Disco Damage

If you randomly bust into dance moves when you hear “Le Freak” by Chic  coming from the sound system at the grocery store, if you still expect to be on the guest list even though you have been to a nightclub in several years or if you suffer from minor hearing loss due to dancing next to speakers for an extended period of time; you may be suffering from disco damage. Other common symptoms include the unwavering belief that nothing gets good until after 12am, spontaneously yelling “Hey girl!” at drag queens even if you don’t know them and  a deep desire to dance instead of dealing with your life.

Disco damage sufferers like myself have a had tough week. The back-to-back deaths of Donna Summer and Robin Gibb reinforced the depressing, unavoidable truth: nothing,not even a great dance song, lasts forever. I was a toddler during the original disco era but the beat must have seeped into my brain at an early age because my whole life I’ve been in love with dance music. Yes, I am aware that an affinity for dance music is part of my gay DNA but disco and the culture around it were very much a fantasyland and that appealed to me very much as a future drug addict and alcoholic.

I was scooped into nightclubs and raves at an early age. And what goes better with dance music than drugs? Body glitter and platforms are fabulous but if I really wanted to dance my ass off, drugs had to be my number one accessory. Once at a rave in a warehouse in suburban Denver, the Chic song I mentioned earlier came blasting out of the speakers. I was high on ecstasy and it felt like this  was my moment. This is what I was looking for my whole life. I had friends on the dance floor, I felt fantastic and I was 20. This kind of high needed to happen all the time and normal life needed to feel more like this. So it was this feeling, this hunger that propelled me from Colorado raves to LA nightclubs to working at a record store and to DJing and promoting my own clubs in Hollywood. The goal of a budding disco diva was simple: get high and dance. Ecstasy was the preferred dancing accoutrement for many years but cocaine did the trick and so did some strong cocktails. (For the record, 3 Long Islands and  2 Vicodins aren’t a great dance floor combo and we’ll leave it at that.) There’s a great line in the disco classic, “Lost in Music” by Sister Sledge that sums it up:”Responsibility to me is a tragedy. I’ll get a job some other time.”  For many years, I worked to keep partying, I kept partying to avoid really living.

Eventually, the lights came on, last call was called and I tried to live real life. For a club child, this  is a difficult prospect. We’re used to phony relationships and being high all the time. Things like paying our bills and dealing with our problems are icky tasks meant for those boring, grownups we’d see heading to church on Sunday mornings on our way home from the club. I eventually would face the music and lucky for me that music still  had a disco beat. You could take the homo out of the nightclub but disco would forever “toot, toot- aah- beep beep” in my heart. Donna Summer and the Bee Gees were the soundtrack to my growing up, the background music at the roller rink and still bumping at after hours clubs when I was hell-bent on vanishing in the 1990s and 2000s. Now, songs like Nights on Broadway or Try Me I Know We Can Make it are celebrations that despite ingesting more drugs than a Rick James after-party, I too will survive. My dance parties today take place at my desk most of the time although I still occasionally hit the clubs with other sober folks.  So be kind to me if you see me shaking my booty in the frozen food aisle to Bad Girls or Jive Talking. It’s just a little disco damage and a sweet hangover that I don’t wanna get over.

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hotmail, hot mess.

It must have been nice to be a crazy alcoholic back in the good old days. In that golden era before phones, email, text messages and Facebook, you could just tell people face-to-face all kinds of awful things drunk people say while intoxicated. Slurred assaults like “You never loved me” or “I liked you better ten pounds ago”  could just do their immediate damage and that would be the end of it.  Sure, perhaps the folks on the receiving end of these booze-soaked barbs would recoil and run the opposite direction whenever you entered the room but you wouldn’t have to worry about the words themselves coming back. Today, the Ghost of  Tequila Tantrums Past likes to haunt my inbox with moronic messages from YesterBeer.

This week, I stumbled on a doozie when I was searching my inbox for a pre-maturely deleted client email. See, I know it’s hard to believe but when I drank a lot, (which was the only way I drank, by the way) I had an annoying habit of saying brutal and horrible things to people I loved. And it was always under the guise of “being honest” or some crap. Like those drunk reality stars always say, “I’m just keeping it real” or “I’m using my voice” or my favorite– “Just sayin'”. No what you’re just doing is being a hateful, crazy douchebag. And that’s how I rolled. I didn’t know that I could be honest or state my opinion without being horrible or abusive. When you’re drunk seven nights a week, normal communication is a puzzling prospect. It was far easier to pound out a shitty, nonsensical text message or email while wasted and deal with the fallout later. The recently resurfaced email misdemeanor was written to my ex in 2007, two years before I got sober. I’ll save you the boring and tragic details but the email essentially apologized for the bad behavior from the night before. What made the email remarkable was how pedestrian and insincere it was. The tone of the whole thing is of the “Sorry I forgot to pickup more cat litter” variety and  not of the more appropriate “Oh my god I’m horrified that I screamed at you” flavor. I read the entire email thread, shaking my head in disbelief that I ever lived that way. Alas, this was not the only email trainwreck in ye old inbox. An apology over a barbecue blackout and the continuation of an epic drunken text battle were also readily available for my reading enjoyment.

Out of curiosity’s sake, I entered more search terms into Hotmail to see what old chestnuts they would produce. I mean this stuff no longer has the power to humiliate me anymore and I’m not living in shame about my past so why not? The words “drunk” and “sober” came up with another form of email that also shocked me. Like messages in a bottle, my email communication from 2009 were calls for help. “I don’t know what to do”, “I can’t stop crying”, and “I’m scared” are some of the sentences that stood out. I got a little teary eyed reading these but I couldn’t stop.  It was like reading a book where the crazy character who said he was “keeping it real” actually got real and asked for help. Other searches turned up job rejections, bold faced lies, SOS emails asking for money and even some embarrassing Craigslist dating ads.  Abruptly, I stopped the email archelogical dig. I got the message I was suppose to hear. Just because  Hotmail was going to hold on to this stuff no matter how many times I pressed the delete button or how old it was, didn’t mean I had to. I could read, remember and be grateful for the life I have now and truly “delete” the shame attached to old words and behaviors.

glittering cloud

He was there all along. He was just hiding. Like he was known to do. But a few years ago,out of nowhere, he poked his curious little blonde head out. After being smothered and silenced for years, the real me came back for good.

After a year or so of being sober, I read that a human’s personality is fully developed by age 6 or 7. This totally made sense to me. I remember being that age and knowing who I was. I would lay on the floor of my bedroom and watch the clouds move back and forth. My imagination was always concocting all kinds of reasons why this was happening. I’d make up stories. I’d write poems about the things I saw or wanted to see. I had a million little tiny creative worlds I was building all at the same time. Somewhere inside me, I had this feeling that this is what I needed to do and who I was. He was a lovely little individual that six year-old version of me. “We remain recognizably the same person. This speaks to the importance of understanding personality because it does follow us wherever we go across time and contexts,” said Christopher Nave, the author of the study that pinpointed age seven as our personality year.

Yes this personality, the one that been described as too girly, too gay, or too weird did follow me. But when you’re a hot pink, glitter marker in a world filled with dull blue Bic ballpoint pens, you do what you can to not stand out too much. Especially in those delightful middle school years where children were run out of town for packing the wrong thing for lunch, much less being super effeminate kid who wrote letters to Cyndi Lauper and collected scratch and sniff stickers. Thankfully, my homies drugs and alcohol were a great equalizer. If I could drink with people and drink more than they could, maybe they’d think I was cool or at least they’d be too wasted to see what I freak I was. The downside of hanging out with those two thugs was that over time, my light really went out. 20 years later, that kid who marveled at sparkling skies and wrote crazy stories was all but dead.

Luckily, I saved him. Or maybe he saved me. Regardless, he came back.  The other day, I realized as I was planning my writing projects for the next few months and pitching some creative ideas for other things I’d like to try, that I’m really living the life I want to live today. There’s no end and no saying no. I want to try all sorts of wild things and take all kinds of creative risks. I want to write whatever the fuck I want.  Mainly, because now I can. And because I’m sober. Turns out it’s a lot easier to chase your glittering clouds when you don’t wake up feeling like hammered hell 7 days a week.

Yeah I’m not silencing that seven-year old anymore. This time out, he gets to stay up as alate as he wants, be as sparkly as he wants and build as many pretend places as he wants. After all, I’m really proud of the little guy and it’s the least I could do for him.

Enough is Enough

I’ve been in a ton of self-imposed pain lately. Clearly I enjoy it otherwise I’d get myself out of it. But to be fair, as a gay, former Catholic, alcoholic my tolerance for pain is like superhuman. I reckon I could have survived the Inquisition, yawned and asked for a cigarette. Well, finally this week I had my Tina Turner-running-out-of-the-limosine moment. The only difference is the crazy abusive prick I ran away from wasn’t Ike Turner. It was myself.

What’s love got to do with it, indeed! I’ve gotten lazy (okay not gotten lazy- that’s like saying Mel Gibson’s ‘gotten racist’. I’ve been lazy.) I’ve been resting on my laurels. I’m not really sure I have laurels or what they even look like but as a person in recovery I’m told over and over again that I shouldn’t rest on them. Smartassafrass aside, at the end of the day, I haven’t been taking care of myself. Meaning I’m not praying really or going to very many meetings or helping other people and this sludges on for months like some painful soap opera that needed to be cancelled six years ago. And whaddyaknow-I’m batshit, balls out crazy, uncomfortable and doubled over in pain. I have had enough friends relapse or die doing this type of non-recovery dance routine but you know I’m different. I’m special. I don’t need meetings or help or any of the stuff that saved my life in 2009. Yeah right, bitch. Thank fucking God, this neglect didn’t gently shove me into a drink or mountain of blow.

This week a professional situation that has been miserable for months came to a head, got ugly and then pushed me into my Enough is Enough moment. I was resentful and felt like I’d been compromised and ignored. But talking about it would be yucky, un-glamorous and I’d have to be a—gasp!-human being. So I tried to ignore it. Again, dangerous games for somebody who’s major M.O. was to escape, avoid and disappear. Not dealing with things never worked for me and in sobriety the jig is up fairly quickly these days. A few heart-to-hearts with folks in the know and some prayer later, I eventually pulled my head out of my ass. I took a little action, I spoke from the heart and I stepped away from a creative position that was causing pain.   And low and behold, here on Thursday night I do feel better.

I’m sharing this right now for a couple of reasons. I need to tell on myself and you folks seem to listen and get it so why not bend your ear? I like to pretend you’re a captive audience but if actually read this while watching reality TV that’s okay too. Secondly, I want to tell the truth about this sobriety gig. Sometimes, it fucking sucks. It’s hard and I feel like I’ve graduated and don’t want to be perfect anymore. But the fact of the matter is I cannot go back to a life where I drank and used. So I stick it out. I hang in there knowing that it’ll pass and that drinking and using won’t solve anything. After 3 and a half years completely clean and sober, I am not all better. I keep going to meetings even when I’m so crispy dry I could crack in half. I pray a message of recovery reaches me and it does. Every time. But pretending it’s a walk in the park or can be solved by some bumper stickers never worked for me and I don’t think it helps others either.

Lastly, I need to write this down and see that regardless of how awkward and fucked I feel today, my life is so incredible and beautiful. Warts and all. Unlike when I was drinking and using, I know I have hope, that people care and that I deserve to love myself. PS- you deserve that too.

omg(od)

I don’t know how to talk about God. Mainly because there seems like two options: either crazy town, evangelical nutjob or equally as whacked out new age mumbo-jumbo. I want to talk about God though. Not because I want to convert anyone or because I want to prove to the world how remarkable my faith is. It’s just a really interesting relationship. I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk and write about God for about a week. I even pondered it on Twitter. Because if you’re gonna delve into life’s complex topics it’s best to do it on the same platform where stars from Jersey Shore share what they had for lunch. In 140 characters or less, naturally. As usual, my “unique problem” with God isn’t so unique and there’s even a study to prove it.

Last week this headline caught my eye- “Critical Thinkers Less Likely to Believe in God.” Being critcial and sarcastic myself, I couldn’t help snarking, “Nooooo! Reallly?!?” New research shows that, yes, smart-ass, people who like us who love knowing all the facts aren’t too big on drinking the God Kool-Aid. “Most of the people who have ever lived believe in a religion of some kind,” says Will Gervais, the author of the paper and a doctoral student at the University of British Columbia in an interview with US News and World Report. “But there are nearly half a billion nonbelievers. We’re trying to understand what leads some people to believe and other people to disbelieve.” The study put participants through a series of exercises, like surveys and critical thinking drills. Through the scientific yammering all they came up with was, in essence, people who need to believe in God do and people who don’t need to, well, don’t. Here’s where my God stuff comes in and where I tie back into what I opened with (I know. It’s about fucking time.) Maybe I’m still a little like those smarty pant non-believers. Maybe I still have moments where I think I’m too cool for school when it comes to God. And I definitely don’t think religion is the thing for me. I’m not a joiner, says the active 12-step member. Me and God we’ve got our own thing going own. I don’t feel the need to hang out with God and a bunch of people in hats on a Sunday to prove I have faith.

So why the hell, if I’m a little like those survey people, do I want to talk about God so darn bad? Because I need to. Believing in something else saved my life. Asking a power bigger than me to take my problems continues to save my life. I’ve been so supremely fucked so many times that nothing could get me out of it but somehow I’m still here. And it wasn’t because of any of my big ideas. Regular readers of this blog know that most of my big ideas are pretty cray-cray. The fact is that I’ve dodged too many bullets to not believe in God. Or at the very least “The Universe”. I guess the main reason I wanted to talk about God is this- maybe I’ll never know what to say or how to define my relationship or receive any “Mega Believer” plaque in the mail. But all I can tell you is in this era of “we hate everything” and “we’re suspicious of everyone” perhaps it’s really badass to believe in God. Or something. And maybe it’s punk rock to have faith and it takes balls to pray. It’s chickenshit to hate everything and trash talk everyone. You have to have real guts to just  believe that everything is going to be okay. And truly believe it. Yeah I guess I just wanted to say if you are one of those believing types, I think it’s okay. More than okay. I think it’s amazing. And don’t worry, I won’t make you talk about God. You don’t have to. I totally get it.