the man, the myth, the mayonnaise

A_jar_of_mayonnaise

 

I thought I’d use today’s post to talk about something really fascinating: myself and my upcoming projects! I kid but since I’m blogging everyday I figured today would be a good opportunity to talk about my new memoir with recipes, The Potato Salad Variations. Last winter I self-published A Tough Cookie Christmas, just your average holiday story about a drunken hot mess who get his life together and bakes cookies, and I had so much fun with that project I decided to put out a sequel or companion of sorts. Hence The Potato Salad Variations was born. As food magazine reader, avid Top Chef watcher and overly confident home cook, I’d say I’m something of a foodie and food lover. What’s more is I kind of have a crazy memory for the things I ate and where I ate them. Food, for me, plays such a huge part in a lot of my biggest life moments that I liked the idea of tying recipes in with stories from my life.

The Potato Salad Variations tells three stories from my life using three different recipes for potato salad as sort of the guideposts and markers in my personal history. There was a series of humiliating barbecues which I alluded to in yesterday’s post that lead up to me hitting rock bottom in 2009. Present at each of these functions was potato salad. In fact, the creamy side dish of the gods could be spotted at everything from my baby brother’s baptism to my high school graduation and everything in between. Potato salad, like dysfunction and redemption, has been a constant in my life so it made for a natural, albeit unusual, narrator for these stories. I confess the middle section of stories was a hard one for me write. I’ve talked about hitting bottom in thousands of meetings and told my story hundreds of times but for some reason writing about this messy period of my life was challenging and uncomfortable. That’s usually a good sign. It means I’m not bullshitting myself and that I’m telling the truth.

So I hope The Potato Salad Variations makes people laugh and that readers get something out of it. If not, that’s okay. I do know the recipes rock so at the very least I have that going for me and I know it’s 100% the story I wanted to tell. And in the end, what more can a writer ask for?

The Potato Salad Variations will be released on June 30, 2013 thru Smashwords.com! 

The 12 Days of Blogmas: Josh Hamilton

As we continue to celebrate the The 12 Days of Blogmas, wherein I countdown my 12 favorite and most-noteworthy blogs of 2012, the wonders never cease. I wanted to see which blog posts were the most popular, had the most views, most tweets and most forwards. Thankfully  the stats tools on WordPress are super handy, easy to use and filled with that kind of information. The winner? A post about baseball superstar Josh Hamilton and his relapse. Wait– the most popular post was about sports?!? I know. Baffles the mind. Please enjoy a photo of me with a sparkly white Christmas tree and then we’ll try to make sense of all this.

384661_2969242950579_659029825_n

Maybe it’s because his relapse back in February was a huge story in the world of baseball. Maybe it’s because outside of my sparkly gay existence, people really care about sports. Who knows? What I do know is that post still garners views and it’s been almost a year! I’m thankful that this unconventional post introduced me to a slew of new readers. I’m thankful for the emails and comments I received regarding the subject of relapse because of it. And I’m thankful that an ability to play the tape through today keeps me from a relapse of my own.

The way the media handles relapses of celebrities like Hamilton drives me crazy. There’s so much judgement and such a lack of compassion about the disease. The topic is still a hot one and I shared about my own struggle with relapse to try to make sense of it:

“Now I know nothing about Hamilton and his character. In fact, having me blog about baseball is a little like having a vegan describe the menu at Outback Steakhouse. But I do know about relapse. In 2008, I really tried to stay sober all by myself. Without any support or asking for help, I limped along in a state of miserable dryness. After 70 days, “I thought I got this.” Recently, I found an old journal from that time and I feel sorry for that guy. He was doomed to relapse. He was dry but he wasn’t recovering. I read this passage from the journal that nearly made me cry:

‘I’m trying to dodge bullets, trying to breathe, trying to still love life, trying to meet my problems full on and all the while I’m trying to figure out ‘Now What?’ Drinking was an issue and addiction is an issue for me. I’m trying to take it easy but I fear I’m hiding out.'”

Ouch. That journal entry still puts a lump in my throat  For the rest of my relapse tale as well as more on Josh Hamilton, hop on over to the most popular post of 2012, “Staying Out of Josh Hamilton’s Relapse” and celebrate the 11th day of Blogmas!

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.

Enough is Enough

I’ve been in a ton of self-imposed pain lately. Clearly I enjoy it otherwise I’d get myself out of it. But to be fair, as a gay, former Catholic, alcoholic my tolerance for pain is like superhuman. I reckon I could have survived the Inquisition, yawned and asked for a cigarette. Well, finally this week I had my Tina Turner-running-out-of-the-limosine moment. The only difference is the crazy abusive prick I ran away from wasn’t Ike Turner. It was myself.

What’s love got to do with it, indeed! I’ve gotten lazy (okay not gotten lazy- that’s like saying Mel Gibson’s ‘gotten racist’. I’ve been lazy.) I’ve been resting on my laurels. I’m not really sure I have laurels or what they even look like but as a person in recovery I’m told over and over again that I shouldn’t rest on them. Smartassafrass aside, at the end of the day, I haven’t been taking care of myself. Meaning I’m not praying really or going to very many meetings or helping other people and this sludges on for months like some painful soap opera that needed to be cancelled six years ago. And whaddyaknow-I’m batshit, balls out crazy, uncomfortable and doubled over in pain. I have had enough friends relapse or die doing this type of non-recovery dance routine but you know I’m different. I’m special. I don’t need meetings or help or any of the stuff that saved my life in 2009. Yeah right, bitch. Thank fucking God, this neglect didn’t gently shove me into a drink or mountain of blow.

This week a professional situation that has been miserable for months came to a head, got ugly and then pushed me into my Enough is Enough moment. I was resentful and felt like I’d been compromised and ignored. But talking about it would be yucky, un-glamorous and I’d have to be a—gasp!-human being. So I tried to ignore it. Again, dangerous games for somebody who’s major M.O. was to escape, avoid and disappear. Not dealing with things never worked for me and in sobriety the jig is up fairly quickly these days. A few heart-to-hearts with folks in the know and some prayer later, I eventually pulled my head out of my ass. I took a little action, I spoke from the heart and I stepped away from a creative position that was causing pain.   And low and behold, here on Thursday night I do feel better.

I’m sharing this right now for a couple of reasons. I need to tell on myself and you folks seem to listen and get it so why not bend your ear? I like to pretend you’re a captive audience but if actually read this while watching reality TV that’s okay too. Secondly, I want to tell the truth about this sobriety gig. Sometimes, it fucking sucks. It’s hard and I feel like I’ve graduated and don’t want to be perfect anymore. But the fact of the matter is I cannot go back to a life where I drank and used. So I stick it out. I hang in there knowing that it’ll pass and that drinking and using won’t solve anything. After 3 and a half years completely clean and sober, I am not all better. I keep going to meetings even when I’m so crispy dry I could crack in half. I pray a message of recovery reaches me and it does. Every time. But pretending it’s a walk in the park or can be solved by some bumper stickers never worked for me and I don’t think it helps others either.

Lastly, I need to write this down and see that regardless of how awkward and fucked I feel today, my life is so incredible and beautiful. Warts and all. Unlike when I was drinking and using, I know I have hope, that people care and that I deserve to love myself. PS- you deserve that too.

I Can Touch the Sky. I Know That I’m Alive

The incomparable Celine Dion sang those words in the title of this post. Yes, the Canadian songstress not only knows how to find older husbands who look like Santa Claus but she can sniff out a song with syrupy lyrics better than any singer in zee world.  I’m being a sarcastic tool of course. I really don’t have anything against Celine Dion.  She seems nice enough even if her music makes me wanna hurl most of the time. She’s  just really easy to make fun. And I enjoy doing so (damn you, program of honesty!). That being said, I’ll be the one you make fun of after you hear my connection to that musical masterpiece quoted in the title.

When you have young nieces and nephews and you’re a person who doesn’t want to live in reality, things can sometimes work out in your favor. Like a viable excuse to go to all of the current kids movies. That includes Stuart Little 2. What’s that you say, you had no idea they even made a second one? Well I did and I even saw it in the movie theater with my niece, nephew and my parents. The film features Michael J. Fox(alcoholic!) as the title character, Melanie Griffith (pill popper!) as a canary named Margalo and a naughty cat named Snowbell voiced by Nathan Lane (gay!). Suffice it to say that’s a cast I can identify with. Who knew I’d have so much in common with a mouse, a bird and a cat. Don’t answer that. Anyway we took the kids to Burbank in the dead heat of the summer to enjoy a family film. Burbank, in case you’ve never been, is one giant mall located directly beneath the hottest surface of the sun, Jay Leno works there and they have a Bob’s Big Boy!

At the end of the film, the Celine Dion song plays. La Dion sings as the mouse and bird fly away in a tiny plane which from what I’ve read is the appropriate soundtrack when this occurs. In the dark theater, I watched as the little friends flew off and silently sobbed.  The lyrics of the song and the tender moment coupled with the hangover caused tears to drip down my face. As we’ve discussed, I am a crier, a personality trait my mom attributes to being Swedish and one a shrink I saw for a brief time tried to treat with antidepressants. The point (and I use that term lightly) is that Celine’s song moved me to tears. Embarrassing for the alternative kid who grew up to be an insufferable music snob. As far as the film goes, don’t ask me what the plot was. It was 77 minutes long and the last time anyone saw Geena Davis. That’s all I know.

But my history with “I’m Alive” doesn’t end in the dark movie theater. I continued to hear it on several booze shopping trips at Rite-Aid, which was also across the street from my house. Like I’ve said before, that apartment was an easy place to be a drunk. The song no longer made me cry but I always noticed it and sung along with it. I’m not going to get into a line by line analysis of the song here.  (You’re welcome) But let’s just say you can count on the lyrics  rhyming  “I’m alive” with “wings to fly,” “all my worries die”,  “I can touch the sky”and “I’ve got pink eye.” Okay,  maybe not the last one. Yet as corny as these lyrics are the song still sort of affects me. it reminds of a time where I didn’t know what real hope looked like. It reminds me that the summer I saw Stuart Little 2 was also the summer before I turned  30 and my drinking and drug use had wreaked some serious havoc. I was promoting a night and spinning records at a club in West Hollywood. Often times I would pay bands, tear down elaborate decorations, settle up with the bar and coordinate plans for the following week all in a blackout. I’d leave with people and not tell my boyfriend or the others I came with. It started to get out of control but I was knee-deep in a fabulous scene so I couldn’t see that I needed to fly away too.

I heard that song during my first year of sobriety at a Walgreens, because apparently Santa made some sort of deal that Celine’s music must be played at every drug store chain, every hour on the hour for the rest of time. (Insert evil French Canadian laugh here). Again, I chuckled and hummed/sung along. But what was lost on me then was that the song at that moment should have become my theme song. Because for somebody like me could have been killed by his craziness, “I’m Alive” was beyond ironic. It was brilliant. And I didn’t even need a talking mouse or canary to figure out how lucky I was to be just that.

Beaten by the Headlines

I work online. I research,write and ingest all of the headlines of the day. Most of the time, I do a pretty good job letting “the sky is falling” mania bounce off like bullets from Wonder Woman’s wristcuffs. But sometimes the barrage of crazy bullshit is enough to drive you to drink.

Theoretically speaking, of course. It’s been some time since anything or person drove me to take a drink. Thank God. As my life was going down in a flaming ball of alcoholic shit in 2008, I was obsessively watching the news. It was the election year. The threat of Prop. 8 loomed over California, where I was living at the time and every good LA liberal watched the batshit shenanigans of McCain and Company like a hawk. As if wringing our hands and complaining was going to stop nutty politicians or thwart homophobic legislation. Nevertheless, that’s what I did. Watched news all day and checked in online and drank. Alcohol was the fuel for the raging fire I had burning in my mind. This blaze told me the world was out of control and that I was right and everybody else was wrong and that things were going from bad to worse. At the time I thought I was contributing to a better world by getting upset and involved but I think I was just adding to the hysteria. Being of Irish and alcoholic descent, it is my civic duty to get riled up at the actions of politicians. No other politician did that trick than Sarah Palin. This dunderhead from Alaska who could see both Russia and a book deal from her house, pushed my buttons like no politician since W. In fact, I’d like to blame Sarah Palin for me hitting rock bottom but since I’m in recovery I’m not allowed to blame people anymore. Whatever. I joke, of course.

As it turns out, it wasn’t a world gone mad or even Sarah Palin that made me drink until I lost my mind and my home. I’m just an alcoholic. That’s what we do. As i got sober, my news intake was limited to basically zero. I remember watching Obama’s inauguration at only a few days sober. And then I didn’t turn on the news again until six months later when Michael Jackson died. My brain needed an info-break. And still needs it today. I have to power down and grab a book or go have a coffee without my laptop. I was prompted to write this after a crazy two weeks of depressing news and studies and political crap. It’s exhausting and I’ve hit my breaking point today.

In the end,I have to remember I can be a good person and care about the world I live in. And I can do all of that without turning on the news.

That Story I Don’t Want to Tell

Curses you evil blog! I am now in the habit of talking about my demons, letting them go and laughing about them. I’m in such a habit that even the stories I want to conveniently leave out are itching to be published and I have to get out of their way, regardless of how humiliating or difficult they are.

Besides, telling this particular story could actually be helpful to person in my life whom I adore and  know is silently struggling right now. So here goes nothing. I don’t love New Year’s Eve. I’m not talking about New Years Eve the horrible looking movie featuring some of the most grating actors on the planet. I’m talking about the holiday New Year’s Eve. You know the one where people who don’t usually drink decide to ingest kiddie pools filled with alcohol, put on a ridiculous hat and then unleash themselves onto a crowded public street? Yeah that one. I avoided talking about , blogging about and even really participating in New Year’s Eve this year.I didn’t even like it that much when I was drinking. I mean it gave me an excuse to get really fucked up but so did major events like losing my keys, getting a new job, finding my keys, and bathing my dog. New Years Eve was always a total letdown. Especially in 2008.

On December 29th me and my ex were evicted from our apartment. I thought I could drink like a Hemingway and do coke like a Sheen and not pay our rent. Our landlord thought differently. We had to stay at a friend’s where we basically drank and got fucked up until we figured out what we were doing. Deep inside of me I knew this was the end of the road. End of the road for my relationship.End of the road for my behaviors. And the end of the road for my drinking. I had been struggling to quit for years and knew that my life was falling apart as direct result of it. The worst part was that I knew that I had to ask for help. I had to change and had to rely on my family. I was going to do that but I needed to have my last drunken New years. Like most of the others before it, it was totally uneventful. I couldn’t drink myself out of this predicament and the three bottles of wine did nothing but make me tired. I was fucked and couldn’t hide from or lie my way out of it. The 31st turned into the 1st when I also drank simply to survive. January 2nd 2009 came and I came to and called my little brother. I tearfully asked for help and things started to change right away. By the 3rd, my whole family knew and by the 4th my life was on a new trajectory.But it all started and ended with New Year’s Eve.

For some reason this year this story, the story of me hitting rock muthafucking bottom was a tough one for me to tell or to think about. I don’t know why. Most recovered drunks tell their bottoming out story in the same manner bragging fisherman talk about catching the big one. And I always did too. I was always proud that I scraped myself out of the gutter and even though I was still proud, the story itself didn’t seem important anymore. That’s where I was wrong. Anybody who survives addition and alcoholism has an important story to tell. It’s a tale that could really help somebody out.  So this  person I grew up loving and holding in my heart as a child and then became closer to as an adult needs to know that the shitstorm will blow over , laughter will come back and  healing is really possible. That story I didn’t want to tell is proof of all of these things and so much more.

Organizing the Demons

I had quite the demon collection back in the day. Terrbile, horrifying nasty little creatures that I carried around and kept hidden. The fear these demons produced was a warped,long playing record. On one side was the obvious fear of these little buggers getting out and ruining my life even more than they already had. On the other, the fear was more confounding. I was afraid to loose these demons. I knew that once they were gone, I would be left without any horrible nasty creatures to blame my misfortune on and it scared me to death.

Now dear readers, we can see that I was screwed either way and the best thing would have been to suck it up and face the bastards head on. Easier said than done. Telling an alcoholic like me to “face your problems” is like telling a hoarder, “you should really tidy up in here.” That is to say, the task seemed daunting, even impossible. For years I drank and used drugs and fooled myself into thinking I  didn’t deserve more and then worked double time to convince the world at large that I was fine and the life I was living was more fabulous than yours. Clearly, the warlord of my demons is a beast called Delusion. The powerful and evil scumsucker ruled me for decades. Delusional is commonly described as”maintaining fixed false beliefs even when confronted with facts. ” Sounds like me for sure. And Delusion kept me from dealing with my other demons for years.

But the thing about demons, at least mine, is that you can only keep them contained and in pretty little rows for so long and once they’ve escaped, look out. As my demons became totally out of control and unavoidable three years ago, my life collapsed. Or that’s what I thought at the time. In reality, as these demons were being slayed one by one my life was being rebuilt. But in order for this to happen, I first  had to say to my demons, “No more. You don’t scare me. I can change.”

These nasty little devils have been on my mind recently. I’ve heard grumblings of old demons wanting to rear their heads and wreak havoc.  Lately, I’ve been pulled into selfish directions and I know that it’s my old stuff at work. Thankfully, I have a set of tools and skills to use to shut them up. Praying helps. Helping other people really helps. And telling the truth about where I am and what I’m feeling gets me closer to silencing Delusion and his friends for good.

This Just In! Being Sober is Sexy!

Omg! Demi Lovato spills the beans about getting sober in the new issue of Seventeen magazine!

And if you’re like me, that is to say way over the age of 15 and barely under the age of 40, you have no idea who that is. For those of you who grew up in the 80s, from what I gather she’s like this generation’s version of Debbie Gibson or Tiffany except she’s from  a Disney channel show and she punched one of her backup dancers right before she was carted off to rehab. The lovely Lady Lovato gives all of the details of hitting rock bottom, her up and down friendship with Miley Cyrus and talks about the benefits of being sober. “I’m not gonna lie. I was self-medicating. I was doing things like drinking and using [drugs], like a lot of teens do to numb their pain,” she tells the magazine. After what she calls an intervention from her parents and a year in recovery, Lovato says “”I think sober is sexy. It’s cool. I think it’s way cooler to be above the influence than under the influence.”
Even though I’m a zillion years older and a few million dollars poorer than her, I have to say I identify with her story. Sure it all sounds a little After School Special-ish but at least she’s honest about having a problem and getting help. I was 19 when I first tried to stop and I lasted a few months and started again. I was self-medicating to avoid dealing with who I was.  Would hearing someone like Lovato’s experience with recovery helped me back in the day? It’s impossible to say. Probably not since I was more of a Cyndi Lauper/Siouxsie Sioux fan than a Tiffany fan but it may have made an impact. Either way it takes guts for this chick to honestly talk about it and who knows someone of her generation might really get something out of it.

As far as the sexy thing goes, I totally agree. I mean have you seen me or the people who read this blog? We’re some sexy beasts for sure!

Loving and Leaving Erica Kane

I used to love soap operas. When we were kids, my sister and I would spend our summer days watching Young and the Restless. We knew everybody’s business in Genoa City and kept up with Victor and Nikki and the crew on holiday breaks. Years later during a spell of 90’s club kid unemployment, I started watching All My Children. Baby napping, a crazy lady trying to prove she was reformed and a gay teacher overcoming the riducle of a small town. It was juicy stuff and a perfect way to get lost in somebody else’s problems. The show’s anti-heroine Erica Kane had all the symptoms of a big alcoholic (which she later became). She got herself into bad situations but nothing was ever her fault. She used people but couldn’t tolerate the retribution. She lied constantly to get what she wanted. Sounds like every addict I know. Myself included.  So it was only fitting that my friends and I gave cocaine the codename of “Erica Kane.” While the character Erica Kane married ten times on television, I stayed in a relationship with the chemical “Erica Kane” for nearly twenty years.

I never really thought my cocaine use was ever such a big deal. I mean I was primarily a drunk. Cocaine was the Gucci loafers to my Dior suit. It was an accessory. But if I’m really honest with myself, it was a huge problem for a really long time. The first time I tried it, I was seventeen. Like every cliched addict story, I thought I’d do it just the one time and never do it again. Uh yeah. That didn’t happen. At first, it was this fun glamorous thing to do that gave me energy to dance all night. As the years passed, I continued to tango with Erica Kane in various locations. From shitty bar bathrooms to domestic car dashboards, Erica and I hung out in some tragic places. And the pursuit of cocaine was always so filthy and so epic. As time went on, I realized that I didn’t have that sorority sister story of “Oh I just do a few bumps once or twice a year.” Sure, I loved doing coke on my birthday but some years I needed to do coke to get to work or to keep myself from blacking out. Although I’m clearly not one, normal non-addicts simply don’t have those kinds of relationships with chemicals. They don’t need to drink or do drugs to function and that’s how I know for sure I’m not one of them. The last several years of my using, cocaine was more regular and less fun and far from glamorous. It made me edgy, neurotic and gave me anxiety attacks towards the end.Cocaine often made me vomit which I later learned is a sign of  overdosing and of doing too much. Sexy. Again, that doesn’t happen to normal folks without cocaine problems.

This past year, the TV Erica Kane went off the air and into television history. My Erica Kane left my life when I got sober in 2009. And honestly, I don’t miss the bitch.