even still, glee exists.

That random dictionary that pops up when you type a word in defines glee as “great pleasure or delight.” I don’t know if the Google dictionary can be trusted but I do know it was hard to feel great pleasure or delight today in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict and the news of Cory Monteith’s death. Admittedly, I don’t follow the news so I wasn’t invested in the Zimmerman trial. For me, obsessively following trials and the news falls under the category of “serenity killers.” I also didn’t really watch Glee but as an addict, this story really bummed me out.

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The 31-year-old Montieth reportedly struggled with drugs and alcohol since his teen years. Most recently, he left rehab for “substance abuse” problems back in May. While Glee might be a modern but happy-shiny teen show, Montieth recent life seems like it was pretty dark. There’s an autopsy coming but what does it matter. The results won’t be released and we won’t ever really have this conversation we so desperately need to have.  The teens who watched Montieth and followed his rise to fame aren’t likely to hear the truth from publicists about his struggle with the disease of addiction.

Perhaps I’m negatively projecting here. But if Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger and Amy Winehouse have taught us anything, it’s that we no longer like to tell the public that drugs and alcohol killed our icons. When I was a kid and Belushi died, I remember seeing a magazine cover saying, “Drugs killed John Belushi.” You would never see a headline like that today.  I’ve griped about this before and-spoiler alert- I’ll continue to do so. If one of these celebrities was killed by cancer or AIDS,we’d know about it. We’d say “Weren’t they strong for battling that disease?” But when it comes to addiction and alcoholism, we tend to revert to shame and misunderstanding. We either blindly idolize them, no questions asked. Or act like they were long time losers who had it coming. Yet the big thing we’re missing out on by withholding, in my opinion, is the collective admitting that”Yes, drugs and alcohol will still kill you” and a chance to talk about it. Of course the media has to wait until autopsies are complete and naturally loved ones of the deceased have every right to privacy. But some acknowledgement of the epidemic could maybe save lives.

But maybe I’m wrong. Just two weeks ago, People magazine featured a story of how Matthew Perry’s life has changed since getting sober. So maybe our attitude is changing. Who knows. This post, as always, is about my attitude. Shocker, I know. But its hard for me not to feel upset when I hear about someone who lost their fight with addiction. Perhaps it freaks me out to realize that could have been me. Or maybe it makes me angry that they never got help or weren’t able to grasp recovery. Probably a little of both.

What I do know is: great pleasure or delight exists for me today. It doesn’t come in a bottle or box or from a sketchy guy in a Datsun at 4am. It comes from being sober. As my husband and I worked on our next creative venture on the couch and nibbled pizza as we bounced ideas off each other this afternoon, I felt real happiness. I also felt it yesterday when I walked down the street and watch gray clouds dot a pink and orange sunset. I feel it when I have ridiculous conversations with my cat. Its because I’m free. I don’t hate myself or my life so much I need to check out. After decades of being miserable I’m finally free. And I guess after years of pain, Cory Montieth is now too. Still, you can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t an easier way out.

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some survive

As I listened to a beloved member of my fellowship share a heartbreaking story of his brother who committed suicide after decades of struggling to get sober, two things happened. First, the idiotic, self-involved stuff I was worried about  instantly melted away. Nothing like legitimate tragedy to put your “problems” in perspective.  And second, a thought that always hits me when I hear news like this came over me once again: “Joe.”

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Joe wasn’t my best friend in recovery. Joe wasn’t somebody I hung out with. In fact, Joe was actually someone I was kind of jealous of. Handsome, smart and with an incredible job Joe and his partner were the kind of gay couple in recovery us single losers wanted to be. But Joe and I did have two big things in common: the same home group and we both got sober on January 2nd 2009. When we picked up one year anniversary chips, Joe and I finally exchanged numbers and looked like we were moving towards becoming friends. Sadly, I never got to use his number. Joe and his partner relapsed and struggled to stay in the program. A few months later, Ken came home and found Joe dead in his bathtub. After struggling to get back into recovery, Joe couldn’t take it and like so many of us do, committed suicide. His death hit me like a ton of bricks. Here was a guy with my same sobriety date who seemed to have everything, dead in the blink of an eye. A shockwave of sadness flowed through our group and folks rallied around his heartbroken spouse. At the time, my grief manifested in wondering “Why Joe and not me?” I wondered for a long time why some us get to stay and keep being sober while others relapse and get taken out by this disease. It all seemed so senseless. Wasn’t just wanting it enough?

Three years since Joe’s death and two days since listening to my friend’s talk of heartbreak, I know that just wanting it for someone isn’t enough.They have to want and they have to want to do the work. And while we will never know for certain why some of us get to stay sober and stay alive, I like to think there’s a bigger reason. I put myself in dozens of crazy and dangerous situations and with lethal combinations of chemicals. I’m not sure why that stuff didn’t kill me. I’m equally puzzled as to why I chose to hang onto my life-preserver instead of relapse this go round.  But what I do know is since I’m here I owe it to Joe and to my friend’s brother and millions of others to make the most of everyday, to work hard on being less of jerk and to help as many people as I can. I think of it as life-preserver insurance.

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.

I haven’t got time for the pain

My rule of thumb when it comes to headline grabbing, locally based tragedies is this: when people I went to high school with are posting their thoughts on everything from Jesus Christ to gun control on Facebook, I officially have nothing to add to the conversation. Seriously, what can I say? I barely know how to ask vegans what they like to eat for breakfast much less have a genius diatribe about peace and understanding ready at the drop of the hat. Instead, I tend to go inward. I look for answers in music. I know it sounds crazy but hello- no crazier than the shit that has went down over the last week. Usually this musical introspection takes me to the 1970’s.

Cat & Carly

Trust me, I wanted to sit down and write a blog about the tragic shooting in Aurora and perhaps even tie in some Greek Mythology all the while having the entire post really be about me and how sensitive I am. This magical blog post would not only explain the messed up events for readers everywhere but it would inspire them to follow me on Twitter or send me fan mail. No such luck. Instead, all I want to talk about is Carly Simon.

The other night I was making brownies (Baking relaxes me. It’s like Bikram yoga for junkies and drunks) I had the Linda Ronstadt Pandora station on. In addition to the ditties of La Ronstadt, the station features songs from “similar artists” who maybe aren’t so similar but were at least popular in the same era. Carly Simon was one of the artists chosen to accompany Linda and me on our musical baking adventure. In addition to learning that Carly was the daughter of Simon of famed publishing house Simon & Schuster (who knew?), I read that she was one of the era’s confessional singers like Carol King, James Taylor and Cat Stevens. The idea of Carly being confessional is one that appeals to me. I think that’s what always appealed to me about 1970s music and even film. The really good stuff (Daniel by Elton John, Woody Allen’s Manhattan, and You’re so Vain by Carly Simon) all felt like your were listening to someone’s diary or watching the real lives of people you knew. It told the truth and for a child of delusion and addiction, artists that could pull that off have always been my heroes. Anyway, Carly’s song “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain” came on as I poured my brownie batter into the pan. The words “Suffering was the only thing that made me feel I was alive. Thought that’s just how much it cost to survive in this world” hit me like a ton of bricks. I can identify with mistaking living in calamity as actually living. I too needed pain or suffering to give me pulse or get me out of bed. That’s an intense realization to have, especially for an old soft rock song they now use on pain reliever commercials.  The power of being confessional, as Carly proved, is that sometimes your truth belongs to other people too.

When horrible fucked up shit like this used to happen, we would all meet at my favorite dive bar, play the jukebox and get really, really loaded. We’d do this when nothing fucked up happened too, by the way. Today, how do I deal? Well I have a cry. I bake something. I sing a long to songs from my childhood. But mainly, I have to stay out of the grudge match. I can’t battle with my opinion anymore or obsessively watch CNN in search of some answer when I know there isn’t an answer.

But maybe there is an answer. On a separate kitchen session in the same week with the same Pandora station, I heard Carly again. In her totally underrated song Coming Around Again from the film, Heartburn; Carly sings and almost chants, “I believe in love.” She sings it over and over again. I needed to hear this message on repeat. Because I do believe in it. I know that awful, hideous occurrences can only be healed with love. I know that it isn’t the easy path. I know that it frankly fucking sucks waiting for love to heal. But I know that it works. Yeah, I believe in love because, as Carly sings in the following line, “What else can I do?”