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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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.”

 

 

 

 

12 Days of Blogmas: Unmemories

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Hello! The above photo of moi features a typical expression of “huh?’ although the mouse lady and Santa were not the typical companions. Anyway we’re back with the 12 Days of Blogmas and truth be told I don’t remember the above brunch with Santa and his rodent gal pal. Truth is there is a lot I don’t remember. And that’s what today’s trip down blog lane is all about.

I wrote Unmemories, Like the Corners of My Mind last February. It started out to be sort of a humorous tribute to all the things I didn’t remember due to blackouts caused by drinking. I had an idea of writing an un-memoir. I explained the contents of my unmemoir like this:

” My unmemoir would have lots of half stories. Beginnings or just endings. Rarely would the middle of the story show up,” I wrote. “Mainly because in the middle of the action is where I would totally blackout. It became normal, for years at a time, for people to say to me matter of fact, ‘You probably don’t remember. You were really drunk.’ Like it was some kind of acceptable handicap. Like being a blackout drunk excused me from acting like a human being. But really being a blackout drunk doesn’t get you a special parking space and doesn’t entitle you to a telethon. The only perk is that people will let you off the hook for  not remembering things and quietly pity you.”

The post turned out to be heavier than I had intended. Really looking at what drinking did to me and then writing about it was personally a game-changing experience for doing this blog. This post stared back at me in black and white with the truth. Not a pretty truth but one just the same. It became a goal of mine to hit that mark whenever I could. And I’m thrilled to say, as a writer, I feel like I have, a couple of times over the last year.

So friends, take a gander at Unmemories, Like the Corner of My Mind on this 7th Day of Blogmas if you feel so inclined. If,perhaps, you’re in the mood something more festive, my new short story A Tough Cookie Christmas is out now on SmashWords.com!

While we’re talking memories, how about you share some of your favorites from 2012 in the comments section below? 

 

hotmail, hot mess.

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

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

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

omg(od)

I don’t know how to talk about God. Mainly because there seems like two options: either crazy town, evangelical nutjob or equally as whacked out new age mumbo-jumbo. I want to talk about God though. Not because I want to convert anyone or because I want to prove to the world how remarkable my faith is. It’s just a really interesting relationship. I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk and write about God for about a week. I even pondered it on Twitter. Because if you’re gonna delve into life’s complex topics it’s best to do it on the same platform where stars from Jersey Shore share what they had for lunch. In 140 characters or less, naturally. As usual, my “unique problem” with God isn’t so unique and there’s even a study to prove it.

Last week this headline caught my eye- “Critical Thinkers Less Likely to Believe in God.” Being critcial and sarcastic myself, I couldn’t help snarking, “Nooooo! Reallly?!?” New research shows that, yes, smart-ass, people who like us who love knowing all the facts aren’t too big on drinking the God Kool-Aid. “Most of the people who have ever lived believe in a religion of some kind,” says Will Gervais, the author of the paper and a doctoral student at the University of British Columbia in an interview with US News and World Report. “But there are nearly half a billion nonbelievers. We’re trying to understand what leads some people to believe and other people to disbelieve.” The study put participants through a series of exercises, like surveys and critical thinking drills. Through the scientific yammering all they came up with was, in essence, people who need to believe in God do and people who don’t need to, well, don’t. Here’s where my God stuff comes in and where I tie back into what I opened with (I know. It’s about fucking time.) Maybe I’m still a little like those smarty pant non-believers. Maybe I still have moments where I think I’m too cool for school when it comes to God. And I definitely don’t think religion is the thing for me. I’m not a joiner, says the active 12-step member. Me and God we’ve got our own thing going own. I don’t feel the need to hang out with God and a bunch of people in hats on a Sunday to prove I have faith.

So why the hell, if I’m a little like those survey people, do I want to talk about God so darn bad? Because I need to. Believing in something else saved my life. Asking a power bigger than me to take my problems continues to save my life. I’ve been so supremely fucked so many times that nothing could get me out of it but somehow I’m still here. And it wasn’t because of any of my big ideas. Regular readers of this blog know that most of my big ideas are pretty cray-cray. The fact is that I’ve dodged too many bullets to not believe in God. Or at the very least “The Universe”. I guess the main reason I wanted to talk about God is this- maybe I’ll never know what to say or how to define my relationship or receive any “Mega Believer” plaque in the mail. But all I can tell you is in this era of “we hate everything” and “we’re suspicious of everyone” perhaps it’s really badass to believe in God. Or something. And maybe it’s punk rock to have faith and it takes balls to pray. It’s chickenshit to hate everything and trash talk everyone. You have to have real guts to just  believe that everything is going to be okay. And truly believe it. Yeah I guess I just wanted to say if you are one of those believing types, I think it’s okay. More than okay. I think it’s amazing. And don’t worry, I won’t make you talk about God. You don’t have to. I totally get it.

Two Doors Down, They’re Laughing and Drinking and Having a Party

The poetess, prophetess and all around goddess Dolly Parton once sang those words in the headline. And last night, two doors down, they were actually having a party. Unlike the lyrics in Miss Parton’s song however, I was not “crying my heart out and feeling sorry.” I was just annoyed. I mean hi. It was a Tuesday. Like who parties and gets loud on a week night? Oh yeah. Right. Never mind.

After I removed the stick out of my ass, realized it was only 9pm, and laughed with the husband about wanting to move, I calmed down. I figured I kept hundreds of neighbors awake with my drunken shenanigans the least I could do is let our usually quiet neighbors off the hook. Unlike my exploits, they wrapped it up early, clearly out of consideration for those around them. Again, not how I used to party.

When I first got sober and I was living by the beach, I would go outside for a cigarette and always hear some kind of function or party. It was that kind of barbecue, drink wine all night sort of Southern Californian neighborhood. Sadly, I was no longer on the guest list for those sorts of get togethers.  I felt terribly alone those first few months. I left all of my drinking buddies on the East side and hadn’t met many people. Hearing people have fun or looking at pictures on Facebook of my old friends sipping margaritas on a patio made me feel like everybody was having more fun than I was. When I told my sponsor this he said, “That’s because they are having more fun than you are.” He was right. Getting sober and breaking up with my partner of 12 years wasn’t supposed to be fun. But did it mean I was never going to have fun now that I got sober? Hell no.

First of all, I truly believe that fun is subjective. Sure drinking for me was under the guise of “fun” but it never really was that much fun. Unless blackouts and throwing shoes at people is your idea of a party. I wanted to have fun and wanted to be lively and loved and the life of the party. For a few minutes I was but after awhile, the blacking out and shoe throwing would commence. I guess I didn’t really know how to have a good time even though I was always looking for one. And you will never hear me say in a meeting, “sobriety can be fun!’ because sobriety itself isn’t supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to save my life and that life can be filled with fun. But I got sober so I could be happy so that meant I had to find fun in different things. I sort of returned to what I thought of as fun as a kid– going to the movies, petting dogs, roller skating, coloring with my niece. And then there was the new fun in things like always knowing where my phone was or waking up without anxiety. I’ve gone dancing and been to parties and seen concerts sober and it’s all been a good time. Do I have to do those things to make myself seem a fun person? Again, hell no. I’m not terribly interested (anymore) in if anyone thinks I’m boring.

Today, fun for me looks like taking a walk to get an ice cream cone or decorating cookies with my other niece or spending all day at the bookstore with my husband. But let’s hear from you– what’s your idea of fun and how has it changed since you got sober?