Can’t Hurt Me Now

You can’t hurt me now
I got away from you, I never thought I would
You can’t make me cry, you once had the power
I never felt so good about myself

‘Oh Father’, Madonna 1989

For a super effeminate card-carrying Madonna fan who sparkled a little bit harder than the Golden, Colorado kids in the 4H program, high school was not always a walk in the park. Or if it was a walk in the park, it was a walk in a park where they yelled “Hey faggot!’ at you. I was routinely pushed and tormented and spent my senior year with charming slurs scratched into my locker door.  It sucked but armed with my smartassed sense of humor and a few tough girlfriends, I survived. Mainly, I just didn’t really show up that often. I mean, ditching class, smoking cigarettes and shoplifting were more fun and less traumatic. By senior year I had friends and wasn’t harassed as much and did my own share of bullying to keep afloat. Like any good Madonna fan, I learned how to strike a good ,”if you don’t like me, go fuck yourself” pose. I worked, I went to concerts and bad teen clubs and oh yeah- I did drugs and drank. But then again, you knew that about me. (Spoiler alert: this drinking and drug thing doesn’t turn out so good for your’s truly.)

As delightful as talking about high school is, there is a point here. Last week, I had lunch with a friend from that institution. She was always one of the good ones. We were laughing about high school and the ridiculous people we survived together. Our 20th reunion was last summer, which I did not attend. I was about to explain why when my brilliant friend interrupted and said, “Oh I don’t blame you. They were awful to you.” She then went on to recall a time when she was walking down the hall with me as the homophobic cretins yelled names at me. She was horrified and the memory has haunted her.. “Thank you”, is what I blurted out as she finished her story. It was a weird thing to say but I meant it from the bottom of my heart. In truth, I don’t know why the hell I said it. Maybe I was thanking her for having the courage to be my friend even though the people in the hallway clearly thought that was a bad idea. Or maybe I was thanking her for her honesty. At the center of my gratitude, as I figured out later on during the day, was her acknowledgement. It was so cathartic to hear someone else say notice that people were awful to me. When you’re in that kind of thing, you think it’s bad but it’s hard to know the truth. To have another person say, “that wasn’t okay” is incredibly healing. See, her younger brother was bullied too for being Jewish. So even though my friend was a popular girl with lots of friends, she understood. I wasn’t alone. It’s important for me to remember, it wasn’t just me.  The county I went to school in was not a bastion of love and tolerance. It had an epidemic of bullying, suicides and racially charged violence in the late 1980s and early 90s. Nine years later, this county’s problems would come to a boiling point and it would be put on the map, thanks to the massacre at Columbine High School.

What’s funny is that I am no longer angry or resentful at my tormentors. Yes, I was thrilled when she told me most of them got fat and look horrible- hello, I’m a human being. But overall, I don’t care.I know was a little shit too and probably caused as much pain to someone else. The best revenge is being fabulous, growing up and moving on. And I think I’ve accomplished those things for the most part. But more than that I have compassion for myself and all of the kids I went to school with. These people can’t hurt me or piss me off today. The key is that I’m no longer hurting myself either. Like everything else fantastic in my life, my forgiveness around high school can be attributed to recovery from drugs and alcohol. Thanks to facing my demons, I don’t have to fake the tough Madonna attitude. I legitimately don’t give a shit and I do so with love. So I bristle whenever I hear about bullying and the well-meaning yet over simplified “It Gets Better” campaigns. Yes, it does get better but not if you don’t do the work. We owe it to ourselves to get better too. I’ll shut up now and  let Madonna explain it:

“No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.”

The Mental Health Dance Off

There are some times when a conversation is just a conversation. You lob ideas and stories back and forth.  It’s a lovely little cha-cha where all parties involved are on beat and dancing right along. Other times, you land smack dab in a brutal conversation dance-off, where everything out of your mouth is challenged or one upped. It is less about dancing just to enjoy the music and more about winning. I wound up in the middle of a battle conversation the other night and my response surprised me.

In LA, conversational pissing contests were an everyday occurrence and where my own bad habit of taking over a conversation really took flight. An average douchey, LA contest-sation starts a little like this, “What are you working on because I just finished two national commercials and my clothing line is being carried at Fred Segal. Oh and next month is my art show downtown.” Ugh times a zillion.  Like shut the fuck up. Nobody is handing out ribbons for being more awesome or for having more going on or being more right. Yet it’s what we people do. We want to win and be right and be special even if our tactics to get those things turn us into total jackasses.

But back to the dinner/smack down in question. Three of us, all sober people of various flavors of recovery might I add, started talking about the Olympics and the trivia of the day. This soon led to smartphones appearing  out of thin air and facts being thrown down as if they were absolute gauntlets. By the way,can’t we get through one dinner without whipping our smartphone dicks out?  It’s so obnoxious. We all lived and talked for generations without having devices to prove our points. Anyway, when I drank I liked to win these kind of things so I’d usually be the one pressing on trying to get my point across. The other night, however, I just sort of let my dinner companions battle it out. This isn’t because I was secretly trying to win the other contest happening at the time- the “I’m more sane than you” competition which was quietly brewing from the minute we sat down that night. No, for some reason I just didn’t participate. I knew it was going on and felt the strain of the conversational battle. But I sipped my Diet Coke, nibbled on appetizers and politely tried not to give a shit.

The truth is, I was actually happy to see these two argumentative motherfuckers and for some reason didn’t let their bickering get in my way of enjoying my meal or their company. When I returned home, I was exhausted. I’m not much of fighter anymore so even being near that kind of crap takes its toll. Now my husband can tell you, I don’t always choose not to fight. But I did make that choice and I didn’t engage in crazy conversations the other night. Oddly enough, this little victory made me feel like I had beaten something far more important than my two arguing dinner companions.

Inspiration for August 10th: Ronnie Spector

Happy Birthday, Ronnie Spector!

Clearly, the above song was chosen with my tongue firmly lodged in my cheek. Yet Ronnie defines the word “inspiration” for many reasons. Naturally, her genius and one of a kind vocal stylings can be found on 1960’s hits like Be My Baby and Walking in the Rain. But it’s her survivor spirit that inspires me today Ronnie was always considered the badass of the girl group scene. No one knew how much of a badass she really was until decades later when she wrote about living with Phil Spector. According to Wikipedia, Ronnie “claims Spector showed her a gold coffin with a glass top in his basement, promising to kill and display her if she left him. During Spector’s reclusive period in the late 1960s, he reportedly kept his wife locked inside their mansion. She claimed he also hid her shoes to dissuade her from walking outside, and kept the house dark because he did not want anyone to see his balding head. Ronnie stated in her autobiography that she walked out of the house through the closed and locked rear sliding glass door, shoeless, shattering the glass as she left, and feet all cut up by the time she got to the gate. She never returned. Ronnie Spector filed for divorce in 1972.” Whoa. Talk about tough. Ronnie’s ability to survive Phil Spector’s brand of batshit craziness while remaining cool is admirable indeed.

She went on to have a comeback in the 80’s thanks to Eddie Money, record an album with Joey Ramone and recently recorded Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. So yeah she’s still a badass. August 10th is a good of day as any to practice being “tougher”. Not tough in a defensive way, but tougher in the way of not letting little things bug me or hurt my feelings. Letting the small stuff roll of your back while still staying true to yourself is not easy but as Ronnie can tell you, it sure beats walking barefoot over broken glass.

little old normal me

“The important thing is to go below the clichés to touch the texture of your experience. Your mind is hungry to be alive. You give us that gift by laying down your true mind on the page. We read it and you open up fields of our own imagination.”

Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away

Sometimes I need Natalie Goldberg to write. I always need coffee. I  always need to shower first.  I often need music. But only in tricky times do I call on the writing goddess that is Natalie Goldberg to help get me started. And she always delivers. The quote above this Pegasus thing (initially chosen for its title but made the cut because I actually started to like it) is in response to a student of her’s who worried that she couldn’t write a memoir because her life was too “normal.” In a way only she can do, Goldberg assured this student and then readers of her book that all  true experiences have worth. This passage, entitled “Ordinary”, really spoke to me today.

I’m in the process of reorganizing this here blog and my web presence in general and naturally when projects which require sensibility and objectivity arise, I like to slip into something less comfortable like my old buddy self-doubt. Like the student in the chapter, I’ve been worried about being normal. Now I’m secure enough to know my multiple diseases and inherent sparkly self are enough to keep me out of permanent beige town. But what if I’m too quirky that it becomes annoying? Or what if I run out of clever things to say (perish the thought!). What if my life has stopped being crazy and I have nothing left to write about? Goldberg answered all of that and essentially told me to “shut up and keep going.”

And if you think about it-normal is an adventure for people like me. After decades of self-created drama, the challenge today lies in living the truth. Things like calling people back, following through on plans, paying bills are out of the norm for me. In addition to honoring my day-to-day experiences, I need to embrace “normal” life and go against my programming to be, dare I say it, happy! Talk about drama and the ultimate fish out of water story! I owe it to myself to keep going because this normal adventure is really interesting.

So if you just paid your phone bill or cleaned your house or showed up to work on time today, congratulations! If you are used to living in calamity and uncertainty and today your life is pretty quiet, I salute you! If you can now be counted on and trusted, way to go! You are deliciously, unabashedly normal. And I think that’s pretty spectacular.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Human beings are capable of many wonderful things. But mainly we’re really great at generating some truly horrible ideas. Yes, yes we the people are filled to the brim with great innovations and life changing ideas too. Yet for every polio vaccination there’s 100 bottles of A-Spray and 3,000 truck loads of Doritos Locos Tacos.

bad-80s

Take me, for example.  I,myself, have had some earth shatteringly bad ideas in my nearly 40-years on this Earth. From wearing acid wash (although I never had the full-tilt boogie fringe ensemble as pictured above) to falling in love with unavailable, straight, meth addicts, my bad ideas are as majestic as the Grand Canyon and as puzzling as the film career of Jennifer Lopez. Perhaps I was born under a bad idea sign because as far back as I can remember I’ve cooked up one harebrained plot after the next only to have it backfire and explode in my face. As an early forger of report cards and author of book reports on titles that never existed, the shittacular schemes knew no bounds.   If there’s a Bad Idea Museum, I’m quite certain I’m a shoo-in for the curator position.  Although I reckon each of us could more than qualify for the job at one time or another . The anatomy of bad ideas, as far as I can tell, stems from the corny “live and learn” concept. We have awesomely horrific ideas, we experience hell on Earth because of them and we never ever have those ideas again. And herein lies the problem for your’s truly and other slow to learn addicts like myself.

If the “live and learn” concept was one I adapted, I would have only fell in love with just the one unavailable, straight, drug addict. Not four. And as much as the first experience of taking Special K (ketamine, not the cereal) made me feel like my heart was going to explode right after my face was going to melt off, it didn’t stop me from doing it about a jillion other times and even offering at as party favor at my Grammy party. I must have been out of Cheez-Its. To be fair, though, it was the trannies I worked with who brought it. Anyway, when it came to drugs and drinking, the ideas, which were already being cooked up in a crappy idea kitchen, were escalated to new hilariously awful heights. Like the time I shimmied across the gangsta tin awning which hung over my neighbor’s blind and endlessly barking dog en route to my open bathroom window where my tequila soaked body landed in a thud in the bathtub, all in an effort to break into my own house. Too bad I discovered my front door was unlocked the next day. I repeated the wasted at home break-ins, crazy financial espionage and other stupid plans over and over again. Compared to my life, the average episode of Three’s Company seemed full of plot twists and surprises. My inability to learn from my mistakes made for a fucking boring existence after a while.

I laugh at my mistakes and bad ideas today. Why? Well a.) I’m okay with the stupid things I’ve done b.) now that I’ve actually learned from them, some are pretty funny. Plus many  of the funny, bad, sober ideas of today turn into the great ideas of tomorrow. But mainly, laughter has healed me. I’ve stopped beating myself up and now can see the absurdity and humor in old stories that used to mortify me. And the more I talk about them and more I laugh about them, they remind that getting sober was the best idea I ever had.

The Glamour of Getting it All Down

From the time I was 16 until I was 22, I worked at my parent’s bookstore. Okay, it was really my mom’s store. My cop dad was just along for the ride.  Her love of books and art made her quit her accounting job and buy a funky bookstore-poster shop-framing business combo in South Denver. I gleefully became her employee. My other attempts at teenage employment were tragic including a brief stint at McDonald’s wherein a manager said with zero irony in his voice, “You might be the worst person that ever worked here.” Such a critique didn’t really break my fifteen-year old heart which longed for something else. Naturally, working around books was a dream come true. Because as much as I loved Chicken McNuggets, books and writing were always the true loves of my life.

In my years as a bookstore employee, I must have looked at thousands of book jackets and author’s photos.  But the jackets of Dame Barbra Cartland, romance novelist extraordinaire never failed to crack me up. Cartland was always photographed with that fuzzy Vaseline on the lens look in an ornately decorated room and flocked by small, poofy dogs. Writing Cortland style looked so fabulous. I never read the books but I had to admire the sparkly manner in which she lived.  Little did I know that writing full-time is sometimes not so pretty and other times really fucking hard.

I bring all of this up because in this six month journey of writing this blog, I’ve realized for the jillionth time that this writing thing is not for wussies. The creative blockage, the rejections, the buckets of self-doubt are exactly the things that kept me from pursuing writing while I was drinking and using. As a copywriter for the last two years, I’ve been blessed to get my muscles in shape. I have articles, blogs, product blurbs, press releases and the like due for clients daily. I don’t have time to tell myself that I suck and no one will ever read what I write. This is an extreme blessing. Left to my own self-sabotaging devices, I would wallow in coulda been ideas and wonder if there wasn’t a way I could become a glamorous, famous writer without ever actually having to, you know, write. Cue the Tom Waits and the jug of whiskey.

Luckily, this steady stream of work opened me up to the possibilities of bigger ideas hence the birth of my first play and my second one on the way. I started this here blog right after my first play went into production. Mainly because I was given the excellent advice to keep writing and tackling the next project on my list. So I knew I wanted to write about being an addict and alcoholic and gay and HIV positive. Not that I’m an expert or have any startling revelations about any of these things but because I couldn’t find a book that talked about this stuff that also had a sense of humor about itself.  There’s a great quote by Toni Morrison which says, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” So that’s what happened. I think I pictured writing these clever musings about recovery down, the world applauding and a giant check like those big phony ones they give away on the Price is Right arriving at my door. Instead, I’ve been extremely touched humbled and baffled by then process. Talking about this stuff that nobody likes to talk about opens the door for more people to say, “Oh! Me too!!” Which has been the unexpected and brilliant gift with the whole thing. I’ve been turned on to a world of  amazing writers that I would not have found otherwise. Many of them from backgrounds just like mine.  Also, I never  anticipated how many feelings revisiting my old life would bring up. I thought all of the hours of crying in 12 step meetings zapped the power out of most of that stuff and it has for the most part. But it’s still exhausting and at times terrifying traveling back down roads that once tried to kill you. I’ve had posts that take the wind out of me or take me days to write due to my emotional response.

Ultimately, it feels great though. I’m halfway in my journey and I can see the book I wanted to read start to take shape. Glamorous? Hardly. But doing what I want and staying out-of-the-way of the process the best I can.  And that makes me like that fabulous author on the back of the book jacket.

Dads, pelicans & the people who pull you through

When walking trainwrecks like myself suddenly emerge from the decades of chaos looking like normal human beings, it’s no small thing. I would love to say that I pulled myself up from own bootstraps. Sadly, I cannot. The truth is, as attractive as they sound, I’ve never owned boots with straps. But the real truth is it took a thousand hands to pull me back up.  My dad and my grandfather were two of the dozens of people who did just that.

To really know this situation and where I’m coming from I better explain myself. I was prompted to spill this out on the page because of Father’s Day and the 15th anniversary of my grandfather’s death which is on the 18th. I know, I know. I’ve only been sober for 3 and a half years so how in the hell could my grandfather have helped me?  Believe it or not, it was his spirit and life example that really kept me going. Back in 2009, it had been 12 years since he died. I never really gotten over it and numbing myself with drugs and alcohol for years had insured that I never would. So naturally when I got sober all of that stuff I never dealt with was just siting there saying, “Helloooo! Remember us?” like little orphans I’d given up, now back to live with me forever.

On the anniversary of his death, I was walking around Marina Del Rey and looking at the water. I talked to my mom earlier on the phone and she reminded me what day it was and she said my grandfather would be so proud of me. Naturally, at five months sober this made me burst into tears but so did that ASPCA commercial with Sarah McLachlan and poems about Paul Cezanne. My grandpa died of a heart attack while fishing with one of his best friends so being by the water and watching pelicans grab fish out of the ocean was the perfect place for me to be on that day. I remember feeling the breeze and praying to him, whispering “thank you” then “please help me” followed by “I love you.” My grandfather was as close to a saint as one could get so I knew if anybody could hear this messge-chant-prayer, it was him. Ironically (or not), it was my grandfather who helped my dad get sober and get to AA. Like I said, even if he wasn’t alive I was  absolutely talking to the right guy.

My dad, the police officer for 25 years, pulled me through in a way that was only he could. With less than 90 days sober, he impressed upon me that I was going to be screwed if I didn’t change everything about my life. He didn’t do it subtly or with kid gloves and he seriously annoyed me. But I received the message. This was a guy, after all, who had to get sober while in a highly stressful job on the police force while raising four kids. He knew what he was talking about. further  on in my journey, my dad was a total rock. I didn’t know what to do when I found out that I was HIV positive and my dad said, “Don’t worry. We’re going to make sure you’ll be okay” even though he himself was worried and saddened by the news. Part of his job for so many years on the force was saving lives. I can tell you firsthand, he’s really good at it.

Later that year, I took a marine biology class and learned something about the pelican I watched that teary day on the pier. The California Brown Pelican was nearly wiped because of ingesting poisonous chemicals but thanks to thousands of concerned people, he had come back. Now, the pelican is thriving with numbers  near 750,000. This bounce back from near extinction was something I totally related to. I guess the pelican-filled memory laden point I’m trying to make is just this: thank you Dad, grandpa Bob, and everybody else who in some way shape or form said, “You are going to be okay.” You were right. And I couldn’t do any of this without you.

The Last Time I Saw LA Gay Pride

Throughout the month of June, all over the country, in cities big and small, gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered men and women are flocking to their local pride parades and festivals. If you’ve never been to one of these events, I can tell you that if you do attend you are likely to see a musical act from yesteryear performing on one of the stages (Belinda Carlise! The Village People!), you are likely to see fried food on a stick (because corn dogs and churros cross all lines of discrimination) and you will certainly see a lot of people who are really, really intoxicated.

Now I’m not saying that everyone who attends a gay pride festival is going to get fucked up but let’s be honest here. The only thing gays like better than half-naked people in booty shorts at 11am wandering the streets is half-naked people in booty shorts at 11am wandering the streets drinking. Gays are so fond of daytime drinking in the streets, gaggles of them often appear at random festivals solely for that very reason. I’ve personally attended everything from Cuban festivals to an abysmal non-New Orleans version of Mardi Gras all in the name of drinking in the streets. As citizen of Los Angeles for 15 years, I could bore you with dozens of drunken tales from the West Hollywood gay pride festival. In fact, as I read blogs and saw pictures of this weekend’s celebration, my mind took a trip down memory lane. I recall line dancing in a country music tent with a drag queen. I remember drinking vodka and watching what remains of the Mary Jane Girls perform near a baseball diamond. And how could I forget seeing Cyndi Lauper wave from a hot pink convertible as a dance remix of ‘True Colors’ thumped in the background? Yet it’s my last time at gay pride in Los Angeles that solidifies the gay pride experience for me.

A friend and I went over to the parade in 2007. With cocktails to go, we headed over to West Hollywood. Perched from a cozy alcohol adjacent corner inside Rage, a parade route- friendly watering hole, we watched as the rainbow of topless men and aforementioned booty shorts pranced by interspersed with floats sponsored by  Gieco and local erotic bakeries alike. This being a Los Angeles event, “celebrities” pimping their latest reality shows or albums were on display too. We cheered as famous hot mess and former America’s Next Top Model judge Janice Dickinson floated by with a bevy of shirtless models. Dickinson claims to be the world’s first supermodel but I would contend she may also be the world’s first celebrity with Tourette’s syndrome. I however always admired her frank nature and the fact that here was a famous person who was shockingly more wasted than I was. She made me feel like, “Gee, maybe I’m not a total disaster.” Dickinson, like any good addict, had moments of sobriety followed by moments of hot messiness. During this particular celebration, it would be safe to say she was experiencing the latter. As the parade wrapped up, we plotted our next move. Do we pay $20 bucks to get into the festival or do we go drink somewhere else? Well, clearly our Jacksons would be put to better use at a bar so we headed over to the Abbey. While you’re unlikely to find nuns at this Abbey (unless it’s Halloween), you were guaranteed to find strong cocktails, more naked men and on that day even Janice Dickinson. Along with a thousand or so of our closest friends, the partying really started to happen. More beers, more shots, and a pill that someone told me was “kind of like Ecstasy.” I wanted my picture taken with Janice but her tanned trio of bodyguards politely shooed my wasted ass away. The rest of the afternoon was a slurry blur and by 4pm I was home and napping off my daytime drunk.

I share this story because in my mind the preceding events had nothing to do with being proud of being gay. I wasn’t drinking and dancing and harassing celebrities because I loved being gay and loved who I am. Quite the contrary, in fact.  Yet that’s how I always celebrated gay pride: by getting absolutely shithoused drunk.

While in LA and newly sober, I stayed away from gay pride. Not because I was worried that I would relapse. But because I felt like it I had no business being there. Like a vegan at Outback Steakhouse. Everybody else was going to be drunk so why bother? A few years later, I’ve lightened up. My recovery is such that I can attend this kind of stuff  without feeling like I’m the only one not wasted. But also I know when not to go too. Like even though its been over 3 years, there are times that I can’t go to places where lots of drinking will be going on. And this is okay. Gay pride means being proud of who you are and today I can honestly say that I am just that. I’m proud to be gay, sober and positive. And I can celebrate all of this without drinking, booty shorts or Janice Dickinson.

Disco Damage

If you randomly bust into dance moves when you hear “Le Freak” by Chic  coming from the sound system at the grocery store, if you still expect to be on the guest list even though you have been to a nightclub in several years or if you suffer from minor hearing loss due to dancing next to speakers for an extended period of time; you may be suffering from disco damage. Other common symptoms include the unwavering belief that nothing gets good until after 12am, spontaneously yelling “Hey girl!” at drag queens even if you don’t know them and  a deep desire to dance instead of dealing with your life.

Disco damage sufferers like myself have a had tough week. The back-to-back deaths of Donna Summer and Robin Gibb reinforced the depressing, unavoidable truth: nothing,not even a great dance song, lasts forever. I was a toddler during the original disco era but the beat must have seeped into my brain at an early age because my whole life I’ve been in love with dance music. Yes, I am aware that an affinity for dance music is part of my gay DNA but disco and the culture around it were very much a fantasyland and that appealed to me very much as a future drug addict and alcoholic.

I was scooped into nightclubs and raves at an early age. And what goes better with dance music than drugs? Body glitter and platforms are fabulous but if I really wanted to dance my ass off, drugs had to be my number one accessory. Once at a rave in a warehouse in suburban Denver, the Chic song I mentioned earlier came blasting out of the speakers. I was high on ecstasy and it felt like this  was my moment. This is what I was looking for my whole life. I had friends on the dance floor, I felt fantastic and I was 20. This kind of high needed to happen all the time and normal life needed to feel more like this. So it was this feeling, this hunger that propelled me from Colorado raves to LA nightclubs to working at a record store and to DJing and promoting my own clubs in Hollywood. The goal of a budding disco diva was simple: get high and dance. Ecstasy was the preferred dancing accoutrement for many years but cocaine did the trick and so did some strong cocktails. (For the record, 3 Long Islands and  2 Vicodins aren’t a great dance floor combo and we’ll leave it at that.) There’s a great line in the disco classic, “Lost in Music” by Sister Sledge that sums it up:”Responsibility to me is a tragedy. I’ll get a job some other time.”  For many years, I worked to keep partying, I kept partying to avoid really living.

Eventually, the lights came on, last call was called and I tried to live real life. For a club child, this  is a difficult prospect. We’re used to phony relationships and being high all the time. Things like paying our bills and dealing with our problems are icky tasks meant for those boring, grownups we’d see heading to church on Sunday mornings on our way home from the club. I eventually would face the music and lucky for me that music still  had a disco beat. You could take the homo out of the nightclub but disco would forever “toot, toot- aah- beep beep” in my heart. Donna Summer and the Bee Gees were the soundtrack to my growing up, the background music at the roller rink and still bumping at after hours clubs when I was hell-bent on vanishing in the 1990s and 2000s. Now, songs like Nights on Broadway or Try Me I Know We Can Make it are celebrations that despite ingesting more drugs than a Rick James after-party, I too will survive. My dance parties today take place at my desk most of the time although I still occasionally hit the clubs with other sober folks.  So be kind to me if you see me shaking my booty in the frozen food aisle to Bad Girls or Jive Talking. It’s just a little disco damage and a sweet hangover that I don’t wanna get over.

hotmail, hot mess.

It must have been nice to be a crazy alcoholic back in the good old days. In that golden era before phones, email, text messages and Facebook, you could just tell people face-to-face all kinds of awful things drunk people say while intoxicated. Slurred assaults like “You never loved me” or “I liked you better ten pounds ago”  could just do their immediate damage and that would be the end of it.  Sure, perhaps the folks on the receiving end of these booze-soaked barbs would recoil and run the opposite direction whenever you entered the room but you wouldn’t have to worry about the words themselves coming back. Today, the Ghost of  Tequila Tantrums Past likes to haunt my inbox with moronic messages from YesterBeer.

This week, I stumbled on a doozie when I was searching my inbox for a pre-maturely deleted client email. See, I know it’s hard to believe but when I drank a lot, (which was the only way I drank, by the way) I had an annoying habit of saying brutal and horrible things to people I loved. And it was always under the guise of “being honest” or some crap. Like those drunk reality stars always say, “I’m just keeping it real” or “I’m using my voice” or my favorite– “Just sayin'”. No what you’re just doing is being a hateful, crazy douchebag. And that’s how I rolled. I didn’t know that I could be honest or state my opinion without being horrible or abusive. When you’re drunk seven nights a week, normal communication is a puzzling prospect. It was far easier to pound out a shitty, nonsensical text message or email while wasted and deal with the fallout later. The recently resurfaced email misdemeanor was written to my ex in 2007, two years before I got sober. I’ll save you the boring and tragic details but the email essentially apologized for the bad behavior from the night before. What made the email remarkable was how pedestrian and insincere it was. The tone of the whole thing is of the “Sorry I forgot to pickup more cat litter” variety and  not of the more appropriate “Oh my god I’m horrified that I screamed at you” flavor. I read the entire email thread, shaking my head in disbelief that I ever lived that way. Alas, this was not the only email trainwreck in ye old inbox. An apology over a barbecue blackout and the continuation of an epic drunken text battle were also readily available for my reading enjoyment.

Out of curiosity’s sake, I entered more search terms into Hotmail to see what old chestnuts they would produce. I mean this stuff no longer has the power to humiliate me anymore and I’m not living in shame about my past so why not? The words “drunk” and “sober” came up with another form of email that also shocked me. Like messages in a bottle, my email communication from 2009 were calls for help. “I don’t know what to do”, “I can’t stop crying”, and “I’m scared” are some of the sentences that stood out. I got a little teary eyed reading these but I couldn’t stop.  It was like reading a book where the crazy character who said he was “keeping it real” actually got real and asked for help. Other searches turned up job rejections, bold faced lies, SOS emails asking for money and even some embarrassing Craigslist dating ads.  Abruptly, I stopped the email archelogical dig. I got the message I was suppose to hear. Just because  Hotmail was going to hold on to this stuff no matter how many times I pressed the delete button or how old it was, didn’t mean I had to. I could read, remember and be grateful for the life I have now and truly “delete” the shame attached to old words and behaviors.