Surviving Myself, Again
In May of 2016 I tried to overdose on prescription pills. I was 34-years-old and all I could see was everything I didn’t have. I had convinced myself that this was the world’s fault. I should be a tv writer because. I should be in a happy relationship because. The world owed me, my brain said over and over, but it refused to acknowledge the IOU that I had forged.
I ended up in a psych ward and promised myself I would never go back. Much like every time I tried to take a break or quit social media, I not only went back, I doubled-down. But I’m moving ahead too fast. I ended up in an outpatient program and started a recovery-based program to stay sober. I had seven-months where I was completely free of drugs and alcohol. I had never felt better. I had convinced myself that I was strong enough to handle anything on my own. I was up to any task and I looked down at people who still used.
Cut to February of this year. I was in a relationship that I shouldn’t have been in; I should have continued to put myself first. But, I saw my ego winking and making goo-goo eyes at me and I let it cut the line: it was there at the premiere of my downfall, handing out invitations to my upcoming rock bottoms. I was taking uppers, smoking pot, and after five-years without drinking, I found myself at the bottom of a bottle every night, even though every morning I promised myself I wouldn’t.
Depression and addiction will always be smarter than me. They will wait outside in the cold for years until they see the right moment. They will chop off their arms and sew them to their bottom if they need extra legs. In February, there was a mental coup. They stormed my head and purged my body and life of everything good in it. When I drink, I start out as the cockiest person in the world. Benchpress that city bus? No problem! Climb the Empire state building? Only if you Instagram me at the peak! But as my drinking progresses, I devolve into my worst self: judgmental of every one but me, sabotaging relationships I had because it was the only way I felt I had any kind of power. By the end of February, I was done. I was ready to kill myself again. I openly asked on Twitter where I could find heroin. The same guy who judged people who did Columbian potpourri or smoked jazz cigarettes was now worse than all of them combined.
I often ask myself: how am I still alive? The answer is that somewhere in my body, there is a strand of self-preservation. It is so fragile, I often worry I will break it if I sneeze. When I was twenty-five and had maxed out all my credit cards to feed my crack and heroin addiction, I remember sitting inside my apartment and having a discussion with myself. The way I saw it, there were only three options: Kill myself (I guess that ended up on whatever the reverse of a bucket list is), sell my car and my tv and go cop, or call my parents up and tell them everything. That strand inside of me, that tiny, flimsy string, knew if I went with the second option I was just doing the first in slow-motion. I called my parents, dropped hard drugs and moved to New York.
Last year, after I came to from taking all the pills, I would laugh at myself and proudly proclaim myself “the real-life Jon Snow.” I came back from the dead. Three different doctors told me that, medically, I should have died. “I have a purpose,” I told myself over and over again, like some new-age “The Jerk” (without the special).
Back to February of this year: Somehow, self-preservation kicked in and when I saw my therapist, I told her I was making plans to kill myself. I knew what was about to happen and I couldn’t believe I had allowed it to: I was back in a psych ward. I spent six days there and did the “sober con.” That’s where you, as an addict, become the world’s best actor. I told the doctors everything I knew they wanted to hear: “Yes I will go back to recovery,” “This is life or death,” “Those ASICS are some sweet kicks!” I was released. I’m honestly pissed I didn’t receive a Golden Globe nomination, it was that good.
I’m not sure exactly about the timing, but within approximately two weeks, I was back in the same psych ward. As a writer/comedian, it honestly made for great material. “I got a punch card!” “They know how I like my bagels!” “They kept my graffiti up inside the shower!” This time I lied to myself, my addict-brain took over and went on auto-pilot: Say yes to everything they ask of you, participate in group therapy sessions, continue not stabbing anyone. Clear eyes. Full of bullshit. Can’t wait to get out. After around eleven-days, once again, I was free to go back into the real world. I broke up with person I was dating via e-mail because I was too chickenshit to tell them in person. In a lovely stroke of irony, someone dumped me two weeks ago by e-mail. If there is a God, they have a twisted sense of humor (that I respect the ever-loving shit out of).
Now that I was “free” (LOLOLOLOLJFCALDA;JAJDLAJJJJJ1E2TER3R!!!!!!) I would finally take care of myself. However, being in a psych ward for four weeks and only working a job that had thirty hours per week with laughable compensation, I quickly realized that I had very few options. I had to move out of the apartment I had made my home for the previous five years. I started smoking pot to escape, and soon enough, like a dog carrying a stick, my alcoholism caught up and hopped in the sidecar that pot was revving up.
The summer was a blur. For some reason, I still had a few friends. Two of which invited me to stay with them until I got on my feet again. Another amazing person flew me out to California for his wedding. I’ve talked about this before but I planned to die after the ceremony. I had bought razor blades and would slit my wrists and walk into the ocean (Sorry, Ocean! I know you have enough to deal with without my corpse taking up more of your time, resources, and barnacles). But I drank too much at the wedding and, in yet another twist that is so unfathomable it has to be true, my alcoholism accidentally saved my life. By the time I woke up, I was in a hotel rooms with people I loved who loved me. I couldn’t figure out a clever way to say, “Hey! I’m going to the ocean to live there forever LOL I want to dieeeeee.” So I lounged in a hot tub and checked my bank balance: $85. That’s what it’s been most of this year. Just enough to get me a sandwich and an MTA one-day pass.
When I arrived back in New York I stopped drinking. I continued to fantasize about dying and creating elaborate scenarios in my head. But without the booze, inevitably I would remember my family, my precious niece and nephew, and the friends that were unrelenting in their faith in me figuring this shit out. I continued to share my thoughts through various essays on here and, pathetic, “Call for help” tweets. I had stopped taking my meds. I don’t hear voices, per se, but if I stop taking my meds I hear a playlist with one song: “Die You Worthless Piece Of Shit. You Were Born Into A Position of Privilege And You Piss It Away Every Chance You Get. Stop Taking Money From Strangers And Just Fucking Do IT Already (DJ Fuck Ur Endorphins Remix),” it’s not very catchy, I know.
Summer turned into fall and then, manna from heaven landed on me: a freelance copywriting job with a contract through January 1st, 2018. I would be able to make enough money to move out, pay off all my debts, and I even started fantasizing about taking my first vacation. But, it wasn’t meant to be. After four weeks, they told me the client wanted to go with “a bro sense of humor.” That ain’t me. Why yes I do lift, good sir, thank you for asking.
So… there I was: living with friends, feeling guilty every day for interrupting their lives but not taking the actions needed to correct it. And then, a small miracle happened: an old friend of mine took me out to dinner and offered me the opportunity to get some freelance writing. On the condition that I got sober. This person didn’t TELL me I had to get sober, they simply laid it out for me in black and white: “You know the road you are on only leads to a cliff BUT you have another option, the road you took last year.” I said thank you and left to smoke the two joints I had in my pocket. The next day I entered a program of recovery. I have been sober ever since.
Why do I continue to tell my story? Because it might help one person. Amber Tozer and Rob Delaney, two of the funniest people on Earth, have shown me via social media and their own achievements that I did not have to be a tortured artist to create. That is the most persistent myth I would like to see snuffed out in my lifetime. I’m sharing things that I am disgusted by. Reading a lot of these words brings me back to the darkest times in my life. But talking helps. Talking always helps. I heard and read from strangers that these demons couldn’t necessarily be conquered, but they could be held off at the gate with constant vigilance. I also want to decimate the idea that people choose to be depressed or an addict. There is a chemical imbalance that causes these disorders. I did not choose to be these things but there is no shame in admitting that I suffer from mental illness or addiction. The stigma that continues to snake its way around these subjects vexes me to no end.
So, as 2017 comes to an end, I have made no promises to myself about how many times I will stay in a psych ward next year. Starting in January I will be a professional petsitter. Is that what I want to be? What I dreamed of when I moved to New York? Nope. But it’s a start and will hopefully give me the financial means to be independent again and move out of my friends’ place and into a sober living situation. I want to write for TV. I want to perform and share my story in front of colleges and packed clubs. I want to go on CONAN. Maybe someday those things will happen. Maybe they won’t. But right now, I am alive. I have good days and I have days where I feel like everything inside me is falling apart and burning up. I have extreme guilt about the people I’ve hurt, particularly in this last year. But I am here, and with every day, I get the chance to try and better myself, to share my story in the hopes that someone will glean something that will stop them from almost losing everything. 2017 is the year I survived myself. All I can hope for the future is that I get to be myself. My true self.
I will say this until my lungs collapse: if you’re out there and hurting right now, seek professional help, tell friends and family. There is a better way. There is hope.