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December 29, 2017



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I hit up the alumni meeting the other night at the recovery house where I was a resident over six years ago.  I haven’t been to that meeting in close to a year for no particular reason, other than life gets big and a bitch gets busy.  Of course, I always get a blast from the not-so-pretty past whenever I walk through the doors of The House.  I remember the tears, the terror, the trauma and the gratuitous drama.  I’m overcome with feelings and that place is strict about sharing your feelings.  You check in and the first thing they make you do is check out a feelings list—I’m talking about five pages of feelings words listed in alphabetical order.

“And what do you do with the feelings of being a down and out, bottomed out alcoholic/addict?” The program director asked me during group one fateful morning.

“Feelings are like treasures,” I responded tightly.  “You BURY them.”  Then I made the mistake of releasing a tiny chuckle.

“The sad part is, you think it’s so FUCKING funny!” She spat at me harshly with a deadpan look on her face.

I learned that if she asked you anything about feelings, you best pull out that feelings list—“Being a bottomed out alcoholic addict makes me feel: affected, afflicted, afraid, aggravated, aggressive, agonized …” And the ill feelings went on and on.

I wasn’t feeling so afflicted during this last visit, however.  A lot of improvements have been made to the house while I’ve been gone, which was a fresh breath of air–not that the place was a total dump … or that looks are important (gulp) … it’s just that there’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint and new furniture to liven up a place.  I’m forever grateful for the experience and the tools that I learned in that house, but every time I went back, it was like stepping into a time warp.  It was always a real trip to sit on the same couch where I cried my ass off; I remember the armrest where I wiped my buggers many times way back when I was a nervous twitchy mess.  I could not help but find myself thinking about those early years when I mostly felt cranky-crappy-crazy-cross-crushed and seriously, who wants to be in that space?

Then there are the residents.  It’s like, same story, different cast.  I look into their eyes and I see a desperateness that I’m sure is really a mere reflection of my own search for a ticket out of that place whenever somebody from the outside stepped into The House to visit—“Save me, SAVE ME!”

Sobers are big on living in the moment, staying present, letting go of the past and not future tripping.  In early recovery all I ever focused on was what it was like–not just back when the drugs worked and I could run amuck–dancing my ass off all night long until my back hurt.  I would also mourn the end of a ritual that was part of the getting high process–there was the score, finding the perfect straw, the flat surface, the routine of crushing and lining, and of course the bullet to the brain.  And let me not forget the last bump of meth that did me in.  That last bump is the reason why I’m clean and sober today.

But that was then.

I don’t really think about that today–not about getting high, or all the trouble I got into at The House.  I mostly think about keeping my shit in check, writing assignments, posting blogs, resting my head on my partners’s chest while we catch up on back episodes on Netflicks, walking the dog, what I’m putting into my body, how much I love/hate my braces–oh yeah, I also think about how I should be meditating more, step work, studying the Big Book and all the meetings I should be attending and of course being of service to another alcoholic who still suffers.  I could tell you about how my life is great and yada-yada—and life really is GRRREAT!!! But it really boils down to me being clean and sober today.  The obsession to drink and use has been lifted.  I have some peace and serenity.


It was nice attending the alumni meeting after being away for so long.  That meeting was a game changer for me.  I hadn’t been a resident in the house for a full week, but I was already plotting my big escape.  My plan was to grab my belongings and steal away in the middle of the night with my shoes in my hand like some rebellious teen-aged Jezebel.  On the night this was supposed to happen, I sat through the alumni meeting.  They plop you in the very front of the meeting when you’re a new resident in the house.  I was on the same couch I mentioned earlier trying to hide under a veil of shame.  Then I heard familiar girlie laughter behind me.  I turned my head and faced an old drug buddy of mine.  This bitch gave me my first bump of crystal meth eleven years earlier!!!  This bitch had two years of clean and sober time!!!  I could NOT believe it.  I figured this bitch was dead in a ditch or at least dying.  People like him didn’t get clean and sober–what were the odds?  That lit a fire under my ass.  I was like, if this bitch can do it, I can do it too.

So I stayed.

On my way out of that meeting the other night, the secretary asked me if I would be the main speaker next week.  Being asked to share my experience strength and hope at this particular meeting made me feel giddy, girly, giving, glad, gleeful, good, grateful, gratified, great, groovy, happy, joyous, free … and so forth and so on.




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About Paulo Murillo,

Paulo has been writing for the gay media for over 16 years. He made his debut as a columnist for FAB! Newspaper. He has written for LA Health News, IN Los Angeles, Frontiers and The Fight Magazine. He has been featured in The Bay Area Reporter, XY Magazine, Bay Windows, Windy Times, and Press Pass Q, He has been quoted in the pages of Edge Magazine, Gay & Lesbian Times, Seattle Gay News, Fuges, and in a shitload of online news outlets and blogs, thanks in large part to Rex Wocker’s Quote on Quote – Wockner Wire.

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