Conversation with Sean Paul Mahoney, Seanalogues
This week, Liv’s Recovery Kitchen talks to Sean Paul Mahoney, in Kitchen Table Conversations.
Sean is a writer, playwright, blogger, tweeter, critic, podcaster and ninja level smart ass. He has been sober since 2009. Sean is the genius behind Seanalogues: Conversations with Sean Paul Mahoney, and his older blog Urtheinspiration. He is the host of Sloshed Cinema; and humorist over at The Recovery Revolution’s, Long Term Recovery. Sean has written the plays, ‘The Singing Room’ and ‘Casual Encounters/Missed Connections’.
Liv: Before we kick off talking recovery-as we’re conversing in Liv’s Kitchen-tell me what you have had for breakfast today?
Sean: Eggs, toast and chicken sausage. It’s different everyday though and it usually revolves around coffee and a banana. I didn’t really eat breakfast until I got sober so I now I like to mix it up.
Sean’s Rock Bottom
“From teen drinker and drug experimenter, to 20 something club kid, party goer and party thrower to dive bar regular and daily blackout drinker in my 30’s, my use and abuse spans nearly 3 decades. I hit a major bottom in late 2008 which forced me to leave my relationship, change my whole life and get sober. I was hit with an HIV positive diagnosis at seven months of recovery and really thought that would be a great excuse to go out and get loaded but for some reason I didn’t. Since then I’ve relied on my fellows and a spiritual practice to help me not be a hot drunken mess, one day at a time.”
Sean: I guess, and for a lack of a more poetic turn of phrase, it was because I was really fucked. I had 5 months dry in 2008 and the minute my life got difficult, I reached for a bottle of wine and then things got really bad. In less than six months, I was evicted from my apartment, my long relationship fell apart and I pretty much wanted to die. The thing was, I had tried to quit so many times on my own and it never stuck. So in January 2009 when I realized I couldn’t do it on my own, I reached out for help from sober members of my family and finally said, “I need help.”
Liv: And, what did you gain from not getting sloshed post-diagnosis?
Sean: Gosh. So much. It was the first test in sobriety that I had where my life was really challenging and I didn’t get loaded over it. I didn’t know why or how but I knew whatever I was doing was working and that maybe I could actually have a shot at staying sober through some really difficult stuff. Listen, I knew that HIV was not going to kill me and that intellectually people with HIV live long happy lives. But it was always one of those things that if I got the news that I was positive, than I could kind of give myself a pass on being a big, fat drunken mess. So the fact that I didn’t was nothing short of a miracle.
Liv: What have you learned about yourself in relying upon your fellows?
Sean: The thing is when I’m drinking or using, I have monumentally bad ideas. Ideas like get wasted instead paying my rent or breaking into my own house even though the front door was wide open. Ditto when I try to get sober alone. From marijuana maintenance to just drinking non-alcoholic beer to white knuckling it, I tried everything but relying on other sober people. My alcoholism and addiction fester alone in the dark so I need other people in recovery to share their experiences and let me know, “Hey. You’re okay and you’re not alone.”
Sloshed Cinema @ The Recovery Revolution
Liv: Sloshed Cinema, talks about movies that feature drinking, doing drugs, and getting sober; hosted by a sober person (Sean). The premise is to take on a movie every week, which tackles this never ending topic.
You question why anyone getting sober would you want to watch a movie with people getting drunk and doing drugs; but propose that, maybe, it takes an outside source to shine a light on something we don’t know what’s going on, where we couldn’t have perceived on our own. And you expose how much Hollywood loves this subject: the industry is ravaged by the disease, a lot of them are in recovery, and it’s a subject full of drama, and a great topic to base a film around.
Tell me, what is going on?
Sean: Given the huge amount of films about addiction and alcoholism, I thought it would be fun to watch those movies and write about them. I originally pitched the idea to Chris, the head guru of Since Right Now, whom you’ve interviewed, and he said,”That sounds more like a podcast.” And that’s kind of how it happened. I love talking about movies, pop culture, recovery and of course myself and this podcast lets me do all that. The fun thing about the show is we’re using something fictional or artistic or superficial or funny like a movie to talk about something serious like alcoholism. I believe we all have really deep and visceral responses to film so linking it together with recovery has turned it into a very meaty conversation. And I always take five minutes at the end of the show to chat about pop culture and recovery. As you can imagine there’s almost always a celebrity getting sober or new tv series with sober characters. What’s cool about the digital recovery community is that we’re all sort of having the same conversation but doing it through different ways and injecting that conversation with our own lives and passions. You use food and nutrition, which I love. Others like Maggie of Sober Courage talk about being a sober parent. And I use films and pop culture. I think it’s really amazing that regardless of who you are and where you’re from, there’s someone blogging or doing a podcast or on Twitter that is sober whose story resonates with you. You just have to look for it.
Liv: And how has your perspective changed through sober eyes?
Sean: It’s a stupid answer but everything has changed. I have more compassion for people. I don’t take everything so seriously. I’m excited for silly things like hanging out with my cats and going on walks. Mainly, though, I can see the truth and I want to know more of the truth. I’ve learned to love and embrace the good, the bad and not so sparkly parts of myself and I hope I keep on that path. I didn’t get sober to stay in one place or not keep growing and to not help others so hopefully my perspective keeps evolving.
Liv: Talking of your own experience- in choosing recovery-you said that many things have presented themselves; films, articles about sobriety; of which you say came out of nowhere. Can you tell us a little more about that newfound awareness?
Sean: I truly believe inspiration is a magical thing way outside my human powers and so if I’m open to cool ideas or crazy films or insane research on a film, then they always present themselves. Nine times out of ten when I’m researching one of the movies for Sloshed Cinema, I’ll read a story about one of the actors or writers or directors on that film and discover they’re also sober. Or that the stories behind the film mirror my own recovery. Or some of these movies, I’ll Smile Back with Sarah Silverman was one, connect with people and viewers identify with them and leave these incredible comments on places like IMDB.
Movies as a Means to Recover
Liv: In your post for The Fix, 11 Not So Great Movies That Got You Through Your First Year of Sobriety, you say that movies were your first fix. Growing up in an alcoholic home, film was your ‘highway to a more fabulous existence.’ What was missing in your childhood that led to the escapism of your highway?
Sean: My family was incredibly loving and my childhood was filled with really fun adventures but it was still rough. It’s a crazy dynamic for kids. You’re forced to grow up really fast and your day-to-day is very intense and very real. Plus, I was never like any of the other boys. Effeminate, imaginative and kind of a smartass, I never fit in. So films were a way to go somewhere else. I wanted real life to be as amazing as my imaginary life so when I found drugs and alcohol it was a relief. Like, “Thank god. I don’t have to feel reality anymore!” But of course I eventually did. Now pop culture and movies are a passion but aside from the occasional Netflix binge, it’s a healthy one and one I love talking about.
Liv: The Blind Side was equally emotive for me in my first year of recovery, with the fuzzy feelings it provoked despite its not-so-great writing. You said that it led you to a point of reflection ‘about a new chapter where I started showing up for people I love, even if it was just for turkey and mediocre Sandra Bullock movies.’ What does showing up for life look like? And what have been the benefits?
Sean: Great question, Liv! Something simple like going to the movies with my parents at Thanksgiving was very profound at under a year sober. See, I’d physically show up to holidays or events but mentally I’d be thinking about getting loaded or trying to manage a hangover or working hard to make sure people didn’t see what a mess I was. It was exhausting. Now showing up is as easy as calling someone back or doing errands for my 89 year-old grandmother or just being mentally present for a friend going through a hard time. The benefits are that I’m actually reliable and people can count on me and that feels really good.
Sean on Writing
Sean: UrTheInspiration was a blog I started at 2+ years of recovery and it really opened me up to this world of digital recovery. I met all kinds of amazing people from it too. Like Paul from Buzzfeed, author Heather Kopp and my friend Jen who’s even come seen some of my plays here in Denver. It definitely reflects that period from 3 to 5 years of sobriety. It was immensely helpful as a writer and taught me a lot. The Seanologues is a continuation on that conversation. I’m trying to put together a book of humorous essays about being sober and gay and positive and this site is helping me craft that. And like I said earlier, I’m constantly in search of the truth and writing in this no-holds-barred, stream of consciousness style hopefully helps me get closer to the truth.
Liv: If a fellow in recovery approached you about writing a blog, what are the reasons you would tell them for going ahead?
Sean: I would say please do it mainly because your story is important. The digital recovery world needs blogs by sober black people, by sober disabled people, by sober single dads, by sober latinas, by sober LGBT, by sober anybody who wants to get their experiences out there. True, there’s a ton of recovery blogs and a lot of them are alike. When I first started, it was mainly older straight, white guys blogging, some of whom really helped me a lot. Now we’ve trended into a women’s magazine and yoga-centric era of recovery blogging predominantly written by white women. While I think a lot of them are great and certainly needed, there’s room and readers in the blogosphere for all types of recovery. People are dying from addiction and alcoholism so if you think sharing your story, regardless of where you’re from and how much sober time you have, will help you and other people, I say go for it.
Sean on Food & Recovery
Liv: What has been your relationship with food in recovery?
Sean: This is the question I wanted to answer the most, Liv! I love, love, love cooking and eating.And I think it’s amazing that you write about food in relation to recovery. There’s a really good book in there, young lady and I want my copy signed when you write it! I was always a Gourmet magazine reader and Barefoot Contessa watcher, even while I was drinking. Since getting sober, my curiosity and desire to learn more about food and cooking has exploded. I think having an open mind has helped me have a healthy relationship with food.I started making homemade bread this year. I’m into learning about new ethnic cuisines. I buy spices whenever I can. I eat a lot of vegetarian meals but I’m a sucker for pork. I’m a chocolate fanatic but I try to keep it in check. To me, eating well is a great gift to give myself now that I’m sober.
Liv: What is your favourite meal to eat?
Sean: Mexican food! I lived in Los Angeles for 15 years so nothing makes me happier than really great tacos and guacamole.
Sean on Relationships
Liv: You said that your husband has your back, and knows about your alcoholism (by helping read menus and being cautious), how has your relationship supported your recovery?
Sean: I am lucky that he never knew me while I was drinking. He met me at a year and a half sober. He knows that without recovery, I wouldn’t be the person he fell in love with so he’s always been incredibly understanding even at times when things like going to meetings or talking to other sober people might get in the way. The man is a saint.
Sean’s Top Recovery Tools
Liv: Lastly, what are your top five Recovery Tools?
2. Other addicts and alcoholics
3. 12 Step Groups
4. Prayer and meditation