What Can You Lose?

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What can happen in 30 minutes? Turns out, a lot of things. A pizza can be delivered. A commute can be completed. A sitcom can be ingested. A meal with Rachael Ray can magically come together. Some highly-touted, super efficient workout can be finished. And a brilliant blog post can appear like a glittering Pegasus from the sky. Or that’s at least what I’m hoping will happen in the next 30 minutes. It’s helpful for me to think of it like this. Like if a whole pizza can be ordered, made and delivered in 30 minutes, surely I can vomit out some thoughts on a page, no? Yet it’s funny how paralyzing just the mere thought of doing something, hell, anything, can be for me. Like, “Wash those three plates AND put them in the dishwasher? What is this? Some kind of internment camp?” The sheer force of my Jedi-strength complacency can really make the idea of doing things really sound impossible.

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But 30 puny little minutes? I can do that. And maybe that’s the secret to stuff and by ‘stuff’ I mean success. I don’t know why just writing that word, success, makes me squirm a little but yes, success. And not necessarily in a I’m totally buff and make 7 figures a year kind of way (which I’d be totally down for if I could achieve those things by eating brownies and watching Netflix) but in a I’m satisfied and happy with my life kind of way. On some cellular level, I know that this is true. I wrote two full length plays both of which enjoyed happy, packed runs and I’ve also written dozens of short plays, a slew of articles, a spattering of short stories and some other stuff. And none of it has happened in a single sitting. Thank god. Can you imagine? “Honey, I’m gonna go sit down and write a script. See you in four days.” No, all of it has been quilted together minute by minute, a page at a time and over the course of several days. I do, however, do better with deadlines, as the additional terror tends to bring out the best in me but even then I know that the bulk of the work comes together in itty, bitty chunks. The toughest part of anything that looks like work, for me, has to be conquered with my attitude before I get started. If I don’t immediately reject the thought of doing something, anything, progress might just be possible.

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I recently shared with my sponsor that I was afraid of success. He pointed out to me that I was in a happy successful relationship, that I had successfully stayed sober for the last 7 years and that I had a roof over my head and jobs which regularly paid me. He was gently trying to pound into my head that I was, in fact, already successful. Moreover, all of this success had happened in little increments. And so, why couldn’t even more success happen in the same way? There’s no reason and as usual the only getting the way was me and my old nemesis fear.

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All this brings me to the title of this post which also happens to be a Sondheim song which Madonna sings in Dick Tracy (it all always leads back to Madonna. Duh.) But yeah, what can I lose? So I lose 30 minutes writing a post that maybe no one will read? Big deal. Or I try something and it doesn’t work out? Okay. Or I submit pieces and people say, “Sorry. Not interested.” Fine. But I at least did it. If I can shut fear up and just keep moving, even for 30 minutes, who knows what can happen? This is all on my mind today because I’m toying with pitching new ideas and putting myself out there creatively in different frightening ways. I guess it’s scary but no scarier than quitting drinking or leaving a relationship or standing up for myself in professional situations– and I’ve done all of those things already. So what can you lose?  30 minutes later, I still can’t come up with anything and that might just be my answer.

 

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cat hugs, drag queens & everything in between

Today’s question: If a sad tree weeps in the forest do the other trees go and get chocolate?sad tree.jpg

I ask because on Friday, I was a sad tree. Maybe sad is the wrong word. There’s some legitimately sad people in this world who have earned their sadness. On the Syrian orphan scale of sadness, I didn’t even register. No, I was just kind of ‘blah.’ I woke up blah. The things around me felt blah. Projects I’d been ticking away on suddenly felt blah. I just felt down which morphed into being vaguely (okay, totally) annoyed with most things and people around me. In other words, I was a delight. I have,however, acquired enough emotional intelligence to know that when I feel like this, I’m usually just tired and I need to go away. Like far away from human contact where I won’t say or do horrible things I need to clean up later. It had been a weird Friday and my tiredness was squishing it all up and making it even more irritating. Earlier in the day, I had gotten “one of those phone calls.” See, if you’re in recovery and around addicts and alcoholics, you get to see people whose lives were in shambles and now have totally transformed. But other times, you get “one of those phone calls.”These calls usually involve someone who has relapsed or died because of the disease of alcohol or addiction. On Friday, I got one of these phone calls. It was a relative of someone in my sober family and it sucked. And it always sucks. It never stops sucking, as a matter of fact. You’re heartbroken but also really grateful that you are not in that place and that you have tools to keep you out of that place. But that takes awhile. And the feeling of devastation never really goes away. Compacted with the general blahness that my Friday was already flavored with, I was pretty over it. It was days like this that reminded me that I should maybe start seeing a therapist again. But given the late hour in the day, I was lucky to at least have this goofball waiting at home.

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Look, my love for my cats and for Larry in particular is well chronicled on the internet. And I straight up don’t care. You don’t have to search far to find oodles of studies that say living with an animal can help with mild depression and as person with mild or sometimes  even spicy depression, I can attest to this. Animals are just a fuck ton cooler than people. They don’t want to hear your life story. They aren’t judging the crazy outfit you put together. They just want to hang out. Now, being the big animal weirdo that I am, I’m convinced they know when you aren’t okay. Like last year when I had the 10 week party known as pneumonia, our two little muffins, Maeby and Larry followed me around the house like doting nurses. Promptly showing up for every nap time and popping by for soup and terrible daytime tv on the sofa. So like clockwork on Friday, these two were there. During my “Thank God It’s Over” Friday afternoon nap, Larry stretched his lanky long legs across my belly while resting his head on my chest. True, he probably just thought I looked like a good pillow but I like to think of these as cat hugs. I refuse to see it any other way, actually. It feels deliberate and intentional or that is how my crazy ass has interpreted it, and so it’s a cat hug. End of discussion. He purred melodically and wouldn’t let me roll over and I leaned into it. Moreover, I needed it.

Post nap time, I watched some weird ass PBS news thing, as dictated more by my status as an older, liberal gay man than an actual desire. I grilled some amazing eggplant, ate said eggplant along with roasted red peppers and couscous and watched more unmemorable television. Soon, however, the husband showed up. He was at a post-work drinks kind of thing and didn’t get home until much later. But it wasn’t too late for drag queens. Like clockwork and like my cats, the television oeuvre of RuPaul was here to save the day.

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As the planet of pop culture knows already, RuPaul and several seasons of drag queen television fierceness have made the world a better place. Endlessly creative, completely glamorous, instantly quotable and hilarious, surprisingly inclusive and highly addictive, RuPaul’s Drag Race is, as the Washington Post recently said, not just a tv show but a movement.  The latest incarnation of the show, All Stars 2 pits former season favorites against one another for a shot at $100,000 while camping it up, posing and lip synching along the way. RuPaul’s Drag Race premiered the year I got sober so it’s always been a touchstone of joy and inspiration for me.  It’s one of the handful of television shows that always lifts me up (even the seasons that aren’t so good, cough, cough season 7, cough,cough.) This latest drag queen battle royale doesn’t disappoint. Filled with big twists, big lips and bigger personalities, it’s all the things you want to order off the Drag Race menu in one place.

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Also incredibly helpful? Marrying someone who cares when you feel blah. It’s a whole new grown up world for me to be married and say, “Today I felt like shit” and to have that person genuinely say, “I’m sorry.” Sounds simple, I suppose but for an emotional kindergartener like myself, it’s major. In fact, just being present for blah days is major. Not that long ago, the minute something felt real or sad or blah, I’d douse it in alcohol so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

All of this brings us back to the random question at the top of the post and the answer is maybe. Maybe other people will bring you chocolate when you feel blah or maybe not. Maybe you gotta get yo own damn chocolate. Or maybe if you’re like me, you just get to go home. You get to lay down and feel embraced, by felines or friends or family or drag queens or maybe even something you can’t see. Because the real gift is you get to feel terrible, know it’ll pass and know that you’ll have help along the way.

 

Psst! If you’re looking for something to cheer you up, why not try the newest epsiode of Sloshed Cinema here?

 

Sobriety Stereotypes ‘Smashed’

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Ye old timey idea of what alcoholics and addicts look like can certainly be reinforced in the world of film. The white guy with the great career and beautiful wife who drinks it all away has become a trope of sorts, wheeled out by every actor from Ray Milland to Jack Lemmon to Michael Keaton and beyond.Short of beat up porkpie hat, a jug of wine and a mangy dog,  we know this sadsack drunken character the second we see him. However, in the hands of talented storytellers, films about drunks and addicts can be incredibly relatable, compelling and even entertaining. Which thank god because if they weren’t it would make doing my podcast, Sloshed Cinema excruciating. The amazing thing is that I’ve been exposed to a wealth of movies about addiction and alcoholism. Some terrific, some not so terrific and some just fucking weird. My mission for season 2 (currently available on Soundcloud & iTunes!) was a simple one: think outside of the box. Sure, there’s the classics that everybody knows and talks about. They’re classics for a reason. I’ve even done shows on some of them. But I really wanted to have different films or maybe forgotten movies that immediately didn’t pop into your mind. I also wanted to challenge myself and watch things I hadn’t seen before. Smashed,episode two’s film, topped that list for sure. It seemed, on an intuitive level, like the kind of thing I’d enjoy even though I didn’t really know much about it. Well, score one for intuition because I was right.

The film, a Sundance hit back in 2012, Smashed tells the story of Kate and Charlie Hannah (played with excellence by MAry Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul). They seem fun, hip, cool, like the kind of couple you’d want to hang with and have a few beers with. They’re two twentysomething LA kids. He’s kind of an unemployed maybe musician with wealthy parents and she’s a teacher in an elementary school. Nice as they may seem, we pretty much know right away that these two like to drink. A lot. When super-hungover Kate barfs in front of her class early in the film, you get the picture that maybe her current lifestyle isn’t exactly a healthy one. This vomiting sets in motion a big time lie to her boss as well as a series of comedic but sad misunderstandings. Oh and like it usually does, Kate’s drinking gets worse. Capped off by a crack smoking caper in downtown Los Angeles, some Lochte-style urinating on a liquor store floor and messy drunk sex Kate decides to sober. Here’s where the central conflict of the film shows up: can you get sober when your spouse is still drinking? It’s an interesting question and one not unlike the dilemma we see Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon go through way back in 1962. Yet what makes Smashed compelling is that it has something those other drunk films don’t have. Kate.

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Not only is Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance as Kate unforgettable but so is the character. I read that the one of the writers of the film, Susan Burke wrote the movie on her own experiences of getting sober as a young woman and felt like her story hadn’t really been told. This intention is one of the things that makes Smashed feel important. This wasn’t some old white guy. It was a nice girl whose life keeps getting fucked up and she just wants it to stop. Her life is messy. Her relationships,outside of the ones she forages in recovery, are disastrous. Kate and her struggles are real, especially to anyone who’s been in early recovery. I found myself nodding my head and relating to Kate even though I’m a forty-something gay man.

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And that right there is why and how addicts share their stories is so freaking cool. “What it was like, what happened and what it’s like now” is the basic framework of how we drunks and addicts tell our stories. But everything else in between? All of the juicy details and personal flares? Those are as varied as the faces you see in the halls of recovery or online. Peruse one of the many thousands of sobriety blogs and you’ll see people from all walks of life going through what you’re going through. It’s true certain types of sobriety writers online trend big time, therefore certain voices seem to be louder. Right now, the voice of recovery online is distinctly female and that’s cool considering we didn’t even talk about women being alcoholics until the 1950’s. Plus, a deeper Google dig reveals that really all types of people trying to stay clean, one day at a time. Films like Smashed are important because they’re reflecting our expanding idea of what sober people look like. Ditto with the growing voices of recovery online. True, there’s still work to be done (yeah just try finding movies about people of color getting sober–it ain’t easy!) and bullshit we need to stop all together (enough with the bashing/justification of how others choose to get sober!). The point is film and art is starting to reflect what we’ve sensed all along: people trying to get sober look just like everybody else.

 

Now is Your Magical Motivational Moment!

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Hey you. You with the pensive thoughts and the scribbled in, beat up journal. You have no talent. Everybody else is a better writer than you. You have nothing to offer. Look at all the pageviews and forwards and likes and listens that all of these other writers have. Now look at yours’. Why are you even trying? – The Evil Voice in My Head

Thank you for those kind and inspiring words, dear Evil Voice In My Head. And thank you for saying them over and over again to the point where smashing a rusty railroad spike into my noggin sounds like a viable and hell even an enjoyable solution. And yet here I am writing despite this screeching demon voice. So there. Suck it, Evil Voice in My Head. Because the reality is creativity, even sub par, holy-cow-please-don’t-let-anyone-ever-read-that flavored creativity survives. My desire to make stuff slogs on despite a brain that says, “Maybe you should ditch it all and become a wino who travels by train with a knapsack on a stick.” This survival, the persistence to keep making things has less to do with me being courageous than it does with me being a complete stubborn pain in the ass. Sure, I wanna give up. Sure, I wanna stop. But I can’t. The thing is I’ve stopped before. My creative brain fell into a tequila and cocaine induced coma and struggled to pull itself out for years. Now that it’s back, I try to protect it, like baby hedgehog or something equally as adorable.

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Yet there are constant, evil forces at work trying to funk with my creative flow and not all of them in my brain. Take for example, the state of the world. The world is a sad ass, scary as hell, oh good Lord please make it stop kind of place right now. There is no such thing as good news or good people or good anything. From senseless animal killing to senseless people killing to senseless brain cell killing, ain’t nothing positive happenin’ up in this club, honey child. For me, all of this gets compacted every single time I get online. I click on trending topics that make me want to poke my eyes out. I read rants by friends who I used to think were normal, sensible people but who were actually Satan this whole time. I get flooded by threads spewing so much garbage, it almost starts to sound like a parody. But this ain’t the whole story. Beauty is pushing its way through the garbage and saying, “Aw hell no. I’m here too, bitches.” Progress is happening despite our best efforts. And lovely miracles are sprouting up all over. I had three such miracles, so sacred, so brilliant that I won’t share them here in order to keep them next to my heart but let’s just say I believe in life after yuck. Still, I have to do my part to fight negative forces from taking over and stopping this creativity choo choo. Enter the unicorns.

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A few weeks ago, Facebook was getting me down and I mean if Facebook doesn’t regularly depress the ever-loving shit out of you, than you probably aren’t on it very much and kudos to you. But yeah, it was bumming me out. Everything was negative and I felt negative reading it. Soon I wanted to leave combative and negative comments too which I know as someone who does social media management for a living, is a total no-no of the red flag and deal-breaker variety. Like when you start taking Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or any of it personally, you are doing it wrong. Period and non-negotiable. They are tools and they are for entertainment, nothing more. So I knew I was in deep doo doo when I felt butt hurt while reading posts on everything from politics to entertainment to recovery and beyond. I started to act like, “Oh my god I disagree with you and it hurts my feelings so I need to cry all over my keyboard while shitting all over your newsfeed.” Fundamentally, I knew this was unacceptable. My first dramatic impulse was, “I’m quitting all social media but only after long rambling posts about why I’m quitting social media!”This is a fleeting thought always, however, as I mentioned I use it for work. (By the way, nobody gives a crap if you quit social media and we all quit for the same reason so how about we just quit and nobody is the wiser? Just an idea.) The only other option was to practice some boundaries and lean into it. How could I address the things that bother me but do it in a way that makes me laugh and keeps it light? Praise Merlin for Google Image search. Through this handy dandy tool, I started taking fantasy art and making little memes to joke about my malaise regarding social media and society in general. This little fella was my first:

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I laughed while doing it and was inspired to make more. A lot more.

email a unicorn.jpgDuring a recent inventory, my sponsor pointed out to me that being a smartass and making people laugh was a way that I was of service. I have a hard time taking compliments (said every addict ever) but I can see his point here. After all, I’m incredibly grateful for the sober people in my life who make me laugh(Maureen, Isaiah, Johnny, etc, etc) so I can see how that this is of value. And I’m naturally a one liner spewing, corny joke shooting machine so this is something I can easily do. Amazingly, other people have enjoyed my fantasy-filled Facebook follies. Through a series of posts, I’ve been able to laugh about the things that bother me on social media and while laughing at myself and with my friends. Success! This wasn’t about book deals or pageviews or likes or anything else. It was just about moving through something and doing it with humor.

unfollow ball.jpgAs regular readers know, I despise self-helpy, you could fix your life if you only did this stuff. I’m a learner and responder to real experiences. Therefore my real experience is this: maybe it takes a billion blog posts, maybe it takes trying new recipes, maybe it takes new meditation practices, maybe it’s new books or maybe it’s memes with unicorns. But whatever it takes, I need to carry on. And you need to carry on too. Yeah sometimes it feels like we’re pitching our hearts and souls down a dark well and nobody will respond but it juts doesn’t matter. Don’t buy the lie that in order to be creative you need certain stuff or need perfect situations or that it just isn’t the time. Right now is the time. Find yo’ own meme unicorn or crotchet project or romance novel and do it now. Because you need to carry on and I need you to, too.

be nice. dammit.

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In a poetic moment the other day, as I walked down my lush tree-lined alley, feeling a cool breeze on my face, I had an idea. The next time I sat down to my blog I was going to write about spirituality. Because, as you might have guessed, I’m one spiritually enlightened muthafucka. I have all sorts of tips and ideas on how you can live a more enlightened and peaceful life. This was my idea, to share with you my knowledge of spirituality simply out of the goodness of my heart. This morning, however, I woke up and laughed. Part of my laughter had to do with a series of insane dialogue heavy dreams (even when I’m asleep I talk too much) and part of it had to do with feeling ridiculous. Ridiculous because I actually know nothing about spirituality or the secrets of the universe.

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And actually not knowing shit and being open, is the closest thing I feel to be connected to something bigger than myself. That sort of concludes my spiritual advice, if we’re being honest here. Meditation looks like me being quiet and listening. Prayer looks like me thanking, acknowledging and asking. And that is sort of the whole spiritual kit and kaboodle. That’s right. I said kit and kaboodle. See. I told you this was a serious spiritual discussion. But is that it? Does spirituality only happen when incense is burning and people are chanting?

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My guess is no. In fact, some of the biggest examples of spirituality and otherworldly juju happen in the big bad outside world and usually from strangers. Proof that goodness exists comes in lines at the grocery store, airports, Starbucks and other unlikely and decided non-spiritual places. I know, I know. The idea of people being nice all the time and friendly and helpful sounds like something out of a 50’s musical and is totally unrealistic. Yet a little goes a long way. I think even surface level, “trying not strangle someone but I’m still pleasant” is acceptable, admirable even. This is all on my mind because two nights ago I rattled off a Twitter letter of sorts to straight men .

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As I’ve mentioned before, my non-writing-thanks-for-the-great-benefits day job happens to be at an arts non-profit where in I deal with the general public. Since I basically can strike up a conversation with a handbag, I’m good at this sort of thing. I’m also inherently nosey so talking to people is self-serving on some level. Yet the other night’s mini-tweet rant was spurned by a gnarlier part of being big sparkly gay me and working with the public. The fact of the matter is I can be a lot. I know this. I’m a professional for god’s sake and know that I can’t belt out Cher songs and throw glitter on every person I meet. But I’m gleefully, gayfully me and getting sober and learning to love myself means I care less about what people think about me. 

This being said there are times when particularly straight men of a certain age (read also: bitter old dudes) just don’t respond to me and more than that are downright rude. I mean whatever. I waited tables for 5,000 years so human behavior doesn’t surprise on in any level anymore. But I do feel like it’s 2016 and in order to survive we should just be nice to each other. Like even if it makes us sick or irritates us. We should suck it up and be nice. And by the way, I no longer buy the “That’s just how he is” excuse when regarding assholes. No. They’re just an asshole and it isn’t cool. Also? Being unfriendly is not macho or cool. It just sucks. But such is the life of working with the public. I know women in the service industry sometimes experience it from other women. Men like to buy jewelry from women. Women like to buy shoes from men. These are broad assumptions about gender and character to be sure but when you work with the public the patterns are obvious enough that you pick up on it. So I’ve picked up the fact that me and every old guy aren’t going to be BFFs and this is okay.  But in the span of a week, I had three men in a row with their wives who came in who were let’s just say it: assholes. And it gets tiresome. I want to say, “Look Wilford Brimley. I don’t want to make out with you and you won’t turn gay by smiling at me so let’s all calm the fuck down, okay?” But what I do say instead is, “You two have a wonderful day.” I shake it off and move on and know that most people who come into my beautiful day job are in general, pleasant and happy. Yet all of this uber awareness of niceness has done something really unfortunate: it makes me realize that sometimes I’m the asshole in question.

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I started to write this piece yesterday morning but had to put it on hold to get the aforementioned day job. You would think that having niceness on the brain would have made me try extra hard to not be sort of a jerk. Uh yeah. Not so much. In my defense, I was low on caffeine and sort of hungry for the first part of my day so much of my snippy attitude can be attributed to that. But, yes, I was kind of annoyed and cranky a few hours and I didn’t love it. Nor did the other people around, I’m sure. After taking a break and talking to a friend going through a hard time, I realized much of the kindness I demand from the world, I don’t always give away. Oopsie. Thankfully, I spent the rest of day laughing. Laughing with my coworkers. Laughing with visitors. And laughing at myself. Through this, I was able to be nice again and treat people how I want to be treated. Easy kindergarten stuff but it felt like Jedi mind tricks when I was caught up in my shitty attitude. When I left and walked home, whatever had crawled up my butt had apparently crawled out and I was in a good mood. Happy, even.

Alas, some 1,100 words later, we get back to the title. Just be nice. Dammit. is niceness the only path to spirituality? Probably not but it can’t exactly hurt. After all, studies from Yale say that we’re all inherently nice despite our best efforts to behave otherwise. I guess the trick is remembering to lean into that. And the bigger trick? Getting to a place of compassion for those crusty old rude guys. Trying to remember, maybe Wilford Brimley needs a sandwich too. Maybe he needs a nap. Or maybe we’re all just humans trying and failing and trying again to be as nice as we possibly can. Dammit.

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83

83. 83 days. 83 freaking days! That’s all have we left. In 84 days, we will be crying or celebrating or at least shutting the fuck up about who is the president of the United States. Insert every happy dance/whew/hallelujah gif ever. It’s been a long and arduous pain in the ass. Yet it’s also been incredibly revealing. The friends of mine with a sense of humor and an ability to keep their head up have floated to the top. The ones who need to yell or think there’s a global conspiracy about everything? It’s been a tough year for them, to say the least. Bless (and unfollow) their crazy ass hearts.Nevertheless, here we are just 83 days away. Just 83 days left of this nonsense and we can all go back to talking about ourselves. It may seem like a long time away but for those of us who have gotten sober, we see a number like 83 days and we think, “I got this.”

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When you’re counting days in early recovery, it can be a long,long time. 30 days without drinking is a huge deal. 90? Even bigger. A year?!? Get the hell out of here. These milestones seem unachievable, mythical even. Yet if you’ve got the right support and you’re really ready, they can happen. So in later sobriety, I’ve been amazed what I can do for days in a row. I’ve quit meat for 6 months. I quit Facebook for 3. I quit smoking. Period. This structure I used to quit drinking and used to change my life has since been used to change all kinds of things. I recently decided when I launched this website that I would publish three times a week until the end of the year. I have tried to be divorced from the results, the page views, the comments and just write and publish 3 times a week. And this, my friends, is how we ended up here at my 32nd post. 32.jpg

Truth? I’ve had some stumbles along the way. I haven’t always wanted to write nor have I been crazy about everything I’ve published. There’s been pieces I really liked that no one has read and pieces I’m indifferent about that people respond to. Such is life. But the point is a little 60 days later, I’ve kept going. I’ve kept a promise to myself. So woo hoo for that.

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And while we’re throwing glitter and celebrating days passing, why not dive into the Seanologues Greatest Hits? Sure 32 posts might seem a little premature to put out a greatest hits but I disagree. I mean. If Stacey Q can have a greatest hits than gosh darn it I can too!

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So here are some of your favorites and some of mine too:

1.) I Won’t Ruin Your Barbecue: This was hands down the most read and most reposted. Thank you so much for that. I’m glad my exploits as the world’s worst drunken barbecue disaster resonated with so many people.

2.)Your Permission Slip: Well, holy shit. Just thinking about this post puts a lump in my throat. I’m just glad people read it and it struck a chord with them. I wrote it after being devastated and sad after Orlando. And I wrote it for myself. So that fact that you responded to it is overwhelming.

3.)Angry Anymore: Gosh. I loved writing this, even if it dealt with a less than savory part of myself. Turns out lots of you hate the angry bastard lurking inside too and you left some amazing comments.

4.) I Walk Alone: Walking is kind of the closest thing I have to a regular spiritual practice and writing about it felt good.

5.) Hey Ninety: Ditto writing about the amazing older people in my life. Plus, a Steely Dan song!

6.) I See You On The Street & You Walk On By: My very first Redditted work which is so millenial for a post about a 30 year old Madonna album. Nevertheless, I’m glad people read it as it was one that I worked on for a while and was very close to my Material Girl loving heart.

7.) the bullshit of busy: Another one I wrote to call myself out for bad behavior that readers gave me a big, “Amen, sistah” to. Writing this, as a matter of fact, has helped me change “busy” as my go to answer so thank you for that.

8.) Long Train Running (or not): Sometimes, I like to write to capture a moment in my life so I won’t forget it. This post about a train trip with the husband did that and bonus–you guys liked it and read it.

9.) Flight or Fight (or Write): This post makes the Greatest Hits for two reasons- 1.) I really enjoy writing about writing and 2.) people who I respect who also write got something out of it too. Win!

10.) new victors: Well every greatest hits has that new song on the end that maybe you’re not crazy about but maybe you’ll grow to love.  Enter “new victors.” I published it yesterday and it came from a scattered place but it felt oddly cathartic writing it so there ya go.

Yet, in the end, navel gazing at the past or freaking out about the future don’t really matter. All we have is one day: right now. In this the glorious right now, I just want to tell you thank you for reading, for helping me as a writer, for making me laugh my face off and for being the greatest.

 

new victors

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One month ago, I was a normal Netflix bingeing, Great British Baking Show watching homosexual man in his 40’s. I seek out, I binge and I move on. This is my philosophy for  television in the modern era. I have my things I love, the shows I’m on the fence about and the things that I know are crappy but I keep watching anyway. It all works for me that is until something throws my whole machine out of whack. The something we’re talking about here is the Olympics.

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I swam up-stream with everyone else into NBC’s river of self-congratulatory Go America Olympic Bullshit last week and my carefully curated television viewing habits have been thrown down the toilet. Instead of perusing PBS for documentaries about British castles, I now finding myself saying shit like,”I wonder what time badminton is on.” And it’s actually a lot of fun. I’m a sucker for person-against -all-odds storylines and the Olympics is overstuffed with them. I’ve cried like a baby when the women’s gymnastics team and Simone Manuel both took home gold medals last week. I’ve held my breath while watching incredibly tense beach volleyball matches. I’ve cheered as countries who’ve never medal suddenly walked home with the gold. It’s cool to see athletes and women and people from far-flung nations get recognition in primetime, an era usually devoted to men’s only sports.  While NBC’s abominable coverage could perhaps be bested by the all-stoner audio/visual club at my high school, the only real part of the Olympics that’s left a sour taste in my mouth is the bully narrative. Look to Kim/Kanye/Taylor. Look to that orange buffoon currently running for president. Look in the comments of any Gawker post. Bullies run the world and they are distinctly American in flavor. Sadly, our gnarly gift to humanity can be seen at the Olympics too. For every awe-inspiring female athlete, there was a Lilly King or a Hope Solo to remind the planet that no one does piss-poor competitor like Americans. U-S-A! U-S-A!

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All of this, in addition to a witnessing what a televised week-long Michael Phelps boner looks like, made me start thinking about what really makes a winner in 2016. While I have zero opinion about the participation ribbon generation currently cultivated on the kids’ soccer fields of the country, I do think our idea of a winner should probably change. If you frequent the halls of recovery or spend time with survivors of abuse or have lived through horrific natural disasters, it’s hard to stand up and cheer for entitled white kids from Ivy League schools. Winners, as it were, are actually all around us. A friend of mine who has been watching her husband fight for his life in a hospital for over a week sure looks like someone who deserves a medal to me. Ditto another friend who recently picked up a six month chip after several relapses and false starts. In every American neighborhood in every town, people are overcoming some badass shit and doing so with grace. Yet because of some dusty old stigmas we are still reluctant to talk about these sorts of victories. Hence maybe why during the 150 hour Phelps-fest his battle with alcohol was only mentioned once and only in voiceover by the announcer. His camp, as a matter of fact, doesn’t really mention it at all, as pointed out in this excellent Sports Illustrated piece. Which is too bad given what an openness around it by an athlete of his stature could do for the stigma of alcoholism. Unsurprising, to be sure, but none of it affects the winning going on everywhere, all of the time.

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What I’ve witnessed is that winning happens and not just every four years. Winning happens even without an inspiring Katy Perry ballad. Winning happens without the low emotional intelligence which requires making someone else a villain. Watching the Brazilian men’s team emotionally explode last night as they won their country’s first men’s gymnastics medals, I was reminded the feeling of victory,however, is pretty much the same. They held their breath, they cried, they couldn’t believe it was happening. I felt the same way when I picked up my one year chip after not thinking I could ever stay sober that long. And this, I suppose, is what still makes the Olympics great. We like to see one another win. We identify with overcoming the odds. We hang onto the hope that maybe we can win too. But, it should be pointed out, if you’ve finally gotten out of bed after a long depression, if you left a toxic relationship or if you’ve somehow manged to stay sober another day, you deserve a goddamn medal too.

 

doubt, fired.

“Holy shit. Not another fucking Robin Williams meeting.”

I remember thinking that a little over two years ago today. I was thinking this and fuming as I sat in one of those rooms where people who have what I have talk about trying not to drink, do drugs or kill themselves. It was a horrible thought to have, granted. But since his passing a week earlier, I had literally been to 7 meetings where the topic was how fucking sad people were that Robin Williams had died. I mean, I got it. I got that he was a special part of people’s childhoods. I got that for this dark and sad group of people, his comedy probably provided a lot of joy to folks who normally didn’t have any. I got that he was an addict like ourselves and whenever one of our own passes, its horribly heartbreaking, whether they’re famous or not. I got all of this and I was still annoyed. I’m gay and alcoholic so in truth me being annoyed probably didn’t have anything to do with Robin Williams. Annoyed is just sometimes my old crusty default setting. I was probably just irritated that we weren’t talking about me in these meetings and that we were obsessed with the celestial being that was Robin Williams.

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As you may have picked up on, I am a movie snob and a half. Therefore, the later half of Williams’ career is something I resolutely turned my nose up at. Basically,1998’s Patch Adams and everything that followed it can be filed in Sean’s NMKOM (Not My Kind of Movie) file. Fluffy family stuff and flatulence based comedies are not my jam so the charms of films like Old Dogs, World’s Greatest Dad and License to Wed would most likely be lost on me. Still, as a performer his power was impossible to deny. I liked him best on stage and unhinged. Like most addicts, he was at his best when he was outrageous and honest. Like here when he talks about alcoholism.

When he died, before hearing sober people yammer about him for a week, I remembered my own Robin Williams moment from 2006. He came into the restaurant on Sunset Blvd where I used to work. It was one of those locals-and-cool-people-only places tucked away in and he was with a regular customer, Bobcat Goldthwait. They had just come from a meeting, Williams told us. His battles with drugs and alcohol were well-chronicled so he clearly embraced this part of this personality and seemed open about it. Seeing as it was a crowded Saturday night and the place was tiny, Williams and Goldthwait were undoubtedly in a fishbowl. It struck me how good-natured and sweet he was for a guy who was clearly being gawked at and watched. By this time he’d been famous for decades and overcome a lot of demons so he handled that dining room and everything with the kind of charm you’d expect from a star like Robin Williams. I was far, far, far from sober in 2006 therefore the triumphs in his personal life, like much of his film resume, were also lost on me. Suffice to say, two years after his death, I actually get it.

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Here in 2016, the battle to overcome mental illness and addiction is still very real. Sadly, maybe even worse than it was then. With an exploding heroin epidemic and a healthcare system stacked against mental illness, Williams’ effort to simply stay afloat is nothing short of heroic. We know now that Williams’ committed suicide in 2014, something more than one of us on this journey has certainly thought about. Personally, a shocking relapse in my inner-circle of early recovery has my own head spinning today. Someone I love with years of recovery is no longer sober. It’s as simple and heartbreaking as that. So I guess what I need to tell myself on August 11th while thinking about Robin Williams and my dear friend is that I need to stay. I need to keep going and keep fighting. More than that, I want to. When doubt creeps in and tells me it’s too hard, I need to tell it to kindly fuck off and keep moving. Because, as a movie snob and a half, I know in my heart that a tragic ending is not the only way for this to end.

wide awake

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8:30pm on a Sunday and there he was. Light brown skin dotted with black stubble. Black hair parted, perfectly framing his face. Apricot pants. A crisp white shirt. Perfectly posed. And perfectly asleep. Like frozen in time asleep. Like Brothers Grimm by way of Disney asleep. Passed out on an incline on the cement steps to one of those charming early 1900’s houses that my neighborhood has in spades. As if he was delivered there in state of slumber, like some human newspaper you’d leave on the steps. Naturally, I am walking. Walking and wondering. How did he get here? Does he live there? Wait. Didn’t that house recently go up for sale? I wondered if I should call someone. I wondered if he’d freak the hell out of you tried to wake him up (Not like I was gonna do it. No way. I knew better. Not waking up sleeping strangers is just one of those City 101 things you never do along with feeding injured squirrels and talking to people with religious pamphlets). I wondered if he was a brunch refugee who had too many mimosas followed by after brunch beers and decided that this set of steps right here looked as good of place as any to sleep it off for a few minutes. This was just one of a dozen scenarios I’d created in the 45 seconds I strolled by this mysterious sleeping prince. My line of thinking could be perceived as nosy but I like to think of it as inquisitive. Besides, this wasn’t like my old neighborhood in LA where the world was your sleeping bag. People rarely passed out in corners over here so I couldn’t help but be curious. Also, I couldn’t help but think about all of what he was missing right here in my cozy neighborhood at 830pm on a Sunday.

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Prior to running into him, I have to admit I was awestruck. It was a dense and kind of foggy warm night. The streets are lined with lush lavender and swaying Rudbeckia. There were noisy crows cawing in the background and crickets singing their own song loudly as if determined not to be upstaged by those black feathered big mouths. And then there were bats. Tons of them. In fact, my neighborhood must have been having a bat convention over the weekend because the little guys had been partying in the air above our streets for several nights in a row. And on Sunday they were out in full force. Swooping through tree branches. Soaring in the moonlight and diving back into the darkness again. The walk already felt like a fairytale and this was all before I ran into the sleeping dude.

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However, these things–swooping bats, glittering moonlight and what-have-you are not new, hot off the shelf items. They’ve been here the whole time. It’s just that I myself have not been here the whole time. As best as I can tell and seeing that it is only August, 2016 has been about an emotional awakening. People will tell you when you first get sober that, “More will be revealed.” This, from my experience, has been true. When I stopped being a human booze and cocaine dumpster, I started to notice all kinds of shit about myself. Some of it was not very pretty. But what they don’t tell you is the longer you’re not a drunken disaster, that even more stuff reveals itself to you. Thus how I ended up feeling like my normal little Denver neighborhood was something from the mind of Hans Christen Andersen. See, Even though I’ve been sober over seven and a half years, I’m still waking up. This is a marvelous thing. The people and stuff around me are more beautiful. Moments with others feel more genuine. Happiness more tangible. Basically, everything I wanted to feel by taking drugs, I’m feeling now stone cold sober. Irony alert.

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I got home on that Sunday night and I was buzzing with excitement. Not because something big had happened or because something was about to happen or like so many nights in the past, because of drugs of alcohol. But because I loved what was happening right then in that moment. The bats, the flowers, the sleeping prince, that walk home in the moonlight. All of it ordinary. All of it run of the mill. But all of it magical and something to cherish too.

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The steps sans sleeping prince

Epilogue: I walked down that same street the following Monday morning. The steps were still there but the sleeping guy was gone. Gone also were the bats and the moonlight. The feeling that my life, faults and all, was perfect just the way it is? Still here and very much awake. 

Brobia

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Dudes. Buddies. Bros. However you identify them, this eternal flip-flop wearing, high-fiving, beer drinking generation of men is so easy to make fun of but even harder to love. Truth is groups of white guys with cargo shorts and backwards baseball caps were my torturers back in my day. Screw gang members or terrorists. I was deathly afraid of large flocks of white guys wherein one or more was named Todd or Chad. With persistence and precision, these first class a-holes made things like walking down the hall or speaking in class a total nightmare. They relentlessly made fun of my big gay teenage self. Although, it should be mentioned I’m pretty sure I hung out with way more girls than they did and they, as meathead mutant jocks, most certainly saw a ton more naked teenage boys than I ever did. Thanks to the combination of getting as old as fuck and getting sober, I’ve forgiven that pack of suburban dickheads (and I say dickhead from a place of love and spirituality, of course). Nevertheless, big groups of loud straight guys still scared the crap out of me for a really long time

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We’ll call what I had “brobia”. I suffered from an acute fear of groups of bros. By the way, what do you call a group of bros? A gaggle? A herd? A pile? Please discuss. Anyway, my suffering around this group was pretty real. I went to meet my husband in a very bro-centric neighborhood (which in Denver could be all of them but more on that in a minute). It was dark. I was alone but then I wasn’t. A large group of white guys who were loud and presumably wasted (Again, Denver. We just know these things.) I all of a sudden was panic-stricken and my heart raced. I crossed the street, kept my head down and did whatever you call a version of walk-running for people who despise running. It was in that moment that I realized that my brobia was real. Call it asshole-induced PTSD. Call it brobia. But whatever I had I needed to get over and fast. After all, I lived in Denver now and these dudes were everywhere.

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Nicknamed by some blogger somewhere, “Menver” is chockfull of bros. If Colorado was to have a state type of person, it would be bros. Denver is called the Napa Valley of Beer therefore it’s the Holy Land for bros. Add in an overtly fanatic sports culture coupled with several man-filled colleges and universities and you’ve got yourself a bronado. So bros were unavoidable (unavoidabro? yeah. I’ll stop with those puns now) It would be like having a fear of spiders and moving to the Amazon. You better learn to live with them or perish. Thankfully, not only had I changed, the little city I left fifteen years earlier had changed too. Yes there were now more bros than ever thanks in large to a pot-induced population explosion. But this generation of bros was little more gay friendly or maybe just more self-involved enough so that I wasn’t on the radar. Still, I was a tad cagey around these types. Two miraculous things happened, though. Theatre & recovery.

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When my husband and I were running a theatre company we worked with straight guys all of the time. No really! A lot of actors are straight. Crazy right? More than that they were really cool. I soon ended up with a bunch of goofy type A personality brothers who were very talented and extremely loveable.Soon big groups of these guys were ones I was happy to see and not ones that sent me running across the street. Another set of straight guys that helped me ( and continue to on the daily, btw) are the ones I met in recovery. At 2 years of sobriety when I moved back, my exposure to sober straight guys was limited. See, I got sober in Los Angeles where they have like a billion gay meetings a week and even the “straight Meetings” weren’t all that straight. And the cool thing about recovery is that you’re immediately bonded together with other people who tried unsuccessfully to kill themselves with drugs and alcohol so it doesn’t matter if they’re gay, straight or whatever. (Lots of people who fall into the whatever category in recovery, by the way.)  In Denver, though, recovery was decidedly more heterosexual and more male. Still, it wasn’t long until I found my people and many of them straight men. We speak the same language so much so that the externals of who we are and where we come from just melt away.

This new place and new age in recovery also helped me see some not cute things about myself too. It has been pointed out to me more than once (slowlearner.com) that I can’t really bitch about intolerance and prejudice if I myself practice those same things. Fucking ow but true. This meant all the religious groups and groups of people (bros included) whom I thought wronged me needed to be let off the hook, forgiven and released if I wanted to live free of resentment and not like a big, annoying asshole. Ugh.Tall goddamn order but by now I’m willing to give anything a shot to hang onto my sobriety. The other thing that’s come up doing the work? I, Sean Paul Mahoney, have a major seeking the approval of straight men issue. Granted, I pretty much seek approval from everything from potted plants to anonymous coffee shop waitresses but when it comes to getting men to like me, it’s problematic. From falling in love with unavailable straight men in my early 20’s to doing drugs with hideous dudes who I just wanted to be friends with, the issues are deep, honey child. Oh! And it turns out, my issues don’t have anything to do with groups of straight men!

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The issues are mine and mine alone. Thus this love boat of dysfunction turns right back around and docks in the harbor of forgiveness (we’ve moved on from bro puns and segued right into nautical metaphors. be excited.) Sure, there’s a lot of guys who said and did shitty things to me in high school. And yes I’ve been harassed by straight guys out in the world. It sucks but does it give me a free pass to fear and hate a whole group of people? Hell to the no. Plus hanging on to old shit is kind of the worst thing ever that an alcoholic can do, so I’ve had to let a lot of things go. Now does this mean I’ve abandoned making fun of bros? Absolutely not. As I mentioned, it’s too easy and they’re everywhere and most importantly it’s still funny. But I am working on loving them (in a non-sexual, non-creepy way), one bro at a time.