Busted Brain Journal: Empty Calories

I first started to cultivate the idea of book almost four years ago. It was going to be about my experience/ordeal/project/healing journey that spanned the time beginning just before I had my TBI 14 years ago through until I checked into alcohol rehab 7 years ago.

Then, as any writer will tell you, life happened.

I’ve decided to rename it The Trek and it begins again today.

See, when I started The Trek, I was living with a friend I’ve known since we were both 14. I was 18 months out of treatment and cruising. I didn’t have a job I particularly liked but the time had come to get to gettin’ and move out on my own from the warm, fuzzy womb of the ¾ house where I resided and get out into the world. I had tried going back to school to be a vet tech, then scrapped that idea because I was scared. I wasn’t just scared of the course Math for Veterinary Technicians that I would have to take eventually and was pretty sure would sink the ship anyway. I was scared that even if I completed the program and got a job out in the field working as a vet tech, conditions would one day arise where, because I don’t deal with pressure very well (you give me more than two tasks to do and I break out into a cold sweat,) that I would wind up tighter than a stressed-out cobra and I would mistakenly give a Doberman Pinscher the wrong dose of medication and its head would explode. Irrational fear? Not really. I’ve come to realize in the years since how neurologically mauled my damaged brain continues to be, a condition than will be persist until I’m six feet under, and bowed out of the program.

I have been writing in some capacity, whether for myself or for the public, paid and not paid, since I was 14. So, I started a blog 6 months after I got sober because in the 8 years before June 23, 2012, I had drowned myself in booze and pot, throwing myself a pity party that would make New Year’s Eve in Times Square look like a sandlot baseball after party. In the months after my TBI, I went to a legion of doctor’s appointments, one of which was to the neuropsychologist for an evaluation to assess how badly the bacterial meningitis infection and craniotomy to remove a bunch of gunk from the top of my brain had jacked me up. Turns out, quite a bit. It was quite fascinating to hear the neuropsychologist simultaneously marvel at how lucky I was to be alive, yet how the IQ test results revealed how it was a stone cold miracle that I could still tie my shoes. It was like having a personal trainer give you mad props for your upper body strength after having both your legs amputated.

So, after 8 years of raging alcoholic chaos and 6 months sober, I started a blog because I had to know if I could still write. Turned out, I could. Maybe better than I had in all the years previous. I’ve heard it said many times, in some fashion from many different avenues, that you have to experience real life, blood-and-guts, heart-wrenching tragedy to make you into the writer you were meant to be. Whether its your own pain or you experience it as an observer, nobody will give a rat’s ass about your story unless you have a good one to tell.

And I have one to tell. So I’m starting the Trek again.

It starts with numbering the pages of the scattered parcels of the creative nonfiction typhoon that washed up roughly a ton of narrative scrap metal on my laptop. I know a few writers, personally and observationally, that have dealt with the monolithic obstacle of having to find chunks of time in their day to carve the pumpkin of their soul into a jack-o-lantern . I have about 100 pages, give or take, for a narrative titled Empty Calories (though from what I’ve heard about the publishing business, if I want to keep that title, I may have to publish it myself) and given my penchant for going back over my own work and deciding I have another 500 words to add for every 500 written, getting the manuscript to an editable length won’t be a problem.

I just pity the poor sap who I charge with first edits.

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