EASY DOES IT

Hi there and how the fuck are you? Happy, healthy, sober, and sexy, I hope. And you ARE sexy so stop it with that self-depreciation bullshit, okay ma’am?

How am I you ask? Well. That’s an extremely complicated question. I know it has been a while since my last post. My first instinct is to say that I’m so incredibly sorry for being absent, but I’m going to resist the urge to apologize because I know that I have nothing to be sorry for. Sometimes certain things have to give. Projects get put on the back burner. It’s okay to take breaks. The things that are important to us ebb and flow. Things change… sometimes forever… and sometimes things change for just a few minutes (months). The bloggy blog just had to hold on for a second so that mama could figure out what the fuck was going on.

The most frequent piece of advice that I’ve received over the past few months has been the adamant direction to do whatever it takes to stay sober. So that’s what I did. And whatever it takes meant putting my head down, pushing through obligations, and getting out the other end without a drop of liquor going down my throat. And not a drop did, thank God. It easily could have been a disaster. But it wasn’t, and I’m coming up on 7 months sober in a few days.

I’ve been in this really intense funk that has at times been slightly frightening. It all started on August 30th when I found out a friend had passed away. I never really considered drinking over it, but it shook me to my core and dramatically shifted my trajectory on this recovery journey of mine. It felt as if I was knocked off my high wire and I was no longer standing on my own two feet. Instead, I was crawling on a thin and shaky surface at risk of falling at any given moment. It also felt as if I had spun myself around for hours and was then asked to continue crawling on the same straight line I was walking before everything became murky and sad. I was disoriented, depressed, and my entire reality became something that was significantly darker. Harder.

I also began work on the presentation of one of my plays. This was an obligation that I put into motion months earlier thinking that I was ready and that it wouldn’t be an issue. Honestly, if it weren’t for the death of my friend, it might have ended up being completely fine. Instead, I started moving into preparations for the show while already on extremely uneasy legs and ominously shaky ground. Contracts had already been signed and there was little that I could do to get out of the situation without causing myself significant trouble professionally. So I pushed forward.

I’ve spent the past few months feeling as if I might lose my mind. There were many instances where my anxiety and stress levels reached a point that resulted in me bursting out in tears and acting somewhat inappropriately. There were some meetings that I literally walked out of because I just couldn’t take the panic that was washing over me. There were also moments of extreme clarity where I would laugh at myself and think OK, GIRL. CALM THE FUCK DOWN. THIS ISN’T THAT BIG OF A DEAL. BABIES WILL NOT DIE IF YOUR PLAY ISN’T AMAZING. Those moments of clarity seemed so real, and I would convince myself that I had turned a corner and everything would be okay. An hour later I would be on the floor hyperventilating and bawling about how my brain just couldn’t handle the stress.

TOO MUCH, TOO SOON is a VERY REAL thing. FYI (For Your Information). But what’s really fucked up about the whole thing is that I didn’t KNOW that it was going to be too much until I had already fucking bit off way WAY more than I could chew. And like I said, maybe dealing with JUST the death of the friend would have been manageable. Maybe dealing with JUST the show would have been okay. But some bitch somewhere decided it would be real cute to throw them both at me simultaneously. And it turned me into a psycho that would start crying if the toothpaste accidentally fell off my toothbrush before I got it to my mouth (true story).

Things are calmer now, but I’m still feeling the effects of the past few months. I’m shell shocked. I feel creatively and professionally whiplashed. I feel compelled to get back to work on a new project because that’s just how I’m wired. But I’m resisting. I’m sitting still. I’m making myself stop, reflect, assess, and wait. I’m going back to my base. I’m getting back in my bubble. I’m returning to the necessary work that my recovery requires. I’m meditating on balance. I’m thinking hard about how and why I do things. There are DOZENS of blog posts that I could write as a result of this single paragraph. And I will. But I’m not going to rush myself and I’m going to take this at a pace that is right for me from now on. I know I used to write often and I might again at some point, but for now I’m just going to take it easy.

Here is what I have learned:

  • When you think you are ready to take on the entire world, maybe don’t.
  • It’s okay to set boundaries that might upset others in order to maintain your sobriety.
  • Service to others is important, but it should not come before your own sobriety,
  • The best way to stay sober during difficult times is to NOT FUCKING DRINK AT ALL NO MATTER WHAT, OKAY?!
  • It’s okay to be quiet for a while.
  • PAWS is real and persists for quite a while (at least for me).
  • Death is a really hard thing to deal with sober. I can’t imagine how awful it would be if drunk.
  • You CAN eat too much ice cream.

Much love from New York City. Let’s keep going.

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I’M OKAY

Hi guys. Getting message after message of concern. I know they come from a place of love so thank you. But I will admit that they are stressing me out! Ha. Putting this post up so it’s there for everyone to read who might come and check in here.

I am totally and entirely OKAY. I am over six months sober. I’m moving right along.

My life shifted quite abruptly and I have suddenly been immersed in situations professionally that have demanded a great deal of time and energy. Perhaps too much, too soon. But that is an analysis for another time. After Oct 31, the bulk of what has been going on will be over. At that point, I will begin reassessing where I am at and the role that BALANCE plays in my recovery. Because there hasn’t been good balance over the past few months. There certainly wasn’t enough balance being employed to keep all of the plates spinning. That’s what it has felt like. This shouldn’t feel like a circus act. And it has.

Something had to give. Updating regularly on the internet ended up being that something. It’s not something I wanted to do and I do plan to make this blog, my gratitude group, and my other writings a more pressing part of my daily routine soon.

This is where I am at the moment, and I cannot make any apologies for it. Yet.

Thanks for letting me move through this stretch. Lots to figure out, but until this month is over there is literally and absolutely no way for me to pause long enough to do so. That’s not a good thing, and I know it. But it is what it is.

Keep doing your thing. Stay sober with me. Talk soon. Don’t worry. My absenteeism digitally does not mean I am absent from my life. On the contrary, I think I’m LIVING a little bit TOO MUCH and need to back things down a bit once my current show is over.

XO

SOBER MUSCLES

There are these really disgusting men at the gym that wander aimlessly and look at themselves sexually in the mirror as if they might take themselves home and get themselves pregnant. They seem to be performing and appear to believe wholeheartedly that the entire gym population is staring at them and admiring their very large muscles and, in most cases, tiny chicken legs that don’t match the upper part of their body. They want everyone to know just how hard they worked to get into their current shape and they drive that point home by grunting and screaming like gorillas as they lift big metal bars into the air and put them back down on the floor with a THUD.

I get it, boys. Really. I do. I have been wandering around New York City over the past few weeks working out my sobriety muscles. I’ve been lifting really heavy emotional shit like death and anxiety. I’ve been curling very cumbersome and socially awkward situations in hopes that maybe I’d get stronger. And I have! Really, I have. And like you, I want everyone to know about the hard work I’ve put in and how it’s paying off. But I can’t run up to complete strangers and say things like I JUST DRANK COFFEE WITH A FRIEND WITHOUT GETTING DRUNK BEFORE I WENT! Well. I CAN say that to a complete stranger if I’d like to, but they aren’t going to understand the significance of it. They’re going to look at me the same way we look at those meatheads in the gym that scream with the intensity of someone taking the world’s most massively large shit. So who can we tell? EACH OTHER!

I went out to dinner the other night with the boyfriend and another couple. The discussion was had via email before we went regarding alcohol consumption and whether or not it was kosher for them to drink some wine at the table. I told them to do what they wanted to do and that I was fine either way. And I was. They got their wine and I got my club soda and we ate delicious food. There was nothing awkward about the beverages on the table. There WAS however some awkwardness on my part in terms of not feeling open and connected to the conversation being had. I felt pressured and cornered and had a hard time finding things to say. I think it was because they are friends that I’m not particularly close to and don’t see very often. They are LOVELY people, but there just isn’t a familiarity that makes me easy going around them yet. An amazing thing did happen, though. I suddenly became extremely aware of the fact that I was feeling off. As the conversation progressed, I was able to internally dialogue with myself briefly. I accepted the fact that I was feeling shy and uncomfortable, I told myself that it would all be okay and to just relax. I reminded myself that there were no expectations being placed on me and that the people seated across from us just wanted to have a good time. RELAX. RELAX. RELAX. And I did. I left that dinner feeling stronger and more prepared for future situations that would be similar. Like the musclemen, I wanted to GRUNT LOUDLY and let everyone in Williamsburg know that I just did something HARD. I ATE FUCKING DINNER WITH PEOPLE AND TALKED. And it is hard. No one gets that. But you do.

I recently spoke about my concern that I was declining invites and backing out of things due to the fact that I was simply afraid of feeling uncomfortable. And for me and my sobriety, that’s exactly what I was doing. It’s important to know your own boundaries and it is completely acceptable to avoid situations to maintain a level of serenity in the beginning where you are able to work through things. But I was becoming complacent in my solitude and realized that my sober social muscles would never grow stronger without experience. So I started accepting invites in moderation. And things are getting easier and easier.

I’m not at all advocating for any one person to force themselves into situations they are not comfortable with. You have to honor your own needs and take this at your own pace, I think. But I recognized that my refusal to reinsert myself into the lives of those who care about me was no longer about protecting my own sobriety. It was about an unconscious tendency I have to keep doing what I’ve been doing. Isolation was what I had grown accustomed to over the past 6.5 years and I was doing it in sobriety as well. So I made a conscious choice to start lifting the weights. Gradually and slowly. Easy does it. And it feels really good.

THESE SOBER LADIES

I’m not stupid. I know Facebook robots read my posts and that they know that I got sober and that I no longer have a hard time with stairs as a result. But they are advertising at me in really weird ways. WHAT ARE THESE LADIES DOING???

Let’s have a little fun and caption this photo. The winner gets nothing.

Here is mine: Six months! Congrats, Crystal. Come here, girl. Let mama pop your back.

Here is another one: Conjoined twins Sarah and Samantha tried dying their hair different colors to embrace their own individuality. But when Sarah wanted to get sober and Samantha wanted to keep watching Law and Order drunk with her pants off every night, Sarah knew she had to take action to save them both. So she bought this smart top and from the moment she put it on, Samantha realized that Sarah was serious and that it was time to stop once and for all. Now they watch Law and Order with their pants ON, a smile on their face, and a warm feeling in their heart.

A real post is coming soon.

WEATHER REPORT

The weather has been fucking incredible the past few days. Just lovely. It feels like Fall is just around the corner and I can’t wait to start wearing bulky sweaters and act like a happy asshole walking down the street with my pumpkin spice milk shake masquerading as coffee. Sweet and long anticipated relief from a mild but still humid summer. I hate summer. And last week summer was a BITCH. One last final FUCK YOU.

I was walking in the East Village and heading to a friend’s show. I had been dreading leaving the house because it was at least 90 degrees and the humidity was well over 80%. I complained the entire way to the subway station, savored the cool relief of the air conditioned car, and then started complaining all over again as my shirt became drenched in sweat. Absolutely miserable, I moaned and groaned as I rolled down the street. I felt disgusting and so extremely far from cute. 

Then I thought, Wait a minute. There is absolutely nothing you can do about this. It’s disgusting. You are sweating. Why are you emotionally and mentally exerting so much energy worrying about something that just IS. Everyone else is walking around with tittypit and asscrack sweat, too. You aren’t special. They have swampy butt, also. We’re all in this together! Relax!

And so I did. I surrendered to the heat. I took a deep breath and pulled my attention to my surroundings. I walked casually, allowing the sweat to drip freely down my face and back. I didn’t wipe it every two seconds. I didn’t worry about my shirt and the patches of wet spots that were growing larger by the minute. I just existed in it and stopped caring. I knew that relief would come. I would get to the theatre and sit in the cool space. Then I would leave and it would be gross again. Then I would get home and clean up and cool down once more. And eventually the heat itself would pass and summer would leave and everything would be comfortable for a while until the biting and brutal cold of winter took its place. And then that would pass, too, and peace and comfort would return. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. When my friend passed about a week and a half ago, I felt like I was immediately transported to a different dimension. Everything began to feel irrelevant: this blog, my artistic pursuits, money, my job, etc. It all seemed so arbitrary in the face of mortality. A young life taken too soon. Who cares about anything else? 

I spent the week following her passing in a state of shock. I was also angry. I was also very anxious about how mentally disturbed I had become as a result. While I didn’t want to drink, I did want something. Some kind of relief. I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted the emotions to go away. I wanted to feel like I did on Sunday morning before finding out on Facebook from her mother on Sunday afternoon. I wanted it all to DISAPPEAR. And I lived in that state for days on end. I was fighting something I couldn’t stop and it was EXHAUSTING.

On Saturday night I had the privilege of being able to watch my friend’s memorial service as it was broadcast on YouTube. It was a very celebratory event highlighting her immense sense of humor and larger than life personality. I was smiling more than crying. Since then, I’ve let go. I’ve surrendered to the pain and sadness. I’ve stopped fighting it. And like the seemingly unbearable heat of last week, it all becomes easier when I just STOP FIGHTING. Let it wash over me. Let it carry me. Let it hurt. Because it’s only temporary. Her spirit persists. The seasons change. The sweaters come out. The pumpkin spice returns. We smile. We cry. We sweat. We cool off. 

My mother took me tubing on a river when I was younger and I was told that there were going to be sections of the river that had white water. If I was to fall off of the tube for any reason, I was to float on my back the way she taught me in the pool and relax and stop fighting until the rapids calmed down. Such is life. It’s a beautiful, grand, expansive, and winding river. It is at once gloriously life-giving and destructive and gorgeous.

Just checked the weather and tomorrow we bounce back up to nearly 90 degrees. And that’s okay. 

BRB

Hi. You guys are sweethearts. Haven’t blogged in over a week, I think, and I’ve gotten lots of messages asking if I’m okay. I am. Had a rough week and a friend passed away. I’ll be back to talk about it when it seems appropriate. Thanks for your concern.

SUCKS. But I’m fucking sober.

Hope you all are well. 

XOXO

SQUARE PEG. ROUND HOLE.

Getting into some heavy shit lately, you guys. 

I’m trying real hard not to give up my daydream while being slammed at my day job. I’m presenting one of my plays at the end of October and have gone into full production and marketing mode. Also, there are changes needing to be done to the script. I was also accepted into a writing group and will have biweekly deadlines which require me to bring work to the group to be read and receive feedback on. I ALSO have a big itch for a new show that I absolutely must start working on soon while the ideas are fresh in my mind and before I talk myself out of writing it. 

I wake up every morning excited (usually) about what’s on the horizon. My artistic mind is emerging from a six year coma and it is hungry to be used. I have to keep notes constantly because ideas and images and characters keep flooding my head and won’t go away. I can’t just LISTEN to music anymore. Every song I turn on ends up generating more ideas. I’m extremely PUMPED and grateful that my vodka soaked brain is GONE GONE GONE for good. 

This is all good news, right? RIGHT?

Well, yes. As it stands now, certainly. Very good news indeed. It means I’m waking up and finding joy in what I once did. Nothing wrong with that. But there is a very fine and almost undetectable line that I’m hyper-paranoid about and I have to make sure that I do not cross it under any circumstance.

About a week ago, my company put out a press release about the upcoming production and I got a fair amount of blurb level press from various sources who published small pieces about the show on their websites. That’s good for me, good for the company, and good for the show. You can’t make theatre without an audience and press is how you get an audience. 

I couldn’t help but notice some old feelings resurfacing: Elation, pride, euphoria, excitement. None of these feelings are inherently bad things. There is nothing direclty wrong with being proud of the work you do and happy and excited that people are noticing it. My problem is not the experiences of those feelings. Rather, I struggle desperately with how I purpose those feelings; what I do with them and how I use them in unhealthy ways. 

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears recapping for those who perhaps missed the older posts. A major flaw in my last extended period of sobriety (2005-2008) was that I WAS NOT IN RECOVERY. I did an outpatient program, started feeling good, and dived head first into making art. I became so consumed with writing, rehearsals, giving interviews, and running a company. That was my recovery and it wasn’t recovery at all. I had huge, gaping, empty holes in my spirit and my entire being was wrecked and ravaged by a disease that had almost killed me in the fall of 2004. I was only 23 years old at the time and I can’t quite remember my rationale for not pursuing a program of recovery that would begin to repair my extraordinary injuries. Maybe I thought the outpatient program fixed it all? Who knows. 

I started down a very dangerous path of seeking validation outside of myself. People would come to my shows. The press would cover my shows. More and more people became aware of the work I was doing. And each and every time I felt one of those emotions as a result of my artistic pursuits, I stuffed them into the bloody, rotting empty spaces that I never bothered to fill or correct by doing the crucial work that recovery requires. My success told me that I was OKAY when I was anything but. I never learned how to love myself. I never bothered to identify why I had these holes, what was missing that was causing them, and what I needed to do to fill them back up in a healthy way. Instead, I just kept working hard. I kept getting noticed. I kept getting praised. I kept feeding my ego with every article, review, email of congratulations, and grant received. I kept stuffing square pegs into round spaces and expected them to not only fit but to stay in place and make me whole for the rest of my life. 

It worked for a while. For three years I walked around conveying a level of self-confidence that was exhausting. When there was a lull in my work or I was in between shows, I could feel those square pegs slowly starting to ooze out of the round holes. I’d push them haphazardly back in. I’d duct tape them into place by sitting down and churning out countless pages of a new script. I’d make plans for a workshop with actors just to feel busy even when artistic impetus for new work wasn’t there. The work that I loved to do had slowly become a drug and had replaced the substance that nearly took it all away. My art was no longer an accentuation of my being. It was all that I was. And because the artist underneath the surface was so irreparably damaged, the work never reached its full potential. Put simply, I was a fraud. 

When my relationship of eight years collapsed, each and every wrong shaped peg came exploding out of every matchless hole at the same time. I went into overdrive and tried working even harder hoping I might be able to stuff them all back in, but now the holes were getting even bigger because of the trauma of losing love and stability. No amount of artistic work was going to be enough. After three years of sobriety (dryness) I found myself at a pub after rehearsal one night with a glass of hard cider. I had no conscious thought of drinking before I walked over there and sat down. It wasn’t premeditated. I just walked over and started drinking. It was horrifying. 

I drank. And drank. And drank. For six more years.

You can understand my trepidation as I try to form a new and healthy relationship with my work. I’m still getting those feelings of elation and pride and excitement. It still is a high to have a play received well or noticed, but I’m doing more than rolling around carelessly in those emotions. I’m in RECOVERY this time. I’m speaking to other addicts. I’m writing these posts for myself and for others to try to connect to. I’m learning something new about myself every single day. I’m facing my biggest fears and unpacking the damage to see what really has happened and what really needs to be done to fix it. I’m placing my hand carefully over the round hole and dismissing the square peg because even though it’s there, it’s entirely wrong for this specific problem and will never fit the way it should.

Seeking validation from any person, place, or thing is NOT going to fill me up and heal me once and for all.

Working diligently on getting to know myself will. 

If everything I know was to fall away and leave me alone tomorrow, what would happen? If my art, my job, my love, and my shelter were suddenly taken away, would I survive? Would I stay sober? I can’t answer that question, but I know I stand a much better chance of weathering a storm with this healthy foundation.

This time is different.