I hate blogs that start with some rambling explanation about why the blogger hasn’t written so long. Like who cares? As if the blog reading public was wringing its hands while I slept in and spent my days making cupcakes and going to the library.I barely give a crap so I’ll keep the explanations to a minimum. I’ll only say that for the last ten days while I haven’t been blogging or really pounding away on my other projects with dwindling deadlines, I’ve been doing this weird thing I could never quite manage while I was loaded: I’m really enjoying my life.
Last week my niece had her “continuation” which is basically a nice way of saying “Congratulations on surviving middle school, now run like hell and don’t ever look back!” The whole affair was lovely as was the dinner that followed it even though my sister’s favorite sparring partner, her ex-husband, was in attendance. Everybody got along and my niece was really happy. Other events included the opening of our new theater space, the increase of paid work, trips to the movies and even a few rides on some roller coasters with my nephew. As we’ve talked about before, I truly believe in order to offer anything as a writer that I really need to try to the best of my ability to go experience my life. This can be a tricky task for someone who’s very nature wants to get high and vanish off the face of the Earth. Nevertheless, I’ve needed it.
Things have been really busy around here since January and even though I snuck off to the desert in March, I found myself feeling drained and uninspired. So I stumbled upon a “staycation” of sorts as projects for clients were done remarkably and uncharacteristically early. This allowed me time to read, research my new show, and hang out with my niece and nephew. I was also able to show up for some people in my life who needed the support so that felt good too. The real miracle here (and for non-addicts I realize how stupid this sounds) is that by just being open and available my life has been really fun and lovely. I no longer spend days wanting to drink or get high. I have a spiritual life and love in my life and blah blah blah. What’s incredible is that I don’t wake up in panic or constant calamity everyday. For years, there was always some impending doom or shitstorm brewing. And most of the drama in my life was handcrafted by your’s truly. Right before I quit drinking, I remember laying in my hallway crying and having a hard time breathing. My stomach was tied in knots and I was in bad shape. Things had gotten really jacked up and I was feeling like my life was about to be over. Turns out I was right! And thank God. Now a few years later, I can actually be present and have fun and sleep well at night. It’s so crazy to be able to feel and experience every part of my life. The good, the bad and the glittery.
So friends and inspirations, what have you been doing to enjoy and savor your life so far this summer? And what’s that little activity or gift from the universe that never fails to put a smile on your face? Fill my comments section with happiness and joy. That’s an order!
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.
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.
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!”
I’m currently researching and getting ready to write this play about fear, disappointment and karaoke and the other night it struck me how enjoyable the whole process is. I’ve been a giddy little kid watching karaoke videos, taking notes about characters, singing to myself as I write. In fact, for a brief minute I found myself thinking that I enjoyed my new creative life way more than I ever liked drinking.
This, of course, is insane. Like something more than I liked drinking? I loved drinking. Or did I? Okay maybe I loved it for a while but then it didn’t love me back. Regardless, I truly believe that my life today is more exciting and enjoyable than it was when I was a blacking out five nights a week. Go figure. More remarkable still, is the fact that writing and being creative is far more thrilling and satisfying than anything drinking could ever provide. I was talking to a fellow creative person in sobriety the other day and we we’re lamenting about how we weren’t those types of drunks who were more productive when they were loaded. From what I’ve learned over the years, me and my friend are in the minority. I’ve heard dozens of artists, actors and writers say they were afraid to get sober because they thought their work would suffer. I admit I’m kind of jealous when I hear tales of creative folks who create masterpieces while intoxicated. I could never write drunk. It seemed too dangerous. Like I couldn’t control what was going to happen and besides if I was writing I couldn’t exactly keep drinking now could I? So now writing, a gift I’ve cherished my whole life and one that has set me free since childhood, yields the same power as a really good cocktail. I’m free. I’m elated. I take chances. I face scary things. I speak my mind. All while writing. And all while sober.
It’s crazy that something so good for me can make me feel so good. Part of the high it provides, I believe, comes from finally doing what I’ve always dreamed. I’ve always written and always told stories. So to live my real authentic life doing what I love is totally exhilarating. The best part is I don’t wake up after an evening of writing wanting to bash my head in or wondering what I said to whom. With this current cocktail I’m sipping from, I just get the joy of doing what I love and living a life I’m proud of. And to that I say, ” Make mine a double!”
First things first, my blogging and overall online communication has taken a dump this week and I hate it. I’ve really missed the exchange with readers, bloggers and fellow whackadoodles. And it’s all the fault of one very angry tooth.
My teeth, like the grills of so many ex-drunks and junkies, tell the story of neglect and abuse. They have needed attending to for years and have become painful over the last few months. The past ten days, however, have been unbearably painful. It is abundantly clear that I must once again face the proverbial music and get down with my bad self. When my face was throbbing this morning as if a rhino had done double dutch on my jaw, I was thinking to myself, “This is good.” I then laughed because this is far from good. I’m in a shitload of pain, don’t have insurance, and know this process will eat up money and time I do not have. But this is good. I know from experience that pain always brings about necessary and positive changes in my life. It would be nice if I could have taken preventative measures and taken action before it got to this point but that is not how I roll. I have a thick head and like doing things the hard way so big-time oral surgery and a full mouth makeover is how this is most likely going to play out. I’ve already put my sister, who has been sober for seven years, on notice that she’ll have to police my meds after I get my work done. I was never really a pill popper but when it comes to me and addictive substances never say never. The money, the insurance, the particulars are all things I let the my HP take care of. He’s more qualified for that stuff anyway.
In the end, I’m grateful I am sober and for being in a position where I can face something”scary” like an angry tooth. In yesterhaze gone by, I would have just drank until the pain went away (which would have never happened) or I would have cooked up a hair-brained scheme to rid myself of the tooth. I shudder at the thought. Again, life is good today and angry teeth can easily become happy teeth if I stay in a solution.
As I vaguely mentioned in the last post, football doesn’t interest me. Like at all. The horror. In a big football town like Denver, that’s like saying “I don’t like breathing.” Seriously, having been gone from here for the last fifteen years and living in a town without pity or an NFL Team, I had forgotten how bat-spit crazy football fans are. Bronco fans in particular are an enthusiastic breed of their own. Once upon a time, this kind sport worshipping drove me nuts. But for some reason, it doesn’t anymore. And neither does thanking God after a touchdown.
Before I got sober, what people believed in and worshipped really got under my skin. I would often grumble about how those with religious beliefs were sheep and that how could people believe in God when so many had died in his name? Oh and I loved to play the “most religions discriminate against gays” card. But regardless of whether or not any of this is true, the fact of the matter was that the bigot in this picture was me. I outwardly mocked and looked down upon people with spiritual lives and frequently I hid behind the guise of “it’s because I grew up Catholic.” I was too cool for God and really that was too bad. Deep down inside, underneath that thick and shiny cynical veneer lived a person who needed something to believe in. My alcoholism and drug use took me to a deep, shameful place that lead me to believe that nothing larger was at work in my life. That only small, crumpled up, self-destructive me could get myself out of the messes I was in. Naturally, it seemed hopeless.
I never had the lightening bolt God moment nor did I convert to a religion when I got sober. I just did what the Big Book suggested and slowly my own spiritual life developed. The fact that I never died under the influence or that my family didn’t abandon me during my time of need were evidence that something was at work. As I went to meetings in Santa Monica, I felt warm ocean breezes and knew those were things I couldn’t manufacture so that must be a higher power at work too. After a while, those breezes showed up when I really needed them. When it was too hot or when I was crying at a bus stop or when all I wanted to do is get wasted or just feeling alone. Sounds goofy right? But my relationship with a higher power is my own, silly, serious or otherwise.
And Tebow’s is his. Now I’m not sure God cares too much about football or if rappers thank him at the Grammy’s but in the end it’s none of my business. During the first two years of my sobriety, I studied a lot of meditation and learned to cultivate my own version of prayer and talking to a higher power. So what if someone else just happens to do that on national television or if they choose to worship aliens or have 12 wives? These things no longer concern me. In fact, they never did. And that such a spiritual change could occur in a hater, judgmental cynic like myself could get to a place of respect and understanding for the beliefs of others is truly proof of some kind of miracle for sure.