If you need me, call me

Note to self: always bring a choir and wear sequins. Always.

“Just pick up the phone. Just reach out.  Just call.” These are simple directions but when I’m a shit storm of self-pity and feeling like I’m the worst person on the planet, picking up the damn phone is impossible. Besides who’d wanna listen to my crap? No. I’ll just sit here in the corner and silently bleed to death. Don’t mind me.

This is what my brain tells me when I’m in pain. Over the years, I’ve gotten better about calling or texting or sending an SOS that says, “Hey I’m really out of my effing mind! Please help!” But as we’ve discussed a zillion times, my pain threshold is pretty high so it usually takes me being horribly miserable to finally reach out. Sponsors, siblings, my husband, friends of mine- all of them get frustrated at how long I can feel miserable and not say anything. Lately, however, I’ve seen how vital reaching out can be.

Last month, I was walking back from the bank and I thought,”I could have a margarita.” This thought morphed into, “I DESERVE a margarita! I mean it’s the middle of the day, who would know? Just one wouldn’t kill me. It sounds fun!” Thankfully, I quickly remembered that one margarita has never existed for me. It’s usually 6 more,  followed by blow,  followed by several beers and wanting to die. Yeah. That sounds really fun. Well, I knew that I’d have to tell on myself and tell somebody I was having these thoughts. Sitting alone with wanting a margarita, regardless of how passing the idea was, is something that I as an alcoholic can’t get away with. The urge to drink after almost 7 years? I gotta be honest– it scared the crap out of me. It wasn’t something I should keep to myself and yet I did! For a few days! Finally, I reached out to my sponsor who informed me that, “Congratulations! You’re still a drunk.” Getting the thought out of  my head and in front of another sober person took the terror out of the moment. Plus, we figured out I hadn’t had lunch and disastrous ideas always happen when I’m hungry. Now, I’m not saying I would have drunk had I not reached out but how long could I keep secrets or lie about my program until drinking or using sounded like a good idea? Not very long, as proven by past personal field research. Opening my mouth and picking up the million pound phone isn’t easy or even something I like to do. But I gotta do it if I want to stay sober.

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Telling the world, “I’m fine. Actually, I’m great!’ just because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone with my pain is utter garbage. Not to mention the fact, it’s some of my oldest and most toxic behavior. Around this time of year in 2008, I’d talk to my family and sell them a load of how happy I was when all the while I was on the verge of eviction and alcoholic collapse. It was all “Merry Christmas!” when it should have been “Please help me.” Needless to say, the people in my life were surprised when I admitted right after New Years that I was fucked and needed help. This practice of asking for help and picking up the phone is just that. And I frequently fail at it. But eventually, I come around and I call someone. This is certainly progress for person who really enjoys bleeding in the corner.

If you hang out in the rooms of recovery, we see how terrible sitting on your pain can be. Over the last few years, I’ve witnessed a lot of lovely folks who don’t share in meetings or talk to people afterwards or even make their presence known simply disappear. Or relapse. Or die. It fucking sucks, mainly because it happens a lot. This isn’t a theory or something sober people say to scare each other. I’ve personally seen friends and people I love sit in meetings and smile, all the while they’re hurting inside. It’s happened a couple of times lately in my circle and it’s horrible. Horrible because seeing people you care about in pain sucks. Mainly, it’s horrible because it’s so unnecessary.

However, as they say, the phone works both ways. If I see someone in pain, I can get off my ass and call them too. Not like I’m so magically sober that I can keep other people sober. Thank God I don’t believe that. But reaching out–calling a new person or someone struggling- can’t hurt either. And it might just save my life too.

 

 

 

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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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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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Letting Wicked Stepmothers & Evil Queens Off the Hook

Last night, I finished Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. It’s a thought-provoking novel that uses an inverted tale of Snow White to tell of three women affected by America’s warped perception of race and beauty during the 1950’s. Honest yet fantastical, funny but probing, sparkling while simultaneously really freaking dark, the novel has profound things to say about race and self-esteem to be sure. But where it soared, for me anyway, was when it got to the truth of family relationships.

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Without giving anything away, the book plays a little game with the reader and makes you wonder who the “villain” of this bizarre fairytale actually is. Oyeyemi does a terrific job of presenting multi-dimensional characters all of whom are deeply flawed. Things get cray-cray in the end and a burst of compassion even rushed over me for the one character who seemed like the most clearcut villan of the book. It’s some good writing to be sure. But it’s also real life.

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Once upon a time my own story had an entitled little princess at the center of it.  Despite her own awful actions, the princess was convinced that the world was out to get her. And there were, consequently, some actual villains who had done awful things to our little princess. So to deal with the sordid and terrible hand life had dealt her, the princess snorted some enchanted powder of the magic mirror, guzzled down an evil potion (or forty) and lived under the spell that everyone else was the problem, not her. For a really long time. Like 20 years. Luckily, her spell, I mean my spell was broken 5 years-ago and now the only Evil Queen in my story is usually just me.

Thank god too. Living in a good guy/bad guy world, especially when it comes to my past is incredibly dangerous. Yesterday, the grandfather of magical realism and surely an influence on Oyeyemi, Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away at the age of 87. Marquez once profoundly said, ““What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” This punched me in the gut. Marquez is basically saying the victimization of our past is up to us and we have the power to tell our  bad memories to, well I’ll  let him explain it.

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In recovery, I’ve gone through a process of inventory to find my part in relationships where I have resentments.  I’ve done this process twice in my own sobriety and walked others through it on several occasions too. They wrote a great book about all of this stuff which certainly describes it better than I can but what I’ve learned is that even in the worst, darkest situations I’ve usually done something fucked up too. This process has freed my story from bad guys hell bent on destroying me.

The incredible thing is when I own my shit, everybody is let off the hook. This doesn’t mean I have to like everyone or hang out with them. And this is not easy. Forgiveness is punk rock. Compassion is a ninja skill. If these things were easy to hand out like starlight mints, I think we’d all do it all the time. “Sure have some compassion and while you’re at it take some forgiveness!” But they’re not. this shit is hard and takes a really long time. But for me, freeing my story of witches, evil queens and bad guys has been really worth it. Teachers who gave me shit for being a sissy, kids who beat me up, bosses who failed to see my brilliance– somehow I’ve let them all go and they don’t fuck with me anymore. That’s what I call magic.

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to smell the truth

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Despite snorting boatloads of chemicals up in my nose, I have a freaky sense of smell. Like  I can whiff out the scent of a new shower curtain behind closed doors kind of freaky. I’ve left movies because of the scent of perfume worn by the person in front of me, refused to patron stores with overwhelming scents (yeah, I’m talking to you Bed Bath and Beyond in Burbank which smells like a potpourri hate crime) and can have old memories triggered by scents. I’m like Superman except with smell and I can’t fly. And I don’t look good in tights. Okay I’m nothing like Superman but I am a guy who recently caught a whiff of what my past used to smell like. And it was nasty.

stankfaceFirst a flashback to Los Angeles, 2005. My old hungover walk the dog routine was a simple one. Slam water and Advil, grab the dog and head to my Echo Park Starbucks which was inside of a laundromat and next to a Subway. Only in LA. Having lived in that hood for the better part of a decade, it wasn’t unusual for me to run into to people I knew. One morning, I ran into a drinking buddy I also waited tables with. Upon hugging her, she told me “Oh my god. You smell like the floor of a bar.”  The nerve! It should also be noted that this person wore rose oil and patchouli therefore for me to stink to high heaven must have been pretty impressive.  I drank tequila and smoked a pack of cigarettes every day so I’m sure I wasn’t exactly a garden of earthly delights for passersby to enjoy like they would night blooming jasmine or a rosemary bush. My first thought was, “There’s no way I smell.” I mean I had tons of cologne and overpriced body wash specially applied in Persian prince-like quantities to avoid ever wreaking  like a bar floor. But there it was evidence that I smelled as bad as I drank. Still, I didn’t ever really believe it. I mean heavy drinking doesn’t actually have a smell does it?

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After accidentally standing downwind from an acquaintance who likes to “regularly tie one on” (her words) I think there might just be an eau de bar floor. The smell was one of stale cigarettes and cheap wine. I’m guessing here. Or maybe I’m absolutely right. Remember, I once correctly identified  the scent of a Whopper inside of a friends backpack so let’s just assume I’m probably close. Unlike the time when I smelled cocaine on a blonde girl with teased hair on a really long and nauseating elevator ride, however, this olfactory incident didn’t make me want to puke. No, it was one of those “Oh yeah! I remember smelling like that!” Even though I previously denied my drunken hobo aroma. I thought it was just the other drunk people who I hung out with that stunk. This recent whiff of “what it was like” confirms that funky drunken scent was indeed coming from me.

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But let’s be clear here. This is a different kind of funk than that “empty the back of the bus,  doused myself in Steel Reserve and slept in my own puke” smell. That’s at least honest. No, my stench was bar floor covered by gallons of fragrances and lotions. But if we’re talking chemically and root of origin, both smells are the same regardless of how you cover it up. (Insert your own witty analogy of Glade cinnamon apple room deodorizer and toilets here.) As I write this I’m an inoffensive mix of coffee, Degree deodorant and fresh t-shirt. And as long as I remember to shower and don’t cook curry, my olfactory imprint is a light one for the most part these days. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe I have weird funk coming from me that I can’t smell. And that’s okay too. But at least for today, I know that I don’t stink like a bar floor. Now, please enjoy this Windsong commercial.  And let’s all try to enjoy life too, shall we? Even in the stinky parts.

glamour junkie

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The small child on the left is my younger brother while the child in the dress getting arrested is none other than yours truly. The bearded guy behind us is Jesus. Although my policeman dad did rock a similar beard when he worked in vice, which by the way, was not the inspiration for this game we’re playing in the picture. At least as far as I can remember. These kind of crossdressing shenanigans were just sort of the norm in my childhood. I mean, when you wear a plastic Wonder Woman outfit in kindergarten for Halloween, its all a downhill trot in mom’s Candies platforms from there on out.  I never knew why I loved award shows, old movies, Barbies and the Miss USA pageant. I just did.

Over the years as I’ve listened to transgendered friends share about feeling like they were trapped in the wrong body, my heart breaks for them. Living with that sort of inner-turmoil must be a real challenge especially in childhood. While my attraction to sparkly things was hard to explain or accept for straight kids in Denver in the 70’s and 80’s ,I never went through anything as difficult and heroic as that. I was just a kid who liked fur coats and Jaclyn Smith. Girls, in my mind, were more glamourous than boys. A vagina? No, thanks. Glamour is actually what I wanted. Obsessed with celebrities and magazines, I daydreamed about growing up and being fabulous. I had no idea what I’d be or how I’d get there but my life had to be glamorous. I remember looking at Enquirer when I was a kid and there was picture of Elizabeth Taylor getting out of car in a fur coat and it said, “Liz Back from Rehab!’ and I thought whatever she was doing looked pretty glamorous.  At age 10, I didn’t know she was a drug addict and an alcoholic. Turns out old Liz and I had more in common than I thought.

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In my twenties, my crossdressing morphed mainly into clubwear in the 90’s but I’d occasionally take get gussied up with my best friend and hit the bars in drag. Connie Lingus was my alter ego. I know. Subtle. That’s how I roll. And chasing the glamour bus was something I did for years and years in Los Angeles fueled by endless supplies of liquor and drugs. It was glamorous for a little while.  But addiction and alcoholism were anything but glamorous for me in the end. It was just sad, repetitive and really fucking lonely.

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I guess I’m thinking about this today for a few reasons but mainly because of the photo at the top of the page. My niece sent it to me and it made me laugh hysterically. We were such imaginative kids who routinely escaped into fabulous worlds. The more I stay sober, the more my creativity slowly returns to that state I had back then.  There’s a fearlessness and strength in my childhood imagination and love of glamour that I want to channel in a healthy way into my work today. I smile when I look at myself in that photo. And I’m so proud of that crossdressing misfit who no matter what was always his own person, even if that person was wearing mom’s high heels.

thanks for letting me cher

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In a misty Santa Monica park, on top of a green hill, with the sound of fog warnings coming from the beach and dogs barking, there’s a rec center. In addition to what sounded like some pretty spicy dance classes, this center also has meetings of the 12 step variety. Meetings I needed very much when I first moved to the beach in 2009 in hopes of turning my shipwreck of a life around.  My first time there I peered in the window and saw all these happy smiling people. Well, this certainly couldn’t be a meeting for drunks and drug addicts. Where was the crying? Where were the hobos with the red bandana knapsacks and pork pie hats? Where were the junkies in wheelchairs on death’s door? Being convinced I was in the wrong place, I quickly got out of there before anybody noticed me.  What I didn’t I know was that was the right place and I would be spending a lot of time there in the months to come.

12 step meetings are crazy ass places. Drama. Laughter. Breakdowns. Breakthroughs. Bunnies. No, really, there was an actress from the 80’s who used to bring her pet rabbit to the meeting. Maybe the bunny had a drinking problem. It’s all the stuff people watch reality tv for but without the commercials. Unlike those televised travesties, meetings actually save people’s lives. I’m not exactly sure how but people who go all the time usually stop doing drugs, drinking, gambling screwing everything in sight or whatever else might ail them. Again, this magical juju is beyond my comprehension. Sure I can tell you the names of the kids on Full House or the order of the singles released on Madonna’s True Blue record, but mysteries of the universe are beyond my comprehension. What I did notice about these gatherings is the folks who shared about their struggles and the solutions to said struggles and did so on a regular basis managed to stay sober. One day after a gathering of these brave people, my heart was full. I left the meeting and as I walked down the fog covered hill, this song started came from the SUV of one of the people leaving the meeting:

I started laughing. Not only because of the song’s goofy jingly-jangly intro or the lyrical parallels to attendees of the meeting, but because it’s Cher. Diva, icon and former spouse to someone who used drugs and alcohol like I did, Cher is everything. I love Cher for the camp factor, for her music and because as a gay man in his forties, it’s the law. Cher is also the ultimate symbol  of survival. Ain’t no Equal commercial or bad movie gonna keep her down!  Just when we think she’s done, she comes back. With a few months sober and back from the brink of self-destruction, I could kind of relate.  I could go on with the Cher metaphor (“I was once a ‘Dark Lady’ and now I ‘Believe”) but I won’t. What people like Cher, Madonna Cyndi Lauper and Boy George represented to me as a kid was individuality and strength, things I so desperately wanted. Meetings were the first place I felt like I could be myself. The real version. I could say, “hey, I’m not feeling good.” or “I need help” without giving a crap about what people thought. I soon began to find my life but bigger than that I learned I didn’t have to do any of this alone. And thankfully, my road to individuality and being able to share my problems was one that didn’t require headdresses or assless pants.

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Letting it All Hang Out

When I was in my 20’s, I was attracted to people who said and did whatever the hell they wanted and damn whatever anybody else thought. This was incredibly appealing to me and something I tried to imitate as I had always been the person worried about what people thought of me. With the right combination of chemicals, I could really trick others (and myself) into thinking I was that “I don’t give a shit” kind of guy. The kind of person who would dance on the table and then drink you under it.

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Creating this persona and living up to it was a full-time job. Liquor helped me be a bigger, bolder crazier version of myself and it worked for a while. I said whatever I wanted and didn’t care if I hurt anyone and it was fun but not for long.Funny how friends evaporate after you’ve bitched them out a billion times while intoxicated.  Getting drunk and telling people off, an act which seemed cool at 22, was downright pathetic at 35. When I got sober, I had to take a long look at the way I talked to and treated people. It wasn’t pretty but if I wanted to stay sober I had to be willing to uncover all of the demons. The surprising thing I did learn when I got sober is that its still okay to speak my mind and to have opinions. And in fact, compassionately speaking the truth with humor and honesty can be a real art form.

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To prove that I still have that zing but without any of the alcoholic sting, here’s my thoughts on some current stuff.

Arrested Development: The cult phenomenon of this show passed me by the first time so the hubby and I get all caught up on Netflix including the new season. My opinion? Totally overrated but at times hilarious. I ‘m happy I watched it but would be hard pressed to say it bowled me over. The first 6 of the new episodes are true stinkers and should be avoided. Love Jason Bateman, though.

Taylor Swift: I’m a hardcore fan of female singer songwriters but I don’t get her and in fact her music makes me violent.

Gay Pride: As I’ve moaned about before in these pages, the whole drunken mess part of gay pride ticks me off. Since the season is once again upon us, I find myself feeling annoyed. The stumbling in the streets has nothing to do with feeling proud of one’s sexuality. So why don’t we just rename it Meth and Vodka Pride and get honest about the whole thing?

The News: If I start posting about watching CNN and MSNBC for 18 hours at a time, please send help. Nothing is a bigger serenity killer than the news for me. I’m happier not knowing what’s going on and so are the people around me.

Community: Another find on DVD and I have to say it’s quickly become my happy place sitcom. I have two more seasons to watch and I can’t wait.

That’s enough out of me. Let’s continue the spirited conversation and you tell me things your currently loving or loathing in the comments section below. Feel free to disagree. I can take it. And besides, I no longer yell at people, remember?

 

 

 

 

Panic at the Bathroom Mirror

I woke up with an impending sense of doom for so many years, I just thought that’s what everybody went  through in the morning. That feeling of another exploding shoe about to drop. The racing heart right when I opened my eyes. My life was such a shitshow for so long, waking up meant having to endure yet another episode where yours truly did something awful while intoxicated. So now, in those rare moments, when I do feel panic or anxiety I’m jettisoned back to those horrible days. It happened just this morning as a matter of fact.

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It was blazing hot in our bedroom when I first woke up and my phone was vibrating. I try not to even deal with my phone for at least 30 minutes after getting out of bed but I instinctually grabbed it and the slew of messages instantly stressed me out. How was I going to get all the stuff done I needed to? Who should I call back first? Why am I always behind even before I’ve had my coffee? Here I was not even fully awake and I had already successfully thrown myself into a panic. I was sweating and felt anxious but I knew setting down my phone and going downstairs was the right answer. Everything would have to wait until I got a handle on this non-issue I was having. Spending years waking up in situations where everything was far from okay had thrown my morning rituals in some kind of PTSD and I’m still learning how to turn my habits and thought patterns around. Before I descended the staircase, I splashed water on my face in the bathroom and said out loud, “You’re fine.”

After prayer, meditation and a cuddle session with my cat, I started to believe it. Further positive actions throughout the day confirmed my temporary panic was not going to cause me to explode and my day turned out pretty great. I walked down the street and could smell flowers. I ran into some friends at my favorite meeting. I had an amazing chicken sandwich. And an opportunity to help someone in need even came up and I pounced at it. This speedy, mental turnaround is proof that my thinking has really evolved. When I used to wake up in a state of “FUUUUCCCCKK!!”, I usually stayed there and it almost always got worse. Now its a different reality. It’s incredible that I can have those moments, acknowledge them and use  some magic tools to move past them. Today was a good reminder that I can just as easily press the reset button as I can press the panic button.

So how was your day?

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“Oh my god!” is what came flying out of mouth. Not, “Are you okay?” or anything of the compassionate nature. Just a good old-fashioned OMG followed by a “Fuck!” And judging by what I witnessed, I think in hindsight these were the proper responses. As I took a morning walk through the park on my way to a meeting the other day, I heard that noise. You know that painful crash reserved for people walking into glass doors or banging their heads on car doors or falling down a flight of stairs. This particular blood curdling clang was caused by a girl on a bicycle who had ridden face first into a steel sign. This sign which apparently came out of nowhere for the rider is the standard “no littering, hours of operation, blah, blah, blah” thing meant to help parkgoers. In this case, however, all the sign helped do is knock this young lady off her bike. As the bike wrapped itself around the sturdy signpost, her face smacked directly into the sign causing the aforementioned noise. So dramatic was the sound and entire accident, a couple walking their dog ran over to help the girl up. Crumpled, embarrassed and a little bloody, she was helped back up and on her bike where, and this could only happen in Denver, she relit her joint and peddled away.

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As I kept walking, I wondered if she’d even remember the entire affair later. Personally, I know had dozens, if not hundreds, of ouch moments while inebriated and probably even more that I don’t remember. I’m not the most coordinated soul in the best , most sober situations so add any kind of chemical to my system and some falling down is bound to happen. Stairs, specifically, were my longtime nemesis. Falling up or down them while completely shitfaced was kind of my speciality. After a long night of drinking, tumbling up or down the steps to my apartment became not that big of a deal. Yet it was a painful, midday slide down their stairs after I’d been asked to leave a barbecue where I’d drank myself into a coma at like 2pm in the afternoon that would be my last drunken, stumble down the stairs.Of the hundreds of times, I’d made an ass out of myself this one stung the most. Not only because the fall itself was incredibly painful- I bounced on my ass down concrete steps into an unforgiving wrought iron door. But because it felt like a new low. My drunkenness had officially crossed over into the pathetic-guy-who-gets-blackout-drunk and ruins a barbecue territory and I wasn’t coming back. It took me another 4 months– and some other huge disasters to finally pull my head out of my ass and get help.

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Now, that was my last drunken tumble but last time I fell down some stairs, I was sober. Newly sober in fact. I was crying on the phone to my mom, as I did pretty much for the first year of sobriety, and it was pouring rain like it does in February in Los Angeles. I was calling her from the campus of Santa Monica college where I had recently enrolled in school. As I hung up with tears in my eyes, I missed a step and went flying down the stairs, cutting my hand open on the sidewalk. A trio of well-dressed African-American girls with chic umbrellas came running over, “Are you okay? You fell pretty hard!” they said. I nodded and mumbled something and ran out of there. Aside from wanting to die, I was okay.

Why I felt compelled to talk tumbles today, I have no idea. Maybe I needed the reminder to help other people who fall down. Maybe I needed to feel grateful that my days of drunken calamities have been over for a while. Or maybe I just needed to remember that everybody crashes and gets back up and rides off. With or without a joint dangling from their lips.