“But what about books?” I hear you ask. After all it does say at the top of this blog “A lifetime of music, books, addiction and recovery”. So where are the books?
Well they’re here, on my desk and on my bookshelves and, most of all, on my Kobo, my e-reader. I read addictively, which is to say I start another book as soon as I have finished the one I am reading and I always want more books, even though I have far more than I could read if I live to be a hundred.
At the moment I’m reading The Restless Generation by Pete Frame, about the birth of rock music in Britain in the 1950s. It’s fascinating, and Frame goes into great detail about the trad jazz movement, the birth of skiffle and its eventual mutation into rock-and-roll. Being quite old I remember a lot of the performers and songs – Mary Wilde, Billy Fury, Skeeter Davis and many others. Pete Frame, if you don’t already know his work, is the originator of the Rock Family Tree Continue reading →
I have been playing guitar for fifty-two years and I have always been a rhythm guitarist. Lying in bed this morning I started thinking about why that is.
Well, for one thing I’m not a good enough lead guitarist to play lead. But it’s not that; I love playing rhythm.
I started playing guitar because I was excited by the music I was hearing, on the radio (occasionally), on TV (even more occasionally) and on record. When I think back to the records that made an impression, a big part of their effect was due to the rhythm – Bo Diddley, The Kinks, The Beatles – and I wanted to be able to play those rhythms.
So, when I was fourteen, my parents bought me a guitar for Christmas, a small, steel string acoustic. Of course I didn’t know how to play it or tune it or even that you could get different notes by using the fingers of your left hand (I’m right-handed) to make chords. I didn’t even know what chords were. I moved my thumb across the strings and got six out-of-tune sounds. “Is that it?” I thought. “Is that all it can do?” I was very disappointed. Continue reading →
I was musing in my living room earlier, sitting back in my Ikea frötal chair (I don’t know if there is such a chair, I just made it up, although this is an Ikea chair), thinking about all the data I have online, at Dropbox and Onedrive and Google and Youtube and here on WordPress.com and I don’t remember where else and I suddenly thought to myself, ‘How heavy is it? I mean, if I piled it up on top of a set of scales, what would it weigh?’
I know, it’s data, and that data is digital and doesn’t weigh anything. But can something exist and not weigh anything? What if I double it? What if I keep doubling it? You know, like the story about the man who was asked what he wanted as a reward and said he would like one grain of rice to be placed on the first square of a chessboard (nearly typed cheeseboard then but that would be ridiculous!), and then to have it doubled on the second square and so on, doubling on each square until it came to the last, the sixty-fourth. He said he wanted the number of grains that were on that last square. It turned out there would be more grains of rice on the sixty-fourth square than there are atoms in the universe – I think, I haven’t actually counted how many atoms there are in the universe but I’m sure there are lots.
So if I double my data sixty four times what happens then? Would there be too much to fit in the observable universe? Or would it not make any difference, still weighing nothing?
Just a thought. Any answers much appreciated or I’ll probably spend days worrying about it.
There are some songs that, when I hear them, take me back to the first time I heard them. All of them except one are from the 60s and the other is from the 50s. In fact when I look through my (growing) list of favourite songs, about 70 or 80 at the moment, some are from the 50s but the majority are from the 60s, quite a few are from the 70s and early 80s, and very few after that. That could mean:
the songs were better then and they’ve been going downhill ever since
I’m getting older and my palate is becoming more jaded
I’m getting older and don’t listen to as much music as I used to
I’m getting older and my hearing is gradually getting worse
All of the above
I could have chosen 20, or 50, but I thought that 10 was a reasonable number to start with. Anyway, here they are. I’ve added the intro for each song so you can have a listen and see what you think. They may not all be great songs (some of them are), but they all bring back memories.
Let me know if you agree, disagree or have any other thoughts on the songs I’ve chosen and my reasons for choosing them.
1. God Only Knows by The Beach Boys (1966)
I don’t know what to say about this song – Two minutes fifty-five seconds of perfection?The greatest pop song ever written? Whatever you say, I can remember hearing this, probably on Radio Caroline, in the summer of 1966, walking round in the sun on Morecambe fairground behind the Winter Gardens, seventeen years old and touched by bliss. It still touches me deeply when I hear it but, of course, never in the way it did then.
I thought I would cover this in one post but I realise that I’ve quite a bit to say about ‘Why Me’. So I’ll be writing more over the next few days.
I sometimes think about the question “Why me?” Why did I recover from my addictions and others didn’t? I’ve seen enough people die along the way, people who seemed to struggle with addiction as much as I had, and had gone through worse experiences than me; who had gone to 12 step meetings, dropped out, come back, gone into treatment (something I never did), taken overdoses, walked into Morecambe Bay and drowned, or were just found dead in bed.
So what was it about me? What did I do that made me different? The answer? I don’t really know. Honestly. That’s not some sort of false modesty or attempt to be enigmatic. I genuinely don’t know.
I can look at how it happened and make a stab to some answers, at what I believe led to my recovery. Continue reading →
One thing I remember from my time in AA is the phrase “A bridge to normal living”. As to how far my life is ‘normal’ is not for me to judge. I certainly do lots of normal things like washing up, cooking, cleaning, shopping and providing a taxi service for my 16-year-old daughter (she’ll be 17 on Monday and at the moment has some school friends round for pizzas and drinks and Denise’s brother sent a bottle of champagne for them to drink to their successes at GCSE and the start of sixth form – for me it will be coke).
For pleasure I read (voraciously), play my guitar (not as much as I should), write this blog and spend time with my family.
That’s me with the bald head. We were at Superspirit Camp which I’ll write about at some point
Addiction doesn’t take up a huge amount of my time today, except when I’m thinking and writing about it for this blog.
So these other things are, in a sense, my recovery. I didn’t recover to spend my time thinking about alcohol and other drugs; I spent enough time doing that when I was using.
No, today I’m on that ‘bridge to normal living’, not that I believe I’ll ever get to the other side. But I’ll tell you something, the view from here is pretty good.
I need to make clear at the start that I am not a member of any 12 step fellowship. I did get my recovery through AA and NA and went to meetings, on and off for about 5 years before I got into recovery, and then two or three times a week after that. I haven’t been to a meeting for, it must be, 15 years, so that will be around the time this story starts.
I wanted to clear that up because I don’t want anyone to think I am breaking my anonymity (a very important 12 step principle).
So, on with the story.
My job as a drug and alcohol trainer
In the late 90s I started work as a drug and alcohol trainer with a local NHS Trust. One of the reasons I got the job was because of my experience of addiction and recovery. On my first day I met with my manager. She said that, as this was a new post, I needed to visit local drug and alcohol agencies to get some idea of what training was needed and how I could be of use.
So I did, and it was an interesting experience!
I’ve always been pretty open about my addiction and recovery so I had no hesitation about telling various drug and alcohol workers and managers that my recovery was due to 12 step fellowships.
The response was striking. As soon as I mentioned 12 step I could almost see them looking around in panic for cloves of garlic and wooden stakes! Here was this brainwashed religious fanatic coming in to poison their minds, and those of their clients. Continue reading →
Since writing my previous posts about how I believe my addictions are linked to my personal traits and foibles (great word foibles, worthy of Miranda Hart), I’ve been thinking more about how I am and how I was and how this influenced my drinking and drug use.
The character trait I’ve been thinking about most is greed, what Merriam-Webster defines as ‘a selfish desire to have more of something (especially money)’. Money was never a big one with me, except in so far as I needed money to get what I wanted (needed?) But I was always greedy, at least from as far back as I can remember – greedy for toys, for sweets, for anything that gave me pleasure. And I’m still that way. I have an e-reader and I’m forever looking for new books to read, even though I’ve got more than I can read in a lifetime. The same with music, or podcasts. What I want is all of it, all the music, the books, the podcasts the ……. Well, you get the drift.
So I was thinking about how greed and my addictions fitted together and I see that, in my addictions, I was always greedy. I can remember spending evenings at a friend’s house where we would sit around sharing a joint. Where other people would be satisfied with a few smokes I wanted more. The same with alcohol; I was a greedy drinker, trying to suck as much Carlsberg Special or vodka or whatever I could get hold of down my throat, at least until the shakes and the terrors eased off. But I suspect that addicts generally are greedy, although I can only speak for myself.
It was as though I could never get enough, even though I would usually fall into a drunken stupor. Then when I came round I’d be off again, looking for more, more, more. Continue reading →
Even though addiction was officially classified as a disease by the American Medical Association in 1987 there is still a debate today about whether this classification is correct. Opponents of the disease model of addiction claim that addiction cannot be a disease because it is brought about because of choices that the addict makes. If they did not make the choice to abuse substances than addiction would not have occurred. They believe that to declare addiction a disease is to make excuses for addicts where excuses should not be made. Yet many of these arguments seem to be driven by emotions and anger towards the addict that you don’t really see with other diseases.
For instance, if someone ate poorly for years and developed heart disease because of this I would find it very hard to believe that there would be arguments that their heart disease isn’t a…