That One Time At That One Meeting

I drank and used drugs everyday for a really, really REALLY long time. Therefore, my thought in 2009, and I think it was a good one and yet it was probably someone else’s thought, was I should do something everyday to help me not drink or do drugs. One of those things is going to 12 step meetings. Look, every bad TV movie of the week with Markie Post or the mom from Family Ties has very dramatic scenes of folks tearfully sitting in meetings and admitting they have a problem. And after a few commercial breaks, this person has their shit together. A billion movies, a billion more books and endless other forms of media have covered the idea of meetings and how they help addicts so many times that even non-addicts have a somewhat solid idea of how 12-step programs work. So I sort of don’t talk about meetings all that much. I figure that people who need them go to them and the ones who don’t, can watch it on TV. Nothing I say will make people go to a meeting. There’s not, like, Yelp reviews for this kind of thing. Like, “great meeting but I wish the coffee was French roast–3 stars.”

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Also, meetings and the literature you find in them, have been effective and around for a long, long time and there’s nothing I can add that would be fresh.  However, I feel sort of compelled to write about them today because a.) they have saved my life (although it took a tad longer than a commercial break) and b.) because sometimes they’re really, really hilarious. Without breaking anonymity of others or giving out addresses or specifics, I can say the very idea of a room full of emotional disasters ripe with varying degrees and flavors of mental illness is inherently hilarious. And today’s meeting was the perfect example of that. The chairperson at today’s meeting ignored the format, cross-talked like she was on Meet the Press and got lost several times. She went rogue and off book much to the chagrin of old-timers in the meeting. The attendees murmured to themselves and shared entirely too long. The whole thing went off the rails and started to get surreal. And after 45 minutes of all things crazy, your’s truly couldn’t stop giggling. I blame the girl next to me. She started it. Her shoulders moved up and down and she laughed to herself and I joined in. When things get awkward or weird or just random, I think it’s really hilarious. It’s so human and goofy and I have to laugh.

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Once upon a time, this kind of wackadoodle meeting might have ticked me off or made me leave early. In the early days, I looked to meetings to lift me up and tell me how to live without getting wasted. And when things got weird or real back then I couldn’t deal.  But not today. Today, I had to laugh because these are my muthafucking people. I laughed because I get it. I get them. These folks have what I have. These folks are showing up in the middle of a Tuesday to save their own lives. And for all their faults and hilarity, these folks are my heroes and I’m honored to be in their company.

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boundaries, electric fences & cattleprods

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“I’ve got to set some boundaries.” I never understood when people said that. It sounded so self-involved and overly serious. However, as a person would routinely get drunk and tell you what I thought of your personality and how you live your life, the concept of boundaries is something clearly lost on me. I never had boundaries. My motto for two Clinton administrations as well as two with Bush was firmly, “I don’t give a fuck.” Being inappropriate wasn’t something I worried about. It was a life-goal. Now, with a few years sober, I have new life goals that, thankfully, don’t involve telling people to fuck themselves. And recently, I’ve found myself setting boundaries of my own.

Here’s the deal with this “boundaries” thing as I currently understand it. Turns out, they start with me and rarely do other people–you know, the inappropriate ones– even know this big dramatic boundary was even set! Go figure. My emotional sobriety over the last several months has put me in several situations where professionally, personally and even in recovery I’ve had to say, “Hey this feels crazy and I need to nip it in the bud.” This is progress for the guy who used to send drunken tirade text messages. But it’s an unfamiliar practice for me as a chronic people pleaser who also likes to get drunk and yell at you.

It’s helped to have spiritual guidance. The person I call my sponsor has guided me through these uncharted waters. I need a push occasionally from a person outside the situation and he’s always good for that. He’s showed me that boundaries like fences keep us safe and keep us out of sticky situations. I need to set boundaries for me. Other people, as it turns out, kind of don’t give a crap. With a work situation recently, I agonized over sending an email because I worried that I’d come off as a jerk or that I over-stepped. My boss wrote me back quickly and basically thanked me profusely for letting him know what the issues were. This boundary and the subsequent response blew my mind open. I’m in charge of my own self-esteem. It doesn’t matter how I draw the line in the sand or how dramatic a pronouncement I make. If I don’t take the actions and if I’m doing it for other people, it ain’t gonna work out. I couldn’t get sober for other people and I can’t stay emotionally sober for them either. Recovery has taught me that I can open my mouth when something isn’t right and more often than not that simple act can save my life.

It’s not really that dramatic

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m pretty dramatic.Joan_Crawford_in_Mildred_Pierce_trailer

Oh. You already knew that? Yeah. I’ve always done a crappy job of hiding it. Good thing I’m a playwright, huh? The onslaught of big news events, both good and bad–from Caitlyn Jenner and marriage equality to South Carolina and beyond– have caused a firestorm of online conversations. And I’ve happily engaged in them especially on Facebook. I am a talker, a big conversation haver, a shit-starter. Always have been. So when the opinions are flying fast and loose, in a consequence free zone, my big mouth, admittedly likes to put his two cents in. Which is fine. Considering the fights I used to start back when I was drinking, a little online drama isn’t that big of a deal. Only problem? It started to make me feel really crappy.

Actress Greta Garbo Holding Shot Glass ca. 1930s

Actress Greta Garbo Holding Shot Glass ca. 1930s

One of the lovely things about being sober for a few years is that when now a behavior feels toxic or unmanageable or toxic or just icky, I recognize it fairly quickly. Please note that I said “recognize it” and not “change it”. Knowing I have gnarly, pig-like behavior and changing that behavior are two totally different things. Look, I knew for YEARS my drug using and drinking were out of control but didn’t change it until I was in total hell and forced to do so. Luckily, hitting bottoms in sobriety aren’t nearly as painful today. Last week, when I found myself checking Facebook and chiming in on every topic whenever I had a free moment, it stopped being fun and I started to feel like social media’s bitch. I started to not feel present in my life and like I was looking for something to check out with. And that fucking scares me. horror_movie_scream

Now would be the right time for me to mention that I know this isn’t Facebook’s fault. Facebook’s gonna be Facebook. And I’m always going to be an addict. You could bet me that I couldn’t get addicted to dryer sheets but that’s a bet you would 100% lose. I often joke that end I only ended up in AA because “Everything-Aholics” doesn’t exist. The fact is I can exhibit addict, un-sober behavior while still being physically sober. Hello. Go to an old-timers meeting and chances are you might bump into  some folks who’ve been doing that for a few decades. So something had to be done about it, I knew that. But what? this_is_theSanguemineiro.4_original

Like all moments of rock bottom in my life, it started with a decision. I made a decision to take 60 days off Facebook. Starting today. Last year, a sponsee and I took a 10 day break and it was eye-opening. We both found a freedom and a surplus of time to do more fun, real-life stuff. So big deal: I’m getting off Facebook for a while. What do I want a parade?412

No. Actually. As little fanfare around this is probably a good antidote for the addiction to drama. But I did thinking sharing it was a good idea. Why? I don’t know. Mainly because people taught me early in recovery that if I open my mouth and say what’s bothering me, my chances of recovering and not drinking have increased. I’m only as sick as my secrets and a Facebook addiction is a secret I really don’t want. Plus, without hours devoted to Facebook everyday, I’ll have time to put the drama where it belongs: in a new script.

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Hello Stranger

Fancy bumping into you here. I’d love to share a cigarette with you or buy you a drink but I don’t do either one of those things anymore. Instead, please enjoy this Barbara Lewis track and we’ll get all caught up.

Not enough songs have shoo-bop-shoo-bop-my baby in them, do they? Anyway, the internet breadcrumbs have recently led me back to blogging. I live my life one day at a time so I can’t promise I’ll be blogging everyday for the next 15 years but currently it feels like a good thing to do. I’ve been wrestling with a new play which went from this seemingly fun, frothy piece into a deeply personal,”shit got real” kind of work. So like a good addict, I’ve been avoiding it. It’s too hard. It’s too personal. It’s too raw. It’s too me. Thing is, I can’t run from it anymore and it’s demanding that I finish it.  These sorts of projects usually sit on my chest in the middle of the night and say, “Look. Finish me or I will make your life hell!” So much for being a master avoider. Curses, foiled again.anigif_original-26198-1430253629-9

So bleeding on the page and finishing my script is something I’m doing this week. If you hear crying and howling and general bitching, it’s just me, your tortured playwright friend who really isn’t that tortured but insists on making his life more dramatic than it really is. I know. Exhausting.

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I’ve recently crossed over into a new realm of my life and recovery and it’s kind of freaking me out, in a good way. When I got sober in 2009, I’d hear these people talk about how they experienced a neutrality around other people and how  difficult life situations would come up but not cause complete havoc.  My usual response was something to the effect of, “Good for them but they’re totally lying.” As usual, they, that ubiquitous all-knowing “they” were right. At 6 years and 6 months sober, I get it. I’ve had some stuff come up over the last few months that would normally spin me the fuck out and yet it hasn’t. Instead, I’m accepting stuff, feeling my emotions and moving the fuck on. Ah-ha! THIS is what they’ve been yammering about in meetings for years. IT DOES EXIST!

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Oh but the journey is not over. Just yesterday when I was a total dick to one of my co-workers, I was reminded that I still have a long, long way to go. In order to continue to experience the magical Pegasus sobriety that I have currently, I’ll have to do the work. Which includes making amends to people who drive me crazy. Sigh. At least, today I have people, people like you, who know what I’m going through and know how to do this thing called life sober. I appreciate you and I promise I won’t be a stranger.