What’s So Funny ‘Bout Sobriety?

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“You use humor to hide your pain”

– a person with no sense of humor

I should take things more seriously. Things like bills and responsibilities. And….? Um. And relationships? To some degree, I suppose but if I don’t have a sense of humor when dealing with people, I’ll end up in a sanitarium. I’d say world events and news but please see the previous note about the funny farm. I certainly take my sobriety seriously yet there’s quite a bit of laughing going on in the rooms of recovery, especially for a group of people who were all slowly trying to murder themselves. 

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I’ve always been a smartass and fast with a one liner so when I first heard people share in meetings about serious shit but with a sense of humor, I exhaled. This I could do. Sure, there was some crying going on in meetings but there was a lot of laughing too. This was fantastic because I desperately need a laugh back then. A few paramount meetings in the early days filled with funny, raunchy tales and uproarious laughter let me know it was okay to talk however I wanted to as long as it was the truth. After all, pain and laughter have long gone hand in hand in my own life.

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The clown, weirdo, diversion creator of the family was a role I was born into and one I played well into my thirties. Being funny was a way, as the person with no sense of humor said, to mask my pain. But in recovery it was different. There was a little of that going on for sure but in order to stay sober it couldn’t just be one-liners. I also had to share about the truth. Well, once my sense of humor met my new friend honesty, it was on. I verbally vomited whenever I could, sometimes met with laughter, sometimes met with tears.  What was happening is I was getting better and not letting things live inside my head. Soon what people thought of what I said didn’t fucking matter. It was my truth and that by itself was a revelation. The truth that I was an alcoholic, that being honest was the only way I could stay sober and that I could still have a sense of humor smacked me upside the head.

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Now, for the most part, humor and truth go hand in hand. But if there’s pain in there too than so be it. After all, using humor to talk about pain and humor to mask pain are two different things. I found being funny sometimes opens doors for me to talk about more serious shit. If I can’t laugh at really messed up parts of my life, than I am beyond screwed. Turns out, other people sometimes like laughing at it too. I’ve even been asked to speak at meetings specifically because I’m “funny”. I guess this should irk me that I’m not being asked based on my wisdom or brilliant insights but I’m an attention whore so it doesn’t bother me. Plus if I can in any way return the favor of laughter so freely given to me in my early days, I’ll gladly do so.827937719-1

And finally getting around to the title question, what’s so funny about sobriety? Nothing and everything. Life in and of itself is absurd and ridiculous. This includes getting sober. I can laugh at it and be in on the joke or I can feel like its out to get me and be miserable. I’ll take door number one, Monty. This is all on my mind today I guess because I’m celebrating 7 years (in a row!!) of sobriety. None of these years have been a walk in the park but I can guarantee you they would have been worse had I not been able to laugh. So thank you for making me laugh, for listening, for making me lighten the hell up and for being there.

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A Post 4 Years in the Making

Today is really special and important and I hope you got me a gift. As of today, I’ve been blogging here at WordPress (with sporadic regularity) for four years! Woo-hoo! Let’s dance!

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Okay. Maybe it’s not that important but I’ll still take the gift. Blogging, for me, has been an amazing tool to journal my ongoing recovery, to get things off my mind and onto a page and a testing ground for other things I’m writing or working on. When I started blogging, I didn’t really know where it would go. As an obedient alcoholic, I did it all one post at time. At nearly 3 years of sobriety, my main goal was hanging onto what I had and this blog helped me do that. Through blogging, I met other people like me, some of which I even met in person and I was routinely greeted with a chorus “You Are Not Alone” in the comments section. This affirmation and the support of other bloggers helped me finish two full length plays, publish a short story and grow as a writer and human being. Thank you for that.

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Now, at almost 7 years my life, my writing and my recovery have changed. It’s gotten bigger and honestly, better. They told me when I was first getting sober that this would happen and they were right. I’ve got a few writing projects burning a hole in my brain for 2015 and I don’t know how much blogging I’ll do. But I hope to hang onto it and use it as an outlet to reach out to other peeps in recovery, to develop new ideas and to help ease my crazy brain– one post at a time.

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To celebrate four years at WordPress, here’s 4 of my favorite posts in no particular order. Thank you for giving a crap and Happy Holidays!

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time: Death defying acts! A good Jennifer Lopez Joke! Acid Wash! This post has it all.

Fear Itself: This post from earlier in the month was an exhale of the fear I was walking around with as well as my reflection on the times we’re living in. It was therapeutic to write so again, thank you.

That One Time At That One Meeting: My love letter to the program that saved my life and all the beautiful weirdos you meet there.

Am I Blue: This post from September 2014 makes this list because it was the first time I wrote about my ongoing relationship with depression and doing so was really helpful. Turns out, other people read it and identified too which is really fucking cool.

 

 

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!

baby, it’s crazy inside

According to my phone, it’s a balmy 16 degrees outside but it feels like 10 degrees which actually feels like, “Someone please stab me with an icicle because it’s so !@#$ing cold!” (By the way, how does my phone know what it feels like? Don’t you tell me how to feel, iPhone!) I am an absolute wimp when it comes to this weather. I know, I know. It’s weather. I mean talk about the ultimate in accepting the things you cannot change. Me bitching about the temperature is proof I sometimes just like to have something to complain about. Ugh. Complaining. A character defect I’m working on.

Anyway, this weather is actually a blessing though. After 15 years of living in the “Forever 85” temperature of Los Angeles, a little freezing my face off is good. It builds character. Because, you know, that’s what I need. More character. Also, acknowledging seasons is healthy for a sober person like my bad self because it confirms I’m alive and participating in my existence. In LA while drinking and living in “kinda hot” to “holy-shit-I’m-melting” hot, every day was the same. Same tequila. Same cocaine. Same blackouts. Same fights. Same hangovers. Rinse and repeat. It was a gayer and more depressing version of Groundhog Day. My life was in reruns, enjoyable maybe the first 10 times but boring, tiresome and toxic after that. Like old episodes of Full House.

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Today, I get to have new experiences and feel my whole life. But feeling all of my life today means feeling all of it. Crappy weather, depressing world events, grief, sadness, that-douche-with-bad-hair-running-for-President-whose-name-I-will-not-mutter-on-these-pages. I get to feel those things. But I also get to feel happiness too. After a recent bout of depression and general itchiness brought upon by my upcoming birthday, I was directed by my sponsor to pray and meditate more. If I’m honest, this task always sounds exhausting. Like I have to bust out a singing bowl, light 40 candles and sit for in perfect stillness for 2 hours. I mean isn’t there some app that can meditate for me so while I eat cookies and peruse Twitter?

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Still, I took the advice and started praying and meditating everyday. (Look, I know the internet gets it’s panties in a bunch when you talk about spirituality but I sort of don’t care. I’m not on a mission to convert anyone and I myself have no religious affiliation. Nevertheless, if me talking about prayer bugs you, feel free to leave. Or go read a post inspired by Madonna. These are your choices.) This time around, I eased myself into this sit down with God thing. For the last several days, I’ve set the timer on my phone for ten minutes. In that time, I pray, I read something alcoholism related not Jack Kerouac but maybe like The Big Book and I sit in silence and meditate. Pretty easy. Okay. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes I walk away and feel refreshed and spiritually in tune. But sometimes it sort of sucks. Like I can’t get my brain to shut the hell up and I squirm around and wait for the mystical chimes on my phone to go off so I go drink coffee instead. And this okay too. I used to beat myself up when this happened in early sobriety. Like I was doing this meditation thing wrong and someone would find out and kick me out of recovery. What I’ve learned talking to other crazy people people in recovery that this normal.  It’s not always going to be some scene from a Shirley MacLaine book. And a lot of time it is going to be a bit of slog. The point is I need to keep going regardless of how sucky the last time I prayed/meditated was.

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So far, I’ve felt results! And felt them pretty much right away. This is fantastic for my alcoholic self. I like fast results and I’d like them right now, thank you very much. The rattling I was feeling in my brain. The uncomfortable batshit craziness that screwed with my psyche. The overall I’m-gonna-cut-a-ho sensation I took with throughout the day? All gone. My crazy can be kept at bay if I do a few simple things. Prayer and meditation are part of that. Because of this tiny practice I feel actually happy and more relaxed. Not that stuff hasn’t come up because, trust me, it has but this practice helps me weather those things too. The moment I stop treating prayer and meditation like this impossible task, it gets easier. Just 10 minutes a day? I can do that. Twitter will still be there.

 

your heart is a radio

Wait. We need this before we can start talking.

Okay now that I’ve gotten Donna Summer out of my system(for now), I’m excited to share that my new play “Your Heart is a Radio” is getting ready for staged readings! It’s been a year in conception and writing so it feels good. Did I say excited? I meant terrified. After all, it’s not really theatre unless you’re scared shitless, right? The crazy thing about this show is how personal it got during the writing process. Like split open my insides, put lights around them and throw them inside-kind of personal. But before we go any further, I need to tell a Fleetwood Mac story.

On the morning of my 26th birthday in Los Angeles, I loaded up my beautiful but hyper dog and took him for a hike. It was one of those perfect beautiful LA days and my drinking felt like it was under control (ha ha ha) and my relationship hadn’t gotten terrible so that morning was pretty fantastic. On the way up the canyon, I listened to one of LA’s classic rock stations. Before playing the above song, the dj, one of those guys with a gravely voice and endless rock knowledge, told the heartbreaking story of how “Sara” by Fleetwood Mac was written. At the time,  Stevie Nicks claimed the song was about a friend she had loved and lost (It would later be revealed that Sara was about a baby she had with Don Henley and lost making the story even sadder.) The dj’s story was impactful to me for some reason as I parked the car. I then just sat there and listened to the song and felt incredibly moved.To this day I cannot hear that song and not think of that morning, that birthday, that moment.

Flash forward 16 years later, at age 42 my husband and I were having a conversation about writing and he said, “Music has such a profound impact on you. You should write a show about it.” He’s one of my most succinct collaborators and as a director he has an insight into theatre that I don’t. At the time, I thought, Hmm that could be interesting but didn’t know how or what I’d do exactly. This lead to thinking about the moments and the songs I’ll never forget, like “Sara” on my birthday or the time I was blaring Tom Petty and again with Stevie Nicks and got into a car accident with my sister

Or listening to the Promise by When In Rome on repeat and pining for a douchey, hipster goth guy.

Or dancing to “Thinking of You” high on ecstasy as the sun came up.

Turns out my life was filled with these moments and I suspected other people’s were too. Like Donna Summer, my life, my loves everything could be heard on the radio. So I took to Facebook and asked,”What’s that song the immediately takes you back to a place or memory?” Suffice it say, my suspicions were right. Over 100 people responded with touching, funny, bizarre stories.  It was then I knew I was onto something.This wasn’t about the best song or your favorite song it was about music impacting your life and your life happening while music was on. The responses were genuine and really inspiring. I started really writing the show, with the help of my writing group, in January. Piece by piece the show came together as s series of monologues that I starting calling Your Heat is a Radio, a monologue mixtape”. As my own memories of songs shaped the monologues, the show got really personal. And scary. Like I said at the beginning of this post, terrifying. Putting that much of your soul out there is freaking intense and I clutched onto the script and didn’t want to let it go. Until this week.

My plan was to have the show up in October. Pneumonia had other plans, however, forcing the show–and all writing into hibernation. Feeling better and ready to finally birth this darn thing, I got the courage and opened the document. Turned out, it was in excellent shape. (I mean aside from needing an ending and having whole portions rewritten or tossed out completely. Aah theatre.) I dove back in this week and it felt good. Of course I had the requisite, “Oh my God. This is horrible and it should never see the light of day” but that’s art for you. Being sober has taught me to not pay too much attention to the voices of fear. I can hear them and acknowledge they’re in the room wreaking havoc, give them the finger and keep going. My story, this story has merit and deserves a life so fear can suck it. I’m now planning on a staged reading in spring and submitting it to some festivals. The cool thing about theatre is once it gets in front of people it stops being about me. The audience gets their own relationship with it and takes it somewhere else. And I love that. At the end of the day, I’m proud of it and I’m proud of me and that’s fucking huge.

 

 

Weird but okay

I guess I should warn you, I have no premeditated game plan sitting down and writing this morning so if shit gets weird, I apologize. Or maybe I don’t. Maybe you like it weird. In which case, you’re welcome, you big weirdo. Sometimes I feel like I just need to write without some clever witty destination in mind and I guess this Tuesday morning is one of those times. Currently, I have nothing to bitch about and for normal non-addicts, this is a good thing. But for weirdos like me(yeah, I’m one too) it makes me kinda itchy. I know it sounds insane. My life is fantastic. I’m on the other end of scary health trauma. My family is good. I mean nuts but good nuts. Like cashews not like I don’t know, Brazil nuts. I’m employed. I’m feeling creatively inspired. So yeah the fountain of things to whine about has run dry. I should be dancing in the streets.

Growing up in an alcoholic home and being a dramatic hot mess drunk myself, I have a lingering other-shoe-is-going-drop anxiety that simmers on my emotional stove even now after years of recovery. Calamity was a warm cozy comforter that I cuddled up with for a few decades so shaking it off isn’t exactly easy. Fountains, stoves, comforters. Jesus. What? Did I write this at Bed Bath and Beyond? Mixed metaphors aside, the point is I lived in crazy for so long that I frequently forget that I don’t anymore. At a few weeks shy of 7 years (in a row!!) of sobriety, I still need a lot of help remembering that everything is actually alright. Waking up in panic was something I did for years drinking and a habit I probably picked up long before that. Rolling out of bed and feeling like I was already doomed was a horrible way to live. Even in my first 2 years of sobriety, I’d still find myself waking up like that. All the things that they yammer about like prayer, meditation and gratitude lists have helped enormously with my ingrained “Holy shit. Everything sucks” programming. But it hasn’t happened over night. Even just the other day, I found myself chanting, “You are okay. Everything is okay” after a moment of panic.

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Thing is around this time of year, I am prone to moments of emotional PTSD. I bottomed out in the winter of 2009 and it was pretty darn gnarly. An eviction, a breakup and a bitch slap that my way of living was not fucking working was what I needed to get sober but I’d be lying if I said that don’t feel a little woozy every year when December rolls around. Total delusion and panic was my norm in those days. I specifically remember a meltdown in my bathroom just days before the shit hit the fan where my cocaine induced panic was so bad I felt like I was going to collapse. I am far enough away from this life that the memories can’t hurt me but they’re still powerful enough to rock my core. Which is probably a good thing. I mean if I ever start thinking, “It wasn’t so bad!” please come to my house and kick my ass. Because it was bad. It was bad enough to freak me out even 7 years later. And honestly, I’m grateful for that. The truth is I can weather emotional wooziness today, pray my way to my anniversary on January 2nd and wake up thankful that I’m no longer killing myself. Also, fuck if the other shoe drops. Let it and as long as I’m not making it drop, I’m okay. And you’re going to be okay too. Actually, you already are.

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That One Time At That One Meeting

I drank and used drugs everyday for a really, really REALLY long time. Therefore, my thought in 2009, and I think it was a good one and yet it was probably someone else’s thought, was I should do something everyday to help me not drink or do drugs. One of those things is going to 12 step meetings. Look, every bad TV movie of the week with Markie Post or the mom from Family Ties has very dramatic scenes of folks tearfully sitting in meetings and admitting they have a problem. And after a few commercial breaks, this person has their shit together. A billion movies, a billion more books and endless other forms of media have covered the idea of meetings and how they help addicts so many times that even non-addicts have a somewhat solid idea of how 12-step programs work. So I sort of don’t talk about meetings all that much. I figure that people who need them go to them and the ones who don’t, can watch it on TV. Nothing I say will make people go to a meeting. There’s not, like, Yelp reviews for this kind of thing. Like, “great meeting but I wish the coffee was French roast–3 stars.”

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Also, meetings and the literature you find in them, have been effective and around for a long, long time and there’s nothing I can add that would be fresh.  However, I feel sort of compelled to write about them today because a.) they have saved my life (although it took a tad longer than a commercial break) and b.) because sometimes they’re really, really hilarious. Without breaking anonymity of others or giving out addresses or specifics, I can say the very idea of a room full of emotional disasters ripe with varying degrees and flavors of mental illness is inherently hilarious. And today’s meeting was the perfect example of that. The chairperson at today’s meeting ignored the format, cross-talked like she was on Meet the Press and got lost several times. She went rogue and off book much to the chagrin of old-timers in the meeting. The attendees murmured to themselves and shared entirely too long. The whole thing went off the rails and started to get surreal. And after 45 minutes of all things crazy, your’s truly couldn’t stop giggling. I blame the girl next to me. She started it. Her shoulders moved up and down and she laughed to herself and I joined in. When things get awkward or weird or just random, I think it’s really hilarious. It’s so human and goofy and I have to laugh.

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Once upon a time, this kind of wackadoodle meeting might have ticked me off or made me leave early. In the early days, I looked to meetings to lift me up and tell me how to live without getting wasted. And when things got weird or real back then I couldn’t deal.  But not today. Today, I had to laugh because these are my muthafucking people. I laughed because I get it. I get them. These folks have what I have. These folks are showing up in the middle of a Tuesday to save their own lives. And for all their faults and hilarity, these folks are my heroes and I’m honored to be in their company.

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.

Am I Blue?

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I’ve failed a lot tests in my nearly 42 years here on planet Earth. From the tests in the back of trashy magazines to the driver’s test (twice), I’ve never met a test I couldn’t fail. I’m not much of test taker. Drug taker? Yes. Tests? No, thanks. So it comes as no surprise that my recent depression screening was a bust too. Darn this program of honesty. Because of it I was forced to answer the questions truthfully and let my health care provider know that mentally I’ve been sort of blah lately. She then broke the news that really wasn’t news: I’m experiencing the symptoms of depression.

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Wait– since I tested positive for depression, maybe it’s a test I actually passed! There’s something to be happy about. Anyway, as I’ve talked about before, depression is one of the things I juggle and most of the time it’s manageable. I walk alot and that helps. I try to help people and that helps too. Writing, reading, meditation all help too. I’m not on meds of any kind and I’m whatever about meds. I’d prefer not to take them but I am on other meds that work so who the hell am I to say that they wouldn’t work either? People in recovery can get uppity sometimes about pills but honestly I’m solid enough with my program that it doesn’t freak me out. What we decided is that I’d up the exercise regime for 6 weeks and then we’d see if meds needed to be part of the story. The other thing she suggested is journalling. I suppressed a massive eye-roll on this idea. I mean I write but journalling on my feelings at first sounded like some serious bullshit. Like “Dear Depression Diary, today I find myself somewhere between this guy 

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and this guy

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But I got out of bed and didn’t cry so that’s good, right?”

As whacktacular as this diary sounded, I realized I do essentially what she suggested by writing this blog. Great. That’s something I can do that I enjoy. So I’ll be blogging more as well as journalling in a non-public format. After all, not all of my thoughts need to have lights put around them and turned into entertainment. I’ll even try with the exercise idea– ugh. Truly, the mere thought of it makes me exhausted.

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I mean can’t I burn calories and manufacture endorphins by watching cheesy witch tv shows and a eating ice cream? No? Well fine. I’ll walk more and maybe start doing yoga again. The great thing about getting sober is it’s made me incredibly open to suggestions from people who know more than I do. I have no medical degree and I got out of the expert business years ago, honey. Therefore I’ll try it. All of it.

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 In my own backyard and on the national stage, suicide and depression have taken a serious toll lately. It’s truly devastating and yet it’s been an alarm clock for me. These events have forced me to ask myself, “Where am I on my own depression? How am I really doing?” Hence how I ended up in the doctor’s office, passing the depression screening with flying colors. And yet the silver lining here is that there isn’t a silver lining. Meaning that by just allowing myself to feel whatever I’m going through and then asking for help is HUGE for this addict who avoided anything that looked icky or hard or too real. Today, there’s no need to dance around or ignore what’s going on and that alone is enough to bring a smile to my face.  

Swing From The Chandelier

A weird thing happened on the radio this summer– pop music got sober. Okay not all of it. But it’s hard to ignore one of the season’s most popular songs which talks about that special kind of self-destruction only we drunks and junkies can really understand. The song I’m talking about is Chandelier by Sia and to me it isn’t her faceless presence in the video that’s most fascinating. It’s the catchy lyrics and Sia herself’s story that I find utterly captivating.

The above video has a staggering 92 million views on YouTube and is without a doubt one of the most talked about music videos of the year. It’s an incredible visual interpretation of a song that’s nearly impossible to get out of your head. Having been a fan of Sia’s for many years, it’s the kind of arty, bizarre and entertaining video I’ve come to expect from her.

As interviews and details of the meaning behind Chandelier filtered through online press, my love for her and the song only got deeper. At first blush, you could consider lyrics like, ““I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier/ I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist, like it doesn’t exist,” to be part of a rebellious party anthem but the more you listen, the more heartbreaking the message really is. “But I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down, won’t open my eyes\Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight.”  I certainly identify with that sentiment. “Holding on for dear life” is something I did in my addiction for many years and leave it to a fellow addict to succinctly come up with the words to capture that misery and isolation so well. Although she shies away from the press, Sia has talked openly about her own alcoholism and addiction. “I was really unhappy being an artist. I was always a drinker but I didn’t know I was an alcoholic. Then I got seriously addicted to Vicodin and Oxycodone,” she told Billboard last year.  Sober since 2010, Sia’s life and career have totally turned around. Since then, she’s written hit songs for nearly everyone

and some even that quote what we hear in the land of recovery.

Sia told NPR that AA has helped her stay sober and become a better songwriter. “”I can sit while people cry,” she says. “I can stand when someone’s angry. Like, I don’t know. I’m fine around other people’s feelings. It doesn’t make me nervous or anxious. Probably because of the program. If you’re in an AA meeting, people are sharing. Sometimes there’s crying. Sometimes there’s feeling. And we’re just witnessing it.” Her new album, 1,000 Forms of Fear debuted at number 1 and Chandelier has been nominated for several MTV VMAs including “Video of the Year”.  Sia’s not the only one singing about recovery. Sure, addiction has long been fodder for really dramatic pop, country and rock songs. Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Pink, Eminem, Aerosmith, Trent Reznor and the Postal Service are just a few of the artists who’ve covered hitting bottom in song. But it does seem like there’s a new crop of recovery rock on the charts. Global smash hit, Habits (Stay High) by Tove Lo details an unhealthy coping methods of a young girl dealing with a breakup.

While the inescapable  I Wanna Get Better by Bleachers talks about changing old behaviors, if not specifically getting sober.

As a writer and creative person myself, sober success stories like Sia’s are important. Seeing people like her or Robert Downey Jr or Zak Efron or Anthony Hopkins or Stephen King continue to create and stay sober is incredibly inspiring. It tells me to keep going and that if I stay sober anything is possible. I need hope in the rooms and online but it’s amazing to hear it on the radio too.