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Poster child

Published July 16, 2013 by Johanna

Back to the office, I’m still surprised by Sam’s sudden spunk. The kid amazes me, I’m not going to lie.

He actually scares me a bit too, I must admit. I knew how to handle John because he didn’t hide this crazy side I saw in Sam today. John was transparent. John was easy to manipulate – well until a certain point. Sam is a wild card. And like all wild cards, he can achieve great things and also fuck up everything else.

I’m not sure how to deal with that situation. Should I play it by ear? Should I devise a plan that I know will fall apart within the first few seconds?

Bill was amused by Sam’s act but I felt threatened deep inside. Will this kid drive me crazy? Crazier than John did?

Only time will tell, I guess.

The day passes by but I’m too distracted by Sam’s behavior and miss my stop on the subway, ending up thirty blocks uptown. Dude, I’m more bothered by it than I thought. But why? I don’t know this kid. He’s just been introduced to me. And I already had a negative impression of him from the first few seconds. When he shows me his true colors, my reaction is fear? What the heck?

I’m making it worse than it is. Playing stories in my head. Everything will be fine. I thought I was strong enough to deal with that crazy job on my own, but Bill is right. I need help. And Sammy boy will be great.

I received today an email from a girl I met a few months ago. Emily was looking for a job at the time. She passed by the office and came to talk to me because Bill thought I’d make for a great poster child and could share my knowledge with her. No idea how or why I suddenly became an inspiration to people who job hunt. I work twelve hours a day in a place I often despise, and ultimately drank until I lost my mind because of it. I wish I could do something else with my life, but something else in this economic climate doesn’t offer much freedom to be picky. I have too many bills to pay. Money comes and goes but in this world, money is power. Sad but true. Still I don’t consider myself an inspiration to anyone. If it was because of my sobriety I’d understand better. I got nothing to prove. I’ve stopped trying as soon as I set foot in these AA meetings.

My mindset has shifted. Success has taken on a new meaning. If I keep my life, then I’m successful. The rest is icing and the cherry on top. I’m no inspiration. Just a chick with an addiction. My mind drives me wild. Can’t sleep because of all these conversations I have with myself – and these monologues don’t take me anywhere. Like this one. Why do I have to think of Sam instead of relaxing my mind? Watch a movie maybe? All movies are stupid lately.

Like this one. The plot is just pointless. Too many special effects. Too much gratuitous sex. Where’s the imagination of brilliant minds gone? I like to read before bed. But I haven’t found anything that caught my interest lately either.

I should call Julie. Ask her opinion on the Sam subject. She’s a crazy head like me. And her wisdom is unparalleled.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

“Kiki in the house, what’s up, girl?”

I laugh. “Too many thoughts in my head.”

“Ah. Yes, I know that feeling. Sometimes good thoughts, sometimes bad thoughts.”

I sigh. “I’m obsessing about this new kid at work.”

“What new kid?”

“My minion.”



“I’m confused.”

“I have a new minion. His name is Sam. And I’m scared of him,” I say.

“Scared? Why?”

“I don’t know. I get a weird vibe from him. He’s a wild card.”

“Oh. Yeah. Wild cards are trouble.”

Of course she understands how I feel. If she doesn’t, then who does?

“So what’s my best course of action?” I ask.

“With wild cards? Well there’s none really. All you can do is watch yourself.”

I inhale deeply. “I don’t want to risk anything.”

“Do you think he’s one of us?”

“That’s the problem. He doesn’t drink but I have no idea whether he has an addictive personality.”

“Yeah. I’m sorry I can’t help you more. But wild cards are the worst. They can flip at any moment.”

“That’s alright. You helped even if you think you didn’t.”

“You’re very welcome, honey. Anything else bothering you?”

“Sam is my problem now.”

“Good luck. Call me if you need anything.”

“I will.”



Sammy boy has already become a thorn in my side. If I want to remain the poster child everyone is looking up to, I must stay aware of my possible downfalls. And Sam appears to be one of them.

To be continued…



Published July 12, 2013 by Johanna

Bill chooses to have lunch at this crazy burger joint around the corner. Lines are always crazy there. I’m not sure whether the burgers are so crazy good it’s worth waiting an hour minimum to be seated, but the human mind works in strange ways I’ve stopped trying to understand a long time ago, especially in New York City. 

Plus Bill always finds ways to cut lines, because he’s an inconsiderate jerk, which works to our advantage so I don’t have to play the elbows and angry stares in order to get seated more quickly.

Sam follows like a scared puppy, and I begin reconsidering whether he’s just nervous or is a scared lil boy on a day to day basis. Hasn’t the kid been living in New York City his whole life? Then why this bullshit? If we were hitting a cornfield in the middle of nowhere, I’d understand better. Unless the kid comes from the middle of nowhere.

“Where are you from, Sam?” I ask as the waitress leads us to our table.

“Um, uh, O-Ohio.”

“Where in Ohio?”

He mumbles the name of a town I’ve never heard of, and I don’t even ask him to repeat himself again. Yep, the middle of fucking nowhere.

Glorious. Who’s this beloved client Bill is so eagerly doing a favor to?

I’ll figure it out soon enough.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

He gives me a confused look.

“Last name?” I add.

“Oh, Rowling,” he says with a timid voice. At least more timid than usual.

Rowling. The software tycoon Rowling?


Now I get why Bill was so eager to hire this kid. Having his father on board would mean millions in revenue for the company. And I get to mentor him? Um. I wonder if he has an older brother.

No time for dating Kiki!! You’re in your first year of sobriety. Yeah, and who ever said I should follow the rules, huh? Stupid rule at that. Plus I know what it’s like to marry money. It never ends well.

We sit at the table and Bill monopolizes the conversation. What’s it going to be about today? Golf? Knicks? The latest sportscar? Can Sam even drive a sportscar?

He probably can drive a tractor.

“How are you doing, Sammy boy?” Bill asks.

Now I’m not sure my boss genuinely cares about my new minion’s well being. But it’s thoughtful of him to pretend.

I feel tired. I can’t remember the last time I sat down for an hour just to have lunch. I never take time to chill. Always on the go, I rush, rush, rush, even when it’s useless to rush. It’s in my nature I guess. What are we going to talk about for one full hour? If it’s work, shoot me now. Bill loves to brag about how he started from nothing and became a super manager in no time. Mostly because he’s a crook, that’s why.

“So Sammy boy, are you excited to work for Stern and Stern?” Bill asks while chewing on fries.

I guess he’s going to talk about work for one hour. Jesus.

Sammy junior takes a sip out of his diet coke. “I’m pretty excited, yeah.”

This kid has the conversation of a piece of wood. I sigh. Why did I think this lunch would be a great idea?

“Miss Kiki over here is one of our best employees. Don’t be scared by her disgruntled attitude. That woman gets the job done,” Bill comments.

I force a smile. “You’re too kind.” I glance at the kid. “Way too kind.” I whisper to Sammy. “Don’t believe his lies… He has a ton of them.”

The kid doesn’t break a smile. Gosh, it’s hard to find his sweet spot. If he has no sense of humor, how am I going to communicate with him? John understood my sense of humor.

Bill laughs. “You’re trying too hard Kiki. I guess the kid is scared of you.”

Sam shakes his head energetically in protestation. “I’m not scared.”

Bill recoils in his seat and bursts in laughter so loud people around us turn their head. “Well the kid shows balls. That’s promising!” he says in between tears.

I stare at the kid, still not sold by his small act of bravery. “Well you might be wise to be a little scared. I can be super scary when I want it,” I say with a stern face.

He stares at me, like he suddenly woke up from a nap. “I’ve seen pretty crazy shit in my life, much scarier than you. So I’m not worried.”

“Oh shit, Kiki!!” Bill keeps laughing his butt off so hard, I think he’s going to fall off his chair.

“You know what, Bill, I think I’m gonna like working with him,” I say and smile at Sam who smiles in return. Nice teeth, I admit.

Damn. This one came out of left field. Sammy boy isn’t so shy after all. A bit rough around the edges but we shall improve that.

“Do you drink?” Bill asks Sam after he’s recovered from almost dying of laughter.

Sam shakes his head. “Drinking drives people mad,” he says very seriously, and Bill bursts in laughter again.

“Kid, you’re full of surprises today!” Bill says.

I watch the newbie as I sip my ice water. So Sammy boy is a member of the club? Or maybe someone in his family? Interesting. I must have something special to attract all these alcoholics lately. Oh wait. I’m one myself, so maybe that’s why.

Sam glances at me. “Do you drink, Miss Kiki?”

I shake my head. “You said it yourself so nicely, I won’t paraphrase you.”

Bill rolls his eyes. “Oh come on Kiks, you’re on the wagon now? What about your beloved scotch, huh?”

“I’m done.”

“Seriously?” Bill asks.

Sam taps me on the arm. “You know what that means, right?”

I’m not sure whether I like this burst of over friendliness coming from him. “What?” I ask.

“We’ll make a great team!” Sam says with much enthusiasm, way too much for my taste, but he looks comfortable now at least. It didn’t take long to break the mold.

Bill keeps laughing. “Damn I love this kid! Don’t you love him, Kiki?”

I roll my eyes. “Yeah yeah, let’s see how you put that enthusiasm to the test,” I say to Sam before taking a bite of my burger.

To be continued…


Published July 10, 2013 by Johanna

How much is too much? When comes the time when you can really tell when someone has lost their mind?

My boss calls me in his office today.

“Kiki, what’s up?”

Mind me, my boss is twenty years older than me but speaks like a college kid.

I smile. Even I stopped trying to play younger. Maybe I got more self discipline than I thought. Or just don’t wanna sound like a moron. Yes, my boss is a moron. I often wonder how he managed to get where he is but as anything else, this question will probably never receive an answer. Life holds its mysteries. Bill’s successful career is certainly one of them.

“Not much.” Easy way to cut off the friendly convo while staying polite.

Bill smiles. He always freaks me out a little when he smiles. Something that translates nice but pervert. He does that with every girl in the office. At least, I don’t feel special in that way.

Bill shuffles through the papers on top of his desk.

“Kiki I must admit your hours are impressive. But I worry about your health. Don’t you need a break?”

I raise an eyebrow. “I think I’m ok. If I needed a break, I would have taken one by now,” I reply.

He nods. “Nah of course, I’m not worried about you not taking a break.”

“So why am I here?”

He crosses his arms and leans back against his chair. Everytime I see someone cross their arms, I sense trouble.

“Kiki, John has left us. You need another assistant.”

Oh gosh. Another minion? I roll my eyes. “You’re kidding right?”

Bill laughs. “You think I’m joking? Don’t you like bossing people around?”

My turn to laugh. “You can’t replace John. No one is like him.”

Bill winks. “Oh trust me, I found better.”

“You’re kidding,” I repeat.

Bill presses the intercom button on his phone. “Send the newbie in.”

I force a smile. Bill is a nutcase.

The door opens and a young kid enters. He’s probably five foot four, and I give that estimate while sitting down. Skinny, with blond hair and glasses. He looks like he just etched from the egg.

I roll my eyes again.

“Kiki, this is Sam. Shake hands now.”

The kid gives me a dead fish handshake and sits in the guest chair beside me.

“Sam,” I say. “How old are you?”

The kid stutters. “Twen-twenty one, madam.”

“For god sake, Bill??” I glare at my boss who bursts in laughter.

“He’s perfect. You’re gonna mold him into such a perfect little worker.”

I wanna say fuck you to my boss but can’t because he’s my boss. Christ!

“Do you have any experience , Sam?”

I try to keep a calm tone of voice. I’m on the verge of quitting my job at this point. The past few weeks have been very hard on me. I didn’t get much sleep, worked like a beast eighty hours a week. I’m mentally exhausted. Going to meetings is very hard. I stay strong – and haven’t touched a drink – but how long can I keep going like this?

I thought I wouldn’t miss John but I do. He worked as my sidekick for two years. By far the laziest but also best assistant I’ve ever had. Go figure. Now this mini youngster shows up – and I’m gonna have to teach him the ropes. Back to square one.

“Do you know how to use a copy machine?” I keep going. “How about a coffee pot?”

Bill frowns. “Be nice, Kiki.”

I stand up. This new kid doesn’t have an ounce of courage in him. John would have opened his mouth by now. Said what he wanted me to hear. Convinced me I was wrong and he wasn’t an incompetent loser.

“Bill who is this kid?”

Bill sighs. “I had to make a favor to a client so…”

“Right. The usual. Well that’s great. I guess I’m stuck with him now.”

I glance at the kid who looks terrified.

“What do you got to say for yourself, Sam?”

He swallows a few times and opens his mouth. “Well, m’dam…”

I cut him off. “First, I’m Kiki. No m’dam here.”

He swallows a few times again. “Okay. Um… I’ll be very good. I-I promise.”

I snort. “Is that really the best you can do?” I stare back at Bill. “Is he being serious?”

Bill sighs. “That’s why I need you to train him. Use your iron fist to shape him up!”

I roll my eyes. “Oh lord. This conversation is killing me. May I go back to my office?”

Bill smirks. “Are you bored?”

I nod. “Boredom is an understatement.”

“Tell you what. Let’s go to lunch. We can invite Sammy boy over here. Don’t you think it’s a good idea?”

I glance at the newbie and back at Bill. “That’s not a battle I’m going to win, right?”

Bill laughs.

“Alright let’s do lunch,” I say.

I have enough trying to convince myself everything’s going to be fine when I know for a fact Sam is going to be the biggest pain in my neck from now on. And since Bill isn’t too keen on firing the kid after two hours, I’m gonna have to learn patience. Which is something else I’m not good at.

Can I travel back in time? Just rewind to my early twenties, before I decided to fall in love and go to grad school. Love is such bullshit. You think everything is going to work out but once feelings start shattering because you didn’t take out the trash one night, there’s no going back to normal. You build up resentments, get upset at anything that doesn’t feel right, even sex doesn’t bring any pleasure anymore but becomes a chore like anything else, and gradually, you lose touch with who you are, what you want from life and why you made so many sacrifices if it means ruining the rest of your better years with an inconsiderate selfish asshole who can’t wait to bury you six feet under at the first opportunity. Opportunity that doesn’t involve going to jail for murdering your wife with a serrated steak knife – messy – because he’s also a coward. A huge dick and a coward. What a great combo indeed.

I sigh. So much time wasted in useless arguments and sleepless nights. Sam is far from being my ex-husband but as a minion he’s going to be my bitch. Which means he’s still going to break my balls with stupid questions at least five times a day. And that’s being hopeful. The kid doesn’t look very shrewd. It might be ten times a day.

Gosh. Shoot me now.

What time is it? 11:15 am. Bill usually goes to lunch at 1. What can I do to kill my boredom until then?

Write. I’ve become fond of putting my thoughts on the screen. I’ve gotten used to pouring it all out, until my brain can’t take it anymore. Death by writing. All the resentments of the day vanish and I feel lighter by a ton.

So let’s write about Sam. This little guy who I know nothing about, yet hate with all my guts. Why? Is it because he’s young? John was young. Is it because he has no experience? John knew nothing at first. I had to teach him all the ropes. Is it because he’s a newbie? Probably. I feel like a bully at heart. Not the best behavior for a professional. I gotta grow into a more understanding individual. Learn patience. Stop judging.

Sam looks like a frail little guy who knows nothing about life. But appearances can be deceiving. Maybe he was born an MMA fighter and transforms into the Incredible Hulk at night. What do I know about his extracurricular activities? Squat. Exactly. So is there a good reason to get mad at him just for the sake of getting mad at someone?

Nope. Um. I’m not mad anymore.

I guess lunch won’t be that bad after all.

To be continued…


Published June 24, 2013 by Johanna

We’re all sick and suffering. Dead mind inside live bodies, longing for the next drink to kill ourselves a bit deeper. Without a tear, I want to finish it all off. My feelings shut down the second I turn off the switch. I can’t love myself anymore. This story of mine won’t be funny. 

I try to laugh at myself. What a fool I am. Not so tough, not so smart, not so good looking. Just someone climbing up the invisible walls of her prison, day by day, until a potential relapse. 

I pace through the rain. Drops hit my face like a cleansing slap. I gotta let it all out. The angry voice inside my mind has to shut the fuck up and let me breathe. I’m panting. Running away from my fears. As my heartbeat intensifies, I try to slow down but can’t. This race I must win. Petty arguments won’t make me fall. Emotions running wild keep hiding me from the truth. 

My steps become quicker. I’m almost running. My thoughts take me back to the friends I used to have, liars and cheaters, who manipulated me and abused my trust. 

Break the mold. Break the fucking mold and get out of your own skin. You can do this. You’ve been through tougher crap and always made it out in one piece. 

Deep breath. Your mind likes to play tricks on you. But it’s all an illusion. An act of despair taking you down a road of nonsense. 

I hear words. Insults. “You fucked me over. Are you really my friend?” I am your friend. “You’re mean.” I am not mean. “You’re selfish.” Sometimes I am. “You’re angry.” Yes, I admit I’m angry. “You love your anger more than me.” This I’m not sure about. How much can I love my anger? It’s like a tempo in my ear, a drum beat that doesn’t stop. These words keep coming back. A loop of “yes” and “no” answers to questions that require a lengthier explanation. No one cares about my reasons for acting one way or another. I am my own judge and ruler. I know when I fuck up. I can feel it in my guts. The guilt grows, crawling up to my brains. “Let me out! Be honest for once!” I scream. How can I lie to myself? I’m used to lying. I’m used to hiding behind secrets. Do they make me a better person? They just spread like cancer, killing me softly. 

The rain pours and washes over me. Drenched in my own denial, I must accept the ugly truth. I’m only human, born with a disease that will get the best of me if I don’t accept to change.

I’m my own soldier. Fighting for my life with every breath I take. As I stand above all, I lose the weapons that made me braver than I thought. There’s no middle ground. Either I surrender or die alone. 

That rain feels warm on my skin. Just like a hot shower stream. The battle is almost over. I can sense it deep down in my heart. 

Close your eyes. Think of the world as a place where life never makes sense. You gotta adjust. Find the perimeter of your own dominion and exercise caution when using willfulness. More often than not, you must hold back. Catch your reaction before it turns you to ashes. There’s a reason why the sign “Think” is upside down in the rooms. Because your thinking process is fucked. You move sideways instead of forward. You’d rather stall than shift gears. This process will teach you how to be an adult for once. Accept it. Just give in.

There’s so much out of your control. You gotta let go. Let the stream of consciousness take you down a path you didn’t venture exploring until now. What will you find? God only knows. But at least, you’ll be alive.

Even if I don’t believe in God, the universe will give me the answer I seek soon enough. 

The rain has stopped. I’m soaked to the bones but feel better now. This sense of peace is lingering, providing me with serenity.

The fight is over. For now.

To be continued…

Julie Jones

Published June 24, 2013 by Johanna

I met Julie two years ago at a white party in the Hamptons. If you don’t know what a white party is, no need to wonder if you’ve missed the best time of your life. A white party is a party where everyone dresses in white. Easy enough. The rest people do at a party is the same. Lines of cocaine, lots of drinking, fucking in the bathroom, and being assholes all together – no matter the place, that’s a given. Especially in the Hamptons. Rich assholes are the worst. Wearing Prada and Valentino as your underwear doesn’t excuse horrible manners. 

Julie happened to be there because of her boyfriend Mark. I happened to be there because I had never been to the Hamptons before. We bumped into each other while waiting at the bar for our overpriced drink – and have remained friends ever since. I must admit Julie enlightened my life like no other person before. 

During our numerous conversations, she told me she was dealing with many issues of her own, including serious anger management. She never went into detail. All I know is that her on and off relationship with Mark doesn’t help.  

Nowadays, talking with Julie helps me figure out solutions to my own problem. Julie did drugs to cope with her troubled past. Although I never killed my best friend for a boy… She says she didn’t do it but knowing her I’m pretty sure she did. 

Julie is a bit extreme. I’m extreme too but she’s just ten times worse than me. She’s like a time bomb ready to explode at any given moment. No warning. Just a plain loud boom that makes building collapse in fifteen seconds. I’m more like a pressure cooker that hasn’t been adjusted right and suddenly blows up – without shrapnel in it though. I’m not the terrorist type. Far from it. Terrorism actually makes no sense to me. I find it stupid and pointless. Ball-less too if you ask me. These mofos oughta get their balls shredded by a flying bucket of shrapnel for all I care. Maybe then they’d understand the stupidity of their actions. 

But to understand stupidity you must be pretty smart to begin with. And I doubt terrorists are smart. Topical conversation for another day… Right now Julie is the center of the attention. 

“So what’s up with you girl?” she asks as we sit across the table at Schnippers, ready to attack our burgers. 

I slurp a sip of my diet coke. “Lots of stuff. Probably too much stuff. Can’t be summarized over lunch. Good stuff overall though.”

Julie nods. “Oh good. At least you’re not in hell anymore, huh?”

Ha, she’s funny. After she spilled a few beans about her story, my jaw dropped so low it almost dislocated itself. I never thought she’d be part of the program. Actually, I thought she’d crash and burn before ever trying to save herself. 

The girl hasn’t revealed everything yet but I expect the rest of the tale to be juicy – juicier than what I heard so far – given the craziness she already put herself through. 

“So girl, what’s up with you?” I ask while chewing on a sweet potato fry. 

“Fighting with Mark. Arguing over bullshit mainly. Accepting certain things doesn’t help with relationship problems. Guys are just so dumb, I’m amazed how I haven’t become a lesbian already.”

I laugh. “Oh stop.”

She shakes her head. “No seriously. I’m at the end of the rope here. What’s going on with you? Any love interest?”

I laugh again. “Nope. None in sight.”

“What about your minion? You liked him. I remember you talking about him a lot.” She winks. 

I snort. “John isn’t who I thought he was.”

“Why? He turned out to be a big goo monster?” 

“Speaking of experience?”

She sighs. “Yeah that was fun while it lasted. So why don’t you like John?”

“I’m just not feeling the vibe anymore.”

She raises an eyebrow. “What vibe?”

“You know the flirtation vibe. I thought he liked me in that way, not just as a former alcoholic slash addict trying to help me.”

“Ah yes. I’ve met a lot of those. They’re the worst.”

I laugh. “Yep.”

“So he never had any intentions to date you, huh?” 

“Not even fuck me, no.”

She laughs. “That’s sad. The world we live in…”

I nod. “Yeah. It’s pretty pathetic.”

“So you wanna hit a meeting later?”

“I guess.”

She smiles. “You can vent about John all you want in your share.”

“And you know I love to vent.”

“Haha yes I do.”

Going to meetings with Julie is always an adventure. She picks the most random ones downtown, usually dark rooms filled with old timers. Thirty if not forty year recovering alcoholics who’ve been through hell before finding the road to salvation. I can’t say I’ve experienced the same hardships. But I’ve reached the gates of hell just like they did. 

And so did Julie. I like her company. She soothes me. I don’t need shiny people around to make me believe in recovery. What she gives me is a ground to build my strength back up. And for that, I must say she’s the only one I trust.

When we met, she was a lost soul. Her progress over the span of two years is tremendous. I look up to her. Want to be like her someday. Will I ever manage to reach that level of self control? Only time will tell.

Right now we’re eating burgers, enjoying each other’s company. Julie is my best friend, and I must admit I love her to death.

To be continued…

Minion quits

Published June 7, 2013 by Johanna

It has been several months since my first AA meeting. Six to be exact. John has served as my sponsor for the first four months but stopped shadowing me after I asked him to give me some room to breathe. His methods were more than extreme. One meeting every day, plus two commitments and fellowshipping – I couldn’t do my work anymore. Getting sober almost felt worst than getting hammered. Never in my life did I have to subject myself to such torture. Many predicted I’d relapse after dumping John. But I’m still here. Perfectly sober and sane. Step work? I’m doing it in a healthy rhythm. Some people need structure to stay afloat. I try not to pressure myself unreasonably. Right now my focus is to remain on track with cruise control.

I guess John got upset with me for a little while. Unless it’s all in my head. Anyway, we don’t talk as much anymore. Yesterday, he came to see me in my office.

John doesn’t even knock and barges in like a canon ball.

“What’s up?” he asks.

I glance at him and rotate my chair ninety degrees.

“How may I help you?”

He sits down in the guest seat.

“I got something to tell you,” he says.

“Spill it out.”

“I’m leaving in one month to work for this retail company.” Smiling like a clam, he expects me to congratulate him with a big jump up in the air.

I don’t do anything but stare back at my computer screen. Deep inside I don’t want to deal with him anymore, and am relieved he’s the one to go. John has been a good friend but our time is over. Or at least, our time needs a well deserved break.

“Congratulations,” I blurt. Nothing else to say. “When’s your last day?”

“September 10th.”

I nod. “Will you finish all your projects in time before you go?”

“Yeah, no worries.”

He says that now but I know he’s going to be slacking until the last minute. I know him. He might not be smoking weed anymore but his brain is still like Swiss cheese. And being forgetful is another character trait I can’t stand.

“I want to see the spreadsheet on my desk before the end of this week,” I say.

“I got you, Kiki.”

Right. You got me in all the wrong ways now. Ouch! I used to like John. What happened? I learn quick. All the bitches of New York City can’t take me as a weak link anymore. Kiki has come back, and stronger!

John is only twenty-two dammit. What he experiences through AA doesn’t mean squat in this world of sharks. At least not in my playbook. I yearn to hit hard, make the world shake until it screams. Kiki isn’t scared anymore. Six months of sobriety will do that to people. Maybe not to everyone, but works for me.

“You’re gonna keep in touch once I’m gone? Go to meetings with me?” he asks. “Or at least hang out?”

I laugh. “John stop the propaganda bullshit. I’m sober. I’m fine. I got your number in my phone – right here. I’ll hang. Don’t you worry your pretty head about me, alright?” I wave my phone at him. “Unless I lose this baby, I call you, deal?”

He smiles. “Sure. Okay. Just be sure not to relapse because you think you got it. And also because we’re friends. Let’s not lose this bond over bullshit.”

I nod. “Do you have it John? After two years?”

“No one has it. Especially not me. One day at a time, remember?”

“Loud and clear.” I smile. “You’re a good guy. We’ll stay friends. I just need some room to explore I guess. See what life’s made of after I dropped the booze. Being clear headed is probably the best gift you could give me, so for that, I thank you.”

No reason to burn bridges. I might be pissed at him now, but deep down, I still love him like a brother. He was there for me when no one else showed up. I respect him. I listen to him. His opinion matters.

“You know I’ll get around all the crap I say just because I’m frustrated. I’m not going back out. This time is over. I’m sober now. Just learning how to deal with myself,” I say.

“I feel ya. We’re all going through this. I’m always here for advice, you know that.”

I sigh. “Yep, you’ll be missed. But you already screwed up one good opportunity because of me. Don’t let this one pass.”

“I’m good. I know you’ll be okay.” He stands up and walks to the door. “Okay, I’ll see you later?” he asks as he exits my office.

“Sure,” I say.

This departure feels bittersweet. On one hand I need a break from him. On the other hand, I still want him in my life. I don’t hate him. I don’t hate AA. I really don’t hate anyone. I just need some girl time.

Speaking of which, I wonder what my good friend Julie is doing tonight.

To be continued…

Here and there

Published June 3, 2013 by Johanna

I never was the sitting for hours on a bar stool type. My drinking happened behind closed doors. At home, at the office, in my car even. I chugged vodka and scotch out of empty water bottles. The drunk never lasted long enough. I chased the first high I felt when young that truly made me whole. I’ve never reached that level of pure bliss all those years after. Finishing bottles doesn’t make me fly anymore. Yet, I drank my life away because scotch had become my best friend. Isolated from the rest of the world, I waged war on my own. I thought I could beat everyone with my willfulness. I am strong. I always achieved everything on my own so why not continue now? But I got defeated. Despite my best efforts, I lost the battle against myself. And accepting that defeat is the best thing that could happen to me.

Yes, I hate AA but not because of AA itself. I hate the people there. The preachers. The sinners turned saints overnight.

My eyes are closed. Taking a slow inhale of cigarette smoke, I hold onto the cancer stick like a lifeline. I never understood why former alcoholics and addicts usually develop an addiction to smoking. Now I get it. One addiction is being replaced by another. If it isn’t booze or drugs, it’s food. Sex. Exercise. Work. Art. Writing away until my brain is mush, and then writing some more. Words have become my therapy.

Words draw magic back into my life. Expand my imagination. Help me reach worlds I never believed existed but only inside an insane mind. And I’m insane. I made peace with myself, realized there is no way backwards. Returning to booze is like signing my death certificate. I thought I wanted to die at thirty. But I only wanted to find a way out of the pain. Booze takes me back to the dread. Writing allows me to escape. Anywhere I want to go. Travel through my mind to unknown destinations, that exist only in my dreams. I don’t need alcohol to help me stop thinking. I can only think more and break boundaries. The rest is trivial. The only obsession that keeps me alive is my own thirst for love. Love for life, love for words, love for myself.

Writing. Thinking and writing some more. I can’t stop. My mind explodes and I breathe in the creation – my creation – every thought I touch with a word runs freely on paper. Freedom at last. Acceptance of the past. Understanding of my future. Living in the now.

I don’t believe in God because I don’t believe in a deity who lets mankind die and kill out of greed or for pleasure. Evil means nothing when innocent children are murdered. Why would a god allow blood to be spilled if he’s so good and forgiving? Why should I let go of all the control to God? How will letting go of that control help me stay sober? I can drink whenever I want. Ruin my life whenever I want. God has no say in my sobriety. John tries to convince me God has everything to do with who I am, but is it really the case?

I doubt. Question everything. Putting my thoughts in words helps me understand better why I started the journey.

Here and there, I see why I’m better off clean and sober. A few weeks of not drinking gave me acute self-awareness.

Maybe too acute. I feel raw emotions and I don’t know how to deal with them. Can’t shut them down anymore. Need to deal with them. How? I can deal with hate, but how do I deal with love? Am I even capable of loving anyone? I despise myself for all the wrong I caused. My dead marriage, my ex, feelings drowning me under more pain with every memory. John – the cute twenty two year old I have a crush on – do I love him?

Nonsense. I don’t love anyone. I can’t love anyone. John means nothing to me. He’s just a friend. Former alcoholic friend. Probably in his kindness is acting like a sponsor too. I’m a good guinea pig to test his knowledge on. Do service. John doesn’t love me like I love him.

Argh! I don’t love him! Stop trying to love and be loved. Romance never took me very far. Only crushed my heart a million times! Ha, fuck romance! I don’t want to feel any love. Ever. Can’t deal with sadness, can’t deal with happiness. Just want to be numb. Feelings are poison. They torture my mind, and prevent me from sleeping.

Look at what you’re doing to yourself? You still live in denial. Feelings aren’t toxic. Your state of mind is. Change your vision and things will appear smooth. It doesn’t matter if you feel love or hatred, what you need to find is a happy medium that won’t push you into the ground.

Deep breath. Here and there. Look for peace. Easy to look for peace when you don’t have a clue what peace feels like! But I gotta go on. Here and there. Grab the pieces and keep them together. Just like a puzzle. The puzzle of your life. You’ll see the big picture when the time is right. Water, an oak tree, and a chair facing the platitude of the lake of your emotions. The storm shall pass. You will vanquish and become one with yourself again.

Learn to forgive. Learn to pray. Meditate. Breathe in and out, live in the moment. Here and there you’ll understand why you made certain choices and you’ll accept the consequences of such decisions. Not all of them were wrong. Not all of them  were unwise. Some belong to the realm of mistakes you’re supposed to make in order to grow up. Just don’t be scared anymore. Take a leap of faith. Stop listening to the voices inside your head – too much ruckus. Silence is key.

Here and there – get a grip. Follow the road and don’t panic. Life has much to offer. And John will get a slap next time I hear him speak about a higher power. And God. And how late he’s on his assignment due tomorrow. Being sober doesn’t excuse laziness dammit.

Being sober doesn’t stop me from living my life the way I choose to do. My free will is all I got. All I’ve ever had.

To be continued…

One foot

Published May 29, 2013 by Johanna

Kiki’s reaction is totally normal, as long as she doesn’t give in to a drink. I felt this way too, still do often. It’s part of the game. Do I hate AA? Of course I do! I’d love to be able to drink like anyone else and not make a mess every time it happens. But I’ve accepted that fact about myself. I’m an addict. I can’t stop even if I wanted to. The only safe way is the sober way.

One step after the next, I gotta hold on. Can’t turn my life around with only one wish. Many times I look back, wondering what would come my way if I kept drinking and using. Only misery. Only pain. Memories vanishing deep into a blur of violence and self loathing. There’s no viable solution to this but the one I found two years ago when I stepped foot into these rooms. Going to a meeting only helps if one’s ready to listen. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.

I wasn’t ready at first – none of it made sense. The jargon, the steps, having a sponsor. I hated all of it. But every time I asked myself whether I’d be a happier man if I kept drinking, the response was always negative.

And it still is. I don’t care how much of a bad day I’m having, drinking will always make everything worse. I think Kiki doesn’t like the meetings I’m going to. Maybe they’re too structured. Maybe they impose too many rules. Maybe they’re too restrictive. Maybe they brainwash people into becoming zombies, who can’t feel anything but their addiction.

Can I replace my addiction with another addiction? Can I ever feel free from all this pain I used to feel? I yearn to belong to the world, be part of something bigger than just me. Kiki enjoys being weird. I don’t. There’s nothing enjoyable about being different.

Praying to my higher power, I wonder what I could say to Kiki to convince her the program works. Kicking and screaming are a logical part of her recovery process. Even I can’t claim I know all the secrets on how to successfully get sober. Two years are a mere drop in the pond. There’s so much more to learn. Preachers won’t achieve anything if behind the curtain their actions speak less loud than their words – a truth I’ve witnessed way too often. So many behave like saints, but truly they haven’t changed one bit. They remain liars, cheaters, afraid to face the truth and stare at their reflection in the mirror without wearing the hypocritical mask they so adore to display for the whole world to see. I could never stand hypocrisy. And recovery takes a lot of honesty, too much sometimes.

It’s hard to embrace the truth. And I realize Kiki is entitled to feeling pissed all the time. Fighting her recovery is like fighting the desire to grab the first drink. It’s a battle of every second. The mental peace doesn’t come right away. For certain people, it never even comes. Fear rules our lives. The fear to beat our addiction overcomes the fear of relapse. We self-destruct constantly. Success doesn’t mean much when all we know is failure. But we can win. We can be free at last. If we really want it, we can have it.

Do I want it? Yes I do. I never desired anything else so much. Even in my wildest dreams, I never pictured I could accomplish so much in so little time.

Kiki is only at the beginning of the journey. A couple of weeks sobriety will make people react this way. I felt mad at the entire world my first year. Many times I ached to burn the big book and walk back out. Picking up a drink seemed the best solution to all my problems. Until not picking up made the most sense of it all.

I’m right where I’m supposed to be. Never in my life did I believe in something like this, but it makes perfect sense. I let go of the obsessive control. My insanity isn’t the one to show me the way anymore. I can’t trust my flawed judgment, but I can rely on my instincts. The universe has a purpose for me. No need to call a higher power God, for I am an atheist. If I walk inside a church, I pray. Doesn’t mean I follow the bible like a blind dog. There’s too much I question for me to believe blindly.

But there are things I will always relate to. And AA offers such solutions. Kiki will understand these concepts soon enough. I have faith she’ll know when the right time has come.

No need to overstress and live under pressure. NYC is a pressure cooker already. Staying sober in this town isn’t hard given there’s so much more to do than drink. How can people get bored and rely solely on booze to stay entertained?

I never drank for the sole purpose of drinking. Alcohol gave me the luxury to shut down completely, forget my thoughts and let go of the control. When I drank, I didn’t try to control my addiction. My addiction sat behind the steering wheel and drove me home every time. There are too many memories I’d rather forget. Too much depression, and self-loathing. Questioning my existence since I was a child. Doubting God’s presence until becoming a believer again. Praying for forgiveness and not admitting my wrongs. Feeling righteously justified to do whatever it took to get things done my way. Selfishly seeking my purpose, and being inconsiderate to every one around me. Hating more than loving. Despising myself to the point of forgetting why I should be willfull in the first place. Not trying to understand the world because I knew everything there’s to know and no one would teach me anything worthwhile anymore. Letting go without letting go. Lying to myself. Living in constant denial. Repeatedly expecting a different result while not changing any of the patterns that drove me insane. Staying angry, breaking things, beating myself up, wanting to die.

Simply wanting to end the pain.

Will Kiki understand she has a choice? Because that’s all it’s about. The decision to stay sober is ours anytime of the day or night. Even when I think everything’s lost, I focus on the positive. Nothing’s worse than drinking when I have cravings. One day at a time, one foot after the other, until the road that takes us far away from our addiction seems like a long forgotten feeling. The feeling wakes up every once in a while, yet with time, it becomes weaker and weaker. Long forgotten memories of a dreadful time. One foot in the right direction, and everything will get back to normal.

To be continued…


Published May 20, 2013 by Johanna

It’s impossible for me to sleep. I toss and turn, unwilling to give myself a break. Cravings have become stronger since yesterday. Being overtired doesn’t help. I’ve been accumulating the hours, jumping in a cab at midnight, returning to the office at eight. My mind is restless. I want to shut it down with booze. Drugs. Anything that’ll make thoughts disappear.

Memories of the rape keep flashing back. Lack of memories mostly. That night I was blackout drunk. But I remember the overpowering smell of laundry detergent. Every time I walk by a laundromat, I cringe. Can’t stand that smell. I need a shower to remove all the shame and disgust I feel mostly about myself. Water can’t remove pain and humiliation. Like a stab in the heart, I have been murdered and somehow, I survived. I hate myself for drinking that night. I hate myself for being fooled so easily. The wound has been ripped open. Bleeding, burning, stinging. All I want to do is disappear.

I remember the days following the incident. I take pills to kill my thought process. One, two, three, I need an entire bottle at this point. And if I swallow an entire bottle, let’s pray I don’t wake up tomorrow. I’m a freak. A monster. An anomaly. I hate myself. This addiction is driving me nuts. Where’s God in all of this? If there’s really someone out there controlling the fate of the universe, why have I been cursed with this plague? I can’t fathom spending the rest of my life not touching a drop of alcohol. I can’t fathom spending the rest of my life with the memory of someone violating me at my weakest point.

There’s no positive outcome possible. I don’t believe in a higher power. In all our conversations, John keeps talking about how his higher power is always there for him, whispering sweet things in his ear. Who the heck is he hearing? Voices. My minion is schizophrenic. That’s the only answer that makes any sense.

We’re individuals running after an ideal we’ll never reach. I like my alcohol. It helps shut my brain down for a little while. Too many thoughts clutter my mind. I wake up in the middle of the night, eyes wide open, ideas running wild until I’m too exhausted to keep them still and logical.

So not to forget them, I put them down on paper, to keep a memory of the million meaningless ideas flooding my mind all at once. I need drugs! Make the voice shut up. Make me go to sleep. I can’t keep going like this.

Finally turning on the light on my bedside table, I get up and walk to the bathroom. It’s three in the morning, and I look as pale as a ghost. A drink of water will calm me down. Maybe a sip of NyQuil will put me at ease. Two sips even. Do I have NyQuil? Rummaging through my medicine cabinet, I realize I don’t have any. I finished the bottle last time I had a cold.

I always finish the bottle – even when I don’t have a cold. I’m an addict – what else can I say? I live to numb the pain out. My feelings are too strong. Too overpowering for the every day routine. Working at this sales job is not what I wanted. As a kid, I dreamed of becoming a movie director. Why on earth didn’t I pursue this instead? I thought I could be normal. Happens I’ll always be weird.

Argh! Anger is coursing through my veins and I ache to scream like a wild animal. What remains when I’ve lost everything? This disease is driving me closer to insanity. I want to shut my brain down. Nuke it forever. Destroy the intelligence and become a vegetable, so I can finally live at peace. God if you exist please help me! I hit my head with my fists. Pounding hard to remove the insanity out of my brain. If the solution was that easy, it would have worked by now. It’s insanity in itself to want to remove a disease I was born with just by repeatedly bashing my skull with my powerless fists.

I’m going to cry. Seriously I’m going to cry until I can’t take it anymore. And then I’ll slit my wrists in a hot bath. I’d rather take pills at this point. I just need to make the pain stop somehow. Disappear in silence. Slip away through the cracks of the wooden floor. Become a liquid version of myself and evaporate like water when the heat is on high. This journey led me only deeper down the abyss. I can never climb back up. My hands grab onto the walls of my prison, bleeding nail beds, skin ripped to the flesh, but I ignore the physical pain. I’d lose a limb in exchange for a little peace.

What have I become? I don’t believe in God. Can’t imagine a life where I’m shackled to the ground like a prisoner because of my addiction. No prayer will help me, unless I help myself. I feel sick. Mentally ill from a disease so powerful it prevents me from seeing clearly. My addiction is my blessing and my curse. I welcome it and reject it, love it and hate it. There’s no place on earth that will content me unless I surrender completely.

But can I surrender? Is it even possible to let go of the pain and give in to pleasure, just like normal people do? How can I be normal? I can’t be like everyone else. I just can’t. My life is a nightmare. John doesn’t know how I feel. He can’t be that smart. He never told me his story. I don’t know what he went through. Will he tell me someday? Will he lift the curtain and show me his dirty secrets?

Do I even want to know his dirty secrets? What if he’s worse than me? What if I realize this addiction got the best of me, and I will never be able to defeat it? Maybe tame it. Maybe just forget about it. Maybe just learn to live with it.

I feel desperate. At the end of my rope. What’s left for me in this world?

Yesterday, I confided in John. “Can I even cry?” I asked as we strolled down the park in search for a little quiet. He looked at me the same way he’s always looked at me – with very compassionate eyes. I didn’t see judgment. Just understanding.

“You’re only human, you know?” he answered.

I sighed. “What’s after all this crying?”


I shook my head. “I don’t believe it.”

He patted my shoulder. “Don’t quit before the miracle happens.”

I scowled. “What does that even mean?”

“You’re trying too hard. Just keep it simple.”

“This AA jargon is driving me nuts.”

He laughed. “You’re not the only one.”

“Do you ever doubt the program?”

“All the time. But that’s the fun thing about it too. The more you fight these ideas you learn at meetings, the more you realize you couldn’t be elsewhere. It’s all about finding a balance, that’s it.”

“Did you find that balance?”

He shrugged. “After a while, you do. Don’t be impatient.”

“I can’t help it!” I frowned. “This whole thing just doesn’t make much sense. I don’t believe in God!”

“You don’t have to believe in anything. Just work on your recovery. Would you be happier if you drank? Ask yourself that question. If you answer yes, then feel free to go back out. No one’s keeping you here. You don’t want it, leave it.”

His words hurt my feelings. It felt like he didn’t care anymore.

“I’m not here to tell you what to do,” he added. “If you don’t keep faith in yourself, no one will help you achieve that.”

Listening to him, I wanted to cry again. Nonsense. I was born a fighter. I couldn’t get a hold of this disease that was eating my brain. Was it really too hard to achieve?

I was pretty sure then I could accomplish anything if I only put my mind to it.

“Are you lost in your thoughts?” John asked. How long had he been staring at me?

“No, not really. I’m just confused. Lost. Yeah. I am lost. And fucked up in the brain.”

He laughed. “It will all make sense. Just be patient.”

“You telling me that makes me want to punch you in the face,” I snorted.

“Everyone feels that way every once in a while,” he said.

We joked around and his laid back attitude made me feel a bit better. Yet, deep inside I was still so unsure of what was going to happen with me. It was so easy to drink and forget, and now all my feelings bubbled to the surface, raw to the touch. Everything seemed too trivial to matter. I was beyond the self I was used to, hiding behind jokes about my minion when in reality I was scared to face the truth all along. Despite his age, John was wiser than me. Not so impulsive, or impatient.

“I’m a big loser,” I mumbled. “This addiction is going to get the best of me, I feel it.”

“If you keep thinking that way, you’ll never get anything done. Don’t think of not drinking ever again. I always tell myself I’ll drink once I’m old enough not to care anymore. Which might not happen after forty years of continued sobriety. One day at a time. Just look at it this way. Does that make sense?”

I nodded. “I guess.”

“You don’t seem very convinced.”

“Well there’s nothing very convincing about this whole charade, don’t tell me you believe in this!”

He sighed. “Fine don’t be convinced.”

Was he mad at me? Was it all I could manage? Pissing people off?

John walked away from me.

Yep, I think he was mad.

“Are you pissed at me?” I asked.

“You do whatever you want, Kiki, you’re a free individual. This addiction of yours will never go away if you keep resisting. But you have to find the balance. I can’t help you unless you help yourself. And no, I’m not pissed. I’ll never be pissed at you unless I find you drinking scotch out of your desk drawer again.”

I nodded. “Loud and clear.”

So at the end of the day, I was stuck with myself. I knew this whole program was just a joke.

Doesn’t mean I’m going to drink again. I should sleep. Sleepless nights never did me any good.

But how? I’m pretty sure the liquor store’s closed by now.

To be continued…

John is happy

Published May 7, 2013 by Johanna

Kiki seems to have found the faith to fight her addiction. I’m proud of her. The hardest part is done.

“I guess I can live without booze,” she keeps saying over and over, as we walk to Starbucks. The workday has been dreadful. And it’s only 3 pm.

I turned down a job offer yesterday. I thought now was the time to make sure Kiki’s okay. Just can’t be selfish. Yes, I’d have made more money and probably not sweat my ass off spending the entire day with lame sales pitches. But Kiki needs my help. And her health is more important than my financial security.

“Are you mad about not taking this job?” Kiki asks me while we wait for our coffees.

She definitely looked relieved when I told her I’d still be her minion for a while.

I shrug. “I’ll be okay. Another opportunity will present itself.”

She smiles. “I know. I just feel bad.”


“Because it’s my fault if you turned it down.”

“Don’t worry, okay?”

She smiles. “Okay. By the way, Carmen is trying to set me up with her dyslexic cousin,” she adds while tearing with her teeth the wrapping paper around her straw.

I laugh. “Like you need more shit hitting the fan,”

She laughs back. “Yeah. This dude isn’t even good looking.”

“Is it only about looks with you?”

“Nah. I guess I can hand a free pass on dyslexia.”

We get our coffees, and exit the always over-crowded Starbucks.

“Hey you wanna come to a pizza party on Friday night?” I ask.

Raised eyebrows, she stares at me, confused. “A pizza party?”

I nod. “Yeah. You can eat pizza, and you like pizza, right?”

“Is that another sober thing to do when people can’t drink?”

I laugh. “I think you answered your own question.”

She laughs. “Right. Yeah. Okay,” she says.

“Does it mean you’re gonna come?” I ask, amused by her use of affirmatives.

She nods. “I guess.” Sipping her coffee, she seems lost in her thoughts. “Just do me a favor?”

“Anything,” I answer.

“Please don’t invite Carmen and her dyslexic cousin?”

I laugh harder. “Okay. What about the free pass?”

She glares. I nod. “I’ll take mental note of it,” I say.

“Thank you. You’re a good friend,” she mumbles in between coffee sips.

I smile. I couldn’t be happier to be there for Kiki. She has found her balance, even if sober only for fifteen days. An accomplishment really given how often she was drinking. She’s still in a fragile spot, and that’s why I didn’t take this job. There’s so much out of my control, but if I can help just a little, I’ll be satisfied.

“Are you lost in your thoughts again?” Kiki asks me as we pass our office building security.

I smile. “How did you know?”

“I can tell. Need to improve your poker face skills, lad.”


She winks. “I started watching a lot of British shows lately,” she says. “Don’t be a wanker now!”

We both laugh. No one has ever called me “wanker” before.

To be continued…