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.

5 Things That Remind Me I’m Still An Alcoholic

5.) I still drink everything to the last drop: Recently, I guzzled down a glass of ice tea as if it was the last beverage on Earth.  I even sucked the tea out of the ice cubes like I was an anteater. The thing is: it wasn’t very good ice tea. In fact, it was horrible ass-brewed ice tea that tasted like a Glade Air Freshener. Didn’t matter. And doesn’t matter if it’s coffee, flat diet Mountain Dew or a thick chocolate shake, I gulp everything down like it’s a tequila shot. And regardless of what it is, I want more. (Duh)

4.) I still don’t know how to do ‘Happy Hour’: Or perhaps I should say my Happy Hour in SeanLand never lasted an hour and never wound up too happy. I never had that one after work drink over chicken wings with the gals from accounting. Happy Hour to me meant I had 6 two-for-one margaritas and the blackout walk home just happened earlier in the day than usual. Like I said, I don’t get it. Likewise you won’t find me in Vegas or at Mardi Gras or Oktoberfest. Thems drinkin’ places and without booze I fail to see the point.

3.) I still wake up in Saturday with a little dread: Altough I’ve been sober for a few years, a part of me still wakes up with that momentary “What the hell did I do” feeling on Saturday mornings. It passes faster these days mainly because my life is boring (and in a good way). It’s nice not welcoming in the weekend wondering what the fuck I said or sent in a text or did the night before. People who haven’t “cussed a bitch out” in a drunken haze rarely experience this kind of humiliation and good for them! I wish I was one of them but I’m not. I’m the guy who drinks and then yells at you. Charmed, I’m sure!

2.) I read stories about Lindsay Lohan and Mel Gibson and I identify: No really. Aside from that whole being a child star thing or being a crazy racist thing, I totally get these two. Love it or hate it: I know that we suffer from the same shit. Normal folk, on the other hand, read tales of their drunken terrors and shake their heads. I read that stuff and think, “Oh my god! Me too!”

1.) I don’t understand the concept of “Just one”: This sounds stupid because of how simple it is but hear me out. I was sitting with my husband a year ago and he had half of a glass of wine. And it just sat there. On further far and few between instances with alcohol, he would just have one drink. Or rather he could have just one drink. Fascinating! When I saw him do this the first time, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “There’s something I could never do!” And that’s the point! I was always looking for some concrete, absolute evidence of proof positive that I am in fact an alcoholic. And since AA doesn’t send you a plaque or a special sticker for your windshield, this was my proof. Yes there were thousands of other flaming signs that pointed to my alcoholism. But in the simplest of terms, when it comes to drinking alcohol I just can’t stop.

So there you go! My first listy type of blog! Did you enjoy it?  Clearly, there are others and maybe we could add to the list. Also, it should be noted these are just my ways of remembering that I’m an alcoholic and by no means a definitive list for others questioning if they are or aren’t touched by this special condition.  In the end, it doesn’t matter how I remember, I’m just happy that I do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That Story I Don’t Want to Tell

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

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

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

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