Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Yet a bit MORE about BG...

Johnny Winter first draft
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
No, that's not BG. It's the first "draft" of BG's portrait of the legenday blues guitarist Johnny Winter. It's quite interesting for me to witness the artistic process at work, so I thought I'd sneak this one in before it evolves into its final incarnation. The eyes are already haunting me.

Anyway...what with all my vast blogging expertise (NOT) culled over the incredible expanse of a full six months in the blogosphere (lol), here's some conclusions I've drawn thus far:

There are an incredible number of uber-literate, creative, and talented blog writers doing incredible things.

Blogging and hyperlinking represent an unparalleled shift in culture and communications (duh). In terms of technology, blogs are as revolutionary as the invention of the printing press; as novel a literary genre as--well--the novel was centuries ago; and as signifcant a media development as the invention of television. (Double duh).

Personal blogs allow readers to delve into other's hearts, souls, innermost thoughts, hopes, fondest dreams, and tragedies like no other public medium up until now. In some cases, you can learn more about a complete stranger in cyberspace than their own families, friends, or shrinks could ever hope to--and carry on a conversation with them without ever meeting.

OK, that's all the "duh" stuff. But here's where it gets a little more controversial---maybe:

For men--especially American males--personal blogs offer an outlet for sharing emotions and vulnerabilities that have been, until now, difficult to vent due to societal norms. This is, of course, in additon to everything else men--and women-- blog about.

For women, personal blogs allow them to explore and share their relationships with families and significant others on a global and intensely intimate scale. The whole world can be right there listening at your virtual kitchen table. (Terrible stereotype, but you know what I mean). This is, of course, in additon to everything else men--and women--blog about.

So what's with the pontificating, already? Well, it's all just a convoluted way of warming up to the "confession" that my boyfriend BG figures pretty prominently in this blog of mine--and that this may be, in part, more of a "girl" thing. Not that there's anything wrong with that, right? I'll let you be the judge.

And so it is that in response to one of my recent posts entitled Ah! What Schmirnoff hath wrought!, Timothy of Dragons' wings brought up some points in the comments section that give me a chance to fill in some gaps here about him and our relationship--though this is only the tip of the iceberg. Some things I've talked about in depth in older posts; and doubtless I'll write more about it in later ones. The situation is complicated by the fact that BG and I are both pretty private people, and he isn't always too thrilled about what I divulge here on the web. So there are things that I leave out, though the confessional nature of blogging makes it more and more difficult to hold things back.

In any case, I tried to respond to Timothy in the comments section, but found that my answers were so long and detailed that they seemed more appropriate as a post of their own. So here is my reply to Timothy, rambling and disjointed though it may be. For context, see Timothy's comments. It covers, among other things, AA, religion, spirituality, and (of course) mental illness. And heeere it is.....


Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I do admire the fact that you have been able to remain clean and sober for so long...there are many who cannot, with or without AA. And yes, as you said, a person must have a very strong desire to stop using in order to succeed. Perhaps some people weigh the options and decide that they'd rather continue using.

BG and I have talked extensively about the "spiritual" aspect of AA and a Higher Power. BG was very turned off by what he considered the blatantly religious aspects of AA. Indeed, it is very steeped in Christian dogma, in my opinion, and many of the traditions are based on the culture and norms of a group that started in the (30's?). The world has changed a lot since then, and frankly, I don't think AA has kept up with the times.

As far as prayer and spirituality, I've addressed this subject extensively in an older post, but I'll reiterate a little here.

There is a lot about organized Western religion that doesn't sit well with me, which is why I have considered learning more about Eastern religions and philosphies. We are so used to thinking of God as a grey bearded man in the sky that it becomes hard to think out of the box and perhaps consider that the Higher Power may be much more ephemeral than this--maybe even a creative universal force that isn't made in our human image. Or...something.

BG's mom is a big proponent of prayer. My feeling is that a lot of people use prayer as a smokescreen to make themselves feel virtuous and superior, but in real life they never consider that doing a simple good deed and putting their money where their mouth is might do more for themselves and others. But I do sometimes thank the Higher Power in my everyday life--not on my knees but in my mind.

As far as BG's schizophrenia--well, out of all the mental illnesses, I think this one has the biggest stigma of all. But in fact, to me it seems like a catch all diagnosis--not at all well defined. In a way, any state of psychosis could simply be labeled psychosis plain and simple in my book rather than schizophrenia--and vice versa.

Nevertheless, when I started dating BG and he said he was schizophrenic, it did give me pause, since I had the same stereotypes in mind that most people do. But I have to say this: no one meeting BG would ever guess that he was schizophrenic save for his doctor, family, and close friends. In fact, he appears more "normal" than most "normal" people. His social skills are vastly superior to mine--he can engage in small talk with people he's just met with complete aplomb. And he is charming and friendly and open. He does not talk to himself, or rock back and forth, or stare blankly into space. He is not dirty and disheveled--in fact, he is scrupulously clean.

On occasion, BG still does have to go into the hospital, though this has not happened for quite awhile. He does indeed have a heavy track record of hospitalizations under his belt, but I think that stress often exacerbates many illnesses--mental and physical--and undue stress is something we try very hard to avoid now. Knowing him intimately, I know that he is schizophrenic--the symptoms are there, subtle as they sometimes may be-- but as one more enlightened doctor once said to me: "Don't call him that--it's just his personality."

And last but not least, BG worked very very hard for many many years in very stressful jobs. Long story short, he has gone through ordeals in his life that I doubt I could ever have begun to endure.

In a good percentage of cases, schizophrenia seems to get milder as time goes on, and I think this is the case with BG. I think it can also be true of alcoholism, despite what AAers may say. There are some people, from what I've read and believe, who siimply outgrow it or overcome it--without AA, and sometimes without a spiritual awakening.

At this point, BG has a lot more control over his drinking than he once did. He is more of a binge drinker, and can sometimes do without for considerable periods. He has a lot of anxiety, however, and I think he uses alcohol, as they say, to self medicate.

But rather than seeing this as completely bad, I have to say that virtually all meds, legal or illegal, have potential long and short-term side effects--some of them very serious--and sometimes even fatal. For some people, alcohol and other illegal drugs do alleviate distressing symptoms in the same way a sleeping pill or an antidepressant or an aspirin might. But sleeping pills can be addictive; psych meds may cause weight gain or horrible neurological symptoms; and even aspirin can cause ulcers. In the case of BG, the major side effect of drinking is a screeching hangover the morning after.

As far as enabling or making things worse for BG--I do not encourage his drinking. When I was very ill there was no way I could drink with him, and he did so anyway when he felt the need to. It may seem as if helping him procure a bottle on Sunday was enabling, but the alternative was that he would go to his local shitty bar instead. And just as there is almost no way to talk BG out of drinking, there is no way to talk him into it if he has good reason not to. One good example of this is when I was in the hospital for about 6 weeks with a super major depression--complete with shock treatments--the whole works. BG visited every day, arriving the minute visiting hours began and staying til they ended--which on the weekends was all day. When he ran into one of his disgusting (now ex) friends--a stone cold alchie--who tried to talk him into drinking with him by saying "you need to take care of yourself too," he never considered doing so for even a nanosecond. "Elvira is counting on me," he said. And that was that.

I'm curious as to why you would be angry with God...but that's perhaps a discussion for another time.

In any case, thanks for your comments, as always!

Well, that's it. I've brought up a lot of things here, and welcome comments on any of this, of course--that goes without saying, but I'm saying it anyway.

Technorati tags: Johnny Winter, AA, schizophrenia, substance abuse, religion, spirituality, Higher Power, prayer, blogosphere


At 4:45 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:05 PM, Blogger Justine said...

Your writing about BG has really opened my mind about who can have an alcohol problem. He is obviously strong and well (basing my judgement on his upper arm!) - and a brilliant artist.

What an amazing painting.

I guess nobody's perfect.

At 9:55 PM, Blogger Leslie said...

I totally agree with you about the amazing opportunities internet blogging has opened for each gender. I've noticed with curiosity that all my life I've been friends with men, but online, I get along best with women...specifically women with SO's and possibly children.

Weird huh?

P.S. Nothing wrong with your blog concentrating a lot on BG. As I told Jason the other day, "All the moms on blogger get to talk about the idiosyncrasies of their babies. I don't have any babies, so I get to talk about you!"

At 10:02 PM, Blogger Timothy said...

Wow! What can I say and where do I start. Thanks first of all. I am very happy that I caused you to think. Oh, I love Johnny and his brother, Edgar. Very good stuff. What media is BG using? Looks like scratch board or pastels on black paper. I am very flattered that you took so much of my comments into consideration. I sincerely hope that you did not get any sort of indication that I have any stereo-tying of schizophrenia. There are many different forms and levels of severity. I worked in a psych hospital and I have a BA in psychology. No way did I mean to say anything derogatory. One of my character defects, again, is being too frank and not being PC enough. Probably why I never made it as a shrink. I would never suggest that BG or any one use meds, but alcohol does a lot more damage to a person’s body than just hang-overs, even if they are just binge drinkers. I took an upper-division course in college called “Alcoholism.” (like I needed it after living it for 17 years) It really opened my eyes. I had never considered myself to be an alcoholic. After all, I just binge drank. I was never homeless or got any DUI’s or got arrested for it, but then looking back, I may have just been lucky, very lucky. They have breakdowns of different types of alcoholism, 3 main categories and then subdivided into 8 or more common characteristics. At some point in my life, I fit nearly all of the sub-categories, but not for any substantial periods of time. What they say is that statistically speaking, less than 3% of all who have quit are what they call "spontaneous" quitters. That would be me. I just quit. Oh, I had my reasons and all and oh yes, it has been a struggle at times, but I did not need AA or detox or any of that. 90% of those who quit have at least one relapse. I have not, even though I felt many times it would be easier to just drink. I have even felt at times I would be better off drinking again. At least I was getting laid back then. So, I am very fortunate and in the minority. I have much sympathy and empathy for those who struggle every day. I agree completely with you about AA being way behind the times. That is why the kids will not go. I am more of an Eastern thinker than a Western one when it comes to spirituality or most other things. I use the word “God,” but not in some Western or religious manor. It is just a word that describes a concept. I had a limited knowledge of your relationship with BG. It sounds like a very good one to me. I have no answers for you and I was only hoping to make some suggestions, but I can see I was out of place with that. There may be people who have overcome a serious addiction and not have a “spiritual awakening,” but I do not know any nor I have read about them. Admittedly, I spend little time concern myself with addictions. I life with it everyday, so I do not need to read much about it. I have fought my own demons for my entire life time. I have empathy and sympathy, but I have no answers for anyone but myself. As far as God an anger, there are many new blogs explaining it. Please, when and if you have the time, read and/or comment,please. I will admit, I am an idiot and I do not do logical things. Sounds to me like you have everything worked out and that at times you just have some minor issues. Thanks again for giving me so much consideration. I am very flattered and honored. Thank you!

At 11:11 PM, Blogger fugusashi said...

I cant' wait to see the finished portrait of Johnny Winter, the strangest looking dude in the world, next to Michael Jackson.

Elvira, I loved the whole entry, but I especially loved the first half when you discussed the nature of blogging. I thought It was very insightful, and although you seemed to think alot of people have already drawn similar conclusions about blogging, I disagree. Most people don't even know what blogging is, much less understand the different types of blogs that are out there.

I loved what you said about men feeling able to reveal a more sensitive side on their blogs than they can reveal to the real world. I think that is so true.

What about women being able to reveal a more sexual side to themselves than they can reveal to the real world? You didn't mention that, but I think those blogs are out there.

Don't look at me like that!

I wish you would expand on your ideas in the first part of the entry, because I don't agree with the "Duh" part. I don't think everyone sees what you see about the different reasons for blogging.

At 11:21 PM, Blogger fugusashi said...

Ugh. There's always "one more thing with me".

I meant to add that some people think it's foolish to write about blogging.

I think those people are the foolish ones. As you said, blogging is changing the way we communicate. It has changed it in a way that hasn't happened since the invention of the printing press. Some people will poke fun at that last statement, saying it is an overstatement, but I really believe it is true.

(However, 'word verification' is infringing on our freedom of speech, because I can never freakin' get it right the first time)

At 12:13 AM, Blogger Walker said...

You know what that painting reminds me off?
Do you know in anatomy class where they show the different layers of the bidy. That.
Bg is creating it from the inside out as it should be. I can't wait until he finishes it.

Your right you wrote heaos LOL

Blogging has many faces and portals.
Each face is an individual and each portal in a doorway shared by many and inaccesable to that many more.
We bare our souls and look for advice.
We cry we laugh we VENT!!!!!!!!!!
We learn that we are all different yet all alike.
I can agree with you today and totally disagree with you tomorrow , only to go to war with you on the third day on a common peeve.
Life is grand is it not.

Mental disorders; show me someone who says he has none and I will get them a new doctor. I think BG is where he is because he is at peace with hinself and I have a feeling that you are a big part of that. :)

Religion: Bah
Why support something that has claimed more souls than it has saved.
They brain washyou in believing for something that makes ni sense.
I am still fuming over the phrase "God Helps Those Who Help Themselve"
Well thats soumds like "Your on your own buddy" to me

I have to say though that I do respect a persons right to worship the religion that they choose but just make sure it with both eyes open.

Have a good one Elvira.

At 9:29 AM, Blogger Timothy said...

When I first started my blog, I had no idea what to do with it. So, I just started putting some autobiographies that I had written in college and some after. Secretly I hoped that someone would read them and get something from it. When I ran out of those stories, I put some poems on and then blogging turned into a journal for me. I began a journal about 25 years ago, mostly about my dreams. They would keep me up and I needed some way to get back to sleep. My blog has become a venting place and as you mentioned, a place for me to say things I may not be able to in a social situation. My blog site is also a place for me to show my art. For a long time I felt like no one was reading them. That is not my main motivation to blog. Now, it seems some people are or at least they are commenting now. For me, I like that I get some different points of view from people I would never have met in person without the internet or blogging. I am grateful to have found your blog site.

At 9:32 AM, Blogger Duddits said...

You bring out a excellent point, about the blogging aspect about men. I will say when it comes to communication I am challenged! Sometimes I get to admit in blogs somethings about myself I wouldn't admit in 250$/hr therapy.
On similar note I blogged recently -

I will be ever grateful to whoever invented blogging!

At 9:37 AM, Blogger jessie said...

i can agree that overcoming any addiction requires alot of inner strength and a desire to defeat the addiction. as i am sure you already know, you never become a non- addict. there are always the cravings for that you were addicted to. i was severly addicted to drugs and overcame that addiction with the help of my husband, who at the time was my BF. he did a classic lock down on me. it was totally with my consent and asking, and i am deeply grateful to him everyday for standing by me through that. it is hard, if not impossible, for an addict to stop using without the help of a loved one, they need support and caring every second of the day. i think that's what really got me through it was the emotional support from my husband.

At 9:44 AM, Blogger artdetective said...

Elvira, I am totally in agreement with you about the role of blogging. I started my blog so I could post comments on a friend's blog -- and now it's part of what keeps me sane. As you know from reading my posts, my significant other is VERY private. But writing about our relationship online is (somewhat ironically) very liberating. He knows the blog exists, but wisely has never asked to see it. :)

Many thanks.

At 7:58 PM, Blogger Webmiztris said...

shock treatments? damn, girl! that sounds awful...and reminds me of the Beverly Hillbillies movie!!

BG's pic is amazing!

At 7:46 PM, Blogger elvira black said...


Wow, thanks for the comp on BG's art! Drinking probably isn't the best thing in the world for him, but he's a lot better off than he used to be when he used a myriad of substances...but that's a whole 'nother story, which I've talked about in part elsewhere.

At 7:48 PM, Blogger elvira black said...


LOL--I'm in the same boat! No babies, except for BG's cat.

Yes, I think I know what you mean as far as male friends/female blogger friends. I never could get too into the girly talk thing--I always wanted to talk about deeper issues. I did have some good women friends, but I always felt very comfortable talking with guys too. But in the blogger world, I think I've found a lot more thoughtful and intelligent people of both sexes, so it's all good.

At 7:59 PM, Blogger elvira black said...


Thanks for your new comments here--and of course for your other comments that inspired this post!

It is amazing that you've been able to stay sober for so many years without relapse. It must be a temptation sometimes, but that is so great that you've been able to resist and stay the course.

Yes, I know you have first-hand experience with those with mental/emotional disorders and substance abuse, so you've seen a lot of stuff firsthand. And indeed, alcohol can damage your body and mind--I've seen some of that, esp. with an ex-friend of BG's who basically has wet brain at this point and has had several head operations after falling down and injuring himself, etc. etc.

I'm glad you're blogging about your experiences and feelings and also posting your art--looks great! I left a comment on your most recent post, but I'm a little behind so I'll check out the older ones.

PS: If you want to get a sense of who's visiting from where etc. you could install a site meter--some people don't bother, but i find them very useful. In any case, thanks so much again. I value your comments.

At 8:19 PM, Blogger elvira black said...


Thanks so much! You brought up some great points in your comments.

One other thing I can say about blogging is that it is becoming a recognized alterative source for news and political views. The traditional news media are recognizing bloggers as a force to be reckoned with. They can cover aspects of national and international events in ways the mainstream media can't and/or won't.

Some bloggers actually write for major media outlets because they can get more up to the minute firsthand scoops, photos, and videos. And they also provide a different slant and perspective--they dare to say and report things the mainstream media hesitates to explore too closely or in great detail.

One example is CNN, where I saw a program the other day where they discussed what bloggers had to say about current political issues. Some uber blogs like Matt Drudge/Drudge report are incredibly influential. Ideas and links from the big blogs can spread almost instantaneously--like wildfire.

And hyperlinking alone is amazing--there just has never been anything like it before. When I was in grad school, I remember how laborious it was to do research the old fashioned way--now you can find out almost anything about anyone with just a click!

LOL on Johnny winter and Michael Jackson--I told that one to BG and he had a good laugh!

As far as most people not knowing about blogs--I started to assume that "everyone" did, but you're right. I just read a little piece in the NY Post, and acccording to a 2004 survey, only 7 percent of adults have blogs, but a lot of kids aged 12 to 17 are blogging, building web pages, etc. However, many new blogs are started every day, so the numbers are probably considerably higher by now, but still....

And yes, it's true that a lot of women are talking much more openly about their sexuality on blogs too, which is great. I love hearing about other people's lives--so many different perspectives--it's riveting!

At 8:23 PM, Blogger elvira black said...


You always put things so eloquently. What you said about blogging is what I was trying to convey, but it came out sounding so pompous...ugh...And your take on mental illness and religion is right on too.

The way you saw BG's portrait matches pretty closely the way BG sees his efforts as well. You are indeed a wise man...and a great storyteller!

At 8:27 PM, Blogger elvira black said...


I just caught up with some of your latest posts today, including the one you mentioned, and left some comments--great stuff!

I think blogging is the best form of group therapy possible--and it's all free too!

At 8:31 PM, Blogger elvira black said...


Wow--that's terrific that you were able to conquer your addictions with the help of your husband. And yes, the cravings seem to be forever etched into that primitive portion of the brain's pleasure center, beyond language or logic--so it's even more of an amazing accomplishment to resist relapse. So glad everything worked out so well--your husband sounds terrific too!

At 8:35 PM, Blogger elvira black said...


LOL--BG doesn't read my blog either. Sometimes I'll read him a few posts and comments, but he doesn't know squat about computers or the internet (at least not yet), so he doesn't go looking my stuff up. I've never had a compulsion to show him all of my writings on or offline anyway.

Depending on his mood he can get very worked up about me writing about him. Other times he seems cool with it. I am just so glad blogs exist--it's like an interactive diary where you can post your secret private thoughts and at the same time share them with the world. Strange and wonderful, isn't it?

At 8:38 PM, Blogger elvira black said...


Yeah, mentioning the shock treatments always gets a "rise" out of people (lol). It's still pretty much a last resort sort of thing. At least it's not the horrible procedure it used to be--they knock you out and all, but it's no picnic either.

Beverly Hillbillies movie--didn't see that one--did Ellie Mae wind up in the funny farm or something?

At 8:54 PM, Blogger Justine said...

love the kitchen table metaphor.

Elvira my problem is I have a poor short term memory (no idea WHY) and you go into so many points, I never remember everything I wanted to say by the time I get to commenting!


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