Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Happiness and Rehab

Celebrity RehabJoanie "Chyna Doll" Laurer, Brigitte Nielsen, Mary Carey

I thought it would be a train wreck, so Sunday night I had to watch VH1's Celebrity Rehab, just to see who these poor wretches were. Ends up, I got to meet "me" again... it felt familiar, and yes, even cocoon and homelike.

I don't want to rehash all my war stories about my life in 12-Step programs (there are other places in this blog to find that, I think?), because that's not the point right now; and if you've not known me that long... heck, one of these days we'll have a drink and yak about it all (just kidding!).

What IS the point of it, is that I just realized it's been 20 years since I set foot in my first 12-Step Room -- in the bottom of a church basement in NYC, June 1988. My first meeting was a Debtors Anonymous meeting where I literally thought they were going to take my credit cards away and close my bank account on the spot. After all, isn't that why that nice man in a suit and tie was there at the door?

How naive of me -- he was as sick as I was, and having never even known what AA was, I had no clue as to what I was going to happen to me. But that night I heard the phrase "I am a child of God" and the word "fellowship" and for about eight weeks I was in a meeting every day, sometimes even two -- I never had to be alone in this again. Yes, I was one sick puppy, and the only place I felt "well" was in a meeting. When I moved back to LA after those eight weeks (thank you NY DA!), I got into DA full force here, joining other program(s)!, speaking and sharing, and feeling "seen" for the first time in my life. To this day speaking in front of a crowd doesn't bother me because if you can tell 200 folks about the IRS garnishes and collection agency nightmares you have and that you live hand to mouth all the time... well, there's more to it than that, but let's just say it's easy, and I even grew to like holding the floor.

I loved being in the rooms 3-4 times a week because I got tons of truth -- and pain and suffering and hope -- in there. And I could be of service and help... and it was perfectly okay for the next minute to be the one bawling into the microphone and in NEED of those hugs and understanding...

Eventually (1993?) I saw my last meeting because I needed to know I could think on my own, now that I knew what I wasn't just full of "stinkin' thinkin'." I have never really thought about those days until that Celebrity Rehab show Sunday. Mind you, I didn't have a substance-abuse issue as these guys did... but I sure remembered the open-hearts and the difficulty of facing life head-on, with no crutches. It's good to know those meetings are still there... and I can go back if I need to. Do I need to?

Today, Andrea sent me this article in the USA Today, Psychologists now know what makes people happy that starts out:

"The happiest people surround themselves with family and friends, don't care about keeping up with the Joneses next door, lose themselves in daily activities and, most important, forgive easily."


"Lose themselves in daily activities -- what?! That's supposed to make people HAPPY? Boring-ass CHORES?! How come nobody ever told me that before (Mom?) -- I've always KNOWN that happiness only came in the events you planned and goals you reached. NOT in making your bed, cleaning your house, keeping your gas tank and checking aocount full, making a meal... but wait, I DO feel happy when I get lost in my daily activities. HOLY F*CKING SHIT. What a revelation. I don't have live in the anticipation of all the highest of highs... and its corresponding depression and low. Thank God.

The other thing I saw in that article: "The happiest people spend the least time alone."

This little ditty has been coming to me hard and fast the last six months. After "enjoying" (!) a self-imposed, deep, painful, solitary, and yet healing period of ten YEARS -- yes, it's been ten years since I hit my head at Raging Waters -- I know it's time to come out again and play with others! And hey, if it means with a Mr. too, well, that's even better! After all those zillions of people in those trillions of meetings and all that service... I kinda couldn't hear myself and I needed to shut the world up... and now I'm peeking out just a little, enough to get out of all the little depressions I can get myself into when I hibernate too much.

It's been a slow, sluggish New Year... that finally has revved up because I'm seeing old friends again... slowly, slowly. Last week, a Saturday night out with Jeffrey to see Juno (movies), a beautiful lunch with Heidi Rose (metaphysics), and a great coffee catch-up with Christopher (musicals ) today... I feel good and am doing it slowly and gradually so I don't have to curl up and hide by being overwhelmed.

I know it sounds stupid, especially to people who've known me as a social butterfly, but this depression can be and is BAD. She's (Miss Social Butterfly) still in there, believe me... but she doesn't run the show anymore (she must be like 15 years old in there, dude). I have to finally admit it -- this peri-menopausal time of my life truly affects me... and it's hard to get out of that "pit" when I'm there...

And I get older, life's getting simpler again -- like in high school. Good friends, old friends, loving family, heartfelt connections, good laughs, fab food, healthy body, life purposes, life lessons. Life is simple. And happy.

Lastly, an inadvertent confirmation was this Saturday evening past. I spent it with an old family friend, Greg, and his wife Joy, who'd come up from San Diego with their daughters Tori (6) and Catherine (almost 2) to participate in a Tori's dance competition at the Burbank Marriott. That little Tori is a knockout singer and dancer, and she just sucks that stuff up -- of course to my absolute delight! Go Filipina girl! Joy, who like Greg is an engineer, was wondering how she got a little performer out of their genes... but I think she's got another one coming up in Catherine too...

In any case, it was fun to be around all these families and serious little (well, up to high school) dancers. Of course, I walked in as a senior division class did "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and I wept -- as I always do when I hear a musical theatre overture/number. (That was just for you, Maureen. :) Maybe one day some of these kids will be dancing in MY shows... it was inspiring to be around. [Even though it did remind me that when I saw my first dance recital at age 6 or 7 and our little Filipina friend was in a cowgirl outfit, I asked my mom if I could learn how to dance like that. Got shot down in a second: "You have flat feet" and that was that, no dancing for me.]

But the best part? Hanging with Greg and the baby almost the whole night. Mind you, I've known Greg since I was 14 and he was 4, he used to visit with his friends when he was high school for vacation, and flown out and stayed with me and his sister in NY, and we lived in the same house while he was in college. Now he's a grown man with a wife, two kids, a house, mortgage, cars, an officer, a pilot, and getting his Master's degree... how did that happen, and I'm still where I am?

[Cue: "Sunrise, Sunset": Is this the little boy I carried...] hehehe

Oh for Pete's sake, I wax poetic. The point is, it was incredibly good to be with family again, who see and love me without judgment and unconditionally. Nothing has changed over the years! I felt this this past Christmas in a big way with my brother's family, and Mom and Dad and their friends, and it came to home to me on Saturday. What a blessing... to feel such an embrace, to know I am loved. Thanks always, Greg... I love you back!

James Marsden, Katherine HeiglThe next day, I did make it out of the house to see 27 Dresses (2-1/2 stars of 4 from me, only because the leads, Katherine Heigl and James Marsden were great and of course, it's my story, she of 43 weddings)... and didn't sink too low recovering on that usually loneliest night of the week (Sunday).

I can admit now: I want a community around me again. YES to that! I don't know where or any of that sh*t is anymore as two of my bestest friends are leaving town... and my immediate family is elsewhere... but I'm sure that'll all come to me if I keep saying yes and face my fears of being swallowed up...

Enough! Have a good one...