standard bitch

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The Google image title of this photo is actually “White Standard Bitch” which could make an excellent book title, btw.

Everybody has something they bring to the table. Even people who are awful have that one thing they contribute, even if it’s just their general awfulness. Personally, that thing I can bring to the table is my sense of humor. Look, this is not some passive aggressive outcry for compliments. Jesus fuck no. I just know that being funny is something I can contribute. So when that contribution goes tragically awry and gets misinterpreted causing all sorts of bullshit Facebook comment fallout, what I’ve wound up bringing to the table is basically a big turd salad.

There is no more special of a hell than that in which I am forced to explain a joke or intention behind what I said. I take this personally as a funny person because it means I’ve belly-flopped on this whole “aren’t you clever” gig. As Erykah Badu would say, “Keep in mind I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit.” Yet that’s exactly what happened last week when I made a joke about hurling myself into a volcano based on my pre-existing conditions being problematic to the recently passed by congress ACHA. Sigh. Before we go any further, I know that it’s a buyer beware situation with stuff like this on Facebook. Notoriously lacking in a sense of humor and ready to pounce with unsolicited advice at a moments notice, I know that I get what I deserve when I post on Facebook. Yet I did it anyway. As a HIV positive man with mental illness who is also an addict/alcoholic in recovery, my joke was that I should just save myself some time and hurl my body into a volcano instead of trying to get healthcare. I mean if I can’t make fun of my pre-existing conditions than I’m really screwed. Plus one of my other pre-existing conditions is being a sarcastic bitch so I felt like the joke was well warranted and more than that it was what was on my mind at the time. To no one’s surprise, this joke went over like BLTs at a Kosher meal. Some of my comments were left by people who laughed and made jokes in return. These people can stay and are reason why I friended them on that mind-sucking social media hell hole in the first place.  Everybody else? Not so much.

These folks fell into two camps: people who told me to rally or people who were “internet concerned” about the state of my well-being. The first group of people can, and I mean this in the most Christian way possible, eat a bucket of dicks. The ones who did this it should be noted are affluent folks with no pre-existing conditions who are also white and straight. So yeah. One bucket of dicks, coming up! I’m sorry I don’t tell you how to detail your Volvo because, gee, I don’t know, I DON’T OWN A VOLVO. So zip it with the “go rally and call your senator” battle cry. Unless you plan on magically becoming a HIV positive drug addict with depression than I kind of don’t give a shit. Plus, I wasn’t wallowing. I was doing what I always do: making a joke instead of stepping in front of a bus. It felt healthy and appropriate given the bad news.

Which brings me to the second camp of people, the ones who thought I was really serious and upset. One friend worried that I was going to relapse. One shared a story about a loved one struggling with mental illness and suggested an online support group for me to join. Insert a deep sigh that comes from the bottom of my toes here. I mean first of all, if you’ve followed me for more than a week on social media, than you know that I’m not serious about anything. Ever. So that I would put out a Facebook status message with serious thoughts of suicide is freaking ridiculous. Secondly, none of these people were that concerned. Like they didn’t direct message me or call me or text me. They just posted to make themselves feel better which is fine and it’s something we all do. But girl. Don’t pretend my dumb post made you go pray or call 911.

After a few hours, I decided to just delete the damn post. The fault here was not my friends. It’s not even Facebook’s fault. It was my own and I knew it. Insert another gigantic sigh here. I was feeling feisty and bitchy which led me to momentarily forgot the whole “restraint of pen and tongue” thing. Lesson learned or at least temporarily learned. It’s one day at time with this shit too, people. For the next few days, I wondered if maybe I should exam my bitchy, cynical nature. Maybe this attitude was toxic. Maybe I should use my voice to share motivational thoughts or inspiring words.

Well , thank god those thoughts quickly passed. Because that’s just not who I am. I didn’t stop killing myself with drugs and alcohol only to censure myself. I’m big, beautiful smart ass me. Despite one joke tanking, I really like who I am. I think humor can be really powerful and the people who make me laugh save my life. Therefore, if I can do the same for someone else, I feel like I’ve made a difference. And that’s about as inspirational as this standard bitch is gonna get.

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crawl out or stay buried.

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By now, crawling my way out, is second nature. I’ve crawled out of addiction, physical illness, toxic work situations, bad relationships. Likewise, I’ve crawled out of mental states like depression, self-pity, despair and delusion. With all of this crawling, my life is sort of like that scene from Die Hard where Bruce Willis crawls through broken glass. Yes, I just referenced Die Hard. And that concludes the entire macho contents of this blog for 2017. While all of this crawling and pulling myself up from my bootstraps (which I’ve never had but I’m open to if they come in style) sounds heroic and worthy of that Willis reference, the truth of the matter is I don’t always crawl out, I get pulled.

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I think I should start by saying I think feeling depressed about the world is valid. Toughening up and pretending that it’s all good in the global hood is some fucking crazy bullshit thinking. Last night, the combination of late night coffee and fear of more mothers of all bombs kept me tossing and turning. I mean we went from zero to holy shit in the war department in a matter of days and the world feels pretty fucked. Therefore, tossing and turning at night concerned about humanity is progress for me. After all, I spent 20 years thinking only about myself and not feeling anything.

Yet as a person who also struggles with depression, I have to keep it real. I need to be careful I don’t let legitimate sadness be the door to debilitating despair where my chemical imbalance ends up driving the neurological bus. So how do I crawl out? Moreover, can I even crawl out if things feel really bad?

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While becoming the ruler of CatAndBlanket Kingdom and never leaving my bed feels like a great option, especially when shits getting blown up, it isn’t realistic. Therefore I have to do the opposite of what I want to do. When I want to sleep all day, I force myself to take a walk. When my life feels overwhelming, I tackle one small project like cleaning the bathroom or answering emails. When I feel really useless, I start writing. And when I just want to soak and simmer in sadness all by myself, I reach out to people. If you’re like me all of this sounds like work and it is. It’s “taking action” as they call it 12 step programs. Taking action. What a drag of a phrase. It makes tired just typing it. Mainly because it implies that I’ll have to do actually something and can’t rely on magic to make it all better. Damn you, magic.  But I now have tools and after the requisite griping and feeling really terrible, I do finally take action. Doing things that make me feel good and just being nice to myself go a long way in helping me crawl out. I know I have options today, which given the alternative, is a real blessing.

I was promoted to write this today, from a bakery that’s testing my serenity by playing Enya and Norah Jones, because my heart is breaking for all the people who don’t feel like they have options. I heard from my AA BFF the other day that many people I loved from early sobriety have gone out recently. This sort of news never stops being terrible. People you loved who gave you hope are now suddenly out of hope and gone. Elsewhere, I have friends and family members also trying to crawl out their own mental illnesses and addictions. Some are fighting and crawling as fast as they can. Others have paused but are hoping the strength will come while others still are stuck and might never come out. So many beautiful people who deserve more are all feeling like they’ll have to stay buried. Like I said, heartbreaking.

I guess my point in writing all of this, other than posting pictures of animals crawling out of holes, is to let you know that today I’m okay. Today, I’m better than okay. I’m sober. I’m safe. I’m loved. And I’m strong enough to pull you out if you need a hand.

Sorry Bitches, But We Still Exist

e87284f3bfb531e450930710bf8c8043This morning, I got up like a boring ass normal person and drank my boring ass coffee and ate my boring ass banana and read the boring ass headlines on the internet. I’m sharing these boring ass details because a stream of mundane activities such as this happen all day long to me and therefore make up my existence. This sounds like a crazy thing to even be talking about but I swear when I look at some of those boring ass headlines I question if I as a gay man even exist.

Listen, I’m 44-years-old and have done the appropriate amount of therapy, self-help and 12 step groups to survive on this fucked up planet. I am lucky that my family has embraced me and my husband and that I love myself for exactly who I am. So when I read this morning about Chechen authorities rounding up and killing gay men, my head shook. Like shook in that involuntary sheer disgust kind of way.

Per the New York Times:

On Saturday, a leading Russian opposition newspaper confirmed a story already circulating among human rights activists: The Chechen authorities were arresting and killing gay men.

While abuses by security services in the region, where Russia fought a two-decade war against Islamic insurgents, have long been a stain on President Vladimir V. Putin’s human rights record, gay people had not previously been targeted on a wide scale.

The men were detained “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such,” the newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, reported, citing Russian federal law enforcement officials, who blamed the local authorities.

There’s no doubt that those details alone are horrible enough. But when I read the authorities response to the story, my head didn’t just shake, it damn near exploded. “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” spokesman and clearly delusional asshole Alvi Karimov, told the news agency. “If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return,” Mr. Karimov said. What in the absolute fuck. This isn’t minotaurs or mermaids that we’re talking about here. It’s human beings, specifically it’s gay men. And where the hell do they send them? On second thought, let’s not go there. We can assume from Russia’s long abysmal track record with LGBT rights that they aren’t sent to Palm Springs or Ibiza. What messed with me as I did my boring morning stuff is this idea that a government can simply say that groups of people do not exist. We can certainly chalk this headline up to #RussianBullshit, which it is, by the way. No amount of arguing that Chechnya is filled with Muslims can divorce the region from Russia especially since this kind of horrific stuff is sort of a national homophobic tradition. So fine that’s Russia’s shit but it doesn’t help that or existence is being questioned back home in the USA too.

Flashback to just a few days ago when a casual headline was slipped into a current news cycle shitstorm that the Trump administration has decided to leave LGBT questions off the 2020 survey. Why this matters to folks like the Human Rights Campaign and should matter for people like me and you is that without accurate numbers of LGBT communities the federal government won’t have a clue on how to allocate resources to them. While the Census Bureau has never asked sexual orientation questions, it did take a huge leap forward in 2010 by allowing participants the opportunity to identify themselves as part of a same-sex relationship. What’s more is the Bureau previously collaborated on gender identity and orientation with outside agencies. Again, fine. We know we’re still here and don’t need a damn census to tell us that. But still how many messages that shout, “You are not valid and you don’t exist” do we have to hear until we believe them?

For me the answer is zero. As a gay man who is also an addict and alcoholic in recovery and who is living with HIV, it would be easy for me to feel like I don’t exist. My existence is inconvenient. My existence is unexpected. My existence isn’t neat and tidy. And honestly, IDGAF, as the kids on Twitter say. I have been earned my right to exist and quiet frankly didn’t die when I probably should have. So I fucking exist. And so do the millions of other gay, lesbian, trans and queer folks around the globe. We can’t be erased out just because our existence is problematic or messy or doesn’t gel with what you want. Take us off surveys, leave us out of conversations, lie and say we don’t live places. But we are actually here. I am here. The reality is I am here and I’m having a quiet, peaceful and boring ass Sunday like everybody else.

under attack

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As I perused a website that makes my corneas burn but I can’t make myself quit (I’ll give you one guess. It rhymes with SchmaceSchmook.) I rolled my eyes when I read  “___________* Attacks GOP For Healthcare Failure.” My first thought was “Girl, please.” Like is everything now an attack now? I mean a white tiger leaving Roy(of Siegfried and, natch) partially paralyzed is a muthafucking attack. Somebody blowing up a hotel? Also an attack. Gay bashings, robberies, sexual assaults? All incredibly awful and all attacks.

But some maybe-billionaire with hair that looks like cigarette-flavored cotton candy whining about not getting his way? Not an attack. Not even close. Yet it appears it’s not just Herr Hairball who claims that he’s being attacked. Somewhere along the way, we wound up in an era of easy victims who are now attacked by everyone and everything.

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I know I’ve certainly fell victim to, well, feeling like a victim. The “poor me, poor me, pour me a drink” cliché of alcoholics is a fucking cliche for a reason. Despite usually being the biggest assholes in the room we alcoholics have a sorceress like ability when it comes to still feeling like the victims sometimes even make others believe that too. As I was watching the latest episode of Girls and witnessing sad, sad, skinny, little Marnie get her ass handed to her yet again by the universe, a light came on. That character, that one the makes you want to throw your remote at the screen is so frustrating to me because I’ve been her. Like repeatedly and for years. Now, I’m not saying “We’re all Marnie.” Bitch, I don’t know your life. But I certainly identify. Every time something goes awry for Marnie, it’s somebody else’s fault. Kind sounds eerily like how I lived my life forever. If it was a “tough” childhood or “bad” relationships or “mean” bosses or “competitive” people who were always ruining Sean’s life than Sean would never, ever have to say, “Sorry. I suck.” It was a foolproof plan, well until it wasn’t. But it did work for a while. For example, I once drunkenly unleashed a hateful text storm on a friend and was somehow able to spin it that I was justified for doing so because this person deserved it and because I felt attacked. The crazier part was I was able to get people to side with me and co-sign my terrible behavior! Like I said, magic. Luckily for me, this charade only had a two decade shelf life and if I wanted to get and stay sober, I had to drop the perpetually attacked routine.

faf74108c8c1ede332001ae0e2c02b3eAlas, shedding the victim act wasn’t an overnight thing. I mean after you’ve played Edith Crawley in your brain’s production of Downton Abbey for several years, it takes a some time to slide into another role. Even recently (this week) I was feeling very run over, very attacked by circumstance. There was a temporary landslide of boring ass life things that werent going my way. It was all shit I had zero control over and none of it was life or death. But to my victim mind none of that mattered. My default is, “Everything sucks and world is out to get me.” I call this Jill Abbotting. Jill Abbott, for the uninitiated, is a the longtime resident bitch-in-chief on The Young & the Restless. Since the 80’s, Jill has perpetually found a way to be pretty awful and do terrible things like sleep with her stepson and have her nemesis kidnapped yet still act like a victim of circumstance. It’s always the world’s fault. Unlike Marnie, however Jill knows she’s being an asshole and DGAF. Jill–>Lady Edith–>Marnie. Maybe the interpretation of this character gets watered down or less self-aware over time. I know. Girls, Downtown Abbey and a daytime diva. This post is pretty damn gay and we haven’t even gotten to the ABBA yet. But I digress. The point is I was slipping into that mindset and it started to feel shitty.AttackFromSpace_Poster

Which brings us back to that guy from the beginning of the post. I guess I should be grateful to him. I mean he’s like a four-year long writing prompt but to be honest I’d rather write about baked goods or Marc Chagall paintings. Nevertheless, his ridiculousness served as a gateway for me pulling my headed out of my ass. Remind me to send him a fruit basket to thank him. Or not. But that’s the gift of this whole living a life of accountability thing: I get to laugh at my self-imposed victimhood. More than that, maybe I can even have compassion for others who are actually struggling.

As I write this in my cozy apartment with my sleepy cats, someone in my life is dying as a result of alcoholism. This beautiful being never deserved to go out like this. This spitfire and life of the party shouldn’t be dying right now. And really shouldn’t be dying as a victim of something she could have overcome if only she had an inkling that she deserved better. However, now at this late in the game, the writing is on the wall and her time on this planet is limited. Talk about a real tragedy. Yet as much of a heartbreaking story as hers is it’s also a call for me to drop the victim bullshit. It’s a call to not feel attacked(especially by consequences of my own actions), to be grateful for the life I have in this moment and to laugh and sing along to ABBA, even if my inner drama queen wants to tell me otherwise.

*The blank space is used where his name should appear as I’ve taken a vow not to type his name on the sacred sparkly space of these pages. xo-S.

viva the smartass revolution!

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Hours and hours of laughing. How dare they. Didn’t they realize the state of the world? Didn’t they notice that the planet was slowly hurling itself into a vortex of shit? Hadn’t they been paying attention to the last year and a half of jaw-droppingly horrendous headlines? Surely they must have. But here they were. My two coworkers the day after the Inauguration laughing their heads off. Not just polite, ladylike laughing either. That kind of laughing where you can’t breathe and have to take breaks to wipe the tears from your eyes. How dare they.

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It annoyed me because I knew it’s where I needed to be. I needed to be laughing. After all, laughing and rolling my eyes is my preordained destiny on this planet as a smartass since birth. Yet last weekend, I simply couldn’t rally. I was,for lack of a better word, mopey. Like really mopey for the better part of a week. Like dress me in black and turn on some Morrissey mopey. Like that sad white blob in the depression medication commercials mopey. It wasn’t until Wednesday when my sponsor and I had our weekly conversation wherein I own all of my crazy/toxic/weird ass behaviors and actions that I was able to really laugh. It wasn’t I until then that I realized I got wrapped up in groupthink misery and forgot Rule 62.

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Ugh. How could I? I always prided myself on being able to see the sassy, sarcastic side of life but for about five days, I just couldn’t muster that shit up. The irony here was that I am always the first in line to roll my eyes at humorless twerps and here I was among them. Yet upon consorting with my Twitter posse, I learned I wasn’t alone. A lot of us we’re struggling to see the light at the end of the current events tunnel. There was general malaise for days, honeychild and it felt pretty bleak. Even extremely funny folks whom I always relied upon to help not turn Facebook into a graveyard of depressing “The End is Nye!’ status updates were now posting things that made Sylvia Plath feel like Preston Sturges. After days of this mopey marathon, I’d had enough. Yes, there are things in life and in the news that should be taken seriously. But Sean Paul Mahoney is not one of them. As person who has also been given the gift of diagnosed massive depression (Oh! You shouldn’t have!) living in blah is a fucking terrible place for me to be. I had to snap out of it and the people closest to me sensed it too.

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My husband, the person who unquestionably makes me laugh the most, showed me the above image right before I went to bed last Friday night. He did so with a caveat, “Look I know you’re not looking at the news today but I think you’ll enjoy this.” He was right. Look, I’m a gay man with a heartbeat so OF COURSE I thought a white lady with bad hair dressed like a cracked-out nutcracker was funny. That sort of thing transcends political lines. It’s just funny. Thus my journey to be less mopey began.

By Thursday, I was back to laughing at work. After hearing the thunderous clang of a poor person who didn’t realize our large glass doors were in fact not open, I shared my story of how I did the same thing. It was when I first started and I was sent to run across the street. Ever the people pleaser, I set out on my mission and darted out the door– or into the door rather. My head hitting the glass made a dreadful sound that stopped the chattering, packed lobby cold. Before the even more humiliating choruses of “Oh my Gawd! Are you okay?!?” began, me and my bloody nose ran out the door and across the street. My coworker who is fairly new and not around at the time, was laughing her face off as I recalled the story and I was laughing too. I occurred to me then, like earlier with my sponsor, this is what we do for one another. This is how we help each other. We laugh together. And if you think about it, being a smartass in this current climate seems pretty punk rock.

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When I first started writing a lot as a teenager, I really wanted to be serious. I wanted people to know how dark and profound I was. Yet time and time again, the critique I always got–and still occasionally get- was “You’re writing is better when it’s funny and honest.” 30-some years later, message received. I was booked to speak at a twelve step meeting once not because my deep and inspiring journey was going to change lives but because, in the words of the person in charge of booking speakers, “You’re just really funny.” So I’ve leaned into being a clown and am honored the my goofy dipshit antics can benefit someone else, even for just a few moments.

Therefore, having a sense of humor right now feels particularly powerful given that the current administration is one of the dumbest and most humorless ever. Even Bob Dole, with the face of one of the evil trees from the Wizard of Oz and who walks through like he’s got a porcupine up his ass, reportedly enjoyed being parodied on Saturday Night Live, something What’s-His-Face is perpetually butthurt about. This is unequivocally a group of people who can’t laugh at themselves, who didn’t get the Rule 62 memo. We are living in times when inflated fragile egos and dour brainless bragging are trying to flatten wit and creative expression. The reality is crusty honkies in ill-fitting suits with no sense of humor are now running this joint. When I stop laughing, these assholes win. If I wanna resist and hang onto my sanity, my recovery and my soul I have to laugh. Moreover, I have to make others laugh. And If that means running into another glass door for you, I’ll do it.

 

hit bottom & be alright

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Today you will eat breakfast and go to work. You will come home and eat dinner. Tomorrow you will most likely do the same. And, spoiler alert, on Wednesday you will do it all yet again. Despite the promise of having to dodge fireballs or climb out of wrecked buildings which spontaneously collapsed due to the results of the election, you will be okay and your life will continue. Which I suppose is somewhat disappointing. It’s like if the asteroid in that Bruce Willis movie had gotten bored, decided that hitting Earth was stupid and took a nap instead. We’ve all been sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for the worst to come for so long that it’ll feel like a bummer if it doesn’t happen. But the fact of the matter is that despite our,what the genius Sandra Bernhard once called, “post-apocalyptic fantasies”, we are emotional cockroaches and capable of surviving. Besides, it’s just an election, girl. Chill the fuck out.

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“I’m just really nervous,” is what I’ve heard about half a dozen coworkers say about this election. And I get it. There’s a lot at stake and blah blah blah. But,for me,it helps to have some perspective. When I hit rock bottom eight years ago in this exact month, it was during another highly charged election. That election, which coincided with the financial world also hitting rock bottom, felt like the end of the world. I was in California at the time so not only was there a presidential election at stake but a hateful proposition banning gay marriage.Compounded by watching the chattering parrot from hell that was Sarah Palin on television and tuning into CNN daily to see how terrible everything was, I too was really nervous. I soothed those nerves with tequila, cocaine and beer and whatever else I could find. The world felt incredibly bleak. Sure, dousing my life in booze wasn’t exactly helping matters but I was on edge to say the least. Well, other than Obama winning the worst case scenario did actually happen in that state. Prop 8. passed. Nearly two months later I got evicted from my apartment. Soon after that, I ended a longterm relationship and got sober. The start of 2009 was a turdfest of terrible events all set in motion by that November. It was a dark period, honey child. Like Sylvia Plath fucking dark. Like turn on some depressing music dark. Like Dickens orphan dark. Oh and it kinda stayed that way too. I didn’t stop drinking and change my whole life to suddenly wake up in a musical number. The contrary. Things got even harder. But I survived and I was alright.

My story is not uncommon among sober people. For those of us who’ve battled drugs and alcohol surviving is kind of what we do. Coming out on the other side of near life destroying events is our thing, dawg. It would be our talent in the Miss America pageant. During this non-stop WTF-fest of an election, sober pals and I have laughed a lot. The idea that maybe this country just needs to hit bottom, admit it has a problem and then get help has been tossed around more than once. It’s a funny analogy and certainly one we’re familiar with. But it isn’t the craziest thought ever. After all, everything being really, really jaw-droppingly bad and having to start from scratch worked for us so why couldn’t it work for a whole country? Hungary, Greece, Egypt all have hit bottom. England seems like it hit bottom but could have a few relapses in them before they get better. France’s rock bottom looks like it’s around the corner. The point is, everything crashing and all of the shit hitting the fan at once is a good thing. If that’s our collective path then I say okay. Bring it on. After all, acting like unhealthy, toxic and unsustainable ways of living are just fine and dandy sure sounds a lot like how I used to live as an addict. Might as well embrace the shittiness and work hard to get better.

Yet there’s another option. Maybe you’ll wake up on Wednesday morning and everything will be okay. Because if you’re able to eat, if you have people in your life who love you and have a roof over your head everything is pretty okay right now so why wouldn’t this fabulous okayness continue? There’s no reason. This existence that you’ve carved out where things are pretty damn great, thank you very much, won’t be shook by a person with a job in a house that happens to be white. This is the truth. I said this to my 20-something co-worker, who enjoys being right almost as much as he enjoys his Vape pen, and he responded, “Yeah but what if…” followed by a chain of world events that could happen but won’t exactly happen right now or on Wednesday morning or even by the end of the year. Basically, we are okay and will be okay even if the world isn’t.

With a little emotional intelligence, gratitude and unexplained magical protection from the universe, I’m gonna be okay. I know this because my doom and gloom mind which regularly says, “This time you’re really fucked!” is proved wrong on a daily basis. My cats, my husband, my family are all gonna be alright too. We’ll all get up on Wedensday and eat breakfast and go about our days and come home and eat dinner. It’ll all keep going, in the beautifully boring, free of fireball way that it always has. I’m going to be alright and you are too. In fact, we already are.

 

 

the election drinking game for people who don’t drink

1491486523020454577-740x416.jpgFor people who don’t turn into a lost member of the Barrymore family every time they ingest alcohol, Monday’s debate was a chance to drink. And drink a lot. That clever little devil the Internet was littered with “Debate Drinking Games” over the past week. You know drinking games like the Star Wars drinking game where you drink every time they say, “the force”. Or the Law & Order drinking game where you drink every time that dramatic music plays. The debate version of the drinking game had things like, “Drink when you hear the word deplorable” or “Drink when they talk about immigration” or perhaps drink because this is the most fucking depressing election of all time (I’m projecting here as I didn’t watch the debates)

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For those of us who are more Barrymore-like, every day is a chance to drink and therefore it’s a good idea we just avoid it altogether. Besides, my drinking game for the better part of 20 years had looser rules like “Drink every time it’s Tuesday” and “Take a drink every time life pisses you off” and “Have a shot whenever you’re awake.” Unsurprisingly, I was usually playing alone and not having all that much fun. Yet we still have 40 days of this political gum scraping to endure so what’s a sober guy to do? Well, this sober guy is gonna make his own brand new non-drinking game,goddamnit! The thrown together, half-assed rules look something like this:

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The prize? I don’t get to hate myself and I won’t wind up in jail or in the nuthouse! Weeeeee! Okay, I throw in some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as a bonus prize. Besides, look at that whimsical font and little brown bunny! It’s the best game ever. Actually, it kinda is. Smartassery aside for just a moment, I often marvel at how any of us addicts and alcoholics get through anything sober. I was one of those drinkers who thought everything went better with booze. Screw white wine with fish. White wine also went well with laundry and episodes of Young and the Restless. Tequila paired well with waiting tables. And cocaine was a nice accompaniment to everything from New Year’s Eve to Thursday nights at a Silver Lake leather bar. My point is, I didn’t necessarily need an event to get shitfaced. Events were a nice excuse for sure but far from necessary. This being said, however, for the last 15 years every magazine under the sun has wondered if the screwed up state of the world actually makes people drink and use drugs more. Studies from all over show a huge spike in drug addiction and alcoholism since 9/11. No shit. I was in Los Angeles on that day and went directly to the bar, do not pass go, do not collect $200. And that’s how we dealt. Or not dealt in my case. No, 9/11 didn’t make me a drunk (that was divine gift written in the stars or some shit) but trauma and the planet going to shit certainly helped grease the wheels of this hot mess machine. It didn’t matter that I was on the opposite coast. What mattered was I had a what I thought was a legit excuse to get hammered and an excuse I wore out until January 2009. So today when we– and by that I mean people like me who are sober– don’t meet for drinks to bitch about the state of the world, it’s nothing short of miraculous.

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The above trigger warning caught fire on Monday shortly before the debates. It was posted by Hofstra University, where the shitshow was held, as a precaution. Cynical internet a-holes bemoaned the pussiness of millennials and scoffed at their inability to cope. I sighed and shook my head, as I’ve been known to do for the last year and a half. I personally think the warning is a good idea and what the hell– maybe ongoing messages like this to young people could get them to talk about their problems. Can’t hurt. As addicts we don’t get these kind of warnings because, let’s face it, everything would have to come with one. WARNING: The dickwads on this freeway might make you want to shoot heroin!  WARNING: Entering this line at the post office could cause you to drink a box of wine in our employee parking lot. WARNING: America is still America and therefore you might occasionally want to get wasted or slap people but you won’t because you’re sober. So maybe I don’t get warnings on institutional clapboard signage. But I do get to live my life differently. I get to laugh at this ridiculous world. I get to send eye roll emojis to other sober people. I get to remember every moment, even the mundane and depressing ones. And, if I’m lucky, I get to play the game all over again.

everything is rigged! everything is a conspiracy!

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I consider a myself a master inventor of excuses. If there’s a lame brained, half-witted idea to get out of something, I have usually tried it and without the visual aid of a vintage I Love Lucy episode to boot. So imagine my dismay when the excuse of “The System is rigged!’ went mainstream. See, over the last several months this idea of the system being rigged has taken off. “What system?” you ask. Kids, it truly does not matter! Washington DC. The electorial process. The debates. The Oscars. The DMV. The line at Starbucks. It’s all a system therefore eligible to be considered rigged. This ingenious and totally testicle-free way of blaming something we have no control over is an excuse that me the bullshitter, er I mean “storyteller” should have thought of decades ago. Alas, it took an orange billionaire to illuminate us on how if we tell the world the system is rigged, we in turn have zero accountability.

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Before we continue, please note: I have taken considerable care to ensure that this blog is free from inflammatory and hemorrhoidal political content because quite frankly it’s fucking boring and currently on every other website therefore making anything I have to say equally as boring. However, I’ll dip my toes briefly into those waters this morning. But have no fear. If all of this goes according to plan, this post will seamlessly loop back around and return to talking about the thing I love the most–me! I will even not soil these pages with images or the name of said orange billionaire. Instead, please enjoy this disco space portrait of Lester Holt. Which is appropriate as I talk about him too. Moving on!

Yesterday (or was it two days ago?) a story broke about how whats-his-face had already declared the debates rigged as he knew in his little black heart that moderator Lester Holt (I’m assuming the normal, non-disco space version) was a Democrat, making him incapable of fairly conducting the debates. Let’s just say this was a reasonable concern. And let’s even assume, although we have no evidence to suggest this, that Holt has a history of being biased and shady. Let’s go a step further and say that the political party of every television debate moderator ever has warped the debates they were in charge of and so we can assume that as a Democrat that Holt will do the same. But the thing is,as we know now, Holt is a Republican. Oops. Yet this little snafu and mild, mistaken character assassination doesn’t even matter. The point is that guy already sent out the loudly cawing, “It’s rigged! It’s rigged!” carrier pigeons into the world and now we’re suspicious of an event that hasn’t even happened. What’s more is, if the little dicked casino owner totally tanks next week, he can blame a rigged system. It’s genius.

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Last night, I read a juicy piece on celebrity conspiracy theorists. These colorful characters believe everything from the relationship of Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift (you can’t make me type ‘Hiddleswift’ dammit!) to the hidden romance of two One Direction members is a conspiracy. They are mainly harmless types and often hilarious. The piece highlights how we the people create these back stories and conspiracies to make our own lives and consequently the lives of celebrities more fascinating. As a casual celebrity gossip dabbler, I enjoy a good Illuminati or Katy Perry conspiracy like everyone else. Thankfully, that’s kind of where it ends for me. Ditto with systems being rigged. It may not have occurred to me to blame fucked up systems because as a sober person, I’ve committed to a life of personal accountability. This means, as much as I’d like to blame America, the IRS, the Grammys, Groupon, Southwest Airlines, Apple, my parents, straight people, pot smokers, the LAPD etc. for rigging systems and solely bearing the responsibility for fucking up my life, I cannot. Curses! Foiled again!

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I guess I’m being rather flippant about something as problematic as our depressing cultural default setting for blaming systems and claiming things are rigged and that’s intentional. I mean how ridiculous. Yes, there are systems that are “rigged” and unfair. Thankfully, there are tireless watchdogs policing those systems. I’m a gay man with HIV and honey child, I have done been a part of some for legit fucked up, rigged, bigoted systems. Please. If that reality show hosting twerp thinks he knows unfairness, let him take his orange ass through the public health matrix and get back to me. Thanks. Yet believing in conspiracies against me and that the world is out to get me, that’s old behavior and something I cannot indulge in. As I’ve talked about recently, I just did one of those inventories that sober people do to clear out resentments and hopefully have chance of staying sober. This time around I was reminded of ongoing refusal to take responsibility for how I act. I acted out because I was bullied. I lied because I need to protect myself. I used people because I never had enough love growing up. It was always something or someone else’s fault. This thinking lead me to drugs and alcohol too. “If you had it as bad as me, you’d be drunk too” was my motto for so many years. As nice and easy as putting the blame on some else sounds, it’s a toxic and unsustainable way to live. When I bottomed out, I had to realize most of my problems were ones I caused. Well, that was certainly an ugly realization but one that needed to happen.

Thus, it makes me wonder: what if the system, all systems, are in fact rigged? So what? I mean it. Who cares if they are. Listen, pulling off this daily mental health miracle takes all the effort I can summon from the four corners. I ain’t got time for a conspiracy theory. I reckon no one else does either if we are all doing our best to pursue emotional intelligence, compassion and a little damn dignity. It is appealing, however, to point at something larger as trying to sabotage our every move. Take writing this post, for example. I’m a fan of the midway edit and spellcheck but a few moments ago this was impossible. My website was not having it. The edit button froze and I was kicked back to my post. I laughingly wondered if it was a conspiracy against me. That WordPress knew I was writing a smartass piece about conspiracies and didn’t want me to publish it. That someone gave enough of a shit to continue their evil plot against me, just to fuck with me. Within seconds, the edit was working again. And that’s it. Sometimes, things are just fucked up, with no ulterior motive. And sometimes there are evil forces out to get you. But if I’m working on being a little less shitty than I was yesterday, none of it actually matters.