Hello Stranger

Fancy bumping into you here. I’d love to share a cigarette with you or buy you a drink but I don’t do either one of those things anymore. Instead, please enjoy this Barbara Lewis track and we’ll get all caught up.

Not enough songs have shoo-bop-shoo-bop-my baby in them, do they? Anyway, the internet breadcrumbs have recently led me back to blogging. I live my life one day at a time so I can’t promise I’ll be blogging everyday for the next 15 years but currently it feels like a good thing to do. I’ve been wrestling with a new play which went from this seemingly fun, frothy piece into a deeply personal,”shit got real” kind of work. So like a good addict, I’ve been avoiding it. It’s too hard. It’s too personal. It’s too raw. It’s too me. Thing is, I can’t run from it anymore and it’s demanding that I finish it.  These sorts of projects usually sit on my chest in the middle of the night and say, “Look. Finish me or I will make your life hell!” So much for being a master avoider. Curses, foiled again.anigif_original-26198-1430253629-9

So bleeding on the page and finishing my script is something I’m doing this week. If you hear crying and howling and general bitching, it’s just me, your tortured playwright friend who really isn’t that tortured but insists on making his life more dramatic than it really is. I know. Exhausting.

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I’ve recently crossed over into a new realm of my life and recovery and it’s kind of freaking me out, in a good way. When I got sober in 2009, I’d hear these people talk about how they experienced a neutrality around other people and how  difficult life situations would come up but not cause complete havoc.  My usual response was something to the effect of, “Good for them but they’re totally lying.” As usual, they, that ubiquitous all-knowing “they” were right. At 6 years and 6 months sober, I get it. I’ve had some stuff come up over the last few months that would normally spin me the fuck out and yet it hasn’t. Instead, I’m accepting stuff, feeling my emotions and moving the fuck on. Ah-ha! THIS is what they’ve been yammering about in meetings for years. IT DOES EXIST!

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Oh but the journey is not over. Just yesterday when I was a total dick to one of my co-workers, I was reminded that I still have a long, long way to go. In order to continue to experience the magical Pegasus sobriety that I have currently, I’ll have to do the work. Which includes making amends to people who drive me crazy. Sigh. At least, today I have people, people like you, who know what I’m going through and know how to do this thing called life sober. I appreciate you and I promise I won’t be a stranger.

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Our Beyonces, Ourselves

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If you’re wondering where I’ve been (and I know you spend hours worrying about such matters), I’m sad to report that I haven’t been hanging out in very nice places. It shames me to admit that my wit and candor can be largely seen in the comments sections of pop culture blogs these days. I know, I know. The internet’s equivalent of a roach-infested dive bar. Lately, all I can muster up, creatively is a one-liner and comments sections or Twitter are easy places for them to live.  One-liners about James Franco, one-liners about Nicki Minaj, one liners about anything really. One-liners, zingers or terrible puns are how I express myself. I’ve always been “funny”, “sassy”, a “smartass”, what have you. However, the psychological community at large tells me this is a defense mechanism. This need to make jokes about everything is a leftover from old childhood behavior to simultaneously diffuse tension while seeking attention and in general is a way to conceal hurt or anger. I’d  like to tell the psychological community that while I agree, sometimes I just really want to make fun of Beyoncé.

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In my defense, Beyoncé is really easy to make fun of.  I mean…

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Plus, I think people with dead-eyes and no sense of humor are actually hilarious and ripe for satire. From the lyrics of Irreplaceable and her performance in Dreamgirls to that elevator thing and her Pretty Hurts video, I just think she’s comedy gold masquerading as a pop music icon. But then again, I saw Tina Turner in concert at a young age so perhaps Beyoncé’s powers would have never worked on me.

Of course, none of this is actually about Beyoncé. Or Kimye or Nicki Minaj’s ass. It’s about me. Truth? I’ve been kind of depressed lately. Depression is one of the many colors I represent in my mental illness rainbow. Lucky me. For my first five years of sobriety though, the bitch hasn’t really been an issue. Turns out, she was just sitting in the corner sipping her tea, waiting to pounce.

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Thankfully, I am now aware enough to take action when she shows up and wants to knock me out. While I’m not on medication (and don’t have any issues with folks who are) I do take certain physical and spiritual measures when depression becomes a problem.  For me, I know depression is a chemical thing because the honest to God’s truth of my life is that it’s pretty terrific. The evidence is staggering that despite minor glitches and little areas for growth, all things in Seanland are undoubtedly fabulous which makes depression’s appearance all the more baffling. But when things get rough or my thinking is off, getting sober has taught me to ask myself,”So whaddya gonna do about it?” (Because when I ask myself questions I sound like a pawn shop employee from New Jersey.) Part of that answer is “Write more!” My second sponsor, in her infinite wisdom, once told me that, “Self-esteem is built through esteemable acts.” As we’ve discussed, writing makes me feel good so why not write more and write thru whatever I’m feeling and maybe, gee I don’t know, feel better as a result?!?

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But let’s not get overly excited here. I’m stopping being a smartass anytime soon. It’s kinda who I am. I would argue that making jokes about the Kardashians or Chris Brown has at least kept my creative juices flowing. And as readers of this blog, I laugh just as much at myself as I do at Beyoncé. My sarcasm is all-inclusive and equality opportunity.Plus, making people laugh is a tiny way I can be of service. So just for today, I’ll aim to be a more productive, more spiritually fit clown and not a sadsack, comment section clown like this guy.

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Nothing More Than Feelings

“Just because you’re feeling it doesn’t mean that it’s the truth or that it even matters,” he told me at a few months sober. Basically, this friend of mine was telling me, whatever it was that I was feeling, it wasn’t a big fucking deal. Clearly, he didn’t know what I was going through. Because everything I’ve ever felt is a big fucking deal, thank you very much.

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In those early days of recovery, feelings raged bubbled up inside of me like hot lava and I couldn’t control where they spewed or what they destroyed. All I knew is after not feeling anything for decades, I was now in the middle of an emotional natural disaster.  There was never a middle ground with me and emotions. I either ignored my emotions or I let my emotions rule my life. Both ways were totally out of control ways to live. If I ignored whatever it was I feeling, eventually my insides would start to ache and I’d need something to take the edge off. A bucket of blow and a kiddie pool full of tequila usually did the trick. If however, I let my emotions drive the bus, I was in for a wild and unpredictable ride and so were the poor folks I dragged onboard.  I felt like people were out to get me. I felt like I need to control the way people reacted. I felt like I needed to be happy so I concocted bullshit stories to help sell this lie. I felt, I felt, I felt and it all felt crazy and therefore a drink would help fix this way of living too.

When emotions take over in sobriety, that is when things get tricky. The drama of feeling depressed, angry, victimized or heartbroken is another drug entirely for me. Something in my addict mind tries to convince me that if my life is hard or bad than I have a reason to check out. “He hasn’t left his bed in days but can you blame him?” is what I hope people will say. In reality, people don’t care if I feel good or bad. People, just like me, are too wrapped in thinking about themselves to give two shits about my mental state. My emotions and what I feel have turned out to be what that friend said they were: not a big deal. In this no-big-dealness, I just get to feel whatever it is I’m going through. The good, the bad, the unfabulous. I feel it, I acknowledge it and I move on. And sometimes I feel crappy for a while and this is okay too.

As I talked about in the post below, my life hasn’t been easy lately. I had nine days solid of a lot of drama of the boring professional nature. While disheartening and annoying, it has proven to be just that. I’m lucky that my health is good, that I get paid to do what I love and that my husband has my back no matter what. Mainly, I don’t drink when shit is uncomfortable or when feelings do show up. Today, I get say when somebody asks, “I feel like shit.” And I get to say that with no remorse or drama attached. I say how I’m feeling now because it isn’t a big deal but ignoring it is.

 

I’m So Effing Spiritual

In today’s post, I will share with you everything I know about prayer and meditation. Here goes: I don’t know how it works, I don’t know if I’m doing it right but I know when I don’t do it my days sort of suck. The end.  That’s it.

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I could blather on about the ideal prayer conditions and my recommended reading list to help someone develop a practice but it would be bullshit. The only ideal condition for prayer and mediation I’ve found is that it helps if your awake and alive, although I haven’t tried it asleep or from beyond the grave so I can’t even be sure about that either. And if we’re being honest here I never finish books about spirituality so my reading list would be based on a lie or what I read about in an inflight magazine. Yes, I’ll tell you I’ve read Eckhart Tolle or a Course in Miracles and its true that I do own them but I get a few chapters in, get distracted and go watch a television show where people make stuff and compete against each other. What I know for certain is that I feel crappy when I don’t do it and I increase my chances of being a nicer person when I do. And even then I can still act like a douchebag. Take this afternoon for example.

I’ve been feeling all “enlightened and shit” since I’ve increased my prayer and meditation in the morning. For a half an hour every day for the last week or so, I’m waiting to tweet or check my email and I’m taking time to check in with G.O.D. Hopefully this period of time will remind me to think of others and have the divine direction to act like the spiritual giant that I was born to be. Thus far, my increased practice has put my days on a better path and allowed me to be on an auto-pilot where I’m guided by a higher purpose and not by my crazy, cockamamie ideas. Today, I left my humble abode after a morning of writing and felt spiritually armed to face whatever came my way. I was going to my favorite noon meeting which I was thrilled to go do. Yet as I sat in the room listening to shares I found myself getting irritated, bitchy even. “Oh my God! That reading again!?!” and “Didn’t that guy just share” were a few of the snarky thoughts running through my mind. I wanted to hear some solution and what I got was the ramblings of crazy people! How dare they. Well, even as I was thinking this I knew I was being ridiculous.

For one thing, clearly I was supposed to hear what people were saying, insane or not. Maybe it was all a test to see how tolerant and spiritual I’ve really become. Maybe I need to just listen and hear all kinds of sobriety, even the batshit variety.  And I happen to one of those crazy people I was having an inner bitch session about and lord knows my ramblings are probably annoying to someone else. At the end of the meeting, I shared with some friends how I felt. We had a good laugh about my intolerant, bitchy ass and just like that I was back in love with program that saved my life. All of this stuff I do to make myself feel better, to keep me sane and sober is a practice. I can pray on top of  mountain with a guru but chances are something at the foot of the mountain will annoy me. That’s life. What I can do is keep practicing every day, keep trying to be more helpful to the people around me, keep forgiving myself when I fail and keep remembering I’m not in charge. And that’s about as enlightened as I need to be.

12 Days of Blogmas: That Cat Blog

Yesterday we talked about the most visited blog post of 2012 and today it pains me to talk about the other end of the spectrum. Yes kids, it’s time to look at one of our least popular blog entries. On this the 10th day of Blogmas, your true love gives to thee a blog about my cat Maeby (Pronounced  ‘maybe’. Just in case you ever hang out with her, I didn’t want it to be awkward).  What weird sort of alternate internet universe am i living in when a cute and from the heart blog about my cat only gets 7 views?  I mean look at that face.maeby

That Cat Blog, since you obviously didn’t read it, was all about animals, how after having to leave my old pets the little charmer pictured above magically showed up in my life and how 4 dogs, 3 cats and 2 chickens helped me stay sober. Furry critters have always been a part of my life and sometimes I do better with animals than I do with people but not in a crazy cat hoarder kind of way. I think I explained this special relationship better when I wrote:

“I can’t speak for other alcoholics or addicts (and the minute I do , please call me on my shit) but I am so awkward around people and worried about saying the right thing that being with animals is a relief. They don’t care about what I’m wearing or what I do for a living or who I know. They want food, some petting and they want to sleep which oddly enough sounds like a lot of alcoholics I know too.”

I do get it though. Not everybody likes cats. Or animals. And most people don’t like alcoholics. And I totally understand that too. But thankfully here at UrtheInspiration, I like all of those things and I like you too. I hope the 10th day of Blogmas is all that you dreamed it would be and please enjoy That Cat Blog as well as this odd photo of Maeby nibbling on a pineapple.

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Bitchy

“It’s daylight saving time, not some  global conspiracy against you”, I sniped to myself as I read people on Facebook whining about the inevitable time change that happened yesterday. I went on to silently assault these complainers as I scrolled through my news feed. Clearly, somebody woke up on the beyaatch side of the bed.

Bitch. Smartass. Sarcastic asshole. These are my default settings if I’m not properly adjusted when I start my day. So there I was on a beautiful Sunday morning after sleeping in as the spring air breezed through my window acting like a douchebag. My dipshittery, thankfully, did not bubble over further than my own couch for a few minutes. Granted, I do realize I am a human being and I allowed to occasionally suck. Still, being the Mayor of Negative BitchVille is no longer something I enjoy. When I was younger and perpetually loaded I enjoyed my bitchiness. It was a trait I picked up in middle school to survive. Being a flamboyantly gay youth in Colorado the late 1980s wasn’t as enjoyable as it might sound. So in order to not get the tar beaten out of me I learned how to hurl barbed insults and verbally destroy others before they destroyed me. It was a helpful skill as a child. But leaning on the old bitch mechanisms as an adult is downright sociopathic. A fact I was alerted to in recovery when I had to write down all of the horrible crap I did in order to get better (also known as an inventory). For non-drunken disasters, the inventory process sounds cruel and difficult and guess what– it is! But it also works. Through this process, I discovered that being judgemental, gossipy and manipulative were fine qualities for residents of Melrose Place but had no business in a sober person’s life. Now when I start to act like BitchFace McGee I have to check myself. Where is this coming from? And how can I extinguish it? Usually, it comes down to not feeling good. And yesterday I wasn’t feeling great. The dental health and general health battles of late have made me a little cranky and therefore more susceptible to bad attitude outbursts.

The good news? I did check myself. I had to laugh at my ridiculousness and I went on to have a lovely Sunday, free of shit talking and bitchery. I even made cupcakes for my husband and chatted online with my little brother. It’s never too late in my twisted hater mind to choose happiness instead of misery. But it’s a conscious choice. I have to take the ten minutes to pray or write a gratitude list or take a walk or do something to realize, “Yeah my life is really great!” It’s either that or I spend my day bitching about people on Facebook. Thankfully, the choice is pretty clear.

Spot it, You Got it

I hate when people post about politics on Facebook. I hate when I read things by so-called experts that are clear opposition of the right way of thinking, you know my way. I hate that hating everything is clearly a symptom of me not being good to myself and mainly I hate that what I don’t like in others, is what drives me crazy about myself. Sigh.

After an incredible two weeks wherein my play opened, my mom came to town, another exciting creative project was born and generally the sky was blue and the world broke into a happy musical number, I crashed. See, the thing about this HIV gig is that going non-stop can really wear a body out. Sure, I received the messages like “Hello, we need to lay down” and “Excuse me can we get a freaking vitamin up in here!?!” But I didn’t listen. I’ve been busy and things are fantastic so why should I take time out to take care of myself? Well the short answer is even though I’m healthy and I live with a “chronic manageable disease”, I simply can’t burn the candle at both ends. When I first got diagnosed, my doctor told me “Listen, you and stress are over. Nothing wreaks more havoc on a compromised immune system than stress and pushing yourself too hard.”  This sage advice has rung in my ears over the past 3 years of living with this condition. Until recently. In November stress wound me up in the hospital. So through the not so subtle head cold and body ache I got over the weekend, I finally paid attention.

Here’s where I get back to that open paragraph. I know about freaking time. This morning, I don’t feel great physically so as I peruse Facebook or read articles online I get more and more bitchtacular and before I know it I’m in a foul mood. My sick puppy brain tells me that not feeling great gives me a hall pass to act like a cynical jerkface. But then a miracle happened as I was reading this study that really pissed me off, I’m not angry. I don’t hate everything. And I can stop feeling emotionally bad even when my body feels like it got hit by a bus. Mainly, I’m annoyed by behaviors that I don’t like in myself. As usual, the person out to get me and make me feel shitty is the dude in the mirror. Being preachy or entitled or always right or stubborn or judgmental are character defects that still pop up in me . Naturally spotting them in others is something I am very good at. The missing ingredient here that lead to morning of crabbiness was meditation and prayer. I had an old sponsor who told me to pray before I turned on my computer or looked at my phone everyday. Again more advice that I don’t always follow. Obviously.

But the good news is this, nobody got hurt. I didn’t fire off a bunch of “Go screw yourself” emails. I didn’t cuss out my husband. I didn’t open a beer because the world was out to get me. I saw it happening. I prayed. I stopped and flipped the script. I laughed at how terrible I was being. And that little but revolutionary change right there is reason enough to smile even though I’m sneezing.

Oh Cookie, Where Art Thou?

After 8 days, 3 bunches of kale, 4 different homemade vegan soups, 1 bag with Swiss Chard in every color of the rainbow and 7 bananas, it happened. I made sweet passionate love with a piece of chocolate mousse cake last night. And I loved it.

So yes that giant thud you heard last night was me falling off the Sugar-Free Wagon. But don’t worry that one mighty delicious slice of decadence didn’t send me into a tailspin. I didn’t wake up at 3am and wait for the donut shop to open nor did I take multiple breaks to shove peanut M&Ms in my mouth. Mainly because there isn’t a donut shop near my house and I currently don’t have any M&Ms. Kidding. No, the cake in question was a sweet reward for braving the snow and freezing cold to run a crazy errand for the husband. The crazy thing is that since I haven’t had sugar in over a week, it tasted special like something to savor, eat slowly and enjoy. That’s exactly what I did.

As I’ve mentioned, my ride on the Sugar Free Express is motivated by feeling better and wanting shed a little weight. I have food addicts in my family and I know how hard that addiction is. For me, my occasional tendency to over do it with food is just part of my obsessive, addictive, alcoholic nature. So it behooves me to keep my relationship in check. I’m a foodie, avid cook, restaurant follower and food blog reader but I know to enjoy those things I need balance too. And oddly enough this is how I know I’m an alcoholic. I could never have one drink without it unleashing a shit storm of more, more and more.”Balance”, “every now and then” or “a healthy relationship” are words I could never apply to my drinking. Normalcy with alcohol was a thing I was able never to achieve and I’m so glad I don’t have delusions otherwise.

Today, healthy me was back on track. I had fruit for breakfast. I cooked a lentil soup. I had a spinach salad with homemade dressing and walnuts. Did I joke about eating a plate of cookies for dinner? Sure. But that was the end of it. And that’s fabulous. A day not spent chasing cookies or drugs or alcohol or sex or shopping is certainly a day well spent.

You’re always a day away

The movie Annie was seminal in my life for several reasons. First off, it was the launching pad for a game called “orphanage” in which me and my cousins would wait for nice people to adopt us. I’m sure a psychologist could have  a blast in analyzing why childhood me from the alcoholic home loved playing that game. Second, it was the movie that briefly inspired me to play the piano. I learned how to play “Tomorrow” which was a nice accompaniment to the only other song I knew how to play, “The Rose.” That’s right,  my entire piano act consisted solely of a Bette Midler song and a song from a musical. By the time I played those songs a billion times, I’m sure even our piano was ready to come out of the closet. Lastly, the film made me realize that I need to live somewhere where I could have servants, preferably ones who sang.

I’m thinking about Annie today because much like the curly-headed orphan, I’m thinking about tomorrow. I’m having a hard time being in the now right now and thought if I blogged about it, it would pass faster. It’s not tomorrow specifically but January 2nd that’s heavy on my mind. Unless I get kidnapped by terrorists or crushed by a speeding bus, I will celebrate 3 years of continuous sobriety on January 2nd! This is fantastic especially since year 2 has been a challenge. No one bothered to tell me until I was about six months in, that the second year of sobriety is notoriously tough and commonly referred to as the terrible twos. Thanks for the warning! Even still, I managed to overcome the self-doubt and struggles to say in the program during year two and I’ve stayed sober. My life is amazing right now. I just married the man of my dreams, I work full-time as a writer, and my first play opens in a month from today! My life is mind-blowingly awesome and I have the program and getting sober to thank for all of it. And yet… my alcoholic brain sends me shitty messages like “you don’t deserve any of this” and “you’ll never make it” and of  course that number one hit song played on repeat since 1972, “You’re not good enough.”

So I listen to that garbage for about ten seconds, do the things I’ve been told to do that always make me feel better and I breathe and give myself a break. I always get itchy before birthdays and I know that’s what this is. And maybe Annie wasn’t living in the future. Maybe the little orphan was saying it might seem crappy now but there’s always tomorrow. Or as they say in the rooms, “this too shall pass.”  Here’s to clearing away the cobwebs and the sorrow, indeed.

PS- I realize these are “quality problems” so thanks for indulging me.

The Big Drunk Gay Pink Elephant in the Room

A few days ago I read this story about American Idol runner up Adam Lambert and the drunken kerfuffle he got into with his boyfriend outside of a bar in Finland. The press says punches flew and the two both were detained by police. Lambert says the whole thing is blown out of proportion. Now, regular people who didn’t almost win reality shows get into fights outside of bars all over the world and nobody cares. Sadly, when you’re even sort of famous, word spreads like wildfire. His boyfriend by the way also is sort of famous. He too was on some reality show in Finland. The whole kerfuffle (love that word! but I promise that’ll be the last time I use it. in this blog anyway) got me thinking about  gays and alcohol. It’s this notoriously toxic pairing yet we never want to talk about it.

And why would we? Is there anything less fabulous than being an alcoholic or a drug addict? I recoiled at thought of being an alcoholic for years. I mean ick. I did drugs and drank with creative and amazing people. I wasn’t some hobo and I certainly wasn’t the angry Irish drinkers in my family. And yet towards the end, my day-to-day was an endless loop of misery. Now I’m not saying that Adam Lambert is an alcoholic. The only person I know for sure is one of those is me. But I do think an honest conversation is order about gays and lesbians and their relationships with drugs and alcohol. It’s a conversation sports fans, musicians and several ethnic groups could have too. The misconceptions will run rampant until we get honest about alcoholism. I know mine certainly did. Okay, I’m starting to sound preachy. Let me know how you feel about this. Does talking about alcoholism help inform or is it one of those diseases that society won’t ever understand? And if this blog entry annoyed you, I apologize. At the very least, I hope you enjoyed the sparkly elephants.