Category Archives: Sober City

Sober City Redux: Day 87

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What is an artist? Who gets to slap that noble age old badge of honor and mystery on their chest and rightfully wear it with pride? Lots of people claim to be artists. Painters, musicians, actors, comedians, writers, singers, dancers, poets, chefs, designers, film makers, architects, woodworkers, photographers, etc, etc. Artistry lives in manual labor and office buildings; in parenting and gardening; in coffee shop lattes and beach front properties. It’s everywhere we look and yet only a small fraction of us would ever consider ourselves actual “artists”. What does it take to justifiably call yourself an artist and own it? I struggle with that question more often than not. Maybe I’m an artist because I struggle with it. The word holds so much weight and power to me. It scares me. It excites me. It fuels me when I truly believe in it and it hurts me when I don’t honor it.  

The other day I picked up my guitar for the first time in a long time and I had to clean dust off of it. Unacceptable. I’m deeply ashamed of and devastated by this and also by the amount of unfinished song ideas on my iPhone. Add to that the fact that I haven’t properly acted in well over 2 years and I have ample reasons to strip the title of artist from my mental biography. These things are scary to artists. Idleness is death to an artist, the shame of the artist. Without creating art the artist isn’t. What’s worse, even when producing and creating, the artist constantly questions his or her self worth and value, often to the point of complete destruction or dismissal of the art itself. Shutting down. Tuning out. Giving up. Sacrilege. This is where I’m at. This is where I’m at 85% of always and yet, this is also why I know I am an artist. 
Every true artist since the beginning of time has questioned their art. I don’t know this because of documented evidence, I know this because I live this. Doubt is part of the process of creating everything. Doubt is important. The artist needs doubt to achieve greatness, to perfect the craft, to constantly evolve and stay honest and true. But doubt is a fickle ally. It’s a false friend. A necessary evil that can easily poison the artist mind and turn the artist against the very art he or she must create, and make no mistake, the artist MUST create. The only choice to be made is whether to share it or not. The artist never stops. Art will creep into the daily life of the most suppressed artist and find a way. Countless people have silenced their art for a plethora of justifiable reasons but art cannot truly be silenced in an artist. It will find a way. It will always find a way.
I find myself in the midst of a rebirth of sorts. A reintroduction to myself, to the self that I lost with my father; to the self that got tarnished by time and trauma; to the self that’s been malnourished and ignored for far too long; to the self that never really left. It’s terrifying and exciting and jarring and absolutely necessary. I am one of many and also entirely unique. We all are. The artist thrives when the artist is alive and being alive is a constant beautiful struggle, a strange dance we all dance in our own way, to our own music, in our own time. I am an artist in recovery, an artist rediscovering but an artist none the less. I am an artist and I must not forget. I am an artist and I fight not to quit. I am an artist crawling back from the dead. I am an artist…and I’m not finished yet. 
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Sober City Redux: Day 20

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And here comes the blog delays!

I started writing this on “Blue Monday” which is apparently the most depressing day of the year according to people who have nothing better to do than figure out which day of the year is suppose to suck the most. Lots of days suck already people! No need to point out which one is the worst according to people who have the time to fill out surveys! Those people are probably out of work and depressed enough as it is. I’m surprised they don’t think everyday is a struggle. Seriously. Who even takes these surveys anyway? Whatever. Maybe they’re right. I’m clearly cranky.

None of this matters though because I’m not here to talk about public opinion, I’m here to talk about me. 20 days into Sober City 2 and already I’m feeling the stagnant pangs of redundancy. Like pretty much every movie ever, the sequel just isn’t as good as the original (except Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather Part 2 of course). The first one was fresh and exciting, exploring uncharted territory with a younger up-and-coming lead who was out to prove something with will power and wit alone. One man’s year long journey into sobriety. Will he make it? Will it change him? Will Wendy finally realize Daniel Stern has been narrating his thoughts the whole time? (Spoiler alert: She never finds out!) The point being, this all made for a relatively exciting blog worthy adventure and now I can’t help but feel like the follow up just doesn’t carry the same weight.

The biggest hurdle I faced doing this last time wasn’t craving alcohol or feeling pressure to drink when I was out with friends, it was boredom. Hands down. I got to the point somewhere around the fall when I had already lost the majority of the weight I wanted to lose and I felt great but I just didn’t really want to keep the experiment going because I was bored with it. The thing that did kept me going was almost entirely the fear of breaking my promise and letting everyone down. I had to see it through to the end to prove to myself that I could do it (even though I already knew I could do it) and I did do it. Good job. Great ending. Bravo Joe MacLeod. The problem I’m facing now is figuring out a way to keep myself excited about doing this for an entire year all over again and to be completely honest with you, I really don’t think I can. I mean I already know I CAN but the question is do I really think I NEED to or do I really even WANT to.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me throwing in the towel. I’m committed to doing this and definitely have no intention of running out and getting drunk anytime soon but I do question my need to abstain completely for an entire year. It just seems like I’m repeating myself. Rehashing the hits for another tour with the same debut album. That being said, I still think staying away from booze completely is the best way to kick start my weight loss and help get me back into shape (both physically and mentally), so I’m definitely sticking with it for a long time to come regardless of all these trepidations. I’m just trying to stay honest with you guys and ultimately with myself. We’ll see where this all ends up together. Blue Monday’s officially over now. Happy Taco Tuesday everybody!
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JM

Sober City Redux: Day 12

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Excuses are the enemy and I’m their number one arms dealer. I excel at creating them out of extremely thin premises and giving them validity and truth for absolutely no positive reason and it’s extremely damaging. Convincing myself to sleep in an extra hour or two because I “need” the rest; Eating all that extra garbage food on Sunday because football is on; Not joining a new gym because I don’t have the money; These are all lame excuses for shitty behavior and I never seem to run out of them. It’s that voice again. That evil demonic asshole voice who does a masterful job of convincing me these terrible lies are true. Soft whispers of doubt. Loud screams of hate. We all have this voice but some of us do a really good job of ignoring it or even silencing it altogether. I used to be one of the lucky ones. I’ve shut him up plenty. He was a tiny speck in my psyche for so long that when he finally grew loud enough for me to hear, I hardly noticed his influence at all. But it was there. It’s a poison. It’s a cancer. It’s the one thing that has the power to derail the greatest of intentions before thought even becomes action and it never takes a day off. It feeds off of fear and insecurity and in turn cultivates more food for its insatiable appetite, swallowing all that is good and producing nothing but despair.

So what’s to be done? How do we expel this infectious swine from its toxic lair of turmoil and rise victorious in the wake of its destruction? We don’t. We can’t. It’s not going anywhere. It’s here to stay because that voice in our head that tells us we’re not good enough or we’re not pretty enough or we’re too fat or too old or not the right color or we love the wrong people or we wear the wrong clothes; that voice is our own voice. Sure it can be strengthened by outside influences and various complicated situations but in the end it’s just our own voice and we have the power to shut it up or give it a megaphone. For me, right now, that evil voice is fronting Metallica with 20 stories of Marshall stacks behind it and the only song it’s playing is “You Suck Joe MacLeod”. Nice. Real nice, you jerk.

I clearly have no answers. I’m just experiencing the same thing everyone experiences when trying to change. The shitty voice is resisting and is beginning to roll out the big guns. It’s not an easy fight and I don’t even know if I’m capable of winning. Making excuses is so much easier and immediately rewarding. Why bother trying to do something when doing nothing is clearly a viable option? Terrible lies from the poisonous voice. I’m still optimistic though, oddly enough, that one day I’ll strengthen that other voice, a new voice. A voice of love and compassion and encouragement but some days, some weeks, some years, that shitty voice is just too loud to ignore and that’s where the real challenge lays. When the negative voice is assuming complete control and shouting really, really loud, I have to find a way to plug in my amp, hook up my mic and start shouting louder. Sounds like a good plan at least. Time to see how many excuses I actually have left.
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JM

Sober City Redux: Day 8

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So the one week mark came and went and during that time a lot of people were asking me how I’d been making out without alcohol. Because of this, I feel the need to clarify something on the record for anyone reading this who may not know me on a personal level. I like to drink. I always have. I like the taste and the culture and the buzz and I have a high tolerance so I tend to drink more than some, but I am not an alcoholic. I didn’t drink everyday, I didn’t drink to get drunk, and I definitely didn’t have a problem giving it up for a week. I realize this may sound like text book denial to some of you and if that’s the case then I guess I’m a lost cause because I just don’t see it like that at all. I do however think it’s fair to say that I indeed have issues with drinking from time to time. The simple fact that I feel the need to cut it out completely instead of just cutting back is a good indication of an underlying problem of some sort, I just truly don’t believe it’s alcoholism. But, regardless of what my situation is or isn’t, the important thing is that I’m doing whatever I can to help create a clean and positive mindset to tackle the bigger issues in my life. My weight is one of them but my poor body image is the bigger one. Getting myself back in shape is one of them but getting my self confidence back is the bigger one. Drinking too much is one of them but getting to the issues behind why I let myself give up on truly living in the first place is the biggest one. All of this together is why I’m here.

Also for what it’s worth, I wanted to take a moment to express how grateful I am for everyone reading this and following me on my journey. Making my personal thoughts and struggles public can be a little scary at times so every comment, “like” and share is deeply appreciated. It might seem a little premature to thank you at the beginning of this but I remember how much knowing my words weren’t simply sinking into a void helped keep me motivated and in check last time so thank you, thank you, thank you! You guys are all part of this now whether you know it or not so let’s take this twisted beast by the horns together and ride it until it there’s nothing left!
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JM

SOBER CITY – Day 365 – The Final Post

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Sober City, January 1st, 2012
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Well kids, don’t let them tell you miracles can’t happen because they are horribly wrong and terrible people for lying to your innocent faces. Clearly miracles DO happen and anything is indeed possible. I’ve come to the end of my year long self imposed sabbatical from alcohol and come out the other end healthier and happier without sipping a drip of the good stuff. What started out as a simple challenge turned into a life altering and incredibly fulfilling journey that has allowed me to rediscover who I am and who I truly want to be. I’m extremely grateful for all your love and support throughout the year and I can’t thank you all enough for providing me with an outlet for my frustrations as well as an audience to continually hold my feet to the fire and keep me true to my word. You guys helped me do this more than you’ll ever know and I thank you from the bottom of my alcohol deprived heart.
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Now truth be told, I haven’t made it yet. I mean I made it by the time you’re reading this but as I’m writing this, I still have 28 hours until the year is officially over. It’s safe to say though, baring a situation where I would find myself trapped in a giant vat of beer where my only means of survival involved a straw and a catheter, I’m going to make it to the bitter end at midnight New Year’s Eve. I figure it best to write this final post now though as opposed to writing it through the headache and regret that most certainly will be dominating my Sunday morning, afternoon and rest of the year. I will however add my final video of the actual moment after the countdown so that everyone can witness the official end of Sober City for themselves and cheer me on or gasp in horror and shame.
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So thank you all for paying attention to my little experiment and helping me accomplish something I’ll be crazy proud of for the rest of my life. My Posterous site will stay up and active if you ever feel the need to relive my madness or show it to a friend but this will officially be the final new post. Follow me on Twitter @joemacleod if you want to know how things are going on a regular basis or at www.wordpress.com/joemacleod where I may or may not keep blogging from time to time (my list of favorite albums of 2011 is the only thing up there at this point).
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The Sober City experiment may be over but the big experiment of life is forever going on and no matter what we do or who we might seem to be, we can always choose a new direction if we don’t like the one we’re heading in. If I can do it, you can do it too. So raise a glass with me if you got one, no matter what may be in it and let’s drink to love, laughter and Lemon Hart rum. Always choose the life you want to live and live out your life one choice at a time. Cheers!