid costume that did everything for him, in some ways redefining the laws of physics to do so. Even my son called it Iron-Spider-man. That movie sucked. All in all, the Marvel movies have been a mixed bag of some movies that were alright, and some that were really bad. And yet they all received good reviews.

There’s a bias in the media… People diss DC like they diss Microsoft while writing their negative reviews in Microsoft Word.

And if I think back about the older movies… The Superman movies with Christopher Reeve are the yardstick for all superhero movies… There were two good Superman movies… And even then, the second one featured some strange mistakes that wouldn’t be tolerated nowadays. It starts with the villains Zod and friends being resentenced to imprisonment in the Phantom Zone, by technology that no longer exists from a planet that is gone. Presumably it was supposed to repeat how they got there for anyone who missed the first movie, but without Marlon Brando’s Jorel. In retrospect it made no sense. Then after they were freed, the flew through space, chatting despite there being no atmosphere, and commenting that their powers seemed to be coming from “that blue planet over there”. Firstly that’s not how the Kryptonian mythos works, and secondly they would have known about Earth and their powers from a yellow sun. I’m not going to get in to Superman 3 and I’ll pretend that Superman 4 was never made…

The point is, Justice League is a good movie, and the DC movie universe makes a lot more sense to me than the Marvel movie universe. Batman versus Superman was a bit too dark, but they didn’t make the same mistake again, and all in all, the DC movies are better than the Marvel ones for this comic book movie fan…

There’s also good chemistry between the characters in the movie, and I must comment that Ezra Miller’s Flash is so much better than that annoying whining guy who wears the costume in the TV series. So if you haven’t watched Justice League yet, check it out. But don’t pay any attention to the biased reviews with their anti-DC agenda.

Posted in Movies | 2 Comments

Truth, lies, and double standards

When is a lie acceptable and when is it not?

This past Saturday, I took my son Josh to a child’s birthday party. There, I mentioned to a woman, who used to be his foster mother, that I was taking him to see Justice League on Sunday, but I was worried about the age restriction. He’s nine years old until next April and the age restriction is 10. (As it happened, they didn’t check so my worry was for nothing.) “Just lie”, she said.

Here’s the thing… Around the end of 2010, when I was nine months clean for the first time, just a day before we were supposed to get Josh back, my ex ran away back to Cape Town and used meth. I fell apart emotionally. We didn’t get him back, and having realized that she had used and regretted it, I convinced her over the phone to stop, stay clean for a week and then return to Johannesburg at my expense, where she would test negative for a drug test.

They realized that I’d lied, and so his foster mother, her husband at the time (my brother) and a rehab counselor, sat me down and gave me a long lecture about lies. All lies are wrong, and it was unacceptable that I lied, at all. It wasn’t even so much about what I’d lied about – it was that I’d lied at all, and they made it a big deal. Nobody other than myself saw the irony, that this story of all lies being unacceptable was itself a lie. We didn’t get Josh back, and then I did relapse too, and used meth for nearly another three years.

So hearing her encourage me to lie on Saturday felt a little strange. I’m not complaining. It means she trusts me nowadays. But still, she doesn’t seem to be aware of the double standard. In retrospect, my behaviour back then was to be expected. I lied in defense, an act of self preservation. I was on the verge of suicide, having had my girlfriend run away and after looking forward and planning to get my son back for months, being told that couldn’t happen. Suddenly I couldn’t get him back and they did not see that this was more traumatic than Megan running away herself. I was punished for it, not only for lying but for being human, for reacting the way I reacted even though it was totally normal. They contacted Child Welfare and what had been a private arrangement became formalized foster care, which took years to be removed.

There are other times when lies confuse me… Twice recently, I have been accused of lying by someone at work, in front of the whole office, when I was telling the truth. That was insulting and hurtful. I have to assume that it was about the way that I said what I said, and give the person the benefit of the doubt rather than consider alternative explanations for why he might have thought I was lying.

I haven’t lied about anything for years, but of course when I think about it, there are situations when I would be comfortable telling lies. Imagine an employer who has no respect for boundaries, who believes that just because he is entitled to intrude on you at work (which he is), that he is equally entitled to intrude on you at home in your personal time, and imagine that this employer asked you prying questions about what you do with that personal time. (It doesn’t happen where I work and this is only an example.) In that case, I would lie and feel that it was not only acceptable but also the best course of action. Telling a story then would certainly be better than saying , “It’s personal” or “none of your business”.

But did you see what I did there? I justified why it is acceptable for me to lie. This is important – we all do that. All of us, without exception. We all lie. Our own lies are acceptable. But when we catch other people lying, it means something. It might mean they are not good people. It might mean they cannot be trusted. But it doesn’t mean that about ourselves.

Lies are about survival and self preservation. An addict’s lies are just the same because they believe their drugs are necessary for their survival. The attachment of drugs to survival is a mistaken one and it shows something going wrong in the mind of the addict, but it is no more an act of deceit than the other examples of lies I have given. It doesn’t make them any less trustworthy than anyone else, when we all lie for the same reasons anyway. But this does leave me confused as to when lies are acceptable and when they are not. So I try to always tell the truth. It’s been working for a few years now, but there have also been times when the truth gets me into trouble. We don’t necessarily want the truth. We want to hear what we’d like to be true, yet we judge those whose lies we dislike, not necessarily because they aren’t true.

Posted in Addiction, Family, Methamphetamine, Recovery, Relationships | Tagged | 3 Comments

I don’t have any answers to explain how I went from somebody who could not imagine life without meth, to someone who can’t imagine ever using again.

Oh, that’s a horrible title. Excuse me but I’m tired – writing this late on a Sunday night. Plus I need to test Open Live Writer on a newly setup computer. Plus I hate that last post of mine being on top of the page…

I had an interesting conversation, at a child’s birthday party of all places, with a man whose brother is an addict. I was trying to explain how much I hate the 12 steps, and how I admit the opposite of step one as admitted by 12 step believers – that I was absolutely not powerless over my addiction but rather that I was in control, choosing to use despite horrendous consequences – which in turn means that I was accountable for all that happened, and that this is a more difficult approach than the 12 steps which is all about not taking responsibility. But I couldn’t get through to him. Actually I never did get around to the 12 steps being about not taking responsibility, because I hardly got a word in after saying that I wasn’t powerless.

According to him, I was not choosing to use, but making excuses not to stop. That isn’t a purely semantic difference… making many little choices to continue using and to get drugs, is the way I see it was. You don’t get to make a plan to have money, drive to places, organize drugs and meth pipes, find an opportunity to use and be able to explain your whereabouts, and so on, in autopilot. Those are active choices, not passive ones. But somehow I can’t find the words verbally as easily as I do when writing about it, and that annoys me. Also the guy wouldn’t fuckin’ shut up and let me speak.

Then, as if I wasn’t annoyed enough, he remarked something as my son walked past… He asked if I can honestly say that I chose using meth over my beautiful son. I don’t think he meant to be condescending but it sure came across that way. I didn’t bother to continue the debate because I could see that he already made up his mind. To him, I had been powerless, because no one would choose drugs over their child whom they loved, and then eventually I had found a way to stay clean, for myself. That’s the key, and it’s one I’ve heard before. Anyway, even if I wanted to, I found I did not have the words to verbally rebuke his argument. But I have them when it comes to writing…

  1. I did not choose drugs over my son. More on this later but if any such choice existed, it was imposed on me. To think it was one or the other is a false dichotomy.
  2. I didn’t choose sobriety for myself. If it was for me, I’d still be high on meth, because that’s what I liked for me. I chose to be clean for others, and then realized days later that I liked being clean, liked not being confused, and so on. But it wasn’t for me at the start.

To expand on my first point, I never saw a choice between my son and drugs. That was imposed on me. I wanted both, and I know of people who did not have their children removed, who have raised their children well enough. I know of others who brought up more addicts too though. So it probably wasn’t wise, but the point is I saw no such choice when I used meth.

Meth may be a bad example because it really does take over your whole life and leave you incapable of doing anything properly, but I do now feel that to a certain degree, the consequences of using drugs is often more about consequences imposed on addicts than about the effects of the drugs themselves. Because addiction is criminalized and the stigma attached to it, some of those consequences are unfair.

But getting back to the point of my title… I then changed the direction of the conversation to something more positive. I know how and when I stopped using drugs. But I do not know how I went from that person who couldn’t imagine a life without meth, to someone who could not imagine ever using again. I can’t emphasize this enough – it’s not just that I am not interested in using any more… It feels like I was never an addict. And I can’t explain how I went from there to here. I wish I could. It’s like a switch was flicked in my brain. It’s a good thing, but unfortunately I have no formula to give anyone else. I don’t know why my recovery has been so successful. What I do know though, is that what works for one does not work for everyone, and it annoys me when people expect that “It only works if you quit for yourself” bullshit to apply to me. I don’t know what worked, but that wasn’t it.

Posted in Addiction, Methamphetamine, Parenting, Recovery, Relationships, Skepticism | 4 Comments

I once touched a girl inappropriately.

I read that the best way men can use the #metoo hash tag is to tell the stories of abuse; expose it and own it, so here goes mine…

I was twelve years old, in standard five (now called grade seven) in Miss Godsiff’s class at John Graham Primary School, in Plumstead, Cape Town. I was a shy boy who just wanted to be left alone, shy especially of girls. Two girls who sat behind me in class, [Redacted] and her friend, always used to tease me by breaking off bits of pencil eraser and throwing it at the back of my head. I hated that, hated being teased. (I’m not mentioning the name of [Redacted]’s friend, because she has the same first name as the other girl, who I touched.)

To reiterate, I was dreadfully shy. I hated going to school, and would stress about it, have bad dreams about being teased by girls. Guys, I could handle, because if a guy teased me, I’d simply hit him. I had not yet found how to use words effectively, so when girls teased me, all I could do was beg for them to stop.

We sat in those small wooden two-seater desks, and on this particular day, another girl decided to tease me. She sat in the seat to my left and proceeded to make fun of me. I don’t even remember what she said, and it couldn’t have been for more than two or three minutes.

So in a moment of anger, I reached over with my left hand. With my hand under the seat, I reached up, my fingertips brushing her dress between her legs. She leapt from her seat! Literally she shot up into the air, and called me a pervert, then went to sit somewhere else and left me alone. She never teased me again, and at that point in time, I was happy because I’d made her uncomfortable just as she had done to me.

But I’ve thought of the incident over and over again, in the years since 1984. How messed up is it, that I thought being uncomfortable from being teased, and being uncomfortable from having a hand shoved towards your vagina, are equivalent? Those two things are not the same, nowhere near the same. For what it’s worth if you read this, I am sorry. I am so sorry, and have been sorry since 1984. I didn’t even quite touch you directly, and my intentions were not as dire as many may be, but the end result was the same.

I was good at athletics back then, and after that, whether I was winning the 100 meter sprint, or completing the school cross country, I’d see her there, cheering me on and calling my name. So stupid… it didn’t occur to me, not even then, that she’d teased me because she liked me.

Ironically, though I’ve lost contact with most of my old school friends and acquaintances, both [Redacted] and the woman whose name I won’t mention, are in my friends list on Facebook. I hope they read this. I don’t expect the apology to be accepted, but I am sorry, and I learned that day that I should never do such a thing again.


Edit: I knew writing anyone’s name was a mistake… I have removed the girl’s name that I shared, since she contacted me and would prefer it not be there, especially since this post has already been shared several times. Apologies for the sloppy editing.

In case there was any misunderstanding, her name (just the first name) was included to make this more personal, and place the incident in context. (As opposed to “One day when I was 12 years old, I was pissed off so I stuck my hand up a girl’s dress”, which really doesn’t cut it for a blog post.) I wasn’t blaming her teasing me for my actions. It was meant to highlight how a troubled child might construe anything as an excuse. It was more about me being anxious and shy than her being annoying. Funny how she didn’t even remember any of it… that habit of her and her friend throwing bits of rubber at the back of my head pissed me off for months. Also, her friend who also sat behind me, didn’t really share the same first name as the girl who was the victim of my temper. It just started with the same letter. (I do sometimes embellish irrelevant details if it helps the story.) There, now there are no embellishments here.

(Why do I remember so many things, so many years later?)

The point of this is to share my wrongdoing, however slight it may seem to some, in the spirit of the #metoo hash tag… to confess to doing my part to the detriment of women, in the hope that other men may be inspired to share their wrongdoings as well. Admittedly it wasn’t much of a wrongdoing, as I was a child. But it’s still something. It’s still touching a girl without her consent, and could have resulted in trauma to her.

Was this post a bad idea? Please feel free to let me know in the comments. This blog is getting a fair amount of traffic now… around two to three hundred views a day, which is a fair amount for me anyway. Old posts receive a large portion of that traffic too, which means I cannot gauge from the page views whether a post is good or not. A couple of years ago I could, but not any more. Without feedback, I don’t really know…

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A year of nothing but problems…

A few years ago I naively expected sobriety to be nothing but a good, normal life without problems. I was wrong. Sometimes life sucks no matter what.

One good thing happened this year: I bought the apartment I’d been renting since 2010. However, I didn’t take the levy into account and am slightly in arrears there. But besides that…

  1. I have a bad credit listing because of a credit card from years ago. To prevent legal action, I have to pay 10%, which is over R6000 a month, an impossibility considering my other expenses. I did make arrangements to pay 5% for three months though.
  2. There have been issues at work.
  3. I’ve had endless problems with my car. It cost me a fortune, and although I got most of it fixed, I now have a battery that goes flat if I leave it connected when the car is not running (so I’m disconnecting it every day) and no handbrake. The handbrake mechanism on my car consists of the handle and brackets in one piece… At least it used to be one piece. Mine has broken off at the base.
  4. Issues with my son at school… His teacher is in her first year, and I’m convinced she just isn’t very good at her job. He frequently comes home not understanding a homework task, and then comes back days later still not understanding it, even after getting her to explain it again.
  5. The teacher has been pushing for me to send hi m to OT (occupational therapy), but that isn’t so simple. I can’t afford it and she doesn’t want to understand that. And even if it were free, that would create issues with the lift service that takes him to and from school. The guy just leaves him there if he’s late.
  6. There have been issues between my mother and my son. Firstly I resent her being there. Secondly she cannot control him. Thirdly she is rude, complains and is annoying all the time. Nothing but shouting, moaning and groaning, and he answers back. The other day he got destructive and turned one her many potted plants (in my small apartment) over. While his behaviour might seem unacceptable, I don’t blame him. An adult that argues with him at his level, and is unpleasant the rest of the time, is not doing anybody any good.
  7. My mother’s health has been problematic. She’s going to two different hospitals quite regularly now, and somehow it is my responsibility alone to get her there. It’s a bit much. I do my best though.

I’ve probably left some stuff out. The point is, everything is a bit of a mess at the moment. A mess that is difficult to fix. Most of the time I’m at work, and I’m under pressure and thus can’t focus on the personal matters (or even the car trouble right now). At least the car is running. It wasn’t for a few months. Whether some of that work pressure (preventing me from attending to personal stuff) is unreasonable or is a result of my own procrastination with solving the personal issues, is something I am uncertain of. So I don’t blame work.

None of my problems are impossible to solve. And when I think about them, they’re not really that bad. But still, having so many problems prevents me from being comfortable. When things are uncertain, I can’t relax. Even my sleep is interrupted by unpleasant dreams.

Up until about a year ago, my catch all phrase was, “At least I’m not on meth any more”. It was my excuse for not losing other bad habits, like smoking cigarettes or eating too much, and a justification to say that at least my problems now are normal and that I am living a normal life. But that line is wearing a little thin…  I no longer identify as an addict, and as a former addict, the junkie problems I used to have are a distant memory.

I’d like to write off this year and have a fresh start, if only that were possible…

Posted in Family, General, Parenting, Recovery, Relationships | 4 Comments