"Thank you for my Chip"
When I was 6 years old, I remember vividly looking down at my superman sandals, the “Man of Steel” emblem shining bright against the sunlight, and dust settling on them as I jump to the playground sand. I use my index finger and methodically wipe the emblem clean. The dust settles again, and again I do that. I recall even intentionally smearing the emblem with the playground sand dust, and again wiping it clean. I came to find out later this was a trait I inherited from the old man. My father would empty a half container of milk from its carton into a pint glass and saran wrap it, stick the pint glass back into the fridge in some corner that only the pint glass could securely fit, “everything has its place, son,” he would say, slamming the fridge door shut, tossing the empty carton into the garbage, and declaring victory. He continued, “You can’t fool me, HA!” I don’t who or what was trying to fool him, but he won. This statement trailed into many aspects of his life, like scratch-off tickets, a losing one, “You can’t fool me, you fucking JUNIOR!” A “junior” per my father’s definition was “a fucking dipshit who would never amount to anything.” As he aged, that definition expanded to include inanimate objects, like losing scratch-off tickets. This was the same guy who got drunk, drove us in his ‘91 Toyota Convertible onto the beach and swerved into and out of the ocean waves, the water smashing against the car, looking to me as I bounced around the passenger seat holding on for dear life, a “are we having a great time, or what?” expression across his face. I wiped that emblem clean over and over again, I think now it was a way for me to have control over the chaos. Even today, I’ll rip unwanted mail into tiny pieces, rip and rip and rip, and toss them into the trash. The little pieces of paper, all that chaos, fly from my fingertips and are gone. In the summer, when my sister and I were young, my mother waited until the last absolute possible second to flip on the AC, all the while yelling at us because “your father doesn’t give us any money!” My sister would put on her makeup with the freezer door ajar, as to prevent smearing and smudging. I would drag my sorry ass every evening into my mother’s room because she had the only ceiling fan, falling soundly asleep on the floor. I wanted control and didn’t have it in my family life, which would later bleed into my adulthood like a sliced vein. I pounded drinks for years. I wanted to lose control, because I felt I could have control over at least that. Controlling the loss of control. I drank and gambled like a madman, and I thought I was having a grand time. My ex-fiance introduced me to “healthy shakes.” They were simply shakes, I called them “healthy shakes” because they were full of nutrients, a term that was quite foreign to me. I was immediately hooked. I loved drinking my breakfast, or lunch, or dinner - adding things from the fridge - almond milk, some spring mix that was turning sour, cinnamon toasted cereal, berries, maybe a snickers bar. I didn’t exactly utilize the shakes to my advantage, as she did, with her vanilla protein powder, flax seed, fish oil, and algae. I sat on the porch, drank these “healthy shakes,” smoked about 80 cigarettes, and dreaded facing the day. We met through a mutual friend and I was instantly in love...or so I thought. Turns out I didn’t love me, and I was subconsciously looking to her as some saving angel, and it blew up in my fucking face. Don’t get it twisted, though, I did love her, the way she made me laugh, the way we laughed together, her beauty, her kindness, but as she so profoundly put it, perhaps I wasn’t “truly there for her, but did nice things and, like, took out the trash.” I was always in too deep in the mind, living on skid row, right there in my own fucking mind. I’ll set the stage: Less than 18 months after a hot day as we enjoyed conversation over doughnuts and coffee, the first introductions, I traveled nearly half a dozen times back and forth between Chicago and St. Louis, to visit her, her mother whispering in her ear, after six weeks of dating - “I think this is man you’re going to marry.” Problem? You bet. Six days after that encounter, I show up again, buzzed out, but holding my composure, and was politely asked to leave. "I feel funny," her speech delivered like that of a 12 year old, but that's a whole other deal. Problem? You bet. With those two red flags creeping around us, we moved forward anyway. I met her large, a little too involved family, she met my small, dysfunctional family, I proposed, we moved into an apartment together, yes you read that correctly, I proposed before we even lived together (what kind of fucking lunatic does that); a few months skip by, I got asked to move out of the apartment: “I. want. you...out of the apartment,” in a tone and a look even the truest sociopath couldn’t mimic, I slept at a friends for the summer, I spent most of that time wondering where I went wrong, all the while knowing exactly where I went wrong, hopped a one way train to New Orleans, washed ashore, rented a “pay by the week” place off the French Quarter with a shared bathroom and no kitchen, and was a stone’s throw away from checking into a halfway house. I had lost my fucking mind. I wanted control over everything and had control over nothing. 37 years crashed straight down...and I saw it coming. Denzel Washington in his drunken, coked up haze, brilliantly flipping that plane to save those folks in the film, “Flight,” couldn’t save this ride. It was there, lying in a bed covered in plastic, my beloved sport coat as a blanket, the same sport coat I used to land a TV acting job that filmed 8 months prior, I decided I had enough. "You get it when you get it," my new sober friend, Richard, who had enough when he found himself smoking crack under a bridge, told me as he shook my hand and hugged me. Hope was a friend I had to start talking to, otherwise I was dead. It was imperative that I search deep down and find the root of the issue: Why was I so angry and hopeless? Why was I carrying around all this guilt? Did I feel bad for my parents, did I feel bad for myself, my sister, was I mad I met that talent manager in Hollywood, a man so pretentious and bald I felt as if I were chatting with a penis lounging in a swivel chair? Sometimes we have to start at the beginning, and I had to travel back and meet that young boy wiping his superman sandals clean over and over again. Above all, I had to be done with alcohol for good. I simply could not take a sip without Mr. Hyde running the show…
--An excerpt from his book in the works, “Memoirs...or Whatever,” Paul Perroni is a former actor (unless you give him a job), is currently reading about day trading for a living, drinks “healthy shakes,” is sober, and is saving money to buy a 1983 Mercedes to haul ass out of New Orleans.
Join the conversation, become a Fix blogger. Share your experience, strength, and hope, or sound off on the issues affecting the addiction/recovery community. Create your account and start writing: https://www.thefix.com/add-community-content.