Friday, September 29, 2017

Who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed to stand in his place?

“I thought she was on our side,” Scottie is shaking his head with confusion after reading one of our friend’s Facebook posts. “Is she for Trump now?  Wasn't she all for Obama?”

Scottie has discovered that Facebook offers a new “snooze" feature for people whose posts you’d rather not see for a finite period of time.  He’s reading up on how he can block people for 7, 10 or 30 day-periods.

"This is great," he grins as he turns his laptop screen towards me.  "Everyone is so emotional about this Kaepernick protest. So maybe by the time the drama dies down, these automatic blocks will be removed."

I glance over quickly before turning my attention back to our bedroom TV.  The "Thing One and Thing Two" segments are both about the NFL protest.

I'm so bored of this protest. Especially since no one even seems to care what it's really about.

Our TV casts a bluish light around our stark, white bedroom.  I am underneath the covers in long-sleeved, aqua-colored, pajamas and a grey, wooly, cardigan sweater.  Scottie is next to me on top of the covers, in black sweat-shorts and a white t-shirt.  I put on my reading glasses as I lean over to get my phone from the night stand.

“No, she's on our side," I say, pulling up her page.   "I mean she LOVES Obama -- she posts about wishing he were still the President. I think she's definitely on our side.”

I pick up my phone and quickly find our friend's post. One click on the arrow above the image of a teary, White woman clutching the American flag and patriotic music suddenly fills the room. I suck my teeth and shake my head as I lower the volume on my phone.

“Yeah, well actually, she does live in that rust belt part of the country, so maybe... but even so, I don’t think she's pro-Trump. I think she may be just ‘Anti-Protest’.”

“Oh, is that a thing now? Anti-Protest?"

I’m silent for a moment.  I have strong feelings about what Colin Kaepernick did last summer when he decided to sit on the bench during the national anthem at a pre-season game.  But this could be one of those subjects that Scottie and I have to untangle carefully.  After all, no matter how connected he and I are (and we are very connected), I was born and raised in Black America and he was born and raised in White America.  Sometimes our respective experience literally colors how we approach certain topics.

“Do you think it’s worth it?” He says finally.


“The protest.  Do you think it’s doing anything besides stirring up Trumps's base?  Making people take sides?”

“Yes," I say stiffly.   "I think that Colin Kaepernick’s original protest-message was necessary and valid, absolutely.”

“But instead of bringing attention to police shootings," he says.  " All people are talking about is patriotism and disrespecting the flag.”

I swallow hard and put my phone down deliberately.  I resist the urge to point my finger at him.

“But," I counter.  "What if fear of their message being misinterpreted had stopped people from marching across bridges or sitting at a lunch counters?" "Even if people of color don't enjoy the same liberties as White people today [and we definitely do NOT], at least we are legally (on paper anyway) afforded some civil RIGHTS as a direct result of those protests. Who knows what results this one might have?  He's not just protesting the fact that Black men are routinely murdered in this country.  Colin Kaepernick is protesting the system that allows the murderers to get away with it, over and over again."

Scottie runs his fingers through his hair and sighs.  I lean closer to him and rest my head on top of his, like a pillow --  a common position for us while we are watching TV in bed.  His blonde hair is soft like cornsilk. The smell of the Paul Mitchell Tea Tree hair product he uses wafts up toward my nose and settles my nervous system.

I love that smell...

He turns and looks at me to gage my mood before lovingly moving my head off of his and turning to face me.

"But you realize," he says.  "That as far as Trump's base is concerned, Colin Kaepernick's message is for sh$#, because all they know is that he's disrespecting the flag."

“But check this out," I say.  "The irony is," I scroll down on my phone to find an article I’d read earlier.  "The irony is, that he started kneeling instead of sitting on the bench in order to show respect."  I pull off my glasses in frustration and face him again.

“I can’t find the article, but it says that when he was sitting on the bench in protest, some ex-military, ex-NFL guy, Nate somebody...   Anyway, this Nate guy told Colin that it was disrespectful to veterans and to those in the military to sit on the bench during the national anthem.  So in order to be RESPECTFUL, he advised Colin to kneel. And that’s what he started doing from then on — to be respectful.”

“I saw that guy being interviewed," says Scottie.  "He was a Green Beret who also used to play for the Seahawks -- shorter, White dude.  You should check out the interview, it was pretty cool.  He remarks a couple of times about how 'receptive' Colin was to the idea of how to continue to protest and still be respectful.  He said Kaepernick really just wants people to care about the lives of these Black men."

"Black lives do matter," I smile.

"What does Michael Che say?" says Scottie grinning (he adopts a deeper voice):

"Yo - we're not saying that Black lives are more important than your life.  We're not saying that Black lives matter more than any other lives.  But can we all agree at least, that Black lives DO matter?  That's all, Black lives — matter.  Just matter."

“I love Michael Che so much!" I smile.  "We have to watch that show again, what's it called?"

"'Matters', I think" smiles Scott.  "I think it's called 'Michael Che Matters'.  Do you wanna watch it tonight?" He picks up the remote.

"I don't know... maybe," my voice sounds far away.  I'm staring at the phone on my hand, but I'm not really seeing anything.  After a few moments of silence from me, Scottie picks up his phone and starts playing Words With Friends.

"But you know, Hon?" I say finally.  "Maybe it's working.  I mean, I had never even heard of Colin Kaepernick before last year.  But now, I don’t think I’ve ever SAID or HEARD any quarterback’s name (well, maybe Tom Brady’s) as much as I've heard his name this week alone!  In the past two weeks Colin Kaepernick has gone from lone NFL protester to the lead story on every news program.  And he's not even playing this season!  But you know his jersey sold out across the country as soon as people he realized what he was doing.”

“Yeah, but some people were burning those jerseys,” says Scottie, putting his phone down.

“True," I say, "but there were a lot of young, Black men and women wearing it too.  Not because he was the best player, but because he was using his position as one of the few, Black NFL quarterbacks EVER, to give a voice to oppressed people of color."

"But I feel like all of the drama this week hasn't even been about Kaepernick or his message."
Scottie stretches his arms wide and tosses his phone face down onto the bed between us. "I feel like it's more about Trump vs the NFL.  And the NFL-owners, some of the richest men in our country (and many of them Trump donors) were like," (he imitates a southern accent):

"OH HELL NO, MR. TRUMP!  We're the NFL and we're not gonna be called out by anyone! We don't care if you are the dang President!  You still can't tell us what to do.'"

“I know!" I say giggling at his NFL-owner imitation.  "And I don’t know how I feel about Jerry Jones kneeling with his players.  I feel like he’s doing it out of ego, like you said.  Like he's all, ‘Alright, Trump! Try me, Mutha Fuc&#@!!!  I’ll show you.  I’ll kneel with these N!$$@’s right now!"

Scottie laughs and lays back down, closing his lap top.

“Well, I could not and would not have ever said THAT!" He smiles at me.

"No, you couldn't," I say, winking at him.

"But, yes, what you said," he continues.   "And so now, its like you’ve got three sides:

1) People like us, who understood why Kaepernick chose to protest the way he did and supported his message.


2) You’ve got the people who took offense to the way that he chose to protest but agreed with his message -- maybe that's our friend there in the rust belt...


3) Then there are the people who are just anti-anything left and anti-Black Lives Matter."

"They need to watch Michael Che Matters," I smile.

"Yes, they do.  But, what I'm saying is that up until two weeks ago, there were just those three sides.  But now, you’ve got Trump supporters who seem to be jumping in just to support Trump.  And then you’ve got all of these people on the left jumping in too — not because they are supporting Kaepernick’s message, but because they are all just anti-ANYTHING Trump.  So now instead of three sides, we've got five sides!"

"That's crazy," I say nodding my head. "And what about the article you sent me about how NFL player's weren't even ALLOWED on the field during the national anthem until 2009!? And they only did it then because the NFL got a few million dollars from the Department of Defense so they could stage 'on field' ceremonies to make the teams seem more patriotic.  That just makes me feel like this whole thing is really about military recruitment rather than American pride of ownership. No one seems to be factoring that in."

"I think we're all being manipulated," says Scottie. "It feels to me like some kind of, what did Team Jamaica say to Trump when he used that video of Usain Bolt in a Tweet this week?  Leave us out of your 'POLITRICKS'!?  So yeah, to me, it's all Politrickery.  Like, 'let's all lose our Sh$% over this protest that started more than a year ago and completely ignore the fact that there is a humanitarian crisis Puerto Rico right now.  Let's ignore what's going on with the dubious future of our health care system and tax reform.  Yeah! Let's all just concentrate on questioning the protest-rights of this 29-year-old former, football player for the next few months'.   It's all total bull$#@%!"

"Facts," I say leaning my head on top of his again and grabbing up the remote.  "Actually, you know what?  Let's watch the House of Cards finale we've been saving."

*  *  *

"If an American, because his skin is dark... cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed to stand in his place?  Who among us would be content with counsels of patience and delay?"

John F. Kennedy, Civil Rights Address -  June 11, 1963

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.  I will continue to protest until I feel like [the American flag] represents what it's supposed to represent."

Colin Rand Kaepernick (2016)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Warning: This blog may be offensive to anyone with a closed mind #whotellsourstories

“Have you seen Boomerang?” She says.

I am at my desk.  The old coffee maker in the break room behind me wheezes out the first few streams of water through the dark roast grind that I’ve just measured into the large, white, paper filter.  The smells lights up the office like a Christmas tree.  As if in a trance, our boss, Mr. Waterman, crosses from his office into the break room with his Panasonic Camera coffee mug clutched in his hands.

“Morning ladies,” he says, barely turning to glance at us.

Anna pulls off her oatmeal colored, fisherman’s sweater over her head, adjusting her black, satin headband afterward.  Her fine, shoulder-length blond hair sticks up in the air at all angles, making her look like a slightly deranged Alice in Wonderland.

Static cling! Just like the Bounce ad…

“You’ve got to see it because the entire cast is Black,” she continues.  “I mean everyone is Black – EVERYONE.  It’s an ad agency, right?  And the receptionist is Black, the security guards are Black, the mailroom guys are Black, the executives are Black! There are no White people at all!"

Her voice tilts up when she says this, as if she’s astounded by this fact and is anxious for me to share in her astonishment.  I grit my teeth hard as my heart pounds in my chest.  My fingertips start to tingle from the rush of adrenalin shooting through my veins.

Here we go…

My friends and I had all seen Boomerang several times already.  We laughed and howled at Eddie Murphy’s reaction to Lela Rochon’s “hammer toes.” We chortled when Eartha Kitt did her seduction dance, reluctantly admired Robin Givens' cutthroat instincts and rooted for Halle Berry to win Eddie’s heart. This was one of just a handful of movies that any of us had ever seen that was written, produced and directed solely by Black people. Boomerang was an amazing, unique experience for us.  And it was NOT an experience that I wanted to share with little miss "Anna in Wonderland," even if I could.

“I’ve seen it,” I say evenly, bracing myself for whatever stupid thing was going to come out of her mouth next.

Please don’t say something that’s going to make me hate you.

“I said to Rolf, this is must be what’s its like for Laura when she go to the movies.  Rolf pointed out that most movies have all White casts except for roles, like gardeners, maids and criminals.  Isn’t that horrible?  I can’t believe that I’d never noticed that until I saw a movie with an all Black cast!  Have you ever noticed that?”

Have I ever notice that?!  Have I ever noticed that?!!

When I was little, my picture books were filled with lovely White families, my textbooks told the stories of how White people conquered lands and invented things.  My teachers, who gave me all of this information, had all been White. The news anchors I watched in the morning were White, every face that graced the cover of any tabloid magazine that I bought was White, movie stars were White, and all of my favorite television stars were White.

I have a hazy memory of being a little taller than our kitchen table and hearing one of my parent’s friends speaking to my mom in angry whispers.  She was outraged that nearly ten year's earlier, Elizabeth Taylor had been cast as Cleopatra.

“What’s wrong?” I wondered out loud.  “Why are you so angry?”

“We finally had have one of our stories told,” she said turning toward me with ferocity in her voice.  “The story of an Egyptian queen!  But instead of casting one of our beautiful sisters in that role, they cast her.  Egypt is in Africa, Laura.  Elizabeth Taylor is White.”


But the truth is that White actors have long been cast to play non-White roles.  Two years after Cleopatra, Laurence Olivier would be cast as Othello the Moor, three year’s previous, and Natalie Wood danced in to our hearts as Maria in Westside Story.  And there’s always my mother’s least favorite; the casting of Mickey Rooney as the offensive Chinese neighbor in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

And it didn’t stop in the 60's.  Just in the past few years, Johnny Depp was cast as Tonto; Angelina Jolie was selected to play Marian Pearl, (the lead) in A Mighty Heart. There was the all white cast of “The Last Airbender,” and don’t get me started on Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson (you really wanna be startin’ something?)

But Anna didn’t know that she had tripped over such a cultural land mine.  She had no idea why Boomerang was SO important to Black people.  She didn’t know or understand the tsunami of backlash that Brian Grazer and Reginald Hudlin had withstood in order to produce and direct a movie with a Black director and an all Black cast in 1992.

But I understood.  In fact, everyone that I knew understood.  Everyone I knew stood in line to see it the night that it opened in theaters.

“Yes,” I say crisply.  “I have noticed that.  Everyone who looks like me has noticed that...”

Who tells our stories?

“Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melach Ha’Olam….”

Miles, Justin and I make three circles with our hands over the flames of the two candles before covering our eyes.  I watch as four-year-old Miles peeks over at his little brother through his sturdy, brown fingers.


I sing the closing note by myself as both Miles and Justin begin to wrestle over a Sponge Bob bath toy.

How did that even get down here?

I close my eyes for a moment and take a deep breath, before grinning widely at each of them.

“Holla’ if you want chocolate chip challah!”

Sponge Bob falls to the ground as they both squeal and climb over to where I’m standing.  I rip two handfuls of the soft, fresh challah bread off of the beautiful, braided, egg-wash-shiny loaf and hand them each one before buttering a piece for myself.

This is the most delicious bread ever.  It’s not even bread! It's more like cake!

I loved Shabbat.  I did not covert when I married Brian (for a variety of personal reasons), but I love the stories of Judaism.  When I first became part of Brian’s large, Brooklyn born, Jewish family, I felt overwhelmed by all of the new things I had to learn.  New names, personalities, foods, traditions -- but once I heard and began to learn the stories of Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat, Sukkot, Hanukah and others, I had found my vehicle into their faith.  I didn’t have to "be one to know one".  I could carry the stories too.

These are people who had been separated from their homes, their communities, their families and their places of worship.  These are people who under penalty of death (or worse) continued to tell the stories of their ancestors.  Some of them literally died so that their stories — their history could live on and never be forgotten.  And now, I’m a part of that.

I would often find myself welling up during each Friday night ceremony, while holding a squirming Miles or Justin on my lap.

All around the world at sundown on Friday evening, Jews are doing the exact thing that we are doing right now -- passing along their stories to the next generation. In this way, while the adults tell and relive these stories, the children are connected to something bigger than them.

But there would always be a moment during Shabbat where I would kiss their curly heads and wipe off their small, brown faces and wonder:

But where are our stories of Black Americans?  Were those stories snatched from us as we were stolen from our mothers and fathers?  Did those beautiful oral histories die on the coasts of Ghana and Senegal with those beautiful oral-historians?  And how will my children ever really connect to this history and culture.  How will they know everything that they are?

African-Americans and Jewish people have a lot in common.  We were both enslaved people.  We are both persecuted people.  We are both people who have survived horrific holocausts.  Globally, we all remember the Jewish holocaust.  The Jews have made sure that it is something that we will “never, ever forget.”

I admire this.  I am envious of this.  But this also saddens me.

Because, I can’t help then but wonder, where are the stories of these beautiful brown people who built the country in which we all now live?  Who speaks for the enslaved Africans who were systematically separated from their families, their language and their history?

Who Tells Our Stories?

I was fourteen years old when I first heard Rapper’s Delight.  My friend, Monica patiently taught me all of the words so that she and I could rap along with the little black and gold transistor radio she always brought with her on the F bus. Normally, I sat in the front of the bus, right across from the driver.  But when I rode with Monica back and forth to San Francisco for acting class that entire summer of 1979, we sat all of the way in the back, hunched over her radio, reciting the words over and over like an incantation.

“Now what you hear is not a test…”

Suddenly I was a part of something.  A movement.  A revolution.  Hip-Hop was being birthed in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem and had made it’s way across the country to us in California.  It changed everything about how we Black people saw ourselves forever.  And I had never felt more a "part of something" in my entire life.

I've had several friends over the years who have expressed shock when I reveal that I am (in my own words) a "hip-hop-head."

The conversation usually goes something like this:

Them: Really?  You like that RAP MUSIC?  Oh, I can't listen to that!

Me:  Oh, I love it.  It's the music I grew up on.  Have you ever really listened to it?

Them:  Well, as much as I could!  It's all Bit@# this and Fu%$ that.  Its all anti-female and pro violence.  How can someone like you listen to that?

Me: (someone like me?) Yes, true.  SOME of the lyrics are misogynistic, and some of them promote violence, but these young men and women are using their art, their craft, to tell the us about their world, which unfortunately does include elements of misogyny, fear, violence and prejudice.  But if you dismiss it all as violent noise, then you are missing the richness of the message that is being felt and received by young Black men and women throughout America and the world.  With hip-hop, Black people have a culture that WE created and that WANTS US.  It may be one of the only places that these young men and women can ever really belong and connect.

Them: Hmm.  I never thought about it like that...

Public Enemy’s Chuck D once said famously that, “Rap is Black America’s CNN.”

I love(d) Public Enemy.  I loved the brashness with which they conveyed the message of a fed-up, angry, oppressed, marginalized people.  To me, rap music was and is beautiful, thrilling, compelling.  To me, it is spoken word poetry, raw and abrasive, yet honest and moving. And most importantly, to me, it tells a story -- our story.

But now, circa 2017, Chuck D's words ring truer than ever.  For it is through rap music or more importantly, hip-hop culture that my sons are learning who they are.  It is through this musical revolution that they are able to connect and learn the stories of other people who look like them.

Poets like, Tupac, Biggie, Childish Gambino, Tyler The Creator and Chance the Rapper, give voice to the experience of what it feels like to a Black American.  Hip-hop's verses explain to young people that they are members of a race that has not only survived, but thrived in spite of the many unspeakable atrocities that have been waged against us.  It is through hip-hop music and culture, that Miles and Justin have learned to reject the notion that they are inferior because they do not see their faces on “those” award show stages or in “those” films or television programs.

Hip-hop is music, but it also clothing, television, movies, food and independent films.  Hip-hop is a collective of young men and women, vibing, cooking, eating, dancing, thriving and head-bouncing to the drum beats that came over with our ancestors.  Hip-hop is more than just "rap music."  Hip-hop is powerful and alive.  It is as connecting and kinetic as anything else that I’ve ever been a part of or witnessed.  It is not only important for the education of our young men and women —  it is vital.  Through it, we are learning our stories.

Who Tells Our Stories?

“I see now why they put Black people in chains!”

My friend has called me after exiting a showing of Hamilton.  I can hear the rush of enthusiasm in her voice.

“You loved it?” My voice is just short of a shriek.  I jump up and down a bit in place and smile widely.  I want to revel with her in how amazing Hamilton is.  “I knew you would love it!”

“Oh Laura!! Look at what we can do!!” she continues.   “I mean really!  Look at what BLACK PEOPLE can do!!  That show was a triumph.  How can any show ever compare to what I just witnessed?! I’ve been ruined forever!”

“I’m with you.  I’ll never be the same again.  Scottie and I have seen it twice and it has literally changed our lives.”

*  *  *

The next day in the ocean, Scottie is explaining to two other surfers (who had seen his Hamilton Facebook post) what the big deal it is.

“It tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, you know the guy who created the treasury.  The one on the ten dollar bill.”

“I know who he is,” says one of them dryly.

“Oh, okay,” says Scottie.  “But the cool thing is that Hamilton is the most successful Broadway plays in history.  Hamilton has set and broken more records that any other stage show of any kind.”

“It’s that great, huh?” says the other one.  “Wow.”

“The really great thing,” says Scott.  “Is that the cast is almost exclusively NON WHITE.  In fact, Alexander Hamilton is Black,” Scottie laughs.  “George Washington is Black!  Can you believe it!?  It’s fantastic.”

“I don’t get it,” says one moving his wet hair out of his eyes.  “What do you mean?  Black people play Hamilton and Washington?”

“Exactly!” Says Scottie.  “And the crazy thing is it’s all hip-hop.  You would think it might be hard to follow or understand, but it wasn’t at all.  It blew me away.  My girlfriend calls it a ‘hip-hopera’.  The choreography was amazing too."

Both the men are silent for moment.

“I don’t get it,” says the other one finally.  "Why would they cast a Black guy as Hamilton?"

Scottie senses now that he is not being received in the manner that he intended.  He feels himself getting frustrated.

“Look, it's not just me who thinks its great. Again, it’s made THE MOST money of any show in history.  Nearly a million people have seen it already -- some paying upwards of three thousand dollars per seat!  The reason its great is because they're telling a story of probably the Whitest people in history -- our founding fathers.  And they while they deliberately cast actors of color, they were also just looking for real talent.  And boy did they find it! Some of the actors are Black, some are Latino, a couple are White, but after you get used to it, nothing gets lost in the translation.  You are absolutely invested in this story!”

The surfers look at each other. One of them refuses to look at Scott.  Scottie looks at both of them with incredulous eyes.

“You really just have to see it," he says again.

“Yeah, maybe,” says one as he paddles away.  “I’m not really into rap music, though...”

*  *  *

"Some people will never get it, Hon."

Scottie and I are eating dinner in our kitchen later on that night.

"They're pretty nice guys," he says shaking his head.  "But it was almost like they didn't want to get it."

"Most people don't want their minds expanded, Hon.  People don't like change.  That's what happened last November.  All those people voted to restore America to 'what it used to be.' They didn't want the change that happened during the Obama years.  But more than that, I think people just don't like change — period."

"Its fu*#in'  frustrating," he says.

"I know," I say getting up and crossing to sit down next to him.

"But you know what, Hon?   Those guys are in the minority now.  People LOVE this show.  Hamilton will live on as the most successful musical  -- ever."

Scottie is silent for a moment, then speaks again, shaking his head in disbelief.

"Its like some people just can't let go of their old idea of America long enough to see what is actually really happening right now," he says finally.   "Hamilton blurs the lines of color and race.  It reminded me of Miles's graduation this year."

"I know!" I smile.   "That graduation was crazy!  All of the faces were different colors, different races, different shades.  I was stunned. I've never been so proud."

"Right," Scottie nodded.  "Until that graduation, I had never, in real life, seen a truer representation of what America really looks like NOW.  And that's what's up with Hamilton!  Hamilton is an American play.  It isn't a 'White play' and it isn't just a 'Black play' either. Hamilton is what's really happening right now --  we are more diverse than ever.  And that's why some people are so scared.  But for me, I say it's about time."

Open correctional gates in high deserts
Yeah, open our minds as we cast away oppression
Yeah, open the streets and watch our beliefs
And when they carve my name inside the concrete
I pray it forever reads

 Kendrick Lamar

Justin, Jeremiah and Miles at the Museum of African American History and Culture 2017

Friday, September 1, 2017

Hi, my name is Laura...

Hi, my name is Laura and I am an alcoholic. 

I’m also a writer, mother, daughter, girlfriend, sister, stepmother, friend, volunteer, mentor, political activist, cousin, Trustee Exemplar, advisory board-member, former wife, former PA President, former publicist, former assistant production coordinator, former documentary director, former “party girl,” former King Cobra girl and former receptionist/hostess.

Depending on how long or how well you know me, you may have questions about how I got to be an alcoholic or what it was like when I drank.  And depending on how well I know you, I may answer some of those questions.  

I think its important for me to tell you that I'm not trembling with angst at every social function, trying to figure out a way to break away and sneak a glass of wine.  I want you to know that I don't ever romanticize about "how much better my life would be" if I could join you at the bar for a high ball or a lemon drop (although I really used to like those).  I don't feel sorry for myself because I "can't" drink.   But I know to some of you, it may seem like drinking is some kind of privilege that has been stripped away from me.  And the fact is that, yes.  I did like to drink very much (and take pills).  But after they stopped working, it took a very long time (years) for me to finally give up on trying to get them to work again.  And during those years, I hurt and pushed away everyone who loved me.  I didn't like living like that.  I didn't like who I had become.  After I got sober,  I recoiled from alcohol as if from a hot flame. Drinking scared me.  I didn't long for it.  In fact, I was absolutely terrified of who I might become if I took even one drink or one pill. Some years later, I find myself in the promised position of neutrality when it comes to alcohol.  I'm no longer tempted nor terrified by it.  It is just there.  But it is not for me. And I'm completely fine with that.

Also please bear in mind, that I am speaking for myself only (and a little for Scottie). But here are some things I can tell you about my alcoholism/recovery without you having to ask:

You can drink around me

If you we’re out to dinner, you can feel free to order a drink (or three).  While I appreciate the consideration, (really I do) PLEASE don’t not have a cocktail on our account. In fact, if you want to, you can get totally drunk.  It’s really okay.  Ironically your concern about how to make Scottie and I feel comfortable at dinner or at a party, usually serves to make us more uncomfortable. On a side note,  I’ve found that outrageously drunk people, while sometimes entertaining, often make less than enjoyable dinner companions for the one(s) who are abstaining.  But as far as my sobriety goes, rest assured — your indulging in a few cocktails while we’re together won’t jeopardize it.

It’s actually an allergy

So, yeah - I’m literally allergic to alcohol (there’s a joke in program that goes something to the effect of “I’m allergic to booze -- when I drink it I break out in handcuffs")!

Just think of me like you would any friend who’s allergic to say, shellfish.   You’re probably not going to make a big deal about eating a shrimp in front of that person or fret too much about whether or not to order the crab salad at dinner.  It doesn’t have to be some taboo subject, you know?  I’m simply allergic to alcohol. Of course, there are also other components (obsession of the mind and a spiritual malady), but my point is that I am bodily allergic to alcohol.  Once I take that first drink, I am powerless over what happens next.  But you don’t have to worry about protecting me from your alcohol.  Have a drink!  I’m good.

You can invite me to go to Las Vegas or The Wine Country, but I will probably decline:

I don’t drink, smoke, gamble (or shop or spa recreationally), so a trip to Vegas sounds about as appealing to me as the five-hour car ride in bumper-to-bumper traffic that it takes to get there.  And since I’ve been sober, I’ve really just found it to be too loud, too dark, too smoky and generally kind of skeevy (Although I could maybe be persuaded to fly in for a day to see Michael Jackson “One” by Cirque du Soleil.)  I do love me some MJ…

As for wine country, which sounds really fun and romantic in theory. The whole point of being there is to partake in wine tastings and whatnot.  So what’s pitched to me as a relaxing, picturesque weekend with amazing food, in actuality, can turn into a whole weekend of me having to politely cover my glass with my hand and say, “No thank you, I don’t drink” over and over again.  Also, I find that hanging out with a bunch of drinkers in wine country is just kind of boring without a buzz.

I don’t ingest anything that changes me from the neck up

I don’t vape, smoke cigarettes, smoke weed (or do edibles or oils).  I avoid all narcotic pain meds (i.e., Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet) and I’ve stayed clear of any kind of sleeping pills or anxiety medicine (like Ambien Xanax and Klonopin).  Obviously I don’t partake in any kind of illegal amphetamines (speed, meth, cocaine). But I also won't take your prescription Adderall or Ritalin.  I don’t take NyQuil (it’s a like a full shot of alcohol!) or drink “non alcoholic beer” (we have a saying in program that non-alcoholic beer is for non-alcoholics).  I don’t drink Kombuchas (if you don't know why, just Google it) and for totally different reasons, I don’t even drink coffee anymore.  I don’t drink those special “natural” teas brewed from opiate or amphetamine-like derivatives that are supposed to be “calming” or give you “energy” (like Khat or Kava).  And while we’re on the subject, I don’t drink energy drinks either.  But I do eat chocolate.  Don’t judge me - I know that’s a drug.  I also eat sugar, which is totally a drug. Okay, fine — you're right!  Judge away!

You don’t have to feel bad for me because I "can't" have a glass of champagne at your wedding:

If you invite Scottie and I to your wedding we will dance, eat too much and perhaps over indulge on wedding cake.  We will “ooh” and “ahh” and maybe even get teary when you say your vows.   We may sit down and laugh with our table-mates while taking pictures of your flower girls.  We will watch with curiosity as the drama unfolds when your uncle or cousin reappears after having had “one too many.”  But please don’t be offended when Scottie and I say our goodbyes soon after the first dance.  But after all that food and cake, we’ll just want to get home, get in bed and watch Homeland or Game of Thrones.  And while we really don’t miss champagne at all — its nice when our hosts have some sparkling cider on hand for those who don’t partake (I also love a good “mocktail” menu at a wedding!)

Don’t smile condescendingly and say “good for you!” when I tell you that I don’t drink

I know you mean well.  I also know you probably just don’t know what else to say.  But the fact is that I’m not in recovery to get yours or anyone else’s approval.  I don’t drink because I made a decision nine-plus years ago to choose life.  I don’t drink because I have my best life ever now.  It’s not punitive or shameful.  It’s also not a badge of honor.  It’s just my life. And while it is in fact “good for me,” and I say this respectfully, please don't point it out while giving me a thigh pat or a mini fist pump.

Feel free to talk to me about the problem drinker in your life (even and especially if that person is you)

The most crucial call to action in recovery is our charge to pass our experience strength and hope along to anyone that wants (or wants to want it).  So I am more than happy to share my story with you when it’s warranted.  And I’m equally happy to simply to listen if that's all you need or want instead.  What ever is required, I will do my best to be of service.  So please don’t be too polite, shy, ashamed or afraid to bring it up.  People in recovery are great respecters of confidentiality (it is sacred to us as well as essential for healing from this terrible disease).  And more than likely, any horrible, scary thing that you have to say will probably sound perfectly normal to me.  

Again, this is just me talking.  I can't and don't speak for anyone else in recovery (well, again, except for Scottie).  I just wanted you to know this about me in case you were wondering what it is like for me to live life as a sober person.  I hope you that if you were confused or had any notions of how hard it must be to live without alcohol (believe me, I could NEVER have imagined it!) -- that this might have helped to clear it up or expel them.  Because as I said at the top, it is true -- I am an alcoholic.  But it is because I'm in recovery that I'm able to be that and so much more. 


Please share this with anyone you know who may be struggling with their (or someone else's) addiction or recovery.  Also, please leave your own "do's and don'ts" for me in the comments.  Thank you!