5 Things That Remind Me I’m Still An Alcoholic

5.) I still drink everything to the last drop: Recently, I guzzled down a glass of ice tea as if it was the last beverage on Earth.  I even sucked the tea out of the ice cubes like I was an anteater. The thing is: it wasn’t very good ice tea. In fact, it was horrible ass-brewed ice tea that tasted like a Glade Air Freshener. Didn’t matter. And doesn’t matter if it’s coffee, flat diet Mountain Dew or a thick chocolate shake, I gulp everything down like it’s a tequila shot. And regardless of what it is, I want more. (Duh)

4.) I still don’t know how to do ‘Happy Hour’: Or perhaps I should say my Happy Hour in SeanLand never lasted an hour and never wound up too happy. I never had that one after work drink over chicken wings with the gals from accounting. Happy Hour to me meant I had 6 two-for-one margaritas and the blackout walk home just happened earlier in the day than usual. Like I said, I don’t get it. Likewise you won’t find me in Vegas or at Mardi Gras or Oktoberfest. Thems drinkin’ places and without booze I fail to see the point.

3.) I still wake up in Saturday with a little dread: Altough I’ve been sober for a few years, a part of me still wakes up with that momentary “What the hell did I do” feeling on Saturday mornings. It passes faster these days mainly because my life is boring (and in a good way). It’s nice not welcoming in the weekend wondering what the fuck I said or sent in a text or did the night before. People who haven’t “cussed a bitch out” in a drunken haze rarely experience this kind of humiliation and good for them! I wish I was one of them but I’m not. I’m the guy who drinks and then yells at you. Charmed, I’m sure!

2.) I read stories about Lindsay Lohan and Mel Gibson and I identify: No really. Aside from that whole being a child star thing or being a crazy racist thing, I totally get these two. Love it or hate it: I know that we suffer from the same shit. Normal folk, on the other hand, read tales of their drunken terrors and shake their heads. I read that stuff and think, “Oh my god! Me too!”

1.) I don’t understand the concept of “Just one”: This sounds stupid because of how simple it is but hear me out. I was sitting with my husband a year ago and he had half of a glass of wine. And it just sat there. On further far and few between instances with alcohol, he would just have one drink. Or rather he could have just one drink. Fascinating! When I saw him do this the first time, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “There’s something I could never do!” And that’s the point! I was always looking for some concrete, absolute evidence of proof positive that I am in fact an alcoholic. And since AA doesn’t send you a plaque or a special sticker for your windshield, this was my proof. Yes there were thousands of other flaming signs that pointed to my alcoholism. But in the simplest of terms, when it comes to drinking alcohol I just can’t stop.

So there you go! My first listy type of blog! Did you enjoy it?  Clearly, there are others and maybe we could add to the list. Also, it should be noted these are just my ways of remembering that I’m an alcoholic and by no means a definitive list for others questioning if they are or aren’t touched by this special condition.  In the end, it doesn’t matter how I remember, I’m just happy that I do.

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I’ve Got it All Figured Out! (And that’s a problem)

Once upon a time, there was a hard-drinking, coke snortin’ waiter in Los Angeles who would go to great lengths just to be right. I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t Brainy Smurf. But in his never ending quest to be right, this guy was equally as annoying.

Give yourself 100 points if you figured out that pain in the ass know-it-all is none other than me. Yes, nearly as much as I enjoyed being drunk, I loved being right. I adored knowing more on a topic than you. I enjoyed making better decisions than you. And I loved when you were wrong. Like really embarrassingly wrong so I could say, “I knew it!!!” I always knew that you were going to break up with your boyfriend and I knew that you said the wrong name of the place we once had brunch ten years ago. I just knew that you didn’t know who directed that movie we watched on TV. I knew you were gonna mess up that job interview. And I knew that your life was a bigger disaster than mine. But lucky for you– I also knew how to fix it!

Funny. No one ever took my advice or did exactly what I said. Hmm. It couldn’t possibly be because even the most effed up folks in my life knew on some level that I was full of hot air and that taking my advice on how to run their lives would be like taking low-fat cooking suggestions from Paula Deen.  Nah. That couldn’t be it.

This “colorful personality trait” or flaming character defect depending on how delusional I am at any given time, has peaked it’s gnarly head out recently and said, “Helloo!!” and I’m not glad to see him. In fact, I think it’s pretty ugly. I’m in several creative work situations where I have to listen to others, bend on my opinions, let things go and collaborate. Lately in these situations, I have been acting like I know best. Like my way is the only way. In other words, I’m acting like a dickhead. This stubbornness and inability to work with others really takes a toll on me today. When I “get like this”, I’m overly passionate and misdirected and angry about things that aren’t worth my explosive behavior. Yeah, it’s admirable to fight for what you believe in but it’s also courageous to listen and work with others. So after days of wanting to be right and show everybody I had the right answer, I let it the fuck go. My psyche operates the best when I’m at a place of “I don’t know.” Once my chokehold on being right was let go, I instantly felt better. Spiritually. Mentally. Physically.

I got sober with a guy who used to always say in meetings, “I don’t know shit!” He repeated it like a prayer or a battle cry or sometimes like he was screaming it at himself. Mainly, it was a reminder that no, I do not know everything and yes I need help. And that my old ways never worked. Sobriety has taught me these things. It’s also taught me that when I forget these things I can also go back to the beginning and keep trying. So that’s where I am today. I’m Sean Paul Mahoney, a writer and a person who doesn’t know shit. And I’m okay with all of that.

I Can Touch the Sky. I Know That I’m Alive

The incomparable Celine Dion sang those words in the title of this post. Yes, the Canadian songstress not only knows how to find older husbands who look like Santa Claus but she can sniff out a song with syrupy lyrics better than any singer in zee world.  I’m being a sarcastic tool of course. I really don’t have anything against Celine Dion.  She seems nice enough even if her music makes me wanna hurl most of the time. She’s  just really easy to make fun. And I enjoy doing so (damn you, program of honesty!). That being said, I’ll be the one you make fun of after you hear my connection to that musical masterpiece quoted in the title.

When you have young nieces and nephews and you’re a person who doesn’t want to live in reality, things can sometimes work out in your favor. Like a viable excuse to go to all of the current kids movies. That includes Stuart Little 2. What’s that you say, you had no idea they even made a second one? Well I did and I even saw it in the movie theater with my niece, nephew and my parents. The film features Michael J. Fox(alcoholic!) as the title character, Melanie Griffith (pill popper!) as a canary named Margalo and a naughty cat named Snowbell voiced by Nathan Lane (gay!). Suffice it to say that’s a cast I can identify with. Who knew I’d have so much in common with a mouse, a bird and a cat. Don’t answer that. Anyway we took the kids to Burbank in the dead heat of the summer to enjoy a family film. Burbank, in case you’ve never been, is one giant mall located directly beneath the hottest surface of the sun, Jay Leno works there and they have a Bob’s Big Boy!

At the end of the film, the Celine Dion song plays. La Dion sings as the mouse and bird fly away in a tiny plane which from what I’ve read is the appropriate soundtrack when this occurs. In the dark theater, I watched as the little friends flew off and silently sobbed.  The lyrics of the song and the tender moment coupled with the hangover caused tears to drip down my face. As we’ve discussed, I am a crier, a personality trait my mom attributes to being Swedish and one a shrink I saw for a brief time tried to treat with antidepressants. The point (and I use that term lightly) is that Celine’s song moved me to tears. Embarrassing for the alternative kid who grew up to be an insufferable music snob. As far as the film goes, don’t ask me what the plot was. It was 77 minutes long and the last time anyone saw Geena Davis. That’s all I know.

But my history with “I’m Alive” doesn’t end in the dark movie theater. I continued to hear it on several booze shopping trips at Rite-Aid, which was also across the street from my house. Like I’ve said before, that apartment was an easy place to be a drunk. The song no longer made me cry but I always noticed it and sung along with it. I’m not going to get into a line by line analysis of the song here.  (You’re welcome) But let’s just say you can count on the lyrics  rhyming  “I’m alive” with “wings to fly,” “all my worries die”,  “I can touch the sky”and “I’ve got pink eye.” Okay,  maybe not the last one. Yet as corny as these lyrics are the song still sort of affects me. it reminds of a time where I didn’t know what real hope looked like. It reminds me that the summer I saw Stuart Little 2 was also the summer before I turned  30 and my drinking and drug use had wreaked some serious havoc. I was promoting a night and spinning records at a club in West Hollywood. Often times I would pay bands, tear down elaborate decorations, settle up with the bar and coordinate plans for the following week all in a blackout. I’d leave with people and not tell my boyfriend or the others I came with. It started to get out of control but I was knee-deep in a fabulous scene so I couldn’t see that I needed to fly away too.

I heard that song during my first year of sobriety at a Walgreens, because apparently Santa made some sort of deal that Celine’s music must be played at every drug store chain, every hour on the hour for the rest of time. (Insert evil French Canadian laugh here). Again, I chuckled and hummed/sung along. But what was lost on me then was that the song at that moment should have become my theme song. Because for somebody like me could have been killed by his craziness, “I’m Alive” was beyond ironic. It was brilliant. And I didn’t even need a talking mouse or canary to figure out how lucky I was to be just that.

The Odds are Good but the Goods are Odd

When I heard there were hundreds of gay AA meetings in the Los Angeles area when I first got sober, I thought to myself, “Great. I can make my life all better and pick up a boyfriend while I’m here. Fabulous!” I mean you might as well multi-task, right?

So I showed up to my first gay AA meeting in Santa Monica expecting good things. I figured since sober gays didn’t hang out in bars to meet people they must have come here to find hookups and boyfriends. As the meeting started, however, my plan crumbled. First off, there were a lot of lesbians there. Which is fine. In fact, I’m kind of a lesbian groupie. Later on in my Santa Monica sobriety, I befriended all of the coolest lesbians in the program, watched their dogs and even had one as my sponsor. But that didn’t help with the boyfriend item on the agenda. Secondly, the people in this place were really jacked up. I know. Fucked up people at a 12 step meeting–go figure! As they went around the room and shared. I heard these kinda cute guys tell stories of DUIs and suicide attempts. My heart went out to all these men who were battling to stop drinking and just to stay alive. But hitting on them after the meeting seemed highly inappropriate and just wrong. Around that time,  my friend Sarah passed on the wisdom that when it came to the men in AA, “The odds are good but the goods are odd.”

Lastly, and this was the worst part, I realized I was like them and therefore in no position to date. Bummer. That didn’t mean I couldn’t look, no? Seriously, thank god for all of the alcoholic actors and models in AA. They made a lot of boring meetings more enjoyable. I remember when I was looking for a sponsor, I went to a meeting in West Hollywood in the middle of the day. When the time came for the, “Would anyone willing to be a sponsor” announcement, a dozen or so guys who clearly just stepped off the Gay Porn Express all raised their hands.  Well, that wasn’t gonna work. I’d spend all my time trying to figure out how to get my sponsor to sleep with me instead of getting sober. Hence why I wound up with an ass kicking nurse and later a loving lesbian as my first two sponsors. But I digress.

My crazy ass actually wondered, on several occasions, why I wasn’t being hit on at more meetings. Like didn’t they know how hot I was? Weren’t they dying to break off a piece of this? Um. No. And I can’t say I blame them. My life was a hot mess and I was fucking nuts. So no, my toxic, curdled milkshake did not bring all the boys to the yard. And perhaps I wasn’t getting hit on because most people at meetings aren’t there to hookup. They were there to get better. What a concept!

As the wild ride in recovery continued, I realized I needed these meetings too and I needed to stay alive and I wanted my life back. I eventually started believing that maybe one day somebody could actually want what I had going on. And maybe, if I did the work and stopped drinking, even my goods could be a little less odd.

Remember Roxie

Sometimes it’s the friends or family member of an alcoholic who help them see how jacked up their behavior was. For me, it was checkout girl named Roxie.

For much of my hardcore daily drinking, I lived across the street from a Von’s grocery store in the hip and occassionally dangerous neighborhood of Echo Park in Los Angeles. I lived in that apartment for 8 years and drank nearly every day during my time there. Having that “open until midnight” grocery store steps away from house was divine for a dialy drinker who liked to turn your plain old Tuesday into an excuse to get hammered. In many LA grocery stores, especially the ones in dicier neighborhoods, the liquor is kept locked behind glass doors on a walls near the registers. Going there daily, the checkers knew who we were and were always at the ready to unlock and pull out whatever it was we were drinking that night. During long runs of drinking, it felt shameful to have them yet again fetch booze for me. But not shameful enough. I got over it pretty quickly when it was in my hands and I was out the door. One Von’s employee, Roxie, was usually working nights when I would pop in after work to get a bottle before they closed. Roxie sold me alcohol many times when she probably shouldn’t have. Roxie rung me up in one or two blackouts. Roxie saw my disease almost nightly and was forced to deal with it for 9 bucks an hour. She was a doll though and we always had a cordial back and forth. Short, plump and kind of saracstic, Roxie was a friendly, if not always enthustastic enabler. Through the years, I saw her get pregnant, start college, change boyfriends. And then in 2009, I stopped seeing her altogether.

That Von’s stopped being across the street when I moved away to the West Side to get sober.  Our paths didn’t cross until a year and a half later when I was back in the neighborhood housesitting for the summer. I stopped into get cigarettes, which were also behind the counter, and Roxie who rung me up asked “Do you need a bottle too?” And I said “No I don’t drink anymore.” To which she replied, “Thank God. You used to drink all the time. Good for you!” That exchange hit me in the gut. Here’s this girl who didn’t even know me but could see my drinking was totally out of control. For a long time, the story struck me as funny. Like when the checkout girl realizes how much you drink, you know you’ve got a problem! But now it reminds me how real the problem was. It’s an oddly powerful yet brief moment that sticks with me especially when my mind tries to tell me I could maybe drink like a normal person. It also reminds me how many were affected by my alcoholism and how truly terrible it was.

So thanks, Roxie. Wherever you are. You’ve helped me more than you’ll ever know.

Sorry State of Sorry

Being me in a relationship means spending a lot of time apologizing, coming clean, admitting to whackadoodle behavior and saying sorry. I do this to catch myself and to call myself out and mainly to prevent myself from acting a fool in the future. Yet every so often I’m a human being and I act like a total jackass and no mea culpa can get me out of it. Yeah I’ve recovered from alcoholism and addiction but I haven’t completely recovered from being a self-obsessed, ego-driven jackass. Take last night for example. Please.

The husband and I had a misunderstanding that snowballed into a flurry of hurt feelings, definitive “I quit!”- type of declarations and general huffing and moping. In addition to being married to one another we collaborate on theatrical and artistic projects. Most of the time we work well together. Last night was not one of those times. As I piece together the recent  history of my assholery, I can see exactly where things went wrong. He was already in a bad mood when a work topic came up late last night after a day of rehearsals from Satan. Instead of just agreeing or offering to table the talk until later, I wanted to lock horns. Translation: I wanted to be right and wanted him to feel bad. Well as you can guess that worked out fabulously for me and we didn’t really talk until late this afternoon after spending several hours feeling horrible. I apologized last night. But it was kind of a Splenda apology, you know not the real thing. I was sort of like “I’m sorry but you suck because of …” Yeah not a great apology especially from somebody who routinely has to say sorry for the stupid things they’ve done. The fact is I was in the wrong for verbally jumping down his throat but I was too pissed off to admit I was wrong. This morning,  he went to a work thing and I stomped off to a meeting. As I walked home, I felt sad that I was horrible to my best friend and sad that I allowed myself to act like such a tool. I don’t have fights or drama or ‘stuff’ with people anymore so when I do it really makes me feel awful. Luckily, we cleared the air when I returned and after some veggie pasta and reality TV, things got back to normal. I even apologized for my crappy apology and gave him the heartfelt, real thing.

The lesson here was one I seem to have to keep learning: I’m not done. I’ll probably have to keep saying sorry and admitting when I’m wrong and praying for willingness to change as long as I live. And that’s okay. It sure beats bitching in a bar somewhere about how the world is out to get me and how I’ve been done wrong. Talk about a sorry existence.

Peace in the Middle Least

Years ago, a friend of mine once succinctly told me, “You’d like to be Marcia Brady but you’re really a Jan.” He was right. The bastard. Like the tortured Jan Brady, I am a quintessential middle child with the baggage to prove it.

Jan and I suffer from serious conditions like “Where’s Mine”-itis, “I’ll never be as good as her”-phobia” and general feelings of suckiness. I spent a lot of time trying to be different from my siblings and to stand out. Unlike Jan, however, my methods weren’t as harmless as making up a fake boyfriend or wearing an afro wig. I was more of the dropping acid on the mall and shaving stripes into my head type. Potayto, Potahto. I’d hardly be a fabulous alcoholic if I didn’t blame my lot in life on my birth placement so you best believe I milked being a middle child for all it was worth. Us middle children have an uncanny ability of making folks believe that we were rarely fed, chained to a radiator and ignored all because we have more glamorous older and younger siblings. Of course, all of it is a lie. Maybe not a lie in the early years but more of a childhood perception. It becomes a lie though the more we tell it to ourselves. I told myself and others that I drank over the hand I was dealt. But that was bullshit too. I drank and did drugs because I didn’t want to cope with life and wasn’t terribly interested in living the truth. Period. I think I would have drunk the same regardless of wherever I wound up perched on my family tree.

I rarely feel those childish moments of middle insecurity anymore. But I have been experiencing another kind of “middle” lately. My play has opened and closed to much success. My whirlwind romance is nearly two years old. Other extreme highs have just simmered into a great daily life. And I feel like I’m not at the climax or at the foot of the mountain. Just in the middle. As an addicted person, this ‘maintaining’ irks me. It needs to be either high highs or high drama and nothing in between. Like my other middle problems, this one stems from feeling “less than” and is also bullshit. When I’m sullen and self-absorbed and dissatisfied with everything, it completely craps on the amazingness that truly exists in my life today. Today, I woke up early, made muffins, hung out and got inspired with my writing group and then went to the theater with my husband. I even got new shoes and a coffee maker. My life is great! So what if it is the middle? Oreos, most of my favorite books,Tootsie Roll pops, Gone with the Wind– all have fantastic middles. Yet what if the middle is tough or crappy or unenjoyable? Doesn’t matter. I’m still lucky.

Last week I heard a friend of mine’s mother had killed herself. I don’t know why and the only thing I really know about suicide is that nobody ever truly knows why. What I can guess happened is that this sweet woman who had helped tons of people and changed her life suddenly couldn’t see past whatever stormy middle she was in. To honor her, I can be thankful for the big dramatic highs, the life-changing lows and especially the everyday middles.

The Voices in My Head: The Musical!

You and me, we have a special relationship. I routinely tell you about how batshit crazy I am and you politely read and even comment. I like it. So in the spirit of our lovely little back and forth I might as well tell you how I talk to myself and hear voices in my head. I say this not to appear  interesting or eccentric.I bring this up because maybe it’ll help others. See, I always just assumed I was nuts, turns out I’m just a playwright!

Ever since childhood, I’ve had in-depth conversations with myself and whoever else was banging around my head. I kept it hidden for years. Finally, when the Bluetooth era exploded I felt like I could come out of the closet. I could safely walk down the street while deep in conversation and no one would question it. Not like anyone ever questioned it in LA to begin with. That’s an entire city of cuckoo birds who wander around chattering to themselves. Nevertheless, the Bluetooth gave me a thumbs up to talk to myself out on the open. Towards the end of my drinking, the out loud conversations with nobody became for frequent and more desperate. I was always telling myself “You’re gonna be alright. Things aren’t that bad. You can get through this.” These mantras were usually followed by whispers of plans that might help get me out of  whatever the mess of the moment I was in and oddly enough, random numbers I would say out loud. Sometimes even cries for help can be mumbled to ourselves I suppose.

As I’ve recovered and changed my life, the conversations continue and  the voice still  pop by to say hi. But it’s not of “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi” variety anymore. In fact, these conversations are now incredibly useful. In my new incarnation as a playwright, I basically try to find stuff for characters to talk about that will propel some sort of a story while entertaining the audience. This task, in the beginning, scared the crap out of me so I knew it was going to be something valuable and miraculous. Eventually. As I started writing, I painfully forced words into the characters mouths and it all sounded incredibly phony and awkward and literal. During the 77 billionth rewrite of my first show and after a late-night breakdown, my husband and creative collaborator asked bluntly,”Why are you writing this show?” I told him through a cloud of tears and bad attitude that I was writing it to get to the heart of how technology has changed the way we communicate and that in the end I think we’re all just trying to make real human connections. “Then do just that,” he told me. I sniffled and calmed down. I realized in that instance I just had to get out-of-the-way, trust the story and keep writing. I went back to the drawing board (I don’t really have a drawing board or even know what that is but I do like that expression) and then the miracles happened. When I shut the naysayers in my mind up, the characters just started talking! All I had to do is write it down. They told me everything as long as I just let them talk. It was that simple. These voices I’d had rambling in my brain since childhood, weren’t trying to hurt me, they just wanted to be on stage! Of course. Even the voices in my head are attention whores.

While writing this new show, the voices are now like old friends. But sassier. They tell me to be quiet so they can keep talking. They tell me to stop questioning the process. They tell  me to let them speak so others can hear their stories. And I happily oblige.