This post was originally published on July 29, 2016.
There are some TV shows that don’t really threaten my recovery but honestly depress the living daylights out of me, including the popular zombie fest, The Walking Dead. Other shows make me feel grateful about being sober and make me realize my own life could have turned into an apocalyptic nightmare, minus zombies, if I had not sought help in 2011. Disclaimer—there are spoilers ahead, so don’t get mad. Also, I swear I don’t work for Netflix.
Recently I watched season four, which not only featured the death of a lovable character, but also showed Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne) at an AA meeting getting a chip for three years sober, even though she is locked up in a maximum-security prison. Right after she gets her chip, a guard confiscates it, calling the chip “contraband.” The loss of the chip appears to be a bad omen, because Nicky soon relapses. She does get right back on track, but the loss of her sobriety is jarring. I have met people in AA who have been to prison, and honestly, I am grateful that I did not have to add that experience to my memoir. But I almost got sent away once.
During my drinking days, I ended up in a horrible apartment building in Hollywood. I got involved with a neighbor who must have been the evil twin sister of Yvonne “Vee” Parker, a psychopath from Orange is the New Black season two. Honestly, I can’t remember the exact reason she hated me, we were once drinking buddies, but those relationships don’t always end well.
I fled from Hollywood to Silverlake to escape this entity. After I moved most of my stuff, I went back to the building to pick up a few remaining items. My key did not work! The lock was crammed with rubber cement, courtesy of the Evil One. How did I know she had gone out of her way to make my life a living hell? This wasn’t the first time, trust me. So what did I do? I located a brick and smashed the doorknob, so I could enter into my apartment. Suddenly, several policemen showed up, one pointed a rifle at my head and another cuffed my hands behind my back. I looked up at the sky, and saw a helicopter hovering above. I felt like OJ when the cops chased him in his white Bronco on the 405.
I said to the cop, “Check it out! Someone’s in deep trouble.”
“You,” he replied. “That helicopter is looking for you.” I almost went to jail that day. But I didn’t. How I got out of that nightmare, was an example that God was watching over me, even back then.
2) The Killing
This Netflix goodie featured a recovering addict homicide cop named Steven Holder (Joel Kinnaman), who relapses during season three for many reasons including guilt over the murder of a young runaway that he had befriended. He blamed himself for her untimely death. I relate since guilt was a big reason I drank.
During one episode, Holder, straight from a beer run, drives to a pauper’s cemetery. The sad graves are marked with numbered crosses. The cemetery is riddled with unkempt grass. Clutching the six-pack of beer, Holder stares at the lonely graveyard. Then, he opens the cans one by one and hurls them across the cemetery.
That scene reminded me of me, towards the end of my drinking. The last night I ever drank, my dogs huddled around me. When I saw the look in their eyes, I knew that I had to surrender, because if I didn’t stop, not only would I die, but my poor canines would end up at the pound.
This show is about two women who can’t stand each other, but end up becoming roommates like The Odd Couple. Their husbands have fallen in love—with each other. Grace (Jane Fonda) is an alcoholic. She drinks vodka out of watermelons. She has literally fallen from grace, no pun intended. During season two episode 11 The Bender, she makes a complete ass out of herself at a bar, guzzling martinis the way I slurped wine.
During the episode, she asks another drunk woman, “How much do you have to drink to not feel like anything?”
“If you’re still asking, you’re not even close,” said the drunk lady.
Grace has gotten to the point to where she can’t control her drinking, or her thinking and the alcohol doesn’t even fulfill its purpose. Later, that evening, she goes to the liquor store to buy vodka, because Frankie (Lily Tomlin) found her stash and dumped it. She forgets her keys in her unlocked car. While she is inside the store, buying a hundred mini vodka bottles, her car gets stolen, right under her nose, and she is oblivious, until she stumbles out into the parking lot and it finally dawns on her. She screams, “Oh, come on!”
I’m grateful these types of scenes aren’t part of my daily life anymore. I didn’t have my car stolen, but I do remember several incidents of driving away from the gas station with the pump still attached to my tank, constantly running out of gas in the worst neighborhoods LA has to offer and getting flat tires. During those days, I had two cars repossessed. I also experienced the Curse of the White Car. Back then, when I bought cheap cars, I ended up with the color white, a color I hate because if you are drunk, its hard to locate a white car in a shopping mall unless you have a Jack in the Box auto antenna topper ball.
After my silver Pathfinder was repossessed, I waitressed at a steak restaurant in Tujunga (yes, the restaurant had a full bar), saved a few thousand dollars and bought a white Ford Taurus from a used car lot that advertised, No credito? Mal credito? No problema! A month after I bought the Taurus, the engine blew up on the 118 Freeway. To add insult to injury, I was rear-ended by some idiot in a brand new luxury SUV. Last year, after my white Toyota Corolla had a blowout on the freeway, I decided it was time for another car—and another color. At the car lot, a friend suggested that I look at a white Ford Escape. I made a mad rush for the safari green.
In this subtle comedy, Chip (Will Arnett) comes off as an evangelical Big Book thumper. His best friend Dennis follows him around Venice with the same devotion the disciples had for Jesus. As a matter of fact, Dennis resembles a disciple. Swap his California casual look for a flowing white robe, and his dogs for sheep and Dennis looks like St. Chip’s right hand man, straight out of the Book of John.
But guess what? Chip is not as holy as he acts. He drinks wine at night! (Yes, Jesus drank wine, but Chip is in AA and boasts long-term sobriety). When I saw Chip sipping wine as if it was the most natural act in the world for a recovering alcoholic to do, I fell off my chair. How in God’s name can he tell AA members that they have to be “brutally honest” when he is lying about his own sobriety?
I have heard tales of AA members who get drunk, take chips and even celebrate birthdays. If I relapsed, I don’t think I would be able to walk straight, let alone blow out candles on a cake. These TV shows make me realize that despite the other obstacles I might face, I am blessed to have taken the journey of recovery. All I can do is keep moving forward.