Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Life is an oyster

Among my chef buddies we have always said that an oyster is the perfect appetizer for a kitchen. It requires no cooking and is quick to prepare. It requires no salt or seasoning. It even comes with its own sauce and serving dish. All you have to do is open up. There is also a added bonus.... sometimes you find a pearl if you open up enough. What I'm about to tell you is no joke and not a public service announcement for the seafood industry to promote buying more oysters. (but if you do please see your favorite fishmonger :)
Last year after my rotten Xmas gift to my family (passed out dad on the couch) I started my sobriety. No AA yet, just good old fashioned white knuckle sobriety. I took my wife out to a nice New Years Eve dinner and ordered some cranberry pineapple cocktails. They looked like the real thing and I was showing my wife that I wasn't a real alcoholic just a sad binge drinker. (HA HA yeah right) We ordered and I selected oysters 1/2 shell for my appetizer. My wife had something else since raw oysters make her think of a bad sinus infection. Six perfectly chilled oysters were set before me. All mine and the Mrs. didn't know what she was missing. Slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp, slur... OUCH! My tooth was ringing as something inedible rattled around my mouth. Into my palm I spit an itsy bitsy little pearl. "Hey this must mean something", I told my wife. We had a good laugh at the coincidence. First stop drinking then find a pearl. You can conclude the obvious metaphors here but I'll draw one of mine out for you. As I have opened up more and more this year in our fellowship I have found pearls, gems and all sorts of the precious metals of my life. Too countless to write and certainly no way they could have all fit into 2008! Yet they did.
Have a Happy Safe Sober New Years Eve everybody. May God bless all your shucking in 2009!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008


O.K. not for praise just wanted to show an example of how this whole thing has changed my life. As I may have posted before I'm a former chef and now work for a seafood company as a sales person. In years past with this job I have always been irritated, disgusted and full of contempt for my customers who didn't know food and fish as well as I did. Instead of teaching and educating I always let my customers know how much they didn't know and how much I did. Not the best sales pitch in case you were wondering. I have always done alright in my job. Mostly because my company was about the only game in town if anybody needed seafood in Colorado. I'm doggedly persistent with them but it was sort of a captured audience. Anyway since starting this program my attitude toward my customers has gone about 180 degrees the other way. Most of my customers are lacking education past 8th grade or are immigrants with English as their 2nd language. Early last year I started praying for love and tolerance for my fellow man. God granted me that request. I found that as I started asking questions about them personally I really started to see that they were so frustrated about their station in life. The struggles they faced were depressing but I found that most of them were here in this country trying to break a chain of poverty for their families. I was able to identify deeply with them since I was on that same mission. I do the job I do for the same reason. I am fixing myself with this fellowship so that I can be a better, happier and more present example for my family than I had. I always hear at meeting to look for the similarities more than the differences. I had to rush off to work one day after hearing that at meeting. A light bulb moment happened as I mentally prepared for work on my drive from meeting. Maybe those principles I whole hearted and emphatically nodded at in meeting might actually work in the real world? DUH TONY! Needless to say they started working and my customers began to respond. Oddly I started to outsell my coworkers. I am now glad to report that when the year finishes tomorrow I will have sold more than 6 million $. My company has been around for 90 years and that has never happened. That is a lofty number (especially for seafood in the middle of Colorado) and I can only take credit for being willing to open my eyes and ears to the God sent messages I have received in this program. I'm not saying that God cares if I sell more fish but he does care that I'm a better caretaker of myself and His other children along this journey. Currently that is translating into success at work. Just wanted to share how things are much better now than before. Nowadays I guess I'm just a fisher of men cause I do better at following Him! :)
Gratefully in His grace
Tony Fishstyx


Hi all. Please check out my cousin's blog ripgurl. I'd put the link to it on mine if I knew how. I tried to leave her a post but her blog doesn't have that yet. I'll bug her so we all can give her a hello and welcome. If you read this cousin then welcome to the blogfam. Stay close to the center of the heard. It is the outer circles that get picked off by the wolves.

Friday, December 26, 2008

New personal record

Well there it was. One year sober. I'm only a few hours into my new personal record and have so many people to thank. If you are reading this you are one of the many who helped me get here. Be prepared because I'll be needing you again tomorrow as I shoot for 366 days! I want to especially thank some certain people.
1. My therapist who helped me work out all of these emotional muscles that were atrophied from lack of use.
2. Upon Awakening. My 6:45am home group. The most serenity before 8:00am than most people have all day.
3. My forgiving, patient and wise sponsor who helped me rediscover God and come to know Him in my own way.
4. Banana Girl who taught me to not be so hard on myself and showed me a love that helped me feel safe as I grieved the loss of my mother.
5. Charles who took me under his wing and rooted for me every day.
6. The Wiseguys who started this journey with me and are my new frat brothers.
7. The greatest wife ever known to man. She has worked as hard as I have through this all.
8. Two special little girls who have been a reminder each day what a gift my life is if I work for it.
9. Tony Fishstyx for pulling his head out and working working working.
10. God. What a relief it is to have you in my heart again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Flying high

Work is crazy busy right now but I've had a story to tell and now I finally have a few moments to spill. As I wrote earlier my trip to San Fran was full of great gifts and tremendous healing. The final chapter of that jaunt came on the plane back to Denver. Let me just start by saying I have always HATED flying. Something that heavy should not be up in the air, I can't see who the pilot is to pass judgement on and so on and so forth. Anyway, we were nearly home as I stood in line for the restroom in the back of the plane. The pilot called back to the steward and told him to get the other attendants and prepare for some rough weather over the Rockies. I slipped into the restroom, did my business, and as I unlocked the door the plane went BOOM. My feet came off of the floor a foot and then we got slammed hard to the right. The steward looked at me all freaked out and said, "JUST SIT THERE IN MY JUMP SEAT!" I plunked down and held on to anything I could get my hands on. The plane did a fast drop in altitude and I found myself floating up off of the seat. The steward dove across the cabin and grabbed my waist. He held me down and got a seat belt on me. Then I held on to him as he got buckled. The engine wined and stopped several times. I heard people shouting out pleas to God and bawling as they did foxhole prayers. The steward looked at me with his eyes bulging out and said, "Are you O.K.?" I didn't respond but I thought this guy flies all the time and he's losing it. This is not right. This must be it. Coffee pots, trash cans and anything not nailed down flew at us in every direction in the back cabin. I felt an adrenaline rush start and I knew I was about have a real panic attack. Then a funny thought popped into my head, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference." (I said it just like that with no pauses or punctuation) I then realized that this was in God's hands now. I knew in my heart that if he took me right then that I wasn't condemned to hell and that he would watch over my wife and girls. I knew peace at that moment and accepted that I was along for the ride wherever that was. 10 minutes later we must have crossed the Rockies and started our descent into DIA. It was still bumpy but calm enough for me to walk back to my seat. As I ping ponged back down the rows of seats people were holding their rosaries, professing their love for each other and crying. I was almost whistling and grinning from ear to ear. Soon the tires screeched on the runway and a collective sigh came from us all. The light went DING and the payload arose and said nothing as several of us prepared for our much deserved smoke. Maybe because I'm new and dumb God felt it necessary to hit me with a 2x4 so I could realize this most profound lesson? But did He have to hit so hard?
God bless and safe travels this holiday season,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Clearence with room to spare

There are lots of pithy and annoying phrases I have learned since joining the fellowship. I think why they are annoying is that they are cliche but true nonetheless. However, there is one that speaks such truths and makes me laugh every time, "You're pole vaulting over mouse turds!" That is exactly what I did on my recent trip to San Fran. Two days for a funeral. I took every AA book I had, phone lists, speaker meetings downloaded on my iPod and a schedule of every meeting from San Francisco to San Jose. I was way too nervous about leaving my comfort zone and falling victim to a relapse. Lugging all that crap around helped keep me focused on my mission but you want to know what really helped? Step 12 "Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics." This was my unexpected gift when I ventured out to attend my uncle's funeral. I was worried about my sobriety on so many levels while being geographicly separated from my home group, yet I knew it was the right thing to show support for my family. I knew I had one cousin whom I have spent many chances drinking with that was working a non AA program to maintain sobriety. He has a little over a year and a half of continuous sobriety. We spoke about how each others program was working. The fortunate surprise was getting to discus and help another cousin who was like my big sister growing up. If you asked her I'm sure she would describe me like an ANNOYING little brother! She has been sober for 5 months all on her own and since I have kept all of my monthly chips I was able to pass on my 5 month chip to her. I told her how proud I was of her and I felt so much less alone in the family. 3 out of 6 cousins admitting they have a problem with alcohol...hmmm think there might be some hereditary links there? Oh, we just happen to be Irish too! Gratefully I can report that I returned home just as sober as I left. While the chips, books, iPod and even my lucky Notre Dame hat were all great reminders, the real trick came when I prayed and asked God to help. He presented me with family just like me. Thanks Shawn and Kris you drunks:)
God bless us all

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Out on a limb

I have a trip planned for this Thursday night to San Francisco. I will be attending my uncle's funeral. I am going by myself and don't know if I will be able to attend a meeting. Just two days away. I have been without a meeting for longer than that at home. Somehow this feels different. I want to be there to pay my respects but I am really afraid of how much of my mother's passing is going to come up in me. I know that all of my pain is just under the surface since I delt with it by getting numb a year and a half ago. I have one cousin who is in recovery and his sobriety is without the steps. I have another cousin who is dry and stong enough to get there on her own. I have been attending meetings, praying, talking to other alcoholics but I find myself very restless, irritable and discontent. My sponsor is a very busy man and I don't like to bother him. Maybe it is time for a call?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

New memories

I spent the weekend with my family creating some new Christmas season memories. I do not like crowds with my kids. Usually I try and keep the family at home where I can keep an eye on them and be male macho protector. Easier to do when I control the perimeter. With a leap of faith I went along with my wife's plan to watch the parade of lights in downtown Denver. My head was on a swivel glaring at anybody who smiled at my two beautiful little girls. I was tense and wanted a drink bad! It didn't help that all I could smell was the schnapps coming off every body's breath in the chilly night air. Alone in the crowd I closed my eyes and prayed. I didn't pray not to drink. I prayed that I could relax with my family so we all could enjoy the time together. As I opened my eyes all I saw was my little bug's pale white face all lit up with the glow of the lights. I teared up as I saw how much I was missing. Slowly I felt the fear of stranger danger leave as I allowed myself to feel the joy my kids were experiencing. I had to tell my wife how thankful I was she had planned all of this. I also had to do the hardest thing......
Admit she was right! Boy my wife must love AA.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sober 1st's

I was just on my buddy Rich's blog and was reminded, in this my 1st year, of a big 1st for me. I was drunk as hell on my mother's birthday last year. Mostly because the rest of the world didn't want to stop everything and mourn that there wouldn't be anymore birthdays for her. This year I'm celebrating Dec 4th in a pretty cool way. Each month my home group hosts nightwatch on the 1st Thursday. The Denver central office shuts down at 5:00pm and calls get routed out to other alcoholics. Tomorrow it is at my house. Several people from group show up with munchies and mostly we just shoot the manure. As the calls come in we try to answer peoples questions about AA and what we do or how we can help. Please pray for a drunk in need tomorrow because I sure could stand getting out of my own head.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What's in a name?

I feel compelled to state why the name Fishstyx. I'm a member of this quartet of guys that started in my home group all around the same time. Us newbies formed a little bond as we looked out for each other in those early months. My sponsor said since I was an old frat boy we should come up with nick names for each other and our little club. Two of the guys are from back east and always made mafia references to me since my name is Tony. I'm a former chef now working for a seafood company and that somehow got me named Tony Fish Sticks. One guy is a book salesman and avid reader named John. He became Johnny bag 'o books. Then there's my first friend in AA, Mikey the Goose. Last but not least, my friend Bob, who slipped and had to get a new sobriety date and take a couple of chips a 2nd time. He became Bobby 2 times. The four of us have traveled some rough road together over these last few months and have all come out on the other side to tell the story. I will always remember our little crew of Wiseguys for the rest of my life.
Now my question to you all is...
If we were to open up the books to let you into our little AA mob, what would your nick name be?
Tony Fishstyx

Monday, December 1, 2008

How I got here pt.4

Final stretch, hang in there with me. The final chapter of my drinking starts with my mom's passing, March 8th 2007. Even though I was raised with a large extended family my mom was my only world. Her death has been the most painful thing I may ever know. In true alcoholic form I dealt with it in a bottle as often as I could. To boot I couldn't sleep so I was drinking bottles of NyQuil to conk out. Expectantly, holidays have been especially hard. Thanksgiving '07 I cooked for friends, cried and drank drank drank. Her birthday Dec. 4th '07 I cried and drank over it because nobody seamed to care she would have been 63. Christmas '07 I tried to hold on until we were visited by some neighbors. I started drinking with them and I don't remember how the night ended up. The next day my wife told me my oldest daughter tried to kiss me goodnight but she couldn't understand what I was saying. "Why is dad talking so funny?", she asked. My wife told me she couldn't keep doing this anymore. I was humbled and humiliated. My wife didn't yell at me or seem to get mad, just sad. Maybe she knew how good I was at doing it to myself. I never had a dad and have always wanted to be the best one in the world because of that. Now look what I had done. Upon learning this my therapist suggested I join the ranks of AA or visit her 3 times a week. Looking for the easier softer way(HA!) I called central office and got 12 stepped by a total stranger. He took me to my 1st meeting, and as nervous as I was, the moment I said, "My name is Tony and I'm an Alcoholic", I felt a wash come over me. I finally had hope this life might actually end up being o.k. It was a comfort I only remember as a child in my mother's arms. I probably was right then. That was a little over 11 months ago. I know it is supposed to be one day at a time but I'm getting a little excited for the day after Christmas when I get my 1 year chip and start breaking my old record 24 hrs at a time.
Whew! That felt good to get out.
Tony Fishstyx

How I got here pt.3

Remember I said the the greatest thing? Well due to the fact I had to stay dry for one year I became every body's favorite designated driver. I went everywhere I used to go and hauled my drunk buddies around. Without drinking I resorted to my other favorite pastime, people watching. One fateful night I got caught staring at this one girl. I was embarrassed but I still didn't stop trying to make a connection. Without booze my courage was absent and my friends and I decided to leave. A much more suave friend of mine knew what was up and decided to help a bro out. He called this girl over and made the introductions. After that we dated for about 2 years and got married on Jan. 30 1999.
When my year of dry sobriety was up the party was on. 365 days and 10 minutes I had a drink in hand AT THE SAME BAR I WAS STABBED AT! My friends cheered my triumphant return. I thought that being off the sauce that long would make me a lightweight again. Sadly, I was not born again. As usual I put the entire gang to bed. Many funny,dumb, stupid and sad drunk stories took place until my wedding. How she ever said, "I do" is a wonder to me now. Thank God she held on to me because we now have 2 beautiful and incredible girls.

My drinking has gone up and down since meeting my wife as I have tried to do the good dad thing. Sometimes well and sometimes not so well. We have had some pretty heart breaking things happen to our family heath wise and liquor kept me numb through it. It has done nothing but harm to those who have needed me to be clear during our families rough patches.

How I got here pt.2

College was the greatest gift of my life at that time. Escape from a household of shame and punishment. Due to being so poor there was no shortage of government $ to send me to higher learning. Grants and loans suddenly had me with disposable cash most of my peers envied. Guess who bought the booze? I was notorious and imfamous for the tabs I would pick up. I still ran at college but without my taskmaster uncle to appease I finally quit my sophomore year.
The only logical move for a budding young alcoholic after that was to join a fraternity! Now it was on. What a wonderful environment. Booze, Brotherhood and Booze. (Bet you thought the 3rd "B" was gonna be Brauds:) We drank and fought and drank and fought. At some point those fools even saw fit to elect me president. I had arrived!
Along with my alcoholism I am also a workaholic. I supplemented my drinking habit in college by working in a restaurant. It was an easy fit since I had been working in restaurants since I was 11. After a few semesters of partying, work and school there just wern't enough hours in the day. Somthing had to give. Betcha can't guess what went? :) I worked hard and played hard. All the while dismissing that I had a problem. I was an excellent chef and alcoholics were bums with cardboard signs. That wasn't me I'd say.
It was in those restaurant/fraternity years when the greatest and worst thing ever happened to me. One night I was at a bar with friends when a really drunk girl got confrontational with my friends and me. At first it was funny as she slurred and made no sense. She swung at me as I taunted her. She and her boyfriend were tossed out as my friends and I kept drinking. At closing time we all poured out of the bar. Guess who was waiting? As she started to scream and yell at me I returned several unkind words back. The boyfriend took exception and produced a set of brass knuckles with a knife attached. Calmly and quickly he punched me right in the gut. I went to swing back at him and fell to my knees. I looked down to see blood gushing out. As I was scooped into a car and rushed off I saw as a big group of my friends/aquiatences mob them both into thier van. I woke up in a hospital bed with an incision from my ribcage to below my navel. The doctor came in and said, "You almost didn't make it. We gave you 8 units of blood and did exploitory surgery. Your liver was lacerated." My mom sat there and wept and all I could say was I'm sorry. I was released from the hospital 2 weeks later. At discharge the Doc said to me I would mend because the liver is the only organ that repairs itself. However, I had to not drink for 1 year.

How I got here pt.1

I have been suffering from terminal uniqueness for most of my life until entering AA. The names, dates and events of my life have their own flair but the longer I sat around the rooms I started to see creepy and comforting similarities with the fellowship of drunks I now call family. I am an only child of my recently deceased mother. I was brought up in an extremely religious household. My mom and I lived with my grandparents and two bachelor uncles. Grandpa was an extreme fundamentalist evangelical minister. I had all sorts of church in my childhood and a strongly enforced belief of a judgemental and punitive God. I rarely measured up to His grace according to my folks. However, that didn't ever get me out of the lead role in all sorts of church youth productions! I think I first played Joseph at age 5. My Mary was 12. If I only could have appreciated that then.:)
At 4yrs old one of my uncles used to let me tag along with him down at the local high school track while he ran. That was just prior to the jogging craze of the 70's. It wasn't long before I was right in step with him. He never took the chance to express many of his own talents but really latched onto mine. Soon he was dropping me off miles from home and insisting I get my training done. I became moderately known in the running circles as I started to win lots of local races. By the time I was 13 I was totally burnt out. Due to a rigid training schedule I had few friends.
We were extremely poor and always lived in the rough side of town. I was the only white kid around and always felt like the outsider at home and at school. THEN THE MIRACLE HAPPENED! One of the tough but cool kids was drinking a bottle of peppermint schnapps on the back of the bus and motioned the bottle toward me. He was just trying to mess with me since the belief was that I was some prude church kid who was dedicated to making the Olympics. I however, saw this as my chance. Gulp Gulp Gulp. The warmth came over me as I felt my shoulders relax for probably the first time in 13 years. The gasps of the crowd were followed by neck hugs and high fives. I was cool.
Off I went through Jr. High and High School. Never drinking during cross country or track season but lead the charge anytime else. Friends would ponder how a skinny runner could put so much away. "He's a fine tuned machine." "His metabolism is better because of how much he runs." Then one kid, who's parents were always drunk or missing from school functions said, "Naw he's an alcoholic!" That was the 1st time I heard the truth but quickly dismissed it.