Welcome to the year of the Mad Dog two thousand twenty—well maybe not, but when I see 2020 I can’t help but think back to when I was strung-out on heroin and I couldn’t score, or money was low, and I needed a quick economic high to cut the edge: Mogen David (Mad Dog) 20/20, a cheap rotgut “fortified wine,” mixed with Gatorade Fruit Punch, and a handful of valiums, was my “breakfast of champions” alternative to start the day. Usually that meant I’d be passed out by afternoon and I’d wake up dope sick, desperate, and hating life. So I’m hoping the ominous 2020 isn’t a harbinger to more harsh things to come—please let’s get that idiot out of the White House.
Yet what I can say is that I’m forever stoked that those days are long gone and just thinking about MD20/20’s sickly sweet aftertaste kicks in my gratitude that I no longer have to live like that. Which is my convoluted and vague way of saying that my life has become immeasurably better and now every New Year I’m compelled to write a little something about “gratitude” and reflect, reminisce, and rejoice the previous year and how goddamn grateful I am for all that happened—good and bad—and the amazing wonderful (and not so amazing or wonderful) people that made a difference, influenced, supported, challenged, and inspired me to be a better person.
That fact that I even want to write this hopefully enlightened post is a direct result from a lot of hard work in recovery that has helped instigated some significant internal changes. Specifically I had to fix my core beliefs and values, address my self-centered/self-obsess-ness, while letting go of a ton of preconceived ideas of the way I resentfully thought things should be. My prime motivation was the desire to not live such a depressing life full of anxiety and fear. But it was also that I tend to torture myself with a cavalcade of negative thoughts and critical inner dialogue. Yet if I practice patience, acceptance, and forgiveness on a daily basis I can almost always circumvent my narcissistic tendencies—although I still haven’t quite gotten the seemingly elusive concept of self-forgiveness—but that’s a whole other matter.
So for now I’m doing good and even though 2019 was one hard-ass motherfucker I’m looking forward to what awesomeness 2020 brings… well, it better or else. Although in all fairness I’m not sure what the “or else” would be… but come on, it’s a new decade, get your shit together 2020.
Yesterday, January 8th, I was fortunate to have nineteen years clean off drugs and alcohol. Without Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous and everyone there that supports me through all the ups and downs of my recovery—none of what my life looks like today would even be a reality. I have a sponsor that truly has my best interests and a ton of friends that I can count on. It’s my hope that I give back to all of them what they so freely give to me—because being of service is how this stuff works. But the point is that I can’t do this alone and I want to acknowledge and recognize my tribe and celebrate each and every one of you.
Over the years I’ve come to appreciate that community is important. In fact it’s everything. Which might seem odd to some as I can be a bit of a recluse. I’m the first to admit that I don’t exactly “over indulge” in social activities. I’m not of the Bukowski, “I don’t hate [people]…I just feel better when they’re not around,” school of thought. However I may be more the Albert Camus, “In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” Its sort of like I have to live in a state that isn’t landlocked, but I can’t tell you the last time I saw the ocean or walked on a beach—I just need to know its close and if I do so choose I can be there in minutes (okay, its LA, depending on the time of day, it may not be minutes). Yet, the point I’m trying to make is that I have and belong to numerous communities, all of which contribute to make me whole, healthy, and inspired.
Jenn, my best friend and someone I’d steal horses with—which if I have to explain that last part to you then I’m at a loss, but here I’ll just borrow someone else’s definition: “someone who can be all things to you, with you and for you, and you can rely on, no matter what, they always have your back”—well we’re are coming up on our three-year anniversary (and eight years together). She graces my life with her presence and I hope I grace hers. Along with our two butt-head cats: Mercer and Jagger, we have persevered through a shit-load of rough times (eviction due to gentrification, family health issues, loss of employment, etc. etc. etc… Thanks, 2019!), and made it out not only alive but stronger and better. The secret that no one ever told me was that having your own family allows for a confidence, security, and a sense of purpose that I never had when I was alone. I am forever grateful for every moment our little band of misfits has together (although I could do without the cat barf).
My awesome niece Dylan gave birth to a baby boy, Hendrix—the first “grand-child.” Which I guess makes me a great uncle (another nail in my “old-as-fuck” coffin)—big love there. Both my sisters, Scott and Elizabeth, are amazing and wonderful and are always in my heart—more big love. And Jenn’s family, my extended family, the Courtneys, who have always welcomed me as one of theirs—even more big love. My parents had health issues—I’m not always the best at communicating (see the above “a bit of a recluse” statement) and when both of them were separately hospitalized I realized I needed to be less distant and keep them closer than I have. I made the trek east in the middle of winter to visit with my father as I feared that if I didn’t I’d never see him again (thankfully he is doing better), and I made the resolution concerning my mother, who is in San Francisco, to visit more as it’s only an hour away by plane. Internally, I had to address that my parents aging and health had me confronting my own impending death, and perhaps that is why I was in a bit of denial and avoidance?
I got mad love for my literary community. In fact the Los Angele’s literary community is why I moved here from San Francisco ten years ago. It’s why for the last three years I co-coordinated the WTAW-LA reading series and continue to support local authors, friends, bookstores, and other reading series. Whenever I can I promote other people’s work. In turn I get to invade other people’s classrooms, do a little guest lecturing, and generally bask off the accolades of being a published author. I also get to be involved with projects such as Natashia Deón’s REDEEMED, and PEN USA’s Emerging Voices. I write a shit-load of articles and actually get paid to do so. I’m currently working with PEN USA’s Prison Writing Program and somewhere in all that I’m deep in the edits for my newest memoir, Anarchy At The Circle K, which tentatively has a publisher. Being a writer is the gift that keeps on giving, or is that the gift no one wants? It’s hard to tell sometimes. But for now, at least most of the time, this trudging through life stuff is pretty damn good. So yeah, 2020… you better be awesome, or else.