I’m sprawled out on my bed, blowing vapor smoke rings, clad only in an old ripped up Bon Jovi t-shirt and red net underwear while on the phone with my then-boyfriend, Dan, who has a staggering 19 years of sobriety. “You’ve been sober since breakfast,” he likes to remind me—to which I respond, “Yes dear and you’re sleeping with a newcomer.”
My roommate is a bubbly Brentwood mom, an ex-nurse with three kids. We’ve been living together for six months but she still changes in the closet despite having the most amazing body ever. Once in awhile, I’ll catch a shot of her perfect round Tae-bo ass and feel inspired to work out…for about 20 minutes.
“Terry has the most amazing ass,” I tell Dan.
“Take a picture of it,” he says.
“Come here, let me take a pic of your perfect ass,” I say to Terry.
“Oh my God, no!” she squeals as she wraps a large beach towel around her.
“Tell her she’s being very selfish right now,” Dan says.
I start laughing. God, I love terrorizing her. I am the Judd Nelson to her Molly Ringwald. She recently shared in the weekly house meeting that she was learning better boundaries by rooming with me.
“Then I must be slacking,” I joked.
Before I arrived here at this small quaint sober living in West Hollywood, I was in a sober living that was a scary dank mansion in Tarzana with a one-armed purple-haired female house manager and five men. In my first week there, three people relapsed and I was one of them. I would crush up my large blue Fosters cans and stuff them under my bed. My room smelled like an old brewery but the house manager never said anything. She slept most days. I was thrown out when I ended up in detox again. It all worked out for the best, as I’m much happier—and finally sober—here. The house manager here is a beautiful blonde Brit with 10 years of recovery. We’ll call her Mariana. This is her personal home. She is too fucking beautiful, an ex-model with long slender legs and even longer platinum blonde hair. But she is so nice, so loving, that you can’t hate her.
We each buy our own food but there is a lot of sharing that goes on: coffee, milk, toothpaste, laundry detergent, tampons, Advil, bottled water. Nobody goes without. We take care of each other.
In the next bedroom is Shannon, a tiny perky photographer and yoga freak. She is hip and cool, with a tan, toned physique and a boho chic wardrobe. She is only a few years younger than me but listens to hipster music I’ve never heard of. She’s never home because she’s always off somewhere—shooting photos, visiting with her kid, at a meeting, working with a sponsee. When I used to smoke cigarettes, we would sit on the lover’s swing on the front porch late at night and smoke—recounting our day and confessing our crushes of the week.
These days Terry and Shannon are inseparable. Both have children and love to do the same things—tan and work out, hit marathon meetings, and get mani-pedis. They go on regular road trips together. They always wake up early and I can hear them squawking away in the kitchen. I groan and put a pillow over my head. I spend my days in sweats, unwashed hair in a messy bun, listening to 80’s music, eating cold steak off a paper towel and typing away.
I need Terry. She is the only person to ever put up with my unnaturally loud snoring. She also reminds me every week to wash my sheets. Lots of times she’ll do my laundry for me. “I’m doing a load,” she’ll chirp. “Wanna throw anything in?” And nothing beats living with a nurse. She has something in her well-stocked closet for every ailment you could ever develop.
We all have the same amount of time sober, literally days apart. Six months recently rolled around and we all brandished our chips and smiled with pride. There are celebratory house dinners and brunches where we all dress up in our finest—even me. It looks like the girls of Sex and the City on an outing. In terms of sobriety, it’s been pretty smooth sailing even though Terry still has a hard time with the concept that she can never have another glass of wine again and as an ex-downer addict, she struggles with anxiety. Shannon, an ex-junkie, is absolutely committed to her program and getting back custody of her young daughter. I can’t recall any bumpy times in her sobriety. I haven’t had any real cravings to use since I’ve been here though emotionally it’s been tumultuous. But in this house, you’re never alone.
There are no secrets. What isn’t revealed in our weekly house meeting is shared in late night gossip sessions, sitting cross-legged on our beds. Nobody shares their sexual escapades with the sort of dirty details that I do. They squeal in horror and embarrassment but I know they secretly love it.
The mascot of the house is a huge old Great Dane who has been with Mariana since her drug dealing days. She barks ruthlessly when a stranger rings the doorbell. And if you’re lucky, she’ll lay on you while you watch TV in the living room—all 120 pounds of her.
In this house, you are expected to stay sober, call your sponsor, do your steps and go to meetings. Mariana is very intuitive and if she feels like you’re slacking, she will lovingly tell you that she is worried about your sobriety and to please get back on the ball. She’s also a black belt Alanon so she knows that she can’t control or change any of us. God knows people have been trying to do that to me for years.
Mariana is pregnant now and she lives in the master bedroom with her quirky musician boyfriend. Actually this house reeks of fertility. Shannon got pregnant from a regretful rehab rendezvous. And then I, at a startling 40+, got knocked up for the first time in my entire life.
“I’m late,” I said to Mariana at breakfast one morning.
She shuffles into her bedroom and comes out holding a pregnancy test. “Take a test.”
“I’m sure it’s just stress,” I told her. ”I’ve never been pregnant in my life. I don’t think I can even get pregnant.”
“Fucking gets you pregnant, darling,” she says nonchalantly. “Take the test.”
Within minutes, it was confirmed. I was indeed pregnant.
“You’re pregnant?” Terry screamed. “That’s awesome. Now remember: no hot baths. And start taking folic acid immediately.”
“You’re fucking pregnant?” Shannon asks. “What is it about this house? Jesus.”
So off I went to the communal gynecologist. Terry came, along with Dan. As I was being probed by the ultrasound, Terry, with her perfect blonde chignon and cardigan, and Dan—looking like a retired linebacker wearing a t-shirt that said “Do Not Feed”—peppered the doctor with questions. I was too in too much shock to speak.
“Are there any foods she shouldn’t eat?” Terry asked, pen poised and pad in hand. “And do you see the sack?” She peered at the screen over chic glasses.
“It’s too early for that,” the doctor said.
“I have a question,” Dan piped in. “When Amy has an orgasm, her body does this.” He illustrated some weird maneuver with his hands. “Is that normal? I’ve been with a lot of women and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Oh my God, shut up, Dan!” Terry says, covering her mouth in horror.
“What? It’s very cool!” he responds.
“I’m sorry,” I said to the doctor, suppressing a laugh.
The momma’s of the house converged upon me with their wisdom and experience and encouragement. Terry even offered to sleep train the baby and she and Shannon both assured me that I could get my figure back. Alas, it turned out that my pregnancy was brief—ending in an early miscarriage and a later break up. Even though the doctor predicted I would miscarry, it was still very emotional when it happened. And again my girls were there—to hold me while I cried and assure me that I could try again if I wished. When I was pregnant, it was the first time in my life that I really felt like a woman—not some fucked-up delinquent teenager, not some rocker tomboy playing dress up but a real woman who could be a mother and a good mother at that. They helped me to believe it.
Before I moved in here, I wasn’t that fond of women. I had a few close female friends but most weren’t in the program. I’ve always had an exceedingly close relationship with my dad and many more male friends—even male therapists and sponsors. But here I have learned the value and safety of the companionship of fellow recovering women. There is no judgment here about my history of relapsing or my court business or my community service. And we are all divorcees. In this house, if you’re thinking about dating (I use that term loosely) somebody in the program, chances are one of the other women knows them or even knows them. It’s a small community.
We are a family, truly. And as long as you stay clean, you are welcome to stay. I am personally not drug tested but Mariana administers tests to those that require it for court or custody cases. If Mariana gets suspicious, she will give you one but that hasn’t happened to me yet. I don’t push my luck, though—she has an eagle’s sight for glossy eyes and a hound dog’s nose for the sweet stink of rum.
These women have nursed me through a divorce, a miscarriage, deep depression, a break-up and some slutty days. They have carried me into this new period—this rebirth as it were, where I am stable, almost medication-free and productive. I couldn’t have done it without them.