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The Sober Husband – Volume 5 – 12/31/20

It’s 10pm on New Year’s Eve and I just put Jen in bed. She didn’t even make it to midnight. She apologized profusely as I put the blankets over her and I assured her that it’s ok… and it is. She gets up at 530am every day during the week and works hard at her job. Her ambition and drive is one of the things to which I’m most attracted. I’m not bitter or angry or resentful that my New Year’s Eve is over before midnight. I’m grateful for the wonderful night we had. We got dressed up and had a candle light dinner, then put on our pajamas and zoomed with some friends. I called or texted most of my friends and family throughout the night to wish them a happy new year. One of the things that I realized tonight was that I don’t talk to my friends or family nearly enough. I was always the one who organized our nights and weekends when we were younger back in Chicago and I’ve let that fall by the wayside as adulthood and distance has taken over. Life is partly to blame for it but so is laziness and if I’m being completely honest, self-centeredness and pride. (i.e. Why can’t they call me?) 

This week an old comedy pal of mine from Chicago died of ALS. I had no idea he even had it. We hadn’t talked in 3 years and it turns out that his brain had been extremely impacted by it and his personality was gone. When I heard the news I looked at the messages we had exchanged throughout the years and every one of them was an unsolicited note of encouragement from him. Every one. What a gift. And I thought how easy is it to just be kind. It’s so easy. To just reach out to someone and tell them you’re thinking about them or that you’re proud of them or just ask how they’re doing. 

Tonight is the perfect ending to 2020 and the perfect analogy of what my year was like and how sobriety has changed it.  For most alcoholics (and even normal people) New Year’s Eve is the cherry on top. It’s the perfect excuse to let loose and drink your face off and I took advantage of that most NYE’s. I wanted to ring in the new year with a bang. I wanted to fucking party. I wanted to laugh and cry and smoke cigars and beg my date to let us stay for just a little while longer. Just one more drink and we’ll go. I never wanted the night to end. 

This is my 5th sober New Year’s Eve and it’s during a pandemic. To say this year has been challenging would be the greatest understatement of the year. Simply put, it sucked shit. Many of us lost jobs, or at least income, some of us lost loved ones or had to witness some family and friends getting very sick. We had to wait in long lines just to do normal things like grocery shop and most of us haven’t been to a movie in 9 months. Black Lives Matter united some yet divided others and to top it all off it was an election year. An extremely stressful election regardless of which side you were on. 

When I reflect on this year I know I would have drank most days just to pass the time and deal with the psychological impact of quarantine. Liquor sales were up 40% this year so I wouldn’t have been alone. I also would have been far more depressed as I brooded over the dire situation we found ourselves in. And as usual there would have been many many drunk dials. But instead I was given the greatest gift I’ve received in sobriety thus far. Perspective. I didn’t hit the panic button. I stayed in the present. I understood that this too shall pass. I stayed patient and tried my best to be empathetic. I prayed and meditated more and even a few times I just had a good ole fashioned cry. I focused on being of service to other people. Like so many of us, I had good days and bad days, and when I did, I talked about them to Jen and my friends. I didn’t bottle it all up like I’ve always done but just let go of whatever I couldn’t control and stayed grounded in gratitude for the things I did have. My health, money to pay bills, a roof over my head, food in the fridge and of course, Tiger King. 

My perspective has changed. I no longer have to be the life of the party or even go to the party to have joy in my life. I can have dinner with my beautiful wife, tuck her in and blog on New Year’s Eve and not dwell on the fact that someone out there might be having more goddam fun than me, god forbid. I was so worried about being boring when I quit drinking. I was worried about not drinking at weddings or ball games or barbecue’s. I was dreading my first sober new year’s eve but all of that fear went away when I realized that the thing that I loved the most about this night was the people I spent it with. So I called them. I texted them. I told them I loved them and I made a promise to myself to make sure I said it again before next New Year’s Eve. Because if this year has taught us anything it’s that tomorrow isn’t promised and so as my friend who passed away this week so often did, I wanted to end this cluster fuck of a year by letting you know that I’m grateful for you. I’m grateful for my new perspective, my sobriety, my life, and most importantly my lame ass sleeping wife.

Happy New Year! 

The Sober Husband Blog – Volume 4 – 11/13/20

We’ve all been impacted in one way or another by the Coronavirus. Although I know quite a few people who have gotten very sick I’m grateful to say I haven’t lost anyone. I have essentially been out of work for 8 months. I have had a handful of zoom shows and a couple weeks of work in the midwest but that’s been about it. I have a lot of colleagues that are in the same boat as me and it’s been interesting to see how people have adapted or confronted the situation. A friend of mine opened a virtual comedy club that’s doing very well, another friend of mine wrote a book, a bunch of friends have gone back to school and another friend of mine lost 20 pounds and looks incredible. 

Thanks to a dear friend of mine, I was able to get a day job right away when the pandemic began and it was a lifeboat both financially and mentally as I had purpose each day but that didn’t last unfortunately. So left to my own devices each day, I make the bed and do the dishes and go to meetings and binge Netflix and walk the dog and play video games and try to write but as a comedian we are reporting back to you, the audience, what’s going on in life but when life stops it’s hard to write. And I need to because I’m somewhat of a comedian without an act. My whole act in the last 5 years has essentially been about being a divorcee in search of love and now I’m a married man in love. So now I have plenty of time because of the pandemic and a lot of new stuff to talk about because of all the changes in my life recently but still nowhere to talk about it. It wasn’t until the last couple of weeks that I realized how much of my happiness was tied into my comedy career. I love being on the road. I love being on stage, I love to perform and for the last 8 months that has been taken away from me. Jen and I have even made a few sketches which have been a lot of fun but I feel sad at what is missing in my life which is my work, my passion. As an alcoholic I am used to just pushing down these emotions and putting on a happy face (or a drunk face) and getting through it but as someone in recovery I have to acknowledge the fact that my life and my work are essentially on hold. Feel the feelings Ken. (gross)

Last year I read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, about his experience surviving the holocaust and he talked about how many people simply died of heartache. They were the ones who hadn’t accepted their present situation. The ones who thought it would all be over by Christmas or New Year’s or Easter often times gave up hope when those dates came and went but the ones who accepted that they may die on any given day and that they had no control over when they would be released from captivity found a way to survive (sometimes). This situation we find ourselves in isn’t, in my opinion, as traumatic and tragic as the holocaust but I think the principles of hope remain the same. I don’t know if I’ll catch this virus and if I do how sick it could make me or if I could die or lose any of my loved ones. And we have to live with that in the back of our mind every day. I don’t know when the comedy clubs will open back up safely, nobody does. I don’t know when life will “get back to normal” or if it ever will and so I have to first grieve the loss of my old life, recognize the dangers that exist in my new world and adapt. Other than that, I’m powerless. Which is tough for a control freak alcoholic. Right now all I can control is how often I write. All I can control is finding other outlets to use my talents whether it’s online through social media or through another avenue like writing. 

One of my favorite expressions that I’ve learned in recovery is “keep your feet moving”. Meaning don’t sit around and wait for the world to start up again, figure out the world you’re living in today and how you’re going to fit into it. For me, that means re-imagining my routine. My routine before the pandemic revolved around booking jobs, promoting my brand, writing new material and getting on stage every night but now the emphasis has to be on self care (meditation/journaling), service to others (recognizing that we’re all in the same boat and living in this new reality and people could use a helping hand) and being more disciplined about writing and creating and finding new ways to share my passion. I’m also doing away with the guilt and shame I feel for not working or feeling like a dead beat from time to time. It serves no purpose whatsoever and that negative thinking causes more harm than actual motivation. I have found that meditation every morning has been extremely helpful. If you have an American Express card one of the perks is that you can download the Calm App for one year for free and every morning I get a friendly reminder to meditate. I do it (or at least try to) before I look at social media so that I can start my day with a clean slate. It helps me to prepare my mind that day for whatever it is I’m hoping to accomplish. 

Some people have remarked how difficult it must be to be sober during this pandemic. I read somewhere that alcohol sales were up 40%. But I haven’t really had an issue with it because I know that drinking isn’t really going to solve any of these challenges I’m facing. They just mask them for a few hours and then I’m just left feeling shitty the next couple of days. Instead, I wake up every day thinking of a quote I read from Mr. Frankl’s amazing book, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” And my way… is forward. 

The Sober Husband Blog – Volume 3 – October 2nd, 2020

I met Jen the day I got divorced. The whole day was weird. I woke up to the song “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones. I took a shower and went to the courthouse. I was in line with my wife when the guy in front of me recognized me from high school. I asked him, “How’s it going?” 

“Not great! he replied.” Oh yeah, he’s getting divorced too. 

The judge gave his speech and the marriage was dissolved. Said goodbye to my now ex and went and bought new tires for my car. They said it was going to be a while so I went to the mall and bought a $100 pair of jeans. I had never really done that before and just figured I needed a “me day”. 

That night I went to my home comedy club and handed the bartender my keys and told him, “I just got divorced. You are not to give me these back under any circumstances.” My oldest brother showed up to do his brotherly duties and we started drinking. It was open mic night. They called my name and I got on stage and I said, “I can do my act or I can talk about the fact that I got divorced today. Your choice.” 

“Divorce!” they all yelled simultaneously. 

And for the next 10 minutes I talked about my divorce that day. How when I got to the parking lot of the court house that morning that my first thought was, “I should have tailgated.” Just grilling burgers and drinking beers at the Bridgeview County Courthouse parking lot? I came off stage and my brother and I clinked beer bottles. It was raw and real and honest and funny. Then Jen walked by. 

Jen takes over a room when she’s in it. Like a movie star. All eyes are on her. The first time I saw her I felt like Roger Rabbit seeing Jessica Rabbit for the first time. She has this air of confidence and energy. She floats through rooms. 

The open mic ended and my brother and I took our seats at the bar outside the showroom. There was drinking to be done. Much to my complete shock Jen walked up to me and introduced herself. I immediately tried to convince myself that this happens all the time and tried to be cool. 

“Did you really get divorced today?” She asked. 

“Yeah.” 

“And you just went up on stage and talked about it?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Wow!” 

“Yeah, I’m actually headlining here in two weeks. You should come back up and see me.” said Ken totally keeping it cool. 

“Ok, I will.” she responded with a smile. 

Then she joined her friends at the other end of the bar. I sat there for a minute and thought about the gravity of the day. I had gotten divorced. The person that I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with was like, “Nah bro” and it was over. I felt guilt and shame and embarrassment. I had failed as a husband and had to start all over again. I had nothing to lose. 

I stood up. I wrote my number on a napkin and walked over to Jen and her friends. I put the napkin down in front of her and I said, “I don’t want to wait two weeks to see you. Call me tomorrow.” Her mouth dropped. She just looked at me and said, “Ok.” 

To this day I don’t know what made me do that. I had never done anything like that before in my life. I was always too afraid of rejection. She texted me later that night and told me that was the most baller thing any guy had ever done.

Jen and I had our first date Thanksgiving night three days later. We met at some dive bar and had a couple drinks. It turns out that she had just ended her relationship earlier that week too so we were both getting over someone. “Crazy Train” by Ozzie Osbourne came on and we both laughed. “That’s not a good sign.” I kissed her at the bar and I remember thinking the moment that I kissed her that I had married the wrong woman. I had never felt like that kissing someone before. 

We only dated for a few weeks. I was too raw emotionally and insecure and we were both on the rebound. We still debate to this day who ghosted who but eventually we got in touch and began a friendship that lasted 7 years. That Christmas I met a girl and jumped right back into a relationship (serial monogamist much?) and Jen eventually met someone and got married as well. We both worked downtown and had lunch occasionally. I told her my girl troubles and she told me her boy troubles. We really got to know each other and I accepted and respected our friendship and the boundaries that came with it. I never had a secret crush. She was just my friend and I really valued that. She even invited me to her wedding and I went by myself. I didn’t stay too long. I said my goodbyes and gave her a hug and walked to my car. I sat in the car and I remember thinking. “This isn’t over. I don’t know why but I think I’m going to be with her some day.” I had no reason to believe that she wouldn’t be happily married for the next 50 years but I just had this vision in my head of her painting while I read a book on a couch. The vision was clear as day. I figured we would meet on some cruise ship in 30 years and she would push me around in my wheel chair till I died. 

Her marriage didn’t last long and we re-connected. By this time I was sober and I had figured out who I was and for the first time maybe in my life I finally had self worth and self esteem. I was able to finally be in a healthy relationship and be honest and transparent and let my walls down. The first couple of months we dated we spent hours talking, about our fears, our needs, our wants. For the first time I didn’t hide behind some persona that wasn’t me. The party animal, the life of the party, the false Bravado, Tatonka (long story). Like that night on stage the day of my divorce, I was raw and real and let her see the real me, flaws and all. I expected her to go running for the closest exit but she kept coming back and loved me no matter what and I accepted that love which for me was the hardest part. And slowly we built, one day at a time, a foundation for what would be our relationship. 

I am honestly grateful for alcohol. I know that sounds weird but I don’t know if I could have pulled off that move sober that night. It’s called liquid courage for a reason. Alcohol allowed me to stand up for myself at times and to vent my anger. It numbed me from pain I didn’t know how to deal with at the time and it gave me the courage to talk to the prettiest girl in the room. It worked until it didn’t work anymore. But once I got sober and finally let the real me surface and let people decide (without fear of abandonment or rejection) whether they wanted me in their life and more importantly whether I wanted them in my life I finally started to have healthy relationships for the first time. It hasn’t been easy. I know there are people in my life who miss that guy. He was a lot of fun the first few hours of the night but I can’t help but love the gift of being present. When you talk I’m truly listening and when I say something it isn’t some slurred ball of angst. I say what I mean.  Alcohol may have been what I needed that night to get Jen to call me but sobriety is what has gotten me to keep her. Seven years ago when we met there is no way we would have made it as a couple and I think we both recognized that quickly. I would have made the same mistakes I had made in my marriage but having gone on this journey I finally realized in order to find the love of your life you must first BE the love of your own life. Until you can truly love yourself unconditionally it is so difficult to be authentic in any other relationship but I have that today… And that makes me the luckiest Roger Rabbit of all.