There is a picture out there in the world of your’s truly wearing a pink sequined turtleneck under a fluffy pink fur coat. I’m wearing purple vinyl pants and I weigh about two pounds of pre-coke bloat weight and honey, I look fabulous. This was standard bar going attire and looking like Barbie’s more sparkly brother was kind of my image. There’s also a picture out there somewhere of me dressed in a tiger stripped halter top and a Farrah wig but I digress. The point is in the mid-1990s I had the look down and the cute friends and the sass to get me in for free. Like much of my sanity, these photos are lost for good. But fabulous has come back to me. Even if it isn’t covered in sequins these days.
Websters defines “fabulous” like this:
1. a : resembling or suggesting a fable : of an incredible, astonishing, or exaggerated nature <fabulous wealth>
b : wonderful, marvelous <had a fabulous time>
2: told in or based on fable
Definition 1.a struck me as particularly powerful. “Suggesting a fable like a fantasy.” It’s telling that chasing fabulous was something I did for so long when by this definition I was chasing a fable. Fascinating! The word gets more humorous when you consider that most famous fables have some sort of a lesson or moral. As I’ve mentioned maybe 60 zillion times, my life has been one big moral or learning experience or just a record breakingly long After School Special. In short, the dictionary called me out for being a delusional mess who’d rather live in a fable than reality. Guilty. (Sidebar-When I looked up ‘fabulous’ on dictionary.com, there was an ad for ‘The Five Signs of Mental Illness’ next to the definition. Wonder if one them was “pursuing fablousness”?)
Still, not all fabulous is bad, right? Google defines it as “extraordinary” and “amazingly good.” That’s how my life feels now. Living in fables and repeating the same mistakes like some sitcom character are things I try to avoid today. I have my moments of delusion naturally but on the whole I’m a lot less crazy than I used to be. The really insane thing is this: even though I spent years acting fabulous and telling people I was fabulous, I didn’t feel fabulous. I felt like shit. I wanted to kill myself. I could not possibly see a way my life could ever improve. But darn it, I was hellbent on convincing you that I was okay. Once the cat (who was actually a big drunk rabid tiger) was out of the bag, however, I couldn’t fool anyone. I wasn’t fabulous. I was fucked up and everyone knew it. And right here was when the long road back to fabulous started.
Now in 2012, my world is fabulous. It’s not of the Farrah wig wearing or pink sequined variety, though. My fabulous is more of a 1b. You know “wonderful”, “marvelous.” It’s wonderful that I can spend a weekend with my parents and not have to sneak down to the bar. It’s marvelous that I can tell the truth about when I don’t feel so great. What’s more is that there are now pictures of yours truly looking happy and not bloated and with people he loves. But for reals, if you find those other photos can you mail them to me? They’d be fabulous Facebook photos.
This Twitterddicted, Facebook fiend and habitual Hulu-er is doing something radical for four days. I’m not going online!
I know the fact that I consider this radical might a be pathetic but for me it’s kind of a big deal. I’m ALWAYS online. I work online, I socialize online and I write from this here laptop. But as I prepare to leave for Scottsdale, Arizona my laptop is will be staying here in Denver. Last summer, I went to NYC and didn’t work at all. I found I enjoyed the city so much more. So I’m taking it a step further this time and powering off the whole time I’m gone. For the first time in years, all of my three beautiful and amazing siblings will be in one place and I don’t wanna miss a moment! My dad put together a little family reunion in the desert and I want to show up for the whole thing. So for once in my life I worked ahead, got all of my writing done for my clients and left no projects hanging. I even knocked out a nice solid start to my new play! All signs point to unplug. And that’s what’ll do until Tuesday. Will I survive the high desert and my family without being high? Certainly. Will I survive without Twitter? That remains to be seen.
I’ll be back next week with reports from my sparkletastic trip to Arizona, some thoughts on getting your fabulous back after getting sober, and a post about how play writing is like having multiple personalities. Love all y’all! – S.
By now, readers of this blog have picked up on the fact that I’m kind of a reality TV whore. And by kind of I mean a total reality television junkie. I’m especially into things that are competitions. Chopped, Top Chef and Amazing Race are among my favs. After years of watching American Idol and drunkenly yelling at the TV when the wrong person won, I thought I gave up on singing reality competitions. But last year, The Voice roped me in with the mere promise of Cee Lo Green’s funktacular presence and the program enticed me yet again this season. Unlike last year however, I’m really invested in the outcome this time around. Because this time around The Voice has a contestant who’s an awful lot like me.
27 year-old Jamar Rogers is an addict in recovery who also happens to be HIV positive. He rocked his blind auditions with a rollicking cover of the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army.” As I watched his interview and his triumphant ass-kicking performance, my eyes welled up. Here was this cool kid with mad amounts of talent saying to America “Look you can recover from drugs and alcohol and be HIV positive and still rock out.” His dream came true that night when the aforementioned Cee Lo picked him for his team. Last week, Rogers secured a place in the finals after defeating his friend Jamie Lono in the battle rounds. Again, more tears were had both by Rogers on stage and by me at home. Jamar’s story has moved me from moment one not just because of how similar it is to my own but because of how The Voice has embraced him as a modern hero and an inspiration. And if you think about it, us ex-drunks and recovering junkies are heroes. In an era where musical legends are routinely taken out by addiction and alcoholism without so much of a raising of the eyebrow, stories like ours are rare and heroic indeed. We’ve honestly tackled our addictions and gone after the lives we want.
Well,except for that reality TV addiction. I’m not giving that up anytime soon. Not at least until I get to see Jamar Rogers win The Voice. I’ll be, unabashedly, clapping and crying the whole way.
Towards the end there was series of shame spiral barbecues. See, in the beginning I could drink all day and maintain for several hours but as the jig was closer to being up, as it were, I could barely keep it together. Many of my messiest moments took place at my best friend’s weekly summer barbecues. What was intended to be as sunshiny good time with grilled chicken and side dishes usually wound up being a scene from The Days of Wine & Roses & Macaroni Salad. I always intended just to have enough cocktails to have fun and enjoy the afternoon but somehow the day would end with me falling downstairs or getting in a fight with someone. I know. I sound awesome. You’re wondering to yourself, “Gee! Why did he ever stop drinking? He sounds like the ideal party guest!” All of these backyard blunders aside and all of the other mountains of evidence that pointed directly toward the flashing, neon “Hot Drunken Mess” sign didn’t matter though. I always thought, “Well. I’m not that bad. There are people who are worse than me.”
Of course being an addict or an alcoholic isn’t a competition. (Because if it was I really think I could win or at least get Miss Congeniality.) There’s not some “messy meter” that accurately measures one’s drinking problem. That being said there are some who can’t hold together as well as others. And towards the end I was one of those. But as I relapsed and couldn’t stay sober I conveniently forgot how out of control I was. Memories of falling down disappeared and drinks flowed as if they never wreaked havoc. I am waxing poetically or pathetically about this topic today because I recently read an article where actress Tara Reid notes that her well-documented partying “wasn’t that bad.” She of the drunken boob slips, the televised body shots and documented trips to rehab is now saying “At the end of the day, I really [just] had fun. I wasn’t doing crimes. I wasn’t getting in trouble like that.” Let me just say, I’m not Tara Reid nor have I ever drank with her nor do I pretend to know her habits with alcohol. So maybe she’s right. Maybe she just had to get it out of her system and now she says she can party “discreetly.” Good for her!
What reading this did remind me is for me it really was that bad. Like Leaving Las Vegas bad. Like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf bad. Like blacking out at a barbecue bad. Yet I never got arrested or wrecked a car or spent time in rehab or a loony bin. So I guess by those standards, I could be convinced it wasn’t that bad. But thankfully it was bad enough. By 36, I had achieved some all time personal lows and my insides felt like a burnt out shell. I battled my own delusion for so long that now I’m okay saying, “Yeah. It was fucking horrible and I was a disaster.” Unlike Tara, I can’t party discreetly or just have a few drinks. And that’s okay. I own my hot messiness of yesteryear and know that today I’m 100% safe to invite to a backyard barbecue. So if you feel so compelled, I’m likely to show up. I’ll even bring the macaroni salad.
For the longest time, I thought I wasn’t getting better faster enough. I felt perpetually afraid that someone was going to walk by my desk and tell me that I was doing sobriety all wrong and that I would have to start over. Even as I chugged towards my first 365 days doubled over in pain and still majorly fucking up in most areas of my life something whispered, “You’re alright. You are getting better.”
Part of my problem has always been that nothing has ever worked fast enough for me– orgasms, drugs, liquor, chocolate, school- all took too much time to make me feel better. I wanted results, dammit! I didn’t have time to wait for things or to work towards things. All of that sounded pedestrian and decidedly unsparkly. I blame Bewitched for ruining me on instant gratification. Samantha could wriggle her nose and get herself out of trouble or make things better. Looked like a great solution to me. Only thing is I’m totally not a witch and I never could master that nose thing. Still, that never stopped me from giving up the dream that I could snap or wish or sit on a couch and will things to go my way. So when I finally figured out that drinking everyday for the better part of a decade wasn’t exactly a great way to live, I thought sobriety would be the quick fix I needed too. Alas, it wasn’t. My first year of sobriety was filled with pockets of time where I felt like Julie Andrews spinning on a mountaintop, my heart filled with song! I felt so great and the world needed to know about it. In between those pockets, however, were giant isolated valleys in which I spent most of my time feeling like some mythical beast had ripped my soul and spirit out of my body and I was left to patch myself together with scotch tape. I didn’t know how to live without being loaded. I didn’t know how to deal with problems. or how to talk about what I was going through. Or how to do anyfuckingthing but cry, smoke and eat cookies. After four months of staying sober and still feeling like my life was shittier than ever before, I cried to a friend in sobriety, “Why is this taking so long?!? Why does my life still suck even though I’m not drinking?” To which she replied, “That’s why we call it ‘slow-briety'” And I thought, “I didn’t know we called it that. Had I known perhaps I would have reconsidered.” I finally made it to that first year and guess what? Then my life really got crappy! I was sofa surfing and not in my own apartment. My health was a disaster and staying in school had gotten really difficult. But by staying sober and hanging in there I was unknowingly allowing things to get better. I believed down in my heart that things would change and they did. This is not because I am amazing. It is because I am crazy and I had no other choice than to believe that the Universe/God/Higher Power/Whatever was going to pull me out of the muck I was in. It needed to work and it did.
I feel like I need to tell myself this story today because I’m often ungrateful or negative or still doubting that my life is better and that I’m better. I’m far from perfect and my journey of recovery today is a different one. I need things at 3 years sober I didn’t need at 3 days. It’s evolving. I’m evolving. It’s not over and I don’t have it in the bag or have mastered the secrets of living sober. But today, the day after St. Patrick’s Day as I write with no hangover or shame, I can honestly and proudly say, “Sean Paul Mahoney, you have come a long way, baby!”
I work online. I research,write and ingest all of the headlines of the day. Most of the time, I do a pretty good job letting “the sky is falling” mania bounce off like bullets from Wonder Woman’s wristcuffs. But sometimes the barrage of crazy bullshit is enough to drive you to drink.
Theoretically speaking, of course. It’s been some time since anything or person drove me to take a drink. Thank God. As my life was going down in a flaming ball of alcoholic shit in 2008, I was obsessively watching the news. It was the election year. The threat of Prop. 8 loomed over California, where I was living at the time and every good LA liberal watched the batshit shenanigans of McCain and Company like a hawk. As if wringing our hands and complaining was going to stop nutty politicians or thwart homophobic legislation. Nevertheless, that’s what I did. Watched news all day and checked in online and drank. Alcohol was the fuel for the raging fire I had burning in my mind. This blaze told me the world was out of control and that I was right and everybody else was wrong and that things were going from bad to worse. At the time I thought I was contributing to a better world by getting upset and involved but I think I was just adding to the hysteria. Being of Irish and alcoholic descent, it is my civic duty to get riled up at the actions of politicians. No other politician did that trick than Sarah Palin. This dunderhead from Alaska who could see both Russia and a book deal from her house, pushed my buttons like no politician since W. In fact, I’d like to blame Sarah Palin for me hitting rock bottom but since I’m in recovery I’m not allowed to blame people anymore. Whatever. I joke, of course.
As it turns out, it wasn’t a world gone mad or even Sarah Palin that made me drink until I lost my mind and my home. I’m just an alcoholic. That’s what we do. As i got sober, my news intake was limited to basically zero. I remember watching Obama’s inauguration at only a few days sober. And then I didn’t turn on the news again until six months later when Michael Jackson died. My brain needed an info-break. And still needs it today. I have to power down and grab a book or go have a coffee without my laptop. I was prompted to write this after a crazy two weeks of depressing news and studies and political crap. It’s exhausting and I’ve hit my breaking point today.
In the end,I have to remember I can be a good person and care about the world I live in. And I can do all of that without turning on the news.
“Your people sure do love margaritas!’ said the Argentinian lady I used to work for back in the mid-1990s. And she was right. The restaurant she owned was packed on the weekend with gays and lesbians just getting their drink on. Now, a new study from The Center for American Progress says that not only do “my people” love their cocktails but they are more prone to drug and alcohol abuse then our straight counterparts.
I talked about this months ago on these pages and have often wondered what, if any, is the correlation between LGBTs and addiction/alcoholism. Based on my own non-scientific yet vast field experience, I would ascertain that we queers are one cracked out, jacked up drunken mess of a group of people. But clearly I’m no researcher. I like to think of myself as more of a lab rat. Thankfully, this study which pulled data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and other studies, did the real work. The organization claims “that an estimated 20-30% of gay and transgender Americans have abused substances, compared to 9% of the general public” according to TheFix.com. That staggering number confirms what the LGBT community has known for decades but refuses to talk about; addiction and alcoholism are killing thousands of gays and lesbians. So why, after all the knowledge we have about addiction does it continue to ravage the gay community? “The stress that comes from daily battles with discrimination and stigma is a principal driver of these higher rates of substance use, as gay and transgender people turn to tobacco, alcohol, and other substances as a way to cope with these challenges,” the report states. “And a lack of culturally competent health care services also fuels high substance-use rates among gay and transgender people.” Gay and transgender folks, the study says, are also 200% more likely to smoke tobacco than hetrosexuals while gay men are 3.5 times more likely to smoke pot than straight guys.
I can’t begin to speak on the drinking and drug habits of all gay people. (Contrary to popular belief we don’t all know each other.) But for me personally, I read a survey like that and find those numbers to be right on in my own life. Drug abuse? Check. Alcoholism? Check. Smoking? Check. I’m not sure about the hypothesis of why gays and lesbians drink and drug more though. For me it was a combo of things. Being gay was one part but mainly I drank and used to escape, to get away from a person I hated–myself. I had a lot of shame and not all of it was centered on being gay. Ironically, my “battles with discrimination and stigma”,as the study calls them, were more inflamed while I was using. I don’t encounter that kind of resistance in my sober life but that’s a different study altogether. Personally, I don’t believe being gay or being the child of an alcoholic or being bullied or having a high voice alone made me an alcoholic. It was all kind of written in the stars before I got here and it was up to me to either meet the challenges or not. But that’s my crazy ass beliefs. My hope is that gay leaders can look at this study and say “Our community has a problem. What do we do about it?” Ignoring it and having Absoult sponsor our gay Pride floats isn’t helping matters, in my opinion.
But what do you guys think? Does this study hold any water? Will it bring out much-needed honest conversation? Or are LGBTs doomed to a life of addiction? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section!
“It’s daylight saving time, not some global conspiracy against you”, I sniped to myself as I read people on Facebook whining about the inevitable time change that happened yesterday. I went on to silently assault these complainers as I scrolled through my news feed. Clearly, somebody woke up on the beyaatch side of the bed.
Bitch. Smartass. Sarcastic asshole. These are my default settings if I’m not properly adjusted when I start my day. So there I was on a beautiful Sunday morning after sleeping in as the spring air breezed through my window acting like a douchebag. My dipshittery, thankfully, did not bubble over further than my own couch for a few minutes. Granted, I do realize I am a human being and I allowed to occasionally suck. Still, being the Mayor of Negative BitchVille is no longer something I enjoy. When I was younger and perpetually loaded I enjoyed my bitchiness. It was a trait I picked up in middle school to survive. Being a flamboyantly gay youth in Colorado the late 1980s wasn’t as enjoyable as it might sound. So in order to not get the tar beaten out of me I learned how to hurl barbed insults and verbally destroy others before they destroyed me. It was a helpful skill as a child. But leaning on the old bitch mechanisms as an adult is downright sociopathic. A fact I was alerted to in recovery when I had to write down all of the horrible crap I did in order to get better (also known as an inventory). For non-drunken disasters, the inventory process sounds cruel and difficult and guess what– it is! But it also works. Through this process, I discovered that being judgemental, gossipy and manipulative were fine qualities for residents of Melrose Place but had no business in a sober person’s life. Now when I start to act like BitchFace McGee I have to check myself. Where is this coming from? And how can I extinguish it? Usually, it comes down to not feeling good. And yesterday I wasn’t feeling great. The dental health and general health battles of late have made me a little cranky and therefore more susceptible to bad attitude outbursts.
The good news? I did check myself. I had to laugh at my ridiculousness and I went on to have a lovely Sunday, free of shit talking and bitchery. I even made cupcakes for my husband and chatted online with my little brother. It’s never too late in my twisted hater mind to choose happiness instead of misery. But it’s a conscious choice. I have to take the ten minutes to pray or write a gratitude list or take a walk or do something to realize, “Yeah my life is really great!” It’s either that or I spend my day bitching about people on Facebook. Thankfully, the choice is pretty clear.
I’m currently researching and getting ready to write this play about fear, disappointment and karaoke and the other night it struck me how enjoyable the whole process is. I’ve been a giddy little kid watching karaoke videos, taking notes about characters, singing to myself as I write. In fact, for a brief minute I found myself thinking that I enjoyed my new creative life way more than I ever liked drinking.
This, of course, is insane. Like something more than I liked drinking? I loved drinking. Or did I? Okay maybe I loved it for a while but then it didn’t love me back. Regardless, I truly believe that my life today is more exciting and enjoyable than it was when I was a blacking out five nights a week. Go figure. More remarkable still, is the fact that writing and being creative is far more thrilling and satisfying than anything drinking could ever provide. I was talking to a fellow creative person in sobriety the other day and we we’re lamenting about how we weren’t those types of drunks who were more productive when they were loaded. From what I’ve learned over the years, me and my friend are in the minority. I’ve heard dozens of artists, actors and writers say they were afraid to get sober because they thought their work would suffer. I admit I’m kind of jealous when I hear tales of creative folks who create masterpieces while intoxicated. I could never write drunk. It seemed too dangerous. Like I couldn’t control what was going to happen and besides if I was writing I couldn’t exactly keep drinking now could I? So now writing, a gift I’ve cherished my whole life and one that has set me free since childhood, yields the same power as a really good cocktail. I’m free. I’m elated. I take chances. I face scary things. I speak my mind. All while writing. And all while sober.
It’s crazy that something so good for me can make me feel so good. Part of the high it provides, I believe, comes from finally doing what I’ve always dreamed. I’ve always written and always told stories. So to live my real authentic life doing what I love is totally exhilarating. The best part is I don’t wake up after an evening of writing wanting to bash my head in or wondering what I said to whom. With this current cocktail I’m sipping from, I just get the joy of doing what I love and living a life I’m proud of. And to that I say, ” Make mine a double!”
In the showstopper, heart-wrenching number “Maybe this Time” from Cabaret, Sally Bowles sings “Everybody loves a winner so nobody loves me.” Pardon me while I get all musical theater faggy on you but this Kander and Ebb song from 40 years ago couldn’t be more relevant to this addict especially when talking about the could-have been comeback of Lindsay Lohan.
In the days leading up to her appearance on Saturday Night Live, Lohan popped up all over NBC on shows like the Today show and Jimmy Fallon. Lohan was quick to tell Matt Lauer she was sober and that she knew she’d have a long road before folks trusted her again. But like a good little girl in recovery, she said she was ready to do the work. Policing a famous person’s sobriety is something I have no time for. I’m crazy enough on my own, thank you very much. But I have always rooted for the girl. And so have a lot of folks. That’s why when her hosting gig on SNL failed to blow folks out of the water, the press was eager to dub her the worst host of the year. (which by the way would be subjective since that program stopped being funny right around the time Tina Fey left and hasn’t ever gotten it’s mojo back, in my opinion.)
Even though Lindsay has struggled in public to get sober I identify with wanting to prove yourself and wanting people to see you’ve changed even if you’re not totally ready. I went back to school in 2009 when I got sober. I wanted so badly to prove that I could finish and get a degree and make my life happen the way I thought people wanted it to. School in some ways was a total God send. It was great distraction from my hot mess of a life and I was able to work on things that interested me. Yet 7 months into the education rejuvenation, I was thrown the curve ball of an HIV diagnosis and I also realized my drug and alcohol problems were deeper than I expected. This getting better thing had to become a full-time job. School was hard and need my full attention. And with figuring out meds, places to live and how to survive, it was tough to focus. I beat the crap out of myself because I had to take a break and get my life together– again. I wanted to prove to the planet that “Yes, Sean can finish things and be successful.” But the cold hard fact was, I wasn’t ready.
Thankfully, I became ready for bigger things as time went on. But I had to stop and move slower and realize all of this recovery stuff takes a really long freaking time. So Lindsay, wherever you’re at in sobriety, remember there’s always a next time. And if you hang in there, eventually, you’ll win.