Quotes on life: abuse, addiction, and more life as culled from Marc Maron’s new book

Some sections from the Marc Maron book named “Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live by From the WTF Podcast“:

NATASHA LYONNE—ACTOR
So many people struggle to stick with sobriety. It is not for the faint of heart. If you are really going to do it. If you are as low-bottom of a case as I was, which was like a real sort of I-hope-to-die junkie, then I wish you good luck and godspeed. I had someone describe it to me as not only do you have to smash down the house, but you have to then take out the Indian burial ground underneath the foundation of the house and then begin to rebuild. That process to me is certainly why I think a lot of people twenty-eight days later can’t really hack it because it’s not a twenty-eight-day scene.

For me, and the existential angst of my teenage years, I was really getting hooked on the aesthetic appeal of just so many of these heroes. This mass of characters that just seem like I’m walking in line with, like they’re my friends. That’s part of what’s tricky. It’s hard to listen to music when you get clean because it just brings up all of that stuff. Like, I want to be the fucking cool guy. You romanticize it. And a series of platitudes certainly don’t feel very romantic by comparison. If you have the sort of makeup that leads you to want to shoot up while listening to Lou Reed in the first place, “one day at a time” feels like the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard in my life as a solution to my fucking problem. I think it was the hard drugs that really took it to another level. The full-blown addiction.

I remember making a very clear decision when I threw in the towel on life. I made an active choice to walk away and be like, listen this is the fucking truth, it’s the belly of the beast. It’s not about dancing on tables, this is about hanging out with one-legged Tony who has a colostomy bag in his fucking project apartment with the little tiny roaches crawling down the wall. You know, passing the pipe and going in the bathroom to shoot heroin with the girls who are turning tricks and luckily I have residuals. I think I was sort of like, “What is this about? Fame? Why is that the big end in life?” To be like, “Let me borrow your dress so I can go to your big movie premiere so you can take my picture and then maybe you’ll give me a job if I’m skinny enough.” Fuck you. I didn’t want to do it. There’s no there there. So once that happened is when it really got bad. I made the decision that the best way to get rid of my heroin problem was through crack.

I spent so many years being like, I hate myself and I want to die, that like, I’m going to fucking die, I might as well live a little. I just did so much of that thinking that I’m just relieved now. The first bunch of years are so just really brutal. I hated myself a lot. My first few years of being clean and functioning, I was just so angry. Like, what the fuck do you mean I have to make my own bed? These basic things that nobody taught me. What do you mean I’ve got to get there on time? You have to constantly monitor yourself. “All right, you’re doing a good job. You’re doing all right. Listen, you brushed your teeth at night too, this is a fucking epic day.”

NORM MACDONALD—COMEDIAN, WRITER, ACTOR
The problem with laughing is it will build to a hysteria sometimes that I have to crank a couple of benzos to prevent a panic attack. I start laughing and then it gets out of control, like hysterical. I still have extreme sensitivity to things. Not to life things, but literature or art or something like that. I have incredible sensitivity. I kind of have to stay away from it. Like paintings. I don’t know anything about art. Nothing at all. But I have had experiences that have been so hard on me. Like one time, I was in New York and somebody dragged me to a fucking art museum. I hate art. I was looking at this picture of this girl, and I was falling in love with her.

She was so fucking beautiful, this fucking girl in this fucking picture, and then the guide was telling me the fucking thing was drawn in the sixteenth century. Obviously this lady was dead, long dead, and here I am fucking in love with her, and so I’m like, “Ah. Fuck it.” It was so hard on me for so many days. It sounds crazy, right? Marc Not really. It sounds like that’s a very good painting. Norm It was an incredible painting, but it would make me cry and I didn’t cry at my dad’s funeral. Real life stuff seems so prosaic to me that it never really touches me much.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN—MUSICIAN
I built a thing where I would survive alone. I didn’t trust anybody after my parents left and after I had some very close people who died on me. I said, “Whoa, this world will kick your ass and turn you inside out. I don’t trust anything or anybody that I haven’t built myself.” So you go about building, building, building, building, building, building, building and you keep the world at large at bay. That’s how you live. You believe not only that’s how you live now, that’s how you can live forever. Then you reach a point where you realize, yes, you have built yourself a fortress and you are locked inside. All by your little, lonely self. That’s when you realize, “I’ve got to go outside. I’ve got to go outside. But I don’t like it outside. I don’t like what’s outside. I don’t trust any of the people outside. I only trust myself, when I’m doing what I do. I don’t trust the world at all. The world is dangerous and scary.” But you’ve got to go. You’ve got to go.

MARGARET CHO—COMEDIAN, WRITER, ACTOR
It all has to do with eating disorders, which has been my major problem, which is why I was an alcoholic and why I took drugs and everything. It’s because I have a crazy eating disorder. I think because my mother’s anorexic, and I was brought up with it. If you felt fat or if you got a little fat, you were almost unlovable and invisible and a worthless person. When I get right down to all of my issues, that’s still that, I think that is the deepest one.

BARRY CRIMMINS—COMEDIAN, WRITER, ACTIVIST
I had PTSD because when I was very young, the babysitter’s father was coming over and raping me for a few months. It took me until I was about thirty-eight to really deal with that and face it and whatever. I was in shock most of my life. To protect myself. If people got too close to me, I wouldn’t give them anything. I always knew, but I never knew exactly. Then someone came forward, and then there was another person who knew about it, so it’s corroborated. We knew who the guy was. He died in a New York state prison. For raping little boys. Serving his third or fourth term. My parents would go out. They’ve been through the Depression and World War II, and they go out on a Friday night, like, “We beat the Nazis. Let’s go.” This guy would come over. I was like five years old, and it was life threatening.

Getting asphyxiated because I was getting my face shoved in a pillow, so that was what I had to get back, to figure out. It’s funny how this stuff sticks with you because, really, the main thing I do is try to help people. Helping others, it’s promoted my healing more than anything, like AA or whatever. You think you’re fine for years. Well, like a month and a half ago, there was a story in the paper about a little girl in India who was about three years old who had died from being raped. Then I was just sitting in my living room by myself, and I just thought, “That poor kid. Imagine, raped to death.” Then the light came on, like, “Holy shit. I almost got raped to death a bunch of times.” You know you got a couple choppy weeks after that, and that isn’t being some wimp. This stuff is serious, and you gotta wrestle every wolf-man that knocks at the door and get through it. You can’t go around things, you have to go through them, but that doesn’t mean it’s my whole identity or whatever. I’m like a million other things.

The day I found out who the rapist was, I get a call from a social worker. She knows the guy. She says the name. “Oh my God. That’s who it is,” I said. “Well, where is he?” She said, “Well, he died in prison. I was involved in that case. He died in prison last year.” The first thing I felt was pity for the guy. Some people get really mad at me about that, but I just thought like, “What a complete waste of a life.” I tried to find out from New York State where he was buried so I could go put flowers on his grave to say, “I didn’t become you. I didn’t become what I resisted.” Marc As opposed to pissing on it. Barry Yeah. Well, that’s what everybody wants you to do. But I became a human rights activist and not someone that offends human rights.

TODD HANSON—WRITER, VOICE ACTOR
In January 2009, I had no intention of ever coming out of the hotel I checked into. It was what the doctors call an intent to die suicide attempt as opposed to a cry for help, cry for attention, whatever. You don’t want anyone to stop you from pulling it off. I didn’t want anyone to find me, I lived with my roommate at the time, one of my dearest friends. I didn’t want him to deal with it. I figured, in an anonymous hotel, a maid comes in, freaks out for two seconds, they call the paramedics or the cops, whoever deals with it, and that’s it. I left a note for the cops. It was a day that wasn’t so much a day as it was years and years and I’ve been sad my whole life and I’d had enough. I brought my pajamas and a robe for some reason, I don’t know why, and I brought a pad of paper and a pen and a canister of pills and a bottle of scotch whiskey. Because I had read that you need another central nervous system depressant like alcohol to ensure that the pills work. I took sixty pills. I read on the Internet that six combined with being drunk would be enough, so I took sixty. Maybe I’m the first person to point out that he discovered a factual error on the Internet, but apparently that information wasn’t correct or maybe nobody really knows. I talked to the doctors and they were like, “We don’t know why it didn’t work.”

I’m not an alcoholic, I’m not even a big drinker. I’m not one of those people that responds much to alcohol. I drank the booze rather methodically out of a tall water glass. It took two and a half tall water glasses to finish the bottle and it was really weird; I was drinking it like water and it was just going down. It was weird my body did not reject the alcohol. Even though normally I can’t have more than three drinks without being sick. I drank half the bottle and then I took the entire mouthful of pills and then I drank the other half of the bottle and laid down and went to sleep. I left two notes. I left a note for my family and friends and loved ones. It was short. Then I left another informational note for the cops. The note to the cops was a red flag to them because it wasn’t a sentimental thing, like, I’m looking for help, it was, like, please call the following people. It was just numbers of people that they would need. The other note was very short and just said that I’ve been very lucky to have received so much love from so many people and I was really grateful and I didn’t mean to hurt anybody but I couldn’t deal with it anymore and I had this sickness for twenty years and I was sorry. But that it wasn’t anybody else’s fault because they’d all been way nicer to me than most people get and certainly more than anybody deserves or anyone has any right to expect. I felt very privileged and so I didn’t want to send that love into a bad place, but of course I did. What else could you do? I don’t know. It didn’t make sense is what I’m trying to say.

I went to sleep and then I hear a maid banging on the door and I’m like, shit, I set this up on purpose. They said that the maid would not come at the normal time, but now they’re interrupting the thing. What if I get discovered? What I didn’t understand was that it was actually more than twenty-four hours later, the maid had not come by mistake, it was the next day, and nobody knows why I was alive at that time. I wasn’t supposed to be. I shouldn’t have been but I was. I didn’t know that it was the next day and I just felt like, fuck, this is going to interrupt it, and I tried to talk my way out of it so as not to be discovered. I tried to hide the notes, but I was on so many benzos that I was barely coherent. Anyway they eventually found me at my house, so I don’t know if the hotel threw me out and I was like, “Fuck, where do I go now?” I just wanted to lie down and let the pills finish.

My neighbor April saw me on the street and apparently I had been trying to open the door but couldn’t work the key because I was so sedated that I could barely stand and I could barely talk normally. And she’s like, “You okay?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’m fine.” So she said, “All right,” and she left. Then she thought about it and she came back and I was still fumbling with the key and then she said she noticed that my shoes were on the wrong feet and that I had a bloody nose. I don’t know if I fell, I must have tried to throw my clothes on real quick before I answered the door at the hotel, I don’t know. But I don’t remember having the wrong shoes on my feet or hurting my face. Maybe I fell down while I was staggering home. Eventually, my roommate figured it out because he.…   He noticed that the cat food was on the floor open where the cats could get it and that’s what.…   That’s what made him figure it out.

That’s the other thing the note to the cops said. It said, “Please, my cat’s at home, but.…” You know despite this self-serving nature of the other note—“it’s not your fault, don’t be hurt by this, it’s really all for the best”—the fact is, I left the cat food on the floor for the cats to eat so that when nobody fed them they’d have some food before somebody discovered them or whatever. But I did abandon the cats. Writing on the note “find my cats at home,” I abandoned them and these little guys depended on me, and I abandoned everybody else. I said thank you for all the love they’ve shown me, but I didn’t show it back. I abandoned them, and that’s why now I know it was the wrong thing to do. But when I woke up I did not think that. I was very upset that I had been found and was not in the hotel. The way I look at it, I didn’t choose to come into the world the first time, I found myself in that circumstance because my parents had sex, and it was the same way this time at age forty.

I think of it as a second birthday. That’s what I call it with my friends or whatever because I didn’t choose it any more than I chose the first one, it was not anything I would have opted to do, but I found myself in that situation and so many people showed a lot of love. And I thought, well, I can’t disrespect that, it’s too special of a thing and it’s too rare of a thing in the world to take what little of it there is and transmute it into pain by abandoning all those people trying to tell you they love you. I mean, when I finally checked out of the hospital, I had nothing. I had not really changed my mind about anything. I wasn’t really wrong about the circumstances that were going on at the time. Everything that was going wrong was in fact going wrong and continued to go wrong, but I had two things.

The first thing was I had decided all these people’s love was worth preserving and therefore I had a will to live. But I didn’t have a desire to do anything. I had no idea what the future would hold. That whole first year all I did practically was sit on this couch every night and I had my cell phone and I would just call and if I didn’t get anyone on the line I’d leave a message and call the next number, and if I didn’t get anyone on the line I’d leave a whole bunch of messages and then somebody would call me back. I would lie here on this couch holding the phone like a teddy bear, waiting for it to ring, and if somebody called back, then I’d cry on the phone with them, and if nobody called back, then I’d cry alone, and it was like that for a long time. All those people coming to see me, they were all trying to cheer me up and I was just arguing with them. They were all like, it’s going to be okay and I’m like, you don’t understand, it’s actually not. But they were right and I was wrong. A component of mental health is a slight inability to see things accurately.

You see people who are mentally healthy consistently have a slightly higher opinion of themselves than they’re actually worth or they think that their life is a little bit better, or they think some looming disaster isn’t as bad as it really is. I just wanted to say I’m sorry to all those people. It’s a selfish thing to do to take people’s love and not give it back, and if you abandon them, then all of the investment of love that they gave you, you’ve just transmuted into pain and it’s not fair to them. Not only do I thank all those people, but I also apologize to them. I have said this to all of them many times and they’re sick and tired of hearing it, to be honest, but I just thought it was important to say not only thank you but I’m sorry. And it will not happen again.

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