Z-Man sits down with comedian and author Amy Dresner. They talk about her new book “My Fair Junkie” and have some laughs along the way.
Todd Zalkins: I Want to talk about Amy Dresner for a second. Amy is a former professional stand up comic, having appeared at the Comedy Store, the laugh factory and the [inaudible 00:00:09], by the way, I’ve already left a bunch since she’s been here. It’s fricking classic. Since 2012, she has been the sole official columnist for the online addiction and recovery magazine called thefixed.com. She’s also written for the good men project, after party, chat refinery 29 salon, cosmopolitan for Latinas and addiction.com. Let’s see here, What else? … Oh, she’s got this fabulous book out by the way. It’s called “My Fair junkie it is available everywhere Barnes and Noble Amazon.
Todd Zalkins: Could you get a close up of this book cover Mike, we’re going to show you guys the book cover it’s called “My Fair junkie, A Memoir of getting dirty and staying clean” this is gonna be a great a little morning here . She’s also had a … the books been compared to Carrie Fisher’s 1987 autobiography called “Postcards from the Edge”, that’s what Elle magazine said and Amy Dresner story of addiction is a story … it’s one for the ages she’ll be speaking at “she recovers” on September 15th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and at the mindful recovery symposium in North Carolina on October 26.
Todd Zalkins: Ladies, and gentlemen Miss Amy Dresner. Come on over here and have a seat and hang out for a few minutes.
Amy Dresner: Hi.
Todd Zalkins: Hey Amy. How you doing? Put on those headphones for a second.
Amy Dresner: Great to be here.
Todd Zalkins: Nice to have you, thanks for joining us. Now really quick I gotta ask you I know you just sat down. Are you comfortable?
Amy Dresner: Yes.
Todd Zalkins: It’s very important to me that you are comfortable.
Amy Dresner: Yes, these pillows are weird.
Todd Zalkins: Get rid of the … You don’t have to keep the pillow there.
Amy Dresner: This is like for people with lumbar problems.
Todd Zalkins: I’ve got a lot of those aside I got a lot of problems.
Amy Dresner: So do I.
Todd Zalkins: Do you?
Amy Dresner: Yeah.
Todd Zalkins: We’re gonna talk about some of those problems and mainly we’re all stoked that you’re in the solution today.
Amy Dresner: Me too, so is everyone else including the LAPD.
Todd Zalkins: The LAPD is glad that she’s [crosstalk 00:02:21] they feel like they got lucky with having you get sober.
Amy Dresner: Oh God yeah, they’ve been to my house many times they were just … “oh” we’ll get to that.
Todd Zalkins: We are going to cover that. I want to say congratulations on the book that you’ve come out with.
Amy Dresner: Thank you.
Todd Zalkins: I know that there’s a lot of exciting other stuff on the horizon that we can’t talk about right now-
Amy Dresner: No, But it will be announced soon.
Todd Zalkins: Okay, cool. Tell us a little bit about where are you from, I know you’ve been stand up comedy and stuff like that. But where were you born and raised?
Amy Dresner: I was born and raised in Beverly Hills. I’m a Beverly Hills Jew.
Todd Zalkins: You are. Are you still practicing that stuff?
Amy Dresner: No, I was never practicing. I’m a Hollywood jew, a cultural jew[crosstalk 00:03:04]
Todd Zalkins: There’s a lot of them up right?
Amy Dresner: But I don’t go to temple or anything like that. I also went to Catholic school for four years because I was going to public school and then they were “oh” it was busing, It was during that time they were going to bus and my parents just threw me in this really gnarly Catholic school in Beverly Hills it was run by nuns.
Todd Zalkins: Your parents threw you under the bus literally and figuratively.
Amy Dresner: It just was really … that was one of the problems when I got sober was the whole higher power stuff because I was really confused by the whole thing, but I went to school, I went to college in Everton in Boston. I lived abroad for a couple of years. And I’ve been in and out for the program for 20 years and now I have five, and a half years clean.
Todd Zalkins: Congratulations-
Amy Dresner: Praise Hashem.
Todd Zalkins: I’m happy to hear that you’re on a better path today and obviously it took a lot to get here. We’re going to talk a little bit about the path and where it started out and let’s just go straight to it. When did you discover the effects that drugs and alcohol provided you?
Amy Dresner: I didn’t drink till I was 19.
Todd Zalkins: No way.
Amy Dresner: Yeah, way. To back it up, I was kind of a goody two shoes and school and a straight A student and blah blah and I was really obsessed with purity and I think that’s very alcoholic to be honest. We’re either smoking meth, or we’re vegan, we’re not really good at the moderation thing. I was very … I was not into sex or drugs or alcohol and my dad was … My mom was living in Mexico at the time, and my father was “how do I get my kid out of Beverly Hills without her becoming a druggie”?
Todd Zalkins: Now, real quick, was your family dynamic and tact and you have brothers and sisters-
Amy Dresner: No, I have no brothers and sisters. My parents split when I was two. It was very … Yeah, no.
Todd Zalkins: Okay, so you primarily live with dad.
Amy Dresner: I live with both. I split the week, half and half. My mother is a recovering alcoholic. She was trying to make a living and my father was a screenwriter and my father just sort of was more emotionally available, So I gravitated more to him and then my mother moved to Mexico when I was 13 so then I was raised sort of by my father from that point on.
Todd Zalkins: Do you think and I to come from somewhat of a fractured family environment too but … in your story or for you personally was a somewhat not intact family, did that contribute later on do you think to your alcoholism and addictions?
Amy Dresner: I think that not … I certainly have abandonment issues and I’m certainly insecurely or what it’s called anxiously attached I think what psychiatrists call it, so I definitely … my mother had been … she was a little bit shut down and she’d been beaten by her schizophrenic mother and her brother was schizophrenic too and so I felt that her inability to kind of love me the way that I need to be loved and yes I’m really fucking needy but definitely made me feel like I was not good enough, there was something wrong with me.
Todd Zalkins: Okay. I appreciate that and I also want to kind of clarify this one that is I have never blamed … oh yeah this, whatever happened childhood stuff, What have you. I guess what I’m getting at is, do you think that drugs and alcohol at 19 and you moved on from there, do you think it kind of help either sooth or compartmentalize the pain and again not to blame the childhood stuff, but did that work for you?
Amy Dresner: Oh, yeah. I always felt weird and unsafe in the world and confused by everything. And even though I was super smart, I just was terrified. I was so terrified and so for me, and I didn’t like myself at all. I hated myself, and there’s so much addiction and mental illness in my family. The genetics are there in force, so when I picked up, it was kind of instant. Booze made me … I blacked out almost immediately.
Todd Zalkins: So, you’re real sensitive to alcohol.
Amy Dresner: Yeah. And it was … I’d get naked and violent and so I was Oh, maybe not that, but then I found crystal meth and that was the drug that made me feel, I got that moment of “Oh my God, this is what I’m looking for, I feel normal for the first time in my life”.
Todd Zalkins: That gave you that little balance.
Amy Dresner: Yeah, I was … “why isn’t everyone on this? holy shit, this is what I need to be on the planet, you’re not going to take it away from me.”
Todd Zalkins: what was your crew of friends looking like just before you’re 19 because that’s when you started getting loaded, but what were your interpersonal relationships like in high school for instance?
Amy Dresner: In high school I was with a bunch of other goody two shoes.
Todd Zalkins: Really?
Amy Dresner: Yeah. No one really drank, no one really smoked. No one did any drugs-
Todd Zalkins: You guys weren’t very fun. Me and my friends would be-
Amy Dresner: No, I made up for it later, believe me, I was very sluttty and fun later-
Todd Zalkins: You played catch up later?
Amy Dresner: Yeah, I was in a really … all my friends were sort of not geeky just we were just straight, but my father was “hey, I’ll bet you’ll drink or smoke or do drugs before you’re 18 and I said “I bet I won’t “and he said “I’ll bet you 1000 bucks” and I always make this terrible joke that’s how Jews raise each other. We just bribe each other, so dumb. And so I waited till I was 19 to drink, and I was in college, and everyone’s drinking in college. I was a virgin in college, and I was Oh, and I never drank, and I was “yaiks”!
Todd Zalkins: Did you collect the 1000 bucks?
Amy Dresner: Yeah.
Todd Zalkins: You better have.
Amy Dresner: And then I was, okay, I’m a weirdo here in college, having never drank and having never had sex and we need to sort that now.
Todd Zalkins: Can you bring us back to … if you can remember the first drink was it a party situation, couple of girlfriends, what was it looking like?
Amy Dresner: It was in the dorms, and it was Greyhound and they were “Yea, It’s Amy’s first drink” and we had some great hounds. It was some boys, my roommate and it was all my close friends and I remember laughing and I drank and I was sitting down and then I got up and I fell down I didn’t realize how drunk I was, but there wasn’t that moment of kissing Jesus like that. That I had from crystal and then I just was drinking but it was college, everyone’s drinking and throwing up and skipping classes and blacking out. It didn’t look that different from anyone else’s drinking at that point.
Todd Zalkins: The alcohol or the drinking stuff, you function pretty well early on, right?
Amy Dresner: Yeah, I was having a nervous breakdown in college, but that was from mental issues, depressive stuff. I have a full blown eating disorder but I was still getting straight A’s and that kind of stuff. I think the first or four nervous breakdowns. I like to have a nervous breakdowns every decade.
Todd Zalkins: I had one before you got here.
Amy Dresner: Did you?
Todd Zalkins: I did. That’s why I was sweating so bad. That’s why you thought I was detoxing still. 11 and a half years sober I still going through post acute withdrawal symptoms. God, where was I here? In the college scene you’re doing what everybody’s doing and all that kind of stuff. Did you have that kind of epiphany where a lot of people you often hear, “okay, once I started doing this with these people, I’m part of something bigger” was it that feeling or absolutely not?
Amy Dresner: I’ve always felt weird and sort of disconnected from other people and I still feel weird. I feel connected to I have great friends. I have great people in the program and that kind of stuff but no, I didn’t have that … despite my terror and my insecurity, I have a lot of weird fake bravado that some people think I’m really outgoing and I’m not terrified and so it was my early act as if.
Todd Zalkins: Were you consumed with the notion or the idea of I really want everybody to like me.
Amy Dresner: No.
Todd Zalkins: You didn’t have that going on. You’re anarchist from birth?
Amy Dresner: No.
Todd Zalkins: Did you hate authority?
Amy Dresner: No, because my dad was cool and I got good grades and No, I wasn’t like that.
Todd Zalkins: Okay. So you just kind of rolled with stuff, you rolled with life and just.
Amy Dresner: Yeah, I got special attention. I can be very … I can figure out a way, I’m very manipulative and I can find a connection to the authoritative figure so that I get special treatment and my shit gets to fly. My bad attitude, my whatever. That special snowflake I’m different, that’s the way I roll.
Todd Zalkins: You brought up a topic that I want to discuss for a few moments. You mentioned maybe some moments of depression or depressive disorder and stuff like that because I too have gone through it. I’ve battled a great deal of depression both loaded and certainly sober. So, at the young age that when you’re in college and stuff like that, were you doing any type of treatment for? Is it okay if we talk about that for a second?
Amy Dresner: Sure, I’ll talk about everything, tell me anything. I got into therapy and I was really “wow”, something … I need meds and he was “no” and I didn’t get on sort of medication till I was maybe 22. I think it’s important, I think that if you have a chemical imbalance, you should be on meds and that doesn’t make you not sober. I’m an AA, I see it … I blow 11 tradition all the time. I think it’s super fucking outdated and I think that it drives away more people because they think it’s a creepy Christian cult.
Todd Zalkins: It saved my life.
Amy Dresner: Yeah, so I’m all about it, and I think more people need to come forward as sober and I’m all about the recover out loud thing to break the stigma. I don’t think you can break the stigma of addiction without breaking the stigma of recovery, it’s weird to me.
Todd Zalkins: That’s awesome.
Amy Dresner: I’m really out with it. You can be on meds and you are still sober. AA is for your alcoholism. It is not for your fucking mental illness or your diabetes. It’s not Christian Science, It’s not Scientology. If you add fucking diabetes or fucking cancer and be “you need to drive around more newcomers. You’re not doing your steps hard enough, you’re not working, you’re not connected enough to your HP” it’s fuck you!. I definitely have a chemical disorder.
Todd Zalkins: I so appreciate what you just said because and this is what I came to find and that is I could not out think my depression, I could not think It, I couldn’t out exercise it. I couldn’t out sponsor people. All the crap that we do from a recovery sense, which kept me physically sober, but mentally I was going through a tremendous amount of stuff. I just wasn’t getting fixed.
Amy Dresner: I have a piece coming out in the fix about depression and sobriety.
Todd Zalkins: Awesome.
Amy Dresner: And what I’ve learned through Dr. Howard Weissmann who is amazing, amazing person and Dr. Addictionalist, psychiatrist, sober person used to be the chief medical officer of towns and treatment centers is first of all, there is something to AA making you being part of and sharing and being of service does create more dopamine receptors so it does actually fix your brain a little bit but there’s a lot of us who have something called low dopamine tone to start with as addicts and you can have a genetic test to see if you have this enzyme where we have a problem converting folic acid that you get from food into L’methylfolate which is what creates dopamine and serotonin. You need enough of that stuff to fucking be going so you can take an L’methylfolate supplement and that’s just changed my fucking life.
Todd Zalkins: Yeah, because absence serotonin and dopamine being active in your system the low level depression that sets is so extreme. Tell me if you agree or disagree on this but this has been my experience and that is I think so many people end up getting frustrated when they’re new and recoveries because they’re just not feeling okay. It’s because it takes a while. It takes a bit.
Amy Dresner: Well, absolutely, my first year was terrible, I tell everyone. I never had a pink cloud. I would cry.
Todd Zalkins: Same here, cry gray clouds.
Amy Dresner: Yeah, I cried every fucking day. I was really angry and super crazy and had a lot of cravings and it was extremely difficult, but I think also, the problem to which I’ve realized and this will all come out, this is different in the book, but antidepressants deal with serotonin and drugs deal with dopamine, and so that’s different. It’s a different thing.
Todd Zalkins: But we need both, and I know that I had destroyed[crosstalk 00:16:19]
Amy Dresner: Yes, that’s why … guess what creates dopamine? Fucking smoking cigarettes, nicotine. Why do you think that everyone’s fucking smokes? Why do you think everyone’s fucking everyone? Or gambling or whatever because it’s “ooh, new spike of dopamine.”
Todd Zalkins: Do you wanna know what George Carlin, my favorite comedian said about smoking. He said “do you want to know why people smoke? Because it helps”.
Amy Dresner: Yeah, I was smoking and then I was vaping which is so douchey. “Here’s me with an enormous chrome, fucking penis in my mouth driving … why are people looking at me like a doctor whose screwdriver”? And I was-
Todd Zalkins: It’s a true value little compact thing to go.
Amy Dresner: Oh and then instead of moving downward I was moving upward and I was getting ite once a CB radio and I was getting bigger, and I was … I gotta stop, but when I stopped, I crashed so hard because all the dopamine and the nicotine was spiking left.
Todd Zalkins: let’s come back to college years, getting out of college years. In college, had you come across the methamphetamine or speed?
Amy Dresner: Nope.
Todd Zalkins: Not yet.
Amy Dresner: I remember … Okay, this is not funny. I walked into my college dorm room and my roommate at the time was doing coc with her sorority sisters on my computer, and I was “Oh my God, you’re doing cocaine on my computer? That’s just so bad, this is disgusting”?. Fast Forward, 10 years I’m shooting cocaine, so all I have to say is careful what you judge because you become it.
Todd Zalkins: No doubt. It’s so funny you say that. I remember seeing a dear friend of mine, he was trying to kick heroin, and I told myself I remember I didn’t make a joke. I was just … “feel free to get off that shit” and here I was first off not having any clue as to the level of pain that someone’s going through, and I love this person very, very much and yet I became that and more.
Amy Dresner: Oh yeah that’s the story of my book, everything I judged, that was it.
Todd Zalkins: Tell the viewers and the listeners about the progression of what happened with you and where it turned and stuff like that.
Amy Dresner: I didn’t know who I was. I’d grown up very sheltered and after my second nervous breakdown at 22, 23 and getting fired from my job for drinking on the job which wasn’t a ding for me but also depression. I moved to San Francisco and I was “let’s just say yes to everything, we’re gonna say yes to the universe” and I fooled around with girls and I had[inaudible 00:19:02] and I did Molly and I did crystal and I got on stage and dah dah, and it was the crystal that was “ding”. And it brought me down so fast within seven months I’m living in a flophouse with gutter pumps and skinheads but I’m … “this is cool” because I’m from Beverly Hills I’m … “this is a Tarantino movie I’m in way” I was digging it and anyway I got a huge infection in my face from crystal meth and my parents came up and they dragged me back to Los Angeles to get clean.
Todd Zalkins: Really quick, were you injecting the drug?
Amy Dresner: No, I’ve never injected.
Todd Zalkins: smoked or snorted.
Amy Dresner: snorting at that point later was smoking. I didn’t get into injecting till I got into coc and by that point I had epilepsy from Crystal so I was scared to fuck with crystal, because I was … “coc’s natural, crystal is made with gin brewing and drinals, so coc is different but-
Todd Zalkins: I had a great deal of stock in Pablo Escobar drink, I really did. I sold the stock it’s because I bought it from his affiliates. I don’t have stock anymore.
Amy Dresner: That’s good.
Todd Zalkins: Yeah, it’s a good thing. Was there a point in time where things really turn. Let’s face it for a while, we both know that drugs and alcohol can work wonderfully. They can work wonderfully for a while, and then-
Amy Dresner: I don’t know that crystal ever really works that wonderfully. I was staying up for 17 days in a row and refinishing furniture and dumpster diving, plucking my eyebrows for six hours writing a new Bible, I don’t know that it was ever working that well. It was certainly keeping my depression at bay but-
Todd Zalkins: From the outside it wasn’t working from what I can tell, but however for you, you were working all sorts of stuff.
Amy Dresner: Yeah, I was writing a book and all this kind of stuff, but I walked into a market and I woke up in an ambulance and I’d had a seizure and that got me into my first of six of treatment centers.
Todd Zalkins: Along the way, in your mid 20s, late 20s, were your parents or close friends going, “Hey, Amy, shake yourself here, you got to look at this” was that happening at?
Amy Dresner: My parents didn’t really know what was going on. They had gotten me in to work with a therapist was really hard on drugs, and I was high every session in a year, and he never fucking could tell.
Todd Zalkins: Want to talk about that really quick.
Amy Dresner: I was … “you damn shit”. I do rails in the bathroom before I go into his office and he never fucking could tell.
Todd Zalkins: I have that same story.
Amy Dresner: My endowment would suit him, he was so fucking pissed, but my parents … they didn’t know what to do. They were just … I wasn’t done they were “go into treatment, please go into treatment”, and I was … “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, I’m not ready, I’m not done, I need this” blah blah” and then I had that seizure and it really freaked me out and I went into treatment and I never fucked with crystal again. I got high on a bunch of other different things but I never touched crystal again in five years sober I developed full blown epilepsy seizure disorder. I’ve hyperactive lesions on my frontal lobe from meth.
Todd Zalkins: Therapy is not effective if we’re high.
Amy Dresner: You think?
Todd Zalkins: I couldn’t fall off the chair, but I wanted to when you said “yeah, I’m packing my beak before I go to see a doctor” I actually would excuse myself in the middle of a session, “doc I’ll be right back, I gotta use a restroom” I come back, and I’ve got shit all over my nose, and I don’t think he even paid attention.
Amy Dresner: Incredible right?.
Todd Zalkins: Yeah, I don’t think he was really paying attention.
Amy Dresner: He knew I was here because I had a drug problem and depression.
Todd Zalkins: Not a whole lot of parental intervention or there’s not really crisis[crosstalk 00:23:06]
Amy Dresner: They were trying. And then later on, they got very, very involved where they would just throw me in a rehab and detox all the time threatening to cut me off, drug testing me all the time, moving me from state to state, they got really involved.
Todd Zalkins: Okay, and was at any particular time when you’re exposed to treatment. Was there ever a moment that you’re going “God, maybe I should change.”
Amy Dresner: Yeah, I stayed clean. When I first went to treatment, I stayed clean for a year, but I thought I was a tweaker and not an alcoholic, so I was … “Well, I can drink”, so I drank, and I blacked out. And I was in a blackout for three weeks drinking. I don’t even know what happened. And then I was … “oh, maybe not”. And then I stayed dry for seven years.
Todd Zalkins: Wow. let’s talk about that period. For seven years, you were physically sober on your own?
Amy Dresner: Yep.
Todd Zalkins: And can you talk a little bit about untreated alcoholism, and sobriety, was it gnarly?
Amy Dresner: I was depressed, My life was this fucking big. I was miserable all the fucking time. It was awful.
Todd Zalkins: That’s awesome, though, that you were sober for seven years in that regard, physically speaking, because[crosstalk 00:24:17]
Amy Dresner: That’s why I tell people, “you can do it, but you’re going to feel like shaking your life is going to be this fucking day and you’re not going to change at all”.
Todd Zalkins: Seven years clean with no program, and then the other shoe fell off or something.
Amy Dresner: Well, I had another nervous breakdown. That’s my hobby, and I was gonna have a hobby, some people neat, so I have nervous breakdowns, that’s my thing, but I haven’t had one for a while. But, I popped open a bottle of wine. I fucking slit my wrists with the box cutter. I was like I’m out, and so that was pretty gnarly. That’s in the book, got stitched up and then I came back to LA and I was making out with some loser at the standard and he brew pot smoking my mouth. And I was … “Oh my god, I’m high” for the first time in seven years high, and I was … “I can smoke pot”. I hate pot, so now I’m sailing in pot every day and hating it. And then I was … “I can drink, it’ll be okay, and then I’m drinking. Then I’m … “I can do coc because coc’s not crystal”
Todd Zalkins: Its natural.
Amy Dresner: Right. It’s natural. It’s not made from drinal and gin brewing and whatever the fuck else. And so then I am in treatment for the second time and I relapse out of treatment, and then I start injecting cocaine, shooting cocaine.
Todd Zalkins: There’s a good snapshot of some progression right there.
Amy Dresner: Yeah, and then shooting cocaine … you can have a seizure shooting cocaine normally, but shooting cocaine with epilepsy is a seizure city, and so I’d shoot cocaine wearing a bike helmet, so I wouldn’t pop my head open.
Todd Zalkins: Are you being serious?
Amy Dresner: Yeah, I’m totally serious. I was “shit, Okay, I get it”. It is a high impact sport. I get it, I’m going to wear protective gear, and it made total sense at the time.
Todd Zalkins: At a party, “who’s the chick with the bike helmet?” “Leave her alone she’s got her little hobby, and we just leave her alone, she’s a Mrs. Lance Armstrong of meth” that’s fricking great, I’ve never had a protective helmet. Now, with regards to the epilepsy, do you medicate? Do you take something?-
Amy Dresner: Yeah, I take medication, and I have it under control for, God almost five years now.
Todd Zalkins: Good for you. This stuff kicks in after seven years sober, I’m assuming that we’re getting close to the end of the line here of you’re drinking and using. Are we getting close?
Amy Dresner: No.
Todd Zalkins: We have more to go. After you went back out, how long were you out for?
Amy Dresner: I guess couple years. I finally started get sober when I was shooting cocaine. I don’t know a couple years I guess on and off. It’s hard to shoot coc constantly. It’s expensive you have to feed the monkey, it’s not exactly a social thing you can’t get over and be “Hey, what’s up, you want a beer? Let me get out my syringes”. It’s very much a loner sport.
Todd Zalkins: It’s tough to lay that stuff out of the bar. Get a couple shots, “guys hang on, I got the 100 here, could give me some water”
Amy Dresner: I went to … again, they did more therapy. This, that, I started going in meetings. I kept relapsing, kept relapsing, I got three and a half years clean. I had a grand mal seizure just because they screwed up my medication and they gave me Ativan and that caused the relapse. That caused another … when that stuff hit me, I was … “Oh, yeah”, so then I was on Atovan thing, more psych ward attempts and then, periods of sobriety. Basically, the end was 2011. I was married and I had been prescribed oxycodone for a shoulder injury and I had been sober about a year and a half at the time and I don’t like opioids but I like anything that makes me feel different and that veil went down and I was … “oh I don’t give a fuck awesome”
Amy Dresner: And I got in a fight with my now ex husband and it got physical and I pulled a knife on him and he called the cops and I got arrested for felony domestic violence with a deadly weapon and I went to jail.
Todd Zalkins: How long were you on the oxycodone for?
Amy Dresner: Only a couple months, not long.
Todd Zalkins: Okay and is it shortly after that when you had I don’t know if it’s a moment of clarity but a moment of maybe willingness to make some changes?
Amy Dresner: Like a typical alcoholic when we fuck up our lives then we drink over the fuck ups because “oh, poor me, look I’m going through a divorce and a criminal trial” and some drinking another suicide attempt, get into treatment again. I relapse in treatment, I get thrown another sober living, I relapse in sober living, I go to another sober living and at this point it’s the end. My parents are just “we have no more money, we’re over it” and my moment of clarity came when I was doing community labor for my domestic violence.
Amy Dresner: I was sweeping the streets, I was on a chain gang with me and 40 fucking Mexican dudes and then “what are you here for do wedder, huh? I’m here for DUI, What are you here for?” And “I’m here for felony and domestic violence with deadly weapon” they’re “Oh shit”, So it was humbling.-
Todd Zalkins: You’re the very top of the line right there.
Amy Dresner: It was super humbling. I was the only girL. It was very humbling to show up because I was “oh my God, I’m not a criminal”. I had more time than anyone else. I was one of the few people there for assault. It was extremely humbling and when I was sweeping trash and human feces and syringes in the hot sun for fucking eight hours a day, I had 240 hours community labor, and I had a life changing epiphany.
Todd Zalkins: And was it, “I gotta make a change”
Amy Dresner: Yeah, I’d already was sober. I was sober already [crosstalk 00:30:10] I was sober living.
Todd Zalkins: But sticking with it though.
Amy Dresner: But It was … I gotta change my fucking character and I gotta change my whole attitude. I’m going to change my whole victim attitude. Maybe this is the best thing that ever happened to me. Could this be the best thing that ever happened to me and not the worst thing that ever happened to me? And I just was … okay, “you created this Amy. This is the result of all your actions and who you are. You don’t like it? Change it”. And I just embraced I was … okay, humility, work ethic. How can I find the humor in this, let’s finish what we start, so we don’t go to jail.
Amy Dresner: I just embrace the whole thing, and it shifted. I had been really a spoiled brat before then, I didn’t want to take responsibility for myself for my life. I didn’t want to be financially responsible and you meet your destiny on the road you’ve got to avoid it.
Todd Zalkins: You’re bringing up such good points here, this really self analysis and I think so many people cannot get past this part of sobriety which is “okay, I’m left with me now right, I got a little bit of physical sobriety” but now the emotions and all and it sounds like you’re facing these things, demons What have you all this stuff head on.
Amy Dresner: Yeah, and that was “I need a fucking really make a fucking change here”, but I still had the … I was uncomfortable, I was broke, I was 42 years old, I was in sober living for two and a half years. I had a criminal record, I had no job, I was freelance writing, I was “fuck!” And I felt a little sorry for myself and I also was uncomfortable. Feelings would come up and I was pretty early in sobriety, I didn’t know how to deal with them.
Amy Dresner: Smoking a lot, vaping a lot and I picked up a sex addiction which to me is all alcoholism. All that stuff is alcoholism, it’s all “how do I get out of myself” and so I don’t think it’s separate, I did go Oslo and SAA and all that kind of stuff and it’s was really mortifying. That’s why I wrote the book … I am exactly who you wouldn’t think would be a perpetrator of domestic violence or a sex addict or. I had everything growing up and I just destroyed my life and myself and addiction does not discriminate.
Todd Zalkins: It doesn’t, and I appreciate all your transparency big time and thanks for … you’re really putting it all the stuff out there and what I want to ask is did you have some pretty good direction from some other women in the program here “hey, Amy look we got you, we got you, Let’s just do the stuff that we do over here, and things are going to get better?”
Amy Dresner: Yeah. This is interesting. Well, I was in sober living, and I had a group of women around me that were great, but no one could stop me from acting out sexually and all this kind of stuff, and honestly, you got to hit a bottom with that, you’re done when you’re done. As my sponsor says, “you stop a behavior when what it’s doing to you, is worse than what it’s doing for you”. I finally hit a bottom with that, and I was … “Wait a second, I don’t want to do this anymore”, and it felt so exactly like drug addiction. “I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this. Here I am doing this” and then regretting it. I would cry coming back from some guys house.
Amy Dresner: It was horrible. I have a male sponsor, and I’ve had a few male sponsors, and that can be tricky. People get a little bit weird about that. Only one of them spurk me, so that’s pretty good odds.
Todd Zalkins: Hey, there we go, all right.
Amy Dresner: I’m serious. That shit happens in the rooms. Such predatory behavior is very much prevalent in the rooms, and it sucks.
Todd Zalkins: let’s talk about that for a second because, I think the program has gotten … first and foremost we’re not talking about the bedrock of mental health.
Amy Dresner: No, of course not.
Todd Zalkins: Okay and I do want to say this though, and I think that you’re going to concur, but I’m gonna speak from my own experience that is there’s a lot of really good groups where people look after each other-
Amy Dresner: Absolutely, I was not obviously in one of those.
Todd Zalkins: I’m thankful I was raised in a group of … This guys, they would just say “look, you’re going to men’s meetings man, you don’t need to be dealing with other” … primarily I did but my point being that, not to give the program a bad rap. There are wonderful groups. There are some places let’s face it, there’s gonna be some stuff-
Amy Dresner: The steps … the program is solid. The fellowship is a microplasm of the real world and if you think it’s going to be some safe … wherever there’s a power hierarchy and there becomes a power hierarchy in meetings, you’re going to have sexual predatory behavior because there’s a power imbalance. Happens in Hollywood, it happens to the government. It happens in the military. You think AA is going to be immune to that? Because, it is people who are sick, and I think that for me, what I’ve seen in my 20 years in and out of the program is that sexual and intimacy and relationship recovery are sort of the last version for many men.
Todd Zalkins: Physical sobriety comes first, we all know, and I think too, that there’s a lot of people who just do not address stuff that maybe the program just can’t fix.
Amy Dresner: Also, they just think “oh, I’m sober and that’s okay”. If you’re not having integrity, you’re treating women like garbage, that’s part of this whole thing. We use this in all our affairs, but I did not have women pull me aside and go “Hey, these are the predators and dah, dah, dah”.
Todd Zalkins: This is predator X, there’s Y and stay the fuck away from that guy.
Amy Dresner: You know what though? I don’t consider myself a victim. I needed validation, I was new, I wanted love, I wanted attention, I wanted to check out, I was never raped, I was a willing participant although I wasn’t on all cylinders at the time, but I did have a lesbian sponsor for three and a half years and she was “you’re not going to mixed meetings anymore, you’re going to women’s meetings and gay meetings, and that’s it”. And I was “how am I going to get laid doing that?” And she’s … “you’re not, you’re gonna concentrate on recovery.” “My God, that sounds boring”, but I got a crush on a girl, and I’m straight.
Amy Dresner: Again, it’s alcoholism. It’s “oh, you, you’re gonna fucking fix it, you’re my happiness, you’re my outside answer”. That’s the whole thing that I talk about is for me, the substance is so immaterial. It’s just a matter of dessert, extra donut or a coke. It’s “oh, I put something in my body and I changed my feelings”. Now I’ve been celibate for a year and a half. I’m not on nicotine. I become this weird person that I always made fun of.
Todd Zalkins: It sounds like you identified a whole bunch of stuff, worked on a whole bunch of stuff, and speaking of work, I want to ask you about the “my fear junkie” book. At what point did you start writing that?
Amy Dresner: I was chronicling the sweeping the streets stuff while it was happening, and it was everyone’s favorite Facebook posts of mine. I would take pictures of what I saw, “another day on the chain gang”. I didn’t hide it at all, that’s kind of my way to deal with shame is sort of “here it is”, and the people were just “oh my God, this is amazing”. And everyone was rooting me on. They were … “those were so hilarious, get arrested again”. I was “Oh no”. My editor at the time was “you have a book, that’s the framework of your book”, “Okay”.
Amy Dresner: I’ve been writing for the fixed since 2012, this must have been 2014 where I started to I think put started writing the book.
Todd Zalkins: How did it take you to finish?
Amy Dresner: I had six months, I have a six month deadline. That was it, and I was made sure I hit that deadline because I was thinking “oh, they’re going to give an ex junkie all this money”, and I wanted to be on deadline. I’m good like that. That’s what the program is given me is showing up, integrity. If I say, I’m going to be there, I’m going to be there. I make my deadlines, I show up, I keep my word.
Todd Zalkins: I totally appreciate what you just said there Amy. We got to change so much beyond just the getting … the drink, the using whatever[crosstalk 00:39:08]
Amy Dresner: That’s just the beginning. That was the answer. Then you’ve got to really learn how to become a good person, and have a moral compass and act … I had one sponsor, and he said “you don’t have to be a good person, you just have to act like one, no one knows the fucking difference Amy”
Todd Zalkins: Oh, that’s interesting.
Amy Dresner: And I was … “but that’s not truthful”. And he’s right. You act like a good person over and over and over. No one cares about your intentions, they care about your actions.
Todd Zalkins: That’s right.
Amy Dresner: But if you act like a good person over and over and over again, you become a good person that becomes your character. Action is character.
Todd Zalkins: It’s kind of like retraining the DNA, and just your brain, everything.
Amy Dresner: It actually, you create a new neural pathway, which is your default go to and that’s your default go to pathway and so now I don’t have to try to be a good person. I mostly am a good person.
Todd Zalkins: When some big fucking hairy guy, this guy was just massive. He goes, “you gotta change or you got a die son” I’m looking … “What the hell, Why? What does that mean man?” And now I understand that now. I have to change. We have to make changes in order for us to, I think be reasonably happy and to somewhat thrive in this life of ours because the other direction doesn’t sound too appealing to me today. I don’t think it does for you either.
Amy Dresner: No. Oh God no. And most people have love the book. I’ve gotten a lot of messages where people are … “holy shit, you keep it real. Thank you for your honesty and your humor, I just feel less broken, I feel less alone. You made me laugh at stuff that before I just felt so ashamed about”. I have a bunch of psych ward stories. I got 51, 50 four fucking times and the sex addiction stuff, all of it. And people were just “Thank you”, even a parole officer wrote to me and he was “I understand addiction better than I ever have with 23 years on the job.
Todd Zalkins: That’s so cool.
Amy Dresner: And I was … “Fuck yes!” I fucking accomplished something, but some people are … “she’s a dick in the book” and, I was “you know what? that’s the reality I was mentally ill, and I was on fucking drugs. You bet your sweet ass I was a fucking dick”. I choose to throw over being likable for the truth and also where’s their transformation? If you’re an angel when you’re fucking shooting cocaine and smoking crystal meth and boning guys half your age on Tinder, why the fuck get sober?.
Todd Zalkins: I so relate to this. I remember getting some messages from some moms in the Midwest, this great. She says “Todd, my son really got a lot out of your book but if you’re my son, I would have spanked you a lot more” and, I said “getting lined” and, the reality is though, a lot of people, this is so true they harbor stigma. It is really tough to digest and really look at what we’re like when they’re in it.
Amy Dresner: Yeah. I was really honest about what it was like, because if you’re trying to look good writing an addiction memoir, you’re not being honest enough for real. Jerry Stahl who is a friend of mine and blurb the book who’s my icon. There’s a great quote from him, and he said … he wrote permanent midnight, which was one of the first iconic addiction memoirs, and he said, “if you had the nerve to live, what you lived, you should have the nerve to write it”. I was “Okay bitch”
Todd Zalkins: Oh, that’s cool.
Amy Dresner: I wrote everything, I didn’t want to write. The stuff where I was … “Oh, God, I do not want to put this on a page”. I thought, “Amy, don’t hold back”
Todd Zalkins: Yeah, there’s only one thing in mind that I could not … I was not ready to look at the child abuse and molestation.
Amy Dresner: I’m sorry.
Todd Zalkins: No, it’s okay. I’ll tell you why it’s okay, because I’m on the other side of it today, and I’ve done a shit load of work about it. At 18 months sober I was not ready. In fact, I kept burying it, does that make any sense?
Amy Dresner: Yeah, of course.
Todd Zalkins: Just push it down and, I’m a proud survivor today. I’m not a victim.
Amy Dresner: Good for you.
Todd Zalkins: It’s all good.
Amy Dresner: That’s heavy shit, that’s trauma.
Todd Zalkins: Yeah and it’s okay, but I want to come back to this book of yours is helping a lot of people find recovery is that right?
Amy Dresner: Yeah some people … even though people are “oh you’re bashing AA meetings or whatever. I wasn’t someone who rolled in a meeting. I was “I love this” and I wasn’t someone who rolled into a meeting was sober from that day forward either. I was … “this is creepy, what’s what the Kumbaya hand holding, what’s what the shit on the walls”? And because of my honesty and my anger around the whole thing, going to a big book study and just sitting there fucking bored and waiting to blow some dude or whatever I was doing at the time. People were … “you made AA seem cool” and I identified. And I met people readers at a meeting for their first fucking meeting, and they got clean.
Todd Zalkins: And how much does that … doesn’t that give you just a great feeling that people are getting it.
Amy Dresner: It’s service. People were … “you gave me the opportunity to save my life, Thank you”
Todd Zalkins: That’s the best.
Amy Dresner: And I was just … “holy shit”
Todd Zalkins: That is so cool.
Amy Dresner: I know, it’s super cool.
Todd Zalkins: At the beginning of the show while I was reading a bit about your bio Amy, it sounds like you got a couple of speaking engagements coming up what’s going on there? Can you share with the listeners. And the viewers?
Amy Dresner: I got asked to speak at “she recovers” which is a 600 women event at the Beverly Hilton from September 14 to 16th with Mackenzie Phillips and Cheryl Strayed and Janet Mock, and I’m … “are you sure you want me? I have sailor mouth and obnoxious” and they’re … “yeah, we want you”and I’m “okay”
Todd Zalkins: That’s so cool. What’s the date again and is this open to … do you buy tickets or[crosstalk 00:45:05] tell people.
Amy Dresner: They’re still … you can still buy tickets. If you’re a woman, it’s sherecovers.com I think the LA event, you can just google it, it’ll come up. You can get a day pass too. I’m speaking on the 15th at the gala and then I’m super honored to be there. I’ll be there signing books and meeting people and then I got asked to be the speaker at the mindful recovery and wellness symposium in North Carolina, so it’s huge in the deep south, that’s gonna be interesting.
Todd Zalkins: And by the way guys, It’s called “she recovers” not “he recovers” so if you’re a dude don’t plan on enrolling, or you gonna dress really nice and put a lot-
Amy Dresner: What’s cool about it, is that “she recovers” is for recovering from anything. Trauma, eating disorder, cutting all of that stuff. It’s not just alcohol adiction. [crosstalk 00:46:03]
Todd Zalkins: It’s recovery symposium for all such a good stuff.
Amy Dresner: Looks like I might be speaking in Canada in January and I feel so honored that people want to hear what I have to say because I was just such a fuck up for so long. To turn it around and be an inspiration is incredibly humbling.
Todd Zalkins: I am honored to have you on today, and I want to show the book cover again for people who joined us late. “My Fair junkie” by Amy Dresner is a memoir of getting dirty and staying clean. It’s available everywhere, and she’s not leaving me with this copy. I’m very upset about this by the way.
Amy Dresner: I only have one hardcover left.
Todd Zalkins: One hardcover?
Amy Dresner: You can buy it, why don’t you buy it?
Todd Zalkins: I’ll buy it. I will buy it. I thought we’re going to trade … I’m just kidding [crosstalk 00:46:56] anyways you guys give this a look. It’s available everywhere. I want to thank you so much for being on the program.
Amy Dresner: Oh my God, thank you for having me.
Todd Zalkins: If we could have one more parting shot before I get to some thank you’s. Could you share with it doesn’t matter if men or women out there listening something that can make them believe and realize there is hope out there. Can you share with the listeners, the viewers. “You know what? I’m struggling”, you can do this right?
Amy Dresner: Yeah absolutely. No matter how many times you’ve fallen on your face, you can absolutely get this, you just need to find someone who believes in you and believe that they believe and just take the action. Don’t let your feelings drag you around. Your feelings in your head will lie to you and they are not your friend. That’s the thing that I finally gotten is sobriety was not to listen to my feelings and if you know if you want to use, wait 20 minutes, just watch something on TV, take a bath, jack off, call someone whatever, because the urge passes whether you use or not.
Amy Dresner: And it took me a really longTime to figure that out. You can tolerate your feelings. It’s not fun, but you can tolerate and you don’t pick up and you don’t open up that vortex. You do that one day at a time and it gets easier. You have to act yourself in the right thinking. That’s all there is to it. It’s hard, but it’s doable. And if I can get sober fucking, anyone can get sober. I’m the female Robert Downey Jr said.
Todd Zalkins: You see, that was a perfect way to part ways. Amy Dresner telling it like it is and certainly how it was for her, and I think a lot of people are going to be inspired by what they’ve heard today and certainly hopefully a few people pick up the book, “My Fair junkie”. I want to do a quick little thank you to some people who are checking this out. Joshua Richardson, Brandon Yates, Brian birch, Chris, Roseanne, Kelly shelters, Erica, Elaine Smith, Katie Gibson, Nicholas, Monica Steffi. You guys thank you so much for making some comments on the board while we’re chatting away and hopefully share this video today and once again, Amy Dresner, I wish you all the success in the world with your book, “My Fair junkie”.
Todd Zalkins: And I know that I am going to order it, I will. You’re going to leave here with a copy of my book. I signed it for you can use to burn stuff-
Amy Dresner: Or I can use level a table or whatever.
Todd Zalkins: Anyway, thank you so much Amy for being on the program with us today.
Amy Dresner: Thank you for having me.
Todd Zalkins: It was absolute pleasure. And you guys thank you for watching Facebook Live and thanks for listening when the same gets onto Spotify and iTunes. Thank you everybody for joining us.