Thanks for Letting Me Cher

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One night in 2009, when I had like 6 months sober, I was leaving a meeting in Santa Monica and I heard it coming from a SUV. It was a familiar, campy jingle jangle intro of a seventies song I had heard about 4,000 times since childhood. “I was born in a wagon of a travelling show. My mama used to dance for the money they’d throw,” she sang. Of course I was leaving a gay meeting that night and of course it was a Cher song. I had to laugh out loud the minute I heard it. “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.” Perfect. Like that title pretty much describes all of the attendees of every 12 Step meeting I’ve ever been to. Clearly, I was in the right place.
Having grown up in more of the Madonna generation than the Cher-Barbra-Bette era of young gay men, the diva was already on her 750th comeback by the time she won her Oscar when I was a teenager. But it was hard not to love Cher, even though I was more of a goth- new wave kid and she was recording Bon Jovi in fishnets music at the time. Cher was an outsider, a rebel and she didn’t care. Those were all things I aspired to be so she was added to the lengthy list of celebrities I was obsessed with in about 1989. As I got older and into my mid-twenties, Cher had her 751st comeback with “Believe” and I was fully out of the closet both as a gay man and Cher obsessive. The closest I ever got to the Cher-o-sphere in person was when I was 28 and working at a clothing company. Per the request of her stylist, I sent Cher some samples of the arm bands and gloves that we made. She sent me back a signed cd which meant we were basically best friends.
I also saw her in concert as art of her farewell tour that wasn’t really a farewell tour in 2005. This concert is harder to remember. Hard to remember because I was wasted drunk during that concert so every detail is fuzzy. Also hard to remember as in difficult. The whole memory because it still kind of stings. Here was this diva I loved for years and I barely remember a thing about that concert. I blacked out somewhere after “Take Me Home” and before “Heart of Stone.” I was sloppy drunk and it was an evening I regretted even before it was over. I do remember we had drinks before the concert we met a couple who was excited that The Village People were opening for Cher. “I can’t wait to do the YMCA for real,” the woman said. “I’ve only done it at weddings and bar mitzvahs!” I also remember the men’s restroom being the cruisiest gay spot I’d ever been to outside of a San Francisco leather bar. Other than that, I got nothing. Which is too bad. I really wish I had a magical Cher moment to pass onto you but I do not. I will however take this opportunity to discourage anyone who thinks drinking a lot and walking down the hills of the Hollywood Bowl sounds like a fun idea. It isn’t. Ugh. What a mess. I think I owe myself a Cher amends at some point.
Back in the rooms of recovery of 2009, I hope I would have made Cher proud. After all, she’s a self-professed member of Al-Anon, presumably after being married to Greg Allman. However, Allman was such an accomplished alcoholic that I think even if you purchased his greatest hits, you’d qualify for Al-Anon. But more than that, I hope I embraced the honesty that my idol had always proudly displayed. She always said what was on her mind and now I needed to do the same if I wanted to stay sober. To be fair, I didn’t learn how to share in meetings from Cher. I learned it from other alcoholics and addicts.
Week after week, meeting after meeting, I would hear people share about trying to stay sober when life got bad. We lost a member of our group who died of cancer but died sober. We lost others who relapsed. We lost a few to suicide. We also had people stay sober through good times like job promotions, weddings and financial successes. You know the kind of things you’d drink over to celebrate. People share about that too. I remember complaining once to my sponsor about a guy who bitched every week about his neighbors. To which my sponsor replied, “Well, he’s not drinking over his neighbors, now is he?” Fair point.
The other thing I noticed was the people who really shared what was going were the ones who stayed and stayed sober. The others who sat silently? Not so much. Being “wonderfully verbal” as a friend of mine once described me, I tried to jump right into sharing at meetings. I ALWAYS had something to say and I was sure that it was genius. I was also sure everyone else was obsessed with what I shared too. One night after a meeting and after a long and scattered share, I said to my friend, “I hope my share made sense.” Totally deadpan, he replied, “You shared tonight?” When I picked up a year, another friend said, “you’re a lot less crazy than you were when you got here!’ Turns out, my shares weren’t that memorable. But what was happening is I was feeling better. I was also for the first time ever trying to come clean about what was really happening. I was sharing about all the things I never wanted anyone to know for fear that I would be ridiculed. But as time went on, the reverse happened.
The harder something was to talk about, the more it connected me to others. When I got my HIV diagnosis at seven moths sober, I shared about it. Immediately, tons of gay men from my homegroup rallied around me. They told me they were positive too. They told me I was going to be okay. They told me where to go to get meds. They told me I didn’t have to drink over it. And I believed them. Shame, lies and self-hate drove me to he brink of death and now sharing the truth had brought me back to life. It was a comeback of my own that surely Cher would approve of.
In the cult classic Burlesque, Cher sings “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.” The song, like “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” could be for every alcoholic too. Those of us who fought to stay alive and stay sober feel it in our bones when La Cher sings, “I am down but I’ll get up again.” But I won’t unless, I open my mouth. Each time, I write or speak or podcast or even share at a meeting, I’m fighting to stay honest and to stay here. The more I tell my story and tell on myself, the less power my alcoholism and addiction have.
So sadly, no you haven’t seen or heard the last of me but I hope I haven’t seen the last of you either.

Get this essay and others in my new collection Now That You’ve Stopped Dying available now! 

freedom, bitches

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This is probably a discussion for another time. I should probably table this on a day when we aren’t honoring this great nation of our’s. But I won’t because saying the wrong thing at the wrong time is kind of the basis for my entire creative career. Here goes: I think we overuse the word and the concept of triggers when it comes to addiction and recovery. Like it can sometimes feel like a copout for relapse, for bad behaviors, for not engaging in real life. I also believe that I don’t really need things or people or events to trigger me into being a drunken asshole. I am an independent hot mess all on my own and therefore I am my own trigger.

But on the other hand, there is a lot to be said about the trauma response that certain things or days can bring. Over my last decade of being sober, there has been dozens, if not hundreds, of times where I’ve walked by something or heard a song on a radio or seen a date on the calendar and immediately taken back to the mindset I had when I was at the height of my addiction. The height of my addiction, by the way, is 5’11 but my husband would argue I’m more like an enthusiastic 5’10. Anyway, from a PTSD place the idea of triggers is very real for me so I give people a pass when they dramatically say that this, that or everything triggers them. Because if I’m being honest, this very day filled with fireworks and now tanks, apparently, is triggering as fuck for me.

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt like a plastic bag as queried by Katy Perry in her 2010 song “Firework” but something about 4th of July certainly makes me feel edgy. For the better part of a decade, the holiday is linked into memories of being an absolute drunken shit show. During that era, I lived in Echo Park, a neighborhood in Los Angeles notable for both its incredible taco trucks and proximity to Dodgers Stadium. Drinking and fireworks both started well before the 4th itself and usually culminated with a viewing of the Dodgers fireworks from my balcony. Not that I ever remembered the fireworks show but I do remember by the time it finally happened always feeling letdown. Now in retrospect, I realize it had nothing to do with the quality of the display itself. My dog would go insane when the fireworks went off but I was of little comfort to him as I myself was insane. Plus it was always hotter than hell in LA at that time of year therefore looking back it just feels forced and uncomfortable. Like I was trying to celebrate but hated myself so much that the burden of being festive was simply bone crushing.

The holiday usually included a lot of drama and fighting but again so did most of my Wasted Wednesdays and Shitfaced Saturdays. Nevertheless, every year I wince when it shows back up. Like “Oh great. Trauma but dusted with patriotism and people in flag printed shorts.” This year, it felt oddly present and I’m sure not enflamed at all by what a daily traumatizing dumpster fire this country currently is. So I decided to deal with it like  i deal with everything else now: cooking. While the country isn’t currently inspiring me to bust into Lee Greenwood covers (let’s be real: cover) while wearing red, white and blue sequins, I was inspired to cook. I was inspired to cook all those summer, American foods, specifically. Fried chicken, pulled pork, mini cheesecakes, hot dogs and homemade potato salad. I couldn’t change the country or erase my trauma but I could eat fried chicken legs while I watched shit blow up in the sky.

I’ve heard over the last few days that many people feel like this holiday, this year feels more depressing and more solemn than in year’s past. Folks from all over have been lamenting that there doesn’t feel like there’s anything to celebrate. Despite my very present trauma-trigger combo, I would disagree. Not latching onto patriotism or weird rhetoric, I think it’s safer for me to focus on the word freedom. I currently live a life free from drugs and alcohol. This is not a big deal if you’ve never been their on-call, 24-7 hooker like I have. But for people like me, it’s also huge. Even after being sober a while, it’s STILL huge. The fact that I’m currently not sipping something vodka spiked out of a Solo cup at 7am is also huge. Not nursing a hangover or trying to lick the remnants of cocaine out of a baggie just to get me out of bed? Also big freaking deals. Today, I am 100 percent free of living a life dictated by drugs and alcohol. I roam freely about the cabin that is this planet without a worry of getting drunk or without the fear of running out of drugs and alcohol. This is a freedom that is badass and incredibly powerful for someone like myself who lived as alcohol’s bitch for over 20 years.

In a deeper sense, I am also free from much of the crippling thinking and behaviors that kept me one sick ticket for just as many years. I’m free from a past that I thought was too horrible and difficult to look at. For the most part, I’m free from self-hatred and self-doubt. Sure, they creep in like the sneaky bitches that they are. But in general I have a freedom around those things that makes my day-to-day pretty damn enjoyable. I’m free too of not feeling good enough or worthy enough for love, happiness and success. This all upper level personal freedom that I always thought was out of reach for me.

Today, while I make coleslaw and toddle to friends’ backyards, my  personal freedom is what I’m celebrating. And shit, I’m celebrating America too, that crazy lady. She’s the reason I can publish this blog post or march in the streets. She’s complicated but I love her. And finally with a whole lot of freedom and sobriety, I can say the same thing about myself.

power ballad through it

1txyhkXCA8x-4KchjK67CoAWeird, weak and maybe wonderful things happen at the end of a long creative project. Maybe you hit a wall and decide, “Fuck it. It’s done.” Maybe something elusive shows up at the last second to save the whole thing. Maybe a last blast of steam moves you to turn the whole thing around like a goddamn creative action hero! Or maybe you just fall into a puddle of tears while blasting power ballads. The latter was exactly what happened to me over the summer as I finished my first collection of essays, Now That You’ve Stopped Dying.

All was not well on the ranch last July. Sure, everything on a cellular level around my home was fine. More than fine. It was great. But inside of me? Disaster. The thing that nobody ever tells you about bleeding funny, dark personal stories on the page is that it really takes a toll on you. I’d been editing tons of personal essays as well as creating new essays for months for this collection. Sure, I had more than enough previously published pieces to fill a few volumes but I wasn’t feeling it, dawg. I wanted them to make sense together. I wanted them to hit all the right notes. I wanted them to be a gift to people in recovery who had the same dark, funny fucked up thoughts that I did. But the catch was I had to dig up a bunch of new painful shit, throw glitter on them and be funny too. Trauma but make it fashion.

The new pieces got written and the old ones were spit shined but it came at a price. After so many months of listening to my own voice over and over again, I started to go mad. Not mad like a Sylvia Plath moment but certainly not acting like myself. For example, the last two days of writing, things had gotten really desperate. All I wanted, no, all I NEEDED to finish writing was Starbursts and a never-ending musical supply of power ballads. This is cause for alarm for a lot of reasons but primarily because I’m a strict chocolate, coffee and Stevie Nicks kind of guy when I’m on a deadline. Something about stirring up years of personal shit flicked a switch in my brain. It was Starburst in varieties of flavors and the chest thumping anthems of Celine Dion or this book was not happening.

Thus I did what I’ve done my whole life when a significant moment needed to be less painful, I made a soundtrack. Back in my teen years, my drawers were filled with sad mix tapes that charted every heartbreak and mistake. Today, my benchmark life moments, good or bad, get their own playlists and this moment certainly deserved one. Entitled “power ballad thru it” the playlist hit all the inspiring, dramatic and delightfully codependent notes you want with such a collection. It starts with “Alone” by Heart because it’s one of the best ever and I will refuse to hear anything different. Plus the sisters Wilson had previously helped me write my play The Singing Room so their musical magic couldn’t hurt. Checking more boxes were tracks like “Time After Time,” “Listen to Your Heart” and “Without You”-the Mariah version. Duh. These sometimes triumphant, usually heartbreaking songs were perfect for a project where I hopefully left it all on the page, emotionally, while somehow managing to be hilarious too. It’s  also really helpful for me to have something to sing along to and do expressive hand gestures to while editing. Hemingway and Faulkner did the same thing. Trust me- my fist bump during “Show Me Heaven” as Maria McKee sings “I’m not denyin’!” is a sight to behold. Plus, the overt theatrics of these songs helped me laugh at myself and take this whole bleeding on the page thing a little less seriously. Nothing like an epic lip sync of “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” by Celine Dion (who has two other gems on this playlist) to lighten the mood while editing a piece on PTSD.

The thing is, and this has happened with me finishing big projects before and will undoubtedly happen again, I was just ready to birth the damn thing. Months of tinkering on my own oh-so-humorous thoughts gets exhausting. That’s a fuck ton of time to spend inside my brain. I got tired of myself and of the essays. I lost all objectivity. Self-doubt slipped in more than once, that hateful bitch. She told me, “These essays suck. You’re not funny. Why are you even bothering?” Thankfully, I turned up the music and wondered why Laura Branigan is still so unappreciated instead of wondering if self-doubt was actually right. The day I promised it would be done by crept even closer and with that date approaching came another fear: I wasn’t going to finish. As a decades long flakey alcoholic and drug addict finishing anything other than a bottle or a baggie wasn’t really my strong point. But I wolfed down more Starbursts and didn’t listen to that one either. I’m not sure why other than I’ve grown up. The things that used to paralyze me don’t really anymore. Or they don’t for long, anyway.

The day my book was due, I didn’t work at my day job. I took the day to finish the damn thing, once and for all. The power ballads were at full volumes, the candy had been replenished and the coffee was non-stop. I got to the final essay. It was a rework of a pice that I wrote for urtheinspiration years ago. It meant something to me at the time because it talked about how I learned how to ask for help and to be honest with other alcoholics. Also? It was rich in Cher references. The new version was an expansion on those ideas but  now filled with reflections as a person with over nine years sober. Maybe the piece itself was emotional. Maybe it was me. Maybe I was tired. Or maybe all of those things are true. But as I wrote, tears fell down my face. I couldn’t help myself. I was a very Joan Wilder moment. Cher sang “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me Yet” in the background. The whole experience was way too much. Here was this drunk, coke whore actually finishing a book!?! It took time, candy, caffeine and power ballads but I finished the fucking thing.

And not just that. It was a book I was proud of. I wrote it for everybody who got sober and then thought, “Well, now what?” I wrote it for every queer person who struggled with self-esteem and addiction. I wrote it for every dark motherfucker who has a sense of humor about all of this stuff. I wrote it, finished it and now after months of life’s curve balls, I can’t wait for you to finally read it this spring!

 

 

 

pour some sugar on me

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It’s an odd, very “this century” phenomenon, thanks largely to the internet, that when bored white people like myself quit something we expect a medal or a round of applause. Like maybe Sharon should take a few days off in honor of her brave undertaking of the Whole 30. Perhaps Tyler needs a special parking space since he recently gave up vaping. God bless. In lieu of fighting against racist and discriminatory systems to get our basic needs met, we invent little challenges for our “best selves” and really want everyone to know how hard it is. Thus I recently went an entire month without sugar and I really resisted in an online call for prayers and round the clock encouragement.

Thankfully, for the entire world at large this experiment didn’t subject the internet to  shirtless after photos with captions like “Hot #sugarfree #dadbod.” Jesus. No. My ego is not yet that fragile. I say “yet” because much like Ben Affleck, you never know when my ego will shatter in a million pieces. I can say since quitting actual the hard shit like cocaine and daily drinking, I have dabbled in quitting all kinds of stuff and usually out of boredom. I was vegetarian for a few months, I’ve fasted, I’ve juiced and I’ve even had other rounds of me quitting sugar. This bout of sugar detox came on the tail end of the holiday season where I basically consumed sweets like a round-the-clock tournament of Ms. Pac-Man. I baked all of the cookies, I ate all of the holidays cookies and I would do it all again. To paraphrase Jon Bon Jovi in the epic ballad “Wanted Dead or Alive”, I’ve seen million pastries and I’ve eaten them all. It was an amazing holiday season but I wound up on the other end of December cracked out on sugar and bloated as fuck.  It was time to step away from the sugar. At least temporarily.

Having a background in recovery is really helpful when you decide to crash diet or try some bullshit nutritional thing. When you get sober, you learn the process is all one day at a time, that you won’t feel better right away and the progress is slow-moving and hard-earned. Intellectually, I knew this going into quitting sugar on January 7. I didn’t tell all my friends I was quitting forever and that my life was going to change! Child, I’d learned that lesson a zillion times before I got sober when I would blab about being done forever only to be found the week later with a straw in my nose and a beer in my hand at some shitty gay bar. I know better now. Unless, I’m really ready to quit, I should wait until I send out a press release. I kept it low profile in the beginning, allowing for some gentleness if I happened to stumble on a Reese’s peanut butter cup along the way. All of this was great and knowing how to quit things without setting myself up for failure is a huge gift. Still, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t totally suck.

In my mind I would go sugar-free until February 14th. It would be a month plus one week and I’d celebrate with chocolate hearts. I had the Instagram post already planned out in my mind. However, due to a friend in a real crisis way bigger than nonsense, some chocolate had to happen on February 8th. So I did make it a month and what a month. When people at work or in my personal life would ask me about quitting sugar they’d always say, ” Good for you! Don’t you feel great?!” My response was the  always same: “No. I don’t feel great. I’m bitchy, I wanna punch people and sit in a bathtub filled with gelato.”I would also tell them it was a stupid idea and that I wouldn’t recommend it. This response might have been a tad crabby but it was authentic. I didn’t instantly feel better. I didn’t lose 50 pounds (I did lose 10 pounds though). I didn’t suddenly have all this energy people talk about. What is that energy thing anyway? People say that about everything. I quit eating meat and got so much energy! I quit smoking and got so much energy! This has never happened to me. Then again, as a cocaine enthusiast, my idea of something giving me energy might be different from most folks. Anyway, my real problem with quitting sugar was that it wasn’t a cure-all for every minor or major thing wrong in my life.

Quitting sugar for a month didn’t’ cure my PTSD or lifelong depression or occasional bone-crushing self-doubt. Quitting sugar didn’t make a better person. Quitting sugar didn’t cure my insecurities or prejudices. Quitting sugar didn’t make me less selfish. It just made me a bitchy old gay who really wanted a cookie. Turns out I’m sort of a cunt without a steady stream of chocolate. Now we know! But it also helped me realize that as far as my bigger character stuff, the nitty-gritty, emotional growth and the real juicy spiritual journeys that I’m 100% committed to, I’m in a great place. Over the past year and a half, I’ve pushed myself really hard to get to the bottom of some really gnarly, core personality stuff that has been holding me back. It’s not pretty or cute work. My relationship has been going through a similar process too. It involves putting the ways I think under a microscope and honestly noting that a lot of them are out of business. Changing the way I’ve operated for years is some hardcore shit. Comparatively, quitting sugar ain’t no thing.

Another month later and back on my sugar bullshit, I’d like to say that month helped me put my relationship with sugar into a healthy perspective. But seeing as though I currently have a chocolate cream pie in my refrigerator, that might be a stretch. What it did do is make me realize that recovery taught me how to live my life, how to quit stuff and how to give myself a fucking break and eat a cookie.

 

 

to all the bros I loved before

Justin Bieber goes for a jog with his PosseWhy is it that the people who push you around, the ones who beat you up and the guys you don’t wanna run into are also the ones you wanna impress the most? Okay, not you. You’re probably pretty healthy. I’m sorry to put this shit on you. I meant me. Why am I like this? Why do I know in the pit of my soul that these men are garbage fires of individuals but I want them to approve of me anyway? Child. This is a deep thing that I’ve been paying a professional to talk about for over a year. There’s binder full of notes somewhere and a large conspiracy theory type of wall map that we could pull together to try to unravel this. The short answer is that my self-esteem was nonexistent for most of my life so I just wanted these dudes, these bros, theses assholes to like me. They usually never did and what’s more guys like this are the kind of guys who bullied me in school, pushed me in the hallway, threw things at me and mocked me. Painful? Sure, but not impossible to overcome. For the ones who hurt me when I was young, through the hours of work, therapy and 12-Step Meetings I’ve been able to reach a place of “Fuck ‘Em” in the most spiritual way possible.

I’m thinking about all of this right now for lots of reasons but chief among them being because asshole dudes who get away with whatever they want are kind of in fashion. We want to put them in power. We still want to give them things. We want to look the other way at the sheer fact of how much they suck. And here I do mean we.  You are guilty too. I listened to that weird dude cry, sniffle and yell during a job interview for a position on the highest court in the land, all the while knowing that even his inherent shittiness wouldn’t sink him from getting the job. Jerks like him always win. Life isn’t an 80’s movie. Wimpy Ralph Macchio in a headband won’t save us. The Biffs, the Johnnies, the Chads– they run this world and we don’t get a redemption storyline. Just ask Anita HIll or anybody bullied by guys like this. The victims of guys like this get to say their piece and put their necks on the line, only to have their lives ruined all over again. There’s no prom or trophies. Yet what we do get to walk away with is a rebuilt version of ourselves that’s stronger and capable of amazing things like even being able to love these jerks, these dudes, these bros.

Whoever is the head writer for the primetime drama that is my life deserves an Emmy because they can really come up with a plot twist. Little did I know that when I got sober in 2009 that my life would be filled with straight guys, ones that even looked like my tormenters from the past. For years, groups of white men would give me a panic attack and now here I was sitting next to them in meetings. The amazing thing about being in a room of addicts and alcoholics is that whoever you were or where you come from doesn’t matter. There have been too many times to count where I see someone who does not look or sound like me start to open their mouths and I think, “Oh this is gonna put me to sleep” only to have my brain blown open and my heart melted because they said exactly how I felt. I now considered myself blessed to have a network of straight men friends who are sober and who I can count on. Oh and it goes deeper than that.

In my professional world I work with a lot of guys right from jail, from rural and not exactly gay friendly neighborhoods and basically guys who in a different time and place who would kick my ass. Yet meeting them addict-to-addict and from a place of support, where we come from really doesn’t matter. I’ve had burly dudes that people might even describe as scary tell me they love me. Not only do I believe them but I love them too. It’s oddly profound and perfect that the types of guys I thought I hated and who hated and tortured me are the very ones I get to help and get the honor of being a person they can lean on. See? I told you it was a good plot twist. If this was a movie from the creators of This Is Us, you’d be crying right now.

The last reason these bros are on my mind is because one that I loved who didn’t love me back recently left this realm. I got news the other day a guy I used to hang out with was killed in an accident. We were friends when I was 20. It’s a gay story as old as time. We met on ecstasy, went to raves, hung out constantly, I fell in love with him but he didn’t love me back becuase he liked vaginas and I don’t have one of those, he fucked my best girlfriend, I did more drugs and cut them both out of my life. You know. These things just happened in the 1990’s. The impact of this non-romance was powerful though. We were never the same as friends, although the meth might have had something to do with that. Nevertheless, we drifted and over the years I wondered about him. I would see posts from mutual friends on Facebook or hear news of him when I’d return home to Denver over the holidays. By not loving me the way I wanted him to he taught me something too: he taught me I deserve more. He taught me that I shouldn’t chase things that aren’t meant for me. He taught me that I could be loveable. His death hit me like a ton of bricks. I mourned him because he was actually one of the good ones. I also mourned for that 20-year-old drug addict version of myself with the painfully low self-esteem.

Sadly, this will be one of those essays that maybe doesn’t answer the questions posed at the top. The fact of the matter is, I don’t know why we loves these dudes, these jerks, these bros. I don’t know why we love people who hurt us or push us around or who are simply unvailable. And I sure the fuck don’t know why our culture is obsessed with rewarding bullies, rapists and misogynists. This also will not end with me saying that we should try to love and understand straight white males more. God no. Eww. I mean, yes they are not all rapist, bully assholes but that’s the best you’ll get out of me right now.

What I do know is this: the men who’ve hurt me, the ones who’ve bullied me and the ones who couldn’t love me back have only made me tougher, more compassionate and even able to love more. For that alone, I’m grateful for their bro asses.

float

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11-year-old me would be pretty damn excited to learn that one day he would live downtown, in a condo with two cats and someone who loves him. But he’d actually be the most excited that said condo has a swimming pool. 11-year-old me, although a boy from unquestionably landlocked Colorado, was actually a mermaid. This was confirmed when he saw Splash with Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah. Hannah’s character Madison, a once cool for mermaids only name that has been appropriated by suburban moms (When will the horror of mermaid appropriation end, honestly?), was immediately identifiable. For those who don’t remember, Madison comes ashore to New York City and is forced to acclimate fast to a weird, harsh world that she didn’t belong in. I mean as a gay child that was literally my experience everywhere I went–from baseball games to camping trips and beyond. The one place this mermaid child felt at home was in water. Pool, beach, river didn’t matter. I came alive when I could just bounce in the water. My favorite was swimming underwater. It was quiet and I could hold my breath for a long time so it was just me and water and not the other things in daily life that seemed hard and alien.  Like Madison, I didn’t stay underwater and I  always returned to an awkward life landlocked.

Some 34 years later, this mermaid-merman has learned how to live among non-merfolk. Sort of. I mean I don’t know if I’ll ever pass as someone who gets this whole life thing but I’ve found some ways to make it feel less painful and less alien. I should stop using alien in a negative way. Misunderstood mystical beings from other places should be cherished. (Oh when will our stigmatizing of aliens ever end?) The point is I’ve accepted and even begun to love merself. Even when hanging out at my condo pool.  On one of those Sweet-Jesus-Is-It-Possible-To-Die-From-Summer-Exhaustion days where the air is stifling and hot, I trotted out to the pool after work. Just a quick dip, a little float to help rinse off my day. Naturally, the bonus for pool situations for nosey people like myself is to spy on other swimmers. What are they wearing? What’s the group dynamic? Which one of those blonde girls in the denim cutoffs and bikini top is named Lauren? Why is that guy fixing his hair obsessively and taking selfies? There’s a lot to unpack at the condo pool and I’m ready for it. On this day, I was grateful that the omnipresent group of drunk people wasn’t there.

The last time my husband and I went out together, we were bombarded by a group of boozy forty somethings (or thirtysomethings who drank enough to look a decade older). They were day drinking, which was always a favorite pastime of mine, and swimming. The longer we hung out at the pool, the faster we could see them deteriorate. A woman in pigtails on a rainbow raft kept barking at us to push her to the other end of the pool. A large, loud man pounded cocktails from big plastic tumblers and stumbled in and out of the water. The other friends who hadn’t drunk as much packed their things and scooted off before they got messy, an ability I myself never possessed. As for the husband and I, we laughed and paddled to other, more sober parts of the pool. We causally looked at the booze fueled train wreck but didn’t make direct eye contact, for fear of more slurry speech interaction. It’s always enlightening to see drunk people in broad daylight.  Like now it feels so weird and out of place. My daytime hours are so dull and on such an autopilot, I forget that I used to live my whole life like those people at the pool. Yet the minute I wanna get super judgey about daytime drunks, I have to remember that I once drank and took ecstasy on a Tuesday afternoon just for something to do. It’s just a different life now and a sort of return to that mermaid existence where I am again a creature not doing what everybody else is doing.

Th large, loud and now certainly most hammered guy in the group soon was organizing where they all would drink and play pool one they left. In no shape whatsoever to drink more but had enough wits about him to get together a plan for more alcohol was a mission I certainly identified with. How can you enjoy a drunken daytime moment when you have to figure out how and where you can keep drinking? Anyway, we shuffled off to the hot tub as they left the pool in a wet huddle of swerving, yelling disarray. It was amusing from a distance. It was deserving of a few one-liners and eye rolls. But it certainly didn’t wreck our moment at the pool.

As we hopped back in the water, shivering from the temperature shock, the now silent area felt more like those waters where this merchild first floated. Just me and the water and my merhusband. When we went to the Caribbean a few years ago, I remember this amazing smile on his face as we jumped in the warm waves. That same smile comes back sometimes even when we’re in the pool. He doesn’t always fit in on this earth either. He doesn’t like what everybody else likes. But he loves the water and me so we can float through all of this together.

Nobody Gives a Crap How You Stay Sober

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I say this from a place of love, light and spirituality: nobody gives a fuck. No, I’m serious and I swear once you wear this idea like a big old cozy sweater, the better off you will be. The pain of being convinced that people actually care and are overly invested in our every move is some 21st century narcissistic bullshit that serves no purpose other than to make you insane. This is especially true when we talk about getting sober. Everybody (and by everybody I mean addicts because let’s be honest we some selfish ass bitches and we think we are everybody) is convinced that how they are trying to get sober is a way that’s being scrutinized or being judged.We think we’re doing it wrong. We think that we found a way to stay sober that needs to be shouted out from the rafters. But baby, I’m here to tell you ain’t nobody give a fuck.

The most boring thing on the internet today is the blog post deep-fried in clickbait batter that says, “Why AA Sucks!” or conversely “Why AA is the only way to get sober.” If you have clicked on either one of these types of article, you’ve been played, sucka. The people who write these things don’t want to honestly connect with other people struggling with addiction. They want to scream about how right they are into a void. And that’s boring to me as are the billions of angry comments left on these posts. It’s all inflammatory bs concocted to get page views and not substance. My mom always says hurt people hurt other people but also hurt people also write attention seeking blog posts and its all nonsense. Bo to the ring.

I find it so brain splatteringly boring for a few reasons. First of all, people struggling to stay sober need to cling onto whatever life raft they find and your anti 12-Step program posts aren’t helping. If somebody about to die finds comfort there and stays sober, leave them the fuck alone. Likewise, if 12 step programs aren’t somebody’s thing, don’t beat the fuck out of them. It’s attraction rather than promotion, my AA homie and you should know better. Stop yelling in all caps quotes from the big book. We’ve ceased fighting, dawg and you should know that too. Also, I find it boring because these arguments back and forth deflate the real issue at hand: THAT PEOPLE ARE DYING, YOU SELFISH TURD AND YOUR OPINIONS AREN’T HELPING ANYONE. Seriously if we all spent as much time waxing poetically on the best ways to stay sober as we did actually helping struggling addicts and alcoholics in real life, we’d be better off. Lastly, I think it’s boring because it solves nothing. I’m a cocaine addict, mind you, so I like some instant ass results. Okay fight back and forth but let’s have something useful come out of these conversations. Otherwise, I cannot be bothered.

I got sober through AA primarily because I’m uncreative and I was out of options. Relying on just smoking weed, hiding from alcohol or good old-fashioned magic to keep me sober didn’t work. I sincerely hope somebody out there tried a one or more of those things and it helped you get sober. Particularly magic. Please if magic made you sober, you owe the world a book and I will buy it. However none of that shit worked for me and I did what family members and a billion friends did: I went to a ton of meetings. I didn’t buy the whole AA kit and caboodle at first and guess what– nobody gave a fuck. These were a bunch of screwed up people like me. Sure, they wanted to help if they could but honeychild, they were hot messes too so they did what they could. But nobody was too worried about if I was “feeling it” or if I needed to be converted. I either got on board or I didn’t. These folks were just trying not to die. I could do what they were doing and if not that was cool too.

After awhile, it all sort of clicked. Yet as I have mentioned numerous times, it was not all good in the formerly drunken hood. In fact, it was all jacked up for a long ass time. But I was desperate not to be the same drunken a-hole I had been for 20 plus years so I did whatever people said worked for them. AA saved my life but mainly because I did ALL of the shit they tell you to do and all of the 12 Steps. Weird that we’d even have to point out that a 12 Step program only works if you do the entire thing but you’d be surprised at how many people went to two meetings, never opened their mouths or did a step and then declared, “AA is some bullshit!” That’d be like hating on Paris even though you had only flown over it and never actually walked around the damn place. Anyway, AA did what it was supposed to do for me and has kept me sober for nearly 10 years. I never felt bullied or pressured or shamed by people in AA. Annoyed, exhausted and agitated by people in AA but to be fair that’s how I feel about most people everywhere.

Still, I recognize the spirituality part is a tough pill to swallow for people and that it isn’t everybody’s jam. Lots of folks stay sober through church. Even more stay sober through yoga. Some with just the support of loved ones. Refuge Recovery. SMART Recovery. Celebrate Recovery. Crossfit. Therapy. Biking. Knitting. Whatever it takes. I say anything that keeps us of the streets and stops us from being drunken, drugged out terrors at places like Target or the airport, then I’m all about it. Acting like I’m some authority or expert on staying sober or that my way is the only way is stupid. Likewise, so is beating up people for staying sober through ways I don’t understand.

After about 18 months without drinking, I walked into my old grocery store in Echo Park. The cashier was a girl named Roxy who rang me up dozens of times and definitely saw me totally shit housed more than a few times. “Did you need a bottle today, ” she asked. I told her I didn’t and that I hadn’t drank in over a year. “Oh thank god,” she said. “you were really bad.” You’re a special kind of neighborhood alcoholic when even the girl at the grocery store notices. She wasn’t lying, though. The thing was Roxy didn’t care how I stayed sober. She was just glad I did. I was no longer stumbling into the grocery store and everybody was happy about that, myself included.

Listen, it still takes a lot to get my own sober behind out of bed and out the door. I don’t have time to micromanage your program of recovery.  You found it, whatever it is that keeps you sober and I’m truly happy for you! Please keep doing what you’re doing and please help some damn people find the sober juju you have found! And also? I don’t give a fuck.