Thursday, June 20, 2019

Commitment

I can't really remember if I am writing a blog I already have written before.
I am almost to 100 entries over the past 7 years and I try hard to not repeat myself.
Obviously this blog is based on my life and experiences as a recovering addict and alcoholic and touring musician and most important, a father and husband. The theme is always similar but I hope each entry has something fresh to share. People often ask me to write the blog more, and I promise I will be doing so soon, but its sometimes hard to be authentic and honest when it is a chore.
Some writers write for the sake of being able to write, it is their gift. Mine is not that way.
My gift I do not believe is so much in the ability to write, but to share my feelings and world honestly.
I enjoy writing, but it has to come from the right place. I don't write songs well without purpose either.
My best songs are based on true experience or feelings. I could never be a "Songwriter" that is shelling out melodic tunes for money. I don't have it in me, and so I approach this blog the same.
I write when I have something to say that I feel is worthy of your time.

Which brings me to commitment.
I have never been committed to much in life before recovery, other than my guitar and music.
Music was the lover I would not let go of, no matter what the cost.
I have given up many other life experiences for music. I have slept with my guitar in lieu of a human
many times. The guitar is the one thing in life I have held tightly since I was 8 years old.
I often thought of "commitment" as mostly having to do with a relationship, a marriage vow.
I was not very successful with that idea early on in my life as well. I just wanted to play my guitar
at all costs. Now, throw in some drugs and alcohol and you get a pretty good story.

It never occurred to me that commitment was so powerful.
My first real commitment in life was to the recovery programs that have saved my life.
I remember hearing from a man in a meeting years ago say "at some point you have to make a commitment. You have to decide this is what you are going to do and do it no matter what."
That hit hard for me. I made a firm decision that day that I would stay clean and sober and I would work that program to the best of my ability. That is what I would do, this would now become my life.
He was right. It took making a heartfelt decision deep inside that this is what I would now be, I would not go back to my old way of life. That commitment rings as true today as it did 15 years ago.

I always say that recovery was my first success in life and that is true. It's the first thing I started that I have not walked away from  or given up on. It has taught me to make real commitments in my life outside of the meetings. My wife and I were dating and I was newly sober. I was just starting to be able to play music again and she would go with me to support me and be there so I could do my job, get paid and bring the money home. It was a fun time. We would drive to Lake Charles two-three times a week for me to play gigs and she'd fall asleep on the way back in the car and get home at 2am, then get up at 6:30am and go to work. She was always there to help me.
One night we were crossing the 210 bridge in Lake Charles and I was so excited. I was staying sober and playing music and this girl was right there with me and we were just having so much fun. I told her that I thought if we stayed together we could probably do really well as a team. She agreed!
We decide that we would make a pact right there that night. We would always stay together, no matter what. We shook on it, on that bridge. We called it the 210 pact.
For years after we married, whenever we argued or disagreed, one of us would remind the other of the "210 pact" and we would kind of let go of whatever the disagreement was.
It was always fun and sometimes like the ring of the bell at the end of a round of boxing.
"Hey....the 210 pact!"......and everything would stop.

Like most marriages, we have had some rough patches along the way. Times when we were younger and things were just not jiving. My nature to always cut and run would kick in and I would think
" I gotta get out of here" or "what the hell is going on". In the midst of all of these turbulence,
one of us would remind each other of the 210 pact. It would solemnly bring the unease to an end.
But it was not a fun little quip anymore, it was for real.
We made a deal, remember? No matter what we would stay together and be a team.
That always worked. It was deeper than our wedding vows, our formal marriage. We did this on our own, together with God as our witness and we shook on it, always and forever.
Laura was pregnant with Josie at the time and my music career was not what it is today.
Times were tight and I was working a lot and not giving her the support she needed, but we did our best. We went to the hospital for the birth of our new baby girl. It all happens so fast and so crazy and at the same time like slow motion. I was right by Laura's side, holding her hand.
I heard a loud cry and the doctor said "Mark the time of delivery at 2:10pm"

The biggest tear I have ever seen, ran out of my wife's eye. She looked at me and I was overcome.
It was too much. It's almost too much typing the story this morning.
I felt this wash over me and I just surrendered and said, ok, I get it. I'm here. This is exactly what I am doing. For always and forever.  Laura and I didn't say a word, we just looked at each other and we knew. The pact was real, it was our honest commitment and we would stay true to our word.

Everything changed from that day forward. We had honored the commitment to the best of our ability up to that day, but that day was the Universe telling us that we made a promise, and now there was no turning back. Life became so much simpler and easy and more connected than ever before.
We stopped fighting, arguing, and just started to really enjoy our life together.
All of our energy went into that commitment.
I became a better musician and a real father and husband that day.
This commitment has become the absolute focal point of our lives.
Nothing else matters, only the 210 pact.

That commitment has led me to many more in my life.
The commitment to my recovery and to my wife have really taught me how to succeed.
When I want to be truly successful at anything, I have to commit.
As I get older, I realize I do not have time for games or messing around. Some people have to go
and some get to stay. I have work to do and time is of the essence.

Not everything in life is as amazing as the pact that my wife and I made some 15 years ago,
nor should it be. But, when I make a commitment, something powerful happens.
It becomes a part of me, it is mine and I own it and treasure the cost.
It is beyond being loyal, it is who I am.
To truly succeed at any venture, I have to commit.
I never realized I could give so much of myself to others or to a cause or work, but I can.
I can give more. I am still selfish. I still love to hold that guitar.
Standing by my word is an inside job, it means I am to be trusted with the deepest of dedications.
I am proud of my commitments today, they define me.

210 pact baby...always and forever!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

GRATITUDE

What can I say?
 I know I've written about this topic before, but after this weekend,
I have plenty to be grateful for.
After four weeks touring in Europe, we came home for a day or two and headed right back out on the road to Florida. I am always thankful for the work, but I do get tired and I do get crabby.
I try my best to you put a happy face on. I pray, I meditate, and I just try to roll with the punches.
The music and the band and most of all the fans always get me through.
By Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay I was spent. The band gave a rousing performance.
We were gifted with many standing ovations and the audience really lifted us up.
 I walked off the stage exhausted.....and a little dizzy.
I made my way over to the autograph line and merch tent, where it looked like the folks waiting faded into the sunset. I gathered my best composure, grabbed a sharpie and jumped right in.....

The first woman in line had bought two cd's and was very sweet.
She told me she enjoyed my music and had not heard me before. She could tell from my
lyrics that I must be in recovery. I told her that was true.
She then told me she had over 30 years of sobriety. I thanked her for her recovery and for
sharing with me. She then looked up and directly at me and said
"My daughter was killed 6 days ago"

Let that sink in.

"My daughter was Killed 6 days ago"

I lost my breathe. She said she had this vacation planned for a while and then her daughter
was killed in an auto accident. She thought about not coming, but she knew it wouldn't be good
if she sat around and thought too much, She needed to get out of her head.
She said she needed to hear the message and seeing me confirmed to her that she needed
to come to Tampa.

What do you say? What do you do? I just said I am so sorry and I grabbed her for a hug
and she began weeping. The thoughts of my children raced through my head.
I was overcome with emotion and we just kind of held onto each other for a bit.
She told me she enjoyed the music and she would see me again.
She helped take some pictures and as the line continued and folks kept pouring in for autographs....
she was gone.

Immediately I stood up straight, thanked God for my blessings and gave everything I had in me
to the line of beautiful people that went on for 2 hours.
I was tired....so what. I was crabby.....get over it. Stop whining and give all of yourself,
thats what you are here, and look what I get in return.....LOVE.

It reminds me that I have no idea what the plan is.....I only know what MY plans are
and they are mostly based in ego.
God needs me to be somewhere, to help someone. This music is not mine.

This music, this life is based on connecting to people. Coming together and helping each other.
It's not about how many tickets we sold, how much money we make, how many records we sell.
What our outfit looks like today. Did we lose weight? Do we look old?
It's not about who plays the guitar the fastest, the loudest, the best.....
It's not about being the most popular......it's about the PEOPLE.

Connecting with the audience, being there together. The simple acknowledgement that life is
painful at best and all we have is each other.

I am a firm believer that that is what matters most.
Getting caught up in the game of success and trying to be something you are not just to try
and be successful is foolish and not artistic. It seems artistic to "portray" onstage, but it's bullshit.

Just be yourself and be honest and let it come to you.
I remembered this weekend why I do this. Why I leave my family and my home.
It's to be with the people. They give so much to me and to the band and it's amazing
that all they want in return is for us to play our instruments and sing our songs.

God bless the woman that I met. God bless her daughter and her family.
Thank you for sharing with me and for including me and reminding me to be of service.
I made a gratitude list and it's busting.

Peace, Love, Zito






Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Dachau



Today we took a trip to the Dachau Concentration Camp outside the city of Munich in Germany.
I have been on tour many times in Germany over the past decade, but I have never had much time to really do anything. With two days off in the same hotel and a little over an hour drive, the band decided we wanted to go and experience this history together.  I was a little nervous the night before, but I knew in my heart I wanted to go and see the camp and know first hand the truth and the horror.
I almost felt like it was my duty to go and to bear witness out of respect for those who were murdered.

It was cold and the sun was not shining. We took the drive and we did not talk much.

We listened to some peaceful instrumental music and everyone kind of laid low. It felt heavy in the van.
When we arrived there were school children everywhere, high school age, on field trips. I heard people speaking French, German, English.....it was kind of a good feeling to see so many young people there
being educated on this terrible history.
We walked the trail to the SS entrance and through the gate that read "Arbeit macht frei"  - work sets you free. The Dachau camp was the first concentration camp in Germany, designed by Heinrich Himmler. It was a former munitions factory that was used to hold political prisoners, Jews, Gypsys, Priests and most were used to work. In fact they were worked to death.
We walked the prison cell block, the barracks, the furnace and gas chambers.
I read as much of the museum that I could handle and watched a film on the camp.
We spent over 3 hours there today and it was life changing to say the least.
No one laughed or told jokes, no one whistled or sang songs. It was sad and cold and hard to take. At the very end of the barracks there were Christian and Jewish memorials that were beautiful. It gave me some peace and time to pray and reflect.

As we walked back through the field of once barracks towards the entrance, 

I began to think how fantastic it is that this memorial exists and that they have over 1 million
visitors a year. The atrocities that these bastards committed would not be hidden or changed in history books. It was here for all to see, for all to condemn and to not be forgotten.
The only happiness I felt today at that camp was the fact that this horrific human suffering was now known to the world and the perpetrators were held accountable in history.

I was horrified, disgusted and in tears many times today.

I am so glad I went  to honor the dead and to be educated, firsthand, of the
pain and suffering these people endured.

So the deaths and abuse of so many will not be in vein, we must never allow this to happen again. 


All I can say is, I am so thankful for my life today and for the freedom that myself and my family enjoy.


Peace, Love, Zito


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aY1_PmHJaSM

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Gray hair all around me.......

That would be a weird lyric to a song......"Gray hair all around me"
except maybe if it were about being at a Blues Festival :)

My friend once told me that nothing gets weirder in life than getting gray pubic hair.
I have not had that experience as of yet......thank you God.
But....I do have some gray hair.
It's an interesting feeling to walk around all day with the same thoughts of most 14 year old
boys and catch a glimpse of myself and see gray. Huh? What happened?
I don't think I am older, but I am.
I am not "Old" in my opinion, but I am not getting any younger.
None of those things I heard from my parents meant anything to me when I was a kid,
they do now. Getting old is a trip. I like it, don't get me wrong, I like the idea of not dying yet.
I still have things I would like to do and I am feeling really good, but some days I am just wore out.
I get tired now and I realize I have to give myself a break once in a while.
Those who seem to never give themselves a break, seem like it hurts.
Sleeping 4 hours a night and working constantly seems like a horrible way to live.
Plus, I think life will be shorter if you don't ever take time to rest the body and mind.
My greatest asset these days is knowing my limitations.
I am aware of what I can do, and more importantly, cannot do. I don't really cross that line much
anymore. It's like with playing guitar as well. I know I cannot play everything I hear in my head,
so I have to take my time and be more thoughtful and considerate. I play what I feel, but it's within
my ability to do so. When I was young I would just go trying to do things that I had no business doing. I would look and sound foolish and like a chump. Today, I know what my boundaries are and I know if I can stretch them or not. That is the best part of getting older.
I know what I can do in life and what I cannot do. Sometimes I can surprise myself, but most times
I just get hurt trying to impress others by walking a tight rope with no balance.
This doesn't mean I cannot learn to do new things, I most certainly can, I am just wise enough to know that I wait until I have somewhat mastered the technique before I roll it out.

Gray hair does not bother me, neither do wrinkles or lines on my face.
I feel as though I have earned all of it. I am still here and I have a story to tell.
I remember thinking that 48 years old was REALLY old. That is exactly how old my Father
was when I was born. Now I think that is so young still. I am not a child but I am not old either.
It seems to be the best time of my life, my prime.  I am confident but not cocky.
When I was young I thought I would live forever, but today I realize that is not true.
I could go at anytime, it's really not up to me at this point.
I used to contribute to my own demise, but I today I take care of myself.
I cherish everyday the best I can.  This life is not given and the fact that I am still standing, thinking,
breathing, loving, living is pretty incredible.  If the worst thing to happen to me is getting Gray pubic hair.....I will be fine.  Does "Just For Men" work down there?  I think it might be painful.....

I'll leave you with one of my favorite verses from a Bonnie Raitt song

"I see my folks, they're getting old
And I watch their bodies change
I know they see the same in me
And it makes us both feel strange
No matter how you tell yourself 
It's what we all go through
Those eyes are pretty hard to take
When they're staring' back at you"

Peace, Love...Zito :)

Friday, January 18, 2019

New Year...New Rules

Happy New Year friends......and foes, I guess.
If you're a "foe" - why would you be reading this fluff?
Ironically, when Howard Stern was really making a name for himself on WNBC
in NYC, he was loved and hated. His antics were driving some "moral" people crazy.
Turns out that those that "hated" him listened twice as long as those who "loved" him.
Isn't that interesting......they couldn't stop paying attention to him because he made them so mad,
and they "loved" being mad.
That's the absolute truth. When we continue to do things that seem to be so upsetting, we must love them. Why on Earth would we continue to do the same thing over and over, unless we really enjoyed it.
Addiction is a funny thing. We usually think it is addiction to drugs, alcohol, maybe even sex.
But addiction is equally based in feelings and emotions. When we get really angry or mad or "riled up",
we get a big boost of adrenaline and it feels empowering and strong. We may not realize it, but we "love" that rush, that feeling, we are addicted to that rush. Even if this outburst of bad behavior is ruining our relationships with others and isolating us, we feel more and more empowered that we are "Right" and everyone else is "wrong".  Hmm......interesting. We have all been through this, we have all felt this way from time to time, but some of us have a harder time letting go. Some of us are truly addicted to our bad behavior. I know that I was for a long time. I am a true alcoholic and addict.
I have the disease. It is mental, physical and spiritual. I abused drugs and alcohol for years, most of the time against my own will, I just could not stop. But I also abused my feelings and my emotions.
I acted out and treated loved ones poorly. I was insecure and self centered, I was always right and always needed verification of my feelings. I was truly unaware.
I lied, stole, cheated and abused. I loved the rush and dug the hole deeper on a daily basis.
My favorite thing to do was to see how far down the hole I could go and how could I get myself out.
I still to this day enjoy that self-defeating experiment. I put myself in situations to see if I can get myself out of them unscathed. It is a terrible waste of time and resources. It is unproductive and very selfish.
Thank God for the 12 Step programs that changed my life. I worked some steps and learned to be aware. It has been a long, slow process, but almost certainly the easier, softer way.
I become more aware everyday, as long as I continue to be open minded and spiritual.
I have to continually remind myself, that I do not know it all, I am a work in progress and still have a lot to learn. 
What I have noticed is that more and more I am focusing on the things that matter most in my life:
Family, Friends, Music. I am exercising more each day and staying in a steady routine of prayer and meditation. I have to stay physically and mentally fit to enjoy this life on Earth.
I am also letting go this year. I am letting go of people, places and things that are not good for me.
I am shying away from ugliness and hatred.
Unfortunately, politics and social media have made things very ugly and deceitful.
But only "Online" - not so much in reality.
What I have noticed is that we see the "Real" person, showing their true colors online.
It is like an alcoholic saying things, that they regret the next day and saying it was the alcohol
talking....but we usually agree that it was probably their true feelings that were only coming out
after being intoxicated. 
I see that people who tell me that they are fed up with the hatred of politics on social media,
seem to be the worst offenders. They continue to share divisive, hate filled, one-sided crap
that usually has nothing to do with the issues at hand.
What that tells me is that they're not so interested in sharing what they feel strongly about.
That tells me that they love being mean. They like being angry and blaming others.
Instead of bitching all of the time, why not do something about it?
If you want a stronger border and are unhappy with the way things are, why not volunteer
your time in service locally in your community?
If you don't like the President and feel he is inadequate, support a new opponent in the coming elections and donate your time to their cause?

I am guilty of all of this behavior as well as everyone else.
In the past, we were duped into "Social Media" - it's the ultimate "Ring and Run".
Leave a bag of shit on someones door step and runaway.
I am also guilty of paying wayyyyyy too much attention to this hatred and politics myself.
Just like the Howard Stern haters, I have given too much of my time and energy to this shit.
But not anymore. Life is good and I am thankful.

It is a New Year - and I have New Rules.
I am sweeping away the debris of bullshit. I have such a wonderful life and I will not waste it on fools.
I will work on my behavior and stay aware of my addiction to feelings and emotions.
I am walking away from the bitterness, the confused. People who cannot bring some light
to the darkness or joy to the sorrow......sorry, you are on your own.
I am not responsible for your happiness, I am only responsible for mine.
If you love to argue and hate and bitch and moan and whine......Enjoy yourselves!
I'll be doing my thing over here, you do your thing over there.
You are always welcome to join me.....

We only have one life to live, I choose to live mine free of addiction.
Happy New Year friends! 
Peace, Love, Zito
I leave you with the Desiderata:

    Desiderata

    Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in silence.
    As far as possible without surrender
    be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
    and listen to others,
    even the dull and the ignorant;
    they too have their story.
    Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
    they are vexations to the spirit.
    If you compare yourself with others,
    you may become vain and bitter;
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
    Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
    it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs;
    for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
    many persons strive for high ideals;
    and everywhere life is full of heroism.
    Be yourself.
    Especially, do not feign affection.
    Neither be cynical about love;
    for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
    it is as perennial as the grass.
    Take kindly the counsel of the years,
    gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
    Beyond a wholesome discipline,
    be gentle with yourself.
    You are a child of the universe,
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
    Therefore be at peace with God,
    whatever you conceive Him to be,
    and whatever your labors and aspirations,
    in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
    it is still a beautiful world.
    Be cheerful.
    Strive to be happy.

    Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.