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September, 2016:

Thank Goodness I was Sober in Law School

My friend Brian Cuban recently wrote a post about his experience of being in law school while being deep in his alcohol addiction and eating disorder. It’s hard to fathom what that must have been like – going to class after waking up with a hangover, getting smashed when he was supposed to be studying, and puking his guts out as he staggered home. Law school is hard enough without struggling with addiction. I’m so grateful I got sober before I went to law school.

I carry two chips in my wallet - my most recent birthday chip and my 24 hour "desire" chip. They remind me how far I've come but also that I have to take it one day at  time.

I carry two chips in my wallet – my most recent birthday chip and my 24 hour “desire” chip. They remind me how far I’ve come but also that I have to take it one day at time.

Actually, it’s because I got sober that I was able to go to law school. I never would have had the courage to apply when I was deep in my addiction. Before I got sober, my self-esteem was fragile at best and I was too afraid of failure to try anything that put my desire to maintain the illusion of perfection at risk.

I had plenty of classmates who drank to blow off steam (and who sometimes drank over lunch and came back for afternoon class tipsy or drunk) and/or used prescription stimulants to help them study. I remember one of my classmates brought of bottle of booze and little plastic shot glasses so he and his friends could drink right after they got out of our Con Law final. (That was a bitch of a final. I understand why he did that. That was the only class where I had doubts about passing.) Being sober, I didn’t have the luxury of numbing my feelings with alcohol and drugs or using anything stronger than coffee to study.

Don’t think for a second that I am/was as pure as driven snow. For full disclosure, I struggled with my eating disorder throughout law school. At the height of my disorder, I binged and purged about once a week, but this was mostly an infrequent occurrence during my law school years.

Throughout my law school career, I was fortunate to have strong connections within the recovery community. I was lucky to have a classmate who was also in recovery from addiction. We would talk during our study breaks to vent about the stress of law school and life in general, and be there to support each other. We experienced the discomfort of law school without the option to mollify our stress with recreational substances. It was pretty brutal at times, but it was comforting to know I wasn’t going through it alone.

As a member of a 12-step program, I have a sponsor, and it was fortuitous that he was getting his degree (different field) from Arizona State University while I was in law school. Both being students in difficult programs, he understood my level of stress because he faced it himself, although he seemed to handle it much more gracefully. There were many times I met with him between classes, to touch base about how I was feeling and to make sure I was perceiving and responding to situations appropriately. Just having him nearby was reassuring.

One of the things I’ve learned in recovery is how important it is to stay connected to others. I’m grateful I had strong connections to others in recovery on my campus. They kept me grounded and gave me a place to vent when I needed it.

I also want to give a massive hat tip to my undergrad alma mater Oregon State University. They established a collegiate recovery community with sober housing for students in recovery from addiction. I didn’t even know I had a problem when I was an undergrad, but I’m glad this is available for people who need/want it.

I Ripped the Ads Off my YouTube Channel

Earlier this month, I attended Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio and I attended podcaster Jay Acunzo’s talk entitled “Unthinkable Marketing.” He told a story about a time he wanted to show a video to his roommates and their anticipation was jilted by a YouTube ad. He had gotten them excited about this video, and then he had to work even harder to keep their enthusiasm up while they waited for the ad to play through. The lesson I got from this story was “Don’t put barriers between your target audience and the content they want.” We live in a world where having to sit through a 30-second ad could be enough to make someone leave the site in annoyance, instead of watching your work.

march07 374 by Lord Jim from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

march07 374 by Lord Jim from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Jay’s story made me think. Why do I have ads on my YouTube videos? I make little Question Of The Day videos where I respond to questions the people ask me via email or the weird stuff people Google and end up on my website. Some people ask me about some really messed up situations – both hilarious and cringe worthy.

I monetized these videos because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, just a lease I got enough views to earn a few bucks from it. Here is the reality: these videos are never going to get enough traffic to make running ads worth it. These are videos are only valuable to people who have a specific question at that time and my friends who just like to watch me pontificate to my web cam. There is no reason for me to run ads on any of my videos. If anything, they annoyed or confused my audience over the years, which doesn’t do anything to help my desired reputation for creating knowledgeable and accessible resources about legal issues.

Vehemently, I grabbed my pen and scribbled myself a note to rip my ads off of every video on my YouTube channel. They contribute no value to anyone or anything I care about. After I got home, one of the first things I did was sit down and edit each of my 272 videos, removing the ads from each one. (YouTube should create an option to un-monetize every video on the channel with one click. That would have saved me an hour.)

I support the idea of people being paid for their work. They deserve to be compensated for adding value to others lives. However, I don’t support the idea of doing it in such a way where it creates an obstacle between the artist and their audience.

And if you are an artist who relies on YouTube ad revenue, be careful about your business plan going forward. Many YouTubers recently learned how easy it is for YouTube to disrupt their expectations with its monetization policies.

Star Trek Saved My Life

Captain Carter, circa 2001

Captain Carter, circa 2001

I credit Star Trek, in part, for giving me a reason not to commit suicide in the darker days of my teens. I was hooked from my first episode – a syndicated episode of The Next Generation on a Saturday evening. From that day on, Star Trek gave me a weekly respite from my life where I often felt alone and I expected to be treated badly. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had many dreams about walking the corridors of the U.S.S. Enterprise and being a member of her crew.

Watching the Star Trek gave me hope. It instilled the idea that the future was going to be better, and that there would be people who confront hard issues with strength, conviction, and grace. It gave me hope that someday I might have a community of people who know that I was an abused child, who understand my pain, and who would stand with me and for me.

Star Trek taught me about loyalty and integrity. The crew of the ship is devoted to each other and the mission. With each challenge they faced – whether an enemy combatant or a crew member facing a personal dilemma – no one went into battle alone. Their crewmates put their lives on the line to support them or called them out when they were wrong. They showed me what true friendship looks like. I’d never seen that level of devotion before. I was used to being used, ignored, or people who allegedly cared about me bail at the first sign of trouble. The Star Trek community (including the actors, writers, and fans) taught me even though I felt alone and dealing with emotional turmoil to daily basis, that I wouldn’t feel bad forever. It gave me hope to survive, that there would be a day at the time where I would thrive and be surrounded by people love and accept me as I am, and who wanted the best for me without selfish thoughts for themselves.

At the Star Trek 30th anniversary celebration, a woman sang “Somewhere” from West Side Story. I knew I had to do this song when I studied voice in college. To me, this isn’t a ballad between young lovers from feuding families, but an anthem for all the outsiders who are looking for love and acceptance. The feeling I put into this song is the same feeling I get when I walk into a convention – a rush of love, acceptance, and comfort. I don’t have to explain myself there. I can look at my fellow Trekkies and everyone just gets it.

I could go on and on about what Star Trek means to me, but I think the best way I can end this post is by saying thank you. Thank you Gene Roddenberry for creating this amazing program that sparked the beginning of this community. You gave me an emotional anchor from which to cling and rebuild. For that I will be eternally grateful. Thank you to everyone who put their hearts and efforts into continuing his vision. I never feel alone in the Trekkie community. Special thanks to Leonard Nimoy who appointed himself the honorary grandfather to anyone who needed it. You are dearly missed.

Happy 50th Anniversary of Star Trek to us all.
Live long and prosper.

Trek Friends - We met at a Star Trek Convention over 1-7-01 Weekend.

Trek Friends – We met at a Star Trek Convention over 1-7-01 Weekend.

Gotta Love the Klingons

Gotta Love the Klingons