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 Maybe the term is out of date.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!

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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.

 

 

 

the skinny

I don’t think I believe in a God who over the course of a week made this whole world like a big Play-Doh playset. But if I did, it would tick me off that he went to all the trouble to create walking, talking thinking humans who all in some small way or the other hate their bodies. Whether it’s our noses, our asses or our feet everybody has some issue with the way they look. Mine recently has been my weight.

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Given the reaction I got when I walked into a room after getting out of the hospital last month, I knew I was skinny. Like Calista Flockhart in the 90’s skinny. Like human Pez machine skinny. Like someone call Feed the Children skinny. My clothes were a lot baggier. My wedding ring looser. My ribs poking out like they were thinking about leaving to go fulfil their destiny at Chili’s. But I was sort of focused on not feeling like hell so being skinny wasn’t too much of a concern. Until other people started talking about it and asking me about it. Look, if I drive my narrative car over into the whiny lane during this post, I apologize. That’s not really my intention. The issue, my issue–on newsstands now!– is how weird people are about weight loss. Clearly it wasn’t a “Wow! You look great!” comment I was garnering. It was a “Oh my god, are you okay?” comment. Which is fine and appreciated. We’re nosy creatures so mainly the ballsy folks who asked about my weight wanted to know the why, how and what’s going on of my dramatic weight loss. How dramatic, you ask(you nosy thing you) ? I’m a skinny dude without my pal pneumonia so I didn’t have much to give to the weight contribution basket to begin with. So  me losing around 15-20 pounds was admittedly shocking to folks. Some random neighbors who don’t always say hi to me wondered if I was okay. Weird people I don’t really know at my day job asked me how much weight I had lost. Folks who I maybe don’t bond with usually in “The Rooms” suddenly were interested in why I looked the way I looked. It made me surprisingly self-conscious and made me long for the days when white people would be concerned but do the polite thing and talk about behind your back.

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When they’d ask, I’d tell them an abridged version of my pneumonia battle, they’d say they were glad I was feeling better, I would thank them and take my emaciated ass out of the situation as fast as I could. It was awkward and I tried to be gracious but on days where I felt like shit answering questions about my weight really pissed me off. Like we don’t do that when people gain weight, right? As I struggled with sizes the other day at H&M, it hit me what a fucking drag body issues are. While trying to decide if was too fat for a small or too tiny for a medium, anxiety swept over me. Now, I am lucky that I’m not a person who’s struggled with anorexia or bulimia or body dysmorphia but in that moment I felt pretty shitty. It could have had a little something to do with the bad techno and my heavy coat which was making me hot. But I felt like I was too skinny, too old and too sick looking to buy the sweaters I wanted so why was I even bothering?  What happened there in the mall, however, was something bigger. I remembered I’m a human being who is not always going to love himself or how he looks, regardless of how many affirmations he’s got posted to his mirror. I grabbed two smalls without trying them on, had a nice conversation with the sweet supermodel behind the register and left.

When I got home, I took a deep breath and tried on my sweaters which fit fabulously. My temporary mall-induced fears of not being enough had passed. I have realized in the days since that the road to loving myself-fat, skinny or whatever– is a long one and handled one day at a time like everything else. And just for today, I’ll try to love myself with my giant head and tiny body and that’ll be enough. Because I’m enough.

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Where Do Broken Hearts Go?

When people die, we say stupid things. We are so ill-equipped here in the good ole US-of-A to deal with death that we either say nothing or say something stupid. And I think that’s okay. Death is the ultimate awkward situation, grief is the tornado that flattens every house on the block and we the people just don’t know what to say when someone dies. Particularly when that person is an addict.

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“Well, what did you expect given who her parents are?” “So tragic but not exactly a surprise.” “You’d think she would have stayed away from drugs after what they did to her mother.” These are just a few of the gems I saw on Twitter after Bobbi Kristina Brown passed away late last month. Brown, the daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown was, like myself, born into the disease. Kids like us have an uphill battle and increased odds of being addicts ourselves. But I don’t believe we children of addicts and alcoholics are “doomed to be killed by the disease” as many people said on Twitter. Look, the heartbreak that poor kid must have felt after her mother died in 2012 must have been unbearable. If we’re to believe the reports, her drug use spiralled almost immediately. This makes sense to me. With no example of sobriety in her life, she turned to the tool she’d seen her parents use–and get destroyed by. This is how we cope with everything. And as kids who’ve seen the wreckage it can cause it DOES sound crazy that we’d gladly turn to the substances that we know might kill us. I was told from age 11 that if I drank or did drugs, the chances were good that I’d get addicted. My attitude was always, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll see about that.”Low and behold, the disease kicked my ass and I barely got out alive. It’s a testament to the power of the disease that I knew what the outcome would probably be and thought I could outrun it anyway. Like I said—crazy. The real tragedy with Bobbi Kristina was that despite having millions and famous parents she died without giving herself a chance to change the story.

Earlier this summer, the husband and I were in some trendy home furnishings store. The above song was blaring and two adorable salespeople, who I guess should have been working, were dancing and lip-synching. Their joy was palatable. The pair burst into laughter when they noticed we had seen them. “By all means, continue,” I said. “You HAVE to dance when this comes on.” The lanky hipster guy of the duo said, “You can’t resist it.” And they continued having their at work dance party. This is what Whitney Houston has left behind for us: the joy of infectious pop song delivered by that powerhouse voice. And for an addict who suffered for so long, this is an incredible gift to leave behind. So to answer that question in the headline- maybe broken hearts, like Bobbi’s, never go away. Maybe the hurt of a loss just lessens over time. Or maybe if we’re lucky and work really hard, we can exist on this planet with a broken heart and still have a happy life. And maybe even dance.

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.

Are smart kids destined to be drunk kids?

Wait. Maybe I wasn’t just a teenage alcoholic and drug addict because I was bored or because I hit the genetic jackpot.  According to a new study, my eagerness to pick up a drink at such an early age was most likely caused by the fact that I’m a genius.  Suddenly, it all makes sense.

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New research suggests kids who develop language and intellectual skills earlier are more likely to drink and take other drugs than their less intelligent peers. The nice folks at Time magazine explain it like this:

“In 2011, for example, British researchers found that women who were in the top third of the IQ range when tested in elementary school were more than twice as likely as those scoring in the bottom third to have used marijuana or cocaine by age 30; for men, the top-ranked boys were almost 50% more likely to have taken amphetamine and 65% more likely to have used ecstasy (MDMA) by adulthood.”

These findings sound remarkably like my teen years. I was always a smart kid, I just didn’t always go to class. I was extremely busy with more important things. There were music videos to be watched and cigarettes to be smoked. Nevertheless, this drunken genius idea holds water, right? I mean Carl Sagan smoked weed, Steve Jobs liked LSD and Freud was a big cokehead. Yet leave it to the Finns  to rain on my “I’m an alcoholic because I’m a genius”theory.  “Social drinking in many countries and nonproblematic drinking is more frequent and common among people with higher education,” says Antti Latvala, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki in Finland and lead author of the study. The article goes on to suggest that, “Intelligence can serve as a vehicle for moderation when it comes to alcohol or drug use — the more educated people are, the more they internalize and appreciate the dangers and risks of overindulging. The higher education that’s correlated with greater intellect also puts more at stake for those who indulge in alcohol or drug abuse.” Aaaand they lost me.

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This statement gets an epic eyeroll for a few reasons:

*  I know several genius drunken hot messes who didn’t use intelligence as a vehicle for moderation and instead chose to simply drive said vehicle into a tree or through someone’s living room.

* Spend enough time in 12 step programs and you’ll see a lot of folks with Ivy League educations and high-powered jobs who continue to relapse.

* As a teenage drug user, drinker and schnapps shoplifter, I never got high with the valedictorian of our class. Those kids actually did say no and did really go to class. I did however get high with the artists, actors, debaters and writers. And continued to do so for the next 20 years.

My point is, and I honestly have one (I think), that addiction and alcoholism doesn’t give a shit about how smart you are, what school you went to or how you did on your SATs.  In fact, unless you’re 17 nobody cares about your SATs. Smart, dumb, black , white, purple– from what I’ve seen this disease is an equal opportunity killer. Maybe its the other way around maybe the kids who were born addicts become smarter and more verbal to get what they wanted? Who knows? Today I’m just grateful that I’ve been struck with the wisdom that says on a daily basis, “No, Sean you can’t drink with moderation. Like ever.”  i also know that people like me are going to drink and use drugs regardless of how impractical or crazy it sounds. I submit this study about the fine folks of Alaska to support that statement.

Happy Tuesday, my fellow geniuses!

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sober at a mile high

When I ran off to Los Angeles in 1995, Denver was a town in transition. Things were about to happen but they hadn’t quite yet. Suffice to say, when I came back 15 years later things were happening, primarily weed. Like everywhere. Upon arrival in the Mile High City, you are greeted with a permanent marijuana musk which smells like a skunk who’s had too many burritos and by young loadies  who populate city parks sparking up as if they didn’t get the memo that Woodstock ended 40 years ago.  Having lived in Los Angeles during the medical marijuana storefront boom, I had seen pot go retail. But what I had never witnessed was an entire city go to pot.

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There were lots of things about my hometown I didn’t remember. Like the terrible driving. After nearly getting run over by a Subaru, I said to the startled pedestrian next to me, “When did the drivers get so terrible here?” To which she replied with zero irony,”Oh that’s just because everyone here is high.” A subsequent trip to my favorite coffee shop, wherein I witnessed my barista  with cherry red eyes and a cartoonish perma-grin make my latte  at a sloth’s pace, certainly reinforced her theory. From grandmas to teens, on city buses and corporate functions, pot is omnipresent. Being a big fan of bathing and caffeinated beverages delivered in a timely manner, the culture, quite frankly, annoyed me. Still,I tried to not let it bother me. I was the minority here and solid in my sobriety so what did I care?  It would be hypocritical for me too get to judgy seeing as pot served its purpose for me for over decade. It nurtured my favorite pastimes of eating and sleeping while making some truly godawful films more enjoyable.  As long as I didn’t smell like a gassy skunk, Denver could smoke its brains out. After all the, image is that the city has this pot thing totally under control.

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After living back in Denver for the past two and a half  years, however, its hard not to wonder if the veneer on the perma-grin has begun to crack. A 4/20 rally that ended in two shootings doesn’t bode too well for Weed Town, USA. Neither does the onslaught of regulation issues currently biting Denver in the ass. The oddest place I’ve seen pot pop-up is in recovery. My jaw dropped when I was told that a common belief in the 303 is that you can be considered sober and still smoke pot. Marijuana maintenance was acceptable as long as you didn’t drink. As drunk who is also a drug addict, this thinking was news to me. I was told I wasn’t sober if I was using any chemical to check out. In order not to get pissed off at such a notion, I have to keep my eyes on my own paper.

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Policing other people’s recovery or trying to dissuade a city from sparking up a joint would be a colossal waste of time. Besides, my own bucket of crazy needs to emptied on a regular basis, therefore making it a full-time job. If I’m doing the stuff that keeps me spiritually fit, the habits of others are none of my business. I’m able to enjoy myself and my life without substances and that’s all that matters. Is it harder staying in town that’s high? I don’t know. I think staying sober is difficult anywhere. I know fall down drunks in small towns and people with long-term sobriety who live in Las Vegas. Which is to say, I don’t think the diseases of addiction and alcoholism are location-based. I also know how to deal with it better the longer I live here. I avoid places with lots of pot smoking. I try to be understanding of people who need weed to help them stop drinking. I’ve become a more cautious and aware pedestrian.  And, most importantly I allow extra time for my stoned barista to make my latte.

has anyone ever written anything for you?

First things first please, take a few minutes to listen to this song and story behind it and then I promise I’ll talk your ear off.

There’s a special kind of grace needed when you have a “chronic manageable disease” like HIV. See people will tell you that “Oh yeah. My neighbor has it and he’s fine”, “Oh I just read a thing about a girl in France who cured herself from it by going vegan” or “Maybe you should take more vitamins/take less vitamins/get new medication/stop medication/do yoga/do Pilates/meditate more.” Grace comes in handy when you can nod your head and say, “Okay.” But the thing is these poor, well-meaning folks are just trying to say something to make you feel less awkward and don’t really realize that we’ve pretty much tried everything if we’ve had a manageable disease for a few years. I’ve told this story on these pages before but its a funny one and worth repeating. When I was first diagnosed with HIV nearly 4 years ago in August, my nurse when trying to talk me off the ledge said, “HIV is a manageable condition like diabetes.” Oh in that case, sign me up. because diabetes always seemed like a trip to the tropics. Tahiti? No thanks! Who needs it when you have diabetes!

Also, let’s talk about this manageable word they like to throw around.Doctors are in essence are telling us that we are becoming managers of whatever our given affliction is. Correct me if I’m wrong but management seems like a lot of work. Whether you’re managing Mariah Carey or a McDonald’s, managers are some hardworking motherfuckers. As my own condition has recently caused me some health problems with a side order of fear ( I would have rather had onion rings, by the way), I have to get into gratitude. I am grateful that it’s treatable and that I have good doctors. I’m grateful for all the prayers and spiritual assistance. Yet I acknowledge that it sucks and that it’s hard. So here is where Stevie comes in.

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That song so beautifully talks about giving it away when you feel the absolute worst. I hope I can do that. I need to do that right now. Here’s my attempt to do so. If you have traumatic brain injury, manic depression, rheumatoid arthritis, bipolar disorder, suffered a stroke, are getting off drugs, have just lost a loved one, can’t get out of bed, tried to kill yourself, suffering from MS, learning to walk or speak again, trying to not pick upon a drink, living with HIV and yes diabetes; all I can say is I get it. As a bonus, I won’t tell  you what books to read or that my old English teach has whatever you’re dealing with.  All I can tell you is even if it is manageable, I know you hurt , that everyday is a battle to stay positive and healthy and that I am sorry. I hope you can laugh, I hope you do nice things for yourself and know that by fighting and managing everyday, you’re helping me and lot of other people. So has anybody ever written anything for you? I have.

And I hope you can do the same for someone else. As Stevie says, “If not for me, do it for the world.”

crabby

Maybe its the heat. Or the fires. Or the stress from all these doctors appointments. But today, despite my best efforts, I was crabby. Maybe even a little bitchy. And sort of crazy.

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A telltale sign that old Sean isn’t his shiny happy self is when I start yelling at inanimate objects and muttering to myself like the guy outside the soup kitchen who looks like Famous Amos and mumbles about conspiracy theories. So earlier today when I cussed out an ice cube tray and yelled at my phone charger, I knew I wasn’t in the best shape. I actually started wandering around my apartment,  bitching at no one or nothing in particular. This was not cute.  I was a Nick Nolte beard and handmade sign away from being totally batshit. Luckily, no human beings were harmed in my momentary lapse in mental health.

Mainly, my patience is shot and I feel totally and utterly overwhelmed. I wanted to wallow and sleep all day. But thanks largely to the criminal lack of chocolate in my apartment and a simmering feeling that I needed to get outside of my crabby-ass self, I went to a meeting. For 60 minutes, my crap melted away and seeing people I love and who love me back–crabbiness and all- healed my stank attitude, even if it was only temporary. This works for me over and over again. Hearing others hope and strength and courage suddenly makes whatever crabbiness and self-pity I’m going through seem ridiculous. But today something else happened too. People in my meeting who know what I’m going through came up and hugged me and asked if I needed anything.I felt like regardless of how awful my mood was I was going to get thru it.

These feelings of “kumbaya” faded after a phone call from my clinic which began, “I don’t mean to freak you out but…” Really? Who does that? Just FYI healthcare people of planet Earth: just by saying I don’t mean to freak you out, you’ve already done so. It wasn’t too big of a deal however and I’m going back in for a treatment that should help until I get my new meds. It just all seems like a lot right now. Oh crap. Suddenly, I’ve blogged myself from crabby to whiny.

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Before this turns into a therapy session, I’ll wrap it up. This is what I do know: I’m going to be fine. And not being happy all the time and pretending like everything is okay is actually pretty healthy for a chronic people pleaser like myself. Nobody promised me that if I got sober I’d never have another problem ever again. What they did promise me is that I’d have a life beyond my wildest dreams, that I’d never have to drink again and that amazing people would be part of my fellowship.  Crabby attitude and stressed out self aside, I know this to be true and the meeting I went to earlier confirmed it. In the meantime, I’ll work on my attitude.

 

some survive

As I listened to a beloved member of my fellowship share a heartbreaking story of his brother who committed suicide after decades of struggling to get sober, two things happened. First, the idiotic, self-involved stuff I was worried about  instantly melted away. Nothing like legitimate tragedy to put your “problems” in perspective.  And second, a thought that always hits me when I hear news like this came over me once again: “Joe.”

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Joe wasn’t my best friend in recovery. Joe wasn’t somebody I hung out with. In fact, Joe was actually someone I was kind of jealous of. Handsome, smart and with an incredible job Joe and his partner were the kind of gay couple in recovery us single losers wanted to be. But Joe and I did have two big things in common: the same home group and we both got sober on January 2nd 2009. When we picked up one year anniversary chips, Joe and I finally exchanged numbers and looked like we were moving towards becoming friends. Sadly, I never got to use his number. Joe and his partner relapsed and struggled to stay in the program. A few months later, Ken came home and found Joe dead in his bathtub. After struggling to get back into recovery, Joe couldn’t take it and like so many of us do, committed suicide. His death hit me like a ton of bricks. Here was a guy with my same sobriety date who seemed to have everything, dead in the blink of an eye. A shockwave of sadness flowed through our group and folks rallied around his heartbroken spouse. At the time, my grief manifested in wondering “Why Joe and not me?” I wondered for a long time why some us get to stay and keep being sober while others relapse and get taken out by this disease. It all seemed so senseless. Wasn’t just wanting it enough?

Three years since Joe’s death and two days since listening to my friend’s talk of heartbreak, I know that just wanting it for someone isn’t enough.They have to want and they have to want to do the work. And while we will never know for certain why some of us get to stay sober and stay alive, I like to think there’s a bigger reason. I put myself in dozens of crazy and dangerous situations and with lethal combinations of chemicals. I’m not sure why that stuff didn’t kill me. I’m equally puzzled as to why I chose to hang onto my life-preserver instead of relapse this go round.  But what I do know is since I’m here I owe it to Joe and to my friend’s brother and millions of others to make the most of everyday, to work hard on being less of jerk and to help as many people as I can. I think of it as life-preserver insurance.