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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well, hello there! It’s been far too long and I have all kinds of pointless stuff I’m dying to talk about. Let’s hope this makes sense.
I had dental surgery three days ago. It was painful and just the beginning of a long road. Currently, I look like a shoe-in for landing a gig as either a soloist in a local jugband or a backup dancer for Deliverance! The Musical. I will not be sharing photos of my yanked teeth or any more details however. I recently had a Facebook friend who documented every gnarly moment of his foot surgery through a SERIES of videos which included wound management and bandage changes. Gross. I check Facebook to see who from high school turned out to be crazy or to see what old crackhead friends are up to, not to see the insides of someone’s foot. Suffice it to say, old teeth are gone and new ones are in the mail, metaphorically speaking of course.
In the meantime, I’ve leaned into this whole recovering thing. I’m catching up on my backlogged Hulu (The Voice! Revenge! House Hunters International!). I’m finally sleeping without intense tooth pain. And I’ve been enjoying my strict diet of soft foods like mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs and lots of pudding. The stars lined up for me to take several days off and I’m following directions. Well, for the most part.
I got a Vicodin prescription for the pain and I didn’t use it. Not because I’m trying to be some sober bad ass but because I figured I’d try to handle with Ibuprofen first. So far that’s been working. The pain, they warned, would get worse the more I healed. And lordy they were right. I feel like someone punched me in the face while I was sleeping. But I’m going to make do until I feel compelled to do otherwise. The reality TV and lots of pudding prescription followed by an Advil chaser is working just fine. Besides, I’ve checked out more than once on Vicodin and used it recreationally more times than I can count. (I mean if you can remember how many times you’ve used prescription drugs recreationally, than clearly you’re doing it wrong.) So this feels the like easier, softer way for sure. My parents have been amazing. Bless their hearts. Being the parents of an HIV-positive person is challenging on a regular Tuesday let alone when there’s a medical emergency. Yeah they know I’ll be fine and that people don’t die from the condition I have but they’re still my parents and they worry. I’ve been calling and giving them updates and it seems to comfort them. And oddly enough it makes me feel better too. Our close relationship and love for one another is truly a gift of sobriety. I’m lucky beyond words.
Annoyingly, there is no dental magic wand that makes all the pain go away while giving me a supermodel smile in under 4 minutes (trust me. I asked.) So like recovery from drugs and alcohol, it’s all one day at a time. When talking to my mom, I said all of this was good because I wanted to handle my teeth before I turned 40. I just should have been more specific when I manifested that requested. Oops. The big thing is, I’m being gentle on myself and giving myself a break and enjoying the pudding diet while I can. It’ll be back to deadlines and brussel sprouts before I know it.
Love or loathe Bravo’s hit reality television franchise The Real Housewives, there is no denying its impact on pop culture. If you’re unfamiliar (then you’re probably better off), the show focuses on the real lives of pampered housewives. Much of the conflict on each version of the show- from New York to Beverly Hills- arises when the ladies get together for drinks and the claws inevitably come out after the chicks dust several bottles of white wine. Now, cast member and former child star Kim Richards from the 90210 version has completed rehab and if I were her, I wouldn’t come back to reality TV.
The story of Kim Richards very public battle with alcoholism has been covered a lot by sobriety bloggers lately -most brilliantly by Psych Central, by the way. I think Kim’s story is one those of us who have been there can identify with, even if the rest of her life seems totally foreign. Kim starred in Disney hits in the 1970’s like Escape to Witch Mountain, has been married several times and is the aunt to Paris Hilton. Her day-to-day and growing up in front of cameras are things I can’t identify with. However when Richards is shown on television these days she’s slurring into the phone, missing planes, lying about why she’s late and erratically screaming at people. That’s a life I know all too well. Like Richards I had a group of people I partied with and drank with and hid things from. And like Kim I verbally attacked people when I was intoxicated, I had a bucket of excuses as to why I could never do what I promised and I had to eventually face the music. The word is that Bravo forced Richards into rehab so could hang onto her job. That never happened to me and I never went to rehab. I was told if I wanted a sliver of a chance at sobriety, I had to change my playground, my playmates and my playthings. As painful as it was, I had to leave my whole life in order to really give sobriety a shot. It seemed like I would never have friends again and the loneliness would kill me faster than the drink ever could. After 20 years of daily drinking and using, I had to submerge myself into a new sober way of life because any semblance of my old drinking days would have trumped my new existence. Regardless of how hard it was, sobriety had to become my job. But that’s me. I’m not Kim Richards and I don’t know what it’s like to try to stay sober while being in the spotlight and under a microscope.
In an interview for the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion show, Richards is still holding grudges, still blaming others and still, from what it sounds like,living like she did before she went to rehab. Except she’s sober. And again, I get it. Recovery is no picnic. But all anybody, famous or not, needs to do to stay sober is honestly try. Hopefully, Richards will allow herself to do just that.