A Post 4 Years in the Making

Today is really special and important and I hope you got me a gift. As of today, I’ve been blogging here at WordPress (with sporadic regularity) for four years! Woo-hoo! Let’s dance!

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Okay. Maybe it’s not that important but I’ll still take the gift. Blogging, for me, has been an amazing tool to journal my ongoing recovery, to get things off my mind and onto a page and a testing ground for other things I’m writing or working on. When I started blogging, I didn’t really know where it would go. As an obedient alcoholic, I did it all one post at time. At nearly 3 years of sobriety, my main goal was hanging onto what I had and this blog helped me do that. Through blogging, I met other people like me, some of which I even met in person and I was routinely greeted with a chorus “You Are Not Alone” in the comments section. This affirmation and the support of other bloggers helped me finish two full length plays, publish a short story and grow as a writer and human being. Thank you for that.

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Now, at almost 7 years my life, my writing and my recovery have changed. It’s gotten bigger and honestly, better. They told me when I was first getting sober that this would happen and they were right. I’ve got a few writing projects burning a hole in my brain for 2015 and I don’t know how much blogging I’ll do. But I hope to hang onto it and use it as an outlet to reach out to other peeps in recovery, to develop new ideas and to help ease my crazy brain– one post at a time.

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To celebrate four years at WordPress, here’s 4 of my favorite posts in no particular order. Thank you for giving a crap and Happy Holidays!

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time: Death defying acts! A good Jennifer Lopez Joke! Acid Wash! This post has it all.

Fear Itself: This post from earlier in the month was an exhale of the fear I was walking around with as well as my reflection on the times we’re living in. It was therapeutic to write so again, thank you.

That One Time At That One Meeting: My love letter to the program that saved my life and all the beautiful weirdos you meet there.

Am I Blue: This post from September 2014 makes this list because it was the first time I wrote about my ongoing relationship with depression and doing so was really helpful. Turns out, other people read it and identified too which is really fucking cool.

 

 

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!

baby, it’s crazy inside

According to my phone, it’s a balmy 16 degrees outside but it feels like 10 degrees which actually feels like, “Someone please stab me with an icicle because it’s so !@#$ing cold!” (By the way, how does my phone know what it feels like? Don’t you tell me how to feel, iPhone!) I am an absolute wimp when it comes to this weather. I know, I know. It’s weather. I mean talk about the ultimate in accepting the things you cannot change. Me bitching about the temperature is proof I sometimes just like to have something to complain about. Ugh. Complaining. A character defect I’m working on.

Anyway, this weather is actually a blessing though. After 15 years of living in the “Forever 85” temperature of Los Angeles, a little freezing my face off is good. It builds character. Because, you know, that’s what I need. More character. Also, acknowledging seasons is healthy for a sober person like my bad self because it confirms I’m alive and participating in my existence. In LA while drinking and living in “kinda hot” to “holy-shit-I’m-melting” hot, every day was the same. Same tequila. Same cocaine. Same blackouts. Same fights. Same hangovers. Rinse and repeat. It was a gayer and more depressing version of Groundhog Day. My life was in reruns, enjoyable maybe the first 10 times but boring, tiresome and toxic after that. Like old episodes of Full House.

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Today, I get to have new experiences and feel my whole life. But feeling all of my life today means feeling all of it. Crappy weather, depressing world events, grief, sadness, that-douche-with-bad-hair-running-for-President-whose-name-I-will-not-mutter-on-these-pages. I get to feel those things. But I also get to feel happiness too. After a recent bout of depression and general itchiness brought upon by my upcoming birthday, I was directed by my sponsor to pray and meditate more. If I’m honest, this task always sounds exhausting. Like I have to bust out a singing bowl, light 40 candles and sit for in perfect stillness for 2 hours. I mean isn’t there some app that can meditate for me so while I eat cookies and peruse Twitter?

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Still, I took the advice and started praying and meditating everyday. (Look, I know the internet gets it’s panties in a bunch when you talk about spirituality but I sort of don’t care. I’m not on a mission to convert anyone and I myself have no religious affiliation. Nevertheless, if me talking about prayer bugs you, feel free to leave. Or go read a post inspired by Madonna. These are your choices.) This time around, I eased myself into this sit down with God thing. For the last several days, I’ve set the timer on my phone for ten minutes. In that time, I pray, I read something alcoholism related not Jack Kerouac but maybe like The Big Book and I sit in silence and meditate. Pretty easy. Okay. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes I walk away and feel refreshed and spiritually in tune. But sometimes it sort of sucks. Like I can’t get my brain to shut the hell up and I squirm around and wait for the mystical chimes on my phone to go off so I go drink coffee instead. And this okay too. I used to beat myself up when this happened in early sobriety. Like I was doing this meditation thing wrong and someone would find out and kick me out of recovery. What I’ve learned talking to other crazy people people in recovery that this normal.  It’s not always going to be some scene from a Shirley MacLaine book. And a lot of time it is going to be a bit of slog. The point is I need to keep going regardless of how sucky the last time I prayed/meditated was.

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So far, I’ve felt results! And felt them pretty much right away. This is fantastic for my alcoholic self. I like fast results and I’d like them right now, thank you very much. The rattling I was feeling in my brain. The uncomfortable batshit craziness that screwed with my psyche. The overall I’m-gonna-cut-a-ho sensation I took with throughout the day? All gone. My crazy can be kept at bay if I do a few simple things. Prayer and meditation are part of that. Because of this tiny practice I feel actually happy and more relaxed. Not that stuff hasn’t come up because, trust me, it has but this practice helps me weather those things too. The moment I stop treating prayer and meditation like this impossible task, it gets easier. Just 10 minutes a day? I can do that. Twitter will still be there.

 

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.

 

 

 

Weird but okay

I guess I should warn you, I have no premeditated game plan sitting down and writing this morning so if shit gets weird, I apologize. Or maybe I don’t. Maybe you like it weird. In which case, you’re welcome, you big weirdo. Sometimes I feel like I just need to write without some clever witty destination in mind and I guess this Tuesday morning is one of those times. Currently, I have nothing to bitch about and for normal non-addicts, this is a good thing. But for weirdos like me(yeah, I’m one too) it makes me kinda itchy. I know it sounds insane. My life is fantastic. I’m on the other end of scary health trauma. My family is good. I mean nuts but good nuts. Like cashews not like I don’t know, Brazil nuts. I’m employed. I’m feeling creatively inspired. So yeah the fountain of things to whine about has run dry. I should be dancing in the streets.

Growing up in an alcoholic home and being a dramatic hot mess drunk myself, I have a lingering other-shoe-is-going-drop anxiety that simmers on my emotional stove even now after years of recovery. Calamity was a warm cozy comforter that I cuddled up with for a few decades so shaking it off isn’t exactly easy. Fountains, stoves, comforters. Jesus. What? Did I write this at Bed Bath and Beyond? Mixed metaphors aside, the point is I lived in crazy for so long that I frequently forget that I don’t anymore. At a few weeks shy of 7 years (in a row!!) of sobriety, I still need a lot of help remembering that everything is actually alright. Waking up in panic was something I did for years drinking and a habit I probably picked up long before that. Rolling out of bed and feeling like I was already doomed was a horrible way to live. Even in my first 2 years of sobriety, I’d still find myself waking up like that. All the things that they yammer about like prayer, meditation and gratitude lists have helped enormously with my ingrained “Holy shit. Everything sucks” programming. But it hasn’t happened over night. Even just the other day, I found myself chanting, “You are okay. Everything is okay” after a moment of panic.

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Thing is around this time of year, I am prone to moments of emotional PTSD. I bottomed out in the winter of 2009 and it was pretty darn gnarly. An eviction, a breakup and a bitch slap that my way of living was not fucking working was what I needed to get sober but I’d be lying if I said that don’t feel a little woozy every year when December rolls around. Total delusion and panic was my norm in those days. I specifically remember a meltdown in my bathroom just days before the shit hit the fan where my cocaine induced panic was so bad I felt like I was going to collapse. I am far enough away from this life that the memories can’t hurt me but they’re still powerful enough to rock my core. Which is probably a good thing. I mean if I ever start thinking, “It wasn’t so bad!” please come to my house and kick my ass. Because it was bad. It was bad enough to freak me out even 7 years later. And honestly, I’m grateful for that. The truth is I can weather emotional wooziness today, pray my way to my anniversary on January 2nd and wake up thankful that I’m no longer killing myself. Also, fuck if the other shoe drops. Let it and as long as I’m not making it drop, I’m okay. And you’re going to be okay too. Actually, you already are.

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Am I Blue?

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I’ve failed a lot tests in my nearly 42 years here on planet Earth. From the tests in the back of trashy magazines to the driver’s test (twice), I’ve never met a test I couldn’t fail. I’m not much of test taker. Drug taker? Yes. Tests? No, thanks. So it comes as no surprise that my recent depression screening was a bust too. Darn this program of honesty. Because of it I was forced to answer the questions truthfully and let my health care provider know that mentally I’ve been sort of blah lately. She then broke the news that really wasn’t news: I’m experiencing the symptoms of depression.

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Wait– since I tested positive for depression, maybe it’s a test I actually passed! There’s something to be happy about. Anyway, as I’ve talked about before, depression is one of the things I juggle and most of the time it’s manageable. I walk alot and that helps. I try to help people and that helps too. Writing, reading, meditation all help too. I’m not on meds of any kind and I’m whatever about meds. I’d prefer not to take them but I am on other meds that work so who the hell am I to say that they wouldn’t work either? People in recovery can get uppity sometimes about pills but honestly I’m solid enough with my program that it doesn’t freak me out. What we decided is that I’d up the exercise regime for 6 weeks and then we’d see if meds needed to be part of the story. The other thing she suggested is journalling. I suppressed a massive eye-roll on this idea. I mean I write but journalling on my feelings at first sounded like some serious bullshit. Like “Dear Depression Diary, today I find myself somewhere between this guy 

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and this guy

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But I got out of bed and didn’t cry so that’s good, right?”

As whacktacular as this diary sounded, I realized I do essentially what she suggested by writing this blog. Great. That’s something I can do that I enjoy. So I’ll be blogging more as well as journalling in a non-public format. After all, not all of my thoughts need to have lights put around them and turned into entertainment. I’ll even try with the exercise idea– ugh. Truly, the mere thought of it makes me exhausted.

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I mean can’t I burn calories and manufacture endorphins by watching cheesy witch tv shows and a eating ice cream? No? Well fine. I’ll walk more and maybe start doing yoga again. The great thing about getting sober is it’s made me incredibly open to suggestions from people who know more than I do. I have no medical degree and I got out of the expert business years ago, honey. Therefore I’ll try it. All of it.

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 In my own backyard and on the national stage, suicide and depression have taken a serious toll lately. It’s truly devastating and yet it’s been an alarm clock for me. These events have forced me to ask myself, “Where am I on my own depression? How am I really doing?” Hence how I ended up in the doctor’s office, passing the depression screening with flying colors. And yet the silver lining here is that there isn’t a silver lining. Meaning that by just allowing myself to feel whatever I’m going through and then asking for help is HUGE for this addict who avoided anything that looked icky or hard or too real. Today, there’s no need to dance around or ignore what’s going on and that alone is enough to bring a smile to my face.  

Swing From The Chandelier

A weird thing happened on the radio this summer– pop music got sober. Okay not all of it. But it’s hard to ignore one of the season’s most popular songs which talks about that special kind of self-destruction only we drunks and junkies can really understand. The song I’m talking about is Chandelier by Sia and to me it isn’t her faceless presence in the video that’s most fascinating. It’s the catchy lyrics and Sia herself’s story that I find utterly captivating.

The above video has a staggering 92 million views on YouTube and is without a doubt one of the most talked about music videos of the year. It’s an incredible visual interpretation of a song that’s nearly impossible to get out of your head. Having been a fan of Sia’s for many years, it’s the kind of arty, bizarre and entertaining video I’ve come to expect from her.

As interviews and details of the meaning behind Chandelier filtered through online press, my love for her and the song only got deeper. At first blush, you could consider lyrics like, ““I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier/ I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist, like it doesn’t exist,” to be part of a rebellious party anthem but the more you listen, the more heartbreaking the message really is. “But I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down, won’t open my eyes\Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight.”  I certainly identify with that sentiment. “Holding on for dear life” is something I did in my addiction for many years and leave it to a fellow addict to succinctly come up with the words to capture that misery and isolation so well. Although she shies away from the press, Sia has talked openly about her own alcoholism and addiction. “I was really unhappy being an artist. I was always a drinker but I didn’t know I was an alcoholic. Then I got seriously addicted to Vicodin and Oxycodone,” she told Billboard last year.  Sober since 2010, Sia’s life and career have totally turned around. Since then, she’s written hit songs for nearly everyone

and some even that quote what we hear in the land of recovery.

Sia told NPR that AA has helped her stay sober and become a better songwriter. “”I can sit while people cry,” she says. “I can stand when someone’s angry. Like, I don’t know. I’m fine around other people’s feelings. It doesn’t make me nervous or anxious. Probably because of the program. If you’re in an AA meeting, people are sharing. Sometimes there’s crying. Sometimes there’s feeling. And we’re just witnessing it.” Her new album, 1,000 Forms of Fear debuted at number 1 and Chandelier has been nominated for several MTV VMAs including “Video of the Year”.  Sia’s not the only one singing about recovery. Sure, addiction has long been fodder for really dramatic pop, country and rock songs. Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Pink, Eminem, Aerosmith, Trent Reznor and the Postal Service are just a few of the artists who’ve covered hitting bottom in song. But it does seem like there’s a new crop of recovery rock on the charts. Global smash hit, Habits (Stay High) by Tove Lo details an unhealthy coping methods of a young girl dealing with a breakup.

While the inescapable  I Wanna Get Better by Bleachers talks about changing old behaviors, if not specifically getting sober.

As a writer and creative person myself, sober success stories like Sia’s are important. Seeing people like her or Robert Downey Jr or Zak Efron or Anthony Hopkins or Stephen King continue to create and stay sober is incredibly inspiring. It tells me to keep going and that if I stay sober anything is possible. I need hope in the rooms and online but it’s amazing to hear it on the radio too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

follow me stereo jungle child

Somewhere in the ethos, somewhere in VHS tape Narnia. Somewhere in a Memorex/memory junkyard exists that videotape of me. No, not “videotape” in a Kim K. Ray J way. Mercifully, I never made a tape like that. Mainly because I could never think of why I’d want such an item. “Hey there’s nothing but reruns on. Good thing I have that old sex tape!”  Yikes. No, the tape I’m discussing is the filmed evidence of the  super weird, super gay, super crazy kid I’ve always been. On said tape, I can be found lip synching to Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper.  From what I remember, it’s a pretty entertaining performance. I was 11-years old and had studied Lauper’s every dance move and facial expression. For 80’s kids who worshipped at the church of MTV, lip synching skills and a repertoire of dance moves were essential skills and mine are on display in this tape. You’ll just have to take my word for it. I was spectacular.

Not spectacular in the same way the icon on display in the video above is but spectacularly a kid being 100% himself. Gay, weird, creative me dancing and lip synching and genuinely not giving a shit about what people thought about me. I danced to my own drummer and usually it was in my living room to  Cyndi or to this song

or this song

or this song

I didn’t need some dumb coffee cup to tell me to “dance like no one was watching.” I did it anyway. In fact, I danced, colored, played, lip synched with my whole heart, regardless of what people were watching. Simply put, I was free which is a powerful thing to type when you spent as many years as I did being alcohol’s bitch. But on that elusive video there it is evidence of my freedom and my spirit. Despite being knocked down, drugged out, battered and bruised, the free version of me was possible. The video proved it. So did the drawings, the glitter covered Christmas decorations, the crazy poems.

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While that tape may no longer exist, I’m happy to report that my freedom does. Recovery has truly helped me get it back. Right now, I’m in the middle of rewrites and finishing drafts on projects and remembering that kid filled with freedom is an important thing for me. Too often it’s that voice that says, “You are not good enough! Why bother!” that keeps me out of freedom and in total paralysis. I guess what I want to say on this rainy Wednesday is that my life is better when I remember to take care of that free crazy, authentic little being inside of me. He needs to be put on the dance and given permission to spin around.  So I hope you let your wild child dance today, even just for a little while. Remember what a wise woman once said, “All you need is your own imagination. So use it that’s what it’s for. Go inside, for your finest inspiration. Your dreams will open the door.”

 

 

 

 

Letting Wicked Stepmothers & Evil Queens Off the Hook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Viva La Revolution!

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“All books about all revolutions begin with a chapter that describes the decay of tottering authority or the misery and sufferings of the people. They should begin with a psychological chapter — one that shows how a harassed, terrified man suddenly breaks his terror, stops being afraid. This unusual process — sometimes accomplished in an instant, like a shock — demands to be illustrated. Man gets rid of fear and feels free. Without that, there would be no revolution.” – Ryszard Kapuscinski

Every year on this day, I want to pull the covers over my head. I want to acknowledge the date and its significance by not acknowledging it. I want to hide. I know that’s not the patriotic response or something that inspires a “Never Forget” truck mudflap or Toby Keith country song. But that’s me.  I find life to be ugly and hard and then I hide. Whether its September 11th or a random Thursday in March, fear of the world being real, sad or hard kept me under the covers (and in the bottle) for the better part of nearly two decades. While my drinking and drugging ended in 2009, fear still manages to slip in and cripple me. The above quote, however, got me thinking, what if the changes I seek in the world and in myself begin with finally telling fear to fuck off?

Seriously, fear. Suck it. I don’t think the lives lost are honored by me feeling afraid or by living in fear that it’ll happen again. Or by drowning my sorrows. The more I stare fear in the face, the closer my revolution gets to becoming a reality.  My revolution starts by writing this blog. Not that I have any delusions that my pictures of ponies and quips about reality shows will save lives but facing my truth and telling my story helps kick fear right in the crotch. My revolution continues by spreading the message to gays, lesbian and transgendered folk that they don’t have to live in bars and hate themselves. It’s not Westboro Baptist Church or the Mormons or the GOP that’s killing us, its self-hate and an incredibly high rate of fatality due to drugs and alcohol. Also, my own private revolution is committed to not living in shame about being in recovery, being HIV positive or being gay. Yeah it’s not a worldwide peace treaty but it is what I can do from my dining room table to maybe help somebody else going through the same thing.

Finally, my revolution needs to be fueled by love. Theres nothing more fear hates than love.  On a day where so many feel loss and heartache, actions motivated by love instead of fear are more powerful than any bumper sticker, flag or network TV report. Luckily, the incredibly human and flawed world I live in gives me ample opportunities to practice this. Again, the practice of love starts with this guy behind the keyboard. I’ve lived in fear about silly, stupid stuff lately and yesterday I had it. I was sick of making the conscious choice to feel afraid or doomed or that the planet was out to get me. It was as if I did as Kapuscinski said and got rid of my fear and felt free. I know this in an ongoing battle, this war against fear. And I know there will be times when fear wins. Nevertheless, it feels like a war I should keep fighting.