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July 6, 2010 by · No comments

Erin Chandler

Photo: Hamed Saber

I’ve been where you’re hanging, I think I can see how you’re penned; when you are not feeling holy your loneliness says that you’ve sinned…” Leonard Cohen

It was Anton I was most worried about. Not how I was going to get back to North Carolina, where I was going to live, or when my house was going to sell. It was Anton, the cute English guy that had the AA meetings in his house. I wanted to be famous for him. I wanted to be sober for him. I wanted to be cute and cool for him.
I wasn’t really feeling the whole AA thing… by that I mean I wanted to keep drinking.

Moreover, I doubted the sincerity of this posh group in the Hollywood Hills, this circle of beautiful people. They were fascinating, if not physically perfect they were so terminally hip they radiated cool. The stripper wore her tattoos like badges of honor, the actor leaned back as if a cloud engulfed him, his perfect hair, his very existence was protected. He was on a pedestal he knew no one could reach. I didn’t doubt that they were die-hard drug addicts and alcoholics, and well versed in delving into substances to hide from their feelings, but I did doubt how much they cared for me personally. I doubted how much good it did for me to divulge my feelings to this small circle and go home.

In my humble twenty-five year experience in and around Groups like this, they happen to be some of the most wishy-washy motherfuckers you ever meet. After two, ten or even seventeen years of total abstinence, preaching day in and day out that you go there way or you are going to hell in a hand basket, one day it flips and…
“You know it’s just not my bag anymore.” My sponsor, sober for seventeen years, and the most die-hard advocate of the cause I had ever met, said a few months ago.” I’m no longer in the program. I thought I should let you know. I learned a tremendous amount and I’m going to take this experience and grow with it. I would appreciate if you would respect my boundaries, decisions and anonymity. I actually have never been happier. It’s really not that big of a deal, I never even think about it. I’ll have a glass of wine every few nights and that’s all I want.”
“But you…” I had protested, “I thought you…” “You said…” “Wow.”

You know, I know it saves lives. I have witnessed miracles in myself and others. I have seen people transform, transform, move on and become beacons of light. And I’ve seen people transform, move backwards and die. I appreciate the seriousness of insanity and substance abuse. I’m just personally convinced there is more than one way to the Promised Land. So, here with my new bunch of needy crazy pals, I wasn’t sure if they cared beyond how the group saw them when they divulged their feelings. How humble had they come across, how been there, done that, how intelligent and bankable.
I didn’t want to go back to that meeting, but I had a small meltdown the last time I ‘shared’ and didn’t want Anton to think I was crazy.
“You are totally crazy,” Anton said last Sunday. “You’re nuts.”

I wanted to go back, one more time, and not blab my innermost vomit. I wanted to calmly say, “I’m sober now, moving to North Carolina for a few months, and oh… by the way, and I will be famous. I’ll be one of you, I promise. I’m there too, really… just a matter of days. I’m not a waste of time. All is really going quite well.” I’m a bit of a glutton for punishment, when I feel like I’m not liked or not respected, I want to go prove myself and let people see how worthy I actually am, probably need to be in a co-dependent group.

I wasn’t necessarily worried about the TV star, or her biker husband, not the nervous, curly haired newcomer, nor the model that was dating Cameron Diaz… it was all about Anton. I know you’re supposed to be anonymous but I don’t know his last name anyway. He will always remain to me the cute, nerdy English guy who owned a cool house in the Hollywood Hills… the cute, nerdy English guy with the drum set and a plethora of interesting paintings, electric guitars and famous photographs.
Anton was always calm and collected. He was a working writer, with an endless stream of writing assignments for movies that were actually being made, and ongoing invitations to the Sundance Film Festival.

This last Sunday, I rose from bed in my pink bungalow at the bottom of the hill, around nine-thirty. I rolled over and wondered if I should go. I spent ten minutes hugging my adorable King Charles spaniel, Charlemagne, and my puma of a cat, Honey Suckle Rose… my little family. For the past three years it’s just been the three of us. I want to avoid the topic of why I’m alone now. Suffice it to say if I could have gotten into the groove of those damn meetings during one of my long-term relationships, or even my marriage, I probably wouldn’t be alone now. Something held me back. Maybe it was arrogance, not enough let go, and too much ‘but… but…’ maybe it was just good old fashioned, ‘I want to go it alone’. So here I am, going it alone.
I rose and hugged the animals, “Manie moo!!! Manie I love you sooooo much. Hello perfect! Perfect, sweet doggy… the most beautiful dog in the whole world! I love my doggy… I love my… hey honey! Honey Suckle Rosebud! I love you too! How’s my sweet beautiful Rosey Rose Rosebud?” They rolled around in the love fest. We all matched. I glanced in the mirror by the bed and saw caramel colors, blonde hair, freckles and disheveled copper curls.

I took a deep breath and said to the gang, “Okay, let’s go.”
I got in my new BMW, cranked up Sirius Radio’s Coffee House and headed to Starbucks. I had my first taste of daily nervousness there. Walking up to the place, I could feel the eyes on me… was I walking funny? Was I going to trip? ‘Just breathe,’ I said to myself. Then I did my ritual counting… ‘one, two, three, four, five, six, seven…’ until I got to the counter. I ordered a Grande coffee. I felt a tinge of uncomfortableness as the girl behind the counter looked at me. ‘Doesn’t she have a life?’ I imagined her thinking.

You’re under the thumb of the maid. Troubled child, breaking like the waves in Malibu…” Joni Mitchell

I got back in my car and drove up the hill, around the curvy roads, passed the morning joggers, passed the gothic 1920’s mansion I’ve always dreamed of living in, passed the house on the hill Brittany Murphy just died in, around Mulholland Drive and up to Anton’s cool house. It had classic red and white stained brick, with ivy growing all over it. The fountain and archways at the entrance spelled out success in Movie land.
I felt a kindred spirit with Anton. I’ve had money my whole life, and been around people with money, so I was comfortable with his English snobbiness. I felt okay with his exclusive, upper crust background. It’s strange how I can be so cripplingly insecure and totally arrogant at the same time.

This Sunday morning, Anton was bustling about. He gave me a quick peck on each cheek, offered up espresso, then was off to the living room. I wanted more. I wanted to sit down, just the two of us, or three of us, Anton, the model and me, and talk about things… maybe even break out a bottle of wine and some cigarettes and really get the conversation going! But it was down to business.
Anton sat in his beanbag chair and perused the small circle of very hip Los Angelinos, a rock star, three writers, the stripper, the actor, two actresses, a soundman, a model, a publicist…. and me. I have acted, I have produced, I have written, but I never felt quite successful enough to call myself ‘an actress’, ‘a producer’ or ‘a writer’. Even though that’s what I’ve been doing on stage and on big and small screens for fifteen years. Even though I have worked like there is no tomorrow… I still feel outside. If I had only been a regular on a TV show, then I’d feel comfortable in this circle, one of them.
I remember when I did my first starring role in a feature film. We went to all the festivals, receiving awards and recognition. I thought to myself, ‘I will never feel like an outsider again… I am an actress!’ That lasted about four months. Now, ten years later, I feel like I just got off the bus… or missed the bus… one or the other.

I listened to the narcissistic TV actress talking about being a narcissist. I listened to the writer talking about renovating his house, and I listened to the model talking about being chased by Paparazzi. I talked about wanting to drink sometimes, about feeling weird, and having trouble with the whole AA thing… I was honest if not willing. I tried to connect. They listened politely and gave me a few impromptu pointers.
“It’s like a gorilla,” the Irish writer said. “It doesn’t wait until you’re finished with it, it waits until it’s finished with you.” Then we got up, held hands and prayed.

When the meeting was over I stood and looked from side to side for someone to talk to. Everyone hugged and made plans. They joked about the concert the night before. Anton invited the publicist to his screening and rushed over to get a pen and paper for the details. I stood with a frozen smile and sort of ambled over to the door. I looked back with a weak wave to the small crowd, hoping anyone would ask what I was up to. They just waved.
“Take care honey, don’t drink anything,” the famous actress said as I hugged her goodbye. She leaned in with a forced smile, a Hollywood air kiss, and a slightly condescending tone, “I’m glad you’re sober this week.”
I went into the kitchen to give Anton a hug, tell him goodbye and thank him for opening his home and being sweet to me.
“Good stuff,” he said.

I got back in my car, drove down the hill and walked up my stairs. My sweet family greeted me. Charlemagne with his Lady and the Tramp face and long ears was wide eyed at the door, Honey paced behind him. I opened the door, dropped to the ground and hugged them. “Hi my babies!!! My beautiful creatures! My fabulous beasties! I love you all!” We kissed and kissed. I put my purse down and settled outside on the porch, lit a cigarette. I looked out onto my grapefruit trees and the little Hollywood life I had created. I wondered what on earth I was doing there.
I left LA a week later. I drove all the way to the east coast. As the miles and days passed, the land became denser, more fruitful, more peaceful, kinder. I wanted to get out and roll around in it, hug the trees. Maybe this is just what the doctor ordered… a little less ambition, a little more nature, a little less stress, a little more green. I’m happy.

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