What’s So Funny ‘Bout Sobriety?

6212_69c3

“You use humor to hide your pain”

– a person with no sense of humor

I should take things more seriously. Things like bills and responsibilities. And….? Um. And relationships? To some degree, I suppose but if I don’t have a sense of humor when dealing with people, I’ll end up in a sanitarium. I’d say world events and news but please see the previous note about the funny farm. I certainly take my sobriety seriously yet there’s quite a bit of laughing going on in the rooms of recovery, especially for a group of people who were all slowly trying to murder themselves. 

Cute Pandas Playing On The Slide

I’ve always been a smartass and fast with a one liner so when I first heard people share in meetings about serious shit but with a sense of humor, I exhaled. This I could do. Sure, there was some crying going on in meetings but there was a lot of laughing too. This was fantastic because I desperately need a laugh back then. A few paramount meetings in the early days filled with funny, raunchy tales and uproarious laughter let me know it was okay to talk however I wanted to as long as it was the truth. After all, pain and laughter have long gone hand in hand in my own life.

fullsize

The clown, weirdo, diversion creator of the family was a role I was born into and one I played well into my thirties. Being funny was a way, as the person with no sense of humor said, to mask my pain. But in recovery it was different. There was a little of that going on for sure but in order to stay sober it couldn’t just be one-liners. I also had to share about the truth. Well, once my sense of humor met my new friend honesty, it was on. I verbally vomited whenever I could, sometimes met with laughter, sometimes met with tears.  What was happening is I was getting better and not letting things live inside my head. Soon what people thought of what I said didn’t fucking matter. It was my truth and that by itself was a revelation. The truth that I was an alcoholic, that being honest was the only way I could stay sober and that I could still have a sense of humor smacked me upside the head.

ID9jN

Now, for the most part, humor and truth go hand in hand. But if there’s pain in there too than so be it. After all, using humor to talk about pain and humor to mask pain are two different things. I found being funny sometimes opens doors for me to talk about more serious shit. If I can’t laugh at really messed up parts of my life, than I am beyond screwed. Turns out, other people sometimes like laughing at it too. I’ve even been asked to speak at meetings specifically because I’m “funny”. I guess this should irk me that I’m not being asked based on my wisdom or brilliant insights but I’m an attention whore so it doesn’t bother me. Plus if I can in any way return the favor of laughter so freely given to me in my early days, I’ll gladly do so.827937719-1

And finally getting around to the title question, what’s so funny about sobriety? Nothing and everything. Life in and of itself is absurd and ridiculous. This includes getting sober. I can laugh at it and be in on the joke or I can feel like its out to get me and be miserable. I’ll take door number one, Monty. This is all on my mind today I guess because I’m celebrating 7 years (in a row!!) of sobriety. None of these years have been a walk in the park but I can guarantee you they would have been worse had I not been able to laugh. So thank you for making me laugh, for listening, for making me lighten the hell up and for being there.

girls-failing-easy-tasks-cake

 

Advertisements

love is still the boss

Today was undoubtedly a victory for gay rights and marriage equality! As a gay man who is married my heart exploded. Yet as I read the “DOMA defeated!” headlines this morning on my phone on my way to my meeting, I knew there wasn’t any winners here. It was a matter of human rights and the Supreme Court did the right thing. But if there is a winner that winner is love. As always, love, not me, is the boss.

image 75

When I look at something like gay marriage and inequality, it’s hard not to feel like it’s personal. It’s even harder to not wish harm on the folks who worked overtime to create things like Prop 8. After all, the LGBT community are the victims here and Mormons, Westboro Baptist and all the other bigots deserve the hatred they’ve so happily dished out, right? Uh. Maybe not.  Belonging to a fellowship like I do which has ‘love and tolerance’ as the code, retribution is something I can’t get behind. After all, it’s not “love and tolerance of only those who think like I do.” It’s of everybody. Dammit. The annoying lady at the grocery store. The screaming guy on the corner. The people who don’t believe in recycling. Love and tolerance for all of them. Period. There isn’t a loophole for douchebags. This doesn’t mean I have to agree with them or give them all hugs but it does mean I can’t tear them down for thinking differently than I do, regardless of how batshit it is. It struck me not that long ago that trashing religious people who are perceived as anti-gay,while easy and kinda fun, in my mind, is just as bigoted and shows little or none of the compassion so many of us have been demanding from the world at large. This revelation blew my mind. Maybe I was just as bad as they were? It also drained the victimization out of discrimination. I could no longer hid behind the thought that the straight world was out to destroy me while wallowing in a self-pity jacuzzi. As love is a two-way street so is intolerance and I’ve been guilty of my own prejudices born out of fear or misunderstanding.

Let_Love_Rule

The good news is this though, love trumps my personal idiocy. Love still solves problems that feel personal or too big to ever get fixed. Love prevails even when my own wisdom does not. Love, even when the most loving thing is to walk away or shut the hell up, knows what it’s doing. Love, not clever rainbow memes or links to headlines or Kim Zolciak with tape over her mouth, made DOMA a thing of the past.  Yeah, love won bigtime today. But then again, it always does.

crabby

Maybe its the heat. Or the fires. Or the stress from all these doctors appointments. But today, despite my best efforts, I was crabby. Maybe even a little bitchy. And sort of crazy.

TSCR01R

A telltale sign that old Sean isn’t his shiny happy self is when I start yelling at inanimate objects and muttering to myself like the guy outside the soup kitchen who looks like Famous Amos and mumbles about conspiracy theories. So earlier today when I cussed out an ice cube tray and yelled at my phone charger, I knew I wasn’t in the best shape. I actually started wandering around my apartment,  bitching at no one or nothing in particular. This was not cute.  I was a Nick Nolte beard and handmade sign away from being totally batshit. Luckily, no human beings were harmed in my momentary lapse in mental health.

Mainly, my patience is shot and I feel totally and utterly overwhelmed. I wanted to wallow and sleep all day. But thanks largely to the criminal lack of chocolate in my apartment and a simmering feeling that I needed to get outside of my crabby-ass self, I went to a meeting. For 60 minutes, my crap melted away and seeing people I love and who love me back–crabbiness and all- healed my stank attitude, even if it was only temporary. This works for me over and over again. Hearing others hope and strength and courage suddenly makes whatever crabbiness and self-pity I’m going through seem ridiculous. But today something else happened too. People in my meeting who know what I’m going through came up and hugged me and asked if I needed anything.I felt like regardless of how awful my mood was I was going to get thru it.

These feelings of “kumbaya” faded after a phone call from my clinic which began, “I don’t mean to freak you out but…” Really? Who does that? Just FYI healthcare people of planet Earth: just by saying I don’t mean to freak you out, you’ve already done so. It wasn’t too big of a deal however and I’m going back in for a treatment that should help until I get my new meds. It just all seems like a lot right now. Oh crap. Suddenly, I’ve blogged myself from crabby to whiny.

whine_adp

 

Before this turns into a therapy session, I’ll wrap it up. This is what I do know: I’m going to be fine. And not being happy all the time and pretending like everything is okay is actually pretty healthy for a chronic people pleaser like myself. Nobody promised me that if I got sober I’d never have another problem ever again. What they did promise me is that I’d have a life beyond my wildest dreams, that I’d never have to drink again and that amazing people would be part of my fellowship.  Crabby attitude and stressed out self aside, I know this to be true and the meeting I went to earlier confirmed it. In the meantime, I’ll work on my attitude.

 

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!

The Happy Hostage

Sing Hallelujah, come on get happy!  And smiles, everyone, smiles! And happy, happy joy joy. And don’t worry be happy! And happy days are here again! Except for one tiny detail. I was never actually happy.

I certainly played the part of Mr. Happy. I smiled all the time and told people I was “Fine! Fabulous! Couldn’t be better!’ I could even convince myself for long periods  that I was happy. However, it never really occurred to me that genuinely happy folks didn’t have to drink themselves blind seven days a week just to deal with their lives.  I thought if I simply acted like I was happy, I would become happy. Like those girls who hang up pictures of the perfect supermodel bodies on their inspiration boards but never actually go to the gym. Whats more is that I couldn’t stand people who were unhappy and who had the unmitigated gall to say how miserable they were. Those poor suckers who bemoaned about having a bad day or cried about how hard their lives were, I usually brushed off as “negative.” I mean how dare they have real emotions? I didn’t want to be bothered with facing the reality that some times life is shitty. People going through rough times or experiencing long bouts of sadness didn’t really have a place in my world. When you’re living in a delusion it’s best to keep out individuals and situations that are ‘real’. I mean you wouldn’t let suicidal sadsacks run Disneyland now would you? The unfortunate thing was that reality would always find it’s way in regardless of how much I drank or what drugs I took or who I had sex with. When reality did reappear it was usually ten times worse than I remembered. The bills I never paid were out of control, the people I never called back were now really pissed and reality itself was angrier and more chaotic. There was no hiding from reality.  After all, even Eeyore hangs out at Disneyland.

Once I got sober, happiness didn’t come skipping back into my life. The opposite. I cried daily for the first five months. I felt horribly alone. Once I whined to my sponsor, “I think everybody’s having more fun than I am” to which he replied, “That’s because they are.” Upon my clinic’s suggestion, I went to a psychiatrist at 9 months sober. I was going to meetings and seeing a doctor since I was newly diagnosed as HIV positive. Things were pretty rough but I was hanging in there, still going to school and not getting loaded. This tiny little man with itty bitty glasses, kid hands and a basement office in a clinic in Venice brought new meaning to the term “shrink’. He had me answer questions about my past, about my drug use, about how I was feeling about my diagnosis, about my recovery program, etc. He sat there for a few minutes and then said, “Well despite your best efforts, you’re still pretty miserable.” Miserable? Nobody had ever called me miserable! I was the smiley guy who everybody loved, right? The word knocked the wind out of me. Sure, he might of had a point but I was newly divorced, newly sober and just found out that I was HIV positive.Was I supposed to come tap dancing into his office singing “Who Could Ask For Anything More?” I thought it was impressive that I hadn’t thrown myself in front of a speeding train and then this little guy calls me miserable? He wanted me on Wellbutrin which I didn’t take and wanted me to come back which I did once but it was really out of spite to show him how great I was doing and that I wasn’t miserable. He,in turn, gave me the card of a therapist who dealt with depression and addiction. Sigh.

Today, real happiness isn’t a thing or an event. I usually feel it when I’m walking down the street and I realize how good my life is. Generally, when I’m sad I let myself feel that too. I also realize that the happiness and unhappiness of others isn’t my business. I can let my husband, friends and family feel their lives too and everything will be okay without me manufacturing happiness for them. When Michael Jackson died, the media mentioned over and over how “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin was his favorite song. Such an addict. I mean those lyrics- “You smile through your pain and sorrow. Smile and maybe tomorrow, You’ll see the sun come shining through.” Smiling through his pain and self-medicating didn’t really go so well for MJ.  And one of Judy Garland’s signature songs was “Come on Get Happy!” and we all know how great things turned out for her too. The point is, I don’t need slogans or upbeat jingles to convince the world I’m happy. I do consider myself a happy person but it ain’t always sunshine and lollipops. A lot of times, it’s a total disaster. But the truth today is all of it is just fine the way it is.

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?”