Owning the Label: Why I identify as an alcoholic

Last night, I stumbled on an article by a sober blogger who doesn’t believe in the term “alcoholic”. Hmm. Tell me more. I kept reading.  Turns out, they think the term keeps people stuck in a story, that most alcoholics are actually just heavy drinkers and that the term creates fear. That was the gist of the piece. I won’t link it here because the author has enough publicity without my help but if you Google it, it’s easy to find. It’s an interesting argument and I could see where they were coming from. Maybe the term does get people stuck in a behavior. Maybe the term is out of date. Maybe calling yourself an addict or alcoholic would be a self-fulfilling prophecy for relapse. I thought about all of this as I tried to fall asleep. It made me wonder: I’ve been sober for nearly 7 years and after all this time, am I still an alcoholic?

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The resounding answer I came up with at the crack of dawn this morning was, “Fuck. Yes.” No, I don’t want to drink anymore. And no, I don’t arbitrarily go up to people and introduce myself as an alcoholic. “Hey! Nice to meet you. I’m an alcoholic!” Nor do I list “alcoholic” on my resume or social media profiles. But in a meeting? I’m Sean and I’m an alcoholic. And if a friend or a friend of a friend asks about my drinking, I’ll tell them I’m an alcoholic. Why? Mainly because at this stage of my sobriety, it isn’t about me anymore. It’s about helping other people. Look, we’re in seriously fucked up times when it comes to addicts and alcoholics. People are dying at alarming rates all over the US. The recent numbers are jaw-dropping. Alcohol related deaths topped out around 88,000 last year and it looks like it’ll be even higher for 2015. We’re at an epidemic state with drugs and alcohol so arguing the semantics of terms (like I’m sort of doing here) is fucking ridiculous. As is criticizing recovery programs. We’re officially at a “whatever keeps people alive and sober is a GOOD thing” state of emergency. We can’t afford the luxury of denying people help based on what they call themselves or what they believe. We have to do whatever we can. So If somebody somewhere knows that I’m an alcoholic and that helps them get help, then terrific.

The other thing is identifying as an alcoholic does is it keeps me grounded. When those words come out of my mouth, it’s like an exhale. Each time I say it, I’m living in the truth. As an alcoholic, I lie to myself. Like a lot. And like all of the time. So saying, “My name is Sean and I’m an alcoholic” helps me combat my lifelong penchant for living in denial and delusion. Likewise owning that I’m gay, HIV positive, the child of an alcoholic and a person who suffers from depression. These are all parts of who I am and I gotta say I’m proud of it. All of it. I’ve worked hard on overcoming a lot of shit (and still have even more stuff to work on) so hell yeah I own being a drunk and all of the other labels attached to me.

Lastly, introducing myself as alcoholic reminds that I still need help too. That I don’t have this shit figured out. That I’m not some expert in sobriety who can fix the drinking problems of others (thank fucking God). Basically, it opens the door for some sort of humility to creep in. Those words tell me I’m not better than or more sober or more amazing than any other alcoholic or addict and I need that. So yeah, I’m Sean and I’m an alcoholic.

But tell what you think. Do you identify as alcoholic? Did you ever? Why or why not? There’s no wrong answers here, kids and I’m fascinated by this discussion. Let me have it in the comments section!

Where Do Broken Hearts Go?

When people die, we say stupid things. We are so ill-equipped here in the good ole US-of-A to deal with death that we either say nothing or say something stupid. And I think that’s okay. Death is the ultimate awkward situation, grief is the tornado that flattens every house on the block and we the people just don’t know what to say when someone dies. Particularly when that person is an addict.

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“Well, what did you expect given who her parents are?” “So tragic but not exactly a surprise.” “You’d think she would have stayed away from drugs after what they did to her mother.” These are just a few of the gems I saw on Twitter after Bobbi Kristina Brown passed away late last month. Brown, the daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown was, like myself, born into the disease. Kids like us have an uphill battle and increased odds of being addicts ourselves. But I don’t believe we children of addicts and alcoholics are “doomed to be killed by the disease” as many people said on Twitter. Look, the heartbreak that poor kid must have felt after her mother died in 2012 must have been unbearable. If we’re to believe the reports, her drug use spiralled almost immediately. This makes sense to me. With no example of sobriety in her life, she turned to the tool she’d seen her parents use–and get destroyed by. This is how we cope with everything. And as kids who’ve seen the wreckage it can cause it DOES sound crazy that we’d gladly turn to the substances that we know might kill us. I was told from age 11 that if I drank or did drugs, the chances were good that I’d get addicted. My attitude was always, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll see about that.”Low and behold, the disease kicked my ass and I barely got out alive. It’s a testament to the power of the disease that I knew what the outcome would probably be and thought I could outrun it anyway. Like I said—crazy. The real tragedy with Bobbi Kristina was that despite having millions and famous parents she died without giving herself a chance to change the story.

Earlier this summer, the husband and I were in some trendy home furnishings store. The above song was blaring and two adorable salespeople, who I guess should have been working, were dancing and lip-synching. Their joy was palatable. The pair burst into laughter when they noticed we had seen them. “By all means, continue,” I said. “You HAVE to dance when this comes on.” The lanky hipster guy of the duo said, “You can’t resist it.” And they continued having their at work dance party. This is what Whitney Houston has left behind for us: the joy of infectious pop song delivered by that powerhouse voice. And for an addict who suffered for so long, this is an incredible gift to leave behind. So to answer that question in the headline- maybe broken hearts, like Bobbi’s, never go away. Maybe the hurt of a loss just lessens over time. Or maybe if we’re lucky and work really hard, we can exist on this planet with a broken heart and still have a happy life. And maybe even dance.

the brilliant logic of addicts

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.

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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.

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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.

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Breaking Bad Never Got Me Addicted

At the risk of having serious television fans throw things at my head, I have to confess I’ve never seen a full-episode of Breaking Bad. I know, I know! Listen, I love Bryan Cranston as much as the next person. I liked the first few seasons of Mad Men so it wasn’t an AMC phobia that kept me away from it. Although the old movie queen in me misses the Bob Dorian days. No, oddly enough this drug addict couldn’t never really get excited about the concept.

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Maybe it’s like doctors who don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy or chefs who can’t stand Food Network. But I was never intrigued enough by the premise of the show to tune in. Granted, I never made my own drugs or even sold drugs for that matter. Okay I made flavored vodka once with Green Apple Jolly Ranchers but it was disgusting and hardly an enterprise idea to pay for my cancer treatments. As a user and frequent customer, the idea of a drug dealer/family man I guess should have been an interesting one. Perhaps the 4 mind-numbingly bad seasons of Weeds that I watched turned me off from drug dealer tv shows. Or maybe it’s because on some level as a connoisseur I know that television could never capture the real-life sketchiness of the drugs dealers I have known. (Reminder: Pitch ‘Drug Dealers I Have Known’ as a coffee table book.) I never ever, once bought weed from somebody who looked like Mary Louise Parker. They usually looked more like Mexican versions of Al Roker and the guy I bought meth from I never actually saw. He was like Carlton the doorman. We’d call and someone, not him, would run it out to the car. Still, I feel like I’m missing out on something. The oddest assortment of people I know love this show. From bank employees and actors to retirees and teachers and beyond, everybody loves it. Everybody but me. It could be the drug dealer thing but I also don’t like watching shows about assholes.

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That early 2000’s trend of building an entire television show around reprehensible awful people seems bland to me now. Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Dexter and countless more pounded us over the head with this “Hey aren’t we subversive by having a polarizing character as the lead?” Um, no. It’s titillating  a couple of times but when every show has a drug dealer, hooker, heroin addict, gun smuggler then it becomes boring.  Personally if I hate every character, I’m less likely to want to spend an entire hour with them every week. I worried that Breaking Bad would just make me feel yucky instead of actually caring about what happened to the Walter White.  And don’t give me the “Well, what about Seinfeld?” argument. Seinfeld was a comedy and laughed at the worst of humanity. Plus, Jerry and the gang always got theirs in the end. And oh yeah, Seinfeld was genius.

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In reality, my aversion to the show might have more to do with timing more than anything else. The show premiered in January 2008, the first year I really tried to get sober. By ‘really tried’ I don’t mean going to rehab or even meetings. This stab at sobriety consisted of smoking a lot of cigarettes and watching endless marathons of Real Housewives (a program I also no longer watch due to the high asshole factor.) Just watching people even drink wine or do blow on television was tough back then. It was like having your jaw wired shut and being forced to watch people eat Thanksgiving dinner. Staying away from Breaking Bad might have been more strategic at that point than anything else. Not surprisingly, this fragile time on the sobriety merry-go-round didn’t last. breaking-bad-all-characters

Being sober for over four years and with my days of  dealing with dealers long behind me, maybe I’ll finally catch up with Breaking Bad. Or maybe not. Now that it’s all over, I feel like I’ve missed the party. Which is okay. For a pop culture junkie like me, television addictions are picked up and let go with regularity.

But friends am I missing something? Is Breaking Bad worth watching? And what other shows are you addicted to? And what show does everybody love but you? Tell me in the comments section below!

Are smart kids destined to be drunk kids?

Wait. Maybe I wasn’t just a teenage alcoholic and drug addict because I was bored or because I hit the genetic jackpot.  According to a new study, my eagerness to pick up a drink at such an early age was most likely caused by the fact that I’m a genius.  Suddenly, it all makes sense.

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New research suggests kids who develop language and intellectual skills earlier are more likely to drink and take other drugs than their less intelligent peers. The nice folks at Time magazine explain it like this:

“In 2011, for example, British researchers found that women who were in the top third of the IQ range when tested in elementary school were more than twice as likely as those scoring in the bottom third to have used marijuana or cocaine by age 30; for men, the top-ranked boys were almost 50% more likely to have taken amphetamine and 65% more likely to have used ecstasy (MDMA) by adulthood.”

These findings sound remarkably like my teen years. I was always a smart kid, I just didn’t always go to class. I was extremely busy with more important things. There were music videos to be watched and cigarettes to be smoked. Nevertheless, this drunken genius idea holds water, right? I mean Carl Sagan smoked weed, Steve Jobs liked LSD and Freud was a big cokehead. Yet leave it to the Finns  to rain on my “I’m an alcoholic because I’m a genius”theory.  “Social drinking in many countries and nonproblematic drinking is more frequent and common among people with higher education,” says Antti Latvala, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki in Finland and lead author of the study. The article goes on to suggest that, “Intelligence can serve as a vehicle for moderation when it comes to alcohol or drug use — the more educated people are, the more they internalize and appreciate the dangers and risks of overindulging. The higher education that’s correlated with greater intellect also puts more at stake for those who indulge in alcohol or drug abuse.” Aaaand they lost me.

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This statement gets an epic eyeroll for a few reasons:

*  I know several genius drunken hot messes who didn’t use intelligence as a vehicle for moderation and instead chose to simply drive said vehicle into a tree or through someone’s living room.

* Spend enough time in 12 step programs and you’ll see a lot of folks with Ivy League educations and high-powered jobs who continue to relapse.

* As a teenage drug user, drinker and schnapps shoplifter, I never got high with the valedictorian of our class. Those kids actually did say no and did really go to class. I did however get high with the artists, actors, debaters and writers. And continued to do so for the next 20 years.

My point is, and I honestly have one (I think), that addiction and alcoholism doesn’t give a shit about how smart you are, what school you went to or how you did on your SATs.  In fact, unless you’re 17 nobody cares about your SATs. Smart, dumb, black , white, purple– from what I’ve seen this disease is an equal opportunity killer. Maybe its the other way around maybe the kids who were born addicts become smarter and more verbal to get what they wanted? Who knows? Today I’m just grateful that I’ve been struck with the wisdom that says on a daily basis, “No, Sean you can’t drink with moderation. Like ever.”  i also know that people like me are going to drink and use drugs regardless of how impractical or crazy it sounds. I submit this study about the fine folks of Alaska to support that statement.

Happy Tuesday, my fellow geniuses!

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Keep Coming Back, Mike Tyson & Come Out Come Out Wherever You Are, Lamar Odom.

Not surprisingly, I’m not much of a sports person. Yet I’m a news and pop culture person so clearly I’ve seen the Mike Tyson story unfold like the rest of the planet. From unbeatable boxing champ to certified hot mess, Tyson’s story is a difficult one but really not that different from any we in recovery hear of or lived through ourselves. It is hard not to roll your eyes when the press sensationalize the adventures of celebrity drug addicts and drunks. Things like arrests, hospitalization, criminal charges and bar brawls are sort of the norm for non-famous addicts. But when celebrities do this things, it winds up on the front page. Over the weekend, Mike Tyson railroaded his own press conference to confess that he’s been lying about being sober.

The press called these “startling revelations” but really this another day at the office for your run of the mill alcoholics and addicts. This isn’t to minimize Tyson’s struggle however. Tyson, like the estimated 60% of people who enter drug and alcohol recovery programs, is a chronic relapser. And Tyson, like myself in my disease, is a bullshit artist and a liar. That’s just kind of how we roll.Yet just like me and the thousands of others who tried to get sober over and over and finally did, Tyson stands a chance. He seems pretty beat down and fucked up which are good signs, even if they don’t sound like it.  Near the end of the press conference Tyson told reporters, “I wanna change my life, I wanna live a different life now. I wanna live my sober life. I don’t wanna die.” From my experience, that’s an excellent place to start.

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Also over the weekend, Lamar Odom was reported missing for three days. Tabloids reported that the NBA star had vanished and his family was concerned he was on a “Crack binge” (you know, as opposed to using crack in social setting like tea party or at an ice cream social). His family now says he wasn’t missing and brushed the whole thing off. Whether he was or wasn’t on this crack binge, this kind of behavior is also par for the course with addicts. In addition to relapsing and lying, we like to hide out and disappear. I bring all of this up today because the more I stay sober the more I realize it’s all the same. No matter who you are or where you go. Addiction and alcoholism doesn’t care what you do for a living or if you’re on a reality show. It just wants to kill you.

The real news, in my mind, isn’t that these things happen. The stories that save lives are the ones of survival are the afters, not the befores or durings. I’m inspired when I see famous addicts (Matthew Perry, Robert Downey Jr. Kristen Johnston) transcend the normal behavior and fight their demons head on. But as longtime media watcher and pop culture fan, I also know those kind of stories don’t sell as many magazines either.

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.

The Real World Sucks

I went to detox on Friday night. But unlike the handful of near death survivors who sat in the little community room at the city hospital with me, I got to go home. I was asked to speak and anytime anyone asks me to speak at a detox or rehab, I jump at the chance. Not only because they’re such captive audiences or because I’m a lot more hilarious to people in hospital gowns but because it is an honor. For some reason my daily drinking and rabid drug use didn’t kill me so I’ll happily show up for people who really need a laugh or little bit of hope. Too bad Joey Kovar didn’t get to live to do the same thing.

29 year-old  Joey Kovar, a cast member of MTV’s Real World: Hollywood and Celebrity Rehab, was found dead last Friday near Chicago. He was found with blood coming out of ears and nose. Drugs, of course, are suspected to be the cause of death. The real, Real World is a brutal place and checking out of it must have seemed like the only option for Joey. And that’s just how it ends for a reality star whose drug addiction and binge drinking made for great TV. No scads of celebrities Tweeting about how wonderful he was and no video montages of his finest moments. Just a big story on People.com and lame statement from MTV,who profited from his demons and then tossed him aside.  Kovar soon becomes the answer to a trivia question and the world at large moves on to talking about bigger things like Oprah’s interview with Rihanna.

Now I’m not saying that we should have a moment of silence for Kovar or name a street after him but his death does make me stop and think about how we honor the lives of addicts. For big stars like Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston, we dance around the fact that they were drug addicts and focus on their careers instead. For z-listers like Kovar, we act like we do when anyone dies from alcoholism or addition, like it’s a shame but we saw it coming. Really what pisses me off about celebrities who die from drug addiction is the missed opportunity we have to really talk about the disease at hand. We don’t honestly say to kids or even adults, “This famous person died because of their alcoholism and drug addition. It wasn’t heart problems or drowning or because an evil doctor gave them a prescription. They died because they were addicts.” Yeah I realize things haven’t changed since I bitched about this same issue when Whitney died a few months ago.

But what I can do is not shut up and not sit back and watch any more. Having watched the Real World in the past and Real Housewives and any other bullshit show that pretends to be real, I can safely say I’m over trotting out hot messes, giving them wine and letting the cameras roll for our amusement. Being a disaster isn’t entertaining or inspiring. I’m done contributing to the culture who awards drunken idiots by giving them TV shows. This isn’t to say I don’t love my Chopped or RuPaul’s Drag Race but I’m just not interested in sacrificing dignity for entertainment anymore. And besides making a meal out of sheep’s stomach or performing in 6 inch clear heels requires some actual talent.

Anyway, it’s a shame Joey didn’t get the chance to hang out with my friends on the fourth floor detox of the county hospital. No there wasn’t any cameras or designer gift bags or journalists from Extra. There was just a group of people fighting for their lives and hoping they could change. Talk about real. We’d never tune in to watch such a thing on cable TV.

Jamar Rogers of ‘The Voice’ is My Kind of Hero

By now, readers of this blog have picked up on the fact that I’m kind of a reality TV whore. And by kind of I mean a  total reality television junkie. I’m especially into things that are competitions. Chopped, Top Chef and Amazing Race are among my favs. After years of watching American Idol and drunkenly yelling at the TV when the wrong person won, I thought I gave up on singing reality competitions. But last year, The Voice roped me in with the mere promise of Cee Lo Green’s funktacular presence and the program enticed me yet again this season. Unlike last year however, I’m really invested in the outcome this time around. Because this time around The Voice has a contestant who’s an awful lot like me.

27 year-old Jamar Rogers is an addict in recovery who also happens to be HIV positive. He rocked his blind auditions with a rollicking cover of the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army.”  As I watched his interview and his triumphant ass-kicking performance, my eyes welled up. Here was this cool kid with mad amounts of talent saying to America “Look you can recover from drugs and alcohol and be HIV positive and still rock out.”  His dream came true that night when  the aforementioned Cee Lo picked him for his team. Last week, Rogers secured a place in the finals after defeating his friend Jamie Lono in the battle rounds. Again, more tears were had both by Rogers on stage and by me at home. Jamar’s story has moved me from moment one not just because of how similar it is to my own but because of how The Voice has embraced him as a modern hero and an inspiration. And if you think about it, us ex-drunks and recovering junkies are heroes. In an era where musical legends are routinely taken out by addiction and alcoholism without so much of a raising of the eyebrow, stories like ours are rare and heroic indeed. We’ve honestly tackled our addictions and gone after the lives we want.

Well,except for that reality TV addiction. I’m not giving that up anytime soon. Not at least until I get to see Jamar Rogers win The Voice. I’ll be, unabashedly, clapping and crying the whole way.

I Wasn’t Thaaaat Bad!

Towards the end there was series of shame spiral barbecues. See, in the beginning I could drink all day and maintain for several hours but as the jig was closer to being up, as it were, I could barely keep it together.  Many of my messiest moments took place at my best friend’s weekly summer barbecues. What was intended to be as sunshiny good time with grilled chicken and side dishes usually wound up being a scene from The Days of Wine & Roses & Macaroni Salad. I always intended just to have enough cocktails to have fun and enjoy the afternoon but somehow the day would end with me falling downstairs or getting in a fight with someone. I know. I sound awesome. You’re wondering to yourself, “Gee! Why did he ever stop drinking? He sounds like the ideal party guest!” All of these backyard blunders aside and all of the other mountains of evidence that pointed directly toward the flashing, neon “Hot Drunken Mess” sign didn’t matter though. I always thought, “Well. I’m not that bad. There are people who are worse than me.”

Of course being an addict or an alcoholic isn’t a competition. (Because if it was I really think I could win or at least get Miss Congeniality.) There’s not some “messy meter” that accurately measures one’s drinking problem. That being said there are some who can’t hold together as well as others. And towards the end I was one of those. But as I relapsed and couldn’t stay sober I conveniently forgot how out of control I was. Memories of falling down disappeared and drinks flowed as if they never wreaked havoc. I am waxing poetically or pathetically about this topic today because I recently read an article where actress Tara Reid notes that her well-documented partying “wasn’t that bad.” She of the drunken boob slips, the televised body shots and documented trips to rehab is now saying “At the end of the day, I really [just] had fun. I wasn’t doing crimes. I wasn’t getting in trouble like that.” Let me just say, I’m not Tara Reid nor have I ever drank with her nor do I pretend to know her habits with alcohol. So maybe she’s right. Maybe she just had to get it out of her system and now she says she can party “discreetly.” Good for her!

What reading this did remind me is for me it really was that bad. Like Leaving Las Vegas bad. Like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf bad. Like  blacking out at a barbecue bad. Yet I never got arrested or wrecked a car or spent time in rehab or a loony bin. So I guess by those standards, I could be convinced it wasn’t that bad. But thankfully it was bad enough. By 36, I had achieved some all time personal lows and my insides felt like a burnt out shell. I battled my own delusion for so long that now I’m okay saying, “Yeah. It was fucking horrible and I was a disaster.” Unlike Tara, I can’t party discreetly or just have a few drinks. And that’s okay. I own my hot messiness of yesteryear and know that today I’m 100% safe to invite to a backyard barbecue. So if you feel so compelled, I’m likely to show up. I’ll even bring the macaroni salad.