I just rushed in from the pool. It’s positively SWELTERING outside! Whatever happened to June gloom?
Well, I’m not complaining! I’ve been working on the most scrumptious tan, which I realize is very un-PC these days, but it’s one the very few vices I have left…so indulge me.
Speaking of vices, I received a very important and moving question from one of my readers this month. I think you will learn a little something from James and, once you’ve read it, hopefully you will be able to add some of your thoughts and experiences as well.
Off we go!
Dear Donna Marie –
I am writing to you with a question. I am an actor and I have been in LA for about 5 years. When I first got here, I started partying with people. Going out to clubs and drinking and partying all night. I even started to do drugs and I got really into them.
I was having a really good time, but I wasn’t really working as an actor too much. I had good friends. I thought. But then I started to get really more into the drinking and drugs and clubs and it got out of control.
I went into rehab and I am now clean for 6 months. I have started to put myself out there again as an actor, but I know that a lot of times if I need to network or put myself out there, I will have to go out to bars and clubs.
It is so hard to do this because it makes me want to drink and do drugs again, and I can’t be there with my old friends because they still do the drugs and stuff. Of course, they don’t understand what I am going through and they are not very supportive.
What can I do to go out and network but not be tempted to do the bad stuff? How can I find people like me?
I know I am asking a lot, and I am hoping you can help.
Dear Dear James,
Before I say anything else, I want to tell you how honored I am that you thought of me when you wrote me your question. And more importantly, I want to congratulate you on finding your way through your addictions and coming out the other side with your eye on staying sober for life.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this too much, but I think both you and I (and pretty much everyone reading this) will agree that Hollywood is probably one of the WORST places to try and stay sober. But it can be done.
Everything around us is about excess – cars, homes, and the nightlife. Clubs, bars and discos abound, tempting us to jump in and wallow in drinking, drugs, and debauchery.
We are surrounded by the stories of those celebrities who have fallen victim to their addictions. We are treated to stories of their rehabilitation, splashed across the covers of every gossip rag. Those same rags are there the moment any celebrity falls off the wagon, and report it with glee.
But we are here to talk about YOU, James, and what we can do to make sure you stay among the success stories!
Before we go any further, I must tell you that I am not an expert on these matters, and I can only provide you with ideas you can try. Ultimately, you will need to run these past someone who is close to you and understands you and your needs better than myself.
I’m going to assume that you are still in some sort of twelve-step meeting program, and that you continue to attend regular meetings. If this ISN’T the case, I suggest you start going to them right away. AA meetings are going to be the single most valuable place for you to find comfort, strength, and potentially new friends who are going through the same experiences you are.
In my opinion, six months is still too soon for you to head back into the bar and club scene. You might NEVER be able to return to it. I know you are eager to start networking and getting yourself back out there, and I applaud that.
But I have some suggestions that might do the trick, as well as some other, more general, ideas to keep you occupied and on the right track! I’ve included some tips on how to deal with living sober in a world filled with vice, too:
- Find new activities to occupy your time. These are the generic suggestions. Take up hiking, biking, join a softball team, work out. Do something that is GOOD for you! There are a number of sober teams out there – softball, golf, you name it! A good place to start is http://soberball.com/. You can find teams, tournaments, and connect with other players. Chances are good that you’ll meet other folks from the industry. Make friends with them, and guess what? You’re networking!
- Throw yourself into your work! Acting! I’m going to assume you came to Hollywood to act, not to network. Sometimes people here get into the networking/business aspect of the business without actually ACTING. They become walking encyclopedias of agency knowledge, who’s shooting what where, who does the best headshots, and on and on. And all the while, they never step foot on a stage or in front of a camera. So, audition for a play – any play! If you get cast, take the role! Find your “sober” approach to acting! You’re going to be meeting other actors, producers and directors in this process and guess what? You’re networking!
- This is actually a side-note to #2: Some actors drink and do drugs, and you just might end up in a situation where you’re working with some of them. Generally, a professional actor will hold off on the drinking and drugging until AFTER rehearsal, but not always. I think it might be important for you to talk to the director of your show, and possibly your fellow actors, about your sobriety and your wish to stay sober. Most of the time, people will respect your resolve. Do this early on, so if you get the vibe that your wishes won’t be respected, you can hit the road without jeopardizing the project.
- Take classes and workshops! This is another way of practicing and honing your art. Sure, they can be expensive, but if you consider the amount of money you wasted on drugs and alcohol, I’m sure you’ll find this is a much better way to spend your hard-earned dollar. And, you’ll be hanging out with other actors and working professionals and guess what? You’re networking? (Noticing a pattern yet?)
- If you have an agent, have a heart-to-heart meeting about what you’ve gone through, where you see yourself going, and brainstorm ideas to push you to the next level of your career. You should probably tell your agent not to submit you on projects that involve alcohol, like beer commercials. At least, for the time being. Any agent worth their salt will respect your decisions, and can be a great partner in getting you back on track!
All of these suggestions I’ve made are ones that are designed to keep you from sitting around your house and twiddling your thumbs! Chances are, the busier you are, the less you will have to concentrate on those feelings of wanting to go back to your old ways.
I’ve avoided talking about the real crux of your question until after these suggestions, because I want you to know that you need to stop thinking about bars and clubs as the only place where industry networking happens.
It’s my belief that very little actual networking can happen in a bar. Most conversation tends to be very intense and focused in that alcohol-fueled moment, but is quickly forgotten by the next day (if not sooner). After a while, you’ll tend to see the same faces at these clubs, and you’ll have the same discussions over and over and not much will come from it, but another round of drinks.
However, you’re young and the draw to go out is there, as it should be for any young person. At some point, you might face the demon and head out for the nightlife. Before you do so, remind yourself of all the hard work you’ve done up until that point and make a pact with yourself that you can go out and not drink or do drugs. Because you can!
First off (and I know this sounds harsh), you have to dump all of your old drinking and drugging buddies. If they don’t understand your sobriety, then they aren’t worth having in your life. If you are out and you see them, just ignore them. It’s tougher than you think, but you MUST cut them off. Let them know you’ll be happy to talk to them once they are sober, but until then, you just cannot have them around.
I would strongly suggest that you bring a “sober buddy” with you – someone who will accompany you out and who will be there to talk you through any cravings and help you should you encounter any of your old “friends.” You will have to surrender a bit of control to this person, and allow them the authority to demand you leave the situation if it seems you might slip. Sure, you may get angry at them, but in the long run, you’ll be so thankful.
There will come a time, I hope, when you’ll be able to hit the streets as a confident and invulnerable person, but I don’t think you’re quite there yet. And based on the tone of your letter, I think you sense that about yourself. I also sense that you’re still a little unsure you can keep to your sobriety.
I’m here to tell you that you can!
You are obviously a caring and driven person who wants so much to have a career in this business, but you just need to know you have other options to pursue your dream beyond the club scene. I hope my few suggestions can at least get you started.
Once you start this journey, you’re going to find yourself surrounded by others just like you who have already made their way to where you want to be. They will be your teachers!
James, I have nothing but the best of wishes for you and no one is rooting for you more than I am! You can contact me anytime you need to for advice or suggestions!
All the best to you, my dear!
I’m sure there are some of you, my faithful readers, who can relate to James’ situation. Maybe you or one of your loved ones have faced the trials he faces, and perhaps you have other ideas and stories to help him through this difficult time.
I will publish them in my next column!
Send them (along with any other questions you have about this crazy business) to firstname.lastname@example.org
I can’t wait to hear from you!
In the meantime, stay cool!
Donna Marie Watkins