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.

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easier

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“I thought it would be easier.”

From a simple errand to the grocery store to a short flight to a neighboring state, we always think it should be and would be easier. After all, we live in technologically advanced times, everything should be easier.  So it’s a genuine shock to our pampered 21st-century selves when daily errands turn into a harrowing epic journeys involving things like –gasp!- standing in line or waiting on hold. We also say, “I thought it would be easier” after we’ve attempted something we weren’t at all familiar with but somehow our crazy ass ego told us it wouldn’t be so hard. “I thought it would be easier” in this case means, “Holy shit. This is hard and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”

Either way, we usually only say this once whatever we thought would be easier, turns out to be a colossal pain in the ass. Yet there are a lot of things that I think we can agree on that don’t seem easy at all. They are the sort of tasks that are dubbed as “pretty fucking hard” and therefore if you attempt these things, you know what you’re getting into. Climbing Mount Everest, taking a case all the way to the Supreme Court, childbirth, a marathon, being the leader of a country– none of those things sound easy. And yet if the ego is out of control enough, we’ll try one of these universally known as difficult tasks and be genuinely shocked when it doesn’t turn out to be a cakewalk.

Our president said these exact words in an interview with Reuters, published yesterday when talking about his first 100 days in office. I laughed naturally but let’s be clear I don’t think he’s funny or that our country is funny right now. People keep saying, “Well, he’s at least good for comedy!” No, asshole. Richard Pryor was good for comedy. We only laugh at this idiot to stop ourselves from hurling our bodies in front of speeding trains. I laughed in that, “This muthafucker” eye roll sort of way. I laughed because of all the things I think about being the president it being easy is not even on the list. I’ve always thought it looked pretty hard, to be honest. It sounds stressful, terrible, like a living nightmare. But not easy. I mean have you seen those guys after they leave office? They all look 500 years old with their skin the color of paste and like they haven’t eaten in four years. Yet our dear president thought it would be easier and according to the article, he misses driving and misses his old life. Sigh. Trust us, boo. We miss that for you too and wouldn’t begrudge you if you just skedaddled out of the White House in a puff gold dust, never to be seen again. Alas, that’s not going to happen. In fact, I’m of the Negative Nelly mindset that we’ll be stuck with him for 8 years.

Anyway, all of this is to say that thinking being the president would be easier is hilarious to me. I mean, easier than what? Building your own rocket in your backyard and going to Mars? Learning brain surgery online and performing it on your mom?  I guess thinking things will be easier is symptomatic of the our collective entitlement and as much as it pains me to admit this, I too, just like Whats-His-Face, have started things only to realize how hard they were once it was too late.

As delusional as it sounds, I actually thought it would be easy to get sober. I really believed I could maybe go to two or three meetings, learn how to drink normally and maybe even pick up a new boyfriend while I was there. Surely, there had to be a drive thru version of AA or an accelerated program? My rude awakening came at a meeting in a depressing as fuck library inside of a seniors center in downtown Los Angeles. A nice older man in a red sweater greeted me and even gave me a hug. He later shared that he’d been going to this meeting for 20 years. 20 goddamn years? I wanted to cry. I was going to have to sit in sad, shitty seniors centers for the next 20 years? Where was that speeding train when you needed it? Other people with 5 years, 10 years and even 11 months weren’t exactly helping me keep the dream alive about this being an in-and-out kind of jam.  I left that meeting utterly depressed and if it wasn’t for the cute rocker boy who said hi to me, I probably wouldn’t have come back. But I did come back to that meeting and others. I woke up to the fact around 60 days of sobriety that this was going to be a hard, that I was going to be fighting for my life. In fact, more major challenges were yet to come and things would get a hell of lot worse before they got better.

Sober people and people dealing with mental illness know that it isn’t easy. None of it. Despite time under your belt and doing all of the right things, life can still be hard. I was humbled with this very thought a couple of days ago. Sure, it’s infinitely better than it was before but I’d be lying if I said my existence has been 24 hours of butterflies and rainbows since I got sober in 2009. Sobriety has granted me the gift of being realistic and knowing that some things are going to be hard. Really hard. I’ve also been given the gift of boundaries. I know that it’s okay too say no to things that are stressful and not worth the effort. While I can’t speak for that guy with the powerful job that turned out to be hard (duh), I know that when I think things were going to be easier, it  really means I have no idea what challenges are coming next.

 

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.

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.