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.

 

 

 

your heart is a radio

Wait. We need this before we can start talking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

I Don’t Know Sh*t

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In the seaside town where I got sober, there was a different gay meeting every night of the week at various church basements, rec centers and the like. When I say it’s a ‘gay’ meeting I mean for LGBT folks but everybody was welcome. They didn’t check your musical theater knowledge at the door or anything, Typically, the same group of folks floated from meeting to meeting every week. During my first year, I went to all of those meetings almost weekly and that’s where I made some of my best friends on the planet. One member of our little nomadic gay sober tribe would share, week after week,”I don’t know shit!” First off, to be thrilled about not knowing anything was a weird concept to me. I always thought of myself as the slower, less brilliant member of the bunch so proudly saying it out loud was something I wouldn’t do. Secondly, I knew some things, didn’t I?

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Sure the basics I knew: name, age, where I was born. I won’t include height and weight because I lied about those things for so long it wasn’t until my first doctor’s appointment in sobriety that I knew the true numbers. Which were both disappointing and nowhere near what I had been telling people, by the way. But how to have healthy relationships? How to go to brunch without drinking? How to show up on time for things? How be honest? What I wanted to do with my life? All mysteries. So maybe my friend from the rooms whose drug combo platter of choice was “Crack & Jack” was right! Maybe I don’t know shit.

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There could be something to this not knowing thing. After all,  Socrates said “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” And he didn’t even go to a 12 step program or, to my knowledge, smoke crack.  Maybe being open to not knowing makes me willing to learn more? Or at the very least plants a seed of humility that perhaps I don’t have all the answers. How little I actually know was pounded into my head several times this week. I was certain I needed to do all of this stuff to get what I thought I needed. What I got instead was a series of “No, thank you”s. Turns out i didn’t know what I actually needed or wanted. These ‘nos’ became yeses. So this part-time job thing turned me down. It was a bummer.  Or was it? See, I also this week I got word that I’m teaching a series of workshops on creativity and writing! Wait, talking about what I love, helping other people get inspired and making a little money? Sign me up! This opportunity would have been hard to wrangle had I gotten the part-time gig.

So yeah. The moral of the story is I don’t know. I don’t the future. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what’s best for other people.  I don’t what’s gonna happen. And it’s fabulous. I trust the universe/God/something bigger than me has already set the best possible thing for me in motion. What’ll come next, how will everything turn out and what’s going to happen five years from now? Well, I’ll let magic 8 ball answer that:

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starting here, starting now

Something occurred to when I was sitting in a meeting. Well, two things actually. First of all, I’m craving waffles. Like plain old crispy, buttery waffles with the perfect amount of syrup. But not like fancy vegan gluten-free waffles. Because those don’t sound delicious. They just sound sad. And while I am a proponent of the waffle sandwich, earlier I just wanted a regular waffle. The second thing, and I promise it’s more thought-provoking, is this idea of things getting better. While I am a walking, talking show tune-singing testament to things getting better and I say this to people who are suffering all the time because I also believe it to be true, I think there’s more to it. What if things were already better? What if this mythical time when stuff improved was actually now?

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First of all, everyday that I don’t wake up with a head-pounding hangover and nasal passages clogged with blow is a good one. So if we’re talking comparatively, things are a billion times better. Period. I don’t want to die. I’m not getting kicked out of another apartment and I no longer throw items at the people I love. Success all the way around. This does not mean I’m not allowed to be ambitious or get disappointed or occasionally want to bitch slap someone. What it simply means is that if I’m happy with this moment or at least accepting the moment and grateful for what I do have, the rest of this existence is easier to deal with.

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Then I started realizing, while still not totally paying attention to the meeting but having moved passed the waffle obsession, that ‘it’ getting better isn’t the issue here. I’m the issue! Life, planet Earth, the nature of addiction, the fucked up state of our government- these are all things I cannot change. As much as I’d like our planet to be custom tailored to fit my crazy ass, it isn’t going to happen. I have to get better. More than that I can’t delay happiness or gratitude because things aren’t perfect. Pardon my French but fuck that. Waiting for the non-stop bus to Joy is a waste of time. I’ll walk there my damn self, thank you very much. There’s no reason why I can’t choose happiness right now.

How boring and small-minded to think that my happiness is so fragile that I have to portion in out for moments that are perfect. It’s not stuff or people or life that “makes” me happy or sad. I’m the only one who can embrace happiness and I’m also the only one who can tell it to go screw itself. Things are good. Life is good. And it has been all along. Whether I can see it and enjoy it, that’s up to me. So if you are struggling, feel free to punch me when I sincerely say, “It’ll get better.” And by “it” please know that I mean, you. You will get better.

death-defying balancing acts

At about 13 months sober, a teacher in a yoga class in Venice told me, “You have great balance.” With my butt high in the air and sweat pouring down my face, I think I murmured a muffled “thanks.” This was an odd thing to hear and something I certainly didn’t believe. To me, “balance” was always was one those hard to define and impossible to achieve words like “honesty” and “moderation”.

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When you live with a twisted all-you-can snort/swig/suck attitude, balance seems counter-intuitive. I never had “extra wine” or a “fully stocked bar” or “drugs from the night before.”The fact that anybody would, boggled my mind. Leftover drugs and alcohol? It’s not Thanksgiving. Aside from my own system, I couldn’t begin to imagine where one would store such a thing.   Wonder if Tupperware makes a container for half-used baggies of cocaine? At my core, I am a person who likes to eat a whole box of cookies, watch an entire season of a cable show on Netflix and play 14 hours of words with friends in one sitting. Which is to say, I’m an addict, through and through. These days in sobriety, I try to achieve what that instructor, in the teal tanktop who also led us in a sacred Iroquois chant (again, Venice), called “balance.”

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Last week, I worked my face off, went to five meetings, helped some other people who have what I have, cleaned my house and made it to doctor’s appointments. Oh and produced a live show. Cat wrangled 8 actors, picked up last-minute props, talked confused patrons off a ledge and all the other things that go into theater. But here’s the thing- I wasn’t stressed out. Go figure that when you delete liquor and drugs from your playlist, life is suddenly less chaotic. Everything got done and I was really happy. Of course by Saturday morning I was bitch slapped with the realization that I had a lot more stuff to do including marketing myself for new gigs, applying for part-time stuff, organizing a new series of writing workshops and handling my various and assorted diseases and responsibilities. I had a momentary feeling of panic like I was going to slip off the balance beam, crashing head first into an unbalanced hell my new agey teacher would not approve of.

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Not knowing the proper ancient indigenous ritual most effective for calming a bitch down, I relied on my own rituals. I prayed I meditated. I read. I drank a little more coffee. I had breakfast. And then I took care of that list I was sure was going derail my existence. Bigger than that, it felt amazing to look at things that scared me and not run away from them. I when I realized none of it was a big of a deal, I took a deep breath and just skipped happily across that highwire.

Friends, you tell me, how do you keep your life in balance? What is this balance thing anyway? Educate me in the comments section, please!

Nothing More Than Feelings

“Just because you’re feeling it doesn’t mean that it’s the truth or that it even matters,” he told me at a few months sober. Basically, this friend of mine was telling me, whatever it was that I was feeling, it wasn’t a big fucking deal. Clearly, he didn’t know what I was going through. Because everything I’ve ever felt is a big fucking deal, thank you very much.

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In those early days of recovery, feelings raged bubbled up inside of me like hot lava and I couldn’t control where they spewed or what they destroyed. All I knew is after not feeling anything for decades, I was now in the middle of an emotional natural disaster.  There was never a middle ground with me and emotions. I either ignored my emotions or I let my emotions rule my life. Both ways were totally out of control ways to live. If I ignored whatever it was I feeling, eventually my insides would start to ache and I’d need something to take the edge off. A bucket of blow and a kiddie pool full of tequila usually did the trick. If however, I let my emotions drive the bus, I was in for a wild and unpredictable ride and so were the poor folks I dragged onboard.  I felt like people were out to get me. I felt like I need to control the way people reacted. I felt like I needed to be happy so I concocted bullshit stories to help sell this lie. I felt, I felt, I felt and it all felt crazy and therefore a drink would help fix this way of living too.

When emotions take over in sobriety, that is when things get tricky. The drama of feeling depressed, angry, victimized or heartbroken is another drug entirely for me. Something in my addict mind tries to convince me that if my life is hard or bad than I have a reason to check out. “He hasn’t left his bed in days but can you blame him?” is what I hope people will say. In reality, people don’t care if I feel good or bad. People, just like me, are too wrapped in thinking about themselves to give two shits about my mental state. My emotions and what I feel have turned out to be what that friend said they were: not a big deal. In this no-big-dealness, I just get to feel whatever it is I’m going through. The good, the bad, the unfabulous. I feel it, I acknowledge it and I move on. And sometimes I feel crappy for a while and this is okay too.

As I talked about in the post below, my life hasn’t been easy lately. I had nine days solid of a lot of drama of the boring professional nature. While disheartening and annoying, it has proven to be just that. I’m lucky that my health is good, that I get paid to do what I love and that my husband has my back no matter what. Mainly, I don’t drink when shit is uncomfortable or when feelings do show up. Today, I get say when somebody asks, “I feel like shit.” And I get to say that with no remorse or drama attached. I say how I’m feeling now because it isn’t a big deal but ignoring it is.

 

Stay.

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“I’m so happy you’re here. Now, STAY!”the lady with a billion years of sobriety told me on January 2nd. Stay. Of all the heartfelt things people said to me after the meeting the recent afternoon wherein I picked up a chip celebrating 4 years of sobriety, “stay” was the most profound. Just typing that makes my eyes well up and my chest feel heavy. We tell our furry friends like that handsome devil pictured above to stay because we don’t want them to run off and because we want them to stick around and not get hurt. There was time I would have thought getting such a command would have been insulting. Now being told to “stay” sounds like something honorable indeed.

Simple to say or write down, to “stay” sober or in recovery is far from easy. I want to stay at the bar or stay miserable but stay and get better? That sounds really tough. Yet somehow that is exactly what happened. I’m not sure why I’ve stayed in recovery. Probably because I was finally in enough pain to stick around and see if I could get help. By nature, I am vanishing act which is to say I have always sought and found ways to disappear. Whether it was hiding under the stairs in a secret room in my grandparent’s house, concealing notes from creditor’s in junk drawers  or cramming ecstasy down my throat, I am a master of not being here and not dealing. Staying and being present in the sober world, frankly, sucks sometimes. Not having the option to check out means I have to really experience life’s most horrible, most boring and most uncomfortable moments; straight up and with no chaser.

The kicker is that by staying and being able to walk amongst the living not stinking like a tequila processing plant is that I also get the good stuff too. I recently sat in auditions for the new show I have opening this spring trying to jump out of my skin with excitement. Here were these ridiculously talented performers saying my stupid words and making the whole thing sound just amazing and sitting next to me was my brilliant husband. How did this happen to the former waiter who was trying to drink and snort himself off the planet a mere 4 years ago? I guess the not surprising and maybe not incredibly deep answer is: I stayed. I kept trying. I kept making mistakes. From couch surfing and chicken sitting to HIV clinics and detox meetings, I stayed. Most incredibly, no matter what shitty news came my way, I stayed sober and never picked up. Again, I’m not sure how a lifelong hider transformed into a stayer, but I’m glad I did.

Speaking of staying, this blog is staying put too. I took sometime off to wear my increasingly large and all-encompassing playwright hat but I’m back and it feels good. I have lots of fun stuff happening in 2013 including a new ebook, an essay collection, multiple theater offerings and lots more blogging. In closing, I’m terrible at advice and never follow it in my own life until its too late but I will say this: If you’re going through something difficult and want to run the opposite direction, trying staying right where you are first. Because as it was said to me and I mean this “I’m glad you are here. Now STAY!”

High Resolutions

New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Day. New Year’s Resolutions. Barf and double barf to the whole lot. Especially New Years Resolutions. What sick, self-hating soul came up with New Year’s Resolutions? What kind of sadistic freak would set themselves up for an entire year of guilt for not following through on the unrealistic, pie in the sky promises they made to themselves? Surely it had to be someone Catholic.

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Now, I make no bones about my general distaste for New Years. In fact, if this was one of those claymation specials from the 1960s, I would definitely be the evil character who twirls his mustache and bursts into a catchy tune which would outline my diabolical plan to cancel New Years– forever! Cue the evil laughter, sobbing children and sad animals.

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It’s a drunk persons holiday and maybe I’m just a bitter ex-drunk person so that’s why I’m anti-New years . Maybe it’s because the holiday falls right on the joyous time of year wherein I hit rock bottom and it brings up awful memories  Maybe I’m simply a cranky old queen who needs something to dislike and since I now understand the appeal of both Carly Rae Jepsen and American Horror Story, New Years is my new favorite thing to hate. Whatever the case may be, I’m not a fan. As a failed “This time for sure!” relapser who promised himself that 1990-fill in the blank and 2000-whatever would be the year(s) that he finally stopped smoking, doing drugs, drinking and lying and generally being a delusional dipshit, resolutions really churn my stomach.

For years, I thought I needed to go hiking more or do more yoga or journal more to fix myself. Yeah. The only problem with those plans is that hiking, yoga and journaling are really hard to do when you wake up 7 days a week with a hangover hand-delivered from Satan himself. I learned over and over again that having the resolve or the good intention or even seeing the right “Live Your Best Life” segment on Oprah were not enough. It was going to take something major if I wanted my life to really change and get better. So on January 2nd, 2009 I made a promise to myself. But a different one. I promised I’d actually try and do whatever it took to stay sober. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I thought I wouldn’t make it. Never drinking after work? Never drinking at lunch? Never drinking period? These were hard promises to keep especially for a guy who couldn’t even finish the Alchemist or never watched all of The Secret. Against the not-so-great odds, I kept this promise. Not because I’m remarkable or some kind of will power ninja. All I did was ask for help and change everything.

Incredibly, this is my fourth New Year’s without a hangover. I sit here on my couch after an early morning shift volunteering helping other drunken disasters. My cat and I watched the sun come up. I’ve even changed my mind about New Year’s Eve a little too. I spent mine with my husband watching a Face Off marathon and eating German Chocolate cake as the fireworks from downtown exploded outside our window.  I even make tiny one-day at a time type of resolutions too. But they’re not about depriving myself or beating myself up. I like to resolve to do more of what I already love. Like more reading. More long walks. More learning. More  trying of things I’ve always been afraid to try. More love and less fear. More recovery. More writing. More change. More art and theatre. More happiness. More of you guys and your brilliant thoughts.

So in that spirit, what good stuff do want to cultivate more of in 2013? Inspire me in the comments section below. And I mean this when I say it, Happy New Year!

minutes & moments matter

“It’s like you’re giving birth to a big sober baby!” a friend of mine told me when I was about to celebrate nine months of sobriety back in October 2009. I laughed at her metaphor but it was kind of true. Whatever was growing inside of me was not the same hopeless drugged-out, eternally hung over monster that I was before. The longest I had ever gone since the age of 20 was five months. At  age 36, 9 months seemed like an impossibility. You don’t see that chip handed out at meetings very much and based on my own hellish days in early sobriety, I understood why. At seven months, I received my HIV-positive diagnosis, had a cyst yanked out of my face by the thorough yet sadistic Dr. Wong, attempted to piece back together my life after leaving a long-term relationship and basically tried daily not to drink or kill myself. Just getting to 9 months was like winning a race. Even though I knew I hadn’t graduated, the fact I made to that moment, really meant something.

It is strange that the life of a drunk, so free of schedules and oblivious to the concept of timing, suddenly becomes sensitive to every second when they stop drinking. Personally, I clung to tiny  little glimpses of joy as proof perhaps this hell wasn’t going to last forever. I collected happy minutes and hours, reflecting on them, leaning on them when times got dark. Coloring with my nieces, devouring big slices of pizza on beach by myself, random laughter with friends in recovery-  kept the lights on and kept me going. In Southern California, recovery milestones are met with lots of clapping, sometimes singing and cake. In the beginning I rolled my eyes and snickered at this stuff. After a few months, I found myself singing, clapping and even crying like my life depended on it.

Currently, I have people in my life counting days and collecting moments. Restarting sober lives, waiting for difficulties to pass, changing for the first time, learning to live without someone. Seems to be going around. And thank God.  Hope, for me, exists largely in the human capacity for change. Also, watching others hang onto moments and minutes forces me to be grateful for my own. Mainly, it gives me the strength to keep growing and changing too. Fears and difficult stuff didn’t vanish in a puff of glitter just because I stopped being a drunken dipshit. Quite the contrary. But if I try to love this moment and be thankful for the happy minutes, it’s amazing how much easier it all seems.

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.