Sean Hotchkiss

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I walk in to Sean's apartment 10 minutes late through some red brick units that almost feel like Brooklyn again.  And yet that's not where we are at all, both now living in East Los Angeles.  

"Do you want some lemon water?"...Sean already has two glasses ready. 

I have questions to ask Sean, though most get thrown out the window as the conversation goes back and forth, never really feeling like an interview but more of an open space for us to speak freely.

If you haven't read one of his articles in GQ, The Wall Street Journal, or Esquire to name a few...Sean Hotchkiss is a writer who recently moved to L.A. to continue and work on a few book ideas.  Having similar career paths in and out of GQ Magazine, I've been following his work for some time now.

I talk about my struggle to stay present in Los Angeles and Sean explains his battles with addiction.  We both agree it's a conversation that should happen more often amongst friends. 

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CAN YOU TREAT ALL OF YOUR ADDICTIONS?

Oh man! [Laughs.] It’s definitely a process.  But if you want to, I think you can. The first step is just being aware of them – that goes a long way.

IS IT A MATTER OF AVOIDING ADDICTIONS?  THEY DON'T JUST GO AWAY, RIGHT?

No it’s the opposite!  Avoid the behavior, yes, absolutely, but the idea is to talk about it. Get it out in the open where it can’t hurt you, where others can relate to it. For me the key has been halting the addictive cycle long enough to get some clarity on why these behaviors originated. I had to go way back to my childhood to get that awareness.

Alcohol and drugs were big addictions for me, very disruptive addictions.  But when you get the biggest addictions out of the way, you start seeing that there are smaller habits and patterns that a lot of people don't even consider addictions.   They just see them maybe as a way to medicate the experience of being alive, which isn’t easy for any of us.  Or maybe they don’t see them at all.  I don’t know.  Usually these habitual patterns start young, so they’re hardwired into our brains as survival tools.  They feel good, so we do more of them.

Television or video games, for instance.  When I watched four Sports Centers in a row, it really numbed me out.  It made me forget school, and my parent’s divorce and whatever else was going on for me.  It felt great.  So I did it more.

A good example of something most people don’t think of as addicting are relationships.  Yet with diseases like love addiction and codependency, people are treating other people just like a drug. 

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I'VE PROBABLY WASTED A GOOD AMOUNT OF TIME ON VIDEO GAMES...

But your life's not unmanageable because of video games, right?  If I do so much cocaine that I start to experience regular depression from the comedowns and physical pain from hangovers, I know I should probably stop doing cocaine.  But if I’m playing video games then it’s harder to pick up on the unmanageability.  It's on you to be accountable enough to pick up the nuances on where these things may be affecting you.    

It's not always obvious things like this are harmful; it becomes more nuanced.  Like, wow I notice that when I sit down to play video games I can really take myself out for 4 or 5 hours.  That was time I could have spent connecting with someone or exercising or furthering a spiritual practice – doing something that feeds my health and wellbeing.  That isn’t to say that sometimes it doesn’t just feel good to binge out on 5 hours of video games.

Ultimately it's an issue of honesty with self.  I care about myself so I'm maybe going to cut back on X because it might be healthier to pursue Y.  I feel like all of us for the rest of our lives are going to be working on some aspect of this.  It’s human.

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WHERE ARE YOU NOW WITH ALL OF THIS PERSONALLY?

My biggest addictions have stemmed from the need for love or approval.  I didn’t get those things as a kid and I’ve been on a chase ever since. Drugs and alcohol helped me get what felt like love – sex and affection from women, brotherhood and bonding from men. “Success” had similar effects.  I built a persona around getting approval, what I thought was love.  But I was always going outside myself for it. It was always an outside job, when unconditional love starts inside with love for ourselves — It sounds hokey and New Age-y, but it’s true.  I had no concept of what self-love was. “Love” meant you accepted me, approved of my existence here on earth.  If you took that love away, I was worthless in my own eyes, because you were gone. And that’s a nasty way to live.

I hope none of this comes off as self-righteousness.  I’m simply speaking from my own experience, and hope someone can relate to it.  And because I'm not engaging in my favorite addictive behaviors right now it's making me really fucking aware of my feelings [laughs] because I'm not checking out. 

THEN WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Well I'm trying to live in a healthier way.  I’m trying to question things I took for granted.  I go to twelve step meetings and I am actively working on things in therapy.  It’s not perfect by any means, I’m still a fucking mess some days, but I keep trying.

I'm not noticing something and then ignoring it or medicating it on my own.  I’m cutting down on the chance for catastrophe by taking certain things out of the equation.  Instead, when the feelings come up, I’m trying to open up about them. I find that helps.  Even talking to you keeps me in check.   

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DO YOU HAVE A GOOD DAILY ROUTINE?

The first thing I do when I get up is come down to the kitchen, eat a little something, light up some incense and do a guided meditation.  It's usually based on whatever is coming up for me that day; how to let go of fear, how to create more self love, abundance...again, it sounds fucking hokey as shit, but it works.

AND YOU DO THAT EVERY SINGLE MORNING?

I mean I try to...as much as I tried to fight it, I realize it requires a lot of maintenance for me to stay sane [laughs].  It took me years to admit how much work it can take.  I’m still coming to terms with it.

TURNING 30 CERTAINLY BRINGS A NEW LEVEL OF SELF AWARENESS PERSONALLY...

When you're in your 20's you feel like you have all the time in the world.  You can fuck up as much as you want, you can try a hundred different jobs, a hundred different relationships, you don't even think about it.

It can take much longer than just getting through your 20s or 30s though. Denial is a crazy phenomenon.  Because I can convince myself of anything if I want it badly enough! I can be like, "Well if I only do drugs on Tuesdays I'm good."  You think you control it but you don't.  Pretty soon you're doing them Wednesday and Thursday as well. 

But it's important to be asking ourselves these questions and having these conversations.  More people than yourself are always experiencing what you are experiencing.  You’re never alone.  There’s such a stigma about therapy in our society and opening up.  But it’s the opening up that sets us free.  

ARE PEOPLE DOOMED TO CONTINUE AND MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES?

They don't have to be. For me it’s been recognizing opportunity. Anytime something happens externally that forces you to re-evaluate all you thought you knew.

That’s the best place to be – questioning, fighting against the Autopilot. Heartbreak is good for that. Changing jobs, or a death in the family. When those doors kick open for those periods of self-reflection, you have to take them. I keep a journal. I write my feelings down. Eventually, you can’t avoid them anymore. They’re right there. And you have to make a change. 

IT'S BECOMING EASIER to not KICK ON THOSE DOORS...

Well it's really scary and on some level we all know that.  It's a lot easier to not change and keeping jamming on drugs and Instagram and video games and relationships than it is to do the work that's required to be a healthier version of ourselves.

A lot of people don't get to the point with their addictions where they have to admit their life is unmanageable.  I did.  And although it was fucking painful at the time – and still often is – that’s been the best gift.  I’m a sick bastard, but at least I know who I’m dealing with.  

Jace Lumley