Our new album of Shannon’s is out! Written / programmed / co-produced by Shannon; produced / mixed / mastered by me. We hope you love it.

I’ve been spending some time this afternoon thinking about power dynamics.

Specifically, I’m terrified at the power that corporate right-wing America is exerting over our national politics in this moment, as played out via starving workers of resources in places where they have the power to do so — so the choice that workers have in those places is either to starve or to “get back to work!” under life-threatening conditions. The more right-wing the state leadership, the more consolidated the corporate power, and therefore the more rushed the “getting back to work!” So of course this is playing out not in states that care about their more vulnerable citizens, like where Shannon and I live, but in right-wing states, where, also, by the same design, the poor are poorer and more resource-starved and exposed to begin with. It’s a vicious circle.

Shannon and I have so many terrified friends in other parts of the country experiencing this, many from the perspective of being the people who are being forced to “get back to work!” And, presumably, in five to six weeks, they, and the other places like where they live, will be experiencing a new wave of entirely preventable deaths. All so that right-wing corporate America can keep its boot on the neck of the American workforce. Because that’s what this is about: the raw exercise of power, as a reaction to right-wing corporate fear of workers discovering their power in this time to effect political change in their favor.

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I wish, so much, that people could collectively realize that this time is exposing – so clearly! – how right-wing corporate power, as exercised via government, is just a construct – and that this construct could be changed! That there are other equally plausible constructs! That we don’t have to live this way! That it would be equally feasible to have a government whose primary aim is to work in service of its citizenry! All of this is possible. And it feels so close, with the curtain lifted so far back … and also it feels so far away. As though to even dream of fighting a power this strong and longstanding is futile.

Shannon and I will be fine, one way or another. I have faith in that. It’ll be dicey. We’ve been on the edge of financially vulnerable for decades. But we’re a different flavor of vulnerable – we’re a special case – because we have a tremendous community around us, and we therefore have a support structure available to us that other people don’t. But there are millions and millions of people in this country who our right-wing corporate power structure necessitates be expendable. Interchangeable. And it tears me up inside. It’s like watching a slow-motion car crash about to happen that I’m powerless to do anything about.

There’s no reason, other than preserving right-wing corporate power, that our federal government isn’t paying people to stay home in this time. Our country can afford it without either short- or long-term fiscal repercussions. It’s just a choice that they’re making. We are going to need sustained nationwide work stoppages if this is going to change in the short-term – although how would people feed their families while striking? They’ve been very effectively trapped in their servitude – either that or a lot of Covid-19 deaths. And even widespread preventable deaths probably won’t change things, because the right-wing corporatists in charge of our government have already told us, explicitly, that a lot of poor people dying is an acceptable outcome for them in this time. It’s the foundational assumption of their mandate to “get back to work!”

I don’t have answers. There is a moral rot at the center of the corporate right wing in this country that’s been there for centuries, and it feels so overwhelming and massive that I don’t even know how one would begin to try dismantling it. But I do have one small flicker of hope: that maybe, just maybe, more people are having an awakening in this time. That maybe there will be the beginnings of a widespread rejection of right-wing corporatism this November. That maybe, just maybe, there will be the beginnings of an undeniable, unavoidable demand — that our government work for its citizens, not against them. We can hope. Hang in there.

My dear friend Johnny Zachman just put out our new EP that we made together. It’s called Patterns, and I’m incredibly proud of it, and of Johnny, whose wonderful songs I feel privileged to help bring into the world.

Hey, so, check this out: I turned 15 years sober on June 20th!

And, if you’ve been friends with me for a minute, you know that usually I write a big long reflection somewhere on social media for my sober birthday. But … I didn’t write anything this year. I kept feeling like I should … and … for some reason I just couldn’t. And the moment passed.

And then I turned 15.5 years sober on Friday! And, again, I really felt like I should write something. And I kept feeling like that, and also I kept feeling like … I didn’t have much to say? … which was the problem back in June as well.

So I’ve been taking some time to think about why that is. As I’m sure many of you have picked up, “at a loss for words” is not my standard operating procedure.

And what I’ve realized is that I’ve been feeling conflicted about the very premise of making any declaratory sort of post about things in this moment. About being suited to the task, I mean. It’s always my intention, when I’m talking about my sobriety, to be an encouragement to people with whom I’m connected, particularly those who might be themselves struggling with addiction, or codependency, or unhealthy relationships, or whatever else we use to fill that yawning hole in the center of our chest. And, in that context, 15 years seems like a lot of responsibility. It seems bigger than me, somehow. And, in the face of it, I’ve realized that I feel a little lost. Like I don’t measure up, somehow, to this thing that I have made. Like I’ve been having trouble getting my arms around it. It feels bigger than me. Like I don’t have the authority to speak on it. It’s a strange feeling.

And I think maybe that’s the thing that’s been holding me up for the last six months. When you sort of say it out of context, “fifteen years sober” sounds like an impossible, moon shot-level achievement. To me, anyway. I remember having two weeks sober and being in meetings where old-timers identified themselves as having fifteen years sober, and thinking that sounded unbelievable. And now, to someone just starting out, I’m an old-timer. And I think that feels like a problem. Because old-timers are supposed to have wisdom! And answers! And perspective! And still, so often, I just feel like I don’t have a fucking clue. Like an unsure kid. Like I’m still just living by the seat of my pants every day, making everything up on the fly and constantly getting things wrong. I think when I hit my fifteen-year birthday, I thought I should feel something. Something different. Like I’d crested a hill or opened a door into a bigger room. Like I’d arrived somewhere. But it just felt like another day.

And I think that, for whatever reason, that kind of shut me up a bit. This particular sober birthday, for whatever reason, felt like it posed more questions than it answered. It put me at a sudden sense of disadvantage that I’ve been working my way through for the last six months. Like, what does it mean?

And I think what I’m arriving at is that it doesn’t mean anything. Fifteen years is an incredibly long time to have been sober. And that’s a very positive thing. But it’s also a trap. Because to try to contextualize fifteen years of sobriety requires that I spend a lot of time in the past. Which is an illusion. Also an illusion: the idea that I should have any more of a clue now than I did fifteen and a half years ago. Because every single day is a new day. Every moment is a new moment. Life presents new challenges constantly, that the old answers don’t work for. And I’m an entirely different person now anyway. I have lots more tools, which is good. But I’m just as inclined to fail to remember to use them as I was fifteen years ago. My brain is going to be trying to kill me until the day I die. They say we’re never “cured,” but, rather, that we are granted a daily reprieve from our disease, contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. And I must be doing at least a decent job at that, because I’ve strung together 11,000-odd days without drinking or taking drugs. And some days I do feel like I’ve learned a lot! But then, a lot of other days, I feel just as lost as I did when I started.

And I think that what I’m coming around to is that maybe “lost” is okay. That maybe indeed there’s no such thing as “found.” That there’s just the present moment, and how well you can do in it. And you win some and you lose some. But it’s not like you crest a hill. It’s not like you eventually find that door to that bigger room where everything’s okay. I think that maybe one of the big secrets of long-term sobriety is realizing that you never arrive anywhere. You just keep going. One day at a time.

Or, to put this all more simply: I think I thought I’d have more answers at 15 years sober. But instead what I think I’m learning is that I may never have answers. And, also, that not having answers might be okay. That, indeed, for me, not having to try to have answers for everything, or maybe anything, might actually be some sort of a key.

To my people struggling with alcohol / drugs / unhealthy relationships / porn / gambling / whatever it might be: this time of year can be incredibly triggering for people wired like us. If you’re feeling … not right … you are not alone. If you need to talk with someone who understands, you can private message me. I’m here. Hang in there.

This is the new record from our sweet friend Val Blaha. Someone referred to it the other day as “activist folk,” and I think that’s spot-on. It’s by turns heartfelt, tender, angry, and hopeful. It rewards repeated listens. I had an amazing time making it; I hope you love listening to it.

Written by Val; produced / mixed / mastered by me.