This post was originally published on March 14, 2014.
In two weeks, I will be celebrating my six years of sobriety in AA. If I were sharing that at a meeting right now, I would probably be compelled to add something like, “G-d willing,” or “With the help of my higher power.” As if my higher power, along with finding me the perfect parking spot outside the meeting, is also randomly sitting around deciding whether or not I should make it to seven. Of course my HP is willing; He/She/It wants the best for me, doesn’t He/She/It? Or more accurately, my HP might just care enough about the City Of Los Angeles to spare it a drunk me.
And yet many of the craziest situations I’ve ever gotten myself into have been since I got sober. In the last six years, as a matter of fact, there’s been a marked escalation in terms of my “crazy” and I don’t mean mentally ill (but rest assured I’m that, too). I mean stuff that seemed like a perfectly reasonable decision at the time but upon further reflection turned out to be the psychological equivalent of free falling from the top of the Burj Khalifa. I’m also not referring to being “emotionally drunk” because I believe that is what I was before I joined AA, when I had many years of abstinence punctuated by times I occasionally got wasted and spent the rest of the time railing at LA drivers, crying hysterically in the street and spending the day in bed if I had a paper cut. Let’s just say that if the “powerless” part of the first step didn’t resonate with me, the “unmanageable” part certainly did.
To wit, here are the top five craziest things I’ve done stone cold sober.
1) Left my kids:
When my kids were little, I decided one fine June day that they would be better off if I ran away from home. I took off up the Pacific Coast Highway, resolving to check into a hotel, condition my hair, sleep and then return in the dead of night to grab my passport and move to another country. Under the influence of little more than sleep deprivation, I actually convinced myself that abandoning my children was a preferable solution to learning how to parent them. Luckily, after running out of gas in front of a naval base in Ventura County, I got a random call from someone in AA who, once I confessed what I was doing, told me to get a fucking hold of myself and go first to an Alanon meeting and then home. Okay, then.
2) Got held in a psych ward on a 5150:
One night, after I couldn’t stop crying for a couple of hours, I ran out of my house in an overcoat and pajamas—a look I refer to as “mentally ill chic”—and resolved to drive my car into a tree. I only had enough courage to ram into a large rock before a flat tire forced me to the side of the road. Faced with the choice of AAA or 911, I called the latter, summoning a couple of truckloads of hot paramedics who promptly whisked me to the psych ward. It was a most refreshing stay where I gained some perspective about the extent of my mental issues (sharing a room with schizophrenic insomniacs will do that) and emerged ready to tackle life once again, my sobriety intact.
3) Punched my kids’ Russian Korean babysitter in the face:
It wasn’t a race thing; that bitch had it coming. But that doesn’t stop me from regretting it. Maybe clocking someone is not your idea of crazy, but I’m a committed pacifist and the last thing I ever imagined was that I would raise a fist to anyone because they told me they weren’t available to babysit when I had an important audition. (To be fair, she had crashed our car no less than two and no more than three times, almost writing off the last time completely.) Still not something I would have done drunk; more like what I imagine I would have done had meth been available when I was a teen in Australia.
4) Left my husband of 12-and-a-half years for a guy I met in a bar:
A few Halloweens ago, after trick-or-treating with my kids, still dressed like Marilyn Monroe, I went out to see a friend’s band. There I met a man dressed like Brett Michaels from Poison (something which should have put me on alert) to whom I was so attracted that I told my husband the next day that I wanted to separate. For the next year, as Poison and I dated and my husband and I started divorce proceedings, I was the epitome of the girl who sees all the red flags waving and says, “Oh look, a parade!” That relationship is now over and I don’t believe that my marriage was supposed to stay together. I just wonder: if I was high, would I have believed that a never married 40-something guy who showed me his penis on the first date was someone I was not only going to have a committed relationship with but who would also take my kids to Little League games.
5) Went to a sex club by myself:
Women who go to sex clubs by themselves are so rare that they call us “unicorns” and yet it didn’t occur to me to think this was a bad idea. Though by now you might imagine that I surely belong in the program I affectionately think of as “Reformed Sluts Anonymous,” paradoxically my relationship to sex and sexual exploration is not addictive—just extremely open (feel free to disagree). I had a great time “playing” but even now am kind of amazed at my own audacity—especially since a large percentage of the people there were definitely drinking heavily when not engaged in public displays of sex. Yet there I was sipping ginger ale and with no drama whatsoever, exploring my bi-sexual side…
So what did we learn? That there is no fellowship called Idiots Anonymous (maybe I should start one?) Even though there are some other “A’s” that the above qualify me for, sobriety is still the anchor that keeps my world if not steady, then at least bobbing side to side in deep waters.
I also did some crazy shit before I’d even heard of AA, like starting stand-up comedy at 17, moving to New York City from Australia by myself at 23 and even having children at all (knowing my genetic pre-disposition). All I know is that staying sober ensures that next time I decide to leap from the world’s tallest building, at least I can pull the rip-chord marked AA and the parachute of sobriety will lower me to the ground leaving me with as few broken bones as possible.