Stalking Got Me Sober

They say it is a program of attraction. They are right.

recovery-alcoholDriving home one night from a comedy club in Los Angeles, completely jacked up on blow, I stopped at a Shell station on Cahuenga. I just didn’t want to go home yet. As I pulled up to the pump I noticed a huge white production van on the other side of the island. A cowboy got out of the truck and walked to the cashier’s desk. And by cowboy I mean that he was wearing boots and a hat, whether he could actually ride a horse remained in question. I told myself that if he came over and spoke to me I was going to give him my phone number. And I rolled down the window and waited.

“Pardon me but you wouldn’t happen to have a pen would you?”

I looked up to see the cowboy leaning toward my car window. “I think I do.” I reached into my bag and pulled out a pen and handed it to him.

He looked down, his hat covering all but his lips, and wrote something on his hand.

When he handed me back the pen, I took it and held out my business card with my other hand. The card had my photo and phone number on it. During the last year in Los Angeles I’d seen both actors and prostitutes with cards such as these. “You are just the cutest cowboy I’ve ever seen. You can call me if you like. I’m an actor not a whore.”

He laughed. “Thanks, I will.”

I drove the rest of the way home, popped a Xanax, and passed out. The next day the house phone rang and I ran to answer it in my underwear. My boyfriend and our roommate were out, at least I hoped they were. I stood in the kitchen holding one arm over my breasts when I picked up the phone. I didn’t recognize the voice on the other end of the line. He said his name again. “From the other night. At the gas station.” It was my cowboy. We made a plan to meet in Franklin Village. It was just coffee, I told myself. When the day arrived I put on my cutest short-shorts and did my best to look gorgeous without looking like I was trying to look gorgeous. On the way out of the apartment I checked myself in the mirror. I reached down between my legs with one finger and then dabbed a bit of sticky sweetness behind my ears. Just coffee? Who was I kidding?

I stepped into the coffee shop and it my eyes took a moment to adjust to the cool dark swank of it. I looked around but I didn’t see him until he was right in front of me. It was as if he had materialized out of my imagination. I had always had a thing for cowboys. It did not occur to me at the time that I had objectified this man to the extent that he was a caricature. In fact it was not until several years later when a man revealed to me that he had saved my number in his phone as “Hottie From The Beach,” that I realized how that might feel on the receiving end.

The cowboy bought me a cup of tea and we sat down. He had moved to LA to be an actor as well. How original. But now he was directing. How ironic. He had a way of shrugging his shoulders when he talked that made this all endearing. While he may have been as desperate for validation as I was, he had a humility about him. He seemed unaware of his own stunning beauty.

I told him how how I’d met some friends for drinks at the comedy club that night when I ran into him at the Shell on my way home.

“Don’t worry, I wasn’t drinking and driving. I don’t really drink.”

“You don’t drink?”

“Nope. Not for the last eight years.”

“Do you go to meetings?”

“Oh, no, I just don’t drink. I mean, I still smoke a little pot now and then.” And this is the first lie I tell him. “Do you?” I asked. “Go to meetings?”

He said he did; that he hadn’t been in about two weeks and should probably go. A part of me wished he’d take me with him. A part of me found it revolting. Nothing is more attractive to an alcoholic than ambivalence. And so, as I felt both drawn to him and terrified by him, naturally I began to imagine our life together. We went to the movies that night and I kissed him in the parking lot. Never mind that my lips were numb with cocaine. I felt positively invincible.

He called me again a few days later. He had this little apartment a few streets down from me off of Franklin. His building was a narrow, institutional grey cement block with blue awnings. We sat down in his living room to watch a movie and about halfway through the film he leaned over to kiss me. Then he stood up and I stood with him. He pointed the remote at the T.V. and the movie flickered off and kissed me again and we moved toward the bedroom and then we were in the bedroom and he didn’t bother shutting the door.

Afterwards, we lay side by side and he pinched the skin at my elbow like it was a key that might unlock me. It did. I felt as if I was becoming someone else. Like the planets inside me were changing direction. I asked him about the meetings and he told me where to find them. He said you could just stand in the back and listen. He said he went every weekend. I stared out the window behind him at the wall of the building next door. I took out my pipe and lit it. When I blew pot smoke into his face he cringed. “Could you just blow that out the window?” I apologized. Then, I got up, walked to the bathroom, and did more blow, flushing the toilet when I snorted.

I didn’t hear from my cowboy for a week after that, then two. I decided to call him. I left a message and waited. I checked my phone constantly. I drove by his house late at night. I called again and did not leave a message. I drove by his house in the middle of the day. I lingered at the coffeehouse where we had met on our first date. Finally, when a month had gone by with no word from my cowboy, I went to a meeting looking for him.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been to a meeting. I’d gone with a girlfriend who had a DUI fifteen years before. And I had cried all through that entire meeting. I remember telling my friend, “I’d really like to go back there but I’m not an alcoholic.” Then, a few years later it had become apparent that I did have a drinking problem. So I quit. No rehab, no meetings, no problem. Now, eight years later, I was smoking pot and taking vicodin, valium, xanax, paxil, and snorting coke every weekend.

I sat in meeting after meeting hoping my cowboy would show up. As I heard these people tell their stories again and again I couldn’t help but relate to them. I knew I had a drinking problem, that was why I quit. But it began to dawn on me that I was sicker than I’d thought. Not only was I an alcoholic, I’d become a drug addict too. And when I heard people share about their troubles in relationships it became clear that this was part of the problem; this was part of the disease. Nobody else knew I was at the meeting simply with the hope of running into this cowboy accidentally on purpose. But hope, as it turns out, is hope. And we welcome it, however it may come.

I didn’t want to admit the truth to anyone, but I realized that just as I had replaced the alcohol with drugs, I had been replacing one man with another for years. Cowboy was no different. In fact, the name itself sounded like some fashionable new drug. Cowboy. Something that will make you feel exhilarated and alive, something upon which you can project your wildest dreams. Something untamed. Something imagined. Something like a man on a white horse come to save me from myself. And while this “cowboy” had not indicated any interest in me for several months, I was still obsessed. I was as addicted to dysfunctional relationships as I’d ever been to a drug. Turns out there’s a program for that too.

It was a long time before I ran into that cowboy. By then I had started to change. When he showed me his new wedding ring and a picture of his little boy I was able to shake his hand and congratulate him. I know now there was something I had been longing for, something or someone I thought I had to become in order for people to love me. Even for a long time after that I thought I’d meet the right guy and I’d be saved—that the guy was what needed to change. Up until I got sober, I drank and used drugs when the pain of not being enough hurt too much. I shrouded myself in the fog and confusion because it was the only way I knew to get through, but I also kept myself sick. Anyone can see why. A broken heart is excruciating. Repeating that drama again and again would drive anyone to seek relief. But I knew there was another way. Now I was clear. The person that needed to change was me.

That was the beginning of a long road to recovery. It’s been nearly twelve years since I’ve had a mind-altering substance in my body. My sponsor suggested Al Anon, and I went. A friend suggested SLAA, and I went. I learned new tools to help me heal more deeply. Now, I no longer chase unavailable men. I meditate daily. I go to therapy. I am of service. I am open to any and all philosophies and books and airy-fairy crap that helps me love myself. And I’m not ashamed to say that stalking got me sober. At last my higher power spoke to me in a form that I could understand. And at last I listened. Article Link “the fix”…

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