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.

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Nothing More Than Feelings

“Just because you’re feeling it doesn’t mean that it’s the truth or that it even matters,” he told me at a few months sober. Basically, this friend of mine was telling me, whatever it was that I was feeling, it wasn’t a big fucking deal. Clearly, he didn’t know what I was going through. Because everything I’ve ever felt is a big fucking deal, thank you very much.

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In those early days of recovery, feelings raged bubbled up inside of me like hot lava and I couldn’t control where they spewed or what they destroyed. All I knew is after not feeling anything for decades, I was now in the middle of an emotional natural disaster.  There was never a middle ground with me and emotions. I either ignored my emotions or I let my emotions rule my life. Both ways were totally out of control ways to live. If I ignored whatever it was I feeling, eventually my insides would start to ache and I’d need something to take the edge off. A bucket of blow and a kiddie pool full of tequila usually did the trick. If however, I let my emotions drive the bus, I was in for a wild and unpredictable ride and so were the poor folks I dragged onboard.  I felt like people were out to get me. I felt like I need to control the way people reacted. I felt like I needed to be happy so I concocted bullshit stories to help sell this lie. I felt, I felt, I felt and it all felt crazy and therefore a drink would help fix this way of living too.

When emotions take over in sobriety, that is when things get tricky. The drama of feeling depressed, angry, victimized or heartbroken is another drug entirely for me. Something in my addict mind tries to convince me that if my life is hard or bad than I have a reason to check out. “He hasn’t left his bed in days but can you blame him?” is what I hope people will say. In reality, people don’t care if I feel good or bad. People, just like me, are too wrapped in thinking about themselves to give two shits about my mental state. My emotions and what I feel have turned out to be what that friend said they were: not a big deal. In this no-big-dealness, I just get to feel whatever it is I’m going through. The good, the bad, the unfabulous. I feel it, I acknowledge it and I move on. And sometimes I feel crappy for a while and this is okay too.

As I talked about in the post below, my life hasn’t been easy lately. I had nine days solid of a lot of drama of the boring professional nature. While disheartening and annoying, it has proven to be just that. I’m lucky that my health is good, that I get paid to do what I love and that my husband has my back no matter what. Mainly, I don’t drink when shit is uncomfortable or when feelings do show up. Today, I get say when somebody asks, “I feel like shit.” And I get to say that with no remorse or drama attached. I say how I’m feeling now because it isn’t a big deal but ignoring it is.

 

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.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

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!”

 

Spot it, You Got it

I hate when people post about politics on Facebook. I hate when I read things by so-called experts that are clear opposition of the right way of thinking, you know my way. I hate that hating everything is clearly a symptom of me not being good to myself and mainly I hate that what I don’t like in others, is what drives me crazy about myself. Sigh.

After an incredible two weeks wherein my play opened, my mom came to town, another exciting creative project was born and generally the sky was blue and the world broke into a happy musical number, I crashed. See, the thing about this HIV gig is that going non-stop can really wear a body out. Sure, I received the messages like “Hello, we need to lay down” and “Excuse me can we get a freaking vitamin up in here!?!” But I didn’t listen. I’ve been busy and things are fantastic so why should I take time out to take care of myself? Well the short answer is even though I’m healthy and I live with a “chronic manageable disease”, I simply can’t burn the candle at both ends. When I first got diagnosed, my doctor told me “Listen, you and stress are over. Nothing wreaks more havoc on a compromised immune system than stress and pushing yourself too hard.”  This sage advice has rung in my ears over the past 3 years of living with this condition. Until recently. In November stress wound me up in the hospital. So through the not so subtle head cold and body ache I got over the weekend, I finally paid attention.

Here’s where I get back to that open paragraph. I know about freaking time. This morning, I don’t feel great physically so as I peruse Facebook or read articles online I get more and more bitchtacular and before I know it I’m in a foul mood. My sick puppy brain tells me that not feeling great gives me a hall pass to act like a cynical jerkface. But then a miracle happened as I was reading this study that really pissed me off, I’m not angry. I don’t hate everything. And I can stop feeling emotionally bad even when my body feels like it got hit by a bus. Mainly, I’m annoyed by behaviors that I don’t like in myself. As usual, the person out to get me and make me feel shitty is the dude in the mirror. Being preachy or entitled or always right or stubborn or judgmental are character defects that still pop up in me . Naturally spotting them in others is something I am very good at. The missing ingredient here that lead to morning of crabbiness was meditation and prayer. I had an old sponsor who told me to pray before I turned on my computer or looked at my phone everyday. Again more advice that I don’t always follow. Obviously.

But the good news is this, nobody got hurt. I didn’t fire off a bunch of “Go screw yourself” emails. I didn’t cuss out my husband. I didn’t open a beer because the world was out to get me. I saw it happening. I prayed. I stopped and flipped the script. I laughed at how terrible I was being. And that little but revolutionary change right there is reason enough to smile even though I’m sneezing.

Cry Now

I’m a crier, I’ll admit it. When my husband and I were first dating and he came to visit me in Los Angeles, I took him to see Waiting for Superman. I spent the last ten minutes of that film softly crying. Poor guy probably thought he was dating a person who forgot to take their meds. As he got to know me, he  discovered I’m just a crier. That’s who I am. And thank God.

Two years ago, I was spending a lot of time going across town on a bus to get to school. I would listen to my iPod and cry the entire 60 minutes it took to get from downtown to Santa Monica. I was in school five days a week and there wasn’t a day during that first semester that I didn’t cry. My relationship had ended but we were stuck living together at a friend’s cramped apartment and I was trying to stay sober. Sometimes, the tears spilled off of the bus. One day, I called my mom from campus. Naturally, I cried about my life and about how hard it all seemed. She listened and cried too. She got it. My mom lived through an alcoholic marriage and two alcoholic children. But she encouraged me and cheered me on during that phone call. It was raining that day and I felt like I better get off the phone and head inside. We said goodbye and I started to descend the steps I was standing on. Upset and disoriented, I wasn’t watching myself and I slipped and fell on the slick steps. I bounced and landed on the pavement. A trio of hipper-than-hip black girls who looked like they should be in a magazine and not at a community college rushed over to my crumpled state. “Are you okay?” and “Oh my gawd! Did you hurt yourself” is what they cried out, generally concerned given the dramatic nature of my fall to Earth. And I meekly mumbled something like “Yeah. Thanks.” I pulled myself up and ran inside the library for more crying.   That day, I remember wondering if I was ever going to stop crying or if sobriety meant I was doomed to a life of tears and falling down in front of cool people.

The whole thing seems comical now and embarrassingly perfect for that time frame of my life. And today crying is a release and shows that I’m alive and able to be emotionally moved by things. Like when saw Hugo on Christmas day, my husband and sister both saw me crying and sort of nodded to one another. They know I’m crier. That’s just part of who I am.