thanks(giving)

hey.

you.

yes! you!

THANK YOU.

thanks for not forgetting about me.

thanks for letting me get my shit together.

thanks for making me laugh. and cry. and think.

thanks for being you.

thanks for reading for the last 2 years. now please enjoy the wonder that is Pilgrim Barbie.

Pilgrim-Barbie-Doll-1995-barbie-dolls-collection-31686815-640-950So yeah. I’ve been MIA for nearly a month. Moving, 10 days without internet and new gig will do that to a person. But they told me if I stopped being a drunken fool my life would get big. They were right. It’s all big and shit. If it was any bigger it could play William Taft in a movie. The multitude of changes that have happened over the last nearly 5 years have been incredible and the ones over the last few months have been equally miraculous. The point is I have a lot to be grateful for. (By the way, I hate when people in meetings bitch about gratitude meetings. They like to snark, “Well, Gratitude isn’t a step.” To which I’d like to reply, “Well, neither is being a bitter asshole but you seem to being practicing that one just fine.” But I don’t say such a thing because this is a spiritual program.)

Anyway, I am truly grateful. I’m grateful for completing changing.  I’m this guy who couldn’t finish a journal entry and since I’ve gotten sober I’ve finished two full length plays, had five original works performed on stage, been published and even gotten paid for writing silly stuff. More than that, all of my relationships are honest and authentic which alone is a miracle for someone who hung out in Los Angeles nightclubs for as long as I did. And I help people. I know. Me? Yes! Me. Granted, I’m no Mother Theresa or even Angelina Jolie but I try to help people whenever I can. I even helped my gassy, judgemental grandmother read her emails the other day and I actually enjoyed it! Don’t worry. She won’t read that I lovingly called her gassy and judgemental. She can’t see very well. Hence why I read her emails aloud to her in the first place. I’m also grateful that I don’t worry as much as I used to. Funny thing– when your day-to-day life stops being dramatic, you have very little to worry about. when times get tough, I find it’s the little things I’m grateful for like food in the fridge, a warm place to rest my head, regular employment, an incredible husband, siblings who speak to me that make me realize how good I have it.

The guys in my sobriety family and myself do a daily gratitude list which we share on a thread on Facebook. Sometimes it’s the little stuff like “I’m grateful for this day being over.” or “I’m grateful for the bagel I had for breakfast.” Sometimes, it’s more profound. What exactly makes the list doesn’t matter. It’s the simple act of making the list on a regular basis that seems to make a difference. And it’s not just us. Folks all over have long touted the benefits of gratitude and some studies say it might even be good for your health. 

So lovely readers, what are you grateful for?  Sound off in the comments section below! While you think about it, how about letting Alanis provide your gratitude soundtrack?

 

 

 

 

 

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thanks for letting me cher

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In a misty Santa Monica park, on top of a green hill, with the sound of fog warnings coming from the beach and dogs barking, there’s a rec center. In addition to what sounded like some pretty spicy dance classes, this center also has meetings of the 12 step variety. Meetings I needed very much when I first moved to the beach in 2009 in hopes of turning my shipwreck of a life around.  My first time there I peered in the window and saw all these happy smiling people. Well, this certainly couldn’t be a meeting for drunks and drug addicts. Where was the crying? Where were the hobos with the red bandana knapsacks and pork pie hats? Where were the junkies in wheelchairs on death’s door? Being convinced I was in the wrong place, I quickly got out of there before anybody noticed me.  What I didn’t I know was that was the right place and I would be spending a lot of time there in the months to come.

12 step meetings are crazy ass places. Drama. Laughter. Breakdowns. Breakthroughs. Bunnies. No, really, there was an actress from the 80’s who used to bring her pet rabbit to the meeting. Maybe the bunny had a drinking problem. It’s all the stuff people watch reality tv for but without the commercials. Unlike those televised travesties, meetings actually save people’s lives. I’m not exactly sure how but people who go all the time usually stop doing drugs, drinking, gambling screwing everything in sight or whatever else might ail them. Again, this magical juju is beyond my comprehension. Sure I can tell you the names of the kids on Full House or the order of the singles released on Madonna’s True Blue record, but mysteries of the universe are beyond my comprehension. What I did notice about these gatherings is the folks who shared about their struggles and the solutions to said struggles and did so on a regular basis managed to stay sober. One day after a gathering of these brave people, my heart was full. I left the meeting and as I walked down the fog covered hill, this song started came from the SUV of one of the people leaving the meeting:

I started laughing. Not only because of the song’s goofy jingly-jangly intro or the lyrical parallels to attendees of the meeting, but because it’s Cher. Diva, icon and former spouse to someone who used drugs and alcohol like I did, Cher is everything. I love Cher for the camp factor, for her music and because as a gay man in his forties, it’s the law. Cher is also the ultimate symbol  of survival. Ain’t no Equal commercial or bad movie gonna keep her down!  Just when we think she’s done, she comes back. With a few months sober and back from the brink of self-destruction, I could kind of relate.  I could go on with the Cher metaphor (“I was once a ‘Dark Lady’ and now I ‘Believe”) but I won’t. What people like Cher, Madonna Cyndi Lauper and Boy George represented to me as a kid was individuality and strength, things I so desperately wanted. Meetings were the first place I felt like I could be myself. The real version. I could say, “hey, I’m not feeling good.” or “I need help” without giving a crap about what people thought. I soon began to find my life but bigger than that I learned I didn’t have to do any of this alone. And thankfully, my road to individuality and being able to share my problems was one that didn’t require headdresses or assless pants.

1

At Seventeen

I remember at 17 thinking that maybe I finally figured myself out. For the first time ever, it felt like I might even survive my childhood years. After an arrest on alcohol related misdemeanor at 15– big surprise, right? and seriously thinking about killing myself at 16, this was a welcome change. Drugs and liquor were kept at bay(temporarily), I had shed the friends who didn’t care about me and I started hang out at gay clubs and kiss boys. Yes, there were wine coolers. Yes, that’s the year I met my old pal cocaine, but this is me were talking about. No tale of my childhood would be complete without the proper party favors. Besides, they hadn’t turned on me yet and I still had everything under control. Well as much as a 17-year-old can have everything under control. I had also finally found ways not to piss my parents off and was generally pretty happy. Don’t get me wrong, life was nowhere near perfect. There was still a lot of homophobia at my redneck high school.  The nicest thing I can say about the place is that at least “faggot” was properly spelled when it was scratched into the outside of my locker. I was never going to fit in. I was never going to be the most popular person in school.  But for some reason, all of it didn’t matter. I remember walking down the hallway, days before the year ended with sun on my face, thinking to myself, “Nobody here matters. My life will be so much bigger.” I had hope for the first time in a long time. It was something I wanted to hang onto. So the next few years, I chased hope and happiness onto the floors of discos and raves, throughout Europe and across the country far away from vandalized lockers and people who didn’t matter.

I don’t know why on this summer day at age 40 I’m thinking about that 17 year-old. Perhaps because it’s the 17th day of blogging. Maybe because this time of year reminds me of a lot of teenage high jinks. But I think if he could see me now, he’d be happy.  See despite everything that’s happened over the last 23 years, hope has survived. In fact, I’d like to thank him for showing me how to have it in the first place.

Resty McResterson

Rest-AreaI’m not great at following directions or heeding the advice of others. In fact, my inner child is constantly screaming, “Don’t tell me what to do! You’re not the boss of me!” Suffice it to say, this has made my four and half years sober a challenge. It’s not my nature to take direction; its my nature to tell you to go screw yourself and to mind your own damn business. Over the years, I have gotten better at this though. I figured out pretty quickly if I wanted to stay sober, I needed to listen to people who knew more than I did. I’ve learned to say “Thank you” or “That’s an interesting idea” or “I’ll have to try that sometime” when well-meaning/controlling people have a litany of ideas on how I could fix myself. I’ve even learned to ask for advice and for help when I’m really stuck. So when my doctor told me to get rest this weekend, I took it seriously.

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Stress and running myself ragged is something, like not taking direction, that also comes naturally to me. Unfortunately, given my HIV, its also the kind of behavior that can win me a first class ticket to the ER. Even though there were a ton of events and activities happening this weekend, I cleared the docket and chilled the hell out. I snuggled with my cat, I watched Hulu, I wrote a ton, I read and I napped in a manner that would make the aforementioned feline very proud. I cancelled a couple of things. I put off some work stuff until Monday. In short, I rested.  And guess what? I feel better! Taking 48-hours to relax has really helped. Last week was a whirlwind of stress, doctor appointments and running around like an idiot. Amid the uncertainty and general fear, it was imperative that I find a way to power down and take care of myself. I managed to do it and I’m so happy I did.

prayers for the terminally self-involved (who are trying to be less so)

Prayer is an interesting topic. It’s a little like cooking a chicken. There’s a billion ways to do it and everybody has their favorite. I guess now would be the time to note that this is a spirituality post and not one about religion. Or cooking chicken for that matter. Although I could ramble about the latter for at least 10,00o words. (Book idea: Eat, Pray, Fry Chicken) Prayer or talking to God or communicating with the universe or whatever you wanna call it is an essential part fo me being less crazy. In the beginning of my sobriety, my prayers were of the “Please help me not drink” or “God, help me make it through today” variety. Today, it varies. I try to take 30 minutes to just hang out and be grateful and pray for people who need help. And most days I pray short little prayers all day long like:

Joan Rivers

“God please help me always remember between looking younger and looking scary.”

and

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“God give me the wisdom to delete bitchy or crazy emails/text messages BEFORE I send them.”

also…

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“God help me be less judgmental. Even to myself.”

or one of my favorites is

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“God, help me help other people. Even I ones that make me crazy. Especially them.”

And lastly, this one works all day and rocks for its simplicity.

thankyou

After two decades of being a self-involved drunken drug addict, I need all the help I can get. Right now, I’ve got a lot of uncertainty going on with my health stuff and it is scary. But thanks to having a spiritual life, I’m totally okay. Yes, I’m scared. Yes, I feel crappy. But am I going to be alright? Totally. Time has proven that I can get through everything thanks to my version of God and some awesome people in my life.

Listen, I don’t know how this prayer things works and frankly I don’t need to know. I just know that it does. So, readers, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll throw some your way if your throw some my way and we’ll get through whatever together?

Panic at the Bathroom Mirror

I woke up with an impending sense of doom for so many years, I just thought that’s what everybody went  through in the morning. That feeling of another exploding shoe about to drop. The racing heart right when I opened my eyes. My life was such a shitshow for so long, waking up meant having to endure yet another episode where yours truly did something awful while intoxicated. So now, in those rare moments, when I do feel panic or anxiety I’m jettisoned back to those horrible days. It happened just this morning as a matter of fact.

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It was blazing hot in our bedroom when I first woke up and my phone was vibrating. I try not to even deal with my phone for at least 30 minutes after getting out of bed but I instinctually grabbed it and the slew of messages instantly stressed me out. How was I going to get all the stuff done I needed to? Who should I call back first? Why am I always behind even before I’ve had my coffee? Here I was not even fully awake and I had already successfully thrown myself into a panic. I was sweating and felt anxious but I knew setting down my phone and going downstairs was the right answer. Everything would have to wait until I got a handle on this non-issue I was having. Spending years waking up in situations where everything was far from okay had thrown my morning rituals in some kind of PTSD and I’m still learning how to turn my habits and thought patterns around. Before I descended the staircase, I splashed water on my face in the bathroom and said out loud, “You’re fine.”

After prayer, meditation and a cuddle session with my cat, I started to believe it. Further positive actions throughout the day confirmed my temporary panic was not going to cause me to explode and my day turned out pretty great. I walked down the street and could smell flowers. I ran into some friends at my favorite meeting. I had an amazing chicken sandwich. And an opportunity to help someone in need even came up and I pounced at it. This speedy, mental turnaround is proof that my thinking has really evolved. When I used to wake up in a state of “FUUUUCCCCKK!!”, I usually stayed there and it almost always got worse. Now its a different reality. It’s incredible that I can have those moments, acknowledge them and use  some magic tools to move past them. Today was a good reminder that I can just as easily press the reset button as I can press the panic button.

So how was your day?

thank you nice people. keep up the good work.

Not much to report here on day five. I ran a bunch of errands, did some writing and oh just had my faith in humanity restored. Scratch that. Turns out it was a bigger news day than I  initially thought.

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I guess I should clear up my dramatic statement since I sort of sounded like everyone on planet Earth has been yelling at me and throwing things at me for the last forty years until this random stranger was nice to me today. No, I do actually believe that if I’m kind and friendly to people, I’ll get it back. Time after time, this theory usually delivers. Today it just happened to deliver at my new HIV healthcare providers, a place I so desperately needed it. Being as I work freelance, the offices of Sean INC. don’t exactly provide CEO-type of healthcare and I have to rely on the cheap/free stuff. Thankfully, Denver takes great care of HIV positive peeps wtih its system.  After some chronic fatigue and blood sugar level funkiness for the last six months, I finally kicked myself in the ass, made phone calls and sought new medical help. Yeah, HIV is a manageable condition that doesn’t kill us anymore but you still have to, like, actually manage it. Nevertheless, the minute I don’t feel well I still naturally think I’m headed for this inevitable future:

or this

I told you I was dramatic. Once I calmed the hell down and talked to other positive friends, I was able to get into action and get into a clinic. Today was first appointment of the drop off paper work variety and my case worker turned out to be angel. I mean really. Terrific guy, super friendly, organized, compassionate and even gave me a hug and said, “We’ll get to the bottom of what’s going on. Don’t worry.”Wow! I bet they don’t do that in CEO-type of doctor’s offices! I suddenly was able to exhale and already physically felt a little better knowing I had someone this awesome working for me. It was 15 minutes that truly changed my day. It made me realize how just being compassionate and kind and authentic can really transform the lives of others. So nice people everywhere, thanks for just being your nice selves and keep doing your thang. And I’ll try to return the favor whenever I can.

12 Days of Blogmas: Tough Cookies

Jeeze. Talk about bad timing. On our 8th day of Blogmas, I should be happily tooting my own horn about the release of my new my Christmas essay A Tough Cookie Christmas on Smashwords while posting today’s offering Oh Cookie Where Art Thou?

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Instead, like the rest of the planet, I’m feeling kind of bad about the state of humanity. So in order to keep my shameless self-promotion on the more sensitive and compassionate side, I’ll simply say this. I’m proud of a Tough Cookie Christmas because it reminds me that goodness is still possible, change can happen and when in doubt have a cookie. Love is the only thing that gets us through times like these and hopefully my story carries that message too. I’m also proud of it because it’s my first self-published ebook, something I would NEVER have had the guts to do if I wasn’t sober and if I didn’t have the love from you people at this little ol’ blog.( By the way, UrTheInspiration readers get a shout out in the back of the book. It’s the least I could do since you save my life on a daily basis.) If you buy it at Smashwords, you can read it on your Nook, Kindle, iPad or on your computer’s desktop!

But that’s enough out of me.Read the story and the old blog post if you need a little fluffy diversion and I hope I can make you laugh for a minute. Tragedy forces me to be grateful and I’m grateful for all of you, wherever you are.

The Twain of My Existence

As friends were sharing the other night about the legendary icons that they share their birthdays with, I pulled a Debbie Downer and said, “Nobody cool has my birthday. Except Billy Idol.” In addition to requiring the “wah-wah-wah” music necessary for such a moment, it was an out-and-out lie. First off, last time I checked Billy Idol was still awesome. Secondly, how could I forget that I share the same birthday as Mark Muthafuckin’ Twain?

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Aside from rocking epic moustaches that would make a modern-day hipster weep into his craft beer, Twain is the original American satirist badass whose take no prisoners style of writing and speaking his mind have turned him into a literary icon. Although my dad had the requisite massive volume of Twain’s collected works and I was forced to read Huck Finn at a young age, Twain’s genius didn’t hit me until much later. The dude was a one-man quote factory, pumping out brilliant thoughts on every topic during the duration of his lifetime. Just think of something- anything, and I’m sure Twain had something to say about it. And it’s usually brilliant and hilarious. His musings on aging have helped me over the last few days. Like this one:

“When your friends begin to flatter you on how young you look, it’s a sure sign you’re getting old. ”

or this one…

“I was young and foolish then; now I am old and foolisher. ”

or my favorite..

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

I usually try to read some Twain around our birthday. I say “our birthday” like we get together every year, decked out in fancy suits while we trade quips and drink bourbon. But for some reason this quote has never popped up on my radar:

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

Of all the Twain I read, this resonated with me the most–go figure! Not the old man part, mind you. I’m not quite ready to own ‘old man’ yet. I’m still trying to swallow the lie of a cocktail called “Forty & Fabulous.” But having “a great many troubles”, most of which never happened, now that I can identify with. In fact, that’s kind of the thesis statement of this blog. Leave it to Twain to nail in a few short words. After a ‘tough’ week where most of my misery was cooked up by your’s truly, he comes along and puts it all into perspective.

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So Happy Birthday, Mark Twain. Thanks for 177 years of knowing just what to say. I’m honored to have you as a birthday mate. And Billy, you’re not so bad either.

Never. Forever. Whatever

I’d like to be able to pinpoint and then appropriately blame whatever television show or movie or crappy book that I swallowed whole as a child that infiltrated my mind and tricked me into believing that everything needed to be forever. Jobs, relationships,dreams- all had to be forever. More than that it all needed to be happy and pretty forever. People always blame Disney for these kinds of notions. I don’t think Walt’s totally to blame in my case though. I mean I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when Disney movies sucked and were kind of weird and/or depressing. Like thank god I never wanted my relationships to be like the Fox and the Hound or The Black Hole (although I certainly could accurately apply either title to different periods of my life). No, my  warped sense of forever and never most likely comes from my lifelong distorted sense of reality made worse by ingesting boatloads of chemicals.

When you’re high and drunk for years, forever isn’t too hard to imagine. Time stops and achieving an infinite sameness is something that happens accidentally.  After ten years of daily drinking, I remember feeling like I lived in a rerun. My life was in syndication and on any given day you could catch the episode where I got drunk, did something idiotic and created some bullshit to get myself out of it. I know. We’ve all seen that one.  But in this pursuit of keeping life the same way forever and evah, the rest of my life rotted. My bills, my relationships,my teeth, my soul. After a while, I craved change but was paranoid of what would happen if this corroded museum exhibit I was living was exposed to sunlight and people saw it for the hot mess it really was. Forever horrible or daily uncertainty became my options and neither were things I wanted. Never was a big ole cup o’ crazy all its own. “I’m never drinking like that again!” or” I’m never buying drugs again”. The ‘nevers’ were never-ending and never panned out either.

Admittedly, I still lean on never and forever. The hot tempered Irish person in me likes to hurl absolutism gauntlets whenever life is tricky or difficult or even exuberantly joyful. I”ll never talk to whatsherface again, me and whatshisname are gonna be together forever, I’m never eating whatever that skinny celebrity gave up ever again. I have to laugh when I starting spouting off this nonsense. I mean I’ve stared at “One Day at a Time” posters in church basements for nearly 4 years! You’d think I would have figured out that I’m not allowed to live in “Never” or “Forever”. The whole luxury of one day at a time is being able to cross of these absolutisms off the list and simply focus on the here and now.

Nothing helps me let go of never and forever like rewriting and editing. All the jokes and clever characters and witty one liners that you were sure would go down in literary history get slashed, thrown out and killed in the blink of an eye. While currently editing my new play and tinkering with my book, I’m humbly faced with the reality that there’s a lot I need to let go of and a lot I still need to learn. And this is a fabulous place to be, honestly.

It’s better for me to get to a place of “whatever.” Not whatever in a bitchy teen girl kind of way. But more in the Doris Day “whatever will be will be” spirit. Gay sera sera, if you will.  Seriously, if I’m in a gleeful state of being open to “whatever” my days seem to be more fluid and happier in general. Whatever amazing idea, whatever cool person to collaborate with, whatever spiritual concept, whatever piece of knowledge I didn’t have before. Whatever!

So here’s to a Monday where I can live here in the right now, not worry about forever and embrace whatever comes my way. May whatever comes your way be fabulous too!