Learning to Save Myself
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Learning to Save Myself


This post was originally published on September 10, 2013.

There’s a Will Rogers quote: “The worst thing that happens to you may be the best thing for you if you don’t let it get the best of you.”

I’ve never been one to be fond of bad luck, nor one to take it “gracefully” (whatever the fuck that means). And you’d think by now that I might have since I’ve had more than my fair share. Still, over the past year, I’ve learned to stop resisting what’s happening and feeling sorry for myself and just embrace all the loss. Shockingly, it’s made all the difference.

I literally lost everything in 2012: my home, my husband, my sobriety and my mind. I got arrested for assault, was 5150’d twice, got separated, and was in treatment for seven months, then back in detox for another week a short time later. I’m in my third sober living now—eight months sober, single, dirt poor, on Medical, sweeping up shit (literally) for community service and working part-time for my old boss, doing fashion PR, getting paid more than minimum wage but less than I’d like. And yet I’ve never been happier.

When I was the wife of a flashy rehab owner, living in a cushy condo and driving an $80,000 car, I was miserable. I was over-medicated, under-employed and totally dependent. It was the perfect storm that culminated in a domestic violence incident, a mortifying, life-changing arrest and an ugly, devastating divorce. I got no alimony and lost my health insurance. Although I am now struggling to make ends meet and was forced to start a bloody fundraiser on Facebook to raise money for my sick cat, I still feel better than I did then. I needed to be humbled so that I could become grounded. And I could only get that way by being self-supporting through my own contributions. This was a way overdue epiphany for a spoiled trustafarian-turned-kept-wife like myself.

Out went the massages, the mani-pedis and the long hours trolling EBay for Barney’s shoes and $200 jeans. Out went expensive meals, movies, shopping at Whole Foods and the overpriced, rarely used gym membership. In came canned tuna, Netflix, Trader Joe’s and the strenuous workout of community labor.  “You’re so skinny and tan!” everybody tells me. Yes, poverty and sweeping the streets for eight hours in the scorching sun will give you that castaway look that everybody in LA is so desperately seeking.

“You used to working office job, eh?” my crew boss asked me the other day as I panted heavily while sweeping the sidewalk. Yes, it’s true: I’m out of shape and housework is not my forte. When you work manual labor for eight hours, you are exhausted, so tired that you can’t think. It’s a peaceful stupidity that I have never known before. And you want to know what? When you feel like that, you have no time for drama. I don’t want to hear about your fucking diet or who blocked you on Facebook or that your spray tan is too dark. I have become a working man: I want a blow job and a sandwich and silence. My feet are black from street soot and I have blisters on my hands from the broom. I’m sweaty and sunburned and everything is throbbing. And this is all just to stay out of jail. I’ve never worked so hard for free—or for my freedom, I should say.

With a mental illness history like mine, it was not hard to get Medical disability.  This means that I can’t see my posh, high-priced dentist, gyno or shrink anymore and that I’m often the only person speaking English in a doctor’s waiting room that contains wood paneling from the 70’s.

When I look back on my marriage, I wish I had mopped the floor instead of hiring a maid and that instead of writing bad dick jokes with other unemployed comics over overpriced coffees, I’d made more of an attempt to bring in money, just to show that I wanted to contribute. I didn’t appreciate how hard it was to make a living, not just for one person but for two (especially when one of the two requires acrylic nails, expensive highlights, costly vintage tees and thousands of dollars in cognitive behavior therapy just not to be an abusive asshole). I wish I had given him his blowjob and sandwich and silence when he got home instead of verbally pelting him with my day full of petty, melodramatic bullshit. So when the restraining order is up, I plan to make that overdue amends. And my second husband will be a lucky, satisfied and appreciated man.

My boss tells me she’s glad to be working with me again. Seven years ago, she fired me and put me in rehab. (That was the second time; there were four more glorious stints after that.) “I have a work ethic now,” I tell her.

“You always did,” she responds.

Uh, no, I didn’t. I was lazy and high and didn’t thoroughly sweep the leaves from your shop’s sidewalk. Now, I know better, thanks to overzealous Mexicans at the Hollywood Beautification Team and the City of Beverly Hills Judicial System.

It has not been easy. But what good things ever are? I’d always heard annoying sayings about how happiness comes from the inside but, as a Beverly Hills princess with a hefty “clothing allowance” at 16, I just didn’t believe it pertained to me. When everything is taken from you, though, you have no choice but to shift and adjust.

Believe me, I’m not enlightened or working some amazing program. I saw all my defects of character when I did my first fifth step and learned that I was passive aggressive, dramatic, lazy, entitled, spoiled, abusive and self-obsessed. But those qualities were just hurting other people. It’s only when they started to directly affect my life that I changed. Honestly, it was only when those characteristics were going to kill me and make me homeless that I was willing to let them go. I was just so fucking tired of being unhappy and in pain and clear about the fact that no man or money or pill or therapy had been able to fix that yet. Only when it became increasingly clear that nobody or nothing could or was going to save me did I decide to finally save myself. And it wasn’t a minute too soon.

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About Author

Amy Dresner is a former professional stand-up comic, having appeared at The Comedy Store, The Laugh Factory, and The Improv. Since 2012, she has been a contributing editor of the online addiction and recovery magazine TheFix.com. She’s also written for the Good Men Project, The Frisky, Refinery 29, and has been a regular contributor to Addiction.com and PsychologyToday.com, where she has her own addiction blog entitled “Coming Clean.” “My Fair Junkie” is her debut book.