Beginning the 18th and Final Year of my Sobriety (and possibly my life)

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Since it’s 0227, I guess it’s officially my sobriety anniversary. This is my seventeenth year of being clean and sober meaning that I now embark on my eighteenth year starting today. In truth, the actually date, which is unknown to me, has come and gone. Seventeen years ago, on the days leading up to September 1st, I was driving from Galveston, Texas to Los Angeles, California to begin what I was sure was going to be a bright acting career. I was traveling with my then boyfriend of two and a half years, Sonny Ward with whom I was sure I share the rest of my life. We’d made that promise after all. That wasn’t the only promise we made and broke. There had been many, mostly about fidelity and monogamy which we both broke pretty early on in our relationship and often thereafter. The first time it had happened (for both of us) was when I traveled to Europe on a trip I had planned before he and I had gotten together three months earlier. While I was helping a sexy Italian businessman with his antipasti during his lunch hour in a porn theater in Rome, Sonny was helping some redneck with a similar need in Mississippi. At least mine had the excitement of international intrigue. My guy didn’t even speak English. Who am I kidding? Sonny’s likely didn’t either and both were seedy and disreputable. Both were cheating. How could I have done this? How could I have screwed up the relationship of my dreams only three months after finding him?
I was to leave Rome in two days time for Paris. There, I would end my life. Even though I’d never yet seen it, the Eiffel Tower would be the instrument of my demise. I’d jump from its famous beams for a dramatic ending appropriate to what I considered a dramatic (if sort of pitiful) life. But then I thought of what that would do to Sonny. Wouldn’t his life be destroyed by the suicide of his newfound love? You should know these weren’t my first thoughts of suicide. In fact there had been two previous “attempts.” One, when I was nineteen I took a whole box of NoDoz caffeine tablets, sent myself into cardiac arrest, and spent the next three days in intensive care– all this over a boy. Death by the jitters is actually kind of funny now that I think about it and I’ll try to get to that story sometime in the next year. It’s a good one. The second attempt at taking the fast train to the great beyond was when I slit my wrists at age twenty-three which is a very funny story that I’ll make it a point to get to at some point in the next year, which is all the time I’ve giving myself to wrap all this up. Today begins the eighteenth year of my sobriety. October 15 begins the fiftieth year of my life. On September 1, 2015, I’ll decide if October 15, 2015 will be my last day on Earth. Dramatic, huh? When I first got sober, I heard people in the recovery community say “change or die” and that’s just what I intend to do.

But I was telling you about Paris.
So I’d decided to jump off the Eiffel Tower and end it all because I had just done to Sonny the same thing that, unbeknownst to me at the time, he had also just done to me. Then imagined thoughts of the heartbreak it would bring made me change my mind. (Incidentally, in my years of suicidal ideation up to this point, thoughts of what it would do to my mother are all that had kept me from it. Definitely a pattern. Codependency, like alcohol had at least for a while, saved my life.) Here’s what I decided to do: I recorded the basic details of my Roman “indiscretion” in my journal. Because the thought of keeping the information from Sonny interminably wasn’t even an option, I decided that I would show him the journal entry in one year’s time. I would be able to tell him that it hadn’t happened again and that it never would happen in the future and that I was very sorry but I that I also wanted to be completely honest with him in all things. This was my plan. But as so often in my life, my best laid plans went awry. About a week after my return from Europe, I came into the bedroom to find Sonny sitting there in front of the open journal, all the blood drained from his face. He’d just read, of course, the part about what happened in Rome. The form of anxiety peculiar only to a cheating partner who’s been caught flooded my blood in an instant. The gig, as they say, was up.

Tomorrow I’ll pick up there and tell you what happened with Sonny. For today, I really intended to talk more about sobriety. It may sound to you like my brain goes off on ten tracks when I’m writing. What’s actually happening is that I’m editing out another ninety.
So in the last days of August 1997, Sonny and I rambled through the Mojave toward our new lives in Hollywood. Although I hadn’t had a drink in three years (alcohol being my drug of choice) I had continued to smoke pot. I’d had previous periods of sobriety and in fact I probably should delve more deeply into that story at some point. But as I knew that I was moving to LA, where there would be ample opportunity for me to destroy myself with drugs (yes, alcohol was my drug of choice but I had done every drug I ever saw), I decided to put it all down, even the cigarettes. I smoked the last of the pot and threw the cigarettes out the window. I drank the case of bottled water from the floorboard, turned on the truck heater (yes, it was the desert in Summertime), had myself a little rolling sweat lodge, and declared myself “clean.” I didn’t seek out the recovery community right away but three months later when I did, I needed to pick a sobriety date so since I was unsure of the last day I’d actually smoked any weed, I picked a date that I knew absolutely that I had been completely without any mind altering substances. I chose September 1, 1997, my first day in LA, seventeen years ago today.
As many wonderful things as have happened to me in those years and as many wonderful people as I’ve met, I can say honestly that in the ways my life is not working, it is not working on such a level that I am unwilling to go on. My journals from one, five, ten years ago read like carbon copies of one another with some of the details changed. “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” What must change is me.
Here’s what I commit to do: I will blog everyday for the next year and I will try in earnest to straighten out (or have divine intervention straighten out) what’s not working in my life. On my sobriety anniversary next year, I will reevaluate and decide if it’s worth moving forward. If I decide that it’s not, I’ll check out on my fiftieth birthday in a way of my own choosing. (Since the Eiffel Tower idea is by now old hat, I’ll have to come up with something new but trust, I will be equally dramatic. Perhaps I’ll construct a guillotine. Real narcissists should never die with a belt around their neck.) And for those of you currently reaching for your phones, laptops and iPads to “intervene,” you can check those electronic devises and your egos right this very second. If you could fix anyone’s life, you would have fixed your own by now. You are welcome to come along for the ride by reading the blog (or not, your choice) but you are not welcome to otherwise involve yourself in my making these changes. If you want to help me, go out and raise a couple hundred grand to help get either of my next two plays off the ground. I’d love to see at least a good workshop of one of them before I go. Your weak attempts at lay therapy (and all the other names you’ll call your medaling to rationalize it) are simply going to be lipstick to my pig and you will only be in the way. I have a lot to get accomplished in this, what will possibly be the last year of my life, get in my way and slow me down and you’re only bringing me closer to the gallows– or guillotine– or whatever. Trust me, you’ll regret it.
So we’re off. I’ll either look back on tonight from ten years from now and see that this was where it all changed or I will have spent the last year of what has been, by any estimation a remarkable life, trying my very best to live the life I’ve always dreamed of. At the very least I will have written more than I ever did in any year of the preceding forty-eight.
Thank you for all the joys and yes, for the sorrows of these seventeen years. Raise a glass in hopes of another seventeen, one day at a time.
See you tomorrow.


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