“I’m so happy you’re here. Now, STAY!”the lady with a billion years of sobriety told me on January 2nd. Stay. Of all the heartfelt things people said to me after the meeting the recent afternoon wherein I picked up a chip celebrating 4 years of sobriety, “stay” was the most profound. Just typing that makes my eyes well up and my chest feel heavy. We tell our furry friends like that handsome devil pictured above to stay because we don’t want them to run off and because we want them to stick around and not get hurt. There was time I would have thought getting such a command would have been insulting. Now being told to “stay” sounds like something honorable indeed.
Simple to say or write down, to “stay” sober or in recovery is far from easy. I want to stay at the bar or stay miserable but stay and get better? That sounds really tough. Yet somehow that is exactly what happened. I’m not sure why I’ve stayed in recovery. Probably because I was finally in enough pain to stick around and see if I could get help. By nature, I am vanishing act which is to say I have always sought and found ways to disappear. Whether it was hiding under the stairs in a secret room in my grandparent’s house, concealing notes from creditor’s in junk drawers or cramming ecstasy down my throat, I am a master of not being here and not dealing. Staying and being present in the sober world, frankly, sucks sometimes. Not having the option to check out means I have to really experience life’s most horrible, most boring and most uncomfortable moments; straight up and with no chaser.
The kicker is that by staying and being able to walk amongst the living not stinking like a tequila processing plant is that I also get the good stuff too. I recently sat in auditions for the new show I have opening this spring trying to jump out of my skin with excitement. Here were these ridiculously talented performers saying my stupid words and making the whole thing sound just amazing and sitting next to me was my brilliant husband. How did this happen to the former waiter who was trying to drink and snort himself off the planet a mere 4 years ago? I guess the not surprising and maybe not incredibly deep answer is: I stayed. I kept trying. I kept making mistakes. From couch surfing and chicken sitting to HIV clinics and detox meetings, I stayed. Most incredibly, no matter what shitty news came my way, I stayed sober and never picked up. Again, I’m not sure how a lifelong hider transformed into a stayer, but I’m glad I did.
Speaking of staying, this blog is staying put too. I took sometime off to wear my increasingly large and all-encompassing playwright hat but I’m back and it feels good. I have lots of fun stuff happening in 2013 including a new ebook, an essay collection, multiple theater offerings and lots more blogging. In closing, I’m terrible at advice and never follow it in my own life until its too late but I will say this: If you’re going through something difficult and want to run the opposite direction, trying staying right where you are first. Because as it was said to me and I mean this “I’m glad you are here. Now STAY!”