A pair of news stories popped up in my Twitter this morning feed that I found interesting. This is a miracle for several reasons a.) I actually read something other than an arbitrary list about Mean GIrls or Disney Princesses and b.) that I could relate to two stories featuring behavior most people find completely irrational. The first was about Rob Ford. Over the last 48 hours, simply walking by a computer or turning on a smartphone and not seeing the name “Rob Ford” pop up has been an impossibility. Ford, if you don’t know, is the Toronto mayor who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.
Late night comedians and news outlets have had a field day with Ford since last year when a video of him smoking crack surfaced online. Despite the obvious content of the video, Ford denied he smoked crack or used illegal drugs. Then in January another video popped up of the mayor babbling incoherently at a fast food window. And finally, today he took a break from the campaign trail to enter rehab after another video of him smoking crack surfaced. While non-addicts shake their heads and spout off one-liners about Ford and wonder what the heck he was thinking, I feel like all this sounds totally par for the course. Moreover, to me his thinking sounds perfectly logical. As an addict, my natural instinct is to lie and deny. Doesn’t matter if cocaine powder has rimmed my nostril like sugar on a donut or if tequila is coming out of my pores, if you ask me I’ll tell you that, “I’m fine. I’m just tired.” From my experience this is how we roll. Insane bullshit ideas and wackadoodle plans are just the norm. Doesn’t matter how famous we are or how many videos exist, we don’t get the message until we’re really ready. By entering rehab, we can hope maybe he’s starting to get the message. In the meantime, it’d sure be nice if the media showed him and other addicts compassion, instead of stringing them up like piñatas and beating the crap out of them.
Sadly, a lot of the time we addicts don’t get the message at all. Like in the other news story that I read this morning about a couple who after killing a relative and struggling with crippling heroin addiction jumped off the George Washington Bridge. Ugh. To call this devastating is a total understatement and yet again, I totally get it. Addiction is a dark place and if it gets dark enough, ending it seems like the only option. In her suicide note left for her 4 children the woman heartbreakingly wrote,”I’m sorry. I beg you to remember that Nickie that I used to be. Before I was introduced to heroin. You would not understand how much it would hurt for me to wake up every single day without you. I do know that I am taking the cowardly way out. I just don’t want to hurt people anymore.”As usual, the comments sections on the stories about this couple can be relied on for complete ignorance on the nature of addiction and should be avoided if you want to retain some serenity. But as horrible and tragic as their story is, I can’t help but feel lucky and blessed that at least for today, at least for right now, I know I have other options. I know that people can get better. Even murderers or crack smoking mayors. Mainly, I know that my crazy ideas are better off if I run them by somebody first and that I don’t have to do any of this recovery business by myself. And that gives me a lot of hope.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!”
When my nearly 13 year relationship crumbled as I got sober in 2009, my heart and my brain conspired to tell me a series of convincing but damaging lies. “You weren’t meant to be in love” they whispered. “No gay man in his right mind is going to want a sober, HIV positive partner” they told me. And of course my favorite lie was the one that played on repeat whenever I felt utterly alone, “You won’t ever know real love.” Naturally, it was all bullshit and thankfully I stopped believing it.
When I first crawled into the AA meetings in Santa Monica, I would see handsome, single, interesting, non-trainwreck gay men and think “Wow. They do exist.” This thought was usually followed by a head shake that would remind me that I was in no condition whatsoever to date anyone. Ever. Or for at least awhile. Besides, who would date me? The recently single, barely sober, life in shambles me was not exactly a candidate for The Bachelor or anything. My heart was smashed open so to protect itself, it told me little lies and truths to protect me. I was not open to the idea of love nor did I think I would ever have anything to offer anyone else. Nevertheless, little changes happened the longer I stayed sober and my life got bigger, so did my ideas about what I could or could not achieve. Soon my heart started saying things like “Maybe I could write professionally and not go back to waiting tables?”
At almost exactly a year sober that is what happened. I started writing copy for an agency. Other mind-boggling things started to happen too. Mainly, I began to like myself. I mean like really be okay with myself and by myself. I spent a summer meditating, writing and taking care of some chickens. I don’t know if the preceding sentence is a guaranteed recipe for successful self-love but it freaking worked for me. Maybe I’ll open a rehab with writing classes and chicken coops. Or not. The point is those lies were no longer being listened to or even transmitted. There was a new set of programming that repeatedly told me, day and night, that I deserve love. Moreover, that I already had love in my life. I might have been single but there was love coming from people everywhere and I was open and lucky to receive it. At one year, seven months and six days of continuous sobriety, I met the man I’m married to today. He wasn’t who I thought he would be meaning who I thought the guy I would marry would be. He was even better. He’s an artist, he’s hilarious, he’s brilliant and he isn’t nuts. And thank god. This family only has room for one crazy person and I fit the bill nicely.
So the deal is this: I am writing this to tell you the truth even if your heart won’t. You deserve love. You are already loved. Despite what you did or didn’t do while you drank or used drugs somebody loves you and somebody will love you like you never knew was possible. I know this all sounds corny but it’s Valentine’s Day so fucking indulge me. Love isn’t for just pretty people or rich people or sane people (clearly). Love is for people who know they are worthy of it and who give it away without condition and even a lying heart would agree with me on that one.